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Full text of "Sir Gawain and the Green knight ; Piers the Ploughman"




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Hibrrsfoe ^literature 



>tr diatoatn anti tfie <reen 



TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY 

K. G. T. WEBSTER 

Assistant Professor of English 
AND 

W. A. NEILSON 

Professor of English 
Harvard University 




BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 
<$fre fttoerjsibe ptr?$ Cambribgc 




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COPYRIGHT, 1916 AND 1917, 
BY K. G. T. WEBSTER AND W. A. NEILSON 

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CONTENTS 

TRODUCTION 

I. SIB GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT . . . - . . . . . v 

II. PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN ix 

[R GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 1 

HE VISION OF WILLIAM CONCERNING PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 30 



INTRODUCTION 

I. SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the finest representative of a great cycle of 
verse romances devoted wholly or principally to the adventures of Gawain. Of 
these there still survive in English a dozen or so; in French the tongue in which 
romance most flourished seven or eight more; and these, of course, are but a 
fraction of what must once have existed. 1 No other knight of the Round Table 
occupies anything like so important a place as Gawain in the literature of the middle 
ages. He is the first mentioned of Arthur's knights, for about 1125, ten years before 
Geoffrey of Monmouth dazzled the world with his revelation of King Arthur, 
William of Malmesbury in his Chronicle of the Kings of England had told of the dis- 
covery of Gawain's tomb in Ross, Wales, and had described him as Arthur's nephew 
and worthy second. In all the early romances Gawain is peerless for utter courage 
and courtesy. Where other knights quailed, Gawain was serene; where other 
champions were beaten, Gawain won; and where no resolution, strength, or skill 
could avail, Gawain succeeded by his kindness, his virtue, and his charming speech. 
The strange knight in the Squire's Tale gave his message so politely, says Chaucer, 

"That Gawain with his olde curteisye 
Though he were come ageyn out of Fairye 
Ne coude him nat amende with a word." 

But in time other heroes became more popular than he, and in some of the French 
prose romances of the thirteenth century Gawain's character was defaced that others 
might appear to excel him; and Malory in his Morte Darthur (c. 1470), which is based 
chiefly upon these later French romances, and Tennyson in his Idylls of the King, 
which in turn is mostly based on Malory, have unfortunately perpetuated the 
debased portrait. To get a glimpse of the real Gawain one should read, besides our 
piece, such romances as the Carl of Carlisle, 2 Golagros and Gawain, 9 The Wedding of 
Sir Gawain,* the Mule Sans Frein 5 and the episodes in Miss Weston's Sir Gawain 
at the Grail Castle, and Sir Gawain and the Lady of Lys, in the attractive little series 
of Arthurian Romances Unrepresented in Malory's Morte d' Arthur.* 

Gawain and the Green Knight has been preserved to us, like many another precious 

1 The English romances were first collected by Sir Frederick Madden in his Syr Qawayne, edited for the Bannatyne 
Club in 1839; the French have been described by G. Paris in the Eistoire LittSraire de la France, vol. xxx, pp. 29-103. 
Nothing like a complete study of Gawain has been made; the best accounts available are those of Miss J. L. Weston 
in her Sir Gawain, London, 1897; of Schofield, English Literature from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer, p. 124; of 
Nutt in the new Encyclopedia Britannica under "Gawain "; and of J. E. Wells in his recent Manual of the Writings 
in Middle English, p. 51. 

1 Edited by Madden, Syr Qawayne, p. 185; Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript, ed. Hales and Furnivall, vol. in, p. 275. 

1 Ed. Madden, p. 129, and Amours, Scottish Alliterative Poems, Scottish Text Society, 1897. 

* Madden, p. 297; Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript, vol. I, p. 103. 

Edited Meon, Nouveau Recueil de Fabliaux et Contet, 1823, vol. I, p. 1; B. T. Hill, Baltimore, 1911; Orlowski, 
Paris, 1911. 

London, 1903 and 1907. 



vi INTRODUCTION 



work for example Beowulf by a single lucky manuscript, Cotton Nero A. X. 
of the British Museum. It is found there along with three other remarkable poems 
of the same dialect and style, all in the same handwriting; and naturally the four 
pass as the work of one author, although not all scholars are agreed on this point. 
These three are Pearl (1212 lines), a highly finished elegy in an elaborate stanza, a 
masterpiece of delicate beauty and craftsmanship; Patience, and Cleanness (or 
Purity}, of 500 and 1800 lines respectively, both written in the most powerful and 
highly colored alliterative verse, the former telling the story of Jonah, the latter of 
Belshazzar's feast and fate. 1 

These poems are the artistic culmination of what is called the alliterative revival 
of the fourteenth century in England, the best-known example of which is Piers the 
Ploughman, Other splendid pieces, worthy to stand beside these, are Winner and 
Waster, The Parliament of Three Ages, and the Thornton Morte Arthure. 2 It is a sur- 
prising and not well-explained phenomenon that after two centuries or so of the 
short-lined, rhyming verse in stanzas or in couplets such as the young Chaucer 
wrote which is generally considered to be of French origin there should sud- 
denly appear a great bulk of poetry in the archaic unrhymed style of the Anglo- 
Saxons. The great peculiarity of this verse is alliteration, the repeating of the same 
letter or sound at the beginning of several words in a line a device which has 
never been given up in English poetry. A characteristic Anglo-Saxon line is, 

" PFadan ofer >ealdas; u'udu baer sunu." 
To wade over the wolds; the son bare the wood. 

Any vowel could alliterate with any other, thus, 

" /nnan pnd titan tren-bendum." 
Inside and outside with iron-bands. 

The chief accent fell on the alliterative syllables, of which there could be three, as in 
the examples given, or two these being the commonest types; or four, or none 
these rarer. The number of unaccented syllables was immaterial; but a line con- 
sisted normally of four feet, with a caesural pause in the middle. In our poem we find 
somewhat the same conventions, as in line 3, 

"The tulk that the trammes of tresoun there wrought"; 

and line 27, 

"For-thi an aunter in erde I attle to schawe." 

In our piece groups of such lines are concluded by an odd phrase and a little rhyming 
stanza of five lines, often called a "bob and a wheel." This poetry was dignified, 

1 The only easily accessible edition of Gawain and the Green Knight is that of R. Morris for the Early English Text 
Society in 1864 revised edition by Gollancz in 1897. Translations have been published by Miss Jessie L. Weston, 
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in Arthurian Romances Unrepresented in Malory's Morte d' Arthur, London, 1898, 
in prose; and in Romance, Vision, and Satire, Boston, 1912, in verse; by E. J. B. Kirtlan, London, 1912; and by C. M. 
Lewis, New Haven, Conn., 1913 the last a very free, entertaining fantasy on the original theme. The other three 
poems were edited by Morris for the Early English Text Society in Early English Alliterative Poemt, 1864 (several 
subsequent editions). Pearl has been well edited, with a valuable introduction, by C. G. Osgood in the Bellet-Lettres 
Series, 1906; and by I. Gollancz, London. 1907; Patience by H. Bateson, Manchester, 1912. 

* The first two were edited together by Gollancz for the Roxburghe Club in 1897; the Parliament, separately, 
Oxford, 1915; the Morte Arthure by Perry and Brock for the Early English Text Society, and by Miss M. M. Banks, 
London, 1900; translation of the last by A. Boyle in Everyman's Library. 



INTRODUCTION vii 



strong, resonant, and in skillful hands apt for stirring deeds and rich, highly colored 
description; but it was the alliteration, probably, which tempted to use words in a 
forced sense, and to invent odd and fanciful terms at any rate, these northern and 
Scottish poets were very much given to that sort of thing. Of course, the fact that 
they wrote with extreme virtuosity in a richly worded dialect, strange to us heirs of 
a more southern speech, has much to do with this effect. This poetry flourished 
chiefly in the north. Chaucer, naturally, was familiar with it, and makes his parson 
say, 

" But trusteth wel, I am a Southren man, 
I can nat geste rum, ram, ruf by lettre, 
Ne, God wot, rym holde I but litel bettre; " 

which rather sounds as if Chaucer had meant to have an alliterative poem precede 
the Parson's Tale. 1 

Our romance, and the rich field of folklore within which it lies have recently been 
made the subject of a penetrating study by Professor G. L. Kittredge, 2 whose main 
results may be thus summarized. Gawain and the Green Knight is doubtless, like 
the great majority of mediaeval English romances, a translation from the French, 
although the French original is now lost. To the author of this French poem is due 
the happy combination of two fine old widely current stories. One of these, the 
"Challenge," can be traced back to an elaborate Irish version of the year 1000 or 
earlier the manuscript containing it, the celebrated Book of the Dun Cow, was 
written about 1100. In this a supernatural being with a replaceable head tests the 
hero's courage much as he does in our poem. In the other, the "Temptation," the 
chosen hero, by resisting the seductive lady, is enabled to free the lady's husband 
from an enchantment. Both these tales occur separately in mediaeval romances, 
the former in the Book of Caradoc a continuation of Chretien's Percival, 3 the Mule 
Sans Frein, Perlesvaus,* and Humbaut,* the latter in the Carl of Carlisle, the Chevalier 
d I'Epee, 6 and elsewhere. The work of the brilliant French combiner was, like 
numerous other French Arthurian romances of his period, a well-constructed and 
pellucid narrative. It did not attain the moral depth of our poem, where Gawain's 
virtues, the elaborateness and keenness of his temptation, and his repentance for 
his slight fault, are more powerfully set forth. There is no reason to suppose that 
the beautiful descriptions of wild nature were in the French poem; and very likely 
the arming of the hero and the hunting were less elaborated there. It seems probable, 
too, 'that our author has changed the motivation and the ending of the story; for in 
his original it would be natural to suppose from the analogues that the Green Knight 
enticed Gawain to his castle in order that this greatest of heroes might rid him of 
his strange hue and giant form, and that, after Gawain had succeeded, the disen- 
chanted knight accompanied him to Arthur's Court. The English author gave this 
up, and invented another and weaker motivation, based on the well-known hatred of 
Morgan la Fay for Queen Guinevere. It is the only blemish in the otherwise faultless 

1 A learned discussion of alliterative verse may be found in J. Schipper's History of English Versification, Oxford, 
1910, chapters n and HI. 

J Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1910. * Edited Potvin, Perceval, vol. HI, p. 117. 

* Ditto, vol. i. B Edited StUrzinger and Breuer, Dresden, 1914. 

Edited Meon, 1, 127; E. C. Armstrong, Baltimore, 1900. 



viii INTRODUCTION 



construction that the reason here assigned for the Green Knight's visit to Arthur's 
Court is Morgan's desire to frighten Guinevere out of her wits. 

Another English version of our tale is found in Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript. 
This is a late romance of 516 lines, in six-line stanzas like the following: 

" He had a lady to his wiffe, 
He loved her deerlye as his liffe, 
She was both blyth and blee; 
Because Sir Gawaine was stiffe in stowre 
She loved him privilye paramour, 
And she never him see." 

Most scholars regard the Ballad Green Knight, as it is often called, as a mere 
working-over of the alliterative romance; but because the author of it has reverted 
to a better and older sort of motivation i.e., the love of the Green Knight's wife for 
Gawain and because he has likewise restored the presumably older features of the 
Green Knight's becoming one of the Round Table, and for other reasons, some hold 
that the Ballad Green Knight is derived from a form of the story older than our 
romance; and that in this older form the Green Knight's wife was a fairy, who for 
love of Gawain lured him to the other- world by this odd heading adventure. 1 

It is also said in the Ballad Green Knight that it is because of this adventure of 
Gawain's that the Knights of the Bath wear a lace about the neck until they have 
won their spurs, or a lady takes it off. And after the alliterative romance in our 
manuscript follows the motto of the Knights of the Garter "Hony soyt qui mal 
pence." Obviously, then, there has always been an effort to connect Gawain's green 
lace with some chivalrous order in England, and such efforts still continue; but as 
yet it has not been made to seem very probable that the writer of the present poem 
had in mind anything of the kind. 2 

Of our author we know only what can be deduced from his works. He must have 
been a native of Lancashire or thereabouts, since he employs the North- West Mid- 
land dialect, as it is called, and since he describes with so much accuracy and gusto 
the wild scenery of the three north-western counties of England. None but a person 
truly religious could have written a poem informed with so lofty a moral tone. 
Perhaps no other writer of his age could have pictured the scenes between Gawain 
and the lady without having them border either on the luscious or the coarse. And 
only a man conversant with the highest society of his time, a man who had seen the 
world, could describe with such loving wealth of detail the knightly trappings, the 
merry evenings at the castle, and the stirring hunts. More elaborate guesses about 
his personality may be found in the editions of Gollancz and Bateson. His work 
appears to fall within the third quarter of the fourteenth century, a time when a 
great number of French romances were being translated into English, and when 
Wycliffe, Gower, Chaucer, and Langland were flourishing. 

K. G. T. WEBSTEB. 

i This theory is set forth by Mr. J. R. Hulbert in Modern Philology, vol. xm, pp. 49 and 113. 
1 The latest protagonist of this theory is Mr. Isaac Jackson in Anglia, vol. xxxvn, p. 393. The whole question 
is sensibly reviewed by Mr. Hulbert in the last portion of bis article. 



INTRODUCTION ix 



II. PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 

The Vision of William concerning Piers the Ploughman is one of the most extraor- 
dinary productions in English Literature. Of uncertain authorship, and com- 
posed and revised at different times, it was based on no single model. Confused and 
intricate in structure, belonging as a whole to no one literary type, it yet ranks with 
the work of the methodical and voluminous Gower, and almost with that of Chaucer, 
as a contribution to the understanding of the England of the fourteenth century. 



The poem exists in forty-five known manuscripts 1 which differ greatly among 
themselves. The variations are due in the first place to the fact that the work was 
revised and extended on a large scale at least twice, and it is customary to distin- 
guish three main versions: A, written about 1362 (2567 lines); B, about 1377 (7242 
lines); and C, about 1393 or 1398-1399 (7357 lines). But the manuscripts are far 
from falling neatly into these three groups. Not only do the last four passus or 
cantos of A seem to have been written later than the prologue and the first eight, 
and the last part of the twelfth by a certain John But, but many manuscripts repre- 
sent either intermediate revisions or contamination of earlier with later versions. 

Whether the original author is responsible for the revisions and additions is still 
a matter of controversy, the solution of which is made harder by the difficulty of 
arriving at a pure text of the several versions'. The view commonly accepted until a 
few years ago is that represented by Skeat in the Introduction of his Oxford edition 
and by Jusserand in his Piers Plowman (1894). 2 These scholars regard B and C as 
later revisions by the same author who composed A, and they explain the changes in 
style and mode of thought as due to the maturing or decay of his powers. The 
opposed view, brought into prominence by Manly in his article in the Cambridge 
History of English Literature in 1908, regards the work as it now stands as showing 
five hands: (1) A, prologue and passus 1-8; (2) A, passus 9-12, lines 1-56; (3) A, 
passus 12, lines 57 to end (John But) ; (4) revision of A resulting in B; (5) revision of 
B resulting in C. 8 

The arguments by which these contrary opinions are supported are intricate and 
varied, and cannot be explained without an elaborate analysis of the whole work. 
The part of the poem (or collection of poems), however, which is printed in the 
present volume is generally agreed to represent the work in its first form, and can 
be studied without reference to the problems raised by the continuations. More- 
over, these first two thirds of A are complete in themselves, and are distinctly superior 
to the later parts in structure and coherence. 

The authorship of the poem is as uncertain as the history of its growth. The 
traditional ascription of it to a William Langland is based on notes written on vari- 

1 Described by Skeat in his edition of the poem for the Early English Text Society, and in vol. n of his large 
Clarendon Press edition, 1886. This edition contains all three texts. The work was first printed in 1550 by Robert 
Crowley. 

1 Translated by M. E. R. from Let Anglait an Moyen Age : Vepopee myttique de William Langland, by J. 3. 
Jusserand, Paris, 1893. 

* For the main arguments on both sides of the question, see The Fieri Plowman Controversy, Early English Text 
Society, Original Series, Extra Issue 139, London, 1910 (published, 1912). 



INTRODUCTION 



ous fifteenth-century manuscripts of the B and C texts, but these are not consistent 
with one another, one giving the name as "Robert or William Langland," one as 
" Willelmus de Langland," other three as "Willelmus W." It has been customary to 
clothe this shadow of a name with details, presumed to be autobiographical, drawn 
from the poem itself. But it is practically certain that these details and the figure of 
the dreamer, Long Will, who has been identified with Langland, are merely parts 
of the fiction, and are of no value as biographical evidence. 1 It is therefore no longer 
necessary to encumber our memories with statements as to dates and places, since 
such statements have no real historical basis. 

II 

Piers Plowman, to use the common short title, is written in the alliterative verse 
which had been the customary medium of Anglo-Saxon poetry, and which, as ex- 
plained in the introduction to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, had a period of 
revival in the fourteenth century. The language, however, is closer to normal 
fourteenth-century English than that of most contemporary alliterative poems. The 
author, indeed, was at times led to avoid the obvious word by the necessities of 
metre, but the absence of the additional difficulties of an intricate stanza relieved 
him from a pressure that did much to render the work of his fellows contorted and 
obscure. The present modernization attempts to retain as far as possible the alliter- 
ative and accentual characteristics of the original. 

In purpose the poem is didactic and satiric; in form it is a series of allegorical 
visions. The author seeks to expose the sins and abuses of his time, and to instill the 
religious principles which would reform these, both in the individual and in society. 
Any work with such an aim is likely to emphasize the darker side of human nature, 
and this has to be kept in mind in using Piers Plowman as a document for the history 
of society. Though a severe critic of social and ecclesiastical conditions, the poet 
cannot be regarded as a radical innovator with respect to institutions. He not only 
accepts the division of society into classes, but finds the reform of abuses to lie in 
each man's doing his duty in that sphere of life in which God has placed him. The 
laborer is not urged to seek to rise above his class; and when the knight offers to 
learn to plough, Piers recommends him to attend to his knight's business to pro- 
tect the church, to treat his tenants and workmen well, to keep down the game that 
destroy farmers' crops, and to avoid dissipation. The author, though a reformer, is 
no leveler, and his gospel is a gospel of work. 

Structurally, the original poem consists of two visions, divided by a few lines in 
which the dreamer awakes and falls asleep again. This device is an extremely com- 
mon one in allegory, and serves the obvious purpose of affording a transition to a 
world of symbols, serving notice that realistic standards of probability are not to be 
applied. Common, too, is the figure of the interpreter, represented in the first vision 
by Holy Church, who explains the allegorical signification of the dream. Our author, 
however, avails himself of her services for a short time only. 

The opening scene of the first vision presents allegorically this world as a field 
lying between heaven and nell. It is populated by specimens of various classes, all 

1 See A. E. Jack, "The Autobiographical Elements in Piers Plowman," Journal of Germanic Philology, vol. in, 
pp. 393-414. 



INTRODUCTION xi 



engaged in characteristic occupations. The only personification here is Holy Church, 
who introduces the main action of the first vision, the marriage of Meed. In this the 
allegorical element is much more prominent, and involves both action and actors. 
The attempt to marry Meed to Falsehood signifies the effort to make permanent 
the corrupt use of money, and the counter-proposal to marry her to Conscience 
signifies the establishing of a system of just rewards. 

The second vision (v-vn) has two parts; one in which Conscience and Repentance 
preach so effectively as to bring about the conversion of a series of characters typi- 
fying the seven deadly sins; 1 the other in the form of a pilgrimage to seek Truth. In 
the former the delineation of the sinners gives occasion for the most vivid picturing 
of contemporary manners to be found in any of the versions of the poem, that of 
the Glutton being especially notable. In the latter the device of the allegorical pil- 
grimage, already familiar in French literature and destined to produce three hundred 
years later the greatest of English religious allegories, is probably used for the first 
time in English. In the course of the pilgrimage another convention is introduced 
an allegorical castle with personifications in charge of the various offices. 

But though the main structure is that of the allegorical vision, there are many 
passages which are not allegorical at all. Some of these consist of direct realistic 
description of human nature or social conditions, others are long religious or moral 
discussions. Though these last at times become wearisome, they are all interesting 
to the student of the thought of the time; and no less than the more vivid pictures 
are they suffused with the intense earnestness and sincerity which lift this poem 
to a distinguished place in satirical and didactic literature. 

W. A. NEILSON. 

1 Wrath is missing; as Manly supposes, by an accident to the manuscript. He is present in B and C. 



SYR GAWAYN AND THE GRENE KNYJT 1 

[FYTTE THE FIRST] 

I 

SifEN 2 fe sege & fe assaut watj sesed at Troye, 
le borj brittened & breut to broudej & askej, 
pe tulk fat f e trammes of tresoun \er wrojt, 
Watj tried for his tricherie, f e trewest on erthe ; 
Hit watj Ennias f e athel, & his highe kynde, 
bat sif en depreced prouinces, 3 & patrounes bicome 
Welneje of al f e wele in f e west iles, 
Fro riche Romulus to Rome ricchis hym swyf e, 
With gret bobbaunce fat burje he biges vpon fyrst, 
& neuenes hit his aune nome, as hit now hat ; 
Ticius (turnes) to Tuskan, & teldes bigynnes ; 
Langaberde in Lumbardie lyftes vp homes ; 
& fer ouer f e French flod Felix Brutus 
On mony bonkkes ful brode Bretayn he settej, 
wyth wynne ; 4 

Where werre, & wrake, & wonder, 

Bi syfe} hat} wont fer-irtne, 

& oft bof e blysse & blunder 

Ful skete hat} skyfted synne. 

II 

Ande quen 5 fis Bretayn wat} bigged bi fis burn rych, 
Belde breddeu f er-inne, baret f>at lofden, 
In mony turned 6 tyme tene )>at wrojten ; 
Mo ferlyes on pis folde ban fallen here oft 
fcen in any of>er fat I wot, syn fat ilk tyme. 
Bot of alle fat here bult of Bretaygne kynges 
Ay watj Arthur f e hendest, as I haf herde telle ; 
For-f i an aunter in erde I attle to schawe, 
J>at a selly in sijt summe men hit holden, 
& an outtrage awenture of Arthurej wonderej, 
If je wyl lysten fis laye bot on littel quile, 
I schal telle hit, as-tit, as I in toun herde, 
with tonge ; 

As hit is stad & stoken, 

In stori stif & stronge, 

With lei letteres loken, 6 

In londe so hat} ben longe. 

i The symbol } is the Anglo-Saxon form of y, and is a modification of the Latin letter. It was retained by later 
scribes principally for the guttural gh as in kriy^t, for the t/-sound at the beginning of a word, as in yt, and for the 
final z-sound, as in aske^. The spellings ira/t, hat} for was and has are peculiar. 

J f is the Anglo-Saxon symbol for ih, which lasted till the 15th century, and as y till later e. g., in ye = the. 
It is the old rune " thorn." 3 M and ', originally the same symbol, are both written . 

* These " bobs " especially, and the rhyming 4-line " wheel " at the end of the stanzas, are often almost mean- 
ingless, and difficult to translate. s The <?u is the Northern way of writing Anglo-Saxon hw, our vh. 

8 Such " conceited," " precious " or far-fetched terms and tags are characteristic of the later alliterative verse. 



SYR GAWAYN AND THE GRENE KNY3T 



in 

bis kyng lay at Camylot vpon kryst-masse, 
WttA mony luflych lorde, ledej of f e best, 
Rekenly of f e rou/ide table alle f o rich bref er, 
"With rych reuel oryjt, & rechles merges; 
per tourneyed tulkes bi-tymej ful mony, 
Justed ful Jolile' f yse gyntyle knijtes, 
Syf en kayred to f e court, caroles to make. 
For f er f e fest watj ilyche ful fiften dayes 
"With alle fe mete & fe mirfe fat men coufe a-vyse; 
Such glaumande gle glorious to here, 
Dere dyn vp-on day, daunsyng on nyjtes, 
Al watj hap upon heje in hallej & chambrej, 
With lorde} & ladies, as leuest him fojt; 
With all fe wele of f e worlde fay woned f er samen, 
J>e most kyd knyjtes vnder krystes seluen, 
& f>e louelokkest ladies fat euer lif haden, 
& he fe comlokest kyng J>at fe court haldes; 
For al watj J>is fayre folk in her first age, 
on sille; 

le hapnest vnder heuen, 

Kyng hyjest mon of wylle, 

Hit were now gret nye to neuen 

So hardy a here on hille. 

IV 

Wyle nw $er watj so ^ep fat ht wat nwe cummen, 
bat day doubble on Je dece watj fe douth serued, 
Fro J>e kyng watj cummen with knjtes in to J>e halle, 
te chauntre of J>e chapel elieued to an ende; 
Loude crye watj fer kest of clerkej & ofer, 
Nowel nayted o-newe, neuened ful ofte; 
& syfen riche forth runnen to reche honde-selle, 
^ejed jeres }if tes on hij, jelde hem bi hond, 
Debated busyly aboute J?o giftes; 
Ladies lajed ful loude, fo fay lost haden, 
& he fat wan wat} not worth, fat may je wel trawe. 
Alle fis mirfe fay maden to fe mete tyme; 
When fay had waschen, worfyly fay wenten to sete, 
l>e best burne ay abof, as hit best scmed; 
Whene Guenore ful gay, grayfed in fe myddes, 
Dressed on f e dere des, dubbed al aboute, 
Smal sendal bisides, a selure hir ouer 
Of tryed Tolouse, of Tars tapites i-noghc, 
l>at were enbrawded & beten wyth fe best gemmes, 
pat myjt be preued of prys wyth penyes to buy, 
in daye; 

?e comlokest to discrye, 

?er glent w/tA yjen gray; 

A setnloker fat eiier he syje, 

Soth mojt no mon say. 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



FYTTE THE FIRST 

1. After the siege and the assault had 
ceased at Troy, the city been destroyed 
and burned to brands and ashes, _the warrior 
who wrought there the trains of treason 
was tried for his treachery, the truest on 
earth. 1 This was Aeueas the noble; he and 
his high kindred afterwards conquered 
provinces, and became patrons of well nigh 
all the wealth in the West Isles. As soon 
as rich Romulus turns him to Rome, with 
great pride he at once builds that city, and 
names it with his own name, which it now 
has; Ticius turns to Tuscany and founds 
dwellit|s; Longobard raises homes in Lom- 
bai'dy ; and, far over the French flood, Felix 
Brutus establishes Britain joyfully on many 
broad banks, where war and waste and 

/onders by turns have since dwelt, and 
nanya swift interchange of bliss and woe. 

2. And when this Britain was founded by 
his great hero, bold men loving strife bred 
herein, and many a time they wrought 
.estruction. More strange things have hap- 
>ened in this land since these days than in 
ny other that I know; but of all the Brit- 
jh kings that built hero, Arthur was ever 

die most courteous, as I have heard tell. 
Therefore, I mean to tell of an adventure 
in the world, which some count strange and 
extraordinary even among the wonders of 
Arthur. If ye will listen to this lay but a 
little while, I will tell it forthright as I 
heard it told in town, as it is set down in 
story that cannot be changed, long written 
in the land in true words. 

3. This King lay royally at Camelot at 
Christmas tide with many fine lords, the 
best of men, all the rich brethren of the 
Round Table, with right rich revel and 
careless mirth. There full many heroes 

1 Construction clear, though sense odd. Antenor and 
Aeneas were the traitors who in the mediaeval story of 
Troy handed over the city to the Greeks. Antenor re- 
mained unpopular, hut Aeneas suffered no loss of repu- 
tation. See Lydgate's Troy Book in the publications of 
the Early English Text Soc., Bk. IV, 1. 4539 f. 



tourneyed betimes, jousted full gaily; 
then returned these gentle knights to the 
court to make carols. 2 For there the feast 
was held full fifteen days alike with all 
the meat and the mirth that men could de- 1 
vise. Such a merry'tuHiwlVglorious to hear ; 
joyful din by day, dancing at night. All 
was high -joy in halls and chambers with - 
lords and ladies as pleased them best. With 
all the weal in the world they dwelt there 
together, the most famous knights save-only 
Christ, the loveliest ladies that ever had 
life, and he, the comeliest of kings, who 
holds the court. For all this fair company 
were in their prime in the hall, the happiest 
troop under heaven with the proudest of 
kings. Truly it would be hard to name any- 
where so'brave a band. 

4. When New Year was fresh and but ~ 
newly come, the court was served double on 
the dais. As soon as the kingwith his knights 
was come into the hall, the chanting in the 
chapel came to an end; loud was the cry 
there of clerks and others. Noel was cele- 
brated anew, shouted full often; and after- 
wards the great ones ran about to fcttke 
handsel; 8 called aloud for New Year's 
gifts, paid them out briskly, busily dis- - '- 
cussed the gifts; ladies laughed full loud, 
though they had lost; and he that won was 
not wroth, that may ye well trow. All this 
mirth they made till the meat time. When 
they had washed, worthily they went to 
their seats, the best man ever above, as it 
best behoved. Queen Guinevere full beau- 
teous was set in the midst, placed on the 
rich dais adorned all about. Fine silk at the 
sides, a canopy over her of precious cloth 
of Toulouse, and tapestries of Tars, 4 that 
were embroidered and set with the best 
gems that Weaajt could-buy. Truly no man 
could say that he ever beheld a comelier 
lady than she, with her dancing gray eyes. 

6. But Arthur would not eat till all were 

* Dancing and singing in a ring. 

* New Year's gifts of good omen. 

* Oriental figured stuff. 










SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



served. He was so merry in his mirth, and 
somewhat -childlike in his manner; his life 
pleased him well; he loved little~~either to 
lie long or to sit long, so busied him his 
young blood and his wild brain. And an- 
other custom moved him also, that he 
through chivalry had taken up; he would 
never eat upon such a dear day before he 
was told an uooouth tale of some adventur- 
ous thing, of some great marvel that he 
could believe, of ancient heroes, of arms, or 
of other adventures; or unless some person 
demanded of him a sure knight to join with 
him in jousting, to incur peril, to risk life 
against life, twisting each i^the other, leav- 
ing the victory to fortune. This was the 
king's custom whenever he held court at 
each goodly feast among his free company 
in the hall. And so with undaunted face he 
strides stoutly to his seat on that New Year, 
making great mirth with everybody. 

