BEWARE THE CAT - WILLIAM BALDWIN (GULIELMUS BALDWIN) (1561)
BEWARE THE CAT - A MODERN ENGLISH VERSION.
(This is a modern English rendering of the 16th century satirical novel “beware the Cat.” The original novel satirised Catholicism, but many of the allusions have been lost over the centuries so this is rendered as a story rather than a satire. Some footnotes are included for historical context.)
Beware the Cat, published in 1561, is a short early English novel written by William Baldwin (Gulielmus Baldwin) in early 1553 and dedicated to the actor John Young. It was unpublished for 8 years due to the political climate in England under Mary Tudor. Much of the subtle anti-Catholic undercurrent in the plot is lost on modern readers. The 1561 edition was suppressed by the state and is now lost. Another edition was published in 1570, most of the original is lost, but there is a Victorian transcript. Another edition appeared in 1584. The 1570 edition attracted an anonymous poetic “answer” which rebukes the author for making fun of the narrator Master Gregory Streamer (who appears to be fictional). Beware the Cat was then published in “Typographical Antiquities” (1786), and later by the Chetham Society in “Remains, Historical & Literary” (1860), but did not attract serious scholarly interest until the 1960s. Some versions had marginal notes in which the narrator comments on key points such as women's roles in society, the practice of magic, and cats.
The initial setting is in London in the reign of Edward VI. The story, which is actually a series of interlinked stories, is narrated by Master Streamer on a cold Christmas night. The plot revolves around the trial of the she-cat, Mouse-slayer, who is charged with breaking the laws of the cat world, and shunning the advances of a male. The interlinked stories feature a version of "The King of the Cats", an Irish werewolf, the Grimalkin, and an underworld society of talking cats, as well as magical elements such as an ancient book of forbidden lore and magic potions. In the tale of the Irish soldier and Grimalkin, the invincibility of the cats is a metaphor for the undying power of the Catholic Church, which ultimately cannot be destroyed. The (1584) edition of the text included the poem “T.K To the Reader” which made it more overtly anti-Catholic and possibly more political than Baldwin originally intended.
I have written down for your pleasure one of the stories which Mr. Streamer told last Christmas, and which you would have heard reported by Mr Ferrers himself. Although I am unable to write as eloquently, I have carefully reported the story in the same order and wterms as Mr. Streamer. I am sure that when Mr Willot reads this he will think he is listening to Mr. Streamer himself. I have divided the tale into three parts, preceded by the argument and ending in an exhortation to make it book-like, and I have given it the title “Beware the Cat.” I doubt that Mr. Streamer would like others to take credit for his words, so please let him check it and correct any errors before you print it. Please also ask Mr. Ferrers for his his judgment and assure him that Mr. Streamer’s translation from the Arabic of the cure of the great plague, which he sent me from Margets, will be printed as soon as I am able. If Mr. Streamer is agreeable to the printing of this account, I will also write down some of his other tales from our Christmas discussions. In the meantime, please accept my good will and learn to beware the cat. May God bless you.
2. THE ARGUMENT
Last Christmas I was at Court with Master Ferrers, who was Master of the King’s Majesty’s pastimes at the time. We were rehearsing some sketches for the King’s recreation and in our lodgings at night we talked of various things that might be incorporated in the sketches. On the night in question, I was sharing the main bed with Master Ferrers while Masters Willmot and Streamer shared a pallet on the floor. Master Willot is Master Ferrers’ astronomer, and Master Streamer is his priest. Among many things that would take far to long to tell of, on the night of the twenty eighth of December, just after Master Ferrers had returned from the King’s Court and got into bed, I got into a debate with Master Streamer. Masters Streamer and Willmot had already slept their first sleep, and so were awake for while before going back to sleep. I had only just gone to bed. Anyway, the debate was about whether Birds and beasts had reason andwas provoked by the news that the Kings Players were learning a play of Aesop’s Crow in which most of the actors played birds. I wasn’t in favour of this device because I didn’t think it funny to make dumb creatures talk or depict brutish creatures talking reasonably. Although it was reasonable enough in imaginative tales, such as Aesop’s tales, I didn’t think it suitable for a play. Mr Streamer, being more learned in this point then I was aware of, held the opposite point of view, asserting that birds and beasts could reason as well as men and, in fact, had a great deal more reason in some regards. The discussion woke Mr. Ferrers and his Astronomer, but they didn’t want to take sides. Mr. Stremer supported his claims by telling us of tightrope-walking elephants, weather-predicting hedgehogs, foxes and dogs that spent the night killing geese and then went home in the morning and put their necks into their collars, parrots that mounrend the deaths of their keepers, swallows that opened their nestlings’ eyes with celandine, and a hundred other such things. I contradicted many of his claims, saying they were natural instinctive actions, not acts of reasoning, citing the authority of some solemnly learned Philosophers.
“Well,” said Master Streamer, “I know what I know, and I’m not speaking through hearsay of other philosophers, but from personal experience.”
“What?” I exclaimed, “You have proof of birds and beasts having the power of reason?”
“Yes,” he replied, “I have heard and understood them both speak and reason just as well as I’m hearing and understanding you at this very moment.”
At this, Mr. Ferrers laughed, but I remembered what I had read in Albertus’s works and thought there might be more to Mr.Streamer’s claims. So I asked him what creatures he had heard, and where and when.
At this, he paused for a while before answering. “If I thought you’d be content to hear me out, and not interrupt, I would tell you such a story of my own experiments that you’d marvel at it and you’d be left in no doubt. But . . . I promise you that if any of you interrupts me with questions I will stop and won’t speak another word about it.”
When we had promised to listen quietly, he sat himself up in his bed so we could hear him properly and he began his tale.
[Footnote: At Christmas there were 12 nights of revels. These were led by the Master of Revels. Mr. Ferrers’ company were performing for his majesty the king. It was not uncommon for men to share beds in this way where several were lodging in a single room. “Slept their first sleep” – it was normal at this time for people to sleep for several hours and then wake and spend an hour or two in conversation or other pastimes before resuming sleep (second sleep). This is known as “segmented sleep.”]
3. THE FIRST PART OF MASTER STREAMER’S STORY
Being lodged, as often before, at my friend’s house on Saint Martin’s Lane overlooking Aldergate. Aldergate was named either after Aldrich or after the City Elders that built it – just as Bishops built Bishopsgate – or after Elder trees that grew on the old common there and still grow in gardens in the area hence Eldern gate, just as Moorgate took the name of the surrounding field, or rather the moor. Or maybe it’s because Aldergate is the most ancient gate of the City, that is the Elder gate in contrast to Newgate. Or else as Ludgate is from the name of its builder, Lud, though the Heralds assert – wrongly I believe - that it was built by Aluredus. Aluredus and his wife Algay actually built Algate, while Cripplegate is named after a Cripple, who begged so much in his life, and who supposedly stole the silver weather cock from St Paul’s steeple, who paid for it to be built when he died.
But regardless of how Aldergate got its name, which is only really of interest to historians, my friend’s house overlooks it. I stayed there when I had no other lodging, and my Greek Alphabets were at the printing house for correcting. I find it a shame that young men no longer study languages, but these days if a young man can prattle a little Latin and and handle a racquet and a pair of dice, he’ll make a better living than the best educated man in the whole City, which is why learning is so despised, and intalgible things are so much advanced.
While I lodged at the aforesaid house for the reasons I mention, I stayed in a room close to the Printing house, which had a pleasant bay window opening into the Garden where the earth is almost as high as nearby St. Anne’s Church top. At the other end of the Printing house as you enter it, is a side door and 3 or 4 steps which go up to the Leads of the Gate, that is the latticework above the gate, whereas sometime quarters of criminals are placed on poles – an abominable sight. I call it abominable because it is not only against nature, but also against Scripture; God commanded Moses, that anyone who had been executed must be buried before sunset because if the bodies were still unburie by next sunrise, God’s wrath would descend on men and plague them, just as it had done before. I wonder how and why men decided to mount the quarters on poles, unless it’s to feed and please the devils. I believe that they are setthere to feed spirits such as Misanthropi or Molochitus, who used to live on the blood of men sacrificed by heathens. Hence I advise all men to bury or burn the bodies of executed men and refrain from making such abominable sacrifices, as I have often seen devils in the form of ravens feeding upon them in the aforesaid Leads. Every night many Cats assembled in the Leads and made such a noise that I could not sleep.
Once, when I was sitting by the fire with members of the household, I mentioned the noise and wailing of the cats between ten o’clock at night till one o’clock in the morning; I could neither sleep nor study because of the din. This led to a conversation about cats talking to each other, which I didn’t believe at the time, though I believe it now. One of the servants told the following story in support of cats having their own language.
4. THE SERVANT’S STORY
“Where I am from,” he said (he was born in Staffordshire) , “there was a man who had a young Cat he had raised fro kittenhood and played with day and night. One day, as he rode through Kank wood on business, a cat leapt out of a bush in front of him and called his name two or three times. He was so startled and afraid that he didn’t answer, so she repeated thes words to him two or three times: Commend me unto Titton Tatton, and to Puss thy Catton, and tell her that Grimalkin is dead. Having told me her message he and the cat went their separate ways. Later he returned home, and while he was sitting by the fire with his wife he told her all about the strange encounter in the wood. Well! Just as he’d told her the cat’s message, their own cat – which had been listening – looked at him sadly and said: If Grimalkin is dead then farewell. And then it left and they never saw it again.”
Another of the company, who had been in Ireland, asked the fellow when these events had taken place. The fellow could not remember, but thought it was about 11 years ago, because his mother had known the man and his wife.
“Sure,” said the one who had been in Ireland, “that sounds about right because it’s about the same time as I heard something similar happening in Ireland, where, if I conjecture correctly, the aforementioned Grimalkin was slain. “
Then I asked, “How do you know this?”
“I will tell you Master Streamer,” he said, “something I was told in Ireland and which I’ve been too ashamed to mention to anyone before because I didn’t believe it myself. After hearing that tale just now it brings to mind my own experience.”
5. THE CHURL AND GRIMALKIN.
The man continued, “I was in Ireland during the time that Mackmorro and all the rest of the wild Lords were the king’s enemies. There was mortal war between the Fitzhonies and the Prior and Covent of the Tintern Abbey, who considered them the King’s friends and subjects, whose neighbour was a wild Irishman called Cayr Macart, an enemy of the king who made daily inroads into the county of Washford, and burned whatever towns he came upon, and stole all the cattle he could find, by whatever means necessary, so that the land between Climine to Rosse became a wasteland, and is still one today.
“At the time I was out at a night at Cosbery with one of Filzbery’s churls – that’s what they call farmers and cottagers there – and we started to talk about strange adventures, and Cats, and various other things, just as we are doing now. This churl told me the following tale. Less than seven years ago there was a Kern – that’s what they call a warrior - of John Butler’s who lived in the Fassock of Bantry. His name was Patrick Apore and, one night, he decided to raid Cayr Macartwho was an enemy of John Butler. So Patric and his boy – that’s what they call their stablemen, regardless of how old they are – went into enemy territory at night and entered a two-house town where they broke an, slew the occupants and stole whatever livestock they could find, which was only a cow and a sheep. They headed homeward, but concerned about pursuit because the town’s mongrels were barking so shrilly, they took refuge in a church, planning to stay there until after midnight. Patrick was certain no-one would pursue them into the church because the heathen Irish – by which we mean Catholics – revered churches so much that, until we taught them otherwise, they wouldn’t rob a church or hurt any man who sought sanctuary in a churchyard, even if that person had killed his pursuer’s father. While that warrior was in the Church, he realised he hadn’t eaten much that day and the both of them should have something to eat, it being the old Irish custom to eat at night. He made his stableman go and gather sticks and make a fire with his flint and striker. They made a a fire in the Church – which was a church of the heathen persuasion - and killed the sheep and, in the Irish fashion they laid it on the fire to roast.
“When the sheep was cooked and they were ready to eat it, a cat came into the church and sat beside Patrick. In Irish, the cat said “Give me some meat.” Patrick, quite amaze at this, gave her the quarter that was in his hand. The cat quickly ate it all and for more. This was repeated over and over until the cat had eaten the whole sheep, and like a cormorant the cat was still not satisfied, and still asked for more meat. By then, Patrick and his stableman were afraid that the cat was the Devil in disguise and thought it wise to please him. They killed and skinned the cow that they had stolen and gave the Cat a quarter, which she immediately devoured. Then they gave her two other quarters, and while she was eating them they used the hide in the country fashion. That is, they cut a piece of the hide and suspended it upon four stakes set around the fire, and then placed a piece of the cow in the hide slig for themselves. With the rest of the hide, they made wraps to wear about their feet like brogues, both to keep their feet from getting sore the following day and also to serve for meat the next night, if they could get none elsewhere, by grilling the hide wraps upon coals. Such Irish warriors, for lack of meat, will cook and eat their own shoes!
“By this time the Cat had eaten three quarters and still called for more, so they gave her the piec that was heating above the fire. By then they were sure that when she had eaten that meat she would ask for more, and there being no more to be had she would eat them instead. Fearing this, they fled the church and rode away was fast as they could. they got them out of the Church and the Kern took his horse and away he rode as fast as they could. When they were a mile or two from the Church, the moon began to shine and the stableman spied the cat sitting on his master’s horse behind his master. After warning his master, the stableman took his short spear and threw it at the cat, running her through with it. Immediately he did so, a horde of cats appeared and set upon the men. After a long fight with the cats, the staleman was illed and eaten by them and Patrick has hard pressed to escape though his horse was one of the best and swiftest steeds.
“When Patrick got home and removed his harness - which was a mail shirt and a gilded leather helmet with an otterskin crest – he was weary and hungry. He sat down by his wife and told her about his adventure. His wife’s cat, which she’d owned barely six months, pricked up its ears and said, “Have you killed Grimalkin?” and lunged at his face. She sank her teeth into Patrick’s throat and before she could be pulled away, she had choked him to death.
The churl told me this some thirty-three winters ago, and it had happened – according to him and various other credible sources – about seven years before they told it to me. From this I conjecture that this was the Grimalkin referred to by the cat in Kank wood.”
6. THAT CATS HAVE LANGUAGE
“Tush,” said another of our company, “your conjecture is unreasonable because it suggests that cats have reason, and that they understand one another in their own language. How would a Cat in Kank wood know what was done in Ireland? “
“How?” asked the storyteller, “It’s just like we know what is happening in France, Flanders and Spain, and much more of the world besides. Almost all ships have ship’s cats, and those cats carry news from all regions to their fellows.”
“Yes,” said the other, “but why should all cats wish to hear about Grimalkin? And how chould Grimalkin eat so much meat as you speak of? And why would all cats want to avenge her death? No, I don’t understand we conjecture this. Maybe Grimalkin and her line is as important among cats as the queen bee in the hive – she commands obedience, servitude and protection, and her subjects seek revenge for any wrongs done to her … like the power the Pope once had all Christendom, when his clergy would didn’t merely scratch and bite, but killed and incinerated whoever they were commanded to, even if they didn’t know why. All things considered, the Pope devoured more at every meal then Grimalkin did at her last supper. “
That’s when I so, “No, although the Pope by his demands and other intangible delusions has despoiled other powerful people, he eats and wears no more than any other man, though his food and finery are probably more sumptuous and costly, and provided in greater abundance. I heard a very true saying in this regard about King Henry the seventh. One of his servants told him about the abundance of meat at an Abbot’s table and said the man must be a great Glutton. When the king asked if the Abbot ate all the meat, the servant replied ‘no, his guests ate most of it.’
“’Aha,’ said the king, ‘you are calling him a glutton because he generously feeds you and other ungrateful churls.’ Fellows like that are all rogues who let honest worshipful men of the City feed them or lend them money, which they often do, but what do those honest men get for their efforts? They just get insulted by disreputable ne’er-do-wells who spread spiteful and slanderous reports accusing them of being usurers and deceivers of the commonwealth. A few of the men of he City might be guilty of that, but I hate hearing good men being falsely accused.”
Then I said, ”But going back to your story, I marvel how Grimalkin – as you call her – could eat all that meat even though she was no bigger than a house cat.”
The storyteller replied, “I don’t think that she did eat all, although she asked for it all. More likely she took the choicest parts and left the rest, like many creatures do. Just think about the wolf; a rabbit is plenty for him, but like all ravenous creatures he will kill a cow or two for his breakfast.
“I know from experience,” he continued, “that cats feel love and fellowship, and a desire to save their own kind. Someone hired one of my friends to roast a Cat alive for fun, and promised him twenty shillings for his efforts. My friend, to be certain, got a cooper to fasten him into a barrel from which he turned a spit on which the cat was fastened. After he had turned it for a short while, a horde of furious cats attacked him. Whether they were attracted there by the smell of singeing fur, or by the cries of the cat I don’t know. If it wasn’t for myself and a number of stout men repelling them – and all of us got well scratched in the process – that barrel would not have saved my cousin from harm, no matter how tightly it was fastened.”
“True enough,” said another of our group, a well learned man who had excellent judgement, “It does appear that cats and all other kinds of beasts have a degree of reason and language and can understand one another. But as for this Grimalkin, I’m more inclined to think it a Hagat or a Witch rather than a cat. Witches often take the form of cats, hence the common proverb that a cat has nine lives, that is to say, a witch may take the form of her cat nine times.”
I said, “Good grief, a witch taking the form of her cat? I have read that the prophetesses of Pithoness could make their spirits take dead mens bodies, and that the airy spirits which we call Demons, that is the Incubus and Succubus, Robin Goodfellow the Fairy, and Goblins, which the miners call Telchines, could take other forms at will. But how can the large body of a woman by compressed into the form of a cat? I’ve never heard of this and I can’t see how she could do it, which is why I am so sceptical.”
The learned man replied, “Well, Master Streamer, “I know you’re not as ignorant as you make out, and that you always downplay your earnedness. I know that you are skilled in several languages - the Calde, Arabic and Egyptian – and you’ve read the works of many authors in those languages, which means you must be clever. But when you doubt a woman taking the form of a cat you either play Nicodemus or the stubborn Popish conjurer. Nicodemus would creep into his mother’s belly again, and the Pope would bring Christ out of Heaven to thrust him into a piece of bread! One of them is gross and the other is perverse, and on in this matter I must class you among them.”
7. THE LEARNED MAN’S STORY.
He continued, “Although witches can take the shape of cats or other creatures, they don’t put their own bodies into that other creature, they either cast a spell to confuse other people’s senses, or their soul leaves their own body for a while and goes into the body of the other creature. It’s like when I make a candle with a horse’s brain and sulphur, the light cn make all kinds of heads look like horseheads, but it doesn’t actually change the shape of any of those heads, it’s just the artificial light deceiving the eye.
“I have been to Ireland, and though I don’t know how witches change the shapes of other things, I heard of it so often, and seen so many things myself, that I am sure they do it somehow. In Ireland, just as it has been be in England, witches are greatly feared and therefore respected. They are so clever they can change shapes at their pleasure, and this led to a law being passed in Ireland that no man should buy red pigs. This is why: witches used to send the finest, fattest, red swine to market, the finest you could hope to see, but as soon as the buyer took a red pig to water it turned back into its original form: wisps of hay or straw; old rotten boards, or some other such like rubbish. They buyer lost their money or whatever goods they gave in exchange for the false swine.
