“Als I Lay in a Winteris NYT” and the Second Death

  • Liam O. Purdon
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Few would disagree with the statement that the late-thirteenth-century Middle English body-and-soul debate poem known by its incipit as “Als I lay in a winteris nyt”1 is about the urgent need for confession and amendment in this life. Few, too, would disagree that this thematic, as well as hortatory, end is masterfully achieved, as Robert W. Ackerman amply demonstrated nearly half a century ago, through incorporation in the poem of popular Christianity—structurally, in the extended metaphor of the flyting between the personified Body and Soul, in which the psychological realism of humanity’s feelings about moral choice is dramatically brought to the fore, and, tonally, in the formulations and concepts characteristic of religious instruction, formulations and concepts that further the humanizing of the poem’s principal Latin source, the Dialogus inter Corpus et Animam, by minimizing its learned content.


Fourteenth Century Variant Spelling Mutual Antagonism Bodleian Library Medieval Literature 


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© Bonnie Wheeler 2006

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  • Liam O. Purdon

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