Listening For Canor in Richard Rolle’s Melos amoris

  • Andrew Albin
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The Melos amoris stands as a singularly virtuosic mystical text by one of the most widely read authors of late medieval England, the so-called father of English mysticism, Richard Rolle of Hampole (ca. 1300–1349). Though the abundant archival witness to Rolle’s more popular Latin works like the Incendium amoris and Emendatio vitae dwarfs the Melos’s ten surviving manuscript copies by comparison, this exuberant treatise appears to have attracted a devoted readership of its own right: in the later fourteenth century when the hermit’s cult was blossoming in England’s north, the Melos amoris could be found in English libraries as far south as London and in continental libraries as far flung as Vadstena. A prized autograph copy, now lost, resided in the brothers’ library at Syon Abbey until at least 1526. The fragmentary remains of a glossary in Cambridge University Library MS Dd.5.64, fols. 84r–84v attests to readers’ keen interest in and efforts to read the difficult work; we catch glimpses of those efforts in the margins of the surviving manuscripts, some of them filled with scribal glosses and annotations.1


Fourteenth Century Diffi Cult Mystical Experience Vocal Performance Vocal Sound 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    E. J. F. Arnould describes the surviving manuscripts of the Melos amoris in Richard Rolle, The Melos Amoris of Richard Rolle of Hampole, ed. E. J. F. Arnould (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1957), lxxi–lxxxiii.Google Scholar
  2. Hope Emily Allen mentions most of these in Writings Ascribed to Richard Rolle, Hermit of Hampole and Materials for His Biography (New York: Heath, 1927), 115–16.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Carl Horstmann, ed., Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole, an English Father of the Church, and His Followers (New York: Macmillan, 1896), 2:xxxv–xxxvi.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Denis Renevey, Language, Self and Love: Hermeneutics in the Writings of Richard Rolle and the Commentaries on the Song of Songs (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2001), 94.Google Scholar
  5. Nicholas Watson, Richard Rolle and the Invention of Authority (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Nicholas Watson, “Translation and Self-Canonization in the Melos Amoris,” in The Medieval Translator: The Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages, ed. Roger Ellis (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1989), 167–80.Google Scholar
  7. Katherine Zieman, “The Perils of Canor: Mystical Authority, Alliteration, and Extragrammatical Meaning in Rolle, the Cloud-Author, and Hilton,” Yearbook of Langland Studies 22 (2008): 145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 6.
    Richard Rolle, The Incendium Amoris of Richard Rolle of Hampole, ed. Margaret Deanesly (New York: University of Manchester, 1915), 243.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Mary Suydam, “Beguine Textuality: Sacred Performances,” in Performance and Transformation: New Approaches to Late Medieval Spirituality, ed. Mary Suydam and Juanna Ziegler (New York: St. Martin’s, 1999), 195.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    For the architectural iconography of the senses, see Elizabeth Sears, “Sensory perception and its metaphors in the time of Richard of Fournival,” Medicine and the Five Senses, ed. W. F. Bynum and Roy Porter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 17–39.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Sara deFord, “Mystical Union in the Melos Amoris of Richard Rolle,” in The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England: Papers Read at the Exeter Symposium, July 1980, ed. Marion Glascoe (Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, 1980), 189.Google Scholar
  12. 31.
    For the De anima commentary tradition and its controversies, see Sander W. De Boer, The Science of the Soul: The Commentary Tradition on Aristotle’s De anima, c.1260–c.1360 (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2013);Google Scholar
  13. and Paul J. J. M. Bakker and J. M. M. H. Thijssen, eds., Mind, Cognition and Representation: The Tradition of Commentaries on Aristotle’s De anima (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007).Google Scholar
  14. 33.
    Gregor Vogt-Spira, “Senses, Imagination, and Literature: Some Epistemological Considerations,” in Rethinking the Medieval Senses: Heritage/Fascinations/Frames, ed. Stephen G. Nichols, Andreas Kablitz, and Alison Calhoun (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2008), 53.Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    For the role of the imagination in Passion meditations, see Michelle Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. and Robert Worth Frank, Jr., “Meditationes Vitae Christi: The Logistics of Access to Divinity,” in Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture, ed. Patrick Gallacher and Helen Damico (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), 39–40.Google Scholar
  17. See also Alastair Minnis, “Affection and Imagination in ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ and Hilton’s ‘Scale of Perfection,’” Traditio 39 (1983): 323–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 37.
    Joyce Coleman, Public Reading and the Reading Public in Late Medieval England and France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  19. 39.
    Karma Lochrie, Margery Kempe and Translations of the Flesh (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991), 68.Google Scholar
  20. 42.
    For the development and spread of Rolle’s cult, see Jonathan Hughes, Pastors and Visionaries: Religion and Secular Life in Late Medieval Yorkshire (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 1983), 301–2.Google Scholar
  21. 43.
    Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Lynn Staley, TEAMS Middle English Text Series (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1996), Book 1, Chapter 35, lines 2062–64 translates without attribution Rolle’s description of fervor as similar to placing one’s finger in the fire.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Irit Ruth Kleiman 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Albin

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations