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Medium Aevum, Vol. 62, 1993

Conception, flies, and heresy in Skelton's 'Replycacion.'

by Victor I. Scherb

The abjuration of Thomas Bilney and Thomas Arthur on 8 December 1527, the Feast of the Conception of the Virgin, occasioned the composition of Skelton's last extant poem, |A Replycacion Agaynst Certayne Yong Scolers Abjured of Late'. Long ignored except as in example of Skelton's idiosyncrasy, the poem has chiefly been perceived as interesting for its forthright portrayal of poet as vates in its closing section.(1) An examination of the liturgical context of the |Replycacion', however, reveals the poem to be a satire on heresy, one which mounts its attack by means of a triple pun on |conception'.(2) The poem connects Mary's conception, Bilney and Arthur's flyblown heretical conceptions, and finally Skelton's own divinely inspired poetic conceptions.(3) Generational processes metaphorically link these three meanings, as Skelton appropriates liturgical themes, mediaeval scientific lore concerning flies, and exegetical commentary in order to refute and attack Bilney and Arthur while exalting his own role as poet. The three types of conception are brought together by the occasion of Mary's feast, which provides true doctrine, confounds heresy, and inspires the vates to true poetry.

Skelton's poem may belong to a programme against heresy orchestrated by Wolsey.(4) In the late 1520s Wolsey imported scholars from Cambridge to found Cardinal's College at Oxford. In doing so, he meant to combat the |hellish Lutherans', but a number of his scholars seem to have adopted Lutheran opinions nevertheless,(5) and Bilney in particular enjoyed a good deal of popular sympathy.(6) Under these conditions, the need to combat heretical opinions at both the university and the popular levels must have seemed pressing. Conservative clerics like Skelton and Wolsey and pious laymen like More perceived heretics such as Arthur and Bilney as a threat.(7) Given his background as a writer of recondite satires such as |Speke, Parott' as well as more direct, popular works such as |My Come Ye Nat to Courte?', Skelton may have felt himself the appropriate candidate to address both the learned and the popular audience simultaneously. He combines Marian piety, proverbs, macaronic verse, marginal glosses, abstruse learning and simple invective in a calculated attempt to appeal both to those in London who might sympathize with the heretics and to their more learned adherents in Cambridge.

Perhaps in part because Skelton was appealing to two audiences simultaneously, the poet ignores the actual content of Bilney and Arthur's heresies and instead appeals to traditional Catholic piety. He finds the liturgical date of Bilney and Arthur's abjuration particularily significant: on |the feest of [Mary's] concepcion', he observes, |Ye suffred suche correction' (67-8).(8) This feast takes on considerable importance because, in addition to being the day that the two bore faggots |before the preacher at Paul's cross all the sermon time',(9) 8 December acts as a symbol of just the sort of popular veneration attacked by the two heretics, Indeed, Skelton throughout the poem takes less offence at Bilney and Arthur's doctrinal heresies than at their attacks upon traditional relgious practices. He specifically accuses them of teaching people |howe it was idolatry to offre to ymages of our blessed lady, or to pray or go on pylgrimages, or to make oblacions to any ymages of sayntes in church or elswhere', even though these accusations were only a minor part of the charges brought against the two.(10)

While the liturgy of the Conception of the Virgin has left few direct verbal echoes in the poem, it nevertheless underlies many of Skelton's poetic strategies.(11) The day's liturgy emphasizes Mary's purity and grace -- qualities which make her a fit vehicle to serve the Incarnation of Christ. In the Sarum hymn prescribed for the Conception, Mary's conception thus acts as a conduit through which all of nature is revivified and made new:

Nova mater novam prolem

nova stella novum solem,

nova profert gratia;

Genitorem genitura,

Creatorem creatura,

Patrem parit filia.(12)

(A mother new new offspring bears,

from a new star new sun appears,

new grace doth all inspire.

The mother bears the generator

the creature brings forth the creator,

the daughter bears the sire.)(13) The new |grace' that Mary brings creates new physical and spiritual life in the form of the Saviour. Mary specifically acts as the means by which the grace of God's word -- in the person of the logos himself -- is made accessible to mankind through the Incarnation.

