Tower and Tabernacle: The Architecture of Heaven and the Language of Dwelling with/in God in the B-Text of Piers Plowman
Davlin, O.P., Mary Clemente
Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 10 (1993)
Piers Plowman, the fourteenth-century English dream-vision attributed to William Langland, focuses firmly on this world rather than the next. But the poem refers to heaven over fifty-five times, although never describing it in either the radiant generalizations of Chaucer’s parson or the rich detail of Pearl. In Piers Plowman, as in the New Testament, heaven is a kingdom. In Passus XV Anima states, “Nisi efficiamini sicut paruuli, non intrabitis in regnum celorum” (“Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”) (XV.149a; Matthew 18:3). Patience, too, speaks of heaven as Christ’s “riche” or kingdom (XIV.179), and Will refers to “crist in Consistorie” (Pro. 99) and “in kyngdom, to close and to shette, / And to opene it to hem and heuene blisse shewe (Pro. 105-106). When Holy Church speaks of heaven as a place “Ther Treuþe is in Trinitee and troneþ hem alle” (I.133), the phrase “troneþ hem alle” suggests the Biblical kingdom where the apostles will sit on twelve thrones to judge the tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30).