Here concerning the woman taken in adultery
JESUS Nolo mortem peccatoris Man, for thy sin take repentance. If thou amend what is amiss, Then heaven shall be thy inheritance. Though thou have done against God grievance, 5 Yet to ask mercy, look thou be bold. His mercy does pass in true balance All cruel judgment by many fold. Though that thy sins be never so great, For him that is sad and asks mercy 10 Soon of my father, grace thou may get With the least tear weeping out of thine eye. My father sent me to thee, man, thee to buy; All thy ranson, myself must pay; For love of thee, myself will die. 15 If thou ask mercy, I will never say nay. Unto the earth from heaven above Thy sorrow to cease and joy to restore, Man, I came down all for they love. Love me again -- I ask no more. 20 Though thou trespass and sin full sore, Yet turn again and mercy crave. It is thy fault; make amends more; Ask thou mercy and thou shalt have. Upon thy neighbour be not vengeful 25 If he against the law offend. Just as he is, thou art unstable -- Thine own frailty, ever thou attend. Evermore thy neighbour help to amend, Even as thou would he should thee. 30 Against him wrath if thou expend, The same fate will fall on thee. Each man to another be merciful, And mercy he shall have at need. That man who of no mercy is capable, 35 When he asks mercy, he shall not speed. Mercy to grant I come, indeed. Whoever asks mercy, he shall have grace. Let no man doubt for his misdeed, But ever ask mercy while he has space. 40 SCRIBE Alas, alas, our law is lorn! A false hypocrite, Jesus by name, That of a shepherd's daughter was born, Will break our law and make it lame! He will us work right much shame, 45 His false purpose, if he uphold. All our laws he doth defame -- That stinking beggar is wonder bold! PHARISEE Sir scribe, in faith that hypocrite Will turn this land all to his lore. 50 Therefore I council we him indight, And chastise him right well therefore. SCRIBE On him believe many a score, In his preaching he is so gay. All men him follows, ever more and more -- 55 Against what he saith , no man saith nay. PHARISEE A false quarrel if we could feign, That hypocrite to put in blame, All his preaching should soon distain, And then his worship should turn to shame. 60 With some falsehood to hurt his name Let us try his success to spill. The people from him if we could claim, Then should we soon have all our will. ACCUSER Hark, Sir Pharisee and Sir Scribe, 65 A right good sport I can you say. I undertake that a right good bribe We shall have to keep council. A fair young whore hereby doth stay, Both fresh and gay upon to look. 70 And a tall man with her has his way; The path into her chamber right even he took. Let us three now go straight thither, The way full even I shall you lead. And we shall take them both together 75 While they do that sinful deed. SCRIBE Art thou sure that we shall speed? Shall we him find when we come there? ACCUSER By my troth, I have no dread, The hare from the burrow we shall start! 80 PHARISEE We shall have game, if this be true! Let us three work by one assent. We will her bring even before Jesus And of her life the truth present, How in adultery her life is spent. 85 Then when before him she is brought, We shall him ask a true judgment, What lawful death to her is wrought. Of grace and mercy ever he doth preach, And that no man should be vengeful. 90 Against the woman if he say "wretch", Then of his preaching he is unstable. And if we find him variable From his preaching that he has taught, Then have we cause both just and able 95 For a false man that he be caught. SCRIBE Now by great God, ye say full well! If we him find in variance, We have good reason, as ye do tell, Him for to bring to foul mischance. 100 If he holds still his own stance, And preaches mercy, her for to save, Then have we matter of great substance Him for to kill and put in the grave. Great reason why I shall you tell: 105 For Moses doth in our law ordain That every adulterer we should quell, And that with stones they should be slain. Against Moses if he should maintain, That sinful woman with grace to help, 110 He shall never escape from our pain, But he shall die like a dog's whelp! ACCUSER Ye tarry overlong, sirs, I tell you; They will soon part, as that I guess. Therefore, if you want your prayer now, 115 Let us go take them in their wantonness. PHARISEE Go thou before, the way to dress; We shall thee follow within a short while. If that we may that whore distress, I hope we shall Jesus beguile. 120 SCRIBE Break down the door and go we in! Set to thy shoulder with all thy might. We shall them take even in their sin -- Their own trespasses shall them indight.
