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THE AGE OF CHAUCER

WILLIAM LANGLAND? (1332 ?-1400 ?)

PIERS THE PLOWMAN

From THE PROLOGUE (A — TEXT)

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the sonne,

In a somer sesun,

whon softe was the sonne, In a summer season when soft was the sunI schop' me into a shroud,2 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 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 sweven,

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

never; I sauh 19 a tour on a toft,20 tryelyche 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 tost trimly constructed; With deop dich and derk and dredful of A deep dale beneath a dungeon within it, '15 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 ful 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 with And won what these wasters with gluttony glotonye distruen.39

devour. shaped, arrayed 2 garment 3 as if 4 sheep did I dream 16 dream 17 knew 18 on high 19 saw 5 hear 6 but 7 hills 8 strange thing 'enchant- 29 field, building-site 21 choicely, skilfully found ment worn out with wandering il burn, brook working 24 them 25 played 26 seldom 27 laboured 12 it 13 whispered, made a low sound merry 28 what 29 these wasters destroy

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And summe putten hem to pruide, ap- And some pranked them in pride, apparaylden hem ther-after,

pareled them accordingly, In cuntenaunce 3 of clothinge comen dis- In quaint guise of clothing came they disgisid.

figured. To preyeres and to penaunce putten hem To prayers and to penance put themselves monye,

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many,

25 For love of ur Lord liveden ful streite, All for love of our Lord lived they most In hope for to have hevene-riche blisse; 7

strictly, As ancres 8 and hermytes that holdeth hem In hope of having heaven's bliss after; in heore' celles,

As nuns and as hermits that in their cells Coveyte 10 not in cuntre to cairen 11 aboute, hold them, For non likerous lyflode 12 heore licam 13 to Covet not careering about through the counplese.

try, And summe chosen chaffare,

to cheeven 15

With no lustful luxuries their living to pamthe bettre,

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per.

30 As hit semeth to ure sighte that suche men And some took to trade, to thrive by the thryveth.

better, And summe, murthhes 16 to maken, as mun- As to our sight it seemeth that such men strals cunne,17

prosper. And gete gold with here' gle, giltles, I And some, merriments to make, with mintrowe;

strels' cunning, Bote japers 18 and jangelers, 19 Judas chil- And get gold with their glee, guiltless, medren,

thinketh; Founden hem fantasyes and fooles hem But jesters and jugglers, Judas' children, maaden,

Forged them wild fantasies as fools preAnd habbeth wit at heore ' wille to worchen

tended,

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Yet have wit at their will to work, were they That 21 Poul precheth of hem, I dar not willing. preoven

What Paul preacheth of them prove here Qui loquitur turpiloquium he is Luciseres I dare not: hyne.

Qui loquitur turpiloquium he is Lucifer's Bidders 24 and beggers faste aboute henchman. eoden,25

Bidders and beggars fast about bustled, Til heor bagges and heore balies 26

Till their bags and their bellies were brimful bretful i-crommet;

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and bulging;

41 Feyneden hem 28 for heore foode, foughten Faking for their food, and fighting at the atte 29 ale;

alehouse, In glotonye, God wot, gon heo 30 to bedde In gluttony, God wot, go they to slumber, And ryseth up with ribaudye 31 this roberdes And rise up with ribaldry, these robber knaves;

rascals; Sleep and sleught he 33 suweth 34 hem evere. Sleep and sloth too pursue them forever. 45 Pilgrimes and palmers plihten 35 hem Pilgrims and palmers pledged them totogederes

46 gether For to seche 36 Seint Jame and seintes at To seek St. James's and saints' shrines at Roome;

Rome too; Wenten forth in heore wey with mony wyse Went they forth on their way with many tales,

wise stories, And hedden 37 leve to lyen al heore lyf aftir. And had leave to be liars all their lives after.

22 heere:

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1 Grete lobres 2 and longe, that loth weore to swynke, 3

50 Clotheden hem in copes, to beo knowen for

bretheren; And súmme schopen hem to 4 hermytes

heore ese to have. I fond there freres, all the foure ordres, 55 Prechinge the peple for profyt of heore

wombes, 6 Glosynge ' the Gospel as hem good liketh, For covetyse of copes construeth hit ille ; For monye 9 of this maistres

Inowen 10 clothen hem at lyking, For moneye and heore marchaundie meeten togedere;

60 Seththe 12 Charite hath be 13 chapmon, and

cheef to schriven 15 lordes, Mony ferlyes han 16 bifalle in a fewe

yeres. But 17 Holychirche and heo 18 holde bet 19

togedere, The moste mischecf on molde 20 is mountyng

may dress at

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up faste.

