A Supplication for the Beggars/Text
¶ A Supplicacyon for the Beggers.
TO THE KING OVRE
Ost lamentably compleyneth theyre wofull mysery vnto youre highnes youre poore daily bedemen the wretched hidous monstres (on whome scarcely for horror any yie dare loke) the foule vnhappy sorte of lepres, and other sore people, nedy, impotent, blinde, lame, and sike, that live onely by almesse, howe that theyre nombre is daily so sore encreased that all the almesse of all the weldisposed people of this youre realme is not halfe ynough for to susteine theim, but that for verey constreint they die for hunger. And this most pestilent mischief is comen vppon youre saide poore beedmen by the reason that there is yn the tymes of youre noble predecessours passed craftily crept ynto this your realme an other sort (not of impotent but) of strong puissaunt and counterfeit holy, and ydell beggers and vacabundes whiche syns the tyme of theyre first entre by all the craft and wilinesse of Satan are nowe encreased vnder your sight not onely into a great nombre, but also ynto a kingdome. These are (not the herdes, but the rauinous wolues going in herdes clothing deuouring the flocke) the Bisshoppes, Abbottes, Priours, Deacons, Archedeacons, Suffraganes, Prestes, Monkes Chanons, Freres, Pardoners and Somners. And who is abill to nombre this idell rauinous sort whiche (setting all laboure a side) haue begged so importunatly that they haue gotten ynto theyre hondes more then the therd part of all youre Realme. The goodliest lordshippes, maners, londes, and territories, are theyrs. Besides this they haue the tenth part of all the corne, medowe, pasture, grasse, wolle, coltes, calues, lambes, pigges, gese, and chikens. Ouer and bisides the tenth part of euery seruauntes wages the tenth part of the wolle, milke, hony, waxe, chese, and butter. Ye[a] and they loke so narowly vppon theyre proufittes that the poore wyues must be countable to theym of euery tenth eg or elles she gettith not her ryghtes at ester shalbe taken as an heretike. hereto haue they theire foure offering daies. whate money pull they yn by probates of testamentes, priuy tithes, and by mennes offeringes to theyre pilgremages, and at theyre first masses? Euery man and childe that is buried must pay sumwhat for masses and diriges to be song for him or elles they will accuse the de[a]des frendes and executours of heresie. whate money get they by mortuaries, by hearing of confessions (and yet they wil kepe therof no counceyle) by halowing of churches altares superaltares chapelles and belles, by cursing of men and absoluing theim agein for money? what a multitude of money gather the pardoners in a yere? Howe moche money get the Somners by extorcion yn a yere, by assityng the people to the commissaries court and afterward releasing th[e]apparaunce for money? Finally, the infinite nombre of begging freres whate get they yn a yere? Here if it please your grace to marke ye shall se a thing farre out of ioynt. There are withyn youre realme of Englond. lij. thousand parisshe churches. And this stonding that there be but tenne houshouldes yn euery parisshe yet are there fiue hundreth thousand and twenty thousand houshouldes. And of euery of these houshouldes hath euery of the fiue ordres of freres a peny a quarter for euery ordre, that is for all the fiue ordres fiue pens a quarter for every house. That is for all the fiue ordres. xx.d, a yere of euery house. Summa fiue hundreth thousand and twenty thousand quarters of angels.
That is. cclx. thousand half angels. Summa. cxxx. thousand angels. Summa totalis. xliij. thousand poundes and. cccxxxiij. li. vi.s. viij.d. sterling, wherof not foure hundreth yeres passed they had not one peny. Oh greuous and peynfull exactions thus yerely to be paied. from the whiche the people of your nobill predecessours the kinges of the auncient Britons euer stode fre And this wil they haue or els they wil procure him that will not giue it theim to be taken as an heretike. whate tiraunt euer oppressed the people like this cruell and vengeable generacion? whate subiectes shall be abill to helpe theire prince that be after this facion yerely polled? whate good christen people can be abill to socoure vs pore lepres blinde sore, and lame, that be thus yerely oppressed? Is it any merueille that youre people so compleine of pouertie? Is it any merueile that the taxes fiftenes and subsidies that your grace most tenderly of great compassion hath taken emong your people to defend theim from the thretened ruine of theire comon welth haue bin so sloughtfully, ye [a] painfully leuied? Seing that almost the vtmost peny that mought haue bin leuied hath ben gathered bifore yerely by this rauinous cruell and insatiabill generacion The danes nether the saxons yn the time of the auncient Britons shulde neuer haue ben abill to haue brought theire armies from so farre hither ynto your lond to haue conquered it if they had had at that time suche a sort of idell glotons to finde at home. The nobill king Arthur had neuer ben abill to haue caried his armie to the fote of the mountaines to resist the coming downe of lucius the Emperoure if suche yerely exaction had ben taken of his people. The grekes had neuer ben abill to haue so long continued at the siege of Troie if they had had at home suche an idell sort of cormorauntes to finde. The auncient Romains had neuer ben abil to haue put all the hole worlde vnder theyre obeisaunce if theyre people had byn thus yerely oppressed. The Turke nowe yn youre tyme shulde neuer be abill to get so moche grounde of cristendome if he had yn his empire suche a sort of locustes to deuoure his substance. Ley then these sommes to the forseid therd part of the possessions of the realme that ye may se whether it drawe nighe vnto the half of the hole substaunce of the realme or not, So shall ye finde that it draweth ferre aboue. Nowe let vs then compare the nombre of this vnkind idell sort vnto the nombre of the laye people and we shall se whether it be indifferently shifted or not that they shuld haue half.
