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Poem by William Langland


The Vision of Piers Plowman - Passus 16


"Now faire falle yow,' quod I tho, "for youre faire shewyng!
For Haukyns love the Actif Man evere I shal yow lovye.
Ac yit am I in a weer what charite is to mene.'
"It is a ful trie tree,' quod he, "trewely to telle.
Mercy is the more therof; the myddul stok is ruthe;
The leves ben lele wordes, the lawe of Holy Chirche;
The blosmes beth buxom speche and benigne lokynge;
Pacience hatte the pure tree, and pore symple of herte,
And so thorugh God and thorugh goode men groweth the fruyt Charite.'
"I wolde travaille,' quod I, "this tree to se, twenty hundred myle,
And to have my fulle of that fruyt forsake al other saulee.
Lord !' quod I, " if any wight wite whiderout it groweth?'
"It groweth in a gardyn,' quod he, "that God made hymselve;
Amyddes mannes body the more is of that stokke.
Herte highte the herber that it inne groweth,
And Liberum Arbitrium hath the lond to ferme,
Under Piers the Plowman to piken it and to weden it.'
" Piers the Plowman!' quod I tho, and al for pure joye
That I herde nempne his name anoon I swowned after,
And lay longe in a lone dreem; and at the laste me thoughte
That Piers the Plowman al the place me shewed,
And bad me toten on the tree, on top and on roote.
With thre piles was it underpight -- I parceyved it soone.
" Piers,' quod I, " I preie thee -- whi stonde thise piles here?'
" For wynde, wiltew wite,' quod he, "to witen it fro fallyng --
Cum ceciderit iustus non collidetur quia Dominus supponit manum suam--
And in blowyng tyme abite the flowres, but-if thise piles helpe.

The world is a wikked wynd to hem that willen truthe
Coveitise comth of that wynd and crepeth among the leves
And forfreteth neigh the fruyt thorugh manye faire sightes.
Thanne with the firste pil I palle hym doun -- that is Potencia Dei Patris.
"The flessh is a fel wynd, and in flouryng tyme,
Thorugh likynge and lustes so loude he gynneth blowe
That it norisseth nyce sightes and som tyme wordes,
And wikkede werkes therof, wormes of synne,
And forbiteth the blosmes right to the bare leves.
"Thanne sette I to the secounde pil, Sapiencia Dei Patris --
That is the passion and the power of oure prince Jesu.
Thorugh preieres and thorugh penaunces and Goddes passion in mynde,
I save it til I se it ripen and somdel yfruyted.
"And thanne fondeth the fend my fruyt to destruye
With alle the wiles that he kan, and waggeth the roote,
And casteth up to the crop unkynde neighebores,
Bakbiteris brewecheste, brawleris and chideris,
And leith a laddre therto -- of lesynges are the ronges --
And feccheth awey my floures somtyme bifore bothe myne eighen.
Ac Liberum Arbitrium letteth hym som tyme,
That is lieutenaunt to loken it wel, bi leve of myselve
Videatis qui peccat in Spiritum Sanctum numquam remittetur
,-hoc est idem, qui peccat per liberum arbitrium non repugnat.
"Ac whan the fend and the flessh forth with the world
Manacen bihynde me, my fruyt for to fecche,
Thanne Liberum Arbitrium laccheth the thridde planke
And palleth adoun the pouke pureliche thorugh grace
And help of the Holy Goost -- and thus have I the maistrie.'
"Now faire falle yow, Piers!' quod I, "so faire ye discryven
The power of thise postes and hire propre myghte.
Ac I have thoughtes a threve af thise thre piles --
In what wode thei woxen, and where that thei growed,
For alle are thei aliche longe, noon lasse than oother,
And to my mynde, as me thynketh, on o more thei growed;
And of o greetnesse and grene of greyn thei semen.'

