Archive for June 16th, 2016

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Falle of Robert Tresilian chiefe justice of England and other his fellowes, for misconstruing the lawes, and expounding them to serve the prince’s affections. Anno 1388 by George Ferrers

In the ruefull register of mischiefe and mishap,
Baldwine we beseech thee with oar names to begin,
Whom unfriendly fortune did trayn unto a trap,
When wee thought our state most stable to have bin:
So lightely leese they all, which all do weene to win
Learne by us ye laweyers and judges of this land,
Upright and uncorrupt in dome alway to stand.

And print yee this president to remaine for ever,
Enrolle and record it in tables made of brasse,
Engrave it in marble that may bee razed never,
Where the judges of the lawe may see, as in a glasse,
What guerdon is for guile, and what our wages was,
Who for our prince’s pleasure, corrupt with meede and awe,
Wittingly and wretchedly did wrest the sence of lawe.

A chaunge more newe or straunge when was there ever seene,
Then judges from the bench to come downe to the barre,
And counsaylours that were most nigh to king and queene
Exiled their countrye, from court and counsaile farre:
But such is fortune’s play, which can both make and marre,
Exalting to most highe that was before moste lowe,
And turning tayle agayne, the lofty downe to throwe.

And such as late afore, could stoutly speake and pleade
Both in court and countrye, carelesse of the triall,
Stand muet as mummers without advise or reade,
All to seeke of shifting, by traverse or denyall,
Which have scene the day, when, for a golden ryall,
By finesse and conning, could have made blacke seeme white,
And most extorted wrong to have appeared right.

Whilst thus on bench above wee had the highest place,
Our reasons were to strong, for any to confute:
But when at barre beneath, wee came to pleade our case,
Our wits were in the wane, our pleading very brute:
Hard it is for prisoners with judges to dispute:
When all men against one, and none for one shall speake,
Who weenes himselfe most wise, shall haply bee to weake.

To you therefore that sit, these fewe wordes will I say,
That no man sits so sure, but hee may haply stand:
Wherefore whilst you have place, and beare the swing, and sway
By favour, without rigour let poynts of lawe bee skan’d:
Pitty the poore prisoner that holdeth up his hand,
Ne lade him not with law, who least of law hath knowne.
Remember ere yee dye, the case may bee your owne.

Behold mee unfortunate forman of this flocke,
Tresilian, sometime chiefe justice of this land,
A gentleman by byrth, no staine was in my stocke,
Lockton, Holte, and Belknap, with other of my band,
Which the lawe and justice had wholly in our hand,
Under the second Richarde a prince of great estate,
To whome and us also, blinde fortune gave the mate.

In the common lawes our skill was so profounde,
Our credite and autority such, and so esteemde,
That what wee concluded was taken for a grounde,
Allowed was for lawe what so to us best seemed,
Life, death, landes, goods, and all by us was deemed:
Whereby with easy paine great gayne wee did in fet,
And every thing was fishe, that came unto our net.

At sessions and at sises, wee bare the stroake and sway,
In patentes and commission, of quorum alwaye chiefe:
So that to whether syde soever wee did way,
Were it by right or wrong, it past, without repriefe:
The true man wee let hang somewhiles to save a thiefe,
Of gold, and of silver, our handes were never empty,
Offices, fermes, and fees, fell to us in great plenty.

But what thing may suffice unto the greedy man?
The more hee hath in hold, the more hee doth desire:
Happy and twise happy is hee, that wisely can
Content himselfe with that, which reason doth require,
And moyleth for no more then for his needefull hire:
But greedines of minde doth seldome keepe the syse,
To whom enough and more doth never well suffice.

For like as dropsy pacients drinke and still bee dry,
Whose unstaunchst thirst no liquor can alay,
And drinke they nere so much, yet thirst they by and by:
So catchers and snatchers toile both night and day,
Not needy, but greedy, still prolling for their pray:
O endlesse thirste of gold, corrupter of all lawes,
What mischiefe is on moulde whereof thou art not cause?

