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Play 10, Marriage of Mary and Joseph


1 And here they sing "Come Creator"

2 Therefore I desire that now, as I hold my staff, this journey were done

3 And here they sing: "Blessed be the Holy Trinity"

4 Gracious chorus of the Lord proclaim now the names of the Most High

5 In the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost

6 Lord, you have blessed your land. (See Vulgate Psalm 84:1)


Abbreviations: Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); MP: Mary Play, ed. Mere­dith (1987); MED: Middle English Dictionary; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

1, s.d. Ysakar Episcopus. MS: Abysakar Episcopus. The odd spelling of his name could be the main scribe's attempt at reconciling his different sources. The name appears to be a conflation of Abyachar and Ysakar. See Banns, line 118, and textual note to this line.

1–91 Written in thirteener stanzas.

18–22 In contradiction to Contemplacio's speech at the end of the Presentation of Mary, Mary here is not in the temple but at home.

44–74 Meredith remarks that "Mary tells the story of her own conception and presen­tation in the temple because there was no previous presentation of these episodes" (MP, p. 100n637–62). In other words, this recounting may be evidence that the Mary Play led an independent existence before its inclusion in this manu­script.

70–73 "No earthly creature may drive out the purity and chastity in my heart. You should not reproach such a pure life." Or, possibly, shove (from ME shouven) might mean "thrust" or "penetrate," in which case the sense might be: "Purity and chastity possess me; no earthly creature may [ever] have intercourse with me," thus putting aside the possibility of marriage that Ysakar has suggested. See line 76, which seems to affirm this sexual meaning.

76 I with man wyll nevyr mell. Mary chooses her special service to God over "the lawe of God" (line 8), an act which, though it defies the Law of Moses, affirms the special sanctity of her birth and her body's role in the birthing of Christ. See Kinservik, "Mary's Body," p. 194.

92–115 Written in octaves.

100 To breke oure lawe and custom. The Minister speaks as guardian of the Old Law, but is open-minded about its relationship to God, as he turns to prayer and guid­ance from Episcopus to understand the situation. Episcopus accepts Minis­ter's good counsel and charges the "bretheryn and systerys" (line 110) to sing Veni Creator Spiritus, thereby evoking a response from Angelus. As Bennett has argued (see note to 8.30), the effect is somewhat akin to a Wycliffite prayer meeting.

112 fynyte deyté. Block, Meredith, and Spector all suspect that "fynyte" is a scribal error for infynyte (Bl, p. 388; MP, p. 54; S 2:448). While this is a possible reading, it is also possible that the word is correct. According to the MED and the OED, fynyte means "fixed" or "definite." In other words, the entire phrase could be emphasizing God's fixed nature, to be differentiated from human nature.

114–15 Mekely . . . Veni Creator Spiritus. Rastall observes that the Veni Creator Spiritus, the hymn for Pentecost, "is sung by all kneeling. This performance of Veni creator is additional to the marriage service, and comes well before it in the play: its function is that of a prayer for guidance" (Minstrels Playing, p. 98).

115, s.d. Veni Creator. One of the most famous of hymns, Veni Creator Spiritus is used often in the Roman Breviary at Pentecost in Vespers I, II, and Terce, as well as throughout the octave. The New Catholic Encyclopedia notes its use "at such solemn functions as the election of popes, the consecration of bishops, the ordination of priests, the dedication of churches, the celebration of synods or councils, the coronation of kings, etc. It is also sung in the more private devotions attending the opening and closing of that scholastic year in institutions of learning." Mere­dith points out, too, that it could be sung as part of a priest's preparation for Mass (MP, p. 100n708sd). See Dutka, Index of Songs, p. 141, for complete lyrics.

116–54 Written in thirteener stanzas.

120 The intervention of God, with instructions on how to find the right husband, makes possible the fulfilling of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and the upholding of the law that would require pubescent girls to marry.

128 whyte yardys in ther honde. There seems to be sustained punning on yardys and its analogues throughout this section of the play since, in addition to a primary sense as a stick or pole or branch of some kind (MED yerd n.[2]1), a "yerd" can also mean a penis (n.[2]5). Note, however, the variance of terms used for the "sticks" that the men are bringing in their efforts to win the virgin: "rod" (e.g., lines 193–98) is cited by the OED as first carrying the meaning "penis" in 1902; "staff" (line 190) and "wond" (line 165) likewise can carry phallic implica­tions. See note to 162, 235, below.

131 Take heed whose yerde doth blome and bere. The biblical precedent for this extra-biblical tale is the miraculous blossoming of Aaron's rod in Numbers 17. It was this miracle which established once and for all Aaron as the high priest of Israel, and thereby conveyed the priesthood to the members of the tribe of Levi. This event was often read Christologically. In the Biblia Pauperum, for example, the scene is represented, along with Moses at the burning bush (which was not consumed and thus presages the virgin birth), as figuring the nativity. The caption reads in part: "This rod represents the barren Virgin Mary who, without male seed, brought forth a son" (pl. b.5). It is precisely this event that Joseph's blooming rod will invoke.

150 In hyght. "On high." See the Purification Play 19.102, where, as here, the ap­proach to the altar elevates the acolyte "on high." Another reading in this instance might be "in haste," given the urgency of line 151.

155–98 Written in octaves and one quatrain (lines 171–74).

