21. The Barbers' Play: The Baptism

Almighty God, true Lord, I say,
Mankind's falsehood is full amazing;
For though I teach them day by day,
And tell them, Lord, of your coming,
Who all has wrought -
Men are so dull, that my preaching
Still serves as naught.

When I have, lord, in the name of thee,
Baptized these folks in clear water,
Then I have said that after me,
Shall come the one of more power
Than I at most;
He'll give a baptism more entire,
In fire and Holy Ghost.

Thus, I come as a messenger right,
As his fore-runner, in certain.
In bearing witness to that light,
Which shall be lit in every man,
Who is coming
Into this world.  Now, whoever can
May understand.

These folks wondered at my behavior,
And what I was, they quickly spied.
They asked if I were prophet or savior;
And I said no, but testified
High apart-
I said I was a voice that cried
In the desert.

"Be ready," I said constantly,
"To meet our Lord, God, Son of Man;"
That is, that all clean you must be:
In words, in works already done
Before our Lord,
With perfect life, that everyone
Will be restored.

For if we are clean in living,
Our bodies are God's temple then,
In which he will make his dwelling.
Therefore, be clean, both women and men.
This I have said.
God will make within you then
His dwelling-stead.

And if you still set all your delight,
In pleasure, and delight in this life;
Then He will turn from you aright,
Because of sin, both man and wife.
From you, he'll flee.
With any man whose sins are rife,
God will not be.

John, pay attention to what I say;
I bring you tidings wondrous good:
My lord Jesus shall come this day
From Galilee unto this flood
You "Jordan" call,
And take his baptism, mild of mood;
Today he shall.

John, of this message now be glad;
Thank him heartily, both loud and still.

Thanks be forever...I'm scared and sad;
I am not worthy to fulfill
This deed you've meant.

John, you should be, with heart and will,

To do this bidding which we mean.
But in this baptism, John, be attent:
The heavens opened shall be seen;
The holy ghost shall down be sent;
You'll see in sight.
The father's voice, with great intent,
You'll hear full right.

That forthwith thus shall say to him:
"This is my son, who's pleased me right."

My lord, your pardon for my whim.
I will be subject day and night,
As well I ought,
To please Jesus my Lord, as much I may,
In deed, speech, and thought.

But I know baptism is taken by one,
To wash and cleanse himself of sin;
And I know, of sins, that he has none
In him without, and none within.
Why needs he then
Baptism by me, or anyone,
Like one in sin?

John, mankind's lot is frailty;
And to mankind, myself I've knit.
Two arguments to you I'll show,
So you can see with kindly wit,
The reason why I've ordained so.
The first is this:
Mankind may not unbaptized go
To endless bliss.

And since I have become mankind,
So men may me their mirror make,
And have my doings in their mind;
Also, baptism, I will take.
Therefore, you see,
I shall be baptized for their sake,
Full openly.

Another reasoning I will tell:
My will is this, that from this day,
The virtue of my baptism will dwell
In baptism-water, forever and aye,
For man to taste.
Therein, through my grace, take may they
The holy ghost.

Almighty lord, great is your grace.
Thank you for this favor you did.

Come, baptize me John, in this place.

Lord, by your grace, that I forbid,
That it be so;
For Lord, methinks there were more need,
You baptized me.

From the place I yearn for most of all,
From thence you come, my Lord, I guess.
How should I then, a lowly thrall,
Give you baptism, that righteous is?
And has been ever?
For you're the root of righteousness,
Which forfeits never.

What rich man goes from door to door,
To beg from him who has right naught?
Lord, you are rich, and I am poor;
You may bless all, since all you've wrought.
From heaven comes all,
That helps on earth, if truth be sought;
From earth, but small.

You say full well, John, certainly;
But suffer now, for your heavenly good,
So righteousness not only be
Fulfilled in word, but in deed as it should,
Through baptism clear.
Come, baptize me in my manhood,
Publicly here.

First I shall take, then I shall preach;
For so I must in man fulfill
All righteousness, as man's true leech.

Lord, I'm ready at your will,
And will be aye
Your subject lord, both loud and still,
In what I may.

Ah, lord, I tremble where I stand;
I'm so afraid to do this deed.
Forgive me lord, that all ordained;
To touch you lord, I have great dread,
For doings dark.
Now help me lord, though your godhead
To do this work.

Jesus, my lord, of might the most,
I baptize you here in the name
Of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost;
In doing this deed, Lord, set no blame
This day on me.
And bring all those back to your home,
Who trust in thee.

[Then the two angels sing "Veni Creator Spiritus"]

John, for mankind's profit, you know well,
I take this baptism certainly.
All the dragon's powers as well,
Through my baptism ruined be:
This is certain.
And saved is mankind, soul and body,
From endless pain.

Each man who trusts, and baptized is, 
Is saved, and he shall come to bliss;
He who trusts not, to pains endless,
Shall soon be damned.  Trust what I preach.
But we'll go now,
Where there's most need the folks to teach.
Both I and thou.

I love you lord, as sovereign leech,
Who've come to salve men of their sores.
As you command, I shall go preach,
And show to all mankind this lore,
Who ere were thrall,
Now sirs, that babe who Mary bore,
Be with you all. 

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