The Hosiers' Play: Moses and Pharaoh

The King’s Palace, Memphis

Now, peace! I bid that no man pass,1
But keep the course that I command.
And take good heed to him that has
Your life all wholly in his hand.
King Pharaoh my father was,
Who led the lordship of this land.
I am his heir, as age will ask,7
Ever in his stead to stir and stand.
All Egypt is my own
To lead after my law.
I will my might be known,
And honored as it ought.
Therefore, as king I order, "Peace!"13
To all the people in this empire.
None must assert himself, unless
He only do as we desire.
Your chattering I bid you cease;
Attend to me, your sovereign sire,
Who most your comfort may increase,19
Or, take your life, at my desire.
Counsellor One
My lord, if any there were21
That would not work your will,
And we knew which they were,
Full soon we should them kill.
Throughout my kingdom, I would know, then,25
And could give thanks to those that tell,
If any have so wicked been
That would attempt our power to quell.
Counsellor Two
My lord, there are a manner of of men29
Who have much power, and who dwell
The Jews that live here in Goshen,
Who are named the children of Israel.
They multiply so fast,
That soothy we suppose
They are like, if they last,35
Your lordship for to lose.
What the devil? What tricks have they begun?37
Are they of might to make affrays?
Counsellor One
Those felonious folk, sir, first were found39
In King Pharaoh your father’s days.
They come of Joseph, Jacob’s son
That was a prince worthy of praise!
And since then have flourished, every one;
And now they may destroy our ways.
They shall confound us clean45
Unless they quickly cease.
What the devil does it mean,47
That they so fast increase?
Counsellor Two
How they increase we’ll tell you then49
As our elders before us found,
They numbered only sixty and ten
When first they entered in this land.
Since have they sojourned here in Goshen
Four hundred years, we understand;
Now they are numbered, of mighty men,55
Well more than three hundred thousand,
Not counting wife and child
And servants, their cows to feed.
So might we be beguiled;59
But it shall not be, indeed!
For, with cunning we shall them quell,
So that they shall no further spread.
Counsellor One
Lord, we have heard our fathers tell63
How clerks, that full well could read,
Say in their midst a man should dwell
That should o’erthrow us and our deed.
Fie on them to the Devil of Hell!67
Such a destiny we shall not dread.
We shall force the midwives to spill them -
When our Hebrews are born,
All that are male, to kill them -
So shall they soon be lorn.
For of that man I have no awe.73
To them such bondage shall we bid
To dyke and delve, to bear and draw,
And do all such ignoble deed.
Thus shall the lads behold the law,
As wretches ever their lives to lead.
Counsellor Two
Surely, lord, this is a subtle saw;79
Thus shall the folk no further spread.
Yes; help to hold them down,81
And no treason will we find.
Counsellor One
Lord, we shall ever be bound83
In bondage them to bind.

On the slopes of Mount Sinai

Great God, that all this ground began,85
And governs ever in good degree,
That made me, Moses, into man,
And saved me then out of the sea -
King Pharaoh he commanded then
That no sons should savèd be;
Against his will my life began.91
Thus has God shown his might in me.
Now I am here to keep,
Set under Sinai’s side,
The bishop Jethro’s sheep,
And fortune to abide.
Ah, mercy, God, mickel is thy might;97
What may this sudden marvel mean?
Yonder I see a wondrous sight,
Where before no sign was seen.
A bush I see yonder, burning bright,
And yet the leaves remaining green.
Is it a work of worldly wight?103
I will not rest until I’ve seen.
Moses, come not too near,105
But still in that place dwell,
And take heed to me here,
And listen to what I tell.
I am thy Lord, who well can make109
Thy life, as I wish, long to last;
And the same God that sometime spake
Unto thine elders, ere they passed.
Both Abraham and his son Isaac
And Jacob, said I, should be blessed,
And multiply, as prosperous folk,115
So their seed should not be oppressed.
And now the King, Pharaoh,
Binds all their children fast.
If I permit him so,
Their seed should soon be past.
To make thee messenger have I in mind121
To him that them so injured has,
To warn him with wordes true
So that he let my people pass,
That they to wilderness may wend
And worship me, as custom was.
And if his answer should be no,127
His song full soon shall be "alas".

