[KING AHASUERUS’ FEAST AND QUEEN VASHTI’S DEPOSITION (1:1–22)]
Here may men loke who lykes to lere
of solace and of sorowyng also;
How that this werld wuns ever in were
fro wo to wele, fro wele to wo;
Of a rych kyng heyght Assuere,
and of his wyfes, for he had two.
Both were thei qwenys by seson sere.
Qwene Vasti heyght that on of tho,
That other Hester heyght;
and als lernyd men may loke,
Aftur hyr name full ryght
this ys cald Hester Boke.
This mater more to make in mynd,
this myghty man that I of meyne,
Fro Ethiope unto grett Iend
was he kyng of all cuntré cleyne.
He mad a fest, als folke may fynd,
of dukes, erles, and knytes kene,
And bad that none suld leve behynd,
because he suld be soveran sene
And knawn for kyng and prince
of castels, towre, and town.
Sex score and sevyn provynce
were to his bedyng bown.
And all he bad that thei suld be
ylk man in ther rychest arays
At Susa, in his awn cyté,
for thor was purvayd his paylays.
And to his kepers commawnd he
that his fest suld last faurty days
With all ryches and ryalté
that any man couth poynt or prays.
The chambers dyd thei dyght
so that noyght suld be sene
Bot of gold burnyscht bryght
and pyrry couchyd full clene.
Ther bordes ware sett of sylver syne,
and trystes of the same ordand ere;
Ther vessell all of gold full fyne
that any man to bord suld bere;
And kokes that were in kechyn
of sylver and gold was all ther geyre.
Ther was no wantyng of no wyn,
ne of no welth that lordes suld were.
All maner of mynstralsy
wore thore them forto glad.
Ther myght no man dyscrye
more myrth then thore was made.
In this meyne tyme that I of tell,
Qweyne Vasty made full grett gedderyng
Of all the lades that con dwell
abowt hyre nere, both old and yyng.
And on the aghtyn day befell
that Assuer, this ryall kyng,
Wold schew his myght thos men omell
and his power of erthly thyng.
And of more myrth to meyne,
because sho was semly,
He sentt aftur the qweyne
to glad that cumpany.
Sevyn eunokes of his chambre chefe
that to lades that tym toke tent
Wentt to the qweyn with wordes brefe
and sayd how the kyng for hyr sent.
Sho toke yt gretly unto grefe
that swylke men on that errand wentt;
For worthy lordes that were hyr leyfe
suld make sych message, so sho ment.
Scho gart them wend agayn
withoutyn motyng more
And say the kyng certayn
that sho myght not come thore.
Swylke eunockes both north and south
ware wont then lades forto lede.
Forto kepe ther counsayll wele thei couth
and no thyng speke bot that myght spede.
And thei were ordand in ther yowth
that thei myght do no manly dede,
Bot ever more meke and myld of mouth
servandes als maydyns for ther mede.
The queyne toyght ther servyce
fell not for hyr degré,
Whyls mony princes of price
ware in that same semlé.
The kyng toke yt to grett dedyne
that his wyf wold not werke his wyll;
And to princes he con hym pleyne
and bad thei suld take tent thertyll
How that the qweyne so wold hyr feyne
his commawndment not to fulfyll,
And that thei suld, or thei went theyne,
be wele avysyd of that same skyll
And ordan them amang
what were best forto do;
And were yt wele or wrang,
he wold assent therto.
Thos princes, als the kyng purvayd,
assembled all into a halle,
And thore ther resons thei arayd
for swylke a fare what suld befall.
And all samyn to the kyng thei sayd:
“Ser, our assent say thee we sall:
Us thynke this lake is not layd
to thee allon bot to us all;
For swylk maters to move,
bot boyte be sett therin,
Yt may be grett reprove
to us and all our kyn.
“For yf this noyte were noysed in land,
yt suld make lades be more kene
And noyght to be to ther husband
bowsom als thei are hath bene.
Ther commawndmentes thei suld gayn stand
and sett exempyll of the qwene.
