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William Langland

Autor(a) de Piers Plowman

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About the Author

William Langland is the name generally attributed to the author of Piers Plowman, a classic Middle English poem. Written in an unrhymed, alliterative style that was traditional at the time, the poem is composed of a series of dream visions in which the dreamer grapples with issues such as the mostrar mais nature of Christ's love and the relationship between people and God. Piers Plowman is considered to be one of the greatest religious poems in the English language, and Langland ranks among the best of the Middle English authors, along with Geoffrey Chaucer and the anonymous author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Langland is believed to have lived from about 1331 to 1400. Based on the poem, which is thought to be partly autobiographical, Langland probably spent his early years in the Malvern and later lived in London. Some scholars believe that Langland was a poor cleric in one of the minor religious orders; others suggest that he was a monk. Whichever is true, it is evident from his work that he was well-educated, a gifted poet, and very knowledgeable about both the political and the ecclesiastical controversies of his time. It is not certain whether any more of Langland's work has survived. Piers the Plowman's Creed and Richard Redeless, two shorter poems that were previously attributed to Langland, are now believed to have been written by others. (Bowker Author Biography) mostrar menos
Image credit: Detail of William dreaming, from an illuminated initial in Corpus Christi MS 201 f.1r.


Obras por William Langland

Piers Plowman (1367) 1,760 exemplares, 10 críticas
Piers Plowman (Norton Critical Editions) (1990) 425 exemplares, 1 crítica
William Langland's Piers Plowman: The C Version (1386) 140 exemplares, 1 crítica
Piers the Plowman Volume I. (1986) 7 exemplares

Associated Works

The Canterbury Tales [Norton Critical Edition, 2nd ed.] (2005) — Contribuidor — 633 exemplares, 5 críticas
The Oxford Book of English Verse (1999) — Contribuidor — 478 exemplares, 2 críticas
World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time (1998) — Contribuidor — 452 exemplares, 1 crítica
Masters of British Literature, Volume A (2007) — Contribuidor — 21 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum

Nome canónico
Langland, William
Data de nascimento
1330 c.
Data de falecimento
1387 c.
England, UK
Locais de residência
Malvern Hills, England, UK



Piers the Plowman em Folio Society Devotees (Fevereiro 2023)
Piers Plowman em Combiners! (Maio 2013)


Christian pilgrims and pilgrimages, Christian poetry - English (Middle), Piers Plowman (Langland, William), England, Christianity and literature, English poetry--Middle English, Henry W. Wells 1895-1978
3lilreds | 9 outras críticas | Aug 11, 2022 |
Everyone else appears to be reading the B text, the fools. This version is much shorter.

I’ve heard the language described as ‘barbarous’. Don’t get overexcited, but there are times when the poetry attains that level of perfection. It’s consistently entertaining and interesting, though he could have done with editing down the Six Deadly Sins to maybe three or four...

It’s not what I expected. I think I expected something hoary and old because I knew it was alliterative, but this is cutting edge stuff (for the Middle Ages). It’s essentially a satire of Church and State and there’s some social commentary here sharp enough to explain why Langland might have been wary of putting his name to it.. Considering the uses the poem was put to during the Peasant’s Revolt and the Reformation it’s interesting to see what Langland isn’t saying. He isn’t calling for an end to the Church, but rather internal reform. But it’s clear why people would see this as a blueprint for more radical change. He envisages a renegotiation of the relationship between the three estates with those who work the most valuable and those who fight and pray doing so for the benefit of the workers. He appears to suggest some sort of ‘work-to-rule’ when the relationship is abused. In fact, he’s extremely conservative. He condemns all capitalist ventures and wants everyone to plough, pray, fight, or (if you’re a woman) sew. His hostility to people who don’t do one of these four things really is something to behold and he wants them to go back to their work. But the ‘work’ he condemns so many people to would today lead to a slew of prosecutions under the Modern Slavery Act.

Anyway, a quick word about editions. I had to do a bit of research because the A version isn’t as easily available as the B. You basically have a choice of four, not counting translations and parallel texts etc.

Skeat’s EETS edition (OS 28). I’m sure this is an editorial masterpiece, but the notes etc are all in a separate volume, OS 67, which is an embuggerance not to be endured.

Knott & Fowler’s Critical Edition. This details every textual variant in every manuscript. It does have the actual poem, but no glossary or notes or anything like that and is really just for scholars studying the text.

George Kane, Athlone Press 1960. This is intended for students and general readers and has notes and glossary and all the things human being require for a poem like this.

Míċeál F. Vaughan. This is the same approach as above. I’d have been happy with either of these, but went for this one as I had some book tokens and this is the only edition that can be bought with them.

