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Wis toon totoden out as ho the land treaded,
His hoscn overhungen his hockshins' on everich a side
All beslobbered in fen as he the plough followed;
Two mittens as meto,2 made all of clouts,
The fingers wercn for-word,* and full of fen hanged.
This wight wascled4 in the fen almost to the ankle,
Four rotheren* him before, that feeble were worthon,6
Men might reckon each a rib,7 so rueful they weren.
His wife walked him with, with a long goad
In a cuttod coat, cutted full high,
Wrapped in a winnow sheet, to weren8 her from weathers,
Barefoot on the bare ice that tho blood followed.
And at the land's end lay a little crumb bowl,
And thereon lay a little child lapped in clouts,
And twain of two years old upon another sido,
And all they sungen one song, that sorrow was to hearen,
They crieden all one cry, a careful note.
The sely man sighed sore, and said, 'Children, be'th still!'
This man looked upon me and let the plough standen,
And saide, 'Sely man, why Bighest thou so hard?
If thee lack livelihood lend thec I will
Such good as God hath sent:—go we, lief brother.'
I said then, ' Nay, sir, my sorrow is well more;
For I con not my Creed. I care well harde,*
For I can finden no man that fully believeth
To teachen me the highway, and therefore I weep.'"
Then comes from Pierce the Plowman warning against hypocrisy and pride of those by whom God's word was overlaid with glosses. Witness, he says—
"' Witness on Wiclif that warned them with truth,
1 Hockehina, hosekins, small hose, gaiters.
* Mete, scanty. First-English " marte," moderate, small.
8 For-urrd, worn out. First-English "forwered," from "weran," to wear.
* Waneled, bemired himself. First-English "wase," dirt, mire.
* Rothtren, oxen. First-English "hryther."
* Worthen, become.
1 Each a rib, each one rib. So before, " Everich a side," every one side.
* HVren, defend. First-English "waVran."
'I care veU harde, I trouble very greatly. "Well" was a common intensive prefix. The e in "horde" is an adverbial ending. First* English "hearde," severely, greatly, above all things.
>° Qraithly, straightly.
» Lolled him, called him "Lollard." There are various reasons given for the name. I believe it to be an application to heretics of the word held to represent what was meant by the Greek zixania in the 13th chapter of Matthew, the tares sown by the enemy among the wheat. The Latin Vulgate version kept the Greek word lizania, and a collection of heretical writings was entitled " Fasciculi Zizaniorum." But the zixania were held to be darnel, lolium, then often spelt •* lollium," which grows among good corn, having much resemblance to it, and is very poisonous. In the old Latin rendering of the Persian version of the Gospels, the passage runs: "Quin tu, O Domine, semen bonuiu in agro tuo seminosti, Lolinm igitur inter illud unde provenit? Die respondit, Quispiam per inimicitiam injecit. Servi dixerunt, Permitte itaque nobis ut Lolium exindo secernamus." Christ's answer by no means justified Church practice in dealing with the tores. William Lnnglnnd, in the Vision of Piers Plowman, describing himself on Comhill, played on the analogy of this word to Loller or idler, and so easily returned it on the friars. Chaucer seems to have bad in mind the relntion of the word to Lolium, when the Host having with an idle oath called on the Parson for a tale, is geutly rebuked: "I smell a loller in the wind, quoth he. . . . This loller here wol prechen us
The Ploughman points to the likeness between friars and the Pharisees, and shows how far they were gone from the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount—
"' Behold upon Wat Brute,,! how busily they punueden
The Ploughman spoke his mind also of the monks, and ended by the utterance of truth in simple words. As God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath GoJ chosen, the poor ploughman whose first impulse was of Charity towards a sufferer, became the teacher of the Christian's Creed.a
"The Plowman's Tale," by the same author, puts into another form the common protest of the timf against the worldliness that had corrupted those who should be guardians of faith, encouragers of hope, embodiments of the charity without which, though the Christian teacher speak with tongues of men and angels, he is nothing worth. It begins with direct reference to the rising controversy between those who were called Lollards and their persecutors :—
"A sterne strife is stirred now
somewhat;" and the Shipmon, who stops him by interposing a tsk says of the good town Parson—
"He wolde sowen some dimcultee, Or springen cockle in our elene com/' Such accusation levelled against tie man whom he clothes »nt-i apostolic virtue, and whom he afterwards does make to preach, soon the goodwill of Chaucer to these persecuted Churchmen.
