William Langland ‘The Visions of Piers Plowman Passus 6’ the end

The people subdued by Hunger get back to work. Piers thanks Hunger and asks him about advice how to deal with beggars and beadsmen (people who said prayers for money). Hunger’s answer is kind of evasive: everyone who is able should work, you should help as much as you can those in real need, don’t be angry about those who try to prey on your charity, let God deal with them. Then Piers asks about medical advice because sometimes his own belly and his servants’ ache so much they are unable to work for a week. “it’s all from overeating”, says Hunger (yeah, right, I’m sure it was the BIGGEST PROBLEM of medieval peasants) “don’t drink before you eat, don’t eat too much, and don’t eat till you’re hungry, If all the people follow this advice, they will soon put physicians out of business”.

Piers then thanks Hunger for his advice and wants to say his goodbye, but Hunger won’t go away until he is appeased. Now we get a more realistic view of the diet of medieval peasants: Piers has no meat or eggs to give Hunger, only bean bread (the bread of the poor), oatmeal cake and some dairy and vegetables. Hunger eats all that and still is not satisfied. People now bring Piers apples, cherries, beans, peas and leaks to appease him – all early crops, eaten in the worst months before the new harvest. As the harvest draws near, merchants start to sell out their grain before the prices drop even more. Now is the time of plenty, when labourers are well-fed and become picky – no more diluted ale or last night’s cabbage for them! They also become rebellious and start to complain about the government oppressing the working man. This refers to the situation in the 14th century when the government, trying to curb the inflation, put on various limitations on the wages. Since labour force was scarce after the Black Death and various wars, landlords tried to get around these laws by offering free food as a perk. Langland warns darkly people not to be so picky, because Hunger can return anytime.

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