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Marguerite Porete: Mystic and Heretic
by Maryann Corbett

The Strange History of a Heretical Book

n the late thirteenth century, a woman in northern France wrote a book about mystical prayer and union with the divine. It was a challenging, even a baffling book, written in elusive and lyrical language, sometimes breaking into pure verse, and always disputing the Catholic Church's standard models for holy living. Its mouthpiece of wisdom was a woman called The Soul, assisted by the character Love, debating with—and always defeating—a character called Reason. In the fashion of most allegorical debaters, Reason was female, but she argued like a cleric.

The book clearly gained a following, for it came to the attention of a local bishop. He considered it heretical, and he disapproved of it so strongly that he ordered it to be burned before the author's eyes. The bishop ordered the woman not to recopy her book and not to distribute or publicize it in any way. Yet she was confident of the rightness of her views, so she revised the book and sought the approval of other churchmen to contradict him. A few of them did approve, though cautiously.

But one at last did not. Charging her with disobeying the original order—which made her a relapsed heretic—he handed her over to the chief inquisitor at Paris. The inquisitor, or his bishop, in turn made a report to Rome, and the pope soon summoned a general council that would address opinions like those in the woman's book, eventually declaring them heretical.

To decide whether the book really contained error, the inquisitor at Paris followed a long and careful process. But the woman, now in prison, refused to testify or to abjure her errors. The detailed record of her trial describes some of these errors, though it never gives the title of the book. The book's examiners were unanimous: it contained heresy. Finally, the woman was put to death by burning in a public ritual. A chronicle of the time reports that the woman's noble bearing and her reverence at her execution moved many onlookers to tears (Verdeyen 89).

Her book, of course, was meant to die with her, but it survived. Without any mention of its author's name, it was copied and recopied, and it was translated into later stages of French, and into Middle English, Latin, and Italian. Neglected for a few centuries, the book came to light again in the early twentieth century in its English version. A modern English translation was published in 1927 under Benedictine auspices, as an anonymous treatise on mystical prayer. That publication was blessed with the Church's nihil obstat, the declaration that a book is free from doctrinal error. The new publication was popular; Thomas Merton, the monk and well-known author, seems to have owned a copy (Bodo). Not until 1946 did the scholar Maria Guarnieri compare the authorless text with certain Inquisition documents to make an ironic discovery: the church-approved book called The Mirror of Simple Souls was the same work for which Marguerite "called Porete" had been executed by church authorities in 1310.

The irony of Marguerite Porete's story continues to fascinate both scholars and ordinary readers. The story is full of high drama: a determined woman, a clash with authority, and a conflict to the death. There is now a growing body of scholarship about the woman and the words, with their strange mixture of elevated speech and verse, image and allusion, orthodox opinions and questionable ones.

Discovering Marguerite

We have very little evidence about the life of the woman who died for her book in 1310. (We have no idea what she looked like; the image above, though often used, is imaginary.) We have manuscripts of the book itself—its full title is The Mirror of Simple Souls Brought to Nothing, Who Live Only in the Will and Desire for Love. (The French word anienties, "brought to nothing," is often translated "annihilated," but for contemporary speakers of English, that term has acquired a violent undertone, and Marguerite clearly is not talking about violent destruction.) We have the set of documents recording the prosecution and trial of its author. Three contemporary chronicles also sum up the charges and the trial (Verdeyen 87-94), but they give no additional information about the author. Finally, we have whatever we can glean from contemporary records about the other people involved: the disapproving churchmen and the woman's one codefendant, Guiard of Cressonessart. We do not even know the woman's family name; the trial documents refer to her as Marguerite "called Porete." Porete seems to be a nickname, perhaps even an insult—poret means "leek" in Old French (Field 28)—and so this essay will call her simply Marguerite.

Marguerite and the Beguines

Because so little is known about Marguerite's life before her trial, there are some disputes about her education and influences. Since the trial documents call her a beguina, many have argued or assumed that Marguerite was one of the beguines. These were lay women (and men, who were usually called beghards) who wished to live holy lives without taking vows. Some of them lived in communities, called beguinages, but many lived independently and supported themselves by their own labor. Because they were not cloistered, they were not under the same tight control as the settled religious orders, and this made church authorities suspicious. The late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries were times of great tension in northern Europe; the Cathar heresy and the crusades against it were both in progress, and the Inquisition was beginning to respond. Joachim of Fiore, whose ideas had already been popular for decades, had foretold this period as the Age of the Holy Spirit, and many were looking actively for an Antichrist and signs of the End Times.

