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so called, in Langland, either doctrinal or constitutional; and even the anti-clerical spirit of his poetry is not more decided than what is found in the writings of Chaucer, and the other popular literature of the time. In all ages, indeed, it is the tendency of popular literature to erect itself into a power adverse to that of the priesthood, as has been evinced more especially by the poetical literature of modern Europe from the days of the Provençal troubaIn the Canterbury Tales, however, and in most other works where this spirit appears, the puritanism (if so it is to be called) is merely one of the forms of the poetry; in Piers Ploughman the poetry is principally a form or expression of the puritanism.

The rhythm or measure of the verse in this poem must be considered as accentual rather than syllabical-that is to say, it depends rather upon the number of the accents than of the syllables. This is, perhaps, the original principle of all verse; and it still remains the leading principle in various kinds of verse, both in our own and in other languages. At first, probably, only the accented syllables were counted, or reckoned of any rhythmical value; other syllables upon which there was no emphasis went for nothing, and might be introduced in any part of the verse, one, two, or three at a time, as the poet chose. Of course it would at all times be felt that there were limits beyond which this licence could not be carried without destroying or injuring the metrical character of the composition; but these limits would not at first be fixed as they now for the most part are. The elementary form of the verse in Piers Ploughman demands a succession of four accented syllables-two in the first hemistich or short line, and two in the second; but, while each of those in the first line is usually preceded by either one or two unaccented syllables, commonly only one of those in the second line is so preceded. The second line, therefore, is for the most part shorter than the first. And they also differ in regard to the alliteration: it being required that in the first both the accented or emphatic syllables, which are generally initial syllables, should begin with the same letter, but that in the second only the first accented syllable should begin with that letter. This is the general rule; but, either from the text being corrupt or from the irregularity of the composition, the exceptions are very


The poem begins as follows:

In a summer season,

When soft was the sun,

I shoop me into shrowds1
As I a sheep were;
In habit as an hermit
Unholy of werkes,3
Went wide in this world
Wonders to hear;
Act on a May morwening
On Malvern hills
Me befel a ferly,5

Of fairy me thought.
I was weary for-wandered,
And went me to rest
Under a brood bank,
By a burn's side;
And as I lay and leaned,
And looked on the waters,
I slombered into a sleeping,
It swayed so mury.
Then gan I meten10

A marvellous sweven,1


That I was in a wilderness,

Wist I never where;

And, as I beheld into the east
On high to the sun,

I seigh a tower on a toft13
Frieliche ymaked,14
A deep dale beneath,
A donjon therein,

With deep ditches and darke,

And dreadful of sight.

A fair field full of folk
Found I there between,
Of all manner of men,
The mean and the rich,
Werkings and wandering
As the world asketh,
Some putten hem 16 to the plough,
Playden full seld,17

I put myself into clothes.

2 A shepherd.

3 Whitaker's interpretation is, "in habit, not like an anchorite who keeps his cell, but like one of those unholy hermits who wander about the world to see and hear wonders." He reads, "That went forth in the worl," &c.

4 And.

7 Broad.

6 Worn out with wandering.
9 It sounded so pleasant.
12 Saw.

5 Wonder.

8 Stream's.

11 Dream.

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14 Handsomely built.
17 Played full seldom.

10 Meet.

15 Working.


In setting and sowing
Swonken' full hard,
And wonnen that wasters

With gluttony destroyeth.2
And some putten hem to pride,
Apparelled hem thereafter,
In countenance of clothing
Comen deguised,3

In prayers and penances
Putten hem many,*

All for the love of our Lord

Liveden full strait,"
In hope to have after
Heaven-riche bliss ;"

As anchors and heremites
That holden hem in hir3 cells,
And coveten nought in country
To carryen about,
For no likerous liflode

Hir likame to please."
And some chosen chaffer :10
They cheveden" the better,
As it seemeth to our sight
That swich me thriveth.12
And some murths to make
As minstralles con,13
And geten gold with hir glee,14
Guiltless, I lieve.15

Ac japers and jaugellers1
Judas' children,
Feignen hem fantasies

And fools hem maketh,
And han hir17 wit at will
To werken if they wold.
That Poul preacheth of hem
I wol nat preve13 it here:
But qui loquitur turpiloquium1
Is Jupiter's hine.


