JOSEPH Lord what travail to man is wrought! Rest in this world befalls him not. Octavian our emperor us has besought Our tribute him to bear. Folk must go each one-- It is cried in every borough and city by name. 5 I that am a poor timber wright, born of the blood of David, The emperor's commandment I must hold with, Or else I were to blame. Now, my wife Mary, what say you to this? For certain, needs must that I forth wend 10 Unto the city of Bethlehem far hence iwis. Thus to labour I must my body bend. MARY My husband and my spouse, with you will I wend. A sight of that city fain would I see. If I might of my kindred any there find, 15 It would be great joy to me. JOSEPH My spouse, you be with child. I fear you'd miscarry, For it seems to me the ways be wild. But you to please right fain would I. Yet women be easy to grieve when they be with child. 20 Now let us forth, wend as fast as we may And almighty God speed us in our journey. MARY Ah my sweet husband, would you tell me What tree is yon, standing on yon hill? JOSEPH Forsooth, Mary, it is called a cherry tree. 25 Some time of year you might have fed thereon your fill. MARY Turn again, husband, and behold yon tree How that it bloometh now so sweetly. JOSEPH Come on, Mary, we must reach yon city Or else we'll be blamed, I tell you rightly. 30 MARY Vow, my spouse, I pray you to behold How the cherries grow on yon tree. To have some thereof right fain I would If it pleased you to work so hard for me. JOSEPH Your desire to fulfil I shall attempt surely 35 Oh, to pluck you these cherries is a work wild For the tree is so high it will not be easy, Therefore let him pluck the cherries who got you with child! MARY Now good lord, I pray thee, grant me this boon To have these cherries if it be thy will. 40 Now I thank you God! This tree boweth to me down! I may now gather enough and eat my fill. JOSEPH Oh, I know well I have offended my God in Trinity, Speaking to my spouse these unkind words. For now I believe it may none other be 45 But that my spouse beareth the king's son of bliss. He help us now at our need. Of the kindred of Jesse worthily were you born, Kings and patriarchs went you before. All these worthies your kindred were 50 As clerks in books have said. MARY Now I thank you husband for your report. In our way, wisely, let us forth wend. The father almighty, he be our comfort. The holy ghost glorious, he be our friend. 55 JOSEPH Hail, worshipful sir and good day! A citizen of this city you seem to be. Of shelter for my spouse and me I you pray, For truly this woman if full weary And fain at rest, sir, would she be. 60 We would fulfil the bidding of our emperor To pay tribute. This duty is ours. And to keep ourselves from dolour We are come to this city. CITIZEN Sir, shelter in this town know I none, 65 Wherein thy wife and thou may sleep. Each house is full here, every one People lie out in every street. Within a house thou canst come not Be thou once within the city gate, 70 Unless in the street a place be sought Therein to rest without debate. JOSEPH Nay sir, debate that will I not. All such things pass my power. But yet my care and all my thought 75 Is for Mary my darling dear. Ah sweet wife, what shall we do, Where shall we lodge this night? Unto the father of heaven pray we so To keep us from every wicked wight. 80 CITIZEN Good man, one word I will thee say, If thou wilt be advised by me. Yonder is a horse barn that stands in the way Among the beasts sheltered you may be. MARY The father of heaven, now may he thee shield, 85 His son in my womb truly he is. He keep thee and thy goods by wood and by field. Go we hence, husband, for now the time is. But hark now, good husband, a new relation, Which in myself I know right well. 90 Christ, in me hath taken incarnation, And soon will be born, truly I feel. In this poor lodging my chamber I take Here to await the blessed birth Of him that all this world did make. 95 Between my sides I feel him stirreth. JOSEPH God be thine help, spouse. It seemeth me sore Thus feebly lodged and in so poor degree God's son among beasts to be born. His wondrous works fulfilled must be 100 In a house that is desolate without any wall. Fire and wood none here is. MARY Joseph, my husband, abide here I shall, For here will be born the King's son of bliss. JOSEPH Now, gentle wife, be of good cheer. 105 If you will ought have, tell what you think. I shall try to find you something here, Now tell me your needs of meat and drink. MARY Meat and drink need I right nought. Almighty God my food shall be. 110 Now that I am in chamber brought, I hope right well my child to see. Therefore, my husband, of your honesty Avoid you hence out of this place And I alone, with humility, 115 Here shall abide God's high grace. JOSEPH Already wife you for to please, I will go hence out of your way And seek some midwives you for to ease When that you travail with child this day. 120 Farewell true wife and also clean maid. God be your comfort in Trinity. MARY To God in heaven, for you I pray. He preserve you, wherever you be.