“There is also a county in Ireland where a man and his wife are turned into wolves every seven years and live as wolves in wood for seven years. If they survive seven years as wolves they return to their own forms again and another couple are turned into wolves for seven years. And so it continues. It is said to be a penance set down by Saint Patrick for some wickedness of their ancestors. I myself witnessed a man, whom I saw alive in Ireland, who had performed this seven years penance, but his wife had been killed during her final year as a wolf. This man spoke to many men whom he had attacked and whose cattle he had worried while he was a wolf, and he showed them evidence in the form of scars of wounds which other men had given him, both in his man’s shape before he was a wolf, and later on in his wolf’s shape. All the scars were on his skin, so it was plain to all men, and even to the Bishop – who recorded and registered these facts – that his account was beyond doubt.
“And I am sure you are not ignorant of the Hermit whom, as St. Augustine writes, a witch would turn into an ass so she coud ride him into market. But as to how these Witches made rubbish into swine or changed people into other shapes, I don’t know. Maybe they had a magical ointment with the power to deceive men’s sights till either the water washed away the ointment. Maybe the power of the water was greater than the power of the ointment, and betrayed the operation of the ointment. And the spirits we call Demons are forced by enchantment to move those bodies until the true form is revealed and the Demons, out of shame, depart. But as for the transformation of men into wolves, that is either miraculous as Naamans lepry in the flock of Gehesie, or else is shameful, crafty, malicious sorcery. Miracles are beyond our understanding, but we can guess at how it is done the the other way. By nature, witches are extremely malicious, and it’s possible that some displeased witch had the secret of the wolfish transformation, and on her death-bed taught it to her daughter – at that time witches only taught their secrets to their eldest and best beloved daughter – so that the daughter could, at seven year intervals, concoct some ointment which, for a period of seven years, would confound men’s eyes into see a person in the shape of a wolf. At night she she might take the shape of some nocturnal creature and smear magical ointment on the skin of a couple whom she hated, making them appear as wolves for seven years. Then on her deathbed the daughter would pass on the secret to her own daughter so that it was passed from generation to generation."
When I had heard these tales and the rationale given by the teller, I said “Ah, Thomas,” which was the learned man’s name – he later died of a disease he caught in Newgate gaol where he was imprisoned for a long time on suspicion of magic because he had asked a condemned man to promise him his soul after the man was hanged, “Now I see that the old proverb is true – it’s the quiet sow that gets the most swill - you behave so simply that a man would take you for a fool, but you havegiven such proof of natural knowledge in your brief tale that I think no-one else could have done the same, exception myself of course, and a few of te most leaned men living.”
Thomas replied, “Master Streamer, I have said nothing except what I have seen, from which any man might conjecture the same as me.”
The earlier storyteller then said, “You’ve spoken well and made reasonable conjectures. It’s possible that Irish witches use ointments, as you suppose, to make all men see swine and wolves instead of something’s true form. Just as English witches and Irish witches can fool men’s eyes, I think they have similar powers to turn themselves into Cats. I heard it said, while I was in the University by a credible Clark of Oxford, then when he was a child an old woman was brought before the Official and accused of being a witch. It was alleged that she took the likeness of a Cat and went into her neighbours’ houses to steal whatever she wanted. The complaint was proved true by a burn on her skin – the neighbours had thrown a fire brand at her when she was in cat-form and had singed the cat. So o conclude as I began, I think that the cat you called Grimalkin was a witch, and this conjecture is confirmed by its name! Malkin is a woman’s name as the proverb says: There be more maids then Malkin “
“I think,” I said, “that it was a witch disguised as a cat. Because she is clever and crafty, natural cats, who are not so clever by nature, have revered her and her kind, thinking them to be mere cats. It’s just the same as we foolish men revered the sly and crafty Pope, thinking him to be a man (though a man much holier then ourselves) when in fact he was an incarnation of the devil, just as Grimalkin was an incarnation of a witch. How else do you think natural cats are intelligent and can understand one another.”
He answered, “How else Master Streamer? All sentient creatures have reason and understanding in order to understand others of their kind. In some respects they excel in this so much that Pythagoras believed and stated that after death, men’s souls went into beasts, and beasts’ souls went into men. Although he is mistaken in this opinion, the observations that led him to that opinion were valid: diverse creatures exhibit thought and intelligence, while diverse men exhibit full, brutish, beastly ignorance. It’s the same with fowls as you can see if you watch them each day. This is proved by the story of the Bishop of Alexandria who is on record as having found the means to understand them, either through diligent observation or by natural magic. He either honed his senses either by purging his brain using dry drinks and fumes, or else he somehow augmented his powers of perception by other natural medicines so that he understood the speech of many different creatures. One time he was sitting at dinner with friends, listening diligently to a Sparrow that came fleeing and chirping to other sparrow around the house. When he smiled to himself his friends wanted know what he was smiling at. He told them he was smiling at the Sparrow’s tale – she had told the other birds that in the highway not a quarter of a mile away, a sack of wheat had fallen off a horse’s back and broken, and all the wheat had spilled out; the sparrow was telling the other birds about a veritable banquet. His companions sent someone to see if this was true and the man confirmed it was exactly as the Bishop had said.
It was nine o’clock when this tale ended, and old Thomas, who had to travel some distance to his lodgings, said goodbye and left us. The rest of the company went either to their business or their beds. I went straight to my chamber, which I have previous mentioned, and picked up a book, intending to study. The memory of all this talk distracted me so that I couldn’t think of anything else, and I turned the matter over and over in my mind.
8. THE SECOND PART OF MASTER STREAMER’S TALE.
Before I’d been contemplating these things for long, the cats whose crying the previous night had provoked the various tales of cats and wolves and witches, were once again assembled in the Leads where, as I mentioned earlier, dead men’s quarters were displayed on spikes. Just as they had done the night before, one sang one tune, another sang another, and yet another sang a different tune, just like my Lord’s chapel upon the scaffold sang before the King; they observed no musical chords neither Diatessaron, Diapente, nor Diapason. Or maybe they did …. because one cat groaned like a baited bear when the dogs are set on him, such a low, loud bass, that another cat sounded like crying child when it squealed out its shrieking treble: it might be well considered a double Diapason. I wanted to see their assembly better and understand part of the meaning based on their gestures, so I quietly went into a room that had a window into the same leads, and I stood as close as possible in the shadows, watching their gestures and behaviour through the trellis. I promise you, it was a thing worth watching just to see their expressions and gestures, and in what order they made them.
[Diatessaron – in music, a perfect fourth. Diapente – a perfect fifth. Diapason – a perfect octave. Musical intervals used in polyphony.)
One of the cats was a large, grey animal with bristling whiskers and wide-set eyes that shone and sparkled like two stars. This one was flanked on either side by another at, and in front of her stood three more, one of which mewed continually, except when the great grey cat groaned. Whenever the great grey cat had stopped its groaning noises the mewing cat began again, first stretching out her neck as if curtseying to the three sittin cats. Often, in the middle of her mewing, all the rest would suddenly set up a racket of noises before hushing again, just as though they were laughing at something the mewing cat had said. I watched this from ten till midnight, when something in the house made a crashing noise – perhaps some pots in the kitchen below, or boards in the nearby printing house – and the commotion made the cats get up onto the house. I was worried that some of them might come to investigate whatever had fallen and, finding me eavesdropping, would think I had thrown something. I quickly returned to my own room where my lamp was was still burning and I sat on my bed, thinking about the doings of those cats and wondering how I could find out what they were saying. After a while, I decided that the grey grey cat in the centre was a chief and that she sat as a judge among the rest, and that the cat that continually mewed and curtseyed was declaring some matter or was givin an account of her actions.
I had such an overwhelming desire to know what they were saying that I could not sleep that night but lay awake devising ways I could learn to understand them. I remembered reading in Albertus Magnus’s works a way to be able to understand birds’ voices so without delay I went to my library and looked for the little book entitled “De virtutibus animalium, etc.” and greedily through it until I came oto the section called “Si vis voces avium intelligere andc.” And goodness, how glad I was! I thoroughly studied the description of the medicine and considered the nature and power of each ingredient and how it worked. From there, I worked out how to modify the ingredients to make a potion that what do what I wanted. Soon, the restless sun rose out of the eastern ocean, shaking the dew from his golden coloured beams and kissed the rosy dawn with his golden lips, banishing the dark night. When he was mounted high enough in the sky to shine upon all Europe, shining from just above Mile End steeple, he shone through my glass window and found me lying on my bed. That’s when I got up and went out to look for the things that needed for my serious endeavour.
9. MASTER STREAMER GATHERS INGREDIENTS.
Because we are all friends here, I won’t spare any details and will give you a blow-by-blow description of how I made and used my potion. According to Albertus, in order to understand the voices of birds or beasts, with two other people and their hunting dogs, we had to go into a certain wood, early in the morning of Simon and Judas day, and kill the first beast that we met. This had to be prepared along with the heart of a fox. This would produce the necessary potion for understanding them, not just for myself but also for whoever I kissed. I doubted the accuracy of his writings when he named a certain wood, and I knew three men (about three years ago) who had been hunting there and who had returned scared out of their wits, either at an evil spirit or at something they’d imagined. The men and their dogs had come back from that wood with their hair standing on end andsome of them never quite recovered from the shock. I was also a long time until St Judas day, so I decided to skip the hunting and to go and get a hedgehog because they were most commonly out and abut at that time of year and would, therefore, be the first creature I’d meet. I knew that the flesh of the hedgehog was full of natural heat and when the main parts were eaten would expel gross matter and refine the mind, just as it makes good blood and helps against both the gout and cramp.
I went off towards St. Johns wood where I’d seen a hedgehog only two days erlier, but as luck wuld have it, on the way there, I met some hunters who had just killed a fox and three hares. This meant te hedgehog was not the first creature I saw, but they gave me one of the hares and the whole fox, apart from its skin, along with six stinging lashes from a hound’s leash because, without intending any offence, I asked them if they’d seen a hedgehog that morning. My tale is already too long, but I want to comment on their foolish superstitions – they believed that naming a creature brought bad luck in the hunt. They are like papists who punish good and honest men for speaking the truth. After all, aren’t apes, owls, cuckoos, bears and hedehogs also God’s goo creatures? In which case why is it wrong to say their names? If they believe it brings bad luck in the hunt, then they are infidels who don’t believe in God’s providence. I cursed their superstitious hearts because my whipped buttocks bore the evidence of their misbelief, but at the same time I thanked them for the fox and the hare that they gave me. With those two creatures tied to my belt, I continued my own hunt until I found a tick-infested hedgehog under a hedge, in a hole in the earth at the bottom of a hollow tree. I immediately killed it while saying the words “Shauol swashmeth, gorgona liscud,” hung it from my belt with the other creature and hurried home.
When I reached the area beside Islington that is commonly called St. Johns Field, a hungry kite saw the skinned fox on my belt and decided to take part of it for himself. His talons went so deep into the fox’s flesh that he couldn’t easily get loose and I pulled out my knife and killed him, saying the words, “Iauolsheleg hutotheca Iiscud,” I took him home with the rest so he could be added to the mix. As soon as I had laid down the fox, the hare and the kite, Thomas, who I have mentioned previously, brought me a cat that had been caught in a snare that morning. The cat had been doing evil deeds, so they had set a snare for her two days previously to catch her for her skin. When they’d skinned the creature they found she was extremely fat and would make a good meal. I took some of the fat, and the innards, along with the head, telling Thomas it was to make a medicine for the gout. They parboiled the rest, then later that night they stuffed it with tasty herbs, roasted it and ate every morsel, it being as good as any meat they have tasted.
10. MASTER STREAMER MAKES HIS POTION.
When Thomas left with the cat, apart from the parts I had taken, I looked my chamber door and skinned my hedgehog, often wishing that Doctor Nicholas or some other expert physician with better knowledge of hedgehog anatomy was here to do this dissection instead of me. I washed the flesh clean and put it in a pot with some white wine, some Lemon Balm, Rosemary, and some ox-tongue; four parts of hedgehog to two parts of tongue. I made this into a broth and let it boil over the fire. I set up an alembic over the mouth of the pot, and a glass to receive the water that distilled off the boiling broth. This produced a pint, or pottel, of liquor. Because it was around the summer solstice, and that when making concoctions the hours of the planets must be observed if the potion is to be effective, I then waited until ten o’clock in the morning until Mercury began his lucky reign. Then I took a piece of the cat’s liver, a piece of the kidney, a piece of the spleen and the whole heart, along with the fox’s heart and lungs, the hare’s brain, the kites throat and the hedgehog’s kidneys and put them into a mortar. I pounded all of these together into a mash and then made it into a cake which I baked on a hot stone until it was dry like bread.
While this was baking, I took seven parts of the cat’s grease, an equal amount of her brain, along with five whiskers - three black and two grey, three parts of the fox’s fat and an equal amount of its brain and the claws of his left feet, the same amount of hedgehog’s and brain and its testicles, the whole of the kite’s brain, all the marrow of the kite’s bones, the juice of her heart, her upper beak and the middle claw of her left foot, plus the fat of the hare’s kidneys and the juice of his right shoulder bone. I pounded all of these things together in a mortar for an hour, then put the mash in a cloth, and hung it over a basin in the sun. Within four hours, about half a pint of very fine, clear oil dripped out of it. I then took the gall-bladders of all of these creatures, including that of the kite, pounded them in a mortar and drained the the liquor from them.
At twelve o’clock, when the sun began his reign, I had my dinner. For meat I ate only the boiled hedgehog; my bread was the cake mentioned earlier and my drink was the distillation of the hedgehog’s broth which was very strong and pleasant both in taste and aroma. I dined well on this and my head grew so heavy that I couldn’t stay awake. When I woke up again, after an hour, my mouth and my nose were producing yellow, white and tawny material unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and certainly nothing I imagined could be in the human body. After a pint of this had stramed out of my nose and mouth, it stopped, and head and body felt amazingly refreshed. A thousand memories that I’d not thought of in the past twenty years came so freshly to my mind that it felt as though they had happened only recently. I realised that the memory orgain in my brain was marvellously refreshed and my imagination was so fresh that I was soon able to understand exactly howand why each ingredient had affected it.
To occupy myself after my sleep I threw away the rubbish from the carcasses of the fox and kite, only keeping the the tongues and ears, as these were needed for my purpose. This is how I prepared them. I took all the ears and scalded the hair off of them then pounded them into a dry jelly in a mortar. Then I added a handful each of rue, fennel, lovage and leek blades, and pounded them again. I divided the mash into two equal parts and stuffed it into two little pillows. When Saturn’s reign approached, I fried these pillows in good olive oil and, while they were hot, laid one on each of my ears and kept them there until nine o’clock at night, which greatly helped comfort my understanding power. Howver, I could tell that the perception of my intelligent brain was still too coarse due to the clogged branching conduits in the brain, so I devised a way to clear this remaining fug by means of inhalant vapours. I took the tongues of the cat, fox and kite and soaked them in wine until they turned almost to jelly. Then I removed them from the wine and put them in am mortar and added some fresh cat dung, an ounce of mustard seed, garlic and the same amount of pepper and when they were thoroughly pounded together, I made them into lozenges and pastilles.P>And at six o’clock at night, when the sun’s reign began again, I ate the remaining meat, leftover from dinner, and when Mercury’s reign approached, about two hours later, I drank a great draught of my distilled water and wiped the previously mentioned wine and oil all over my head, and washed my eyes with the liquor from the gall bladders. To prevent any humours rising by evaporation from my loins through the chin bone, I took an ounce of red nightshade powder, which I had bought from the apothecary for this purpose just two days previously, and rubbed it into my back from the neck down to the middle. Then I again heated my pillows in a frying pan, and again put them on my ears and tied the there with a scarf. I put my lozenges into a box and went out among the servants.
One of the servants was an impertinent boy, a veritable crack-rope – meaning a person destined to swing on the gallows – who wanted to know what was in my box. To get my own back on him for his impertinence, I told him they were Presciential pills, and that whoever ate them would not only understand wonders but make prophecies afterwards. When he heard this, the boy earnestly begged me to give him one. Feigning reluctance, I gave him one of the lozenges and his put it in his mouth and chewed. When the lozenge released its vapours, the boy began to froth and spit, saying that I’d given him a cat’s turd to eat. The servants all laughed at him, and so did I, telling him it was absolutely true and that he was a prophet. So that he didn’t vomit too much due to imagining it to be poison, I put a lozenge under my tongue to demonstrate that it wasn’t evil.
11. THE EFFECT OF THE LOZENGES.
While all this was going on, I thought I heard someone cry out in a loud voice, “What Isegrim?” so I asked whose name was Isegrim, saying that someone was calling him. The servants said they didn’t know anyone called Isegrim, and they hadn’t head anyone calling for him.
“Can’t any of you hear it?” I asked, because the voice was still calling for Isegrim, “It is calling so loudly!”
But they said they couldn’t hear anything except the mewing of a cat up in the leads.
This made me extremely happy – it was just a cat mewing and I could understand what it was saying. I said goodbye to the servants as though I was going straight to bed – it being nine o’clock – and went straight to my room. Because the hour of cold Saturn’s reign was approaching, I put on my gown and secretly went to the place where I had watched the cats the previous night. When I had settled myself where I would conveniently hear and see everything going on in the leads where te cat was still calling out for Isegrim, I put two pastilles to my two nostrils and two lozenges into my mouth, one above my tongue the other under it. I took off my left shoe because the hour of Jupiter was approaching and placed the fox tail under my foot. In order to hear bett, I removed the pillows from my ears and then listened and viewed as attentively as possible, though the wax or dirty scum in the bottom of my ear, where a little vein carries sounds sounds to the senses, was so purged or parched because of the medicine in my pillows, or was so dry, that the smallest movement of the air - whether it was the voices of living creatures, or noises made by inanimate things such as winds, waters, trees, carts, falling stones etc - sounded so shrill in my head due to the reverberation of my sensitised eardrums, that the sound of them all at once was so disordered and monstrous that I couldn’t make out one thing from another, except for the harmony of the heavens,, which was more beautiful and shriller than anything else. In comparison everything else was a low bass sound, from the lowest of the noises, which was the movement of Saturn in his wide orbit, the high voices of birds and the whistling of the wind, all of which I heard jumbled together. The voices of beasts were a high treble, the running of rivers was a tenor, the movement of the sea, of powerful waterfalls and ocean bays were a deep bass, and the rushing, breezing and falling of the clouds were a deep diapason.
While I listened to this din, making an effort to separate voices from the noises, I heard such a commotion as was never in Chaucers house of fame, there being nothing within a hundred-mile radius (beyond which sounds tend not to travel straight) that I couldn’t hear as distinctly as if it was right beside me. I could hear all of the voices, but I could not understand any of them. Goodness, what a to-do women made in their beds! Some were scolding, some laughing, some weeping, some singing to their nursing children which were continually crying, and one shrewd wife a great way off (I think at St. Albans) shrilly accused her husband of unfaithfulness. I heard that last one plainy and would glady have listened to the rest of her accusation, but it was drowned out by
The barking of dogs and grunting of hogs,
The wailing of cats and the rumbling of rats,
The gaggling of geese and the humming of bees,
The rousing of bucks and the gaggling of ducks,
The singing of swans and the ringing of pans,
The crowing of cocks and the sewing of socks,
The cackling of hens and the scratching of pens,
The squeaking of mice, and the rolling of dice,
The calling of frogs and toads in the bogs,
The chirping of crickets and shutting of wickets,
The screeching of owls and fluttering of fowls,
The routing of knaves and snorting of slaves,
The farting of churls and fizzling of girls,
And many things else, such as ringing of bells,
And counting of coins and mounting of groins,
The whispering of lovers, the snaring of plovers,
Of groaning and spewing, and baking and brewing,
Of scratching and rubbing, and watching and shrugging,
And with such a commotion of noises that it would deafen anyone who tried to listen for too long., especially me because my ear drums had been made so sensitive and stiff by the heat treatment of the medicine. They were like a drum dried infront of a fire, or a lute string shrunk by the heat. They were perfecty changed in the way the received and transmitted any sounds that touched them.
