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ABOUT 1332–1399. WILLIAM LANGLEY or LANGLAND—for his name is not absolutely certainwas born probably at Cleobury Mortimer, and was educated for the church, not improbably in one of the priories at Malvern. When about thirty years old, he removed to London, where he lived in Cornhill with his wife and daughter till about the end of the 14th century.

The Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman is a vigorous poem in alliterative verse, 'describing a series of dreams, in some of which the author beheld a person whom he calls Piers the Plowinan.' ' It was the great work of his life, and may have occupied him, though not continuously, during nearly thirty years.' 'It is certain that he altered, added to, and re-wrote the poem, not once only, but twice' (Skeat). The earliest text, from which we quote, was composed about the year 1362; the second, which is three times as large, appeared about 1377; and the third, which is still longer, was gradually formed up till about 1390. The Vision is an allegorical exposition of the corruptions of the state, of the church, and of social life' (Marsh).

We follow Mr Skeat's Vernon- or A-text closely.

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(From Piers the Plocuman, Passus V.)

A NEW LEAF : GOOD RESOLUTIONS. Nou ginneth the Gloton · for to go to schrifte, And carieth him to chircheward · his shrift forte 1 telle. Thenne Betun the Breustere 2 · bad him gode morwe, 3 And seththen 4 heo 5 asked of him . 'Whoder that he wolde ?' 6 "To holi chirche,' quod? he · 'for to here Masse,

150 And seththen I-chule 8 ben I-schriven and synne no more.' “Ichave 9 good ale, gossib,'

, 10 quod heo · 'gloten, woltou 11

asaye ?' 12

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Hastou 13

ouzt I thi pors,' quod he · "eny hote spices ?' 'Ze, glotun, gossip,' quod heo • 'god wot, ful goode; I have peper and piane 14 · and a pound of garlek, 155 A Ferthing-worth of Fenel-seed · for this Fastyng dayes.'


Thene geth Gloton in and grete othus 15 after; Sesse the souters wyf • sat on the Benche, Watte the warinar 16 and his wyf bothe, 1 For to. 2 Brewster. 3 Good-morrow. ' 4 Then. 6 She. Whither (that) he would ? Quoth, said. 8 I(ch) schulle, I shall. 9 I have. 10 Gossip, friend. 11 Wilt thou. 12 Assay, try (it). 13 Hast thou ? 14 Peony seed. 15 Oaths. 16 Warrener.



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Tomkyn the Tinkere and tweyne of his knaves,

160 Hikke the hakeney mon and hogge the neldere,1 Clarisse of Cokkes lone and the Clerk of the churche, Sir Pers of pridye · and peruel of Flaundres, Dauwe the dykere2 · and a doseyn othere. A Ribibor, 3 a Ratoner4 . a Rakere 5 of chepe,6

165 A Ropere, a Redyng-kyng8 . and Rose the disschere, Godfrei of Garlesschire and Griffin the walsche, 10 And of up-holders 11 an hep · erly bi the morwe Give the gloton with good wille good ale to honsel. Thenne Clement the Cobelere caste of his cloke, 170 And atte newe Feire 12 he leyde hire to sulle ; And Hikke the Ostiler · hutte 14 his hod 15 aftur, And bad bette the Bocher 16 · ben on his syde. Ther weore chapmen 17 I-chose 18 the chaffare 19 to preise; Hose 21 hedde the hod · shulde have Amendes.

175 Thei Risen up Raply

and Rouneden 23 to-gedere, And preiseden the peniworthus · and parteden 24 bi hemselven; Ther weoren othes an hep hose that hit herde. Thei couthe 26 not bi heore concience · a-corde to-gedere, Til Robyn the Ropere weore Rad 27 forte a-ryse,

180 And nempned for a noumpere

that no de-bat neore, For he schulde preise the penyworthes as hym good thouzt. 30 Thenne Hikke the Ostiler hedde the cloke, In Covenaunt that Clement · schulde the Cuppe fulle, And babbe hikkes hod the ostiler · and holde him wel I-servet;

And he that repenteth Rathest 31 . schulde arysen aftur,
And greten Sir gloten · with a galun of ale.
Ther was lauzwhing 32 and lotering 33 . and 'let


Bargeyns and Beverages · bi-gonne to aryse,
And seeten 35 so til Evensong · and songen sum while, 190
Til Gloten hedde I-gloupet 36 A Galoun and a gille.








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I Needler, needle-dealer. 2Dyker, or ditcher. 3 Ribibe- or rebeck-player. 4 Rat-catcher. 5 Raker, scavenger. 6 Cheapside, or West Cheap. 7 Rope

8 Mounted vassal. maker. 9 Dish-seller. 10 Welshman. 11 Upholsterers,

18 Sell. dealers in second-hand clothes and furniture. 12 At the new fair. 14 Hit, threw down. 15 Hood. 16 Bette the butcher. 17 Tradesmen, hucksters.

