William Langland

(1330 - 1390 / Wales)

The Vision Of Piers Plowman - Part 20 - Poem by William Langland

Thanne as I wente by the way, whan I was thus awaked,
Hevy chered I yede, and elenge in herte;
For I ne wiste wher to ete ne at what place,
And it neghed neigh the noon, and with Nede I mette,
That afrounted me foule and faitour me called.
'Coudestow noght excuse thee, as dide the kyng and othere -
That thow toke to thy bilyve, to clothes and to sustenaunce,
Was by techynge and by tellynge of Spiritus Temperancie,
And that thow nome na moore than nede thee taughte,
And nede ne hath no lawe, ne nevere shal falle in dette
For thre thynges he taketh his lif for to save? -
That is, mete whan men hym werneth, and he no moneye weldeth,
Ne wight noon wol ben his borugh, ne wed hath noon to legge;
And he ca[cch]e in that caas and come therto by sleighte,

He synneth noght, soothliche, that so wynneth his foode.
And though he come so to a clooth, and kan no bettre chevyssaunce,
Nede anoon righte nymeth hym under maynprise.
And if hym list for to lape, the lawe of kynde wolde
That he dronke at ech dych, er he [deide for thurst].
So Nede, at gret nede, may nymen as for his owene,
Withouten conseil of Conscience or Cardynale Vertues -
So that he sewe and save Spiritus Temperancie.
'For is no vertue bi fer to Spiritus Temperancie -
Neither Spiritus Iusticie ne Spiritus Fortitudinis.
For Spiritus Fortitudinis forfeteth ful ofte
He shal do moore than mesure many tyme and ofte,
And bete men over bittre, and som body to litel,
And greve men gretter than good feith it wolde.
'And Spiritus Iusticie shal juggen, wole he, nel he,
After the kynges counseil and the comune like.
And Spiritus Prudencie in many a point shal faille
Of that he weneth wolde falle if his wit ne weere.
Wenynge is no wysdom, ne wys ymaginacion
Homo proponit et Deus disponit -
[God] governeth alle goode vertues;
And Nede is next hym, for anoon he meketh
And as lowe as a lomb, for lakkyng that hym nedeth;
For nede maketh nede fele nedes lowe-herted.
Philosophres forsoke welthe for thei wolde be nedy,
And woneden wel elengely and wolde noght be riche.
'And God al his grete joye goostliche he lefte,
And cam and took mankynde and bicam nedy.'
So he was nedy, as seith the Book, in manye sondry places,
That he seide in his some on the selve roode,
''the Fox and fowel may fle to hole and crepe,

And the fissh hath fyn to flete with to reste,
Ther nede hath ynome me, that I moot nede abide
And suffre sorwes ful soure, that shal to joye torne.''
Forthi be noght abasshed to bide and to be nedy,
Sith he that wroghte al the world was wilfulliche nedy,
Ne nevere noon so nedy ne poverer deide.'
Whan Nede hadde undernome rne thus, anoon I fil aslepe,
And mette ful merveillously that in mannes forme
Antecrist cam thanne, and al the crop of truthe
Torned it [tid] up-so-doun, and overtilte the roote,
And made fals sprynge and sprede and spede mennes nedes.
In ech a contree ther he cam he kutte awey truthe.
And gerte gile growe there as he a god weere.
Freres folwede that fend, for he gaf hem copes,
And religiouse reverenced hym and rongen hir belles,
And al the covent cam to welcome that tyraunt,
And alle hise as wel as hym - save oonly fooles;
Whiche fooles were wel gladdere to deye
Than to lyve lenger sith Leute was so rebuked,
And a fals fend Antecrist over alle folk regnede.
And that were rnylde men and holye, that no meschief dradden,
Defyed alle falsnesse and folk that it usede;
And what kyng that hem conforted, knowynge h[ir] gile,
They cursed, and hir conseil - were it clerk or lewed.
Antecrist hadde thus soone hundredes at his baner,
And Pride bar it bare boldely aboute,
With a lord that lyveth after likyng of body,
That cam ayein Conscience, that kepere was and gyour
Over kynde Cristene and Cardynale Vertues.
'I conseille,' quod Conscience tho, 'cometh with me, ye fooles,
Into Unite Holy Chirche, and holde we us there.
And crye we to Kynde that he come and defende us
Fooles fro thise fendes lymes, for Piers love the Plowman.
And crye we on al the comune that thei come to Unitee,
And there abide and bikere ayeins Beliales children.'


