by: Patrick J. Gallacher (Editor)
from: The Cloud of Unknowing 1997
Jump to navigation
HERE BYGYNNITH A BOOK OF CONTEMPLACYON, THE WHICHE IS
CLEPYD THE CLOWDE OF UNKNOWYNG, IN THE WHICHE A SOULE IS
ONYD WITH GOD.
Here biginneth the preyer on the prologe.
God, unto Whom alle hertes ben open, and unto Whom alle wille spekith, and unto
Whom no privé thing is hid: I beseche Thee so for to clense the entent of myn hert
with the unspekable gift of Thi grace that I may parfiteliche love Thee, and wor-
thilich preise Thee. Amen.
Here biginneth the prolog.
In the name of the Fader and of the Sone and of the Holy Goost.
I charge thee and I beseche thee, with as moche power and vertewe as the bonde of
charité is sufficient to suffre, whatsoever thou be that this book schalt have in pos-
session, outher bi propirté outher by keping, by bering as messenger or elles bi bor-
owing, that in as moche as in thee is by wille and avisement, neither thou rede it, ne
write it, ne speke it, ne yit suffre it be red, wretyn, or spokyn, of any or to any, bot
yif it be of soche one or to soche one that hath (bi thi supposing) in a trewe wille and
by an hole entent, purposed him to be a parfite folower of Criste, not only in actyve
leving, bot in the sovereinnest pointe of contemplatif leving the whiche is possible by
grace for to be comen to in this present liif of a parfite soule yit abiding in this deedly
body; and therto that doth that in him is, and bi thi supposing, hath do longe tyme
before, for to able him to contemplative levyng by the vertuous menes of active
levyng. For elles it acordeth nothing to him.
And, over this, I charge thee and I beseche thee, bi the autorité of charité, that yif
any soche schal rede it, write it, or speke it, or elles here it be red or spokin, that thou
charge hem, as I do thee, for to take hem tyme to rede it, speke it, write it, or here it,
al over. For, paraventure, ther is som mater therin, in the beginnyng or in the middel,
the whiche is hanging and not fully declared ther it stondeth; and yif it be not there, it
is sone after, or elles in the ende. Wherfore, yif a man saw o mater and not another,
paraventure he might lightly be led into errour. And therfore, in eschewing of this
errour bothe in thiself and in alle other, I preye thee par charité do as I sey thee.
Fleschely janglers, opyn preisers and blamers of hemself or of any other, tithing
tellers, rouners and tutilers of tales, and alle maner of pinchers, kept I never that thei
sawe this book. For myn entent was never to write soche thing unto hem. And ther
fore I wolde that thei medel not therwith, neither thei ne any of thees corious lettred
or lewed men. Ye, though al that thei be ful good men of active levyng, yit this mater
acordeth nothing to hem; but yif it be to thoo men the whiche, though al thei stonde
in actyveté bi outward forme of levyng, nevertheles yit bi inward stering after the
privé sperit of God, Whos domes ben hid, thei ben ful graciously disposid, not contyn-
owely as it is propre to verrey contemplatyves, bot than and than to be parceners
in the hieghst pointe of this contemplative acte: yif soche men might se it, thei schuld
by the grace of God be greetly counforted therby.
This book is distingwid in seventy chapitres and five. Of the whiche chapitres, the
last chapitres of alle techeth som certeyn tokens by the whiche a soule may verrely
preve whether he be clepid of God to be a worcher in this werk or none.
Here biginneth a table of the chapitres.
The first chapitre. Of foure degrees of Cristen mens leving; and of the cours of
his cleping that this book was maad unto.
The secound chapitre. A schort stering to meeknes and to the werk of this book.
The thrid chapitre. How the werk of this book schal be wrought, and of the wor
thines of it bifore alle other werkes.
The feerthe chapitre. Of the schortnes of this werk, and how it may not be comen
to by the corioustee of witte, ne by ymaginacion.
The fifthe chapitre. That in the tyme of this werk alle the cretures that ever have
ben, ben now, or ever schal be, and alle the werkes of thoo same creatures, scholen
be hid under the clowde of forgetyng.
The six chapitre. A schort conceyte of the werk of this book, tretid by questyon.
The seventh chapitre. How a man schal have him in this werk agens alle
thoughtes, and nameli agens alle thoo that risen of his owne coriousté of kunnyng
and of kyndely witte.
The eight chapitre. A good declaryng of certein doutes that may falle in this werk,
tretid bi questyon: in distroiing of a mans owne coriousté of konnyng and of kyndely wit;
and in distynging of the degrees and the partyes of actyve levyng and contemplative.
The ninthe chapitre. That, in the tyme of this werk, the minde of the holiest
creature that ever God maad letteth more then it profiteth.
The teenthe chapitre. How a man schal knowe when his thoght is no sinne; and,
yif it be synne, when it is deedly and when it is venial.
The elleventh chapitre. That a man schuld charge iche thought and iche stering
after that it is, and alweis eschewe rechelesnes in venial synne.
The twelfthe chapitre. That by vertewe of this werk sinne is not only distroied,
bot also vertewes ben getyn.
The thritteenth chapitre. What meeknes is in itself, and when it is parfite and
when it is inparfite.
The fourtene chapitre. That withoute inparfite meeknes coming before, it is in-
possible a sinner to come to the parfite vertewe of meeknes in this liif.
The fiftene chapitre. A schort profe agens theire errour that seien that ther is no
parfiter cause to be mekid under then is the mynde of a mans owne wrechidnes.
The sixtene chapitre. That bi vertewe of this werk, a sinner trewly turned and
clepid to contemplacion cometh sonner to perfeccion than bi any other werk; and bi
it sonnest may gete of God forgevenes of synnes.
The seventene chapitre. That a verrey contemplatiif list not medel hym of active
liif, ne of anything that is doon or spoken aboute him, ne yit to answere to his blam-
ers in excusing of himself.
The eightene chapitre. How that yit into this day alle actyves pleynen hem of
contemplatyves, as Martha did on Mary; of the whiche pleynyng ignoraunce is the
The ninetene chapitre. A schort excusacion of him that maad this book, teching
how alle contemplatives schuld have alle actyves fully excusid of theire pleinyng
wordes and dedes.
The twenty chapitre. How Almighty God wil goodly answere for alle thoo that,
for the excusing of hemself, list not leve the besines aboute the love of Hym.
The on and twenty chapitre. The trewe exposicion of this Gospel worde: Mary
hath chosen the best partye.
The two and twenty chapitre. Of the wonderful love that Crist had to Mari, in
persone of alle sinners treuly turned and clepid to the grace of contemplacion.
The thre and twenty chapitre. How God wol answere and purvey for hem in
sperite, that for besines aboute his love list not answere ne purvey for hemself.
The foure and twenty chapitre. What charité is in itself, and how it is sotely and
parfitely contened in the werk of this book.
The five and twenty chapitre. That in the tyme of this werk a parfite soule hath
no special beholding to any o man in this liif.
The six and twenty chapitre. That withoute ful specyal grace, or longe use in
comoun grace, the werk of this book is right travelous; and in this werk, whiche is
the werk of the soule holpen by grace, and whiche is the werk of only God.
The seven and twenty chapitre. Who schuld worche in the gracious werk of this
The eight and twenty chapitre. That a man schuld not presume to worche in this
werk before the tyme that he be lawfuly clensid in consience of alle his specyal
dedes of synne.
The nine and twenty chapitre. That a man schuld bidingly travaile in this werk,
and suffre the pine therof, and deme no man.
The thritty chapitre. Who schuld blame and reprove other mens defautes.
The one and thritty chapitre. How a man schuld have hym in beginning of this
werk agens alle thoughtes and steringes of sinne.
The two and thritty chapitre. Of two goostli sleightes that ben helpli to a goostli
beginner in the werk of this book.
The thre and thritty chapitre. That in this werk a soule is clensid bothe of his
special sinnes and of the pine of hem, and yit how ther is no parfite rest in this liif.
The foure and thritty chapitre. That God geveth this grace freely withouten any
mene, and that it may not be comen to with menes.
The five and thritty chapitre. Of three menes in the whiche a contemplatiif pren-
tise schuld be ocupied: in reding, thinkyng, and preiing.
The six and thritty chapitre. Of the meditacions of hem that contynuely travailen
in the werk of this book.
The seven and thritty chapitre. Of the special preiers of hem that ben con-
tynowel worchers in the werk of this book.
The eight and thritty chapitre. How and whi that schort preier perceth heven.
The nine and thritty chapitre. How a parfite worcher schal preie, and what preier
is in itself; and yif a man schal preie in wordes, whiche wordes acorden than moste
to the propirté of preier.
The fourty chapitre. That in the tyme of this work, a soule hath no special be-
holding to any o vice in itself ne to any o vertew in itself.
The on and fourty chapitre. That in alle other werks binethe this, men schuld
kepe discrecion; bot in this, none.
The two and fourty chapitre. That by indiscrecion in this men schal kepe discre-
cion in alle other thinges; and sekerly elles never.
The thre and fourty chapitre. That alle wetyng and felyng of a mans owne being
must nedelynges be lost, yif the perfeccion of this werk schal verrely be felt in any
soule in this liif.
The foure and fourty chapitre. How a soule schal dispose it on the owne partie
for to distroie alle wetyng and feling of the owne being.
The five and fourty chapitre. A good declaring of somme certein disseites that
mowen falle in this werk.
The six and fourty chapitre. A good teching how a man schal flee thees disseites,
and wirche more with a listines of spirite then with any boistousnes of body.
The seven and fourty chapitre. A sleygh teching of this werk in purté of spirite;
declaryng how that on o maner a soule schuld schewe his desire unto God, and on
the contrary unto man.
The eight and fourty chapitre. How God wol be servid bothe with body and with
soule, and reward men in bothe; and how men schul knowe when alle thoo sounes
and swetnes that fallen into the body in tyme of preier ben bothe good and ivel.
The nine and fourty chapitre. The substaunce of alle perfeccion is not elles bot a
good wile; and how that alle sounes, counfortes, and swetnes, that mowe falle in this
liif, ben to it bot as it were accidentes.
The fifty chapitre. Whiche is chaste love; and how in som creatures soche sensi
ble counfortes ben bot seelden, and in som right ofte.
The one and fifty chapitre. That men schuld have grete warnes, so that thei un-
derstonde not bodili thing that is ment goostly; and namely it is good to be war in
understonding of this worde IN and of this worde UP.
The two and fifty chapitre. How theese yong, presumtuous dissiples misunder-
stonden this worde IN; and of the deseites that folowen theron.
The thre and fifty chapitre. Of diverse unseemly continaunces that folowen hem
that lacken the werk of this book.
The foure and fifty chapitre. How that bi vertewe of this werk a man is governid
ful wisely and maad ful seemly, as wel in body as in soule.
The five and fifty chapitre. How thei ben disseived, that folowen the fervour of
spirite in reprovyng of sinne withouten discrecion.
The six and fifty chapitre. How they ben disseived that lenen more to the cori-
ousté of kyndely witte, and of clergie leerned in the scole of men, than to the comoun
doctrine and counsel of Holi Chirche.
The seven and fifti chapitre. How thees yong, presumptuous dissiples misunder-
stonden this other worde UP; and of the deseites that folowen theron.
The eight and fifty chapitre. That a man schal not take ensaumple of Seinte
Martyn and of Seinte Steven, for to streine his ymaginacion bodily upwardes, in the
tyme of his preier.
The nine and fifty chapitre. That a man schal not take exsaumple at the bodily
assencion of Criste, for to streine his ymaginacion upwardes bodily in the tyme of
preier; and that tyme, stede, and bodi, theese thre schulden be forgeten in alle goostly
The sixty chapitre. That the heighe and the next wey to heven is ronne bi desires,
and not bi pases of feet.
The on and sixty chapitre. That alle bodili thing is soget unto goostli thing, and is
rewlid therafter bi the cours of kinde, and not agensward.
The two and sixty chapitre. How a man may wite when his goostly werk is
bineeth him or withouten him, and when it is even with him or withinne him, and
when it is aboven him and under his God.
The thre and sixty chapitre. Of the mightes of a soule in general; and how minde
in special is a principal might, comprehending in it alle the other mightes and alle
thoo thinges in the whiche thei worchen.
The foure and sixty chapitre. Of the other two principal mightes, reson and wil;
and of the werk of hem bifore sinne and after.
The five and sixty chapitre. Of the first secondary might, ymaginacion bi name;
and of the werkes, and of the obedience of it unto reson bifore sinne and after.
The six and sixty chapitre. Of the other secondari might, sensualité bi name; and
of the werkes, and of the obedience of it unto wille bifore sinne and after.
The seven and sixty chapitre. That whoso knoweth not the mightes of a soule and
the maner of here worching may lightly be disseived in understonding of goostly
wordes and of goostly worching; and how a soule is maad a god in grace.
The eight and sixty chapitre. That noghwhere bodili is everywhere goostly; and
how oure utter man clepith the werk of this book nowght.
The nine and sixty chapitre. How that a mans affeccion is merveylously
chaunged in goostly felyng of this nought, when it is noghwere wrought.
The seventy chapitre. That right as bi the defailing of oure bodely wittes, we
bigine redeliest to kom to knowing of goostli thinges, so by the defailing of oure
goostly wittes we biginne moste redeliest to com to the knowing of God, soche as is
possible bi grace to be had here.
The on and seventy chapitre. That som may not come to fele the perfeccion of
this werk bot in tyme of ravisching, and som mowe have it when thei wil, in the co-
moun state of mans soule.
The two and seventy chapitre. That a worcher in this werk schuld not deme ne
think of another worcher as he feleth in himself.
The thre and seventy chapitre. How that after the licnes of Moyses, of Beseleel,
and of Aaron, medeling hem aboute the Arke of the Testament, we profite on thre
maners in this grace of contemplacion; for this grace is figured in that Arke.
The foure and seventy chapitre. How that the mater of this book is nevermore
red or spoken, ne herde red or spoken, of a soule disposid therto, withouten feling of
a verrey acordaunce to the effecte of the same werk; and of rehersing of the same
charge that is wretin in the prolog.
The five and seventy chapitre. Of somme certein tokenes bi the whiche a man may
prove whether he be clepid of God to worche in this werk.
And here eendeth the table of the chapitres
Goostly freende in God, I preie thee and I beseche thee that thou wilt have a besi
beholding to the cours and the maner of thi cleeping. And thank God hertely, so that
thou maist thorow help of His grace stonde stifly agens alle the sotil assailinges of thi
bodily and goostly enemyes, and winne to the coroun of liif that evermore lasteth.
Here biginneth the first chapitre.
Goostly freende in God, thou schalt wel understonde that I fynde, in my boistous
beholdyng, foure degrees and fourmes of Cristen mens levyng; and ben theese: Co-
moun, Special, Singuler, and Parfite. Thre of theese mow be bigonnen and eendid in
this liif; and the ferthe may bi grace be bigonnen here, bot it schal ever laste with
outen eende in the blis of heven. And right as thou seest how thei ben set here in or-
dre, ilch one after other, first Comoun, than Special, after Syngulere, and last Parfite:
right so me thinketh that, in the same ordre and in the same cours, oure Lorde hath of
His grete mercy clepid thee and ledde thee unto Him bi the desire of thin herte.
For first thou wote wel that when thou were levyng in the comoun degree of Cris-
ten mens levyng in companie of thi wordely freendes, it semeth to me that the ever-
lasting love of His Godheed, thorow the whiche He mad thee and wrought thee when
thou were nought, and sithen bought thee with the prise of His precious blood when
thou were loste in Adam, might not suffre thee be so fer fro Him in forme and degree
of levyng. And therfore He kyndelid thi desire ful graciously, and fastnid bi it a
lyame of longing, and led thee by it into a more special state and forme of levyng, to
be a servaunt of the special servauntes of His; where thou mightest lerne to live more
specialy and more goostly in His servise than thou dedist, or mightest do, in the co-
moun degree of levyng bifore. And what more? Yit it semeth that He wolde not leve
thee thus lightly, for love of His herte, the whiche He hath evermore had unto thee
sith thou were oughtes. Bot what did He? Seest thou nought how lystly and how
graciously He hath pulled thee to the thrid degré and maner of leving, the whiche
hight Singuleer? In the whiche solitari forme and maner of levyng thou maist lerne to
lift up the fote of thi love and step towardes that state and degré of levyng that is
Parfite, and the laste state of alle.
Here biginneth the secound chapitre.
Look up now, weike wreche, and see what thou arte. What arte thou, and what hast
thou deserved thus to be clepid of oure Lorde? What weri wrechid herte and sleping
in sleuthe is that, the whiche is not waknid with the drawght of this love and the
voise of this cleping? Bewar now, wreche, in this while with thin enemye; and holde
thee never the holier ne the beter for the worthines of this cleping and for the singuler
fourme of levyng that thou art in; bot the more wrechid and cursid, bot yif thou do
that in thee is goodly, bi grace and bi counsel, to lyve after thi cleping. And insomo-
chel thou schuldest be more meek and lovyng to thi goostly spouse, that He, that is
the Almighty God, King of kynges and Lorde of lordes, wolde meek Hym so lowe
unto thee, and amonges alle the flok of scheep, so graciously wolde chese thee to
be one of His speciales, and sithen set thee in the stede of pasture, where thou maist
be fed with the swetnes of His love, in erles of thin heritage, the kingdome of heven.
Do on than, I preie thee, fast. Look now forwardes, and lat be bacwardes. And see
what thee faileth, and not what thou haste: for that is the rediest getyng and keping of
meeknes. Alle thi liif now behoveth algates to stonde in desire, yif thou schalt profite
in degré of perfeccion. This desire behoveth algates be wrought in thi wille bi the
honde of Almighti God and thi consent. Bot oo thing I telle thee: He is a gelous lover
and suffreth no felawschip, and Him list not worche in thi wille bot yif He be only
with thee bi Hymself. He asketh none helpe, bot only thiself. He wil thou do bot loke
on Hym and late Him alone. And kepe thou the windowes and the dore for flies and
enemies assailyng. And yif thou be willy to do this, thee thar bot meekly put apon
Him with preier, and sone wil He help thee. Put on than: lat see how thou berest thee.
He is ful redy, and doth bot abideth thee. Bot what schalt thou do, and how schalt
Here biginneth the thrid chapitre.
Lift up thin herte unto God with a meek steryng of love; and mene Himself, and
none of His goodes. And therto loke thee lothe to thenk on ought bot on Hymself, so
that nought worche in thi witte ne in thi wille bot only Himself. And do that in thee is
to forgete alle the creatures that ever God maad and the werkes of hem, so that thi
thought ne thi desire be not directe ne streche to any of hem, neither in general ne in
special. Bot lat hem be, and take no kepe to hem.
This is the werk of the soule that moste plesith God. Alle seintes and aungelles han
joie of this werk, and hasten hem to helpe it in al here might. Alle feendes ben wood
whan thou thus doste, and proven for to felle it in alle that thei kun. Alle men levyng
in erthe ben wonderfuli holpen of this werk, thou wost not how. Ye, the soules in
purgatori ben esed of theire peine by vertewe of this werk. Thiself arte clensid and
maad vertewos by no werk so mochel. And yit it is the lightest werk of alle, when a
soule is holpen with grace in sensible liste, and sonnest done. Bot elles it is hard and
wonderful to thee for to do.
Lette not therfore, bot travayle therin tyl thou fele lyst. For at the first tyme when
thou dost it, thou fyndest bot a derknes, and as it were a cloude of unknowyng, thou
wost never what, savyng that thou felist in thi wille a nakid entent unto God. This
derknes and this cloude is, howsoever thou dost, bitwix thee and thi God, and letteth
thee that thou maist not see Him cleerly by light of understonding in thi reson, ne
fele Him in swetnes of love in thin affeccion. And therfore schap thee to bide in this
derknes as longe as thou maist, evermore criing after Him that thou lovest; for yif
ever schalt thou fele Him or see Him, as it may be here, it behoveth alweis be in this
cloude and in this derknes. And yif thou wilte besily travayle as I bid thee, I triste in
His mercy that thou schalt come therto.
Here beginneth the feerthe chapitre.
But forthi that thou schalt not erre in this worching, and wene that it be otherwise
then it is, I schal telle thee a lityl more therof, as me thinketh.
This werk asketh no longe tyme er it be ones treulich done, as sum men wenen; for
it is the schortest werke of alle that man may ymagyn. It is neither lenger ne schorter
then is an athomus; the whiche athomus, by the diffinicion of trewe philisophres in
the sciens of astronomye, is the leest partie of tyme; and it is so litil that, for the littil-
nes of it, it is undepartable and neighhonde incomprehensible. This is that tyme of
the whiche it is wretyn: Alle tyme that is goven to thee, it schal be askid of thee how
thou haste dispendid it. And skilful thing it is that thou geve acompte of it; for it is
neither lenger ne schorter, bot even acording to one only steryng that is withinne the
principal worching might of thi soul, the whiche is thi wille. For even so many
willinges or desiringes -- and no mo ne no fewer -- may be and aren in one oure in
thi wille, as aren athomus in one oure. And yif thou were reformid bi grace to the
first state of mans soule, as it was bifore sinne, than thou schuldest evermore, bi help
of that grace, be lorde of that stering or of thoo sterynges; so that none yede forby,
bot alle thei schulde streche into the soverein desirable and into the heighest wilnable
thing, the whiche is God.
For He is even mete to oure soule by mesuring of His Godheed; and oure soule
even mete unto Him bi worthines of oure creacion to His ymage and to His licnes.
And He by Himself withouten moo, and none bot He, is sufficient at the fulle, and
mochel more, to fulfille the wille and the desire of oure soule. And oure soule, bi
vertewe of this reformyng grace, is mad sufficient at the fulle to comprehende al Him
by love, the whiche is incomprehensible to alle create knowable might, as is aungel
and mans soule. (I mene by theire knowyng and not by theire lovyng, and therfore I
clepe hem in this caas knowable mightes).
Bot seth: alle resonable creatures, aungel and man, hath in hem, ilchone by hem-
self, o principal worching might, the whiche is clepid a knowable might, and another
principal worching might, the whiche is clepid a lovyng might: of the whiche two
mightes, to the first, the whiche is a knowyng might, God, That is the maker of hem,
is evermore incomprehensible; and to the secound, the whiche is the lovyng myght,
in ilchone diversly He is al comprehensible at the fulle, insomochel that o lovyng
soule only in itself, by vertewe of love, schuld comprehende in it Hym that is suffi-
cient at the fulle -- and mochel more, withoute comparison -- to fille alle the soules
and aungelles that ever may be. And this is the eendles merveilous miracle of love,
the whiche schal never take eende; for ever schal he do it, and never schal he seese
for to do it. See, who bi grace see may, for the felyng of this is eendles blisse; and the
contrary is eendles pyne.
