Herod the Great


[Entering onto a crowded marketplace

May most mighty Lucifer / meet you with mirth!
Both of borough and town / from the fells and the firth,
Both king with crown / and barons of birth.
We hear rumours abound / that peace upon earth
Is foretold;
Give ear and attend
What I say to this end,
Lest woeful you wend
And harms you enfold.
Herod, the good king / by the devil’s reknown,
All Jewry surmounting / sternly with crown,
Of all life now living / in tower and town,
Graciously greets you, / commands you bow down
At his bidding;
Love him with loyalty,
Dread him, that is doughty!
He charges you be ready
To learn of his liking.
Whoever on earth / against him complain,
And grievance give forth / be he knight, squire, or swain;
Whatever his worth, / the price must he pay
Twelve thousand fold, / yea, more I say
May ye trust.
He is wonderly woeful,
Weeping full sorely;
For a boy that is born here by
Stands he aghast.
Folk call him a king / and that we deny;
That it should so fall / great marvel have I.
Therefore over all / shall I make a cry.
Neither bellow nor bawl / nor look not to lie
This tide!
Carp of no king
But Herod, our lording,
Or hie home to your dwelling,
Your heads for to hide.
He is King of Kings / kindly I know,
Chief lord of lordings / chief leader of law,
Throughout all the town / and unto the shore,
Great dukes drop down / for his great awe,
And revere him.
Tuscany and Turkey,
All India and Italy,
Sicily and Syria,
Dread him and fear him.
From paradise to Padua / to Mount Flascon;
From Egypt to Mantua / as far as Camden;
From Sarceny to Sousa / to Greece all bow down;
Both Normandy and Norway / kneel to his crown.
His reknown
Can no tongue tell;
From heaven unto hell
None can praise him so well
But his good friend Sir Satan.
He is the worthiest of all / bairns ever born;
Free men in his thrall / in terror are torn.
Begin he to brawl / many men feel his scorn;
Obey must we all / or else be forlorn
At once.
Drop down on your knee,
All that him see,
Displeased is he,
And may break your bones. [Herod approaches
Here he comes now, I cry / that lord, I of spake;
Fast afore will I hie / and make no mistake,
But welcome him worshipfully / and merriment make,
As he is most worthy, / and kneel for his sake
So low,
Down demurely to fall
As rank most royal.
Hail, the worthiest of all!
To thee must I bow!
Hail, loved lord! lo / thy letters have I laid;
I have done all I could do / and peace have I prayed;
Much more than I should do / I plainly assayed;
But rumours do run so / that boldly they brayed
Amongst themselves.
They carp of a king;
They cease not such chattering.
But I shall tame their talking,
And let them go hang them.
Stint, wretches, your din / yea, every one!
Till I have gone in / make never a moan;
For if I begin / I will break every bone,
And pull from thy skin / the carcass anon;
Yea, perdi!
Cease all this wonder,
And make you no blunder,
For I rip you asunder,
Be ye so hardy.
Peace both young and old / at my bidding, I said,
For I own all the world, / I can strike you all dead;
Whoever is too bold, / I brain him through the head;
Speak not, or I have told, / what I will in this stead.
You know not
What grief I will give.
Stir not till ye have leave;
For if ye do, I will you cleave
Small as meat for the pot.
My mirth is turned to pain / my meekness into ire,
This boy burns my brain / within I feel fire
If I see this young swain / I shall give him his hire;
Should my will I not gain / Call me a soft silly sire
On my throne.
Had I that lad in hand,
As I am king in land,
I should with this steel brand
Break all his bones.
My name springs far and near; / the doughtiest, men me call
That ever wielded with spear; / A lord and king royal.
What joy is me to hear / A lad to seize my stall!
If I this crown may bear / that boy shall pay for all.
I anger;
I know not what devil me ails,
They torment me with tales,
That by God’s own nails,
I’ll be silent no longer.
What devil! Methink I burst / for anger and for spleen;
I fear these kings be past / that here with me have been.
They promised me full fast / ere now here to be seen,
Or else I should have cast / another plot, I ween;
I tell you.
A boy they said they sought,
with offerings that they brought;
It troubles my heart right nought
To break his neck in two.
But be they passed me by / by Judas in heaven,
I shall soon by and by / set all on six and seven.
Think you a king as I / will let them believe in
Any to have mastery / but what my self is given
By my right?
The devil me hang and draw,
If I that lurden know,
But I give him a blow;
That life I shall him smite.
For pity’s sake I would / know if they were gone;
And ye therof were told / I pray you say anon;
For if they be so bold, / by God that sits on throne,
