Title Background

The Endings of Lines in <i>Piers Plowman</i> B

The Endings of Lines in Piers Plowman B

This essay examines L’s use of monosyllabic adjectives and nouns at the end of lines in the B text. Comparing Kane-Donaldson’s and Schmidt’s handling of line endings, Burrow concludes that while there is some merit to Schmidt’s claim that ‘Langland’s line always has a feminine ending’ (cited p. 318), the practice is more of a ‘norm’ than a ‘rule’ (p. 320). Burrow calculates that in ‘more than 90 per cent of lines in the B Text where monosyllabic nouns and adjectives are concerned, the line ends with an unstressed syllable’, citing L’s treatment of the name Iesu as a chief example: ‘The fact that Langland never, in all his 146 references to Crist, employed that name at the end of a line, reserving Iesu for use in that position, strikingly illustrates his avoidance of masculine line-endings’ (p. 320). But, contrary to Schmidt’s rule, Burrow affirms that L does use masculine endings on occasion, though not so frequently as they appear in the emendations of the Athlone edition.