Thou madest us forget the fayth of our profession,
When sergeants wee were sworne to serve the common lawe,
Which was, that in no point wee should make digression
From approned principles, in sentence nor in sawe:
Bat wee unhappy wightes without all dread and awe
Of the judge etemall, for worlde’s vaine promotion,
More to man then God did beare our whole devotion.

The lawes wee did interprete and statutes of the land,
Not truely by the texte, but newly by a glose:
And wordes that were most playne, when they by us were skand,
Wee toumed by construction to a Welshman’s hose,
Whereby many a one both life and land did lose:
Yet this wee made our meane to mount aloft on mules;
And serving times and turnes perverted lawes and rules?

Thus climing and contending alway to the toppe,
From hie unto higher, and then to bee most hye,
The honny dewe of fortune so fast on us did droppe,
That of king Richarde’s counsayle wee came to bee most nye:
Whose favour to attayne wee were full fine and slye:
Alway to his profite where any thing might sounde,
That way (all were it wrong) the lawes wee did expounde.

So working lawe like waxe, the subject was not sure
Of life, land, nor goodes but at the prince’s will,
Which caused his kingdome the shorter time to dure:
For clayming power absolute both to save and spill,
The prince thereby presumed his people for to pill,
And set his lustes for lawe, and will had reason’s place,
No more but hang and drawe, there was no better grace.

Thus the king outleaping the limits of his lawe,
Not raigning but raging, as youth did him entice,
Wise and worthy persons from court did dayly drawe,
Sage counsayle set at naught, proude vaunters were in price,
And roysters bare the rule, which wasted all in vice:
Of ryot and excesse, grewe scarsity and lacke,
Of lacking came taxing, and so went welth to wracke.

The barons of the land not bearing this abuse,
Conspiring with the commons assembled by assent,
And seeing neyther reason, nor treaty, could induce
The king in any thing his rigour to relent,
Maugre his might they calde a parliament:
Franke and free for all men without checke to debate
As well for weale publique, as for the prince’s state.

In this high assembly, great thinges were proponed
Touching the prince’s state, his regalty and crowne,
By reason that the king (which much was to be moned)
Without regarde at all, of honour or renowne,
Misledde by ill advice, had tournde all upside downe.
For surety of whose state, them thought it did behove
His counsaylours corrupt by reason to remove:

Among whome, Robert Veer calde duke of Irelande,
With Mighell Delapole of Suffolke newe made earle,
Of Yorke also the archbishop, dispacht were out of hande,
With Brembre of London a full uncurteous churle:
Some learned in the lawe in exile they did hurle:
But I poore Tresilian (because I was the chiefe)
Was dampned to the gallowes most vily as a thiefe.

Lo the fine of falshood, [the] stipend of corruption,
The fee of dowble fraude, the fruites it doth procure:
Yee judges upon earth, let our juste punition
Teach you to shake off bribes, and kepe your handes pure:
Riches and promotion bee vayne thinges and unsure,
The favour of a prince is an untrusty staye,
But justice hath a fee that shall remayne alway.

What glory can bee greater before God or man,
Then by pathes of justice in judgement to proceede?
So duely and so truely the lawes alway to skan,
That right may take his place without regarde or meede:
Set apart all flattery and vayne wordly dreede,
Set God before your eyes the juste judge supreme,
Remembre well your reckoning at the day extreme.

Abandan all affray, bee soothfast in your  sawes,
Be constant, and carelesse of mortall men’s displeasure,
With eyes shut and handes close you should pronounce the lawes:
Esteeme not worldly goodes, thinke there is a treasure
More worth then golde [or stone] a thousand times in valure
Reposed for all such as righteousnes ensue,
Whereof you can not fayle, the promise made is true.

If judges in our dayes woulde ponder well in minde
The fatall fall of us, for wresting lawe and right,
Such statutes as touche life should not bee thus definde,
By sences constrayned against true meaning quite,
As well they might affirme the blacke for to bee white:
Wherefore wee wish they woulde our acte and end compare,
And weying well the case, they will wee trust beware.

From: Haslewood, Joseph (ed.), Mirror for Magistrates. Volume II, 1815, Lackington, Allen and Co. and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London, pp. 13-21.

Date: 1559

By: George Ferrers (c1500-1579)