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The Plowman's Tale


1 He cleaned the plowshare, and drew off the coulter

2 And they give us nothing at all in return

3 The falser (worse seed), may evil befall it!

4 And always without improvement (of their condition)

5 [They] should not desire to sit in the high seat

6 In malignant darkness construct their bower

7 I maintain such a one is traitor to Christ

8 Such false deceivers, may evil befall them

9 And in their meaning, if you will pay attention

10 And pennies will become servants of [these merchant-priests'] purse

11 Christ forbade the Apostles especially that

12 He grants neither a free nor contingent point

13 May Christ's people be guided away from them

14 But he who acquires money in this way will lose it

15 They practice it (whoredom) all their lives

16 (They follow Christ) To heaven, just as the bucket into the well

17 To enhance his sweetheart's caul (rich headdress)

18 Their victims for plundering are wholly the poor

19 Although he knows nothing better [to do]

20 They pay no attention to [their] souls' health

21 Such [people] work and stay awake for worldly reward

22 Whoever does not believe this is lost, each one

23 And those who live the Christian life, with their work

24 The poor man is simple, unjustly hindered

25 To build castles and a fortress for themselves

26 They tell nothing about God, nor [explain] how

27 Here [on earth] they don't follow His form of living at all

28 They hate guests [who are] the poor of God

29 Now no poor dare to teach the people

30 One sword to curse to hell, one to slay men here [on earth]

31 Except for shepherds who will eat ("bite") their sheep

32 Than allow a shepherd (= cleric) to lose his crook

33 They are, indeed, of the same kind

34 To seize whomever they wish not to know

35 Their seals are more dear on an annual basis / Than are the king's on an extended

36 Nor send some to Him who has sent all [to them]

37 "The wisdom of such willers is not worth a needle" (Sk)

38 They themselves know they have acted wickedly

39 [Christ] Who gave up the world's goods

40 Whoever takes [holy] orders, or otherwise enters Church service

41 For fear of being summoned to the consistory court

42 So that ignorant people might see it (the dark effigy), / Thou, Mary, work

43 Such men will ask them for silver [shrift-silver] for confessing them

44 "Either they give the bishops [some reason] why" (Sk)

45 Their [form of] living, a light to ignorant men

46 That [claim] must needs surpass human power

47 Do you know anything about monks?

48 They would have to have followed bent over the plow

49 We should have no more heads [than Christ]

50 Secure, I don't care how soon [suffering comes]

51 "Because bribery may break God's prohibition" (Sk)


1-52 The Prologue seems to follow the format of the CT, but Chaucer's pilgrims are all on the pilgrimage, not in their places of occupation, as is the Plowman of the PlT. Moreover, the fictional time of the Canterbury pilgrimage is April and not, as here, "midsummer." With the exception of the Canon, who (with his Yeoman) briefly joins the pilgrimage, Chaucer's pilgrims have set out from the Tabard Inn, in Southwerk, toward Canterbury to worship at the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket (see line 11). Chaucer describes the pilgrim Plowman, who does not tell a story, as wearing a "tabard," or a sleeveless outer garment (General Prologue 541). Chaucer also mentions that he rides on a "mere," but the author of the PlT says nothing about his horse. Wawn has argued that the Prologue was written by a sixteenth-century propagandist for Henry VIII, which helps explain the prosodic as well as thematic differences between the Prologue and the rest of the poem. The Prologue does not appear in the Texas MS; in HT lines 1-36 are written in a later hand (seventeenth century?), while lines 37-52 are printed.

7 The plowshare was the large blade for making furrows, and the coulter was the vertical blade in front of the plowshare.

17 Our Hoste. Chaucer's Harry Bailly, Host of the Canterbury pilgrimage. See the CT, General Prologue, I.751-57.

44 Sk observes that four lines seem to have dropped out after line 44. Lines 45-52, however, rhyme abababab, as do the other stanza units of the Prologue. Lines 41-48 are printed as a stanza in HT, the Texas MS, and Thynne2, which suggests close affiliation between and among the three earliest versions of the PlT. Further evidence of affiliation occurs at line 1325, where all three early versions contain the designation "Pellican," although there is no speech at that line.

53 HT's endnote to the Prologue reads: "Thus endeth the prologue / and here foloweth the fyrst parte of this present worke." A printed marginal note in HT (beside line 1) reads Narratio, indicating that the story proper begins here.

57 on grounde. So the Texas MS and Sk. HT and Thynne2 read vngrounde.

58 souple. So the Texas MS and Sk. HT and Thynne2 have souble, Wr soukle.

60 The seed metaphor alludes to Christ's parable of the sower (Matthew 13).

73 I-cleped. So the Texas MS, Wr, and Sk; HT and Thynne2 = I-clepeth. Lollers here may refer specifically to the Lollards, who were often accused of mumbling and general laziness.

86-87 Griffin and Pelican. The griffin (or gryphon) in medieval bestiaries was a fabulous monster, symbol of the devil and of usury as well as of Christ, with the lower parts of a lion but the head and wings of an eagle. Because the pelican mother was reputed to tear open her side to feed her young, it was often a symbol of Christ in medieval bestiaries.

97 See John 1.29: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world." Christ blessed the meek and merciful in Matthew 5.5 and 5.7 (the Beatitudes).

105 covertours, skilfully made bed linens, were symbols of worldly extravagance in the Middle Ages. See Chaucer's Book of the Duchess, lines 249-56, and the Parson's Tale, citing Isaiah: "under hem shul been strawed motthes, and hire covertures shulle been of wormes of helle" (X 198).

112 Henry Despenser, warrior-bishop of Norwich, led a "crusade" on behalf of Pope Urban against territories controlled by the French antipope Clement VII in 1383. This campaign - the so-called Norwich Crusade - was widely regarded in retrospect as a cynical play for power. Despenser also helped quell the peasants' rebellion of 1381.

130 peragall. Sk's emendation; Thynne2, HT, and Wr: permagall.

157 myters: bishop's or abbot's tall cap.

176 at the full. So Texas MS; HT, Thynne2, Sk at full.

183 with a royall. So Texas MS; HT, Thynne2, Sk with her royall. Her may have come about from the previous line: to her brode.

193-94 Witnesse of Johns prophesy. See 1 John 4.3: "And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh, and he is now already in the world."

198 dome. This is the reading in Thynne's 3rd ed. and in Wr's edition. The Texas MS, Thynne2, and HT read done; Sk demed.

201 All-holyest. See also line 230. The point here is that the Pope arrogates a Latin title appropriate for Christ rather than for a human spiritual ruler.

205-28 These lines have been challenged as sixteenth-century interpolations by a Henrician propagandist. See esp. Wawn, "The Genesis of The Plowman's Tale," 36-37. Both Wr and Sk retain the lines.

220 Reserveth he. "He reserves nothing at all" (Sk); apparently a proverb. The churchman concedes neither an open or free (opyn) nor a contingent (joynt) point to Christ.

221 above hem all. This is the reading of the Texas MS. Thynne2, HT, and Sk read aboven all. Line 222 = "And Christ aboven hym nothyng"; it is possible that the scribe of the Texas MS anticipated this construction in line 221.

226 An angell bad John. See Apocalypse 22.8-9: "I fell down to adore before the feet of the angel, who shewed me these things. And he said to me: See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy bretheren the prophets, and of them that keep the words of the prophecy of this book. Adore God."

230 Sanctissimus. See line 201 and note.

237 bynde and lose. See Matthew 16.19: "And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon the earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

240 Betwene hem now. At this line HT contains the marginal gloss, "Omne regnum in se deuisum desolabitur." ("Every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate" [Matt. 12.25].)

242 which of hem. The allusion is to the rival popes, Boniface IX (Rome) and Benedict XIII (Avignon).

245 Qui gladio percutit. See Matt. 26.52b: omnes enim qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt (Vulgate); "for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Douai).

246 swerde sothely he shall. This is the unique reading of the Texas MS. Thynne2 reads "swerde shall"; HT has "swerde he shall"; and Sk emends to "swerde shall [he surely]."

248 not drede for to dye. HT contains the marginal gloss: "Nolite timere eos / qui occidunt corpus; estote prudentes." See Matt. 10.28: "And fear ye not them that kill the body."

250 carke not. See Matthew 6.25: "Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat: and the body more than the raiment?" See also PPC line 602.

258 Sk glosses choweth as chews; but that makes no sense. More likely choweth is from OF escheuen [to avoid, shun], while ball means a blow, as in Lydgate's Troy Book 6791-92: "Schelene gaff him suche a balle, / That of his stede he made him falle." (MED) It refers to the unjust ecclesiastical lawes.

289 to them hym shryves. Another reading from the Texas MS, although Sk emended his text to include the same reading. Thynne2 reads "to them shryues"; HT "to them shriues."

293 Maximyen. Galerius Valerius Maximianus, emperor of Rome 305-11. Maximian was the subject of a Latin moral elegy, translated into Middle English in the thirteenth century and sometimes identified as "Le regret de Maximian" (MS Digby 86; MS Harleian 2253).

297-98 "They follow Christ (who went upward) to heaven, just as a bucket (that goes downward) into a well" (Sk).

302 maynteynours. Magnates sometimes maintained private armies, paid men who took their livery and who furthered their causes, with inevitable distortions of justice. Parliament enacted statutes of Livery and Maintenance to try to check the abuses, but these laws were not effective.

306 crokettes: a rolled hair fashion introduced c. 1270 into the court of Henry III, which flourished in the late fourteenth century. See Gower's Confessio Amantis II.370. The style became sufficiently popular for the term to be transferred to curved architectural ornamentation on pinnacles, pediments, and canopies. See PPC 174. Because of its popular usage in a restricted period of time the term has been used to date the original composition of both PlT and PPC c. 1390s.

320 as by raunson. Sk's emendation. Texas MS, Thynne2, HT: "as raunsom[e]." I retain Sk's spelling of "raunson" for the rhyme with "possessyon" and "larson."

321 Turpe lucrum. On "filthy lucre" see Titus 1.7, 11 and 1 Peter 5.2.

322 meynall: having to do with the meynee or the household. Sk paraphrases the sentence: "the exaction of tithes is, with these masters, a household business, a part of their usual domestic arrangements."

325 sompnours. Summoners served alleged malefactors with writs to appear in court. Here, wicked churchmen allow summoners to abuse suspects.

334 make her gree. They will slander in order to win favor.

335 Alexaunder, one of the so-called "Nine Worthy," was proverbial for worldly success in medieval literature. He was the subject of a number of legends but symbolic as well of human limitation, as in Chaucer's Monk's Tale: "Who shal me yeven teeris to compleyne / The deeth of gentillesse and of franchise, / That al the world weelded in his demeyne, / And yet hym thoughte it myghte nat suffise?" (VII 2663-66). Marginal gloss in the Huntington text: "Ve homini illi per quem scandalum venit." (Woe to the man by whom comes scandal.)

