EETS Ancrene Wisse banner
Text and translation
Text Translation

2 I že Feaderes ant i že Sunes ant i že Hali Gastes nome, her biginneš Ancrene Wisse. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the Guide for Anchoresses begins here.

[1] Recti diligunt te. In Canticis: sponsa ad sponsum. Est rectum gramaticum, rectum geometricum, rectum theologicum; et sunt differencie totidem regularum. De recto theologico sermo nobis est, cuius regule due sunt: vna circa cordis directionem, altera uersatur circa exteriorum rectificationem. ‘The upright love you.’ In the Song of Songs: the bride to the bridegroom. There is what is right in grammar, what is right in geometry, and what is right in theology; and each of these is a different kind of rightness. We are talking about rightness in a theological sense, which has two rules: one is concerned with the direction of the heart, the other with the rectification of external things.

[2] Recti diligunt te. 4 ‘Lauerd’, seiš Godes spuse to hire deore[wu]rše spus, ‘že rihte luuieš že.’ Žeo beoš rihte že 5 l[i]uieš efter riwle. Ant 3e, mine leoue sustren, habbe[š] moni dei icrauet on me [e]fter ri[wl]e. 6 Monie cunne riwle beoš; ah twa beoš bimong alle žet Ich chulle speoken of žurh ower bone, 7 wiš Godes grace. The upright love you. ‘Lord’, says the bride of God to her beloved bridegroom, ‘the upright love you.’ The upright are those who live according to a rule. And you, my dear sisters, have been asking me for a long time for a rule. There are many kinds of rule; but there are two in particular that I will discuss because of your request, with the grace of God.

[3] 8 Že an riwleš že heorte1, ant makeš efne ant smeše wišute cnost ant dolc of woh inwit ant of 9 wrei3ende že segge, ‘Her žu sunegest’, ožer ‘Žis nis nawt ibet 3et as wel as hit ahte.’ Žeos riwle 10 is eauer inwiš ant rihteš že heorte. Et hec est caritas quam describit Apostolus, de corde puro et consciencia bona et fide non ficta. Žeos riwle is chearite of schir heorte ant cleane inwit ant 11 treowe bileaue. Pretende, inquit Psalmista, misericordiam tuam scientibus te per fidem non fictam, et iusticiam tuam—id est, uite rectitudinem—hiis qui recto sunt corde—qui scilicet omnes uoluntate suas dirigunt ad regulam diuine uoluntatis. Isti dicuntur boni anto[no]masice: Psalmista: Benefac, Domine, bonis et rectis corde. Isti dicitur ut glorientur—testimonio uidelicet bone conscientie: Gloriamini, omnes recti corde, quos scilicet rectificauit regula illa supprema rectificans omnia, de qua Augustinus: Nichil petendum preter regulam magisterii, et Apostolus: Omnes in eadem regula permaneamus. One of them rules the heart, and makes it even and smooth without the bumps and hollows of a crooked and accusing conscience which says, ‘You are committing a sin here’, or ‘This is not yet atoned for as well as it ought to be.’ This rule is always internal and directs the heart. And this is the charity which the Apostle describes, ‘of a pure heart and a clear conscience and sincere faith’. This rule is the charity of a pure heart and a clear conscience and true faith. Extend your mercy, says the Psalmist, to those who know you by sincere faith, and your justice—that is, uprightness of life—to those who have an upright heart—that is, those who direct all their intentions according to the rule of the divine will. These people are called the good par excellence: the Psalmist says: Do good, O Lord, to those who are good and upright in heart. They are told that they should rejoice—that is, in the testimony of a clear conscience: Rejoice, all you who are upright in heart, that is, those who have been set right by that supreme rule which rectifies everything, of which Augustine says, Nothing should be sought after but the rule of the supreme authority, and the Apostle, Let us all remain in the same rule.

