47. The Mercers' Play: The Last Judgement

When I first all this world had wrought -
Wood and wind, and waters wan -
Each kind of thing that now is aught,
It seemed full well what I did then.
When they were made, "It's good," I thought;
Then in my likeness I made man,
- And man to grieve me tarried not;
Therefore I rue that I the world began.

When I had made man at my will,
To know himself I gave him wits;
And Paradise I put him till,
And bade him hold it all as his.
But of the tree of good and ill,
I said "The time you eat of this,
Man, you speed yourself to kill.
You'll be brought out of all your bliss."

And quickly man broke my bidding.
He thought he'd be a god thereby;
He thought he'd know of everything
Upon his world - he'd be as wise as I!
He ate the apple, disobeying.
Through gluttony he was beguiled,
And therefore man and his offspring,
Forthwith, I put them all to pine.

Too long and late I thought it good,
To catch those caitiffs out of care.
I sent my Son, in full blithe mood,
To earth, to salve them of their sore.
For pity of them, he went on rood,
And bought them with his body bare.
For them, he shed his own heart's blood -
What kindness might I do them more?

Then afterwards he harrowed hell,
And took those wretches from within;
Fought worthily with fiends so fell,
For souls that sunken were in sin.
Then back on earth he went to dwell,
To give an example, heaven to win,
In temples his words to teach and tell,
To obtain the bliss that will never end.

Since then they've found me full of mercy,
Full of grace and forgiveness;
And they as wretches utterly
Have led their lives in wickedness.
Often they grieved me grievously;
Thus they've repaid me my kindness.
Therefore no longer, certainly,
Will I suffer all their wickedness.

Men see the world's mere vanity,
Yet, no man will beware thereby;
Each day, their mirror they may see,
Yet they think not that they shall die.
All that I ever said would be,
Is now fulfilled through prophecy.
Therefore now comes the time for me
To make an end to man's folly.

I've suffered mankind many a year
On lust and pleasures his time to spend;
And now I scarce find, far or near,
A man who will his sins amend.
On earth I see sin everywhere,
And therefore angels I shall send,
To blow their horns, that all may hear.
The time has come:  I'll make an end.

Angels, blow your horns and strive,
That every creature you may call:
Learned and lewd, husbands and wives,
Receive their doom, this day they shall.
Every soul that ever had life:
Let none be forgotten, great or small.
There they shall see the wide wounds five,
That my Son suffered for them all.

Before my sight, you'll sunder them;
As one in bliss they shall not be.
As I have promised, my blessed children,
Upon my right hand, I would them see;
And then see how all wicked men,
For fear, upon my left shall flee.
Today I ordain mankind's judgement:
To every man, as he served me.

Praise be to you, the lord of mights most!
This angel shall your message bear.
Your will shall be fulfilled in haste,
All heaven and earth and hell shall hear.
Good and evil, every ghost:
Rise, and fetch flesh you used to wear;
For all this world is brought to waste.
Draw to your doom; it now comes near.

Every creature, old and young:
Quickly I bid that you shall rise,
And with you, body and soul shall bring,
And come before the high justice.
For I am sent from heaven's king,
To call you to this great assize.
Therefore, rise up, give reckoning
Of how you served, and in what wise.

Praise be the Lord in such radiant sheen,
That in this manner made us rise,
Body and soul, together, clean,
To come before the high justice.
Of our ill deeds, Lord, do not mean -
The things we wrought, and in what wise -
But grant us your grace; we pray you'll deem
That we may dwell in Paradise.

Ah!  Praised be you, the Lord of all,
Who heaven and earth and all things wrought;
Who with your angels would us call,
Out of our graves, here to be brought.
Often we've grieved you, great and small,
But for this, Lord, condemn us not,
Or suffer us unto the fiends to be thrall,
Who so often on earth, with sins us sought.

Alas!  Alas, that we were born!
So may we sinful captives say.
Well can we hear by this hideous horn,
That we are drawing near Doomsday.
Alas, we wretches are forlorn,
Who never yet pleased God his way,
But oft, upon his flesh have sworn.
Alas!  Alas and wellaway!

