Piers Plowman




THE king and his knights · to the church went
To hear matins of the day · and the mass after.
Then waked I of my winking · and was woeful withal
That I had not slept sounder · and so seen more.
But ere I fared a furlong · faintness me seized,
I might not go further a foot · for want of my sleep;
And sat softly adown · and said my Creed
And as I babbled on my beads · they brought me asleep.

And then saw I much more · than I before told:
For I saw the field full of folk · that I before spoke of,
And how Reason got ready · to preach to the realm,
And with a cross before the king · began thus to teach.

He proved that these pestilences · were purely for sin,
And the south-west wind · on Saturday at even
Was plainly for pure pride · and for no point else.
Pear-trees and plum-trees · were puffed to the earth
For example, ye men · that ye should do better.
Beeches and broad oaks · were blown to the ground,
Turned upwards their tails · in token of dread
That deadly sin at doomsday · shall undo them all.

Of this matter I might · mumble full long,
But I will say as I saw · so God me help!
How plainly before the people · Reason began to preach.

He bade Waster go work · at what he best could
And win back his wasting · with some manner of craft.

And prayed Pernel put off · her costly array
And keep it in her box · for money at her need.

Tow Stowe he taught · to take two staves
And from women's punishment · bring Phyllis home.
He warned Wat · his wife was to blame,
That her hat was worth half a mark · his hood cost not a groat.
And bade Batt cut down · a bough or even two
And beat Betty therewith · unless she should work.
And then he charged chapmen · to chasten their children:

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 34
`Let no wish for wealth spoil them · while they be young,
Nor for power of the pestilence · please them out of reason.

My sire said so to me · and so did my dame,
That the more loved the child · the more teaching it needs,
And Solomon said the same · that Wisdom made,

Qui parcit virgae, odit filium.
The English of this Latin is · whoso will it know,
Whoso spareth the sprig · spoileth the children.'

And then he prayed prelates · and priests together,
`What ye preach to the people · prove it on yourselves
And do it in deeds · it shall draw you to good;
If ye live as ye teach us · we'll believe you the better.'

And then he counselled religious · their rule to uphold,
'Lest the king and his council · your commons curtail
And be stewards of your steads · till ye be better ruled

Then he counselled the king · the commons to love,
`They're thy treasure in treason · and help at thy need.'
And then be prayed the pope · to pity Holy Church,
And ere he give any grace · to govern first himself.

`And ye that have laws to guard · let truth be your desire
More than gold or other gifts · if ye will God please;
For whoso contrarieth truth · he telleth in the gospel,
That God knoweth him not · nor doth no saint in Heaven:

Amen dico vobis, nescio vos.
'And ye that seek Saint James · and the Saints of Rome,
Seek ye Saint Truth · for he may save you all,
Qui cum Patre & Filio · may fair them befall
That list to my sermon' · And thus said Reason.
Then ran Repentance · and rehearsed his theme
And made Will to weep · water with his eyes.

Pernel Proud-heart · leaned her to the earth
And lay long ere she looked · and 'Lord, mercy!' cried,
And vowed to him · that us all made
She should unsew her shift · and wear a hairshirt
To enfeeble her flesh · that fierce was to sin.
'Shall never high heart have me · but hold myself lowly
And suffer myself slighted · and so did I never.
But now will I be meek · and mercy beseech,
For all this I have hated · in mine heart.'

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 35

Then Lecher said: 'Alas!' · and on our Lady he cried,
To make mercy for his misdeeds · between God and his soul,
If he should every Saturday · for seven year thereafter
Drink but with the duck · and dine only once.


Envy with heavy heart · asked them for shrift,
And sadly mea culpa · began to repeat.
He was pale as a stone · in a palsy he seemed,
And clothed in coarse cloth · which I could not describe;
In a kilt and a coat · and a knife by his side;
Of a friar's frock · were the fore-sleeves.
Like a leek that had lain · too long in the sun,
So looked he with lean cheeks · lowering foully.

His body bursting with wrath · so that he bit his lips,
And went wringing with his fists · to wreak himself he thought
With works or with words · when he saw his time.
Each sentence he said · was of an adder's tongue,
Chiding and challenge · was his chief livelihood
With backbiting and blackguarding · and bearing false witness
This was all his courtesy · wherever he showed him.

