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interest in changing it, but does not make the further deduction, crucial
for understanding Catholic use, that it could also be used by those yearning
after a past order.43
Scott distinguishes between three kinds of reversal: explicit social cri-
tiques, in which a lord may serve a peasant at table; the beast-fable such
as two geese turning a human on a spit over the ¬re, where a subversive
meaning resides in the analogy with human relations; and violations of nat-
ural law with no obvious social content, like ¬sh ¬‚ying in the air or birds
under water. It is the third type, frequently incorporated into apocalyptic
imagery as portents, which Catholics most often evoke; and of the third,
Scott suggests only that it is ˜obviously harmless material™ to divert atten-
tion from in¬‚ammatory political ideas.44 However, this is to underestimate
the huge implications of the fantasy, since illustrations from natural law
demonstrate a continuum with moral law. If the one is out of joint, so is
the other: as suggested by the beginning of a poem from one of the most
important manuscripts of Catholic verse, which compares the outlawing
of priests to climatic disorder.
Winter could into summer hoate
well changed now may bee
for thinges as strange doe come to passe
as wee may plainlie see
England priests which honourd hath
soe manie hundred yeares
doth hange them up as Traytors now
which causeth manie teares.
(f. 33b)45

This demonstrates how Catholic images of reversal typically comment on
the disruption of old hierarchies, harking back to the conservative laments
94 Oral Culture and Catholicism
described earlier. A manuscript poem copied and probably written by
William Blundell, ˜The Tyme hath been wee hadd one faith™, focuses on
the beast analogy to describe pastoral anarchy:
The tyme hath been that sheepe obaide
Their pastors, doinge as they saide;
The tym is nowe each sheepe will preach.
And th™ancient pastors seeme to teach . . .46

Suspicions of moral reversal widen the meaning of this upside-down world,
letting it be read as a metaphor for other oppositions: unity against anarchy,
timeless truths against ephemeral proclamations, and “ almost always “ the
past against the present:
The Tyme hath been47 wee hadd one faith
and trode aright one ancient path
the thym is now that each man may
See newe Religions coynd eich day . . .

The Golden Age “ not that of the pagans, but of an undivided and hos-
pitable Christendom “ replaces the Land of Cockayne in the collective
fantasy of another Catholic ballad.48
In dayes of yore: when wordes did passe for bandes
before deceit: was bread or fraud was seene
when tounges did signe: and seale with clappe of handes,
before the pure: gainst Christians tooke their spleene
The maister paid: and pleased was the man
and then unborne was anie Puritane
In those good daies: lived hospitalitie
men hoarded not. nor did they hyde their pelfe
Then lived resident kynd Charitie
and then plaine dealinge. bouldlie showd himselfe
The blacke Jacke us™d. noe pewter nor noe canne
nor men neare heard. of anie Puritanne49
The demise of liberality was a complaint frequent among Catholic writers,
and an understandable one, given what could often be pronounced differ-
ences between Catholic and Protestant notions of charity. Felicity Heal has
commented that ˜Catholics did not have any scruples about indiscriminate
charity or about the traditional cycle of feast and fast™ and that, ˜at least
by the later years of Elizabeth™s reign, they were motivated by a conscious
desire to maintain customary social patterns as a means of consolidating
communal behaviours . . . there are a number of individual examples of
Answering back 95
Catholic families who were thought by their contemporaries to be unusu-
ally assiduous in the maintenance of hospitality™.50 Ballads like this, by
lamenting the passing of a golden age, exhort their audience to recover it “
and may, indeed, even have been sung at hospitable gatherings. Catholics
made heavy use of elegy, and as the above quotation and many others in
this chapter suggest, the elegiac mode often found its way into Catholic
ballads “ perhaps it ¬‚avoured Catholic drinking songs too.51


˜ i pray th ee protesta nt™: a ll en ™s a rt i c l e s i n ve rse
Though popular verse had an obvious role as a means of voicing discon-
tent, it could also be used to in¬‚uence the beliefs of Englishmen whose
mental world was still largely or totally oral. Christians™ use of simple verse
to acquaint the unlearned with the rudiments of their faith and equip them
for controversial debate dates back as far as St Augustine of Hippo™s Psalmus
Abecedarius, and at the time of the Reformation, it remained a highly prac-
tical device exploited by both sides.52 For English Catholics, forced as they
were into a defensive position, it had particular usefulness. Trials were only
the most conspicuous of the countless cross-examinations that Catholics
underwent in public and in private, and catechistical verses setting out the
main points of difference between the denominations would have been a
useful supplement to guides which “ to quote the subtitle to one such “ ˜sett
downe a Method to instruct, how a Catholike (though but competently
learned) may defend his Fayth against the most learned Protestant™.53 The
most famous set of Catholic verses within this genre accosts the reader from
the beginning,
I Pray thee Protestant beare with mee,
to aske thee questions two or three:
And if an answere thou canst make,
more of thy counsaile I will take.