And therfore whoso were refourmyd by grace thus to continow in keping of the
sterynges of the wille, schuld never be in this liif -- as he may not be withouten
thees sterynges in kynde -- withouten som taast of the eendles swetnes; and in the
blisse of heven withouten the fulle food. And therfore have no wonder thof I stere
thee to this werk. For this is the werk, as thou schalt here after, in the whiche man
schuld have contynowed yif he never had synned, and to the whiche worching man
was maad, and alle thing for man, to help him and forther him therto, and by the
whiche a man schal be reparailed agein. And for the defaylyng in this worching a
man falleth depper and depper in synne, and ferther and ferther fro God. And by
kepyng and contynowel worching in this werk only, withouten mo, a man evermore
riseth hier and hier fro synne, and nerer and nerer unto God.
And therfore take good keep into tyme, how that thou dispendist it. For nothing is
more precious than tyme. In oo litel tyme, as litel as it is, may heven be wonne and
lost. A token it is that time is precious: for God, That is gever of tyme, geveth never
two tymes togeder, bot ichone after other. And this He doth for He wil not reverse
the ordre or the ordinel cours in the cause of His creacion. For tyme is maad for man,
and not man for tyme. And therfore God, That is the rewler of hy kynde, wil not in
the gevyng of tyme go before the steryng of kynde in a mans soule; the whiche is
even acordyng to o tyme only. So that man schal have none excusacion agens God in
the Dome and at the gevyng of acompte of dispendyng of tyme, seiing: "Thou gevest
two tymes at ones, and I have bot o steryng at ones."
Bot soroufuly thou seist now: "How schal I do? and sith this is soth that thou seist,
how schal I geve acompte of iche thing seerly. I that into this day, now of foure and
twenty yere age, never toke hede of tyme? Yif I wolde now amende it, thou wost
wel, bi verrey reson of thi wordes wretyn before, it may not be after the cours of
kynde ne of comoun grace, that I schuld mowe kepe or elles make aseeth to any mo
tymes than to thoo that ben forto come. Ye, and moreover wel I wote, bi verrey
proef, that of thoo that ben to come I schal on no wise, for habundaunce of freelté
and slownes of sperite, mowe kepe one of an hondred; so that I am verrely conclude
in theese resons. Help me now, for the love of Jhesu!"
Right wel hast thou seide "for the love of Jhesu." For in the love of Jhesu there
schal be thin help. Love is soche a might that it makith alle thing comoun. Love ther-
fore Jhesu, and alle thing that He hath it is thin. He by His Godheed is maker and
gever of tyme. He bi His Manheed is the verrey keper of tyme. And He, bi His God-
heed and His Manheed togeders, is the trewist domesman and the asker of acompte
of dispending of tyme. Knyt thee therfore to Him bi love and by beleve; and than by
vertewe of that knot thou schalt be comoun parcener with Him and with alle that by
love so be knittyd unto Him; that is to sey, with oure Lady Seinte Mary, that ful was
of alle grace in kepyng of tyme with alle the aungelles of heven that never may lese
tyme, and with alle the seintes in heven and in erthe, that by the grace of Jhesu kepen
tyme ful justly in vertewe of love.
Loo! here lith counforte; construe thou cleerly and pike thee sum profite. Bot of oo
thing I warne thee amonges alle other: I cannot see who may trewliche chalenge
comunité thus with Jhesu and His just Moder, His highe aungelles and also with His
seyntes, bot yif it be soche one that doth that in hym is, with helping of grace, in
kepyng of tyme; so that he be seen to be a profiter on his partye, so litil as is, unto the
comunité, as ichone of hem doth on his.
And therfore take kepe to this werk and to the merveylous maner of it withinne in
thi soule. For yif it be trewlich conceyved, it is bot a sodeyn steryng, and as it were
unavisid, speedly springing unto God as sparcle fro the cole. And it is merveylous to
noumbre the sterynges that may be in one oure wrought in a soule that is disposid to
this werk. And yit, in o steryng of alle theese, he may have sodenly and parfitely for-
geten alle create thing. Bot fast after iche steryng, for corupcion of the flesche, it
falleth doune agein to som thought or to some done or undone dede. Bot what
therof? for fast after, it riseth agen as sodenly as it did bifore.
And here mowe men schortly conceyve the maner of this worching, and cleerly
knowe that it is fer fro any fantasie, or any fals ymaginacion, or queynte opinion; the
whiche ben brought in, not by soche a devoute and a meek blynde stering of love,
bot by a proude, coryous, and an ymaginatiif witte. Soche a proude, corious witte
behoveth algates be born doun and stifly troden doun under fote, yif this werke schal
trewly be conceyvid in pureté of spirite.
For whoso herith this werke outher be red or spoken, and weneth that it may or
schuld be comen to by travayle in theire wittes (and therfore thei sitte and sechin in
theire wittes how that it may be, and in this coriousté thei travayle theire ymagina-
cion, paraventure, agens cours of kynde, and thei feyne a maner of worching, the
whiche is neither bodily ne goostly): trewly this man, whatsoever he be, is perilously
disseyvid; insomochel that, bot yif God of His grete goodnes schewe His mercyful
myracle and make hym sone to leve werk and meek him to counsel of provid
worchers, he schal falle outher into frenesies, or elles into other grete mischeves of
goostly sinnes and devels disseites; thorow the whiche he may lightly be lorne, bothe
liif and soule, withouten any eende. And therfore, for Goddes love, beware in this
werk, and travayle not in thi wittes ne in thin ymaginacion on no wise. For I telle
thee trewly, it may not be comen to by travaile in theim; and therfore leve theim and
worche not with theim.
And wene not, for I clepe it a derknes or a cloude, that it be any cloude congelid of
the humours that fleen in the ayre, ne yit any derknes soche as is in thin house on
nightes, when thi candel is oute. For soche a derknes and soche a cloude maist thou
ymagin with coriousté of witte, for to bere before thin ighen in the lightest day of
somer; and also, agenswarde, in the derkist night of wynter thou mayst ymagin a
clere schinyng light. Lat be soche falsheed; I mene not thus. For when I sey derknes,
I mene a lackyng of knowyng; as alle that thing that thou knowest not, or elles that
thou hast forgetyn, it is derk to thee, for thou seest it not with thi goostly ighe. And
for this skile it is not clepid a cloude of the eire, bot a cloude of unknowyng, that is
bitwix thee and thi God.
Here beginneth the fifthe chapitre.
And yif ever thou schalt come to this cloude, and wone and worche therin as I bid
thee, thee byhoveth, as this cloude of unknowyng is aboven thee, bitwix thee and thi
God, right so put a cloude of forgetyng bineth thee, bitwix thee and alle the cretures
that ever ben maad. Thee thinketh, paraventure, that thou arte ful fer from God, forthi
that this cloude of unknowing is bitwix thee and thi God; bot sekirly, and it be wel
conseyved, thou arte wel ferther fro Hym when thou hast no cloude of forgetyng
bitwix thee and alle the creatures that ever ben maad. As ofte as I sey "alle the crea-
tures that ever ben maad," as ofte I mene, not only the self creatures, bot also alle the
werkes and the condicions of the same creatures. I oute take not o creature, whether
thei ben bodily creatures or goostly, ne yit any condicion or werk of any creature,
whether thei be good or ivel; bot schortly to sey, alle schuld be hid under the cloude
of forgetyng in this caas.
For thof al it be ful profitable sumtyme to think of certeyne condicions and dedes
of sum certein special creatures, nevertheles yit in this werke it profiteth lityl or
nought. For why mynde or thinkyng of any creature that ever God maad, or of any of
theire dedes outher, it is a maner of goostly light; for the ighe of thi soule is openid
on it and even ficchid therapon, as the ighe of a schoter is apon the prik that he
schoteth to. And o thing I telle thee, that alle thing that thou thinkest apon it is
aboven thee for the tyme, and bitwix thee and thi God. And insomochel thou arte the
ferther fro God, that ought is in thi mynde bot only God.
Ye, and yif it be cortesye and semely to sey, in this werk it profiteth litil or noght
to think of the kyndenes or the worthines of God, ne on oure Lady, ne on the seintes
or aungelles in heven, ne yit on the joies in heven: that is to say, with a special be-
holding to hem, as thou woldest bi that beholding fede and encrees thi purpos. I
trowe that on no wise it schuld be so in this caas and in this werk. For thof al it be
good to think apon the kindenes of God, and to love Hym and preise Him for hem:
yit it is fer betyr to think apon the nakid beyng of Him, and to love Him and preise
Him for Himself.
Here biginnith the sixthe chapitre.
But now thou askest me and seiest: "How schal I think on Himself, and what is
Hee?" And to this I cannot answere thee bot thus: "I wote never."
For thou hast brought me with thi question into that same derknes, and into that
same cloude of unknowyng that I wolde thou were in thiself. For of alle other crea-
tures and theire werkes -- ye, and of the werkes of God self -- may a man thorou
grace have fulheed of knowing, and wel to kon thinke on hem; bot of God Himself
can no man thinke. And therfore I wole leve al that thing that I can think, and chese
to my love that thing that I cannot think. For whi He may wel be loved, bot not
thought. By love may He be getyn and holden; bot bi thought neither. And therfore,
thof al it be good sumtyme to think of the kyndnes and the worthines of God in spe-
cial, and thof al it be a light and a party of contemplacion, nevertheles in this werk it
schal be casten down and keverid with a cloude of forgetyng. And thou schalt step
aboven it stalworthly, bot listely, with a devoute and a plesing stering of love, and
fonde for to peerse that derknes aboven thee. And smyte apon that thicke cloude of
unknowyng with a scharp darte of longing love, and go not thens for thing that befal-
Here beginnith the seventh chapitre.
And yif any thought rise and wil prees algates aboven thee, bitwix thee and that
derknes, and asche thee seiing: "What sekist thou, and what woldest thou have?" sey
thou that it is God that thou woldest have. "Him I coveite, Him I seche, and noght
bot Him." And yif he ascke thee what is that God, sey thou that it is God That maad
thee and bought thee, and That graciously hath clepid thee to His love. And in Him
sei thou kanst no skile. And therfore sey: "Go thou down agein." And treed him fast
doun with a steryng of love thof he seme to thee right holy, and seme to thee as he
wolde help thee to seke Hym.
For, paraventure, he wil bryng to thi minde diverse ful feire and wonderful pointes
of His kyndnes, and sey that He is ful swete and ful lovyng, ful gracious and ful mer-
cyful. And yif thou wilt here him, he coveiteth no beter; for at the last he wil thus
jangle ever more and more til he bring thee lower to the mynde of His Passion. And
there wol he lat thee see the wonderful kyndnes of God; and if thou here him, he
kepeth no beter. For sone after he wil lat thee see thin olde wrechid leving; and
paraventure, in seing and thinkyng therof, he wil bryng to thi mynde som place that
thou hast wonid in before this tyme. So that at the last, er ever wite thou, thou schalt
be scaterid thou wost never where. The cause of this scateryng is that thou herddist
him first wilfuly, answeredist him, resceivedist him, and letest him allone.
And yit, nevertheles, the thing that he seide was bothe good and holy; ye, and so
holy that what man or womman that wenith to come to contemplacion withoutyn
many soche swete meditacions of theire owne wrechidnes, the Passion, the kyndenes
and the grete goodnes and the worthynes of God comyng before, sekirly he schal
erre and faile of his purpos. And yit, nevertheles, it behoveth a man or a womman,
that hath longe tyme ben usid in theese meditacions, algates leve hem, and put hem
and holde hem fer doun under the cloude of forgetyng, yif ever schal he peerse the
cloude of unknowyng bitwix him and his God.
Therfore, what tyme that thou purposest thee to this werk, and felest bi grace that
thou arte clepid of God, lift than up thin herte unto God with a meek steryng of love.
And mene God love That maad thee, and bought thee, and That graciousli hath
clepid thee to this werk; and resseive none other thought of God. And yit not alle
theese, bot thee list; for it suffiseth inough a naked entent directe unto God, with-
outen any other cause then Himself.
And yif thee list have this entent lappid and foulden in o worde, for thou schuldest
have betir holde therapon, take thee bot a litil worde of o silable; for so it is betir then
of two, for ever the schorter it is, the betir it acordeth with the werk of the spirite.
And soche a worde is this worde God or this worde love. Cheese thee whether thou
wilt, or another as thee list: whiche that thee liketh best of o silable. And fasten this
worde to thin herte, so that it never go thens for thing that bifalleth.
This worde schal be thi scheeld and thi spere, whether thou ridest on pees or on
werre. With this worde thou schalt bete on this cloude and this derknes aboven thee.
With this worde thou schalt smite doun al maner thought under the cloude of forget-
ing; insomochel that yif any thought prees apon thee to aske thee what thou woldest
have, answere him with no mo wordes bot with this o worde. And yif he profre thee
of his grete clergie to expoune thee that worde and to telle thee the condicions of that
worde, sey him that thou wilt have it al hole, and not broken ne undon. And yif thow
wilt holde thee fast on this purpose, sekir be thou he wil no while abide. And whi?
For thou wilt not late him fede him on soche swete meditacions touchid before.
Here biginnith the eighte chapitre.
But now thou askest me: "What is he, this that thus preesith apon me in this
werk?" And whether it is a good thing or an ivel? "And yif it be an ivel thing, then
have I merveyle," thou seist, "whi that he wil encrees a mans devocion so mochel.
For sumtyme me think that it is a passing counforte to listen after his tales. For he wil
sumtyme, me think, make me weep ful hertly for pité of the Passion of Criste, som-
tyme for my wrechidnes, and for many other skiles that, me thinketh, ben ful holy,
and that done me mochel good. And therfore me thinkith that he schuld on no wise
be ivel. And yif he be good, and with his swete tales doth me so moche good withal,
than I have greet merveyle whi that thou biddist me put him doun and awey so fer
under the cloude of forgetyng."
Now sekirly me thinketh that this is a wel movid questyon, and therfore I think to
answere therto so febeli as I can. First, when thou askest me what is he, this that pre-
seth so fast apon thee in this werk, profryng to help thee in this werk: I sey that it is a
scharp and a clere beholding of thi kindely witte, preentid in thi reson withinne in thi
soule. And where thou askist me therof whether it be good or ivel, I sey that it be-
hoveth algates be good in his kynde, for whi it is a beme of the licnes of God. Bot the
use therof may be bothe good and ivel. Good, when it is openid bi grace for to see thi
wrechidnes, the Passion, the kyndnes, and the wonderful werkes of God in His crea-
tures bodily and goostly; and than it is no wonder thof it encrees thi devocion so
mochel as thou seist. Bot then is the use ivel, when it is swollen with pride and with
coriousté of moche clergie and letterly conning as in clerkes, and maketh hem prees
for to beholden not meek scolers and maystres of devinité or of devocion, bot proude
scolers of the devel and maysters of vanité and of falsheed. And in other men or
wommen, whatso thei be, religious or seculers, the use and the worching of this kyn-
dely witte is than ivel, whan it is swollen with proude and corious skyles of wordely
thinges and fleschely conceites, in covetyng of wordly worschipes and havyng of
richesses and veyne plesaunce and flateringes of other.
And where that thou askest me whi that thou schalt put it doune under the cloude
of forgetyng, sithen it is so that it is good in his kynde, and therto when it is wel
used, it doth thee so mochel good and encreseth thi devocion so mochel, to this I an-
swere and sey that thou schalt wel understonde that ther ben two maner of lives in
Holy Chirche. The tone is active liif, and the tother is contemplative liif. Actyve is
the lower, and contemplative is the hier. Active liif hath two degrees, a hier and a
lower; and also contemplative liif hath two degrees, a lower and a higher. Also
theese two lives ben so couplid togeders, that thof al thei ben divers in som party, yit
neither of hem may be had fully withouten som party of the other; for whi that party
that is the heigher party of actyve liif, that same party is the lower party of contem-
plative liif. So that a man may not be fully active, bot yif he be in party contempla-
tive; ne yit fully contemplative (as it may be here), bot yif he be in partie actyve. The
condicion of actyve liif is soche, that it is bothe bygonne and eended in this liif. Bot
not so of contemplative liif; for it is bigonne in this liif, and schal last withouten
eende, for whi that partie that Mary chees schal never be taken awey. Active liif is
troublid and travailid aboute many thinges; bot contemplative sitteth in pees with o thing.
The lower party of active liif stondeth in good and honeste bodily werkes of mercy
and of charité. The hier party of active liif and the lower party of contemplative liif
lith in goodly goostly meditacions, and besy beholding -- unto a mans owne wre-
chidnes with sorow and contricion, unto the Passion of Crist and of His servauntes
with pité and compassion, and unto the wonderful giftes, kyndnes, and werkes of
God in alle His creatures, bodili and goostly, with thankyng and preising. Bot the
higher partye of contemplacion (as it may be had here) hongeth al holy in this
derknes and in this cloude of unknowyng, with a lovyng steryng and a blinde be-
holdyng unto the nakid beyng of God Himself only.
In the lower partye of active liif a man is withouten himself and bineeth himself. In
the higher party of actyve liif and the lower party of contemplative liif, a man is
withinne himself and even with himself. Bot in the higher partie of contemplative
liif, a man is aboven himself and under his God. Aboven himself he is, for whi he
purposeth him to wynne theder bi grace, whether he may not come bi kynde; that is
to sey, to be knit to God in spirite, and in oneheed of love and acordaunce of wile.
And right as it is inpossible to mans understondyng a man to come to the higher
party of actyve liif, bot if he seese for a tyme of the lower party: so it is that a man
schal not mowe com to the higher party of contemplative liif, bot yif he seese for a
tyme of the lower partye. And as unleveful a thing as it is, and as moche as it wolde
lette a man that sat in his meditacions, to beholde thanne to his outward bodily
werkes, the whiche he had done or elles schul do, thof al thei were never so holy
werkes in hemself: sekirly as unlicly a thing it is, and as moche wolde it let a man,
that schuld worche in this derknes and in this cloude of unknowing with an affectu-
ous stering of love to God for Himself, for to late any thought or any meditacion of
Goddes wonderful giftes, kyndnes, and werkes in any of His creatures, bodily or
goostly, rise apon him to prees bitwix him and his God, though al thei be never so
holy thoughtes, ne so liking, ne so counfortable.
And for this skile it is that I bid thee put doun soche a scharp sotil thought, and
kever him with a thicke cloude of forgetyng, be he never so holy, ne hote he thee
never so weel for to help thee in thi purpos. For whi love may reche to God in this
liif, bot not knowing. And al the whiles that the soule wonith in this deedly body,
evermore is the scharpnes of oure understonding in beholding of alle goostly thinges,
bot most specialy of God, medelid with sum maner of fantasie; for the whiche oure
werk schuld be unclene, and, bot if more wonder were, it schuld lede us into moche
Here biginnith the ninthe chapitre.
And therfore the scharp steryng of thin understondyng, that wile alweis prees apon
thee when thou settest thee to this werk blynd, behoveth alweys be born doun; and
bot thou bere him doun, he wile bere thee doun; insomochel that whan thou wenest
best to abide in this derknes, and that nought is in thi mynde bot only God, and thou
loke witterly thou schalt fynde thi mynde not ocupied in this derknes, bot in a cleer
beholdyng of som thing beneeth God. And yif it thus be, sekirly then is that thing
aboven thee for the time, and bitwix thee and thi God. And therfore purpose thee to
put doun soche clere beholdinges, be thei never so holy ne so likyng.
For o thing I telle thee: it is more profitable to the helthe of thi soule, more worthi
in itself, and more plesing to God and to alle the seintes and aungelles in heven --
ye! and more helply to alle thi freendes, bodily and goostly, quik and dede -- soche
a blynde steryng of love unto God for Himself, and soche a privé love put upon this
cloude of unknowyng; and beter thee were for to have it and for to fele it in thin af-
feccion goostly, then it is for to have the ighe of thi soule openid in contemplacion or
beholding of alle the aungelles or seyntes in heven, or in hering of alle the mirthe and
the melody that is amonges hem in blisse.
And loke thou have no wonder of this, for mightest thou ones se it as cleerly as
thou maist bi grace com to for to grope it and feele it in this liif, thou woldest think
as I say. Bot seker be thou that cleer sight schal never man have here in this liif, bot
the felyng mowe men have thorow grace whan God vouchethsaaf. And therfore lift
up thi love to that cloude. Bot yif I schal sey the sothe, lat God drawe thi love up to
that cloude; and prove thou thorou help of His grace to forgete alle other thing.
For sithen a nakid minde of any thing under God, presyng agens thi wille and thi
wetyng, putteth thee ferther fro God than thou schuldest be, nere it were, and letteth
thee, and makith thee inasmoche more unable to fele in experience the frute of His
love: what trowest thou than that a mynde wetyngly and wilfuly drawen apon thee
wil hindre thee in thi purpos? And sithen a mynde of any special seinte or of any
clene goostly thing wil hindre thee so moche, what trowest thou than that the mynde
of any man levyng in this wrechid liif, or of any maner of bodely or wordely thing,
wil hinder thee and let thee in this werk?
I say not that soche a nakid sodein thought of any good and clene goostly thing
under God, presyng agens thi wille or thi wetyng, or elles wilfuly drawen apon thee
with avisement in encresing of thi devocion, though al it be lettyng to this maner of
werk, that it is therfore ivel. Nay, God forbede that thou take it so. Bot I say, thof al it
be good and holy, yit in this werk it letteth more then it profiteth -- I mene for the
tyme. For whi sekirly he that sekith God parfitely, he wil not rest him finaly in the
mynde of any aungel or seinte that is in heven.
Here bygynnith the tenthe chapitre.
But it is not thus of the mynde of any man or womman levyng in this liif, or of any
bodili or wordly thing, whatsoever that it be. For whi a nakyd sodein thought of any
of hem presing agens thi wile and thi wetyng, thof al it be no sinne arettid unto thee
-- for it is the pyne of the original sinne presing agens thi power, of the whiche sinne
thou arte clensid in thi baptyme -- nevertheles yit, yif this sodein steryng or thought
be not smetyn sone doun, as fast for freelté thi fleschly herte is streynid therby, with
sum maner of likyng yif it be a thing that pleseth thee or hath plesid thee bifore, or
elles with sum maner of gruching yif it be a thing that thee think greveth thee or hath
greved thee before. The whiche fastning, thof al it may be in fleschly levyng men
and wommen that ben in deedly sinne before, deedly, nevertheles in thee, and in alle
other that han in a trewe wile forsaken the woreld, soche a likyng or a gruching fast-
nyng in the flescheli herte is bot venial synne. The cause of this is the grounding and
the rotyng of youre entent in God, maad in the biginnyng of youre levyng in that
state that ye stonde in. Bot yif it so be that this likyng or gruching fastnyng in thi
fleschly herte and theires be suffred so longe to abide unreproved, that than at the last
it is fastnid to the goostly herte (that is to sey the wile) with a ful consent: than it is
And this befalleth when thow, or any of hem that I speke of, wilfuly drawen apon
yow the mynde of any man or womman levyng in this liif, or of any bodily or wor-
dely thing outher; insomoche that yif it be a thing the whiche greveth or hath grevid
thee before, ther riseth in thee a teenful passion and an appetite of vengaunce, the
whiche is clepid Wrath; or elles a fel dedein and a maner of wlatsomnes of theire
persone with dispitous and reprovyng thoughtes, the whiche is clepid Envye; or elles
a werines and an unlistines of any good ocupacion, bodily or goostly, the whiche is
clepid Slewth. And yif it be a thing that plesith thee, or hath plesid thee before, ther
riseth in thee a passaunt delite for to think on that thing whatso it be, insomochel that
thou restest thee in that thought, and finaly fastnist thin herte and thi wille therto, and
fedest thi fleschely herte therwith, so that thee think for the tyme that thou coveitest
none other welthe, bot to live ever in soche a pees and rest with that thing that thou
thinkest apon. Yif this thought that thou thus drawest apon thee, or elles resceyvest
when it is put unto thee, and that thou restest thee thus in with delite, be worthines of
kynde or of knowyng, of grace or of degree, of favour or of faireheed, than it is
Pride. And yif it be any maner of worldy good, riches or catel, or what that man may
have or be lorde of, then it is Covetyse. Yif it be deinteuous metes and drinkes, or
any maner of delites that man may taast, then it is Glotenie. And yif it be love or ple-
saunce, or any maner of fleschly daliaunce, glosing or flateryng of any man or
womman levyng in this liif, or of thiself outher, than it is Lecherye.