By contrast, the conception of Bilney and Arthur's heresies makes them unsuitable vehicles for the manifestation of the Word. As preachers, they are entrusted with God's word, but they lack the eternal freshness and purity of the Blessed Virgin, which enable her to communicate God's grace and act as a mediatrix between God and man. Instead of grace they offer their auditors the |infatuate flames of their rechelesse youthe and wytlesse wontonnese, enbrased and enterlased with a moche fantastical frenesy of their insensate sensualyte', qualities which cause them to babble |With your lyppes polluted / Agaynst her grace disputed' (29-30). Rather than revivifying, their words are drunken, physical and impure. Given the cleric's task of serving the Word, they merely confuse their hearers with their language and intoxicated zeal. In keeping with the low, material nature of their evangelism, Skelton ascribes purely worldly motives to the pair, as they preach |to magnifye their name' (10) and to help themselves 'to promocion' (137), vain aspirations which are the antithesis of the Virgin's archetypal humility.

The Epistle lesson appointed for the Feast emphasizes the fruitfulness of Mary, another theme which Skelton inverts in his attack on the two Cambridge scholars. In the lesson Wisdom praises herself as the vine who has |brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope' (Ecclesiasticus XXIV-23-4). While the Epistle reading associates the Blessed Virgin's conception with fruitfulness in virtue, Skelton ironically echoes this imagery in his attack on the heretics: he would 'cut back the too thick and too sterile vines which the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts does not allow to spread more freely any further'.(14) The vines of Bilney and Arthur, Skelton suggests, produce not wholesome fruit but corruption, pride, and spiritual sterility, all of which result from the heretical |conception' which has taken place within the two Cambridge scholars. As both priest and poet, Skelton's role is to act as God's gardener by pruning the heretics back, forcing them to confess how they |dyde lye / In prechyng shamefully' (90-1).(15)

The Gospel lesson (Matthew 1.1-16) appropriately illustrates the theme of conception by enumerating Mary's lineage. The lesson, consisting of |The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David', gives the lineage of Christ up through |Joseph the husband of Mary'. The Gospel establishes the royal lineage of Christ and his implicit presence in Old Testament history. Skelton similarily offers his own ironic spiritual genealogy of Bilney and Arthur, portraying them as two in a long line of spiritually prideful heretics:

Ye soored over hye

In the ierarchy

Of Jovenyans heresy,

Your names to magnifye,

Among the scabbed skyes

Of Wycliffes flesshe flyes.

Ye strynged so Luthers lute

That ye dawns all in a sute

The heritykes ragged ray. (161-9)

Additional sidenotes refer the reader to Arius and Julian the Apostate as well as to the Jews, Canaanites, Pharisees, Hussites and Lutherins.(16) The two genealogies -- both Mary's and the heretics' -- clarify the working of God in history by establishing the continuity both of the Church and of its enemies. Just as the |great vyllony' of Bilney and Arthur |never more may die' (245-6), so too will heresy endure in one form or another; their heretical beliefs, paradoxically, will become evidence of the true Church's righteousness by establishing a boundary for orthodoxy.(17)

Skelton does not limit himself to themes drawn from the liturgy, however. In keeping with his reiterated focus upon generational processes, the repeated image of the fly provides the central contrast which Skelton makes between heretical and poetic conception. With this potent image of corruption, Skelton ties together proverbs, late mediaeval scientific lore, and even biblical commentary in order to place Bilney and Arthur (and their heresies) in their proper context. In a manner similar to his practice with the liturgy, Skelton uses flies to suggest that Bilney and Arthur are not only wrong, but also impure and spiritually dead.

In the simplest sense, Skelton's repeated use of a popular proverb insists that anyone with even a modicum of sense should be able to see the foolish pride of Bilney and Arthur in their own inadequate learning. |The blind eat many a fly' had proverbially been applied to anyone whose infatuation prevented them from perceiving things clearly. The author of the ballad |Scorn of Women' (c. 1450) proposes that lovers, not seeing properly, do improper and unwholesome things:

Loke well about, ye that louers be;

Lat nat youre lustes leede yow to dotage ...

