4. Abraham

Play 4, ABRAHAM: FOOTNOTES


1 Abraham follows

2 Lines 11–12: Where all our elders have gone / is a matter of great wonder for me

3 Lines 31–32: Thus because they aroused my lord’s anger, / he took vengeance on [their] sin through his power

4 Lines 47–48: For surely I know no better alternative, / and there is no one who may better help [than God]

5 Lines 79–80: Gladly would I have this thing arranged, / since it profits nothing to delay

6 Lines 89–91: If Isaac — wherever he is — / knew what danger he was in, / he would now be afraid

7 Here Isaac will leave his father

8 Lines 210[c]–11: Let [your] love now be seen for my mother’s sake

9 I spoke with God recently, I believe

10 And he kisses him


Play 4, ABRAHAM: EXPLANATORY NOTES


ABBREVIATONS HERE

ABBREVIATIONS: Chester: The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. Lumiansky and Mills (1974); CT: The Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson (1987); DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language; Elliott: The Apocryphal New Testament, ed. Elliott; EP: The Towneley plays, ed. England and Pollard (1897); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (“the Towneley manuscript”); N-Town: The N-Town Plays, ed. Sugano (2007); OED: Oxford English Dictionary; REED: Records of Early English Drama; SC: The Towneley Plays, eds. Stevens and Cawley (1994); s.d.: stage direction; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).

The concluding lines of this play are lost, along with the beginning of the next, due to a pair of missing leaves; given the line count on adjacent pages, the loss could amount to more than 200 lines in total. However, the Abraham play is very nearly complete as it stands, covering all of the narrative of the biblical source (Genesis 22:1–19) other than the actual sacrifice of the ram (which could nonetheless be performed; see note to line 283, below) and a final blessing (voiced by the angel in the biblical text, as in York 10.335–50) before the return home. The bulk of the missing material, then, likely belonged to the Isaac play that follows.




Before 1 Sequitur Abraham. This phrase uniquely repeats the end of the explicit for the previous play, Noah.

1 Adonay. The name of God (the Tetragrammaton based on Exodus 3:14, most often transliterated as Yahweh or “Jehovah” in early translations of the Bible) is not pronounced in Jewish tradition; Adonai, meaning “lord,” served as the primary spoken substitute, finding its way into Christian tradition.

6 oyle of mercy. See note to 3.66.

20 More then thre hundreth yere. According to Genesis 5:5, Adam lived for 930 years. The manuscript has CCC (300), which should read DCCCC (as noted in SC p. 455n20 but otherwise unemended).

29–30 And Loth fro Sodome . . . yit eschapyd he. Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with unrepentant sin, but were destroyed along with two other cities, not just a third as suggested here; of the five 'cities of the plain' only one — Bela or Zoar (see Genesis 19:20–25) — was spared as a refuge for Lot. “Thre” could be a misreading of a word such as “Thof” (“though” — see lines 123, 125) or “There.” While Lot appears in the Chester play of Abraham, the fall of Sodom is not represented in any extant medieval English plays.

38 An hundreth yeris certys have I seyn. See Genesis 21:5.

68 the land of Visyon. The Vulgate translation of Genesis 22:2 has God tell Abraham to take Isaac “in terram visionis,” for the Hebrew Moriah, the hill that 2 Paralipomenon (Chronicles) 3:1 and subsequent tradition identified with the site of the Temple in Jerusalem.

100 God hold me long youre life in quart. That is, may God long keep you safe for my sake.

107, s.d. Hic transsiet Isaac a patre. The stage direction is written in the margin beside lines 105–06 and 107–08 (the quatrain being written as two lines) but belongs here.

