William Langland

(1330 - 1390 / Wales)

The Vision Of Piers Plowman - Part 17 - Poem by William Langland

'I am Spes, a spie,' quod he, 'and spire after a knyght
That took me a maundement upon the mount of Synay
To rule alle reames therewith - l bere the writ here.'
'Is it asseled?' I seide. 'May men see thi lettres?'
'Nay.' he seide. 'I seke hym that hath the seel to kepe -
And that is cros and Cristendom, and Crist theron to honge.
And whan it is asseled so, I woot wel the sothe -
That Luciferis lordshipe laste shal no lenger!'
' Lat se thi lettres,' quod I, 'we myghte the lawe knowe.'
He plukkede forth a patente, a pece of an hard roche,
Whereon was writen two wordes on this wise yglosed;

Dilige Deum et proximum tuum -
This was the tixte trewely - I took ful good yeme.
The glose was gloriously writen with a gilt penne
In hiis duobus mandatis tota lex penhet et prophete.
' Is here alle thi lordes lawes?' quod I. ' Ye, leve me,' he seide.
'And whoso wet cheth after this writ, I wol undertaken,
Shal nevere devel hym dere, ne deeth in soule greve.
For though I seye it myself, I have saved with this charme
Of men and of wommen many score thousand.'
' He seith sooth,' seide this heraud, ' I have yfounde it ofte.
Lo! here in my lappe that leeved on that charme -
Josue and Judith and Judas Macabeus,
Ye, and sixti thousand biside forth that ben noght seyen here!'
' Youre wordes arn wonderfulle,' quod I tho. ' Which of yow is trewest,
And lelest to leve on for lif and for soule?
Abraham seith that he seigh hoolly the Trinite,
Thre persones in parcelles departable fro oother,
And alle thre but o God - thus Abraham me taughte -
And hath saved that bileved so and sory for hir synnes,
He kan noght siggen the somme, and some arn in his lappe.
What neded it thanne a newe lawe to brynge,
Sith the firste suffiseth to savacion and to blisse?
And now cometh Spes and speketh, that hath aspied the lawe,
And telleth noght of the Trinite that took hym hise lettres -
To bileeve and lovye in o Lord almyghty,
And siththe right as myself so lovye alle peple.
'The gorne thit gooth with o staf - he semeth in gretter heele
Than he that gooth with two staves, to sighte of us alle.
And right so, bi the roode, reson me sheweth
It is lighter to lewed men o lesson to knowe
Than for to techen hem two, and to hard to lerne the leeste!
It is ful hard for any man on Abraham bileve,

And wel awey worse yit for to love a sherewe.
In pace in is lighter to leeve in thre lovely persones
Than for to lovye and lene as wel lorels as lele.
Go thi gate, 'quod I to Spes; 'so me God helpe,
Tho that lernen thi lawe wol litel while usen it!'
And as we wenten thus in the wey, wordynge togideres,
Thanne seighe we a Samaritan sittynge on a mule,
Ridynge ful rapely the righte wey we yeden,
Comynge from a contree that men called Jerico -
To a justes in Jerusalem he [j]aced awey faste.
Bothe the heraud and Hope and he mette atones
Where a man was, wounded, and with theves taken.
He myghte neither steppe ne stande, ne stere foot ne handes,
Ne helpe hymself soothly, for semyvif he semed,
And as naked as a nedle, and noon help abouten.
Feith hadde first sighte of hym, ac he fleigh aside,
And nolde noght neghen hym by nyne londes lengthe.
Hope cam hippynge after, that hadde so ybosted
How he with Moyses maundement hadde many men yholpe;
Ac whan he hadde sighte of that segge, aside he gan hym drawe
Dredfully, bi this day, as doke dooth fram the faucon!
Ac so soone so the Samaritan hadde sighte of this leode,
He lighte adown of lyard and ladde hym in his handes,
And to the wye he wente hise woundes to biholde,
And parceyved by his pous he was in peril to dye,
And but he hadde recoverer the rather, that rise sholde he nevere;
And breide to hise boteles, and bothe he atamede.
With wyn and with oille hise woundes he wasshed,
Enbawmed hym and bond his heed, and in his lappe hym leide,
And ladde hym so forth on lyard to Lex Christi, a graunge
Wel sixe mile or sevene biside the newe market;
Herberwed hym at an hostrie and to the hostiler called,