19 Merchandise. 18 Chosen.

20 Appraise, value.

21 Whoso. 22 In haste. ® Whispered. 24 Stood apart. 25 On. 26 Could. 27 Bidden. 28 An umpire.

81 Soonest. - Ne weore. 30 As (to) him good seemed.

82 Laughing 83 Chaffing.

34. Let the cup go (round)!' 35 [They] sat. 36 Gulped down.

[Then follow the natural consequences. He can 'neither step nor stand' till he get his staff; then he sets out in zigzag fashion, 'some time aside, and some time arear.' At the door his eyes turn dim, and he stumbles, Clement the cobbler catching him by the middle. And with all the wo of this world,' he is got home to bed.]


And after al this surfet · an Accesse 1 he hedde,

210 That he slepte Seturday and Sonenday · til sonne wente to

reste, Thenne he wakede of his wynk · and wypede his eizen ; The furste word that he spac was • • Wher is the Cuppe?' His wyf warnede him tho 2 . of wikkednesse and of sinne. Thenne was he a-schomed, that schrewe, and schraped 4 his eren,

215 And gon5 to grede grimliche · and gret deol to make For his wikkede lyf · that he I-lived hedde. *For hungur other for thurst · I make myn A-vou, Schal never fysch on Fridai · defyen 8 in my mawe, Er Abstinence myn Aunte · have I-zive me leve;

220 And zit Ichave I-hated hire al my lyf tyme.

4 Scraped, 1 Attack (of illness), seizure, fit. 2 Then. 3 (So) that he cursed. scratched. 5 Gan, began. 6 Cry (aloud). 7 Or. 8 Be digested. 9 Maw, stomach.


146. Gloton, Glutton; gluttony personi- | 156. Ferthing, farthing-i. e., fourth

fied. He appears in Dunbar's Dance ing, fourth part; hence a quarter of of the Seven Deidly Sins as

any coin, and commonly a quarter *The foul monster, Gluttony,

of a penny. - This Fastyng dayes. Of wame* insatiable and greedy.'

The time of the scene is a Friday:

see line 211. 149. Asked (Northern dialect). The

second form of the poem (1377 A.D.) 157. Geth Gloton in. Mr Skeat would reads 'axed' (Southern dialect): sk fain identify this alehouse with the

transposed becomes ks, which is x. immortal Boar's Head in Eastcheap 152. Gossib, godsib, sib or related in

(Mrs Quickly), not unfamiliar to Sir God, a sponsor in baptism; generally, John Falstaff (Shak., Hen. IV.) a friend, or familiar acquaintance. Othus. The plur. in -us is not com

-Heo. The second text has the mon; and the second or B-text modern form 'she. -Asaye, assay, (1377) has 'othes.'

Cf. lines 177, essay: from Lat. exagium (a proof, 178, 182, 272. weighing), from exigere (ex and 158. Sesse the souters wyt. B-text has

agere-drive out, weigh, examine). “Cisse the souteresse.' 'Cis,'familiar 155. Garlek, garlic: the old 'gar-leac,' for Cecilia.' spear-leek.

159. Warinar, warrener, warren-keeper. * Stomach, belly.

Warren' is 0. Fr. warene, garene, ‘Evechepynge,' a buying and sellfrom garer (to keep). Cf. warrant, ing carried on at taverns. guarantee, garrison.

172. Ostiler, hostler (in the older, 160. Tweyne, twain, two : the old higher sense), innkeeper, 'mine host.' masc. 'twegen.' 'Twa' was fem. From 0. Fr. hostelier (hosteland neut. -Knaves, boys, lads; the keeper), from hostel (hôtel, an inn), B-text has 'prentis' (apprentices). from Lat. hospitale, from hospes *Knave'is the older 'cnapa,'a boy: (host or guest, entertainer or entercf. Germ. knabe. "A knave-child' tained). B-text, like line 161, has

is anciently used for a male child.' *hakeney mon.' Yet it has 'hostel161. Hakeney mor, hackney-man, one lere' in 183, 185.

that lets out horses (or hacks) for 174. Chapmen, traders, hucksters: from hire. Hogge the neldere appears in the old ceap (purchase, barter) and B-text as 'hughe the nedeler,' or 'man' Cf. cheap, Cheapside, chafneedle-seller. Here is transposition fer; Ger. kaufen (to buy); kauf

of letters again. Cf. ask, axe (149). mann (merchant). -Chaffare, chap162. Cokkes lone, Cock's Lane, Smith- fare, chaffer, merchandise, what is

field : a disreputable quarter.- to buy or sell. -Preise, ap-praise, Clerk, a learned man, student pre- put a price upon. From Fr. priser paring for holy orders, then a man (to value), from prix (price, value), in holy orders. - The churche seems

from Lat. pretium. to have been near. Mr Skeat thinks 176. Rouneden, whispered: old runian it may have been St Michael's, is from run, a rune, a secret mark, whose name survives in St Michael's mystery. Dunbar, The Dance, has Lane, and whose burial-ground was

rownaris of false lesings (whisoverlooked by the Boar's Head perers of false lies).' Shakspeare, tavern. As a possible alternative, K. John, II., end : 'rounded in the he gives St Peter's in Cornhill.

ear.' 163. B-text transposes this line and the 180. Rad, p. part. of 'rede,' to advise,

next, and reads · Piers of Pridie and instruct, bid. The old form is Peronelle.'

rædan. Cf. Burns, Capt. Grose's 164. Dauwe, Davie, David. Cf. Daw- Peregrinations thro' Scotland, 3, 4: son, Dawkins, &c.

