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Title: Four Sacred Plays

Date of first publication: 1948

Author: Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957)

Date first posted: May 6, 2016

Date last updated: May 6, 2016

Faded Page eBook #20160509

This ebook was produced by: Alex White & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

Now reissued owing to
insistent demand
Dorothy L. Sayers

This is an “omnibus” of Dorothy L. Sayers’ four sacred plays, all of them famous: namely, The Devil to Pay, The Just Vengeance, He That Should Come, The Zeal of thy House. The volume has been unaccountably out of print since 1951, and the demand, both from amateurs (who are always wanting to produce one or other of them) and from the general reading public, has become insistent.












Copyright 1948 by Dorothy L. Sayers


First published March 1948

Second impression March 1957

Third impression June 1959





Printed in Great Britain by

The Camelot Press Ltd., London and Southampton


The Zeal of Thy House

The Devil to Pay

He That should Come

The Just Vengeance


Copyright 1937 by Dorothy L. Sayers


All rights in the play are reserved by the Author and enquiries

regarding the dramatic rights should be addressed to Margery

Vosper Ltd., 32 Shaftesbury Avenue, W.1 (in conjunction with

Pearn, Pollinger & Higham Ltd.)


A schoolboy, asked to state what he knew of Mary Tudor, replied: “She was known as Bloody Mary but she was not half as bloody as you’d think.”

We might reasonably expect Miss Sayers, since the previous plays written or performed at the invitation of the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral have concerned prelates and kings who have come to violent and untimely ends, to write with relish of archbishops and assassination, for she has already proved herself to be thoroughly at home with peers and homicide. But, like Mary Tudor, she has not fulfilled our sanguine expectations. Many will be relieved to find that her hero is an architect, that such violence as there may be is accidental, and that, though a rope is the instrument of his downfall, it is accessory to a windlass and not to a gallows.

At a time when all works of fiction are prefaced by a passionate declaration that the author’s characters are entirely imaginary, it is a pleasant change to have to vouch for the authenticity of the main protagonists in this play. It is true that, while most people are familiar with the names of those who damaged or were murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, William of Sens, who designed and built the greater part of it, is not as well known as he ought to be. When the choir was burnt down in 1174, he was chosen by a nervous Chapter to undertake the work of reconstruction. Then as now, that a foreigner in competition with native contractors should be selected for such a task must have caused furious comment. Nevertheless, in the face of official timidity and practical obstacles, he succeeded in raising from the ashes of Lanfranc’s work the leaping choir which we cherish to-day. This creation, magnificent as it is, might hardly seem to be suitable material for a dramatic work. But Miss Sayers chooses William of Sens to be the vehicle for her theme of the artist who in the supreme moment of mastery over his craft may be thrown down and destroyed by a consuming and wasting infirmity, the germ of which is in us all and which too often, fostered by our unawareness, destroys virtue and vitality with its insidious infection. Though few may have fallen physically as far and as hard as William, many have fallen away artistically and have perished without the revelation which was granted to him.

The only scenes which may be suspect historically are those between William and the Lady Ursula. It might be considered a little unfair to credit William with an imaginary intrigue; but, in fact, Miss Sayers has ingenious and moderately sound reasons for doing so.

Our authority for these events is the contemporary chronicle of Gervase the Monk. After recording with horror and enthusiasm the fire and the rebuilding, he refers to William’s accident in a strange and pregnant sentence; he attributes the calamity to “either the Vengeance of God or the Envy of the Devil.” Can we not detect in this the verdict of one who, while full of admiration for the Master’s work, has watched with disapproval, and not a little envy, the pride and licence which the artist has been at little pains to conceal, and now records a well-merited if lamented punishment with righteous satisfaction? Herein may be the clue to some such fall from grace as that which Miss Sayers suggests in the scenes between the architect and his admirer.

For the rest the play deals with well-established facts. Avoiding sham archaism and the fusty language which is too often expected and provided in plays of period, it presents the Middle Ages as being very little removed in essentials from our own. Petrol and patent medicines have taken the place of the windlass and the faith-healing of the pilgrims, but human fallibility and the inspiration of the artist remain constant. The Archangels who from time to time descend into the arena and direct the destinies of the groundlings need not bewilder the reader or the spectator. They represent the Will of God, Fate, Providence, Accident or what you will and, in the final scenes, that bright flash of intuition which occasionally illuminates even the most clouded conscience.

Laurence Irving.


The Zeal of Thy House was written for presentation by the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, and was first acted in the Chapter House at the Canterbury Festival, 12th-18th June, 1937, with Mr. Harcourt Williams as William of Sens and a mixed cast of professional and amateur performers.

It was first presented in London by Mr. Anmer Hall at the Westminster Theatre, on 29th March, 1938, with Mr. Harcourt Williams, Mr. Frank Napier and Mr. Michael Gough in their original parts, and with the original music and costumes.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Napier were the producers on both occasions. The special music was composed by Mr. Gerald H. Knight, the Cathedral Organist at Canterbury.

The present text is that of the play as first written. At Canterbury, it was presented without interval, and in a slightly shortened form. In London, an interval was found necessary between Parts II and III, and the following chorus was accordingly inserted at the beginning of Part III:

The Lord God of Heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem.

That every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give the praise;

For we look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

The only other modification of any importance was in St. Michael’s final speech, the last sentences of which were altered as follows:

Behold, then, and honour, all beautiful work of the craftsman, imagined by men’s minds, built by the labour of men’s hands, working with power upon the souls of men, image of the everlasting Trinity, God’s witness in world and time.

And whatsoever ye do, do all to the Glory of God.

With the help of these modifications, the play in its original form should prove sufficiently elastic to adapt itself for production in any theatre or place of public or private performance.

Dorothy L. Sayers.


Angelic Persons: 
Cassiel, the Recording Angel
A Young Cherub, Thurifer to Raphael
The Prior of Christchurch  
Stephen, the Treasurer  
Theodatus, the SacristanChoir
Martin, the Guest-Brother and InfirmarianBrothers
Ambrose, the Choirmasterand
Wulfram, the Director of the Farm}members
Ernulphus, the Director of the Kitchen and Distilleryof the
Paul, the GardenerCathedral
Hilary, the AlmonerChapter
Silvester, the Painter  
Gervase, the Historian and Clerk  
Hubert, an Oblate, Superintendent of the Rough Masons
William of Sens, Architect to the Cathedral
John of Kent}Rival
Henry of YorkArchitects
A Young Boy
The Lady Ursula De Warbois
Monks; Lay-Brothers; Workmen; Pilgrims of both sexes
Two Cantors and a Choir of Mixed Voices

The action takes place during the years 1175—1179.


Note.—The names Michaël, Raphaël, are to be pronounced

as trisyllables throughout.


At the opening of the play, the scene is set as for a meeting of the Chapter, with seats about a long table. The Choir having entered and taken their places, they sing the hymn following:


Disposer supreme, and judge of the earth,

Thou choosest for Thine the weak and the poor;

To frail earthen vessels and things of no worth

Entrusting Thy riches which aye shall endure.

Those vessels soon fail, though full of Thy light,

And at Thy decree are broken and gone;

Then brightly appeareth the arm of Thy might,

As through the clouds breaking the lightnings have shone.

[During the singing of the second half of this verse, there enter Michael, Raphael with his Thurifer, Gabriel and Cassiel the Recorder. They pass slowly to the steps while the next verse is sung.

Like clouds are they borne to do Thy great will,

And swift as the wind about the world go;

All full of Thy Godhead while earth lieth still,

They thunder, they lighten, the waters o’erflow.

℣. He maketh His angels spirits.

℟. And His ministers a flaming fire.


I am God’s servant Michael the Archangel;

I walk in the world of men invisible,

Bearing the sword that Christ bequeathed His Church

To sunder and to save.


To sunder and to save.I am God’s servant

Raphael the Archangel; and I walk

In the world of men invisible; I receive

Prayer spoken or unspoken, word or deed

Or thought or whatsoever moves the heart,

Offering it up before the Throne.


Offering it up before the Throne.I am

God’s servant the Archangel Gabriel,

The heavenly runner between God and man,

Moving invisible.


Moving invisible.God’s Recorder, I,

That keep the Book and cast up all accounts,

Cassiel, chief scrivener to the Courts of Heaven.

℣. Their sound is gone out into all lands.

℟. And their words into the ends of the world.

[During the singing of the following verse, the Angelic Persons depart severally, Michael standing above Raphael on the right side of the steps, and the Thurifer kneeling below them; Cassiel with his book on the left side of the steps with Gabriel above.


Oh, loud be Thy trump and stirring the sound,

To rouse us, O Lord, from sin’s deadly sleep;

May lights which Thou kindlest in darkness around

The dull soul awaken her vigils to keep.

[The Recorder, Cassiel, sits at his desk;

Raphael hands his censer to the Thurifer, and sits.


What is our business here to-day in Canterbury?

Cassiel (slapping the Book rather sharply open and running his finger down the page)

A meeting of the Cathedral Chapter to choose an architect for the rebuilding of the Choir after the great fire of 1174.

Raphael (reminiscently)

Ah, yes—the choir. I was sorry to see the old one go. It was very beautiful, and a favourite haunt of mine. Prayer had soaked into the stones and sanctified them.

Cassiel (austerely)

Mankind are exceedingly careless of their possessions. I have an entry against one Tom Hogg, neatherd, who neglected to clean his chimney and so had his thatch set on fire. The sparks were blown across the road and lodged under the lead roof of the church. In a short time all was ablaze.


A heavy consequence for a light offence. Was that your doing, Michael?


It was. I bore the flame betwixt my hands and set it among the rafters. We fanned it with our wings, my angels and I, riding upon the wind from the south.

Cassiel (muttering to himself over the Book)

. . . and seven, twenty-six . . . and three, twenty-nine . . . and nine, thirty-eight. . . .


Was it done to avenge the murder of the Archbishop?


. . . and six. Put down four and carry eight.


I do not know. I am a soldier. I take my orders.

Cassiel (casting up a column and ruling a line beneath it)

We all do that, Michael. Your interference in the matter does not affect the debit against Tom Hogg. He stands charged with Sloth to a considerable amount. What use was made of his sin is neither here nor there. It is a question of economics.


Quite so. I could have done the work perfectly well myself, with a thunderbolt. Hogg’s sin was not in the least necessary.

Gabriel (in humorous resignation)

Nothing that men do is ever necessary. At least, that is my experience. I find them very amusing.

[The sound of the “Veni Creator” is heard from the lower end of the Chapter-House as the Choir-Monks enter in procession.


I find them very pathetic.


You see them at their best, Raphael; as Michael sees them at their worst.


I find them very perverse. If God were not infinite, they would surely exhaust His patience.


They make a great deal of work in the counting house. Happily, being an angel, and not a man, I like work. The hatred of work must be one of the most depressing consequences of the Fall.


Some men work like angels—and whistle over their work. They are much the most cheerful kind.

[In the meantime, Raphael has met the Monks at the foot of the steps and now precedes them to the Chapter, swinging his censer before them. The last verse of the hymn is sung by the Monks standing about the table. Then all sit. Raphael comes down to sit beside Michael. Cassiel opens the Book at a fresh page and prepares to take minutes of the meeting.


Brethren, the business before us is, as you know, the appointment of an architect for the new choir. Our earlier discussions have brought the number of suitable candidates down to three. To-day we have to make our final choice.


Under God’s guidance.


Under God’s guidance, of course, Father Theodatus. The three men in question are John of Kent, William of Sens, and Henry of York.


Have we got the estimates, Father Prior?

Prior (handing papers to Stephen)

I have two of them here. Henry of York’s is lower than John of Kent’s. He thinks he can restore the existing fabric without pulling it all down and rebuilding.


Will that be safe? Some of the masonry looks to me very insecure. John of Kent is a local man—he has had more opportunity to judge. Besides, it would look well to give the work to a local man.


John is very young—young men are always full of extravagant ideas. No experience.


One must encourage young men. The future is with the young.


John’s estimate is certainly rather high. I don’t think we can countenance extravagance.


We must consider expense, of course, Father Treasurer. Perhaps we had better have the architects in and hear what they have to say. Father Gervase—if you will be so good——

[Gervase goes out by door, right.


Speaking as Choirmaster, may I urge here and now that we should get a man who understands something about acoustics. The old choir——


What we want is the old choir restored to what it was before. I dislike this trivial modern stuff they are putting up all over the place, with its pointed arcading and flourishy capitals. Give me something solid, like Ely.


One must move with the times, Father Paul. Now William of Sens is a progressive man.


He is a foreigner. Why should we have a foreigner? Isn’t an Englishman good enough? Money should be kept in the country.


We do not seem to have had an estimate from William of Sens.

[Re-enter Gervase right with John of Kent, William of Sens, and Henry of York.


Not yet. He writes to me here—— Ah, good morning, sirs. Pray come to the table. We have received your letters and considered your qualifications. We are now minded to hear your further opinions, after inspection of the site. You, Master Henry, have submitted a very conservative estimate of the cost of reconstruction.


My Lord Prior, I have kept the expense down to the lowest possible figure; and after examination of the standing masonry I have prepared a plan and elevation.

[Producing it.


Let us have that.

[Henry puts the plan before the Prior and moves across to left of table.


You will see that I have allowed for keeping the greater part of the standing fabric. (Theodatus and Ernulphus on Prior’s left examine the plan.) With the exception of the more grievously damaged portions which I have marked, I see no reason why the present structure may not be restored——

[He passes plan down to the Monks, on left.


My Lord Prior——


—and put into good order along the original lines. The existing outer walls may be retained——


You think they are not too much weakened by the action of the fire?


Weakened? They are calcined in places almost to powder.


They can be patched and grouted, Master John; and by the addition of supporting buttresses and by altering the pitch of the roof so as to lessen the thrust——

Silvester (who has been studying the plan with Martin)

Will not the effect of the buttresses be somewhat clumsy?


There is something a little mean in the proportions of this roof.

Ambrose (who is a man of one idea)

I should think it would be bad for sound. After all, the chief use of a choir is to hold services in.


The sooner we get a choir the better. The singing has been very bad lately. I am ashamed to hear sacred words so howled.

[Hands back plan to Henry, who takes it across, right, to Wulfram.

Ambrose (defensively)

The nave is very awkward to sing in. What with the west end boarded up——


Well, we can’t be expected to hold our services in full view, not to say smell, of the common people.


And the east end boarded up——

[Ernulphus quietly falls asleep.

Wulfram (taking plan)

The draughts are appalling. I caught a shocking cold last Tuesday.


We are singing in a wooden box. You can’t sing properly in a box.


Time is certainly of some importance.


The cost is still more important.

Henry (moving up again left of table)

To repair, according to my plan, will be very much cheaper and quicker than to pull down and rebuild. I could engage to be ready within two years——


And in two years more you will have to rebuild again. My Lord Prior——


You, Master John, recommend a complete reconstruction?


Recommend? It must be done. Do not be deceived. This botching is useless and dangerous. It is unworthy——


Master John, I am older than you and more experienced——


You never in your life built anything bigger than a parish church.


Master John, Master John!


This is the Cathedral Church of Christ at Canterbury. It must be the wonder of the realm—nay, of the world! Will you insult God with patchwork? Give me the commission, Lord Prior, and I will build you a church worth looking at!

[Producing plan and elevation, which he passes to Stephen.


To the greater glory of Master John of Kent!


To the glory of God and of the blessed Saints Dunstan and Elphege.

Stephen (aside to the Prior)

And the entire depletion of the Treasury. Will somebody please tell me where the money is to come from?


The devotion of the common people is most touching. A poor widow yesterday brought us five farthings, all her little savings.


Our Lord will reward her. But that will not go very far.


I think we ought to take the long view. Canterbury is the most important church in the Kingdom, and attracts a great many people to the town. What with the visitors and the great increase in the number of pilgrims since the lamented death of the late Archbishop——


Blessed St. Thomas, pray for us.

[They cross themselves.


A little money spent now on building will repay itself handsomely in donations and bequests.

[Stephen passes the plan to Hilary.

Theodatus (rather loudly)

If the fire was a Divine judgment for the Archbishop’s murder——

Ernulphus (waking with a start)

Eh? the Archbishop? Blessed St. Thomas, pray for us.

[He crosses himself and falls asleep instantly.


I say, if the fire was a judgment, then the new building is a reparation to God, and should be an offering worthy of its high destination and a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of this country.


No artist can do his best work when he has to consider every halfpenny. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox——


All this talk about money is sheer lack of faith. God will provide.


No doubt. But, humanly speaking, the accounts will have to go through the Treasury, and I feel responsible.

Hilary (passing design to Paul)

There is a good deal of elaborate and expensive ornament here, Master John.


Modern nonsense, modern nonsense. Let us have the old choir back. Here is a groined roof and a clerestory and a lot of fiddle-faddle. How long is all this going to take?

John (uncompromisingly)

Seven years—perhaps more.


Seven years! Have we to put up with half a cathedral for seven years? Why, God made the world in six days!


God, Father Martin, was not subject to limitations of funds or material.

John (angrily aside to William)

Nor to the cheese-paring parsimony of a monastic chapter.

William (who has listened to all this with a quiet smile; with a touch of humour)

Possibly God is an abler architect than any of us.


We have not yet heard your opinion, Master William. Do you think it possible to restore the remaining fabric?


Oh, I should think very likely. I should certainly hope to save some of it.

John (angrily to William)

That is not what you said to us outside.


But I really cannot say—I do not see how anybody can say—without prolonged and careful examination.


That’s very true. Very reasonable.


That is why I have as yet prepared no estimate or plan. But I have brought some drawings of the work entrusted to me at Sens and elsewhere which will give you some idea of the kind of thing I should like to do here.

[Hands papers to Prior.


Now, I like that. Extremely fine and dignified. And very modern in feeling.


And not too ornate.

[William hands them on down right.


It is wonderful. It is like a poem in stone. I should dearly love to see it. How light—and yet how majestic!

[He looks admiringly at William.


Time and cost would depend on the extent of the work. I suggest making a thorough survey before getting out a preliminary plan and estimate. Naturally, I should commit you to nothing without the advice and approval of yourself, Lord Prior and the Father Treasurer.


Just so. We should object to nothing in reason.

William (he has now got the ear of the house)

I should be obliged (firmly) to stipulate for the best materials.


God’s service demands the best materials.


But we can effect an economy by making good use of local talent, of which I am sure we must possess a great deal——


I am all in favour of local talent.


And we may reduce the cost of shipping and carriage by the use of certain mechanical devices of my own invention, which I need not say I shall be happy to place at the disposal of the authorities without extra fee.


Thank you—that is very proper, very generous. . . . H’m. Well, Brethren, I think we have now the facts before us. If these gentlemen would kindly retire for a few moments. . . .

[General movement; Gervase goes up, right, to door.

Ernulphus (waking with a start)

Eh, what? what? Have we finished?


No, Father Ernulphus. The architects are retiring while we deliberate.


Oh, I see. Very good.

[He falls asleep again.


Two or three years only, Lord Prior—say four at most—and a strict regard for economy.

[Exit Henry.


Consider, Lord Prior—a structure worthy of its dedication—and safety to life and limb, if you think that matters.

[Exit John.


Sir, if I am chosen, I will do my best.

[Exit William. Gervase follows them off. The rest examine the plans and documents.


The motives of mankind are lamentably mixed.


They mean well, I assure you.


Then it is a pity they do not say what they mean.


It is most confusing. I have worn out my pen trying to keep up with them.


That is easily remedied. Allow me.

[He plucks a feather from his own wing and hands it to Cassiel as Gervase re-enters and shuts the door.

Cassiel (trimming the feather into a pen)

Thank you.


Well, Brethren?


I must say, Master Henry’s plan seems rather makeshift.


He is a Yorkshire man. I would as soon have a foreigner as a Yorkshire man.


He is too anxious to please. First he says two years—then three or four. I should not rely on his estimate.


Are we agreed, then, not to appoint Henry of York? (The Monks signify agreement.) Then that leaves us the choice between John of Kent and William of Sens.


What will they make of that?


They will choose the man whom God has appointed.


I shall see to it that they do.


Let us have John. He is a local man.

[As the Monks give their votes, Gervase notes them down.


Yes; his church will attract attention and bring people into the town.


Too new-fangled and showy. I am for William. I distrust these go-ahead young men.


I have said William all along.


Clearly William is a great craftsman—let us choose him.


We know nothing about him personally. John is a young man of devout life.


What has that to do with it? Besides, his manners are abominable. I give my voice for William.


I like John’s plan—we haven’t seen William’s.


John’s plan looks good from the musician’s point of view.


I must not influence you—but I admit I am greatly impressed by William of Sens. . . . Father Gervase, how does the voting stand?


Five have spoken for John and five for William.


This is where I interfere.

[He goes up into the Chapter-House.


Somebody has not voted. Who is it?

[Everybody stares round at Ernulphus.


It is Father Ernulphus.


He has been asleep all the time.

[Gabriel stands behind Ernulphus.


He is getting very shaky, poor old soul.

Theodatus (loudly in Ernulphus’ ear)

Father Ernulphus!

Ernulphus (starting into consciousness)

Eh? eh? what?

Theodatus (shouting in his ear)

Do you vote for John of Kent or William of Sens?

Gabriel (in his other ear)

William of Sens.

Ernulphus (to Theodatus)

Eh? Yes, of course. William of Sens. Certainly.

[He closes his eyes again.

Theodatus (vexed)

He hasn’t heard a word. (Loudly) Father Ernulphus!

Ernulphus (suddenly alert)

You needn’t shout. I’m not deaf. I have followed everything very carefully. I said William of Sens and I mean William of Sens.

[He shuts his eyes tight with an air of finality.


Really, Father Prior!


You will never move him now.

[A pause.


The vote of the Chapter, then, is for William of Sens. If there is no further business, the Chapter is dissolved.

All (rising)

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

[Gabriel goes up and stands above.

Prior (as the Monks begin to file down, left and right)

Father Gervase, pray inform the architects of this decision. Thank those that are not chosen for their pains; they shall receive their journey-money from the Father Treasurer. Ask Master William to come and see me. No time must be lost in putting the work in hand, for the night cometh wherein no man can work.

[Exit Gervase, right, as the Prior follows the Monks out.

℣. Be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and

work; for I am with you, saith the Lord God of Hosts.

℟. No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking

back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.

℣. There is nothing better than that a man should rejoice

in his own works, for that is his portion.

℟. Ascribe ye greatness unto our God; He is the Rock,

His work is perfect.

[Re-enter Gervase, right, with John, Henry and William.

John (indignantly to William)

Trickery, Master William, sheer trickery and cheating. You know well enough that you cannot restore a single stone of it.

Henry (with equal indignation)

You will tell any lie in order to get the job. You promise economy, and you will spend their money like water. It is treacherous—it is dishonest——


You would not only promise, you would do them a dishonest piece of work. That is treachery, if you like, Master Henry.

[Henry bounces down the steps with an angry exclamation.


But why must you flatter and fawn on them? Why pander to all their ridiculous foibles? Cannot you tell them the truth as I do and let the best man win?


The trouble with you, my lad, is want of tact. You can handle stone, but you can’t handle men. You must learn to humour fools if you want to get anything done.


You stinking fox!

[John joins Henry, and they go off muttering together, sinking their differences in their common grievance.

Gervase (troubled)

Master William, is it true, what they say?


Listen to me, young man. At my age one learns that sometimes one has to damn one’s soul for the sake of the work. Trust me, God shall have a choir fit for His service. Does anything else really matter?

[He and Gervase follow the others out.

During the singing of the following Interlude, the scene-shifters set the stage to represent the site of the choir. The other three Angels go up and stand above with Gabriel.

Every carpenter and workmaster that laboureth night and day, and they that give themselves to counterfeit imagery, and watch to finish a work;

The smith also sitting by the anvil, and considering the iron work, he setteth his mind to finish his work, and watcheth to polish it perfectly.

So doth the potter sitting at his work, and turning the wheel about with his feet, who is always carefully set at his work, and maketh all his work by number.

All these trust to their hands, and every one is wise in his work.

Without these cannot a city be inhabited, and they shall not dwell where they will nor go up and down;

They shall not be sought for in public council, nor sit high in the congregation;

But they will maintain the state of the world, and all their desire is in the work of their craft.


About two years have passed since the previous scene. Workmen go in and out, fetching tools and barrows from door, left, which appears to lead to some kind of office or store-room, and carrying out, right, blocks of dressed stone on hand-barrows, etc. About half a dozen Lay Brothers and Workmen remain to work on the stage. A general impression of bustle and movement is accentuated by the entrance of a number of respectably dressed Pilgrims, chattering like jackdaws,—right.

Pilgrims (they enter by twos and threes, gape vaguely about and pass on and out by way of the steps)

Beautiful, beautiful; and everything in such good taste. . . . I wonder what it costs to keep the shrine going in candles. . . . Two years they’ve been building now—goodness knows how long it’s going to take. . . . Dickon, you bad boy, leave that saw alone. . . . Who did you say the architect was? Wilfrid somebody? . . . My poor, dear husband—such a sad sufferer—I was determined to make the pilgrimage. . . . No doubt, it will be all very fine when it’s finished, but I don’t think it’s a patch on Lincoln. . . . Shocking bad dinners they give you at the “Lamb”—you’d better come and have a bite with us. . . . I beg your pardon, madame, was that your foot? Ah, the poor, dear, martyred Archbishop! Such a charming man. I saw him when he came back from France—yes, really, he was as close to me as I am to you. . . . Have you heard the one about the three fat friars and the tinker’s widow? Well, there were three begging friars. . . . So I said to her, “Very well, you may take your wages and go.” . . . It came to me as I was kneeling there that God would most surely have pity upon my sister. . . . I must say it comes out more expensive than I’d reckoned for. And I was abominably cheated that night we lay at Rochester. . . . The King must be a very naughty man to have killed the poor Archbishop. . . . There! I told you it was only putting ideas into the child’s head. . . . Bad business, that fire, and if you ask me, I don’t believe the true story ever came out. . . . Yes, darling, ever so sorry—barefoot in a white sheet. . . . Indeed, I have a very great devotion to St. Thomas. . . . This Purbeck marble’s all the rage, but I don’t care about it myself . . . etc., etc.

[They trail away, still chattering. During the confusion, Gervase and William have made their entrances, right, Gervase crossing the stage and vanishing into doorway, left, while William sits at a trestle-table, centre, and waits resignedly for his workshop to get clear. As the stage empties, the Angels come down again and take up their former positions.


Two years of toil are passed; what shall I write About this architect?


But they will maintain the state of the world, and all their desire is in the work of their craft.A schedule here,

Long as my sword, crammed full of deadly sins;

Jugglings with truth, and gross lusts of the body,

Drink, drabbing, swearing; slothfulness in prayer;

With a devouring, insolent ambition

That challenges disaster.


That challenges disaster.These are debts;

What shall I set upon the credit side?


Six columns, and their aisles, with covering vaults

From wall to arcading, and from thence again

To the centre, with the keystones locking them,

All well and truly laid without a fault.


No sum of prayer to balance the account?


Ask Raphael, for prayers are in his charge.


Come, Raphael, speak; or is thy censer cold?

Canst thou indeed find any grace in William

The builder-up of Canterbury?


The builder-up of Canterbury?Yes.

[He swings his censer, which gives out a cloud of incense.

Behold, he prayeth; not with the lips alone,

But with the hand and with the cunning brain

Men worship the Eternal Architect.

So, when the mouth is dumb, the work shall speak

And save the workman. True as a mason’s rule

And line can make them, the shafted columns rise

Singing like music; and by day and night

The unsleeping arches with perpetual voice

Proclaim in Heaven, to labour is to pray.


Glory to God, that made the Firmament!

[Enter Gervase, left.


Here are the letters for you to sign, Master William. These to Caen, about the next shipment of stone; these to Dover, with instructions for the unloading and carriage. I have mentioned the matter of the damaged crane and told them it must be made good at their own expense.

[Hands pen and inkhorn.


Thanks, Father Gervase.

[Signs letters.


This is the invoice for the oak roofing-beams. And there is an enclosure I can’t quite understand. Something about the commission.

William (hastily)

That has no business to be there. Idiots! It refers to a private transaction. Give it to me. I will deal with it myself. Anything more?

[Taking paper and pocketing it.


Do you mind looking at this consignment note? We seem to be fifty scaffold-poles short; but I will have them checked again.


Good. I can trust you to get it put in order. I don’t know what we should have done these two years without your vigilant eye and skilful pen.


I wish I could do more to help. But my hands are no good for anything but writing. I should have loved to take a more active part in the work. (Smiling.) I must be content to be the man with only one talent, and make it go as far as I can.

[Enter Hubert, right.


If every one would make good use of his own talent and let others do the same, the world would move faster. Well, Brother Hubert, what’s the trouble?


Well, sir, if you’d kindly take a look at this here last lot of lime (presenting specimens of lime and mortar on a shovel). If lime you can call it. What they’ve done to it I don’t know, but it don’t seem to have no body in it as you might say. It don’t bind right. You should hear what my lads has to say about it.


Yes. Poor slack stuff. Where did this come from?


From Jocelyn’s. You remember, the Father Treasurer wanted the order given to them. He said Thomas Clay’s price was excessive.


I wish the Father Treasurer would allow me to know my own job. Tell him—no, don’t tell him anything. Order in a fresh lot from Thomas Clay’s as before, instructing him to charge it up at Jocelyn’s price and send me a private note of the difference. We can adjust it on that timber account. Do you understand? If these timber merchants are knaves enough to offer me a five per cent. commission for giving them the contract and Father Stephen is fool enough to grudge a few pounds extra for first-class material, all right. We play off the knave against the fool, get what we want, and save argument.


Ay, that’s so. What the Father Treasurer don’t see won’t worry him.


But is it honest?


All I know is, this here lime ain’t honest. Prior Wibert, him as built the Water-Tower, wouldn’t never have asked his masons to put up with cheap rubbish like this here.

William (to Gervase)

No, of course it’s not honest. And it’s not exactly safe. That is, it’s liable to misconstruction, if proclaimed upon the housetops. But the Lord commended the unjust steward.


You can’t make bricks without straw, nor yet mortar without lime. And if Prior Wibert, rest his soul, was alive, he’d say the same.


Cheer up, little churchman. Take thy bill and sit down quickly and write fifty. Nobody’s robbing the Church.

[Exit Gervase, left, still a trifle unhappy about it.

H’m. Unfortunate. He’ll lie awake all night wrestling with his conscience, and probably let the whole thing out to the Father Treasurer. Can’t be helped. Sufficient for the day. . . . How about the new arch? D’you think she’s settled in? I’d like to get those supports out to-day.


Been over every inch of her, sir, and I think she’ll do. We’re getting the tackle up now.


Let me know when you’re ready; I don’t want anything started till I come. What do you think of the plan for the roof and clerestory?


Grand, sir, grand. I only wish Prior Wibert, good man, was alive to see it. Always a man for new ideas, was Prior Wibert. Ah! He’d have loved that tall shafting and the way the cross-ribbing is made to carry the span. “Mark my words, Hubert,” he used to say to me, “the arch is the secret of building. We ain’t half learned yet,” he’d say, “what the arch can carry when it’s put to it.”


He was right, there. But we’re finding out. We’re finding out every day. Greece never guessed it; Rome only half understood it; but our sons will know in the years to come. (With rising excitement.) We all have our dreams, Hubert. Churches we shall never live to see. Arch shouldering arch, shaft, vault and keystone, window and arcading higher, and wider and lighter, lifting roof, tower, spire, into the vault of heaven—columns slender as lily-stalks—walls only a framework for the traceries—living fountains of stone——


That’s so, Master, that’s so. That’s the way to build. Each stone carrying his neighbour’s burden, as you might say.


A triumph of balance, eh, Hubert? A delicate adjustment of interlocking stresses. Look! there was an idea came into my head last night.

[He sketches on a block of stone.

Enter Stephen and Martin, right.


Well, I must say, it’s rather inconsiderate. Still, we mustn’t let the opportunity slip.


Certainly not; rich benefactors have to be humoured. Nobody knows that better than he does. Will you tackle him?


If you like. Er—Master William!


What can I do for you, Father Treasurer?


Forgive me for interrupting you—I know you’re very busy, but the fact is, we have a visitor——


Rather an important visitor.


The Lady Ursula de Warbois——

[Enter Theodatus, right. He has his sleeves tucked up, and a coarse apron over his habit, and carries a trowel.


We had been hoping she would come——


She has just arrived and asked to see the Father Prior.


She is with him now. Father Theodatus, have you heard? The Lady Ursula is with the Father Prior!



[He goes across to speak to one of the Workmen.


Come, sirs. All this excitement is scarcely becoming to your cloth. Is the lady young and beautiful? And what is she doing with the Father Prior, or he with her?

[Workmen snigger.


Master William! Pray control your tongue.


There! you see you have shocked Father Theodatus.


The Lady Ursula is the widow of an exceedingly wealthy knight.


She has come to reside in Canterbury; and has several times expressed interest in the work. To-day she has come and wants to see over the new choir——


If she is pleased with what she sees, she will probably be good for a handsome subscription.


Oh, very well. Take her where you like. Better stand clear of the new arch, though. We’re going to get the supports out, and it might come down. You never know—eh, Hubert?


That’s right. You never know.


Yes—but the point is, she particularly wants to meet the architect and be shown round personally.


She wants to see the plans, and have everything explained to her.


T’cha! women always want explanations. But they never listen, and wouldn’t understand a word if they did. I’ve no use for women—not in working hours.

Theodatus (gloomily)

The curse came by a woman.


Well—if it comes to that, so did you, Father Theodatus.


That’s right. Women are a curse—but we can’t get into the world, nor on in the world without ’em.


Well, Master William, I’m sure you will oblige her. People always like to talk to the architect. The human touch, you know. It’s always good publicity.


Oh, very well, I suppose one must make one’s self a martyr to publicity. Go and keep an eye on the lads, Hubert; I’ll come as soon as I’m free.

[Going, Stephen and Martin offer to accompany him.

No, thanks. I can find my own way. Don’t you run your heads into temptation. Sed libera nos a malo—deliver us from the apple and all its consequences.

[Exit, right, with Hubert.


Dear me! I hope he will behave with discretion.


Never fear. He can bridle his tongue when he likes. He is a politic man. Remember how he persuaded us into the expense of rebuilding.


Yes—we have had some experience of his policy. Well—he wheedled money out of us; let him now wheedle it out of the Lady Ursula.


At any rate, he is a first-class workman. He gives us good value for our money.


Does he? I hope he does. Sometimes I have my doubts. From something one of the carriers let fall the other day, I am inclined to suspect him of—some irregularities.


Oh, surely not! The accounts all go through your hands and the correspondence through those of Father Gervase.


Father Gervase? Do you think a crafty old fox like that hasn’t the wit to hoodwink a young and innocent churchman like Father Gervase? Is he in the office, by the way? I am inclined to give him a caution. (Calling left.) Father Gervase!

Gervase (emerging, left, with letters)

Yes, Father Stephen?


Tell me; since you have been handling Master William’s letters, have you ever had any reason to suspect any financial irregularities?

Gervase (taken aback)

Financial irregularities?


Tampering with the estimates? Fudging the accounts? Pocketing commissions and that sort of thing? Doing little deals on the side?

Gervase (recovering himself; with confidence)

I am quite positive, Father Stephen, that Master William has never cheated the Church of a single penny, and never would. He thinks of nothing, lives for nothing, but the integrity of his work. If you knew him as well as I do, working with him these two years, you would be sure of that.


I am glad to hear it. But keep your eyes open. I have heard stories, and I am not altogether satisfied.


Would it not be better to speak openly to Master William himself?


Of course it would; but they are afraid to. Why? Because the man has managed to get the ear of the Father Prior—and because they don’t want him to throw up the job in the middle—and because, having once put their hands to dirty tools, they don’t know how to draw back. (To Stephen and Martin.) No man can serve God and mammon. God’s House should be built with prayer. You are trying to build it with worldly wisdom and wordly lucre. Look at all those pilgrims! How many of them have clean hands and pure hearts?


We cannot see into their hearts.


Have you listened to their talk? One in ten may be sincere. The rest are idle men and gadding women, making pilgrimage an excuse for a holiday trip—compounding for old sins by committing new ones. All they come for is to drink and gossip in alehouses, tell each other dirty stories, pick up loose companions, waste their own time and other people’s, and gabble through a few perfunctory prayers at top speed, so as to have more time for sight-seeing.


Are you not a little uncharitable?


Most of them are very worthy people. And after all, we can’t do without their money.


If you had faith, you could. You degrade the Church by these vulgar and dubious methods of publicity.


Really, Father Theodatus! This is monstrous. The Father Prior himself entrusted me with the publicity side of the appeal. I have taken great pains to get these pilgrimages properly advertised. And this is my reward!


Brethren! brethren! All the workmen are listening to you.

[Enter William, right, with Ursula.


Let them listen!


I do not care who hears me!


Pray, madam, mind your head—the doorway is rather low. One step down. Allow me. This is just a little corner of our workshop, where——Walter! Hugh! Simon! Is nobody doing any work to-day? Do you take it for the Feast of St. Lazybones? (The Workmen hurriedly return to their tasks.) Walter—that corner is out of true. And here, you! Is that the way to treat your tools? . . . I beg your pardon, madam. The moment my back is turned, everything seems to come to a standstill.


No wonder. Without the heart, how can the limbs do their office? You are the heart of the undertaking.

William (formally)

It is very good of you to say so. I think you know Father Stephen, the Treasurer? Father Martin, the Guest-Brother? Father Theodatus, the Sacristan? And Father Gervase, who is Clerk and Historian to the Chapter, and is good enough to deal with my correspondence in his spare time. (To Gervase) Have those letters gone?


I am just taking them to the messenger.

[Exit Gervase, right.


And what, madam, do you think of our Cathedral?


I think it must be the most beautiful in the world. And how glorious the new choir will be when it is finished! Master William has described it all to me and has promised to show me all his plans and drawings. That was a promise, was it not, Master William?


Certainly—if you are really interested.


Of course I am interested. I am glad I have come to live in Canterbury. It will be so exciting to watch the work going on from day to day. A widow needs an interest in life. And it will be a great comfort to live under the protection of blessed St. Thomas.


Thousands of the suffering and bereaved have already found healing and consolation by his benign intervention. Only a few weeks ago, out of a large congregation of worshippers who attended a special service——

[Bell begins to ring. Monks enter, right, and file across the stage and down the steps. Workmen lay down their tools and go out, right, with dinner-baskets.


That is the bell for nones.

[Exit down steps.


I will tell you presently about the special service.

[Exeunt Stephen and Martin down steps.


Do you propose to attend nones? The lower part of the nave is available for the laity.


No; I propose to see those drawings of yours.


I do not think you came here to see architectural drawings.


I came—to see the architect. (Pause.) Did you realise that this was not the first time we had met?


I realised it perfectly. I had the honour to pick up your glove yesterday in the market-place.


I was much indebted to you for the courtesy.


I was much indebted to you for the opportunity. I am an opportunist. So, I fancy, are you. We have that much in common.


Is that an impertinence, I wonder?




I ought to be offended with you.


If you are wise, you will be. Let us be plain.

The first time our eyes met, we knew one another

As fire knows tinder. You have seen what havoc

Fire works. Let be.


Fire works. Let be.I do not fear the fire.


My fire should be a lamp to light the world,

Fed with my life, consuming only me;

Will you not learn that it is perilous

To play with fire? That it is death to come

Between the man and the work? In one man’s life

Is room for one love and no more—one love;

I am in love with a dream.


I am in love with a dream.Tell me your dreams

Sitting by the fire, seeing pictures in the fire,

Visions and dreams.


Visions and dreams.Your old men shall dream dreams

And your young men see visions—but not your women.

What use have women for the dreams of a man

Save to destroy them? What does a woman know

Of the love of knowledge, passing the love of women?

The passion of making, beside which love’s little passion

Shows brittle as a bubble?—To raise up beauty from ashes

Like the splendour of resurrection; to see the stone

Knit unto stone and growing, as in the womb

Bone grows to bone; to build a world out of nothing—

That is my dream; that is the craftsman’s dream,

The power and the glory, the kingdom of God and man—

Of man, never of woman. Women create

Passively, borne on a wind of lust, for a whim,

At the caprice of a man, in a smile, in a spasm

Of the flesh; we, with the will, with the blood, with the brain,

All the desire of the soul, the intent of the mind.

