University of Virginia Library


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Robert Adams

In 1918, Elsie Blackman, one of the members of R. W. Chambers's editorial team, published a seminal study of the textual relationships between extant manuscripts of the Piers Plowman B-version. A central hypothesis proposed by Blackman was that an important set of four B manuscripts—Bodleian MS Laud Misc. 581 [L], BL MS Additional 35287 [M], Bodleian MS Rawlinson Poetry 38 [R], and Oxford Corpus Christi MS 201 [F]—comprise a definable sub-family of two pairs (L/M and R/F through simple vertical transmission (500-503). Blackman's proposal was discarded by Kane and Donaldson, who showed convincingly that it misrepresented the actual familial relations between surviving B witnesses. There is no reason to doubt their conclusion that shared readings among these four copies were all the result either of accidental convergence or faithful attestation to their original, the lost B archetype. Unfortunately, the Athlone editors also assumed (perhaps in reaction to Blackman's failed idea) that accidental convergence of readings was so common among the surviving B copies that nothing very reliable or useful could be known about the stemmatic relationships (other than the now-obvious fact that R and F were descended from a different sub-archetype than that which spawned the other manuscripts).

That assumption now appears hasty and overly negative. The massive textual evidence we have been assembling at the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive, in the process of producing documentary editions of all the major B manuscripts, clearly points to a more hopeful and useful conclusion: while Blackman was surely wrong about the existence of an LMRF sub-family, there is every reason to believe that, whenever these four copies agree in a reading (even when contradicted by all other extant witnesses), they are attesting the original text of Bx (Schmidt's term for the B archetype). While there are indications that a few of the surviving B copies derive from more than one intermediary (by change of exemplar at some stage of the copying process), and there is also evidence of sporadic lateral contamination in several (especially F and M, but also probably G), most of what we see suggest unimpeded vertical transmission of the poem's text (see stemma on next page).

Although a similar view of the B manuscripts familial relationships was implied by the Kane- Donaldson edition of 1975, a specific sketch of a B stemma similar to ours was first offered in A. V. C. Schmidt's critical text of 1978 (xxxvi). Moreover, it is apparent that, since the publication of his


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illustration [Description: Page 174.]
Parallel-Text edition in 1995, Schmidt has fully understood the implications of the LMRF evidence that is about to be outlined here (whereas, when I reviewed his edition in 1996 for The Yearbook of Langland Studies, we did not). The differences between the stemma offered above and Schmidt's are, however, worth noting. Leaving aside the mixed text Ms H (BL Harley 3954 = A-version MS H3) and the very late S (originally Sion College MS Arc. L.40 2/E, now Takamiya 1), excluded here because of their limited textual value, the main differences between Schmidt's model of twenty years ago and ours are the following: (1) most of C2 was apparently copied directly from O and has no independent authority in determining originality of text; (2) the Crowley text (Cr) derives from a manuscript whose closeness to Bx was equal to that of L, M and R and superior to that of any other surviving B manuscript, including the well regarded W and Hm; (3) all beta manuscripts except L and M are descended, at various removes, from Cr's exemplar, which is labelled β1 in the diagram above; (4) from our work in editing Corpus Christi MS 201, it is apparent that at least one other copy (with dialect features typical of the area southeast of King's Lynn) intervenes between F and the alpha sub-archetype, while R may be directly copied from alpha and is certainly closer to it in all respects than F is; (5) the evidence surviving in M itself attests that, after it was copied, it was proofed against a sibling manuscript of the same generation, presumably the same copy (i.e., β1) later used to produce Cr since a large set of “corrections” in M correspond consistently to Cr along among the other B witnesses.

Because of the composite sources of F (with its highly sophisticated and mixed text), the spotty nature of M (not as carefully copied as its sibling, L, and then overlayed with “corrections” from β1), and the massive loss of text near the beginning and end of R, L is clearly the single most authoritative


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manuscript of the B-version of Piers, just as Skeat recognized more than a hundred years ago (albeit while he was wishing to extend that perception to the mistaken belief that L might have been Langland's fair-copy). When L agrees with R, even in the face of massive dissenting evidence from the other witnesses, the odds are always quite good that what R and L are mirroring is Bx (albeit the readings of that prototypical copy can never be simply equated with authorial text). When both L and M agree with R (and F often provides confirmation for the same or a similar reading), it is virtually certain that their shared readings represent those of the common B archetype. Having collected all the evidence from our own editions in progress as well as the Kane-Donaldson lemmata, I can see no instance where a convincing case can be made against the viability of such a shared LMR reading (as authentic Bx text) and rarely have found an instance where it seemed even problematic, regardless of the uniformity of attestation for a competing reading among other copies.

