The Ploughman's Tale

THE PLOUGHMAN'S TALE: NOTES


Note on spelling. The scribe of this manuscript was prone to use -y- where Chaucer was likely to use -e- in the plural and possessive -es, the third-person -eth, and the past tense -ed. Examples in the first two stanzas include pylgrymys for "pilgrims," felawys for "fellows," comyth for "come," and Crystys modyr for "Christ's mother."

5 The Host's reference to the "lot" recalls the method for determining the order of tale-tellers initiated in the General Prologue (CT I, 835-45).

6 Chaucer gave the Plowman no name in the General Prologue (CT I, 529-41). Perhaps he is given the name Tylyer to avoid confusion with the more famous literary tiller, Piers Plowman.

16 holsom. HM (Huntington HM 744): needful.

24 owr sheld. HM: our seur sheeld.

27 peyne ay-duryng. HM: eternel peyne.

47 Gabriel's angelic salutation is recorded in Luke 1:28: Et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit: "Ave gratia pleta: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus!" [And the angel being come in, said unto her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women!" - Douay translation.]

49 Of Cristys modyr, of vertu myrroure. HM: Of goddes modir / of vertu the flour.

63 Known as the Rosary in modern times, Our Lady's Psalter was the prayerful recitation of Ave Marias, usually in multiples of 150, the number of psalms in the Psalter. Originating in the monasteries as a devotion for illiterate brothers who could not otherwise participate in the Divine Office, the practice spread beyond the monastic communities and became a popular form of lay piety. See Beverly Boyd, "Hoccleve's Miracle of the Virgin," Texas Studies in English 35 (1956), 116-22. Hoccleve's note in HM 744 (fol. 36a) that "Ce feust faite a linstance de T. Marleburgh" - the London stationer Thomas Marleburgh being master of the guild of Limners and Textwriters in 1423 - indicates his poem was intended for a lay readership.

76 Ave, as in HM; omitted in Ch.

85 Thow, as in HM; Ch: Though.

90 with, as in HM; Ch: which.

94 doon, as in HM; Ch doo. Note that Ch: and neven makes a better rhyme than HM: and meene, suggesting this text derives from a different version by Hoccleve himself.

101 suyng, her psalter. HM: Aue Maria.

103 folwyng. HM: suynge; this substitution to avoid repetition of the word suyng in line 101 again suggests authorial revision in Ch.

107 good apparaylle. HM: fressh apparaille.

114 chosyn shalt thow be. HM: shalt thow chosen be.

123 And hereof. HM: And of this. HM: thow, omitted in Ch.

128 HM: up, omitted in Ch.

130 HM: that, omitted in Ch.

135 unto, as in HM; Ch: to.

 
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The Ploughman's Tale

(Christ Church Oxford MS 152, fols. 228b-231a)

   
   
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   The Prologe of the Ploughman
 
As the pylgrymys forth ded ryde,
Owr Host began to loke aboute
And seyd, "Felawys, we most provyde
Hoo that best of alle thys route
Kan telle hys tale, as lot comyth aboute.
Ploughman Tylyer, drawe the nere
And telle thy tale, and we wyl here."
 
"Syr," he seyde, "I shalle telle, as I can,
A tale of Crystys modyr dere,
Mary that bare bothe God and man,
How to a monk she ded apere,
That every day seyde here sautere,
And hevene blysse had to his mede.
Hoo servyth owr Lady, the better shalle spede.
 
"Whoso desyryth to gete and conquere
The blysse of hevene, holsom ys a guyde
Hym to condue and hym to brynge there;
And so good knowe Y noon for mannys syde,
As the rote of humblesse and fo to pryde -
That Lady of whos tetys virginalle
Sook owr redemptour, the maker of alle.
 
"Betwyxt God and man ys she meadiatrice
For owr offences, mercy to purchace;
She owr sheld ys agayns the malyce
Of the Fende, that owr soulys wold enbrace
And cary hem unto that horryble place
Whereas peyne ay-duryng ys and turment,
More than may be spoken of or ment.
 
"Now syn that Lady noble and gloryous
To alle mankynde hath so grete cheerté
That in thys slypyr lyf and peryllous
Staff of comfort and help to man ys she,
Convenyent ys that to that Lady fre
We do servyce, honour, and plesaunce -
And to that ende, here ys a remembraunce."
 
HERE BEGYNNYTH THE PLOUGHMANNYS TALE OF OWR LADY
 
   There was whilom, as that seyth the scripture,
In Fraunce a ryche man and a worthy
That, God and Holy Churche to honure
And plese, enforced hym ful bysyly;
And unto Crystys modyr specyally,
That noble Lady, that blessyd virgyne,
For to worchype he dyde hys myght and pyne.
 
Hyt shop so that thys man had a yonge sone
Unto whyche he yaf informacioun
Every day to have in custome and wone
For to sey, at hys excitacioun,
The angelyk salutacioun
Fifty sythys in worchyp and honoure
Of Cristys modyr, of vertu myrroure.
 
By hys faderys wyl, a monk afterward
In the abbey of Seint Gyle made was hee,
Whereas he in penaunce sharp and hard
Observyd wel hys ordres douté,
Lyvyng in vertuous religiousté;
And on a tyme, hym to play and solace,
Hys fadyr made hym come home to hys place.
 
