Langland, William (or William of Langley)

(1330?-1400?)
   Poet. Little can be gleaned as to his personal history, and of that little part is contradictory. In a note of the 15th century written on one MS. he is said to have been b. in Oxfordshire, the s. of a freeman named Stacy de Rokayle, while Bale, writing in the 16th century, makes his name Robert (certainly an error), and says he was b. at Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire. From his great poem, Piers the Plowman, it is to be gathered that he was bred to the Church, and was at one time an inmate of the monastery at Great Malvern. He m., however, and had a dau., which, of course, precluded him from going on to the priesthood. It has further been inferred from his poem that his f., with the help of friends, sent him to school, but that on the death of these friends the process of education came to an end, and he went to London, living in a little house in Cornhill and, as he says, not only in but on London, supporting himself by singing requiems for the dead. "The tools I labour with ... [are] Paternoster, and my primer Placebo, and Dirige, and my Psalter, and my seven Psalms." References to legal terms suggest that he may have copied for lawyers. In later life he appears to have lived in Cornwall with his wife and dau. Poor himself, he was ever a sympathiser with the poor and oppressed. His poem appears to have been the great interest of his life, and almost to the end he was altering and adding to, without, however, improving it. The full title of the poem is The Vision of Piers Plowman. Three distinct versions of it exist, the first c. 1362, the second c. 1377, and the third 1393 or 1398. It has been described as "a vision of Christ seen through the clouds of humanity." It is divided into nine dreams, and is in the unrhymed, alliterative, first English manner. In the allegory appear such personifications as Meed (worldly success), Falsehood, Repentance, Hope, etc. Piers Plowman, first introduced as the type of the poor and simple, becomes gradually transformed into the Christ. Further on appear Do-well, Do-bet, Do-best. In this poem, and its additions, L. was able to express all that he had to say of the abuses of the time, and their remedy. He himself stands out as a sad, earnest, and clear-sighted onlooker in a time of oppression and unrest. It is thought that he may have been the author of a poem, Richard the Redeless: if so he was, at the time of writing, living in Bristol, and making a last remonstrance to the misguided King, news of whose death may have reached him while at the work, as it stops in the middle of a paragraph. He is not much of an artist, being intent rather on delivering his message than that it should be in a perfect dress. Prof. Manley, in the Cambridge History of English Literature, advances the theory that The Vision is not the work of one, but of several writers, W.L. being therefore a dramatic, not a personal name. It is supported on such grounds as differences in metre, diction, sentence structure, and the diversity of view on social and ecclesiastic matters expressed in different parts of the poem.

Short biographical dictionary of English literature . . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Langley — Langley1 [laŋ′lē] 1. Samuel Pierpont [pir′pänt΄] 1834 1906; U.S. astronomer, physicist, & pioneer in airplane construction 2. William var. of LANGLAND William Langley2 [laŋ′lē] city in SW British Columbia, Canada: suburb of Vancouver: pop. 23,000 …   English World dictionary

  • Langley — /lang lee/, n. 1. Edmund of. See York, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of. 2. Samuel Pierpont /pear pont/, 1834 1906, U.S. astronomer, physicist, and pioneer in aeronautics. 3. William. See Langland, William. 4. a city in SW British Columbia, in SW… …   Universalium

  • Langley — Lang•ley [[t]ˈlæŋ li[/t]] n. 1) big Edmund of York 2) Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of. 2) big Samuel Pierpont, 1834–1906, U.S. astronomer, physicist, and pioneer in aeronautics 3) big William Langland William. 4) geg a city in SW British Columbia …   From formal English to slang

  • Langland — /lang leuhnd/, n. William, 1332? c1400, English poet. Also, Langley. * * * …   Universalium

  • LANGLAND —    or LANGLEY, WILLIAM    the presumed author of the Vision of Piers Plowman, and who lived in the 14th century …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Langland — Lang•land [[t]ˈlæŋ lənd[/t]] n. big William, 1332?–c1400, English poet Also called Langley …   From formal English to slang

  • Langland — /ˈlæŋlənd/ (say langluhnd) noun William, c.1330–c.1400, English poet; author of Piers Plowman. Also, Langley …   Australian English dictionary

  • Langland — /lang leuhnd/, n. William, 1332? c1400, English poet. Also, Langley …   Useful english dictionary

  • Liste der Biografien/Lan — Biografien: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Edouard III d'Angleterre — Édouard III d Angleterre Pour les articles homonymes, voir Édouard Plantagenêt. Édouard III …   Wikipédia en Français

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