William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
William Langland

Passus 6

"This were a wikkede wey but whoso hadde a gyde
     6.001
That [myghte] folwen us ech a foot'--thus this folk hem mened.
     6.002
Quod Perkyn the Plowman, " By Seint Peter of Rome!
     6.003
I have an half acre to erie by the heighe weye;
     6.004
Hadde I cryed this half acre and sowen it after,
     6.005
I wolde wende with yow and the wey teche.'
     6.006
"This were a long lettyng,' quod a lady in a scleyre; Page  66
     6.007
"What sholde we wommen werche the while?'
     6.008
"Somme shul sowe the sak ' quod Piers, " for shedyng of the whete;
     6.009
And ye lovely ladies with youre longe fyngres,
     6.010
That ye have silk and sandel to sowe whan tyme is
     6.011
Chesibles for chapeleyns chirches to honoure.
     6.012
Wyves and widewes, wolle and flex spynneth:
     6.013
Maketh cloth, I counseille yow, and kenneth so youre doughtres.
     6.014
The nedy and the naked, nymeth hede how thei liggeth,
     6.015
And casteth hem clothes, for so commaundeth Truthe.
     6.016
For I shal lenen hem liflode, but if the lond faille,
     6.017
As longe as I lyve, for the Lordes love of hevene.
     6.018
And alle manere of men that by mete and drynke libbeth,
     6.019
Helpeth hym to werche wightliche that wynneth youre foode.'
     6.020
"By Crist!' quod a knyght thoo, "he kenneth us the beste;
     6.021
Ac on the teme, trewely, taught was I nevere.
     6.022
Ac kenne me,' quod the knyght, "and by Crist I wole assaye!'
     6.023
"By Seint Poul!' quod Perkyn, "Ye profre yow so faire
     6.024
That I shal swynke and swete and sowe for us bothe,
     6.025
And [ek] labour[e] for thi love al my lif tyme,
     6.026
In covenaunt that thow kepe Holy Kirke and myselve
     6.027
Fro wastours and fro wikked men that this world destruyeth;
     6.028
And go hunte hardiliche to hares and foxes,
     6.029
To bores and to bukkes that breken down myne hegges;
     6.030
And go affaite thi faucons wilde foweles to kille,
     6.031
For thei cometh to my croft and croppeth my whete.'
     6.032
Curteisly the knyght thanne co[nseyved] thise wordes:
     6.033
"By my power, Piers, I plighte thee my trouthe
     6.034
To fulfille this forward, though I fighte sholde;
     6.035
Als longe as I lyve I shal thee mayntene.'
     6.036
" Ye, and yet a point,' quod Piers, "I preye yow of moore: Page  67
     6.037
Loke ye tene no tenaunt but Truthe wole assente;
     6.038
And though ye mowe amercy hem, lat mercy be taxour
     6.039
And mekenesse thi maister, maugree Medes chekes.
     6.040
And though povere men profre yow presentes and yiftes,
     6.041
Nyme it noght, an aventure thow mowe it noght deserve;
     6.042
For thow shalt yelde it ayein at one yeres ende
     6.043
In a ful perilous place--Purgatorie it hatte.
     6.044
And mysbede noght thi bondemen--the bettre may thow spede;
     6.045
Though he be thyn underlyng here, wel may happe in hevene
     6.046
That he worth worthier set and with moore blisse:
     6.047
Amice, ascende superius.
     6.047
For in charnel at chirche cherles ben yvel to knowe,
     6.048
Or a knyght from a knave there--knowe this in thyn herte.
     6.049
And that thow be trewe of thi tonge, and tales that thow hatie,
     6.050
But if thei ben of wisdom or of wit, thi werkmen to chaste.
     6.051
Hold with none harlotes ne here noght hir tales,
     6.052
And namely at the mete swiche men eschuwe--
     6.053
For it ben the develes disours, I do the to understonde.'