`I'd be shriven,' quoth this wretch · `and I for shame dare not;
I'd be gladder, by God · that Gib had mischance
Than if I'd this week won · weight of Essex cheese.
I've a neighbour nigh me · whom I've armoyed oft,
And lied on him to lords · to make him lose his silver,
And made his friends be his foes · through my false tongue;
His grace and his good haps · grieve me full sore.
Between family and family · I make debate oft,
That both life and Iiinb · is lost through my speech.
And when I meet him in market · that I most hate,
I hail him heartily · as I his friend were;
For he is braver than I · and I dare do no other;
But had I mastery and might · God wot my will!

'And when I come to the church · and should kneel to the rood
And pray for the people · as the priest teacheth,
For pilgrims and palmers · and for all people after,
Then I cry on my knees · that Christ give them sorrow
Who bare away my bowl · and my ragged sheet.

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 36
Away from the altar then · turn I mine eyes,
And behold how Helen · hath a new coat:
I wish then it were mine · and all the webb as well.
At men's losses I laugh · that liketh mine heart.
For their winnings I weep · and wail all the time;
Deem that they do ill · where I do far worse;
Whoso chides me therefore · I hate him deadly after.
I would that each wight · were mine own knave,
For whoso hath more than I · angereth me sore.
And thus I live loveless · like a lousy dog,
So that my body bursts · for bitterness of my gall.
I might not eat many years · as a man ought,
For envy and ill will · is bad to digest.
Can no sugar nor sweet thing · assuage my swelling,
Nor no diapenidion · drive it from mine heart,
Nor neither shrift nor sham · if my maw be not scraped?'

`Yes, readily,' quoth Repentance · and ruled him from the best.
`Sorrow for sins is salvation of souls.'

`I am sorry,' quoth the man · `I am but seldom other,
And that maketh me thus meagre · for I cannot revenge.
Among burgesses have I been · dwelling at London,
And got Backbiting by a broker · to blame men's wares.
When one sold and I not · then was I ready
To lie and lower on my neighbour · and slander his goods.
I will amend this if I may · by the Almighty's might.'

Now awaketh Wrath · with two white eyes
And snivelling at the nose · and his neck hanging.

'I am Wrath,' quoth he · `I was some time a friar
And the convent's gardener · for to graft shoots.
On limiters and lectors · lyings I grafted,
Till they bare leaves of lowly speech · the lords to please;
And then they blossomed abroad · in bowers to hear shrifts.
And now is fallen a fruit · that folk much prefer
To show their sins to them · than be shriven by their parsons.

`And now parsons have perceived · that they must share with friars,
The beneficed ones preach · and the friars defame;
The friars find them at fault · as folk bear witness,

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 37
That when they preach to the people · in my place about
I, Wrath, walk with them · and guide them from my looks.
Thus they speak of the spirit · but either despiseth other
Till they be both beggars · and by my ministering live,
Or else all are rich · and ride horses about.
I, Wrath, rest never · but that I must follow
This wicked folk · for such is my grace.

`I have an aunt a nun · and an abbess as well;
Her were liefer swoon or die · than suffer pain.

`I've been cook in her kitchen · in the convent served
Many months with them · and with monks as well.
I was prioresses' Pottager · and for other poor ladies,
And made them pottage of prattling · that Dame Joan was a bastard;
Dame Clarice a knight's daughter · and a cuckold her sire;
And Dame Pernel a priest's wench · prioress to be never,
For she childed in cherry-time · as the whole chapter knew.

`Of wicked words, I, Wrath · their salads made,
Till "Thou liest!" and "Thou liest!" · leaped out at once
And either hit other · under the cheek;
Had they had knives, by Christ · each had killed other.

`Saint Gregory was a good pope · and had good forewit,
That no prioress should be priest · so he ordained.
They had else incurred infamy · the very first day
That they took up their office · they're so ill to keep counsel.