Now do you understand what my dreams are

And why they are not for you?


And why they are not for you?I understand.

Knowledge and work—knowledge is given to man

And not to woman; and the glory of work

To man and not to woman. But by whom

Came either work or knowledge into the world?

Not by the man. God said, “Ye shall now know;

Knowledge is death.” And Adam was afraid.

But Eve, careless of peril, careless of death,

Hearing the promise, “Ye shall be as gods,”

Seized knowledge for herself, and for the man,

And all the sons of men; knowledge, like God;

Power to create, like God; and, unlike God,

Courage to die. And the reward for her

Was sorrow; but for Adam the reward

Was work—of which he now contrives to boast

As his peculiar glory, and in one breath

Denies it to the woman and blames her for it,

Winning the toss both ways. My simple Adam,

It is too late to scare woman with risks

And perils—woman, that for one splendid risk

Changed the security of Paradise,

Broke up the loom and pattern of creation,

Let in man’s dream on the world, and snatched the torch

of knowledge from the jealous hand of God

So that the fire runs in man’s blood for ever.

William (carried away)

So that she runs like fire in a man’s blood

For ever! Take what thou wilt—the risk, the sorrow,

The fire, the dream—and in the dream’s end, death.


Thus Eve cast down the gauntlet in God’s face:

“My will for Thine; man’s purpose against God’s;

Slay me and slay the man, slay all my seed,

But let man’s knowledge and man’s work go on.”


Thus God took up the gauntlet in Eve’s face.

Having, like man, courage to look on death:

“My Son for thy sons, and God’s blood for man’s;

Crucify God, but let the work go on.”


By man came sin.


By man came sin.O felix culpa, quae

Talem et tantum meruit Redemptorem!

Hubert (off)

Master William! Master William!


There! that means work. You see what happens when one starts this kind of thing. Go now. They are coming out of church. Quickly—or we shall have Father Martin and the special service all over again. I will come to your lodging after supper.

Ursula (on the steps)

Bringing your dreams with you.

[Exit down steps. Enter Hubert, right.


Master! The arch is ready when you are.


I am coming. Work, Hubert, work. Sometimes one persuades one’s self that it all means something to somebody.


Do you think the gracious lady will be moved to contribute to the building fund?


H’m. I had forgotten that aspect of the matter. Yes—I shouldn’t be surprised if she did.


The blessed saints be praised for it.


I wonder!

[Exeunt William and Hubert, right.

The Young Cherub (suddenly)

Why did God create mankind in two different sorts, if it makes so much trouble?

[The Angels are inexpressibly shocked.


Hush! you mustn’t ask Why.


Angels never ask Why.


Only men ask Why.


And you see what happened to them, just for asking Why.


Do you want to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, like Adam and Eve?


And find Michael there, with his big sword?


And put our Master to the trouble and pain of another crucifixion?


Or start another war, like that lost brother whom we must not name?


Criticising God’s creation! I never heard of such a thing!


Shall we that are but worms, but silk-worms, but glow-worms, chide God that He hath made slow-worms, and other venomous creeping things?

Shall we that are all discord, quarrel the harmony of His creation or His providence?

Can an apothecary make a sovereign treacle of vipers and other poisons, and cannot God admit offences and scandals into His physic?

As soon as He had made light (which was His first creature) He took pleasure in it; He said it was good; He was glad of it; glad of the sea, glad of the earth, glad of the sun, and moon, and stars, and He said of every one, It is good.


The scene is as before; two more years have passed; Walter, Hugh and Geoffrey, lay workmen, are engaged in polishing marble rather up-stage.

[Enter Simon, right, and crosses to door, left.

Simon (sings)

The animals went in two by two,

  Hey, ho, nonny!

Said the dog, Bow-wow! said the cat, Mew, mew!

  Spring is the time for love!

[Exit left.


Spring, indeed! I wish the spring were here. It hasn’t stopped raining for three months.


More like four. We’ve had vile weather ever since the eclipse last September. What a climate!


I knew that eclipse meant bad luck.


Well, it’s not raining to-day.


Bad luck? If we never get worse luck than a bit of bad weather, I don’t care how many eclipses we have.


We ain’t heard the last of the eclipse yet, mark my words.


You and your prophecies! What are you grumbling about? Job’s going well enough, ain’t it? Four years, and here we’ve finished the triforium and the clerestory, and the key of the great arch will be put in to-day. Not too bad, in four years.

[Re-enter Simon, left, trundling a coil of rope, wound on a drum.


Ah! he’s a good worker, is Master William. And a fast worker. Knows what he’s about. He’s the sort of master I can do with. Strict, and drives you like the devil, but I don’t mind that.


That’s right. I respect a master that’s a good worker. When Master William works, he works.


And when he plays (with a meaning grin), he plays! Him and the Lady Ursula!


Well, I don’t mind that, either. That’s their affair.


Quite right, Hugh. The day for labour and the night for—sleep.


Two by two they went into the ark,

   Hey, ho, nonny!

The doors were shut, they were all in the dark,

   Spring is the time for love!


She’s somewhere about the place now.


Who is? Lady Ursula?


Yes. Takes a lot of interest. Always putting up a bit o’ prayer, or coming to see how the job’s getting on, or calling on the Father Treasurer with a little donation to something.

Simon (sings)

But when old Noah opened the door,

  Hey, ho, nonny!

They all came out by three and four.

  Spring is the time for love!

[Enter Prior and Theodatus, right.


It’s a wonder the good fathers don’t see through it.


Maybe they do. Maybe it pays them to wink t’other eye. Lady’s Ursula’s rich. It don’t do to offend rich folks.


You hear that, Father Prior?


All the same, mark my words, no good will come of it. That eclipse wasn’t sent for nothing.


Ah, come off it. You and your eclipse!

Simon (sings)

Who d’ye think had been playing tricks?

  Hey, ho, nonny!

They went in two and they came out six,

  Spring is the time for love!


For shame, my son, for shame! We cannot have these lewd songs here.

[He comes down past Simon to the steps, with the Prior.


Sorry, Father.

[He goes out, left.


So it goes on, Father, day after day—

Songs in the workshop, sniggering in the dortor,

Unbecoming gossip among the novices,

Heads wagged in the market-place, and tales going round

In the ale-house, fingers pointed everywhere

At William of Sens, the Cathedral architect—

A notorious evil liver, a seducer of women,

A taker of bribes——

Prior (mildly)

A taker of bribes——That was not proved, I fancy.


A cunning liar, that boasts of pulling the wool

Over the eyes of the fat, innocent monks;

A man without truth, without shame. It is not respectable;

It is not right.


It is not right.You must not say, without truth,

Lest you should hear the very stones cry out

Against you. Truth is glorious; but there is one

Glory of the sun, another of the moon,

And all the truth of the craftsman is in his craft.

Where there is truth, there is God; and where there is glory,

There is God’s glory too.

Theodatus (sullenly)

There is God’s glory too.Craft is the word.

We could do better without William’s craft

In more ways than in one. I would rather have

A worse-built church with a more virtuous builder.


Make God the loser for your conscience’ sake?

This is God’s House, and if on any pretext

We give him less than the best, we shall cheat God

As William never cheated God, nor us.

He that bestowed the skill and the desire

To do great work is surely glad to see

That skill used in His service.


That skill used in His service.Skill is not all.

The kingdom of Heaven is won by righteousness,

Not skill. He cannot wish His work performed

Save with clean hands and a pure heart.


Save with clean hands and a pure heart.My son,

Will you not let God manage His own business?

He was a carpenter, and knows His trade

Better, perhaps, than we do, having had

Some centuries of experience; nor will He,

Like a bad workman, blame the tools wherewith

He builds His City of Zion here on earth.

For God founded His Church, not upon John,

The loved disciple, that lay so close to His heart

And knew His mind—not upon John, but Peter;

Peter the liar, Peter the coward, Peter

The rock, the common man. John was all gold,

And gold is rare; the work might wait while God

Ransacked the corners of the earth to find

Another John; but Peter is the stone

Whereof the world is made. So stands the Church,

Stone upon stone, and Christ the corner-stone

Carved of the same stuff, common flesh and blood,

With you, and me, and Peter; and He can,

Being the alchemist’s stone, the stone of Solomon,

Turn stone to gold, and purge the gold itself

From dross, till all is gold.


From dross, till all is gold.To purge—to burn!

He makes His ministers a flaming fire—

And are not we His ministers? Shall not we

Lay axe to the rotten root, trunk, branch? destroy.

Make bonfire of this scandal in the Church

And burn God’s honour clean?


And burn God’s honour clean?God is a man,

And can defend His honour, being full-grown

In wisdom and in stature. We need not

Play nursemaid to the Babe of Bethlehem

To shield Him from the harlot and the thief,

Or keep those tender, innocent hands from harm

That bear the sharp nails’ imprint, and uphold

The axis of the spheres. He can touch dirt

Without defilement, for Himself hath said,

“What I have cleansed, that call not thou unclean.”


But while His laws are broken in our sight

Must we stand by, and smile, and still do nothing?


Do your own work, while yet the daylight lasts.

Look that it be well done; look not beyond it.

I charge you, on your holy obedience,

Set charity as a bridle on your tongue;

Talk not of William’s nor another’s faults,

Unless to God, Who hears but spreads no scandal.

Of this be sure: who will not have the Gospel

Shall have the Law; but in God’s time, not ours.

[Enter Simon by door, left, carrying a small windlass.

Simon (bursting irrepressibly into song)

Every bird had found her mate,

  Hey, ho, nonny!

They all came out by seven and eight,

  Spring is the time for love!

[He sets the windlass down, centre. Enter William, right.


You are merry, Simon. Is that the rope to rig the travelling cradle?


Yes, sir.


See that every inch of it is well tested before I go up. I’m not as young or as light as I was. Good morning, Father Prior. Ah! Father Theodatus, you are just the man I was looking for. Pray will you help Simon to test that rope? It is to hoist me up to the top of the great arch, and I have a value for my neck.


Oh, by all means.

[Moving up, left.


Simon is a good lad enough, but I would rather trust your vigilance. Young men’s minds are apt to run astray.

[During the following dialogue, Theodatus takes the free end of the rope and begins to wind it off on to the windlass. Simon stands by the drum, so that, as the rope is slowly wound off, they can both examine it for flaws. They occupy the stage from centre to left.


Young men are not alone in that, Master William. The talk of the town comes to our ears sometimes, dull-witted old churchmen though we be. It seems that even a master architect may find interests outside his work.


Outside his working hours, Father Prior.


I quite appreciate that. My dear son, as your father in God I might find many things to say to you. . . .


But as a man of the world you doubt whether I should listen. It is a rare virtue to refrain even from good words.


Then I will speak only as a man of the world and urge the value of discretion.


Father Theodatus would say, of hypocrisy.


Father Theodatus is not your employer. The Church is your employer, and it is my duty to speak for the Church.


Very well. As my employer, to use your own blunt term, what fault have you to find with my private amusements?


This: that instead of attending to their work, your workmen waste their time in gossip and backbiting about you. If you choose to be damned, you must; if you prefer to make a death-bed repentance, you may; but if an idle workman does an unsound job now, no repentance of yours will prevent it from bringing down the church some day or other.

William (after a pause)

You are quite right. I congratulate you. You have found the one argument to which I am bound to listen. Were you a diplomat before you were a churchman?



[Exit, right.

William (looking after him)

Or a soldier. The old man’s a hard hitter and knows where to plant his blows. (He goes up, back, to overlook the work of Walter and Geoffrey, speaking to Theodatus and Simon as he goes): Test it with the eye and the hand—don’t trust to either alone.


Are there no fires in Heaven, that every man

With his own hand, upon the anvil of sin

Forges the sword of judgment? Gabriel, Raphael,

There is a sword in the making; look you to it.

[Raphael goes up and stands near Theodatus, centre, and Gabriel, near Simon, left.

℣. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

℟. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.

℣. He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good;

℟. And sendeth rain upon the just and unjust.

[Enter Ursula, right.



William (turning quickly and coming to meet her)

Ah! You have come at a very good moment.

[He leads her forward to the steps.

Simon (watching them with interest)

Oho! look at that!


We are just about to put in the key of the great arch.


Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity!


If you will stand here presently and watch, you will see me fly up to the top of the scaffold in a machine of my own devising—and down again, like blessed St. Paul in a basket!

Theodatus (hastily reciting with averted eyes)

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis;

Sancta Dei genetrix, ora pro nobis;

Sancta Virgo virginum, ora pro nobis.

[Raphael sets his censer gently swinging.


How amusing! I hope it is safe.

Simon (over his shoulder to Geoffrey)

More headaches for Father Martin! He don’t like these goings-on. Says they look bad, and shock influential patrons.


Never fear for that. But, hark’ee—we’re in disgrace with the Prior.


Mater castissima, ora pro nobis;

Mater inviolata, ora pro nobis;

Mater intemerata, ora pro nobis.


Oh! I ought not to have come.


That was my fault. I asked you. I wanted you here.


Take care, Simon! There is a flaw in the rope.

[Simon, with his eyes on William and Ursula, pays no attention.

Simon (sings)

The cat, the rat, the sow, the hen,

  Hey, ho, nonny!

They all came out by nine and ten,

  Spring is the time for love!

[The rope runs through his heedless fingers. Gabriel makes a despairing gesture, and looks across at Raphael. The scandalised Theodatus continues to pray with his eyes tight shut.


Virgo veneranda, ora pro nobis;

Virgo praedicanda, ora pro nobis;

Virgo potens, ora pro nobis.


What does the Prior complain of? Scandal in the Cathedral?


Something like that.


Vas honorabile, ora pro nobis;

Vas insigne devotionis, ora pro nobis;

Rosa mystica, ora pro nobis.


Take care, Theodatus! There is a flaw in the rope.


Turris Davidica, ora pro nobis;

Turris eburnea, ora pro nobis;

Domus aurea, ora pro nobis.

[Raphael flings away the censer, which rolls clanging down the steps. The rope, flaw and all, is wound off.


At least he cannot say that you think more of me than of your work.


No, he has not said that.


Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis Domine;

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, exaudi nos, Domine;

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

[The rope is now all wound off.


He will not take the work away from you?


He is too shrewd for that. Besides, God would not let him; He has put me here and will keep me here, Prior or no Prior.

Workman (putting his head in at the door, below)

Master Hubert says, is that rope ready?


Here you are, mate.

[He picks up the windlass and takes it down to Workman, who carries it out.


Do we presume too much upon God’s mercy?


We are the master-craftsmen, God and I—

We understand one another. None, as I can,

Can creep under the ribs of God, and feel

His heart beat through those Six Days of Creation;

Enormous days of slowly turning lights

Streaking the yet unseasoned firmament;

Giant days, Titan days, yet all too short

To hold the joy of making. God caught His breath

To see the poles of the world stand up through chaos;

And when He sent it forth, the great winds blew,

Carrying the clouds. And then He made the trees

For winds to rustle through—oak, poplar, cedar,

Hawthorn and elm, each with its separate motion—

And with His delicate fingers painted the flowers,

Numberless—numberless! why make so many

But that He loved the work, as I love mine,

And saw that it was good, as I see mine?—

The supple, swift mechanics of the serpent,

The beautiful, furred beasts, and curious fish

With golden eyes and quaintly-laced thin bones,

And whales like mountains loud with spurting springs,

Dragons and monsters in strange shapes, to make

His angels laugh with Him; when He saw those

God sang for joy, and formed the birds to sing.

And lastly, since all Heaven was not enough

To share that triumph, He made His masterpiece,

Man, that like God can call beauty from dust,

Order from chaos, and create new worlds

To praise their maker. Oh, but in making man

God over-reached Himself and gave away

His Godhead. He must now depend on man

For what man’s brain, creative and divine

Can give Him. Man stands equal with Him now,

Partner and rival. Say God needs a church,

As here in Canterbury—and say He calls together

By miracle stone, wood and metal, builds

A church of sorts; my church He cannot make—

Another, but not that. This church is mine

And none but I, not even God, can build it.

Me hath He made vice-gerent of Himself,

And were I lost, something unique were lost

Irreparably; my heart, my blood, my brain

Are in the stone; God’s crown of matchless works

Is not complete without my stone, my jewel,

Creation’s nonpareil.


Creation’s nonpareil.Hush! God will hear you—

The priests say He is jealous. Tempt Him not

Lest He should smite and slay.


Lest He should smite and slay.He will not dare;

He knows that I am indispensable

To His work here; and for the work’s sake, He,

Cherishing, as good masons do, His tools,

Will keep me safe. When the last stone is laid

Then may He use me as He will; I care not;

The work is all; when that is done, good night——

My life till then is paramount with God.


You make me shake to hear you. Blasphemy! blasphemy!


Sound sense. Fear nothing. I must leave you now;

The work waits for me, and that must not be;

Idleness is the only sin. Like God

I must be doing in my little world,

Lest, lacking me, the moon and stars should fail.

[He goes out down the steps.

Ursula (watching him go)

I am afraid; have mercy on him, Christ!


Draw thy sword, Michael; the hour is come.

[Michael follows William out, with his sword drawn in his hand.

℣. Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it.

℟. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

℣. The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and rebukes are fallen upon me.

℟. For Thou art great and doest wondrous things; Thou art God alone.

[During the singing of these versicles, the three remaining Angels stand side by side at the top of the steps, with Ursula below them. Now they go up and stand on the plinth at the back of the stage, Raphael and Gabriel to right and left, with Cassiel centre.


The Lord is known to execute judgment; the ungodly is trapped in the work of his own hands.

For he hath said in his heart, Tush, I shall never be cast down; there shall no harm happen unto me.

The snares of death compassed me round about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me.

I shall find trouble and heaviness, and I will call upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul.

[The stage gradually fills with Monks and Workmen; among them is a Young Boy.

Monks and Workmen

This is a brave day . . . the great arch finished . . . See, they are making ready to drop in the keystone . . . It is wonderful how well Master William’s machines work—they have halved the labour of building . . . there’s old Hubert—he’ll be a proud man to-day . . . Laus Deo! our new choir will be ready for us within the year . . . There it goes! No, they’re waiting for something . . . They’re waiting for the architect . . . There he is, slung half-way up in the travelling cradle . . . Can’t you see? Come on, lad, up on my shoulder . . . There’s the keystone slung aloft on the crane . . . Hurray! Master William’s up now—just getting to the top of the scaffolding . . . Get ready to cheer, boys. . . .

The Young Boy (from his perch on the workman’s shoulder, shrilly)

Oh, look! look at the angel—the terrible angel!


What’s that? An angel? What? Where? Nonsense!

The Young Boy

High on the scaffold, with the drawn sword in his hand!


Mother of God!

[She falls upon the steps.

A shout from the stage is succeeded by a heavy crash without from the far end of the building. Men run in, right.


He’s fallen . . . Master William’s down . . . He’s killed . . . fifty feet at least . . . His foot slipped . . . No, the rope broke . . . What’s happened? . . . God have mercy on us! . . . Run for help! . . . Blessed Mary, pray for us! . . . Send for the Prior . . . Fetch a chirurgeon . . . The devil is abroad . . . No, it was an angel . . . Where’s that boy who saw the angel? . . . Here, the lady’s fainted—give us a hand here to carry her in . . . Come along, let’s see what’s happened . . .

[There is a general rush down the steps.

Ursula (to the men who are supporting her)

Take me with you. (But she is unable to stand.) No—leave me! Run and bring me word.

[They leave her crouched on the steps and run out. The three Angels come down and follow the crowd out. Nobody is left but Theodatus, Simon and Ursula.


The rope! God forgive me—I was talking and laughing. Father Theodatus, what have we done?


The rope! God is avenged. But I did not mean—I did not think—if it had not been for your lewd songs and his own behaviour with this woman——


Could You not break me and not him, O God?


We have killed him among us.


Out of the deep have I called unto Thee. O Lord, hear my voice.

O let Thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.

If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?

For there is mercy with Thee, therefore shalt thou be feared.

I look for the Lord, my soul doth wait for Him, in His word is my trust.

My soul fleeth unto the Lord; before the morning watch, I say, before the morning watch.

O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption;

And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins.

[During the singing of the psalm, the Prior has re-entered from the lower end, with Hubert, Gervase and the Young Boy. They mount the steps.


Father! Father! In pity, tell me—is he dead?


No, my poor child. But sorely maimed.


He will never be the same man again.


Let me go to him.


Presently. The leech is with him now, seeing to his hurts. Trust me, you shall see him presently. (He goes on up steps and sits, right.) Now, Hubert, I must know how all this came to pass.


My Lord Prior, there is no doubt at all. There was a flaw in the rope. Just as the cradle came up to the level of the scaffolding, bearing Master William, I saw with my eyes the strands spring asunder. I stretched out my hands to catch him, but I could not reach. If I could have done anything—anything! I would gladly have given my life.


So would I, Hubert.


I am sure you would.


Such a craftsman! such a craftsman! So kind a master! Just, zealous, generous—no fault in him at all.


So faithful a servant of the Church! Who will finish his work now? . . . He was my friend, too.


What I should like to know is—who had the testing o’ that there rope?

Simon (flinging himself at the Prior’s feet)

It was I—it was my neglect. I have no excuse. I shall never forgive myself.


It was my fault. I was talking to William—distracting the attention of them all. This is a judgment for our sin—his and mine.


True; it was a judgment. Ask this boy here. Did he not see the angel thrust him down?


Yes, child. What is this about an angel?

The Young Boy

It is true. I saw a great angel stand between heaven and earth—all in gold and scarlet, with a drawn sword. Oh, and he had great wings, too. He cut the rope and the cradle fell.


There, you see! it was a divine judgment.


Divine judgment! The boy’s dreaming. It was rank carelessness. Simon—who was at the other end of the rope when you tested it? (Simon looks round at Theodatus, waiting for him to speak.) Speak up, man! Who was it?


I was there, Theodatus.


Well, it was I. But I had nothing to do with it. You heard what the child said. It was a miracle.


I think we sometimes make disasters, and then call them miraculous judgments. Did you at any moment take hand or eye from the rope while you were testing it?


I cannot remember. (Under the Prior’s eye, he abandons this line of defence.) She was there with William. For my soul’s sake I could not look at them. I was saying my prayers . . .


Sayin’ your prayers! With the master’s safety depending on you!


God Himself laid the seal upon my eyes. I was His appointed instrument to overthrow the wicked man.


Think what you say, my son. It is not for us

To ordain ourselves the ministers of vengeance;

For it must needs be that offences come,

But woe unto that man by whom the offence

Cometh; ’twere better he had not been born.

This is thy sin: thou hast betrayed the work;

Thou hast betrayed the Church; thou hast betrayed

Christ, in the person of His fellow-man.

What was the prayer wherein thou offer’dst up

Thy brother’s life?


Thy brother’s life?The Litany of the Virgin.


Go to the church; repeat it once again,

Saying at every line: “This was the spear

With which I pierced the body of the Lord,”

Then come to me and ask for absolution.


I will obey.

[Exit Theodatus, right.


I will obey.For you, my son and daughter,

You see how sin brings its own suffering;

Do not despair; God’s mercy is very great. (He rises.)

Thou that hast visions of angels, come with me.

I am an old man. Let me have thy shoulder.

So. Thou shalt tell me more about the angel.

[Exeunt Prior and Young Boy, right.

Gervase (helping Ursula to her feet)

Madam, pray do not weep so. He would be sorry to see it. I loved him, too. Let us go together to visit him.


And supposing he can never work again? What comfort in this world for him? And what forgiveness for any of us?

[Exeunt Gervase and Ursula, right.


Well, Simon, you’ve made a nice mess of it. There, there, lad, I can see you’re sorry. Don’t ’ee lose heart, now. It’s a bad business, but we must make the best of it.


Oh, Hubert!

[Exeunt Hubert and Simon, right.

During the singing of the following hymn, the Angels return and take up their places as at the beginning of the play.


Plebs angelica

phalanx et archangelica

principans turma, virtus


ac potestas



numina divinaque

subsellia, Cherubim


ac Seraphim



Vos, O Michael

caeli satrapa,

Gabrielque vera

dans verba nuntia,


Atque Raphael,

vitae vernula,

transferte nos inter



Six months have passed since the preceding scene. During the singing of the interlude, Gervase, assisted by a Lay-Brother, is making up a couch in the centre of the stage. Enter, right, Martin, carrying a couple of large sheepskins.


They told me you wanted some extra coverings for Master William’s bed.


Thank you, brother. Why, this is very kind! Surely these are the best fleeces.


They are usually kept for distinguished visitors. But Father Wulfram specially asked that you should have them. They will make Master William warm and comfortable—since he has taken this fancy for lying here.


We are in hopes he may sleep better close to his work. He is so restless. Day and night he thinks of nothing but the building, and frets to lie helpless and so far away. From here he can see the sun shine on the arches he has raised; and when he lies wakeful in the early dawn it will comfort him to hear the clink of the mason’s trowel and the carver’s hammer heralding in the day.

[The Lay-Brother sets a stool near the head of the couch, down-stage, and goes out, right.


Poor soul! Well, let us praise God for this warm and seasonable weather. Now that the summer is come, he will take no hurt from his change of lodging.

[The Lay-Brother returns with a jug of water, a horn drinking-vessel, and a candlestick, which he places on the stool.


May it refresh him, soul and body! But I fear he undertakes more than his strength will bear. He has insisted to-day on being carried to view the progress of the roof over the Choir and Crosses. It is impossible to move him without causing severe pain—and then he gives orders and excites himself. Indeed, it is too much for him.

Martin (with some hesitation)

I suppose nothing would induce him to resign the appointment?


Part him from his work? Oh, no! It would be more bitter to him than death. And where should we get another like him?

[Exit Lay-Brother, right.


Well, I don’t know. It is true he has done magnificent work. But frankly, dear brother, a sick man with a crippled spine cannot have his eyes here, there and everywhere, and during this half-year since his accident things have not gone quite so well.


You know why that is. Some of the brethren do not work so loyally for Brother Hubert as they did for him.


Isn’t that natural? Hubert is an excellent craftsman, but, after all, he is only an oblate, and a man of no education. Now if Master William had appointed, let us say, Father Hilary——


Father Hilary does fine carving very prettily, but he’s quite out of his depth when it comes to the practical side of building. Now, Brother Hubert understands his job inside out.


Of course, but——Well, there you are! You can’t deny that there has been a certain amount of ill-feeling.

Gervase (bitterly)

Jealousy, vanity, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness! And these are churchmen, vowed to holy obedience and humility.


Beati pauperes spiritu. Beati mites.


Amen! (He examines the couch critically and gives a punch to the pillows. Re-enter Lay-Brother, right, with a crucifix in his hand and a large bundle of papers under his arm.) Ah, thanks, Brother Robert. (He sets the crucifix on the stool with the other things.) Better put the papers on that other stool for the moment. (Lay-Brother puts them on stool, right.) There! I think that is the best we can do.

[Voices and footsteps off, right.


I think they are bringing our patient in now.


I hope he is not too much exhausted.

[Enter, right, William, carried by Theodatus and Simon.


Ugh! ugh! Gently, you fools, gently. Do you want to kill me? You’ve had one good shot at it. Jolt, jolt, like a couple of pack-asses. Clumsy idiots.

[They lay him on the couch, to a running accompaniment of groans and curses.


I am sorry. Did I hurt you?


Oh, no! Only jarred me to pieces, that’s all.

Gervase (arranging pillows)

Is that a little easier? I’m afraid you have over-tired yourself. Are you in great pain?


Oh, I daresay it’ll be worse in Purgatory.

Martin (pouring out water)

You have been out too long in the hot sun.

William (drinking)

Thanks. Sorry, Simon. Don’t mind me, Father Theodatus. It’s only bad temper. The Prior set you a hard penance when he appointed you beast of burden to a sick man.

[Exit Lay-Brother.


No, indeed. There is nothing I would more gladly do. I deserve far more than that for the evil I did you.


Oh, stop blaming yourself. What’s done can’t be helped. Blame God, or the devil, or whoever looks after these things. Where’s Hubert? I want him here. Go and fetch Brother Hubert, for God’s sake, somebody. (Exeunt Simon and Theodatus, right.) Why haven’t my papers been brought down?

Gervase (bringing stool with papers and setting it by the couch up-stage)

They are all here. I will put them handy for you.


Will you not rest a little first?


No, I will not. Leave me alone, can’t you? Gervase, find me the measurements for those corbels. They’ve got them all wrong, as I knew they would. (Enter Hubert, right.) Just because I’m not there to stand over them all the time——Oh, Hubert, come and look at this. What did I tell you? I knew it was not my measurements that were wrong. Can’t you remember anything you’re told?


I am sure, sir, I gave Father Hilary the measurements exactly as you gave them to me. But he would have it as his own way was the right one, and he told the men under him——


Father Hilary! Why should they pay any attention to Father Hilary? If I had the use of my limbs I’d give them something to remind them who’s in charge here. But I have to lie helpless as a log while you make a mess of it among you. Never mind. Not your fault. Gervase, give me pen and ink—I’ll show you how you can put it right. (Gervase fetches pen and ink from bench, left.) Lift me up, somebody. (Martin lifts him up.) Ugh! Now, see here . . . I’ve got an idea about this. . . .

[He begins to draw on the plan, but is overcome by faintness.


Dear master, leave it until to-morrow.


It looks as though I shall have to. All right, Hubert. Don’t worry. We’ll put it straight in the morning. (Gervase and Martin take away the drawing materials and settle him back on his pillows.) Oh, God! Shall I never be able to do anything again?

[Enter Lay-Brother, right, with a bowl of soup and a trencher of bread.

Martin (soothingly)

You work too hard. You have over-tired yourself. You will feel better when you have eaten. (Gervase takes the bowl and hands it to William, and the Lay-Brother goes out.) Come away now, Brother Hubert. He must be persuaded to rest. (He bustles Hubert away, right, then turns at the door as Ernulphus and Paul pop their heads round it.) Here are some visitors for you.

[Enter Paul, carrying a bunch of roses and something done up in a cabbage-leaf and Ernulphus, obviously concealing some offering under his habit. Exeunt Martin and Hubert.


May we come in? Pax tecum, my son, pax tecum.

William (in a dispirited growl)

Et cum spiritu tuo.


And how do you feel this evening?

William (with a wry face, but not unkindly)





It’s this dreadful hot weather. Very trying. I don’t know when I remember such a trying June. I’m sure we never had such unwholesome heat when I was a boy. I was nearly melted away, working in the garden. And the greenfly gets worse every year. There never was such a year for greenfly. Everything smothered. Still, I’ve managed to find a few roses (presenting them), and see! A dozen or so of the early strawberries. I thought you might like them for your supper.

William (genuinely touched)

That’s very good of you, Father Paul. Are they the first?


The very first. Nobody else has had any—not even the Father Prior. I hope you will find them sweet. Though I must say, fruit doesn’t seem to have the flavour it had in my young days. Still, such as they are, there they are.

[He puts them on the stool, down-stage.


I shall enjoy them immensely. I don’t know anything more refreshing than early strawberries.


Oho! don’t you? I do. (He produces a stout little flask from under his habit.) Just you try this. A reviving cordial water from our own distillery. Not too fiery, and full of healthful properties. Made from herbs, according to our special recipe.

[Puts it on the stool.


Thank you; thank you very much. I will drink it to the healths of both of you.


Oh, but it is your own health we must all wish and pray for. We do pray for you, of course. Night and morning. And remember you at Mass. Eh, Father Ernulphus?


Always. All of us. So you mustn’t lose heart. Oh, dear, no. Now we had better run away, or we shall tire you out. Good night, my son. May God watch over and restore you!


Our Lady and all the blessed saints have you in their keeping.

[Paul and Ernulphus trundle amiably off, right.


Good old souls! This is what I have come to, Gervase—to be nursed and coddled, and comforted like a child with strawberries. Ah, well. You can tuck me up for the night and leave me to my own hobgoblins.

Gervase (taking the supper things away and helping him to lie down)

To the holy Angels, rather. There! is that comfortable?


Yes, thank you, my boy.

Gervase (with a little assumption of authority)

Do not forget your prayers.


Very well, Father.


Benedicat te omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus. Amen.



Gervase (going out, right)

Sleep in peace. Hubert and I will be at hand if you should need anything.

[Exit, left.

William pulls out a rosary, mechanically counts the first decade, then tosses it away impatiently.


O lux beata trinitas,

Et principalis unitas,

Jam sol recedit igneus;

Infunde lumen cordibus.






Michael, thou watchman of the Lord! What of the night? Watchman, what of the night?


The morning cometh, and also the night; if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.


Te mane laudum carmine,

Te deprecamur vesperi,

Te nostra supplex gloria

Per cuncta laudet saecula.

[Enter Theodatus, right.


Master William, there is one without would speak with you.




The Lady Ursula.


What is the use of this? I will not see her. It is always the same story. She asks to be my wife, my nurse, my servant—Heaven knows what; to devote her life, make reparation and all the rest of it. She shall not do it. I will not have people sacrificing themselves for me. It is monstrous. It is impossible. Tell her so.


She says she is here for the last time. She is very unhappy. I think you ought—I beseech you to let her come.


That is a new tune for you to sing, Father Theodatus.


I have learnt a little charity of late. Let me beg of you.


Oh, very well.

[Theodatus beckons in Ursula and goes out, right.


William, I have come to say good-bye. I will not trouble you any more. Since I am nothing to you now, and the world without you is nothing to me, I can but take refuge at the Throne of Grace and pray for both of us.


That is folly, my dear. You, in a convent of nuns! Go and be happy, and forget me.


That is the one thing I cannot do. No other man shall have me, if not you.


I am not a man, Ursula. I am a cripple with a broken back—a stock, a stone—I am nothing. A marriage-bond with me would be a bond indeed. Let the dead past bury its dead. Our dream is over.


“Sitting by the fire, seeing pictures in the fire, visions and dreams”—do you remember?


I have no dreams now—only nightmares. Nobody can bring back my dreams. Some of them even grudge me my work here—all that is left to me.


I have broken what I cannot mend. William, tell me—had I at any time, even for a moment, any part in your dream?


I hardly know. But once, high in a corner of the clerestory, where none but God will look for it, I carved an angel with your face.


Ah, my dear! . . . And you will still have me go?


Yes; go. I am sorry. Go.

[Ursula goes without protest.

Father Theodatus! (Theodatus looks in.) Pray conduct the Lady Ursula to the convent gate and ask the Father Prior if he can come and see me.


I will, my son.

[Exit Theodatus with Ursula, right.


My days are consumed away like smoke, and my bones are burnt up as it were a fire-brand.

My heart is smitten down and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread.

For the voice of my groaning, my bones will scarce cleave to my flesh.

And that because of Thine indignation and wrath; for Thou hast taken me up and cast me down.

[Enter Prior, right.


You sent for me, my son?


Yes. I scarcely know why, save that I am in hell and can see no way out.


Is there some sin troubling your conscience?


All the sins there are—or most of them, any way. Not that they ever troubled me till I was punished for them. But now—they rise up round me in the night and stifle me.


My son, will you not confess them and receive absolution?


Confess? if I were to confess them all, you would be here till to-morrow. I cannot remember when I last made a confession.

Prior (removing the papers from the stool up-stage and sitting down)

In general, then, my son, and as well as you can remember them, tell me your sins.


And that because of Thine indignation and wrath; for Thou hast taken me up and cast me down.I do confess to God

The Father and the Son and Holy Ghost,

To Mary Mother of God the ever-virgin,

To the most holy Apostles Peter and Paul,

To blessed Michael and all his angels

And the whole company of Heaven, and thee,

Father, that I have sinned exceedingly,

In thought, in word, in action, by my fault,

By my own fault, my own most grievous fault.

I have lusted as men lust; I have eaten and drunk

With the drunken; I have given way to wrath,

Taking God’s name in vain, cursing and smiting;

I have been too much eager after gold

And the brave things of the world, that take the eye

And charm the flesh. Now, smitten in my flesh

My sins have left me, and I see perforce

How worthless they all were. I am sorry for them.

Though yet I think I was not the worse craftsman

Because in me the lusty flesh rejoiced,

Lending its joy to all I did. Some men,

Fettering the body, fetter the soul, too,

So that the iron eats inward; thereof come

Cruelties, deceits, perversities of malice,

Strange twistings of the mind, defeats of spirit,

Whereof I cannot with sincerity

Accuse myself. But if it be a sin

To make the flesh pander to the mind,

I have sinned deep. Of the means, not of the end,

I heartily repent.


I heartily repent.Son, they mistake

Who think God hates those bodies which He made

Freedom, not licence, must be given the body,

For licence preys upon itself and others,

Devouring freedom’s gifts. Have others suffered

Through lust, wrath, greed of yours?


Through lust, wrath, greed of yours?I do confess it,

And ask their pardon and God’s pardon for it

Most humbly.


Most humbly.In this world as in God’s heaven

There is no power to match humility:

It breaks the horns of the unicorns, and makes

The wand of justice flower like Aaron’s rod.

Stoop to repent, and God will stoop to pardon.


I do repent.


I do repent.Indeed I hope thou dost.

For all these injuries, see thou make amends

So far as may be done; the irreparable

God’s grace shall turn to good, since only He

Can lead out triumph from the gates of hell,

As He hath done by thee, using thy faults

To further His great ends, by His sole power,

Not thine.


Not thine.I understand. A year ago

An idle mason let the chisel slip

Spoiling the saint he carved. I chid him for it,

Then took the tool and in that careless stroke

Saw a new vision, and so wrought it out

Into a hippogriff. But yet the mason

Was not the less to blame. So works with us

The cunning craftsman, God.


The cunning craftsman, God.Thou hast a mind

Apt to receive His meaning. But take heed:

The mind hath its own snares. What sins of the mind

Trouble thee now?


Trouble thee now?I do not know of any.


I cannot read the heart; but I am old

And know how little one need fear the flesh

In comparison of the mind. Think, I beseech thee,

If any sin lie yet upon thy conscience.


Father, I know of none.


Father, I know of none.The Tree of Life

Grew by the Tree of Knowledge; and when Adam

Ate of the one, this doom was laid upon him

Never, but by self-knowledge, to taste life.

Pray now for grace, that thou may’st know and live.


Wilt thou not give me present absolution?


Of all thy fleshly faults, humbly confessed,

Truly repented, I do absolve thee now

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of

The Holy Ghost. Amen.


The Holy Ghost. Amen.Amen.


The Holy Ghost. Amen.Amen.Good night;

Peace be with thee.


Peace be with thee.And with thy spirit. Good night.

[Exit Prior. William tosses restlessly.

℣. The ministers of God are sons of thunder, they are falls of water, trampling of horses, and running of chariots; and if the voices of these ministers cannot overcome thy music, thy security, yet the Angels’ trumpets will.

[Distant trumpet.


Quantus tremor est futurus

Quando judex est venturus.

Cuncta stricte discussurus.

[Gabriel goes up and stands behind William.

Tuba mirum spargens sonum

Per sepulchra regionum

Coget omnes ante thronum.

[Michael goes up and stands with drawn sword before William.

Liber scriptus proferetur

In quo totum continetur

Unde mundus judicetur

[Cassiel goes up and stands at the foot of William’s bed, with the Book open before him.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,

Quem patronem rogaturus,

Cum vix justus sit securus?

[Raphael goes up and stands with his censer at the head of William’s bed.


Sleep! while these voices wail through aisle and cloister

Howling on judgment? Cannot Father Ambrose

Keep his monks quiet—let a sick man rest?

I am confessed, absolved. Why think of judgment?

My soul is heavy even unto death,

And something not myself moves in the dusk

Fearfully. Lights! lights! lights!

Gabriel (laying his hand on William’s eyes)

Fearfully. Lights! lights! lights!Let there be light!

[William becomes aware of the presence of the Angels.

℣. Behold, the angel of the Lord, standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand.

℟. And he was afraid, because of the sword of the angel of the Lord.

℣. My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee, and I am afraid of Thy judgments.

℟. God is a righteous judge, strong and patient, and God is provoked every day.


So—it is come; first death and then the judgment.

Thou standest there and holdest up the Book

Wherein my sins show black. But I am shriven.