145 . Ye two here with this asse abide. Abraham addresses the two servant boys, who will remain with the ass (see Genesis 22:3–5) while Abraham and Isaac climb the hill, possibly moving from ground level onto a stage of some sort. While this is the first mention of the two boys, they should likely appear along with the ass (whether real or artificial) at line 117. Isaac alone rides the ass toward the expected place of sacrifice (see line 136), providing a typological connection to Jesus at his entry into Jerusalem (see Matthew 21:1–11); the Chester Isaac carries wood (signifying the cross) up the hill, as does their York counterpart, who is also represented as being “Thyrty yere and more sumdele” (York 10.82) — that is, the age of Jesus at the crucifixion.

191 no skill. That is, there is nothing reasonable or right that can be done to avoid the situation.

258 let thee go. The angel is holding Abraham (or his sword) back to prevent him from killing Isaac. Abraham apparently then realizes what is happening, and prostrates himself before the angel — hence the order to stand in the next line.

262 sendys this beest to thyn offerand. In Genesis 22:13, Abraham sees a ram caught in a bush, which he then offers as sacrifice in place of Isaac.

264 And do as he me command. SC emend the original doyng – here emended to do as – to do and, where and is used in the sense of “if,” arguing that the scribe mistook do and for a form of the present participle (p. 456n263–64). However, they gloss the line as here emended, without any conditional sense.

283 put up youre sword agayn. Abraham is presumably still holding his sword in order to sacrifice the ram; if the ram is slaughtered onstage after line 280, perhaps the sole opportunity in the extant portion of the play, the sword could be bloody.


Play 4, ABRAHAM: TEXTUAL NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: EP: The Towneley Plays, ed. England and Pollard (EETS, 1897); Facs: The Towneley Cycle: A Facsimile of Huntington MS HM 1, ed. Cawley and Stevens; MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (base text); SC: The Towneley Plays, ed. Stevens and Cawley (EETS, 1994); s.d.: stage direction; Surtees: The Towneley Mysteries, ed. Raine; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).

13 From Adam unto Eve assent. MS: Iohn written in a later hand in the right margin.

17 thou. So SC. MS: thai. Abraham is addressing God, who cast Adam and Eve out of paradise.

20 thre hundreth. MS: CCC.

26 His wife and. So SC. MS: His and.

29 yode. So EP. MS: yede.

36 My. So EP, SC. MS: M.

38 hundreth. So EP. MS: C.

43 And. MS: And and.

80 it. MS: inserted above the line.

107 saif. MS: faif.

107, s.d. Isaac. MS: the last four letters of Isaac are cut off due to the page being trimmed. See also Explanatory Note.

158 kepe you ever. So EP, SC. MS: kepe ever.

169–70 Now son I . . . myne hart went. MS: a red rule, ostensibly a false cue line, has been drawn and largely erased under these two lines (written as one in MS).

186 trespast. MS: trespat.

196 who. MS: inserted above the line.

264 do as. MS: doyng. SC emend to do and. See Explanatory Note.

 
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4. Abraham

from: The Towneley Plays  2017








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Abraham
God
Isaac
Boy 1
Boy 2
Angel

Sequitur Abraham. 1

Adonay, thou God veray,
Thou here us when we to thee call,
As thou art he that best may;
Thou art most socoure and help of all.
Mightfull lord, to thee I pray:
Let onys the oyle of mercy fall.
Shall I never abide that day?
Truly yit I hope I shall.

Mercy, lord omnipotent.
Long syn he this warld has wroght,
Wheder ar all oure elders went,
This musys mekill in my thoght. 2
From Adam unto Eve assent,
Ete of that appyll sparid he noght
For all the wisdom that he ment;
Full dere that bargan has he boght.

From Paradise thou bad hym gang;
He went mowrnyng with symple chere
And after liffyd he here full lang,
More then thre hundreth yere,
In sorow and in travell strang,
And every day he was in were.
His childre angred hym amang;
Caym slo Abell, was hym full dere.

