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until Meed be thy wedded wife. For we have mastered Meed with our smooth tongues, and she agrees to go to London, and has agreed to be married for money, if Law so will judge.” Then Favel was glad and Falseness was of good cheer, and the people on all sides were summoned to be ready to go with them to Westminster and honour the wedding. But they had no horses. Then Guile set Meed on a sheriff newly shod, Falseness rode on a soft trotting sisour, and Favel on a finely-adorned flatterer. Provisors? were saddled as palfreys for Simony. Deans and subdeans, Archdeacons and other officials, were saddled with silver to suffer all sins of the rout and carry bishops; Liar was to be a long cart to carry friars, swindlers, and the rest who usually go afoot. So they went forth together with Guile for their guide, and having Meed amongst them. Soothness saw them on the way and said nothing, but sped before to the King's court, where he told Conscience, and Conscience told the King. The King swore that if he caught Falseness or Favel, no man should bail them, but they should be hanged. He bade a constable go fetter Falseness and cut off Guile's head; put Liar in pillory, if he could catch him; and bring Meed into his presence. Dread, who stood at the door, heard this doom, went nimbly to Falseness, and bade him and his fellows flee for fear. Falseness fled then to the friars; and Guile was hurrying off, when the
and displayed their wares. Liar leapt off and found no friends till the Pardoners took pity on him, brought him into their house, washed him and clothed him, and sent him on Sundays into the churches to sell pardons by the pound. Then the physicians were displeased, and wrote for Liar's help as an examiner of waters. Spicers sought aid from his cunning in gums. Minstrels met with him and kept him by them half a year and eleven days. But the Friars by smooth words got him amongst themselves. He may go abroad in the world as much as he pleases, but is sure always of a welcome home when he returns to them.
Simony and Civil Law appealed to Rome for grace. But Conscience accused both to the King, and told him that if the clergy did not amend, their covetousness would pervert his kingdom and harm Holy-Church for ever. So they all fled for fear, except the maiden Meed, who trembled, wept, and wrung her hands at finding herself prisoner. The King bade a clerk take charge of her and make her at ease. He would himself ask her whom she chose to wed, and if she answered wisely he would forgive all her misdeeds. The clerk took her courteously into a bower of bliss, and sat down by her. There was mirth and minstrelsy for her pleasure, and many worshipped her who came to Westminster. Justices made haste to the bower of this bride, and, by the clerk's leave, comforted her, bidding her not mourn, for they would manage the King and shape a way for her to go whither she would, in spite of all that Conscience could do. Meed thanked them mildly, gave them
A PHYSICIAN. From the Statues outside the Cloister of Magdalene College, Oxford.
Merchants met him and kept him and took him into their shops, where he was dressed as an apprentice
gold and silver cups, rubies and treasure. When these were gone there came the clerks bidding her be blithe, for they were her own to work her will while their lives lasted. Meed promised her love to them, said she would make them lords and buy them benefices, to have plurality, and those she loved should be advanced where the most able limped behind. Then came to her a Confessor coped as a Friar, and
1 Provisors were persons whom the Pope nominated to livings that were not yet vacant.
offered, whatever her sins might be, to absolve her Quoth Conscience to the King, “ Christ forbid! for a load of wheat, to hold by her himself and put | Woe betide me ere I wed such a wife. She is frail down Conscience, if she liked, among kings, knights, of her faith and fickle of her speech, and maketh nen and clergy. Then Meed knelt to be shriven by him, misdo many score times. She misleads wives and told him a shameless tale, and gave him a noble that widows. She and Falseness caused your father's fall. he might be her bedesman, and might do her bidding She has poisoned Popes, she hurteth Holy-Church, among knights and clerks to thwart Conscience. He
and very many more of the great evils of the world absolved her at once and said, “We have a window were charged, in his reply to the King, by Conscience in hand that will stand us in a good sum: if you against Meed. will glaze the gable and set your name in it, we shall “Nay, lord,” quoth that Lady, “the wrong lies sing for Meed solemnly at mass and at matins as for with him. Where mischief is greatest, Meel can a sister of our order.” Meed laughed and said, | help. Thou, Conscience, well knowest that thou hast “ Friar, I shall be your friend, and never fail you as hung on my neck eleven times for gold to give as long as you aid lords and ladies in their worldly thee liked. Even now I might make thee more of delights and do not rebuke them. Do that, and I a man than thou knowest. Thou hast defamed me will roof your church and build your cloister, and foully here before the King. I never killed a king or both windows and walls I will so mend and glaze counselled a king's death, but saved myself and sixty and paint and portray, that every man may see I am thousand lives here and in many lands. But thou a sister of your order.” But, says the poet here in hast slackened many a man's will to burn and destroy his own person
and beat down strength. Thou, Conscience, gavest
wretched counsel to the King to leave his heritage “Ac? God to all good folk such graving defendeth,2
of France in the enemy's hand. A conquered king. To writen in windows of any well-deeds,
dom or duchy is not to be parted with, when so many Lest pride be painted there, and pomp of the world.
