Nature, Salvation, and Human Action in Piers Plowman
Developing the previous chapter’s concerns with judgment and burden-bearing, Chapter 5 examines the poem’s associations of evangelism and the obligations of kynde. In B.15 Anima contends that Christians must distribute not only physical necessities to the materially poor, but also spiritual goods to those who lack knowledge of Christ. Anima portrays non-Christians as figures of undeveloped nature, comparing them to rough cloth and barren fields. Accordingly, he enjoins the Christian clergy to teach or “cultivate” non-Christians so that the bareness of their natures might be clothed with grace and brought to salvation. This chapter concludes by examining an important episode in which Langland uses the versatile notion of kynde to negotiate nature’s gaps and deficiencies: because nature alone does not suffice to salvation Langland presents his most forceful argument for the necessity of human action—and here especially clerical action—to fulfill the created order established by God.
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