Piers Plowman: The A-Text. An Alliterative Verse Translation.
Sr. Covella’s translation of the A text in alliterative verse is preceded by Fowler’s comprehensive introduction, which supplies historical context and offers an interpretative summary of the poem. The poet’s revolutionary message was stifled after the Peasants’ Revolt in the two later versions, which spiritualized the plowman and appealed to a narrower and more intellectual audience. The A text is in effect two related poems, the second of which, the Vita, lacks real allegorical action. The author is fundamentally optimistic, though many of his warnings were realized in the Revolt. Piers in the A text is introduced as a model for us all; his way to Truth is basic Christian doctrine. Those who obey the conditions of the pardon show themselves in no need of pardons; the same irony operates when Reason promises to show mercy at a time when mercy is no longer needed (A. 4.100-3 1). The Visio prepares us to appreciate the satire of the Vita as largely directed against Dobet, the life of the Clergy. The close of the A-text Vita amounts to a decisive denunciation of learning, a principle shared by the 1381 rebels but not by the poem’s reviser in B and C.
Rev. Kathlen M. Hewett-Smith, YLS 8 (1994): 190-92.