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'Truthe is the beste'

A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt


Edited By Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan

The thirteen essays in this book, presented in honour of Dr A.V.C. (Carl) Schmidt, are designed to reflect the range of his interests. Dr Schmidt, who was a Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford from 1972 until his retirement in 2011, is best known for his comprehensive four-text edition of Piers Plowman, the fruit of a lifetime’s work on that text. He has also made a major contribution to the study of Chaucer and the medieval English contemplatives, and these authors also find a place in this collection. The essays presented here are intended to build upon the legacy of Carl Schmidt’s exemplary scholarship.
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The Style of Prayer in Piers Plowman



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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