Here biginnith the elleven chapitre.
I say not this for I trowe that thou, or any other soche as I speke of, ben gilty and
combrid with any soche synnes; bot for I wolde that thou chargedist iche a thought,
and iche a steryng after that it is, and for I wolde that thou travailedist besily to dis-
troie the first steryng and thought of thees thinges that thou maist thus synne inne.
For o thing I telle thee: that who chargeth not, or setteth litil bi the first thought --
ye, though al it be no sinne unto him -- he, that whosoever that he be, schal not es-
chewe rechelesnes in venial sinne. Venial synne schal no man utterly eschue in this
deedly liif. Bot rechelesnes in venial synne schuld alweis be eschewed of alle the
dissiples of perfeccion; and elles I have no wonder thof thei sone sinne deedly.
Here biginnith the twelfthe chapitre.
And therfore, yif thou wilt stonde and not falle, seese never in thin entent, bot bete
evermore on this cloude of unknowyng that is bitwix thee and thi God with a scharpe
darte of longing love. And lothe for to think on ought under God. And go not thens
for thing that befalleth. For this is only bi itself that werk that distroieth the grounde
and the rote of synne. Fast thou never so mochel, wake thou never so longe, rise thou
never so eerly, ligge thou never so harde, were thou never so scharp, ye, and yif it
were leveful to do -- as it is not -- puttest thou oute thin yghen, cuttest thou oute thi
tonge of thi mouth, stoppedest thou thin eren and thi nose never so fast, though thou
schere awei thi prevé membres and dedest al the pine to thi body that thou mightest
think: alle this wolde help thee right nought. Yit wil stering and rising of synne be in
Ye, and what more! Wepe thou never so moche for sorow of thi sinnes or of the
Passion of Criste, or have thou never so moche mynde of the joies of heven, what
may it do to thee? Serkirly moche good, moche helpe, moche profite, and moche
grace wol it gete thee; bot in comparison of this blinde steryng of love, it is bot a litil
that it doth, or may do, withouten this. This bi itself is the best partye of Mary, with-
outen thees other. Thei withouten it profiten litel or nought. It distroieth not only the
grounde and the rote of sinne, as it may be here, bot therto it geteth vertewes. For
and it be treuly conceyvid, alle vertewes scholen be sotely and parfitely conceyvid
and felid comprehendid in it, withouten any medeling of the entent. And have a man
never so many vertewes withouten it, alle thei ben medelid with sum crokid entent,
for the whiche thei ben inparfite.
For vertewe is not elles bot an ordeinde and a mesurid affeccion, pleinly directe
unto God for Himself. For whi He in Himself is the clene cause of alle vertewes;
insomochel that yif any man be sterid to any o vertewe by any other cause medelid
with Him -- ye thof al it be the cheef -- yit that vertewe is than inparfite. As thus, bi
ensaumple, may be seen in o vertewe or two in stede of alle the other. And wel may
theese two vertewes be meeknes and charité, for whoso might gete theese two,
cleerly him nedid no mo: for whi he had alle.
Here byginnith the thritteneth chapitre.
Now lat see first of the vertewe of meeknes: how that it is inparfite when it is
caused of any other thing medelid with God thof al it be the cheef; and how that it is
parfite when it is caused of God by Himself. And first it is to weten what meeknes is
in itself, yif this mater schal cleerly be seen and conceyvid; and therafter may it more
verrely be conceyvid in trewth of sperite whiche is the cause therof.
Meeknes in itself is not ellis bot a trewe knowyng and felyng of a mans self as he
is. For sekirly whoso might verrely see and fele himself as he is, that he schuld ver-
rely be meek. Two thinges ther ben the whiche ben cause of this meeknes, the
whiche ben theese: on is the filthe, the wrecchidnes, and the freelté of man, into the
whiche he is fallen by synne, and the whiche algates him behoveth to fele in sum
partye the whiles he levith in this liif, be he never so holy. Another is the overaboun-
daunt love and the worthines of God in Himself, in beholding of the whiche alle
kynde quakith, alle clerkes ben foles, and alle seintes and aungelles ben blynde; in-
somoche that ne were thorow the wisdam of His Godheed that He mesurid theire
beholdyng after theire abilnes in kynde and in grace, I defaile to sey what schuld
falle of hem.
This secound cause is parfite, for whi it schal last withouten eende. And the tother
bifore is inparfite, for whi it schal not only faile at the ende of this liif. Bot ful ofte it
may befalle that a soule in this deedly body, for abundaunce of grace in multipliing
of his desire, as ofte and as longe as God vouchethsaaf for to worche it, schal have
sodenly and parfitely lost and forgetyn alle wetyng and felyng of his beyng, not lo-
kyng after whether he have ben holy or wrechid. Bot whether that this falle ofte or
seeldom to a soule that is thus disposid, I trowe that it lasteth bot a ful schort while.
And in this tyme it is parfitely mekyd, for it knoweth and felith no cause bot the
cheef. And ever whan it knoweth and felith the tother cause comounyng therwith,
thof al this be the cheef, yit it is inparfite meeknes. Nevertheles yit it is good and al-
gates must be had, and God forbede that thou take it in any other maner then I sey.
Here biginnith the fouretene chapitre.
For thof al I clepe it inparfite meeknes, yit I had lever have a trewe knowyng and a
felyng of myself as I am, and sonner I trowe that it schuld gete me the parfite cause and
vertewe of meeknes bi itself, then it scholde and alle the seintes and aungelles in
heven, and alle the men and wommen of Holy Chirche levyng in erthe, religious or
seculers in alle degrees, weren set at ones alle togeders to do not elles bot to prey to
God for me to gete me parfite meeknes. Ye, and yit it is inpossible a sinner to gete,
or to kepe when it is getyn, the parfite vertewe of meeknes withouten it.
And therfore swink and swete in al that thou canst and mayst, for to gete thee a
trewe knowyng and a feling of thiself as thou arte. And than I trowe that sone after
that thou schalt have a trewe knowyng and a felyng of God as He is; not as He is in
Hymself, for that may no man do bot Himself, ne yit as thou schalt do in blisse bothe
body and soule togeders; bot as He is possible, and as He vouchethsaaf to be knowen
and felid of a meek soule levyng in this deedly body.
And think not for I sette two causes of meeknes, one parfite and another inparfite,
that I wil therfore that thou leve the traveile aboute inparfite meeknes and set the
holy to gete the parfite. Nay, sekirly, I trow thou schuldest never bryng it so aboute.
Bot herfore I do that I do; for I think to telle thee and late thee see the worthines of
this goostly excersise before al other excercise, bodili or goostly, that man kan or
may do bi grace; how that a prevé love put in clennes of spirite upon this derk cloude
of unknowyng bitwix thee and thi God sotely and parfitely conteneth in it the parfite
vertewe of meeknes, withouten any special or clere beholding of any thing under
God; and for I wolde that thou knewest whiche were parfite meeknes, and settist it as
a token before the love of thin herte, and dedist it for thee and for me; and for I
wolde bi this knowyng make thee more meek.
For oftymes it befalleth that lackyng of knowyng is cause of moche pride, as me
thinketh. For paraventure, and thou knewest not whiche were parfite meeknes, thou
schuldest wene, when thou haddest a lityl knowyng and a felyng of this that I clepe
inparfite meeknes, that thou haddest nighhond getyn parfite meeknes; and so schuld-
est thou deceyve thiself, and wene that thou were ful meek, whan thou were al be-
lappid in foule stinkyng pride. And therfore fonde for to travaile aboute parfite
meeknes; for the condicion of it is soche, that whoso hath it and the whiles he hath it,
he schal not sinne, ne yit mochel after.
Here byginnith the fifteneth chapitre.
And trist stedfastliche that ther is soche a parfite meeknes as I speke of, and that it
may be comen to thorow grace in this liif. And this I sey in confusion of theire er-
rour, that seyen that ther is no parfiter cause of meeknes then is that the whiche is
reysid of the mynde of oure wrechidnes and oure before-done synnes.
I graunte wel that to hem that han ben in customable sinnes, as I am myself and
have ben, it is the moste needful and speedful cause: to be mekyd under the mynde
of oure wrechidnes and oure before-done synnes, ever to the tyme be that the grete
rust of oure sinne be in grete party rubbid awey, oure consience and oure counsel to
Bot to other that ben as it were innocentes, the whiche never sinned deedly with an
abidyng wil and avisement, bot thorou freelté and unknowyng, and the whiche setten
hem to be contemplatyves -- and to us bothe, yif oure counsel and oure concience
witnes oure laweful amendement in contricion and in confession and in aseeth-
makyng after the statute and the ordinaunce of alle Holy Chirche, and, therto, yif we
fele us sterid and clepid bi grace to be contemplatives also -- ther is than another
cause to be mekyd under, as fer aboven this cause as is the levyng of oure Lady Seint
Marye aboven the levyng of the sinfulest penaunt in Holy Chirche, or the levyng of
Criste aboven the levyng of any other man in this liif, or elles the levyng of an aungel
in heven, the whiche never felid -- ne schal fele -- freelté, is aboven the liif of the
frelest man that is here in this woreld.
For yif it so were that ther were no parfite cause to be mekyd under, bot in seyng
and felyng of wrechidnes, then wolde I wite at hem that seien so what cause thei ben
mekid under, that never seen ne felen -- ne never schal be in hem -- wrechidnes ne
steryng of synne, as it is of oure Lorde Jhesu Criste, oure Lady Seinte Marye, and
alle the seintes and aungelles in heven. To this perfeccion, and alle other, oure Lorde
Jesu Criste clepith us Himself in the Gospel, where He biddeth that we schuld be
parfite by grace as He Hymself is by kynde.
Here biginnith the sixteneth chapitre.
Loke that no man think it presumpcion that he that is the wrechidest sinner of this
liif dar take apon hym -- after the tyme be that he have lawfuly amendid hym, and
after that he have felt him sterid to that liif that is clepid contemplative, by the assent
of his counsel and his concience -- for to profre a meke steryng of love to his God,
prively puttyng apon the cloude of unknowyng bitwix him and his God. When oure
Lorde seyde to Marye, in persone of alle sinners that ben clepid to contemplative liif:
"Thi sinnes ben forgeven thee" -- not for hir grete sorow, ne for the mynde of hir
synnes, ne yit for hir meeknes that sche had in the beholdyng of hir wrechidnes only.
Bot whi than? Sekirly for sche loved mochel -- lo! here mowe men see what a privé
love put may purchase of oure Lorde, before alle other werkes that man may think.
And yit I graunte wel that scho had ful mochel sorow, and weep ful sore for hir
synnes, and ful mochel sche was mekid in mynde of hir wrechidnes. And so schuld
we do, that have ben wreches and customable synners al oure liiftyme, make hidous
and wonderful sorow for oure synnes, and ful mochel be mekid in mynde of oure
Bot how? Sekirly as Mary did. Scho, thof al scho myght not unfele the depe hertly
sorow of hir synnes -- for whi al hir liiftyme sche had hem with hir whereso sche
gede, as it were in a birthen bounden togeders and leide up ful prively in the hole of
hir herte, in maner never to be forgeten -- nevertheles yit it may be seide and
affermyd by Scripture that sche had a more hertly sorow, a more doelful desire, and a
more deep sighing, and more sche languischid, ye! nighhonde to the deeth, for
lackyng of love, thof al sche had ful mochel love -- and have no wonder therof, for
it is the condicion of a trewe lover that ever the more he loveth, the more him longeth
for to love -- than sche had for any mynde of hir synnes.
And yit sche wist wel, and felt wel in hirself, in a sad sothfastnes, that sche was a
wreche moste foule of alle other, and that hir synnes had maad a devision bitwix hir
and hir God, that sche loved so mochel; and also that thei were in grete party cause
of hir langwisching sekenes for lakyng of love. Bot what therof? Cam sche therfore
doun fro the height of desire into the depnes of hir sinful liif, and serchid in the foule
stynkyng fen and donghille of hir sinnes, serching theim up bi one and bi one, with
alle the circumstaunces of hem, and sorowed and weep so upon hem ichone bi hem-
self? Nay, sekirly sche did not so. And whi? For God lete hir wite by his grace
withinne in hir soule that sche schuld never so bryng it aboute. For so might sche
sonner have reisid in hirself an abelnes to have efte synnid, then to have purchasid by
that werke any pleyn forgevenes of alle hir synnes.
And therfore sche heng up hir love and hir longing desire in this cloude of un-
knowing, and lernid hir to love a thing the whiche sche might not se cleerly in this
liif bi light of understondyng in hire reson, ne yit verely fele in swetnes of love in hir
affeccion; insomochel that sche had oftetymes lityl specyal mynde whether that ever
sche had ben a synner or none. Ye! and ful oftymes I hope that sche was so deeply
affecte in the love of His Godheed that sche had bot right lityl specyal beholdyng
unto the beuté of His precious and His blessid body, in the whiche He sate ful lovely,
spekyng and preching before hir; ne yit to anything elles, bodyly or goostly. That this
be soth, it semith by the Gospelle.
Here bygynneth the seventene chapitre.
In the Gospel of Seinte Luke it is wretyn that when oure Lorde was in the hous of
Martha hir sistre, al the tyme that Martha maad hir besy aboute the dightyng of His
mete, Mary hir sister sat at His feet. And in heryng of His worde, sche beheeld not to
the besines of hir sister, thof al hir besines was ful good and ful holy, for it is the first
party of actyve liif; ne yit to the preciousté of His blessid body, ne to the swete voyce
and the wordes of His Manheed, thof al it be beter and holier, for it is the secound
party of actyve liif and the first of contemplatyve liif, bot to the sovereynest wisdom
of His Godheed lappid in the derk wordes of His Manheed: theder beheeld sche with
al the love of hir hert. For fro thens list hir not remowe for nothing that sche saw ne
herde spoken ne done aboute hir; bot sat ful stille in hir body, with many a swete
privé and a lysty love put upon that highe cloude of unknowyng bitwix hir and hir
For o thing I telle thee: that ther was never yit pure creature in this liif, ne never yit
schal be, so highe ravischid in contemplacion and love of the Godheed, that ther ne is
evermore a highe and a wonderful cloude of unknowyng bitwix him and his God. In
this cloude it was that Marye was ocupied with many a prevé love put. And whi? For
it was the best and the holiest party of contemplacion that may be in this liif. And fro
this party hir list not remowe for no thing; insomochel that when hir sistre Martha
nobr>pleynid hir to oure Lorde of hir and bad Him bid hir sistre rise and help hir, and lat
hir not so worche and travayle by hirself, scho sat ful stylle and answerid not with o
worde, ne schewid not as moche as a grucching contenaunce agens hir sistre for any
pleynte that scho couthe make. And no wonder: for whi scheo had another werk to
do that Martha wist not of. And therfore scheo had no leiser to listen to hir, ne to an
swere hir at hir pleynte.
Lo! freende, alle theese werkes, thees wordes, and theese contenaunces, that weren
schewid bitwix oure Lorde and theese two sistres, ben set in ensaumple of alle acty-
ves and alle contemplatyves that han ben sithen in Holy Chirche, and schal be to the
Day of Dome. For by Mary is understonden alle contemplatyves, for thei schuld con-
forme here levyng after hirs; and by Martha, actyves, on the same maner, and for the
same skil in licnes.
Here bygynneth the eighttene chapitre.
And right as Martha pleynid than on Marye hir sistre, right so yit into this day alle
actyves pleinen of contemplatyves. For and ther be a man or a womman in any com-
panye of this woreld -- what companye soever it be, religious or seculers, I outetake
none -- the whiche man or womman (whether that it be) feleth him sterid thorow
grace and bi counsel to forsake alle outward besines, and for to sette hym fully for to
lyve contemplatyve liif after theire kunnyng and theire concience, theire counseyl
acordyng: as fast theire owne brethren and theire sistres, and alle theire nexte
freendes, with many other that knowen not theire sterynges ne that maner of levyng
that thei set hem to, with a grete pleynyng spirite schal ryse apon hem, and sey
scharply unto hem that it is noght that thei do. And as fast thei wil reken up many
fals tales, and many sothe also, of fallyng of men and wommen that han goven hem
to soche liif before, and never a good tale of hem that stonden.
I graunte that many fallen and han fallen of hem that han in licnes forsaken the
woreld. And where thei schuld have becomen Goddes servauntes and His contem-
platyves, bicause that thei wolde not reule hem bi trewe goostly counseyle thei have
becomen the devels servauntes and his contemplatyves, and tornen outher to ypo-
crites or to heretykes, or fallen into frenesies and many other mescheves, in sclaun-
dre of alle Holy Chirche. Of the whiche I leve to speke of at this tyme, for troubling
of oure mater. Bot nevertheles hereafter, when God vouchethsaaf and yif nede be,
men mowe sey somme of here condicions and the cause of here fallinges. And ther-
fore no more of theym at this tyme; bot forth of oure mater.
Here bygynneth the ninteneth chapitre.
Som might think that I do litil worschip to Martha, that specyal seinte, for I lickyn
hir wordes in pleining of hir sister unto theese wordly mens wordes, or theires unto
hirs. And trewly I mene none unworschip to hir ne to theim. And God forbede that I
schuld in this werk sey anything that might be taken in reprovyng of any of the ser-
vauntes of God in any degre, and namely of His specyal seynte. For me thinketh that
sche schuld be ful wel had excusid of hir pleinte, takyng reward to the tyme and the
maner that sche seyde it in. For that that sche seyde, hir unknowyng was the cause.
And no wonder thof sche knewe not that tyme how Marye was ocupied; for I
trowe that before sche had lityl herde of soche perfeccion. And also, that sche seyde
it was bot curtesly and in fewe wordes. And therfore sche schuld alweys be had ex-
And so me thinketh that thees wordly levyng men and wommen of actyve liif
schuld also ful wel be had excusid of theire pleyning wordes touchid before, thof al
thei sey boystously that thei sey, havyng beholdyng to theire ignoraunce. For whi
right as Martha wist ful lityl what Marye hir sister did when sche pleinid of hir to
oure Lorde: right so on the same maner theese folk nowondayes wetyn ful lityl, or
elles nought, what theese yong desiples of God menen, whan thei sette hem fro the
besines of this woreld, and drawen hem to be Godes special servauntes in holines
and rightfulnes of spirit. And yif they wist, treuly I dar sey that thei wolde neither do
ne say as thei say. And therfore me thinketh alweis that thei schuld be had excused,
for whi thei knowen no betir levyng then is that thei live in theimself. And also whan
I think on myne unnoumerable defautes, the whiche I have maad myself before this
tyme in wordes and dedes for defaute of knowyng, me thinketh than yif I wolde be
had excused of God for myn ignoraunte defautes, that I schuld charitably and peteu-
ously have other mens wordes and dedes ignoraunte algates excusid. And sekirly
elles do I not to other as I wolde that other did to me.
Here byginnith the twenty chapitre.
And therfore me thinketh that thei that set hem to be contemplatyves schuld not
only have actyve men excusid of theire pleinyng wordes, bot also me thinketh that
thei schuld be so ocupied in spirite that thei schuld take litel kepe, or none, what men
did or seyde aboute hem. Thus did Marye, oure alther exsaumple, when Martha hir
sistre pleynid to oure Lorde. And yif we wil trewli do thus, oure Lorde wil do now
for us as He did than for Marie.
And how was that? Sekirly thus. Oure lovely Lorde Jhesu Crist, unto Whom no
privé thing is hid, thof at He was requerid of Martha as domesman for to bid Mary
rise and help hir to serve Hym, nevertheles yit, for He parceyvid that Mary was fer-
vently ocupied in sperit aboute the love of His Godheed, therfore curtesly, and as it
was semely for Him to do bi the wey of reson, He answerid for hir, that for the ex-
cusing of hirself list not leve the love of Hym. And how answerid He? Sekirly not
only as domesman, as He was of Martha apelyd: bot as an advoket lawfuly defendid
hir that Hym loved, and seide: "Martha, Martha!" Twies for spede He nemnid hir
name; for He wolde that sche herd Him and toke hede to His wordes. "Thou arte ful
besy," He seyde, "and troubled aboute many thinges." For thei that ben actyves be-
hoven alweis to be besied and travaylid aboute many diverse thinges, the whiche
hem falleth first for to have to here owne use, and sithen in dedes of mercy to theire
even-Cristen, as charité asketh. And this He seide unto Martha, for He wolde lat hir
wetyn that hir besines was good and profitable to the helthe of hir soule. Bot forthi
that sche schuld not think that it were the best werke of alle that man might do, ther-
fore He echid to and seyde: "Bot o thing is nessessary."
And what is that o thing? Sekirly that God be loved and preysid by Himself,
aboven alle other besines, bodily or goostly, that man may do. And forthi that Martha
schuld not think that sche might bothe love God and preise Hym aboven alle other
besines, bodily or goostly, and also therto to be besy aboute the nessessaries of this
liif, therfore to deliver hir of doute that sche might not bothe serve God in bodely
besines and goostly togedir parfitely -- inparfitely sche may, bot not parfitely -- He
echid to and seyde that Mary had chosen the best partye, the whiche schuld never be
taken fro hir. For whi that parfite steryng of love that byginneth here is even of
noumbre with that that schal last withouten ende in the blis of heven; for al is bot
Here bygynneth the on and twenty chapitre.
