From Vocation of John Bale to the Bishopery of Ossorie

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FromVocation of John Bale to the Bishopery of Ossorie


John Bale

John Bale (1495–1563) was the Cambridge University–educated Protestant cleric who served briefly (1552–1553) as bishop of Ossory (a diocese in and around Waterford). A determined reformer, he was vexed and frustrated by the deep-seated resistance he encountered among the Irish, and he bitterly denounced it after the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary cut the ground out from under him and forced him to return to England.

SEE ALSO English Writing on Ireland before 1800

Upon the xxi. daye of January we entered into the shippe; I, my wyfe, and one servaunt; and beinge but ii. nyghtes and ii. dayes upon the sea, we arryved most prosperously at Waterforde, in the coldest time of the yeare, so mercifull was the Lorde unto us.

In beholdynge the face and the ordre of that cytie, I see many abhomynable ydolartryes mainteined by the Epicurysh prestes, for their wicked bellies sake. The Communion, or Supper of the Lorde, was there altogyther used lyke a popysh masse, with the olde apysh toyes of Antichrist, in bowynges and beckynges, knelinges and knockinges, the Lordes death, after S. Paule's doctrine, neyther preached nor yet spoken of. There wawled they over the dead, with prodigyouse howlynges and patterynges, as though their sowles had not bene quyeted in Christe and redemed by hys passion, but that they must come after and helpe at a pinche with Requiem Eternam, to delyver them out of helle by their sorrowfull sorceryes. Whan I had beholden these heathenysh behavers, I seyd unto a Senatour of that citye, that I wele perceyved that Christe had there no Bishop, neyther yet the Kynges Majestie of England any faythful officer of the mayer, in suffering so horrible blasphemies. . . .

Upon the assension daye, I preached again at Kikennie, likewyse on Trinite sondaye, and on S. Peters Daye at midsomer than followinge.

On the xxv daye of July, the prestes were as pleasauntly disposed as might be, and went by heapes from taverne to taverne, to seke the best Rob Davye and aquavite, which are their speciall drinkes there. Thei cawsed all their cuppes to be filled in, with Gaudeamus in dolio, the misterie therof only knowne to them, and, at that time, to none other els.

Which was, that Kynge Edwarde was dead, and that they were in hope to have up their maskynge masses againe . . . For ye must consydre that the prestes are commenly the first that receive suche news. The next day folowinge, a very wicked justice called Thomas Hothe, with the Lorde Mountgarret, restored to the Cathedrall churche, requyrynge to have a communion, in the honour of S. Anne. Marke the blasphemouse blyndnesse and wylfull obstinacye of thys beastly papyst. The prestes made hym answere, That I had forbydden them that celebracion, savynge only upon the Sondayes. As I had, in dede, for the abhomynable ydolatries that I had seane therein. I discharge you (sayeth he) of obedience to your Bishop in this point, and commaunde yow to do as ye have done heretofore, which was, to make of Christes holy communion an ydolatrouse masse, and to suffre it to serve for the dead, cleane contrarye to the Christen use of the same.

Thus was a wicked justice not only a vyolatour of Christes institucion, but also a contempner of his princes earnest commaundement, and a provoker of the people by his ungraciouse example to do the lyke. Thys coulde he do whith other mischefes more, by his longe beynge there by a whole monthe's space, but for murthers, theftes, ydolatryes, and abhominable whoredomes, wherewith all that nacion haboundeth, for that time he sought no redresse, neyther appointed any correction. The prestes thus rejoycing that the Kinge was dead, and that they had bene that daye confirmed in their supersticiouse obstinacie, resorted to the forseyd false justice the same night at supper, to gratifye him with Rob Davye and Aqua vite; for that he had bene so frendly unto them, and that he might styll continue in the same. The next daye after was the Layde Jane Gylforde proclaimed their Quene, with solemnite of processions, bonefyres, and banquettes, they seyd justice, as I was infourmed, sore blamynge me for my absence that daye; for, in dede, I muche doubted that matter.

So sone as it was there rumoured abrode that the kynge was departed from this lyfe, the ruffianess of that wilde nacyon, not only rebelled against the English captaines, as their lewde custome, in suche chaunges, hath bene alwayes, chefly no English deputye beinge within the lande, but also they conspired into the very deathes of so many English men and women, as were left therein alyve: Myndinge, as they than stoughtly boasted it, to have set up a kinge of their owne. And to cause their wilde people to beare the more hate to our nacion, very subtily, but yet falsely, they caused it to be noysed over all, that the younge Earl of Ormonde, and Barnabe, the Barne of Upper Osssorie's sonne, were both slaine in the court at London.

