Spenser's satirical beast fable was long the most popular and frequently imitated of his minor poems; the censure of courtiers and courtly ways finding ready applications down to the nineteenth century.
John Hughes: "In the Poem call'd Mother Hubberd's Tale, we have a Specimen of our Author's Genius in Satire, a Talent he very seldom exercis'd. This Fable is after the old manner of Chaucer, of whom it is an excellent Imitation; and perhaps the antiquated Stile has no ill Effect in improving the Humour of the Story. The Morality of it is admirable. Every one will observe that Keenness of Wit with which he has represented the Arts of ill Courtiers. In the Description of a good Courtier, which is so finely set off by the contrary Characters, it is believ'd the Author had in his View Sir Philip Sidney, of whom this seems to be a very just as well as beautiful Picture" Works of Edmund Spenser (1715) 1:cvii.
John Campbell: "What you say in that Epistle of yours, as to allegoric Poetry, suits perfectly with my Sentiments on that Subject. Some Objections have been made, and I think with Reason to Spencer's Fairy Queen; but Mother Hubberd's Tale is judiciously written, so that I think it hard to say whether the flow of Fancy visible therein, or the Beauty of its Moral ought most to be admir'd" The Rational Amusement (1741) 300.
Thomas Birch: "This Tale, which is written in Imitation of CHAUCER, and an admirable Specimen of SPENSER's Genius for Satire, in which he seldom indulg'd himself, after a very advantageous Picture of Sir PHILIP SIDNEY under the Character of the good Courtier, with the Contrast of some opposite ones, gives us a strong Representation of the Misery of Dependence on Court-Favour.... 'To have thy Prince's Grace, yet want her Peers; | To have thy Asking, yet wait many Years'.... This Passage was probably represented to Lord Burghley as a Reflection upon him" Life of Spenser in Faerie Queene (1751) 1:xiv-xv.
Retrospective Review: "Mother Hubberd's Tale appears to have been one of his earliest productions, although not published until 1591. Spenser informs us, that it was composed in the "raw conceit of his youth;" but it is certainly the best and most agreeable of his smaller pieces. As we propose to make a few extracts from this piece, it will be necessary to give some account of it. It purports to be one of several tales told to the author by his friends, to beguile a season of sickness, and he was so delighted with it, that he determined to write it down as nearly as possible in the words of honest Mother Hubberd. The tale consists of certain strange adventures which betided the fox and the ape; who, after having opened their mutual grievances and disappointed hopes, determine to seek their fortunes abroad" 12 (1825) 146-47.
John Payne Collier: "The poem could not fail to give offence, particularly to the clergy; and so Gabriel Harvey, writing his Four Letters and certain Sonnets, especially touching Robert Greene, in 1592, does not scruple, after his pedantic manner, to tell his friend, — 'Even Tully and Horace [are] otherwhiles overreached; and I must needes say Mother Hubberd, in the heat of choler, forgetting the pure sanguine of his sweete Fairy Queene, wilfully overshot her malcontented selfe, as elsewhere I have specified at large, with the good leave of unspotted friendship.' Severe and bitter as Spenser has been in some parts of this inspection of society, we are not of opinion that Mother Hubberds Tale evinces any peculiarity of talent for this unsatisfactory and perilous department of poetry" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:lxxxii.
It was the Month in which the righteous Maid,
That for Disdain of sinful Worlds Upbraid,
Fled back to Heaven, whence she was first conceived,
Into her silver Bower the Sun received;
And the hot Syrian Dog on him awaiting,
After the chafed Lion's cruel baiting,
Corrupted had th' Air with his noisom Breath,
And pour'd on th' Earth Plague, Pestilence, and Death.
Emongst the rest, a wicked Malady
Reign'd emongst Men, that many did to die,
Depriv'd of Sense and ordinary Reason;
That it to Leeches seemed strange and geason.
My Fortune was, 'mongst many others moe,
To be partaker of their common Woe;
And my weak Body, set on fire with Grief,
Was robb'd of Rest and natural Relief.
In this ill Plight, there came to visit me
Some Friends, who sorry my sad Case to see,
Began to comfort me in chearful wise,
And means of gladsom Solace to devise.
But seeing kindly Sleep refuse to do
His Office, and my feeble Eyes forgo,
They sought my troubled Sense how to deceave
With Talk, that might unquiet Fancies reave;
And sitting all on Seats about me round,
With pleasant Tales (fit for that idle Stound)
They cast in course to waste the weary Hours:
Some told of Ladies and their Paramours;
Some of brave Knights and their renowned Squires;
Some of the Fairies and their Brave Attires;
And some of Giants, hard to be believed;
That the Delight thereof me much relieved.
Amongst the rest, a good old Woman was,
Hight Mother Hubberd, who did far surpass
The rest in honest Mirth, that seem'd her well:
She when her turn was come her Tale to tell,
Told of a strange Adventure, that betided
Betwixt the Fox and th' Ape by him misguided;
The which for that my Sense it greatly pleased,
All were my Spirit heavy and diseased,
I'le write in Terms, as she the same did say,
So well as I her words remember may.
No Muse's Aid me needs here-to to call;
Base is the Style, and Matter mean withal.
Whylom (said she) before the World was civil,
The Fox and th' Ape disliking of their evil
And hard Estate, determined to seek
Their Fortunes far abroad, lyeke with his lyeke:
For both were crafty and unhappy witted;
Two Fellows might no where be better fitted.
The Fox, that first this Cause of Grief did find,
'Gan first thus plain his Case with words unkind.
Neighbour Ape, and my Gossip eke beside
(Both two sure Bands in Friendship to be ty'd)
To whom may I more trustely complain
The evil Plight that doth me sore constrain,
And hope thereof to find due Remedy?
Hear then my Pain and inward Agony.
Thus many Years I now have spent and worn,
In mean regard and basest Fortune's Scorn,
Doing my Country Service as I might,
No less, I dare say, than the proudest Wight;
And still I hoped to be up advanced
For my good Parts, but still it hath mischanced.
Now therefore that no lenger hope I see,
But froward Fortune still to follow me,
And Losels lifted high, where I did look,
I mean to turn the next Leaf of the Book:
Yet ere that any way I do betake,
I mean my Gossip privy first to make.
Ah! my dear Gossip (answer'd then the Ape)
Deeply do your sad Words my Wits awhape,
Both for because your Grief doth great appear,
And eke because my self am touched near:
For I likewise have wasted much good time,
Still waiting to Preferment up to clime,
Whilst others always have before me stept,
And from my Beard the Fat away have swept,
That now unto Despair I 'gin to grow,
And mean for better Wind about to throw.
Therefore to me, my trusty Friend, aread
Thy Counsel: Two is better than one Head.
Certes (said he) I mean me to disguize
In some strange Habit, after uncouth wize?
Or like a Pilgrim, or a Lymiter,
Or like a Gipsen, or a Juggeler,
And so to wander to the Worldes end,
To seek my Fortune, where I may it mend;
For worse than that I have, I cannot meet.
Wide is the World I wote, and every Street
Is full of Fortunes and Adventures straunge,
Continually subject unto chaunge.
Say, my fair Brother now, if this Device
Do like you, or may you to like entice.
Surely (said th' Ape) it likes me wondrous well
And would ye not poor Fellowship expell,
My self would offer you t' accompany
In this Adventure's chanceful Jeopardy.
For to wex old at home in Idleness
Is disadventrous, and quite fortuneless:
Abroad where change is, good may gotten be.
