Title Background

The Virtuous Pagan in Middle English Literature. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 79 part 5., part 5.

The Virtuous Pagan in Middle English Literature. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 79 part 5., part 5.

Pp. 60-88: Studies the theme of the virtuous pagan in the C text in relation to such questions as the importance of baptism and learning for salvation and the idea of different degrees of reward. WL’s version of the Trajan legend is unusual in omitting baptism; in C.15 Imaginatif, perhaps speaking for the poet, suggests the semi-Pelagian position that all virtuous men will be saved, and that Christian rituals avail nothing without works. C.12 asserts that learning can be harmful if not accompanied by the use of the acquired knowledge, and by itself cannot guarantee salvation. Read as a historical allegory, the Visio, Dobet, and Dobest sections correspond respectively to the Old Covenant (stressing justice), the New Covenant (stressing mercy), and the impending end of the New Covenant in judgment, with the Harrowing of Hell as the thematic climax of the poem. PPl contrasts with St. Erkenwald in WL’s greater emphasis on the value of works (as opposed to grace) and in his representation of the negative aspects of the Harrowing.

Rev. J. S. Ryan, Parergon ns 9 (1991): 180-81; E. Gordon Whatley, YLS 5 (1991): 206-09.

Volume

Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1989.

Author

Vitto, Cindy L.