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THAT PERFECT LOVE BINDS TO GOD WITHOUT LOOSING AND MAKES MAN MINDFUL OF HIS GOD; BUT LOVE OF THE WORLD FALLS TO NOUGHT. AND OF THE NATURE OF TRUE LOVE, STABLE AND AY-LASTING, SWEET, SOFT, AND PROFITABLE: AND OF FALSE LOVE; VENOMOUS, FOUL, AND UNCLEAN
This work is perfect if we depart our minds pithily from love of creatures and join them truly to God without departing. And in this work the more perfect we be the better we are. This deed is above all others, for all that we do is referred to this end, so that we be knitted and oned perfectedly to God. And from this onehead many things draw; that is to say, liking beauty of this world, vanity of men and women, riches and honours, praise and favour of people. Therefore we must exercise ourselves to fulfill this work, putting back and forgetting all things that might let us.
Certain the love to which we ascend in this work is quicker than a burning coal, and shall produce its effect in us, for it shall make our souls both burning and shining. This is the love that can not be beguiled by a creature or scorned in heaven nor put from meed. We could long suffer the flame of this fire if it should ay last in one measure; but ofttimes it is tempered, lest it waste nature that through the body corrupts and grieves the soul; for the corruptible flesh suffers not our mind to be continually borne to God.
Certain the heat of very devotion is sometimes hindered as by sleep, and the misuse of the body or labour; and yet the burning is not slaked, but it is not felt as it was before. It comes again to us truly whiles we turn again to God, and makes us mend from sickness of mind and gives sweetness. It delivers the body also from many sicknesses, and whiles it keeps us in temperance and soberness it raises our souls to heavenly desires so that we have no delight in low things.
This is the love that ravishes Christ into our hearts and makes our minds sweet, so that within we burst out in songs of praise, and as it were in spiritual music we sing. I suppose no delight he like to this, for it moistens with clear sweetness and gladdens with holy liking. The soul that receives it is purged with blessed fire and in it bides no rust nor filth, but it is altogether thirled with heavenly joy, so that our inward nature seems turned into godly joy and song of love. Thus forsooth everlasting love gladdens and insheds plenteous delight, so that the friends thereof are not compelled to bow to any desire for a creature of this world but they may freely melt in praise and love of Jesus Christ.
Learn therefore to love thy Maker if thou desire to live when thou passest hence; so do that thou mayest love God in thy life if thou wilt live after thy death. Give all thy mind to Him that He may keep it from temporal and eternal sorrows. Beware that thy heart be not sundered from Him though thou be set in adversity or wretchedness; for so shalt thou be worthy to have Him with joy, and to love Him withouten end. If thou suffer not the memory of God to slip whether prosperity come or grief; in that certain thou showest thyself a true lover.
O good Jesu, that gavest me life, lead me desiring into Thy love. Take unto Thee all mine intent so that Thou mayest be all my desire, nor nothing beyond Thee shall my heart desire. Sorrow certain and all heaviness would pass from me, and that I desire come to me, if my soul had received or heard the song of Thy praise. Thy love would ever unwearily bide in us, so that we can perceive it. Take therefore my mind into Thy power and make it stable that it come not to nought with vain and unprofitable fantasies, nor be scorned by errors, nor be bowed to earthly felicity or love or praise, but my mind being so settled in Thee may in Thy love so burn that by no sudden nor avised chance it may be cooled.
If certain I love any creature of this world that shall in all kinds please my wish and set my joy and the end of my solace in it, when it should come to me I well might have dread of the burning and bitter parting. For all felicity that I have in such love is but greeting and sorrow in the end, and that pain, when it draws near, most bitterly will punish the soul. All pleasure also that men have beholden in this exile is likened to hay that now flourishes and waxes green, but suddenly vanishes as if it had not been.
No marvel that to them that behold rightly, the joy of this world thus seems; and to them following the solace of those bound in sin; it never abides in one estate but passes until it come to nought. Nevertheless all stand in labour and grief, and no man can eschew that. The nature certain of true love and not feigned is this, that it stands ay stable and is changed by no new thing.
