William Langland

(1330 - 1390 / Wales)

The Vision Of Piers Plowman - Part 18 - Poem by William Langland

Wolleward and weetshoed wente I forth after
As a recchelees renk that [reccheth of no wo],
And yede forth lik a lorel al my lif tyme,
Til I weex wery of the world and wilned eft to slepe,
And lened me to a Lenten - and longe tyme I slepte;
Reste me there and rutte faste til ramis palmarum.
Of gerlis and of Gloria, laus gretly me dremed
And how osanna by organye olde folk songen,

And of Cristes passion and penaunce, the peple that ofraughte.
Oon semblable to the Samaritan, and somdeel to Piers the Plowman,
Barefoot on an asse bak bootles cam prikye,
Withouten spores other spere; spakliche he loked,
As is the kynde of a knyght that cometh to be dubbed,
To geten hym gilte spores on galoches ycouped.
Thanne was Feith in a fenestre, and cryde 'At Fili David!'
As dooth an heraud of armes whan aventrous cometh to iustes.
Olde Jewes of Jerusalem for joye thei songen,
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Thanne I frayned at Feith what al that fare bymente,
And who sholde juste in Jerusalem. 'jesus,' he seide,
'And fecche that the fend claymeth - Piers fruyt the Plowman.'
'Is Piers in this place?' quod I, and he preynte on me.
'This Jesus of his gentries wol juste in Piers armes,
In his helm and in his haubergeon - humana natura.
That Crist be noght biknowe here for consummatus Deus,
In Piers paltok the Plowman this prikiere shal ryde;
For no dynt shal hym dere as in deitate Patris.'
'Who shal juste with Jesus?' quod I, 'Jewes or scrybes?'
'Nay,' quod Feith, 'but the fend and fals doom to deye.
Deeth seith he shal fordo and adoun brynge
Al that lyveth or loketh in londe or in watre.
Lif seith that he lieth, and leieth his lif to wedde
That, for al that Deeth kan do, withinne thre daies to walke
And fecche fro the fend Piers fruyt the Plowman,
And legge it ther hym liketh, and Lucifer bynde,

And forbete and adoun brynge bale-deeth for evere
O Mors ero mors tua!'
Thanne cam Pilatus with muche peple, sedens pro tribunali,
To se how doghtiliche Deeth sholde do, and deme hir botheres right.
The Jewes and the justieeayeins Jesu thei weere,
And al the court on hym cryde ' Crucifige!' sharpe.
Tho putte hym forth a p[e]lour bifore Pilat and seide,
'This Jesus of oure Jewes temple japed and despised,
To fordoon it on o day, and in thre dayes after
Edifie it eft newe - here he stant that seide it -
And yit maken it as muche in alle manere poyntes
Bothe as long and as large a lofte and by grounde.'
' Crucifige!' quod a cachepol, ' I warante hym a wicche!'
' Tolle, tolle!' quod another, and took of kene thornes,
And bigan of [gr]ene thorn a garland to make,
And sette it sore on his heed and seide in envye,
'A ve, rabyt' quod that ribaud - and threw reedes at hym,
Nailed hym with thre nailes naked on the roode,
And poison on a poole thei putte up to hise lippes,
And beden hym drynken his deeth-yvel - hise dayes were ydone -
And [seiden], ' If that thow sotil be, help now thiselve;
If thow be Crist and kynges sone, com down of the roode;
Thanne shul we leve that lif thee loveth and wol noght lete thee deye!'
' Consummatum est,' quod Crist, and comsede for to swoune,
Pitousliche and pale as a prison that deieth;
The lord of lif and of light tho leide hise eighen togideres.
The day for drede withdrough and derk bicam the sonne.
The wal waggede and cleef, and al the world quaved.
Dede men for that dene come out of depe graves,
And tolde why that tempeste so longe tyme durede.
'For a bitter bataille,' the dede body seide;
'Lif and Deeth in this derknesse, hir oon fordeoth hir oother.
Shal no wight wite witterly who shal have the maistrie
Er Sonday aboute sonne risyng' - and sank with that til erthe.