The pain cannot be told, / that they shall have each one,
For ire.
Such pains hard, never man tell,
So wicked and so cruel,
That Lucifer in hell
Shall burn their bones in fire.
First Soldier
Lord, think not ill if I / tell you how they are passed;
I cannot lie, truly: / since they were with you last,
Another road to fly / they sought, and that full fast.
Why, and are they passed me by? / Wey! Out! for fury I burst!
Wey! Fie!
Fie on the Devil! Where may I bide?
But fight for fury and at all traitors chide!
Thieves, I say ye should have spied
And told when they went by.
Fine knights to trust! / Nay, rougues ye are, and thieves;
I could yield up my ghost, / so sore my heart grieves.
Second Soldier
What need you be downcast? / There are no great mischiefs
That should make you aghast. /
Third Soldier
Why make ye such reproofs
Without pause?
Thus should ye not threat us,
Unseemly to beat us.
Ye should not mistreat us,
Without other cause.
Fie, lumpish liars! / lurdans each one!
Traitors and criers! / knaves, and knights none!
Had ye been worth your hire / thus had they not gone;
If I catch those caitiffs / I break ev’ry bone.
First, vengeance
Shall I see on their bones.
If they bide here at home
I shall ding them with stones.
Yea, never dare doubt me.
I know not where I may sit / for anger and despite;
We have not done all yet / if it be as I indite.
Fie! devil! now how is it? / As long as I have sight
I think not for to flit, / but king I will be right
For ever.
But stand I apart,
I tell you my heart:
I shall snare them fast,
Or else trust me never.
First Soldier
Sir, they went suddenly, / ere any man wist.
Else had we had them, perdi / ye take my gist.
Second Soldier
So bold, nor so hardy / in all the list
Was none of that company / durst challenge my fist
For fear.
Third Soldier
They durst not abide,
But ran them to hide.
If I had them spied,
I had humbled their pride.
What could we more do / to save your honour?
First Soldier
We were ready thereto, / and shall be each hour.
Now since it is so / ye shall have favour;
Go where ye will, go / by town and by tower,
Go from me!
I have matters to mull
with my privy counsel;
Clerks, you must me tell
Some words that will cheer me.
One spake in mine ear: / A wonderful talking,
And said a maiden should bear / a boy to be king;
Sirs, I pray you inquire / in all your writing,
In Virgil, in Homer / And all other thing
Both legend,
And poetical tales.
Epistles and missals;
Mass and matins, will never avail,
And ye need not attend;
I pray you tell quickly / now what ye find.
First Counsellor
Truly, sir, prophecy / It is not blind;
We read thus in Isaiah / he shall be so kind,
That a maiden, soothly / which never sinned,
Shall him bear:
“virgo concipiet,
Natumque pariet;
Emanuell” is set
His name, as told there:
“God is with us,” / that is for to say.
Second Counsellor
Another says thus- / trust me ye may:
“Of Beth’lem a gracious / Lord shall spring,
That of Jewry courageous / shall aye be King
Lord mighty;
And him shall honour
Both King and emperor.”
Why, and should I to him cower?
Nay, thou tell’st lies too lightly!
Fie! the devil thee speed / and me, make I moan!
This has thou done indeed / to anger me alone:
And thou, knave, thou thy fee / shall have, by cock’s bone!
Thou know not half thy creed! / Out, thieves, from my throne!
Fie, knaves!
Fie, dotty-pols, with your books!
Go cast them in the brooks!
Your wiles and your tricks
Make my wit rave!
Heard I never such a rant: / that a knave so slight
Should come like a saint, / and rob me my right;
Nay, he shall recant: / I shall ding him down straight.
Beware! I say, let me pant; / now think I to fight
For anger;
My guts will out burst
But I this lad crush;
Without I have a vengeing
I may live no longer.
Should a carl in a cave / but one year of age,
Thus make me to rave? /
First Counsellor
Sir, peace this outrage!
Away let you wave / all such language.
Your worship to save, / is he ought but a page
Of a year?
We two could him truss
with our mere wits between us;
So, that if ye say thus,
He shall die on a spear.
Second Counsellor
For fear that he reign, / do as we set forth:
Throughout Bethlehem / and all over the earth,
Make knights to run, / and put unto death
All male children / from time of their birth,
Till years two;
This child may ye kill
Thus at your own will.
Thou show’st here great skill
Such a plot to brew!
If I live in this land / a long life, as I hope,
By this dare I warrant / to make thee Pope.
O, my heart is rising / for joy it does hop!
For this noble tiding / thou shall have a drop
Of my good grace;
Marks, moneys, and pounds,
Great castles and grounds;
Through all seas and sands
I give thee the choice.
Now will I proceed / and take vengeance.
All the flower of knighthood / call to allegeance.

