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История литературы / 10. Piers Plowman by W.Langland

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The 14th century was the century of shame and glory. The long reign of Edward III brought numerable victories and disasters to the country. Edward III wasn`t responsible for plague, small pocks (оспа), and other fatal pestilences (эпидемии), but these disasters took away half of the population and the rest of the population speculated over the idea of God`s punishment for sins. At the same time great tournaments (турниры) were held. Edward and his son were announced the best knights in Europe. It was the time of greatest contrasts. At that time 2 greatest writers glorified not only their country but the humanity as one whole. (Langland and Chaucer). William Langland was the writer who summed up the medieval traditions. Probably his dates are 1332-1387. He was poor priest. His parents were poor but free peasants. William came to London and led a vagrant (бродячий) life. Possibly he served in the church. He was very tall and people call him Long Will. His poem "Vision of Peter the Ploughman" reflected all the sad facets of contemporary life. So it's not strange that his vision is pessimistic. He mostly speaks in symbols and uses abstract notions, expressing most vivid and sometimes everyday events. His main ideas was not in describing human qualities. His idea was to create necessary imagery. He realized perfectly well that the majority of the population was illiterate and poetry at that time was the most reliable medium through which people could express their desires, feelings and passions. We may even say that at that time poetry was a savior of human culture and civilization. One more reason why most of the books were written in verse is the fact that it was easier to read short abrupt lines and thus easier to comprehend the message. Moreover, when you speak in verse, it`s still easier to draw philosophical conclusions and to influence people. The chief work of L. was “Piers Plowman” =”Vision of Peter the Plowman”(Видение Петра-пахаря). Even the title is the proof of French influence. Form of a vision – very typical of the Eng tradition. The earliest and probably the shortest version appeared in 1362. Then in 1377 the poet greatly extended the work. And in 1390 the 3rd addition appeared already after the poet`s death – considered the most completed one. The whole work consists of the series of visions. The poet falls asleep and sees wonderful dreams. Among them he sees the Vices and the Virtues. He also sees Reason, Conscious, Holy Church and many other allegorical personages who appear and act and speak at their own time. The key word here is allegorical – it means that the chief device Langland used was allegory. Abstract images are represented as human beings. He divided his personages into 2 groups, which symbolize virtues features and evil features of the humanity and they all act as ordinary real people. If to speak about the lang of the poem, it betrays the French influence but the poet discarded the popular French fashion of rhyme and he felt back to the old Eng tradition of alliteration. The poem opens with a prologue. This opening is also traditionally English. The opening lines of the prologue show the alliteration very distinctly. But alliteration is steadily maintained through the thousands of lines of the main narrative. (см цитаты) The poet starts with the description of the season and the environment and then he comes to the main characters. In the dream Peter is going to see several wonders and visions. And in many cases alliteration helps the reader to predict what comes next. At 1st Peter sees the valley. It is overlooked by a hill. On the top of the hill there is a tower – the resident place of Truth. Opposite the tower in the depth of the valley there is a dungeon (подземелье) where Evil lives. Peter also saw all sorts of people in the valley. They represented the erring (грешное, заблудшее) humanity. These mortals were busy and among them there were also friars (странствующие монахи) who were lazy and sinful, though they were supposed to be holy and their main task was to enlighten people, but they were swindlers. Some of the friars were also sellers of indulgences and there were also some monks who did the same. Peter also saw the king who didn`t know what to do, probably it was the young King Richard II, because exactly this King was expected by Langland to become a true reformer. He also saw himself but very strangely dressed. As the poet still lay sleeping a beautiful lady, Holly Church, came to him and complained that no one wanted to listen to her teaching. The poet then asked to be allowed to see the truth and the evil. His request was granted and Peter was 1st shown Lady Bribery. This lady wore jewelries, beautiful clothing and she perverted (исказить, извратить) the court of justice. She went to London to merry Falsehood and were received with honors. In the 5th canto Reason comes preaching and telling people that all the diseases were God`s punishment for their sins. Then Seven Deadly Sins appear and they are eager to repent (раскаяться). They are envy, lust, wrath (гнев), sloth (леность), gluttony, arrogance, greed. Surrounded by other people and all these characters Peter and them all go on a pilgrimage to look for truth. For the 1`st time in the poem Peter appears himself before it was the poet. All people ask Peter to show them the way to truth. He promises but he has half an acre to plough and he asks all the characters to help him as by labor alone you may find the way to truth. Some of the wrong doers become rebellions and Peter asks Hunger to come and she makes them starve. In the later portion of the book Peter`s character is ennobled (возвышен) and reminds of Christ. It often happens to positive characters in the medieval literature. !!! Peter means stone (New Testament: “Upon this stone we`ll build my 1st Church”). So the main intention of L. was to make people get rid of sins. The quality of this work is not merely a personal creation of the poet. It is the product of the long and mainly anonymous process associated mainly with the development, practically evident in the medieval sermon. In this form the preacher`s natural tendency to deal with abstract qualities revealed itself to the utmost.