William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
William Langland

Passus 3

Now is Mede the mayde and no mo of hem alle,
     3.001
With bedeles and baillies brought bifore the Kyng.
     3.002
The Kyng called a clerk--l kan noght his name--
     3.003
To take Mede the maide and maken hire at ese.
     3.004
I shal assayen hire myself and soothliche appose
     3.005
What man of this world that hire were levest.
     3.006
And if she werche bi wit and my wil folwe
     3.007
I wol forgyven hire this gilt, so me God helpe!'
     3.008
Curteisly the clerk thanne, as the Kyng highte,
     3.009
Took Mede bi the myddel and broghte hire into chambre.
     3.010
Ac ther was murthe and mynstralcie Mede to plese;
     3.011
That wonyeth at Westmynstre worshipeth hire alle.
     3.012
Gentilliche with joye the justices somme
     3.013
Busked hem to the bour ther the burde dwellede,
     3.014
Conforted hyre kyndely by Clergies leve,
     3.015
And seiden, " Mourne noght, Mede, ne make thow no sorwe,
     3.016
For we wol wisse the Kyng and thi wey shape
     3.017
To be wedded at thi wille and wher thee leef liketh
     3.018
For al Conscienees cast or craft, as I trowe.'
     3.019
Mildely Mede thanne merciede hem alle Page  25
     3.020
Of hire grete goodnesse--and gaf hem echone
     3.021
Coupes of clene gold and coppes of silver,
     3.022
Rynges with rubies and richesses manye,
     3.023
The Ieeste man of hire meynee a moton of golde.
     3.024
Thanne laughte thei leve thise lordes at Mede.
     3.025
With that comenclerkes to conforten hire the same,
     3.026
And beden hire be blithe-- "For we beth thyne owene
     3.027
For to werche thi wille the while thow myght laste.'
     3.028
Hendiliche heo thanne bihighte hem the same--
     3.029
To loven hem lelly and lordes to make,
     3.030
And in the consistorie at the court do callen hire names.
     3.031
" Shal no lewednesse lette the clerke that I lovye,
     3.032
That he ne worth first avaunced for I am biknowen
     3.033
Ther konnynge clerkes shul clokke bihynde.'
     3.034
Thanne cam ther a confessour coped as a frere;
     3.035
To Mede the mayde [mekeliche he loutede]
     3.036
And seide ful softely, in shrift as it were,
     3.037
"Theigh lewed men and lered men hadde leyen by thee bothe.
     3.038
And Falshede hadde yfolwed thee alle thise fifty wynter,
     3.039
I shal assoille thee myself for a seem of whete,
     3.040
And also be thi bedeman, and bere wel thyn er[ende],
     3.041
Amonges knyghtes and clerkes, Conscience to torne.
     3.042
Thanne Mede for hire mysdedes to that man kneled,
     3.043
And shrof hire of hire sherewednesse--shamelees, I trowe;
     3.044
Tolde hym a tale and took hym a noble
     3.045
For to ben hire bedeman and hire brocour als.
     3.046
Thanne he assoiled hire soone and sithen he seide,
     3.047
" We have a wyndow in werchynge, wole stonden us ful hye;
     3.048
Woldestow glaze that gable and grave therinne thy name,
     3.049
Sykir sholde thi soule be hevene to have.'
     3.050
" Wiste I that,' quod the womman, - I wolde noght spare
     3.051
For to be youre frend, frere, and faile yow nevere
     3.052
While ye love lordes that lecherie haunten
     3.053
And lakketh noght ladies that loven wel the same. Page  26
     3.054
lt is a freletee of flessh--ye fynden it in bokes--
     3.055
And a cours of kynde. wherof we comen alle.
     3.056
Who may scape the sclaundre, the scathe is soone amended;
     3.057
It is synne of the sevene sonnest relessed.
