'The Pope and the Herring':|
a passage from Nashes Lenten Stuffe
It is to bee read, or to bee heard of, howe in the Punieship or nonage of Cerdicke sandes, when the best houses and walles there were of mudde or canuaze, or Poldauies entiltments, a Fisherman of Yarmouth, hauing drawne so many herrings hee wist not what to do withall, hung the residue that he could not sel nor spe[n]d, in the sooty roofe of his shad a drying: or say thus, his shad was a cabbinet in decimo sexto, builded on foure crutches, and hee had no roome in it, but in that garret or Excelsis, to lodge them, where if they were drie, let them bee drie, for in the sea they had drunke too much, and now hee would force them doo penance for it.
The weather was colde, and good fires hee kept, (as fishermen, what hardnesse soeuer they endure at sea, they will make all smoake, but they will make amendes for it, when they come to land,) and what with his fiering and smoking, or smokie firing, in that his narrow lobby, his herrings, which were as white as whales bone when he hung them vp, nowe lookt as red as a lobster. It was foure or fiue dayes before either hee or his wife espied it, & when they espied it, they fell downe on their knees and blessed themselus, & cride, a miracle, a miracle, & with the proclaiming it among their neighbours they could not be content, but to the court the fisherman would, and present it to the King, then lying at Borrough Castle two mile off.
Of this Borrough Castle, because it is so auncient, and there hath beene a Citie there, I will enter into some more speciall mention. The floud Waueny, running through many Townes of hie Suffolke vp to Bungey, and from thence incroching neerer and neerer to the sea, with his twining & winding it cuts out an Iland of some amplitude, named Louingland. The heade Towne in that Iland is Leystofe, in which bee it knowne to all men I was borne, though my father sprang from the Nashes of Herefordshire.
The next Towne from Leystofe towardes Yarmouth is Corton, and next Gorlston. More inwardly on the left hande, where Waueny and the riuer Ierus mixe their waters, Cnoberi vrbs, the Cittie of Cnobor, at this day termed Burgh or Borough Castle, had his being.
This cittie and castle, saith Bede and Maister Camden, or rather M. Camden out of Bede, by the woodes about it, and the driuing of the sea vppe to it, was most pleasant. In it one Furfaeus, a Scot, builded a monastery, at whose perswasion Sigebert, king of the east Angles, gaue ouer his kingdome and led a monasticall life there ; but forth of that monastery hee was haled against his will, to incourage his subiects in their battaile against the Mercians, where he perished with them.
Nothing of that Castle saue tartered ragged walles nowe remaines, framed foure square, and ouergrowne with briars and bushes, in the stubbing vp of which, erst whiles they digge vppe Romane coynes, and booies and anchors. Well, thither our Fisherman set the best legge before, and vnfardled to the King his whole sachel of wonders. The King was as superstitious in worshipping those miraculous herrings as the fisherman, licenced him to carry the[m] vp & downe the realme for strange monsters, giuing to Cerdek sands (the birth place of such monstrosities) many priuileges, and, in that the quantitie of them that were caught so encreased, he assigned a broken sluce in the Iland of Louingland, called Herring Fleete, where they shoulde disburden and discharge their boates of them, and render him custome. Our Herring smoker, hauing worn his monsters stale throughout England, spirted ouer seas to Rome with a Pedlers packe of the[m], in the Papall chaire of Vigilius, he that first instituted Saints eeues or Vigils to be fasted. By that time hee came thither he had but three of his Herrings left, for by the way he fell into the theeuish hands of malcontents, and of launceknights, of whom he was not only robbed of all his mony, but was faine to redeeme his life besides with the better parte of his ambry of burnisht fishes.