Some seide that he was Goddes sone, that so faire deyde
Vere filius Dei erat iste.
And some seide he was a wicche - 'Good is that we assaye
Wher he be deed or noght deed, doun er he be taken.'
Two theves also tholed deeth that tyme
Upon a croos bisides Crist - so was the comune lawe.
A cachepol cam forth and craked bothe hir legges,
And hir armes after of either of tho theves.
Ac was no boy so boold Goddes body to touche;
For he was knyght and kynges sone, Kynde foryaf that throwe
That noon harlot were so hardy to leyen hond upon hym.
Ac ther cam forth a knyght with a kene spere ygrounde,
Highte Longeus, as the lettre telleth, and longe hadde lore his sight.
Bifore Pilat and oother peple in the place he hoved.
Maugree his manye teeth he was maad that tyme
To [justen with Jesus, this blynde Jew Longeus].
For alle thei were unhardy, that hoved on horse or stode,
To touchen hym or to tasten hym or taken hym doun of roode,
But this blynde bacheler, that baar hym thorugh the herte.
The blood sprong doun by the spere and unspered the knyghtes eighen.
Thanne fil the knyght upon knees and cryde Jesu mercy
'Ayein my wille it was, Lord, to wownde yow so soore!'
He sighed and seide, ' Soore it me athynketh!
For the dede that I have doon I do me in youre grace.
Have on me ruthe, rightful Jesu!' - and right with that he wepte.
Thanne gan Feith felly the false Jewes despise -
Callede hem caytyves acorsed for evere
' For this foule vileynye vengeaunce to yow falle!
To do the blynde bete hym ybounde, it was a boyes counseille.
Cursede caytyves! Knyghthood was it nevere

To mysdo a deed body by daye or by nyghte.
The gree yit hath he geten, for al his grete wounde.
' For youre champion chivaler, chief knyght of yow alle,
Yilt hym recreaunt rennyng, right at Jesus wilk.
For be this derknesse ydo, Deeth worth yvenquisshed;
And ye, lurdaynes, han ylost - for Lif shal have the maistrye.
And youre fraunchyse, that fre was, fallen is in thraldom,
And ye, cherles, and youre children, cheve shulle ye nevere,
Ne have lordshipe in londe, ne no lond tilye,
But al barayne be and usurie usen,
Which is lif that Oure Lord in alle lawes acurseth.
Now youre goode dayes arn doon, as Daniel prophecied
Whan Crist cam hir kyngdom the crowne sholde lese -
Cum veniat sanctus sanctorum cessabit unxio vestra.'
What for feere of this ferly and of the false Jewes,
I drow me in that derknesse to descendit ad inferna,
And there I saugh soothly, secundum scripturas,
Out of the west coste, a wenche, as me thoughte,
Cam walkynge in the wey; to helleward she loked.
Mercy highte that mayde, a meke thyng with alle,
A ful benigne burde, and buxom of speche.
Hir suster, as it semed, cam softely walkynge
Evene out of the est, and westward she lokede -
A ful comely creature [and a clene], Truthe she highte;
For the vertue that hire folwede, afered was she nevere.
Whan thise maydenes mette, Mercy and Truthe,
Either asked oother of this grete wonder -
Of the dyn and of the derknesse, and how the day rowed,
And which a light and a leme lay bifore helle.
'Ich have ferly of this fare, in feith,' seide Truthe,
'And am wendynge to wite what this wonder meneth.'
'Have no merveille', quod Mercy, 'murhte it bitokneth.

