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Play 18, Magi


1 None lovelier or more admirable, everlasting is my law

2 To my palace will I go, very quickly I assure you

3 I will cut off that suckling babe and pierce him like a toad

4 Then the steward will go and meet the three kings, and say to them

5 Then the kings will go with gifts to Jesus and the first king says

6 Here the kings sleep and the angel comes and says to them


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; PL: Patrologia Latina, ed. Migne; S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991).

In comparison to the other English Magi plays, this N-Town version is relatively eco­nomical and efficient. All of the various plays’ plots agree with the Epiphany narrative found in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend (trans. Ryan, 1:78–84), though the story of the Magi originates in Matthew 2:1–12. In the N-Town Play, there are minor differences, however, from the other longer plays. Towneley (Play 14), the York Masons’/Goldsmiths’ Play (16), and the Chester Vintners’ Play (8) all have characters who advise Herod (Consultus in Towne­ley; Counselors in York; Doc­tor in Chester) and deliver the prophecies of Christ’s nativity. The N-Town playwright gives these lines to the Magi themselves. While the other three plays have messengers, N-Town introduces a more developed character, the comic Senescallus, who also appears in the Slaughter of the Innocents (Play 20). The tyrannical Herod from this play, as in Chester and York, blusters in bombastic alliterative verse, though his entrance in N-Town is unique. The Chester Magi play begins with the Magi themselves as they approach Herod’s Jerusalem, where Herod , in his court, awaits. Towneley starts with Herod standing in his court verbally attacking the audience; in his frustration and anger he sends out Nuncius as a spy to monitor unrest in his kingdom. The York Herod presents him­self in his court (the audience) boasting of his splendor as he likens himself to Jupiter, Jove, Mars, and Mercury, a god akin to the sun and moon, riding upon the clouds as grace­fully as a soaring gull. But in N-Town he enters the playing area riding a horse: "I ryde in ryal aray!" (line 2), "the semelyeste syre that may bestryde a stede" (line 10), boasting his glory until "Wyghtly fro my stede I skyppe down in hast, / To myn heygh hallys I haste me in my way" (lines 17–18). As he enters his court he sees to it that minstrels "of myrth, blowe up a good blast" (line 19) while he enters his chamber to change clothes. Then, from a dif­ferent playing area, the kings enter, shifting attention away from Herod’s palace (lines 21 ff.).

The play is written in thirteeners, octaves, sestets, and quatrains.

4–12 In most of the English plays, Herod boasts of his beauty in extravagant terms. Com­pare the York Magi play, lines 1–22, which is the most splendiferous of all in its hyperbole. But N-Town comes close with its added detail of the horse.

21 ff. The action onstage divides the audience’s attention between Herod’s court and the Magi’s travels. Line 69 returns us to Herod’s court, but it is not until line 151 that Herod actually meets the Magi. Spector notes that the number of the Magi as three "derives from Church commentary, as do their identification with the kings of Psalm 71:9–11 (Vulgate) and the association of the star with Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17" (S 2:473), a connection made explicit in Chester.

25, 41, 53 Saba . . . Tarys . . . Ypotan. Jacobus de Voragine, citing Peter Comestor and Remy, notes that such geography as Saba (line 25), Tarys (line 41), and Ypotan (line 53) marks the Magi as being "from the borderland of Persia and Chaldea," a fact that accounts for their following Persian tradition in never going "empty-handed before a god or a king" (Golden Legend, trans. Ryan, 1:83). In Towneley they are said to be from Saba, Tars, and Araby (14.363). Spector observes that Saba (a river in Arabia) and Tarys (Tarshish) are found in Vulgate Psalm 71:10 (S 2:474).

25–68 The names for the Magi are found in various medieval sources, such as Peter Comestor’s Historia Scholastica, Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend, and the apocryphal infancy Gospels (see S 2:474).