Kynde Conscience tho herde, and cam out of the planetes,
And sente forth his forreyours - feveres and fluxes,
Coughes and cardiacles, crampes and toothaches,
Rewmes and radegundes and roynouse scalles,
Biles and bocches and brennynge agues,
Frenesies and foule yveles - forageres of Kynde
Hadde ypriked and prayed polles of peple;
Largeliche a legion lees hir lif soone.
There was ' Harrow!' and ' Help! Here cometh Kynde,
With Deeth that is dredful, to undo us alle!'
The lord that lyved after lust tho aloud cryde
After Confort, a knyght, to come and bere his baner.
'Alarme! Alarme!' quod that lord, 'ech lif kepe his owene!'
Thanne mette thise men, er mynstrals myghte pipe,
And er heraudes of armes hadden discryved lordes,
Elde the hoore; he was in the vauntwarde,
And bar the baner bifore Deeth - bi right he it cleymede.
Kynde cam after hym, with many kene soores,
As pokkes and pestilences - and muche peple shente;
So Kynde thorugh corrupcions kilde ful manye,
Deeth cam dryvynge after and al to duste passhed
Kynges and knyghtes, kaysers and popes.
Lered ne lewed, he lefte no man stonde
That he hitte evene, that evere stired after.
Manye a lovely lady and [hir] lemmans knyghtes
Swowned and swelted for sorwe of Dethes dyntes.
Conscience of his curteisie to Kynde he bisoughte
To cesse and suffre, and see wher thei wolde
Leve Pride pryvely and be parfite Cristene.
And Kynde cessede tho, to se the peple amende.
Fortune gan flatere thanne tho fewe that were alyve,
And bihighte hem long lif - and lecherie h
Amonges alle manere men, wedded and unwedded,

And gaderede a greet hoost al agayn Conscience.
'This Lecherie leide on with laughynge chiere
And with pryvee speche and peyntede wordes,
And armede hym in ydelnesse and in heigh berynge.
He bar a bowe in his hand and manye brode arewes,
Weren fethered with fair biheste and many a fals truthe.
With untidy tales he tened ful ofte
Conscience and his compaignye, of Holy Kirke the techeris.
Thanne cam Coveitise and caste how he myghte
Overcome Conscience and Cardinale Vertues,
And armed hym in avarice and hungriliche lyvede.
His wepne was al wiles, to wynnen and to hiden;
With glosynges and with gabbynges he giled the peple.
Symonye hym s[ue]de to assaille Conscience,
And preched to the peple, and prelates thei hem maden
To holden with Antecrist, hir temporaltees to save;
And cam to the kynges counseille as a kene baroun,
And kneled to Conscience in Court afore hem alle,
And garte Good Feith flee and Fals to abide;
And boldeliche bar adoun with many a bright noble
Muche of the wit and wisdom of Westmynstre Halle.
He jogged til a justice and justed in his eere,
And overtilte al his truthe with 'Tak this up amendement.'
And to the Arches in haste he yede anoon after,
And tornede Cyvyle into Symonye, and siththe he took the Official
For a menever mantel he made lele matrymoyne
Departen er deeth cam, and a devors shapte.
'Allas!' quod Conscience, and cryde tho, 'wolde Crist of his grace
That Coveitise were Cristene, that is so kene to fighte,
And boold and bidynge the while his bagge lasteth!'
And thanne lough Lyf, and leet daggen hise clothes,