An inquisitor's manual dated a little later than Marguerite's death gives examples of the ideas that the Church feared were being spread by the beguines. These ideas come under the heading of "the heresy of the Free Spirit." Free Spirit thought includes (1) the belief that the perfected soul and God are entirely one and indistinguishable, (2) the belief that those who are perfected cannot sin, and (3) denial that the Church and the sacraments are necessary for salvation.

Certain passages in the Mirror are uncomfortably close to those doctrines. But it does not follow that Marguerite was a beguine, in spite of the wording of the trial documents. In fact, Marguerite includes beguines in the long list of people who will not, she is sure, agree with her ideas or be able to grasp them:

What will beguines say, Love,
      and vowed religious sorts,
when they have heard the worth
     of your most godly song?
Beguines say I'm in error,
     Priests too, and clerks, and Preachers,
Austin friars, Carmelites,
     Franciscan Friars Minor,
because I write about the being
     of Perfected Love.1

But did she mean all beguines? Might she have meant only those who were enclosed in beguinages and under the control of those "priests, clerks, and preachers"? This is possible, so the evidence is contradictory.

Marguerite's Education and Background

Still, the contents of the Mirror show that Marguerite was apparently familiar with Scripture, Church fathers, and theological ideas. To some scholars, that familiarity argues that she may have been educated in beguine schools, and some of those were known to exist in the area where she is believed to have grown up (Field 30; Bussey 212-215). Moreover, the theological ideas in the book are like those in the works of other women mystics linked to the beguine movement: Mechtild of Magdeburg, Hadjewich, and Beatrice of Nazareth (Bussey 218; Dronke 217-18). Others argue that beguine thought tends not to favor learning (Colledge xlviii) and discount the beguines as the source of Marguerite's education.

Another sign that Marguerite was educated is that she uses the conventions of the secular literature of the time. Her title itself is a convention; often in medieval literature a work called speculum, or mirror, is an encyclopedic explanation of some subject. The form of the book is another convention: it is a debate or disputatio, in the manner of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, among the allegorical figures of the Soul, Love, Reason, and several others. The arguments use the language and concepts of courtly love; Marguerite even uses the term fine Amours, though she makes clear in her prologue that she means divine love, not human. She seems to have known the Romance of Alexander, since she uses a fable of Alexander as an illustration of the soul's yearning for a distant beloved, and she seems to know of the songs of the trouveres, the troubadours of northern France, since she sometimes pictures God or Christ in the conventional guise of the courtly lover (Dronke 218-19). She knew the Romance of the Rose. Several of the "extra" characters who appear unpredictably in the debate are ideas lifted from that famous poem: "Lordship," "Perfect Love," "Pure Graciousness," and "Jealous Lover" are examples (Colledge lxviii). Barbara Newman and Jane Chance (Chance 72-75) believe that parts of the Mirror are reacting directly to the Romance.

Some scholars (Chance, for example) stress Marguerite's absolute separation from the culture of written authority that she opposes in her work. They depict her as "simple" in secular terms: uneducated and poor. But her book itself refutes this idea. Marguerite's familiarity with a number of books and her fluid composition style both argue that she was from the upper classes (Field 29). There are other strong hints of her class in remarks she makes about the status of what she calls "the soul brought to nothing": it is so free that it is not obliged to answer any person not of the same lineage, just as a noble is not obliged to answer a villein, or serf. She also says (in chapter 63) that "no gentleman meddles in trade," and she compares people of ordinary piety to "base" tradesmen, by contrast with the "noble" souls who follow the program of her book (Lerner 233; Guarnieri & Verdeyen 182-184).

In addition to evidence in the book, there is evidence around it: after her book had been condemned, Marguerite had the leisure to recreate it and apparently the means to have other copies made, since they were obviously not all destroyed at her death. She was free, and she had some money, and these points suggest to Bussey that she was a widow with some inherited funds (209). She seems to have traveled widely looking for support for the book—in the book, she refers to herself, or The Soul, as a mediant creature, a mendicant creature. Some suggest that her itinerant, solitary life was the real reason she was condemned (Lerner 207-8). The financial independence she enjoyed, and the confidence it gave her, may have been another reason. A contemporary chronicler hints at this bias: he calls Marguerite a pseudomulier, or counterfeit woman (Colledge xlvi).