361 ben. Sk's emendation. Thynne2 and HT read is, Texas MS ys; but ben is superior.

395 spede hys purchase. The point of this line is that a lord can bribe the Pope.

426 shepe. The "folde" of line 425 refers to the sheepfold, symbolically the Church (or the vineyard).

429 forsake and wake (line 431) are ironic.

434 Lamuall. Lemuel, king of Massa (Proverbs 31); an example of a drunkard in Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale (VI 934-35).

443 Peter, but Himself the Stone. Matthew 16.18; 1 Corinthians 10.4.

445 croysery. "No serious crusade was intended at this time; however, the author affirms that the rival popes discouraged the idea; for each wanted men to fight for him" (Sk).

455 Crede = Apostles' Creed. For the Creed and its issues, see PPC, which may be alluded to here.

469 See Matt. 4.19; Mark 1.17; Luke 5.10; John 21.6ff. Here, instead of fishers of men, the corrupt priesthood fishes for gold and silver.

476 HT's endnote to Part I reads: "boke" for Thynne2's "tale." The same reading occurs at line 700.

477 this worde fal. The narrator proposes to substitute the word "amende" (lines 484 and following) for the word "fall" since he has run out of rhyme-words.

488 balke. Perhaps an allusion to Matt. 7:3-5, where the sinful accusers condemn small faults without observing the enormity of their own errors. A balke is a beam in the framework of a ship or building.

507 Agaynst measure, outragyousnesse. Many of the terms in this section, including "sufferaunce," "sobrenesse," "wylfulnesse," "Agaynst measure," and "outragyous-nesse" may derive from Chaucer's short poems The Former Age, Gentilesse, and Lak of Stedfastnesse, but they are terms familiar in late medieval complaint literature.

533 Dyves. Dives is the wealthy man of Luke 16 and a symbol of wealth.

545-48 Eche Christen preest. The syntax and meaning of lines 545-48 appear to be: "Each Christian priest ought to preach from God above; they have been sent to show God's word to all folk, to amend sinful man." The edition places a period stop after line 546.

562 Hys shulde. Sk supplies servaunts before shulde.

567 One curse to hell, one slee men here. Sk directs to Luke 22.38. The two swords were commonly identified as the temporal and spiritual powers. Pope Boniface VIII argued in Unam Sanctam (1302) that both swords are at the Church's disposal.

570 smyte gan defende. "Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name of the servant was Malchus. Jesus therfore said to Peter: Put up thy sword into the scabbard" (John 18.10-11). Smyte = hitting, cutting with a sword.

590 Peter Christ forsoke. Peter's successors (in the modern church) follow Peter in this if not in other ways.

592 Than a sheperde had to lese his hoke. Modern-day popes, that is, pay more attention to ecclesiastical entitlements than to God's love.

600 go behynde Sathan. See Matthew 16.23: "Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men."

606 contrary to Christ is. Satan, lit. "adversary."

618 He hydde and stale. "And right as Judas hadde purses smale, / And was a theef, right swich a theef was he [summoner]; / His maister hadde but half his duetee" (The Friar's Tale 1350-52). Gan in this line = Sk's emendation.

625 ensyse = kind, sort (a variant of assyse).

640 whom lyste nat knawe. Sk inserts they before lyste.

642 to prysone. Sk regards this line as evidence that the poem was written prior to 1401, when Lollards were frequently burned at the stake.

655-56 woll raunsom hem / Maysterfully, more than doth he. The complaint here is that the clergy has more money than the king and people, so they can behave like "masters" (maysterfully). The section here generally refers to the Significavit, a writ that mandated civil officers to imprison those who had not paid their fines within forty days after excommunication. The sins listed in The Friar's Tale are fornication, witchcraft, pandering, slander, adultery, robbing churches, violations of wills and marriage contracts, usury, simony, lechery, and under-tithing, the most common offense (III 1304-12).

687 Lordshyppes, and possessyons. Clerical property yielded an income more than three times that of the king, but the clergy generally was poor in relation to those few churchmen, wealthy "possessioners," who lived like lords and who were loath to be taxed.

696 The proude Pope putte hym out! According to a Lollard legend, when Constantine endowed Pope Sylvester and the Church "with greet plente of londis," an "angel" or "fiend" cried out "In this dai venom is hilded [poured] into the chirche of God." See Piers Plowman B 15.519-31.

707 smeren connotes ministering, nursing with ointments, and pastoral care in general.

717 Bradley and then Sk have challenged these lines, the so-called "long interpolation," as of Lollard or sixteenth-century provenance. Wawn, however, refutes the claim. See also the notes to 205 and 1149.

717-18 chanons. Canons, both secular canons and canons regular, were a frequent object of attack in anticlerical satire. The canon of Chaucer's Canon's Yeoman's Tale is portrayed as a thief, who dupes clients interested in turning lead into silver.

721 prebendes. Prebends are estate revenues, drawn from lands or tithes, granted to canons as stipends, or the lands or tithes themselves.

727 spare. Thynne2 = "spar." The Texas MS, HT, and Sk read "spare," rhyming with "fare."

733 procuratour. Proctor for collecting money. An ecclesiastical proctor could administer canon law (as in line 734).

755 her lele labour. Chaucer's Plowman is said to be "A trewe swynkere and a good" (Gen Prol I 531), and he "wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve / For Christes sake" (536-37).

773-75 And usen horedome . . . eke envy. The seven deadly sins, except gluttony, are mentioned here: lust, avarice, pride, sloth, wrath, and envy.

780 wyllers here means those who choose sin.

788 Suche treasour. These lines allude to Christ's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6.19-20): "Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal."

801 Maintenance legally was the offence of aiding a party without lawful cause; maistry meant domination.

814 who may say nay? Sk inserts "me" after "say."

839 That the worldes goodes forsake. The point is that while Christ abandoned material goods, modern day clerics enter the Church for gain.

842 glose. As in lines 312 and 595, there is a pun on gloss (explain with commentary) and glose (= deceive, cheat).

871 Markette-beaters. Compare Chaucer's The Reeve's Tale, of "deynous Symkyn": "He was a market-betere atte fulle" (I 3936). Sk glosses Markette-beaters as "haunters of the market."

872 hale = haul; the phrase resembles "heave-ho!"

880 consystory. The consistory adjudicated ecclesiastical offenses.

897 men sette up great lyght. Candles were placed around the effigies of saints deemed especially beneficial. Those judged less helpful were not so honored (lines 898-900).

918 Sk emends Baudryke of the edition to Baudriks.

921 hedes. So the Texas MS. Thynne2, HT, and Sk = "dedes."

925-28 The syntax of these lines is tortured and seems defective. Sk translates: "they think much (counten) of scarlet and green gowns, that must be made in the latest fashion, in order to embrace and kiss the damsels."

929 shewe. So the Texas MS. HT, Thynne2, and Sk have "sewe" - a plausible word (hence the "cutted clothes" would "match" rather than "show off" their complexions). But this reading may result from the proximity of "sewe" in the previous line and "hewe" at the end of line 929.

941 The form is = es is a rare variant for "them." Creeping to the Cross was a popular form of penance. See Piers Plowman B 18.428.

955 I dare not sayne. The author is very coy about calling such men "Antichrist's priests."

957-58 Or they yef . . . hys servyce. That is, they either have an excuse for not being in service or they are in service.

993 Saynt Benet. Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-c. 550), regarded as the founder of western monasticism.

995 hys thought. So Thynne2; Texas MS, Sk "his." HT reads "this."

997-98 That a man. The syntax depends on the verse sentence begun in the previous stanza: "that they should use . . .; that a man should call. . . . "

1020 in hys lyvynge. Saint Benedict's rule for monastic living. In chap. 33 the Rule cites Acts 4.32: ". . . neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them."

1028 byte. A triple pun: devour, criticize, impoverish.

1035 Her fathers suffreth drought and wete. Sk directs to PPC, line 752: "And his syre a soutere ysuled in grees." See also line 1042.

1050 be not cherelyche. Sk reads ful cherelich but comments: "The line is imperfect. I have supplied but ["(ful)"], but the right word is not. For cherelich means 'expensive' or 'prodigal,' from O.F. cher, dear."

1066 a Crede. A reference to PPC. For verbal correspondences between the PlT and the PPC, see Sk's notes to the PlT at lines 743, 871, 893, 915, 1002, 1035, 1042, 1115.

1113 We ben Hys membres both also. See Romans 12.4-5: "For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."

1114 And `Father' He taught us to cal Hym als. See Matthew 6.9: "Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven." See also Matthew 23.9: "And call none your father upon earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven."

1115 `Maysters' to be called defended He tho. See Matthew 23.10: "Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, Christ."

1123 Ne carke nat for cloth ne fode. See Matthew 6.25-26 and the Explanatory Note to PPC, line 602.

1135 What haste thou to done wyth her leve? Sk translates the phrase "with what is permitted to them."

1149 Beginning with this line and ending with line 1268, the rhyme scheme shifts from ababbcbc to ababcdcd, which is the rhyme pattern of the Prologue. These lines, which concern doctrine and the powers of the pope and Church, may be later interpolations.

1157 the seven sacramentes. The seven rites of baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, marriage, ordination, penance, and extreme unction.

1163 not worth a pease. An expression, as in Piers Plowman B 6.169, said of Wastour: "And sette Piers at a pese and his plow? boþe."

1211 A man to houselyn and to shryve. The construction "is holsome lyfe" (1209) governs lines 1211-14.

1219 Hys mystrye. The mystery of Transubstantiation, whereby bread and water are changed into Christ's flesh and blood. Wyclif denied Transubstantiation in De eucharistia (1381). Thynne2 reads "mystrye" (Sk "mystry") - clearly the word intended - but the Texas MS has "maystrye," HT, "mastrye."

1222 subgette or accydent. The terms are from the debate on Transubstantiation concerning the "real presence" of Christ: whether He was there, in the bread, in reality ("subject") or whether the bread (the "accident") merely represented Him. The MS reads: "Whether itt be substans or accident." Irvine notes that "`accident wiþouten subgett' is a very common phrase in the Lollard tracts" ("A Manuscript Copy," p. 51).

1235 And. The reading of Thynne2 and Sk. The Texas MS reads "Off," while HT omits.

1243-44 And clene ydampned . . . but ye woll worche. The Griffin threatens the Pelican with excommunication.