Men deme hit ryght that they see with ey;

Beware, therefore: the blynd eteth many a fly.(18)

Bilney and Arthur, Skelton implies, are similarily blinded by their love of their own insufficient learning (55-8), which has caused them to |have eaten a flye, / To your great vyllony' (244-5). Repeatedly applying the proverb to the heretics, Skelton acidly remarks that |The blynde eteth many a flye' (152).(19) His citation of proverbial authority here applies the test of commonsense to the heretics and finds them wanting.(20)

If Skelton makes this proverb part of a metaphorical pattern that links the eating of flies with heretical conceptions, he also uses it to illustrate the spiritual pride and corruption of Bilney and Arthur by portraying them as dead bodies, who swell with corruption, and breed still more flies in their corpses. Like dead, rotting meat these heretics |stynke unbrent' (22). Heresy had long been associated with prideful swelling,(21) but Skelton intensifies this conventional trope by portraying it as a product of Bilney and Arthur's internal infection. The pride of heretics is a distinctly earthbound form of inteflectual pride, like that which characterized the false |pedagogys in crist' against whom Paul warned the Corinthians: |For summe of 30u that is of the phylosophrys be blowyn with erthely wysdam.'(22) Skelton portrays Bilney and Arthur as similarly prideful in their learning; their |vayne glorie' has made them |eate the flye' (251-2) and caused them to be |Pufte full of heresy' (253). To an even greater degree than the philosophers Paul describes, the Cambridge heretics are literally puffed up, |enbolned with the flyblowen blast of the moche vayne glorious pipplyng wynde' (13-15). In Skelton's portrayal, their pride becomes the most recent manifestation of the |erronyous errours, odyous, orgulyous, and flyblowen opynions' that have existed throughout the history of the Church.

Arthur and Bilney's heretical conceptions go beyond mere foolishness when Skelton relates them to scientific beliefs about flies. According to these doctrines (most famously propounded by Aristotle), flies were one of the many small creatures which were engendered by decaying matter under the influence of rain, air and the sun's heat.(23) Disseminated by writers such as Isidore of Seville and Albertus Magnus,(24) the doctrine of spontaneous generation was certainly familiar to Skelton. In his translation of Diodorus Siculus, for example, Skelton describes how after the annual flooding of the Nile, the sun, coming into contact with |the wosy myre & fylthe', engendered a great multitude of mice.(25) Skelton's contemporary Paracelsus,(26) as well as Mouffet's somewhat later |Theatre of Insects', attests to a continuing belief in spontaneous generation,(27) which remained a viable theory of the origin of life into the seventeenth century.

According to Skelton, although heresy spreads from person to person like a disease, it also self-generates in a manner similar to the spontaneous generation of flies. In this latter sense, a disease can seem to generate itself spontaneously because it manifests internal sin; that is, the disease is the outward sign of self-generated inner corruption. Since heresy is a specifically spiritual disease, it is one most apt to such apparently spontaneous generation. Bilney and Arthur have thus |enduced a secte / With heresy all infecte' (236-7), but the disease they spread is merely a part of their internal corruption, spontaneously generated out of their spiritual deadness. As Fish points out,(28) the heretics' own foolishness causes them to accept heretical doctrines: that is, their |owne foly' causes them |To be blowen with the flye / Of horryble heresy' (84-6).

Skelton's appropriation of mediaeval scientific lore concerning disease and spontaneous generation -- when seen in the context of the poem's liturgical echoes -- make Bilney's and Arthur's heresy a dark parody of Mary's conception of the Saviour. Both conceptions are spiritual, but the Virgin's is pure and fruitful, while Bilney and Arthur's, bred out of spiritual death and corruption, ultimately proves spiritually sterile.