(f. C3b)

with the speaker going on to deliver several reasons why Protestantism is
false.
In its ¬rst appearance in print, as an appendix to Gregory Martin™s The
Love of the Soule [1602?], the poem™s argument is summarised under six
headings, ˜Catholike; Continuance; Visible; Unitie; Holy; Heretickes™: in
other words, the ˜marks of the true church™ which it was in the Catholic
interest to stress.54 A more detailed description of the content could read
as follows. Christ committed the church to his apostles; they preserved the
96 Oral Culture and Catholicism
Bible and separated true Scripture from spurious; the Church has remained,
though rival conventicles have decayed; it has instituted ceremonies to
God™s glory and formulated canon law; no martyrs, confessors or saints
have been other than Catholic; there has been a continued succession of
ecclesiastical of¬ces, unlike any other church; Protestants cannot explain
when the primitive church changed to popery; there are no non-Catholic
liturgies; Catholics recognise no Protestant appointments; Protestants have
built no churches and set up no pious foundations; the Catholic church can
demonstrate unity, while it is unclear whether the various Protestant sects
are of one congregation or not; those sects bear the name of their founders,
not of Catholics or Christians; the Protestant cannot say whether professors
of Christ were saved during the period of unchallenged Catholic hegemony,
and has no way of proving that his hidden church is Christ™s spouse; the
Catholic church is the only visible one; morality is clearly demonstrable
within the Catholic church, just as immorality is among Protestants; and a
Protestant church can neither be Catholic nor apostolic. Such an inclusive
series of points, as well as arguing a comprehensive knowledge of polemic
among the ballad™s intended audience, shows an anxiety that the Catholic™s
polemical armoury should be well-stocked; and the catenation of a ballad™s
verses ensured, in turn, that, when any particular controversial issue was
randomly accessed within conversation, interlinking points could also be
retrieved by those who had memorised it.
When dealing with religious controversy, the prevailing tendency among
scholars is to consider one topic at a time, extracting it from the totality
of the argument. But early modern historians, concerned with a period
of heavy cross-fertilisation between oral, manuscript and printed trans-
mission, should perhaps pay more attention to the history of arguments:
how individual assemblages and catenations of points can be passed on
from text to text, and how some can be suppressed, others emphasised
or rami¬ed. Allen™s Articles, the polemical assemblage which ˜I pray thee
protestant™ versi¬es, has a complicated pedigree and an equally confusing
capacity to mutate: the summary above comes from the second printed
prose version,55 and should not be taken as inclusive. But its long sur-
vival within oral conversation, manuscript and print, via texts directed at
very different audiences, illustrates how an argument can go through a
number of metamorphoses while retaining an identity. The importance of
such a retention is indicative to some degree of the charisma surrounding
Allen™s name, but it also re¬‚ects the portmanteau quality of its conception.
Like the Credo, it summarised articles of belief, and its authority rested
on the notion of completeness; but its articles were polemically de¬ned,
Answering back 97
consisting only of points of dissent between Catholic and Protestant. Just
as the relative importance of these points varied from decade to decade,
and from person to person, it too had to vary; yet for many individuals it
remained not simply a Catholic argument, but the Catholic argument.56
Richard Bristow, one of the teachers in William Allen™s seminary at
Douai, tells us that Allen drew up the original summary in the late 1560s:
round about the time the college itself was founded, and for somewhat
similar reasons. Allen used a brief sojourn in England to ˜deale . . . with
many Gentlemen, con¬rming some, and setting up agayne others, by most
evident and undouted rules of truth, which were alwayes common for the
most part among Catholikes, but the weight of them deepely considered
of very few, and the number of them as yet neither by him nor by any
other bound up together™. But despite their semi-improvised quality, the
Articles seem to have ful¬lled a need from the beginning. Allen was begged
for written copies, and when Bristow™s own copy was requested by a friend
travelling to England, ˜af¬rming that he saw how medicinable it would be to
many soules™, Bristow himself was commissioned by Allen to put together
a version for print.57 It was published in 1574 under the title of A Briefe
Treatise of Diverse Plaine and Sure Wayes to Finde Out the Truthe in This . . .
