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“The Vision and Creed of Piers Plowman.” 1887. Project Gutenberg.

Introduction

by Luis Gonzalez and Talia Hanley

 

Considered by critics as one of the greatest and most confounding works in Middle English Literature, The Vision of Piers Plowman is an allegorical narrative poem by William Langland.  The poem, said to have ten versions, is studied primarily in the first three which, stylistically, point to a single author: 1) Text A, which consists of the poem’s original short-form version from around the 1360s, 2) Text B, which amended significantly and expanded the poem in the late 1370s, and 3) Text C, which is the last revision of text B from the 1380s.  This allegorical poem revolves around a series of dream-visions or “passuses,” meaning “steps” in Latin, that deride secular and religious figures corrupted by greed. The poem addresses the “social and spiritual predicament of late 14th-century England” and was later printed in the 1500s by Protestants to defend their religious doctrines (“Piers Plowman”).

 

Literary Style

The Vision of Piers Plowman is best known as an allegorical narrative poem that explores religious themes while utilizing medieval literary forms, such as dream visions, Latin phrases, and unrhymed metaphorical prose.  Dream visions were particularly popular during medieval times, giving poets the “opportunity to enter strange realms which bent the rules of time and space,” often making their messages timeless (Wellesley).  William Langland expanded the medieval form of dream visions to espouse a political message while embracing the English tradition of alliterative poetry from the Anglo-Saxon tradition (“About Piers Plowman”).  Satire of contemporary corruption in religion pervades the text, making it popular among later Church reformers and Protestants.

 

Author

Based on contextual clues, William Langland is assumed to be the author of The Vision of Piers Plowman (Jokinen).  Furthermore, due to the particular style and word choice used, Langland is considered to be the dreamer himself known as “Will” in the poem, though evidence of this only appears in the “C” text version.  Further evidence that Langland is the author, Will’s first dream occurs in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, where he is believed to have been born in 1330 and died in 1387. As evidenced in his writing, Langland was highly knowledgeable about medieval religious teachings and deeply devoted to Christianity (“William Langland”).

 

Historical Background

Based on the language used in The Vision of Piers Plowman, it is presumed to be set in late fourteenth-century England.  The poem depicts a time in history associated with major upheaval as corruption existed both among statesmen and within the church.  During the 14th century, England experienced the Great Famine and the Bubonic Plague, which were two catastrophic events that killed nearly half of England’s population.  In opposition to an implemented poll tax, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 exposed many flaws of the English economy. The aftermath of these events resulted in economic decline and upheaval of old political order.  Langland’s poem highlights the challenges of society, theology and economy in medieval England (Warner).

 

Summary

The Vision of Piers Plowman begins in the Malvern Hills with the main character, Will, laying down to rest and having two remarkable dreams.  In the first dream, there is an ethereal woman in a grand tower to the east and an opposingly dark dungeon to the west, with a field of society’s people in-between.  The “field of folk,” as the author calls society, is shown in three different classes: clergy, nobility, and peasantry, with the corrupt clergy selling papal pardons to the people.  The woman casts light on Christianity and a straight pathway for entrance into Heaven, alluding to the many flawed and varying ways people attempt to gain salvation.

In Will’s next dream, Piers Plowman, an honest, hard-working farmer who epitomizes Christ, is introduced.  The dream begins with a preacher telling his people that the purpose of life is to seek out Saint Truth. Piers Plowman agrees with the pastor, leading the people on a journey to Saint Truth, eventually concluding that one’s life and afterlife are composed of the actions and daily choices individuals make.  The story comes to an end as Will wakes up from his dream about Piers Plowman and sets out on his own personal journey to find Truth in his life. The last section from the C-version of the text provides insight about the author’s empathy for the peasantry, while emphasizing his belief in the feudal system and the benefits of social hierarchy.  Will, the dreamer, ultimately realizes that Christian morals and lessons provide guidance and answers to the fundamental questions that plague mankind. The poem intersperses biblical verses and uses character names to take the reader on a journey through the Ten Commandments of the Bible as well as portray the importance of love for God and one another.

Themes

The story itself is divided into two dreams that Will experiences and the C-text at the end.  The dreams/visions are complex in nature, but reveal poignant themes. In the first dream, the author describes the “fair field full of folk” in-between the tower to the east and the dungeon to the west that represent Heaven and Hell, revealing that one’s daily choices have positive and negative consequences in life and after death.  The author reveals that “Parish priest and pardoner share all the silver” through the selling of papal pardons for financial gain, revealing that the church should guide the people towards holiness, but are instead leading them down the opposite path. Similarly, the journey to seek Saint Truth throughout the entirety of the second dream reveals that Christianity teaches and guides mankind to seek spiritual rewards rather than physical ones.  The author upholds societal norms such as the feudal system, while revealing societal flaws such as church corruption. By taking the reader on an allegorical journey that tackles universal moral and personal dilemmas, The Vision of Piers Plowman digs deeper into what it means to love God and mankind, and ultimately how to live a Christian life.


Works Cited

“About Piers Plowman.”  Piers Plowman Electronic Archive (PPEA), piers.chass.ncsu.edu/ about/piersPlowman.html.  Accessed 12 June 2019.

Jokinen, Anniina.  “Life of William Langland.”  Luminarium, 8 Mar. 2010, http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/langlandbio.htm.  Accessed 12 June 2019.

“Piers Plowman.”  Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 6 July 2012, www.britannica.com/topic/Piers-Plowman.  Accessed 12 June 2019.

Warner, Lawrence.  “Piers Plowman: an Introduction.”  The British Library, 31 Jan. 2018, www.bl.uk/medieval-literature/articles/piers-plowman-an-introduction.  Accessed 12 June 2019.

Wellesley, Mary.  “Dream visions.” The British Library, 31 Jan. 2018, https://www.bl.uk/medieval-literature/articles/dream-visions.  Accessed 23 June 2019.

“William Langland.”  Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 4 Jan. 2018, https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Langland.  Accessed 23 June 2019.

Discussion Questions

    1. What role does social hierarchy and the feudal system play throughout the course of the story?
    2. What are some of the names of the characters and how do these characters’ names reveal the significance of the Ten Commandments?
    3. What implications do the author’s themes have on present-day society?
    4. How does the phrase “do good, do better, do best” reflect upon the actions and spiritual journey of Piers Plowman?
    5. The Vision of Piers Plowman consists of a series of dreams with each vision acting as another experience to the main character in the poem.  How do you think each vision changes the character and his beliefs as the poem goes on?
    6. Corruption is something we have seen many times in history and in the present day.  Why do you think it’s salient that the author presented corruption through religious, political, and social aspects of medieval times?