The Fox was glad, and quickly did agree:
So both resolv'd the Morrow next ensuing,
So soon as Day appear'd to Peoples viewing,
On their intended Journey to proceed;
And over Night, what-so thereto did need,
Each did prepare in readiness to be.
The Morrow next, so soon as one might see
Light out of Heaven's Windows forth to look,
Both their Habiliments unto them took,
And put themselves (a God's Name) on their way:
When-as the Ape beginning well to wey
This hard Adventure, thus began t' advise.
Now read, Sir Reynold, as ye be right wise,
What Course ye ween is best for us to take,
That for our selves we may a Living make,
Whether shall we profess some Trade or Skill?
Or shall we vary our Device at will,
Even as new Occasion appears?
Or shall we tie our selves for certain Years
To any Service, or to any Place?
For it behoves, ere that into the Race
We enter, to resolve first hereupon.
Now surely Brother (said the Fox anon)
Ye have this Matter motioned in season:
For every thing that is begun with Reason
Will come by ready means unto his End;
But things miscounselled must needs miswend.
Thus therefore I advise upon the case,
That not to any certain Trade or Place,
Nor any Man we should our selves apply;
For, why should he that is at liberty
Make himself bond? Sith then we are Free-born,
Let us all servile base Subjection scorn;
And as we be Sons of the World so wide,
Let us our Fathers Heritage divide,
And challenge to our selves our Portions dew
Of all the Patrimony, which a few
Now hold in Hugger-mugger in their Hand,
And all the rest do rob of Good and Land,
For now a few have all, and all have nought,
Yet all be Brethren ylike dearly bought:
There is no right in this Partition,
Ne was it so by Institution
Ordained first, ne by the Law of Nature,
But that she gave like Blessing to each Creature,
As well of worldly Livelode as of Life,
That there might be no Difference nor Strife,
Nor ought call'd mine or thine: thrice happy then
Was the Condition of mortal Men.
That was the golden Age of Saturn old,
But this might better be the World of Gold;
For, without Gold, now nothing will be got:
Therefore (if please you) this shall be our Plot:
We will not be of any Occupation;
Let such vile Vassals born to base Vocation
Drudge in the World, and for their living droyle,
Which have no Wit to live withouten Toyle.
But we will walk about the World at pleasure
Like two Free-Men, and make our Ease our Treasure.
Free-Men some Beggers call; but they be free,
And they which call them so more Beggers be;
For they do swink and sweat to feed the other,
Who live like Lords of that which they do gather,
And yet do never thank them for the same,
But as their Due by Nature do it clame.
Such will we fashion both our selves to be,
Lords of the World, and so will wander free
Where-so us listeth, uncontroll'd of any:
Hard is our Hap, if we (emongst so many)
Light not on some that may our State amend;
Sildom but some Good cometh ere the end.
Well seem'd the Ape to like this Ordinaunce:
Yet well considering of the Circumstaunce,
As pausing in great doubt a while he staid,
And afterward with grave Advizement said;
I cannot, my lief Brother, like but well
The Purpose of the Complot which ye tell:
For well I wot (compar'd to all the rest
Of each Degree) that Beggars Life is best;
And they that think themselves the best of all,
Oft-times to begging are content to fall.
But this I wote withal, that we shall ronne
Into great Daunger, like to be undonne:
Wildly to wander thus in the World's Eye,
Withouten Pasport or good Warrantye;
For fear lest we like Rogues should be reputed,
And for Ear-marked Beasts abroad be bruted:
Therefore I read, that we our Counsels call,
How to prevent this Mischief ere it fall,
And how we may with most security,
Beg amongst those that Beggers do defy.
Right well, dear Gossip, ye advised have,
(Said then the Fox) but I this doubt will save:
For ere we farther pass, I will devise
A Pasport for us both in fittest wise,
And by the Names of Soldiers us protect;
That now is thought a civil begging Sect.
Be you the Souldier, for you likest are
For manly Semblance, and small Skill in War:
I will but wait on you, and as occasion
Falls out, my self fit for the same will fashion.
The Pasport ended, both they forward went,
The Ape clad Souldier-like, fit for th' intent,
In a blue Jacket with a Cross of red,
And many Slits, as if that he had shed
Much Blood through many Wounds therein received,
Which had the use of his right Arm bereaved;
Upon his Head an old Scotch Cap he wore,
With a plume Feather all to pieces tore:
His Breeches were made after the new Cut,
Al Portugese, loose like an empty Gut;
And his Hose broken high above the Heeling,
And his Shooes beaten out with traveling.
But neither Sword nor Dagger be did bear,
Seems that no Foe's Revengement he did fear;
In stead of them a handsom Bat he held,
On which he leaned, as one far in Eld.
Shame light on him, that through to false Illusion,
Doth turn the Name of Souldiers to Abusion;
And that, which is the noblest Mysterie,
Brings to Reproach and common Infamie,
Long they thus travelled, yet never met
Adventure which might them a working set;
Yet many ways they sought, and many try'd;
Yet for their purposes none fit espy'd.
At last, they chaunc'd to meet upon the way
A simple Husband-man in Garments gray;
Yet though his Vesture were but mean and base,
A good Yeoman he was of honest place,
And more for Thrift did care than for gay Clothing:
Gay without good, is good Hearts greatest loathing.
The Fox him spying, bad the Ape him dight
To play his part, for loe he was in sight,
That (if he err'd not) should them entertain,
And yield them timely profit for their pain.
Eftsoons the Ape himself 'gan to uprear,
And on his Shoulders high his Bat to bear,
As if good service he were fit to do;
But little thrift for him he did it to:
And stoutly forward he his steps did strain,
That like a handsom Swain it him became.
When-as they nigh approached, that good Man
Seeing them wander loosely, first began
T' enquire of Custom, what and whence they were?
To whom the Ape, I am a Souldiere,
That fare in War have spent my dearest Brood,
And in long Service lost both Limbs and Good,
And now constrain'd that Trade to over-give,
I driven am to seek some means to live:
Which might it you in pity please t' afford,
I would be ready both in Deed and Word,
To do you faithful Service all my Days.
This yron World (that same he weeping says)
Brings down the stoutest Hearts to lowest State:
For Misery doth bravest Minds abate,
And make them seek for that they wont to scorn,
Of Fortune and of Hope at once forlorn.
The honest Man that heard him thus complain,
Was griev'd, as he had felt part of his pain;
And, well dispos'd him some Relief to show,
Askt if in Husbandry he ought did know,
To plough, to plant, to reap, to rake, to sow,
To hedg, to ditch, to thresh, to thatch, to mow;
Or to what Labour else he was prepar'd?
For Husband's Life is labourous and hard.
When-as the Ape him heard so much to talk
Of Labour, that did from his liking balk,
He would have slipt the Coller handsomly,
And to him said; Good Sir, full glad am I
To take what pains may any living Wight:
But my late maimed Limbs lack wonted Might
To do their kindly Services, as needeth:
Scarce this right Hand the Mouth with Diet feedeth,
So that it may no painful Work endure,
Ne to strong Labour can it self enure.
Put if that any other place you have,
Which asks small Pains, but Thriftiness to save,
Or Care to over-look, or Thrust to gather,
Ye may me trust as your own ghostly Father.
With that, the Husband-man 'gan him avize,
That it for him was fittest Exercise
Cattle to keep, or Grounds to over-see;
And asked him if he could willing be
To keep his Sheep, or to attend his Swine,
Or watch his Mares, or take his charge of Kine?
Gladly (said he) whatever such like Pain
Ye put on me, I will the same sustain:
But gladliest I of your fleecy Sheep
(Might it you please) would take on me to keep.
