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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
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 noghte 11 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.
1 To seek Do-Well. 2 Inquired full often.
11 Not reckon right not.
3 Lived. 4 Could inform me. 8 Minors, 9 I saluted them civilly. 12 Festival. 13 Enough.
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 reigos 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.
carried, cart-load labourer
occasion also proved
The mellere was a stout carl for the nones,
1 A11 (genitive case plural of all). 2 The usual prize at wrestling-matches. 8 There was no door that he could not raise the bar of. 4 Toll thrice. In addition 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 forthi ? 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,
Shut. 8 Ere the sun arose. 12 Their. 13 Doe.
11 Saw. 9 But a few of her women knew of it. 14 Hart. 15 Dispute.
JOHN DE WYCLIFFE: 1324-1884.
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 into 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 1895.
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 !
But if he had assayed it, Than all perquer he suld it wyt; Then all perquer he should it wit;2 And suld think fredome mar to pryse | And should think freedom more to Than all the gold in warld that is. prize
Than all the gold in world that is.
KING JAMES I. of Scotland : 1394-1487.
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.
From The King's Quhair.
in midst of
And on the smalle greene twistis sate
twigs hymns love's
JOHN LYDGATE ; about 1480. 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.