be free,

Ne was it so by institution
Ordained first, ne by the law of Nature,
But that she gave like blessing to each creature,
As well of worldly livelode as of life,
That there might be no difference nor strife,
Nor aught called mine or thine. Thrice happy then
Was the condition of mortal men.
That was the Golden Age of Saturn old,
But this might better be the World of Gold;
For without gold now nothing will be got.
Therefore (if please you) this shall be our plot;
We will not be of any occupation.
Let such vile vassals, born to base vocation,
Drudge in the world, and for their living droyl,
Which have no wit to live withouten toil;
But we will walk about the world at pleasure,
Like two free-men, and make our ease our treasure.
Free-men some 'beggars' call; but
And they which call them so more beggars be:
For they do swink and sweat to feed the other,
Who live like lords of that which they do gather,
And yet do never thank them for the same,
But as their due by Nature do it claim.
Such will we fashion both ourselves to be,
Lords of the world, and so will wander free
Whereso us listeth, uncontrolled of any.
Hard is our hap if we (amongst so many)
Light not on some that may our state amend ;
Sildom but some good cometh ere the end.'

“Well seemed the Ape to like this ordinance;
Yet, well considering of the circumstance,
As pausing in great doubt awhile he stayed,
And afterwards with grave advisement said ;-
'I cannot, my lief brother, like but well
The purpose of the complot which ye tell;
For well I wot (compared to all the rest
Of each degree) that beggars' life is best,
And they that think themselves the best of all
Oft-times to begging are content to fall.
But this I wot withal, that we shall run
Into great danger, like to be undone,
Wildly to wander thus in the world's eye,
Withouten passport or good warranty;
For fear lest we like rogues should be reputed,
And for ear-marked beasts abroad be bruited.
Therefore I rede that we our counsels call
How to prevent this mischief ere it fall,
And how we may with most security
Beg amongst those that beggars do defy.'

Right well, dear gossip, ye advised have, (Said then the Fox), but I this doubt will save;

For, ere we farther pass, I will devise
A passport for us both in fittest wise,
And by the names of soldiers thus protect,
That now is thought a civil begging sect.
Be you the soldier, for you likest are
For manly semblance and small skill in war;
I will but wait on you, and, as occasion
Falls out, myself fit for the same will fashion.'

“ The passport ended, both they forward went,
The Ape clad soldier -like, fit for the intent,
In a blue jacket, with a cross of red,
And many slits, as if that he had shed
Much blood through many wounds therein received,
Which had the use of his right arm bereaved.
Upon his head an old Scotch cap he wore,
With a plume feather all to pieces tore;
His breeches were made after the new cut;
Al Portugese, loose like an empty gut,
And his hose broken high above the heeling,
And his shoes beaten out with travelling.
But neither sword nor dagger he did bear;
Seems that no foe's revengement he did fear :
Instead of them a handsome bat he held,
On which he leaned, as one far in eld.
Shame light on him that through so false illusion
Doth turn the name of soldiers to abusion,
And that which is the noblest mystery
Brings to reproach and common infamy !

Long they thus travelled, yet never met
Adventure which might them a-working set ;
Yet many ways they sought, and many tried,
Yet for their purposes none fit espied.
At last they chanced to meet upon


way A simple husbandman in garments grey ; Yet, though his vesture were but mean and base, A good yeoman he was, of honest place, And more for thrift did care than for gay clothing : Gay without good is good heart's greatest loathing. The Fox, him spying, bade the Ape him dight To play his part, for lo he was in sight That (if he erred not) should them entertain, And yield them timely profit for their pain. Eftsoons the Ape himself 'gan to uprear, And on his shoulders high his bat to bear, As if good service he were fit to do, But little thrift for him he did it to; And stoutly forward he his steps did strain,

That like a handsome swain it him became.1 1 I feel greatly tempted to set the rhyming here correct by writing

That it became him like a handsome swain.

“ Whenas they nigh approached, that good man, Seeing them wander loosely, first began To enquire, of custom, what and whence they were. To whom the Ape ; ' I am a Soldier, That late in war have spent my dearest blood, And in long service lost both limbs and good ; And, now constrained that trade to over-give, I driven am to seek some means to live ; Which might it you in pity please to afford, I would be ready both in deed and word To do you faithful service all my days. This iron world' (that same he weeping says) 'Brings down the stoutest hearts to lowest state; For misery doth bravest minds abate, And make them seek for that they wont to scorn, Of fortune and of hope at once forlorn.'

“The honest man, that heard him thus complain,
Was grieved, as he had felt part of his pain,
And, well disposed him some relief to show,
Asked if in husbandry he aug

did know;
To plough, to plant, to reap, to rake, to sow,
To hedge, to ditch, to thresh, to thatch, to mow,
Or to what labour else he was prepared
For husband's life is laborous and hard.