Further Resources

  • A modern-verse translation of The Vision of Piers Plowman by Peter Sutton
  • A summary of The Vision of Piers Plowman divided into visions from SuperSummary
  • A Prezi presentation on the context of The Vision of Piers Plowman
  • A podcast discussing Piers Plowman on Episode 124 of the History of English


Reading: From The Vision of Piers Plowman

 

From The Prologue

IN a summer season · when soft was the sun,
I clothed myself in a cloak as I shepherd were,
Habit like a hermit’s · unholy in works,
And went wide in the world · wonders to hear.
But on a May morning · on Malvern hills,
A marvel befell me · of fairy, methought.
I was weary with wandering · and went me to rest
Under a broad bank · by a brook’s side,
And as I lay and leaned over · and looked into the waters
I fell into a sleep · for it sounded so merry.
Then began I to dream · a marvellous dream,
That I was in a wilderness · wist I not where.
As I looked to the east · right into the sun,
I saw a tower on a toft · worthily built;
A deep dale beneath · a dungeon therein,
With deep ditches and dark · and dreadful of sight
A fair field full of folk · found I in between,
Of all manner of men · the rich and the poor,
Working and wandering · as the world asketh.
Some put them to plow · and played little enough,
At setting and sowing · they sweated right hard
And won that which wasters · by gluttony destroy.

Some put them to pride · and apparelled themselves so
In a display of clothing · they came disguised.
To prayer and penance · put themselves many,
All for love of our Lord · living hard lives,
In hope for to have · heavenly bliss.
Such as anchorites and hermits · that kept them in their cells,
And desired not the country · around to roam;
Nor with luxurious living · their body to please.

And some chose trade · they fared the better,
As it seemeth to our sight · that such men thrive.

And some to make mirth · as minstrels know how,
And get gold with their glees · guiltlessly, I hold.
But jesters and janglers · children of Judas,
Feigning their fancies · and making folk fools,
They have wit at will · to work, if they would;
Paul preacheth of them · I’ll not prove it here —
Qui turpiloquium loquitur · is Lucifer’s hind.

Tramps and beggars · went quickly about,
Their bellies and their bags · with bread well crammed;
Cadging for their food · fighting at ale;
In gluttony, God knows · going to bed,
And getting up with ribaldry · the thieving knaves!

Sleep and sorry sloth · ever pursue them.
Pilgrims and palmers · pledged them together
To seek Saint James · and saints in Rome.
They went forth on their way · with many wise tales,
And had leave to lie · all their life after —
I saw some that said · they had sought saints:
Yet in each tale that they told · their tongue turned to lies
More than to tell truth · it seemed by their speech.
Hermits, a heap of them · with hooked staves,
Were going to Walsingham · and their wenches too;
Big loafers and tall · that loth were to work,
Dressed up in capes · to be known from others;
And so clad as hermits · their ease to have.

I found there friars · of all the four orders,
Preaching to the people · for profit to themselves,
Explaining the Gospel · just as they liked,
To get clothes for themselves · they construed it as they would.
Many of these master friars · may dress as they will,
For money and their preaching · both go together.
For since charity hath been chapman · and chief to shrive lords,
Many miracles have happened · within a few years.
Except Holy Church and they · agree better together,
Great mischief on earth · is mounting up fast.

There preached a pardoner · as if he priest were:
He brought forth a brief · with bishops’ seals thereon,
And said that himself · might absolve them all
From falseness in fasting and of broken vows.

Laymen believed him · welcomed his words,

And came up on their knees · to kiss his seals;
He cozened them with his brevet · dimmed their eyes,
And with his parchment · got his rings and brooches:
Thus they gave their gold · gluttons to keep.
And lend it to such louts · as follow lechery.
If the bishop were holy · and worth both his ears,
His seal should not be sent · to deceive the people.
But a word ‘gainst bishop · the knave never preacheth.
Parish priest and pardoner · share all the silver
That the parish poor would have · if he were not there.Parsons and parish priests · complained to the bishop
That their parishes were poor · since the pestilence time,
And asked leave and licence · in London to dwell
And sing requiems for stipends · for silver is sweet.

* * *

Yet scores of men stood there in silken coifs
Who seemed to be law-sergeants that served at the bar,
Pleaded cases for pennies and impounded the law,
And not for Love of our Lord once unloosed their lips:
You might better measure mist on Malvern Hills
Than get a ‘mum’ from their mouths till money’s on the table.
Barons and burgesses and bondmen also
I saw in this assemblage, as you shall hear later;
Bakers and brewers and butchers aplenty,
Weavers of wool and weavers of linen,
Tailors, tinkers, tax-collectors in markets,
Masons, miners, many other craftsmen.
Of all living laborers there leapt forth some,
Such as diggers of ditches that do their jobs badly,
And dawdle away the long day with ‘Dieu save dame Emme.’
Cooks and their kitchen-boys kept crying, ‘Hot pies, hot!
Good geese and pork! Let’s go and dine!’
Tavern-keepers told them a tale of the same sort:
‘White wine of Alsace and wine of Gascony,
Of the Rhine and of La Rochelle, to wash the roast down with.’
All this I saw sleeping, and seven times more.

From: Passus I

THE TREASURE OF TRUTH

WHAT this mountain meaneth · and the dark dale
And the field full of folk · I fairly will show.
A lady, lovely of looks · in linen clothed,
Came down from a castle · and called me fairly
And said: `Son, sleepest thou? · Seest thou this people,
How busy they be · about all the throng?
The most part of this people · that passeth on earth,
Have worship in this world · and wish for no better;
Of other heaven than here · they hold no account.’I was feared of her face · though she were so fair,
And said, ‘Mercy, madam · what is this to mean?’
‘The tower on the toft,’ quoth she ‘Truth is therein
And would have that ye do · as his word teacheth;
For he is Father of Faith · formed you all
Both with flesh and with face and gave you fine wits
To worship him therewith · while that ye are here.
Therefore he hath bade the earth to help you each one
With woollen, with linen · with food at your need,
In reasonable measure to make you at case.
`And commanded of his courtesy · three things in common.
None are needful but those · and name them I will
And reckon them rightly · rehearse thou them after.
The first one is vesture · to save thee from chill;
And meat for meals · to save thee misease
And drink when thou art dry · but do naught out of reason
Lest thy worth be wanting · when thou shouldest work.

