William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
William Langland

Passus 12

" I am Ymaginatif,' quod he, "ydel was I nevere,
     12.001
Though I sitte by myself, in siknesse nor in helthe.
     12.002
I have folwed thee, in feith, thise fyve and fo
     12.003
And manye tymes have meved thee to [mlyn[n]e on thyn ende,
     12.004
And how fele fernyeres are faren, and so fewe to come:
     12.005
And of thi wilde wantownesse [whan] thow yong were,
     12.006
To amende it in thi myddel age, lest myght the faille
     12.007
In thyn olde elde, that yvele kan suffre
     12.008
Poverte or penaunce, or preyeres bidde:
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Si non in prima vigilia nec in secunda &c.Page  135
     12.009
"Amende thee while thow myght; thow hast ben warned ofte
     12.010
With poustees of pestilences, with poverte and with angres--
     12.011
And with thise bittre baleises God beteth his deere children:
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Quem diligo, castiga.
     12.012
And David in the Sauter seith, of swiche that loveth Jesus,
     12.013
"" Virga tua et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
     12.013
Although thow strike me with thi staf, with stikke or with yerde,
     12.014
It is but murthe as for me to amende my soule.''
     12.015
And thow medlest thee with makynges--and myghtest go seye thi Sauter,
     12.016
And bidde for hem that yyveth thee breed; for ther are bokes ynowe
     12.017
To telle men what Dowel is, Dobet and Dobest bothe,
     12.018
And prechours to preve what it is, of many a peire freres.'
     12.019
I seigh wel he seide me sooth and, somwhat me to excuse,
     12.020
Seide, "Caton conforted his sone that, clerk though he were,
     12.021
To solacen hym som tyme--a[lso] I do whan I make:
     12.022
Interpone tuis interdum gaudia curis.
     12.022
"And of holy men I herde,' quod l, "how thei outherwhile
     12.023
Pleyden, the parfiter to ben, in [places manye].
     12.024
Ac if ther were any wight that wolde me telle
     12.025
What were Dowel and Dobet and Dobest at the laste,
     12.026
Wolde I nevere do werk, but wende to holi chirche
     12.027
And there bidde my bedes but whan ich ete or slepe.'
     12.028
"Poul in his pistle,' quod he, "preveth what is Dowel:
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Fides, spes, caritas, et maior horum &c--
     12.029
Feith, hope and charitee, and alle ben goode,
     12.030
And saven men sondry tymes, ac noon so soone as charite.
     12.031
For he dooth wel, withouten doute, that dooth as lewte techeth;
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That is, if thow be man maryed, thi make thow lovye,
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And lyve forth as lawe wole while ye lyven bothe.
     12.034
" Right so, if thow be religious, ren thow nevere ferther
     12.035
To Rome ne to Rochemador, but as thi rule techeth, Page  136
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And holde thee under obedience, that heigh wey is to hevene.
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"And if thow be maiden to marye, and myght wel continue,
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Seke thow nevere seint ferther for no soule helthe!
     12.039
For what made Lucifer to lese the heighe hevene,
     12.040
Or Salomon his sapience, or Sampson his strengthe?
     12.041
job the Jew his joye deere he it aboughte;
     12.042
Aristotle and othere mo, Ypocras and Virgile,
     12.043
Alisaundre that al wan, elengliche ended.
     12.044
Catel and kynde wit was combraunce to hem alle.
     12.045
" Felice hir fairnesse fel hire al to sclaundre,
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And Rosamounde right so reufulliche bisette
     12.047
The beaute of hir body; in baddenesse she despended.
     12.048
Of manye swiche I may rede--of men and or wommen--
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That wise wordes wolde shewe and werche the contrarie:
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Sunt hamines nequam bene de virtute loquentes.
     12.050
"And riche renkes right so gaderen and sparen,
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And tho men that thei moost haten mynistren it at the laste;
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And for thei suffren and see so manye nedy folkes
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And love hem noght as Oure Lord bit, lesen hir soules:
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Date et dabitur vobis.
     12.054
So catel and kynde wit acombreth ful manye;
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Wo is hym that hem weldeth but he hem wel despende:
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Scient [es] et nan facient [es] variis flagellis vapulab[un]t.
