John Skelton - COLYN CLOUTE



[From the ed. by Kele, n.d., collated with the ed. by Kytson, n.d., with Marshe's ed. of Skelton's Works, 1568, and with a MS. in the Harleian Collection, 2252, fol. 147.]


Quis consurget mecum adversus malignantes? aut quis stabit mecum adversus operantes iniquitatem? Nemo, Domine!<2>

WHAT can it avail
To drive forth a snail,<3>
Or to make a sail
Of an herring's tail;
To rhyme or to rail,
To write or to indite,
Either for delight
Or else for despite;
Or books to compile
Of divers manner style, 10
Vice to revile
And sin to exile;
To teach or to preach,
As reason will reach?
Say this, and say that,
His head is so fat,
He wotteth never what
Nor whereof he speaketh;
He crieth and he creaketh,
He prieth and he peeketh,<
4> 20
He chides and he chatters,
He prates and he patters,
He clitters and he clatters,
He meddles and he smatters,
gloses and he flatters;
Or if he speak plain,
Then he lacketh brain,
He is but a fool;
Let him go to school,
On a three-footed stool 30
That he may down sit,
For he lacketh wit.
And if that he hit
The nail on the head,
It standeth in no stead;
The Devil, they say, is dead,<
The Devil is dead.

It may well so be,
Or else they would see
Otherwise, and flee 40
From worldly vanity,
And foul covetousness,
And other wretchedness,
Fickle falseness,
With unstableness.

And if ye stand in doubt
Who brought this rhyme about,
My name is Colyn Cloute.
I purpose to shake out
All my
conning bag,<6>
Like a clerkly hag;<7>
For though my rhyme be ragged,<8>
Tattered and jagged,
Rudely rain-beaten,
Rusty and moth-eaten,
If ye take well therewith,
It hath in it some pith.
For, as far as I can see,
It is wrong with each degree: 60
For the temporality
Accuseth the spirituality;
The spiritual again
Doth grudge and complain
Upon the temporal men:
Thus each of other
The one again the other.
Alas, they make me shudder!
For in hugger-mugger
The Church is put in fault; 70
The prelates ben so haut,
They say, and look so high,
As though they would fly
Above the starry sky.

Laymen say, indeed,
How they take no heed
silly sheep to feed,
But pluck away and pull
The fleeces of their wool,
Unneth they leave a lock 80
Of wool among their flock;
And as for their
A glumming and a mumming,<9>
And make thereof a jape;
They gasp and they gape
All to have promotion,
There is their whole devotion,
With money, if it will hap,
To catch the forked cap.<10>
Forsooth they are too lewd 90
To say so, all beshrewed!

What trow ye they say more
Of the bishops' lore?
How in matters they be raw,
They lumber forth the law,
To hearken Jack and Gill,
When they put up a bill,
And judge it as they will,
For other men's skill,<11>
Expounding out their clauses, 100
And leave their own causes.
In their provincial cure
They make but little sure,
And meddle very light
In the Church's right;
But ire and venire,<
And solfa so alamire,<13>
That the praemunire
Is like to be set afire
In their jurisdictions 110
Through temporal afflictions:
Men say they have prescriptions
Against spiritual contradictions,
Accounting them as fictions.

And while the heads do this,
The remnant is amiss
Of the clergy all,
Both great and small.
I wot never how they wark,
But thus the people bark;<
14> 120
And surely thus they say,
Bishops, if they may,
Small houses would keep,
Not slumber forth and sleep,
And essay to creep
Within the noble walls
Of the king's halls,
To fat their bodies full,
Their souls lean and dull,
And have full little care
How evil their sheep fare.

The temporality say plain,
How bishops disdain
Sermons for to make,
Or such labour to take;
And, for to say truth,
A great part is for sloth,
But the greatest part
Is for they have but small art
And right slender
conning 140
Within their heads
But this reason they take
How they are able to make
With their gold and treasure
Clerkes out of measure,
And yet that is a pleasure.
Howbeit some there be,
Almost two or three,
Of that dignity,
Full worshipful clerks, 150
As appeareth by their Works,
Like Aaron and Ure,<
The wolf from the door
To werrin and to keep
From their ghostly sheep,
And their spiritual lambs
Sequestered from rams
And from the bearded goats
With their hairy coats;
Set nought by gold ne groats, 160
Their names if I durst tell!

