Posted by: Democratic Thinker | January 18, 2014

Weekly Story: Ship of Fools—Weak in Truth

Weekly Story

In 1508, a philosopher publishes a derivation in English of Brandt’s Ship of Fools—becoming one of the most popular English books—in which he describes the many types of foolish people lost on a pilotless ship.

And many of the brothers in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.—Philippians 1:14.


The Shyp of Folys
of the
translation by
Alexander Barclay, Preste.


Of hym that dare nat vtter the trouth for fere of displeasour or punysshement.


WHO euer he be, that for loue, fere or mede
For fauour, thretnynge or suche lyke accydence
Sayth nat the trouth lyke as it is in dede
But stoppeth his mouth, and kepeth so sylence
To please the people allowynge theyr offence
And sparynge theyr fautes, it playnly doth apere
Suche to Antichrist is frende and messanger

Many hath a mynde redy prompt and clere
To knowlege, and to preche the very lawe dyuyne
And to say the trouth lyke as it doth apere
But oft, suche, by flatery or thretenynge declyne
From the way of trouth and verytable lyne
And so holy trouth and godly veryte
By fere they leue, disdaynynge it to se

Sothly I may say they vnderstonde nat right
That for loue or fere: dare nat the trouth expres
But hydeth it away from mannys syght
Doutynge displeasour of them that haue ryches
Thus is the power of wordly wretchydnes
More in theyr myndes than the commaundement
And chefe preceptis of god omnypotent

Why sholde he fere to preche and to expres
The lawes of god gyuen vnto mankynde
To whome our lorde of his great goodnes
Hath sende chefe gyftis: as reason of his mynde
With wyt and wysdome: the way therof to fynde
To fayne or to lye to hym it is great foly
Whiche hath the reason the trouth to fortyfy

But for that flaterynge so many doth ouercome
And rewardes, lettyth the trouth for to apere
Therfore the Fole, that sholde say trouth is dum
Hackynge his wordes that no man may them here
And if he knowe that any one is nere
Infect and scabbyd, he dare no worde let slyp
But layeth his fynger anone before his lyp

But suche a wyse man as Vyrgyll doth discrybe
Is stedfast, fereles, constant farme and stable
Nat lettynge, nor leuynge for fauour, loue, nor brybe
The trouth to shewe, and blame the reprouable
Ponderynge the furour of them that ar culpable
And blamynge the same, playne and openly
For veryte and trouth nat doutynge for to dye

The wyse man to vtter the trouth is nat aferde
Thugh he sholde be closyd within the bull of bras
Of Phalaris, the tyraunt: or if a naked swerde
Henge ouer his necke his lyfe so to oppres
For he that is wyse perfytely: doutles
Hath so establysshyd his mynde the trouth to say
That daunger of deth can hym no thynge affray

No lorde nor man of hye ne lowe degre
Nor thretnynge wordes, ne other punysshement
Can cause suche one in any poynt to lye
He showyth out the lawes of god omnypotent
In wordes playne, nat fals ne fraudelent
Nat ferynge to touche the foly and errour
Of Pope nor prelate, kynge ne emperor

Saynt Johnn the baptyst our lordes messanger
Withdrewe hym selfe into secrete wyldernes
Nat wyllynge amonge the people to apere
For theyr vayne grutchis and wylfull frowardnes
Yet dyd he euer the very trouth expres
As true messanger, the worlde to despyse
Therfore had he grace our sauyour to baptyse

He that doth one with pleasaunt worde correct
And colde pacyence that he may condiscende
To lerne the wayes his vyces to abiect
And take example his lyuynge to amende
Vnto thy wordes though he nat than intende
But the beholde with lokes sharp and harde
Yet tyme shall come whan he shall the rewarde

If he in hym haue any droppe of grace
He shall conuerte, rewardynge thy counsell
Therfor I say who euer is in that case
For worldly ryches, the trouth nat playne to tell
Puttynge bodely profyte before eternall well
Suche shall dye a Fole blynde and ignoraunt
And may to Antichrist be callyd pursuyuaunt.


O precher thou deth ought rather to endure
Than for loue, fauour, fere or punysshement
The veryte to cloke, or make the trouth obscure
Or to hyde the lawes of god omnypotent
And if that any vnto thy deth assent
For prechynge trouth: receyue it paciently
So hath many sayntis theyr blode and lyues spent
Rather than they wolde hyde veryte, or lye

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