Shakespeare Jest-Books; - Reprints of the Early and Very Rare Jest-Books Supposed - to Have Been Used by Shakespeare
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Old English Jest-Book.


Shakespeare Jest-Books;




Mery Tales and Quicke Answeres, FROM THE RARE EDITION OF 1567.

Edited, with Introduction and Notes.




——That I was disdainful,—and that I had my good wit out of the Hundred Merry Tales.

BEATRICE, in Much Ado about Nothing.



+ A C. mery


The Table.


+ Of him that said there were but two commandementes. i. 11

+ Of the wyfe who lay with her prentys and caused him to beate her husbande disguised in her rayment. ii 12

+ Of John Adroyns in the dyuyls apparell. iii. 14

+ Of the Ryche man and his two sonnes. iv. 18

+ Of the Cockolde who gained a Ring by his iudgment. v. 19

+ Of the scoler that gave his shoes to cloute. vi. 20

+ Of him that said that a womans tongue was lightest of digestion. vii. ib.

+ Of the Woman that followed her fourth husbands bere and wept. viii. 21

+ Of the Woman that sayd her woer came to late. ix. 22

+ Of the Mylner with the golden thombe. x. 23

+ Of the horseman of Irelande that prayde Oconer for to hange up the frere. xi. ib.

+ Of the preest that sayd nother Corpus meus nor Corpum meum. xii. 26

+ Of the two freres whereof the one loued nat the ele heed nor the other the tayle. xiii. 27

+ Of the welche man that shroue hym for brekynge of hys faste on the fryday. xiv. 28

+ Of the merchaunte of London that dyd put nobles in his mouthe in hys dethe bedde. xv. 30

+ Of the mylner that stale the nuttes of the tayler that stale a shepe. xvi. 31

+ Of the foure elementes where they should sone be founde. xvii. 36

+ Of the woman that poured the potage in the iudges male. xviii. 37

+ Of the wedded men that came to heuen to clayme theyr herytage. xix. 39

+ Of the merchaunte that charged his sonne to fynde one to synge for hys soule. xx. 40

+ Of the mayde wasshynge clothes that answered the frere. xxi. 42

+ Of the thre wyse men of Gotam. xxii. ib.

+ Of the graye frere that answered his penytente. xxiii. 43

+ Of the gentylman that bare the sege borde on hys necke. xxiv. 44

+ Of the merchantes wyfe that sayd she wolde take a nap at a sermon. xxv. 47

+ Of the woman that said and she lyued another yere she wolde haue a cockoldes hatte of her owne. xxvi. 48

+ Of the gentylman that wysshed his tothe in the gentylwomans tayle. xxvii. ib.

+ Of the Welcheman that confessyd hym howe he had slayne a frere. xxviii. 49

+ Of the Welcheman that coude nat gette but a lytell male. xxix. 50

+ Of the gentyll woman that sayde to a gentyll man ye haue a berde aboue and none benethe. xxx. 51

+ Of the frere that sayde our Lorde fed fyue M. people with iii fysshys. xxxi. 52

+ Of the frankelyn that wold haue had the frere gone. xxxii. 53

+ Of the prest that sayd Our Lady was not so curyous a woman. xxxiii. 54

+ Of the good man that sayde to his wyfe he had euyll fare. xxxiv. 55

+ Of the frere that bad his childe make a laten. xxxv. ib.

+ Of the gentylman that asked the frere for his beuer. xxxvi. 56

+ Of the thre men that chose the woman. xxxvii. ib.

+ Of the gentylman that taught his cooke the medycyne for the tothake. xxxviii. 58

+ Of the gentylman that promysed the scoler of Oxford a sarcenet typet. xxxix. 60

+ Of mayster Skelton that broughte the bysshop of Norwiche ii fesauntys. xl. 62

+ Of the yeman of garde that sayd he wolde bete the carter. xli. 65

+ Of the fole that saide he had leuer go to hell than to heuen. xlii. 66

+ Of the plowmannys sonne that sayde he sawe one to make a gose to creke swetely. xliii. 67

+ Of the maydes answere that was wyth chylde. xliv. ib.

+ Of the seruaunt that rymyd with hys mayster. xlv. 68

+ Of the Welcheman that delyuered the letter to the ape. xlvi. 69

+ Of hym that solde ryght nought. xlvii. 71

+ Of the frere that tolde the thre chyldres fortunes. xlviii. 72

+ Of the boy that bare the frere his masters money. xlix. 74

+ Of Phylyp Spencer the bochers man. l. 75

+ Of the courtear and the carter. li. 76

+ Of the yong man that prayd his felow to teche hym hys paternoster. lii. 77

+ Of the frere that prechyd in ryme expownynge the ave maria. liii. 78

+ Of the curat that prechyd the Artycles of the Crede. liv. 80

+ Of the frere that prechyd the x commaundementis. lv. 82

+ Of the wyfe that bad her husbande ete the candell fyrste. lvi. 84

+ Of the man of lawes sonnes answer. lvii. ib.

+ Of the frere in the pulpet that bad the woman leve her babelynge. lviii. 85

+ Of the Welcheman that cast the Scotte into the see. lix. 86

+ Of the man that had the dome wyfe. lx. 87

+ Of the Proctour of Arches that had the lytel wyfe. lxi. 89

+ Of ii nonnes that were shryuen of one preste. lxii. ib.

+ Of the esquyer that sholde haue ben made knight. lxiii. 91

+ Of hym that wolde gette the maystrye of his wyfe. lxiv. . 92

+ Of the penytent that sayd the shepe of God haue mercy vpon me. lxv. 93

+ Of the husbande that sayd he was John daw. lxvi. 94

+ Of the scoler of Oxforde that proued by souestry ii chykens iii. lxvii. 95

+ Of the frere that stale the podynge. lxviii. 97

+ Of the frankelyns sonne that cam to take orders. lxix. 98

+ Of the husbandman that lodgyd the frere in his own bede. lxx. 99

+ Of the preste that wolde say two gospels for a grote. lxxi. 100

+ Of the coutear that dyd cast the frere ouer the bote. lxxii. 101

+ Of the frere that prechyd what mennys sowles were. lxxiii. ib.

+ Of the husbande that cryed ble vnder the bed. lxxiv. 102

+ Of the shomaker that asked the colyer what tydynges in hell. lxxv. 103

+ Of Seynt Peter that cryed cause bobe. lxxvi. 104

+ Of hym that aduenturyd body and soule for hys prynce. lxxvii. 105

+ Of the parson that stale the mylners elys. lxxviii. 106

+ Of the Welchman that saw one xl's better than God. lxxix. ib.

+ Of the frere that said dyryge for the hoggys soule. lxxx. ib.

+ Of the parson that sayde masse of requiem for Crystes soule. lxxxi. 108

+ Of the herdeman that sayde: ryde apace, ye shall haue rayn. lxxxii. 109

+ Of hym that sayde: I shall haue neuer a peny. lxxxiii. 110

+ Of the husbande that sayde his wyfe and he agreed well. lxxxiv. 111

+ Of the prest that sayde Comede episcope. lxxxv. ib.

+ Of the woman that stale the pot. lxxxvi. . 112

+ Of mayster Whyttyntons dreme. lxxxvii. . 113

+ Of the prest that killed his horse called modicus. lxxxviii. 114

+ Of the Welcheman that stale the Englysshmans cocke. lxxxix. 115

+ Of hym that brought a botell to a preste. xc. ib.

+ Of the endytement of Jesu of Nazareth. xci. 116

+ Of the frere that preched agaynst them that rode on the Sonday. xcii. 117

+ Of the one broder that founde a purs. xciii. 118

+ Of the answere of the mastres to the mayde. xciv. 119

+ Of the northern man that was all harte. xcv. ib.

+ Of the burnynge of olde John. xcvi. ib.

+ Of the courtear that ete the hot custarde. xcvii. 121

+ Of the thre pointes belonging to a shrewd wyfe. xcix. 122

+ Of the man that paynted the lamb upon his wyfes bely. c. 123


When a small impression of these quaint old books issued from the Chiswick Press, many years ago, under the auspices of the late Mr. S. W. Singer, that gentleman merely designed the copies struck off for presentation to a select circle of literary friends who, like himself, felt a warm interest in every relic of the past which helped to illustrate Shakespeare and ancient English manners. He did not consequently feel under the necessity of furnishing notes, and he preserved not only the old orthography, but the old punctuation, and the most palpable errors of the press. His edition unfortunately laboured under one disadvantage: when he printed, in 1814, the Mery Tales and Quick Answers from Berthelet's edition, he imagined that this was the book to which Beatrice is made to allude in Much Ado About Nothing, and under this idea he christened the volume Shakespeare's Jest Book. He also thought he was safe in assuming that the edition by Berthelet was the only one extant. But Mr. Singer discovered, before his undertaking was a year old, that he had come to an erroneous conclusion on both these points: for an impression of the Mery Tales, &c. printed by Henry Wykes in 1567, and containing, with all the old matter, twenty-six additional stories, was brought under his notice, and about the same time a totally unknown work, bearing the very title mentioned by Beatrice, was accidentally rescued from oblivion by the Rev. J. J. Conybeare, who, it is said by Dunlop, picked up the treasure at a bookstall. This was no other than A C. MERY TALYS.

The copy of C. Mery Talys thus casually brought to light, had been used by a binder of or about the time of its appearance as pasteboard to another book, and it was in this state when it fell in the way of Mr. Conybeare. As might have been expected, many of the leaves were damaged and mutilated; but (which rendered the matter still more curious) it happily chanced that more than one copy had been employed by the aforesaid binder in fashioning the aforesaid pasteboard, and the consequence was that a much larger fragment than would have been otherwise saved was formed by means of duplicate leaves. Still several gaps in the text remained, which it was found impossible to fill up, and as no other copy has since occurred, no better means exist now than existed fifty years ago of supplying the deficiencies. Where the hiatus consisted of a word or two only, and the missing portion could be furnished by conjecture, Mr. Singer took the liberty of adding what seemed to be wanting, in italics; his interpolations have been left as they stood. The old orthography and language, besides the charm of quaintness, appeared to the editor to possess a certain philological value, and he has rigidly adhered to it. In respect to the punctuation, the case was different; there were no reasons of any kind for its retention; it was very imperfect and capricious; and it has therefore been modernized throughout.