In employing flies as major symbols in the |Replycacion', Skelton seizes upon a tradition of exegesis which had long associated these insects with enemies of the Church.(29) Kinney has called attention to how Skelton's description of Bilney and Arthur's |flyblown heresies' probably refers to Psalm LXXVII, in which the Psalmist asks for the judgement of God on the thankless Israelites.(30) Skelton thus alludes to how God had sent amongst the Egyptians |divers sorts of flies, which devoured them'.(31) St Augustine and later mediaeval commentators identified the fly of the Psalm with the dog fly,(32)

Augustine observing that this is because dogs are born blind and cannot see their parents.(33) Rupert of Deutz reads this mystically as a failure to observe the fourth commandment (obedience to one's parents), extending this to the failure to obey or respect one's spiritual parents, the prelates of the Church.(34) Peter Lombard in his |Commentarium in Psalmos', applies the plague of frogs and flies to the garrulitatem haereticorum (|the chattering of heretics'),(35) while Nicholas of Lyra, in his Glossa Ordinaria commentary on Exodus, compares the flies to infidels, heretics and Jews.(36) Skelton, as a poet and scholar, may well have been aware of these commentary traditions, which he then links with proverbs and scientific lore in his attack on Bilney and Arthur.

Flies served mediaeval homilists as an especially effective representation of heresy because they symbolized divisiveness. Here again, such an interpretation of flies appears to have been standard. Although a strange bedfellow for Skelton, even Luther, before he left the Catholic Church, makes this association. In his Psalm commentaries of 1514-15, Luther describes how flies

are the dog's teeth of envy, the pricks, bitternesses, the disputes, quarrels, and

rivalries by which they are inwardly stirred up ... As the flies fly and sting and

buzz, so also these headstrong opinions in the soul, especially in the Holy Scriptures

like jews and heretics), are roaming about and stinging the soul and moving

it, as if they were spirits.(37) For Luther, flies suggest the potential for division within the soul, which is the birthplace of heretical ideas.

Luther's use of the image is, of course, entirely conventional, but some overtly heretical writings also employ the fly image in a manner which suggests that the association between flies and heresy was current in late mediaeval England. The mid-fifteenth-century Lollard author of The Lanterne of Lizt warns his readers against six sins: Presumption, Despair, Hardness of Heart, Impenitence, Envy, and Fighting Against the Truth. Under the heading of Envy, he describes how when Christ cast out a devil from a dumb man, the scribes and Pharisees slandered Christ, saying that he had worked this miracle through Beelzebub, who is the god of flies |or ellis a god that makith discorde'. Prelates and friars in contemporary England similarily slander those that |prechen the gospel to Cristis entent to turne the peple to vertuouse lyuyng. Thei seien his man hath eten a flize.'(38) The Lanterne author points to Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, and associates the demon with heresy, discord, and division -- all charges from which the Lollard author wants to distance himself.

Skelton's satirical strategy in the |Replycacion' may be an extension of this contemporary proverbial association between Lollards and flies. Like the Lanterne author, Skelton associates flies with Beelzebub, heresy, discord and division. One of the many Latin sidenotes to the |Replycacion' refers to how |Zebub musca inflativa sibilas ab austro, quae intumescere facit haeresiarchas contra fidem orthodoxam' (|[Beel]zebub, inflated with the hissing of the flies from the south, makes heretics swollen up against the orthodox faith').(39) Skelton thus plays upon the contemporary association between pride, swelling, flies, heresy, and even the Devil -- all of which he identifies with Bilney and Arthur. Applying this conventional trope, Skelton effectively demonizes heresy by placing Bilney and Arthur outside the boundaries of the Church.

In opposition to the conception and inspiration caused by heresy, Skelton offers the divine inspiration of his poetry, and once again the theme of conception figures prominently in Skelton's poetic strategies. Just as the spiritually sterile and self-generated corruption of heresy inflated Bilney and Arthur with pride, so the Holy Spirit brings about both Mary's conception of the Saviour and Skelton's conception of his poetry. According to Skelton, these |fly-blowen' heretics have said |that poetry / Maye nat flye so hye' (306-7). Just as he had earlier traced Bilney and Arthur's lineage back through a long line of heretics and noted enemies of the Church, Skelton now provides himself with his own genealogy of divinely inspired poets in his reply, invoking Ovid, Jerome, Baptista Mantuanus and David. Skelton thus self-consciously enacts his awareness of being one of a larger company of speakers for God. Furthermore, by giving himself his own poetic genealogy, Skelton places himself in a complementary relationship to the liturgy of Mary's conception; he will be devout, pure, fruitful, and thus a fitting advocate for Holy Mother Church.

