The Golden Ass

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Chapter 5

How Apuleius was cheapned by divers persons, and how they looked in his mouth to know his age.

After this we came to a faire Citie very populous, where our shepheards determined to continue, by reason that it seemed a place where they might live unknowne, far from such as should pursue them, and because it was a countrey very plentifull of corne and other victuals, where when we had remained the space of three dayes, and that I poore Asse and the other horses were fed and kept in the stable to the intent we might seeme more saleable, we were brought out at length to the market, and by and by a crier sounded with his horne to notifie that we were to be sold: all my companion horses were bought up by Gentlemen, but as for me I stood still forsaken of all men. And when many buiers came by and looked in my mouth to know mine age, I was so weary with opening my jawes that at length (unable to endure any longer) when one came with a stinking paire of hands and grated my gummes with his filthy fingers, I bit them cleane off, which thing caused the standers by to forsake me as being a fierce and cruell beast: the crier when he had gotten a hoarse voice with crying, and saw that no man would buy me, began to mocke me saying, To what end stand we here with this wilde Asse, this feeble beast, this slow jade with worne hooves, good for nothing but to make sives of his skin? Why do we not give him to some body for he earneth not his hay? In this manner he made all the standers by to laugh exceedingly, but my evill fortune which was ever so cruell against me, whom I by travell of so many countreys could in no wise escape, did more and more envie me, with invention of new meanes to afflict my poore body in giving me a new Master as spitefull as the rest. There was an old man somewhat bald, with long and gray haire, one of the number of those that go from door to door, throughout all the villages, bearing the Image of the goddesse Syria, and playing with Cimbals to get the almes of good and charitable folks, this old man came hastely towards the cryer, and demanded where I was bred: Marry (quoth he) in Cappadocia: Then he enquired what age I was of, the cryer answered as a Mathematician, which disposed to me my Planets, that I was five yeares old, and willed the old man to looke in my mouth: For I would not willingly (quoth he) incur the penalty of the law Cornelia, in selling a free Citizen for a servile slave, buy a Gods name this faire beast to ride home on, and about in the countrey: But this curious buier did never stint to question of my qualities, and at length he demanded whether I were gentle or no: Gentle (quoth the crier) as gentle as a Lambe, tractable to all use, he will never bite, he will never kicke, but you would rather thinke that under the shape of an Asse there were some well advised man, which verely you may easily conject, for if you would thrust your nose in his taile you shall perceive how patient he is: Thus the cryer mocked the old man, but he perceiving his taunts and jests, waxed very angry saying, Away doting cryer, I pray the omnipotent and omniparent goddesse Syria, Saint Sabod, Bellona, with her mother Idea, and Venus, with Adonis, to strike out both thine eies, that with taunting mocks hast scoffed me in this sort: Dost thou thinke that I will put a goddesse upon the backe of any fierce beast, whereby her divine Image should be throwne downe on the ground, and so I poore miser should be compelled (tearing my haire) to looke for some Physition to helpe her? When I heard him speake thus, I thought with my selfe sodainly to leap upon him like a mad Asse, to the intent he should not buy me, but incontinently there came another Marchant that prevented my thought, and offered 17 Pence for me, then my Master was glad and received the money, and delivered me to my new Master who was called Phelibus, and he caried his new servant home, and before he came to his house, he called out his daughters saying, Behold my daughters, what a gentle servant I have bought for you: then they were marvailous glad, and comming out pratling and shouting for joy, thought verely that he had brought home a fit and conveniable servant for their purpose, but when they perceived that it was an Asse, they began to provoke him, saying that he had not bought a servant for his Maidens, but rather an Asse for himselfe. Howbeit (quoth they) keepe him not wholly for your owne riding, but let us likewise have him at commandement. Therewithall they led me into the stable, and tied me to the manger: there was a certaine yong man with a mighty body, wel skilled in playing on instruments before the gods to get money, who (as soone as he had espied me) entertained me verie well, for he filled my racke and maunger full of meat, and spake merrily saying, O master Asse, you are very welcome, now you shall take my office in hand, you are come to supply my roome, and to ease me of my miserable labour: but I pray God thou maist long live and please my Master well, to the end thou maist continually deliver me from so great paine. When I heard these words I did prognosticate my miserie to come.