`For Lot in his lifetime · for liking of drink
Did with his daughters · what the Devil liked.
He delighted in drink · as the Devil wished,
And Lechery was gainer · and lay with them both,
Putting blame on the wine · for that wicked deed:

Inebriamus eum vino, dormiamusque cum eo, ut servare possimus de patre nostro semen.

Through wine and through women · there was Lot overcome,
Begetting in gluttony · boys that were blackguards.

Therefore dread delicious drink · and thou shalt do the better;
Measure is medicine · though thou yearn for much.
All is not good for the spirit · that the guts asketh,
Nor livelihood to thy body · that is life to the soul.
Believe not thy body for · him a liar teacheth:
That is, the wretched world · which would thee betray.
For the fiend and thy flesh · follow thee together;
This and that chaseth thy soul · and speak in thine heart;
That thou shouldest be ware · I teach thee the best.’

`Madam, mercy,’ quoth I · `I like well your words.
But the money of this earth · that men hold to so fast, Tell me, madam, to whom that treasure belongeth?’

`Go to the Gospel,’ quoth she · `that God spoke himself,
When the people posed him · with a penny in the Temple,
Whether they should therewith · worship king Caesar.
And God asked of them · of whom spake the writing
And likewise the image · that stood thereon?
“Caesaris,” they said · “Each one sees him well.”

`”Reddite Caesari,” quoth God · “that Caesari belongeth
Et quae sunt Dei, Deo · or else ye do ill.”
For rightful Reason · should rule you all,
And Mother-Wit be warden · your wealth to keep,
And tutor of your treasure · to give it you at need;
For husbandry and they · hold well together.’
Then I asked her plainly · by him that made her,
`That dungeon in the dale · that dreadful is to see,
What may it mean · ma dame, I beseech you?’

`That is the castle of Care · whoso cometh therein
May curse he was born · in body or in soul.
Therein abideth a wight · that is called Wrong,
Father of Falsehood · who built it himself.
Adam and Eve · he egged on to ill;
Counselled Cain · to kill his brother;
Judas he jockeyed · with Jewish silver,
And then on elder · hanged him after.
He is the letter of love · and lieth to all;
Those who trust in his treasure · betrayeth he soonest.

Then had I wonder in my wit · what woman it were
That such wise words · of Holy Writ showed,
And asked her in the high name · ere she thence went,
Who indeed she was · that taught me so fairly?

`Holy Church I am,’ quoth she · ‘thou oughtest me to know.
I received thee first · and taught thee the faith,
And thou broughtest me sponsors · my bidding to fulfil
And to love me loyally · while thy life lasteth.’

Then I fell on my knees · and cried of her grace,
And prayed her piteously · to pray for my sins,
And to teach me kindly · on Christ to believe,
That I might work his will · that made of me man.
`Show me no treasure · but tell me this only —
How may I save my soul · thou that holy art held?’

When al I trasures are tried,’ quoth she · ‘truth is the best;
I appeal to Deus caritas · to tell thee truth;
It is as dear a darling · as dear God himself.

`Whoso is true of his tongue · and telleth none other,
And doth works therewith · and willeth no man ill:
He is a god, says the Gospel · on earth and in heaven.
And like to our Lord · by Saint Luke’s own words.
The clergy that know this · should tell it about,
For Christian and heathen · alike claim the truth.

`Kings and their knights all · should care for it rightly;
Ride to reach the oppressors · all round the realms,
And take trangressores · tying them tightly,
Till Truth had determined · the tale of their trespass.
That the profession plainly · pertaineth to knights;
Not to fast on one Friday · in five score winters,
But hold with him and with her · that desireth all truth
And never leave them for love · nor for seizing of silver.

`For David in his days · dubbed knights,
And swore them on their swords · to serve Truth ever;
And whoso passed that point · apostate was from the order.

`But Christ, king of all kings · ten orders knighted,
Cherubim and Seraphim · seven such and one other,
And gave them might of his majesty · the merrier they thought it;
And over his common court · made them archangels,
Taught them by the Trinity · the truth to know
And to bow to his bidding · he bade them naught else.

`Lucifer with his legions · learned it in Heaven,
But because he obeyed not · his bliss he did lose,
And fell from that fellowship · in a fiend’s likeness
Into a deep dark hell · to dwell there for ever;
And more thousands with him · than man could number

Leapt out with Lucifer · in loathly form:
For they believed in him · that lied in this manner —

Ponam pedem in alquilone, et similis ero altissimo.

`And all that hoped it might be so · no Heaven might hold them;
They fell out in fiend’s likeness · nine days together,
Till God of his goodness · steadied and stayed
Made the heavens to be shut · and stand so in quiet.’When these wicked went out · wonderwise they fell;
Some in air, some in earth · and some in deep hell;
But Lucifer lowest · lieth of them all.
For the pride he put on · his pain hath no end;
And all that work wrong · wander they shall
After their death day · and dwell with that wretch.
But those that work well · as holy writ telleth,
And end, as I have said · in truth, that is best,
May be sure that their soul · shall wend to Heaven,
Where Truth is in Trinity · and enthroneth them all.
Therefore I say, as I said · in sight of these texts,
When all treasures are tried · Truth is the best.
Learn these unlearned · for lettered men know it,
That Truth is treasure · the best tried on earth.’

`Yet have I no natural knowing,’ quoth I · ‘ye must teach me better,
By what craft of my body · begins it, and where.’

`Thou doting duffer,’ quoth she · ‘dull are thy wits;
Too little Latin thou learnest · man, in thy youth;

Heu mihi, quod sterilem duxi vitam juvenilem!

`It is natural knowing,’ quoth she · ‘that teacheth thine heart
For to love thy good Lord · liefer than thyself;
No deadly sin to do · die though thou shouldest:
This I trow to be Truth · who can teach thee better,
See you suffer him to say · and then teach it after.
For thus witnesseth his words · work thou thereafter;
For Truth telleth that Love · is the remedy of Heaven;
No sin may be seen in him · that useth that sort,
And all his works he wrought · with Love as he listed;
And taught it Moses for the best thing · and most like to Heaven
With the plant of peace · most precious of virtues.`For Heaven might not hold it · so heavy of itself,
Till it had of the earth · eaten its fill.
`And when it had of this fold · flesh and blood taken,

Never was leaf upon linden · lighter thereafter,
And pricking and piercing · as the point of a needle,
That no armour might stay it · nor any high walls.

