William Langland (c. 1330 – c. 1395) was an English poet, known only by his Piers Plowman, an allegorical poem written in unrhymed alliterative verse which deals with moral and social themes. The dialect of Langland's poem shows him to have been a Midland man.
- In a somer seson, whan softe was the sonne,
I shoop me into shroudes as I a sheep were,
In habite as an heremite unholy of werkes,
Wente wide in this world wondres to here.
Ac on a May morwenynge on Malverne hilles
Me bifel a ferly, of Fairye me thoghte.
- B-text, Prologue, line 1.
- A fair feeld ful of folk fond I ther bitwene –
Of alle manere of men, the meene and the riche,
Werchynge and wandrynge as the world asketh.
- B-text, Prologue, line 17.
- For hevene myghte nat holden it, so was it hevy of hymself,
Til it hadde of the erthe eten his fille.
And whan it hadde of this fold flessh and blood taken,
Was nevere leef upon lynde lighter therafter,
And portatif and persaunt as the point of a nedle,
That myghte noon armure it lette ne none heighe walles.
Forthi is love ledere of the Lordes folk of hevene,
And a meene, as the mair is, [inmiddes] the kyng and the commune.
- B-text, Passus 1, 153.
- Brewesters and baksters, bochiers and cokes –
For thise are men on this molde that moost harm wercheth
To the povere peple
- B-text, Passus 3, line 79.
- I kan noght parfitly my Paternoster as the preest it syngeth,
But I kan rymes of Robyn Hood and Randolf Erl of Chestre.
- B-text, Passus 5, line 395
- This is the earliest known mention of the legend of Robin Hood. No rhymes of Randolf, Earl of Chester have survived.
- For if hevene be on this erthe, and ese to any soule,
It is in cloistre or in scole.
- B-text, Passus 10, line 297.
- First impressions of mediaeval life are usually coloured by the courtly romances of Malory and his later refiners. Chaucer brings us down to reality, but his people belong to a prosperous middle-class world, on holiday and in holiday mood. Piers Plowman stands alone as a revelation of the ignorance and misery of the lower classes, whose multiplied grievances came to a head in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.
- Kenneth Sisam, Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose (Oxford, 1921), p. 78.