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THE AGE OF CHAUCER

WILLIAM LANGLAND? (13327-1400 ?)

PIERS THE PLOWMAN

FROM THE PROLOGUE (A — TEXT)

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In a somer sesun, whon softe was the sonne, In a summer season when soft was the sunI schop 1 me into a shroud, as 3 I a scheep shine, were;

I got me into a garment that grew on a In habite as an hermite unholy of werkes, sheep's back; Wente I wyde in this world wondres to here ;5 In habit like a hermit unholy in living, Bote 6 in a Mayes morwnynge,

on Malverne I went wide in this world wonders to seek hulles,

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out. Me bifel a ferly, of fairie, me-thoughte. But on a May morning, on Malvern hillI was wery, forwandred, 10 and wente me side,

5 to reste

I met with a marvel, of magic I thought it. Undur a brod banke bi a bourne 11 side; I was weary, forwandered, and went to And as I lay and leonede and lokede on the refresh me watres,

Under a broad bank by the side of a brooklet. I slumbrede in a slepynge, hit 12 swyed 13 so And as I lay and leaned there and looked on murie.14

the waters, Thenne gon I meeten mervelous I slumbered in a sleeping, the sound was so

soothing. That I was in a wildernesse, wuste 17 I never Then came to my mind's eye a marvellous where;

vision, And as I beheold into the est an heigh 18 to That I was in a wilderness, where wist I the sonne,

never; I sauh 19 a tour on a toft,20 tryelyche 21 And as I looked into the east and up where i-maket;

the sun was, A deop dale bineothe, a dungun ther-inne, 15 I saw a tower on a toft trimly constructed; With deop dich and derk and dredful of A deep dale beneath a dungeon within it, e15 sighte.

With deep ditch and dark and dreadful to A feir feld full of folk fond 22 I ther bitwene,

look on. Of alle maner of men, the mene and the A fair field full of folk found I between them, riche,

Of all manner of men, the mean and the Worchinge 23 and wandringe as the world mighty, asketh.

Working and wandering as the world Summe putten hem 24 to the plough, plei asketh. den 25 sul seldene,26

Some put hand to the plow, played very In settynge and in sowynge Swonken 27 ful seldom, harde,

In setting and sowing sweated they hardly, And wonnen that 28 theos wasturs 29 with And won what these wasters with gluttony glotonye distruen.39

devour. 1 shaped, arrayed ? garment 3 as if sheep 15 did I dream 16 dream 17 knew 18 on high

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saw hear 6 but 7 hills 8 strange thing 'enchant field, building-site 21 choicely, skilfully 22 found ment 10 worn out with wandering 11 burn, brook 23 working 24 them 25 played 26 seldom 27 laboured 12 it 13 whispered, made a low sound 14 merry 28 what 29 these wasters 30 destroy

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And summe putten hem to pruide, ap

paraylden hem ther-after, In cuntenaunce 3 of clothinge comen dis

gisid. To preyeres and to penaunce putten hem

monye, For love of ur 6 Lord liveden ful streite, In hope for to have hevene-riche blisse; ? As ancres 8 and hermytes that holdeth hem

in heorecelles, Coveyte 10 not in cuntre to cairen 11 aboute, For non likerous lyflode heore licam 13 to

plese. And summe chosen chaffare, 14 to cheeven 15 the bettre,

31 As hit semeth to ure sighte that suche men

thryveth. And summe, murthhes 16 to maken, as mun

strals cunne, And gete gold with here' gle, giltles, I

And some pranked them in pride, ap

pareled them accordingly, In quaint guise of clothing came they dis

figured. To prayers and to penance put themselves many,

25 All for love of our Lord lived they most

strictly, In hope of having heaven's bliss after; As nuns and as hermits that in their cells

hold them, Covet not careering about through the coun

try, With no lustful luxuries their living to pamper.

30 And some took to trade, to thrive by the

better, As to our sight it seemeth that such men

prosper. And some, merriments to make, with min

strels' cunning, And get gold with their glee, guiltless, me

thinketh; But jesters and jugglers, Judas' children, Forged them wild fantasies as fools pre

tended, Yet have wit at their will to work, were they

willing. What Paul preacheth of them prove here

I dare not : Qui loquitur tur piloquium he is Lucifer's

henchman. Bidders and beggars fast about bustled, Till their bags and their bellies were brimful and bulging;

41 Faking for their food, and fighting at the

alehouse, In gluttony, God wot, go they to slumber, And rise up with ribaldry, these robber

rascals; Sleep and sloth too pursue them forever. 45 Pilgrims and palmers pledged them to

gether To seek St. James's and saints' shrines at

Rome too; Went they forth on their way with many

wise stories, And had leave to be liars all their lives after.

