An Hundred Epigrammes

About this text

Introductory notes

John Heywood was born in 1497, and became a chorister of the Chapel Royal. He is said to have been educated at Broadgates Hall (Pembroke College), Oxford. From 1521, the king's accounts mention him as player of the virginals, and in 1538, playing an interlude with his children. Heywood composed interludes for performance at court, with his father-in-law the printer and composer John Rastell. Despite his Catholic views, Heywood was retained at the courts of Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. In 1564, the Act of Uniformity against Catholics forced him to flee to Belgium. His plays and epigrams often make mocking use of the dialogue form to satirise social and legal abuses, particularly the poor man’s lack of choice, as the selected piece shows.

An hundred
Invented and
John Hey-
Anno Chiristi.


1. A talke of two conies. XXXVII

In tyme, whan dom beast{is}, as wel as bird{is}, spake?
Two conies their myndes in this mater brake.
Were all conies in such case (said the tone)
That of two wynters weathers we must choose one,
Whiche were best choise, frost never, & snowe ever?
Or els to choose froste ever, and snow never.
Frost (quoth the tother) maketh us lustie and fat,
And snow lameth us for leave. What ({quod} he) for that?
Fortie fat conies be oft kild in one night,
Whan leane conies with life scape awaie quight.
Ye(quoth the tother) but where snow to long lieth,
Conies by famin well nie every one dieth.
Better all be fatte, though some die, as lotts fall,
Than lynger in leannes, and therby die all.
This is a selection from the original text


death, famine, fat, frost

Source text

Title: An Hundred Epigrammes

Author: John Heywood

Publisher: John Heywood

Publication date: 1550

Edition: 2nd Edition

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 13294.5 No. of pages: [48] p. Copy from: Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City Reel position: STC / 926:08

Digital edition

Original author(s): John Heywood

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) A talke of two conies. XXXVII, image 14


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > poetry

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.