Sithen Noe that was trew and good,
His wife and his chyldre thre,
Was saved when all was flood,
That was a wonder thyng to se.
And Loth fro Sodome when he yode
Thre cytees brent, yit eschapyd he.
Thus for thai menged my Lordys mode
He vengid syn thrugh his pausté. 3

When I thynk of oure elders all
And of the mervels that has been,
No gladnes in my hart may fall;
My comfort goys away full cleyn.
Lord, when shall dede make me his thrall?
An hundreth yeris, certys, have I seyn
Ma fa, sone I hope he shall,
For it were right hie tyme, I weyn.

Yit Adam is to hell gone,
And ther has ligen many a day,
And all oure elders everychon,
Thay ar gone the same way,
Unto God will here thare mone.
Now help, Lord Adonay,
For certys, I can no better wone
And ther is none that better may. 4

I will help Adam and his kynde,
Might I luf and lewté fynd,
Wold thay to me be trew and blyn
Of thare pride and of thare syn.
My servand I will found and frast,
Abraham, if he be trast;
On certan wise I will hym prove
If he to me be trew of louf.

Abraham, Abraham!
Who is that? War, let me se!
I herd oone neven my name.
It is I; take tent to me
That fourmed thi fader Adam
And everythyng in it degré.
To here thi will redy I am,
And to fulfill whatever it be.

Of mercy have I herd thi cry;
Thi devoute prayers have me bun
If thou me luf, look that thou hy
Unto the land of Visyon,
And the thryd day be ther, bid I,
And take with thee Isaac, thi son,
As a beest to sacryfy;
To slo hym look thou not shon,

And bren hym ther to thyn offerand.
A, lovyd be thou Lord in throne!
Hold over me, Lord, thy holy hand,
For certys thi bidyng shall be done.
Blissyd be that Lord in every land
Wold viset his servand thus so soyn.
Fayn wold I this thyng ordand,
For it profettys noght to hoyne. 5

This commaundement must I nedys fulfill
If that my hert wax hevy as leyde.
Shuld I offend my Lordys will?
Nay, yit were I leyffer my child were dede.
Whatso he biddys me, good or ill,
That shal be done in every steede;
Both wife and child if he bid spill,
I will not do agans his rede.

Wist Isaac, wherso he were,
He wold be abast now,
How that he is in dangere. 6
Isaac, son, wher art thou?
All redy, fader, lo me here.
Now was I commyng unto you.
I luf you mekill, fader dere.
And dos thou so, I wold wit how.

Lufys thou me, son, as thou has saide?
Yei, fader, with all myn hart,
More then all that ever was maide.
God hold me long youre life in quart.
Now who wold not be glad that had
A child so lufand as thou art?
Thi lufly chere makys my hert glad
And many a tyme so has it gart.

Go home, son; com sone agane
And tell thi moder I com ful fast.
Go now; God thee saif and sayne.

Hic transsiet Isaac a patre. 7

Now well is me that he is past;
Alone right here in this playn
Might I speke to myn hart brast.
I wold that all were well, ful fayn,
Bot it must nedys be done at last.

And it is good that I be war;
To be avised full good it were.
The land of Vision is ful far;
The thrid day end must I be there.
Myn ase shall with us, if it thar,
To bere oure harnes, les and more,
For my son may be slayn no nar.
A swerd must with us yit therfore,

And I shall found to make me yare.
This nyght will I begyn my way,
Thof Isaac be never so fayre
And myn awn son, the soth to say;
And thof he be myn right haire
And all shuld weld after my day,
Godys bydyng shall I not spare
Shuld I that ganstand? Wé! Nay, ma fay.

Isaac.
           Sir.
                   Luke thou be bowne,
For certan, son, thiself and I
We two must now weynd furth of towne
In far country to sacrifie.
For certan skyllys and encheson,
Take wod and fyere with thee in hy;
Bi hillys and dayllys both up and downe,
Son, thou shal ride and I will go bi.

Looke thou mys noght that thou shuld nede;
Do make thee redy, my darlyng.
I am redy to do this dede
And ever to fulfill youre bydyng.
My dere son, look thou have no drede;
We shal com home with grete lovyng.
Both to and fro I shal us lede;
Com now, son, in my blyssyng.