But they are loth to mell,
And loth to hang the bell
About the cat's neck,<17>
For dread to have a check;
They are fain to play deuz deck<18>
They are made for the beck.<19>
Howbeit they are good men,
Much hearted like an hen:
Their lessons forgotten they have 170
That Becket them gave:
Thomas manum mittit ad fortia,
Spernit damna, spernit opprobria,
Nulla Thomam frangit injuria
But now every spiritual father,
Men say, they had rather
Spend much of their share
Than to be cumbered with care:
Spend! nay, nay, but spare;
For let see who that dare 180
Shoe the mockish mare;<
They make her wince and kick,
But it is not worth a leek.<22>
Boldness is to seek
The Church for to defend.
Take me as I intend,
For loth I am to offend
In this that I have penned:
I tell you as men say.
Amend when ye may, 190
For, usque ad montem Sare,<
Men say ye cannot appare
For some say ye hunt in parks,
And hawk on hobby larks,<24>
And other wanton warks,
When the night darks.

What hath laymen to do
The gray goose for to shoe?<25>
Like hounds of hell,
They cry and they yell, 200
How that ye sell
The grace of the Holy Ghost:
Thus they make their boast
Throughout every coast,
How some of you do eat
In Lenten season flesh meat,
Pheasants, partridge, and cranes;
Men call you therefore profanes;
Ye pick no shrimps nor prawns,
Salt-fish, stock-fish, nor herring,
It is not for your wearing;
Nor in holy Lenten season
Ye will neither beans
ne peason,
But ye look to be let loose
To a pig or to a goose,
Your gorge not endewed
Without a capon stewed,<26>
Or a stewed cock,<27>
To know what is o'clock
Under her surfled smock,<28> 220
And her wanton woodcock.

And how when ye give orders

In your provincial borders,
As at Sitientes,
Some are insufficientes,
Some parum sapientes,
Some nihil intelligentes,
Some valde negligentes,
Some nullum sensum habentes,<
But bestial and untaught; 230
But when they have once caught
Dominus vobiscum by the head<
Then run they in every stead,<31>
God wot, with drunken nolls;
Yet take they cure of souls,
And wotteth never what they read,
Paternoster, Ave, nor Creed;
Construe not worth a whistle
Neither Gospel nor Epistle;
Their matins madly said, 240
Nothing devoutly prayed;
Their learning is so small,
Their primes and hours fall<
And leap out of their lips
Like sawdust or dry chips.
I speak not now of all,
But the most part in general.
Of such vagabundus<33>
Speaketh totus mundus;<34>
How some sing Laetabundus<35> 250
At every
ale stake,
With, Welcome, hake and make!<36>

By the bread that God brake,
I am sorry for your sake.
I speak not of the good wife,
But of their apostles life;
Cum ipsis vel illis
Qui manent in villis
Est uxor vel ancilla,

Welcome Jack and Gylla! 260
My pretty Petronilla,
An you will be stilla,
You shall have your willa!
Of such Paternoster

All the world speaks.

In you the fault is supposed,
For that they are not apposed
By just examination
In conning and conversation;
They have none instruction 270
To make a true construction:
A priest without a letter,
Without his virtue be greater,
Doubtless were much better
Upon him for to take
A mattock or a rake.
Alas, for very shame!
Some cannot
decline their name;
Some cannot scarcely read,
And yet he will not dread 280
For to keep a cure,
And in nothing is sure;
This Dominus vobiscum,<
As wise as Tom-a-Thrum,<39>
A chaplain of trust
Layeth all in the dust.

Thus I, Colyn Cloute,
As I go about,
And wandering as I walk
I hear the people talk. 290
Men say, for silver and gold
Mitres are bought and sold;
There shall no clergy
A mitre nor a crose,
But a full purse:<40>
A straw for God's curse!
What are they the worse?
For a simoniac
Is but a hermoniac;
And no more ye make 300
Of simony, men say,
But a child's play.

