Piers plowman is a lengthy alliterative poem which is extant in three versions (named A, B and C texts) written between 1362 and 1392. The first is the shortest and this is developed and expanded in Version B. Version C has many changes. Through the words of a narrator, called the Dreamer, it tells, with great energy of the search for Christianity and a path to salvation through a series of eleven visions. In the first of these the Dreamer is asleep on the Malvern Hills but has a vision of surveying the people of the world below who are directed by him to travel on a pilgrimage to find truth.
The work is second only in importance to Chaucer's Canterbury tales amongst mediaeval literature. It has been widely studied and has provided inspiration for other literature. W.H. Auden, while living at Colwall, is known to have walked in the Malvern Hills reciting Langland's verse.
A selection of poetry by the author can be found in Representative poetry on-line, part of the University of Toronto site. The complete text of Piers plowman can be found in the Electronic Text Center of the University of Virginia in their Middle English Collection.
Page created 9 February 2001 and last
updated 15 November 2004
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