[4] 12 Že ožer riwle is al wišuten ant riwleš že licome ant licomliche deden, že teacheš al hu me schal 13 beoren him wišuten, hu eoten, drinken, werien, singen, slepen, wakien. Et hec est exercitio corporis, que iuxta Apostolum modicum ualet; et est quasi regula recti mechanici quod geometri[c]o recto continetur. Ant žeos riwle nis nawt 14 bute forte serui že ožer. Že ožer is as leafdi, žeos as hire žuften; for al žet me eauer deš of že 15 ošer wišuten nis bute forte riwlin že heorte wišinnen. The second rule is completely external and regulates the body and physical acts, giving directions on all outward behaviour, how you should eat, drink, dress, say your prayers, sleep, keep vigil. And this is bodily exercise, which according to the Apostle is worth little; and is like the rule of what is right in mechanics, which is part of the discipline of geometry. And this rule only exists to serve the other. The other is like the lady, this one like her maid; because all that is ever done according to the outer rule is only to regulate the heart internally.

[5] 16 Nu easki 3e hwet riwle 3e ancren schulen halden. 3e schulen alles weis, wiš alle mihte ant 17 strengše, wel witen že inre, ant te uttre for hire sake. Že inre is eauer ilich, že uttre is mislich; for 18 euch schal halden že uttre efter žet ha mei best wiš hire serui že inre. Nu ženne is hit swa žet 19 alle ancren mahen wel halden an riwle quantum ad puritatem cordis, circa quam uersatur tota religio; žet is, alle mahen ant ahen halden a riwle onont purte of 20 heorte, žet is cleane ant schir inwit2 (consciencia) wišuten weote of sunne žet ne beo žurh schrift ibet. Žis makeš 21 že leafdi riwle, že riwleš ant rihteš ant smešeš že heorte ant te inwit of sunne; for nawt ne makeš 22 hire woh3 bute sunne ane. Rihten hire ant smešin hire is of euch religiun ant of euch ordre že 23 go[d] ant al the strengše. Žeos riwle is imaket nawt of monnes fundles, ah is of Godes heaste; 24 for-ži ha is eauer ant a[a] wišute changunge, ant alle ahen hire in an eauer to halden. Ah alle ne 25 mahe nawt halden a riwle, ne ne žurue nawt ne ne ahe nawt halden on a wise že uttre riwle, quantum scilicet ad obseruantias corporales: žet is, 26 onont licomliche locunges efter že uttre riwle, žet Ich žuften cleopede, ant is monnes fundles, for 27 na žing elles istald bute to serui že inre, že4 makeš feasten, wakien, calde ant hearde werien, 28 swucche ožre heardschipes,N žet moni fles mei žolien, moni ne mei nawt. For-ži mot žeos changin 29 hire misliche efter euchanes manere ant efter hire euene.5 For sum is strong, sum unstrong ant mei 30 ful wel beo cwite ant paie Godd mid leasse. Sum is clergesse, sum nawt ant mot [t]e mare 31 wurchen ant on ošer wise seggen hire bonen. Sum is ald ant ešelich ant is že leasse dred of, sum 32 is 3ung ant luuelich ant is neod betere warde. For-ži schal euch ancre habben že uttre riwle efter 33 hire schriftes read, ant hwet-se he bit ant hat hire in obedience že cnaweš hire manere ant wat hire 34 strengše. He mei že uttre riwle changin efter wisdom, as he siš žet te inre mahe beo best ihalden. Now you ask what rule you anchoresses should observe. You should in every way, with all your might, scrupulously observe the inner rule, and the outer for the sake of the inner. The inner rule is always the same, the outer varies; because everyone should observe the outer rule in the way that helps her best to follow the inner. Now, it is indeed the case that all anchoresses can observe a single rule as far as purity of heart is concerned, which is the objective of all religious life; that is, everyone can and should observe one rule concerning purity of heart, which is a clean and clear understanding (conscience) unaware of any sin which has not been amended through confession. This is the work of the lady rule, which rules and straightens and smooths away sin from the heart and the conscience; because nothing makes it crooked apart from sin. Straightening and smoothing it is the virtue and the whole strength of every religious way of life and of every order. This rule is not a product of human invention, but of divine precept; therefore it is eternally unchanging, and everyone should observe it always in the same way. But not everyone can observe a single rule, and they need not and should not observe the outer rule in the same way, that is, where corporal observances are concerned: that is, corporal observances according to the outer rule, which I called the maid, and which is a human invention, established for no other reason than to serve the inner, which makes people fast, keep vigil, wear scanty and rough clothing, and similar hardships, which many can stand physically, many cannot. Therefore the latter must be changed in various ways according to each individual's nature and her capacity. For one may be robust, another so delicate that she can reasonably be excused and please God with less. One may be well-educated, another who is not must do more manual labour and say her prayers differently. One may be old and unprepossessing and give less cause for anxiety, another may be young and beautiful and need to be guarded more carefully. For this reason every anchoress should keep the outer rule according to her confessor's advice, and whatever he asks and orders her to do in obedience, being familiar with her nature and knowing her strength. He can change the outer rule at his discretion, according to how he sees that the inner rule can best be observed.