`Therefore is Love leader · of the Lord’s folk of Heaven,
And a mean, as the mayor is · between king and commons;
Right so is Love a leader · and the law shapeth,
Upon man for his misdeeds · he fixeth the fine.
And for to know it by nature · it springeth in might,
In the heart is its head · and there its well-spring.

`For in natural knowing · there might beginneth
That comes from the Father · that formed us all,
Looked on us with love and · let his Son die
Meekly for our misdeeds · to amend us all;
And yet would he them no woe · that wrought him that pain,
But meekly with his mouth · mercy he besought
To have pity of that people · that pained him to death.

`Here might thou see examples · in himself alone,
That he was mightful and meek · and mercy did grant
To them that hanged him on high · and pierced his heart.

* * *

`Love is leech of life · and next our Lord’s self,
And also the right road · that runneth unto Heaven;
Therefore I say as I said · before by the texts,
When all treasures be tried · Truth is the best.
Now have I told thee what Truth is · that no treasure is better;
I may linger no longer thee with · now look on thee our Lord!’

 

From Passus 5

PIERS PLOWMAN SHOWS THE WAY TO SAINT TRUTH

 

Then grasped Hope an horn · of Deus, tu conversus vivificabis nos,
And blew it with Beati quorum · remissae sunt iniquitate
So that all saints in Heaven · sang loudly together:

Homines & jumenta salvabis, quem admodum misericordiam tuam, Deus, etc.

A thousand men then · came thronging together,
Who cried upward to Christ · and to his clean Mother
To have grace to go with them · Truth for to seek.But there was no wight so wise that · he knew the way thither
But blundered like beasts · over banks and on hills
A long time, till ’twas late · that they a man met See page 203.

Apparelled as a Paynim · in a pilgrim’s wise.
He bare a staff bound · with a broad strip
In bindweed wise · wound about.
A bowl and a bag · he bare by his side;
An hundred ampullas · on his hat set,
Signs of Sinai · and shells of Galicia,
Many a cross on his cloak · keys also of Rome
And the vernicle in front · so that men should know
And see by his signs what · shrines he had sought.This folk asked him first · from whence he did come.

`From Sinai,’ he said · `and from our Lord’s sepulchre;
Bethlehem and Babylon · I have been in both;
In Armenia, in Ajexandria · and many other places.
Ye may see by my signs · that sit on my hat
That I’ve walked full wide · in wet and in dry,
And have sought good saints · for my soul’s health.’

`Knowest thou aught of a saint · that men call Truth?
Could’st thou show us the way · where that wight dwelleth?’

`Nay, so help me · God!’ said the man then,
`I saw never palmer · with pike nor with scrip
Ask after him, till · now in this place.’

`Peter!” quoth a plowman · and put forth his head,
`I know him as well · as a clerk doth his books.
Conscience and Mother-Wit · made known his place
And made me swear surely · to serve him for ever
Both in sowing and setting · so long as I work.
I have been his follower · all these ffty winters,
Both sown his seed · and driven his beasts,
And watched over his profit · within and without.
I dike and I delve · and do what Truth biddeth:
Sometimes I sow · and sometimes I thresh;
In tailor’s and tinker’s craft · what Truth can devise;
I weave and I wind · and do what Truth biddeth.
For though I say it myself · I serve him to his pleasure;
I have good hire of him · and oftentimes more.
He is the readiest payer · that a poor man knoweth;
He withholds not his hire · from his servants at even.
He is lowly as a lamb · and lovely of speech,
And if ye are wishful to know · where that he dwelleth,
I shall show you surely · the way to his place.’

`Yea, dear Piers,’ quoth these pilgrims · and proffered him hire
For to wend with them · to Truth’s dwelling-place.`Nay, by my soul’s health!’ quoth Piers · and began for to swear,
`! woould not take a farthing · for Saint Tbomas’s shrine!
Truth Would love me the less · a long time thereafter!

`But if ye will to wend well · this is the way thither,
That I shall say to you · and set you in the path.
Ye must go through Meekness · both men and their wives,
Till ye come into Conscience · let Christ know the truth
That ye love our lord God · the best of all things;
And then your neighbours next · in no wise use
Otherwise than thou wouldest · be wrought to thyself.

`And so bend round by a brook · Be-humble-of-speech,
Till ye find a ford called · Honour-your-fathers:

Honora patrem et matrem, etc.

Wade in that water · and wash you well there,
And you shall leap the lighter · all your lifetime.
And so shalt thou see Swear-not- · but-it-be-for-need-
Especially-not-idly- · by-God-Almighty’s-name.`Then shalt thou come by a croft · but come not therein;
That croft is called Covet-not- · men’s-cattle-nor-their-wives-
Nor-none-of-their-servants- · that-might-them-annoy.
Look ye break no boughs there · unless it be your own.

`Two stocks there standeth · but stay ye not there;
They’re called Steal-not and Slay-not · strike forth by both
And leave them on thy left hand · and look not thereafter
But hold well thine holiday · holy till even.

`Then shalt thou turn at a tump · Bear-no-false-witness
He is fenced with florins · and other fees many;
Look that thou pluck no plant there · for peril of thy soul;

`Then shall ye see Say-sooth- · as-it-is-to-be-done-
And-in-no-manner-else- · for-any-man’s-bidding.

`Then shalt thou come to a court · as clear as the sun;
The moat is of Mercy · the manor about,
And its walls are of Wit · to hold the Will out,
Crenellated with Christendom · mankind to save,
Buttressed with Believe-so- · or-thou-beest-not-saved.
And all the houses are covered · the halls and the chambers,
With no lead but with Love · and Low-speech-of-brethren.
The bridge is of Pray-well- · the-better-mayest-thou-speed;
Each pillar is of Penance · and of Prayers to saints;

Of alms-deeds are the hooks · whereon the gates hang.`Grace is the gateward · a good man forsooth;
His man is Amend-you · many men him know:
Tell him this token · that Truth may know sooth:
“I performed the penance · the priest me enjoined,
And full sorry for my sins · and so shall be ever
When I think thereon · though I were a pope.”

`Bid Amend-you full meekly · his master to ask
To draw up the wicket · that the woman shut
When Adam and Eve · ate apples unroasted:

Per Evam cunctis clausa est, & per Mariam virginem iterem patefacia est.

For he hath key and catch · though the king sleep.`And if Grace grant thee · to go in this wise,
Thou shalt see in thyself · Truth sit in thine heart
In a chain of charity · as thou a child were
To suffer him and say naught · against thy Sire’s will.

