‘THIS were a wicked way · unless we had a guide
That would show us each step’ · thus these folk complained.
Quoth Perkin the plowman · ‘By Saint Peter of Rome!
I’ve an half acre to plow · hard by the highway.
Had I plowed this half acre · and sown it after,
I would wend then with you · and show you the way.’
‘This were long delay’ · quoth a dame in a veil,
‘What should we women · work at meanwhile?’
‘Some shall sew sacks’, quoth Piers · ‘for sheltering the wheat;
And ye, lovely ladies · with your long fingers,
Have silk and sendal · to sew, while there’s time,
Chasubles for chaplains · churches to honour.
Wives and widows · wool and flax spin;
Make cloth, I counsel you · and so teach your daughters.
The needy and naked · take heed how they lie
And contrive for them clothes · for so commands Truth.
I shall get them livelihood · unless the land fails,
Flesh and bread both · to rich and to poor,
As long as I live · for the Lord’s love of Heaven.
And all manner of men · that by meat and drink live,
Help ye them to work well · that win you your food.’
‘By Christ!’ quoth a knight then · ‘he teaches the best;
But on this theme truly · taught was I never.
Teach me’, quoth the knight · ‘and, by Christ, I will try!’
‘By Saint Paul!’ quoth Perkin · ‘ye proffer so fairly
That I’ll swink and sweat · and sow for us both,
And other labours do for thy love · all my lifetime,
In covenant that thou keep · Holy Church and myself
From wasters and wicked men · that this world destroy.
And go and hunt hardily · for hares and for foxes,
For boars and for badgers · that break down mine hedges;
And go train thy falcons · wildfowl to kill,
For such come to my croft · and crop off my wheat.’
Courteously the knight then · answered these words:
‘By my powers, Piers’, quoth he · ‘I plight thee my troth’
Taken from William Langland, The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman, tr. Donald and Rachel Attwater, ed. Rachel Attwater (London, 1957).