The C. Mery Talys, of which the copy above described has a fair pretention to the distinction of uniqueness, were first printed by John Rastell, without date but circa 1525, in folio, 24 leaves. Whether Rastell printed more than one edition is an open question. The book was not reprinted, so far as we know at present, till 1558, when John Walley or Waley paid two shillings to the Stationers' Company for his licence to produce this and other pieces. Walley reprinted a great number of books which had originally come from the press of Wynkyn de Worde and other early masters of the art, but it is not very likely that the C. Mery Talys made their appearance prior to 1525, and there is room to doubt whether even then the severe reflections on the scandalous lives of the Roman Catholic priesthood were not slightly premature. The almost total destruction of copies may be, after all, due, not to the excessive popularity of the publication, but to its early suppression by authority or otherwise. After the triumph of the Reformation, and until the death of Edward VI. however, although these tales still remained as unpalatable as ever to a certain party, there was nothing to hinder their circulation, and that there were intermediate impressions between that from Rastell's press, and the one licensed to Walley,[1] if not printed by him, is not at all improbable. The C. Mery Talys were subsequently and successively the property of Sampson Awdley and John Charlwood, to the latter of whom they were licensed on the 15th January, 1582. All trace of editions by Walley, Awdley, or Charlwood, has disappeared, although doubtless all three printed the work.

Of the MERY TALES AND QUICKE ANSWERES, which forms the second portion of the present volume, only two impressions are known. One of these, supposed to be the original, was printed by Thomas Berthelet, without date (about 1535), in 4to.; it contains 114 anecdotes. The other, from the press of Henry Wykes, bears the date 1567, and is in the duodecimo form; it produces with tolerable exactness the text of Berthelet, and has twenty-six new stories. Besides these, at least one other impression formerly existed: for, in 1576-7, Henry Bynneman paid to the Stationers' Company fourpence "and a copie" for "a booke entituled mery tales, wittye questions, and quycke answers."[2] No copy of Bynneman's edition has hitherto been discovered; a copy of that of 1567 was in the Harleian library. At the sale of the White-Knights collection in 1819, Mr. George Daniel of Canonbury gave nineteen guineas for the exemplar of Berthelet's undated 4to, which had previously been in the Roxburghe library, and which at the dispersion of the latter in 1812, had fetched the moderate sum of 5l. 15s. 6d.

The reader who is conversant with this class of literature will easily recognise in the following pages many stories familiar to him either in the same, or in very slightly different, shapes; a few, which form part of the Mery Tales and Quick Answers, were included in a collection published many years since under the title of Tales of the Minstrels. No. 42 of the Mery Tales and Quick Answers was perhaps at one time rather popular as a theme for a joke. There is an Elizabethan ballad commencing, "ty the mare, tom-boy, ty the mare," by William Keth, which the editor thought, before he had had an opportunity of examining it, might be on the same subject; but he finds that it has nothing whatever to do with the matter.[3] It may also be noticed that the story related of the king who, to revenge himself on God, forbade His name to be mentioned, or His worship to be celebrated throughout his dominions, is said by Montaigne, in one of his essays, to have been current in his part of France, when he was a boy. The king was Alfonso xi of Castile. No. 68 of A C. Mery Talys, "Of the Friar that stole the Pudding," is merely an abridgment of the same story, which occurs in Tarltons Newes out of Purgatorie, where it is told of the "Vickar of Bergamo." Many of the jests in these two pamphlets are also to be found in Scoggins Jests, licensed in 1565; a few occur in the Philosopher's Banquet, 1614; and one—that where the lady ties a string to her toe as a signal to her lover—is repeated at greater length in the "Cobler of Canterbury," edit. 1608, where it is called "the old wives' tale." It would be a curious point to ascertain whether the anecdotes common to these collections and to "Scoggin's Jests," do not refer to the same person; and whether Scoggin is not in fact the hero of many of the pranks attributed to the "Scholar of Oxford," the "Youngman," the "Gentleman," &c. in the following pages, which were in existence many years before the first publication of Scoggins Jests. It will hardly be contested at the present day, that "books of the people,"[4] like these now reprinted, with all their occasional coarseness and frequent dulness, are of extreme and peculiar value, as illustrations of early manners and habits of thought.

The editor has ventured to make certain emendations of the text, where they were absolutely necessary to make it intelligible; but these are always carefully noted at the foot of the page where they occur. A word or two, here and there, has been introduced between brackets to complete the sense; and a few notes have been given, since it was thought desirable to point out where a tale was common to several collections in various shapes or in the same shape, to indicate the source from which it was derived, and to elucidate obscure phrases or passages. But he has refrained from overloading the book with comment, from a feeling that, in the majority of cases, the class of readers, to which a publication such as this addresses itself, are fully as competent to clear up any apparent difficulties which may fall in their way, as himself.

The allusions to the C. Mery Talys and to its companion in old writers are sufficiently numerous.[5]

Bathe, in his Introduction to the Art of Musick, 1584, says: "But for the worthiness I thought it not to be doubted, seeing here are set forth a booke of a hundred mery tales, another of the bataile between the spider and the flie, &c." A few years later, Sir John Harington, in his Apologie(for the Metamorphosis of Ajax) 1596, writes: "Ralph Horsey, Knight, the best housekeeper in Dorsetshire, a good freeholder, a deputie Lieutenant. Oh, sir, you keep hauks and houndes, and hunting horses: it may be som madde fellowe will say, you must stand up to the chinne, for spending five hundred poundes, to catch hares, and Partridges, that might be taken for five poundes." Then comes this note in the margin: "according to the tale in the hundred Mery Tales." It is No. 57. In the Epilogue to the play of Wily Beguild, printed in 1606, but written during the reign of Elizabeth, there is a passage in which the C. Mery Talys are coupled with Scoggins Jests, and in his Wonderful yeare, 1603, Decker says: "I could fill a large volume, and call it the second part of the Hundred Merry Tales, only with such ridiculous stuff as this of the justice." From this extract, first quoted by Mr. Collier in his valuable History of the Drama, and from the manner in which Shakespeare, through the mouth of Beatrice, speaks of the Mery Talys, it is to be gathered that neither writer held this book of jests in very high estimation; and, as no vestiges are traceable of an edition of the work subsequent to 1582, it is possible that about that time the title had grown too stale to please the less educated reader, and the work had fallen into disrepute in higher quarters. The stories themselves, in some shape or other, however, have been reproduced in every jest-book from the reign of Elizabeth to the Restoration, while many of them multiply themselves even to the present day in the form of chap books.

A C. Mery Talys was one of the popular tracts described by the pedantic Laneham, in his Letter from Kenilworth, 1575, as being in the Library of Captain Cox, of Coventry.[6]


[1] Walley obtained his licence or the C. Mery Talys in 1557-8, during the reign of Mary, perhaps in anticipation of a change in the government, and in order to forestall other stationers. If Walley printed the Tales, it is most likely that he waited, till Elizabeth came to the throne.

[2] Collier's Extracts from the Reg. Stat. Co. ii. 25.

[3] An abridgment of this ballad was published in Ritson's Ancient Songs and Ballads, 1829, ii. 31. But see the Townley Catalogue, No. 358.

[4] The elder Disraeli has a chapter on this subject in his Amenities of Literature.

[5] For some of these notices I am indebted to Mr. Singer; others I have added myself from the various sources.

[6] In Act v. Sc. iii of Fletcher's Nice Valour (Dyce's B. & F. x. 361) there is mention of the Hundred Novels, alluding, not to the C. Mery Talys, but to the Decameron of Boccaccio, of which an English translation appeared in 1620-5.

A C.


+ Of hym that said there were but two commandementes. i.

+ A certayne Curate in the contrey there was that preched in the pulpet of the ten comaundementys, sayeng that there were ten commaundementes that euery man should kepe, and he that brake any of them commytted syn, howbeit he sayd, that somtyme it was dedely and somtyme venyal. But when it was dedely syn and whan venyall there were many doutes therin. + And a mylner, a yong man, a mad felow that cam seldom to chyrch and had ben at very few sermons or none in all his lyfe, answered hym than shortely this wyse: I meruayl, master person, that ye say there be so many commaundementes and so many doutes: for I neuer hard tell but of two commaundementes, that is to saye, commaunde me to you and commaunde me fro you. Nor I neuer harde tell of more doutes but twayn, that ys to say, dout the candell and dout the fyre.[7] At which answere all the people fell a laughynge.

By this tale a man may well perceyue that they, that be brought vp withoute lernynge or good maner, shall neuer be but rude and bestely, all thoughe they haue good naturall wyttes.

+ Of the wyfe who lay with her prentys and caused him to beate her husbande disguised in her rayment. ii.

