First impressions of mediaeval life are usually coloured by the courtly romances of Malory and his later refiners. Chaucer brings us down to reality, but his people belong to a prosperous middle-class world, on holiday and in holiday mood. Piers Plowman stands alone as a revelation of the ignorance and misery of the lower classes, whose multiplied grievances came to a head in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.
In recent centuries the only near spiritual relative of Tolstoy is the English poet, who in the fourteenth century, in the form of Piers Plowman, preached religious ideas so strikingly like those of Tolstoy. They are both individualists and they seek individual, not social, regeneration. ...Both point to the simple toiling God-fearing peasant as one expressing the ideal of the Christian life and service.