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Sapience, seith the Bok, swelleth a mannes soule:
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Sapiencia inflat &c.
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And richesse right so, but if the roote be trewe.
     12.058
"Ac grace is a gras therfore, tho grevaunces to abate.
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Ac grace ne groweth noght but amonges [gomes] lowe:
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Paciwnce and poverte the place is ther groweth, Page  137
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And in lele lyvynge men and in lif holy,
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And thorugh the gifte of the Holy Goost, as the Gospel telleth:
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Spiritus ubi vult spirat.
     12.063
"Clergie and kynde wit cometh of sighte and techyng,
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As the Book bereth witnesse to burnes that kan rede:
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Quad scimus ioquimur, quod vidimus testamur.
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Of quod scimus cometh clergie, a konnynge of hevene,
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And of quad vidimus cometh kynde wit, of sighte of diverse peple.
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Ac grace is a gifte of God, and of greet love spryngeth;
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Knew nevere clerk how it cometh forth, ne kynde wit the weyes:
     12.069
Nescit aliquis unde venit aut quo vadit &c.
     12.069
"Ac yet is clergie to comende, and kynde wit bothe,
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And namely clergie for Cristes love, that of clergie is roote.
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For Moyses witnesseth that God wroot for to wisse the peple
     12.072
ln the Olde Lawe, as the lettre telleth, that was the lawe of Jewes,
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That what womman were in avoutrye taken, were she riche or poore,
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With stones men sholde hir strike. and stone hire to dethe.
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A womman, as we fynden, was gilty of that dede;
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Ac Crist of his curteisie thorugh clergie hir saved.
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For thorugh caractes that Crist wroot, the Jewes knewe hemselve
     12.078
Giltier as afore God and gretter in synne
     12.079
Than the womman that there was, and wenten awey for shame.
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The clergie that there was conforted the womman.
     12.081
Holy Kirke knoweth this--that Cristes writyng saved;
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So clergie is confort to creatures that repenten,
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And to mansede men meschief at hire ende.
     12.084
"For Goddes body myghte noght ben of breed withouten clergie,
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The which body is bothe boote to the rightfulle,
     12.086
And deeth and dampnacion to hem that deyeth yvele;
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As Cristes caracte confortede and bothe coupable shewed
     12.088
The womman that the Jewes broughte, that Jesus thoughte to save:
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Nolite iudicare et nan iudicabimini.
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Right so Goddes body, bretheren, but it be worthili taken,
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Dampneth us at the day of dome as dide the caractes the Jewes.
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"Forthi I counseille thee for Cristes sake. clergie that thow lovye,
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For kynde wit is of his kyn and neighe cosynes bothe
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To Oure Lord, leve me--forthi love hem, I rede.
     12.094
For bothe ben as mirours to amenden oure det-autes,
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And lederes for lewed men and for lettred bothe.
     12.096
"Forthi lakke thow nevere logik, lawe ne hise custumes,
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Ne countreplede clerkes--l counseille thee for evere!
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For as a man may noght see that mysseth hise eighen.
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Na moore kan no clerk but if he caughte it first thorugh bokes.
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Although men made bokes, God was the maister,
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And Seint Spirit the samplarie, and seide what men sholde write.
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And right as sight serveth a man to se the heighe strete,
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Right so lereth lettrure lewed men to reson.
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And as a blynd man in bataille bereth wepne to fighte,
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And hath noon hap with his ax his enemy to hitte,
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Na moore kan a kynde witted man, but clerkes hym teche,
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Come, for al his kynde wit, to Cristendom and be saved--
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Which is the cofre of Cristes tresor, and clerkes kepe the keyes,
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To unloken it at hir likyng, and to the lewed peple
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Yyve mercy for hire mysdedes, if men it wole aske
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Buxomliche and benigneliche, and bidden it of grace.
