“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 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    John W. Conlee, Middle English Debate Poetry: A Critical Anthology (East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1991), pp. 20–49.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Robert W. Ackerman, “The Debate of the Body and Soul and Parochial Christianity,” Speculum 37 (1961): 541–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    A.C. Baugh, ed., A Literary History of England (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1948), pp. 163–64.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Henry Bettenson in The City of God, ed. David Knowles (New York: Penguin, 1972), pp. 510–511.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Edelgard Dubruck, The Theme of Death in French Poetry of the High Middle Ages and Renaissance (The Hague: Mouton, 1964), pp. 32–33, notes this influence.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Richard Morris, ed., The Pricke of Conscience (London: Philological Society, 1865), p. 228.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Robert Mannyng, Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” A.D. 1303, ed. FJ. Fumivall, Early English Text Society 119, 123 (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co., 1905), pp. 49–55. John Mirk, Festial: A Collection of Homilies, ed. Theodor Erbe, Early English Text Society, e.s., 96 (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co., 1905), pp. 56–62, 69–74, 191–96, 216–21.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Eleanor K. Heningham, An Early Latin Debate of the Body and Soul: Preserved in MS Royal 7 A III in the British Museum (New York: Eleanor K. Heningham, 1939), p. 49.Google Scholar
  9. 26.
    Tempe E. Allison, “On the Body and Soul Legend,” Modem Language Notes 42 (1927): 102–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Justin J. Brent, “From Address to Debate: Generic Considerations in the Debate between the Body and Soul,” Comitatus 32 (2001): 1–18.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bonnie Wheeler 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liam O. Purdon

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations