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A merry Jest

how a Serjeant would learn
to play the Friar.

Wise men alway,
Affirm and say,
That best ’tis for a man,
Diligently,
For to apply
The business that he can;

And in no wise
To enterprise
Another faculty,
For he that will
And can no skill
Is never like to theeh. [thrive.

He that hath left
The hosier’s craft,
And falleth to making shone,
The smith that shall
To painting fall,
His thrift is well-nigh done.

A black draper
With white paper,
To go to writing school,
An old butler
Become a cutler,
I ween shall prove a fool.

And an old trot,
That can God wot
Nothing but kiss the cup,
With her physic,
Will keep one sick,
Till she have soused him up.

A man of law,
That never saw
The ways to buy and sell,
Weening to rise
By merchandise,
I pray God speed him well.

A merchant eke
That will go seek,
By all the means he may,
To fall in suit
Till he dispute
His money clean away;

Pleading the law
For every straw,
Shall prove a thrifty man
With ‘bate and strife,
But by my life
I cannot tell you whan.

When an hatter
Will go smatter
In philosophy,
Or a pedlar
Were a meddler
In theology,

All that ensue
Such craftes new,
They drive so far a cast,
That evermore
They do therefore
Beshrew themselves at last.

This thing was tried
And verified
Here by a serjeant late
That thriftly was,
Or he could pass,
Rapped about the pate,

While that he would
See how he could
In God’s name play the frere;
Now if you will
Know how it fell
Take heed and ye shall hear.

It happed so
Not long ago
A thrifty man there died,
An hundred pound
Of nobles round,
That had he laid aside.

His son he would
Should have this gold
For to begin withal;
But to suffice
This child, well thrice
That money was too small.

Yet ere this day
I have heard say,
That many a man certes
Hath with good cast
Be rich at last,
That hath begun with less.

But this young man
So well began
His money to employ,
That certainly
His policy,
To see it was a joy.

For lest some blast
Might overcast
His ship, or by mischance,
Men with some wile
Might him beguile
And ‘minish his substance,

For to put out
All manner doubt,
He made a good purvey
For ev’ry whit
By his own wit
And took another way.

First fair and well
Thereof much deal
He digg’d it in a pot,
But then he thought
That way was nought
And there he left it not.

So was he fain
From thence again
To put it in a cup;
And by and by
Covetously
He supped it fairly-up.

In his own breast
He thought it best
His money to inclose,
Then wist he well
Whatever fell
He could it never lose.

He borrow’d then
Of other men
Money and merchandise,
Never paid it,
Up he laid it
In like manner wise.

Yet on the gear
That he would wear
He rought not what he spent,
So it were nice,
As for the price
Could him not miscontent.

With lusty sport
And with resort
Of joly company
In mirth and play
Full many a day
He lived merrily.

And men had sworn
Some man is born
To have a lucky hour,
And so was he,
For such degree
He gat and such honour,

That without doubt
When he went out,
A serjeant well and fair
Was ready strait
On him to wait
As soon as on the may’r;

But he doubtless
Of his meekness
Hated such pomp and pride
And would not go
Companied so
But drew himself aside.

To Saint Cath’rine
Strait as a line
He gat him at a tide,
For devotion
Or promotion
There would he needs abide.

There spent he fast
Till all was past
And to him came there many
To ask their debt
But none could get
The value of a penny.

With visage stout
He bare it out
Even unto the hard hedge,
A month or twain,
Till he was fain
To lay his gown to pledge.

Then was he there
In greater fear
Than ere that he came thither,
And would as fain
Depart again
But that he wist not whither.

Then after this
To a friend of his
He went, and there abode,
Whereas he lay
So sick alway
He might not come abroad.

It happed than
A merchant man
That he ow’d money to
Of an officer
Then ‘gan enquire
What him was best to do.

And he ans’red,
” Be not afraid
Take an action therefore
I you behest,
I shall him ‘rest
And then care for no more.”

I fear quoth he
It will not be
For he will not come out.
The sergeant said
” Be not afraid
It shall be brought about.

In many a game
Like to the same
Have I been well in ure,
And for your sake
Let me be bake
But if I do this cure.”

Thus part they both,
And forth then go’th
Apace this officer
And for a day
All his array
He changed with a frere.

