Luminarium Editions, TM

This HTML e-text of "A merry Jest" (1516) by Sir Thomas More, written in his youth, was created in January 2007 by Anniina Jokinen of  Luminarium.

    Source text:
    More, Sir Thomas. "A merry Jest."
    Memoirs of Sir Thomas More. Vol I.
    Arthur Cayley, Jr., Ed.
    London: Cadell and Davis, 1808. 34-48.

This e-text is unaltered and preserves the formatting of the original within the limits allowed by the medium.

This edition is made available to the public for nonprofit purposes only. It is not represented by the publisher as a scholarly edition in the peer-reviewed sense. Unique site content is copyright ©2007 Anniina Jokinen. This e-text may not be reproduced or published in any form (including the Internet) without express written consent.
Permission granted for printing and distributing in the classroom for educational purposes, with this header included. For corrections, comments, and queries, please email the publisher.

Sir Thomas More

A merry Jest,

how a Serjeant would learn

to play the Friar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


F  I  N  I  S.   

Back to Sir Thomas More
Back to Luminarium Editions

©1999-2007 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.