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Poem by William Langland


Piers Plowman: The Prologue


In a somer sesun, whon softe was the sonne,
I schop me into a shroud, as I a scheep were;
In habite as an hermite unholy of werkes
Wente I wyde in this world wondres to here;
Bote in a Mayes morwnynge on Malverne hulles
Me bifel a ferly, of fairie, me-thoughte.

I was wery, forwandred, and wente me to reste
Undur a brod banke bi a bourne side;
And as I lay and leonede and lokede on the watres,
I slumbrede in a slepynge, hit swyed so murie.
Thenne gon I meeten a mervelous sweven,
That I was in a wildernesse, wuste I never where;
And as I beheold into the est an heigh to the sonne,
I sauh a tour on a toft, tryelyche i-maket;
A deop dale bineothe, a dungun ther-inne,
With deop dich and derk and dredful of sighte.
A feir feld full of folk fond I ther bitwene,
Of alle maner of men, the mene and the riche,
Worchinge and wandringe as the world asketh.

Summe putten hem to the plough, pleiden ful seldene,
In settynge and in sowynge swonken ful harde,
And wonnen that theos wasturs with glotonye distruen.
And summe putten hem to pruide, apparaylden hem ther-after,
In cuntenaunce of clothinge comen disgisid.
To preyeres and to penaunce putten hem monye,
For love of ur Lord liveden ful streite,
In hope for to have hevene-riche blisse;
As ancres and hermytes that holdeth hem in heore celles,
Coveyte not in cuntré to cairen aboute,
For non likerous lyflode heore licam to plese.
And summe chosen chaffare to cheeven the bettre,
As hit semeth to ure sighte that suche men thryveth;
And summe, murthhes to maken as munstrals cunne,
And gete gold with here gle, giltles, I trowe.
Bote japers and jangelers, Judas children,
Founden hem fantasyes and fooles hem maaden,
And habbeth wit at heore wille to worchen yif hem luste.
That Poul precheth of hem, I dar not preoven heere;
Qui loquitur turpiloquium he is Luciferes hyne.

Bidders and beggers faste aboute eoden,
Til heor bagges and heore balies weren bretful i-crommet;
Feyneden hem for heore foode, foughten atte ale;
In glotonye, God wot, gon heo to bedde,
And ryseth up with ribaudye this roberdes knaves;
Sleep and sleughthe suweth hem evere.

Pilgrimes and palmers plihten hem togederes
For to seche Seint Jame and seintes at Roome;
Wenten forth in heore wey with mony wyse tales,
And hedden leve to lyen al heore lyf aftir.
Ermytes on an hep with hokide staves,
Wenten to Walsyngham and here wenchis after;
Grete lobres and longe that loth weore to swynke
Clotheden hem in copes to beo knowen for bretheren;
And summe schopen hem to hermytes heore ese to have.

I fond there freres, all the foure ordres,
Prechinge the peple for profyt of heore wombes,
Glosynge the Gospel as hem good liketh,
For covetyse of copes construeth hit ille;
For monye of this maistres mowen clothen hem at lyking,
For moneye and heore marchaundie meeten togedere;
Seththe Charité hath be chapmon, and cheef to schriven lordes,
Mony ferlyes han bifalle in a fewe yeres.
But Holychirche and heo holde bet togedere,
The moste mischeef on molde is mountyng up faste.

Ther prechede a pardoner, as he a prest were,
And brought forth a bulle with bisschopes seles,
And seide that himself mighte asoylen hem alle
Of falsnesse and fastinge and of vouwes i-broken.
The lewede men levide him wel and likede his speche,
And comen up knelynge to kissen his bulle;
He bonchede hem with his brevet and blered heore eiyen,
And raughte with his ragemon ringes and broches.
Thus ye yiveth oure gold glotonis to helpen!
And leveth hit to losels that lecherie haunten.
Weore the bisschop i-blesset and worth bothe his eres,
His sel shulde not be sent to deceyve the peple.
It is not al bi the bisschop that the boye precheth,
Bote the parisch prest and the pardoner parte the selver
That the pore peple of the parisch schulde have yif that heo ne weore,
Persones and parisch prestes playneth to heore bisschops,
That heore parisch hath ben pore seththe the pestilence tyme,
To have a lycence and leve at Londun to dwelle,
To singe ther for simonye, for selver is swete.

Ther hovide an hundret in houves of selke,
Serjauns hit semide to serven atte barre;
Pleden for pens and poundes the lawe,
Not for love of ur Lord unloseth heore lippes ones,
Thou mightest beter meten the myst on Malverne hulles
Then geten a mom of heore mouth til moneye weore schewed!

I saugh ther bisschops bolde and bachilers of divyne
Bicoome clerkes of acounte the king for to serven.
Erchedekenes and denis, that dignité haven
To preche the peple and pore men to feede,
Beon lopen to Londun, bi leve of heore bisschopes,
To ben clerkes of the Kynges Benche the cuntré to schende

Barouns and burgeis and bonde-men also
I saugh in that semblé, as ye schul heren aftur,
Bakers, bochers, and breusters monye,
Wollene-websteris, and weveris of lynen,
Taillours, tanneris, and tokkeris bothe,
Masons, minours, and mony other craftes,
Dykers, and delvers, that don heore dedes ille,
And driveth forth the longe day with "Deu vous save, Dam Emme!"
Cookes and heore knaves cryen "Hote pies, hote!
"Goode gees and grys! Go we dyne, go we!"
Taverners to hem tolde the same tale,
With wyn of Oseye and win of Gaskoyne,
Of the Ryn and of the Rochel, the rost to defye,
Al this I saugh slepynge and seve sithes more.



                      William Langland


William Langland's other poems:
  1. The Vision of Piers Plowman - Passus 12
  2. The Vision of Piers Plowman - Passus 17
  3. The Vision of Piers Plowman - Passus 8
  4. The Vision of Piers Plowman - Passus 10
  5. The Vision of Piers Plowman - Passus 15


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