6. Thus the great king stands waiting be- 
fore the high table, talking of trifles full 
courteously. The good Gawain was placed 
there beside Guinevere, and Agravain of 
the Hard Hand sat on the other side, both 
of them the king's sister's sons and full sure 
knights. Bishop Baldwin at the top begins 
the table, and Ywain, Urien's son, ate by 
himself. These were placed on the dais and 
honorably served, and after them many a 
good man at the side tables. Then the 
first course came in with blare of trumpets, 
which were hung with many a bright ban- 
ner. A new noise of kettle-drums with the 
noble pipes, wild and stirring melodies wak- 
ened the echoes; that many a heart heaved 
full high at their tones. Dainties of precious 
meats followed, foison of fresh viands, and 
on so many dishes that it was difficult to 
find place before the people to set on the 
cloth the silver that held the several courses. 
Each man as he himself preferred partook 
without hesitation. Every two 1 had twelve 
dishes between them, good beer and bright 
wine both. 

7. Now will I tell you no more of their 
service, for everybody must well under- 
stand that there was no lack of opportunity 
for the people to take their food. 3 Another 

i It was extremely sumptuous having only two at a 
mess ; i. e. only two sharing the same cup and platter. 

' It seems to make somewhat better sense if we trans- 
pose, as has here been done, lines 132 and 133 ; other- 
wise this passage means that a second course came in 
heralded by new music. 









noise full new suddenly drew nigh, for 
scarcely had the music ceased a moment, 
and the first course been properly served in 
the court, than there burst in at the hall"- 
door an awesome bttin$fcin"neight one of tl 
tallest men in the world; from the neck to 
the waist so square and so thick was he, and 
his loins and his limbs so long and so great, 
that half giant I believed him to have been, 
or, at any rate, the largest of men, and 
withal the handsomest in spite of his bulk, 
that ever rode; for though his back and 
breast were so vast, yet his belly and waist 
were properly slim; and all his form accord- 
ing, full fairly shaped. At the hue of his 
noble face men wondered; he carried him- 
self in hostile fashion and was entirely 
green. 

8. All green was this man and his cloth- 
ing; a straight coat sat tight to his sides; a 
fair mantle above, adorned within; the lin- 
ing showed, with costly trimming of shining 
white fur; and such his hood also, that was 
caught back from his locks and la\^on his -*^l 
shoulders, febe-het well stretched; 3 hose of 
the same green, that clung to his calf; and 
clean spurs under, of bright gold upon silk 
bands richly barred^and shoes 4 on his shanks 

as the hero rides. And all his vesture ver- 
ily was clean verdure, both the bars of his 
belt, and the other beauteous stones that 
were set in fine array about himself and his 
saddle, worked on silk. It would be too 
difficult to tell the half of the trifles that 
were embroidered there, with birds and 
flies, with gay gauds of green, the gold 
ever in the middle; the pendants of the 
-Jbpoitrel, the proud crupper, the bits, and 
all the metal was enamelled; the stirrups 
that he stood on were coloured the same, and 
his saddle bow likewise, and his fine reins 6 
that glimmered and glinted all of green 
stones. The horse that he rode on was of 
the same colour too, a green horse, great and 
thick, a steed full stiff to guide, in gay em- 
broidered bridle, and one right dear to his 
master. 

9. This hero was splendidly dressed in 
green; and the hair of his head matched that 
of his horse; 6 fair flowing locks enfolded 
his shoulders; a beard as big as a bush hung 

Translation doubtful. Word doubtful. 

* Our "reins" is a mere stop-gap. The MS. has the 
puzzling sturtes. 

8 Translating hors swete of the MS. as " horse'a 
suite." 






T 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



over his breast; and it, together with his 
splendid hair that reached from his head, 
was trimmed evenly all round above his 
elbows, so that half his arms were caught, 
thereunder in the manner of a king's hood, 1 ' 
that covers his neck. The mane of that great 
horse was much like it, very curly and 
combed, with knots full many folded in with 
gold wire about the fair green, always 
one knot of the hair, another of gold. The 
tail and the forelock were twined in the 
same way, and both bound with a band of 
bright green, set with full precious stones 
the whole length of the dock, and then tied 
up with a thong in a tight knot; where rang 
many bells full bright of burnished gold. 
Such a steed in the world, such a hero as 
rides him, was never beheld in that hall be- 
fore that time. His glances were like bright 
lightning, so said all that saw him. It 
seemed as if no man could endure under his 
blows. 

10. He had neither helm nor hauberk, 
nor gorget, armour nor breastplate, nor 
shaft nor shield to guard or to smite ; but 
in his one hand he had a holly twig, that is 
greenest when groves are bare, and an axe 
in his other, a huge and prodigious one, a 
weapon merciless almost beyond descrip- 
tion; the head had the vast length of an ell- 
yard, the blade all of green steel and of 
beaten gold; the bit 2 brightly burnished, 
with a broad edge, as well shaped for cut- 
ting as sharp razors. The stern warrior 
gripped it by 8 the steel of its stout staff, 
which was wound with iron to the end of 
the wood and all engraven with green in 
beauteous work. A lace was lapped about 
it, that was fastened at the head, and tied 
up often along the helve^'with many pre- 
cious tassels attached on rich embroidered 
buttons of the bright green. This hero turns 
him in and enters the hall, riding straight 
to the high dais, fearless of mischief. He 
greeted never a one, but looked loftily 
about, and the first word that he uttered 
was: "Where is the governor of this com- 
pany ? Gladly I would see that hero and 
speak with him." 

He cast his eye on the knights and rode 

1 The word capndos here translated "hood" ia 
rare. It might conceivably mean " camail," a protec- 
tion of mail for the neck and part of the head, that 
hung down from or under the helm. 

" Bit " is still used for the cutting edge of an axe. 

* Not in the MS. 






fiercely up and down, stopped and gan pon- 
der who was there the most renowned. 

11. All gazed fixedly on the man, for 
everybody marvelled what it might mean, 
that a knight and a horse could have such 
a colour: as green grown as the grass, and 
greener, it seemed; shining brighter than 
green enamel on gold. All were amazed who 
stood there, and stalked nearer to him, with 
all the wonder in the world what he would 
do; for many marvels had they seen, but 
such never before. Therefore for ^antoc^ 
and faery the folk there deemed it; and for 
that reason many a noble warrior was slow 
to answer, and all were astonished at his 
voice and sat stone still in a deep silence 
through the rich hall. Their voices 4 sank as 
though they had suddenly fallen asleep. 1 
deem, however, that it was not all for fear, 
but somewhat for courtesy. But now let 
him to whom all defer undertake the wight. 

12. Then Arthur before the high dais 
beheld that adventure, and. saluted the 
stranger properly, for never was he afraid, 
and said, "Sir, welcome indeed to this 
place. I am called Arthur, the head of this 
hostel. Light courteously down and tarry, 
I pray thee; and whatso thy will is we 
shall wit after." 

"Nay, so help me he that sits on high," 
quoth the hero. " To dwell any time in 
this house was not my errand ; but because 
the fame of tbi peepte is lifted up so high, 
and thy town and thy mien are held the best, 
the stoutest in steel gear on steeds to ride, 
the wightest and the worthiest of the world's 
kind, and proved opponents in other proper 
sports; and here courtesy is known, as I 
have heard tell, it is this that has enticed 
me hither certainly at this time. You may 
be sure by this branch that I bear here that 
I pass in peace and seek no quarrel; for if I 
had set out with a company in fighting fash- 
ion, I have a hauberk at home and a helm 
both, a shield and a sharp spear shining 
bright, and other weapons to wield, I ween 
well also; but since I wished no war, my 
weeds are softer. Now if thou be as bold as 
all men tell, thou wilt grant me graciously 
the game that I ask." 

Arthur knew how to answer, and said: 
" Sir courteous knight, if it is battle that 
thou cravest, thou .shall not fail of a fight 
here." 

Possibly "faces" or "look*." 






SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 






13. " Nay, I demand no fight; in faith I 
tell thee there are but beardless children 
about on this bench. If I were hasped in 
arms on a high steed there is no man here 
to match me, their might is so weak. There- 
fore I crave in this court a Christmas game, 
for it is Yule and New Year, and here are 
many gallants. If there be a man in this 
house who holds himself so hardy, is so 
bold in his blood, so rash in his head, that 
he dares stiffly strike one stroke for an- 
other, I shall give him as my gift this rich 
gisarm, this axe, that is heavy enough, to 
handle as he likes; and I shall abide the 

i^first blow as bare as I sit. If any warrior 
-v"/ be wight enough to try what I propose, let 
him leap lightly to me and take this weapon 
I qtt&-alaiiB it forever, let him keep it 
as his own and I shall stand^him a stroke 
firmly on this floor. At another time, by our 
-A*rw; : ^ -iady, thou wilt grant me the boon of deal- 
ing him another blow; I will give him re- 
spite of a twelvemonth and a day. Now hie, 
and let us see quickly if any herein dare 
say aught." 

14. If he had astonished them at first, 
stiller were then all the retainers in hall, 
the high and the low. The warrior on his 
steed ^ettled himself in his saddle, and 
fiercely his red eyes he reeled about ; bent 
his tli.ck bro\vs, shining green ; and waved 
his beard, awaiting whoso would rise. When 
none would answer him he coughed aloud, 
stretehad himself haughtily and began to 
speak; "What! Is this Arthur's house," 
said the hero tht-n, " that is famous through 
SD many realms ? Where is now your pride 
a.id your conquests, your fierceness, and 
your wrath and your great words ? Now is 
the revel and the renown of the Round 
Table overcome by the word of a single 
man; for all tremble for dread without a 
blow shown." 

With this he laughed so loud that the 
lord grieved; the blood shot for shame into 
his fair face. He waxed as wroth as the wind ; 
and so did all that were there. The king so 
keen of mood theu stood near that proud 
man. 

15. " Sir," said he, " by heaven thy asking 
is f oolis!) ; and as thou hast demanded folly, 
it behooves thee to find it. I know no man 
that is aghast of thy great words. Give me 
now thy-gfJsapHij for God's sake, and I will 
grant thy boon that thou hast bidden." 



Quickly he leaped to him and -caught a' 
his hand; and the other alights fiercely o, 
foot. Now Arthur has his axe, and grip. 
the helve; he whirls it sternly about as if, 
he meant to strike with it. The bold stran- 
ger stood upjrighf 'before him, higher than 
any in the~hoiise"6y a head and more; with 
stern cheer he stood there, stroked his. 
beard, and with cool countenance drew 
down his coat, no more afraid or dismayed 
for Arthur's great strokes than if some one? 
had brought him a drink of wine upon the 
bench. 

Gawain, that sat by the queen, turned to 
the king: " I beseech now with all courtesy 
that this affair might be mine." 

16. " Would ye, worthy lord," quoth 
Gawain to the king, " bid me step from 
this bench and stand by you there, that I 
without rudeness might leave this table, 
and that my liege lady liked it not ill I 
would come to your helpjbefore your rich 
court; for methinks it is obviously unseemly 
that such an asking is made po -inuch-f iti 
your hall, even though ye yourself be will- 
ing to take it upon you, while so many bold 
ones sit about you on the bench ; than whom, 
I ween, none under heaven are higher of 
spirit, nor more mighty on the field where 
strife is reared. I am the weakest, I know, 
and feeblest of wit; and to tell the truth 
there would be the least loss in my life. I 
am only to praise forasmuch as ye are my 
uncle; no other nobility than your blood 
know I in my body. And since this adven- 
ture is so foolish, it belongs not to you; I 
have asked it of you first; give it to me. 
Let this great court decide 1 if I have not 
spoken well." 

The heroes took counsel together and 
they all gave the same advice, to free 
the crowned king and give the game to 
Gawain. 

17. Then the king commanded Gawain 
to rise from the table; and he right quickly 
stood up and made himself ready, kneeled 
down before the king and took the weapon; 
and Arthur lovingly left it to him, lifted up 
his hand and gave him God's blessing, and 
gladly bade him be hardy both of heart and 
of hand. "Take care, cousin," quoth t'he 
king, " tUa* -then, give hw- - -et ; and if 
thou handle him properly, I readily belie ve 

i This word is supplied. Perhaps " speak " would be 
more conservative. 

' 









SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



that thou shalt endure the blow which he 
shall give after." 

Gawain goes to the man with gisarm in 
hand; aud he boldly awaits him, shrinking 
never a whit. Then speaks to Sir Gawain 
the knight in the green; "Rehearse we our 
agreement before we go farther. First I 
conjure thee, hero, how thou art called, 
that thou tell me it truly, so that I may 
believe it." 

"In good faith," quoth the knight, 
"Gawain am I called, who give you this 
buffet, whatever befalls after; and at this 
time twelvemonth I am to take from thee 
another with whatever weapon thou wilt, 
and from no wight else alive." 

The other answers again, " Sir Gawain, 
so thrive I as I am heartily glad that thou 
shalt give this blow." 

18. " By God," quoth the green knight, 
"Sir Gawain, it delights me that I am to 
get at thy fist what 1 have requested here; 
and thou hust readily aud truly rehearsed 
the whole of the covenant that I asked of 
the king, save that thou shalt assure me, 
sir, bv thy troth, that thou wilt seek me 
thyself wheresoever thou thinkest I may 
be found upon the earth, and fetch for thy- 
self such wages as thou dealest me today 
before this rich company." 

" Where should I seek thee ? " quoth 
Gawain. " Where is thy place ? I know 
never where thou livest, by him that 
wrought me; nor do I know thoe, knight, 
thy court, nor thy name. But tell me trulv 
the way and how thou art called, and I will 
use all my wit to win my way thither, 
and that I swear thee, for a sooth, and by my 
sure troth." 

" New Year will suffice for that ; no more 
is needed now," quoth the man in green to 
Gawain the courteous. "To tell the truth, 
after I have received thy tap, and thou hast 
smitten me well, I shall promptly inform 
thee of my house and my home and mine 
own name. Then thou mayest inquire about 
my journey and hold promise ; and if I speak 
no speech, then thou speedest the better, for 
thou mayest linger at ease iu thy land and 
seek no further. Take now thy grim tool to 
thee and let us see how thou knockest." 

" Gladly, sir, for sooth," quoth Gawain as 
he strokes his axe. 

19. The green knight on the ground pre- 
pared himself properly. With the head a 



little bowed he disclosed the flesh. His long, 
lovely locks he laid over his crown, and let 
the naked nape of his neck show for the 
blow. Gawain gripped his axe and gathered 
it on high; the left foot he set before ou 
the ground, and let the axe light smartly 
down on the naked flesh, 1 so that the sharp 
edge severed the giant's bones, and shrank 
through the clear flesh 2 and sheared it in 
twain, till the edge of the brown steel bit 
into the ground. The fair head fell from" 
the neck to the earth, and many pushed it 
with their feet where it rolled forth. The 
blood burst from the body and glistened 
on the green. Yet never faltered nor fell 
the hero for all that; but stoutly he started 
up with firm steps, and fiercely he 
forth where the heroes stood, caught his 
lovely head, and lifted it up straightway. 
Then he turned to his steed, seized the bri- 
dle, stepped into the steel bow and strode 
aloft, holding the head in his hand by the 
hair; and as oabeidy the man sat in his sad- 
die as if no mishap had ailed him, though 
he was headless on the spot. He turned his 
trunk about that ugly body that bled. 
Many a one of them thought that he had 
lost his reason. 

20. For he held the head straight up in 
his hand; turned the face toward the highest 
on the dais; and it lifted up the eyelids and 
looked straight out, and spoke thus much 
with its rnoulh, as ye may now hear: 
"Look Gawain, that thou be ready to go 
as thou hast promised, and seek loyally, 
hero, till thou find me; as thou hast prom- 
ised in this hall in the hearing of these 
knights. To the green chapel go thou, I 
charge tbee, to receive such a blow as thou 
hast dealt. Thou deservest to be promptly 
paid on New Year's morn. 3 As the knight 
of the green chapel many men know me; 
therefore, if thou strivest to find me, thou 
shalt never fail. And so come, or it be- 
hooves thee to be called recreant." 

With a wild' rush he turned the reins, 
and flew out at the hall door his head iu 
his hand so that the fire of the flint flew 
from the foal's hoofs. To what country he 
vanished knew none there; no more than 
they wist whence he was come. The king 
and Gawain wwel-|wifch"laTrg'hier at that 

Some such word has t4 be supplied after naked. 



2 "Grease " in the origijnal. 
1 Morris's punctuation of 






altered. 



this passage hag been 






8 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 






green man; but this adventure was reck- 
oned a marvel among men. 

21. Though the courteous king wondered 
in his heart, he leF"M0~ semblance be seen, 
but said aloud to the comely queen with 
courteous speech, " Dear dame, today be 
fiever 1 flls'mayed ; well becoming are such 
tricks at Christmas, ialfteb>crf mtertaut- 
"""+ to laugh and sing about among these 
" pleasant carols of knights and ladies. Never- 
theless I may well go to my meat, for I can 
not deny that I have seen a marvel." He 
glanced at Sir Gavvain and said cheerfully, 
"Now, sir, hang up thine axe; it has hewn 
enough." And it was put above the dais to 
hang on the tapestry where all men might 
marvel at it, and by it ayouch the wonder- 
ful happening. Then they turned to the 
board, these heroes together the king and 
the good knight and the keen men served 
them double of all dainties, as was most 
fitting; with all manner of meat, and min- 
strelsy both. They spent that day in joy 
until it came to an end. Now take care, 
Sir Gawain, that thou blench not for the 
pain to prosecute this adventure that thou 
bast taken on hand. 



,. 



FYTTE THE SECOND 



. This hansel) of adventures had Arthur 
at the beginning, in the young year, since he 
yearned to hear boasting, f^clthougk there 
waa little news when they went to their 
1 seats, now they are provided with stern 
work, 1 their hands quite full. Gawain was 
glad to begin those games in the hall; but 
it would not be surprising if the end were 
heavy; for though men be merry in mind 
when they have much drink, yet a year runs 

/full swiftly, and yields never the same ; the 
beginning full seldom matches the end. And 
So this Yule went by, and the year after it, 
each season in turn following the other. 
After Christmas came the crabbed Lent, that 
tries the flesh, with fish and more simple 
food. But thea the ..weather of the world 
quarrels with winter, and though the cold 
still clings, the clouds lift; copiously de- 
scends the rain in warm showers, and falls 
upon the fair earth. Flowers show there; 
green are the garments both of fields and of 
groves; birds hurry to build, and lustily 

i Morris's punctuation of this passage has been 
changed. 



they sing for the solace of the soft summer, 
that follows thereafter. Blossoms swell into 
bloom in rows rich and rank; and lovely 
notes are heard in the beauteous wood. 

2. After the season of summer with the 
soft winds, when Zephyrus blows on seeds 
and herbs, happy is the plant that waxes 
then, when the dank dew drops from the 
leaves, to await the blissful glance of the 
bright sun. But then harvest hastens and 
hardens it soon: warns it to wax full ripe 
against the winter. He drives with drought 
the dust to rise, from the face of the earth 
to fly full high. The wild wind of the wel- 
kin wrestles with the sun. The leaves fall 
from the ^ttttt^k and light on the ground. 
The grass becomes all gray that erst was 
green. Then all ripes and rots that which 
formerly flourished; and thus runs the year 
in yesterdays many; and winter returns 
again without qglHn pj_ man, 2 till the 



_ 

Micbelmas moon has come in wintry wise. 
Then thinks Gawain full soon of his 



voyage. 

3. Yet till Allhallows day with Arthur 
he lingers; and Arthur made a feast on that 
festival for the hero's sake, with great and 
gay revel of the Round Table. Knights full 
courteous and comely ladies all for love of 
that man were in sorrow; but nevertheless 
they spoke only of mirth ; and many a joy- 
less one there made jests for his gentle sake. 
After meat he mournfully addresses his 
uncle, and speaks of his passnge, and openly 
he says " Now, liege lord of my life, leave . 
I ask of you. Ye know the eest of this 
case; I do not care to tell you even a trifle 
of its dangers ; 8 but I am ready to start for 
the fray na later tb*n' tomorrow morn, to 
seek the man in the green, as God will 
guide me." 

Then the best of the castle gathered to- 
gether, Ywain and Erec, and others full 
many, Sir Dodinel de Sauvage, the Duke 
of Clarence, Lancelot and Lyonel and Lucan 
the Good, Sir Bors and Sir Bedever, big 
men both, and many other proud ones, with 
Mador de la Port. All this company of the 
court came nearer to the king, to counsel 
the knight, with care at their hearts. There 
was much deep grief felt in the hall that 
so worthy a one as Gawain should go on 
that errand, to endure a sorry dint and 

, Passage a bit vague. 
* Morris's punctuation altered. 









SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



deal none bimself with his brand. But the 
knight ever made good cheer, and said, 
" Why should I swerve from stern and 
strange destiny ? What can a man do but 
try?" 

4. He lingered there all that day, and on 
the mom made ready. Early he asked for 
his arms, and they were all brought. First 
a carpet of Toulouse was stretched over the 
floor, and much was the gilt gear that 
gleamed upon it. The brave man stepped 
thereon and handled the steel, clad in a 
doublet of costly Tars, and afterwards a 
well wrought hood, closed on top and bound 
within with a glistening white fur. Then 
they put the sabatons 1 upon the hero's feet, 
lapped his legs in steel with fair greaves, to 
which were attached well polished poleyues 2 
fastened about his knees with knots of gold. 

,. Fine cissaj then, that well enclosed his 
thick, brawn}' thighs, they attached with 
jhongs. Next the de*ated burnie 8 of 
bright steel rings upon precious stuff encased 
the hero, and well burnished braces upon his 
two arms, with elbow-pieces goodly and gay 
and gloves of plate, and all the goodly gear 
that might avail him at that time, with rich 
coat armour, gold spurs well fastened, and 
a sure brand girt about hia side by a silken 
Bash. 

5. When he was hasped in arms his har- 
ness was rich; the least latchet or loop 
gleamed with gold. So, harnessed as he was, 
he heard his mass, offered and adored at 
the high altar. Then he came to the king 
and his court; courteously took his leave of 
lords and ladies; and they kissed him, and 

_V)Bvoyed him, entrusting him to Christ. By 
that time was Gringolet ready, and girt with 
a saddle that gleamed full gaily with many 
gold fringes; everywhere nailed anew, 
prepared for that emergency. The bridle, 
barred about, was bound with bright gold; 
the decoration of the breastplate and of the 
flue housings, the crupper and caparison, 
accorded with the saddle-bow, and all was 
adorned with rich red gold nails, that glit- 
tered and gleamed like thejgflsftHil'bf the sun. 
Then he took the helm and quickly kissed 
it. It was stoutly stapled and stuffed within; 
it was high on his head, hasped behind, with 
a light urison 4 over the ventail, 5 embroid- 
ered and bound with the best gems on a 

knee pieces. > coat of mail. 



i teel shoes. 

* scarf. * visor. 



, 



. 



broad silken/ border; and birds on the seams 
like painted 'popinjays 6 preening themselves 
here and there; turtle-doves and true-loves 7 
thickly interlaced. As^mauyxkud-4hce 
were ac had been in town for seven winters. 
The circlet that surrounded his crown was 
even more precious a device of gleaming 
diamonds. 

6. Then they showed him the shield, that 
was of sheer gules, with the pentangle 
painted in pure gold. He took it by the 
baldric and cast it about his neck; and it 
became the hero passing fair. And why 
the peutangle pertains to that noble prince 
I mean to tell you, though it should delay 
me. It is a sign that Solomon set formerly 
as a token of truth, by its own right, for 
it is a figure that holds five points, and 
each line overlaps and locks in another; and 
throughout it is endless; and the English 
call it everywhere, as I hear, the endless 
knot. Therefore it suits this knight and bis 
clear arms, forever faithful in five things, 
and in each of them five ways. Gawain was 
known for good andWrefined gold, devoid ^ 
of every villainy, adorned with virtues. 
Therefore, the new 8 pentangle he bore on 
shield and coat, as the man most true of 
speech and the knight gentlest of behaviour. 

7. First, he was found faultless in Eis five 
wits; and again the hero failed never in his 
five fingers; and all his affiance in this world 
was in the five wounds that Christ received 
on the cross, as the creed tells; and where- 
soever this man was hard bestead in the 
mele^e his pious^ thought was in this above 
all other things to take all his strength 
from the five joys that the courteous Queen 
of Heaven had of her child. For this cause 
the knight had her image comely painted in 
the greater half of his shield, that when he 
looked down thereupon, his courage never 
abated. The fifth five that I find that the 
hero used, were generosity and fellowship 
above all things, his purity and his cour- 
tesv *hj^ never sworvedy and pity that 
passes all qualities. These very five were 
more surely set upon that warrior than upon 
any other. Now all these 9 were established 
fivefold in this knight, and each one was . . 
.fogtoucd in another that had no end, and 
they were fastened on five points that ver 
Jailed, nor met anywhere, nor sundered 



' 



* parrots. . 

e Should it be now t 






i true lover's knots. 

These five larger virtues. 

' 



10 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



/ -i 



either, but finished always without end at 
each corner, wherever the game began or 
concluded Therefore on his fair shield this 
knot was painted royally with red gold upon 
red gules. That is the true pentangle as 
the ^people yni'iptnly call it. Now was the 
gay'Gawain armed. He caught up his lance 
right there, and with a good-day he weut 
for evermore. 

8. He spurred his steed with the spurs 
and sprang on his way so swiftly that the 
steae struck out &r after him. All who 
saw the gentle man sighed in heart, and the 
heroes said all together to each other in their 
love for that comely knight, " By Christ, it 
is a shame that thou, hero, must be lost, who 
art so noble of life. In faith it is not easy 
to find his match upon the earth. To have 
acted more warily would have been better 
counsel; and to have made yon dear one a 
duke; it would well become him to be a 
brilliant leader of people here. This would 
e been better than to have him utterly 
destroyed, giea ovefH an elvish man for 
mere boasting pride. Who ever knew any 
king to take such counsel as to suffer knights 
tobesotrickedforaChristmasgame." Much 
warm water welled from eyes when that 
ceemly sire departed from the dwellings 

.jthat day. He made no stop, but wightly 
went his way; many a tiresome path he 
rode, as I heard the book teTTT 

r 9. Now rides this hero, Sir Gawain, 
through the realm of Logres in God's be- 
half, though to him it seemed no play. Oft 
alone companionless he lodged at night in 
places where he found not before him the 
fare that he liked. No company had he hut 
his foal by friths and downs, nor nobody 
but God to talk with by the way; till that 
he approached nigh unto North Wales. He 
kept all the isles of Anglesey on the left 
side, and fared over the fords by the fore- 
lands, over at the Holy Head, till he again 
took land in the wilderness of Wirrel. There 
dwelt but few that loved either God or man 
with good heart. And ever as he fared he 
asked of men that he met if they had heard 
any talk of a green knight of the green 
chapel in any spot thereabout, and all nicked 
him with nay, that never in their life saw they 
any man of such green hue. The knight took 
strange roads by many a *egh bank. His 
cheer changed full oft ere he saw that chapel. 
The meaning of the verb is doubtful. 



10. Many a cliff he overclimbed in strange 
countries; far sundered from his friends, 
lonely he rode. At each ford or water 
where the hero passed it were strange if he 
found not a foe before him, and that so foul 
and so fell that it behooved him to fight. 
So many marvels in the mountains there the 
man found that it were too tedious to tell 
of the tenth part. Sometimes he warred 
with serpents, and with wolves also, some- 
times with oavngeo that dwelt in tbe cliffs; : 
both with bulls and bears, and boars some- 
times; and giants that assailed him from the 
high fell. Had he not been doughty and 
stern, and served God, doubtless he had been 
dead and slain full oft. But the warfare 
tried him not so much but that the winter 
was worse, when the cold clear water shed 
from the clouds, and froze ere it might fall 
to the barren earth. Near slain with the 
sleet he slept in his iron more nights than 
enough on naked rocks, where clattering 
from the crest the cold burn ran, and hung t 
high over his head in hard icicles. Thus in v 
peril and pain and plights full hard through 
the country wanders this knight all alone 
till Christmas Eve. At that tide to Mary 
he made his moan that she might direct his 
riding and lead him to some dwelling. 

11. Merrily on the morn he rides by a7 
mount into a forest full deep, that was 
strangely wild. High hills were on each 
side, and woods beneath of hoar oaks full 
huge, a hundred together. The hazel and 
the hawthorn were twined all together, 
covered everywhere with rough ragged 
moss, with many unblithe birds upon bare 
twigs that piteously piped there for pain of 
the cold. The knight upon Gringolet rides 
all alone imder the boughs, through many a 
moss and mire, mourning for his trials, lest . 
he should never siir-vive to see the service of 
that Sire who on that very night was born 
of a lady to quell our pain. And therefore 
sighing he said : " I beseech thee, Lord, and 
Mary, that is mildest mother so dear, for 
some harbour where I might properly hear 
mass and thy matins tomorrow. Meekly I 
ask it, and thereto earnestly I pray my pater 
and ave and creed." He rode in his prayer 
and lamented for his misdeeds. Oft-times 
he blessed himself, and said, "Christ's cross 
speed me." 

12. The hero had not crossed himself 
more than thrice ere he was aware in the 



SIR GAWAlN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



ii 



wood of a dwelling a IM^ above a clear- 
ing, on a mount, hidden under the boughs 
of many a huge tree about the ditches; a 
castle the comeliest that ever knight owned, 
set on a prauHi\ a park all about, with ite 

, and 



surrounded with many a tree for more than 
two miles. The hero gazed at the castle on 
that one side as it shimmered and shone 
through the fair oaks. Then he humbly 
doffed his helm and devoutly he thanked 
Jesus and St. Julian who are both gentle 
who courteously had directed him and 
barkened ~lo Bis cry. "Now bon hostel," 
XTquoth the man, "I beseech you y*k ! " Then 
he spurs Gringolet with his gilt heels, and he 
full fortunately takes the way to the chief 
road, that soon brought the hero to the bridge- 
end iu haste. The bridge was securely lifted, 
the gates locked fast ; the walls were well 
arrayed ; no wind blast did it fear. 

