William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
William Langland

Passus 1

What this mountaigne bymeneth and the merke dale
     1.001
And the feld ful of folk, I shal yow faire shewe.
     1.002
A lovely lady of leere in lynnen yclothed
     1.003
Cam doun fom [the] castel and called me faire,
     1.004
And seide, "Sone, slepestow? Sestow this peple-
     1.005
How bisie they ben aboute the maze?
     1.006
The mooste partie of this peple that passeth on this erthe,
     1.007
Have thei worship in this world, thei wilne no bettre;
     1.008
Of oother hevene than here holde thei no tale'. -
     1.009
I was afeed of hire face, theigh she faire weere,
     1.010
And seide, " Mercy, madame, what [may] this [be] to mene?' Page  10
     1.011
"The tour upon the toft', quod she, "Truthe is therinne,
     1.012
And wolde that ye wroughte as his word techeth.
     1.013
For he is fader of feith and formed yow alle
     1.014
Bothe with fel and with face and yaf yow fyve wittes
     1.015
For to worshipe hym therwith while that ye ben here.
     1.016
And therfore he highte the erthe to helpe yow echone
     1.017
Of woilene, of lynnen, of liflode at nede
     1.018
In mesurable manere to make yow at ese;
     1.019
And comaunded of his curteisie in commune three thynges:
     1.020
Are none nedfulle but tho, and nempne hem I thynke,
     1.021
And rekene hem by reson--reherce thow hem after.
     1.022
"That oon is vesture from chele thee to save,
     1.023
And mete at meel for mysese of thiselve,
     1.024
And drynke whan thow driest--ac do noght out of reson,
     1.025
That thow worthe the wers whan thow werche sholdest.
     1.026
For Lot in hise lifdayes, for likynge of drynke,
     1.027
Dide by hise doughtres that the devel liked:
     1.028
Delited hym in drynke as the devel wolde,
     1.029
And leccherie hym laughte, and lay by hem bothe--
     1.030
And al he witte it the wyn, that wikked dede:
     1.031
Inebriemus eum vino dormiamusque cum eo, ut
     1.031
servare possimus de patre nostro semen.
     1.031
Thorugh wyn and thorugh wommen ther was Loth acombred,
     1.032
And there gat in glotonie gerles that were cherles.
     1.033
Forthi dred delitable drynke and thow shalt do the bettre.
     1.034
Mesure is medicine, though thow muchel yerne.
     1.035
Al is nought good to the goost that the gut asketh,
     1.036
Ne liflode to the likame that leef is to the soule.
     1.037
Leve nought thi likame, for a liere hym techeth--
     1.038
That is the wrecched world, wolde thee bitraye. Page  11
     1.039
For the fend and thi flessh folwen togidere,
     1.040
And that [shendeth] thi soule; set it in thin herte.
     1.041
And for thow sholdest ben ywar, I wisse thee the beste.'
     1.042
"A, madame, mercy,' quod l, " me liketh wel youre wordes.
     1.043
Ac the moneie of this molde that men so faste holdeth--
     1.044
Telleth me to whom that tresour appendeth.'
     1.045
Go to the Gospel,' quod she, "that God seide hymselven,
     1.046
Tho the poeple hym apposede with a peny in the Temple
     1.047
Wheither thei sholde therwith worshipe the kyng Cesar.
     1.048
And God asked of hem, of whom spak the lettre,
     1.049
And the ymage ylike that therinne stondeth?
     1.050
Cesares, thei seiden, "we seen it wel echone.'
     1.051
""Reddite Cesari,'' quod God, "" that Cesari bifalleth,
     1.052
Et que sunt Dei Deo, or ellis ye don ille.'
     1.053
--For rightfully Reson sholde rule yow alle,
     1.054
And Kynde Wit be wardeyn youre welthe to kepe,
     1.055
And tutour of youre tresor, and take it yow at nede,
     1.056
For housbondrie and he holden togidres.'
     1.057
Thanne I frayned hire faire, for Hym that hire made,
     1.058
"That dongeon in the dale that dredful is of sighte--
     1.059
What may it bemeene, madame, I yow biseche?'
     1.060
"That is the castel of care--whoso comth therinne
     1.061
May banne that he born was to bodi or to soule!
     1.062
Therinne wonyeth a wight that Wrong is yhote,
     1.063
Fader of falshede--and founded it hymselve.
     1.064
Adam and Eve he egged to ille,
     1.065
Counseilled Kaym to killen his brother,
     1.066
Judas he japed with Jewen silver,
     1.067
And sithen on an eller hanged hym after.
     1.068
He is lettere of love and lieth hem alle:
     1.069
That trusten on his tresour bitrayed arn sonnest.' Page  12
     1.070
Thanne hadde I wonder in my wit what womman it weere
     1.071
That swiche wise wordes of Holy Writ shewed,
     1.072
And halsede hire on the heighe name, er she thennes yede,
     1.073
What she were witterly that wissed me so faire.
