A Satirical Poem
THE singularly interesting fragment of early English literature known as Cocke Lorelles Bote, is a satirical poem of four hundred and fourteen lines, in which various classes of society, chiefly of the lower order, are passed under review in rapid succession. The glimpse we obtain of each class is only momentary, but the author with some well chosen phrase, in that short time sketches their failings.
The hero of the poem was the leader of a notorious band of robbers which infested the metropolis, and was probably alive at the time of its publication. He is mentioned by Samuel Rowlands in “Martin Mark-all, Beadle of Bridewell, his Defence and Answere to the Belman of London,” printed in 1610, who describes him in these terms:—“After him, succeeded by general councell, one Cocke Lorrell, the most notorious knave that ever lived: by trade he was a tinker, often carrying a panne and a hammer for show: but when he came to a good booty, he would cast his profession in a ditch, and play the padder, and then would away, and as hee past through the toune, crie, ‘Ha you any worke for a tinker?’ To write of his knaveries it would aske a long time: I referre you to the old manuscript remayning on record in Maunder’s Hall. This was he that reduced and brought in forme the Catalogue of Vagabonds, or Quarterne of Knaves, called the five and twentie Orders of Knaves: but because it is extant, and in every mans shop, I passe them over.... This Cocke Lorrell continued among them longer than any of his predecessors before him, or after him, for he ruled almost two and twentie yeares, until the yeare An. Dom. 1533, and about the five and twenty yeare of K. Henry the Eight.”