Prophetic Song: The Psalms as Moral Discourse in Late Medieval England
Pp. 189-215: Like the Lollards, WL regards the Psalms as a comprehensive source of moral dicta and as a normative devotional and ethical language. In the B text there are approximately 107 quotations of the Psalms, concentrated in B.5, B.10-15, and B.18, with the clusters in B.5 and 18 both emphasizing divine forgiveness and the acts of human mercy which such forgiveness should occasion. WL is familiar with exegetical commentary on the Psalms, but throughout the poem invokes David’s literal sense. His most radical innovation is in making the humble plowman, rather than a priest, his key psalmic figure. In the Pardon scene, Piers identifies with the Psalmist, as if his words were Piers’s own; by speaking in the vernacular in imagery and diction from the Psalms, he erases superficial distinctions between scriptural quotation, paraphrase and citation, and suggests that in the ideal Christian community Davidic speech will have become part of everyday ethical discourse.
Rev. Ann W. Astell, SAC 18 (1996): 238-40; Roger Ellis, MLR 92 (1997): 431-32; David C. Fowler, YLS 11 (1997): 219-29; Anne Hudson, MAE 66 (1997): 123-24; Christina von Nolcken, N&Q 242 (1997): 112-13.