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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER VIII

THE DESIRE OF A LOVER AFTER GOD IS SHOWN: AND THE CURSED LOVE OF THIS WORLD IS DECLARED BY MANY EXAMPLES: AND THAT THE MEMORY OF GOD ABIDES NOT IN LOVERS OF THE WORLD.

O sweet Jesu I bind Thy love in me with a knot unable to be loosed, seeking the treasure that I desire, and longing I find, because I cease not to thirst for Thee. Therefore my sorrow vanishes as the wind, and my meed is ghostly song that no man sees. Mine inward nature is turned into sweet song, and I long to die for love. The greatness of the gifts delights me with light, and the tarrying of love punishes me with joy, whiles they come that receive me, and in receiving refresh.

But those things want that my Beloved shall show to me, longing: they wound me, so that I languish, and they heal not yet my languor fully, but rather increase it; for love growing, languor is also increased.

Sic defecit in dolore vita mea, et anni in gemitibus: thus fails my life in heaviness, and my years in lamenting; for from my love I am put back, and desire of death is withdrawn, and the medicine for wretches tarries; and in my crying I arise and say: Heu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est: ’Alas, my labour is lengthened! It is love that noys me; love that delights me; it chastises, because it that so mickle is loved is not forthwith given; it gladdens, for it refreshes with hope, and by this heat insheds untrowed comfort.

Great longing soothly grows when through the joy of love the ditty of ghostly love is in the soul, and great heat gives increase to sweet love; and now nothing is so lawful as to think death, life. For the flower in which this thought is nourished can not have end, but the joy that continually waxes great in the lover, and that is thought a wonder, makes of death and melody all one. Truly when I draw nigh to death, the fullness of my blessedness, that Almighty God whom I love shall give to me, begins in me. Soothly my seat is ordained in the place where love cools not, nor may bow to slowness. His love certain my heart kindles because I can feel His fire, whereby the strength in my soul knows no grief whiles I am wholly strengthened in the solace of love.

For love I faint, and I spend all my time in holy sighing; and that shall be no reproach to me before God’s angels, for whose fellowship I burningly desire, and with whom also in strong hope I wait to be perfected. And the praise that gladdens a longer shall now relax, and the blissful sight that he desired and loved shall be openly shown with joy.

But woe be ay to them whose days are slipped and passed in vanity, and their years with haste are perished withouten fruit of charity; that languish in unclean love and, for the fairness of corrupt flesh—that is but the covering of filth and corruption—are led withouten sweetness to death. Upon whom also is fallen the fire of wrath and covetousness, and they have not seen the sun of everlasting light. These, following their vanity, go into exile, having made themselves as vain as were those things that they have loved. Therefore when they shall be deemed they shall see Christ sharp and intolerable to their eyes because in this life they never felt Him sweet in their hearts. They truly that here feel Him sweet in themselves, doubtless shall see Him well cheered there. Such truly as we now are to Him, such a one shall He then appear to us; to a lover certain lovely and desirable, and to them that loved not, hateful and cruel. And yet this change is not on His part but on ours. He soothly is ay one and unchangeable, but every creature shall see Him as he is worthy to see. God truly shows Himself wilfully to ilk man as He will; and therefore He shall appear pleased to the righteous, and wroth to the unrighteous, in one and at the same little part of time.

Truly the love of a reasonable soul so does that—be it good or be it ill—it shall be deemed after that it does. There is nothing so speedful to get everlasting joy as the love of Christ: nor nothing sooner brings to utter damnation as love of the world. Therefore everlasting love should enflame our minds, and cursed and hateful love of fleshly affections be put far out. May the sweetness of heavenly life moisten us, and it be not lawful to us to love the bitter sweetness of this life. For the gall of dragons, that is to say most cursed wickedness and bitterness of falsehood, is the wine of sinners, because drinking it they are so maddened that they see not what is to come to them; and venom of adders, that is killing shrewdness, is deadly drink to them, and they are unable to be healed for their malice is incorrigible.

Truly this world has delights of wretchedness: riches of vanity: wounding flatterings: deadly likings: false pleasure: mad love: hateful darkness: in the beginning midday, and at the end night everlasting. It has also unsalted salt; savourless savour: foul beauty: horrible friendship: cherishing night: bitter honey and killing fruit. It has also a rose of stink; joy of lamentation: melody of heaviness: the praising of despite: the true drink of death: the array of abomination: the beguiling leader and the prince who casts down. It also has the gem of heaviness, and scornful praise: blackness of lilies: song of sorrow, and foul beauty: discording friendship and snow’s blackness; solace forsaken: and a needy kingdom. It has a nightingale roaring more than a cow: a sweet voice withouten melody: a sheep clad in a fox’s skin: and a dove madder than any wild beast.

Flee we therefore bodily and worldly love, whose back has a prick although the face flatter; whose flower is anointed with gall, and the pap, though it be privily, bears adders whose savour cuts man’s soul from God, and hath burns with the fire of hell; whose gold shall turn into mould, and shall shed forth the incense of fire of brimstone.

Here is love without meekness, and full liking madness; the which suffers not the soul bound to it to be joined to the seats of the saints, or have delight in God’s love. To them soothly that have their desire bowed to the love of these worldly creatures, it is heavy and seems a great burden to think of God, although the memory of Him be most sweet, and waxes marvellously sweet to the thinkers. If they begin to think on Him, anon He slides from their mind, and they turn to their old thoughts in which they full long have rested. They are bound certain with their evil custom, and angels food shall not savour to minds so sick and unclean, without great and long use of ghostly thought and the casting away of fleshly imaginations. They have certain the palate of their hearts with the fever of wicked love, wherefore they can not feel the sweetness of heavenly joy. Even if it happens good thoughts come into their minds, they bide not there; but the tokens of God’s inspiration being straightway put out by the roots of evil, they go from ill to worse; and they fall the more damnably in that they consented not to that good with which they were touched.

Thus they that are chosen and are utterly burned with the love of God and cleave to Christ without parting, if at any time ill thoughts should pluck their soul or do stress to enter, anon looking up to heaven, they cast them out, and slake them with the heat of their affection. And no marvel, because by good custom they raise themselves, so that they take no earthly thing, nor any other thing of venomed sweetness, in which they might have delight. Soothly he that lives in perfect charity feels no sin nor wicked lust, but rather joys in his God; and neither anger nor uncleanness heavies him.

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