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THE AGE OF CHAUCER

WILLIAM LANGLAND? (1332?-1400?)

PIERS THE PLOWMAN

FROM THE PROLOGUE (A- TEXT)

whon softe was the sonne,

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as I a scheep

In a somer sesun,
I schop1 me into a shroud,2

were; In habite as an hermite Wente I wyde in this world Bote in a Mayes morwnynge, hulles, 7

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Me bifel a ferly,

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of fairie, me-thoughte. I was wery, forwandred,10 and wente me

to reste

unholy of werkes, wondres to here ;5 on Malverne

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where;

an heigh 18 to

And as I beheold into the est
the sonne,
I sauh 19
a tour on a toft,20
i-maket;

tryelyche 21

A deop dale bineothe, a dungun ther-inne, 15 With deop dich and derk and dredful of sighte.

A feir feld full of fólk Of alle maner of men, riche, Worchinge 23 and wandringe as the world asketh.

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Summe putten hem 24 to the plough, pleiden 25 ful seldene,20 In settynge and in sowynge swonken 27 ful harde,

fond 22 I ther bitwene,

the mene and the

And wonnen that 28 theos wasturs 29 with glotonye distruen.30

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shaped, arrayed 2 garment 3 as if sheep 5 hear 6 but 7 hills 8 strange thing 9 enchantment worn out with wandering "burn, brook 12 it 13 whispered, made a low sound 14

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merry

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Under a broad bank by the side of a brooklet. And as I lay and leaned there and looked on the waters,

I slumbered in a sleeping, the sound was so soothing.

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a marvellous

Then came to my mind's eye vision,

That I was in a wilderness, where wist I never;

And as I looked into the east and up where the sun was,

I saw a tower on a toft trimly constructed; A deep dale beneath a dungeon within it, 15 With deep ditch and dark and dreadful to

look on. A fair field full of folk found I between them, Of all manner of men, the mean and the

mighty, Working and wandering

as the world

asketh. Some put hand to the plow, seldom,

played very

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In setting and sowing sweated they hardly, And won what these wasters with gluttony

devour.

15 did I dream 16 dream 17 knew 18 on high 19 saw 20 field, building-site 21 choicely, skilfully 22 found 23 working 24 them 25 played 26 seldom 27 laboured 28 what 29 these wasters 30 destroy

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And summe chosen chaffare, 14 to cheeven 15 the bettre,

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As hit semeth to ure sighte that suche men thryveth.

And summe, murthhes 16 to maken, as munstrals cunne,1

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And gete gold with here gle, giltles, I

trowe;

Bote japers 18 and jangelers,19 Judas children, Founden hem fantasyes and fooles hem maaden,

to worchen 37

And habbeth wit at heore wille 9 yif hem luste.20 That 21 Poul precheth of hem, I dar not preoven 22 heere:

Qui loquitur turpiloquium he is Luciferes hyne.

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Bidders 24 and beggers faste aboute

eoden,25

weren

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Til heor bagges and heore balies 26 bretful i-crommet ; 27 Feyneden hem 28 for heore foode, foughten atte 29 ale;

In glotonye, God wot, 30 gon heo And ryseth up with ribaudye 31 knaves; 32

Sleep and sleughthe 33
Pilgrimes and palmers
togederes

For to seche 36 Seint Jame
Roome;
Wenten forth in heore wey
tales,
And hedden 37 leve to lyen

to bedde this roberdes

suweth 4 hem evere. plihten 35 hem 46 and seintes at

with mony wyse al heore lyf aftir.

1 pride 2 accordingly 3 fashion 4.

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came disguised many our the joy of the kingdom of heaven their 10 12 luxurious food 17 know trade amusements 18 jesters

roam

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nuns body how 18

desire 16 15 thrive

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19 buffoons

20 to work if they pleased

And some pranked them in pride, appareled them accordingly,

In quaint guise of clothing came they disfigured.

To prayers and to penance put themselves many,

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All for love of our Lord lived they most strictly,

In hope of having heaven's bliss after;

As nuns and as hermits that in their cells hold them,

Covet not careering about through the country,

With no lustful luxuries their living to pamper.

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And some took to trade, to thrive by the better,

As to our sight it seemeth that such men prosper.

And some, merriments to make, with minstrels' cunning,

And get gold with their glee, guiltless, methinketh;

But jesters and jugglers, Judas' children, Forged them wild fantasies as fools pretended, 36 Yet have wit at their will to work, were they willing.

What Paul preacheth of them prove here I dare not:

Qui loquitur turpiloquium he is Lucifer's henchman.

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Great lubbers and long, that loth were to labour, Clothed themselves in copes, to be counted for "brethren";

And some entered as anchorites their ease for to purchase.

