& made by Master Skelton
in Fleetstreet beneath the
Conduit at the sign of S.
[12mo. n. d.]
Here beginneth certain Merry tales of Skelton, poet laureate.
How Skelton came late home to
Skelton was an Englishman born as Scoggin was, and he was educated and brought up in
How Skelton dressed the Kendal man in the sweat time. [Tale ii]
On a time Skelton rolled from
How Skelton told the man that Christ was very busy in the woods with them that made faggots. [Tale iii.]
When Skelton did come to
How the Welshman did desire Skelton to aid him in his suit to the King for a patent to sell drink. [Tale iv. ]
Skelton, when he was in London, went to the King's court, and where there did come to him a Welshman, saying, "Sir, it is so, that many doth come up of my country to the King's court, and some doth get of the King by patent a castle, and some a park, and some a forest, and some one fee and some another, and they do live like honest men; and I should live as honestly as the best, if I might have a patent for good drink: wherefore I do pray you to write a few words for me in a little bill to give the same to the King's hands, and I will give you well for your labour." "I am contented," said Skelton. "Sit down then," said the Welshman, "and write." "What shall I write?" said Skelton. The Welshman said, "Write drink. Now," said the Welshman, "write, more drink." "What now?" said Skelton. "Write now, a great deal of drink. Now," said the Welshman, "put to all this drink a little crumb of bread, and a great deal of drink to it," and read once again. Skelton did read, "Drink, more drink, and a great deal of drink, and a little crumb of bread, and a great deal of drink to it." Then the Welsheman said, "Put out the little crumb of bread, and set in, all drink, and no bread: and if I might have this signed of the King, said the Welshman, I care for no more as long as I do live. " "Well then," said Skelton, "when you have this signed of the King, then will I labour for a patent to have bread, that you with your drink, and I with the bread, may fare well, and seek our living with bag and staff."
Of Swanborne the knave, that was buried under St. Peter's wall in
There was dwelling in
Beelzebub his soul save,
Qui iacet hic hec ("who lies here") a knave:
Iam scio mortuus est, ("For I know he is dead")
Et iacet hic hec a beast:
Sepultus est ("he is buried") among the weeds:
God forgive him his misdeeds!
How Skelton was complained on to the bishop of
Skelton did keep a musket at Diss, upon the which he was complained on to the bishop of
How Skelton, when he came from the bishop, made a sermon.[Tale vii.]
Skelton the next Sunday after went into the pulpit to preach, and said, "Vos estis, vos estis, that is to say, You be, you be. And what be you?" said Skelton: "I say, that you be a sort of knaves, yea, and a man might say worse than knaves; and why, I shall show you. You have complained of me to the bishop that I do keep a fair wench in my house: I do tell you, if you had any fair wives, it were some what to help me at need; I am a man as you be: you have foul wives, and I have a fair wench, of the which I have begotten a fair boy, as I do think, and as you all shall see. Thou wife," said Skelton, "that hast my child, be not afraid; bring me hither my child to me:" the which was done. And he, showing his child naked to all the parish, said, "How say you, neighbours all? is not this child as fair as is the best of all yours? It hath nose, eyes, hands, and feet, as well as any of your: it is not like a pig, nor a calf, nor like no fowl nor no monstrous beast. If I had," said Skelton, "brought forth this child without arms or legs, or that it were deformed, being a monstrouus thing, I would never have blamed you to have complained to the bishop of me; but to complain without a cause, I say, as I said before in my antetheme, vos estis, you be, and have be, and will and shall be knaves, to complain of me without a cause reasonable. For you be presumptuous, and do exalt yourselves, and therefore you shall be made low: as I shall show you a familiar example of a parish priest, the which did make a sermon in
How the friar asked leave of Skelton to preach at Diss, which Skelton would not grant. [Tale viii.]
There was a friar the which did come to Skelton to have licence to preach at Diss. What would you preach there? said Skelton: do not you think that I am sufficient to preach there in mine own cure? Sir, said the friar, I am the limiter of Norwich, and once a year one of our place doth use to preach with you, to take the devotion of the people; and if I may have your good will, so be it, or else I will come and preach against your will, by the authority of the bishop of Rome, for I have his bulls to preach in every place, and therefore I will be there on Sunday next coming." "Come not there, friar, I do counsel thee," said Skelton. The Sunday next following Skelton laid watch for the coming of the friar: and as soon as Skelton had knowledge of the friar, he went into the pulpit to preach. At last the friar did come into the church with the bishop of
How Skelton handled the friar that would needs lie with him in his inn. [Tale ix.]
As Skelton rid into the country, there was a friar that hapened in at an alehouse whereas Skelton was lodged, and there the friar did desire to have lodging. The alewife said, "Sir, I have but one bed whereas Master Skelton doth lie." "Sir", said the friar, "I pray you that I may lie with you." Skelton said, "Master friar, I do use to have no man to lie with me." "Sir," said the friar, "I have lain with as good men as you, and for my money I do look to have lodging as well as you." "Well," said Skelton, "I do see then that you will lie with me." "Yea, Sir," said the friar. Skelton did fill all the cups in the house, and whittled the friar, that at the last, the friar was in mine eame's peason. Then said Skelton, "Master friar, get you to bed, and I will come to bed within a while." The friar went, and did lie upright, and snorted like a sow. Skelton went to the chamber, and did see that the friar did lie so; said to the wife, "Give me a washing beetle. Skelton then cast down the clothes, and the friar did lie stark naked: then Skelton did shite upon the friars navel and belly; and then he did take the washing beetle, and did strike an hard stroke upon the navel and belly of the friar, and did put out the candle, and went out of the chamber. The friar felt his belly, and smelt a foul savour, had thought he had been gored, and cried out and said, "Help, help, help, I am killed!" They of the house with Skelton went into the chamber, and asked what the friar did ail. The friar said, "I am killed, one hath thrust me in the belly." "Fo," said Skelton, "thou drunken soul, thou dost lie; thou hast beshitten thyself. Fo," said Skelton, "let us go out of the chamber, for the knave doth stink. The friar was ashamed, and cried for water. "Out with the whoreson," said Skelton, "and wrap the sheets together, and put the friar in the hog sty, or in the barn." The friar said, "give me some water into the barn: and there the friar did wash himself, and did lie there all the night long. The chamber and the bed was dressed, and the sheets shifted; and then Skelton went to bed.
How the cardinal desired Skelton to make an epitaph upon his grave. [Tale x.]
Thomas Wolsey, cardinal and archbishop of
How the ostler did bite Skelton's mare under the tail, for biting him by the arm. [Tale xi.]
Skelton used much to ride on a mare; and on a time he happened into an inn, where there was a folish ostler. Skelton said, "Ostler, hast thou any mare's bread?" "No, Sir," said the ostler: "I have good horse bread, but I have no mare's bread." Skelton said, "I must have mare's bread." "Sir," said the ostler, "there is no mare's bread to get in all the town." "Well," said Skelton, "for this once, serve my mare with horse bread." In the mean time Skelton commanded the ostler to saddle his mare; and the osteler did gird the mare hard, and the ostler was in his jerkin, and his shirt sleeves were above his elbows, and in the girding of the mare hard the mare bit the ostler by the arm, and bit him sore. The was angry, and did bite the mare under the tail, saying, "A whore, is it good biting by the bare arm?" Skelton said then, "Why, fellow, hast thou hurt my mare?" "Yea," said the ostler, "ka me, ka thee: if she do hurt me I will displease her."
How the cobbler told Master Skelton, it is good sleeping in a whole skin. [Tale xii.]