162, 235 nother well goo ne stond. . . . I kannot my rodde fynde. On the play's jokes about Joseph's lack of sexual power, his inability to go or stond or even to find his rodde, see Vasvari, "Joseph on the Margin," p. 170. On the spiritual content of the mar­riage set off by the senex amans analogues, see Lipton, "Performing Reform," pp. 412–13. Lipton cites Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels, on marriage defined by affections of the mind rather than sexual contact, and dis­cusses sub­tleties among theologians (Jerome, Hugh of St. Victor, Peter Lombard, Wyc­liffe, Lollard sermons, Roger Dymmock, Robert Brunne, and others) on the marriage of Mary and Joseph.

179 maydon. It is clear that this version posits Joseph's virginity. Meredith notes that other medieval sources such as the Protoevangelium (ch. 9), Pseudo-Matthew (ch. 8), and Cursor Mundi (lines 10750–56) describe him as a widower with children (MP, p. 101n752).

182 It is a straunge thynge — an old man to take a yonge wyff. Proverbial. See Cato's maxim in Liber Catonis, cited by Chaucer's Miller: that "man sholde wedde his simylitude" (CT I[A]3228). On Joseph's fear of being taken on a charivari don­key ride as a cuckold mocked by younger men, see Vasvari, "Joseph on the Mar­gin," p. 170, where she draws parallels between this play and the French Nativité de N. S. Jésus Christ. Compare 10.470–71, where his anxiety still disturbs his con­fi­dence as he sets out on his "nine monthis" (line 469) absence from the "lytyl praty hous" (line 459) he has rented for Maria.

199–228 Quatrain followed by two thirteener stanzas.

223 Goddys toure. Meredith notes that "God's tower" is an "unusual" characterization for the Temple, "but particularly appropriate if the scaffold is doubling for heav­en" (MP, p. 102n796). It is also appropriate in terms of the greater impli­cations of what is about to unfold. Mary is metaphorically presented as the soon-to-be-revealed vessel for Jesus, whom Paul calls the "foundation" of "God's building," the Church (1 Corinthians 3:9–17).

225–28 Com . . . I am ny almost lame. Joseph's insistence that he cannot come as quickly as the younger men suggests that age has left him deficient, a point Joseph reempha­sizes in line 238. See notes to lines 128 and 162, 235, above.

229–41 Quatrain followed by a nine-line stanza.

231, s.n. VOX. Theatrically, this could be played as the voice of God, the voice of an angel, or the Holy Ghost. N.b., the Holy Ghost is also alighting on the branch as this occurs.

242–58 A thirteener stanza followed by a quatrain.

243 I offyr this yerde as lely whyte. The attribution associates Joseph's yerde with the lily flower, whose whiteness was a sign of virginity and thereby of the Virgin Mary. See, e.g., the address of Chaucer's Prioress to Christ, who was born "of the white lylye flour" that "is a mayde alway" (CT VII[B2]461–62). On the punning impli­ca­tions, see the note to line 128, and on the further implications about Joseph's virginity, see the note to line 179.

246 sterrys seven. Either Ptolemy's seven planets or the Pleiades, used by mariners for navigation.

255–56 I may not lyfte myn handys heye. / Lo, lo, lo! What se ye now? Meredith remarks that the sense has been "upset" by the thirteener preceding (MP, p. 103n828), but this is not necessarily the case. Joseph, ordered to offer up his rod, has prayed to God that his meager offering be well-received (clearly playing in a humility trope and not expecting or desiring to be chosen). He then tries to offer up the rod in his hands but finds it too heavy, a characteristic with perhaps its own the­o­logical connections. As he is holding it in his hands, it blooms (it may have been necessary in terms of props that Joseph keep hold of the rod at this mo­ment in order to activate its blooming). The sense, then, seems clear.

259–97 Written in thirteener stanzas.

264 game and gle. This is a catchphrase used in the cycle material, possibly referring to itself as an East Anglian theatrical game. See Sugano, "‘This game wel pleyd,'" pp. 220–23.

275 whyte as lave. The term whyte has been used repeatedly in this passage, from the "whyte yardys" of the potential suitors (line 128) to Joseph's specifically "lely whyte" rod (line 243) to this description of Mary. These adjectives are all meant to emphasize the spiritual cleanliness, moral purity, innocence, and virginity of these characters (see MED whit, adj.1c). In this final instance the connection to bread (lave) no doubt has additional theological significance.

283 Blere myn ey. Spector suggests "hoodwink me" (S 2:449). He also notes that pyke out a mote refers to the mote in Matthew 7:3–5 and Luke 6:41–42. It appears that Joseph is afraid that his young wife will become a shrew and dominate him.

298–317 A quatrain followed by an octave, followed by two quatrains.

301 Now yelde we all preysyng to the Trenyté. Rastall sees this as a cue for the singing of Benedicta sit beata Trinitas shown in the Latin stage direction (Minstrels Playing, p. 81).

302–30 For texts of the Sarum and York versions of the official marriage service, see the Manuale ad usum percelebris ecclesiae Sarisburiensis, ed. Collins, pp. 47–49; or Man­u­ale et processionale ad usum insignis ecclesiae Eboracensis, ed. Henderson, 63.26–27. The service in the play retains much of the original wording of English versions of the service.

309, s.d. Meredith notes that this sequence is primarily for masses of the Holy Trinity, but is also appropriate for nuptial masses (MP, p. 103n874sd).

310–13 As Joseph is supposed to be repeating after Ysakar, it would seem that there might be four lines missing. Perhaps the pattern is understood and thus the lines would be repeated by Joseph, or at least paraphrased.

318–30 Written in a thirteener stanza.

320 ryff. "Promptly" (MED ryff, adv. 3b), implying Joseph's obedience. But the effect might also be comic, with ryff meaning "quickly," as if to get the business over with in order to get out of the public eye. Or, as MED suggests, it might simply be a rhyming tool.