1270 And loked lovely as an owle. Owls, birds of evil omen, were symbols of ignorance because of their association with the night. "Lovely as an owl" here is ironic.

1271 "cockes" is an (ironic) error for "God's."

1293-96 The pelican is a common figure of Christ in medieval literature. See Malory, The Quest for the Holy Grail, Book XVI.13.8-14 (ed. Vinaver), where Bors sees the pelican in a dead tree, piercing its breast to feed its young: "Than oure Lorde shewed Hym unto you in the lyknesse of a fowle, that suffirde grete anguysshe for us whan He was putte uppon the Crosse, and bledde Hys herte blood for mankynde; there was the tokyn and the lyknesse of the Sankgreall that appered afore you, for the blood that the grete fowle bledde reysyd the chykyns frome dethe to lyff. And by the bare tre betokenyth the worlde, whych ys naked and nedy, withoute fruyte, but if hit com of oure Lorde."

1303 PELLICAN. HT and Thynne2 place this designation at line 1305. I follow the Texas MS and Sk in placing it at line 1303. Ben lykely. The idea is that the Griffin and the wicked ecclesiastics are "birds of a feather."

1305 The foule = the bird-like part of the Griffin.

1325 The designation "Pellican" appears before this line (or in the margin) in HT, the Texas MS, and Thynne2.

1343 Phenix: a mythical bird of Arabia, which was said to build for itself a funeral pyre every thousand years and then, dying and being reborn in the flames, to become renewed. The phoenix, originally associated with pagan sun-worship, became a well-known symbol for the resurrected Christ. The imagery surrounding the phoenix seems to derive from Job 29.18, Psalm 103, 1 Corinthians 15.35-38, and the Book of Revelation. A fourth-century Latin poet, Lactantius, wrote De ave phoenice, which was translated into Old English verse as part of The Exeter Book.

1359 flyght. Literally "who will fight in my flight," with a pun on flyting, or debate. The rhetorical term is doubly witty, given the avian participants in the debate.

1362 And the Lambe. "He that" (line 1361) also governs line 1362: "and he that was slain as a Lamb."

1370 I nyll not maynteyne his manace. The author here and in the final stanza apologizes for the work and disavows responsibility for its most radical claims. Such disclaimers were conventional in medieval literature. See, for example, the Retraction to Chaucer's CT.





















































































































































































































































































Here begynneth the Plowman's Prologue

The Ploweman plucked up his plowe
Whan mydsommer mone was comen in,
And sayd, "His beestes shuld eate ynowe,
And lyge in the grasse, up to the chyn.
They ben feble, both oxe and cowe,
Of hem nis left but bone and skyn."
He shoke of share, and cultre of-drowe, 1
And honge his harneys on a pin.

He toke his tabarde and his staffe eke,
And on his heed he set his hat,
And sayde he wolde Saynt Thomas seke.
On pylgremage he goth forth plat.
In scrippe he bar both breed and lekes,
He was forswonke and all forswat.
Men might have sene through both his chekes,
And every wang-toth and where it sat.

Our Hoste behelde wele all about,
And sawe this man was sun ybrent.
He knewe well by his senged snout,
And by his clothes that were to-rent,
He was a man wont to walke about,
He nas nat alway in cloystre ypent;
He coulde not religiousliche lout,
And therfore was he fully shent.

Our Host him axed, "What man art thou?"
"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 wyfe and children therwith to fynde,
And serve God, and I wist how;
But we leude men bene fully blynde.

For clerkes say we shullen be fayne
For hir lyvelod to swet and swinke,
And they right nought us give agayne, 2
Neyther to eate ne yet to drinke.
They mowe by lawe, as they sayne,
Us curse and dampne to hell brinke.
Thus they putten us to payne,
With candles queynt and belles clinke.

They make us thralles at her lust,
And sayne, we mowe nat els be saved;
They have the corne and we the dust,
Who speaketh ther-agayn, they say he raved."

"What, man!" quod our Host, "canst thou preche?
Come nere, and tell us some holy thynge."
"Sir," quod he, "I herde ons teche
A prest in pulpit a good preachynge."
"Saye on," quod our Host, "I the beseche."
"Sir, I am redy at your byddynge.
I praye you that no man me reproche
Whyle that I am my tale tellynge."

Thus endeth the Prologue, and here foloweth the fyrst parte of the tale.


A sterne stryfe is stered newe
In many stedes in a stounde,
Of sondry sedes that bene sewe,
It semeth that som ben unsounde;
For some be great growen on grounde,
Some ben souple, simple and small.
Whether of hem is falser founde,
The falser, foule mote him befall! 3

That one syde is, that I of tell,
Popes, cardynals, and prelates,
Parsons, monkes, and freres fell,
Priours, abbottes of great estates.
Of hevyn and hell they kepe the yates,
And Peters successours they ben all.
This is demed by olde dates,
But falshed, foule mought it befall!

The other syde ben poore and pale,
And people put out of prease;
And seme caytyffes sore a-cale,
And ever in one without encrease, 4
I-cleped lollers and londlese.
Who toteth on hem, they bene untall;
They ben arayed all for the peace;
But falshed, foule mote it befall!

Many a countrey have I sought
To knowe the falser of these two;
But ever my travayle was for nought,
All so ferre as I have go.
But as I wandred in a wro,
In a wodde besyde a wall,
Two foules sawe I sytte tho;
The falser, foul mote hym befall!

That one dyd plede on the Popes syde,
A Gryffon of a grymme stature.
A Pellycane withouten pryde
To these lollers layde his lure;
He mused his matter in measure,
To counsayle Christ ever gan he call.
The Gryffon shewed as sharpe as fyre,
But falshed, foule mote it befall!

The PELLYCANE began to preche
Both of mercy and of mekenesse,
And sayd that Christ so gan us teche,
And meke and mercyable gan blesse.
The Evangely beareth wytnesse
A Lamb, he lykneth Christ over-all,
In tokenynge that He mekest was,
Sith pryde was out of heven fall.

And so shulde every Christned be.
Preestes, Peters successours,
Beth lowlyche and of lowe degre,
And usen none erthly honours,
Neyther crowne, ne curious covertours,
Ne pylloure, ne other proude pall;
Ne nought to cofren up greet tresours;
For falshed, foule mote it befall!

Preestes shulde for no cattel plede,
But chasten hem in charite;
Ne to no bateyle shulde men lede
For inhaunsing of her owne degree;
Nat wilne syttynges in hye see, 5
Ne soverayntie in hous ne hall;
All worldly worshippe defye and flee;
For whoso willeth highnes, foule shall fall!

Alas, who may suche sayntes call
That wylneth welde erthlye honour?
As lowe as Lucifere suche shall fall,
In baleful blacknesse ybulden her bour; 6
That eggeth the people to errour,
And maketh them to hem thrall.
To Christ I holde suche one traytour, 7
As lowe as Lucifer suche one shall fall.

That willeth to be kinges peeres,
And hygher than the Emperour;
Some that were but poore freres
Nowe wollen waxe a warryour.
God is nat her governour,
That holdeth no man his peragall;
Whyle covetyse is her counsaylour,
All suche falshed mote nede fall.

That hye on horse wylleth ryde
In glytterande golde of great araye,
I-paynted and portred all in pryde -
No commen knyght maye go so gaye.
Chaunge of clothyng every daye,
With golden girdles great and small,
As boystous as is bere at bay:
All suche falshed mote nede fall.

With pryde punysheth they the poore,
And some they sustayne with sale;
Of Holy Churche maketh an hore,
And fylleth her wombe with wyne and ale;
With money fylleth many a male,
And chaffren churches when they fall,
And telleth the people a leude tale -
Suche false faytours, foule them fall. 8

With chaunge of many maner metes,
With songe and solace syttynge longe,
And filleth her wombe, and fast fretes,
And from the mete to the gonge;
And after mete, with harpe and songe,
And eche man mote hem lordes call,
And hote spyces ever amonge:
Suche false faytours, foul hem fall.

And myters mo than one or two,
I-perled as the quenes heed;
A staffe of golde, and pyrrey, lo!
As hevy as it were made of leed;
With cloth of golde both newe and reed,
With glitterand golde as grene as gall,
By dome will dampne men to deed.
All suche faytours, foul hem fall!

And Christes people proudly curse
With brode bokes, and braying bell;
To putte pennyes in her purse
They wol sell both heven and hel.
And in her sentence, and thou wilt dwell, 9
They willen gesse in her gaye hall;
And though the soth thou of hem tell,
In great cursinge shalt thou fall.

That is blessed, that they blesse,
And cursed, that they curse woll;
And thus the people they oppresse,
And have theyr lordshyppes at the full;
And many be marchauntes of woll,
And to purse penyes woll come thrall. 10
The poore people they all to-pull,
Suche false faytours, foule hem fall!

Lordes mote to hem loute,
Obeysaunt to her brode blessyng.
They ryden with a royall route
On a courser, as it were a king;
With saddle of golde glytteryng
With curious harneys quayntly crallyt,
Styroppes gaye of golde-mastlyng.
All suche falshed, foule befall it!

Christes minysters cleped they bene,
And rulen all in robbery;
But Antichriste they serven clene,
Attyred all in tyranny.
Witnesse of Johns prophesy,
That Antichriste is her admirall,
Tyffelers attyred in trechery.
All suche faytours, foule hem fall!

Who sayth that some of hem may synne,
He shal be dome to be deed;
Some of hem woll gladly wynne
All ayenst that whiche God forbed.
"All-holyest" they clepen her heed,
That of her rule is regall;
Alas, that ever they eten breed!
For all suche, falshed woll foule fall.

Her heed loveth all honour,
And to be worshypped in worde and dede.
Kynges mote to hem knele and coure:
To the Apostles, that Chryst forbede. 11
To Popes hestes suche taketh more hede
Than to kepe Chrystes commaundement.
Of gold and sylver mote ben her wede,
They holdeth him hole omnipotent.

He ordayneth by his ordynaunce
To parysh preestes a powere;
To another, a greater avaunce,
A greater poynt to his mystere.
But for he is hyghest in erth here,
To hym reserveth he many a poynt;
But to Christ, that hath no pere,
Reserveth he neyther opyn ne joynt. 12

So semeth he above hem all,
And Christ aboven hym nothyng;
Whan he sytteth in his stall,
Dampneth, and saveth, as him thynk.
Suche pryde to-fore God doth stynk.
An angell bad John to hym nat knele,
But only to God do his bowyng;
Suche wyllers of worship must nede evyll fele.

They ne clepen Christ but Sanctus Deus,
And clepen her heed Sanctissimus;
They that suche a sect sewys,
I trowe, they taken hem amysse.
In erth here they have her blysse,
Her hye master is Belyal;
Chrystes people from hem wysse! 13
For all suche false wyll foule fall!