Over this, the foresaid lay,<41>
Report how the Pope may
An holy anchor call
Out of the stone wall,
And him a bishop make,
If he on him can take
To keep so hard a rule,
To ride upon a mule<42> 310
With golde all betrapped,
In purple and
pall<43> belapped;
Some hatted and some capped,
Richly and warm bewrapped,
God wot to their great pains
In rochets of fine Rennes,
White as morrow's milk;
Their tabards<44> of fine silk,
Their stirrups of mixed gold begared<45>;
There may no cost be spared. 320
Their mules gold doth eat,
Their neighbours die for meat.

What care they though Gill sweat,
Or Jack of the Noke?<
The poor people they yoke
With summons and citations
And excommunications,
About churches and market:
The bishop on his carpet
At home full soft doth sit. 330
This is a
farly fit,
To hear the people jangle,
How warlike they wrangle:
Alas, why do ye not handle
And them all to-mangle?
Full falsely on you they lie,
And shamefully you ascry,
And say as untruly,
That a butterfly
A man might say in mock 340
Ware <
MS "wasa">the weathercock
Of the steeple of Paul's;
And thus they hurt their souls
In slandering you for truth:
Alas, it is great ruth!
Some say ye sit in thrones,
Like princes aquilonis,<48>
And shrine your rotten bones
With pearls and precious stones;
But how the commons groans, 350
And the people moans
prests and for loans<49>
Lent and never paid,
But from day to day delayed,
The commonwealth decayed,
Men say ye are tongue-tied,
And thereof speak nothing
But dissimuling and glozing.
Wherefore men be supposing
That ye give shrewd counsel 360
Against the common
By polling and pillage,
In cities and village,
By taxing and tollage,
Ye make monks to have the culerage
For covering of an old cottage,
That committed is a college
In the charter of dotage,
Tenure par service de sottage,
And not par service de socage,<50> 370
After old seigneurs,
And the learning of Littleton Tenures:<
Ye have so overthwarted,
That good laws are subverted,
And good reason perverted.

Religious men are fain
For to turn again
In secula seculorum,<52>
And to forsake their quorum
And vagabundare per forum,<53> 380
And take a fine meritorum,
Contra regulam morum,
Aut black monachorum,
Aut canonicorum,
Aut Bernardinorum,
Aut crucifixorum
And to sing from place to place,
Like apostates.

And the selfsame game
Begun is now with shame 390
Among the
silly nuns:
My lady now she runs,
Dame Sibyl our abbess,
Dame Dorothy and Lady Bess,
Dame Sarah our prioress,
Out of their cloister and choir
With an heavy cheer,
Must cast up their black veils
And set up their fuck-sails, <55>
To catch wind with their ventales 400
What, Colyn, there thou
Yet thus with ill-hails
The lay fee people<56> rails.

And all the fault they lay
On your precept, and say
Ye do them wrong and no right
To put them thus to flight;
No matins at midnight,
Book and chalice gone quite;
And pluck away the leads 410
Even over their heads,
And sell away their bells,
And all that they have else:
Thus the people tells,
Rails like rebels,
Redes shrewdly and spells,
And with foundations mells,
And talks like titivils,<57>
How ye brake the dead's wills,
Turn monasteries into water mills, 420

Of an abbey ye make a grange<58>;
Your works, they say, are strange;
So that their founders souls
Have lost their bead-rolls,
The money for their masses
Spent among wanton lasses;
The Diriges are forgotten;
Their founders lie there rotten,
But where their souls dwell,
Therewith I will not mell. 430
What could the Turk do more
With all his false lore,
Turk, Saracen, or Jew?
report me to you,
O merciful Jesu,
Your support and rescue,
My style for to direct,
It may take some effect!
For I abhor to write
How the lay fee despite 440
You prelates, that of right
Should be lanterns of light.
Ye live, they say, in delight,
Drowned in deliciis,
In gloria et divitiis,
In admirabili honore,
In gloria et splendore
Fulgurantis hastae,
Viventes parum caste
Yet sweet meat hath sour sauce: 450
For after gloria, laus,<
Christ by cruelty
Was nailed upon a tree;
He paid a bitter pension
For man's redemption,
He drank eisel and gall
To redeem us withal;
But sweet hippocras<61> ye drink,
With, Let the cat wink!<62>
Each wot what each other think; 460
Howbeit, per assimile<
Some men think that ye
Shall have penalty
For your iniquity.
Nota what I say,
And bear it well away;
If it please not theologues,
It is good for astrologues:
For Ptolemy told me
The sun sometime to be 470
In Ariete <
Ascendant a degree<65>,
When Scorpion descending
Was so then portending
A fatal fall of one <66>
That should sit on a throne,
And rule all things alone.
Your teeth whet on this bone
Amongst you everichon,
And let Colyn Cloute have none<67> 480
Manner of cause to moan:
Lay salve to your own sore,
For else, as I said before,
After gloria, laus,<
May come a sour sauce;
Sorry therefore am I,
But truth can never lie.

