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secution of Walter Brute as a heretic at Hereford in 1393, fixes its date very soon after that year, in the latter part of the reign of Richard II., and supposes it also to have been written, like the Vision, on the borders of Wales. Its extreme rarity is well known, and has probably arisen from the circumstance of its having been severely proscribed on account of its doctrines. This has extended also to the manuscripts of it, for, while those of the Vision are so exceedingly numerous, it is believed that of the Crede not more than two are known to exist; one in the British Museum, and the other in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, both of them later than the first printed edition. Warton speaks of it in his day as being nearly as rare as a manuscript, and has transcribed from it largely in his Hist. Eng. Poet., vol. ii, p. 123. And Hearne, in the second volume of Peter Langtoft's Chronicle, p. 587, set so great a value upon this book, from its rarity, that he always classed it with his manuscripts.
The present poem differs from the Vision, in being written without allegory. The author was evidently a sincere admirer of the opinions of Wickliffe, and of the principles of a religious reformation; and has directed his satirical attack, not against the corruptions of the state and the general abuses of society both lay and clerical, but has written exclusively against the vices of the Church, particularly its monastic institutions, or rather of the mendicant orders of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. He supposes a plain ignorant man, who is anxious to be instructed in his Crede, for which purpose he applies successively to the four religious mendicant orders, the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustines and Carmelites. Filled with pride and jealousy amongst themselves, they each abuse the vices and want of charity of each other, and are exposed by the author for their ignorance, idleness and immorality, in very strong and lively colours. At length, wearied with his disappointments, he meets with Pierce, a poor honest ploughman, in the field, who inveighs bitterly against all the four orders; describes their spirit of persecution and want of charity; mentions Wickliffe and Walter Brute as preachers of the truth; and finally teaches the inquirer the different articles of the Crede, and the principles of true religion.
The title, consisting only of the words, “ Pierce tlie Ploughmans Crede," is in the centre of a tablet, surrounded by a landscape, with the figures of Pyramus and Thisbe in the front, the latter in the act of throwing herself upon a sword. In a manuscript note in this copy by Herbert, to whom it formerly belonged, he says, “I find this compartment used by Jugge and Cawood to the Psalter, printed by them about 1560, in 4to.” Dr. Dibdin fancied that he had met with the same cut in one of the theological pieces of Luther, published in the lifetime of the reformer. It is evidently of foreign execution, and Wolfe himself being a foreigner, he may have procured it from the Continent. Mr. Collier has given a well-executed facsimile of the figures in the woodcut in his Bibliographical Catalogue of the Library at Bridgewater House, p. 235, and remarks that, both in design and performance, it is certainly unlike anything of the kind executed in this country about that date.” On the back of this title is the following address - To the Reader":
To read strange newes, desires mange,
Loo, this is all that I requyer. The poem follows, and is continued to D.iji, in fours; the running title being “Peres Plough-manes Crede.” On the reverse of sig. D.iii. the printer, in order “to occupie this leaffe which els shuld haue ben vacant," has made an interpretation of certayne hard wordes used in this booke for the better understandyng of it." This early attempt at an English glossary contains only forty-eight words, and underneath we read, “ The residue the diligent reader shall (I trust) well ynough perceiue."
The versification of the Crede nearly resembles that of the Vision, but is somewhat more rugged and wild in its structure. The poem is full of humour and severe satire, and is a curious picture of the once celebrated and ambitious mendicant orders. Both Warton and Ellis have quoted from it a long and elaborate description of a rich convent of the Dominicans; and as an example of this ancient alliterative poem, a short passage from the opening is here given:
Cros and curteis Christ this begynnyng spede,
And wedenes day iche wyko withouten flesh mete,
Warton was of opinion that this poem of the Crede, and the Ploughman's Tale, introduced into Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (but without any good authority, and not at all in his style), were written by the same person, most probably so judging from this passage in the latter :
This couplet may possibly refer to Pierce the Ploughmans Crede, and would then prove that the Ploughman's Tale was written later than that poem, but no further inference can, we think, be drawn from it. The Ploughman’s Tale differs from the Crede in being written in eight-line stanzas of octo-syllabic verse, and is in rhyme, but has the alliterative initials used by Langeland. It favours the opinions promulgated by Wickliffe, and is directed, like the other, against the pride and covetousness of the clergy, which were severely lashed in some other satirical works before the Reformation, bearing the assumed name of Pierce the Ploughman.
