William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
William Langland

Prologue

Page  1
In a somer seson, whan softe was the sonne,
     P.1
I shoop me into shroudes as I a sheep were,
     P.2
In habite as an heremite unholy of werkes,
     P.3
Wente wide in this world wondres to here.
     P.4
Ac on a May morwenynge on Malverne hilles
     P.5
Me bifel a ferly, of Fairye me thoghte.
     P.6
I was wery forwandred and wente me to reste
     P.7
Under a brood bank by a bourne syde;
     P.8
And as I lay and lenede and loked on the watres,
     P.9
I slombred into a slepyng, it sweyed so murye.
     P.10
Thanne gan I meten a merveillous swevene--
     P.11
That I was in a wildernesse, wiste I nevere where.
     P.12
A[c] as I biheeld into the eest an heigh to the sonne,
     P.13
I seigh a tour on a toft trieliche ymaked,
     P.14
A deep dale bynethe, a dongeon therinne,
     P.15
With depe diches and derke and dredfulle of sighte.
     P.16
A fair feeld ful of folk fond I ther bitwene--
     P.17
Of alle manere of men, the meene and the riche,
     P.18
Werchynge and wandrynge as the world asketh.
     P.19
Somme putten hem to the plough, pleiden ful selde,
     P.20
In settynge and sowynge swonken ful harde,
     P.21
And wonnen that thise wastours with glotonye destruyeth Page  2
     P.22
And somme putten hem to pride, apparailed hem therafter,
     P.23
In contenaunce of clothynge comen disgised-
     P.24
In preieres and penaunce putten hem manye,
     P.25
Al for the love of Oure Lord lyveden ful streyte
     P.26
In hope to have heveneriche blisse--
     P.27
As ancres and heremites that holden hem in hire selles,
     P.28
Coveiten noght in contree to cairen aboute
     P.29
For no likerous liflode hire likame to plese.
     P.30
And somme chosen chaffare; they cheveden the bettre--
     P.31
As it semeth to oure sight that swiche men thryveth;
     P.32
And somme murthes to make as mynstralles konne,
     P.33
And geten gold with hire glee-- [gilt]lees, I leeve-
     P.34
Ac japeres and jangeleres, Judas children,
     P.35
Feynen hem fantasies, and fooles hem maketh--
     P.36
And han wit at wille to werken if they wolde.
     P.37
That Poul precheth of hem I wol nat preve it here:
     P.38
Qui loquitur turpiloquium is Luciferes hyne-
     P.39
Bidderes and beggeres faste aboute yede
     P.40
[Til] hire bely and hire bagge [were] bredful ycrammed,
     P.41
Faiteden for hire foode, foughten at the ale.
     P.42
In glotonye, God woot, go thei to bedde,
     P.43
And risen with ribaudie, tho Roberdes knaves;
     P.44
Sleep and sory sleuthe seweth hem evere.
     P.45
Pilgrymes and palmeres plighten hem togidere
     P.46
For to seken Seint Jame and seintes at Rome; Page  3
     P.47
Wenten forth in hire wey with many wise tales,
     P.48
And hadden leve to lyen al hire lif after.
     P.49
I seigh somme that seiden thei hadde ysought seintes:
     P.50
To ech a tale that thei tolde hire tonge was tempred to lye
     P.51
Moore than to seye sooth, it semed bi hire speche.
     P.52
Heremytes on an heep with hoked staves ,
     P.53
Wenten to Walsyngham--and hire wenches after:
     P.54
Grete lobies and longe that lothe were to swynke
     P.55
Clothed hem in copes to ben knowen from othere,
     P.56
And shopen hem heremytes hire ese to have.
     P.57
I fond there freres, alle the foure ordres,
     P.58
Prechynge the peple for profit of [the wombe]:
     P.59
Glosed the gospel as hem good liked;
     P.60
For coveitise of copes construwed it as thei wolde.
     P.61
Manye of thise maistres mowe clothen hem at likyng
     P.62
For hire moneie and hire marchaundise marchen togideres.
     P.63
Sith charite hath ben chapman and chief to shryve lordes
     P.64
Manye ferlies han fallen in a fewe yeres.
     P.65
But Holy Chirche and hii holde bettre togidres
     P.66
The mooste meschief on molde is mountynge up faste.
     P.67
Ther preched a pardoner as he a preest were:
     P.68
Broughte forth a bulle with bisshopes seles,
     P.69
And seide that hymself myghte assoillen hem alle
     P.70
Of falshede of fastynge, of avowes ybroken. -
     P.71
Lewed men leved hym wel and liked hise wordes,
     P.72
Comen up knelynge to kissen his bulle.
     P.73
He bonched hem with his brevet and blered hire eighen,
     P.74
And raughte with his rageman rynges and broches. Page  4
     P.75
--Thus ye gyven youre gold glotons to helpe,
     P.76
And leneth it losels that leccherie haunten"
     P.77
Were the bisshop yblessed and worth bothe his eris,
     P.78
His seel sholde noght be sent to deceyve the peple.