Here a certain young man shall run out in disarray, with his laces not tied and holding his breeches in his hand, and the accuser will say,
ACCUSER Stop that harlot, some earthly wight, 125 That in adultery here is found! YOUNG MAN If any man stop me this night, I shall him give a deadly wound! If any man my way doth stop, Ere we depart, dead shall he be. 130 I shall put this dagger in his crop -- I shall him kill or he shall me. PHARISEE Great God's curse must go with thee! With such a shrew will I not meddle. YOUNG MAN That same blessing I give you three 135 And commend you all to the devil of hell! In faith, I was so sore afraid Of you three shrews, the truth to say, My breech be not yet well uptied, I had such haste to run away. 140 They shall never catch me in such an affray. I am full glad that I am gone! Adieu, adieu, to twenty devils' way, And God's curse have you everyone! SCRIBE Come forth thou queen, come forth thou slut! 145 Come forth thou wretch and harlot bold! Come forth whore and stinking bitch clout! How long dost thou to such harlotry hold? PHARISEE Come forth thou strumpet, come forth thou scold! Come forth thou sloven, come forth thou slut! 150 We shall thee teach with cares' cold A little better to keep thy cunt. WOMAN Ah, mercy, mercy, sirs, I you pray! For God's love have mercy on me. Of my misliving do me not betray; 155 Have mercy on me for charity! ACCUSER Ask no mercy; it shall not be. We should so ordain for thy lot That thou shalt die for thy adultery! Therefore, come forth thou stinking strumpet! 160 WOMAN Sirs, my reputation if ye will save And help I have no open shame, Both gold and silver ye shall have So that in cleanness you keep my name. SCRIBE Bribes for to take, we were to blame 165 To save such sluts. It shall not be! We shall bring thee to such a game That all adulterers shall learn by thee. WOMAN I understand ye will not grant me grace, But for my sin that I shall die, 170 I pray you kill me here in this place And let not the people upon me cry. If I be slandered openly, To all my friends it shall be shame. I pray you, kill me here in this place 175 Let not the people know my defame. PHARISEE Fie on thee slut, the devil thee quell! Against the law shall we thee kill? First shall hang thee the devil of hell Before we such follies would fulfil. 180 Though it like thee never so ill, Before the prophet thou shalt have law. Like as Moses does charge us till, With great stones we shall thee slay. ACCUSER Come forth apace, thou stinking strumpet, 185 Before the prophet thou were this day, Or I shall give thee such a clout That thou shalt fall down even in the way. SCRIBE Now, by great God, and I thee pay, Such a buffet I shall thee take 190 That all thy teeth, I dare well say, Within thine head for woe shall shake. PHARISEE Here, sir prophets we all you pray To give true judgment and just sentence Upon this woman, which this same day 195 In sinful adultery hath done offense.
Here Jesus, while they are accusing the woman, uses his finger to write on the ground
ACCUSER See, we have brought to your presence Because you are a wise prophet, That shall tell us by conscience What death to her you think most meet. 200 SCRIBE In Moses' law right thus we find, That such false lovers should be slain; Straight to a stake we should them bind And with great stones burst out their brain. Of your conscience do tell us plain, 205 With this woman what shall be wrought? Shall we let her go free again, Or to her death shall she be brought?
Jesus replies nothing, but always writes on the earth
WOMAN Now, holy prophet, be merciful! Upon me, wretch, take no vengeance. 210 For my sins abominable In my heart I have great repentance. I am well worthy to have mischance, Both bodily death and worldly shame But, gracious prophet, of succourance 215 This time I pray you for God's name. PHARISEE Against the law thou didst offence; Therefore of grace speak thou no more. As Moses giveth in law sentence, Thou shalt be stoned to death therefore. 220 ACCUSER Have done, sir prophet, tell us your lore. Shall we this woman with stones kill, Or her to her home now restore? In this matter tell us your will. SCRIBE In cold study methinks you sit still 225 Good sir, awake! Tell us your thought. Shall she be stoned -- tell us your will -- Or in what rule shall she be brought? JESUS Look which of you that never sin wrought, But is of life cleaner than she, 230 Cast at her stones and spare her not, Clean out of sin if that ye be.
Here Jesus again bending down, writes in the earth; and all the accusers, somewhat confused, separately withdraw themselves in three different directions
PHARISEE Alas, alas I am ashamed! I am afraid that I shall die! All my sins even properly named 235 Yon prophet did write before my eye. If that my fellows that did aspy, They will tell it both far and wide. My sinful living if they outcry, I know never where my head to hide. 240 ACCUSER Alas, for sorrow my heart doth bleed! All my sins yon man did write. If that my fellows to them took heed, I cannot me from death acquit. I would I were hid somewhere out of sight 245 That men should me nowhere see or know. If I be taken, I know by right In much shame they shall me throw. SCRIBE Alas the time that this befell! Right bitter care doth me embrace. 250 All my sins can all men tell, Yon man before them all doth trace. If I were once out of this place, To suffer death and vengeance able, I will never come before his face. 255 Though I should die in a stable. WOMAN Though I be worthy for my trespass To suffer death abominable, Yet, holy prophet, of your high grace, In your judgment be merciful! 260 I will nevermore be so unstable. Oh holy prophet, grant me mercy. Of my sins unreasonable With all my heart I am sorry. JESUS Where are the enemies that did thee accuse? 265 Why have they left us alone? WOMAN Because they could not themselves excuse, With shame they fled hence everyone. But, gracious prophet, attend to my moan; Of my sorrow take compassion. 270 Now all my enemies hence have gone, Say to me some word of consolation. JESUS For the sins that thou hast wrought Hath any man condemned thee? WOMAN Nay, forsooth, that hath there not, 275 But in your grace I put me. JESUS For me thou shall not condemned be; Go home again and walk at large. Look that thou live in honesty, And will no more to sin, I thee charge. 280 WOMAN I thank thee highly, holy prophet, Of this great grace you have me sent. All my lewd life I shall forfeit And strive to be God's true servant. DOCTOR What man of sin be repentant, 285 Of God if he will mercy crave, God of mercy is so abundant, That, if man ask it, he shall it have. When man is contrite and has won grace, God will not keep old wrath in mind; 290 But better love to him he has, Very contrite when he them find. Now God that died for all mankind Save all these people both night and day. And from our sins he us unbind, 295 High Lord of Heaven that best may. Amen
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