[6] 35 Nan ancre bi mi read ne schal makien professiun—žet is, bihaten ase heast—bute žreo žinges, 36 žet beo[š] obedience, chastete, ant stude-steašeluestnesse (žet ha ne schal žet stude neauer mare 37 changin bute for nede ane, as strengše ant6 deašes dred, obedience of hire bischop ošer of his 38 herre).7 For hwa-se nimeš žing on hond ant bihat hit Godd as heast forte don hit, ha bint hire 39 žer-to, ant sunegeš deadliche i že bruche 3ef ha hit brekeš willes. 3ef ha hit ne bihat nawt, ha hit 40 mei do žah ant leauen hwen ha wel wule—as of mete, of drunch, flesch forgan ošer fisch, alle 41 ožer swucche žinges, of werunge, of liggunge, of ures, of ožre beoden, segge swa monie ošer o 42 swucche wise. Žeos ant žulliche ožre beoš alle i freo wil to don ošer to leten hwil me wule ant 43 hwen me wule bute ha beon bihaten. Ah chearite, žet is luue, ant eadmodnesse ant žolemodnesse, 44 treoweschipe ant haldunge of [alle] že ten heastes, schrift ant penitence, žeos ant žulliche ožre, že 45 beoš summe of že alde lahe, summe of že neowe, ne beoš nawt monnes fundles ne riwle žet mon 46 stalde, ah beoš Godes heastes, ant for-ži euch mon mot ham nede halden, ant 3e ouer alle, for 47 žeos riwl[i]š že heorte. Of hire riwlunge is al meast žet Ich write, bute i že frumše of žis boc ant 48 i že leaste ende. Že žinges žet Ich write her of že uttre riwle, 3e ham haldeš alle, mine leoue 49 sustren, ure Lauerd beo ižonket, ant schulen žurh his grace se lengre se betere. Ant žah nulle Ich 50 nawt žet 3e bihaten ham as heaste to halden; for as ofte as 3e žrefter breken eni of ham, hit walde 51 to swiše hurten ower heorte ant makien ow swa offearet žet 3e mahten sone—žet Godd 52 forbeode ow!—fallen i desesperance, žet is, in an unhope ant an unbileaue forte beon iborhen. 53 For-ži žet Ich write ow, mine leoue sustren, of uttre žinges i že earste dale of ower boc of ower 54 seruise, ant nomeliche i že leaste, 3e ne schule nawt bihaten hit, ah habbeš hit on heorte ant doš 55 hit as žah 3e hit hefden bihaten. My advice is that no anchoress should make profession—that is, bind herself to a vow—of more than three things, which are obedience, chastity, and stability of abode (that she should never move elsewhere afterwards unless it is absolutely necessary, as in the case of violence and fear of death, or obedience to her bishop or his superior). For whoever undertakes something and promises God to carry it out as a vow binds herself to it, and commits a mortal sin if she voluntarily breaks her vow. If she does not promise it, she may do it nevertheless, and give it up whenever she wants to—as with food, with drink, abstaining from meat or fish, and everything of that kind, with dress, with sleeping arrangements, with Hours, with other prayers, saying so many or in such a way. You are free to do or to give up all these things and others like them while you want and when you want unless they have been vowed. But charity, which is love, and humility and patience, faithfulness and keeping all the ten commandments, confession and penance, these and others like them, some of which belong to the old law, some to the new, are not human inventions or a rule established by man, but are God's commands, and therefore everyone is obliged to keep them, and you above all, because these rule the heart. Nearly everything that I write is about ruling the heart, except at the beginning of this book and at the very end. You already observe everything of the outer rule that I am writing about here, my dear sisters, thanks be to God, and through his grace will do so the longer the better. But even so, I do not want you to bind yourselves by a vow to observe them; because as often as you broke any of them after that, it would distress you too much and make you so anxious that you might soon—which God forbid!—fall into despair, that is, into an absence of hope and a loss of faith in your salvation. For this reason, my dear sisters, you should not make a vow to practise anything that I write for you about external observances in the first part of your book, on devotions, and more particularly in the last, but keep it in your heart and practise it as if you had made a vow.

