Herod the Great


[Entering onto a crowded marketplace

May most mighty Lucifer / meet you with mirth!1
Both of borough and town / from the fells and the firth,
Both king with crown / and barons of birth.3
We hear rumours abound / that peace upon earth4
Is foretold;5
Give ear and attend6
What I say to this end,7
Lest woeful you wend8
And harms you enfold.9
Herod, the good king / by the devil’s reknown,
All Jewry surmounting / sternly with crown,11
Of all life now living / in tower and town,12
Graciously greets you, / commands you bow down13
At his bidding;14
Love him with loyalty,15
Dread him, that is doughty!16
He charges you be ready17
To learn of his liking.18
Whoever on earth / against him complain,19
And grievance give forth / be he knight, squire, or swain;
Whatever his worth, / the price must he pay21
Twelve thousand fold, / yea, more I say22
May ye trust.23
He is wonderly woeful,24
Weeping full sorely;25
For a boy that is born here by26
Stands he aghast.27
Folk call him a king / and that we deny;28
That it should so fall / great marvel have I.29
Therefore over all / shall I make a cry.30
Neither bellow nor bawl / nor look not to lie31
This tide!32
Carp of no king33
But Herod, our lording,34
Or hie home to your dwelling,35
Your heads for to hide.36
He is King of Kings / kindly I know,37
Chief lord of lordings / chief leader of law,38
Throughout all the town / and unto the shore,39
Great dukes drop down / for his great awe,40
And revere him.41
Tuscany and Turkey,42
All India and Italy,43
Sicily and Syria,44
Dread him and fear him.45
From paradise to Padua / to Mount Flascon;46
From Egypt to Mantua / as far as Kemp Town;47
From Sarceny to Sousa / to Greece all bow down;48
Both Normandy and Norway / kneel to his crown.49
His reknown50
Can no tongue tell;51
From heaven unto hell52
None can praise him so well53
But his good friend Sir Satan.54
He is the worthiest of all / bairns ever born;55
Free men in his thrall / in terror are torn.56
Begin he to brawl / many men feel his scorn;57
Obey must we all / or else be forlorn58
At once.59
Drop down on your knee,60
All that him see,61
Displeased is he,62
And may break your bones. [Herod approaches63
Here he comes now, I cry / that lord, I of spake;64
Fast afore will I hie / and make no mistake,65
But welcome him worshipfully / and merriment make,66
As he is most worthy, / and kneel for his sake67
So low,68
Down demurely to fall69
As rank most royal.70
Hail, the worthiest of all!71
To thee must I bow!72
Hail, loved lord! lo / thy letters have I laid;73
I have done all I could do / and peace have I prayed;
Much more than I should do / I plainly assayed;75
But rumours do run so / that boldly they brayed76
Amongst themselves.77
They carp of a king;78
They cease not such chattering.79
But I shall tame their talking,80
And let them go hang them.81
Stint, wretches, your din / yea, every one!82
Till I have gone in / make never a moan;83
For if I begin / I will break every bone,84
And pull from thy skin / the carcass anon;85
Yea, perdi!86
Cease all this wonder,87
And make you no blunder,88
For I rip you asunder,89
Be ye so hardy.90
Peace both young and old / at my bidding, I said,91
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 not95
What grief I will give.96
Stir not till ye have leave;97
For if ye do, I will you cleave98
Small as meat for the pot.99
My mirth is turned to pain / my meekness into ire,100
This boy burns my brain / within I feel fire101
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.104
Had I that lad in hand,105
As I am king in land,106
I should with this steel brand107
Break all his bones.108
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!111
If I this crown may bear / that boy shall pay for all.
I anger;113
I know not what devil me ails,114
They torment me with tales,115
That by God’s own nails,116
I’ll be silent no longer.117
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;121
I tell you.122
A boy they said they sought,123
with offerings that they brought;124
It troubles my heart right nought125
To break his neck in two.126
But be they passed me by / by Judas in heaven,127
I shall soon by and by / set all on six and seven.128
Think you a king as I / will let them believe in129
Any to have mastery / but what my self is given130
By my right?131
The devil me hang and draw,132
If I that lurden know,133
But I give him a blow;134
That life I shall him smite.135
For pity’s sake I would / know if they were gone;
And ye therof were told / I pray you say anon;137
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.140
