A quest I have delved into from time to time all my life. In 1360 a poet named William Langland penned a book entitled Viso Willelmi de Petro Ploughman. It was to change the land of England and belief of all common folk who could read.
Many heard it read to them by clerics. I have a copy of this work and value the texts. For many who have no word of this man I may start with your permit to relate a short account of who he is thought to be. Born in Ledbury near Shrewsbury in 1330 he started working life as a labourer in the fields. He had the knack to tell interesting tales to the unread. Clerics employed him teaching him many things and his poetry began. Later in life he is living in Bristol singing prayers to rich men relating poetry and living as he could. We know he owned property so he was not poor. His writings fall into what we call Middle English a sort of leaving of the French the rich spoke and German through the Saxon settlements. A small amount of Viking too made a bond of the common orders a language of the poor. It evolved slowly at first as a sort of Cockney slang but with real words that way it made the servant and tradesman able to talk and leave out the mighty rich with pure French that language of England for 500 years.
In time each and every man would learn the new common language made as code spoken as fact and written down as it expanded into use. Maybe the first real account was as late as Mister James Boswell aid to Samuel Johnson writing down each and every word of English in a Bath city coffee shop called Slaughters Coffee House in the 18th century. The English Dictionary it was named. Only say 500 years had it taken to build a common language but what was left out Johnson filled in for certain. Many words he invented over coffee to keep him awake.
But going back in time again by 1450 it was used by all. French and German had welded together mixed in the pot Viking and a language listed as English as late as 1500. Some say earlier by we are guided by books and William Langlands book deals in the Middle struggles of English as an entirely new concept.
Many have written on this. Prof. Hall. The study of Middle English was my bible at University. I have it still as ref. My language was taught me from babyhood by loving parents. As we all learn what we call English today. For me I needed to know why so many words spelt differently sounded the same but meaning so far apart. I was able to discern later in life through books like Piers vision and Langlands step (Passus in Latin.) why of writing a language that in part I could see was more than one language going on. For those you may now dash out to buy a copy of Langlands work from BBC OR Oxford Press I will say best buy the English modern version.
It tells of a simple Poughman in the fields who was risen as a sort of Christ figure to lead the people into righteous ways and seek God by prayer. It is in 3 parts and allegorical narrative unryhymed allernate verse. In it are prayers for the dead, a way of truth and a look at England as it was between 1360-1390.
It was John Dryden who called Geoffrey Chaucer the father of English language. That said Chaucer had the King as brother in law so William Langland may be the true father of the new age of English. I find his work a good walk with the people of that period. To read it in unabridged pages is hard but worth looking at.Even Chaucer Canterbury tales is in Middle English. One can see words being made before our eyes in both of these early works.
Bits of German too can be detected and translated by research.How a language started that one day would be spoken all over the world is here in the words of a writer evolving from French into the way we speak today. Without such bravery would we even know who we are.
The Rich did not wish to leave the French spoken in power and trade for a peasants code of words but they had to learn it eventually and that marked the start of a national serge of a far simpler more exact language for all. It will never have the beauty of French description nor the deeper meaning of German but what it will do is do away with male and female meanings for wooden chairs and dustbins. Such out of the window gives us true freedom to craft a language that in fact runs the internet,travels the world, is spoken as far away as India and New Zealand and the Great vast lands of Australia and Canada as far out as China and Japan, as the Earth is made, it will be spoken.
An Empire built on it where the sun never sets is not as may be so the lands under it but the words of a language that has won the world never seizes to amaze me that by the vision Of Langland who could not have known when he spent 30 years writing his tale that one day, long after his death, the language he managed to learn as new code would one day be spoken my billions of peoples all over this world.
Thank you all for being with me here. God be with you all. Each one of us make the world today; lets make it happy. Yours always Sir Kevin.
Copyright Kevin Parr Bt 2020 August 16th, noon of the day.