The Vision of Pierce Plowman

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Introductory notes

Robert Crowley’s edition of William Langland’s (c.1332-86) well-known medieval allegorical poem Piers Plowman exploits the potential of the poem as a stimulus for Protestant reform. Crowley’s marginal annotations and summaries of each passus emphasise political and economic instability and the need for reform. The selection here is from Passus Six in which Piers and the penitents plough the half-acre. When some refuse to work, they are punished by Hunger, but once hunger is satisfied men return to idleness and the impending return of dearth is darkly predicted.

The vision of

Pierce Plowman, nowe the seconde tyme imprinted
by Roberte Crowlye dwellynge in Elye rentes in Holburne
Whereunto are added certayne notes and cotations in the
mergyne, gevyng light to the Reader. And in the begynning
is set a brefe summe of all the principal matters spoken of in
the boke. And as the boke is devided into twenty partes cal-
led Passus: so is the Summary divided, for every parte hys
summarie, rehearsynge the matters spoken of in eve-
ry parte. even in suche order as they
stande there.
Imprinted at London by Roberte
Crowley, dwellyng in Elye rentes
in Holburne, The yere of
our Lord, M.D.L,
Cum privilegio ad imprimendum

PUBLISHED BY Roberte Crowley

The printer to the Reader

BEynge desyerous to knowe the name of the Autoure of thys most worthy worke. (gentle reader) and the tyme of the writynge of the same: I did not onely gather togyther suche aunciente co[m]pies as I could come by, but also consult such men as I knew to be more exercised in the studie of antiquities, then I my selfe have ben. And by some of them I have learned that the Autour was named Roberte langelande, a Shropshere man borne in Cleybirie, aboute viii. myles from Malverne hilles

For the tyme when it was written, it chaunced me to se an auncient copye, in the later ende whereof was noted, that the same copye was written in the yere of oure Lorde. M. iiii. C. and nyne, which was before thys presente yere, an hundred & xii, yeres. And in the seconde syde of the .lxviii. leafe of thys printed copye, I finde me[n]tion of a dere yere, that was in the yere of oure Lorde M. iii. hundred and .L. John Chichester than beyng mayre of London. So that this I may be bold to reporte, that it was fyrste made and written after the yeare of our lorde .M. iii. C. L. and before the yere .M, iiii. C. and .i [...] which meane space was six yeres. We may justly co[n]iect therfore. ye it was firste written about two hundred yeres paste in the tyme of Kynge Edwarde the thyrde. In whose tyme it pleased God to open the eyes of many to se hys truth, geving them boldenes of herte, to open their mouthes and crye oute agaynste the workes of darckenes, as dyd John Wicklyfe, who also in those dayes translated the holye Byble into the Englishe tonge, and this writer who in reportynge certayne visions and dreames, that he fayned hym selfe to have dreamed, doth most christianlie enstructe the weake, and sharplye rebuke the obstynate blynde. There is no maner of vice, that reygneth in anye estate of men, whyche thys wryter hath not godly, learnedlye, and wittilye, rebuked, He wrote altogither in miter: but not after ye maner of our rimers that wryte nowe adaies (for his verses ende not alike) but the nature of hys miter is, to have three wordes at the leaste in every verse which begyn with some one letter, As for ensample, the firste two verses of the boke renne upon . [...]. as thus.

In a somer season when sette was the Sunne
I shope me into shrobbes, as I a shepe were
The next runeth upon .H. as thus.


The Prologe

Inhabite as an Hermite unholy of werekes. & This thing noted the metre shall be very pleasaunt to reade. The Englishe is according to the tyme it was written in, and the sence somewhat darcke, but not so harde, but that it maye be understande of such as wyll not sticke to breake the shell of the nutte for the kernelles sake.

As for that is written in the xxxvi, leafe of thys boke concernynge a dearth the[n] to come, is spoke[n] by the knowledge of astronomie as may wel be gathered bi that he saith, Saturne sent him to tell, And that whych foloweth and geveth it the face of a prophecy, is lyke to be a thynge added by some other man than the fyrste autour, For diverse copies have it diverslye. For where the copie that I folowe hath thus.