The effect of this reassessment is not merely limited to perhaps two hundred textual situations where these manuscripts are arrayed against all the others. It also has profound implications for hundreds of other cases where the entire body of surviving copies is divided into two large camps, but with LR, LMR or LMRF all agreeing on one side. Of course it will never be possible to edit Piers Plowman B from a purely stemmatic perspective anyway, because the common parent was already (as Kane and Donaldson show persuasively but overemphatically) a sporadically corrupt descendant of the same authorial copy used by Langland later to create the C-version. As the Athlone editors did, it will still be necessary for us at every point to evaluate all the surviving readings for authenticity. Nevertheless, though our editorial methodology in evaluating specific textual cruces has been heavily influenced by Kane's style of rigorous eclecticism, our attitude toward Bx is somewhat more like that taken by Schmidt: that this hypothetical archetype is generally easy to reconstruct from stemmatic evidence readily available and should be afforded a broad assumption of reliability. This assumption of reliability is, of course, rebuttable at any given point by evidence drawn from the text of the other versions as well as by inference from Langland's metrical, syntactic and lexical norms. Only when our final critical edition of B is available will scholars be in a position to measure fully for themselves the utility and accuracy of our assessment of this textual situation.

The evidence for the L/M-R/F group's superiority to all other combinations of attestation among the extant B manuscripts follows in an appendix, in the form of two charts. Neither chart can claim to be without some inadvertent omissions or gaps, but both are practically comprehensive within their intended scope. The first chart tracks through the entirety of the B-version all shared readings among this small group wherein a minimal requirement of LR agreement against most other B copies is met. The second chart is more restricted in nature and purpose, tracking differences between


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L and M from the beginning of the Prologue through the end of Passus 4. Here the point being illustrated is that these two copies rarely ever disagree; when they do, the differences are almost always the result of M's contamination (by erasure and “correction”) from Cr's exemplar, or unique copying errors committed by the M scribe. Other than these two categories, most of the other variations between L and M fall into the category of meaningless lexical, morphological, or syntactic variations where one scribe or the other shows a distinct preference for translating the Bx form into his own usage habits (e.g., M's sauen versus L's saue at 1.84; M's kepen versus L's kepe at 1.94; M's to ben versus L's ben at 2.28).

APPENDIX Chart 1: LMRF Agreements

The four tables below track the unique or virtually unique agreement of L and/or M with R or RF.

Section 1. LM alone or almost alone supporting alpha, represented by R or RF (when F differs, it is noted); alpha forms are those in R; relevant B-text phrases are represented in arrow brackets under the “beta” column.

Kd line number   alpha (or R)   beta (i.e., beta prime)  
1.73  heo [LM]  she 
{Schm. and KD = beta} {A mss split between forms; C = beta; Z = alpha} {F = beta}  <er heo/she þennes ʒede> 
3.236  on [LM]  in 
{Schm. = alpha, KD = beta}  <resten in/on þyne holy hilles> 
4.23  tweye [LM]  twies 
{F = “to trewþe”} {OED2 lists tweye as 14-15 c. var. of twie, an obs. form = ModEng “twice”}  <he wol make wehee tweye/twies> 
{Schm. and KD = beta} 
4.54  nauʒt [LM]  ouʒt 
{Schm. and KD = alpha} {Most A mss = alpha; same proportion with C}  <for nouʒt/ouʒt I koude plede> 
5.205  ware [LM]  chaffare 
{KD and Schm. = alpha}  <amonges my ware/chaffare> 
{uniform A and C attestation for “ware”} 
5.230  ne [LM]  or 
{F = “&”} {Schm. = alpha, KD = beta; KR emend to “or” against massive C evidence for “ne”}  <ne/or restitucion madest?> 


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5.340  godly [LM; but YC = “gothely” and OC2 = “gotheli”]  goþelen 
{FG = “gowle”} {this is the strangest reading shared by RLM, and it is almost certainly archetypal; C variants include “gothly” “gothele” and “godely”; the last of these forms in 6 mss while “gudele” is found in 4 more}  <Hise guttes bigonne to goþelen/ godly> {? This seems editorial correction in W etc.} 
{Schm. and KD = beta} 
5.427  here [LM]  here þe 
{Schm. and KD = alpha} {Not in A; C mss are split between the two forms shown here}  <Ruþe is to here/here þe rekenyng> 
5.445  so to [LM]  to 
{F = “now so”} {C ms F = alpha; all the rest = beta; Z = beta, as do most A mss; EAH3 = “so” in place of “to”} {KD & Schm. = beta}  <seye so to/to þiselue> 
5.500  douʒtyest [LM]  douʒty 
{Schm. and KD = alpha} {Not in A; C mss are split between the two forms shown here}  <Of þyne douʒty/douʒtiest dedes> 
5.542  fourty [LM]  fifty 
{Schm. and KD = alpha} {Most AC mss support alpha, none support beta; Z = alpha}  <his folwere al þis fourty/fifty wynter> 
5.596  man [LM]  men 
{Schm. and KD = alpha} {5 A mss = beta; the rest = alpha, as does Z; 3 C mss = beta; the rest = alpha}  <many man/men hym knoweþ> 
5.631  Ne [LM]  Nor 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta} {AC mss support alpha}  <Ne/Nor I quod an Apeward> 
5.635  hem [LMCr]  omit  
{Schm. & KD = alpha} {overwhelming support for alpha from AC mss}  <haþ myʒt ouer [hem] alle> 
6.8  þere whiles [LM]  þe while(s) 
{cf. 6.163: “þer while my plowʒ liggeþ” found in CLM! Also OED2 cites Gower, Confess. II.393: “Therwhile he hath his fulle packe”} {6 A mss = alpha; the rest = beta, as does Z; 2 C mss = alpha; the rest = beta} {KD & Schm. = beta}  <wommen werche þe/þere whiles> 


