Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
John of Leyden and His Crew
By Thomas Nashe (15671601)
From The Unfortunate Traveller
THAT day come, flourishing entered John Leyden the botcher1 into the field, with a scarf made of lists,2 like a bow-case, a cross on his breast like a thread-bottom, a round twilled3 tailors cushion buckled like a tankard-bearers device to his shoulders for a target, the pike whereof was a pack needle; a tough prentices club for his spear, a great brewers cow on his back for a corslet, and on his head for a helmet a huge high shoe with the bottom turned upward, embossed as full of hobnails as ever it might stick: his men were all base handicrafts, as cobblers, and curriers, and tinkers, whereof some had bars of iron, some hatchets, some cool staves, some dung-forks, some spades, some mattocks, some wood knives, some adzes for their weapons; he that was best provided, had but a piece of a rusty brown-bill bravely fringed with cobwebs to fight for him: perchance here and there you might see a fellow that had a canker-eaten skull on his head, and another that had bent a couple of iron dripping pans armour-wise, to fence his back and his belly; another that had thrust a pair of dry old boots as a breast-plate before his belly of his doublet, because he would not be dangerously hurt: another that had twilted his truss full of counters, thinking if the enemy should take him, he would mistake them for gold, and so save his life for his money. Very devout asses they were, for all they were so dunstically4 set forth, and such as thought they knew as much of Gods mind as richer men; why, inspiration was their ordinary familiar, and buzzed in their ears like a bee in a box every hour what news from heaven, hell, and the lands of whipperginnie: displease them who durst, he should have his mittimus to damnation ex tempore; they would vaunt there was not a peas difference twixt them and the Apostles; they were as poor as they, of as base trades as they, and no more inspired than they, and with God there is no respect of persons; only herein may seem some little diversity to lurk, that Peter wore a sword, and they count it flat hell-fire for any man to wear a dagger, nay so grounded and gravelled were they in this opinion, that now when they should come to battle, there neer a one of them would bring a blade (no not an onion-blade) about him, to die for it. It was not lawful, said they, for any man to draw the sword but the magistrate, and in fidelity (which I had wellnigh forgot), Jack Leyden, their magistrate, had the image or likeness of a piece of a rusty sword like a lusty lad by his side: now I remember me, it was but a foil neither, and he wore it to show that he should have the foil of his enemies, which might have been an oracle for his two-hand interpretation. Quid plura, his battle is pitched: by pitched, I do not mean set in order, for that was far from their order, only as sailors do pitch their apparel to make it storm-proof, so had most of them pitched their patched clothes, to make them impierceable. A nearer way than to be at the charges of armour by half: and in another sort he might be said to have pitched the field, for he had pitched or set up his rest whither to fly if they were discomfited. Peace, peace there in the belfry: service begins, upon their knees before they join falls John Leyden and his fraternity very devoutly, they pray, they howl, they expostulate with God to grant them victory, and use such unspeakable vehemence, a man would think them the only well-bent men under heaven; wherein let me dilate a little more gravely than the nature of this history requires, or will be expected of so young a practitioner in divinity: that not those that intermissively cry, Lord open unto us, Lord open unto us, enter first into the kingdom of heaven: that not the greatest professors have the greatest portion in grace, that all is not gold that glisters. When Christ said the kingdom of heaven must suffer violence, He meant not the violence of long babbling prayers to no purpose, nor the violence of tedious invective sermons without wit, but the violence of faith, the violence of good works, the violence of patient suffering. The ignorant arise and snatch the kingdom of heaven to themselves with greediness, when we with all our learning sink down into hell.