Talk:Piers Plowman

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I removed the following statement:

generally considered the earliest great work of English literature,

This is inherently POV, and, if I'm being honest, wrong. No article should have this sentence, but if any did I think it would be Beowulf. Rje (I made this comments months ago, I suppose I should still sign it)

I'm not sure you're right here. Beowulf is also claimed as part of the German/Teutonic Tradition so has a more ambiguous status as a work of Eng Lit. Piers Ploughman is certainly ONE of the earliest great works of English Literature, but you'd have to check it with dates of Chaucer's work and pieces like Sir Gawain & The Green Knight before you could say it is the earliest. I love it and think it a truly neglected masterpiece of poetry and mysticism. I don't think its visionary branch of Christianity has yet been truly understood. Ah well. ThePeg 23:20, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

I certainly would not suggest that Piers Plowman is anything but a "great work" - if one really must use such a label - but I do suggest that it's status as the earliest is inherently ambiguous. Obviously there are those who differ, but I would suggest that Old English literature is clearly a part of what we may call the English corpus - yes Beowulf is a part of the Germanic tradition, but that does not mean it is not English (Sir Gawain is part of what was a French tradition, but I know of noone who would call it a French work). Also, as you say, not knowing the relative dates of the composition of Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain would make such a comment somewhat misleading. Rje 16:28, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

Information on Editions[edit]

Is someone up to providing at the end of the article summary information information on the various editions, especially with regard to the language they use? For someone who's been trying to buy a version in the original Middle English, this information would be useful. Some versions clearly state i their titles that they are translations or renderings into Modern English. Others are less clear. Usually one would expect "critical edition" to be in the original, and that seems to be true with the Everyman edition, edited by A.V.C. Schmidt. On the other hand, the Norton Critical Edition, despite the name, is a translation.

The article does an excellent job of discussing recensions and publication but still lacks a summary of this information. Interlingua 13:59, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

Part of the problem is that there are so many editions of Piers Plowman, further complicated by the fact that there are three or four principle versions of the poem, although most editions tend to be of either the B or C texts. Another issue is that the editions most widely used by scholars - the parallel text edition by W.W. Skeat and, more recently, Carl Schmidt - are not readily available to most readers. This is a rather roundabout way of saying that it is no easy task to account for all of the modern editions of Piers Plowman in a manner that would be both readily usable by our readers and compliant with our POV policies. Rje 16:28, 25 February 2007 (UTC)


The article concentrates almost exclusively on the different editions but says almost nothing about the content of the book itself. When I look up "Piers Plowman" in an encyclopedia I would except to find a summary of the plot and an analysis of the style, the allegories, metaphors etc. Could someone please add at least in short what "Piers Plowman" is about? --Proofreader 07:31, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

I think I was the one who added that, but I don't recall. It's done now anyway. Certainly could be expanded. Dan Knauss (talk) 20:10, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

Catholic mind[edit]

"[Piers Plowman]" is told from the point of view of the medieval Catholic mind."

That really isnt true. I wont change it untill i see some feedback, but most would probably agree that the mind behind The Vision is decidely Protestant (given his clearly unhappy view of the medieval Church). Clearly he is not Protestant in the eventual sense of the word, but he was latched onto by later ones as having "predicted" thier movement, and thus his views and opinions are closer tot hers then the current article asserts Eric Forest (talk) 00:16, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

It is decidedly true. The author/s were both medieval and Catholic, there being no choice in either matter. Criticism and even dissent do not imply a wish to disassociate. Consider the illogic of your last sentence. If you admit the author is clearly not Protestant and absolutely could not be given that there were no Protestants in his time, then how can later Protestants be granted the authority to retrospectively conscript him as a precursor merely because they think he "predicted" their views? That was a point of view with certain cultural/political/religious motives and agendas; it is of historical interest as such, but it can't be taken as a critical judgment. If you want to argue that the author/s of PP were Lollard or crypto-Lollard, that's different. There are further debates over the extent to which Lollards and their ideas survived into and impacted the English Reformation. There is simply no expert on these subjects, however, who will say there is a clear, continuous line from one to the next, especially in the a very direct lineage of people, groups, and doctrines. Dan Knauss (talk) 20:23, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

Eliot and Derek Walcott[edit]

Although no edition of the poem was published between 1550 and 1813, Piers Plowman has had a surprising influence on later 19th- and 20th-century writing. The T.S. Eliot poem “Little Gidding”, for example, begins with an allusion to the opening of Langland's poem (“Midwinter spring is its own season/ Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,/ Suspended in time, between pole and tropic”), as does “The Schooner Flight” by West Indian poet Derek Walcott, from his collection The Star-Apple Kingdom (1979):

In idle August, while the sea soft,
and leaves of brown islands stick to the rim
of this Caribbean, I blow out the light
by the dreamless face of Maria Concepcion
to ship as a seaman on the schooner Flight.