13. The hero that sat on his horse, abode 
on the bank of the deep double ditch that 
stretched to the place. The wall sank in the 

** water wondrous deep, and again a full huge 
height it towered aloft, of hard hewn stone 
up to the top courses, corbelled under the 
battlement in the best manner ; and above 
fine watch-towers ranged along, with many 
good loop-holes that sbowtnl- full i,li'Sii{7 A 
better barbican that hero never looked upon. 
And farther within he beheld the high hall, 
with towers set full thickly about, and fair 
and wondrous high filioles with carved tops 
cunningly devised. Chalk-white chimneys 
enough he saw that gleamed full white on 
the battlements. So many painted pinnacles 
were set, everywhere, built so thick among 
the^penolIatioaB of the castle, that it verily 
appeared cut out of paper. Fair enough it 
seemed to the noble knight on his horse if 
he could only attain the shelter within, to 
harbour in that hostel, while the holiday 
lasted. He called, and soon there appeared 
on the walla right pleasant porter who took 
his message and greeted the knight errant. 

14. " Good sir," quoth Gawain, "would 
you go my errand to the high lord of this 
house to crave harbour? " 

" Yea, by Peter," quoth the porter; " and 
truly I trow that ye are welcome, sir, to 
dwell while you like." 

Then the man went again quickly, and 

r err>Yvd-Sf folk with him, to receive the 

knight.j They let down the great draw and 

~rt & P 

W. iu*. V tt-WJ3L 1%v O.,J^ ) 

-ri -0~-if;J. 



eagerly poured out, and kneeled down on 
their knees upon the cold earth to welcome 
the hero as it seemed to them proper. They 
opened up wide the broad gate for him and 
he raised them courteously, and rode over 
the bridge. Several a"Renda.nts held his 
saddle while he alighted, and afterwards 
good men enough stabled his steed. Then 
knights and squires came down to bring this 
hero joyfully into the hall. When he lifted 
up his helm people enough hurried to take 
it at his hand, in order to serve the courte- 
ous one; his sword and his shield they took 
too. Then he greeted full courteously the 
knights each one; and many a proud man 
pressed there to honour that prince. All 
hasped in his high weeds, they led him to 
the hall, where a fair fire burned fiercely 
upon the hearth. Then the lord of the 
people came from his chamber to meet 
courteously the man on the floor, lie said, 
"Ye are welcome to wield as you like what 
is here; all is your own to have at your will 
and commandment." " Gramercy," quoth 
Gawaiu. " Christ reward you for it." Like 
glad heroes either folded the other in his 
arms. 

15. Gawain looked on the man who 
greeted him so goodly, and thought it a bold 
hero that owned the castle, a huge warrior 
for the nonce, and pf- great age. Broad and 
bright was his beard, and all beaver-hued. 
Firm-gaited was he on his stalwart limbs; 
with a faceas fierce as fire, and a free speech; 
and to the hero he seemed well suited in- 
deed to govern a nation of good people. 

The lord turned to a chamber and 
promptly commanded to give Gawain a 
retinue to serve him in lowly wise; and 
there were ready at his bidding men enough, 
who brought him to a bright bower where 
tlie bedding was curtains of pure silk with 
clear gold hems, and cover{90 right curi- -~ T 
ous with comely kottUirs, adorned above 
with bright fur. Curtains running on ropes, 
red gold rings, tapestries of Toulouse and 
Tars hung on the wall, and under foot on 
the floor of the same pattern. There with 
mirthful speeches the hero was despoiled of 
his burnie and of his bright weeds. Quickly 
men brought him rich robes that he might 
pick and choose the best for his change. As 
soon as he took one and was wrapped therein, 
that sat upon him seemly with sailing skirts, 
the hero- W bi6-vi**ge verily^eemed to 



W . 



12 



_1 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 






- every man -MI looks glowing and lovely 
in all/his Haibc; it seemed to them that 
Christ ne verlhade a comelier knight. Wher- 
ever in the world he were, it seemed as if 
he might be a prince without peer in the 
field where fell men fight. 

16. A chair before the chimney, 1 where 
charcoal burned, was prepared for Sir Ga- 
wain richly with cloths and cushions, upon 
counterpanes that were both fine. And then 
a beauteous mantle was cast on the man, of a 
brown fabric richly embroidered, and fairly 
furred within with the best skins, all of 
ermine; the hood of the same. And he sat 
on that settle in seemly rich attire, and 
warmed him thoroughly; and then his cheer 
mended. Soon a table was raised up on 
trestles full fair, and set with a clean cloth 
that showed clear white, nopkino, salt-cel- 
lar, and silver spoons. The hero washed 

i when he would and went to his meat. Men 
' served him seemly enough, double f44 
as was proper with pottages various and 
suitable, seasoned in the best manner; and 
many kinds of fish, some baked in bread, 
some broiled on the coals, some boiled, some 
in sauces savoured with spices; and always 
disotHirso so pleasant that it pleased the 
warrior. Full freely and often the hero 
called it a feast right courteously, when all 
the retainers together praised him as_coufc 
teous. 2 " Do this penance now, and seen 
things will be better ! " Right mirthful was 
he for the wine that went to his head. 

17. Then they questioned and inquired 
cpftgiiiffly in skilful queries put to the prince 
himself, till he courteously acknowledged 
that he was of the court which noble 
Arthur holds alone, who is the rich, royal 
king of the Round Table; and that it was 
Gawain himself that sits in the house, by 
chance come for that Christinas. When the 
lord had learned that he had that hero, he 
-laughed aloud, so <fe*w it seemed to him; 
and all the men in the castle made much 
joy at appearing promptly in the presence 
of him who contains in his own person all 

i In the old meaning of fireplace, flre-back, or grate. 

1 Possibly the host, and not Gawain, is the subject of 
this sentence, which then might be translated : " Full 
freely and oft the host called it a feast (i.e. made the 
feaster welcome) right courteously, when all the retain- 
ers praised him (Gawain or the host?) as courteous." 
In the next two sentences the host is pretty certainly 
the subject. With this interpretation cf. Macbeth, in, 4, 
33 : " The feast is sold that is not often vouch'd, while 
't is a-making, 't is given with welcome." 



. 

worth and prowess inrl griuiimin Irnitr, and 
is ever praised; above all the men in the 
world his renown is the greatest. Each 
warrior said full softly to his companion 
" Now shall we see courteous turns of be- 
haviour, and the blameless forms of noble 
talking; what profit there is in speech may 
we learn without asking since we have taken 
that fine father of uurture. God has indeed 
given us his grace, who grants us to have 
such a guest as Gawain, on account of whose 
birth men sit and sing for joy. This hero 
will now teach us what distinguished man- 
ners are; I think that those who hear him 
will learn how to make love." 

18. When the dinner was done and the j 
deftf ones risen, the time was nigh arrived 
at the night. Chaplains took their way to 
the chapels, and rang full loudly, as they 
should, to the meludimis evensongof the high 
time. The lord turns thither, and the lady 
also. Into a comely closet daintily she enters. 
Gawain joyfully proceeds, and goes thither 
straightway. The lord takes him by the 
mantle and leads him to his seat, recognizes 
him openly and calls him by his name, and 
says he is the welcomest wight in the world. 
And Gawain thanked him thoroughly and 
either embraced the other, and they sat so- 
berly together during the service. Then the 
lady desired to look on the knight, and came 
from her closet with many fair maidens. 
But she was fairer than all the others in 
flesh and face, in skin and form, in com- 
plexion and demeanour more beautiful 
than Guinevere, it seemed to the hero. He 
walked through the chancel to greet that 
gracious one. Another lady led her by the 
left hand, that was older than she ; an ancient 
lady it seemed, and one highly honoured 
by the knights about her; but unlike to look 
on were the ladies, for if the younger was 
fair, yellow was the other. Rich red on the 
one bloomed everywhere ; rough wrinkled 
cheeks rolled on the other. The kerchiefs 
of the one broidered with many clear pearls, 
upenty. displayed her breast and her bright 
throat, which shone clearer than snow that 
falls on the hills. The other covered her 
neck with a gorget, that wrapped her black 
chin in milk-white pleats. Her forehead 
was completely enveloped in silken folds, 
adorned and tricked 3 with small ornaments; 

> The precise, but not the general, meaning of t!i3 
two participles is uncertain. 



. 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



7 






and naught was bare of that lady but the 
black brows, the two eyes, the nose, and the 
nuked lips ; and those were ugly to behold 
and oddly bleared. A gracious lady in the 
land one might cull her forsooth ! Her body 
was short and thick, her hips round l and 
broad. More pleasant to look on was the 
being she led. 

19. When Gawain looked on that beau- 
teous one who gazed graciously, he took 
leave of the lord, and went toward them. 
The elder he saluted, bowing full low; the 
lovelier he took a little in his arms; he 
kissed her comely, and knightly he greeted 
her. They welcomed hiuit and he quickly 
asked to be their servant if it pleased them. 
They took him between them and led him 
conversing to the fireplace in the parlour; 
and straightway they called for spices, 
which men speeded to bring them unspar- 
ingly, and the pleasant wine therewith each 
time. The lord leaped merrily up full often, 
and saw to it that the mirth never faltered. 
Gaily he snatched off his hood and hung it 
on a spear, and nhoi4tit them to win it as 
a prize he to have it 2 who could make 
the most mirth that Christmas tide. "And 
I shall try, by my faith, with the help of my 
friends 8 to compete with the best, ere I lose 
tny apparel." Ihus with laughing mimn the 
lord makes merry in order to glad Sir 
Gawain with games in the hall that night. 
When it came time, the king commanded 
lights; Sir Gawain took his leave and went 
to his bed. 

20. On the morn when as every man 
knows God was born to die for us, joy 
waxes in every dwelling in the world for 
his sake. So it did there on that day, with 
many dainties at meats and meals, right 
quaint dishes, and brave men on the dais 
dressed in their best. The old ancient wife 
sits the highest, the courteous lord placed 
by her, as I trow; Gawain and the gay lady 
together just in the middle, as the courses 4 
properly come; and afterwards the rest 
throughout all the hall, as it seemed best 
to them, each man in his.degree was prop- 
erly served. There was meat, there was 

i The meaning of bay is doubtful. 

* These four words supplied. 

This phrase may go with "lose," thus aggravating 
the joke. 

This word (messe) can refer to the courses (the 
food), or to the "mess" (the two persons eating to- 
gether, i.e. using the same goblet, platter, etc.). 



mirth, there was much joy, that it were 
arduous for me to tell thereof, Chough to 
note it I took pains blik. 5 But yet I know 
that Gawain and the lovely lady took com- 
fort in each other's company, in the choice 
play of their sharp wits, and the pure cour- 
tesy of their naodeafr talk ; their disport sur- 
passed indeed that of any royal game. 
Trumps and drums came playing loudly; 
each man minded his own business, and they 
two minded theirs. 

21. Much delight was taken there that foi 
day, and the second; and the third followed 

as pleasantly. The joy of St. John's day 
was genth/to hear of; and it was the last of 
the festival, the people considered. There 
were guests to go upon the grey morn; 
therefore wondrous kite- they sat up and ' 
drank the wine, danced full gayly with 
sweet carols. At the last, when it was late, 
they took their leave, each good man to 
wend on his way. Gawain gave his host 
good day; but the good man takes him, and 
leads him to his own chamber, by the fire- 
place; and there he draws him aside and 
proppr'y tHnH him for the great worship 
that he had granted him in honouring his 
house on that high tide, in embellishing Lis 
castle with his good cheer. "Indeed, sir, 
while I live I shall be the better that Gawain 
has been my guest at God's own fenst." 

" Gramercy, sir," quoth Gawain, " in good 
faith the merit is yours; all the honour 
is your own, the high King reward you; 
aiid I am your man to work your behest in 
high and in low as I am bound by right." 

The lord eagerly strives to hold the knight 
longer; but Gawain answers him that he 
can in no wise. 

22. Then the hero asked of him full 
fairly what extraordinary deed had driven 
him at that &WP time from the king's court, 
to go all alone so boldly, ere the holidays 
were wholly t*verr,v> - >' 'Vnrvvx fti.--!- " 

"For sooth, sir," quoth the hero, "ye 
say but the truth; a high errand and a 
tiuL&i^ had me from these dwellings; for I 
am summoned to such a place as I know 
not in the world whitherward to wend to 
find it. I would not for all the land in 
Logres fail to reach it on New Year's morn 
so our Lord help me. Therefore, sir, 

8 The clause literally translated Is insignificant; we 
expect something like " and yet I should fall for all my 
pains." 







SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 






& 



IOSS 



e. ^ Q 



this request I require of you here, that ye 
tell me truly if ever ye heard tale of the 
green chapel, where in the world it stands, 
and of the knight green in colour that keeps 
it. There was established by statute an 
agreement between us that I should meet 
that man at that landmark if I could but 
survive. And of that same New Year there 
now lacks but little, and by God's Son I 
would gladlier look on that person if 
God would let me than wield any posses- 
sion in the world. Therefore, indeed by 
your good will it behooves me to wend; 
I have now at my disposal barely three 
days; and I were as fain fall dead as fail of 
mine errand." 

? Then ^aiighjng quoth tha lord, " Now it 
b^hoovesufee to stay ; for I shall direct you 
to that spot by the time's end ^the green 
chapel upon the ground/ GFrieve you no 
more; for ye shall be in your bed, sir, at 
thine ease home days-ye4/and set out on 
the first of the year and come to that place 
,'at mid-morn, to do what you like. Stay till 
New Year's day; and rise and go then. 
One shall set you on your way; it is not 
two miles hence." 

23. Then was Gawain full glad, and 
merrily he laughed; "Now I thank you es- 
pecially for this above all oFher things; now 
that my quest is achieved, I shall dwell 
at your will, and do whatever else ye de- 
cide." 

Then the sire seized him and set him be- 
side him, and let the ladies be fetched to 
please them the better. Fair entertainment 
they had quietly among themselves; the 
lord in his jovial, friendly demeanor 4- 
haved as a man.out of 1 his wits that knew 
/not what he did. Then he spake to the 
/knight, crying loud, " Ye have agreed to 
do the deed that I bid. Will ye hold this 
hest here at eee ? " H^ MV^y/Two-Tv^*-** 

" Yea, sir, forsooth," said ttae true hero, 
" while I stay in your castle I shall be obe- 
dient to your hest." 

"Since ye have travelled/ from afar," 
quoth the warrior, " and then have sat late 
with me, ye are not well Nourished, I know, 
either with sustenance or with sleep. Ye 
shall linger in your loft and lie at your ease 
tomorrow till mass time; and go to meat 
when ye will with my wife, who shall sit 

> Wnlde in the text is translated as a corruption of 
some such word as " was lacking," or " wandered." 



' 



with you and comfort you with her com- 
pany till I return home; and I shall rise 
early and go hunting." Gawain grants all 
this, bowing courteously. 

24. " Yet further," quoth the hero, "let us , - 
make an agreement. Whatsoever I win in 
the wood, it shall be yours ; and whatsoever 
fortune, ye achieve, exchange with me there- , 
for. Sweefe sir, swap we so, s\v>ar truly,, 
whichever one of us gets the worse or the\ r 
better." 

" By God," quoth Gawain the good, " I 
consent thereto; and whatever game you 
like, agreeable it seems to me." 

^Oii this beverage just brought the bar- 
gain is made," said the lord of that people; 
and botlxjaughed. 

Then ttiey drank and played and amused 2 
themselves, these lords and ladies, so long 
as it pleased them; and then with polite 
demeanour and many fair gestures, they 
stood up and lingered a while, and talked 
quietly, kissed full comely, and took their 
L j ave. With many a gay servant and gleam- 
ing tor-jhes each hero was brought to his 
bed full softly at the last. Yet before they 
went to bed they oft rehearsed the cove- 
nants. The old lord of that people kuew 
well how to keep up a jest. 

FYTTE THE THJRD I. 

_i . If . _ t\ . f^ . -^*.AM. 



/ 1. Full early before the day the folk ' 
arose; the guests that would go called their 
grooms, and these hastened to saddle the 
horses, arrange their gear, and fri ii*r their i 
mnjTsr % T-he--g-peat- owe* arrayed themselves 
to ride, leaped up lightly and caught their 
bridles, each wight on his way where it 
well pleased him. 

The dear lord of the land was not the 
last; arrayed for the riding, with retainers 
full many, he ate a sop 8 hastily after he 
had heard mass, and took his way quickly 
with his bugle to the field. By the time 
that any daylight gleamed upon earth, he 
with his heroes were mounted on their high 
horses. Then these hunter^ that understood 
it, coupled their hounds, unclosed the ken- 
nel doors and called them thereout, blew 

' 'blithely on bugles three simple calls. At 
this the brachets 4 bayed and m?de a wild 
noise, and the, banters chasiisedfand turned 

* Word doubtful. Took a light repaat 

Hounds that hunt by scent. 



"CMJTJL c^, 



*t> 



>IR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



back 






- that wandered uff, a hundred 



hunters of the best there were, as I have 
heard tell. To their stations the trackers 
went; hunters cast off the couples ; and then 
arose for the good blasts great uproar in 
that forest. ,-.. *. ' . 

2. At the first noise of the quest the 
game quaked; the deer moved down into 

~j the dale, dazed for dread; hurried to the 
'-height; but quickly they were biiidorod by 

,j the beaters, who cried stoutly. They let the 
harts with the high heads go their way, the 

.^Jgjld bucks also with their broad palms, 1 

" for the generous lord had forbidden that 
there should any man meddle with the 
male deer in the close season. But the hinds 
were held back with "Hay!" and "Ho!" 
and the does driven with great din to the 
;-o deep glades. There might one see as they 
ran the flight of arrows; at each turn under 
the boughs out flew a shaft, that savagely 
bit on the brown hide with full broad heads. 
How they leaped and bled and died by the 
banks ! And ever the hounds with a rush 
eagerly followed them; hunters with shrill 
horn hastened after with such a resound- 
ing cry as if cliffs had cracked. What game 
" escaped the men who shot was all run down 
and torn at the stands. /-The deer 2 were 
' pestered at the heights, and worried at the 
waters; the people were so alert at the low 
stations, and the greyhounds so great, that 
got them quickly and pulled them down as 
fast as a man could see. The lord, shouting 
for joy, shot and alighted full oft, and 
passed the day thus with joy till the dark 
night. 

3. So this lord sports by the eaves of the 
linden wood, and Gawain the good man lies 
in his gay bed; reposes till the day light 
gleams on the walls, under the beautiful 
coverlets, curtained about. And as he fell 
into a doze, faintly he heard a little din at 
the door, then <listinetly; s and he heaved 
up his head out of the clothes, caught up a 
corner of his curtain a little, and watched 
warily in that direction to see what it might 
be. It was the lady, loveliest to behold, who 
drew the door to after her right slyly and 
quietly, and turned toward the bed. The 
hero grew 4*asl*f al and laid himself down 
cunningly and pretended that he slept. And 
she stepped quietly, and stole to his bed, 

l The flat, broad part of the linrn. 

Subject supplied. Meaning not quite sure. 



cast up the curtain, and crept within, and 
seated herself full softly on the bedside, 
and stayed there surprisingly long, to see 
when he should awake. The man lay pre- 
tending a full great while, bothered in his 
conscience what this affair might mean or 
amount to. Marvellous it seemed to him. 
But yet he said to himself, " More seemly 
would it be to find out by asking what she 
would." Then he waked, and stretched, and I Z 
turned to her ; unlocked his eyelids, and 
made believe he was amazed, and crossed 
himself with his hand, to be the safer for 
his prayer. With chin and cheek full sweet, 
of mingled white and red, right lovely she 
looked, with her small laughing lips. 

4. " Good morrow, Sir Gawain ! " said 
that fair lady. " Ye are a careless sleeper 
when one can enter thus. Now ye are cer- 
tainly taken; unless we can make a truce 
I shall bind you in your bed, ye may be 
sure of that ! " All laughing the lady shot 
those jests. 

" Good morrow, fair one," quoth Gawain 
the blithe. " I shall be at your disposal, and 
that pleases me well, for I yield me out- 
right and pray for grace, and that is the 
best course, I judge, for I am in straits." 
And thus he returned the jests with many 
a blithe laugh. " But would ye, lovely lady, 
grant me leave, fro** your prisoner and bid *l* 
him rise, I would leave this bed and dress 
myself better. Then I could talk with you 
in more comfort." 

" Nay, forsooth, fair sir," said that sweet 
one, "ye shall not rise from your bed; I 
shall manage you better. I shall tie you 
</' and afterwards talk with my 
knight that I have caught; for I ween well, 
ye are indeed Sir Gawain, whom all the 
world worships whereso ye ride. Your 
honour, your courtesy, is heartily praised, 
by lords, by ladies, by all alive; and now 
ye are here, forsooth, and we all alone. My 
lord and his people are gone far away; the 
other men in their beds, and my maidens 
also; the door shut and closed with a strong 
hasp; and since I have in this house him 
whom all like, I shall make good use of my 
time while it lasts. Ye are welcome to my 
person, to do whatever you wish; 1 am per- 
force, and must remain, your servant." 

< Meaning doubtful. 

' A mere guess : the line appears to be literally " I 
ahall cover you here the other half also." 






i6 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



5. " Iti good faith," quoth Gawain, " a 
great pri vilege it seems to rne though I 
be uot uow he that ye speak of. To reach 
such reverence as ye rehearse here, I am a 
man unworthy, I know well. By God, I 
should be glad if it seemed good to you 

. to do what I might m jipeech or in serv- 

ice to eakaflee- your worship; 1 it were a 
pure joy." 

" In good faith, Sir Gawain," quoth the 
gay lady, " if I should speak ill of the fame 
and the prowess that pleases all others, or 
esteem it light, it would show but-small 

jtte.^-'iaiseei-Hmeofc. 2 But there are ladies enough 
who were liefer have this courteous one in 
their power as I have thee here, to 
dally dearly with your dainty words, to 
comfort themselves and dispel their cares, 
than much of the treasure and gold that 
they have. But I praise the Lord who rules 
the skies that through his grace I have 
wholly in my hand that which all desire." 

I X k> o Great cheer she that was so fair of face 
made him; the knight with discreet speeches 
_ answered her every proposal. 

6. " Madame," quoth the merry man, 
" Mary reward you, for in good faith I 
have found your generosity noble. People 
judge a person's deeds largely from the ac- 
counts of others; 3 but the praise that they 
accord my deserts is but idle. It is simply 
your owu nobility, who know nothing but 
good." J 

"By Mary," quoth the gracious one, 
" methinks it is otherwise ; for were I 
worth all the store of women alive, and all 
the wealth of the world were in my hands, 
and I should bargain and choose to get me 
a lord, then for the good traits that I 
have found in the knight here, of beauty 
and graciousness and gay seeming, and 
from what I have heard before and hold 
in this case to be true, there should no hero 
in the world be chosen before you." 

"Indeed, worthy one," quoth the hero, 
"ye might 4 have chosen much better; but 
I am proud of the estimation that ye put 
upon me; and as your devoted servant I 
hold you my sovereign, and your knight 
I become; and Christ pay you for it." 

Thus they spoke of various things till 
past the midmorn; and ever the lady be- 



haved as if she loved him much. But the 
hero fared with caution and made courteous 
pretences. " Though I were the fairest of 
women," mused the lady, " little love would 
he show, because of the danger that he seeks 
without reproach the blow that may slay 
him, but must needs be undergone." The 
lady then asked leave, aud he granted her 
full soon. 

7. Then she gave him good day, and of 
a sudden laughed; and as she stood there 
she astonished him with right sharp words : 
" Now may he that speeds each speech, pay 
you for this entertainment; but that ye are 
Gawaiu, it gaiO imit in my mind." ' 

" Wherefore ? 7f quoth the hero; and 
eaget-ly he asks, afraid lest he had failed 
in the performance of his design. 6 But the 
hidy blessed him and spake in this wise: 
"A man as good as Gawain is properly 
held and courtesy is closed so entirely 
in him could not easily have lingered so 
long with a lady but he had on some trifling 
excuse or other 7 courteously craved a kiss." 
Then said Gawain, " Indeed, be it as you 
like; I shall kiss at your commandment as 
becomes a knight, and feat 8 lest he dis- 
please you; so urge that plea no more." 
She comes nearer at that and takes him 
in her arms; stoops graciously down and 
kisses . the man. , They courteously entrust . 
v e"SCif other to Christ. She goes forth at the 
door without more ado, and he prepares to 
rise, and hurries amain; calls to his cham- 
berlain, chooses his weeds, steps forth 
blithely to mass when he is ready; aud then 
he goes to his meat, behaving -always eour- 
-toQusly r and makes merry all day till the 
bright moon rises. Never was a hero fairer 
entertained by two such worthy dames, the 
older and the younger. Much disport they 
make together. 

8. And ever the lord of the land is bound 
on his sport, to hunt in holts and heath at 
barren hinds. Such a sum of docs and of 
other deer he slew there by the time the 
sun was low, that it were a marvel to esti- 
mate. Then eagerly they all flocked to- 
gether at the last; and quickly of the slain 
deer they made a quarry. The leaders 



1 The passage is none too clear. 

a The last clause is obscure in the text. 

' The passage is obscure. " might " supplied' 

'4. -Vv^a-y-rw -, , 

U i/W 7 



The negative is supplied. 

Possibly, "in some form of courtesy." 
' Literally, " By some touch of some trifle at BOme 
tale's end." 

" Fear " is an emendation by Morris ; the clause is 
obscure. 






a 



T 

SIR GAWAINi AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



hastened thereto\with men enough; gath- 
ered the greatest of -grease, 1 and proceodod 
fv&p& ly to un4o- a them as the occasion de- 
mands. Some that were there tried them 
at the assay 3 and found two fingers of fat 
on the leanest of all. Afterwards they slit 
' the slot, 4 seized the arber, 5 cut it free with 
a sharp knife, and tied it 6 up. Next they 
cut clown along the four limbs and rent off 
the hide ; then they opened the belly, took 
out the paunch, cutting eagerly, and laid 
aside the knot. 7 They began at the throat 
again and skilfully divided the weasand 
from the windpipe and threw out the guts. 
Then they cut out the shoulders with their 
sharp knives, and pulled them through by a 
little hole, so as to have whole sides. Next 
they divided the breast, and cut it in two; 
and once more they began at the throat, 
split the beast quickly right up to the oratolv 
took oiit the advancers, 8 and immediately 
severed all the fillets by the ribs, and took 
them off properly along the backbone even 
to the haunch, all of which hung to- 
gether. Then they heaved it up whole and 
cut it off there; and that they took for the 
numbles, 9 as it is rightly called. At the 
fork of the thighs they cut the flaps behind ; 
hastily they hewed the carcass in two, and 
severed it along the backbone. 

9. Both the head and the neck they 
hewed off then, and afterwards they 
sundered the sides swiftly from the chine, 
and the corbie's fee 10 they cast i a. gra*m 
tree. Then they pierced either thick side 
through by the rib, and hung them each by 
the hocks of the haunches each man for 
his fee, as it befell him to have it. Upon a 
skin of a fair beast they fed their hounds 
with the liver and the lights, the leather 
of the paunches, and bread bathed in 
blood mingled thereamong. Loudly they 
blew the prize, and bayed their hounds; 
then they started to carry home their meat, 
blown g full stoutly many loud notes. By the 

> The correct hunting term for " the fattest." 

Cut up. 

' Probably at the side of tlie neck, or on the brisket. 
Probably at thp hollow of the breast bone. 

The gullet probably. 

The schyre is presumably the "arber "; though In 
1. 2256 it appo-rs to be the skin of the neck or nape. 

' i.e. the entrails, with the gullet knotted to prevent 
the filth from escaping. 

This titbit is sometimes called a part of the nnm- 
bles. 

A choice cut ; hence, capriciously, onr humble-pie. 
10 A bit of the offal for the crows. 



time daylight was done the band had all 
arrived at the comely castle, where the 
knight is quietly waiting in comfort beside 
a bright fire. When the lord arrived and 
Gawain met him, there was joy enough. '1^0 

10. Then the lord commanded to gather 
in the hall all the household, and both the 
ladies to come down with their maids. Be- 
fore all the folk on the floor he bade men 
fetch his venison before him; and all in 
merry sport he called Gawain, told him the 
number of the choice beasts, and showed 
him the fat meat cut from n the ribs; "How 
like you this play ? Have I won the prize ? 
Have I pcaperiy earned thanks by my $-*> 
woodcraft?" 

" Yes, indeed," quoth the other hero; 
"here is the fairest store that I saw this 
seven year in the season of winter." 

"And all 1 give you, Gawain," quoth 
the host, then ; " for by our plighted cov- 
enant you can claim it as your own." 

" That is true," replied the hero, " and 1 
say to you the same; I too have won this 
worthy thing within doors ; and I am sure 
that with quite as good will it belongs to 
you." He throws his arms about bis fair 
neck and kisses him as courteously as he 
knew how. "Take you there my merchan- I \Q $ 
dise; I have won no more; though I should 
give it up willingly even if it were greater." 

" It is good," quoth the good man; 
"gramercy therefor. Perchance it might 
be better if you would tell me where you 
won this same favour by your own 12 wit.' ? 

" That was not the agreement," said he; 
" ask me no more, for ye have got all that 
belongs to you, be sure of that." 

They laughed and made merry in low 
tones; then they went quickly to supper 
with new dainties enough. 

11. And afterwards as they sat by a fire- 
place in a chamber, servants poured to 
them oft the choice wine; and again in 
their jesting they agreed to make the same 
bargain on the morning that they made be- 
fore, whatsoever chance betide to ex- 
change their winnings at night when they 
met, whatsoever new they win. They made 
this agreement before all the court, and 
the beverage was brought forth merrily at 
that time. 13 Then at length they politely 
took leave; and everybody hurried to bed. 

n Literally "upon." > Possessive uncertain. 