With language thus polluted
Holy Church is bruited
And shamefully confuted. 490
My pen now will I sharp,
And wrest up my harp
With sharp twinking trebles,
Against all such rebels
That labour to confound
And bring the Church to the ground;
As ye may daily see
How the
lay fee
Of one affinity
Consent and agree 500
Against the Church to be,
And the dignity
Of the bishop's see.

And either ye be too bad,
Or else they are mad
Of this to report:
But, under your support,
Till my dying day
I shall both write and say,
And ye shall do the same,
How they are to blame
You thus to defame:
For it maketh me sad
How that the people are glad
The Church to deprave;
And some there are that rave,
Presuming on their wit,
When there is never a whit
To maintain arguments
Against the sacraments.

Some make epilogation
Of high predestination;
And of recidivation
They make interpretation
Of an awkward fashion;
And of the prescience
Of divine essence;
And what hypostasis
Of Christ's manhood is.
Such logic men will chop, 530
And in their fury hop,
When the good ale sop
Doth dance in their foretop;<
Both women and men,
Such ye may well know and ken,
That against priesthood
Their malice spread abroad,
Railing heinously
And disdainously
Of priestly dignities, 540
But their malignities.<

And some have a smack
Of Luther's sack,<70>
And a burning spark
Of Luther's wark,
And are somewhat suspect
In Luther's sect;
And some of them bark,
Clatter and carp
Of that heresiarch 550
Called Wicliffista,<
The devilish dogmatista;
And some be Hussians,<72>
And some be Arians,
And some be Pelagians,
And make much variance
Between the clergy
And the temporalty,
How the Church hath too mickle,<73>

And they have too little, 560
And bring in materialities
And qualified qualities;
Of pluralities,
And of tot-quots<74>,
They commune like sots,
As cometh to their lots;
Of prebendaries and deans,
How some of them gleans
And gathereth up the store 570
For to catch more and more;
Of parsons and vicaries
They make many outcries;
They cannot keep their wives
From them for their lives;
And thus the
losels strives,
And lewdly says, by Christ,
Against the silly priest.
Alas, and wellaway,
What ails them thus to say? 580
mought be better advised
Than to be so disguised:
But they have enterprised,
And shamefully surmised,
How prelacy is sold and bought,
And come up of nought;
And where the prelates be
Come of low degree,
And set in majesty
And spiritual dignity, 590
Farewell benignity,
Farewell simplicity,
Farewell humility,
Farewell good charity!

Ye are so puffed with pride,
That no man may abide
Your high and lordly looks:
Ye cast up then your books,
And virtue is forgotten;
For then ye will be
wroken 600
Of every light quarrel,
And call a lord a
A knight a knave ye make;
Ye boast, ye face, ye crake,
And upon you ye take
To rule both king and kaiser;
An if ye may have leisure,
Ye will bring all to nought,
And that is all your thought:
For the lords temporal, 610
Their rule is very small,
Almost nothing at all.
Men say how ye appal
The noble blood royal:
In earnest and in game,
Ye are the less to blame,
For lords of noble blood,
If they well understood
conning might them advance,
They would pipe you another dance: 620
But noblemen born
To learn they have scorn,
But hunt and blow an horn,
Leap over lakes and dykes,<

Set nothing by politics;
Therefore ye keep them base,
And mock them to their face:
This is a piteous case,
To you that be on the wheel
Great lords must crouch and kneel, 630
And break their hose at the knee,
As daily men may see,
And to remembrance call.
Fortune so turneth the ball
And ruleth so over all,
That honour hath a great fall.