     3.058
Have mercy,' quod Mede, of men that it haunteth
     3.059
And I shal covere youre kirk, youre cloistre do maken,
     3.060
Wowes do whiten and wyndowes glazen,
     3.061
Do peynten and portraye [who paied] for the makynge,
     3.062
That every segge shall see I am suster of youre house.'
     3.063
Ac God to alle good folk swich gravynge defendeth--
     3.064
To writen in wyndowes of hir wel dedes--
     3.065
An aventure pride be peynted there, and pomp of the world;
     3.066
For God knoweth thi conscience and thi kynde wille,
     3.067
And thi cost and thi coveitise and who the catel oughte.
     3.068
Forthi I lere yow lordes, leveth swiche w[rityng]es--
     3.069
To writen in wyndowes of youre wel dedes
     3.070
Or to greden after Goddes men whan ye [gyve] doles,
     3.071
On aventure ye have youre hire here and youre hevene als.
     3.072
Nesciat sinsitra quid faciat dextra:
     3.072
Lat noght thi left half, late ne rathe,
     3.073
Wite what thow werchest with thi right syde--
     3.074
For thus bit the Gospel goode men doon hir almesse.
     3.075
Maires and maceres, that menes ben bitwene
     3.076
The kyng and the comune to kepe the lawes,
     3.077
To punysshe on pillories and on pynynge stooles
     3.078
Brewesters and baksters, bochiers and cokes--
     3.079
For thise are men on this molde that moost harm wercheth
     3.080
To the povere peple that parcelmele buggen.
     3.081
For thei poisone the peple pryveliche and ofte, Page  27
     3.082
Thei richen thorugh regratrie and rentes hem biggen
     3.083
With that the povere peple sholde putte in hire wombe.
     3.084
For toke thei on trewely, thei tymbred nought so heighe,
     3.085
Ne boughte none burgages--be ye ful certeyne!
     3.086
Ac Mede the mayde the mair h[eo] bisought[e]
     3.087
Of alle swiche selleris silver to take,
     3.088
Or presents withouten pens--as pieces of silver,
     3.089
Rynges or oother richesse the regratiers to mayntene.
     3.090
" For my love,' quod that lady, love hem echone,
     3.091
And suffre hem to selle somdel ayeins reson.'
     3.092
Salamon the sage a sermon he made
     3.093
For to amenden maires and men that kepen lawes,
     3.094
And tolde hem this teme that I telle thynke:
     3.095
Ignis devorabit tabernacula eorum qui libenter accipiunt munera, &c.
     3.095
Among thise lettrede leodes this Latyn is to mene
     3.096
That fir shall falle and [for]brenne al to bloo askes
     3.097
The houses and the homes of hem that desireth
     3.098
Yiftes or yeresyeves because of hire offices.
     3.100
The Kyng fro counseil cam, and called after Mede,
     3.101
And ofsente hire as swithe with sergeaunts manye
     3.102
That broughte hire to boure with blisse and with joye.
     3.103
Curteisly the Kyng thanne comsed to telle;
     3.104
To Mede the mayde he melleth thise wordes:
     3.105
" Unwittily, womman, wroght hastow ofte;
     3.106
Ac worse wroghtest thow nevere than tho thow Fals toke.
     3.107
But I forgyve thee that gilt, and graunte thee my grace;
     3.108
Hennes to thi deeth day do so na moore!
     3.109
I have a knyght, Conscience, cam late fro biyonde;
     3.110
If he wilneth thee to wif, wiltow hym have?'
     3.111
"Ye, Iord,' quod that lady, " Lord forbede it ellis!
     3.112
But I be holly at youre heste, lat hange me soone!'
     3.113
Thanne was Conscience called to come and appere
     3.114
Bifore the Kyng and his conseil, as clerkes and othere. Page  28
     3.115
Knelynge Conseience to the Kyng louted,
     3.116
To wite what his wille were and what he do sholde.
     3.117
"Woltow wedde this womman,' quod the Kyng, "if I wole assente?
     3.118
For she is fayn of thi felaweshipe, for to be thi make.'
     3.119
Quod Conscience to the-Kyng, "Crist it me forbede!