And therfor, ser, we have ordand
that swylke maters no more be sene;
And for this dede is demyd
so that thi qwene Vasty
For hyr defawt be flemed
fere fro thi cumpany.
“And then do crye in ylk cuntré
and byd all wemen to be bown
To ther husbandes in all degré
to save his ryght and his renown.
And sone do seke in ylke cyté
fayre maydyns both in feld and town,
And chese on of them to thee
forto be qweyne and were the crowne,
Qwylke thee thynke best wyll seme
a lades lyf to lede.”
Evyn als tho princes con deme
gart he be doyn in dede.
in various times
brave knights; (t-note)
seen as sovereign
cooks; kitchen; (t-note)
her near; (t-note)
eighth; (see note)
among those men
ladies; took heed; (t-note)
dear to her
She made; go back
[the] princes; complain; (see note)
take heed thereto
before they departed
good or bad
trouble; widely known; (t-note)
obedient as they have been; (t-note)
he caused to happen in deed
[AHASUERUS SEEKS A NEW QUEEN, MARRIES ESTHER, A JEW (2:1–18)]
Thei soyght in towns to and fra,
and all fayre maydyns that thei fand
To the kynges court thei gart them ga
to se who suld be qweyne ordand.
In that same cyté of Susa
a gentyll Jew then was dwelland
That manly durst no maystrays ma,
for paynyms law used all that land.
The Bybyll tellys to us
this man that I of meyn
Was named Mardochius,
that before bold had beyn.
Mardochius was dyght to dwell
als neghtbour nere to the kynges gate,
And with hym wund a damsell,
his brother doyghtur leved o late.
Hester scho heyght, os I herd tell;
of a fayrrer woman no man wate.
Mardochyus meneys hym forto mell
yf sho myght stepe unto the qweynys astate.
Rychly he hyr arayd
that wrschep forto wyn,
And for hyr parte he purvayd,
so that sho was takyn in
And ordand to be on of sevyn
that with the kyng suld ryse and rest,
Of whom on suld be ordand evyn
with hym in fayth forto be fest.
When he had purvayd them state and stevyn
ylkon abowt to be his gest,
Als God wold send hyr helpe fro Hevyn,
Hester to luf hym lyked best.
The other wentt home be deyne
bot hyr that hym was levere.
Hester was crowned qweyne
and Vasty voyde forever.
Mardocheus was full mery in mynd
when he hard how this fare fell in.
He sent his frendes, als folke may fynd,
to say hyr how sho suld begyn,
That sho suld noyght carpe of hyr kyned
that scho was comyn of Jewys kyn;
For paynyms had lever had them pyned
then wytt that thei suld to welth wyn.
The kyng made festes thre
with lordes and knyghtes keyne,
And bad all folke suld be
bowand to his new qweyne.
made them go
dared make no revolt; (t-note)
against the pagan
left [to him] recently; (see note)
Esther she was called
intends; inquire; (t-note)
places and the right of speech
except her that he preferred
speak of her kind; (t-note)
of a Jewish family
would rather; tortured
know; they (Jews)
three feasts; (see note)
[HAMAN SEEKS TO DESTROY THE JEWS (3:1–15)]
The qweyne in lykyng leve we than
in ryall state so styll to stand,
And of the kyng carpe, yf we can,
a farly fare that he furth fand.
He had a stewerd, that heyght Aman,
that was leder of all his land;
And what the kyng with wrschep wan,
all had he holly under hand.
The kyng lufed hym so wele
his hert he con hym hete,
And commawnd all men to knele
whore so thei suld hym mete,
And that men suld hym honour ay
evyn als hymself in gud degré.
And yt befell so on a day
Aman went so unto his meneye.
Mardochyus satt evyn in his way
on benke whore he was wonnt to be.
To Aman wold he no word say,
bot styll in sted evyn ther satt he.
Aman for his behove
be that same way oft yode.
Mardochyus wold not move
to hym nauder hat ne hode.
So Aman noyes were ever new
for this same cause when he com thore.