So was he dight
That no man might
Him for a frere deny
He dopp’d and dook’d
He spake and look’d
So religiously.

Yet in a glass
Ere he would pass
He toted and he peer’d
His heart for pride
Leapt in his side
To see how well he frer’d.

Then forth apace
Unto the place
He goeth in God’s name
To do this deed;
But now take heed,
For here begins the game.

He drew him nigh
And softily
Straight at the door he knock’d
And a damsel
That heard him well
There came and it unlock’d.

The friar said
God speed fair maid
Here lodgeth such a man
It is told me;
Well Sir, quoth she,
And if he do what than?

Quoth he, mistress
No harm doubtless,
It ‘longeth for our order
To hurt no man,
But as we can
Every wight to farther.

With him truly
Fain speak would I.
Sir, quoth she, by my fai
He is so sick
Ye be not like
To speak with him to-day.

Quoth he, fair mai
Yet I you pray
This much at my desire
Vouchsafe to do,
As go him to
And say an Austin friar

Would with him speak
And matters break
For his avail certain.
Quoth she, I will
Stand you here still
Till I come down again.

Up did she go
And told him so
As she was bid to say.
He mistrusting
No manner thing
Said, maiden go thy way

And fetch him hither
That we together
May talk. Adown she go’th.
Up she him brought
No harm she thought
But it made some folk wroth.

This officer
This feigned frere
When he was come aloft
He dopped than
And greet this man
Religiously and oft.

And he again
Right glad and fain
Took him there by the hand,
The friar then said
You be dismay’d
With trouble I understand.

Indeed, quoth he,
It hath with me
Been better than it is.
Sir, quoth the frere,
Be of good cheer,
Yet shall it after this.

For Christ his sake
Look that you take
No thought within your breast;
God may turn all,
And so he shall
I trust, unto the best.

But I would now
Commune with you,
In counsel if you please,
Or elles not,
Of matters that
Shall set your heart at ease.

Down went the maid,
The merchant said
Now say-on gentle frere,
Of this tiding
That you me bring
I long full sore to hear.

When there was none
But they alone
The friar with evil grace
Said, I ‘rest thee,
Come on with me,
And out he took his mace.

Thou shalt obey
Come on thy way
I have thee in my clutch
Thou go’st not hence
For all the pence
The may’r hath in his pouch.

This merchant there,
For wrath and fear
He waxing-well nigh wood,
Said, whoreson thief,
With a mischief,
Who hath taught thee thy good.

And with his fist
Upon the list
He gave him such a blow
That backward down
Almost in swoon
The friar did overthrow.

Yet was this man
Well fearder than
Lest he the fri’r had slain
Till with good raps
And heavy claps
He dawde him up again.

The friar took heart
And up he start
And well he laid about
And so there go’th
Between them both
Many a lusty clout.

They rent and tear
Each others hair
And clave together fast
Till with lugging
And with tugging
They fell down both at last.

Then on the ground
Together round
With many a sad stroke
They roll and rumble,
They turn and tumble
As pigs do in a poke.

So long above
They heave and shove
Together, that at last
The maid and wife
To break the strife
Hied them upward fast.

And when they spy
The captain’s lie
Both weltring on the place
The friar’s hood
They pull’d agood
Adown about his face.

While he was blind
The wench behind
Lent him laid on the floor
Many a joll
About the noul
With a great battledoor.

The wife came yet
And with her feet
She holpe to keep him down
And with her rock
Many a knock
She gave him on the crown.

They laid his mace
About his face
That he was wood for pain
The friar frap
Gat many a swap,
Till he was full nigh slain.

Up they him lift
And with ill thrift
Headlong along the stair
Down they him threw
And said adieu,
Commend us to the may’r.

The friar arose
But I suppose
Amazed was his head
He shook his ears
And from great fears
He thought him well afled.

Quoth he, now lost
Is all this cost
We be never the near,
Ill must he theeh
That caused me
To make myself a frere.

Now masters all
Here now I shall
End there as I began,
In anywise
I would advise
And counsel ev’ry man,

His own craft use
All new refuse
And lightly let them gone
Play not the frere;
Now make good cheer,
And welcome ev’ry chone.

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A merry Jest - THOMAS MORE