Compare theim to the nombre of men, so are they not the. C. person. Compare theim to men wimen and children, then are they not the. CCCC. parson yn nombre. One part therfore yn foure hundreth partes deuided were to moche for theim except they did laboure. whate an vnequal burthen is it that they haue half with the multitude and are not the. CCCC. parson of theire nombre? whate tongue is abill to tell that euer there was eny comon welth so sore oppressed sins the worlde rirst began?
¶And whate do al these gredy sort of sturdy idell holy theues with these yerely exactions that they take of the people? Truely nothing but exempt theim silues from th[e] obedience of your grace. Nothing but translate all rule power lordishippe auctorite obedience and dignite from your grace vnto theim. Nothing but that all your subiectes shulde fall ynto disobedience and rebellion ageinst your grace and be vnder theim. As they did vnto your nobill predecessour king Iohn: whiche forbicause that he wolde haue punisshed certeyn traytours that had conspired with the frenche king to haue deposed him from his crowne and dignite (emong the whiche a clerke called Stephen whome afterward ageinst the kinges will the Pope made Bisshoppe of Caunterbury was one) enterdited his Lond. For the whiche mater your most nobill realme wrongfully (alas for shame) hath stond tributary (not vnto any kind temporall prince, but vnto a cruell deuelisshe bloudsupper dronken in the bloude of the sayntes and marters of christ) euersins. Here were an holy sort of prelates that thus cruelly coude punisshe suche a rightuous kinge, all his realme, and succession for doing right.
¶Here were a charitable sort of holy men that coude thus enterdite an hole realme, and plucke awey th[e] obedience of the people from theyre naturall liege lorde and kinge, for none other cause but for his rightuousnesse. Here were a blissed sort not of meke herdes but of bloudsuppers that coude set the frenche king vppon suche a rightuous prince to cause hym to lose his crowne and dignite to make effusion of the bloude of his people, oneles this good and blissed king of greate compassion, more fearing and lamenting the sheding of the bloude of his people then the losse of his crowne and dignite agaynst all right and conscience had submitted him silf vnto theym. O case most horrible that euer so nobill a king Realme, and succession shulde thus be made to stoupe to suche a sort of bloodsuppers. where was his swerde, power, crowne, and dignitie become wherby he mought haue done iustice yn this maner? where was their obedience become that shuld haue byn subiect vnder his highe poweryn this mater? Ye[a] where was the obedience of all his subiectes become that for mainteinaunce of the comon welth shulde haue holpen him manfully to haue resisted these bloudsuppers to the shedinge of theyre bloude? was not all to gither by theyre polycy translated from this good king vnto theim. Ye[a] and what do they more? Truely nothing but applie theym silues by all the sleyghtes they may haue to do with euery mannes wife, euery mannes doughter and euery mannes mayde that cukkoldrie and baudrie shulde reigne ouer all emong your subiectes, that no man shulde knowe his owne childe that theyre bastardes might enherite the possessions of euery man to put the right begotten children clere beside theire inheritaunce yn subuersion of all estates and godly ordre. These be they that by theire absteyning from mariage do let the generation of the people wher by all the realme at length if it shulde be continued shall be made desert and inhabitable.