Sum enmyse that Mardochyus knew
sayd he and his kyn Jewys thei wore.
When Aman wyst he was a Jew,
then was his malyse mekyll more
And sayd full sone yt suld hym rew,
for he wold not fale hym before.
He askyd leve of the kyng
all for Mardochius sake
All Jews to draw and hyng
whore so men myght them take.
Aman gart wrytt this ylke warrand
in all the hast that ever he may.
The kyng yt seled with his awn hand,
and then Aman went fast his way.
He sent letturs thrugh all that land
that all tho that lyfyd by the Jewys lay
Sall com, als the kyng hath commawnd,
tyll Susa cyté a certan day.
He bad both wyf and chyld
suld bow to this bydyng
And thare gudes tame and wyld
befor feyt to the kyng.
neither hat nor hood (i.e., he would not bow)
bow before him
caused to be written; warrant
all their goods
[MORDECAI SEEKS ESTHER’S HELP TO SAVE THE JEWS (4:1–17)]
When this word to the Jewys was went,
to Susa soyght man, wyf, and knave.
Mardochyus herd then how thei ment;
for reuth he remed als he suld rave.
For wele he saw he suld be shent
yf Aman so his hele myght have.
Unto the qweyne softly he sentt
and prayd hyr help hyrselfe to save.
He made hyr understand
and all the soth suppose
How Aman had ordand
all hyr lynage to lose.
So qwen the qweyne this consell kend,
scho syghyd sore with sympyll chere.
This myschefe wold scho were mend,
bot sho wyst not on what manere.
Hyr folke sho wold full fayn dyffend
so that thei myght lyf furth in fere,
And hald hyr eme owt of ther hend,
forto be noyd was non so nere.
Sho wyst wele of this thyng
was no counsayle to crave
Bot thrugh helpe of the kyng,
and that was hard to have.
Unto hyr eme sho sent in hy
that he suld take no grevance grett,
Bot trest wele in God Allmighty
and thre days fast fro drynke and mette
And pray to God all specially
Hym forto helpe owt of that hette.
“And so sall my maydyns and I,
for so I trow gud grace to gette.”
Thus dyd thei tho thre days,
and than withoutyn more
Rychly sho hyr arays
to com the kyng before.
ruth he cried out; be mad
when; counsel knew
thereby I believe
[ESTHER SETS A FEAST FOR THE KING AND HAMAN (5:1–8)]
Als he was sett in solace sere
with other maysters full mony moo,
In his presens sho con apeyre
full ferdly all of ferrom hym fro.
He made hyr tokyns to come nere,
and when sho saw that he dyd so,
Scho menskyd hym with full meré chere;
yt was solace to se them two.
He sayd, “Welcom, my qweyne!
Thou comys sum thyng to crave.
Say what thou wyll of meyne,
and, sertes, thou sall yt have.”
“A, lord,” sho sayd, “and thi wyll be,
my myrth yt myght full mekyll amend
And thou wold this day dyne with me
in lufly loge that I in lend,
And byd Ser Aman com with thee,
that is chefe of thi counsell kend.”
“My wyfe,” he says, “gladly wyll we.
For Aman sall we aftur send.”
That fest was gudly grayd
with all gamys that myght glade.
Sho toyght more then scho sayd,
bot mekyll myrth thei made.
The kyng come namly at the noyne,
and Aman, that grett favour feld.
Sho welcomd them, yf thei were sone,
with all wrschep that scho couth weld.
And when the dyner was all done,
the kyng unto his qweyn beheld
And bad hyr boldly aske hyr boyne,
for he was bowne hyr forto beld.
Sho sayd then to the kyng,
“My lord, be leve of thee,
This day I aske nothyng
bot glad and blyth to be.
“And ferrer, lord, now wold I frayn,
sen ye to speke hath graunt me space,
That ye to morn wold come agayn
to dyne with me in this same place,
And of Aman als I am fayn
that he playnly swylke power has.
And, ser, then sall I say certayn
what myght me comforth in this case.”
The kyng grauntes ylk dele
to fulfyll hyr entent.