What meneth this: "Marye hath chosen the best?" Wheresoever the best is set or
nemnyd, it asketh bifore it theese two thinges -- a good and a beter, so that it be the
best, and the thryd in noumbre. Bot whiche ben thees thre good thinges, of the
whiche Marye chees the best? Thre lyves ben they not, for Holi Chirche makith no
mynde bot of two -- actyve liif and contemplatyve liif; the whiche two lyves ben
prively understonden in the story of this Gospel by thees two sisters, Martha and
Marye -- by Martha actyve, by Marye contemplatyve. Withouten one of theese two
lyves may no man be saaf; and where no mo ben bot two, may no man chese the
Bot thof al ther be bot two lyves, nevertheles yit in theese two lyves ben thre
partyes, ichone betir then other. The whiche thre, ichone by hemself, ben specyaly
set in theire stedes before in this writyng. For as it is seide before, the first party
stondeth in good and onest bodily werkes of mercy and of charité; and this is the first
degree of actyve liif, as it is seyde bifore. The secound partye of thees two lyves lig-
geth in good goostly meditacions of a mans owne wrechidnes, the Passion of Criste,
and of the joyes of heven. The first partye is good, and this partye is the betir, for this
is the secound degree of actyve liif and the first of contemplatyve liif. In this partye
is contemplatyve liif and actyve liif couplid togeders in goostly sibreden and maad
sistres, at the ensanple of Martha and Marye. Thus highe may an actyve come to
contemplacion, and no higher; bot yif it be ful seeldom and by a specyal grace. Thus
lowe may a contemplatiif com towardes actyve liif, and no lower; bot yif it be ful
seeldom and in grete nede.
The thrid partye of thees two lyves hangeth in this derk cloude of unknowyng,
with many a privé love put to God by Himself. The first partye is good, the secounde
is betir, bot the thrid is alther beste. This is the beste partye of Marye. And herfore it
is pleinly to wite that oure Lorde seide not: "Marye hath chosen the best liif"; for ther
ben no mo lyves bot two, and of two may no man chese the best. Bot of thees two
lives "Marye hath chosen," He seyde, "the best partye, the whiche schal never be
take from hir." The first partye and the secounde, thof al thei ben bothe good and
holy, yit thei eende with this liif. For in the tother liif, as now, schal be no nede to
use the werkes of mercy, ne to wepe for oure wrechidnes, ne for the Passion of
Criste. For than, as now, schal none mowe hungre ne thirst, ne dighe for colde, ne be
seeke, ne housles, ne in prison, ne yit nede beryelles, for than schal none mowe
dighe. Bot the thryd party that Marye chees, chese who bi grace is clepid to chese; or
yif I sothlier schal seye, whoso is chosen therto of God, lat him listely lene therto.
For that schal never be taken awey; for yif it biginne here, it schal last withouten
And therfore lat the voice of oure Lorde crie on theese actyves, as yif He seide
thus now for us unto hem, as He did then for Marye to Martha, "Martha, Martha!"
"Actyves, actyves! make yow as besi as ye kan in the first partye and in the secound,
now in the tone and now in the tother; and, yif you list right wel and fele yow dis-
posid, in bothe two boldely. And medel yow not of contemplatyves. Ye wote not
what hem eyleth. Lat hem sit in here rest and in here pley, with the thrid and the best
partye of Marye."
Here bygynneth the two and twenty chapitre.
Sweet was that love bitwix oure Lorde and Marye. Moche love had sche to Hym;
moche more had He to hir. For whoso wolde utterly beholde alle the contynaunce
that was bitwix Hym and hir (not as a treufeler may telle, bot as the story of the Gos-
pel wil witnes, the whiche on no wise may be fals) he schulde fynde that sche was so
hertly set for to love Hym, that no thing binethe Hym might counforte hir, ne yit
holde hir herte fro Hym. This is sche, that same Marye, that whan sche sought Hym
at the sepulcre with wepyng chere wolde not be counfortyd of aungele. For whan
thei spak unto hir so sweetly and so lovely, and seide: "Weep not, Marye; for whi
oure Lorde wham thou sekist is resyn, and thou schalt have Him, and se Him lyve ful
feyre amonges His disciples in Galile, as He hight," sche wolde not leve for hem, for
whi hir thought that whoso sought verrely the kyng of aungelles, hem list not leve for
And what more? Sekirly whoso wil loke verrely in the story of the Gospel, he
schal fynde many wonderful poynte of parfite love wreten of hir to oure ensaumple,
and as even acordyng to the werke of this writyng, as thei had ben set and wretyn
therfore. And sekirly so were they, take whoso take may. And yif a man list for to se
in the Gospel wretyn the wonderful and the special love that oure Lorde had to hir, in
persone of alle customable synners trewly turnid and clepid to the grace of contem-
placion, he shal fynde that oure Lorde might not suffre any man or womman, ye, not
hir owne sistre, speke a worde agens hir, bot yif He answerid for hir Hymself. Ye,
and what more! He blamid Symound Leprous in his owne hous, for he thought agens
hir. This was greet love; this was passing love.
Here byginnith the thre and twenty chapitre.
And trewly and we wil listely confourme oure love and oure levyng, inasmoche as
in us is by grace and by counseil, unto the love and the levyng of Mary, no doute bot
He schal answere on the same maner now for us goostly, iche day, pryvely, in the
hertes of alle thoo that outher seyn or thinken agens us. I say not bot that evermore
sum men schul sey or think sumwhat agens us, the whiles we lyve in the travaile of
this liif, as thei did agens Marye. Bot I say, and we wol geve no more kepe to theire
seiing, ne to theire thinkyng, ne no more leve of oure goostly pryvé werk for theire
wordes and theire thoughtes, than sche did -- I sey than that oure Lorde schal an-
swere hem in spirite, yif it schal be wel with hem that so seyn and so thinkyn, that
thei schul withinne fewe dayes schame with theire wordes and theire thoughtes.
And as He wol answere for us thus in spirite, so wol He stere other men in spirite
to geve us oure needful thinges that longen to this liif, as mete and clothes with alle
theese other, yif He se that we wil not leve the werke of His love for besines aboute
hem. And this I sey in confusion of theire errour, that seyn that it is not leveful men to
sette hem to serve God in contemplatyve liif, bot yif thei ben sekir bifore of theire
bodily nessessaryes. For thei sey that God sendeth the kow, bot not by the horne.
And trewly thei sey wrong of God as thei wel kanne. For trist stedfastly thou, what-
soever that thou be that trewly tornest thee fro the woreld unto God, that one of the
two God schal sende thee, withouten besines of thiself: and that is, outher habun-
daunce of nessessaries, or strengthe in body and pacience in spirite to bere nede.
What thar reche whether man have? For alle comen to one in verrey contemplatyves.
And whoso is in dwere of this, outher the devel is in his brest and revith hym the
beleve, or elles he is not yit trewly turnyd to God as he schulde be, make he it never
so queinte, ne never so holy skiles schewe theragein, whatsoever that he be.
And therfore thou that settest thee to be contemplatiif as Marye was, chese thee
rather to be mekyd under the wonderful heighte and the worthines of God, the
whiche is parfite, than under thine owne wrechidnes, the whiche is inparfite: that is
to sey, loke that thi specyal beholdyng be more to the worthines of God then to thi
wrechidnes. For to theime that ben parfitely mekid no thing schal defayle, neither
bodily thing ne goostly. For whi thei have God, in whom is alle plenté; and whoso
hath Him -- ye, as this book telleth -- him nedith noght elles in this liif.
Here bygynnith the foure and twenty chapitre.
And as it is seyde of meeknes, how that it is sotely and parfitely comprehendid in
this lityl blynde love put, when it is betyng upon this derke cloude of unknowyng,
alle other thinges put down and forgeten: so it is to understonden of alle other
vertewes, and namely of charité.
For charité is not ellis to bemene to thin understondyng bot love of God for Him-
self aboven alle creatures, and of man for God even with thiself. And that in this
werke God is lovyd for Hymself and aboven alle creatures it semith ryght wel. For,
as it is seide before, that the substaunce of this werke is not elles bot a nakid entente
directe unto God for Himself. A nakid entente I clepe it, for whi in this werke a par-
fite prentis askith neither relesing of peyne, ne encresing of mede, ne (schortly to
sey) nought bot Himself; insomoche that nouther he rechith ne lokith after whether
that he be in peyne or in blisse, elles that His wille be fulfyllyd that he loveth. And
thus it semith that in this werke God is parfitely loved for Hymself, and that aboven
alle creatures. For in this werke a parfite worcher may not suffre the mynde of the
holiest creature that ever God maad comoun with hym.
And that in this the secound and the lower braunche of charité unto thine even
Cristen is verrely and parfitely fulfillid, it semith by the profe. For whi in this werke
a parfite worcher hath no special beholdyng unto any man by himself, whether that
he be sib or fremmyd, freende or fo. For alle men think hym iliche sib unto hym, and
no man fremmid. Alle men him think ben his freendes, and none his foen; insomo-
chel that hym think alle thoo that pynen him, and done hym dissese in this liif, thei
ben his ful and his specyal freendes, and hym thinketh that he is sterid to wilne hem
as moche good as he wolde to the homliest freende that he hath.
Here biginnith the five and twenty chapitre.
I say not that in this werke he schal have a specyal beholdyng to any man in this
liif, whether that he be freende or fo, sib or fremmyd. For that may not be yif this
werke schal parfitely be done, as it is whan alle thinges under God ben fully forge-
tyn, as fallith for this werke. Bot I sey that he schal be maad so vertuous and so
charitable by the vertewe of this werke, that his wille schal be afterwardes, whan he
condesendith to comoun or to pray for his even Cristen -- not fro alle this werk, for
that may not be withouten grete synne, bot fro the height of this werk, the whiche is
speedful and needful to do sumtyme, as charité askith -- as specialy than directe to
his foo as to his freende, his fremmyd as his sib. Ye! and somtyme more to his fo
then to his freende.
Nevertheles in this werk he hath no leyser to loke after who is his frende or his fo,
his sib or his fremmid. I say not bot he schal fele somtyme -- ye! ful ofte -- his af-
feccion more homely to one, two, or thre, then to alle thees other; for that is leveful
to be for many causis, as charité askith. For soche an homly affeccion felid Criste to
Jhonn, and unto Marye, and unto Petre bifore many other. Bot I say that in the tyme
of this werk schal alle be iliche homly unto hym; for he schal fele than no cause bot
only God. So that alle schul be lovid pleinly and nakidly for God, and as wel as him-
For as alle men weren lost in Adam, and alle men, that with werke wil witnes
theire wille of salvacion, ben savid, and scholen be, by vertewe of the Passion of
only Criste -- not in the same maner, bot as it were in the same maner -- a soule that
is parfitely affecte in this werk, and onyd thus to God in spirit, as the preof of this
werk witnessith, doth that in it is to maak alle men as parfite in this werk as itself is.
For right as if a lyme of oure body felith sore, alle the tother lymes ben pined and
disesid therfore, or yif a lyme fare wel, alle the remenaunt ben gladid therwith: right
so is it goostly of alle the limes of Holy Chirche. For Crist is oure hede, and we ben
the lymes, if we be in charité; and whoso wile be a parfite dissiple of oure Lordes,
him behovith streyne up his spirite in this werk goostly for the salvacion of alle his
brethren and sistren in kynde, as oure Lorde did His body on the Cros. And how? Not
for His freendes and His sib and His homely lovers, bot generaly for alle mankynde,
withouten any special beholdyng more to one then to another. For alle that wylen
leve sinne and axe mercy scholen be savid thorow the vertewe of His Passion.
And as it is seyde of meeknes and charité, so it is to understonden of alle other
vertues. For alle thei ben sotely comprehendid in this litil love put touchid before.
Here byginnith the six and twenty chapitre.
And therfore travayle fast awhile, and bete apon this highe cloude of unknowyng,
and rest sithen. Nevertheles a travayle schal he have, whoso schal use hym in this
werk; ye, sekirly! and that a ful grete travayle, bot yif he have a more special grace,
or elles that he have of longe tyme usid him therin.
Bot I pray thee, wherin schal that travayle be? Sekirly not in that devoute steryng
of love that is contynuely wrought in his wille, not by himself bot by the hande of
Almighty God, the whiche is evermore redy to wirche this werk in iche a soule that
is disposid therto, and that doth that in him is, and hath do longe tyme before, to able
him to this werk. Bot wherin than is this travayle, I pray thee? Sekirly this travaile is
al in tredyng doun of the mynde of alle the creatures that ever God maad, and in
holdyng of hem under the cloude of forgetyng namyd before. In this is alle the
traveyle; for this is mans travayle, with help of grace. And the tother aboven -- that
is to sey, the steryng of love -- that is the werk of only God. And therfore do on thi
werk, and sekirly I behote thee it schal not fayle on Hym.
Do on than fast; lat se how thou berest thee. Seest thou not how He stondeth and
abideth thee? For schame! Travayle fast bot awhile, and thou schalt sone be esid of
the gretnes and of the hardnes of this travayle. For thof al it be hard and streyte in the
byginnyng, when thou haste no devocion, nevertheles yit after when thou hast devo-
cion, it schal be maad ful restful and ful light unto thee, that bifore was ful harde; and
thou schalt have outher litil travaile or none. For than wil God worche somtyme al by
Himself, bot not ever, ne yit no longe tyme togeders, bot when Him lyst, and as Hym
list. And than wil thee thenk it mery to late Hym alone.
Than wil He sumtyme paraventure seend oute a beme of goostly light, peersyng
this cloude of unknowing that is bitwix thee and Hym, and schewe thee sum of His
priveté, the whiche man may not, ne kan not, speke. Than schalt thou fele thine af-
feccion enflaumid with the fiire of His love, fer more then I kan telle thee, or may, or
wile, at this tyme. For of that werke that fallith to only God dar I not take apon me to
speke with my blabryng fleschely tonge; and schortly to say, althof I durst, I wolde
not. Bot of that werk that falleth to man, whan he felith him sterid and holpin by
grace, list me wel telle thee; for therin is the lesse peril of the two.
Here biginnith the seven and twenty chapitre.
First and formest, I wil telle thee who schuld worche in this werke, and when, and
by what menes, and what discrecion thou schalt have in it. Yif thou aske me who
schuld worche thus, I answere thee: alle that han forsaken the worild in a trewe wille,
and therto that geven hem not to actyve liif, bot to that liif that is clepid contem-
platyve liif. Alle thoo schuld worche in this grace and in this werk, whatsoever
that thei be, whether thei have ben customable synners or none.
Here biginnith the eight and twenty chapitre.
But if thou aske me when thei schulen wirche in this werk, then I answere thee,
and I sey that not er thei have clensid theire concience of alle theire special dedis of
sinne done bifore, after the comoun ordinaunce of Holi Chirche.
For in this werk a soule drieth up in it al the rote and the grounde of sinne that wil
alweis leve in it after confession, be it never so besy. And therfore whoso wil
travayle in this werk, lat him first clense his concience; and sithen, when he hath
done that in him is lawefuly, lat him dispose him booldly bot meekly therto. And lat
him think that he hath ful longe ben holden therfro; for this is that werk in the whiche
a soule schuld travaile alle his liiftyme, thof he had never sinnid deedly.
And the whiles that a soule is wonyng in this deedly flesche, it schal evermore se
and fele this combros cloude of unknowyng bitwix him and God. And not only that,
bot in pyne of the original sinne it schal evermore see and fele that somme of alle the
creatures that ever God maad, or somme of theire werkes, wilen evermore prees in
mynde bitwix him and God. And this is the rightwise dome of God, that man, when
he had sovereynté and lordschip of alle other creatures, forthi that he wilfuly maad
him underloute to the steryng of his sojettes, levyng the biddyng of God and his
maker, that right so after whan he wolde fulfille the bidding of God, he see and fele
that alle the creatures that schuld be bineeth him proudly prees aboven hym, bitwix
him and his God.
Here biginnith the nine and twenty chapitre.
And therfore, whoso coveitith to come to clennes that he lost for synne, and to
wynne to that welthe ther alle wo wantith, him bihovith bidingly to travayle in this
werke, and suffre the pyne therof, whatsoever that he be, whether he have ben a
customable sinner or none.
Alle men han travayle in this werke, bothe synners and innocentes that never syn-
nyd greetly. Bot fer gretter travayle haven thoo that have ben synners then they that
have ben none; and that is greet skyle.
Nevertheles, oftymes it befallith that somme, that have ben orrible and customable
synners, comen sonner to the perfeccion of this werk then thoo that ben none. And
this is the mercyful myracle of oure Lorde, that so specyaly gevith His grace, in
wondryng of alle this woreld. Now trewly I hope that on Domesday schal be fayre,
when that God schal be seen cleerly and alle His giftes. Thanne schal somme that
now ben dyspisid and sette at lytil or nought as comon synners, and paraventure
somme that now ben horrible synners, sitte ful seemly with seyntes in his sight; when
somme of thoo that semen now ful holy and ben worschepid of men as aungelles,
and somme of thoo yit paraventure that never yit synned deedly, schul sitten ful sory
amonges helle calves.
Herby maist thou see that no man schuld be demyd of other here in this liif, for
good ne for yvel that they do. Nevertheles dede may levefully be demyd, bot not the
men, whether thei ben good or yvel.
Here byginnith the thritty chapitre.
Bot, I preye thee, of whom schal mens dedis be demyd? Sekirly of hem that han
power and cure of theire soules, other geven in aperte by the statute and the or-
dinaunce of Holy Chirche, or elles prively in spirite at the specyal steryng of the
Holy Goost in parfite charité. Iche a man beware that he presume not to take apon
hym to blame and reprove other mens defautes, bot yif he fele verrely that he be
sterid of the Holy Goost withinne in his werke; for elles may he ful lightly erre in his
domes. And therfore beware; deme thiself as thee list, bitwix thee and thi God or thi
goostly fader, and lat other men allone.
Here biginnith the on and thritty chapitre.
And fro the tyme that thou felist that thou hast done that in thee is lawefuly to
amende thee at the dome of Holy Chirche, then schalt thou sette thee scharply to
worche in this werk. And than, yif it so be that thi fordone specyal dedes wil alweis
prees in thi mynde bitwix thee and thi God, or any newe thought or steryng of any
synne outher, thou schalt stalworthly step aboven it with a fervent sterying of love,
and treed hem down under thi fete. And fonde to cover hem with a thicke cloude of
forgetyng, as thei never had ben don in this liif of thee, ne of other man outher. And
yif thei ofte rise, ofte put theim doun and, schortly to sey, as ofte as thei rise, as ofte
put theim doun. And yif thee think that the traveyle be grete, thou mayst seek
sleightes and wiles and privé sotiltees of goostly sleightes to put hem awey, the
whiche sleightes ben betir lernyd of God by the profe then of any man in this liif.
Here byginnith the two and thritty chapitre.
Nevertheles sumwhat of this sotylté schal I telle thee, as me think. Prove thou, and do
betir yif thou betir maist.
Do that in thee is to lat as thou wist not that thei prees so fast apon thee, bitwix
thee and thi God. And fonde to loke as it were over theire schuldres, seching another
thing; the whiche thing is God, enclosid in a cloude of unknowyng. And yif thou do
thus, I trowe that withinne schort tyme thou schalt be esid of thi travayle. I trowe that
and this sleight be wel and trewly conceyvid, it is not elles bot a longing desire unto
God, to fele Hym and see Hym as it may be here. And soche a desire is charité; and
it deservith alweys to be esid.
Another sleight ther is; prove thou yif thou wilt. When thou felist that thou maist
on no wise put hem doun, koure thou doun under hem as a cheitif and a coward
overcomen in batayle, and think that it is bot a foly to thee to stryve any lenger with
hem; and therfore thou yeeldest thee to God in the handes of thin enmyes. And fele
than thiself as thou were fordone for ever. Take good kepe of this sleight, I prey thee;
for me think in the profe of this sleight thou schuldest melt al to watre. And sekirly,
me think, and this sleight be sotely conceyvid, it is not elles bot a trewe knowyng
and a felyng of thiself as thou arte, a wrecche and a filthe, fer wers then nought, the
whiche knowyng and felyng is meeknes. And this meeknes deserveth to have God
Himself mightely descendyng to venge thee of thine enemyes, for to take thee up and
cherischingly drie thine goostly ighen, as the fader doth the childe that is in poynte to
perische under the mouthes of wilde swyne or wode bityng beres.
Here byginnyth the thre and thritty chapitre.
Moo sleightes telle I thee not at this tyme; for and thou have grace to fele the profe
of theese, I trow that thou schalt cun betir lerne me then I thee. For thof al it schuld
be thus, trewly yit me think that I am ful fer therfro. And therfore I preye thee help
me, and do thou for thee and for me.
Do on than, and travayle fast awhile, I preie thee; and suffre meekly the pyne, yif
thou mayst not sone wynne to theese sleightes. For trewly it is thi purgatory. And
than whan thi pyne is al passid, and thi sleightes ben goven of God and graciously
getyn in custume, than it is no doute to me that thou ne arte clensid not only of
synne, bot also of the pyne of synne. I mene of the pyne of thi special fordone syn-
nes, and not of the pyne of the original synne. For that pyne schal alweys last on thee
to thi deeth day, be thou never so besi. Nevertheles it schal bot lityl dere thee, in re-
warde of this pyne of thi specyal synnes; and yit schalt thou not be withoutyn grete
travayle. For oute of this oryginal synne wil alday sprynge newe and fresche steryn-
ges of synne; the whiche thee behovith alday to smyte doun, and be besy to schere
awey with a scharpe doubleeggid dreedful swerde of discrecion. And herby mayst
thou see and leerne that ther is no sothfast sekyrnes, ne yit no trewe rest in this liif.
Nevertheles, herfore schalt thou not go bac, ne yit be over-ferd of thi faylyng. For
and it so be that thou mayst have grace to distroye the pyne of thin fordone specyal
dedes -- in the maner beforeseide, or betyr yif thou betyr mayst -- sekir be thou that
the pyne of the orygynal synne, or elles the newe sterynges of synne that ben to
comen, scholen bot ryght lityl mowe dere thee.
Here bygynnyth the foure and thritty chapitre.