The Mirror's Audience

The spiritual intensity of the Mirror and its stress on the soul's disappearance into the divine might make us imagine that Marguerite was a recluse. They might also suggest that as a thinker she was a loner, uninterested in the wider reception of her ideas. But even the little we know of the Mirror's history demonstrates that Marguerite was deeply interested in her book's reception, even seeking to have it approved in spite of its initial condemnation. From research about late-thirteenth-century household structure, rising commerce, increasing education, and ferment for religious reform, we can deduce that Marguerite was part of some sort of intellectual community and hoped for the community's support.

Even more clearly, Marguerite intended that her ideas be shared. She made certain that her book was copied, but like most early medieval books, it was known by more people through hearing than through private, silent reading. Not only can we guess this from general historical knowledge, but we can also confirm it by explicit statements within the text, which address "all who hear this book," directing them, "Listen to these words divinely, by love, hearers of this book" (Lerner 202). It makes sense to imagine Marguerite's verse and lyric prose dialogues being not simply read aloud, but performed. The fact that she distances herself from beguines suggests that she had other audiences, not confined to beguinages, whom she may have travelled to visit so as to share her ideas (Bussey 233).

The Mirror's "Heresies"

Beguine or not, and however educated, Marguerite was a laywoman squaring off against clerics. And she does square off, from the very start of the book:

Theologians and other clerks,
you will not have the wit for this,
no matter how your brilliance shines,
unless you read with lowliness.
May Love and Faith, working as one,
help you rise higher than Reason goes,
since they are ladies of the house.2

The book makes it clear that The Soul is Marguerite's own mouthpiece: cet Ame qui escripsit ce livre, "this Soul who wrote this book…." (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 270; Chance 70). The book was written in Marguerite's vernacular, not in Latin, and only Latin counted as learned speech among the clerical and professional classes of the time. For a laywoman to take this position at this heresy-sensitive period was risky in itself. It was especially risky in the eyes of Guido of Collemezzo, bishop of Cambrai, the man who first condemned the Mirror. He was an outsider from Italy trying to get a grip on his new diocese, and a canon lawyer with a keen eye for deviation from dogma (Field 42). Quite a few passages in Marguerite's book would have irked him. At the historical high point of Scholasticism (the system that aims to arrive at religious truth by means of reasoning) a churchman would be rattled to read in the Mirror's lyrical prologue:

Even Reason testifies,
here in this book's chapter thirteen,
openly and without shame,
that Love and Faith sustain her life.
She does not seek to shake them off,
for they have lordship over her
and she must yield her will to them.3

Just as irritating would be the chapters of dialogue in which Reason plays the role of the dunce, debating with Love and asking over and over, "For God's sake…what does this mean?", or the passages spoken by Love, "Ah, Reason…you will always see with one eye only, you and all those who are fed by your doctrine" (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 62). Fittingly for a work that rejects Reason, the Mirror is not so much an organized treatise as a series of impassioned outbursts—another aspect likely to rub a thoughtful cleric the wrong way.

Worse yet, to the clerics and inquisitors, was this: Marguerite insisted that "souls brought to nothing," who have achieved genuine union with the divine, have no need of good works or of virtues. In one of the Mirror's storytelling passages, Love tells the Soul that she (Soul) "has been a long time and many a day in their [the virtues'] service," and the Soul replies, "I admit it, Lady Love; there was a time when I was bound to them, but now is another time—your courtly grace has freed me from them. So now I can indeed say and sing to them:

Virtues, I take my leave of you     for evermore,
Now I will have a freer heart—     more joyful, too.
To serve you is a constant burden,     well I know.
My whole heart I once set on you,     nothing held back,
abandoned to that servitude     entirely.
I was your slave once, then, but now     I break away.4

Since they have no need of the Church's moral virtues, Marguerite's simple souls are superior to the church on earth, which she calls Sainte Eglise la Petite or Holy Church the Little. Those simple souls make up the more authentic Holy Church the Great:

Oh Holy Church Beneath This Holy Church, now speak, says Love: What do you wish to say of these Souls, who are thus commended and praised above you, who do everything according to the counsels of Reason?

We wish to say, says Holy Church, that such Souls are in a life beyond us, because Love dwells in them and Reason dwells in us…5

Notice that Marguerite makes even the earthly Church concede that "Holy Church the Great" and its members the simple souls are superior to the Church on earth, precisely because Love is superior to Reason.