They mowe both bynde and lose,
And all is for her holy lyfe;
To save or dampne they mowe chose,
Betwene hem now is great stryfe.
Many a man is kylled with a knyfe,
To wete which of hem have lordship shall;
For suche, Chryst suffred woundes fyve;
For all suche falshed will foule fall.

Christ sayd: Qui gladio percutit,
With swerde sothely he shall dye.
He bad his preestes peace and grith,
And bade hem not drede for to dye;
And bad them be both symple and slye,
And carke not for no cattall;
But trusteth on God that sytteth on hye,
For all false shull foule fall.

These wollen make men to swere
Ayenst Christes commaundement;
And Christes membres all to-tere
On Roode, as He wer newe yrent.
Suche lawes they make by commen assent,
Echone it choweth as a ball;
Thus the poore be fully shent,
But ever falshed foule it fall!

They usen no symony,
But sellen churches and priories;
Ne they usen no envy,
But cursen all hem contraries;
And hyreth men by dayes and yeres
With strength to holde hem in her stall;
And culleth all her adversaries: -
Therfore, falshed, foule thou fall!

With purse they purchase personage,
With purse they paynen hem to plede;
And men of warre they woll wage,
To brynge her enemyes to the dede.
And lordes lyves they woll lede,
And moche take, and give but small;
But he it so get, from it shall shede, 14
And make suche false ryght foule fal!

They halowe nothyng but for hyre,
Churche, font, ne vestement;
And make orders in every shyre,
But preestes paye for the parchement.
Of ryatours they taken rent,
Therwith they smere the shepes skall;
For many churches ben ofte suspent.
All suche falshed, yet foule it fall!

Some lyveth nat in lechery,
But haunten wenches, widdowes, and wyves,
And punysheth the poore for putry.
Themselfe it useth all theyr lyves; 15
And but a man to them hym shryves,
To heven come never he shall.
He shal be cursed as be caytyves,
To hell they sayne that he shall fall.

There was more mercy in Maximyen,
And in Nero, that never was good,
Than is nowe in some of them
Whan he hath on his furred hood.
They folowe Christ that shedde His blood
To heven, as buckette in to the wall; 16
Suche wreches ben worse than wood;
And all suche faytours, foule hem fall!

They gyve her almesse to the ryche,
To maynteynours, and to men of lawe;
For to lordes they woll be liche,
An harlottes sonne nat worthe an hawe!
Sothfastnesse suche han slawe.
They kembe her crokettes with christall;
And drede of God they have downe drawe:
All suche faytours, foule hem fall!

They maken parsons for the penny
And canons of her cardynals.
Unnethes amongest hem all any
That he ne hath glosed the gospell fals.
For Christ made never no cathedrals,
Ne wyth Hym was no cardynall
Wyth a redde hatte as usyn mynstrals;
But falsshed, foule mote it befall!

Theyr tythyng, and her offryng both,
They clemeth it by possessyon;
Therof nyll they none forgo,
But robben men as by raunson.
The tythyng of Turpe lucrum
With these maisters is meynall.
Tythyng of bribry, and larson
Wyll make falshed full foule to fall!

They taken to ferme her sompnours
To harme the people what they may;
To pardoners and false faytours
Sell her seales, I dare well say;
And all to holden great array,
To multiply hem more metall.
They drede full litell Domes day,
Whan all suche falsehode shall foul fall.

Suche harlottes shull men disclaunder,
For they shullen make her gree,
And ben as proude as Alexaunder,
And sayne to the poore, "Wo be ye!"
By yere eche preeste shall paye hys fee
To encrease hys lemmans call; 17
Suche heerdes shull well yvell the,
And all suche false shull foule fall!

And yf a man be falsely famed,
And wolde make purgacioun,
Than woll the offycers be agramed,
And assigne hym fro towne to town;
So nede he must paye raunsoun
Though he be clene as is christall,
And than have an absolutioun.
But all suche false shull foule fall!

Though he be gyltie of the dede,
And that he maye money pay,
All the whyle his purse woll blede
He maye use it fro day to day!
These byshoppes offycers gone full gay,
And thys game they usen over-all;
The poore to pyll is all theyr pray; 18
All suche false shull foule fall!

Alas, God ordayned never suche lawe,
Ne no suche crafte of covetyse!
He forbade it, by His sawe,
Suche governours mowen of God agryse;
For all His rules ben rightwyse.
These newe poyntes ben pure papall,
And Goddes lawe they dispyce;
And all suche faytours shul foule fall!

They sayne that Peter had the key
Of hevyn and hell, to have and holde.
I trowe Peter toke no money
For no synnes that he solde!
Suche successours ben to bolde:
In wynnyng all theyr wytte they wrall;
Her conscience is waxen colde;
And all suche faytours, foule hem fall!

Peter was never so great a fole
To leave hys key with such a lorell,
Or to take suche cursed suche a tole
He was advysed nothyng well.
I trowe they have the key of hell.
Theyr maister is of that place marshall;
For there they dressen hem to dwell,
And with false Lucifere there to fall.

They ben as proude as Lucifarre,
As angry, and as envious.
From good faythe they ben full farre,
In covetyse they ben curyous.
To catche catell as covytous
As hounde, that for hungre woll yall -
Ungoodly, and ungratious;
And nedely, suche falshed shall foule fall.

The Pope, and he were Peters heyre,
Me thynke he erreth in this case,
Whan choyse of byshoppes is in dispeyre,
To chosen hem in dyvers place.
A lorde shall write to hym for grace,
For hys clerke anone pray he shall;
So shall he spede hys purchase:
And all suche false, foule hem fall!

Though he can no more good, 19
A lordes prayer shal be spedde;
Though he be wylde of wyll, or wood,
Nat understandyng what men han redde,
A leude boster - and that God forbede! -
As good a byshoppe is my horse Ball!
Suche a Pope is foule be-stedde,
And at laste woll foule fall.

He maketh byshoppes for erthly thanke,
And nothyng for Christes sake.
Suche that ben full fatte and ranke,
To soule heale non hede they take. 20
Al is well done what ever they make,
For they shal answere at ones for all.
For worldes thanke, suche worch and wake, 21
And all suche false shall foule fall!

Suche that canne nat her Crede
With prayer shull be made prelates;
Nother canne the gospell rede,
Suche shull nowe welde hye estates.
The hye goodes frendshyp hem makes,
They toteth on her somme totall.
Suche bere the keyes of hell yates,
And all suche false shall foule fall.

They forsake, for Christes love,
Traveyle, hungre, thurst, and colde;
For they ben ordred ever all above
Out of youthe tyl they ben olde.
By the dore they go, nat into the folde,
To helpe theyr shepe they nought travall;
Hyred men all suche I holde,
And all suche false, foule hem fall!

For Chryst her kyng they woll forsake,
And knowe Hym nought for His poverte.
For Christes love they woll wake
And drynke pyement and ale aparte.
Of God they seme nothyng aferde,
As lusty lyveth, as dyd Lamuall,
And dryven her shepe in to deserte: -
All suche faytours shull foule fall!

Christ had xij Apostels here.
Nowe, say they, there may be but one,
That may nat erre in no manere.
Who leveth nat thys, ben lost echone. 22
Peter erred, so dyde nat John;
Why is he cleped the principall?
Christ cleped hym Peter, but Himself the Stone.
All false faytours, foule hem fall!

Why cursen they the croysery,
Christes Christen creatures?
For bytwene hem is nowe envy
To be enhaunsed in honours.
And Christen lyvers, with her labours, 23
For they levyn on no man mortall,
Ben do to deth, with dishonours: -
And all suche false, foule hem fall!

What knoweth a tyllour at the plowe
The Popes name, and what he hate?
His Crede suffyseth to hym ynowe,
And knoweth a cardynall by hys hatte.
Rough is the poore, unryghtly latte, 24
That knoweth Christ hys God royall.
Suche maters be nat worth a gnatte.
But suche false faytours, foule hem fall!

A kyng shall knele and kysse hys show;
Chryst suffred a synfull to kysse His fete.
Me thynketh, he holdeth hym hye ynow,
So Lucifer dyd, that hye sette.
Suche one, me thynketh, hym selfe foryete,
Eyther to the trouth he was nat call;
Christ, that suffred woundes wete,
Shall make suche falshed foule fall.

They layeth out her large nettes
For to take sylver and golde,
Fyllen coffers, and sackes fettes,
There as they soules catche sholde.
Her servauntes be to them unholde
But they can doublyn theyr rentall
To bygge hem castels, and bygge hem holde; 25
And all suche false, foule hem fall!

Here endeth the fyrst parte of thys tale, and herafter foloweth the seconde parte.


To accorde with this worde fal
No more English can I fynde;
Shewe another now I shall,
For I have moche to saye behynde
Howe preestes han the people pynde,
As curteys Christ hath me kende,
And putte thys matter in my mynde
To make thys maner men amende.

Shortly to shende hem, and shewe nowe
Howe wrongfully they worche and walke.
O hye God, nothyng they telle, ne howe, 26
But in Goddes worde, telleth many a balke.
In hernes holde hem and in halke,
And prechyn of tythes and offrende,
And untruely of the Gospell talke.
For Hys mercy, God it amende!

What is Antichrist to saye
But evyn Chrystes adversary?
Suche hathe nowe ben many a day
To Christes byddyng full contrary,
That from the trouthe clene varry.
Out of the waye they ben wende,
And Christes people untruely cary:
God, for Hys pytie, it amende!

That lyven contrary to Christes lyfe,
In hye pride agaynst mekenesse;
Agaynst sufferaunce they usen stryfe,
And angre ayenst sobrenesse:
Agaynst wysdome, wylfulnesse;
To Christes tales lytell tende;
Agaynst measure, outragyousnesse;
But whan God woll, it maye amende!

Lordly lyfe ayenst lowlynesse,
And demyn all without mercy;
And covetyse ayenst largesse,
Agaynst trewth, trechery;
And agaynst almesse, envy;
Agaynst Christ they comprehende.
For chastyte, they maynteyne lechery;
God, for Hys grace, thys amende!

Ayenst penaunce they use delyghtes,
Ayenst suffraunce, stronge defence;
Ayenst God they usen yvel rightes,
Agaynste pytie, punishementes.
Open yvell ayenst contynence;
Her wycked wynnyng worse dispende;
Sobrenesse they sette in to dispence;
But God, for Hys goodnesse, it amende!

Why cleymen they holy Hys powere,
And wranglen ayenst all Hys hestes?
Hys lyvyng folowen they nothyng here, 27
But lyven worse than wytlesse beestes.
Of fyshe and fleshe they loven feestes,
As lordes they ben brode ykende;
Of Goddes poore they haten gestes. 28
God, for Hys mercy, thys amende!