See Warton's Hist. Eng. Poet., vol. ii, pp. 123–144, and Do. on Spenser, vol. ii, p. 252 ; Percy's Reliques, vol. ii, p. 301; Ellis's Specim., vol. i, pp. 158-168; Dibdin's Typog. Antiq., vol. iv, p. 21; Bibl. Ang. Poet., p, 517; Godwin's Life of Chaucer, vol. ii, p. 420 ; Collier’s Bridgew. Cat., p. 235; and Wright's introduction to his edition, vol. i, p. xxviii.
The present copy of the Crede, which wants the last leaf, containing the colophon, was formerly in the collection of Herbert, and was probably the same which was also in the library of Mr. Brand, mentioned as having “DO date,” and sold at his sale, No. 6486, for 3l. 38. It passed thence into the Roxburghe collection, No. 3239, from which it was sold for 101. to Sir Mark M. Sykes, and at his sale, pt. ii, No. 781, was bought by Mr. Heber for 1l. 11s., at the dispersion of whose library, in 1834, pt. viii, No. 1278, it was again sold for 4l. 58. A copy, bound up with Rogers' edition of the Vision, No. 1561, sold in Dent's sale, pt. ii, No. 894*, for 4l. 10s., and another perfect copy in Heber's do., pt. iv, No. 1221, for 4l. 58. There are copies also in the libraries of the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Ellesmere, and the Hon. Thomas Grenville, now in the British Museum.
Fine copy. In calf extra, gilt leaves,
PIERCE PLOUGHMAN. - Pierce, the Ploughman's Crede.
London : Reprinted by T. Bensley, Bolt Court, Fleet Street, for Lackington, Allen and Co., Finsbury Square, and Robert Triphook, St. James's Street. 1814. 4to, pp. 44, blk. lett.
Dr. Whitaker's large and expensive edition of the Vision of Pierce Ploughman having been published in 1813, the present reprint of the Crede was undertaken in the same form as a companion to the Vision. It is beautifully printed in black letter from the well-known and elegant press of Bensley, and is ornamented with woodcuts and rubricated headings. The text is that of the first edition by Reynold Wolfe, from which it is verbally taken, and with the exception of a short preface of one page, it is an exact reprint of Wolfe's edition.
PROLUSIONES POETICÆ.— Poetical Essays.
London, Printed in the Year 1687. 8vo, pp. 64.
The author of this little work, which is of rather uncommon appearance, is not known. It is preceded by an Epistle to the Reader in prose, in which the writer, apologizing for not having a dedication, says, that “though he could, as well as others, have graced this piece with some great man's name in the front; yet he had rather chosen to give the World a freedoni of unprepossessed Censuring, by not so much as putting his own name to it.” And excusing himself for not having followed the example of almost all his predecessors in poetry, in taking their subjects of wit and fancy from the scripture, he remarks, “This fault (if it be one) I designedly committed, esteeming that sacred volume worthy of a greater veneration, than to be quoted upon every frivolous occasion. Those that follow other poets in that point, may perhaps raise their credit upon loose wits; but, I believe, will hardly be counted religious by sober men: for all grant that it is dangerous, Ludere cum Sacris.”
The poems consist of short translations from Martial and Ovid; Acrostics on the Creed and Lord's Prayer, a few other short poems, and Paraphrases on the first, third, fourth, sixth and ninety-first Psalms, but are not deserving of any particular notice or commendation. One short specimen will suffice.
When he must Punisht be for all his Sin. In the Bibl. Ang. Poet., 1815, a copy of this little book, No. 569, is marked at 21. 128. 6d.
Bound in Calf — neat.
QUARLES (John.)— Regale Lectum Miseriæ: or, a Kingly Bed of
Miserie. In which is contained, a Dreame: with an Elegie upon the Martyrdome of Charles, late King of England, of blessed Memory: And another upon the Right Honourable The Lord Capel. With a curse against the Enemies of Peace and the Authors Farewell to England. By John Quarles.
Printed in the Yeare 1649. Sm. 8vo, pp. 120.