In the parish of Diss, whereas Skelton was parson, there dwelled a cobbler, being half a souter, which was a tall man and a great sloven, otherwise named a slouch. The King's majesty having wars beyond the sea, Skelton said to this aforesaid doughty man, "Neighbour, you be a tall man, and in the King's wars you must bear a standard." "A standard!" said the cobbler, "what a thing is that?" Skelton said, "It is a great banner, such a one as thou dost use to bear in Rogation week; and a lord's, or a knight's, or a gentleman's arms shall be upon it; and the soldiers that be under the aforesaid persons fighting under thy banner." "Fighting!" said the cobbler; "I can no skill in fighting." "No," said Skelton, "thou shalt not fight, but hold up, and advance the banner." "By my fay," said the cobbler, "I can no skill in the matter." "Well," said Skelton, "there is no remedy but thou shalt forth to do the King's service in his wars, for in all this country there is not a more likelier man to do such a feat as thou art." "Sir," said the cobbler, "I will give you a fat capon, that I may be at home." "No," said Skelton, "I will not have none of thy capons; for thou shalt do the King service in his wars." "Why," said the cobbler, "what should I do? will you have me to go in the King's wars, and to be killed for my labour? then I shall be well at ease, for I shall have my mends in mine own hands." "What, knave," said Skelton, "art thou a coward, having so great bones?" "No," said the cobbler, "I am not afeared: it is good to sleep in a whole skin." "Why," said Skelton, "thou shalt be harnessed to keep away the strokes from thy skin." "By my fay," said the cobbler, "if I must needs forth, I will see how Ich shall be ordered." Skelton did harness the doughty squirrel, and did put an helmet on his head; and when the helmet was on the cobbler's head, the cobbler said, "What shall those holes serve for?" Skelton said, "Holes to look out to see thy enemies." "Yea," said the cobbler, "then am I in worser case then ever I was; for then one may come and thrust a nail into one of the holes, and prick out mine eye. Therefore," said the cobbler to Master Skelton, "I will not go to war: my wife shall go in my stead, for she can fight and play the devil with her distaff, and with stool, staff, cup, or candlestick; for, by my fay, Ich am sick; Ich'ill go home to bed; I think I shall die."
How Master Skelton's miller deceived him many times by playing the thief, and how he was pardoned by Master Skelton, after the stealing away of a priest out of his bed at midnight. [Tale xiii.]
When Master Skelton did dwell in the country, he was agreed with a miller to have his corn ground toll free; and many times when his maiden[s] should bake, they wanted of their meal, and complained to their mistress that they could not make their stint of bread. Mistress Skelton, being very angry, told her husband of it. Then Master Skelton sent for his miller, and asked him how it chanced that he deceived him of his corn. "I!" said John miller; "nay, surely I never deceived you; if that you can prove that by me, do with me as you list." "Surely," said Skelton, "if I do find thee false any more, thou shalt be hanged up by the neck." So Skelton apointed one of his servants to stand at the mill while the corn was a-grinding. John miller, being a notable thief, would fain have deceived him as he had done before, but being afraid of Skelton's servant, caused his wife to put one of her children into the mill dam, and to cry, "Help, help, my child is drowned!" With that, John miller and all went out of the mill; and Skelton's servant, being diligent to help the child, thought not of the meal, and the while the miller's boy was ready with a sack, and stole away the corn; so when they had taken up the child, and all was safe, they came in again; and so the servant, having his grist, went home mistrusting nothing; and when the maids came to bake again, as they did before, so they lacked of their meal again. Master Skelton called for his man, and asked him how it chanced that he was deceived; and he said that he could not tell, For I did your commandment. And then Master Skelton sent for the miller, and said, "Thou hast not used me well, for I want of my meal." "Why, what would you have me do?" said the miller; "you have set your own man to watch me." "Well, then," said Skelton, "if thou dost not tell me which way thou hast played the thief with me, thou shalt be hanged." "I pray you be good master unto me, and I will tell you the truth: your servant would not from my mill, and when I saw none other remedy, I caused my wife to put one of my children into the water, and to cry that it was drowned; and whiles we were helping of the child out, one of my boys did steal your corn." "Yea," said Skelton, "if thou have such pretty fetches, you can do more than this; and therefore, if thou dost not one thing that I shall tell thee, I will follow the law on thee." "What is that?" said the miller. "If that thou dost not steal my cup of the table, when I am set at meat, thou shalt not escape my hands." "O good master," said John miller, "I pray you forgive me, and let me not do this; I am not able to do it." Thou shalt never be forgiven," said Skelton, "without thou dost it." When the miller saw no remedy, he went and charged one of his boys, in an evening (when that Skelton was at supper) to sette