Now was there at oure Ladyes reverence
A chapel in hyt made and edefyed,
In the whyche the monk, when convenyence
Of tyme he had awayted and espyed,
Hys fadrys lore to fulfylle hym hied,
And fifty sythys wyth devoute corage
Seyd Ave Mary, as was hys usage.
 
And when he had y-endyd hys prayere,
Owr Lady clothyd in a garnement
Sleveles byfor hym he sey appere,
Whereof the monk toke goode avysement,
Mervaylyng hym what that thys myght have ment,
And seyde, "Good Lady, by yowr leve,
What garnement hys thys and hath no sleve?"
 
She answerd and seyd, "Thys clothyng
Thow hast me gevyn, for thow every day
Fifty sithe Ave Mary seying
Honouryd hast me. Hensforth, Y the pray,
Use to treble that by any way;
To every tenthe Ave joyne also
A Pater Noster, do ryght evene so.
 
"The first fifty wil Y that seyd be
In the memory of the joy and honoure
That I had when the aungel gret me,
Which was ryght a wondyrful comfortoure
To me when he seyd the redemptoure
Of alle mankynd Y conceyve sholde:
Grete was my joy when he so me tolde.
 
"Thow shalt eke seyn the secund fyfti
In honour and in mynd of the gladnesse
That Y had when Y bare of my body
God and man withowtyn woo or duresse.
The thirde fyfti in thyne hert enpresse,
And sey it eek with good devocioun
In the memorey of myne assumpcioun,
 
"When Y was crounyd Quene of Heven
In whyche my sone regnyth and shal aye."
Al thys was doon that I speke of and neven,
As the book seyth, upon an halydaye;
And then seyd owr Lady, that gloryous maye,
"The nexte halyday wyl I resorte
To thys place, the to glade and conforte."
 
And therwithalle fro thens departyd she,
The monk in hys devociouns dwellyng.
And every day suyng, her psalter he
Seyde aftyr here doctryne and enformyng.
And the next halyday aftyr folwyng,
Owr Lady, fresshly arayd and welle,
To the monk cam, beyng in the chapelle,
 
And to hym seyde shee, "Beholde nowe
Howe good clothyng and how good apparaylle
That, thys wyke, to me yevyn hast thowe:
Sleves to my clothyng now not faylle -
The thank I, and ful welle, for thy travaylle;
Shalt thow be qwyt here in thys lyf present,
And in that other whan thow hens art went.
 
"Walk now and goo hom to the abbey.
When thow comyst, abbot chosyn shalt thow be,
And to the covent teche thow for to sey
My psalter, as byfore taught have I the.
The peple also thow shalt in generalté
The same lessoun unto myne honoure preche,
And of here hurtys wil I ben here leche.
 
"Seven yere lyfe shalt thow for to doo
Thys charge, and when the yerys be agoon,
Thow passe shalt hens, and me come untoo,
And hereof dowte have thow ryght noon.
By my psalter shal there be many oon
Saved and had up to eternall blysse
That, yef that nere, sholdyn therof mysse."
 
When she had seyd what her lyked to sey,
She up to heven ascendyd and stye,
And sone after, abbot of that abbey
He maad was, as that hym told owr Ladye.
The covent and the peple devoutlye
Thys monk enformyd and taughte her psalter,
For to be seyd after that seven yere.
 
Thoo yerys past, hys soule was betaught
To God - he Heven had unto hys mede.
Who servyth owr Lady, lesyth ryght naughte;
She sofficiently qwyteth every dede,
And now hereaftyr the bettyr to spede,
And in her grace cherly for to stonde,
Her psalter for to sey let us fonde. Amen.
 
HERE ENDYTH THE PLOUGHMANNYS TALE
 
 
did
 
must determine
Who; company
(see note)
Tiller; yourself; (see note)
 
 
 
Christ's mother
bore
 
Who; her psalter
reward
Who; prosper
 
 
healthy; (see note)
conduct
I; man's part
root; enemy
breasts
Suckled
 
intermediary
 
(see note)
Devil
 
ever-lasting; (see note)
conceived
 
since
charity
slippery
 
Appropriate; generous
pleasure
reminder
 
 
 
once; written source
 
 
exerted himself
 
 
pain
 
It happened
gave
habit
spiritual exercise
i.e., Ave Maria; (see note)
times
(see note)
 
father's
Giles (St. Aegidius)
 
duty
 
relax
 
 
 
it; established
 
 
instruction; hurried
times; spirit
(see note)
 
ended
garment
Without sleeves; saw
notice
 
 
is; that has
 
 
given
 
I thee
Try to triple
(see note)
 
 
 
 
(Gabriel) greeted
 
 
 
 
 
also say; (see note)
 
 
without woe
imprint
(see note)
 
 
 
forever
name; (see note)
holiday
maid
 
thee to gladden
 
 
 
following; (see note)
instruction
(see note)
 
 
 
 
(see note)
week; given
 
Thee; efforts
rewarded
i.e., when you die
 
 
(see note)
chapter; say
thee
universally
 
their; physician
 
 
years; gone
 
(see note)
 
 
if that weren't
 
it pleased her
climbed; (see note)
soon
(see note)
 
 
 
 
Those; entrusted
reward; (see note)
loses
repays
 
joyously
strive
 
 
Go To The Cook's Tale, introduction
Go To The Cook's Tale, text