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Usenet, AD 1540

      While doing some research late one evening, I came across a series of broadsides printed in 1540, consisting of a public argument between two men on the matters of Catholicism, Protestantism and treason.

      The first thing that caught my eye was the constant use of the word "troll" -- and the further I read, the more I was reminded of Usenet flamewars, even down to accusations of taking things out of context.

      I therefore present excerpts of this pre-Internet flamewar for your amusement, as it might look in the newsgroups today. (I haue modernysde the spellynges to meke yt easyer to vnderstaund...) Note to the humor-impaired: no, the message headers were not present in the originals. Sheesh.

   From: W.G. <wg@LondOnline.co.uk>
   Newsgroups: tudor.general
   Subject: A balade against malicious Slanderers
   Thou makest a trolling hither and thither
   Sometime thou trollest thou canst not tell whither.
   But if all thy trollings were gathered together
   Thy trolling might trim thee and turn thee to blame
   Wherefore troll thou now into the way for shame.
   Hast thou no man else, thou drunken soul,
   But the King and his nobles away for to troll?
   It were enough for to cost thee thy poll --
   Both thine and all others' that would do the same.
   Troll away, traitors; God give thee shame!

   From: Thomas Smyth <smyth@whitehall.gov.uk>
   Newsgroups: tudor.general
   Subject: A little treatise against seditious persons
   Truly to troll, it is no manner of shame
   And trolling untrue, is not to be maintained.
   As everything is, so give it proper name
   Amongst all true honest men, should not be disdained.
   With many words more troublous than now I will rehearse
   Not doubting at all, but at length they shall be known.
   Such trolling treacherous, my heart doth so pierce
   Considering how seditiously amongst us they be sown.
   Of late I well trusted they had been overblown,
   But now I well perceive that neither favour nor smart
   From the body can expel that is rooted in the heart.

   From: W.G. <wg@LondOnline.co.uk>
   Newsgroups: tudor.general
   Subject: An answer to master Smyth

   Whether you troll in or else troll out,
   You troll untruly; look better about.
   But blindly have you slandered me, good master Thomas Smyth,
   Scraping together scriptures, your madness to maintain.
   Truly, your rude rowdy reason, being so far from the pith,
   Had need of such a cloak, to keep it from the rain,
   For all the world may perceive how falsely you forge and feign.
   Yet still you affirm your falsehood, as though you knew things
      precisely -- 
   Christ's blessing on your heart; forsoorth, you have done full

   You rumble among the scriptures, as one that were half mad,
   Wresting and writhing them according to your own purpose;
   Factioning and framing them to your sayings good and bad,
   Like as the holy Papists were wont to paint their popish glows
   Do you take the holy scripture to be like a shipman's hose?
   Nay, nay; although a shipman's hose will serve all sorts of legs,
   Yet Christ's holy scripture will serve no rotten dregs.

   From: Thomas Smyth <smyth@whitehall.gov.uk>
   Newsgroups: tudor.general
   Subject: An envoy from Thomas Smith upon the answer of one W. G.
   Whether I troll here, or troll there, I will so troll about
   That in my trolling, I do trust, as you are, to troll you out.

   You ruffle and you rail, for malice and despite
   And as a raging ruffian, yourself you do show plain.
   Forasmuch as you be grieved with that, that I did write,
   Which I will never deny, but thoroughly maintain
   Yet (as you write) in one point, you have cause to complain
   For that I spake but of likelyhood and went by guess
   Of the treason in your heart, you knowing there no less.

   Blustering in your boldness, you would yourself a traitor prove
   Upon the only pretense of my most desired fall
   The maintenance of popery, you say I do most love
   Which if you know true, then a traitor I may you call
   For such your concealment but I would drive you to the trial
   Both our doings shall appear, though deterred for a space;
   I am no "W. G." -- I dare well show my face.

   From: W.G. <wg@LondOnline.co.uk>
   Newsgroups: tudor.general
   Subject: The return of Mr. Smyth's envoy
   Troll here, troll there, troll out, troll in;
   You troll away & troll about like a blind sim.
   Though with the point of my pen, I did you so spur and prick,
   That thereby you were grieved, and greatly stirred to ire.
   Yet I counsel you to sit sure, and that you neither winch nor kick;
   For and if you do, I will surely lay you in the mire.
   Take no more upon you than is meet; lest yourself you do tire,
   Or some other mischief chance you, take this proverb for a token:
   That a sick man is soon beaten, and a skald head soon broken.

   The rest of your railings, I will as now omit;
   Upon such brainless braggery my time I will not spend.
   They do nothing else but manifest the lewd use of your wit
   And the mischief of your heart which to other you do pretend.
   You have none other buckler yourself for to defend;
   Who rebuketh your sect, or would reform your popery
   Among you straight, he is a maintainer of heresy.

   From: "G.C." <gc@LondOnline.co.uk>
   Newsgroups: tudor.general
   Subject: Knock it off, you guys...
   (A Pamphlet compiled by G.C.,
   To master Smyth and William G.,
   Praying them both, for the love of our Lord,
   To grow at last to an honest accord.)

   Which thing doth force me thus to write
   Concerning the uncharity
   Of two that now with hateful spite
   Do blame each other openly
   To none of both I owe despite,
   Nor this is none Apology
   For neither part: but strife to stent
   Is ground of all mine argument.

   The strife I speak of is betwixt
   One master Smyth & William G.
   Their writings are confusely mix'd
   With biting words, and villainy.
   In each of them, a will is fix'd
   To maintain still his vanity,
   Which hath a very feeble ground
   Wherewith his enemy to confound.

   [18 more stanzas, basically, of "Can't we all just get along?"]

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