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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

II. Religious Movements in the Fourteenth Century

§ 2. Rolle’s Mysticism

Rolle was not a priest, although, perhaps, in minor orders. If his spiritual advice was sought by many—especially by Margaret Kirby, the recluse of Ainderby, by another recluse at Yedingham and by nuns at Hampole—it was because of his spiritual insight rather than his position. He stood equally aloof from academic thought and general life—ecclesiastical and civil; he wished to retire from the world and, by of soul. Through the mystic stages of purgation and illumination, he reached, after two and a half years, the third stage, the contemplation of God through love. Here, he had an insight into the joys of heaven, and, in this stage, he passed through the calor, the warmth of divine love, which fired his being with effects almost physical; then there came into his life the canor, the spiritual music of the unseen world, the whispering sound as of heaven itself; and, together with these, he experienced the dulcor, the sweetness as of the heavenly atmosphere itself. If he mixed, at times, with the outside world, even with the rich of the world, if he jested, at times, as he went his away among them, this was not his true life, which was, henceforth, “hid with Christ in God.” Even the company of his fellows was, at times, distasteful, for their objects were other than his; yet he sought to win them over to love “the Author.” Contemplative life had drawn him and set him apart; but it had also given him his mission. He was be to others a prophet of the mystic and unseen.

His first impulse had been to win the world to his system through preaching. There are traces of systematic attempts to gain influence over others, although not by forming an order or community; but these ways of influencing others hardly sufficed him, for he found few like-minded with himself. It seems not improbable that he even came into collision with ecclesiastical authorities, for he preached as a free lance and from a particular point of view. Unrest, and the friction of awkward personal relations (for he was dependent upon the help of others) worked along with the difficulty of his general position to drive him from place to place. At last, his energy found a new outlet and he began to write. Short ejaculatory poems, then longer and more didactic works, were the natural expressions of his soul—and thus he found his true work in life. He describes the impulses which moved him “If I might be able in some good way to compose or write something by which the Church of God might grow in divine delight.”