William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
"This were a wikkede wey but whoso hadde a gyde
That [myghte] folwen us ech a foot'--thus this folk hem mened.
Quod Perkyn the Plowman, " By Seint Peter of Rome!
I have an half acre to erie by the heighe weye;
Hadde I cryed this half acre and sowen it after,
I wolde wende with yow and the wey teche.'
"This were a long lettyng,' quod a lady in a scleyre; Page 66
"What sholde we wommen werche the while?'
"Somme shul sowe the sak ' quod Piers, " for shedyng of the whete;
And ye lovely ladies with youre longe fyngres,
That ye have silk and sandel to sowe whan tyme is
Chesibles for chapeleyns chirches to honoure.
Wyves and widewes, wolle and flex spynneth:
Maketh cloth, I counseille yow, and kenneth so youre doughtres.
The nedy and the naked, nymeth hede how thei liggeth,
And casteth hem clothes, for so commaundeth Truthe.
For I shal lenen hem liflode, but if the lond faille,
As longe as I lyve, for the Lordes love of hevene.
And alle manere of men that by mete and drynke libbeth,
Helpeth hym to werche wightliche that wynneth youre foode.'
"By Crist!' quod a knyght thoo, "he kenneth us the beste;
Ac on the teme, trewely, taught was I nevere.
Ac kenne me,' quod the knyght, "and by Crist I wole assaye!'
"By Seint Poul!' quod Perkyn, "Ye profre yow so faire
That I shal swynke and swete and sowe for us bothe,
And [ek] labour[e] for thi love al my lif tyme,
In covenaunt that thow kepe Holy Kirke and myselve
Fro wastours and fro wikked men that this world destruyeth;
And go hunte hardiliche to hares and foxes,
To bores and to bukkes that breken down myne hegges;
And go affaite thi faucons wilde foweles to kille,
For thei cometh to my croft and croppeth my whete.'
Curteisly the knyght thanne co[nseyved] thise wordes:
"By my power, Piers, I plighte thee my trouthe
To fulfille this forward, though I fighte sholde;
Als longe as I lyve I shal thee mayntene.'
" Ye, and yet a point,' quod Piers, "I preye yow of moore: Page 67
Loke ye tene no tenaunt but Truthe wole assente;
And though ye mowe amercy hem, lat mercy be taxour
And mekenesse thi maister, maugree Medes chekes.
And though povere men profre yow presentes and yiftes,
Nyme it noght, an aventure thow mowe it noght deserve;
For thow shalt yelde it ayein at one yeres ende
In a ful perilous place--Purgatorie it hatte.
And mysbede noght thi bondemen--the bettre may thow spede;
Though he be thyn underlyng here, wel may happe in hevene
That he worth worthier set and with moore blisse:
Amice, ascende superius.
For in charnel at chirche cherles ben yvel to knowe,
Or a knyght from a knave there--knowe this in thyn herte.
And that thow be trewe of thi tonge, and tales that thow hatie,
But if thei ben of wisdom or of wit, thi werkmen to chaste.
Hold with none harlotes ne here noght hir tales,
And namely at the mete swiche men eschuwe--
For it ben the develes disours, I do the to understonde.'
"I assente, by Seint Jame,' seide the knyght thanne,
"For to werche by thi wordes the while my lif dureth.'
"And I shal apparaille me,' quod Perkyn, "in pilgrymes wise
And wende with yow I wile til we fynde Truthe.'
[He] caste on [hise] clothes, yclouted and hole,
[Hise] cokeres and [hise] coffes for coId of [hise] nailes,
And [heng his] hoper at [his] hals in stede of a scryppe: Page 68
"A busshel of bred corn brynge me therinne,
For I wol sowe it myself, and sithenes wol I wende
To pilgrymage as palmeres doon, pardon for to have.
And whoso helpeth me to erie or sowen here er I wende,
Shal have leve, by Oure Lord, to lese here in hervest
And make hym murie thermyd, maugree whoso bigruccheth it.
And alle kynne crafty men that konne lyven in truthe,
I shal fynden hem fode that feithfulliche libbeth--
Save Jakke the Jogelour and Jonette of the Stuwes,
And Danyel the Dees-pleyere and Denote the Baude,
And Frere the Faitour, and folk of his ordre,
And Robin the Ribaudour, for hise rusty wordes.
Truthe tolde me ones and bad me telle it forth:
Deleantur de libro vivencium--I sholde noght dele with hem,
For Holy Chirche is hote, of hem no tithe to aske,
Quia cum iustis non scribantur.
Thei ben ascaped good aventure--now God hem amende!'
Dame Werch-whan-tyme-is Piers wif highte;
His doughter highte Do-right-so-or-thi-dame-shal-thee-bete;
His sone highte Suffre-thi-Sovereyns-to-haven-hir-wille:
"For now I am old and hoor and have of myn owene,
To penaunce and to pilgrimage I wol passe with thise othere;
Forthi I wole er I wende do write my biqueste.