'Among monks I might be · but oft times I shun them,
For there be many strict ones · mine affairs to espy,
Both prior and subprior and · our pater abbas.
If I tell any tales · they counsel together
And make me fast Fridays · on bread and water;
I'm charged in the chapter-house · as if I a child were
And beaten on my backside · no breeches between,
So have I no liking · with those men to dwell.
I eat there stale stockfish · and feeble ale drink.
At other time, when wine cometh · when I drink wine at eve
I have a flux of a foul mouth · a good five days after.
All the wickedness I know of · by any of our brethren,
I tell it in the cloister · till the whole convent knows.,

'Now repent ye,' quoth Repentence · and rehearse thou never
Counsel that thou knowest · by favour or by right.
And drink not over delicately · nor too deep neither,

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 38
Lest thy will because thereof · to wrath might be turned.
Esto sobrius,' he said · and absolved me after
And bade me wish to weep · my wickedness to amend.
And then came Covetousness · I can him not describe,
So hungry and hollow · Sir Harvey him looked.
He was beetle-browed · and blubber-lipped too,
With two bleared eyes · as a blind hog;
And as a leather purse · lolled his cheeks
Yet lower than his chin · trembling with age;
And as a bondman's with bacon · his beard was bedraggled.
With an hood on his head · a lousy hat above,
And in a tawny tabard · of twelve winters' age,
All tattered and dirty · and full of lice creeping --
But if a louse could not · have leaped with the best
She could not have walked there · so threadbare the stuff.

`I have been covetous,' quoth this caitiff · `I acknowledge it here.
For some time I served · Sim-at-the-stile
And was his prentice · pledged his profit to serve.
First I learned to lie · for a leaf or two;
Wickedly to weigh · was my first lesson.
To Weyhill and Winchester · I went to the fair,
With many manner of merchandise · as my master me bade,
And had not grace of Guile · gone in with my wares
They had been unsold this seven years · so help me God!

`Then tarried I amongst drapers · my grammar to learn;
To draw the selvedge along · the longer it seemed;
Among the rich ranged cloths · rendered a lesson,
To pierce them with a pack-needle · and plait them together,
Put them in a press · and pin them therein
Till ten yards or twelve · had tolled out to thirteen.

`My wife was a weaver · and woollen cloth made.
She spoke to the spinsters · to spin it all out,
But the pound that she paid by · poised a quartern more
Than did mine own balance · whoso weighed true.

`I bought her barley malt · she brewed it to sell.
Penny-ale and pudding-ale · she poured together
For tabourers and for low folk · that was kept by itself.

`The best ale lay in my bower · or in my bedchamber,

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 39
And whoso tasted thereof · bought it thereafter
A gallon for a groat · no less, God knows:
And 'twas measure in cupfuls · this craft my wife used.
Rose the Retailer · was her right name;
She hath holden huckstering · all through her lifetime.

`But I swear now, may I thrive! · that sin will I stop,
And never wickedly weigh · nor wicked chaffer use.
But wend to Walsingham · and my wife also
And pray the Rood of Bromholm · bring me out of debt.'

`Repentedest thou ever,' quoth Repentance · or restitution madest?'
`Yes, once I was barboured · with an heap of chapmen;
I rose when they were at rest · and rifled their bags.'

`That was no restitution · but a robber's theft.
Thou haddest be better worthy · to be hanged there for
Than for all that · that thou hast here showed.'

`I weened rifling were restitution · for I've not learned in books
And I know no French, i'faith · but of furthest end of Norfolk.'

`Usedest thou every usury · in all thy life-time?'

`Nay, soothly,' he said · `save in my youth.
I learned a lesson · among Jews and Lombards,
To weigh pence with a weight · and pare down the heaviest;
And lend it for love of the Cross · for a pledge, to be lost;
Such deeds I did write · lest he due day miss.
I have more money through arrears · than through miseretur et commodat.
I have lent lords · and ladies my goods,
And been their broker after · and bought it myself.
Exchanges and contracts · with much chaffer I deal;
Lend to folk that will lose · of every noble a part.
And with Lombard's letters · I lend gold to Rome,
Here took it by tally · and told it there less.'

`Lentest ever to lords · for love of protection?'

`Yea, I have lent to lords · who loved me never after,
And have made many a knight · both mercer and draper
That paid for his prenticehood · not a pair of gloves even.'

`Hast thou pity on poor men · that must needs borrow?'

