A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt
Edited By Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan
The Style of Prayer in Piers Plowman
← 64 | 65 → MARY CLEMENTE DAVLIN
As one would expect, prayer is important in the fourteenth-century religious narrative, Piers Plowman. Although the poem is not conceived as a set of instructions in prayer or as conversations with God, like the Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena, Langland’s Italian contemporary, prayer is frequently advocated and commanded, as for instance in B Passus V, where the drawbridge to the castle where Truþe lives is ‘Bidde-wel-the-bet-may-thow-spede’ (B V.592). Dame Studie teaches Will, ‘For he biddeþ vs be as breþeren, and bidde for oure enemys’ (B X.199). Anima points out that prayer is powerful if one who prays is loving and ‘ferm of bileue’ (B XV.345 and 347): ‘many a prison fram purgatorie thorugh hise preyeres he [Charity] delivereth’. Trajan says that ‘preieres [of poor people] maye vs helpe’ (B XI.183) though he believes that virtue is more important than prayer because of his own experience (B XI.155–6):
Nouȝt thoruȝ preiere of a pope but for his pure truþe
Was þat Sarsen saued.
Prayer is more important than theological knowledge, as the dreamer (in C Rechelesnesse) avers in his striking description of the prayer of simple, uneducated people (B X.460–2; C XI.297–9)
plowmen and pastours and pouere commune laborers,
Souteres and shepherdes – swich lewed iuttes
Percen wiþ a Paternoster þe paleys of heuene
Priests are warned, ‘be prester at youre preiere þan...
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