The Letter of John Ball (Stow)


In his A Summarye of the Chronicles of Englande (London: T. Marshe, 1570) - a forerunner or precursor of his The Annales or The Chronicles - Stow first printed Ball's Letter, though with significant variation from the Annales version. (Ball's Letter does not appear in the 1565 Summarye.) The following transcription is from a microfilm version of the T. Marshe 1570 edition in the Huntington Library (STC 23322, Reel S1/356; University Microfilms 15587), from fol. 235. I transcribe without editorial intervention:
John Ball saint mary priest, greteth well all maner of men, and biddeth them in the name of the trinitie father, sonne, and holy ghost, stand manliche together in truthe, and helpes truthe, & truth shal helpe you, now reigneth pride in price, and couetise is holde wyse, and lechery without shame, & glotony without blame, enuy reigneth with treason, and slouth is take in great season. God doe boote, for nowe is time amen.
1-3 Peck discusses the "stand manlike" trope (p. 114) and sees the line on truth as a variation on John 8:32: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (p. 115). The address "John Bal . . . greeteth," here and elsewhere, reflects a Pauline epistolary formula (p. 114).

4 pride. This prophecy illustrates well the principle of making predictions in the guise of complaint. The poem mentions six of the seven deadly sins: pride, avarice, lust, gluttony, envy, sloth. Wrath is missing.

8 treason. So the T. Marshe 1570 (printed above) and H. Binneman 1574 editions of the Summarie (STC 23322, 23324, p. 235), and the R. Newberie 1580 edition of The Chronicles (STC 23333, p. 485). The T. Marshe 1592 edition of The Annales and subsequent editions I have checked emend to reason, which is RHR's reading. This reading should be compared with line 39 of Addresses of the Commons (tresone).

10 for now is time. Peck comments on the "fierce restlessness or sense of the immediacy of time's demands" as apocalyptic metaphors, both here and in other protest literature surrounding the Peasants' Revolt (p. 116).
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The Letter of John Ball (Stow)

(From Stow, Annales)

John Bal Saint Marie priest, greeteth wel all maner of men, and biddeth them
in the name of the Trinitie, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, stand manlike together
in truth, and helpe truth, and truth shal helpe you:
Now raigneth pride in price,
Covetise is holden wise,
Leacherie without shame,
Gluttonye without blame:
Envie raigneth with treason,
And slouth is taken in greate season;                            
God doe bote, for now is time.
reigns; much valued; (see note)
Greed is held to be
Envy rules; (see note)
God provide the remedy; (see note)

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