[7] 56 3ef ei unweote easkeš ow of hwet ordre 3e beon— as summe doš, [3]e telleš me, že siheš že 57 gneat ant swolheš že flehe —ondswerieš: of Sein Iames, že wes Godes apostel ant for his 58 muchele halinesse icleopet Godes brošer. 3ef him žuncheš wunder ant sullich of swuch 59 ondswere, easkiš him hwet beo ordre, ant hwer he funde in Hali [W]rit religiun openluke[r] 60 descriue[t] ant isutelet žen is i Sein Iames canonial epistel. He sei[š hwet] is religiun, hwuch is 61 riht ordre. Religio munda et immaculata apud Deum et Patrem hec est: visitare pupillos et viduas in necessitate sua, et immaculatum se custodire ab hoc seculo; žet is, ‘Cleane religiun ant [wiš]ute [w]em is iseon ant helpen [widewen ant feder]lese 62 children, ant from že [w]orld [w]iten him cleane ant unwemmet.’ Žus Sein Iame descriue[š] 63 religiun ant ordre. Že leatere dale of his sahe limpeš to reclusen; for žer beo[š] twa dalen, to twa 64 manere že beoš of religiuse. To eišer limpeš his dale, as 3e mahen iheren. Gode religiuse beoš i 65 že world summe, nomeliche prelaz ant treowe preachurs, že habbeš že earre dale of žet Sein Iame 66 seide; žet beoš, as he seiš, že gaš to helpen [wi]d[ewen ant fea]derlese children. Že [saw]le is 67 widewe že haueš forloren hire spus, žet is, Iesu Crist, wiš eni heaued sunne. Že is alswa federles 68 že haueš žurh his sunne forloren že Feader of heouene. Gan iseon žulliche ant elnin ham ant 69 helpen wiš fode of hali lare—žis is riht religiun, he seiš, Sein Iame. Že leatere dale of his sahe 70 limpeš to ower religiun, as Ich ear seide, že witeš ow from že worlt ouer ožre religiuse cleane ant 71 unwemmet. Žus že apostle Sein Iame, že descriueš religiun, nowšer hwit ne blac ne nempneš he 72 in his ordre. Ah moni siheš že gneat ant swolheš že flehe —žet is, makeš muche strengše žer-as 73 is the leaste. Pawel the Earste Ancre, Antonie ant Arsenie, Makarie ant te ožre,8 neren ha religiuse 74 ant of Sein Iames ordre? Alswa Seinte Sare ant Seinte Si[n]cle[t]ice, ant monie ožre swucche, 75 wepmen ba ant wummen, wiš hare greate matten ant hare hearde heren; neren ha of god ordre? 76 Ant hwešer hwite ošer blake—as unwise ow easkiš že weneš žet ordre sitte i the curtel— 77 Godd wat; nošeles ha weren wel baše, nawt tah onont clašes, ah as Godes spuse singeš bi hire 78 seoluen, Nigra sum set formosa.‘Ich am blac ant tah hwit’, ha seiš: unseowlich wišuten, schene wišinnen. O žis wise 79 ondswerieš to že easkeres of ower ordre, hwešer hwite ošer blake: seggeš 3e beoš ba twa žurh 80 že grace of Godd, ant of Sein Iames ordre9 žet he wrat leatere: Inmaculatum se custodire ab hoc seculo—žet is žet Ich seide ear, from že 81 worlt witen him cleane ant unwemmet. Her-in is religiun, nawt i že wide hod ne i že blake cape, 82 ne i že hwite rochet ne i že greie cuuel. Žer-as monie beoš igederet togederes, žer for anrednesse 83 me schal makie strengše of annesse of clašes, ant of ožerhwet of uttre žinges, žet te annesse 84 wišuten bitacni že annesse of a luue ant of a wil žet ha alle habbeš imeane wišinnen. Wiš hare 85 habit žet is an, žet euch haueš swuch as ožer, ant alswa of ošerhwet, ha 3ei3eš žet ha habbeš 86 alle togederes a luue ant a wil euch alswuch as ožer (loke žet ha ne lihen!). Žus hit is i cuuent. Ah 87 hwer-se wummon liueš, ošer mon, bi him ane, hearmite ošer ancre, of žinges wišuten hwer-of 88 scandle ne cume nis nawt muche strengše. Hercne Michee: Indicabo tibi, o homo, quid sit bonum et quid Deus requirat a te: vtique facere iudicium et iusticiam et sollicite ambulare cum Domino Deo tuo. ‘Ich chulle schawi že, mon,’ seiš že 89 hali Michee, Godes prophete, ‘Ich chulle schawi že sošliche hwet is god, ant hwuch religiun ant 90 hwuch ordre, hwuch halinesse Godd easkeš of že.’ Low, žis; vnderstond hit. ‘Do wel ant dem 91 wac eauer že seoluen, ant wiš dred ant wiš luue ga mid Godd ti Lauerd.’ Žer-as žeose žinges 92 beoš, žer is riht religiun, žer is soš ordre; ant do al žet ošer ant lete žis nis bute trichunge ant a 93 fals gile. Ve uobis, Scribe et Pharisei, ypocrite, qui mundatis quod deforis est calicis et parapsidis, intus autem pleni estis omni spursicia, similes sepulcris dealbatis. Al žet gode religiuse doš ožer werieš efter že uttre riwle, al togedere is her-uore; al nis 94 bute ase tole to timbrin her-towart, al nis bute as žuften to serui že leafdi to riwlin že heorte. If any ignorant person asks you what order you belong to—as you tell me some do, straining out the gnat and swallowing the fly—answer: of St James, who was God's apostle and called God's brother because of his great holiness. If such an answer seems strange and remarkable to him, ask him what constitutes order, and where he could find the religious way of life more clearly described and explained in Holy Scripture than it is in St James's canonical epistle. He defines religious life and true order. Pure and immaculate religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their need, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world; that is, ‘Pure and immaculate religion is to visit and help widows and fatherless children, and keep oneself pure and unspotted from the world.’ This is how St James describes religious life and order. The second part of what he says applies to recluses; because there are two parts, corresponding to the two different kinds of religious. Each kind has its own part, as you may hear. Some people in the world are good religious, especially prelates and true preachers. The first part of what St James said applies to them; they are, as he says, those who go to help widows and fatherless children. The soul is a widow who has lost her spouse, that is, Jesus Christ, through any mortal sin. Those are also fatherless who through their sin have lost the Father of heaven. Going to see such people and comforting them and helping them with the nourishment of holy instruction—this is true religion, says St James. The second part of what he says applies to your kind of religious life, as I said before, keeping yourselves pure and unspotted from the world more than other religious. So the apostle St James, describing religion, mentions neither white nor black—in his order. But many people strain out the gnat and swallow the fly—that is, attach great importance to what matters least. Paul the First Hermit, Antony and Arsenius, Macarius and the others, weren't they religious and of St James's order? Likewise St Sarah and St Syncletica, and many others like them, both men and women, with their coarse mats and their harsh hair-shirts; didn't they belong to a good order? And whether white or black—as ignorant people ask you, thinking that order consists in the outer garment—God knows; nevertheless, they were certainly both, not, however, in their clothes, but as God's spouse sings of herself, I am black but comely. ‘I am black and yet white’, she says: unsightly outside, bright inside. This is how you should answer those people who ask about your order, and whether it is white or black: say that you are both through the grace of God, and of the order of St James which he described next: To keep oneself unspotted from this world—that is, as I said before, to keep oneself pure and unspotted from the world. This is what the religious life consists in, not in the wide hood or the black cape, or in the white rochet or in the grey cowl. Where many people are gathered together, for the sake of unity importance must be attached to uniformity of clothing, and of other kinds of external observances, so that the outer uniformity should symbolize the inner unity of one love and one will that they all have in common. With their uniform habit, which they all share, and also in other things, they proclaim that all of them together share one love and one will (take care that they are not lying!). That is the nature of a community. But wherever a woman or a man is living on their own, as a hermit or recluse, it does not matter much about external things as long as they do not give rise to scandal. Listen to Micah: I will show you, O man, what is good and what God requires from you: to judge rightly at all costs and walk carefully with the Lord your God. ‘I will show you, O man,’ says the holy Micah, God's prophet, ‘I will show you truly what is good, and the nature of religion and order, the kind of holiness God requires from you.’ It is this; understand it. ‘Always do well and deem yourself weak, and with dread and with love walk with God your Lord.’ Where these things are, there is true religious life, there is true order; and to do all the rest and neglect this is nothing but fraud and hypocrisy. Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, who clean the outside of the cup and plate, but inside are full of every kind of uncleanness, like whited sepulchres. All that good religious do or wear according to the outer rule is entirely for this purpose; it is nothing more than than a tool with which to build towards it, nothing more than a maid to serve the lady in ruling the heart.

