A critical edition of Richard Rolle's "English Psalter": Psalms 106-120 with glossary, notes, appendices and an introductory essay on his spirituality

Francis Jerome Markert, Fordham University


The English Psalter of Richard Rolle contains the Gallican Latin version of the Old Testament Psalms, together with a translation and the first commentary in English prose on a book of the Bible. The work, dedicated to a woman who could not read Latin, includes his exegesis of each verse, written in the vernacular. The English Psalter was composed by Rolle most probably during the decade before his death in 1349. From the available MSS., this dissertation provides a critical edition of Psalms 106-120. Nineteen of the twenty extant, uninterpolated MSS. have been used in this edition, which also contains a critical apparatus, glossary, notes and appendices. Since Rolle was from Yorkshire, fifteenth-century Oxford University College 64, the best available MS. in the Northern dialect, was chosen as the base text. Against this base text the other eighteen MSS. were collated for emendation and for comparison of textual and linguistic characteristics. Included is a description of the Northern dialectal characteristics of Un. Coll. 65. The other two purely Northern MSS., Oxford Hatton 12 and Eton College 10, occasionally exhibit more unique readings than the base text. Some of the other MSS. are in impure or mixed Midland and Southern dialects. Emendation of the base text, which has been conservatively practiced, was aided by the sense of the passage, by the variant readings of the other MSS., and by referring both to Rolle's Latin Psalter and his sources: Peter Lombard's Commentarium in Psalmos and Augustine's Enarrationes in Psalmos. Individual chapters describe both the Latin sources and English forerunners of the English Psalter, discuss Rolle's use of the four senses (or meanings) of medieval exegesis and his English prose style, detail the editorial practices employed, illustrate each of the nineteen MSS. and give a fifty-five page glossary with page and line references. The dissertation is introduced by an essay on Rolle's spirituality, and first presents a brief outline of his life, and then substantiates from his other writings his views on the three viae or stages of the mystical life (Purgation, Illumination and Contemplation). Subsequently documented are his idiosyncratic terminology of "calor, canor and dulcor," his three grades of love ("insuperabile, inserperabile and synguler"), his devotion to the Passion of Christ, the Holy Name of Jesus, and the Blessed Virgin. The essay concludes with a demonstration, quoting Rolle's own words, of how the English Psalter reflects the previously mentioned elements of his spirituality.

Subject Area

Literature|Middle Ages|British and Irish literature|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Markert, Francis Jerome, "A critical edition of Richard Rolle's "English Psalter": Psalms 106-120 with glossary, notes, appendices and an introductory essay on his spirituality" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9025021.