     3.120
Er I wedde swich a wif, wo me bitide!
     3.121
For she is frele of hire feith, fikel of hire speche,
     3.122
And maketh men mysdo many score tymes.
     3.123
In trust of hire tresor she t[en]eth ful manye:
     3.124
Wyves and widewes wantounnesse she techeth,
     3.125
And lereth hem lecherie that loveth hire yiftes.
     3.126
Poure fader she felled thorugh false biheste,
     3.127
And hath apoisoned popes and peired Holy Chirche.
     3.128
Is noght a bettre baude, by Hym that me made,
     3.129
Bitwene hevene and helle, in erthe though men soghte!
     3.130
For she is tikel of hire tail, talewis of tonge,
     3.131
As commune as the cartwey to [knaves and to alle]--
     3.132
To monkes, to mynstrales, to meseles in hegges;
     3.133
Sisours and somonours, swiche men hire preiseth,
     3.134
Sherreves of shires were shent if she ne were--
     3.135
For she dooth men lese hire lond and hire lif bothe.
     3.136
She leteth passe prisoners and paieth for hem ofte,
     3.137
And gyveth the gailers gold and grotes togidres
     3.138
To unfettre the Fals--fle where hym liketh;
     3.139
And taketh the trewe bi the top and tieth hym faste,
     3.140
And hangeth hym for hatrede that harm[e]de nevere.
     3.141
"To be cursed in consistorie she counteth noght a russhe
     3.142
For she copeth the commissarie and coteth hise clerkes.
     3.143
She is assoiled as soone as hireself liketh;
     3.144
She may neigh as muche do in a monthe ones
     3.145
As youre secret seel in sixe seore dayes!
     3.146
She is pryvee with the Pope--provisours it knoweth,
     3.147
For Sire Symonie and hirselve seleth hire bulles.
     3.148
She blesseth thise bisshopes, theigh thei be lewed; Page  29
     3.149
Provendreth persones and preestes she maynteneth
     3.150
To h[old]e lemmans and lotebies alle hire lif daies
     3.151
And bryngen forth barnes ayein forbode lawes.
     3.152
"Ther she is wel with the kyng, wo is the reaume--
     3.153
For she is favorable to Fals and defouleth truthe ofte.
     3.154
By Jesus! with hire jeweles youre justice she shendeth
     3.155
And lith ayein the lawe and letteth hym the gate,
     3.156
That feith may noght have his forth, hire floryns go so thinke.
     3.157
She ledeth the lawe as hire list and lovedaies maketh,
     3.158
And doth men lese thorugh hire love that lawe myghte wynne--
     3.159
The maze for a mene man, though he mote evere!
     3.160
Lawe is so lordlich, and looth to maken ende:
     3.161
Withouten presents or pens he pleseth wel fewe.
     3.162
"Barons and burgeises she bryngeth in sorwe,
     3.163
And al the comune in care that coveiten lyve in truthe,
     3.164
For cIergie and coveitise she coupleth togidres.
     3.165
This is the lif of that lady--now Lord yyve hire sorwe,
     3.166
And alle that maynteneth hire men, meschaunee hem bitide!
     3.167
For povere men may have no power to pleyne though thei smerte,
     3.168
Swich a maister is Mede among men of goode.'
     3.169
Thanne mournede Mede and mened hire to the Kynge
     3.170
To have space to speke, spede if she myghte.
     3.171
The Kyng graunted hire grace with a good wille:
     3.172
"Excuse thee if thow kanst; I kan namoore seggen,
     3.173
For Conscience accuseth thee, to congeien thee for evere.'
     3.174
"Nay, lord,' quod that lady, "leveth hym the werse
     3.175
Whan ye witen witterly wher the wrong liggeth.
     3.176
Ther that meschief is gret, Mede may helpe.
     3.177
And thow knowest, Conscience, I kam noght to chide,
     3.178
Ne to deprave thi persone with a proud herte.
