Title Background

Thinking Through Earth in Langland’s <i>Piers Plowman</i>, and the Harley Lyric ‘Erthe toc of erthe’.

Thinking Through Earth in Langland’s Piers Plowman, and the Harley Lyric ‘Erthe toc of erthe’.

This article discusses three contrasting, medieval uses of the image of the world as a book written by God and read by humans; it considers how this concept affects the way people regard the phenomenal world. Hugh of St. Victor emphasizes the role of a theologically trained reader, while L and the author of the Harley lyric show how the trope allows the world to become a tool for thought for lay people in their own spiritual investigations. The common thread of human anxiety over the right relations between humanity and the rest of creation links these three texts. Such anxiety is heightened by atavistic concerns about personal death and the general consequences of human actions. Yet that same insecurity inculcates a sense of marvel: the very response Stephen Clark asserts we must rediscover if we are to alter our currently rather cavalier approach to the world.