35–36 the rede golde / As reson wyl me teche. Red is the color associated with gold in its molten form, cleansed of its impurities, making red gold a sign of the highest form of wealth in the Middle Ages. But, as line 36 helps to reveal, there is a second meaning to rede functioning in the context of this gift: the gold signifies Christ’s place as the font of reason and good counsel (MED red n.1); see, for instance, the "red purs" of Owl and Nightingale, line 694. This connection of the gold to Christ’s kingly wisdom is shown in exegetical commentaries (see note to lines 35–61).
35–61 rede golde . . . encens sote . . . myrre. The three gifts have provoked a wide range of exegetical commentary. In addition to their function as customary gifts (see note to lines 25, 41, 53), Jacobus de Voragine (Golden Legend, trans. Ryan, 1:83) cites Bernard as observing that the gold is a gift to relieve Mary’s poverty, the frankin­cense is "to dispel the bad odor of the stable," and the myrrh is "to strengthen the child’s limbs and drive out harmful worms." A more common reading, also given by Jacobus, can be found in the Glossa Ordinaria, which states that the three gifts of the Magi reflect aspects of Christ’s nature: gold, as a sign of tribute, represents his kingly power; frankincense, as an incense used during sacrifices and prayer, represents his divine majesty; and myrrh, as an anointment for the dead prior to burial, represents his human mortality (PL 114:75). The Catena Aurea (Ex­positio 1:106) supports the Glossa’s interpretation, adding Anselm’s view that the gold also signifies the luminous wisdom that is proper to Christ’s kingship (see note to lines 35–36). Anselm goes on to suggest that the opening of the gifts demonstrates faith in the Trinity and Scripture in its historical, moral, and allegorical senses as well as the logical, natural, and ethical implications of the Magi’s faith.

41 Tarys. See note to lines 25, 41, 53 above.

53 In Ypotan and Archage. Ypotan is unidentified. Scholars have suggested Meso­potamia. Archage is likely Arcadia in Greece (S 2:474).

73–76 Several words here are illegible. Spector (S 1:172) offers a revision based on a later reviser:
I xall marryn þo men þat r . . .yn on myche,
And þerinne sette here sacrementys sottys . . . say!
Þer is no lorde in þis werde þat lokygh me lyche.
For to lame l . . . of þe lesse lay . . .
82 cammaka. Cammock is a plant that was woven into a fine fabric (MED).

83 curryd. Davies glosses the word as "well-combed"; Spector suggests "excellent"; Block believes that the word is a mistake for cursyd (S 2:474).

88 prevyn. To "test" or "pierce" or even "to trim the feathers of a bird" (MED proien and S 2:474).

92 Mahound. Spector notes that Mahound is from Old French mahon, a short form of Mahomet. In English and Continental plays, this is a devil or a false god (S 2:475).

93–94 "Bitter death will deliver up the life of anyone (who) would threaten me in this way" (S 2:475).

119–20 Now lede us alle / To the kyngys halle. As the Seneschal leads the Magi to the false king we arrive at a key exegetical moment in the story. The Magi, previously fol­lowing the constant star, here abandon the road marked by that sign of faith in order to seek human information. According to legend, the star therefore dis­appears during their time with Herod in Jerusalem. Jacobus de Voragine notes the Glossa’s further statement (PL 114:73–75) that not only does this disap­pear­ance punish their faithless act, but it also marks their continued status (soon to be rectified) as unbelievers: "as the apostle says, signs are given to infidels but prophecy to the faithful: therefore the sign that was given to the Magi while they were still infidels would not appear to them while they were still among the believing Jews" (Golden Legend , trans. Ryan, 1:81). This idea is explicitly spelled out in Chester 8, where the kings, following the star, "goe downe to the beastes and ryde abowt" (8.112, s.d.) only to lose sight of it — "alas, where is this sterre iwent?" (8.113). It is not until they depart from Herod that the star reappears: "Syr, wee see the starre appeare / in the east withouten were" (8.213–14).

121–26 "We ask thee [if] he (Herod) will have pity on us and will tell us how this (the birth of Christ) has happened." See also Spector, S 2:475. Glete (line 125) is an evocative word meaning: a) earthly filth or slime; b) the human body; c) fig., sin (MED). Christ’s incarnation is, at least from the divine perspective, an ungainly process.

131 gynnyth wyde. The context (lines 133–34) suggests Herod’s bold self-aggrandize­ment. Hence, the verb widen, "to enlarge" or "to spread out" (MED) does make sense. Spector suggests "to go, to advance" or "to go mad" (S 2:475).