     3.179
WeI thow woost, wernard, but if thow wolt gabbe,
     3.180
Thow hast hanged on myn half ellevene tymes,
     3.181
And also griped my gold, and gyve it where thee liked.
     3.182
ow wrathest thee now, wonder me thynketh ! Page  30
     3.183
Yet I may, as I myghte, menske thee with yiftes
     3.184
And mayntene thi manhode moore than thow knowest.
     3.185
"Ac thow hast famed me foule bifore the Kyng here;
     3.186
For killed I nevere no kyng, ne counseiled therafter,
     3.187
Ne dide as thow demest--I do it on the Kynge.
     3.188
In Normandie was he noght noyed for my sake--
     3.189
Ac thow thiself, soothly, shamedest hym ofte:
     3.190
Crope into a cabane for cold of thi nayles,
     3.191
Wendest that wynter wolde han ylasted evere,
     3.192
And dreddest to be ded for a dym cloude,
     3.193
And hyedest homward for hunger of thi wombe.
     3.194
Withouten pite, pilour, povere men thow robbedest
     3.195
And bere hire bras at thi bak to Caleis to selle,
     3.196
Ther I lafte with my lord his lif for to save.
     3.197
I made his men murye and mournynge lette;
     3.198
I batred hem on the bak and boldede hire hertes,
     3.199
And dide hem hoppe for hope to have me at wille.
     3.200
Hadde I ben marchal of his men, by Marie of hevene!
     3.201
I dorste have leyd my lif and no lasse wedde,
     3.202
He sholde have be lord of that lond in lengthe and in brede,
     3.203
And also kyng of that kith his kyn for to helpe--
     3.204
The leeste brol of his blood a barones piere!
     3.205
Cowardly thow, Conscience, conseiledest hym thennes--
     3.206
To leven his lordshipe for a litel silver,
     3.207
That is the richeste reaume that reyn overhoveth.
     3.208
"It bicometh to a kyng that kepeth a reaume
     3.209
To yeve [men mede] that mekely hym serveth--
     3.210
To aliens and to alle men, to honouren hem with yiftes;
     3.211
Mede maketh hym biloved and for a man holden.
     3.212
Emperours and erles and alle manere lordes
     3.213
Thorugh yiftes han yonge men to yerne and to ryde.
     3.214
The Pope and alle prelates presents underfongen
     3.215
And medeth men hemserven to mayntene hir lawes,
     3.216
Servaunts for hire servyce, we seeth wel the sothe,
     3.217
Taken mede of hir maistres, as thei mowe acorde.
     3.218
Beggeres for hir biddynge bidden men mede.
     3.219
Mynstrales for hir myrthe mede thei aske.
     3.220
The Kyng hath mede of his men to make pees in londe.
     3.221
Men that [kenne clerkes] craven of hem mede.
     3.222
Preestes that prechen the peple to goode Page  31
     3.223
Asken mede and massepens and hire mete [also].
     3.224
Alle kyn crafty men craven mede for hir prentices.
     3.225
Marchaundise and mede mote nede go togideres:
     3.226
No wight, es I wene, withouten Mede may libbe!
     3.227
Quod the Kyng to Conscience, "By Crist, as me thynketh,
     3.228
Mede is worthi the maistrie to have!-
     3.229
"Nay,' quod Conscience to the Kyng and kneled to the erthe,
     3.230
"Ther are two manere of medes, my Iord, by youre leve.
     3.231
That oon God of his grace graunteth in his blisse
     3.232
To tho that wel werchen while thei ben here.
     3.233
The Prophete precheth therof and putte it in the Sauter:
     3.234
Domine, quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo?
     3.234
Lord, who shal wonye in thi wones with thyne holy seintes
     3.235
Or resten in thyne holy hilles?--This asketh David.
     3.236
And David assoileth it hymself, as the Sauter telleth:
     3.237
Qui ingreditur sine macula et operatur iusticiam.