And [quod], ' Have, kepe this man, til I come fro the justes,
And lo here silver,' he seide, 'for salve to hise woundes.'
And he took hym two pens to liflode as it weere,
And seide, 'What he [moore spendeth] I make thee good herafter,
For I may noght lette,' quod that leode - and lyard he bistrideth,
And raped hym to Jerusalemward the righte wey to ryde.
Feith folwede after faste, and fondede to mete hym,
And Spes spakliche hym spedde, spede if he myghte
To overtaken hym and talke to hym er thei to towne coome.
And whan I seigh this, I sojourned noght. but shoop me to renne,
And suwed that Samaritan that was so ful of pite,
And graunted hym to ben his groom. 'Graunt mercy,' he seide,
'Ac thi frend and thi felawe,' quod he, 'thow fyndest me at nede.'
And I thanked hym tho and siththe I hym tolde
How that Feith fleigh awey and Spes his felawe bothe
For sighte of the sorweful [segge] that robbed was with theves.
' Have hem excused,' quod he, 'hir help may litel availle
May no medicyne under molde the man to heele brynge -
Neither Feith ne fyn Hope, so festred be hise woundes,
Withouten the blood of a barn born of a mayde.
And be he bathed in that blood, baptised as it were,
And thanne plastred with penaunce and passion of that baby,
He sholde stonde and steppe - ac stalworthe worth he nevere
Til he have eten al the barn and his blood ydronke.
For wente nevere wye in this world thorugh that wildernesse
That he ne was robbed or rifled, rood he there or yede,
Save Feith and [myselve and] Spes [his felawe],
And thiself now and swiche as suwen oure werkes.
' For Outlawe is in the wode and under bank lotieth,
And may ech man see and good mark take
Who is bihynde and who bifore and who ben on horse -

For he halt hym hardier on horse than he that is a foote.
For he seigh me that am Samaritan suwen Feith and his felawe
On my capul that highte Caro - of mankynde I took it -
He was unhardy, that harlot, and hidde hym in Inferno.
Ac er this day thre daies, I dar undertaken
That he worth fettred, that feloun, faste with cheynes,
And nevere eft greve gome that gooth this ilke gate
O Mors ero mors tua .
'And thanne shal Feith be forster here and in this fryth walke,
And kennen out comune men that knowen noght the contree,
Which is the wey I wente, and wher forth to Jerusalem;
And Hope the hostilers man shal be ther [an helyng the man lith],
And alle that feble and feynte be, that Feith may noght teche,
Hope shal lede hem forth with love, as his lettre telleth,
And hostele hem and heele thorugh Holy Chirche bileve
Til I have salve for alle sike - and thanne shal I returne,
And come ayein bi this contree and conforten alle sike
That craveth it or coveiteth it and crieth therafter.
For the barn was born in Bethleem that with his blood shal save
Alle that lyven in Feith and folwen his felawes techynge.'
'A, swete sire!' I seide tho, 'wher I shal bileve -
As Feith and his felawe enformed me bothe -
In thre persones departable that perpetuele were evere,
And alle thre but o God? Thus Abraham me taughte;
And Hope afterward he bad me to lovye
O God with al my good, and alle gomes after,
Lovye hem lik myselve - ac Oure Lord aboven alle.'
'After Abraham,' quod he, 'tat heraud of armes,
Sette faste thi feith and ferme bileve;
And as Hope highte thee, I hote that thow lovye
Thyn evenecristene everemoore eveneforth with thiselve.