For ere that unto Arms I me betook,
Unto my Father's Sheep I us'd to look,
That yet the Skill thereof I have not lost
There-to right well this Curdog by my cost,
(Meaning the Fox) will serve, my Sheep to gather,
And drive to follow after their Belwether.
The Husband-man was meanly well content,
Tryal to make of his Endeavourment,
And home him leading, lent to him the charge
Of all his Flock, with liberty full large,
Giving account of the Annual Increase
Both of their Lambs, and of their woolly Fleece.
Thus is this Ape become a Shepherd Swain,
And the false Fox his Dog, (God give them pain)
For, ere the Year have half his Course out-run,
And do return from whence he first begun,
They shall him make an ill account of Thrift.
Now, when-as Time flying with Winges swift,
Expired had the term, that these two Javels
Should render up a reckning of their Travels
Unto their Master, which it of them sought,
Exceedingly they troubled were in thought;
Ne wist what answer unto him to frame,
Ne how to scape great Punishment, or Shame,
For their false Treason and vile Thievery.
For, not a Lamb of all their Flocks Supply
Had they to shew; but ever as they bred,
They slew them, and upon their Fleshes fed:
For that disguised Dog lov'd Blood to spill,
And drew the wicked Shepherd to his Will.
So twixt them both they not a Lamkin left,
And when Lambs fail'd, the old Sheeps Lives they reft;
That how t' acquit themselves unto their Lord,
They were in doubt, and flatly set abord.
The Fox then counsel'd th' ape, for to require
Respite till Morrow, t' answer his Desire:
For time's delay new Hope of Help still breeds.
The good Man granted, doubting nought their Deeds,
And bade, next Day that all should ready be.
But they more subtil meaning had than he:
For the next Morrow's Meed they closely ment,
For fear of Afterclaps for to prevent.
And that same Evening, when all shrouded were
In careless Sleep, they without Care or Fear,
Cruelly fell upon their Flock in Fold,
And of them slew at pleasure what they wold:
Of which, when as they feasted had their fill,
For a full Complement of all their Ill,
They stole away, and took their hasty flight,
Carry'd in Clouds of all-concealing Night.
So was the Husband-man left to his Loss,
And they unto their Fortune's change to toss.
After which sort they wandered long while,
Abusing many through their cloaked Guile;
That at the last they 'gan to be descry'd
Of every one, and all their Sleights espy'd.
So as their Begging now them failed quite;
For none would give, but all Men would them wite:
Yet would they take no Pains to get their Living,
But seek some other way to gain by giving:
Much like to Begging, but much better named;
For many beg, which are thereof ashamed.
And now the Fox had gotten him a Gown,
And th' Ape a Cassock side-long hanging down;
For they their Occupation meant to change,
And now in other state abroad to range:
For, since their Souldier's Pass no better sped,
They forg'd another, as for Clerks Book-red.
Who passing forth, as their Adventures fell,
Through many haps, which needs not here to tell;
At length chanc'd with a formal Priest to meet,
Whom they in civil Manner first did greet,
And after askt an Alms for God's dear Love.
The Man straight-way his Choler up did move,
And with reproachful Terms 'gan them revile,
For following that Trade so base and vile;
And askt what Licence, or what Pass they had?
Ah (said the Ape as sighing wondrous sad)
It's an hard case, when Men of good deserving
Must either driven be perforce to sterving,
Or asked for their Pass by every Squib,
That list at will them to revile or snib:
And yet (God wote) small odds I often see
'Twixt them that ask, and them that asked be.
Nath'less, because you shall not us misdeem,
But that we are as honest as we seem,
Ye shall our Pasport at your pleasure see,
And then ye will (I hope) well moved be.
Which when the Priest beheld, he view'd it nere,
As if therein some Text he studying were;
But little else (God wote) could thereof skill:
For, read he could not Evidence, nor Will,
Ne tell a written Word, ne write a Letter,
Ne make one Tittle worse, ne make one better:
Of such deep Learning little had he need,
Ne yet of Latin, ne of Greek, that breed
Doubts mongst Divines, and difference of Texts,
From whence arise diversity of Sects,
And hateful Heresies of God abhor'd:
But this good Sir did follow the plain Word,
Ne medled with their Controversies vain,
All his care was, his Service well to fain,
And to read Homelies on Holy-days,
When that was done, he might attend his Plays;
An easy Life, and fit high God to please.
He, having over-lookt their Pass at ease,
'Gan at the length them to rebuke again,
That no good trade of Life did entertain,
But lost their time in wandring loose abroad;
Seeing the World, in which they bootless boad,
Had ways enow for all therein to live;
Such Grace did God unto his Creatures give.
Said then the Fox; Who hath the World not tride,
From the right way full eath may wander wide:
We are but Novices new come abroad,
We have not yet the tract of any troad,
Nor on us taken any state of Life,
But ready are of any to make prief.
Therefore, might please you, which the World have proved,
Us to advise, which forth but lately moved,
Of some good Course, that we might undertake:
Ye shall for ever us your Bondmen make.
The Priest 'gan wex half proud to be so praid,
And thereby willing to afford them aid;
It seems (said he) right well that ye be Clerks,
Both by your witty Words, and by your Werks.
Is not that Name enough to make a Living
To him that hath a whit of Nature's giving?
How many honest Men see ye arise
Daily thereby, and grow to goodly Prize?
To Deans, to Archdeacons, to Commissaries,
To Lords, to Principals, to prebendaries;
All jolly Prelates, worthy Rule to bear,
Who ever them envie: yet Spite bites near.
Why should you doubt then, but that ye likewise
Might unto some of those in time arise?
In the mean time to live in good Estate,
Loving that love, and hating those that hate;
Being some honest Curate, or some Vicar,
Content with little in Condition sicker.
Ah! but (said th' ape) the Charge is wondrous great,
To feed Mens Souls, and hath an heavy Threat,
To feed Mens Souls (quoth he) is not in Man;
For, they must feed themselves, do what we can,
We are but charg'd to lay the Meat before:
Eat they that list, we need to do no more.
But God it is that feeds them with his Grace,
The Bread of Life pour'd down from heavenly Place,
Therefore said he that with the budding Rod
Did rule the Jews, All shall be taught of God.
That same hath Jesus Christ now to him raught,
By whom the Flock is rightly fed and taught;
He is the Shepherd, and the Priest is he;
We but his Shepherd Swains ordain'd to be.
Therefore here-with do not your self dismay;
Ne is the pains so great, but bear ye may;
For not so great as it was wont of yore,
It's now adays, ne half so straight and sore.
They whylom used duly every day
Their Service and their holy Things to say,
At Morn and Even, besides their Anthems sweet,
Their peny Masses, and their Complynes meet,
Their Dirges, their Trentals, and their Shrifts,
Their Memories, their Singings, and their Gifts.
Now all these needless Works are laid away;
Now once a Week upon the Sabbath-day,
It is enough to do our small Devotion,
And then to follow any merry Motion.
Ne are we tyed to fast, but when we list,
Ne to wear Garments base of wollen Twist,
But with the finest Silks us to aray,
That before God we may appear more gay,
Resembling Aaron's Glory in his place:
For far unfit it is, that Persons base
Should with vile Clothes approach God's Majestie,
Whom no Uncleanness may approachen nie:
Or that all Men which any Master serve,
Good Garments for their Service should deserve;
But he that serves the Lord of Hoasts most high,
And that in highest Place, t' approach him nigh,
And all the Peoples Prayers to present
Before his Throne, as on Ambassage sent
Both to and fro, should not deserve to wear
A Garment better than of Wool or Hair.
