The author of Piers Plowman was a popular writer roughly contemporary with Chaucer. The poem is a series of allegorical dreams that show the relationship of the individual to society in the fourteenth century. Piers, a simple plowman who works because he finds it good to do so, encounters lust, sloth, and greed around him. The poem is traditionally ascribed to William Langland (c. 1332–c. 1400).
Askers and beggars fast about flitted
Till their bags and their bellies brimful were crammed; Feigned for their food, fought at the ale-house;
In gluttony, God wot, go they to bed.
And rise up with ribaldry, these bullying beggar-knaves; Sleep and sloth follow them ever.
Pilgrims and palmers pledge themselves together. To seek the shrine of St. James and saints at Rome; Went forth in their way with many wise tales,
And had leave to lie all their life after.
Hermits in a band with hooked staves.
Went to Walsingham, and their wenches after. Great lubbers and long, that loath were to work,
Clothed themselves in capes to be known for brethren, And some dressed as hermits their ease to have.
I found there friars, all the four orders,
Preaching to the people for profit of their bellies, Interpreting the gospel as they well please,
For covetousness of capes construes it ill;
For many of these masters may clothe themselves at will, For money and their merchandise meet oft together.
Since Charity hath turned trader, and shriven chiefly lords, Many wonders have befallen in these few years.
Unless Holy Church now be better held together. The most mischief on earth will mount up fast.