In Dei nomine, Amen, I make it myselve.
' He shal have my soule that best hath deserved it,
And [defende it fro the fend], for so I bileve,
Til I come to hise acountes as my crede me telleth, Page 69
To have a relees and a remission--on that rental I leve.
"The kirke shal have my caroyne, and kepe my bones,
For of my corn and catel he craved the tithe.
I paide it hym prestly, for peril of my soule;
Forthi is he holden, I hope, to have me in his masse
And mengen me in his memorie amonges alle Cristene.
" My wif shal have of that I wan with truthe, and namoore,
And dele among my doughtres and my deere children;
For though I deye today, my dettes are quyte;
I bar hom that I borwed er I to bedde yede.
And with the residue and the remenaunt, by the Rode of Lukes!
I wol worshipe therwith Truthe by my lyve,
And ben His pilgrym atte plow for povere mennes sake.
My plowpote shal be my pikstaf, and picche atwo the rotes,
And helpe my cultour to kerve and clense the furwes.'
Now is Perkyn and thise pilgrimes to the plow faren.
To erie this half-acre holpen hym manye;
Dikeres and delveres digged up the balkes;
Therwith was Perkyn apayed and preised hem faste.
Othere werkmen ther were that wroghten ful yerne:
Ech man in his manere made hymself to doone,
And somme to plese Perkyn piked up the wedes.
At heigh prime Piers leet the plough stonde,
To oversen hem hymself; whoso best wroghte,
He sholde be hired therafter, whan hervest tyme come.
Thanne seten somme and songen atte nale,
And holpen ere this half acre with "How trol1y lolly!' Page 70
"Now, by the peril of my soule!' quod Piers al in pure tene,
"But ye arise the rather and rape yow to werche,
Shal no greyn that here groweth glade yow at nede,
And though ye deye for doel, the devel have that recche!'
Tho were faitours afered, and feyned hem blynde;
Somme leide hir legges aliry, as swiche losels konneth,
And made hir [pleynt] to Piers and preide hym of grace:
"For we have no lymes to laboure with, lord, ygraced be ye!
Ac we preie for yow, Piers, and for youre plowgh bothe,
That God of his grace youre greyn multiplie
And ye1de yow of youre almesse that ye yyve us here;
For we may neither swynke ne swete, swich siknesse us eyleth.'
If it be sooth.' quod Piers, "that ye seyn, I shal it soone aspie.
Ye ben wastours, I woot wel, and Truthe woot the sothe;
And I am his olde hyne and highte hym to warne
Whiche thei were in this world hise werkmen apeired.
Ye wasten that men wynnen with travaille and with tene;
Ac Truthe shal teche yow his teme to dryve,
Or ye shul eten barly breed and of the broke drynke;
But if he be blynd or brokelegged or bolted with irens,
He shal ete whete breed and [with myselve drynke]
Til God of his goodnesse garisoun] hym sende.
Ac ye myghte travaille as Truthe wolde and take mete and hyre
To kepe kyen in the feld, the corn fro the bestes,
Diken or delven or dyngen upon sheves,
Or helpe make morter or bere muk afeld.
In lecherie and losengerie ye lyven, and in sleuthe,
And al is thorugh suffraunce that vengeaunce yow ne taketh!
"Ac ancres and heremites that eten but at Nones Page 71
And na moore er morwe--myn almesse shul thei have,
And of my catel to cope hem with that han cloistres and chirches.
Ac Robert Renaboute shal [right] noght have of myne,
Ne postles, but thei preche konne and have power of the bisshop:
Thei shul have payn and potage and [put] hemself at ese--
For it is an unresonable Religion that hath right noght of certein.'
Thanne gan Wastour to wrathen hym and wolde have yfoughte,
And to Piers the Plowman he profrede his glove.
A Bretoner, a braggere, abosted Piers als
And bad hym go pissen with his plowgh, forpynede sherewe!
'Wiltow or neltow, we wol have oure wille
Of thi flour and of thi flesshe--fecche whanne us liketh,
And maken us murye thermyde, maugree thi chekes.'
Thanne Piers the Plowman pleyned hym to the knyghte
To kepen hym as covenaunt was fro cursede sherewes
And fro thise wastours wolveskynnes that maketh the world deere:
" For tho wasten and wynnen noght, and that [while ilke]
Worth nevere pIentee among the peple the while my plowgh liggeth.'
Curteisly the knyght thanne, as his kynde wolde,
Warnede Wastour and wissed hym bettre:
"Or thow shalt abigge by the lawe, by the ordre that I bere!'