`I have as much pity of poor men · as hath pedlar of cats
He would kill if he could · for the sake of their skins.'

`Art thou generous to thy neighbours · with thy meat and drink?'

`I am holden as kind · as a hound in the kitchen;
Among my neighbours especially · I have such a name.'

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 40
`Now God never grant thee · but thou soon repent,
His grace on this ground · thy goods well to bestow,
Nor thine heirs after thee · to have joy of thy winnings,
Nor executors spend well · the silver thou leavest;
That which by wrong was won · by wicked men to be spent.
For were I friar of that house · where is good faith and charity,
I'd not clothe us with thy cash · nor our church amend,
Nor have for our pittance · penn'orth of thine
For the best book in our house · though bright gold were leaves,
If I knew indeed · thou wert such as thou tellest,
Or if I could know it · in any sure way.
Servus es alterius cum fercula pinguia quaeris,
Pane tuo potius vescere, liber eris.
'Thou art an unkindly creature · I cannot absolve thee
Till thou make restitution · reckon up with them all;
And till Reason enrol · in the register of Heaven
That thou hast made each man good · I may not absolve thee --
Non dimittitur peccatum, donec restituatur oblatum, etc.
`For all that have aught of thy goods · so God have my truth!
Will be held at the high Day of Doom · to help thee to restore.
And whoso believeth not this · let him look in the Psalter,
In Miserere mei Deus · whether I speak truth;
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti, etc.
`Shall never workman in this world · thrive with what thou winnest;
Cum sancto Sanctus eris · construe me that in English.'

Then drooped the scamp in despair · and would have himself hanged,
Had not Repentance the rather · recomforted him in this manner,
`Have mercy in thy mind · and with thy mouth ask it,
For God his mercy is more · than all his other works;

Misericordia ejus super omnia opera ejus, etc.
`And all the wickedness in this world · that man might work or think
Is no more to the mercy of God · than a live coal in the sea;
Omnis iniquitas quantum ad misericordiam Dei, est quasi scintilla in media maris.
'Therefore have mercy in mind · and in merchandise, trust it:
For thou hast no good ground · to get thee a cake with,
Unless it were with thy tongue · or else with thy two hands.
For the goods thou hast gotten · began all with falsehood,
And whilst thou livest therewith · thou payest not, but borrowest.
And if thou know never to which · nor to whom to restore,
Bear it to the bishop · and bid him of his grace
Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 41
Bestow it himself · as is best for thy soul.
For for thee shall be answer · at the high Day of Doom;
For thee and many more · shall that man give a reckoning.
What he taught you in Lent · believe thou none other,
What he gave of our Lord's goods · to lead you from sin.'

Now beginneth Glutton · for to go to shrift
And carries him to kirk-ward · his fault there to show.
But Betty the brewster · bade him good-morrow
And asked of him with that · whitherward he would.

`To holy church,' quoth he · `for to hear mass,
And after will be shriven · and then sin no more.'

`Gossip, I've good ale,' quoth she · 'Glutton, wilt thou try it?'

`Hast thou aught in thy bag? · Any hot spices?'

`I have pepper and peony · and a pound too of garlic,
And a farthing's worth of fennel-seed · for fasting days.'

Then goeth Glutton in · and great oaths come after.
Cis the shoe-seller · sat on the bench,
Wat the game-keeper · and his wife too,
Tim the tinker · and two of his prentices,
Hick the horsedealer · and Hugh the needle-seller,
Clarice of Cock lane · and the clerk of the church,
Davy the ditcher · and a dozen other;
Sir Piers the priest · and Pernel of Flanders,
A fiddler, a rat-catcher · the street sweeper of Chepe,
A roper, a riding-man · and Rose the dish-seller,
Godfrey of Garlickithe · and Griffith the Welshman,
And old-clothesmen a heap · early in the morning
Give Glutton with glad cheer · good ale for himself.

Clement the cobbler · cast off his cloak
And named it for sale · at the `new fair' game.
Hick the horse dealer · heaved his hood after
And bade Bart the butcher · be on his side.
There were chapmen chosen · the goods to appraise;
Whoso hath the hood · should have amends for the cloak.
Two rose up quickly · and whispered together
And priced these pennyworths · apart by themselves.
They could not in their conscience · agree on a value,

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 42
Till Robin the roper · arose for the truth
And named himself umpire · to avoid a debate
And to settle this business · betwixt them three.