+ A wyfe there was, which had apoynted her prentys to com to her bed in the nyght, which seruaunt had long woed her to haue his plesure; which acordyng to the apoyntement cam to her bed syde in the night, her husbande lyenge by her. And whan she perceyuyd him there, she caught hym by the hande and helde hym fast, and incontynent wakened her husbande, and sayde: 'syr, it is so ye haue a fals and an vntrue seruant, which is Wylliam your prentys, and hath longe woyd me to haue his pleasure; and because I coulde not auoyde his importunate request, I haue apoynted hym this nyght to mete me in the gardeyne in the herber; and yf ye wyll aray your selfe in myn aray and go theder, ye shall see the profe therof; and than ye may rebuke hym as ye thynk best by your dyscrecyon. This husbande, thus aduertysed by hys wyfe, put upon him his wyue's rayment and went to the herber; and whan he was gone thyder the prentys cam in to bed to his mastres; where for a season they were bothe content and plesyd ech other by the space of an hour or ii; but whan she thoughte tyme conuenient, she said to the prentyse: now go thy way into the herber, and mete hym and tak a good waster[8] in thy hand, and say thou dyd it but to proue whether I wold be a good woman or no; and reward him as thou thinkyst best. This prentys doyng after his mastres councell went in to the herber, where he found his master in his mastres' apparell and sayd: A! thou harlot, art thou comen hether? now I se well, if I wod be fals to my master, thou woldest be a strong hore; but I had leuer thou were hangid than I wold do him so trayterous a ded: therefor I shall gyve the som punyshment as thou lyke an hore hast deseruyd and therewith lapt him well about the sholders and back, and gaue him a dosen or ii good stripes. The master, felyng him selfe somwhat to smarte, sayde: peace, Willyam, myn own trew good seruant; for Goddis sake, holde thy handes: for I am thy mayster and not thy maystres. Nay, hore, quod he, thou knowest thou art but an harlot, and I dyd but to proue the; and smote him agayn. Hold! Hold! quod the mayster, I beseech the, no more: for I am not she: for I am thy mayster, for I haue a berde; and therwith he sparyd hys hand and felt his berd. Good mayster, quod the prentyse, I crye you mercy; and then the mayster went unto hys wyfe; and she askyd hym how he had sped. And he answeryd; I wys, wyfe, I haue been shrewdly betyn; howbeit I haue cause to be glad: for I thank God I haue as trew a wyfe and as trew a seruant as any man hath in Englonde.[9]

By thys tale ye may se that yt ys not wysdome for a man to be rulyd alway after his wyuys councell.


[7] i.e. do out. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to mention that in French, the term commander has a double signification, to command and to commend. In our language, the two words are of course distinct; hence the jest.

[8] Cudgel.

+ Of John Adroyns in the dyuyls apparell. iii.

+ It fortunyd that in a market towne in the counte of Suffolke there was a stage play, in the which play one, callyd John Adroyns which dwellyd in a nother vyllage ii myle from thens, playde the dyuyll. And when the play was done, thys John Adroyns in the euynyng departyd fro the sayde market towne to go home to hys own house. Because he had there no change of clothying, he went forth in hys dyuylls apparell, whych in the way comyng homeward cam thorow a waren of conys[10] belongyng to a gentylman of the vyllage, wher he him self dwelt. At which tyme it fortunyd a preste, a vycar of a churche therby, with ii or iii other vnthrifty felows, had brought with them a hors, a hey[11] and a feret to th'entent there to get conys; and when the feret was in the yerth, and the hey set ouer the pathway where thys John Adroyns shuld come, thys prest and hys other felows saw hym come in the dyuyls rayment. Consideryng that they were in the dyuyls seruyce and stelyng of conys and supposyng it had ben the deuyll in dede, [they] for fere, ran away. Thys John Adroyns in the dyuyls rayment, an' because[12] it was somewhat dark, saw not the hay, but went forth in hast and stomblid therat and fell doun, that with the fal he had almost broken his nek. But whan he was a lytyll reuyuyd, he lookyd up and spyed it was a hay to catch conys, and [he] lokyd further and saw that they ran away for fere of him, and saw a horse tyed to a bush laden wyth conys whych they had taken; and he toke the horse and the haye and lept upon the horse and rode to the gentylmannys place that was lorde of the waren to the entente to haue thank for takynge suche a pray. And whan he came, [he] knokyd at the gatys, to whome anone one of the gentylmanny's seruauntys askyd who was there and sodeinly openyd the gate; and assone as he percyuyd hym in the deuyls rayment, [he] was sodenly abashyd and sparryd the dore agayn, and went in to his mayster and sayd and sware to his mayster, that the dyuell was at the gate and wolde come in. The gentylman, heryng him say so, callyd another of his seruauntys and bad him go to the gate to knowe who was there. Thys seconde seruant [that] came to the gate durst not open it but askyd wyth lowd voyce who was there. Thys John Adroyns in the dyuyls aparell answeryd wyth a hye voyce and sayd: tell thy mayster I must nedys speke with hym or[13] I go. Thys seconde seruaunt heryng * *

8 lines of the original are wanting.

the deuyll indede that is at the gate syttynge vpon an horse laden with soules; and be lykelyhode he is come for your soule. Purpos ye to let him have your soule and if he had your soule I wene he shulde be gon. The gentylman, than, meruaylously abasshed, called his chaplayne and sayd: let a candell be light, and gette holy water; and [he] wente to the gate with as manye seruantes as durste go with him; where the chaplayne with muche coniuracyon sayd: in the name of the father, sonne and holy ghost, I commande and charge the in the holy name of God to tell me wherefore thou comeste hyther. + This John Adroynes in the deuylls apparell, seying them begynne to coniure after such maner, sayd: nay, feare not me; for I am a good deuyll; I am John Adroynes your neyghboure in this towne and he that playde the deuyll to day in the playe. I bryng my mayster a dosen or two of his owne conyes that were stolen in dede and theyr horse and theyr haye, and [I] made them for feare to ronne awaye. Whanne they harde hym thus speke by his voyce, [they] knewe him well, and opened the gate and lette hym come in. And so all the foresayd feare was turned to myrthe and disporte.

By this tale ye may se that men feare many tymes more than they nede, whiche hathe caused men to beleue that sperytes and deuyls haue ben sene in dyuers places, whan it hathe ben nothynge so.


[9] This story is merely the latter portion of the seventh novel of the Seventh Day of the Decameron; but Boccaccio tells it somewhat differently. It may also he found in the Pecorone of Ser. Giovanni Fiorentino, and in A Sackful of Newes. 1673 (a reprint of a much older edition). In the latter there are one or two trifling particulars not found here.

[10] A rabbit-warren.

[11] Net, Fr. haie.

[12] In orig. and because.

[13] i.e. ere, before.

+ Of the ryche man and his two sonnes. iv.

+ There was a ryche man whiche lay sore sycke in his bedde to deth. Therefore his eldest sonne came to hym, and besechyd him to gyue him hys blessyng, to whome the father sayde: sonne, thou shalt haue Goddes blessyng and myne; and because thou hast ben euer good of condicyons, I giue and bequethe the all my lande. To whome he answered and sayd: nay father, I truste you shall lyue and occupy them your selfe full well by Goddes grace. Sone after came another sonne to him lyke wyse and desyred his blessyng, to whome the father said: my sonne, thou hast been euer kynde and gentyll; I gyue the Goddes blessyng and myne; and I bequethe the all my mouable goodes. To whome he answered and said: nay father, I trust you shall lyue and do well and spende and vse your goodes yourself * * * *

8 Lines wanting.

By this tale men may well perceyue that yonge people that * * * * * * * theyr frendes counsell in youthe in tymes * * * * * full ende.

+ Of the cockolde who gained a ring by his iudgment. v.

+ Two gentylmen of acquoyntaunce were apoynted to lye with a gentylwoman both in one nyght, the one nat knowynge of the other, at dyuers houres. + Thys fyrste at hys houre apoynted came, and in the bedde chanced to lese a rynge. The seconde gentylman, whanne he came to bedde, fortuned to fynde the same rynge, and whan he hadde stayde som tyme departed. And two or thre dayes after, the fyrste gentylmanne saw hys rynge on the others fynger, and chalenged it of hym and he refused it, and badde hym tell where he had loste it: and he sayd: in suche a gentylwomans bedde. Than quod the other: and there founde I it. And the one gentylman wolde haue it and the other said he shulde nat. Than they agreed to be decyded by the nexte man that they dyd mete. And it fortuned them to mete the husbande of the said gentyll woman and desyred hym of his iudgment, shewynge hym all the hole mater. Than quod he: by my iudgmente, he that ought[14] the shetes shulde haue the rynge. Than quod they: and for your good iudgement you shall haue the rynge.

+ Of the scoler that gave his shoes to cloute. vi.

+ In the Uniuersyte of Oxeforde there was a scoler that delyted moche to speke eloquente englyssshe and curious termes, and came to the cobler with his shoes whyche were pyked before (as they used that tyme), to have them clouted, and sayde this wyse: Cobler, I praye the sette two tryangyls and two semycercles vpon my subpedytales, and I shall paye the for thy laboure. The cobeler, because he vnderstoode hym nat halfe, answered shortely and sayde: syr, your eloquence passeth myne intellygence. But I promyse you, yf he meddyll with me the clowtynge of youre shoon shall cost you thre pens.

By this tale men may lerne, that it is foly to study to speke eloquently before them, that be rude and vnlerned.

+ Of hym that said that a womans tongue was lightest of digestion. vii.

+ A certayn artificer in London there was, whyche was sore seke and coulde not well dysgest his meat. To whom a physicyon cam to give hym councell, and sayd that he must vse to ete metis that be light of digestyon and small byrdys, as sparowes, swalowes, and specyally that byrd which is called a wagtayle, whose flessh is meruelouse lyght of dygestyon, bycause that byrd is euer mouying and styryng. The sekeman, herynge the phesicion say so, answered hym and seyd: sir, yf that be the cause that those byrdes be lyght of dygestyon, than I know a mete moch lyghter of dygestyon than other[15] sparow swallow or wagtaile, and that is my wyues tong, for it is neuer in rest but euer meuying[16] and sterryng.

By this tale ye may lerne a good generall rule of physyke.


[14] Owned. In Northward Hoe, 1607, by Decker and Webster, act i. scene i., the writers have made use of this story. See Websters' Works, edit. Hazlitt, i. 178-9.

+ Of the woman that followed her fourth husbands bere and wept. viii.

+ A woman there was which had had iiii husbandys. It fourtuned also that this fourth husbande dyed and was brought to chyrche vpon the bere; whom this woman folowed and made great mone, and waxed very sory, in so moche that her neyghbours thought she wolde swown and dye for sorow. Wherfore one of her gosseps cam to her, and spake to her in her ere, and bad her, for Godds sake, comfort her self and refrayne that lamentacion, or ellys it wold hurt her and perauenture put her in ieopardy of her life. To whom this woman answeryd and sayd: I wys, good gosyp, I haue grete cause to morne, if ye knew all. For I haue beryed iii husbandes besyde this man; but I was neuer in the case that I am now. For there was not one of them but when that I folowed the corse to chyrch, yet I was sure of an nother husband, before the corse cam out of my house, and now I am sure of no nother husband; and therfore ye may be sure I haue great cause to be sad and heuy.

