Thursday 30 August 2012

'Set the price of your love: you cannot say so much that I will not pay more'

This extract from Ancrene Wisse follows closely (though not directly) on from the one I posted recently. As you can probably tell, the theme of this whole section is 'love' - the intention is to stir up love of God in the hearts of the anchorites, partly by drawing out the meaning of the initial statement that 'God haveth ofgan ure luve on alle cunne wise', 'God has earned our love in every kind of way'. After describing how Christ has wooed the soul like a faithful knight winning a noble lady, the author goes on to discuss the other ways in which Christ is worthy of love. First, this C. S. Lewis of the thirteenth century describes the four loves which exist in the world (his are: between friends, between men and women, between a woman and her child, and between the body and the soul), then goes on to explain how 'the love that Jesus Christ has for his dear beloved surpasses these four, and goes beyond them all'; then, in the following passage, he imagines Christ addressing the anchorite, explaining to her why she ought to give him her love.

(The translation is mine; the text is from here.)

See then, Jesus Christ’s love for his beloved spouse, the holy church and a pure soul, surpasses everything, and exceeds the four greatest loves which are found on earth. With all this love he even now woos her in this way:

"Your love," he says, "is either wholly to be given, or to be sold, or to be seized and taken by force. If it is to be given, where could you bestow it better than on me? Am I not the fairest of creatures, am I not the richest of kings, am I not the most highly born, am I not the wisest of wealthy men, am I not the most courteous of men, am I not the most generous of people? For one would say about a liberal man who can withhold nothing, that 'he has his hands pierced' as mine are. Am I not the sweetest and loveliest of all things? Thus all the reasons why love ought to be given one may find in me; above all, if you love chaste purity; for no one may love me unless she guards herself. This chastity is threefold: widowhood, marriage and maidenhood, the highest.

If your love is not to be given, but you want me to buy it – to buy it? How? Either with love or with something else. Love is sold for love – and so love ought to be sold, and for nothing else. If your love is to be sold in this way, I have bought it with love above all others; because of the four greatest loves I have shown the greatest of them all towards you. If you say you do not want to sell it at so cheap a price, but want still more, name what it shall be, set the price of your love. You cannot say so much that I will not pay more. Do you want castles, kingdoms? Do you want to rule the whole world? I will give you better – make you queen of the kingdom of heaven with all this. You shall be seven times brighter than the sun, no evil shall come near you, and joy will never be lacking for you; everything you want shall be done in heaven and on earth too, yes, even in hell; no heart ever imagined what happiness I would give you for your love, immeasurably, incomparably, infinitely more: all the wealth of Croesus, who was the richest of kings; the radiant beauty of Absalom, who as often as his hair was trimmed sold the cuttings – the hair that he cut off – for two hundred shekels weighed in silver; the speed of Asahel, who competed with deer in running; the strength of Samson, who killed a thousand of his enemies at once alone, without companions; the generosity of Caesar; the renown of Alexander; the vigour of Moses. Would not a man give all that he owned for one of these? And all these together are not worth a needle compared to my body.

If you are so very obstinate and so out of your mind that, although you have nothing to lose, you forsake such advantages and happiness of every sort, look, I hold here a cruel sword over your head with which to separate life and soul and plunge them both into the fire of hell to be the devil’s whore, shamefully and miserably for ever. Now answer and defend yourself if you can against me, or grant me your love which I long for so much, not for my sake, but for your own great advantage."

Thus our Lord woos us. Is she not very hard-hearted who after such a wooing will not turn to his love, if she thinks well about these three things, what he is, what she is, and how great is the love of one as high as he is towards one as low as she is? And so, the psalmist says 'there is nothing hidden from the heat of the sun'. There is no one who may hide away so that she may not love him. The true sun climbed up high in the third hour of the day for your sake on the high cross, in order to spread love’s hot rays; thus he was eager, and is until this day, to kindle his love in the heart of his beloved, and he says in the Gospel, 'I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?' I am come, he says, to bring fire to the earth, that is, burning love to earthly hearts, and what do I long for except for it to burst into flame?

