Page images

[A Carman's Account of a Law-suit.]

Of tails I will no more indite,
For dread some duddron me despite.

Marry, I lent my gossip my mare, to fetch hame coals, Notwithstanding, I will conclude,
And he her drounit into the quarry holes;
That of side tails can come nae gude,
And I ran to the consistory, for to pleinyie,
Sider nor may their ankles hide,
And there I happenit amang ane greedie meinyie.1 The remanent proceeds of pride,
They gave me first ane thing they call citandum; And pride proceeds of the devil,
Within aucht days I gat but libellandum;
Thus alway they proceed of evil.
Within ane month I gat ad opponendum;
Ane other fault, Sir, may be seen,
In half ane year I gat inter-loquendum,
They hide their face all bot the een;
And syne I gat-how call ye it ?-ad replicandum;
When gentlemen bid them gude day,
Bot I could never ane word yet understand him :
Without reverence they slide away.
And then they gart me cast out mony placks,
Without their faults be soon amended,
And gart me pay for four-and-twenty acts.
My flyting, Sir, shall never be ended;
Bot or they came half gate to concludendum,
But wald your grace my counsel tak,
The fiend ane plack was left for to defend him.
Ane proclamation ye should mak,
Thus they postponed me twa year with their train,
Baith through the land and burrowstouns,
Syne, hodie ad octo, bade me come again :
To shaw their face and cut their gowns.
And then thir rooks they rowpit wonder fast
Women will say, this is nae bourds, 3
For sentence, silver, they cryit at the last.
To write sic vile and filthy words;
Of pronunciandum they made me wonder fain,
But wald they clenge their filthy tails,
Bot I gat never my gude grey mare again.
Whilk over the mires and middings trails,
Then should my writing clengit be,
None other mends they get of me.

Supplication in Contemption of Side Tails.? (1538.)

Sovereign, I mean3 of thir side tails,
Whilk through the dust and dubs trails,
Three quarters lang behind their heels,
Express again' all commonweals.
Though bishops, in their pontificals,
Have men for to bear up their tails,
For dignity of their office;
Richt so ane queen or ane emprice;
Howbeit they use sic gravity,
Conformand to their majesty,
Though their robe-royals be upborne,
I think it is ane very scorn,
That every lady of the land
Should have her tail so side trailand;
Howbeit they been of high estate,
The queen they should not counterfeit.

[blocks in formation]

Poor claggocks clad in Raploch white,
Whilk has scant twa merks for their fees,
Will have twa ells beneath their knees.
Kittock that cleckit6 was yestreen,
The morn, will counterfeit the queen.
In barn nor byre she will not bide,
Without her kirtle tail be side.
In burghs, wanton burgess wives
Wha may have sidest tails strives,
Weel bordered with velvet fine,
But followand them it is ane pyne :
In summer, when the streets dries,
They raise the dust aboon the skies;
Nane may gae near them at their ease,
Without they cover mouth and neese.
I think maist pane after ane rain,
To see them tuckit up again;
Then when they step furth through the street,
Their fauldings flaps about their feet;
They waste mair claith, within few years,
Nor wald cleid fifty score of freirs.

[blocks in formation]

Quoth Lindsay, in contempt of the side tails,
That duddrous and duntibours through the dubs trails.

[The Building of the Tower of Babel, and Confusion of Tongues.]

(From the Monarchie.)

Their great fortress then did they found,
And cast till they gat sure ground.
All fell to work both man and child,
Some howkit clay, some burnt the tyld.
Nimron, that curious champion,
Deviser was of that dungeon.
Nathing they spared their labours,
Like busy bees upon the flowers,
Or emmets travelling into June;
Some under wrocht, and some aboon,
With strang ingenious masonry,
Upward their wark did fortify;
The land about was fair and plain,
And it rase like ane heich montane.
Those fulish people did intend,
That till the heaven it should ascend:
Sae great ane strength was never seen
Into the warld with men's een.
The wallis of that wark they made,
Twa and fifty fathom braid:
Ane fathom then, as some men says,
Micht been twa fathom in our days;
Ane man was then of mair stature
Nor twa be now, of this be sure.