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"Archa Dei in the Olde Lawe, Levites it kepten;
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Hadde nevere lewed man leve to leggen hond on that cheste
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But he were preest or preestes sone, patriark or prophete. Page  139
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"Saul, for he sacrificed, sorwe hym bitidde,
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And his sones also for that synne mischeved,
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And manye mo other men that were no Levites,
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That with archa Dei yeden, in reverence and in worship,
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And leiden hond theron to liften it up--and loren hir lif after.
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"Forthi I conseille alle creatures no clergie to dispise,
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Ne sette short by hir science, whatso thei don hemselve.
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Take we hir wordes at worth, for hire witnesses be trewe,
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And medle we noght muche with hem to meven any wrathe,
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Lest cheste cha[f]en us to choppe ech man other:
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Nolite tangere christos meos &c.
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" For clergie is kepere under Crist of hevene;
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[Com] ther nevere no knyght but clergie hym made.
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Ac kynde wit cometh of alle kynnes sightes--
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Of briddes and of beestes, [of blisse and of sorwe],
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Of tastes of truthe and [oft] of deceites.
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"[Olde] lyveris toforn us useden to marke
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The selkouthes that thei seighen, hir sones for to teche,
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And helden it an heigh science hir wittes to knowe.
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Ac thorugh hir science soothly was nevere no soule ysaved,
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Ne broght by hir bokes to blisse ne to joye;
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For alle hir kynde knowyng com but of diverse sightes.
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" Patriarkes and prophetes repreveden hir science,
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And seiden hir wordes ne hir wisdomes was but a folye;
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As to the clergie of Crist, counted it but a trufle:
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Sapiencia huius mundi stultitia est apud Deum.Page  140
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"For the heighe Holy Goost hevene shal tocleve,
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And love shal lepe out after into this lowe erthe,
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And clennesse shal cacchen it and clerkes shullen it fynde:
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Pastores laquebantur ad invicem.
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" He speketh there of riche men right noght, ne of right witty,
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Ne of lordes that were lewed men, but of the hyeste lettred oute:
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Ibant magi ab oriente.
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(If any frere were founde there, I yyve thee fyve shillynges!)
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Ne in none beggers cote was that barn born,
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But in a burgeises place, of Bethlem the beste:
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Sed non erat ei locus in diversorio--et pauper nan habet diversorium.
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"To pastours and to poetes appered the aungel,
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And bad hem go to Bethlem Goddes burthe to honoure,
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And songe a song of solas, Gloria in excelsis Deo.!
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Riche men rutte tho and in hir reste were,
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Tho it shon to shepherdes, a shewer of blisse.
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Clerkes knewen it wel and comen with hir presents,
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And diden hir homage nurably to hym that was almyghty.
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"Why I have told thee I this--I took ful good hede
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How thow contrariedest lergie with crabbede wordes,
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How that lewed men lightloker than lettrede were saved,
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Than clerkes or kynde witted men, of Cristene peple.
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And thow seidest sooth of somme--ac se in what manere.
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"Tak two stronge men and in Themese cast hem,
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And bothe naked as a nedle, hir noon sikerer than other;
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That oon hath konnynge and kan swymmen and dyven,
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That oother is lewed of that labour, lerned nevere swymme.
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Which trowestow of tho two in Themese is in moost drede--
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He that nevere ne dyved ne noght kan of symmyng
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Or the swymmere that is saff by so hymself like,
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Ther his felawe fleteth forthas the flood liketh, Page  141
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And is in drede to drenche, that nevere dide swymme?'
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"That swymme kan noght,' I seide, "it semeth to my wittes.'
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" Right so,' quod the renk, " reson it sheweth,
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That he that knoweth clergie kan sonner arise
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Out of synne and be saaf, though he synne ofte,
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If hym liketh and lest, than any lewed, leelly.
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For if the clerk be konnynge, he knoweth what is synne,
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And how contricion withoute confession conforteth the soule,
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As thow seest in the Sauter in salmes oon or tweyne,
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How contricion is comended for it cacheth awey synne:
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Beati quorum remisse sunt iniquitates et quorum tecta sunt pecata.