11 Wat Brute. Walter Brute was u learned private gentleman hi tt» diocese of Hereford, who, though a layman, was urged by relit»<-> feeling to teach openly and privately, assisted by two intimate friasii. William Swinderby and Stephen Ball. They sought reform of church discipline, and held the opinions of Wiclif. In 1392 Richard n. iw*«J a commission, addressed to the Mayor of Hereford and noblemen *ad gentlemen of the county, authorising them to investigate chare** against Walter Brute of heresy and keeping of conventicles. Wifrc Brute defended himself, and withdrew into private life; but Wiloia Swinderby and others, quitting the diocese of Hereford, continue! their work in Wales. The persecution was continued, and in Ui Swinderby was burnt in Smith field.
13 Avryrien, curse. First-English "awyrian" and " awyrgion."
14 Schaf. This is said to mean "chaff," and Mr. Skeat interprra tbe line "They gobble down their charity as hounds do bran." B-* may not tbe sense bo, "They champ at their charity as dogs do o»* food they will not swallow t" "Skof," from " skafa," to scrap*, «-* the Scandinavian name for peeled bark used as fodder for goat* -acattle, and "schaf " was probably our name, derived from the Sca> diuavian, for some such cattle fodder as a dog might take into *** mouth and try his teeth on, but could hardly be got to swallow.
]i "Pierce the Ploughman's Credo" has been edited from coU-ti1* of two MSS. with the old printed text of 1553. and fully supplied -n-h notes and glossary by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat. who adds to n a tbo some two-shilling book a poem of about A.d. 1500. " God *pt«** *-• Plough." It is published for the Early English Text Societj »J Trubner and Co.
Of sundry secdes that ben sewe
For some bo great growen on ground,
Whether of them is falser found,
"That one side is that I of tell
Popes, cardinals, and prelates, Parsons, monks, and friars fell,
Priors, abbots of great estates; Of heaven and hell they keep the gates,
And Peter's successors they ben all, This is deemed by olde dates,
But falsehood, foul mought it befal!
'' The other side ben poor and pale
And people put out of prease,2 And seemc caitifffs sore acale,3
And ever in one without increase, I-cltpcd lollers and landlesse,
Who toteth4 on them they ben imtall,* They ben arrayed all for the peace,
But falsehood, foul mought it befal.
'' Many a country have I sought
To know the falser of these two; But ever my travail was for nought
All so far as I have go. But as I wandered in a wro,*
In a wood beside a wall, Two foules saw I sitt£ tho,
The falser, foul mote him befal.
"That one did plead on the Pope's side
A Griffon of a grim statGre; A Pelican withouten pride
To these Lollers laid his lure. He mused his matter in measure
To counsel Christ e'er gan he call, The Griffon shewed sharp as fyre,
But falsehood, foul mote it befal.
"The Pelican began to preach
Both of mercy and of meekness, And said that Christ so gan us teach
And meek and merciable gan bless, The Evangely beareth witness
A Lamb he likeneth Christ o'er all, In tokening that he meekest was
Sith Pride was out of heaven fall.
"And so should every Christned be, Priegtes, Peter's successours, Beth lowly and of low degree,
And usen none earthly hon6urs;
Neither crown ne curious covetours,
Ne pillourc' ne other proud pall,
'Souble (French "aonple "), supple, yielding; not able to stand firm against pressure. 1 Out ofprtau, out of the crowd, expelled from the social herd.
* Sore acale, sore acold.
* Toteth, looks narrowly.
i They ben untnll, they are not the " high society " of this world.