Sho wenes all sall be wele,
and so ther ways thei went.
did appear; (t-note)
coldly; far from him
if you desire it so; (t-note)
the beautiful home; live; (t-note)
[HAMAN PLANS MORDECAI’S DEATH (5:9–14)]
Syr Aman wele wytt may we
went home with mekyll pompe and pryd.
He cald his wyfe and his meneye
and told unto them in that tyde
How that ther was none bed bot he
at the qweynes burd with the kyng to byde,
And on the morn how he suld be
in that same place sett them besyd.
“And sen that thei do thus,
me thynke no fawte I fele
Bot fals Merdochyus
that to me noyght wyll knele.”
His wyfe says, “Sertes, yt is grett scorn
that he wyll not ryse of his sette.
Bot, ser, lett ordan fast therforn:
sett up a tre both long and grette,
And aske leve of the kyng at morn
that he be hanged or ever he ete.
So sall his lyf by lyghtly lorn;
then may thou be mery at thi mete.”
Than gart he grath men gang
and sone sett up a sperre
Of fyfty cubbettes lang
Merdochius on to marre.
before he eats anything
cubits high; (t-note)
[THE KING DECIDES TO HONOR MORDECAI’S SERVICE (6:1–14; 2:19–23)]
Bot God, that hym His helpe hath heyght,
ordand that qwayntyse forto qwell.
The kyng lay wakand all the nyght,
and of sere maters so con he mell.
He bad servantes to sett up lyght
and cald a clerke that couth hym tell
And forto rede in romans ryght
what ferlys in his tym befell.
That clerke then sat redand
full mony poyntes of price,
And in a sted he fand
whore wryttyn was on this wyse:
“Two men that wold not byde for bale
thor be the way onys als thei wentt,
Thei counsayld same and sayd, ‘We sall
gare slay the kyng be our assent.’
And on Merdocheus herd this tale,
all how thei of swylke maters ment.
Unto the kyng he told yt hale,
and els he had bene shamly shent.”
The kyng asked what reward
Mardocheus had here fore.
The clerke saw noyght declared
be word ne wryttyng thore.
By this was done, then was lyght day.
Ser Aman hoped to have his bone,
And in he come the kyng to pray
that Mardocheus were hanged soyne.
The kyng hym cald and bad hym say
what dede suld to that man be doyne
That the kyng wold have wrschept all way:
“This wold I wytt with wordes foyne.”
Aman thynkes, “That am I
that the kyng wyll wrscheped be.
None is so wele worthy.”
Therfor thus ordand he.
He says, “Lord, this sall be his mede
that the kyng wyll reverence with renown:
He sall be cled in kynges wede
and crowned with a kynges crowne.
He sall sytt on the kynges awn sted,
and the best bachelar sall be bown
His brydyll bowsomly to lede
and crye with trumpeyttes thrugh all the towne:
‘Thus is the kynges wyll!
Whom he wyll wrschepe wele,
That thus be done hym tyll
and all men unto hym knele!’”
The kyng was of this purpase payd
and sayd, “Loke that thou tarry not lang,
Bot sone thou loke all this geyre be grayd,
and take on of our stedes strang,
And make Merdocheus be arayd
aftur thi wordes that noyght be wrang.
And als thou hath assygned and sayd,
thiself sall be his brydyll gang.
And when thou has done so,
to mete we sall go soyne.”
Then was Aman full wo,
bot wyghtly was yt done.
Mardocheus had grett mervell then
what all thier maters myght be meyne.
Bot wele he toyght the ground began
of his cosyn, the kynges qweyne.
Full sorely lett Ser Aman
be all ther dedes were doyne be deyne.
Unto his howse wyghtly he wan,
and thor was sorowyng sadly seyne.
Als thei so mornyng made,
on come hym to rehete
And sayd the kyng abade
to he come to his mete.
many; so did he think
remain [loyal] due to evil
there by the road (i.e., the gate) once
young knights; bound
this material be gathered
by his bridle go
foundation [of them]
until all these deeds
one [man]; comfort; (t-note)
[ESTHER’S SECOND BANQUET; HANAN EXPOSED AND KILLED (7:1–10)]
Then went he furth with syghyng sore,
bot he behoved chaunge his sembland soyne.
