William Langland (1330 - 1390 / Wales)
The Vision Of Piers Plowman - Part 12
' I am Ymaginatif,' quod he, 'ydel was I nevere,
Though I sitte by myself, in siknesse nor in helthe.
I have folwed thee, in feith, thise fyve and fo
And manye tymes have meved thee to [mlyn[n]e on thyn ende,
And how fele fernyeres are faren, and so fewe to come
And of thi wilde wantownesse [whan] thow yong were,
To amende it in thi myddel age, lest myght the faille
In thyn olde elde, that yvele kan suffre
Poverte or penaunce, or preyeres bidde
Si non in prima vigilia nec in secunda &c.
'Amende thee while thow myght; thow hast ben warned ofte
With poustees of pestilences, with poverte and with angres -
And with thise bittre baleises God beteth his deere children
Quem diligo, castigo.
And David in the Sauter seith, of swiche that loveth Jesus,
'' Virga tua et baculus tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.
Although thow strike me with thi staf, with stikke or with yerde,
It is but murthe as for me to amende my soule.''
And thow medlest thee with makynges - and myghtest go seye thi Sauter,
And bidde for hem that yyveth thee breed; for ther are bokes ynowe
To telle men what Dowel is, Dobet and Dobest bothe,
And prechours to preve what it is, of many a peire freres.'
I seigh wel he seide me sooth and, somwhat me to excuse,
Seide, 'Caton conforted his sone that, clerk though he were,
To solacen hym som tyme - a[lso] I do whan I make
Interpone tuis interdum gaudia curis.
'And of holy men I herde,' quod I, 'how thei outherwhile
Pleyden, the parfiter to ben, in [places manye].
Ac if ther were any wight that wolde me telle
What were Dowel and Dobet and Dobest at the laste,
Wolde I nevere do werk, but wende to holi chirche
And there bidde my bedes but whan ich ete or slepe.'
'Poul in his pistle,' quod he, 'preveth what is Dowel
Fides, spes, caritas, et maior horum &c -
Feith, hope and charitee, and alle ben goode,
And saven men sondry tymes, ac noon so soone as charite.
For he dooth wel, withouten doute, that dooth as lewte techeth;
That is, if thow be man maryed, thi make thow lovye,
And lyve forth as lawe wole while ye lyven bothe.
' Right so, if thow be religious, ren thow nevere ferther
To Rome ne to Rochemador, but as thi rule techeth,
And holde thee under obedience, that heigh wey is to hevene.
'And if thow be maiden to marye, and myght wel continue,
Seke thow nevere seint ferther for no soule helthe!
For what made Lucifer to lese the heighe hevene,
Or Salomon his sapience, or Sampson his strengthe?
job the Jew his joye deere he it aboughte;
Aristotle and othere mo, Ypocras and Virgile,
Alisaundre that al wan, elengliche ended.
Catel and kynde wit was combraunce to hem alle.
' Felice hir fairnesse fel hire al to sclaundre,
And Rosamounde right so reufulliche bisette
The beaute of hir body; in baddenesse she despended.
Of manye swiche I may rede - of men and or wommen -
That wise wordes wolde shewe and werche the contrarie
Sunt homines nequam bene de virtute loquentes.
'And riche renkes right so gaderen and sparen,
And tho men that thei moost haten mynistren it at the laste;
And for thei suffren and see so manye nedy folkes
And love hem noght as Oure Lord bit, lesen hir soules
Date et dabitur vobis.
So catel and kynde wit acombreth ful manye;
Wo is hym that hem weldeth but he hem wel despende
Scient [es] et nan facient [es] variis flagellis vapulab[un]t.
Sapience, seith the Bok, swelleth a mannes soule
Sapiencia inflat &c.
And richesse right so, but if the roote be trewe.
'Ac grace is a gras therfore, tho grevaunces to abate.
Ac grace ne groweth noght but amonges [gomes] lowe
Paciwnce and poverte the place is ther groweth,
And in lele lyvynge men and in lif holy,
And thorugh the gifte of the Holy Goost, as the Gospel telleth
Spiritus ubi vult spirat.
'Clergie and kynde wit cometh of sighte and techyng,
As the Book bereth witnesse to burnes that kan rede
Quod scimus loquimur, quod vidimus testamur.
Of quod scimus cometh clergie, a konnynge of hevene,
And of quad vidimus cometh kynde wit, of sighte of diverse peple.
Ac grace is a gifte of God, and of greet love spryngeth;
Knew nevere clerk how it cometh forth, ne kynde wit the weyes
Nescit aliquis unde venit aut quo vadit &c.