Time of Heresie, usually referred to as ˜Bristow™s Motives™, while another,
shorter version appeared in the appendix to Jean Albin de Valsergues™s A
Notable Discourse . . . Discussing, Who Are the Right Ministers of the Catholike
Church, published the next year in 1575.58
The rhymed Articles seem to have been derived from the second of these
versions.59 But as already suggested, there is no especial reason to suppose
this version authoritative. The Articles mutated endlessly in number, con-
tent and order, as can be seen by the considerable degree of variation both
among the surviving versions and among their answers; and rhyme did little
to ¬x them. Spoken argument brings an iterative capaciousness to a text,
even when that text has been designed to be easily memorable, and inter-
polation certainly affected the Articles as they spread. As opponents were
happy to point out, they can appear distinctly unstructured on the page.
Samuel Hieron, for instance, complained that ˜it hath come through the
hands of a very homely and sluttish Cooke, by whom it is neyther seasoned
with wit or argument, no, nor yet set forth after any good ordinary fashion:
But it is even a very Gally-mawfrey, of certayne naked and indigested Alle-
gations . . . without eyther order or proofe, as though every Papist were a
Pope, and every word of his mouth an Oracle. Belike the Sloven thought it
good enough for those, for whom it was provided.™60 Hieron™s complaint
that the ballad presents assertions without evidence points to one obvious
98 Oral Culture and Catholicism
limitation of popular verse, while his splenetic commentary identi¬es a very
important characteristic of vernacular controversial rhyme; since an orally
transmitted text is open to modi¬cation by everyone who repeats it, every
papist is indeed a pope.
The last printed refutation of the Articles seems to date from 1640, sug-
gesting that they had a lifespan of approximately seventy years: successful,
by any standards.61 This success may have been precisely because of the
cross-fertilisation between orality and print, and the mutation, or updat-
ing, which was thereby encouraged; despite being reshaped many times, the
original argument retained its identity. This is a phenomenon easy enough
to recognise in a generalised sense, and yet, when it comes to particulari-
ties, the nature of this identity can seem astonishingly slim. It even bypasses
authoritative devices found elsewhere in oral culture: for instance “ as with
the attribution of proverbial wisdom to legendary sages “ Allen™s name
might have had a continuous use as a means of validation, yet within the
various versions of the rhymed Articles as we have them, this is not appar-
ent. Even the name of the argument varied: it could be called ˜Challenges™,
˜Articles™, ˜Reasons™, ˜Demands™, ˜Motives™, ˜Questions™ or ˜Offers™.62
As Hieron saw, the structure of the argument is loose: loose because
accretion is endemic to oral texts, and because controversial points are
interconnected and not linear, so where a structure is ¬‚uid, one point can
either go in one of several different places or be iterated. There are few
constants. One is the initial premise of a Catholic asserting to a Protestant
that he is willing to be convinced if the arguments are suf¬ciently weighty,
˜more of thy counsaile I will take . . .™. Another is simply the mnemonic tag of
the opening lines. With this incipit, the speaker de¬nes himself as speaking
in a tradition, and once that is established, he is free to use the current
received text or to extemporise from material within the memory bank of
orthodoxy. It would have been more important, perhaps, to adhere to the
rhyme scheme than to any rigorously de¬ned argumentative structure.
In small compass, the history of the Articles is that of all controversial dis-
course between Catholic and Protestant. Such discourse was on a restricted
variety of topics from which all authors selected, whether they were aug-
menting a ballad or writing a pamphlet. Both of these genres privilege the
temporary emphases of an individual author, since ballads as we have them
are often arrested at some arbitrary point in transmission. But the differ-
ences are equally obvious. Two printed prose-pamphlets might be more
similar to each other than two rhymed versions of Allen™s Articles, in assem-
blage of topics and even in diction, but in the second case it is appropriate to
speak of a version of an original, and in the ¬rst “ though one might suspect
Answering back 99
in¬‚uence or plagiarism “ it is not. The claims of individual authorship have
more meaning within cultures depending on writing, more still when print
comes into play. After the bibliographical evolution of title pages, pam-
phlets tended to parade their authorship, while within ballad culture, even
where the original author™s name is preserved, the names and contributions
of intermediary authors are usually irrecoverable. Moreover, difference is
easier to identify in a written or printed text than in an oral; consequently
arguments emanating from literate sources were able to be more static.
Print “ and even manuscript “ had the effect of arresting the ¬‚ux of
connection; the oral controversies of the literate were much more tailored
to occasion than could be the case among those who relied only on orality.