And armed hym in haste in harlotes wordes,
And heeld Holynesse a jape and Hendenesse a wastour,
And leet Leautee a cherl and Lyere a fre man;
Conscience and counseil, he counted it folye.
Thus relyede Lif for a litel fortune,
And priked forth with Pride - preiseth he no vertue,
Ne careth noght how Kynde slow, and shal come at the laste
And kille alle erthely creature save Conscience oone.
Lyf lepte aside and laughte hym a lemman.
'Heele and I,' quod he, 'and heighnesse of herte
Shal do thee noght drede neither deeth ne elde.
And to foryyte sorwe and yyve noght of synne.'
This likede Lif and his lemman Fortune,
And geten in hir glorie a gadelyng at the laste,
Oon that muche wo wroughte, Sleuthe was his name.
Sleuthe wax wonder yerne and soone was of age,
And wedded oon Wanhope, a wenche of the stuwes.
Hir sire was a sysour that nevere swoor truthe - -
Oon Tomme Two-tonge, atteynt at ech a queste.
This Sleuthe was war of werre, and a slynge made.
And threw drede of dispair a dozeyne myle aboute.
For care Conscience tho cryde upon Elde,
And bad hym fonde to fighte and afere Wanhope.
And Elde hente good hope, and hastiliche he shifte hym,
And wayved awey Wanhope and with Lif he fighteth.
And Lif fleigh for feere to Phisik after helpe,
And bisoughte hym of socour, and of his salve hadde,
And gaf hym gold good woon that gladede his herte -
And thei gyven hym ageyn a glazene howve.
Lyf leeved that lechecraft lette sholde Elde,
And dryven awey deeth with dyas and drogges.
And Elde auntred hym on Lyf - and at the laste he hitte
A phisicien with a furred hood, that he fel in a palsie,
And there dyed that doctour er thre dayes after.
'Now I se,' seide Lif, 'that surgerie ne phisik

May noght a myte availle to medle ayein Elde.'
And in hope of his heele good herte he hente
And rood so to Revel, a riche place and a murye -
The compaignye of confort men cleped it som tyme -
And Elde anoon after hym, and over myn heed yede,
And made me balled bifore and bare on the croune
So harde he yede over myn heed it wol be sene evere.
'Sire yvele ytaught Elde!' quod I, 'unhende go with the!
Sith whanne was the wey over menne heddes?
Haddestow be hende,' quod I, 'thow woldest have asked leeve!'
'Ye - leve, lurdeyn?' quod he, and leyde on me with age,
And hitte me under the ere - unnethe may ich here.
Helbuffetted me aboute the mouth and bette out my wangteeth,
And gyved me in goutes - I may noght goon at large.
And of the wo that I was inne my wif hadde ruthe,
And wisshed wel witterly that I were in hevene.
For the lyme that she loved me fore, and leef was to feele -
On nyghtes, namely, whan we naked weere -
I ne myghte in no manere maken it at hir wille,
So Elde and he[o] hadden it forbeten.
And as I seet in this sorwe, I saugh how Kynde passede,
And deeth drogh neigh me - for drede gan I quake,
And cryde to Kynde, 'Out of care me brynge!
Lo! how Elde the hoore hath me biseye
Awreke me if youre wille be, for I wolde ben hennes!
'If thow wolt be wroken, wend into Unitee,
And hold thee there evere, til I sende for thee;
And loke thow konne som craft er thow come thennes.'
'Counseille me, Kynde,' quod I, 'what craft be best to lerne?'
'Lerne to love,' quod Kynde, 'and leef alle othere.'
'How shal I come to catel so, toclothe me and to feede?'
'And thow love lelly, lakke shal thee nevere
Weede ne worldly mete, while thi lif lasteth.'

And there by conseil of Kynde I comsed to rome
Thorugh Contricion and Confession til I cam to Unitee.
And there was Conscience conestable Cristene to save,
And bisegede soo[r]ly with sevene grete geaunts
That with Antecrist helden harde ayein Conscience.
Sleuthe with his slynge an hard saut he made.
Proude preestes coome with hym - pange an hundred
In paltokes and pyked shoes and pisseris longe knyves
Coomen ayein Conscience - with Coveitise thei helden.
'By the Marie!' quod a mansed preest, was of the march of Irlonde,
'I counte na moore Conscience, by so I cacche silver,
Than I do to drynke a draughte of good ale!'
And so seiden sixty of the same contree,
And shotten ayein with shot, many a sheef of othes,
And brode hoked arwes - Goddes herte and hise nayles -
And hadden almoost Unitee and holynesse adown.
Conscience cryede, ' Help, Clergie. or ellis I falle
Thorugh inparfite preestes and prelates of Holy Chirche!
Freres herden hym crye, and comen hym to helpe -
Ac for thei kouthe noght wel hir craft, Conscience forsook hem.
Nede neghede tho neer, and Conscience he tolde
That thei come for coveitise to have cure of soules.
'And for thei are povere, paraventure, for patrymoyne hem failleth,
Thei wol flatere, to fare wel, folk that ben riche.
And sithen thei chosen chele and cheitiftee, poverte -
Lat hem chewe as thei chose, and charge hem with no cure!
For lomere he lyeth, that liflode moot begge,
Than he that laboureth for liflode and leneth it beggeres.
And sithen freres forsoke the felicite of erthe,