The poet's attack on Bilney and Arthur also constitutes a sign of God's continuing presence in his Church, for just as Bilney and Arthur become the figural representatives of heresy, so the vates exists as a figural constant within history. Skelton's inspiration, however, does not come from the swelling-up of a dead or spiritually sterile body; his comes from above, like the Virgin's conception of Christ:

And suche a pregnacy,

Of hevenly inspyracion

In laureate creacyon,

Of poetes commendacion,

That of divyne myseracion

God maketh his habytacion

In poetes whiche excelles,

And sojourns with them and dwelles. (321-9)

His will be a |spyrituall poetry' (346), spiritually fruitful because of the divine source of his inspiration and his own vocation as a laureate poet. The |sterile vines', drunken and spiritually unfruitful preachers, can only be pruned back by a |reply' performed by an inspired poet for the proper reasons of faithful devotion (18-19). Skelton's eloquence will come, like the Apostles' or the prophets', from the Holy Spirit.(40) Skelton ironically points to the heretics' learning as something which severs them from true evangelism and divine inspiration, both of which remain accessible to Mary's laureate spokesperson.

In keeping with Skelton's practice elsewhere,(41) liturgical and biblical themes and echoes provide an underlying structure, pulling together his macaronic verse, marginal notes, and tripartite division in a concerted attack on Bilney and Arthur. The true poet's function is to draw these together, imitating the Blessed Virgin in serving the Word by conceiving the logos through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Skelton furthermore suggests that his poetic calling exists throughout history, and that one of the functions of the divinely inspired poet is to tend God's garden on earth. The seeds which he will plant will derive from the inspiration of the Word, which will allow Truth to root out heretical and spiritually corrupt beliefs in the garden of man. Skelton does this most effectively in the guise of a satirist, one whose conception of poetry itself refutes the attacks of heretics on Holy Mother Church and allows the poet to mix a wide range of learning in his own satiric attack.


(1) See, e.g., A. R. Heiserman, Skelton and Satire (Chicago, 1961), pp. 289-90, 311-12; H. L. R. Edwards, Skelton: the Life and Times of an Early Tudor Poet (London, 1949), pp. 246-7; Bernard Sharratt, |John Skelton: finding a voice -- notes after Bakhtin', in Medieval Literature: Criticism, Ideology & History, ed. by David Aers (Brighton, 1986), pp. 218-19; Greg Walker, John Skelton and the Politics of the 1520s (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 58-9.

(2) See Heiserman, Skelton and Satire, pp. 300-2, on satire (or satura) as a mixture of elements which contribute to an attack on the poet's satiric subject.

(3) Arthur Kinney, John Skelton, Priest as Poet (Chapel Hill, NC, 1987), p. 200, has noted how Skelton employs the occasion offered by the Feast of the Conception in order to emphasize that |the art of poetry breathes divinity into Skelton', in much the same way as the birth of Christ fills Mary with divinity.

(4) On Wolsey's patronage of Skelton (or what may have been an attempt of Skelton to secure patronage), see Walker, Politics, pp. 188-218. In his dedication Skelton calls Wolsey |the most excellent patron of the present work'. On the danger Bilney presented to the Church, see Greg Walker, |Saint or schemer? The 1527 heresy trial of Thomas Bilney reconsidered', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, XL (1989), 219-38.

(5) W. Gordon Zeeveld, Foundations of Tudor Policy (Cambridge, Mass., 1948), p. 23.

(6) Skelton's work, along with More's 1528 Dialogue concerning Tyndale, may constitute an attempt to justify the treatment that Bilney in particular had received. See John F. Davis, Heresy and Reformation in the South-East of England, 1520-1559, Royal Historical Society Studies in History, 34 (London, 1983), p. 111; Walker, |Saint or schemer?', esp. pp. 227-9. Also see John Scattergood, |Skelton and heresy', in Early Tudor England: Proceedings of the 1987 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. by Daniel Williams (Woodbridge, 1989), pp. 157-70, for a comparison between Skelton's and More's attacks on Bilney.

