Speche That Spire Is of Grace’: A Note on Piers Plowman B.9.104.
B.9.104 puns on two senses of spire: “shoot” or “sprout” and “breath,” to suggest that for WL speech is the shoot of grace because it is the breath of grace; i.e., the speech of men can say that speech is a shoot or offspring of grace only because of the inspiration of the grace of the Holy Spirit. But since speech is thus capable of multiple meanings, such meanings can be perverted into frivolity or worse. Perhaps influenced by Gregory’s Moralia in Job (on Job 33:4), WL’s notion of speech as seminal carries the possibility of its being onanistic and polluting (hence perhaps his use of the verb spille in 104). Because language is always potentially metaphoric, it is always potentially impure.
YLS 1 (1987): 128-33.
Shoaf, R. A.