While I was listening carefully to the woman with the cheating husband and ignoring everything else, the the greatest bell in nearby Saint Botolph’s steeple was tolled for the funeral of some rich person. The sound rumbled so loudly in my ears that I thought all the devils in hell had broken loose and had come to get me, and this scared me so much that when I felt the Fox tail under my foot – I had completely forgotten about it – I thought I’d stepped on the tail of the devil! I cried out at the top of my voice “The devil! The devil! The devil!” but when some folk went running to my chamber, where they expected to find me, I heard them calling out “Where is he? Where is he? I cannot finde Master Streamer!” because, of course, I wasn’t there. This made such a din in my ears – and would have been just as much of a din in the ears of an ordinary man - that I thought the voices shouting for me were devis indeed. I huddled into the corner of the chimney and hid there, saying prayers to save me from the devil. Because they were making such an unbearable racket, I decided to plug my ears to make it less frightening. As I was doing so, a crow that had been falling asleep on the chimney top fell down the chimney above me. Its fluttering made such a noise, that whenits feet landed on my head I was certain the devil had come and seized me. I reached up with my hand to touch him and when the crow called me a knave – and worse - in his own language I swooned in fear. When I recovered from my faint, the crow had flown up into the chamber roof and roosted there all night. Then took I my pillows and used them to plug my ears because the servants were still making a great racket. As soon as I put them on my ears, I could hear it was the servants, no devils, looking for me and that my enhanced hearing had deceived me. The bell of St Botolph’s that had scared me in the first place (and I have never liked bells since that incident) was still tolling, but I could now tell what it was. It was obvious that the servants would not stop looking for me or calling out until they had found me, so I went downstairs and claimed that I’d been startled by a cat that had found its way into my chamber. Satisfied, they went back to bed and I went back to my listening place.
12. THE THIRD PART OF MASTER STREAMER’S TALE.
By this time, the waning moon (it had been a full moon the prevous night) was high in the sky and was casting the light of the sun onto our hemisphere; light that was refracted onto her by the ocean’s spring tide. Each day she would lose more and more of this shine until it was the neap tide, which would make her cast her rays elsewhere. It’s like a man using a Crystal glass; he can place it either high or low and cat the sunlight or candlelight upon any round glass of water, so it makes the light wax or wane just like the moon. Master Willot, being my Lord’s Astronomer, you will understand that all our ancestorsmisunderstood the nature of these things - it is not the Moon that causes the Sea to ebb and flow, or cause neap tides and spring tides. No, it is the neaping and springing of the sea that refracts the sun’s rays and causes the moon to wax and wane. Moonlight is nothing more than reflected sunlight cas onto the moon by the sea, just as the stars are nothing more than sunlight reflected from rivers and cast onto the crystalline heaven; because rivers always keep the same course, the stars alwas stay the same size. As for the stars moving from east to west, this is naturally due to the movement of the sun, but the way the stars ascend and descend, that is, sometimes come northward and other times go southward, that is caused by the suns being either on this side or on the other side his equinoctial, that is, the equator. For the same reason, the poles do not move i.e. because of the location of the rivers or lakes that cast them, and to the roundness and egg-like form of the firmament. But let’s not dwell on this, I will come to this matter in my book about Heaven and Hell, and not only state it plainly, but prove it with reason and experience. As I was saying, when the moon had shone through chamber window and saw me neither in bed nor at my book, she hurried to the south and cam through a little hole in the house roof where I was eavesdropping on the cats.
By this time all the cats from the night before, and many others as well, were assembled. Only the great grey one was absent, and as soon as he arrived all the others bowed or curtseys, just as they had the night before. Once he was settled, he began to talk in his own language, which I now understood as well as if he was speaking English.
“Ah, my dear friends and fellows, you might think I have been a lingerer this night, and that I’ve been distracted elsewhere for a while, but I couldn’t get haere any faster. Earlier this evening I went into a pantry where there was plenty of good meat, intending to steal some for my supper. But the kitchen maid, not knowing I was in there of course, shut the door and it was a lot effort to escape. Then, as I hurried here over the roofs, there were thieves breaking into a window; they gave me such a fright that I lost my footing and dropped into the street, and then I had to escape the dogs! But now, by the grace of Hagat and Heg, I am here, though I can see by the stars, that the fifth hour of night approaches, but seeing as this is the last night of my charge, and that tomorrow I must return to my Lord Cammoloch …”
At this all the cats bristled their tails and cried, “May Hagat and Heg preserve him!” and I understood that Cammoloch was the prince of cats.
“… so I now turn to good Mouse-slayer, and hopefully the briefness of her account will make up for all the time I have lost.”
“I will be brief, my Lord,” said Mouse-slayer,who was the cat that had continually mewed before the great Cat the night before. Whe made a curtsey with her tail, pulled in her neck and said in her language, “Whereas by virtue of your commission from Lord Cammoloch, may Hagat and Heg preserve him, who by inheritance and our free election enjoys the Empire of his traitorously murdered mother, the Goddess Grimolochin, you his officer of justice and chief counseller my Lord Grisard, with Isegrim and Poilnoir as your assistants, are acting upon a complaint made that false accuser Catch-rat - who makes malice against me because I refused his lecherous offers. I must bare my soul before this honourable company and recount my whole life since the blind days of my kittenhood. I trust that you remember that I have already recounted the first four years of my life, and my behaviour, during the past two nights. “
13. MOUSE-SLAYER’S TESTIMONY – THE BLIND WOMAN AND THE PRIEST.
I will begin where I left off last night. Remember that my Lord and Lady, whose lives I explained to you yester-night, left the City and went to livel in the country, taking me with them. Being a stranger there, I became lost, and with my mate Bird-hunter, who was the gentlest lover I ever knew, we came to a town called Stratford where he lived. I don’t know if it was Stratford Stony, or Stratford-upon-Tyne, or Stratford-upon-Avon, but I lived there for six months during the time when Preachers were allowed to speak against the Mass, something forbidden six months later. During that time, this is the only thing worthy of recounting, my Lord.
The woman I lived with, and her husband were both old and, therefore, clung to their habits and beliefs regarding Mass. The more their sons, and a learned kinsman, and various other younger people tried to the teach or persuade them otherwise, the more the old couple clung to their beliefs. They had almost brought the matter to a head when the old woman lost her sight – I know not how – and was so sick that she took to her bed for two days. Then she sent for the parish priest, her old spiritual father, and when everyone else had left the chamber except the old woman, the priest and myself, she told him how sick she was and how blind, unable to see anything, and she asked him to pray for her and give her guidance.
The priest replied, ‘It is no wonder that though you are blind and sick and willingly allow your soul to be blinded, you now send for me. Why didn’t you send for me when these new heretics were leading you astray from the Catholic belief of Christ’s flesh in the Sacrament?’
The old woman replied, ‘Sir, I did send for you once, and when you came they attacked you so vehemently with Holy Writ and Saints’ writing that you couldn’t do anything but call them heretics who had written the New Testament themselves!’
‘Yes,’ said the priest, ‘but didn’t I also tell you to take heed? Didn’t I tell you how God would plague you?‘
‘Yes good sir,’ she replied, ‘Yes, you did, and I’ve painfully learnt that you were a true Prophet. Now I beg you to forgive me and to pray to God for me; whatever you will teach me, I will I believe it until the day I die.’
The priest said to her, ‘Well, God refuses no sinners if they repent. So, you will believe that Christ’s flesh, body, soul, and bone, as born of our blessed Lady, is in the consecrated host. You will worship it, pray to it and offer to it. This way, any of your friends’ souls may be brought out of purgatory, which these new heretics don’t believe in, though they’ll say otherwise when their souls are frying there. Be assured that all that I say is true, and that the mass can save believers from all manner of sins. In a moment I will say a mass to restore your sight and health. ‘
Then, from under his shirt, he took out a wafer cake, and called for wine; shutting the door he put on his surplice and laid his prayer book on the bedside table and said mass. When he came to the levation, he lifted up the wafer and said to the woman – who had been blind for the last two days – ‘Wipe your eyes, you sinful woman and look upon your maker. ‘
At that, she lifted herself up to look at the cake, and her sight and health were completely restored. as well as ever she had before. When mass was done, she thanked God and the priest effusively. The priest instructed her not to tell any of the younger folks how she had been cured because his diocesian bishop had forbidden them to say or sing mass. He commanded her to always devoutly rehearse mass in secret to old honest men and women. Because of this miracle, many people became so entrenched in their beliefs that, although the law forbids all masses upon pain of punishment, many of them say it privately in in their chambers until this day. ‘
Then the cat called Poilnoir said, ‘Well sir, this was either a great miracle or else mischievous trickery by a learned minister. Perhaps the priest had used magic to blind here earlier and then used a sorcerous mass to cure her again. It would be a good idea for us to hire him or some other Priest when kittens are born so he can sing a mass for our kittens and lift their blindness at birth. I am certain that if I knew that Priest, though it might be difficult, I would have one litter of kittens in some chamber where he says his private night masses.’”
Mouse-slayer replied, “It wouldn’t do any good. I once had the same idea and kittened in the chamber of another of my mistresses, where a priest said daily mass, but my kittens didn’t see any better and, if anything, they saw rather the worse."
14. MOUSE-SLAYER’S TESTIMONY CONTINUES – THE BOARDING HOUSE.
When I heard that the man who took me into the country was coming back to live in London, I kept the house mouse-free so well for the month before, that his wife carried me back there with her. When I was back in London I went to visit an old acquaintance of mine. When I was heavily pregnant and needed a place to have my kittens, I got into the good graces, and into the household, of an old gentlewoman, a widow, with whom I spent this whole year. This woman made her living by boarding young gentlemen, and by always having a supply of pretty young women for them. If truth be told, she made a living more by these young women. Her trade was clever and crafty, and more deceitful than dangerous. Once she had extracted all the wealth from the young gentlemen, she threw them out unless they took to cheating. At night, the young men would go out and when they returned the next morning it was often with money, or sometimes with jewellery such as rings or chains, sometimes with good clothing and a few times with nothing at all except curses, bruises or wounds from their night-time exploits. Whatever they brought back was taken by the old widow and she would either find some way to sell it or would melt it down and sell it to the goldsmiths.
Despite these dishonest dealings, she was very religious, and although religious icons were forbidden she kept an icon of Our Lady Mary in a chest, and each night after everyone else had gone to bed and it was just herself and I in her chamber, she would take out this icon, set it upon her cabinet, light two or three wax candles in front of the icon and then kneel down in prayer. Sometimes she spent a whole hour saying her rosary and asking Our Lady to be good to her, and to save her and all her guests from both danger and shame, promising to honour Our Lady for the rest of her life if she did so. While I lived with this woman I was cherished and fussed over. At nights, while she was praying, I playe with her rosry beads, catching them as she let each on fall. Sometimes I put my head in the rosary necklace and ran away with it I around my neck. She seemed to take great pleasure in this, and apparently so did Our Lady because the old widow would sometimes say, “Yes, Blessed Lady, I know you have heard me because you are smiling at my Cat. “
Only once did she do me any harm, and this is the story of what happened. One of her gentleman boarders was infatuated with the beautiful wife of a City merchant, but no matter how pw persuasive he was, she would not satisfy his lust. He treated her to great feasts, offered her rich clothing and all kind of precious jewels that women normally love. He even offered her a sum of money large enough to corrupt the Gods themselves. However, the object of his desire was so protective of her honesty and good name that she did not give in to him. He was so love-struck, and so frustrated, that he confided in the old widow and begged her to help him win the young woman’s favour in return for whatever she required from him. Because the widow kept her dealings secret, she was considered one of the most honest women in the City. She found a way to invite the young woman to dinner, and before she arrived, the old woman gave me a piece of a pudding that she had filled with mustard. As as soon as I had eaten it, my eyes began to run and continued running all day. To fix this, she blew some pepper into my nose to make me sneeze. When the pretty young wife arrived, my owner showed her theuseful and valuable things in the house – women love to show off their possessions – and the pair of them sat at the table to gossip about the doings of various other women. I went to sit next to my owner, as I usually did, and when the young woman saw me coughing, sneezing and runny-eyed she asked what was wrong with me.
The old widow, who could produce tears at will, sighed and became suddenly unhappy. “Mistress, I think I must be the unluckiest woman alive, and that God has poured all of his plagues upon my head at the same time. He has taken my husband - the honestest man that ever lived – from me, and also my only son and heir, a most prosperous young man, and as if that wasn’t enough, he put an affliction upon my only daughter. She was as fair as any woman and and happily married to a man in the City. But now, either because of her honesty or her cruelty, two months ago he turned her into this cat. She has been weeping continually for the whole two months, lamenting her miserable wretchedness.”
The young woman was astonished at this tale, but my owner’s tearful protestations and good acting made her believe it was true. She asked, quite earnestly, why the unfortunate daughter had been turned into a cat.
My owner continued her story, “I don’t know what to think. Should I excuse my daughter and accuse God, or should I blame her and acquit him? She was most fortunately married, and she and her husband loved each other so much, though I now rue the fact that she loved him so much. Another young man fell deeply in love with her and gave her gifts and treats, but she didn’t want to betray her marriage vows or lose her good name, so she refused him. Because he was unrelenting in his efforts, she came and asked my advice. I told her not to consent to him, and to shake him of with sharp words and threatening answers, and I thought this was the best advice, but now I regret it every day. She did as I advised, and the young man saw he had no chance with her. He went home and fell sick because his love was so honest and secret. He would not take the advice of his friends and he languished in bed, pining, for three days, eating and drinking nothing. Knowing that he was close to death he wrote a letter which his servant brought to my daughter – I have it in my purse, if you can read, I will show it to you. I can’t read, but my daughter here could read and write.” Then my owner took out a letter for the young woman to read. This is what it said:
“From the nameless lover to the nameless beloved, from whom he seeks permission to die as he cannot live without her love.
I curse that sad day when I first fell in love with you and my fate was sealed. I curse the unhappy hour when I first saw your piercing eye and, though they didn’t know it, they infamed my heart with desire. My love for you is unquenchable, but you have no mercy and no pity. I do not ask you, my dear unloving love, for your affections, because, in my deep despair, I know from your cruel words tht you feel nothing for me. I can only praise your faithfulness and I envy him that you love. So I will continue to pine until the breath leaves my body. These three days I have eaten nothing, I have not slept. These last three weeks I have not been merry. These last three months my mind has benn consumed by thoughts of you. For seven nights I have not left my bed and I am now so feeble that I am a living corpse. When my lovelorn spirit finally leaves this cruel and miserable prison of flesh, please at least acknowledge my love, life and death. May your tender, white hands close these eyelids which first let the uncomfortable light of your beauty shine into my heart. If you refuse this final act, upon my death I will immediately go before the immortal Gods and say that you caused my death through your lack of love or kindness. I will beg them to save others from being overcome by your beauty and suffering this same fate until they also perish. I will beseech the just Gods to either soften your honest, stony heart, or else to disfigure your fair, merciless face. But now I have no energy to write more. I take my leave of yu , desiring you to either come and see me die, or, if I am already dead when this reaches you, to see me honestly buried.
Yours, unregarded while alive, G.S.”
After the young woman had read this letter, she gve it back to my owner. The young woman was finding it hard to keep back her tears, and said, “I am sorrier for your despair than I am for that young man, but most of all I am sorry for your daughter. What did she after she saw this letter?”
“Ah,” said the old woman, “She treated it just the same as she’d treated his previous advances and sent him a rough answer in writing. But the young man never got to read it – when his servant returned, his Master was already dead. Two days later, her husband - my son-in-law, died suddenly. The two days after that, while she was sitting here with e lamenting her husband’s death, we heard a voice cry out ‘you flint-heated woman, repent your cruelty!’ and she was immediately changed into a cat. Now I know that God prefers us to be faithful to our husbands but, at the same time, we must make someone else die because of us. Any virtue taken to extreme is a vice. This is proved plainly by the punishment of my daughter for her extreme in honesty and chastity.”
This dinnertime discussion with my own sank into the young woman’s mind. That same afternoon she sent for the gentleman she had so consistently refused and promised that if he nominated some unsuspected place, she would gladly meet him and fulfil his lust. He nominated my owner’s house for a tryst the next day. When they were together, I decided it was time to get my revenge on my owner for her mustard and pepper trick. So, I caught a mouse, a creature that my owner was scared of, and crept under her skirts with it and let it go. It immediatly dashed up her leg and she leapt up, screamed and went quite pale. To complete my revenge, I sprang on the mouse and made sure I scratched her thighs and belly at the same time. Her scratches were still healing two months later, and when she showed them to the young woman, the young woman said I was an unnatural daughter to harm my mother tis way. My owner replied that I was not to blame because it was the mother’s advice that caused all my sorrows, and that I had not intentionally scratched her, but had only tried to catch the mouse before it crept into her belly.
And this was how an innocent, and otherwise invincible, woman came to commit adultery.
15. MOUSE-SLAYER IN THE YOUNG WOMAN’S HOUSE.
Not long after, the young woman begged for me to stay with her, so I lived in her home all that year. During that year, as all the cats in the parish can confirm, I never disobeyed or transgressed our holy law by refusing the lustful advances of any he-cat, or refusing intercourse, although it was sometimes more painful than pleasant for me, just so long as the advances were made at a proper and convenient time. I must confess that I refused Catch-rat, and bit and scratched him, which is against our laws. At the time I was heavily pregnant, and though I had wanted him to be the father of my kittens he was fussy and refused my earnest advances. At the time he was so in love with his own daughter, Slickskin, that he couldn’t stand the sight of any other she-cat, even though she had no time for him. As I said, at the time I was heavily pregnant, and I found him in a gutter eating a bat that he had caught that evening. As you know, pregnant cats, like pregnant women, often have cravings, and I had a craving for a piece of bat, and begged a morsel from him, even if it was only a piece of leathery wing. I felt a need for this meat to save my unborn kittens. But Catch-rat was an unnatural, ravenous brute and ate it all himself. Just like men berate their wives, Catch-rat berated me, saying our cravings were caused by wantonness and not out of real need. This upset me so much, being denied what I longed for, that I became sick two days later and had it not been for Isegrim, who brought me a piece of mouse and convinced me it was a piece of bat, I would have lost more than my kittens, whom I miscarried ten days early.
When I recovered enought to go out again, that cruel he-cat met me, and when he saw from my belly that I had lost my kittens, his lust overcame him. He would not take no for an answer – I think he must have eaten savery, which is known to provoke lust in our kind – and he was determined to have his way with me. Seeing that he was going to ravish me regardless of my wishes, I cried for help as loudly as I could, and to defend myself till help arrived, I scratched and bit as hard as I could. If Isegrim and her son Lightfoothadn’t arrived so quickly on the scene he would have harmed me. Isegrim and Lightfoot are both here and can bear witness to this. As to whether I was justified in refusing him, and whether I broke the holy law that forbids us females from refusing any males, unless there are more than ten in a single night, I leave it to you, my Lords, to interpret the laws.