Shall I tell you more? yea, shall.
I am loth to tell all;
But the commonalty you call
Idols of Babylon,
De Terra<
76> Zabulon,
De Terra Neptalim;
For ye love to go trim,
Brought up of poor estate,
With pride inordinate,
Suddenly upstart
From the dung-cart,
The mattock and the shule,
To reign and to rule;
And have no grace to think 650
How ye were wont to drink
Of a leather bottle
With a knavish
When mammocks was your meat,
With mouldy bread to eat;
Ye could none other get
To chew and to gnaw,
To fill therewith your maw;
Lodging in fair straw,
Couching your drowsy heads 660
Sometime in lousy beds.
Alas, this is out of mind!
Ye grow now out of kind.
Many one ye have untwined,<
And made the commons blind.
But qui se existimat stare,<78>
Let him well beware
Lest that his foot slip,
And have such a trip,
And fall in such decay, 670
That all the world may say,
Come down, in the devil way!<

Yet, over all that,
Of bishops they chat,
That though ye round your hair
An inch above your ear,
And have aures patentes <80>
And parum intendentes,<81>
And your tonsures be cropped,
Your ears they be stopped; 680
For Master Adulator,<
And Doctor Assentator,<83>
And Blandior blandiris,<84>
With Mentior mentiris,<85>
They follow your desires,
And so they blear your eye,
That ye cannot espy
How the male doth wry.

Alas, for God's will,
Why sit ye, prelates, still 690
And suffer all this ill?
Ye bishops of estates<
Should open the broad gates
Of your spiritual charge,
And come forth at large,
Like lanterns of light,
In the people's sight,
In pulpits authentic,
For the weal public
Of priesthood in this case; 700
And always to chase
Such manner of schismatics
And half heretics,
That would
That would coinquinate,
That would contaminate,
And that would violate,
And that would derogate,
And that would abrogate
The Church's high estates,<87> 710
After this manner rates,
The which should be
Both frank and free,
And have their liberty,
As of antiquity
It was ratified,
And also gratified,
By holy synodals
And bulls papals,
As it is res certa<
88> 720
Contained in Magna Charta.

But Master Damyan,
Or some other man,
That clerkly is and can
Well scripture expound
And his texts ground,
His benefice worth ten pound,
Or scant worth twenty
And yet a noble clerk,
He must do this wark; 730
As I know a part,
Some masters of art,
Some doctors of law,
Some learned in other
As in divinity,
That hath no dignity
But the poor degree
Of the university;
Or else friar Frederic,
Or else friar Dominic, 740
Or friar Hugulinus,
Or friar Augustinus,
Or friar Carmelus,
ghostly can heal us;
Or else if we may
Get a friar gray,
Or else of the order
Upon Greenwich border,<89>
Called Observance,
Or a friar of France; 750
Or else the poor Scot,
It must come to his lot
To shoot forth his shot;
Or of Babwell beside Bury,<
To postil upon a Kyrie,<91>
That would it should be noted
How scripture should be quoted,
And so clerkly promoted;
And yet the friar doted.

But men say your authority, 760
And your noble see,
And your dignity,
Should be imprinted better
Than all the friars' letter;
For if ye would take pain
To preach a word or twain,
Though it were never so plain,
With clauses two or three,
So as they might be
Compendiously conveyed,
These words should be more weighed,
And better perceived,
And thankfullerly received,
And better should remain
Among the people plain,
That would your words retain
And rehearse them again,
Than a thousand thousand other,
That blabber, bark, and
And make a Welshman's hose 780
Of the text and of the

For protestation made,
That I will not wade
Farther in this brook,
Nor farther for to look
In devising of this book,
But answer that I may
For myself alway,
Either analogice
Or else categorice, 790
So that in divinity
Doctors that learned be,
Nor bachelors of that faculty
That hath taken degree
In the university,
Shall not be object at by me.

But Doctor Bullatus,
Parum litteratus,
Dominus doctoratus
At the Broad Gatus,<94> 800
Doctor Dawpatus,<
And bachelor bacheleratus,
Drunken as a mouse,<96>
At the ale house,
Taketh his pillion and his cap<97>
At the good ale tap,
For lack of good wine;
As wise as Robin swine,
Under a notary's sign
Was made a divine; 810
As wise as Waltham's calf,<
Must preach, a God's half,<99>
In the pulpit solemnly;
More meet in the pillory,
For, by Saint Hilary,
He can nothing smatter
Of logic nor school matter,
Neither syllogisare,<100>
Nor enthymemare,<101>
Nor knoweth his elenches, 820
Nor his
And yet he will mell
To amend the Gospel,
And will preach and tell
What they do in hell;
And he dare not well neven
What they do in heaven,
Nor how far Temple Bar is
From the Seven Stars.

