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"Art thou Thought?" quoth I then, wisse 2
and do me to know."
"Where that Do-wel dwelleth,
Whoso is true of his tongue
Libenter suffertis insipientes, cum sitis ipsi sapientes.
ill men to good,
of that he may spare.
That no bishop should their bidding withsit."
Nolite timere eos qui possunt occidere corpus.18
"thou couthest1 me
And so the Dreamer sets out on his journey to the dwelling of Do-wel, Do-bet, and Do-best. At the suggestion of Thought, he finds Wit and inquires the way. Wit, who was
Long and lean and like to none other,
even or fellow Christian. 5 broken up.
10 goods, property.
13 See Matthew x. 28.
8 please, choose.
answers his questions, and at the same time delivers a somewhat rambling lecture upon religious subjects and some pointed lessons regarding some of the moral virtues. Study, who is the wife of Wit, thereupon upbraids him for giving his wisdom to fools,
And said, Noli mittere, ye men,
And she cautions him to beware, also, of showing Holy Writ to swine. Finally, she directs the Dreamer to Clergy, whom he will find by the highway To-sufferboth-weal-and-much-woe. Clergy, when found, tells the Dreamer that in order to reach Do-wel he must obey the Ten Commandments and believe in Christ; and he delivers a moral lecture in which occurs a curious passage that has been regarded by some as a prophecy of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, some two hundred years later:
Of Constantine's coffers,
And there shall come a king, and confess your religions, And beat you as the bible telleth, for breaking of your rule: And amend moniales, monks, and canons.
And then friars in their freytor2 shall find a key
in which is the catal3
had it dispended.
and all his issue for
Have a knock of a king, and incurable the wound.
"This is a long lesson, and little am I the wiser." The visions which follow-there are nine in all - are of a similar kind, introducing new personifications of
1 See Matthew vii. 6.
moral and intellectual qualities and mildly satirizing the prevalent vices of society and the corruptions of the Church. In the end, Piers, the humble ploughman, is identified with Christ; and the poet describes the Saviour's passion, his descent into hell, the founding of the Church, and the coming of antichrist. The stronghold of the Church is attacked by an army of priests and monks, and Conscience, deserted and almost despairing, cries out for help. But, no one coming, he takes a pilgrim's staff and vows that he will wander over the wide world to seek Piers the Ploughman. "Now, Kind, avenge me, and send me hap and hele till I have Piers Ploughman!" And after that he cried aloud upon Grace, and the poet awoke.