¶These be they that haue made an hundreth thousand ydell hores yn your realme whiche wolde haue gotten theyre lyuing honestly, yn the swete of theyre faces had not theyre superfluous rychesse illected theym to vnclene lust and ydelnesse. These be they that corrupt the hole generation of mankind yn your realme, that catche the pokkes of one woman, and here theym to an other, that be brent wyth one woman, and bere it to an other, that catche the lepry of one woman, and bere it to an other, ye[a] some one of theym shall bo[a]st emong his felawes that he hath medled with an hundreth wymen. These be they that when they haue ones drawen mennes wiues to such incontinency spende awey theire husbondes goodes make the wimen to runne awey from theire husbondes, ye[a], rynne awey them silues both with wif and goods, bring both man wife and children to ydelnesse theft and beggeri.
¶Ye[a] who is abill to nombre the greate. and brode botomles occean see full of euilles that this mischeuous and sinful generacion may laufully bring vppon vs vnponisshed. where is youre swerde, power, crowne, and dignitie, become that shuld punisshe (by punisshement of deth euen as other men are punisshed) the felonies, rapes, murdres, and treasons committed by this sinfull generacion? where is theire obedience become that shulde be vnder your hyghe power yn this mater? ys not all to gither translated and exempt from your grace vnto theim? yes truely. whate an infinite nombre of people might haue ben encreased to haue peopled the realme if these sort of folke had ben maried like other men. what breche of matrimonie is there brought yn by theim? suche truely as was neuer sins the worlde began emong the hole multitude of the hethen.
¶who is she that wil set her hondes to worke to get. iij.d. a day and may haue at lest. xx.d. a day to slepe an houre with a frere, a monke, or a prest? what is he that wolde laboure for a grote a day and may haue at lest xij.d. a day to be baude to a prest, a monke, or a frere? whate a sort are there of theime that mari prestes souereigne ladies but to cloke the prestes yncontinency and that they may haue a liuing of the prest theime silues for theire laboure? Howe many thousandes doth suche lubricite bring to beggery theft and idelnesse whiche shuld haue kept theire good name and haue set theim silues to worke had not ben this excesse treasure of the spiritualtie?? whate honest man dare take any man or woman yn his seruice that hath ben at suche a scole with a spiritual man? Oh the greuous shipwrak of the comon welth, whiche yn auncient time bifore the coming yn of these rauinous wolues was so prosperous: that then there were but fewe theues: ye[a] theft was at that tyme so rare that Cesar was not compellid to make penalte of deth vppon felony as your grace may well perceyue yn his institutes. There was also at that tyme but fewe pore people and yet they did not begge but there was giuen theim ynough vnaxed, for there was at that time none of these rauinous wolues to axe it from theim as it apperith yn the actes of th[e] appostles. Is it any merueill though there be nowe so many beggers, theues, and ydell people? Nay truely.
¶whate remedy: make lawes ageynst theim. I am yn doubt whether ye be able: Are they not stronger in your owne parliament house then your silfe? whate a nombre of Bisshopes, abbotes, and priours are lordes of your parliament? are not all the lerned men in your realme in fee with theim to speake yn your parliament house for theim ageinst your crowne, dignitie, and comon welth of your realme a fewe of youre owne lerned counsell onely excepted? whate lawe can be made ageinst theim that may be aduaylable? who is he (though he be greued never so sore) for the murdre of his auncestre rauisshement of his wyfe, of his doughter, robbery, trespas, maiheme, dette, or eny other offence dare ley it theyre charge by any wey of accion, and if he do then is he by and by by theyre wilynesse accused of heresie. ye[a] they will so handle him or he passe that except he will bere a fagot for theyre pleasure he shal be excommunicate and then be all his accions dasshed. So captyue are your lawes vnto theym that no man that they lyst to excommunicat may be admitted to sue any accion in any of your courtes. If eny man yn your sessions dare be so hardy to endyte a prest of eny suche cryme he hath or the yere [ere he] go out suche a yoke of heresye leyd in his necke that it maketh him wisshe that he had not done it. Your grace may se whate a worke there is in London, howe the bisshoppe rageth for endyting of certayn curates of extorcion and incontinency the last yere in the warmoll quest. Had not Richard hunne commenced accyon of premunire ageinst a prest he had bin yet a lyue and none heretik at all but an honest man.
