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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
Al a somer seson, for to seche Dowel1
And frayned ful efte,2 of folk that I mette

If eny wightte wiste, where Dowel was at inne,3
And what man he myghtte be, of many men I askid,
Was never wyghtte as I wente, that me wyse couthe1
Where this leed logged,5 lasse other more,
Til hit bifel on Friday, two freris? I mette
Maistris of the menours,8 men of gret witte,

I halsed hem hendeliche, as I hadde lerned

And preied hem per charite, er thei passeden ferther
If thei knewen eny countreye or coostes as thei wente
Wher that Dowell dwellyth.


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.

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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,
That hadde i lad of dong, ful many a fothur.
A trewe swynker and a good was hee,
Lyvynge in pees and parfight charitee.
God loved he best with al his trewe herte
At alle tymes, though him gained or smerte,
And thanne his neighebour right as himselve.
He wold threisshe, and therto dyke and delve,
For Cristes sake, with every pore wight,
Withouten huyre, if it laye in his might.
His tythes payede he ful faire and wel,
Bathe of his owne swynk and his catel.
In a tabbard he rood upon a mere.



'The mellere was a stout carl for the nones,
Ful big he was of braun, and eek of boones;
That prevede wel, for over al ther1 he cam,
At wrastlynge he wolde bere awey the ram.
He was schort schuldred, broode, a thikke knarre,
"Ther n'as no dore that he n'olde heve of barre,3
Or breke it with a rennyng with his heed.
His berd as ony sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and theron stood a tuft of heres,
Reede as the berstles of a souwes eeres.
His nose-thurles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and a bocler baar he by his side,
His mouth as wyde was as a gret forneys.
Wel cowde he stele corn, and tollen thries;"
And yet he had a thombe of gold 5 pardé.
A whight cote and blewe hood wered he.
A baggepipe cowde he blowe and sowne,
And therwithal he brought us out of towne.

1 All (genitive case plural of all).

carried, cart-load labourer

thresh, dig

both, labour
loose frock







(an oath)

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.

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From the Confessio Amantis.


Whan come was the moneth of Maie,
She wolde walke upon a daie,

And that was er the son arist,8
Of women but a fewe it wist; 9
And forth she went prively,
Unto a parke was faste by,
All softe walkende on the grass,
Tyll she came there the launde was,
Through which ran a great rivere;
It thought her fayre, and said, here
I will abide under the shawe; 10

And bade hir women to withdrawe :
And ther she stood alone stille,

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,
The males go with the femele;


And so began there a quarele
Betwene love and her owne herte,
Fro whiche she couthe not asterte.16

3 Foes. 4 Saw. 5 Far forth.

9 But a few of her women knew of it.

14 Hart. 15 Dispute. 16 Escape.

6 Cease.
10 Grove.

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.
And my spiryt hath gladid in God myn helthe.

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.


A! fredome is a nobill thing!
Fredome mayse man to haiff liking!
Fredome all solace to man giffis :
He levys at ese that frely levys!
A noble hart may haiff nane ese,
Na ellys nocht that may him plese,
Gyff fredome failythe: for fre liking
Is yearnyt our all othir thing.
Na he, that ay hase levyt fre,
May nocht knaw weill the propyrte,
The angyr, na the wrechyt dome,
That is cowplyt to foule thyrldome.
Bot gyff he had assayit it,
Than all perquer he suld it wyt;
And suld think fredome mar to pryse
Than all the gold in warld that is.

1 Perfectly.

Ah! Freedom is a noble thing!
Freedom makes man to have liking!
Freedom all solace to man gives:
He lives at ease that freely lives!
A noble heart may have none ease,
Nor else nought that may him please,
If freedom faileth: for free liking
Is yearned over all other thing.
Nor he, that aye has lived free,
May not know well the property,
The anger, nor the wretched doom,
That is coupled to foul thraldom.
But if he had assayed it,
Then all perquer he should it wit;2
And should think freedom more to

Than all the gold in world that is.

2 Know.



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.

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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.


From The Destruction of Troy.

Tyll at the last, amonge the bowes glade,
Of adventure, I caught a plesaunt shade;
Ful smothe, and playn, and lusty for to sene,
And softe as velvette was the yonge grene:
Where from my hors I did alight as fast,
And on a bowe aloft his reyne cast.
So faynte and mate of werynesse I was,
That I me layd adowne upon the gras,
Upon a brincke, shortly for to telle,
Besyde the river of a cristall welle;
And the water, as I reherse can,
Like quicke sylver in his streames y-ran,
Of which the gravell and the brighte stone,
As any golde, agaynst the sun y-shone.


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