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Art. 92, Lutel wot hit any mon hou love hym haveth ybounde: Introduction

Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

The Way of Christ’s Love is a religious lyric fashioned from what must have been a popular love song, The Way of Woman’s Love (art. 93). The Ludlow scribe has copied the pair of contrastive poems as contrafacta, displaying them together on the same page. Two fragmentary analogues survive. These related lyrics suggest that there were formal competitions to remake secular songs into religious lyrics (Green 1989, pp. 304–12). It might even be that The Way of Christ’s Love, which matches its predecessor in length, form, and emotive expression, was the winning entry in such a contest. This lyric represents Christ as supremely human, his flesh bleeding to make sinners whole. Christ’s sacrificial blood dominates the imagery of stanzas 1, 2, 4, and 5 (compare Song on Jesus’ Precious Blood [art. 56]). In stanza 3 (the middle one), Christ behaves as a filial child, “a suete Sone,” who, in seeing how angry his Father is with mankind, wants to placate him. He pleads to be the sole one to die in order to stave off the penalty all humans will face. In the last stanza the poet’s final image is of a wan Savior, his cheeks thin and his body bled out: “His hert blod he yef for al monkunne” (line 38). Christ is cast here as the human lover of humanity, willingly sacrificing himself out of devotion. Thus the poem reforms a love lyric by imbuing it with religious strains drawn from the love-longings of the original. The borrowed refrain of ever ant oo (ever and always) suits the caring nature of an eternally loving God. For commentary on this poem, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4359–60; and Turville-Petre 1996, pp. 198–99, 211–12.

[Fol. 128r. IMEV, NIMEV 1922. MWME 11:4204 [31]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 14. Layout: No columns. Two verses per manuscript line. After stanza 1, the refrain is written to the right of the stanza. Meter: Five 8 lines stanzas with refrain, a4b3a4b3bb5C7C5. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 111–12 (no. 40); Böddeker, pp. 231–32; Brown 1932, pp. 161–62 (no. 90); Brook, pp. 70–71 (no. 31); Silverstein, pp. 51–52 (no. 29); Millett (online edn.). Other MSS: None. Middle English Analogues: Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 512, fol. 260v (ed. Brook, p. 88); London, BL MS Egerton 613, fol. 2v (ed. Brook, p. 88).]

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