Christ’s blood hath washed me white. What then art thou,

Threats in thy hand, and in thy face a threat

Sterner than steel and colder?


Sterner than steel and colder?I am Michael,

The sword of God. The edge is turned toward thee:

Not for those sins whereof thou dost repent,

Lust, greed, wrath, avarice, the faults of flesh

Sloughed off with the flesh, but that which feeds the soul,

The sin that is so much a part of thee

Thou know’st it not for sin.


Thou know’st it not for sin.What sin is that?

Angel, what sins remain? I have envied no man,

Sought to rob no man of renown or merits,

Yea, praised all better workmen than myself

From an ungrudging heart. I have not been slothful—

Thou canst not say I was. Lust, greed, wrath, avarice,

None ever came between my work and me;

That I put first; never by nights of lust

Too spent to labour in the dawning day;

Never so drunken that I could not set

Level to stone or hold the plumb-line true;

Never so wroth as to confound my judgment

Between the man and the work, or call the one

Ill-done because I wished the other ill;

Never so grasping as to take reward

For what I did not, or despised to do.

If I neglected lip-service to God,

My hands served for me, and I wrought His praise

Not in light words puffed from a slumberous mind

Like wind, but in enduring monuments,

Symbol and fruit of that which works, not sleeps.

Answer me, Angel, what have I ever done

Or left undone, that I may not repent

Nor God forgive?


Nor God forgive?There where thy treasure is

Thy heart is also. Sin is of the heart.


But all my heart was in my work.


But all my heart was in my work.Even so.


What, in my work? The sin was in my work?

Thou liest. Though thou speak with God’s own voice

Thou liest. In my work? That cannot be.

I grant the work not perfect; no man’s work

Is perfect; but what hand and brain could do,

Such as God made them, that I did. Doth God

Demand the impossible? Then blame God, not me,

That I am man, not God. He hath broken me,

Hath sought to snatch the work out of my hand——

Wherefore? . . . O now, now I begin to see.

This was well said, He is a jealous God;

The work was not ill done—’twas done too well;

He will not have men creep so near His throne

To steal applause from Him. Is this my fault?

Why, this needs no repentance, and shall have none.

Let Him destroy me, since He has the power

To slay the thing He envies—but while I have breath

My work is mine; He shall not take it from me.


No; thou shalt lay it down of thine own will.


Never. Let Him heap on more torments yet——


He can heap none on thee, He hath not borne——


Let Him strike helpless hands as well as feet——


Whose Feet and Hands were helpless stricken through——


Scourge me and smite me and make blind mine eyes——


As He was blindfolded and scourged and smitten——


Dry up my voice in my throat and make me dumb——


As He was dumb and opened not His mouth——


Cramp me with pains——


Cramp me with pains——As He was cramped with pains,

Racked limb from limb upon the stubborn Cross——


Parch me with fever——


Parch me with fever——He that cried, “I thirst”——


Wring out my blood and sweat——


Wring out my blood and sweat——Whose sweat, like blood

Watered the garden in Gethsemane——


For all that He can do I will not yield,

Nor leave to other men that which is mine,

To botch—to alter—turn to something else,

Not mine.


Not mine.Thou wilt not? Yet God bore this too,

The last, the bitterest, worst humiliation,

Bowing His neck under the galling yoke

Frustrate, defeated, half His life unlived,

Nothing achieved.


Nothing achieved.Could God, being God, do this?


Christ, being man, did this; but still, through faith

Knew what He did. As gold and diamond,

Weighed in the chemist’s balance, are but earth

Like tin or iron, albeit within them still

The purchase of the world lie implicit:

So, when God came to test of mortal time

In nature of a man whom time supplants,

He made no reservation of Himself

Nor of the godlike stamp that franked His gold,

But in good time let time supplant Him too.

The earth was rent, the sun’s face turned to blood,

But He, unshaken, with exultant voice

Cried, “It is finished!” and gave up the ghost.

“Finished”—when men had thought it scarce begun.

Then His disciples with blind faces mourned,

Weeping: “We trusted that He should redeem

Israel; but now we know not.” What said He

Behind the shut doors in Jerusalem,

At Emmaus, and in the bitter dawn

By Galilee? “I go; but feed My sheep;

For Me the Sabbath at the long week’s close—

For you the task, for you the tongues of fire.”

Thus shalt thou know the Master Architect,

Who plans so well, He may depart and leave

The work to others. Art thou more than God?

Not God Himself was indispensable,

For lo! God died—and still His work goes on.

℣. Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

℟. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?


Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.


Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.


Faithful Cross, above all other

  One and only noble Tree,

None in foliage, none in blossom,

  None in fruit thy peer may be;

Sweetest wood and sweetest iron,

  Sweetest weight is hung on thee.


O, I have sinned. The eldest sin of all,

Pride, that struck down the morning star from Heaven

Hath struck down me from where I sat and shone

Smiling on my new world. All other sins

God will forgive but that. I am damned, damned,

Justly. Yet, O most just and merciful God,

Hear me but once, Thou that didst make the world

And wilt not let one thing that Thou hast made,

No, not one sparrow, perish without Thy Will

(Since what we make, we love)—for that love’s sake

Smite only me and spare my handiwork.

Jesu, the carpenter’s Son, the Master-builder,

Architect, poet, maker—by those hands

That Thine own nails have wounded—by the wood

Whence Thou didst carve Thy Cross—let not the Church

Be lost through me. Let me lie deep in hell,

Death gnaw upon me, purge my bones with fire,

But let my work, all that was good in me,

All that was God, stand up and live and grow.

The work is sound, Lord God, no rottenness there—

Only in me. Wipe out my name from men

But not my work; to other men the glory

And to Thy Name alone. But if to the damned

Be any mercy at all, O send Thy spirit

To blow apart the sundering flames, that I

After a thousand years of hell, may catch

One glimpse, one only, of the Church of Christ,

The perfect work, finished, though not by me.

℣. Save me from the lion’s mouth; Thou hast heard me also from among the horns of the unicorns.

℟. For why? Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, neither shalt Thou suffer Thine holy one to see corruption.



Sheathe thy sword, Michael; the fight is won.


Close the book, Cassiel; the score is paid.


Give glory, Raphael; the race is run.


Lead homeward, Gabriel, the sheep that strayed.


Eloi, Eloi, Eloi,

Glory to God in the highest; holy is He!


How hardly shall the rich man enter in

To the Kingdom of Heaven! By what sharp, thorny ways,

By what strait gate at last! But when he is come,

The angelic trumpets split their golden throats

Triumphant, to the stars singing together

And all the sons of God shouting for joy.

Be comforted, thou that wast rich in gifts;

For thou art broken on the self-same rack

That broke the richest Prince of all the world,

The Master-man. Thou shalt not surely die,

Save as He died; nor suffer, save with Him;

Nor lie in hell, for He hath conquered hell

And flung the gates wide open. They that bear

The cross with Him, with Him shall wear a crown

Such as the angels know not. Then be still,

And know that He is God, and God alone.

℣. Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.

℟. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.


Eloi, Eloi, Eloi,

Glory to God in the highest; holy is He!

[While this is sung, the Angels go up and stand side by side across the stage behind the couch.


I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

Who is there? I was dreaming. Gervase! Hubert!

[Gervase and Hubert run in, left and right.




William?Dear master?


William?Dear master?God hath changed my mind.

I must submit. I must go back to France.

I do but hinder the work, lingering here,

Kicking against the pricks.


Kicking against the pricks.Do not say so!


What should we do without you?


What should we do without you?I am not

The only architect in the world—there are others

Will do the work as well, better perhaps.

Stay not to chide me—listen, there is one,

William the Englishman, a little man,

But with a mounting spirit and great vision;

Send now for him. I think we quarrelled once,

Not seeing eye to eye—but that is nothing;

He will respect my work as I do his,

And build a harmony of his and mine

To a nobler close than mine. I’ll not dictate

Conditions to the Chapter; but, should they choose

William the Englishman to follow me,

He’ll do such work for them as honours God

And them and all good craftsmen. As for me,

My place is here no more. I am in God’s hand.

Take me and bear me hence.


Take me and bear me hence.Dear master, whither?


To the Lady Ursula’s lodging. If unto her

I can make any amends, then I will make it.

To all of you, I owe a debt of love

Which I will pay with love. Only to God,

That royal creditor, no debt remains.

He from the treasure of His great heart hath paid

The whole sum due, and cancelled out the bond.


Laus Deo!

[Gervase and Hubert carry William out, right.


O quanta qualia sunt illa sabbata,

Quae semper celebrat superna curia,

Quae fessis requies, quae merces fortibus,

Cum erit omnia Deus in omnibus.


Vere Jerusalem illic est civitas,

Cujus pax jugis est summa jucunditas,

Ubi non praevenit rem desiderium,

Nec desiderio minus est praemium.


Illic ex sabbato succedit sabbatum,

Perpes laetitia sabbatizantium,

Nec ineffabiles cessabunt jubili,

Quos decantabimus et nos et angeli.

[Michael comes down to the foot of the steps and addresses the congregation; the other three Angels standing above him.


Children of men, lift up your hearts. Laud and magnify God, the everlasting Wisdom, the holy, undivided and adorable Trinity.

Praise Him that He hath made man in His own image, a maker and craftsman like Himself, a little mirror of His triune majesty.

For every work of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.

First: there is the Creative Idea; passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning; and this is the image of the Father.

Second: there is the Creative Energy, begotten of that Idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter; and this is the image of the Word.

Third: there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul; and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.

And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without other; and this is the image of the Trinity.

Look then upon this Cathedral Church of Christ: imagined by men’s minds, built by the labour of men’s hands, working with power upon the souls of men; symbol of the everlasting Trinity, the visible temple of God.

As you would honour Christ, so honour His Church; nor suffer this temple of His Body to know decay.



Being the famous History of John Faustus the Conjurer of Wittenberg in Germany; how he sold his immortal soul to the Enemy of Mankind, and was served XXIV years by Mephistopheles, and obtained Helen of Troy to his paramour, with many other marvels; and how GOD dealt with him at the last.

A Stage-Play

Copyright 1939 by Dorothy L. Sayers


All rights in the play are reserved by the Author and enquiries

regarding the dramatic rights should be addressed to Margery

Vosper Ltd., 32 Shaftesbury Avenue, W.1 (in conjunction with

Pearn, Pollinger & Higham Ltd.)




“What I have done is yours; what I have to do is

yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours.”


Sound without ear is but an airy stirring,

Light without eyes, but an obscure vibration,

Souls’ conference, solitude, and no conferring,

Till it by senses find interpretation;

Gold is not wealth but by the gift and taking,

Speech without mind is only passing vapour;

So is the play, save by the actor’s making,

No play, but dull, deaf, senseless ink and paper.


Either for either made: light, eye; sense, spirit;

Ear, sound; gift, gold; play, actor; speech and knowing,

Become themselves by what themselves inherit

From their sole heirs, receiving and bestowing;

Thus, then, do thou, taking what thou dost give,

Live in these lines, by whom alone they live.


In my previous Canterbury play, The Zeal of Thy House, the problem was to supply a supernatural interpretation of a piece of human history. In the present play, the problem is exactly reversed: it is a question of supplying some kind of human interpretation of a supernatural legend. This means that the supernatural elements in the two stories have called for quite different handling. In the former case, they affected only the moral, and not the machinery, of the fable; take away the visible angels, and the course of William of Sen’s fall and repentance remains essentially unaltered. But in whatever way we retell the tale of Faustus, the supernatural element is the story. For the “two-hours’ traffic of our stage,” we must indulge in the “willing suspension of disbelief.” We must accept magic and miracle as physical realities; we must admit the possibility of genuine witchcraft, of the strange legal transaction by which a man might sell his soul to Satan, of the actual appearance of the Devil in concrete bodily shape. The Faustus legend is dyed in grain with the thought and feeling of its period; nothing could be more characteristic than its odd jumble of spirituality and crude superstition; of scripture and classical myth; of Catholic theology and anti-clerical humanism; of the adventurous passion for, and the timorous distrust of learning. We may put what allegorical or symbolical construction we like on this fantastical piece of diabolism; but to enjoy it as drama, we must contrive to put ourselves back in spirit to the opening years of the sixteenth century. Accordingly, the better to induce this frame of mind in the spectator, I have deliberately reverted to the setting and machinery of the early Renaissance stage, with its traditional “mansions,” its conventional Heaven and Hell-mouth, and its full apparatus of diabolical masquerade.

The picturesque figure of the Devil has a perennial attraction for the playwright, although, theologically speaking, he is apt to make hay of any story into which he intrudes. The fact is, the Devil is a character of very mixed origin; as Mrs. Malaprop would say, he is, “like Cerberus, three gentlemen at once.” There is, to begin with, the “fallen seraph” of ancient Talmudic tradition; the rebel created for better things, and suffering torment in everlasting exile from God’s presence. It is his dark angelic melancholy that makes the splendour of Marlowe’s Mephistopheles and Milton’s Satan. Under whatever name he appears, this personage is but one among an uncounted legion of the lost. Although the existence of a chief devil is postulated (whether called Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub or what not), each evil spirit is conceived of as being a separate personality, rather than summing up in himself the essence of all evil.

Secondly, and inextricably confused, by name and exploits, with the conception of the fallen angels, we have “the Devil”—the absolute spirit of Evil, set over against God, who is the absolute Good. His origin appears to be Persian, and he properly belongs to that dualistic cosmogony which divides the rulership of the world equally between light and darkness, Ormuzd and Ahriman. In Mediaeval theatrical practice, any devil one may choose to bring upon the stage is apt to assume this generalised character of incarnate Evil, whatever references he may make to his diabolic superiors, and however many demonic companions he may summon to his assistance. For the purpose of dramatic symbolism one has to assume that any devil may symbolise “the Devil,” and be treated accordingly. Goethe’s Mephistopheles has this universality of evil; and in him the poet typifies his own conception of what Evil is, “der Geist der stets verneint.”

Thirdly, there is the “merry devil”—a mocking spirit, who probably derives, complete with horn and hoof, from the classical Pan and his satyrs. This lively personage endeared himself deeply to the Mediaeval playgoer, who, in any performance of religious drama, confidently looked forward to the Devil as the “comic turn.” Squibs and crackers and poltergeist antics were always part of “Old Hornie’s” repertoire; and thus we find the stately Mephistopheles of Marlowe condescending to play vulgar tricks upon the Pope and souse a Horse-courser in a dirty pond. That kind of thing was expected of the Devil, and, had it been omitted from the play, the pit would no doubt have demanded its money back. Trickery and mischief fit in more appropriately with the character of Goethe’s Mephistopheles than with Marlowe’s; and indeed, towards the end of the long second part of Faust, it becomes difficult to remember that the Devil is the father of all Evil; he bears so strong an appearance of being merely an amiable gentleman with a slightly sardonic sense of humour. But indeed, as Marlowe, Milton, Goethe, and every other writer who has meddled with the Devil has discovered, the chief difficulty is to prevent this sympathetic character from becoming the hero of the story.

It is hopeless, at this time of day, to disentangle the stage presentation of the Devil from its inherited inconsistencies, or to make every detail of it fit neatly into a rigid theological system. Nor is it possible to do away altogether with the inherent unreason that attends the practice of Art Magic. If, as we are so often told, religion and magic were formed out of the same raw material, nothing could be more remarkable and impressive than the difference, in the finished article, between the rational severity of the one and the incoherent irrationality of the other. It must be remembered that the Mediaeval magician did not, generally speaking, set to work to call up devils in the name of Beelzebub; he called them up in the name of the Trinity. However sordid, vile or ridiculous the end for which he summoned the spirits, the ultimate sanction invoked to attain that end was the power of God and His angels. In the very act of denying and defying God, he surrounded himself with every protection that the name of God could afford against the consequences of the act. In their more blasphemous excesses, his conjurations were spells, explicitly compelling God, by the power of His own name, to perform the conjurer’s will. It is this curious dissociation of the power from the source of power that characterises magic as opposed to sacrament. The magical power is, in fact, considered to inhere in the divine name itself, and to operate automatically and independently of the divine authority. Thus the ancient manuals of conjuration present us with the somewhat inconsequent spectacle of a magician urgently calling upon God to protect and assist him in the carrying-out of such agreeable little bedevilments as the diseasing of his neighbour’s cattle, the debauching of his neighbour’s wife, or even the consort and enjoyment of delectable she-devils in bodily form. Whether, indeed, a generation so addicted as our own to the cherishing of mascots and the reckless abuse of ideological formulae is entitled to cast the stone of scorn at its Mediaeval forebears is matter for consideration.

But when we have allowed for all its fantastical trappings and illogical absurdities, the legend of Faustus remains one of the great stories of the world; a perpetual fascination to the poet, whose task it is to deal with the eternities. For at the base of it lies the question of all questions: the nature of Evil and its place in the universe. Symbolise Evil, and call it the Devil, and then ask how the Devil comes to be. Is he, as the Manichees taught, a power co-equal with and opposed to God? Or, if God is all-powerful, did He make the Devil, and if so, why, and with what justification? Is the Devil a positive force, or merely a negation, the absence of Good? In what sense can a man be said to sell his soul to the Devil? What kind of man might do so, and, above all, for what inducement? Further, what meaning are we to place upon the concept of hell and damnation, with which the whole concept of the Devil is intimately bound up?

Questions such as these are answered by every generation in the light of its own spiritual needs and experience. And for each writer, when he has determined his own interpretation of the central mythus, there is, of course, the added technical interest of discovering how many features of the original legend offer themselves as valuable factors in his system of symbolism.

In the true spirit of the Renaissance, the legendary Faustus sells his soul for the satisfaction of intellectual curiosity and the lust of worldly power. Marlowe accepts those inducements as valid, and, though his sympathies are very much with Faustus, does not shrink from the tragical end of the story. Faustus is damned in accordance with the terms of the bond, and the sombre close of the drama is unrelieved by any ray of hope. In this play, there is scarcely any trace of the conventional Mediaeval hell of physical fire and brimstone; the famous speech of Mephistopheles embodies a purely spiritual concept of damnation:

Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it.

Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God

And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,

Am not tormented with ten thousand hells

In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

For Goethe, it was impossible to accept the idea that desire for knowledge could be in itself an evil thing. Though Faustus signs the bond, Mephistopheles is cheated in the end, and Faustus goes to Heaven. This game of cheat-the-devil is in full accordance with the spirit of the early moralities; these often finish with a judgment scene, conducted by Our Lady in the strictest legal form, in which the Devil is tripped up over the terms of a compact, rather in the manner of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Goethe conceives of the Devil as a necessary part of God’s plan for the world: he is the power “der reizt und wirkt und muss als Teufel schaffen.” The deadly sin is to give up striving and rest content, and the Devil is the irritant that keeps man at work. Goethe’s Faust learns to use his infernal power to a good end, and finds contentment only in devotion to the service of man. It is while busily engaged in a work of public usefulness that he finds himself ready to say to the fleeting moment: “Verweile doch, du bist so schön”; and the comment of the angels is:

Wer immer strebend sich bemüht

Den können wir erlösen.

To endeavour to do again what greater poets have already magnificently done would be folly as well as presumption; and I have tried to offer a new presentment of Faustus. All other considerations apart, I do not feel that the present generation of English people needs to be warned against the passionate pursuit of knowledge for its own sake: that is not our besetting sin. Looking with the eyes of to-day upon that legendary figure of the man who bartered away his soul, I see in him the type of the impulsive reformer, over-sensitive to suffering, impatient of the facts, eager to set the world right by a sudden overthrow, in his own strength and regardless of the ineluctable nature of things. When he finds it is not to be done, he falls into despair (or, to use the current term, into “defeatism”) and takes flight into phantasy.

His escape takes a form very common in these times: it is the nostalgia of childhood, of the primitive, of the unconscious; the rejection of adult responsibility and the denial of all value to growth and time. Time has been exercising the minds of many writers of late. It has been suggested that it is pure illusion, or at most a cross-section of eternity, and that we may be comforted for the failures of our manhood by remembering that the youthful idealists we once were are our permanent and eternal selves. This doctrine is not really even consoling; since, if our youth is co-eternal with our age, then equally, our age is co-eternal with our youth; the corruptions of our ends poison our beginnings as certainly as the purity of our beginnings sanctifies our ends. The Church has always carefully distinguished time from eternity; as carefully as she has distinguished the Logos from the Father. It is true that we must become as little children and that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” But that is not to be done by attempting to turn time backwards, or deny its validity in a material universe. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” The answer is that he cannot. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Time and eternity are two different things, and that which exists temporally must admit the values of time. Against the exhortation to take refuge in infantilism we may set the saying of Augustine of Hippo concerning Christ: “Cibus sum grandium; cresce et manducabis Me”—“I am the food of the full-grown; become adult, and thou shalt feed on Me.”

Has Evil any real existence, viewed sub specie aeternitatis? I have suggested that it has not; but that it is indissolubly linked with the concept of value in the material and temporal aspect of the universe. It is this issue which Faustus refuses to face; rather than grapple with the opposition of good and evil, he dissociates himself from common human experience. The results to his soul of this attempt to escape reality are displayed in a final judgment scene, where (with a rigid legal exactitude which, I feel sure, the Mediaeval mind would heartily approve) the Devil is cheated of his bond, but receives his precise due. The notion of the Devil as being set in charge of the place of purgation, as well as of the place in which all evil is consumed, was familiar enough to the Middle Ages, as is clearly seen in the Wakefield Pageant of The Harrowing of Hell, where Christ rebukes Satan in the words:

I make no mastry but for myne,

I wille theym save, that shalle the sow

Thou hast no powere theym to pyne,

Bot in my pryson for thare prow [profit].

Of the original Faustus legend, certain episodes are reproduced in some form or another in practically all treatments of the subject: Faustus’ raising of Mephistopheles; his “disputations” with him concerning the nature of God; his twenty-four years’ bond to Hell; his journeys to Rome, where he plays tricks upon the Pope, and to the Court of Charles V, where he assists the Imperial armies to achieve their victories in Italy; his having Helen of Troy for his paramour; and the final scene in which the Devil comes to claim his own. His servant, Christopher Wagner, is also traditional. One version recounts how Faustus sought to marry “a beautiful servant-girl,” but was prevented by Mephistopheles, on the ground that marriage was a sacrament, and therefore an action pleasing to God and contrary to the terms of the bond. This episode forms the basis for the First Part of Goethe’s Faust.

The central part of the story is chiefly taken up with a long series of disconnected marvels and miracles, mostly of a purely mischievous and puckish sort, as when Faustus swallows a wagon of hay and a span of horses, makes flowers bloom at Christmas, cuts off his own leg and restores it, draws wine from a table, or attends the Pope’s banquet invisible and beats the guests about the head. None of this episodic material offers much opportunity to the dramatist for anything but “inexplicable dumb show and noise”; it is the beginning and the end of the tale that constitute its eternal appeal. In a version designed to be played in the restricted period of an hour and forty minutes, it has been necessary to exclude all merely episodic matter, and to concentrate on those incidents which are capable of being compressed into a reasonably coherent dramatic structure.


What Tophet is not Paradise, what Brimstone is not Amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worme is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally, from the sight of God?


John Donne: Sermon preached to the Earle of Carlisle.

The Devil to Pay was originally produced in the Chapter House at the Canterbury Cathedral Festival, 10-17 June, 1939, under the management of the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, with the following cast of professional and amateur players:

WagnerPhilip Hollingworth
LisaBetty Douglas
FaustusHarcourt Williams
MephistophelesFrank Napier
CardinalCharles Reeves
PriestWilliam Fordyce
PopeGeoffrey Keable
Helen of TroyMary Alexander
Young FaustusAlastair Bannerman
AzraelStanley Pine
EmperorWilliam Fordyce
EmpressVera Coburn Findlay
ChancellorSidney Haynes
SecretaryMarshall Hughes
Soul of FaustusMax Wood
JudgeRaf de la Torre
Devils: Nigel Beard, Michael Foster, Anthony Ware, John Williams.
Citizens:Paddy Finn, Kathleen Hetherington, Rachael Hubble, Maud Lister, Joan Pollard, Eileen Shipp, Frank Kipps, Howard Overy, Edgar Parker-Pope, Jack Vane.
Courtiers: Frank Kipps, Jack Vane.
Page: Donald Foster.
Ladies: Paddy Finn, Rachael Hubble.

The Music for the Songs and Final Chorus composed

by Gerald H. Knight


String Orchestra

The Play produced by Harcourt Williams

Scenery, Lighting and Stage Effects by Frank Napier

The Devil to Pay was first presented in London by the Daniel Mayer Company Limited at His Majesty’s Theatre on July 20th, 1939, with the following cast:

WagnerDavid Phethean
LisaDiana Deare
FaustusHarcourt Williams
MephistophelesFrank Napier
CardinalFrank Woolfe
PriestAlexander Archdale
PopeJ. Fisher White
Helen of TroyMary Alexander
Young FaustusAlastair Bannerman
AzraelJohn Munn
EmperorErnest Clark
EmpressBetty Douglas
ChancellorFrank Woolfe
Secretary of StateJohn Lalitte
JudgeRaf de la Torre
Four Devils: Kevin Keogh, Peter Scott, Peter Graves, Marshall Haley.
Page: John Wilson.
Choir: Grace Nevern, Peggy Hale, Rae Allan, Gwen Bateman, Betty Douglas, Alexander Archdale, Philip Merritt, Reginald Thurgood, John Lalitte, Murray Davies, Edwin Hill.
Citizens, Courtiers, Ladies, etc., from the members of Choir.

The Play produced by Harcourt Williams


in the order of their appearing


Christopher Wagner, Famulus to Faustus

Lisa, Maidservant to Faustus

John Faustus, a Conjurer

Mephistopheles, an Evil Spirit

A Cardinal

A Priest

The Pope

Helen of Troy, a Magical Apparition

John Faustus, in the body of his transformation

Azrael, Angel of the souls of the dead

The Emperor

The Empress

A Chancellor

A Secretary of State

The Soul of John Faustus

The Judge

Devils, Citizens, Courtiers, Ladies, etc.




I—Wittenberg: Faustus’ Study, 1502
II—Rome: The Forum, 1503
III—Innsbruck: The Emperor’s Court, 1527
IV—The Court of Heaven: Eternity

SCENE I (Mansion 1)

Wittenberg—Faustus’ Study

[Lighted candles right and left in sconces. Centre, tall mirror covering entrance to Mansion 2. Left, big chart hung on rollers, showing eclipse of the sun. Right back, between Mansions 1 and 2, trick shelf with bottles, etc. On right wall, stoup of Holy Water. Left centre, chair, and table with books, parchments, flasks and other alchemical and astrological apparatus, together with a wax taper. On floor, down centre, a double circle and pentacle in white chalk. Enter from Mansion 1, Wagner, carrying a lighted lantern, a long sword, a glass jar, five small lamps tied together, a cabbage and a dried stockfish, and reading a large book by the light of the lantern.


Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I shall never be ready in time. Lisa! Lisa! (shuffling to table). So much to do since my master gave up theology and took to astrology and physic. “Ioth, Aglanabroth, El, Aniel, Anathiel, Anazim”—what terrible great hard words! (Sets down lantern, dropping cabbage.) Alas! what’s that? Oh, it’s only the cabbage. (Grovels for it, dropping sword.) Heaven be praised! I thought it was the precious Holy Water. (Stands clutching all his parcels and holding book close to lantern.) “Craton, Muriton, Agarion, Pentessaron”—Bless me! I have forgotten the mandrakes—no, I remember, I put them in my pocket. (Attempts to verify the mandrakes, dropping stockfish.) Lisa!

[Enter Lisa, left.


Oh, my poor Wagner! How dreadfully burdened you are. Here, let me take some of those things. (Picking up stockfish.) What’s this for? Friday’s dinner?


It’s a present from the poor fishmonger whose horoscope we cast free of charge. And this cabbage is from the old peasant we cured of the itch. I do hope I’ve got everything.

Lisa (putting fish and cabbage in her apron)

I’m sure you have quite enough.


This is a flask of Holy Water from the River Jordan itself. Set it on the shelf. Carefully. It has been blessed by the Pope. And you must take these lamps and fill them with the very best consecrated oil. I’ll put the Doctor’s sword over here.

[Wanders away, still clutching book, and leans sword against wall, right.

Lisa (setting flask on shelf)

Were there many at his lecture to-night?


Yes, a great many. But I’m sure the most part of them care nothing for the brave things he tells them about Gemini and Capricorn and the movements of the planets. They only want to learn how to get rich, or to beg him to cure their diseases. There was a whole rag-tag and bob-tail besieging him at the door. In his place I wouldn’t be troubled with them.


He is so kind. He will always help them if he can. He can’t bear to see any one suffer (at table, collecting lamps).


So he sent me on ahead to prepare the room for him. We are to do great things to-night. Don’t take the lantern. I need it to study my book.


But all the candles are lit.

Wagner (astonished)

So they are! I didn’t notice. (Importantly.) But then, I’m so very busy. Now where in the world did I put the chalk? I’m sure I had a piece somewhere.


I expect it’s in your pocket.


I believe you’re right. What a clever girl you are, Lisa, and so very, very pretty.


Foolish Wagner!


Don’t you think you could call me Christopher? (Pleadingly.) It isn’t a bad name. Do please try. It would make me so happy. I’m very fond of you, Lisa.


Foolish Christopher (skipping nimbly out of reach). Now, you mustn’t waste time. Find your chalk and get on with your work, or you won’t be ready when Dr. Faustus comes.


The chalk? Yes, I’m sure it’s here, but it seems to be mixed up with something. (Pulling bundle of roots from his pocket.) Of course—the mandrakes. They must be hung in the chimney to dry.


What strange-looking things! Put them in my apron. (He tries to kiss her; she holds the lantern between them.) Now, be a good Christopher and study your great book.

[Exit, left, with lantern and lamps.

Wagner (looking after her)

Sometimes I think she doesn’t take me seriously. Well, I must get on. (Kneels and writes in circle, book in hand.) The anagrams of God in the five points of the pentacle. IHS, El, Ya, Alpha, Omega. So. And the names of God between the points. Adonai. Emmanuel. Panthon. Tetragrammaton. Messias. So. And between the lamps in the circle, five signs of the Cross. One, two, three——

[Re-enter Lisa, with lamps.


I have filled the lamps. What are you writing there?


Ah, that is a secret. Give them to me—so, one at each point of the star. These are high and mighty matters, and not for girls to know about. It’s all written in this book, that was given to Dr. Faustus by the great conjurer, Cornelius Agrippa. To-morrow, we shall be richer and more powerful than the Emperor. We shall have spirits to fetch and carry for us——


What? You will not . . . He doesn’t mean to . . . Oh, Christopher! There will be no danger to Dr. Faustus?


Of course not. No danger can pass this circle. Besides, I shall be there to protect him. How brave it will be! We shall be masters of all the treasure in the world. We shall heal all the troubles of mankind with a wave of the wand. We shall prank ourselves in costly apparel, and you and I will be married, Lisa, and fly to the court of the Grand Cham on the back of a winged basilisk. Tell me, dear Lisa, tell me——


I hear the Doctor coming.

[Enter Faustus, Mansion 1. He wears a great cloak over his doctor’s gown. Lisa runs to greet him.

Oh, sir! how late you are! And how wet! Give me your cloak. I’m sure you must be tired to death. Sit down and rest. I will have a fine hot supper ready for you in a moment.


Thanks, Lieschen, thanks. But I shall need no supper. I have work to do.

[Takes off his cloak and doctor’s cap. Lisa hangs them up.


No supper! Why, you have eaten nothing all day.


My work must be done fasting. (He sits on a chair.) Bring me a bowl of water, and the robe, slippers and girdle you will find in my chamber. Is everything ready, Wagner?

[Exit Lisa, left.


Yes, sir. I have this moment finished the circle.


See that it is accurately drawn. One of your spelling mistakes, or a touch of your usual absent-mindedness, might land us both in a very queer place. (Wagner, alarmed, checks all his hieroglyphics again by the book.) Oh, God, I am sick at heart. When I see how ill this world is governed, and all the wretchedness that men suffer, I would give my immortal soul to be done with it all.

Wagner (crossing himself)

Heaven forbid. What a thing to say! When you think how easily your immortal soul might go wriggling away through a gap in the circle, like a rabbit through a fence. Or my soul, for that matter.

[He carefully touches up a point of the pentacle.


Don’t be alarmed. You will be safe enough if you stay where I put you and don’t lose your head and run away.

[Re-enter Lisa with slippers, bowl and napkin. She puts the bowl on the floor while she removes Faustus’ shoes and puts on his slippers.

That will do. Leave it to me. I see you have drawn out the figure of the sun’s eclipse.


Yes, sir. But I don’t altogether understand it. The moon gives light to the earth. Why then do we see her black?


The moon has no light of herself. When she passes between the earth and the sun she shows but as a mass of dark matter, as your head does, between me and that candle.

[He washes his hands in the bowl Lisa holds for him.


I see. And if the sun were to pass between us and the moon, would he show dark also?


No; for he is the very source of the light, and in him is no darkness at all. My robe and girdle, Lieschen.


Oh, sir! I don’t like the look of that robe, and the girdle with all the strange words upon it. They are too much like what you have there upon the floor. I am afraid of them. Will you not sit and have your supper like a Christian, and leave these fearful conjuring tricks to ignorant, unhappy men who know no better?


What is all this? Have you been talking, Wagner?


What do you need with riches and power and the court of the Grand Cham, and wicked spirits and basilisks—you that are happy in your great wisdom and learning?


Child, the greater the wisdom, the greater the sorrow. The end of all our knowledge is to learn how helpless we are. Divinity, philosophy, astrology—I have studied them all. There are no springs of comfort in that barren desert of doctrine. Physic but lays a patch to the old garment; the stuff itself is rotten, warp and woof; the corruption eats deeper than our drugs can reach. (Violently.) What is this folly about riches and worldly delights? Do you think I care for such toys? But if magical power can aid me to resolve the mystery of wickedness, lay bare the putrefying sore at the heart of creation, break and remake the pattern of the inexorable stars——I have frightened you. Fetch me my robe, and do not meddle with what you cannot understand. There, I know you mean well, but do not vex me now.

[Exit Lisa, left, removing bowl and shoes.

Wagner, why do you not attend to your work, instead of chattering to Lisa?

[Takes off his gown and lays it on the chair.

Wagner (hurt)

I have worked very hard indeed. I have purchased the lamps, ordered the oil, taken your sword to be ground, brought home the Jordan water, finished the circle and learnt a great many very long and difficult names out of this book. I hoped you would be pleased with me.

[Re-enter Lisa with robe and girdle and puts them on Faustus.


Why, so I am. You are an honest, industrious fellow—and if your heart is a better organ than your head, it was not you that had the making of them. Thank you, child. Now run away, and never trouble your pretty head about us. And remember, no matter what you may hear, you must not cross the threshold of this room to-night. On no pretence whatsoever. Do you hear me?


Yes, sir. May God and His holy angels protect us all.

[Exit, left, taking Faustus’ gown.


Now, Wagner, to work! Bring the book to me.

Wagner (bringing stoup across from wall and giving it to Faustus)

This is empty. Will you have the blessed water from the Jordan?

[He lays the book on the table.


Yes. But make haste; for this spirit will not come save he be called between the ninth hour and midnight.

[Wagner brings flask and fills the stoup which Faustus holds.

Faustus (signing the water)

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, exorcizo te, creatura aquae, ut fias aqua exorcizata ad effugandam omnem potestatem inimici. Amen.



[While Wagner puts back the flask and changes it by means of the trick shelf, Faustus sprinkles the water within the circle.


Asperges me Domine hyssopo et mundabor, lavabis me et supra nivem dealbabor. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.


Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. (He puts back the stoup and now brings the sword, naked, to Faustus, who has meanwhile taken the book from the table and opened it.) Must I put out the lights, Master?

Faustus (examining the circle)

Put them all out, and bring me a lighted taper.

Wagner (takes taper from table, lights it at one of the candles, and then extinguishes the lights)

Oh, Master, it’s going to be very dark and not at all comfortable. I don’t think I care very much about being rich and powerful and riding on b-b-basilisks. D-d-don’t you think it would be better to stop all this, and have a nice little astrology lesson or something?


Take courage, Wagner. Thou wilt not desert me now? There must be some meaning in this tormented universe, where light and darkness, good and evil forever wrestle at odds; and though God be silent or return but a riddling answer, there are spirits that can be compelled to speak.

[Wagner returns, carrying the taper.

Now follow me into the circle, and see that thou close it well after we have passed over.

[They step into the circle through a gap left in the figure, which Wagner closes carefully with chalk.

Light the lamps.


My hand trembles. (He lights the lamps.) Oh, dear! what will become of us? Ugh! Something brushed past my face, like a bat. Would I were well out of this.

[He extinguishes the taper.


Be silent. Stand back to back with me and be sure you let neither hand nor foot stray beyond the circle. Now we begin.

In the name of the most high God, maker of Heaven and earth and of all things under the earth, Ioth, Aglanabroth, El, Abiel, Anathiel, Amazim, Messias, Tolimi, Ischiros, Athanatos, I require of Thee, O Lord, by the seal of Solomon and by the ineffable name wherewith he did bind the devils and shut them up, Adonai, Aglai, Tetragrammaton, grant me Thy virtue and power, to cite before me Thy spirits which were thrown down from Heaven, and in especial that spirit which is called Mephistopheles, that he may come and speak with me, and dispatch again at my command, without hurt to my body, soul and goods, and diligently fulfil the will of me Thy exorcist. Fiat, fiat, fiat. Amen.


[Here Faustus may hand the book to Wagner unnoticed, and so be relieved of it.

I conjure thee, Mephistopheles, by the unspeakable name of God, and by His virtue and power, and by Him that harrowed Hell; I conjure and exorcise thee, by angels and archangels, by thrones, dominations, principalities and powers, by virtues, by cherubim and seraphim, and by the name of thy master, Lucifer, Prince of the East, that thou do come to us, here visibly before this circle, and that thou do make answer truly, without craft or deceit, unto all my demands and questions.

[Thunder again, and Hell-mouth opens with a great noise and a red light.

In the name of Him that liveth and reigneth for ever, and hath the keys of hell and of death, come hither to me, Mephistopheles.

[Enter Mephistopheles out of Hell, in the form of a lion with the tail of a serpent and the feet of a bull.

Wagner (looking round over Faustus’ shoulder)

Oh, help! help! Heaven defend us! We are lost! We’re undone. (He springs out of the circle and runs off, left. Flame and an explosion drive him back. A peal of diabolical laughter is heard.) Mercy! Help! what shall I do?


Spirit, I charge thee, hurt him not.


Enough. Let him go. Away with thee, mannikin! Thy master and I have business together.

[Wagner runs out.


And thou, Mephistopheles, put off this ugly shape, fit only to frighten children. Stand before me in the semblance of a man.


With pleasure. Nothing easier. (He takes off his lion’s head and tosses it negligently into Hell-mouth.) And now, sir, what can I do for you, to justify the expenditure of so many big words and this great exhibition of fi-fo-fum?


Answer me truly first concerning thyself. What art thou?


Truly, you should know best, since you called me by name. But indeed, I am not particular. I will answer to anything you like to call me, for my name is legion, and Evil is one of my names.


Tell me, then, thou Evil, who made thee?


He that made all things.


What? did God make thee? Was all the evil in the world made by God? Beware what thou sayest; I know thee for a false and lying spirit.


That is a most unjust accusation. What lies have I ever told? There is no need for lying, seeing that mankind are such fools.


How so?


Why, tell them the truth and they will mislead themselves by their own vanities and save me the trouble of invention. I sat by Eve’s shoulder in the shadow of the forbidden tree. “Eat,” said I, “and you shall become like God.” She and her silly husband ate, and it was so. Where was the lie? Was it my fault if they persuaded themselves that God was everything they hankered to be—all-good, all-wise, all-powerful and possessed of everlasting happiness?


Is not God all these things?


Is He these things? Look at the world He made, and ask yourself, what is He like that made it? Would you not say it was the work of a mad brain, cruel and blind and stupid—this world where the thorn chokes the flower, where the fox slays the fowl and the kite the fox, where the cat torments the mouse for pastime before she kills it for sport? Where men, made truly enough in the image of their Maker, rend, ravish and torture one another, lay waste the earth, burn up provinces for a title or a handful of dirty metal, persecute for a pater-noster, and send a fellow-fool to the rack for the shape of his nose or the name of his mother’s father? War, fire, famine, pestilence—is He all-good that delights in these, or all-powerful that likes them not and endures them? Ask thyself this.


