Robert Langelandeor Longland Langlande, the supposed author of the " Vision of Piers Ploughman," born at Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire, in the first half of the 14th century. Nothing is known of him except from traditions current at least as early as the 16th century, according to which he was educated at Oxford, and became a monk at Malvern. The familiarity of the author with the Scriptures and the church fathers indicates that he was an ecclesiastic; several local allusions in the poem, and the fact that its scene is the "Malverne hilles," prove that it was composed on the borders of Wales; and internal evidence fixes its date at about 1362. It narrates the dreams of Piers Ploughman, who, weary of the world, falls asleep beside a stream in a vale among the Malvern hills; and while satirizing in vigorous allegorical descriptions the corruptions in church and state, and the vices incident to the various professions of life, and painting the obstacles which resist the amelioration of mankind, it presents the simple ploughman as the embodiment of virtue and truth, and the representative of the Saviour. Its ancient popularity appears from the large number of MS. copies still extant, most of them belonging to the latter part of the 14th century.
It was a favorite of religious and political reformers, and several imitations of it appeared, the most important of which was " Piers Ploughman's Crede," written about 1393 by some Wycliffite, assailing the clergy, and especially the monks. In 1550 the " Vision of Piers Ploughman " was printed by the reformers, and so favorably received that three editions were sold within a year; and the name of the ploughman is often introduced in the political tracts of the 16th and 17th centuries. This poem is a remarkable example of a system of verse derived from the Anglo-Saxons, and marked by a regular alliteration instead of rhyme. There are two classes of manuscripts, which give the text with considerable variations. The best edition both of the " Vision " and the "Creed" is that of Thomas Wright (2d ed., 2 vols., London, 1856), with notes, a glossary,and variations.