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

Of great mourning may I complain,
And walk full wearily by this way.
For now I know, I better had been
At ease and rest by reason aye.
For I am of great eld,
Weak and all unwell,
As all men see it may.
I may not bustle or build
Either in woods or field;
For shame, what shall I say?

That now, thus-wise in mine old days
Have wed a young wench for my wife--
I cannot cross two passageways!
Now Lord, how long shall I lead this life?
My bones are as heavy as lead,
And may not stand in stead,
As you may see full right.
Now, Lord, guide my poor head,
Or soon drive me to dead.
You may best stop this strife.

Full bitterly may I bemoan
The way I in the temple went.
It was for me a bad bargain;
For pity may I ever repent.
For there came the command
That single men should stand,
Assembled by assent.
And each one a dry wand
On high held in his hand--
And I knew not what it meant!

Among all others, the one bore I;
It flourished fair, and flowers spread;
And they told me, for this, that I
With a wife should soon be wed!
The bargain I made there,
I now regret full sore;
I am discomforted.
It casts me now in care,
For I might evermore
The single life have led!
Her works have made my cheeks all wet.
I am beguiled!  How, I know not.
My young wife is with child full great!
That gives me now, sorrow unsought.
That reproof has almost slain me-
For if any man arraign me
As to how this thing was wrought-
To lie, if I should pain me,
The law stands hard again' me.
To death I must be brought!

Yet vile it seems, on the other side,
My wife with any man to defame.
Whichever of the two I bide
Holds no escape without great shame.
The child, I know, is not mine.
That reproof gives me pain,
And makes me flee from home.
I stake my life herein:
She is a clean virgin
For my part, without blame.

But...well I know through prophecy
A maiden clean should bear a child...
But it is not her, certainly!
Therefore I know I am beguiled.
And why would not some young man take her?
For sure I think I must forsake her.
Into some woods wild,
Thus I think to steal away.
God shield that wild beasts should slay
That bird, so meek and mild.

Of my wending I'll no one warn.
Nevertheless, it is my intent
To ask her who got her that bairn;
I would know that before I went.

All hail!  God be herein!

Welcome, by God's dear might.

Where is that young virgin,
Mary, my bird so bright?

Surely, Joseph, you see her there,
And know she is not far away.
She sits at her book, full fast in prayer
For you and us, and for all they
With any need.
But now to tell her will I say
Of your coming, with all speed.
Have done, and rise up, dame,
And to me, take good heed:
Joseph, he is come home.

Welcome, as God me speed!

Dreadless to me he is, full dear;
Joseph, my spouse, welcome are ye.

I thank you, Mary...say, what cheer?
Tell me the truth, how is it with thee?
...Who has been there?
Your womb is big, it seems to me;
You are with child!  Alas, for care!
Ah, ye maids, shame on ye,
That let her learn such fare!

Joseph!  Do not believe
In her a weak affair!

Believe no harm?  Dear wench, away!
Her..sides...show me she is with child!
Whose is't, Mary?

			Sir, God's and yours.

							Nay, nay,
Now know I well I am beguiled.
And reason why?
By me your flesh was never defiled,
And I reject it here, thereby.
Say, maidens, how is this?
Tell me the truth, I advise;
Unless you do, know this:
You surely shall pay the price!

You can threaten as much as you can.
I have nothing to tell you, still.
For truly, here came never no man
To weigh down the body, with no ill,
Of this sweet wight.
For we have stayed here with her still,
And never away from her, day or night.
Her keepers have we been,
And she, here in our sight.
Came here no man between
To touch that bird so bright.

No, no man ever in this place came,
And to that ever witness will we...
Except an angel, once a day.
With bodily food, feed her did he.
No other came.
Wherefore, we know not how it be
Unless the Holy Ghost conveyed--
For truly we know this:
With her is come his grace.
For she did never amiss,
And ever witness will we.

Then I see well your meaning is,
The angel has made her with child.
Nay, some man in an angel's likeness
With some foul trick has her beguiled;
And that perceive I!
Therefore, you need no words so wild
To carp at me deceivingly!
Whe, why lie to me so
And feign such fantasy?
Alas, I am full woe!
For sorrow, why might I not die?

For me, this is a woeful case.
Reckless I rave, my wits are all fled.
I dare look no man in the face.
Wretched for sorrow--why am I not dead?
Loathsome is my life!
In the temple and in other stead
Into scorn every man will me drive.
Was never a man so woe?
For pity, my heart is rife!
Alas, why wrought you so,
Mary, my wedded wife?