Upon the wylye practise of myschefe, they raged without ordre, in all places, and assaulted the English fortes every where.

And at one of them, by a subtyle trayne, they got out ix our men, and slew them. . . .

On the xx. daye of August, was the ladye marye with us at Kylkennye proclaymed Quene of Englande, Fraunce, and Irelande, with the greatest solempnyte, that there coulde be devysed, of processions, musters and disgysinges, all the noble captaynes and gentilmen there being present. What-a-do I had that daye with the prebendaryes and prests abought wearinge the cope, croser, and myter in procession, it were to muche to write.

I tolde them earnestly, whan they wolde have compelled me thereunto, that I was not Moyses minister but Christes, I desyred them that they would not compell me to his denyall, which is (S. Paule sayth) in the repetinge of Moyses sacramentes and ceremoniall schadowes Gal. v. With that I toke Christes Testament in my hande, and went to the market crosse, the people in great nombre followinge. There toke I the xiii. chap. of S. Paule to the Romanes, declaringe to them brevely, what the autoritie was of the worldly powers magistrates, what reverence and obedience were due to the same. In the meane tyme, had the prelates goten ii. disgysed prestes, one to beare the myter afore me, and an other the croser, makinge iii. procession pageauntes of one. The yonge men, in the forenone, played a Tragedye of Gods Promyses in the olde lawe at the market crosse, with organe plainges and songes very aptely. In the after none agayne they played a Commedie of sanct Johan Baptiste's Preachinges, of Christe's baptisynge, and of his temptacion in the wildernesse; to the small contentacion of the prestes and other papistes there. . . .

Some men peradventure will marvele, that I utteringe matters of Irelande, shulde omitt in this treatise, to write of Coyne and lyverie. Which are so cruell pillages and opressions of the poor commens there, as are no where els in this whole earthe, neither undre wicked Saracene nor yet cruell Turke, besides all prodigiouse kindes of lecherie and other abhominacions therin committed. Thre causes there are, which hath moved me not to expresse them here. One is, for so muche as they pertaine nothinge to the tyttle of this boke, which all concerneth religion. An other is for that the matter is so large, as requireth a muche larger volume. The third cause is, for that I have known ii worthie men, whome, I will not nowe name to have done that thinge so exactly, as noman (I suppose) therein can amende them. But this I will utter brevely, that the Irishe lords and their undrecaptaines, supportinge the same, are not only companions with theves, as the prophete reporteth, Esa. 1, but also they are their wicked maisters and maintainers. So that they both coupled togyther, the murtherer with his maistre, and the thefe with his maintainer, leyve nothinge undevoured behinde them that fertile region; no more than ded the devouringe locustes of Egypt, Exo. 10. Anon after their harvestes are ended there, the Kearnes, the Gallowglasses, and the other brechelesse souldiers, with horses and their horsegromes, sumtyme iii waitinge upon one jade, enter into the villages with much crueltie and fearceness, they continue there in great ravine and spoyle, and, whan they go thens, they leave nothinge els behinde them for payment, but lice, lecherie, and intollerable penureie for the yeare after. Yet set the rulers thereupon a very fayre colour, that is for defence of the English pale. I besiche God to sende such protection a shorte ende, and their lordes and Captaines also, if they see it not sone amended. For it is the utter confusion of that lande, and a maintenaunce to all vices.

Thre peoples are in Irelande in these dayes, prestes, lawyers, and kearnes, which will not suffre faythe, truthe and honestye, to dwell there. And all these have but one God their Bellye, and glory in that wicked feate to their shame, whose ende is dampnation, Phil. 3. I speake only of those which are bredde and borne there, and yet not of them all. These for the more part, are sworne bretherne together in myschefe, one to maintaine an others maliciouse cause, by murther previly procured. And, to bringe their conceyved wickednesse to passe, they can do great miracles in this age, by vertue of transubstanciation belyke, for therein are they very conninge. For they can very wittely make, of a tame Irishe, a wilde Irishe for nede, so that they shall serve their turne so wele as though were of the wilde Irish in dede.

Reprinted in Strangers to That Land: British Perceptions of Ireland from the Reformation to the Famine, edited by Andrew Hadfield and John McVeagh (1994), pp. 31–35.

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From Vocation of John Bale to the Bishopery of Ossorie

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From Vocation of John Bale to the Bishopery of Ossorie