2 Wan that which wasters with gluttony destroy. 3 Came disguised. Whitaker reads, "In countenance and in clothing." 4 Many put them, applied themselves to, engaged in. 5 Lived full strictly. The bliss of the kingdom of heaven. 8 Hold them in their. 10 Merchandise. 12 That such men thrive.

7 Anchorites and eremites or hermits.
9 By no likerous living their body to please.

11 Achieved their end.

13 And some are skilled to make mirths, or amusements, as minstrels.

14 And get gold with their minstrelsy.

16 But jesters and jugglers. 19 Whoso speaketh ribaldry.

17 Have their.

15 Believe.
18 Will not prove.

20 Our modern hind, or servant,

1 Petitioners.

Bidders' and beggars

Fast about yede,2

With hir bellies and hir bags
Of bread full y-crammed,
Faiteden for hir food,
Foughten at the ale:
In gluttony, God wot,
Go they to bed,
And risen with ribaudry,

Tho Roberd's knaves
Sleep and sorry slewth"
Sueth hem ever.
Pilgrims and palmers

Plighten hem togider
For to seeken Saint Jame
And saintes at Rome :
They wenten forth in hir way9
With many wise tales,
And hadden leave to licn10

All hir life after.

I seigh some that seiden"

They had y-sought saints:
To each a tale that they told
Hir tongue was tempered to lic12
More than to say sooth,

It seemed by hir speech.
Hermits on an heap,13
With hooked staves,
Wenten to Walsingham,

And hir wenches after;
Great loobies and long,
That loath were to swink,1
Clothed hem in copes

To be knowen from other,
And shopen hem15 hermits
Hir ease to have.
I found there freres,

All the four orders,

Preaching the people

For profit of hem selve

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4 Rise with ribaldry.

5 Those Robertsmen-a class of malefactors mentioned in several statutes of the fourteenth century. The name may have meant originally Robin Hood's men, as Whitaker conjectures.

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9 They went forth on their way. 11 I saw some that said.

15 Made themselves.

12 In every tale that they told their tongue was trained to lie.

13 In a crowd.

14 Labour.

Glosed the gospel

As hem good liked ;1
For covetise of copes2

Construed it as they would.
Many of these master freres

Now clothen hem at liking,3
For hir money and hir merchandize
Marchen togeders.

For sith charity hath been chapman,
And chief to shrive lords,

Many ferlies han fallen1

In a few years:
But holy church and his
Hold better togeders,

The most mischief on mould
Is mounting well fast.
There preached a pardoner,
As he a priest were;
Brought forth a bull

With many bishops' seals,
And said that himself might

Assoilen hem all,

Of falsehede of fasting,?

Of avowes y-broken.

Lewed men leved it well,

And liked his words;

Comen up kneeling

To kissen his bulls:

He bouched 10 hem with his brevet,"1

And bleared hir eyen,12

And raught with his ragman19

Ringes and brooches.

Here it will be admitted, we have both a well-filled canvas and a picture with a good deal of life and stir in it. The satiric touches are also natural and effective; and the expression clear, easy, and not deficient in vigour.

1 As it seemed to them good.
3 Clothe themselves to their liking.
5 Unless holy church and they.

7 Of breaking fast-days.

10 Stopped their mouths.

2 Covetousness of copes or rich clothing.
4 Many wonders have happened.
6 The greatest mischief on earth.
9 Loved.
12 Bedimmed their eyes.

8 Ignorant.

11 Little brief.

13 Reached, drew in, with his catalogue or roll of names?

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