331–43 A quatrain followed by an octave with an additional extra-metrical Latin line.

332–34 Episcopus announces that they will now sing the Alma chorus Domini nunc pangat nomina Summi, which is from the sequence for a nuptial mass in the Sarum use. (See Rastall, Minstrels Playing, pp. 81 and 99, on its use in a late fourteenth-century Norwich diocese missal.)

344–408 Written in thirteener stanzas.

350 in stage. The phrase could refer to a room or an area of a house, or it could also refer to an indefinite period of time. The former seems more likely as Mary, in some ac­counts, has female attendants throughout her life.
350–55 Thre damysellys . . . Susanne . . . Rebecca . . . Sephore. As Meredith suggests, these are likely the same maidens who attend Mary in the Presentation in the Temple (MP, p. 104n910). The names are from Pseudo-Matthew, which lists five. These would correspond (presumably) with the earlier five wits. The "missing" two are Abigea and Zahel.

409–28 Two quatrains followed by an octave (lines 417–24) and then by another quatrain.

421–56 Mary's extended praise of the psalter reflects both an emphasis on private devotion and basic liturgy (MP, p. 105n1002–25). Furthermore, this passage could also be an encouragement to cloistered women or middle- and upper-class women to sharpen their own literacy skills. The placement of the praise at this point of the play sequence is particularly apt, as it functions as a bridge between Old and New Testament narratives and the Old and New Laws. The psalms were often thus interpreted as a "between" text, widely considered to have all of the Old and New within (or between) its lines. These figurative qualities are borne out in the literal shaping of the text of the Bible, as Psalms is followed by the prophets which in turn give rise to the New Testament. This, too, functions in N-Town, as the next play will begin with ample citations of Isaias, Jeremias, and Lamentations (see 11.8–30).

429–52 Written in octaves.

446 Compare Ezechiel 3:3. See also Charter of the Abbey of the Holy Ghost I.398.

450 creatures, qwyke and dede. I.e., not only for the living, but for those suffering in purgatory or hell. The phrase "the quick and the dead" is the traditional English translation to part of the Roman Symbol (vivos et mortuos); see note to 7.85–88. Mary's prayer for the mercy of the Lord in judgment is thus, unbeknownst to her, a prayer to her child-to-come, who will ultimately be the source of final judgment.

453–60 Two quatrains.

455 Benedixisti Domine terram tuam. Mary's blessing comes from Vulgate Psalm 84:1 and, Rastall suggests, identifies "the particular part of the psalter that Mary has reached in her reading. This psalm foretells the Incarnation, and is here appro­priate for that reason" (Minstrels Playing, p. 99). Rastall goes on to note that it also looks forward to the playwright's use of the same psalm in 11.187–88. See below.

461–86 Written in thirteener stanzas.

483 conclave. This is a particularly evocative word choice as the MED notes that it could refer to the private apartment in which the election of the pope occurs. It also means a "private room or retreat," a "death chamber," or, figuratively, "the Virgin's womb." See also Gibson, Theater of Devotion, p. 146. Meredith notes that the term may look forward to the Annunciation (MP, p. 106n1056).


Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); MP: Mary Play, ed. Mere­dith (1987); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

Before 1, s.d. Ysakar. H: ab Ysakar. Bl, MP, S: Abysakar.

1, s.n.–133 EPISCOPUS. MS: omitted. Starting here with A, capital letters in the left mar­gin mark Ysakar's lines (in a later hand). Clearly an attempt to identify or emphasize Ysakar's speeches for interpolated quires E and F. Fol. 51r is in a different hand, and fols. 1v through 52v (quire E) are blank. See explanatory note for 1, s.d.
1–4 MS: large play number 10 in right margin.

18 rowse. H: kowse.

Before 31 MS: fol. 49v marked 50.

31, s.n. MS: B in left margin. See note to l, s.n.–133.

40, s.n. MS: C in left margin. See note to l, s.n.–133.

79, s.n. MS: D in left margin. See note to l, s.n.–133.

92–115, s.d. These lines, written in octaves, not thirteener stanzas, were skipped between the bottom of fol. 50r and the top of 50v. Marks of insertion there cor­respond to this material, which has been written on to the otherwise blank verso of fol. 48v, the recto side of which has the end of the Pres­en­tation of Mary (lines 297–310).

97 cowncell. So S, MP. MS, Bl: cowcell.

102 good. So MP, S. MS, Bl: goo.

108, s.n. MS: E in left margin. See note to l, s.n.–133.

115, s.d. MS: written right of line 113.
seyn. So S, MP. MS, Bl: seyng.

116, s.n. MS: F in left margin. See note to l, s.n.–133.

133, s.n. MS: G in left margin. See note to l, s.n.–133.

141 also. MS: also also.

145 ff. Fol. 51 contains material to be inserted on fol. 53r. In a later hand.

155–74 MS: these lines are in an interpolated quire (fols. 51–52) on a different paper. These are in a later hand and consist of quatrains and one octave.
155, s.n. primus generacionis crossed out and replaced with JOSEPH.

163, s.n. GENERATIONIS DAVID 2. MS: Generatio, the rest cropped.

165 to offyr. So MS, Bl, MP. S: to omitted.

167, s.n. JOSEPH. MS: iiij generationes , with Joseph written below.

169 Yis. So MS, Bl, S, MP. H: This.

171, s.n. GENERATIONIS. MS: Gener, the rest cropped.

172 is told. MS: have heard, with is told written above.

175, s.n. JOSEPH. MS: Primus Generaciones David canceled and Joseph written above.
175 MS: text resumes on 53r.