     6.054
"I assente, by Seint Jame,' seide the knyght thanne,
     6.055
"For to werche by thi wordes the while my lif dureth.'
     6.056
"And I shal apparaille me,' quod Perkyn, "in pilgrymes wise
     6.057
And wende with yow I wile til we fynde Truthe.'
     6.058
[He] caste on [hise] clothes, yclouted and hole,
     6.059
[Hise] cokeres and [hise] coffes for coId of [hise] nailes,
     6.060
And [heng his] hoper at [his] hals in stede of a scryppe: Page  68
     6.061
"A busshel of bred corn brynge me therinne,
     6.062
For I wol sowe it myself, and sithenes wol I wende
     6.063
To pilgrymage as palmeres doon, pardon for to have.
     6.064
And whoso helpeth me to erie or sowen here er I wende,
     6.065
Shal have leve, by Oure Lord, to lese here in hervest
     6.066
And make hym murie thermyd, maugree whoso bigruccheth it.
     6.067
And alle kynne crafty men that konne lyven in truthe,
     6.068
I shal fynden hem fode that feithfulliche libbeth--
     6.069
Save Jakke the Jogelour and Jonette of the Stuwes,
     6.070
And Danyel the Dees-pleyere and Denote the Baude,
     6.071
And Frere the Faitour, and folk of his ordre,
     6.072
And Robin the Ribaudour, for hise rusty wordes.
     6.073
Truthe tolde me ones and bad me telle it forth:
     6.074
Deleantur de libro vivencium--I sholde noght dele with hem,
     6.075
For Holy Chirche is hote, of hem no tithe to aske,
     6.076
Quia cum iustis non scribantur.
     6.076
Thei ben ascaped good aventure--now God hem amende!'
     6.077
Dame Werch-whan-tyme-is Piers wif highte;
     6.078
His doughter highte Do-right-so-or-thi-dame-shal-thee-bete;
     6.079
His sone highte Suffre-thi-Sovereyns-to-haven-hir-wille:
     6.080
Deme-hem-noght-for-if-thow-doost-thow-shalt-it-deere-abugge;
     6.081
Lat-God-yworthe-with-al-for-so-His-word-techeth.
     6.082
"For now I am old and hoor and have of myn owene,
     6.083
To penaunce and to pilgrimage I wol passe with thise othere;
     6.084
Forthi I wole er I wende do write my biqueste.
     6.085
In Dei nomine, Amen, I make it myselve.
     6.086
' He shal have my soule that best hath deserved it,
     6.087
And [defende it fro the fend], for so I bileve,
     6.088
Til I come to hise acountes as my crede me telleth, Page  69
     6.089
To have a relees and a remission--on that rental I leve.
     6.090
"The kirke shal have my caroyne, and kepe my bones,
     6.091
For of my corn and catel he craved the tithe.
     6.092
I paide it hym prestly, for peril of my soule;
     6.093
Forthi is he holden, I hope, to have me in his masse
     6.094
And mengen me in his memorie amonges alle Cristene.
     6.095
" My wif shal have of that I wan with truthe, and namoore,
     6.096
And dele among my doughtres and my deere children;
     6.097
For though I deye today, my dettes are quyte;
     6.098
I bar hom that I borwed er I to bedde yede.
     6.099
And with the residue and the remenaunt, by the Rode of Lukes!
     6.100
I wol worshipe therwith Truthe by my lyve,
     6.101
And ben His pilgrym atte plow for povere mennes sake.
     6.102
My plowpote shal be my pikstaf, and picche atwo the rotes,
     6.103
And helpe my cultour to kerve and clense the furwes.'
     6.104
Now is Perkyn and thise pilgrimes to the plow faren.
     6.105
To erie this half-acre holpen hym manye;
     6.106
Dikeres and delveres digged up the balkes;
     6.107
Therwith was Perkyn apayed and preised hem faste.
     6.108
Othere werkmen ther were that wroghten ful yerne:
     6.109
Ech man in his manere made hymself to doone,
     6.110
And somme to plese Perkyn piked up the wedes.