Ye two here with this asse abide,
For Isaac and I will to yond hill.
It is so hie, we may not ride;
Therfor ye two shal abide here still.
Sir, ye ow not to be denyed;
We ar redy youre bydyng to fulfill.
Whatsoever to us betide,
To do youre bidyng ay we will.

Godys blyssyng have ye both in fere;
I shall not tary long you fro.
Sir, we shal abide you here;
Oute of this stede shall we not go.
Childre, ye ar ay to me full dere;
I pray God kepe you ever fro wo.
We will do, syr, as ye us lere.
Isaac, now ar we bot we two.

We must go a full good paase,
For it is farther then I wend.
We shall make myrth and grete solace
Bi this thyng be broght to end.
Lo, my son, here is the place.
Wod and fyere ar in my hend.
Tell me now, if ye have space,
Where is the beest that shuld be brend?

Now, son, I may no longer layn,
Sich will is into myne hart went.
Thou was ever to me full bayn,
Ever to fulfill myn entent,
Bot certanly thou must be slayn,
And it may be as I have ment.
I am hevy and nothyng fayn
Thus hastely that shall be shent.

Isaac.
           Sir.
                   Com heder, bid I.
Thou shal be dede whatsoever betide.

A, fader, mercy, mercy!
That I say may not be denyde.
Take thi dede therfor mekely.
A, good syr, abide!
Fader.
           What, son?
                             To do youre will I am redy,
Wheresoever ye go or ride.

If I may oght overtake youre will,
Syn I have trespast I wold be bet.
Isaac.
           What, syr?
                             Good son, be still.
Fader.
           What, son?
                             Thynk on thi get.
What have I done?
                               Truly, none ill.
And shall be slayn?
                               So have I het.
Syr, what may help?
                               Certys, no skill.
I ask mercy.
                   That may not let.

When I am dede and closed in clay,
Who shall then be youre son?
A, lord, that I shuld abide this day.
Syr, who shall do that I was won?
Speke no sich wordys, son, I thee pray.
Shall ye me slo?
                         I trow I mon.
Lyg still; I smyte.
                             Syr, let me say —
Now, my dere child, thou may not shon.

The shynyng of youre bright blayde
It gars me quake for ferde to dee.
Therfor groflyngys thou shall be layde;
Then when I stryke thou shal not se.
What have I done, fader; what have I saide?
Truly, no kyns ill to me.
And thus gyltles shall be arayde.
Now, good son, let sich wordys be.

I luf you ay.
                   So do I thee.
Fader.
           What, son?
                             Let now be seyn
For my moder luf. 8
                             Let be, let be.
It will not help that thou wold meyn.
Bot ly styll till I com to thee;
I mys a lytyll thyng, I weyn.
He spekys so rufully to me
That water shotys in both myn eeyn.

I were lever then all wardly wyn
That I had fon hym onys unkynde,
Bot no defawt I faund hym in.
I wold be dede for hym or pynde;
To slo hym thus I thynk grete syn.
So rufull wordys I with hym fynd
I am full wo that we shuld twyn,
For he will never oute of my mynd.

What shal I to his moder say?
For “where is he,” tyte will she spyr.
If I tell hir “ron away”
Hir answere bese belief “nay sir,”
And I am ferd hir for to flay.
I ne wote what I shal say till hir.
He lyys full still ther as he lay,
For to I com dar he not styr.

Angell, hy with all thi mayn.
To Abraham thou shall be sent.
Say Isaac shall not be slayn;
He shall lif and not be brent.
My bydyng standys he not agane;
Go put hym out of his intent.
Byd hym go home agane;
I know well how he ment.