Then Grisard, the great grey cat, sad “For sure, in the 3rd year of the reign of Glascaion, at a Court held in Catwood, a decree is recorded regarding the exception forbidding any male to force himself on a female, and there are great penalties if he does so. Leaving aside this matter, we were satisfied with your earlier testimony, so tell us how you behaved you with your new mistress and do so briefly because the star Cor Leonis is almost plain west, meaning that the Goblin hour is close.”
Mouse-slayer took up the tale again. When I was with my young mistress, she made a great fuss of me, thinking I had been the old widow’s daughter, and she told her girlfriends the tale of my supposed transformation. My master also made a fuss of me because I would take meat in my paw and lift it to my mouth. But there was also a most ungracious fellow living in the house, and he took great delight in playing nasty tricks on others. On one occasion, he took four walnut shells and filled them with soft pitch. He put these pitch-filled shells on my feet and put my feet into cold water until the pitch had hardened, then he let me loose. Lord, how strange it felt to wear shoes, and how they annoyed me because any time I tried to run up a steep slope, I slid and fell down. All that afternoon, out of anger at not being able to get out of these shoes, I hid in a corner of the attic above my masger and mistress’s chamber. At night, when the household had gone to bed, I spied a foraging mouse, and when I tried to run and pounce on her, my walnut-shell shoes made such a clattering on the attic floorboards that it woke up my master, who was afraid of ghosts. My master and his servants listened intently to the pit-pat pit-pat noises above their heads. It sounded like a horse trampling about, and they were terrified because they were certain the devil was in the attic.
The bravest one of them, in fact the one who had shod me, came upstairs to see what all the noise was. I went downward to meet him and my unwanted shoes made such a rattling that, when he saw my glistening eyes, he fell down backwards and cracked his head, all the while crying out “The devil! The devil! The devil!” which made my master and the rest of his company run naked into the street, all crying “The devil! The devil! The devil!” This woke the neighbours who called for aid, among whom was an old priest. The old priest lamented the lack of holy water, which they were forbidden to make, and went to church for some of the Christening water out of the font. He took his Chalice and an unconsecrated wafer, put on his surplice, put his stole around his neck, and brought from his chamber a piece of holy Candle that he had kept for two years. With all of this he came to the house, and with his lit candle in one hand and a holy water sprinkler in the other, and his chalice and wafer tucked in sight in his shirt, and a pot of font water at his belt, he came up towards the attic while praying some mass. Made braver by his presence, other people followed him. When I saw this, thinking I would be seeing some mass that night, just as I had seen on many previous nights, I ran to meet them. When the Priest heard me coming, and when he glimpsed me, he fell backwards onto those behind him. One got a cut from his chalice, another was hit by the pot of holy water, and the holy candle fell into the lap of another priest below him, who (while the rest were cautiously approaching me) had been summoning our maid at the foot of the stairs; it singed him badly because he was so stunned by the commotion above that he was unable to extinguish the burning candle.
When I saw all this business, I ran down among them where they lay in heaps, where they were overcome by a fear that they’d never experienced before. The old priest had tumbled down onto a boy who had been behind him, and the priest’s face now rested on the boy’s bare backside; he was was so astonished that when he raised his head from boy’s backside, he didn’t notice that the boy had messed himself in fear, and he didn’t feel, smell or remove the stinking mess from his face. Then I went to mistress who lay among the rest, and I mewed and rubbed against her until she said, “I believe it’s my cat!” Hearing this, the rascal who had shod me, and who had forgotten about it, said it was indeed her cat, but didn’t own up to his part in the matter. On hearing that it was just a cat, the priest with the burning candle in his lap recovered his courage, stood up with the candle in his hand and looked at me and at the rest of the company. Then he laughed at his fellow priest whose dirty face rested on a boy’s bare backside. Hearing the laughter, the others came to their senses and got up, cursing whichever rascal had put walnut shells on my feet, though the actual culprit did not admit anything. Then they got water to soften the pitch and remove the unwanted walnut-shell shoes. Everyone there promised, out of shame, not to tell of the night’s events and went back to their own lodgings while our household went back to bed.
When all the cats, and Imyself, had laughed at this, Mouse-slayer continued her story.
16. THE JUDGMENT OF MOUSE-SLAYER.
About nine months after those events, which was last whitsuntide, I played another prank. Thanks to my old mistress’s lying and my weeping, the young gentleman had been accepted and retained as a lover by my new mistress. He often came to our house, and whenever the master was away this young gentleman was frolicking with my young mistress. In addition, they were spending the master’s money so lavishly between them that, never mind his great trade in merchandise, they ahd already almost bankrupted him. I wanted my master to find out these goings-on and looked for a way to upset their schemes.
One day, as luck would have it, my master came home unexpectedly while my mistress was frolicking with her lover. The lover had no time to put his trousers on properly, but with them still around his ankles he ran into a corner behind the painted cloth and stood there still as a mouse. As soon as my master came in, his wife, as was her habit, put her arms around his neck and kissed him. She devised many reasons for him to go out again, but he was weary and sat down and called for his dinner. When she saw that he wouldn’t settle for anything by dinner, she brought him a bowl of pottage and a piece of beef. She and her lover had already feasted on capons, hot Venison marrow bones and other kind of dainties, but she served her husband pottage! Seeing this, and wanting to show my master the state of affairs, I went behind the cloth and tried to make the hidden lover speak by clawing at his bare legs and buttocks. Despite this, he remained silent and immobile. My master thought I was catching a mouse and told his wife to go and help me. She, knowing what beast was really there, came to the painted cloth and called me away: “Come puss, come puss,” and threw a piece of meat onto the floor for me. But I had other things in mind. Seeing that scratching wasn’t having any effect, I suddenly leapt up and bit his male parts so hard that he couldn’t restrain his cries any longer. He finally cried out and caught me by the neck and was going to strangle me. My master may not have smelled a rat in the past, bt he heard a rat now, and not the sort that hid inside walls. He lifted up the cloth and found the lover, trousers still round the ankles. The man was trying to choke me, and I still had his male parts between my teeth. As soon as I saw my master, I let go of the lover and he let go of me, and I immediately ran away to my current home. I have never returned to that house and Idare not go for fear of my life, so how they resolved the matter I do not know.
So now, my good Lords, I have told you everything that I’ve done and that has happened because of me. From this you can see my loyalty and obedience to all good laws, and you can see how shamelessly and falsely I’m accused of transgression. Please, having seen this, certify my good behaviour to my liege great Cammoloch, may Hagat and Heg preserve him.
When Grisard, Isegrim and Poilnoir, the commissioners, had heard Mouse-slayer’s declaration, and her request, they praised her a geat deal. Afterwards, they commanded her, with all the other cats there, to be at Caithness next Saint Katherines day, when great Cammoloch (may Hagat and Heg preserve him) would hold his court. Then they left.
Glad to have heard all of this, but sorry that I had not understood what was said on the previous two nights before, I went to bed and slept well. Next morning, when I went out into the garden, I heard a strange cat ask of our own cat what Mouse-slayer had done before the commissioners these last three nights. Our cat answered that she had cleared her name of a crime that Catch-rat had accused her of, and she had described her whole life, all six years of it. In the first two years she had had five master - a priest, a baker, a lawyer, a broker and a butcher - whose secret deceits she had witnessed and had described on the first night. In the next two years she had had seven master – a bishop, a knight, an apothecary, a goldsmith, a usurer, an alchemist, and a lord - whose cruelty, study, craft, cunning, niggardliness, folly, waste and oppression she described on the second night. This was notable because the knight was married to a very fair lady but turned all his attention to his book and seldom lay with her. Mouse-slayer, pitying her Mistress, decided to make him scared to sleep alone, so one night when her master was sleeping, she got to his mouth and stole his breath, amost stifling him. She played a similar trick on the usurer, who was very rich, but lived miserably and feigned poverty. One day, while his treasure chest was open, she hid inside and allowed herself to be locked in. When he came back at night, she made a noise and, thinking it was the devil he called a priest and many other people to come and help him. In full sight of the others he opened the chest, Mouse-slayer leapt out, and everyone saw that he was very wealthy. She left him soon afterwards. As for what was said and done yesternight, regarding my Lord Grisards hard adventure, and Mouse-slayer’s account of the last two years, the strange cat had been there and heard for itself.
After listening to the two cats talking, I went back indoors and breakfasted on bread and butter. I dined at noon with common meat, which undid the effects of my strange meal the previous day. My head became thick again, and my powers faded, so that by night time my senses were as dull as before. That night I listened to two other cats, whose gestures showed them to be discussing the same matters, but I didn’t undertand a word they said.
Now I have told all of you, and chiefly you my Lord, a wonderful matter, and though it is as incredible as it is wonderful, when the time is more convenient time I will tell you other things which my eyes have seen, and my ears have heard, and of mysteries that make this one pale by comparison and are barely believable. In the meanwhile, please could you help get me some money so I can go to Caithness, for I have beentrying to go there for five years now and have never been able to complete my journey. When Master Ferries had promised that he would help, every man shut up his shop windows, which the aforesaid talk had kept open for two hours longer then they should have been.
17. AN EXHORTATION.
I knew these things will seem marvellous to many men, that cats should understand and speak, have a governor among themselves, and be obedient to their own laws, and were it not for the approved authority of the entusiastic author I heard it from, I would also be doubtful. But, seeing as I know the place and the persons with whom he discussed these matters before he experimented with strange and wonderful concoctions, I am in little doubt of the truth. His story proves that cats understand us and take note of our secret doings, and tell each other of or doings. It also tells us that the use of the medicines he describes will let any man understand them as he did. I advise all men to beware of wickedness, and avoid secret sins and mischievous private counsel, otherwise, to their shame, the whole world will eventually know what they have been doing. If any man is so concerned that he gets rid of his cat, then that will prove his secret naughty living, and that he is more ashamed that his cat will see them than he is afraid of God and his angels, which watch and make note of all men’s actions.
We can profit from Master Streamer’s experiences by living our open and our private lives in such a way that that our own cat, who sees all our all secrets, will have only honest and praise-worthy things to tell of. And the Devil’s cat which, like it or not, sees and notes down all our misdeeds, will have nothing to accuse us of in front of God who punishes our sins and wickedness with shame and eternal torment. Whenever you go about your business, remember this proverb: Beware the Cat, do not tie up your cat while you are doing misdeeds, and make sure that neither your cat, nor the Devil’s cat (which can’t be tied up) will have any shameful things to accuse you of.
If you do this, you will do nothing wrong and your cat will give such a good report of you that you will sing unto God this hymn of thanks for Master Streamer’s labours that gave you this warning.
18. MASTER STREAMER’S HYMN
Who givest wit to Whales, to Apes, to Owls,
And kindly speech, to fish, to flesh, to fowls,
And spirit to men in soul and body clean,
To mark and know what other creatures mean.
Which hast given grace to Gregory, no Pope,
No King, no Lord, whose treasures are their hope
But sinly Priest, which like a Streamer waves
In ghostly good, despised of foolish knaves.
Which hast (I say) given grace to him to know
The course of things above and here below,
With skill so great in languages and tongues:
As never breathed from Mithridates lungs.
To whom the hunter of birds, of mice and rats:
Did speak as plain as Kate that thrunmeth hats,
By means of whom is openly bewrayed,
Such things as closely were both done and said.
To him grant Lord with healthy wealth and rest:
Long life to unload to us his learned breast.
With fame so great to overlive his grave:
As none I had erst, nor any after have.
Imprinted at London at the long Shop adjoining unto Saint Mildreds Church in the Poultry by Edward Allde. 1584.
BEWARE THE CAT - 1570 VERSION (THE 1561 VERSION IS LOST)
(Because 16th century English can sometimes be difficult to read, especially if your first language is not English, I have modernised ome spellings and broken it into paragraphs to make it more accessible. To give readers the option of 16th Century and modern English phrasing, I have appended a modern English “translation.” I have also added some historical notes for modern readers. Serious scholars of English will find original texts online. This page is aimed at cat lovers.)
T . K. to the Reader.
THIS little book Beware the Cat, most pleasantly compiled:
In time obscured was and so, since then hath been exiled.
Exiled, because perchance at first, it showed the toys and drifts:
Of such as then by wiles and wiles, maintained Popish shifts.
Shifts, such as those in such a time, delighted for to use:
Whereby full many simple souls, they did full sore abuse.
Abuse? yea sure and that with spite, when as the Cat can tell:
Of many pranks of popish priests, both foolish mad and fell.
Fell sure, and vain, if judgement right appear to be in place:
And so as fell in pleasant wise, this fiction shows their grace.
Grace? nay sure ungraciousness, of such and many mo’
which may be told in these our days to make us laugh also.
Also to laugh? nay rather weep, to see such shifts now used:
And that in every sort of men, true virtue is abused.
Abused? yea, and quite down cast, let us be sure of that:
And therefore now as hath been said, I say beware the Cat.
The Cat full pleasantly will show, some sleights that now are wrought
And make some laugh, which unto mirth to be constrained are loth.
Loth? yea, for over passing grief, that much bereaves their mind:
For such disorder as in states, of every sort they find.
Find? yea, who can now boast but that the Cat will him disclose?
Therefore in midst of mirth (I say) beware the Cat to those.
TO THE RIGHT Worshipful Esquire John Young,
Grace And Health.
Have penned for your mastership’s pleasure, one of the stories which M . Streamer told the last Christmas, and which you so gladly would have heard reported by M. Ferrers himself and although I be unable to pen or speak the same so pleasantly as he could; yet have I so nearly used both the order and words of him that spoke them, which is not the least virtue of a reporter, that I doubt not but that he and M. Willot shall in the reading think they hear M. Streamer speak, and he himself in the like action, shall doubt whether he speaketh or readeth. I have divided his oration into three parts, and set the argument before them and an instruction after them with such notes as might be gathered thereof, so making it book-like and intitled “Beware the Cat.” But because I doubt whether M. Streamer will be contented that other men plow with his oxen (I mean pen such things as he speaketh) which perhaps he would rather do himself, to have as he deserveth the glory of both: therefore I beseech you to learn his mind herein. And if he agree it pass in such sort, yet that he peruse it before the printing, and amend it if in any point I have mistaken him. I pray you likewise to ask M Ferrers his judgement herein, and show him that the cure of the great plague of M Streamer’s translation out of the Arabic, which he sent me from Margets, shall be imprinted as soon as I may conveniently. And if I shall perceive by your trial that M. Streamer allow my endeavours in this kind, I will hereafter (as Plato did by Socrates) pen out such things of the rest of our Christmas communications as shall be to his great glory, and no less pleasure to all them that desire such kinds of knowledge . In the meanwhile I beseech you to accept my good will and learn to beware the Cat. So shall you not only perform that I seek, but also please the almighty who always preserve you.
Yours to his power. G. B.
IT chanced that at Christmas last, I was at Court with Master Ferrers, then Master of the King’s Majesty’s pastimes, about setting forth of certain Interludes, which for the King’s recreation we had devised and were in learning. In which time, among many other exercises among ourselves,: we used nightly at our lodging to talk of sundry things for the furtherance of such offices, wherein each man as then served, for which purpose it pleased Master Ferrers to make me his bedfellow, and upon a Pallet cast upon the rushes in his own Chamber to lodge Master Willot and Master Streamer, the one his Astronomer, the other his Divine. And among many other things too long to rehearse, it happened on a night (which I think was the twenty eighth of December) after that Master Ferrers was come from the Court and in bed, there fell a controversy between Master Streamer (who with Master Willot had already slept their first sleep) and me that was newly come unto bed, the effect whereof was whether Birds and beasts had reason, the occasion thereof was this. I had heard that the Kings Players were learning a play of Aesop’s Crowe, wherein the most part of the actors were birds, the device whereof I discommended, saying it was not Comical to make either speechless things to speak, or brutish things to commune reasonably. And although in a tale it be sufferable to imagine and tell of something by them spoken or reasonably done (which kind Aesop laudably used) yet it was uncomely (said I) and without example of any author to bring them in lively personages to speak, do, reason, and allege authorities out of authours. M. Streamer my Lord’s Divine, being more divine in this point then I was aware of, held the contrary part, affirming that beasts and fowls have reason, and that as much as men, yea, and in some points more. M. Ferrers himself and his Astronomer, waked with our talk and harkened to us, but would take part on neither side. And when M. Streamer had for proof of his assertion declared many things of Elephants that walked upon cords; Hedghogs that knew always what weather would come; Foxes and Dogs that after they had been all night abroad killing Geese and Sheep, would come home in the morning and put their necks into their collars; Parrots that bewailed their keepers death; Swallows that with Celandine open their young one’s eyes, and an hundred things more which I denied to come of reason, and to be but natural kindly actions, alleging for my proof authority of most grave and learned Philosophers.
Well, quoth Master Streamer, I know what I know, and I speak not only what by hearsay of some Philosophers I know, but what I myself have proved.
Why? quoth I then, have you proof of beasts and fowls’ reason?
Yea, quoth he, I have heard them and understand them both speak and reason as well as I hear and understand you.
At this M. Ferrers laughed, but I, remembering what I had read in Albertus’s works, thought there might be somewhat more than I did know, wherefore I asked him what beasts or fowls he had heard, and where and when?
At this, he paused awhile, and at last said, if that I thought you could be content to hear me, and without any interruption till I have done to mark what I say, I would tell you such a story of one piece of mine own experimenting, as should both make you wonder and put you out of doubt concerning this matter, but this I promise you afore if I do tell it, that as soon as any man curiously interrupts me I will leave of and not speak one word more.
When we had promised quietly to hear, he turning himself so in his bed as we might best hear him, said as followeth.
[Notes for modern readers: At Christmas there were 12 nights of revels; this company were performing for his majesty. Bedfellows – this would not have been uncommon in lodgings were several people shared one room. Slept their first sleep – it was normal to sleep for several hours and then wake and spend an hour or two in conversation or other pastimes before resuming sleep (“segmented sleep”).]
THE FIRST PART OF MASTER STREAMERS ORATION.
Being lodged (as I thank him I have been often) at a friend’s house of mine, which more romish within than garish without, standing at Saint Martin’s lane end, and hanging partly upon the town wall that is called Alders gate, either of one Aldrich or else of Elders, that is to say, ancient men of the City which among them built it, as Bishops did Bishops gate, or else of elder trees, which perchance as they do in the gardens now there about. So while the common there was vacant, grew abundantly in the same place where the gate was after built, and called thereof Eldern gate, as Moorgate took the name of the field without it, which hath been a very more. Or else because it is the most ancient gate of the City, was thereof in respect of the other, as Newgate called the elder gate. Or else as Ludgate takes the name of Lud who built it, so most part of Heraldes (I know) will soonest assent that Aluredus builded this, but they are deceived. For he and his wife Algay builded Algate, which thereof taketh the name, as Cripplegate does of a Cripple, who begged so much in his life (as put to the Silver weather cock which he stole from Paul’s steeple) after his death built it.
(Marginal notes: Why Allders gate [Aldergate] was so named; Bishops built Bishops Gate; why Moorgate; why Newgate; why Ludgate; why Aldgate; why Cripplegate; Paul’s weather Cock was Silver.)
