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al ius. — Thilke, the very, same; A.-S. thylc and thillic, comp. cf demonstrative th or the and lic, like, same, § 45, 111.

VER 12. Truly, A.-S. treow lic, from treow, true. — - Gretter, greater; A.-S. great. Cf. Ger. gross. For the second t and the a in great, see § 18.- Thanne, than; A.-S thanne, thone, thaenne, and thaen; an old acc. form like Lat. quam. Its proper force is, in respect to this, greater in respect to these, that is, in comparison with these. See n. P. P. 21.

VER. 13. Ever, A.-S. aefer and aefre. For change of ƒ to v, see § 19. — Axen, A.-S. acsian and ascian, to ask. — Be glorified, subjunctive. Fr. glorifier; Lat. glorifico.


VER. 15. Loven A.-S. lufian. See § 19.-Keepe, A.-S. cep an. ementis, Late Lat. comandamentum.

VER. 16 Preie, Old Fr. preier, Lat. precari, to pray; the i or y in pray is orthographic. - Zeve, give, A.-S. gifan and geofian, past tense gaef and gaf. Cf. Ger. geb en. The f, being phthongal between vowels, became v, as in ever, love, give, vv. 18, 15. See § 19. — Another, A.-S. an and odher. - Counfortour, Fr. conforter, to comfort, Lat. confortare, from con and fortis. The u is orthographic, § 18. Spirit, Lat. spiritus. - Withouten, A.-S. widhutan, comp. of widh and utan, from ut, out. - Ende, A.-S. ende.

VER. 17. Which, A.-S. hwile, compounded of the interrogative or relative, § 4, and ile for lic, as thilke, ver. 11 above. — World, A.-S. weorold, worold, and world. - May not, is not able. See moun, ver. 5. — Nether, A.-S. nadhor, nadher, and nawdher, comp. of n and odher. The i in Mod. Eng. neither is orthographic, and introduced after Wycliffe, who always writes ether, nether, except rarely neather. To sound the i is to mistake the origin and design of the letter.

VER. 18. Leve, leave; A.-S. laefan and lefan. Cf. Ger. bleiben (be and leiben); Gr. λeinw.-Fadirles, fadir and privative suffix, A.-S. leas.

VER. 19. it, yet; A.-S. get, git, and iet, iette. - Litil, A.-S. lytel, lyt. - Now, A.-S. nu; Ger. nun; Gr. vûv; Lat. nunc. - Lyve, A.-S. liban, libb ian, and leofian. Ger. leben.

VER. 20. Day, A.-S. daeg, Ger. tag, Lat. dies.

VER. 22. Scarioth. Wycliffe frequently, but not invariably, observes Grimm's Law in rendering Greek proper names. The initial I easily falls away before S. VER. 23. 'Answerid, A.-S. andswarian and andswerian, to answer, comp. of and, against, and swerian, to swear.

VER. 24. Herde, A.-S. her an. The a in heard is orthographic, § 18.

VER. 25. Among, A.-S. amang and onmong, comp. of prep. an or a, and the stem mang, which appears in A.-S. meng ian, to mix. Cf. Ger. meng en; in man ig, many; Eng. mingle, etc.

VER. 26. Holi, A.-S. halig, from hal, safe; Ger. heil ig.- Goost, A.-S. gast; Ger. geist. The second o is orthographic, § 18. For the h in ghost, see § 21 (1). — Sende, A.-S. send an. -Name, A.-S. nama, Ger. name, Lat. nom en. — Teche, A.-S. taec an, Ger. zeig en, Lat. doc ere. - Alle, A.-S. eal, eall, al, ael.

VER. 27. Pees, peace; Old Fr. pais, pes; Lat. pax, pac is. - As, probably a contraction of all and so, or all and demonstrative s. Cf. A.-S. eall-swa; Ger. als; Fr. aussi; Dan. ogsaa. Be not youre herte afraied; ne drede it. See ver. 1. Afraied has here but one f; in ver. 1 there are two.

VER. 28. Forsothe. See ver. 7, on sothli. — Ioie, joy; Old Fr. goie, joie; Lat. gaudium.

VER. 29. Bifor, before. Comp. of A.-S. bi or be, and for, before. That it be don, clausal noun after prep. bifor. "Art of Composition," §§ 290 (3), 322. — Bileuen, subj. mood. Cf. ye be, ver. 3.