"That is sooth,' seide Piers, "so it may bifalle.
I shal telle thee as tid what this tree highte.
The ground there it groweth, goodnesse it hatte;
And I have told thee what highte the treethe Trinite it meneth' --
And egreliche he loked on me, and therfore I spared
To asken hym any moore therof, and bad hym ful faire
To di[ff]yne the fruyt that so faire hangeth.
" Heer now bynethe,' quod he tho, "if I nede hadde,
Matrimoyne I may nyme, a moiste fruyt withalle.
Thanne Continence is neer the crop as kaylewey bastard.
Thanne bereth the crop kynde fruyt and clennest of alle --
Maidenhode, aungeles peeris, and [ar]est wole be ripe,
And swete withouten swellyng -- sour worth it nevere.'
I preide Piers to pulle adoun an appul, and he wolde,
And suffre me to assaien what savour it hadde.
And Piers caste to the crop, and thanne comsed it to crye;
And waggede widwehode, and it wepte after;
And whan he meved matrimoyne, it made a foul noise,
That I hadde ruthe whan Piers rogged, it gradde so rufulliche.
For evere as thei dropped adoun the devel was redy,
And gadrede hem alle togideres, bothe grete and smale --
Adam and Abraham and Ysaye the prophete,
Sampson and Samuel, and Seint Johan the Baptist;
Bar hem forth boldely -- no body hym letted --
And made of holy men his hoord in Limbo Inferni,
There is derknesse and drede and the devel maister.
And Piers, for pure tene, that a pil he laughte,
And hitte after hym, happe how it myghte,
Eilius by the Fader wille and frenesse of Spiritus Sancti,
To go robbe that rageman and reve the fruyt fro hym.
And thanne spak Spiritus Sanctus in Gabrielis mouthe
To a maide that highte Marie, a meke thyng withalle,
That oon Jesus, a justices some, mostejouke in hir chambre
Til plenitudo temporis tyme comen were

That Piers fruyt floured and felle to be rype.
And thanne sholde Jesus juste therfore, bi juggement of armes,
Wheither sholde fonge the fruyt -- the fend or hymselve.
The maide myldeliche tho the messager graunted,
And seide hendeliche to hym, "Lo me his handmaiden
For to werchen his wille withouten any synne
Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat michi .'
And in the wombe of that wenche was he fourty woukes,
Til he weex a faunt thorugh hir flessh, and of fightyng kouthe,
To have yfoughte with the fend er ful tyme come.
And Piers the Plowman parceyved plener tyme,
And lered hym lechecraft. his lif for to save,
That though he were wounded with his enemy, to warisshen hymselve;
And dide hym assaie his surgenrie on hem that sike were,
Til he was parfit praktisour, if any peril fille;
And soughte out the sike and synfulle bothe,
And salvede sike and synfulle, bothe blynde and crokede,
And commune wommen convertede [to goode]
Non est sanis opus medicus, set male habentibus.
Bothe meseles and mute, and in the menyson blody --
Ofte he heeled swiche, he ne held it for no maistrie,
Save tho he leched Lazar, that hadde yleye in grave
Quatriduanus quelt -- quyk dide hym walke.
Ac a[r] he made the maistrie, mestus cepit esse,
And wepte water with hise eighen -- ther seighen it manye.
Some that the sighte seighen seiden that tyme
That he was leche of lif, and lord of heigh hevene.
Jewes jangled therayein that juggede lawes,
And seide he wroghte thorugh wichecraft and with the develes myghte
Demonium habes .