Now will I go 830
And tell of other
Semper protestando
De non impugnando
The four orders of friars,
Though some of them be liars;
As limiters at large
Will charge and discharge;
As many a friar, God wote,
Preaches for his groat,
Flattering for a new coat<104> 840
And for to have his fees;
Some to gather cheese;
Loth they are to
Either corn or malt;
Sometime meal and salt,
Sometime a bacon flick,
That is three fingers thick
Of larde and of grease,
Their convent to increase.

I put you out of doubt, 850
This cannot be brought about
But they their tongues file,<
And make a pleasant style
To Margery and to Maud,
How they have no fraud;<105>
And sometime they provoke
Both Gill and Jack at Noke<106>
Their duties to withdraw,
That they ought by law
Their curates to content 860
In open time and Lent:
God wot, they take great pain
To flatter and to feign;
But it is an old said saw,
That need hath no law.
Some walk about in
In gray russet and hairy coats;
Some will neither gold nor groats;
Some pluck a partridge in remotes,<108>

And by the bars of her tail 870
Will know a raven from a rail,
A quail, the rail, and the old raven:
Sed libera nos a malo<
109>! Amen.
And by Dudum, their Clementine,
Against curates they repine;
And say properly they are sacerdotes,
To shrive, assoil, and release
Dame Margery's soul out of hell:<110>
But when the friar fell in the well,
He could not sing himself thereout 880
But by the help of Christian Clout.<
Another Clementine also,

How friar Fabian, and mo,
Exivit de Paradiso;<112>
When they again thither shall come,
De hoc petimus consilium:<113>
And through all the world they go
With Dirige and Placebo.<114>

But now my mind ye understand,
For they must take in hand 890
To preach, and to withstand
All manner of objections;
For bishops have protections,
They say, to do corrections,
But they have no affections
To take the said directions;
In such manner of cases,
Men say, they bear no faces
To occupy such places,
To sow the seed of graces:
Their hearts are so fainted,
And they be so attainted
With covetise and ambition,
And other superstition,
That they be deaf and dumb,
And play silence and glum,<
Can say nothing but mum.

They occupy them so
With singing Placebo,
They will no farther go: 910
They had
liefer to please,
And take their worldly ease,
Than to take on hand
Worshipfully to withstand
Such temporal war and bate,
As now is made of late
Against Holy Church estate,
Or to maintain good quarrels.
The lay men call them barrels
Full of gluttony 920
And of hypocrisy,
That counterfeits and paints<
As they were very saints:
In matters that them like
They show them politic,
Pretending gravity
And signiority,
With all solemnity,
For their indemnity;
For they will have no loss 930
Of a penny nor of a
Of their predial lands,

That cometh to their hands,
And as far as they dare set,
All is fish that cometh to net:
Building royally
Their mansions curiously,
With turrets and with towers,
With halls and with bowers,
Stretching to the stars, 940
With glass windows and bars;
Hanging about the walls
Cloths of gold and palls,<
Arras<119> of rich array,
Fresh as flowers in May;
With dame Diana naked;
How lusty Venus quaked,
And how Cupid shaked
His dart, and bent his bow
For to shoot a crow 950
At her tirly tirlow;<
And how Paris of Troy
Danced a lege de moy,<121>
Made lusty sport and joy
With dame Helen the queen;
With such stories bedene<122>
Their chambers well beseen<123>;
With Triumphs of Caesar,
And of Pompeius' war,
Of renown and of fame, 960
By them to get a name:
Now all the world stares,<
How they ride in goodly chairs,
Conveyed by elephants,
With laureate garlands,
And by unicorns
With their seemly horns;
Upon these beasts riding,
Naked boys striding,
With wanton wenches winking. 970
Now truly, to my thinking,
That is a speculation
And a meet meditation
For prelates of estate,<
Their courage to abate
From worldly wantonness,
Their chambers thus to dress
With such parfitness<126>
And all such holiness;
Howbeit they let down fall 980
Their churches cathedral.