* Wro, enclosed or sheltered place.
* PDIoure, or " pelure," costly fur.
Ne nought to eofren up great trcasours;
The greed, pride, and intolerance of the offending clergy are dwelt upon—
"Who sayeth that some of them may sin
They claim to bind and loose, they stir up strife, and many a man is now slain to determine which of them shall have lordship; but Christ said, "He who takes the sword shall die by the sword."
"They usen no simonye,
But sellen churches and prioryes;
But cursen all them contraryes;
With strength to hold them in their stall,
Therefore, falsehood, foul thou fall.
"With purse they purchase parsonage;
With purse they painen them to plede;
To bring their enemies to the dede;
And muche take and give but small,
And make such false right foul fall."
"They take on them royal powere
And saye they have swordes two,
For at his taking Christ had no mo,
But Christ to Peter smite gan defend,"
And all such mischiefs God amend!
"Christ bade Peter keep his sheath,
And with his sword forbade him smite;
But to shepherds that sheep woll bite;
Ayen their sheep with sword that contend; They drive their sheep with great despite;
But all this God may well amend."
At the close of his argument with the Pelican,
"Tho Griffon grinned as he were wood"
And looked lovely as an owl,
Ho would him tear every doule.12
For thy reasons I woll thee all to-ruse,
Losel, thou shalt have hard grace!
• Shede, depart. He who so gains shall part from his gain.
• Christ forbade Peter to smite. >° To trite, to blauie.
» WW, mod.
'« Beerj doule, erery bit, erery deal or dole.
"The Griffon flew forth on his way.
The Pelican did sit und weep,
God would that any of Christ's sheep
Each a word that here said was,
God would it were, all for his grace."
"Plowman. I answered and said 'I wolde
If for my travail any man would pay.'
For they han store of money.'
Why tallest thou mennes trespace F'
If God will give me any grace.
"' For Christ himself is likened to me,
That for his people died on rood;
He feedeth his birds with his blood.
And ben his fone under friendes face.
God amend them for this grace.'"
After telling bow the Phoenix was brought to destroy the Griffin, and how with the fall of the Griffin vanished all his following of "ravens, rooks, crows, and pie," the poet ends thus :—
'' Therefore I pray every man
Of my wyting • have me excused.
That thus these people hath despysed.
I will not maintain his manace,
To bring a man to evil grace.
"Wyteth the Pelican and not me,
For hereof I will not avow,
But as a fable take it ye mow.
Each man to amend him Christ send space;
He that is Almighty for His Grace."
In these poems—wiitten in 1394 and 1395—there is direct reference to the burning as well as the cursing of rnen charged with heresy. There was already persecution to the death; and the fifteenth century opened with a feeling widely spread among the English people, that many devout men, who in no particular swerved from the faith taught by the Church, were persecuted for a zeal that sought only to make teachers, more than they were, like Chaucer's poor Parson:—
Chaucer's Town Parson.
That Cristas gospel gladly wolde preche;
His parischens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benigne he was, and wondur diligent.
And in adversite ful paeient;
And such he was i-proved ofte sithes.
Ful loth were him to curse for his tythes.
But rather wolde he yeven out of dowte,
Unto his pore parisschens aboute,
Of his offrynge, and eek of his substauncc.
He cowde in litel thing han suffisance.
Wyd was his parisch, and houses fer asondur,
But he ne laftc not for reyne ne thondur,
In siknesse ne in meschief to visite
The ferrest in his parissche, moch and lite,
Uppon his feet, and in his hond a staf.
This noble ensample unto his seheep he yaf,
That ferst he wroughte, and after that he taught*.
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte,
And this figure he addido yit therto,
That if gold ruste, what schulde yren doo?
For if a prest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wondur is a lewid man to ruste;
And schame it is, if that a prest take kepe,
A [filed] scheppcrd and a clene schepe;
Wei oughte a prest ensample for to yive,
By his elennesse, how tliat his seheep schulde ly>.