And when you se the sunne amisse, & thre monkes heads
And a mayde have the maistrye, and multiply by eyght,
Some other have
Three shyppes and a shefe, wyth an eight folowynge
Shall brynge bale and battell, on both halfe the mone

Nowe for that whiche is written in the .l, leafe, co[n]cernyng the suppresson of abbayes, the Scripture there alledged, declareth it to be gathered of the juste judgment of God, who-wyll not suffer abomination to raigne unpunished. Loke not upon this boke therfore, to talke of wonders paste or to come but to emend thyne owne misse, whych thou shalt fynd here moste charitably rebuked The spirite of god geve the grace to walke in the way of truthe to Gods glory, & thyne owne soules healthe So be it,



1.1. The fourthe part, called Passus quartus,

The fourth parte begynneth in the first syde of the xvii. leafe, and endeth in the fyrst side of the twentieth, It declarith how the king wylled Conscience to kysse Mede, Howe Conscie[n]ce wolde have Reasons advise, How Conscience was sent in haste to fetche Reason, The maner of Reasons ridyng, What co[m]pany folowed hym, How the king receyved Reason, How Peace complaineth upon Wronge, How Wytte and Wisedome went about to brybe the kyng, How the kyng committed Wronge to pryson, Howe Mede stopped Peaces mouth, Reaso[n]s advise in punishyng Wrong That Lawyars should leade a fielde dunge, How the [Page] kynge cheketh men of lawe, for takyng brybes, And howe reason taketh upon hym to rule the realme

1.2. The fyfte parte, called Passus quintus.

The fyfte parte begynneth in the laste syde of the twentieth leafe, and endeth in the laste syde of the .xxx. It declareth howe Reason proveth that Pestilences come for synne, That due correction muste be hadde, That Abbayes shoulde be suppressed, What is true Pilgrimage, What satisfaction men were wonte to make, The workes of Envie, Howe Enuy repenteth Howe Wrath teacheth the Fryers, That Gregorye wold not suffer wome[n] to heare confession, What maner of thing Covetise is, What restitution Covetous men use, That yll gotten goodes, should be wyckedly spente. That suche as be Patteners in the ill goten goddes: shal also be parteners in makyng restitution, What true repentaunce is, What a Byshops charge is, What maner of men be commune drounckardes What maner a thynge, a droncken man is, And how he repenteth, What Slouth is, and how he repenteth Howe thefte repenteth, Howe Repentaunce conforteth them all, That a greate multitude went to seke Truth, That the plowman is Trueths serva[n]t, That Pierce teacheth the waye to Truethes house, Who is Truethes portar, and what maydens Truth hath.

1.3. The sexte parte called Passus sextus.

The syxte parte begynneth the first syde of the .xxxi. leafe, and endeth in the first syde of the .xxxvi. It declareth [Page] howe women shoulde be occupied, Who should defende the church of Christe, Howe knightes should behave them selves, Whoe is Pierces wyfe, Howe Pierce maketh his testament. Howe sturdy beggers muste be answered, Howe the wastoure fought with Pierce, Howe Pierce playned hym to a knight, How Pierce prayed hunger to revenge him, What maketh loyterers worke, Howe beggers may be made work Who suffer hunger, Howe hunger teacheth Pierce plowman a diete, Howe pore folke fede hunger, And that there shoulde shortely come an other derth to punishe such as were not content wyth inough.

1.4. The seventh parte called Passus septimus

The seventhe parte begynneth in the firste side of the .xxxvi. leafe, and endeth in the seconde syde of the xxxix. It declareth what pardon is graunted to the plowman and his helpers, What Marchauntes shoulde do, That menne of lawe shoulde take no money, howe menne shoulde geve almes, That patiente Povertie hathe like pardon with the plowmanne, Howe Pierce reasoned wyth a blinde prieste, Howe Daniel expou[n]deth the dreames, of Nabugodonosor, Howe Jacob expounded Josephs dreame, And that to truste for salvation in workes, is but a vayne thing

1.5. The eyght parte, called Passus Octauus.

The eyghte parte begynneth in the laste side of the xxxix. leafe, and endeth in the seconde syde of the .xli. It declareth howe Pierce went to seke Dowel, How he reproveth the Fryers for saying that dowel dwelte [Page] wyth them, Howe the Frier proveth by a similitude, that a juste man sinneth seven times a daye, and sayth hys minde of frewyl, Howe thought enstructeth him of dowell, dobet, and dobest, And howe wytte (who wyl none excesse) met wyth Pierce, Of whom Pierce desiered to learne what Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest were.