'Ac yet is clergie to comende, and kynde wit bothe,
And namely clergie for Cristes love, that of clergie is roote.
For Moyses witnesseth that God wroot for to wisse the peple
In the Olde Lawe, as the lettre telleth, that was the lawe of Jewes,
That what womman were in avoutrye taken, were she riche or poore,
With stones men sholde hir strike. and stone hire to dethe.
A womman, as we fynden, was gilty of that dede;
Ac Crist of his curteisie thorugh clergie hir saved.
For thorugh caractes that Crist wroot, the Jewes knewe hemselve
Giltier as afore God and gretter in synne
Than the womman that there was, and wenten awey for shame.
The clergie that there was conforted the womman.
Holy Kirke knoweth this - that Cristes writyng saved;
So clergie is confort to creatures that repenten,
And to mansede men meschief at hire ende.
'For Goddes body myghte noght ben of breed withouten clergie,
The which body is bothe boote to the rightfulle,
And deeth and dampnacion to hem that deyeth yvele;
As Cristes caracte confortede and bothe coupable shewed
The womman that the Jewes broughte, that Jesus thoughte to save
Nolite iudicare et non iudicabimini.
Right so Goddes body, bretheren, but it be worthili taken,
Dampneth us at the day of dome as dide the caractes the Jewes.
'Forthi I counseille thee for Cristes sake. clergie that thow lovye,
For kynde wit is of his kyn and neighe cosynes bothe
To Oure Lord, leve me - forthi love hem, I rede.
For bothe ben as mirours to amenden oure det-autes,
And lederes for lewed men and for lettred bothe.
'Forthi lakke thow nevere logik, lawe ne hise custumes,
Ne countreplede clerkes - l counseille thee for evere!
For as a man may noght see that mysseth hise eighen.
Na moore kan no clerk but if he caughte it first thorugh bokes.
Although men made bokes, God was the maister,
And Seint Spirit the samplarie, and seide what men sholde write.
And right as sight serveth a man to se the heighe strete,
Right so lereth lettrure lewed men to reson.
And as a blynd man in bataille bereth wepne to fighte,
And hath noon hap with his ax his enemy to hitte,
Na moore kan a kynde witted man, but clerkes hym teche,
Come, for al his kynde wit, to Cristendom and be saved -
Which is the cofre of Cristes tresor, and clerkes kepe the keyes,
To unloken it at hir likyng, and to the lewed peple
Yyve mercy for hire mysdedes, if men it wole aske
Buxomliche and benigneliche, and bidden it of grace.
'Archa Dei in the Olde Lawe, Levites it kepten;
Hadde nevere lewed man leve to leggen hond on that cheste
But he were preest or preestes sone, patriark or prophete.
'Saul, for he sacrificed, sorwe hym bitidde,
And his sones also for that synne mischeved,
And manye mo other men that were no Levites,
That with archa Dei yeden, in reverence and in worship,
And leiden hond theron to liften it up - and loren hir lif after.
'Forthi I conseille alle creatures no clergie to dispise,
Ne sette short by hir science, whatso thei don hemselve.
Take we hir wordes at worth, for hire witnesses be trewe,
And medle we noght muche with hem to meven any wrathe,
Lest cheste cha[f]en us to choppe ech man other
Nolite tangere christos meos &c.
' For clergie is kepere under Crist of hevene;
[Com] ther nevere no knyght but clergie hym made.
Ac kynde wit cometh of alle kynnes sightes -
Of briddes and of beestes, [of blisse and of sorwe],
Of tastes of truthe and [oft] of deceites.
'[Olde] lyveris toforn us useden to marke
The selkouthes that thei seighen, hir sones for to teche,
And helden it an heigh science hir wittes to knowe.
Ac thorugh hir science soothly was nevere no soule ysaved,
Ne broght by hir bokes to blisse ne to joye;
For alle hir kynde knowyng com but of diverse sightes.
' Patriarkes and prophetes repreveden hir science,
And seiden hir wordes ne hir wisdomes was but a folye;
As to the clergie of Crist, counted it but a trufle
Sapiencia huius mundi stultitia est apud Deum.
'For the heighe Holy Goost hevene shal tocleve,
And love shal lepe out after into this lowe erthe,
And clennesse shal cacchen it and clerkes shullen it fynde
Pastores loquebantur ad invicem.
' He speketh there of riche men right noght, ne of right witty,
Ne of lordes that were lewed men, but of the hyeste lettred oute
Ibant magi ab oriente.
(If any frere were founde there, I yyve thee fyve shillynges!)
