Very few people cared about the poor in Medieval England and the lifestyle of peasants was harsh with no structured support services available to them if things went wrong – though a local monastery or convent might help though this depended on the abbot or mother superior in charge.
This is a poem called “The Crede of Piers the Ploughman“. It was written by William Langland about 600 years ago. It must be remembered that few people could read or write when Langland lived, so very few people would have read this poem.
|“As I went on my way,
I saw a poor man over the plough bending.
His hood was full of holes,
And his hair was sticking out,
His shoes were patched.
His toes peeped out as he the ground trod.
His wife walked by him
In a skirt cut full and high.
Wrapped in a sheet to keep her from the weather.
Bare foot on the bare ice
So that the blood flowed.
At the field’s end lay a little bowl,
And in there lay a little childwrapped in rags
And two more of two years old upon another side.
And all of them sang a song
That was sorrowful to hear.
The all cried a cry,
A sorrowful note.
And the poor man sighed sore and said
“Children be still.”
1. In your own words but using the poem, describe what the life of the poor was like according to William Langland.
2. This is a sad poem. Which words and phrases make it sad ?
3. Using your knowledge of the poor , is this poem by Langland accurate ? Explain your answer.
4. One writer from Medieval England called life then “nasty, brutal and short“. Does the poem by Langland agree with this description ? Explain your answer.