Marguerite conveys all these ideas with certainty. Other medieval and Renaissance women offer conventional apologies and take attitudes of humility when they deal with subjects usually reserved to authorities. Marguerite never does.

Text, Translation, and Trouble

But what shocked the inquisitors most deeply was this notion, as recorded in Latin by the continuator of the chronicle of Guillaume de Nangis:

That the soul annihilated in love for the creator can and should give to Nature, without remorse or pangs of conscience, whatever it seeks and desires.

And he adds: "Which is manifestly heresy" (Verdeyen 88).

If this is what the inquisitors believed about Marguerite's thinking, then the process of excerpting and translating her poetic expression into churchmen's Latin was her undoing. Here is her Old French, or the closest thing we have to it:

This Soul gives Nature whatever she [Nature] asks of her; and it is true, says Love, that this Soul does not have so much concern or affection for temporal things that she would be able to profit by refusing Nature her demands; thus she [the Soul] would have a guilty conscience at taking from her [Nature] what is her own.6

As Verdeyen puts it, "any attentive reader understands that Marguerite has no intention of giving free rein to license, but is pointing out the danger of an ascetic rigorism that would do as much violence to the Creator as to human nature" (89, my translation).

So a basic reason that Marguerite's book provoked disapproval was that she wrote about God not in Latin but in her own language. That language was probably Picard, a dialect spoken in Hainault, the area of present-day northern France and the Low Countries that the court documents name as her home. But there is no surviving manuscript of the Mirror in Picard; the closest we can get to Marguerite's own words is a text usually called "the Chantilly copy" (Musée Condé ms. F xiv 26), which is the basis of most editions and translations, emended and supplemented by other versions. That manuscript is a Renaissance document, in Middle French with some Picard influences. Its date is uncertain, but is 1450 at the earliest, over a century from the original (Colledge lxxxii).

To make sense of difficult passages in the French, translators have relied on Latin and Middle English versions of the text, a method that risks creating a patchwork of ideas that may not be Marguerite's. By studying Picard-derived terms in the Chantilly copy and Old French fragments, Zan Kocher demonstrates how badly some modern translations have jumbled Marguerite's thinking (Kocher 2011, 7). Still other readers point to spots where the Latin or the Middle English may better preserve an idea that has been lost between the thirteenth-century original and the copy made a hundred years later (Marin 104). To know what Marguerite meant, scholars have needed to look hard at multiple versions.

The text is difficult not only because the language is old and partly corrupted, but because the author is talking about matters that do not "make sense" in the usual way. Near-surreal qualities pervade the Mirror because its author is trying to describe experiences that most people have never had, experiences that, she says, are in fact beyond words:

…for everything that one can say or write about God, or what one can think about him, which is more than saying, is more like lying than it is like telling the truth.7

Because telling is a function of the self (as Anne Carson explains) the soul brought to nothing, which has passed beyond self, loses the power to tell. To convey that experience, Marguerite needs wildly imaginative, inventive language. For example, she uses without explanation the term le Loingprés, "the FarNear," in passages like these:

For there is an opening, like a flash, and a swift closing, in which one cannot remain for long. The rapture of this opening as it is made, and overflowing by the peace of its work, makes the Soul free and noble and unencumbered by all things…But the peace…is so delicious that Truth calls it glorious food.8

…where the Soul remains after the work of the rapturing Farnear…[N]o one would be able to believe…the peace upon peace of all peace that such a Soul receives …9

…for the opening of the sweet movement of glory, which the noble Farnear grants, is nothing else but a vision that God wishes the Soul to have of her very own glory, which she will have without end. 10

At least one critic has argued that the Mirror actually uses a textual strategy of resisting interpretation. Jennifer Schuberth's gist (206-208) is that the Mirror needs to be difficult, because Marguerite needed to batter down ordinary ways of thinking: the Church's exemplars, its standard models of holiness in women. Those models nearly always involved asceticism and physical suffering—much more for women than for men, because of the universally accepted medieval notion that women were physically and morally weak. Marguerite rejects these models of holy life; she also rejects the Franciscan and Dominican models of the holiness of poverty. Her Lady Love tells us that the annihilated soul "neither longs for nor despises poverty or tribulation, Mass or sermon, fasting or prayer…" (Mirror, Colledge 20, )(chapter 9). For those readers set firmly in the mold of Church teaching, Marguerite may have felt she needed to shock and challenge.

