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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Anonymous (15th Century)

The Usurer’s Paternoster

THE USURER betimes arose,

And did the bolts and bars unclose

To see if any sought his door

To borrow money from his store;

Then in his shoes and clothes arrayed,

He woke from sleep his wife and maid.

“Now quickly rise, my orders heed:

Should any hither come who need

To borrow, and their pledge pull forth,

That I lose not, mark well its worth;

Then haste to me, but quietly;

I in the little church shall be;

For no long time I there shall wait,

In short time will the loss be great.”

This said, no longer he delayed,

But gained the church, and thus he prayed:


“Oh, gracious Lord,

To make me such thy help afford,

That I may by my wits obtain

The special glory and the gain

Of winning, gathering such a heap,

That I shall pass and overleap

The richest Usurers of yore,

Who e’er for profit lent their store.


“I’m afraid

That ever ready is my maid

To steal my money, arid to cheat;

But all in vain shall she entreat—

A mess of peas one month entire

Is all she’ll cook upon the fire.

I spend too much, it makes me wroth;

Better by far to live on broth

Than thus to run my money through,

As all those fools are wont to do

Who will have venison in the dish,

And salted meats, and dainty fish.

Fiat voluntas tua

That knight who paid me yesterday,

The one who owed me fifty pound,

Not yet has liberation found;

Nearly one-half he owes me yet—

He need not think that I forget.

What can I lose? His faith I have,

And urged, his word of honor gave

That in a month, without delay,

The whole remainder he would pay.

Yet in that case I scarce was wise:

These pledges are of little price.

Sicut in cœlo
“To the Jews

These times enormous gain produce,

For universally they lend;

To them alone all people wend.

No blame their doings ever met—

Indeed, I mightily regret

My practise cannot be as theirs;

I would greatly better my affairs.

Et ne nos inducas
“Last night

Much money that I took was light,

And even false coins were among.

To take by night is greatly wrong,

Money or pledge from any one

Unless a man of honor known.

In tentationem

I’m sure will higher price attain;

My garners I should fill, ’tis clear;

I know that living will be dear

After the feast of John is past,

This year far more than was the last.

Sed libera nos a malo

“No worthy neighbor do I know;

Of none of them I profit make;

All hate me for my money’s sake.

In God’s name, is it their concern

What I by lending money earn?


“I turn my house to reach:

Our priest is going now to preach,

Money from out our purse to whisk;

But I believe there’s little risk

That he’ll catch mine in such a net—

His music is too falsely set.”