Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Bird in borrowed Feathers
By Sir John Bourchier, Lord Berners (c. 14671533)
LORDS, said this friar, there was once a fowl appeared in this world without any feathers; and when all other fowls knew that he was born, they came to see him, because he was so fair and pleasant to behold. Then they imagined among them what they might do for this bird, for without feathers they knew well he could not live; and they said they would he should live, because he was so fair: then every fowl there gave him of their feathers, and the fairer bird the more feathers he gave him, so that then he was a fair bird, and a well feathered, and began to fly; and the birds that had given him of their feathers, when they saw him fly, they took great pleasure: and when this bird saw himself so well feathered, and that all other fowls honoured him, he began to wax proud, and took no regard of them that had made him, but picked and spurred at them, and was contrary to them. Then the other birds drew together, and demanded each other what was best to be done with this bird that they had made up of nought and now so disdaineth them. Then the Peacock said, he is greatly beautied by reason of my feathers; I will take them again from him: in the name of good, said the Falcon, so will I have mine; and so said all the other birds: and then they began to take again from him all the feathers that they had given him. And when this bird saw that, he humbled himself, and knowledged of the wealth and honour that he had, not of himself but of them; for he knew that he came into the world naked and bare, and the feathers that he had they might well take from him again when they list: then he cried them mercy, and said, that he would amend himself, and no more be proud; and so then again these gentle birds had pity on him, and feathered him again, and said to him, we would gladly see thee fly among us, so thou wilt be humble as thou oughtest to be; but know surely, if thou be any more proud and disdainous, we will take from thee all thy feathers, and set thee as we found thee first.
Thus said the friar John to the Cardinals that were in his presence: Sirs, thus shall it fall on you of the church, for the Emperor of Rome and of Almayne, and the other kings christened, and high princes of the world, have given you the goods and possessions and riches to the entent to serve God, and ye spend it in pride and superfluity.