     P.79
Ac it is noght by the bisshop that the boy precheth--
     P.80
For the parisshe preest and the pardoner parten the silver
     P.81
That the povere [peple] of the parissche sholde have if they ne were.
     P.82
Persons and parisshe preestes pleyned hem to the bisshop
     P.83
That hire parisshes weren povere sith the pestilence tyme,
     P.84
To have a licence and leve at London to dwelle,
     P.85
And syngen ther for symonie, for silver is swete.
     P.86
Bisshopes and bachelers, bothe maistres and doctours--
     P.87
That han cure under Crist, and crownynge in tokene
     P.88
And signe that thei sholden shryven hire parisshens,
     P.89
Prechen and praye for hem, and the povere fede--
     P.90
Liggen at Londoun in Lenten and ellis.
     P.91
Somme serven the King and his silver tellen,
     P.92
In Cheker and in Chauncelrie chalangen his dettes
     P.93
Of wardes and of wardemotes, weyves and streyves.
     P.94
And somme serven as servaunts lordes and ladies,
     P.95
And in stede of stywardes sitten and demen.
     P.96
Hire messe and hire matyns and many of hire houres
     P.97
Arn doone undevoutliche; drede is at the laste
     P.98
Lest Crist in Consistorie acorse ful manye"
     P.99
I parceyved of the power that Peter hadde to kepe--
     P.100
To bynden and unbynden, as the Book telleth--
     P.101
How he it lefte with love as Oure Lord highte
     P.102
Amonges foure vertues, most vertuous of al1e vertues, Page  5
     P.103
That cardinals ben called and closynge yates
     P.104
There Crist is in kyngdom, to close and to shette,
     P.105
And to opene it to hem and hevene blisse shewe.
     P.106
Ac of the Cardinals at court that kaughte of that name
     P.107
And power presumed in hem a Pope to make
     P.108
To han the power that Peter hadde. impugnen I nelle--
     P.109
For in love and in lettrure the eleccion bilongeth;
     P.110
Forthi I kan and kan naught of court speke moore.
     P.111
Thanne kam ther a Kyng: Knyghthod hym ladde;
     P.112
Might of the communes made hym to regne.
     P.113
And thanne cam Kynde Wit and clerkes he made,
     P.114
For to counseillen the Kyng and the Commune save.
     P.115
The Kyng and Knyghthod and Clergie bothe
     P.116
Casten that the Commune sholde hem [communes] fynde.
     P.117
The Commune contreved of Kynde Wit craftes,
     P.118
And for profit of al the peple plowmen ordeyned
     P.119
To tilie and to travaille as trewe lif asketh.
     P.120
The Kyng and the Commune and Kynde Wit the thridde
     P.121
Shopen lawe and leaute--eeh lif to knowe his owene.
     P.122
Thanne loked up a lunatik, a leene thyng withalle,
     P.123
And knelynge to the Kyng clergially he seide,
     P.124
"Crist kepe thee, sire Kyng, and thi kyngryche,
     P.125
And lene thee lede thi lond so leaute thee lovye,
     P.126
And for thi rightful rulyng be rewarded in hevene"'
     P.127
And sithen in the eyr on heigh an aungel of hevene
     P.128
Lowed to speke in Latyn--for lewed men ne koude
     P.129
Jangle ne jugge that justifie hem sholde,
     P.130
But suffren and serven--forthi seide the aungel: Page  6
     P.131
" Sum Rex, sum Princeps",- neutrum fortasse deinceps "
     P.132
O qui iura regis Christi specialia regis,
     P.132
Hoc qiiod agas nielius--iustus es, esto pius "
     P.132
Nudum ius a te vestiri vult pietate.
     P.135
Qualia vis nietere, talia grana sere:
     P.135
Si ius nudatur, nudo de iure metatur;
     P.135
Si seritur pietas, de pietate metas'.
     P.135
Thanne greved hym a goliardeis, a gloton of wordes,
     P.136
And to the aungel an heigh answerde after:
     P.140
" Dum " rex" a " regere " dicatur nomen habere,
     P.141
Nomen habet sine re nisi studet iura tenere'.
     P.141
Thanne [c]an al the commune crye in vers of Latyn
     P.142
To the Kynges counseil--construe whoso wolde--
     P.143
"Precepta Regis sunt nobis vincula legis"'
     P.143
With that ran ther a route of ratons at ones
     P.144
And smale mees myd hem: mo than a thousand
     P.145
Comen to a counseil for the commune profit;
     P.146
For a cat of a court cam whan hym liked
     P.147
And overleep hem lightliche and laughte hem at his wille,
     P.150
And pleide with hem perillousli and possed aboute.
     P.151
"For doute of diverse dredes we dar noght wel loke"
     P.152
And if we grucche of his gamen he wol greven us alle--
     P.153
Cracchen us or clawen us and in hise clouches holde.
     P.154
That us lotheth the lif er he late us passe.
     P.155
Mighte we with any wit his wille withstonde,
     P.156
We myghte be lordes olofte and lyven at oure ese'.