The Mirror as Literature

But in spite of its challenges, the Mirror repays attention as a work of literature, and Peter Dronke has given it most thorough attention. As he explains, in form the text drifts from rhythmic prose, full of parallel structures and repetitions, through sustained rhyming, to occasional fixed poetic forms like the rondeau in its conclusion and the canzone in its prologue. Dronke notes that in some passages it can be difficult for an editor to decide whether the text should be set out in continuous paragraphs or lineated like verse (218).

Set up as a conversation among characters, the Mirror has both narrative and dramatic interest, as the characters of Soul and Reason thrust and parry against each other. In certain passages it uses the form of a fable or courtly love tale, as it does here to describe the experience of the initial search for God:

There was once a damsel, the daughter of a king, of great heart and nobility and of noble courage as well, and she lived in a far-off country. It came to pass that this damsel heard tell of the great courtliness and virtue of King Alexander, and straightaway he will loved hime because of the great renown of his noble character. But so far away was this damsel from that great lord, on whom she had willingly set her love, that she could neither see nor have him. For that reason she was often distressed within herself, since no love but his would satisfy her. 11

In other passages, the Soul and other characters have long exchanges with Love and God, seeking to understand the nature of union with the divine:

Oh Holy Trinity, say Faith, Hope, and Charity, where are such high-ascending souls as this book depicts? Who are they? And Where are they? And what do they do? Reveal them to us, by Love who knows everything, so as to calm those who, on hearing this book, would be distressed. For Holy Church, if she were to hear it, would be dismayed by it….

True, that is Holy Church the Little (says Love), who is ruled by Reason, and not Holdy Church the Great, says Divine Love, who is ruled by us… 12

And as shown earlier, both Love and the Soul spar with Reason, and Reason fails to understand.

Then at certain climactic moments, the Soul breaks into poetry. The farewell to the Virtues quoted earlier is such a moment, and so is the passage about the "beguines and other clerics." Another remarkable passage is in Marguerite's chapter 122, the ending chapter of her book's original version. It closes with a set of rhyming stanzas that depict more clearly than any argument the upliftedness of a Soul that has disappeared into the divine.

Thought is worth nothing now,
nor work, nor verbal arts.
Love raises me so high
(Thought is worth nothing now)
with its all-godly gaze
that all my thought departs.
Thought is worth nothing now,
nor work, nor verbal arts. 13

The final lines of the passage contain another serene and lyric flight:

I've said that I will love Him.
I lie. It is not I
But He alone who loves me.
He is, and I am not.
Nothing I lack
Except His will.
He is complete,
And through Him I am full.
This is the godly kernel of
Entirely faithful love. 14

Marguerite's Trial and Execution

The passages of the Mirror quoted here sometimes look like lyric devotional writing. At other times, they look like heresy or something close to it. Yet most of the churchmen to whom Marguerite presented her book originally, and who read the work in its entirety, did not condemn it, or at least not outright. Their acceptance, even if qualified, might have given her hope.

But when she was denounced to the Inquisition at Paris, she may have lost confidence in her ability to defend herself. She apparently refused to take the necessary oath to begin her own defense of her book. She answered no questions, perhaps hoping to stymie the Inquisition's process. But the Dominican inquisitor of Paris, William Humbert, was feeling pressure: he needed to appear vigilant to avoid interference by the secular authorities. He may also have been pressed by the king, Philip IV, who was trying to position himself as a defender of orthodoxy because of his political rivalry with the pope. Philip may have been pressed in turn by his important allies—the Dominicans and Franciscans—to harry the beguines, whom the mendicant orders saw as their enemies. (Verdeyen 85). And he needed to document his case well, in order to avoid the disapproval that Rome had shown toward the recent torture and executions of the Knights Templar (Colledge xxxv).

William therefore found a way around the roadblock of Marguerite's silence. He extracted a list of articles from the book and presented them for examination to twenty-three clerics, regents of the University of Paris. This was not an unusual way of proceeding (Colledge xlvi), but its consequences for Marguerite were dire. Plucked from their context and shoehorned into Latin terminology that matched clerical anxieties better than it mirrored Marguerite's thinking, the articles were designed to break the deadlock in a way that could only end in Marguerite's death (Lerner 76-78).

