Voices of the English Reformation: A Sourcebook

By John N. King | Go to book overview

4.1 Luke Shepherd,
John Bon and Master Parson (c. 1548)

Jon Bon and Master Parson, a satire against the Mass and Roman clergy, is by Luke Shepherd (fl. 1548–54), an enigmatic figure active during the reign of Edward VI. He was probably a physician who lived on Coleman Street in London. When Shepherd and his publisher, John Day, were jailed at Fleet Prison for circulating religious propaganda, they obtained release on the ground that this satire had a great following at the royal court. Day and his partner, William Seres, may have timed publication of this chapbook to coincide with the 1548 ban on the festival of Corpus Christi, which commemorated the last supper and doctrine of transubstantiation on the sixtieth day after Easter.

The feigned naïveté and humility of the countryman, who speaks an invented rural dialect, thinly disguise an agrarian radical who mockingly misconstrues Corpus Christi as “copsi cursty” and “cropsy cursty.” His homespun wisdom brings to life ideals stated by Erasmus, who called for humble people including women and plowmen to read the Bible, and William Tyndale, who vowed to make a mere plowboy more learned in the Bible than a cleric (see 6.5.A). John Bon’s skepticism concerning how the body of Christ can be compressed into the host on display in a tiny monstrance is akin to his rational perception that his ox is black rather than white. This dialogue highlights the clash between religious formalism and Protestant insistence upon inward faith rather than external practice.

SOURCE: STC 3258.5, A1–4.

EDITION: Shepherd.

REFERENCES: King 1982; Norbrook.

Parson. What John Bon, good morrow to thee. John Bon. Now good morrow, Mast Parson, so must I thee. Parson. What meanest thou John to be at work so soon? John. The zoner1 I begin the zoner shall I have done, For I [in] tend to work no longer than noon. [5] Parson. Marry John, for that God’s blessing on thy heart, For surely some there be will go to plow and cart And set not by this holy Corpus Christi eve. John. They are the more to blame, I swear by Saint Steven. But tell me, Mast Parson one thing, and you can [10] What saint is Copsi Cursty, a man or a woman? Parson. Why John knowest not that? I tell thee it was a man, It is Christ, his own self, and tomorrow is his day. We bear him in procession and thereby know it ye may. John. I know, Mast Parson? And not by my fay,2– [15]

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