By thys tale ye may se that the olde prouerbe ys trew, that it is as great pyte to se a woman wepe as a gose to go barefote.


[15] either.

[16] moving.

+ Of the woman that sayd her woer came too late. ix.

+ Another woman there was that knelyd at the mas of requiem, whyle the corse of her husbande lay on the bere in the chyrche. To whome a yonge man cam and spake wyth her in her ere, as thoughe it had ben for som mater concernyng the funerallys; howe be it he spake of no suche matter, but onely wowyd her that he myght be her husbande to whom she answered and sayde thus: syr, by my trouthe I am sory that ye come so late, for I am sped all redy. For I was made sure yesterday to another man.

By thys tale ye maye perceyue that women ofte tymes be wyse and lothe to lose any tyme.

+ Of the mylner with the golden thombe.[17] x.

+ A marchaunt that thought to deride a mylner seyd vnto the mylner syttynge amonge company: sir, I haue harde say that euery trew mylner that tollyth trewlye hathe a gylden thombe. The myllner answeryd and sayde it was true. Than quod the marchant: I pray the let me se thy thombe; and when the mylner shewyd hys thombe the marchant sayd: I can not perceyue that thy thombe is gylt; but it is as all other mens thombes be. To whome the mylner answered and sayde: syr, treuthe it is that my thombe is gylt; but ye haue no power to se it: for there is a properte euer incydent vnto it, that he that is a cockolde shall neuer haue power to se it.[18]

+ Of the horseman of Irelande that prayde Oconer for to hange up the frere. xi.

+ One whiche was called Oconer, an Yrysshe lorde, toke an horsman prisoner that was one of hys great enmys whiche for any request or entrety that the horsman made gaue iugement that he sholde incontynent be hanged, and made a frere to shryue hym and bad hym make hem redy to dye. Thys frere that shroue him examyned hym of dyuers synnes, and asked him amonge other whiche were the gretteste synnes that euer he dyd. This horsman answered and sayd: one of the greatest actys that euer I dyd whiche I now most repent is that, whan I toke Oconer the last weke in a chyrche, and there I myght haue brennyd[19] hym chyrche and all, and because I had conscience and pyte of brennyng of the chyrche, I taryed the tyme so long, that Oconer escaped; and that same deferrynge of brennynge of the chyrche and so longe taryeng of that tyme is one of the worst actes that euer I dyd wherof I moste[20] repent. This frere perceuynge hym in that mynde sayde: peace in the name of God, and change thy mynde and dye in charite, or els thou shalt neuer come in heuen. Nay, quod the horsman, I wyll neuer chaunge that mynde what so euer shall come to my soule. Thys frere perceyuynge hym thus styl contynew his minde, cam to Oconer and sayde: syr, in the name of God, haue some pyte vppon this mannys sowle, and let hym not dye now, tyl he be in a beter mynde. For yf he dye now, he is so ferre out of cheryte, that vtterly his soule shall be dampned, and [he] shewyd hym what minde he was in and all the hole mater as is before shewyd. Thys horsman, herynge the frere thus intrete for hym, sayd to Oconer thus: Oconer, thou seest well by thys mannys reporte that, yf I dye now, I am out of charyte and not redy to go to heuen; and so it is that I am now out of charyte in dede; but thou seest well that this frere is a good man and he is now well dysposed and in charyte and he is redy to go to heuen, and so am not I. Therfore I pray the hang vp this frere, whyle that he is redy to go to heuen and let me tary tyl another tyme, that I may be in charyte and redy and mete to go to heuen. Thys Oconer, herying thys mad answere of hym, sparyd the man and forgaue hym hys lyfe at that season.

By thys ye may se, that he that is in danger of hys enmye that hath no pite, he can do no beter but shew to hym the vttermost of his malycyous mynde whych that he beryth to ward hym.


[17] See Brand's Popular Antiquities, edit. 1849, iii. 387.

[18] The reverse of the Somersetshire saying. The proverb is well known: "An honest miller hath a golden thumb;" but to this the Somersetshire folks add, "none but a cuckold can see it."

[19] Burned.

[20] orig. reads muste.

+ Of the preest that sayd nother corpus meus nor corpus meum. xii.

+ The archdekyn of Essex[21] that had ben longe in auctorite, in a tyme of vysytacyon, whan all the prestys apperyd before hym, called asyde iii of the yonge prestys which were acusyd that thy could not wel say theyr dyvyne seruyce, and askyd of them when they sayd mas, whether they sayd corpus meus or corpum meum. The fyrst prest sayde that he sayd corpus meus. The second sayd that he sayd corpum meum. And than he asked of the thyrd how he sayde; whyche answered and sayd thus: syr, because it is so great a dout and dyuers men be in dyuers opynyons: therfore because I wolde be sure I wolde not offende, whan I come to the place I leue it clene out and say nothynge therfore. Wherfore the bysshoppe than openly rebuked them all thre. But dyuers that were present thought more defaut in hym, because he hym selfe beforetyme had admytted them to be prestys.

By this tale ye may se that one ought to take hede how he rebukyth an other lest it torne moste to his owne rebuke.


[21] Richard Rawson was Archdeacon of Essex from 1503 to 1543, and was perhaps the person here intended. See Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy, ii. 336.

+ Of two freres whereof the one loued nat the ele heed nor the other the tayle. xiii.

+ Two freres satte at a gentylmans tabyll, whiche had before hym on a fastyng day an ele and cut the hed of the ele and layd it vpon one of the frerys trenchars; but the frere, bycause he wold haue had of the middle parte of the ele, sayd to the gentylman he louyd no ele hedes. Thys gentylman also cut the tayle of the ele, and layde it on the other frerys trenchar. He lyke wyse, because he wolde haue had of the myddle parte of the ele, sayde he loued no ele tayles. This gentylman, perceuynge that, gaue the tayle to hym that sayd he louyd not the hed, and gaue the hed to hym that sayd he loued not the tayle. And as fore the myddell part of the ele, he ete parte hym selfe and parte he gaue to other folke at the table; wherfore these freres for anger wolde ete neuer a morsell, and so they for al theyr craft and subtylte were not only deceyued of the best morsell of the ele, but thereof had no parte at all.

By this ye se that they that couet the best parte somtyme therfore lese the meane parte and all.

+ Of the welche man that shroue hym for brekynge of hys faste on the fryday. xiv.

+ A Welcheman, dwellynge in a wylde place of Walys, cam to hys curate in the tyme of Lente and was confessyd; and when hys confessyon was in maner at the end, the curate askyd hym, and[22] he had any other thyng to say that greuyd his conscience. Which sore abasshid answered no worde a great whyle; at last by exhortacyon of his goostly fader he sayde that there was one thyng in his mynde that greatly greued his conscyence, which he was asshamed to vtter: for it was so greuous that he trowed God wold neuer forgyue hym. To whom the curate answerd and sayd, that Goddes mercy was aboue all, and bad hym not dyspayre in the mercy of God. For what so euer it was, yf he were repentant, that God wolde forgyue hym. + And so by longe exortacyon at the last he shewyd it and seyde thus. Syr, it happenyd ones that, as my wyfe was makynge a chese vpon a Fryday, I wolde fayne haue sayed whether it had ben salt or fresshe, and toke a lytyll of the whey in my hande, and put it in my mouthe; and or[23] I was ware, parte of it went downe my throte agaynst my wyll and so I brake my faste. To whom the curate sayde: and if there be non other thynge, I warant God shall forgyue the. So whan he had well comforted hym with the mercy of God, the curate prayed hym to answere a questyon and to tell hym trueth; and when the welchman had promysed to tell the truth, the curate sayd that there were robberyes and murders done nye the place where he dwelte and diuers men found slayn; and asked hym whether he knew ought poyntynge[24] to any of them. To whom he answeryd and sayd yes and sayd he had ben priuye to many of them, and dyd helpe to robe and to slee dyuers of them. Then the curate asked hym, why he dyd not conffesse hym therof. The Welshman answeryd and sayde he toke that for no synne: for it was a custome amongest them that, when any boty cam of any ryche merchant rydyng, that it was but a trewe neyboure dede one to help another when one callyd another; and so they held it but for good felowshyp and neyghbourhood.

Here maye ye se that some haue remorse of conscyence of small venyall sinnis and fere not to do gret offencys without shame of the worled[25] or drede of God; and, as the comon prouerbe is, they stumble at a strawe and lepe ouer a blocke.


[22] if.

[23] before.

[24] appertaining or relevant.

[25] World.

+ Of the merchaunte of London that dyd put nobles in his mouthe in hys dethe bedde. xv.

+ A ryche couetous marchant there was that dwellid in London, which euer gaderyd mony and could neuer fynd in hys hert to spend ought vpon hym selfe nor vpon no man els. Whiche fell sore syke, and as he laye on hys deth bed had his purs lyenge at his beddys hede, and [he] had suche a loue to his money that he put his hande in his purs, and toke out therof x or xii li. in nobles and put them in his mouth. And because his wyfe and other perceyued hym very syke and lyke to dye, they exortyd hym to be confessyd, and brought the curate vnto hym. Which when they had caused him to say Benedicite, the curate bad hym crye God mercy and shewe to hym his synnes. Than this seyck man began to sey: I crey God mercy I haue offendyd in the vii dedly synnes and broken the x commaundementes; but[26] because of the gold in his mouth he muffled so in his speche, that the curate could not well vnderstande hym: wherfore the curat askyd hym, what he had in his mouthe that letted his spech. I wys, mayster parsone, quod the syke man, muffelynge, I haue nothyng in my mouthe but a lyttle money; bycause I wot not whither[27] I shal go, I thought I wold take some spendynge money with me: for I wot not what nede I shall haue therof; and incontynent after that sayeng dyed, before he was confessyd or repentant that any man coulde perceyue, and so by lyklyhod went to the deuyll.

