Conscience has strong views on sin and appoints a doctor of his choice to attend on these sick sinners.

"Shrift took sharp salve and made men do penance
For many misdeeds that they had there committed".

This severe approach sparked a call for a 'second opinion' and Conscience was told:

"'There is a surgeon in this city who is soft in handling,
And knows far more physic and fairer plasters,
One friar Flattery, is physician and surgeon'"'

Conscience replies that there are plenty of people already available who know how to treat the sickness of sin.

"Parson or parish priest, penitencer or bishop"

But he still allows FF in. Conscience looks a bit feeble here, but one must remember that the friars were already a fact of life in Langland's England. Their claims to do only good are listed here, but Langland gets in his usual harsh comment by having one of the worst of them stopped and questioned by the gatekeeper, Peace. He gives his name as Sir Piercer-of-your-private-places. Peace tells him to get lost because he has met people like him before.

"I knew one once, not eight winters before you,
Came coped as you into the court where I was living,
And was leach to my lord and to my lady also.
And at last this limitour, when my lord was absent,
So salved our women that some were with children."

But Conscience lets this dubious character enter, hoping optimistically that he will leave Covetousness

"And dread Death, and withdraw from Pride,
And accord with Conscience and each kiss the other".

At this point Conscience seems to give up the fight, for he asks the friar to help care for Contrition, who is sick. Contrition is a key player in Langland's prescription for dealing with sin, and if he fails then the way to escape sin will disappear. Sadly, the friar rejects all the right healing techniques and offers 'alternative medecine' of his own which hurts less and is accompanied by special privileges and only costs 'a little silver'.

"He crept and gathered and glossed over his shriving,
Till Contrition had forgotten his crying and weeping,
And waking for his wickedness, as was formerly wont.
For this comfortable confessor he left contrition wholly,
Which is the sovereign salve for all our sins."

Conscience looks around for help, but his chief supporter has been suborned. Peace tells Conscience that Contrition 'lies dreaming and so do many others,
The friar with his physic holds this folk enchanted."

So Langland's hope of finding his concept of righteousness has failed. Even within Unity the idea of serious sorrow expressed through penitence has been lost. But the ideal must exist somewhere, and The Dreamer is not going to give up.

".....I will become a pilgrim
And walk as wide as all the world endures
To seek Piers the Plowman; by him shall Pride perish,"

So what does today's seeker get from Langland? That humans will never escape sin, but should continually strive to do so. That since the outcome of actions can't be surely predicted, what really matters is the motive that inspires them. That the best motive is love. The 21st century has nothing better to offer. Well done, Will.

An idea never followed up is the frequent assertion that simple faith will get the believer into heaven. The logic. perhaps, is that it accepts the existence of a supernatural being beyond human understanding and does not presume to question it.. This is the opposite of Pride, so hated by Langland.

Here are some scholarly links to follow.











                         ALTERNATIVE MEDECINE

                       CONTRITION LIES DREAMING

                          I WiLL BECOME A PILGRIM