PIERS PLOWMAN Vision of a People’s Christ


Review by Christina Hardyment

PIERS PLOWMAN Vision of a People’s Christ
By William Langland – Modern Verse Rendering by William Burrell

This is a catchy retelling of the medieval alliterative poem, stuffed with memorable lines

To my shame, all I could muster before listening to this sensational treatment of the famous medieval alliterative poem Piers Plowman was its first line: “In a summer season/ When soft was the sun” and its description of “a fair field/ full of folk” who gathered “on a May morning/ On Malvern hills”. Mike Rogers, whose career spans Coronation StreetEmmerdale and the English Shakespeare Company, transforms it into a foot-tapping rap that Stormzy, given his sympathy for its Christian message, could enjoy setting to music. Terse and sardonic on fraudsters “going to bed in gluttony/ rising from bed in ribaldry”, the poem is sympathetic to the poor “who cannot jangle in the courts” and those with “Kind Wit and Conscience” who strive to do right. After the marriage of Lady Meed (a satire on Edward III’s notoriously avaricious mistress Alice Perrers) to Falsehood, it alternates social evils with causes for hope, and ends with the harrowing of hell, “Love luting on a long note” and a very informative afterword.

Ukemi wisely uses the catchy retelling, stuffed with memorable lines, which Alfred Burrell made in 1912 for Dent’s Everyman Library. It was a text ideally suited to a publishing initiative that spread great literature among the people in natty little shilling pocket volumes.

Piers Plowman by William Langland, read by Mike Rogers, Ukemi, 4hr 42 min; £12.99