With Dyves suche shall have her dome
That sayne that they be Christes frendes,
And do nothyng as they shulde done.
All suche ben falser than ben fendes.
On the people they ley suche bendes,
As God is in erthe, they han offende.
Sucour for suche Christ nowe sende us -
And, for Hys mercy, thys amende!

A token of Antichrist they be:
His careckes ben nowe wyde yknowe.
Receyved to preche shall no man be
Wythout token of hym, I trowe.
Eche Christen preest, to prechyn owe
From God above; they ben sende
Goddes worde, to all folke to showe,
Synfull man for to amende.

Christ sente the poore for to preche;
The royall ryche He dyd nat so.
Nowe dare no poore the people teche, 29
For Antichrist is over-all her foe.
Amonge the people he mote go.
He hath bydden, all suche suspende:
Some hath he hente, and thynketh yet mo.
But all thys God may well amende!

All tho that han the worlde forsake,
And lyven loly, as God badde,
In to her prison shullen be take,
Betyn and bounden, and forthe ladde.
Herof I rede no man be dradde:
Christ sayd, Hys shulde be shende;
Eche man ought herof be gladde,
For God full well it woll amende!

They take on hem royall powere,
And saye they have swerdes two:
One curse to hell, one slee men here, 30
For at Hys takyng Christ had no mo.
Yet Peter had one of tho;
But Christ, to Peter smyte gan defende,
And in to the sheth badde putte it tho;
And all suche myscheves God amende!

Christ badde Peter kepe His shepe,
And with his swerde forbade hym smyte.
Swerde is no tole with shepe to kepe,
But to sheperdes that shepe woll byte. 31
Me thynketh suche sheperdes ben to wyte
Ayen her shepe with swerde that contende.
They drive her shepe with great dispyte,
But all thys God may well amende.

So successours to Peter be they nought,
Whom Christ made chefe pastoure:
A swerde no sheperde usen ought,
But he wold flee, as a bochoure.
For who so were Peters successour
Shulde bere hys shepe tyll hys backe bende,
And shadowe hem from every shoure,
And all thys God may wel amende.

Successours to Peter ben these
In that that Peter Christ forsoke,
That had lever the love of God lese
Than a sheperde had to lese his hoke. 32
He culleth the shepe as dothe the coke:
Of hem taken the woll untrende,
And falsely glose the Gospell boke.
God for His mercy them amende.

After Christ had take Peter the kay,
Christ sayd, "He muste dye for man."
That Peter to Christ gan withsay -
Christ badde hym "go behynde Sathan."
Suche counsaylours many of these men han
For worldes wele, God to offende.
Peters successours they ben for-than,
But all suche God may well amende.

For Sathan is to say no more
But he that contrary to Christ is:
In thys they lerne Peters lore:
They sewen hym whan he dyd myss.
They folowe Peter forsothe in thys,
In al that Christ wolde Peter reprehende,
But nat in that that longeth to hevyn blysse.
God for Hys mercy hem amende!

Some of the Apostels they sewen in case,
Of ought that I can understonde,
Hym that betrayed Christ, Judas,
That bare the purse in every londe.
And al that he myght sette on honde,
He hydde and stale, and gan myspende.
His rule these traytours han in honde;
Almighty God hem amende!

And at the last hys lorde gan tray
Cursedly through hys false covetyse:
So wolde these, trayen hym for money
And they wysten in what wyse.
They be, seker, of the selfe ensyse; 33
From all sothnesse they ben frende,
And covetyse chaungen with queyntyse.
Almighty God all suche amende!

Were Christ on erthe here efte sone,
These wolde dampne Hym to dye;
All Hys hestes they han fordone,
And sayne His sawes ben heresy.
And ayenst His commaundementes they crye,
And dampne all Hys to be brende;
For it lyketh nat hem suche losengery.
God almighty hem amende!

These han more myght in Englande here
Than hath the kynge and all hys lawe.
They han purchased hem suche powere
To taken hem whom lyste nat knawe, 34
And say that heresy is her sawe;
And so to prysone woll hem sende.
It was nat so by elder dawe.
God for Hys mercy it amende!

The kynges lawe wol no man deme
Angerlyche, withouten answere;
But yf any man these mysqueme,
He shalbe bayghted as a bere;
And yet wel worse they woll hym tere,
And in prysone woll hem pende
In gyves, and in other gere.
Whan God woll, it maye amende.

The kyng taxeth nat hys men
But by assente of the commynalte.
But these eche yere woll raunsom hem
Maysterfully, more than doth he;
Her seales, by yere, better be
Than is the kynges in extende. 35
Her offycers han gretter fee -
But thys mischefe God amende!

For who so woll prove a testament
That is natt all worthe tenne pounde,
He shall paye for the parchement
The thyrde parte of the money all rounde.
Thus the people is raunsounde.
They saye suche parte to hem shulde apende:
There as they grypen it gothe to grounde.
God for Hys mercy it amende!

A symple fornycatioun?
Twenty shyllynges he shall paye,
And than have an absolutioun,
And all the yere usen it forthe he maye.
Thus they letten hem go a-stray;
They recke nat though the soule be brende.
These kepyn yvell Peters key,
And all suche sheperdes God amende!

Wonder is, that the Parlyament
And all the lordes of thys londe
Here-to taken so lytell entent
To helpe the people out of her honde;
For they ben harder in theyr bonde,
Worse beate, and bytter brende,
Than to the kyng is understande:
God Hym helpe thys to amende!

What bysshoppes, what relygious,
Han in thys lande as moche laye fee,
Lordshyppes, and possessyons
More than the lordes? It semeth me
That maketh hem lese charyte;
They mowe nat to God attende,
In erthe they have so hyghe degree.
God for Hys mercy it amende!

The Emperour yaf the Pope somtyme
So hyghe lordshyp hym aboute,
That at the laste the sely kyme
The proude Pope putte hym out!
So of thys realme is in doute,
But lordes be ware and them defende;
For nowe these folke be wonder stoute:
The kynge and lordes nowe thys amende!

Thus endeth the seconde parte of this tale, and herafter foloweth the thyrde.


Moyses lawe forbode it tho
That preestes shulde no lordshyppes welde.
Christes Gospel byddeth also
That they shulde no lordshyppe helde;
Ne Christes Apostels were never so bolde
No suche lordeshyppes to them enbrace,
But smeren her shepe and kepe her folde:
God amende hem for Hys grace!

For they ne ben but countrefete:
Men may knowe hem by her fruite.
Her gretnesse maketh hem God foryete,
And take Hys mekenesse in dispyte.
And they were poore and had but lyte,
They nolde nat demen after the face,
But noryshe her shepe, and hem nat byte.
God amende hem for Hys grace!

Gryfon. "What canst thou preche ayenst chanons
That men clepen seculere?"
Pelycan. "They ben curates of many towns;
On erthe they have great powere.
They han great prebendes and dere,
Some two or thre, and some mo,
A personage to ben a playeng fere;
And yet they serve the kynge also.

"And lette to ferme all that fare
To whom that woll most gyve therfore:
Some woll spende, and some woll spare,
And some woll laye it up in store.
A cure of soule they care nat fore,
So they mowe money take,
Whether her soules be wonne or lore,
Her profytes they woll nat forsake.

"They have a gederyng procuratour
That can the poore people enplede,
And robben hem as a ravynour,
And to hys lorde the money lede,
And catche of quicke and eke of dede,
And richen hym and hys lorde eke;
And to robbe the poore can gyve good rede,
Of olde and yonge, of hole and seke.

"Therwith they purchase hem lay fee
In londe, there hem lyketh best;
And buylde also brode as a cyte,
Bothe in the Est, and eke in the West.
To purchase thus they ben full prest;
But on the poore they woll nought spende,
Ne no good gyve to Goddes gest,
Ne sende Hym some that all hath sende. 36

"By her servyce suche woll lyve
And trusse that other in to treasour,
Though all her paryshe dye unshrive,
They woll nat gyve a rose floure.
Her lyfe shulde be as a myrrour,
Both to lered and to leude also,
And teche the people her lele labour;
Suche myster men ben all mysgo.

"Some of hem ben harde nygges,
And some of hem ben proude and gay;
Some spende her good upon gygges,
And fynden hem of great aray.
Alas, what thynke these men to say,
That thus dispenden Goddis good,
At the dredefull Domes Daye?
Suche wretches shulbe worse than wood.

"Some her churches never ne sye,
Ne never o peny thyder ne sende.
Though the poore parishens for hungre dye,
O peny on hem wyl they nat spende.
Have they receyvynge of the rente,
They recke never of the remenant.
Alas, the devyll hath clene hem blent:
Suche one is Sathanas sojournant.

"And usen horedome and harlotry,
Covetyse, pompe, and pride,
Slouthe, wrathe, and eke envy,
And sewen synne by every syde.
Alas, where thynke suche t'abyde?
Howe woll they accomptes yelde?
From hye God they mowe hem nat hyde.
Suche wyllers wytte is nat worth a neld! 37

"They ben so roted in richesse
That Christes povert is foryet,
Served with so many messe,
Hem thynketh that Manna is no mete.
All is good that they mowe get.
They wene to lyve evermore,
But whan God at Dome is sette,
Suche treasour is a feble store.

"Unneth mote they matyns saye,
For countyng and for court holdynge;
And yet he jangleth as a jaye,
And understont hym-selfe nothynge.
He woll serve bothe erle and kynge
For hys fyndyng and hys fee,
And hyde hys tythynge and hys offrynge.
This is a feble charite.

"Other they ben proude, or coveytous,
Or they ben harde, or hungry,
Or they ben lyberall, or lecherous,
Or els medlers wyth marchandry,
Or maynteyners of men wyth maistry,
Or stewardes, countours, or pledours,
And serve God in hypocrisy;
Such prestes ben Christes false traytours.

"They ben false, they ben vengeable,
And begylen men in Christes name.
They ben unstedfast and unstable;
To tray her Lorde, hem thynketh no shame,
To serve God they ben full lame -
Goddes theves, and falsly stele,
And falsely Goddes worde defame;
In wynnyng is her worldes wele.

"Antichryst these serven all.
I pray the, who may say nay?
Wyth Antichryst suche shull fall:
They folowen hym in dede and fay.
They servyn hym in ryche array.
To serve Chryst suche falsely fayne.
Why, at the dredeful Domes Day,
Shull they not folowe hym to payne?

