Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose

By Kenneth Sisam | Go to book overview
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D. 1349.

Richard Rolle was born at Thornton-le-Dale, near Pickering, in Yorkshire. He was sent to Oxford, already a formidable rival to the University of Paris; but the severer studies were evidently uncongenial to his impulsive temperament. He returned home without taking orders, improvised for himself a hermit's dress, and fled into solitude. His piety attracted the favour of Sir John and Lady Dalton, who gave him a cell on their estate. Here, in meditation, he developed his mystical religion. He did not immure himself, or cut himself off from human companionship. For a time he lived near Anderby, where was the cell of the recluse Margaret Kirkby, to whom he addressed his Form of Perfect Living. Another important work, Ego Dormio et Cor Meum Vigilat, was written for a nun of Yedingham (Yorks.). Towards the end of his life he lived in close friendship with the nuns of Hampole, and for one of them he wrote his Commandment of Love to God. At Hampole he died in 1349, the year of the Black Death. By the devout he was regarded as a saint, and had his commemoration day, his office, and his miracles; but he was never canonized.

He wrote both in Latin and in English, and it is not always easy to distinguish his work from that of his many followers and imitators. The writings attributed to him are edited by C. Horstmann , Yorkshire Writers, 2 vols., London 1895-6. Besides the prose works noted above, he wrote, at the request of Margaret Kirkby , a Commentary on the Psalms (ed. Bramley, Oxford 1884), based on the Latin of Peter Lombard. A long didactic poem in Northern English, the Prick of Conscience, has been attributed to


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