     6.111
At heigh prime Piers leet the plough stonde,
     6.112
To oversen hem hymself; whoso best wroghte,
     6.113
He sholde be hired therafter, whan hervest tyme come.
     6.114
Thanne seten somme and songen atte nale,
     6.115
And holpen ere this half acre with "How trol1y lolly!' Page  70
     6.116
"Now, by the peril of my soule!' quod Piers al in pure tene,
     6.117
"But ye arise the rather and rape yow to werche,
     6.118
Shal no greyn that here groweth glade yow at nede,
     6.119
And though ye deye for doel, the devel have that recche!'
     6.120
Tho were faitours afered, and feyned hem blynde;
     6.121
Somme leide hir legges aliry, as swiche losels konneth,
     6.122
And made hir [pleynt] to Piers and preide hym of grace:
     6.123
"For we have no lymes to laboure with, lord, ygraced be ye!
     6.124
Ac we preie for yow, Piers, and for youre plowgh bothe,
     6.125
That God of his grace youre greyn multiplie
     6.126
And ye1de yow of youre almesse that ye yyve us here;
     6.127
For we may neither swynke ne swete, swich siknesse us eyleth.'
     6.128
If it be sooth.' quod Piers, "that ye seyn, I shal it soone aspie.
     6.129
Ye ben wastours, I woot wel, and Truthe woot the sothe;
     6.130
And I am his olde hyne and highte hym to warne
     6.131
Whiche thei were in this world hise werkmen apeired.
     6.132
Ye wasten that men wynnen with travaille and with tene;
     6.133
Ac Truthe shal teche yow his teme to dryve,
     6.134
Or ye shul eten barly breed and of the broke drynke;
     6.135
But if he be blynd or brokelegged or bolted with irens,
     6.136
He shal ete whete breed and [with myselve drynke]
     6.137
Til God of his goodnesse garisoun] hym sende.
     6.138
Ac ye myghte travaille as Truthe wolde and take mete and hyre
     6.139
To kepe kyen in the feld, the corn fro the bestes,
     6.140
Diken or delven or dyngen upon sheves,
     6.141
Or helpe make morter or bere muk afeld.
     6.142
In lecherie and losengerie ye lyven, and in sleuthe,
     6.143
And al is thorugh suffraunce that vengeaunce yow ne taketh!
     6.144
"Ac ancres and heremites that eten but at Nones Page  71
     6.145
And na moore er morwe--myn almesse shul thei have,
     6.146
And of my catel to cope hem with that han cloistres and chirches.
     6.147
Ac Robert Renaboute shal [right] noght have of myne,
     6.148
Ne postles, but thei preche konne and have power of the bisshop:
     6.149
Thei shul have payn and potage and [put] hemself at ese--
     6.150
For it is an unresonable Religion that hath right noght of certein.'
     6.151
Thanne gan Wastour to wrathen hym and wolde have yfoughte,
     6.152
And to Piers the Plowman he profrede his glove.
     6.153
A Bretoner, a braggere, abosted Piers als
     6.154
And bad hym go pissen with his plowgh, forpynede sherewe!
     6.155
'Wiltow or neltow, we wol have oure wille
     6.156
Of thi flour and of thi flesshe--fecche whanne us liketh,
     6.157
And maken us murye thermyde, maugree thi chekes.'
     6.158
Thanne Piers the Plowman pleyned hym to the knyghte
     6.159
To kepen hym as covenaunt was fro cursede sherewes
     6.160
And fro thise wastours wolveskynnes that maketh the world deere:
     6.161
" For tho wasten and wynnen noght, and that [while ilke]
     6.162
Worth nevere pIentee among the peple the while my plowgh liggeth.'
     6.163
Curteisly the knyght thanne, as his kynde wolde,
     6.164
Warnede Wastour and wissed hym bettre:
     6.165
"Or thow shalt abigge by the lawe, by the ordre that I bere!'