Beside, we may have lying by our sides
Our lovely Lasses, or bright shining Brides;
We be not tyde to wilful Chastity,
But have the Gospel of free Liberty.
By that he ended had his ghostly Sermon,
The Fox was well enduc'd to be a Parson;
And of the Priest eftsoons 'gan to enquire,
How to a Benefice he might aspire.
Marry there (said the Priest) is Art indeed;
Much good deep Learning one thereout may reed:
For, that the Ground-work is, and End of all,
Bow to obtain a Beneficial.
First therefore, when ye have in handsom wise,
Your selves attired, as you can devise,
Then to some Noble Man your self apply,
Or other Great One in the Worldes Eye,
That hath a zealous Disposition
To God, and so to his Religion:
There must thou fashion eke a godly Zeale,
Such as no Carpers may contrayr reveale:
For, each thing fained ought more wary be,
There thou must walk in sober Gravitie,
And seem as Saint-like as Saint Radegund;
Fast much, pray oft, look lowly on the ground,
And unto every one do Curtesie meek.
These Looks (nought saying) do a Benefice seek,
And be thou sure one not to lack ere long.
But if thee list unto the Court to throng,
And there to hunt after the hoped Prey,
Then must thou thee dispose another way:
For there thou needs must learn to laugh, to lye,
To face, to forge, to scoff, to company,
To crouch, to please, to be a Beetle-stock
Of thy great Master's Will, to scorn, to mock:
So maist thou chance mock out a Benefice,
Unless thou canst one conjure by Device,
Or cast a Figure for a Bishoprick:
And if one could, it were but a School-trick.
These be the ways by which without reward
Livings in Courts be gotten, though full hard.
For nothing there is done without a Fee:
The Courtier needs must recompenced be
With a Benevolence, or have in gage
The Primitias of your Parsonage:
Scarce can a Bishoprick forpass them by,
But that it must be gelt in privily.
Do not thou therefore seek a Living there,
But of more private Persons seek elsewhere,
Whereas thou mayst compound a better peny,
Ne let thy Learning question'd be of any.
For some good Gentleman that hath the right
Unto his Church for to present a Wight,
Will cope with thee in reasonable wise;
That if the Living yearly do arise
To forty Pound, that then his youngest Son
Shall twenty have, and twenty thou hast won:
Thou has it won, for it is of frank Gift,
And he will care for all the rest to shift;
Both, that the Bishop may admit of thee,
And that therein thou maist maintained be.
This is the way for one that is unlearn'd
Living to get, and not to be discern'd.
But they that are great Clerks, have nearer ways,
For Learning-sake to Living them to raise:
Yet many eke of them (God wote) are driven,
T' accept a Benefice in pieces riven.
How sayst thou (Friend) have I not well discourst
Upon this Common-place (though plain, not wourst)?
Better a short Tale, than a bad long Shriving,
Needs any more to learn to get a Living?
Now sure and by my Hallidom (quoth he)
Ye a great Master are in your degree:
Great Thanks I yield you for your Discipline,
And do no doubt but duly to incline
My Wits thereto, as ye shall shortly hear.
The Priest him wish'd good speed, and well to fare:
So parted they, as either's way them led.
But th' Ape and Fox e'er long so well them sped,
Through the Priest's wholesom Counsel lately taught,
And through their own fair handling wisely wrought,
That they a Benefice 'twixt them obtained;
And crafty Reynold was a Priest ordained;
And th' Ape his Parish-Clark procur'd to be:
Then made they Revel-rout, and goodly Glee.
But e'er long time had passed, they so ill
Did order their Affairs, that th' Evil-will
Of all their Parish'ners they had constrain'd;
Who to the Ordinary of them complain'd,
How foully they their Offices abus'd,
And them of Crimes and Heresies accus'd;
That Pursivants he often for them sent:
But they neglecting his Commandement,
So long persisted obstinate and bold,
Till at the length he published to hold
A Visitation, and them cited thether:
Then was high time their Wits about to gether;
What did they then, but made a Composition
With their next neighbour Priest for light Condition,
To whom their Living they resigned quight
For a few Pence, and ran away by night.
So passing through the Country in disguize,
They fled far off, where none might them surprize,
And after that long strayed here and there,
Through every Field and Forest far and near;
Yet never found occasion for their tourn,
But almost sterv'd, did much lament and mourn.
At last, they chanc'd to meet upon the way,
The Mule, all deck'd in goodly rich Array,
With Bells and Bosses, that full loudly rung,
And costly Trappings, that to ground down hung.
Lowly they him saluted in meek wise,
But he through Pride and Fatness 'gan despise
Their Meanness; scarce vouchsaf'd them to requite.
Whereat the Fox, deep groaning in his Sprite,
Said, Ah! Sir Mule, now blessed be the day,
That I see you so goodly and so gay
In your Attires, and eke your silken Hyde
Fill'd with round Flesh, that every Bone doth hide.
Seems that in fruitful Pastures ye do live,
Or Fortune doth you secret Favour give.
Foolish Fox (said the Mule) thy wretched Need
Praiseth the thing that doth thy Sorrow breed:
For well I ween, thou canst not but envy
My Wealth, compar'd to thine own Misery,
That art so lean and meagre waxen late,
That scarce thy Legs uphold thy feeble Gate.
Ay me (said then the Fox) whom evil Hap
Unworthy in such Wretchedness doth wrap,
And makes the Scorn of other Beasts to be:
But read (fair Sir, of Grace) from whence come ye?
Or what of Tydings you abroad do hear?
News may perhaps some Good unweeting bear.
From Royal Court I lately came (said he)
Where all the Bravery that Eye may see,
And all the Happiness that Heart desire,
Is to be found; he nothing can admire,
That hath not seen that Heaven's Pourtracture:
But Tydings there is none, I you assure,
Save that which common is, and known to all,
That Courtiers, as the Tide, do rise and fall.
But tell us (said the Ape) we do you pray,
Who now in Court doth bear the greatest sway:
That if such Fortune do to us befall,
We may seek Favour of the best of all.
Marry (said he) the highest now in Grace,
Be the wild Beasts, that swiftest are in Chace;
For in their speedy Course and nimble Flight
The Lion now doth take the most Delight;
But chiefly joys on foot them to behold,
Enchaste with Chain and Circulet of Gold:
So wild a Beast, so tame ytaught to be,
And buxom to his Bands is Joy to see.
So well his golden Circlet him beseemeth:
But his late Chain his Liege unmeet esteemeth;
For so brave Beasts he loveth best to see
In the wild Forest raunging fresh and free.
Therefore if fortune thee in Court to live,
In case thou ever there wilt hope to thrive,
To some of these thou must thy self apply;
Else, as a Thistle-down in th' Air doth fly,
So vainly shalt thou to and fro be tost,
And lose thy Labour and thy fruitless Cost.
And yet full few that follow them I see,
For Vertue's bare Regard advaunced be,
But either for some gainful Benefit,
Or that they may for their own Turns be fit.
Nathless, perhaps, ye things may handle so,
That ye may better thrive than thousands moe.
But (said the Ape) how shall we first come in,
That after we may Favour seek to win?
How else (said he) but with a good bold Face,
And with big Words, and with a stately Pace,
That Men may think of you in general,
That to be in you, which is not at all:
For not by that which is, the World now deemeth
(As it was wont) but by that same that seemeth.
Ne do I doubt, but that ye well can fashion
Your selves thereto, according to Occasion:
So fare ye well, good Courtiers may ye be;
So proudly neighing, from them parted he.