¶ Dyd not dyuers of your noble progenitours seynge theyre crowne and dignite runne ynto ruyne and to be thus craftely translated ynto the hondes of this myscheuous generacyon make dyuers statutes for the reformacyon therof, emong whiche the statute of mortmayne was one? to the intent that after that tyme they shulde haue no more gyuen vnto theim. But whate avayled it? haue they not gotten ynto theyre hondes more londes sins then eny duke in ynglond hath, the statute notwithstonding? Ye[a] haue they not for all that translated ynto theyre hondes from your grace half your kyngdome thoroughly? The hole name as reason is for the auncientie of your kingdome whiche was bifore theyrs and out of the whiche theyrs is growen onely abiding with your grace? and of one kyngdome made tweyne: the spirituall kyngdome (as they call it) for they wyll be named first, And your temporall kingdome, And whiche of these, ij. kingdomes suppose ye is like to ouergrowe the other, ye[a] to put the other clere out of memory? Truely the kingdome of the bloudsuppers for to theym is giuen daily out of your kingdome. And that that is ones gyuen theim comith neuer from theim agein. Suche lawes haue they that none of theim may nether gyue nor sell nothing.
¶ whate lawe can be made so stronge ageinst theim that they other with money or elles with other policy will not breake and set at nought? whate kingdome can endure that euer gyuith thus from him and receyueth nothing agein? O howe all the substaunce of your Realme forthwith your swerde, power, crowne, dignite, and obedience of your people, rynneth hedlong ynto the insaciabill whyrlepole of these gredi goulafres to be swalowed and devoured.
¶ Nether haue they eny other coloure to gather these yerely exaccions ynto theyre hondes but that they sey they pray for vs to God to delyuer our soules out of the paynes of purgatori without whose prayer they sey or at lest without the popes pardon we coude neuer be deliuered thens whiche if it be true then is it good reason that we gyue theim all these thinges all were it C times as moche, But there be many men of greate litterature and Judgement that for the love they haue vnto the trouth and vnto the comen welth haue not feared to put theim silf ynto the greatest infamie that may be, in abiection of all the world, ye[a] in perill of deth to declare theyre oppinion in this mather whiche is that there is no purgatory but that it is a thing inuented by the couitousnesse of the spiritualtie onely to translate all kingdomes from other princes vnto theim and that there is not one word spoken of hit is al holy scripture. They sey also that if there were a purgatory And also if that the pope with his pardons for money may deliuer one soule thens: he may deliuer him aswel without money, if he may deliuer one, he may deliuer a thousand: yf he may deliuer a thousand he may deliuer theim all, and so destroy purgatory. And then is he a cruell tyraunt without all charite if he kepe theim there in pryson and in paine till men will giue him money.
¶ Lyke wyse saie they of all the hole sort of the spiritueltie that if they will not pray for no man but for theim that gyue theim money they are tyrauntes and lakke charite, and suffer those soules to be punisshed and payned vncheritably for lacke of theyre prayers. These sort of folkes they call heretikes, these they burne, these they rage ageinst, put to open shame and make theim bere fagottes. But whether they be heretikes or no, well I wote that this purgatory and the Popes pardons is all the cause of translacion of your kingdome so fast into their hondes wherfore it is manifest it can not be of christ, for he gaue more to the temporall kingdome, he hym silfe paid tribute to Cesar he toke nothing from hym but taught that the highe powers shulde be alweys obei[e]d ye[a] he him silf (although he were most fre lorde of all and innocent) was obedient vnto the highe powers vnto deth. This is the great scabbe why they will not let the newe testament go a brode yn your moder tong lest men shulde espie that they by theyre cloked ypochrisi do translate thus fast your kingdome into theyre hondes, that they are not obedient vnto your highe power, that they are cruell, vnclene, vnmerciful, and ypochrites, that thei seke not the honour of Christ but their owne, that remission of sinnes are not giuen by the popes pardon, but by Christ, for the sure feith and trust that we haue in him. Here may your grace well perceyue that except ye suffer theyre ypocrisie to be disclosed all is like to runne ynto theire hondes and as long as it is couered so long shall it seme to euery man to be a greate ympiete not to gyue theim. For this I am sure your grace thinketh (as the truth is) I am as good as my father, whye may I not aswell gyue theim as moche as my father did. And of this mynd I am sure are all the loordes knightes squir[e]s gentilmen and ye[o]men in englond ye[a] and vntill it be disclosed all your peoole [people] will thinke that your statute of mortmayne was neuer made with no good conscience seing that it taketh awey the liberte of your people in that they may not as laufully b[u]y theire soules out of purgatory by gyuing to the spiritualte as their predecessours did in tymes passed.