     6.166
" I was noght wont to werche,' quod Wastour, "and now wol I noght bigynne! '-
     6.167
And leet light of the lawe, and lasse of the knyghte,
     6.168
And sette Piers at a pese, and his plowgh bothe,
     6.169
And manaced Piers and his men if thei mette eftsoone.
     6.170
" Now, by the peril of my soule!' quod Piers, " I shal apeire yow alle'--
     6.171
And houped after Hunger, that herde hym at the firste.
     6.172
"Awreke me of thise wastours,' quod he, "that this world shendeth!'
     6.173
Hunger in haste thoo hente Wastour by the mawe Page  72
     6.174
And wrong hym so by the wombe that al watrede hise eighen.
     6.175
He buffetted the Bretoner aboute the chekes
     6.176
That he loked lik a lanterne al his lif after.
     6.177
He bette hem so bothe, he brast ner hire guttes;
     6.178
Ne hadde Piers with a pese loot- preyed [hym bileve],
     6.179
They hadde be dolven bothe--ne deme thow noon oother.
     6.180
"Suffre hem lyve,' he seide -and lat hem etc with hogges,
     6.181
Or ellis benes and bren ybaken togideres.'
     6.182
Faitours for fere herof flowen into bernes
     6.183
And flapten on with flailes fro morwe til even,
     6.184
That hunger was noght hardy on hem for to loke
     6.185
For a potful of peses that Piers hadde ymaked.
     6.186
An heep of herernytes henten hem spades
     6.187
And kitten hir copes and courtepies hem maked.
     6.188
And wente as werkmen with spades and with shoveles,
     6.189
And dolven and dikeden to dryve awey Hunger.
     6.190
Blynde and bedreden were bootned a thousand,
     6.191
That seten to begge silver, soone were thei heeled ;
     6.192
For that was bake for Bayard was boote for many hungry;
     6.193
And many a beggere for benes buxum was to swynke,
     6.194
And ech a povere man wel apaied to have pesen for his hyre,
     6.195
And what Piers preide hem to do as prest as a sperhauk.
     6.196
And [Piers was proud therof ], and putte hem to werke
     6.197
And yaf hem mete as he myghte aforthe and mesurable hyre.
     6.198
Thanne hadde Piers pite, and preide Hunger to wende
     6.199
Hoom into his owene erd and holden hym there [evere]:
     6.200
" For I am wel awroke of wastours thorugh thy myghte.
     6.201
Ac I preie thee, er thow passe,' quod Piers to Hunger,
     6.202
"Of beggeris and of bidderis what best be to doone?
     6.203
For I woot wel, be thow went, thei wol werche ful ille;
     6.204
Meschief it maketh thei be so meke nouthe,
     6.205
And for defaute of hire foode this folk is at my wille. Page  73
     6.206
[And] it are my blody bretheren, for God boughte us alle.
     6.207
Truthe taughte me ones to loven hem ech one
     6.208
And to helpen hem of alle thyng, ay as hem nedeth.
     6.209
Now wolde I wite of thee, what were the beste,
     6.210
And how I myghte amaistren hem and make hem to werche.'
     6.211
" Here now,' quod Hunger, "and hoold it for a wisdom:
     6.212
Bolde beggeris and bigge that mowe hir breed biswynke,
     6.213
With houndes breed and horse breed hoold up hir hertes--
     6.214
Aba[v]e hem with benes, for bollynge of hir wombe;
     6.215
And if the gomes grucche, bidde hem go swynke,
     6.216
And he shal soupe swetter whan he it hath deserved.
     6.217
"Ac if thow fynde any freke that Fortune hath apeired
     6.218
Or any manere false men, fonde thow swiche to knowe:
     6.219
Conforte hem with thi catel for Cristes love of hevene;
     6.220
Love hem and lene hem, for so Iawe of [kynde wolde]:
     6.221
Alter alterius onlera portate.