who fought to win it, and followed the king's will, For God knoweth thy conscience and thy kind will,
ask their shares. The least lad in the king's service, Thy cost and their covetise, and who the catel ought 3
when the land is won, looks after Lordship or other For thy lief Lordés love, leaveth such writings,
large meed, whereby he may live as a man for everGod in the Gospel such graving not alloweth, Nesciat sinistra quid faciat dextera.
more. That is the nature of a king who overcomes Let not thy left half, Our Lord teacheth,
his enemies; thus to help all his host, or else to grant Ywit* what thou dealest with thy right side."
all that his men may win, for them to do their best
with. Therefore I advise no king to admit ConMeed then pleaded with mayors, sheriffs, and serjeants
science to his counsels, if he wish to be a conqueror. against the putting in the pillory of bakers, brewers,
Were I a crowned king, Conscience should never be butchers, cooks and others, who build themselves my constable or marshal of my men when I must high houses upon gains made by dishonesty in selling
fight. Had I, Meed, been his marshal in France, I by retail. Against such wrongers of the people the
dare lay my life he would have been lord of the land poet, in his own person, speaks earnestly, but Meed
in length and breadth, and the least brat of his blood advises the mayor to take bribes from them and let a baron's peer. them cheat. To this the poet adds his reminder of Solomon's threat against those who receive such gifts. “Unkindly thou, Conscience, counselled'st him thence Fire shall devoir their dwellings.
To let so his Lordship for a little money. Then the King called Meed before him, gently It becometh for a king that shall keep a realm reproved her for following Guile and desiring to be To give men meed that meekly him serreth, wedded without his consent, but forgave her on con To aliens, to all men, to honour them with gifts ; dition of amendment. She must not again vex him Meed maketh him beloved, and for a man y-hold. and Truth, lest she be imprisoned in Corfe Castle Emperors and carls and all manner lords or in a worse place.
Through gifts have yeomen to run and to ride ; “I have a knight," said the King, “named Con
The Pope and all prelates presents underfongens science, lately come from beyond the seas. If he be
And give meed to men to maintain their laws; willing to wed you, will you have him?"
Serjeants for their service meed they ask “Yea, lord,” said the Lady; “ Heaven forbid that
And take meed of their masters as they may accord : I should not be wholly at your command.”
Beggars and bedesmen crave meed for their pra rets: Then Conscience was summoned to appear before
Minstrels for their minstrelsy, a meed they ask ;
Masters that teach clerks crave for their meed; the King and his Council. He knelt and bowed
Priests that preach and the people teach before the King, to know his will and what he was
Ask meed and mass-pence and their meat both; to do.
“ Wilt thou wed this maid, if I assent, for she is fain of thy fellowship, and to be thy mate?"
6 Edward II.’s.
7 By the Treaty of Bretigny, May 8th, 1360, Edward III -wba in
the withdrawal or retreat of his famine-striken army from Paris, si 1 Ac, but. ? Defendeth, forbiddeth.
been stirred in his conscience by a great thunderstorm, and romei a 3 Who the catel ought, who owns the property, to whom the goods peace-renounced his claim to the French throne, restored all s seized by the covetous really belong.
conquests except Calais aud Guisnes (reserving Poitou, Gusen, an • Yuit, kuow.