"That knowen hem selfe that they done yll 38
Ayenst Christes commaundement;
And amende hem never ne wyll,
But serve Sathan by one assent.
Who sayth sothe he shalbe shent,
Or speketh ayenst her false lyvyng,
Who-so well lyveth shalbe brent -
For suche ben gretter than the kyng.

"Pope, Byshoppes, and Cardynals,
Chanons, Persons, and Vycaire,
In Goddes servyce, I trowe, ben fals,
That sacramentes sellen here,
And ben as proude as Lucifere.
Eche man loke whether that I lye;
Who-so speketh ayenst her powere,
It shall be holden heresy.

"Loke howe many others take
Onely of Christe, for Hys servyce,
That the worldes goodes forsake. 39
Who-so taketh orders, or other wyse, 40
I trowe that they shall sore agryse
For all the glose that they conne.
All sewen not thys assyse;
In yvell tyme they thus begonne.

"Loke howe many amonge hem all
Holden not thys hye waye:
Wyth Antichrist they shullen fall,
For they wolden God betraye.
God amende hem that best maye,
For many men they maken shende.
They weten well the sothe, I saye,
But the dyvell hath foule hem blende.

"Some on her churches dwell,
Apparaylled poorely, proude of porte;
The seven sacramentes they done sell;
In cattel-catchynge is her comforte.
Of eche matter they wollen mell,
And done hem wronge is her dysporte.
To afray the people they ben fell,
And holde hem lower then doth the lorde.

"For the tythynge of a ducke,
Or of an apple, or an ay,
They make men sweare upon a boke -
Thus they foulen Christes fay.
Suche bearen yvell heaven kay;
They mowen assoyle, they mowe shryve,
Wyth mennes wyves strongly play,
With true tyllers sturte and stryve.

"At the wrestlynge, and at the wake,
And chefe chantours at the nale:
Markette-beaters, and medlynge make,
Hoppen and houten, with `heve-and-hale!'
At fayre freshe, and at wyne stale -
Dyne and drynke, and make debate;
The seven sacramentes set at sayle: -
Nowe kepe suche the key of heven-gate.

"Mennes wyves they wollen holde;
And though that they ben ryght sory,
To speke they shull not be so bolde,
For sompnynge to the consystory; 41
And make hem saye wyth mouth, `I lye,'
Though they it sawe wyth her eye;
Hys lemman holden openly,
No man so hardy to axe why.

"He woll have tythynge and offrynge,
Maugre who-so-ever it gruche;
And twyse on the daye he woll synge;
Goddes prestes nere none suche.
He mote on huntyng wyth dogge and byche,
And blowen hys horne, and cryen `hey!'
And sorcery usen as a wytche: -
Suche kepen yvell Peters key!

"Yet they mote have some stocke or stone
Gayly paynted, and proudly dyght,
To maken men levyn upon,
And saye that it is full of myght.
Aboute suche, men sette up great lyght;
Other suche stockes shull stande therby
As darke as it were mydnyght:
For it maye make no mastry.

"That it leude people se mowe,
Thou, Mary, thou worchest wonder thynges: 42
Aboute that, that men offren to nowe
Hongen broches, ouches, and rynges.
The preest purchaseth the offrynges,
But he nyll offre to none ymage.
Wo is the soule that he for synges,
That precheth for suche a pylgrimage!

"To men and women that ben poore,
That ben Christes owne lykenesse,
Men shulden offre at her dore,
That suffren honger and dystresse;
And to suche ymages offre lesse,
That mowe not fele thurst ne colde.
The poore in sprete gan Christe blesse;
Therfore offreth to feble and olde.

"Buckelers brode, and sweardes longe;
Baudryke, with baselardes kene,
Suche toles about her necke they honge.
Wyth Antichrist suche preestes bene:
Upon her hedes it is well sene;
Whome they serven, whome they honoren.
Antichristes they bene clene,
And Goddes goodes falsly devouren.

"Of scarlet and grene gay gownes,
That mote be shape for the newe,
To clyppen and kyssen, to counte in townes
The damoseles that to the daunce sewe:
Cutted clothes to shewe her hewe,
Wyth longe pykes on her shone.
Our Goddes gospell is not trewe:
Eyther they serven the dyvell or none.

"Now ben prestes pokes so wyde
That men must enlarge the vestement.
The holy Gospell they done hyde,
For they contraryen in rayment.
Suche preestes of Lucifer ben sent:
Lyke conquerours they ben arayde,
The proude pendauntes at her ars ypent.
Falsely the truthe they han betrayde!

"Shryfte-sylver suche wollen aske is 43
And woll men crepe to the Crouche;
None of the sacramentes, save askes,
Wythout mede shall no man touche.
On her byshoppe theyr warant vouche,
That is the lawe of the decre:
Wyth mede and money thus they mouche,
And thus, they sayne, is Charite.

"In the myddes of her masse,
They nyll have no man but for hyre,
And full shortly let forth passe.
Suche shull men fynde in eche shyre,
That personages for profyte desyre
To lyve in lykynge and in lestes;
I dare not sayne, Sans ose ieo dyre,
That suche ben Antichristes preestes.

"Or they yef the byshoppes why, 44
Or they mote ben in hys servyce,
And holden forth her harlotry.
Suche prelates ben of feble empryse:
Of Goddes grame suche men agryse!
For suche matters that taken mede,
Nowe they excuse hem, and in what wyse,
Me thynketh, they ought greatly drede.

"They sayne that it to no man longeth
To reprove them though they erre;
But falsely Goddes goodes they fongeth,
And therwyth maynteyne wo and werre.
Her dedes shulde be as bryght as sterre;
Her lyvynge, leude mannes lyght. 45
They saye the Pope maye not erre:
Nede mote that passe mannes myght. 46

"Though a prest lye wyth his lemman al nyght,
And tellen hys felowe, and he hym,
He goth to masse anone ryght,
And sayeth he syngeth out of synne.
Hys byrde abydeth hym at hys ynne,
And dyghteth hys dyner the meane whyle;
He syngeth hys masse, for he wolde wynne,
And so he weneth God begyle!

"Hem thynketh longe tyll they be mette,
And that they usen forth all the yere.
Amonge the folke when he is sette,
He holdeth no man halfe hys pere.
Of the byshoppe he hath powere
To soyle men, or els they ben lore;
Hys absolution may make them skere,
And wo is the soule that he syngeth fore!"

The GRYFFON began for to threte,
And sayd, "Of monkes canst thou ought?" 47
The PELLYCAN sayd, "They ben full grete,
And in thys world moch wo hath wrought.
Saynt Benet, that her order brought
Ne made hem never on suche manere.
I trowe it came never in hys thought,
That they shulde use so great powere;

"That a man shulde a monke `lorde' cal,
Ne serve on knees, as a kynge.
He is as proude as prynce in pall
In meate, and drynke, and all thynge.
Some wearen myter and rynge,
Wyth double worsted well ydyght,
Wyth royall meate and ryche drynke,
And rydeth on a courser as a knyght.

"Wyth hauke and wyth houndes eke,
Wyth broches or ouches on hys hode,
Some saye no masse in all a weke.
Of deynties is her moste foode,
Wyth lordshyppes and wyth bondmen.
Thys is a royall religion:
Saynt Benet made never none of hem
To have lordshyppe of man ne towne.

"Nowe they ben queynte and curious,
Wyth fyne clothe cladde and served clene -
Proude, angry, and envyous.
Malyce is moche that they meane;
In catchynge, crafty and covetous,
Lordly lyven in great lykynge.
Thys lyvynge is not religious,
Accordynge to Benette in hys lyvynge.

"They ben clerkes - her courtes they over-se;
Her poore tenaunce fully they flyte.
The hyre that a man amerced be,
The gladlyer they woll it wryte.
Thys is farre from Christes poverte:
For all wyth covetyse they endyte;
On the poore they have no pyte,
Ne never hem cheryshe but ever hem byte.

"And comenly suche ben comen
Of poore people, and of hem begete,
That thys perfection han ynomen:
Her fathers ryden not but on her fete,
And travaylen fore for that they ete.
In povert lyveth yonge and olde;
Her fathers suffreth drought and wete,
Many hongry meles, thurst, and colde.

"And all thys the monkes han forsake
For Christes love and saynt Benette.
To pryde and ease have hem take;
Thys religion is yvell besette.
Had they ben out of religioun,
They must have honged at the plowe, 48
Threshynge and dykynge fro towne to towne,
Wyth sory mete, and not halfe ynowe.

"Therfore they han thys all forsake,
And taken to ryches, pryde, and ease.
Full fewe for God woll monkes hem make;
Lytell is suche order for to prayse.
Saynt Benet ordayned it not so,
But badde hem be not cherelyche:
In churlyche maner lyve and go,
Boystous in earth, and not lordlyche.

"They dysclaunder saynt Benette;
Therfore they have hys holy curse.
Saynt Benet wyth hem never mette
But yf they thought to robbe hys purse.
I can no more herof tell:
But they ben lyke tho before,
And clene serve the dyvell of hell,
And ben hys treasoure and hys store.

"And all suche other counterfaytours -
Chanons, Canons, and suche dysgysed -
Ben Goddes enemyes, and traytours;
Hys true religion han foule dyspysed.
Of freres I have tolde before,
In a makynge of a Crede.
And yet I coulde tell worse and more,
But men wolde weryen it to rede.

"As Goddes goodnesse no man tell myght,
Wryte ne speake, ne thynke in thought,
So her falshed, and her unryght,
May no man tell that ever God wrought."
The GRYFFON sayd: "Thou canst no good;
Thou came never of no gentyll kynde:
Other I trowe thou waxest wood,
Or els thou hast loste thy mynde.

"Shulde Holy Churche have no heed?
Who shulde be her governayle?
Who shulde her rule? Who shulde her reed?
Who shulde her forthren? Who shulde avayle?
Eche man shall lyve by hys travayle;
Who best doth, shall have moste mede.
Wyth strength yf men the Churche assayle,
Wyth strength men must defende her nede.

"And the Pope were purely poore,
Nedy, and nothynge ne hadde,
He shulde be dryven from dore to dore,
The wycked of hym nolde not be dradde.
Of suche an heed men wolde be sadde,
And synfully lyven as hem lust;
Wyth strength, amendes suche be made;
Wyth wepen, wolves from shepe be wust.

"Yf the Pope and prelates wolde
So begge, and bydde, bowe, and borowe,
Holy Churche shulde stande full colde,
Her servauntes sytte and soupe sorowe.
And they were noughty, foule, and horowe,
To worshyppe God men wolde wlate.
Bothe on even and on morowe
Suche harlotry men wolde hate.