     6.222
And alle manere of men that thow myght aspie
     6.223
That nedy ben [or naked, and nought han to spende,
     6.224
Love hem and lakke hem noght--lat God take the vengeaunce;
     6.225
Theigh thei doon yvele, lat thow God yworthe:
     6.226
Michi vindictam et ego retribuam.
     6.226
And if thow wilt be gracious to God, do as the Gospel techeth,
     6.227
And bilove thee amonges lowe men--so shaltow lacche grace:
     6.228
Facite vobis amicos de mammona iniquitatis.'Page  74
     6.228
"I wolde noght greve God,' quod Piers, -for al the good on grounde!'
     6.229
Mighte I synnelees do as thow seist?' seide Piers thanne.
     6.230
"Ye, I bihote thee,' quod Hunger, "or ellis the Bible lieth
     6.231
Go to Genesis the geaunt, the engendrour of us alle:
     6.232
""In sudore and swynk thow shalt thi mete tilie,
     6.233
And laboure for thi liflode,'' and so Oure Lord highte.
     6.234
And Sapience seith the same--I seigh it in the Bible:
     6.235
"" Piger pro frigore no feeld nolde tilie--
     6.236
And therfore he shal begge and bidde, and no man bete his hunger.''
     6.237
" Mathew with mannes face moutheth thise wordes--
     6.238
That servus nequam hadde a mnam, and for he wolde noght chaffare,
     6.239
He hadde maugree of his maister everemoore after;
     6.240
And bynam hym his mnam for he ne wolde werche,
     6.241
And yaf that mnam to hym that ten mnames hadde,
     6.242
And with that he seide, that Holy Chirche it herde:
     6.243
"" He that hath shal have and helpe there it nedeth;
     6.244
And he that noght hath shal noght have, and no man hym helpe,
     6.245
And that he weneth weI to have, I wole it hym bireve.''
     6.246
" Kynde Wit wolde that ech a wight wroghte,
     6.247
Or in [te]chynge or in [tell]ynge or travaillynge in preieres--
     6.248
Contemplatif lif or Actif lif, Crist wolde men wroghte.
     6.249
The Sauter seith in the psalme of Beat omnes,
     6.250
The freke that fedeth hymself with his feithful labour,
     6.251
He is blessed by the book in body and in soule:
     6.252
Labores manuum tuarum &c.'
     6.252
" Yet I preie yow,' quod Fiers, "pur charite, and ye konne
     6.253
Any leef of lechecraft, lere it me, my deere;
     6.254
For some of my servaunts and myself bothe
     6.255
Of al a wike werche noght, so oure wombe aketh.' Page  75
     6.256
"I woot wel,' quod Hunger, "what siknesse yow eyleth;
     6.257
Ye han manged over muche--that maketh yow grone.
     6.258
Ac I hote thee,' quod Hunger, "as thow thyn hele wilnest,
     6.259
That thow drynke no day er thow dyne somwhat.
     6.260
Ete noght, I hote thee, er hunger thee take
     6.261
And sende thee of his sauce to savore with thi lippes;
     6.262
And keep som til soper tyme and sitte noght to longe;
     6.263
Arys up er appetit have eten his fille.
     6.264
Lat noght Sire Surfet sitten at thi borde--
     6.265
Love hym noght, for he is lecherous and likerous of tonge,
     6.266
And after many maner metes his mawe is afyngred.
     6.267
"And if thow diete thee thus, I dar legge myn eris
     6.268
That Phisik shal his furred hood for his fode selle,
     6.269
And his cloke of Calabre with alle the knappes of golde,
     6.270
And be fayn, by my feith, his phisik to lete,
     6.271
And lerne to laboure with lond [lest] liflode [hym faille].
     6.272
Ther aren mo [li]eres than leches--Lord hem amende!
     6.273
They do men deye thorugh hir drynkes er destynee it wolde.'
     6.274
" By Seint Poul,' quod Piers, "thise arn profitable wordes!