     12.178
And this conforteth ech a clerk and kevereth hym fro wanhope,
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In which flood the fend fondeth a man hardest;
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Ther the lewed lith stille and loketh after Lente,
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And hath no contricion er he come to shrifte--and thanne kan he litel telle,
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But as his loresman lereth hyrn bileveth and troweth,
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And that is after person or parissh preest, and paraventure bothe unkonnynge
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To lere lewed men, as Luc bereth witnesse:
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Dum cecus ducit cecum &c.
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"Wo was hym marked that wade moot with the lewed!
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Wel may the barn blesse that hym to book sette,
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That lyvynge after lettrure saved hym lif and soule.
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Dominus pars hereditatis mee is a murye verset
     12.189
That hath take fro Tybourne twenty stronge theves,
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Ther lewed theves ben lolled up--loke how thei be saved!
     12.191
"The thef that hadde grace of God on Good Fryday as thow speke, Page  142
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Was for he yald hym creaunt to Crist on the cros and knewliched hym gilty,
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And grace asked of God, that to graunten is evere redy
     12.194
To hem that buxomliche biddeth it, and ben in wille to amenden hem.
     12.195
Ac though that theef hadde hevene, he hadde noon heigh blisse,
     12.196
As Seint Johan and othere seintes that deserved hadde bettre.
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Right as som man yeve me mete and sette me amydde the floor:
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I hadde mete moore than ynough. ac noght so muche worshipe
     12.199
As tho that seten at the syde table or with the sovereynes of the halle,
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But sete as a beggere bordlees by myself on the grounde.
     12.201
So it fareth by that felon that a Good Friday was saved:
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He sit neither with Seint Johan, Symond ne Jude,
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Ne with maydenes ne with martires ne confessours ne wydewes,
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But by hymself as a soleyn, and served on the erthe.
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For he that is ones a thef is everemoore in daunger,
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And as lawe liketh to lyve or to deye:
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De peccato propiciato noli esse sine metu.
     12.207
And for to serven a seint and swich a thef togideres--
     12.208
It were neither reson ne right to rewarde both yliche.
     12.209
"And right as Troianus the trewe knyght tilde noght depe in helle
     12.210
That Oure Lord ne hadde hym lightly out, so leve I [by] the thef in hevene:
     12.211
For he is in the loweste of hevene, if oure bileve be trewe, Page  143
     12.212
And wel losely he lolleth there, by the lawe of Holy Chirche,
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Quia reddit uicuiqae iuxta opera sua.
     12.213
"Ac why that oon theef on the cros creaunt hym yald
     12.214
Rather than that oother theef, though thow woldest appose,
     12.215
Alle the clerkes under Crist ne kouthe the skile assoille:
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Quare placuit ? Quia voluit.
     12.216
And so I seye by thee, that sekest after the whyes, -
     12.217
And aresonedest Reson, a rebukynge as it were,
     12.218
And willest of briddes and of beestes and of hir bredyng knowe,
     12.219
Why some be alough and some aloft, thi likyng it were;
     12.220
And of the floures in the fryth and of hire faire hewes--
     12.221
Wherof thei cacche hir colours so clere and so brighte,
     12.222
And of the stones and of the sterres--thow studiest, as I leve,
     12.223
How evere beest outher brid hath so breme wittes . . .
     12.224
"Clergie ne Kynde Wit ne knew nevere the cause,
     12.225
Ac Kynde knoweth the cause hymself and no creature ellis.
     12.226
He is the pies patron and putteth it in hir ere
     12.227
That there the thorn is thikkest to buylden and brede.
     12.228
And Kynde kenned the pecok to cauken in swich a kynde,
     12.229
And Kynde kenned Adam to knowe his pryve membres,
     12.230
And taughte hym and Eve to helien hem with leves.
     12.231
" Lewed men many tymes maistres thei apposen, .
     12.232
Whi Adam ne hiled noght first his mouth that eet the appul,
     12.233
Rather than his likame alogh?--lewed asken thus clerkes.
     12.234
Kynde knoweth whi he dide so, ac no clerk ellis!
     12.235
"Ac of briddes and of beestes men by olde tyme
     12.236
Ensamples token and termes, as telleth thise poetes,
     12.237
And that the faireste fowel foulest engendreth,
     12.238
And feblest fowel of flight is that fleeth or swymmeth.