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6.77  now [LM]  omit  
{Schm. & KD = alpha} {6 A mss = beta; the rest = alpha; all C mss support alpha}  <now god/god hem amende> 
6.145  but [LMCr]  noʒt but 
{Schm. & KD = alpha} {Not in A; unanimous C support for alpha}  <þat eten noʒt but/but at Nones> 
6.147  And of my [LM]  And of/And 
{KD = “And”; Schm. = alpha}  <And/And of my catel to cope hem> 
{not in other versions} 
6.228  by-lowe [LM]  biloue 
{F = “loowe”} {Schm. = alpha; KD = beta} {OED2 cites this passage and form as the only evidence for an obsolete verb, “below” = “to make low, to humble” but likelier the “w” is a spelling variant for “vv”}  <And biloue/by-lowe þee amonges lowe men> 
{Not in A or C} 
6.264  Arise [LM]  And rys 
{F = “But aryse”} {Schm. & KD = alpha} {Z and almost every A ms supports alpha; not in C}  <And rys/Arise vp er Appetit> 
6.328  multiplied [L; M by adding “d”, another ink]  multiplie 
<and multiplie(d) by eiʒte> 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta} 
{Not in A or C} 
7.16  þus [LM]  þis 
{Schm. & KD. = alpha} {Not in A or C}  <þus/þis pardon Piers sheweþ> 
7.72  þe [LM]  omit  
{KD = beta but Schm. = alpha}  <and þe clerc of/of þe stories> 
{Not in A or C} {a double-dip metrical violation} 
7.75  in manu tua [LM]  tua in manu tua 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <Sit elemosina in/tua in manu tua> 
{Not in A or C} 
7.103  þis myschief [LM]  þise myschiefs 
{F totally different line} {KD and Schm. = alpha} {Z = alpha; also most A mss; most C mss = beta}  <That taken þis mychief/þise myschiefs mekeliche> 
7.118  Þat [LM]  But 
{Schm. & KD. = alpha} {most A mss = alpha; none = beta; Not in C}  <Þat/But after þi deeþ day> 
8.27  on þe day synneth  on a day synneþ 
{F merely reverses LMR phrase}  <þe sadde man synneþ on þe/a day> 
{KD = adapt. of F version of line; same for Schm.} {issue is determiner “a” versus “þe”—not in A; overwhelming C support for alpha's determiner} 


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8.48  but [LM]  but if 
{Schm. & KD. = alpha} {Not in A or C} {F = beta}  <but if/but þow þiselue wole> 
8.91  in-to [LM]  to 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta} {5 A mss = alpha; most of the rest = beta; 7 C mss = beta; 9 = alpha! KR go with beta!}  <And is ronne to/in-to Religion> 
9.63  soule [LM]  soules 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <hir soule(s) shall he haue> 
{Not in A or C} {F = beta} 
9.102  vp [LMC]  vpon 
{F = omit word} {M has “on” added above line} {KD and Schm. = beta} {Not in A or C} {OED2 shows “up” prep. # 1 as possible here}  <Is moost yhated vpon/vp erþe> 
9.158  for [LM]  of 
{F rewrites line} {Schm. = alpha; KD = beta} {Not in A or C}  <haue þei maugre of/for hir mariages> 
10.167  hym [LMHm]  it 
{KD and Schm. = alpha} {Not in C; almost unanimous A support for alpha} {F = beta}  <Leue hym/it on þi left half> 
11.36  tymes [LMHm]  tyme 
{Schm. and KD = beta} {Not in A; most C mss support beta but a few support alpha} {F = beta}  <A man may stoupe tyme(s) ynoʒ 
11.87  take [GLM]  took 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <and take/took hem boþe to witnesse> 
{Not in A or C} {F = beta} 
11.209  vp [LM]  of/on/vpon 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <and ech man laughe of/on/ vpon/vp ooþer> 
{F = “on”} {Not in A or C} 
11.259  Alle [LM]  For [w]/and [other betas] 
{Schm and KD = alpha} {Not in A; many C mss = “þouʒ”}  <Alþouʒ/For þouʒ/And þouʒ it be sour to suffre> 
12.2  ne [LM]  nor [w]/and [other betas] 
{F = “or”} {Schm. and KD = alpha} {Not in A or C}  <in siknesse ne/nor/and/or in helþe> 
12.161  siker [LM]  sikerer 
{extra “-er” added in another ink to M} {F's line different} {Not in A; C line revised} {Schm. = beta; KD = emend. “sadder”}  <hir noon syker/sikerer þan ooþer> 


