8. The Shipwrights' Play: The Building of the Ark


When first I wrought this world so wide,
Wood and water, sea and sand, 
Heaven and Hell I did not hide,
Yet herbs and grasses I began.
In endless bliss for to abide,
And in my likeness, I made man.
As lord and sire on every side
Of all the Earth, I made him then.

A woman also with him wrought I,
That they in law might lead their life.
I bade them grow and multiply,
And fill this world--but not with strife.
Since then they've wrought so woefully,
And sin is flourishing and rife.
I now repent, regretfully,
That ever I made man or wife.

For now they cause me to repent
My work, that I wrought well and true.
They all are disobedient,
And always bent more sin to brew.
But, for their sins they shall be rent,
And ruined wholly, through and through.
No further word to them be sent.
I shall rework this work anew.

Anew I will this world be wrought,
Destroying all that dwells herein.
A flood upon them shall be brought
To waste the earth, and all within.
Except for Noah, I shall spare nought
Till all are sunk, and drowned for sin.
He and his sons, this is my thought,
Their wives also, their lives shall win.

Noah!  My servant, steady and clean,
Because you are stable in virtues all,
I wish you to make-hear what I mean-
A work to save yourself withal.

Ah, mercy, Lord, what may this mean?

I am the God of great and small.
I come to tell of trouble keen,
And of what marvel shall befall.

Ah, Lord, I love you, ever still,
That unto me-wretch unworthy-
Thus with your word, as is your will,
Deigns to appear thus wonderfully.

Noah, as I bid you, thus fulfil.
A ship, I tell you, build on high.
Although you have but little skill,
Take it in hand, for help shall I.

Ah, worthy Lord, I beg, take heed-
I am too old, such things to start.
I cannot work a whole day's deed
Unless great need is, for my part.

To do this work you must, indeed,
Or never escape from terrors smart.
I shall help you, and give you speed,
And give you health in mind and heart.

I see such war among man's kin,
That I will now my vengeance take.
They shall be sunken for their sin;
Therefore a ship I wish you to make.
You and your sons shall dwell therein;
They shall be saved, for your sake.
Therefore, boldly now, begin
Your measures and your marks to make.

Ah Lord, your will shall ever be wrought-
For so says every learned clerk-
But of ship-building know I nought.
Of their making I have no mark.

Noah, I say, distress you not;
I shall guide you in all your work.
Unto the end I shall see it brought.
Therefore take heed to me, and hark.

Take high trees and cut them clean.
With square, not slanted ends, begin.
Make boards from them and battens between,
Thus, properly, and not too thin.
Look that the seams be carefully seen
And nailed well; leave no gaps within.
Thus I design all that is seen.
Therefore, come now, leave off your din.

Five hundred feet it shall be long,
And eighty wide, all for your bliss.
The height, of fifty feet along.
Be careful to remember this.
I'll give you carefully, ere I gang,
Your measures, not to go amiss.
Be careful that you work not wrong.
I'll guide you sure; be sure of this.

Ah, blissful Lord, that all did build,
I thank you heartily, ever and ay!
Five hundred years I am, quite old;
I think those years as yesterday!
Full weak I was, and all unwell;
My weariness is gone away!
To work this work here in this field
All by myself, I shall assay!

To hew this board I will begin.
But first, I'll measure, end to end.
Now, it must be all equally thin,
So that it neither break nor bend.
Thus shall I join it with a pin,
And set it snugly with cement.
Thus shall I work, apprenticed in
The craft of God, the master hand.

[This work goes well, as I do feel.]
More subtly, no man can do.
It shall be clenched now, every deal,
With nails that are both fine and new;
Thus shall I fasten and bind the hull.
Put here a rivet, and there some glue-
With these, the bow I'll now work well.
This work, I warrant, is good and true.

Full true it is; now, be intent.
But fast my strength begins to fold.
Past me, a hundred winters went
Since I began this, most carefully told.
And in such travail thus to be bent
Is hard for him who is so old.
But He, who to me these messages sent,
Will be my crutch; that makes me bold.

Noah, this work is near an end,
And made as I had bid it be.
But in one way you must it mend;
Therefore, this lesson learn from me.
For diverse beasts must there be penned,
And birds also, in their degree.
So they may not their species blend,
Diverse compartments there must be.

And when the ark is ordered so,
With separate stalls and cages here,
Of every kind you shall take two,
Both male and female together to fare.
Your wife, your sons with you shall go,
And also their wives, never fear.
These eight bodies, and no more,
Shall be saved in this manner here.

Therefore, my bidding now obey.
Till all be harboured, work you fast.
After the seventh day, it shall rain
Till forty days be fully past.
Take with you gear that may pertain
To man and beast, their lives to last.
I shall succour you, be certain,
Till all your care away is cast.

Ah, Lord, that every fault may mend,
To praise your wisdom I always will.
I thank you with both heart and hand
That you will save me from troubles ill.
And to this work now I must bend,
With beasts and birds my ship to fill.
Now, may the Master of this craft I tend
Guide all of us, with His good will.

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