If there's a hole in a'

your coats, 165. Ribibor, 'player on the ribibe or

I rede you tent (look to) it.' rebeck, a kind of fiddle; from the Arab. rubabah or rebeb. It is said And?Death and Doctor Hornbook, to have had three strings, to have 53: 'I red ye weel, tak care o' been played with a bow, and to have skaith (hurt).' been introduced into Spain by the 181. Noumpere. 0. Fr. nonper, Lat. Moors' (Skeat).

non-par, without equal: an umpire, 166. Redyag-kyng, one of a class of one to whose sole decision a quesfeudal retainers, who held their land tion is referred by parties that canby serving their lord on horseback. not agree between themselves. Dr They were also called Rodknight. Morris derives from Lat. impar, the Anglo-Saxon ridend, one who rides, n being transferred from the article. a chevalier; rád-cniht, a riding 184. Covenaant, bargain, engagement: youth, soldier' (Skeat).

from Fr. convenant, from Lat. con169. Honsel, hansel, handsel.

ventum, from con-venio, come tohonsel,' for or as handsel, as a treat gether, agree. that is meant for earnest of some- 185. Hikkes hod the ostiler, 'Hick's thing better to come.

hood the hostler.' So in Passus VI.: 171. The new Fair, later called an for the Lordës love of heaven' is


• for the Lord of heaven's love, for bevere, Lat. bibere (to drink). Cf. love of the Lord of heaven.' This Fr. boire, 0. Fr. boivre (to drink). construction was the common one down to the 16th century. We say 210. Surfet, or surfait, surfeit. From now: ' Hick the hostler's hood.' Dr Fr. surfaire (from Lat. super-facere), Morris quotes: 'It is Othello's plea- to overdo, go to excess. sure, our noble and valiant general' | 216. Deol, or doel, dole, lamentation. (Shak.); and 'For the Queen's sake, 0. Fr. doel, duil, Fr. deuil, Lat. his sister' (Byron). See also (below) dolor. Cf. Scot, dool.

Sir T. More, first extract and notes. 219. Defyen, to be digested. “O. Fr. 188. Lotering. From Fr. losterie, deffier, to distrust, Lat. fides. badinage' (Skeat).

Hence O. E. defy, to reject, re189. Beverages, drinks, draughts. Fr. nounce; also to withstand, digest'

beuvrage. Ital. beveraggio, from (Skeat).


(From Piers the Plowman, Passus VII.) 'I have no peny,' quod Pers, 'Poletes 1 to bugge, a Nouther3 gees ne grys 4 . botes twey grene cheeses, And a fewe Cruddes 6 and Craym · and a therf? Cake, And a lof of Benes & Bren8 · I-Bake for my Children. 270 And I sigge,o bi my soule · I have no salt Bacon, Ne no Cokeneyes, 10 bi Crist · Colopus 11 to maken. Bot I have porettes 12 and percyl 13 · and moni Colplontes ; 14 And eke a Cou, and a Calf · and a Cart-Mare To drawe a-feld my donge · Whil the drouhthe 15 lasteth. 275 Bi this liflode I mot 16 lyven

til lammasse 17 tyme ; Bi that, Ich hope forte have · hervest in my Croft ; Thenne may I dihte 18 thi dyner as the deore lyketh.' Al the pore peple · pese-coddes fetten,20 Bake 21 Benes in Bred · thei brouhten in heor lappes, 280 Chibolles,22 cheef mete · and ripe cherries monye, And proferde pers 23 this present · to plese with hungur. Honger eet 24 this in haste · and asked aftur more.


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Buy. Neither. 4 Grice, young pigs. 5 But. 6 Curds. 7 Unleavened. 8 Loaf of beans and bran. 9 Say. 10 Young cocks. 12 Leeks. 13 Parsley. 14 Cabbages. 15 Drought. 16 Must. 17 Lammas (August 1). 18 Prepare, set forth. 19 As thee dearly (it) liketh (or pleaseth); as thou likest dearly (or best). 20 Fetched. 21 Baked. . 22 Onions. 23 Piers (the Plowman). 24 Eat (past tense), later ‘ate.'

11 Collops.

1 Pullets.

NOTES. 269. Therl, unleavened. B-text has loves.' Children. B-text gives

'haver,' oat-, oaten : cf. Ger. hafer 'fauntis,'a contraction of infants.' (oats).

273. Porettes, sort of leeks. —Percyl, B-text gives him two parsley: Fr. persil, Gr. petro

270. A lot.

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