159–64 Spector observes that Balaam’s prophecy became associated with the Magi, as demonstrated in the liturgy (S 2:475). See also note to 16.26–29.

166 be fenne. A rare topographical reference in the manuscript that places the play in or near East Anglia.

226–29 Herod is apparently casting a misdirection spell over the Magi (lines 273–90). Ironically, by warning the Magi, the angel works Herod’s sorcery to the good.

230–31 Go we to sek owr lord and our lech! / Yon stere will us tech. Once they have left Herod’s court and once more taken the path of faith, the star reappears for the Magi. See the note to lines 119–20.
230–34 This is a five-line stanza.

235 ff. Woolf suggests that here, as in Towneley, the Magi recognize the presence of the Trinity (English Mystery Plays, p. 195), though they are not yet able to understand fully how the baby fits into the mystery (see lines 247–50, 270, 284).

314 his ryght honde. Referring to God’s protecting the Magi from Herod’s scheming.


Abbreviations: Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); H: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Halliwell (1841); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

1, s.n. HERODES REX. MS: Herode, remainder of speaker’s name cropped.
regyon. MS: written above the line.

4–7 MS: large play number 18 in right margin, 8 is cropped.

5 MS: no capitulum.

12 MS: capitulum meant for line 13 mistakenly placed here.

17 Wyghtly. MS: final y written over another letter.

20 chawmere. MS: l chawmere.

21 ye. So MS, S. Bl: the.

47 be. MS: ben was written, but the n has been erased.

63 tholyn. MS: obscured by a hole in the leaf. A reviser has written suffyr over it (S 1.171).

69 regne lyk a. So MS, followed by H. The manuscript is clearly revised at this point, and S tries to recover the original, now obscured, reading, which might result in regne her as thi (S 1:171). Bl Reads regne . . . þe.

73–76 These four lines have been substantially revised in the manuscript and are printed accordingly. H follows the revision with the exception of herytykys in line 73, which he casts aside in favor of the canceled original men. S opts to print what is recoverable of the original text:
I xall marryn þo men þat r .... yn on myche,
And þerinne sette here sacrementys sottys .... say!
Þer is no lorde in þis werde þat lokygh me lyche.
For to lame l . . . . . . . of þe lesse lay (S 1:171–72).
Bl does the same, though she notes that the obscured word in line 76 might be loverys or leverys.

81 hay. MS, Bl: ha, but last letter cropped.

82–94 Spector observes that this stanza is misplaced and probably should be in Play 20, the Slaughter of the Innocents (S 2:474).
here ondyr Sesar in my sette. So H, following the revision of MS. Bl and S both try to recover and print the original, which read in vndyr sesar in my se . . e.

87 bedde. So Bl, S. The reviser has altered the original word to bedlem, which is followed by H.

88 prune that paphawk. So Bl, S, based on the obscured original of MS. The re­viser alters to prycke þat paddoke, which is partialy followed by H: prune that paddok.

89 sperys shall I ther. So H, following the revision of MS. Bl and S try to recover the erased original, printing: shaftys sh . . . lh . . . y.

94 thrett wolde me throwe. So Bl, S, following original of MS. Revised version reads þrettys wolde me overthrowe, followed by H.

95–150 MS: two lines are written as one, divided by points.

96 on wolde. So Bl, S, following canceled original of MS. Revised version reads ovyr moulde, followed partially by H: on mowlde.

100 the. So Bl, S, H, following original of MS. Revised to þat.

110, s.d. MS: reviser added a note above the s.d.: [H]erodes nup . . . with the rest of the note cropped.

119–216 MS: three lines are written as one, divided by virgules.

131 Where. MS: h written above the line.
gynnyth. So S. MS, Bl: gynny. MS: reviser canceled gynny and wrote wonyt above.

187 bowne. MS: do bowne.

212 kynde. So S, Bl. MS: kynde or kende.

217, s.n. MS: transient in right, next to s.n.

221–302 MS: some reviser, S’s Scribe C, wrote fols. 95–96 on different paper. S notes that this scribe (who revised much of this play) may have restored or re­vised lost material (2:475).

223 tho. So MS, S. Bl: the.

230, s.n. REX 1. MS: Primus, with Rex cropped.

