FIRST DETRACTOR Ah sirs, God save to all! Here is a fair people as I do say. Good sirs, tell me what men me call? I think you know not, by this day. Yet I walk wide and many a way, 5 But where I come, I do no good. To raise slander is all my lay! Backbiter is my brother of blood! He ought to have come hither this day. Now! Would God that he were here! 10 And, by my troth, I dare well say That if we two together appear More slander from us two shall you hear Within an hour throughout this town Than ever there was this thousand year. 15 And so I curse you both up and down! Now, by my troth, I have a sight Even of my brother. Lo, where he is! Welcome dear brother! My faith I plight! Your gentle mouth let me now kiss. 20 SECOND DETRACTOR Gramercy, brother, so have I bliss! I am full glad we met this day. FIRST DETRACTOR Right so am I, brother, I guess, Much gladder than I you can say. But yet, good brother, I you pray, 25 Tell all these people what is your name. For, if they knew it, my life I'd lay, They will you worship, speak of your fame. SECOND DETRACTOR I am backbiter that spills all game Both hid and known in many a place. 30 FIRST DETRACTOR By my troth, I said the same! Yet some said you should have ill grace. SECOND DETRACTOR Hark! Raise slander! Canst thou ought tell Of any new thing that done was late? FIRST DETRACTOR Within a short while a thing befell, 35 I think you will laugh right well there at. For, truly, a lot of hate, If it be known, thereof will grow. SECOND DETRACTOR If I may raise therewith debate, I shall not spare the seed to sow. 40 FIRST DETRACTOR Sir, in the temple a maid there was Called Maid Mary, the truth to tell. She seemed so holy within that place. Men said she was fed by a holy angel. She made a vow with man never to mell 45 But to live chaste and a clean virgin, However it be her womb doth swell And is as great as thine or mine. SECOND DETRACTOR Ya! That old shrew Joseph, my word I plight, Was so enamoured with that maid, 50 When of her beauty he had sight, He ceased not till he had her laid! FIRST DETRACTOR Nay, nay! Even worse she has him paid! Some fresh young gallant she loves much more Whose three legs, to her have strayed! 55 And that doth grieve the old man sore. SECOND DETRACTOR By my troth, all may well be, For fresh and fair she is in sight, And such a morsel, as it seems to me, Would cause a young man to have delight. 60 FIRST DETRACTOR Such a young damsel of beauty bright, And so comely of shape, also What if her tail oft times be light And right ticklish under the toe! SECOND DETRACTOR That old cuckold was badly beguiled, 65 To that fresh wench when he was wed. Now must he father another man's child Who with his labour will be fed. FIRST DETRACTOR A young man may do more cheer in bed To a young wench than may an old. 70 That is why the law was made, For many a man is a cuckold.
Here sits the Bishop Abizachar between two doctors of the law and hearing this defamation called, says to the detractors,
BISHOP Hark, you fellows, why speak you such shame Of that good virgin, fair Maid Mary. You should be cursed her so to defame! 75 She that is of life so good and holy. Of her to speak such villainy, You make my heart full heavy of mood. I charge you, cease of your false cry For she is a kin of my own blood! 80 SECOND DETRACTOR Kin of thy blood though she may be All great with child! Her womb does swell! Do call her hither, thyself shall see That it is truth that I thee tell. FIRST DETRACTOR Sir, for your sake I shall keep counsel. 85 To grieve your grace I am full loth, But, hear, sirs, hear what says the bell! Our fair maid now great with child goeth. FIRST DOCTOR OF THE LAW Take good heed, sirs, what you do say! Advise you well what you present. 90 If this be found false another day, Full sore you shall your tale repent. SECOND DETRACTOR Sir, the maid, I swear is of good intent Both comely and gay and a fair wench. And quickly, with help, she can consent 95 To set a cuckhold on the high bench! SECOND DOCTOR OF THE LAW You be too busy with your language! I hope to God you false to prove. It were great pity she do outrage Or with such sin our law to move. 100 BISHOP This evil tale my heart doth grieve Of her to hear such foul daliance. If she be guilty, there is no reprieve. She shall sore rue her governance. Sir Summoner, in haste, wend thou thy way. 105 Bid Joseph and his wife by name At the court to appear this day, Here to be purged of their defame. Say that I hear of them great shame, And that doth me great heaviness. 