And while Joseph is absent Mary delivers the only begotten Son
JOSEPH Now God from whom comes all relief 125 In whom all grace to us is ground So save my wife from hurt and grief Till I some midwives for her have found. Travailing women in care be bound With great pain when they do groan. 130 God help my wife that she not swoon. I am full sorry she is alone. It is not convenient a man to be When women enter travailing! Therefore some midwife fain would I see, 135 My wife to help that is so young. ZELOMYE Why make you, man, such mourning? Tell me something of your great moan. JOSEPH My wife is now in great longing, Travailing with child and is alone. 140 For God's love who sits on throne, Midwives, that may do her good, Help my young spouse in haste, anon, I dread me sore of that fair food. SALOME Be of good cheer and of glad mood. 145 We two midwives with thee will go. There was never in such plight stood But we were ready her help to do. My name is Salome, all men me know For a midwife of worthy fame. 150 When women travail grace doth grow When I come, I have never had shame. ZELOMYE And I am Zelomye. Men know my name. We two with thee will go together And help thy wife from hurt and pain. 155 Come forth, Joseph, go we straight thither. JOSEPH I thank thee, dames, you comfort my life. Straight to my spouse walk we the way. In this poor lodging lies Mary my wife. Her for to comfort, good friends, assay. 160 SALOME We dare not enter this lodging, I say, There is therein such great brightness. Moon by night nor sun by day Shone never so clear in their lightness. ZELOMYE Into this house I dare not go 165 The wonderful light makes me afraid. JOSEPH Then I will myself go in alone And cheer my wife if that I may. All hail maiden and wife, I say, How dost thou fare, tell me thy cheer. 170 Thee for to comfort in childbed this day Two good midwives I have brought here. Thee for to help that are hard bound. Zelomye and Salome be come with me. For doubt and dread without they stand 175 And dare not come in for light that they see.
Here Mary, smiling, says,
MARY The might of the godhead in his majesty Will not be hid now, at this while. The child that is born will prove his mother free, A very clean maid. And therefore I smile. 180 JOSEPH Why do you laugh, wife? Ye be to blame. I pray you, spouse, do no more so. The midwives will think you laugh at them And at your need nothing will do. If you have need of midwives, lo 185 If you laugh they may go hence Therefore be solemn if you may so And win both the midwives to diligence. MARY Husband, I pray you, displease you not. Though I laugh, great joy I have. 190 Here is the child this world hath wrought, Born now by me that all things shall save. JOSEPH I ask you grace for I did rave Oh gracious child, I ask mercy. As thou art lord and I but a knave, 195 Forgive me now my great folly. Alas, midwives, what have I said? I pray you come to us more near. For here I find my wife, a maid And in her arms a child doth bear. 200 Both maid and mother sits she here. Whom God does love, may never more fail. Mother on earth was never more clear. Behold, she had in birth no travail ZELOMYE In birth travail must she needs have 205 Or else no child of her is born. JOSEPH I pray you, dame, and you vouchsafe Come see the child my wife before. SALOME Great God be in this place! Sweet sister how fare ye? 210 MARY I thank the father of his grace His own son and mine here you may see. ZELOMYE All hail Mary and right good morn! Who was the midwife of this fair child? MARY He that nothing will have forlorn 215 Sent me this babe and I a maid mild. ZELOMYE With hand now let me touch and feel If ye have need of medicine, I shall you comfort and help right well As another woman, if you have pain. 220 MARY Of this fair birth that here is mine Pain nor grieving felt I right none. I am a clean maid and a pure virgin. Test with your hand yourself alone.