Then 'gan this crafty Couple to devize,
How for the Court themselves they might aguize;
For thither they themselves meant to address,
In hope to find there happier Success:
So well they shifted, that the Ape anon
Himself had cloathed like a Gentleman,
And the sly Fox, as like to be his Groome,
That to the Court in speedy sort they come.
Where the fond Ape himself uprearing high
Upon his Tiptoes, stalketh stately by,
As if he were some great Magnifico,
And boldly doth amongst the boldest go.
And his Man Reynold, with fine Counterfesaunce,
Supports his Credit and his Countenaunce.
Then 'gan the Courtiers gaze on every side,
And stare on him, with big Looks basen wide,
Wondring what mister Wight he was, and whence:
For he was clad in strange Accoustrements,
Fashion'd with queint Devises, never seen
In Court before; yet there all Fashions been:
Yet he them in Newfangleness did pass.
But his Behaviour altogether was
Alla Turchesca much the more admir'd,
And his Looks loftie, as if he aspir'd
To Dignity, and 'sdeign'd the low Degree;
That all which did such Strangeness in him see,
By secret means 'gan of his State enquire,
And privily his Servant thereto hire;
Who, throughly arm'd against such Coverture,
Reported unto all, that he was sure
A noble Gentleman of high Regard,
Which through the World had with long Travel far'd,
And seen the Manners of all Beasts on ground,
Now here arriv'd, to see if like he found.
Thus did the Ape at first him Credit gain,
Which afterwards he wisely did maintain
With gallant Show, and daily more augment
Through his fine Feats and courtly Complement;
For he could play, and dance, and vaute, and spring,
And all that else pertains to Revelling,
Only through kindly Aptness of his Joints.
Besides, he could do many other Points,
The which in Court him served to good stead:
For he 'mongst Ladies could their Fortunes read
Out of their Hands, and merry Leasings tell,
And juggle finely, that became him well:
But he so light was at Leger-demain,
That what he touch'd came not to light again;
Yet would he laugh it out, and proudly look,
And tell them, that they greatly him mistook.
So would he scoff them out with Mockery,
For he therein had great Felicity;
And with sharp Quips joy'd others to deface,
Thinking that their disgracing did him trace:
So whilst that other like vain Wits he pleased,
And made to laugh, his Heart was greatly eased.
But the right gentle Mind would bite his Lip.
To hear the Javel so good Men to nip:
For though the Vulgar yield an open Ear,
And common Courtiers love to gybe and flear
At every thing which they hear spoken ill,
And the best Speeches with Ill-meaning spill;
Yet the brave Courtier, in whose beauteous Thought
Regard of Honour harbours more than ought,
Doth loath such base Condition, to backbite
Any's good Name for Envy or Despite:
He stands on Terms of honourable Mind,
Ne will be carried with the common Wind
Of Court's inconstant Mutability,
Ne after every tatling Fable fly,
But hears, and sees the Follies of the rest,
And thereof gathers for himself the best:
He will not creep, nor crouch with fained Face,
But walks upright with comely stedfast Pace,
And unto all doth yield due Courtesie;
But not with kissed Hand below the Knee,
As that same apish Crue is wont to do:
For he disdains himself t' embase there-to.
He hates foul Leasings, and vile Flattery,
Two filthy Blots in noble Gentery;
And loathful ldleness he doth detest,
The Canker-worm of every gentle Breast:
The which to banish with fair Exercise
Of Knightly Feats, he daily doth devise:
Now menaging the Mouths of stubborn Steeds,
Now practising the Proof of warlike Deeds;
Now his bright Arms assaying, now his Spear,
Now the nigh-aimed Ring away to bear;
At other times he casts to sue the Chace
Of swift wild Beasts, or run on foot a Race,
T' enlarge his Breath (large Breath in Arms most needful)
Or else by wrestling to wex strong and heedful;
Or his stiff Arms to stretch with Eughen Bow,
And manly Legs, still passing to and fro,
Without a gowned Beast him fast beside;
A vain Ensample of the Persian Pride,
Who after he had won th' Assyrian Foe,
Did ever after scorn on foot to go.
Thus when this courtly Gentleman with Toil
Himself hath wearied, he doth recoil
Unto his Rest, and there with sweet Delight
Of Musick's Skill revives his toiled Spright;
Or else with Loves, and Ladies gentle Sports,
The Joy of Youth, himself he recomforts:
Or lastly, when the Body list to pause,
His Mind unto the Muses he withdraws;
Sweet Lady Muses, Ladies of Delight,
Delights of Life, and Ornaments of Light,
With whom he close confers with wise Discourse,
Of Nature's Words, of Heaven's continual Course,
Of foreign Lands, of People different,
Of Kingdoms Change, of divers Government,
Of dreadful Battails, of renowned Knights;
With which he kindleth his ambitious Sprights
To like Desire and Praise of noble Fame,
The only Up-shot whereto he doth aim:
For all his Mind on Honour fixed is,
To which he levels all his Purposes,
And in his Prince's Service spends his Days,
Nor so much for to gain, or for to raise
Himself to high degree; as for his Grace,
And in his Liking to win worthy Place,
Through due Deserts, and comely Carriage,
In whatso please employ is Personage,
That may be matter meet to gain him Praise;
For he is fit to use in all Assays,
Whether for Arms and warlike Amenance,
Or else for wise and civil Governance.
For he is practiz'd well in Policy,
And thereto doth his courting most apply:
To learn the Enterdeale of Princes strange,
To mark th' Intent of Counsels, and the Change
Of States, and eke of private Men some-while,
Supplanted by fine Falshood and fair Guile;
Of all the which he gathereth what is fit
T' enrich the storehouse of his powerful Wit,
Which through wise Speeches, and grave Conference
He daily ekes, and brings to Excellence.
Such is the rightful Courtier in his kind:
But unto such the Ape lent not his Mind;
Such were for him no fit Companions,
Such would discry his leud Conditions:
But the young lusty Gallants he did chose
To follow, meet to whom he might disclose
His witless Pleasance, and ill-pleasing Vein.
A thousand ways he them could entertain,
With all the thriftless Games that may be found,
With Mumming and with Masking all around,
With Dice, with Cards, with Balliards far unfit,
With Shuttlecocks, misseeming manly Wit,
With Courtizans and costly Riotize,
Whereof still somewhat to his Share did rize:
Ne them to pleasure, would he sometimes scorn
A Pandar's Coat (so basely was he born;)
There-to he could fine loving Verses frame,
And play the Poet oft. But ah! for shame,
Let not sweet Poets Praise, whose only pride
Is Vertue to advance, and Vice deride,
Be with the work of Losels Wit defamed,
Ne let such Verses Poetry be named:
Yet he the Name on him would rashly take,
Maugre the sacred Muses, and it make
A Servant to the vile Affection
Of such, as he depended most upon,
And with the sugry Sweet thereof allure
Chaste Ladies Ears to Fantasies impure:
To such Delights the noble Wits he led
Which him reliev'd, and their vain Humours fed
With fruitless Follies, and unsound Delights.
But if perhaps into their noble Sprights
Desire of Honour, or brave thought of Arms
Did ever creep, then with his wicked Charms
And strong Conceits he would it drive away,
Ne suffer it to house there half a day.
And when-so Jove of Letters did inspire
Their gentle Wits, and kindle wise Desire,
That chiefly doth each noble Mind adorn,
Then he would scoff at Learning, and eke scorn
The Sectaries thereof, as People base,
And simple Men, which never came in place
Of World's Affairs, but in dark Corners mew'd,
Mutter'd of Matters, as their Books them skew'd,
Ne other Knowledge ever did attain,
But with their Gowns their Gravity maintain.