¶ wherfore if ye will eschewe the ruyne of yourcrowne and dignitie let their ypocrisye be vttered and that shalbe more spedfull in this mater then all the lawes that may be made be they never so stronge. For to make a lawe for to punisshe eny offender except it were more fit to giue other men an ensample to beware to committe suche like offence, whate shuld yt auayle. Did not doctour Alyn most presumptuously nowe yn your tyme ageynst all this allegiaunce all that ever he coude to pull from you the knowledge of suche plees as [be]long vnto your hyghe courtes vnto an other court in derogacion of your crowne and dignite? Did not also doctor Horsey and his complices most heynously as all the world knoweth murdre in prysonthat honest marchaunt Richard hunne? For that he sued your writ of premunire against a prest that wrongfully held him in ple[a] in a spirituall court for a mater wherof the knowlege belonged vnto your hyghe courtes. And whate punisshement was there done that eny man may take example of to be ware of lyke offence? truely none but that the one payd fiue hundreth poundes (as it is said to the b[u]ildinge of your sterre chamber) and when that payment was ones passed the capteyns of his kingdome (because he faught so manfully ageynst your crowne and dignitie) haue heped to him benefice vpon benefice so that he is rewarded tenne tymes as moche. The other as it is seid payde sixe hundreth poundes for him and his complices whiche forbicause that he had lyke wyse faught so manfully ageynst your crowne and dignite was ymmediatly (as he had opteyned your most gracyous pardon) promoted by the capiteynes of his kingdome with benefice vpon benefice to the value of. iiij. tymes as moche. who can take example of this punisshement to be ware of suche like offence? who is he of theyre kingdome that will not rather take courage to committe lyke offence seying the promocions that fill [fell] to this [these] men for theyre so offending. So weke and blunt is your swerde to strike at one of the offenders of this cro[o]ked and peruers generacyon.
¶ And this is by the reason that the chief instrument of youre lawe ye[a] the chief of your counsell and he whiche hath youre swerde in his hond to whome also all the other instrumentes are obedient is alweys a spirituell man whiche hath euer suche an inordinate loue vnto his owne kingdome that he will mainteyn that, though all the temporall kingdoms and comonwelth[s] of the worlde shulde therfore vtterly be vndone, Here leue we out the gretest mater of all lest that we declaring suche an horrible carayn of euyll ageinst the ministres of iniquite shulde seme to declare the one onely faute or rather the ignoraunce of oure best beloued ministre of rightousnesse whiche is to be hid till he may be lerned by these small enormitees that we haue spoken of to knowe it pleynly him silf. But whate remedy to releue vs your poore sike lame and sore bedemen? To make many hospitals for the relief of the poore people? Nay truely. The moo the worse, for euer the fatte of the hole foundacion hangeth on the prestes berdes. Dyuers of your noble predecessours kinges of this realme haue gyuen londes to monasteries to giue a certein somme of money yerely to the poore people wherof for the aunciente of the tyme they giue neuer one peny, They haue lyke wyse giuen to them to haue a certeyn masses said daily for theim wherof they sey neuer one. If the Abbot of Westminster shulde sing euery day as many masses for his founders as he is bounde to do by his foundacion. M, monkes were to[o] fewe. wherfore if your grace will bilde a sure hospitall that neuer shall faile to releue vs all your poore bedemen, so take from theim all these thynges. Set these sturdy lobies a brode in the world to get theim wiues of theire owne, to get theire liuing with their laboure in the swete of theire faces according to the commaundement of god. Gene. iij. to gyue other idell people by theire example occasion to go to laboure. Tye these holy idell theues to the cartes to be whipped naked about euery market towne til they will fall to laboure that they by theyre importunate begging take not awey the almesse that the good christen people wolde giue vnto vs sore impotent miserable people your bedemen. Then shall aswell the nombre of oure forsaid monstruous sort as of the baudes, hores, theues, and idell people decreace. Then shall these great yerely exaccions cease. Then shall not youre swerde, power, crowne, dignite, and obedience of your people, be translated from you. Then shall you haue full obedience of your people. Then shall the idell people be set to worke. Then shall matrimony be moche better kept. Then shal the generation of your people be encreased, Then shall your comons encrease in richnesse. Then shall the gospell be preached. Then shall none begge oure almesse from vs. Then shal we haue ynough and more then shall suffice vs, whiche shall be the best hospitall that euer was founded for vs, Then shall we daily pray to god for your most noble estate long to endure.
Domine saluum fac regem.