Pierce the Ploughman
This is a description of a ploughman and his family, written in about 1394. It is possible to compare the description of a ploughman in this poem to the drawing of the ploughman in the Luttrell Psalter of c.1340 (which you can see in Source 2).
The poem is one of a number of poems which appeared in the 14th century attacking the Church and the government.
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1 Pierce the Ploughman
This extract is taken from an anonymous poem, written in about 1394, called Pierce the Ploughman's Crede. The poem was an intentional picture of peasant misery, written to criticise the rich and encourage charity.
(Mouse-over the words in brown to find out the meaning of the specialist words.)
As I went by the way • weeping for sorrow,
I saw a poor man by me • upon the plough hanging.
His coat was of cloth • that rough was called,
His hood was full of holes • and his hair stuck out,
With his worn shoes • patched again and again;
His toes hung out • as he trod the earth,
His socks overhung his shoes • on every side,
All beslobbered in mud • as he followed the plough;
Two mittens as mean • made all of patches;
The fingers were frayed • and full of mud hung.
This worker wallowed in the mud • almost to the ankle,
Four oxen before him • so weak had become;
You could count every rib • so wretched they were.
His wife walked with him - with a long goad,
In a coat cut short • cut full high,
Wrapped in a sacking sheet • to shield her from the weather,
Barefoot on the bare ice • that the blood followed.
And at the land's end lay • a little bowl,
And on it lay a little child • wrapped in rags,
And two of two years old • on another side,
And they all sang a song • that was sad to hear;
And they all cried a cry • a note full of care.
And the poor man sighed sore and said • 'children, be still!'
2 Ploughing with oxen