From them he would his impudent lewd Speach
Against God's holy Ministers oft reach,
And mock Divines and their Profession:
What else then did he by Progression,
But mock high God himself, whom they profess?
But what car'd he for God or Godliness?
All his Care was himself how to advance,
And to uphold his courtly Countenance
By all the cunning Means he could devise;
Were it by honest ways, or otherwise,
He made small choice: yet sure his Honesty
Got him small Gains, but shameless Flattery,
And filthy Brocage, and unseemly Shifts,
And Borrow base, and some good Ladies Gifts:
But the best Help, which chiefly him sustain'd,
Was his Man Reynold's Purchase which he gain'd.
For he was school'd by kind in all the Skill
Of close Conveyance, and each Practice ill
Of Coosinage and cleanly Knavery,
Which oft maintain'd his Master's Bravery.
Besides, he us'd another slippery Sleight,
In taking on himself in common sight
False Personages, fit for every sted,
With which he thousands cleanly coosined:
Now like a Merchant, Merchants to deceave,
With whom his Credit he did often leave
In gage, for his gay Master's hopeless Det:
Now like a Lawyer, when he Land would let,
Or sell Fee-simples in his Master's Name,
Which he had never, nor ought like the same:
Then would he be a Broker, and draw in
Both Wares and Money, by exchange to win:
Then would he seem a Farmer, that would sell
Bargains of Woods, which he did lately fell,
Or Corn, or Cattle, or such other Ware,
There-by to coosin Men not well aware;
Of all the which there came a secret Fee
To th' ape, that he his Countenance might be.
Besides all this, he us'd oft to beguile
Poor Suters, that in Court did haunt some while
For he would learn their Business secretly,
And then inform his Master lustily,
That he by means might cast them to prevent,
And beg the Sute the which the other ment.
Or otherwise, false Reynold would abuse
The simple Suter, and wish him to chuse
His Master, being one of great regard
In Court, to compass any Sute not hard,
In case his pains were recompenc'd with reason:
So would he work the silly Man by Treason
To buy his Master's frivolous Good-will,
That had not power to do him good or ill.
So pitiful a thing is Suters State!
Most miserable Man, whom wicked Fate
Hath brought to Court, to sue for had-ywist,
That few have found, and many one hath mist
Full little knowest thou that hast not tride,
What Hell it is, in suing long to bide:
To lose good Days that might be better spent,
To waste long Nights in pensive Discontent.
To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow;
To feed on Hope, to pine with Fear and Sorrow;
To have thy Prince's Grace, yet want her Peers;
To have thy Asking, yet wait many Years;
To fret thy Soul with Crosses and with Cares;
To eat thy Heart through comfortless Despairs;
To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to ronne,
To spend, to give, to want, to be undonne.
Unhappy Wight, born to disastrous End,
That doth his Life in so long Tendance spend.
Who-ever leaves sweet home, where mean Estate
In safe Assurance, without strife or Hate,
Finds all things needful for Contentment meek;
And will to Court, for Shadows vain to seek,
Or hope to gain, himself a daw will try:
That Curse God send unto my mine Enemy.
For none but such as this bold Ape unblest,
Can ever thrive in that unlucky Quest;
Or such as hath a Reynold to his Man,
That by his Shifts his Master furnish can.
But yet this Fox could not so closely hide
His crafty Feats, but that they were descride
At length, by such as sate in Justice Seat,
Who for the same him foully did entreat;
And having worthily him punished,
Out of the Court for ever banished.
And now the Ape wanting his Huckster-man,
That wont provide his Necessaries, 'gan
To grow into great lack, ne could up-hold
His Countenance in those his Garments old;
Ne new ones could he easily provide,
Though all Men him uncased 'gan deride,
Like as a Puppit placed in a Play
Whose part once past, all Men bid take away:
So that he driven was to great Distress,
And shortly brought to hopeless Wretchedness.
Then closely as he might, he cast to leave
The Court, not asking any Pass or Leave
But ran away in his rent Rags by Night,
Ne ever staid in place, ne spake to Wight,
Till that the Fox his Copesmate he had found,
To whom complaining his unhappy Stound,
At last again with him in travel join'd,
And with him far'd some better Chance to find.
So in the World long time they wandered,
And mickle Want and Hardness suffered;
That them repented much so foolishly
To come so far to seek for Misery,
And leave the Sweetness of contented home,
Though eating Hips, and drinking watry Fome.
Thus as they them complained to and fro,
Whil'st through the Forrest rechless they did go,
Lo where they spide, how in a gloomy Glade,
The Lion sleeping lay in secret Shade,
His Crown and Scepter lying him beside,
And having doft for Heat his dreadful Hide:
Which when they saw, the Ape was sore afraid,
And would have fled with Terror all dismaid.
But him the Fox with hardy words did stay,
And bad him put all Cowardize away;
For now was time (if ever they would hope)
To aim their Counsels to the fairest scope,
And them for ever highly to advaunce,
In ease the Good which their own happy Chaunce
Them freely offred, they would wisely take.
Scarce could the Ape yet speak, so did he quake;
Yet as he could, he askt how Good might grow,
Where nought but Dread and Death do seem in show.
Now (said he) whiles the Lion sleepeth sound,
May we his Crown and Mace take from the ground,
And eke his Skin, the Terror of the Wood,
Where-with we may our selves (if we think good)
Make Kings of Beasts, and Lords of Forrests all,
Subject unto that Power imperial.
Ah! but (said th' Ape) who is so bold a Wretch,
That dare his hardy hand to those out-stretch,
When as he knows his Meed, if he be spide,
To be a thousand Deaths, and Shame beside?
Fond Ape (said then the Fox) into whose Brest
Never crept Thought of Honour nor brave Gest,
Who will not venture Life a King to be,
And rather rule and raign in soveraign See,
Than dwell in Dust inglorious and base,
Where none shall name the number of his place?
One joyous Hour in blissful Happiness,
I chuse before a Life of Wretchedness.
Be therefore councelled herein by me,
And shake off this vile-hearted Cowardree.
If he awake, yet is not Death the next,
For we may colour it with some pretext
Of this, or that, that may excuse the Crime:
Else we may fly; thou to a Tree mayst clime,
And I creep under ground; both from his reach:
Therefore be rul'd to do as I do teach.
The Ape, that earst did nought but chill and quake,
Now 'gan some Courage unto him to take,
And was content to attempt that Enterprise,
Tickled with Glory and rash Covetise;
But first 'gan question, whether should assay
Those royal Ornaments to steal away.
Marry that shall your self (quoth he thereto)
For ye be fine and nimble it to do;
Of all the Beasts which in the Forrests be,
Is not a fitter for his turn than ye:
Therefore, mine own dear Brother, take good hart,
And ever think a Kingdom is your part.
Loth was the Ape (though praised) to adventure,
Yet faintly 'gan into his work to enter,
Afraid of every Leaf that stirr'd him by,
And every Stick that underneath did lie;
Upon his tiptoes nicely he up went,
For making noise, and still his ear he lent
To every Sound that under Heaven blew;
Now went, now stept, now crept, now backward drew,
That it good sport had been him to have ey'd:
Yet at the last (so well he him apply'd)
Through his fine Handling, and his cleanly Play,
He all those royal Signs had stoln away,
And with the Fox's help them borne aside,
Into a secret corner unespide;
Whither whenas they came, they fell at words,
Whether of them should be the Lord of Lords;
For th' Ape was strifeful, and ambicious,
And the Fox guileful, and most covetous;
That neither pleased was, to have the Rein
Twixt them divided into even twain,
But either (algates) would be Lords alone:
For Love and Lordship bide no paragone.