Squire, knight, and lord,
Thus the Church
With all temporal people
They run against the steeple,
Thus talking and telling
How some of you are melling;
Yet soft and fair for swelling,
Beware of a quean's yelling.
It is a busy thing 990
For one man to rule a king<
Alone and make reckoning,
To govern over all
And rule a realm royal
By one man's very wit;
Fortune may chance to flit,
And when he weeneth to sit,
Yet may he miss the cushion:
For I rede a preposition,
Cum regibus amicare, 1000
Et omnibus dominari,
Et supra te pravare
Wherefore he hath good eure<129>
That can himself assure
How fortune will endure.
Then let reason you support,
For the commonalty doth report
That they have great wonder
That ye keep them so under;
Yet they marvel so much less, 1010
For ye play so at the chess,
As they suppose and guess,
That some of you but late
Hath played so checkmate<
With lords of great estate,
After such a rate,
That they shall mell nor make,
Nor upon them take,
For king nor kaiser sake,
But at the pleasure of one<131> 1020
That ruleth the roost alone.

Helas, I say, helas!
How may this come to pass,
That a man shall hear a mass,
And not so hardy on his head<
To look on God in form of bread,<133>
But that the parish clerk
Thereupon must hark,
And grant him at his asking
For to see the sacring? 1030

And how may this accord,
No man to our sovereign lord
So hardy to make suit,
Nor yet to execute
His commandment,
Without the assent
Of our president,
Nor to express to his person,
Without your consentation
Grant him his licence
To press to his presence,
Nor to speak to him secretly,
Openly nor privily,
Without his president be by,
Or else his substitute
Whom he will depute?
Neither earl ne duke
Permitted? By saint Luke,
And by sweet saint Mark,
This is a wondrous
wark! 1050
That the people talk this,<
Somewhat there is amiss:
The Devil cannot stop their mouths,
But they will talk of such uncouths,
All that ever they ken
Against all spiritual men.

Whether it be wrong or right,
Or else for despite,
Or however it hap,
Their tongues thus do clap, 1060
And through such detraction
They put you to your action;
And whether they say truly
As they may abide thereby,
Or else that they do lie,
Ye know better than I.
But now debetis scire,<
And groundly audire,<136>
In your convenire,<137>
Of this praemunire, 1070
Or else in the mire
They say they will you cast;
Therefore stand sure and fast.

Stand sure, and take good footing,
And let be all your
Your gasping and your tooting,
And your partial promoting
Of those that stand in your grace;
But old servants ye chase,
And put them out of their place. 1080
Make ye no murmuration,
Though I write after this fashion;
Though I, Colyn Cloute,
Among the whole rout
Of you that clerkes be,
Take now upon me
Thus copiously to write,
I do it for no despite.
Wherefore take no disdain
At my style rude and plain;
For I rebuke no man
That virtuous is: why then
Wreak ye your anger on me?
For those that virtuous be
Have no cause to say
That I speak out of the way.

Of no good bishop speak I,
Nor good priest I
Good friar, nor good chanon,
Good nun, nor good canon, 1100
Good monk, nor good clerk,
Nor yet of no good work:
But my recounting is
Of them that do amiss,
In speaking and rebelling,
In hindering and
Holy Church, our mother,
One against another;
To use such despiting
Is all my whole writing; 1110
To hinder no man,
As near as I can,
For no man have I named:
Wherefore should I be blamed?
Ye ought to be ashamed,
Against me to be
And can tell no cause why,
But that I write truly.

Then if any there be
Of high or low degree 1120
Of the spirituality,
Or of the temporality,
That doth think or ween
That his conscience be not clean,
And feeleth himself sick,
Or touched on the quick,
Such grace God them send
Themself to amend,
For I will not pretend
Any man to offend.

Wherefore, as thinketh me,
Great idiots they be,
And little grace they have,
This treatise to deprave;
Nor will hear no preaching,
Nor no virtuous teaching,
Nor will have no reciting
Of any virtuous writing;
Will know none intelligence
To reform their negligence,
But live still out of fashion,
To their own damnation.
To do shame they have no shame,
But they would no man should them blame:
They have an evil name,
But yet they will occupy the same.

