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Item 38, The Wounds and the Sins


Abbreviations: C: Cambridge, University Library MS Ff.2.38; P: Cam­bridge, University Library MS Ff.5.48;

Title The incipit, Sequitur septem peccata mortalia, is written in Rate’s regular hand. It begins one-third down the leaf of fol. 150v. The poem has been given various titles by editors, none with any manuscript authority. In C, it is preceded by the incipit “The VII virtues contrarie to the VII dedli synnes.”

8 Therfor, man, of luffe thou lere. Compare the reading in London, British Library, MS Harley 2339: “Envyous man, of love thou lere.”

13 Of a clene meyden I was born. Christ’s virgin birth cannot easily be thought of as a wound like the others in this category, and the Redemption as a whole (alluded to in lines 14–15) seems equally hard to fit into this scheme. Perhaps the poet was thinking of Christ’s Incarnation in human flesh as a kind of wound (in that it was a purely voluntary act of submission). In P, the equivalent of line 15 reads “Alle my body was beten for sin” (Davies’s line 27), which would make this stanza a clearer allusion to the Scourg­ing. Another possibility is that the stanza is the haphazard result of combining the seven “blood-sheddings” of Christ with the five wounds, and that this allusion to the Nativity is a revision of a description of the Circumcision. In a similar poem comparing the seven blood-sheddings with the seven deadly sins, the Circumcision is contrasted with lechery (see poem 123 in C. Brown, Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century, pp. 218–19).

20 Therfor forgyff and be not wroth. The correspondence between the wound in the right hand and the sin of wrath is not entirely clear, though perhaps they are based on the traditional associations of the right hand with agency (and thus vengeance) and the left hand with duplicity (as in Matthew 6:3). But Rosemary Woolf cites this stanza and the following stanza on avarice as an example of the poem’s “lack of congruity in subject matter,” suggesting that there is no reason “why the wound of the right hand should be opposed to wrath and that of the left to avarice (or in­deed why either sin should be opposed to a wounded hand at all)” (English Reli­gious Lyric, p. 224). In Cambridge University Library MS Mm.4.41, the compari­sons are, in fact, reversed, and in P the wound in the right hand is attributed to both sins (see Person, Cambridge Middle English Lyrics, pp. 9–11, 69).

29 Jhesu, for thi wondys fyve. P and Cambridge, Jesus College MS 13 feature a differ­ent closing stanza that retains Jesus as the speaking voice:
I was beten for thy sake:
Sin thou leve and shrifte thou take,
Forsake thy sin and luf me;
Amende thee and I forgif thee.


32 And therwith there saulys fede. There is no explicit or colophon. A single blank line separates the end of this text from the title of the following item, Sir Orfeo.


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

Before 1 The incipit, Sequitur septem peccata mortalia, and the title of the first stanza, Ayens pride, have been transposed.

2 hede. MS: dede.

2–3 MS: agens envy, the title of the following stanza, appears between these lines but is marked for deletion.

8 thou. MS: thi.

20a covetys. MS: cevetys.






fol. 151r      


Sequitur septem peccata mortalia
Agens pride
Wyth scherp thornys that be kene
My hede was crounyd, as ye may sen.
The blod ran done be my cheke;
Thou, prowde man, therfor be meke.

Agens envy
With a scherp spere that was full yll
My hert was prikyd — it was my wyll —
For the love of man that is me dere;
Therfor, man, of luffe thou lere.

Agens glotony
In all my thyrst upon the rode
Men gaffe me drynke that was not gode,
Azell and gall for to drynke;
Gloton, theron I rede thou thinke.

Agens lechery
Of a clene meyden I was born
To save mankynd that was forlorn,
And suffyrd deth for manys syn;
Lecher, of luste I rede thee blyne.

Agens wreth
If thou be wrothe and wylle thee wreche,
Behold this lesson that I thee teche:
Thoruth my ryght hond a nayle gothe;
Therfor forgyff and be not wroth.

Agens covetys
Thorought my lefte hond a nayle is dryffe;
Thinke thereon if thou wyll leve.
Help the pore with almus dede,
And thou in hevyn schall have thi mede.

Agenst sleuth
Rise up, unlust, oute of thi bed!
Behold my fete that be forbled
And nayled fast on the rode tre;
Behold, therfor — all was for thee.

Jhesu, for thi wondys fyve,
Kepe hem wele in ther lyve
That this lesson wyll rede
And therwith ther saulys fede.
         Here follow the seven deadly sins; (see note); (t-note)

crowned; see; (t-note)
down on my cheeks

dear to me
learn of love; (see note); (t-note)

the cross

Vinegar and gall

pure virgin; (see note)
man’s sin


Through; goes
(see note)


deeds of alms
your reward


wounds; (see note)

souls nourish; (see note)

Go To Item 39, Sir Orfeo, introduction
Go To Item 39, Sir Orfeo, text