Christs Teares over Ierusalem
by Thomas Nashe
Poets talk of enticing sirens in the sea, that on a sunny day lay forth their golden trammels,3 their ivory necks, and their silver breasts, to entice men; sing sweetly, glance piercingly, play on lutes ravishingly. But I say, there is no such sirens by sea as by land, nor women as men; those are the sirens that hang out their shining silks and velvets, and dazzle pride's eyes with their deceitful haberdashery. They are like the Serpent that tempted Adam in Paradise, who whereas God stinted4 him what trees and fruits he should eat on, and go no further, he enticed him to break the bonds of that stint, and put into his head what a number of excellent pleasures he should reap thereby; so, whereas careful fathers send their children up to this city, in all gentleman-like qualities to be trained up, and stint them to a moderate allowance, sufficient (indifferently husbanded) to maintain their credit every way and profit them in that they are sent hither for, what do our covetous city bloodsuckers, but hire pandars and professed parasitical epicures to close in with them and (like the serpent) to alienate them from that civil course wherein they were settled? 'Tis riot and misgovernment that must deliver them over into their hands to be devoured.
Those that here place their children to learn with and see the world are like those that in Africa present their children (when they are first born) before serpents; which if the children (so they present)6 with their very sight scare away the serpents, then they are legitimate, otherwise they are bastards. A number of poor children and sucklings (in comparison) are, in the Court and Inns of Court, presented to these serpents and stinging extortioners of Londonm who never fly from them, but, with their tail, wind them in and suck out their souls without scarring their skin. Whether they be legitimate or no that are so exposed to these serpents, I dare not determine, for fear of envy. But sure legitimately (or as they should) they are not brought up, that are manumitted7 from their parents' awe, as soon as they can go8 and speak. . . .
If one 'tice a prentice to rob his master, it is felony by the law; nay, it is a great penalty if he do but relieve him and encourage him, being fled from his master's obedience and service; and shall we have no law for him that 'ticeth a son to rob his father? nay, that shall rob a father of his son, rob God of a soul?
3 Tresses, but also fish-nets.
6 Claim, believe.
7 Set free.
Nashe, Thomas. "Christs Teares over Jerusalem", excerpt, sig. M3-M4.
London in the Age of Shakespeare. Lawrence Manley, Ed.
University Park: Pennsylvania State U. Press, 1986. 161-162.