The printing press was newly invented and printed books still quite a novelty when “The Ship of Fools” was first set in type. This is a collection of moralistic ditties with a humorous twist. Here is one example of a “fool” poem with editing by myself to clarify:
An exhortation of Alexander Barclay
But you that shall read this book: I exhort you,
And you that are hearers thereof also, I pray
Whereas you know that you are of this sort:
Amend your life and expel that vice away.
Slumber not in sin. Amend your sins while you may.
And if you do so and virtue and grace ensue
Within my ship you get no room nor place.
This little verse may seem sort of oxymoronic but I suppose the author is saying that if you have no vices, and you have virtue and grace to spare, then you will have no use for the advice dispensed by the author(s) of “A Ship of Fools.” You are perfect and it will not be necessary that you expose yourself to the rough-hewn translation of “fools” who live without pretensions of having already achieved that state of perfection and with full humility confess their human follies and foibles, having in common with humanity at large that tendency of human nature to sin and, like sheep, to go wander and stray from the fold of God and to be in need of forgiveness and restoration.