Piers Ploughman (Wright)/Passus 1

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Passus Primus de Visione.

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hat this mountaigne by-meneth       460

And the merke dale,
And the feld ful of folk,
I shal yow faire shewe.

A lovely lady of leere,
In lynnen y-clothed,
Cam doun from a castel
And called me faire,
And seide, "Sone, slepestow?
Sestow this peple,
How bisie thei ben       470
Alle aboute the maze?
The mooste partie of this peple
That passeth on this erthe,
Have thei worship in this world,
Thei wilne no bettre;
Of oother hevene than here
Holde thei no tale."

I was a-fered of hire face,
Theigh she fair weere,
And seide, "Mercy, madame,       480
What is this to meene?"

"The tour on the toft," quod she,
"Truthe is therinne;
And wolde that ye wroughte,
As his word techeth!
For he is fader of feith,
And formed yow alle
Bothe with fel and with face,
And yaf yow fyve wittes,
For to worshipe hym therwith,       490
While that ye ben here.
And therfore he highte the erthe
To helpe yow echone,
Of wollene, of lynnen,
Of liflode at nede,
In mesurable manere
To make yow at ese;
And comaunded of his curteisie
In commune three thynges,
Are none nedfulle but tho,       500
And nempne hem I thynke,
And rekene hem by reson;
Reherce thow hem after.

"That oon vesture,
From cold thee to save;
And mete at meel
For mysese of thiselve;
And drynke whan thow driest;
Ac do noght out of reson,
That thow worthe the wers       510
Whan thow werche sholdest.

"For Lot in hise lif-dayes,
For likynge of drynke,
Dide by hise doughtres
That the devel liked,
Delited hym in drynke
As the devel wolde,
And leccherie hym laughte,
And lay by hem bothe,
And al he witte it the wyn       520
That wikked dede.
Inebriamus eum vino, dormiamusque
cum eo, ut servare possimus de
patre nostro semen.
Thorugh wyn and thorugh wommen
Ther was Loth acombred,
And there gat in glotonie
Gerles that were cherles.

"For-thi dred delitable drynke,
And thow shalt do the bettre.       530
Mesure is medicine,
Though thow muchel yerne.
It is nought al good to the goost
That the gut asketh,
Ne liflode to thi likame;
For a liere hym techeth,
That is the wrecched world
Wolde thee bitraye.
For the fend and thi flesshe
Folwen togidere.       540
This and that seeth thi soule,
And seith it in thin herte;
And for thow sholdest ben y-war,
I wisse thee the beste."

"Madame, mercy!" quod I,
"Me liketh wel youre wordes;
Ac the moneie of this molde
That men so faste holdeth,
Tel me to whom, madame,
That tresour appendeth."       550

"Go to the gospel," quod she,
"That God seide hymselven;
Tho the poeple hym apposede
With a peny in the temple,
Wheither thei sholde therwith
Worshipe the kyng Cesar.

"And God asked of hym,
Of whom spak the lettre,
And the ymage was lik
That therinne stondeth.       560

"'Cesares,' thei seiden,
'We seen it wel echone.'

"'Reddite Cæsari,' quod God,
'That Cæsari bifalleth,
Et quæ sunt Dei Deo,'
Or ellis ye don ille;
For rightfully reson
Sholde rule yow alle,
And kynde wit be wardeyn
Youre welthe to kepe,       570
And tutour of youre tresor,
And take it yow at nede,
For housbondrie and hii
Holden togidres."

Thanne I frayned hire faire,
For hym that me made,
"That dongeon in the dale,
That dredful is of sighte,
What may it be to meene,
Madame, I yow biseche?"       580

"That is the castel of Care;
Who so comth therinne
May banne that he born was,
To bodi or to soule.
Therinne wonyeth a wight
That Wrong is y-hote,
Fader of falshede,
And founded it hymselve.
Adam and Eve
He egged to ille;       590
Counseilled Kaym
To killen his brother;
Judas he japed
With Jewen silver,
And sithen on an eller
Hanged hymselve.
He is lettere of love,
And lieth hem alle
That trusten on his tresour;
Bitrayeth he hem sonnest."       600

Thanne hadde I wonder in my wit
What womman it weere,
That swiche wise wordes
Of holy writ shewed;
And asked hire on the heighe name,
Er she thennes yede,
What she were witterly
That wissed me so faire.