A maiden that highte Marie, and moder withouten felyng
Of any kynde creature, conceyved thorugh speche
And grace of the Holy Goost; weex greet with childe;
Withouten wem into this world she broghte hym;
And that my tale be trewe, I take God to witnesse.
'Sith this barn was ybore ben thritti wynter passed,
Which deide and deeth tholed this day aboute mydday -
And that is cause of this clips that closeth now the sonne,
In menynge that man shal fro merknesse be drawe
The while this light and this leme shal Lucifer ablende.
For patriarkes and prophetes han preched herof often -
That man shal man save thorugh a maydenes helpe,
And that was tynt thorugh tree, tree shal it wynne,
And that Deeth down broughte, deeth shal releve.'
'That thow tellest; quod Truthe, 'is but a tale of waltrot!
For Adam and Eve and Abraham with othere
Patriarkes and prophetes that in peyne liggen,
Leve thow nevere that yon light hem alofte brynge,
Ne have hem out of helle - hold thi tonge, Mercy!
It is but trufle that thow tellest - I, Truthe, woot the sothe.
For that is ones in helle, out cometh it nevere;
Job the prophete patriark repreveth thi sawes
Quia in inferno nulla est redempcio.'
Thanne Mercy ful myldely mouthed thise wordes
'Thorugh experience,' quod he[o], ' I hope thei shul be saved.
For venym fordooth venym - and that I preve by reson.
For of alle venymes foulest is the scorpion;
May no medicyne [am]e[nd]e the place ther he styngeth,
Til he be deed and do therto - the yvel he destruyeth,
The firste venymouste, thorugh vertu of hymselve.
So shal this deeth fordo - I dar my lif legge -
Al that deeth dide first thorugh the develes entisyng;
And right as thorugh [gilours] gil;e [bigiled was man],
So shal grace that al bigan make a good ende

[And bigile the gilour - and that is good] sleighte
Ars ut artem falleret.'
'Now suffre we!' seide Truthe, ' I se, as me thynketh,
Out of the nyppe of the north, noght ful fer hennes,
Rightwisnesse corne rennynge; reste we the while,
For he[o] woot moore than we - he[o] was er we bothe.'
'That is sooth,' seide Mercy, 'and I se here by sowthe
Where cometh Pees pleyinge, in pacience yclothed.
Love hath coveited hire longe - leve I noon oother
But [Love] sente hire som lettre, what this light bymeneth
That overhoveth helle thus; she us shal telle.'
Whan Pees in pacience yclothed approched ner hem tweyne,
Rightwisnesse hire reverenced for hir riche clothyng,
And preide Pees to telle hire to whit place she wolde
And in hire gaye garnements whom she grete thoughte?
'My wil is to wende,' quod she, 'and welcome hem alle
That many day myghte I noght se for merknesse of synne -
Adam and Eve and othere mo in helle,
Moyses and many mo; Mercy shul [synge],
And I shal daunce therto - do thow so, suster!
For Jesus justede wel, joye bigynneth dawe
Ad vesperum demorabitur fletus, et ad matutinum leticia.
' Love, that is my lemman, swiche lettres me sente
That Mercy, my suster, and I mankynde sholde save,
And that God hath forgyven and graunted me, Pees, and Mercy
To be mannes meynpernour for everemoore after.
Lo, here the patente!' quod Pees, 'In pace in idipsum,
And that this dede shal dure, dormiam et requiescam.'
'What, ravestow?' quod Rightwisnesse; 'or thow art righty dronke!

Levestow that yond light unlouke myghte helle
And save mannes soule? Suster, wene it nevere!
At the bigynnyng God gaf the doom hymselve -
That Adam and Eve and alle that hem suwede
Sholden deye downrighte, and dwelle in peyne after
If that thei touchede a tree and of the fruyt eten.
Adam afterward, ayeins his defence,
Freet of that fruyt, and forsook, as it were,
The love of Oure Lord and his loore bothe
And folwede that the fend taughte and his felawes wille
Ayeins reson - I, Rightwisnesse, recorde thus with Truthe
That hir peyne be perpetuel and no preiere hem helpe.
Forthi lat hem chewe as thei chosen, and chide we noght, sustres,
For it is botelees bale, the byte that thei eten.'
'And I shal preie,' quod Pees, 'hir peyne moot have ende,
And wo into wele mowe wenden at the laste.
For hadde thei wist of no wo, wele hadde thei noght knowen;
For no wight woot what wele is, that nevere wo suffrede,
Ne what is hoot hunger, that hadde nevere defaute.
If no nyght ne weere, no man, as I leve,
Sholde wite witterly what day is to meene.
Sholde nevere right riche man that lyveth in reste and ese
Wite what wo is, ne were the deeth of kynde.
So God that bigan al of his goode wille
Bicam man of a mayde mankynde to save,
And suffrede to be sold, to se the sorwe of deying,
The which unknytteth alle care, and comsynge is of reste.
For til modicum mete with us, I may it wel avowe,
Woot no wight, as I wene, what is ynogh to mene.
' Forthi God, of his goodnesse, the firste gome Adam,
Sette hym in solace and in sovereyn murthe;
And siththe he suffred hym synne, sorwe to feele -
To wite what wele was, kyndeliche to knowe it.
And after, God auntrede hymself and took Adames kynde
To wite what he hath suffred in thre sondry places,