"Therfore, men of Holy Churche
Shulde ben honest in all thynge:
Worshypfully Goddes workes werche,
So semeth it to serve Christ her kynge.
In honest and in clene clothynge,
Wyth vessels of golde and clothes ryche,
To God honestly to make offrynge:
To Hys Lordshyppe none is lyche."

The PELLICAN caste an houge crye,
And sayd, "Alas! why sayest thou so?
Christ is our heed, that sytteth on hye;
Heddes ne ought we have no mo. 49
We ben Hys membres both also,
And `Father' He taught us to cal Hym als.
`Maysters' to be called defended He tho;
All other maysters ben wycked and fals,

"That taketh maystry in Hys name,
Goostly, and for earthly good;
Kynges and lordes shulde lordshyp hane,
And rule the people wyth mylde mode.
Christ for us that shedde Hys blode
Badde Hys preestes no maystershyp have,
Ne carke nat for cloth ne fode;
From every myschefe He wyll hem save.

"Her ryche clothynge shalbe ryghtwysnesse,
Her treasoure, trewe lyfe shalbe;
Charite shalbe her rychesse,
Her lordshyppe shalbe unite;
Hope in God, her honeste;
Her vessell, clene conscience;
Poore in spirite, and humilite
Shalbe Holy Churches defence."

"What," sayd the GRYFFON, "may the greve,
That other folkes faren wele?
What haste thou to done wyth her leve?
Thy falsheed eche man may fele,
For thou canst no catell gete,
But lyvest in londe as a lorell;
Wyth glosynge gettest thou thy mete;
So fareth the devell that wonneth in hell.

"He wolde that eche man there shulde dwell,
For he lyveth in clene envy.
So wyth the tales that thou doest tell,
Thou woldest other people dystry
Wyth your glose, and your heresy;
For ye ne can lyve no better lyfe,
But clene in hypocrisy,
And bryngeth the in wo and stryfe.

"And therwyth have not to done,
For ye ne have here no cure.
Ye serve the dyvell, neyther God ne man,
And he shall paye you your hyre.
For ye woll fare well at feestes,
And warme clothed for the colde.
Therfore ye glose Goddes hestes,
And begyle the people yonge and olde.

"And all the seven sacramentes
Ye speake ayenst, as ye were slye:
Ayenst tythynges, offringes, wyth your ententes,
And on our Lordes body falsly lye;
And all thys ye done to lyve in ease,
As who sayeth, there ben none suche;
And sayne the Pope is not worth a pease
To make the people ayen hym gruche.

"And thys commeth in by fendes,
To brynge the Christen in dystaunce;
For they wolde that no man were frendes.
Leave thy chattrynge, wyth myschaunce!
Yf thou lyve well, what wylt thou more?
Let other men lyve as hem lyst,
Spende in good, or kepe in store;
Other mennes conscience never thou nyst.

"Ye han no cure to answere fore.
What meddell ye, that han not to done?
Let men lyve as they han done yore,
For thou shalt answere for no man.
The PELLICAN sayd: "Syr, nay!
I dispysed not the Pope,
Ne no sacramente, soth to say,
But speake in charite and good hope.

"But I dyspyse her hye pryde,
Her rychesse, that shulde be poore in spirite -
Her wyckednesse is knowe so wyde.
They serve God in false habyte,
And turnen mekenesse in to pryde,
And lowlynesse in to hye degre,
And Goddes wordes turne and hyde;
And that am I moved by charite

"To lette men to lyve so,
Wyth all my connynge and al my myght,
And to warne men of her wo,
And to tell hem trouth and ryght.
The sacramentes be soule hele,
Yf they ben used in good use;
Ayenst that speake I never a dele,
For then were I nothynge wyse.

"But they that usen hem in mysse manere,
Or sette hem up to any sale,
I trowe they shall abye hem dere!
Thys is my reason, thys my tale:
Who so taketh hem unryghtfullyche
Ayenst the Ten Commaundementes,
Or by glose wrechedlyche
Selleth any of the sacramentes,

"I trowe they do the devell homage
In that they weten they do wronge;
And therto I dare well wage,
They serve Satan for al her songe.
To tythen and offren is holsome lyfe,
So it be done in dewe manere;
A man to houselyn and to shryve,
Weddynge, and all the other in fere,

"So it be nother solde ne bought,
Ne take ne gyve for covetyse.
And it be so taken, it is nought;
Who selleth hem so, maye sore agryse!
On our Lordes body I do not lye;
I saye soth thorowe trewe rede:
Hys fleshe and blode through Hys mystrye
Is there, in the forme of brede.

"Nowe it is there, it nedeth not stryve
Whether it be subgette or accydent;
But as Christ was, when He was on lyve,
So is He there verament.
Yf Pope or cardynall lyve good lyve,
As Christ commaunded in Hys Gospell,
Ayenst that woll I not stryve,
But me thynketh they lyve not well.

"For yf the Pope lyved as God bede,
Pryde and hyghnesse he shulde dyspyse -
Rychesse, covetyse, and crowne on hede.
Mekenesse and poverte he shulde use."
The GRYFFON sayd he shulde abye: -
"Thou shalbe brent in balefull fyre!
And all thy secte I shall dystrye;
Ye shalbe hanged by the swyre!

"Ye shullen be hanged and to-drawe!
Who gyveth you leave for to preache,
Or speake agaynst Goddes lawe,
And the people thus falsely teache?
Thou shalt be cursed wyth boke and bell,
And dessevered from Holy Churche,
And clene ydampned into hell,
Otherwyse but ye woll worche."

The PELLYCAN sayd, "That I ne drede;
Your cursynge is of lytell value.
Of God I hope to have my mede,
For it is falshede that ye shewe.
For ye ben out of charite,
And wylneth vengeaunce, as dyd Nero;
To suffren I woll redy be;
I drede not that thou canst do.

"Christ badde ones suffre for Hys love,
And so He taught all Hys servauntes;
And but thou amende for Hys sake above,
I drede not all thy mayntenaunce.
For yf I drede the worldes hate,
Me thynketh I were lytell to prayse;
I drede nothynge your hye estate,
Ne I drede not your dysease.

"Wolde ye turne and leave your pryde,
Your hye porte, and your rychesse,
Your cursynge shulde not go so wyde.
God brynge you into ryghtwysnesse!
For I drede not your tyranny
For nothynge that ye can done.
To suffre I am all redy;
Syker, I recke never howe soone!" 50

The GRYFFON grynned as he were wode,
And loked lovely as an owle;
And swore, "by cockes herte bloode,"
He wolde hym tere every doule: -
"Holy Churche thou dysclaundrest foule!
For thy reasons I woll the all to-race,
And make thy fleshe to rote and moule!
Losell, thou shalte have harde grace!"

The Gryffon flewe forth on hys waye.
The PELLYCANE dyd sytte and wepe,
And to hym selfe he gan saye:
"God wolde that any of Christes shepe
Had herde, and ytake kepe
Eche a worde that here sayd was,
And wolde it wrytte and well it kepe!
God wolde it were all for Hys grace!"

PLOWMAN. I answerde, and sayd I wolde,
Yf for my travayle any man wolde pay.
PELYCAN. He sayd, "Yes, these that God han solde,
For they han store of money."
PLOWMAN. I sayd, "Tell me, and thou may,
Why tellest thou mennes trespace?"
PELYCAN. He said, "To amende hem in good fay,
Yf God woll gyve me any grace;

"For Christ Hym selfe is lykened to me,
That for Hys people dyed on Rode.
As fare I, ryght so fareth He:
He fedeth Hys byrdes wyth Hys blode.
But these done yvell ayenst Gode,
And ben Hys fone under frendes face.
I tolde hem howe her lyvynge stode.
God amende hem for Hys grace!"

PLOWMAN. "What ayleth the Gryffon? Tell why
That he holdeth on that other syde?
PELLICAN. "For they two ben lykely,
And wyth kyndes robben wyde."
The foule betokeneth pryde,
As Lucifer, that hygh-flewe was,
And syth he dyd hym in evell hyde,
For he agylted Goddes grace.

"As byrde flyeth up in the ayre,
And lyveth by byrdes that ben meke,
So these be flowe up into dyspayre,
And shenden sely soules eke.
The soules that ben in synnes seke,
He culleth hem - knele therfore, alas!
For brybry Goddes forbode breke - 51
God amende it for Hys grace!

"The hynder parte is a lyoun,
A robber and a ravynere,
That robbeth the people in earth a-downe,
And in erth holdeth none hys pere.
So fareth thys foule both ferre and nere,
And wyth temporel strength they people chase,
As a lyon proude in earth here.
God amende hem for Hys grace!"

He flewe forth wyth hys wynges twayne
All droupynge, dased, and dull,
But soone the Gryffon came agayne.
Of hys foules the earth was full;
The Pellican he had cast to pull.
So great a nombre never sene ther was!
What maner of foules tell I woll,
Yf God woll gyve me of Hys grace.

Wyth the Gryffon comen foules fele
Ravyns, rokes, crowes, and pye,
Grayfoules, agadred wele;
I-gurde, above they wolde hye.
Gledes and bosardes weren hem by;
Whyte molles and puttockes token her place,
And lapwynges, that well conneth lye:
Thys felowshyp han for-gerde her grace.

Longe the Pellican was out,
But at laste he cometh agayne,
And brought wyth hym the Phenix stoute.
The Gryffon wolde have flowe ful fayne;
Hys foules that flewen as thycke as rayne.
The Phenix tho began hem chace;
To flye from hym it was in vayne,
For he dyd vengeaunce and no grace.

He slewe hem downe wythout mercy.
There astarte neyther free ne thrall.
On hym they cast a rufull cry
When the Gryffon downe was fall.
He bete hem not, but slewe hem all,
Whyther he hem drove no man may trace.
Under the erthe me thought they yall;
Alas, they had a feble grace!

The PELLICAN then axed ryght:
"For my wrytynge, yf I have blame,
Who woll for me fyght of flyght?
Who shall shelde me from shame?
He that hade a Mayde to dame;
And the Lambe that slayne was,
Shall shelde me from gostly blame,
For erthely harme is Goddes grace.

Therfore I praye every man
Of my wrytynge have me excused."
Thys wrytynge wryteth the Pellican,
That thus these people hath dyspysed.
For I am freshe, fully advysed;
I nyll not maynteyne hys manace;
For the devell is often dysguysed
To brynge a man to yvell grace.

Wyteth the Pellican, and not me,
For herof I nyl not avowe,
In hye ne in lowe, ne in no degre,
But as a fable take it ye mowe;
To Holy Churche I wyll me bowe.
Eche man to amende hym Christ sende space,
And for my wrytynge me alowe,
He that is almyghty for Hys grace.