Ne in none beggers cote was that barn born,
But in a burgeises place, of Bethlem the beste
Sed non erat ei locus in diversorio - et pauper non habet diversorium.
'To pastours and to poetes appered the aungel,
And bad hem go to Bethlem Goddes burthe to honoure,
And songe a song of solas, Gloria in excelsis Deo.!
Riche men rutte tho and in hir reste were,
Tho it shon to shepherdes, a shewer of blisse.
Clerkes knewen it wel and comen with hir presents,
And diden hir homage nurably to hym that was almyghty.
'Why I have told thee I this - I took ful good hede
How thow contrariedest lergie with crabbede wordes,
How that lewed men lightloker than lettrede were saved,
Than clerkes or kynde witted men, of Cristene peple.
And thow seidest sooth of somme - ac se in what manere.
'Tak two stronge men and in Themese cast hem,
And bothe naked as a nedle, hir noon sikerer than other;
That oon hath konnynge and kan swymmen and dyven,
That oother is lewed of that labour, lerned nevere swymme.
Which trowestow of tho two in Themese is in moost drede -
He that nevere ne dyved ne noght kan of symmyng
Or the swymmere that is saff by so hymself like,
Ther his felawe fleteth forthas the flood liketh,
And is in drede to drenche, that nevere dide swymme?'
'That swymme kan noght,' I seide, 'it semeth to my wittes.'
' Right so,' quod the renk, ' reson it sheweth,
That he that knoweth clergie kan sonner arise
Out of synne and be saaf, though he synne ofte,
If hym liketh and lest, than any lewed, leelly.
For if the clerk be konnynge, he knoweth what is synne,
And how contricion withoute confession conforteth the soule,
As thow seest in the Sauter in salmes oon or tweyne,
How contricion is comended for it cacheth awey synne
Beati quorum remisse sunt iniquitates et quorum tecta sunt peccata.
And this conforteth ech a clerk and kevereth hym fro wanhope,
In which flood the fend fondeth a man hardest;
Ther the lewed lith stille and loketh after Lente,
And hath no contricion er he come to shrifte - and thanne kan he litel telle,
But as his loresman lereth hyrn bileveth and troweth,
And that is after person or parissh preest, and paraventure bothe unkonnynge
To lere lewed men, as Luc bereth witnesse
Dum cecus ducit cecum &c.
'Wo was hym marked that wade moot with the lewed!
Wel may the barn blesse that hym to book sette,
That lyvynge after lettrure saved hym lif and soule.
Dominus pars hereditatis mee is a murye verset
That hath take fro Tybourne twenty stronge theves,
Ther lewed theves ben lolled up - loke how thei be saved!
'The thef that hadde grace of God on Good Fryday as thow speke,
Was for he yald hym creaunt to Crist on the cros and knewliched hym gilty,
And grace asked of God, that to graunten is evere redy
To hem that buxomliche biddeth it, and ben in wille to amenden hem.
Ac though that theef hadde hevene, he hadde noon heigh blisse,
As Seint Johan and othere seintes that deserved hadde bettre.
Right as som man yeve me mete and sette me amydde the floor
I hadde mete moore than ynough. ac noght so muche worshipe
As tho that seten at the syde table or with the sovereynes of the halle,
But sete as a beggere bordlees by myself on the grounde.
So it fareth by that felon that a Good Friday was saved
He sit neither with Seint Johan, Symond ne Jude,
Ne with maydenes ne with martires ne confessours ne wydewes,
But by hymself as a soleyn, and served on the erthe.
For he that is ones a thef is everemoore in daunger,
And as lawe liketh to lyve or to deye
De peccato propiciato noli esse sine metu.
And for to serven a seint and swich a thef togideres -
It were neither reson ne right to rewarde both yliche.
'And right as Troianus the trewe knyght tilde noght depe in helle
That Oure Lord ne hadde hym lightly out, so leve I [by] the thef in hevene
For he is in the loweste of hevene, if oure bileve be trewe,
And wel losely he lolleth there, by the lawe of Holy Chirche,
Quia reddit unicuique iuxta opera sua.
'Ac why that oon theef on the cros creaunt hym yald
Rather than that oother theef, though thow woldest appose,
Alle the clerkes under Crist ne kouthe the skile assoille
Quare placuit ? Quia voluit.
And so I seye by thee, that sekest after the whyes, -
And aresonedest Reson, a rebukynge as it were,
And willest of briddes and of beestes and of hir bredyng knowe,
Why some be alough and some aloft, thi likyng it were;
And of the floures in the fryth and of hire faire hewes -
Wherof thei cacche hir colours so clere and so brighte,
And of the stones and of the sterres - thow studiest, as I leve,
How evere beest outher brid hath so breme wittes . . .