I am most worthy (said the Ape) sith I
For it did put my Life in jeopardy;
There-to I am in Person and in Stature
Most like a Man, the Lord of every Creature
So that it seemeth I was made to raign,
And born to be a kingly Soveraign.
Nay (said the Fox) Sir Ape, you are astray:
For tho to steal the Diadem away
Were the work of your nimble hand,
Yet I Did first devise the Plot by Policy;
So that it wholly springeth from my Wit;
For which also I claim my self more fit
Than you, to rule: for Government of State
Will without Wisdom soon be ruinate.
And where ye claim your self for outward Shape
Most like a Man, Man is not like an Ape
In his chief parts, that is, in Wit and Spirit;
But I therein most like to him do merit,
For my sly Wyles and subtil Craftiness,
The Title of the Kingdom to possess.
Nath'less (my Brother) since we passed are
Unto this point, we will appease our Jar,
And I with Reason meet will rest content,
That ye shall have both Crown and Government,
Upon condition that ye ruled be
In all Affairs, and councelled by me;
And that ye let none other ever draw
Your mind from me, but keep this as a Law;
And hereupon an Oath unto me plight.
The Ape was glad to end the Strife so light,
And there-to swore: for who would not oft swear,
And oft unswear, a Diadem to bear?
Then freely up those royal Spoils he took,
Yet at the Lion's Skin he inly quook;
But it dissembled, and upon his Head
The Crown, and on his Back the Skin he did,
And the false Fox he helped to array.
Then when he was all dight, he took his way
Into the Forrest, that he might be seen
Of the wild Beasts in his new Glory sheen.
There the two first, whom he encountred, were
The Sheep and th' Ass, who striken both with fear
At sight of him, 'gan fast away to fly;
But unto them the Fox aloud did cry,
And in the King's Name bade them both to stay,
Upon the pain that thereof follow may.
Hardly nath'less were they restrained so
Till that the Fox forth toward them did go,
And there dissuaded them from needless fear,
For that the King did favour to them bear;
And therefore dreadless bade them come to Court:
For no wild Beasts should do them any torte
There or abroad, ne would his Majesty
Use them but well, with gracious Clemency,
As whom he knew to him both fast and true;
So he persuaded them with Homage due
Themselves to humble to the Ape prostrate,
Who gently to them bowing in his Gate,
Received them with chearful entertain.
Thence, forth proceeding with his Princely Train,
He shortly met the Tyger and the Boar,
Which with the simple Camel raged sore
In bitter words, seeking to take occasion,
Upon his fleshy Corps to make Invasion:
But soon as they this Mock-King did espy,
Their troublous Strife they stinted by and by,
Thinking indeed that it the Lion was.
He then to prove whether his Power would pass
As currant, sent the Fox to them straightway,
Commanding them their Cause of Strife bewray;
And if that wrong on either side there were,
That he should warn the Wronger to appear
The morrow next at Court, it to defend;
In the mean time upon the King t' attend.
The subtile Fox so well his Message said,
That the proud Beasts him readily obey'd:
Thereby the Ape in wondrous stomach wox,
Strongly encourag'd by the crafty Fox;
That King indeed himself he shortly thought,
And all the Beasts him feared as they ought:
And followed unto his Palace hie,
Where taking Congee, each one by and by
Departed to his home in dreadful awe,
Full of the feared sight which late they saw.
The Ape thus seized of the Regal Throne,
Eftsoons, by Councel of the Fox alone,
'Gan to provide for all things in assurance,
That so his Rule might longer have endurance.
First, to his Gate he pointed a strong Guard,
That none might enter but with issue hard:
Then for the Safegard of his Personage,
He did appoint a warlike Equippage
Of forrain Beasts, not in the Forrest bred,
But part by Land, and part by Water fed:
For Tyranny is with strange Aid supported.
Then unto him all monstrous Beasts resorted
Bred of two kinds, as Griffons, Minotaures,
Crocodiles, Dragons, Beavers, and Centaures:
With those himself he strengthned mightily:
That fear he need no Force of Enemy.
Then 'gan he rule and tyrannize at will,
Like as the Fox did guide his graceless Skill;
And all wild Beasts made Vassals of his Pleasures,
And with their Spoils enlarg'd his private Treasures.
No Care of justice, nor no Rule of Reason,
No Temperance, nor no Regard of Season,
Did thenceforth ever enter in his Mind;
But Cruelty, the sign of currish kind,
And 'sdainful Pride, and wilful Arrogaunce;
Such follows those whom Fortune doth advaunce.
But the false Fox most kindly plaid his part:
For, whatsoever Mother Wit, or Art
Could work, he put in proof: no Practice sly,
No Counterpoint of cunning Policy,
No Reach, no Breach, that might him profit bring,
But he the same did to his purpose wring.
Nought suffred he the Ape to give or graunt,
But through his hand alone must pass the Fiaunt.
All Offices, all Leases by him lept,
And of them all what-so he lik'd, he kept.
Justice he sold, Injustice for to buy,
And for to purchace for his Progeny.
Ill might it prosper, that ill gotten was;
But so he got it, little did he pass.
He fed his Cubs with Fat of all the Soil,
And with the Sweet of others sweating Toil;
He crammed them with Crums of Benefices,
And fill'd their mouths with Meeds of Malefices;
He cloathed them with all Colours save white,
And loaded them with Lordships and with Might,
So much as they were able well to bear,
That with the weight their backs nigh broken were;
He chaffred Chairs in which Churchmen were set,
And Breach of Laws to privy Farm did let.
No Statute so established might be,
Nor Ordinance so needful, but that he
Would violate, though not with Violence,
Yet under colour of the Confidence
The which the Ape repos'd in him alone,
And reckned him the Kingdom's Corner-stone.
And ever when he ought would bring to pass,
His long Experience the Platform was:
And when he ought not pleasing would put by,
The Cloke was Care of Thrift, and Husbandry,
For to encrease the common Treasure's store;
But his own Treasure he encreased more,
And lifted up his lofty Towres thereby,
That they began to threat the neighbour Sky;
The whiles the Prince's Palaces fell fast
To ruin: (for what thing can ever last?)
And whil'st the other Peers for Poverty
Were forc't their ancient Houses to let lie,
And their old Castles to the Ground to fall,
Which their Forefathers, famous over all,
Had founded for the Kingdom's Ornament,
And for their Memories long Moniment.
But he no count made of Nobility,
Nor the wild Beasts whom Arms did glorify,
The Realm's chief Strength and Girlond of the Crown;
All these through fained Crimes he thrust adown,
Or made them dwell in darkness of Disgrace:
For none, but whom he list, might come in place.
Of Men of Arms he had but small regard,
But kept them low, and streightned very hard.
For Men of Learning little he esteemed;
His Wisdom he above their Learning deemed.
As for the rascal Commons, least he cared;
For not so common was his Bounty shared;
Let God (said he) if please, care for the many,
I for my self must care before else any:
So did he Good to none, to many Ill,
So did he all the Kingdom rob and pill,
Yet none durst speak, nor none durst of him plain;
So great he was in Grace, and rich through Gain.
Ne would he any let to have access
Unto the Prince, but by his own Address:
For all that else did come, were sure to fail;
Yet would he further none but for avail.
For on a time the Sheep, to whom of yore
The Fox had promised of Friendship store,
What time the Ape the Kingdom first did gain,
Came to the Court, her Case there to complain;
How that the Wolf, her mortal Enemy,
Had sithence slain her Lamb most cruelly;
And therefore crav'd to come unto the King,
To let him know the Order of the thing.