Hickey the hostler · he had the cloak,
In covenant that Clement · should the cup fill
And have Hick hostler's hood · and hold himself served;
And whoso sooner repented · should arise after
And give to Sir Glutton · a gallon of ale.

There was laughing and lowering · and `Let go the cup!'
They sat so till evensong · singing now and then,
Till Glutton had gulped down · a gallon and a gill.
His guts 'gan to grumble · like two greedy sows;
He pissed a pot-full · in a paternoster-while;
And blew with the bugle · at his backbone's end,
That all hearing that horn · held their nose after
And wished it were stopped up · with a wisp of furze.

He could neither step nor stand · before he had his staff;
Then began he to go · like a gleeman's bitch,
Sometimes aside · sometimes astern
As whoso layeth lines · for to snare fowl.

And when he drew to the door · then dimmed his eyes;
He stumbled on threshold · and fell to the earth.
Clement the cobbler · caught him by the middle
For to lift him aloft · and laid him on his knees;
Glutton was a great lout · and lumpish to lift
And coughed up a caudle · in Clement's lap:
No hound is so hungry · in Hertfordshire
Dare lap up those leavings · so unlovely they smelt.

With all the woe of this world · his wife and his wench
Bare him home to his bed and · brought him therein.
And after all his excess he had · such a head
He slept Saturday and Sunday · till the sun went to rest.
Then waked he of his winking · and wiped his eyes;
The first word that he said · was: `Where is the bowl?'
His wife began to reproach him · for how wickedly he lived,
And Repentance right so · rebuked him that time:
`As thou with words and works · hast wrought evil in thy life,
Shrive thee and be shamed therefore · and show it with thy mouth.'

`I, Glutton,' quoth the wretch · 'confess me guilty,
That I have trespassed with my tongue · I can not tell how oft:
Sworn "by God's soul and · "so help me, God and his saints,"

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 43
Where there was no need · over nine hundred times.
And surfeited me at supper · and sometimes at noon,
That I, Glutton, threw it up · ere I'd gone a mile
And spilt what might be spared · and spent on some hungry one.
Over-delicately on fasting-days · drunken and eaten,
And sometimes sat so long I · slept and ate together.
For love of tales dined I · in taverns to drink more,
And hurried to meat ere noon · when fasting-days were.'

`This shewing of shrift,' quoth Repentance · 'shall merit to thee.'

Began Glutton to cry · and great dole to make
For his evil life · that he had so lived;
And vowed to fast · `for hunger as for thirst
Shall never fish on Friday · digest in my womb,
Till Abstinence mine aunt · hath given me leave;
And yet have I hated her · all my life long.'


Then came Sloth all beslobbered · with two slimey eyes.
`I must sit,' said the fellow I · or else should I nap.
I cannot stand nor stoop · nor without a stool kneel.
But were I put to bed · unless my tail made me,
Should no ringing make me rise · ere I were ripe to dine.'
He began Bentedicite with a belch · and knocked on his breast
And stretched and snored · and slumbered at last.
`Awake, wretch!' quoth Repentance · `and run thee to shrift.'
`Should I die on this day · I'd not trouble to look.
I know not Paternoster · as the priest it singeth,
But I know rhymes of Robin Hood · and Earl Randolph of Chester,
But of our Lord or our Lady · not the least ever made.
I have made forty vows · and forgot them at morning;
I performed never penance · as the priest me bade,
Nor right sorry for my sins · yet was I never.
If I pray any prayers · except it be in wrath,
What I tell with my tongue · is two miles from mine heart.
I am occupied each day · holidays and other,
With idle tales in the alehouse · and sometimes in churches.
God's pain and his passion · seldom think I thereon.
I visited never feeble men · nor fettered folk in jail;
I had liefer hear an harlotry · or cobbler's summer games,
Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 44
Or lyings to laugh at · and belying my neighbour,
Than all that ever Mark made · Matthew, John and Luke.
And vigils and fasting days · all these I let pass,
And lie abed in Lent · my wench in my arms,
Till matins and mass be done · then I go to the friars;
Come I to Ite, missa est · I hold myself served.
I'm not shriven for a long time · unless sickness make me,
Not twice in two years · and then confession is a guess.