I have asked it a hundred times without thy prompting. It is as though my own heart spoke to me. Man’s cruelty is an abomination—but how can one justify the cruelty of God?


Is He all-wise, that had not the wits to keep out of the mess He had made, but must needs meddle with this business of being a man, and so left matters worse than He found them? Why, He could not even speak His mind plainly, but all He said was so fumblingly expressed, men have been by the ears ever since, trying to make out His meaning. And was not that a prime piece of folly, to show up His nature thus—base and ignorant as any carpenter’s son, too poor in spirit to argue in His own defence, too feeble to save His own skin from the hangman? Everlasting happiness? What happiness do you find in the history of the Man of Sorrows? By their fruits ye shall know them.


It was He that said that.


So He did, in one of His more unguarded moments.


And yet, Mephistopheles, His very name has power to conjure thee from the bowels of hell.

Mephistopheles (with an almost imperceptible hesitation)

The power is not in the name. That name is powerful only because you believe in its power. Believe in your own power, and you can command me without any tricks of conjuration.


Wilt thou then come when I call? Wilt thou stay with me and be my servant, and do and bring me all things whatsoever I shall desire?


I shall always be with you, John Faustus. You have only to think upon me, and I shall be there.


And do my bidding?


With all my power.


Not harming me in any manner?


You need have no more fear of me than of yourself.


Come hither to me then, and shake hands upon the compact.


By all means—if you will first come out of the circle.


How can the circle hold thee back, since it has no power but by me, and I say, Come!

Mephistopheles (again embarrassed)

Very well argued. But the fact is, you and your servant have so drowned the place with Jordan water that I don’t care about it. I am very susceptible to chills, and I should infallibly get cramp in my hoofs. Besides, my Master Lucifer forbids me to enter the circle.


And wherefore?


For the better encouragement of superstition. But come—command me something. A few sacks of gold, perhaps, or a little supper. You must be famished with all this nonsense of prayer and fasting.


Well, then, bring me food.


Ho, there, my merry devils. Food and wine for your master. Music, ho!

[Music. Enter, right and left, Devils dancing, with platters of fruit, etc., and one with a goblet of wine, which they present to Faustus.

Drink, master, drink! What! Does the cursed fruit of the tree stick in thy throat still? Drink, and drown that devil’s gift of knowledge, from whence spring all the cares that afflict mankind. Drink—for the kingdom, the power and the glory are within thy grasp. Only stretch out thy hand and fear not.


Spirit, I fear thee not. Give me the cup.


First sheathe that sword; my delicate devils wince

Like women to see cold iron.

Faustus (sheathing his sword)

Like women to see cold iron.Give me the cup.

[As Faustus stretches his hand beyond the protection, Mephistopheles catches him by the wrist and pulls him out of the circle. Thunder; and all the lamps are immediately extinguished.

If God’s so harsh a stepfather to His sons

Then must we turn adventurers, and carve out

Our own road to salvation. Here’s to change! (Drinks.)

O the wine’s brave; it dances in the blood

And whirls in the brain, glowing and giving life

As though the vintagers had put in prison

The very sun, and pressed him with the grapes

Till all the vats ran fire.

Mephistopheles (aside)

Till all the vats ran fire.And so it should,

Seeing what cellars it came from.


Seeing what cellars it came from.God’s old realm,

Like an estate farmed by a bankrupt, dwindles

The sluggard way to ruin; her rank hedgerows

Drop down their brambles over the sour ditch;

Bindweed, tough tares, and tangling restharrow choke

Her furrows, where the plough stands idle, rust

Reddening the share; and in her hungry fields

Only the blind mole and the skipping coney

Drive their dark tunnels ’twixt the thistle and thorn.

We’ll starve at home no longer. The soul’s a world,

And hath her hemispheres, as the world hath,

Where thoughts put forth like galleons, leaving behind

These weedgrown crumbling harbours shoaled with time,

To sail new seas, steer by strange stars, cross over

Unknown meridians, and by pathless coasts

Explore her dusky Indias.


Explore her dusky Indias.Well, well, well—

I have heard young men speak thus.


I have heard young men speak thus.Young men speak thus?

I am not old, Mephistopheles. I have grown

A little grey, perhaps, with study and labour,

But I’m not old at all.


But I’m not old at all.Go to, go to.

[He leads Faustus to the mirror.

You are older than you should be. Mark you, mark

How lean men grow who try to save the world.

That line betwixt the brows—what wrote it there

But squinnying close at books, and frowning down

Your nose at ignorance? And the sour folds

At the corner of the mouth, the virtuous stamp

That Pharisees wear like phylacteries,

Proclaiming at what dear and grudged expense

They are chaste and sober; and the red-rimmed eyes

That weep to see how men enjoy their lusts,

Being so strangely happier than the godly.


I have wept for the woes of men, fighting like beasts,

Tortured like helpless beasts.


Tortured like helpless beasts.Let that alone,

The remedy makes it worse. Beast wars with beast

And slays and leaves no rancour. Heartbreak comes

With man’s self-consciousness and righteous hate,

When one ferocious virtue meets another

As quarrelsome as itself, good savaging good

Like so many angry lobsters in a basket

Pinching each other’s claws off. Now, behold

What you now are, and what you might have been

In the innocent world, if man had never meddled

With virtue and the dismal knowledge of God.

[The image of Faustus fades from the mirror and the image of the Young Faustus takes its place. It mimics Faustus.


Is that myself, or the young fair Apollo

Stepped from his golden chariot and new bathed

In springs of Thessaly? It moves like me

And its lips mimic mine with silent speech.

Can it be I indeed?

[As he turns to question Mephistopheles the image of Helen appears in the mirror behind the image of Faustus in the place where Mephistopheles stands behind the real Faustus.


Can it be I indeed?Look then again.


O wonder of the world! O soul! O beauty

Beyond all splendour of stars!

[As Faustus moves towards the mirror, Mephistopheles moves to intercept him, and at the same time the image of Helen moves, so that as the image of Faustus clasps Helen, Faustus finds himself clutching Mephistopheles.

Beyond all splendour of stars!Hence! Let me pass!

[He breaks from Mephistopheles. As he touches the mirror, the vision vanishes. Thunder again.

Hell and confusion! Damned, damned juggling tricks,

Nothing but sorcery!


Nothing but sorcery!What did you expect

When you called me up?


When you called me up?Bring her to me again

In the living flesh.


In the living flesh.Fool, she is not for you

Nor any man. Illusion, all illusion!

For this is Grecian Helen, hell-born, hell-named,

Hell in the cities, hell in the ships, and hell

In the heart of man, seeking he knows not what.

You are too careful of your precious soul

To lay fast hold on Helen. She is mirage

Thrown on the sky by a hot reality

Far below your horizon.


Far below your horizon.Can you not bring me

Where Helen is?


Where Helen is?I might—but at a cost

You might not wish to pay. In any case

Not as you are. If you would play the lover

You must look the part. Throw off this foolish weed!

Lights there!

[The candles are lit of their own accord.

Lights there!Bring forth apparel for your master,

Faustus the conjurer, Faustus the magician,

Faustus the master of the words of power,

Prince of the prince of the air!

[Devils enter and take Faustus’ robe and apparel him richly.

Prince of the prince of the air!And bring him gold

To fill his purse. He must live delicately.

[Gold brought in a shining dish.

All the lost treasure of the world is ours,

That men have sweated, toiled, fought, died to gain,

And wasted—the pirate’s and the gambler’s spoil,

The miser’s hoard, the harlot’s wage, the grudged

Profits of usury, the assassin’s fee,

The politician’s bribe, the nation’s wealth

Blown from the belching cannon—all flow down

Through veins and vessels of their native earth

In one red stream to the hot heart of hell,

Gushing and hissing—listen!

[Appropriate noises from Hell-mouth.

Gushing and hissing—listen!The roar of the furnace!

Hark how the anvils clang in that black stithy

To the hammer-strokes forging the chains of gold

For the neck of the world, bars, ingots, cataracts

Of ringing coin! Power, power, for thy bold hand—

Take it and use it!

Voice (without, right)

Take it and use it!Alms, for the love of God,

For sweet St. Charity, pity the poor blind.

[Faustus stands arrested, with the gold in his hands.


That is what God allows; will you allow it?


No, by the powers of Hell! If God permits

Such suffering in this damnable world, He’s blind,

Deaf, mad, cruel, helpless, imbecile or dead!

[He rushes to entrance, Mansion 1.

Look, here is gold—gold to thy heart’s desire—

No man shall want, if Faustus can prevent it.

[He flings money out to the beggar. Cries without.

Mephistopheles (at Hell-mouth)

Lucifer, Lucifer! the bird is caught—

You may turn off the lights and put the cat out

And shut the door and go downstairs to bed.

I shall not be home for supper.

[Laughter. Hell-mouth closes. Re-enter Faustus.

I shall not be home for supper.These virtuous fools!


O, power is grateful to the heart—to change

Sorrow to happiness in a twinkling—blot

The word “Despair” out of life’s lexicon,

And make joy blossom in the desert sand.

Bring me swift horses—bring me the wings of the wind!

We’ll fly to the wide world’s four distracted corners

Like a great gust of laughter, scattering delight.

We’ll do—what will we not do, Mephistopheles?

We will forget old sins—we’ll break the cross,

Tear the usurper Christ from His dark throne

And this time bury Him deep and well, beyond

All hope of resurrection.

[Knocking at entrance, left.

All hope of resurrection.Hush! who’s there?

Wagner (without)

O master, dear master, how is it with you? If you are not carried off body and bones into Hell, speak to me!


All’s well, Wagner. Wait. I will let thee in presently. Listen, Mephistopheles. You must stay with me, be known as my servant, show yourself only in your human shape, and not alarm my household too much.


I am entirely at your service.


Here, take my cloak. (He puts his cloak on Mephistopheles.) Try to look a little more respectable. You would be more convincing in a stout pair of boots.


I will procure boots immediately.


And hark’ee. See that you offer no offence to Lieschen. She is a good, modest, virtuous child.


Set your mind at rest. On such as her I have no power.


And be gentle with my poor Wagner. So. I will open the door. (Crossing left, he turns and adds in a fierce whisper.) Tuck your tail up! (At entrance.) Come in, Wagner.

[Enter Wagner.


O Doctor, Doctor, praise God you’re safe and sound. Lisa and I have been so frightened. Such dreadful noises—and the thunder—the whole house shook. We’ve been saying our prayers in the kitchen. Do forgive me for being so foolish and cowardly. I thought you were killed and the devil had eaten you, so I came to see if I could do anything. Has the devil gone away? The room smells shockingly of sulphur.


There’s nobody here but this—gentleman, whom I have engaged to be my personal attendant.

Wagner (to Mephistopheles)

How do you do, sir? God be with you. (Calling off.) It’s all right, Lisa. The devil’s gone. (To Mephistopheles.) What a dreadful night to arrive in. Are you wet? Perhaps you would like to change your shoes? I could lend you slippers. It’s so unwise to sit in damp feet. What size do you . . .? Oh, I beg your pardon (to Faustus). How thoughtless of me. I didn’t notice the poor creature was so afflicted.


You are too officious.

Mephistopheles (to Wagner)

It’s very kind of you, but I came—by the underground way.


I see. Well (anxious to do something), the room is very untidy. Shall I help you off with your robe, Doctor? Dear me, it’s off already. What a fine suit of clothes you have got!

Voices (without)

Help! Help! . . . Hand over the money! . . . Thieves! Murder! . . . Strike him down . . . Give me the gold . . . Ah! would you! . . . Down with you! (Noise of fighting.)

Lisa (off)

Help, watchman, help! Watch! Watch!


What is all that?


The effects of your benevolence, I fancy.

[Enter Lisa, left.


Alas! alas! Here’s a poor old blind man been set upon and robbed under our windows and a whole crowd of ruffians quarrelling for the money. I saw three men stabbed. (Noise increases.) Oh, mercy.


Are men mad to abuse the gifts we give them? (He rushes off, Mansion 1, drawing his sword as he goes.) What is God about?


I don’t understand all this.

Mephistopheles (primly)

Indiscriminate charity is a device of the devil.

Lisa (with a little shriek)

Oh, Wagner, who’s that?


The Doctor’s servant, so please you.

Lisa (recoiling against Wagner)

I don’t like him. I’m afraid of him. Who is he?


Bless me, Lisa, where are your manners? (Lisa drops Mephistopheles a reluctant curtsey and escapes, left.) You must excuse her. We have all been upset by the thunderstorm. (With holy-water stoup.) Oh, dear, this is empty again. (He hands it to Mephistopheles.) Do you mind holding it while I fill it up?

[Goes up to shelf, back.


Pray don’t apologise. Women have their fancies. I get along very well with them as a rule, but every so often, the nicest girls will take a positive dislike to me. I’ve no idea why.

Wagner (returning with flask)

Very strange—but as you say, girls are quite unaccountable. Please hold it carefully. This is very special Holy Water from the——

[Re-enter Faustus, Mansion 1.


The watch have arrested them all—Wagner! leave that alone!

[He is too late. The water steams up and bubbles over the bowl, which Mephistopheles lets fall.

Wagner (crossing himself)

Holy Mary! Heaven deliver us! Oh, sir, sir; I fear me you are gotten into very ill company.


So that cat’s out of the bag!


What will you do, Wagner? Will you quit my service?


No, Doctor, no. I’ll not leave you alone to face danger again. I’m sorry for what I did. But from henceforth I’ll be as brave as a lion.


Thanks, my faithful Wagner.

Mephistopheles (clapping Wagner on the back)

Why, that’s a bold fellow, to be ready to live cheek by jowl with the devil.


Why, so must every Christian man. And the devil we see is less terrible than the devil we don’t see (shaking Mephistopheles off). But there’s no need to be familiar. (To Faustus) And what happens next, if you please?


We’re off to Rome, to beard God in His own stronghold.

Wagner (stolidly)

Are you going by sea, or—underground?


Through the air, my lad. By enchantment.


Those winged dragons you are always talking about.

Wagner (drily)

Just as well. You were always a very poor sailor.


You and Lisa can do as you like. Come, Mephistopheles!

[He goes out, right.

Wagner (going off, left)

Poor Lisa! She won’t like this very much. (Turning suddenly.) Here, you! Clear up all this mess. And look sharp. I’m going to pack.


Mephistopheles (staring after him)

Well, I’ll be—blessed!

[He claps his hands. Music, and enter four Devils, who clear the stage. Mephistopheles goes out by the same way as Faustus.

SCENE II (Mansion 3)

Rome—The Forum

[Enter from Mansion 1 (Wittenberg) Wagner and Lisa in travelling dress, with luggage. They walk all about the stage and come at last to Rome (Mansion 3).


Here we are at last—safely in Rome! It has been a long journey from Wittenberg.


Long and wearisome! I’m so grateful to you, kind Wagner, for coming with me, instead of flying away on the winged dragon with Dr. Faustus and—that other, terrible man.


I shouldn’t dream of letting you travel unprotected. Besides, I have thought it all over and decided that winged dragons are all right for learned philosophers, but plain folk like you and me do best on the beaten track. (Looking about him.) What a fine city Rome is, to be sure! A hundred times bigger than Wittenberg.


How shall we ever find the Doctor out, in this great labyrinth of streets and houses?


We shall find him, never fear. During all these months he will certainly have become very great and famous. This wide square must be the market-place. Let’s sit down here and rest, and presently we will ask some passer-by to direct us to the Doctor’s lodging.

[They sit down, left. Enter, from Mansion 3, a Cardinal and a Priest conversing; they come down centre.


If such be the case, then His Holiness should be told about it. And in the meantime, by all means speak to the people.


I assure Your Eminence, it is as I say. The whole city is disturbed by the miracles of Dr. Faustus.

Wagner (to Lisa)

There! what did I tell you?


Where does he come from?


From Wittenberg, they say, some twelve months since. His learning is undoubtedly great and his wealth unlimited; though how he came by them, God or the devil knows. He distributes gold to all and sundry, heals the sick, raises the dead, and corrupts the minds of the poor by his vile, atheistical talk. The churches are deserted. Sundays and week-days, the people throng to the lectures of Dr. Faustus.

Lisa (approaching them)

O Father! If you know Dr. Faustus, pray tell me where he is to be found.


What! Is this another of them? Away, shameless girl.


The less you have to do with John Faustus the better. His life is scandalous, his followers godless—
















And irretrievably damned!


No, no! if you knew him you would not say such things. He is good and kind.


The most learned man in Christendom.


He is the open enemy of God and Holy Church.


And known to be in league with the devil. (As Wagner winces at this home-thrust.) Will you deny it?



Wagner (stoutly)

If Dr. Faustus commands the spirits it is to a good and pious end. He is very clever, and knows how to bind the devil to the service of God.


You are sadly deceived. It is forbidden to cast out devils by Beelzebub. Nor will a good end justify such vile and wicked means.

Wagner (drawing Lisa away)

Come away, Lisa. They are jealous of him. We will ask somebody else.

Priest (pulling Cardinal across, right)

Besides, Eminence, the end he seeks is very dangerous.

[Various Townsfolk begin to drift in, Mansion 3 and left. Mephistopheles enters and stands, right, showing in pantomime that he overhears the conversation of Cardinal and Priest.

He preaches everywhere that he can abolish pain and suffering from the world. And what, pray, would become of religion, if there were no such thing as suffering?


What, indeed? Who would repent of sin, if he did not fear to suffer in this world. Or if pain and sickness were not there, to put him in mind of his latter end?


Nobody would go to confession, or pay for masses, or indulgences, or prayers for the sick. There would be no pilgrimages, no alms-giving, no thank-offerings, no rich bequests to the Church. And what would happen to us, I should like to know? No sin, no sermon; no cross, no cardinal; no pain, no Pope!

[Mephistopheles withdraws again.


Quite so; but I should not stress that point in your address. Begin now. I will go and acquaint His Holiness with all this.

[Priest mounts the rostrum, left.

Give ear, good people. The reverend father has somewhat to say to you.

[Exit Cardinal, Mansion 3. Faustus and Mephistopheles enter unnoticed at back of Crowd, who gather right.


Citizens of Rome! Sons and daughters of Holy Church! It has come to the ears of His Holiness the Pope that many among you are led away by the abominable doctrines of one John Faustus—(cheers for Faustus)—a charlatan, a sorcerer, a man of lewd and evil life (cries of dissent) who would delude you by the promise to do away with toil and labour, with poverty, pain and suffering, and ensure to every man health, wealth and long days upon the earth. (Renewed cheers.) Alas, my children, why will you be deceived? Do you not know that toil and suffering were ordained by God for the sins of Adam? And that only by suffering are you made worthy to enter into the joys of Heaven? Do you think there is any way to salvation, except by the cross whereon our Saviour suffered for the sins of all? (Murmurs of doubt.) All of you will come to die some day—and how will you answer then for a life spent in sloth and luxury? Will it be easy, think you, to put off that proud and stubborn flesh that no suffering has mortified, no sorrow subdued? Let not the lust of gold corrupt you, for it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Turn away your hearts from idols; embrace the cross and repent; return to the bosom of Holy Church, to whom alone it is given to bind and loose and free you from the domination of evil. If this fellow Faustus seeks to persuade you from your allegiance to the Church, it is that he may destroy your souls. He is a damned soul, burning in a hell of hatred, and would drag you all down along with him to damnation.

Faustus (leaping upon the rostrum, right)

That is a lie!


Who dares to say so?


I say so. I am John Faustus.


Silence, thou rascal!


I will not be silent. I tell you to your face that your Church is corrupt, your doctrine a lie and your God a cruel tyrant.

[Murmurs among the crowd. Mephistopheles whispers in Faustus’ ear.


Out of thine own mouth, atheist! Do you hear this fellow blaspheme against God and His Holy Church?


The Church? Hark to the sly priest with his own axe to grind! The Church is rich and you are poor. Her prelates go in rich robes, and you in stinking rags. Wherefore? Ask him that preaches the money out of your pockets to keep him and his greasy brethren in idleness. He cares nothing for your souls, but only for the gold he can squeeze out of you.


It is false.


It is true. Ask my servant here, that heard him say as much to the Cardinal.


Shame! shame! . . . Down with the idle priests!


Why should you slave to enrich these blood-suckers?

Crowd (rushing towards Priest)

Blood-suckers! . . . Horse-leeches! . . . Down with the priests! . . . Sack the monasteries! . . . Come on! . . . Sack! slay! . . . Away with them! etc.


Beware! Touch not God’s anointed!

[Crowd hesitates.

Think, before you call down the terrible vengeance of Heaven. What saith the Scripture? Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Faustus is a witch and a sorcerer, and his servant is the devil incarnate. By their fruits ye shall know them. They work the works of darkness, and their gifts shall bring, not blessings, but a curse. Is that not so?

First Woman

It is so. We were poor, and Faustus gave us gold. Now my husband has left his home and gone to live wantonly with harlots.

First Man

I was a cripple and lived by begging. Faustus cured me, and now I must work to live.

Second Woman

I was barren, and Faustus laid his spells upon me, and now I have borne a child that is possessed by seven devils.

Second Man

I loved my wife, and she died. Faustus raised her from the dead and lo! she is become a shrew, a vixen, the veriest termagant in Rome.


Thou art a beast to say so. Take that, coward!

[She beats her husband. Laughter and commotion.


Ungrateful dogs!—


Hark, how he turns upon you now!


Down with him! . . . Sorcerer! . . . Witch! . . . Burn him! . . . Drown him! . . . Tear him to pieces! . . . Witch! Witch! Witch!

[A rush is made against Faustus.

Faustus (in a tone of command)



Back, little men! (The Crowd is frozen into immobility.) You cannot move hand or foot to harm my master.


What’s this? . . . I am paralysed . . . I am turned to stone . . . I can’t lift my arm . . . I can’t put my foot down . . . etc.


A nice lot of fools you look! A most edifying regiment of wax-works! And Master Priest there, fixed on one foot, like an image of Hermes in a garden-pool! Pray, sir, are you afflicted with a sudden cramp? Why not take counsel of Dr. Faustus, that is so eminent a physician? Shall I tickle them for you, master? Shall I twist their bones? Shall I put fire under their tails?


Enough! release them, Mephistopheles.

[The Crowd put down their arms and legs again and stand rubbing themselves foolishly.

O men, men! Why will you quarrel and fight? Why seek to harm me, that have only loved you and laboured for your good? I would free you from the burden of fear and pain and poverty that God has laid upon you. Listen to me. If God made all things, He made the evil that torments you, and why should you serve so cruel a master? If He made not all things, He is not God, and you may defy Him as I do. Be men! Rouse yourselves! Throw off this bondage of superstition, and learn to know your friends from your foes. I am not your enemy. God is the enemy of us all——

[Enter, Mansion 3, the Pope, carrying a crucifix in his hand, and with Cardinal in attendance.


Then learn to face the enemy. Speak on, my child.

I stand here for God.

Crowd (falling to their knees)

I stand here for God.The Holy Father!


Stand, then, old man, and hear what I would spit

Into God’s teeth, were we set face to face

Even in the Courts of Heaven. God’s heart is evil,

Vengeful and tyrannous. He hates the flesh,

The sweet flesh that He made; He treads down beauty

In the winepress of His wrath, pashing it out

To the sour wine of sacrifice; His eye

Is jaundiced to behold such happiness

As men may snatch out of a tortured world.

Look on the symbol in thy hand—the sceptre

Thou rul’st with in His name—it is the yardstick,

The very measure of the devilish hatred

He bears to man, were man His very Son.

Men! I stand here for man, and in man’s name

[He springs upon the Pope and snatches the crucifix from him.

Defy God’s rule, break His accursed sceptre

And smite His regent down.

[He lifts the crucifix to slay the Pope, the Crowd exhibit horror, but are held back by Mephistopheles.

Wagner (throwing himself between them)

And smite His regent down.O master, master!

Faustus (flinging Wagner off)

You here? Stand aside!

Lisa (catching Faustus by the arm)

Oh, Doctor, dear Doctor! for shame! What! Strike an old man—helpless—unresisting?

[Faustus pauses in some confusion.

Oh, no! how could you dream of it? You will not. I know you will not. Not the devil himself could change your kind heart so. And you will not break the image of our dear Lord, who loved us so well and gave His life for us!

[During this speech, Mephistopheles retreats and the Crowd closes threateningly in on Faustus.

Faustus (letting the crucifix drop into Wagner’s hands)

O Lisa, Lisa!

[He looks about him, sees the menacing looks of the Crowd and goes on in an exhausted voice:

I too love men; but they are all against me.

They hug their chains; the sacrificial iron

Cankers them at the core. I am not afraid

To suffer; for their sakes I would be damned

Willingly, so I first might do away

Suffering for ever from the pleasant earth.

And here stands power, like a smooth engine, ready

For good or ill alike. Being powerful,

I might be happy—might I not be happy?—

But still the cry of the poor is in my ears

Intolerably. (To the Pope): You they call Holy Father—

A kind, compassionate title, “Holy Father”—

Will you be blind to truth? God, having power,

Uses it like a devil; if He were good

He would turn back the ruthless wheel of time

To the golden age again. I am not God,

But can command the devil’s power to serve

Good ends. Which is the devil—God, or I?

Do you be judge between us.


Do you be judge between us.O my poor child,

How much unhappiness is in store for thee!

For thou art taken in the toils of God,

That are more delicate than the spider’s thread,

More strong than iron; and though thou wander far

As hell from Heaven, His cunning hand shall twitch

The line, and draw thee home. There is no rest

For such as thee, that bear upon their hearts

The brand of God, and, warring against God,

Make war upon themselves. Thou must be patient,

For God is very patient. Dost thou think

I cannot feel thy griefs? I am the Pope,

Set on a tower above the plains of time

To watch how evil is at odds with good,

And to abide the issue, helpless, save

As prayer and wisdom and the grace of God

Shall give me strength. Hard it is, very hard,

To travel up the slow and stony road

To Calvary, to redeem mankind; far better

To make but one resplendent miracle,

Lean through the cloud, lift the right hand of power

And with a sudden lightning smite the world perfect.

Yet this was not God’s way, Who had the power,

But set it by, choosing the cross, the thorn,

The sorrowful wounds. Something there is, perhaps,

That power destroys in passing, something supreme,

To whose great value in the eyes of God

That cross, that thorn, and those five wounds bear witness.

Son, go in peace; for thou hast sinned through love;

To such sin God is merciful. Not yet

Has thy familiar devil persuaded thee

To that last sin against the Holy Ghost

Which is, to call good evil, evil good.

Only for that is no forgiveness—Not

That God would not forgive all sins there are,

Being what He is; but that this sin destroys

The power to feel His pardon, so that damnation

Is consequence, not vengeance; and indeed

So all damnation is. I will pray for thee.

And you, my children, go home, gird your loins

And light your lamps, beseeching God to bring

His kingdom nearer, in what way He will.

[Exeunt Pope, Cardinal and Priest, Mansion 3. Crowd go out left and right. Manent Faustus, Lisa, Wagner and Mephistopheles.

Mephistopheles (somersaulting across the stage and bowing derisively after the retreating Pope)

Go in peace, old gentleman, go in peace! Did ever a man use so many words to confess his own incompetence? That fellow has no business in Peter’s seat—he ought to be in Parliament. Come, Master—will you take the road to Calvary, and sup at the Skull-and-Crossbones?


I am tired, tired, Mephistopheles. Follow Christ? That way is too long and too uncertain.


His way was folly and failure. I told you so, and now the Pope confirms it. Take your own way, in the devil’s name, and shake a little sense into mankind.


My way frightens them. They have not even the heart to be grateful for my gifts.

Wagner (simply)

Well, they are the devil’s gifts after all. Perhaps it’s true that they don’t turn out very well. I’m sure people were very grateful in Wittenberg. Don’t you remember? All those presents of fish and vegetables? I had hard work to carry them home.


Won’t you come back to Wittenberg and heal the sick with your drugs and simples as you did before? Indeed, indeed you were happier then.


Much happier, Lisa.


If you were happy, why did you send for me?

Wagner (threatening Mephistopheles with the crucifix)

Will you kindly go away and stop interfering?

[Mephistopheles retreats.


They are waiting for you, Doctor, and longing for your return—all the poor and the sorrowful, and the mothers with their sick children. They love you so much—we all love you in Wittenberg.


Do they love me, Lisa? Do you think that is happiness, after all? To take the easy way—to love and be beloved, and not trouble to understand or get things altered? Perhaps. Every day the same sun rises, and year by year the spring returns. Have the swallows built again under the eaves of my window?


Oh, yes! Before we left home there were five speckled eggs in the nest.


There is peace in those quiet streets, cool and deep beneath the leaning gables. Let us go home, and find a little love before we die. They love me in Wittenberg. . . . Do you love me, Lisa?


Alas! I think I have loved you all my life.


Oh, God!


Didn’t you know that? Any fool could have seen it.


Poor child! You should find a better lover. I am growing old, Lisa. I have forgotten how to love.


I am a fool indeed. But that’s nothing new.


You are the most wonderful man in all the world—far too great and good for me.


Hush! that is foolishness. But a very sweet foolishness. Look at me. Your eyes are like quiet pools with the stars reflected in them.


Cheer up, fool. I know how to deal with this.


I don’t want any of your help.


But she does. Do you think he cares twopence for her?


My head aches. I am homesick. Take me in your arms and comfort me.


With all my heart.


Hush-a-bye, baby, on the tree-top! Do you call this love?


What else do you call it?


Childishness. All men are fretful children when they can’t get their own way. Love? Fiddlesticks!


Does it ache much?


Not now. There is rest in your presence, because there is rest in your soul.


Rest, indeed? We’ll see about that. Sacripant! Belphegor!

[Calling off.


What was that song you used to sing while the bread was a-baking? All about Kings and Queens?


That little, nursery song?

Mephistopheles (calling off)

Here’s a soul drowsing into Paradise. Whips! Whips!

Lisa (sings)

Five silver fishes swimming in the sea,

Five gold birds in a sycamore tree,

[Enter Helen, right, with Devils attending her.

Five red deer running over the land,

Five jewel-rings upon my hand.

Mephistopheles (in the ear of Faustus)

Master, where are your eyes?


Gadfly! Let me sleep.

Lisa (sings)

When trees grow tall and leaves grow green

You shall be king and I shall be queen.


Nay, dream on if you will. Sloth is a sin and serves my purpose; though there are merrier ways to be damned.

Faustus (freeing his eyes from Lisa’s hand and sitting up)

Away with you to hell. Be off, I say. (He sees Helen.) O my soul!


John Faustus!

Faustus (leaping to his feet)

Call me across a void of empty stars

And I shall hear.


And I shall hear.O love, hast thou forgotten?


Not till the seas run dry; not till the centre

Kiss the circumference, and time’s iron hand

Crack the great axle of the world asunder!

O Helen, Helen, Helen, I have loved thee

Before time was.


Before time was.Come back, sweet love, come back!


Master, beware! ’Tis witchcraft.


Master, beware! ’Tis witchcraft.It is the voice

Of all the world’s desire.


Of all the world’s desire.Oh, he is lost.

[She falls into the arms of Wagner, who helps her off.


In what miraculous dream, in what far land,

Under what magic boughs, did thou and I

Lie once, and watch the sun shift through the leaves

Glinting the golden apples, when Troy town

Was yet unbuilt, that now is but a song

Almost beyond all memory? When did we learn

Immortal love? What unimagined page

Of scripture holds our legendary names,

Faustus and Helen?


Faustus and Helen?My name is Helen now;

God’s wrath, and ruin of distressful stars

Have made me so accurst. But once, ah, once

Adam lay on my breast and called me Lilith—

Long, long ago, in the old, innocent garden

Before Eve came, bringing her gift of knowledge

And shame where no shame was. The sons of Eve

Are all ashamed of me.


Are all ashamed of me.Are all athirst

For thee, thou star of more than mortal hope

To men!


To men!Shame and desire eat out their hearts,

For they are Adam’s seed. And thou wast Adam,

Whose boyhood love was mine. So, when I call,

Thou canst not choose but turn to me again

From the very arms of Eve. Bone of thy bone

Is she, earth of the earth; she gives thee rest,

As the kind earth shall rest thy bones at last.

I am the fire in the heart, the plague eternal

Of vain regret for joys that are no more.


Wherefore no more? I have returned to thee

Across the barren ways of world and time;

My soul is in thy breast. Take me to thee,

That we may love and laugh in innocence

With the everlasting gods! Devils, stand back!

I will to Helen. In the tremendous name

Of power ineffable, by the seven-fold seal

Of Adonai, back!

[The Devils restrain him still.

Of Adonai, back!What barrier’s here

My witchcraft cannot break?


My witchcraft cannot break?The bitter knowledge

Of good and evil. None may touch my lips

While on his own hangs still the fatal taste

Of Eve’s sharp apple.


Of Eve’s sharp apple.Paris had thy kiss.


Paris cast back the apple to the gods,

Whose ringing discord jarred the towers of Troy

In ruin down.


In ruin down.And so will I; let ruin

Roar like a cataract and drown the world!

Knowledge, begone! All part and lot in Eve

I here renounce. Thou, Mephistopheles,

Serpent of Eden, take thy curse again,

Undo the sin of Adam, turn the years

Back to their primal innocence. By thine oath

Sworn in the mouth of hell, and by the power

Of all my magical art, I do command thee!


Softly, softly. What a hurry you are in! You impetuous young lovers want everything done in a moment. Take away the knowledge of good and evil? That’s rather an unusual order.


Can it be done, or no?


Oh, it can be done. Everything can be done. But we have to charge a price for that sort of thing.


Quick. Name it. What price?


The usual price. Your soul.


Take it. Sin and soul together.


And we can’t sell you eternal youth upon freehold. I could manage a twenty-four years’ lease if that would suit you.


It would be worth it, were it twenty-four hours or twenty-four minutes.


Very well. It’s a bargain. (Calling off towards Hell-mouth.) Ho, there! Bring me the bond.

[Helen vanishes, the stage darkens.

Drawn in the name of John Faustus and of me, Mephistopheles. He to abjure and renounce the worship and service of God, and to enjoy in exchange eternal youth and primal innocence for four-and-twenty years; at the end of which term he, the said John Faustus, shall become forfeit to the Devil, and be carried away, soul and spirit, body and bones, to Hell.


Quickly! Where is Helen gone? The air grows thick. My senses swim. The walls of Rome swoon into darkness about me.


Walls of Rome? Nonsense! You are in your own study at Wittenberg. See! There are the lit candles (the candles on the walls are lit). And your magic mirror (the mirror becomes luminous). And your servants about you.

[Wagner and Lisa creep in to stand beside Faustus.


Where is the bond? I will sign it with my blood.


Master, think again.


For thy dear soul’s sake, take Christ’s way, not this way.

[The image of Helen is seen in the mirror.


I come, I come, sweet Helen. Mephistopheles! The bond! Make haste.

[Hell-mouth opens. Enter a Devil with the bond.


It is here.


A pen—give me a pen. Where is the table?



[Two Devils enter, bearing a board, which they offer to Faustus, kneeling, as though for a table.

Pluck forth thy dagger. Prick thine arm. Write.

[Faustus pricks his arm. Mephistopheles puts the pen into his hand.


See how the red stream runs upon the table like letters written in fire. Homo, fuge—Flee, O man. What, shall I turn back now? (Thunder.) A dreadful voice cries in my ear: Flee from the wrath to come! O, whither shall I fly?


Fly to the arms of God.


To the arms of love. Sweet Helen, receive my soul. (He signs the bond. Thunder again.) So, it is done.


Done! And so clap hands on the bargain. (Diabolic laughter. Mephistopheles tosses the bond to the Devil, who returns with it to Hell. Hell-mouth shuts.) Come now, go to thy Helen as a new-made man.


How now? What wilt thou do to me?

Mephistopheles (leading him to the mirror, where the image of the Young Faustus now appears beside Helen)

Have courage, my master, my bold conjurer, my masterful great magician. See, it’s as simple as walking through a mirror. In with you, in with you!

[Mephistopheles pushes Faustus before him into the mirror, and Helen and the Young Faustus walk out of it.


Oh, I am free!

Young Faustus

I am free! Come, Helen, to my arms!

[As Young Faustus embraces Helen and carries her off, right, Mephistopheles carries away the old body of Faustus behind the mirror, which grows dark.


He has fled from us into a dream. He has left the world empty. I am afraid of this thing that looks with his eyes and speaks with his voice.


It is Faustus and not Faustus. A stranger—yet I feel as though I had known him a long time.


It is the shadow of an imagination. . . . How still the town is! No stir of wheel or footfall; no chime of the clock; no watchman’s voice.


And how dark! but not with the darkness of night. It is like the dusk and silence that creep before an eclipse.


My sun is eclipsed for ever.


Poor Lisa! I know by my own heart how sorrowful you must be.


And I know by mine how bitterly I have hurt you. Forgive me, Christopher. We cannot help ourselves.


Please don’t trouble about me. It really isn’t worth it. It was presumptuous of me to set my hopes so high. One must expect disappointment in this world. (Stoutly.) And you know I am very absent-minded. I shall quite often forget to be miserable.


Dear, good Christopher. What a comfort you are! . . . I’m sorry. I feel so desolate. I can’t help crying.


There, there!

[He puts his arm round her and pats her shoulder consolingly. Mephistopheles slithers in and speaks in his ear.


Christopher, Christopher! Shall I bring her to your bed?

Wagner (whisking round)

What the devil? . . .

[Lisa sees Mephistopheles and springs away with a faint shriek.

So it’s you again!


Clever lad! Now’s your chance. Say the word, and I’ll tumble her into your arms like a ripe plum.


Don’t be disgusting.


Oh, but you want her, Christopher.


No, I don’t. Not if she doesn’t want me. You needn’t think she’d listen to you. Anything you brought me wouldn’t be Lisa at all, but something nasty in her shape. I know your tricks by heart. They’re all in the conjuring book.


What’s he saying, Christopher?


A lot of filthy nonsense. Don’t mind him.


I’ve been thinking what to do. Since our dear master is out of his mind, we must stay close to him and perhaps find some way to restore him.


To be sure we will.


And we will try and do his work—help the poor and heal the sick with the remedies he taught us. And when God sees what we are doing, He will say: That is the real Faustus; that’s what he really meant to do. Faustus is still doing good by his servants’ hands.


I always said you were clever. I should never have thought of that.


So you see, our work will plead for our master’s soul.


Of course it will.


You flatter yourselves. I can’t understand how men can be such fools.


Very likely not. There’s a great deal you can’t understand, you nasty, ignorant, dirty-minded demon. So hold your tongue and be damned to you!

Mephistopheles (going)

That is a very superfluous wish. Good evening.


Hi! Stop! What have you done with Dr. Faustus?

Mephistopheles (airily)

We are just starting on a grand tour of the world. The Duchess Helen accompanies us. You might call it a little honeymoon trip. Constantinople. The Pyramids. Morocco. Persia. The Caucasus. The Earthly Paradise. All carried out in first-class style; a chariot-de-luxe with six dragons——


You don’t say so. Then you can saddle me a chimaera—two chimaeras; and see that one of them is trained to carry a lady.


Certainly, certainly. Shall I charge them to your account, or the Doctor’s?

Wagner (firmly)

You will include transport and service under your all-in terms. Did you bring our baggage from Rome?


I’m afraid it was overlooked in the hurry.


Then fetch it. At once. Do you hear, you lazy devil?



[Wagner’s and Lisa’s baggage is wafted in from the direction of Rome. Noise of wheels and trampling, off, right.

Excuse me, the chariot is at the door.

[Mephistopheles hurries off, Mansion 1.


Come, Lisa. Dry your eyes. Be brave. Needs must when the devil drives. (Cracking of whips, with snorting and trampling, off, right.) There’s no time to waste in virtuous foot-slogging. Come Heaven, come Hell, we’ll follow our Master Faustus.

[Exeunt Wagner and Lisa, Mansion 1.

Faustus (off, right)

Stand back, there. Give them their heads.