243, s.n. REX 2. MS: Secundus R, remainder cropped.
my kne. MS: my knele kne.

245 degré. MS: dr degree.

251, s.n. REX 3. MS: Tercius R, remainder cropped.

273 is. MS: written above the line.

275 warse. So MS, S. Bl: wurse.

276 flanke. MS: flamke.

283 all. MS: written above the line.

285 MS: the line is written at the top of the page, but crossed out and rewritten below and to the right.

287 whyle. MS: wyll whyle.

291, s.n. ANGELUS. MS: Ange, remainder cropped.

293 For. MS: written in left margin.

299 be. MS: written above the line.
slepe. MS: slepyne slepe.

After 302 MS: remainder of fol. 96r blank (78 mm), and all of 96v blank.

303 MS: main compiler’s hand resumes with fol. 97v.

304 myrke. MS: reviser has altered to thyrke.

311 MS: þe written by a reviser in left margin.

315, s.n. REX 1. MS: omitted.

323–34 MS: three lines written as one. These are short-lined sestets.

331 bryght. MS: bl bryght.

332 wake. MS: be added by a reviser before wake.
to. MS: reviser has canceled and replaced with whe.

After 334 MS: remainder of fol. 97r (67 mm) blank.






















HERODES REX As a lord in ryalté in non regyon so ryche,
And rulere of all remys I ryde in ryal aray,
Ther is no lord of lond in lordchep to me lyche,
Non lofflyere non lofsummere, evyrlastyng is my lay!1

Of bewté and of boldnes I bere evermore the belle;
Of mayn and of myght I mastyr every man!
I dynge with my dowtynes the devyl down to helle,
For bothe of hevyn and of herth I am kyng sertayn!

I am the comelyeste kynge clad in gleterynge golde,
Ya, and the semelyeste syre that may bestryde a stede!
I welde att my wyll all wyghtys upon molde!
Ya, and wurthely I am wrappyd in a wurthy wede!

Ye knyghtys so comely, bothe curteys and kene
To my paleys wyl I passe, full prest I yow plyth.2
Ye dukys so dowty folwe me bedene!
Onto my ryal paleys the wey lyth ful ryght!

Wyghtly fro my stede I skyppe down in hast
To myn heygh hallys I haste me in my way.
Ye mynstrell of myrth, blowe up a good blast
Whyll I go to chawmere and chaunge myn array.

REX 1 Heyl be ye, kyngys tweyne,
Ferre rydyng out of youre regne!
Me thynkyth be youre presentys seyne
Ye sekyn oure Savyour.
Fro Saba have I folwyd ferre,
The glemynge of yon gay sterre,
A chyldys blood shal bye us dere
That ther is born in bestys boure.

My name is Kynge Baltazare,
Of prophetys speche I am ware.
Therfore, a ferre wey I fare,
A maydenys childe to seche,
For he made man of the moolde
And is Kynge of Hevyn holde.
I wyl hym offere the rede golde
As reson wyl me teche.

REX 2 Melchizar, that my name is kydde,
In hote love myn hert is hydde
To the blosme upon his bedde
Born by bestys bynne.
In Tarys I am kynge with crowne,
By bankys and brymmys browne.
I have travaylid by many a towne,
My Lordys love to wynne.

I seke hym with ensens sote.
Of all prestys he shal be rote.
His bryght blood shal be oure bote
To brynge us out of bende.
The childe shal be chosyn a preste,
In all vertuys fowndyn meste!
Beforn his Faderys fayr breste,
Ensens he shal up sende.

REX 3 In Ypotan and Archage
I am kynge knowyn in kage.
To seke a childe of semlant sage,
I have faryn ryght ferre.
Jasper is my name knowyn
In many countrés that are myn owyn.
Thorwe byttyr blastys that gyn blowyn,
I stryke aftere the sterre.

I brynge myrre to my present,
A byttyr lycour, verament,
For he shal tholyn byttyr dent.
In a maydonys flesch is clad,
On byttyr tre he shal be bent —
Man and God omnypotent.
With byttyr betynge his flesch be rent
Tyl all his blood be bledde.