     1.074
"Holi Chirche I am,' quod she, thow oughtest me to knowe.
     1.075
I underfeng thee first and the feith taughte.
     1.076
Thow broughtest me borwes my biddyng to fulfille,
     1.077
And to loven me leelly the while thi lif dureth.'
     1.078
Thanne I courbed on my knees and cried hire of grace,
     1.079
And preide hire pitously to preye for my synnes,
     1.080
And also kenne me kyndely on Crist to bileve,
     1.081
That I myghte werchen His wille that wroghte me to man:
     1.082
"Teche me to no tresor, but tel me this ilke =
     1.083
How I may save my soule, that seint art yholden.'
     1.084
"Whan alle tresors arn tried,' quod she, -Treuthe is the beste.
     1.085
I do it on Deus caritas to deme the sothe;
     1.086
It is as dereworthe a drury as deere God hymselven.
     1.087
Who is trewe of his tonge and telleth noon oother,
     1.088
And dooth the werkes therwith and wilneth no man ille,
     1.089
He is a god by the Gospel, agrounde and olofte,
     1.090
And ylik to Oure Lord, by Seint Lukes wordes.
     1.091
The clerkes that knowen this sholde kennen it aboute,
     1.092
For Cristen and uncristen cleymeth it echone.
     1.093
" Kynges and knyghtes sholde kepen it by reson--
     1.094
Riden and rappen doun in reaumes aboute,
     1.095
And taken transgressores and tyen hem faste
     1.096
Til treuthe hadde ytermyned hire trespas to the ende.
     1.097
For David in hise dayes dubbed knyghtes,
     1.098
And dide hem sweren on hir swerd to serven truthe evere.
     1.099
And that is the profession apertly that apendeth to knyghtes, Page  13
     1.100
And naught to Fasten o Friday in fyve score wynter,
     1.101
But holden with hym and with here that wolden alle truthe,
     1.102
And never leve hem for love ne for lacchynge of silver--
     1.103
And whoso passe[th] that point is apostata in the ordre.
     1.104
- But Crist, kyngene kyng, knyghted ten--
     1.105
Cherubyn and Seraphyn, swiche sevene and another,
     1.106
And yaf hem myght in his majestee--the murier hem thoughte--
     1.107
And over his meene meynee made hem archangeles;
     1.108
Taughte hem by the Trinitee treuthe to knowe,
     1.109
To be buxom at his biddyng--he bad hem nought ellis.
     1.110
"Lucifer with legions lerned it in hevene,
     1.111
[And was the lovelokest to loke after Oure Lord (one)]
     1.112
Til he brak buxomnesse; his blisse gan he tyne,
     1.113
And fel fro that felawshipe in a fendes liknesse
     1.114
into a deep derk helle to dwelle there for evere.
     1.115
And mo thousandes myd hym than man kouthe nombre
     1.116
Lopen out with Lucifer in lothliche forme
     1.117
For thei leveden upon hym that lyed in this manere:
     1.118
Ponam pedem in aquilone, et similis ero Altissimo.
     1.119
And alle that hoped it myghte be so, noon hevene myghte hem holde,
     1.120
But fellen out in fendes liknesse [ful] nyne dayes togideres,
     1.121
Til God of his goodnesse [garte the hevene to stekie
     1.122
And gan stable it and stynte] and stonden in quiete.
     1.123
" Whan thise wikkede wenten out, wonderwise thei fellen--
     1.124
Somme in eyr, somme in erthe, somme in helle depe;
     1.125
Ac Lucifer lowest lith of hem alle: Page  14
     1.126
For pride that he putte out, his peyne hath noon ende.
     1.127
And alle that werchen with wrong wende thei shulle
     1.128
After hir deth day and dwelle with that sherewe;
     1.129
Ac tho that werche wel as Holy Writ telleth,
     1.130
And enden as I er seide in truthe, that is the beste,
     1.131
Mowe be siker that hire soules shul wende to hevene,
     1.132
Ther Treuthe is in Trinitee and troneth hem alle.
     1.133
Forthi I seye, as I seyde er, by sighte of thise textes--
     1.134
Whan alle tresors arn tried, Truthe is the beste.
     1.135
Lereth it th[u]s lewed men, for lettred it knoweth--
     1.136
That Treuthe is tresor the trieste on erthe.'
     1.137
"Yet have I no kynde knowynge,' quod I, "ye mote kenne me bettre
     1.138
By what craft in my cors it comseth, and where.'
     1.139
"Thow doted daffe!' quod she, dulle are thi wittes.