Such pains hard, never man tell,141
So wicked and so cruel,142
That Lucifer in hell143
Shall burn their bones in fire.144
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!149
Fie on the Devil! Where may I bide?150
But fight for fury and at all traitors chide!151
Thieves, I say ye should have spied152
And told when they went by.153
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 reproofs157
Without pause?158
Thus should ye not threat us,159
Unseemly to beat us.160
Ye should not mistreat us,161
Without other cause.162
Fie, lumpish liars! / lurdans each one!163
Traitors and criers! / knaves, and knights none!164
Had ye been worth your hire / thus had they not gone;
If I catch those caitiffs / I break ev’ry bone.
First, vengeance167
Shall I see on their bones.168
If they bide here at home169
I shall ding them with stones.170
Yea, never dare doubt me.171
I know not where I may sit / for anger and despite;
We have not done all yet / if it be as I indite.173
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.176
But stand I apart,177
I tell you my heart:178
I shall snare them fast,179
Or else trust me never.180
First Soldier
Sir, they went suddenly, / ere any man wist.181
Else had we had them, perdi / ye take my gist.182
Second Soldier
So bold, nor so hardy / in all the list183
Was none of that company / durst challenge my fist184
For fear.185
Third Soldier
They durst not abide,186
But ran them to hide.187
If I had them spied,188
I had humbled their pride.189
What could we more do / to save your honour?190
First Soldier
We were ready thereto, / and shall be each hour.191
Now since it is so / ye shall have favour;192
Go where ye will, go / by town and by tower,193
Go from me!194
I have matters to mull195
with my privy counsel;196
Clerks, you must me tell197
Some words that will cheer me.198
One spake in mine ear: / A wonderful talking,199
And said a maiden should bear / a boy to be king;200
Sirs, I pray you inquire / in all your writing,201
In Virgil, in Homer / And all other thing202
Both legend,203
And poetical tales.204
Epistles and missals;205
Mass and matins, will never avail,206
And ye need not attend;207
I pray you tell quickly / now what ye find.208
First Counsellor
Truly, sir, prophecy / It is not blind;209
We read thus in Isaiah / he shall be so kind,210
That a maiden, soothly / which never sinned,211
Shall him bear:212
“virgo concipiet,213
Natumque pariet;214
Emanuell” is set215
His name, as told there:216
“God is with us,” / that is for to say.
Second Counsellor
Another says thus- / trust me ye may:218
“Of Beth’lem a gracious / Lord shall spring,
That of Jewry courageous / shall aye be King
Lord mighty;221
And him shall honour222
Both King and emperor.”223
Why, and should I to him cower?224
Nay, thou tell’st lies too lightly!225
Fie! the devil thee speed / and me, make I moan!226
This has thou done indeed / to anger me alone:227
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!230
Fie, dotty-pols, with your books!231
Go cast them in the brooks!232
Your wiles and your tricks233
Make my wit rave!234
Heard I never such a rant: / that a knave so slight
Should come like a saint, / and rob me my right;236
Nay, he shall recant: / I shall ding him down straight.
Beware! I say, let me pant; / now think I to fight238
For anger;239
My guts will out burst240
But I this lad crush;241
Without I have a vengeing242
I may live no longer.243
Should a carl in a cave / but one year of age,244
Thus make me to rave? /
First Counsellor
Sir, peace this outrage!245
Away let you wave / all such language.246
Your worship to save, / is he ought but a page247
Of a year?248
We two could him truss249
With our mere wits between us;250
So, that if ye say thus,251
He shall die on a spear.252
Second Counsellor
For fear that he reign, / do as we set forth:253
Throughout Bethlehem / and all over the earth,254
Make knights to run, / and put unto death255
All male children / from time of their birth,256
Till years two;257
This child may ye kill258
Thus at your own will.259
Thou show’st here great skill260
Such a plot to brew!261
If I live in this land / a long life, as I hope,262
By this dare I warrant / to make thee Pope.263
O, my heart is rising / for joy it does hop!264
For this noble tiding / thou shall have a drop265
Of my good grace;266
Marks, moneys, and pounds,267
Great castles and grounds;268
Through all seas and sands269
I give thee the choice.270
Now will I proceed / and take vengeance.271
All the flower of knighthood / call to allegeance.272