And if conscience carpe therayein, or kynde wit eyther,
Or eretikes with arguments - thyn hond thow hem shewe
For God is after an hand - yheer now and knowe it.
'The Fader was first as a fust with o fynger foldynge,
Til hym lovede and liste to unlosen his fynger
And profrede it forth as with a pawme to what place it sholde.
The pawme is purely the hand, and profreth forth the fyngres,
To ministren and to make that myght of hand knoweth;
And bitokneth trewely, telle whoso liketh,
The Holy Goost of hevene - he is as the pawme.
The fyngres that fre ben to folde and to serve
Bitoknen soothly the Sone, that sent was til erthe,
That touched and tastede at techynge of the pawme
Seinte Marie, a mayde, and mankynde laughte
Qui conceptus est de spiritu sancto .
'The Fader is thanne as a fust with fynger to touche -
Quia ''Omnia traham ad me ipsum '' -
Al that the pawme parceyveth profitable to feele.
Thus are thei alle but oon, as it an hand weere,
And thre sondry sightes in oon shewynge.
The pawme for he put forth fyngres and the fust bothe,
Right so, redily, reson it shewith,
How he that is Holy Goost Sire and Sone preveth.
And as the hand halt harde and alle thyng faste
Thorugh foure fyngres and a thombe forth with the pawme,
Right so the Fader and the Sone and Seint Spirit the thridde
Halt al the wide world withinne hem thre -
Bothe wolkne and the wynd, water and erthe,
Hevene and helle and al that ther is inne.
Thus it is - nedeth no man to trowe noon oother -
That thre thynges bilongeth in Oure Lord of hevene,
And aren serelepes by hemself, asondry were thei nevere,

Namoore than may an hande meve withoute fyngres.
'And as my fust is ful hand yfolden togideres,
So is the Fader a ful God, formour and shappere - -
Tu fabricator omnium -
And al the myght myd hym is in makynge of thynges.
'The fyngres formen a ful hand to portreye or peynten;
Kervynge and compasynge is craft of the fyngres.
Right so is the Sone the science of the Fader
And ful God as is the Fader, no febler ne no bettre.
'The pawme is pureliche the hand, hath power by hymselve
Otherwise than the writhen fust, or werkmans ipe of fyngres;
For the pawme hath power to putte out the j ntes
And to unfolde the fust, for hym it bilongeth,
And receyve that the fyngres recheth and refuse bothe
Whan he feleth the fust and the fyngres wille.
'So is the Holy Goost God, neither gretter ne lasse
Than is the Sire or the Sone, and in the same myghte,
And alle are thei but o God, as is myn hand and my fyngres,
Unfolden or folden, my fust and my pawme -
Al is but an hand, howso I turne it.
'Ac who is hurte in the hand, evene in the myddes,
He may receyve right noght - reson it sheweth;
For the fyngres that folde sholde and the fust make,
For peyne of the pawme, power hem failleth
To clucche or to clawe, to clippe or to holde.
'Were the myddel of myn hand ymaymed or ypersshed,
I sholde receyve right noght of that I reche myghte;
Ac though rny thombe and my fynges bothe were toshullen

And the myddel of myn hand withoute male ese,
In many kynnes maneres I myghte myself helpe
Bothe meve and amende, though alle my fyngres oke.
'By this skile,' he seide, I se an evidence
That whoso synneth in the Seint Spirit, assoilled worth he nevere,
Neither here ne elliswhere, as I herde telle -
Qui peccat in Spiritum Sanctum -
For he priketh God as in the pawme, that peccat in Spiritu[m] Sanctu[m].
For God the Fader is as a fust; the Sone is as a fynger;
The Holy Goost of hevene is as it were the pawme.
So whoso synneth ayeyns the Seint Spirit, it semeth that he greveth
God that he grypeth with, and wolde his grace quenche.
'For to a torche or a tapur the Trinite is likned -
As wex and a weke were twyned togideres,
And thanne a fir flawmynge forth out of bothe.
And as wex and weke and warm fir togideres
Fostren forth a flawmbe and a fair leye
[That serveth thise swynkeres to se by anightes],
So dooth the Sire and the Sone and also Spiritus Sanctus
Fostren forth amonges folk love and bileve,
That alle kynne Cristene clenseth of synnes.
And as thow seest som tyme sodeynliche a torche -
The blase therof yblowe out, yet brenneth the weke -
Withouten leye or light, that [lowe] the macche brenneth;
So is the Holy Goost God, and grace withoute mercy
To alle unkynde creatures that coveite to destruye
Lele love or lif that Oure Lord shapte.
'And as glowynge gledes gladeth noght thise werkmen
That werchen and waken in wyntres nyghtes,
As dooth a kex or a candle that caught hath fir and blaseth,
Namoore dooth Sire ne Sone ne Seint Spirit togideres
Graunte no grace ne forgifnesse of synnes
Til the Holy Goost gynne to glowe and to blase;