What shall we wretches do for dread?
Or where in terror may we flee?
When we can bring forth no good deed,
Before him who our judge shall be?
To ask for mercy, we've no need;
For well I know that damned are we.
Alas, that such a life we've led,
Preparing for this destiny.

Our wicked works shall us betray,
Which we thought never should be known:

Which we committed privately;
Now plainly we may see them shown.
Alas, you wretches, dear we must pay;
Full smart, with hellfire we are smitten.
Now soul and body may never die,
But forever, with wicked pains we're bitten.

Alas for dread!  Sore may we quake!
Our wicked deeds are our damnation.
Mourning for all our miss we make,
But there's no help in explanation.
We must be sentenced for our sins' sake,
Forever apart from our salvation,
In hell to dwell with fiends so black,
Where never shall be expiation.

As mournful misdoers, we may rise;
Sorely we wring our hands and weep.
For cursedness and covetise,
Damned are we to hell so deep.
We never served our God so wise;
Commandments ten we would not keep.
But often we made sacrifice
To Satan, if our friends did sleep.

Alas, now wakens all our fear.
Our wicked works we may not hide,
But on our backs we must them bear;
They will betray us on each side.
I see the fiends that at us leer,
And all for pomp of wicked pride.
Now we may weep with many a tear.
Alas, that we this day should bide.

Before us plainly, forth are brought
The deeds that damn us, clearly seen -
What ears have heard, or hearts have thought,
Since any time that we may mean.
Where foot has walked, what hand has wrought,
What mouth has spoke, or eye has seen -
This day full dearly has been bought.
Alas, I wish we'd never been!

Stand not together!  Part in two!
You shall not all be brought to bliss.
Our Lord of Heaven wills it so,
For many of you have wrought amiss.
The good, on his right hand shall go;
The way to Heaven this way is.
You, dirty damned ones, flee now, go - 
On his left hand, as none of his.

This woeful world is brought to end,
My Father in Heaven so wills it be
Therefore to earth now I will wend,
To seat myself in majesty.
To deem my dooms I will descend;
This body I will bear with me.
How it was hurt, man's sins to mend,
All mankind there shall clearly see.

My apostles, and my darlings dear:
This dreadful doomsday now unfolds.
All heaven and earth and hell shall hear,
How I fulfill what I have told.
Sit now on seats beside me here,
And watch and wonder at the sight;
And I shall deem folk far and near,
After their working, wrong or right.

I said also, when you were sent,
To suffer sorrow for my sake,
That all who would them right repent,
Should go with you and joyous wake;
And those who paid you no attent,
The fiery blackened fiends would take.
By "mercy" now, nothing is meant,
Except one's works - to wealth or ache.

My promises wholly I fulfill;
Therefore, come forth and sit by me,
To hear the dooms of good and ill.

Lord God Almighty, I praise thee!
Late and early, loud and still,
I do your bidding willingly;
I am obliged to do your will,
With all my might as is worthy.

Almighty God, now it is seen:
You will fulfill your promise right,
And all your words you will maintain.
I praise you Lord, with all my might,
That now such honours you ordain,
Who for our sakes has earthly been.

Come forth, I'll seat myself between,
And all fulfill, here in your sight.

[Here he goes to the Judgement Seat, with song of angels.]

Fellows, array us for the fight,
To seize those which to us belong.
For dreadful doom is passed this night - 
I dread me that we dwell too long.

We shall be seen ever in their sight,
And warily wait, else work we wrong;
For if the doomsmen do us right,
We'll bring us back a monstrous throng!

He shall do right to foe and friend,
For now shall all the truth be sought.
All sullied souls, with us he'll send - 
To endless pain they shall be brought!

Every creature, take intent,
What message now to you I bring:
This woeful world away is went,
And I have come as new-crowned king.
My heavenly father has me sent,
To deem your deeds, and make ending.
Now comes the day of your judgement:
Of sorrow may all the sinful sing.

The day is come of wretchedness,
And care, for those who are unclean;
The day of bale and bitterness - 
Full long abiding it has been.
The day of dread, for great and less;
Of trembling, trouble and of spleen,
When every soul in sinfulness,
Must say, alas - the day is seen!