2. Passus sextus de visione:

[Page 31]
THis were a wicked way, but if we had a gide
That wold we[n]d wt us ech a fote, & ye way tell
Quod perkin ye plowma[n], vi. s. Peter of rome
I have an halfe acre to erie, by ye highe waye
Had I eryed thys halfe acre, and sowen it after
I woulde wende wyth you, and the waye teache
How Peers assigneth women to worke.
This were a longe lettynge, {quod} a lady in a Skleire
What should we women worke, in the meane while
Some shal sowe ye sacke {quod} Piers, for shedyng of the wheate
And ye se lovely ladies, wt your long fingers
That ye have silke and sandell, to sowe whan tyme is
Chesibles for chaplaynes, churches to honour
Wyves and wyddowes, wole and flaxe spinneth
Make cloth I counsell you, & ken so your doughters
The nedy and the naked, nimith hede howe they ligge[n]
And caste hem clothes, for so commaundeth truth
For I shall lene hem livelode, but if the lande fayle
Fleshe and breade boeth, to ryche and to pore
As longe as I live, for the lordes love of heaven
And al maner of me[n], yt throgh meate & dringe libbeth
Help him to worke wightlye, that winneth your fode
By Christ quod a knight tho, he kenneth us the beste
And on the teme truely, taught was I never
And ke[n] me quod ye knyght, & by Christ I wyll assaye.
By saint Paule quod Perken, ye profer me fayre
That I shall swynke and swete, & sowe for us boeth
Pierce prayeth a knight to helpe to kepe holy church.
And other labours do for thy love, all my lyfe tyme
In covenaunt that thou kepe, holy kirke and myselfe
Fro[m] wastours & fro[m] wicked me[n], yt this world destroyeth
And go hunt hardely, to hares and to Foxes
To dores & to brocks, yt breken adowne my hedges
And go affayte the Fawcons, wylde fowles to kyll
For such cometh to my croft, and cropeth mi whete
Curtessy the knyght then, comsed these wordes
By my power Pers quod he, I plyght the my trouth
To fulfill thys forwarde, though I fyght should
As longe as I lyve, I shal the mayntayne
Pierce cou[n]celleth ye knyghte wisely
Yea and yet a poynt quod Piers, I pray you of more
Loke ye tene no tenaunt, but truthe wol assent
And though ye mai amarcye hem, let merci be taxour
And mekenes thie master, manger Medes chekes
And though pore me[n] proffre you, presentes and gyfts
Nym it not on a venture, ye maye it not deserve
For ye shal yelden it agayne, at one yers ende
In a ful parilous place, Purgatory it high
And misved not thi bond me[n], ye better might yu spede
Though he be thi underling here, wel it may happen
That he were worthelier set, & wt more blis in heven
Than thou, but thou do bet, and live as thou shoulde
Amice asccude superius.
Luke xiiii
For in charnel & in churche, cherls be ful evel to know
Or a knight from a knave there, know this in thi hert
And yt thou be true of thy tonge, & tales yt thou hate
But if thei be of wisdo[m] or wit, thy workme[n] to chaste[n]
Holde wyth no harlots, ne here not her tales
And namelie at thy meate, suche meneschew
For it be the devills dyssours, I do the to understo[n]de
I assent be sainte Jame, the knyght said than
For to work bi thy wordes, ye while my lyfe endureth
And I shal aparel me quod Parke[n], in pilgremes wise
And wend wyth you I wyl, tyl we finde truthe
And cast on my clothes, clouted and hole
Micokers and mi cuffes, for colde on my nailes
And hang mi hoper at mi hals, in slede of a scripe
A bushel of bread corne, bring me therein
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For I wil sowe it my selfe, and sith will I wend
To pilgrimages as palmers do, pardo[n] for to have
And whoso helpeth me to erye, and sower I wende
Shal have leave by our lord, to glene here in hervest
And make[n] he[m] mery thermid, mangre who so grudge it
And all kinne crafty men, that can live in truth
I shall fynde hem fode, that faythfully lybbeth
Save Jake the judgeler, and Jenet of the stewes
And Daniel the displeyer, and Benot the baude
And Fryer faytoure, and folke of hys order
And Robin the ribauder, for hys rustye wordes
Trueth tolde me it once, and bade me tel it after.
Delea[n]tur de libro vive[n]tium. I should not deale wt hem
For holye church is hote, of hem no tythes to take
Psal. 69.
Quia cum tustis non scribantur.
They be escaped good aventure, God hem amend
Dame werche whan tyme is, Pierce wife hyght
Pierces wife
His daughtir hight do right so, or thi dame shal ye bete
His so[n]ne hight Suffer thy soverains, to have her wil
Deme hem not for if thou doest, yu shalt it dere abye