Soft, Gooddy Sheep (then said the Fox) not so:
Unto the King so rash ye may not go,
He is with greater matter busied
Than a Lamb, or the Lamb's own Mother's Hed.
Ne certes may I take it well in part,
That ye my Cousin Wolf so foully thwart,
And seek with Slander his good Name to blot:
For there was cause, else do it he would not.
Therefore surcease, good Dame, and hence depart:
So went the Sheep away with heavy Heart.
So many moe, so every one was used,
That to give largely to the Box refused.
Now when high Jove, in whose almighty Hand
The Care of Kings and Power of Empires stand,
Sitting one Day within his Turret hie,
From whence he views with his black-lidded Eye,
What-so the Heaven in his wide Vault contains,
And all that in the deepest Earth remains,
And troubled Kingdom of wild Beasts beheld,
Whom not their kindly Sovereign did weld,
But an usurping Ape with Guile suborn'd,
Had all suberst; he sdeignfully it scorn'd
In his great Heart, and hardly did refrain,
But that with Thunderbolts he had him slain,
And driven down to Hell, his duest Meed:
But him avising, he that dreadful Deed
Forbore, and rather chose, with scornful Shame,
Him to avenge, and blot his brutish Name
Unto the World, that never after any
Should of his Race be void of infamy:
And his false Counsellor, the Cause of all,
To damn to Death, or Dole perpetual,
From whence he never should be quit, nor stall'd.
Forth-with he Mercury unto him call'd,
And bade him fly with never-resting speed
Unto the Forrest, where wild Beasts do breed;
And there enquiring privily, to learn
What did of late chance to the Lion stearn,
That he rul'd not the Empire, as he ought;
And whence were all those Plaints unto him brought
Of Wrongs and Spoils by salvage Beasts committed:
Which done, he bade the Lion be remitted
Into his Seat, and those same Treachours vile
Be punished for their presumptuous Guile.
The Son of Maia, soon as he receiv'd
That word, straight with his azure Wings he cleav'd
The liquid Clouds and lucid Firmament;
Ne staid, till that he came with steep Descent
Unto the Place, where his Prescript did show.
There stouping like an Arrow from a Bow,
He soft arrived on the grassie Plain,
And fairly paced forth with easie Pain,
Till that unto the Palace nigh he came.
Then 'gan he to himself new Shape to frame,
And that fair Face, and that Ambrosial Hue,
Which wonts to deck the Gods immortal Crew,
And beautifie the shiny Firmament,
He doft, unfit for that rude Rabblement.
So standing by the Gates in strange Disguize,
He 'gan enquire of some in secret wize,
Both of the King and of his Government,
And of the Fox, and his false Blandishment:
And evermore he heard each one complain
Of foul Abuses both in Realm and Raign.
Which yet to prove more true, he meant to see,
And an Eye-witness of each thing to be.
Tho, on his Head his dreadful Hat he dight,
Which maketh him invisible to sight,
And mocketh th' Eyes of all the Lookers on,
Making them think it but a Vision.
Through Power of that, he runs through Enemies Swerds;
Through Power of that, he passeth through the Herds
Of ravenous wild Beasts, and doth beguile
Their greedy Mouths of the expected Spoil;
Through Power of that, his cunning Thieveries
He wonts to work, that none the same espies;
And through the Power of that, he putteth on
What Shape he list in Apparition.
That on his Head he wore; and in his Hand
He took Caduceus his snaky Wand,
With which the damned Ghosts he governeth,
And Furies rules, and Tartare tempereth.
With that he causeth Sleep to seize the Eyes,
And Fear the Hearts of all his Enemies;
And when him list, an universal Night,
Throughout the World he makes on every Wight,
As when his Sire with Alcumena lay,
Thus dight, into the Court he took his way,
Both through the Gard, which never him descride,
And through the Watchmen, who him never spide:
Thence, forth he past into each secret part,
Whereas he saw (that sorely griev'd his Hart)
Each place abounding with foul Injuries,
And fill'd with Treasure rack'd with Robberies:
Each place defil'd with Blood of guiltless Beasts,
Which had been slain to serve the Ape's Beheasts:
Gluttony, Malice, Pride, and Covetize;
And Lawlesness reigning with Riotize;
Besides the infinite Extortions
Done through the Fox's great Oppressions,
That the Complaints thereof could not be told.
Which when he did with loathful Eyes behold,
He would no more endure, but came his way,
And cast to seek the Lion where he may,
That he might work th' Avengement for his Shame,
On those two Caitives which had bred him Blame.
And seeking all the Forest busily,
At last he found, where sleeping he did lie;
The wicked Weed, which there the Fox did lay,
From underneath his Head he took away,
And then him waking, forced up to rise.
The Lion looking up, 'gan him avize,
As one late in a trance, what had if long
Become of him; for Fantasie is strong.
Arise (said Mercury) thou sluggish Beast,
That here liest sensless, like the Corpse deceast,
The whilst thy Kingdom from thy Head is rent,
And thy Throne Royal with Dishonour blent:
Arise, and do thy self redeem from Shame,
And be aveng'd on those that breed thy Blame.
There-at enraged, soon he 'gan up-start,
Grinding his Teeth, and grating his great Hart;
And rouzing up himself, for his rough Hide
He 'gan to reach, but no where it espide.
There-with he 'gan full terribly to roar,
And chauft at that Indignity right sore.
But when his Crown and Scepter both he wanted,
Lord how he fum'd, and swell'd, and rag'd, and panted;
And threatned Death, and thousand deadly Dolours
To them that had purloin'd his Princely Honours!
With that in haste, disrobed as he Was,
He towards his own Palace forth did pass;
And all the way he roared as he went,
That all the Forrest with Astonishment
Thereof did tremble, and the Beasts therein
Fled fast away from that so dreadful Din.
At last, he came unto his Mansion,
Where all the Gates he found fast lockt anon,
And many Warders round about them stood.
With that he roar'd aloud, as he were wood,
That all the Palace quaked at the Stound,
As if it quite were riven from the Ground,
And all within were dead and heartless left;
And th' Ape himself, as one whose Wits were reft,
Fled here and there, and every Corner sought,
To hide himself from his own feared Thought.
But the false Fox, when he the Lion heard,
Fled closely forth, straightway of Death afear'd,
And to the Lion came full lowly creeping,
With fained Face, and watry Eyn half weeping,
T' excuse his former Treason and Abusion,
And turning all unto the Ape's Confusion:
Nath'less, th' Royal Beast forbore believing,
But bade him stay at ease till further prieving.
Then when he saw no Entrance to him graunted,
Roaring yet louder that all Hearts it daunted,
Upon those Gates with Force he fiercely flew,
And rending them in pieces, felly slew
Those Warders strange, and all that else he met.
But th' Ape still flying, he no where might get;
From Room to Room, from Beam to Beam he fled
All breathless, and for fear now almost ded:
Yet him at last the Lion spide, and caught,
And forth with Shame unto his Judgment brought.
Then all the Beasts he caus'd assembled be,
To hear their Doom, and sad Ensample see.
The Fox, first Author of that Treachery,
He did uncase, and then away let fly:
But th' Ape's long Tail (which then he had) he quite
Cut off, and both Ears pared of their height;
Since which, all Apes but half their Ears have left,
And of their Tails are utterly bereft.
So Mother Hubberd her Discourse did end
Which pardon me, if I amiss have pen'd;
For, weak was my Remembrance it to hold,
And bad her Tongue that it so bluntly told.
[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 5:1173-1208]