`I have been priest and a parson · passing thirty winters,
Yet can I not sing sol-fa · nor read the saints' lives;
But I can find in a field · or a furrow an hare,
Better than in Beatus vir · or Beati omnes
Construe one clause well · and teach my parishioners.
I can hold love-days · and hear a reeve's reckoning,
But in the canon or decretals · I can not read a line.
If I buy on tick · unless it be tallied
I forget it as soon · and if men me it ask,
Six times or seven · I deny it with oaths,
And thus trouble I true men · ten hundred times.

`And my servants' salary · a long time is behind;
Rueful is the reckoning · when we render account.
So with wicked will and wrath · my workmen I pay.

`If man doth me a benefit · or helpeth me at need,
I am unkind to his courtesy · and can not understand it;
For I have, and have had · something of a hawk's manner:
I am not lured with love · unless there lie aught under the thumb.

'Kindness my fellow Christians · accorded me formerly,
Sixty times I, Sloth · have forgot it since.
In speech, and in sparing speech · I waste many a time
Both flesh and fish · and much other victual;
Both bread and ale · butter, milk and cheese,
I spoiled in my service · so it might serve no man.

`I ran about in my youth · and set myself not to learn,
And ever since have been beggared · for my foul sloth:

Heu mihi, quod sterilem vitam duxi juvenilem.'
'Repentest thou not?' quoth Repentance · and right with that he swooned,
Till Vigilate the vigilant · fetched water from his eyes
And flooded his face · and fast on him cried
And said, `Beware of Despair · who would thee betray.
Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 45
"I am sorry for my sins," · say so to thyself,
Beat thyself on the breast · and beseech of him grace:
For is no guilt there so great · that his goodness is not more.'

Then sat Sloth up · and crossed himself
And made a vow to God · 'gainst his foul sloth:
'Shall no Sunday be for seven year · unless sickness me stop,
That I go not before dawn · to the dear church
And matins hear and mass · as though I were a monk.
No ale after meat · shall hold me thence
Till evensong I've heard · I vow it to the rood.
Moreover will I pay back · if I it have,
All I've wickedly won · since I had wit.

`Though I lack livelihood · stop will I not
Till each man shall have his · ere that I go hence;
And with the residue · and remnant by the Rood of Chester!
I shall seek Truth first · before I see Rome.'

Robert the Robber · on Reddite looked;
He'd naught to pay with · and wept full sore.
But yet the sinful wretch · said to himself,
`Christ, that on Calvary · upon the cross died,
When Dismas my brother · besought you of grace,
Then haddest mercy on that man · for memento's sake
Have pity on this robber · that cannot repay
And may never hope to win · with work what I owe.
But for thy much mercy · mitigation I beseech;
Damn me not at doomsday · for that I did ill.'
What fell to this felon · I can not fairly show;
Well I wot he wept water · fast with both eyes,
And acknowledged his guilt · right soon after to Christ,
That his pike of penitence · he should polish anew
And use it on pilgrimage · all his life-time,
For he had lain with Latro · Lucifer's aunt.

Then had Repentance ruth · and bade them all kneel:
`For I shall beseech for all sinners · our Saviour of grace
To amend us of misdeeds · and do mercy to all.

'Now God,' quoth he, 'that of thy goodness · didst the world make
And of naught madest aught · and man most like to thyself,
And since suffered him to sin · a sickness to us all,
Yet for the best -- as I hold · whatever the Book telleth,