He sette not his benefice to huyre,
And lefte his seheep encombred in the myre,
And ran to Londone, unto seynte Poules,
To seeken him a chaunterie for soules,
Or with a brethurhede be withholde;
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde.
So that the wolf ne made it not myscaryc.
He was a schepperde and no mercenarie:
And though he holy were, and vertuous.
He was to senful man nought dispitous,
Ne of his spechc daungerous ne digne,
But in his teching discret and benigne.
To drawe folk to heven by elennesse,
By good ensample, was his busynesse:
But it were eny personc obstinat,
What-so he were of high or lowe estat.
Him wolde ho snybbe scharply for the none*.
A bettre prccst I trowe ther nowher non is.
He waytud after no pompe ne reverence.
Ne maked him a spiced conscience.
But Cristcs lore, and his apostles twelve.
He taught, and ferst he folwed it himseke.
obeyed authority, and trusted in the grace of God to amend those by whose evil lives it was discredited. From the beginning of the world there have been the two great ty]>es of human character which produce the forward movements of society by action and reaction on each other. Both desire good. Both know that we inherit every social good that we are born to from the labour, in successive generations, of the wisest of our forefathers. Both know that good institutions may, through human imperfection, and through change in the conditions of society, decay, and require renovation or even removal; and that we have in our turn to build for ourselves and aftercomers what the conditions of our later time may need. But some men are born to dwell especially upon the danger of rash change; others to dwell especially upon the importance of removing what has become useless, repairing or reconstructing what has fallen
tion infinitely higher. But there were religious men who dreaded Lollards, believed that they endangered souls, and shared the opinion of the time that—heresy being an evil which brought many to eternal fire—if the temporal death of a few could check it, it should so be checked. They were doing the work of the enemy of man in sowing tares among the wheat, whatever their intentions; and such men, all the more dangerous when their good lives recommended them to thousands of souls, must be driven out of God's harvest-field. So good men might reason, and did reason, in those times. There were also disorderly men, who scorned religion itself, swelling the cry of Lollards who sought only Christian life within the Church; there were angry men who extended the denunciation of hypocrisy and pride in many Churchmen into scoff at all that represented the religious life of England. And as must happen
to decay, and finding new means to new ends. Some men are in religion, politics, daily business, in action and opinion on all things—even to the arranging of the chairs and tables in their houses—by nature conservative; as others are by nature disposed for reform. Both are alike liberal; both have the same range of human l>elief and opinion, with difference only in the part of it on which most emphasis is laid; both seek to do their duty; and there are as many good and earnest men upon one side as on the other. From the struggle of the Lollards for reform of evils in the Church, there has come down to us chiefly a remembrance, upon one side, of the noble pleading for pure Christian life by Churchmen who were the true soul of the movement, and by poets who laid hold on its essential truths; and, on the other side, of the corruption that had spread with wealth and idleness through the religious orders, of the hard fight of the worldly man for material advancement, displayed by the Churchman to whom his religion was not real enough to save him from the small ambitions of the world and give him an ambi
in all human controversies, often among the best men on both sides, mists of human passion and emotion changed to sight the proportions of the matter in dispute. Bvit still the story is the story of an English struggle to find out the right, and do it for the love of God. The question is all of Duty; and from a quiet, orthodox monk, who was no great genius, though he wrote verse, but was a good natural Englishman, we may learn how thousands of honest folk, who took no violent part in the strife, looked at each side of it.
John Audelay or Awdlay, living in a Shropshire monastery at the beginning of the fifteenth century, wrote religious Terse.1 He versified religious duty in short poems upon Bible texts, and, while piously orthodox, he discriminated between men who, seeking the advancement of the Church, objected to self
I Printed in 1844 for the Percy Society as " The Poems of John Audelay. A Specimen of the Shropshire Dialect in the Fifteenth Century. Edited by James Orchard Halliwell."
seeking of the clergy, and were corruptly stigmatised as Lollards, and the men who withdrew from the Church, set aside their duties, and deserved the name. Thus he wrote on the text
E(iO SUM PASTOR BONUS.
