Middle English Word of the Moment

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Second Deadly Sin: Enuye

Incipit Enuye.

The second head of the "wikked be[a]st of helle is enuye, "þat is þe addre þat al enuenimeþ [envenoms]"(22). No, not ennui - envy. Ennui probably falls under sloth.

According to Lorens, Envy is the mother of death, "for bi enuye of þe deuel come deeþ in-to þis world". It is "þe synne þat makeþ a man or a womman most like to þe deuel". That is, I suppose, logicaly - Envy (or possibly Pride) was the sin that caused Satan to try to overreach his bounds and become like God, so it is perhaps his greatest characteristic.

Lorens breaks Envy down into three branches, each neatly tripartite. For this sin "first enuenemeþ the herte & after þe mouþ and after þe dedes" (22):

Envy in heart
: An envious heart sins in three ways.
- False judgement.
- Shrewed gladness.
- Evil sorrow.

He doesn't expand on these, but proceeds straight to the second branch, for "suche licour as is in þe tunne mote nedes come out at the faucetes hoole" ("that liquor which is in the tun must necessarily come out of the faucet's hole)":

Envy in words:
- Cursedness, speaking harm of another man's good and undoing him as he can.
- Bitterness, furthering and wishing for another man's harm as far as he may.
- Treason, turning everything good that he perceives "vp-so-doun" (23) and turning it to evil.

Envy in deeds (This is a little unclear but as far as I can make out it breaks down to):
- Destruction of potential (as the grass that will grow).
- Destruction of flourishing and profiting (the air that blows about and profits).
- Destruction of what does good to the world (as ripened fruit that nourishes).

"For þe more good þat þer is, þe more sorwe haþ" the envious man.

Lady Despenser is right - I'm afraid Hugh would have to confess to this as well. Though proud Piers in his pearl-powdered purple would probably give the Despensers a run for their money!

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from The book of vices and virtues: a fourteenth century English translation of the Somme le roi of Lorens d'Orleans. Ed. W. Nelson Francis. Early English Text Society OS 217. London: Oxford University Press, 1942.

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