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Piers Plowman, Londoner

by Vic Keegan

Two priceless books  side by side at the British Library’s Writing Britain exhibition:

The Canterbury Tales (left) and Piers Plowman by William Langland  (right)

William Langland is commonly associated with Herefordshire where he was born in the fourteenth century and the Malvern Hills where he woke woke up one May morning after a vision. But he also lived in London near where Chaucer was born within the sound of Bow Bells and made some acerbic comments about life in the morally bankrupt City. He castigated the monks at the Black Friars monastery for their sumptuous living far removed from their mendicant roots and had it in for brewers and bakers – the bankers of their day. Here’s a taste:

“To punish on pillories · and punishment stools
Brewers and bakers · butchers and cooks,
For these are this world’s men · that work the most harm
To the poor people · that must buy piece-meal.”

Read more in the British Library’s own blog but be sure to visit the exhibition which has a dazzling collection on display from medieval books to the original manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I shall be back for sure.

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