186 MS: dots after falle and xalle, for internal rhyme.

187 MS: dots after away and say, for internal rhyme.

188 ye. MS: omitted.
MS: dots after men and ren, for internal rhyme.

189 MS: dots after old and colde, for internal rhyme.

190 MS: dots after wolde I and holde I, for internal rhyme.
wolde. So MP, S. MS, Bl: wole.

199 be I. So S, MP. MS, Bl: I omitted.

203 To. MS: to my.

204 dewe. MS: dw dewe.

206 To my woursyp written to the left of this line in a different hand.

237 Comyth thens! MS: In right margin.

240 Offyr up. MS: Hold up, with Offyr written above.

288 so be. So MP, S. MS, Bl: be so.

301, s.d. MS: written in right margin.

309, s.d. MS: written in right margin.

345 MS: Episcopus, s.n. written to left of line.

359 I shall. So S, MP. Bl, MS: I omitted.

371 How. MS: W or ll canceled before word.

396 Farwel. So, S, MP. MS, Bl: Forwel.

413 MS: lacks capitulum.

425 MS: lacks capitulum.

449–51 MS: of the vyn. R. Wych scribbled in right margin.

450 creatures. MS: possibly corrected from creaturys.

After 486 MS: remainder (20 mm) of fol. 58r blank.


































[Tunc venit Ysakar Episcopus.

EPISCOPUS Listenyth, lordyngys, both hye and lowe,
And tendyrly takyth heyd onto my sawe:
Beth buxom and benyngne, youre busshopp to knowe.
For I am that lord that made this lawe
With hertys so hende herkyn nowe.
Youre damyselys to weddyng, ya, loke that ye drawe.
That passyn fourtene yere for what that ye owe,
The lawe of God byddyth this sawe:
That at fourtene yere of age,
Every damesel whatso sche be
To the encrese of more plenté,
Shulde be browght in good degré
Onto here spowsage.

JOACHYM Herke now, Anne, my jentyl spowse,
How that the buschop, his lawe hath tolde,
That what man hath a dowtyr in his house
That passyth fourtene yerys olde,
He muste her brynge, I herde hym rowse,
Into the tempyl a spowse to wedde.
Wherfor oure dowtyr ryth good and dowse,
Into the tempyl sche must be ledde
And that anoon ryght sone.
ANNE Sere, I grawnt that it be so.
Agen the lawe may we not do!
With her togedyr lete us now go —
I hold it ryght weyl done.

JOACHYM Sere busshopp, here aftyr thin owyn hest,
We have here brought oure dowtyr dere:
Mary, my swete childe, she is ful prest
Of age: she is ful fourtene yere.
EPISCOPUS Welcome, Joachym onto myn areste,
Both Anne, thi wyf, and Mary clere.
Now, Mary chylde, to the lawe thu leste
And chese thee a spowse to be thi fere:
That lawe thu must fulffylle.
MARIA Agens the lawe wyl I nevyr be,
But mannys felachep shal nevyr folwe me!
I wyl levyn evyr in chastyté
Be the grace of Goddys wylle!

EPISCOPUS A, fayre mayde, why seyst thu so?
What menyth thee for to levyn chast?
Why wylt thu not to weddyng go?
The cawse thu telle me, and that in hast!
MARIA My fadyr and my modyr, sertys, also
Er I was born, ye may me trast,
Thei were bothe bareyn, her frute was do.
They come to the tempyl at the last
To do here sacryfice.
Bycause they hadde nothyr frute nere chylde,
Reprevyd they wore of wykkyd and wylde.
With grett shame, thei were revylyd,
Al men ded them dyspyce.

My fadyr and my modyr, thei wepte full sore;
Ful hevy here hertys wern of this dede!
With wepynge eyn thei preyd, therfore,
That God wolde socowre hem and sende hem sede.
Iff God wold graunt hem a childe be bore,
They behest the chylde her lyff shulde lede
In Goddys temple to serve evyrmore
And wurchep God in love and drede.
Than God, ful of grace,
He herd here longe prayour,
And than sent hem both seed and flowre.
Whan I was born in here bowre,
To the temple offryd I was.

Whan that I was to the temple brought
And offerde up to God above,
Ther hestyd I, as myn hert thought,
To serve my God with hertyly love.
Clennesse and chastyté myn hert owth,
Erthely creature nevyr may shove.
Such clene lyff shuld ye nouht,
In no maner wyse, reprove.
To this clennesse I me take.
This is the cawse, as I yow tell,
That I with man wyll nevyr mell.
In the servyse of God wyl I evyr dwell:
I wyl nevyr have other make.

EPISCOPUS A, mercy God! These wordys wyse
Of this fayr mayde clene,
Thei trobyl myn hert in many wyse!
Her wytt is grett, and that is sene
In clennes to levyn in Godys servise.
No man her blame non her tene.
And yit in lawe, thus it lyce
That such weddyd shulde bene
Who shal expownd this oute:
The lawe doth after lyff of clennes,
The lawe doth bydde such maydenes expres
That to spowsyng they shulde hem dres.
God help us in this dowhte!

This ansuere grettly trobelyth me.
To mak a vow to creaturys, it is lefful —
Vovete et reddite in Scripture have we.
And to observe oure lawe, also it is nedful
In this to dyscerne to me, it is dredful.
Therefore, to cowncell me in this cas I calle
The holde and the wyse and swich as ben spedful:
In this, sey youre avyse, I besech yow alle.

MINISTER To breke oure lawe and custom, it wore hard indede!
And on that other syde, to do agen Scrypture,
To geve sentens in this degré, ye must take good hede.
For dowteles, this matere is dyffuse and obscure.
Myn avyse here in this, I yow ensure,
That we prey all God to have relacyon
For be prayour, grett knowlech men recure.
And to this, I counsell yow to geve assygnacyon.