Lat hem be as beggeris, or lyve by aungeles foode!'
Conscience of this counseil tho comsede for to laughe,
And curteisliche conforted hem and called in alle freres,
And seide, Sires, soothly welcome be ye alle
To Unitee and Holy Chirche - ac o thyng I yow preye
Holdeth yow in unitee, and haveth noon envye
To lered ne to lewed, but lyveth after youre reule.
And I wol be youre borugh, ye shal have breed and clothes
And othere necessaries ynowe - yow shal no thyng lakke,
With that ye leve logik and lerneth for to lovye.
For love lafte thei lordshipe, bothe lond and scole -
Frere Fraunceys and Domynyk - for love to be holye.
'And if ye coveite cure, Kynde wol yow telle
That in mesure God made alle manere thynges,
And sette it at a certein and at a siker nombre,
And nempnede hem names newe, and noumbrede the sterres
Qui numerat multitudinem stellarum et omnibus eis .
'Kynges and knyghtes, that kepen and defenden,
Han officers under hem, and ech of hem a certein.
And if thei wage men to werre, thei write hem in noumbre;
Wol no tresorere taken hem wages, travaille thei never so soore,
[But thei ben nempned in the noumbre of hem that ben ywaged].
Alle othere in bataille ben yholde brybours -
Pylours and pykeharneys, in ech a parisshe ycursed.
' Monkes and moniales and alle men of religion -
Hir ordre and hir reule wole to han a certein noumbre;
Of lewed and of lered the lawe wole and asketh
A certein for a certein - save oonliche of freres!

Forthi,' quod Conscience, 'by Crist! kynde wit me telleth
It is wikked to wage yow - ye wexen out of noumbre!
Hevene hath evene noumbre, and helle is withoute noumbre;
Forthi I wolde witterly that ye were in the registre
And youre noumbre under notarie sygne, and neither mo ne lasse!'
Envye herde this and heet freres go to scole
And lerne logyk and lawe - and ek contemplacion -
And preche men of Plato, and preve it by Seneca
That alle thynges under hevene oughte to ben in cornune.
He lyeth, as I leve, that to the lewed so precheth
For God made to men a lawe and Moyses it taughte -
Non concupisces rem proximi tui.
And yvele is this yholde in parisshes of Engelonde;
For persons and parissh preestes, that sholde the peple shryve,
Ben curatours called to knowe and to hele.
Alle that ben hir parisshens penaunces enjoigne,
And ben ashamed in hir shrift; ac shame maketh hem wende
And fleen to the freres - -as fals folk to Westmynstre,
That borweth, and bereth it thider, and thanne biddeth frendes
Yerne of foryifnesse or lenger yeres leve.
Ac while he is in Westmynstre he wol be bifore
And maken hym murie with oother menne goodes.
And so it fareth with muche folk that to freres shryveth;
As sisours and executours - thei shul yyve the freres

A parcel to preye for hem, and [purchace] hem mur[th]e
With the remenaunt that othere [renkes] biswonke,
And suffre the dede in dette to the day of doome.
Envye herfore hatede Conscience,
And freres to philosophie he fond hem to scole,
The while Coveitise and Unkyndenesse Conscience assaillede.
In Unitee Holy Chirche Conscience held hym,
And made Pees porter to pynne the yates
Of alle taletelleris and titeleris in ydel.
Ypocrisie and h[ii] an hard saut thei made.
Ypocrisie at the yate harde gan fighte,
And woundede wel wikkedly many a wise techere
That with Conscience acordede and Cardynale Vertues.
Conscience called a leche, that coude wel shryve,
To go salve tho that sike were and thorugh synne ywounded.
Shrift shoop sharp salve, and made men do penaunce
For hire mysdedes that thei wroght hadde,
And that Piers [pardon] were ypayed, redde quod debes.
Some liked noght this leche, and lettres thei sente,
If any surgien were in the sege that softer koude plastre.
Sire Leef-to-lyve-in-lecherie lay there and gronede;
For fastynge of a Fryday he ferde as he wolde deye
'Ther is a surgien in this sege that softe kan handle,
And moore of phisik bi fer, and fairer he plastreth -
Oon Frere Flaterere, is phisicien and surgien.'
Quod Contricion to Conscience, 'Do hym come to Unitee;
For here is many a man hurt thorugh Ypocrisye.'
'We han no nede,' quod Conscience, 'I woot no bettre leche
Than person or parissh preest, penitauncer or bisshop -
Save Piers the Plowman, that hath power over alle,
And indulgence may do, but if dette lette it.