A drink ratines the agreement as before. 



i8 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



When the cock had crowed and cackled 
but thrice, the lord had leaped from his 
bed; likewise his followers each one, so 
that the meat and the mass were promptly 
despatched, and the troop ready for the 
chase in the wood ere any day sprang. 
J^t ot^With hunters audhorns they passed through 
the plaifrs^ndHncoupled the racing hounds 
among the thorna. <f ao.Aax' OL s.fi^~,->_A fr\ 
Lj. 2. | 12. Soon they Ucard-Uio-ory of-tbe^tegs 
H'v-o-^^by a marsh side. The huntsman encouraged 
the hounds that first caught the scent, 
hurled sharp words at them with a great 
noise. The hounds that heard it hastened 
thither quickly, and fell immediately to the 
scent, forty at once. Then there rose such 
a resounding cry of gathered hounds that 
the rocks about rang. The hunters cheered 
them with horn and with mouth; then all 
together they swung in a troop between a 
n -^ r, pool in that wood and a wild crag. On a 
hill, beside a cliff at the side of the bog, 
where the rough rock was rudely fallen, 
tliey fared to the finding, and the hunters 
after them. The men surrounded both the 
rock and the hill, because they knew well 
that he was within them, the beast that 
the bloodhounds were proclaiming there. 
Then they beat on the bushes and bade 
him rise up, and he savagely rushed out 
athwart the men, the most formidable of 
^ swine. Long since had he left the herd 
on account of his age, for he was a huge 
beast, the greatest of boars. Hia grinduri 
' when he grunted grieved many, for at his 
first burst he thrust three to the earth, and 
sped hastily forth at great speed without 
respite. And they hallooed " High ! " full 
loudly, and cried " Hay, hay ! " With horns 
to mouth lustily they blew the recheat. 1 
Many were the merry cries of men and of 
hounds that hastened after this boar with 
hue and cry to kill him. Full oft he bides 
foe i at bay, and maims the pack in the melee. 
He hurts many of the hounds and griev- 
ously they howl and yell. 

13. The hunters pushed forward then to 
shoot at him, aimed at him wi*t their ar- 
rows and hit him often. But the shafts that 
struck on his shields, 2 give way at the pith, 
and the barbs would not bite on his brawn 
though the shaven shafts shivered in pieces; 
the hcud hopped out again wheresoever it 

1 A call for collecting the hounds. 
The tough skin of the Hanks. 



hit. But when the dints of their j keen 
strokes scared him, then mad for dopfefuc- 
4km he rushed on the men, did them sore 
hurt where he hurled forth, and many a one 
gpow woiy^ thereat and gave back a little. 
But the lord on a light liorse hurries after 
him, blowing his bugle like a bold hero. 
He winds the recheat as he rides through 
thick groves, following this wild swine 
till the sun -declined. Thus they drive on 
the day with such doings while our lovely 
hero lies comfortably in his bed at home in 
clothes full rich of hue. The lady did not 
forget; she came to greet him; full early 
she was by him to change his mind. 

14. She comes to the curtain and peeps 
at the knight. Sir Gawain at once welcomes 
her worthily, and she returns his greeting 
right promptly, seats herself softly by his 
side, laughs openly, and with a lovely look 
addresses these words to him : " Sir, if ye 
be Gawain, it seems to me a very strange 
thing that a man of such quality should 
not follow the conventions of good society; 
and should after making acquaintance with 
person cast him utterly from his mind. 
Thou hast already forgotten what I taught 
you yesterday in the best language that I 
knew." 

"What is that? " quoth the hero. "For- 
sooth I know not. If what ye say be true, 
I am to blame." 

" Yet I taught you about kissing," re- 
plied the fair lady; "wherever a counte- 
nance is known, quickly to -'aim a kiss; 
that becomes every knight who practices 
courtesy." 

" Cease such speech, my dear lady," said 
the ready, man. " I durst not cLiim it lest 
I should be denied. If I proposed and were 
refused, I should certainly be wrong in 
proffering." 

" By my faith," quoth the lovely dame, 
" ye cannot be refused. Ye are strong 
enough to compel it by strength if ye 
pleased, supposing any were so ill-bred as 
to deny you." 

" Yea, by God," said Gawain, " your 
speech is good; but violence is considered 
discourteous among my people, as is any 
gift that is not given with a good will. I 
am at your command to kiss when ye like. 
Ye may begin when ye please, and leave 
off whenever it likes you." 

The lady stoops down and gracefully 



>*->vi - 



r-vvi^Vrn 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



kisses his face. They converse long of the 
fears and joys of love. 

15. " I should like to know from you, 
sir," said the peerless lady, "if it vexes 
you not, what might be the reasouSthat so 
young and so gallant person as ye uow are, 
one so courteous and so knightly as ye are 
known everywhere to be, have never spoken 
of love. 1 For in relating the pains of true 

^ knights, the chief thing praised in all of 
^chivalry is the tyyal sport of love, and 
the science of anus: it is the title, token, 
and text of their works; how heroes for 
their true love adventured their lives, en- 
dured for their sweethearts doleful hours, 
and afterwards avenged themselves by their 
valour; dispersed their care, and brought 
bliss to bower, with plenteous rewards for 
themselves. And ye are the most renowned 
knight of your time; your fame and your 
worship walks everywhere, and now I 
have sat by you here two separate times, 
have I never heard from your head a 
single word that pertained at all to love, 
less or more. And ye, that are so courte- 
ous and so distinguished in your vows, 
ought willingly to show and teach to a 
young thing some tokens of the art of true 
love. Why are ye so rude who are so praised? 
Is it that ye deem me too dull to hearken 
to your dalliance ? For shame ! I came 
hither all alone to sit and learn from you 
some accomplishment: do teach me part of 
your skill while my lord is from home." 

16. "In good faith," quoth Gawain, 
" God reward you 1 Great is the entertain- 
ment, and huge the pleasure to me, that so 
worthy a one as ye should come hither, and 
take pains with so poor a man, and play 
with your knipht in any wise; it delights 
me. But to take upon myself the task of 
expounding true love, of touching upon the 
themes of that text, and tales of arms be- 
fore you, who I wot well have more knowl- 
edge of that sort by the half than I or a 
hundred such have, or ever shall have so 
long as I live, that were a manifold folly 
by my troth, dear one. But I would work 
yoxir will with all my might, highly be- 
holden to you as I am; and I wish ever- 
more to be your servant, so God save me." 

Thus the fair lady besought him, and 

1 The words in italics are rashly supplied by the 
translator. For several lilies here the construction is 
unclear. 



tried him oft, for to have won him to 
wrong, whatever it was she purposed; 
but he defended himself so fairly that no 
fault appeared, nor any evil on either side; 
they knew nought but joy. They laughed 
and played a long time, till at last she 
kissed him, took her leave fairly, and went 
her way. 

17. Then the hero bestirred himself and 
rose to the mass; and afterwards their din- 
ner was dight and splendidly served. The 
hero sported with the ladies all day, but 
the lord raced over the land full oft, fol- 
lowing his uncouth swine, that rushed along 
the banks and bit in sunder the backs of his 
best brachets. 3 There he abode at his bay 
till bowmen broke it, and maugre his head 
made him move forth. ''Many fell arrows 
there flew when the folk gathered about, 
but yet at times he made the stoutest to 
start; till at the last he was so weary he 
could no more run; but with the haste that 
he might he won to a hole in a cleft by a 
rock, where the burn runs. He got the 
bank at his back and began to scrape; the 
ugly froth foamed from the corners of his 
mouth, and he whet his white tusks. It 
was not pleasant for all the bold hunter3 
that stood about him to approach him even 
remotely; and to go nigh him durst none 
for fear of harm. He had hurt so many 
before, that all seemed then full loath to be 
more torn with the tusks of that savage 
and crazed beast. fcCX&^j 

18. W4ui,the knight came himself, rein- 
ing his steed, and saw him bide at the bay 
near his men, he lighted nimbly down, 
left his courser, pulled- out a bright brand 
and boldly strode forth, and hurried fast 
through the stream where the fell one 
abode. The wild creature was ware of the 
wight with weapon in hand, and heaved 
on high his hairs; so fiercely he snorted 
that many feared for their lord lest to him 
befell the worse. The swine rushed directly 
upon the hero, so that man and boar were 
both in a heap in the wildest of the water; 
but the boar had the worse, for the mau 
marked him well as they first met and skil- 
fully set his point exactly in the slot, 8 
pierced him up to the hilt so that his heart 
split, and he gave way squealing and went 
quickly down the water. A hundred hounds 
seized him and fiercely bit on him. Men 

z hounds. ' The proper piercing spot in the chest. 



20 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



brought him to land and the dogs finished 
him. 1 

19. There was blowing of the prize 2 on 
many a loud horn, high halloing aloft by 
mighty hunters; brachets bayed the beast 
as the masters bade who were the chief 
huntsmen of that swtffc chase. Then a wight 
that was wise in woodcraft begins skilfully 
to unlace 3 this boar. First he hews off its 
head and sets it on high; and afterwards 
splits him all down his rough back, and 
takes out the bowels and singes them on 
the coals; then with bread mingled with 
these, he rewards his hounds. Afterwards 
he cuts the brawn in fine broad shields, and 
has out the hastlets 4 in the proper man- 
ner. And now they bind the halves all whole 
together, and afterwards stoutly hang them 
on a stiff staff. Now with this same swine 
they take their way home. The boar's 
head was borne before the warrior who 
slew him at the stream through the force 
of his own strong hand. It seemed long to 
him until he saw Sir Gawain in the hall; 
then he called, and Gawain came promptly 
to take his fees there. 

20. The lord jested 5 full loudly, and 
merrily he laughed when he saw Sir Ga- 
wain; with pleasure he spoke. The good 
ladies were called and the household gath- 
ered. He showed them the shields and told 
them the tale of the girth 6 and length of the 
wild swine; and also of his viciousness in 
the wood where he fled. That other knight 
full comely commended his deeds, and 
praised it as a great bag that he had made; 
for such a brawn of a beast, the bold man 
said, nor such sides of a swine, saw he 
never before. Then they handled the huge 
head; the courteous man praised it and 
-4e-fHoU. of it to kw the lord. / 

"Now Gawain," quoth the good man, 
" this game is your own, by fie and fast 
foreword, truly ye know." 

" It is sooth," quoth the hero; "and as 
tfuely all my getting I shall give you in 
turn, by my troth." He took the warrior 
about the neck and courteously kissed him, 
and another time he served him the same. 

1 Present and past tense are oddly mixed in this 
nza, as often in the poem. This time they have been 
inalized. 

The horn-blowing for the pame's death, 
cut up. cutlets. 

Two words not clear. 
Translating largesse as " largeness." 



' 



" Now we are even," quoth the warrior, 
" tonight of all the covenants that we knit 
by 4w since I came hither." ' "> 

Said the lord, " By St. Giles, ye are the 
best that I know ! Ye will be rich in a 
short time, if ye drive such ohaft'ei* ! >^*' 

21. Then they raked tables aloft on 
trestles, and cast cloths upon them. The 
clear light then appeared along the walls, 
as men set and distributed waxen torches 
all about the hall. Much mirth and glee 
rose up therein, about the fire on the hearth, 
and in various wise at the supper and after. 
Many noble songs they sang, as Christmas 
carols and new dance tunes, with all the 
mannerly mirth that a man can tell of. And 
ever our lovely knight sat beside the lady. 
Such seemly cheer she made to the hero, 
sought with such slystoleu 7 glances to please 1 
the stalwart one, that the wight was all 
amazed, and wroth with himself. But he 
would not on account of his breeding re- 
prove her, but responded in all courtesy, 
howsoever outrageous she might be. When 
they had played in the hall as long as their 
will lasted, the lord called to bedwards, aud 
to the room with a fireplace they passed. 

22. And there they drank and talked, 
and the lord proposed again to make the 
same arrangement for New Year's Eve. 
But the knight craved leave to depart on 
the morn, for it was nigh at the term that 
he must keep. The lord hindered him from 
that, persuaded him to linger, and said, 
" As I am true man, I pledge my troth 
thou shalt reach the green chapel to do thy 
tasks, sir, by New Year's light, long be- 
fore prime. Therefore lie in thy loft and 
take thine ease; and I shall hunt in this 
holt nnd keep the covenant change mer- 
chandise with thee when I return hither; 
for I have tried thee twice, and faithful I 
find thee; now, 'third time, best time.' 8 
Think Oh the morrow. Make we merry 
while we may, and be joyful; for a man can 
catch wffib'flf' whensoever he likes." 

This was readily granted and Gawain 
stayed. Drink was quickly brought to them, 
and to bed they went with lights. Sir Ga- 
wain lay and slept full still and soft all 
night; the lord, mindful of his hunting, was 
dight full early. 

* A guess for stollen. 

s The line is not clear ; literally, perhaps, " third 
time, throw best." 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



21 



J 23. After mass he and his men took a 
morsel. Merry was the morning. He asks for 
his mount, and all the sportsmen who should 
accompany him on horse were ready mounted 
| on their steeds before the hall gates. Won- 
l ': drous fair was the field, for. the frost still 
. lingorod. The sun rose in a rack of ruddy 
: red, and drove all the clouds from the wel- 
kin. The hunters uncoupled by a holt side, 
and the rocks in the forest rang for the 
noise of their horns. Some dogs fell on a 
scent where the fox had loitered; followed 
it oft obliquely l through the cunning of their 
wiles. A kennet 2 cried upon it; the hunts- 
man encoxiraged him, and his fellows hast- 
ened after, panting thickly. They ran forth 
in a rabble on Reynard's very track, and he 
hurried before them. Soon they found him; 
and when they actually saw him they chased 
him fast, baying him full fiercely with a 
huge noise. And he trants 3 and turns 
through many a rough grove; doubles and 
. hearkens by hedges full often. At the last 
by a little ditch he leaps over a spinny, 
and steals out full stilly by a rough rand. 4 
escaped from the wood lie turns with 



J wiles from the hounds' b,ut then he arrived, 
ere he knew it, at a^chosonjstnnd, where in 
an instant three stout hunters in gray 
threatened him at once. He blenched again 

L quickly, and bravely started off; with all 
.the woe in the world, he turned away to the 
wood. 

c\ 24. Then was it a pure joy to listen to the 
hounds, when all the gathered mute 6 got 
view of him. The cry they set on his head at 
the sight was as if all the resounding cliffs 
had clattered down in a heap. Here he was 
halloed when the hunters met him, loudly 
cried upon with noisy calls; there he was 
threatened and often called thief; and ever 
the ticklers were at his tail so that he could 
not tarry. Oft he was run at when he catad 
-t, and oft he reeled in again, so wily was 
Reynard. And ever he led the bespattered 
lord and his troop in this manner among the 
hills, now in them, now over, now under, 
while the courteous knight at home slept 
wholesomely within the comely curtains on 
the cold morn. 

But the lady for love cared not to sleep 
nor to give up the purpose that bode in her 
heart; but up she rose quickly and took her 



> Word obscure. * small hou 

* Unploughed strip by woodside. 



ill hound. 



twists. 
E pack. 



way thither in a gay mantle mo oily reach- 
ing to the earth, and furred full fine with 
skins of the best. No ornaments of gold on 
her head; but only the bright stones set 
about her *tressour 6 in clusters of twenty. 
With her fair face and her lovely throat 
all naked, her breast bare before and be- 
hind too, she comes within the chamber 
door and closes it after her, throws up a 
window and calls on the wight, and smartly 
thus stirred him with her fair cheery words. 
" Ah man, how can you sleep, this morning 
is so clear ! " Though he was drowsing 
deep, yet could he hear her. 

25. In the dreary depths of a dream the 
noble was sunk, like a man suffering from 
many sad thougbte. how destiny should 
dight 1dm 7 his wetra at the green chapel 
that day when he met the man, and had to 
abide his buffet without more debate. But 
when A he hcLul.y recovered his wits, lie 
emerged from his dreams and answered 
with haste. The lovely lady came laughing 
sweetly, stooped over his fair face and 
courteously kissed him. He welcomed her 
worthily with choice cheer. To see her so 
glorious, and so gaily attired, so faultless 
of feature, and so lovely of colour, warmed 
his heart with welling joy. With smooth 
and gracious smiling they straightway 
waxed mirthful. All was bliss and good 
cheer that passed between them. They ex- 
changed goodly words; much happiness they 
felt, and great was the peril between them, 
unless Mary thought of her knight. 

26. For that beauteous princess con- 
strained him so sorely, and tho dftngo* 
pressed him so nigh./ that of necessity it 
behooved him either accept her love or 
rudely refuse it. He thought much of his 
courtesy, lest he should prove a clown; and 
more on his villainy if he should do sin, and 
be traitor to the hero who owned the castle. 
" God shield ! " quoth the warrior, " tbat 
shall not befall!" With a little love-dalli- 
ance he laid aside all the pointed speeches 
that sprang from her mouth. 

Quoth the lady to the hero: "Ye deserve 
blame if ye love not her who is so near 
you, of all creatures in the world most 
wounded in heart; unless indeed ye have 
a sweetheart, a dearer being, that pleases 
you better, and ye have plighted faith so 

headdress, nnul. 

' Words in italics supplied by Morris. 



1170 



22 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



firmly to that gentle one that ye care not 
to loosen it. Verily now that is what I 
believe, and I pray you that you tell me 
truly; for all the loves in the world deny 
not the truth with guile." 

"By St. John!" said the knight, and 
courteously he smiled, " I have none, and 
none will I have,^ CM.- ^t-^J^f^- 

27. " That is the worst of all ! " quoth 
the lady. " I am answered indeed, to my 
sorrow. Kiss me now comely and I shall 
go hence. I can only mourn in the world as 
a maid that loved much." 

Sighing she stooped down and kissed him 
seemly; and then she severed from him, and 
said as she stood, " Now, dear, at this de- 
parting do me this comfort; give me some- 
what of thy gift, thy glove if it might be, 
that I may think on thee, sir, to lessen my 
mourning." 

"Now in truth," quoth that man, "I 
would I had here for thy love, the dearest 
thing that I wield; for truly ye have right 
oft in reason deserved a greater reward 
than I could reckon. But to exchange with 
you love-tokens, that would profit but little. 
It is not for your honor to have at this time 
a glove of Ga wain's gift for a keepsake; 
and I am here on an errand in lands un- 
couth, and have no men with mails full of 
precious things for remembrances at this 
moment ; and that mislikes me, lady. But 
every man must act according to his cir- 
cumstances, and none should take it ill or 
repine." 

"Now, courteous and honourable one," 
quoth that lovesome lady, " though I shall 
have nothing of yours, yet shall ye have of 
mine." 

28. She reached him a rich ring of red 
gold work with a gleaming stone standing 
aloft, that shed blushing beams like the 
bright sun; know ye well it was worth 
wealth full huge. But the man refused it, 
and readily he said: "I desire no great 
gifts, my gay one, at this time. I have 
nauglit to give you, and naught will I take." 

She offered it him full pressinglv, and 
he refused her offer, and swore swiftly on 
his sooth that he would not take it. And 
she sorrowed that he refused, and said 
thereafter, "If ye refuse my ring, since it 
seems too rich, and ye would not be so highly 
beholden to me, I shall give you my girdje, 
that will enrich- -yen; less.? .'u^a^Tc 4/0"^ 

V 



She lightly caught a lace that went about 
her sides, knit upon her kirtle under the !S 
bright mantle. It was adorned with green 
silk, and ornamented with gold, broidered 
all around, decked with fringes; 1 and that 
she offered to the hero, and gaily besought 
that, though it were unworthy, he would 
take it. And he denied that he would in 
any wise take either gold or present ere 
God sent him grace to achieve the chance 
that he had chosen there. " And therefore, 
I pray you, be not displeased, and give over ^ 
your attempt; for I intend never to consent. 
I am dearly beholden to you because of 
your entertainment; and ever in hot and in 
cold I will be your true servant." 
5^291 " iSoWtrefuseWe} this silk," said the/% 
lady then, "because itts simple in itself, ** A. 
it certainly seems to be? Lo! little it is, 
and less it is worth; but whoso knew the 
virtues that are knit therein, he would es- 
teem it at a greater price peradventure; 
for whatsoever man is girt with this green 
lace, while he has it fittingly wrapped 
about him, there is no warrior under heaven 
than can wound him; for he could not be 
slain by any device in the world." 

Then the knight paused, and it came to 
his heart that it would be a jewel for the 
peril that awaited him when he arrived at 
the chapel to undergo his ordeal. Could he 
manage to be unslain, that were a noble de- 
vice. Then he indulged her entreaties and 
suffered her to speak ; a-.id she pressed the 
belt on him and offered it to him eagerly. 
And he accepted it, and she gave it him with 
a good will, and besought him for her sake 
never to discover it, but to conceal it loy- 
ally from her lord. The man agreed that 
never person should know it indeed but 
they twain. Full oft he thanked her, right 
glad in heart and thought. By that she had 
kissed the stout knight three times. 

30. Then she takes her leave and leaves - 
him there, for more entertainment she could 
not get from that man. When she was gone 
Sir Gawain bestirs himself, rises and dresses 
in noble array. He lays up the love-lace the 
lady had given him, hides it full cleverly 
where he can find it again. Then promptly 
he takes his way to the chapel ; quietly ap- 
proaches to the priest and prays him there 

> Reading frynges for MS. fyngres ; or we may keep 
the text and translate, "wrought, embroidered, by 
flugers." 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



that he would elevate his life, and teach 
him better how his soul should be saved 
when he should go hence. Then he shrives 
him cleanly and shows his misdeeds, both 
the more and the less, beseeches mercy, and 
begs for absolution. And the priest assoils 
him thoroughly and set him as clean as if 
doomsday had been due on the morrow. 
And afterwards Gawain makes more mirth 
among the fair ladies that day with comely 
carols and all kinds of joy than ever he did 
before, till the dark night. Everyone had 
pleasure of him there, and said indeed that 
he had never been so merry since he came 
hither. 

3 31. Now let him linger in that place, 
where may love betide him. The lord is 
still in the field leading his men. He has 
overtaken this fox tint he followed so long, 
as he sprinted over a spinny to spy the ras- 
cal, where he heard the hounds that has- 
tened fast after him. Reynard came run- 
ning through a rough grove, and all the 
rabble in a rout right at his heels. The man 
was ware of the game, and warily abode; 
pullod out his bright brand and struck at 
the beast; and he dodged from the sharp 
weapon and would have turned; but a dog 
seized him ere he could, and right before 
the horse's feet they all fell on him and 
worried tliis wily one with a great noise. 
The lord lighted quickly, and caught him 
forthwith; pulled him full hastily out of 
the dogs' mouths, and holding him high over 
his head, halloed fast; and there many fierce 
hounds hayed him. Hunters hied them thith- 
er with horns full many, ever blowing the 

f recheat 1 till they saw the hero. As soon as 
HisTnoble company was come, all that bare 
bus;le bl"W at once, and all the others that 
had no horns halloed. It was the merri- 
est mute 2 that ever men heard the rich 
riot tint there was raised for Reynard's 
soul. They rewarded the hounds there, 
stroked them and rubbed their heads; and 
afterwards they took Reynard and turned 
off his coat. 

J.TL 32. And then they hastened home, for it 
was nigh night, blowing full stoutly in their 
great horns. The lord alighted at last at 
his dear home, found fire on the floor, and 
the hero beside it, Sir Gawain the good, 
that glad was withal among the ladies; in 

1 The note that recalls all the dogs. 
* Noise 'of the whole band. 



their love he had much joy. He wore a 
mantle of blue that reached to the earth; 
his surcoat, that was softly furred, became 
him well; and his hood of the same hung 
on his shoulder. Trimmed all about with 
fine fur were both. He met this good man /^ 3 * 
in the middle of the floor, and all joyfully 
he greeted him, and goodly he said : " Now 
I shall fulfill our covenant, that we have 
just made, where no drink was spared." 
Then he embraces the knight and kisses 
him thrice with as much gusto and as sober- 
ly as he could give them. 

" By Christ ! " quoth the other knight, 
" ye get much bliss in the profits of this /^3fr 
business if ye drive good bargains ! " 

" Of the bargain, no matter," quoth curt- 
ly that other, " so long as the debts that I 
owed are properly paid." 

"Mary!" quoth the other man, "my 
offering is the worse, for I have hunted all 
this day, and naught have I got but this 
foul fox-fell; the fiend have the good ones! 
And that is full poor to pay for such fine 
things as ye have given me here, three such 
rare kisses." 

"It is enough," quoth Sir Gawain; "I 
thank you, by the rood." And as they stood 
there the lord told him how the fox was 
slain. 

33. With mirth and minstrelsy, with I */ 5" 2. 
meats at their will, they made as merry as 
any men could. With laughing of ladies, 
with merry jests, Gawain and the good uiau 
were both as glad as if the court were mad, 
or else drunk. Both the man and his retinue 
made many jokes till the season arrived 
when they must sever; the men had to go 
to their beds at last. Then humbly this 
gentle man takes his leave of the lord first; 
and fairly he thanks him. " For such a joy- 
ous sojourn as I have had here, for the 
honor you have shown me at this high feast, 
the high king reward you ! I can only give 
you myself to be one of your men, if that 
pleases you. For I must needs, as ye know, 
proceed, tomorrow, if ye will grant me 
some man to show, as yon promised, the 
way to the green chapel, as God will suffer 
me to take on New Year's day the doom of 
my fate." 

" In good faith," quoth the good man, 
" with a good will ! All that ever I prom- / 
ised you, I will perform." Therewith he ' 
assigns a servant to set him in the way, and 






SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



conduct him by the downs, that he should 
without hesitation travel through the forest 
and fare at the best in the woods. The lord 
thanked Gawain for the worship he had 
been willing to show him. Then the knight 
took his leave of the beautiful ladies. 

34. With care and with kissing he speaks 
to them, and many earnest thanks he 
presses upon them. And they returned him 
the same again promptly; they entrusted 
him to Christ with sighings full sad. After- 
wards he graciously departs from the house- 
hold; each man that he met he thanked him 
for his service and his solace, and the vari- 
ous pains with which they had been busy to 
serve him. And each man was as sad to 
sever from him there as if they had ever 
dwelt worthily with that hero. Then with 
people and with light he was led to his 
chamber and blithely brought to bed to be 
at his rest. Whether he slept-soundly I dare 
not say, for he had much to think of on the 
morrow if he would. Let him lie there; he 
was near what he sought. If ye will be still 
a while I shall tell you how they fared. 



YTTE THE FOURTH *** 




1. Now nlglis(\tne New Year, ~ahd the 
night passes. Thexilayfoi voo-ee-ta the darkj 
as God bids ; but outside wild storms wak- 
ened in the world; clouds cast the cold 
keenly to the earth ; with discomfort enough 
to the naked, the snow from the north flew 
sharply, and nipped the game. The bluster- 
ing wind blew from the heights, and drove 
each dale full of great drifts. The man who 
lay in his bed heard it right well; though 
he locks his lids, full little he sleeps. By 
each cock that crew he knew well the hour. 
Promptly he leaped up ere the day sprang, 
for there was the light of a lamp that 
gleamed in his chamber. He called to his 
chamberlain, who quickly answered him, 
and bade him bring his bnrnie and saddle 
his horse. The chamberlain gets up and 
fetches him his weeds, and arrays Sir 
Gawain in proper fashion. First he dressed 
him in his clothes to keep out the cold, and 
then he put on the rest of his harness, that 
had been well kept, both mail and plate, 
and brightly polished. The rings of his rich 
bnrnie had been rocked from the rust, 1 and 
all was fresh as at first; and Gawain was 
i That is, In a barrel of Band. 



fain to give thanks for it. The attendant 
had wiped each piece well and often. Then 
the noblest man betwixt here and Greece 
bade his steed be brought. 

2. Meanwhile, he threw upon himself his 
finest weeds ; his surcoat with its *eg*-,-n 
cftitoe of excellent work, virtuous stones set 
upon velvet, all wrought about and bound 
with embroidered seams, and fairly furred 
withiu with rare skins. Yet left he not the 
lace, the lady's gift, that forgot not 
Gawain for his own good. When he had 
belted his brand upon his broad haunches, 
he dressed his love-token double about him, 
the knight swathed sweetly about his waist 
the girdle of green silk, which became him 
well, upon the royal red cloth that was fair to 
see. But this hero wore not the girdle for 
its wealth, for pride of the pendants, though 
they were polished, and though the glitter- 
ing gold gleamed on the ends; but to save 
himself when it behoved him to suffer, to 
await his doom without resistance, with no 
brand or knife to defend him. By this the 
good man is ready and goes out quickly. 
Full often he thanks the distinguished com- 
pany. 

3. Gringolet the huge and strong was2<K 
ready, who had been kept skilfully iu the 
safest manner. The proud horse in his 
splendid condition longed for spurring. 
The hero approached him, noticed his coat, 
and said soberly, and by his sooth swore 

" Here, in this castle, is a company that are 
mindful of courtesy. The man who main- 
tains them, joy may he have; the dear lady, 
love betide her in this life, since they for 
charity cherish a guest and uphold honor in 
their hand. May the Being reward them 
who holds the heaven on high and also 
you all. And if I might live any longer in 
the world I should give you some reward if 
I could." Then he stepped into stirrup and 
strode aloft. His servant offered him his 
shield; he put it on his shoulder. He spurred 
Gringolet with his gilt heels, and the steed 
jumped on the stone; no longer he stood 
still, but pranced. Gawain's -swvant, who 
bore his lance and helm, was by then on the 
horse. "This castle I entrust to Christ; 
may he give it aye good chance ! " 

4. The bridge was let down, and the broad - 
gntes unbarred and borne open on both 
sides. The hero crossed himself quickly and 
passed the boards, praised the porter, who 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



knelt before him giving good day and pray- 
ing God that he save Gawaiii. And so he 
went on his way with his one man that 
should teach him how to find that dismal 
place where he should receive the rueful 
blow. They rode by banks where boughs 
are bare; they climbed by cliffs where the 
cold clings; the sky was upheld, but it was 
ugly beneath; mist hung on the moor and 
melted on the mount; each hill had a hat, a 
huge mist-cloak. Brooks boiled and broke 
from the banks about, shattering sheer on 
their shores where they showered down. 
Dreary was the way, where they should 
travel by the wood, till soon came the sea- 
son when the sun rises at that time. They 
were on a hill full high, the white snow 
about them, when the man that rode beside 
him bade his master abide. 