The translator of Orosius
Intil his chronicle writes thus ;
That when the sun is at the hicht,

At noon, when it doth shine maist bricht,
The shadow of that hideous strength
Sax mile and mair it is of length:
Thus may ye judge into your thocht,
Gif Babylon be heich, or nocht.
Then the great God omnipotent,
To whom all things been present,
He seeand the ambition,
And the prideful presumption,
How thir proud people did pretend,
Up through the heavens till ascend,
Sic languages on them he laid,
That nane wist what ane other said;
Where was but ane language afore,
God send them languages three score;

1 Sent.

2 Scolding.

3 Jest

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

I am an Englishman, and naked I stand here,
Musing in my mind what garment I shall wear,
For now I will wear this, and now I will wear that,
Now I will wear I cannot tell what :
All new fashions be pleasant to me,

I will have them whether I thrive or thee:
Now I am a fisher, all men on me look
What should I do but set cock on the hoop?
What do I care if all the world me fail,
I will have a garment reach to my tail.

Then I am a minion, for I wear the new guise,
The next year after I hope to be wise-
Not only in wearing my gorgeous array,
For I will go to learning a whole summer's day;
I will learn Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and French,
And I will learn Dutch sitting on my bench.
I do fear no man, each man feareth me;
I overcome my adversaries by land and by sea:
I had no peer if to myself I were true;
Because I am not so diverse times do I rue:
Yet I lack nothing, I have all things at will,
If I were wise and would hold myself still,
And meddle with no matters but to me pertaining,
But ever to be true to God and my king.
But I have such matters rolling in my pate,
That I will and do-I cannot tell what.

No man shall let me, but I will have my mind,
And to father, mother, and friend, I'll be unkind.
I will follow mine own mind and mine old trade:
Who shall let me? The devil's nails are unpared.
Yet above all things new fashions I love well,
And to wear them my thrift I will sell.
In all this world I shall have but a time:
Hold the cup, good fellow, here is thine and mine!

The Nut-Brown Maid.

[Regarding the date and author of this piece no certainty exists. Prior, who founded his Henry and Emma upon it, fixes its date about 1400; but others, judging from the comparatively modern language of it, suppose it to have been composed subsequently to the time of Surrey. The poem opens with a declaration of the author, that the faith of woman is stronger than is generally alleged, in proof of which he proposes to relate the trial to which the Not-Browne Mayde' was exposed by her lover. What follows consists of a dialogue between the pair.]

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

HE.-Mine own dear love, I see thee prove

That ye be kind and true;

Of maid and wife, in all my life,
The best that ever I knew.

Be merry and glad; no more be sad; The case is changed now;

For it were ruth, that, for your truth, Ye should have cause to rue.

Be not dismayed; whatever I said
To you, when I began ;

I will not to the greenwood go:
I am no banished man.

SHE. These tidings be more glad to me,
Than to be made a queen,

If I were sure they would endure:
But it is often seen,

When men will break promise, they speak
The wordes on the spleen.

Ye shape some wile me to beguile,
And steal from me, I ween:

Than were the case worse than it was,
And I more woe-begone:

For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

HE.-Ye shall not need further to dread:

I will not disparage,

You (God defend !) sith ye descend
Of so great a lineage.

Now understand; to Westmoreland,
Which is mine heritage,

I will you bring; and with a ring,
By way of marriage,

I will you take, and lady make,
As shortly as I can :

Thus have you won an earl's son,
And not a banished man.


Nor long after the time of Lydgate, our attention
is called to a prose writer of eminence, the first
since the time of Chaucer and Wickliffe. This was
SIR JOHN FORTESCUE, Chief Justice of the King's
Bench under Henry VI., and a constant adherent of
the fortunes of that monarch. He flourished be-
tween the years 1430 and 1470. Besides several Latin
tracts, Chief Justice Fortescue wrote one in the
common language, entitled, The Difference between an
Absolute and Limited Monarchy, as it more particularly
regards the English Constitution, in which he draws a
striking, though perhaps exaggerated, contrast be-
tween the condition of the French under an arbi-
trary monarch, and that of his own countrymen,
who even then possessed considerable privileges as
subjects. The following extracts convey at once an
idea of the literary style, and of the manner of
thinking, of that age.