Hieron™s answer to the Articles was only the second to be printed. The
¬rst answer, by the Protestant ballad-writer John Rhodes, had appeared two
years earlier in 1602. Rhodes™s account of how he discovered the text reveals
how widely this version had permeated popular literature, in written, in
printed and “ by implication “ in oral versions:
We found there amo[n]g other things also, a Toy in Rime, entituled, A proper new
Ballad, wherein are certaine Catholike questions . . . to the Protestant. [This], with
an other note booke, written of like argument, I keep by me . . . A Minister . . .
told me of the same Ballad, before I met with this, and desired me to undertake
the answering of it, & he would helpe me to it, but could not: and therefore till
now . . . I thought no more of it; although I am perswaded, there are many such
Pa[m]phlets, together with other like Romish wares, that are sent abroad among
the common people, both Protestants and Papists in London and in the countrey,
& that, by certaine women Brokers and Pedlers (as of late in Staffordshire there
was) who with baskets on their armes, shal come and offer you other wares under
a colour, and so sell you these, where they see and know any likelyhood to utter
them.63

Rhodes had earlier published a book of alternative carols tied to the Church™s
year, The Countrie Man™s Comfort (1588), and here too his intention was to
pre-empt popish singing.64 The Articles and the answer are alternated, ten
lines at a time. Rhodes rewrites the original, partly in order to improve the
verse: ˜. . . the Authour of this Ballad, his skill seemed to me, to be as bad in
Poetry, as in Divinity, and therefore I am herein driven sometimes to adde
and abbreviate the Authours particular words, but I faile him not an iote
for his owne sense and false meaning . . .™ (f. A2b). This magnanimity is,
in fact, an extremely practical mnemonic concern; if the propositions were
rendered dif¬cult to remember through false rhyming and scansion, the
answer too would prove less memorable. After the Articles™ ˜Amen™, Rhodes
adds: ˜Amend, Papists, amend.™ Bene¬ting still further from having the last
100 Oral Culture and Catholicism
word, he added an epilogue and a derisory song on popery, and referred
the reader to a prose answer to the Articles, Robert Crowley™s A Deliberate
Answer Made to a Rash Offer (1588).65
The Articles were next answered in Patrick Forbes™s Eubulus,66 or a Dia-
logue, Where-in a Rugged Romish Ryme . . . Is Confuted. Though his book
was published in 1627, Forbes says in the Epistle to the Reader that his
initial stimulus occurred about thirteen years ago, when ˜ignorant Souls™
were ˜vaynlie glorying of this their Ballad, which numbers of them had con-
tinuallie in their mouthes, who never had eyther read, or gotten by heart,
anie one Psalme of David . . .™ (f. A3a).67 But unlike Rhodes, he chooses
to answer the ballad by means of another genre entirely. Eubulus consists
of a series of dialogues between the Protestants Philadelphus, Eubulus and
Theriomachus, and the papists Philomathes and Eriphilus, based on the
premise that a lady has been seduced by the ballad. It is enlivened by occa-
sional rhymes, including the one quoted at the beginning of this chapter.
According to his own explanation, Forbes was commissioned by a noble-
man to write an answer, gave out a few manuscripts of it, then put it aside
until the ballad™s recurrence. But despite the residual orality of the dia-
logue form, the piece is essentially one for reading and not for reciting and
memorising. A limited manuscript circulation would not have penetrated
to the illiterate; and so, if it was indeed directed at the ignorant souls of the
preface, both genre and manner of publication would be very off-target.
But the seeming mismatch between problem and answer can perhaps be
explained another way. Here, the idea that a lady has become pro-Catholic
is suggestive. A dialogue of this kind would have been an attractive piece of
reading for elite women, as the dedication to Anna, Lady Gordon suggests.
Combined with the fact that a nobleman did the commissioning, this
implies that the initial audience was not ignorant souls but aristocratic
women; and since Lady Gordon was the dedicatee of the manuscript version
too, possibly one aristocratic woman in particular.68 The dialogue begins
with Philadelphus soliciting Eubulus™s services, and Forbes™s prefatory verse
˜To Philadelphus™ further implies that the name is a thin disguise for his
patron:
Loe, Philadelphus how Thy love hath led mee,
To penning of this PAMPHLET, for Thy pleasure:
Where-of, with Reason, well I could have fred mee,
If this I durst, with Thy Contentment measure.
