MS. Thornton, Line. Cath. Libr., A I. 17, written about 1330-40 by Robert Thornton near where Richard Rolle had lived, and preserving a number of compositions attributed to him. This one draws morals from the habits of bees and birds as recorded by Aristotle. It is printed by C.Horstmann, Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole (London, 1895), 193 [English]. The bee has three traits. One is that she is never idle and she is not with those who A will not work, but casts them out and puts them away. Another is that when she flies she takes earth in her feet, that she be not lightly over-balanced in the air of wind. The third is that she keeps clean and bright her wings. Thus righteous men that love God are never idle; for either they are at work, praying or thinking or reading or doing other good, or rebuking idle men and showing them to be worthy to be put from the rest of Heaven, for they will not work here. They take earth, that is they hold themselves vile and earthy, that they be not blown with the wind of vanity and pride. They keep their wings clean, that is the two commandments of charity they fulfil in good conscience, and they have other virtues unmixed with the filth of sin and unclean lust. Aristotle says that the bees fight against him that will draw their honey away from them. So should we do against devils that strive to snatch from us the honey of pure life and grace…. [Some] are so heavy in earthly friendship that they may not flee to the love of Jesus Christ, in which they might well forgo the love of all creatures living on earth. Wherefore accordingly Aristotle says that some birds are good at flying, that pass from one land to another, some are bad at flying for heaviness of body and make their nests not far from the earth. Thus it is of them that turn to God’s service. Some are good at flying, for they fly from earth to Heaven and rest there in thought, of no love of the world. There are some that cannot fly from this land but let their heart rest in the way, and delight themselves in loves of men and women, as they come and go, now 1 In January 1478 Richard duke of York, then aged four, was betrothed to Anne Mowbray, heiress of the Norfolk estates, which were settled on him for the term of his life. Hence he became the patron of Lewes priory, founded in 1077 by William de Warenne and eventually included in the Norfolk estates. one and now another, and in Jesus Christ they can find no sweetness or if they at any time feel anything it is so little and so short, for other thoughts that are in them, that it brings
them to no stability; for they are like a bird which is called a stork, that has wings but may not fly for weight of body. So are they that have understanding, and keep fasts and wakes and seem holy to men’s sight, but they may not fly to love and contemplation of God, they are so charged and weighed down with other affections and other vanities.