     12.239
And that is the pecok and the pehen--proude riche men thei bitokneth
     12.240
For the pecok and men pursue hym may noght flee heighe: Page  144
     12.241
For the trailynge of his tail overtaken is he soone.
     12.242
And his flessh is foul flessh, and his feet bothe,
     12.243
And unlovelich of ledene and looth for to here.
     12.244
"Right so the riche, if he his richesse kepe
     12.245
And deleth it noght til his deeth day, the tail of alle is sorwe.
     12.246
Right as the pennes of the pecok peyneth hym in his flight,
     12.247
So is possession peyne of pens and of nobles
     12.248
To alle hem that it holdeth til hir tail be plukked.
     12.249
And though the riche repente thanne and birewe the tyme
     12.250
That evere he gadered so grete and gaf therof so litel,
     12.251
Though he crye to Crist thanne with kene wil, I leve
     12.252
His ledene be in Oure Lordes ere lik a pies chiteryng;
     12.253
And whan his caroyne shal come in cave to be buryed,
     12.254
I leve it flawme ful foule the fold al aboute,
     12.255
And alle the othere ther it lith envenymeth thorugh his attre.
     12.256
By the po feet is understande, as I have lerned in Avynet,
     12.257
Executours--false frendes that fulfille noght his wille
     12.258
That was writen, and thei witnesse to werche right as it wolde.
     12.259
Thus the poete preveth that the pecok for his fetheres is reverenced;
     12.260
Right so is the riche by reson of hise goodes.
     12.261
"The larke, that is a lasse fowel, is moore lovelich of ledene,
     12.262
And wel awey of wynge swifter than the pecok,
     12.263
And of flessh by felefold fatter and swetter;
     12.264
To lowe libbynge men the larke is resembled.
     12.265
["Swiche tales he telleth, Aristotle the grete clerk];
     12.266
Thus he likneth in his logik the leeste fowel oute.
     12.267
And wheither he be saaf or noght saaf, the sothe woot no clergie,
     12.268
Ne of Sortes ne of Salamon no seripture kan telle.
     12.269
Ac God is so good, I hope that siththe he gaf hem wittes
     12.270
To wissen us wyes therwith, that wisshen to be saved,
     12.271
(And the bettre for hir bokes to bidden we ben holden) Page  145
     12.272
That God for his grace gyve hir soules reste--
     12.273
For lettred men were lewed yet, ne were loore of hir bokes.'
     12.274
"Alle thise clerkes,' quod I tho, "that on Crist leven.
     12.275
Seyen in hir sermons that neither Sarsens ne Jewes
     12.276
Ne no creature of Cristes liknesse withouten Cristendom worth saved.'
     12.277
" Contra.! quod Ymaginatif thoo,and comsed for to loure,
     12.278
And seide, " Salvabitur vix iustus in die iudicii,
     12.279
Ergo--salvabitur!' quod he, and seide no moore Latyn.
     12.280
"Troianus was a trewe knyght and took nevere Cristendom,
     12.281
And he is saaf, so seith the book, and his soule in hevene.
     12.282
Ac ther is fullynge of font and fullynge in blood shedyng,
     12.283
And thorugh fir is fullyng, and that is ferme bileve:
     12.284
A hienit ignis divinus, non comburens set illuminans &c.
     12.284
"Ac truthe that trespased nevere ne traversed ayeins his lawe,
     12.285
But lyveth as his lawe techeth and leveth ther be no bettre,
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(And if ther were, he wolde amende) and in swich wille deieth--
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Ne wolde nevere trewe God but trewe truthe were allowed.
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And wheither it worth or noght worth, the bileve is gret of truthe,
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And an hope hangynge therinne to have a mede for his truthe;
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For Deus dicitur quasi dans vitam eternam suis, hoc est fidelibus.
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Et alibi, Si ambulavero in medio umbre mortis &c.Page  146
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The glose graunteth upon that vers a greet mede to truthe.
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And wit and wisdom,' quod that wye, " was som tyme tresor
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To kepe with a commune--no catel was holde bettre--
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And muche murthe and manhod'--and right with that he vanysshed.
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