     6.275
For this is a lovely lesson, Lord it thee foryelde!
     6.276
Wend now, Hunger, whan thow wolt, that wel be thow evere.'
     6.277
" I bihote God,' quod Hunger, " hennes ne wole I wende
     6.278
[Er] I have dyned bi this day and ydronke bothe.'
     6.279
" I have no peny,' quod Piers, "pulettes to bugge,
     6.280
Neither gees ne grys, but two grene cheses,
     6.281
A fewe cruddes and creme and [a cake of otes],
     6.282
And two loves of benes and bran ybake for my fauntes.
     6.283
And yet I seye, by my soule, I have no salt bacon
     6.284
Ne no cokeney, by Crist, coloppes to maken! Page  76
     6.285
Ac I have percile and porettes and manye [plaunte coles],
     6.286
And ek a cow and a calf, and a cart mare
     6.287
To drawe afeld my donge the while the droghte lasteth.
     6.288
By this liflode we mote lyve til Lammesse tyme.
     6.289
And by that I hope to have hervest in my crofte;
     6.290
Thanne may I dighte thi dyner as me deere liketh.'
     6.291
Al the povere peple tho pescoddes fetten;
     6.292
Benes and baken apples thei broghte in hir lappes,
     6.293
Chibolles and chervelles and ripe chiries manye,
     6.294
And profrede Piers this present to plese with Hunger.
     6.295
Al Hunger eet in haste and axed after moore.
     6.296
Thanne povere folk for fere fedden Hunger yerne;
     6.297
With grene poret and pesen to poisone hym thei thoghte!
     6.298
By that it neghed neer hervest and newe corn cam to chepyng;
     6.299
Thanne was folk fayn, and fedde Hunger with the beste--
     6.300
With good ale, as Gloton taghte--and garte Hunger to slepe.
     6.301
And tho wolde Wastour noght werche, but wandren aboute,
     6.302
Ne no beggere ete breed that benes inne were,
     6.303
But of coket and clermatyn or ellis of clene whete,
     6.304
Ne noon halfpeny ale in none wise drynke,
     6.305
But of the beste and of the brunneste that [brewesteres] selle.
     6.306
Laborers that have no land to lyve on but hire handes
     6.307
Deyned nought to dyne aday nyght-olde wortes;
     6.308
May no peny ale hem paie, ne no pece of bacoun,
     6.309
But if it be fressh flessh outher fissh fryed outher ybake--
     6.310
And that chaud and plus chaud, for chillynge of hir mawe.
     6.311
And but if he be heighliche hyred, ellis wole he chide--
     6.312
And that he was werkman wroght wa[ri]e the tyme. Page  77
     6.313
Ayeins Catons counseil comseth he to jangle:
     6.314
Paupertatis onus pacienter ferre memento.
     6.314
He greveth hym ageyn God and gruccheth ageyn Reson.
     6.315
And thanne corseth he the Kyng and al his Counseil after
     6.316
Swiche lawes to loke, laborers to greve.
     6.317
Ac whiles Hunger was hir maister, ther wolde noon of hem chide,
     6.318
Ne stryven ayeins his statut, so sterneliche he loked!
     6.319
Ac I warne yow werkmen--wynneth whil ye mowe,
     6.320
For Hunger hiderward hasteth hym faste!
     6.321
He shal awake [thorugh] water, wastours to chaste,
     6.322
Er fyve yer be fulfilled swich famyn shal aryse:
     6.323
Thorugh flodes and thorugh foule wedres, fruytes shul faille--
     6.324
And so seith Saturne and sent yow to warne:
     6.325
Whan ye se the [mo]ne amys and two monkes heddes,
     6.326
And a mayde have the maistrie, and multiplie by eighte,
     6.327
Thanne shal deeth withdrawe and derthe be justice,
     6.328
And Dawe the Dykere deye for hunger--
     6.329
But if God of his goodnesse graunte us a trewe.
     6.330