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.


Study these Sources, then answer the question sheet by clicking on the 'Time to Work' icon at the top of the page.


The following websites will help you research further:


Medieval plouging:

Diorama, based on the illustration in the Luttrell Psalter


How the heavy plough changed the world


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