So when he come the kyng before,
he sayd his wyll was dewly doyne.
Thei went to mete withoutyn more,
and mery mad the kyng that noyne.
The qweyn, for hyr frendes wepand wore,
thynkes eftur mete to aske hyr boyne.
Syr Aman thynkes hym shent,
no mete myght make hym glade,
For he dowtes hym to hent
more harme then he yett hade.
The qweyne was fayn them forto fyll
with alkyn bestes and fowls fyne,
With spycery to spare or spyll;
and when the kyng was glade with wyne,
The kyng sayd then the qweyn untyll,
“Wyf, aske of me oght that is myne,
For half my kyngdom yf thou wyll!
Aske yt and yt sal be thine.”
Then down to knese sho kneled
sum dele with drery mode,
And sayd, “Lord, God yow yeld!
Me nedes none erthly gude.
“Bot of this boyn beseke I thee:
his strengh to stroy and to gayn stand
That wyll confownd my kyn and me
and stroy our lynag in this land.”
The kyng askes, “What herlott is he
that swylke heghtnes dere take on hand?”
Sho says, “Lord, yf thi lykyng be,
Ser Aman has this care cummand.”
When the kyng herd this word,
yt merveld all his mode.
He rayse up fro the burd
and into a garthyn he yode.
Thore went he hym forto avyse
what ware to carpe in slyke a kynd.
The qweyn seke on hyr bed sho lys,
for scho was moved all out of mynd.
Ser Aman then full spedely spyse
how he myght any favour fynd.
Before the qweyn he knelys and cryes
to pray hyr that he be not pynd.
The kyng com in with that,
for greved both gull and grene,
And sees whor Aman satt
at the bed besyd the qweyne.
That moved hym more to tene that tyd,
bot Aman withdrew hym for drede.
Unto the kyng another cryde,
“This day is doyne a dolefull dede:
Aman has sett his howse besyd
a gebett, large of lengh and brede,
Mardocheus ther with rewth to ryde.
Thus has he heyght, who wyll take hede.”
The kyng asked other mo
yf he swylk maystrys meyve.
Thei sayd all he dyd so
Mardocheus to myschefe.
The kyng then cummand his meneye,
“Ser Aman tyte I byd yow take
And hang hymself on that same tre
that he mad for Mardocheus sake.”
Thei were full blyth yt suld so be,
and sone that maystry con thei make.
And Jews that soyght to that cyté,
then mott thei wende to wynly wake.
And qweyne was glad and blyth
with Merdocheus and mo.
Thei thanked God oft sythe
that them had socurd soo.
himself destroyed; (see note)
worries he might suffer
garden he went
say in such a situation
fainting; she lies
yellow and green [with rage]; (t-note)
anger at that time
with grief to hang
may they go to merry festivities
[THE JEWS SAVED (8:1–10:3)]
Thus was his blyse all broyght in bale
that to Merdocheus mened full yll.
His wyf and barnes, both grett and smale,
were flemed ferre for that same skyll.
Hys howse and all his howshald hale
was gyfyn to the qweyne to weyld at wyll,
And his tressour to tell be tale
to Jews that were spoled forto spyll.
The wryttes that were enseled
at putt the Jews to payn,
By wrytte thei were repelyd.
Then were tho folke ful fayn.
So was fals Aman hanged at hame,
als he tyll other had yll ordand.
Mardocheus was made in hys name
stewerd in his sted to stand.
Thus whoso wyll the sakles shame
for any lordschep in this land,
Apon themself sall fall the same
or wers. This may we wele understand.
God graunt us grace to end
in luf and charité
And all our myse to mend!
Amen. So mott yt be!
driven far away
were given; wield; (t-note)
letters; officially made
those people very glad
steward in his place
innocent; (see note)
misdeeds to amend