O felix culpa! O necessarium peccatum Adae I etc.
Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 46
`For through that sin thy son · sent was to this earth,
And became man of a maid · mankind to save,
And thyself with thy son · was made like to us sinners:
Faciamus hominen ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram;
Et alibi:
Qui manet in caritate, in Dea manet, & Deus in eo.
`And then with thy Son's self · in our suit died
On Good Friday for man's sake · at full time of day,
Where thyself nor thy Son no · sorrow felt in death,
But in ourselves was the sorrow · and thy Son it led
Captivam duxit captivitatem.
`The sun thereof for sorrow · lost sight for a time
About midday, when most light is · the meal time of saints,
When thou didst feed with thy fresh blood · our forefathers in darkness:
Populus qui ambulabat in tenebris, vidit Iticem magnam;
`Through the light that leaped from thee · Lucifer was blinded,
And all thy Blessed blown · into Paradise bliss.
The third day after · thou goest in our guise;
A sinful Mary saw thee · before Saint Mary thy mother,
And all to solace the sinful · thou sufferedest it so:
Non veni vocare justos, sed peccatores ad poenitentiam.
`And all that Mark hath written · Matthew, John and Luke,
Of thy doughtiest deeds · were done beneath our arms:
Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis.
`And by so much, meseemeth · the more surely we may
Pray and beseech · if it be thy will,
That art our father and brother · to be merciful to us;
And to have pity on those ribalds · that repent them here sore
That they wrathed thee in this world · in word, thought or deeds.'

Then grasped Hope an horn · of Deus, tu conversus vivificabis nos,
And blew it with Beati quorum · remissae sunt iniquitate
So that all saints in Heaven · sang loudly together:

Homines & jumenta salvabis, quem admodum misericordiam tuam, Deus, etc.
A thousand men then · came thronging together,
Who cried upward to Christ · and to his clean Mother
To have grace to go with them · Truth for to seek.

But there was no wight so wise that · he knew the way thither
But blundered like beasts · over banks and on hills
A long time, till 'twas late · that they a man met See page 203.

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 47
Apparelled as a Paynim · in a pilgrim's wise.
He bare a staff bound · with a broad strip
In bindweed wise · wound about.
A bowl and a bag · he bare by his side;
An hundred ampullas · on his hat set,
Signs of Sinai · and shells of Galicia,
Many a cross on his cloak · keys also of Rome
And the vernicle in front · so that men should know
And see by his signs what · shrines he had sought.

This folk asked him first · from whence he did come.

`From Sinai,' he said · `and from our Lord's sepulchre;
Bethlehem and Babylon · I have been in both;
In Armenia, in Ajexandria · and many other places.
Ye may see by my signs · that sit on my hat
That I've walked full wide · in wet and in dry,
And have sought good saints · for my soul's health.'

`Knowest thou aught of a saint · that men call Truth?
Could'st thou show us the way · where that wight dwelleth?'

`Nay, so help me · God!' said the man then,
`I saw never palmer · with pike nor with scrip
Ask after him, till · now in this place.'

`Peter!" quoth a plowman · and put forth his head,
`I know him as well · as a clerk doth his books.
Conscience and Mother-Wit · made known his place
And made me swear surely · to serve him for ever
Both in sowing and setting · so long as I work.
I have been his follower · all these ffty winters,
Both sown his seed · and driven his beasts,
And watched over his profit · within and without.
I dike and I delve · and do what Truth biddeth:
Sometimes I sow · and sometimes I thresh;
In tailor's and tinker's craft · what Truth can devise;
I weave and I wind · and do what Truth biddeth.
For though I say it myself · I serve him to his pleasure;
I have good hire of him · and oftentimes more.
He is the readiest payer · that a poor man knoweth;
He withholds not his hire · from his servants at even.
He is lowly as a lamb · and lovely of speech,
And if ye are wishful to know · where that he dwelleth,
I shall show you surely · the way to his place.'

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 48
`Yea, dear Piers,' quoth these pilgrims · and proffered him hire
For to wend with them · to Truth's dwelling-place.

`Nay, by my soul's health!' quoth Piers · and began for to swear,
`! woould not take a farthing · for Saint Tbomas's shrine!
Truth Would love me the less · a long time thereafter!

`But if ye will to wend well · this is the way thither,
That I shall say to you · and set you in the path.
Ye must go through Meekness · both men and their wives,
Till ye come into Conscience · let Christ know the truth
That ye love our lord God · the best of all things;
And then your neighbours next · in no wise use
Otherwise than thou wouldest · be wrought to thyself.

