In one translation the comment that priests should not be money-grabbing is followed by these lines about nature. It is logical enough given Langland's view that God provides for human needs. But, anyway, clear, logical connections are hardly Langland's strongest point.

"By the growing grain God teaches all men                        To meet meekly the misfortunes of this lifetime.               Unless the seed sown in the slough perish                        No spear of wheat will spring up, nor spike harden at the ear.                                                                             .......

Through the great grace of God grain that is buried         Lances up lightly and we live upon it."

His regard for the poor is balanced by warnings to the rich about the dangers they face. What will happen to the material things they collected so carefully?

"A shiftless servant will spend the remainder,                   On which many a moth has meanwhile feasted,               Upholsterers on Cornhill shall have it at auction."

Sometimes one can almost feel the leap in Langland's mind when an image drawn from one field suddenly throws up a parallel from elsewhere. He is going on about the natural cycle and points out that;

"What is readiest to ripen rots soonest.                                 A fat land full of dung breeds foul weeds rankly."

And in the very next line his dunghill image reminds him of the incompetent clerics who are one of his pet hates.

"And so are surely all such bishops,                                 Earls and archdeacons and other rich clerics                   Who traffic with tradesmen and turn on them if they are beaten."

Priest are compared with knights in the sense that they must have the means to perform the function. The king would not make a man a knight unless he had the proper status so priests should have the right capability.

Then Langland has a moment of self-criticism when he realises that he has lost his plot. A prose translation makes him very human."

'I've been going on  so long about the problem of uneducated priests that I've completely lost track of the subject of poverty But poverty, when it's accompanied by patience, is assuredly a worthy theme for praise."

The inserted passage ends here, and the lines saying priests should not be greedy for cash is followed by this intervention from Nature (or Kind).  

"I saw all this while soundly asleep,                                   And more besides that I spoke of with Scripture.               But Nature then called me by name and announced           I should seek for wisdom in the wonders of the world."  

Langland's attempt to construct a personal belief system shows regular conflict between what he is told by formal religion and what he deduces from common sense and the natural world. The wonders that Nature now shows The Dreamer are marvellous descriptive writing - a 'must read - and have gems like this;

"I beheld the birds that were building in bushes
Nests that we want the wit to weave ,
And I marvelled who taught the magpies to make
Their homes of tied and twisted twigs,
For no carpenter could clamp them so cleanly together."

Another not-to-be-missed passage is;

"I saw flowers in the forest with their feast of colours,   And the hues that grow in the green of the grass,       Some sour and some sweet; a miracle it seemed,           For I  cannot describe all their colours and kinds".

There is one thing that bothers the Dreamer about nature. He perceives that in other creatures the male and female come together at just one time of the year and only for mating. By contrast, humans are at it all the time.

"Then I rebuked Reason and addressed him boldly   asking why he who was held so prudent                           Did not rule man in the manner he ruled other creatures 'For surely' said I, 'I see none surfeit so often; Immoderate with meat and many times in drinking,           In wealth and women and words also;                             They are excessive in all things, as are no others,         Reason rules beasts always and rules man seldom.'" 

This gets The Dreamer into big trouble with Reason.




                         POVERTY WORTHY OF PRAISE


                         TIED AND TWISTED TWIGS

                             ALL THE YEAR ROUND

To get back to the beginning click HOME. To hear The Dreamer getting mores stick - and defending himself - click on IMMAGINATION.