HERODES REX Now I regne lyk a kynge arayd ful rych,
Rollyd in rynggys and robys of array!
Dukys, with dentys, I dryve into the dych;
My dedys be ful dowty demyd be day!
I shall marryn tho herytykys that belevyn a mysse,
And therin sette there sacrementys. Fallse they are I say!
Ther is no lorde in this werde that lokygh me lyke, iwysse;
For to lame herytykkys of the lesse lay,
I am jolyere than the jay!
Stronge thevys to steke
That wele oure lawys breke —
On tho wrecchis I wyll be wreke
And hont hem undyr hay

In kyrtyl of cammaka kynge am I cladde!
Cruel and curryd in myn crowne knowe —
I sytt here ondyr Sesar in my sette sadde!
Sorwyn to sottys, such seed wyll I sowe,
Boys now blaberyn, bostynge of a baron bad
In bedde is born, be bestys suche bost is blowe!
I shal prune that paphawk and prevyn hym as a pad3
Scheldys and sperys shall I ther sowe,
My knyghtys shalle rydyn on rowe,
Knave chylderyn for to qwelle,
Be Mahound, dyngne duke of helle,
Sowre deth his lyff shall selle,
Such thrett wolde me throwe.

Styward bolde,
Walke thu on wolde
And wisely beholde
All abowte
Iff any thynge
Shuld greve the kynge.
Brynge me tydynge
If ther be ony dowte.

SENESCALLUS Lord, kynge in crowne:
I go fro towne
By bankys browne
I wyll abyde,
And with erys lyste
Est and west
Iff any geste
On grownde gynnyth glyde.
royalty; (t-note)
realms; royal array
the land; like me
(see note); (t-note)

take the prize; (t-note)
Of strength
strike; might
of earth; certainly

comeliest; glittering
wield; creatures on earth
worthily; attire; (t-note)

courteous; warlike

dukes; mighty; at once
royal palace; lies

Nimbly from; in haste; (t-note)
high halls
[my] chamber; (t-note)

two; (see note); (t-note)
Far; reign
by; presents seen
From Arabia; followed; (see note)
shining star
child’s; redeem us for a high price
in a beasts’ stall

(see note)
prophets’; aware
great distance I travel
red gold; (see note)
will tell

ardent; wrapped
beasts’ stalls
Tarshish; (see note)

incense sweet
the source
salvation; (t-note)

the greatest

Mesopotamia(?); Arcadia; (see note)
on high
wise demeanor
traveled; far

gusts of wind
pursue; star

as my
spice; truly
suffer; blows; (t-note)

will be torn
bled out

richly; (t-note)
Covered with rings; costly
Dukes; with my blows
deeds; judged mighty; by
destroy those heretics; (see note); (t-note)
world; looks like me
lesser law

thieves to stab
those wretches; avenged
chase them into a net; (t-note)

tunic; cammock (a fine fabric); (see note); (t-note)
flattered(?); recognized; (see note)
Caesar; dignified seat
Sorrow; fools
blabber; evil child
In bed; by beasts; told; (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
Shields; spears; (t-note)
shall ride together
Male children; kill
By Mohammed, noble; (see note)
Bitter; life; (see note)
such a threat would I offer; (t-note)

Steward; (t-note)
throughout the land; (t-note)

grieve; (t-note)
any doubt


listening ears

travels about the earth

  [Tunc ibit Senescallus et obuiabit tribus regibus et dicit eis:4; (t-note)

























Kyngys thre,
Undyr this tre
In this countré
Why wyll ye abyde?
Herowde is kynge
Of this wonynge!
Onto his dwellynge
Now shul ye glyde.

REX 1 Now lede us alle
To the kyngys halle.
How it befalle
We pray to thee,
Wyttys to wete,
He may us peté:
In flesshe be glete,
Godys frute fre.

SENESCALLUS Folwith in stownde
Upon this grownde
To the castel rownde.
I shal yow tech
Where kynge gynnyth wyde
Up in this tyde
In pompe and pryde —
His myght gynnyth reche.

Sere kyng in trone,
Here comyth anone
By strete and stone
Kyngys thre.
They bere present.
What thei have ment
Ne whedyr thay arn bent
I cannot se.

HERODES REX I shal hem crave
What they have.
Iff they rave
Or waxyn wood,
I shal hem reve,
Here wyttys deve;
Here hedys cleve,
And schedyn here blood.