And yif thou askest me by what menes thou schalt com to this werk, I beseche
Almighty God of His grete grace and His grete curtesye to teche thee Hymself. For
trewly I do thee wel to wyten that I can not telle thee. And that is no wonder. For whi
that is the werk of only God, specyaly wrought in what soule that Hym likith, with-
outyn any deseert of the same soule. For withoutyn it no seynte ne none aungel can
thenk to desire it. And I trowe that oure Lorde as specyaly and as ofte -- ye! and
more specyaly and more ofte -- wil vouchesaaf to worche this werk in hem that have
ben customable synners, then in somme other that never grevyd Hym greetly in com-
parison of hem. And this wil He do, for He wil be seen almercyful and almyghty;
and for He wil be seen to worche as Hym lyst, where Him lyst, and when Hym
And yit He gevith not this grace, ne worcheth not this werk, in ani soule that is
unable therto. And yit ther is no soule withoutyn this grace, abil to have this grace,
noo, whether it be a synner soule or an inocent soule. For neither it is goven for ino-
cense, ne withholden for synne. Take good kepe that I sey withholden, and not with-
drawen. Bewar with errour here, I preye thee; for ever the nere men touchen the
trewth, more war men behoveth to be of errour. I meen bot wel. Yif thou canst not
conseyve it, legge it bi thi syde tyl God come and teche thee. Do then so, and hurt
Bewar with pride, for it blasfemith God in his giftes, and booldenith synners. Were
thou verrely meek thou schuldest fele of this werk as I sey: that God gevith it frely
withouten any desert. The condicion of this werk is soche, that the presence therof
ablith a soule for to have it and for to fele it. And that abilnes may no soule have
withoutyn it. The abilnes to this werk is onyd to the selve werk, withoutyn depar-
tyng; so that whoso felith this werk is abil therto, and elles none; insomochel, that
withoutyn this werk a soule is as it were deed, and can not coveite it ne desire it. For
as moche as thou wylnest it and desirest it, so mochel hast thou of it, and no more ne
no lesse; and yit is it no wil, ne no desyre, bot a thing thou wost never what, that
sterith thee to wilne and desire thou wost never what. Reche thee never thof thou
wite no more, I preye thee; bot do forth ever more and more, so that thou be ever
And, yif I schal schortlyer sey, lat that thing do with thee and lede thee wherso it
list. Lat it be the worcher, and thou bot the suffrer; do bot loke apon it, and lat it
alone. Medel thee not therwith as thou woldest help it, for drede lest thou spille al.
Be thou bot the tre, and lat it be the wright; be thou bot the hous, and lat it be the
hosbonde wonyng therin. Be blynde in this tyme, and schere awey covetyse of
knowyng, for it wil more let thee than help thee. It suffisith inowgh unto thee that
thou fele thee steryd likyngly with a thing thou wost never what, ellys that in thi
steryng thou have no specyal thought of any thing under God, and that thin entent be
nakidly directe unto God.
And yif it be thus, trist than stedfastly that it is only God that sterith thi wyl and thi
desyre, pleynly by Hymself, withouten mene outher on His party or on thin. And be
not feerd for the devel, for he may not com so neer. He may never come to styrre a
mans wil, bot occasyoneely, and by a fer mene, be he never so sotyl a devil. For suf-
ficiently and withouten mene may no good aungel stire thi wil; ne, schortly to sey, no
thing bot only God.
So that thou mayst conceyve here by theese wordes sumwhat -- bot moche more
cleerly by the profe -- that in this werk men schul use no menes, ne yit men mowe
not com therto with menes. Alle good menes hangen upon it, and it on no mene; ne
no mene may lede therto.
Here byginnith the five and thritty chapitre.
Nevertheles menes ther ben in the whiche a contemplatiif prentys schuld be ocu-
pyed, the whiche ben theese: Lesson, Meditacion, and Oryson. Or elles to thin un-
derstondyng thei mowe be clepid: Redyng, Thinkyng, and Preiing. Of theese thre
thou schalt fynde wretyn in another book of another mans werk moche betyr then I
can telle thee; and therfore it nedeth not here to telle thee of the qualitees of hem. Bot
this may I telle thee: these thre ben so couplid togedir, that unto hem that ben bigin-
ners and profiters -- bot not to hem that be parfite, ye, as it may be here -- thinkyng
may not goodly be getyn withoutyn reding or heryng comyng before. Alle is one in
maner, redyng and heryng; clerkes redyn on bookes, and lewid men redyn on
clerkes, whan thei here hem preche the worde of God. Ne preier may not goodly be
getyn in bigynners and profiters withoutyn thinkyng comyng bifore. See by the preof
in this same cours.
Goddes worde, outher wretyn or spokyn, is licnid to a mirour. Goostly, the ighe of
thi soule is thi reson; thi concience is thi visage goostly. And right as thou seest that
yif a foule spot be in thi bodily visage, the ighe of the same visage may not see that
spotte, ne wite wher it is, withoutyn a myrour or a teching of another than itself: right
so it is goostly. Withouten redyng or heryng of Godes worde, it is inpossible to mans
understondyng that a soule that is bleendid in custom of synne schuld see the foule
spot in his concyence.
And so folowyng, whan a man seeth in a bodily or goostly myrour, or wote by
other mens techyng, wheraneintes the foule spot is on his visage, outher bodily or
goostly, than at erst, and none er, he rennith to the welle to wasche hym. Yif this spot
be any specyal synne, than is this welle Holy Chirche, and this water confession,
with the circumstaunces. Yif it be bot a blynde rote and a steryng of synne, than is
this welle mercyful God, and this water preyer, with the circumstaunces.
And thus maist thou se that no thinkyng may goodly be getyn in byginners and
profiters withoutyn redyng or heryng comyng before, ne preyng withouten thinkyng.
Here bygynnith the six and thritty chapitre.
But it is not so with hem that contynuely worchen in the werk of this book. For
theire meditacions ben as thei were sodein conseites and blynde felynges of theire
owne wrechidnes, or of the goodnes of God, withoutyn any menes of redyng or
heryng comyng before, and withoutyn any specyal beholdyng of any thing under
God. Thees sodeyn conseytes and thees blynde felynges ben sonner lernyd of God
then of man.
I maad no force, thof thou haddest nowondayes none other meditacions of thin
owne wrechidnes, ne of the goodnes of God -- I mene yif thou fele thee thus steryd
by grace and by counseyl -- bot soche as thou mayst have in this worde synne and in
this worde God, or in soche other, whiche as the list; not brekyng ne expounyng
thees wordes with coryousté of witte, in beholdyng after the qualitees of thees
wordes, as thou woldest by that beholdyng encrees thi devocion. I trowe it schuld
never be so in this caas and in this werk. Bot holde hem alle hole theese wordes; and
mene synne a lump, thou wost never what, none other thing bot thiself. Me think that
in this blynde beholdyng of synne, thus conjelyd in a lumpe (none other thing than
thiself) it schuld be no nede to bynde a woder thing then thou schuldest be in this
tyme. And yit, paraventure, whoso lokid apon thee schuld think thee ful sobirly dis-
posid in body, withoutyn any chaunging of contenaunce; bot sittyng, or going, or
liggyng, or lenyng, or stondyng, or knelyng, whether thou were in a ful sad restful-
Here biginnyth the seven and thritty chapitre.
And right as the meditacions of hem that contynouely worchen in this grace and in
this werk risen sodenly withoutyn any menes, right so don theire preiers. I mene of
theire specyal preiers, not of thoo preiers that ben ordeynid of Holy Chirche. For thei
that ben trewe worchers in this werk, thei worschip no preier so moche; and therfore
thei do hem in the fourme and in the statute that thei ben ordeynid of holy faders be-
fore us. Bot theire specyal preiers risen evermore sodenly unto God, withoutyn any
meenes or any premeditacion in special comyng before, or going therwith.
And yif thei ben in wordes, as thei ben bot seldom, than ben thei bot in ful fewe
wordes; ye, and in ever the fewer the betir. Ye, and yif it be bot a lityl worde of o
silable, me think it betir then of to, and more acordyng to the werk of the spiryte;
sithen it so is that a goostly worcher in this werk schulde evermore be in the highest
and the sovereynest pointe of the spirit. That this be soth, se by ensaumple in the
cours of kynde. A man or a womman, affraied with any sodeyn chaunce of fiir, or of
mans deeth, or what elles that it be, sodeynly in the height of his speryt he is drevyn
upon hast and upon nede for to crie or for to prey after help. Ye, how? Sekirly not in
many woordes ne yit in o woorde of two silabes. And whi is that? For hym thinketh
to longe tariing, for to declare the nede and the werk of his spirit. And therfore he
brestith up hidously with a grete spirit, and cryeth bot a litil worde of o silable, as is
this worde fiir or this worde oute.
And right as this lityl worde fiir sterith rather and peerseth more hastely the eren of
the herers, so doth a lityl worde of o sylable, whan it is not only spoken or thought,
bot prively ment in the depnes of spirit, the whiche is the height (for in goostlynes
alle is one, height and depnes, lengthe and brede). And rather it peersith the eres of
Almyghty God than doth any longe sauter unmyndfuly mumlyd in the teeth. And
herfore it is wretyn that schort preier peersith heven.
Here biginnyth the eight and thritty chapitre.
And whi peersith it heven, this lityl schort preier of o litil silable? Sikirly for it is
preyed with a fulle spirite, in the height and in the depnes, in the lengthe and in the
breed of his spirit that preieth it. In the height it is, for it is with al the might of the
spirit. In the depnes it is, for in this lityl silable ben contyned alle the wittis of the
spirit. In the lengthe it is, for might it ever fele as it felith, ever wolde it crie as it
crieth. In the brede it is, for it wilnith the same to alle other that it wilnith to itself. In
this tyme it is that a soule hath comprehendid, after the lesson of Seynte Poule, with
alle seyntes -- not fully bot in maner and in partye, as it is acordyng unto this werk
-- whiche is the lengthe and the breed, the height and the depnes of Everlastyng and
Allovely, Almighty and Alle-witty God. The everlastyngnes of God is His lengthe;
His love is His breed; His might is His height; and His wisdam is His depnes. No won-
der thof a soule, that is thus nigh confourmyd bi grace to the ymage and the licnes of
God, his maker, be sone herde of God. Ye, thof it be a ful synful soule -- the whiche
is to God as it were an enmye -- and it might thorow grace com to for to crye soche
a lityl silable in the height and the depnes, the lengthe and the breed of his spirit, yit
he scholde for the hidous noise of this crye be alweis herde and holpen of God.
Se by ensaumple. He that is thi deedly enmye, and thou here him so afraied that he
crye in the height of his spirit this lityl worde fiir, or this worde oute: yit, withoutyn
any beholdyng to hym for he is thin enmye, bot for pure pité in thin herte stirid and
reisid with the doelfulnes of this crie, thou risist up -- ye! thof it be aboute midwin-
tirs night -- and helpist hym to slecke his fiir, or for to stylle hym and rest hym in
hys disese. A, Lorde! sithen a man may be maad so mercyful in grace, to have so
moche mercy and so moche pité of his enmye, not agenstonding his enmité, what
pité and what mercy schal God have than of a goostly crye in soule, maad and
wrought in the height and the depnes, the lengthe and the breed of his spirit, the
whiche hath al by kynde, that man hath by grace, and moche more? Sekirly withou-
tyn comparison moche more mercy wil he have; sithen so is that that thing that is so
had by kynde is nerer to iche a thing then that the whiche is had by grace.
Here bigynnyth the nine and thritty chapitre.
And therfore it is to preie in the height and the depnes, the lengthe and the brede of
oure spirit. And that not in many wordes, bot in a lityl worde of o silable.
And what schal this worde be? Sekyrlyche soche a worde as is best acordyng unto
the propirté of preier. And what worde is that? Lat us first see what preier is propirly
in itself, and therafter we mowe cleerlier knowe what worde wil best acorde to the
propirté of preier.
Preyer in itself propirly is not elles bot a devoute entent directe unto God, for ge-
tyng of goodes and remowyng of yvelles.
And than, sithen it so is that alle yvelles ben comprehendid in synne, outher by
cause or by beyng, lat us therfore, whan we wyl ententifly preie for remowyng of
yvelles, outher sey or think or mene nought elles, ne no mo wordes, bot this lityl
worde synne. And yif we wil ententifly preie for getyng of goodes, lat us crie, outher
with worde or with thought or with desire, nought elles, ne no mo wordes, bot this
worde God. For whi in God ben alle goodes, bothe by cause and by beyng.
Have no merveile whi I sette thees two wordes forby alle other. For and I couthe
any schorter wordes, so fully comprehendyng in hem alle goodes and alle yvelles, as
thees two wordes don, or yif I had be lernyd of God to take any other wordes outher,
I wolde than have taken hem and lefte thees; and so I rede that thou do. Stody thou
not for no wordes, for so schuldest thou never come to thi purpose ne to this werk,
for it is never getyn by stody, bot al only by grace. And therfore take thou none other
wordes to preie in -- althof I sete thees here -- bot soche as thou arte sterid of God
for to take. Nevertheles, yif God stire thee to take thees, I rede not that thou leve hem
-- I mene yif thou schalt preie in wordes, and elles not; for whi thei ben ful schorte
Bot althof the schortnes of preier be greetly comendid here, nevertheles the oftnes
of preier is never the rather refreynid. For as it is seide before, it is preied in the
lengthe of the spirite; so that it schuld never sees tyl the tyme were that it had fully
getyn that that it longid after. Ensaumple of this have we in a man or a womman af-
fraied in the maner beforeseide. For we see wel that thei seese never criing on this
litil worde oute, or this lityl worde fiir, er the tyme be that thei have in greet party
getyn help of theire angre.
Here bigynnith the fourty chapitre.
Do thou, on the same maner, fille thi spirit with the goostly bemenyng of this
worde synne, and withoutyn any specyal beholdyng unto any kynde of synne,
whether it be venial or deedly: pryde, wraththe or envye, covetyse, slewth, glotenie
or lecherye. What thar reche in contemplatives what synne that it be, or how mochel
a synne that it be? For alle synne hem thinkyth -- I mene for the tyme of this werk --
iliche greet in hemself, when the leest synne departeth hem fro God, and letteth
hem of here goostly pees.
And fele synne a lumpe, thou wost never what, bot none other thing than thiself.
And crye than goostly ever upon one: "Synne, synne synne; oute, oute, oute!" This
goostly crie is betyr lernid of God by the proef then of any man by worde. For it is
best whan it is in pure spirit, withoutyn specyal thought or any pronounsyng of
worde; bot yif it be any seeldom tyme, when for habundaunce of spiryt it brestith up
into worde, so that the body and the soule ben bothe fillid with sorow and kumbryng
On the same maner schalt thou do with this lityl worde God. Fille thi spirit with the
goostly bemenyng of it withoutyn any specyal beholdyng to any of His werkes
whether thei be good, betir, or alther best, bodily or goostly -- or to any vertewe that
may be wrought in mans soule by any grace, not lokyng after whether it be meeknes
or charité, pacyence or abstynence, hope, feith, or sobirnes, chastité or wilful pov-
erté. What thar reche in contemplatyves? For alle vertewes thei fynden and felyn in
God; for in Hym is alle thing, bothe by cause and by beyng. For hem think and thei
had God, thei had alle good; and therfore thei coveyte nothing with specyal be-
holdyng, bot only good God. Do thou on the same maner, as forth as thou maist by
grace; and mene God al, and al God, so that nought worche in thi witte and in thi
wile, bot only God.
And forthi that ever the whiles thou levyst in this wrechid liif, thee behoveth al-
weys fele in som partye this foule stynkyng lump of synne, as it were onyd and
congelid with the substaunce of thi beyng, therfore schalt thou chaungabely mene
thees two wordes -- synne and God: with this general knowyng: that and thou had-
dest God, then schuldest thou lacke synne, and mightest thou lacke synne, then
schuldest thou have God.
Here bigynnyth on and fourty chapitre.
And forthermore, yif thou aske me what discrecion thou schalt have in this werk,
than I answere thee and sey: "Ryght none!" For in alle thin other doynges thou schalt
have discrecion, as in etyng and in drynkyng, and in slepyng, and in kepyng of thi
body fro outrageous colde or hete, and in longe preiing or redyng, or in comounyng
in speche with thin even-Crysten. In alle thees schalt thou kepe discrecion, that thei
be nouther to mochel ne to lityl. Bot in this werk schalt thou holde no mesure; for I
wolde that thou schuldest never seese of this werk the whiles thou levyst.
I sey not that thou schalt mowe ever contynow therin iliche fresche; for that may
not be. For sumtyme seeknes and other unordeind disposicions in body and in soule,
with many other needfulnes to kynde, wol let thee ful mochel, and oft tymes drawe
thee doun fro the height of this worching. Bot I sey that thou schuldest evermore
have it outher in ernest or in game; that is to sey, outher in werk or in wille. And
therfore for Godes love beware with seeknes as moche as thou maist goodly, so that
thou be not the cause of thi febilnes, as forth as thou maist. For I telle thee trewly that
this werk asketh a ful greet restfulnes, and a ful hole and a clene disposicion, as wele
in body as in soule.
And therfore for Godes love governe thee discreetly in body and in soule, and gete
thee thin hele as mochel as thou mayst. And yif seeknes come agens thi power, have
pacyence and abide meekly Goddes mercy; and al is than good inowgh. For I telle
thee trewly that oftymes pacyence in seeknes, and in othere diverse tribulacions,
plesith God moche more then any likyng devocyon that thou mayst have in thi hele.
Here biginnith the two and fourty chapitre.
But paraventure thou askest me how thou schalt governe thee discreetly in mete,
and in slepe, and in alle thees other. And herto I think to answere thee right schortli:
"Gete that thou gete mayst." Do this werk evermore withoutyn cesyng and withoutyn
discrecion, and thou schalt wel kun beginne and ceese in alle thin other werkes with
a grete discrecion. For I may not trowe that a soule contynowyng in this werk night
and day withoutyn discrecion schuld mowe erre in any of thees outward doinges; and
elles me think that he schuld alweis erre.
And therfore and I might gete a wakyng and a besi beholdyng to this goostly werk
withinne in my soule, I wolde than have a rechelesnes in etyng and in drynkyng, in
sleping and in spekyng, and in alle myn outward doynges. For sekirly I trowe I
schuld rather com to discrecion in hem by soche a rechelesnes than by any besy be-
holding to the same thinges, as I wolde bi that beholdyng set a merke and a mesure
in hem. Trewly I schuld never bryng it so aboute for ought that I couth do or sey. Sey
what men seye wil, and lat the preof witnes. And therfore lift up thin hert with a
blynde steryng of love; and mene now synne, and now God. God woldest thou have,
and synne woldest thou lacke. God wanteth thee; and synne arte thou sekir of. Now
good God help thee, for now hast thou need!
Here biginnith the thre and fourty chapitre.
Look that nought worche in thi wit ne in thi wil bot only God. And fonde for to
felle alle wetyng and felyng of ought under God, and treed alle doun ful fer under the
cloude of forgetyng. And thou schalt understonde that thou schalt not only in this
werk forgete alle other creatures then thiself, or theire dedes or thine, bot also thou
schalt in this werk forgete bothe thiself and also thi dedes for God, as wel as alle
other creatures and theire dedes. For it is the condicion of a parfite lover, not only to
love that thing that he loveth more then himself, bot also in maner for to hate himself
for that thing that he lovith.
Thus schalt thou do with thiself: thou schalt lothe and be wery with alle that thing
that worcheth in thi witte and in thi wil, bot yif it be only God. For whi sekirly elles,
whatsoever that it be, it is bitwix thee and thi God. And no wonder thof thou lothe
and hate for to think on thiself, when thou schalt alweis fele synne a foule stynkyng
lumpe, thou wost never what, bitwix thee and thi God: the whiche lumpe is none
other thing than thiself. For thee schal think it onyd and congelid with the substaunce
of thi beyng, ye, as it were withoutyn departyng.
And therfore breek doun alle wetyng and felyng of alle maner of creatures; bot
most besily of thiself. For on the wetyng and the felyng of thiself hangith wetyng and
felyng of alle other creatures; for in rewarde of it, alle other creatures ben lightly for-
getyn. For, and thou wilt besily set thee to the preof, thou schalt fynde, when thou
hast forgeten alle other creatures and alle theire werkes, ye, and therto alle thin owne
werkes, that ther schal leve yit after, bitwix thee and thi God, a nakid weting and a
felyng of thin owne beyng, the whiche wetyng and felyng behovith alweis be dis-
troied er the tyme be that thou fele sothfastly the perfeccyon of this werk.
Here biginnith the foure and fourty chapitre.
Bot now thou askist me how thou maist distroie this nakid wetyng and felyng of
thin owen beyng. For paraventure thee think that and it were distroied, alle other let-
tynges were distroied, and yif thou thinkist thus, thou thinkist right trewly. Bot to this
I answere thee, and I sey that withoutyn a ful specyal grace ful frely goven of God and
therto a ful acordyng abilnes to resseyve this grace on thi partye, this nakid we-
tyng and felyng of thi beyng may on no wise be destroyed.
And this abilnes is not elles bot a stronge and a deep goostly sorow. Bot in this
sorow nedeth thee to have discrecion on this maner: thou schalt beware in the tyme
of this sorow that thou neither to rudely streyne thi body ne thi spirit, bot sit ful
stylle, as it were in a slepyng sleight, al forsobbid and forsonken in sorow. This is
trewe sorow; this is parfite sorow; and wel were hym that might wynne to this sorow.
Alle men han mater of sorow, bot most specyaly he felith mater of sorow that wote
and felith that he is. Alle other sorowes ben unto this in comparison bot as it were
gamen to ernest. For he may make sorow ernestly that wote and felith not onli what
he is, bot that he is. And whoso felid never this sorow, he may make sorow, for whi
he felid yit never parfite sorow.
This sorow, when it is had, clensith the soule, not only of synne, bot also of peyne
that he hath deservid for synne. And therto it makith a soule abil to resseive that joye,
the whiche revith fro a man alle wetyng and felyng of his beyng. This sorow, yif it be
trewly conseyvid, is ful of holy desire; and elles might never man in this liif abide it
ne bere it. For ne were it that a soule were sumwhat fed with a maner of counforte of
his right worching, elles schuld he not mow bere the pyne that he hath of the wetyng
and felyng of his beyng. For as ofte as he wolde have a trewe wetyng and a felyng of
his God in purtee of spirit, as it may be here, and sithen felith that he may not -- for
he findeth evermore his wetyng and his felyng as it were ocupied and fillyd with a
foule stinkyng lumpe of himself, the whiche behoveth alweis be hatid and be dispisid
and forsaken, if he schal be Goddes parfite dissiple, lernid of Hymself in the mount
of perfeccion -- as ofte he goth ni wood for sorow; insomochel, that he wepith and
weilith, strivith, cursith, and banneth, and, schortly to sey, hym thinkith that he berith
so hevy a birthen of hymself that he rechith never what worth of hym, so that God
were plesid. And yit in al this sorrow he desireth not to unbe, for that were develles
woodnes and despite unto God. Bot hym listith right wel be; and he menith ful hertly
thankyng to God for the worthines and the gift of his beyng, thof al that he desire
unsesingly for to lakke the wetyng and the felyng of his beyng.
This sorow and this desire behovith iche a soule have and fele in itself, outher in
this maner or in another, as God vouchethsaaf for to lerne to His goostly disciples,
after His weelwyllyng and theire acordyng abylnes in body and soule, in degré and
compleccion, er the tyme be that thei mowe parfitely be onid unto God in parfite
charité -- soche as may be had here yif God vouchethsaaf.
Here biginnith the five and fourty chapitre.
Bot o thing I telle thee: that in this werk may a yong disciple, that hath not yit ben
wel used and provid in goostly worching, ful lightly be disceyvid, and, bot he be
sone war and have grace to leve of and meek hym to counsel, paraventure be dis-
troied in his bodily mightes, and falle into fantasie in his goostly wittes. And alle this
is longe of pride and of fleschlynes and coriousté of witte.
