Friday, March 30, 2007

The Clean Contrary Way

I keep attempting little investigations for the blog that turn inconclusive, or simply become too big. This, for instance, I might work on properly and write up:

I came across Luke Shepherd’s broadsheet, ‘Antipus’. This is mid-16th century, fiercely Protestant stuff, printed in the reign of Edward VI. John ‘Bilious’ Bale apparently approved of Shepherd, that’s how strident he is.

The point of his set of distiches is to attack the doctrine of the real presence: “As verily as bread doth make and bake the baker / So verily these thieves the priests can make their maker.”

To do this, Shepherd launches into a series of statements which are the opposite to the truth (as he believes it to be), leading up to his climactic impossibility. The effect is (at least I thought) interestingly unstable: inventing these impossibilities, Shepherd’s mind strays into fantasy-heresies, in which Adam creates God, Christ persecutes the Jews, the Apostles refuse the gospel. All kinds of Bible passages are mingled together, so intense conviction and indiscriminateness co-mingle.

The opening couplet is a bit odd too: saying, ‘this is not the kind of thing you usually hear’, then ducking into Latin for ‘For the opposites of these things are most true’. Though I suppose that is to keep the joke alive, to allow the poem to inculcate a habit of total rejection into its readers’ minds.

I think that this may be the first of its kind, the polemical broadside poem which teaches by opposites. Well into the 17th century, ballads were written to the model, and used the refrain of ‘the clean contrary way’: read them, and understand the opposite to be true.

I append Alexander Brome’s ‘The Saints’ Encouragement’, which also circulated in broadsheet form, a poem of rankling hatred for the Roundheads, using this device of inventing words for a completely wrong-headed speaker. John Eliot’s little poem deals with an incident when fiddlers who played and sang the ‘clean contrary way’ music were sentenced to be whipped. He points out how counterproductive this action will be for the Puritan authorities.

I found another, Restoration variant, and a lot of allusions. There must be more out there.



¶To heare of such thinges ye be not wont
Nam horum contraria verissima sunt

AS verily as Adam created firste his God
So verily he tasted not, the fruite that was forbod

As verily as Abell, dyd kyll hys brother Kayn
So verily the shyppe made Noye this is playne

As verily as Isaac, hys father dyd begette
So verily the Sodomytes remayn vnburned yet

As verily as the Isralites, the Egiptians dyd oppresse
So verily dyd Moyses gyue God the lawe dowbtles

As verily as Sampson was, slayne of the lion rampynge
So verily dyd Goliad distroye Dauid the Kynge

As verily as in Babilon the meates were eate of Bell
So verily the dragon of brasse deuoured Daniell

As verily as Christe dyd crucifye the Jewes
So verily the Aposteles the gospell dyd refuse

As verily as Simon Magus the Apostles dyd confute
So verily the Apostels dyd princes persecute

As verily as the deuyll hath perfecte loue and hope
So verily goddes worde doth constitute the pope

As verily as Ise sicles wythin be hote and holowe
So verily proude prelates oure master Christe do folowe

As verily as bread doeth make and bake the baker
So verily these thefes the prestes can make their maker.

→ If Leighton wyll neades his maker make
That these are true he can not forsake
A Papiste he is and the popes owne knight
That preacheth falshed in stead of ryght
He knowith not howe to pay hys dettes
But wyth catchinge his creditors in the Popes netts
A thefe, a robber, by preachinge sedition
Is better regarded then the kings co~mission.
Amonge Papistes.

Alexander Brome, ‘The Saints Encouragement’, Written in 1643

Fight on brave Souldiers for the cause,
Fear not the Caveleers;
Their threatnings are as senselesse, as
Our Jealousies and fears.
'Tis you must perfect this great work,
And all Malignants slay,
You must being back the King again
The clean contrary way.

Tis for Religion that you fight,
And for the Kingdomes good,
By robbing Churches, plundring men,
And shedding guiltlesse blood.
Down with the Orthodoxal train,
All Loyal Subjects slay;
When these are gone we shall be blest
The clean contrary way.

When Charles we've bankrupt made, like us
Of Crown and power bereft him;
And all his loyal subjects slain,
And none but Rebels left him.
When we've beggar'd all the Land,
And sent our Truncks away,
We'l make him then a glorious Prince;
The clean contrary way.

'Tis to preserve his Majesty,
That we against him fight,
Nor are we ever beaten back,
Because our cause is right,
If any make a scruple on't,
Our Declarations say
Who fight for us, fight for the King,
The clean contrary way.

At Keynton, Branford, Plymmouth, York,
And diverse places more;
What victories we Saints obtain'd,
The like ne're seen before.
How often we Prince Robert kill'd,
And bravely won the day,
The wicked Cavaleers did run
The clean contrary way.

The true Religion we maintain,
The Kingdomes peace, and plenty;
The priviledg of Parliament
Not known to one of twenty:
The antient Fundamental Laws,
And teach men to obey;
Their Lawful Soveraign, and all these,
The clean contrary way.

We subjects Liberties preserve,
By, prisonment and plunder,
And do inrich our selves and state
By keeping the wicked under.
We must preserve Mecannicks now,
To Lecturize and pray;
By them the Gospel is advanc'd,
The clean contrary way.

And though the King be much misled
By that malignant crew;
He'l find us honest, and at last,
Give all of us our due.
For we do wisely plot, and plot
Rebellion to destroy,
He sees we stand for peace and truth,
The clean contrary way.

The publick faith shall save our souls,
And good out-works together,
And ships shall save our lives that stay,
Only for wind weather.
But when our faith and works fall down,
And all our hopes decay,
Our Acts will bear us up to heaven,
The clean contrary way.

John Eliot, ‘The Fidlers that were committed for singing a Song called, The clean contrary way’ (1658).

The Fidlers must be whipt the people say,
Because they sung the clean contrary way;
Which if they be, a Crown I dare to lay,
They then will sing the clean contrary way.
And he that did those merry Knaves betray,
Wise men will praise, the clean contrary way:
For whipping them no envy can allay,
Unlesse it be the clean contrary way.
Then if they went the Peoples tongues to stay,
Doubtless they went the clean contrary way.

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