VER. 30. Prince, Fr. prince, Lat. princeps.

VER. 31. 3af, gave, A.-S. gifan, to give; past tense gaf and gaef. See geve, ver. 16. -Rise, A.-S. risan. — Hennes, hence. The stem is demonstrative, § 4; s is formative of possessive, § 42.



1. The orthography was unsettled. The governing prin. ciple was to represent as near as was practicable through the alphabetic characters in use the sounds of the words according to the received pronunciation. In a poem "On the Death of Edward III.," in 1377, as given by Mr. Marsh, E. L. L., p. 288-300, the past participle of to see, now spelled seen, occurs in the last verse of each of eleven of the different stanzas, fourteen in all. It is written three times iseize; once seye; six times seize; and once iseye. So in Piers Ploughman, Mandeville, Wycliffe, and Chaucer, the same word is spelled diversely by the same writer. The vowels were often interchanged, especially before r and when used as connectives in inflection or derivation. The characters and j were not discriminated, nor u and v. Long quantity when necessary, was generally indicated by the insertion of a vowel or by a final e, but not uniformly. The practice of marking short quantity by doubling the following consonant, universal in the "Ormulum," a work of the thirteenth century, was but partially observed. A character now represented by a 3 from another font of type was used to represent y initial and also the phthongal and aphthongal gutturals, g and gh.

The inflectional character of the language had become very nearly what it is now. The inflections were, however, somewhat unsettled. Higden, writing about 1350, says there were then three dialects spoken in England, the Southern, Midland, and Northern, or West Saxon, Mercian, and Northumbrian. He exemplifies them thus in indi pres. of the verb hope:

Southern, sing. hope, hopest, hopeth; plu. hopeth.

Midland, sing. hope, hopes, hopes; plu. hopen.
Northern, sing. hope, hopes, hopes; plu. hopes.

Piers Ploughman, Wycliffe, Mandeville, and Chaucer, all followed the southern usage, in the singular. In the plural Chaucer used both th and n or en; in the imperative, usually th, but often omitted all plural terminations. Piers Ploughman has infinitive with n or en more commonly, but sometimes without. Wycliffe and Chaucer usually omit the n after the auxiliary have; being transitive when used as principal word, the infinitive was sometimes used where now we use the participle, as hadde rise for hadde risen. For the contingent or optative mood, the past tense of the indicative was commonly employed. In the participle of irregular verbs, Wycliffe uses u, as knowun, while Chaucer prefers e, as knowen. The adjective sometimes had a plural in e, the remains of the old Anglo-Saxon inflection. The genitive singular and the plural of nouns were in 8, with or without a connecting word as euphony required, but without the apostrophe. The first person pronoun was often written ich in Piers Ploughman. The h was worn off from the third person neuter, hit, although hit occurs in Piers Ploughman; but the old possessive his was used for both masculine and neuter, its having been introduced in the seventeenth century. The h in the third person plural had not passed into th. We find accordingly her and hern for their and thern, but they or thei was already in use. Ye and you were used by Chaucer in addresses to individuals.

There is noticeable a tendency to form new words by uniting fragments of words in use so as to disguise the etymology, while following probably the common colloquial pronunciation, as in artou, art thou; seestou, seest thou, etc., in Piers Ploughman; sumdel, some deal: upsodoun, up side down, in Chaucer and Wycliffe. The compounding of words generally was more freely allowed than now. Thus we find agen, Lat. re, both in the sense of again and of against, in composition with many simple verbs in Wycliffe,

as agenbie, redeem; agenrise, rise again; agenstande, resist;



THIS remarkable poem may, with good reason, be placed at the very origin of proper English literature. For while the transition from the Old Saxon to what has been termed the Semi-Saxon stage of the language was gradual and by imperceptible stages, the change appears more decisive and complete to the proper English stage in this poem, than in any other monument of our literature. It is every way worthy to stand at the head of the richest form of literature the world has seen.

