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Longlande, a priest or monk, wrote (about 1360) a long poem, The Vision of Pierce Plowman, a series of visions, in describing which the poet satirises the vices of the time, particularly those of the clergy.
From The Vision of Pierce Plowman.
Thus yrobed in russet, I romed me aboute
If eny wightte wiste, where Dowel was at inne,3
I halsed hem hendeliche, as I hadde lerned
And preied hem per charite, er thei passeden ferther
SIR JOHN MANDEVILLE: 1300-1372.
Sir John Mandeville, after he had been educated for the profession of medicine, spent thirty-four years in travelling in eastern countries, and on his return to England wrote a Narrative of his Travels, which is the oldest book in English prose.
From his Account of a Conversation with the Sultan of Egypt.
From his Travels, written in 1356.
And therefore I shalle telle you what the Soudan tolde me upon a day, in his chambre. He leet voyden out of his chambre alle maner of men, lordes, and othere; for he wolde speke with me in conseille. And there he askede me, how the Cristene men governed hem in oure contree. And I seyde him, righte wel, thonked be God. And he seyde, treulyche 10 nay; for ye Cristene men ne recthen righte noghtell how untrewly to serve God. Ye sholde geven ensample to the lewed peple for to do wel; and ye geven hem ensample to don evylle. For the Comownes, upon festyfulle 12 dayes, whan thei sholden gon to Chirche to serve God, than gon thei to Tavernes, and ben there in glotony, alle the day and alle nyghte, and eten and drynken, as Bestes that have no resoun, and wite not whan thei have y now.13 Thei sholden ben symple, meke and trewe, and fulle of Almes dede, as Jhesu was, in whom thei trowe; but thei ben alle the contrarie, and evere enclyned to the Evylle, and to don evylle.
GEOFFREY CHAUCER: 1328-1400.
Chaucer, the father of English poetry, flourished at the courts of Edward III. and Richard II. He served under the former in his French campaign, and during both reigns was repeatedly employed in embassies and other business connected with the public service. He died in London, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His chief work is The Canterbury Tales, a series of narratives related by a company of pilgrims to eliven their journey to the shrine of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. The tales, of which two are in prose, present a wonderful picture of English life in the 14th century.
From The Canterbury Tales.
With him ther was a Ploughman, his brothur,
'The mellere was a stout carl for the nones,
1 All (genitive case plural of all).
carried, cart-load labourer
2 The usual prize at wrestling-matches. 4 Toll thrice. In addi
3 There was no door that he could not raise the bar of. tion to the money payment for grinding corn, millers are allowed a 'toll' of 4 lbs. out of every sack of flour. 5 He was as honest as other millers, though he had a thumb of gold, according to the old proverb, Every honest miller has a thumb of gold.
From The Tale of Melibeus.
A yong man called Melibeus, mighty and riche, bygat upon his wif, that called was Prudens, a doughter which that called was Sophie. Upon a day byfel, that for his desport he is went into the feldes him to play. His wif and his doughter eek hath he laft within his hous, of which the dores were fast i-schitte. Thre of his olde foos 3 han it espyed, and setten laddres to the walles of his hous, and by the wyndowes ben entred, and betyn his wyf, and woundid his doughter with fyve mortal woundes, in fyve sondry places, that is to sayn, in here feet, in here hondes, in here eeres, in here nose, and in here mouth; and lafte her for deed, and went away.
Whan Melibeus retourned was into his hous, and seigh 4 al this mischief, he, lik a man mad, rendyng his clothes, gan wepe and crie. Prudens his wyf, as ferforth as sche dorste, bysought him of his wepyng to stynte. But not forthi7 he gan to crie ever lenger the more.
JOHN GOWER: 1325-1408.
Gower was the friend of Chaucer, and is said to have been a lawyer, attached to the Duke of Gloucester, uncle of King Richard II. His chief poem is Confessio Amantis, or Lover's Confession.
From the Confessio Amantis.
Whan come was the moneth of Maie,
And that was er the son arist,8
And bade hir women to withdrawe :
To thinke what was in her wille;
She sighell the swete floures sprynge,
She herde glad fowles synge,
She sighe beastes in her 12 kynde,
The buck, the doo,13 the hert,14 the hynde,
And so began there a quarele
3 Foes. 4 Saw. 5 Far forth.
9 But a few of her women knew of it.
14 Hart. 15 Dispute. 16 Escape.
Therefore. 11 Saw.
JOHN DE WYCLIFFE: 1324-1384.
Wycliffe was professor of divinity in Baliol College, Oxford. He is distinguished by his efforts to reform religion in England and by his translation of the Bible inte English, for which reasons he has been termed 'The Morning-Star of the English Reformation.'
THE MAGNIFICAT. From his Translation of the Bible.
And Marye seyde: My soul magnifieth the Lord.
For he hath behulden the mekenesse of his handmayden: for lo for this alle generatiouns schulen seye that I am blessid.
For he that is mighti hath don to me grete thingis, and his name is holy. And his mercy is fro kyndrede into kyndredis to men that dreden him. He hath made myght in his arm, he scatteride proude men with the thoughte of his herte.
He sette doun myghty men fro seete, and enhaunside meke men. He hath fulfillid hungry men with goodis, and he has left riche men voide. He heuynge mynde of his mercy took up Israel his child.
As he hath spokun to oure fadris, to Abraham, and to his seed into worlds.
JOHN BARBOUR, Scottish Poet: died 1395.
Barbour was archdeacon of Aberdeen in 1356. His only existing work is The Bruce, a narrative poem relating the adventures of King Robert Bruce, written about 1376.
APOSTROPHE TO FREEDOM. From The Bruce.
A! fredome is a nobill thing!
Ah! Freedom is a noble thing!
Than all the gold in world that is.
KING JAMES I. of Scotland: 1394-1437.
James, while in captivity in England, became proficient in all the learning of the English court. His chief poem is The King's Quhair (Quire or Book), the subject of which is his love for Lady Joan Beaufort, whom he afterwards married.
Lydgate was a monk of Bury. Of his numerous poems, the principal are The History of Thebes, The Fall of Princes, and The Destruction of Troy.
DESCRIPTION OF A SYLVAN RETREAT.
From The Destruction of Troy.
Tyll at the last, amonge the bowes glade,