Wagner (off, right)

Up with you, Lisa. My stirrup, Mephistopheles.

Mephistopheles (off, right)

To the four winds—away!

[The infernal cavalcade is heard to rise in the air and fly off.

SCENE III (Mansion 2)

Innsbrück—The Emperor’s Court

[Enter from Heaven, the Angel Azrael. He turns, as though answering someone inside.


Yes, sir. Certainly, sir. No difficulty at all, sir. Everything is quite in order.

[He comes down and on, left, and walks briskly across to Mansion 2, sorting a sheaf of papers as he goes. At the entrance to the Mansion, he bumps, in a preoccupied way, into Mephistopheles coming out, and apologises without looking at him.

Sorry; my fault.

[Exit into Mansion.

Mephistopheles (looking after him)

Stuck-up snob! Can’t even recognise an old companion who’s come down in the world. (Coming down-stage; in the voice of an impatient man summoning a waiter.) Demons! demons! . . . the service is getting very slack. . . . Oh, for Satan’s sake, hurry up there!

[Enter a Devil, right.

The fool wants another job done. A trifle for the Empress. Flowers out of season with ripe fruit and blossom on the same branch. Fetch it and look sharp. . . . Where from? How the devil should I know? Try the Hesperides. (Exit Devil, left; Mephistopheles sits down and registers fatigue.) This is the worst term of hard labour I ever undertook. If my four-and-twenty years were not up to-night, I should go on strike.

[Re-enter, Mansion 2, Azrael, with a baby in his arms.

Good morning, my lord Azrael.


Why, it’s Mephistopheles! Good morning. And how’s the world with you? You’re looking a little exhausted.


Yes, I dare say. What’s that you’ve got there? Contraband?


No, no. Nobody you’ve any claim on. A sweet and pious soul, born anew as a little child into the Kingdom of our Father. Do you want to see her papers? (Mephistopheles extends his hand in grim silence.) Suspicious old devil, aren’t you?

Mephistopheles (examining papers)

So that’s who it is.


One of your failures, Mephistopheles. Nothing for you there at all. Not so much as a whiff of Purgatory fire. Only a brief educational course in the heavenly kindergarten. Satisfied?

Mephistopheles (returning papers with a grunt)

All right. Just as well. We’re run off our hoofs already. My client Faustus——


Yes. You’ve been keeping our department pretty busy too. We were working overtime to deal with all those poor souls parted from their bodies at the battle of Pavia. That was your show, wasn’t it?


And a damned good show, too. I had fifteen legions of devils fighting on the Emperor’s side, to say nothing of a magical tempest and a great quantity of heavy artillery forged in our own works. To-day, we propose to sack Rome, with lavish accompaniments of loot, rape, and carnage. All this, if you please, by the orders of Faustus, who was once so tender-hearted, he would rescue the fly from the spider. What do you think of that?


A truly remarkable exhibition of primal innocence.


Primal innocence? Primitive brutishness. The fellow’s grown mischievous as an ape, lecherous as a goat, giddy as a peacock, cruel as a cat, and currish as a cross-bred tyke. Since first man fell into sophistication I have found no way to ruin him so effective as his restoration to a state of nature.


Indeed? Most interesting.


It’s the greatest discovery of the age. Though the work it entails is apt to be a little trying.

[Enter Devil, left, with flowering and fruited branch. He hands it to Mephistopheles, and exit.

This kind of nonsense is merely trivial. But when Faustus takes a fancy to do vulgar conjuring tricks——


Such as?


Such as swallowing a load of hay and a span of horses; or breaking off his own limbs and strewing them about the place like a dissipated daddy-long-legs; or drawing wine from the table-top, to astonish a parcel of drunken louts in a beer-cellar—well! I do feel the whole thing’s rather infra dig.

Azrael (amused)

You are of Lucifer’s household. Your professional pride must sustain you.

[Mephistopheles gives a short, vexed laugh. Enter, from Mansion 2, Faustus, in the body of his transformation, and Wagner reading a book. Wagner has aged considerably in the intervening twenty four years.

Here comes your master, all agog for fresh marvels.


Hey, Mephistopheles! Why are you idling there? How fare our troops? Is the siege well begun?


It is begun.

Wagner (sitting apart and reading abstractedly)

Fumitory mingled with treacle, and tormentil, to allay the fever.


With what success?


Already the walls of Rome totter at the blast of our cannon. By every gunner stands an able fiend to aim the shot and set hell-fire to the match. From the bottomless pit, our sappers delve their way deep below mine and counter-mine.




Herb of grace is a mithridate to combat the plague.


The Emperor’s army go to the assault as though the devil were in them.


So they ought, so they ought. What forces have you dispatched?


Halphas, the mighty earl, strides like a stork before his six-and-twenty legions of the damned. And Salmack, lord of corruption, marquess of hell, whose throne is in the sepulchre; where his strokes light, the maggot and the worm make holiday.


Hoarhound, pimpernel and pellitory are good for stinking sores.


Procell, the strong duke, is there, with eight-and-forty legions; Haborim and Labolas and all the captains of destruction.


Brave, brave! This news delights me. What joy can equal the swift tumult of war—shock of arms, shouting of men, crash of cannon, the whole world piled together pell-mell in a quick confusion! We must behold it, Mephistopheles. The Emperor is coming. I have promised that thou wilt show him all manner of fine things in a vision.


So. There will be more work for me and my people.


Who is that? Send him away, Mephistopheles. I am afraid of him. The smell of death is upon his garments.


I am Azrael, angel of the souls of the dead; and where war goes, I must follow.


Don’t talk about death. I don’t like it. What are you doing here?


I am carrying to Heaven a soul that once was dear to thee.


Whose soul?


Hast thou forgotten Lisa, the little maid that loved thee?


Lisa? Is Lisa dead? Wagner, do you hear this?

Wagner (quietly)

I know it, master. She died in my arms but now.


What killed her?


She went in thy name into all the plague-stricken quarters of this city, nursing the sick with the skill that Faustus taught her, when Faustus felt pity for men. The sickness took her and she died, and her last prayer was for thee.


Alas, alas! Poor Lisa. Oh, Wagner, I can never be happy again. Why am I so vexed and thwarted? I gave all I had for happiness. I gave—what was it I gave? I have forgotten . . . I only sought to be happy, and how can I be happy now that Lisa is gone?


She brought happiness to all who knew her, and that was her happiness and mine.

Mephistopheles (to Wagner)

All the same, you would have done better to take my advice.


Art thou an authority upon happiness, thou shadow of an immortal grief? Master, I was never wise; but age and time have instructed me. To aim at happiness is to miss the mark; for happiness is not an end at all. It is something that comes of itself, when we are busy about other matters.

Faustus (without heeding him)

Poor, pretty Lisa. She was kind to me. She looked after all my wants. What will become of me now?


Thou wilt go to thine own place, Faustus. But her place is with the angels in Heaven.

[Exit up to Heaven.

Wagner (suddenly recalled to himself)

I must work, I must work. So much to do, and so little time, now that I am all alone to do it. (He wanders away, right, reading his book.) Yarrow for green wounds; master-wort is a sovereign remedy for all diseases. . . .

[He sits down and remains, absorbed in his studies.

Faustus (inconsolably)

My heart is broken. Nothing is left in all the world but sorrow. (His eye lights on the branch Mephistopheles is holding, and his wandering fancy flits off in a new direction.) That’s pretty. What is it?


Surely you remember. It is the present you wanted to give to the Empress.


Oh, the Empress? She will be here presently. Hark’ee, Mephistopheles, the Empress is a fair woman, a blithe and buxom lady. She must be mine, d’ye hear me? I must and will possess her. Thou shalt bring her to me to-morrow.




Yes, to be sure. I say, thou shalt bring her to-morrow.


There will be no to-morrow for you, master.


What’s that?


Must I remind you of the terms of our bargain? I have served you diligently these four-and-twenty years. To-night the compact ends.


What then, devil, what then?


Why then you must die, and be forfeit, body and soul, to hell.


Death and hell? Death and hell? Don’t speak those words. They madden me. I’ll not hear them.


Stop your ears and welcome. But die you must and be damned.


Never believe it. There’s no such thing as death, nor hell neither—save for a few such lubber-fiends as thou, to do the bidding of Faustus. Sin, death, age, sorrow—all that was a foolish dream, and fled like a dream for ever. Death comes with creaking bones and a sick carcase. Look at me, Mephistopheles. Have I aged a hair in four-and-twenty years? Not I. Then what’s all this talk of death? It touches me not. I am the everlasting youth of the world. I am John Faustus. (Flourish without.) Here comes the Emperor, with my lady the Empress. Give me that bough. Make haste.

[Enter the Emperor and Empress, attended.


Is Dr. Faustus of Wittenberg here in presence?


Good morrow and good fortune to your Imperial Majesties. Health, wealth and honour attend your Grace. And on you, most exquisite, beautiful and benign lady, may Venus bestow the plenitude of her favours. Be you ever fair and fruitful as this golden bough, fresh-plucked for your delight from the garden of the Earthly Paradise.


Thanks, gentle doctor.


We are much beholden to you. Tell us now. Is this promised spectacle ready, whereof you have reported such marvels?


Whenever you will. Command my master, and he shall command me.


We know thee, Mephistopheles, as a cunning artificer and a spirit of great ingenuity. What are you able to show us?


Whatsoever you please to desire, of things near or far; past, present, or things to come.


Then let us see and speak with Socrates, the wisest sage of antiquity.


Oh, no! Socrates was an elderly, ugly monster, with a snub nose and a scolding wife. Show us rather Adonis; or Apollo singing to his lyre, and attended by the nine Muses.


Nay, madam; I am neither Adonis nor Apollo. Would you make a jealous husband of me?


Give me leave, I pray you. Indeed, my good lord, I insist.


Do you so? Then will I demand to look upon fair Helen of Troy, whose beauty set fire to the world. That is a fair revenge, is it not, Dr. Faustus?


Your Majesty is more beautiful than ever Helen was.


Fie, fie, sir. The flattery is too gross.


The truth is, madam, that by a delicate sorcery my master hath had the fair Helen to his paramour. But he grew weary and left her twenty years since, and now has no value for her.


Value? What does that mean? Helen was a troublesome baggage.


Man’s delight is ever in the unattainable. When he is innocent, he longs for knowledge; when he is grown wise, he hankers after innocence. Between Lilith and Eve, Adam is unfaithful to both, and there is no contenting him.

Faustus (suddenly aggressive)

But, mark you, Helen is mine for all that.


We would not for the world offend you. Say no more.


Yet your Majesty shall have his will; for every man is fated, once at least in his life, to look on Helen.


Plantain or rosa solis—what herb shall we lay to a corroding ulcer?


Enough. We will think upon some other device.


Do you choose, my lord. But I will not hear of Socrates or Diogenes, or any such old, crabbed philosopher.


Why then, since I am Emperor and hold half the world in fee, let me see Alexander the Great, weeping because he had no more worlds to conquer.


Tush, these are trifles. Alexander is dead and his conquests forgotten. I have better than that to show you.

[Enter a Secretary of State, with a letter.


Anything, so it be diverting. (To the Secretary.) How now?


Here is urgent news, sire, from Rome. Your Imperial armies, leagued with the Constable of Bourbon, have this night attacked the city, with intent to seize the Vatican and overthrow the Pope.



To overthrow the Pope?


Alas! this is sacrilege!


How came the news so soon?

Faustus (eagerly)

Sire, this is what we would show you. My couriers, sped by a magical device, have brought the message on the wings of the wind. My arms, my arts are at your service. We shall have as merry a battle as ever we had at Pavia.


This will not do. Who writes the letter?


The captain of your lanskers.


Read what he says.

Secretary (reads)

“The Pope is the Emperor’s worst enemy. This war is of his making, and the insult to our master must be avenged. For the honour of God he must be hanged, though I have to do it with my own hand.”


Worse and worse.

Emperor (as though persuading himself)

True; the old fox has brought it upon himself. He has intrigued against me with France, with Venice and with Milan. He has roused up the Holy League to oppose me—me, that have ever been the champion of the Church. Nevertheless——


Why do you hesitate? Sweep him out of the way. You have the power—take all you can and keep it.


We have never sought for conquest. Yet what is our own by right and inheritance we must and will defend.


Sire, if a poor ignorant devil may venture an opinion, there is but one question here. Who is to be master of Europe? Germany is yours; Spain and the Netherlands are yours. England is rotten with decay; she will truckle to the stronger power. France alone is your foe, and you cannot control France while your hands are tied by Rome. Crush the Pope and make Germany secure against France, and you may be sovereign of the world.


Security? Yes. Chancellor, what do you say? The Pope is our spiritual sovereign?


Then, sire, let him not meddle with the temporal arm. That belongs to Caesar, and the Emperor is Caesar’s heir. The Church that appeals to Caesar’s weapons is sold to Caesar already, and must abide the arbitration of Caesar.


Excellent, excellent. “Render unto Caesar——” I couldn’t have quoted Scripture better myself.


Yet how can we prevail, if God be not on our side?


Are we so sure that God takes sides? He sits in the centre like the sun and rules our orbits whether we will or no.


Well spoken, Wagner. God will not care, He makes His profit either way.


We may dwell on the light side or the dark side. That is all.

Faustus (contemptuously)

Here’s a wealth of my astronomy at second-hand.


Right or wrong: if we attack the Pope the world will condemn us. And how then?


Use policy, sir, use policy.


I am weary of all this. Let’s have the show.

Mephistopheles (to Faustus)

Master, you are very right. (To the Emperor). Say nothing, know nothing, watch how the battle goes. If your armies are defeated, hang your generals. If they are victorious, rebuke them in public and reward them secretly. Deny the deed and wink at it. Learn to be ignorant, for ignorance is the master-weapon of policy.


You are tedious with your policy.


As to the outcome of the fight, I will answer for it. Dr. Faustus will assist you by his art. (Aside to the Chancellor.) And what better ally can you have in war than a profound scientific knowledge coupled with a total innocence of all moral responsibility?


You may think such things, but not say them.


There to the South, under the sun, lies Rome—

Would that the sun’s rays, journeying hence, could show us

What his bright eye beholds!


What his bright eye beholds!Why, so they can,

My magical arts to aid.


My magical arts to aid.The camomile

Was consecrate in Egypt to the sun;

It cureth ague and the melancholy.


Turn your back to the light, and look up northward,

Where the pale clouds lie like a silver screen.

See where the shadows waver, cast by the sun,

As spectres move on the Brocken.


As spectres move on the Brocken.I see! I see!


O wonderful!


O wonderful!The ramparts of a city—

The tumult of armed men—banners and lances—


Now they advance—now they retreat—the gunners

Stand to their cannon—


Stand to their cannon—They touch the linstock now—


The brazen mouths belch fire—


The brazen mouths belch fire—The smoke rolls over—


Up, winds, and send the echo! Let us hear

The terrible voice, the glorious voice of war!

[Confused noise, and chambers shot off within.


The wall is breached! Our lanskers storm the gap,

Crying, God save the Emperor!


Crying, God save the Emperor!Stones and chains

Are hurled upon them!


Are hurled upon them!Haro! still they go forward—


No, they give ground!


No, they give ground!Locked to and fro they sway—


They are repulsed again.


They are repulsed again.The town’s defenders

Make sortie through the breach.


Make sortie through the breach.Now, now our hosts,

The hosts of hell stride out between the armies!


A smother of smoke hides all.


A smother of smoke hides all.They march, they march,

The tall, infernal seraphim! O brave!

Raim, that once ruled as a throne in Heaven

Now like a raven spreads his sable pinions

And drives all backward.


And drives all backward.Focalor the duke

On griffin wings hovers before the Romans,

And by his art calls up the inky Styx

Bubbling about their feet; bogs of delusion

Snare them about.


Snare them about.They stumble and go down

Held in the stinking marsh. The water drowns them!


I see not this—only a mist of blackness

Shot through with flame.


Shot through with flame.Ha! the defenders rally!

Rank upon rank they crowd the wall. Our armies



Falter—The day is lost!


Falter—The day is lost!Strike, Halphas, strike,

Lord of the legions, builder and destroyer

Of towers!

[A great explosion.


Of towers!Well done! well done!


Of towers!Well done! well done!A monstrous mine

Bursts in the breach, and blows them all to pieces!

Arms, bodies, stones and fragments, nightmare faces,

And shattered engines tumbled together, falling—


O, fearful!


O, fearful!In! in! in! the town is taken!


Our hosts rush on—they carry all before them—


Swords out and forward pikes! The streets run blood,

The horses trample the fallen!


The horses trample the fallen!The Pope is fled

To the castle of Sant’ Angelo—


To the castle of Sant’ Angelo—They surround him—


Brands! brands! and fire in the city!

Empress (covering her eyes)

Brands! brands! and fire in the city!Enough! no more!


Visions away! The Emperor’s arms prevail.


Congratulations to your Majesty;

You are master now of Europe.


You are master now of Europe.Is the show ended?

I was enjoying myself. Begin again.

Mephistopheles (briskly)

Nothing more is needed. Your Majesty knows exactly where you stand. Write quickly now to your general, forbidding him to attack, and to all your brother sovereigns, explaining that the thing was done without your knowledge.

Emperor (to Secretary)

Put the letters in hand immediately.

Mephistopheles (aside)

Innocence and ignorance, most ravishing and blessed qualities, what should we do without you? If we have not set Europe at odds for four hundred years, my name is not Mephistopheles.


Will not the Pope take vengeance for this?


Never fear it. He is bound hand and foot. See where he stalks, a pallid phantom, the sport and puppet of Empire.

[The Phantom of the Pope appears, led in chains by Devils.


John Faustus! John Faustus!

Faustus (shrinking like a whipped cur)

Touch me not. Spare me. Let me go.


Courage, master. He cannot harm you. . . . There was a Pope once, scourged Faustus to the heart. He carries the sting in his memory. . . . Up, I say! What are you grovelling for?


Thou fool! This night shall thy soul be required of thee.

[The Phantoms pass away.

Faustus (laughing wildly)

Aha! did you hear that? The old fool dares to threaten me! Punish him, Mephistopheles! Away, old rogue! I will have you beaten, tortured, smothered in sulphur! Up, devils, and after him!


Master, be quiet.


Poor soul! he is distracted.


Leave him to me. (He shakes Faustus into subjection as one would shake a dog.) Come now. What will your friends think of you? Never mind the Pope. (Faustus growls angrily at the name.) I say, be quiet. Never mind him. (To the Empress.) Fear nothing, madam. This fit takes him at times, but his bark is worse than his bite. (To Faustus.) Peace, now. Consider. Is there no other entertainment we can show the Emperor? Some handsome compliment? Some pageant of victory?

Faustus (all eagerness)

Yes, yes. I am ready. What would your Majesty like to see?


Master, we will show him the thing he asked for, the longing of his inmost heart. Music, strike up!

[Music plays.

The sun is fled, and darkness folds the earth

Like the chill shade that steals before the eclipse.

[Wagner springs to his feet, dropping his book with a crash.

Rise up, thou star of evening, called by night

Hesperus, but in the morning, Lucifer,

And sometimes Venus, lady of love.


And sometimes Venus, lady of love.O master,

Look to thy soul, the sands are all run out.

[Enter the vision of Helen, veiled and carrying a wreath of laurel.

Emperor (rising)

What wondrous shape is this, that gliding moves

So like a goddess, and in her hand holds forth

The glittering laurel?


The glittering laurel?Learn and mark well her name.

She is all things to all men; and unto thee

The spirit of power, that like the will o’ the wisp

Flits on the waters of time, and lures men on

To victory or to death. She is the promise

Of golden phantasy, the worm in the brain,

The song in the soul; she is the world’s desire.

Gaze on her face, for men have died for her,

Great cities perished, gallant ships gone down,

Thrones and dynasties crumbled away to dust

For a glance of her eye. She is the unattained,

The unattainable.

Helen (standing high in the Emperor’s seat)

The unattainable.Crowns for the victor, crowns,

Riches and wisdom, honour and glory and blessing.


O, my heart burns. Unveil, thou wonder of women.


Beware, beware! It is glamour!

Mephistopheles (throwing back Helen’s veil)

Beware, beware! It is glamour!Have thy will.

Behold the face of Helen.

Faustus (as the Emperor springs forward)

Behold the face of Helen.Keep off! She is mine!


Stand back and let me not!


Stand back and let me not!Master, forbear!

[Faustus throws Wagner down. Exit Mephistopheles, back.


Give place, I say!


Give place, I say!O Heaven!

Faustus (drawing his sword)

Give place, I say!O Heaven!Look to thyself!


Will you lay hand upon the Emperor?

Treason! treason!

[Crowd rushes in and surrounds them. In the confusion, Helen is carried up back-stage by the Emperor and the Chancellor, and held in one of the entrances, with her back to the audience. As she goes, she drops the laurel wreath near Wagner. Empress in the arms of her ladies, left.

A Courtier

Treason! treason!Vile sorcerer!


Treason! treason!Vile sorcerer!Murderous dog!


Down with him! Down!


Down with him! Down!Help, Mephistopheles!

[His cry momentarily arrests the action. Mephistopheles reappears above Hell-mouth, right, flourishing the bond.


Faustus, the four-and-twenty years are past,

My service done. The devil claims his own.


Hell and damnation!

[He is dragged down upon the fore-stage. Azrael comes down out of Heaven and enters, left, bearing a black pall.

Hell and damnation!Wagner! Lisa! Christ!

Save me! Have pity!


Save me! Have pity!Strike now!


Save me! Have pity!Strike now!Bondsman of hell,

Die and be damned!


Die and be damned!Take that!


Die and be damned!Take that!O I am slain!

[As Faustus falls among the Crowd, there is a loud cry up-stage.


She’s fled! Helen is vanished! Melted away

Clean from our hands—only her garments left!

O sorcery!

[He comes down a little, holding Helen’s cloak.

Azrael (he is now on the fore-stage, with his back to the audience, and holding the pall spread out)

O sorcery!Princes and earthly powers

Pass like a pageant, and make room for death.

Cover the face of Faustus.

[Azrael and Wagner cover Faustus with the pall, and Azrael kneels beside the body, still with his back to the audience.

Wagner (rising)

Cover the face of Faustus.O dear master,

Now art thou gone to find reality.

May God remember all thy willing manhood,

Not thy refusal. This thy golden dream

Shall dwell with me; and I will be thine heir,

Hoping that hope may yet outdo despair.

[Exit Wagner carrying the laurel wreath. The stage empties of all except Azrael and Mephistopheles, who now comes down.


Thank you, Azrael. I will trouble you for that soul. You needn’t think you can sneak off with it. I saw you. It’s bought and paid for. Here is the bond. Be good enough to hand it over.

Azrael (who has the soul of Faustus in his arms, concealed in a bag)

Just a moment. Things must be done in an orderly way. The man is dead, and I have taken his soul in charge. That is my office. If you think you have any claim on the property, produce your evidence.

Mephistopheles (producing the bond)

There you are. Laugh that off.


It appears to be properly executed. Always supposing your client’s soul was his to sell.


And whose else should it be?


God’s, Who redeemed it.


Nonsense. You can’t get away with a legal quibble like that. The deed’s watertight, and you know it.


Well, you can take the soul on the security of the bond. But I shall enter a caveat, and appeal to the High Court.

[He hands the bag over.


You can enter anything you like. Come now, my little master, my high-and-mighty magician, let’s have a look at you. You’ve given me trouble enough. Let’s see how you like it when I’m the master! Believe me, my friend, I’ll make it hot for you. (He opens the bag and pulls out a Black Dog.) Here! What’s this? What’s happened to it? You rascally, cogging angel! You cozening celestial sharp and shyster! This isn’t the right soul!


It’s all the soul he’s got.


It’s a fraud! I’ve been tricked! That damned charlatan Faustus has cheated me. What’s the use of a thing like this?


That’s your affair. Caveat emptor.


It was a perfectly good soul when I bought it. And now, look at it!


It does seem to be rather out of repair. What have you been doing to it?


Great Lucifer! I like that. I been doing to it?


You’ve had it these twenty-four years. If that’s the way you treat the King’s property——


I’ll not stand it. God never plays fair. But I’ve got a clear case. I’ll have the law of you——


I’ll sue you for damages——


I’ll have my rights, I tell you. I will have justice!

[Without pause or shift of furniture, the action passes to the next Scene.


The Court of Heaven

[Heaven opens, and the Judge appears above.


Who calls on justice?


Who calls on justice?I, Mephistopheles.

I am defrauded of my rightful due,

Payment for four-and-twenty years of hard

Devoted, scrupulous, vigorous, swift, exacting,

Skilled and assiduous labour, by John Faustus

The conjurer of Wittenberg, and this

Smug-faced angel of yours.


Smug-faced angel of yours.Sir, I protest!

The fraud is all the other way. This fellow

Contracted with John Faustus for his soul,

Payable in exchange for value received,

The bond, post-dated, falling due to-day;

Which soul, I took in charge at Faustus’ death

In execution of my official duty,

Lock, stock, and barrel as it stood. He claimed

The same upon his bond, which seemed in order

So far as such things go. I handed over

The goods to him, entering a caveat

In the King’s name, as to the ownership,

Since it might well appear the vendor had

No title to give, barter, sell, exchange,

Mortgage or pawn or otherwise dispose of

Crown property. Well and good. But in the interim

(To wit, the four-and-twenty years expired)

This Mephistopheles, by his own act——


That I deny. It was the act of Faustus

Or Azrael, or God, or all of them——


Had so deformed the soul that it is useless

To God or him, Faustus or any one.

Therefore he claims: and first, against myself

That I did not deliver the true soul

But something substituted; or if I did,

Then against Faustus, for a wilful damage

Executed upon the soul, whereby

He should escape the explicit provision

Made by the bond; lastly, against the Crown,

That if it prove that Faustus or myself

Were acting in this matter as the King’s agent,

The Crown may quit the claim. To all of which

I answer by a counter-claim for damage

Done to the goods by Mephistopheles—

A wrong to Faustus, and a clear offence

Against God’s peace, His crown and dignity.


Set up my chair of justice in the court

Below there; I will give the cause prompt hearing.

[The Judge comes down.


Olimoth! Belimoth! (To Azrael.) Don’t you trouble, sir,

I’ll see to this. Lymeck! Bealphares!

[Enter Devils both sides.

A seat for Justice!

[Exeunt Devils and re-enter with a chair, etc.

(To Azrael.) This is nothing at all

To all the fetching and carrying, running about,

Materialising and dematerialising

This and that and the other, I’ve had to do

For Faustus—and of all the troublesome clients

Commend me to him.

[The Judge enters.

Commend me to him.Pray, sir, take your seat.

There is the body of the said John Faustus,

This is the bond, and this the soul in question.

[When the Judge has inspected the Soul, the Devils take it into the wings.


Show me the paper.


Show me the paper.Here. (Fussily.) You see it says

“I give my soul”—and “soul” in that connection

Must mean a human soul. I have been in business

Upon this planet several million years,

And it is always so interpreted.

But this alleged——


But this alleged——Stop talking, Mephistopheles.

Give me a moment to peruse the terms.

Why! What is this? “Agree to take away

The knowledge of good and evil”? Come now, my poor

Deluded and benighted imp of darkness,

What did you think would happen to the soul

When you did that to it?


When you did that to it?I did not know;

How should I? Never before, in all my long,

Industrious, strictly dishonourable career,

Have I been put to such a task as that.

It was hard work, but still, I did it.


It was hard work, but still, I did it.Yes:

Your zeal is your undoing. If I say

“Here is a sword of steel; I give it you

On one condition—that you treat it first

With the most powerful corrosive known

To alchemy”—what will the sword be like

By the time you claim it?


By the time you claim it?Well, but if in good faith

I take and treat the sword as you require,

Not knowing how corrosive acts on steel,

Which yet you knew before you gave the order,

Is that an honest bargain?


Is that an honest bargain?And suppose

The sword was borrowed, and belongs in fact

To the armoury of God, what will God say?


You have been swindled, Mephistopheles,

By accident, or by design, your own

Contributory negligence assisting.

Where were your wits? ’Tis true, the foes of God

Are not at any time remarkable

For logic or for common-sense. However,

There must be justice; and the point you urge,

Azrael, is well taken, since all souls

Are God’s indeed. Therefore these charges come

To rest on Faustus, who to you, and you,

And to God chiefly, is responsible.

We’ll hear the prisoner in his own defence.


Faustus hath made himself into a beast

And has no wit to answer more than a beast.


Truly; but since, in this high court of Heaven

Where time is not, the present, past and future

Are all as one, and answerable together

Eternally to Him that is eternal,

I call the prisoner. Wake, thou that sleepest!

Not as thou art, but as thou wast, John Faustus,

Rise up and answer at the bar of judgment.

[They take away the pall. Faustus wakes in his own body.

Faustus (as one dreaming)

Whither away, love? O return, return!


What? Dreaming still on Helen?


What? Dreaming still on Helen?Christ! Christ! Christ!

They have taken away my Lord these many years,

And I know not where they have laid Him. Sir, if you know,

Tell me, for I denied Him, and just now

I heard the crowing of the cock. How long

The night has been! And now the dawn is red

And a great storm coming . . . Hush! for I remember.

I bartered away my soul for ignorance,

In ignorance, not knowing what I did.

There has been cheating somewhere. I was not happy

Those four-and-twenty years. Something was lost

That makes for happiness. Yet I seemed to know

Pleasure of a sort, and pain too—but they slipped

Like water through my fingers, neither perceived

Fully, nor remembered fully, nor assessed

At any quotable value.


At any quotable value.Value exists

Not in the object, but the valuing mind;

The soul’s choice makes the value. Therefore ask

This poor brute soul thou madest for thyself

How it doth reckon value.

[Here a Devil shall show Faustus the Soul and retire again.


How it doth reckon value.I was cheated;

I did not bargain for a soul like this,

But for the primal innocence that was Adam’s

Before he fell to knowledge. Is it sin

To cancel out a sin? Does God love sin

To set such value on it? Or is He helpless

To undo the past; and did the devil speak truth?


All things God can do, but this thing He will not:

Unbind the chain of cause and consequence,

Or speed time’s arrow backward. When man chose

To know like God, he also chose to be

Judged by God’s values. Adam sinned, indeed,

And with him all mankind; and from that sin

God wrought a nobler virtue out for Adam,

And with him, all mankind. No soul can ’scape

That universal kinship and remain

Human—no man; not even God made man.

He, when He hung upon the fatal tree,

Felt all the passion of the world pierce through Him,

Nor shirked one moment of the ineluctable

Load of the years; but from the griefs of time

Wrought out the splendour of His eternity.

There is no waste with God; He cancels nothing

But redeems all.

Faustus (to Mephistopheles)

But redeems all.Serpent, thou didst deceive me!


So Adam said, and Eve; but I spoke truth

To them and thee. I warned thee that the truth

Would but beguile thee, as it beguiles all fools.

Thou askedst, What was I? and I spoke truth;

And who made evil? and I spoke the truth;

And what God was? and there I turned the question

Back upon thee, and thou didst answer it

According to thine own folly; but I spoke truth.


The truth, but not the whole truth, Mephistopheles.

The whole truth is the perfect sphere of Heaven;

The hollow half-truth is the empty dome

That roofs the hall of hell, mocking with echoing

Shards of distorted speech and the fiends’ laughter.


Laughter! I tell you I have split my sides!

These wiseacres, that are too clever to see

A plain fact in broad daylight. Up they come,

Sidling and bridling like a fretful horse,

Showing the white of the eye. “What, that a fact,

That tall, black, ugly fence? It can’t be true,

There must be some way round—the gate, if you please.”

And I am there—Oh, I am always there

To bow, and touch my hat, and take my fee

And open the gate that leads them into the circle,

The ring with the barriers, the closed ring, the place

From which there is no way, no way, no way out.


Love would have found the way, if way there were:

“Father, if it be possible, let this cup

Pass from Me.” But it was not possible, never

Has been nor will be possible. Over the fence

Is the only road. For all the by-ways run

Down to the circle, the closed circle of self

From which there is no way out.


From which there is no way out.There is no way out.

Mephistopheles (sings)

Jump little man,

As high as you can;

The way across

Is by thorn and cross;

But the only way round

Leads into the pound,

So hey, so ho,

And over you go.


You are too noisy. Silence in the court

The prisoner waits for judgment.


The prisoner waits for judgment.Yes, and I

Wait for my fee, which has been tampered with.

Here is the bond: “I, Faustus, give my soul

For such and such considerations”—all

Duly fulfilled by me; but where’s the soul?

That thing there, which you flatter by the name,

I have no use for; it is not as specified.

If there is justice in this court at all

The devil must have his due.

Judge (to Faustus)

The devil must have his due.You hear the charge

Preferred against you, on two counts. Imprimis:

That you did sell a soul for which Christ died;

A crime against God’s crown. Next, that the price,

Promised in God’s true gold, was paid in fact

With coin debased and worthless; a civil trespass

Against this gentleman. What have you to say?


I must admit the trespass, and the crime

That caused the trespass. I have no defence

Save ignorance; yet ignorance was itself

The very prize for which the crime was done;

Nor yet is ignorance a defence in law.

Speak thou, O righteous judge, for I am silent.


Poor, empty vessel whence the wine was spilt,

What shall we do with thee? Listen to judgment.

For this last time, God gives thee back again

The power to choose, weighing the good and evil—

A fearful option; yet no other course

Can justice take, since here thou standest bound

In thine own blood, and no remorse of thine

Can raze one jot or tittle from the law.

Hear, then, the dread alternative of choice;

And first, wilt thou, with that dumb changeling soul,

Incapable alike of hell or heaven,

Wander for evermore between the worlds

Unblest, undamned, unknowing?


Unblest, undamned, unknowing?Nor blest nor damned?

Merciful God, what kind of doom is this?


A gentle doom; sorrow shall never touch thee,

Nor pain, nor any question vex thee more;

Yea, though thy loss be wider than the world,

Or than a thousand thousand worlds at once,

Thou shalt not feel nor know it.


Thou shalt not feel nor know it.O, what loss?


A loss beyond all loss: to live content

Eternally, and never look on God;

Never behold the wonder of His face

Fiery with victory, bright above the burning

Wings of the cherubim; never to hear the loud

Exultation of trumpets shatter the sky

For the Lamb’s marriage-feast; nor drink the wine

Of God; nor feel the glad earth thrill to the tread

Of the tall, strong, unresting angels’ feet;

Nor know the dream of desire, that is beyond

All happiness; nor ever more to find

Beauty in sunlight, or the flowery fields,

Or in man’s heart; nor ever laugh again.


No, no, no, no!


No, no, no, no!Does ignorance not suffice thee?

Wilt thou have knowledge after all, John Faustus?

Take back thy soul, then, and fulfil the bond;

Go down with Mephistopheles to hell,

And through the bars of those relentless gates

Gaze on the glory of the Lord far off

And know that He is terrible and just.


No choice but this?


No choice but this?No other choice at all.


Either to lose God and not know the loss,

Nor even to remember God exists;

Or see the glories that I may not share,

And in the sharp hell of a lost desire

Burn on unquenchably.


Burn on unquenchably.So stands the choice.


O lost, lost, either way!


O lost, lost, either way!Excuse my laughter;

Justice hath pinned thee now in a cleft stick.

Writhe, my good friend, my toad beneath the harrow;

’Twill serve thee little, but no matter—squirm

For my amusement. How do you like this game?

You’re playing with cogged dice, cully—all sides alike.

Lend me an angel, we’ll toss for it; heads I win

And tails you lose. If you call “God!” and win,

Then I win you; and if you lose the throw,

Then you lose God; why then, call “tails,” and get

The tail of the dog there. Maybe this will teach you

To play chuck-farthing with your soul!


To play chuck-farthing with your soul!I stand

Between the devil and the deep seas of God

On a road that leads nowhither. This is strange—

The love of God urges my feet towards hell,

The devil that seeks to have me flings me back

Into God’s arms. Are you two allies, then,

Playing into each other’s hands, and grinning

Friendship across my frontiers? I will have

The truth of this, although the stink reek up

And blast the airs of Heaven! Thou, Mephistopheles,

Answer again, and this time all the truth,

Art thou God’s henchman or His master? Speak!

Who made thee?


Who made thee?God, as the light makes the shadow.


Is God, then, evil?


Is God, then, evil?God is only light,

And in the heart of the light, no shadow standeth,

Nor can I dwell within the light of Heaven

Where God is all.


Where God is all.What art thou, Mephistopheles?


I am the price that all things pay for being,

The shadow on the world, thrown by the world

Standing in its own light, which light God is.

So first, when matter was, I was called Change,

And next, when life began, I was called Pain,

And last, when knowledge was, I was called Evil;

Nothing myself, except to give a name

To these three values, Permanence, Pleasure, Good,

The Godward side of matter, life and knowledge.


Thus far, then, have I come to learn the truth

I taught my servant, many years ago:

“The sun can cast no shade; only the dark

Dead body of earth or moon can make eclipse

Of his perpetual radiance.” Thus I told him,

Being blind to my own parable; but he,

Knowing no syllable of sun or moon,

Walked in the light of the true innocence

To the end I sought for. Pity my blindness, sir,

For His dear sake that healed the blind and cast

The devils out——


The devils out——Hast thou learned nothing yet?

He’ll not reverse the past. The past is here

And thou must answer it.


And thou must answer it.O, by the Name

And power of Him that harrowed hell——


And power of Him that harrowed hell——Thou fool!

Thou juggling sorcerer! Thinkest thou with those

Same words wherewith thou once did’st conjure me

To conjure justice?


To conjure justice?Devil, thou didst speak truth,

And with thine own truth will I choke thee now

To the deep of thy false throat. Not in the words

Is power, but in the faith of him that speaks,

And in the person of the very Christ

In Whom stands all the meaning of creation.

Words? They are rags, tags, fluttering remnants blown

Along the winds of fancy; only in Him

Is neither variableness nor shadow of turning.

Sir, I beseech thee, as thou art all truth,

Answer me truly; in this desperate choice

What would God have me do?


What would God have me do?I may not tell thee.

Only the knowledge of the good and evil

Gained once by sin, by double sin rejected,

Restored again by grace, is granted thee

For guidance. Thou must choose and choose alone.


Why, this is better than a circus! Round

And round again till you’re giddy, faster and faster

Round the closed circle. I met you first in a circle——

You should know something of circles. You’re well inside

Dodging the ring-master there, with the hoop in his hand

And the lash at your heels. Faster and faster, Faustus,

Round and round, and then—the crack of the whip

And through the hoop you go. So, Faustus, choose

In the devil’s name.


In the devil’s name.In the name of the most high God

Choose, Faustus, and for ever.


Choose, Faustus, and for ever.I have chosen.

I will go down with Mephistopheles

To the nethermost pit of fire unquenchable

Where no hope is, and over the pathless gulf

Look up to God. Beyond that gulf I may

Never pass over, nor any saint nor angel

Descend to me. Nevertheless, I know

Whose feet can tread the fire as once the water,

And I will call upon Him out of the deep,

Out of the deep, O Lord.


Out of the deep, O Lord.Art now so bold

To call down God, thou that aforetime didst

With cowardly conjurations call up devils?

Then tell me: art thou able to be baptised

With Christ’s most bitter baptism, or to drink

The cup that all His shuddering mortal flesh

Shrank from, yet drank, down to the dark dregs, driven

By the strong spirit?


By the strong spirit?I dare not say I am able.

Yet I say this: that nothing thou canst do

Shall threat me from the quest of Christ eternal.

Yea, though thou stand with thy keen sword made bare

To keep me from Him, and have at thy command

In ninefold rank the terrible hosts of Heaven,

Yet will I seek Him. If I go down to hell

He is there also; or if He stand without,

My hands shall batter against hell’s brazen gates

Till the strong bars burst asunder and let Him in.

Then will I seize Him, then fall down before Him,

Cling to His garments, hold Him fast by the feet,

Cry in His ear, “I will not let Thee go

Except Thou bless me. Even the unjust judge

Heard the poor widow, and Thou shalt hear me!

Spare not Thy rod, for Thou hast borne the rod,

Quench not Thy fire, for Thou didst pass through fire,

Only be with me!”


Only be with me!”This is brave indeed!


Mock me not, nothingness; I have found courage

In Him that never feared to look on sorrow,

And though He slay me, I will trust in Him.


