That would be very interesting and extremely relevant Jason I’d also be interested to find out when she was given honorific stauts in the Catholic and Anglican calendars.
This is the conjectured date for the writing of the first text – Text A – of the Christian Dream Vision allegory ‘Piers Plowman’ (the author revised the original twice and these revisions are known as Text B and Text C). The text B and text C versions contain clear statements of hopeful universalism. The conjectured author of this poem is William Langland (ca. 1332 – ca. 1386). We know very little about him, but the sophisticated level of religious knowledge in the poem indicates that he had some connection to the clergy, and was possibly an itinerant hermit. The tradition that Langland was a Lollard, promoted by Robert Crowley’s 1550 edition of Piers and by early Lollard appropriation of the Plowman-figure, is false. Langland and Wycliffe shared many concerns: both question the value of indulgences and pilgrimage, promote the use of the vernacular in preaching, and attack clerical corruption. But these topics were widely discussed throughout the late fourteenth century anyway, Langland certainly does not echo Wycliffe’s teachings about the sacraments.
Passus 18 of the B text (and 20 of the C text) concludes with Will waking to the ringing of Easter Bells after witnessing in dream vision the events of Holy Week culminating in a debate between the four daughters of God – Mercy, Justice, Truth and Peace. Justice and truth argue for everlasting punishment of sin, while Mercy and Peace argue for forgiveness and restoration. Christ intervenes to harrow hell saying –
Then I shall come as a king, crowned with angels
And have all men’s souls out of hell
Demons great and small shall stand before me
And be at my bidding where I will
My kinship demands that I have mercy
On man , for we are all brethren
In blood, if not in baptism
My righteousness and right shall rule
In hell, and mercy over all mankind before me
In heaven. I were an unkind king
If I did not help my kin.
(Piers Plowman, Passus 18.399)Through the incarnation, all mankind is kin of Christ the King, and this verse emphasizes that Christ is bound by the bonds of kinship to save all of his kin – all of mankind - from the flames of hell. Langland here is drawing on the old Anglo-Saxon views on kinship and its bonds(found for instance in the pagan poem ‘Beowulf’) which held on quite long among the English. However, Langland extends kinship to all mankind, something the older, tribal-based Anglo-Saxons wouldn’t have done, and he does this through his inclusive doctrine of Incarnation. Langland’s egalitarian notions of kingship are very different from the hierarchical Norman French notions found in Anselm’s eleventh century ‘Cur Deus Homo’ – where God’s kingly honour, because God is infinite, is infinitely offended by our sin.
It has to be said that this passage conflicts with more pessimistic passages elsewhere in the poem including one – Truth’s pardon – that echoes the Athanasian Creed’s ;those who do evil will go into the everlasting fire’ (A Passus 8.96, B Passus 7 110B, C Passus 9. 287)… However, in the Harrowing of Hell scene it is important that the words of ultimate hope are placed on the lips of Christ – although it seems that Langland was still troubled by this hope as if the Daughters of God within him were still at loggerheads.
Piers Plowman was widely circulated in the fourteenth century (fifty two known manuscripts are extant). With Crowley’s printed edition of 1550 it reached a wide readership (although I will have to check and see how Crowley glosses the Universalist passages someday). If there is an inspirational link between the first flourishing of hopeful universalism in fourteenth century and the radical Universalists of the sixteenth century, ‘Piers Plowman’ is it.