110 If they be clean and without blame, Bid them come hither and bear witness. SUMMONER Already, sir, I shall them call Here at your court for to appear. And if I may them meet withall, 115 I hope right soon they shall be here. Away, sirs, Let me come nigh! A man of worship comes to this place Of courtesy, it seems, you are too shy! You take off your hoods with evil grace! 120 Do me some worship before my face, Or, by my troth, I shall you strike! If I roll you up in my trace For fear, I shall make your arse quake. But yet some bribe to me you make, 125 I will withdraw my great rough tooth! Gold and silver I'll not forsake But do even as all summoners doth. Ah, Joseph, good day with thy fair spouse! My lord the bishop hath for you sent. 130 He has been told that in thy house A cuckold's bow is each night bent -- He that shot the bolt is likely spent! Fair maid, that tale you best can tell! Now, truthfully tell your intent 135 Did not the archer please you right well? MARY By God of heaven I bear witness That sinful work was never my thought. I am yet a maid of pure cleanness Just as I into this world was brought. 140 SUMMONER Other witness shall none be sought. Thou art with child, each man may see. I charge you both, you tarry not But to the bishop come forth with me. JOSEPH To the bishop with you we wend. 145 Of our purgation we have no doubt. MARY Almighty God shall be our friend, When the truth has all come out. SUMMONER Ya! This way excuses every sow When their own sin them doth defame. 150 But lowly, then, they begin to bow When they be guilty and found in blame. Therefore, come forth, cuckold, by name. The bishop shall your life expose. Come forth, also, you Godly dame, 155 A clean housewife as I suppose! I shall you tell without any gloss If you were mine, without any lack I would each day beshrew your nose If you had brought me such a pack! 160 My lord bishop, here have I brought This Godly couple at your bidding! It seems to me she's bearing freight! Fair child, "Lullay" she soon must sing. FIRST DETRACTOR If you to her a cradle would bring 165 You might save money in her purse! Because she is your cousin young I pray you, sir, judge her never the worse. BISHOP Alas, Mary, what hast thou wrought? I am ashamed even for thy sake! 170 How hast thou changed thy holy thought? Did old Joseph with strength thee take? Or hast thou chosen another mate? By whom art thou thus brought to shame? Tell me who has forced thy fate! 175 How hast thou lost thy holy name? MARY My name, I hope, is safe and sound. God is my witness, I am a maid! Of fleshly lust and ghostly wound In deed, nor thought, I never assayed. 180 FIRST DOCTOR OF THE LAW How should thy womb be thus arrayed, So greatly swollen as it is Unless some man thee overlaid! Thy womb should not be as great as this! SECOND DOCTOR OF THE LAW Hark thou Joseph, I am afraid 185 That thou hast wrought this open sin. This woman thou hast thus betrayed With great flattery or some false gin. SECOND DETRACTOR Now, by my troth, you hit the pin! With that purpose, in faith, I hold 190 Tell now how thou thus her didst win Or acknowledge thyself as a cuckold! JOSEPH She is, of me, a true clean maid. And I, of her, am clean also. Of fleshly sin I never assayed 195 Since that she was wedded me to. BISHOP Thou shalt not escape from us just so. Before thou tell us another lie! Straight to the altar thou shalt go The trial of vengeance there to try. 200 Here is a bottle of God's vengeance. This drink shall be now thy purgation. This has such virtue by God's ordinance That whoever drinks of this potation And goes in certain procession 205 Here in this place this altar about, If he be defiled in sin's commission Plain in his face it shall shine out. If thou be guilty, tell us, let us see. Over God's might be not too bold. 210 If thou presume and guilty be, God thou does grieve many fold. JOSEPH I am not guilty, as I first told. Almighty God shall be my witness. BISHOP Then this drink in haste thou hold 215 And in procession quickly thee dress.