" I was noght wont to werche,' quod Wastour, "and now wol I noght bigynne! '-
And leet light of the lawe, and lasse of the knyghte,
And sette Piers at a pese, and his plowgh bothe,
And manaced Piers and his men if thei mette eftsoone.
" Now, by the peril of my soule!' quod Piers, " I shal apeire yow alle'--
And houped after Hunger, that herde hym at the firste.
"Awreke me of thise wastours,' quod he, "that this world shendeth!'
Hunger in haste thoo hente Wastour by the mawe Page 72
And wrong hym so by the wombe that al watrede hise eighen.
He buffetted the Bretoner aboute the chekes
That he loked lik a lanterne al his lif after.
He bette hem so bothe, he brast ner hire guttes;
Ne hadde Piers with a pese loot- preyed [hym bileve],
They hadde be dolven bothe--ne deme thow noon oother.
"Suffre hem lyve,' he seide -and lat hem etc with hogges,
Or ellis benes and bren ybaken togideres.'
Faitours for fere herof flowen into bernes
And flapten on with flailes fro morwe til even,
That hunger was noght hardy on hem for to loke
For a potful of peses that Piers hadde ymaked.
An heep of herernytes henten hem spades
And kitten hir copes and courtepies hem maked.
And wente as werkmen with spades and with shoveles,
And dolven and dikeden to dryve awey Hunger.
Blynde and bedreden were bootned a thousand,
That seten to begge silver, soone were thei heeled ;
For that was bake for Bayard was boote for many hungry;
And many a beggere for benes buxum was to swynke,
And ech a povere man wel apaied to have pesen for his hyre,
And what Piers preide hem to do as prest as a sperhauk.
And [Piers was proud therof ], and putte hem to werke
And yaf hem mete as he myghte aforthe and mesurable hyre.
Thanne hadde Piers pite, and preide Hunger to wende
Hoom into his owene erd and holden hym there [evere]:
" For I am wel awroke of wastours thorugh thy myghte.
Ac I preie thee, er thow passe,' quod Piers to Hunger,
"Of beggeris and of bidderis what best be to doone?
For I woot wel, be thow went, thei wol werche ful ille;
Meschief it maketh thei be so meke nouthe,
And for defaute of hire foode this folk is at my wille. Page 73
[And] it are my blody bretheren, for God boughte us alle.
Truthe taughte me ones to loven hem ech one
And to helpen hem of alle thyng, ay as hem nedeth.
Now wolde I wite of thee, what were the beste,
And how I myghte amaistren hem and make hem to werche.'
" Here now,' quod Hunger, "and hoold it for a wisdom:
Bolde beggeris and bigge that mowe hir breed biswynke,
With houndes breed and horse breed hoold up hir hertes--
Aba[v]e hem with benes, for bollynge of hir wombe;
And if the gomes grucche, bidde hem go swynke,
And he shal soupe swetter whan he it hath deserved.
"Ac if thow fynde any freke that Fortune hath apeired
Or any manere false men, fonde thow swiche to knowe:
Conforte hem with thi catel for Cristes love of hevene;
Love hem and lene hem, for so Iawe of [kynde wolde]:
Alter alterius onlera portate.
And alle manere of men that thow myght aspie
That nedy ben [or naked, and nought han to spende,
Love hem and lakke hem noght--lat God take the vengeaunce;
Theigh thei doon yvele, lat thow God yworthe:
Michi vindictam et ego retribuam.
And if thow wilt be gracious to God, do as the Gospel techeth,
And bilove thee amonges lowe men--so shaltow lacche grace:
Facite vobis amicos de mammona iniquitatis.'Page 74
"I wolde noght greve God,' quod Piers, -for al the good on grounde!'
Mighte I synnelees do as thow seist?' seide Piers thanne.
"Ye, I bihote thee,' quod Hunger, "or ellis the Bible lieth
Go to Genesis the geaunt, the engendrour of us alle:
""In sudore and swynk thow shalt thi mete tilie,
And laboure for thi liflode,'' and so Oure Lord highte.
And Sapience seith the same--I seigh it in the Bible:
"" Piger pro frigore no feeld nolde tilie--
And therfore he shal begge and bidde, and no man bete his hunger.''
" Mathew with mannes face moutheth thise wordes--
That servus nequam hadde a mnam, and for he wolde noght chaffare,
He hadde maugree of his maister everemoore after;
And bynam hym his mnam for he ne wolde werche,
And yaf that mnam to hym that ten mnames hadde,
And with that he seide, that Holy Chirche it herde:
"" He that hath shal have and helpe there it nedeth;
And he that noght hath shal noght have, and no man hym helpe,
And that he weneth weI to have, I wole it hym bireve.''
" Kynde Wit wolde that ech a wight wroghte,
Or in [te]chynge or in [tell]ynge or travaillynge in preieres--
Contemplatif lif or Actif lif, Crist wolde men wroghte.
