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THE VISION OP PIERS THE PLOWMAN.*
Peom The Prologue.
In a somer seson, whan soft was the sonne,
I slombred in a slepyng, it sweyved12 so merye. Thanne gan I to metenia a merveilouse swevene,i<
That I was in a wildernesse, wist I never where;
As I bihelde into the est an hiegh tois the sonne,
I seighi* a toure" on a tofti" trielichi" ymaked;
A depe dale binethe, a dongeon2<> there-inne, With depe dyches and derke and dredful of
sight. 16 A faire felde ful of folke" fonde I there
Of alls maner of men, the mene and the riche, Worchyng and wandryng as the worlde asketh. Some putten hem22 to the plow, pleyed ful selde,
In settyngss and in sowyng swonken2* ful harde,
And wonnen that wastours with glotonye destruyeth.25 22
3 rough garments s shepherd
4 not spiritual
17 The tower of Truth,
20 The "castel of care,"
21 The world.
10 weary from wandering 22 tbem( selves)
11 brook's 28 planting
12 sounded 24 toiled
is to dream 25 and won that which
14 dream wasteful men ex
15 on high toward pend In gluttony, is saw
• In this long allegorical poem, the poet with the daring of a reformer attacks what he thinks to be the abuses In church, state, and society. The prologue, of which the first 82 lines are here given, sets the key-note of the poem by a description of the suffering, weakness, and crimes of the world as seen by the poet in a vision. Then in Passns (Chapter) I, of which a few lines are given, the poet begins his narrative interpretation of his vision. Our text Is the B-text as printed by Dr. Skeat.
And some putten hem to pruyde, apparailed
hem there-after, In contenaunce of clothyng comen disgised.28 In prayers and in penance putten hem
Al for love of owre lorde lyveden ful streyte,27
In hope forto have hevenriche2" blisse;
Ah ancres2o and heremites that holden hem in
here33 selles, And coveiten nought in contre to kairenso
For no likerous" liflodeS2 her's lykam34 to plese. 30 And somme chosen chaffarejss they chevenss the bettere,
As it semeth to owre syght that suche men thryveth;
And somme murthes37 to make as mynstralles conneth,38
And geten gold with here3' glee, giltles, I leve.88
Ac iapers<o and iangelers,4' Iudas chylderen, Feynen hem42 fantasies and foles hem maketh, And nan here witte at wille to worche, yif thei sholde;
That Poule precheth of hem I nel nought
preve it here; Qui turpiloquium loquitur is luciferes hyne.<s Bidders4* and beggeres fast aboute yede,44 With her belies and her bagges of bred ful
ycrammed; 41 Fayteden48 for here fode, foughten atte ale;« In glotonye, god it wote,48 gon hij40 to bedde, And risen with ribaudyeso tho roberdes
Slepe and sori sleuthc52 sewethss hem evre.54 Pilgrymes and palmers" plighted hem togidere To seke seynt lames56 and seyntes in Rome. Thei went forth in here wey with many wise tales,
And hadden leve to lye al here lyf after. I seigh somme that seiden thei had ysought seyntes:
To eche a67 tale that thei tolde here tonge was tempred to lye 51 More than to sey Both5' it semed bi here speche.
Heremites on5» an heep, with hoked staves, Wenten to Walsyngham,* and here wenches after80;
Grete lobyes«i and longe,82 that loth were to swynke «s
Clotheden hem in eopis8* to ben knowen fram othere;
And shopen hem"' heremites here ese to have.
I fonde there Freris, alle the foure ordres,«« Precbed the peple for profit of hem-selven, Closed87 the gospel as hem good lyked,88 60 For coveitise80 of copis construed it as thei wolde.
Many of this maistres Freris70 mowe'i clothen
hem at lykyng, For here money and marchandise marchen
For sith72 charite hath be chapman78 and chief
to shryve lordes.t Many ferlis7* han fallen in a fcwe yeris.75 But78 holychirche and hij holde better togideres, The most myschief on molde77 is mountyng wcl
There preched a Pardonere7* as he a prest were,
Broughte forth a bulle80 with bishopes seles, And seide that hym-self uiyghtc assoilensi hem alle
Of falshed of fastyng,82 of vowes ybroken. 71 Lewed88 men lcved84 hym wcl and lyked his wordes,
Comen up knelyng to kissen his bulles; He bonched85 hem with his brevet88 and blered here eyes,
I And raughte87 with his ragman88 rynges and broches;
Thus they geven here golde, glotones to
kepc. . . . Were the bischop yblissed88 and worth bothe
His seel80 shuldc nought be sent to deceyve the peple.