[Calling the Herald]

See to it, I thee bid: / it may thee advance.
Lord, I shall make speed / and bring them, perchance,
To thy sight. [Goes to the Soldiers]
Hark, knights, I you bring
Here new tiding.
Unto Herod the King
Haste with all your might!
In all the haste that ye may / in armour full bright,
In your best array / look that ye be dight.
First Soldier
Why should we stray? /
Second Soldier
This is not all right.
Third Soldier
Sirs, without delay / I dread that we fight.
I pray you,
As fast as you may,
Come to him this day.
First Soldier
What, in our best array?
Yea, sirs, I say you.
Second Soldier
Somewhat is in hand / whate’er it may mean.
Third Soldier
Tarry not for to stand / there, where we are bidden.
King Herod all worshipful / well be ye seen!
Your knights are come / in armour full sheen,
To do your will.
First Soldier
Hail, mightiest of all!
We are come at your call
For to do what we shall,
your wish to fulfill.
Welcome, lordings, Iwys, / both great and small!
The cause now is this / that I send for you all:
A lad, a knave, born is / that should be king royal;
But I kill him and his / my spirit quite will fail.
Therefore, Sirs,
Vengeance shall ye take,
All for that lad’s sake.
Of your fame man shall speak
Wherever you go, Sirs.
To Beth’lem go your way / through the countryside scout,
All male children to slay: / look you be stern and stout.
If their years are but two / that you find round about,
Leave none living this day / that lie in swaddlingclout,
I say you;
Spare no babe’s blood:
Let all run in flood,
If women wax mad.
I warn you, sirs, to speed you;
Hence! Now go your way / and get you there.
Second Soldier
This may mean great affray; / but I will go before.
Third Soldier
Ah, think, sirs, I say / I will bite like a boar.
First Soldier
When I start my play / I shall kill me a score;
Herod all hail!
We shall for your sake
This massacre make.
Now if you do well my work
My reward shall not fail.
Second Soldier
Play our parts now by rote / and handle them well.
Third Soldier
I shall strike at their coats / and make them to yell.

[First Woman enters

First Soldier
Hark, fellows, you dote / yonder comes trouble;
I wager a groat / she likes me not well;
Let us part.
Dame, think it not ill,
Thy child if I kill.
First Woman
What, thief! against my will?
Lord, save his dear heart!
First Soldier
Abide now, abide / no farther thou goes.
First Woman
Peace, thief! shall I chide / and make here a noise?
First Soldier
I shall humble thy pride / when kill we these boys!
First Woman
May evil betide / look well to thy nose,
False thief!
Let me have at thy hood.
First Soldier
What, whore, art thou mad?

[He kills the child

First Woman
Out, alas, my child’s blood!
I cry in my grief!
Alas for shame and sin! / Alas that I was born!
Of weeping who may stint / to see her child forlorn?
My comfort and my kin, / my son thus dead and torn!
Vengeance for this sin / I cry, both even and morn.
Second Soldier
Well done! [Second Woman enters
Come hither, thou old stry!
That lad of thine shall die.
Second Woman
Mercy, lord, I cry!
It is my own dear son.
Second Soldier
No mercy you merit: / your moans move me naught!
Second Woman
Then thy skull shall I cleave! / Will’st thou be clawed?
Leave, leave, now I bid! /
Second Soldier
Peace, bid I, bawd!

[He kills the child

Second Woman
Fie, fie, for pity! / Fie, full of fraud!
No man!
Have at thy tabard,
Harlot and holard!
Thou shall not be spared!
I cry and I ban!
Out! murder! Man, I say / cruel traitor and thief!
Out! alas! and welaway! / My dear child and life!
My joy, my blood, my play / that never gave man grief!
Alas, alas, this day! / I would, my heart should cleave
In sunder!
Vengeance I cry and call,
On Herod and his knights all!
Vengeance, Lord, upon them fall,
And make the world wonder!
Third Soldier
This is sure greatest game / that ever may be;

[Third woman enters

Come hitherward dame! / ye need not to flee!
Third Woman
Will ye do any harm / to my child, and me?
Third Soldier
He shall die, I thee swear / his heart’s blood shall thou see.