Let God worcke withall, for so his word teacheth
For now I am old and hore, and have of mene owne
To penau[n]ce & to pilgrimage, I wil pas wt thes other
Therfore I wil er I wend, do write my bequest,
How Piers maketh maketh hys testame[n]t,
In dei nomine amen, I make it my selfe
He shall have my soule, that best hath deserved it
And from the fende it defend, for so I beleve
Tyll I come to my countes, as my Crede me telleth
To have a release and a remission, on that re[n]tal I leve
The kyrke shal have my carren, and kepe my bones
For of my corne and cattell, she craved my tythes
I payed it him prestly, for the perell of my soule
Therfore is he holde[n] I hope, to mind me in his mas
And mengen in hys memori, among all christen
My wife shal have of yt I wan, wt Truth & no more,
And deale among my doughters, and mi dear childre[n]
For though I bye to day, my dettes are quite
I bare home that I borrowed, or I to bedde yede
And wt the residue & the re[m]naunt by ye rode of Lukes
I will worshyp therwith, Truthe by my life
And be[n] hys Pilgraime at ye plowe, for pore me[n]s sake
Mi plow fote shal be mi pikstaf, & pitch ato ye tootes
And helpe my culter to kerne, and clense ye forowes.
Nowe is Perkin & hys pilgraymes, to ye plow faren
To erie this halfe acre, helpen him many
Dikers and delvers, dygged up the balkes
Therwith was Perkin apaied, & praysed hem faste
Other workemen ther were, that wrought ful yerne
Every man in his maner, made hym selfe to done
And some to please Perkin, picked up the wedes.
At high prime Pierce, let the plow stonde.
To over se hem him selfe, and who so best wroughte
He shoulde be hyred therafter, wha[n] hervest time came
And than satten some, and songe at the nale,
Jolye workmen
And holpen erie his halfe acre, with hey trolly lolly
Now by ye peril of mi soule {quod} Pierce, all in pure tene.
But ye arise the rather, and rape you to werke
Shal no graine that groweth, glad you atende
And though ye dye for dole, ye devyll have that retche.
Tho were faytors aferd, and feyned hem blind
Some layde her legges a lyrye, as such losels can
And made her mone to Pierce, & prayed him of grace
For we have no lims to labour wt lord, graced be ye
And we pray for you Pierce, & for your plowe both
[Page 33]
That god of his grace, your grayne multiply
And yelde you for your almes, that you geve us here
For we ca[n] nether swink ne swet, such siknes us ailith
If it be soth {quod} Pierce yt ye sayne, I shall it sone espye
Lerne to answere counterfaite beggers
Ye be wasters I wote well, and trueth wot the sothe
And I am his old hine, and hight him to warne
Which thei wer in this world, his workme[n] apeared
Ye wast ye men winnen, with travayle and wyth tene
And truth shall teach you, his teme to dryve
Or ye shall eat barly bread, and of the broke drinke.
but if ye be blind or broke[n] leggid, or bolted with iro[n]s
Ye shall eate wheat bread, and drinke wyth my selfe
Tyl God of his goodnes, amendement you sende,
And ye myght travel as trueth wold, & take meate & hyre
To kepe kine in the field, ye corne fro[m] the beasts
Dyken or delven, or dingine upon sheves
Or helpe make morter, or beare mucke a fielde
In licherie and in losengery ye, lyve and in slouth
And al is through sufferau[n]ce, that vengeaunce you ne taketh
And Ankers and hermits, ye eate but at nones
And no more or morow, my almes shal not they have
And catell to kepe hem wt, yt have cloysters and churches
And Robert runabout, shal not have of myne
Ne apostles but thei prech ca[n], & have bishopes power
They shal have pane & potage, & make her self at ease
No reasonable religion, hath right nought of certen.
And tha[n] gan a wastoure to wrath him, & wolde have fought
And to Piers ye ploma[n], he proferd his glove
The wastour will fight
A britoner a bragger, and bofeted Pierce also
And bad him go pysse wt his plow, forpyned shrewe
Wilt thou or nilt thou, we wyll have our wyll
Of thy flour and of thy flesh, fetch when us lyketh,
And maken us mery there myd, maugre thy chekes
Pierce playneth to the knight.
Than Pierce ye plowman, plained him to the knyght
To kepe him as covenaunt was, fro cursed shrewes
And fro[m] these wastors wolveskins, yt make ye worlde dere
For tho wasten & win nought, & that ilke while
Worth never ple[n]ty amo[n]g ye paple, ye while my plowe liggeth
Curtesly the knight tha[n], as his kind wolde
Warned wastour, and wished him the better,
