Piers Plowman

26 Apr

Langland's Dreamer: from an illuminated initia...

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Piers Plowman was a poem written by William Langland in the late 1300s. It’s about a dream or vision, and it’s very moralistic and religious.

I enjoyed the personifications of Envy, Glutton, Hope, Conscience, Kind Wit, Grace, Truth, Faith, Righteousness, Mercy and Peace. Envy was definitely the most vivid (I’ve highlighted some of the words/phrases I thought helped bring it to life):

So he looked with lean cheeks, louring foully.
His body was so blown up for anger that he bit his lips
And shook his fist fiercely, he wanted to avenge himself
With acts or with words when he saw his chance.
Every syllable he spat out was of a serpent’s tongue;
From chiding and brining charges was his chief livelihood,
With backbiting and bitter scorn and bearing false witness.

I condemn men when they do evil, yet I do much worse;
Whoever upbraids me for that, I hate him deadly after.
I wish that every one were my servant,
And if any man has more than I, that angers my heart.
So I live loveless like a loathsome dog
So that all my breast is blown up for bitterness of spirit.
For many years I might not east as a man ought
For envy and ill will are hard to digest.

Later on, Piers Plowman is giving the lazy “ne’er-do-wells” what for because they’re not working hard. The most beautiful single line in this section is this lovely sentence: You waste what men win with toil and trouble. 

Then the end is about Lucifer and Satan (the Fiend) and Jesus‘ crucifixion. But it spends a lot of time with Lucifer and the Fiend discussing how they introduced sin (tricking Eve into eating the apple) and then how they didn’t want Jesus to be crucified because they knew it meant that Jesus would save men from sin and disrupt hell. So the Fiend caused Pilate’s wife’s dream, hoping she would be able to convince Pilate to not crucify Jesus.


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