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Explore ‘Ancrene Wisse’ on the British Library website. The similar structure and content of the Ancrene Wisse to Aelred’s work suggests the latter as a clear model. At the same time, Ancrene Wisse develops complex. Essays and criticism on Ancrene Wisse – Critical Essays.

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Est rectum gramaticum, rectum geometricum, rectum theologicum; et sunt differencie totidem regularum. De recto theologico sermo nobis est, cuius regule due sunt: 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: I this destinctiun aren chapitres fiue, as fif stuchen efter [the] fif wittes, the witeth the heorte as wakemen hwer-se ha beoth treowe; ant speketh of euch hwet N sunderlepes o rawe.

C 2 replaces the 2 P. Ant 3e, mine leoue sustren, habbe[th] moni dei icrauet on me [e]fter ri[wl]e. The upright love you. 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.

Et hec est caritas quam describit Apostolus, de corde puro et consciencia bona et fide non ficta. Theos riwle is chearite of schir heorte ant cleane inwit ant 11 treowe bileaue. Isti dicuntur ‘boni’ anto[no]masice: This rule is the charity of a pure heart and a clear conscience and true faith. Et hec est exercitio corporis, que iuxta Apostolum modicum ualet; et est quasi regula recti mechanici quod geometri[c]o recto continetur.

Ant theos riwle nis nawt 14 bute forte serui the other. The other is as leafdi, theos as hire thuften; for al thet me eauer deth of the 15 other withuten nis bute forte riwlin the heorte withinnen. 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.

Ancrene Wisse | Arlima – Archives de littérature du Moyen Âge

The wisze is like the lady, this one like her maid; because all that is ever done according acrene the outer rule is only to regulate the heart internally. The inre is eauer ilich, the uttre is mislich; for 18 euch schal halden the uttre efter thet ha mei best with hire serui the inre.

Nu thenne is hit swa thet 19 alle ancren mahen wel halden an riwle quantum ad puritatem cordis, circa quam uersatur tota religio ; thet is, alle mahen ant ahen halden a riwle onont purte of 20 heorte, thet is cleane ant schir inwit 2 consciencia withuten weote of sunne thet ne beo thurh schrift ibet.

Rihten hire ant smethin hire is of euch religiun ant of euch ordre the 23 go[d] ant al the strengthe. Theos riwle is imaket nawt of monnes fundles, ah is of Godes heaste; 24 for-thi ha is eauer ant [aa] withute changunge, [f. Ah alle ne 25 mahe nawt halden a riwle, ne ne thurue nawt ne ne ahe nawt halden on a wise the uttre riwle, quantum scilicet ad obseruantias corporales: For-thi mot theos changin 29 hire misliche efter euchanes manere ant efter hire euene. Sum is clergesse, sum nawt ant mot [te] mare 31 wurchen ant on other wise seggen hire bonen.

Sum is ald ant ethelich ant is the leasse dred of, sum 32 is 3ung ant luuelich ant is neod betere warde. For-thi schal euch ancre habben the uttre riwle efter 33 hire schriftes read, ant hwet-se he bit ant hat hire in obedience the cnaweth hire manere ant wat hire 34 strengthe. He mei the uttre riwle changin efter wisdom, as he sith thet 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 ancgene 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 wissee 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 wiese 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 ancrenw 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: 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 wiase 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. Ah chearite, thet is luue, ant eadmodnesse ant tholemodnesse, 44 treoweschipe ant haldunge of [alle] the ten heastes, schrift ant penitence, theos ant thulliche othre, the 45 beoth summe of the alde lahe, summe of the neowe, ne beoth nawt monnes fundles ne riwle thet mon 46 stalde, ah beoth Godes heastes, ant for-thi euch mon mot ham nede halden, ant 3e ouer alle, for 47 theos riwl[i]th the heorte.