God sings "go down Moses"

Ah, Lord, since, by thy leave,129
That lineage loves me not,
Gladly they would me grieve
If I such bodeword brought.
Therefore, Lord, let some other try133
Who has more more force to make them fear.
Moses, be nought abashed,135
My bidding boldly to bear.
If they with evil should defy,
I shall protect thee from all care.
Nay, Lord, for they will not trust me139
For all the oaths that I can swear.
To tell such tidings new
To folk of wicked will,
Without a token true?
They will not attend theretill.
And if they will not understand145
Nor take heed how I have thee sent,
Before the king cast down thy wand,
And it shall seem as serpent.
Then, take the tail up in thy hand,
And lift it without worriment.
In the first state as thou it found,151
So shall it turn, by mine intent.
Hide thy hande in thy shirt,
And as a leper’s it shall be like,
Then, all whole and without hurt;
Thy signs shall be such like.
And if he will not free them then,157
To let my people pass in peace,
I shall send vengeance nine or ten
To pursue him sorely, ere I cease.
But the Jews that dwell in Goshen
Shall not be harmed, but shall have peace;
While they obey my laws, I then163
Their comfort ever shall increase.
Ah, Lord, lovèd be thy will165
That makes thy folk so free;
All this I shall them tell
As thou tells unto me.
But to the king, Lord, when I come,169
And he ask me what is thy name,
And I stand still then, deaf and dumb,
How shall I be without blame?
I say this: ego sum, qui sum.173
I am he that I am the same.
And though thou might not speak nor hum
I shall thee save from sin and shame.
I understand this thing177
With all the might in me.
Be bold in my blessing;179
Thy armor I shall be.
Ah, Lord of life, teach me my lore,181
That I these tales may truly tell.
Unto my people I will fare183
The chosen children of Israel,
To tell them comfort of their care,
And of their danger that they in dwell.

Moses travels to the land of Goshen

God maintain you and me evermore,187
And may all mirth among you swell.
Youth One
Ah, Moses, master dear,189
Our mirth is all mourning
We are hard held here
As karls under the king.
Youth Two
Moses, mourning we are in;193
There is none us mirthful makes.
But since we all are of one kin,
Teach us some comfort in this case.
End now all this grief that you are in;197
God will defend you from your foes.
Out of this woe he shall you win
To please him in a plentiful place.
I shall carp unto the king
And seek to make you free.
Youth Three
God send us good tiding,203
And always with you be.

The King’s Palace, Memphis

King Pharaoh! To me take tent.205
Why? What tidings canst thou tell?206
From God of Heaven I am sent207
To fetch his folk of Israel;
To wilderness he would they went.
Yah! Wend thou to the Devil of Hell!210
I find no force what thou hast meant,
For in my danger shall they dwell.
And, liar, for thy sake,
They shall be put to pain.
Then God will vengeance take215
On thee, and on all thine.
Fie on thee, lad! Out of my land!217
Think you with tricks our law to sway?
Whence comes this warlock with his wand219
That thus would steal our folk away?
Counsellor Two
This is Moses; we well warrant221
Against all Egypt he is aye.
Your father great fault in him found;
Now will he mar you if he may.
Nay, nay; that dance is done.225
That lurdan learned too late.
God bids thee grant my boon,227
And let me go my way.
Bids God me? False lurdan, thou lies!229
What token tells me his intent?
Yea, sir, he said thou should despise231
Both me and all his commandment.
"In thy presence cast, in this wise,
My wand", he said, by his assent,
And then you would be well advised
It shall turn into a serpent.
And in his holy name,237
Here shall I lay it down.
Lo, sir; see here the same.

The staff turns to serpent

Ah! Dog! The Devil thee drown!240
He said that I should take the tail,241
That I may prove his power plain;
And soon, he said, it should not fail
To turn into a wand again.
Lo, sir, behold.

The staff returns to its normal state

Now, ill-hail!246
Now certes this is a subtle swain
These boys shall bide here in our bail.
These tricks for them shall nothing gain.
But worse, both morn and noon,
Shall they fare, for thy sake.
May God send vengeance soon;252
May his wrath on thee awake.

Exit Moses to Goshen

Egyptian One
Alas! Alas! This land is torn;254
On life we cannot now depend!
Egyptian Two
Such great misfortune comes this morn,256
No medicine may it amend.
Counsellor One
We rue the day that we were born,258
Sir King; our bliss is at an end.
Why cry you so? What is this scorn?260
Egyptian One
Sir King, such care was never kenned261
Our water, that was ordained
For man and beast as food,
Throughout all Egypt land
Is turned into red blood.
Now ugly and full ill is it,
That was so fair and fresh before.267
This wonder does amaze my wit,268
Among all works that ever were.
Egyptian Two
No, lord, there is another yet270
That suddenly afflicts us sore
For toads and frogs come, without let;
Their venom kills us less and more.
Egyptian One
Lord, these midges, by morn and noon,274
Bite us full bitterly;
And we fear all is done
By Moses, our enemy.
Counsellor One
Lord, while these Hebrews live, believe278
Never mirth be us among.
Go, say we must no longer grieve280
(But nonetheless, they shall not go).