Pouthicu), and set free the captive King of France for a ransom de 5 “For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire three million crowns. shall consume the tabernacles of bribery." (Job xv. 34.)
i 8 Underfongen, receive.
All kyne crafty men crave meed for their apprentices,
said the King, “ ride away quickly, and fetch Reason. He shall rule my realm, and advise me concerning Meed and other things, tell me to whom she is to be wedded, and take account with you, Conscience, as to your dealings with my people, learned and unlearned.” Conscience then rode off gladly to Reason and gave the King's message.
Then quoth the King to Conscience, “ Meed deserves mastery.” But, “Nay," quoth Conscience to the King, “ clerks know the truth, that Meed is evermore a maintainer of Guile, as the Psalter sheweth. There is besides Meed, Mercede, which is the just hire for work done, but men give meed many a time where there is nothing earned. Payment for work done is mercede, not meed. There is no meed in merchandise, that is but exchange of a penny for a pennyworth; and if the King give lordship to his liegeman, he does that for love, and may revoke the gift.” Conscience discussed more fully the difference between Mercede and Meed who brought Absalom to hanging, and who caused Saul's kingdom to pass from him. “The speaker of truth,” said Conscience, “is now blamed; but I, Conscience, know this, that Reason shall reign and Agag shall suffer. Saul shall be blamed and David diademed; and each of us shall be in the keeping of a Christian king.
"'I shall array me to ride,' quoth Reason, "rest thou
“ Shall no Meed be master never more after,
But love and lowness and loyalty together Shall be masters on mold,? true men to help.”
Meed binders the law by her large gifts,
“ But Kind Love shall come yet and Conscience together,
And make of law a labourer, such love shall arise
suas in falces.5 Each man to play with a plough, a pickaxe, or a spade, Spinnen and speak of God, and spill no time.”
Then Conscience and Reason rode together, talking of the mastery of Meed at court. Waryn Wisenian and his fellow Wilyman were fain to follow that they might take counsel of Reason for record before the King and Conscience in case they had a plaint against Wilyman and Wittiman and Waryn Wringlaw. But Conscience knew them well, and said to Reason, “Hither come servants of Covetise. Ride forth, Sir Reason, and reck not of their tales ; for they will abide where wrath and wrangling is, but love and loyalty are not after their hearts. They will do more for a dinner or a dozen capons than for our Lord's love. Then Reason rode forth, and did not look back till he met the King. Then came the King, says the poet, and greeted Sir Reason courteously, and set him between himself and his son.
When the poem was begun, in 1362 or 1363. Edward III.'s son and heir, the Black Prince, still lived, and the image of the sovereign enthroning Reason between himself and his heir was, of course, not altered when change, caused by the death of the King's son, led to the covert reference to tyranny of John of Gaunt and danger from Richard's youth, in the inserted fable about belling the cat. To have then written in this part of the poem grandson for son would have implied a direct identifying of the King in the allegory with the King of England, which would have been equally bad in art and policy.
The King, then, set Sir Reason between himself and his son, and for a long while they spoke wise words together. Then came Peace into parliament, and put up a bill showing all the violent misdeeds of Wrong. “No women are safe from him, he takes niy geese, my pigs, my grass. Because of his fellowship,” said Peace, “I dare not carry silver to the fair upon St. Giles's down. He is bold to borrow, bad to pay. He borrowed my horse Bayard, which never was returned or paid for. He maintains men to murder my servants, breaks my barn-doors, and carries off my wheat. Because of him, I scarcely venture to look up."
The King knew this to be true, for Conscience told him that Wrong was a wicked man who worked much woe. Then Wrong besought help of Wisdom, looked
To more prophesy from Isaiah of the day when war shall cease on earth and God be truly known, Meed replied with half a text from the Proverbs of Solomon, and was confuted by the other half, with a comment that she was like the woman who justified doing as she pleased with the text, “ Prove all things” at the bottom of a leaf, and omitted to turn over the page and read “Hold fast that which is good.”