You’ll notice that Langland is not credited as author either on the cover or title page. On sight I took this as a cynical attempt by Vaughan to get himself noticed in the field, but he uses this approach to make some extremely insightful comments about the nature of authorship and textual transmission in the Middle Ages. The introduction as a whole is superb. Really in-depth and thought provoking.

Excellent explanatory notes. I did wish I’d read a general history of the period because some of the satire is quite specific, but Vaughan does what he can in the space he has.

I do have a couple of complaints. The punctuation is far heavier than the English language requires. There is no separate glossary. I prefer Very Hard Words glossed in footnote with a separate glossary at the back. Instead we have double columned pages with the glosses on the right. My eye was constantly distracted by this second column. In the end I had to cover it with my bookmark. When the glosses run to a second line it breaks the poem’s text into stanzas. These breaks, and the punctuation so vast it had it’s own gravity field both constantly broke the flow of my reading. Other than this, perfect.
… (mais)
Lukerik | Sep 14, 2021 |
After approximately a year of wading through Middle-English alliterative verse at an average rate of approximately one page per day, I have finally come to the end of The Vision of Piers Plowman. So was it worth it?

Yes! It is by some stretch my most ambitious undertaking in regard to reading Middle-English; I have not read two of the Canterbury Tales together and have only read about half of it (by number of lines - many fewer than half the Tales) and that's the limit of my Chaucer. I've never tackled Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original and although I have read most of Malory, it is prose and more recent and again, not read as one big lump. Piers Plowman is not merely longer, though - it is, despite Langland being contemporary with Chaucer, fundamentally more difficult because the dialect is not Chaucer's. The London dialect went on to become the dominant one in the development from Middle to Modern English and is therefore somewhat easier for the modern reader. The concentration required and necessary time spent reading glosses and notes was rewarded, however. (It is slow going when one can only tackle it before going to sleep - hence one year to do it justice.)

The Vision of Piers Plowman is a Christian allegory and a deeply serious, heart-felt as well as intellectual one. Langland uses the older Alliterative verse style rather than adopting the new-fangled rhyming, iambic schemes as Chaucer did. I am a fan of this approach to narrative verse as it adds colour and interest (makes the story poetic!) without the risk of the unvaried rhythm of iambic metre sending one to snooze-land prematurely. Alliterative verse forms have strict rules, just as iambic metres do and it takes considerable skill to compose in them.

The seriousness and evident profound feeling behind the poem stands in stark contrast to the Canterbury Tales (insofar as I've read them) even though there are some themes in common. No matter where one stands regarding the debate about whether Chaucer's "very parfit gentle knyght" is being satirised or not, it is clear that the Tales in general are full of satire and humour and the various types of clergy are presented as a corrupt, greedy, hypocritical lot. Chaucer seems not to have much anger behind his satire, though - the Tales seem something of a frivolous entertainment. When Langland tackles such folk as friers and pardoners they come in for a metaphorical roasting and it is plain that he expects most of them to experience a literal one after Judgement Day. The only other Middle English poem I've read (in Tolkien's translation) that competes for expressing deep feeling on the part of its author is Pearl - another dream-vision, about the author's grief at the loss of a young daughter. Piers Plowman is on an altogether bigger scale, though. In a series of dreams (and dreams within dreams, which can get tricky to keep track of at one page a day) not only is a Utopian society envisaged, but every major question of Christian theology is addressed as the spiritual progress of both Piers and the dreamer are chronicled right up to the final battle between good and evil forces within humanity...

The prologue starts things of with an exciting little story where rats, mice and a cat take the place of nobles, commoners and the King. Matters continue apace and rather wittily with the Marriage of Mede, which gets tangled up in legal battles and corrupt practice. Later Piers sets up his farm and barn, eventually to be the scene of the dramatic finale. Most of this is lively and the narrative helps drag one through the worst difficulties of the language. (One learns as one progresses - once you know that "ac" means "but" it isn't a problem at future encounters, for example.)

Piers wanders off on a pilgrimage at about the half-way point as he believes he needs to understand the Biblical message better. The proceeding third or so of the poem is easily the most dull and dry as it descends into a series of theological discussions usually expounded by various characters quoting liberal quantities of Latin at each other. These matters were evidently important to Langland (and to many intellectual Christians, I suspect) but the excitement of the initial quarter of the poem becomes a distant memory. Things pick up again with the appearance of the Actyf Man (I love that name) and steadily accelerate to an Apocalyptic conclusion worthy of a poem of such scale and ambition.

We are lucky to have as much Middle English literature as we do and this work is a fine example of it: read it if you are a Christian, or if your interest in poetry will withstand 362 pages requiring total focus.
… (mais)
1 vote
Arbieroo | 9 outras críticas | Jul 17, 2020 |
Reprint omits introduction and editions of Richard the Redeless and The Crowned KingOriginal printing. Ex-lib. MED (no. 438C)
ME_Dictionary | Mar 19, 2020 |



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