[Calling the Herald]

See to it, I thee bid: / it may thee advance.273
Lord, I shall make speed / and bring them, perchance,
To thy sight. [Goes to the Soldiers]275
Hark, knights, I you bring276
Here new tiding.277
Unto Herod the King278
Haste with all your might!279
In all the haste that ye may / in armour full bright,
In your best array / look that ye be dight.281
First Soldier
Why should we stray? /282
Second Soldier
This is not all right.282
Third Soldier
Sirs, without delay / I dread that we fight.283
I pray you,284
As fast as you may,285
Come to him this day.286
First Soldier
What, in our best array?287
Yea, sirs, I say you.288
Second Soldier
Somewhat is in hand / whate’er it may mean.289
Third Soldier
Tarry not for to stand / there, where we are bidden.
King Herod all worshipful / well be ye seen!291
Your knights are come / in armour full sheen,292
To do your will.293
First Soldier
Hail, mightiest of all!294
We are come at your call295
For to do what we shall,296
your wish to fulfill.297
Welcome, lordings, Iwys, / both great and small!298
The cause now is this / that I send for you all:299
A lad, a knave, born is / that should be king royal;
But I kill him and his / my spirit quite will fail.
Therefore, Sirs,302
Vengeance shall ye take,303
All for that lad’s sake.304
Of your fame man shall speak305
Wherever you go, Sirs.306
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;311
Spare no babe’s blood:312
Let all run in flood,313
If women wax mad.314
I warn you, sirs, to speed you;315
Hence! Now go your way / and get you there.316
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.318
First Soldier
When I start my play / I shall kill me a score;319
Herod all hail!320
We shall for your sake321
This massacre make.322
Now if you do well my work323
My reward shall not fail.324
Second Soldier
Play our parts now by rote / and handle them well.325
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;327
I wager a groat / she likes me not well;328
Let us part.329
Dame, think it not ill,330
Thy child if I kill.331
First Woman
What, thief! against my will?332
Lord, save his dear heart!333
First Soldier
Abide now, abide / no farther thou goes.334
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,337
False thief!338
Let me have at thy hood.339
First Soldier
What, whore, art thou mad?340

[He kills the child

First Woman
Out, alas, my child’s blood!341
I cry in my grief!342
Alas for shame and sin! / Alas that I was born!343
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 enters347
Come hither, thou old stry!348
That lad of thine shall die.349
Second Woman
Mercy, lord, I cry!350
It is my own dear son.351
Second Soldier
No mercy you merit: / your moans move me naught!352
Second Woman
Then thy skull shall I cleave! / Will’st thou be clawed?
Leave, leave, now I bid! /
Second Soldier
Peace, bid I, bawd!354

[He kills the child

Second Woman
Fie, fie, for pity! / Fie, full of fraud!355
No man!356
Have at thy tabard,357
Harlot and holard!358
Thou shall not be spared!359
I cry and I ban!360
Out! murder! Man, I say / cruel traitor and thief!361
Out! alas! and welaway! / My dear child and life!362
My joy, my blood, my play / that never gave man grief!
Alas, alas, this day! / I would, my heart should cleave
In sunder!365
Vengeance I cry and call,366
On Herod and his knights all!367
Vengeance, Lord, upon them fall,368
And make the world wonder!369
Third Soldier
This is sure greatest game / that ever may be;370

[Third woman enters

Come hitherward dame! / ye need not to flee!371
Third Woman
Will ye do any harm / to my child, and me?372
Third Soldier
He shall die, I thee swear / his heart’s blood shall thou see.