(see note)
beasts should eat enough

Only bone and skin is left of them
(see note)
hung; plow-harness

outer garment
wished to seek
pilgrim's satchel; leeks
exhausted and very sweaty
seen; cheeks

(see note)
sun-blackened nose

enclosed in a cloister

a farm-workman
earn my food before; eat
sweat; toil
if I knew

livelihood; work


snuffed out; clinking

slaves to their desire
may not otherwise

against them; (see note)

can you preach


serious contention is roused anew; (see note)
In many places at once
Of diverse seeds that are planted
(see note)
adaptable; (see note)
(see note)

sinister friars

heaven; gates

determined from of old

put people out of favor
seem to be wretches bitterly frozen

called idlers; landless; (see note)
looks; weak (not tall)

labor; in vain
As widely as I have traveled
birds; then

(see note)

set his trap
thought things over carefully

showed [himself]

taught us

Gospel; (see note)
resembles; in every respect

should; Christian
Should be humble; degree
rely on no earthly
exotic bedlinens; (see note)
costly fur; rich cloth
store away

should not argue for possessions
chastise themselves
Nor should they lead men into battle
enhancing; (see note)

power; house nor

desire to wield

spurs on
slaves to them

That [person] desires; king's peers

equal; (see note)
greed; their counselor
must needs

That [person] high
Painted; portrayed

As loud as a bear at bay
must needs

through commerce
fill their bellies
haggle over

kinds of food
their bellies; quickly devour
meal; toilet

each; must

more; (see note)
Furnished with pearls like the queen's head
glittering; wormwood
With Judgment; condemn; death

hefty books



That [which] is

lordships fully; (see note)
wool merchants

pull apart

must bow to them
Obedient; expansive
retinue; (see note)
swift horse, as if they were kings

finely-wrought; curled
Finely-wrought stirrups of latten

they are called


(see note)

judged; dead; (see note)
profit from
All those things that God forbade
"The most holy"; call their leader; (see note)

should eat bread

Their leader; (see note)

must; cower

commandments; heed

him (the Pope) wholly

parish priests
here on earth

has no equal
(see note)

seems; them; (see note)
not at all above him

[He] condemns; he sees fit
before; stinks
commanded John not to kneel to him; (see note)

call; Holy God
call their head the Most Holy; (see note)
believe; misinterpret them
Here on earth
the devil

may both bind and loose; (see note)
may choose
(see note)

To learn which of them; (see note)

"He who smites with the sword"; (see note)
truly; die; (see note)
fear to die; (see note)
not be anxious about worldly goods; (see note)

tear apart
Cross; torn apart again
Each one shuns it; blow; (see note)
ruined (smitten)


all who oppose them



they will engage men of war
they wish to lead a lord's life
take much

consecrate; except for money

priests; i.e. deed
From wastrels they make income
bedaub the sheep's sore

frequent; widows

unless; confesses; (see note)


(see note)

pursue; (see note)


abettors; (see note)
they wish to be like lords
hawthorn fruit (inedible)
Truth; such (men) have slain
comb their curled hair with crystal; (see note)
fear; called down

There is scarcely any among them

such as minstrels wear

lay claim to
They won't give up any of it
ransom; (see note)
"filthy lucre"; (see note)
a daily occurrence; (see note)

hire out their summoners; (see note)

To increase their money
fear very little; Doomsday

villains; slander
favor; (see note)
(see note)

Every year each priest

shepherds will evil prosper

wished to clear himself of false charges
i.e. reassign
he must needs; ransom

guilty; deed



Such rulers may fear God
righteous; (see note)
statutes are pure popery

believe; took

are too
To make money; pervert
has grown

instrument (heaven's key)
not at all well advised

direct themselves


are very far away
To seize worldly goods; greedy

Of necessity

if; heir
I believe he errs
When the choice; despair

further his bargain; (see note)

have advised
ignorant braggart

is in an evil position

for the sake of earthly reward
not at all

at one moment for all

who don't know their

Neither; read
govern prosperous
grand property
They keep an eye on the bottom line
bear; gates


until they are

don't exert themselves; (see note)

(see note)

keep watch
spiced honey wine; in public
seem not at all fearful
They live as robustly as Lemuel did; (see note)

i.e., the Pope

did not
(see note)

bishop's crozier; (see note)

between them

do not believe in any mortal man
Are put to death

plowman (tiller)
is called
enough; (see note)

sinner; feet
high enough
who sat high (proudly)
forgets himself
Or he was not called to the truth
wet (bloody)

i.e. cast; (see note)



(see note)

To rhyme; (see note)

much; below
have; afflicted
taught me


point out many an error; (see note)
corners [they] situate themselves; nooks
preach; offering

Except precisely as

wholly diverge
[true] path they have journeyed


pay little heed
excessive behavior; (see note)


plot (?)
Instead of

wicked rights



witless beasts
meat; feasts
widely known

Dives; their judgment; (see note)
Christ's friends
should do
lay; bonds

badges; widely known

Each; ought to preach; (see note)
they have been sent


everywhere their
may walk

seized; thinks [to take] more yet

those who have
humbly; ordered

led forth
advise; fearful
His [people] should be destroyed; (see note)
to be glad of this

(see note)
capture; more
forbade fighting; (see note)
scabbard; then

guard His sheep
sword; to strike
implement with which

are to blame

chief pastor
ought to wield

protect them; rainfall

To the extent that Peter forsook Christ; (see note)
Who would rather; lose
(see note)
gathers; cook
From them; wool unrolled
gloss (comment on)/ gloze (deceive)

key [of heaven]

commanded; (see note)

(see note)

follow; went awry


For anything

get his hands on
stole; misspent; (see note)
i.e. control


If they knew how
(see note)
truth; estranged
exchange with finery


commandments; broken

damn all His [followers] to be burned
such flattery does not please them

greater power

for themselves
(see note)
(see note)
in earlier days

In anger, without [opportunity of] answer
baited; bear
[Clap him] In irons; equipment

the commons
(see note)




Whatever they seize is theirs

care; burnt
maintain poorly

Pay so little heed to this

more tightly secured in their bonds

Than is known to the king

(see note)



hapless wretch
(see note)


forbade it at that time
lordships own

tend (smear); (see note)

If; little [goods]
wouldn't judge by appearances

(see note)

rich; (see note)

person of rank as a playing-companion

"let out to farm all that business" (Sk)

save; (see note)


collecting agent; (see note)
plead against
rob them as a rapacious destroyer
living (quick); dead
enrich himself
From; healthy and sick

where it pleases them most
build as expansively as a city


gift; guest

pack up

the learned; the ignorant
true; (see note)
ministry; gone astray


"provide them with fine clothes" (Sk)


a single

When they have
don't care about anything else
Satan's guest

(see note)

pursue sin in every way

render accounts

(see note)

poverty; forgotten


(see note)

Scarcely can; the monastic hour

chatters like a jaybird



dealers in commodities
abettors of [evil] men with power; (see note)
accountants, or pleaders (lawyers)



material gain; worldly welfare

thee; (see note)

deed; loyalty

by common agreement
Whoever says the truth; destroyed

Whoever lives virtuously shall be burned
more powerful

Parsons; Vicars


Only from
(see note)

be sore afraid
Despite all the glosses that they know; (see note)
Not all pursue this course

know; truth
foully blinded them


acquiring material goods
interfere with each matter
to do wrong; amusement
In frightening; cruel
oppress them more than


poorly heaven's key
absolve; confess

Against true plowmen make trouble and strife

principal singers at the ale-house
bullies; interference; (see note)
Jump; shout; "heave ho"; (see note)

put up for sale
such men

truly offended

(see note)


Despite whoever might resent it

were not like these men

maintain poorly

must; image of a saint
believe in

(see note)

ignorant; might see
wonderful things
[the effigy] to which men offer now

he sings (prays) for


Shields; swords
Belts, with sharp short-swords; (see note)

(see note)

They belong wholly to Antichrist

(see note)
created in the newest fashion
To hug; well considered
go to the dance
show off their complexion; (see note)
peaks on their shoes

devil or they don't


are self-contradictory in dress

buttocks fastened

(see note)
desire [that] men creep to the Cross
ashes (for penance)

sneak around

live lives of pleasure and desire
"Without (saying), 'if I may say so'" (Sk); (see note)

(see note)

weak governance
Let such men dread God's wrath
bribery (reward)
in such a fashion [that]

it is no man's responsibility

as a star

without sin
wishes to gain [something]

thus; pass the whole year

maintains no man is half his equal

absolve them, or else they are lost


Saint Benedict; established; (see note)
the way they are now
(see note)

(see note)



war horse

jewelry-settings; hood
Their food consists mostly of delicacies


getting money

(see note)

tenants; reprimand
higher; is fined

devour; (see note)

Who have called this "perfection"
only on their [own] feet
work hard for what they eat
(see note)

given themselves
wickedly appointed

barely edible food; enough

commanded them to be not prodigal; (see note)




(see note)

tire of reading about it

their falsehood; their wrongs

don't know anything

Either I think you are going crazy

its leader
advance; be of use


wouldn't be afraid
[would] live sinfully as they pleased
could be made for such conduct
can be kept away from sheep


taste the bitter cup
indigent, foul, and filthy




No Lordship is like His


(see note)
(see note)
prohibited; then; (see note)

benevolent attitude

Nor concern themselves with; (see note)

shall be righteousness

How does it concern you
other people prosper
their permission; (see note)
don't know how to acquire money
explaining; food


biblical commentary


don't concern yourself; (see note)


(see note)

As if to say (by such living)
pea; (see note)


as they please

you never know

who have nothing to do with it
of old

their (the Pope and priesthood's)


health for the soul

not at all
not at all wise


pay for their actions dearly

I'm willing to bet
despite what they may say

to receive the Eucharist and to confess; (see note)
Matrimony; [sacraments] together

Providing; neither

feel terror [of God's wrath]

(see note)

there is no need to dispute
substance; accidence;(see note)



pay for it
destroy; (see note)

drawn apart

(see note)
Unless you behave otherwise

I don't fear that



don't fear what



haughty bearing

(see note)
(see note)

tear to pieces
rot; fester

Would to God
paid attention
To every word
preserve it well



(see note)

birds; blood


similar; (see note)
their like
fowl; (see note)
high flown
sinned against

bird; air

bring to perdition innocent souls also
sick with sins
kills them

[of the Griffin]

(see note)

intended to pluck

Hooded crows, well gathered
Ready, they wished to hasten above
Kites; buzzards; next to them
White buzzards; poultry-kites
know well how to deceive
has ruined their grace

(see note)
gladly taken flight


released them not


asked immediately

fight for me in my cause; (see note)

for a mother
(see note)

I won't sustain his threat; (see note)


may He approv

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