by: George Shuffelton (Editor)
Item 38, The Wounds and the Sins
Item 38, THE WOUNDS AND THE SINS: EXPLANATORY NOTESAbbreviations: 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:
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.
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.
Item 38, THE WOUNDS AND THE SINS: TEXTUAL NOTESAbbreviations: 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.
Go To Item 39, Sir Orfeo, text