By this tale ye may se, that they that all theyr lyues wyll neuer do charyte to theyr neghbours, that God in tyme of theyr dethe wyll not suffre them to haue grace of repentaunce.


[26] Orig. reads and: but seems to be required.

+ Of the mylner that stale the nuttes of the tayler that stale a shepe. xvi.

+ There was a certayne ryche husbandman in a vyllage, whiche louyd nuttes meruelously well and sette trees of fylberdes and other nutte trees in his orcharde, and norysshed them well all his lyfe; and when he dyed he made his executours to make promyse to bery with him in his graue a bagge of nuttes, or els they sholde not be his executours; which executours, for fere of lesynge of theyre romes[28] fulfylled his mynde and dyd so. It happenyd that, the same nyghte after that he was beryed, there was a mylner in a whyte cote cam to this mannes garden to the entent to stele a bagge of nuttes; and in the way he met wyth a tayler in a black cote, an vnthrift of hys acquayntance, and shewyd hym hys intent. This tayler lykewyse shewyd hym, that he intendyd the same tyme to stele a shepe; and so they bothe there agred to go forwarde euery man seuerally wyth hys purpose; and after that they apoynted to make god chere eche wyth other and to mete agayn in the chyrch porch, and he that cam fyrste to tarye for the other. This mylner, when he had spede of hys nuttys, came furst to the chyrch porch, and there taryed for hys felow, and the mene whyle satte styll there and knakked nuttes. It fortuned than the sexten of the church, because yt was about ix of the cloke, cam to ryng curfue; and whan he lokyd in the porche and sawe one all in whyte knakkynge nuttes he had wente[29] it had bene the dede man rysyn owt of hys graue, knakkynge the nuttes that were beryed wyth hym, and ran home agayne in all hast and tolde to a krepyll that was in his house what he had sene. Thys crepyll, thus herynge hym, rebuked the sexten and sayd that yf he were able to go he wolde go thyder and coniure the spyryte. By my trouthe, quod the sexten, and yf thou darest do that, I wyll bere the on my neck; and so they both agreed. The sexten toke the creple on his nek, and cam in to the chyrchyarde again, and the mylner in the porch seeing[30] one comynge beryng a thynge on his necke had went[31] it had ben the tayler comynge with the shepe, and rose vp to mete them. And as he cam towarde them, he askyd and sayd: is he fat, is he fat? The sexten, heryng hym sey so, for fere cast the crepull down and sayd: fatte or lene, take hym as he is; and ranne awaye; and the creple by myracle was made hole, and ran away as fast as he or faster. Thys mylner perceyuyng that they were two, and that one ran after an other, thoughte that one had spyed the tayler stelyng the shepe, and that he had ron after hym to haue taken hym; and fearyng that one had spyed hym also stelynge the nuttes, he for feare lefte hys nuttes behynd him; and as secretly as he cowde ran home to hys myll. And anon after that he was gone, the tayler cam wyth the stolen shepe vppon hys necke to the chyrche to seke the mylner; and whan he fownde there the nutte shalys,[32] he supposyd that his felow had ben ther and gone home, as he was in dede; wherfore he toke vp the shepe agayne on his necke, [and] went towarde the myll. But yet durynge this while, the sexten which ranne away went not to hys owne house, but went to the parysh prestys chamber, and shewyd hym how the spyryt of the man was rysen out of hys graue knacking nuttes, as ye haue hard before; wherfore the prest sayd that he wolde go coniure hym, yf the sexten wolde go wyth hym; and so they bothe agreed. The prest dyd on hys surples and a stole about hys necke, and toke holy water wyth hym, and cam wyth the sexten toward the church; and as sone as he entred in the chyrche yard, the talyer wyth the whyte shepe on hys neck intendyng, as I before haue shewyd yow, to go downe to the myll, met with them, and had went that the prest in his surples had ben the mylner in his whyte cote, and seyd to hym: by God! I haue hym, I haue hym! meanynge thereby[33] the shepe that he had stolen. The prest, perceyuynge the tayller all in blake and a whyte thynge on hys nek, had went it had ben the deuyll beryng away the spyryte of the dede man that was beryed, and ran away as fast as he coude, takyng the way down towarde the myl, and the sexten ronnyng after hym. Thys tayler, seying one folowyng hym, had went that one had folowed the mylner to haue done hym som hurt, and thought he wold folow, if nede were to help the milner; and went forth, tyl he cam to the mill and knocked at the myll dore. The mylner beynge wythin asked who was there. The tayler answeryd and sayd: by God! I haue caught one of them, and made hym sure and tyed hym fast by the legges. But the mylner, heryng him sey that he had hym tyed fast by the legges, had went it had ben the constable, that had taken the tayler for stelyng of the shepe, and had tyed hym by the legges; and ferid that he had come to haue taken hym also for stelynge of the nuttes: wherfore the mylner opened a bak dore, and ran away as fast as he could. The tayler, herynge the backe dore openynge, wente to the other syde of the myll, and there saw the mylner ronnyng away, and stode ther a lytyll whyle musyng wyth the shepe on his necke. Then was the parysshe preest and the sexten standynge there vnder the mylhouse hydyng them for fere, and seeing[34] the tayler agayn with the shepe on hys nek, had wende styll it had ben the deuyll wyth the spyryt of the dede man on[35] hys nek, and for fere ran awaye; but because they knew not the grounde well, the preste lepte into a dyche almoste ouer the hed lyke to be drownyde, that he cryed wyth a loude voyce: help, helpe! Than the tayler lokyd about, and seeing[36] the mylner ronne away and the sexten a nother way, and hearing[37] the preste creye helpe, had went it had ben the constable wyth a great company cryeng for helpe to take him and to bring hym to pryson for stelyng of the shepe: wherfore he threwe down the shepe and ran away another way as fast as he coud: and so euery man was afferd of other wythout cause.

By thys ye may se well, it is foly for any man to fere a thyng to moche, tyll that he se some profe or cause.


[27] Orig. reads whether.

[28] Places or appointments. This is one of the best stories of the kind in the present or any other collection, in our own or other languages. The construction is excellent.

[29] Weened (guessed).

[30] Orig. reads saw.

[31] weened.

[32] shells.

[33] In orig. by.

[34] Orig. reads saw.

+ Of the foure elementes where they shoulde sone be founde. xvii.

+ In the old world when all thyng could speke, the iiii elementys[38] mette to geder for many thynges whych they had to do, because they must meddell alway one wyth a nother, and had communicacion to gyder of dyuers maters; and by cause they coulde not conclude all theyr maters at that season, they appoyntyd to breke communicacion for that tyme and to mete agayne another tyme. Therfore eche one of them shewed to other where theyr most abydyng was and where theyr felows shoulde fynde them, yf nede shuld requyre; and fyrste the erthe sayde: bretherne, ye knowe well as for me I am permanent alway and not remouable; therfore ye may be sure to haue me alway whan ye lyste. The wather sayde: yf ye lyst to seke me, ye shall be sure to haue me under a toft of grene rushes or elles in a womans eye. The wynde sayde: yf ye lyst to speke wyth me, ye shall be sure to haue me among aspyn leuys or els in a womans tong. Then quod the fyre: yf any of you lyst to seke me, ye shall euer be sure to fynd me in a flynt stone er elles in a womans harte.

By thys tale ye may lerne as well the properte of the iiii elementys as the properteis[39] of a woman.


[35] Orig. reads of.

[36] The orig. saw.

[37] Orig. hard, i.e. heard.

[38] There is perhaps an allusion here to the Interlude of the Four Elements, supposed to have been printed about 1510 by John Rastell.

+ Of the woman that poured the potage in the iudges male. xviii.

+ There was a iustyce but late in the reame of England callyd master Vavesour,[40] a uery homely man and rude of condycyons, and louyd neuer to spend mych money. Thys master Vauysour rode on a tyme in hys cyrcuyte in the northe contrey, where he had agreed wyth the sheryf for a certain some of money for hys charges thorowe the shyre, so that at euery inne and lodgynge this master Vauysour payd for hys owne costys. It fortunyd so, that when he cam to a certayn lodgyng he comaunded one Turpyn hys seruant to se that he used good husbondry[41] and to saue suche thynges as were left and to cary it wyth hym to serue hym at the nexte baytynge. Thys Turpyn, doyng hys maystres commandement, toke the broken bred, broken mete and all such thyng that was left, and put it in hys maysters cloth sak. The wyfe of the hous, perceyuing that he toke all suche fragmentys and vytayle wyth hym that was left, and put it in the cloth sake, she brought vp the podage that was left in the pot; and when Turpyn had torned hys bake a lytyl asyde, she pouryd the podage in to the cloth sake, whych ran vpon hys robe of skarlet and other of hys garmentys and rayed[42] them very euyll, that they were mych hurt therwyth. Thys Turpyn, sodeynly turnyng[43] hym and seeing[44] it, reuyled the wyfe therfore, and ran to hys mayster and told hym what she had don: wherfore master Vauesour incontinent callyd the wyf and seyd to her thus: thou drab, quod he, what hast thow don? why hast thou pourd the podage in my cloth sake and marrd my rayment and gere? O, syr, quod the wyfe, I know wel ye ar a iudge of the realme, and I perceyue by you your mind is to do ryght and to haue that is your owen; and your mynd is to haue all thyng wyth you that ye haue payd for, both broken mete and other thynges that is left, and so it is reson that ye haue; and therfore be cause your seruant hath taken the broken mete and put it in your cloth sak, I haue therin put the potage that be left, because ye haue wel and truly payed for them. Yf I shoulde kepe ony thynge from you that ye haue payed for, paraduenture ye wold troble me in the law a nother tyme.

Here ye may se, that he that playth the nygarde to mych, som tyme it torneth him to hys owne losse.


[39] Orig. reads properte is.

[40] Vide infra.

[41] economy.

[42] defiled, from Fr. rayer, to shine and give light, as the rays of the sun, and thence to streak with lines of dirt, and so to soil. The word is not common. See Nares art ray (edit. 1859), and Cotgrave art rayer (edit. 1650).

