Title Background

Scriptural Allusion in Lines 38–39 of the Prologue to <i>Piers Plowman</i>

Scriptural Allusion in Lines 38–39 of the Prologue to Piers Plowman

When, in the prologue to PPl, Will refuses to ‘preue’ what Paul says about iaperes and iangelers, ‘Qui loquitur turpiloquium is Luciferes hyne’ (B.Prol.39), it is difficult to say what verse from Paul L has in mind: both Ephesians 5. 4 and Colossians 3. 8 have been proposed as likely candidates. In this note, Wagner argues that the line might refer to Ephesians 5. 12: ‘Quae enim in occulto fiunt ab ipsis turpe est et dicere’ (For the things that are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of). Many medieval commentators treat Ephesians 5. 12 as part of a unit that also includes Ephesians 5. 14: ‘Surge, qui dormis, et exsurge a mortuis, et inluminabit te Christus’ (Rise, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten thee), and Wagner notes that both verses might apply to Will, who is implicated in the sins of Ephesians 5. 12, but aspires to the enlightenment of Ephesians 5. 14. Ephesians 5. 14 was frequently invoked in Latin and Middle English sermons for Epiphany and Easter, and Wagner suggests that PPl recalls this verse again when Will calls his wife and daughter to arise on Easter morning and reverence the cross.