(7) A court revel in which the |herrytyke Lewtar [Lutherl' is portrayed |lyke a party frer, in rosset damake and blake taffata', with |Lewtars wife lyke a frowe of Spyers in Almayn, in red sylke' is suggestive of the interest in the representation of heresy at even the highest levels of society. See Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. by J. S. Brewer (London, 1872; repr. New York, 1965), IV, II, 3564. Skelton himself may well have been present at the recantation of Thomas Bowgas on 4 May 1528: see Edwards, Skelton, p. 303. Despite Protestant portrayals of him as |lyttyl Bilney', Davis terms him |the architect of English Evangelism', who was responsible for winning such luminaries as Arthur, Latimer, Barnes and Lambert to the Reformation cause (Davis, Heresy and Reformation, p. 46).

(8) John Skelton, |A Replycacion Agaynst Certayne Yong Scolers Abjured of Late', in The Complete English Poems, ed. by John Scattergood (Harmondsworth, 1983). All line references will be to this edition.

(9) The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, ed. Stephen Reed Cattley, 8 vols. (London, 1837), IV, 632.

(10) See Davis, Heresy and Reformation, p. 51. Bilney abjured to a simplified form of seven articles: |that men should not worship or pray to saints, neither go on pilgrimages nor set up lights before images; that miracles wrought daily are the work of the devil by the suffraunce of god'; that no pope can have the power of Peter unless he be of the same purity of life; and that man cannot merit by his own deeds'. In general Bilney denounced the worship paid to images as idolatry, practised a biblical evangelism, and espoused a doctrine of faith over works. Skelton focuses upon the heretics' disrespect towards the Blessed Virgin, but Foxe recounts no anti-Marian articles brought against Arthur, which suggests that Skelton seized the poetic capital offered to him by the day of their abjuration in order to appeal to specific audiences. Bilney allegedly did deny that Mary was in heaven, and rejected Mary's perpetual virginity, but these were not the chief charges brought against him; nor did they form a part of his abjuration. See Foxe, Acts, ed. Reed, IV, 624-8, for an account of the trial.

(11) As clerics, both Skelton and his satiric targets would have been thoroughly familiar with the Feast's Mass and offices, as well as with how both enunciate themes central to the veneration of Mary.

(12) Missale ad Usum Insignis et Praclarae Ecelesiae Sarum (Burntisland, 1861-83), col. 669.

(13) The Sarum Missal in English, ed. Vernon Statley, 2 vols., The Library of Liturgiology & Ecclesiology (London, 1911), II, 257. Although Kinney, Priest as Poet, p. 202, also points to these lines of the liturgy, he does so as an illustration of the Virgin's function as mediatrix rather than of her spiritual fruitfulness.

(14) Scattergood's translation. |Crassantes nimium, mimium sterilesque labruscas, / Vinea quas Domini Sabaot non sustinet ultra / Laxius expandi, nostra est resecare voluntas.'

(15) It is possible that Bilney and Arthur become types of the eunuchus non Dei, perverse Churchmen who are, as in Miller's analysis of Chaucer's Pardoner, |sterile in good works, impotent to produce spiritual fruit'. See Robert P. Miller, |Chaucer's Pardoner, the scriptural eunuch, and The Pardoner's Tale', Speculum, XXX (1955), 180-99; repr. in Chaucer Criticism: the Canterbury Tales, ed. by Richard Schoeck and Jerome Taylor (Notre Dame, Ind., 1960), pp. 221-44 (p. 226)

(16) Scattergood does not print most of the sidenotes. My references to these are to The Poetical Works of John Skelton, ed. by the Reverend Alexander Dyce, 2 vols. (London, 1843), I, 231-50.

(17) As Kinney has noted in his reading of |Ware the Hawk', here an apparently |straightforward event is invested with meaning because it is seen as a sign of figural truth' (Priest as Poet, p. 91). Just as, in Kinney's reading of |Ware the Hawk', |Skelton celebrates the hawking curate by writing a poem about his hawking, an evil event which nevertheless provides an occasion for the renewal of belief', so in the |Replycacion' Skelton finds in the heresy of Bilney and Arthur a similar occasion for renewal.

(18) Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, ed. by Rossell Hope Robbins (Oxford, 1952), p. 224.

(19) For a list of Skelton's proverbs, see Paula Neuss, |Proverbial Skelton', Studia Neophilolgica, LIV (1982), 237-46.