"Thanne are ye cherles,' quod Jesus, "and youre children bothe,
And Sathan youre Saveour -- yowself now ye witnessen
For I have saved yowself, and youre sones after,
Youre bodies. youre beestes, and blynde men holpen,
And fed yow with fisshes and with fyve loves,
And lefte baskettes ful of broke mete -- bere awey whoso wolde -- '
And mysseide the Jewes manliche, and manaced hem to bete,
And knokked on hem with a corde, and caste adoun hir stalles
That in chirche chaffareden or chaungeden any moneie,
And seide it in sighte of hem alle, so that alle herden,
" I shal overturne this temple and adoun throwe,
And in thre daies after edifie it newe,
And maken it as muche outher moore in alle manere poyntes
As evere it was, and as wid-wherfore I hote yow,
Of preieres and of parfitnesse this place that ye callen
Domus mea domus oracionis vocabitur.'
Envye and yvel wil ar[ne] in the Jewes
Thei casten and contreveden to kulle hym whan thei myghte;
Eche day after oother hir tyme thei awaiteden,
Til it bifel on a Friday, a litel bifore Pasqe.
The Thursday bifore, there he made his cene,
Sittynge at the soper he seide thise wordes
"I am sold thorugh so[m] of yow -- he shal the tyme rewe
That evere he his Saveour solde for silver or ellis.'
Judas jangled therayein, ac Jesus hym tolde
It was hymself soothly, and seide, " Tu dicis.'
Thanne wente forth that wikked man and with the Jewes mette,
And tolde hem a tokne how to knowe with Jesus,
The which tokne to this day to muche is yused --
That is, kissynge and fair countenaunce and unkynde wille.
And so was with Judas tho, that Jesus bitrayed
" Ave, raby,' quod that ribaud, and right to hym he yede,

And kiste hym, to be caught therby and kulled of the Jewes.
Thanne Jesus to Judas and to the Jewes seide,
" Falsnesse I fynde in thi faire speche,
And gile in thi glad chere, and galle is in thi laughyng.
Thow shalt be myrour to many, men to deceyve,
Ac the worse, and thi wikkednesse shal worthe upon thiselve
Necesse est ut veniant scandalave homini illi, per quem scandalum venit.
Though I bi treson be take, and [to] youre owene wille,
Suffreth myne apostles in pays, and in pees gange.'
On a Thursday in thesternesse thus was he taken .
Thorugh Judas and Jewes -- Jesus was his name
That on the Friday folwynge for mankyndes sake
Justed in Jerusalem, a joye to us alle.
On cros upon Calvarie Crist took the bataille
Ayeins deeth and the devel, destruyed hir botheres myghtes --
Deide, and deeth fordide, and day of nyght made.
And I awaked therwith, and wiped myne eighen,
And after Piers the Plowman pried and stared,
Estward and westward I waited after faste,
And yede forth as an ydiot, in contree to aspie
After Piers the Plowman -- many a place I soughte.
And thanne mette I with a man, a myd-Lenten Sonday,
As hoor as an hawethorn, and Abraham he highte.
I frayned hym first fram whennes he come,
And of whennes he were, and whider that he thoughte.
"I am Feith,' quod that freke, "it falleth noght me to lye,
And of Abrahames hous an heraud of armes.
I seke after a segge that I seigh ones,
A ful bold bacheler -- I knew hym by his blasen.'
" What berth that buyrn,' quod I tho, " so blisse thee bitide?'
" Thre leodes in oon lyth, noon lenger than oother,
Of oon muchel and myght in mesure and in lengthe.
That oon dooth, alle dooth, and ech dooth bi his one.
The firste hath myght and majestee, makere of alle thynges

Pater is his propre name, a persone by hymselve.
The secounde of that sire is Sothfastnesse Filius,
Wardeyn of that wit hath, was evere withouten gynnyng.
The thridde highte the Holi Goost, a persone by hymselve,
The light of al that lif hath a londe and a watre,
Confortour of creatures -- of hym cometh alle blisse.
"So thre bilongeth for a lord that lordshipe cleymeth
Might, and a mene [his owene myghte to knowe],
Of hymself and of his servaunt, and what suffreth hem bothe.
So God, that gynnyng hadde nevere, but tho hym good thoughte,
Sente forth his sone as for servaunt that tyme,
To ocupien hym here til issue were spronge --
That is, children of charite, and Holi Chirche the moder.
Patriarkes and prophetes and apostles were the children,
And Crist and Cristendom and alle Cristene Holy Chirche
In menynge that man moste on o God bileve,
And there hym likede and lovede, in thre [leodes] hym shewede.
And that it may be so and sooth [sheweth it manhode]
Wedlok and widwehode with virginite ynempned,
In tokenynge of the Trinite was taken out of o man --
Adam, oure alle fader; Eve was of hymselve,
And the issue that thei hadde it was of hem bothe,
And either is otheres joye in thre sondry persones,
And in hevene and here oon singuler name.
And thus is mankynde and manhede of matrimoyne yspronge,
And bitokneth the Trinite and trewe bileve.
"Might is it in matrimoyne, that multiplieth the erthe,
And bitokneth trewely, telle if I dorste,
Hym that first formed al, the Fader of hevene.

