Pierce the Plowman’s Crede

[Note: The following description of peasant life, in a modern English prose translation, comes from an anonymous poem written in England between 1393 and 1401.]

Peasant life, from Pierce the Plowman’s Crede, lines 420-442:

As I went by the way, weeping for sorrow, I saw a poor man hanging on to the plough.
His coat was of a coarse stuff which was called cary; his hood was full of holes and his hair stuck out of it.
As he trod the soil his toes peered out of his worn shoes with their thick soles;
his hose hung about his hocks on all sides, and he was all bedaubed with mud as he followed the plough.
He had two mittens, made scantily of rough stuff, with worn-out fingers and thick with muck.
This man bemired himself in the mud almost to the ankle, and drove four heifers before him
that had become so feeble that men might count their every rib, so sorry looking they were.

His wife walked beside him with a long goad, in a shortened cotehardy looped up full high,
and wrapped in a winnowing-sheet to protect her from the weather.
She went barefoot on the ice so that the blood flowed.
And at the end of the row lay a little crumb-bowl, and therein a little child covered with rags,
and two two-year-olds were on the other side, and they all sang one song that was pitiful to hear:
they all cried the same cry – a miserable note. The poor man sighed sorely, and said “Children be still!”


Adapted from the following Internet site:
<http://www.middleages.dk/dim/Elton9.html> [seen 24 December 2004]
Kapitel 9. Synet på dagligdagen
© Carsten Bo Vilhelmsen, magister i historie.

To learn more about this poem: See the Introduction and original text at <http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/credeint.htm>