Yet those passages ripped out of context made it possible for Romana Guarnieri, a scholar in the twentieth century, to link the "heretical" author with her honored book. The book did not die; its feminized view of Love and of the divine, and its directions for a path to God without the ministrations of the Church, became respected writings about the contemplative life. We know this because copies of the Mirror were bound together in manuscript books with other well-known writings about contemplation and mysticism. For example, a Middle English translation of the Mirror appears in a fifteenth-century codex (British Library MS Additional 37790) alongside the works of such authors as Julian of Norwich, Richard Rolle, Henry Suso, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing (Chance 129, 176 n 6). And the Mirror is still being published and read as a work on mystical prayer.

Was Marguerite's theology heretical or orthodox? From her own day down to ours, opinions have differed. What is beyond dispute is that she could think unrestrictedly, argue passionately, act with determination, and write with fervor and skill, and that she used these gifts at the cost of her life.


1 Amis, que diront beguines
et gens de religion
Quant ils oront l'exellence
de votre divine chançon?
Beguines dient que je erre
prestres clers et precheurs,
Augustins et Carmes
et les Freres Mineurs
Pource que j'escri de l'estre
de l'affinee Amour. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen, 344)

2 Theologiens ne aultres clers,
Point n'en aurez l'entendement
Tant aiez les engins clers
Se n'y procedez humblement
Et que Amour et Foy ensement
Vous facent surmonter Raison
Que dames sont de la maison. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen, 8)

3 Raison mesmes nous tesmoigne
Ou .xiij de ce livre
Chappitre, et n'en e vergoigne
Que Amour et Foy la font vivre
Et d'elles point ne se delivre,
Car sur elle ont segneurie,
Par quoy il fault qu'elle s'umilie. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen, 8)

4 Vertus, je prens congé de vous a tousjours,
Je en auray le cueur plus franc et plus gay.
Voustre service est troup coustant, bien le sçay.
Je mis ung temps mon cueur en vous, sans nulle dessevree;
Vous savez que je estoie a vous trestoute habandonnee;
Je estoie adonc serve de vous, or en suis delivree. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen, 24)

5 O Saincte Eglise dessoubz ceste Saincte Eglise, or dictes, dit Amour, que voulez vous dire de ceste Ames, qui sont ainsi commandees et louees dessus vous, qui usez du tout par les conseils de Raison?

Saincte Eglise.—Nous voulons dire, dits Saincte Eglise, que telles Ames sont en vie dessus nous, car Amours demoure en elles et Raison demoure en nous…(Garnieri & Verdeyen, 132)

6 Ceste Ame donne a Nature quanqu'elle loy demande; et est vray, dit Amour, que ceste Ame n'a mie tant de cure ne d'amour aux choses temporelles, qu'elle sceust gaingner en rufuser a Nature sa demande; ainçoys feroit conscience de luy tollir ce qui est sien. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 68).

7 …car tout ce que l'on peut de Dieu dire ne escrire , ne que l'en on peut penser, qui plus est que n'est dire, est assez mieulx mentir que de n'est de vray dire. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 334)

8 Car [c'est] une ouverture a | maniere de esclar et de hastive closure, ou l'on ne peut longuement demourer….L'ouverture ravissable de l'espandement de celle ouverture fait l'Ame, après sa closure, de la paix de son o[euvre] si franche et si noble et si descombree de toutes choses (tant comme la paix dure, qui est donnee en ceste ouverture),….Mais la paix…est si delicieuse, que Verité l'appelle pasture glorieuse….( Guarnieri & Verdeyen 168-170)

9 …ou l'Ame demours après l'oevre du Loingpr&eacure;s Ravissable…nul ne pouroit croire…la paix sure paix de paix que telle Ame reçoit (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 168)

10 …car l'ouverture de doulx mouvement de gloire, que le gentil Loingprés donne, n'est aultre chose que une apparicio, que Diue veult que l'Ame ait de sa gloure mesme, que elle aura sans fin. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 176-178)

11 Il fut ung temps une damoyselle, fille de roy, de grant cueur et de noblesse et aussi de noble courage; et demouroit en estrange païs. Si advint que celle damoiselle oit parler de la grant courtoisie et noblece du roy Alixandre, et tantost sa volenté l'ama, pour la grant renommee de sa gentillesse. Mais si loing estoit ceste damoiselle de ce grant seigneur, onquel elle avoit mis son amour d'elle mesmes, car veoir ne avoir ne povoit; par quoy eu elle mesme souvent estoit desconfortee, car nul amour | fors que ceste cy ne loy suffisoit. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 10-12).