With them the word of God
Is counted for no rod;
They count it for a railing,
That nothing is availing;
The preachers with evil hailing:
Shall they daunt us prelates;
That be their primates?
Not so hardy on their pates!<
Hark, how the losel prates,
With a wide weasand!
Avaunt, sir Guy of Gaunt!<141>
Avaunt, lewd priest, avaunt!
Avaunt, sir doctor Deuce-ace!<142>
Prate of thy matins and thy mass, 1160
And let our matters pass!
How darest thou,
dawcock, mell?
How darest thou, losel,
Allegate the Gospel
Against us of the council?
Avaunt to the devil of hell!
Take him, Warden of the Fleet,
Set him fast by the feet!
I say, Lieutenant of the Tower,
Make this lurdan for to lour; 1170
Lodge him in
Little Ease,
Feed him with beans and peas!
The King's Bench or Marshalsea,
Have him thither by and by!
The villain preacheth openly,
And declareth our villany;
And of our free simpleness
He says that we are reckless,
And full of wilfulness,
Shameless and merciless, 1180
Incorrigible and insatiate;
And after this rate
Against us doth prate.

At Paul's Cross or elsewhere,
Openly at Westminster,
And Saint Mary Spital,<
They set not by us a whistle:<144>
At the Austin Friars<145>
They count us for liars:
And at Saint Thomas of Acre's<146> 1190
They clack of us like
How we will rule all at will
Without good reason or skill;<147>
And say how that we be
Full of partiality;
And how at a prong
We turn right into wrong,
Delay causes so long.
That right no man can fong;
They say many matters be born 1200
By the right of a ram's horn.<
Is not this a shameful scorn,
To be teared thus and torn?

How may we this endure?
Wherefore we make you sure,
Ye preachers shall be yawed;
And some shall be sawed,
As noble Isaias,<149>
The holy prophet, was;
And some of you shall die, 1210
Like holy Jeremy;
Some hanged, some slain,
Some beaten to the brain;
And we will rule and reign,
And our matters maintain,
Who dare say there again,
Or who dare disdain,
At our pleasure and will:
For, be it good or be it ill,
As it is, it shall be still,
For all master doctor of Civil,
Or of Divine, or doctor Drivel,
Let him cough, rough, or snivel<
Run God, run Devil,
Run who may run best,
And let take all the rest!
We set not a nut-shell<151>
The way to heaven or hell.

Lo, this is the guise nowadays!
It is to dread, men says, 1230
Lest they be Sadducees,
As they be said
Which determined plain
We should not rise again
At dreadful doomesday;
And so it seemeth they play,
Which hate to be corrected
When they be infected,
Nor will suffer this book
By hook ne by crook 1240
Printed for to be,
For that no man should see
Nor read in any scrolls
Of their drunken
Nor of their noddypolls,
Nor of their silly souls,
Nor of some witless pates
Of divers great estates,<153>
As well as other men.

Now to withdraw my pen, 1250
And now a while to rest,
Meseemeth it for the best.

The forecastle of my ship
Shall glide, and smoothly slip
Out of the waves
Of the stormy flood;
Shoot anchor, and lie at road,
And sail not far abroad,<154>
Till the coast be clear,
And the lode-star appear: 1260
My ship now will I steer
Toward the port salu<
Of our Saviour Jesu,
Such grace that He us send,
To rectify and amend
Things that are amiss,
When that His pleasure is.

In opere imperfecto,
In opere semper perfecto,
Et in opere plusquam perfecto!
<156> 1270

Colinus Cloutus, quanquam mea carmina multis
Sordescunt stultus, sed
puevinate sunt rare cultis,
Pue vinatis altisem divino flamine flatis.
Unde mea refert tanto minus, invida quamvis
Lingua nocere parat, quia, quanquam rustica canto,
Undique cantabor tamen et celebrabor ubique,
Inclita dum maneat gens Anglica. Laurus honoris,
Quondam regnorum regina et gloria regum,
Heu, modo marcescit, tabescit, languida torpet!
Ah pudet, ah miseret! vetor hic ego pandere plura
Pro gemitu et lacrimis: praestet peto praemia paena

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