* * *

`Now, by Christ!’ quoth a cutpurse · ‘I have no kin here!’
`Nor I,’ quoth an apeward · `for aught that I know!’
`God knows,’ quoth a waferer · `knew I this for sooth

I’d go no foot further · for any friar’s preaching.’`Yes,’ quoth Piers the Plowman · and pushed them towards good,
`Mercy is a maiden there · hath might over all;
She is cousin.to all sinners · and her Son also;
Through help of them two · (hope not in none other)
Thou might get grace there · if thou go betimes.’

`By Saint Paul,’ quoth a pardoner · `perchance I’m not known there.
I’ll fetch my box with my briefs · bishop’s letters and a bull!’
‘By Christ!’ quoth a common woman · `thy company I’ll follow,
Thou shalt say I’m thy sister · I know not where they’ve gone!’

 

Passus 6

THE PLOWING OF PIER’S HALF-ACRE

 

`THIS were a wicked way · unless we had a guide
That would show us each step’ · thus these folk complained.
Quoth Perkin the plowman · ‘By Saint Peter of Rome!
I’ve an half acre to plow · hard by the highway.
Had I plowed this half acre · and sown it after,
I would wend then with you · and show you the way.’
`This were long delay’ · quoth a dame in a veil,
`What should we women · work at meanwhile?’

`Some shall sew sacks,’ quoth Piers · ‘for sheltering the wheat;
And ye, lovely ladies · with your long fingers,
Have silk and sendal · to sew, while there’s time,
Chasubles for chaplains · churches to honour.
Wives and widows · wool and flax spin;
Make cloth, I counsel you · and so teach your daughters.
The needy and naked · take heed how they lie
And contrive for them clothes · for so commands Truth.
I shall get them livelihood · unless the land fails,
Flesh and bread both · to rich and to poor,
As long as I live · for the Lord’s love of Heaven.
And all manner of men · that by meat and drink live,
Help ye them to work well · that win you your food.’

`By Christ!’ quoth a knight then · ‘he teaches the best;
But on this theme truly · taught was I never.
Teach me,’ quoth the knight · `and, by Christ, I will try!’

`By Saint Paul!’ quoth Perkin · `ye proffer so fairly
That I’ll swink and sweat · and sow for us both,
And other labours do for thy love · all my lifetime,
In covenant that thou keep · Holy Church and myself
From wasters and wicked men · that this world destroy.
And go and hunt hardily · for hares and for foxes,
For boars and for badgers · that break down mine hedges;
And go train thy falcons · wildfowl to kill,
For such come to my croft · and crop off my wheat.’

Courteously the knight then · answered these words:
‘By my powers, Piers,’ quoth he · ‘I plight thee my troth

That pact to fulfil · though for it I fight;
As long as I live · I shall thee maintain.’`Yea; yet one point,’ quoth Piers · `I pray of you more.
Look ye sue no tenant · unless Truth assent.
Though he may amerce them · let Mercy be taxer
And Meekness thy master · in spite of Meed’s checks.
And though poor men proffer you · presents and gifts,
Take it not; for perchance · ye may not deserve it,
And then must repay it · again at a year’s end
In a full perilous place · purgatory called.
Mishandle not bondmen · the better may thou speed.
Though he be underling here · well may happen in heaven
That he’ll be worthier set · more blissful than thou,
Unless thou do better · and live as thou shouldest:

Amice, ascends superius.

`In the charnel at church · churls are hard to pick out,
Or a knight from a knave · know this in thine heart.
See thou’rt true of thy tongue · and tales that thou hate,
Unless they have wisdom · to chasten thy workmen.
Hold with no rascals · and hear not their tales,
Especially at meat · such men eschew;
They’re the devil’s minstrels · I bid thee to know.’`I assent, by St James!’ · said the knight then,
`For to work by thy words · while my life endures.’

`And I shall apparel me,’ quoth Perkyn · ‘in pilgrim’s wise,
And wend with you I will · till we find Truth;
Put on me my clothes · patched-up and ragged,
My leggings and mittens · ‘gainst cold of my nails,
Hang my seed basket at my neck · instead of a scrip,
And a bushel of breadcorn · bring me therein;
For I will sow it myself · and then will I wend
To pilgrimage as palmers do · pardon for to have.
Who will help me to plow · or to sow ere I wend
Shall have leave, by our Lord! · to glean here in harvest
And with it make himself merry · spite of who may begrudge it.
And all kinds of craftsmen · who will honestly live,
I shall find them food · that faithfully work.
Save Jack the juggler · and Janet of the stews,
Daniel the dicer · and Denot the bawd,
All lying friars · and folk of their order,
And Robin the ribald · for his smutty words —

Truth told me once and · bade me repeat it:
Deleantur de libro viventium · I’ll not deal with them,
For Holy Church of their like · is told no tithe to take:

Qui cum justis non scribantur;

By good luck they’ve escaped · now God them amend!’Dame Work-while-time-is · Pier’s wife was called;
His daughter, Do-right-so- · or-thy-dame-shall-thee-beat;
His son, Suffer-thy-sovereigns- · to-have-their-will-
Judge-them-not-for-if-thou-dost- · thou-shalt-it-dearly-rue.
`May God be with all · for so his word teacheth.
For now I am hoary and old · and have goods of mine own
To penance and pilgrimage · I will pass with these others.
Wherefore ere I wend · I’ll write out my bequest.

`In Dei nomine. Amen · I make it myself.
He shall have my soul · that best hath deserved it
And if from the fiend will defend · for so I believe,
Till I come to his account · as my Credo me telleth,
To have release and remission · on that rental, I hope.
The church shall have my corpse · and keep all my bones,
For of my corn and cattle · she gathered the tithe.
I paid parson promptly · for peril of my soul;
So is he holden, I hope · to name me in his mass
And make a memento · among other Christians.

`My wife shall have my · honest gains and no more,
To share with my daughters · and my dear children.
For should I today die · all my debts are quit;
I bore back what I borrowed · ere I to bed went.
And with the residue and remnant · by the Rood of Lucca!
I will worship therewith Truth, · while I live,
And be his pilgrim at plow · for all poor men’s sake.
My plow-foot shall be my pike-staff · and pick apart the roots
And help my coulter to carve · and clean up the furrows.’