Egyptian Two crosses to Goshen

Egyptian Two
Moses, my lord has granted leave282
To lead thy folk to the land of promise
So that we may mend us of our mischief.
I wot full well these words are wrong285
That shall full soon be seen.
For heartily I to him say:
If he of malice mean
More marvels must he meet.
Egyptian One
Lord, alas, for dole we die;290
We dare not look out of the door!
What devil makes you so to cry?292

Egyptian Two returns from Goshen

Egyptian Two
We fare now worse than ever before!293
Great flies, over all this land they fly,
And with their biting hurt us sore.
Egyptian One
Lord, our beasts lie dead and dry296
As well on midden as on moor
Both ox, horse and ass
Fall down dead, suddenly!
With that, no man harm has300
A half as much as me.
Counsellor Two
Yes, lord, poor men indeed have woe302
To see their cattle dead and lost.
The Jews in Goshen fare not so;
They have all liking in to last.
Go; say we give them leave to go306
Until these perils all have passed
(But ere they flit o’er far us fro
We shall go fetter them four times as fast!).

Egyptian Two crosses to Goshen

Egyptian Two
Moses, my lord gives leave310
Thy people to remove.
He shall have more mischief312
If these tales be not true.
Egyptian One
Ah, Lord! We cannot lead this life!314
Why? Is there grievance grown again?315

Egyptian Two returns from Goshen

Egyptian Two
Such powder, lord, upon us drive;316
That where it beats it make a boil.
Egyptian One
Like lepers makes it men and wives,318
Thus are they hurt with hail and rain;
Our vines in mountains may not thrive;
So are they threshed and thunder-slain.
How do they in Goshen,322
The Jews? Can you aught say?
Egyptian Two
This care they nothing ken,324
They feel no such affray.
No? Devil! And sit they so, in peace,326
And we, each day in doubt and dread?
Egyptian One
My lord, this care will ever increase328
’Til Moses has leave them to lead.
Counsellor One
Lord, if they went, then it would cease;330
So we should save us and our seed.
We are otherwise lost, with no release.
Let him go forth; the Devil him speed333
(His folk should not go far,
Though he were raving mad).
Counsellor Two
Things shall be worse than they are,336
But their going is not so bad.
Egyptian Two
Ah, Lord! New harm is come to hand!338
No! Devil! Will it no better be?339
Egyptian One
Wild locusts are laid over all this land;340
They leave no fruit nor flower on tree.
Against that storm may nothing stand.
Egyptian Two
Lord, there is more, it seems to me;343
For three days now it has been found
Such gloom that none can rightly see.
Egyptian One
My lord, great pestilence Pause346

Entire court registers total horror

Is like full long to last.
Oh, comes that in our presence?348
Then is our pride all past.
Egyptian Two
My lord, this vengeance lasts as long,350
And must, till Moses has his boon.
Counsellor One
Lord, let them wend else work we wrong;352
It may not help to hover or hum.
Go; say we grant them leave to gang,354
In the Devil’s name, since it must be done
(For so may fall we shall them find
And mar them all tomorrow ere noon).

Egyptian One crosses to Goshen

Egyptian One
Moses, my lord has said358
Thou shalt have passage plain.
And to pass am I pleased.360
My friends, be of good cheer;
For at our will we now shall go,
To dwell within the Promised Land.
Youth One
King Pharaoh, that felonious fiend,364
Will have great care when this is kenned
Then will he shape him us to shend
And soon his host after us send.
Be not afraid; God is your friend368
From all our foes he will us fend
Therefore, come forth with me.
Have done and dread ye nought.
Youth Two
My Lord, loved may thou be;372
That us from bale has brought.
Youth Three
Such friendship never before we found,374
But still, misfortunes may befall.
The Red Sea is right near at hand;
There we must wait, and be made thrall.
I shall make us a way, with my wand,378
For God has said he save us all.
On either side, the sea shall stand,
’Til we be went, right as a wall.
Therefore, have no dread;
But find ever God to please.
Youth One
The Lord to land us leads;384
Now wend we all at ease.

The Red Sea parts and the Children of Israel cross over

Egyptian One
King Pharaoh, the folk are gone.386
Now tell me, is there any news?387
Egyptian Two
The Hebrews are went, ilke one.388
How says thou that?389
Egyptian One
The tales are true.390
Horse, harness take that they be ta’en.391
This riot they shall swiftly rue.
We shall not cease before they’re slain;
Right to the sea we shall pursue.
Go; load our chariots now,
And quickly follow me.
Egyptian Two
Lord, to your will we bow;397
At your bidding shall we be.
Counsellor Two
Lord, to your bidding we are bound;399
Our bodies boldly for to bid
We’ll not abide, but ding them down
’Til all be dead, without dread.
Heave up your hearts aye to Mahound;403
He will be near us in our need.

The Red Sea closes over the Egyptians

Out! Ay Harroo! By the Devil, I drown!405
Egyptian One
Alas! We die for all our deed!406
Youth One
Now we are won from woe,407
And saved out of the sea;
Cantemus domino;
To God a song sing we.

2017 Dec 13  14:37:38