REX 1 Heyl, be thu kynge in kage ful hye!
Heyl, we nyghe thin halle ryght nye!
Knowyst thu ought that chylde slye
He is born here abowth?
He is born of a mayd yynge;
He shal be kynge ovyr every kynge.
We go to seke that lovely thynge,
To hym fayn wolde I lowth.

REX 2 Balaam spak in prophecy:
A sterre shulde ful lovelye
Lythtyn upon mayd Marye.
Comyn of Jacobys kynne,
The childe is born and lyth hereby,
Blomyd in a madenys body.
A sterre hath strekyn upon the sky
And ledde us fayr be fenne.

REX 3 The sterre hath ledde us out of the est
To seke a baron born best.
He shal be kynge of myghtys mest,
As prophecy gynneth spelle.
We be kyngys in wey wery.
Syr kynge, for thi curtesy:
Telle us to that childe so lovely —
In what town gynnyth he dwelle?

HERODES REX Ye thre kyngys rekenyd be rowe:
Ley now downe youre wurdys lowe.
Such a carpynge is unknowe,
Onrekenyd in my regne!
I am a kynge of hygh degré!
Ther shal non ben above me!
I have florens and fryhthis fre,
Parkys and powndys pleyne.

But goth to fynde that ye sech,
And yf ye knowe such a lech
And ye hym fynde, I yow besech
Comyth agen be me,
And I shal be both blyth and bowne
That all worchep to hym be done!
With reverens I shal seke hym sone
And honour hym on kne.

And therfore, kyngys, I yow pray
Whan ye have don youre jurnay,
Come agen this same way
The trewth to me to telle.
Come and telle me, as ye spede,
And I shal qwyte ryght wel youre mede
With gold and tresour and rych wede,
With furrys rych and wurth pelle.

REX 1 Kynge, have good day!
I go my way
To seche
Lord of myght.
He shal be ryght
Oure leche.

REX 2 Kynge, ful sterne
Be felde and ferne
I goo
To sekyn a kynge.
He takyth wonynge
In woo.

REX 3 If we hym fynde,
Oure kynge ful kynde,
Be a may
From kynge and qwen,
We comyn agen
This day.

HERODES REX A, fy, fy on talys that I have ben tolde
Here beforn my cruel kne!
How shulde a barn wax so bolde
Be bestys yf he born be?
He is yong, and I am old
An hardy kyng of hye degré!
This daye tho kynggys shal be kold
If they cum ageyne be me!
My goddys I shall upreyse!
A derke devyll with falsnese, I saye,
Shall cast a myst in the kynggys eye
Be bankys and be dalys drey
That be derk, thei shall cum this weyys.

REX 1 Go we to sek owr lord and our lech!
Yon stere will us tech the weyis full sone!
To save us from myschyff, God, I here besech!
Onto hys joyis that we may rech
I pray hem of this bone.

stay here



(see note); (t-note)
happens; (see note)
Information to find out
pity us
is embodied
God’s; noble

Follow now
From here

show you
does puff himself up; (see note); (t-note)

does grow

Sir; on throne


Nor where; going

I desire of them

act insane
plunder them
Their; stupefy

shed their

approach your; nigh


gladly; bow

spoke; (see note)
Born; maiden’s
streaked across
safely through the fens; (see note)

star; east
does spell
on our weary way

does he dwell


a rumor is unknown
Not spoken of

florins; property plenty
open ponds

that which you seek

by me
happy; ready; (t-note)

seek; soon


reward you
valuable furs



By field

[his] dwelling

By a maiden

tales; (t-note)

baby become
If by beasts
A stern
those; dead; (t-note)
by me
gods; raise up
(see note)
kings’ eyes
By; by dismal dales
dark; this way

seek; healer; (see note); (t-note)
star; show; path; soon
him; boon

  [Tunc ibunt reges cum muneribus ad Jhesum et Primus Rex dicit:5











Heyle, be thu kyng cold clade!
Heyll, with maydynnys mylk fade!
Heyll, I cum to thee with gold glade!
As wese wrytyng bere it record:
Gold is the rycheste metall,
And to weryng most ryall.
Gold I gyff thee in this hall,
And know thee for my lorde.

REX 2 Lorde, I knele upon my kne.
Sote encence I offere to thee.
Thow shalte be the fyrst of hygh degré,
Non so mekell of myght
In Goddys howse as men shall se!
Thow shalt honour the Trynité,
Thre personys in oon Gode free
And all oo Lord of Myght.

REX 3 Lord, I knele downe be thy bede.
In maydyns fleshe thu arte hede.
Thy name shal be wyde rede
And kyng ovyr all kynggys!
Byttyr myre to thee I brynge,
For bytter dentys on thee thei shall dyng,
And byttyr deth shall be thy endyng,
And therfor I make mornyng.

MARIA Kynggys kynde,
Frome the fende
God yow defende.
Homwarde ye wende
And to your placys ye lende
That ye shulde tende.

REX 1 Now have we the place fownde!
To Herode go we this stownde —
With owr wordys we were bownde
That we shulde cum ageyne.
Go we a pace and sey owr spech,
For we have fownde oure lord and lech.
All the truth we wyll hem tech
How the kyng is borne of a quene.

REX 2 Myn hede is hevy as lympe of leede,
But yf I slepe, I am adrede
My witt shall fare the warse!
I wax hevy in lyme and flanke —
Downe I ley me upon this banke,
Under this bryght sterre, iwys.

REX 3 Brother, I must lye thee bye!
I will go never ovyr this stye
Tyll I have a slepe.
The yong kyng and hys mother Mary
Save us all frome every velany!
Now Cryst us save and kepe.

REX 1 Such hevynese have us cawght —
I must drynk with yow a drawght
To slepe a lytyll whyle.
I am hevy, heed and footte
I shulde stumbyll at resch and root
And I shuld goo a myle.
clad in cold; (see note)
maiden’s; fed
As the wise


Sweet incense
great of

one excellent God

bed; (t-note)
maiden’s; hidden
widely spoken of

blows; strike


defend you
you go

this instant

Let us depart
tell him (Herod)

head; lump; lead; (t-note)
mind; (t-note)
I grow; limb and flank; (t-note)


lie beside you
this way

villainy; (t-note)

head; foot
If; go another mile

  [Hic dormiunt reges et venit Angelus et dicit eis:6









ANGELUS Ye kynggys on this hill:
Werk ye not aftyr Herodys wyll!
For yf ye do, he wyll yow kyll
This day or nyght.
My Lorde yow sent this tydyng
To rest yow kynggys in rych clothyng.
And whan ye rysyn and goo to your dwellyng,
Tak home the wey full ryght!

Whether that ye be wakyn or slepe,
My Lorde God shall yow keppe.
In goode tyme, ye dede down drepe
To take yowr rest.
Herodes, to the devyll he tryst,
To marre yow in a myrke myste.
My Lord God is ful of lyste
To glathe yow for his geste.

And therfore, kyngys, whan ye ryse,
Wendyth ferth be weys wyse
Ther your hall be sett in syse
In dyverse londe.
Fadyr of God, in all thynge
Hath yow grawntyd his swete blyssynge.
He shal yow save from all shendynge
With his ryght honde.

[Tunc surgant reges et dicat Primus Rex:

REX 1 A bryght sterre ledde us in to Bedleem —
A bryghtere thynge I saw in drem,
Bryghtere than the sunnebeem!
An aungell I saw ryght here.
The fayre flowre that here gan falle
From Herowdys Kynge he gan us kalle.
He taught us hom tyll oure halle
A wey by another mere.

REX 2 I sawghe a syght —
Myn hert is lyght
To wendyn home.
God, ful of myght,
Hath us dyght
Fro develys dome.

REX 3 Oure God I blysse —
He sent us, iwys,
His aungel bryght.
Now we wake
The wey to take
Home full ryght.
Do not do

To stop you
most direct

awake; (t-note)
At the right time; droop
trusts in the devil; (t-note)
harm you; dark; (t-note)
To welcome you; guest

Go forth by ways
properly set


(see note)

Then let the kings rise and the First King says

Bethlehem; (t-note)
a dream

did fall
Herod the King
told us


To go

delivered us
From the devil’s power


Straight home; (t-note)

Go To Play 19, Purification