Manuscripts and Special Collections

WLC/LM/9, f. 142r: ‘Speculum Vitae’, lines 9259-9276 (composed mid-14th century, English)


Secundus gradus inter solutum et meretricem
E secounde degre may țis dede be
Betwene a syngle man țat is fre
And a comoun womman of bordelle
Țat biddeț hir body ofte to selle
Țat is a synne țat is more grete
And to țe fend of helle more lefe
For țis is holden more vyle
And more it may țe soule fyle
For whi siche wymmen of lif vnclene
Parchaunce ben wedded as ofte is sene
Or ben wymmen of religioun
Țat han forsaken her professioun
And soiornen in gode tounnes namely
Țer ței vse țat craft of bordelry
And forsaken noon of al a kyn
Țat haț wille with hem to syn
Fader ne sone cosyn ne broțer
Țis synne is more gref țan țe toțer


The second degree, between a free man and a prostitute.

The second degree may be that deed between a single man who is free to do as he pleases, and a common woman in a brothel who regularly sells her body. That is a sin that is more serious, and to the Devil in Hell more pleasing, because it is considered more vile and it renders the soul more foul [than a single man sinning with a single woman].

Therefore such women of unclean living are sometimes married, as often is seen, or are women of religion who have forsaken their religious vows and dwell in towns with good reputations. There they ply the trade of prostitution, and reject no one from the many kinds who wish to sin with them: father, son, cousin or brother.

This sin is more trouble than the previous one [a single man sinning with a single woman].

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