EPISCOPUS Trewly youre counsell is ryght, good, and eylsum.
And, as ye han seyd, so shal it be.
I charge yow, bretheryn and systerys: hedyr ye com
And togedyr to God now pray we
That it may plese his fynyte deyté,
Knowleche in this to sendyn us.
Mekely ech man falle down on kne,
And we shal begynne: “Veni Creator Spiritus.”
Then comes Ysakar the bishop; (see note); (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)
heed; speech
humble; meek

hearts; obedient listen
as you should
these decrees

increase; fruitfulness
the proper way


proclaim; (see note); (t-note)


right away

Sir bishop; command

dwelling; (t-note)
choose; partner

I.e., I’ll never come near man’s company

mean you to live

reason; haste (immediately)
father; mother; certainly; (see note)
Before; trust
barren; fertility was past
for wicked [behavior]
did scorn them

father; mother
sorrowful their hearts
help; them seed
them; born
promised [that]; life

then; them
When; their bower


I promised; heart
Purity; possesses; (see note)
Earthly; banish [them]
offer myself
have intercourse; (see note)



heart; ways

to live
[may] blame nor censure her
yet; remains
clearly explain
a life of
for marriage; prepare themselves

answer; (see note); (t-note)
people; lawful
Pray and render [tithes]

counsel; (t-note)
old; wise; helpful

(see note)
judgment; care; (t-note)
advice; assure
all pray; instruction
knowledge; obtain

wholesome; (t-note)
have said
come here

definite deity; (see note)

(see note)
Come Creator Spirit

  [Et hic cantent “Veni Creator.”1 And whan “Veni Creator” is don, the buschop shal seyn: (see note); (t-note)
















































































































Now, Lord God of Lordys, wysest of all,
I pray thee, Lorde, knelynge on kne,
With carefull herte I crye and calle.
This dowteful dowte enforme thu me!
ANGELUS Thy prayour is herd to hygh hevyn halle.
God hath me sent here down to thee
To tell thee what that thu do shalle,
And how thu shalt be rewlyd in iche degré.
Take tent and undyrstond:
This is Goddys owyn byddyng,
That all kynsmen of Davyd the kyng
To the temple shul brynge here du offryng.
With whyte yardys in ther honde.

Loke wele what tyme they offere there!
All here yardys in thin hand thu take.
Take heed whose yerde doth blome and bere,
And he shal be the maydenys make.
EPISCOPUS I thank thee, Lord, with mylde chere.
Thi wurde shal I werkyn withowtyn wrake.
I shal send for hem, bothyn fer and nere,
To werke thi wyl I undyrtake.
Anon it shal be do!
Herk, masangere — thu wend thi way:
Davyd kynsmen, as I thee say.
Byd hem com offyr this same day
And brynge white yardys also.

NUNCIUS Oy! All maner men takyth to me tent
That be owgth of kynrede to David the kyng!
My lord, the busshop, hath for yow sent
To the temple that ye come with youre offryng.
He chargight that ye hast yow, for he is redy bent
Yow to receyve at youre comyng!
He biddyth yow, ferthermore, in handys that ye hent
A fayre white yerde, everych of yow, ye bryng
In hyght.
Tary not, I pray yow!
My lord, as I say yow,
Now to receyve yow
Is full redy dyght.

JOSEPH In gret labore my lyff I lede!
Myne ocupasyoun lyth in many place;
For febylnesse of age, my jorney I may not spede.
I thank thee, gret God, of thi grace.
GENERACIONIS DAVID 1 What chere, Joseph? What ys the case
That ye lye here on this ground?
JOSEPH Age and febylnesse doth me enbrase
That I may nother well goo ne stond.

GENERATIONIS DAVID 2 We be commandyd be the beschoppys sond
That every man of Davyd kynrede
In the tempyll to offyr a wond;
Therfor in this jorney, let us procede!
JOSEPH Me to traveyll, yt is no nede.
I prey you, frendys, go forth youre wey.
GENERATIONIS DAVID 3 Yis, com forth, Joseph, I you rede,
And knowyth what the buschop woll sey.

GENERATIONIS DAVID 4 Ther ys a mayd whos name ys clepyd Mary,
Doughter to Joachym as it is told.
Her to mary they woll asay,
To som, many dowty and bold.

JOSEPH Benedicité, I cannot undyrstande
What oure prince of prestys doth men
That every man shuld come and brynge with hym a whande.
Abyl to be maryed, that is not I, so mote I then.
I have be maydon evyr and evyr more wele ben —
I chaungyd not yet of all my long lyff!
And now to be maryed, sum man wold wen:
It is a straunge thynge — an old man to take a yonge wyff.

But nevyrthelesse, no doute of, we must forth to towne.
Now, neyborys and kynnysmen, lete us forth go.
I shal take a wand in my hand and cast of my gowne.
Yf I falle than I shalle gronyn for wo.
Hoso take away my staff, I say he were my fo!
Ye be men — that [ye] wele ren — go ye before!
I am old and also colde. Walkyng doth me wo.
Therfore now wolde I, so my staff holde I, this jurney to wore.2

EPISCOPUS Serys, ye shal undyrstande
That this is the cawse of oure comynge
And why that ech of yow bryngyth a wande.
For of God we have knowynge:
Here is to be maryde a mayde yynge.
All youre roddys ye shal brynge up to me,
And on hese rodde that the Holy Gost is syttynge,
He shal the husbond of this may be.

[Hic portent virgas.

