Title Background

Satan’s Pratfall and the Foot of Love: Some Pedal Images in <i>Piers Plowman</i> A B and C, B and C

Satan’s Pratfall and the Foot of Love: Some Pedal Images in Piers Plowman A B and C, B and C

Alfred Kellogg’s intuition nearly fifty years ago is basically correct: L purposely altered an Old Latin paraphrase of Isaiah 14: 13-14 to create a poetic effect about love residing at the “foot of the soul.” Whereas the received version goes, “Ponam sedem meum in acquilone, et ero similis altissimo” (“I will place my seat in the north, and I will be like the most high),” L replaces “sedem” for “pedem,” thus rendering “Ponam pedem meum in acquilone, et ero similis altissimo” (“I place my foot in the north, and I will be like the most high).” Word-searches conducted with CETADOC CD ROM confirm that the replacement image is “original with Langland.” Yet the “alteration of the text of Isaiah is not the only ‘pedal’ image in the poem which occurs in the context of Satan’s fall,” and, as it turns out, this particular imagery, lines C.1.106-13; 118-21/A.1.109-16, is not original to L but rather is traceable to exegetical and folkloric traditions witnessed by Augustine, Anglo-Saxon poets (Andreas, Guthlac B, Christ I), Ælfric, Rupert de Deutz, the poet(s)/composer(s) of the Carmina Burana, and Dante, who have it that “devils and other chthonic beings are lame . . . and that the human propensity to sin and weakness can allegorically be defined as ‘lameness’ of the ‘feet’ of the soul.”

Volume

YLS 14 (2000): 153-62.

Author

Hill, Thomas D.