"Holi chirche I am," quod she,
"Thow oughtest me to knowe;       610
I underfeng thee first,
And the feith taughte;
And broughtest me borwes
My biddyng to fulfille,
And to loven me leelly
The while thi lif dureth."

Thanne I courbed on my knees,
And cried hire of grace;
And preide hire pitously
Preye for my sinnes,       620
And also kenne me kyndely
On Crist to bi-leve,
That I myghte werchen his wille
That wroghte me to man.
"Teche me to no tresor,
But tel me this ilke,
How I may save my soule,
That seint art y-holden."

"Whan alle tresors arn tried," quod she,
"Treuthe is the beste;       630
I do it on Deus caritas,
To deme the sothe,
It is as dereworthe a drury
As deere God hymselven.

"Who is trewe of his tonge,
And telleth noon oother,
And dooth the werkes therwith,
And wilneth no man ille,
He is a God by the gospel
A-grounde and o-lofte,       640
And y-lik to oure Lord,
By seint Lukes wordes.
The clerkes that knowen this,
Sholde kennen it aboute,
For cristen and un-cristen
Cleymeth it echone.

"Kynges and knyghtes
Sholde kepen it by reson,
Riden and rappen doun
In reaumes aboute,       650
And taken transgressores,
And tyen hem faste,
Til treuthe hadde y-termyned
Hire trespas to the ende.
And that is profession apertli
That apendeth to knyghtes;
And naught to fasten o friday
In fyve score wynter,
But holden with hym and with here
That wolden alle truthe,       660
And nevere leve hem for love
Ne for lacchynge of silver.
For David in hise dayes
Dubbed knyghtes,
And dide hem sweren on hir swerdes
To serven truthe evere;
And who so passed that point
Was apostata in the ordre.

"But Crist kyngene kyng
Knyghted ten,       670
Cherubyn and seraphyn,
Swiche sevene and othere
And yaf hem myght in his majestee,
The murier hem thoughte,
And over his meene meynee
Made hem archangeles;
Taughte hem by the Trinitee
Treuthe to knowe;
To be buxom at his biddyng,
He bad hem nought ellis.       680

"Lucifer with legions
Lerned it in hevene;
But for he brak buxomnesse
His blisse gan he tyne,
And fel fro that felawshipe
In a fendes liknesse,
Into a deep derk helle,
To dwelle there for evere;
And mo thousandes myd hym
Than man kouthe nombre       690
Lopen out with Lucifer
In lothliche forme,
For thei leveden upon hym
That lyed in this manere:
Ponam pedem in aquilone, et similis ero altissimo.[1]

"And alle that hoped it myghte be so,
Noon hevene myghte hem holde,
But fellen out in fendes liknesse
Nyne dayes togideres,       700
Til God of his goodnesse
Gan stablisse and stynte,
And garte the hevene to stekie
And stonden in quiete.

"Whan thise wikkede wenten out,
In wonder wise thei fellen;
Somme in the eyr, somme in erthe,
And somme in helle depe;
Ac Lucifer lowest lith
Yet of hem alle,       710
For pride that he putte out,
His peyne hath noon ende.
And alle that werchen with wrong,
Wende thei shulle,
After hir deth day
And dwelle with that sherewe.

"And tho that werche wel,
As holy writ telleth,
And enden as I er seide
In truthe, that is the beste,       720
Mowe be siker that hire soules
Shul wende to hevene,
Ther treuthe is in trinitee,
And troneth hem alle.
For-thi I seye, as I seyde er,
By sighte of thise textes,
Whan alle tresors arn tried,
Truthe is the beste;
Lereth it thise lewed men,
For lettred men it knoweth,       730
That treuthe is tresor
The trieste on erthe."

"Yet have I no kynde knowyng." quod I,
"Ye mote kenne me bettre,
By what craft in my cors
It comseth, and where."

