Manuscripts and Special Collections

WLC/LM/9, ff. 141r-141v: ‘Speculum Vitae’, lines 9191-9232 (composed mid-14th century, English)


Quartus gradus
¶ Že ferže degre after consentyng
Žat is to say a brennynge ȝernyng
Žat a man haž to a lechorous dede
Is dedely synne žat men schuld Drede
Al ȝif he faile of žat lecchory
Ȝit gret ȝernynge is synne dedely
And žorow sich ȝernyng many men may
Syn dedely ofte sithes on a day
Paraventure nyne sithes or ten
Žorow že sight of sum wymmen
Lauedys or ožer quayntly dight
Žat dighten hem quayntly to mennes sight
Sich queynt tyffyng žei ofte vse
To make foles on hem muse
And žei trowe žei do not ille
For žei assenten not to siche foles wille
Bot certes ful greuously synne žay
As men may here wise clerkes say
For žorow že enchesoun of hem žan
Že soules ben lorne of many a man
Žat ȝernen to synne fleschly with sight
With hem žat ben so queyntly Dight
For že womman žat Dightež hir queyntly
Oužer on heued or on bodi
To make men ofte hire to be halde
Že fendes gilder sche may be calde


The fourth degree.

The fourth degree after consenting, that is to say, is a burning desire that a man has towards a lecherous deed [the sexual act] and is a deadly sin that men should fear.

If he entirely fails to avoid that lechery, that great desire is a deadly sin. Even if he fails to commit the lechery completely, the great desire is itself a deadly sin.

And because of such desire, many men may commit this deadly sin, perhaps nine or ten times a day, through the sight of those elegantly dressed women who are pleasing to men’s sight.

These women often use such elaborate adornment to make foolish men look upon them, and they believe that they do no evil just because they do not agree to the foolish men’s desires, as we may hear learned men say.

Because of this, many men, who yearn for fleshly sin by the sight of those who are so elegantly dressed, lose their souls.

For the woman who dresses herself elaborately, either her head or body, to tempt men, may be called a snare of the Devil.

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