The day following I saw there a great number of persons apparelled in divers colours, having painted faces, mitres on their heads, vestiments coloured like saffron, Surplesses of silke, and on their feet yellow shooes, who attired the goddesse in a robe of Purple, and put her upon my backe. Then they went forth with their armes naked to their shoulders, bearing with them great swords and mightie axes, and dancing like mad persons. After that we had passed many small villages, we fortuned to come to one Britunis house, where at our first entrie they began to hurle themselves hither and thither, as though they were mad. They made a thousand gestures with their feete and their hands, they would bite themselves, finally, every one tooke his weapon and wounded his armes in divers places.

Amongst whom there was one more mad then the rest, that let many deepe sighes from the bottome of his heart, as though he had beene ravished in spirite, or replenished with divine power. And after that, he somewhat returning to himselfe, invented and forged a great lye, saying, that he had displeased the divine majesty of the goddesse, by doing of some thing which was not convenable to the order of their holy religion, wherefore he would doe vengeance of himselfe: and therewithall he tooke a whip, and scourged his owne body, that the bloud issued out aboundantly, which thing caused me greatly to feare, to see such wounds and effusion of bloud, least the same goddesse desiring so much the bloud of men, should likewise desire the bloud of an Asse. After they were wearie with hurling and beating themselves, they sate downe, and behold, the inhabitants came in, and offered gold, silver, vessels of wine, milke, cheese, flower, wheate and other things: amongst whom there was one, that brought barly to the Asse that carried the goddesse, but the greedie whoresons thrust all into their sacke, which they brought for the purpose and put it upon my backe, to the end I might serve for two purposes, that is to say, for the barne by reason of my corne, and for the Temple by reason of the goddesse. In this sort, they went from place to place, robbing all the Countrey over. At length they came to a certaine Castle where under colour of divination, they brought to passe that they obtained a fat sheepe of a poore husbandman for the goddesse supper and to make sacrifice withall. After that the banket was prepared, they washed their bodies, and brought in a tall young man of the village, to sup with them, who had scarce tasted a few pottage, when hee began to discover their beastly customes and inordinate desire of luxury. For they compassed him round about, sitting at the table, and abused the young man, contrary to all nature and reason. When I beheld this horrible fact, I could not but attempt to utter my mind and say, O masters, but I could pronounce no more but the first letter O, which I roared out so valiantly, that the young men of the towne seeking for a straie Asse, that they had lost the same night, and hearing my voice, whereby they judged that I had beene theirs, entred into the house unwares, and found these persons committing their vile abhomination, which when they saw, they declared to all the inhabitants by, their unnatural villany, mocking and laughing at this the pure and cleane chastity of their religion. In the meane season, Phelibus and his company, (by reason of the bruit which was dispersed throughout all the region there of their beastly wickednesse) put all their trumpery upon my backe, and departed away about midnight. When we had passed a great part of our journey, before the rising of the Sun, we came into a wild desart, where they conspired together to slay me. For after they had taken the goddesse from my backe and set her gingerly upon the ground, they likewise tooke off my harnesse, and bound me surely to an Oake, beating me with their whip, in such sort that all my body was mortified. Amongst whom there was one that threatened to cut off my legs with his hatchet, because by my noyse I diffamed his chastity, but the other regarding more their owne profit than my utility, thought best to spare my life, because I might carry home the goddesse. So they laded me againe, driving me before them with their naked swords, till they came to a noble City: where the principall Patrone bearing high reverence unto the goddesse, Came in great devotion before us with Tympany, Cymbals, and other instruments, and received her, and all our company with much sacrifice and veneration. But there I remember, I thought my selfe in most danger, for there was one that brought to the Master of the house, a side of a fat Bucke for a present, which being hanged behind the kitchin doore, not far from the ground, was cleane eaten up by a gray hound, that came in. The Cooke when he saw the Venison devoured, lamented and wept pitifully. And because supper time approached nigh, when as he should be reproved of too much negligence, he tooke a halter to hang himselfe: but his wife perceiving whereabout he went, ran incontinently to him, and taking the halter in both her hands, stopped him of his purpose, saying, O husband, are you out of your writs? pray husband follow my counsel, cary this strange Asse out into some secret place and kill him, which done, cut off one of his sides, and sawce it well like the side of the Bucke, and set it before your Master. Then the Cooke hearing the counsell of his wife, was well pleased to slay me to save himselfe: and so he went to the whetstone, to sharpe his tooles accordingly.

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