Bothe in hevene and in erthe - and now til helle he thenketh,
To wite what alle wo is, that woot of alle joye.
'So it shal fare by this folkhir folie and hir synne
Shal lere hem what langour is, and lisse withouten ende.
Woot no wight what werre is ther that pees regneth,
Ne what is witterly wele til ''weylawey'' hym teche.'
Thanne was ther a wight with two brode eighen;
Book highte that beaupeere, a bold man of speche.
'By Goddes body!' quod this Book, 'I wol bere witnesse
That tho this barn was ybore, ther blased a sterre
That alle the wise of this world in o wit acordeden -
That swich a barn was ybore in Bethleem the citee
That mannes soule sholde save and synne destroye.
'And alle the elements,' quod the Book, 'herof beren witnesse.
That he was God that al wroghte the wolkne first shewed
Tho that weren in hevene token stella comata
And tendeden hire as a torche to reverencen his burthe;
The light folwede the Lord into the lowe erthe.
The water witnesseth that he was God, for he wente on it;
Peter the Apostel parceyved his gate,
And as he wente on the water wel hym knew, and seide,
''tube me venire ad te super aquas.''
And lo! how the sonne gan louke hire light in hirselve
Whan she seigh hym suffre, that sonne and see made.
The erthe for hevynesse that he wolde suffre
Quaked as quyk thyng and al biquasshed the roche.
'Lo! helle myghte nat holde, but opnede tho God tholede,
And leet out Symondes sones to seen hym hange on roode.
And now shal Lucifer leve it, though hyrn looth thynke.
For Gigas the geaunt with a gyn engyned
To breke and to bete adoun that ben ayeins Jesus.
And I, Book, wole be brent, but Jesus rise to lyve
In alle myghtes of man, and his moder gladie,

And conforte al his kyn and out of care brynge,
And al the Jewene joye unjoynen and unlouken;
And but thei reverencen his roode and his resurexion,
And bileve on a newe lawe, be lost, lif and soule!'
'Suffre we!' seide Truthe, 'I here and see bothe
A spirit speketh to helle and biddeth unspere the yates
''Attolite portas.''
A vois loude in that light to Lucifer crieth,
''Prynees of this place, unpynneth and unlouketh!
For here cometh with crowne that kyng is of glorie.''
Thanne sikede Sathan, and seide to helle,
'Swich a light, ayeins oure leve, Lazar it fette;
Care and combraunce is comen to us alle!
If this kyng come in, mankynde wole he fecche,
And lede it ther Lazar is, and lightliche me bynde.
Patriarkes and prophetes han parled herof longe -
That swich a lord and a light shal lede hem alle hennes.'
'Listneth!' quod Lucifer, 'for I this lord knowe;
Bothe this lord and this light, is longe ago I knew hym.
May no deeth this lord dere, ne no develes queyntise,
And where he wole, is his wey - ac ware hym of the perils!
If he reve me of my right, he robbeth me by maistrie;
For by right and by reson the renkes that ben here
Body and soule beth myne, bothe goode and ille.
For hymself seide, that sire is of hevene,
That if Adam ete the appul, alle sholde deye,
And dwelle [in deol] with us develes - this thretynge he made.
And [sithen] he that Soothnesse is seide thise wordes,
And I sithen iseised sevene [thousand] wynter,
I leeve that lawe nyl noght lete hym the leeste.'

