Thursday, August 11, 2011

William Langland - Piers Plowman

" William langland 1330 - 1400 Piers Plowman - father 'Stacy de Rokayle,'  born in Mortymers Clibery" 

The east window in St Mary's Church, Cleobury Mortimer, dates from the 19th century and celebrates William Langland, the author of Piers Plowman.

He was born at Kinlet (Near Cleobury Mortimer)  in 1332. A contemporary of Chaucer, he was a poet who used the alliterative blank verse that was derived from Anglo-Saxon poetry. His father owned some land and William, the second son, was destined to be a clerk. He was sent to the Austin Friars at the Woodhouses to be educated. two miles from Cleobury Mortimer.

When William learned to read and write he left the Friars and journeyed to London. This journey inspired him to write his poem, "The Vision of Piers Plowman", in which he describes how he rested on the Malvern Hills and visualised the kingdom as 'a field full of folk'. His writing depicted the life and thoughts of a peasant in the years before Watt Tyler's rebellion. Langland died in 1400, and during the 15th century his poem was copied by hand three times. It was not printed until more than a century after his death.
The spirit of Piers Plowman lived on in the religious earnestness of his successors. Langland bewailed the corruption of Mediaeval society, and reverted to the ideals of the past rather than those of the present.


"William Langland's Piers Plowman is one of the major poetic monuments of medieval England and of world literature. Probably composed between 1372 and 1389, the poem survives in three distinct versions. It is known to modern readers largely through the middle of the three, the so-called B-text. Now, George Economou's verse translation of the poet's third version makes available for the first time in modern English the final revision of a work that many have regarded as the greatest Christian poem in our language.

Langland's remarkable powers of invention and his passionate involvement with the spiritual, social, and political crises of his time lay claim to our attention, and demand serious comparison with Dante's Divine Comedy. Economou's translation preserves the intensity of the poet's verse and the narrative energy of his alliterative long line, the immediacy of the original's story of the quest for salvation, and the individuality of its language and wordplay."

In a summer season, when soft was the sun,
In rough cloth I robed me, as I a shepherd were,
In a habit like a hermit in his works unholy,
And through the wide world I went, wonders to hear ...

You can download the full text on pdf here for free

Rosemary Webb Rehill  I believe that there's a plaque dedicated to him in St.Mary's church.

Trev Teasdel  His work is associated with the Peasant's revolt and he gave the first mention of Robin Hood!  He was a contemporary of Chaucer. His 'Vision' was written in alliterative blank verse derived from anglo saxon poetry. The poem was orally transmitted and had three major revisions before it was finally printed until 1500 (a century after his death). Educated at Austin Friars, Woodhouse Friary Nr Cleobury, he moved to London. His poem starts on the Malvern Hills depicting the life and thoughts of a peasant before Watt Tyler's Peasants Revolt on which it had an influence. He gave the first literary mention of Robin Hood.

Photo by Dean Revell - from a plaque in St. Mary's Church in Cleobury Mortimer. 

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