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No Muse's aid me needs hereto to call;
Base is the style, and matter mean withal.
, “Whilom" (said she) “ before the world was civil, The Fox and the Ape, disliking of their evil And hard estate, determined to seek Their fortunes far abroad, like with his like; For both were crafty and unhappy-witted; Two fellows might nowhere be better fitted.
“The Fox, that first this cause of grief did find, 'Gan first thus plain his case with words unkind.
Neighbour Ape, and my gossip eke beside,
(Both two sure bands in friendship to be tied)
To whom may I more trustily complain
The evil plight that doth me sore constrain,
And hope thereof to find due remedy?
Hlear then my pain and inward agony.
Thus many years I now have spent and worn
In mean regard and basest fortune's scorn,
Doing my country service as I might -
No less, I dare say, than the proudest wight;
And still I hoped to be up advanced
For my good parts, but still it hath mischanced.
Now therefore that no longer hope I see,
But froward fortune still to follow me,
And losels lifted high where I did look,
I mean to turn the next leaf of the book;
Vet, ere that any way I do betake,
I mean my gossip privy first to make.'
**Ah! my dear gossip (answered then the Ape)
Deeply do your sad words my wits awhape,
Both for because your grief doth great appear,
Amiche because myself am touched near;
For I likewise have wasted much good time,
Still waiting to preferment up to climb,
While others always have betore me stepped,
And then my hand the fat away have swept,
That now unto de um l 'gin to grow,
And man for bitter wind about to throw;
Therediwr to me, my trusty friend, aread
Thy counsch: two is better than one head."
Hestes and he I mean me to disguise Tu sme strane hadi alter uncuth wise,
Ne was it so by institution
Ordainèd 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 they be free,
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 the 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 Soldïer, 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 aught 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 preparedFor 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-maimèd 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,
Ve 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,