"f / 5. "I have brought you hither, sir, at 
this time ; and now ye are not far from that 
famous spot that ye have asked and in- 
quired so specially after. But I shall say to 
you forsooth, since I know you, and ye are 
a man that I love well, if ye would work 
by my wit ye should be the better for it. The 
place that ye press to is held full perilous. 
There dwells in that waste a wight the 
worst upon earth; for he is stiff and stern 
and loves to strike ; and greater he is than 
any man in the world, and his body bigger 
than the four best that are in Arthur's 
house, and bigger than Hector or any other. 
/He mnintaino that adventure at the green~ 

-chapel. There passes by that place none so 
proud in arms but he dins him to death 
with dint of his hand. For he is a man with- 
out measure and uses no mercy; for be it 
churl or chaplain that rides by the chapel, 
monk or mass-priest, or any man else, he 
likes as well to kill him as to go alive him- 
self. Therefore I tell ye as truly as ye sit 
in the saddle, come ye there ye shall be 
killed trust me well though ye had 
twenty lives to spend. He has dwelt here 
full long and caused much strife in the 
laud. Against his sore dints ye cannot de- 
fend yourself. 

fc 6. " Therefore, good Sir Gawain, let the 
fellow alone, and go away some other road, 
for God's sake. Repair to some other coun- 
try, where Christ may speed you; and I 
shall hie me home again, and promise you 
further which I will swear by God and 
all his good saints, so help me God and the 



and oaths enough that I will 
loyally conceal you, and never tell tale that 
ever ye fled for any man that I know of." 

"Gramercy," quoth Gawain. And stetaly- 
he added. " Well worth thee, man, who 
wishes my good; and I well believe thou 
wouldst loyally conceal me. But if thou 
kept promise never so faithfully, and I gave 
up here, sought for fear to fly as you ad- 
vise, I were a knight coward ; I could not be 
excused. But I will go to the chapel what- 
ever chance may fall, and talk with that 
same man the tale that I like, be it good 
or evil, as it pleases fate to have it. Though 
he be a stern champion to cope with, and * 
armed with a club, full well can God man- { 
age to save his servants." 

7. " Mary ! " quoth that other man, 
" now thou sayest as much as that thou wilt 
take upon thyself thine own destruction; if 
it pleases thee to lose thy life, I shall not 
let nor hinder thee. Have here thy helm 
on thy head, thy spear in thy hand; and ride 
down this same lana. by yon rock-side till 
thou be brought to the bottom of the rugged 
valley; then look a little up the grassy slope 
on thy left hand, and thou shalt see in that 
ravine the chapel itself, and the burly man 
^on the fieldywho keeps it. Now farewell in 
God's name, Gawain the noble, for all the 
gold in the world I would not go with thee 
nor bear thee fellowship through this wood 
a foot further." 

At that the man turned his bridle in the 
wood, hit the horse with the heels as hard 
as he could; leaped over the land, and left 
the knight there all alone. 

"By God's self," quoth Gawain, " I will 
neither grieve nor groan. To God's will I 
am full obedient, and to him I have en- 
trusted myself." 

8. Then he spurs Gringolet and follows 
the path ; pushes in by a hollow beside a 
thicket; rides through the rough slope right 
to the dale; and then he looked about him, 
and wild it seemed to him. He saw no sign 
of dwelling anywhere around, but on both 
sides high steep banks, and rough hunched 
crags with projecting stones; the shadows 
of . tl^ -cliffs-seemed to him tffrritl. Then 
he paused and held back his horse, and oft 
changed his cheer while seeking the chapel. 
He saw none such on any side, and strange 
it seemed to him. But soon, a little dis- 
tance off on a grassy spot he descried a 









, 

\ T-VW-* 



26 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



mound as it were, a smooth hill by the bank 

of the stream near a ford of the flood that 

ran there. The burn bubbled there as if it 

were boiling. The knight urges his steed, 

and comes to the hill; lights nimbly down, 

-fie^" and ties the rein and his rich toidle to a 

U*^'tree by a rough branch; then he turns to 

the hill and walks about it, debating with 

himself what it might be. It had a hole at 

the end and on either side, and was over- 

- grown with grass in slumps everywhere, 

and was all hollow within nothing but an 

. ifsNold cave or a crevice of an old crag. He 

could not understand it at all. " Alas, Lord," 

quoth the gentle knight, " can this be the 

green chapel ? Here about midnight the 

devil might tell his matins." 

V \ % *] 9. " Now," quoth Gawain, " it certainly is 
mysterious here; this oratory is ugly, over- 
grown with herbs. Well it beseems the 
wight clad in green here to do his devotions 
in the devil's wise. Now I feel in my five 
^ wits it is the fiend that has made this bar- 
~ j^jy^- )gain with me, to destroy me here. This is 
a chapel of mischance; may ill fortune be- 
tide it ! It is the cursedest kirk that ever I 
came in ! " 

With high helm on his head, his lance in 
his hand, he strides up to .the rock of the 
rude dwelling. Then he heard from that 
high hill, in a rough cave, on a bank beyond 
the brook, a marvellously savage noise. Lo, 
the cliff clattered as though it would split, 
as if one were grinding a scythe on a grind- 
stone. It whirred and screeched like water 
at a mill; it rushed and rang that it was 
ruth to hear. 

" By God," quoth Gawain then, " that 
gear, I fancy, is being prepared to give me 
a good reception. Yet though I must lose 
my life, fear shall never make me change 
colour." 

10. Then the knight called full high: 
" Who UwUe in this place to keep covenant 
with me ? For now the good Gawain is 
passing right here. If any wight wishes 
ought, let him come hither fast, now or 
never, to fulfill his need ! " 

" Abide ! " quoth one on the bank over 
his head. " Thou shalt have in all haste 
that which I promised thee once." 

Yet he kept on with that noise sharply for 
a while, turning and whetting, ere he would 
come down. And then he annsged by a crag 
and came from a hole, whirling out of a 



dark place with a fell weapon a Danish 
axe new dight, to give the blow with. It 
had fast to the helve a great head, sharp- 
ened on the stone. Four feet long was the 
weapon no less, by that lace that gleamed 
full bright. And the man in the green was I 
arrayed as before both his skin and his 
limbs, locks, and beard; save that on foot 
he Btsidos fairly on the earth. He set the > 
steel shaft to the stone and stalked beside .^ 
it. When he came to the water, where he 
did not wish to wade, he hopped over on 
his axe, and fiercely, advanced, with sav-' 1 - 
age ferocity pacing the broad snow-covered 
glade. Sir Gawain met the knight and 
bowed to him, not at all low. The other 
said, " Now, sweet sir, in a covenant a man 
can trust thee." 

11. " Gawain," quoth the green warrior,^ 
" may God preserve thee. Indeed thou art 
welcome, hero, to my place; and thou hast 
timed thy travel as a true man should. And 
thou knowest the covenants made between 
us; at this time twelve month, thoujookestjlt 
what fell/to thee, and I^t this New Year 
was to repay you-Mra$Ssi3%r. And now we 
are in this valley entirely alone ; here are 
no men to part us, however we may behave. 
Have thy helm off thy head, and have here 
thy pay. Make no more debate than I of- 
fered thee then, when thou whipped off my 
head at one blow." 

"Nay," quoth Gawain, "by God that 
lent me life, I shall grudge thee not a whit^< 
whatever misfortune falls. But arrange thee 
for thy one stroke, and I shall stand still 
and hinder thee not the least from doing 
the work as you like." 

He bent the neck and bowed down, show- 
ing the flesh all bare ; and behaved as if he 
cared not. For no dread would he flinch. 

12. Then the man in the green got ready *i~ 
quickly, gathered up his grim tool to smite 
Gawain. With all the might in his body he 
bare it aloft, and aimed a savage blow as 
though he wished to kill him. Had it driven 
down as earnestly as he feinted, the ever 
doughty one would have been dead of his 
dint. But Gawain glanced to-_one-si4e en > 
the gisarml as it came gliding down to slay 
him there in the glade, and shrank a little 
with the shoulders from the sharp iron. 
The other warrior with a quick motion 
withheld the bright weapon, and then he 
reproved the prince with many proud words. 

H 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



27 



"Thou art not Gawain," said the man, 
" who is held so good, who never flinched 
,^ for any ar-my by hill nor by vale ; and now 
thou fleest for fear before thou feelest any 
harm. Such cowardice I never heard of 
that knight. I neither winced, nor fled, sir. 
when thou didst strike, nor med any w*es 
in King Arthur's house. My head flew to 
my foot, and yet I never budged; and thou, 
ere any harm taken, art fearful in heart. 
Wherefore the better man I ought to be 
called for it." 

" I flinched once," quoth Gawain, " and 
will do so no more. Yet if my head should 
fall on the stones, I cannot restore it. 
v- 13. " But make ready, sir, by thy faith, 
and bring me to the point. Deal to me my 
destiny, and do it promptly; for I shall 
stand thee a stroke, and not start again till 
thine axe has hit me have here my troth." 

" Have at thee then ! " quoth the other, 
-; and heaves it aloft, and BJaa>as savagely 
as if he were mad. He strikes at him 
mightily, but touches the man not; for he 
withheld his hand cleverly ere it could hurt. 
Gawain awaits it properly and flinches with 
no member, but stands still as a stone, or a 
stump that is twisted into the rocky ground 
with a hundred roots. 

Then merrily spoke the man in the green: 
"So, now thou hast thy heart whole it be- 
hoves me to hit. Now keep back the fine 
hood that Arthur gave thee, and see if thou 
canst keep thy neck whole from this stroke." 

Said Gawain in great nnger: " Why, thrash 
on, thou wild man ! Thou threatenest too 
long. I guess that thine own heart is timid! " 

"Forsooth," quoth the other warrior, 

" thou speakest so fiercely that I will not 

delay thine errand a bit longer." Then he 

'takes his -strirte to strike and knits both 

brow and lip. No wonder Gawain mislikes 

it and gives up all thought of escape. 

q 14. Lightly he lifts his axe and lets the 

edge come down fowriyon the bare neck. 

l Yet though he smote rudely, it hurt him but 

little; only cut him on one side so that it 

severed the skin. The sharp bit reached the 

flesh through the fair fat, so that the bright 

blood shot over his shoulders to the earth. 

And when the hero saw the blood glint on 

the snow, he leaped forth/ more than a 

spear's length, eagerly seized his helm, cast 

it on his head, threw his shoulders under 

his fair shield, pulled out a bright sword 



and fiercely spoke. Never in this world 
since he was born of his mother was he half 



" Cease, sir, of thy blow ! Offer me no 
more. I have without strife taken a stroke 
in this place; and if thou givest me more, I 
shall promptly repay and yield qiuii4y 
again, trust thou that! Only one stroke falls 
to me here. The covenant which we made 
in Arthur's halls provided just that; and 
therefore, courteous sir, now hold ! " 

15. The warrior turned from him and 
rested on his axe. He set the shaft on the 
ground, leaned on the head, and beheld 
how the douglity hero stood his ground 
grimly, fully armed and devoid of fear. In 
his heart it pleased him. Then with a great 
voice, and a huge laugh, he spoke merrily 
to the hero: "Bold sir, in this place be not 
so savage. Nobody has here unmannerly 
mishandled thee, nor done but according to 
covenant made at the king's court. I prom- 
ised thee a stroke and thou hast it; hold 
thee well paid. I release thee of the rem- 
nant, of all other rights. If I had been skil- 
ful peradventure I could have given you a 
worse buffet. First I menaced you merrily 
with a pure feint, and gave thee no blow; 
which was but justice, considering the cov- 
enant which we made on the first night, and 
which thou held with me trustily; for truly 
all the gain thou gave me as a good man 
should. The second feint this morning, 
sir, I proffered thee, because thou didst kiss 
my fair wife and didst hand the kisses over 
to me ; for these two occasions I gave thee 
here but two bare feints without harm. A 
true man truly restores; such an one need 
dread no harm. At the third time thou 
didst fail ; and so take thee that tap. 

16. "For it is my weed that thou wear- 
est, that same woven girdle. Mine own 
wife gave it thee, I know well, forsooth. 
Now know I well thy kisses, and thy vir- 
tues also. And as for the wooing of my 
wife, I managed it myself. I sent her to 
try thee, and truly it seems to me thou art 
the most faultless hero that ever went on 
-uyj. As a pearl is of greater price than 
white peas, so is Gawain, in good faith, 
compared with other gay knights. But in 
this case, sir, you lacked a little, and loy- 
alty failed you. But that was for no amor- "U 
pus work, nor wooing either, but because 

ye loved your life, the less I blame you." 



28 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 










That other brave man stood a great while 
in a study; so stricken was he for grief that 
he groaned within. All the blood of his 
breast rushed to his face; and he shrank for 
shame when the warrior talked. This was 
the first word that the man spoke "Cursed 
oowardiee and covetousness both! In you 
is villainy and vice, that destroy virtue." 
Then he caught at the knot and loosed the 
fastening ; fiercely reached the belt to the 
warrior himself. "Lo! there is the decep- 
tion, foul may it fall! For fear of thy knock 
| cowardice taught me to make a truce with 
| covetousness, to forsake my nature, which 
' is generosity and loyalty, that belong to 
knights. Now am I faulty and false, and a 
pnwnjd JiaYft BVPT: been. rom treachery 
and untruth ever come sorrow and care. 
Here I confess to you, knight, that my con- 
duct is all faulty. Let me \^Hit j^ase_jrou 
now, and after I shall beware."" 

17. Then the other laughed and said 
courteously: " I hold it qmter emedied , the 
harm that I had. Thou hast made a clean 
confession, acknowledging all thy misde&5, 
an6T hast received the-oenance openly from 
the point. of niy edge. I hold thee quit of 
that plight, and purified as clean as if thou 
hadst never forfeited since tboti was first 
born. And I give thee, sir, the girdle that 
| is gold hemmed. Since it is green, as is 
I my gown Sir Gawain, ye may think upon 
this same adventure where thou goest forth 
among great princes; and this shall be a 
genuine token among chivalrous knights of 
the adventure of the green chapel, and ye 
shall come again this New Year to my 
dwelling, and we shall revel the remnant 
of this rich feast full well." The lord 
pressed the invitation and said, " With my 
wife, who was your great enemy, I think 
we shall reconcile you." 

>-j 18. "Nay, forsooth," quoth the hero; 
and seizing his helm, he took it off quickly 
thanked the warrior. " I have had a 
good visit, bliss betide you; and may He 
pay you well who directs all merciesi. Com- 
mend me to that courteous one, your comely 
mate ; both the one and the other, my hon- 
oured ladies, who have thus with their craft 
quaintly beguiled their knight. But it is 
no wonder that a fool should rave, and 
through wiles of women be won to sorrow. 
For so was Adam beguiled by one, and 
Solomon by many, indeed ; and Samson also, 

f^ 

AW^~\ 



i . , 



Delilah dealt him his weij?d and David 
thereafter was deceived by Bethsheba, who 
suffered much sorrow. Since these men 
were plagued by their wiles, it were a huge 
gain to love them well and believe them 
not if a person but could ; for these men 
were of old the best, and the most fortu- 
nate, excellent above all others under the 
heavens; and all they were beguiled by 
women whom they had to do with. 1 If I be 
now deceived, meseems I might be ex- 
cused. 

19. "But your girdle," quoth Gawain,! '+ 
" God reward you for it ! That will I keep 
with good will; not for the precious gold, 
nor the anmiter nor the silk, nor the *'iAo 
pendants, for its wealth nor for its beauty 
nor for its fine work; bjit in sign of my 
fault I shall behold it oft; WEeii I ride in 
renown I shall lament to myself the fault 
and the deceit of the crabbed flesh, how 
tender it is to catch stains of filth; and 
thus when pride shall prick me for prowess 
of arms, a look on this love-lace shall mod- 
erate my heart. But one thing I would 
pray you may it displease you not 
since ye are lord of the land yonder where 

I have stayed worshipf ully with you 
may the Being who upholds the heaven 
and sits on high repay you for it I how 
name ye your right name ? and then no 
more." 

" That shall I tell thee truly," quoth the 
other then. " Ber^lak de Hautdesert I am ' * J 
called in this land through the might of 
Morgen la Fay, who dwells in my house. 
She lias acquired deep learning, hard-won 

skill, many of the masteries , of Merlin i 

P i i J , jF SiT ' ' >1 v -. -, 

tor she has at times dealt in rare inagto y 

with that renowned clerk, who knows all 
your knights at home. Morgan the Goddess 
is therefore her name; no_person is so 
haughty but she can tame him. 

20. " She sent me in this wise to your rich - : f 
hall to assay its pride and try if it were | 
true that circulates about the great renown 
of the Round Table. She prepared for me 
this wonder to take away your wits, to have 
grieved Guinevere and caused her to die 
through fright of that same HW, that 
ghostly speaker with his head in his hand 
before the high table. That is she, the 
ancient lady at home. She is even thine 
aunt, Arthur's half-sister, the daughter of 

i Ibis passage is none too clear. 



SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT 



29 



that Duchess of Tintagel upon whom dear 
Uther afterwards begot Arthur, that is now 
king. Therefore, I beg you, sir, to come to 
thine aunt; make merry in my house ; my 
people love thee, and I like thee as well, sir, 
by my faith as I do any man under God 
for thy great truth." 

But he answered him nay, he would in 
no wise. They embraced and kissed, each 
entrusted other to the Prince of Paradise, 
and they parted right there in the cold. Ga- 
wain on horse full fair rides boldly to the 
king's court, and the knight all in green 
whithersoever he would. 
9, 21. Wild wavs in the world Gawain now 
rides on Gringolet, he who had- got the 
boon of his life. Oft he harboured in houses, 
and oft without; and many an adventure in 
vale he had, and won oft; but that I care 
not at this time to mention in my tale. The 
hurt was whole that he had got in his neck; 
and he bare the glistening belt about him, 
crossed obliquely like a baldric, the lace 
fastened under his left arm with a knot, in 
token that he was taken in a fault. And thus 
he comes to the court, the knight all sound. 
There wakened joy in that dwelling when 
the great ones knew that good Gawain had 
come; joyous it seemed to them. The king 
kisses the knight, and the queen also; and 
afterwards many a sure knight, who sought 
to embrace him and asked him of his jour- 
ney. And wondrously he tells it, confess- 
ing all the trials that he had, the adventure 
of the chapel, the behavior of the knight, 
the love of the lady and, at the last, the 
lace. He showed them the nick in his neck 



that he caught at the lord's hands for his 
irplojajty. He grieved when he had to tell 
it; he groaned for sorrow, and the blood 
rushed to his face for shame when he de- 
clared it. 

22. "Lo! lord," quoth the hero, as he ? 
handled the lace, " this that I bear in my 
neck is the badge of this blame. This is the . 
evil_and the loss that I have got from the vM^r> 
cowardice and covetousness that I showed 
there. This is the token of untruth that I 
am taken in, and I must needs wear it while 
I may last; foregone may hide his shame 
without mishapSJor where it once is in- 
curred, depart will it never." 

The king and all the court comfort the 
knight. They .laugh loud at his tele, and 
lovingly agree that Tlie lords and ladies 
that belong to the Table, each knight of 
the brotherhood, should have a baldric, an 
oblique band about him of a bright green, 
and wear that for the sake of the hero. 
And that emblem was accorded the renown 
of the Round Table, and he was ever after 
honoured that had it. 

As it is told in the best book of romance, 
thus in Arthur's day this adventure betid, 
which the Bjnatus books bear witness of. 
After Brutus the bold hero first came 
hither, when the siege and the assault had 
ceased at Troy, many adventures of this 
sort happened. Now may He that bore the 
crown of thorns bring us to bis bliss. 
AMEN. 



HONY SOIT QUI MAL PENCE. 

/ S> "t-_A 

^t^-t^A*- 1 
-U 



WILLIAM LANGLAND(?) 



THE VISION OF WILLIAM CON- 
CERNING PIERS THE 
PLOUGHMAN 

VERSION A 
PROLOGUE 

IN a summer season, when soft was the 
sun, 

I clad me in rough clothing, a shepherd as 
I were; 

In habit of a hermit, unholy of works, 

Went I wide in this world, wonders to hear. 

But on a May morning on Malvern Hills 

To nie befell a marvel, a fairy thing me- 
thouglit. 

I was weary of wandering and went me to 
rest 

Under a broad bank by a burn side; 

And as I lay and leaned and looked on the 
waters, 

I slumbered in a sleep, it sounded so pleas- 
ant. 10 
Then did I dream a marvellous dream, 

That I was in a wilderness, wist 1 not 
where; 

And as I behi'ld into the east, on high to 
the sun, 

I saw a tower on a hill-top, splendidly fash- 
ioned ; 

A deep dale beneath, a dungeon therein, 

With a deep ditch and dark, and dreadful 

to see. 

A fair field full of folk found I there 
between, 

Of all manner of men, the mean and the 
rich, 

Working and wandering, as the world re- 
quireth. 

Some put them to the plow, and played 
full seldom, 20 

In plowing and sowing produced they full 
hardly 

What many of these wasters hi gluttony 
destroy. 

And some gave themselves to pride, ap- 
pareled them accordingly, 



In fashion of clothing strangely disguised. 

To prayer and to penance put themselves 
many, 

For love of our Lord lived they full hard, 

In hope to have the bliss of heaven's king- 
dom, 

As anchorites and bermits that hold them- 
selves in cells, 

Covet not in the co.mt-y to gad all about, 

With luxurious living their body to please. 
And some chose trade, to prosper the 
better, 31 

As it seems to our sight that such men 
should; 

And some mirth to make, as minstrels can, 

And get gold with their glee, guiltless, I 

trow. 

But jesters and buffoons, Judas's chil- 
dren, 

Found for themselves fantasies and of 
themselves fools made, 

Yet have their wits at command, to work 
if tbey will. 

What Paul preached of them I dare not 
prove here; 

Qui loquitur turpiloquium, 1 he is Lucifer's 

servant. 
Askers and beggars fast about flitted, 40 

Till their bags and their bellies brimful 
were crammed ; 

Feigned for their food, fought at the ale- 
house; 

In gluttony, God wot, go they to bed 

And rise up with ribaldry, these bullying 
beggar-knaves ; 

Sleep and sloth follow them ever. 

Pilgrims and palmers pledge themselves 
together 

To seek the shrine of St. James and saints 
at Rome; 

Went forth in their way with many wise 
tales, 

And had leave to lie all their life after. 

Hermits in a band with hooked staves 50 

Went to Walsingham, and their wenches 
after. 

i He who speaketh baseness. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



Great lubbers and long, that loath were 

to work, 
Clothed themselves in capes to be known 

for brethren, 
And some dressed as hermits their ease to 

have. 

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

bellies, 

Interpreting the gospel as they well please, 
For covetousuess of capes construes it ill; 
For many of these masters may clothe 

themselves at will, 
For money and their merchandise meet oft 

together. 60 

Since Charity hath turned trader, and 

shriven chiefly lords, 
Many wonders have befallen in these few 

years. 
Unless Holy Church now be better held 

together 
The most mischief on earth will mount up 

fast. 
There preached a pardoner, as he a priest 

were, 

And brought up a bull with bishop's seals, 
And said he himself would absolve them all 
From breach of fasting and broken vows. 
The laymen liked him well, believed his 

speech, 
And came up kneeling and kissed his 

bull; 70 

He banged them with his brevet, 1 and 

bleared their eyes, 
And purchased with his parchment rings 

and brooches. 

Thus ye give your gold gluttony to help, 
And grant it to rascals that run after 

lechery. 
Were the bishop holy and worth both his 

ears, 
They should not be so brazen to deceive so 

the people. 
Yet it is not against the bishop that the 

knave preacheth; 
But the parish priest and pardoner share 

the silver 
That the poor parishioners should have but 

for them. 
Parsons and parish priests complain to 

their bishops 80 

That their parish hath been poor since tha 

pestilence 2 time, 

1 Letter of indulgence. 

Probably the great plague of 1348-1349. 



And ask leave and licence at London to 

dwell 
To sing there for simony, 8 for silver is 

sweet. 
There hang about a hundred in hoods of 

silk, 

Sergeants, it seems, to serve at the bar; 
Plead at the law for pence and for pounds, 
Not for love of our Lord unloose their lips 

once. 
Thou mightest better measure the mist on 

Malvern hills 
Than get a mum of their mouth till money 

be shown. 
I saw there bishops bold and bachelors 

of divinity 90 

Become clerks of account, the king to 

serve; 
Archdeacons and deacons, that dignity 

have 
To preach to the people and poor men to 

feed, 
Have leapt to London, by leave of their 

bishops, 
To be clerks of the King's Bench, to the 

country's hurt. 
Barons and burgesses, and husbandmen 

also, 
I saw in that assembly, as ye shall hear 

hereafter. 

Bakers, butchers, and brewers many, 
Woollen weavers, and weavers of linen, 
Tailors, tanners, and fullers also, 100 

Masons, miners, and many other crafts, 
Ditchers and delvers, that do their work ill, 
And drive forth the long day with "Dieu 

vous sauve, dame Emma." 4 
Cooks and their boys cry " Hot pies, hot ! 
Good geese and pigs, gn dine, go dine 1 " 
Taverners to them told the same tale 
With good wine of Gascony and wine of 

Alsace, 

Of Rhine and of Rochelle, the roast to di- 
gest. 
All this I saw sleeping, and seven times 

more. 

PASSUS I 
What this mountain meaneth, and this dark 

dale, 
And this fair field full of folk, fairly I 

shall you show. 

* Getting money singing anniversary masses for the 
dead. 

" God save you, dame Emma " apparently a popu- 
lar song. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



A lady lovely in face, in linen clothed, 
Came down from the cliff, and called me 

gently, 
And said, " Son, sleepest thou ? Seest thou 

these people 

All how busy they be about vanity ? 
The most part of the people that pass now 

on earth, 
If they have honour in this world, they care 

for nothing better; 
Of other heaven than here they have no 

regard." 
I was afraid of her face, though she fair 

were, 10 

And said, " Pardon, madame, what does this 

mean ? " 
" This tower and this hill," quoth she, 

" Truth is therein, 
And would that ye wrought as his word 

teacheth, 

For he is Father of faith, that formed you all 
Both with skin and with face, and gave you 

five senses 
For to worship him therewith, while ye be 

here, 
And because he commanded the earth to 

serve you each one 
With woollen, with linen, with livelihood at 

need, 

In moderate manner, to put you at ease, 
And commanded of his courtesy in common 

three things, 20 

Their names are needful and to name them 

I propose 
By rule and by reason, to rehearse them as 

follows: 
The one clothing is, from chill you to 

save, 

And the second meat at meals, against dis- 
comfort of thyself; 
And drink when thou art dry, but do it not 

out of reason 
So that thou be the worse when thou work 

shouldest. 

Dread delightful drink, and thou shalt do 
the better: 32 

Moderation is medicine, though you crave 
much. 

All is not good for the soul that pleaseth 
the body, 

Nor all food to the body that is dear to the 
soul. 

Believe not thy body, for a liar him teach- 
eth 



(That is, the wicked world) thee to be- 
tray. 

For the fiend and thy flesh follow together 

And injure thy soul set it in thy heart; 

And that thou shouldest beware, I teach 
thee the better." 40 

" Ah, madame, merci," quoth I, " thy 
words please me well. 

But the money on this earth, that men so 
fast hold, 

Tell me to whom that treasure belongeth." 
"Go to the Gospel," quoth she, "that 
God speaks himself, 

When the people asked him about a penny 
in the temple, 

If they should honor therewith Caesar their 
king. 

And he asked of them of whom spake the 
lettering, 

And whom the image was like that thereon 
stood. 

' Caesar,' they said, ' we see well, each one.' 

Reddite ergo quae sunt Caesaris Caesari et 
quae sunt Dei Deo. 1 

' Then render,' quoth Christ, ' what to Cae- 
sar belongeth, 50 

And what is God's to God, or else ye do 
ill.' 

For Right Reason should rule you all, 

And Common Sense be warden, our wealth 
to guard, 

And tower of our treasure to give it you at 
need; 

For husbandry and he hold well together." 
Then I asked her fairly, for [the sake of] 
him that made her, 

"That dungeon in that deep vale, that 
dreadful is to see, 

What may it mean, madame, I thee be- 
seech," 

"That is the Castle of Care," quoth she; 
" whoso cometh therein 

May curse that he was born to body or to 
soul. 60 

Therein dwelleth a wight that Wrong is 
called, 

Father of falseness, he founded it him- 
self. 

Adam and Eve he egged on to do ill; 

Counselled Cain to kill his brother; 

Judas he cheated with the Jews' silver, 

And on an elder tree hanged him after. 

He is a hinderer of love, and lieth to all 
those 

Matthew, xxii, 20. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



33 



That trust in their treasure, wherein is no 

truth." 

Then had I wonder in my wits what wo- 
man it might be 
That such wise words of Holy Writ me 

showed ; 7 o 

And I greeted her in the High Name, ere 

she thence went, 
What she might be indeed that taught me 

so fairly. 
"Holy Church I am," quoth she, "thou 

oughtest to know me, 
I received thee first, and thy faith taught 

thee. 
Thou broughtest me pledges my bidding to 

do, 
And loyally to love me, while thy life 

lasted." 
Then kneeled I on my knees and cried 

to her for grace, 
And prayed her piteously to pray for our 

sins, 
And eke to teach me kindly on Christ to 

believe, 
That I might work the will of Him that 

made me a man. 80 

"Show me no treasure, but tell me this 

same: 
How I may save my soul, thou that holy 

art held." 
" When all treasure is tested, truth is the 

best; 

I appeal to 'God is Love ' to judge the truth. 
It is as precious a jewel as dear God him- 
self. 
For whoso is true of his tongue, and telleth 

naught else, 
Doth his work with truth, and doth no man 

ill; 
He is accounted of the Gospel, on earth and 

above, 
And also likened to our Lord, by Saint 

Luke's words. 
Clerks that know it should teach it about, 90 
For Christians and non-Christians, each 

claims it for himself. 
Kings and knights should conduct them- 
selves reasonably, 

And rightly roam the realms about, 
And take trespassers and tie them fast 
Till truth had determined the trespass to 

the end. 