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13.54  vs [LMW]  omit  
{F sig. diff. = “. . . browhte anoþer mees”} {KD = major emend.; Schm. = alpha}  <þanne he brouʒte vs/[ ]forþ> 
13.121  hym [LM]  hem 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <to leren hym/hem what is Dowel> 
{this variant is of doubtful value since this alpha form is attested as a variant of beta's form by OED2} 
13.222  hym he [LM]  he 
{F = “hym”} {KD = beta; Schm. = alpha}  <and preyde hym he/he sholde telle> 
15.23  quikye [LM]  quykne[w]/quyk was yn 
{F = “qwyke in”; Cr = “quicken”}  HmGYOC2CB] 
{KD = beta W; Schm. = alpha}  <The whyles I quykne/quykke þe cors> 
{Not in A; C mss support alpha} 
15.143  spene [LM]  spende 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <spene/spende we in murþe> 
{line not in other versions} 
{OED2 lists “spene” as viable alteration of “spend” with numerous examples} {F = beta} 
15.237  but [LMG]  noʒt but 
{F = omit word} {KD and Schm. preferred} {Not in A; almost total C support for alpha}  <he comeþ noʒt but/but selde> 
15.366  to (2) [LM]  what to 
{KD and Schm. preferred} {not in A and C is slightly diff.}  <And what to/to leue and to lyue by> 
17.55  id est christus [LMHm]  omit  
{this is a gloss that R mistakes for part of the text; L seems ambiguous about its placement—half-way to margin; M adds it in the margin; Hm also has it!} {F = beta}  <and he mette atones/[—id est christus]> 
17.289  line in RF and CrLM  all other betas omit line entirely  
{KD and Schm. = alpha)  <How myʒte he aske mercy, or any mercy hym helpe> 
20.191  & bet out my wange tethe  & bett me on þe teth 
{KD and Schm. = alpha} {F = “& buscht out myn wang-teeþ”} 
{presence of this item and preceding item (full line) in Cr, as well as distinctive Cr- style corrections in M may indicate Cr's descent from a copy above WHm's ancestor in the beta line} 


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Section 2. L alone or almost alone (with M suffering erasure/writeover to beta) supporting alpha, represented by R or RF; alpha forms are those in R; relevant B-text phrases are represented in arrow brackets under the “beta” column.

Prol. 140  answeres [L]  answerde 
{M and Hm altered to beta by erasure/writeover} {KD = beta but Schm. = alpha} {line not in A or C} {F = beta}  <to þe Aungel an heiʒ answeres/d after> 
2.148  he [L]  þei 
{M altered by erasure to beta}  <For he/þei may Mede amaistrye> 
{KD and Schm. = alpha} 
{virtually unanimous AC support for alpha; also Z supports alpha} 
3.30  ʒow [L; but M = “hem” over erasure]  hem (1) 
{KD = beta but Schm. = alpha}  <To louen hem/yow lelly> 
2 A mss and Z = alpha, most of the rest = beta; all C mss = beta} 
{F = beta} 
4.67  wan [L; but M altered by erasure/writeover to “wente”]  wente 
{CB = “whan”} {internal structure of line differs in A version, but both variants are viable: 8 A mss and Z = alpha; 3 = beta; line not in C} {KD & Schm. = alpha}  <Tho wan/wente Wisdom> 
5.210  batnedel [L; M has been altered to beta reading by erasure/writeover]  paknedle 
{KD = beta but Schm. = alpha}  <To broche hem wiþ a pak/bat nedel 
{most A mss = beta; 2 = alpha; 11 C mss = beta; all the rest = alpha and KR endorse the alpha reading in their edition of C! In B, KD had emended the alliteration of the first stave to “[p]rochen”} 
5.262  vssue [L = “ysue”; but M agrees with beta by erasure/writeover]  heires 
{F = “houswif”} {KD and Schm. endorse beta} {line differs some in C but the variant isn't at stake; all C mss = beta}  <Ne þyne heires/vssue after þee> 


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5.350  tremled [L = “trembled”; but M has “stombled” with first three letters written over erasure]  stumbled 
{F = “tripplid”} {KD emend to “þrumbled” for allit.; Schm. accepts their conjecture, but WL prob. wrote “thrimbled”, a viable variant of the same verb—problem is that the verb's documentable meaning in OED2 doesn't really fit. OED is willing to hypothesize a rare verb(#1), “thrumble” (= “to stumble”) based only on this line from B and C, but so what? MED same problem.} {most A mss have “stumblide” or something like it; one (V) has “þrompelde”, which Ka uses to justify conject = þrumblide”; C mss are mostly divided between “thromblede” (KR choice), “trubled”, and “stumblet”}  <He tremled/stumbled on the þresshfold> The problem with “þrumbled” is that the semantic range of “stumbled” appears to fit whereas “crowding together or pressing” (OED2 meaning for “þrumble”) don't. 
5.381  faste [GL]  to faste 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta} {cf. Ka5.209: A vers. ms W = alpha; also Z!} {F = beta} {M's corrector adds “to” above line}  <And auowed faste/to faste> 
9.100a  in verbo [L; but M has erasure/writeover to “vno”]  in vno 
{F tries to split the difference with “vno verbo”} {KD = beta but Schm. = alpha} {Not in A or C} {citation is from James 2.10, loosely paraphrased, but WL may well have used “verbo” since it better fits the previous line's ref. to “spille anyspeeche”}  <Qui offendit in vno/verbo in omnibus est reus> 
15.200  Þat [L]  Where 
{M = “What” but “Wh” over erasure!} {F = R} {M may have “better” reading but Bx obv. was “þat”} {Schm. = alpha; KD = M}  <Þat/What/Where is the wille> 

Section 3. L alone or almost alone supporting alpha, represented by R or RF; alpha forms are those in R; relevant B-text phrases are represented in arrow brackets under the “beta” column.