These herrings three he rubbed and curried ouer till his armes aked againe, to make them glowe and glare like a Turkie brooch, or a London Vintners signe, thicke iagged, and round fringed, with theaming Arsadine, and folding them in a diaper napkin as lilly white as a Ladies marrying smocke, to the market steade of Rome he was so bold as to prefer them, and there, on a hie stoole, vnbraced and vnlaced them to any chapmans eie that woulde buye them. The Popes caterer, casting a licorous glaunce that way, asked what it was he had to sell : the king of fishes, hee answered : the king of fishes? replied hee, what is the price of him? A hundred duckats, he tolde him : a hundred duckats? quoth the Popes caterer, that is a kingly price indeede, it is for no priuate man to deale with him : then hee is for mee, sayde the Fisherman, and so vnsheathed his cuttle-bong, and from the nape of the necke to the taile dismembred him, and pauncht him vp at a mouthfull. Home went his Beatitudes caterer with a flea in his eare, and discoursed to his Holiness what had happened. Is it the king of fishes? the Pope frowningly shooke him vp like a catte in a blanket, and is any man to haue him but I that am king of kings, and lord of lords? Go, giue him his price, I commaund thee, and lette mee taste of him incontinently. Backe returned the Caterer like a dogge that had lost his taile, and powred downe the herringmerchant his hundred ducats for one of those two of the king of fishes vnsolde ; which then he would not take, but stoode vppon twoo hundred. Thereuppon they broke off,the one vrging that he had offered it him so before, and the other that hee might haue took him at his proffer ; which since he refused, and now haperd with him, as he eate vp the first, so would he eate vp the second, and let Pope or patriarch of Constantinople fetch it out of his belly if they could : Hee was as good as his word, and had no sooner spoke the worde, but he did as he spoke. with a heauy heart to the pallace the yeoman of the mouth departed, and rehearsed this second il successe, wherwith Peters successour was so in his mulliegrums that he had thought to haue buffeted him, & cursed him with bell, book, & cndle ; but he ruled his reaso[n], & bad him, thgh it cost a million, to let him haue that third that rested behind, and hie him expeditely thither, lest some other snatched it vp, and as fast from thence againe, for hee swore by his triple crowne, no crumme of refection woulde he gnaw vpon, till he had sweetened his lippes with it.
So said, so done ; thither he flew as swift as Mercury, and threw him his two hundred ducats, as hee before demaunded. It would not fadge, for then the market was raised to three C. and the Caterer grumbling thereat, the fisher swayne was forward to fettle him to his tooles, and tire vpon it, as on the other two, had not he held his hands, and desired hym to keep the peace, for no mony should part them : with that speech he was quallified, and pursed the three hundred ducats, and deliuered him the king of fishes, teaching hym how to geremumble it, sawce it, and dress it, and so sent him away a glad man. All the Popes cookes in their white sleeues and linnen aprons met him middle way, to entertaine and receyue the king of fishes, and together by the eares they went, who shoulde first handle him or touch him : but the clarke of the kitchin appeased that strife, and would admit none but him selfe to haue the scorching and carbonadoing of it, and he kissed his hand thrice, and made as many Humblessos, ere hee woulde finger it : and such obeysances performed, he drest it as he was enioyned, kneeling on his knes, and mumbling twenty aue maryes to hymselfe in the sacrifizing of it on the coales, that his diligent seruice in the broyling and combustion of it, both to his kingship and to his fatherhood, might not seeme vnmeritorious. The fire had not perst it, but it being a sweaty loggerhead greasie sowter, endu[n]geoned in his pocket a tweluemonth, stunk so ouer the popes pallace, that not a scullion but cryed foh, and those which at the first flocked the fastest about it now fled the most from it, and sought more to rid theyr hands of it than before they sought to blesse theyr handes with it. Wyth much stopping of theyr noses, between two dishes they stued it, and serued it vp. It was not come wythin three chambers of the Pope, but he smelt it, and vpon the smelling of it enquiring what it should be that sent forth such a puissant perfume, the standers by declared that it was the king of fishes : I conceyted no lesse, sayde the Pope, for lesse than a king he could not be, that had so strong a sent, and if his breath be so strong, what is he hymself? like a great king, like a strong king, I will vse him; let hym be caried backe, I say, and my Cardinalls shall fetch hym in with dirge and processions vnder my canopy.