Then, Faustus, thou art mine!


Then, Faustus, thou art mine!Thine here and now,

But wheresoever and whensoever, God’s.

Sir, I am ready.


Sir, I am ready.Come on, my violent friend.


The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence,

And violent men may take it by assault

In the last breach of despair. Thus all things come

To their own place at last, the tares to the burning

And the good grain to God.

(To Mephistopheles.) Thou hast claimed thine own.

It is thine. Burn it. Touch not my good grain,

I shall require it at thy hand some day;

And for thou knowest that thy time is short,

Be diligent.


Be diligent.I’ll warrant thee for that.

Open the gates there!

[Hell-mouth opens.


Open the gates there!Faustus, look on me;

Through the harsh mask of judgment read my soul,

And when I meet thee at the gates of hell,

Know me again.


Know me again.Slay me, but leave me not.


Lo! I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee

Even to the world’s end. Take him, Mephistopheles,

And purge him throughly, till he find himself,

As I have found him mine. God is not robbed;

And I will bring mine own as I did sometime

From the deep of the sea again.


From the deep of the sea again.From the deep of the sea.

[Faustus is led away by Mephistopheles to Hell, Azrael and the Dog accompanying him. The Judge goes up into Heaven.

Devils (below)

Deep calleth unto deep with the noise of the cataracts.


Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord; Lord,

hear my voice.

Devils (below)

Sheol is naked before Him, and Abaddon hath no covering.


O let Thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.

Devils (below)

They lie in the hell like sheep, death gnaweth upon them;

their beauty shall consume in the sepulchre.


But God hath delivered my soul from the place of hell, for

He shall receive me.

[The Judge being now come up into Heaven, the gates are opened with a great light. Faustus at Hell’s mouth sees the glory of Heaven.

Angels (above)

Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may

look upon thee.


If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss.

Devils (below)

Where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.

Angels (above)

But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.

[Faustus follows Mephistopheles into Hell, and the Dog with him. Hell-mouth is shut upon them.

Chorus (while Azrael returns into Heaven)

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.

That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the canker-worm eaten.

A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth.

Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision.


Rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God;

And I will restore unto you the years which the locust hath eaten.

Multitudes, multitudes—I beheld, and lo! a great multitude,

Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.


Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing;

Blessing and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Alleluia. Amen.



A Nativity Play in One Act

Copyright 1939 by Dorothy L. Sayers


All rights in the play are reserved by the Author and enquiries

regarding the dramatic rights should be addressed to Margery

Vosper Ltd., 32 Shaftesbury Avenue, W.1 (in association with

Pearn, Pollinger & Higham Ltd.)


He That Should Come was originally written for broadcasting, and its adaptation for the stage has presented certain difficulties, owing to the difference between the two media. The main dialogue seemed to require little alteration; the trouble begins with the background and subsidiary characters.

The intention of the play is to show the birth of Christ against its crowded social and historical background, and for that purpose it was necessary to make real to the audience the bustling and variegated life of an autonomous province in the great, sprawling, heterogeneous Roman Empire of the first century. The inn was to be shown crowded with as many and various types as possible—the orthodox Pharisee, with his rigidly national religious views; the Hellenised Jew, with his liberal outlook influenced by contact with Rome; the Greek, with his intellectual pliability and sceptical detachment; the trader, treading warily on thorny political ground and anxious to give offence to nobody; the peasant, earning a precarious livelihood amid the hurly-burly of conflicting forces perpetually threatening his small security; behind them all, the ruthless tyranny of a self-made Oriental despot, ruling a strange mixed province of strict Jews in the south and fierce heathen tribes in the north; and behind him again, the iron strength of Rome, legal, military, and imperial, caring nothing for internal politics or religious disputes so long as her tributaries kept the peace and paid the taxes.

To obtain this effect, the scene was laid, not with particular reference to the traditional cave at Bethlehem, but in an Oriental inn of the usual kind, consisting of a two-storied rectangular building surrounding an open courtyard, somewhat after the style of a college quadrangle. In the centre of the courtyard was a raised platform, on which the travellers sat or lay, surrounded by their luggage. The ground floor of the building consisted of a series of vaulted stables carrying the chambers on the first floor, over which was a flat roof. The inn had a gate, which was barred at night against marauders. The inn is supposed to be situated on the road going up from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

It thus became possible to introduce all the necessary characters quite plausibly into this common courtyard. For the purpose of a broadcast, the crowded condition of the inn was sufficiently indicated by introducing a few allusions to the throng of travellers and by fading in a babble of voices at appropriate points in the dialogue. Attention was easily focused on one point or another of the scene by conveying the suggestion of the character picking his way among the assembled travellers, and by inserting a line to announce his arrival at the gate, the stable, the Centurion’s post, and so forth.

This scene, so excellently suitable for a broadcast, at once offers difficulties in the theatre, where the crowd of travellers has not merely to be indicated, but to be seen in action and kept continually on the stage. Having once introduced the characters, you cannot move them off and leave the stage clear, because it is the whole point of the story that the inn was crowded to suffocation and that there was no clear space. In consequence, the stage being thus crowded and obliged to remain crowded, it becomes very difficult to move the actors naturally from one point to another, or to give the “background characters” anything sensible to do without distracting attention from the speakers. A subsidiary difficulty was to bring the various groups, as they became important to the action, into a sufficiently commanding position and not leave them isolated up-stage or blocked in inconvenient doorways to right and left.

I have coped with these difficulties as well as I could, bearing in mind that the play may be acted by repertory or amateur companies having at their disposal stages of widely varying dimensions and lighting equipment. The play as here arranged allows for the largest stage and the largest company that are likely to be available. There are fifteen characters necessary for the performance of the dialogue; to these I have added nine subsidiary characters to bring the cast up to twenty-four. These, with a proper allowance of baggage and other properties, should be enough to produce a quite convincing crowd on a stage of reasonable dimensions. The actual “crowding-space” of the stage will be governed by the size of the central rostrum, where this is available, and the scenery or curtains can be brought in accordingly.

Where the stage is insufficiently large to accommodate the full cast, the minor characters can be cut down at will, and the “background” dialogue altered to fit the situation. The guiding principle to be taken is to ask: How many people will give an effect of real crowding on this particular stage? and to work from that figure. Where the smallness of the stage or of the available company requires the cast to be limited to the fifteen principal characters, the Landlady’s call for a midwife can be answered from off-stage, as though from the upper storey of the inn.

In the absence of built scenery, the play can very suitably be performed in curtains; an inner set of these can be bunched so as to suggest the archways alluded to in the text. The stage directions allow for either one or two archways on either side, according to the depth of the stage. Where there are two, the directions “right” and “left” should be taken to refer to the lower entrances and the directions in brackets (R.U.) and (L.U.) to the upper entrances.

If the play is performed in a church without scenery or curtains, it is suggested that the entrance to the choir should be screened off and opened to display the tableau of the Holy Family. The exits right and left can then be suitably made into the aisle or transept as the case may be, whose arches will supply the appropriate suggestion.

What is done with the Kings during the main action of the play depends upon the means at the producer’s disposal. I have made one or two suggestions, according as the building is furnished with one or more sets of front curtains and with more or less elaborate front-of-house lighting. If the play is given in a church without curtain, the Kings might very suitably enter from the west door, through the darkened nave, and be lit by a single spot or a strong electric torch till the time comes to light the whole scene. It would then be symbolically appropriate that they should make their exit eastward, if possible, up either side of the choir towards the Sanctuary, with the light of a torch going before them to represent the Star.

The action of the play should take about an hour. If it is found too long, the Greek Gentleman’s Song and the second verse of the Soldiers’ Marching Song may be cut. In the original broadcast the long speeches of the Kings were also omitted; but this cut is not recommended. As accompaniment to the songs, a harp, lute, guitar (if that is the best available), or other plucked string instrument will give the right effect; orchestral or organ accompaniments are quite unsuitable. A piano would do at a pinch; a harpsichord still better.

The whole effect and character of the play depend on its being played in an absolutely natural and realistic style. Any touch of the ecclesiastical intonation or of “religious unction” will destroy its intention. The whole idea in writing it was to show the miracle that was to change the whole course of human life enacted in a world casual, inattentive, contemptuous, absorbed in its own affairs and completely unaware of what was happening: to illustrate, in fact, the tremendous irony of history. It may be found advisable to make this point clear to the actors before they start, lest some preconceptions as to what is or is not “reverent” in a Nativity Play should hamper the freedom of their performance. I feel sure that it is in the interests of a true reverence towards the Incarnate Godhead to show that His Manhood was a real manhood, subject to the common realities of daily life; that the men and women surrounding Him were living human beings, not just characters in a story; that, in short, He was born, not into “the Bible,” but into the world. That an audience will take the play in this spirit is proved to me by the various letters I received after the first broadcast. As one man in a country village put it, “It’s nice to think that people in the Bible were folks like us.” And another correspondent: “None of us realised before how much we had just accepted the story without properly visualising it. It . . . brought home to us as never before the real humanity of Jesus.” There will always be a few voices raised to protest against the introduction of “reality” into religion; but I feel that the great obstacle in the path of Christianity to-day is that to so many it has become unreal, shadowy, “a tale that is told,” so that it is of the utmost importance to remind people by every means in our power that the thing actually happened—that it is, and was from the beginning, closely in contact with real life.

I found that the broadcasting company really enjoyed playing in this little piece of “real-life” drama, and hope that it will prove itself “good theatre” in a different medium. Since I have had no chance to try out the adaptation with actors upon a stage, I shall be very glad if producers will let me or my agents know how it works out in practice, and what devices their ingenuity has used to get over the obvious “snags” in presentation, so that, if necessary, I may revise the text in the light of their experience.

Dorothy L. Sayers.

He That Should Come was first performed in the original broadcast version on the London National Transmission from Broadcasting House on Christmas Day, 1938, with the following cast:

CasparHarcourt Williams
MelchiorWilliam Devlin
BalthazarRobert Adams
MerchantHenry Longhurst
Greek GentlemanRobert Farquharson
PhariseeAlan Wheatley
CenturionGordon McLeod
LandlordPhilip Wade
LandladyMarjorie Fielding
JosephPatrick Curwen
MaryGwen Catley
Jewish GentlemanRaf de la Torre
1st ShepherdWallace Evenett
2nd ShepherdFrederick Peisley
3rd ShepherdPat Laffan

Barry Faber, Angela Kirk and the B.B.C. Singers


The Music composed by Robert Chignell


Producer: Val Gielgud

The present version has been adapted for Stage Performance by the author. The music may be had on loan from Dorothy Allen, 32 Shaftesbury Avenue, W.1 (acting in association with Messrs. Pearn, Pollinger & Higham Ltd.), to whom all applications for performing rights should be addressed.


Persons of the Prologue and Epilogue

Caspar, King of Chaldea, an aged man.

Melchior, King of Pamphylia, a man in the prime of life.

Balthazar, King of Ethiopia, a young negro.

Persons of the Play

The Jewish Merchant, a stout man with a plummy voice.

The Pharisee, a tall, thin and severe man.

The Young Greek Gentleman, a suave young man, with a foreign accent.

The Jewish Gentleman, the “Oxford Graduate” of the period.

The Roman Centurion, the very best type of non-commissioned officer.

The Landlord, a square-built, husky-voiced person, with a wholesome terror of the law.

The Landlady, a harassed woman with a shrill voice.

Joseph, a mild, courteous man, with the plain dignity of the skilled artisan.

Mary, a serene, sweet-voiced woman, with an air of great stillness about her.

1st Shepherd, an elderly peasant.

2nd Shepherd, a middle-aged peasant.

3rd Shepherd, a young peasant.


Two Roman Soldiers—A Husband and Wife—A Father, Mother and Little Boy—A Manservant—A Maidservant.


[The Prologue is played upon the fore-stage. If there is a front curtain as well as tableaux curtains, it rises to discover Melchior. If not, Melchior should enter in darkness before the curtain, and a steel spot be gradually turned up to reveal him, sitting left of stage.

Melchior (sings to the tinkling of a lute)

High upon the holy tree

      (Whither away, love?)

Dragon-guarded ceaselessly

      (Whither away?)

There hangs the splendour sought of old,

The lamb, the ram, the fleece of gold

      (Colchis, O Colchis,

      Give me my heart again!)

[Enter Caspar. He speaks out of the darkness, right.


What traveller is that,

Sitting and singing beside the desert fountain,

Challenging with his frail music

This blinding silence of silver midnight,

Brighter than moonlight, whiter than sunlight,

This unaccustomed miracle of sevenfold starlight?

Melchior (rising)

I am a Greek,

Born in the West, on the shores of the Mediterranean,

A European, in fact. I am not afraid of a thing

Merely because it is unaccustomed. Our instinct

Is to challenge destiny. That is why I am here.

There is a muttering among the oracles,

A song in the poets’ mouths. They tell of a child

That shall shake off the iron yoke of necessity,

Bring back the golden age and the brave Saturnian reign.

He hath set up his sceptre in the sky; very well;

It is my duty to find out the truth about this;

I am a ruler, I owe my people the truth;

And on my people’s behalf I have ridden hither,

Melchior, King of Pamphylia, surnamed “the Just,”

Following the Star.

Caspar (coming forward into the light)

I am an astrologer; I have watched from the high towers

Nightly the signs of heaven stride

Through the houses of fate in the turning horoscope.

I have seen this new star turn and burn

Slowly out of the east, leaping from cusp to cusp,

Till now it sits ruling the house of life;

And I have asked myself what god should be born

From this astonishing conjunction. Therefore am I come,

Caspar, King of Chaldea, surnamed “the Wise,”

Following the Star.


Listen! the sound of bells—

Another traveller comes, riding upon a camel,

With a train of swift camels. His face is as the night,

His eyeballs glint white in the night of his face. Who’s there?

[Enter Balthazar, right, and speaks out of the darkness.


Out of the darkness, out of the desert,

Beyond the secret springs of the Nile

I have seen the fire of desire flare in the zenith

Scaring the crocodiles under the shadow of the pyramids.

The dusky gods have trembled, the witch-dancers are struck down

In the midst of their dances.

A cry is gone up in the halls of the dead, from the seven gates of the dead,

The cry of Isis over Osiris slain,

The birth-cry of Horus.

This is the end or else the beginning of all things,

And sorrow either way, between a cry and a cry;

[He comes into the light.

Therefore I come, seeking the soul of sorrow,

Balthazar, King of Ethiopia, surnamed “the Servant,”

Following the Star.


Yonder it stands, and yonder, by my reckoning,

The City of Jerusalem, a twelve-days’ journey hence.


Strangely are we met, Wisdom, Justice, and Service,

Following the Star, seeking we know not what.

Balthazar (standing between them)

Magi, my brothers, let us take counsel of the crystal—

I hold it in my dark hand, shining against the darkness of my hand;

Let the crystal display to us what shall be the end of the journey.

[He kneels down.


Will he come, will he speak at last, the ultimate wisdom,

The unalterable truth behind and above the appearance?

I have studied all the philosophies, and now I am old;

Every day I care less about life and death, sorrow and happiness—

I ask only that what we see shall correspond to something,

Beautiful or terrible, but constant in some way or other.

We build the house of thought, stone upon stone,

And just as we have finished the topmost pinnacle

There comes a grinning doubt and pulls away the foundation.

One has to assume something before one can think at all,

If it is only the validity of one’s own thinking,

Or one’s immediate perceptions,

Or the numerical proposition that two and two make four.

Give me a single integer and I will build up the universe,

Star upon flaming star, and the singing orbits of planets,

And the springing sap, and the life in the blood, and splendour,

Beauty and love and grief and the promise of immortality—

Only, it is from the universe that I deduce the integer

From which to deduce the universe again;

And thus all knowledge is only a vicious circle

Ceaselessly spinning upon the axis of nothing.

Nor can I even be sure that everything,

Including myself, is nothing,

Since it is in myself that I find the all and the nothing;

And it may be that nothingness is in itself an illusion,

The last illusion of all.

[Caspar kneels.


I will accept the illusions;

I do not mind whether they are illusions or not,

I am not interested in dogma, I want a religion that works;

What I look for is good government,

A reasonable way of life, within the terms of the illusion.

If there is nothing at the end of it, be it so—there is nothing;

But in the meantime, can we not achieve a little decency,

A little dignity,

A pattern of some kind, such as we make so easily

For a curtain or a cornice, which does not matter at all,

But cannot make for our lives, which matter a great deal,

Or, at any rate, seem to matter? Always we hope for a formula,

The master-word, the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life,

The abracadabra that settles everything—

The formula of empire, the formula of liberty,

The formula of isolation, the formula of collective security,

The formula of discipline, the formula of self-expression,

And all the rest of it.

Always we are disappointed, always there are complications,

There does not seem to be any simple rule

To make things go smoothly.

We have wasted too much time in quarrelling and asking questions;

Let us put our trust in a personality

Capable of commanding our loyalty—strength

And leadership, and calm hands ordering everything,

And the government shall be upon his shoulder, lord of lords, and king of kings.

[Melchior kneels.


How much you need to content you!

The wisdom that sets the soul beyond the reach of suffering,

The power to abolish suffering. I am more humble;

I do not mind being ignorant and unhappy—

All I ask is the assurance that I am not alone,

Some courage, some comfort against this burden of fear and pain.

I am a servant, born of the seed of Ham,

The oppressed, the accurst;

My skin is black with the punishing fury of the sun.

About my palaces the jungle creeps and whines,

Famine and plague are my fireside companions,

And beyond the circle of the fire, the glare of hungry eyes.

The lion sits by the water-hole, where the women go down to wash,

In the branches crouches the leopard.

I look out between the strangling branches of the vine and see

Fear in the east, fear in the west; armies

And banners marching and garments rolled in blood.

Yet this is nothing, if only God will not be indifferent,

If He is beside me, bearing the weight of His own creation;

If I may hear His voice among the voices of the vanquished,

If I may feel His hand touch mine in the darkness,

If I may look upon the hidden face of God

And read in the eyes of God

That He is acquainted with grief.


Gather the rays of the Star into the crystal.


Look, and see the shape of things afar off.


Listen, and hear the shadows speak in the crystal.

[A murmur of movements and voices behind the tableaux curtains or gauzes.


See! the light stirs and blurs to a pale cloud in the crystal—


Like an opal, with green fire darting and parting at the core!


Look and listen! the life of the world is born in the heart of the crystal.

[The spot is gradually dimmed down upon the Three Kings, who may then make their exit in the black-out, or, if preferred, they may remain upon the stage throughout the action of the play.

If gauzes are available, the lights behind them will be brought up slowly on the dimmers as the spot fades during the Kings’ last three lines, and the gauzes taken up in succession during the opening conversation in the inn.

Where there are no gauzes, the tableaux curtains will be opened at cue on the fully-lit scene.

Suggested Lighting: Steel in the front spots; blue and white in No. 3 batten; steel arena flood on check centre for star over stable; amber flood shining down staircase left (L.U.) and steel flood through doorway to gate, right; red light in braziers, reinforced by spots if necessary. The impression to be conveyed is of an unroofed courtyard on a brilliant star-light night.

The Stable of the Nativity can be lit by a white batten, or by a couple of baby spots centred upon the Holy Child.

[The voices of the travellers are heard before the curtains are opened. The four following pages must be played at top speed.


Landlord! Landlord!

Another Voice (fading off, left)

Three of us and six servants, and see that the brown mule gets a good rub down.


Landlord! Landlord!


T’ch, t’ck! Git over there!


Held up twice between here and Jericho. What the Government thinks it’s doing. . . .

1st Soldier

Best of three!

2nd Soldier

My belt against your Persian dagger.

Jewish Gentleman

Look sharp, my lad, with that jug of wine.


Yes, sir! Yes, sir! Coming in a minute.


Really, Ezra, am I to stand here all night?

[The curtains open. The centre of the stage is occupied by a rectangular platform, its down-stage edge lying just behind the curtain line. A passage runs round the back and both sides at stage level. At the back are three archways, leading to the stables; their entrances (R.B., C.B. and L.B.) are concealed by rough hangings of sacking. Similar archways, at the sides of the stage, lead, on the right to the gateway of the inn, on the left to a staircase going up to the roof. (Note.If the depth of the stage permits, there may be two of these entrances either side, in which case the lower right entrance will lead to the gate, and the upper left to the stairs. See p. 217.) Behind the centre archway at the back is the Stable of the Nativity, the floor of which is raised somewhat above the level of the platform. Both platform and passage-way are obstructed by baggage of every description—mattresses, saddle-bags, saddles, cooking utensils, and so forth. On the right, the Greek Gentleman has just entered, and is working his way centre. Near right entrance sprawl a couple of Roman Soldiers, entertaining themselves with a dice-box and a large pot of beer. Well down, and a little right of centre, the Pharisee is sitting, with the Landlord in attendance. Just above centre, a Peasant Father and Mother have established themselves with their Little Boy; a Maidservant is filling their pitcher with water and giggling at Father. Right of centre the respectable Husband and Wife are standing surrounded by luggage, and looking rather helpless. Above and left of them stands the Merchant, and a little above between them and the family party stands the Roman Centurion, checking over the papers of the Jewish Gentleman. Right back a Manservant is carrying a bundle of fodder into the stable. All through the opening dialogue the Pharisee sits severely silent, reading a scroll.


Of course not, my dear. (He beckons to the Maidservant.) Here, girl, here! (The Girl is being chucked under the chin by the Father, and pays no attention.)


Give over, now, do!

Landlady (entering left (L.U.), shrilly)

Now then, you lazy baggage! Water and towels for the party upstairs.


Yes, madam. (She hurries off, left (L.U.).)

Husband (trying in vain to detain her)

The service in these inns is disgraceful!


Is there nobody here to attend to a lady?

Landlord (coming up-stage)

Wife, here’s a lady wants you.


Gentleman upstairs wants these cleaned. (She dumps a cloak and a pair of boots into his arms. He takes them off, right (R.U.).) Yes, madam? (She attends to Wife.)

Manservant (coming down to Jewish Gentleman with wine)

Sorry to keep you waiting, sir. We’re run off our feet with the rush.


Mother! Mother! I want a piece of cake.

[Centurion goes centre and speaks to Greek Gentleman.


Cake, indeed! You’ll wait till supper’s ready.

Greek Gentleman

Native of Bethlehem? Heaven forbid! We’re going on to Jerusalem. (He comes down to Merchant.)

Father (catching Manservant as he returns centre)

Give us a hand with the pack-saddle, can’t you? (They go up towards stable, back (L.B.). The Centurion has meanwhile crossed right, and is watching the Soldiers at their game.)

1st Soldier

The gods to aid! (Throws dice.) Venus, by Bacchus!

2nd Soldier

Curse it! You’ve cleaned me out. (Drinks.)

1st Soldier

That’s no reason to swill all the beer. (Snatches pot from him. Scuffle.)


Find us a nice quiet spot, away from those drunken soldiers.

[Her Husband leads her across left, above Merchant and his baggage.

Manservant (off, back)

Steady, hoss, steady. So-ho there!

Jewish Gentleman

Hey, you! Take those damned camels where my horse can’t wind ’em! (He dashes out (R.B.).)

Merchant (down, left)

Taxes! that’s what it means, more taxes! Why else should they take a census? Just idle curiosity on the part of the Imperial Government?

Greek Gentleman

Well, sir, I imagine they must find occupation for the staff at the Home Office. Besides, the Emperor takes a great interest in vital statistics.


Vital statistics my foot! They mean to clap on a poll-tax, you see if they don’t. As if we weren’t squeezed and badgered enough already, what with Imperial taxes and the King’s taxes, customs, excise, land-tax, house-tax, and now this monstrous new stamp-duty on sales. Trade, sir, trade is the life-blood of the country, and they’re strangling it, deliberately doing all they can to strangle it, with these iniquitous exactions. But there! I can tell by your speech you’re a foreigner. Perhaps they manage things better where you come from. (Sits on Husband’s baggage, left.)

Greek Gentleman

I am a Greek, sir; Philip is my name. I am travelling to Jerusalem with letters of introduction to the King’s historian. I dabble a little in letters—oh, very amateurishly, I assure you—and have foolishly undertaken to write a trifling study of social and economic conditions in the Roman provinces. Anything I can learn about the effect of legislation on commerce is of great assistance to my ignorance.

[Landlord re-enters right (R.U.) and checks papers with Centurion; they move up back.


Well, you can put it in your book, sir, that the effect of this kind of legislation is disastrous. I don’t mince words, I say disastrous. Between the King and the Emperor, we’re between the upper and the nether millstones. The King pampers the labouring classes at the expense of respectable citizens, and the Emperor makes it his business to thrust a crowbar into the wheels at every opportunity. . . .


Confound you, sir, that’s my bag you’re sitting on. (He jerks his luggage away and returns up left.)


. . . It’s a scandal to disturb honest tradesmen at the busiest time of the year, and send them trapesing up and down the country, just to get themselves registered at some infernal village where they had the misfortune to be born. Here’s weeks of valuable time wasted—not to mention the peril to life and limb.

[Landlady works up and off, left (L.U.).

Greek Gentleman

Certainly the roads are in a shocking state—and terribly congested.

[Jewish Gentleman comes out of stable (L.B.) and goes in again (R.B.).


Congested? That’s nothing. They’re not safe, my good sir, they’re not safe! Bandits and revolutionaries lurking in every thicket. My heart was in my mouth all the way, and we passed some most ruffianly-looking characters in the hill-country near Beth-Horon. I suppose, by the way, you don’t know anybody who’s travelling back in that direction, and would permit me to join his company?

Greek Gentleman

I’m afraid not. I’m a stranger here myself, you know. But we might ask the Roman centurion over there. He seems to be checking up on the arrivals.


Thank you, thank you, that’s an excellent suggestion. Will you add to your kindness by accompanying me? I don’t like the look of some of these people—I’m sure they’d pick your purse as soon as look at you. (They move up centre. To Wife) Excuse me, madam, I wish to speak to the Centurion. (To Husband) Allow me, sir. (They grudgingly make way for him.) This place is dreadfully overcrowded. (He encounters Manservant and Father, returning from the stable, their shoulders laden with a pack-saddle, goatskins, cooking utensils, etc.) Pray let me pass, my good fellows. (They shove past him, thrusting him aside upon the Boy, who utters a sharp yell.) Oh, I beg your pardon, I didn’t see your little boy; I hope I’ve not hurt him.

Mother (venomously)

Some people want all the place to themselves!

[In the meantime, the Centurion has moved across with the Landlord to the left upper corner of the stage, and is as far off as ever. The Merchant, with a despairing cry, darts after him in this new direction, and becomes involved with the Landlady and the Maidservant, who enter left (L.U.), bringing some cooked food to the Husband and Wife.


Dear, dear, I’m sorry. How clumsy of me! Pardon, pardon.

Landlady (looking daggers)

Granted, I’m sure.

[The Centurion and Landlord come halfway down by passage, left; the Merchant following. The Greek Gentleman, smiling imperturbably, insinuates himself neatly through the crowd in the Merchant’s wake, and everybody thinks him charming.

Merchant (arriving at last)

Good evening, Captain. Can you spare me just a moment of your time?


In one minute, sir. Here, landlord, all these papers seem to be in order. I shouldn’t think there’d be any more arrivals now. You’d better close the gates.


Yes, Captain. Thank you, Captain. I don’t see how we could take anybody else if they did come. (Shouting.) Porter, bar the gates!

Porter (shouting off, right)

There’s another party here wants to come in.


What’s that?


There’s a party here with a donkey. I’ve told ’em there ain’t no room.


All right, I’ll come myself. (He comes down left and starts to cross behind Pharisee, turning as he goes to speak to the Centurion.) There wasn’t anything further, was there, Captain?


No, that’s all right. Carry on.

[Exit Landlord, right.

Now, Master Merchant, what can I do for you?


I was wondering, Captain, whether you knew of anyone who would be returning by way of Beth-Horon?


Well, let me see, now. Why, yes, there’s a young gentleman going through that way to-morrow as far as Lydda. I forget his name, but you’ll find him somewhere about, wearing a Roman dress and a green cloak.


Thank you, Captain, thank you. I am going to Lydda myself.

[Re-enter, right, Landlord. He backs in, making expostulatory gestures. Joseph follows, pleading with him. Mary comes quietly behind Joseph.

Is he a wealthy gentleman, with plenty of armed servants? Do you think he would permit me to join his party?


No, no, no, I tell you.


Yes, but do listen a moment. . .

[Landlady works across to them.

Centurion (to Merchant)

Couldn’t say, I’m sure, sir. You’d better ask him. (His eye has been caught by the little disturbance on the other side of the stage.) Excuse me, the landlord seems to be having a spot of bother over there. I’ll have to go and keep an eye on it. Now then, good people, out of my way, please! (He strides unceremoniously across the centre of the stage.)

Manservant (obsequiously)

Clear the way for the Captain!

Mother (snatching her Boy out of the way)

Look out, here’s the Centurion coming.

Father (finding himself accidentally blocking the Centurion’s path and being unceremoniously shoved aside)

Beg your pardon, Captain. (Aside.) Damn your Roman insolence!

Centurion (whisking round)



Nothing, Captain.

[Meanwhile the Merchant and the Greek Gentleman have wandered off left to look for the Jewish Gentleman.


I’m sorry, my good man, I tell you it’s absolutely impossible.


I implore you, good host, in the name of all the Prophets. . .


Be reasonable, man. I don’t mean it unkindly. It can’t be done, that’s all. We’re packed right out—aren’t we, wife?


Packed out? I should think we were. I’m sure I don’t know how we shall manage as it is. Not an inch of space down here, as you can see for yourselves, and they’re sleeping on the roof head to tail like herrings in a basket. Indecent, I call it. The Government’s got no right to land poor innkeepers in such a pickle.


Now then, ma’am. What’s the trouble here?


Good soldier, can you help us to find a lodging for the night? We have sought everywhere in the town, and this is our last hope.


And I’m telling him, Captain, we haven’t so much as a corner. They’ll have to push on to Jerusalem.


It’s only five miles, and it’s a big place.


Alas! sir, it’s very late and a bad road. Will you not persuade this worthy couple to give us a shake-down somewhere? We are not particular. As you see, we are humble folk, and there are only the two of us.


Yes, and like to be three of you before long, I reckon.


Indeed, that’s true. My wife is in no fit state to travel farther. Besides, our journey ends here.


Captain, you can see we are not to blame——


Wait a bit, wait a bit. Let’s get this straight. You, good master, what’s your name?


I am called Joseph ben Heli, and this is Mary, my wife.






Place of residence?


Nazareth in Galilee.




Of the house and lineage of David.


Of David, eh? And this is the city of David?


Yes, Captain.


And therefore the proper place for you to get yourselves registered?


Yes, Captain.


I see. Well, it does seem a bit hard to move you on, especially as your good lady is so near her time. What do you say, landlord? Can’t you shift some of the baggage and give them shelter under the arches?

[During the following conversation, Manservant and Maidservant bring in three braziers, placing one for the Mother, who uses it to cook supper, one just below the Husband and Wife, and the third near the Pharisee.


Don’t see how we can, sir. We’ve got all the servants of these ladies and gentlemen bedded down there as it is. You couldn’t put a pin between ’em. It’s not my fault if people will travel with such a lot of attendants. Inconsiderate, I call it, but there you are.


How about the stables? Is there any room there?


Well, I dunno about that. Let me see now—it means getting their ass in as well. Could you lie along of the ass, mistress?


Yes, indeed we could. She’s a quiet good creature and gives no trouble, does she, Joseph?


None whatever. Thank you kindly. A stable would be far better than nothing.


I haven’t promised anything yet. Let me put on my thinking cap. We can’t move the camels, nor yet put the young gentleman’s stallion in with the mares. Perhaps we could——No! that won’t work.


Could we make room for the captain’s gelding along of the merchant’s she-asses—if you didn’t mind, sir—


Not in the least. By all means.


That’s a good idea. Then we could put these people and their donkey in with old Ibrahim’s draught-ox. How would that suit you?


Excellently. We are greatly obliged to you.


It is most kind of you. We are sorry to be putting you to all this extra trouble on our account.


That’s all right. Don’t like to think of you with nowhere to lay your heads. Especially under the circumstances, eh, wife?


It’s not that anybody wants to seem disobliging——


Of course not, of course not. Well, that’s all settled. I’m sure you’ll manage capitally. Good night to you. (He joins the Soldiers and confers with them.)

Mary and Joseph

Good night, Captain.

[Here the Merchant reappears, left (L.U.), followed by the Greek Gentleman. They move along the passage-way at the back.


Now you come along with me. I’ll have some clean straw put down for you. (Calling off right.) Take the ass round to the stable! (Hoofs heard off right and round to centre back.) Mind how you go; you’ll have to pick your way a bit. (They move up back and across among the piled-up baggage in the passage-way.) It’s just across here and under the——

[The Merchant falls over a pack-saddle, into the Landlord’s arms.

Ouf! you might look where you’re going, sir!

Merchant (panting)

I’m extremely sorry, Landlord. Could you tell me . . . Oh, dear! (He is out of breath.)

Greek Gentleman

Landlord, we are looking for a young gentleman in a green cloak. Have you by any chance seen such a one?

[Jewish Gentleman emerges from stable, R.B.


This’ll be him, sir, just coming through the archway.


Oh, thank you, thank you!


Don’t mention it. (He enters the centre stable with Mary and Joseph.)

[Landlady has meanwhile worked away left.


Sir! Pray, one moment, young gentleman!

Jewish Gentleman


Greek Gentleman

Your pardon, sir. This good merchant wishes to ask you—(with a change of tone) Now, by all the gods of Olympus! If it isn’t my old friend Yussuf!

Jewish Gentleman

Philip! by all the Prophets! What on earth are you doing here? (They come down right.)

Greek Gentleman

Just travelling about. Studying social history and all that. Writing a little verse, and tinkering about with a magnum opus that will never get finished.

Jewish Gentleman

The same old Philip. Not changed a bit since college days. I’m delighted to see you. Come and sit down and let’s have a yarn.

Merchant (panting after them)

Forgive me, sir, but I——

Greek Gentleman

Oh, yes, I forgot. This honest merchant wants to know if he may have the protection of your company as far as Lydda.

[Meanwhile Landlord may be seen taking straw in to stable, C.B.; Maidservant may take in water, etc., and fasten curtain of sacking across entrance.

Jewish Gentleman

Certainly, by all means. The more the merrier. I hope, sir, you’ll join us in a cup of wine.


I am very much obliged, sir.

Jewish Gentleman

Here’s a good place to sit in, near this worthy Pharisee. (They all sit by Pharisee.) I trust we do not disturb you, sir. Thank you. Shockingly crowded this place is to-night, and I entirely agree with you, merchant, that travelling’s no joke these days.


Terrible, sir, terrible! Times are hard enough, goodness knows, without Caesar taking it into his head to number the people. Apart from everything else, look at the interruption to business. It’s a sin and a shame——

Pharisee (interrupting)

It is a sin indeed to number the people. It is the sin of King David, to which Satan provoked him. Is it not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

Greek Gentleman

I have not studied the work in question, but I’ll take your word for it.

Jewish Gentleman

You may take his word for it, Philip. He is a learned Pharisee, and he ought to know.


Judging by your dress, gentlemen, and by the speech of one of you, you are Romans.

Jewish Gentleman

My friend is Greek, but I am as good a Jew as yourself, sir. I was educated in Rome, certainly, and prefer to dress in the fashion.


God deliver us from the fashions of Rome—where they teach our Hebrew youth to sneer at God’s word and bind a foreign yoke and a pagan custom upon our necks in flat defiance of the Law of Moses.

[Throughout this conversation, the Landlord, Landlady, and Servants move unobtrusively about, looking after the travellers, who eat their supper and prepare for the night. Some of this action can be supposed to take place off, left, in attendance on people upstairs; and the Manservant can go in and out of the stables. The Centurion goes centre and stands behind the brazier warming his hands.

Jewish Gentleman

Nonsense, sir! Surely one can be a sincere Jew and still live like a gentleman?

Pharisee (contemptuously)

Like a gentleman!

Jewish Gentleman

Yes, sir. I come of a good house; my father is a magistrate. I shall probably end up as a member of the Sanhedrim myself when the time comes. And when I’m there, be sure I shall press for a more enlightened and cosmopolitan policy.


Indeed, sir! Well, I am Zadok the Pharisee, a follower of Judas the Gaulonite, and I say that your godless Romanising policy is bringing upon this nation the curse due to the backslider and the apostate.

Jewish Gentleman

Upon my soul, sir——!

[This little passage of arms attracts the attention of the Centurion. Seeing that it quiets down, he takes no action, but he keeps his eye on it.


Pray, gentlemen, don’t quarrel. I’m a man of peace. I quite see your point, good Master Zadok. You’re bound to look at things from the religious side. But I’m a plain man, and what I object to is the inconvenience. Here I am, torn from my home, put in peril of my life, and goodness knows what’s happening to my business all this time! That scoundrelly Greek—Oh, I beg your pardon, noble sir—that manager of mine is probably making hay of the accounts, and I shall lose all my best customers. I’m a spice-merchant, gentlemen, Aaron ben Isaac is my name, in a pretty big way down at Joppa.


I’m glad you stick to the old-fashioned native name.


Did I say Joppa? I meant Caesarea, of course. Caesarea we call it now, since Herod rebuilt it and made all those modern improvements. A heathen name, of course, but what’s in a name?—and I must say, the King has succeeded in putting the town, on the map. Here’s my card, by the way, if you should happen to be requiring pepper, or perfumes, or anything in that line. I have the honour to supply nutmegs to the Imperial Household.

[The Landlord, with a jug of wine in his hand, is now centre of stage. He serves Husband and prepares to go off left.

Jewish Gentleman

Thanks very much. I’d be glad to know of any one who can supply bath-unguents and toilet-waters reasonably. The prices in Jerusalem are positively outrageous. Landlord! bring us some wine here!

[Landlord returns with a jar of wine.


Bath-unguents, indeed! That’s all you young men think about. It was a black day for Jewry when King Herod built the public baths for the corruption of our young men.

[The Centurion, smelling trouble, wanders casually up to the back of the group, with the detached air of a London policeman patrolling a public meeting.

You loll about there all day, oiling your bodies and anointing your hair, reading lascivious heathen poetry, talking blasphemy, and idling away the time with Greek slaves and dancing-girls. May the curse of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram light on King Herod and his baths too! May the earth open and swallow them up!


Your wine, gentlemen. (Whispering.) Sir, I implore you not to talk so loudly. King Herod’s spies are everywhere. And the centurion is standing just behind you.

Jewish Gentleman

Serve to the gentlemen. Your health, sirs. Personally I’m all for King Herod. He may be a bit of an autocrat, but he’s done a lot for the country. How about his big housing schemes in Samaria, and Caesarea with its great new harbour and up-to-date drainage system?


That’s a fact. You wouldn’t know the old place.

Greek Gentleman

I must make a point of visiting it.

Jewish Gentleman

Look at the Jordan Valley Waterworks. Look at the Temple in Jerusalem. Look at the theatres and amphitheatres the King has built and endowed——


Nothing would induce me to look at them. Play-acting and wild-beast shows are an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Immoral, irreligious, and thoroughly un-Jewish.

Jewish Gentleman

Yes, they are un-Jewish. Our national attitude to the Arts is deplorable. King Herod is the only Jew in the country who cares twopence about cosmopolitan culture.


Thank God for it. Nothing is so demoralising as art and culture. As for Herod, he is no true Israelite. He is an Edomite, a son of Ishmael, and, what’s more, an unbeliever. He breaks the Law of Moses by letting the barbarians in the provinces put up graven images to him. And you, Aaron ben Isaac, who complain of the Imperial taxes, have you forgotten that it is unlawful to pay tribute to Caesar?

[The Centurion at this point really does take notice.


Hush, hush, sir, for Heaven’s sake!

Merchant (alarmed)

Here, I say! Hadn’t you better be careful?


You have no spirit. You are slaves, sold by Herod into the bondage of Rome—and all you can do is to sit there grumbling feebly about taxation and interruptions to business. What room will there be for such as you in the great day of redemption when the Lord’s Messiah comes?


And what will your Messiah do when he does come?


God of Abraham! I knew there’d be trouble. I’m sure, Captain, the gentleman means no harm. Don’t hold it against me. This is a respectable house.