     3.237
Tho that entren of o colour and of one wille,
     3.238
And han ywroght werkes with right and with reson,
     3.239
And he that useth noght the lyf of usurie
     3.240
And enformeth povere men and pursueth truthe:
     3.241
Qui pecuniam fuam non dedis ad usuram, et munera super inflocentem &c.
     3.241
And alle that helpen the innocent and holden with the rightfulle,
     3.242
Withouten mede doth hem good and the truthe helpeth--
     3.243
Swiche manere men, my lord, shul have this firste mede
     3.244
Of God at a gret nede, whan thei gon hennes.
     3.245
"Ther is another mede mesurelees, that maistres desireth:
     3.246
To mayntene mysdoers mede thei take,
     3.247
And therof seith the Sauter in a salmes ende--
     3.248
In quorum manibus iniquitates sunt; dextra eorum repleta est muneribus:
     3.248
And he that gripeth hir gold, so me God helpe, Page  32
     3.250
Shal abien it bittre, or the Book lieth!
     3.251
Preestes and persons that plesynge desireth,
     3.252
That taken mede and moneie for masses that thei syngeth,
     3.253
Taken hire mede here as Mathew us techeth:
     3.254
Amen, amen, receperunt mercedem suam.
     3.254
That laborers and lewede [leodes] taken of hire maistres,
     3.255
It is no manere mede but a mesurable hire.
     3.256
In marchaundise is no mede, I may it wel avowe:
     3.257
It is a permutacion apertly--a penyworth for another.
     3.258
"Ac reddestow nevere Regum, thow recrayed Mede,
     3.259
Whi the vengeaunce fel on Saul and on his children?
     3.260
God sente to Saul by Samuel the prophete
     3.261
That Agag of Amalec and al his peple after
     3.262
Sholden deye for a dede that doon hadde hire eldres.
     3.263
"Forthi,' seide Samuel to Saul, "God hymself hoteth thee
     3.264
To be buxom at his biddynge, his wil to fulfille.
     3.265
Weend to Amalec with thyn oost, and what thow fyndest there--sle it:
     3.266
Burnes and beestes--bren hem to dethe!
     3.267
Widwes and wyves, wommen and children,
     3.268
Moebles and unmoebles, and al thow myght fynde--
     3.269
Bren it, bere it noght awey, be it never so riche;
     3.270
For mede ne for monee, loke thow destruye it!
     3.271
Spille it and spare it noght--thow shalt spede the bettre.''
     3.272
And for he coveited hir catel and the kyng spared,
     3.273
Forbar hym and his beestes bothe as the Bible witnesseth
     3.274
Otherwise than he was warned of the prophete,
     3.275
God seide to Samuel that Saul sholde deye,
     3.276
And al his seed for that synne shenfulliche ende.
     3.277
Swich a meschief Mede made the kyng to have
     3.278
That God hated hym for evere and alle his heires after.
     3.279
"The culorum of this cas kepe I noght to shewe;
     3.280
On aventure it noyed me, noon ende wol I make,
     3.281
For so is this wor1d went with hem that han power Page  33
     3.282
That whoso seith hem sothest is sonnest yblamed!
     3.283
"I, Conseience, knowe this, for Kynde Wit it me taughte--
     3.284
That Reson shal regne and reaumes governe,
     3.285
And right as Agag hadde, happe shul somme:
     3.286
Samuel shal sleen hym and Saul shal be blamed,
     3.287
And David shal be diademed and daunten hem alle,
     3.288
And oon Cristene kyng kepen [us] echone.
     3.289
Shal na moore Mede be maister as she is nouthe,
     3.290
Ac love and lowenesse and leautee togideres--
     3.291
Thise shul ben raaistres on moolde [trewe men] to save.
     3.292
And whoso trespaseth ayein truthe or taketh ayein his wille,
     3.293
Leaute shal don hym lawe, and no lif ellis.
     3.294
Shal no sergeant for his service were a sik howve,
     3.295
Ne no pelure in his [paviloun] for pledynge at the barre.