So that the Holy Goost gloweth but as a glede
Til that lele love ligge on hym and blowe.
And thanne flawmeth he as fir on Fader and on Filius
And melteth hire myght into mercy - as men may se in wyntre
Ysekeles in evesynges thorugh hete of the sonne
Melte in a mynut while to myst and to watre.
'So grace of the Holy Goost the greet myght of the Trinite
Melteth to mercy - to merciable and to noon othere.
And as wex withouten moore on a warm glede
Wol brennen and blasen, be thei togideres,
And solacen hem that mowe [noght] se, that sitten in derknesse,
So wol the Fader foryyve folk of mylde hertes
That rufully repenten and restitucion make,
In as muche as thei mowen arnenden and paien;
And if it suffise noght for assetz, that in swich a wille deyeth,
Mercy for his mekenesse wol maken good the remenaunt.
And as the weke and fir wol maken a warm flaumbe
For to murthen men with that in merke sitten,
So wole Crist of his curteisie, and men crye hym mercy,
Bothe foryyve and foryete, and yit bidde for us
To the Fader of hevene foryifnesse to have.
'Ac hewe fir at a flynt foure hundred wynter -
But thow have tache to take it with, tonder or broches,
Al thi labour is lost and al thi long travaille;
For may no fir flaumbe make, faille it his kynde.
So is the Holy Goost God and grace withouten mercy
To alle unkynde creatures - Crist hymself witnesseth
Amen dico vobis, nescio vos .
'Be unkynde to thyn evenecristene, and al that thow kanst bidde -
Delen and do penaunce day and nyght evere,
And purchace al the pardon of Pampilon and Rome,
And indulgences ynowe, and be ingratus to thi kynde,
The Holy Goest hereth thee neght, ne help may thee by reson;

For unkyndenesse quencheth hym, that he kan noght shyne,
Ne brenne ne blase clere, for blowynge of unkyndenesse.
Poul the Apostel preveth wheither I lye
Si linguis hominum loquar .
' Forthi beth war, ye wise men that with the world deleth,
That riche ben and reson knoweth - ruleth wel youre soule;
Beth noght unkynde, I conseille yow, to youre evenecristene;
For manye of yow riche men, by my soule, men telleth,
Ye brenne, but ye blase noght, and that is a blynd bekene! -
Non omnis qui dicit Domine, Domine, intrabit .
' Dives deyde dampned for his unkyndenesse
Of his mete and his moneie to men that it nedede.
Ech a riche, I rede, reward at hym take,
And gyveth youre good to that God that grace of ariseth.
For that ben unkynde to hise. hope I noon oother
But thei dwelle ther Dives is dayes withouten ende.
'Thus is unkyndenesse the contrarie that quencheth, as it were,
The grace of the Holy Goost, Goddes owene kynde.
For that kynde dooth, unkynde fordooth - as thise corsede theves,
Unkynde Cristene men, for coveitise and envye
Sleeth a man for hise moebles, with mouth or with handes.
For that the Holy Goost hath to kepe, tho harlotes destruyeth -
The which is lif and love, the leye of mannes body.
For every manere good man may be likned to a torche,
Or ellis to a tapur, to reverence the Trinite;
And whoso morthereth a good man, me thynketh, by myn inwit,
He fordooth the levest light that Oure Lord lovyeth.
'Ac yet in manye mo maneres men offenden the Holy Geost;
Ac this is the worste wise that any wight myghte
Synnen ayein the Seint Spirit - assenten to destruye
For coveitise of any kynnes thyng that Crist deere boughte.