But whereofsoever this gate Aldergate took the name (which longs chiefly to historians to know) at my friend’s house which (as I said) stands so near that it is over it, I lay often times and that for sundry causes. Sometime for lack of other lodging, and sometimes as while my Greek Alphabets were in printing, to see that it might be truly corrected. And sure it is a shame for all young men that they be no more studious in the tongues, but the world is now come to that pass, that if he can prate a little Latin, and handle a Racket and a pair of six-square bowls he shall sooner obtain any living then the best learned in a whole City, which is the cause that learning is so despised, and baggagical [intangible] things so much advanced.
While I lay at the aforesaid house for the causes aforesaid, I was lodged in a Chamber hard by the Printing house, which had a fair bay window opening in the Garden, the earth whereof is almost as high as St. Anne’s Church top which stands thereby. At the other end of the Printing house as you enter in, is a side door and 3 or 4 steps which go up to the Leads of the Gate, whereas sometime quarters of men (which is a loathsome and abominable sight) do stand up upon Poles. I call it abominable because it is not only against nature, but against Scripture. For God commanded by Moses, that after the Sun went down all such as were hanged or otherwise put to death should be buried, lest if the Sun saw them the next day his wrath should come upon them and plague them, as he hath done this and many other Realms for the like transgression. And I marvel where men have learned it, or for what cause they do it, except it be to feed and please the Devils. For sure I believe that some spirits Misanthropi or Molochitus. who lived by the savour of man’s blood did after their sacrifices failed, in which men were slain and offered unto them put into butcherly heathen tyrants heads to mangle and boil christen transgressors, and to set up their quarters for them to feed upon. And therefore I would counsel all men to bury or burn all executed bodies and refrain from making such abominable sacrifice, as I have often seen with Ravens or rather devils feeding upon them in this aforesaid Leads. In the which every night many Cats assembled, and there made such a noise that I could not sleep for them.
(Marginal notes: against young men’s negligence; against unlawful games; God plagues abomination; evil spirits live by the savour of man’s blood; good ghostly counsel of Master Streamer.)
[Notes for modern readers: Six-square bowls “six-sided bowling balls, i.e. gambling dice; ba[g]gagical - intangible)
Wherefore on a time I was sitting by the fire with certain of the house, I told them what a noise and what a wailing the Cats had made there the night before from ten o’clock till one, so that neither I could sleep nor study for them. And by means of this introduction we fell in communication of Cats. And some affirming as I do now, (but I was against it then) that they had understanding, for confirmation whereof one of the servants told this story.
There was in my country (quoth he) a man (the fellow was borne in Staffordshire) that had a young Cat which he had brought up of a kitling and would nightly dally and play with it. And on a time as he rode through Kank wood, about certain business, a Cat (as he thought) leaped out of a bush before him and called him twice or thrice by his name, but because he made none answer, nor spoke (for he was so afraid that he could not) she spoke to him plainly twice or thrice these words following. Commend me unto Titton Tatton, and to Puss thy Catton, and tell her that Grimalkin is dead. This done she went her way, and the man went forward about his business. And after that he was returned home, in an evening sitting by the fire with his wife and his household he told of his adventure in the wood, and when he had told them all the Cat’s message. His Cat which had harkened unto the tale, looked upon him sadly and at the last said, And is Grimalkin dead then farewell Dame, and therewith went her way and was never seen after.
When this tale was done: another of the company which had been in Ireland asked this fellow when this thing which he had told happened, he answered that he could not tell well, how be it as he conjectured not past 11 years for his mother knew both the man and the woman which ought the Cat that the message was sent unto.
(Marginal note: A wise man may in some things change his opinion; a cat spoke to a man in Kank Wood; A wonderful wit of a Cat.)
Sure, quoth the other, then it may well be, for about the same time as I heard a like thing happened in Ireland where if I conjecture not amiss, Grimalkin of whom you spoke, was slain.
Yea sir, quoth I, I pray you how so ?
I will tell you Master Streamer (quoth he), that which was told me in Ireland and which I have till now, so litle credited that I was a shamed to report it, but hearing that I hear now, and calling to mind mine own experience when it was: I do so little misdoubt it, that I think I never told, nor you ever heard a more likely tale.
While I was in Ireland in the time that Mackmorro and all the rest of the wild Lords were the kings enemies what time also mortal war was between the Fitzhonies and the Prior and Covent of the Abbey of Tintern, who counted them the King’s friends and subjects, whose neighbour was Cayr Macart a wild Irish man, then the king’s enemy, and one which daily made inroads into the county of Washford, and burned such Towns and carried away all such Cattle as he might come by, by means whereof, all the Country from Climine to Rosse became a waste wilderness and is scarce recovered until this day.
(Marginal notes: Grimalkin was slain in Ireland; experience is an infallible persuader; civil war between the Kings subjects; the fashion of the Irish wars.)
In this time I say, as I was on a night at Cosbery with one of Filzbery’s churls; we fell in talk as we have done now of strange adventures and of Cats, and there among other things the Churl (for so they call all Farmers and husbandmen) told me as you shall hear. There was, not seven years past, a Kern of John Butlers dwelling in the Fassock of Bantry called Patrick Apore, who minding to make aprey in the night upon Cayr Macart his Masters enemy, got him with his boy, (for so they call their horse keepers be they never so old knaves) into his Country, and in the night time entered into a town of two houses and broke in and slew the people, and then took such cattle as they found - which was a Cow and a sheep - and departed therewith homeward, but doubting they should be pursued (the Cur dogs made such a shrill barking) he got him into a church, thinking to lurk there till midnight was past, for there he was sure that no man would respect or seek him, for the wild Irish men had Churches in such reverence, till our men taught them the contrary, that they neither would nor durst either rob ought thence, or hurt any man that took the churchyard for sanctuary, no though he had killed his father, and while this Kern was in the Church he thought it best to dine for he had eaten little that day, wherefore he made his boy go gather sticks and strike fire with his feres, and made a fire in the Church and killed the Sheep, and after the Irish fashion laid it there upon and roasted it, but when it was ready and that he thought to eat it there came in a cat and set her by him, and said in Irish , Shane foel, which is give me some meat, he amazed at this, gave her the quarter that was in his hand, which immediately she did eat up, and asked more till she had consumed all the sheep, and like a cormorant not satisfied therewith asked still for more, wherefore they supposed it were the Devil, and therefore thinking it wisdom to please him killed the Cow which they had stolen, and when they had flayed it: gave the Cat a quarter which she immediately devoured, then they gave her two other quarters, and in the meanwhile after the country fashion they did cut a piece of the hide and pricked it upon four stakes which they set about the fire, and therein they set a piece of the Cow for themselves, and with the rest of the hide, they made each of them laps to wear about their feet like brogues, both to keep their feet from hurt all the next day and also to serve for meat the next night if they could get none other, by broiling them upon coals.
(Marginal notes: a Churl’s tale; this was an Irish town; Irish Curs bark sore; the wild Irish men were better than we in reverencing their Religion; the old Irish diet was to dine at night. A malapert guest that comes unbidden; a Cat did eat a sheep; the wood Kerns Cookry; Kerns for lack of meat eat their shoes roasted.)
By this time the Cat had eaten three quarters and called for more, wherefore they gave her that which was a-seething, and doubting lest when she had eaten that, she would eat them too because they had no more for her: they got them out of the Church and the Kern took his horse and away he rode as fast as he could hie. When he was a mile or two from the Church: the moon began to shine, and his boy espied the cat upon his Masters horse behind him, told him, whereupon the kern took his Dart and turning his face toward her flung it, and struck her thorough with it but immediately there came to her such a sight of Cats, that after long fight with them his boy was killed and eaten up, and he himself, as good and as swift as his horse was had much to do to escape.
When he was come home and had put of his harness (which was a Corselet of mail made like a Shirt, and his Skull covered over with gilt leather and crested with Otterskin ) all weary and hungry set him down by his wife and told her his adventure, which when a Kitling which his wife kept scarce half a year had heard; up she started and said, hast thou killed Grimalkin? and therewith she plunged in his face, and with her teeth took him by the throat, and ere that she could be taken away she had strangled him.
This the Churl told me, now about thirty-three winters past, and it was done, as he and diverse other credible men informed me not seven years before, whereupon I gather that this Grimalkin was it which the Cat in Kank wood sent news of unto the cat which we heard of even now.
Tush, quoth another that sat by, your conjecture is too unreasonable, for to admit that Cats have reason, and that they do in their own language understand one another, yet how should a Cat in Cank wood know what is done in Ireland?
How, quoth he, even as we know what is done in the realms of France, Flanders and Spain, yea and almost in all the world beside, there be few ships but have Cats belonging unto them, which bring news unto their fellows out of all quarters.
Yea quoth the other, but why should all cats love to hear of Grimalkin? or how should Grimalkin eat so much meat as you speak of? or why should all cats so labour to revenge her death?
Nay that passes my cunning (quoth he) to show in all, how be it in part conjectures may be made, as thus. It may be that Grimalkin and her line is as much esteemed and hath the same dignity among Cats as either the humble or Master Bee hath among the whole hive, at whose commandment all Bees are obedient, whose succour and safeguard they seek, whose wrongs they all revenge, or as the Pope hath had ere this over all Christendom, in whose cause all his clergy would not only scratch and bite: but kill and burn to powder (though they know not why) whomsoever they thought, to think but once against him. Which Pope all things considered, devoured more at every meal then Grimalkin did at her last supper.
(Marginal notes: a Kerne Killed Grimalkin; Cats did kill and eat a man; the Kern’s Armour; a Kitling killed the Kern that slew Grim; a very strange conjecture. Each realm knows what is done in all other; Cats carry news; Bees love and obey their governor; the Pope’s clergy are crueller than Cats.)
Nay said I then, although the Pope by exactions and other baggagical trumpery have spoiled all people of mighty spoils, yet as touching his own person, he eats and wears as little as any other man, though peradventure more sumptuous and costly, and greater abundance provided. And I heard a very proper saying, in this behalf of King Henry the seventh. When a servant of his told him what an abundance of meat he had seen at an Abbot’s Table he reported him to be a great Glutton. He asked if the Abbot eat up all, and when he answered no, but his Guests did eat the most part.
Ah (quoth the King) thou calls him glutton for his liberality to feed thee and such other unthankful churls. Like to this fellow are all Ruffians, for let honest worshipful men of the City, make them good cheer or lend them money as they commonly do, what have they for their labour? either foul reproachful names as dunghill churls, Cuckold knaves, or else spiteful and slanderous reports, as to be usurers, and deceivers of the commonwealth. And although that some of them be such indeed, yet I abhor to hear other of whom they deserve well so lewdly to report them .
But now to return to your communication, I marvel how Grimalkin as you term her, if she were no bigger, could eat so much meat at once.
I do not think (quoth he that told the tale) that she did eat all, although she asked all, but took her choice and left the rest by, as we see in the feeding of many things. For a Wolf although a Coney be more then he can eat, yet will he kill a Cow or twain for his breakfast, likewise all other ravenous beasts.
Now that love and fellowship and a desire to save their kind is among Cats, I know by experience. For there was one that hired a friend of mine in pastime to roast a Cat alive, and promised him for his labour twenty Shillings, my friend to be sure caused a Cooper to fasten him into a Hogshead, in which he turned a spit whereupon was a quick Cat, but ere he had turned a while, whether it was the smell of the Cats wool that singed, or else her cry that called them, I cannot tell, but there came such a sort of Cats, that if I and other hardy men (which were well scratched for our labour) had not behaved us the better, the Hogshead as fast as it was hooped could not have kept my Cousin from them.
(Marginal notes: the Pope a great waster; a little suffices him that hath enough; such guests a man may have inon w; the wisdom of King Henry the Seventh; the unthankful are to be abhorred. Ravenors spoil more then they occupy, cat will to kind.)
Indeed, quoth a well learned man and one of excellent judgement that was then in the company. It does appear that there is in Cats as in all other kinds of beasts, a certain reason and language whereby they understand one another. But as touching this Grimalkin, I take rather to be an Hagat or a Witch than a Cat. For witches have gone often in that likeness, And thereof hath come the proverb as true as common, that a Cat hath nine lives, that is to say, a witch may take on her a Cats body nine times.
By my faith sir this is strange (quoth I myself) that a Witch should take on her a Cats body. I have read that the Pithonesses could cause their spirits to take upon them dead mens bodies, and the airy spirits which we call Demons, of which kind are Incubus and Succubus, Robin Goodfellow the Fairy and Goblins, which the Miners call Telchines, could at their pleasure take upon them any other sorts. But that a woman being so large a body, should strain her into the body of a Cat or into that form either, I have not much heard of, nor can well perceive how it may be, which makes me, I promise you, believe it the less.
Well Master Streamer (quoth he) I know you are not so ignorant herein as you make yourself, but this is your accustomed fashion always to make men believe that you be not so well learned as you be. Sapiens enim celat scienciam which appeared well by Socrates.
For I know being skilled as you be in the tongues chiefly the Calde, Arabic and Egyptian, and having read so many Authors therein, you must needs be skilful in these matters but where you spoke of intrusion of a woman’s body in to a Cat you either play Nicodemus, or the stubborn Popish conjurer, whereof the one would creep into his mother’s belly again: that other would bring Christ out of Heaven to thrust him into a piece of bread, but as the one of them is gross and the other perverse, so in this point I must place you with one of them.
(Marginal notes: Some think this was Master Sherry; witches may take on them the likeness of other things. Airy spirits take on them dead men’s bodies; wise men dissemble their cunning; Master Streamer is well seen in tongues; transubstantiationers destroy Christ’s manhood.)
For although witches may take upon them Cats bodies, or alter the shape of their or other bodies yet this is not done by putting their own bodies thereinto but either by bringing their souls for the time out of their bodies, and putting them in the other, or by deluding the sight and fantasies of the seers. As when I make a candle with the brain of a Horse and Brimstone, the light of the candle makes all kinds of heads appear horseheads but yet it alters the form of no head, but deceives the right conception of the eye, which through the false light receives a like form.
Then quoth he that had been in Ireland, I cannot tell sir by what means witches do change their one likeness and the shapes of other things. But I have heard of so many, and seen so much myself, that I am sure they do it. For in Ireland (as they have been in England) witches are for fear had in high reverence, and they be so cunning: that they can change the shapes of things as they list at their plea sure, and so deceive the people thereby that an act was made in Ireland, that no man should buy any red swine. The cause whereof was this.
Witches used to send to the markets many red swine fair and fat to see unto as any might be, and would in that form continue long, but it chanced the buyers of them to bring them to any water, immediately they found them returned either into wisps of Hay, Straw, old rotten boards or some other such like trumpery, by means whereof they have lost their money or such other chattel as they gave in exchange for them
(Marginal notes: How Witches transform their shape; one kind of Magic consumes discerning the senses; Witches are reverenced for fear; an act for bidding to buy red Swine; Sorcerers make swine of hay and other baggage.)
There is also in Ireland one nation, whereof some one man and woman are at every seven years end turned into Wolves, and so continue in the woods the space of seven years and if they happen to live out the time: they return to their own form again and other twain are turned for the like time into the same shape, which is a penance (as they say) enjoined that stock by Saint Patrick for some wickedness of their ancestors and that this is true; I witnessed a man whom I left alive in Ireland, who had performed this seven years penance, whose wife was slain while she was a Wolf in her last year. This man told to many men whose cattle he had worried, and whose bodies he had assailed, while he was a wolf so plain and evident tokens and showed such scars of wounds which other men had given him, both in his man’s shape before he was a wolf, and in his wolf’s shape since, which all appeared upon his skin, that it was evident to all men, yea and to the Bishop too (upon whose grant it was recorded and registered) that the matter was undoubtedly past peradventure.
And I am sure you are not ignorant of the Hermit whom as St. Augustine writes, a witch would in an Asses form ride upon to market. But now how these Witches made their swine, and how these folk were turned from shape to shape whether by some ointment whose cleverness deceived men’s sights till either the water washed away the ointment or that the cleverness of the water excelled the cleverness of the Ointment, and so betrayed the operation of it I am as uncertain as I am sure that it were the spirits called Demons, forced by enchantment which moved those bodies, till shame of their shape discovered, caused them to leave them. But as for the transformation of the wolves, is either miraculous as Naamans lepry in the flock of Gehesie, or else to shameful, crafty, malicious sorcery. And as the one way is unsearchable, so I think there might means be found to guess how it is done the other way. For witches are by nature exceeding malicious: and it may chance that some witches for displeasure taken with this wolfish nation, gave her daughter charge in her death bed, when she taught her the science (for till that time witches never teach it nor then but to their eldest and best beloved daughter) that she should at every seven years end: confect some ointment which for seven years space might be in force against all other cleverness to represent unto men’s eyes the shape of a wolf, and in the night season to go herself in likeness either of the mare or some other night form, and anoint therewith the bodies of some couple of that kindred which she hated, and that after her time she should charge her daughter to observe the same and to charge her daughter after her to do the like for ever so that this charge is given always by tradition with the science, and so is continued and observed by this Witches offspring by whom two of this kindred, as it may be supposed, are from every seven for every seven years’ space turned into wolves.
When I had heard these tales, and that reason of the doing shewed by the teller: ah Thomas, quoth I, (for that was his name, he died afterwards of a disease which he took in Newgate, where he lay long for suspection of magic, because he had desired a prisoner to promise his soul after he was hanged,) I perceive now the old proverb is true, the still sow eateth up all the draff: you go and behave yourself so simply that a man would think you were but a fool, but you have uttered such proof of a natural knowledge in this your brief tale as I think, except myself and few more the best learned alive, none could have done the like.
(Marginal notes: Men turned into wolves; a man proved himself to have been a wolf seven years; demons are the souls of counterfeit bodies; Witches are by nature malicious; when and to whom witches teach their science; how men are changed into wolves; witchcraft is kin to unwritten verities for both go by traditions.)
[Note for modern readers: The quiet sow eats all the swill – the quiet ones know the most. Draff, or draft, is malt left over from brewing.]
You say your pleasure, Master Streamer, quoth he, as for me I have said nothing save that I have seen, and whereof any man might conjecture as I do.
You have spoke full well, quoth he that gave occasion of this tale, and your conjectures are right reasonable, for like as by ointments (as you suppose) the Irish witches do make the form of swine and wolves appear to all men’s sight, so think I that by the like power, English witches and Irish witches do make the form of Swine and wolves appear to all men’s sight: so think I that by the like power English witches, and Irish witches, may and do turn themselves into Cats for I heard it told while I was in the University, by a credible Clark of Oxford how that in the days while he was a Child: an old woman was brought before the Official and accused for a witch which in the likeness of a Cat would go into her neighbours houses and steal thence what she listed, which complaint was proved true, by a place of the woman’s Skin which her accusers with a fire brand that they hurled at her had singed while she went a thieving in her cat’s likeness. So that to conclude as I began, I think that the cat which you call Grimalkin whose name carries in it matter to confirm my Conjecture. For Malkin is a woman’s name as witnessed the proverb: There be more maids then Malkin.
I Think ( I say) that it was a witch in a cats likeness and that for the wit and craft of her, other natural cats that were not so wise, have had her and her race in reverence among them, thinking her to be but a mere cat as they themselves were, like as we lie fools long time for his sly and crafty juggling, reverenced the Pope, thinking him to have been but a man (though much holier then we ourselves were) whereas indeed he was a very incarnated devil, like as this Grimalkin was an incarnate witch. Why then sir (said I) do you think that natural cats have wit and that they understand one another, what else Master Streamer.