Here Zelomye feels the Blessed Virgin Mary and says,
ZELOMYE Oh mighty God have mercy on me! 225 A marvel that was never heard before! Here openly I feel and see A fair child of a maiden is born, And needs no washing as I would have done. Full clean and pure for soth is he. 230 Without spot or any pollution, His mother's not lost her virginity. Come near, good sister Salome! Behold the breats of this clean maid Full of milk how that they be 235 And of her child clean, as I first said, Not, as others be, all foul arrayed, But clean and pure both mother and child. Of this matter I am dismayed To see them both thus undefiled. 240 SALOME It is not true, it may never be That both be clean. I cannot believe That a maid milk have. Never man did see A woman bear a child without great grief. I shall never believe it but I it feel 245 Touching with my hand. But I assay In my conscience that this is not real, That she has a child and is a maid MARY To put you clean out of doubt Touch with your hand and well assay, 250 Wisely ransack and try thy true oath Whether I be fouled or a clean maid.
Here Salome touches Mary and when her hand will be dried up wailing and almost crying she says,
SALOME Alas, alas and well away For my great doubt and false belief. My hand is dead and dry as clay. 255 My false untrust hath wrought mischief. Alas the time that I was born Thus to offend against God's might. My hand's power is now all lorn Stiff as a stick and is not right 260 For I did tempt this maid so bright And held against her pure cleanness. In great mischief now am I dight Alas, alas for my lewdness. Oh lord of might, thou knowest the truth 265 That I have ever had dread of thee. On every poor wight have I ever had ruth And give them alms for love of thee. Both wife and widow that asketh for thee And friendless children that have great need 270 I did them cure and all for thee And took no reward of them nor meed. Now as a wretch for false belief That I showed in doubting of this maid My hand is dead and doth me grieve. 275 Alas that ever I her assayed. ANGEL Woman, thy sorrow may be allayed! Worship that child that there is born. Touch the clothes where he is laid, For he shall save all that is lorn. 280 SALOME Oh glorious child and king of bliss, I ask you mercy for my trespass. I acknowledge my sin, I judged amiss. Oh blessed babe, grant me some grace Of your maid also here in this place. 285 I ask mercy kneeling on my knee. Most holy maid grant me solace, Some word of comfort say now to me. MARY As God's angel to you did tell, My child is medicine for every sore. 290 Touch his clothes by my counsel Your hand full soon he will restore.
Here Salome touches Christ's clothes saying
SALOME Ah now blessed be this child for ever more! The son of God truly he is. He has healed my hand that was forlorn 295 Through false belief and judging amiss. In every place I shall tell this. Of a clean maid that God is born And in our likeness God now clad is, Mankind to save that was forlorn, 300 His mother a maid as she was before, Not foul polluted as other women be, But fair and fresh as a rose on the thorn, Lily white, clean with pure virginity. Of the blessed babe my leave now I take 305 And also of you, his mother of bliss. Of his great miracle more knowledge to make, I shall go tell it in each place iwis. MARY Farewell good dame, God show you your ways. In all your journey, God be your speed 310 And of his mercy, that lord you bless And never offend more in word, thought nor deed. ZELOMYE And I also do take my leave here Of all this blessed good company, Praying your grace both far and near 315 On us to speed your endless mercy. JOSEPH The blessing of that lord that is most mighty Spread on you in every place. Of your enemies to have the victory God that best may, grant you his grace. 320 AMEN
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