[43] Orig. reads turnyd.

[44] Orig. reads saw.

+ Of the wedded men that came to heuen to clayme theyr herytage. xix.

+ A certayn weddyd man there was whyche, whan he was dede, cam to heuen gates to seynt Peter, and sayd he cam to clayme hys bad heretage whyche he had deseruyd. Saynt Peter askyd hym what he was, and he sayd a weddyd man. Anon Saynt Peter openyd the gatys, and bad hym to com in, and sayde he was worthye to haue hys herytage, bycause he had had much troble and was worthye to haue a crowne of glory. Anon after there cam a nother man that claymyd heuen, and sayd to Seynt Peter he had hade ii wyues, to whom Saynt Peter answered and said: come in, for thou art worthy to haue a doble crown of glory: for thou hast had doble trouble. At the last there cam the thyrd, claymynge hys herytage and sayde to Saynt Peter that he had had iii wyues, and desyryd to come in. What! quod Saynt Peter, thou hast ben ones in troble and thereof delyueryd, and than wyllingly woldyst be troblyd again, and yet agayne therof delyueryd; and for all that coulde not beware the thyrde tyme, but enterest wyllyngly in troble agayn: therfore go thy waye to Hell: for thou shalt neuer come in heuen: for thou art not worthy.

Thys tale is a warnyng to them that haue bene twyse in paryll to beware how they come therin the thyrd tyme.

+ Of the merchaunte that charged his sonne to fynde one to synge for hys soule. xx.

+ A ryche marchant of London here was, that had one sonne that was somewhat vnthryfty. Therfore hys fader vppon hys deth bed called hym to hym, and sayde he knew well that he had ben vnthryfty; how be it, yf he knew he wold amend hys condycyons he wolde make hym hys executour and leue hym hys goods, so that he wolde promyse hym to pray for hys soule and so fynde one dayly to syng for hym: which thyng to performe hys sonne there made a faythfull promyse. After that this man made hym hys executour, and dyed. But after that hys sonne kept such ryot, that in short tyme he had wasted and spente all, and had nothynge left but a henne and a cocke that was his fader's. It fortunyd than that one of hys frendys came to hym, and sayd he was sory that he had wasted so moch, and askyd hym how he wolde performe hys promyse made to hys fader that he wolde kepe one to syng for hym. Thys yong man answered and sayde: by God! yet I wyll performe my promyse: for I wyll kepe this same cocke alyue styl, and he wyl krow euery day, and so he shall synge euery day for my faders soule; and so I wyl performe my promyse wel ynough.

By thys ye maye se, that it is wysdome for a man to do good dedys hym selfe, whyle he is here, and not to trust to the prayer and promyse of hys executours.

+ Of the mayde wasshynge clothes that answered the frere. xxi.

+ There was a mayde stode by a reuers syde in her smoke,[45] wasshynge clothes, and as she stouped ofttymes, her smocke cleued betune her buttockkes. By whome there cam a frere, seynge[46] her and sayde in sporte: mayde, mayde, take hede: for Bayarde bytes on the brydell.[47] Nay, wys [I], master frere, quod the mayden, he doth but wype hys mouthe, and wenyth ye wyll come and kysse hym.

By thys ye may se that womans answer is neuer to seke.

+ Of the thre wyse men of Gotam. xxii.

+ A certayn man there was dwellynge in a towne called Gotam that went to a fayre iii myle for to bye shepe; and as he cam ouer a bryge he met with one of hys neyghbours and told hym whether[48] he went, and askyd hym whych way he wold bryng them. Whyche sayd he wolde brynge them ouer the same bryge. Nay, quod the other man, but thou shalt not, by God! quod

4 lines of the original are wanting.

Presently there came a milner, who bore a sack of[49] mele vpon a horse, a neybour of theyrs, and paciently askyd them what was the cause of theyr varyaunce; which than shewyd to hym the mater and cause, as ye haue harde. Thys thyrde man, the mylner, beganne for to rebuke them by a famylyer example, and toke his sacke of mele from his horse backe and openyd it, and pouryd all the mele in the sacke ouer the brydge into the ronnynge ryuer; wherby all the mele was lost, and sayde thus: by my trouthe, neybours, because ye stryue for dryuynge ouer the brydge those shepe which be not yet boughte, nor wotte not where they be, me thynketh therfore there is euen as moche wytte in your hedes as there is mele now in my sacke.

Thys tale shewyth you, that som man takyth upon him for to teche other men wysdome, when he is but a fole hymselfe.


[45] smock.

[46] i.e. who saw her.

[47] An unregistered proverb, perhaps. The meaning is tolerably clear. See Tarlton's Newes Out of Purgatarie (1590). edit. Halliwell, p. 93.

[48] Whither.

+ Of the graye frere that answered his penytente. xxiii.

+ A man there was that cam to confesse hym to a prest and tolde hym, that he had layne with a yonge gentyll woman. The prest then asked hym in what place; and he sayde it was in * * * all nyght longe in a soft warme bed. The frere herynge that * * * thys and sayd: Now, by swete seynt Francys, then, wast thou very[50] * * *


[49] I am myself responsible for these few words in italic, which I have supplied from conjecture.

+ Of the gentylman that bare the sege borde on hys necke. xxiv.

+ A CHANDELER beynge a wydower, dwellynge at Holborne, neere London, had a fayr doughter whom a yonge gentelman of Dauys Ynne[51] woyd[52] sore to haue hys pleasure of her, whyche by longe sute to her made, at the last graunted hym, and poynted hym to com upon a nyghte to her faders hous in the euenynge, and she wold conuey hym into her chamber secretly, which was an inner chamber within her faders chamber. So accordynge to the poyntment all thynge was performed, so that he lay wyth her all nyght, and made good chere tell about foure a clocke in the mornynge, at whyche tyme it fortunyd this yonge gentylman fell a coughynge, whych cam vpon hym so sore that he could not refrayn. Thys wench, than fering her fader that lay in the next chamber, bad hym go put hys hede in the draught, lest that her fader shold here hym: whych after her councel rose in his shyrte, and so dyd. But than because of the sauour of the draught it causyd hym to coughe moche more and louder, that the wenchys fader herde it, and askyd of hys daughter what man it was that coughed in her chamber. She aswered and said: no body. But euer this yong man coughed styll more and more, whom the fader herynge sayd: by Goddes body! hore, thou lyest; I wyll se who is there;—and rose out of his bedde. Thys wenche perceyued her fader rysinge, [and] cam to the gentylman and sayde: take hede syr to your selfe: for my fader comyth. This gentylman, sodeynly therwyth abasshyd, wolde haue pullyd his hede oute of the draughte hole, which was [so] very streyghte for hys hede that he pullyd the sege borde vp therwyth, and, [it] hangyng about his neck, ran vpon the fader beynge an olde man, and gaue hym a great fall and bare him to the ground.

8 lines wanting.

here was two or thre skyttysh horses whych, when they se this gentylman ronnyng, start[ed] asyde and threwe downe the cart wyth colys, and drew backe and brake the carte rope, wherby the colys fell out, some in one place and some in another; and after the horses brake theyr tracys and ranne, some towarde Smythfelde and som toward Newgate. The colyar[53] ran after them, and was an houre and more, or[54] euer he coulde gette his horses to gyder agayne; by which tyme the people of the strete were rysen and cam to the place, and saw yt strawyn with colys. Euery one for hys parte gaderyd vp the colys, tyll the most parte of the colys were gone, or the colyar had got his horses agayne. Duryng thys whyle the gentylman went thrugh Seynt Andrews Chyrch Yarde towarde Dauys Inne, and there met with the sexten commynge to attend to ring the bell for morow mas: whych, whan he saw the gentylman in the Chyrche Yarde in hys shyrt wyth the draught borde[55] about his neck, had wend[56] it had ben a spryt, and cried: alas, alas, a spryt! and ran back again to his house almost atte b * * for fere was almoste out of his wytte that he was the worse a long time after. This gentilman, than, because dauys inne gatys were not open, ranne to the backsyde and lept ouer the garden wal; but, in lepyng, the draught-bord so troubled hym, that he fell downe into the gardyn and had almoste broken his necke: and ther he lay styll, tyll that the pryncypall cam into the garden; which, wan he saw hym lye there, had wente some man had ben slayne and there caste ouer the wall, and durst not come nye him, tyll he had callyd vp hys companye which, when many of the gentylmen[57] wer com to gether loked well vppon hym, and knewe hym, and after releuyd hym; but the borde that was about hys necke caused his hed so to swell, that they coulde not gette it of, tyll they were mynded to cutte it of with hatchettys. Thus was the wenche well iaped,[58] and for fere she ranne from her fader; her faders arme was hurte; the colyar lost his coles; the sexton was almost out of hys wyt; and the gentylman had almost broke his necke.


[50] Perhaps this story, of which we have here a fragment only, was similar to the one narrated a little farther on. See Tale 57.

[51] Thavies Inn, near St. Andrew's Church, in Holborn.

[52] wooed.

[53] Orig. reads that the colyar.

[54] before.

[55] the seat of the commode.

[56] weened.

+ Of the merchantes wyfe that sayd she wolde take a nap at sermon. xxv.

+ A marchantys wyfe there was in Bowe parysh in London, somewhat slepte in age, to whom her mayde cam on a Sonday in Lente after dyner and sayde: maystres, quod she, they rynge at Saynte Thomas of Acres, for there shall be a sermon prechyd anon; to whome the mastres answered and sayde: mary! Goddys blessynge haue thy harte for warnynge me thereof; and because I slepte not well all this nyght, I pray the brynge my stole to me: for I wyll go thyder to loke, whether I can take a nappe there, whyle the preest is prechynge.

By this ye may se, that many one goth to chyrch as moch for other thynges as for deuocyon.


[57] Orig. reads gentylman.

[58] mocked, made a jest of. See Nares (edit. 1859) in voce.

+ Of the woman that said and she lyued another yere she wolde haue a cockoldes hatte of her owne. xxvi.