Great lubbers and long, that loth were to labour,

50 Clothed themselves in copes, to be counted

for “brethren"; And some entered as anchorites their ease

for to purchase. I found there the friars, all the four orders, Preaching to the people for profit of their bellies,

56 Glossing the gospel as good to them seemed, For coveting of copes construe it wrongly ; For many of these masters

their fancy, For money and their merchandise meet oft together;

60 Since Charity hath been a chapman, and

chiefly to shrive nobles, Many freaks have befallen in a few seasons. Save Holy-Church and they hold better to

gether, The worst mischief in the world is mounting

up swiftly. There too preached a pardoner, as if he a priest were,

65 And brought forth a bull

a bishop had signed it And said that himself could absolve them

all fully Of falseness in fasting and of vows they had

broken. The unlettered believed him well and liked

what he told them, And came up kneeling to kiss his sealed

paper; He banged them with his brevet and

blinded their vision, And raked in with his rignarole rings and

brooches. Thus ye give up your gold gluttons to

pamper; And rain it on rascals that revel in lewdness. Were the bishop blessed and worth both

75 His seal should not be sent to deceive thus

the people. But the blame is not all on the bishop that

the boy preaches, But the parish priest and the pardoner part

the silver

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Ther prechede a pardoner, as 21 he a prest were,

65 And brought forth a bulle with bisschopes

seles, And seide that himself mighte asoylen 22

hem alle Of falsnesse and fastinge and of vouwes

i-broken.23 The lewede 24 men levide 25 him wel and

likede his speche, And comen up knelynge to kissen his bulle; He bonchede 26 hem with his brevet and blered 27 heore eiyen,28

71 And raughte 29 with his ragemon ringes

and broches. Thus ye giveth oure 31 gold glotonis to

helpen; And leveth hit to losels 33 that lecherie

haunten.34 Weore the bisschop i-blesset and worth bothe his eres,"

75 His sel shulde not be sent to deceyve the

peple. Hit is not al bi 36 the bisschop that the boye

precheth, Bote the parisch prest and the pardoner

parte the sclver i I have omitted two lines, which probably were not in the earliest version. 2 lubbers 3 labour 4 shaped them to, became 5 friars bellies ? interpreting 8 according to their own desire 'many 10 may

money since been trader 15 shrive, confess

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his cars,

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Thou mightest beter meten 8 the myst

Malverne hullcs Then geten a mom' of hcore 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

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 coulds better measure the mist

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; Masons, miners, and many other craftsmen; Dikers and diggers that do their deeds

badly, And drive forth the long day with Dicu

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

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

105 Tavern-keepers told them a tale of traffic,

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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 bothe; Masons, mi urs, and mony other craftes; Dykers, and delvers, that don hcore dedes

ille, 21 And driveth forth the longe day with “Deu

save Dam Emme!22 Cookes and heore knaves 23

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

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

cryen “Hote

we!

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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,

150 And played with them perilously and pushed

them about there. “For drede of divers deeds we dare not once

we dar

look up;

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And if his game we grudge him, he will grieve

us also, Claw us or clinch us and in his clutches

hold us,

With that ran there a route 5 of ratones

at ones," And smale mys 8 with hem, mo then a

thousande, And comen

to a conscille for here une profit; For a cat of a courte cam whan hym lyked, And overlepe hem lyghtlich and laughte 12 hem at his wille,

150 And pleyde with hem perilouslych and

possed 13 hem aboute. “For doute 14 of dyverse dredes 15

noughte wel loke; And yif 16 we grucche ?? of his gamen, he wil

greve us alle, Cracche 19 us, or clawe us and in his cloches 20

holde, That us lotheth the lyf or 21 he lete us passe. Myghte we with any witte his wille with

stonde, We myghte be lordes aloft and lyven at

owre ese.' A raton 2 of renon,23 most renable 24 of

tonge, Seide for a sovereygne

help to hymselve: 25. “I have y-sein segges, quod he, "in the

cité of London Beren beighes 28 ful brighte abouten here

nekkes, And some colers of crafty werk; uncoupled

thei wenden 29 Both in wareine 30 and in waste, where hem

leve lyketh ; 31 And otherwhile thci aren elleswhere, as I

here telle. Were there a belle on here beighe,32 bi Jesu,

as me thynketh, Men myghte wite 33 where thei went, and awei renne ! 34

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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, scamper!

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and away

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