Therefore the life that can find love and truly know it in mind, shall be turned from sorrow to joy unspoken and is conversant in the service of melody. Song certain it shall love, and, singing in Jesu, shall be likened to a bird singing to the death. And peradventure in dying the solace of charitable song shall not want,—if it happen to him to die and not go swiftly to his love. After this passage forsooth he shall be marvellously lifted up into the praise of his Maker, and singing shall overflow with delights more than may be trowed, and into the song of the seraphim shall forthwith rise, so that in praising he shall give light, and continually and endlessly burn. There shall be halsing of love, and the sweetness of lovers shall be coupled in heart, and the joining of friends shall stand for ever. The sweet mouth shall give liking kisses and their love shall never cease.
The presence of my Love begets to me gladness unmeasured and sickerness, and with him I have mind of no heaviness; all adversity vanishes and all other desires appear not, but are stilled and dispersed; and He alone, that my mind has alone burningly desired, wholly refreshes and in-laps me. Truly if thou love Christ with all thy will, thou hatest all filth of wickedness, and thou givest thy heart to Him that bought it so that He may be thy Lord by grace and not the fiend by sin. As Christ has truly and unfeared sought thy soul, and would not cease in seeking until the time thou foundest Him, so to endless joy thou shalt be led and be near to God in a blessed seat. Therefore I counsel Thee to love as I have expounded, and take thy place with the angels.
Beware thou sellest not this joy and honour for foul vanity of fleshly lust; wisely consider that the love of creatures exclude thee not from the love of God. Hate thou no wretchedness on earth except that they thy pure love can cast over and disturb; for perfect love is strong as death, true love is hard as hell. Love forsooth is a light burden, not charging but lightening the bearer; the which makes glad the young with the old; in the which the discomfiters of fiends joy, having taken their prey; in which fighters are defended against the flesh and the world. Love is ghostly wine moistening the minds of the chosen and making them bold and manly, so that they have forgotten the venomous likings of the world nor have no care thereof but rather great scorn.
Therefore by holy love no lover can lose but needs win mickle if he keep it truly in his heart. Love without pain bides in the soul of a lover, as lovers have shown, for love makes perfect and pain destroys. Making perfect and destroying are contrary, therefore the heart, loving perfectly, feels no pain nor heaviness, nor is it sorry nor disturbed. Thus soothly perfect love and wretched heaviness stand not together. Moreover, that that is done gladly is not done painfully. Soothly a lover works wilfully and gladly, therefore he has no wretchedness in his work but he is happy; not constrained, not heavy, but ay showing himself glad and merry.
Love therefore is the sweetest and most profitable thing that ever reasonable creature received. Love is most acceptable and liking to God; it not only binds the mind with bands of sweetness and wisdom and joins to God, but also it constrains flesh and blood that man slip not into beguiling sweetness and into divers desires of errors. In this love our life should stand and wax mighty and strong. A better dwelling place nor sweeter found I never, for it has made me and my love one, and made one out of two.
Yet worldly love shall grow and perish as the flower of the field in summer, and shall be joying no more but as it were one day, so sickerly shall it last a short while, but after that end in sorrow. And so doubtless it shall be bitter to fond lovers. Their pride and play in false beauty shall be cast into filth, that shall be with them endlessly when they are downcast into torments. These shall not pass; as did their false felicity and the joy they had in shining beauty, which have gone into voidness, and all that they enjoyed has swiftly vanished.
God truly gives fairness to men and women not that they should burn together in love despising their Maker—as all nearly do now—but, knowing it as God’s gift, they should glorify and love Him unceasingly with all their heart, and should continually desire that heavenly beauty, in comparison to which all worldly beauty is nought. For if a lovely form is shown in the servants of this world, what shall be the beauty of God’s children set in heaven? Therefore let us love burningly, for if we love we shall sing in heavenly mirth to Christ with melody, whose love overcomes all things. Therefore let us live and also die in love.
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