“Whenas the Ape him heard so much to talk
Of labour, that did from his liking baulk,
He would have slipped the collar handsomely,
And to him said : 'Good Sir ! full glad am I
To take what pains may any living wight;
But my late-maimed limbs lack wonted might
To do their kindly services as needeth.
Scarce this right hand the mouth with diet feedeth,
So that it may no painful work endure,
Ne to strong labour can itself inure.
But, if that any other place you have,
Which asks small pains, but thriftiness to save,
Or care to overlook, or thrust to gather,
Ye may me trust as your own ghostly father.'

“With that the husbandman 'gan him avise
That it for him was fittest exercise
Cattle to keep, or grounds to oversee ;
And asked him if he could willing be
To keep his sheep, or to attend his swine,
Or watch his mares, or take his charge of kine.

“Gladly' (said he) 'whatever such-like pain
Ye put on me, I will the same sustain.
But gladliest I of your fleecy sheep
(Might it you please) would take on me to keep ;
For, ere that unto arms I me betook,
Unto my father's sheep I used to look,

That yet the skill thereof I have not lost.
Thereto right well this curdog, by my cost,'
(Meaning the Fox) 'will serve my sheep to gather,
And drive to follow after their bellwether.'

“ The husbandman was meanly well content
Trial to make of his endeavourment ;
And, home him leading, lent to him the charge
Of all his flock, with liberty full large,
Giving account of the annual increase
Both of their lambs and of their woolly fleece.

“Thus is this Ape become a shepherd swain,
And the false Fox his dog. God give them pain !
For, ere the year have half his course outrun,
And do return from whence he first begun,
They shall him make an ill account of thrift.

Now whenas Time, flying with winges swift,
Expired had the term that these two javels
Should render up a reckoning of their travails
Unto their master, which it of them sought,
Exceedingly they troubled were in thought, -
Ne wist what answer unto him to frame,
Ne how to escape great punishment or shame
For their false treason and vile thievery ;
For not a lamb of all their flock's supply
Had they to show, but ever as they bred
They slew them, and upon their fleshes fed ;
For that disguised dog loved blood to spill,
And drew the wicked shepherd to his will.
So 'twixt them both they not a lambkin left,
And, when lambs failed, the old sheep's lives they reft ;
That how to acquit themselves unto their lord
They were in doubt, and flatly set aboard.
The Fox then counselled the Ape for to require
Respite till morrow to answer his desire ;
For time's delay new hope of help still breeds.
The good man granted, doubting nought their deeds,
And bade next day that all should ready be.
But they more subtle meaning had than he ;
For the next morrow's meed they closely meant,
For fear of afterclaps, for to prevent.
And that same evening, when all shrouded were
In careless sleep, they without care or fear
Cruelly fell upon their flock in fold,
And of them slew at pleasure what they wold ;
Of which whenas they feasted had their fill,
For a full complement of all their ill,
They stole away, and took their hasty flight,
Carried in clouds of all-concealing night.
So was the husbandman left to his loss,
And they unto their fortune's change to toss.

After which sort they wandered long while,
Abusing many through their cloaked guile, —
That at the last they'gan to be descried
Of every one, and all their sleights espied,
So as their begging now them failed quite,
For none would give, but all men would them wite.
Yet would they take no pains to get their living,
But seek some other way to gain by giving ;
Much like to begging, but much better named,
For many beg which are thereof ashamed.

“ And now the Fox had gotten him a gown,
And the Ape a cassock sidelong hanging down ;
For they their occupation meant to change,
And now in other state abroad to range ;
For, since their soldier's pass no better sped,
They forged another, as for clerks book-red :
Who passing forth, as their adventures fell,
Through many haps which needs not here to tell,
At length chanced with a formal priest to meet,
Whom they in civil manner first did greet,
And after asked an alms for God's dear love.
The man straightway his choler up did move,
And with reproachfúl terms 'gan them revile
For following that trade so base and vile,
And asked what licence or what pass they had.

"« « Ah !' (said the Ape, as sighing wondrous sad) 'It's an hard case when men of good deserving Must either driven be perforce to sterving, Or asked for their pass by every squib That list at will them to revile or snib; And yet (God wot) small odds I often see 'Twixt them that ask and them that asked be. Nathless, because you shall not us misdeem, But that we are as honest as we seem, Ye shall our passport at your pleasure see, And then ye will (I hope) well moved be.'

“ Which when the priest beheld, he viewed it near, As if therein some text he studying were ; But little else (God wot) could thereof skill, For read he could not evidence nor will, Ne tell a written word, ne write a letter, Ne make one tittle worse, ne make one better. Of such deep learning little had he need, Ne yet of Latin, ne of Greek, that breed Doubts 'mongst divines, and difference of texts, From whence arise diversity of sects, And hateful heresies, of God abhorred. But this good Sir did follow the plain word, Ne meddled with their controversies vain ; All his care was his service well to fain,

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