As they write here. [1]-- (talk) 13:28, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Robin Hood?[edit]

Where is the "Robin Hood" connection? (talk) 15:20, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

The poem contains the first reference to a tradition of "Robin Hood" ballads - indeed, the first recorded usage of the name "Robin Hood" in English. This is in the passage of the Seven Deadly Sins, in which one of them (gluttony, perhaps?) spends his time at the inn, idly telling "rhymes of Robin Hood", mindless ballads which Langland implicitly contrasts with worthwhile Christian poetry. Though I note that the current page does not make reference to this; were you wishing to include it? Piers Plowman is referenced on the Robin Hood page, where this information seems more relevant; I'm not familiar with Wikipedia's convention of cross-referencing articles (whether *both pages* must be linked to each other or not). Could someone let me know? Ancrene wisse (talk) 14:47, 25 February 2011 (UTC)

Plowman or Ploughman?[edit]

The correct spelling in British English is of course "Ploughman", but the poem itself uses the archaic English spelling Plowman. The first appearence (according to U Michigan) of the Ploughman character in the poem itself is in Passus 5:

"Peter!' quod a Plowman, and putte forth his hed, (5.537)
"I knowe hym as kyndely as clerc doth hise bokes. (5.538)

followed by:

" Yis! ' quod Piers the Plowman, and poked hem alle to goode, (5.634)
"Mercy is a maiden there, hath myght over hem alle;
And she is sib to alle synfulle, and hire sone also,
And thorugh the help of hem two--hope thow noon oother--
Thow myght gete grace there--so thow go bityme.'

I am reluctant to revert recent edits favouring Ploughman without consensus, but as most sources use the spelling Plowman, should we not do the same? Hallucegenia (talk) 12:28, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

But then again, the other text at U Michigan gives the two spelling quoted above, now in Passus 6, as:
  1. Peter!" quod a Plouȝ → -Mon · and putte forþ his hed,
  2. "Ȝus," quaþ pers þe ← plouȝ-mon · and prechede hire to goode,
so it's not as clear-cut as I first thought. What do others say? Hallucegenia (talk) 13:24, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

Whatever decision is made, the title of the article should match the spelling. At the moment, the two do not match. -- (talk) 19:50, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

I agree. Most sources use Plowman, so that is what we shoudl use (though it pains me to say it). I'm not sure how to do a global change in this editor, so I'll leave it to someone more knowledgeable than I to make the change. Hallucegenia (talk) 20:28, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I'm Canadian, and I use "plough" in all situations other than Piers Plowman.
I know it principally as a Penguin paperback, Plowman, and I've been seeing that spelling, and that spelling exclusively, for two decades at this point.
Varlaam (talk) 05:28, 3 December 2010 (UTC)
I have now made the necessary semi-global change.
I have been careful to distinguish, as best I can, Langland's Plowman from Chaucer, or anything else.
I am not sure which spelling is correct in any other cases.
Perhaps someone can doublecheck my search & replace to ensure the article is as it should be.
There are some cases of quoted material, or of titles of papers. Lord knows which spellings are actually correct in those cases.
Varlaam (talk) 05:43, 3 December 2010 (UTC)


Please clarify or correct the following: 'between these symbols of heaven and is a "fair field full of folk".' I assume it is intended as "heaven and earth"?

First picture[edit]

The first image seems to be tenuously related to the subject in question. It has an illumination of a plowman from more or less the same period, but the text is religious and in Latin. Unless I'm missing some connection, maybe more images from manuscript sources of Piers Plowman are in order.--♦♦♦Vlmastra♦♦♦ (talk) 03:43, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

US spelling[edit]

I am surprised to see this article using US spelling, but that appears to be the convention at the moment.
I have marked that up above.
Of course, this should not be absolute. US uses "plow"; Commonwealth prefers "plough". This article should be careful to use the spelling that matches the text or scholarly article under consideration.
Varlaam (talk) 05:49, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

Ummm, American English is as closely related to Middle English as Commonwealth preferences are. No reason to say one is more fitting than the other. It depends who wrote the original article. Ekwos (talk) 06:05, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Piers Plowman/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Could you please provide references for the editions you comment on? Some of these might be easy to find, eg Kane, Russell, Skeat etc, but which article does Warner's idea of Ur-B come from, for instance? (talk) 13:01, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Last edited at 13:01, 24 June 2009 (UTC). Substituted at 03:00, 30 April 2016 (UTC)