Richard Rolle’s Melody of Love: A Study and Translation with Manuscript and Musical Contexts

Translated by
Andrew Albin

Studies and Texts 212 • 2018 • xx + 468 pp. • ISBN 978-0-88844-212-3 • Cloth • $90

The Melos amoris stands as the most daring literary achievement of medieval England’s most influential mystic, Richard Rolle. Full of autobiographical glimpses and spiritual rhapsodies, this sustained étude in alliterative, rhythmic Latin prose contains Rolle’s first public account of his profoundly sensory mystical experience. The current volume provides the first full translation of this unstudied masterpiece into English, in alliterative prose that mirrors the original.

As Rolle defends himself against controversy, he offers detailed descriptions of the spiritual fire, sweetness, and song that characterize his mysticism, amid a labyrinthine weave of scriptural exegesis, personal narrative, and inspired utterance. Among his longest and most literary works, the Melos amoris has long been derogated as a frivolous gaud of the hermit’s youth. Read more generously, it offers a key to the corpus of Rolle’s Latin writings and opens crucial insight into his mystical discipline and the spiritual practices and experiences that stemmed from that discipline in the later Middle Ages.

Richard Rolle’s Melody of Love offers manifold pathways into the Melos amoris and its world. A quintet of appendices offers an edition of a spurious chapter, marginalia and music found in one key manuscript, reconstructions of early fourteenth-century Anglo-Latin songs and recitations, and guidance through Rolle’s unusual Latin vocabulary. These materials are supported by a companion website offering audio recordings by Sine Nomine, the early music ensemble-in-residence at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, and a range of additional contextual matter. Conceived with student and scholar alike in mind, this multidisciplinary, multimedia project holds rewards for researchers not only of medieval literature, but also of medieval music, embodiment, theology, popular spirituality, and cultural history.


Acknowledgments • ix
Abbreviations and Conventions • xiii
Preface • xv

The Melody of Love: Ten Ways In
1 Melos amoris • 1
2 Style • 21
3 Sources • 37
4 Manuscripts and Reception • 50
5 Richard Rolle • 64
6 Human Being • 82
7 Angelic Kinship • 97
8 Music • 105
9 Scripture • 118
10 Translation • 125

The Melody of Love: A Translation • 135

Melos amoris, Chapter 59 (Spurious) • 337
The Narrative Glosses in Lincoln College MS Latin 89 • 346
The Music Gathering in Lincoln College MS Latin 89 • 374
Songs and Recitations • 407
The Latin Vocabulary of the Melos amoris • 416

Bibliography • 423
Index of Themes and Figures • 439
General Index • 460

Companion Website

The companion website to this volume seeks to enhance it with a range of multimedia resources. These materials seek to open additional pathways into Rolle’s difficult text, through an appeal to senses and media that the printed page cannot as easily access.


Andrew Albin is Assistant Professor of English and Medieval Studies at Fordham University. His scholarship in the field of historical sound studies examines embodied listening practices, sound’s meaningful contexts, and the lived aural experiences of historical hearers – in a word, the sonorous past – as an object of critical inquiry. His work has been recognized with grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Medieval Academy of America, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.


“Sonorous, intimate, adoring, self-congratulatory, and profuse, jubilantly playing on the edge of chaos without ever quite toppling in, Richard Rolle’s Melos amoris is one of the most astonishing works of prose to survive from medieval England, making strange the ways of Christian devotion with all the abandon and passion for singularity that enthrall modern readers of The Book of Margery Kempe.  Now at last, after centuries of puzzlement and neglect, it finds a worthy interpreter in Andrew Albin. His wonderful – and wondering – translation does not render Rolle’s weird masterpiece so much as performs it, ushering us into an unfamiliar but strikingly personal world of sound, colour, gesture, and shifting register with unflagging energy and a confident ear. Reading and teaching the medieval English religious tradition will never be quite the same again.” — Nicholas WatsonHarvard University


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