Julian of Norwich contemplating 'love's hot rays'

In Middle English:

Thus, lo, Jesu Cristes luve toward his deore spuse - thet is, Hali Chirche other cleane sawle - passeth alle ant overkimeth the fowr measte luven thet me i-find on eorthe. With al this luve yetten he woheth hire o this wise:

"Thi luve," he seith, " - other hit is for-te yeoven allunge, other hit is to sullen, other hit is to reavin ant to neomen with strengthe. Yef hit is for-te yeoven, hwer maht tu biteon hit betere then up-o me? Nam ich thinge feherest? Nam ich kinge richest? Nam ich hest i-cunnet? Nam ich weolie wisest? Nam ich monne hendest? Nam ich thinge freoest? For swa me seith bi large mon the ne con nawt edhalden, thet he haveth the honden, as mine beoth, i-thurlet. Nam ich alre thinge swotest ant swetest? Thus alle the reisuns hwi me ah to yeove luve thu maht i-finden in me; nomeliche yef thu luvest chaste cleannesse. For nan ne mei luvie me bute ha hire halde. Ah ha is threo-vald: i widewehad, i spushad, i meidenhad, the heste.

Yef thi luve nis nawt to yeovene, ah wult thet me bugge hire - buggen hire? Hu? Other with other luve other with sum-hweat elles. Me suleth wel luve for luve ant swa me ah to sulle luve, ant for na thing elles. Yef thin is swa to sullen ich habbe i-boht hire with luve over alle othre. For of the fowr measte luven, ich habbe i-cud toward te the measte of ham alle. Yef thu seist thu nult nawt leote th'ron se liht chap, ah wult yette mare, nempne hweat hit schule beon. Sete feor o thi luve. Thu ne schalt seggen se muchel thet ich nule yeove mare. Wult tu castles, kinedomes? Wult tu wealden al the world? Ich chulle do the betere, makie the, with al this, cwen of heove-riche. Thu schalt te-seolf beo seove-vald brihtre then the sunne. Nan uvel ne schal nahhi the. Na wunne ne schal wonti the. Al thi wil schal beon i-wraht in heovene ant ec in eorthe - ye, ant yet in helle. Ne schal neaver heorte thenchen hwuch selhthe thet ich nule yeoven for thi luve unmeteliche, unevenliche, unendeliche mare. Al Creasuse weole, the wes kinge richest. Absalones schene wlite, the as ofte as me evesede him, salde his evesunge, the her thet he kearf of for twa hundret sicles of seolver i-weiet. Asaeles swiftschipe, the straf with heortes of urn. Samsones strengthe, the sloh a thusent of his fan al ed a time, ant ane, bute fere. Cesares freolec. Alixandres here-word. Moysese heale. Nalde a mon for an of theos yeoven al thet he ahte? Ant alle somet, ayein mi bodi, ne beoth nawt wurth a nelde.

Yef thu art se swithe ane-wil ant swa ut of thi wit thet tu, thurh nawt to leosen, forsakest swuch biyete, with alles cunnes selhthe, lo, ich halde her heatel sweord up-o thin heaved to dealen lif ant sawle, ant bisenchen ham ba into the fur of helle, to beon deofles hore schentfulliche ant sorhfulliche world abuten ende. Ondswere nu ant were the, yef thu const, ayein me, other yette me thi luve the ich yirne se swithe - nawt for min ah for thin ahne muchele biheve."

Lo, thus ure Laverd woheth. Nis ha to heard i-heortet thet a thulli wohere ne mei to his luve turnen, yef ha wel thencheth theose threo thinges: hwet he is ant hwet heo is, ant hu muchel is the luve of se heh as he is toward se lah as heo is? For-thi seith the Salm-wruhte: Non est qui se abscondat a calore ejus. Nis nan thet mahe edlutien thet ha ne mot him luvien. The sothe sunne i the under-tid wes for-thi i-stihen on heh, o the hehe rode, for-te spreaden over-al hate luve-gleames; [thus neodful he wes ant is athet tes dei to ontenden his luue i his leoues heort, & seith i the godspel, Ignem ueni mittere in terram, & quid uolo nisi ut ardeat.] "Ich com to bringen," he seith, "fur into eorthe" - thet is, bearninde luve into eorthlich heorte - "ant hwet yirne ich elles bute thet hit bleasie?"

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