JOSEPH It shal not be I, I ley a grote!
I shal abyde behynde prevyly.
Now wolde God, I were at hom in my cote!
I am aschamyd to be seyn, veryly.

GENERACIONIS DAVID 1 To wurchep my Lord God, hedyr am I come,
Here for to offyr my dewe offrynge,
A fayr white yarde in hand have I nome,
My lord, sere busshop, at youre byddynge.
GENERACIONIS DAVID 2 Of Davythis kynred, sertys, am I com.
A fayr white yarde in hand now I bryng.
My lord, the busshop, after youre owyn dom
This yarde do I offre at youre chargyng
Ryht here.
GENERACIONIS DAVID 3 And I, a yarde have both fayr and whyght,
Here in myn hond it is redy dyght.
And here I offre it forth within syght,
Ryght in good manere.

GENERACIONIS DAVID 4 I am the fourte of Davidis kyn,
And with myn offrynge, my God I honoure.
This fayr whyte yarde is offryng myn.
I trost in God of sum socoure.
Com on, Joseph, with offrynge thin
And brynge up thin as we han oure!
Thu taryst ryth longe behynde, certeyn.
Why comyst not forth to Goddys toure?
Com on, man, for shame!
JOSEPH Com, ya, ya! God help, full fayn I wolde!
But I am so agyd and so olde
That both myn leggys gyn to folde —
I am ny almost lame!

EPISCOPUS A, mercy Lord! I kan no sygne aspy!
It is best we go ageyn to prayr.
VOX He brought not up his rodde yet, trewly,
To whom the mayd howyth to be maryed her.

EPISCOPUS Whath, Joseph? Why stand ye there byhynde?
Iwys, sere, ye be to blame!
JOSEPH Sere, I kannot my rodde fynde!
To come ther, in trowth, me thynkyht shame.
EPISCOPUS Comyth thens!
JOSEPH Sere, he may evyl go that is ner lame!
In soth, I com as fast as I may!
EPISCOPUS Offyr up youre rodde, sere, in Goddys name!
Why do ye not as men yow pray?

JOSEPH Now, in the wurchep of God of Heaven,
I offyr this yerde as lely whyte,
Prayng that Lord of gracyous stewyn
With hert, with wytt, with mayn, with myght.
And as he made the sterrys seven
This sympyl offrynge that is so lyght
To his wurchep he weldygh evyn.
For to his wurchep this yerd is dyght.
Lord God, I thee pray:
To my herte thu take good hede,
And nothynge to my synful dede,
Aftyr my wyl thu qwyte my mede
As plesyth to thi pay.

I may not lyfte myn handys heye.
Lo, lo, lo! What se ye now?
EPISCOPUS A, mercy, mercy, mercy, Lord, we crye!
The blyssyd of God we se art thou!

[Et clamant omnes, “ Mercy! Mercy!”

A, gracyous God in hevyn trone,
Ryht wundyrful thi werkys be!
Here may we se a merveyl one —
A ded stok beryth flourys fre!nobr>
Joseph, in hert withoutyn mone,
Thu mayst be blyth with game and gle!
A mayd to wedde thu must gone
Be this meracle I do wel se —
Mary is her name.
JOSEPH What, shuld I wedde? God forbede!
I am an old man, so God me spede!
And with a wyff now to levyn in drede,
It wore neyther sport nere game.

EPISCOPUS Agens God, Joseph, thu mayst not stryve!
God wyl that thu a wyff have.
This fayr mayde shal be thi wyve —
She is buxum and whyte as lave.
JOSEPH A, shuld I have her? Ye lese my lyf!
Alas, dere God, shuld I now rave?
An old man may nevyr thryff
With a yonge wyf, so God me save!
Nay, nay, sere, let bene!
Shuld I now in age begynne to dote?
If I her chyde, she wolde clowte my cote,
Blere myn ey and pyke out a mote.
And thus oftyntymes, it is sene.

EPISCOPUS Joseph, now as I thee saye,
God hath assygnyd her to thee.
That God wol have do, sey thu not nay!
Oure Lord God wyl that it so be.
JOSEPH Agens my God not do I may.
Her wardeyn and kepere wyl I evyr be.
But fayr maydon, I thee pray —
Kepe thee clene as I shal me.
I am a man of age!
Therfore, sere busshop, I wyl that ye wete —
That in bedde we shul nevyr mete,
For iwys, mayden suete,
An old man may not rage.

EPISCOPUS This holyest virgyn shalt thu maryn now.
Youre rodde floreschyth, fayrest that man may se.
The Holy Gost we see syttyht on a bow.
Now yelde we all preysyng to the Trenyté.

[Et hic cantent: “Benedicta sit beata Trinitas”3; (t-note)

Joseph, wole ye have this maydon to your wyff,
And her honour and kepe as ye howe to do?
JOSEPH Nay, sere, so mote I thryff,
I have ryght no nede therto.
EPISCOPUS Joseph, it is Goddys wyl it shuld be so!
Sey aftyr me, as it is skyl.
JOSEPH Sere, and to performe his wyl, I bow therto,
For allthynge owyght to ben at his wyl.

[Episcopus, et idem Joseph:

EPISCOPUS Sey than after me: “Here I take thee, Mary, to wyff;
To havyn, to holdyn, as God his wyll with us wyl make;
And as longe as bethwen us lestyght oure lyff,
To love yow as myselff, my trewth I yow take.”

[Nunc ad Mariam sic dicens Episcopus:

Mary, wole ye have this man,
And hym to kepyn as youre lyff?
MARIA In the tenderest wyse, fadyr, as I kan
And with all my wyttys fyff.