'That is sooth,' seide Satan, 'but I me soore drede;
For thow gete hem with gile, and his gardyn breke,
And in semblaunce of a serpent sete on the appultre,
And eggedest hem to ete, Eve by hirselve,
And toldest hire a tale - of treson were the wordes;
And so thou haddest hem out and hider at the laste.
It is noght graithly geten, ther gile is the roote!'
' For God wol noght be bigiled,' quod Gobelyn, ' ne byjaped.
We have no trewe title to hem, for thorugh treson were thei dampned.'
' Certes, I drede me,' quod the Devel, 'lest Truthe wol hem fecche.
Thise thritty wynter, as I wene, he wente aboute and preched.
I have assailled hym with synne, and som tyme I asked
Wheither he were God or Goddes sone - he gaf me short answere;
And thus hath he trolled forth thise two and thritty wynter.
And whan I seigh it was so, slepynge I wente
To warne Pilates wif what done man was Jesus;
For Jewes hateden hym and han doon hym to dethe.
I wolde have lengthed his lif - for I leved, if he deide,
That his soule wolde suffre no synne in his sighte;
For the body, while it on bones yede, aboute was evere
To save men from synne if hemself wolde.
And now I se wher a soule cometh [silynge hiderward]
With glorie and with gret light - God it is, I woot wel!
I rede we fle,' quod he, 'faste alle hennes -
For us were bettre noght be than biden his sighte.
For thi lesynges, Lucifer, lost is al oure praye.
First thorugh the we fellen fro hevene so heighe;
For we leved thi lesynges, we lopen out alle with thee;
And now for thi laste lesynge, ylorn we have Adam,
And al oure lordshipe, I leve, a londe and a watre
Nunc Princeps huius mundi eicietur foras.'

Eft the light bad unlouke, and Lucifer answerde,
' Quis est iste ?
What lord artow?' quod Lucifer. The light soone seide,
Rex glorie,
The lord of myght and of mayn and alle manere vertues -
Dominus virtutum.
Dukes of this dymme place, anoon undo thise yates,
That Crist may come in, the Kynges sone of Hevene!'
And with that breeth helle brak, with Belialles barres -
For any wye or warde, wide open the yates.
Patriarkes and prophetes, populus in tenebris,
Songen Seint Johanes song, ' Ecce Agnus Dei.'
Lucifer loke ne myghte, so light hym ablente.
And tho that Oure Lord lovede, into his light he laughte,
And seide to Sathan, 'Lo! here my soule to amendes
For alle synfulle soules, to save tho that ben worthi.
Myne thei ben and of me - I may the bet hem cleyme.
Although reson recorde, and right of myselve,
That if thei ete the appul, alle sholde deye,
I bihighte hem noght here helle for evere.
For the dede that thei dide, thi deceite it made;
With gile thow hem gete, ageyn alle reson.
For in my paleis, Paradis, in persone of an addre,
Falsliche thow fettest there thyng that I lovede.
'Thus ylik a lusard with a lady visage,
Thefliche thow me robbedest; the Olde Lawe graunteth
That gilours be bigiled - and that is good reson
Dentem pro dente et oculum pro oculo.

Ergo soule shal soule quyte and synne to synne wende,
And al that man hath mysdo, I, man, wole amende it.
Membre for membre [was amendes by the Olde Lawe],
And lif for lif also - and by that lawe I clayme
Adam and al his issue at my wille herafter.
And that deeth in hem fordide, my deeth shal releve,
And bothe quyke and quyte that queynt was thorugh synne;
And that grace gile destruye, good feith it asketh.
So leve it noght, Lucifer, ayein the lawe I fecche hem,
But by right and by reson raunsone here my liges
Non veni solvere legem set adimplere.
'Thow fettest myne in my place ayeins alle reson -
Falsliche and felonliche; good feith me it taughte,
To recovere hem thorugh raunsoun, and by no reson ellis,
So that with gile thow gete, thorugh grace it is ywonne.
Thow, Lucifer, in liknesse of a luther addere
Getest bi gile tho that God lovede;
And I, in liknesse of a leode, that Lord am of hevene,
Graciousliche thi gile have quyt - go gile ayein gile!
And as Adam and alle thorugh a tree deyden,
Adam and alle thorugh a tree shal turne to lyve;
And gile is bigiled, and in his gile fallen
Et cecidit in foveam quam fecit.
Now bigynneth thi gile ageyn thee to turne
And my grace to growe ay gretter and widder.
The bitternesse that thow hast browe, now brouke it thiselve;
That art doctour of deeth, drynk that thow madest!
'For I that am lord of lif, love is my drynke,
And for that drynke today, I deide upon erthe.
I faught so, me thursteth yet, for mannes soule sake;
May no drynke me moiste, ne my thurst stake,