After all this argument the King bade Conscience kiss Meed. Conscience replied that he would rather die than do so, unless Reason counselled him. “Then,”
1 Is no lede, there is no man. First-English “leod." 2 Om mold, on earth.
3 Baselards were long daggers worn in the girdle. It was with a baselard that Sir William Walworth stabbed Wat Tyler. The weapon was worn by civilians in Richard II.'s time,
* But if he do it smithie, unless he cause it to be forged.
5 "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks." (Isaiah ii. 4.)
6 Warroke, girth. First-English "wear” and “wearh," a knot. 7 Wone, custom.
to Men of Law, and offered them large pay for their children were chastised, the poor were clothed out of help. “ With your help,” he said, “I should care the luxury of the clergy, monks and friars kept to little for Peace, though he complained for ever." | their strict rule, and learned men lived as they Then Wisdom and Wit went together, and took taught; till the King's counsel is all for the profit Meed with them to win mercy.
of the Commons; till bishops become bakers, brewers,
tailors for all manner of men as they find need, and “ Yet Peace put forth his head, and his pan · bloody; Saint James is sought not in pilgrimages to Gallicia, • Without guilt, God wot, got I this scathe;
but where the sick poor lie in their prisons and their Conscience knoweth it well and all the true commons.'
wretched homes ; till the Rome-runners carry no
Confessors coupled themselves together to translate this Latin. Meed winked at the lawyers that by subtle speech they might put down Reason, of whom all just men said that he spoke truth, while Conscience and Kind-Wit courteously thanked him. Love made light of Meed and Loyalty less. Whoever wedded her, they said, would be betrayed. Meed mourned when she was scorned, and a sisour and a summoner led her away softly from the judgment-hall. A sherift's clerk proclaimed that she was to be taken
into safe custody, but not imprisoned. The King BREAKING THE HEAD OF PEACE. From the Capital to a Cluster of Columns in Wells Cathedral.
then took counsel with Conscience and Reason, looked with anger on Meed, frowned on the Men of
Law as hinderers of truth, and declared that, if he Wiles and Wit went about to bribe the King, if
reigned any while, Reason should reckon with them, they could; but the King swore that Wrong should
and judge them as they deserved. He would have suffer, and commanded a constable to cast him in
loyalty for his law, and an end of jangling. His law irons where he should not for seven years see feet or
should be administered by leal men, who were holy hands. A wise one said, “That is not best. Let
of their lives. him have bail if he can make amends." Wit seconded
Conscience said it would be hard to bring matters this. Meed meekly sought mercy,
to that without help of the Commons.
Reason declared that all realms could be brought “And proffered Peace a present all of pure gold;
under his rule. * Have this, man, of me,' quoth she, 'to amend thy ||
“I would it were well about,” said the King, scathe;
“and, therefore, Reason, you shall not ride hence. I For I will wage? for Wrong he will do so no more.' Piteously Peace then prayédé the King
make thee my chief Chancellor in the Exchequer To have mercy on that man that many times grieved him
and the Parliament, and Conscience shall be as the • For he hath waged me well, as Wisdom him taught;
King's Judge in all the courts.” “I assent," said Meed hath made mine amends; I may no more asken,
Reason, “if thou thyself hear both sides between So all my claims ben quit, by so the King assent.'”
Lords and Commons, and send no supersedeas, or seal
no private letters with unfitting sufferance; I assent, The King answered that if Wrong escaped so lightly, and I dare lay my life that Love will furnish you he would laugh and be bolder. “He shall lie in the with more silver than all the Lombards." The King stocks so long as I live, unless Reason have ruth of
was commanding Conscience to discharge all his him."
officers, and appoint those whom Reason loved, when Then some besought Reason to take pity on Wrong, William awoke from the first dream of his Vision. provided Meed were bail for him. Reason bade them
In the first form of the earlier part of the Vision not counsel him to pity—until lords and ladies all
the poet grieved when awake that he had not slept loved truth, Pernel locked up her finery, spoilt
better and seen more, walked a furlong on over the
Malvern Hills, sat down, babbled on his beads, and 1 Pan, crown. Sweedish "panna," the skull, head.
- - -? Wage, engage, be surety.
