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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER XII

OF THE FELICITY AND SWEETNESS OF GOD’S LOVE: AND OF THE NIGHTINGALE’S SONG: AND PRAYER FOR PERSEVERANCE OF TRUE GHOSTLY SONG THAT WORLDLY LOVERS HAVE NOT

Sweeter delight I know not than in my heart to sing Thee Jesu, whom I love, a song of Thy praise. A better and more plenteous felicity I know not then to feel in mind the sweet heat of love. Of all things I hold it best to set Jesu in my heart and desire no other thing. He truly has a good beginning of love that has loving tears, with sweet longing and desire for things everlasting.

Truly Christ as it were languishes in our love, whiles He to get us hied to the Cross with so great heat; but it is well said in play ‘love goes before and leads the dawn.’ It was nought but love that put Christ thus low.

Come my Saviour to comfort my soul; make me stable in Thy love so that I never cease to love Thee. Do away sorrow when I must pass, for there is none such a sinner that can not joy if he be perfectly turned to Thee. O sweetest Jesu have mind of Thy mercy, so that my life may be light and fulfilled with virtue that I may overcome my strong enemy. I pray Thee give me health in this wise that I be not lost with the child of damnation.

Truly since my soul was incensed with holy love, I am set in longing to see Thy Majesty. Therefore made the bearer of poverty I despise earthly dignity and care for no honour; my joy truly is friendship. When I began to love Thy love took my heart and suffered me to desire nothing but love. And then Thou, God, madest my soul burn in sweet light, therefore in Thee and by Thee I can die and feel no heaviness. Delectable heat is also in the loving heart, that has devoured heavy grief in the fire of burning love. And from hence is sweetness given, principally music going betwixt and softening the soul, where Thou my God and my Comfort hast ordained Thy temple.

That joy certain is full delicious after which I yearn, and no man may be more covetous in such desire. Wherefore my loving soul as it were arraying a spouse for the King of the high Empire, says thus: ‘Love holds my heart with unloosened bands, and sets it in such governance and binds it so greatly with a marvellous maistry that it is pleased to think rather to die than to live.’ This flower certain can not end for my friend is so burning in love, he sings the melody and joy of death.

In the beginning truly of my conversion and singular purpose I thought I would be like the little bird that languishes for the love of his beloved, but is gladdened in his longing, when he that it loves comes and sings with joy, and in its song also languishes, but in sweetness and heat. It is said that the nightingale is given to song and melody all night, that she may please him to whom she is joined. How mickle more should I sing with greatest sweetness to Christ my Jesu, that is Spouse of my soul through all this present life that is night in regard to the clearness to come, so that I should languish in longing and die for love. But in dying I shall wax strong, and in heat I shall be nourished; and I shall joy and in joying sing the likings of love with mirth, and hot devotion as it were from a pipe shall issue and my soul shall yield angels melody, kindled within, to the most high, and offered by the mouth at the altar of God’s praise. Thus my soul shall alway be greedy to love and never fail with heaviness or sloth from the desire she received.

Soothly holiness of mind, readiness of will, heat of very desire and turning to God by continuance of thought, that are in holy souls, suffer them not to sin mortally; and if they sin through frailty or ignorance, anon they are raised up to true penance by those pricks, nor shall they bide long in sin although they cleave to the liking. The venial sin forsooth that they do, they waste in the fire of love—unless any be cast down by such negligence that they ween that that in which they trespass by no sin—and charity is not enough to put away all the pain merited; or else they have no tribulation wherewith their sin may be purged. Certain in the coming of love the lover’s heart is burned. Hotter than fire is this marvellous heat, the which most sweetly gladdens the mind and tempers and shadows from the heat of sins.

Good Jesu, give me the organ-like and heavenly song of angels that in that I may be ravished and Thy worship continually sing; that Thou gavest to me unknowing and unwise, now to me expert and asking, give again. Cherish me in my last end I may be found full of fire. Show me sweet cherishing in Thy good will that my defaults may be here punished and cleansed in that wise that, in Thy mercy, Thou hast known for him cleaving to Thee; not as in Thy wrath Thou cherishest those flourishing in this world, to whom Thou givest temporal prosperity and keepest endless pains. Worldly lovers soothly may know the words, or the ditties of our song but not the music of our songs; for they read the words, but they can not learn the notes and tone and sweetness of the songs.

O good Jesu Thou has bound my heart in the thought of Thy Name, and now I can not but sing it; therefore have mercy upon me, making perfect that Thou hast ordained. Thy true and busy lover is ravished into ghostly song of mind, that it is impossible any such sweetness be of the fiend, or such heat from any creature, nor such song from man’s wit: in which if I abide I shall be safe.

It behoves truly we be not glad to do small sins that will to perfectly eschew great sins. He truly that wilfully and knowingly falls into the least, ofttimes shall unavised fall into greater. It longs truly to love to desire to fall into great wretchedness rather than sin once. It is nought needful to him, but scornful, to seek delight, riches, strength, or fairness, that in the doom of the everlasting King shall be made a knight, with perfect beauty of members and clearness of colour; where in the heavenly hall there shall neither be too mickle nor too little, where he shall serve the Emperor in the world of worlds.

Explicit liber de Incendio Amoris, Ricardi Hampole heremite, translatus in Anglicum instancijs domine Margarete Heslyngton, recluse, per fratrem Richardum Misyn, sacre theologie bachalaureum, tunc Priorem Lyncolniensem, ordinis carmelitarum, Anno domini M. CCCCxxxv in festo translacionis sancti Martini Episcopi, quod est iiij nonas Iulij, per dictum fratrem Richardum Misyn scriptum & correctum. </div3> </div2> <pb/> </div1>

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