(Quoth he) there is no kind of sensible creatures but have reason and understanding whereby (in their kind) each understands other, and do therein some points so excel that the consideration thereof, moved Pythagoras (as you know) to believe and affirm that after death, men’s souls went into beasts, and beasts souls into men, and every one according to his desert in his former body. And although his opinion be fond and false, yet that which drew him thereto is evident and true, and that is the wit and reason of diverse beasts, and again the dull beastly brutish ignorance of diverse men, but that beasts understand one another, and Fowls likewise, beside that we see by daily experience in marking them, the story of the Bishop of Alexandria by record does prove, for he found the mean either through diligence so to mark them or else through Magic natural, so to subtleitate his sensible power either by purging his brain by dry drinks and fumes, or else to augment the brains of his power perceptible, by other natural medicines, that he understood al kind of creatures by their voices. For being on a time sitting at dinner in a house among his friends, he harkened diligently to a Sparrow that came fleeing and chirping to other that were about the house, and smiled to himself to hear her, and when one of the company desired to know why he smiled. He said at the Sparrow’s tale. For she tells them (quoth he) that in the highway not a quarter of a mile hence a sack of wheat is even now fallen off a horse’s back and broken, and all the wheat run out, and therefore bids them come there to dinner. And when the guests mused hereat, sent to prove the truth: they found it even as he had told them.
When this tale was ended the clock struck nine whereupon old Thomas, because he had far to his lodging, took his leave and departed, the rest of the company gat them also either to their business or to their beds. And I went straight do my chamber before remembered, and took a book in my hand to have studied, but the remembrance of this former talk so troubled me that I could think of nothing else, but mused still and as it were examined more narrowly that every man had spoken.
(Marginal notes: Many shrewd diseases do breed in Newgate; the best learned are not the greatest boasters; that a man sees he may boldly say; witches never use their art but to evil; Pythagoras‘s opinion concerning souls; some beasts are wiser than men; A Bishop understood; all kind of creature’s voices; the brain is the organ of understanding; A Sparrow called her fellows to a Banquet. Master Streamer is always much given to study.)
THE SECOND PART OF MASTER STREAMER’S ORATION.
Ere I had been long in this contemplation, the Cats whose crying the night before had been occasion of all that which I have told you, were assembled again in the Leads which I spoke of, where the dead men’s quarters were set up. And after the same sort as they did the night before, one sung in one tune, another in another even such another service, as my Lord’s chapel upon the scaffold sang before the King, they observed no Musical chords neither Diatessaron, Diapente, nor Diapason, and yet I ween I lie, for one Cat groaning as a Bear does when Dogs be let slip to him, growled out so low and loud a bass, that in comparison of another Cat which crying like a young Child squealed out the shriking treble: it mought be well counted a double Diapason. Wherefore to the intent I might perceve the better the cause of their assembly, and by their gestures perceive part of their meaning: I went softly and fair into a Chamber which had a window into the same leads, and in the dark standing closely, I vewed through the trellis as well as I could, all their gestures and behaviour, And I promise you it was a thing worth the marking to see what countenances, what becks yea and what order was among them. For one Cat which was a mighty big one, grey haired, bristle bearded, and having broad eyes which shone and sparkled like two Starres, sat in the midst, and on either side of her sat another, and before her stood three more, whereof one mewed continually, save when the great Cat groaned, and ever when the great Cat had done, this mewing Cat began again, first stretching out her neck and as it were making beshens to them which sat. And often times in the midst of this Cats mewing: all the rest would suddenly, each one in his tune brayed forth, and incontinently hushed again, as it were laughing at somwhat which they heard the other Cat declare. After this sort I beheld them from ten till it was twelve o’clock, at which time, whether it were vessel in the kitchen under, or some board in the printing house hard by, I cannot tell, but some what fell with such a noise that all the cats got them up upon the house and I fearing lest any arose to see what was fallen, they would charge me with the hurling down of it if they found me there I whipped into my Chamber quickly and finding my lamp burning, I set me down upon my bed, and devised upon the doings of these Cats, casting all manner of ways, what might be conjectured thereof to know what they meant. And by and by I deemed that the grey cat which sat in the midst, was the chief, and sat as a Judge among the rest, and that the Cat which continually mewed declared some matter or made account to her of somewhat.
(Marginal notes: Cats assembled in the leads; cats have sundry voices; the diligence of the Author to understand all things; cats keep order among themselves; cats make curtsey with their necks and tails; note here the painfulness of the Author, the good Housewife’s Candle never goes out, earnest desire banishes sleep.)
[Note: Diatessaron – in music, perfect fourth, Diapente – in music, perfect fifth, Diapason – in music, perfect octave. These are harmonics in polyphonic music.)
By means whereof I was straight caught with such a desire to know what she had said: that I could not sleep of all that night, but lay devising by what means I might learn to understand them. And calling to mind that I had read in Albertus Magnus works, a way how to be able to understand birds voices: I made no more to do but sought in my library for the litle book intitled De virtutibus animalium, andc. and greedily read it over and when I came to Si vis voces avium intelligere andc. Lord how glad I was. And when I had throughly marked the discription of the medicine, and considered with myself the nature and power of every thingd therein, and how and upon what it wrought: I devised thereby how with part of those things, and adition of other like virtue and operation, to make a Philtre to serve for my purpose. And as soon as restless Phoebus was come up out of the smoking Sea, and with shaking his golden coloured beams which were all the night long in Thetis moist bosom had dropped off his silver sweat in to Herdaes dry lap, and kissing fair Aurora with glowing mouth, had driven from there th’adulterer Lucifer and was mounted so high to look upon Europa that for at the height of Mile end steeple he spied me through the glass window lying on my bed, up I rose and got me abroad to seek for such things as might serve for my earnest business which I went about, and because you be all my friends that are here: I will hide nothing from you, but declare from point to point how I behaved myself both in making and taking of my Philtre, if thou wilt understand (said Albert) the voices of birds or beasts, take two in thy company, and upon Simon and Judas day early in the morning, get the with Hounds into a certain wood, and the first beast that thou meets take and prepare with the heart of a Fox, and thou shalt have thy purpose, and who soever thou kisses shall understand them as well as thy self.
(Marginal notes: Albertus Magnus teaches many wonders: a Philosopher searches the nature of all things; a description of the resurrection of the Sun; nothing may be hid from Friends)
Because his writing here is doutful because he says Quoddam nemus a certain wood and because I knew three men (not many years past) which while they went about this hunting were so afraid, whether with an evil Spirit or with their own imagination I cannot tell, but home they came with their hair standing on end, and some of them have been the worse ever since and the hounds likewise, and seeing it was so long to St Judas day therefore I determined not to hunt at all, but a conjecturing that the best that they should take was an Hedgehog (which at that time of the year goes most abroad, and knowing by reason that the flesh thereof was by nature full of natural heat, and therefore the principal parts being eaten: must needs expulce gross matters and subtle the brain, as by the like power it engenders fine blood, so helps it much both against the Gout and the Cramp, I got me forth toward St. Johns wood, and whereas not two days before I had seen one, and see the lucky and unlucky chance, by the way as I went I met with Hunters, who had that morning killed a Foxe and three Hares, who (I thank them) gave me an Hare: and the Foxes whole body except the case, and six smart lashes with a slip, because (wherein I did mean no harm) I asked them if they had seen any where any hedghog that morning . And here save that my tale is otherwise long, I would show you my mind of these wicked superstitious observation of foolish hunters, for they be like as seems me to the papists, which for speaking of good and true woords: punish good and honest men. Are not, Apes, Owls, Cuckoos, Bears and Urchins Gods good creatures? Why then is it not lawful to name them? If they say it brings evil luck in the game: then are they unlucky Idolatrical miscreant Infidels and have no true belief in Gods providence I beshrew their superstitious hearts, for my buttocks bear the burden of their misbelief, and yet I thank them again for the Fox and the hare which they gave me, for with those two Hounds at my girdle I went a hunting, till indeed under a Hedge in a hole of the earth by the root of an hollow tree: I found an hedghog with a bushel of crabs about him, whom I killed straight with my knife, saying. Shauol swashmeth, gorgona liscud, and with the other beasts hung him at my girdle and came homeward as fast as I could hie But when I came in the close besides Islington commonly caled S. Johns field A kite belike very hungry, spied at my back the skinless Fox, and thinking to have had a morsel: struck at it, and that so eagerly that one of his claws was entered so deep, that before he could loose it: I drew out my knife and killed him, saying Iauolsheleg hutotheca Iiscud and to make up the mess, brought him home with the rest, and ere I had laid them out of my hand: came Thomas whom you heard of before, and brought me a Cat which for doing evil turns they had that morning caught in a snare set for her two days before, which for the skins sake beeing flayed was so exceeding fat, that after I had taken some of the grease the inwards and the head, to make (as I made him believe) a medicine for the gout, they parboiled the rest and at night roasted and forced with good herbs, did eat it up every morsel, and was as good meat as was or could be eaten.
(Marginal notes: How to understand Birds; men and dogs afraid out of their wits in proving an experiment; an Hedgehog is one of the planatical beasts and therefore good in magic; a medicine for the gout; the liberality of hunters; supersticious hunters are kin to papists; all creatures are good to observe times, day as are words: argues infidility; he that seeks finds. Albertus said if a man when he prepares any Medicine tell aloud why he makes it: it will be of more force; one good hap follows another; cat’s grease is good for the gout; a Cat was roasted and eaten.)
But now mark, for when Thomas was departed with his Cat, I shut my Chamber doors to men, and flayed my Irchin [hedgehog], wishing often for Doctor Nicholas or some other expert Physician to make the dissection, for the better knowledge of the Anatomy. The flesh I washed clean, and put it in a pot, and with white wine, Mellisophillos or Melissa, commonly called Balm, Rosemary, Neates tongue, four parts of the first and two of the second, I made a broth and set it on the fire and boiled it, setting on a Lembick with a Glass at the end over the mouth of the pot, to receive the water that distilled from it, in the seething whereof I had a pint, of a pottel of Wine which I put in the pot. Then because it was about the Solsticium Aestivale, and that in confections the hours of the planets, must for the better operation be observed: I tarried till ten o’clock before dinner, what time Mercury began his lucky reign, and then I took a piece of the Cats liver, and a piece of the kidney, a piece of the milt and the whole heart, the Foxes heart and lights, the Hares brain, the kites maw, and the Irchins kidneys, all these I beat in a mortar toether till it were small, and then made a cake of it, and baked it upon an hot stone till it was dry like bread. And while this was a-baking: I took 7 parts of the Cats grease, as much of her brain with 5 hairs of her beard, 3 black and two grey, three parts of the Foxes grease as much of her brain, with the hooves of his left feet, the like portion of the Irchins grease and brain with his stones, all the kites brain, all the Marrow of her bones, the juice of her heart, her upper beak and the middle claw of her left foot, the fat of the Hares kidneys, and the juice of his right shoulder bone. All these things I pounded together in a Mortar by the space of an hour, and then I put it in a cloth, and hung it over a basin in the sun, out of which dropped within 4 hours after, about half a pint of Oil very fair and cleere. Then took I the galls of all these beasts and the kites too and served them likewise, keeping the liquor that dropped from them.
(Marginal notes: A solitary man is either a God or a beast; Par prior numerous impar posterior esto geb; Omne o dus fiat in sua Plane ta zoroast; Omne totum totali ter malum Trismeg; Deus imparinume ro gaudet; Dextra bona bonis sinistra ucro sinistris Calor solis est ignis Alichi mistice distillationis.)
At twelve o’clock what time the Sun began his planetical dominion, I went to dinner, and meat I eat none save the boiled Irchin; my bread was the cake mentioned afore, my drink was the distillation of the Irchins broth which was exceeding strong and pleasant both in taste and savour. After that I had dined well: my head waxed so heavy, that I could not chase but sleep, and after that I waked again which was within an hour: my mouth and my nose purged exceedingly, such yellow, white and tawny matters as I never saw before, nor thought that any such had been in mans body. When a pint of this gere was come forth: my rheum ceased, and my head and all my body was in exceeding good temper, and a thousand things which I had not thought of in twenty years before: came so freshly to my mind as if they had been then presently done, heard or seen. Whereby I perceived that my brain chiefly the nuke memorative was marvelously well purged my imagination also was so fresh, that by and by I could show probable reason, what and in what sort, and upon what matter every thing which I had taken, wrought, and the cause why. Than to be occupied after my sleep I cast away the carcass of the Fox, and of the kite, with all the garbage both of them and the rest, saving the tongues and the ears, which were very necessary for my purpose. And thus I prepared them. I took all the ears and scalded of the hair; then stamped I them in a mortar, and when they all were like a dry jelly: I put to them Rue, Fennel, Lovage and leek blades, of each a handful, and pounded them afresh then divided I all the matter in two equal parts, and made two little pillows, and stuffed them therewith. And when Saturns dry hour of dominion approached: I fried these pillows in good Oil olive, and laid them hot to mine ears, to eche ear one, and kept them theerto till nine o’clock at night, which helped exceedingly to comfort my understanding power. But because as I perceived the cell perceptible of my brain intelligible, was yet too gross, by means that the filmy panicle comming from dure mater, made to straight opilations, by ingrossing the pores and conduits imaginative, I devised to help that with this gargaristical fume, whose subtle ascenscion is wonderful. I took the cat the Foxes, and the Kites tongue, and soaked them in Wine well near to jelly, then took I them out of the wine, and put them in a Mortar and added to them of new cats dung an ounce of Mustard seed, Garlick and Pepper asmuch, and when they were with beating incorporated I made lozenges and trociscos thereof.
(Marginal notes: Master Streamer varieth from the Astronomers in his planet hours. The intelligible diet. There be many strange humours in many mens heads. The remembrance lieth in the noddle of the head.)
And at six o’clock at night, what time the suns dominion began againe I supped with the rest of the meat which I left at dinner and when Mercurys reigne approached which was within two hours after; I drank a great draught of my stilled water and anointed all my head over with wine and Oil before described, and with the water which came out of the galls: I washed mine eyes, and because no humours should ascend into my head by evaporation of my reins through the chin bone, I took an ounce of Alkakengy in powder which I had for a like purpose not two days afore bought at the Apothecaries, and therwith rubbed and chafed my back from the neck down to the middle, and heating in a frying pan my pillows afresh and laid them to mine ears, and tied a kerchief about my head and with my lozenges and trociscos in a box, I went out among the servants, among whom was a shrewd boy, a very crackrope, that needs would know what was in my box, and I to sauce him after his sauciness called them Presciencial pills, affirming that who so might eat one of them should not only understand wonders, but also prophecy after them. Whereupon the boy was exceeding earnest in intreating me to give him one, and when at last very loathely (as it seemed) I granted his request: he took a lozenge, put it in his mouth, and chewed it apace, by means whereof when the fume ascended he began to spattle and spit, saying by Gods bones it is a Cats turd. At this the company laughed apace, and so did I to, verifiying it to be as he said, and that he was a Prophet. But that he might not spew too much by Imagination, I took a lozenge in my mouth, and kept in under my tongue, shewing thereby that it was not evil.
(Marginal notes: A good Philosopher. Exercise is good after sleep. Hot things purge the head. A good medicine for a kings ears. What inimaginative power. The wholesomest things are not always most toothsome. Mercury furthereth all fine and subtle practices. The chiefest point of wisdom, is to prevent inconveniences. Heat augmenteth the virtue of outward plasters. The ungracious should be ungratiously served. Strange things are delectable)
While this pastime endured, me thought I heard one cry with a loud voice, what Isegrim, and therefore I asked whose name was Isegrim, saying that one did call him, but they said that they knew none of that name, nor heard any that did call. No quoth I (for it called still) hear you nobody? Who is that called so loud? we hear nothing but a cat (quoth they) which mews above in the Leads When I saw it was so indeed, and that I understood what the cat said glad was I as any man alive, and taking my leave of them as though I would to bed straight, I went into my chamber, for it was past nine of the clock, and because the hour of Saturns cold dominion approached, I put on my gown and got me privily to the place in the which I had viewed the Cats the night before. And when I had settled myself where I might couveniently here and see all things done in the Leads where this Cat cried still for Isegrim. I put in to my two nostrils two trociscos, and in to my mouth two lozenges, one above my tongue the other under, and put off my left shoe because of Jupiters appropinquation and laid the Fox tail under my foot. And to hear the better, I took of my pillows whiche stopped mine ears and then listened and viewed as attentively as I could, but I warrant you the pellicule or filmy rime that lyeth within the bottom of mine ear hole, from whence little vein carry the sounds to the senses, was with this medicine in my pillows so purged and parched, or at least dried that the least moving of the air, whether stroke with breath of living creatures which we call voices, or with the moving of dead, as winds, waters, trees, carts, falling of stones andc which are named noises, sounded so shrill in my head by reverberation of my fined films, that the sound of them altogether was so disordered and monstrous that I could discern no one from other, save only the Harmony of the moving of the Spheres, which noise excelled all other as much both in pleasantness and shrill highness of sound, as the Zodiack itself surmounted all other creatures in altitude of place. For in comparison of the basest of this noise which is the moving of Saturn by means of his large compass, the highest voices of birds, and the straightest whistling of the wind, or any other organ pipes (whose sounds I heard confused together) appeared but a low bass, and yet was those an high treble to the voice of beasts, to which as a mean, the running of rivers was a tenor: and the boiling of the Sea and the cataracts or gulfs thereof a goodly bass, and the rushing, breezing and falling of the clouds, a deep diapason.
(Marginal notes: We laugh gladly at shrewd turns. Good success of things make men joyous. Saturn is a cold old planet. There is great cunning in due applying of medicines. The cause of hearing. The difference between voices and noises. The harmony of heaven excels all other.)
While I harkned to this broil, labouring to discern both voices and noyces a sunder, I heard such a mixture as I think was never in Chaucers house of fame, for there was nothing within an hundred mile of me done on any side, (for from so far but no farther the air may come because of obliquation) but I herd it as well as if I had been by it, and could discern all voices, but by means of noises understand none. Lord what a do women made in their beds? some scolding, some laughing, some weeping, some singing to their sucking children which made a woeful noise with their continual crying. and one shrewd wife a great way off (I think at St. Albans) called her husband Cuckold so loud and shrilly: that I heard that plain, and would gladly have I heard the rest, but could not by means of
barking of dogs, grunting of hogs,
wauling of cats, rumbling of rats,
gaggling of geese, humming of bees,
rousing of Bucks, gaggling of ducks,
singing of Swans, ringing of pans,
crowing of Cocks, sowing of socks,
cackling of hens, scrabbling of pens,
peeping of mice, rolling of dice,
calling of frogs, and todes in the bogs,
chirping of crickets, shutting of wickets,
screeching of owls, flittering of fowls,
routing of knaves, snorting of slaves,
farting of churls, fisling of girls,
with many things else, as ringing of bells,
counting of coins, mounting of groins,
whispering of lovers, springling of plovers,
groaning and spewing, baking and brewing,
scratching and rubbing, watching and shrugging,
with such a sort of commixed noises as would deafen anybody to have heard, much more me, seeing that the pannicles of mine ears were with my medicine made so fine and stiff, and that by the temperate heat of the things therein, that like a tabor dried before the fire, or else a lute string by heat shrunk nearer, they were incomparably amended in receiving and yielding the shrillness of any touching sounds.
