Conscience and Patience set off to explore 'the real world' and soon meet Haukyn (the Active Man).He claims to be a minstrel. He claims also to be a wafer-seller, and the scholars tell us that 'wafer' can mean bread, or the wafer used in the Mass or a legal seal. But Haukyn complains that none of his lines are very successful, through lack of skill or bad luck or the failure of others (including God) to reward him properly. This may be why his true identity is con-artist. The identity becomes clear when Conscience and Patience examine his coat.

"I gave good heed, by Christ, and Conscience also,
To Haukyn the Active Man, and the clothes upon him,
He had a coat of Christendom as Holy Church teaches,
But it was marked in many places with many patches."

The text uses the first person 'I' so The Dreamer is also present with Conscience and Patience. Haukyn is shown to be nominally a Christian but discovered by his disgusting dress to live a very sinful life. Every patch or tear or stain represents a sinful action. Before Conscience and Patience start trying to reform him, Langland spends several lines indulging his hatred of people who pretend to be other than they are.

"He interferes everywhere where he has no business,
And wishes that all men thought his wit the shrewdest,
Thought him a clever craftsman or a clerk unequalled,
Or strongest on a steed or stoutest under the girdle,
And loveliest to look on and most loyal in action."

A different translation gives 'stiffest' instead ot 'stoutest' in the fourth line above.

Some of the sins/stains are described. One derives

"From a liking for lechery, from looks and glances
At each maid that he met, and from making motions
Seemingly sinward, and sometimes he tasted
About the mouth and the breast and began to fumble
Till wills were keen and the work hastened."

Haukyn describes some scams himself. He is proud of his cleverness and boasts cheerfully about them.

"If I plant or plow I pinch so narrowly
That I fetch a furrow or a foot's swathing
From my next neighbour, and gnaw his half-acre,
If I reap I over-reach, or tell the reaper privately
To seize with his sickle what was sown by another."

Haukyn feels sorrow for any failed scam, but never for the sin of scamming.This section of VPP is a must-read. The settings of his scams - domestic - agricultural - industrial - international - make it obvious that Haukyn is an ageless type.

Conscience explains that his coat can be laundered, meaning that Haukyn, can be cleansed of sin. How? By the Christian virtues of repentance and faith and right-living (Do-Well) and by trusting God to provide instead of his own misguided efforts. God looks after natural creatures, so God will look after Haukyn.

"The wild worm is under the wet earth,
Fish live by the flood and the fire is for the cricket,
The curlew lives on air: it has the cleanest bird's flesh,
Beasts live by grass and grain and by green saplings,
Meaning that all men may in like manner
Live through loyal faith and love, as God's witnesses".

Patience dwells at length on the theme that 'God will provide' and gives legendary examples. Eventually Haukyn gets a chance to speak.

"Where does Charity live?.... for I never heard of
A man who has spoken with him, widely as I've

He does not believe the stories. His doubts about the prescription Patience proffers show again when he asks

"Is patient poverty more pleasant to our Maker
Than riches rightfully won and reasonable expended?"

Patience accepts the possibility, but obviously thinks such men are few in number because he launches into a typical Langland discourse about the disadvantages of possessing riches. He dwells on the reversal of fortune: pain now (poverty) and joy later or joy (riches) now and pain to come. Once again Langland draws images from nature.

"...Lo, birds and beasts that are barred from  bliss
And wild worms in woods, in winters you grieve them
And make them almost meek and mild for hunger,
And after, you send them summer, their sovereign joy
And bliss to all who have being, both wild and tame.
Then may beggars like beasts look for better treatment
Who have lived all their lives languishing and hungry."

A refreshing Langland characteristic is his rejection of literary discipline. he is not bothered by interrupting the story-line to expound his views in great (but sometimes confusing) detail. He goes on for a long time about the fate of the rich and the poor, and the giving or withholding of wages. He tries to be fair, so we get:

"But if you rich show ruth and reward poor folk,
And live as the law teaches, and act loyally with all men,
Christ in his courtesy will comfort you in the ending,
And reward all double riches who have rueful hearts."

But his sympathy for the poor is always dominant.

"But poor folk, prisoners, Lord, in the pit of miser
Comfort those creatures whom many cares afflict,
Dearth and drought all their days here.
Woe in winter times for want of clothing,
And in summer time seldom sup till they're full."

Patience then talks about sin, and follows up with the idea that poverty can sometimes be beneficial.  The sin of Pride, for instance, won't happen because the poor have nothing to be proud about. Gluttony is unlikely because they can't afford excess. They won't get robbed because they own nothing worth stealing. They won't be guilty of slander because nobody listens to them. They won't be guilty of lechery because they can't pay for it.

"A straw for the stews; they would not stand, I am sure,
If they had nothing but from poor men."

Patience ends his eulogy about poverty with a  Latin quotation and poor old Haukyn says 'I don't understand. Tell me in plain English'.  So Patience gives nine bullet points. They leave Haukyn in great distress because his whole life has been directed to personal gain.

"I am not worthy, God wear any clothing,
Neither shirt nor shoes, but what shame bids me
To cover my nakedness."

Haukyn 'wept and wailed', but The Dreamer then wakes up, so readers know nothing about his long-term response to all this lecturing. But it is clear that Do-Well is not easily found in the Active world.

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                                     HAUKYN'S COAT

                             A LIKING FOR LECHERY


                           PROVIDED FOR BY GOD

                   SUMMER.... THEIR SOVEREIGN JOY


                             HAUKYN DISTRESSED

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