Sawles Ward

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A 12th-century homily, very freely adapted from the De Anima (4.1315) of hugh of saint-victor. The same passage was translated by Dan Michel of Northgate as part of his Azenbite of Inwyt, but Sawles Ward (Guardian of the Soul) is a far more accomplished piece, in a much livelier and more evocative style. The homiletic narrative, based on Mt 24.43, presents man's body as a house, with Wit (Conscience) as its master and Will as its mistress, containing the soul as its treasure, guarded by the cardinal virtues. Two speeches, by Fear on the pains of hell and by Love of Life on the bliss of heaven, constitute the major part of the homily. Sawles Ward is one of the "Catherine Group" (see ancrene riwle) of 12th-century devotional pieces noteworthy for their identical Middle English dialect, giving evidence for the first "school" of English prose writers known to us.

Bibliography: Sawles Ward: An Early English Homily, ed. r. m. wilson (Leeds 1938). r. m. wilson, Early Middle English Literature (London 1939). r. w. chambers, On the Continuity of English Prose from Alfred to More and His School (Early English Text Society 191A; London 1957).

[n. d. hinton]