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4.28  omit [L]  for þei 
{Kd and Schm. = beta} {Z and nearly all A mss = beta} {this appears to be an instance where R and L omit same phrase merely by accident—F, M, and beta prime confirm the omission as non Bx} {F = beta}  <Folwed hem faste [for þei] hadde to doone> 
5.234  omits be [L]  be bettere 
{Kd and Schm. = beta} {M's corrector adds “be” supralinear} {this appears to be an instance where R and L omit same phrase merely by accident—F, M, and beta prime confirm the omission as non Bx, but M's correction suggests that “be” may have been marginal or supralinear in Bx} {F = beta}  <Thow haddest [be] bettre worþi> 
6.59  me [L]  omit  
{this LR addition presum. is random convergence since neither F, nor M nor beta prime agrees} {KD reject both families and emend to AC version of line; Schm. also} {F = beta}  <And cast on [me] my clothes> 
6.226  þow [L]  omit  
{KD choose alpha; so does Schm.} {allit. pattern of this line problematic either way but this b-verse is prob. too short in beta; line not in AC} {F = beta}  <lat [þow] god yworþe> 
8.29  a [L]  þe 
{KD & Schm. = alpha} {all but one A and one C ms support alpha} {F = beta}  <amydde a/þe brode watre> 
9.65  like god [L]  lik to god 
{KD = beta; but Schm. = alpha.} {Only alpha has a double dip. Beta is iambic.} {F = different b-verse}  <are lik [to] god almyʒty> 
10.249  he [L]  omit  
{here F rejoins LR} {KD and Schm. = beta} {alpha's b-verse has a stronger double dip} {C mss uniformly support beta here, but a new b-verse written fresh for C 6 lines below this one reads “and herof he made bokes” (C11.152-3 in KR), suggesting that both are metrical for WL}  <hereof [he] made bokes> 


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10.432  omit [L]  now 
{KD & Schm. = beta} {line not in A; revised in C to correct defective allit. in WL's own copy!}  <And [now] ben þise as Souereyns> 
{F supports beta but reverses phrase}  {KD emend beta's “þse” to “swiche” for allit.!} 
11.403  sum-tymes [L]  som tyme 
{KD and Schm. = beta} {a minority of C mss support LR here; C majority = beta} {F = beta}  <That som tyme[s] hym bitit> 
12.197  asserued [L]  deserued 
{OED verifies this form as a viable synonym of beta's “deserued”}  <þt deserued/asserued hadde bettre> 
{KD choose beta; but Schm. chooses alpha.} {4 C mss support beta here; 12 support alpha; X and several other C mss read “serued”} {F = beta} 
13.73  Þat gode men ben [L]  good men [WHmCr]/þat goode beene [M & other betas] 
{F = R} {Schm. = alpha; KD = M+beta}  <And greue þerwiþ þat goode [men] ben> 
13.120  haue sones [L; erroneous omission supplied by L's corrector in margin]  haue seuene sones 
{original random convergence of LR possibly traceable to combination of redundant aaa/ax allit. pattern and use of easily overlooked arabic number in Bx bequeathed in same form to alpha and beta} {line not in C} {F = beta}  <I haue [seuene] sones he seide> 
13.157  se [L; but L's corrector changes reading to beta]  deme 
{F agrees here with R} {KD = beta; but Schm. = alpha.} {KD are obviously motivated by allit. pattern of alpha, which isn't deficient but unusual} {line not in C}  <Undo it—lat þis doctour deme/se> 
13.282  as to siʒt of þe people [L]  omit {other betas run together 282-283} 
{F = R} 
13.283  Was non suche as hym-selue [L]  omit {other betas run together 282-283} 
{F = R} 
14.1  omit [L]  hool 
{Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <I haue but oon [hool] hater> 
{F = R} 


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14.107  Whan it [L]  Whan he 
{F = “&” replaces the whole phrase} {C mss all support beta; KD and Schm. = beta}  <Whan he/it drogh to his deeþ day> 
14.258  where [L]  wheiþer 
{OED2 verifies this form as a possible contraction for beta's form; Schm. chooses it; KD choose beta—not a dime's difference, but LR are likely to be original} {C mss split but KR endorse alpha's form in the equivalent C line!}  <And wheiþer/where he be or be noʒt> 
{F = beta} 
15.36  and spiritus [L]  spiritus 
{F agrees here with R} {KD = beta but Schm. = alpha} {21 C mss agree here with alpha, but KR still choose to support the KD beta reading!}  <[and] Spiritus þanne ich hatte> 
15.127  euel [L]  ydel 
{F agrees here with R, though rephrasing the half-line} {Schm. = alpha; KD = beta}  <seiþ it with ydel/euel wille> 
15.399  man [L]  omit  
{F = R} {KD and Schm. = alpha}  <This Makometh was cristene [man]> 
15.576a  y3 [L]  omit  
{F = ysa. 3} {“y3” is an abbrev. reference for the bibl. citation immed. preceding (from Isa. 3). Such references are rare in B manuscripts; this one clearly derives from alpha, at least, since a very sim. reference occurs in F, but esp. notable is that an identical citation occurs at this point in L}  <et ideo nolite constituere me Regem [y3]} 
16.50  thridde [L]  firste 
{F = R} {KD and Schm. = alpha}  <laccheþ þe firste/thridde planke> 
16.60  seide [L]  quod 
{F = R} {KD and Schm. = alpha}  <That is sooþ quod/seide Piers> 
16.221  here [L]  omit  
{F = R} {KD = beta but Schm. = alpha}  <and mulliere [here] children> 
17.12  was [L]  were 
{F = R} {KD endorse this reading; so does Schm.—gramm. context makes it clearly likelier as authentic b/c harder reading}  <Wheron were/was writen two wordes> 