To my witness, great God I call,
That in his mind wrought never amiss-

Whose is the child you are withal?

Yours, sir, and the King's of Bliss.

Oh yea, and how then?
Nay, wondrous tidings then is this-
Excuse them well, these women can!
But Mary, all that you see
Will know your works are wan.
Your womb shall still betray
You, that you have met with man.

As you would thrive, say whose it is.

Sir, it is yours, and God's own will.

Nay, I have nought to do with this!
Name it no more to me, be still!
You know as well as I
That fleshly, you and I
Did never such deeds so ill.
Look you did no folly
Before me, privily,
Your fair maidenhead to spill.

But who is the father?  Tell me his name.

None but yourself.

			Let be, for shame!
I did it never, you foolish dame, by book and bell!
Blameless, I would bear this blame if once you tell.
For I wrought never, in word or deed,
A thing to mar thy maidenhead,
To touch me till.
Now, for such care is little need;
As though my own, I would it feed
If all be still.

Therefore, the father tell me, Mary.

But God and you, I know of none.

Ah, such sayings make me sorry.
With great mourning may I complain.
Therefore, be not so bold;
Such tales should not be told,
But hold you still as stone.
You are young, and I am old;
I could not, even if I would.
Those games for me are gone.

Therefore, tell me in privacy-
Whose is the child within you now?
For certain, none shall know but we.
I fear the law as much as thou.

Now great God, of his might,
Who accomplishes all things right,
Meekly to you I bow.
Rue on this weary wight,
That, in his heart, might light
The truth to trust and know.

Who had your maidenhead, Mary?  Can you bring it to mind?

Forsooth, I am a maiden clean.

No, you're speaking now against kind!
Such a thing no man could mean.
A maiden to be with child?
These words from you are wild!
She is not born, I ween!

Joseph, you are beguiled.
With sin was I never defiled.
God's word in me is seen.

God's word?  Oh, Mary, God us help!
But surely that child was never ours two.
But even if women should need much help,
Still, they would let no man know of their woe.

Truly it is God's hand,
[The maker of sea and sand.]
From this I shall never go.

Ah, Mary, take away your hand.
Further will I understand;
Yet I trust it is not so.

The truth from me you may retain;
The child-bearing you cannot hide.
But sit here till I come again.
I...have an errand here beside.

Now great God show you this,
And mend you of your miss
Of me, what so betide.
As he is king of bliss,
Send you some sign of this,
In truth that you might bide.

Now, Lord God, that all things may
At your own will both do and dress,
Show me now some ready way
To walk here in this wilderness.
Before I pass this hill,
Do with me what God will,
Either more or less.
Here shall I bide full still
Till I have slept my fill,
My heart so heavy is.

Awaken, Joseph, and better keep
Your Mary, who is your fellow good.

Ah, I am weary, leave, let me sleep.
I have walked and wandered in this wood.

Rise up!  And sleep no more!
You make her heart full sore,
Who loves you as she should!

Whe, now this is hardly fair!
For I am caught both here and there,
And nowhere rest I could....

Say-what are thou?!  Tell me this thing!

I am called Gabriel; from Heaven, God's angel;
I have taken your Mary into my keeping.
And I am sent here for this bidding to tell:
In loyal wedlock, lead you!
Leave her not, I forbid you!
No sin must you mention,
But to her, fast, now speed you,
And of her, nought fear you.
It is God's son of Heaven.

The child that shall be born of her,
It is conceived of the Holy Ghost;
It brings us joy and bliss forever,
And to mankind, of all, the most.
Jesus his name you'll call,
For such will him befall
As you shall see, in haste.
His people save he shall
From evils and trials all
Which now ensnare them fast.

Angel, is this truth you say?

Yea, and for a token right:
Go forth to Mary, your wife always;
Bring her to Bethlehem tonight.
There shall a child born be;
God's son of Heaven is he,
And of all men most in might.

Now, Lord God, full well is me
That ever I this sight should see!
I never was so light!

But...since I would have her refused,
And blamed the one who ever was clear,
I must pray her to hold me excused,
As some men do, with full good cheer.
Say, Mary, wife,...how fare you?

The better, sir, for you.
Why stand you there?  Come near.

My back fain would I bow,
And ask forgiveness now.
I hope you will me hear.

Forgiveness, sir?  Let be, for shame-
Such words should all good women lack.

Yea, Mary, I am to blame
For words that some time past I spoke.
But gather now all our gear,
And such poor weeds as we wear,
And put them in a pack.
To Bethlehem I must it bear,
For little things cause women care;
Help up now, on my back.

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