The Pewterers' and Founders' Play: Joseph's Trouble about Mary

Of great mourning now may I moan,1
and walk full wearily by this way,
for now weened I best have been
at ease and rest by reason aye,
for I am of great eld,
weak and all unwield,
as each man see it may:7
I may neither bind nor build.
But whether in fell or field,
for shame what shall I say,
that thus now in mine old days11
has wedded a young wench to my wife
and may not well step over two straws?
Now lord, how long shall I lead this life?
The bargain that I made there,
that rues me now full sore,
I am so straitly stead.17
Now casts it me in care,
for might I evermore
a single life have led.
Her works me work my cheeks to wet;21
I am beguiled – how, wot I nought.
My young wife is with child full great,
that makes me now sorrow unsought.
The child certes is not mine;
that reproof does me pain,
and makes me flee from home.27
My troth be herein:
she is a clean virgin
for me, withouten blame.
But well I wot through prophecy31
a maiden clean shall bear a child,
But it is not so, certainly,
therefore I am beguiled.
And why would not some young man take her?
For certes I will go from her
into some woods wild,37
thus think I to steal from her.
God shield no wild beasts slay her!
She is so meek and mild.
Of my wending will I none warn.41
Nevertheless it is mine intent
to ask her who got her that bairn.
That would I wit fain ere I went.
All hail, God be herein!45
Welcome, by God’s dear might!46
Where is that young virgin,47
Mary, my bird so bright?
Certes Joseph, ye shall understand49
that she is here full close
she sits praying near at hand
for you and us and all those
that aught have need.
But for to tell her will I go
of your coming, withouten dread.55
Have done and rise up dame,
and to me take good heed –
Joseph, he is come home.
Welcome, as God me speed.59
Dreadless to me he is full dear.
Joseph my spouse, welcome are ye.
Gramercy Mary, say, what cheer?62
Tell me the sooth, how is’t with thee?
Who has been here?
Thy womb is waxen great, thinks me;
thou art with bairn, alas for care!
Ah, maidens, woe to you
that let her learn such lore.68
Joseph, ye shall not trow69
in her no feeble fare.
Trow it no harm? Good wench, do way!71
Her sides show she is with child.
Whose is’t Mary?
Sir, God’s and yours.74
Nay nay!75
Now wot I well I am beguiled.
And reason why?
With me fleshly was thou ne’er defiled,
and I will stand thereby.
Say, maidens, how is this?
Tell me the sooth, bid I.81
And, but ye do, i-wis,
The bargain shall ye buy.
If ye threat as fast as ye can’84
there is nought to say theretill,
for truly here came never so man
to shame her body with no ill
of this sweet wight.
But we have dwelt aye with her still,
and was never from her day nor night.90
Her keepers have we been,
and she aye in our sight.
Came here no man between
to touch that bird so bright.
Nay, here came no man in this house,95
and that ever witness will we,
save an angel that day once
with bodily food her fed has he;
other came none.
Wherefore we wot not how it should be
But through the Holy Ghost alone.101
For truly we trow this,
his grace with her is gone,
for she wrought never no miss,
we witness ever each one.
Then see I well your meaning is106
The angel has made her with child.
Nay, some man in angel’s likeness
with some game has her beguiled,
and that trow I.
So it needs not such words wild
to carp at me deceivingly.112
Weh! Why gab ye at me so
and feign such fantasy?
Alas, me is full woe!
For dole so might I die!
To my witness great God I call117
that I in mind wrought never no miss.
Whose is the child thou art withal?119
Yours sir, and the king of bliss.120
With great mourning make I my moan!121
Therof be not so bold,
that no such tales be told,
but hold thee still as stone.
Thou art young and I am old,
such works if I would,
these games from me are gone.127
Who had thy maidenhead, Mary?
Hast thou in mind?
Forsooth, I am a maiden clean.130
Nay, thou speaks now against kind;131
such thing has never been
a maiden to be with child.
Those words from thee are wild.
She was not born, I ween.
Joseph, ye are beguiled.136
With no sin was I never defiled;
God’s sign is on me seen.
God’s sign? Yea Mary, God help!139
But certes that child was never ours two.
Certes, it is God’s command;141
from that shall I never go.
Yea, Mary, withdraw thy hand;143
I trow it not be so.
The truth from me though thou refrain,
the child-bearing thou may not hide.
But sit still here till I come again;
I have an errand here beside.
Now great God be your guide,149
and mend you of your miss
of me, what so betide.
As he is king of bliss,
send you some seeing of this,
the truth that ye might bide.
Now lord God that all thing may155
at thy will both do and dress,
show me some ready way
to walk here in this wilderness.
But ere I pass this hill,
do with me what God will.
Either more or less161
here must I bide full still
till I have slept my fill,
my heart so heavy is.


Waken, Joseph, and take better keep165
to Mary, that is thy fellow fast.
I am full weary, sir, let me sleep,167
for wandering and walking in this forest.
Rise up and sleep no more,169
thou makest her heart so sore
that loves thee as the best.
Weh! This is a fine affair,172
for to be chased both here and there,
and nowhere may have rest.
Say, what art thou? Tell me this thing.
I, Gabriel, God’s angel am,176
that has taken Mary to my keeping,
and sent is thee to say full even:
in loyal wedlock thou lead thee.
Leave her not, I forbid thee,
no sin in her thou name,
but to her fast thou speed thee,182
and of her nought dread thee;
it is God’s sign from heaven.
The child that shall be born of her,185
it is conceived of the Holy Ghost;
all joy and bliss shall be after,
and now to all mankind the most.
Jesus his name thou call,
for such hap shall him fall
as thou shall see in haste:191
his people save he shall
of evils and angers all
that they are now embraced.
And is this sooth, Angel, thou says?195
Yea, and this to take aright:196
wend forth to Mary thy wife always,
bring her to Bethlehem this same night.
There shall a child born be,
God’s son of heaven is he,
And man aye most of might.
Now Lord God, full well is me202
that ever that I this sight should see,
I was never ere so light.
For I would have her thus refused,205
and sinless blamed that aye was clear,
I must pray her hold me excused,
as some men do with full good cheer.
Say, Mary wife, how fares thou?
The better sir for you.210
Why stand ye there? Come near.
My back fain would I bow212
and ask forgiveness now,
wist I thou would me hear.
Forgiveness sir? Let be for shame.215
Such words should all good women lack.
Yea, Mary, I am to blame217
for words long-ere I to thee spake.
But gather up now all our gear,
such poor weeds as we wear,
and put them in a pack.
To Bethlehem I must it bear
for little things cause women care.223
Help up now on my back!

2021 Aug 24  19:58:26