12 O saincte Trinité, dit Foy, Experance et Charité, ou sont telles seurmontans Ame[s] qui sont telles comme ce livre devise? Qui sont elles? Ne iou sont elles? Ne que font elles? Enseignez les nous par Amour, qui tout scet, si s'en appaiseront ceulx qui de ce livre oïr s'esmaient…

Voyre, Saincte Eglise la Petite, | dit Amour; celle Eglise qui est gouvernee de Raison; et non mie Sainte Eglise la Grant, dit Divine Amour, qui est gouvernee par nous. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 74).

13 Penser plus ne m'y vault,
Ne oeuvre, ne loquence.
Amour me trait si hault,
(Penser plus me m'y vault)
De ses divins regars,
Que je n'ay nulle entente
Penser plus ne m'y vault,
Ne oeuvre, ne loquence. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen, 342)

14 J'ay dit que je l'aymeray.
Je mens, ce ne suis je mie.
C'est il seul qui ayme moy:
Il est, et je ne suis mie:
Et plus ne me fault,
Que ce qu'il veult,
Et qu'il vault.
Il est plain,
Et de ce suis plaine
C'est le devin noyaulx
Et amour loyaulx. (Guarnieri & Verdeyen 346)

Works Cited

Babinsky, Ellen L. "The Use of Courtly Language in Le Mirouer des simples ames anienties." Essays in Medieval Studies 4 (1987), 91-106.

Bodo, Murray. "At Thomas Merton's Hermitage." Image 12 (Winter 95-96).

Bussey, Francesca Caroline. "The World On the End of a Reed": Marguerite Porete and the Annihilation of an Identity in Medieval and Modern Representations: A Reassessment. Dissertation. University of Sydney, 2007.

Carson, Anne. "Decreation: How Women Like Sappho, Marguerite Porete, and Simone Weil Tell God," Common Knowledge, 8:1 (Winter 2002): 188-203.

Chance, Jane. The Literary Subversions of Medieval Women. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Dronke, Peter. Women Writers of the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Field, Sean L. The Beguine, the Angel, and the Inquisitor: The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart. University of Notre Dame Press, 2012.

Guarnieri, Romana, ed. Archivia Italiano per la Storia della Pietà (1965), 513-635.

Guarnieri, Romana, and Paul Verdeyen, eds. Speculum simplicium animarum/ Le mirouer des simples ämes. By Marguerite Porete. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medievalis 69. Tournhout: Brepols, 1986.

Garay, Kathleen. " 'She Swims and Floats in Joy': Marguerite Porete, an 'Heretical' Mystic of the Later Middle Ages." Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 17:1 (Winter 1997), 18-21.

Kocher, Zan. "The Virgin Mary and the Perfect Meulequin: Translating a Textile Analogy in Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls." Philological Quarterly 90.1 (Winter 2011): 1-19.

Lerner, Robert E. The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages. University of California Press, 1972.

Porete, Marguerite. The Mirror of Simple Souls. Translation and introductory interpretive essay by Edmund Colledge, OSA, , J.C. Marler, and Judith Grant. University of Notre Dame Press, 1999.

Porete, Marguerite. The Mirror of Simple Souls. Translation and introduction by Ellen L. Babinsky. Paulist Press, 1993.

Marin, Juan. "Annihilation and Deification in Beguine Theology and Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls," Harvard Theological Review, 103:1 (2010) 89-109.

Schuberth, Jennifer. " 'Holy Church is not able to recognize her': The Virtues and Interpretation in Marguerite Porete's Mirror," History of Religions, 52:3 (February 2013), 197-213.

Verdeyen, Paul, "Le procès d'Inquisition contre Marguerite Porete et Guiard de Cressonessart (1309-1310)," Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique 81 (1986), 48-94.

Online resources:

Archives de Litterature du Moyen Age

International Marguerite Porete Society:

Marguerite Porete
Years: 1250-1310
Birthplace: Hainault (France/Belgium)
Language(s): Picard French
Forms: Rondeau, canzone, irregularly rhymed stanzas, lyric prose
Subjects: Mystical theology
Firsts: First person to be executed for heresy in a formal auto da fé at Paris
Entry By: Maryann Corbett
32 Poems
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