Of the above tale but a few words remain in the fragment.

+ Of the gentylman that wysshed his tothe in the gentylwomans tayle. xxvii.

+ A gentylman and gentylwoman satte to gyder talkyng, which gentylman had great pain in one of his tethe, and hapnyd to say to the gentylwoman thus: I wys, maystres, I haue a tothe in my hede which greuyth me uery sore: wherfore I wold it were in your tayl. She, heryng him say this, answeryed thus: in good fayth, syr, yf your tothe were in my tayle it coulde do it but lytle good; but yf there be any thynge in my tayle that can do your tothe good, I wolde it were in your tothe.

By this ye may se that a womans answere is seldome to seke.[59]

+ Of the Welcheman that confessyd hym howe he had slayne a frere. xxviii.

+ In the tyme of Lente, a Welcheman cam to be confessyd of his curate; whych in his confessyon sayde that he had kylled a frere; to whome the curate sayd he coulde nat assoyle hym. Yes, quod the Welchman, yf thou knewest all, thou woldest assoyle me well ynoughe; and when the curate had commandyd hym to shew hym all the case, he sayd thus: mary, there were ii freres; and I myght haue slayn them bothe, yf I had lyst; but I let the one scape: therfore mayster curate set the tone agaynst the tother, and than the offence is not so great but ye may assoyle me well ynoughe.

By this ye may se, that dyuers men haue so euyll and larg conscyence that they thynke, yf they do one good dede or refrayn from doynge of one euyll synne, that yt ys satysfaccyon for other synnes and ofencys.


[59] This moral is also attached to Tales 21, 44, and 56, in all which cases the lady's rejoinder is not less opposed to modern notions of female delicacy.

+ Of the Welcheman that coude nat gette but a lytell male. xxix.

+ There was a company of gentylmen[60] in Northamptonshyre which wente to hunte for dere in the porlews[61] in the gollet besyde Stony Stratford, amonge which gentylmen there was one which had a Welchman to his seruante, a good archer; whiche, whan they cam to a place where they thought they should find dere, apoynted thys Welchman to stand still, and forbade him in any wyse to shote at no rascal[62] dere but to make sure of the greate male and spare not. Well, quod this Welchman, I will do so. Anon cam by many greate dere and Rascall; but euer he lette them go, and toke no hede to them; and within an houre after he saw com rydynge on the hye-waye a man of the contrey, whych had a boget hangynge at hys sadyll bowe.[63] And whan this Welcheman had espyed hym, he bad hym stande, and began to drawe his bow and bad hym delyuer that lytell male that hunge at his sadyll bowe. Thys man, for fere of hys lyfe, was glad to delyuer hym hys boget, and so dyd, and than rode hys waye, and was glad he was so escapyd. And when this man of the contrey was gone, thys Welcheman was very glad and wente incontynente to seke hys mayster, and at the laste founde hym wyth hys companye; and whan he saw hym he came to hym, and sayd thus: mayster, by cottes plut and her nayle! I haue stande yonder this two hourys, and I colde se neuer a male but a lytell male that a man had hangynge at his sadell bow, and thet I haue goten, and lo here it is; and toke his master the boget whiche he had taken away from the forsayd man, for the whiche dede bothe the mayster and the seruante were afterwarde in greate trouble.

By this ye may lerne, yt is greate folye for a mayster to putte a seruaunte to that besynes whereof he can nothynge skyll and wherin he hath not ben usyd.


[60] orig. reads gentylman.

[61] purlieus.

[62] a lean beast not worth hunting—Nares.

[63] The jest here, such as it is, lies in the play on the words male (of the deer) and the mail, or post.

+ Of the gentyll woman that sayde to a gentyll man: ye haue a berde aboue and none benethe. xxx.

+ A yonge gentylman of the age of xx yere, somwhat dysposed to myrth and gaye, on a tyme talked wyth a gentylwoman whyche was ryght wyse and also mery. Thys gentylwoman, as she talked with hym, happenyd to loke vpon hys berde which was but yonge and somewhat growen vpon the ouer lyppe, and but lyttell growen benethe as all other yonge mennys berdes comynly vse to grow, and sayd to hym thus: syr, ye haue a berde aboue and none beneth; and he, herynge her say so sayde in sporte: maystres, ye haue a berde beneth and none aboue. Mary, quod she, than set the tone agaynst the tother. Which answere made the gentylman so abasshed, that he had not one worde to answere.

+ Of the frere that sayde our Lorde fed fyue M. people with iii. fysshys. xxxi.

+ There was a certayn White Frere whiche was a very glotton and a great nyggyn,[64] which had an vngracyouse boy that euer folowed hym and bare his cloke, and what for the freres glotony and for his chorlysshnes the boy, where he wente, cowlde scante gette meate ynoughe: for the frere wolde eate almoste all hym selfe. But on a tyme the frere made a sermone in the contry, wherin he touched very many myracles whyche Cryste dyd afore hys passyon, amonge which he specyally rehersyd the myracle whyche Cryste did in fedynge fyue thousande people with fyue louys of brede and with iii lytell fysshes; and this frerys boy which caryd not gretely for hys mayster * *, by reason that hys mayster was so great a churle, cryed out aloude that all the church harde, and sayd: by my faith, then, there were no fryers there! whyche answere made all the people laughe, so that for shame the frere wente out of the * * * * * he than departyd out of the churche * * * *

By thys ye may se that it is honeste * * depart with suche as he hath to them * *


[64] niggard.

+ Of the frankelyn that wold haue had the frere gone. xxxii.

+ A ryche fraynklyn dwellyn in the countie of * * * had a frere in his house, of whom he could neuer be ryd any meanes, but he wold tarrye by the space of a senyght[65] and wold neuer depart; wherfore the franklyn was sore grevud and sadly wery of hym. On a tyme as he and hys wyfe and this frere were togydder, he faynyd hymselfe very angry wyth hys wyfe, in somoche that he smote her. Thys frere perseyuyng well what they ment sayd * * * I haue bene here this seuenyght whan ye were frendys, and I will tarrye a fortenyght lenger but I wyll se you frendys agayne, or I depart. The franklyn, perceyuynge that he coude no good nor wold not depart by none other meanes, answeryd hym shortely and sayd: by God! frere, but thou shalt abyde here no longer; and toke hym by the shulders, and thrust hym out of the dorys of the house.

By this ye may se, that he that wyl lerne no good by examples in a maner to hym shewyd, is worthy to be taught wyth open rebuke.


[65] a week.

+ Of the prest that sayd Our Lady was not so curyous a woman. xxxiii.

+ In the towne of Bottelley dwellyd a mylner, whiche had a good homely wenche to his doughter, whome the curate of the nexte towne louyd, and, as the fame went, had her at hys pleasure. But on a tyme thys curat prechyd of those curyouse wyues now a dayes, and whether it were for the nonys,[66] or whether it cam oute at all aduenturys, he had penyd to say thus in hys sermon: ye wyues, ye be so curyous in all your warkes, that ye wot not what ye meane, but ye shold folow Oure Lady. For Our Lady was nothynge so curyous as ye be; but she was a good homely wenche lyke the mylners doughter of Botteley. At whych sayng all the parishons made gret laughyng, and specyally they that knew that he louyd that same wenche.

By this ye may se, it is gret foly for a man that is suspectyd with any person to praise or to name the same parson openly, lest it bryng hym in forther sclaunder.


[66] nonce.

+ Of the good man that sayde to his wyfe he had euyll fare. xxxiv.

+ A frere Lymytour[67] come into a pore mannys howse in the countrey, and because thys pore man thought thys frere myght do hym some good, he therefore thought to make hym good chere. But bycause hys wyfe wold dresse hym no good mete for coste, he therfore at dyner tyme sayd thus: by God! wyfe, bycause thou dyddest dresse me no good mete to my dyner, were it not for mayster frere, thou shouldest haue halfe a dosyn strypes. Nay, syr, quod the frere, I pray you spare not for me; wherwyth the wyfe was angry, and therfore at souper she caused them to fare wors.

+ Of the frere that had hys chylde make a laten xxxv.

But very few words remain of this Tale.


[67] Mendicant friar.

+ Of the gentylman that asked the frere for his beuer. xxxvi.

+ In the terme tyme a good old gentylman, beyng a lawyer, cam to London to the terme; and as he cam he hapenyd to ouertake a frere, which was an unthrift and went alone wythout hys beuer: wherfore this gentylman asked thys frere, where was hys beuer that shold kepe hym company, and sayd it was contrary to his relygyon to go alone, and it wolde cause people to suppose hym to be som apostata or som vnthryft. By God, syr, quod the frere! my beuer commaundeth hym unto your master-shyp. Why, quod the gentylman, I knowe hym not. Than (quod the frere to the gentylman), ye are the more fole to aske for hym.

By thys tale ye may se, that he that geueth counsell to any vnthryft, and techeth hym hys dutye, shall haue oftymes but a mock for his labour.

+ Of the thre men that chose the woman. xxxvii.

+ Thre gentylmen cam into an Inne, where a fayre woman was tapster: wherfore, as these thre satte there makynge mery, eche of them kyssed her, and made good pastyme and plesure. Howbeit one spake merley[68] and sayde: I can not se how this gentylwoman is able to make pastyme and pleasure to vs all thre excepte that she were departed in thre partes. By my trouthe, quod one of them, yf that she myght be departed, than I wolde chuse for my parte her hed and her fayre face, that I myghte alway kysse her. Than quod the seconde: I wolde haue the breste and harte: for there lyeth her loue. Than quod the thyrd: then ther is nothyng left for me but the loynys, buttockes and legges; I am contente to haue it for my parte. And whan these gentylmen had passed the tyme there by the space of one hour or ii, they toke theyr leue and were goynge awaye; but, or the went, the thyrd man whych had chosen the bely and the buttockys did kys the tapyster and bad her farewell. What! quod the fyrste man that had chosen the face and the mouth, why dost thou so? thou dost me wronge to kysse my parte that I haue chosen of her. O! quod the other, I pray the be nat angry: for I am contente that thou shal kys my parte for it.