EPISCOPUS Joseph, with this ryng, now wedde thi wyff,
And be her hand now thu her take.
JOSEPH Sere, with this rynge, I wedde her ryff
And take here now her for my make.
EPISCOPUS Mary, mayd, withoutyn more stryff,
Onto thi spowse thu hast hym take.
MARIA In chastyté to ledyn my lyff,
I shal hym nevyr forsake,
But evyr with hym abyde.
And, jentyll spowse, as ye an seyd,
Lete me levyn as a clene mayd.
I shal be trewe, be not dysmayd,
Both terme, tyme, and tyde.

EPISCOPUS Here is the holyest matremony that evyr was in this werd!
The hygh names of oure Lord we wole now syng hy.
We all wole this solempn dede record
Devowtly: Alma chorus Domini nunc pangat nomina Summi.4

Now goth hom all in Godys name.
Whereas youre wonyng was before
Maydenys, to lete her go alone, it wore shame,
It wold hevy youre hertys sore.
Ye shal blysse the tyme that sche was bore.
Now loke ye at hom her brynge.
MARIA To have youre blyssyng, fadyr, I falle yow before.
EPISCOPUS He blysse yow that hath non hendyng:
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.5

Joseph, thiselph art old of age,
And thi wyff of age is yonge,
And as we redyn in old sage
Many man is sclepyr of tonge.
Therfore evyl langage for to swage,
That youre good fame may lest longe,
Thre damysellys shul dwelle with yow in stage
With thi wyf to be evyrmore amonge.
I shal these thre here take:
Susanne, the fyrst shal be;
Rebecca, the secunde shal go with thee;
Sephore, the thrydde. Loke that ye thre
This maydon nevyr ye forsake

SUSANNE Sere, I am redy at your wyll
With this maydon for to wende.
REBECCA Youre byddyng, sere, I shall fulffyl
And folwe this maydon fayr and hende.
SEPHOR To folwe hyr, it is good skyl,
And to youre byddynge wole I bende.
JOSEPH Now, sere buschop, hens go I wyl,>
For now comyth onto my mende
A matere that nedful is.
EPISCOPUS Farewel, Joseph and Mary clere!
I pray God kepe yow all in fere
And send yow grace in good manere
To serve the Kynge of Blysse.

MARIA Fadyr and modyr, ye knowe this cas,
How that it doth now stonde with me.
With myn spowse I must forth passe
And wott nevyr whan I shal yow se.
Therfore, I pray yow here in this plas
Of youre blyssynge for charyté,
And I shal spede thee betyr and have more gras
In what place that evyr I be.
On knes to yow I falle.
I pray yow, fadyr and modyr dere:
To blysse youre owyn dere dowtere
And pray for me in all manere,
And I for yow all.

JOACHYM Almyghty God, he mote thee blysse,
And my blyssynge thu have also.
In all godnesse, God thee wysse
On londe, or on watyr, wherevyr thu go.
ANNA Now God thee kepe from every mysse
And save thee sownd in welth from wo.
I pray thee, dowtyr, thu onys me kys
Or that thi modyr parte thee fro.
I pray to God thee save.
I pray thee, Mary, my swete chylde:
Be lowe and buxhum, meke and mylde,
Sad and sobyr and nothyng wylde,
And Goddys blyssyng thu have.

JOACHYM Farwel, Joseph, and God yow spede,
Wherso ye be in halle or boure.
JOSEPH Almyghty God youre weys lede
And save yow sownd from all doloure.
ANNA Goddys grace on yow sprede!
Farewel, Mary, my swete flowre!
Fareweyl, Joseph, and God yow rede!
Fareweyl, my chylde and my tresowre!
Farewel, my dowtere yyng!
MARIA Farewel, fadyr and modyr dere!
At yow I take my leve ryght here.
God that sytt in hevyn so clere
Have yow in his kepyng.

JOSEPH Wyff, it is ful necessary this ye knowe
That I and my kynrede go hom before,
For in soth, we have non hous of oure owe.
Therfore I shal gon ordeyn, and thanne come yow fore.
We ar not ryche of werdly thynge,
And yet of oure sustenauns, we shal not mys.
Therfore, abydyth here stylle to youre plesynge:
To worchep youre God is all youre blysse.

He that is and evyr shal be,
Of hefne and helle ryche kynge,
In erth hath chosyn poverté
And all ryches and welthis refusynge.
MARIA Goth, husbond, in oure Lordys blyssynge.
He mote yow spede in all youre nede.
And I shal here abyde youre agen comynge,
And on my Sawtere book, I shal rede.

Now, blyssyd be oure Lord for this:
Of hefne and erthe and all that beryth lyff,
I am most bound to yow, Lord, iwys,
For now I am bothe mayde and wyff.

Now, Lord God, dysspose me to prayour
That I may sey the holy psalmes of Davyth,
Wheche book is clepyd the Sawtere,
That I may preyse thee, my God, therwith.
Of the vertuys therof, this is the pygth:
It makyht sowles fayr that doth it say;
Angelys be steryd to help us therwith;
It lytenyth therkeness and puttyth develys away.

The song of psalmus is Goddys deté:
Synne is put awey therby;
It lernyth a man vertuysful to be;
It feryth mannys herte gostly.
Who that it usyth custommably,
It claryfieth the herte, and charyté makyth cowthe.
He may not faylen of Goddys mercy
That hath the preysenge of God evyr in his mowthe.

O, holy Psalmys! O, holy book!
Swetter to say than any ony!
Thu lernyst hem love, Lord, that on thee look
And makyst hem desyre thyngys celestly.
With these halwyd psalmys, Lord, I pray thee specyaly
For all the creatures, qwyke and dede,
That thu wylt shewe to hem thi mercy
And to me specyaly, that do it rede.