For David, in his days, he dubbed knights, 
Made them swear on their sword to serve 

truth ever, 



That is plainly the profession that per- 

taiueth to knights, 
And not to fast one Friday in five score 

years, 
But to hold with men and women that 

seek the truth, 100 

And leave off for no love nor grasping of 

gifts; 
And he that oversteps that point is apostate 

of the order, 

For Christ, king of kings, knighted ten, 
Cherubim and Seraphim, seven such and 

another, 1 
And gave them mastery and might, in his 

majesty, 

And over his army made them archangels, 
And taught them through the Trinity truth 

to know, 
And to be obedient to his bidding, he bade 

them naught else. 

Lucifer with legions learned it in heaven. 
He was loveliest to see, after our Lord, no 
Till he broke obedience through boast of 

himself. 
Then fell he with his fellows, and fiends 

they became, 

Out of heaven into hell hobbled fast, 
Some into the air, and some to the earth, and 

some into hell deep; 
But Lucifer lieth lowest of them all; 
For pride that he put on, his pain hath no 

end. 

And all that work wrong, wend they shall| 
After their death day, and with that devil 

dwell. 
But they that work that word that Holy 

Writ teacheth, 
And end, as I said before, in profitable 

works, 120 

May be sure that their souls shall to heaven, 
Where Truth is in Trinity and crowueth 

them all. 

For I say certainly, in view of the texts, 
When all treasure is tried, Truth is the best. 
Teach it to the ignorant, for the lettered 

know it, 
That Truth is a treasure, the finest on 

earth." 
"Yet have I no natural knowledge," 

quoth I, "thou must tench me better, 
By what power in my body it beginueth, 

and where." 
"Thou dotest, dolt," quoth she, "dull are 

thy wits. 

B C. A reads an al the Jour ordret. 



34 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



It is a natural knowledge that tells thee in 

the heart 130 

For to love thy lord liefer than thyself; 
No deadly sin to do, die though thou 

shouldest. 
This, I trow, is Truth ! Whoso can teach 

thee better 
See that thou suffer him to say it, and then 

teach it further ! 
For thus teacheth us His Word work 

thou thereafter 
That Love is the liefest thing that our Lord 

asketli, 
And eke the plant of peace. Preach it to 

thy harp 
Where thou art merry at thy meat, when 

men bid thee sing; 
For from the heart's own wisdom springeth 

the song. 
That belongs to the Father that formed 

us all, 140 

He looked on us with love, and let His 

Son die 

Meekly for our misdeeds, to amend us all. 
And yet wished He no woe to them that 

wrought Him that pain, 
But meekly with mouth inercy He be- 
sought, 
To have pity on that people that tortured 

Him to death. 

Here thou mightest see example, in Him- 
self alone, 
How He was mighty and meek, that mercy 

did grant 
To them that hanged him high, and his 

heart pierced. 
Therefore I recommend the rich to have 

ruth on the poor, 
Though ye be mighty at law, be meek in 

your works. 150 

Eadem mensura qua mensi fueritis, reme- 

cietur vobis. 1 
For the same measure that ye mete, amiss 

or otherwise, 
Ye shall be weighed therewith, when ye 

wend hence. 

For though ye be true of tongue, and hon- 
estly win, 
And eke as chaste as a child that in church 

weepeth, 

Unless ye live truly and also love the poor, 
And such good as God sent truly share, 
Ye Lave no more merit in mass nor in 

hours 

i Matthew, vii, 2. 



Than Mawkin of her maidenhood that no 

man desire th. 

For James the gentle bound it in his book, 
That faith without works is feebler than 

nothing, 160 

And dead as a doornail unless the deed 

follow. 
Chastity without charity know thou in 

truth 
Is as useless as a lamp that no light is 

in. 
Many chaplains are chaste, who charity 

have none; 
No men than they are harder when they 

are advanced; 

Unkind to their kin and to all Christians; 
They devour their own alms and demand 

ever more. 
Such chastity without charity will be 

claimed 2 in hell. 
Curates that should keep themselves clean 

in their bodies, 
They are cumbered with care and cannot 

escape it, 170 

So hard are they with avarice clamped to- 
gether; 

That is no truth of the Trinity, but treach- 
ery of hell, 
And a teaching of laymen more grudgingly 

to give. 

For these are words written in the evangel, 
Date et dabitur vobis ; 8 for I deal to you 

all 
Your grace and your good hap, your wealth 

to win, 
And therewith acknowledge me naturally 

for what I send you. 
This is the lock of Love that letteth out my 

grace 
To comfort the careworn, cumbered with 

sin. 
Love is the liefest thing that our Lord 

asketh, 180 

And eke the straight way that goeth into 

heaven. 
Therefore I say as I said before, in view of 

these texts, 
When all treasures are tried, Truth is the 

best. 
Now have I told thee what Truth is, that 

no treasure is better, 
I may no longer linger; now our Lord keep 

thee ! " 

B chained. 

Give auJ it shall be given unto you, Luke, vi, 38. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



35 



PASSUS II 

Yet kneeled I on my knees, and cried to 

her for grace, 
And said, " Mercy, maclame, for the love 

of Mary of heaven, 
That bore the blessed babe, that bought us 

on the cross, 
Teach me the natural skill to know the 

False." 
" Look on the left hand," quoth she, " and 

see where he staiidetli, 
Both False and Flattery, and all his whole 

following ! " 
I looked on the left side, as the lady uie 

taught; 
Then was I ware of a woman, wonderfully 

clothed, 

Trimmed with fur, the richest upon earth, 
Crowned with a crown, the king hath no 

better. 10 

All her five fingers were furnished with 

rings 
Of the preciousest jewelry that prince ever 

wore. 

In red scarlet she rode, ribboned with gold, 
There is no queen more gorgeous that on 

earth quick is and alive. 
"What is this woman," quoth I, "thus 

wonderfully attired ? " 
"That is Meed, 1 the maiden," quoth she, 

"that hath me marred oft, 
And lied about my lore to lords about. 
In the Pope's palace she is as privy as myself; 
And so should she not be, for Wrong was 

her sire. 
Out of Wrong she sprang to misfortune of 

many. 20 

I ought to be higher than she, for I am 

better born. 
Tomorrow is the marriage made of Meed 

and False ; 
Flattery, with fair speech, hath brought 

them together, 
And Guile hath persuaded her to grant all 

his will. 
And all is by Liar's leading that they live 

together. 
Tomorrow is the marriage made, true as I 

tell thee, 
That thou might'st know, if thou wilt, what 

they all are 

1 Meed is properly reward; but the signification here 
.aries from legitimate payment to gross bribery. It is 
olteu best translated by "graft." 



That belong to that lordship, the great and 

the small. 
Know them there if thou canst, and keep 

thee from them all, 
If thou desirest to dwell with Truth in his 

bliss; 3 o 

Learn His law that is so loyal, and then 

teach it further. 

I may no longer linger, to our Lord I com- 
mend thee. 
And become a good man, spite of greed, I 

advise." 
When she was gone from me, I looked 

and beheld 
All this rich retinue that reigned with 

False 

Were bid to the bridal on both of the sides. 
Sir Simony is sent for, to seal the charters 
That False or Flattery at any price had 

gt, 

And dower Meed therewith, in marriage 
for ever. 

But there was nc ither hall nor house that 
might harbour the people 40 

That each field was nut full of folk all 

about. 

In midst of a mountain, at the hour of 
mid-morn ing 

Was pitched a pavilion, a proud one for the 
nonce; 

And ten thousand of tents spread out be- 
sides, 

For knights from the country and strangers 
about, 

For assizers, for summoncrs, for sellers, for 
buyers, 

For ignorant, for learned, for laborers in 
villages, 

And for the flattering friars, all the four 
orders, 

All to witness well what, the deed desired, 

In what manner Meed in marriage was en- 
dowed; 50 

To be fastened with False, the fee was 
levied. 

Then Flattery fetched her forth, and to 
False gave her 

On condition that False shall sustain her 
forever, 

She to be obedient and ready his bidding 
to fulfil, 

In bed and at board, obedient and courte- 
ous, 

And as Sir Simony shall say, to follow his 
will. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



Now Simony and Civil Law stand forth 

both, 

Unfolding the dowry that Falseness made, 
And thus began these men and bellowed 

full loud: 
" This know and witness, all that dwell on 

earth, 60 

That I, Flattery, endow False with that 

maiden Meed, 
To be present in pride, for poor or for 

rich, 1 

With the Earldom of Envy ever to last, 
With all the Lordship [of Lechery] 2 in 

length and in breadth; 
With the Kingdom of Covetousnass I crown 

them together, 
With the Isle of Usury and Avarice the 

false, 

Gluttony and great oaths I give them to- 
gether, 
With all delights and lusts the devil to 

serve, 
With all the service of Sloth I endow them 

together; 
To have and to hold, and all their heirs 

after, 70 

With the appurtenances of purgatory, into 

the pains of hell: 

Yielding for this thing, at the year's end, 
Their souls to Satan, to send into pain, 
There to dwell with Wrong, while God is 

in heaven." 
In witness of which thing Wrong was the 

first, 

Pierce the pardoner, a Pauline doctor, 
Bett the beadle of Buckinghamshire, 
Randolph the reeve of the Rutland district, 
Taborers and tumblers and tapsters many, 
Mund the miller and many more besides. 
In the date of the devil 3 the deed was 

sealed, 81 

In sight of Sir Simony and by notaries' 

signets. 
Then tormented was Theology when he 

this tale heard, 
And said to Civil Law, " Sorrow on thy 

head 
Such a wedding to make to render Truth 

wroth; 
And ere this wedding be wrought, woe thee 

betide ! 
For Meed is a wealthy one, a maiden with 

goods; 

1 B To be prynees inprydf and pnuerte to despise. 
B C. ' Presumably, in parody of Anno Domini. 



God grant us to give her where Truth will 

assign ! 
And thou hast given her to a trickster, God 

give thee sorrow ! 
The text telleth not so, Truth knows the 

sooth: 90 

Dignus est operarius mercede sua ; * 
'Worthy is the workman his hire to have;' 
And thou hast bestowed her on False, tie 

on thy law ! 

For lechers and liars lightly thou trustest, 
Simony and thyself injure Holy Church; 
Ye shall abide it both, by God that me 

made, 

At one year's end when ye reckon shall; 
He and these notaries annoy the people. 
For well ye know, deceivers, unless your 

wits fail, 

That False is a schemer, a shirker of work, 
And a bastard born of Beelzebub's kin. 100 
And Meed is a jewelled one, a maiden of 

gentry, 
She might kiss the king for cousin, if she 

would. 

Work by wisdom and then by wit, 
Lead her to London, where law is handled, 
See if legally it be allowed that they lie to- 
gether, 
And if the justice will adjudge her to be 

joined with False. 
Yet beware of the wedding, for wise is 

Truth, 
For Conscience is of his council, and know- 

eth you each one ; 
And if he find such defect that ye with False 

hold 
It shall oppress your souls sorely at 

last." IIO 

To this Civil Law assented, but Simony 

would not 

Till he had silver for his advice nnd his seal. 
Then fetched Flattery forth florins enough, 
And bade Gnile go and give gold about, 
And especially to these notaries that they 

have no lack; 

And fee False Witness with florins enough, 
For he can master Meed and make her do 

his will; 
For where falseness is often found, there 

faith faileth. 
When the gold was given, great were the 

thanks 
To False and to Flattery, for their fair 

gifts. 120 

Luke, x, 7. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



37 



Many came to comfort False agaiust care, 
And swore ou holy relics, " Cease shall we 

never 
Ere Meed be thy wedded wife, through 

wisdom of us all. 
For we have so mastered Meed with our 

smooth words 

That she agrees to go with a good will 
To London to look if the law will 
Judge you jointly to be joined for ever." 

Then was False fain, and Flattery blithe, 
And had all men called from the country 

about 
To array them ready, both burgesses and 

sheriffs, 130 

To wend with them to Westminster, to 

witness the deed. 
Then hunted they for horses to carry them 

thither; 

But Flattery fetched forth foals of the best, 
And set Meed . on the back of a sheriff 

newly shod, 
And False on a juror that softly trotted, 
(For Falseness against the faith jurors 

seduceth, 
Through cumbering of covetousness, to 

climb over truth, 
That the faith is down trodden and falsely 

defamed, 
And Falseness is become a lord, and lives 

as he likes) : 

Flattery on a fair speech, full finely at- 
tired; 140 
For fair speech without faith is brother to 

Falseness; 
And thus jurors are summoned to serve the 

false, 
And fair speech for Flattery who many 

deceives. 
Then notaries who had no horses, annoyed 

they were 
That Simony and Civil Law should go on 

foot. 

Then said Civil Law, and swore by the rood, 
That summoners should be saddled and 

serve them each one; 
" And have provisors appareled, in palfrey 

wise, 

Sir Simony himself shall sit on their backs, 
And all deans and sub-deans as prancers 

prepare 150 

For they shall bear bishops and bring them 

to rest. 
The people of the Paulines, for pleas in 

the consistory, 



Shall serve myself, who Civil Law am 

called; 
Put a cart saddle on our commissary, our 

cart he shall draw, 

And fetch our victuals from the fornicators; 
And make of Liar a long cart, to draw all 

these others, 

Story-tellers and frauds that on foot re- 
main." 

Now False and Flattery fare forth to- 
gether, 
And Meed in the midst, and all the crowd 

after. 
Leisure I lack to tell the train that follows 

them, 160 

Of as many manners of men as on earth 

live. 

But Guile was leader and guided them all. 
Soothness saw them well and said but little, 
But pricked on his palfrey, and passed 

them all, 

And came to the king's court, and Con- 
science told, 
And Conscience to the king repeated it 

again. 
"Now, by Christ," quoth the king, "if I 

might catch 

False or Flattery, or any of his fellows, 
I would be wreaked on these wretches that 

work so ill, 
And have them hanged by the neck, and 

all that maintain them; 170 

No man on earth shall bail out l the least 

of them, 
But right as the law decides, let it fall on 

them all. 
And command the constable, that came at 

the first, 

To attack the traitors, in spite of any bribe; 
I order you to fetter False fast, in spite of 

any kind of gifts, 
And to cut off Guile's head, let him go no 

further ; 

And bring Meed to me, in spite of them all. 
To Simony and Civil Law I send a warning 
That Holy Church for them is harmed for 

ever. 

And if ye catch Liar, let him not escape 180 
Being set on the pillory, in spite of any 

prayer ; 
I bid thee watch for them well, let none of 

them escape." 
Dread at the door stood, and the din 

heard, 

i B C. meynprise. A meyntene. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



And quickly went he to warn the False, 
And bade him flee fast, and his fellows too. 
Then False for fear fled to the friars, 
And Guile took to flight, in fear of death; 
But merchants met him, and made him 

abide, 
Besought him in their shops to sell their 

ware, 
Apparelled him as a 'prentice, the people to 

serve. 190 

Lightly Liar leapt away thence, 
Lurked through lanes, lugged about by 

many. 
He was nowhere welcome, spite of his many 

tales, 
But hunted out everywhere, and ordered 

to pack. 

Pardoners had pity, and took him indoors, 
Washed him and wrung [his clothes], and 

wound him in clouts, 
And sent him on Sundays with seals to 

churches, 

And for pence gave pardon, pounds at a time. 
This learned the leeches, and letters to him 

sent. 

To dwell with them, diagnoses to make. 100 
Grocers spake with him to look after their 

wares, 
For he had skill in their craft, and knew 

many gums. 
Minstrels and messengers met with him 

once, 
And held him back half a year and eleven 

weeks. 
Friars, with fair speeches, fetched him 

thence; 
That visitors might know him not, kept him 

like a friar; 
But he hath leuve to leap out, as often as 

he liketh, 
And is welcome when he will, and dwells 

with them oft. 

And all fled for fear and flew into cor- 
ners; 
Save Meed the maiden, no man dared 

abide; 210 

But, truly to tell, she trembled for fear, 
And wept, too, and wrung her hands, when 

she was arrested. 

PASSUS in 
Now is Meed the maiden taken, and no 

more of them all, 
By beadles and bailiffs, brought to the 

king. 



The king called a clerk, I know not his 

name, 
To take Meed the maiden, and make her at 

ease. 

" I shall try her myself, and truly inquire 
What man in this world would be dearest 

to her. 
And if she work by my wit, and my will 

follow, 
I shall forgive her the guilt, so help me 

God!" 
Courteously the clerk then, as the king 

commanded, 
Took the maiden by the middle, and 

brought her to the chamber. 10 

There was mirth and minstrelsy to please 

Meed withal. 
Those that dwell at Westminster worship 

her all. 

Gently, with joy, the Justice soon 
Repaired to the chamber where the lady 

was, 
Comforted her kindly, and made her good 

cheer, 
And said, " Mourn thou not, Meed, nor be 

thou sorrowful, 
For we will guide the king and thy way 

shape, 
For all the craft of Conscience, and scheme, 

as I trow, 

That thou shalt have both mipjht and mas- 
tery, and do what thou likest 
With the king and the commons, and the 

court too." 20 

Mildly then Meed thanked them all 
For their great goodness, and gave them 

each one 

Goblets of pure gold, and pieces of silver, 
Rings with rubies, and riches enough, 
The least of their company a mutton 1 of 

gold. 
Then took they their leave, these lordings, 

of Meed. 
With that there came clerks to comfort 

the same: 
" We bid thee be blithe, for we be thine 

own 

To work thy will, while our life lasteth." 
Courteously then she promised them the 

same, 30 

To love them loyally and make them 

lords, 
And in consistory at court to tell their 

names. 

i A gold coin. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



39 



" No ignorance shall hinder them, the most 

ignorant that I love, 
From being advanced ; for I am known 
Where learned clerks are left in the 

lurch." 
Then came there a confessor, caped like 

a friar; 

To Meed the maiden full meekly he bowed, 
And said full softly, as if it were in shrift, 
"Though learned and lay had all by thee 

lain, 
And though False had followed thee these 

fifteen winters, 40 

I shall absolve thee myself, for a load of 

wheat, 
And also be thy bawd, and bear well thy 

errand 
Among clerks and knights, to bring down 

Conscience." 
Then Meed, for her misdeeds, to that 

man kneeled, 
And shrove her of her sins, shamefully, I 

trow. 

She told him a tale, and gave him a noble 
To be her bedesman, and her bawd after. 
Then he absolved her soon, and next to her 

said, 
** We have a window a-making, will cost us 

full dear : 
If thou wouLlst glaze the gable, and grave 

therein thy name, 50 

Secure should thy soul be to dwell in 

heaven." 
"Knew I that," quoth the woman, "there 

is neither window nor altar, 
That I would n't make or mend, and my 

name write thereon, 
That each man should say, I should be sis- 
ter of your house." 
But God to all good folk such graving 

forbids, 
And saith, Nesciat sinistra quid faciat dex- 

tra : l 

1 Let not thy left hand, late nor early, 
Be aware what thy right hand works or be- 
stows.' 
But share it so secretly that pride be not 

seen 

Neither in sight nor in soul; for God him- 
self knoweth 
Who is courteous or kind, covetous or the 

contrary. 60 

Therefore, I teach you, lords, such writing 
to leave, 

i Matthew, vl, 3. 



The writing in windows of your good 
deeds, 

Or calling to God's people, when ye give 
your doles; 

Peradventure you have your hire for it 
here. 

For our Saviour it saitb, and himself 
preachetb, 

A men dico vobis, receperunt mercedem suam ; 2 

1 Here verily they have received their re- 
ward forthwith.' 

Mayors and masters, and ye that are go- 
betweens 

'Twixt the king and the commons, to guard 
the laws, 

To punish on pillories, or on cucking-stools, 

Brewers, bakers, butchers, and cooks, 70 

For these are the men on earth that most 
harm work 

To the poor people that buy in small par- 
cels. 

They pilfer from the people privily and oft, 

And grow rich through retailing, and buy 
themselves rents 

With what the poor people should put in 
their bellies. 

For if they acted honestly, they would not 
build so high, 

Nor buy burgh holdings, be ye certain. 

But Meed the maiden the mayor she be- 
sought 

From all such sellers silver to take, 

Or presents, not in pence, as cups of sil- 
ver, 80 

Rings with rubies, the retailer to favor. 

" For my love," quoth the lady, " love them 
well, each one, 

And suffer them to sell somewhat beyond 
reason." 

But Solomon the sage, a sermon he made, 

To amend mayors aud men that guard the 
law, 

And told them this theme that I shall tell 

now: 

Ignis devorabit tabernacula eorum qui li- 
benter accipiunt munera. z 

Among these lettered 4 men this Latin 
meaneth 

That fire shall fall and burn at the last 

The houses and the homes of them that de- 
sire 

For to have gifts in youth or in eld. 90 

Mntthew, vi, 2. 

Fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery, Job, 
xv, 34. 

A. lewede. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



Now be ye ware, if ye will, ye masters of 

the law, 
For the truth shall be sought of your souls, 

so help me God! 
The toleration that ye grant such wrongs to 

work. 
While the chance is in your choice, choose 

ye the best. 
The king came from council, and called 

for Meed, 
And sent off quickly servants to fetch 

her, 
And brought her to the presence, with bliss 

and with joy; 
With mirth and with minstrelsy they 

pleased her each one. 
Courteously the king commenceth to tell, 
To Meed the maiden speaketh those words: 
" Unwisely, I wis, wrought hast thou oft; 101 
But worse wroughtest thou never than 

when thou False took. 
But I forgive thee this guilt, and grant 

thee my grace; 

Henceforth to thy deathday do so no more. 
I have a knight called Conscience, come 

lately from far, 
If he wish thee to wife, wilt thou him 

have?" 

Yea, lord," quoth that lady, " Lord for- 
bid I should other !. 
Unless I bow to your bidding, hang me at 

once ! " 
Then was Conscience called to come and 

appear 
Before the king and his council, clerks and 

others. no 

Kneeling, Conscience to the king made 

obeisance, 
To know what his will was, and what he 

would do. 
' Wilt thou wed this woman," quoth the 

king, " if I will assent ? 
She is fain of thy fellowship, and would be 

thy mate." 
"Nay," quoth Conscience to the king, 

"Christ forbid it me! 
Ere I wed such a wife, woe me betide! 
She is frail of her flesh, fickle of her 

tongue, 

She maketh men misdo many score times; 
Trusting to her treasure, find sorrow full 

many. 
To wives and widows wantonness she 

teacheth; 120 

Learneth them lechery that love her gifts; 



Our father Adam x she brought down with 

fair promise; 

Poisoned popes, andimpaireth Holy Church. 
There is no better bawd, by Him that me 

made! 
Between heaven and hell, in earth though 

men sought. 
She is wanton in her wishes, tale-bearing 

with her tongue, 
Common as the cart-road to knaves and to 

all; 

To priests, to minstrels, to lepers in hedges, 
Jurors and suminoners, such men her praise; 
Sheriffs of shires were lost but for her. 130 
She causeth men to lose their land, and 

their lives after, 
And letteth prisoners go, and payeth for 

them oft. 

She giveth the jailer gold and groats to- 
gether, 
To unfetter the false, to flee where they 

like. 
She taketh the true by the top, and tieth 

him fast, 
And for hate hangeth him that harm did 

never. 
They that are curst in consistory count it 

not at a rush, 
For she gives capes to the commissary, and 

coats to the clerks; 
She is absolved as soon as herself it pleas- 

eth. 

She may as much do in space of one month 
As your secret seal in seven score days. 141 
She is privy with the pope, as provisors 

know ; 

Sir Simony and she put seals on the bulls; 
She blesseth the bishops, though ignorant 

they be. 
Prebendaries, parsons, priests, she main- 

taineth, 
To keep lemans and concubines all their 

life days, 
And bring forth children against the laws 

forbidding it. 
Where she stands well with the king, woe 

to the realm! 
For she is favorable to False who tramples 

Truth oft. 

Barons and burgesses she brings into servi- 
tude, 150 
She bribes with her jewels, our justices she 

ruins. 

i So Vernon MS. All others read Your father; i.e. 
Edward II. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



She lieth against the law, and hindereth it 

so hard 
That faith may make no headway, her 

florins go so thick. 

She leadeth the law as she liketh, and love- 
days maketh, 
Bewilderment for a poor man, though he 

plead ever. 

Law is so lordly and loath to make an end 
Without presents or pence, it pleaseth full 

few. 
Learning and covetousness she coupleth 

together. 
This is the life of the lady, our Lord give 

her sorrow! 
And all that maintain her, mischance them 

betide! 160 

For the poor may have no power to com- 
plain though they suffer, 
Such a master is Meed among men of 

goods." 
Then mourned Meed, and made her moan 

to the king 

To have space to speak, hoping to succeed. 
Then the king granted her grace with a 

good will: 
" Excuse thyself if thou canst, I can say no 

more; 

For Conscience hath accused thee, to dis- 
miss thee for ever." 
"Nay, lord," quoth that lady, "believe him 

the worse 
When ye know verily where the wrong 

lieth. 
Where mischief is great, lord, Meed may 

help, 170 

And thou knowest, Conscience, I came not 

to chide 
Nor to defame thy person with a proud 

heart. 
Well thou wittest, Conscience, unless thou 

wilt lie, 

Thou hast hung on my neck eleven times, 
And also grasped my gold, and given it 

whore thou likedst. 
Why thou art wroth now, seems to me a 

wonder, 
For yet I can, as before, honor thee with 

gifts, 
And maintain thy manhood, more than thou 

knowest, 
And thou hast foully defamed me, before 

the king here. 
For never killed I a king, nor counselled 

thereto; 180 



Nor did I ever as thou thiukest, 1 I appeal 

to the king. 
In Normandy was he not annoyed for my 

sake; 
But thou thyself, in truth, didst shame him 

there, 
Creptest into a cabin, to keep thy nails 

from cold, 
Thoughtest that winter would have lasted 

ever, 
And dreadedst to have been dead for a dim 

cloud, 

And hastedst homeward for thy belly- 
hunger. 
Without pity, pillager, poor men thou rob- 

bedest, 
And bore their brass on thy back to Calais 

to sell. 
There I stayed with my lord, his life to 

save, 190 

Made him mirth full much, to leave off 

mourning, 
Clapped them on the backs, their hearts to 

embolden, 
Made them leap for hope to have me at 

demand: 
Had I been marshal of his men, by Mary 

of heaven ! 

I durst have laid my life, and no less bet, 
He 'd have been lord of that land, in length 

and in breadth; 

And also king of that kith, his kin to help; 
The least bairn of his blood a baron's peer. 
Truly, thou Conscience, thou didst counsel 

him thence, 

To leave that lordship for a little silver, 200 
That is the richest realm that the rain falls 

upon ! 

It becometh a king who keepeth a realm 
To give meed to men that meekly him 

serve; 
To aliens, to all men, to honor them with 

gifts. 
Meed maketh him beloved and held to be 

a man. 

Emperors and earls, and all manner of lords, 
Through gifts get young men to run and 

to ride. 

The pope and his prelates presents receive, 
And give men meed to maintain their laws. 
Servants for their service ye see well the 

truth 210 

Get meed from their masters as they may 

agree. 

1 A dust ; B demeit. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



Beggars for their prayers beg men for 

meed, 

Minstrels for their mirth ask for meed. 
The king gives meed to his men to make 

peace in the land; 
Men that teach children l meed from them 

crave. 
Priests that preach to the people to be 

good 
Ask meed and mass-pence and their meat 

too. 
All kinds of craftsmen crave meed for their 

'prentices; 

Meed and merchandise must needs go to- 
gether. 

There may no wight, as I ween, without 

meed live." 220 

" Now," quoth the king to Conscience, " by 

Christ, as methinks, 

Meed is worthy much mastery to have!" 
" Nay," quoth Conscience to the king, and 

kneeled to the ground; 
" There be two kinds of meed, my lord, by 

thy leave. 
The one good God of His grace giveth, in 

His bliss, 
To them that work well while they are 

here. 
The prophet preached it, and put in the 

Psalter, 
Qui pecuniam suam non dedit ad usuram, 

etc. 2 
Take no meed, my lord, from men that are 

true ; 
Love them, believe them, for our Lord of 

heaven's love. 
God's meed and His mercy therewith thou 

mayst win. 230 

But there is a meed without measure 

that desireth mastery, 
To maintain misdoers meed do they take; 
And thereof saith the Psalter in the end of 

the Psalms, 
In quorum manibus iniquitates sunt ; dextra 

eorum repleta est muneribus ; 8 
That their right hand is heaped full of 

gifts, 
And they that grasp their gifts, so help me 

God! 
They shall abide it bitterly, or the Book 

lieth. 

1 B. A knoweth clerkes. 

* He that putteth not out his money to usury . . . 
shall never he moved. Psalms, xv, 5. 

5 In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand 
is full of bribes. Psalms, nvi, 10. 



Priests and parsons, that pleasure desire 
And take meed and money for masses that 

they sing, 

Shall have reward in this world, as Mat- 
thew hath granted: 

Amen dico vobis, receperunt mer^edem suam.* 
What laborers and low folk get from their 

masters 240 

Is no manner of meed, but moderate hire. 
In merchandise is no meed, I may it well 

avow; 

It is a permutation, one penny for another. 
But didst thou never read Kings, 5 thou re- 
creant Meed, 

Why vengeance fell on Saul and his chil- 
dren? 