Ac it is naught by»i the bischop that the boy" precheth, 80
For the parisch prest and the pardonere parten88 the silver,
That the poraille" of the parisch sholde have, yif thei nere.»8 . . .
From Passus I.
What this montaigne bymeneth,1 and the merke dale,
And the felde ful of folke, I shal yow faire schewe.
A loveli ladi of lere,2 in lynnen yclothed,
How bisi thei ben abouten the mase5f
Have thei worschip8 in this worldc, thei wilne no better;
Of other hevene than here holde thei no tale7.' I was aferd of her face theigh8 she faire
were, 10 And seide, 'Mercy, Madame, what is this to
'The toure up the toft,' quod she, 'Treuthc is thcre-inne,
And wolde that ye wroughte as his worde teeheth;
For he is fader of feith, fourmed yow alle, Bothe with fcl" and with face, and yaf'° yow fyve wittis
Forto worschip hym ther-with the while that ye ben here.
THE WYCLIF BIBLE (c. 1380)
Matthew III. The Coming Of John The Baptist.
In tho daies Joon Baptist cam and prechid in the desert of Judee, and seide, Do ye penaunce, for the kyngdom of hevenes schal nygh. For this is he of whom it is seid bi Isaie the profete, seiynge, A vois of a crier in desert, Make ye redi the weyes of the Lord, make ye right the pathis of hym. And this Joon hadde clothing of camels heris, and a girdil of skyn aboute his leendis, and his mete was hony soukisi and hony of the wode. Thanne Jerusalem wente out to hym, and al Judee, and al the countre aboute Jordan, and thei werun waischen of hym in Jordan, and knowlechiden her synnes.
But he sigh many of Farisies and of Saduces comynge to his baptem, and seide to hem, Generaciouns of eddris,2 who schewid to you to fle fro wrath that is to come! Therfor do ye worthi fruytis of penaunce. And nyle ye seie3 with ynne you, We han Abraham to fadir: for I seie to you that God is myghti to reise up of thes stones the sones of Abraham. And now the axe is putte to the root of the tre: therfor every tre that makith not good fruyt schal be kutte doun, and schal be cast in to the fire.
I waisch yon in watyr in to penaunce: but he that schal come aftir me is stronger than I, whos schoon I am not worthi to bere: he schal baptise you in the Holi Goost, and fier. Whos wenewynge* clooth is in his hond, and he schal fulli dense his corn floor, and schal gadere his whete in to his berne; but the chaf be schal brenne with fier that mai not be quenchid.
Thanne Jhesus cam fro Galilee in to Jordan to Joon, to be baptisid of him. Jon forbede hym and seide, I owe to be baptisid of thee, and thou comest to met But Jhesus answerid and seide to hym, Suffre now: for thus it fallith to us to fulfille alle rightfulnesse. Then Joon suffrid hym. And whanne Jhesus was baptisid, anon he wente up fro the watir: and lo, hevenes weren opened to hym, and he say the spirit of God comynge doun as a dowve, and comynge on him. And lo, a vois fro hevenes, seiynge, This is my loved sone, in whiche I have plesid to me. (Punctuation and capitalization modernized.)
1 honey-suckles (Wycllf, translating from the Vul
Eate, evidently mistook the meaning of the atln locuata) s adders
awlll not ye to say « winnowing
THE KING JAMES BIBLE (1611)
Matthew IIL The Coming Op John The Baptist.