Or yu shalt abie by the lawe, by thorder that I beare.
I was not wonte to worke {quod} wastour, & now I nill begyn
And let light of the law, & lesse of the knight,
And set Pierce at a pese, and his plow both
And manaced Piers and his men, if they met eft sone
Now bi ye peril of mi soul {quod} piers, I shal apeir you al
Pierce prcied ho[n]ger to reve[n]g hym.
And whouped after hunger, that heard him at ye first.
A wreke me of these waftours {quod} he, yt this world shendeth
Hunger in hast tho, hent wastour by the maw
And wro[n]g him so bi the wombe, yt both his eien watered
He buffeted the breton, about the chekes,
That he loked lyke a lanterne, al his life after
He beate hem so both, he brake nere her guttes
Ne had Pierce wyth a pese lof, prayed hu[n]ger to cease
They had bene dolven, ne deme thou none other
Suffre he[m] live he sayd, & let he[m] eate with hogges,
Faytours worke for fear of ho[n]ger
Or els beanes and branne, i baken togethers
Or els milke or meane ale, thus prayed Pierce for he[m].
Faitours for feare therof, flowen into barnes
And flapped on with flailes, from morow till even
That hunger was not so hardy, on hem for to loke.
For a potte full of pese, that Pierse had ymaked
An heape of Heremites, henten hem spades
And kit her copes, and courtebies hem made
[Page 34]
And wenten as workeme[n] wt, spades & with shovels
And dolven and diggen, to drive away hunger,
What nede can do.
Blind and bedridden, were botened a thousand
That sitten to begge silver, sone were they healed
For bred bake[n] for baierds, was bote for mani ho[n]gri
And mani beggers for beanes, buxum wer to swink
And ech pore ma[n] wel apayed, to have pese[n] for his hire
And what Pierce praied he[m] to do, as preste as a hauk
And therof was Pierce proude,& put hem to worke
And gave he[m] meat as he migh ford, & reasonable hire
Than had Pierce pity, & prayd hunger to wende,
Home unto his owne yarth, and holde[n] him there
For I am wel a wroke of wasters, by thi might now
And I pray the er thou passe, quod Pierce to honger
Of beggers and bidders, what best to be done?
For I wote wel be thou went, they wil worch ful yll
For mischefe it maketh, they be so meke nowe
And for defaut of her fode, this folke is at my wyl.
They ar mi bloudy brether {quod} pierce, for god bought us al
Truth taught me once, to love hem eche one
And helpen hem of all thing, aye as hem nedeth
And now wold I wit of the, what were the best
And how I might mastren hem, & make hem work.
How begers maye be made to worke.
Heare now quod hunger, and holde it for wysedome,
Bold beggers & bygge, that may her bread swinke
With hou[n]ds bread & horsebread, hold up her hartes
Abate hem wyth beanes, for bollinge of her wombe
And if the gommes grutch then, bid hem go swynke
And he shall soupe sweter, when he hath it deserved
And if thou find any freke, yt fortune hath apaired
Or any maner falty man, fond thou such to knowe
Confort hem wt thy cattell, for Chrystes love of heve[n]
Love hem, and lene hem, for so the law teacheth
Alter alterius onera portate
Gal vi a.
And all maner of men, that thou myght espye,
That nedy ben and noughty, help hem of thy goods
Love & lacke he[m] nought, lest god take the vengeau[n]ce
Though they do evyll, let god worche
Mihi vindictam, er ego distribuam,
Hebr. xii. Rom. xii. De. xxxii. Luk. xvi.
If yu wilt be gracious to go, do as the gospel techeth
And bylove ye amo[n]g low men, so shalte yu latch grace.
Facite vobis amicos de maminone iniquitatis,
I nold greve god {quod} Pierce, for al the good on grou[n]d
Myght I synles do as thou sayst, said Pierce then
Yea I behote the {quod} hunger, or els the bible lyeth.
Go to Genesis the gyant, the engendrour of us all.
In Sudore and in swynke, thou shalt thy meat tilye
And labour for thy lyvelode, for so our lord hyght
And Sapience sayth the same, I sawe it in the bible
Piger pre frigore, no fyelde woulde tilye,
Prou xx. The slouthfull suffer ho[n]ger Mat xxv
And therfore he shall begge & byd, & no man bate his hu[n]ger
Mathew wt ma[n]s face, mouthed these words
That Seruus nequa[m] had a mna[n], & for he nold chaffer
He had inaugre of his maister, for evermore after
And biname hym hys Mnam, for he ne wold worch
And gafe that Mnam to hym, that ten Mnams had
And with that he sayd, that holy kirke it hearde
He that hath shall have, and helpe there it nedeth
And he yu hath not shall not have, ne no ma[n] him helpe
And yt he weneth well to have, I will it him bereve