I found there the friars, the four orders, Preaching to the people for profit of their bellies, 56

Glossing the gospel as good to them seemed, For coveting of copes construe it wrongly ; For many of these masters may dress at their fancy,

For money and their merchandise meet oft together; 60

Since Charity hath been a chapman, and chiefly to shrive nobles,

Many freaks have befallen in a fe seasons. Save Holy-Church and they hold better together,

The worst mischief in the world is mounting up swiftly.

There too preached a pardoner, as if he a priest were, 65 And brought forth a bull a bishop had signed it And said that himself could absolve them all fully

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To ben clerkes of the Kynges Benche, the
cuntre to schende.13
Barouns and burgeis and bondages
alse 16

I saugh in that semble,17
aftur;
Bakers, bochers, and breusters 18 monye;
Wollene-websteris 19 and weveris of lynen; 99
Taillours, tanneris, and tokkeris 20 bothe;
Masons, minours, and mony other craftes;
Dykers, and delvers, that don heore dedes
ille,21

And driveth forth the longe day with "Deu save Dam Emme !" 22

Cookes and heore knaves 23

cryen "Hote pies, hote! "Goode gees and grys!2 24 Go we dyne, go we!" Taverners to hem tolde the same tale, 106

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96 as ye schul heren

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once

1 if it were not for them 2 complain 3 since 4 lingered 5 hoods pence, money 8 thou mightst more easily measure 9 syllable 10 divinity U deans 12 have run 13 injure 14 burgesses 15 bond

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Bakers, butchers, and brewers many; Woolen-weavers and weavers of linen; Tailors, tanners, and tuckers likewise; Masons, miners, and many other craftsmen ; Dikers and diggers that do their deeds

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badly,

And drive forth the long day with "Dieu save Dame Emme!" Cooks and their cookboys crying, "Hot pies! hot! Go we dine, go 105

Good geese and piglets!

we!" Tavern-keepers told them a tale of traffic,

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With wyn of Oseye and win of Gaskoyne, Of the Ryn 2 and of the Rochel, the rost to defye,3

Al this I saugh slepynge, and seve sithes

more.

THE FABLE OF BELLING THE CAT
FROM THE PROLOGUE (B-TEXT)

8 with hem,9 mo then a

With that ran there a route 5 of ratones 6 at ones,7 And smale mys thousande, And comen 10 to a conseille for here 11 comune profit;

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For a cat of a courte cam whan hym lyked, And overlepe hem lyghtlich and laughte hem at his wille, And pleyde with hem perilouslych and possed 13 hem aboute.

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"For doute 14 of dyverse dredes 15 we dar noughte wel loke;

and in his cloches 20

And yif 16 we grucche 17 of his gamen,18 he wil greve us alle, Cracche 19 us, or clawe us holde, That us lotheth the lyf or 21 he lete us passe. Myghte we with any witte his wille with156 and lyven at

stonde,

We myghte be lordes aloft owre ese."

A raton 22 of renon,23 most renable 24 of

tonge,

Seide for a sovereygne help to hymselve: 25

"I have y-sein 26 segges,' " 27 quod he, "in the

cité of London

Beren beighes 28 ful brighte abouten here nekkes,

And some colers of crafty werk; thei wenden 29

162

uncoupled Both in wareine 30 and in waste, where hem leve lyketh; 31

as I

And otherwhile thei aren elleswhere, here telle.

bi Jesu,

Were there a belle on here beighe,32 as me thynketh, Men myghte wite 3 where thei went, and awei renne! 34 166

With wine of Alsace and wine of Gascon, Of the Rhine and the Rochelle, the roast to digest well.

All this saw I sleeping, and seven times

more.

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With that ran there a rabble of rats all together,

And small mice with them, more than a thousand,

And came to a counsel for their common profit;

For a cat of a court came when it pleased him, And overleaped them lightly and levied on them freely, 150

and pushed

And played with them perilously
them about there.
"For drede of divers deeds
look up;

we dare not once

And if his game we grudge him, he will grieve us also,

Claw us or clinch us and in his clutches hold us,

Making life to us loathsome ere he let us

scamper.

.

Might we with any wisdom his wilfulness hinder, 156 We might be lords aloft and live at our liking." A rat of high renown, most reasonable of discourse,

Said for a sovereign help for their sorrow :"I have seen swains," said he, "in the city

of London Wear circlets most splendid necks swinging,

about their

And some collars of crafty work; uncoupled they ramble

162

as I am

Both in warren and in waste land, e'en where'er it pleases; And other times are they elsewhere, advised. Were a bell borne on the collar, me thinketh,

by Jesu, as

One might wit where they went, and away scamper!

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came

Alsatia 2 Rhine 3 24 digest seven times 5 crowd 26 25 themselves eloquent 27 people (here rats 7 once 8 mice 9 them 10 their 12 seized dogs are meant) rings go warren wherfear dreads 16 if 17 grudge sport ever they please collar know 34 20 clutches 21 before 22 23 rat

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run

pushed 19 scratch

renown

seen 30

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