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21 what

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trowe; Bote japers 18 and jangelers, 19 Judas chil

dren, Founden hem fantasyes and fooles hem

maaden, And habbeth wit at heore ' wille to worchen yif hem luste.20

37 That 21 Poul precheth of hem, I dar not

preoven 22 heere: Qui loquitur turpiloquium he is Luciferes

hyne. 23 Bidders 24 and beggers faste aboute

eoden 25 Til heor bagges and heore balies 26 bretful i-crommet ; 27

41 Feyneden hem 28 for heore foode, foughten

atte 29 ale; In glotonye, God wot, gon heo 30 to bedde And ryseth up with ribaudye 31 this roberdes

knaves; 32 Sleep and sleughthe 33 suweth 34 hem evere. Pilgrimes and palmers plihten 35 hem togederes

46 For to seche 36 Seint Jame and seintes at

Roome; Wenten forth in heore wey with mony wyse

tales, And hedden 37 leve to lyen al heore lyf aftir.

weren

1 pride 2 accordingly s fashion 4 came disguised 5 many our 7 the joy of the kingdom of heaven & nuns their 10 desire 11 roam 12 luxurious food 13 body 14 trade 15 thrive 16 amusements 17 know how is jesters 19 buffoons 20 to work if they pleased

prove, declare 23 servant

24 beggars went 26 bellies 27 brimful crammed 28 shammed at the 30 go they 31 ribaldry 32 these robber rascals 33 sloth 34 follow 35 plighted 36 seek 37 had

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1 Grete lobres 2 and longe, that loth weore to Great lubbers and long, that loth were to swynke,3

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labour,

50 Clotheden hem in copes, to beo knowen for Clothed themselves in copes, to be counted bretheren;

for "brethren"; And summe schopen hem to 4 hermytes And some entered as anchorites their ease heore ese to have.

for to purchase. I fond there freres, all the foure ordres, 55 I found there the friars, all the four orders, Prechinge the peple for profyt of heore Preaching to the people for profit of their wombes,

bellies,

56 Glosynge ' the Gospel as hem good liketh, $ Glossing the gospel as good to them seemed, For covetyse of copes construeth hit ille ; For coveting of copes construe it wrongly; For monye' of this maistres mowen 10 For many of these masters may dress at clothen hem at lyking,

their fancy, For moneye

and heore marchaundie For money and their merchandise meet oft meeten togedere; 60 together;

60 Seththe 12 Charite hath be 13 chapmon,14 and Since Charity hath been a chapman, and cheef to schriven 15 lordes,

chiefly to shrive nobles, Mony ferlyes han 16 bifalle in a fewe yeres. Many freaks have befallen in a few seasons. But 17 Holychirche and heo 18 holde bet 19 Save Holy-Church and they hold better totogedere,

gether, The moste mischeef on molde 20

is mountyng

The worst mischief in the world is mounting up faste.

up swiftly. Ther prechede a pardoner, as 21 he a prest There too preached a pardoner, as if he a were, 65 priest were,

65 And brought forth a bulle with bisschopes And brought forth a bull a bishop had seles,

signed it -And seide that himself mighte asoylen 22 And said that himself could absolve them hem alle

all fully Of falsnesse and fastinge and of vouwes Of falseness in fasting and of vows they had i-broken.23

broken. The lewede 24 men levide 25 him wel and The unlettered believed him well and liked likede his speche,

what he told them, And comen up knelynge to kissen his bulle; And came up kneeling to kiss his sealed He bonchede 26 hem with his brevet and paper; blered 27 heore eiyen,2

71 He banged them with his brevet and And raughte 29 with his ragemon ringes blinded their vision, and broches.

And raked in with his rigmarole rings and Thus ye giveth oure gold glotonis

brooches. helpen;

Thus ye give up your gold gluttons to And leveth hit to losels 33 that lecherie pamper; haunten.34

And rain it on rascals that revel in lewdness. Weore the bisschop i-blesset and worth Were the bishop blessed and worth both bothe his eres, 75

75 His sel shulde not be sent to deceyve the His seal should not be sent to deceive thus peple.

the people. Hit is not al bi 36 the bisschop that the boye But the blame is not all on the bishop that precheth,

the boy preaches, Bote the parisch prest and the pardoner But the parish priest and the pardoner part parte the selver

the silver 1 I have omitted two lines, which probably were not many wonders have 17 unless 18 they = the friars in the earliest version. 2 lubbers 3 labour 4shaped