Gladly, lord, I am redy.
Thi bidyng shall be magnyfyed;
I shall me spede ful hastely,
Thee to obeye at every tyde.
Thi will, thi name to glorifye
Over all this warld so wide,
And to thi servand now in hy,
Good, trew Abraham will I glyde.

Bot myght I yit of wepyng sese
Till I had done this sacrifice.
It must nedys be, withoutten lesse,
Thof all I carpe on this kyn wise,
The more my sorow it will incres.
When I look to hym I gryse;
I will ryn on a res,
And slo hym here right as he lyse.

Abraham, Abraham!
                                 Who is ther now?
War, let thee go!
                             Stand up, now, stand!
Thi good will com I to alow;
Therfor I byd thee hold thi hand.
Say who bad so, any bot thou.
Yei, God, and sendys this beest to thyn offerand.
I speke with God latter, I trow, 9
And do as he me commaund.

He has persauyd thy mekenes
And thi good will also, iwis.
He will thou do thi son no distres,
For he has graunt to thee his blys.
Bot wote thou well that it is
As thou has sayd?
                             I say thee yis.
I thank thee, lord, well of goodnes,
That all thus has relest me this.

To speke with thee have I no space
With my dere son till I have spokyn.
My good son, thou shal have grace;
On thee now will I not be wrokyn.
Ryse up now, with thi frely face.
Sir, shall I lif?
                         Yei, this to tokyn.

Et osculatur eum. 10

Son, thou has skapid a full hard grace;
Thou shuld have beyn both brent and brokyn

Bot fader, shall I not be slayn?
No, certys, son.
                         Then am I glad.
Good syr, put up youre sword agayn.
Nay, hardely, son, be thou not adrad.
Is all forgeyn?
                       Yei, son, certan.
For ferd, syr, was I nerehand mad.

[…]
 







(see note)

true; (see note)
hear

comfort

one day; (see note)
[see] that day arrive



since


When; agreed; (t-note)
refrained



go; (t-note)
mourning; sad countenance
lived
(see note); (t-note)
hard work
distress
continually
slew

Since
children; (t-note)


went; (see note); (t-note)
burned; escaped






goes; (t-note)
death; slave
(see note); (t-note)
By my faith
high; suppose


lain
every one; (t-note)

hear their lament

live



love; loyalty
cease

tempt and test
trustworthy

love


take heed
speak
pay attention

in its rank




prepared
hurry
(see note)


sacrifice
slay; shun

burn; offering




visit; soon

(t-note)


grows; lead

I would rather
Whatever
everywhere
kill
against his counsel





see; [fol. 14r]

love; much





in good health; (see note)

loving

done

come soon
mother
[may] God bless and protect you; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)



until my heart breaks



careful
cautious


ass; if necessary
provisions
no nearer


strive; ready

Though
truly
rightful heir
possess

oppose; Never, by my faith



Look; ready

go forth
[make our] sacrifice
reasons and causes
wood; fire; haste
hills and dales


nothing



dread
praise



You two; remain; (see note)
the hill over there


ought

happens


together
stay away; from
[fol. 14v]
place
always
(t-note)
instruct


pace
thought



hands
a moment
burned

be silent; (t-note)

faithful



sorrowful; glad
destroyed



here




death; meekly






understand
trespassed; (t-note)





child



promised

(see note)

prevent [this]

enclosed in earth (buried)


accustomed to do; (t-note)


believe; must
strike

escape

[fol. 15r]
makes; fear to die
face downward


no kind of
guiltless; disposed with


always



seen


intend

suppose
sorrowfully
shoots

would rather; worldly profit
found; once
fault
tortured
slay

part



quickly will she ask
run
will be
afraid; frighten
know not

until

go; might



against
intention



[fol. 15v]
respected

at all times


haste
fly

cease

falsehood
talk in this way

tremble
go in haste




Beware; (see note)


restrain

offering; (see note)

(see note); (t-note)

perceived
certainly











avenged
noble

as a sign



escaped





(see note)
afraid
forgiven

nearly


 

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