Title Background

Piers’ Apples: Some Bernardine Echoes in Piers Plowrnan.

Piers’ Apples: Some Bernardine Echoes in Piers Plowrnan.

WL was influenced by St. Bernard’s sermons In Canticum Canticorum; the influence, however, was not along the lines proposed twenty years ago by Edward Vasta (i.e., WL as systematic mystic). To the contrary, the influence is plainest in B. 15-17 (especially 16) and is largely thematic and imagistic. Thus, in 15.60-61 (Schmidt) WL quotes from Bernard (“Beatus est … qui scripturas legit / Et verba vertit in opera. . . .”) in a passage that seems rather commonplace, but the source -Bernard’s Tractatus de ordine vitae -goes on to speak of “a tree planted in the soil of the heart, from which will grow fruit to restore the soul and fill it with God,” and is quite suggestive of WL’s Tree of Charity. The Tree itself may find one of its sources in Sermo LI in Cant., which comments on Cant. 2:5 (“Sustain me with blossoms, surround me with apples, for I languish with love”). Like WL, Bernard gives his tree both a tropological sense and an allegorical one (blossoms = faith; fruit = saints through the ages). Also three stages of growth in spiritual perfection are described. Finally, the words of the Holy Spirit, spoken through the mouth of Gabriel (16.93: “That oon Jesus, a justices sone, moste jouke in hire chambre”) probably constitute an echo of Sermo XXXIII in Cant., where Bernard speaks of the “sol justitiae per archangelem Gabrielem nuntiatus.” WL’s “justices sone” would then be a pun.


LSE ns 16 (1985): 309-25.


Goldsmith, Margaret E.