And on this maner may this disceite befalle. A yong man or a womman, newe set
to the scole of devocion, hereth this sorow and this desire be red and spokyn, how
that a man schal lift up his herte unto God, and unseesingly desire for to fele the love
of here God. And as fast in a curiousté of witte thei conceyve thees wordes not
goostly, as thei ben ment, bot fleschly and bodily, and travaylen theire fleschly hertes
outrageously in theire brestes. And what for lackyng of grace, that thei deserven, and
pride and curiousté in hemself, thei streyne here veynes and here bodily mightes so
beestly and so rudely, that withinne schort tyme thei fallen outher into werynes and a
manner of unlisty febilnes in body and in soule, the whiche makith hem to wende
oute of hemself and seke sum fals and sum veyne fleschly and bodily counforte
withoutyn, as it were for recreacion of body and of spirite. Or elles, yif thei falle not
in this, elles thei deserve -- for goostly blyndnes and for fleschly chaufyng of theire
compleccion in theire bodily brestis in the tyme of this feinid beestly and not goostly
worchyng -- for to have theire brestes outher enflaumid with an unkyndely hete of
compleccion, causid of misrewlyng of theire bodies or of this feinid worching, or
elles thei conceyve a fals hete wrought by the feende, theire goostly enmye, causid of
theire pride and of theire fleschlines and theire coriousté of wit.
And yit, paraventure, thei wene it be the fiir of love, getyn and kyndelid by the
grace and the goodnes of the Holy Goost. Treuly of this disceite, and of the
braunches therof, spryngyn many mescheves: moche ypocrisie, moche heresye, and
moche errour. For as fast after soche a fals felyng cometh a fals knowyng in the
feendes scole, right as after a trewe feling cometh a trewe knowing in Gods scole.
For I telle thee trewly that the devil hath his contemplatyves, as God hath His. This
disseite of fals felyng, and of fals knowyng folowyng theron, hath diverse and won-
derful variacions, after the dyversté of states and the sotyl condicions of hem that ben
disceyvid, as hath the trewe felyng and knowyng of hem that ben savid.
Bot I sette no mo disceites here bot thoo with the whiche I trowe thou schalt be
assailid, yif ever thou purpose thee to worche in this werk. For what schuld it profite
to thee to wite hou thees greet clerkis, and men and wommen of other degrees then
thou arte, ben disceyvid? Sikirly right nought. And therfore I telle thee no mo, bot
thoo that fallyn unto thee, yif thou travayle in this werk. And forthi I telle thee this,
that thou schalt bewar therwith in thi worching, yif thou be assailyd therwith.
Here biginnith the six and fourty chapitre.
And therfore for Goddes love bewar in this werk, and streyne not thin hert in thi
brest over-rudely, ne oute of mesure; bot wirche more with a list then with any lither
strengthe. For ever the more listly, the more meekly and goostly; and ever the more
rudely, the more bodely and beestly. And therfore bewar. For sekirly what beestly
herte that presumith for to touche the highe mounte of this werke, it schal be betyn
awey with stones. Stones ben harde and drie in her kynde, and thei hurte ful sore
where thei hit. And sekirly soche rude streynynges ben ful harde fastnid in fleschli-
nes of bodely felyng, and ful drie fro any wetyng of grace; and thei hurte ful sore the
sely soule, and make it feestre in fantasie feinid of feendes. And therfore bewar with
this beestly ruednes, and leerne thee to love listely with a softe and a demure conten-
aunce, as wel in body as in soule. And abide curtesly and meekly the wil of oure
Lorde, and lache not over-hastely, as it were a gredy grehounde, hungre thee never
so sore. And gamenly be it seyde, I rede that thu do that in thee is, refreynyng the
rude and the grete steryng of thi spirite; ryght as thou on no wyse woldest lat Hym
wite hou fayne thou woldest see Hym and have Hym or fele Hym.
This is childly and pleyingly spoken, thee think, paraventure. Bot I trowe whoso
had grace to do and fele as I sey, he schuld fele God gamesumli pley with hym, as
the fadir doth with the childe, kyssyng and clippyng, that weel were him so.
Here bigynnith the seven and fourty chapitre.
Loke thou have no wonder whi that I speke thus childly, and as it were folily and
lackyng kyndly discrecion; for I do it for certeyn skyles, and as me thinketh that I
have ben sterid many day bothe to fele thus and think thus and sey thus, as weel to
som other of my specyal freendes in God, as I am now unto thee.
And o skyle is this, whi that I bid thee hide it fro God, the desire of thine herte. For
I hope it schuld more cleerly com to His knowyng, to thi profite and in fulfyllyng of
thi desire, by soche an hidyng, than it scholde by any other maner of schewyng that I
trowe thou coudest yit schewe. And another skyle is: for I wolde by soche a hid
schewyng bryng thee oute of the boistousté of bodely felyng into the pureté and dep-
nes of goostly felyng, and so forthermore at the last to help thee to knit the goostly
knot of brennyng love bitwix thee and thi God, in goostly onheed and acordyng of
Thou wost wel this, that God is a spirit; and whoso schuld be onid unto Hym, it
behovith to be in sothfastnes and deepnes of spirit, ful fer fro any feynid bodely
thing. Soth it is that alle thing is knowen of God, and nothing may be hid fro His
wetyng, neither bodily thing ne goostly. Bot more aperte is that thing knowyn and
schewid unto Him, the whiche is hid in depnes of spirit, sith it so is that He is a spirit,
than is any thing that is medelid with any maner of bodelines. For alle bodely thing is
ferther fro God bi the cours of kynde then any goostly thing. By this skile it semith
that the whiles oure desire is medelid with any maner of bodelines -- as it is whan
we stresse and streyne us in spirit and in body togeders -- as longe it is ferther fro
God then it schuld be, and it were done more devoutly and more listely in sobirnes
and in puretee and in depnes of spirite.
And here maist thou see sumwhat and in party the skil whi that I bid thee so
childly hele and hyde the steryng of thi desire fro God. And yit I bid thee not pleynly
hyde it, for that were the biddyng of a fole, for to bid thee pleynly do that on no wise
may be done. Bot I bid thee do that in thee is to hide it. And whi bid I thus? Sekirly
for I wolde that thou castedest it into depnes of spirite, fer fro any rude medelyng of
any bodelines, the whiche wolde make it lesse goostly, and ferther fro God in as
moche; and for I wote wel that ever the more that thi spirit hath of goostlines, the
lesse it hath of bodelines and the nerer it is God, and the betyr it plesith Hym, and the
more cleerly it may be seen of Hym. Not that His sight may be any tyme, or in any
thing, more cleer then in another, for it is evermore unchaungable; bot forthi it is
more liche unto Hym, when it is in puretee of spirit, for He is a spirit.
Another skyle ther is whi that I bid thee do that in thee is to late Hym not wite: for
thou and I, and many soche as we ben, we ben so abyl to conceyve a thing bodily,
the whiche is seyde goostly, that paraventure, and I had boden thee schewe unto God
the steryng of thin herte, thou schuldest have maad a bodily schewyng unto Hym,
outher in contenaunce, or in voyce, or in worde, or in som other rude bodely
streynyng, as it is when thou schalt schewe a thing that is hid in thin hert to a bodely
man; and inasmoche thi werk schuld have ben inpure. For on o maner schal a thing
be schewid to man, and on another maner unto God.
Here biginnith the eight and fourty chapitre.
I sey not this for I wil that thou leve any tyme, yif thou be stirid for to preie with
thi mouth, or for to brest oute, for habundaunce of devocion in thi spirit, for to speke
unto God as unto man, and sey som good worde as thou felist thee sterid, as ben
thees: "Good Jhesu! Faire Jhesu! Swete Jhesu!" and alle thees other. Nay, God
forbede thou take it thus! For trewly I mene not thus. And God forbede that I schuld
departe that God hath couplid, the body and the spirit; for God wil be servid with
body and with soule, bothe togeders, as seemly is, and rewarde man his mede in blis
bothe in body and in soule.
And in erles of that mede, sumtyme He wil enflaume the body of a devoute ser-
vaunt of His here in this liif -- not onys or twies, bot paraventure right ofte, and as
Him likith -- with ful wonderful swetnes and counfortes. Of the whiche, som beth
not comyng fro withoutyn into the body bi the wyndowes of oure wittys, bot fro
withinne, risyng and spryngyng of habundaunce of goostly gladnes, and of trewe
devocion in the spirit. Soche a counforte and soche a swetnes schal not be had sus-
pecte; and, schortly to sey, I trowe that he that felith it may not have it suspecte.
Bot alle other counfortes, sounes, and gladnes, and swetnes, that comyn fro with-
oute sodenly, and thou wost never whens, I prey thee have hem suspecte. For thei
mowe be bothe good and yvel; wrought by a good aungel, yif thei ben good, and by
an yvel aungel, yif thei ben yvel. And this may on no wise be yvel, yif theire deseites
of coriousté of witte and of unordeynd streynyng of the fleschely herte be remowed,
as I lere thee, or betyr yif thou betir maist. And whi is that? Sekirly for the cause of
this counforte: that is to sey, the devoute steryng of love, the whiche woneth in pure
spirit. It is wrought of the hande of Almighty God withouten mene; and therfore it
behovith alweys be fer fro any fantasie, or any fals opynion that may befal to man in
And of the tother counfortes and sounes and swetnes, how thou schuldest wite
whether thei ben good or ivel, I think not to telle thee at this tyme. And that is for me
think that it nedith not; for whi thou mayst fynde it wretyn in another place of an-
other mans werk a thousandfolde betir than I kan sey or write. And so maystow this
that I set here, fer betir than it is here. Bot what therof? Therfore schal I not lette, ne
it schal not noye me to fulfille the desire and the steryng of thin herte, the whiche
thou hast schewed thee to have unto me before this tyme in thi wordes, and now in
Bot this may I sey thee of thoo sounes and of thoo swetnes that comen in by the
wyndowes of thi wittes, the whiche mowe be bothe good and ivel. Use thee con-
tynowly in this blynde and devoute and this listy steryng of love that I telle thee; and
than I have no doute that it ne schal wel kun telle thee of hem. And yif thou yit be in
partye astonied of hem at the first tyme, and that is bicause that thei ben uncouthe, yit
this schal it do thee; it schal bynde thin herte so fast that thou schalt mowe on no
wise geve ful grete credence to hem, er the tyme be that thou be either certefied of
hem withinne wonderfuly by the spirite of God, or elles withouten by counsel of sum
Here biginnith the nine and fourti chapitre.
And therfore I preie thee, lene listely to this meek steryng of love in thin herte, and
folow therafter; for it wil be thi gyde in this liif, and bring thee to blisse in the tother.
It is the substaunce of alle good levyng, and withouten it no good werk may be by-
gonne ne eendid. It is not elles bot a good and an acordyng wil unto God, and a ma-
ner of weelpayednes and a gladnes that thou felest in thi wille of alle that He doth.
Soche a good wille is the substaunce of alle perfeccion. Alle swetnes and coun-
fortes, bodily or goostly, ben to this bot as it were accydentes, be thei never so holy;
and thei don bot hangen on this good wil. Accydentes I clepe hem, for thei mowe be
had and lackyd withoutyn parbrakyng of it. I mene in this liif; bot it nys not so in the
blis of heven, for there schul thei be onyd with the substaunce withouten departyng,
as schal the body in the whiche thei worche with the soule. So that the substaunce of
hem here is bot a good goostly wil. And sekirly I trowe that he that felith the perfec-
cion of this wil, as it may be had here, ther may no swetnes ne no counforte falle to
any man in this liif, that he ne is as fayne and as gladde to lacke it at Goddes wille as
to fele it and have it.
Here biginnith the fifty chapitre.
And herby maist thou see that we schulde directe alle oure beholdyng unto this
meek steryng of love in oure wille. And in alle other swetnes and counfortes, bodily
or goostly, be thei never so likyng ne so holy (yif it be cortesie and semely to sey) we
schuld have a maner of rechelesnes. Yif thei come, welcome hem; bot lene not to
moche on hem for ferde of febelnes; for it wol take ful mochel of thi myghtes to bide
any longe tyme in soche swete felynges and wepynges. And paraventure thou mayst
be steryd for to love God for hem. And that schalt thou fele by this: yif thou grocche
overmoche when thei ben awey. And yif it be thus, thi love is not yit neither chaste
ne parfite. For a love that is chaste and parfite, thof it suffre that the body be fed and
counfortid in the presence of soche swete felynges and wepynges, nevertheles yit it
is not gruchyng, bot ful wel apayed for to lacke hem at Goddes wille.
And yit it is not comounly withoutyn soche counfortes in som creatures; and in
som other creatures soche swetnes and counfortes ben bot seldom. And alle this is
after the disposicion and the ordynaunce of God, al after the profite and the needful-
nes of diverse creatures. For some creatures ben so weike and so tendre in spirit, that
bot yif thei were sumwhat counfortid by feling of soche swetnes, thei mighte on no
wise abide ne bere the diverseté of temptacions and tribulacions that thei suffre and
ben travaylid with in this liif of theire bodily and goostly enmyes. And som ther ben
that thei ben so weike in body that thei mowe do no grete penance to clense hem
with. And thees creatures wil oure Lorde clense ful gracyously in spirit by soche
swete felynges and wepynges. And also, on the tother partye, ther ben sum creatures
so stronge in spirit, that thei kun pike hem counforte inowgh withinne in theire
soules, in offryng up of this reverent and this meek steryng of love and acordaunce
of wille, that hem nedeth not mochel to be fedde with soche swete counfortes in
bodely felynges. Whiche of thees ben holyer or more dere with God, one then an-
other, God wote and I not.
Here biginnith the on and fifty chapitre.
And therfore lene meekly to this blinde steryng of love in thin herte. I mene not in thi
bodily herte, bot in thi goostly herte, the whiche is thi wil. And be wel ware that thou con-
seyve not bodily that that is seyde goostly. For trewly I telle thee that bodely and fleschely
conseytes of hem that han corious and ymaginatyve wittys ben cause of moche errour.
Ensaumple of this maist thou see by that that I bid thee hele thi desire fro God in
that that in thee is. For, paraventure, and I had boden thee schewe thi desire unto
God, thou schuldest have conceyvid it more bodily then thou dost now when I bid
thee hele it. For thou wost wel that alle that thing that is wilfuly helid, it is casten into
the depnes of spiryt.
And thus me thinketh that it nedith greetly to have moche warnes in understonding
of wordes that ben spokyn to goostly entent, so that thou conceyve hem not bodily,
bot goostly, as thei ben mente. And namely it is good to be ware with this worde in
and this worde up, for in mysconceyvyng of thees two wordes hangeth moche errour
and moche disseite in hem that purposen hem to be goostly worchers, as me thinketh.
Sumwhat wote I by the profe, and sumwhat by herdsey; and of thees disseites list me
telle thee a lityl, as me thinketh.
A yonge disciple in Goddes scole, newe turnid fro the woreld, the whiche weneth
that for a litil tyme that he hath goven him to penaunce and to preier, taken by coun-
sel in confescion, that he be therfore abil to take apon hym goostly worching, of the
whiche he herith men speke or rede aboute hym, or paraventure redith hymself, and
therfore whan he redith or hereth spoken of goostly worching, and namely of this
worde, how a man schal drawe alle his witte withinne hymself, or how he schal
clymbe aboven himself, -- as fast for blindnes in soule, and for fleschelines and
coriousté of kyndely witte, thei misunderstonde thees wordes, and wenen, for thei
fynden in hem a kyndly covetyse to hid thinges, that thei ben therfore clepid to that
werke by grace; insomoche, that yif counsel wil not acorde that thei schul worche in
this werke, as sone thei fele a maner of grocchyng agens theire counsel, and thinken --
ye, and paraventure seyen to soche other as thei ben -- that thei kan fynde no man
that kan wite what thei mene fully. And therfore as fast for boldnes and presumpcion
of theire corious witte, thei leve meek preier and penaunce over-sone, and sette hem
(thei wene) to a ful goostly werk withinne in here soule: the whiche werk, and it be
trewly conceyvid, is neither bodily worching ne goostly worching. And, schortly to
sey, it is a worching agens kynde, and the devel is the cheef worcher therof. And it is
the rediest wey to deth of body and of soule, for it is woodnes and no wisdom, and
ledith a man even to woodnes. And yit thei wene not thus, for thei purpose hem in
this werk to think on nought bot on God.
Here biginnith the two and fifty chapitre.
And on this maner is this woodnes wrought that I speke of. Thei reden and heren
wel sey that thei schuld leve utward worching with theire wittes, and worche in-
wardes; and forthi that thei knowe not whiche is inward worchyng, therfore thei
worche wronge. For thei turne theire bodily wittes inwardes to theire body agens the
cours of kynde; and streynyn hem, as thei wolde see inwardes with theire bodily
ighen, and heren inwardes with theire eren, and so forthe of alle theire wittes, smel-
len, taasten, and felyn inwardes. And thus thei reverse hem agens the cours of kynde,
and with this coriousté thei travayle theire ymaginacion so undiscreetly, that at the
laste thei turne here brayne in here hedes. And than as fast the devil hath power for
to feyne sum fals light or sounes, swete smelles in theire noses, wonderful taastes in
theire mowthes, and many queynte hetes and brennynges in theire bodily brestes or
in theire bowelles, in theire backes and in theire reynes, and in theire pryvé membres.
And yit in this fantasie hem think that thei have a restful mynde of theire God
withoutyn any lettyng of veyne thoughtes. And sekirly so have thei in maner, for thei
ben so fillid in falsheed that vanité may not dere hem. And whi? For he, that same
feende that schuld ministre veyne thoughtes to hem and thei were in good wey, he,
that same, is the cheef worcher of this werk. And wite thou right wel that him list not
lette hymself. The mynde of God wol he not put fro hem, for feerde that he schuld be
had in suspecte.
Here biginnith the thre and fifti chapitre.
Many wonderful contenaunces folowen hem that ben disseyvid in this fals werk, or
in any spice therof, forby that doth hem that ben Goddes trewe disciples; for thei ben
evermore ful semely in alle here contenaunces, bodily or goostly. Bot it is not so of
thees other. For whoso wolde or might beholde unto hem ther thei sitte in this tyme,
and it so were that theire igheliddes were open, he schulde see hem stare as thei were
wode, and leighingly loke as thei sawe the devil. Sekirly it is good thei be ware; for
trewly the feende is not fer. Som sette theire ighen in theire hedes as thei were sturdy
scheep betyn in the heed, and as thei schulde dighe anone. Som hangen here hedes
on syde, as a worme were in theire eres. Som pipyn when thei schuld speke, as ther
were no spirit in theire bodies; and this is the propre condicion of an ypocrite. Som
crien and whinen in theire throte, so ben thei gredy and hasty to sey that thei think;
and this is the condicion of heretikes and of hem that with presumpcion and with
curiousté of witte wil alweys meynteyn errour.
Many unordeynde and unsemely contenaunces folowen on this errour, whoso
mighte parceyve alle. Nevertheles, som ther ben that ben so curious that thei kun
refreyne hem in grete partye whan thei comen before men. Bot might thees men be
seen in place where thei ben homely, then I trowe thei schuld not be hidde. And nev-
ertheles yit I trowe that whoso wolde streitly geinsey theire opynion, that thei schuld
sone see hem brest oute in som partye; and yit hem think that alle that ever thei do, it
is for the love of God and for to meynteyne the treuth. Now trewly I hope that bot yif
God schewe His merciful miracle to make hem sone leve of, thei schul love God so
longe on this maner that thei schul go staryng wood to the devil. I sey not that the
devil hath so parfite a servaunt in this liif, that is desceyvid and infecte with alle
thees fantasies that I sette here. And nevertheles yit it may be that one, ye and many
one, be infecte with hem alle. Bot I sey that he hath no parfite ypocrite ne heretike in
erthe, that he ne is gilty in somme that I have seide, or paraventure schal sey, yif God
For som men aren so kumbred in nice corious contenaunces in bodily beryng, that
whan thei schal ought here, thei writhen here hedes onside queyntely, and up with
the chin; thei gape with theire mouthes as thei schuld here with hem, and not with
here eres. Som, when thei schulen speke, poynten with here fyngres, or on theire
fyngres, or on theire owne brestes, or on theires that thei speke to. Som kan nouther
sit stille, stonde stylle, ne ligge stille, bot yif thei be outher waggyng with theire fete,
or elles sumwhat doyng with theire handes. Som rowyn with theire armes in tyme of
here spekyng, as hem nedid for to swymme over a grete water. Som ben evermore
smyling and leighing at iche other worde that thei speke, as thei weren gigelotes and
nice japyng jogelers lackyng kontenaunce. Semeli cher were with sobre and demure
beryng of body and mirthe in maner.
I say not that alle thees unsemely contenaunces ben grete synnes in hemself, ne yit
alle thoo that done hem ben grete synners hemself. Bot I sey if that thees unsemely
and unordeinde contenaunces ben governers of that man that doth hem, insomochel
that he may not leve hem whan he wile: than I sey that thei ben tokenes of pride and
coryousté of witte, and of unordeynde schewyng and covetise of knowyng. And spe-
cyaly thei ben verrei tokenes of unstabelnes of herte and unrestfulnes of mynde, and
namely of the lackyng of the werk of this book. And this is only the skile whi that I
set so many of thees disceytes here in this writyng, for whi that a goostly worcher
schal prove his werk by hem.
Here biginnith the foure and fifti chapitre.
Whoso had this werk, it schuld governe him ful semely, as wele in body as in
soule, and make hym ful favorable unto iche man or womman that lokyd apon hym;
insomoche that the worst favored man or womman that leveth in this liif, and thei
mighte come to by grace to worche in this werk, theire favour schuld sodenly and
gracyously be chaunged, that iche good man that hem sawe schulde be fayne and
joiful to have hem in companye, and ful mochil thei schuld think that thei were ple-
sid in spirit and holpen by grace unto God in theire presence.
And therfore gete this gifte, whoso by grace gete may; for whoso hath it verely, he
schal wel kun governe hymself by the vertewe therof, and alle that longith unto hym.
He schuld wel geve discrecion, yif nede were, of alle kyndes and alle complexions.
He schuld wel kun make hymself liche unto alle that with hym comouned, whether
thei were customable synners or none, withoutyn synne in hymself, in wondryng of
alle that hym sawen, and in drawyng of other by helpe of grace to the werk of that
same spirit that he worcheth in hymself.
His chere and his wordes schuld be ful of goostly wysdam, ful of fiire and of frute,
spoken in sad sothfastnes, withouten any falsheed, fer fro any feynyng or pipynge of
ypocrites. For sum ther ben that with alle theire mighte, inner and utter, ymageneth
in theire spekyng how they mowe stuffe hem and underput hem on iche a side for
fallyng with many meek pipyng wordes and contenaunces of devocion, more lokyng
after for to seme holy in sight of men, then for to be so in the sight of God and His
aungelles. For whi thees folk wil more charge and more sorow make for an un-
ordeynde contenaunce, or unseemly or unsittyng worde spoken byfore men, then thei
wil for a thousande veyne thoughtes and stynckyng sterynges of synne wilfuly
drawen apon hem, or rechelesly voided in the sight of God and the seyntes and the
aungelles in heven. A, Lorde God! wher ther be any pride withinne ther as soche
meek pipyng wordes ben so plenteuous withoutyn, I graunte wel that it is sittyngly
and semely to hem that ben meek withinne for to schewe meek and semely wordes
and contenaunce withoutyn, acordyng to that meeknes that is withinne in the herte.
