Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 2. Love is Life
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
2. Love is Life
By Richard Rolle of Hampole  (1290?–1349)
  
I

LUF es lyf pat lastes ay, par it in Criste es feste,
For wele ne wa it chaunge may, als wryten has men wyseste.
Pe nyght it tournes in til pe day, pi trauel in tyll reste;
If pou wil luf pus as I say, pou may be wyth pe beste.
 
II

Lufe es thought, wyth grete desyre, of a fayre louyng;
        5
Lufe I lyken til a fyre pat sloken may na thyng;
Lufe vs clenses of oure syn, lufe vs bote sall bryng;
Lufe pe keynges hert may wyn, lufe of ioy may syng.
 
III

Pe settel of lufe es lyft hee, for in til heuen it ranne;
Me thynk in erth it es sle, pat makes men pale and wanne.       10
Pe bede of blysse it gase ful nee, I tel pe as I kanne,
Pof vs thynk pe way be dregh; luf copuls god & manne.
 
IV

Lufe es hatter pen pe cole, lufe may nane be-swyke;
Pe flawme of lufe wha myght it thole, if it war ay I-lyke?
Luf vs comfortes, & mase in qwart, & lyftes tyl heuen-ryke;       15
Luf rauysches Cryste in tylowr hert, I wate na lust it lyke.
 
V

Lere to luf, if pou wyl lyfe when pou sall hethen fare.
All pi thought til hym pou gyf, pat may pe kepe fra kare;
Loke pi hert fra hym noght twyn, if pou in wandreth ware,
Sa pou may hym welde & wyn and luf hym euer-mare.       20
 
VI

Ihesu pat me lyfe hase lent, In til pi lufe me bryng,
Take til pe al myne entent, pat pow be my zhernyng.
Wa fra me away war went & comne war my couytyng,
If pat my sawle had herd & hent pe sang of pi louyng.
 
VII

Pi lufe es ay lastand, fra pat we may it fele:
       25
Pare-in make me byrnand, pat na thyng gar it kele.
My thoght take in to pi hand, & stabyl it ylk a dele,
Pat I be noght heldand to luf pis worldes wele.
 
VIII

If I lufe any erthly thyng pat payes to my wyll,
& settes my ioy & my lykyng when it may co&mtilde; me tyll,       30
I mai drede of partyng, pat wyll be hate and yll:
For al my welth es bot wepyng, when pyne mi saule sal spyll.
 
IX

Pe ioy pat men hase sene, es lyckend tyl pe haye,
Pat now es fayre & grene, and now wytes awaye.
Swylk es pis worlde, I wene, & bees till domes-daye,       35
All in trauel & tene, fle pat na man it maye.
 
X

If pou luf in all pi thought, and hate pe fylth of syn,
And gyf hym pi sawle pat it boght, pat he pe dwell with-in:
Als Crist pi sawle hase sought & per-of walde noght blyn,
Sa pou sal to blys be broght, & heuen won with-in.       40
 
XI

Pe kynd of luf es pis, par it es trayst and trew:
To stand styll in stabylnes, & chaunge it for na new.
Pe lyfe pat lufe myght fynd or euer in hert it knew,
Fra kare it tornes pat kyend, & lendes in myrth & glew.
 
XII

For now lufe pow, I rede, Cryste, as I pe tell:
       45
And with aungels take pi stede—pat ioy loke pou noght sell!
In erth pow hate, I rede, all pat pi lufe may fell:
For luf es stalworth as pe dede, luf es hard as hell.
 
XIII

Luf es lyght byrthen, lufe gladdes zong and alde,
Lufe es with-owten pyne, als lofers hase me talde;       50
Lufe es a gastly wynne, pat makes men bygge & balde,
Of lufe sal he na thyng tyne pat hit in hert will halde.
 
XIV

Lufe es pe swettest thyng pat man in erth hase tane,
Lufe es goddes derlyng, lufe byndes blode & bane.
In lufe be owre lykyng, Ine wate na better wane,       55
For me & my lufyng lufe makes bath be ane.
 
XV

Bot fleschly lufe sal fare as does pe flowre in may,
And lastand be na mare pan ane houre of a day,
And sythen syghe ful sare par lust, par pride, par play,
When pai er casten in kare, til pyne pat lastes ay.       60
 
XVI

When pair bodys lyse in syn, pair sawls mai qwake & drede:
For vp sal ryse al men, and answer for pair dede;
If pai be fonden in syn, als now pair lyfe pai lede,
Pai sall sytt hel within, & myrknes hafe to mede.
 