It may seeme strange, that of my little leasure,
I anie part waste on such Wares, so vaynlie:
Where-in, all-bee-it weake Women place a Treasure;
Answering back 101
Yet hath their Po¨t playde the Foole so playnlie,
e
As, if my Motives bee not well esteemed,
For answering, I shall a Foole bee deemeed (sic).
(f. A4a)
Within the actual dedication Forbes is more tactful, while still strongly
implying that the piece had originally been written to save Lady Gordon™s
soul. The verse is ˜for satisfying some Godlie Myndes, and obviating the
insolencie of some ignorant, and ydle Humours™ (f. A2a); the latter have
been importunate again, and so he solicits Lady Gordon™s renewed patron-
age. ˜Receive, then, that which is Your owne; as a poore, but an upright
Token, how farre the Author, and all of his Calling, account them-selves
obliedged, to give Your Honour, all Heartening, and Encowragement, for
cleaving, so constantlie, (agaynst manyfolde assaultes and temptations) to
that Trueth, which, heerein, is defended™ (f. A2b). As the problem stands,
this is at least further evidence that the audience of controversial ballads
was not restricted to the poor.
If Forbes™s concerns were elsewhere, this invites one to probe his osten-
sible complaint about the prevalence of the ballad among the uneducated.
His venture into print more than a decade after manuscript publication
could have been prompted by the ballad™s continuance among the illiter-
ate, or the continued religious perversions of the aristocracy, or a mixture of
factors.69 If the former, it is easier to imagine his piece being appropriated
for print in the hopes of it penetrating further down the social scale, than to
suggest that it was initially written in the hopes of pervading oral culture.
But whatever his actual readership, it is very much in Forbes™s interests to
downgrade the ballad™s supposed audience. Any individual who could read
the dedication would wish to distance himself from those who could not,
while an aristocratic woman might well be alienated still further from the
verses if she thought that they were principally intended to convert the
poor.
Eubulus is a prose work which only occasionally breaks into rhyme, and
Forbes seems to have thought it necessary to dismiss any idea that the
side writing wholly in rhyme somehow had a better claim to truth. In
reply to a comment that ˜Syllogismes™ are needed, not ˜invective Sonnets™,
Eubulus says: ˜By a Sonnet one may verie convenientlie give sentence of a
Song . . . wee are not so farre borne in despite of all the Muses, but that wee
could render you as compact Verses, as anie your proper Ballad hath in it™
(p. 20). Conversely, because it carried the double implication of theological
irresponsibility and poor literary craftsmanship, it was also useful to be
able to dismiss the points of an opponent as advanced merely for stylistic
102 Oral Culture and Catholicism
reasons. In response to Eubulus™s objection that a difference of opinion is
not the same as sectarianism, Philadelphus interjects: ˜You miss-take the
matter . . . it is not maliciouslie done of him, but for Metres sake, to make
up his Verses, which, other-wayes, would not have runne well™ (pp. 22“3).
But the usefulness of verse was primarily for summary attention-
grabbing. Once it had elicited a response from the other side, which needed
in its turn to be refuted, the limitations of metre became increasingly clear.
Samuel Hieron complained of how the rules of cadence and number strait-
ened the unaccustomed practitioner to such a degree that he was often in
danger of obscuring the sense or the meaning.70 This frustration also dom-
inates a preface to another Catholic intervention in the debate, answering
an answer to the original verses.71
My Frend if soe thou dost desyre to be
If not but please thy selfe thou pleasest me.
When I beheld this old worne stuffe of thyne
Soe fully answered by Bellarmine
And many learned authors moe beside
I thought to slay my Muse: yet fearinge pride
Might make thee thinke thou hadst perform™d the art (sic)
Of some Divine in Poetasters art
I thought if ¬ttinge to plucke off thy maske
And soe invite thee to a greater taske.
At sight here of if thou dar™st undertake
In any point thy partie good to make
Chose what thou best can™st prove, or best defend
And at thine elbow ready I™le attend
In prose, or verse, or both or how thou please
By schollers weapons lett us make our peace.
(f. 1a)

Though the writer goes on to use the ˜Poetasters art™ as a vehicle for the
arguments of divines “ exactly what he accuses the other side of doing “
he has still secured the rhetorical high ground; by throwing doubt on
the medium, he prepares the way to invalidate the message. His diatribe
acknowledges the limited versatility of metre; verse may be appropriate for
evangelisation, but ˜schollers weapons™ are best once the original text has
run up against controversy individually tailored to itself. Nevertheless, the
writer continues within metre™s con¬nes and exploits its peculiarities to
advantage. The preface goes on:
But lett me now crave pardon at this tyme

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