The ground of all goodness curates should be the cause,
And knit them kindly together all the clergy, And leave their lewdness and their lust and learn Godys laws With their cunning and cleanncs deadly sinners destroy, Both the flesh and the tiend, false covetise defy,
With mercy and with meekness the truth for to teach, The commandmentis of Christ to keep kindly Tofore the People apert thus should he preach. For ye ben shepherds all one; Then Christ to Peter, what said ho': "My keyis I betake3 to thee, Keep my sheep for love of me,
That they perish never one."
The prophecy of the prophetus all now it doth appear,
That sometime was said by the clergy, That lewd men, the Law of God that should love and lere, For curates, for their covetise, would count not thereby, But to talk of their tithys I tell you truly;
And if the secular say a sooth, anon they ben y-shent, And lien upon the lewdmen, and sayn It is Lollere; Thus the people and the priestis ben of one assent, They dare none other do: For dread of the clergy Would damnen them unlawfully To preach upon the pillory
And burn them after too.
DE VOBIS QUI DICTTIS MALUM BOXUM, ET BON'UM MALUM.3
Lef thou me, a Loller, his deeds they will him deem: * If he withdraw his duties from Holy Church away, And will not worship the cross, on him take good eme, And hear his matins and his mass upon the hnliday, And believes not in the Sacrament, that it is God vcray,
And will not shrive him to a priest, on what death he die, And scttis nought by the Sacramentis soothly to say,— Take him for a Loller I tell you truly And false in his fay; Deem him after his saw, But he will him withdraw,
Never for him pray.
This, of course, is not the doctrine of Langland, whose charity would seek to win the sinner back, but Audelay simply follows opinion of Churchmen at the beginning of the fifteenth century. With these lines lie closes his little series of admonitory poems based on Scripture texts :—
1 '* I urn the Good Shepherd."
* Betake, entrust.
8 "Of you who cull evil good, ami good evil."
* " Believe me, a Lollard con be known by his deeds."
"Si veritatem dico quarc nun eredili* milii; qui ex Deo ett, verba Dei audit; idcu noil auditit quia ex Deo non estit."*
For I have touched the truth, I trow I shall be shent,
And said sadly6 the truth without flattering; Hold me for no party that both here present,
I have no liking ne lust to make no leasing,
He will preach the people apert them for to pay,7
If ye will take heed.
To a poem of his on the nine virtues he thus adds his name:
"I made this with good intent,
My name it is the blind Awdelay."
Let us turn now to John Lydgate, the good monk of Bury, who supplied the generation living after Chaucer's death with the best English ]>oetry that time produced. The following poem ascribed to him. but perhaps by one of his contemporaries,a is that upon which Robert Henryson founded his "Abber Walk:"—
THANK GOD FOR ALL.
By a way wandering as I went
Well sore I sorrowed, for sighing sad,
Mourning me made almost mad
That well was written on a wall,
That alway said "Thank God for10 all!"
And yet I read furthermore,
Full good intent I took theretill, H
Christ may well your state restore,
Nought is to strive against his will;
Think right well we ben his thrall,
Alwav thank God for all.
* " If I speak truth, why do ye not believe mc? He who is of G<«1 heoreth God's words j ye, therefore, hear them not because ye »re not of God." (John vui. 47.)
6 Sadly, seriously.
"Apert them for to pay, openly in the way that pleases them.
8 At my meeting, to my knowledge.
'"Thonke God of all " is on leaf 68 of a collection of Old Enrti* Poems made in n handwriting of the 15th century (Cotton. KSS-. Caligula, A. ii.), which includes Lydgate's "Churl and the Bird," with other of his pieces, and the old poems of Eglainor of Artois, Ypori*. Ismnbros, Chevalier Assigne, The Stations of Rome. 4c. Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps has included it in his volume edited for the Percj Society of the Select Minor Poems of Johu Lydgate.
10 For: of in original, throughout.