     1.140
To litel Latyn thow lernedest, leode, in thi youthe:
     1.141
Heu michi quia sterilem duxi vitam iuvenilem!
     1.141
It is a kynde knowynge that kenneth in thyn herte
     1.142
For to loven thi Lord levere than thiselve,
     1.143
No dedly synne to do, deye theigh thow sholdest--
     1.144
This I trowe be truthe; who kan teche thee bettre,
     1.145
Loke thow suffre hym to seye, and sithen lere it after;
     1.146
For thus witnesseth his word; worche thow therafter.
     1.147
" For Truthe telleth that love is triacle of hevene:
     1.148
May no synne be on hym seene that that spice useth.
     1.149
And alle his werkes he wroughte with love as hym liste,
     1.150
And lered it Moyses for the leveste thyng and moost lik to hevene,
     1.151
And also the plante of pees, moost precious of vertues :
     1.152
For hevene myghte nat holden it, so was it hevy of hymself,
     1.153
Til it hadde of the erthe eten his fille.
     1.154
And whan it hadde of this fold flessh and blood taken,
     1.155
Was nevere leef upon lynde lighter therafter,
     1.156
And portatif and persaunt as the point of a nedle, Page  15
     1.157
That myghte noon armure it lette ne none heighe walles.
     1.158
" Forthi is love ledere of the Lordes folk of hevene,
     1.159
And a meene, as the mair is, [inmiddes] the kyng and the commune;
     1.160
Right so is love a ledere and the lawe shapeth:
     1.161
Upon man for hise mysdedes the mercyment he taxeth.
     1.162
And for to knowen it kyndely--it comseth by myght,
     1.163
And in the herte, there is the heed and the heighe welle.
     1.164
For in kynde knowynge in herte ther [coms]eth a myght--
     1.165
And that falleth to the Fader that formed us alle,
     1.166
Loked on us with love and leet his sone dye
     1.167
Mekely for oure mysdedes, to amenden us alle.
     1.168
And yet wolde he hem no wo that wroughte hym that peyne,
     1.169
But mekely with mouthe mercy he bisoughte,
     1.170
To have pite of that peple that peyned hym to dethe.
     1.171
" Here myghtow sen ensample in hymself oone--
     1.172
That he was myghtful and meke, and mercy gan graunte
     1.173
To hem that hengen hym heigh and his herte thirled.
     1.174
" Forthi I rede yow riche, haveth ruthe of the povere,
     1.175
Though ye be myghty to mote, beeth meke in youre werkes,
     1.176
For the same mesure that ye mete, amys outher ellis,
     1.177
Ye shulle ben weyen therwith whan ye wenden hennes:
     1.178
Eadem mensura qua mensifueritis remecietur vobis.
     1.178
For though ye be trewe of youre tonge and treweliche wynne,
     1.179
And as chaste as a child that in chirche wepeth,
     1.180
But if ye loven leelly and lene the povere
     1.181
Of swich good as God sent, goodliche parteth,
     1.182
Ye ne have na moore merite in Masse ne in houres Page  16
     1.183
Than Malkyn of hire maydenhede, that no man desireth.
     1.184
For James the gentile jugged in hise bokes
     1.185
That feith withouten feetis (feblere] than nought,
     1.186
And as deed as a dorenai but if the dedes folwe:
     1.187
Fides sine operibus mortua est &c.
     1.187
"Forthi chastite withouten charite worth cheyned in helle;
     1.188
It is as lewed as a lampe that no light is inne.
     1.189
Manye chapeleyns arn chaste, ac charite is aweye;
     1.190
Are none hardere than hii whan [hii] ben avaunced:
     1.191
Unkynde to hire kyn and to alle Cristene,
     1.192
Chewen hire charite and chiden after moore--
     1.193
Swich chastite withouten charite worth cheyned in helle.
     1.194
Manye curatours kepen hem clene of hire bodies;
     1.195
Thei ben acombred with coveitise, thei konne noght out crepe,
     1.196
So harde hath avarice yhasped hem togideres.
     1.197
And that is no truthe of the Trinite, but tricherie of helle,
     1.198
And lernynge to lewed men the latter for to deele.
     1.199
For [thise ben wordes] writen in the [Euaungelie]:
     1.200
"" Date, et dabitur vobis--for I deeIe yow alle.
     1.201
And that is the lok of love that leteth out my grace,
     1.202
To conforten the carefulle acombred with synne.''
     1.203
Love is leche of lif and next Oure Lord selve,
     1.204
And also the graithe gate that goth into hevene.
     1.205
Forthi I seye as I seide er by sighte of the textes:
     1.206
Whan alle tresors ben tried, Treuthe is the beste.
     1.207
"Now have I told thee what truthe is--that no tresor is bettre--
     1.208
I may no lenger lenge thee with; now loke thee Oure Lord!'
     1.209