|SIMILAR THEMES IN THE BOOK OF MARGERY KEMPE
AND LOVE'S THE MIRROR OF THE BLESSED LIFE OF JESUS
Nicholas Love, Mirror of the Blessed Life of
Jesus Christ, A Critical Edition. ed. with intro and notes by Michael
G. Sargent New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992.
Readers urged to see themselves as bodily present
Kempe describes (Chap. 73) a procession on Holy Thursday
that prompts her to see in her soul the actual moment when Christ parted
from his loved ones. Similarly she talks about beholding the moment when
the Virgin appears to die and how she spoke to Kempe.
At the account of the Crucifixion on Friday (Ch.
xliii p. 176 lines 7-13), Rolle urges:-
Take hede now diligently with alle thi herte, alle
tho thinges, that be now to come & make the there present in thi mynde,
beholdyng alle that shale be done ayeynus thi lorde Jesu & that bene
spoken or done of him. And so with the innere eye of thi soule beholde
// sume, settyng & ficching the crosse fast in the erthe. Sume makyng
redye the nailes & the hameres to dryue hem with. . . etc.
At the closing meditation for Friday, Love urges readers
to imagine that they are comforting the Virgin and apostles, urging them
to eat and sleep after the burial of Christ. (Ch. xlviii, p. 190, lines
And thou also by deuoute ymaginacion as thou were
there bodily present, confort oure lady & that felawshipe praiyng hem
to ete sumwhat, for yit thei bene fastyng, & after to slepe, bot that
I trowe was ful lytel. & so takyng hir blessyng, go thi weye at this
The gentleness and physical beauty of Christ
Margery Kempe's description of Christ as a beautiful
man (most semly, most bewtyuows, and most amyable that evyr mygth be seen
Ch. 1 lines 169-70) is articulated in several passages of the Mirror.
The reader is asked to imagine Christ at the beginning of his passion.
(Chap.xl, p. 161, lines 24-28 and 31-33, p. 162, lines 1-3)
Wherefore thou shalt ymagine & inwardly thenk
of him in his passione as of a faire younge man of the age of xxxiii yeare,
that were the fairest, the wisest, the most rihtwise in lyuyng & moste
godely & innocent, that euer was or miht be in this worlde. . . . Also
vnderstonde as clerkes seyne & reson techeth, that in his bodily kynde
of manne, he was of the clannest complexione that euer was manne or miht
be. Wherfore he was the more tendire in the bodye. And so foloweth, that
the peynes in the bodie were the more sore & bittere, & the hardere
At the scourging he is described naked and fair (Chap.xli,
p. 170, lines 39-44)
So stant he nakede before hem all, that fairest
younge manne of all childrene that euer were boren takyng paciently of
thoo foulest wrecches, the hardest & most bitter strokes of scourges,
& so is that moste innocent, faireste & clennest flesh, floure
of all mankynde, alle to rente & fulle of wondes, rennyng out of alle
sides that preciouse kynges blode.
Great sorrow of the Virgin and the readerís compassion
The extreme sorrow of the Virgin, even to pleading
that she be buried with her son, appears in both Loveís and Kempe's meditations.
Kempe describes the Virgin holding her son after he is taken down from
the Cross and pleading:
"Serys, wolde ye takyn awey fro me my Sonys body?
I myth nevyr lokyn upon hym inow whil he levyd; I pray yow, late me han
hym now he is ded, and partith not my sone and me asondyr. And, yyf ye
welyn algatys beryin hym, I prey yow berith me wyth hym, for I may not
levyn wythowtyn hym." (Ch. 80 lines 4611-14).
Love also describes that moment: Goode bretherne take
not so soyne my childe fro me, rathere birieth me with him (Chap.xlvii,
p. 186, lines 7-8).
The lamentation over the body of Christ is vividly
depicted in both texts. Love explains that Mary Magdalene is at Christ's
feet, and the Virgin holds his head. (Chap.xlvii, p. 186, lines 18-19)
And than Jon, Nichodeme, Joseph & othere //
begunne to anoynt the bodie, & wrappe it in lynene clothe, as it was
the manere of Jues biriynge. Neuerles oure lady kept alweye the hede in
hir barme, fort diht that hir self & Maudeleyn the feete.
Kempe is similar, explaining that the Virgin "bowyd
down to hir sonys body and kyssyd hys mowth" and that Mary Magdalen asked,
"Lady, gyf me leve to handelyn and kissyn hys feet." (Ch. 80, lines 4595-99)
A long passage in the Mirror, noted in Latin
in the margin by nota verba domine contains the lamentation of the
Virgin. Jesus is called her "sweet son" and her tears over his head are
more copious than those that the Magdalene spent washing Christ's feet
(Chap.xlvii, p. 187, lines 1-31). Bot sithen I may not be biriede with
te bodily, at the leste I shalle be biriede with the gostly in mye mynde