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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

§ 5. The Tower of Truth

The author, having thus, in his prologue, set before us the vision first presented to the eyes of his mind, proceeds to interpret it. This he does characteristically by a further development of the dream itself.

A lovely lady comes down from the cliff and says to the dreamer:

  • Son, seest thou this people, how engrossed they are in this confusion? The most part of the people that pass now on earth, if they have success in this world, care for nothing else; of other heaven than here they take no account.
  • The impression already made upon us by this strange majestic figure is deepened by the author’s vivid comment, “I was afeard of her face, fair though she was, and said, ‘Mercy, my lady; what is the meaning of this?’” The tower, she explains, is the dwelling of Truth, the Father of our faith, who formed us all and commanded the earth to serve mankind with all things needful. He has given food and drink and clothing to suffice for all, but to be used with moderation, for excess is sinful and dangerous to the soul. The dreamer enquires curiously about money: “the money on this earth that men so fast hold, tell me to whom that treasure belongs.” “Go to the Gospel,” she replies, “and consider what Christ himself said when the people apposed him with a penny.” He then asks the meaning of the dungeon in the deep dale.

  • That is the castle of Care; whose comes therein may ban that he was born to body or to soul; in it dwells a wight named Wrong, the father of False, who seduced Adam and Cain and Judas. He is a hinderer of love, and deceives all who trust in their vain treasures.