The Sauter seith in the psalme of Beat omnes,
The freke that fedeth hymself with his feithful labour,
He is blessed by the book in body and in soule:
Labores manuum tuarum &c.'
" Yet I preie yow,' quod Fiers, "pur charite, and ye konne
Any leef of lechecraft, lere it me, my deere;
For some of my servaunts and myself bothe
Of al a wike werche noght, so oure wombe aketh.' Page 75
"I woot wel,' quod Hunger, "what siknesse yow eyleth;
Ye han manged over muche--that maketh yow grone.
Ac I hote thee,' quod Hunger, "as thow thyn hele wilnest,
That thow drynke no day er thow dyne somwhat.
Ete noght, I hote thee, er hunger thee take
And sende thee of his sauce to savore with thi lippes;
And keep som til soper tyme and sitte noght to longe;
Arys up er appetit have eten his fille.
Lat noght Sire Surfet sitten at thi borde--
Love hym noght, for he is lecherous and likerous of tonge,
And after many maner metes his mawe is afyngred.
"And if thow diete thee thus, I dar legge myn eris
That Phisik shal his furred hood for his fode selle,
And his cloke of Calabre with alle the knappes of golde,
And be fayn, by my feith, his phisik to lete,
And lerne to laboure with lond [lest] liflode [hym faille].
Ther aren mo [li]eres than leches--Lord hem amende!
They do men deye thorugh hir drynkes er destynee it wolde.'
" By Seint Poul,' quod Piers, "thise arn profitable wordes!
For this is a lovely lesson, Lord it thee foryelde!
Wend now, Hunger, whan thow wolt, that wel be thow evere.'
" I bihote God,' quod Hunger, " hennes ne wole I wende
[Er] I have dyned bi this day and ydronke bothe.'
" I have no peny,' quod Piers, "pulettes to bugge,
Neither gees ne grys, but two grene cheses,
A fewe cruddes and creme and [a cake of otes],
And two loves of benes and bran ybake for my fauntes.
And yet I seye, by my soule, I have no salt bacon
Ne no cokeney, by Crist, coloppes to maken! Page 76
Ac I have percile and porettes and manye [plaunte coles],
And ek a cow and a calf, and a cart mare
To drawe afeld my donge the while the droghte lasteth.
By this liflode we mote lyve til Lammesse tyme.
And by that I hope to have hervest in my crofte;
Thanne may I dighte thi dyner as me deere liketh.'
Al the povere peple tho pescoddes fetten;
Benes and baken apples thei broghte in hir lappes,
Chibolles and chervelles and ripe chiries manye,
And profrede Piers this present to plese with Hunger.
Al Hunger eet in haste and axed after moore.
Thanne povere folk for fere fedden Hunger yerne;
With grene poret and pesen to poisone hym thei thoghte!
By that it neghed neer hervest and newe corn cam to chepyng;
Thanne was folk fayn, and fedde Hunger with the beste--
With good ale, as Gloton taghte--and garte Hunger to slepe.
And tho wolde Wastour noght werche, but wandren aboute,
Ne no beggere ete breed that benes inne were,
But of coket and clermatyn or ellis of clene whete,
Ne noon halfpeny ale in none wise drynke,
But of the beste and of the brunneste that [brewesteres] selle.
Laborers that have no land to lyve on but hire handes
Deyned nought to dyne aday nyght-olde wortes;
May no peny ale hem paie, ne no pece of bacoun,
But if it be fressh flessh outher fissh fryed outher ybake--
And that chaud and plus chaud, for chillynge of hir mawe.
And but if he be heighliche hyred, ellis wole he chide--
And that he was werkman wroght wa[ri]e the tyme. Page 77
Ayeins Catons counseil comseth he to jangle:
Paupertatis onus pacienter ferre memento.
He greveth hym ageyn God and gruccheth ageyn Reson.
And thanne corseth he the Kyng and al his Counseil after
Swiche lawes to loke, laborers to greve.
Ac whiles Hunger was hir maister, ther wolde noon of hem chide,
Ne stryven ayeins his statut, so sterneliche he loked!
Ac I warne yow werkmen--wynneth whil ye mowe,
For Hunger hiderward hasteth hym faste!
He shal awake [thorugh] water, wastours to chaste,
Er fyve yer be fulfilled swich famyn shal aryse:
Thorugh flodes and thorugh foule wedres, fruytes shul faille--
And so seith Saturne and sent yow to warne:
Whan ye se the [mo]ne amys and two monkes heddes,
And a mayde have the maistrie, and multiplie by eighte,
Thanne shal deeth withdrawe and derthe be justice,
And Dawe the Dykere deye for hunger--
But if God of his goodnesse graunte us a trewe.