Kynde wyt woulde, that ech a wyght wrought.
Or in digging or in deluing, or travaile of prayers
Co[n]te[m]plative life, or active life, Christe wold they worught
The psalter saith in ye psalmes of beati omnes,
The freke yt fedeth him selfe, wt hys faythful laboure
[Page 35]
He is blessed by the boke in body and in soule.
Lobores manuum tuarum, quoniam manducabis
Psal. 128 How piers prayeth hu[n]ger to teache him a [...] crafte for him and for hys servantes
Yet I pray you {quod} Pierce, pur charitie & ye can
Any leefe leche craft, lere it me my deare
For some of my servants, and mi selfe both
Of al a weke worke not, so our wombe aketh
I wote wel {quod} hunger, what sikenes the ayleth,
Ye have manged over muche, & yt maketh you grone
And I hote the {quod} hunger, as thou thy hele wilneste,
That thou drinke no day, ere thou dine some what,
Eate not I hote the, ere hunger, the taketh
And send the of his sauce, to savour with thy lyppes,
And kepe some tyl souper time, and syt not to longe,
And ryse up ere appetite, have eaten his fyll:
Let not syr Surfyte, syt at thy borde,
Leve him not for he is licherous, & lycorous of tonge
And after many maner of meat, his maw is a hu[n]gred
And if thou diet the thus, I dare lay my eares
That Phisike shal his furred hode, for his fode sell,
And his cloke of Calabrie, wyth al ye knaps of golde
And be fayne by my fayth, his phisike to let
And learne to labour wt hond, for lyvelode is swete
For murtherers are many leches, lorde hem amende,
They do men dye by their drinks, yer destinie it wold
By. S. Paule {quod} Pierce, these are profetable wordes
Wend now hunger when thou wylt, ye wel be yu ever
For this is a lovely lesson, the lord it the foryelde,
By hote god quod honger, hence ne wil I wend
Til I have dined by this day, and dronken both
I have no peny {quod} Pierce, polettes for to bye
Ne neither gose ne grys, but two grene chesis,
A fewe curdes and creame, and an haver cake
And two loves of beanes & dran, bake for my folke,
And yet I say by my soule, I have no salt bacon
Ne no cokeny by Christ, colopes for to make
And I have percely and porets, & many cole pla[n]tes,
And eke a cowe and a calfe, and a cart mare
To draw a field my dung, ye while ye draught lasteth.
And by this lyvelod, I must lyve to Lammas tyme
By that I hope to have, harvest in my crofte
And then I maye dight thy dinner, as me dere liketh
And al the pore people tho, pescoddes fetten,
Beanes and bake[n] apples, they brought in her lappis
Pore folk fede hunger.
Chiboles and chernell, and rype cheries many
And proferd Piers ye present, to please wyth hys hu[n]ger
All hunger eate in hast, and asked after more
Than pore folke for feare, fedde hunger yerne
With grene poret & pesen, to poysen him thei thought
By yt it neghed to harvest, new corne came to cheping
Than was folke fayne, and fedde hunger wt the beste
With good ale as Gloto[n] taught, & gart hu[n]ger to slepe
And tho wold waster no work, but wandre[n] aboute,
Ne no begger eate bread, that beanes in were
But of Coket and Clermatine, or els of cleane wheat
Ne no halpeny ale, in no wyse drinke
But of best & of yt brownest, that in borough is to sell
Laborers that have no la[n]d to live on, but her handes
Deyned to dyne a daye, wyth nyght old wortes
May no penyale hem paye, ne no pece of bacon
But if it be fresh flesh, other fysh fryed other bakte
And yt cha[n]ud, or plus chaud, for chilling of her maw
Provender pricketh them
And but if he be highly hiered, els will he chyde
And that he was workeman wrought, waile ye tyme
Agaynst Cafons counsel, comseth he to iangle,
[Page 36]
Paupertatis onus patienter ferre memento
He greveth him against god, & grutcheth agayn reson
And than curseth he the king, and all hys counsel after
Such lawes to loke, labourers to greve.
While hu[n]ger gafe hem hier, not one of he[m] wold chide.
Ne striven against his statute, so sternely he loked
And I warne you workemen, win while ye may
For hunger hither ward, hasteth him selfe
He shall awake with water, wastours to chast.
Ere five yere be fulfilled, such famine shall arise
Through floudes and foule weder, fruite shal fayle
This is no prophecy but a pronostication
And so sayd Saturne and sent you to warne.
And whe[n] ye se the sunne amisse, & two mo[n]kes heades
And a maid have the maistry, and multiply by hight.
Than shal death withdraw, and derth be justyce
And Davie the dyker, shall dye for hunger
But if God of his goodnes graunt us a treve