     3.296
" Mede of mysdoeres maketh manye lordes,
     3.297
And over lordes Iawes [led]eth the reaumes.
     3.298
Ac kynde love shal come yit and Conscience togideres
     3.299
And make of lawe a laborer; swich love shal arise
     3.300
And swich pees among the peple and a parfit truthe
     3.301
That Jewes shul wene in hire wit, and wexen wonder glade,
     3.302
That Moyses or Messie be come into this erthe,
     3.303
And have wonder in hire hertes that men beth so trewe.
     3.304
"Alle that beren baselard, brood swerd or launce,
     3.305
Ax outher hachet or any wepene ellis,
     3.306
Shal be demed to the deeth but if he do it smythye
     3.307
into sikel or to sithe, to shaar or to kultour--
     3.308
Conflabunt gladios suos in vomeres, &c--
     3.308
Ech man to pleye with a plow, pykoise or spade,
     3.309
Spynne, or sprede donge, or spille hymself with sleuthe;
     3.310
Preestes and persons with Plucebo to hunte,
     3.311
And dyngen upon David eche day til eve.
     3.312
Huntynge or haukyng if any of hem use,
     3.313
His boost of his benefice worth bynomen hym after. Page  34
     3.314
"Shal neither kyng ne knyght, constable ne meire
     3.315
Over[carke] the commune ne to the court sompne,
     3.316
Ne putte hem in panel to doon hem plighte hir truthe;
     3.317
But after the dede that is doon oon doom shal rewarde
     3.318
Mercy or no mercy as Truthe [moste] acorde.
     3.319
" Kynges court and commune court, consistorie and chapitle--
     3.320
Al shal be but oon court, and oon b[ur]n be justice:
     3.321
That worth Trewe-tonge, a tidy man that tened me nevere.
     3.322
Batailles shul none be, ne no man bere wepene,
     3.323
And what smyth that any smytheth be smyte therwith to dethe!
     3.324
Non levabit gens contra gentem gladium &c.
     3.324
"And er this fortune falle, fynde men shul the worste,
     3.325
By sixe sonnes and a ship and half a shef of arwes;
     3.326
And the myddel of a moone shal make the Jewes torne,
     3.327
And Sarsynes for that sighte shul synge Gloria in excelsis &c--
     3.328
For Makometh and Mede myshappe shul that tyme;
     3.329
For Melius est bonum nomen quam divicie multe.'
     3.330
Also wroth as the wynd weex Mede in a while.
     3.331
" I kan no Latyn?' quod she. "Clerkes wite the sothe!
     3.332
Se what Salomon seith in Sapience bokes:
     3.333
That thei that yyven yiftes the victorie wynneth,
     3.334
And muche worshipe have therwith, as Holy Writ telleth--
     3.335
Honorem adquiret qui dut munera, &c.'
     3.335
" I leve wel, lady,' quod Conscience, "that thi Latyn be trewe.
     3.336
Ac thow art lik a lady that radde a lesson ones,
     3.337
Was omnia probate, and that plesed hire herte--
     3.338
For that lyne was no lenger at the leves ende.
     3.340
Hadde she loked that other half and the leef torned,
     3.341
She sholde have founden fele wordes folwynge therafter: Page  35
     3.342
Quod bonum est tenete--Truthe that text made.
     3.343
And so [mys]ferde ye, madame--ye kouthe na moore fynde
     3.344
Tho ye loked on Sapience, sittynge in youre studie.
     3.345
This text that ye han told were [tidy] for lordes,
     3.346
Ac yow failed a konnynge clerk that kouthe the leef han torned.
     3.347
And if ye seche Sapience eft, fynde shul ye that folweth.
     3.348
A ful tenefuI text to hem that taketh mede:
     3.349
350 And that is Animam autem oufert accipientium &c.
     3.349
And that is the tail of the text of that tale ye shewed--
     3.350
That theigh we wynne worshipe and with mede have victorie,
     3.351
The soule that the soude taketh by so muche is bounde.-
     3.352