Bot I sey not that thei schul thanne be schewed in brokyn ne in pipyng voices agens
the pleyn disposission of theire kynde that spekyn hem. For whi yif thei ben trewe,
then ben thei spoken in sothfastnes, and in hoelnes of voyce, and of theire spirit that
speken hem. And yif he, that hath a pleyn and an open boystous voice by kynde,
speke hem poerly and pypyngly -- I mene bot yif he be seek in his body, or elles that
it be bitwix hirn and his God or his confessour -- than it is a vertey token of ypocri-
sie. I mene outher yong ypocrite or olde.
And what schal I more sey of theese venemos disseites? Trewly I trowe, bot yif
thei have grace to leve of soche pipyng ypocrisie, that bitwix that privé pride in
theire hertes withinne and soche meek wordes withoutyn, the sely soule may ful sone
sinke into sorow.
Here biginnith the five and fifty chapitre.
Som men the feende wyl disceyve on this maner. Ful wonderfuly he wol enflaume
here braynes to meinteyne Goddes lawe, and to distroie synne in alle other men. He
wil never tempte hem with a thing that is aperte yvel. He makith hem liche besy
prelates wakyng over alle the degrees of Cristen mens levyng, as an abbot over his
monkes. Alle men wil thei reprove of theire defautes, right as thei had cure of theire
soules. And yit hem think that thei dur not elles for God. Bot thei telle hem here de-
fautes that thei see; and thei sey that thei ben steryd therto by the fiire of charité and
of Goddes love in theire hertes. And trewly thei lighe, for it is with the fiire of helle
wellyng in theire braynes and in theire ymaginacion.
That this is sothe, it semeth bi this that foloweth. The devil is a spirit, and of his
owne kynde he hath no body more then hath an aungele. Bot yit nevertheles, what
tyme that he or an aungele schal take any bodi by leve of God to maak any mynis-
tracion to any man in this liif: al after the werk is that he schal mynistre, therafter in
licnes is the qualité of his body in som party. Ensaumple of this we have in Holy
Writte. As ofte as any aungele was sente in body in the Olde Testament and in the
Newe also, evermore it was schewed, outher by his name or by sum instrument or
qualité of his body, what his mater or his message was in spirit. On the same maner it
fareth of the feende, for when he apereth in body, he fygureth in som qualité of his
body what his servauntes ben in spirit.
Ensaumple of this may be sene in one in stede of alle thees other. For as I have
conceyvid by som disciples of nygromauncye, the whiche han it in scyence for to
make advocacion of wickyd spirites, and by som unto whom the feende hath apperid
in bodily licnes, that in what bodily licnes the feend appereth, evermore he hath bot o
nose-therel, and that is grete and wyde. And he wil glady kast it up, that a man may
see in therate to his brayne up in his heed. The whiche brayn is not elles bot the fiire
of helle, for the feende may have none other brayn. And yif he might make a man
loke in therate, he kepeth no beter; for at that lokyng he schuld lese his witte for ever.
Bot a parfite prentys of nigromauncye knowith this wel inowgh, and kan wel
ordeyne therfore, so that he dere him not.
Herfore it is that I sey, and have seide, that evermore whan the devil takith any
bodi, he figureth in som qualité of his body what his servauntes ben in spirit. For he
enflaumeth so the ymaginacion of his contemplatyves with the fiire of helle, that
sodenly, withoutyn discrecion, thei schete oute theire corious conceites, and with-
outen any avysement thei wil take apon hem to blame other mens defautes over sone.
And this is for thei have bot o nose-therel goostly. For that staunson that is in a mans
nose bodely, and the whiche departeth the to nose-therel fro the tother, bitokeneth
that a man schulde have discrecion goostly, and kun dissevre the good fro the ivel,
and the yvel fro the worse, and the good fro the betyr, er that he gave any ful dome
of any thing that he herde or sawe done or spokyn aboute hym. And by a mans brayn
is goostly understonden ymagynacion; for kyndely it woneth and worcheth in the
Here biginnith the six and fifty chapitre.
Somme ther ben that, thof al thei be not disceyved with this errour as it is sette
here, yit for pride and coriousté of kyndely witte and letterly kunnyng levith the co
moun doctrine and the counsel of Holy Chirche. And thees, with alle here fautours,
lenyn overmoche to theire owne knowyng. And for thei were never grounded in this
meek blynde felyng and vertuous levyng, therfore thei deserve to have a fals felyng,
feynid and wrought by the goostly enmye; insomoche that at the last thei brestyn up
and blasphemyn alle the seyntes, sacramentes, statutes and ordenaunces of Holy
Chirche. Fleschly levyng men of the woreld, the whiche thinkyn the statutes of Holy
Chirche over-harde to be amendid by, thei lenen to thees heretikes ful sone and ful
lyghtly, and stalworthly meynteyne hem, and al is for hem think thei lede hem a
softer wey then is ordeyned of Holy Chirche.
Now trewly I trowe that who that wil not goo the streyte wey to heven that thei
schul goo the softe wey to helle. Iche man prove in hymself. For I trowe and alle
soche heretikes, and alle theire fautours, and thei might cleerly be seen as thei
scholen on the last day, schulde be sene ful sone kumbrid in grete and horryble
synnes of the woreld and theire foule flessche prively, withouten theire apeerte
presumpcion in meyntenyng of errour. So that thei ben ful properly clepid Antecriste
discyples; for it is seide of hem that for alle theire fals fare in aperte, yit thei schul be
ful foule lechors prively.
Here biginnith the seven and fifti chapitre.
No more of thees at this tyme now; bot forthe of oure mater, how that thees yonge
presumptuous goostly disciples misunderstonden this other worde up.
For yif it so be that thei outher rede, or here redde or spoken hou that men schuld
lift up here hertes unto God, as fast thei stare in the sterres as thei wolde be aboven
the mone, and herkyn when thei schul here any aungelles synge oute of heven. Thees
men willen sumtyme with the coriousté of here ymaginacion peerce the planetes, and
make an hole in the firmament to loke in therate. Thees men wil make a God as hem
lyst, and clothen hym ful richely in clothes, and set hym in a trone, fer more curi-
ously than ever was he depeynted in this erthe. Thees men wil maken aungelles in
bodely licnes, and set hem aboute ich one with diverse minstralsie, fer more corious
than ever was any seen or herde in this liif.
Somme of thees men the devil wil disceyve wonderfuly. For he wil seende a maner
of dewe -- aungelles foode thei wene it be -- as it were comyng oute of the eire, and
softely and sweetly fallyng in theire mowthes; and therfore thei have it in costume to
sitte gapyng as thei wolde kacche flies. Now trewly alle this is bot disceyte, seme it
never so holy; for thei have in this tyme ful emty soules of any trewe devocion.
Moche vanitee and falsheed is in theire hertes, causid of theire corious worchyng,
insomoche that oftetymes the devil feyneth queinte sounes in theire eres, queynte
lightes and schinyng in theire ighen, and wonderful smelles in theire nosen; and al is
And yit wene thei not so; for hem think that thei have ensaumple of Seynte Martyn
of this upward lokyng and worching, that sawe by revelacion God clad in His mantel
amonges His aungelles, and of Seinte Steven that sawe oure Lorde stonde in heven,
and of many other; and of Cryste, that assendid bodily to heven, seing His discyples.
And therfore thei sey that we schul have oure ighen upwardes. I graunte wel that in
oure bodely observaunce we schul lifte up oure ighen and oure hondes yif we ben
steryd in spirit. Bot I sey that the werke of oure spirit schal not be directe neither up-
wardes ne donwardes, ne on o syde ne on other, ne forward ne bacward, as it is of a
bodely thing. For whi oure werke schuld be goostly, not bodely, ne on a bodely ma-
Here biginnith the eight and fifty chapitre.
For that that thei sey of Seynte Martyn and of Seinte Steven, thof al thei sie soche
thinges with theire bodely ighen, it was schewyd bot in myracle and in certefiing of
thing that was goostly. For wite thei ryght wel that Seynte Martyn mantel come
never on Crystes owne body substancyaly, for no nede that He had therto to kepe
him fro colde; bot by miracle and in licnes for alle us that ben abel to be savid, that
ben onyd to the body of Criste goostly. And whoso clotheth a pore man and doth any
other good deed for Goddes love, bodily or goostly, to any that hath need, sekir be
thei thei do it unto Criste goostly, and thei schul be rewardid as substancyaly therfore
as thei had done it to Cristes owne body. Thus seith Hymself in the Gospel. And yit
thoughte He it not inowgh, bot yif he affermyd it after by miracle; and for this skyle
He schewed Hym unto Seynte Martyn by revelacion.
Alle the revelacions that ever sawe any man here in bodely licnes in this liif, thei
have goostly bemenynges. And I trowe that and thei unto whome thei were schewid,
or we for whome thei were schewid, had ben so goostly, or couthe have conceyvid
theire bemenynges goostly, that than thei had never ben schewed bodily. And ther-
fore late us pike of the rough bark, and fede us of the swete kyrnel.
Bot how? Not as thees heretikes done, the whiche ben wel licned to wode men
havyng this custume, that ever whan thei have dronken of a faire cup, kast it to the
walle and breke it. Thus schul not we do, yif we wil wel do. For we schul not so fede
us of the frute that we schul dispise the tree; ne so drynke that we schul breke the
cuppe when we have dronken. The tre and the cuppe I clepe this visible miracle, and
alle semely bodely observaunces that is acordyng and not lettyng the werke of the
spirite. The frute and the drync I clepe the goostly bemening of thees visible mira-
cles, and of thees semely bodely observaunces, as is liftyng up of oure ighen and
oure handes unto heven. Yif they be done by steryng of the spyrit, then ben thei wel
done; and elles ben thei ypocrisie, and then ben thei fals. Yif thei ben trewe and
contynen in hem goostly frute, whi schuld thei than be dispisid? For men wil kysse
the cuppe, for wine is therin.
And what therof, thof oure Lorde, when He assendid to heven bodely, toke His
wey upwardes into the cloudes, seing His moder and His disciples with here bodely
ighen? Schul we therfore in oure goostly werk ever stare upwardes with oure bodely
ighen, to loke after Hym yif we mowe se Hym sit bodely in heven, or elles stonde, as
Seinte Steven did? Nay, sekirly He schewid Him not unto Seynte Steven bodily in
heven forthi that He wolde geve us ensaumple that we schuld in oure goostly werk
loke bodely up into heven, yif we mought se Hym as Seynte Steven did, outher ston-
dyng or sittyng or liggyng. For howso His body is in heven -- stondyng, sittyng, or
ligging -- wote no man. And it nedith not to be wetyn; ne no more, bot that His body
is anhighed with the soule, withouten departing. The body and the soule, the whiche
is the Manheed, is onid with the Godheed withoutyn departyng also. Of His sittyng,
His stonding, His liggyng, nedith it not to wetyn, bot that He is there as Him list, and
hath Him in body as moste semely is unto Hym for to be. For yif He schewid Hym
liggyng, or stondyng, or sittyng, by revelacion bodely to any creature in this liif, it is
done for sum goostly bemenyng, and not for no maner of bodely beryng that He hath
See by ensaumple. By stondyng is understonden a redynes of helping. And herfore
it is seide comounly of oo frende to another, whan he is in bodely batayle: "Bere thee
wel, felaw, and fight fast, and give not up the bataile over-lightly; for I schal stonde
by thee." He meneth not only bodely stondyng, for paraventure this batayle is on
hors and not on fote, and paraventure it is in going and not stondyng. Bot he meneth,
whan he seith that he schal stonde bi hym, that he schal be redy to helpe him.
For this skyle it was that oure Lorde schewid Him bodely in heven to Seinte Ste-
ven, when he was in his martirdome; and not to geve us ensaumple to loke up to
heven. As He had seide thus to Seynte Steven, in persone of alle thoo that suffren
persecucion for His love: "Loo, Steven! as verrely as I open this bodely fyrmament,
the whiche is clepid heven, and lete thee se My bodily stondyng, trist stedfastly that
as verrely stonde I biside thee goostly, by the myght of My Godheed. And I am redy
to helpe thee. And therfore stonde thou stifly in the feith, and suffre booldely the fel
buffetes of thoo harde stones; for I schal coroune thee in blis for thi mede, and not
only thee, bot alle thoo that suffren persecucion for Me on any maner."
And thus maist thou se that thees bodely schewynges were done by goostly be-
Here biginnith the nine and fifti chapitre.
And yif thou sey ought touching the assencion of oure Lorde, for that was done
bodely and for a bodely bemenyng as wel as for a goostly, for bothe He assendid
verrey God and verrey Man, to this wil I answere thee, that He had ben deed, and
was clad with undeedlines, and so schul we be at the Day of Dome. And than we
schul be maad so sotyl in body and in soule togeders, that we schul be than as
swiftely where us liste bodely, as we ben now in oure thoughte goostly; whether it be
up or doune, on o syde or on other, bihinde or before. Alle I hope schal than be iliche
good, as clerkes seyne. Bot now thou mayst not come to heven not bodely, bot
goostly. And yit it schal be so goostly that it schal not be on bodely maner --
nowther upwardes ne donwardes, ne on o side ne on other, behynde ne before.
And wite wel that alle thoo that setten hem to be goostly worchers and namely in
the werk of this book, that thof al thei rede "lifte up" or "go in," thof al that the
werke of this book be clepid a steryng, nevertheles yit hem behoveth to have a ful
besy beholdyng, that this steryng streche neither up bodely ne in bodely, ne yit that it
be any soche steryng as is from o stede to another. And thof al that it be sumtyme
cleped a rest, nevertheles yit thei schul not think that it is any soche rest as is any
abidyng in a place withouten remowing therfro. For the perfeccion of this werke is so
pure and so goostly in itself, that and it be wel and trewly conceyvid, it schal be seen
fer lengthid fro any steryng and fro any stede.
And it schuld by sum skyle rather be clepid a sodeyn chaunging then any steedly
steryng. For tyme, stede, and body, thees thre schuld be forgeten in alle goostly
worching. And therfore bewar in this werk that thou take none ensaumple at the
bodely assencion of Criste, for to streyne thin ymaginacion in the tyme of thi preier
bodely upwardes, as thou woldest clymbe aboven the mone. For it schuld on no wise
be so goostly. Bot yif thou schuldest assende into heven bodely, as Criste did, than
thou mightest take ensaumple at it; bot that may none do bot God, as Himself wit-
nessith, seiing: "Ther is no man that may assende unto heven, bot only He that de-
scendid fro heven, and bycome man for the love of man." And yif it were possible,
as it on no wise may be, yit it schuld be for habundaunce of goostly worchyng, only
bi the might of the spirit, ful fer fro any bodely stressyng or streyning of oure ymagi-
nacion bodely, outher up, or in, on o side, or on other. And therfore lat be soche fal-
shede; it schuld not be so.
Here biginnith the sixty chapitre.
Bot now, paraventure, thou seiste that how schuld it thanne be. For thee think that
thou haste verrey evidence that hevyn is upwardes; for Criste assendid thedir bodely
upwardes, and sente the Holy Goost, as He Hight, comyng fro aboven bodely, seyng
alle His disciples; and this is oure beleve. And therfore thee think sithen thou haste
thus verrey evidence, whi schalt thou not directe thi mynde upward bodely in the
tyme of thi preier?
And to this wil I answere thee so febely as I kan, and sey: sithen it so was that
Criste schuld assende bodely, and therafter sende the Holy Goost bodely, then it was
more semely that it was upwardes and fro aboven, than outher donwardes and fro
bynethen, byhinde or before, on o side or on other. Bot elles ne were this semelines,
Him nedid never the more to have wente upwardes then donwardes, I mene for
nerenes of the wey. For heven goostly is as neigh doun as up, and up as down, bi-
hinde as before, before as behynde, on o syde as other, insomoche that whoso had a
trewe desire for to be at hevyn, then that same tyme he were in heven goostly. For
the highe and the nexte wey theder is ronne by desires, and not by pases of feet. And
herfore seith Seinte Poule of himself and many other thus: "Thof al oure bodies ben
presently here in erthe, nevertheles yit oure levyng is in heven." He ment theire love
and theire desire, the whiche is goostly theire liif. And sekirly as verrely is a soule
there where it lovith, as in the body that leveth bi it, and to the whiche it geveth liif.
And therfore yif we wil go to heven goostly, it nedith not to streyne oure spirit nei-
ther up ne doune, ne on o syde ne on other.
Here biginnith the on and sixti chapitre.
Nevertheles it is needful to lifte up oure ighen and oure hondes bodely, as it were
unto yone bodely heven, in the whiche the elementes ben fastnid. I mene yif we ben
sterid of the werk of oure spirit, and elles nought. For alle bodely thing is sogette
unto goostly thing and is reulid therafter, and not agensward.
Ensaumple herof may be seen by the assencion of oure Lorde; for whan the tyme
statute was icomen that Him likyd to weende to His Fader bodely in His Manheed --
the whiche was never, ne never may be, absent in his Godheed -- than mightely, by
the vertewe of the Spirit God, the Manheed with the body folowed in onheed of Per-
sone. The visibilité of this was moste seemly and most acordyng to be upward.
This same subjeccion of the body to the spirit may be in maner verrely conceived
in the preof of this goostly werk of this book by hem that worchen therin. For what
tyme that a soule disposeth him effectuely to this werk, than as fast sodenly -- unwe-
tyng himself that worcheth -- the body, that paraventure bifore er he bygan was
sumwhat heeldyng donwardes on o syde or on other for ese of the flesche, by
vertewe of the spirit schal set it upright, folowyng in maner and in licnes bodely the
werk of the spirit that is maad goostly. And thus it is moste semely to be.
And for this seemlines it is that a man, the whiche is the seemliest creature in body
that ever God maad, is not maad crokid to the erthewardes, as ben alle other beestes,
bot upright to hevenwardes; for whi that it schulde figure in licnes bodely the werke
of the soule goostly, the whiche falleth to be upright goostly and not crokid goostly.
Take kepe that I sey upright goostly, and not bodely. For how schulde a soule, the
whiche in his kynde hath no maner thing of bodelines, be streinid upright bodely?
Nay, it may not be.
And therfore beware that thou conceyve not bodely that that is mente goostly, thof
al it be spokyn in bodely wordes, as ben thees: up or doun, in or oute, behinde, or
before, on o side or on other. For thof al that a thing be never so goostly in itself,
nevertheles yit yif it schal be spoken of, sithen it so is that speche is a bodely werk
wrought with the tonge, the whiche is an instrument of the body, it behoveth alweis
be spoken in bodely wordes. Bot what therof? Schal it therfore be taken and con-
ceyvid bodely? Nay, it bot goostly.
Here biginnith the two and sixty chapitre.
And forthi that thou schalt kun betir wite how thei schul be conceyved goostly,
thees wordes that ben spoken bodely, therfore I think to declare to thee the goostly
bemenyng of somme wordes that fallyn to goostly worching; so that thou mayst wite
cleerly withouten errour when thi goostly werke is benethe thee and withoutyn thee,
and when it is within thee and even with thee, and when it is aboven thee and under
Alle maner of bodely thing is withouten thi soule and benethe it in kynde. Ye, the
sonne and the mone and alle the sterres, thof al thei be aboven thi body, nevertheles
yit thei ben benethe thi soule.
Alle aungelles and alle soules, thof al thei be conformed and anowrnid with grace
and with vertewes, for the whiche thei ben aboven thee in clennes, nevertheles yit
thei ben bot even with thee in kynde.
Withinne in thiself in kynde ben the mightes of thi soule, the whiche ben thees thre
principal: minde, reson, and wille; and secundary, ymaginacion and sensualité.
Aboven thiself in kynde is no maner of thing bot only God.
Evermore where thou fyndest wreten thiself in goostlines, than it is understonden
thi soule, and not thi body. And then, al after that thing is on the whiche the mightes
of thi soule worchyn, therafter schal the worthines and the condicion of thi werke be
demid: whether it be binethe thee, withinne thee, or aboven thee.
Here bigynnith the thre and sixty chapitre.
Mynde is soche a mighte in itself, that properly to speke and in maner it worcheth
not itself. Bot reson and wille, thei ben two worching mightes, and so is ymaginacion
and sensualité also. And alle thees foure mightes and theire werkes mynde conteneth
and comprehendeth in itself. And on none other wise it is seide that the mynde wor-
cheth, bot yif soche a comprehencion be a werke.
And herfore it is that I clepe the mightes of a soule, som principal, and som se
cundary. Not for a soule is departable, for that may not be; bot for alle thoo thinges
in the whiche thei worchen ben departable, and somme principal, as ben alle goostly
thinges, and som secundary, as ben alle bodily thinges. The two principal worching
myghtes, reson and wille, worchen purely in hemself in alle goostly thinges, with-
outen help of the other two secundary mightes. Ymaginacion and sensualité worchin
beestly in alle bodely thinges, whether thei be present or absente in the body, and
with the bodely wittes. Bot by hem, withouten helpe of reson and of wille, may a
soule never come to for to knowe the vertewe and the condicions of bodely creatures,
ne the cause of theire beynges and theire makynges.
And for this skyle is reson and wille clepid principal mightes, for thei worchen in
pure spirit withouten any maner of bodelines; and ymaginacion and sensualité sec-
ondary, for thei worchen in the body with bodely instrumentes, the whiche ben oure
five wittes. Minde is clepid a principal myghte, for it conteneth in it goostly not only
alle the other mightes, bot therto alle tho thinges in the whiche thei worchen. Se by
Here biginnith the foure and sixty chapitre.
Reson is a myght thorou the whiche we departe the ivel fro the good, the ivel fro
the worse, the good fro the betir, the worse fro the worste, the betir from the best.
Before er man synned, might reson have done al this by kynde. Bot now it is so
blendid with the original synne that it may not kon worche this werk bot yif it be
illuminid by grace. And bothe the self reson, and the thing that it worcheth in, ben
comprehendid and contened in the mynde.
Wille is a myght thorou the whiche we chese good, after that it be determinid with
reson; and thorow the whiche we love good, we desire good, and resten us with ful
likyng and consent eendli in God. Before er man synnid, might not wille be discey-
vid in his chesyng, in his lovyng, ne in none of his werkes; for whi it had than by
kynde to savour iche thing as it was. Bot now it may not do so, bot yif it be anointed
with grace. For oftymes, bicause of infeccion of the original synne, it savoreth a
thing for good that is ful yvel, and that hath bot the licnes of goode. And bothe the
wille and the thing that it wilnith the mynde conteneth and comprehendith in it.