God sent to say, by Samuel's mouth, 
That Agag and Amalek, and all his people 

after, 
Should die for a deed that his ancestors 

had done, 
Against Israel, and Aaron, and Moses bis 

brother. 
Samuel said to Saul, 'God sendeth thee 

commandment 250 

To be obedient and ready his bidding to 

do: 

" Wend thither with thy host women to kill, 
Children and churls, chop them to death; 
Look thou kill the king, covet not his goods 
For millions of money; murder them each 

one, 

Men and beasts, burn them all to ashes." ' 
And because he killed not the king, as 

Christ himself commanded, 
Coveted fair cattle, and killed not his 

beasts, , 

But brought with him the beasts, as the 

Bible telleth, 

God sent to say that Saul should die, 260 
And all his seed for that sin shamefully 

end. 
Such a mischief Meed made the king to 

have, 
That God hated him ever, and his heirs 

after. 
The conclusion of this clause care I not to 

show, 
In case it should annoy me ; an end will I 

make: 
And even as Agag had it, to some will it 

happen; 

Verily I say unto you, they have received their re- 
ward, Matthew, vi, 2. 
' 1 Samuel, xv. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



43 



Samuel will slay him, aiid Saul will be 

blamed, 

David shall be diademed and daunt them all, 
And one Christian king keep us each one. 
Conscience knoweth this, for common sense 

me taught 270 

That Reason shall reign, and realms govern; 
Meed shall no more be master on earth, 
But Love and Lowness and Loyalty to- 
gether. 
And on him that trespasseth against Truth, 

or doth agaiust his will, 
Loyalty shall execute the law, or he shall 

lose his life. 
Shall no sergeant for that service wear a 

silk hood, 
Nor any striped robe with rich fur. 
Meed, from the misdoers, maketh men so 

rich 
That Law is become a lord, and Loyalty is 

ror. 
jss is commander, and Kindness is 
banished. 280 

But Common Sense shall come yet, and 

Conscience together, 
And make of Law a laborer, such Love 
shall arise." 

PASSUS IV 
" Cease," said the king, " I suffer you no 

more. 
Te shall be reconciled in truth, and serve 

me both. 
Kiss her," quoth the king, " Conscience, I 

command." 
"Nay, by Christ," quoth Conscience, "I 

take my leave rather ! 
Unless Reason advise me thereto, first will 

I die ! " 
" And I command thee," quoth the king to 

Conscience then, 
" That thou haste thee to ride, and Reason 

thou fetch : 
Command him that he come, my counsel to 

hear. 
For he shall rule my realm, and advise me 

the best 
About Meed and others, and what man 

shall wed her; 10 

And take care, Conscience, so help me 

Christ ! 
How thou leadest my people, learned and 

lay." 
" I am pleased with that promise," said the 

fellow then, 



And rode right to Reason, and whispered 

in his ear, 
Said as the king sent, and then took bis 

leave. 
" I shall array me to ride," quoth Reason, 

" rest thee awhile," 
And called Cato his servant, courteous of 

speech 
" Set my saddle upon Suffer-till-I-see-my- 

time, 
And look thou girth him well with very 

many girths; 
Hang on him a heavy bridle to bear his 

head low; 20 

Yet will he make many a neigh, ere he 

come there." 
Then Conscience on his steed rideth forth 

fast, 

And Reason with him rideth, hurrying hard, 
But on a wain Witty and Wisdom together 
Followed them fast, for they had to do 
In Exchequer and Chancery, to be dis- 
charged of things; 
And rode fast, for Reason must advise 

them how best 
To save themselves from shame and from 

harm. 

But Conscience came first to court by a mile, 
And ran forward with Reason, right to the 

king. 30 

Courteously the king then came to Rea- 
son, 
Between himself and his son set him on the 

bench, 

And consulted a great while wisely to- 
gether. 
Then Peace came to parliament, put up 

petition, 
How that Wrong against his will his wife 

had taken, 

And how he ravished Rose, Reynald's love, 
And Margaret of her maidenhood, for all 

she could do. 
" Both my geese and my pigs his fellows 

fetched away; 
I dare not for dread of them fight nor 

chide. 
He borrowed of me Bayard, and brought 

him again never, 40 

Nor any farthing for him, for aught that I 

could plead. 
He maintaineth his men to murder mine 

own, 
Forestalled me at fairs, brawleth at my 

bargainings, 



44 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



Breaketh in my barn-door, and beareth 

away my wheat, 
And giveth me but a tally for ten quarter 

of oats. 
And yet he beat me besides, and lieth by 

my maiden; 

I am not so hardy to look him in the face." 
The king knew he said sooth, for Conscience 

him told. 
Wrong was a-feared then, and Wisdom 

sought 

To make his peace with pence, and prof- 
fered forth money, 50 
And said, " Had I love from the king, little 

would I reck 
Though Peace and his power complained on 

me ever." 

Wisdom went then, and so did Wit, 
Because Wrong had done so wicked a deed, 
And warned Wrong then, with such a wise 

tale : 

"Whoso worketh wilfully maketh wrath oft: 
I say it about thyself, thou shalt it soon find. 
Uuless Meed make it right, thy ill-luck is 

on thee, 
For both thy life and thy land lie in the 

king's grace." 

Wrong then to Wisdom wept for help, 60 
Him for his handy-dandy l readily he paid. 
Then Wisdom and Wit went together 
And took Meed with them, mercy to win. 
Peace put forth his head, showed his bloody 

poll : 

" Without guilt, God wot, got I this harm." 
Conscience and tlie king knew the truth, 
Knew well that Wrong was a wicked one 

ever. 
But Wisdom and Wit were zealous and 

eager 
To overcome the king with money if they 

might. 
The king swore then, by Christ, and by his 

crown both, 7 o 

That Wrong for his works should woe suffer, 
And commanded a constable to cast him in 

irons : 
" He shall not these seven years see his feet 

once." 
M God wot," quoth Wisdom, "that wt re not 

the best; 

If he amends make, let him give surety; 
To be a pledge for his bale, 2 and buy him 

boot, 8 

i Probably, corrupt influence. 

* Injury, barm done. ' Redress. 



And amend his misdeed, and be always the 

better." 
Wit accorded herewith and said to him the 

same; 
" It is better that Boot should bring down 

Bale 
Than that Bale be beaten and Boot be 

ne'er the better." 80 

Then Meed humbled herself and mercy be- 
sought, 
And proffered Peace a present all of pure 

red gold: 
" Have this from me," quoth she, " to amend 

thy harm with, 
For I will wager for Wrong, he will do so 

no more." 

Peace then pitifully prayed the king 
To have mercy on that man, that harmed 

him oft; 
" Because he hath pledged me amends, as 

Wisdom him taught, 

I forgive him that guilt, with a good-will; 
So that ye assent thereto, I can no more 

say, 
For Meed hath made me amends, I may no 

more ask." 90 

" Nay," quoth the king then, " so God give 

me bliss ! 
Wrong wendeth not so away, till I wot 

more; 

Leapt he so lightly away, laugh he would 
And again be the bolder to beat my serv- 
ants; 
Unless Reason have ruth on him, he re- 

maineth in the stocks 
As long as I live, unless more love change 

it." 
Then some advised Reason to have ruth 

of that rascal, 
And to counsel the king and Conscience 

both; 
That Meed might be surety, Reason they 

besought. 
" Advise me not," quoth Reason, " ruth to 

have, ioo 

Till lords and ladies all love truth, 
Till Peronelle's fur be put in her box, 
Till over-cherished children be chastened 

with rods, 

Till the holiness of ribalds be held [com- 
mon] as a hind ; 
Till clerks and knights be courteous with 

their mouths 
And hate to do their ribaldry, and use it no 

more; 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



Till priests their preaching prove in them- 
selves, 

And do it in deed, to draw us to God; 
Till Saint James be sought where I shall 

ordain, 
\nd no man go to Galicia, unless he go 

for ever; no 

And no Rome-runners for robbers abroad 
Bear over sea silver that beareth the king's 

stamp, 
Neither groats nor gold graven with the 

king's crown, 
Upon forfeit of that fee, whoever finds it at 

Dover, 

Unless it be a merchant or his men, or mes- 
senger with letters, 

Or provisors or priests that popes advance. 
" And yet," quoth Reason, " by the rood, 

I shall no ruth have, 
While Meed hath any mastery to plead in 

this hall ; 
But I may show you examples, I say it of 

myself. 
For I say it for my soul's sake, if it so 

were 120 

That I were king with crown, to keep a 

realm, 
Should never Wrong in this world, that I 

might know of, 
Be unpunished by my power, on peril of my 

soul ! 

Nor get grace through gift, so help me God ! 
Nor for meed get mercy, unless meekness 

cause it. 
For Nullum Malum, the man, met with Im- 

punitum, 

And bade Nullum Bonum be irremuneratum. 1 
Let thy clerk, sir king, construe this in 

English; 
And if thuu workest it wisely I wager both 

my ears 
That Law shall be a laborer and cart dung 

a-field, 130 

And Love shall lead thy land, as it dearly 

pleaseth thee." 
Clerks that were confessors got together 

in couples 
For to construe this clause, and explain it 

after. 
When Reason to these men rehearsed these 

words, 

Was none in that courtroom, great or small, 
That held not Reason a master there, and 

Meed a great wretch. 
l No evil unpunished ; no good unrewarded. 



Love made light of Meed, and laughed her 

to scorn, 

And said it so loud that Soothness it heard: 
" Whoso wisheth her to wife, for wealth of 

her goods, 
Unless he be picked for a cuckold, cut off 

both mine ears ! " 140 

Was neither Wisdom then, nor Witty his 

fellow, 

That could utter a word, to gainsay Reason; 
But stared in a brown study and stood as 

beasts. 
The king accorded, by Christ, to Reason's 

cunning, 
And repeated what Reason had rightly 

shown : 
" But it is hard, by mine head, to bring it 

hereto, 

All my lieges to lead in this level way." 
" By Him that was stretched on the rood," 

quoth Reason to the king, 
" Unless I rule thus thy realm, rend out my 

ribs ! 

If it be so that obedience be at my com- 
mand." 150 
" I assent," quoth the king, " by Saint Mary, 

my lady, 
When my council is come, of clerks and of 

earls. 

But readily, Reason, thou ridest not hence, 
For as long as I live, let thee go will I not." 
" I am ready," quoth Reason, " to remain 

with thee ever; 
So that Conscience be our counsellor, care 

I for no better." 
" I grant gladly," quoth the king, " God 

forbid he fail us, 
And as long as I live, live we together." 

PASSUS V 

The king and his knights to the church 

went 
To hear matins and mass, and to the meat 

after. 
Then waked I from my winking, I was wo- 

ful withal 

That I had not heavier slept and seen more. 
Ere I a furlong had fared, a faintness me 

seized, 
That further might I not a-foot, for default 

of sleep. 

I sat softly adown, and said my creed, 
And so I babbled on my beads that it 

brought me asleep. 
Then saw I much more than I before told, 



4 6 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



For I saw the field full of folk that I before 

showed, 10 

And Conscience with a cross came to preach. 

He prayed the people to have pity on 

themselves, 
And proved that these pestilences were for 

pure sin, 
And this southwestern wind on a Saturday 

at even 
Was clearly for pride, and for no cause 

else, 
Peartrees and plumtrees were dashed to 

the ground, 
In eusample to men that we should do the 

better. 
Beeches and broad oaks were blown to the 

earth. 
And turned the tail upward in token of 

dread 

That deadly sin ere Doomsday should de- 
stroy them all. 20 
Ou this matter I might mumble full long, 
But I say as I saw, so help me God ! 
How Conscience with a cross commenced to 

preach. 
He bade wasters go work at what they best 

could, 
And win what they wasted with some sort 

of craft. 
He prayed Feronelle her fur-trimming to 

leave, 

And keep it in her coffer for capital at need. 
Thomas he taught to take two staves, 
And fetch home Felice from the cucking- 
stool. 

He warned Wat his wife was to blame, 30 
That her head-dress was worth a mark and 

his hood worth a groat. 
He charged merchants to chasten their 

children, 
Let them lack no respect, while they are 

young. _ 

He prayed priests and prelates together, 
What they preach to the people to prove it 

in themselves 
" And live as ye teach us, we will love you 

the better." 
And then he advised the orders their rule 

to obey 
" Lest the king and his council abridge your 

supplies, 
And be steward in your stead, till ye be 

better ordered. 
And ye that seek St. James, and saints at 

Home, 40 



Pride 



Lust 



Seek me Saint Truth, for He can save you 

all; 

Qui cum patre etjilio, fare you well ! " 
Then ran Repentance aiid rehearsed this 

theme, 
And made William to weep water with his 

eyes. 

Peruel Proud-heart flung herself on 

the ground, 
And lay long ere she looked up, and to Our 

Lady cried, 

And promised to Him who all of us made 
She would uusew her smock, and wear in- 
stead a hair shirt 
To tame her flesh with, that frail was to 

sin: 
"Shall never light heart seize me, but I 

shall hold me down 50 

And endure to be slandered as I never did 

before. 
And now I can put on meekness, and mercy 

beseech 
Of all of whom I have had envy in my 

heart." 

Lecher said " Alas ! " and to Our 

Lady cried 
To win for him mercy for his misdeeds, 
Between God himself and his poor soul, 
Provided that he should on Saturday, for 

seven years, 

Drink but with the duck and dine but once. 
p Envy, with heavy heart, asketh after 

shrift, 
And greatly his guiltiness beginneth to 

show. 60 

Pale as a pellet, in a palsy he seemed, 
Clothed in a coarse cloth, I could him not 

describe ; 
A kirtle and a short cloak, a knife by his 

side; 
Of a friar's frock were the fronts of his 

sleeves. 

As a leek that had lain long in the sun 
So looked he with lean cheeks; foully he 

frowned. 
His body was swollen; for wrath he bit his 

lips. 
Wrathfully he clenched his fist, he thought 

to avenge himself 
With works or with words, when he saw his 

time. 

"Venom, or varnish, or vinegar, I trow, 70 
Boils in my belly, or grows there, I ween. 
Many a day could I not do as a man ought, 
Such wind in my belly welleth ere I dine. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



47 



I have a neighbor nigh me, I have annoyed 

him oft, 
Blamed him behind his back, to bring him 

in disgrace, 
Injured him by my power, punished him full 

oft, 

Belied him to lords, to make him lose silver, 
Turned his friends to foes, with my false 

tongue; 
His grace and his good luck grieve me full 

sore. 
Between him and his household I have 

made wrath; 80 

Both his life and his limb were lost through 

my tongue. 

When I met in the market him I most hate, 
I hailed him as courteously as if I were his 

friend. 
He is doughtier than I, 1 dare do him no 

harm. 

But had I mastery and might, I had mur- 
dered him for ever ! 

When 1 come to the church, and kneel be- 
fore the rood, 
And should pray for the people, as the 

priest teacheth us, 
Then I cry upon my knees that Christ give 

them sorrow 
That have borne away my bowl and my 

broad sheet. 

From the altar I turn mine eye and be- 
hold 90 
How Henry hath a new coat, and his wife 

another; 
Then I wish it were mine, and all the web 

with it. 
At his losing I laugh, in my heart I like 

it; 
But at his winning I weep, and bewail the 

occasion. 
I deem that men do ill, yet I do much 

worse, 
For I would that every wight in this world 

were my servant, 
And whoso hath more than I, maketh my 

heart angry. 
Thus I live loveless, like an ill-tempered 

dg 

That all my breast swelleth with the bit- 
terness of my gall ; 

No sugar is sweet enough to assuage it at 
all, ioo 

Nor no remedy drive it from my heart; 

If shrift then should sweep it out, a great 
wonder it were." 



Covetousness 



" Yes, surely," quoth Repentance, and ad- 
vised him to good, 

" Sorrow for their sins saveth full many." 
" I am sorry," quoth Envy, " I am seldom 

other, 
And that maketh me so mad, for I may not 

avenge me." 

Then came Covetousness, I 
could not describe him, 
So hungry and so hollow Sir Harvey looked. 
He was beetle-browed with two bleared 

eyes, 

And like a leathern purse flapped his cheeks; 
In a torn tabard of twelve winters' age; m 
Unless a louse could leap, I can not believe 
That she could wander on that walk, it was 

so threadbare. 
" I have been covetous," quoth this Caitiff, 

" I admit it here; 

For some time I served Sim at 'The Oak' 
And was his pledged apprentice, his profit 

to watch. 

First I learned to lie, in a lesson or two, 
And wickedly to weigh was my second les- 
son. 
To Winchester and to Weyhill I went to 

the fair 
With many kinds of merchandise, as my 

master bade; 120 

But had not the grace of guile gone among 

my ware, 
It had been unsold these seven year, so 

help me God ! 
Then I betook me to the drapers, my 

grammar to learn, 
To draw the list 1 along, to make it seem 

longer. 
Among these rich striped cloths learned I 

a lesson, 
Pierced them with a pack-needle, and 

pleated them together, 
Put them in a press, and fastened them 

therein 
Till ten yards or twelve were drawn out to 

thirteen. 
And my wife at Westminster, that 

woollen cloth made, 

Spake to the spinners to spin it soft. 130 
The pound that she weighed by, weighed a 

quarter more 

Than my balance did, when I weighed true. 

I bought her barley, she brewed it to sell; 

Penny-ale and white perry, she poured it 

together, 

i The edge of the cloth, in measuring. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



For laborers and low folk, that work for 

their living. 
The best in the bed-chamber lay by the 

wall, 

Whoso tasted thereof bought it ever after, 
A gallon for a groat, God wot, no less 
When it came in cups. Such tricks I used. 
Rose the retailer is her right name; 140 
She hath been a huckster these eleven win- 
ters. 
But I swear now soothly that soon will I 

quit, 
And never wickedly weigh, nor false trade 

practise, 
But wend to Walsingham, and my wife 

also, 
And pray the Rood of Bromholm to bring 

me out of debt." 
_ Now beginneth the Glutton to go 

And wanders churchwards, his shrift to tell, 
Then Bet the brewster bade him good mor- 
row, 
And then she asked him whither he would 

gO. 149 

" To holy church," quoth he, "to hear mass, 
Since I shall be shriven, and sin no more." 
"I have good ale, gossip," quoth she; 

" Glutton, what say you ? " 
" Hast aught in thy purse,?' quoth he, " any 

hot spices ? " 
" Yea, Glutton, gossip," quoth she, " God 

wot, full good; 
I have pepper and peony-seeds, and a pound 

of garlick, 
A farthing worth of fennel-seed, for these 

fasting days." 
Then goeth Glutton in, and great oaths 

after; 

Cis the shoemaker's wife sat on the bench, 
Wat the ward of the warren, and his wife 

both, 

Tomkin the tinker and twain of his serv- 
ants; 160 
Hick the hackney-man, and Hogg the 

needle seller, 
Clarice of Cock's-Lane, and the clerk of the 

church, 

Sir Piers of Prie-Dieu, and Pernel of Flan- 
ders, 

Dawe the ditcher, and a dozen others. 
A fiddler, a rat-catcher, a scavenger of 

Cheapside, 
A rope-maker, a riding-boy, and Rose the 

dish-maker, 



Godfrey of Garlickshire, and Griffin the 
Welshman, 

And of tradesmen a band, early in the 
morning 

Stand Glutton, with good-will, a treat in 
good ale. 

Then Clement the cobbler cast off his 
cloak, 170 

And at " the new fair " made offer to bar- 
ter it; 

And Hick the ostler flung his hood after, 

And bade Bett the butcher act on his be- 
half. 

Then were chapmen chosen, the articles to 
value ; 

Whoso had the hood should have something 
to boot. 

They rose up rapidly, and whispered to- 
gether, 

And appraised the penny-worths, and parted 
them by themselves; 

There were oaths a-plenty, whoso might 
hear them. 

They could not, in conscience, accord to- 
gether, 

Till Robin the rope-maker was chosen to 
arise, 180 

And named for an umpire, to avoid all de- 
bate, 

For he should appraise the pennyworths, 

as seemed good to him. 
Then Hick the ostler had the cloak, 

On condition that Clement should have his 
cup filled, 

And have Hick the ostler's hood, and hold 
him well served; 

And he that first repented should straight 
arise 

And greet Sir Glutton with a gallon of 

ale. 

There waa laughing and cheating 1 and 
" Let go the cup ! " 

Bargains and beverages began to arise, 

And they sat so till evensong 1 , and sang 
some while, 190 

Till Glutton had gulped down a gallon and 
a gill. 

He had no strength to stand, till he his staff 

had; 

Then 'gan he to go like a gleeman's bitch, 
Sometimes to the side, sometimes to the 

rear, 
Like a man laying lines to catch birds with. 

A lotenng ; B louryng ; C lakeryng. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



49 



When he drew to the door, then his eyes 

grew dim, 200 

He stumbled at the threshold, and threw to 

the ground. 
Clement the cobbler caught Glutton by the 

middle, 

And to lift him up he laid him on his knees; 
And Glutton was a great churl, and grim 

in the lifting, 

And coughed up a caudle in Clement's lap, 
That the hungriest hound in Hertfordshire 
Durst not lap that loathsomeness, so uii- 

lovely it smacketh; 
So that, with all the woe in the world, his 

wife and his wench 
Bore him home to his bed, and brought him 

therein. 
And after all this surfeit, a sickness he 

had, 210 

That he slept Saturday and Sunday, till sun 

went to rest. 
Then he waked from his winking, and 

wiped his eyes; 
The first word that he spake was, " Where 

is the cup ? " 
His wife warned him then, of wickedness 

and sin. 
Then was he ashamed, that wretch, and 

scratched his ears, 
And 'gan to cry grievously, and great dole 

to make 

For his wicked life, that he had lived. 
" For hunger or for thirst, I make my vow, 
Shall never fish on Friday digest in my maw, 
Till Abstinence, my aunt, have given me 

leave ; 220 

And yet I have hated her all my life-time." 

Sloth for sorrow fell down swoon- 



Sloth 



111 S, 



Till Vigilate, the watcher, fetched water to 

his eyes, 
Let it flow on his face, and fast to him 

cried, 
And said, " Beware of despair, that will 

thee betray. 

' I am sorry for my sins,' say to thyself, 
And beat thyself on the breast, and pray 

God for grace, 
For there is no guilt so great that His mercy 

is not more." 

Then Sloth sat up and sighed sore, 
And made a vow before God, for his foul 

sloth, 230 

"There shall be no Sunday this seven year 

(save sickness it cause) 



That I shall not bring myself ere day to 

the dear church, 
And hear matins and mass, as I a monk 

were. 

No ale after meat shall withhold me thence, 
Till I have heard evensong, I promise by 

the rood. 
And 1 yet I shall yield again if I have so 

much 

All that I wickedly won, since I had wit. 
And though I lack a livelihood I will not 

stop 
Till each man shall have his own, ere I 

hence wend: 
And with the residue and the remnant, by 

the rood of Chester, 240 

I shall seek Saint Truth, ere I see Rome! " 

Robert the robber, on Reddite 2 he looked, 

And because there was not wherewith, he 

wept full sore. 

But yet the sinful wretch said to himself: 
" Christ, that upon Calvary on the cross 

died'st, 
Though Dismas 8 my brother besought grace 

of thee, 

And thou hadst mercy on that man for me- 
mento 4 sake, 
Thy will be done upon me, as I have well 

deserved 

To have hell for ever if no hope there were. 
So rue on me, Robert, that no counsel 

have, 250 

Nor ever ween to win by any craft that 1 

know. 

But, for thy much mercy, mitigation I be- 
seech ; 
Damn me not on Doomsday because I did 

so ill." 
But what befell this felon, I cannot well 

show, 
But well I know he wept hard, water with 

his eyes, 
And acknowledged his guilt to Christ again 

thereafter, 
That the pikestaff of Penitence he should 

polish anew, 

And leap with it o'er the land, all his life- 
time, 

i LI. 236-259, dealing with the restitution of stolen 
goods, appear in C in connection with Avarice. The at- 
tarhing of them to Sloth in A and B seems to point to 
some confusion in the text. Note that in A the sin of 
Wrath is omitted. 

s Make restitution, Romans, xiii, 7. 

* The name given to the penitent thief in the apOC- 
ryphal Gospel of JViVWrm?/.?. 

Remember nie, Luke, xxiii, 42. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



For he hath lain by Latro, 1 Lucifer's brother. 

A thousand of men then throng together, 

Weeping and wailing for their wicked 

deeds, 261 

Crying up to Christ, and to His clean Mother, 
To give grace to seek Saint Truth, God 

grant they so might ! 

PASSUS VI 

Now ride these folk, and walk on foot 
To seek that saint in strange lands. 
But there were few men so wise that knew 

the way thither, 
But they bustled forth like beasts, over 

valleys and hills, 
For while they went after their own will, 

they went all amiss; 
Till it was late and long, when they a man 

met, 

Apparelled as a palmer, in pilgrim's weeds. 
He bore a staff bound round with a broad 

list 2 

In woodbine wise twisted around. 
A bag and a bowl he bore by his side ; 10 
A hundred vials on his hat were set, 
Signs of Sinai and shells of Galicia; 
Many a cross on his cloak, and the keys of 

Rome, 
And the veruicle in front, that men should 

him know, 

And see by his signs whom he had sought. 8 
These folk asked him fairly from whence 

he came. 
"From Sinai," he said, "and from the 

Sepulchre ; 
From Bethlehem and Babylon, I have been 

in both; 
In India and in Assisi, and in many other 

places. 
Ye may see by my signs that sit on my 

hat 20 

That I have walked full wide, in wet and 

in dry, 
And sought good saints for my soul's 

health." 
"Knowest thou a holy one men call 

Saint Truth ? 
Canst thou show us the way to where he 

dwelleth ? " 

i The word used in Luke of the crucified thieves. 

Edge of cloth. 

The references here are to the badges showing the 
shrines a pilgrim had visited : the vial or ampulla for 
Thomas of Canterbury; the scallop shell for St. James 
of Compostella in Galicia ; the cross for Palestine ; the 
keys and the handkerchief of St. Veronica for Rome. 
' Sinai " refers to the shrine of St. Catharine there. 



"Nay, so God gladden me," said the 

man then, 
" Saw I never palmer, with pikestaff nor 

with scrip, 

Such a saint seek, save now in this place." 
" Peter! " quoth a Plowman, and put 

forth his head, 
" I know him as naturally as a scholar doth 

his books; 
Clean Conscience and Wit showed me to 

his place, 30 

And pledged me then to serve him for ever. 
Both in sowing and in setting, while I work 

might, 

I have been his fellow these fifteen winters; 
Have both sowed his seed and tended his 

beasts, 
And also cared for his corn and carried it 

to house, 

Ditched and delved, and done what he or- 
dered, 

Within and without watched his interests; 
Among these people is no laborer whom he 

loves more, 
For though I say it myself, my service him 

pleases. 
I have my hire of him well, and sometimes 

more ; 40 

He is the promptest payer that poor men 

have; 
He withholds from no kind his hire that he 

hath it not at even. 

He is as lowly as a lamb, lovely of speech; 
And if ye will wit where he dwelleth 
I will show you the way home to his place." 
"Yea, dear Piers," said these palmers, 

and proffered him hire. 
" Nay, by the peril of my soul," quoth 

Piers, and began to swear, 
"I would not finger a farthing, for St. 

Thomas's shrine ! 
Truth would love me the less for a great 

while after ! 
But, ye that wend to him, this is the way 

thither: 50 

Ye must go through Meekness, both man 

and wife, 
Till ye come to Conscience, that Christ 

may know the truth 
That ye love him dearer than the life in 

your hearts, 
And then your neighbors next in no wise 

injure 
Otherwise than thou wouldest that men 

should do to thee. 



PIERS THE PLOUGH-MAN 



So bend your way by a brook, Be-obedi- 

ent-in-speech, 

Fo' h till ye find a ford Honor-your-fathers; 
Wade in that water, wash yourselves well 

there, 

And ye shall leap the lightlier all your life- 
time. 
Soon shalt thou then see Swear-not-but- 

thou-have-need 60 

And-specially-not - iu-vain - take- the-name- 

of-God-Almighty. 
Then will ye come by a croft, but go ye 

not therein, 
The croft called Covet-not-men's-cattle- 

nor-their-wives- 
Nor - none - of - their - servants - that - they - 

nright-be-hurt; 
See thou break no bough there, unless it 

be thine own. 
Two stocks there stand, but stay thou not 

there, 
They are called Slay-not, Nor-steal-not; 

strike forth by them both ; 
Leave them on thy left hand, look thou not 

after them, 

And hold well thy holy-day ever till even. 
Then shalt thou turn aside at a brook, Bear- 
no-false-witness, 7 o 
It is furnished within with florins, and with 

many oaths; 
See thou pluck no plant there, for peril of 

thy soul. 
Then shalt thou see Say-sooth, so-it-is-to- 

be-done- 
And-look-that-thou-lie-not - f or-any-man's - 

bidding. 
Then shall thou come to a court, clear 

as the sun, 

The moat is of Mercy, surrounding the manor, 
And all the walls are of Wit to hold Will 

outside; 

The battlements are of Christendom, man- 
kind to save, 
Buttressed l with the Belief wherethrough 

we must be saved. 

All the houses are roofed, hall and cham- 
bers, 80 
With no lead but Love-as-brethren-of-one- 

m other. 
The tower wherein is Truth is set above 

the sun, 
.e may do with the day star whatever he 

pleaseth. 

1 Lit., surmounted with wooden boardings, as in 

mediaeval fortifications. 



Death dare not do anything that he for- 
biddeth. 

Grace is called the gate-guard, a good man 
in truth, 

His man is called Amend-thou, for many 
men know him; 

Tell him this as a token, for truth knows 
the sooth: 

' I performed the penance that the priest en- 
joined me; 

I am sorry for my sins, and so shall I ever 
be 

When I think thereon, though I were a 
pope.' 90 

Bid Amend-thou humble himself to his mas- 
ter once, 

To lift up the wicket gate that the way 
shut 

When Adam and Eve ate their bane; 3 

For he hath the key of the catch, though 

the king sleep. 

And if Grace thee grant to go in in this 
wise, 

Thou shalt see Truth himself sit in thy 
heart. 

Then look that thou love Him well, and 
His law hold; 

But be well aware of Wrath, that wicked 
wretch, 

For he hath envy of Him that in thine 
heart sitteth, 

And putteth forth Pride to praise thy- 
self. 100 

Boldness in thy good deeds blindeth thine 
eyes; 

And so art thou driven out and the door 
closed, 

Locked and fastened to keep thee there- 
out, 

Haply a hundred year ere thou again en- 
ter. 

Thus mayst thou lose His love by thinking 
well of thyself, 

But get it again by Grace and by no gift 

else. 

And there are seven sisters that serve 
Truth ever, 

And are porters at posterns that to the 
place belong. 