(20) On the social and political force of such common-sense sayings, see Cliffbrd Geertz, Local Knowledge (New York, 1983), pp. 73-93.

(21) Harpsfield, e.g., describes how William Roper was |at length so farre waded into heresie and puffed vp with pride that he wished he might be suffred publikely to preache': Nicholas Harpsfield, The Life and Death of Sir Thomas More, ed. Elsie Vaughn Hitchcock, EETS, os, 186 (London, 932), p. 86.

(22) I Corinthians iv. 18: The Pauline Epistles contained in MS. Parker 32, ed. Margaret Joyce Powell, EETS, ES, 116 (London, 1916), p. 61.

(23) Aristotle, Generation of Animals, trans. by A. L. Peck (London, 1979), p. 47; A. I. Oparin, The Origin of Life, trans. Sergius Morgulis, 2nd edn (New York, 1953), pp. 4-6.

(24) Isidori Hispalensis Episco Etymologiarum sive Originuw, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1911), XII, 8; Albert the Great: Man and Beasts: De Animalibus (Books 22-26), trans. by James J. Scanlan, Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 47 (Binghamton, NY, 1987), p. 436; The Prose Salernitan Questions, ed. by Brian Lawn (London, 1979), p. 346.

(25) Diodorus Siculus, ed. by F. M. Salter and H. L. R. Edwards, EETS, os, 233 (London, 1956), p. 15 (lines 3-11).

(26) Oparin, Origin, p. 10.

(27) Repr. in H. W. Seager, Natural History in Shakespeare's Time (London, 1896), p. 118: |Flies are generated two ways, -- by coupling with their own species, or by the putrefaction of other things.'

(28) Stanley Fish, John Skelton's Poetty (New Haven, Conn., 1965), p. 12.

(29) Brian Stock, The Implications of Literay (Princeton, NJ, 1986), pp. 101-6, provides a detailed discussion of one of the earliest examples in his analysis of Gregory of Tours's account of one Leutard, a peasant from Vertus on the Marne, whose infection with heresy is associated with a swarm of bees: see The History of the Franks, trans. by Lewis Thorpe (London, 1974), p. 584, Occasionally, however, small insects combat heresy, as in the story Odo of Cheriton tells of the fly who pricks a heretic in the face. In other exempla, however, flies represent wicked Churchmen and enemies of the Church. See Les Fabulistes latins, ed. by Leopold Hervieux, 5 vols. (Paris, 1893-9; repr. New York, 1965), IV, 186, 246-8.

(30) Kinney, Priest as Poet, p. 200.

(31) Douay-Rheims Version, Psalm LXXVII.45

(32) Isidore of Seville, Epmologiarum, XII, 8; Biblia Sacra cum Glossa Ordinaria, 6 vols. (Antwerp, 1617), III, col. 1029.

(33) J. M. Neale and R. F. Littledale, A Commentary on the Psalms from Primitive and Medieval Writers, 4 vols. (London, 1879), II, 564.

(34) PL, CLXVII, col. 601.

(35) PL, CXCI, col. 737.

(36) Glossa Ordinaria, I, cols. 565-6: |Per quas significantur conuenticula infidelium & haereticorum, & secundum Hebracos, inter istas muscas aliquae erant veneosae, per quas significantur heresiarches.'

(37) Luther's Works: First Lectures on the Psalms, ed. by Hilton C. Oswald (St Louis, Mo., 1976), XI, 74-5.

(38) The Lanterne of List, ed. by Lilian M. Swinburn, EETS, os, 151 (London, 1976), p. 11.

(39) My translation, based upon Johann Reuchlin's Vocabularis Breviloquus (Strasburg, 1493), sig. [LL]L [7.sup.v]. Many of the Latin sidenotes are based upon Reuchlin's book.

(40) The Lanterne of List, ed. Swinburn, p. 5: |For the apostlis of Crist & othir seintis weren not graduat men in scolis but the Holi Goost sodenli enspirid hem & maden hem plenteuous [sic] of heuenli loore.'

(41) Kinney, Priest as Poet, p. 14, especially draws attention to how |in his major poems Skelton frequently incorporates scraps of Church liturgy to signal perspective and meaning elsewhere, which a full appreciation of his poem demands'.