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17.108  a-fote [L]  on foote 
{KD = beta; Schm. = alpha}  <he þat is on/a-foote> 
{F = beta} {This case is purely indeterminable although R always intrinsically likelier to reflect alpha than does F} 
17.167  omit [L]  þei 
{KD & Schm. = beta} {purely indeterminable but alpha is the harder reading}  <asondry were [þei] neuere> 
17.308  peel [L]  people [CrM = “plee”] 
{F = R} {KD & Schm. = alpha}  {beta1 appears to have made a mistake compounded by beta2 [= “peple”]} 
{alpha is here correct; error appears to have originated in beta 1-2} 
18.31  likth [L]  lieþ 
{F = R} {KD and Schm. = beta}  <Lif seiþ þat he lieþ/likth> 
{this is a valid variant for “lieþ” according to OED2} 
18.203  omit [LY] 
{KD and Schm. = beta} {F = beta}  <And [I] shal preue quod Pees> 
18.348  it [L] 
{F = R} {KD & Schm. = alpha}  <So leue it / I noʒt lucifer> 
{M, above line, another ink = “thow”} 
18.389  may [L]  omit  
{F = R} {KD & Schm. = alpha}  <I [may] do mercy> 
20.100  driuende [L]  dryuynge 
{F = R} {KD & Schm. = beta}  <Deeþ cam dryuynge/driuende after> 
Havelok line 2702 = “driuende” with same meaning as beta's form} 
20.287  leue [L]  loone 
{KD = beta, but they construe RL as “lene”; Schm. = alpha but reads it as I do; either reading is viable} {F = bleve þere}  <or lenger yeres loone/leue> 

Section 4. M alone supporting alpha, represented by R or RF; alpha forms are those in R; relevant B-text phrases are represented in arrow brackets under the “beta” column.

7.71  nedyer [M, but 'ere” has been erased]  nedy 
{F = R} {KD = beta; Schm. = alpha} {alpha's reading represents grammatical double marking, but quite plausible}  <that were moore nedy/nedyer> 


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9.26  is [M]  is a 
{Both KD and Schm. choose alpha here} {F = beta}  <Kynde quod wit is [a] creatour> 
9.176  to be [CrM]  be 
{KD & Schm. = beta} {either is possible; beta is slightly likelier}  <coueite noʒt [to] be wedded> 
{F = beta} 
12.16  makynge [M]  makynges/mastryes 
{F = R} {KD = beta; Schm. = alpha} {either is possible}  <þow medlest þee wiþ makynge(s)> 
12.193  recreant [M]  creaunt 
{F omits word} {OED2 suggests that this form may be original; see note at “creant”: “in form, a. OF. creant believing, trusting, giving oneself up, pr. pple. of creire:—L. credere to believe. But as OF. had only recréant in this sense, it is possible that creant is an abbreviated form of that word. Cf. craven.” cf. note at “recreant”: a. OF. recreant adj. and n., (one) who yields or gives up his cause, pres. pple. of recroire: see recray v. and cf. OSp. recreente. On the northern forms with -and, see - ant2. The form creant (a.1) was also current in ME. in the same sense.} The issue appears to reduce to whether WL might have stressed the second syllable or not.  <Was for he yald hym creaunt/recreaunt to crist> 
15.121  preste [M]  a preest 
{F = R} {Cr = “prists”}  <But if many [a] preest> 
{KD & Schm. = alpha} 
17.306  by-for [MCr]  afore 
{F = R} {Schm. = alpha; KD = beta} {very important implications for WL's metrics!}  <by-for/afore a kynges Iustice> 

Chart 2: Differences between L and M through Passus 4

+ = original LM agreement or worthless difference because of copy problems.

○ = unique reading in M.

MS groupings listed only when small sets occur.

KD line number   Manuscript M   Manuscript L  
Prol. 10 +  sweyed  sweyued 
{letter erased between “y” and “e”} 