Here you may see my wounds so wide
Which I received for your misdeed.
Through heart and head, foot, hand and hide;
Not for my guilt, but for your need.
Behold my body, back and side,
How dead I bought you.  I agreed
These bitter pains I would abide;
To buy your bliss, thus would I bleed.

Without a crime, they scourged me still - 
Like common thief, with taunt and threat.
On cross they hanged me, on a hill;
With crown of thorns thrust on my head.
Beaten bloody, bleeding still,
This spear into my side they set;
My heart-blood, they spared not to spill.
Man - for love of you I did not let.

The Jews spat on me spitefully
They spared me no more than a thief
When they struck me I stood right still
Against those men, I showed no grief
Behold mankind, this same is me
For you I suffered such mischief
Thus was I treated for your folly
So dear to me were you: believe.

This was all done, your sorrows to slake;
Man, it behooved you to saved to be.
No retribution did I ever take;
I suffered it all, for the love of thee.
Mankind, sore ought you to quake,
This dreadful day, this sight to see.
All this I suffered for your sake.
Say man, what suffered you for me?

My blessed children on my right,
To dread your doom, there is no need;
For all your comfort is in sight.
Your life in pleasure you will lead.
Approach the eternal realm of light,
Prepared for you, for your good deeds;
At this point you may be full blithe,
For your reward is great indeed.

When I was hungry, you me fed;
To slake my thirst, your heart was free.
When I was clotheless, you me clad;
You would no sorrow on me see.
In narrow straits, when I was stead,
Upon my pains, you had pity.
When I was brought full sick to bed,
Kindly you came to comfort me.

When I was weary and distressed,
Your generosity  harboured me.
Delighted you were, to see your guest - 
Lamenting my poverty piteously.
You fed and clothed me of the best,
And made my bed full comfortably;
Therefore, in heaven shall be your rest:
In joy and bliss to be by me.

When did we, Lord that all has wrought,
Give meat or drink, or resting place? 
Since we had never on earth but naught,
Except as through the Godhead's grace? 

When was it that we clothing brought?
Or visited you in any need?
Or in your sickness, we you sought?
Lord, when did we do for you this deed?

My blessed children, I shall say
What time this deed to me was done:
When any needy, night or day,
Did ask your help and had it soon.
Your free hearts never told them nay:
Early or late, midday or noon,
As oftentimes as they did pray,
They only needed ask their boon.

You, cursed criminals of Cain's kin,
Who never comforted me in care:
I and you forever shall twin.
In dole you'll dwell forevermore,
In bitter bale and endless din.
This you shall have when you come there.
Thus have you served me in your sin,
With wicked deeds you have done ere.

When I had need for drink and meat,
Condemned, you cast me from your gate.
When you were set like sirs on seat,
Outside and weary, wet, I'd wait,
While none of you would on me think,
Or pity took on my poor state.
Therefore, to hell I shall you sink:
Well you deserve to pass that gate.

When I was often clotheless, cold,
In need of you, I begged full naked.
Not house or harbour, help nor hold,
I'd none from you, although I quaked.
Misfortunes you saw manifold,
Yet none of you my sorrows slaked;
But all forsook me, young and old,
Therefore you now shall be forsaked.

When had you Lord, that all things has,
Hunger or thirst, God nonetheless?
When was it that God in prison was?
When was God naked or harbourless?

When was it we saw you sick, alas?
When showed we thus such unkindness?
Weary or wet, to let you pass?
When did we do this wickedness?

Wretches, as often it was done,
As any in need asked in my name.
You heard them not, your ears were stone;
Your help, to them it never came.
To me, was that unkindness shown!
Therefore, you bear this bitter blame:
To most and least, when it was done,
To me, you did the self and same.

My chosen children, come to me,
To dwell with me, now you shall wend.
There, joy and bliss shall always be;
Your life in pleasure you shall spend.
You cursed ones, from me now flee,
To dwell in hell without an end.
There, you shall nothing but sorrows see,
And sit by Satan's side, the fiend.

Now is fulfilled all my forethought,
For ended is each earthly thing.
All worldly ones that I have wrought,
After their works, they have their dwelling,
Those who would sin, and would cease not,
Of sorrows severe now they shall sing.
And those who amended when they ought,
Shall dwell and abide in my blessing.

[And thus he makes the end, with melody of angels crossing from place to place.]

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