20 earth 21 as if 22 absolve 23 broken vows them to, became 5 friars bellies ? interpreting 24 ignorant 25 believed 26 banged 27 blinded 28 eyes 8 according to their own desire 'many 10 may reached, got 30 license 31 your 32 gluttons 11 money 12 since 13 been 14 trader shrive, confess

cals 34 practice 36 it is not all the fault of

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his ears,

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That the pore peple of the parisch schulde

have yif that heo ne weore. Persones and parisch prestes playneth ? to heore bisschops

80 That heore parisch hath ben pore seththe 3

the pestilence tyme, To have a lycence and leve at Londun to

dwelle, To singe ther for simonye, for selver is

swete. Ther hovide 4 an hundret in houves 5 of

selke, Serjauns hit semide to serven atte barre; 85 Pleden for pens 6 and poundes the lawe, Not for love of ur Lord unloseth heore lippes

ones.? Thou mightest beter meten 8 the myst

Malverne hulles Then geten a mom' of heore mouth til

moneye weore schewed ! I saugh ther bisschops bolde and bachilers of divyne 10

90 Bicoome clerkes of acounte the king for to

serven. Erchedekenes and denis, 11 that dignite

haven To preche the peple and pore men to

feede, Beon lopen to Londun, bi leve of heore

bisschopes, To ben clerkes of the Kynges Benche, the

cuntre to schende.13 Barouns and burgeis 14 and bondages alse 16

That the poor people of the parish should

have but for these two. Parsons and parish priests complain to their bishops

80 That their parish hath been poor since the

pestilence season, To have a license and leave in London to

linger, To sing there for simony, for sweet is silver. There hovered a hundred in hoods of silk

stuff ; It seemed they were sergeants to serve in the law courts,

85 To plead for pennies and pounds for ver

dicts, Not for love of our Lord unloose their lips

ever. Thou couldst better measure the mist on

Malvern hill sides Than get a mum of their mouths till money

were showed them. I saw there bishops bold and bachelors of divinity

90 Become clerks of account and king's own

servants. Archdeacons and deans, whose duty binds

them To preach to the people and poor men to

care for, Have lighted out to London, by leave of their

bishops, To be clerks of the King's Bench, the country

to injure. Barons and burgesses and bondmen also I saw in that assembly, as I shall show later;

97 Bakers, butchers, and brewers many; Woolen-weavers and weavers of linen; Tailors, tanners, and tuckers likewise; 100 Masons, miners, and many other craftsmen; Dikers and diggers that do their deeds

badly, And drive forth the long day with Dieu

save Dame Emme!Cooks and their cookboys crying, "Hot

pies ! hot! Good geese and piglets! Go we dine, go we!”

105 Tavern-keepers told them a tale of traffic,

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96 I saugh in that semble, 17 as ye schul heren

aftur; Bakers, bochers, and breusters 18 monye; Wollene-websteris 19 and weveris of lynen; 99 Taillours, tanneris, and tokkeris 20 bothe; Masons, minours, and mony other craftes; . Dykers, and delvers, that don heore dedes

ille 21 And driveth forth the longe day with Deu

save Dam Emme!22 Cookes and heore knaves 23

cryen

“Hote pies, hote! “Goode gees and grys ! 24 Go we dyne, go

we!” Taverners to hem tolde the same tale, 106

1 if it were not for them ? complain 3 since 4 lingered 5 hoods pence, money? once 8 thou mightst more easily measure syllable 10 divinity 11 deans 12 have run 13 injure 14 burgesses 15 boná

men 16 also 17 assembly 18 brewers

19 woolenweavers tuckers, finishers of cloth 21 that do their work badly 22 A popular song of the time. 23 boys 24 pigs

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* Alsatia * Rhine 3 digest * seven times * crowd

g •) * rats 7 once 8 mice 9 them 10 came 11 their 12 seized * pushed “fear * dreads 1° if 17 grudge 18 sport ** scratch "clutches * before * rat o renown

With that ran there a rabble of rats all

together, And small mice with them, more than a thousand, And came to a counsel for their common . profit;

For a cat of a court came when it pleased him,

And overleaped them lightly and levied on them freely, I5o

And played with them perilously and pushed them about there.

“For drede of divers deeds we dare not once

look up; And if his game we grudge him, he will grieve us also, Claw us or clinch us and in his clutches hold us, Making life to us loathsome ere he let us Scamper. Might we with any wisdom his wilfulness hinder, 156

We might be lords aloft and live at our liking.” A rat of high renown, most reasonable of discourse, Said for a sovereign help for their sorrow : — “I have seen swains,” said he, “in the city of London Wear circlets most splendid about their necks swinging, And some collars of crafty work; uncoupled they ramble 162

Both in warren and in waste land, e'en where'er it pleases; And other times are they elsewhere, as I am advised. Were a bell borne on the collar, by Jesu, as me thinketh, One might wit where they went, and away Scamper 166

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