Here biginnith the five and sixty chapitre.
Imagynacion is a might thorow the whiche we portray alle ymages of absent and
present thinges. And bothe it, and the thing that it worcheth in, ben contened in the
mynde. Byfore er man synned, was ymagynacion so obedyent unto the reson -- to
the whiche it is as it were servaunt -- that it mynystrid never to it any unordeynde
ymage of any bodely creature, or any fantasy of any goostly creature. Bot now it is
not so. For bot yif it be refreyned by the light of grace in the reson, elles it wil never
sese, sleping or wakyng, for to portray dyverse unordeynd ymages of bodely crea-
tures; or elles sum fantasye, the whiche is nought elles bot a bodely conseyte of a
goostly thing, or elles a goostly conseyte of a bodely thing. And this is evermore
feynid and fals, and anexte unto errour.
This inobedyence of the ymaginacion may clerly be conseyvid in hem that ben
newlynges tornid fro the woreld unto devocion in the tyme of here preier. For before
the tyme be that the ymaginacion be in grete partye refreynid by the light of grace in
the reson - as it is in contynowel meditacion of goostly thinges, as ben theire wre-
chidnes, the Passion and the kyndenes of oure Lorde God, with many soche other --
thei mowe in no wise put awey the wonderful and the diverse thoughtes, fantasies
and ymages, the whiche ben mynystred and preentid in theire mynde by the light and
the corioustee of ymaginacyon. And alle this inobedyence is the pyne of the original
Here biginnith the six and sixty chapitre.
Sensualité is a mighte of oure soule, rechyng and regnyng in the bodely wittes,
thorow the whiche we have bodely knowyng and felyng of alle bodely creatures,
whether thei be likyng or gruchyng. And it hath two partyes: one thorow the whiche
it beholdeth to the needfulnes of oure body, another thorou the whiche it serveth to
the lustis of the bodely wittys. For this same might is it that gruchith when the body
lackyth the needful thinges unto it, and that in the takyng of the nede stereth us to
take more than nedith in fedyng and fortheryng of oure lustys. It grochith in lackyng
of likyng creatures, and lustely is delited in theire presence. It grochith in presence of
mislikyng creatures, and it is lustely plesid in theire absence. Bothe this might and
the thing that it worcheth in ben contened in the mynde.
Before er man synnid was the sensualité so obedyent unto the wille -- unto the
whiche it is as it were servaunt -- that it ministred never unto it any unordeinde
likyng or groching in any bodely creature, or in any goostly feynyng of likyng or
mislikyng maad by any goostly enmye in the bodely wittes. Bot now it is not so; for
bot yif it be reulyd by grace in the wille, for to suffre meekly and in mesure the pyne
of the original synne -- the whiche it felith in absence of needful likyng and in pres-
ence of speedful groching -- and therto also for to streyne it fro luste in presence of
needful lykyng, and fro lusty plesaunce in absence of speedful groching, elles wil it
wrechidly and wantounly weltre, as a swine in the myre, in the welthes of this woreld
and the foule flessche so mochel, that alle oure levyng schal be more beestly and
fieschly then outher manly or goostly.
Here biginnith the seven and sixty chapitre.
Loo, goostly freende to soche wrechidnes as thou here mayst see ben we fallen for
synne! And therfore what wonder is it though we be blyndely and lightly disseyvid
in understondyng of goostly wordes and of goostly worchyng, and namely thoo the
whiche knowyn not yit the myghtes of theire soules and the maners of theire wor-
For ever whan the mynde is ocupied with any bodely thing, be it taken to never so
good an eende, yit thou arte binethe thiself in this worching, and withouten thi soule.
And ever whan thou felist thi mynde ocupied with the sotil condicions of the
myghtes of thi soule and theire worchynges in goostly thinges as ben vices or
vertewes of thiself or of any creature that is goostly and even with thee in kynde, to
that eende that thou mightest by this werke lerne to knowe thiself in forthring of
perfeccion: then thou arte withinne thiself and even with thiself. Bot ever when thou
felist thi mynde ocupyed with no maner of thyng that is bodely or goostly, bot only
with the self substaunce of God, as it is and may be in the preof of the werk of this
book, then thou arte aboven thiself and under thi God.
Aboven thiself thou arte: for whi thou atteynest to come thedir by grace, whether
thou mayst not come by kynde; that is to sey, to be onyd to God in spirit and in love
and in acordaunce of wille. Bynethe thi God thou arte: for whi thof al it may be seide
in maner that in this tyme God and thou ben not two bot one in spirit -- insomoche
that thou or another for soche onheed that feleth the perfeccion of this werk may
sothfastly, bi witnes of Scripture, be clepid a god -- nevertheles yit thou arte binethe
Hym. For whi He is God by kynde withouten biginnyng; and thou that sumtyme
were nought in substaunce and therto after when thou were by His might and His
love maad ought, wilfuly with synne madest thiself wors then nought: only bi His
mercy withouten thi desert arte maad a God in grace, onyd with Him in spirit with-
outen departyng, bothe here and in blis of heven withouten any eende. So that,
though thou be al one with Hym in grace, yit thou arte ful fer binethe Hym in kynde.
Loo, goostly freende! herby maist thou see sumwhat in partye that whoso knowith
not the myghtes of theire owne soule, and the maner of theire worchyng, may ful
lightly be disseyved in understondyng of wordes that ben wretyn to goostly entent.
And herfore maist thou see sumwhat the cause whi that I durst not pleynly bid thee
schewe thi desire unto God; bot I bad thee childly do that in thee is to hyde it and
hele it. And this I do for feerde lest thou schuldest conseyve bodily that that is mente
Here biginnith the eight and sixty chapitre.
And on the same maner, wher another man wolde bid thee gader thi mightes and
thi wittes holiche withinne thiself, and worschip God there -- thof al he sey ful wel
and ful trewly, ye! and no man trewlier and he be wel conseivid -- yit for feerde of
disseite and bodely conceyvyng of his wordes, me list not byd thee do so. Bot thus
wil I bid thee. Loke on no wyse that thou be withinne thiself. And schortly withoutyn
thiself wil I not that thou be, ne yit aboven, ne behynde, ne on o side, ne on other.
"Wher than," seist thou, "schal I be? Noghwhere, by thi tale!" Now trewly thou
seist wel; for there wolde I have thee. For whi noghwhere bodely is everywhere
goostly. Loke than besily that thi goostly werk be noghwhere bodely; and than wher-
soever that that thing is, on the whiche thou wilfuly worchest in thi mynde in sub-
staunce, o sekerly ther art thou in spirit, as verrely as thi body is in that place that
thou arte bodely. And thof al thi bodely wittes kon fynde ther nothing to fede hem
on, for hem think it nought that thou doste, ye! do on than this nought, elles that thou
do it for Goddes love. And lete nought, therfore, bot travayle besily in that nought
with a wakyng desire to wilne to have God, that no man may knowe. For I telle thee
trewly that I had lever be so nowhere bodely, wrastlyng with that blynde nought,
than to be so grete a lorde that I might when I wolde be everywhere bodely, merily
pleiing with al this ought as a lorde with his owne.
Lat be this everiwhere and this ought, in comparison of this noghwhere and this
nought. Reche thee never yif thi wittys kon no skyle of this nought; for whi I love it
moche the betir. It is so worthi a thing in itself that thei kon no skyle therapon. This
nought may betir be felt then seen; for it is ful blynde and ful derk to hem that han
bot lityl while lokid therapon. Nevertheles, yif I schal sothlier sey, a soule is more
bleendid in felyng of it for habundaunce of goostly light, then for any derknes or
wantyng of bodely lightte. What is he that clepith it nought? Sekirly it is oure utter
man, and not oure inner. Oure inner man clepith it Al; for of it he is wel lernid to kon
skyle of alle thinges, bodely or goostly, withouten any specyal beholdyng to any o
thing by itself.
Here biginnith the nine and sixty chapitre.
Wonderfuly is a mans affeccion varied in goostly felyng of this nought when it is
noughwhere wrought. For at the first tyme that a soule lokith therapon, it schal fynde
alle the specyal dedes of sinne that ever he did sithen he was borne, bodely or
goostly, prively or derkly, peyntid therapon. And howsoever that he tornith it aboute,
evermore thei wil apere before his ighen; unto the tyme be that with moche harde
travayle, many sore sighinges, and many bitter wepynges he have in grete party rub-
bid hem awey.
Somtyme in this travayle him think that it is to loke therapon as on helle; for him
think that he despeirith to wynne to perfeccion of goostly rest oute of that pyne. Thus
fer inwardes comyn many; bot for greetnes of pyne that thei fele and for lackyng of
counforte thei go bak in beholdyng of bodely thinges, sekyng fleschly counfortes
withouten, for lackyng of goostly that thei have not yit deservyd, as thei schuld yif
thei had abeden.
For he that abidith felith somtyme som coumforte, and hath som hope of perfec-
cion; for he felith and seeth that many of his fordone specyal synnes ben in grete
partye by help of grace rubbid awey. Nevertheles yit everamonge he felith pyne; bot
he thinkith that it schal have an ende, for it wexith ever les and les. And therfore he
clepith it nought helle bot purgatory. Somtyme he kan fynde no specyal synne wre-
tyn therapon, bot yit hym think that it is synne a lumpe, he wote never what, none
other thing than hymself; and than it may be clepid the stathil and the pyne of the
original synne. Somtyme hym think that it is paradis or heven, for diverse wonderful
swetnes and counfortes, joyes and blessid vertewes that he fyndeth therin. Somtyme
hym think it God, for pees and rest that he findeth therin.
Ye! think what he think wil; for evermore he schal fynde it a cloude of unknowyng
that is bitwix hym and his God.
Here biginnyth the seventy chapitre.
And therfore travayle fast in this nought and this noughwhere, and leve thin out-
ward bodely wittes and alle that thei worche in; for I telle thee trewly that this werk
may not be conceyvid by hem.
For by thin ighen thou maist not conceyve of any thing, bot yif it be by the lengthe
and the breed, the smalnes and the gretnes, the roundnes and the swarenes, the fernes
and the neernes, and the colour of it. And bi thin eren, not bot noise or sum maner of
soun. By thin nose, not bot either stynche or savour. And by thi taast, not bot either
soure or swete, salt or fresche, bittyr or likyng. And bi thi feling, not bot outher hote
or colde, hard or tendre, soft or scharpe. And trewly neither hath God ne goostly
thinges none of thees qualitees ne quantitees. And therfore leve thin outward wittes,
and worche not with hem, neither withinne ne withouten. For alle thoo that setten
hem to be goostly worchers withinne, and wenen that thei scholen outher here, smel,
or see, taast or fele goostly thinges, outher withinne hem or withouten, sekerly thei
ben deceyved and worchen wronge ayens the cours of kynde. For kyndely thei ben
ordeynid that with hem men schuld have knowyng of alle outward bodely thinges,
and on no wise by hem com to the knowing of gostely thinges. I mene bi theire
By theire failinges we may, as thus: when we rede or here speke of sum certeyn
thinges, and therto conceyve that oure outward wittys kon not telle us bi no qualitee
what thoo thinges ben, than we mowe be verely certefied that thoo thinges ben
goostly thinges, and not bodely thinges.
On this same maner goostly it farith within in oure goostly wittys, when we tra-
vailen aboute the knowyng of God Himself. For have a man never so moche goostly
understondyng in knowyng of alle maad goostly thinges, yit may he never bi the
werk of his understondyng com to the knowyng of an unmaad goostly thing, the
whiche is nought bot God. Bot by the failyng it may; for whi that thing that it failith
in is nothyng elles bot only God. And herfore it was that Seynte Denis seyde: "The
most goodly knowyng of God is that, the whiche is knowyn bi unknowyng."
And trewly, whoso wil loke Denis bookes, he schal fynde that his wordes wilen
cleerly aferme al that I have seyde or schal sey, fro the biginnyng of this tretis to the
ende. On none otherwise then thus list me not alegge him, ne none other doctour for
me at this tyme. For somtyme men thought it meeknes to sey nought of theire owne
hedes, bot yif thei afermid it by Scripture and doctours wordes; and now it is turnid
into corioustee and schewyng of kunnyng. To thee it nedith not, and therfore I do it
nought. For whoso hath eren, lat hem here, and whoso is sterid for to trowe, lat hem
trowe; for elles scholen thei not.
Here biginnith the on and seventy chapitre.
Somme think this mater so harde and so feerdful that thei sey it may not be comen
to withouten moche stronge travayle comyng before, ne conceived bot seeldom, and
that in the tyme of ravisching. And to thees men wol I answere as febely as I kan,
and sey that it is alle at the ordynaunce and the disposicion of God, after theire abil-
nes in soule that this grace of contemplacion and of goostly worching is goven to.
For som ther ben that withouyn moche and longe goostly excersise mowe not com
therto; and yit it schal be bot ful seeldom, and in special callyng of oure Lorde, that
thei schul fele the perfeccion of this werk: the whiche callyng is clepid ravisching.
And som ther ben that ben so sotyl in grace and in spirit, and so homely with God in
this grace of contemplacion, that thei mowe have it when thei wolen in the comoun
state of mans soule: as in sittyng, goyng, stondyng, or knelyng. And yit in this tyme
thei have fulle deliberacion of alle theire wittis, bodely or goostly, and mowe use
hem yif hem list: not withouten som lettyng, bot withouten gret lettyng. Ensaumple
of the first we have by Moises, and of this other by Aaron, the preest of the temple.
For whi this grace of contemplacion is figurid by the Arke of the Testament in the
Olde Lawe, and the worchers in this grace ben figurid by hem that most medelid hem
aboute this arke, as the story wol witnes. And weel is this grace and this werk licnid
to that arke. For right as in that arke were contenid alle the juelles and the relikis of
the temple, right so in this lityl love put ben contenid alle the vertewes of mans soule,
the whiche is the goostly temple of God.
Moyses, er he might come to se this arke, and for to wite how it schuld be maad,
with grete longe travayle he clombe up to the top of the mounteyne and wonid there
and wrought in a cloude six daies: abidyng unto the seventh day, that oure Lorde
wolde vouchesaaf for to schewe unto hym the maner of this arke-makyng. By
Moises longe travaile and his late schewyng ben understonden thoo that mowe not
come to the perfeccion of this goostly werk withouten longe travayle comyng before,
and yit bot ful seeldom, and when God wil vouchesaaf to schewe it.
Bot that that Moises might not come to se bot seeldom, and that not withoutyn
grete longe travayle, Aaron had in his power, bicause of his office, for to se it in the
temple withinne the veyle as ofte as him likid for to entre. And bi this Aaron ben
understonden alle thoo the whiche I spak of aboven, the whiche by theire goostly
sleightes, with help of grace, mowen propre unto hem the perfeccion of this werk as
oft as hem likith.
Here biginnith the two and seventi chapitre.
Lo! herby maist thou see that he that may not com to for to see and fele the per-
feccion of this werk, bot with grete travayle, and yit is it bot seeldom, and may
lightly be disceyvid yif he speke, think and deme other men as he felith in himself,
that thei mowe not com to it bot seeldom, and that not withouten greet travaile. And
on the same maner may he be deceyvid that may have it whan he wil, yif he deme
alle other therafter, seiing that thei mowe have it when thei wile. Lat be this: nay,
sekirly he may not think thus. For paraventure, whan it likith unto God, thoo that
mowe not at the first tyme have it bot seeldom and that not withouten grete travayle,
sithen after thei schulen have it whan thei wile, as ofte as hem likith. Ensaumple of
this we have of Moyses, that first bot seeldome, and nought withouten grete travayle
in the mounte, might not see the maner of the arke; and sithen after, as ofte as hym l
ikid, sawe it in the vaale.
Here biginnith the thre and seventy chapitre.
Thre men ther weren that most principaly medelid hem with this arke of the Olde
Testament: Moyses, Bezeleel, Aaron. Moyses lernid in the mounte of oure Lorde
how it schuld be maad. Bezeleel wrought it and maad it in the vaale, after the en-
saumple that was schewid in the mounteyne. And Aaron had it in kepyng in the
temple, to fele it and see it as ofte as hym likid.
At the licnes of thees thre, we profite on thre maners in this grace of contempla-
cion. Somtyme we profite only by grace, and than we ben licnid unto Moises, that
for alle the clymbyng and the travaile that he had into the mounte, might not com to
se it bot seeldom; and yit was that sight only by the schewyng of oure Lorde whan
hym likid to schewe it, and not for any deseert of his travayle. Somtyme we profite in
this grace by oure owne goostly sleight, holpyn with grace, and than ben we licnid to
Bezeleel, the whiche might not se the arke er the tyme that he had mad it by his owne
travayle, holpen with the ensaumple that was schewid unto Moises in the mounte.
And somtyme we profite in this grace by other mens teching. And than be we licnid
to Aaron, the whiche had it in keping and in costume to see and fele the arke when
hym list, that Bezeleel had wrought and maad redy before to his handes.
Lo! goostly freende, in this werk, thof it be childly and lewdely spoken, I bere,
thof I be a wreche unworthi to teche any creature, the ofice of Bezeleel, makyng and
declaryng in maner to thin handes the maner of this goostly arke. Bot fer betir and
more worthely then I do, thou maist worche yif thou wilt be Aaron; that is to sey,
contynuely worching therin for thee and for me. Do then so, I prey thee, for the love
of God Almighty. And sithen we ben bothe clepid of God to worche in this werk, I
beseche thee for Goddes love fulfille in thi partye that lackith of myne.
Here biginnith the foure and seventi chapitre.
And yif thee think that this maner of worching be not acordyng to thi disposicion
in body and in soule, thou maist leve it, and take another savely with good goostly
counseile withoutyn blame. And than I beseche thee that thou wilt have me excusid;
for trewly I wolde have profitid unto thee in this writyng at my simple kunnyng, and
that was myn entent. And therfore rede over twyes or thries; and ever the ofter the
betir, and the more thou schalt conceyve therof, insomoche, paraventure, that sum
clause that was ful harde to thee at the first or the secound redyng, sithen after thee
schal think it ful light.
Ye! and it semith inpossible to myn understonding that any soule that is disposid to
this werk schuld rede it, or speke it, or elles here it red or spoken, bot yif that same
soule schuld fele for that tyme a verrey acordaunce to the effecte of this werk. And
than, yif thee think it doth thee good, thank God hertly, and for Goddes love prey for
Do than so. And I prey thee for Godes love that thou late none see this book, bot if
it be soche one that thee think is liche to the book after that thou fyndest wreten in
the book before, where it tellith what men and when thei schuld worche in this werk.
And yif thou schalt late any soche men see it, then I preie thee that thou bid
hem take hem tyme to loke it al over. For paraventure ther is som mater therinne, in the begin-
nyng or in the middes, the whiche is hanging and not fully declarid there as it ston-
deth. Bot yif it be not there, it is sone after, or elles in the eende. And thus yif a man
sawe o partye and not another, paraventure he schuld lightly be led into errour. And
therfore I preye thee do as I sey thee.
And yif thee thenk that ther be any mater therin that thou woldest have more
openid than it is, late me wetyn whiche it is and thi conceyte therapon; and at my
simple kunnyng it schal be amendid yif I kan.
Fleschly jangelers, glosers and blamers, roukers and rouners, and alle maner of
pynchers, kept I never that thei sawe this book; for myn entent was never to write
soche thing to hem. And therfore I wolde not that thei herde it, neither thei ne none
of thees corious lettrid ne lewid men, ye! althof thei be ful good men in actyve
levyng; for it acordeth not to hem.
Here biginnith the five and seventy chapitre.
Alle thoo that redyn or heren the mater of this book be red or spokin, and in this
redyng or hering think it good and likyng thing, ben never the rather clepid of God to
worche in this werk, only for this likyng steryng that thei fele in the tyme of this re-
dyng. For paraventure this steryng cometh more of a kyndely coriousté of witte then
of any clepyng of grace.
Bot yif thei wil prove whens this steryng cometh, thei mowe prove thus, yif hem
likyth. First lat hem loke yif thei have done that in hem is before, ablyng hem therto
in clensyng of theire concyence, at the dome of Holi Chirche, their counseil
acordyng. Yif it be thus, weel is inasmoche. Bot yif thei wil wetyn more nere, lat
hem loke yif it be evermore presing in theire mynde more costumabely then is any
other of goostly excersise. And yif hem think that ther is any maner of thing that thei
do, bodely or goostly, that is sufficiently done with witnes of theire concyence, bot
yif this privé litil love put be in maner goostly the cheef of alle theire werk, and yif
thei thus fele, then it is a token that thei ben clepid of God to this werk. And sekirly
I say not that it schal ever laste and dwelle in alle theire myndes contynowely that
ben clepid to worche in this werk. Nay, so is it nought. For from a yong goostly
prentys in this werk the actueel felyng therof is ofttymes withdrawen for divers
skyles; somtyme for he schal not take over-homely therapon and wene that it be in
grete party in his owne power, to have it when him list and as him list. And soche a
wenyng were pride. And evermore whan the felyng of grace is withdrawen, pride is
the cause: not ever pride that is, bot pride that schuld be, ne were that this feling of
grace were withdrawen. And thus wenyn ofttymes som yong foles that God is theire
enemye, when He is theire ful freende.
Somtyme it is withdrawen for theire rechelesnes; and when it is thus, thei fele sone
after a ful bitter pyne that betith hem ful sore. Somtyme oure Lorde wil delaye it bi a
cauteel, for He wol bi soche a delaiing make it growe and be had more in deintee
when it is newe founden and felt agein, that longe had be lost. And this is one of the
rediest and sovereynist tokin that a soule may have to wite bi, whether he be clepid
or not to worche in this werk: yif he fele after soche a delaying and a longe lackyng
of this werk, that when it cometh sodenly as it doth, unpurchasid with any mene, that
he hath than a gretter fervour of desire and gretter love-longing to worche in this
werk, than ever he had any before, insomochel that oftymes I trowe he hath more
joie of the fynding therof, then ever he had sorow of the lesing. And yif it be thus,
sekirly it is a tokin verrey withoutyn errour that he is clepid of God to worche in this
werk, whatsoever that he be or hath ben.
For not what thou arte, ne what thou hast ben, beholdeth God with his mercyful
ighe; bot that that thou woldest be. And Seinte Gregory to witnes that "alle holy de-
sires growen bi delaies; and yif thei wanyn bi delaies, then were thei never holy de-
sires." For he that felith ever les joye and les in newe fyndinges and sodeyn pre-
sentacions of his olde purposid desires, thof al thei mowe be clepid kyndely desires
to the goode, nevertheles holy desires weren thei never. Of this holy desire spekith
Seint Austyne and seith that "al the liif of a good Cristen man is not elles bot holy
Farewel, goostly freende, in Goddes blessing and myne! And I beseche Almighti
God that trewe pees, hole counseil, and goostly coumforte in God with habundaunce
of grace, evirmore be with thee and alle Goddes lovers in eerthe. Amen.
HERE EENDITH THE CLOWDE OF UNKNOWING