Now is Perkin and his pilgrims · to the plow gone;
To plow his half acre · helped him many.
Ditchers and delvers · digged up the balks;
Therewith Perkin was pleased · and praised them soon.
Other workmen there were · that worked eagerly;
Each man in his manner · made himself busy,
And some to please Perkin · piked up the weeds.

At high prime-tide Piers · let the plow stand,

To oversee them himself · and whoso worked best
Should be hired thereafter · when harvest time came.Then sat down some · and sang over the ale
And helped plow his half acre · with `Ho, trollo-lolli!’

`On peril of my soul!’ quoth Piers · out of pure anger,
‘Unless ye rise swiftly · and speed you to work,
Shall no grain that groweth · gladden you at need,
And though ye die for dole · devil take him who cares.’

The false fellows were afeared · and feigned themselves blind;
Some laid their legs awry · in the way such louts know,
And made their moan to Piers · and prayed of him grace;
`For we have no limbs to labour with · Lord, thanked be thee!
But we pray for you, Piers · and for your plow too,
That God of his grace · your grain multiply
And yield to you for your alms · that ye give us here;
For we can not Swink nor sweat · such sickness us aileth.’

`If it be sooth,’ quoth Piers, ‘that ye say · I shall soon it espy.
Ye be wasters, I wot well · and Truth wots the sooth!
I am his old hind · and am bidden by him to wam
Those in this world · who have harmed his workmen.
Ye waste what men win · with travail and trouble,
But Truth shall teach you · his plow-team to drive,
Or ye shall eat barley bread · and of the brook drink.
But if one be blind, broken-legged · or bolted with irons,
He shall eat wheat bread · and drink with myself,
Till God of his goodness · amendment him send.
But ye might travail as Truth wills · and take meat and hire
To keep kine in the field · the corn from the beasts,
To dike or to delve · or thresh out the sheaves,
Or help to make mortar · or bear muck afield.
In lechery and in lying · ye live, and in sloth,
And it is on sufferance · that vengeance is not taken.
But anchorites and hermits · that eat not but at noon,
And no more ere the morrow · mine alms shall they have,
And my goods shall clothe those · that have cloisters and churches.
But Robert the runabout · shall have naught of mine,
Nor friars; unless they preach well · and have leave of the bishop —
These shall have bread and pottage · and make themselves at ease:
‘Tis an unreasonable religion · hath right naught to depend on.’
Then a waster was wrath · and so would have fought,

And to Piers the Plowman · he proffered his glove.
A Breton, a braggart · at Piers boasted too;
Bade him piss with his plow · for a starveling wretch!
`Willy or nilly · we will have our will;
Of thy flour and thy flesh · fetch when us like
And make merry therewith · despite thy accounts.’Then Piers the Plowman · complained to the knight
To keep him, as covenant was · from cursed wretches
And from these wolfish wasters · that do the world harm:
`For they waste and win naught · and meanwhile there’ll be
No plenty for the people · while my plow be idle.’

Courteously the knight then · as his nature was,
Warned the waster · and told him to mend:
`Or, by the order I bear · thou shalt suffer the law!’

‘I was not wont to work,’ quoth Waster · `and now will not begin’ —
And made light of the law · and less of the knight,
Set Piers and his plow · at the price of a pea
And menaced Pier’s men · if they met again soon.

`Now by peril of my soul · I shall punish you all!’
Piers whooped after Hunger · who heard him at once.
‘Avenge me,’ quoth he, ‘on these wasters · who worry the world!’

Hunger in haste then · seized Waste by the maw
And wrung him so by the belly · that both his eyes watered;
The Breton he buffeted · about the cheeks
That he looked lantern-jawed · all his life after.
He beat them so both · that he near burst their ribs;
Had not Piers with a pease-loaf · prayed Hunger to cease
They had been buried both · believe thou none other!
`Suffer them to live,’ he said · `let them eat with the hogs
Or else beans and bran · baked up together,
Or else milk and mean ale’ · thus prayed Piers for them.

Loungers for fear thereof · fled into barns
And flapped on with flails · from morning till eve,
So that Hunger less hardily · looked upon them,
For a potful of pease · that Piers had made.
A heap of hermits · hung on to spades
And cut up their capes · to make themselves coats,
And went out as workmen · with spades and with shovels
To dig and to delve to drive away hunger.

The blind and bedridden · were bettered by thousands;
Those that sat to beg silver · soon were they healed;

For what was baked for a horse · was a boon for the hungry,
And many a beggar for beans · glad was to sweat,
And each poor man was well pleased · to have pease for his hire;
And what Piers prayed them to do · they did swift as a sparhawk.
Thereof was Piers proud · and put them to work,
Gave them meat as he might · and a moderate hire.Then had Piers pity · and prayed Hunger to wend
Home into his own place · and holden him there.
`For I am well avenged now · of wasters, through thy might.
But I pray thee, ere thou pass · quoth Piers to Hunger,
`With beggars and bidders · what’s best to be done?
For I wot well, when thou’rt gone · they will work full ill;
For misfortune makes them · to be so meek now
And for default of their food · this folk is at my will.
They’re my brethren by blood · for God bought us all.
Truth taught me once · to love them each one
And to help them in all things · always, as they need.
And now would I know of thee · what were the best,
How I might master them · and make them to work.’

‘Hear now,’ quoth Hunger · `and hold it for wisdom:
Bold beggars and big · that might earn bread by work,
With hounds’ bread and horse bread · hold up their hearts,
Abate them with beans · to keep down their bellies;
And if grumblers grouse · bid them go work,
And they shall sup sweeter · when they’ve it deserved.

`And if thou find any fellow · that any false man
Or fortune hath injured · find how such to know!
Comfort him with thy goods · for Christ’s love of Heaven,
Love them and lend to them · so God’s law teacheth:

Alter alterius onera portate.

And all manner of man · that thou mayest espy
That be needy and have naught · help them with thy goods;
Love them and loathe them not · let God take the vengeance;
If they’ve done thee evil · let thou God alone;

Mihi vindicta, & ego retribuam.

If thou wilt be gracious before God · do as the gospel teacheth,
And be loved among lowly men · so shalt thou have grace,

Facite vobis amicos de mamona iniquitatis.’

`I would not grieve God · for all the goods on ground.
Might I do as thou sayest and be sinless?’ · said Piers then.
`Yea, I promise thee,’ quoth Hunger · or else the Bible lieth.