XVII

Riche men pair handes sal wryng, & wicked werkes sal by
       65
In flawme of fyre bath knyght & keyng, with sorow schamfully.
If pou wil lufe, pan may pou syng til Cryst in melody,
Pe lufe of hym ouercoms al thyng, parto pou traiste trewly.
 
XVIII

[I] sygh & sob, bath day & nyght, for ane sa fayre of hew.
Par es na thyng my hert mai light, bot lufe, pat es ay new.       70
Wha sa had hym in his syght, or in his hert hym knew,
His mournyng turned til ioy ful bryght, his sang in til glew.
 
XIX

In myrth he lyfes, nyght & day, pat lufes pat swete chylde:
It es Ihesu, forsoth I say, of all mekest & mylde.
Wreth fra hym walde al a-way, pof he wer neuer sa wylde;       75
He pat in hert lufed hym, pat day fra euel he wil hym schylde.
 
XX

Of Ihesu mast lyst me speke, pat al my bale may bete.
Me thynk my hert may al to-breke, when I thynk on pat swete
In lufe lacyd he hase my thoght, pat I sal neuer forgete:
Ful dere me thynk he hase me boght, with blodi hende & fete.       80
 
XXI

For luf my hert es bowne to brest, when I pat faire behalde.
Lufe es fair pare it es fest, pat neuer will be calde.
Lufe vs reues pe nyght rest, in grace it makes vs blade;
Of al warkes luf es pe best, als hale men me talde.
 
XXII

Na wonder gyf I syghand be & sipen in sorow be sette:
       85
Ihesu was nayled apon pe tre, & al blody for-bette;
To pynk on hym es grete pyte, how tenderly he grette—
Pis hase he sufferde, man, for pe, if pat pou syn wyll lette.
 
XXIII

Pare es na tonge in erth my tell of lufe pe swetness;
Pat stdfastly in lufe kan dwell, his ioy es endlesse.       90
God schylde pat he sulde til hell pat lufes & langand es,
Or euer his enmys sulde hym quwell, or make his luf be lesse!
 
XXIV

Ihesu es lufe pat lastes ay: til hym es owre langyng;
Ihesu pe nyght turnes to pe day, pe dawyng in til spryng.
Ihesu, pynk on vs, now & ay: for pe we halde oure keyng:       95
Ihesu, gyf vs grace, as pou wel may, to luf pe with-owten endyng.

GLOSS:  par] when;  feste] fastened;  trauel] toil;  louyng] object of love, beloved;  sloken] quench;  bote] remedy;  settel] seat;  lyft] lifted;  hee] high;  sle] deceitful?;  bede] bed?;  nee] nigh;  Pof] Though;  dregh] long;  hatter] hotter;  be-swyke] deceive;  thole] bear;  I-lyke] the same;  mase in qwart] makes healthy;  heuen-ryke] heaven’s kingdom;  lust] desire;  Lere] Learn;  hethen] hence;  twyn] separate;  in wandreth ware] shouldst be in trouble;  welde] possess;  lent] given;  zhernyng] desire;  hent] grasped, apprehended;  fra pat] from the time that;  gar it kele] may cause it to cool;  ylk a dele] every whit, completely [lit. every one part];  heldand] inclined;  payes to] pleases;  hate] grievous;  pyne] pain;  spyll] destroy;  haye] grass ready for mowing;  wytes] passes;  Swylk] such;  tene] affliction;  pat … it] which;  blyn] cease;  won] dwell;  kynd] nature, quality;  par] when;  trayst] faithful;  Pe lyfe] The man, the soul;  kyend] nature, quality;  lendes] places;  glew] joy;  For now] Therefore;  rede] advise;  stede] place;  fell] abate;  pe dede] death;  gastly] spiritual;  wynne] wine;  bygge] strong;  tyne] lose;  wane] dwelling;  sythen] afterwards;  syghe] lament;  myrknes] darkness;  by] pay dearly for;  hew] form, aspect;  turned] would turn;  Wreth] Anger;  pof] tough;  bale] woe;  bete] amend;  lacyd] caught;  hende] hands;  bowne to brest] ready to burst;  reues] bereaves;  for-bette] scourged;  grette] wept;  lette] leave;  sulde] should[go];  qwell] destroy, slay;  dawyng] dawn;  spryng] day-spring

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