Here Joseph drinks and walks around the altar saying,
JOSEPH This drink I take with meek intent. As I am guiltless to God I pray, Lord, as thou art omnipotent, On me thou show the truth this day. 220
About this altar, I take my way. Oh gracious God help thy servant, As I am guiltless against yon maid, Thy hand of mercy this time me grant. SUMMONER This old shrew may not well go, 225 Long he tarieth to go about. Lift up thy feet, set forth thy toe, Or by my troth thou will get a clout! SECOND DETRACTOR Now sir, bad luck come to thy snout! What aileth thy legs to be so lame. 230 Thou didst them put right freshly out When thou didst play with yon young dame. FIRST DETRACTOR I pray God give him mischance! His legs here do fold for age. But when with this damsel he did dance 235 The old churl had great courage! SUMMONER The shrew was then set in a dotage! And had good lust that time to play. Gave she you not slops as potage When you had done, your heart to stay? 240 JOSEPH Ah gracious God, help me this tide Against the people that me defame. As I never once did touch her side This day help me from worldly shame. About this altar to keep my fame 245 Seven times have I gone round about. If I be worthy to suffer blame, O rightful God, my sin show out. BISHOP Joseph take heart! Thank God thy lord Whose high mercy doth thee excuse 250 Through thy purgation. We shall record With her with sin thou didst never muse. But Mary, thyself must not refuse. All great with child we see thee stand. What strange man did thee misuse? 255 Why hast thou sinned against thy husband? MARY I trespassed never with earthly wight Thereof I hope through God's bond Here to be purged before your sight From all sin clean, just as my husband. 260 Give me the bottle out of you hand. Here shall I drink before your face. About this altar I shall pace round Seven times to go by God's grace. FIRST DOCTOR OF THE LAW See this bold bitch would presume 265 Against God, to test his might. Though God's vengeance her should consume She will not tell her false delight. Thou art with child, we see in sight. To us thy womb doth thee accuse! 270 There was never woman yet in such a plight That from a man could her excuse. FIRST DETRACTOR In faith, I suppose that this woman slept Without a cover when it did snow, And a flake into her mouth hath crept. 275 From there the child in her womb doth grow! SECOND DETRACTOR Then beware dame for this is plain, When it is born if the sun dost shine As I know it will turn to water again For snow into water doth ever decline. 280 SECOND DOCTOR OF THE LAW With God's high might look thou not joke! Of thy purgation be thou well advised. If thou be guilty, now take stock. Beware ever of God, that rightful justice. If God with vengeance weighs his assise 285 Not only thou but all thy kin is shamed. Better it is the truth to devise Than God for to grieve and of him be blamed. MARY I trust in his grace; I shall never him grieve. His servant I am in word, deed and thought, 290 A maid undefiled. He shall me reprieve. I pray you, fail me not! BISHOP Now by the good lord that all the world has wrought, If God on thee show any manner of grace. Purgation, I trow, was never so dear bought 295 If I may protect thee in any wise. Hold here the bottle and take a large draught And about the high altar make thy procession. MARY To God this day my cause I have betaught. Lord, through thy help, I drink of this potion. 300
Here the Blessed Virgin drinks of the potion and afterwards walks about the altar saying,
MARY God, as I never knew man's ministration, But ever have lived in true virginity, Send me this day thy holy consolation That all these fair people my cleanness may see. O gracious God as thou didst choose me 305 To be thy mother, of me to be born, Save thy tabernacle that is kept clean for thee That now is put to reproof and scorn. Gabriel told me when he came me before That you of your goodness would become my child. 310 Help now of your goodness that my worship not be lorn. Ah dear son, I pray you help your mother mild. BISHOP Almighty God, what may this mean? For all the drink of God's potation This woman with child is fair and clean, 315 Without foul spot or malfesion! I cannot, by any imagination, Prove her guilty and sinful of life. It showeth openly by her purgation She is clean maid, both mother and wife. 320 FIRST DETRACTOR By my father's soul! Here is great guile! Because she is one of your kindred The drink is changed by some false wile That she should have no shame or dread. BISHOP Because you think that we do falsehood 325 And because thou didst them first defame, Thou shalt right here prove what you said And before all these people drink of the same. FIRST DETRACTOR Sir, in good faith, one draught I pull If these from their draughts have not all spent! 330
Here he drinks and seemingly falls with a pain in his head and says,
Out, out, alas, what aileth my skull? My head with fire I think is burnt. Mercy, good Mary, I do me repent Of my cursing and false language. MARY Now God, lord in heaven omnipotent 335 Of his great mercy your sickness aswage. BISHOP We all on our knees fall to the ground, Thou handmaid of God, praying for grace, All cursed language and shame in sound, Good Mary, forgive us, here in this place! 340 MARY Now God forgive you all your trespass And also forgive you all defamation That you have said both more and less To my hindrance and accusation. BISHOP Now blessed virgin we thank you all 345 Of your good heart and great patience. We will go home with you to your hall To do you service with high reverence. MARY I thank you heartily for your benevolence. But by your leave I pray you go home 350 And take these people all with you hence, I am not disposed to pass here from. BISHOP Then farewell maiden and pure virgin. Farewell true handmaid of God in bliss. We all to you lowly incline 355 And take our leave from your worthiness. MARY Almighty God your way always show. That high lord is most of might And will you speed your path to know In heaven to have of him a sight. 360 JOSEPH Honoured in heaven be that high lord Whose endless grace is so abundant That he doth show the true record Of each person who is his servant. That lord to worship with hearts pleasant 365 We are both bound here in this place Who our purgation us did grant And proved us pure by high grace. MARY Truly, good spouse, I thank him highly Of his good grace for our purgation. 370 Our cleaness is known full openly By virtue of his great consolation.
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