In those daies came John the Baptist, preaching in the wildernesse of Judea, and saying, Repent yee: for the kingdome of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the Prophet Esaias, saying, The voyce of one crying in the wildernesse, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camels haire, and a leatherne girdle about his loynes, and his mcate was locusts and wilde honie. Then went out to him Eierusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordana And were baptized of him in Jordane, confessing their sinnes.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his Baptisme, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meete for repentance. And thinke not to say within your selves, Wee have Abraham to our father: For I say unto you, that God is able of these Btones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is layd unto the roote of the trees: Therefore every tree which bringeth not foorth good fruite, is hewen downe, and cast into the fire.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that commeth after mee, is mightier than I, whose shooes I am not worthy to beare, hee shall baptize you with the holy Ghost, and with fire. Whose fanne is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floore, and gather his wheate into the garner: but wil burne up the chaffe with unquenchable fire. Then commeth Jesus from Galilee to Jordane, unto John, to be baptized of him: But John forbade him, saying, I have need to bee baptized of thee, and commest thou to met
And Jesus answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becommeth us to fulfill all righteousnesse. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when hee was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and loe, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And loe, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Soone, in whom I am well pleased. (Verse numbering omitted.)
The following may serve to illustrate the approximate pronunciation of a few lines, without attempting Mr. Skeat's finer distinctions, such as vahyn tor vcyne, etc. Note that e is a separate syllable lightly pronounced, that u equals u in full, and u is French u.
Whan that Ahpreelle with 'is shoores sohte
And bahthed evree vyne in swich lecoor
A large part of Chaucer's work is written in heroic couplets: every two consecutive lines rhyming, and each line containing five iambic feet, that is, five groups of two syllables each, with the accent on the second syllable of each foot; e. g.
And bath'|ed eve'|ry veyn'|in swich'|li cour'|
An extra syllable is often added at the end of the line: e. g.
Whan that[ April|le with] his shou|res soo|te
Sometimes the first foot is shortened to one long syllable: e. g. Twen|ty bo|kes clad| in blak| or reed|
We have followed, with a few changes, the text of The Canterbury Tales printed by Dr. W. W. Skeat in the Clarendon Press Series, which is based on the Ellesmere MS.
Fbom The Canterbury Tales
Whan that1 Aprille with his shourea soote2
And bathed every veyne4 in swich licour5,
Bifel that, in that sesoun on a day,
12 when the spring sun 24 known
has passed through 25 Thomas a Recket
the second, or 26 Kick
April, half of his 27 An Inn (a tabard was
course In that con- a short coat).
stellatlon of the 28 heart
zodiac called the 20 full
Ram. I. e., about so chance
April 11 31 fallen
• "I take unceasing delight In Chaucer. How ex qulsitely tender he Is, and yet how perfectly free from the least touch of sickly melancholy or morbid drooping! The sympathy of the poet with the subjects of his poetry is particularly remarkable In Shakespeare and Chaucer; but what the first effects by a strong act of Imagination and mental metamorphosis, the last does without any effort, merely by the Inborn kindly Joyousness of his nature. How well we seem to know Chaucer! How absolutely nothing do we know of Shakespeare !"—Coleridge. See also Dryden "On Chaucer" In the present volume.
In felawshipe, and pilgrims were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde;
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed32 atte beste.
And shortly, whan the sonne was to** reste, 30
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon",
That I was of hir felawshipe anon,
And made forward8' erly for to ryse,
To take our wey, ther as39 I yow devyse37.
But natheles, whyl I have tyme and space, Er that I ferther in this tale pace, Me thinketh it acordaunt 88 to resoun, To telle yow al the condicioun Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, 39 And whiche they weren38, and of what degree; And eek in what array*0 that they were inne: And at a knight than wol I first biginne.
A Knight there was, and that a worthy man, That fro the tyme that he first bigan To ryden out, he loved chivalrye, Trouthe and honour, fredom4i and curteisye. Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre*2, And therto hadde he riden (no man ferre43) As wel in cristendom as hethenesse, And evere honoured for his worthinesse. 80 At Alisaundre44 he was, whan it was wonne; Ful ofte tyme lie hadde the bord bigonne48 Aboven alle naciouns in Pruee48. In Lettow47 hadde he reysed48 and in Ruce4», No cristen man so ofte of his degree50. In Gernade'i at the sege eek hadde he be Of Algezir'2, and riden in Belmarye53. At Lyeys54 was he, and at Satalye54 Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See8" At many a noble armee*8 hadde he be. 60 At mortal batailles hadde he been flftene, And foughten for our feith at Tramissene37 In listes88 thryes, and ay slayn his foo. This ilke'9 worthy knight hadde been also Somtyme with the lord of Palatye80, Ageyn«i another hethen in Turkye: And everemore he hadde a sovcreyn prys82. And though that he were worthy, he was wys,