Never treature was with out joye here and hence to.
That al her life have lived, in langour and in defaut
But god sent hem sometyme, some maner joye
Or here or els where, kynde would it never
For to overmuch wo was he wrought, yt never was joy shape[n]
Angels yt in hel now be[n], had joy sometyme
And Dives in deyntis lived, and in Douce vie
Right so reason sheweth, that the men that were rich
And her makes also, lived hir lyves in myrthe
And god is of a wo[n]derous wil, by yt kind wit sheweth
To give mani ma[n] mercimony, ere he it hath deserved
Right so fareth god by some rich, ruth me it thinketh
For they have her hire here, and heaven as it were
And great liking to live, without labour of the bodye
And whe[n] he dyeth is disalowed, as David said in the psalter
Psal. 76.
Dormierunt, et nihil invenerunt.
And in an other stede also, Velunt sompnum surgentium. domine.
In civitate tua, et ad nichillum rediges.
Alas that ryches shall reve, and robbe mans soule
From the love of our Lorde at hys laste ende
Newen that have her hire before, are evermore nedye
And selde dieth he out of det, yt dineth or he deserve it
And tyll he have done hys devour, & his dayes jorney
For wha[n] a workma[n] hath wrought, the[n] me[n] say ye soth
What he were worthy for his worke, & what he hath deserved
And not to fig before for dred of disanulli[n]g
So I say by you rich, it semeth not that ye should
Have heaven in your here beyng, and heven hereafter
Right as a serva[n]t taketh his salari before, & sith wold claime more
As he yt none had, & hath hire at ye last
It may not be ye rych men, or Mathew on god lyeth.
Mat. xix.
De delictis ad delicias, difficile est transite.
And if ye ryche have ruthe, and rewarde well the pore
[Page 73]
And lyke as law teacheth, done leauty to hem al
Christ of hys curtesy, shal confort you at the laste
And reward you al double riches, yt ruful hert have
The rych that be mercyfull shal have heaven.
And as an hyne that had hys hyre, ere he begane
Whe[n] he hath do[n]e his devour wel me[n] do him ovirbou[n]t
Give him a tote above his covenau[n]t, right so Christe geveth heve[n]
Both to rich & not rich, yt rufully liveth
And al yt done her devour wel, han double hire for hir travel
Here forgivenes for her sins, & heve[n] blis after
And it is but seld sene, as by saynts bokes
That god rewarded double rest, to any rych man
For much myrth is among rych, as in meat & clothes
And much myrth in May, is amongest wyld beasts
And so forth ye while somer lasteth, her solace dureth
And beggers aboute midsomer, breadles thei soupe
And yet is winter for he[m] worse, for wetshod thei ga[n]g
A furst sore, and a fyngred, and fowle rebuked
And rated of ryche men, that ruth is to heare
Now Lorde send hem somer, and some maner joye
Heven after her hence goyng, yt here have such defaute
For all mightest yu have made, none meaner tha[n] other
And lyke wytty and wyse, if the well had lyked
And save ruth of these rich me[n], yt reward not thi prisoners
Of the good that yu hem givest, ingrati be[n] mani
And god of thy goodnes, give hem grace to amend
For mai no derth he[m] deare, drough ne were he gieve
Ne nether heate ne haile, have they her health
Of that they wyl and would, wanteth hem not here
And pore puple thi prisoners lord, in ye pit of mischef
Confort the creaturs, that much care sufferen
Through derth & through drough, al her dayes here
Wo in winter tymes, for wantynge of clothes
And in somer tyme selde, soupen to the full
Conforte thy careful, Christe in thy ryches
For how yu co[m]fortest al creatures, clarkes bereth witnes
Convertimini ad me, et salui eritis
Esai. xlv.
