Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Piers Plowman: A 14th Century Howl

"Good riddance to bad rubbish!" My friend Sheila had just finished her essay on the notorious Piers Plowman, and she was glad to see it end. When Medieval Fest comes around she plans to throw her copy of William Langland's magnum opus onto the bonfire - and I doubt she'll be the only one to do so. That poem is the most rambling, confusing thing I've ever been made to read. If all of the characters in the Canterbury Tales had sat down together and tried to write the Divine Comedy, they might have come up with something like Piers Plowman. It's an immense screed about politics, economics, and ecclesial corruption in the form of a mass of dream-visions and rotating casts of allegorical characters like "Lady Mede" and "Repentaunce" and "Suffre-thi-Sovereyns-to-haven-hir-wille:Deme-hem-noght-for-if-thow-doost-thow-shalt-it-deere-abugge;Lat-God-yworthe-with-al-for-so-His-word-techeth." And so on. I found the original Middle English to be predictably more euphonious - but I just can't cotton to this wannabe-Wycliffian medieval moonbat. I'm more of a Beowulf person: hero should kill monsters, get treasure, drink beer, go home. Now that's a satisfying storyline.

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