(Marginal notes: The Harmony of elemental mixtures. Chaucers house of fame. At every hundred mile the air reflected by me all of the roundness of the world. Hear the poetical fury came upon him. Many noises in the night which all men hear not. Over much noise makes one deaf. Heat shrills all moist Instruments.)
While I was earnestly harkening as I said to hear the woman (minding nothing else) the greatest bell in Saint Botolphs steeple, which is hard by, was tolled for some rich body that then lay in passing, the sound whereof came with such a rumble into mine ear that I thought all the devils in hell had broken loose, and were come about me, and was so afraid ther with that when I felt the Fox tail under my foot (which through fear I had forgotten) I deemed it had been the devil indeed. And therefore I cried out as loud as ever I could: the devil, the devil, the devil. But when some of the folke raised with my noise had sought me in my chamber and found me not there they went seeking about calling one to another, where is he? where is he? I cannot finde Master Streamer, which noise and stir of them was so great in mine ears, and passing mans common sound that I thought they had been devils indeed which sought and asked for me. Wherefore I crept close in to a corner in the chimney and hid me, saying many good prayers, to save me from them. And because their noise was so terrible that I could not abide it, I thought best to stop mine ears, thinking thereby I should be the less afraid. And as I was there about, a crow which belike was by nodding asleep on the chimney top, fell down into the chimney over my head, whose flittering in the fall made such a noise, that when I felt his feet upon my head I thought that the devil had been come indeed and seized upon me. And when I cast up my hand to save me and therewith touched him, he called me knave in his language after such a sort that I swooned for fear. And by that I was come to myself again he was flown from me into the chamber roof and there he sat all night. Then took I my pillows and stopped mine ears, for the rumble that the servants made I took for the devils it was so great and shrill, and I had no sooner put them on, but by and by I heard it was the servants which sought for me and that I was deceived through my clearness in hearing. For the bell which put me in all this fear (for which I never loved bells since) tolled still, and I perceived well enough what it was. And seeing that the servants would not leave calling and seeking till they had found me, I went down unto them, and feigned that a Cat had been in my chamber, and frightened me, wherupon they went to bed again, and I to mine old place.
(Marginal notes: All sudden things astonish us. Fertilitas sibi ipsi nocua. Danger makes men devout. How evil haps run together. A man may die only by imagination of harm. We hate forever whatsoever hath harmed us)
THE THIRD PART OF MASTER STREAMERS ORATION.
BY this time waning Cynthia, which the day before had filled her growing horns, was come up on our Hemisphere, and freshly yielded forth her brothers light which the reverberation of Thetis trembling face, now full by means of spring, had fully cast upon her, whereof she must needs lose every day more and more, by means that the neap abasing Thetis swollen face, would make her to cast beyond her those rays which before the full, the spring had caused her to throw short, like as with a Crystal glass, a man may by the placing of it either high or low, so cast the Sun or a candle light upon any round glass of water that it shall make the light thereof both in waxing and waning to counterfeit the Moon. For you shall understand, chiefly you Master Willot that are my Lords Astronomer, that all our ancestors have failed in knowledge of natural causes, for it is not the Moon that causes the Sea to beb and flow, neither to neap and spring, but the neaping and springing of the Sea is cause of the Moons both waxing and waning. For the Moonlight is nothing save the shining of the Sun cast into the element by opposition of the Sea, as also the stars are nothing else but the sunlight reflected upon the face of rivers, and cast upon the crystalline heaven, which because Rivers alway keep like course, therefore are the stars alway of one bigness. As for the course of the stars from east to west is naturally by means of the suns like moving, but in that they ascend and descend, that is, sometime come northward and some time go southward, that is caused also by the suns beeing either on this side or on the other side his line like nightical; the like reason follows for the poles not moving, and that is the situation of those rivers or dead seas which cast them, and the roundness and eggform of the firmament. But let this pass which in my book of Heaven and Hell, shall be plainly not only declared, but both by reason and experience proved, I will come again to my matter. When Cynthia (I say) following her brothers steps had looked in at my chamber window, and saw me neither in my bed nor at my book: she hied her apace into the south, and at a little hole in the house roof, peeped in and saw me where I was set to harken to the Cats.
(Marginal notes: The description of the Moon at full. How to counterfeit the Moon. Astronomers are deceived. The spring and neaping of the Sea causeth the moon to wax and wane. What the moon and stares be. The Suns moving is cause of diverse moving of the Stars. Why the poles do not move. I take this book to be it that is intitled of the great Egg)
And by this time all the Cats which were there the night before were assembled with many other, only the great grey one excepted. Unto whom as soon as he was come all the rest did their obeisance as they did the night before. And when he was set, thus he began in his language, which I understood as well as if he had spoken English. Ah my dear friends and fellowes you may say I have been a lingerer this night, and that I have tarried long but you must pardon me, for I could come no sooner. For when this evening I went into an ambry [cupboard] where was much good meat, to steal my supper: there came a wench not thinking I had been there, and clapped the lid down, by means whereof I have had much to do to get forth. Also in the way as I came hither over the house tops, in a gutter were thieves breaking in at the windowe, who frightened me so that I lost my way and fell down into the street, and had much to do to escape the dogs, But seeing that by the grace of Hagat and Heg, I am now come, although as I perceive by the tail of the great Bear, and by Alhabor [Sirius] which are now somwhat southward that the fifth hour of our night approaches, yet seeing this is the last night of my charge, and that tomorrow I must again to my Lord Cammoloch (at this all the cats spread a long there tails and cried Hagat and Heg save him) go to now good Mouse-slayer (quoth he) and that in time which my misfortune hath lost recover again by briefnes of thy talk.
(Marginal notes: The man is studious. Light searcheth all things. Good manners among Cats. The strange hap of Grisard. Sweet meat must have sour sauce. Cats are afraid of thieves. Hagat and Heg are Witches which the Cats do worship. Cats are skilled in Astronomy. Cammoloch is chief Prince among Cats. Gentleness becomes officers.)
I will my Lord quoth Mouse-slayer, which is the Cat which as I told you stood before the great Cat the night before, continually mewing, who in her language after that with her tail she had made curtsey, shrunk in her neck and said, whereas by virtue of your commission from my Lord Cammoloch (whose life Hagat and Heg defend) who by inheritance and our free election enjoys the Empire of his traitorously murdered mother, the Goddess Grimolochin, you his greffier [officer of justice] and chief counseller my Lord Grisard with Isegrim and Poilnoir your assistants, upon a complaint put up in your high dees, by that false accuser Catch-rat (who beareth me malice because I refused his lecherously offered delights) have caused me in purging myself before this honourable company, to declare my whole life since the blind days of my kitlinghood, you remember I trust, how in the two nights past, I have declared my life for 4 years space wherein you perceive how I behaved me all that time.
Wherefore to begin where I left last; you shall understand that my Lord and Lady whose lives I declared unto you last yester night, left the City and went to dwell in the Country, and carried me with them. And being there strange, I lost their house, and with Bird-hunt my mate, the gentlest in honest venery that ever I met with, when to a town where he dwelt called Stratford either Stony, upon-Tune, or upon-Avon, I do not well remember which where I dwelt half a year, and this was in the time when Preachers had leave to speae against the Mass, but it was not forbidden till half a year after. In this time I saw nothing worthy to certify my Lord of, save this. My dame with whom I dwelt and her husband were both old, and therefore hard to be turned from their rooted belief which they had in the mass, which caused diverse young folk chiefly their sons, and a learned kinsman of theirs to be the more earnest to teach and peruade them. And when they had almost brought the matter to a good point, I cannot tell how it chanced, but my dames sight failed her, and she was so sick that she kept her bed two days. Wherefore she sent for the parish Priest her old ghostly father, and when all were voided the chamber save I and they two,: she told him how sick she was and how blind, so that she could see nothing, and desired him to pray for her and give her good counsel. To whom he said thus, it is no marvel though you be sick and blind in body which suffer your souls willingly to be blinded, you send for me now,: but why send you not for me when these new heretics teach you to leave the catholic belief of Christs flesh in the Sacrament?
Why sir (quod she) I did send for you once, and when you came they posed you so with holy writ, and Saints writing that you could say nothing but call them Heretics, and that they had made the new Testament themselves.
Yea quoth he, but did not I bid you take heed then, and told you how God would plague you?
Yes good sir, quoth she you did, and now to my pain I find you to true a Prophet, but I beseech you forgive me and pray to God for me and whatsoever you will teach me: that will I believe unto the death.
Well (quod he) God refuses no sinners that will repent, and therefore in any case believe that Christs, flesh body, soul, and bone is as it was born of our blessed Lady, in the consecrated host and see that therefore you worship it, pray and offer to it. For by it any of your friends souls may be brought out of purgatory, which these new heretics say is no place at all, but when their souls fry in it they shall tell me another tale. And that you may know all that I say is true and that the mass can deliver such as trust in it, from all manner of sins, I will by and by say you a mass that shall restore your sight and health.
Then took he out of his bosom a Wafer cake, and called for Wine, and then shutting the door unto him, revised himself in a surplice and upon a table set before the bed he laid his Portuse [prayer book] and therout he said mass. And when he came to the levation, he lifted up the cake and said to my dame (which in two days afore sawe nothing ) wipe thine eyes thou sinful woman and look upon thy maker.
(Marginal notes: Mouse-slayer tells on her story. Grimolochin is the same that was lately called Grimalkin. She purges herself by declaring her life. Mouse-slayer was carried into the country. Bird-hunt was Mouse-slayers mate. Old errors are hard to be removed. A sudden disease. Cats are admitted to all secrets. A jolly persuading knave. Railing and slandering are the papist Scriptures.)
With that she lifted up herself and saw the cake, and had her sight and her health as well as ever she had before. When mass was done she thanked God and him excedingly, and he gave her charge that she should tell to no young folks how she was helped, for his bishop had throughout the diocese forbidden them to say or sing any mass but commanded her that secretly unto old honest men and women she should at all times most devoutly rehearse it. And by reason of this miracle many are so confirmed in the belief, that although by a common law, all masses upon penalty were since forbidden, diverse have them privily and nightly said in their chambers until this day.
Marry sir (quoth Poilnoir) this was either a mighty miracle or else a mischevous subtlety of a magestical minister. But sure if the Priest by magical art blinded her not afore, and so by like massical sorcery cured her again. It were good for us to hire him or other Priests at our delivery to sing a mass before our kitlings, that they might in their birth be delivered of their blindenes, and sure if I knew that Priest, it should scape me hard but I would have one litter of kitlings in some chamber where he useth now to say his privy night masses.
What need that (quoth Mouse-slayer) it would do them no good. For I myself upon like consideration kittened since in another mistresses chamber of mine, where a Priest every day said mass but my kitlings saw nought the better, but rather the worse. But when I heard that the Lord with whom I went into the country, would to London to dwell again, I kept the house so well for a month before, that when my Lady when she went caried me with her. And when I was come to London again, I went in visitation to mine old acquaintance, and when I was great with kitling because I would not be unpurveyed of a place to kitten in, I got in favour and household with an old gentlewoman, a widow, with whom I passed out this whole year. This woman got her living by boarding young gentlemen for whom she kept always fair wenches in store for whose sake she had the more resort, and to tell you the truth of her trade, it was fine and crafty, and not so dangerous, as deceitful. For when she had soaked from young Gentlemen all that they had, then would she cast them off except they fell to cheating.
(Marginal notes: A true cole prophet. Ghostly counsel of a popish confessor. No such persuasion as miracles chiefly in helping one from grief. Veritas querit angulos. A young knave made an old womans maker. Old folk are lighter of credit then young. Cats hear many privy night masses. Sorcerers make folk blind. Why masses may serve well. Devout kitlings that heard mass so young. Flatterers are diligent when they spy a profit. The trade of an old gentlewoman.)
Wherefore many of them in the night time would go abroad, and bring the next morning home with them some times money, sometime Jewels, as rings or chains, sometime apparel, and sometime they would come again cursing their ill fortune, with nothing save peradventure dry blows or wet wounds, but whatsoever they brought my dame would take it, and find the means either so to gage it that she would never fetch it again, or else melt it and sell it to the Goldsmiths. And not withstanding that she used these wicked practices, yet was she very holy and religious, and therefore although that all Images were forbidden, yet kept she one of our Lady in her coffer and every night when everybody were gone to bed, and none in her chamber but she and I, then would she fetch her out, and set her upon her Cupboard and light up two or three wax candles before her, and then kneel down to her, sometime a whole hour saying over her beads, and praying her to be good unto her, and to save her and all her guests both from danger and shame, and promising that then she would honour and serve her during all her life. While I was with this woman I was alway much cherished and made of, for on nights while she was praying I would be playing with her beads, and alway catch them as she let them fall, and would sometime put my head in the compass of them, and run away with them about my neck, whereat many times she took great pleasure, yea and so did our Lady too. For my dame would say sometimes to her, yea blessed Lady, I know thou hearest me by thy smiling at my Cat.
(Marginal notes: Crows will to carrion. Whores gaining and good hostesses, make many gentlemen make shameful shifts. All is fish that come to net. A catholic queen. Images cannot see to her without light. Our Lady is hired to play the bawd. Old women love their cats. The Image laughed to see the Cat play with her dames beads. Love is loiterers occupation.)
And never did my dame do me any hurt save once, and that I was even with her for, and that was thus. There was a gentleman one of her boarders much enamored in the beauty of a merchantmans wife in the City, whom he could by no means persuade to satisfy his lust, yea when he made her great banquets, offered her rich apparel, and all kind of Jewels precious which commonly women delight in yea and large sum of money which corrupt even the Gods themselves, yet could he by no means alter her mind, so much she esteemed her good name and honesty. Wherefore forced through desire of that which he could not but long for, and so much the more, because it was most earnestly denied him: he broke his mind to my dame, and estreated her to aid him to win this young womans favour, and promised her for her labour whatsoever she would require. Wherupon my dame which was taken for as honest a woman as any in the City, found the meane to desire this young woman to a dinner, and against she should come, my dame gave me a piece of a pudding which she had filled full of mustard. Which as soon as I had eaten, wrought so in my head that it made mine eyes run all the day after, and to mend this she blew pepper in my nose to make me sneeze. And when the young wife was come, after that my dame had showed her all the commodities of her house (for women delight much to show forth what they have) they set them down together at the table, none save only they two, and while they were in gossips talk about the behaviours of this woman, and that I came as I was accustomed and sate by my dame. And when the young woman hearing me cough and seeing me weep continually, asked what I ailed, my dame, who had tears at her commandment sighed, and fallen as it were in a sudden dump, burst forth in weeping and said, In faith mistress I think I am the unfortunatest woman alive, upon whom God hath at once poured forth all his plagues, for my husband the honestest man that lived, he hath taken from me, and with him mine heir and only son, the most towardly young man that was alive, and yet not satisfied herewith, lo here mine only daughter which though I say it, was as fair a woman and as fortunately married as any in this City he hath (for her honesty or cruelty I cannot tell whether) turned into this likeness wherein she hath been above these two months, continually weeping as you see, and lamenting her miserable wretchedness.
(Marginal notes: An honest wife. Quid non mortalia. Pectora cogis, auri sacra fames. All is not gold that glisters. Mustard purges the head, and pepper makes one sneeze. Women are glorious. Women can weep when they wil. There is no deceit the craft of an old bawd. A shameful life shamefully set forth. Tears move young minds lightly.)
The young woman astonished at this tale and crediting it, by means of my dames lacrimable protestations and deep dissimulation, asked her the more earnestly how and by what chance, and for what cause as she thought she was so altered. Ah (quod my dame) as I said before, I cannot tell what I should think, whether excuse my daughter and accuse God, or else blame her and acquit him. For this my daughter being as I sad fortunately married, and so beloved of her husband, and loving again to him (as now we both to late do, and ever I think shall rue) was loved exceedingly of another young man, who made great suit and labour unto her. But she as I think all women should, esteeming her honesty and promise made unto her husband the day of their marriage refused still his desire, but because he was importunate she came at the last and told me it. And I thinking that I had done well, charged her in any case, which full oft since I have repented, that she should not consent unto him, but to shake him of with shrewd words and threatening answers. She did so, alas alas the while, and the young man seeing none other boot, went home and fell sick, and loving so honestly and secretly, that he would make none other of his counsel, forpined and languished upon his bed the space of three days, receving neither meat nor drink, and then perceving his death to approach, he wrote a letter which I have in my pursse, and sent it by his boy to my daughter, if you can read you shall see it, I cannot but my daughter here could very well, and write to. Herewith my dame wept apace, and took the letter and gave it this young woman who read it in form following.
(Marginal notes: Women are orators by nature. All women ought above all things to esteem their honesty. Sharp words and threatening answers will soon cool hot. Adulterers. It is as much pity to see a woman weep as to see a goose go barefoot [it’s the natural condition of things].)
The nameles lover to the nameles beloved, in whose love since he may not live he desires licence to die.
Cursed be the woeful time wherein mutual love first mixed the mass of my miserable carcass. Cursed be the hour that ever the fatal destinies have ought for me purveyed. Yea cursed be the unhappy hour, may I say, in which I first saw those piercing eyes, which by insensible and unquenchable power inflaming my heart to desire, are so blind of al mercy, as will rather with rigor consume my life than rue my grief with one drop of pity. I sue not to you my dear unloving love for any kind of grace the doubtful hope whereof dispair hath long since (with the pouring showers of cruel words) utterly quenched. But this much I desire which also by right me thinks my faithful love hath well deserved that sees your fidelity in wedlock (which I can and must needs praise as would to God I could not) will suffer my pined course no longer to retain the breath through cold cares wholly consumed, yet at the last which is also an office of friendship before the Gods meritorious. Come visit him who if ought might quench love, should not love, whose mouth these three days hath taken no food, whose eyes the like time have taken no rest, whose heart these three weeks was never merry, whose mind these three months was never quiet, whose bed these seven nights was never made, and who (to be brief) is in all parts so enfeebled that living he dies, and dead a while he lives.
And when this silly ghost shall leave this cruel and miserable prison, in recompense of his love, life and death, let those white and tender hands of yours, close up those open windows, through which the uncomfortable light of your beauty shone first into his heart. If you refuse this to do, I beseech the Gods immortal, to whom immediately I go, that as without any kind of either love or kindness, you have caused me to die. So that none other caught with your beauty, do likewise perish, I beseech (I say) the just Gods, that either they change that honest stony heart or else disfigure that fair merciless favour. Thus for want of force either to indict or write any more, I take my leave , desiring you either to come and see me die, or if I be dead before to see me honestly buried.
Yours unregarded alive. G.S.