The first is called Abstinence, and Humility 
the second, 

Charity and Chastity are two full choice 
maidens, no 

Patience and Peace many people help, 
B applet unrosted. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



Largess the lady leadeth in full many. 
But whoso is sib to these sisters, so help me 

God! 

Is wonderfully welcome and fairly re- 
ceived. 

And, but ye be sib to some of these seven, 
It is full hard, by my head, any of you all 
To get entrance at that gate unless greater 

be the grace." 
" By Christ," quoth a cut-purse, " I have 

no kin there ! " 
"Nor I," quoth an ape-warden, "for aught 

that I know ! " 
"Certain," quoth a waferseller, "knew I 

this for truth, 120 

I should go no foot further, for any friar's 

preaching." 
"Yes," qiioth Piers the Plowman, and 

preached for their good, 
"Mercy is a maiden there and hath might 

over all; 

She is sib to all sinful men and her son also; 
And through the help of these two (no 

other hope have thou,) 
Thou mightest get grace there, so thou go 

betimes." 

PASSUS VII 
" This would be a wicked way, unless one 

had a guide 
Who might follow us each step, that there 

we may come." 
Qnoth Perkin the plowman, " By Peter the 

apostle, 

I have a half-acre to plow, by the high- 
way; 
Were it well plowed, then with you would 

I wend, 
And show you the right way, till ye found 

truth." 
"That would be a long delay," quoth a 

lady in a veil; 

" What shall we women work at the while? " 
" Some shall sew sacks, that the wheat spill 

not, 
And ye wives that have wool, work on it 

fast, 10 

Spin it speedily, spare not your fingers, 
Unless it be a holy day, or else a holy eve. 
Look out your linen, and labor thereon 

fast; 
The needy and the naked, take heed how 

they lie, 
And oast on them clothes against the cold, 

for so Truth willeth; 



For I shall grant them livelihood, unless 

the laud fail, 
As long as I live, for our Lord of Heaven's 

love. 

And ye, lovely ladies, with your long fin- 
gers, 
That have silk and sendal, 1 sew when you 

have time 
Chasubles for chaplains, and churches to 

honor; 3 o 

And all manner of men that by meat live 
Help him to work well that your food win- 

neth." 
" By Christ," quoth a knight then, " thou 

knowest us best ! 
Save one time truly, thus taught was I 

never ! 
But teach me," quoth the knight; "if I can 

plow, 
I will help thee to labor while my life 

lasteth." 
"By Saint Peter," quoth Piers, "since 

thou profferest so humbly 
I shall work and sweat and sow for us both, 
And also labor for thy love all my lifetime, 
On condition that thou keep Holy Church 

and myself 30 

From wasters and wicked men that would 

us destroy. 
And go thou and hunt hardily hares and 

foxes, 

Bears and bucks that break men's hedges, 
And fetch thee home falcons fowls to kill; 
For they come into my croft and crop my 

wheat." 
Full courteously the knight conceived 

these words; 
" By my power, Piers, I plight thee my 

troth, 

To fulfill the bargain, while I may stand ! " 
" But yet one point," quoth Piers, " I shall 

pray thee no more; 
Look thou trouble no tenant, unless Truth 

will assent: 40 

And if poor men proffer you presents or 

gifts, 
Take them not ; peradventure you may 

them not deserve ; 
For thou shalt give them back again at one 

year's end, 
In a place of sore peril that purgatory is 

called. 
And beat thou not thy bondman, the better 

thou shalt speed, 

i A thin silken stuff. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



53 



(And be thyself true of tongue, and lying 

tales hate;) 
Unl~ is it be wisdom or wit thy workmen to 

chastise. 
Revel not with ribalds, hear not their 

tales, 

And especially at meat such men eschew, 
For they are the devil's Tale-Tellers, I let 

thee understand." 50 

" I assent, by Saiut James," said the knight 

then, 
" To work by thy word, while my life en- 

dureth." 
"And I shall apparel me," quoth Perkin, 

"in pilgrim's wise, 
And wend with you the right way, till ye 

Truth find." 
He cast on his clothes, clouted and mended, 
His garters and his cuffs, to keep his nails 

from cold; 
He hung a basket on his back, in stead of 

a scrip; 

A bushel of bread-corn he bringeth therein : 
"For I will sow it myself, and then with 

you wend. 
For whoso helpeth me to plow, or do any 

sort of labor, 60 

He shall have, by our Lord, the more hire 

in harvest, 

And shall make merry with the corn, who- 
ever begrudgeth. 
And all kinds of craftsmen that can live 

with Truth, 
I shall find them their food, if they faith- 
fully live, 
Save Jack the juggler, and Janet of the 

stews, 

And Robert the ribald, for his filthy words. 
Truth taught it me once, and bade me tell 

it further, 
Deleantur de libra, 1 I should not deal with 

them, 
Holy Church is bound from them no tithe 

to take; 

Et cum justis non scribantur 2 
They have escaped by good luck ; 8 may 

God amend them ! " 7 o 

Dame Work-when-there-is-time is the 

name of Piers's wife; 
His daughter is called Do-right-so-or-thy- 

mother-will-beat-thee ; 

"Let them be stricken out from the book [of the 
liring]," Psalms, Uix, 28. 

* " And let them not be written with the just." 
Ibid. 

A Thei ben a-tcaped good thrift. 



His son is called Suffer-thy-sovereigns-to- 

have-their-will- 
And- judge- the in - not, - for-if-thou-do-thou- 

shalt-dearly-pay-for-it. 
" May God be with all, for so his word 

teacheth; 
For now I am old and gray, and have of 

my own, 
To penance and to pilgrimage I will pass 

with these others. 
Therefore I will, ere I wend, write my 

testament. 

In Dei nomine, amen. I make it myself. 
He shall have my soul that best hath de- 
served it, 80 
And defend it from the fiend, for so I believe, 
Till I come to my account, as my creed me 

telleth, 
To have release and remission on that 

rental I expect. 
The church shall have my corpse, and keep 

my bones; 
For of my corn and capital she craveth the 

tenth. 
I paid her promptly, to save my soul from 

peril, 

She is bound, I hope, to bear me in mind, 
And remember me in her memory among 

all Christians. 
My wife shall have what I won with 

truth, and no more, 
And divide with my friends and my dear 

children; 90 

For though I die this day my debts are 

cleared; 
I bare home what I borrowed ere I to bed 

went: 
And with the residue and the remnant, by 

the rood of Chester ! 

I will worship therewith Truth in my life, 
And be his pilgrim at the plow, for poor 

men's sake. 
My plough-foot 4 shall be my pikestaff and 

push at the roots, 
And help my coulter to carve and close the 

furrows." 
Now have Piers and the pilgrims to the 

plow gone, 

To plow this half-acre help him full many. 
Ditchers and delversdug up the ridges; 6 100 
Therewith was Perkin pleased, and praised 

them gladly. 

A plouh-pole (pole=puaher). B plow-fole; C 
plouh-fole, plough-foot, 
i Left unplowed. 



54 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



Other workmen there were that wrought 

full many, 
Each man in his manner made himself 

work; 
And sum, to please Perkin, picked up the 

weeds. 
At high prime 1 Perkin let the plough 

stand, 
While he himself oversaw who had best 

wrought ; 

He should be hired thereafter, when har- 
vest-time came. 

Then sat some, and sang at the ale, 
And helped him to plow with " Hey, trolly- 
lolly ! " 
" Now, by the Prince of Paradise," quoth 

Piers then in wrath, no 

" Unless ye rise the sooner and haste ye to 

work, 
Shall no grain that here groweth gladden 

you at need, 
And though ye die for lack of it, the devil 

take him that cares ! " 
Then were the rogues afraid and feigned 

themselves blind. 

Some laid their legs across as such scoun- 
drels can, 
And complained to Piers, with such piteous 

words: 
" For we have no limbs to labor with, our 

Lord we thank for it; 
But we pray for you, Piers, and for your 

plow too, 

That God of his grace our grain multiply, 
And reward you for your alms that ye give 

us here ! 120 

For we may neither work nor sweat, such 

sickness us aileth." 
<( If it be truth that ye say," quoth Piers, 

" soon I shall spy it ! 
Ye be wasters, I wot, and Truth knows the 

sooth ! 

I am his old servant, and ought him to warn 
What wasters iu the world his workmen 

destroy. 
Ye eat what they should eat that plough 

for us all; 

But Truth shall teach you his team to drive, 
Both to sow and to set, and save his pro- 
duce, 
Scare crows from his corn, and keep his 

beasts, 
Or ye shall eat barley bread, and of the 

brook drink. 130 

i Nine o'clock in the morning. 



But if they be blind or broken-shanked, or 

bedridden lie, 
They shall have as good as I, so help me 

God, 

Till God of his grace cause them to arise. 
Anchorites and hermits that keep to their 

cells 

Shall have of my alms, all the while I live, 
Enough each day at noon, but no more till 

tomorrow, 
Lest the fiend and their flesh should defile 

their souls; 
Once at noon is enough for him that no 

work doeth, 
He abides in better state that tastes not too 

often." 
Then wasters arose, aud would have 

fought; 140 

To Piers the Plowman one proffered his 

glove, 

A Breton, a braggart, boasted himself also, 
And bade him go hang with his plow, bald- 
headed wretch ! 

" For we will have of thy flour, willy nilly, 
And take of thy meat when that us pleaseth, 
And make us merry therewith, spite of thy 

face ! " 
Then Piers Plowman complained to the 

knight, 
To gnard him as agreed from cursed 

wretches, 
From wasters that lie in wait winners to 

rob. 
Courteously the knight, as his nature 

was, 150 

Warned wasters and taught them to do 

better; 
" Or ye shall pay dearly by the law, by the 

order that I bear ! " 
" I was not wont to work," quoth the waster, 

" I will not begin now! " 
And recked little of the law, and less of 

the knight, 
And counted Piers worth a pea, and his 

plow too, 
And menaced him and his men, when they 

should next meet. 
" Now by the peril of my soul," quoth Piers 

the Plowman, 
"I shall punish you all for your proud 

words!" 
And whooped after Hunger then, that heard 

him at once : 
" Wreak me on these wasters," quoth Piers, 

" that this world rob 1 " 160 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



55 



Hunger in haste seized waster by the maw, 
And wrung him so by the belly that both 

his eyes watered, 
And buffeted the Breton on both his 

cheeks; 

He looked like a lantern all his life after. 
He so beat the boys he nigh burst their 

ribs, 
Had not Piers with a pease-loaf prayed him 

to cease; 

And with a bag l of beans beat them both, 
And hit Hunger therewith between his lips, 
And he bled inwards a bowlful of gruel ; 
Had not the physician first forbidden him 

water 170 

To moisten the barley-bread and the ground 

beans, 
They had been dead by this day, and buried 

all warm. 

Then rogues for fear flew to barns, 
And laid on with flails, from morn till even, 
So that Hunger was not hardy enough even 

to look up 

For a potf ul of pease that Piers had made. 
A band of hermits seized hold of spades, 
And delved in dirt and dung to drive Hun- 
ger out. 

Blind and bedridden were cured a thou- 
sand, 

That lie as blind and as broken-legged 180 
Upon a warm Sunday by the highway; 
Hunger killed them with a hot cake. 
Lame men's limbs were rendered lithe that 

time, 
And they became herds, to keep Piers's 

beasts, 
And prayed, for charity, with Piers to 

dwell, 
All for craving of his corn, to cast out 

Hunger. 
Piers was proud thereof, and put them in 

office, 
And gave them meat and money, as they 

might deserve. 
Then had Piers pity, and prayed Hunger to 

wend 
Home to his own hearth, 2 and hold himself 

there forever. 190 

" And yet I pray thee," quoth Piers, " ere 

thou pass hence, 
With vagabonds and beggars what is best 

to do? 
I wot well, when thou art gone, they will 

work full ill; 
A bat. * A hurde, earth j B erde ; C erthe. 



It is misfortune inaketh them to be now so 

meek, 

And for lack of food thus fast do they work; 
And they are my blood brethren, for God 

bought us all. 
Truth taught me once to love them each 

one, 
And help them in all things, according as 

they need. 
Yet would I know if thou kuewest what 

were the best, 
And how I might master them, and make 

them work." 200 

" Hear now," quoth Hunger, "and hold it 

for wisdom. 
Bold beggars and rascals that may earn 

their meal by work, 
With hound-bread and horse-bread hold up 

their hearts, 

And cheat them with bones 3 against swell- 
ing of their bellies; 
And if the fellows grumble, bid them go 

work, 
And they shall sup the sweeter when they 

have it deserved. 
And if thou find any fellow that fortune 

hath harmed 
With fire or with false folk, try such to 

know; 
Comfort them with thy means, for Christ 

of heaven's love. 
Love them and lend to them, so the law of 

nature wills. 210 

And all manner of men, that thou mayest 

S PJt 

That are needy, or naked, and nought have 

to spend, 
With meat or with money make them fare 

the better, 
With word or with work while thou art 

here. 

Make friends with such, for so Saint Mat- 
thew teacheth, 

Facile vobis amicos de mammona iniquitatis" 4 
"I would not grieve God," quoth Piers, 

" for all the gold on ground ; 
Might I do as thou sayest without sin?" 

said Piers then. 
" Yea, I promise thee," quoth Hunger, " or 

else the Bible lieth; 
Go to Genesis the giant, the engenderer of 

us alle; 

A bamme hem with bones ; B abate him with benet ; 
C a-bane hem with benet. 

Hake for yourselves friends of the mammon of un- 
righteousness, Luke, ivi, 9. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



'In sweat and swink thou shalt earn thy 

meat, 1 220 

And labor for thy livelihood,' for so our 

lord ordered. 
And Sapience said the same, I saw it in the 

Bible. 

1 Piger propter frigusp no field he till, 
He shall crave and beg, and no man abate 

his hunger.' 
Matthew of the man's face 8 uttereth 

these words, 
4 The unprofitable servant had a talent, and 

because he would not use it 
He had ill-will of his master evermore 

after ' ; 

Auferte ab illo unam, et date illi, etc., 4 
He took from him his talent, for he would 

not work, 
And gave it in baste to him that had ten 

before; 
And afterwards he thus said, his servants 

it heard, 230 

' He that hath shall have, to help where 

need is, 
And he that hath not, nought shall have, nor 

no man help him; 
And he that hopeth to have, from him it 

shall be taken away.' 
For Common Sense would that each man 

should work, 
By teaching or by tillage, or travailing with 

hands, 
Active life or contemplative; Christ would 

so also. 

For so saith the Psalter, in the psalm be- 
ginning, ' Blessed is everyone,' 
Labores manum tuarum quid manducabis, 

etc. 6 

To him that gets his food here, with travail- 
ing in truth, 
God gives his blessing, for his livelihood 

that laboreth." 

" Yet I pray thee," quoth Piers, " for char- 
ity, if thou knowest 240 
Any leaf of leechcraft, let me learn it, my 

dear. 
For some of my servants are sick at times, 

> Genesis, iii, 19. 

1 The slothful shall not plow by reason oi the winter, 
Proverbs, xx, 4. 

' " An allusion to a common representation of the 
evangelists which likens Matthew to a man, Mark to 
a lion, Luke to a bull, and John to an eagle." Skeat. 

4 Take ye away the talent from him, and give to him, 
etc. Matthew, xxv, 28. 

For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands, Psalms, 
cxxviii,2. 



Work not for a week, so ache th their belly." 
" I wot well," quoth Hunger, " what sick- 
ness aileth them; 
They have eaten in excess, that maketh 

them groan oft. 
But I command thee," quoth Hunger, " if 

health thou desirest, 
That on no day thou drink till thou hast 

had some dinner; 
Eat not, I command thee, till Hunger take 

thee 
And send thee some of his sauce, the better 

to savor; 
Keep some till supper-time, and sit not too 

long, 2S o 

Arise up ere appetite have eaten his fill. 
Let not Sir Surfeit sit at thy board; 
Love him not, for he is a lecher, and lewd 

of tongue, 

And after many meats his maw is a-longing. 
And if thou diet thyself thus, I dare bet 

both mine ears 
That Physic shall his furred hood for his 

food sell, 
And eke his Calabrian 6 cloak with buttons 

of gold, 
And be fain, by my faith, his physic to 

leave, 

And learn to labor on the land, lest liveli- 
hood fail. 
There are more liars than leeches, oar Lord 

them amend! 2 6o 

They do men to death by their drink, ere 

destiny would." 
" By Saint Paul," quoth Piers, " these be 

profitable words! 
This is a lovely lesson; our Lord reward 

thee for it f 
Away now when thou wilt; be it well with 

thee ever! " 
" I promise thee," quoth Hunger, " hence 

will I not wend 

Ere I have dined this day, and drunk too." 
" I have no penny," quoth Piers, " pullets to 

buy, 
Neither geese nor pigs, but two green 7 

cheeses. 

And a little curds and cream, and un- 
leavened cake, 
And a loaf of beans and bran, baked for my 

children. 270 

And I say, by my soul, I have no salt bacon, 
Nor any cook-boys, by Christ, collops to 

make. 
Trimmed with grey Calabriau fur. * Fresh made. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



57 



But I have onions and parsley, and many 

c bbages, 

And eke a cow and a calf, and a cart-mare 
To draw a-field my dung, while the drought 

lasteth. 
By these means must I live till Lammas 

time; 
By that time I hope to have harvest in my 

croft; 
Then may I prepare thee dinner as thou 

dearly likest it." 

All the poor people pease-cods fetched, 
Beans baked into bread they brought in 

their laps, 280 

Little onions their chief meat, and ripe 

cherries many, 
And proffered Piers this present, to please 

his hunger with. 
Hunger ate this in haste, and asked after 

more. 

Then these folk for fear fetched him many 
Onions and pease, for they him would please ; 
After these were eaten, he must take his 

leave 
Till it was near to harvest, when new corn 

came to market. 
Then were these folk fain, and fed 

Hunger eagerly 
With good ale and gluttony, and caused 

him to sleep. 
And then would not the waster work, but 

wandered about, 290 

Nor any beggar eat bread that had beans 

in it, 
But cocket and clearmatin, 1 and of clean 

wheat; 

Nor any halfpenny ale in any wise drink, 
But of the best and the brownest that brew- 
ers sell. 
Laborers that have no land to live by, 

but only their hands, 
Deign not to dine today on yesterday's 

vegetables. 
No penny-ale may please them, nor a piece 

of bacon, 

Unless it were fresh flesh, or else fried fish, 
Hot and very hot, lest they chill their 

stomachs. 
Unless he be hired at a high price, he will 

surely chide, 300 

Call curses on the time that he was made 

a workman, 
And curse the king hard, and all his council 

after 

i Kinds of fine bread. 



For enforcing such laws as chastise la- 
borers. 

But while Hunger was master here there 
would none chide , 

Nor strive against the statutes, so stern 

they looked. 

I warn you all, workmen, win while ye 
may; 

Hunger hitherward again hieth him in haste. 

He will awake with high-waters 2 the 
wasters all; 

Ere five years are fulfilled, such famine shall 
arise, 

Through floods and foul weather fruits shall 
fail; 310 

And so saith Saturn, and sendeth us warning. 

PASSUS VIII 

Truth heard tell hereof, and to Piers sent 
To take his team, and till the earth; 
And purchased him a pardon a poena et a 

culpa, 8 
For him and for his heirs, for evermore 

after. 
And bade him stay at home, and plow his 

leas, 
And all that ever helped him, to plow or to 

sow, 

Or any kind of task that might Piers help, 

Part in that pardon the Pope hath granted. 

Kings and knights that guard Holy 

Church, 
And rightfully rule the realm and the 

people, 10 

Have pardon through Purgatory to pass 

full soon, 

With patriarchs in Paradise to play there- 
after. 
Bishops that bless, and both the laws* 

know, 
Look on the one law and teach men the 

other, 
And bear them both on their backs, as theii' 

banner showeth, 

And preach to their parsons the peril of sin, 
How their scabbed sheep shall their wool 

save, 
Have pardon with the Apostles when they 

pass hence, 
And at the Day of Doom with them on dais 

sit. 
Merchants, in the margin, had many 

years' remission, 20 

* Floods. From punishment and guilt. 

4 Duty to God and duty to man. 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



But not a poena et a culpa would the Pope 

them grant. 
Because they hold not their holy-day as 

Holy Church teachetb, 
And because they swore by their souls 

" so help them God ! " 
Against their clean conscience, their goods 

to sell. 
But under his secret seal Truth sent a 

letter, 
And bade them buy boldly what they liked 

best, 

And then sell it again, and save the win- 
ning, 
And make maison-duux 1 therewith, the sick 

to help, 

And wicked customs vigorously amend; 
Build again bridges that broken were, 30 
Help to marry maidens or make them nuns ; 
Poor widows that would not be wives again, 
Find such their food, for love of God of 

heaven ; 
Let scholars to school, or to some other 

craft, 

Assist 2 religion, and endow it better; 
" And I shall send you myself Saint Michael, 

my angel, 
That no devil shall harm you, when you shall 

die, 
And hinder me from sending your souls safe 

into heaven, 
And before the face of my father prepare 

your seats. 

Usury and avarice and oaths I forbid, 40 
That no guile go with you, but the grace of 

truth." 
Then were merchants merry, they wept 

for joy, 
And give Will for his writing woolen 

clothes; 
Because he copied thus their clause, they 

gave him great thanks. 
Men of law had least, for they are loath 
To plead for mean men, unless they get 

money ; 

So saith the Psalter and Sapience also. 
Super innocentes munera non accipiunt. A 

regibus et principibus erit merces 

eorum. 8 
From princes and prelates their pension 

should come, 
And from the poor people no pennyworth 

should they take. 



' Hospitals. 
Psalms, xv, 9. 



* A Rule; B C Beleue. 



But he that speudeth his speech, and 

speaketh for the poor man, 50 

Who is innocent and needy, and no man 

hath harmed, 
That comforteth him in misfortune, covet- 

eth not his goods, 
But, for our Lord's love, law for him 

showeth, 
No devil, at his death-day, shall harm him 

a mite, 
That he be not secure and safe; and so 

saith the Psalter. 

Quifacit haec, non movelitur in eternum.* 
But to buy water, or wind, or wit (the third 

thing), 
Holy Writ would never grant, God knows 

the truth! 
These three as thralls have grown among 

us all, 

To wax or to wane, whichever God liketh. 
His pardon in purgatory is petty, I trow, 60 
Who any pay from poor men for pleading 

receiveth. 
Ye lawmakers and lawyers, ye know 

whether I lie; 

Since ye see that it is so, serve at your best. 
Living laborers, that live by their hands, 
That truly give and truly pay their tithes 
And live in love and in law for their lowly 

hearts, 
Had the same absolution that sent was to 

Piers. 

Askers and beggars are not in the bull, 
Unless the suggestion be sound that causes 

them to beg. 
For he that beggeth or asketh, unless ho 

have need, ^. 

He is false as the fiend, and defraudeth t. 

needy, 
And also beguileth the giver, all against his 

will. 

They live not in love, nor any law keep; 
They wed no women that they have to do 

with ; 

But as wild beasts wickedly work together, 
And bring forth bairns that bastards are 

held. 
Either their backs or their bones they 

break in their youth, 

And go begging with their children ever- 
more after. 
There are more misshapen among them, 

whoso takes heed, 

He that doeth these things shall never be move 
Psalms, xv, 5. 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 



59 



Than of all other men that in the world 

wander. 80 

They that live their life thus may loath the 

time 
That ever they were created men, when 

they shall hence fare. 
But old men and hoary, that helpless are 

in strength, 

And women with child, that cannot work, 
The blind and bedridden, with broken limbs, 
That take sickness meekly, like lepers and 

others, 

Have as full pardon as the Plowman him- 
self; 
For love of their humble hearts our Lord 

hath them granted 
Their penance and their purgatory to have 

here upon earth. 

44 Piers," quoth a priest then, " thy par- 
don must I read, 90 
For I will construe every clause, and know 

it in English." 
And Piers, at his prayer, the pardon un- 

foldetb, 
And I, behind them both, beheld all the 

bull. 

In two lines it lay, and not a letter more, 
And was written right thus, in witness of 

tru: h : 

Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in viam eternam- 
Qui vero mala, in ignem eternum. 1 
u Peter! " quoth the priest then, "I can no 

pardon find, 
But ' Do well and have well, and God shall 

have thy soul; 
And do evil and have evil, hope thou none 

other 
But that after thy death-day to hell shalt 

thou wend!'" 
And Piers, for pure vexation, pulled it 

asunder, too 

And then he said to them these seemly 

sayings: 
41 Si ambulavero in media umbrae mortis, non 

timebo mala, quoniam tu mecvm es. 2 
I shall cease from my sowing," said Piers, 

"and work not so hard, 
Nor about my livelihood so busy be more! 
In prayer and in penance my plowing shall 

be hereafter, 

t 1 And those who did good shalt go Into eternal life ; 

but who did evil, into eternal fire. Cf. Matthew, xxv, 

16. 
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow 

of death, I will fear no evil ; for thou art with me, 

Psalmi, xxiii, 4. 



And lower where I laughed, ere my life fail. 
The prophet his bread ate in penance and 

weeping; 
As the Psalter says to us, so did many 

others ; 
Who loveth God loyally, his livelihood is 

plentiful: 
Fuerunt mihi lacrimae meae panes, die ac 

nocte.* 

And, unless Luke lies, he teachcth us an- 
other, 
That too busy we should not be, here upon 

earth, no 

While we dwell in this world, to make glad 

the belly. 

Ne soliciti sitis,* he saith in his gospel, 
And showeth it by example our souls to 

guide. 
The fowls in the firmament, who feedeth 

them in winter ? 

When the frost f reezeth, food they require ; 
They have no granary to go to, yet God 

gives them all." 
" What ? " quoth the priest to Perkin, " by 

Peter! as methinketh, 
Thou art lettered a little; who taught thee 

to read ? " 
"Abstinence the abbess mine ABC me 

taught, 
And Conscience came after and showed me 

better." 120 

"Were thou a priest," quoth he, "thou 

mightest preach when thou couldst; 
' Quoniam literaturam non cognovij 6 might 

be thy theme ! " 
"Lewd losel!" quoth he, "little lookest 

thou on the Bible, 

Solomon's sayings seldom thou beholdest; 
' Sling away these scorners,'he saith, ' with 

their vile scolding, 

For with them readily I care not to rest ; ' 
Ejice derisores etjurgia cum eis, ne crescant" 
The priest and Perkin then disputed to- 
gether, 
And through their words I awoke, and 

waited about, 
And saw the sun in the south just at that 

time. 129 

Meatless and moneyless on Malvern hills, 
Musing on this dream, a mile length I went. 

My tears have been my meat day and night, 
Psalms, xlii, 3. 

4 Be not anxious, etc., Matthew, vi, 25. 

5 For I have known no learning, Psalms, Ixxi, 15 
(Vulgate). 

Proverbs, xxii, 10 (translated in previous lines). 



60 



390101 



WILLIAM LANGLAND 



Many a time this dream has made me to 

study 

For love of Piers the Plowman, full pen- 
sive in my heart; 
For it I saw sleeping, if such a thing might 

be. 

But Cato construeth it nay, and the canon- 
lawyers too, 

And say themselves, " Somnia ne cures." 1 
But as for the Bible, bear witness how 
Daniel divined the dreams of a king, 
Whom Nebuchadnezzar 2 these clerks name. 
Daniel said, " Sir King, thy dream means 
That strange knights shall come thy king- 
dom to claim; 141 
Among lower lords thy land shall be di- 
vided." 

As Daniel divined, it fell out indeed after, 
The king lost his lordship, and lesser men 

it had. 

And Joseph dreamed dreams, full mar- 
velous also, 

How the sun and the moon and eleven stars 
Fell before his feet and saluted him all. 
"Beaujils" quoth his father, "for famine 

we shall, 

I myself and my sons, seek thee in need." 
It fell out as the father said, in Pharaoh's 
time, 150 

Where Joseph was justice, Egypt to keep. 

All this inaketh me on dreams to think 
Many a time at midnight, when men should 

sleep, 
On Piers the plowman, and what sort of 

pardon he had, 
And how the priest impugned it, all by pure 

reason, 

And divined that Do-well surpassed an in- 
dulgence, 

Bienals and trienals 8 and bishops' letters. 
Do-well on doomsday is worthily praised, 
He surpasseth all the pardons of St. Peter's 

church. 

Now hath the Pope power pardon to grant, 

The people without penance to pass into 

joy. i6i 

1 Take no heed of dreams, Dionysius Cato, Distich, 
ii, 31. 

> Really Belshazzar, as Skeat shows. Daniel, v, 28. 
a Masses for the dead said for two and three years. 



This is a part of our belief as learned men 

teach us, 

Quodcunque ligaveris super terrain, erit 
ligatum et in coelis.* 

And so believe I loyally (our Lord forbid I 
should other) 

That pardon and penance and prayers do 
save 

Souls that have sinned seven times deadly. 

But to trust to trienals truly methinketh 

Is not so secure for the soul, certes, as Do- 
well. 

Therefore I counsel you men that are rich 
On earth, 

Trusting by your treasure trienals to have, 

Be ye none the bolder to break the ten com- 
mandments. 170 
And especially ye mayors, and ye master 
judges, 

That have the wealth of this world, and for 
wise men are held, 

To purchase pardon and the Pope's bulls, 

At the dreadful day of doom, when the dead 
shall arise 

And come all before Christ, and accounts 
yield 

How thou leddest thy life, and his law kept- 
est, 

What thou didst day by day, the doom will 
rehearse ; 

A pouchf ul of pardon there, with provincial 
letters, 

Though thou be found in fraternity among 
the four orders, 

And have indulgence doubled, unless Do- 
well thee help, 180 

I would not give for thy pardon one pie-heel ! 

Therefore I counsel all Christians to cry 
Christ mercy, 

And Mary his mother to be their intercessor, 

That God give us grace, ere we go hence, 

Such works to work, while we are here, 

That after our death-day, Do-well rehearse, 

At the day of doom, that we did as he us 
told. 

Explicit hie Visio Willelmi de Petro de 
Ploughman. 

< What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be 
bound in heaven, Matthew, xviii, 18. 




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