     P.157
A raton of renoun, moost renable of tonge,
     P.158
Seide for a sovereyn [salve] to hem alle, Page  7
     P.159
"I have yseyen segges', quod he, "in the Cite of Londoun
     P.160
Beren beighes ful brighte abouten hire nekkes,
     P.161
And somme colers of crafty work; uncoupled they wenden
     P.162
Bothe in wareyne and in waast where hem leve liketh,
     P.163
And outher while thei arn elliswhere, as I here telle.
     P.164
Were ther a belle on hire beighe, by Jesus, as me thynketh,
     P.165
Men myghte witen wher thei wente and awey renne.
     P.166
And right so', quod that raton, "reson me sheweth
     P.167
To bugge a belle of bras or of bright silver
     P.168
And knytten it on a coler for oure commune profit
     P.169
And hangen it upon the cattes hals--thanne here we mowen
     P.170
Wher he ryt or rest or rometh to pleye;
     P.171
And if hym list for to laike, thanne loke we mowen
     P.172
And peeren in his presence the while hym pleye liketh,
     P.173
And if hym wratheth, be war and his wey shonye'.
     P.174
Al the route of ratons to this reson assented;
     P.175
Ac tho the belle was ybrought and on the beighe hanged
     P.176
Ther ne was raton in al the route, for al the reaume of France,
     P.177
That dorste have bounden the belle aboute the cattes nekke,
     P.178
Ne hangen it aboute his hals al Engelond to wynne,
     P.179
[Ac] helden hem unhardy and hir counseil feble,
     P.180
And leten hire laboure lost and al hire longe studie.
     P.181
A mous that muche good kouthe, as me tho thoughte,
     P.182
Strook forth sternely and stood bifore hem alle,
     P.183
And to the route of ratons reherced thise wordes:
     P.184
"Though we hadde ykilled the cat, yet sholde ther come another
     P.185
To cracchen us and al oure kynde, though we cropen under benches.
     P.186
Forthi I counseille al the commune to late the cat worthe,
     P.187
And be we nevere so bolde the belle hym to shewe.
     P.188
The Vision of Piers PlowmanPage  8
     P.188
The while he caccheth conynges he coveiteth noght oure caroyne,
     P.189
But fedeth hym al with venyson; defame we hym nevere.
     P.190
For bettre is a litel los than a long sorwe:
     P.191
The maze among us alle, theigh we mysse a sherewe!
     P.192
For I herde my sire seyn, is seven yeer ypassed,
     P.193
""Ther the cat is a kitoun, the court is ful elenge''.
     P.194
That witnesseth Holy Writ, whoso wole it rede--
     P.195
Ve terre ubi puer rex est, &c.
     P.196
For may no renk ther reste have for ratons by nyghte.
     P.197
For many mennes malt we mees wolde destruye,
     P.198
And also ye route of ratons rende mennes clothes,
     P.199
Nere the cat of the court that kan you overlepe;
     P.200
For hadde ye rattes youre [raik] ye kouthe noght rule yowselve.
     P.201
"I seye for me', quod the mous, " I se so muchel after,
     P.202
Shal nevere the cat ne the kiton by my counseil be greved,
     P.203
Ne carpynge of this coler that costed me nevere.
     P.204
And though it costned me catel, biknowen it I nolde,
     P.205
But suffren as hymself wolde [s]o doon as hym liketh--
     P.206
Coupled and uncoupled to cacche what thei mowe.
     P.207
Forthi ech a wis wight I warne--wite wel his owene!'
     P.208
(What this metels bymeneth, ye men that ben murye,
     P.209
Devyne ye--for I ne dar, by deere God in hevene)!
     P.210
Yet hoved ther an hundred in howves of selk--
     P.211
Sergeants, it semed, that serveden at the Barre,
     P.212
Pleteden for penyes and pounded the lawe,
     P.213
And noght for love of Oure Lord unlose hire lippes ones.
     P.214
Thow myghtest bettre meete myst on Malverne Hilles
     P.215
Than get a "mom' of hire mouth til moneie be shewed!
     P.216
Barins and burgeises and bondemen als Page  9
     P.217
I seigh in this assemblee, as ye shul here after;
     P.218
Baksteres and brewesteres and bochiers manye,
     P.219
Wollen webbesters and weveres of lynnen,
     P.220
Taillours and tynkers and tollers in markettes,
     P.221
Masons and mynours and many othere craftes:
     P.222
Of alle kynne lybbynge laborers lopen forth somme-
     P.223
As dykeres and delveres that doon hire dedes ille
     P.224
And dryveth forth the longe day with "Dieu save Dame Emme!'
     P.225
Cokes and hire knaves cryden, " Hote pies, hote!
     P.226
Goode gees and grys! Go we dyne, go we!'
     P.227
Taverners until hem tolden the same:
     P.228
"Whit wyn of Oseye and wyn of Gascoigne,
     P.229
Of the Ryn and of the Rochel, the roost to defie!'
     P.230
--Al this I seigh slepyng, and sevene sythes more.
     P.231