I have seyd sum of my Sawtere, and here I am
At this holy psalme, indede:
Benedixisti Domine terram tuam.6
In this holy labore, Lord, me spede.

JOSEPH Mary, wyff and mayd most gracyous,
Displese yow not, I pray yow, so long I have be.
I have hyryd for us a lytyl praty hous,
And therin ryght hesely levyn wole we.

Come forth, Mary, and folwe me
To Nazareth now wele we go.
And all the maydonys bothe fayr and fre
With my wyff comyth forth also.
Now lystenyth well, wyff, what I tell thee:
I must gon owth hens fer thee fro;
I wyll go laboryn in fer countré
With trewth to maynteyn oure housholde so.
This nine monthis thu seyst me nowth.
Kepe thee clene, my jentyl spowse
And all thin maydenys in thin howse,
That evyl langage I here not rowse,
For hese love that all hath wrought.

MARIA I pray to God he spede youre way,
And in sowle helth, he mote yow kepe
And sende yow helth bothe nyth and day,
He shylde and save yow from al shenschepe.
Now, Lord of Grace, to thee I pray:
With morny mood on kne I krepe,
Me save from synne, from tene and tray.
With hert I mourne; with eye I wepe!
Lord God of peté,
Whan I sytt in my conclave,
All myn hert on thee I have!
Gracyous God, my maydenhed save,
Evyr clene in chastyté.
(see note); (t-note)

heavy heart
uncertain; explain to
(see note)

Pay attention

shall; their due
branches; hands; (see note)

Look well
their branches
bloom; bear [leaves]; (see note)
maiden’s mate
humble; (t-note)

Quickly; done
now go your way
[To] David’s
Bid them
branches; (t-note)

Listen!; manner [of]; attention
any relation

commands; hasten

branch, every one
On high; (see note)


(see note); (t-note)

get there

is the matter

neither; nor stand; (see note)

by the bishop’s messenger; (t-note)
David’s kindred
wand; (t-note)


urge you; (t-note)

called; (t-note)
they will try to marry

Bless me; (t-note)
may I prosper
a virgin; (see note)

think twice
(see note)

no doubt

cast off
then; (t-note)
Whoever; foe; (t-note)
run fast; (t-note)



whose rod

Here they bring the branches

I bet; (see note); (t-note)

hither; (t-note)
due; (t-note)
branch; taken
sir bishop; (t-note)
David’s kindred, indeed


all set

David’s kin

trust; help
your offering
yours; have ours
stall too long, certainly
dwelling; (see note)

[With] God’s help; gladly; (see note)

can see no sign; (see note)

(see note)
ought to be; here

Indeed, sir
Sir; (see note)
truly, seems shameful to me
with difficulty go
In truth
sir; (t-note)
ask you

(see note)
branch; lily; (see note)
Praying [to]; speech
heart; mind; strength
stars; (see note)
branch; ready

heart; heed
not to; deeds
reward me

high; (see note)

blessed; see

And they all cry

on heaven’s throne; (see note)

dead stock; fine flowers
heart; regret
happiness; (see note)
go do
By; see

God help me
wife; live in dread
It would be neither; nor

humble; bread; (see note)
be passionate

sir, let it be

scold, she’ll beat me
Blur my vision; chide about a trifle; (see note)

say to you

will have done, don’t refuse
wills; (t-note)
I ask

will have you know
indeed; sweet
be passionate

Marry; (see note)
blooms, fairest; see
yield; praising; Trinity; (see note)

will; maiden; (see note)
sir; may I prosper
just have no need

Say; proper

everything ought to be

The bishop, and then Joseph; (see note); (t-note)

then; (see note)

between; lasts our life
my troth; pledge

Then to Maria the bishop says

to keep; life
five wits

(see note)
promptly; (see note)
her; mate

gentle; you have said
live; virgin
(i.e., always)

world; (see note)
high; will; (see note)
solemn deed

go; God’s
Wherever; dwelling
sadden; hearts greatly
bless; born
bring her home
blesses; no ending

you yourself are; (see note)
young; (t-note)
read; sages
to lessen
reputation; last
damsels; in your house; (see note)

third. Look

to go
follow; worthy
her; quite right
hence I will go

know not when

prosper; grace


I [will do so] for

may he

land; water
keep thee; misfortune
keep thee safe
kiss me once
Before; from thee

humble; obedient

Farewell; (t-note)
Wherever; bower
[May]; lead
keep; sound; grief

father; mother
From you
May God; sits; bright

(see note)
truth; no house; own
prepare; for you
worldly; (t-note)
still; pleasing

On earth
wealth refuses
Go; (see note)
May he prosper you
I shall await; return

heaven; earth; life

settle me; (see note)
Whose; called; Psalter
praise you; with that
virtues; pith (heart)
souls fair
Angels are stirred
lightens darkness

God’s ditty (song)

teaches; virtuous
inspires man’s heart spiritually
uses it habitually
purifies; makes known
fail; God’s

honey; (see note)
teach them
them; heavenly
hallowed; ask; (t-note)
people, living; dead; (see note); (t-note)
show; them
reads it

Psalter; (see note)

(see note)
help me

wife; maid
have been
rented; well-made little
comfortably we will live

follow; (see note)
maidens; noble

go far away from thee
These; you will see me not
your maidens
hear not spoken
for God’s sake

soul’s health; may
health; night
shield; disgrace

mournful; knee I creep
pain; grief
private room; (see note)
Ever pure; (t-note)


Go To Play 11, Parliament of Heaven; Salutation and Conception