3 No evil should go unpunished, and no good unrewarded.
“Live ye as ye lereth us, we shalleth lieve you the better.” And then he bade Religion hold her rule ; for Gregory the Great had said that a monk out of rule is a fish out of water,
slept again. That when he began the poem he was at home on Malvern Hills may be inferred from his change in the manner of prefacing the second dream when in after years he recast his work. He went to sleep on Malvern Hills, and awoke, he then said, to find himself living on Cornhill, Kit and he in a cot. He was clothed as an idler, and yet not much of an idler, for he wrote about such men as Reason taught him. For as he came by Conscience he met Reason, in a hot harvest time when he had health and limbs for labour but loved to fare well and do nothing but drink and sleep. Then he represents Reason asking him what work he did in the world; and the lesson of Duty which allows no true man to be “a loller" is associated with those answers from Will, already referred to, which indicate what was his work in London. Reason then bade him begin at once a life that should be loyal to the soul. “Yea, and continue," quoth Conscience. And to the kirk, Will says, he went to honour God, weeping and wailing for his sins, until he slept.
These new incidents served as a natural introduction to the second dream. In this there was again seen the field full of folk from end to end, and Reason and Conscience, by whom he himself had just been counselled, were there among the stir of men. Reason clothed as a Pope, with Conscience for cross-bearer, stood before the King, and before all the realm
“For if heaven be on this earth or any ease for soul,
It is in cloister or in school, by many skills 5 I find.
altars. In places where these persons be by themselves at ease Of the poor han they no pity, that is their pure charity."
Then follows a passage that, in the years next following the reign of Henry VIII., was looked upon by the reformers as giving to Langland's poem almost the dignity of prophecy. I give it without change of spelling:
“Preached and proved that these pestilences
“Ac zut shal come a kyng and confesse 3ow alle And bete 30w, as the byble telleth for brekyng of 3oure
reule, And amende 3ow monkes, moniales, and chanons, And put 3ow to 3oure penaunce ad pristinum statum ire.? And barons and here barnes blame 3ow and reprove; Hii in curribus & hi in equis : ipsi obligati sunt, et
ceciderunt. 8 Freres in here freitour' shulle fynde that tyme Bred withoute beggynge to lyue by euere after, And Constantyn shal be here cook and couerer of here
churche, For the Abbot of Engelande 10 and the abbesse hys nece Shullen haue a knok on here crounes and incurable the
wounde. Contrivit dominus baculum impiorum, virgam domi
nancium, plaga insanabili, 11 Ac er that kyng come, as cronycles me tolde, Clerkus and holy churche shal be clothed newe."
Re Reason went on in his sermon to counsel the King to love his Commons :
The south-west wind here spoken of blew, in pestilence time, on Saturday, the 15th of January, 1362 (new style), and among other things that it blew down was the spire of Norwich Cathedral. The gale must have been fresh in the minds of the people when it was joined with the pestilence in Reason's warning to the people to flee from the wrath of God, and the allusion to it helps to determine the time when Langland began his poem.
Reason, thus preaching, bade Wasters go work for their food and lose no time, prayed Pernel (Petronilla) to lock up her embroidery, taught Thomas Stow to fetch his wife out of disgrace, and warned Wat that his wife was to blame, for her head-gear was worth half a mark and his hood not a groat. He charged Bet to cut a bough or two and beat Betty her maid if she would not work, and merchants as they became rich not to withhold from their children due correction; for the wise man wrote “Spare the rod and spoil the child." Then he prayed prelates and priests to prove in themselves their preaching to the people:
“ • For the comune ys the Kynges tresour, Conscience
* Lereth, teach.
5 Skills, reasons. 6 Lurdane, worthless fellow. French "lourdin." ; To go to your former state ; be as you were at your foundation.
8 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses.... They are brought down and fallen.” (Psalm xx. 7, 8.)
9 Here freitour, their convent. Here, their.
10 In an earlier version it was the "Abbot of Abingdon," who should have "a knock of a king."
11 “ The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers ... with a continual stroke" (Isaiah xiv. 5, 6). Langland's quotations are from the Vulgate, then in use.
12 Rede, counsel.
1 Pertelich, apertly, openly, manifestly. Latin " apertus," open. 2 Piries, pear-trees. Latin “ pyrus."
Syggen, say to. First-English “ secgan,” to say.