[He kills the child

Third Woman
God forbid!
Thief! thou shed’st my child’s blood!
Out, I cry! I go near mad!
Alas! my heart is all on flood,
To see my child thus bleed!
By God, thou shall rue / this deed that thou has done.
Third Soldier
I bid thee not stray, / by sun and by moon.
Third Woman
Have at thee say I! / this dagger for thy loins!
Out on thee cry I / have at thy groin
This keep I in store.
Third Soldier
Peace now, no more!
Third Woman
I cry and I roar,
Out on thee, man’s murderer!
Alas! my babe, my innocent; / flesh of my flesh! for sorrow
That God me dearly sent, / torment as sharp as arrow!
Thy body is torn and rent, / I cry both even and morrow,
Vengeance for thy blood, thus spent / out! I cry, and harrow!
First Soldier
Go lightly!
Give over these groans!
Haste, trollopes, hence to your homes,-
Or by cock’s bones
I shall not ask politely!
They are fled now; I wot / they will not abide.
Second Soldier
Let us run hot-foot; / now would I we hied,
And tell of this lot, / how we have betide.
Third Soldier
Thou can nothing do here / that have I descried;
Go forth and wend,
Tell thou Herod our tale!
For all our avail,
I tell you, sans fail,
He will us commend.
First Soldier
I am best of you all / and ever have been;
The devil have my soul / if I be not first seen;
It fits me to call / on my lord, as I ween.
Second Soldier
What needs thee to brawl? / Be not so keen
In this anger;
I shall say thou did best -
Save myself, as I guessed.
First Soldier
Wey! that is most honest.
Third Soldier
Go, tarry no longer! [They go back to Herod
First Soldier
Hail Herod, our King / full glad may ye be!
Good tiding we bring: / harken now to me
We have been riding / throughout all Jewry:
Now know ye one thing- / that murdered, have we,
Many thousands.
Second Soldier
I held them full hot,
I struck them and smote;
Their dams now, I wot,
Cannot bind them in bands.
Third Soldier
Had ye seen how I fared / when I came among them!
There was none that I spared, / but I laid on and dang them.
I am worthy a reward, / where I was among them.
I stood and I stared / no pity to hang them
Had I.
Now, by mighty Mahowne,
That is good of reknown!
If I wear this crown.
You shall each have a lady,
Fully fairly arrayed, / to wed at your will.
First Soldier
So have ye long said, / but have not paid the bill!
Second Soldier
And I was never flayed / for good nor for ill.
Third Soldier
Ye might hold, you well paid / our wish to fulfill,
Thus think me:
With treasure untold,
If it like that ye would,
Both silver and gold,
To give us great plenty.
As I am king crowned / I think it good right!
There goes none on ground / of such main and might
A hundred thousand pound / is good wage for a knight,
Of pennies good and round: / now may ye go light
With store.
And ye knights of ours
Shall have castles and towers,
Both to you and to yours,
For now and evermore.
First Soldier
Was never none born / by down nor by dale,
Nor none ever before / that thus did prevail.
Second Soldier
We have castles and corn, / much gold in our mails.
Third Soldier
It will last evermore / I tell you no tales;
Hail in the highest!
Hail lord! Hail King!
We are forth faring! [They leave

[Addressing the crowd/audience

Now may Lucifer bring you
Where he is lord friendly;
Now in peace may I stand / I thank thee, each one!
And give of my land / that belongs to my crown.
So come close at hand / both of burgh and of town;
Marks each one a thousand / when next I am come,
Shall ye have.
I shall make no delay
To give that I say!
When next I come this way,
And then may ye crave.
I set by no good, / now my heart is at ease,
That I shed so much blood / I may rule as I please!
For to see this flood / from the feet to the knees
Methinks it is good / yea, I laugh till I wheeze;
By God’s moon!
So light is my soul,
That to honey turns my bile;
I may do what I will,
And bear up my crown.
I was cast into care, / so frightly afraid;
But I no more despair: / for low is he laid
That I most did I fear; / so have I him flayed.
It would great wonder be / where so many strayed
In harm’s way,
That one should escape,
And unharmèd take flight,
When so many childer
For their blows have no balm.
A hundred thousand, Iwis / and forty are slain,
And four more thousand; this / makes glad my heart plain;
Such murder in the land / shall never be again.
Had I had but one bat / at that sweet swain
So young,
The deed had been spoken
And not been forgotten,
were I dead and rotten,
Told by many a tongue.
Thus shall I teach knaves / example to take:
If any man rave, / other masters to make,
Be they boastful and brave, / think not I shall quake!
False sovereigns shall none save, / your necks shall I strike
In sunder.
None King shall ye call
But Herod the royal;
And if any man shall,
He suffers for that blunder.
For if I hear it spoken / when I come again,
Your brains shall be broken / so have heed of pain;
What it may betoken / it shall be so plain;
I say without joking, / I have but disdain
For the squeamish.
Sirs, this is my counsel-
Be not too cruel,
But adieu - to the devil!
I know no more French!

2016 Nov 29  17:00:55