Familiar Colloquies/Rash Vows

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Familiar Colloquies by Desiderius Erasmus, translated by Nathan Bailey
Rash Vows
RASH VOWS.


Arnoldus, Cornelius.


Ar. Cornelius, well met heartily; you have been lost this hundred years.
Co. What, my old companion Arnoldus, the man I longed to see most of any man in the world? God save you.
Ar. We all gave thee over for lost. But, prithee, where hast thou been rambling all this while?
Co. In the other world.
Ar. Why, truly a person would think so by thy slovenly dress, lean carcase, and ghastly phyz.
Co. Well, but I am just come from Jerusalem, not from the Stygian shades.
Ar. What wind blew thee thither?
Co. What wind blows a great many other folks thither?
Ar. Why, folly, or else I am mistaken.
Co. However, I am not the only fool in the world.
Ar. What did you hunt after there?
Co. Why, misery.
Ar. You might have found that nearer home. But did you meet with anything worth seeing there?
Co. Why, truly, to speak ingenuously, little or nothing. They shew us some certain monuments of antiquity, which I look upon to be most of them counterfeits, and mere contrivances to bubble the simple and credulous. I don't think they know precisely the place that Jerusalem anciently stood in.
Ar. What did you see, then?
Co. A great deal of barbarity everywhere.
Ar. But I hope you are come back more holy than you went.
Co. No, indeed, rather ten times worse.
Ar. Well, but then you are richer?
Co. Nay, rather poorer than Job.
Ar. But don't you repent you have taken so long a journey to so little purpose?
Co. No, nor I am not ashamed neither, I have so many companions of my folly to keep me in countenance; and as for repentance, it is too late now.
Ar. What, do you get no good, then, by so dangerous a voyage?
Co. Yes, a great deal.
Ar. What is it?
Co. Why, I shall live more pleasantly for it for time to come.
Ar. What, because you will have the pleasure of telling old stories when the danger is over?
Co. That is something indeed, but that is not all.
Ar. Is there any other advantage in it besides that?
Co. Yes, there is.
Ar. What is it? pray tell me.
Co. Why, I can divert myself and company, as oft as I have a mind to it, in romancing upon my adventures over a pot of ale or a good dinner.
Ar. Why, truly that is something, as you say.
Co. And besides, I shall take as much pleasure myself when I hear others romancing about things they never heard nor saw; nay, and that they do with that assurance, that when they are telling the most ridiculous and impossible things in nature, they persuade themselves they are speaking truth all the while.
Ar. This is a wonderful pleasure. Well, then, you have not lost all your cost and labour, as the saying is.
Co. Nay, I think this is something better still than what they do, who, for the sake of a little advance money, list themselves for soldiers in the army, which is the nursery of all impiety.
Ar. But it is an ungentleman-like thing to take delight in telling lies.
Co. But it is a little more like a gentleman than either to delight others, or be delighted in slandering other persons, or lavishing away a man's time or substance in gaming.
Ar. Indeed I must be of your mind in that.
Co. But then there is another advantage.
Ar. What is that?
Co. If there shall be any friend that I love very well, who shall happen to be tainted with this frenzy, I will advise him to stay at home; as your mariners that have been cast away advise them that are going to sea, to steer clear of the place where they miscarried.
Ar. I wish you had been my monitor in time.
Co. What, man! have you been infected with this disease too?
Ar. Yes, I have been at Rome and Compostella.
Co. Good God! how I am pleased that you have been as great a fool as I! What Pallas put that into your head?
Ar. No Pallas, but Moria rather, especially when I left at home a handsome young wife, several children, and a family who had nothing in the world to depend upon for a maintenance but my daily labour.
Co. Sure it must be some important reason that drew you away from all these engaging relations. Prithee, tell me what it was.
Ar. I am ashamed to tell it.
Co. You need not be ashamed to tell me, who, you know, have been sick of the same distemper.
Ar. There was a knot of neighbours of us drinking together, and when the wine began to work in our noddles, one said he had a mind to make a visit to St. James, and another to St. Peter; presently there was one or two that promised to go with them, till at last it was concluded upon to go all together; and I, that I might not seem a disagreeable companion, rather than break good company, promised to go too. The next question was, whether we should go to Rome or Compostella? Upon the debate it was determined that we should all, God willing, set out the next day for both places.
Co. A grave decree fitter to be written in wine than engraved in brass.
Ar. Presently a bumper was put about to our good journey, which, when every man had taken off in his turn, the vote passed into an act, and became inviolable.
Co. A new religion! But did you all come safe back?
Ar. All but three, one died by the way, and gave us in charge to give his humble service to Peter and James; another died at Rome, who bid us remember him to his wife and children; and the third we left at Florence dangerously ill, and I believe he is in heaven before now.
Co. Was he so good a man, then?
Ar. The veriest droll in nature.
Co. Why do you think he is in heaven, then?
Ar. Because he had a whole satchelful of large indulgences.
Co. I understand you, but it is a long way to heaven, and a very dangerous one too, as I am told, by reason of the little thieves that infest the middle region of the air.
Ar. That is true, but he was well fortified with bulls.
Co. What language were they written in?
Ar. In Latin.
Co. And will they secure him?
Ar. Yes, unless he should happen upon some spirit that does not understand Latin; in that case he must go back to Rome, and get a new passport.
Co. Do they sell bulls there to dead men too?
Ar. Yes; but by the way, let me advise you to have a care what you say, for now there are a great many spies abroad. I don't speak slightingly of indulgences themselves, but I laugh at the folly of my fuddling companion, who though he was the greatest trifler that ever was born, yet chose rather to venture the whole stress of his salvation upon a skin of parchment than upon the amendment of his life. But when shall we have that merry bout you spoke of just now?
Co. When opportunity offers we will set a time for a small collation, and invite some of our comrades; there we will tell lies, who can lie fastest, and divert one another with lies till we have our bellies full.
Ar. Come on, a match.