[68] Merrily.

+ Of the gentylman that taught his cooke the medycyne for the tothake. xxxviii.

+ In Essex there dwellyd a mery gentylman, whyche had a coke callyd Thomas that was greatly dysseasyd with the tothake, and complaynyd to hys mayster thereof; whych sayd he had a boke of medecins and sayd he wold loke vp hys boke to se whether he could fynd any medecyn therin for it, and so sent[69] one of hys doughters to hys study for hys boke, and incontynent lokyd uppon yt a long season; and than sayd thus to hys coke: Thomas, quod he, here is a medesyn for your tothake; and yt ys a charm; but yt wyl do you no good except ye knele on your knees, and aske yt for Sent Charyte. Thys man, glad to be relesyd of hys payn, kneled and sayd: mayster, for Seint Charyte, let me haue that medecyne. Than, quod thys gentylman, knele on your knees and say after me; whyche knelyd down and sayd after hym as he bad hym. Thys gentylman began and sayd thus:—

"The son on the Sonday."

"The son on the Sonday," quod Thomas.

"The mone on the Monday."

"The mone on the Monday."

"The Trynyte on the Tewsday."

"The Trynyte on the Tewsday."

"The wyt on the Wednysday."

"The wyt on the Wednysday."

"The holy holy Thursday."

"The holy holy Thursday."

"And all that fast on Fryday."

"And all that fast on Friday."

"—— in thy mouthe on Saterday."

Thys coke Thomas,[70] heryng hys mayster thus mokkyng hym, in anger stert vp and sayd: by Goddys body! mokkyng churle, I wyll neuer do the seruyce more; and went forth to hys chamber to gete hys gere to geder to thentent to haue gon thens by and by; but what for the anger that he toke wyth his mayster for the mok that he gaue hym, and what for labor that he toke to geder hys gere so shortly togeder, the payne of the tothake went from hym incontynent, that hys mayster cam to hym and made hym to tarry styll, and tolde hym that hys charme was the cause of the ease of the payne of the tothake.

By thys tale ye may se, that anger oftymes puttyth away the bodely payne.


[69] orig. reads send.

[70] orig. reads Thomas coke. In the orig. the text runs on in the above passage, which is generally done in old books to save room.

+ Of the gentylman that promysed the scoler of Oxforde a sarcanet typet. xxxix.

+ A scoler of Oxford latley made Mayster of Art cam in to the cyte of London, and in Poulys mette with the sayd mery gentleman of Essex, which was euer disposyd to play many mery pageants,[71] wyth whom before he had bene of famylyer accoyntaunce and prayd hym to give hym a sercenet typet. This gentylman, more lyberall of promyse than of gyfte, grauntyd hym he should haue one, yf he wold com to hys lodgyng to the sygne[72] of the Bull wythout Byshops gate in the next mornynge at vi of the cloke. Thys scoler thankyd hym, and for that nyght departyd to hys lodgyng in Flete Strete, and in the mornyng erely as he poyntyd cam to hym to the sygne of the Bull. And as [soon as] thys gentylman saw hym, he bad hym go wyth hym in to the Cyte, and he sholde be sped anon; whyche incontynent went togyder, tyll they[73] cam in to seynt Laurence Church in the Jury, where the gentylman espyed a preste raueshyd to masse[74] and [he] told the skoller that "yonder is the preste that hath the typet for you," and bad hym knele downe in the pew, and he shold speke to hym for it. And incontynent thys gentylman went to the preest and sayd: syr, here is a skoller, a kynnysman of myne, gretly dyseasyed wyth the chyncough.[75] I pray you, whan masse is donne, gyue hym iii draughtys of your chales. The preest grantyd hym, and tornyd hym to the skoler, and sayd: syr, I shall serue you as sone as I haue sayd masse. The skoler than taryed styll and herd the mas, trusting that whan the masse was done, that the preste wold giue hym hys typet of sarcenet. Thys gentylman in the meane whyle departyd out of the chyrche. Thys preste, whan mas was done, putte wyne in the chales, and cam to the skoler knelyng in the pew, profferyng hym to drynk of the chales. Thys skoler lokyd upon hym, and musyd and sayd: why, master parson, wherfore profer ye me the chales? Mary, quod the prest, for the gentylman told me ye were dysseasyd with the chyncough, and prayd me therfor that for a medecyne ye might drynk of the chales. Nay, by seynt mary, quod the scoler, he promysyd me ye shulde delyuer me a tipet of sarcenet. Nay, quod the preest, he spake to me of no typet, but he desyred me to gyue yow drynk of the chales for the chyncough. By Goddis body, quod the scoler, he is, as he was euer wont to be, but a mokkyng wretch, and if[76] I lyue I shall quyte hym; and so departid out of the church in great anger.

By thys tale ye may percyue, it is no wysdom for a man to truste to a man to do a thing, that is contrary to hys old accustumyd condycyons.


[71] tricks and pranks.

[72] orig. reads synne.

[73] orig. reads he.

[74] Intently engaged in the celebration of mass. "St. Lawrence Jewry," says Mr. Cunningham (Handbook of Lond. 471,) "stood in King Street, Cheapside. It was destroyed in the Fire of 1666, and was rebuilt by Sir C. Wren."

[75] Hooping-cough.

+ Of mayster Skelton that brought the bysshop of Norwiche ii fesauntes. xl.

+ It fortuned ther was a great varyance bitwen the bysshop of Norwych and one master Shelton[77] a poyet lauryat, in so much that the bysshop commaundyd hym that he shuld not come in his gatys. Thys mayster Skelton dyd absent hym selfe for a long seson; but at the laste he thought to do hys dewty to hym, and studyed weys how he myght obtayne the bysshopys fauour, and determynyd hem self that he wold come to hym wyth some present and humble hym self to the byshop; and [he] gat a cople of fesantes and cam to the bysshuppys place, and requyryd the porter he might come in to speke wyth my lord. This porter, knowyng his lordys pleasure, wold not suffer him to come in at the gatys: wherfor thys mayster Skelton went on the baksyde to seke some other way to come into the place. But the place was motyd, [so] that he cowlde se no way to come ouer except in one place, where there lay a long tree ouer the motte in maner of a brydge that was fallyn down wyth wynd: wherfore thys mayster Skelton went a long vpon the tree to come ouer; and whan he was almost ouer hys fote slypyd for lak of sure fotyng, and [he] fel in to the mote vp to the myddyll. But at the last he recoueryd hym self, and as wel as he coud dryed hymself ageyne, and sodenly cam to the byshop, beyng in hys hall than lately rysen from dyner, whyche, whan he saw Skelton commyng sodenly, sayd to hym: why, thow catyfe, I warnyd the thow shuldys neuer come in at my gatys and chargyd my porter to kepe the out. Forsoth, my lorde, quod Skelton, though ye gaue suche charge and though your gatys be neuer so suerly kept: yet yt ys no more possible to kepe me out of your dorys than to kepe out crowes or pyes: for I cam not in at your gatys, but I cam ouer the mote, [so] that I haue ben almost drownyd for my labour; and shewyd his clothys how euyll he was arayed, whych causyd many that stode therby to laughe apace. Than quod Skelton: yf it lyke your lordeshyp, I haue brought you a dyshe to your super, a cople of Fesantes. Nay, quod the byshop, I defy the and thy Fesantys also, and, wrech as thou art, pyke the out of my howse, for I wyll none of thy gyft how * * * * Skelton, than consyderynge that the bysshoppe called hym fole so ofte, sayd to one of hys famylyers therby that, thoughe it were euyll to be christened a fole, yet it was moche worse to be confyrmed a fole of suche a bysshoppe: for the name of confyrmacyon must nedes abyde. Therfore he ymagened howe he myghte auoyde that confyrmacyon, and mused a whyle; and at the laste sayde to the bysshope thus: if your lordeshype knewe the names of these fesantes ye wold be contente to take them. Why, caytese, quod the bisshoppe hastly and angrey, what be theyr names? Y wys, my lorde, quod Skelton, this fesante is called Alpha, which is in primys—the fyrst; and this is called O, that is novissimus, the last; and for the more playne vnderstandynge of my mynde, if it plese your lordeshype to take them, I promyse you this alpha is the fyrste that euer I gaue you, and this O is the laste that euer I wyll gyue you whyle I lyue. At which answere all that were by made great laughter, and they all desired the Bishoppe to be good lorde vnto him for his merye conceytes, at which earnest entrety, as it wente, the bysshope was contente to take hym vnto his fauer agayne.

By thys tale ye may se, that mery conceytes dothe a man more good than to frete hymselfe with anger and melancholy.


[76] orig. reads ever.

[77] The celebrated poet. The bishop was of course Bishop Nykke, Nikke, or Nyx, as the name is variously spelled. He held the see from 1501 to 1536.

+ Of the yeman of garde that sayd he wolde bete the carter. xli.

+ A yoman of the kynges garde, dwellynge in a vyllage besyde London, had a very fayre yonge wife. To whome a carter of the towne, a mery fellowe, resorted and laye with her dyuers tymes, whan her husbande was on garde; and thys was so openly knowen that all the towne spake therof. A certaine yonge man of the towne well acquoyntyd with thys yeman told him that suche a carter hadde layne by his wyfe. To whome this yeman of the garde sware by Goddes body, if he mette with hym it should go harde but he wolde bete him well. Hey, quod the yonge man, if ye go streyght euen nowe the right way, ye shall ouertake him dryuyng a carte laden with haye towarde London; wherfore the yeman of the garde incontynent rode after this carter, and within shorte space overtoke him and knewe him well ynoughe, and incontynent called the carter to him and sayd thus: Syrra, I vnderstande that thou doste lye euery nyght with my wyfe, whan I am from home. Thys carter beynge no thynge afrayde of hym answered, ye, marry, what than? What than, quod the yeman of garde! By Goddys harte! hadst thou nat tolde me truth, I wolde haue broke thy hede. And so the yeman of garde retourned, and no hurte done, no stroke stryken nor proferyed.

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