[8] 96 Žis an boc is todealet in eahte leasse bokes. 97 Nv, mine leoue sustren, žis boc Ich todeale on eahte ‘destinctiuns’, žet 3e cleopieš dalen; ant 98 euch wišute monglunge spekeš al bi him seolf of sunderliche žinges, ant žah euchan riht falleš 99 efter ošer, ant is že leatere eauer iteiet to že earre.
  • 100 Že earste dale spekeš al of ower seruise.
  • 101 Že ošer is hu 3e schulen žurh ower fif wittes witen ower heorte, žet ordre ant religiun ant sawle 102 lif is inne. I žis destinctiun aren chapitres fiue, as fif stuchen efter [že] fif wittes, že witeš že 103 heorte as wakemen hwer-se ha beoš treowe; ant spekeš of euch hwet sunderlepes o rawe.
  • 104 Že žridde dale is of anes cunnes fuheles že Dauiš i že Sawter eueneš him seolf to as he were 105 ancre, ant hu že cunde of že ilke fuheles beoš ancren iliche.
  • 106 Že feorše dale is of fleschliche fondunges ant gasteliche baše, ant confort a3eines ham, ant of 107 hare saluen.
  • 108 Že fifte dale is of schrift.
  • 109 Že seste dale is of penitence.
  • 110 Že seoueše, of schir heorte, hwi me ah ant hwi me schal Iesu Crist luuien, ant hwet binimeš us 111 his luue ant let us him to luuien.
  • 112 Že eahtuše dale is al of že uttre riwle: earst of mete ant of drunch, ant of ožre žinges žet falleš 113 žer-abuten; žrefter of že žinges že 3e mahen underuon ant hwet žinges 3e mahen witen ošer 114 habben; žrefter of ower clašes ant of swucche žinges as žer-abuten falleš; žrefter of ower 115 werkes; of doddunge ant of blodletunge; of ower meidnes riwle; aleast hu 3e ham schulen 116 leofliche learen.
This one book is divided into eight smaller books. Now, my dear sisters, I am dividing this book into eight ‘distinctions’, which you call parts; and each one deals with its own particular topics, without overlap, and nevertheless each follows on logically from the one before, and what comes later is always linked to what precedes.
  • The first part is all about your devotions.
  • The second is about how you should use your five senses to guard your heart, in which are order and religion and the life of the soul. In this distinction there are five chapters, that is, five sections corresponding to the five senses, which guard the heart like watchmen wherever they are faithful; and it says something about each one separately in turn.
  • The third part is about birds of a particular kind which David compares himself to in the Psalter as if he were a recluse, and how recluses are similar in nature to those birds.
  • The fourth part is about both carnal and spiritual temptations, and comfort against them, and about their remedies.
  • The fifth part is about confession.
  • The sixth part is about penance.
  • The seventh, about purity of heart, why Jesus Christ should and must be loved, and what deprives us of his love and prevents us from loving him.
  • The eighth part is all about the outer rule: first about food and drink, and other related matters; then about the things you are allowed to receive, and what things you are allowed to guard or keep; then about your clothes and related matters; then about your handiwork; about haircutting and bloodletting; about your maids' rule; finally, how you should teach them lovingly.