Thus in general of gentryes Jesu Christ sayde
To robbers and to revers, to rich and to pore
Thou taughtest hem in the trinitie, to take baptisme
And be cleane through ye christening, of al kins sinnes
And if us fell through foly, to fal in synne after
Confession and knowledging, and craving thy mercy
Shold ame[n]d us as many sithes, as man wold desyre
And if the Pope would plede here againe, and punish us in conscience
He should take the acquitaunce as quycke and to the
A christen mans patente.
queed shew it, Pateat. &. per passione[m] domini
And put of so the pouke, and preven us under borow
And the parchmin of the Patente, of poverty be must
And of pure patience, and perfect beleve
Of pompe and of pryde, the parcemyn declareth
And principalitie of al people, but thei be pore of hert
Els is al idle, and all that ever we wryten
Pater noster and penau[n]ce, & pylgrimages to Rome
But our spenses and spending, sprynge of true wyll
Els is all our labour loste, lo howe men wryteth
In fenestres at the Fryers, if false be the fundament
Therfore christen shold be in co[m]me[n] rych, none covetise for him selfe
For seve[n] sinnes yt ther be, assaile[n] us ever
The fend foloweth hem al, and foundeth hem to help
And wt riches that rybaunde, he rathest men begileth
For there that ryches raygneth, reverence foloweth
And that is pleasant to pryde, in pore and in ryche
And the rych is reverenced, by reason of his ryches
[Page 75]
And the pore is put behynd, & peradventure ca[n] more
Of wyt and of wisedome, that farre away is better
Than ryches or rialtye, and rather hard in heven
For ye rich hath much to reke[n], & right ofte him ye walketh
The hye way to hevenward, ryches him letteth
It a possibile diviti. &c.
There the pore preiseth before ye rich, wt a pake at his rygge
Apo. xiiii
Opera enim illorum sequntur illos,
Batau[n]tly, as beggers done, & boldly he craveth
For hys poverty and his patience, a pertual blysse.
Luke. v
Beati pauperis, quoniam ipsorum est regnum celorum
And pride in riches raigneth, rather than in povertye
Erst in the master or in ye ma[n], some mantio[n] he haveth
And in poverty there patience is, pride hath no might
Ne none of the seven synnes, syt ne may there longe
For the pore is aye preste, to please the ryche
And buxome at hys byddynge, for hys broke loves
And buxomnes and bost, are evermore at warre
And either hateth other, in al maner workes
If wrath wrestle wt the pore, he hath the worse ende
And if they both pleyne, the pore is but feble
And if he chyde or chatter, hym cheveth the worse
And if covetise catch ye pore, they mai not come togithers
And by the neke nameli, ther no[n] mai he[n]t other
For men knowen well that covetouse is of kene wyll
And hath hands and armes, of a longe length
Poverttis but a petit thing, apperith not to his navel
And lovelike was yet never bitwen, ye long & ye short
Though avarice wole angry ye pore, he hath but litle might
For poreti hath but pokis, to put in his good
Ther avarice hath almaries, and iron bounde cofers
This is a selection from the original text


chaplain, god, revenge, sin, waste, work, worthy

Source text

Title: The Vision of Pierce Plowman

Author: William Langland

Publisher: Roberte Crowley

Publication date: 1550

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 19907 Physical description: [8], 117 leaves Copy from: British Library Reel position: STC / 122:19

Digital edition

Original author(s): William Langland

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, preface, images 5, 41-6, 85-6.


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > poetry

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.