Til the vendage falle in the vale of Josaphat,
That I drynke right ripe must, resureccio mortuorum.
And thanne shal I come as a kyng, crouned, with aungeles,
And have out of helle alle mennes soules.
' Fendes and fendekynes bifore me shul stande
And be at my biddyng wheresoevere [be] me liketh.
Ac to be merciable to man thanne, my kynde it asketh,
For we beth bretheren of blood, but noght in baptisme alle.
Ac alle that beth myne hole bretheren, in blood and in baptisme,
Shul noght be dampned to the deeth that is withouten ende
Tibi soli peccavi .
'It is noght used on erthe to hangen a feloun
Ofter than ones, though he were a tretour.
And if the kyng of that kyngdom corne in that tyme
There the feloun thole sholde deeth oother juwise,
Lawe wolde he yeve hym lif, and he loked on hym.
And I that am kyng of kynges shal come swich a tyme
There doom to the deeth dampneth alle wikked;
And if lawe wole I loke on hem, it lith in my grace
Wheither thei deye or deye noght for that thei diden ille.
Be it any thyng abought, the boldnesse of hir synnes,
I may do mercy thorugh rightwisnesse, and alle my wordes trewe.
And though Holy Writ wole that I be wroke of hem that diden ille -
Nullum malum impunitum -
Thei shul be clensed clerliche and [clene] wasshen of hir synnes
In my prisone Purgatorie, til parce it hote.
And my mercy shal be shewed to manye of my bretheren;

For blood may suffre blood bothe hungry and acale,
Ac blood may noght se blood blede, but hym rewe.'
Audivi archana verba que non licet homini loqui.
'Ac my rightwisnesse and right shal rulen al helle,
And mercy al mankynde bifore me in hevene.
For I were an unkynde kyng but I my kyn helpe - -
And nameliche at swich a nede ther nedes help bihoveth
Non intres in iudicium cum servo tuo.
'Thus by lawe,' quod Oure Lord, 'lede I wole fro hennes
Tho [leodes] that I lov[e] and leved in my comynge.
And for thi lesynge, Lucifer, that thow leighe til Eve,
Thow shalt abyen it bittre!' - and bond hym with cheynes.
As troth and al the route hidden hem in hernes;
They dorste noght loke on Oure Lord, the [lothli]este of hem alle,
But leten hym lede forth what hym liked and lete what hym liste.
Manye hundred of aungeles harpeden and songen,
' Culpat caro, purgat caro, regnat Deus Dei caro.'
Thanne pipede Pees of poesie a note
' Clarior est solito post maxima nebula phebus;
Post inimicicias clarior est et amor.
' After sharpest shoures,' quod Pees, ' moost shene is the sonne;
Is no weder warmer than after watry cloudes;
Ne no love levere; ne lever frendes
Than after werre and wo, whan love and pees ben maistres.
Was nevere werre in this world, ne wikkednesse so kene,
'That Love, and hym liste, to laughyng ne broughte,
And Pees, thorugh pacience, alle perils stoppede.'

' Trewes!' quod Truthe; ' thow tellest us sooth, by Jesus!
Clippe we in covenaunt, and ech of us kisse oother.'
'And lete no peple,' quod Pees, 'parceyve that we chidde;
For inpossible is no thyng to Hym that is almyghty.'
'Thow seist sooth,' seide Rightwisnesse, and reverentliche hire kiste,
Pees, and Pees h[i]re, per secula seculorum.
Misericordia et Veritas obviaverunt sibi, justicia et Pax osculate sunt.
Truthe trumpede tho and song Te Deum laudamus,
And thanne lutede Love in a loud note,
' Ecce quam bonum et quam iocundum .'
Til the day dawed thise damyseles carolden,
That men rongen to the resurexion - and right with that I wakede,
And called Kytte my wif and Calote my doghter
'Ariseth and reverenceth Goddes resurexion,
And crepeth to the cros on knees, and kisseth it for a juwel!
For Goddes blik body it bar for eure body,
And it afereth the fend - for swich is the myghte,
May no grisly goost glide there it shadweth!'


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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