How myghte he aske mercy, or any mercy hym hel
That wikkedliche and wilfulliche wolde mercy aniente?
'Innocence is next God, and nyght and day it crieth
''Vengeaunce ! Vengeaunce! Foryyve be it nevere
That shente us and shedde oure blood - forshapte us, as it semed
Vindica sanguinem iustorum .''
Thus '' Vengeaunce, vengeaunce!'' verrey charite asketh;
And sith Holy Chirche and charite chargeth this so soore,
Leve I nevere that Oure Lord wol love that charite lakketh,
Ne have pite for any preiere [that he pleyneth ther].'
'I pose I hadde synned so, and sholde now deye,
And now am sory that I so the Seint Spirit agulte,
Confesse me and crye his grace, God that al made,
And myldeliche his mercy aske - myghte I noght be saved?'
'Yis,' seide the Samaritan, 'so thow myghte repente
That rightwisnesse thorugh repentaunce to ruthe myghte turne.
Ac it is but selden yseighe, ther soothnesse bereth witnesse,
Any creature be coupable afore a kynges justice,
Be raunsoned for his repentaunce ther alle reson hym dampneth.
For ther that partie pursueth the peel is so huge
That the kyng may do no mercy til bothe men acorde
And eyther have equite, as holy writ telleth
Numquam dimittitur peccatum .
Thus it fareth by swich folk that falsly al hire lyves
Yvele lyven and leten noght til lif hem forsake.
Drede of desperacion thanne dryveth awey grace,
That mercy in hir mynde may noght thanne falle;
Good hope, that helpe sholde, to wanhope torneth -

Noght of the nounpower of God, that he ne is myghtful
To amende al that amys is, and his mercy gretter
Thanne alle our wikkede werkes, as Holy Writ telleth -
Misericordia eius super omnia opera eius -
Ac er his rightwisnesse to ruthe torne, som restitucion bihoveth
His sorwe is satisfaccion for [swich] that may noght paie.
'Thre thynges ther ben that doon a man by strengthe
For to fleen his owene hous, as Holy Writ sheweth.
That oon is a wikkede wif that wol noght be chastised
Hir feere fleeth hire for feere of hir tonge.
And if his hous be unhiled, and reyne on his bedde,
He seketh and seketh til he slepe drye.
And whan smoke and smolder smyt in his sighte,
It dooth hym worse than his wif or wete to slepe.
For smoke and smolder smerteth hise eighen
Til he be bler eighed or blynde and [the borre] in the throte,
Cogheth and curseth that Crist gyve hym sorwe
That sholde brynge in bettre wode, or blowe it til it brende!
'Thise thre that I telle of thus ben to understonde
The wif is oure wikked flessh that wol noght be chastised,
For kynde clyveth on hym evere to contrarie the soule.
And though it falle, it fynt skiles, that '' Frelete it made,''
And ''That is lightly foryyven and foryeten bothe
To man that mercy asketh and amende thenketh.''
'The reyn that reyneth ther we reste sholde
Ben siknesses and sorwes that we suffren oughte,
As Poul the Apostle to the peple taughte
Virtus in infirmitate perficitur.
And though that men make muche doel in hir angre,
And ben inpacient in hir penaunce, pure reson knoweth
That thei han cause to contrarie, by kynde of hir siknesse;

And lightliche Oure Lord at hir lyves ende
Hath mercy on swiche men, that so yvele may suffre.
'Ac the smoke and the smolder that smyt in oure eighen,
That is coveitise and unkyndenesse, that quencheth Goddes mercy.
For unkyndenesse is the contrarie of alle kynnes reson;
For ther nys sik ne sory, ne noon so muche wrecche
That he ne may lovye, and hym like, and lene of his herte
Good wille, good word - bothe wisshen and wilnen
Alle manere men mercy and foryifnesse,
And lovye hem lik hymself, and his lif amende.
'I may no lenger lette!' quod he, and lyard he prikede,
And wente awey as wynd - and therwith I awakede.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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