fire in one of his hog-sties, far from any house, for doing any harm. And it chanced, that one of Skelton's servants came out, and spied the fire, and he cried, "Help, help! for all that my master hath is like to be burnt." His master, hearing this, rose from his supper with all the company, and went to quench the fire; and the while John miller came in, and stole away his cup, and went his way. The fire being quickly slaked, Skelton came in with his friends, and reasoned with his friends which way they thought the fire should come; and every man made answer as they thought good. And as they were resoning, Skelton called for a cup of beer; and in no wise his cup which he used to drink in would not be found. Skelton was very angry that his cup was missing, and asked which way it should be gone; and no man could tell him of it. At last he bethought him of the miller, and said, "Surely, he, that thief, hath done this deed, and he is worthy to be hanged." And he sent for the miller: so the miller told him all how he had done. "Truly," said Skelton, "thou art a notable knave; and without thou canst do me one other feat, thou shalt die." "O good master," said the miller, "you promised to pardon me, and will you now break your promise?" "Aye," said Skelton; "without thou canst steal the sheets of my bed, when my wife and I am asleep, thou shalt be hanged, that all such knaves shall take ensample by thee." "Alas," said the miller, "which way shall I do this thing? it is unpossible for me to get them while you be there." "Well," said Skelton, "without thou do it, thou knowest the danger." The miller went his ways being very heavy, and studied which way he might do this deed. He having a little boy, which knew all the corners of Skelton's house and where he lay, upon a night when they were all busy, the boy crept in under his bed, with a pot of yeast; and when Skelton and his wife were fast asleep, he all anointed the sheets with yeast, as far as he could reache. At last Skelton awaked, and felt the sheets all wet; waked his wife, and said, "What, hast thou beshitten the bed?" and she said, "Nay, it is you that have done it, I think, for I am sure it is not I." And so there fell a great strife between Skelton and his wife, thinking that the bed had been beshitten; and called for the maid to give them a clean pair of sheets. And so they arose, and the maid took the foul sheets and threw them underneath the bed, thinking the next morning to have fetched them away. The next time the maids should go to washing, they looked all about, and could not find the sheets; for Jacke the miller's boy had stolen them away. Then the miller was sent for again, to know where the sheets were become: and the miller told Master Skelton all how he devised to steal the sheets. "How say ye?" said Skelton to his friends; is not this a notable thief? Is he not worthy to be hanged that can do these deeds?" "O good master," quoth the miller, "Now forgive me according to your promise; for I have done all that you have commanded me, and I trust now you will pardon me." "Nay," quoth Skelton, "thou shalt do yet one other feat, and that shall be this; thou shalt steal master parson out of his bed at midnight, that he shall not know where he is become." The miller made great moan and lamented, saying, "I can not tell in the world how I shall do, for I am never able to do this feat." "Well," said Skelton, "thou shalt do it, or else thou shalt find no favour at my hands; and therefore go thy way." The miller being sorry, devised with himself which way he might bring this thing to pass. And ii. or iii. nights after, gathered a number of snails, and agreed with the sexton of the church to have the key of the church door, and went into the church between the hours of xi. and xii. in the night, and took the snails, and lighted a sort of little wax candles, and set upon every snail one, and the snails crept about the church with the same candles upon their backs and then he went into the vestry, and put a cope upon his back, and stood very solemnly at the high altar with a book in his hand; and afterward tolled the bell, that the priest lying in the churchyard might hear him. The priest, hearing the bell toll, started out of his sleep, and looked out of his window, and saw such a light in the church, was very much amazed, and thought surely that the church had been on fire, and went for to see what wonder it should be. And when he came there, he found the church door open, and went up into the choir; and see the miller standing in his vestments, and a book in his hand, praying devoutly, and all the lights in the church, thought surely with himself it was some angel come down from heaven, or some other great miracle, blessed himself and said, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, what art thou that standest here in this holy place?" "O," said the miller, "I am saint Peter, which keep the keys of heaven gate, and thou knowest that none can enter into heaven except I let him in; and I am sent out from heaven for thee." "For me!" quoth the priest: "good saint Peter, worship may thou be! I am glad to hear that news. Because thou hast done good deeds, said the miller, and served God, he hath sent for thee afore doomsday come, that thou shalt not know the troubles of the world." "O, blessed be God!" said the priest; I am very well contented for to go: yet if it