[He kills the child

Third Woman
God forbid!374
Thief! thou shed’st my child’s blood!375
Out, I cry! I go near mad!376
Alas! my heart is all on flood,377
To see my child thus bleed!378
By God, thou shall rue / this deed that thou has done.
Third Soldier
I bid thee not stray, / by sun and by moon.380
Third Woman
Have at thee say I! / this dagger for thy loins!381
Out on thee cry I / have at thy groin382
This keep I in store.384
Third Soldier
Peace now, no more!385
Third Woman
I cry and I roar,386
Out on thee, man’s murderer!387
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!392
Give over these groans!393
Haste, trollopes, hence to your homes,-394
Or by cock’s bones395
I shall not ask politely!396
They are fled now; I wot / they will not abide.397
Second Soldier
Let us run hot-foot; / now would I we hied,398
And tell of this lot, / how we have betide.399
Third Soldier
Thou can nothing do here / that have I descried;400
Go forth and wend,401
Tell thou Herod our tale!402
For all our avail,403
I tell you, sans fail,404
He will us commend.405
First Soldier
I am best of you all / and ever have been;406
The devil have my soul / if I be not first seen;407
It fits me to call / on my lord, as I ween.408
Second Soldier
What needs thee to brawl? / Be not so keen409
In this anger;410
I shall say thou did best -411
Save myself, as I guessed.412
First Soldier
Wey! that is most honest.413
Third Soldier
Go, tarry no longer! [They go back to Herod414
First Soldier
Hail Herod, our King / full glad may ye be!415
Good tiding we bring: / harken now to me416
We have been riding / throughout all Jewry:417
Now know ye one thing- / that murdered, have we,418
Many thousands.419
Second Soldier
I held them full hot,420
I struck them and smote;421
Their dams now, I wot,422
Cannot bind them in bands.423
Third Soldier
Had ye seen how I fared / when I came among them!424
There was none that I spared, / but I laid on and dang them.
I am worthy a reward, / where I was among them.426
I stood and I stared / no pity to hang them427
Had I.428
Now, by mighty Mahowne,429
That is good of reknown!430
If I wear this crown.431
You shall each have a lady,432
Fully fairly arrayed, / to wed at your will.433
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.435
Third Soldier
Ye might hold, you well paid / our wish to fulfill,
Thus think me:437
With treasure untold,438
If it like that ye would,439
Both silver and gold,440
To give us great plenty.441
As I am king crowned / I think it good right!442
There goes none on ground / of such main and might443
A hundred thousand pound / is good wage for a knight,
Of pennies good and round: / now may ye go light445
With store.446
And ye knights of ours447
Shall have castles and towers,448
Both to you and to yours,449
For now and evermore.450
First Soldier
Was never none born / by down nor by dale,451
Nor none ever before / that thus did prevail.452
Second Soldier
We have castles and corn, / much gold in our mails.
Third Soldier
It will last evermore / I tell you no tales;454
Hail in the highest!455
Hail lord! Hail King!456
We are forth faring! [They leave457

[Addressing the crowd/audience

Now may Lucifer bring you458
Where he is lord friendly;459
Now in peace may I stand / I thank thee, each one!460
And give of my land / that belongs to my crown.461
So come close at hand / both of burgh and of town;462
Marks each one a thousand / when next I am come,463
Shall ye have.464
I shall make no delay465
To give that I say!466
When next I come this way,467
And then may ye crave.468
I set by no good, / now my heart is at ease,469
That I shed so much blood / I may rule as I please!
For to see this flood / from the feet to the knees471
Methinks it is good / yea, I laugh till I wheeze;472
By God’s moon!473
So light is my soul,474
That to honey turns my bile;475
I may do what I will,476
And bear up my crown.477
I was cast into care, / so frightly afraid;478
But I no more despair: / for low is he laid479
That I most did I fear; / so have I him flayed.480
It would great wonder be / where so many strayed481
In harm’s way,482
That one should escape,483
And unharmèd take flight,484
When so many childer485
For their blows have no balm.486
A hundred thousand, Iwis / and forty are slain,487
And four more thousand; this / makes glad my heart plain;
Such murder in the land / shall never be again.489
Had I had but one bat / at that sweet swain490
So young,491
The deed had been spoken492
And not been forgotten,493
Were I dead and rotten,494
Told by many a tongue.495
Thus shall I teach knaves / example to take:496
If any man rave, / other masters to make,497
Be they boastful and brave, / think not I shall quake!
False sovereigns shall none save, / your necks shall I strike
In sunder.500
None King shall ye call501
But Herod the royal;502
And if any man shall,503
He suffers for that blunder.504
For if I hear it spoken / when I come again,505
Your brains shall be broken / so have heed of pain;
What it may betoken / it shall be so plain;507
I say without joking, / I have but disdain508
For the squeamish.509
Sirs, this is my counsel-510
Be not too cruel,511
But adieu - to the devil!512
I know no more French!513

2020 Dec 13  21:04:24