Of course, of course, Captain. And anyway, I wasn’t saying anything. I swear I haven’t uttered a syllable against the Emperor or King Herod either. I never suggested the taxes were illegal. I only said they came heavy on a man, and so they do—but there’s nothing treasonable in that.

Jewish Gentleman

That’s what taxes are for—to give us something to grumble about. Eh, Captain? Sit down, man, and have a drink.

Greek Gentleman

That’s right. Captain. Fill for the Captain, landlord.


Thank you kindly, sir. I don’t mind if I do. Cheer up, landlord, we’re not going to crucify you yet awhile.

Landlord (pouring wine for Centurion)

No, sir. Thank you, sir. (He retires, left.)

[Sound of singing and marching off, back.


Your health, sir! The gods be favourable to you. Cheer up, Master Merchant. So long as the taxes are paid, Rome can put up with a grumble or two.

Merchant (with a wry face)

Yes, yes, of course——


And, after all, we do give you something to show for the money.

Pharisee (sarcastically)

Undoubtedly. Baths and theatres and drainage systems, and other worldly luxuries that our fathers did very well without.


Better than that, sir. Peace and security. Listen!

Song of the Legionaries (as they pass the inn)

Bread and cheese, bread and cheese

Marching through Spain, boys,

With a sackful of loot

And a hole in your boot

At the end of the long campaign, boys;

Bread and cheese, bread and cheese.

[The Roman Soldiers join in for a bar or two.

Early and late, boys.

For we’ll get no cheer

Of beef and beer

Till we see the Julian gate, boys.

Beef and beer, beef and beer, etc., etc.

[The song dies away off right, past the gate.


Those are the lads of the Sixth, going up to keep order in Jerusalem. Good luck to ’em. And to King Herod too, say I. Regular good army man, is King Herod.

[The Merchant endorses these sentiments with eager nods.

Judaea was in a pretty mess till he took it over. He and the Emperor together have kept order these thirty years. No invasions, no civil wars, peace and prosperity and a reasonable check kept on bandits and insurgents. What more do you want?

Pharisee (with dignity)

Peace is not everything. Prosperity is not everything. (The Merchant tugs anxiously at his sleeve, but he continues.) We want liberty for our nation and liberty for our religion.


Bless my heart, what do you think liberty means? Liberty to cut one another’s throats—as you were doing before Rome stepped in and put a stop to it? There’s no liberty in civil disorder. Liberty means freedom to go safely about your business and behave yourselves like good citizens. And you’ll only get that under a strong central government. Do you think your Christ or Messiah or whatever you call him is going to beat Rome at that game?


When the Messiah comes——

Jewish Gentleman

Need we argue about the Messiah?


No, no, of course not. Let’s keep clear of politics.

Greek Gentleman

Yes, but what is the Messiah?


When the Messiah comes, he will restore the kingdom to Israel and smite the heathen with a rod of iron.

[Merchant groans.


I can’t understand you Jews. Can’t you live and let live? Nobody minds your worshipping what you please and how you please. The Emperor’s very keen on religious toleration. We’ve got temples in Rome to all sorts of odd foreign deities, you’d be surprised; and if you liked to put one up there to your Jehovah, or whatever you call him, there’s no reason why he and our Jove shouldn’t get on capitally together.


The Lord God of Heaven is One God and One alone. We can make no compromise with idols.


It seems to me you want all the religious liberty for yourselves and none for other people. Well, it’s no affair of mine. But if your Messiah is proposing to start a war of religion——


Really, now, really. Do let’s leave the Messiah out of it. So far as I know, he isn’t even born yet.


Very sensible of him. If he takes my advice he’ll put off being born for quite a little bit. King Herod has done a very tidy job keeping order in this province and he has no use at all for Messiahs and insurrections. Good evening. (He marches off left, and is seen to speak to the Landlord, who follows him off.)

[Legionaries heard again, singing: “Beef and beer.


Heaven preserve us! my heart was in my mouth. All this treasonable talk——

Jewish Gentleman

Zadok, do you never think that this stiff-necked resistance may end by destroying our nation?


Your easy toleration will end by destroying our souls. How long, O Lord, how long? (He stalks stiffly away, and settles down left.)

Song of the Legionaries

[As the Landlady passes on some errand, the 1st Soldier puts his arm round her. She pushes him off. Laughter.

Beef and beer, beef and beer

Sitting at home, sweet home, boys,

With a wench in your arm

To keep you warm,

O take me back to Rome, boys!


Men like that are a public danger.

[Knocking off, right, and sounds of argument with the Porter.

Oh, dear me! Are the soldiers coming in? Bear witness, gentlemen, I never saw him before.

[Landlady extricates herself from the Soldiers and hurries off, right. Merchant retires to remote corner down left, below Pharisee.

Song (continued)

Beef and beer, beef and beer,

And cram your bellies tight, boys,

For it’s starve and freeze

On bread and cheese

When the eagles take their flight, boys.

Bread and cheese, bread and cheese, etc.

Landlady (shrilly; backing in, right)

Now then, now then, what do you want at this time of night? It’s no good, I tell you, my man. We’re full up. Can’t take anybody else. You needn’t start arguing. We’re full up.

1st Shepherd

Excuse me, ma’am. My mate and me only looked in to see if we could buy a drop o’ beer.


Beer? Good gracious me, what next? This is an inn for travellers, not a jug-and-bottle department. You must go to the wine-shop in the next street.

[Shepherds edge in after her.

1st Shepherd

The wine-shop’s shut, ma’am, and we thought if you’d be so good as to oblige us——


Nonsense. You must knock the wine-merchant up—or go without, much better for you. Get along now and don’t hang about the doorway. You smell of the sheepfolds. Be off with you!

Jewish Gentleman (calling up-stage)

Oh, for Heaven’s sake, woman, stop screaming!


Oh, dear! That’s the young gentleman from Rome. Now he’ll be vexed. (Coming down.) I’m sure I’m very sorry, sir; it’s these common shepherds, pushing in here, wanting to buy beer, as if this was a vulgar alehouse. I’ve told them as plain as I could——

Jewish Gentleman

I heard you. Your voice, sweet hostess, goes through my head like a knife through a melon. Can’t you give these honest lads their beer and have done with it?

[Shepherds advance hopefully.


We don’t sell beer.

Jewish Gentleman

You grasp the idea, lads, don’t you? We don’t sell beer. What are you? Shepherds?

1st Shepherd

Yes, sir. We weren’t wishful to be troublesome. Me and my two sons be keepin’ our sheep on the hills yonder, and, it bein’ a cold sort o’ night, Sam and me come along to get a little drop to our supper.

Jewish Gentleman

I see. Well, I haven’t got any beer, but here’s wine, if that’ll suit you. Sit down and have a quick one before you go.

1st and 2nd Shepherds

Thank you, sir. Very good of you, sir.

[They gather about the Jewish Gentlemanhe gives them wine.

Jewish Gentleman

All right, hostess, that will do. (Exit Landlady, working off, left (L.U.).) Now, tell me, my good friends, how are things going with you? Do you rub along pretty well? Or do you want a rebellion against the Government, and a new Messiah and all that kind of thing? You can talk quite freely to us. We shan’t give you away. My friend here is studying social conditions, aren’t you, Phil?

Greek Gentleman

Yes; I am very much interested in your Jewish religion and politics; but they are terribly complicated. This, for instance, your Messiah as you call him—what does that word mean, Yussuf?

Jewish Gentleman

Christos in Greek, Christ, the Anointed One.

[During this long conversation, the rest of the travellers settle down to sleep. The 1st Soldier stands sentinel at the door, right; the other goes to sleep. The lights in the other two braziers die down, leaving only the group of the two Gentlemen and the Shepherds clearly lit, and a beam of moonlight on the stable door. Dim down front spots and No. 3 batten gradually.

Greek Gentleman

Ah, yes. Messiah, Christ, I understand. Now, this anointed one—what is he? A king or a priest? Or is he some kind of hero or demi-god, after the fashion of our Hercules?

Jewish Gentleman

My dear man, these shepherds have never heard of Hercules.

Greek Gentleman

Never mind. I like to get the reactions of the common people to all these academic questions. What do you think of Christ, my good friends?

1st Shepherd

Well, sir, I don’t rightly know. Some say he’s to be a great prince, born of the royal house of David—him that was a king in Israel, you know, sir, long ago, wonderful rich and powerful, notwithstanding he began life as a poor shepherd, no better than us. But others say he’ll be a mighty chieftain, more after the style of Judas the Maccabean, and lead a great rebellion against Rome. But I do hope and trust it won’t be that way, sir—not in our time, anyway.

Jewish Gentleman

You don’t want a rebellion, then?

1st Shepherd

That I do not, sir. Rebellions and civil wars and such never do no good to us poor folk.

2nd Shepherd

Come now, Father, I don’t know. They say the Messiah will restore the kingdom and do away with oppression and taxes, and bring back the good old days, with milk and honey for everybody.

[About this point, Joseph comes out of stable door (C.B.). He quietly wakes the Maidservant, who goes off left (L.U.), to look for Landlady. Joseph returns to stable.

1st Shepherd

Why, so he may; but there’ll be a sight of poor souls ruined and slaughtered first. No; life’s hard enough on the poor, as it is, without no wars. We’re well enough off as we are, with King Herod. You’ll find, sir, it’s mostly the upper classes as complains about King Herod’s government. He don’t bear too hard on the farmers, all things considered. Of course some of the tax-gatherers puts the screw on cruel, but, saving your presence, gentlemen, I think they mostly gets their orders from the Emperor, and him living ’way off in Rome, maybe he don’t quite know the way they go on here.

2nd Shepherd

Maybe, when Messiah comes, he’ll explain matters to the Emperor. You know, sirs, there’s some say he won’t be a king at all—but a poor, good man, the servant of the people. Something more in the nature of a prophet, like, same as Elias, or it might be Nathan, what spoke and rebuked King David when he behaved so unjust to Uriah the Hittite.

[Enter Landlady, left (L.U.), with lantern. She goes briskly in at stable door (C.B.).

1st Shepherd

Yes, or a holy priest, more after the fashion of Aaron or Melchisedek, as will take away sin and bring the people back to righteousness—for there’s a sad deal of worldly living these days, and men don’t keep the Law as they did. Some of the young people don’t seem to believe in nothing but dancing and going to prize-fights and having a good time.

2nd Shepherd

That’s right. And there’s a young chap I know, that’s employed in the theatre, as they call it, at Jerusalem, says the goings-on there is something shocking—men dressed up like women with masks on, acting heathen pieces full of smut and nastiness, and tumblers and chariot-races, and a terrible deal of betting and gambling. It ain’t right, to our way of thinking. I expect Messiah will put a stop to all that.

[The Centurion reappears, left, and passes silently across the back of the stage, the moonlight catching his helmet as he goes past the stable. He goes out, right.

1st Shepherd

Ay, so he will, I dare say. But he won’t do it by making wars. People don’t act holier in war-time, they acts more sinful. And what with soldiers stravaguing up and down, looting and pillaging and destroying the cattle and the crops, it’s a bad business for everyone. No, we don’t want no more wars.

Greek Gentleman

Upon my word, Yussuf, your countrymen seem to be very sensible fellows. Here’s to you, shepherds, and I hope, when your Messiah comes, he’ll turn out to be a prince of peace. If you ask my opinion——

[Landlady comes briskly out of stable door, with Joseph following.


There now, didn’t I tell you so?

Jewish Gentleman

Hullo! what’s the matter with our good hostess now?


It’s no good talking that way to me, Joseph ben Heli; this is an inn, not a lying-in hospital. Of all the tiresome things! No, indeed I can’t help you—I’ve got far too much to do. Perhaps there’s some one among the company that can oblige. Excuse me, ladies, is there anybody here that’s a midwife?


Eh, what? Yes, my missus is a very good hand in that line. Wake up, Hepzibah, you’re wanted.

[Mother gets up.


What is it? (Father whispers.) Oh, yes, of course.


Very good of you, I’m sure. I wouldn’t have had this happen for the world. It all comes of being soft-hearted and letting people in against one’s better judgment. She’s in the stable over there, in the far corner—you’ll know it by the brown ox being there. Here, take this lantern.


I’ll carry the lantern to light the kind midwife.


Indeed, my good man, you’ll do no such thing. We don’t want any husbands hanging around. This is a woman’s job. Oh, dear! oh, dear! we shall none of us get any sleep to-night. And I don’t suppose for one moment you thought to bring any proper swaddling-clothes with you.


Yes, ma’am, indeed we came provided. The midwife will find everything needful in our saddle-bags.

[Mother disappears into stable. The family group settles down again.


Well, that’s a mercy. Bless me, what an upset!

Jewish Gentleman

Sweet mistress, do I gather we’re expecting an addition to the company?


Yes, indeed, sir, and I’m sure I’m very sorry for all this disturbance. It’s this man’s wife been taken with her pains, sir, and I really don’t wonder, riding up all the way from Nazareth, and over these bad roads. It’s a wicked thing, sir, isn’t it, that decent folk should be jostled about and sent travelling willy-nilly, just because the Government takes it into its head to have a census.

1st Shepherd

Ah! it’s a shame, that it is.

Jewish Gentleman

Very trying indeed.


We had to bed them down in the stable—along with the ox and the ass—and where we’re to put the child, I really don’t know. There isn’t a cradle in the place. I had one, but I gave it to my daughter when she married. You’ll have to use the manger, that’s all. I’ll go and find you some old sacking to line it with.


God will reward you for all your kindness.


Oh, well, it’s all in the day’s work, I suppose.

[Exit Landlady, left (L.U.).

1st Shepherd

We’d better be getting along to the sheep now. Thank you kindly for the wine, sir. Good luck to you, Master Carpenter. May your good lady have a light childbirth.

2nd Shepherd

Ay, truly, and bring you a bonny baby to bless you.


I thank you both from my heart.

[Exeunt Shepherds, right. Gate is noisily barred after them.

Jewish Gentleman

Take courage, good man. These things happen every day. It’s sure to be all right. Here, I’ll have a wager with you. What odds will you lay me it’s a boy?


It would be robbing you, young sir. I know it will be a boy.

Greek Gentleman

Hark at him! Every father is certain it will be a boy.

Jewish Gentleman

And every Jewish mother is certain it will be the Messiah. Isn’t that so, carpenter?


That is so.

Jewish Gentleman

And what are you going to call your Messiah when you get him?


His name shall be called Jesus; for he was so named of an angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Greek Gentleman

Jesus? and what does that mean?

Jewish Gentleman

Oh, it’s quite a common Jewish name. It means liberator, a deliverer, a saviour—that sort of thing.


He is to be called Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins. The angel said so to his mother.

Greek Gentleman

He seems to have been a very communicative and explicit angel. What else did he say to your wife?


He said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee; therefore that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Greek Gentleman

The son of a god. The expression seems very familiar. Our Greek mythology is full of such tales. Personally, I am an agnostic, but I am always willing to learn. Pray tell me, carpenter, did the god manifest himself in a shower of gold, as Jupiter did to Danae?

Jewish Gentleman

Be quiet, Philip. The God of Israel is nothing like your heathen deities. He is a spirit, and works, not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Besides, your own philosophers will tell you that your Olympic myths are themselves no more than symbols of the working of the spirit upon the flesh.

Greek Gentleman

So they say, indeed. But I believe the whole thing is nothing but a pack of fairy-tales.

Jewish Gentleman

I don’t know, Philip. Sometimes I have wondered whether the Son of God, when He comes, might not fulfil your prophecies as well as ours. The hearts of all men have felt obscurely that God should somehow reveal Himself—walk as a man with men—I do not know. Does not Aeschylus speak somewhere of a Zeus that should know human suffering?

Greek Gentleman

Yes; in the Eumenides. But I thought your God was rather an exclusive deity, and never troubled Himself about any but His chosen people.

Jewish Gentleman

I know. But we insist very loudly that He is God of the whole earth. One would expect Him to take some interest in the outlying portions of His dominions. What do you say, carpenter?

[Pharisee gets up and comes across, right.


I do not know at all, sir. I am a plain ignorant man. I try only to do my duty and obey the word of God without asking too many questions. But here is a Pharisee coming across to us. He is no doubt learned in the Scriptures. Perhaps he can tell us.

Jewish Gentleman

Why, if it isn’t my old friend Zadok. You seem to be restless, sir. I hope our talk hasn’t disturbed you.

Pharisee (with more concession to common humanity than he has shown up till now)

The snoring of Aaron ben Isaac the merchant is a curse more intolerable than all the ten plagues of Egypt. The bellowing of fat bulls of Bashan is silence by comparison.

Greek Gentleman

You have come in time to settle a theological argument. My friend here says that the God of Israel is lord of the whole earth, and in consequence the Messiah will be the saviour of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. Do you support that opinion?


Certainly not. It is blasphemous and ridiculous. He will set his foot upon the necks of the nations, and the heathen will be cast into outer darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth. I hope you are answered. This inn seems to be very noisy to-night. I am going outside to try and get a little peace and quietness. (He goes out by door to stair, left (L.U.), passing Landlady, who goes into stable (C.B.).)

Greek Gentleman

What a very dogmatic person! It must be marvellous to feel so positive about everything. I never feel certain of anything.

Jewish Gentleman

That is the malady of you Greeks—you are blown about with every wind. Ours is to shut ourselves up tight in tradition and exclude every breath of fresh air. If only we could somehow wed the purity of our religion to the intellectual vigour of your philosophy! Well, never mind. Sing to us, Philip, and take our minds off our worries.

Greek Gentleman

Will it not disturb the company?

Jewish Gentleman

If they can sleep through each other’s snoring, they can sleep through anything. Sing softly.

Greek Gentleman

Very well. (Sings.) “Golden Apollo——” (He breaks off; to Joseph, politely.) You will excuse my singing about Apollo. The words are of no importance, but the tune is pretty. (Sings.)

Golden Apollo,

        lord of the burning bow,

Thy brow with sacred fillets bound

And deathless laurel crowned;

Singer and seer, whose splendour lights the sun,

Sweet, terrible one!

Swift as the swallow

        thy searching arrows go.

Then smite, lord, smite the heart of desire

With thy celestial fire.

[The Centurion comes in, right, and speaks to the Sentry, who wakes his companion to go on guard in his place. The Centurion picks his way slowly across the stage, lending momentary attention to the song and going to stand by entrance, left.

Master of vision

        throned on the circling wheel,

Immortal born of mortal birth

That once didst visit earth

And as a servant humbly walk with men;

Turn, turn thee again,

Mighty physician

        Whose hand can harm and heal,

And quench, lord, quench thy heavenly dart

For it doth rive the heart.

[Merchant rolls over with a loud snore and snort; they all laugh.

Jewish Gentleman

There is the comment of the commercial mind. You may rive his ears, but never his heart. Try again.

Greek Gentleman

There is no more to that song. Take the lute yourself.

Jewish Gentleman

I will sing you an old Jewish tale. (Sings. After verse 1, the other two join in the chorus.)

Adam and Eve stood under a tree,

              (Four rivers in Paradise)

A sweet and comely sight to see

For they were fair as fair could be,

Adam and Eve beneath the tree

              (Paradise, Paradise,

              God is all in all).


And on the tree the branches grew

              (Four rivers in Paradise)

Adorned with leaves of tender hue,

And they were fair as fair could be

And Adam and Eve stood under the tree

              (Paradise, Paradise,

              God is all in all).

[An ox lows.


Listen! What was that?

Greek Gentleman

Only an ox lowing. Sing the next verse.

Jewish Gentleman (sings)

And on the branch a beauteous flower

              (Four rivers in Paradise)

Budded and bloomed from hour to hour,

The flower that on the branches grew

Adorned with leaves of tender hue,

And it was fair as fair could be

And Adam and Eve stood under the tree

              (Paradise, Paradise,

              God is all in all).

[Centurion goes out, left.

And in that flower a fruit of gold

              (Four rivers in Paradise)

Lay hid within the petals’ fold,

The petals of the beauteous flower

That budded and bloomed from hour to hour,

The flower that on the branches grew

Adorned with leaves of tender hue,

And it was fair as fair could be

And Adam and Eve stood under the tree

              (Paradise, Paradise,

              God is all in all).

[An ass brays.


Listen again.

Greek Gentleman

It is only the braying of an ass. Go on. Never mind the competition.

Jewish Gentleman (sings)

But Eve put forth her hand anon,

              (Four rivers in Paradise)

And bit that fruit unto the stone,

The strange, forbidden fruit of gold

That hid within the petals’ fold,

The petals of the beauteous flower

That budded and bloomed from hour to hour,

The flower that on the branches grew

Adorned with leaves of tender hue,

And the tree withered down to the ground so bare,

And Adam and Eve stood naked there;

              (Paradise, Paradise,

              God is all in all).


But when the stone had fallen to earth,

              (Four rivers in Paradise)

It brought another tree to birth,

That tall and stately grew anon,

The tree that sprang from that fruit stone,

The strange forbidden fruit of gold

That hid within the petals’ fold,

The petals of the beauteous flower

That budded and bloomed from hour to hour,

The flower that on the branches grew

Adorned with leaves of tender hue,

And it was fair as fair could be,

And Adam and Eve stood under the tree

              (Paradise, Paradise,

              God is all in all).

Greek Gentleman

Well sung, all! There is nothing like music to pass the time away. How goes the night?

[Centurion reappears, left (L.U.).


It is the dark hour before the dawn. Hark!

[The cry of the Child is heard.

Jewish Gentleman

That sounds more like it. Congratulations, carpenter.

[Enter Landlady from stable.

Greek Gentleman

Here comes our good hostess, grinning from ear to ear. How about it, mistress? What’s the news?


Come hither, Master Carpenter, and see! Your good lady is lighter of a splendid son.


Praise be to God!

Jewish Gentleman

I should have lost my bet. Congratulations again. So you were lending a hand after all, hostess? You seem very much pleased about it all.

[Centurion works his way down on left.


Well, sir, when it comes to babies, even innkeepers has their feelings. And the dear mother is such a sweet person—it’s a pleasure to do anything for her. A beautiful child, and both doing fine. Come along, father, and have a look. You’ll be that proud you won’t know yourself.


The dayspring from on high hath visited us.

[Joseph follows the Landlady into the stable. The Centurion crosses briskly left to right in front of the platform.

Jewish Gentleman

Well, well—that bit of excitement’s over. Hullo, Centurion, you still on the prowl? Have you heard the glad tidings? The carpenter’s wife has presented him with a son.


The gods be favourable to the boy!

Greek Gentleman

And there you are! Kingdoms rise and fall, wars are waged, politicians wrangle, trade suffers, poor men starve, philosophers exchange insults and agree in nothing except that times are very evil and mankind rapidly going to the dogs. And yet, when one more soul is born into this highly unsatisfactory world, everybody conspires to be delighted.

Jewish Gentleman

And every time his parents are persuaded that he’s going to turn out something wonderful, whereas, if they only knew it, he’s destined, as likely as not, to finish up between two thieves on Crucifixion Hill. It all makes me feel very old and disillusioned.


Don’t you worry, sir. You’ll get younger as you get older.

Greek Gentleman

At any rate, I suppose we can now hope for a little sleep.

[Knocking at the gate.

Oh, Hades!

Voice (without)

Now then, what the devil do you want?

Voices (without)

Let us in! Let us in! We have news, news, news!


News? What does that mean? (Shouting.) Porter! open the gates! (Softly.) Might be a rebellion. You never know. Look alive there! (He moves up behind the two Gentlemen. The 1st Soldier springs to his feet and joins the 2nd Soldier at the entrance. The Landlady enters from the stable, and the Landlord from the left.)


A rebellion? God forbid! (Shouting.) Keep the gate shut!


Oh, please, dear Captain, don’t let them in! We shall all be murdered in our beds.


If there is news, we must hear it. (Shouting.) Open the gate.

[Gate unbarred. Shepherds enter noisily; the Soldiers bar their way.

Now, then, fellows! What’s all this noise about? (He signs to the Soldiers to let them through. They stand guard again behind the Shepherds.)


Show us the Child that is born to-night! For we have seen a miracle.

Merchant (waking suddenly)

Hey! hey! Robbers! murder! help! Keep off! Let me go! I’m only a poor traveller! I’ve no money on me! Help! help!

[Everybody wakes up. Tumult.

[Bring Shepherds centre and bring up arena flood slowly to full during their story.


Be quiet, there!

Jewish Gentleman

It’s all right, Aaron ben Isaac. Nobody’s being robbed.


You’ve had nightmare.

Greek Gentleman

It’s only some shepherds, who say they’ve seen a miracle.


Miracle, indeed! I thought I was being murdered. This inn is disgracefully run. I shall complain to the authorities.

1st Shepherd

Indeed, indeed, sirs, a wonderful thing is come to pass.


Oh, go to Gehenna! (He rolls himself up again and resolutely closes his ears.)


Quick, fellows! Your story.

1st Shepherd

Sir, we were in the fields, keeping watch over our sheep this night. And as I sat, looking eastward toward Beth-Shemesh, I beheld a great light, as though the sun were rising an hour before its time. And even while I looked, my son Matthew spoke to me, and said: Father, said he, what is this? Is the sun rising in the west? Then I turned myself about, and saw as it might be a ring of fire, all about the earth, and the hills and trees glowing like copper in the furnace.

2nd Shepherd

Ay, and the fire burnt up and up to the very pole, putting out the stars.

3rd Shepherd

And out of the fire, out of the sky—I cannot tell how, but so it was—there came an angel, great and terrible and shining. And we were sore afraid.

2nd Shepherd

Ay, that we were. But the sheep weren’t afraid, not they. And that’s a strange thing too.

1st Shepherd

Then the angel spoke, clear as anything. “Be not afraid,” he says, “for behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall be to you and all people. For to you,” he says, “is born this day in the City of David”—that’s here, sir, you know—“a saviour, which is the Lord Messiah.”

Jewish Gentleman

You hear, Philip? The Lord Christ. Zadok the Pharisee should be listening to this. What’s become of him, by the way?

Greek Gentleman

Oh, he cast himself into outer darkness some time ago.

Jewish Gentleman

“Joy to all people”—you are sure the angel said, “to all people”?

1st Shepherd

Certain sure, sir. And we was just thinking as how there might be a many babes born in the city, and how was we to know, when he says, “This,” he says, “shall be a sign to you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” So I looks at Sam, and Sam looks at me, and then, all of a sudden we sees the heavens open and thousands, ah! millions of angels, more than a man could count and singing that beautiful—Oh, sirs, listen! listen! There it be again—going right away over the roof, as clear as clear.

Angels’ Choir (distant)

Glory to God in the highest and in earth peace, goodwill towards men.

[Repeat chorus, crescendo and dying away again; dim arena flood to about quarter as song passes.



Look here, I don’t understand a word of all this.

1st Shepherd

Couldn’t you hear nothing?


Not a word.

Greek Gentleman

Nothing whatever.


They’ve had too much to drink, that’s what it is. You didn’t ought to have given them that wine, sir.

Jewish Gentleman

I don’t know. I fancy I did hear something—but it was very faint.


This is all a pack of nonsense. Go home, you shepherds, and let’s hear no more of this. (He turns to the Travellers, who are beginning to talk.) Quiet, everybody. Get back to bed. Show’s over.

[The Travellers subside.

1st Shepherd

But may we not see the Child?

Centurion (after a brief hesitation)

You may see him. But for his own sake, don’t let your story come to King Herod’s ears.

Jewish Gentleman

Come with me, shepherds. I’ll show you the way. (He leads the Shepherds up centre.) Listen! That is the Mother singing to her son.

[The Centurion sits on edge of platform, a menacing black shadow between the audience and the brazier.

The curtain before the stable-door is withdrawn to disclose the Holy Family. (Take out spot batten.)

The Greek Gentleman (lost in the shadows) has picked up the lute and accompanies Mary’s song.

Mary (sings)

Balow-la-lee, my little king,

  What shall we do to comfort Thee?

Canst Thou for whom the angels sing

  Content Thee with balow-la-lee,


Balow-la-lee, my royal child,

  There’s little we can give to Thee,

A manger-bed, a mother mild,

  The ox and the ass for company,


[1st and 3rd Shepherds on the side of stable-door; 2nd Shepherd and Jewish Gentleman on the other.

1st Shepherd

Your pardon, mistress. May we come in and see the Baby?


Surely, good shepherds. Come in and welcome.


Tread softly. Do not wake Him.


He is already awake. Look, He is smiling at you.

1st Shepherd

All hail, little king! See, here is a woollen fleece to be your royal robe.

2nd Shepherd

All hail, little king! Here is a shepherd’s crook, to be your royal sceptre.

3rd Shepherd

All hail, little king! Here is a twist of flowering thorn to be your royal crown.


My Son shall remember you all when He comes into His kingdom.

Jewish Gentleman

Madam, I fear I have come unprovided. I was not expecting a revelation. But if ever your Son and I should meet again, I will have a rich gift ready for him.


Sir, we shall not forget your goodwill. What is your name?

Jewish Gentleman

I am Joseph of Arimathaea.

[The Shepherds play a pastoral tune upon their pipes, and the Tableaux Curtains close. From behind: Landlord! landlord! . . . Up, you lazy slaves! will you lie there till noonday? . . . Saddle the asses and bring my reckoning. . . . Oh, dear, I never got a wink of sleep all night. . . . Has anybody seen my slippers? . . . Confound you, sir, you’ve knocked my flask over. . . . Git over, hoss—ah! would you then? . . . You have overcharged me by five pence. . . . Landlord! landlord! (Fading away.)

[If gauzes are used, drop them on Nativity Tableau, black-out, and let voices fade off in the dark; then bring up spot on fore-stage as Kings re-enter.








I looked for wisdom—and behold! the wisdom of the innocent.


I looked for power—and behold! the power of the helpless.


I looked for the manhood in God—and behold! a God made man.


Up and to horse! Make haste! for the Star has moved on before us

And the east is pale with the dawn. We must ride by faith.


Following the light invisible.


Following the Star.


(or, if there is no front curtain, the Kings go out left)






Copyright 1946 by Dorothy L. Sayers


All rights in the play are reserved by the Author and enquiries regarding the

dramatic rights should be addressed to Margery Vosper Ltd., 32 Shaftesbury

Avenue, London, W.1 (in association with Pearn, Pollinger & Higham, Ltd.)


All rights in the music are reserved by the Composer. Chorus and instrumental

parts are obtainable from J. & W. Chester, Ltd., to whom all enquiries regarding

performing rights should be addressed.


(in order of their appearance)

The Recorder, Angel of the City.

George Fox, the Quaker.

The Airman.

Eve, Mother of Mankind.

Mary, Mother of our Lord.

Adam, the First Man.

Cain } his sons.

Abel }

Persona Dei.

Gabriel, Angel of the Annunciation.

Caiaphas (previously an Inquisitor).

Herod (previously a Rich Man).

Pilate (previously a Judge).

Judas (previously an Informer).

Executioner (previously a Roman Soldier).

An Angel.

A Soldier.


Persons of the Chorus

Informer (afterwards Judas).

Inquisitor (afterwards Caiaphas).

Rich Man (afterwards Herod).

Judge (afterwards Pilate).

Roman Soldier (afterwards Executioner).

Early Martyr.Protestant Martyr.
Samuel Johnson.Hunchback.
Pottery Worker.Wife.
Unemployed Man.Mother.
Chimney-sweep’s Boy.Child.

The whole action of the play takes place in the moment of the

Airman’s death.

The Just Vengeance was originally performed in Lichfield Cathedral on the occasion of its 750th Anniversary Festival, June 15th-26th, 1946, with the following cast.

THE RECORDER, Angel of the CitySeymour Green
GEORGE FOX, the QuakerFrank Napier
THE AIRMANGordon Davies
EVE, Mother of MankindRowena Robinson
MARY, Mother of Our LordDorothy Bond
ADAM, the First ManPercy Cartwright
CAIN}his sons{Michael Ingham
ABELPeter Bayliss
PERSONA DEIRaf de la Torre
GABRIEL, Angel of the AnnunciationBarry Brigg
AN ANGELDonald Harper
A SOLDIERFrederick Lawrence
Persons of the Chorus
AN INFORMER (afterwards JUDAS)Dennis Rudder
AN INQUISITOR (afterwards CAIAPHAS)John Harris
A RICH MAN (afterwards HEROD)Charles Rofe
A JUDGE (afterwards PILATE)Paul Rice
A ROMAN SOLDIER (afterwards EXECUTIONER)Walter Pullen
EARLY MARTYRHenry Robinson
LUNATICLeslie Parkes
HARLOTMary Blackburn
WIFEMargaret Salt
LABOURERGeorge Coaton
WIDOWJessica Bassett
SAILORMarcus Whichelow
SLAVEYDoreen Edgar
BEGGARAlbert Houghton
PAUPERBarbara Pratley
CHILDMargaret Hodgkins

Producer: Frank Napier


The music specially composed by Antony Hopkins


This play is founded upon two passages, one from The Divine Comedy and the other from (I think) Thomas à Kempis, although I have unhappily mislaid the reference. They are complementary, and together form an almost complete statement of Atonement theology, and of the coinherence of Christ in His mystical body, the Church.

The first, which gives its title to the play, is in the seventh canto of the Paradiso, where Beatrice interprets the saying of Justinian:

“My infallible intuition tells me that you are wondering how the just vengeance justly was avenged. . . . Because he would not endure, for his own good, the rein set upon his will, the man who was never born (Adam), in condemning himself, condemned all his offspring; wherefore the human race lay sick for many an age in great error, until it pleased the Word of God to descend to earth, where, by the sole act of His eternal love, He took that nature which had gone astray from its Maker, and joined it to Himself in His own person. . . .

“As for the penalty, then, inflicted by the Cross, if it be measured by the nature thus put on, never did any bite so justly; and in like manner, never was any so monstrously unjust if we look to the Person who suffered it, by whom that nature was assumed.”

(Para. VII. 19. 899.)

This, with its affirmation of the true God-Manhood, presents the act of Atonement from God’s side. The second, affirming the coinherence, presents the response from Man’s side: “Whoso will carry the Cross, the Cross shall carry him,” and should be taken in conjunction with Rom. viii. 22, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together,” and Col. i. 24: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up that which remaineth of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church.”

In form, the drama is a miracle-play of Man’s insufficiency and God’s redemptive act, set against the background of contemporary crisis. The whole action takes place in the moment of the death of an Airman shot down during the late war. In that moment, his spirit finds itself drawn into the fellowship of his native city of Lichfield; there, being shown in an image the meaning of the Atonement, he accepts the Cross, and passes, in that act of choice, from the image to the reality.

Being concerned as it is with the eternal witness of the Church to the central doctrine of the Incarnation, the play contains no “original thought about . . .” and no “new interpretation of . . .” anything whatever. “Originality” in such matters is out of place: the thought is that of the Church and the interpretation that of her doctors and confessors. Readers will recognise echoes from many other writers, ranging from the Apostles and canonised saints to Charles Williams and T. S. Eliot, and Dantists in particular will take pleasure in picking out and attributing to their rightful owner the lines and images from the Comedy which occur at frequent intervals throughout. It is, however, only right that I should make personal apology and acknowledgement to the greatest of Christian poets for having translated and lifted bodily the first six lines of the hymn Vergine Madre (Para. XXXIII. 1-6).

The curious story of George Fox’s vision in the streets of Lichfield is narrated in his Journal for 1651.

I should perhaps add a reminder that the verse, as well as the whole architecture, of The Just Vengeance, is constructed for performance in a cathedral, rather than for reading in the study, and that the choruses assigned to the Choir were written for music. The circumstances called for a stylised presentation, moving in what may be called large blocks of action rather than in the swift to-and-fro of dialogue; the emphasising of important affirmations by repetitions; and a rhythm enabling the actor’s voice to overcome those acoustical difficulties which, in a large ecclesiastical building, no arrangement of microphones can wholly eliminate.

[A Flourish. Enter the Recorder, from the Upper Stage.


You, citizens of Lichfield, here at home,

And you that out of other cities come,

Or towns, or villages both great and small,

To keep with us our glad high festival,

Be welcome to this House of God, which hears

Now the third quarter of a thousand years

Strike on the clock of history. May she stand

To tell her story in this English land

Until the fingers of slow time come round

To their last moment, and the trumpets sound!

Alas! alas! the hardest stones decay,

Man in his rage may blast the walls away

And make destruction where he once gave glory;

But neither sin nor time can kill that story—

That fact—of man’s great need, and God’s great pity

Which we show here in terms of our own city,

[Here the Chorus enters.

Playing all parts as best we may. But yet

We, who are actors, bid you not forget

That all these images on which you look

Are but as pictures painted in a book—

No more like that they bid you think upon

Than this small yellow disc is like the sun;

Though, in a picture, this might stand for that,

And the great sun take no offence thereat.

See now, the citizens, in proper order

Displayed from first to last, with me, Recorder

And Angel of the City, at their head,

Wait here to welcome one who is newly dead.

To him the ageless tale shall all be shown,

And through his eyes you’ll see, as through your own.

[Enter George Fox, from the back of the church, having his shoes in his hand and a Bible under his arm.


Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield! Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!

[He goes about the church.

Choir (whispering)

Lichfield! Lichfield!

Whisper the name of the city through the oblivion;

Let the name stir like the scurry of mice in the wainscot,

In the tapestries, under the floorboards; whisper the name

In the patter of dead leaves on the window; whisper

Among dry bones in the valley of Jehoshaphat;

Lichfield! Lichfield! whisper the name of the city.


Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield! Woe to the bloody city!

Choir (a little louder)

The city! the city! speak the name of the city!

The articulated name in the confusion of syllables;

Speak the coherence, speak the squalors and splendours,

Speak the remembered streets, the familiar houses,

Speak the skyline and the Cathedral spires,

Speak order, speak unity, speak the name of the city.


Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield! Woe to the bloody city!

Choir (louder)

Call the city! call home the blood of the city!

Call the blood out of the alien shadows!

The sorrow with the kindred, the guilt with the derivation,

The flesh and the blood, the bread and the wine of the city.


Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!

Choir (loud)

Lichfield! Lichfield! cry the name of the city!

Cry in the dark wood and under the iron lintel;

Cry the sweat, cry the blood, cry over the banners!

Cry across the rivers the name of the city of Lichfield!

(Softly.) Listen!

[In the sudden pause the feet of the Airman are heard running from a great distance. Fox sits down and begins composedly putting on his shoes.

Choir (resuming quietly)

The feet of the young man, the feet of the fallen,

The feet of the forgetful running back to remembrance,

The feet of the future hurrying home to the past

In the sudden cessation of time, the eternity of the city.

One Voice

“For I am a citizen of mean city.”

Choir (loudly)

“For I am a citizen of mean city.”Proclaim

Tarsus! Proclaim the citizenship of Rome,

Jerusalem, Athens, Byzantium, London, Lichfield!

Proclaim the Republic! proclaim the Empire! proclaim the name of the city!

[The Airman has run up the aisle and stumbles panting on to the steps of the stage. Fox helps him up.


Friend, thou art welcome. Pray compose thyself:

Thou art within the city.


Thou art within the city.In Lichfield?


Thou art within the city.In Lichfield?Ay,

For thee it is Lichfield.


For thee it is Lichfield.The plane took a long time falling;

The fire was everywhere. I hope the others baled out;

I never saw them after I—lost touch.

The trees went past so quickly, catching me up

From behind, and the darkness roared so. The worst of it

Was to have no sense of direction. One comes to rely

On navigation. If one knows where one is going

It is not so bad. But those huge vegetable shapes,

And the long processions under meaningless ensigns,

And the noise without speech—it was a kind of terror

I had not experienced; though I was always terrified

On operational flights—but that was different;

One belonged to something; the thing that got me down

Was the sense of belonging nowhere. It went on for ages.

And then, you know, I heard a sound that I recognised;

Somewhere, very far off, a voice said “Lichfield”

Quite clearly; the darkness suddenly focused itself

And was going somewhere, like an enormous tunnel

With the name, like light, at the end of it. So I ran

Towards the name—there was only that to run to—

And found myself at last in my own city.


Friend, it is very well that thou hadst a concernment

For this or for that; they that are concerned for nothing

Do not come back to this city or any other.


Well, I am here. What am I supposed to do?