Go to Genesis the giant · engenderer of us all:
In sudore and swink · thou shalt earn thy meat
And labour for livelihood” · and so our Lord bade.
And Wisdom saith the same · I saw it in the Bible:
Piger prae frigore · no field would till,
Therefore shall he beg and bid and no man cure his hunger.”`Matthew-with-man’s-face · mouthed these words,
That servus nequam had a coin · and as he would not chaffer
Had rebuke of his master · for evermore after;
Who because he would work not · took away his coin
And gave that coin to him · that ten others had;
And with that he said so · that Holy Church heard:
“He that hath shall have · and be helped when he needeth,
And he that naught hath shall naught have · and no man him help;
And of that he weeneth to have · I will him bereave.”

`Mother-Wit wisheth · that each wight should work
In diking or in delving · or travailing in prayers;
At contemplative or active life · Christ would that men work,
The psalter saith in the psalm · of Beati omnes,
He that feedeth himself · with his faithful labour
He is blessed by the Book · in body and in soul:

Labores manuum tuarum, etc.’

‘Yet I pray you,’ quoth Piers `par charité, · if ye know
Any line of leechcraft · teach it me, my dear.
For some of my servants · and myself also
For all a week work not · so our belly acheth.’`I wot well,’ quoth Hunger · `what sickness you aileth;
You have munched overmuch · and that maketh you groan.
But I bid thee,’ quoth Hunger · `as thou thine health willest,
That thou drink not each day · ere thou dine somewhat.
Eat naught, I command thee · ere hunger thee take
And send thee of his sauce · to savour thy lips;
And keep some till supper-time · and sit not too long,
Rise up ere appetite · have eaten his fill.
Let not Sir Surfeit · sit at thy board;
Listen not, for he is lecherous · and lickerish of tongue,
After many manner of meats · his maw is anhungered.

`And if thou diet thee thus · I dare lay none ears
That Physic his furred hoods · for his food shall sell,
And his Calabrian cloak · with the knots of gold,
And be fain, by my faith · his physic to leave

And learn to labour on land · for livelihood’s sweet.
For murderers are many leeches · the Lord them amend!
Making men die through their drinks · ere destiny wills.”By St Paul,’ quoth Piers · ‘these are profitable words!
Wend thou, Hunger, when thou wilt · and well be thou ever.
For this lovely lesson may the Lord · requite thee.’

`I swear to God,’ quoth Hunger · `hence will I not wend
Till I have dined this day · and drunken also.’

`I have no penny,’ quoth Piers · `pullets for to buy,
Nor neither geese nor pigs · but two green cheeses,
A few curds and cream · and an oaten cake,
And two loaves of beans and bran · baked for my youngsters.
And yet I say, by my soul · I have no salt bacon;
Nor no hen’s eggs, by Christ · collops for to make.
But I have parsley and leeks · with many cabbages,
And a cow and a calf · a cart-mare also
To draw dung afield · while the drought lasteth.
With this for our living we must live · until Lammas time come,
And by that I hope I have · harvest in my croft;
Then may I make thee thy dinner · as I’d like to dearly.’
All the poor people then · their peascods fetched,
Beans and baked apples · they brought in their laps,
Onions and cherviis · and many ripe cherries,
And proffered Piers this present · wherewith to please Hunger.

Hunger ate all in haste · and asked after more.
Then poor folk for fear · fed Hunger quickly;
With green leeks and pease · to poison him they sought.
By that it nighed near harvest · new corn came to market;
Then were folk fain · and fed Hunger with the best,
With good ale, as Glutton taught · and made Hunger go sleep.

Then would Waster not work · but wandered about,
Nor no beggar eat bread · that had beans therein
But asked for the best · white, made of clean wheat;
Nor none halfpenny ale · in no wise would drink,
But of the best and the brownest · for sale in the borough.

Labourers that have no land · to live on but their hands
Deigned not to dine at day · on worts a night old.
May no penny ale please them · nor no piece of bacon,
Only fresh flesh or fish · fried, roast, or baked,
And that chaud or plus chaud · ‘gainst chilling their maw.

He must be hired at a high rate · else will he chide,
And wail at the time · when he was workman made;
And against Cato’s counsel · begins he to rail:

Paupertatis onus patienter ferre memento.

He has grievances against God · and grumbles against Reason;
Then curseth he the king · and all his counsel after
For licensing laws that · labourers grieve.
But while Hunger was their master · then would none of them chide
Nor strive against his statute · so sternly he looked.But I warn you, workmen · earn while ye may,
For Hunger hitherward · hasteth him fast,
He shall awake with water · wasters to chasten.
Ere five years be fulfilled · such famine shall arise,
Through floods and foul weather · all fruits shall fail.
So said planet Saturn · and sent to warn you:
When ye see the sun gone amiss · and heads of two monks,
And a Maid have the mastery · and multiply by eight,
Then shall Death withdraw him · and Dearth be the judge,
And Davy the ditcher · shall die of hunger,
Unless God of his goodness · do grant us a truce.

 

From Passus 7

PIERS TEARS TRUTH’S PARDON

 

TRUTH hereof heard tell · and to Piers he sent,
To take him his team · and to till the earth;
And provided a pardon · a poena et a culpa
For him, and for his heirs · for evermore after.
And bade him hold him at home · and plow up his fields,
And all that helped him to plow · to set or to sow,
Or any other work · that might Piers avail,
Pardon with Piers Plowman · Truth them hath granted.

* * *

`Piers,’ quoth a priest then · `thy pardon must I read,
For I will construe each clause · and tell it in English.’

And Piers at his prayer · the pardon unfoldeth,
And I behind both · beheld all the bull.
All in two lines it lay · and not a leaf more,
And was written right thus · in witness of Truth:

Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in vitam aeternam;
qui vero mala, in ignem aeternum.

`Peter!’ quoth the priest then · `I can no pardon find
But “Do well and have well · and God shall have thy soul;
But do evil and have evil · and after thy death-day
The Devil have thy soul · hope thou none other.”‘And Piers in vexation · tore it in twain,
And said: `Si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis non timebo mala:
quoniam tu mecum es.

`I shall cease from my sowing · and swink not so hard,
Nor about my belly-joy · so busy be more.
Of prayers and of penance · shall my plow be hereafter,
And I’ll weep when I should sleep · though my wheat-bread fail.
The prophet his bread ate · in penance and sorrow,
And by what psalter saith · so did many others;
Whoso loveth God loyally · can live upon little:

Fuerunt mihi lacrimae meae panes die ac nocte.

