The Plowman's Tale/Prologue

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Here beginneth the Plowmans Prologue.

The Plowman plucked up his plow,
Whan midsommer mone was comen in,
And sayd, 'his beestes shuld ete y-now,
And lig in the grasse, up to the chin;
They ben feble, both oxe and cow, 5

Of hem nis left but boon and skin.'
He shook of share, and cultre of-drow,
And hong his harneys on a pin.

He took his tabard and his staf eke,
And on his heed he set his hat; 10
And sayde, he wolde saynt Thomas seke,
On pilgrimage he goth forth plat.
In scrippe he bar both breed and lekes,
He was forswonke and all forswat; 15
Men might have seen through both his chekes,
And every wang-toth and where it sat.

Our hoste beheld wel all about,
And saw this man was sunne y-brent;
He knew well by his senged snout,
And by his clothes that were to-rent, 20
He was a man wont to walke about,
He nas nat alway in cloystre y-pent;
He coud not religiousliche lout,
And therfore was he fully shent.

Our host him axed, 'what man art thou?' 25
'Sir,' quod he, 'I am an hyne;
For I am wont to go to the plow,
And erne my mete yer that I dyne.
To swete and swinke I make avow,
My wyf and children therwith to fynd, 30
And servë god, and I wist how;
But we lewd men ben full[y] blynd.

For clerkes saye, we shullen be fayn
For hir lyvelod [to] swete and swinke,
And they right nought us give agayn, 35
Neyther to ete ne yet to drinke.
They mowe by lawë, as they sayn,
Us curse and dampne to hell[e] brinke;
Thus they putten us to payn,
With candles queynt and belles clinke. 40

They make us thralles at hir lust,
And sayn, we mowe nat els be saved;
They have the corn and we the dust,
Who speketh ther-agayn, they say he raved.'

'What, man,' quod our host, 'canst thou preche? 45
Come neer, and tell us some holy thing.'
'Sir,' quod he, 'I herde ones teche
A prest in pulpit a good preching.'
'Say on,' quod our host, 'I thee beseche.'
'Sir, I am redy at your bidding. 50
I pray you that no man me reproche
Whyl that I am my tale telling.

Thus endeth the prologue, and here foloweth the first part of the tale.