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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.

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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 failèd 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 reproachful 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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And to read homilies on holy-days;
When that was done, he might attend his plays :
An easy life, and fit high God to please.
He, having over-looked their pass at ease,
'Gan at the length them to rebuke again,
That no good trade of life did entertain,
But lost their time in wandering loose abroad, -
Seeing the world, in which they bootless bode,
Had ways enow for all therein to live,
Such grace did God unto his creatures give.

“Said then the Fox, Who hath the world not tried
From the right way full eath may wander wide.
We are but novices new come abroad;
We have not yet the tract of any trod,
Nor on us taken any state of life,
But ready are of any to make prief.
Therefore might please you, which the world have proved,
Us to devise, which forth but lately moved,
Of some good course that we might undertake,
Ye shall for ever us your bondmen make.'

“The priest 'gan wex half proud to be so prayed,
And thereby willing to afford them aid.
It seems' (said he) 'right well that ye be clerks,
Both by your witty words and by your works.
Is not that name enough to make a living
To him that hath a whit of Nature's giving ?
How many honest men see ye arise
Daily thereby, and grow to goodly prize-
To deans, to archdeacons, to commissaries,
To lords, to principals, to prebendaries !
All jolly prelates, worthy rule to bear,
Whoever them envỳ ; yet spite bites near.
Why should ye doubt then but that ye

Might unto some of those in time arise ?
In the meantime to live in good estate,
Loving that love, and hating those that hate,
Being some honest curate or some vicar,
Content with little in condition sicker.'

“Ah! but' (said the Ape) 'the charge is wondrous great To feed men's souls, and hath an heavy threat.'

""To feed men's souls' (quoth he) is not in man,
For they must feed themselves, do what we can ;
We are but charged to lay the meat before;
Eat they that list, we need to do no more.
But God it is that feeds them with his grace,
The bread of life poured down from heavenly place
Therefore said he that with the budding rod
Did rule the Jews, 'All shall be taught of God.'
That same hath Jesus Christ now to him raught,
By whom the flock is rightly fed and taught;


He is the Shepherd, and the Priest is he;
We but his shepherd swains ordained to be.
Therefore herewith do not yourself dismay ;
Ne is the pains so great but bear ye may ;
For not so great as it was wont of yore
It's nowadays, ne half so strait and sore.
They whilom used duly every day
Their service and their holy things to say
At morn and even, besides their anthems sweet,
Their penny masses, and their complynes meet,
Their dirges, and their trentals, and their shrifts,
Their memories, their singings, and their gifts.
Now all these needless works are laid away;
Now once a week, upon the sabbath-day,
It is enough to do our small devotion,
And then to follow any merry motion.
Ne are we tied to fast but when we list,
Ne to wear garments base, of woollen twist,
But with the finest silks us to array,
That before God we may appear more gay,
Resembling Aaron's glory in his place.
For far unfit it is that persons base
Should with vile clothes approach God's majesty,
Whom no uncleanness may approachen nigh ;-
Or that all men which any master serve
Good garments for their service should deserve;
But he that serves the Lord of Hosts most high,
And that in highest place to approach him nigh,
And all the people's prayers to present
Before his throne, as on ambassage sent
Both to and fro, should not deserve to wear
A garment better than of wool or hair.
Beside, we may have lying by our sides
Our lovely lasses, or bright-shining brides:
We be not tied to wilful chastity,
But have the gospel of free liberty.'

* By that he ended had his ghostly sermon,
The Fox was well induced to be a parson,
And of the priest eftsoons 'gan to enquire
How to a benefice he might aspire.

Marry, there' (said the priest) 'is art indeed ;
Much good deep learning one thereout may rede:
For that the groundwork is and end of all,
How to obtain a beneficial.
First, therefore, when ye have in handsome wise
Yourselves attirèd, as you can devise,
Then to some noble man yourself apply,
Or other great one in the worlde's eye,
That hath a zealous disposition
To God, and so to his religion.


There must thou fashion eke a goodly zeal,
Such as no carpers may contrayr reveal,
For each thing feigned ought more wary be.
There thou must walk in sober gravity,
And seem as saint-like as Saint Radegund;
Fast much, pray oft, look lowly on the ground,
And unto every one do court'sy meek.
These looks (nought saying) do a benefice seek;
And be thou sure one not to lack ere long.
But if thee list unto the Court to throng,
And there to hunt after the hoped prey,
Then must thou thee dispose another way;
For there thou needs must learn to laugh, to lie,
To face, to forge, to scoff, to company,
To crouch, to please, to be a beeile-stock
Of thy great master's will, to scorn, to mock.
So mayst thou chance mock out a benefice,
Unless thou canst one conjure by device,
Or cast a figure for a bishopric;
And, if one could, it were but a school-trick.
These be the ways by which without reward
Livings in courts be gotten, though full hard;
For nothing there is done without a fee.
The courtier needs must recompensèd be
With a benevolence, or have in gage
The primitias of your parsonage:
Scarce can a bishopric forpass them by,
But that it must be gelt in privity.
Do not thou, therefore, seek a living there,
But of more private persons seek elsewhere
Whereas thou mayst compound a better penny ;
Ne let thy learning questioned be of any :
For some good gentleman that hath the right
Unto his church for to present a wight
Will cope with thee in reasonable wise,
That if the living yearly do arise
To forty pound, that then his youngest son
Shall twenty have, and twenty thou hast won.
Thou hast it won, for it is of frank gift,
And he will care for all the rest to shift,
Both that the bishop may admit of thee,
And that therein thou mayst maintained be.
This is the way for one that is unlearned
Living to get, and not to be discerned.
But they that are great clerks have nearer ways,
For learning-sake to living them to raise :
Yet many eke of them (God wot) are driven
To accept a benefice in pieces riven.
How sayst thou, friend, have I not well discoursed
Upon this common-place,-though plain, not worst?

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