75. THE PARABLE OF FRIAR RUPESCISSANUS
I doubt not, gentle reader, but in reading this godly treatise above prefixed, the matter is manifest and plain of itself without any further explication, what is to be thought and judged of this vicar of Christ, and successor of Peter, whom we call the bishop of Rome; whose life here thou seest not only to be disordered in all points, swerving from the steps and example of Christ, the Prince and Bishop of our souls, but also whose laws and doctrines are so repugnant and contrary to the precepts and rule of the gospel, that almost there is no convenience between them; as in the perusing of this complaining prayer thou mayest notoriously understand. Wherefore, having no need to stand in any further expressing of this matter, but leaving it to thine own consideration and discretion, I will speed myself (Christ willing) to proceed toward the time of John Wickliff and his fellows, taking by order of years as I go, such things by the way, as both happened before the said time of Wickliff, and also may the better prepare the mind of the reader to the entering of that story; where, first, I think it not inconvenient to infer a prophetical parable, written about this time, or not much before, which the author morally applieth unto the bishop of Rome. To what author this prophecy or moral is to be ascribed, I have not certainly to affirm: some say, that Rupescissanus, of whom mention is made before, was the author thereof, and allege it out of Froisart; but in Froisart, as yet, I have not found it. In the mean season, as I have found it in Latin expressed, because it painteth out the pope so rightly in his feathers and colours; as I thought the thing was not to be omitted, so I took this present place, as most fit, although, peradventure, missing the order of years a little, to insert the same. The effect of which parable followeth hereunder written.
In the time of Pope Innocent the Sixth above specified, this Johannes de Rupescissa, a friar, among other his prophecies marvellously forespake (as allegeth Froisart, who both heard and saw him) of the taking of John the French king prisoner, and brought forth many other notable collections concerning the perils, mutations, and changings in the church to come. And at what time the pope kept him at Avignon in prison, where Froisart is said to see him, and to speak with him, the said Froisart heard in the pope's court this example and parable recited by the aforesaid friar Rupescissanus, to the two cardinals, to wit, Cardinal Hostiensis, and Cardinal Auxercensis, which followeth in these words:
"When, on a certain time, a bird was brought into the world all bare and without feathers, the other birds hearing thereof, came to visit her; and for that they saw her to be a marvellous fair and beautiful bird, they counselled together how they might best do her good, since by no means without feathers she might either fly, or live commodiously. They all wished her to live for her excellent form and beauty's sake, insomuch that among them all there was not one that would not grant some part of her own feathers to deck this bird withal; yea, and the more trim they saw her to be, the more feathers still they gave unto her, so that by this means she was passing well penned and feathered, and began to fly. The other birds that thus had adorned her with goodly feathers, beholding her to fly abroad, were marvellously delighted therewith. In the end this bird, seeing herself so gorgeously feathered, and of all the rest to be had in honour, began to wax proud and haughty; insomuch that she had no regard at all unto them by whom she was advanced; yea, she punged them with her beak, plucked them by the skin and feathers, and in all places annoyed them. Whereupon the birds, sitting in council again, called the matter in question, demanding one of another what was best to be done touching this unkind bird, whom they lovingly with their own feathers had decked and adorned; affirming that they gave not their feathers to the intent that she, thereby puffed up with pride, should contemptuously despise them all. The peacock, therefore, answereth the first; Truly, saith he, for that she is bravely set forth with my painted feathers, I will again take them from her. Then saith the falcon, And I also will have mine again. This sentence at length took place among them all, so that every one plucked from her those feathers which before they had given, challenging to them their own again. Now this proud bird, seeing herself thus to be dealt withal, began forthwith to abate her haughty stomach, and humbly to submit herself openly, confessing and acknowledging, that of herself she had nothing, but that her feathers, her honour and other ornaments, was their gift; she came into the world all naked and bare; they clad her with comely feathers, and therefore of right may they receive them again. Wherefore, in most humble wise she desireth pardon, promising to amend all that is past, neither would she at any time hereafter commit, whereby through pride she might lose her feathers again. The gentle birds, that before had given their feathers, seeing her so humble and lowly, being moved with pity, restored again the feathers which lately they had taken away, adding withal this admonition, We will gladly, say they, behold thy flying among us, so long as thou wilt use thine office with humbleness of mind, which is the chiefest comeliness of all the rest: but this have thou for certainty, that if at any time hereafter thou extol thyself in pride, we will straightway deprive thee of thy feathers, and reduce thee into thy former state wherein we found thee. Even so, O you cardinals, (saith Johannes Rupescissanus,) shall it happen unto you; for the emperors of the Romans and Almains, and other Christian kings, potentates, and princes of the earth, have bestowed upon you goods, lands, and riches, that should serve God, but you have poured it out, and consumed it upon pride, all kind of wickedness, riot, and wantonness."