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Response to Baldwin’s “Patient Politics in <i>Piers Plowman</i>

Response to Baldwin’s “Patient Politics in Piers Plowman

Patience’s program of patience presupposes inequality – social differences that will never be erased, and which always necessitate a particular kind of self-fashioning where the powerless (or the adviser) can only “rule” by conforming their will to that of the powerful. “Patience can only… ‘change the world’ by giving advise the government wants to hear. Hence the emphasis on what Patience wills as the condition of his success: ‘and thow wilt it crave’; ‘and thow wilt thiselve.’ So it is that what Patience has to offer Hawkyn in passus 15 is Fiat voluntas tua. And thus it is not surprising that what Patience has to say about English foreign policy in the mid- to late 1380s ” when, as Baldwin notes citing Barnie, many other writers with a variety of political alignments are self-servingly offering the same advice. In B, Patience’s comments on nonviolence have no specific application, and it is left to the (already discredited) Doctor to remark on the impossibility of making peace between Christian kings.” Two Wycliffite tracts – which their editor, Arnold, entitles, “The Seven Deadly Sins” and “The Papal Schism” and which condemn the papal wars – help to frame Patience’s discourse here: it seeks to “offer Christian counsel with a secular bent, more in sympathy with secular interest than those of the Church.” Both Wycliffite texts (but especially the second) offer a “pacifism of a particularly warmongering kind,” such that both authors “make it impossible to present themselves as supporters of the secular hierarchy… Like Patience, these Wycliffites place themselves outside the practical terms of the everyday human world and its governance. But in a far more perilous direction.”