would please God to let me go home and distribute such things as I have to the poor, I would be very glad." "No," said the miller; "if thou dost delight more in thy goods then in the joys of heaven, thou art not for God; therefore prepare thiself, and get into this bag which I have brought for thee." The miller having a great quarter sack, the poor priest went into it, thinking verily he had gone to heaven, yet was very sorry to part from his goods; asked saint Peter how long it would be ere he came there. The miller said he should be there quickly; and in he got the priest, and tied up the sack, and put out the lights, and layed every thing in their place, and took the priest on his back, and locked the church doors, and to go: and when he came to go over the church stile, the priest was very heavy, and the miller cast him over the stile that the priest cried "oh." "Oh good saint Peter," said the priest, "whither go I now?" "Oh," said the miller, these be the pangs that you must abide before you come to heaven." "Oh," quoth the priest, "I would I were there once!" Up he got the priest again, and caried him till he came to the top of an high hill, a little from his house, and cast him down the hill, that his head had many shrewd raps, that his neck was almost burst. "O good saint Peter," said the priest, "where am I now?" "You are almost now at heaven;" and carried him with much ado, till he came to his own house, and then the miller threw him over the threshold. "O good saint Peter," said the priest, "where am I now? this is the sorest pang that ever I bid. O, said the miller, give God thanks that thou hast had patience to abide all this pain, for now thou art going up into heaven;" and tied a rope about the sack, and drew him up to the top of the chimney, and there let him hang. "O good S. Peter, tell me now where I am," said the priest. "Mary," said he, "thou art now in the top of John miller's chimney." "A vengeance on thee, knave!" said the priest: "hast thou made me believe al this while that I was going up into heaven? well, Now I am here, an ever I come down again, I will make thee to repent it." But John miller was glad that he had brought him there. And in the morning the sexton rang all in to service; and when the people were come to church, the priest was lacking. The parish asked the sexton where the priest was; and the sexton said, "I can not tell:" then the parish sent to Master Skelton, and told how their priest was lacking to say them service. Master Skelton marvelled at that, and bethought him of the crafty doing of the miller, sent for John miller; and when the miller was come, Skelton said to the miller, "Canst thou tell where the parish priest is?" The miller up and told him all together how he had done. Master Skelton, considering the matter, said to the miller, "Why, thou unreverent knave, hast thou hauled the poor priest on this fashion, and put on the holy ornaments upon a knave's back? thou shalt be hanged, an it cost me all the goods I have." John miller fell upon his knees, and desired Master Skelton to pardon him; "For I did nothing," said the miller, "but that you said you would forgive me. "Nay, not so," said Skelton; "but if thou canst steal my gelding out of my stable, my two men watching him, I will pardon thee; and if they take thee, they shall strike off thy head;" for Skelton thought it better that such a false knave should lose his head than to live. Then John miller was very sad, and bethought him how to bring it to pass. Then he remembered that there was a man left hanging upon the gallows the day before, went privily in the night and took him down, and cut off his head, and put it upon a pole, and broke a hole into the stable, and put in a candle lighted, thrusting in the head a little and a little. The men watching the stable, seeing that, got themselves near to the hole (thinking that it was his head), and one of them with his sworde cut it of. Then they for gladness presented it unto their master, leaving the stable door open: then John miller went in, and stole away the gelding. Master Skelton, looking upon the head, saw it was the thief's head that was left hanging upon the gallows, said, "Alas, how oft hath this false knave deceived us! Go quickly to the stable again, for I think my gelding is gone." His men, going back again, found it even so. Then they came again , and told their master his horse was gone. "Ah, I thought so, you doltish knaves!" said Skelton; "but if I had sent wise men about it, it had not been so." Then Skelton sent for the miller, and asked him if he could tell where his horse was. "Safe enough, master," said the miller: for he told Skelton all the matter how he had done. Well, said Skelton, considering his tale, said, that he was worthy to be hanged, "For thou dost excel all the thieves that ever I knew or heard of; but for my promise sake I forgive thee, upon condition thou wilt become an honest man, and leave all thy craft and false dealing." And thus John miller escaped unpunished.
How Skelton was in prison at the commandment of the cardinal. [Tale xiv. ]
On a time Skelton did meet with certain friends of his at
How the vinteners wife put water into Skelton's wine. [Tale xv. ]
Skelton did love well a cup of good wine. And on a day he did make merry in a tavern in
Thus endeth the Merry Tales of Master Skelton, very pleasant for the recreation of mind.