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en's kingdom, is introduced. Saint Truth? Yes, he knows that saint, as naturally as a clerk knows his books. He has been Truth's fellow these forty winters: Has both sowed his seed, and “suwed ”i his beasts; has reaped his corn and carried it to the barn; has digged and delved, and done his bidding within and without.
“And if ye will i-wit?
I will wissen' you
where that he dwelleth
The wanderers gladly agreeing to follow his directions, he tells them that such as would find Truth
“Mote* go through meekness, both man and wife,
Till ye come unto Conscience, that Christ know the truth That
love him liever5 than the life in your hearts, And then your neighbors next."
" and ye
Then they must go forward until they find the brook “Be-buxom-of-speech," and at the ford “Honor-yourfathers” they must wash themselves well shall leap the more lightly all your life time.” Then shall they come by a croft
Covet-not” which they are warned not to enter. They are to pass the stocks "Steal-not” and “Slay-not,” and a brook
Bear-no-false-witness.” After this they will arrive at a court, “clear as the sun,” and at a tower, “set above the sun,” wherein Truth dwells.
Then many of the company began to make excuses why they should not go at once in search of Truth by the way which Piers the Ploughman had pointed out. “Yea," quoth one "I have bought a piece of ground,
8 teach, show.
a small village.
and now must I thither to see how I like it," and took leave of Piers. Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and therefore I must go with a good will at once to drive them; therefore, I pray you, Piers, if peradventure you meet Truth, so tell him, that I may be excused.” Quoth Contemplation, “ Though I suffer care, famine, and want, yet will I follow Piers. But the way is so difficult that, without a guide to go with us, we may take a wrong turning."
Then Piers said, “I have a half-acre by the road-side, which if I had ploughed and seeded, I would go with you and teach you the way.” Then he set to work ploughing his half-acre, and many of the pilgrims helped him. But some of them sat idly about and sang
Hoy, trolly, lolly!” And when urged to work with the threat that not a grain should gladden them in time of need, they pleaded that they were blind, or lame, and could not work. “But we pray for you, Piers, and for your plough, too, that God of his grace will multiply your grain and reward you for your almesse that ye give us here. We have no limbs to labor with. We thank the Lord.” These idlers finally became riotous, and Piers called in Hunger to subdue them. Hunger had no mercy on them, and they, in fear of him, hastened to do whatever labor was at hand. Even the friars of all the five orders worked. Then as Hunger was about to depart, Piers asked his advice. “Truth," said he,
once taught me to love them all. Sir Hunger, how to master them, and make them love the labor for their living."
“Give them beans," answered Hunger. object, bid him 'Go work'; and he shall sup the sweeter when he hath deserved.”
“It was not yet harvest, and there was nothing to be had but a little curds and cream, an oat-cake, a few loaves of beans and pease, parsley, onions, half-red cherries, a cow and her calf, and a cart-mare. But the poor people brought what they could to feed Hunger, who ate all in haste, and asked for more. But when it was harvest-time, and the new corn was in, Hunger ate and was satisfied, and went away. And then the beggars would eat only the finest bread, they would take no half-penny ale— only the best and the brownest that the brewsters sell. Laborers, who had only their hands to live by, would not dine upon worts more than one night old, or penny ale and a piece of bacon, but must have fresh meat and fish, hot and hotter, because their stomachs were a-cold. They would chide if they had not high wages, and curse the laws; but they strove not so when Hunger frowned upon them. Here the poet, reading signs of the stars according to the astrology that formed part of the undoubted science of his day, warned his countrymen, by the aspect of Saturn, that Hunger was coming back; for famine and pestilence were on the way to them again. It was a sad prediction which, in those days, must needs be fulfilled. The next of the great pestilences followed a sore famine in 1382."1
The poet next represents Truth as sending to Piers and commanding him to till the earth; and a full pardon was promised to him and to all who labored with him or protected him. And here is introduced a tender picture of peasant life, of the sorrows of the mother and the children :
1 Morley's “ English Writers,” vol. iv.
And woe in winter-time with waking a-nights
Finally Piers engages in a dispute with a priest concerning the form of the pardon which he had received from Truth. Piers read it to the company :
“Qui bona egerunt ibunt in vitam eternam ;
“That is no pardon,” said the priest. “It says only
Do ill and Have ill, and hope thou none other
While this dispute was still being carried on, the Dreamer awoke. The sun was far in the south, and rising to his feet he walked a mile over Malvern Hill, pondering on the meaning of the vision which he had seen. Did it not mean that
Whoso doth well here, at the day of doom
lords forbid else,
ruel, spinning-wheel. 2 clouten, to patch.
reel. 4 pilie, peel. ruth, pity.
6 other, or.
7 dwelleth in cots. 8 See John v. 29. 9 received. 10 teacheth,
But at the great assize such pardons will be of little worth compared with the record of a worthy life.
At the dreadful day of doom when dead men shullen rise,
nother* a pye-heel.”
Here ends the first part of this remarkable poem. The second part describes the Dreamer's search for Do-wel, Do-bet, and Do-best, and introduces personifications of many of the commoner virtues and vices. Lying under a tree and listening to the songs of the birds, he falls asleep, and sees his third vision. A man like to himself calls him by name. “What art thou ?” quoth I, “that my name thou knowest?" “ That wotsto thou, Will," quoth he, “and no wight 19 better. “Wot I?” quoth I; “Who art thou?" “Thought,” said he
then; “I have thee served this seven year.
Saw thou me no rather 11?"
pocket. 2 The five orders of mendicant or begging friars, viz. the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Carmelites, the Minorites, and the Augustines. 8 unless. 4 nor, neither.
magpie's heel. 6 on that account, therefore.
& mediator. 9 knowest.