"Thow doted daffe," quod she,
"Dulle are thi wittes;
To litel Latyn thow lernedest,
Leode, in thi youthe."       740
Heu michi! quia sterilem duxi vitam juvenilem.[1]

"It is a kynde knowyng," quod she,
"That kenneth in thyn herte,
For to loven thi Lord
Levere than thiselve,
No dedly synne to do,
Deye theigh thow sholdest;
This I trowe be truthe.
Who kan teche thee bettre,       750
Loke thow suffre hym to seye,
And sithen lere it after;
For truthe telleth that love
Is triacle of hevene.
May no synne be on hym seene,
That useth that spice,
And alle hise werkes be wroughte
With love as hym liste;
And lered it Moyses for the leveste thyng,
And moost lik to hevene,       760
And al so the plentee of pees
Moost precious of vertues;
For hevene myghte nat holden it,
It was so hevy of hymself,
Til it hadde of the erthe
Eten his fille.

"And whan it hadde of this fold
Flesshe and blood taken,
Was nevere leef upon lynde
Lighter therafter,       770
And portatif and persaunt
As the point of a nedle,
That myghte noon armure it lette,
Ne none heighe walles.

"For-thi is love ledere
Of the Lordes folk of hevene,
And a meene, as the mair is
Bitwene the kyng and the commune;
Right so is love a ledere,
And the law shapeth,       780
Upon man for hise mysdedes
The mercyment he taxeth.
And for to knowen it kyndely
It comseth by myght,
And in the herte there is the heed
And the heighe welle;
For in kynde knowynge in herte,
Ther a myght bigynneth;
And that falleth to the fader
That formed us alle,       790
Loked on us with love,
And leet his sone dye
Mekely for oure mysdedes,
To amenden us alle.
And yet wolde he hem no wo
That wroughte hym that peyne,
But mekely with mouthe
Mercy bisoughte,
To have pité of that peple
That peyned hym to dethe.       800

"There myghtow sen ensample
In hymself oone,
That he was myghtful and meke,
And mercy gan graunte
To hem that hengen hym on heigh
And his herte thirled.

"For-thi I rede yow, riche,
Haveth ruthe of the povere;
Though ye be myghtful to mote,
Beeth meke in youre werkes,       810
For the same mesures that ye mete,
Amys outher ellis,
Ye shulle ben weyen therwith
Whan ye wenden hennes.
Eadem mensura qua mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis.[1]

"For though ye be trewe of youre tonge
And treweliche wynne,
And as chaste as a child
That in chirche wepeth,       820
But if ye loven leelly
And lene the povere,
Swich good as God yow sent
Goodliche parteth,
Ye ne have namoore merite
In masse nor in houres,
Than Malkyn of hire maydenhede
That no man desireth.

"For James the gentile
Jugged in hise bokes,       830
That feith withouten the feet
Is right no thyng worthi,
And as deed as a dore-tree,
But if the dedes folwe.
Fides sine operibus mortua est, etc.

"For-thi chastité withouten charité
Worth cheyned in helle;
It is as lewed as a lampe
That no light is inne.
Manye chapeleyns arn chaste,       840
Ac charité is aweye;
Are no men avarouser than hii
Whan thei ben avaunced,
Unkynde to hire kyn,
And to alle cristene
Chewen hire charité,
And chiden after moore;
Swiche chastité withouten charité
Worth cheyned in helle.

"Manye curatours kepen hem       850
Clene of hire bodies;
Thei ben acombred with coveitise,
Thei konne noght doon it from hem,
So harde hath avarice
Y-hasped hem togideres;
And that is no truthe of the Trinité,
But tricherie of helle,
And lernynge to lewed men
The latter for to deele.
For-thi thise wordes       860
Ben writen in the gospel,
Date, et dabitur vobis,
For I deele yow alle,
And that is the lok of love,
And leteth out my grace,
To conforten the carefulle
A-combred with synne.

"Love is leche of lif,
And next oure Lord selve,
And also the graithe gate       870
That goth into hevene;
For-thi I seye, as I seide
Er by the textes,
Whan alle tresors ben tried,
Treuthe is the beste.

"Now have I told thee what truthe is,
That no tresor is bettre;
I may no lenger lenge thee with,
Now loke thee oure Lorde."       879

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 In Wright's edition each of these lines was printed and counted as two lines