I may wel suffre,' seide Conscience, 'syn ye desiren,
That Frere Flaterere be fet and phisike yow sike.'
The frere herof herde and hiede faste
To a lord for a lettre, leve to have to curen
As a curatour he were, and cam with his lettre
Boldely to the bisshop, and his brief hadde,
In contrees ther he coome, confessions to here -
And cam there Conseience was, and knokked at the yate.
Pees unpynned it, was porter of Unitee,
And in haste askede what his wille were.
'In faith,' quod this frere, 'for profit and for helthe
Carpe I wolde with Contricion, and therfore cam I hider,'
'He is sik,' seide Pees, 'and so are manye othere;
Ypocrisie hath hurt hem - ful hard is if thei kevere.'
'I am a surgien,' seide the frere, 'and salves can make.
Conscience knoweth me wel and what I kan do bothe.'
'I praye thee,' quod Pees tho, 'er thow passe ferther,
What hattestow? I praye thee, hele noght thi name.'
'Certes,' seide his felawe, ' Sire Penetrans-domos.'
'Ye? Go thi gate!' quod Pees, 'by God, for al thi phisik,
But thow konne any craft, thow comest nought herinne!
I knew swich oon ones, noght eighte wynter passed,
Coom in thus ycoped at a court there I dwelde,
And was my lordes leche - and my ladies bothe.
And at the laste this lymytour, tho my lord was oute,
He salvede so oure wommen til some were with childe.'
Hende-Speche heet Pees tho, ' Opene the yates.
Lat in the frere and his felawe, and make hem fair cheere.
He may se and here here, so may bifalle,
That Lif thorugh his loore shal leve coveitise,
And be adrad of deeth and withdrawe hym fram pryde,
And acorde with Conseience and kisse hir either oother.'
Thus thorugh Hende-Speche entred the frere,
And cam in to Conseience and curteisly hym grette.
' Thow art welcome,' quod Conscience, 'kanstow heele sike?
Here is Contricion,' quod Conscience, 'my cosyn, ywounded.
Conforte hym,' quod Conscience, 'and take kepe to hise soores.
The plastres of the person and poudres ben to soore,

And lat hem ligge overlonge and looth is to chaunge hem;
Fro Lenten to Lenten he lat his plastres bite.'
'That is overlonge!' quod this lymytour, ' I leve - I shal amende it' -
And gooth, gropeth Contricion, and gaf hym a plastre
Of 'A pryvee paiement, and I shal praye for yow,
And for al [hem] that ye ben holden to, al my lif tyme,
And make yow [and] my Lady in masse and in matyns
As freres of oure fraternytee for a litel silver.'
Thus he gooth and gadereth, and gloseth there he shryveth -
Til Contricion hadde clene foryeten to crye and to wepe,
And wake for hise wikked werkes as he was wont to doone.
For confort of his confessour contricion he lafte,
That is the soverayneste salve for alle[s]kynnes synnes.
Sleuth seigh that, and so dide Pryde,
And comen with a kene wille Conscience to assaille.
Conseience cryed eft [Clergie come] helpe hym,
And [bad] Contricion [come] to kepe the yate.
' He lith adreynt,' seide Pees, 'and so do manye othere;
The frere with his phisyk this folk hath enchaunted,
And plastred hem so esily [that hii] drede no synne!'
'By Crist!' quod Conscience tho, ' I wole bicome a pilgrym,
And walken as wide as the world lasteth,
To seken Piers the Plowman, that Pryde myghte destruye,
And that freres hadde a fyndyng, that for nede flateren
And countrepledeth me, Conscience. Now Kynde me avenge,
And sende me hap and heele, til I have Piers the Plowman!'
And siththe he gradde after Grace, til I gan awake.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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