`And, unless Saint Luke lie · he shows by the birds
We should not be too busy · about the world’s bliss.
Ne solliciti sitis · he saith in the gospel,
And sheweth us by examples · our own selves to guide.
The fowls in the fields · who feeds them in winter?
They’ve no garner to go to · God finds for them all.”What!’ quoth priest to Perkin · `Peter! as methinketh,
Thou art lettered a little · who learned thee thy book?’

`Abstinence the abbess,’ quoth Piers · ‘mine A B C taught me,
And Conscience came after · and taught me much more.’

`Wert thou priest, Piers,’ quoth he · ‘thou mightest preach where thou wouldest,
As a divine in divinity · with dixit insipiens for theme.’

`Ignorant fool!’ quoth Piers · `little lookest thou on the Bible,
And the saws of Solomon · seldom thou seest:

Ejice derisores etjurgia cum eis, ne crescant, etc.’

Thus the priest and Perkin · opposed one to the other.

Piers The Plowman, Passus VII, p. 64

Through their words I awoke · and looked about
And saw the sun in the south · set at that time,
Meatless and moneyless · on Malvern hills
And musing on this vision · I went on my way.

 

From The C-Text

[THE DREAMER MEETS CONSCIENCE AND REASON]

Thus I awoke, as God’s my witness, when I lived in Cornhill,
Kit and I in a cottage, clothed like a loller,
And little beloved, believe you me,
Among lollers of London and illiterate hermits.
For I wrote rhymes of those men as Reason taught me.
For as I came by Conscience I met with Reason,
In a hot harvest time when I had my health,
And limbs to labor with, and loved good living,
And to do no deed but to drink and sleep.
My body sound, my mind sane, a certain one accosted me;
Roaming in remembrance, thus Reason upbraided me:
“Can you serve,’ he said, “or sing in a church?
Or cock hay with my hay-makers, or heap it on the cart,
Mow it or stack what’s mown or make binding for sheaves?
Or have a horn and be a hedge-guard and lie outdoors at night,
And keep my corn in my field from cattle and thieves?
Or cut cloth or shoe-leather, or keep sheep and cattle,
Mend hedges, or harrow, or herd pigs or geese,
Or any other kind of craft that the commons needs,
So that you might be of benefit to your bread-providers?”
“Certainly!” I said, “and so God help me,
am too weak to work with sickle or with scythe,
And too long,’ believe me, for any low stooping,
Or laboring as a laborer to last any while.”
“Then have you lands to live by,” said Reason, “or relations with
Money”
To provide you with food? For you seem an idle man,
A spendthrift who thrives on spending, and throws time away.
Or else you get what food men give you going door to door,
Or beg like a fraud on Fridays! and feastdays in churches.
And that’s a loller’s life that earns little praise
Where Rightfulness rewards men as they really deserve.
He shall reward every man according to his works.
Or are you perhaps lame in your legs or other limbs of your body,
Or maimed through some misadventure, so that you might be excused?”
“When I was young, many years ago,
My father and my friends provided me with schooling,
Till I understood surely what Holy Scripture meant,
And what is best for the body as the Book tells,
And most certain for the soul, if so I may continue.
And, in faith, I never found, since my friends died,
Life that I liked save in these long clothes.
And if I must live by labor and earn my livelihood,
The labor I should live by is the one I learned best.
[Abide] in the same calling wherein you were called.
And so I live in London and upland’ as well.
The tools that I toil with to sustain myself
Are Paternoster and my primer, Placebo and Dirige,
And sometimes my Psalter and my seven Psalms.
These I say for the souls of such as help me.
And those who provide my food vouchsafe, I think,
To welcome me when I come, once a month or so,
Now with him, now with her, and in this way I beg
Without bag or bottle but my belly alone.
And also, moreover, it seems to me, sir Reason,
No clerk should be constrained to do lower-class work.
For by the law of Leviticus’ that our Lord ordained
Clerks with tonsured crowns should, by common understanding,
Neither strain nor sweat nor swear at inquests,
Nor fight in a vanguard and defeat an enemy:
Do not render evil for evil.
For they are heirs of Heaven, all that have the tonsure,
And in choir and in churches they are Christ’s ministers.
The Lord is the portion of my inheritance.
And elsewhere, Mercy does not constrain.”
It is becoming for clerks to perform Christ’s service,
And untonsured boys be burdened with bodily labor.
For none should acquire clerk’s tonsure unless he claims descent
From franklins! and free men and folk properly wedded.
Bondmen and bastards and beggars’ children—
These belong to labor; and lords’ kin should serve
God and good men as their degree requires,
Some to sing Masses or sit and write,
Read and receive what Reason ought to spend.
But since bondmen’s boys have been made bishops,
And bastards’ boys have been archdeacons,
And shoemakers and their sons have through silver become knights,
And lords’ sons their laborers whose lands are mortgaged to then—
And thus for the right of this realm they ride against our enemies
To the comfort of the commons and to the king’s honor—
And monks and nuns on whom mendicants must depend
Have had their kin named knights and bought knight’s-fees,
And popes and patrons have shunned poor gentle blood
And taken the sons of Simon Magus to keep the sanctuary,
Life-holiness and love have gone a long way hence,
And will be so till this is all worn out or otherwise changed.
Therefore proffer me no reproach, Reason, I pray you,
For in my conscience I conceive what Christ wants me to do.
Prayers of a perfect man and appropriate penance
Are the labor that our Lord loves most of all.
Non de solo,” I said, “forsooth vivit homo,
Nec in pane et in pabulo; the Paternoster witnesses
Fiat voluntas Dei—that provides us with everything.”
Said Conscience, “By Christ, I can’t see that this lies;
But it seems no serious perfectness to be a city-beggar,
Unless you’re licensed to collect for prior or monastery.”
“That is so,” I said, “and so I admit
That at times I’ve lost time and at times misspent it;
And yet I hope, like him who has often bargained
And always lost and lost, and at the last it happened
He bought such a bargain he was the better ever,
That all his loss looked paltry in the long run,
Such a winning was his through what grace decreed.
The kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hidden in a field. The woman who found the piece of silver, etc.
So I hope to have of him that is almighty
A gobbet of his grace, and begin a time
That all times of my time shall turn into profit.”
“And I counsel you,” said Reason, “quickly to begin
The life that is laudable and reliable for the soul.”
“Yes, and continue,” said Conscience, and I came to the church.


Source Text:

Langland, William. “William Langland: Piers Plowman.” The Geoffrey Chaucer Page, 02 May 2006, is licensed under no known copyright.

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