`And so bend round by a brook · Be-humble-of-speech,
Till ye find a ford called · Honour-your-fathers:

Honora patrem et matrem, etc.
Wade in that water · and wash you well there,
And you shall leap the lighter · all your lifetime.
And so shalt thou see Swear-not- · but-it-be-for-need-
Especially-not-idly- · by-God-Almighty's-name.

`Then shalt thou come by a croft · but come not therein;
That croft is called Covet-not- · men's-cattle-nor-their-wives-
Nor-none-of-their-servants- · that-might-them-annoy.
Look ye break no boughs there · unless it be your own.

`Two stocks there standeth · but stay ye not there;
They're called Steal-not and Slay-not · strike forth by both
And leave them on thy left hand · and look not thereafter
But hold well thine holiday · holy till even.

`Then shalt thou turn at a tump · Bear-no-false-witness
He is fenced with florins · and other fees many;
Look that thou pluck no plant there · for peril of thy soul;

`Then shall ye see Say-sooth- · as-it-is-to-be-done-
And-in-no-manner-else- · for-any-man's-bidding.

`Then shalt thou come to a court · as clear as the sun;
The moat is of Mercy · the manor about,
And its walls are of Wit · to hold the Will out,
Crenellated with Christendom · mankind to save,
Buttressed with Believe-so- · or-thou-beest-not-saved.
And all the houses are covered · the halls and the chambers,
With no lead but with Love · and Low-speech-of-brethren.
The bridge is of Pray-well- · the-better-mayest-thou-speed;
Each pillar is of Penance · and of Prayers to saints;

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 49
Of alms-deeds are the hooks · whereon the gates hang.

`Grace is the gateward · a good man forsooth;
His man is Amend-you · many men him know:
Tell him this token · that Truth may know sooth:
"I performed the penance · the priest me enjoined,
And full sorry for my sins · and so shall be ever
When I think thereon · though I were a pope."

`Bid Amend-you full meekly · his master to ask
To draw up the wicket · that the woman shut
When Adam and Eve · ate apples unroasted:

Per Evam cunctis clausa est, & per Mariam virginem iterem patefacia est.
For he hath key and catch · though the king sleep.

`And if Grace grant thee · to go in this wise,
Thou shalt see in thyself · Truth sit in thine heart
In a chain of charity · as thou a child were
To suffer him and say naught · against thy Sire's will.

`But beware then of Wrath-thee · that is a wicked wretch;
He hath envy for him · that in thine heart sitteth,
And putteth forth Pride · for praise of thyself.
Boldness of thy benefactions · then maketh thee blind
And thou'lt be driven out as dew · and the door closed,
Keyed and clamped up · to keep thee without;
And hundred winters haply · ere ever thou enter.
So thus might thou lose his love · by uplifting thyself,
And never enter haply again · unless thou have grace.

`But there are seven sisters · that ever serve Truth
And are porters of the posterns · that belong to the place;
One is called Abstinence · and Humility another;
Charity and Chastity · be his chief maidens;
Patience and Peace · much people they help;
The lady Largesse · hath let in full many:
She hath helped thousands · out from the Devil's pinfold.
He who is kin to this seven · so help me God!
He is wondrously welcome · and fairly received;
And unless ye be kin · to some of these seven,
'Tis full hard, by my head! · for any of you all
To get in at any gate · unless grace be given.'

`Now, by Christ!' quoth a cutpurse · 'I have no kin here!'
`Nor I,' quoth an apeward · `for aught that I know!'
`God knows,' quoth a waferer · `knew I this for sooth

Piers The Plowman, Passus V, p. 50
I'd go no foot further · for any friar's preaching.'

`Yes,' quoth Piers the Plowman · and pushed them towards good,
`Mercy is a maiden there · hath might over all;
She is all sinners · and her Son also;
Through help of them two · (hope not in none other)
Thou might get grace there · if thou go betimes.'

`By Saint Paul,' quoth a pardoner · `perchance I'm not known there.
I'll fetch my box with my briefs · bishop's letters and a bull!'
'By Christ!' quoth a common woman · `thy company I'll follow,
Thou shalt say I'm thy sister · I know not where they've gone!'


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[This text is from William Langland, The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman, tr. Donald and Rachel Attwater, ed. Rachel Attwater (Everyman, 1957), printed with the permission of the publisher.]


Last modified: May, 2, 2006

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