The Sone, if I it dorste seye, resembleth wel the widewe
Deus meus, Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me ?
That is, creatour weex creature to knowe what was bothe.
As widewe withouten wedlok was nevere yit yseyghe,
Na moore myghte God be man but if he moder hadde.
So widewe withouten wedlok may noght wel stande,
Ne matrimoyne withouten muliere is noght muche to preise
Maledictus homo qui non reliquit semen in Israel.
"Thus in thre persones is parfitliche pure manhede --
That is, man and his make and mulliere hir children.
And is noght but gendre of a generacion, bifore Jesu Crist in hevene;
So is the fader forth with the Sone and Fre Wille of bothe --
Spiritus procedens a Patre et Filio --
Which is the Holy Goost of alle, and alle is but o God.
"Thus in a somer I hym seigh as I sat in my porche.
I roos up and reverenced hym, and right faire hym grette.
Thre men, to my sighte, I made wel at ese,
Wessh hir feet and wiped hem, and afterward thei eten
Calves flessh and cakebreed, and knewe what I thoughte.
Ful trewe toknes betwene us is, to telle whan me liketh.
" First he fonded me, if I lovede bettre
Hym or Ysaak myn heir, the which he highte me kulle.
He wiste my wille bi hym; he wol me it allowe;
I am ful siker in my soule therof, and my sone bothe.
"I circumcised my sone sithen for his sake --
Myself and my meynee and alle that male weere
Bledden blood for that Lordes love, and hope to blisse the tyme.
affiaunce and my feith is ferme in this bileve,
For hymself bihighte to me and to myn issue bothe
Lond and lordshipe and lif withouten ende.

To me and to myn issue moore yet he me grauntede --
Mercy for oure mysdedes as many tyme as we asken
Quam olim Abrahe promisisti et semini eius.
"And siththe he sente me, to seye I sholde do sacrifise,
And doon hym worship with breed and with wyn bothe,
And called me the foot of his feith, his folk for to save,
And defende hem fro the fend, folk that on me leveden.
"Thus have I ben his heraud here and in helle,
And conforted many a careful that after his comynge waiten;
And thus I seke hym,' he seide, "for I herde seyn late
Of a buyrn that baptised hym -- Johan Baptist was his name --
That to patriarkes and to prophetes and to oother peple in derknesse
Seide, that he seigh here that sholde save us alle
Ecce Agnus Dei .'
I hadde wonder of hise wordes, and of hise wide clothes;
For in his bosom he bar a thyng, and that he blissed evere.
And I loked in his lappea lazar lay therinne
Amonges patriarkes and prophetes pleyinge togideres.
"What awaitestow?' quod he, " and what woldestow have?'
"I wolde wite,' quod I tho, "what is in youre lappe.'
" Lo!' quod he -- and leet me se. " Lord, mercy!' I seide.
"This is a present of muche pris; what prynce shal it have?'
"It is a precious present,' quod he, "ac the pouke it hath attached,
And me thenvith,' quod that wye, "may no wed us quyte,
Ne no buyrn be oure borgh, ne brynge us fram his daunger;
Out of the poukes pondfold no maynprise may us fecche
Til he come that I carpe ofCrist is his name
That shal delivere us som day out of the develes power,
And bettre wed for us [wa]ge than we ben alle worthi --
That is, lif for lif -- or ligge thus evere

Lollynge in my lappe, til swich a lrd us fecche.'
"Allas!' I seide, "that synne so longe shall lette
The myght of Goddes mercy, that myghte us alle amende!'
I wepte for hise wordes. With that saugh I another
Rapeliche renne forth the righte wey he wente.
I affrayned hym first fram whennes he come,
What he highte and whider he wolde -- and wightly he tolde.



                      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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