Though they were double and double weary of hym yet his Edict being a lawe, to the kitchin they returned him, whither by and by the whole Colledge of scarlet Cardinales, wyth theyr crosiers, theyr censors, theyr hosts, their Agnus deies and crucifixes, flocked togither in heapes as it had beene to the conclaue or generall counsaile, and the senior Cardinall that stood next in election to bee Pope, heaued him vp from the Dresser, with a dirge of De profundis natus est fex ; rex he should haue sayd, and to haue made true latine, but the spirable odor & pestilent steame ascending from it put him out of his bias of congruity, &, as true as the truest latin of Priscian, would haue queazened him, like the dampe that tooke both Bell and Baram away, and many a woorthy man that day, if hee had not beene protected vnder the Popes canopy, and the other Cardinalles, with theyr holi-water sprinkles, quencht his foggy fume and euaporating. About and about the inward and base court they circumducted him , with Kirielyson and Halleluiah, and the chaunters in their golden copes and white surplesses chaunted it out aboue gloria patri, in praysing of him : the Organs playde, the Ordonance at the Castle of Saint Angelos went off, and all wind instruments blew as loude as the winde in winter in his passado to the Popes ordinary or dining chamber, where hauing sette him downe, vppon their faces they fell flatte, and lickt euery one his ell of dust, in douking on all foure vnto him.
The busie epitasis of the commedy was when the dishes were vncouered and the swarthrutter sowre tooke ayre : for then hee made such an ayre, as Alcides himselfe that clensed the stables of Agaeus nor any hostler was able to endure.
This is once, the Pope it popt vnder boord, and out of his pallace worse it scared him then Neptunes Phocases, that scard the horses of Hippolitus, or the harpies, Iupiters dogges, sent to vexe Phineus ; the Cardinalles were at their ora pro nobis, and held this suffocation a meete sufferance for so contemning the king of fishes and his subiects, and fleshly surfetting in their carniualles. Negromantick sorcery, negromanticke sorcerie, some euill spirit of an heretique it is, which thus molesteth his Apostoliqueship. The friars and munkes caterwawled, from the abbots and priors to the nouices, wherfore tanquam in circo, wee will trownse him in a circle, and make him tell what Lanterneman or groome of Hecates close stoole hee is, that thus nefariously and proditoriously prophanes & penetrates our holy fathers nostrils. What needes there any more ambages? the ringoll or ringed circle was compast and chalkt out, and the king of fishes, by the name of the king of fishes, coniured to appeare in the center of it ; but surdo cantant absurdi, siue surdum incantant fratres sordidi, hee was a king absolute, and would not be at euery mans cal, & if friar Pendela and his fellowes had any thing to say to him, in his admiral court of the sea let them seek him, and neither in Hull, Hell, nor Halifax.
They, seeing that by theyr charmes and spels they could spell nothing of him, fell to a more charitable suppose, that it might bee the distressed soule of some king that was drownd, who, being long in Purgatorie, and not releeued by the praiers of the church, had leaue, in that disguised forme, to haue egresse and regresse to Rome, to craue theyr beneuolence of dirges, trentals, and so foorth, to helpe him onward on his iourney to Limbo patrum or Elisium, and because they would not easily beleeue what tortures in purgatory hee had sustained, vnlesse they were eyewitnesses of them, hee thought to represent to all theyr sences the image and Idea of his combustion and broyling there, and the horrible stinch of his sins accompanying, both vnder his frying and broyling on the coles in the Popes kitchin, & the intollerable smel or stink he sent forth vnder either. Vna voce in this splene to Pope Vigilius they ran, and craued that this king of fishes might first haue Christian buriall, next, that hee might haue masses sung for him, and last, that for a saint hee would canonize him. Al these hee graunted, to bee ridde of his filthy redolence, and his chiefe casket wherein he put all his iewelles hee made the coffin of his enclosure, and for his ensainting, looke the Almanack in the beginning of Aprill, and see if you can find out such a saint as saint Gildarde ; which in honour of this guilded fish the Pope so ensainted : nor there hee rested and stopt, but in the mitigation of the very embers wheon he was sindged, (that after he was taken of them, fumed most fulsomly of his fatty droppings,) hee ordained ember weekes in their memory, to be fasted euerlastingly.