The poem is attributed to a monk of the name of Langland — a name variously spelled Longland, Longlande, Langlande, Langland, etc. Tradition gives him the Christian name of Robert; but an entry made in the fifteenth century on an old manuscript copy in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, says his first name was William. He was born, according to tradition, at Cleobury-Mortimer in Shropshire, was educated at Oxford, and became a monk at Malvern, a town in Worcestershire, on the eastern declivity of the Malvern Hills. The entry above alluded to, however, states that he dwelt at Shipton-under-Wickwood, in the county of Oxford. He lived in the fourteenth century; and from some internal evidences is supposed to have written his poem in the latter part of the year 1362. He was accordingly a contemporary of Wycliffe, 1324-1384, who is mentioned by name in the "Creed of Piers Ploughman," probably written a few years after the "Vision," as a victim of priestly persecution: " Wyclif that warned hem with trew the," ver. 10,512. He doubtless participated fully in the rising spirit of freedom, both religious and civil, which characterized that age. His poem, indeed, is essentially a bold and vigorous satire upon the impiety, the superstition, and the immoralities of the times. The succession of heavy calamities that had swept over England was regarded as but the visitation of Divine justice, working in harmony with natural laws, or more correctly through these laws, upon the sins of the people.

The production was received with great favor among a people suffering under the power of oppressive superiors in state and in church, and beginning to clamor for relief and reform.

"The poem of' Piers Ploughman,'" says Mr. Wright, from whose excellent edition these general statements, as well as the selections from the text and many of the verbal explanations are taken, "is peculiarly a national work. It is the most remarkable monument of the public spirit of our forefathers in the Middle, or, as they are often termed, Dark Ages. It is a pure specimen of the English language at a period when it had sustained few of the corruptions which have disfigured it since we have had writers of 'Grammars'; and in it we may study with advantage many of the difficulties of the language which these writers have misunderstood. It is, moreover, the finest example left of the kind of versification which was purely English, inasmuch as it had been the only one in use among our Anglo-Saxon progenitors, in common with the other people of the North. To many readers it will be perhaps necessary to explain that rhyming verse was not in use among the AngloSaxons. In place of rhyme, they had a system of verse of which the characteristic was a very regular alliteration, so arranged that, in every couplet, there should be two principal words in the first line beginning with the same letter, which letter must also be the initial of the first word on which the stress of the voice falls in the second line. There has, as yet, been discovered no system of foot-measure in AngloSaxon verse, but the common metre consists apparently in having two rises and two falls of the voice in each line. These characteristics are accurately preserved in the

verse of "Piers Ploughman ;" and the measure appears to be the same, if we make allowance for the change of the slow and impressive pronunciation of the AngloSaxon for the quicker pronunciation of Middle English, which therefore required a greater number of syllables to fill up the same space of time."

The poem, as it respects the form of the thought, is a succession of dreams "The dreamer, weary of the world, falls asleep beside a stream amid the beautifu. scenery of Malvern Hills. In his vision, the people of the world are represented to him by a vast multitude assembled in a fair meadow; on one side stands the tower of Truth elevated on a mountain, the right aim of man's pilgrimage, while on the other side is the dungeon of Care, the dwelling-place of Wrong. In the first sections, passus, of the poem, are pictured the origin of society, the foundation and dignity of kingly power, and the separation into different classes and orders." In the progress of the poem the different forms of evil with the opposing virtuous or corrective principles are represented as they appeared to the poet's eye on the stage of life. Conscience is at the close represented as forced to abandon the castle of Unity, in which it had taken shelter with Nature personified under the name of Kind, and sets out on another pilgrimage in search of Piers the Ploughman. The dream here closes.

The selection is from the Introduction as far as to the end of the famous fable of the Belling of the Cat.


IN a somer seson

Whan softe was the sonne,
I shoop me into shroudes
As I a sheep weere,
In habite as an heremite
Unholy of werkes,
Wente wide in this world
Wondres to here;

Ac on a May morwenynge
On Malverne hilles
Me bifel a ferly,
Of fairye me thoghte.
I was wery for-wandred,
And wente me to reste
Under a brood bank
By a bournes syde;
And as I lay and lenede,
And loked on the watres,
I slombred into a slepyng,
It sweyed so murye.
Thanne gan

I meten
A merveillous swevene,
That I was in a wildernesse,



Wiste I nevere where,
And as I biheeld into the eest
An heigh to the sonne,
I seigh a tour on a toft
Trieliche y-maked,
A deep dale bynethe,
A dongeon therinne,
With depe diches and derke
And dredfulle of sighte.
A fair feeld ful of folk
Fond I ther bitwene,
Of alle manere of men,
The meene and the riche,
Werchynge and wandrynge,
As the world asketh.

Some putten hem to the
Pleiden ful selde,

In settynge and sowynge
Swonken ful harde,
And wonnen that wastours
With glotonye destruyeth.


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