'Clergie ne Kynde Wit ne knew nevere the cause,
Ac Kynde knoweth the cause hymself and no creature ellis.
He is the pies patron and putteth it in hir ere
That there the thorn is thikkest to buylden and brede.
And Kynde kenned the pecok to cauken in swich a kynde,
And Kynde kenned Adam to knowe his pryve membres,
And taughte hym and Eve to helien hem with leves.
' Lewed men many tymes maistres thei apposen, .
Whi Adam ne hiled noght first his mouth that eet the appul,
Rather than his likame alogh? - lewed asken thus clerkes.
Kynde knoweth whi he dide so, ac no clerk ellis!
'Ac of briddes and of beestes men by olde tyme
Ensamples token and termes, as telleth thise poetes,
And that the faireste fowel foulest engendreth,
And feblest fowel of flight is that fleeth or swymmeth.
And that is the pecok and the pehen - proude riche men thei bitokneth
For the pecok and men pursue hym may noght flee heighe
For the trailynge of his tail overtaken is he soone.
And his flessh is foul flessh, and his feet bothe,
And unlovelich of ledene and looth for to here.
'Right so the riche, if he his richesse kepe
And deleth it noght til his deeth day, the tail of alle is sorwe.
Right as the pennes of the pecok peyneth hym in his flight,
So is possession peyne of pens and of nobles
To alle hem that it holdeth til hir tail be plukked.
And though the riche repente thanne and birewe the tyme
That evere he gadered so grete and gaf therof so litel,
Though he crye to Crist thanne with kene wil, I leve
His ledene be in Oure Lordes ere lik a pies chiteryng;
And whan his caroyne shal come in cave to be buryed,
I leve it flawme ful foule the fold al aboute,
And alle the othere ther it lith envenymeth thorugh his attre.
By the po feet is understande, as I have lerned in Avynet,
Executours - false frendes that fulfille noght his wille
That was writen, and thei witnesse to werche right as it wolde.
Thus the poete preveth that the pecok for his fetheres is reverenced;
Right so is the riche by reson of hise goodes.
'The larke, that is a lasse fowel, is moore lovelich of ledene,
And wel awey of wynge swifter than the pecok,
And of flessh by felefold fatter and swetter;
To lowe libbynge men the larke is resembled.
['Swiche tales he telleth, Aristotle the grete clerk];
Thus he likneth in his logik the leeste fowel oute.
And wheither he be saaf or noght saaf, the sothe woot no clergie,
Ne of Sortes ne of Salamon no seripture kan telle.
Ac God is so good, I hope that siththe he gaf hem wittes
To wissen us wyes therwith, that wisshen to be saved,
(And the bettre for hir bokes to bidden we ben holden)
That God for his grace gyve hir soules reste -
For lettred men were lewed yet, ne were loore of hir bokes.'
'Alle thise clerkes,' quod I tho, 'that on Crist leven.
Seyen in hir sermons that neither Sarsens ne Jewes
Ne no creature of Cristes liknesse withouten Cristendom worth saved.'
' Contra.! quod Ymaginatif thoo,and comsed for to loure,
And seide, ' Salvabitur vix iustus in die iudicii,
Ergo - salvabitur!' quod he, and seide no moore Latyn.
'Troianus was a trewe knyght and took nevere Cristendom,
And he is saaf, so seith the book, and his soule in hevene.
Ac ther is fullynge of font and fullynge in blood shedyng,
And thorugh fir is fullyng, and that is ferme bileve
Advenit ignis divinus, non comburens set illuminans &c.
'Ac truthe that trespased nevere ne traversed ayeins his lawe,
But lyveth as his lawe techeth and leveth ther be no bettre,
(And if ther were, he wolde amende) and in swich wille deieth -
Ne wolde nevere trewe God but trewe truthe were allowed.
And wheither it worth or noght worth, the bileve is gret of truthe,
And an hope hangynge therinne to have a mede for his truthe;
For Deus dicitur quasi dans vitam eternam suis, hoc est fidelibus.
Et alibi, Si ambulavero in medio umbre mortis &c.
The glose graunteth upon that vers a greet mede to truthe.
And wit and wisdom,' quod that wye, ' was som tyme tresor
To kepe with a commune - no catel was holde bettre -
And muche murthe and manhod' - and right with that he vanysshed.
Comments about this poem (The Vision Of Piers Plowman - Part 12 by William Langland )
Top 500 Poems
The Road Not Taken
If You Forget Me
Still I Rise
Edgar Allan Poe
William Ernest Henley
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings