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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

I. “Piers the Plowman” and its Sequence

§ 29. Letters of the Insurgents of 1381

Not in the metre of Piers the Plowman, but none the less significant of the powerful hold which the figure of the Plowman obtained upon the English people, are the doggerel letters of the insurgents of 1381, given by Walsingham and Knighton, and reprinted by Maurice and Trevelyan. Trevelyan makes a suggestion which has doubtless occurred independently to many others, that “Piers the Plowman may perhaps be only one characteristic fragment of a medieval folk-lore of allegory, which expressed for generations the faith and aspirations of the English peasant, but of which Langland’s great poem alone has survived.” One would like to believe this; but the mention of “do well and better” in the same letter with Piers Plowman makes it practically certain that the writer had in mind the poems known to us and not merely a traditional allegory; though it may well be that Piers the Plowman belonged to ancient popular tradition.