When the young woman had read this letter, she took it again to my dame, and with much todo to withhold her swelling tears she said, I am sorry for your heaviness much more for this mans, but most for your daughters, but what did she after she saw this letter? Ah (quoth my dame) she esteemed it as she did his suits before she sent him a rough answer in writing. But ere ever the boy came home with it his Master was dead. Within two days after my son in law her husband died sudenly, and within two dayes after as she sate here with me lamenting his death, a voice cried aloud, ah flinty heart repent thy cruelty, and immediatly (oh extreme rigour) she was changed as you now see her. Wherupon I gather that though God would have us keep our faith to our husbands yet rather then any other should die for our sakes we should not make any conscience to save their lives. For it fares in this point as it does all other, for as all extremities are vicesso it is a vice as appears plainly by the punishment of my daughter to be to extreme in honesty, chastity or any other kind of virtue. This with the talk of my dame in the dinner time so sank it to the young womans mind that the same afternoon she sent for the gentleman whom she had erst so constantly refused, and promised him that if he would appoint her any unsuspected place she would be glad to meet him to fulfil all his lust, which he appointed to my to be the next day, at my dame's house, where when they were all assembled, I minding to acquit my dame for giving me mustard, caught a quick mouse, whereof my dame always was exceedingly afraid, and came with it under her clothes, and there let it go, which immediatly crept up upon her leg. But Lord how she bestirred her then, how she cried out, and how pale she looked, and I to amend the matter making as though I leaped at the mouse, all to bescratch her thighs and her belly, so that I dare say she was not whole again in two months after, and when the young woman, to whom she showed her pounced thighs, said I was an unnatural daughter to deal so with mother nay (quoth she) I cannot blam her, for it was through my counsel that she suffered this sorrow, and yet I dare say she did it against her will, thinking to have caught the mouse, which else I dare say would have crept into my belly. By this means was this innocent woman, otherwise invincible, brought to commit whoredom.
(Marginal notes: A tender heart is easily parted. Womans answers are never to seek. Note the craft of a Bawd. All extremities are to be forsaken. Evil communication confounds good virtues. Cats are malicious. Women are afraid of their own shadows. The Cat pays her dame for her mustard. It is an unnatural Child that will hurt her mother. Let young Women take heed of old bawds.)
Shortly after this young woman begged me of my dame, and to her I went and dwelled with her all that year. In which year, as all the cats in the parish can tell, I never disobeyed or transgressed our holy law refusing the concupisciential company of any Cat nor the act of generation although sometimes, it were more painful to me than pleasant, if it were offered in due and convenient time. In deed I confess I refused Catch-rat, and bit him and scratched him, which our law forbids. For on a time this year when I was great with kitling, which he of a proud stomach refused to help to get, although I earnestly wooed him thereto what time beloved so much his own daughter Slickskin that all other seemed vile in his sight, which also esteemed him as much as he did the rest, that is never a whit. In this time (I say) when I was great with kitling, I found him in a gutter eating of a Bat, which he had caught that evening and as you know, not only we but also women in our case do often long for many things, so I then longed for a piece of the Kermouse, [bat] and desired him for saving of my kitten to give me a morsel, although it were but of the leatherlike wing. But he like an unnatural ravenous churl ate it all up, and would give me none. And as men do nowadays to their wives, he gave me bitter words, saying, we longed for wantoness and not for any need This grieved me so sore, chiefly for the lack of that I longed for, that I was sick two days after, and had it not been for good dame Isegrim, who brought me a piece of a mouse, and made me believe it was of a bat, I had lost my burden, by kittening ten days before my time. When I was recovered and went abroad again about three dayes, this cruel churl met me, and needs would be doing with me to whom when I had made answer according to his desert and told him withal which he might see to by my belly what cacs I was in. Tush, there was no remedy, I think he had eaten savery, but for all that I could say he would have his will.
(Marginal notes: Cats have laws among them, which they keep better then we keep ours. He that despises those that love him shall be despised of them that he loves. Cats do long when they be with kitten. There be churls among cats as well as among christian folks. It is the conceit of a thing, and not the thing itself that is longed for. Churls must be churlishly served. Savery is a hot herb provoking lust in cats.)
I seeing that and that he would ravish me perforce I cried out for help as loud as ever I could squall, and to defend myself till succour came I scratched and bit as hard as ever I could and this notwithstanding had not Isegrim, and her son Lightfoot come the sooner (who both are here and can witness) he would have marred me quite. Now whether I might in this case refuse him and do as I did without breach of our holy law which forbids us females to refuse any males not exceeding the number of 10 in a night, judge you my Lords to whom the interpretation of the laws belongs.
Yes surely (quoth Grisard) for in the 3rd year of the reign of Glascaion, at a Court held in Catwood, as appeareth in the records they decreed upon that exception forbidding any male in this case, to force any female and that upon great penalties. But to let this pass, whereof we were satisfied in your purgation the first night, tell us how you behaved you with your new mistress, and that as briefly as you can for lo where Corleonis is almost plain west, whereby you know the Goblin hour approaches.
After I was come to my young mistress, quoth Mouse-slayer, she made much of me thinking I had been mine old dames daughter, and many tales she told thereof to her gossips. My Master also made much of me because I would take meat in my foot and therewith put it to my mouth and feed. In this house dwelt an ungracious fellow, who delighting much in unhappy turns, on a time took 4 walnut shells, and filled them full of soft Pitch, and put them upon my feet, and then put my feet into cold water till the pitch was hardened, and then he let me go. But Lord how strange it was to me to go in shoos, and how they vexed me for when I ran upon any steep thing they made me slide and fall down. Wherefore all that afternoon, for anger that I could not get of my shoes, I hid me in a corner of the garret which was boarded, under which my Master and Mistress lay. And at night when they were all in bed I spied a Mouse playing in the floor, and when I ran at her to catch her my shoes made such a noise upon the boards that it waked my Master who was a man very fearful of spirits. And when he with his servants harkened well to the noise, which went pit pat, pit pat, as it had been the trampling of a horse, they waxed all afraid and said surely it was the devil.
(Marginal notes: A law for adultery among cats. Glascaion was chief Prince of the cats after Grymolochin. After one o’clock at midnight the goblins go abroad, and as soon as any cock crows, which is their hour that is at three they retire homeward. Diverse men delight in diverse fond things. A Cat was shod. All things are not meet for all kind of people. Natural delight expels melancholy. The fearful are alwayes suspetious.)
And as one of them, a hardy fellow, even he that had shod me, came upstairs to see what it was. I went downward to meet him and made such a rattling, that when he saw my glistering eyes he fell down backward, and broke his head crying out the devil the devil, the devil, which his Master and all the rest hearing ran naked as they were into the street, and cried the same cry wherupon the neighbours arose and called upaemong other an old Priest, who lamented much the lack of holy water, which they were forbidden to make, how beit, he went to church and took out of the Font some of the Christening water and took his Chalice and a wafer unconsecrated and put on a Surplice and his stole about his neck, and fetched out of his chamber a piece of holy Candle which he had kept two year and herewith he came to the house and with his Candle light in the one hand and a holy water sprinkle in the other hand, and his Chalice and wafer in sight in his bosom and a pot of Font water at his girdle, up he came praying toward the garret, and all the people after him. And when I saw this, and thinking I should have seen some mass that night as many nights before in other places I had,: I ran towards them thinking to meet them. But when the Priest heard me come, and by a glimpsing had seen me, down he fell upon them that were behind him which with his chalice hurt one, with his water pot another and his holy candle fell into another Priests breech beneath, who (while the rest were hawsoning me) was conjuring our maid at the stair foot and all to besinged him, for he was so afraid with the noise of the rest which fell that he had not the power to put it out. When I saw all this business, down I ran among them where they lay on heaps but such a fear as they were all in then I think was never seen afore. For the old Priest which was so tumbled among them that his face lay upon a boys bare arse, which belike was fallen headlong under him was so astonished; then when the boy (which for fear beshit himself) had al to raised his face, he neither felt nor smelt it nor removed from him. Then went I to my dame which lay among the rest God knoweth very madly, and so mewed and curled about her, that at last she said I ween it be my Cat. That hearing the knave that had shod me, and calling to mind that erst he had forgot, said it was so indeed and nothing else. That hearing the Priest, in whose holy breech the holy candel all this while lay burning; he took heart a grace, and before he was spied rose up and took the candle in his hand and looked upon me and all the rest of the company, and fell a laughing at the handsome lying of his fellows face. The rest hearing him came every man to himself and arose and looked upon me and cursed the knave which had shod me, who would in no case be a known of it. This done they got hot water and dissolved the pitch, and plucked of my shoes and then every man after they desired each other not to be a-known of this nights work for shame, departed to their lodgings, and all our houshold went to bed again.
(Marginal notes: Priests have been good conjurers of such kind of spirits. A meet pillow for a Magician. Fear takes away the sencss. A liar and a door of shrewd turns ought to have a good memory. One hardy man encourages many cowards. Silence is the best friend that shame has.)
When all the Cats and I too for company, had laughed at this apace, Mouse-slayer proceeded and said.
After this about 3 quarters of a year, which was at whitsuntide last, I played another prank and that was this. The Gentleman who (by mine old dames lying and my weeping) was accepted and retained of my mistress, came often home to our house, and always in my Masters absence was doing with my Dame.
Wherefore desirous that my Master might know it, for they spent his goods so lavishly between them, that not withstanding his great trade of Merchandise they had unwitting to him almost undone him already, I sought how I might bewray them which as hap would (at the time remembered) afore, came to pass thus, while this Gentleman was doing with my dame, my Master came in so suddenly, that he had no leisure to pluck up his hose, but with them about his legs ran into a corner behind the painted cloth, and there stood, I warrant you, as still as a mouse. As soon as my Master came in, his wife according to her old want caught him about the neck and kissed him and devised many means to have got him forth again but he being weary sat down and called for his dinner, and when she saw there was none other remedy, she brought it him which was a mes of pottage and a piece of Beef, whereas she and her franion had broke their fast with Capons, hot Venison marrow bones and all other kind of dainties. I seeing this, and minding to show my Master how he was ordered got behind the cloth and to make the man speak I all to pawed him with my claws upon his bare legs and buttocks, and for all this he stood still and never moved. But my Master heard me and thinking I was catching a mouse had my dame go help me who, knowing what beast was there, came to the cloth, and called me away saying come puss, come puss, and cast my meat in to the floor. But I minding another thing, and seeing that scratching could not move him, suddenly I leapt up and caught him by the genitals with my teeth, and bit so hard, that when he had restrained more then I thought any man could, at last he cried out and caught me by the neck and thinking to have strangled me. My Master not smelling but hearing such a Rat as was not want to be about such walls, came to the cloth and lifted it up and there he found this bare arsed Gentleman strangling me, who had his stones in my mouth. and when I saw my Master I let go my hold, and the Gentleman his, and away I ran immediately to the place where I now dwell, and never came there since so that how they agreed among them I cannot tell, nor never dare go see, for fear of my life.
(Marginal notes: The Author laughed in cats voices. Adulterers are diligent in waiting their time. A wanton wife and a back door will soon make a rich man poor. Chance often times betrayeth evil. None seen outwardly so loving as Whores. Sine baccho etcerere friget venus.)
Thus have I told you, my good Lords, all things that have been done and happened through me wherein you perceive my loyalty and obedience to all good laws and how shamelessly and falsely I am accused for a transgressor, and I pray you as you have perceived, so certify my liege great Cammoloch (whose life both Hagat and Heg preserve) of my behaviour. When Grisard, Isegrim and Poilnoir, the commissioners, had heard this declaration, and request of Mouse-slayer they praised her much. And after that they had commanded her with all the Cats there to be on Saint Katherines day next ensuing at Caithness, whereas the said Cammoloch would hold his court. They departed and I, glad to have heard that I heard, and sorry that I had not understand what was said the other two nights before, got me to my bed and slept agood. And the next morning when I went out into the garden I heard a strange Cat ask of our Cat what Mouse-slayer had done before the commissioners those three nights.To whom our cat answered, that she had purged herself of a crime that was laid to her charge by Catch-rat, and declared her whole life for 6 years space wherefore in the first two years as we said: (said she) she had 5 Masters, a Priest, a Baker, a Lawyer, a Broker and a Butcher, all whose privy deceits which she had seen she declared the first night. In the next two years she had seven Masters, a Bishop, a Knight, an Apothecary, a Goldsmith, an Usurer, an Alchemist, and a Lord, whose cruelty, study, craft, cunning, niggardliness, folly, waste and oppression she declared the second night, wherein this doing was notable. Because the knight having a fair Lady to his wife, gave his mind so much to his book that he seldom lay with her. This Cat pitying her Mistress, and minding to frighten him from lying alone, on a night when her Master lay from her got to his mouth, and drew so his breath, that she almost stifled him. A like part she played with the Usurer, who being rich and yet living miserably and feigning himself poor she got one day while his treasure Chest stood open, and hid her therein, whereof he not knowing, locked her in it. And when at night he came thither again and heard one stirring there, and thinking it had been the Devil, he called the Priest and many other persons to come and help him to conjure, and when (in their sight) he opened his chest, out lept she, and they saw what riches he had, and ceased him thereafter. As for what was done and said yesternight, both of my Lord Grisards hard adventure, and of Mouse-slayers bestowing her other two last years, which is nothing in comparison of any of the other two years before, I need not tell you, for you were present and heard it yourself.
(Marginal notes: There be false accusers among all kind of creatures. Justices should cherish the innocents accused. Travail and watching makes sound sleeping. Cats are inquisitive of news. Mouse-slayer was six yere olde. Cats change their dwellings often. Men ougt to lie with their wives. A niggard is neither good to himself nor to any other. The devil delightsh to dwell among money. All in this book is nothing in comparison of that the Cat told afore.)
This talk, lo I heard between these two cats, and then I got me in, and broke my fast with bread and butter, and dined at noon with common meat, which so repleted my head again, and my other powers in the first digestion, that by night time they were as gross as ever they were before. For when I harkened at night to other two cats which as I perceived by their gestures, spoke of the same matter I understood never a word. Lo here have I told you all, chiefly you my Lord a wonderful matter, and yet as incredible as it is wonderful, notwithstanding when I may have convenient time I will tell you other things which these eyes of mine have seen, and these ears of mine have heard, and that of mysteries so far passing this, that all which I have said now shall in comparison thereof, be nothing at all to be believed. In the meanwhile I will pray you to help to get me some money to convey me on my journey to Caithness, for I have been going thither these five years, and never was able to perform my journey. When Master Ferries had promised that he would: every man shut up his shop windows, which the forsaid talk kept open two hours longer then they should have been.
(Marginal notes: Gross meates make gross wits. Wonders are incredible. In comparison of a diamond, crystal hath no colour. Poverty hindreth many excellent attempts.)
I knew these things will seem marvellous to many men, that Cats should understand and speak, have a governor among themselves, and be obedient to their Laws, and were it not for the approved authority of the Ecstatical Author of whom I heard it, I should myself be as doutful as they. But seeing I know the place and the persons with whom he talked of these matters, before he experimented his wonderful and strange confections, I am the less doubtful of any truth therein. Wherefore seeing he hath in his oration proved that cats do understand us and mark our secret doings, and so declare them among themselves, that through help of the medicines by him described, any man may (as he did) understand them. I would counsel all men to take heed of wickedness, and eschew secret sins and privy mischevous counsels lest (to their shame) all the world at length do know thereof. But if any man for doubt hereof, do put away his Cat, then shall his so doing testify his secret naughty living, which he is more ashamed his cat should see than God and his Angels, which see, mark and behold all mens closest doings.
And that we may take profit by this declaration of Master Streamer; let us so live both openly and privily that neither our own cat, admitted to all secrets, be able to declare ought of us to the world save the what is laudable and honest. Nor the Devils cat which, will we or nil we, seeeth and writeth all our il doings, have ought to lay against us afore the face of God, who not only with shame but with everlasting torment, will punish all sin and wickedness. And ever when you go about anything, call to mind this proverb, Beware the Cat, not to tie up thy Cat till thou have done, but to see that neither thine own nor the devils cat (which cannot be tied up) find anything therein whereof to accuse the to thy shame.
Thus doing thou cannot do amiss but shall have such good report through thy Cats declaration that thou shall in recompense of Master Streamers labour, who gives thee this warning, sing unto God this Hymn of his making.
Who givest wit to Whales, to Apes, to Owls,
And kindly speech, to fish, to flesh, to fowls,
And spirit to men in soul and body clean,
To mark and know what other creatures mean
Which hast given grace to Gregory, no Pope,
No King, no Lord, whose treasures are their hope
But sinly Priest, which like a Streamer waves
In ghostly good, despised of foolish knaves.
Which hast (I say) given grace to him to know
The course of things above and here below,
With skill so great in languages and tongues:
As never breathed from Mithridates lungs.
To whom the hunter of birds, of mice and rats:
Did speak as plain as Kate that thrunmeth hats,
By means of whom is openly bewrayed,
Such things as closely were both done and said.
To him grant Lord with healthy wealth and rest:
Long life to unload to us his learned breast.
With fame so great to overlive his grave:
As none I had erst, nor any after have.
Imprinted at London at the long Shop adjoining unto Saint Mildreds Church in the Poultry by Edward Allde. 1584.
A SHORT ANSWER TO THE BOOK CALLED BEWARE THE CAT.
['A short answer, in verse, to "Beware the Cat" (1561) was published in “Fugitive Tracts.” It appears to be a strong dose of invective against William Baldwin, and would have been published soon after the first publication of “Beware the Cat.” It is written in defence of Master Streamer (who does not appear to exist).]
To the gentle reader hearty salutations
Desiring thee to know Baldwins strange faschions
And if in answering I appear somewhat quick,
Think it not with outcause, his taunts be rife and thick.
Where as there is a book called Beware the Cat,
The very truith is so, that Streamer made not that,
Nor no such false fables: fell ever from his pen,
Nor from his heart or mouth, as know many honest men.
But will ye gladly know who made that book indeed,
One William Baldewin. God grant him well to speed,
God grant him many new years, prosperity and health
As he hath in this thing farderd the Commonwealth
With large leisure, brown study, he musing all alone
Devised by what means he might win the whetstone
Everything, almost, in that book is as true,
As that at Midsummer in London it does snow.
Everything, almost, in that book is as true
As that his nose to my dock is joined fast with glue,
Put up your pipes Baldewin if you can make no better,
Many talk more wittily that know not one letter.
Put on your cap Baldwin and keep your brain-pan warm
Least ye go to Bedlam if such toys in you swarm.
Read this little short rhyme Baldewinken, till more come
And with Streamers excrements be bold to ‘noint your gum
Instead of Diaglum, instead of Coloquintida,
Instead of rue barbarum, or casia fistula,
If the maker hereof had bid at more leisure,
Ye had had from his hand a more precious treasure
But in the mean season content yourself with this
For your Baggagical book, a warm arse you may kisss.
Or else a pair of stocks, if officers do wll,
You hurt a harmless man which no such tales did tell,
As ye were disposed loud lies on him to make
Which many witty things writes for his countrys sake.
Alas I woulde to God your book were half so good,
I wish you no more harm, nor to your sweet heart blood
The pith of this paper (if any man in it look)
Is to deny utterly that Streamer made that book
The book (of ten leaves) was printed every word
Ere Streamer saw any piece, to wipe away a turdd.
Tergendis natibus, some thought his book was good
Or to carry spicery, to cherish a sick mans blood.
Therefore gentle reader, beware what credence thou give
The truth here contained, thou may boldly believe
Baldwins toys do belong to thee or any other
As well as they do touch Streamer, his poor brother.
And now judge good hirers whether he be a good man
Of whom I write these things as truly as I can.
If that be not a great fault, so to hurt a mans name,
Without sufficient cause, what crime should a man blame ?
Omni si perdas famam servare memento
Qua semel amissa postea nullus eris,
If thou lease all (says he) yet reserve honest fame
If that be ones clean gone, go home and suck thy dame.
I am loth for to rail, as Baldwin hath begun
For so between us both a fair thread should be spun
This much I have written that the truth should be known
And that the falsity should quite be overthrown.