Page 188

Prol. 21  and  and in [HmGYC] 
Prol. 31 ○  cheued  cheuen [YGOCF] 
Prol. 49  for to [GYOC2F]  to 
Prol. 62  maystur  maistres [FGCY] 
Prol. 66 +  hij  hij 
{KD erroneously transcribe M's “hij” as “hir”} 
Prol. 68  a preest as he [Y]  as he a prest 
Prol. 78  or [GYH]  and 
Prol. 82  pore poraile  poraille 
{current reading = YOC2 but produced in M by erasure/writeover}  {L omits M's “pore” & M's erased word was shorter than “poraile”; M prob. read “pore peple” like C version} 
Prol. 85  leue  a leue [YC] 
Prol. 88 ○  crounede  crounyng 
Prol. 97  messes [Cr]  messe 
Prol. 102  lefte it [CrFH]  it left 
Prol. 116(1)  and þe [Hm]  and 
Prol. 116(2)  and the [FH]  and 
Prol. 119  omit [HmGFH]  alle 
Prol. 120  to  omit [YOC2C] 
Prol. 126  þe to [OYC2 þe 
Prol. 130  iustice [C2 iustifie 
Prol. 143 +  Thanne [141-44 added in rt. margin later]  And þanne [CR] 
Prol. 143 +○  bigan  gan 
Prol. 144 +○  kyng & his  kynges 
Prol. 154  and [HmCrYOC2F]  or 
Prol. 174  war  ywar [YOCR] 
Prol. 177  in [GH]  in alle 
Prol. 181  omit [YOC2F]  alle 
Prol. 190  omit [HmCrOC2FH]  al 
Prol. 200  þe  þat [YOC2CR] 
Prol. 205  costud [HmR]  coste 
Prol. 222 ○  mo  other 
Prol. 227 +  and  a [unique to L but semantically = M] 


Page 189

1.17  herfore  þerfore 
1.22  ye [above line main hand; HmCrOC2F]  þow 
1.31  it pe [WHmYC]  it 
1.33  there he  þere 
1.37-38 +  . . . þat lief is to þe soule / Leue not þi likam  lines run together by omitting 37b-38a [WHmC] 
{erasure & writeover; 37b final text = OC2GYRF; 38a in right margin, main hand} 
1.41 +  seeþ [WCr1O]  seest 
{after erasure} 
1.41 +○  þe  þi 
{“e” over erasure} 
1.42  war [HmCrGC2CF]  ywar 
1.48  omit   þe 
1.50 +  is ylik  ilyke 
{“is” added above line, main hand; “e” erased after “k”} 
1.81  omit   kende me 
{corrector supplies “kenne me”}  {“kende” is unique to L; marked for correction but not changed} 
1.84  sauen  saue 
1.94  kepen  kepe 
1.95  rappen  rappe 
1.104 +  is [YOC2 was 
{after erasure} 
1.125 (2)  þerthe [OC2F];  eyre [HmCrG]; 
þe eire [YOC2F]  erthe 
1.127  putte  pult [Cr; R = “pelt”] 
{the CrR form is a variant of “pilt”, as is L's “pult”} 
1.128  worcheþ  worche 
1.130  worcheþ  worche 
1.131  omit [YOC2H]  þe 
1.135  þanne truþe [Y]  treuthe 
1.136  knowe [Y]  knowen 
1.137 +  omit [G]  is 
{after erasure} 
1.154  eten  yeten [G] 
1.162  mercimentz  merciment 


Page 190

1.171  on  of [WYC] 
1.181  But  But if 
1.183  omit   ne (1) 
1.188  For chastite [G]  For-thi chastite 
1.190 +  ac  ac 
{KD erroneously transcribe as “ne”} 
1.202 +  that  and 
{after erasure} 
2.14  venymes  enuenymes 
2.19 ○  wondurly  worthily 
2.26  to þe  to 
2.28  to ben  ben 
2.34  my lif [YOC2 myne hed 
2.36  kynge dauyd  dauid þe kynge 
2.40 +  to [GFH]  al to 
{after erasure} 
2.47 +  þou þi tonge  þi tonge 
{“þow þi” over erasure} 
2.58  omit   of (2) 
2.60  chaffares  chaffre 
2.72  stoden [YF]  stonden 
2.77  or for  or (2) 
2.81  omit   and (1) 
2.91 +  omit   in (2) 
{after erasure} 
2.92 +  wolde  ne wolde 
{“ne” added in margin} 
2.99 +  hir  his 
{after erasure and writeover of “r”} 
2.104  purteinaunce  purtenaunces 
2.107  in  with 
2.117  weddinges [WCrYORFH]  wendynges [C] 
2.135  þe lawe [H]  lawe 
2.142  assentede [Cr3F]  assenteth 
2.146  faille  ne faille 
2.147  wittnesses  witnesse 


Page 191

2.148 +  they  he 
{over erasure}  {this 3rd plural form only in LRF here} 
2.160  And bade  And bad hem 
2.167 +  had þe  haued 
{over erasure} 
2.178 +  Paynles  Paulynes 
{over erasure} 
2.180  oure  þe 
2.184  omit [H]  forth 
2.185  alle þes oþere  alle þise men 
2.186 +  folwed  folweth 
{over erasure} 
2.187  of men [H]  man 
2.189  litul  a litel [HmYOC2CRH] 
2.207  þinge  preyere 
{unique to M} 
2.213 +  fledde [CrGC2H]  fleiʒ 
{semantically identical with L} 
2.222  to  in-to [WCrGYOC2CR] 
2.230 +  mynstrals  mynstalles 
{simple scribal omission of “r”—unique to L; marked for correction but not changed; same error at 3.134} 
3.2  and [Hm2CrGOC2BH]  & wiþ [WHmYCR] 
3.12  worshepeth  worschiped [YCrCR] 
3.16  mournen þow  mourne 
{after erasure between “mourne” and “þow” with “n” added} 
3.17 +  wol  omit [YOC2C] 
{supralinear addition} 
3.21 ○  omit   and 
3.28  while [BH]  þe while 
3.30 +  hem (1)  ʒow [R] 
{over erasure} 
3.48  ful  wel 
{unique to L} 
3.51  þe [HCr]  þat 
3.59  on [HmHm2]  of 


Page 192

3.75  biddeth [HmCr2-3GB]  bit [YOC2CR] 
3.112 +  forbede it [WHmB]  forbede 
{“it” added supralinear} 
3.128 +  popes &  popis [CB] 
{“&” added supralinear} 
3.133  mynstrales  mynstalles 
{unique to L, obvious immed. scribal error; marked for correction but not changed; cf. 2.230} 
3.139-40  hem [YCBmBoH]  hym 
hem [WCr2-3GY]  hym 
3.146 ○  secre  secret 
{semantically = L} 
3.168  to playne [FBoCot]  to pleyne hem 
3.187  omit [HmFH]  no 
3.203  in 
3.206  þanne  þennes 
3.208 +○  oueth  houeth 
{no OED cits. but prob. spelling variant} 
3.211 ○  omit   to (2) 
3.217 +  Seriauntz  Seruauntz 
{over erasure} 
3.226  nedes [CrBF]  nede 
3.231 ○  maneres  manere 
3.245 +  hir [HmCr] 
{over erasure} 
3.253  or [Hm]  and 
3.255 ○  mene  lowe 
3.257 ○  it is  is 
3.260  omit [GF]  on (2) 
3.267 +  dethe  ded [YOC2CBR] 
{“the” over erasure} 
3.286 +○  hadde hap  hadde 
{“hap” added supralinear} 
3.289 +  hem echone [Cr]  hem alle 
{over erasure}  {“hem” added supralinear; most B mss agree with L's corrected reading} 
3.295 +  hire  here 
{corrected by erasure/writeover from “his”; Cr = “his”} 


Page 193

3.324 +  smytheth  smyteth [C2CBoCot] 
{over erasure} 
3.331  As [Cr1HmGH]  Also 
3.341 +  she  ʒe [B] 
{over erasure} 
3.346 ○  omit   han 
3.351 +  she [WHmCr1GH]  þe 
{over erasure} 
4.28 ○  he  for þei 
{dialect equiv to “þei”?}  {omitted by LR alone and then L corrector notes omission in margin} 
4.29  omit [FH]  at þe [Cr2-3R] 
{beta presum. = “in þe”} 
4.42 ○  weye  gate 
4.50 +  maydenhede  maydenhode 
{KD error; M actually agrees with L: “maydonhode”}  [HmGYOC2CBRH] 
4.57  berne  bernes 
4.58  Otes [HmCr1-2GF]  of otes [WYOC2CBR] 
4.64  he [F]  and 
4.67 +  wente [WHmCr2-3GYOC2 wan [BoCotCR] 
{over erasure of shorter word}  {KD choose this reading, as does Schm.; the L corrector has marked this line with “+” suggesting that he was aware of another reading and may have preferred a change} 
4.71 +  my  þi [YOC2RF] 
{over erasure}  {KD opt for “my” but Schm. chooses “thy”} 
4.81 ○  witty  witte 
{F = “wisdom”} 
4.91  here-wiþ  þer-with 
4.94  mongen  mengen [WHmYOC2CB] 
4.99  ofte [G]  so ofte 
4.100 ○  omit   hath 
4.107  hynen [H = “hyne”; Cot “corrected” to “hynen”]  hewen 
4.110  to [H]  þo to 
4.110 ○  ruwe  haue reuthe 
4.119  omit [Hm]  þe 
4.119  and  and to [YOC2CBR] 
{Both KD and Schm. accept the beta version of this heavy b-verse; F is unique here—F ends the line “wel þe po” and there is evidence of erasure at the end of the line} 


Page 194

4.121 ○  Bernard hem bad . Benet  Benet hem bad . Bernarde 
4.132  But [HmBFH]  But if [WCrGYOC2CR] 
4.150  for [CrGYOC2 and for [WHmCBR] 
4.156 +  faille [HmCr]  falle in 
{over larger erasure} 
4.158 ○  her-with  þer-with 
4.166  þe [FH]  þat 
4.169 +  she  he 
{“s” added supralinear; HmFH} 
4.180  omit [HmF]  be 
4.193  yowre  owre [WHmCrYOCBR] 
{“y” over erasure of “ʒ”; C2

Works Cited

Adams, Robert, Hoyt N. Duggan et al., eds. 2000. The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive, Vol. 1: Corpus Christi College, Oxford MS 201 (F). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. CD-ROM.

Blackman, Elsie. 1918. “Notes on the B-Text MSS of Piers Plowman.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 17:489-545.

Kane, George, and E. Talbot Donaldson, eds. 1988 [1975]. Piers Plowman: The B Version. Rev. ed. London: Athlone Press; Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Schmidt, A. V. C., ed. 1978. William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman. A Critical Edition of the B-Text Based on Trinity College Cambridge MS B.15.17 with selected variant readings, an Introduction, glosses, and a Textual and Literary Commentary. London, Melbourne, and Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.

Schmidt, A. V. C., ed. 1995. Piers Plowman: A Parallel-Text Edition of the A, B, C, and Z Versions. Vol. I. London and New York: Longman.