is to say, they that seen few things woll soon say their
advice. Forsooth those folks consideren little the
good of the realin, whereof the might most stondeth
And if they
upon archers, which be no rich men.
wherewith to buy them bows, arrows, jacks, or any
were made poorer than they be, they should not have
other armour of defence, whereby they might be able
to resist our enemies when they list to come upon us,
which they may do on every side, considering that we
be an island; and, as it is said before, we may not
have soon succours of any other realm. Wherefore
we should be a prey to all other enemies, but if we be
mighty of ourself, which might stondeth most upon
our poor archers; and therefore they needen not only
to have such habiliments as now is spoken of, but also
they needen to be much exercised in shooting, which
may not be done without right great expenses, as
every man expert therein knoweth right well. Where-
fore the making poor of the commons, which is the
making poor of our archers, should be the destruction
of the greatest might of our realm. Item, if poor men
may not lightly rise, as is the opinion of those men,
which for that cause would have the commons poor;
how then, if a mighty man made a rising, should he
be repressed, when all the commons be so poor, that
after such opinion they may not fight, and by that
reason not help the king with fighting? And why
maketh the king the commons to be every year mus-
tered, sithen it was good they had no harness, nor
were able to fight? Oh, how unwise is the opinion of
these men; for it may not be maintained by any
reason! Item, when any rising hath been made in
this land, before these days by commons, the poorest
men thereof hath been the greatest causers and doers
therein. And thrifty men have been loth thereto, for
dread of losing of their goods, yet often times they
have gone with them through menaces, or else the
same poor men would have taken their goods; wherein
it seemeth that poverty hath been the whole and chief
cause of all such rising. The poor man hath been
stirred thereto by occasion of his poverty for to get
good; and the rich men have gone with them because
they wold not be poor by losing of their goods. What
then would fall, if all the commons were poor?

[English Courage.]

[Original spelling.—It is cowardise and lack of hartes and

corage, that kepith the Frenchmen from rysyng, and not povertye; which corage no Frenche man hath like to the English man. It hath ben often seen in Englond that iij or iv thefes.

for povertie, hath sett upon vij or viij true men, and robbyd them al. But it hath not ben seen in Fraunce, that vij or viij thefes have ben hardy to robbe iij or iv true men. Wherfor it is right seld that French men be hangyd for robberye, for that thay have no hertys to do so terryble an acte. There be therfor mo men hangyd in Englond, in a yere, for robberye and manslaughter, than ther be hangid in Fraunce for such cause of crime in vij yers, &c.]

It is cowardice and lack of hearts and courage, that keepeth the Frenchmen from rising, and not poverty; which courage no French man hath like to the English man. It hath been often seen in England that three or four thieves, for poverty, hath set upon seven or eight true men, and robbed them all. But it hath not been seen in France, that seven or eight thieves have been hardy to rob three or four true men. Wherefore it is right seld' that Frenchmen be hanged for robbery, for that they have no hearts to do so terrible an act. There be therefore mo men hanged in England, in a year, for robbery and manslaughter, than there be hanged in France for such cause of crime in seven years. There is no man hanged in Scotland in seven years together for robbery, and yet they be often times hanged for larceny, and stealing of goods in the absence of the owner thereof; but their hearts serve them not to take a man's goods while he is present and will defend it; which manner of taking is called robbery. But the English man be of another courage; for if he be poor, and see another man having riches which may be taken from him might, he wol not spare to do so, but if that poor man be right true. Wherefore it is not poverty, but it is lack of heart and cowardice, that keepeth the French men from rising.


The next writer of note was WILLIAM CAxton, the celebrated printer; a man of plain understanding, but great enthusiasm in the cause of literature. While acting as an agent for English merchants in Holland, he made himself master of the art of printing, then recently introduced on the Continent; and, having translated a French book styled, The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, he printed it at Ghent, in 1471, being the first book in the English language ever put to the press. Afterwards he established a printing-office at Westminster, and in 1474, produced The Game of Chess, which was the first book printed in Britain. Caxton translated or wrote about sixty different books, all of which went through his own press before his death in 1491. As a specimen of his manner of writing, and of the literary language

What harm would come to England if the Commons of this age, a passage is here extracted, in modern

thereof were Poor.

Some men have said that it were good for the king that the commons of England were made poor, as be the commons of France. For then they would not rebel, as now they done often times, which the commons of France do not, nor may do ; for they have no weapon, nor armour, nor good to buy it withall. To these manner of men may be said, with the philosopher, Al parva respicientes, de facili enunciant; that

• Seldom.

2 But if-unless.

*In a note to this publication, Caxton says-Forasmuch as age creepeth on me daily, and feebleth all the bodie, and also because I have promised divers gentlemen, and to my friends, to address to them, as hastily as I might, this said book, therefore I have practised and learned. at my great charge and dispence, to ordain this said book in print, after the manner and form as ye may here see, and is not written with pen and ink, as other books ben, to the end that all men may have them at once, for all the books of this story, named The Recule of the

Historeys of Troyes, thus emprinted, as ye here see, were begun in one day, and also finished in one day.'

« PreviousContinue »