Of hire riwlunge is al meast thet Ich write, bute i the frumthe of this boc ant 48 i the leaste ende. The thinges thet Ich write her of the uttre riwle, 3e ham haldeth alle, mine leoue 49 sustren, ure Lauerd beo ithonket, ant schulen thurh his grace se lengre se betere. Ant thah nulle Ich 50 nawt thet 3e bihaten ham as heaste to halden; ancreen as ofte as 3e threfter breken eni of ham, hit walde 51 to swithe hurten ower heorte ant makien ow swa offearet thet 3e mahten sonethet Godd 52 forbeode ow!

My advice is that no anchoress should make professionthat is, bind herself to a vowof more than three things, which are obedience, chastity, and stability of abode that she should never move elsewhere ancreene 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 toas with food, with drink, abstaining from meat ancrens 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 wisde.

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 wjsse 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 soonwhich God forbid!

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.

He sei[th hwet] is religiun, hwuch is 61 riht ordre. Religio munda et immaculata apud Deum et Patrem hec est: The leatere dale of his sahe limpeth to reclusen; for ther beo[th] twa dalen, to twa 64 manere the beoth of religiuse.

To either limpeth his dale, as 3e mahen iheren.

Gode religiuse beoth i 65 the world summe, nomeliche prelaz ant treowe preachurs, the habbeth the earre dale of thet Sein Iame 66 seide; thet beoth, as he seith, the gath to helpen [wi]d[ewen ant fea]derlese children.


The [saw]le is 67 widewe the haueth forloren hire spus, thet is, Iesu Crist, with eni heaued sunne. The is alswa federles 68 the haueth thurh his sunne forloren the Feader of heouene. Gan iseon thulliche ant elnin ham ant 69 helpen with fode of hali larethis is riht religiun, he seith, Sein Iame. The leatere dale of his sahe 70 limpeth to ower religiun, as Ich ear ancrwne, the witeth ow from the worlt ouer othre religiuse cleane ant 71 unwemmet.

Thus the apostle Sein Iame, the descriueth religiun, nowther hwit ne blac ne nempneth he 72 in his ordre. Ah moni siheth the gneat ant [f. Alswa Seinte Sare ant Seinte Si[n]cle[t]ice, ant monie othre swucche, 75 wepmen ba ant wummen, with hare greate matten ant hare hearde heren; neren ha of god ordre? O this wise 79 ondswerieth to the easkeres of ower ordre, hwether hwite other blake: Inmaculatum se custodire ab hoc seculo- –thet is thet Ich seide ear, from the 81 worlt witen him cleane ant unwemmet.

Her-in is religiun, nawt i the wide hod ne i the blake cape, 82 ne i the hwite rochet ne i the greie cuuel. Ther-as monie beoth igederet togederes, ther for anrednesse 83 me schal makie strengthe of annesse of clathes, ant of otherhwet of uttre ancrnee, thet te annesse 84 withuten bitacni the annesse of a luue wisss of a wil thet ha alle habbeth imeane withinnen.

With hare 85 habit thet is an, thet euch haueth swuch as other, ant alswa of otherhwet, ha 3ei3eth thet ha habbeth 86 alle togederes a luue ant a wil euch alswuch as other loke thet ha ne lihen! Thus hit is i cuuent. Ah 87 hwer-se wummon liueth, other mon, bi him ane, hearmite other ancre, of [f.

Ancrene Wisse

Indicabo tibi, o homo, quid sit bonum et quid Deus requirat a te: Ve uobis, Scribe et Pharisei, ypocrite, qui mundatis quod deforis est calicis et parapsidis, intus autem pleni estis omni spursicia, similes sepulcris dealbatis. If any ignorant person asks you what order you belong toas you wissee me some do, straining out the gnat and swallowing the flyanswer: 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 wiswe this: 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 ancfene true religion, says Wisae James. The second part anxrene what he says applies anccrene 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 flythat is, attach great importance to what matters least. And whether white or blackas ignorant people ask you, thinking that order consists in the outer garmentGod knows; nevertheless, they were certainly both, not, however, in their clothes, but as God’s spouse sings of herself, I am black but comely.

This is how you should answer those people who ask about your order, and whether it is white or black: To keep oneself unspotted from this world- –that is, as I said before, to keep oneself pure and unspotted from the wiwse. 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 ancrrne other kinds of external observances, so that ancfene 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!


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