The voice that called me seemed to threaten the city;

I thought about bombing, of course; but the lights are up

And the houses standing—only the people are strange,

As though they were ghosts and could not speak to me;

You are the only person whose voice I can hear—

Was it you that called in the forest?


Was it you that called in the forest?The word of the Lord

Came to me at the entering in of the city,

Bidding me cry. So I put off my shoes,

For the word of the Lord was like a fire in me,

And I went up and down the streets, crying aloud:

“Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!”


“Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!”Yes,

That is what I heard.


That is what I heard.As it was given to me

So I cried, and I cried in the market-place

And to and fro in the several parts of it,

And no one laid hands on me. And while I cried

“Woe to the bloody city,” I seemed to see

A channel of blood running along the streets,

And the market-place appeared like a pool of blood.

Was that not strange?


Was that not strange?Was it so very strange?


And all that time, not one of these people here

Stayed me, or asked what I said. They sat unmoved,

Or went about their business, no way astonished;

Was that not strange?


Was that not strange?Why should they be astonished?

They have seen and heard too much; blood in the headlines,

Blood in the bodiless voice from the loud-speaker,

Blood in the siren-song and the drone of the bombers,

In eye-witness stories and columns of statistics;

They have hardened their hearts so that they may not break,

Deafened their ears, lest thought should split the brain;

The time has gone by when you could startle people

With words like that—they have grown used to numbering

Death by the million.


Death by the million.Yet every man dies once,

Once, and no more. A universe is extinguished

Every time a soul goes out of it—

The same universe, in a million deaths or one.

The one is the important figure; the rest are ciphers.

The single death which each endures by himself

Is never multiplied, though it is reckoned in millions;

Nor diminished by any division, though a million men

Were summed in a single man dying once for all;

That is the final irreducible integer

Of each man’s reckoning. We die into something

As we are born into something; but the act of death,

Like the act of being born, is an individual matter,

As thou hast discovered.


As thou hast discovered.As I have discovered?


As thou hast discovered.As I have discovered?Thou.


I see. You mean I have had it. Well, I can take it—

(Uncertainly) I suppose. What next? Where do we go from here?

Who are you, by the way?


Who are you, by the way?That which is seen to thee

Is the figure of one who one day came to Lichfield—

George Fox the Quaker.


George Fox the Quaker.The Quaker? (Embarrassed) I died fighting.

You wouldn’t approve of that.


You wouldn’t approve of that.We are peaceable people.

When a man smote me I turned the other cheek;

He was abashed.


He was abashed.Was he? it takes more than that

To abash some people.


To abash some people.We had a most precious meeting,

And many souls were turned to the Lord. I heard

Afterwards, that the fellow who smote me died

In poverty, of an ugly disease. Vengeance

Belongs to the Lord; my hands were guiltless towards him.


That pleases you? If I hated a man like that——


I did not hate him.


I did not hate him.Have it your own way;

But if I were so pleased that something beastly had happened

To a man, because of something he did to me,

I almost think I’d rather feel guilty about it.

Chorus (swaying and whispering)

Guilty, guilty, whisper the guilt of the city.


I mean, if there is a God—I suppose you know

Whether there is or not——


Whether there is or not——Thou shalt know too.


Why should He do my dirty work for me?

Why should my hands be cleaner than other people’s?

I can’t explain what I mean, but it doesn’t seem fair.

(Defensively) I know what you’re going to tell me: it was a judgment;

I don’t care; I don’t like it.


I don’t care; I don’t like it.I was doing the Lord’s work;

When he smote me, the blow fell upon Christ

As such blows do; and the judgment overtook him.


Perhaps he thought he was doing the Lord’s work too.

The thing’s a muddle; that’s what you righteous people

Never seem able to see. We try to do right

And someone is hurt—very likely the wrong person;

And if we do wrong, or even if we do nothing,

It comes to the same in the end. We drop a bomb

And condemn a thousand people to sudden death,

The guiltless along with the guilty. Or we refuse

To drop a bomb, and condemn a thousand people

To a lingering death in a concentration camp

As surely as if we had set our hands to the warrant.

Should we have waited for judgment? We did wait,

And innocent people died. We are the judgment.

We have no choice between killing and not killing;

We can only choose which set of people to kill—

And even at that, the choice is made for us;

I did not choose; perhaps I ought to have chosen?

I was told to go and I went. I killed; I was killed.

Did any of us deserve it? I don’t know.

You can stand there and say your hands are clean;

I cannot. But you were lucky. You could be meek

And go to prison, and not take others with you.

We who are tied in this damnable cat’s cradle

Where there is no choice except between bloody alternatives

Have a fraternity which you know nothing about.


Fraternity, fraternity, the fraternity of the city.

Airman (violently)

Why did I have to meet you? Where are my brothers

Who can lay grimy hand to hand with me

Without dread of contamination? fellow victims

And fellow criminals in the exchange of blood?


Exchange, exchange, in the market-place of the city.

Fox (mildly)

Friend, I fear me thou art a man of blood,

And an ignorant man; there is no fraternity

And no exchange, except in the blood of Christ—

But howsoever, thou hast aroused the city.

[Fox retires and sits reading his Bible.


Son of the city, called home by the city,

You have called up the city in the power of exchange.

Look! the city holds out its hands to you.

Whose will you take?

Chorus (dispersedly)

Whose will you take?Will you take mine? or mine?

The hand of the victim? the hand of the executioner?

The child’s hand? the traitor’s hand? the rich? the poor? the oppressor?

Scavenger? murderer? scholar? tinker? tailor?

Soldier? sailor? apothecary? plough-boy? thief?

How do you understand the bond of the city?

Child of the city, what do you know of the city?

Early Martyr

You that died, did you die in our brotherhood?

I was a martyr for Christ. Diocletian

Was Emperor. There was a slaying of Christians in Lichfield.

Our blood ran down the streets and ways of the city,

And the market-place appeared like a pool of blood.

I know what I died for. Do you know what you died for?


You that killed, did you kill in our brotherhood?

I was a Roman under Diocletian;

They told me, those who would not worship the Emperor

Betrayed the city; they told me to slay and I slew.

I know what I killed for; do you know what you killed for?

Protestant Martyr

They burnt me at the stake for the blessed Gospel

And the Protestant faith——


And the Protestant faith——You died a heretic.


How could I tell? I was no learned doctor—

Only a woman, who had learned to love

Our Lord quite simply in His holy Book:

They tangled me in my talk——


They tangled me in my talk——Away with her!


Why grumble, lady? At least you died for something

I never stole the sheep they hanged me for;

D’ye call that justice?


D’ye call that justice?I was an informer,

Running with the hare and hunting with the hounds—

I stole, and sold my fellow thieves; the law

Needs men like me. Are you for law and order?


There must be order: we must keep the peace—

Sometimes with dirty tools; and if sometimes

The wrong man’s framed, or if a stupid jury

Brings in a senseless verdict, can the judge

Do anything but shrug, and wash his hands?

Consider the case of our Lord Jesus Christ—

Judas betrayed Him, Caiaphas accused Him,

Pilate summed up in His favour—the jury hanged Him.

If you are looking for your fellow murderers

You will find more of them in the city streets

Than on the judge’s bench.


Than on the judge’s bench.Who murdered me?

I worked here in the potteries, and the work

Poisoned and killed me. All the choice I had

Was, work and die; or, die for lack of bread.

The city is served so.

Unemployed Man

The city is served so.I had no work;

If I’d died fighting in the first world-war

A grateful city would have carved my name

Upon a monument—but for the living

The city had no use.

Rich Man

The city had no use.Why blame the city?

Everything has its price; if flesh and blood

Are cheap, that is the way of things.


Are cheap, that is the way of things.My flesh

Was bought and sold in the market of the city,

Which spat on what it purchased. They who fouled me

Scorned me for being foul, and their sleek wives

Drew back their skirts from me.


Drew back their skirts from me.I was a wife,

Hard-working, decent; and my husband said:

“Be still, be modest, do not paint your face.

Leave that to harlots—you’re a married woman.”

So I obeyed my husband, and he sneered

At his pale wife, and gave himself to harlots.

[She falls weeping into the Harlot’s arms.

Widow (to Wife)

At least you had your husband; death took mine

And left me childless; and I saw the city

One graveyard.

Mother (to Widow)

One graveyard.Death was merciful to you;

My children lived to break their mother’s heart.


I was a child whom no one ever wanted.

I don’t know what I did to offend the city

That men should send me crawling through black chimneys

While other little boys were playing ball.

Do you know, mister?


Do you know, mister?Look! I was a woman,

And I was ugly. No one gave me children.

Was it my fault that they were never born,

Young man? And what have you to do with me?


Were you a pauper?


Were you a pauper?Did they feed you on weevils?


Did you sleep in a basement with black beetles? Spend your youth

With scuttles and slop-pails?


With scuttles and slop-pails?Were you a lunatic?

Afraid of the world? of yourself? Were you mad? mad? mad?

[The Airman’s nerves give way under this assault, and he retreats into the arms of Dr. Johnson.


My name was Samuel Johnson; I was learned,

Poor and industrious; and God thought it well

To visit me with a scrofulous disease

And dim my vision. Yet I loved the city,

And was a merry old dog for all my trouble,

Save that sudden ugly melancholy

Took me at times, and terror of the judgment.

And most of us are so—our learning blind,

Our industry made poor, our souls half-sick,

Our little laughter mixed with fearfulness;

The city is made of such. What did you think?

Sir, what cord was it drew you back to the city?

Fancy or fact? Was it a rope of sand

Or a steel hawser? Why do you seek the city?


What can I say to you? Sir, there have been times

When there seemed to be a happy and high meaning

In the mere pattern of the city’s life; women

Shopping with string-bags, while the ends of the earth

Waited upon them; boys set free from school

Under the drifted gold horse-chestnut leaves

Hunting for conkers; elderly men in pubs

Exchanging slow speech over a pint of ale;

Girls’ laughter; the double ebb and flow of the tide

Daily through the factory gates; long lines of streets

Silently going somewhere, made for a purpose;

Houses, like safes, with locked-up secrets in them;

The noise of a crowd, mysteriously unanimous,

Like a band, each instrument playing its own tune

To make one music; drays and buses and cars

Moving and stopping for lights or a raised hand;

Pealing of bells; clocks ticking and striking;

Movement of feet and wheels on the surface of things,

Carried triumphant on the hidden intricacy

Of pipes, sewers, cables—the dark functioning

Of distribution. There have been times, I say,

When all this seemed like a miracle and a glory;

And then, like the switching-off of a light—nothing;

Only a crawling of maggots among carrion

In a muddle of petty squalors. If one could find,

Somehow, a way to make the glory endure!

But it only comes by moments. When my plane

Dropped, that was one of the moments. I saw the city

Shine to me. That was the last thing I saw.


Son, you have come to the place of the images,

As all men come, whose eyes are not shut fast

Against redemption, drawn to the moment of glory

By that god-bearing image, whatever it was,

That carried the glory for them; some, most happy,

Leaping directly to the unveiled presence

Of Him that is Himself both image and glory;

Some indirectly—this in a woman’s eyes,

That in a friend’s hand or a poet’s voice

Knowing the eternal moment—and you, in the city.

Wherefore you must make your answer now to the city,

And to me, that am the Recorder of the city.


I’m sorry—I don’t quite get you.


I’m sorry—I don’t quite get you.What is your claim

To citizenship?

Airman (uncertainly)

To citizenship?I was born here. . . . Oh, do you mean,

What have I done for the place? Not much, I’m afraid;

I was killed too soon. I meant to do lots of things—

Set up in business, marry and settle down,

And start a family; take an active interest

In education and politics; work for improvements

In the economic system; I rather thought

Of writing a book one day; but I had no time,

Except to be killed—and kill. Perhaps that counts

As service? The city should know—that seemed to be

The only thing it wanted of me or anyone.


What matters here is not so much what you did

As why you did it: the choice behind the action;

The deed is the letter; what you believe is the spirit.

Except a man believe rightly he cannot be saved,

Not even by suffering. Can you recite your creed?

Airman (mechanically)

I believe in God . . .

Chorus (picking him up and carrying him along with it)

. . . the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ . . .


No! no! no! What made me start off like that?

I reacted automatically to the word “creed”—

My personal creed is something totally different.


What is speaking in you is the voice of the city,

The Church and household of Christ, your people and country

From which you derive. Did you think you were unbegotten?

Unfranchised? With no community and no past?

Out of the darkness of your unconscious memory

The stones of the city are crying out. Go on.

Airman (loudly, and with determination)

I believe . . .

Chorus (overriding him)

. . . in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate . . .

Airman (desperately)

Stop it, I tell you!

That is exactly what I do not believe in—

I do not believe in all this suffering—

I do not see the sense of a suffering God—

Why should anyone suffer?

Recorder (drily)

Why should anyone suffer?Why indeed?

Go on.

Airman (angrily)

Go on.We have seen too many people crucified. . . .


. . . crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into Hell. The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. . . .


Judgment! wait—there is something I want to believe—

They say there is no such thing as Heaven or Hell,

Or anything after death; I do not know;

It seems I am dead, and therefore there must be something,

Somehow. That being so, I have this to say:

That if there is going to be judgment, I want justice.


You shall have it—more, perhaps, than you bargain for;

Always supposing, when it comes to the point,

You know justice when you see it, or are prepared

To accept it when you know it. Now go on.


I believe . . .


. . . in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.


I do not understand a word of all that.


Leave the understanding to the Holy Ghost,

The holy Catholic Church and communion of saints,

So far as they are in you, and you in them.

Now that the city and Church have confessed in you

What they believe, and your memory still believes,

Tell me what it is you think you believe.


I believe in man, and in the hope of the future,

The steady growth of knowledge and power over things,

The equality of all labouring for the community,

And a just world where everyone will be happy.


Child, that is well; but when you speak of equality,

Happiness, justice—who will be equal and happy?

Who shall have justice done them?


Who shall have justice done them?Everybody.


Do you mean these?


Do you mean these?Who will give justice to us?

Where is our happiness? Where is our equality

With the aristocrats of the future, borne on the backs

Of the toiling proletariat of the past?


The past is dead. We must turn our backs on it,

Forget it, bury it. I denounce the past.

The past has turned the world to a living hell.

We must build for the future.


We must build for the future.You are the dead and the past.

Must you be forgotten?


Must you be forgotten?Must you be forgotten with us?


Must you be denounced?


Must you be denounced?Denounced with us and the city?


No! that’s not justice! I believed in the future—

I fought and died for the future.


I fought and died for the future.Did we not die?

You were our future; did we not die for you? Speak!

What did you do with the future we fought and died for?

Was your world just? Was your world happy?


Was your world just? Was your world happy?No;

But what could I do? I had no time; I was killed;

It was not my fault, but the fault of the old people.

Chorus (generation after generation, from the most recent to the earliest)

It was not our fault, but the fault of the old people.


You accuse one another—you try to shift the burden

Back to the beginning, as though you were not responsible,

As though there were something wrong with Man himself,

I will not believe it. The future man shall be good,

Happy and free, walking the world in justice;

Else I have died for nothing. Why was I killed?

I died for your sins—you are my murderers,

Sacrificing me as a victim without choice.

I have no part in you.

Chorus (going away)

I have no part in you.You have no part in us—

No part in the dead, no part in the living city.


What have I done? I have turned them back to ghosts—

The phantom faces with the unseeing eyes;

I did not mean what I said—oh! do not leave me!

Do not send me back to the dark forest!


You have renounced the past—will you have the future?

Shall we call up the voice of the undead future?


Call up the future? Yes; I believe in the future,

The happy and grateful future. No; I dare not!

I could not bear it if I were to hear them say:

“It was not our fault, but the fault of the old people.”

(To the Chorus) Forgive me, I was wrong: we are victims together

Or guilty together; if we have betrayed the future

We will share the blame—and if we have died for the future

Let us believe the future is worth our dying.

But I want to know why we have no choice;

I want to know why there is no justice,

And why it is that everything we do

Turns to a horror we never contemplated;

I want to know what it is all about,

And whether the thing makes sense. I have lived; I have died;

I have a right to know.


I have a right to know.What says the city

To the son of the city?


To the son of the city?Sir, it appears to us

That this young man is fundamentally sound;

Though sadly ignorant and confused in mind,

Nevertheless, he recognises the city,

And the city him.

Early Martyr

And the city him.By his and our goodwill;

Wherefore, that he may fully understand

Where, how and why his good will forged his choice,

Sir, we require you in the name of the city,

Show him the Images.


Show him the Images.With all my heart;

Let you and you and you and you and you

(indicating the Roman, Inquisitor, Informer, Judge and Rich Man, who go off)

Go play your chosen parts in that great play

Wherein the princes of this world are judged

By Him they judge, and you who are the jury

Stand with the Prisoner in the dock and hear

Your sentence on yourselves; and we will show you

The image of man who was made in the image of God;

And God in the image of man; and the image of justice.


Celebrate man, exalted in the image of man,

Strongest and weakest of things! His life is a span,

A breath—death

Creeps to him through a filter. He measures the stars,

He tames the lion, humbles the unicorn, yokes

The lightning; earth shakes with his strokes.

He makes and mars; plenty is his postillion

And famine fawns at his heels; his wheels

Extend dominion; fear is his running footman.

His sculptured monuments outlast the bones

That built them, and his songs outlast their stones;

He heals what first he wounded; he wounds what he heals.

Call upon man in the time of trouble—man

Shall hear. Cry in his ear for fear.

“Save, Lord, we perish!” Cry through the hurricane,

And you shall see and hear

What help there is in the might and the image of man.

[The Upper Stage opens, disclosing Eve and Mary with the Tree of Knowledge. Eve comes forward; Mary remains working at a piece of scarlet cloth.


What do you want? You must not disturb Adam.

He is busy inventing something—the old task,

Trying to undo the curse. My sons are out,

Cain in the vineyard, Abel tending the sheep.

I am here alone with one of my young daughters

Whose work it is to weave the purple and scarlet

For the veil of the Temple. What can I do for you?

I am Eve, the Mother of all mankind,

And all my children are very welcome to me.


Ancestral Eve, this latest of your sons,

Newly arrived into the Place of the Images,

Desires to look on the Image of the First Men

Who were made in the Image of God; because it seems

That no man can choose justice, but is bound

Either to suffer or to deal unjustly,

Or both at once, whatever he attempts;

And each one lays the burden of guilt and grief

On the men before him, back to the very beginning

As though Man’s very nature were to blame—

And yet he says that he believes in Man.


O my poor child, you must not believe in us—

It is too true that guilt is bred in you,

Not to be bred out but by being reborn

To a new knowledge by a Heavenly Word,

As we, alas! were terribly reborn

To a new knowledge by the word of the serpent.


What knowledge, Mother? Is not knowledge good?


Knowledge of good is good; and that we had.


Knowledge, they say, is power; is that not good?


Power to know good is good; and that we had.


How can one know good without knowing evil?

We are not animals, but thinking men;

It is our privilege to know good and evil

And choose the good, or so it seems to me,

And so grow nearer to the image of God.


O child, O child, that was the serpent’s word—

(How well he has learnt his lesson! how the poison

Runs in the blood!) “Ye shall become as gods

Knowing both good and evil.” Then the trap

Shut down. We had forgotten we were creatures.

We could not know as God knows, by pure knowledge,

Only as men know, by experience.

What we desired in knowing good and evil

Was simply the experience of evil:

We chose it and we had it.


We chose it and we had it.All the same,

If there is evil, it is well to know it.


There was none, till we chose to know it so

What we knew then was what we had always known—

There was nothing else to know; only the world

That God had made and seen to be very good.

But after we had eaten the sad fruit

We knew it by experience differently.

We knew doing and making as labour and sorrow,

Love as possession and lust and jealousy,

Difference as hatred, blessed luck as envy,

The holy and glorious flesh as living carrion,

And death had a new countenance; we knew it

As—death. Hush! hush! we must not speak such words

Nakedly. When we had eaten we knew we were naked,

And made aprons for that and a good many other things.

Death—and birth; it was only after the Fall

That I conceived and brought forth Abel and Cain:

Both of them are my sons—but Cain is the first-born.


Lo, now, the image of the works and ways of Adam!

Knowledge growing as the tree grows in the garden—

Knowledge for Cain, and knowledge also for Abel,

Knowledge for Abel and Cain; but Cain is the first-born.

Lo, now, the riches of the knowledge of Adam!

Riches running as the river runs from the well-spring—

Riches for Cain, and riches also for Abel,

Riches for Abel and Cain; but Cain is the first-born.

Lo, now, the power of the riches of Adam!

Power that gathers as the clouds gather in the mountains—

Power for Cain, and power also for Abel,

Power for Abel and Cain; but Cain is the first-born.

[Enter Adam carrying an axe.


Cain! Abel! Where are those boys? Mary, my dear,

Run to the fields and fetch your elder brothers;

I have something here to show them. Where’s your mother?

[Exit Mary above.




Husband!Oh, there you are! Well now, this time

I think you’ll say I’ve really earned my dinner;

Give me a kiss—call me your clever Adam,

Who toils all day to do away with toil

And now and then makes progress. . . . What? What’s that?

Company? Why, the more the merrier!

Children, applaud your father’s new invention,

Which will go far to circumvent the curse

And usher in the new progressive age

Of leisure and prosperity.

[Re-enter Mary with Cain and Abel, and sits down on the steps with her work.

Of leisure and prosperity.Ah, Cain!

Come here, my boy. Here, Abel—look at this;

Is that, or is it not, a useful tool?

[He hands the axe to Cain.

Cain (appreciatively)

Nice, very nice.

[He hands it to Abel.


Nice, very nice.What do you call it, Adam?

Adam (irritably)

What can it matter what the thing is called?

How like a woman!


How like a woman!Cheer up, Mother dear—

Just call it marvellous.

Adam (with offended dignity)

Just call it marvellous.It is called an axe.


Why axe?


Why axe?Because I choose to call it so.

Of course, you do not ask me what it does,

Which is what really matters.

Eve (meekly)

Which is what really matters.What does it do?


Increase the power of a man’s arm tenfold.

[He settles down to deliver a lecture.

You see, the curse laid on the human race

Is labour—without hard, back-breaking labour,

And sweat and toil that leave no time for pleasure

We make no progress. Progress, as you know,

When one gets down to it, is just the task

Of shifting things about from place to place

Quicker and quicker, so as to get more

Of everything at once. (To Cain) If you could reap

And bind and thrash and stack a field of corn

All in one day, instead of many days,

That would be progress. (To Abel) Or if you could go

By some swift engine to your furthest field

And shear your sheep and bring the fleece back here

Within an hour or two, you’d call that progress.


The day will come for men to do such things,

By multiplying power in such a way

That one man’s hand may do the work of many.

This axe, then, is an instrument of power:

It works upon the principle of the lever.


What’s that?


What’s that?My dear, I’m talking to the boys;

Women don’t need to know these things.


Women don’t need to know these things.Of course not.


If you’d not been in such great haste to know

There in the garden, we should all be now

Much better off.


Much better off.Indeed, that’s very true—

My sin was of the intellect.


My sin was of the intellect.It was.


So now I must not use my intellect?


No; we’ve been through this argument before;

Women must have no further opportunity—

They can’t be trusted. You should have sent for me,

I would have sent the snake about his business,

My sole mistake was listening to you.


Your sin was of the heart. Dear, chivalrous Adam!

You were so noble—never shall I forget.

“If God sends death,” you said, “we’ll die together;

You are my Eve—my woman, right or wrong.”

Kind Adam, I’d not rob you of your heart

Although it made you sin; I hold it here,

And I can twist it round my little finger,

Can’t I?


Can’t I?You can, my womanly sweet Eve.

Kiss me.


Kiss me.You won’t be angry any more?


No, no.


No, no.You’ll tell me all about the axe?


Yes, if you like.


Yes, if you like.Why, that’s my gentle Adam. . . .

(You see, there are more kinds of power than one.)


I know how this works, Father.


I know how this works, Father.Give it me,

Abel, I am the first-born. Let me speak.


By all means, brother.


By all means, brother.Look now, the long shaft

Swung at my arm’s length—so—about my shoulder,

Describes a wider circle.


Describes a wider circle.So the head

Moves faster than the naked blade could do

Held in the hand.


Held in the hand.And that’s what gives the power.


Quite right. When once you’ve grasped the principle

The formula is simple: Speed is power,

You can apply it in a thousand ways.

Eve (flatteringly)

But it needs brains like yours to think it out.


See here! with this one could cut down a tree

Instead of grubbing it slowly up by the roots,

And shape it to make planks—tables and chairs——


For me to sit in?


For me to sit in?You shall sit at ease,

And we will make you things to save your labour—

Things that move very fast, and so breed power,

To turn my hard-worked wife to a fine lady

Living a life of leisure.


Living a life of leisure.Will the axe

Make me more beautiful, and give me power

The woman’s way?


The woman’s way?A single stroke with this

Would split a bear’s skull, strike a tiger dead,

Master all Nature.


Master all Nature.You shall have fine furs,

Better than those old rabbit-skins.


Better than those old rabbit-skins.O brave axe!


Father, if we cut down a lot of trees,

Burned out their centres, wedged them end to end,

Could we not make a water-conduit?


Could we not make a water-conduit?Why,

To be sure we could.


To be sure we could.This morning, Cain and I

Offered our sacrifice and said our prayers

As usual; and afterwards I went,

Singing a hymn, because the day was fine

And I was happy, up to the rocky hill

That bounds my fields to the north—the fields, you know

(to Cain)

You would not have, because they were so dry

No crops would grow there. In a rocky cleft

I found—guess what!—a quite new spring of water

Which certainly was not there yesterday.

Isn’t that wonderful? It gushed and ran

Among the stones, and some of it was lost—

But if we made a conduit——


But if we made a conduit——What do you say?

You found a water-spring upon your land?


Yes. God is good. Perhaps He likes the lamb

I sacrificed. I chose it carefully.

Or else it was sheer bounty.


Or else it was sheer bounty.Sacrifice!

Did I not sacrifice as well as you?

Why should He like your offering more than mine?

Abel (gaily)

I don’t know, brother; it was just my luck.


Call it God’s providence.


Call it God’s providence.It isn’t fair!

Why should my brother have more luck than I?

I am the first-born.


I am the first-born.That was your luck, brother,

The water-spring is mine.


The water-spring is mine.This is not justice—

I sacrificed, I prayed; if God were just

He would reward me too. I am the first-born—

Why should I toil and moil at carrying water

While you, the younger, laze beside your stream

Singing psalms in the sunshine?


Singing psalms in the sunshine?Cain!


Singing psalms in the sunshine?Cain!My son,

Control your tongue!


Control your tongue!Why are you so unkind?

Indeed you are very welcome to the water.

We’ll make a conduit from my fields to yours.


I won’t have charity, I’ll have my rights.

Don’t talk of luck or providence to me!

Must I have your permission to draw water?

Must I be grateful? Must I kiss your hand,

That am your equal and your elder? No!

To-day we usher in the great new age

That makes one man’s hand as the hand of ten—

I tell you, we’ll have no more blundering luck,

But only opportunity and power!

Out of my way!


Out of my way!Abel!


Out of my way!Abel!Cain, for God’s sake!


I’ll teach God to make favourites.

[He strikes Abel down.


I’ll teach God to make favourites.Brother!


I’ll teach God to make favourites.Brother!So.


Abel! . . . He’s killed him. . . . Murderer!


Abel! . . . He’s killed him. . . . Murderer!Justice of God!

Mary, go in—this is no place for girls—

You that are men——

[Mary runs in, dropping her work.


You that are men——Why are you standing there?

Do you not see that he has killed my son?

Seize him! . . . O Abel!

[The Chorus make a half-hearted rush at Cain, who keeps them off with the axe.


Seize him! . . . O Abel!Back, you fools! I am armed.

[They drop back. Adam goes up to him.

What do you want, good man?


What do you want, good man?I am your father;

I charge you by my holy authority,

Put down that weapon.


Put down that weapon.Weapon? Now we have come

To the exhortations and the moral sanctions.

I am your son, your first-born; and this weapon—

Is it, or is it not a useful tool?

Useful perhaps for more things than you thought of.

You bid me put it down—by your authority!

By what authority, my clever father,

You that put power into the hand of Cain?


Where is salvation? who shall deliver Adam?

Power and knowledge and wealth are only a man’s work,

Mighty for good and mighty also for evil;

All men are Abel and Cain; but Cain is the first-born.

[Eve covers the body of Abel with the scarlet cloth.


And the Lord said unto Cain: “Where is Abel thy brother?”


And he said: “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”


And He said: “What hast thou done? Thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now thou art cursed of the earth and it shall not yield thee her fruit; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.”


My punishment is greater than I can bear—

Cursed and driven away and dispossessed;

I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond,

And every one that findeth me shall slay me.


And the Lord said unto him: “Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” Thus saith the Lord.


Thus saith the Lord—and lets the wolf go free;

I am a marked man; keep your hands off me.


Alas! alas! must I lose both my sons,

One by injustice and the other by judgment?

O Cain, my first-born, will you not say you are sorry?

Ask pardon? Plead with your dead brother’s blood

To speak for you, as the dead lamb’s blood speaks

On the altar of sacrifice? What will you do, poor child,

Alone in the desert with the barren earth,

Outlawed by God and man?


Outlawed by God and man?Don’t trouble, Mother;

Your heart’s too soft—I shall live long enough

To breed a race of Cains; and you shall see

The sevenfold vengeance—seven-and-seventyfold—

Before we have finished. Let the earth be barren!

We will build cities, and work in iron and brass,

And you shall bring your corn and oil and wine

And your fat cattle, and your souls, and sell them

To buy that produce. You can keep your axe;

We will make axes for all of you. Let me pass.

[He goes in under the stage. The curtains of the Upper Stage are closed.


God is not served with engines

God is not served with enginesHe takes no pleasure in horse-power,

Neither delighteth

Neither delightethin the speed of any man’s going;

What though your two hands

What though your two handsspan the dawn and the sunset

When one is the hand of Abel

When one is the hand of Abeland one is the hand of Cain?


So shall the seed of Cain take vengeance on Cain;

Though you slay innocence and outlaw guilt

You cannot undo the brotherhood of the blood.

Every man and every woman of you

Is the whole seed of Adam, not divided

But fearfully joined in the darkness of the double self.

Do you not know it? do you not feel it, all of you,

In the bone’s marrow, in the labyrinth of the brain,

In the ambiguity of dreams—the twofold will

Purposing life and death? Do not you all

Suffer with Abel and destroy with Cain,

Each one at once the victim and the avenger

Till Cain is Abel, being condemned for Abel,

And Abel Cain, in the condemning of Cain?


A: Shall we not have our blessing? We are Abel.

B: Shall we not have our birthright? We are Cain.

C: We all are men, and shall we not have justice?

A: Our name is Abel; you have murdered us—

Are you not Cain and shall we not have justice?

B: Our name is Abel if you take revenge,

C: And you are Cain, and shall we not have justice?

A: Cain shall go free, for we will not be Cain;

C: We will be innocent though we do no justice.

C: Alas! your innocence has let loose Cain,

C: You too are Cain, and shall we not have justice?

A: If you take vengeance on us, we are Abel

C: And you are Cain, and shall we not have justice?

B: Brother, what is your name?

C:Brother, what is your name?My name is Cain

C: And Abel.

A: And AbelBrother, what is your name?

B:And AbelBrother, what is your name?My name

B: Is Cain and Abel.

C:Is Cain and Abel.Brother, what is your name?

A: My name is Cain and Abel.

All:My name is Cain and Abel.God send justice!

B: The blood of Abel cries out from the ground.


Vengeance is mine, saith God; I will repay.


O no, no, no! that is a fearful saying!

God shall take vengeance? God Himself repay?

Still in man’s retribution some small shame,

Remembering the contributory guilt

Which wronged the wronger and excused the wrong—

Some prudent terror of the back-recoil

Of that great clumsy engine men call justice—

Must stay the judge’s hand and wring out mercy,

Though grudgingly, and less for mercy’s sake

Than policy. But what sort of dreadful thing

Can be the vengeance of the innocent,

Who, being all wronged, need not subtract the score

Of his own debt from the appalling total?

You that cry out so loud for right and justice,

Do you mean justice? deed and word and thought

Judges in yourselves by one eternal measure

Of absolute and incorruptible right?

I do not think so. When you call for justice

You would make God your bailiff, to collect

Your legal dues; but not your almoner,

Still less your judge. Alas! you cannot bend

God to your service; yet He may hear prayers—

Sometimes His vengeance is a granted prayer,

When a corrupt heart gains its whole desire

And finds itself in Hell. Children, take heed,

And do not pray for justice; you might get it.


Wife, I think you have spoken the hardest word

That ever man gave ear to. Not ask justice!

That word of yours would overthrow the temples

And bring the state down headlong. Man’s first cry

Is still for justice. Children utter it,

Accepting both reward and punishment

So long as they are dealt out equally

To all alike.


To all alike.But must we be so childish?

It’s in my mind that there is something else—

A kind of mercy that is not unjust,

A not unmerciful justice—if we could see it;

Something that, once seen, would commend itself,

Not to be argued with. The serpent argued,

And all his words were true: but that truth lied.

But God’s word was that we should find a Man,

The image of His argument bodily,

Whose heel of flesh should bruise the serpent’s brain

Visibly. Will you not pray God send that sight?

For our sad eyes see nothing now but death.


Children of men, kneel down and pray with us,

The parents of your Abel and your Cain,

The derivation of your life and death,

Adam and Eve. O God, over our dead

And banished blood we cry. Roll back our sins

That like the leaves of the accursed tree

Shut out the face of Heaven.

[During the following litany the curtains of the Upper Stage open slowly and disclose the Gates of Heaven.


Shut out the face of Heaven.Roll back our sins.


From the blind skill that has no understanding,

The knowledge that has no wisdom, the glib speech

That has no vision, from the heartless brain

And the brainless heart.


And the brainless heart.Deliver us, good Lord.


From the black chaos that blasphemes creation,

From the disordered will that spews out judgment,

From the dark greed that binds us in subjection

To our desires,


To our desires,Deliver us, good Lord.


From the proud virtues that are our undoing,

From the harsh righteousness whose name is murder,

From the liberality whose name is treason,

From the weak and the strong, from our right and our wrong,

Our worst and best,


Our worst and best,Deliver us, good Lord.


From all the gods made in the image of man,

From all the worship of man in man’s own image,

From the corrupt alike and from the barren



Imagination,Deliver us, good Lord.


Open the gate! that we have sinned we know—

The sole admission

Brings no remission

Of our despair; life cannot be lived so

In division without vision,

Frustrate, disconsolate,

Knowing so little, destroyed by what we know.

No, no,

Better in a sharp derision

Break, burn, scatter us at a blow,

Blow us away in the blast of the world’s fission

Disject, disintegrate—

But yet You hold us to our hard condition

And You will not let go.

Open the gate, O Lord, and legislate

Late though it be, for us who wait,

Weighted by our contrition,

Mocked of ambition,

Yet stubborn to believe that You will show,

Though how, we do not know,

Some order in the State.

State terms, state conclusion, state decision,

Speak the name of the City. Open the gate,

Throw open the gate, throw

Open the gate, show

The image of truth in the place of the images, show,


[The Gates of Heaven open, disclosing the Persona Dei, with Gabriel and another Angel.


I the image of the Unimaginable

In the place where the Image and the Unimaged are one,

The Act of the Will, the Word of the Thought, the Son

In whom the Father’s selfhood is known to Himself,

I being God and with God from the beginning

Speak to Man in the place of the Images.

You that We made for Ourself in Our own image,

Free like Us to experience good by choice,

Not of necessity, laying your will in Ours

For love’s sake creaturely, to enjoy your peace,

What did you do? What did you do for Us

By what you did for yourselves in the moment of choice?

O Eve My daughter, and O My dear son Adam,

Whose flesh was fashioned to be My tabernacle,

Try to understand that when you chose your will

Rather than Mine, and when you chose to know evil

In your way and not in Mine, you chose for Me.

It is My will you should know Me as I am—

But how? For you chose to know your good as evil,

Therefore the face of God is evil to you,

And you know My love as terror, My mercy as judgment,

My innocence as a sword; My naked life

Would slay you. How can you ever know Me then?

Yet know you must, since you were made for that;

Thus either way you perish. Nay, but the hands

That made you, hold you still; and since you would not

Submit to God, God shall submit to you,

Not of necessity, but free to choose

For your love’s sake what you refused to Mine.

God shall be man; that which man chose for man

God shall endure, and what man chose to know

God shall know too—the experience of evil

In the flesh of man; and certainly He shall feel

Terror and judgment and the point of the sword;

And God shall see God’s face set like a flint

Against Him; and man shall see the Image of God

In the image of man; and man shall show no mercy.

Truly I will bear your sin and carry your sorrow,

And, if you will, bring you to the tree of life,

Where you may eat, and know your evil as good,

Redeeming that first knowledge. But all this

Still at your choice, and only as you choose,

Save as you choose to let Me choose in you.

Who then will choose to be the chosen of God,

And will to bear Me that I may bear you?


O my dear Lord, in me the promise stood—

Worst, weakest, yet in me. What must I do?


Woman, that bore the blame from the beginning,

Now in the end bring forth the remedy;

Go, call your daughter Mary, whose unsinning

Heart I have chosen that it may bear Me.




Mary!O Mary maiden! Mary of pity!

Speak for us, Mary! Speak for a world in fear!

Mary, mother and maid, send help to the city!

Speak for us, choose for us, Mary!

[Enter Mary, above.


Speak for us, choose for us, Mary!You called? I am here.


All that is true in us, all we were meant to be,

The lost opportunity and the broken unity,

The dead innocence, the rejected obedience,

The forfeited chastity and the frozen charity,

The caged generosity, and the forbidden pity,

Speak in the mouth of Mary, in the name of the city!


In the speed of the Holy Ghost run, Gabriel;

Bear Our message to Mary, daughter of Eve,

That she may lay her will under Our will

Freely, and as she freely gives, receive.

[Gabriel comes down.


Alpha and Omega, beginning and end,

Laid on a single head in the moment of choice!

Pray God now, pray that a woman lend

Her ear to God’s, as once to the serpent’s voice.

Paradise all to gain and all to lose

In the second race re-run from the old start;

What will the city do now, if a girl refuse

The weight of the glory, the seven swords in the heart?


Hail, thou that art highly favoured! The Lord is with thee;

Blessed art thou among women.


Blessed art thou among women.What may this be?


Thou shalt conceive in the power of the Holy Ghost

The most high Child, the Prince of the heavenly host;

This is the word that I am charged to say:

Wilt thou receive that Guest without dismay?


Behold in me the handmaid of the Lord;

Be it unto me according to thy word.


Now I put off My crown and majesty

To take the vesture of humility.

[The Persona Dei takes off His imperial vesture and remains in His alb.


Rejoice, O daughter of Jerusalem,

Thy King shall come to thee in Bethlehem.

Mary (sings)

My heart is exalting the Lord

                  and my spirit is glad of my Saviour,

Who stoops from the height of His heaven

                  to look on me, maiden-in-meekness,

And all generations shall bless me

                  in the sound of the great salutation,

For He that is highly exalted

                  exalts me, and holy is He.


Who being the Father’s Image,

                  the expression and form of the Selfhood,

Thought the equal and infinite glory

                  was nowise a thing to be clung to,

But came to the selfhood of Man,

                  in the image and form of a servant,

Made lower and less than His angels,

                  the Lord of them; holy is He.

[The Persona Dei comes down.


O widowed city, wake! beneath thy stones

A whispering wind goes stirring the dead bones.


Rise up, dear city of God, rise up; receive

The second Adam from the second Eve.


Come, thou North wind, and come, thou South wind; blow

On our parched garden; bid the spices flow.


Replant lost Eden in Gethsemane,

For Love’s new fruit hangs from the second Tree.


New age, begin! bring in the golden reign!


Mercy and truth, long-parted, meet again,

And righteousness and peace kiss one another.


Woman, behold thy Son.


Woman, behold thy Son.Behold Thy mother.


O Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,

Lowliest and loftiest of created stature,

Fixed goal to which the eternal counsels run;

Thou art that she by whom our human nature

Was so ennobled that it might become

The Creator to create Himself His creature.

[During the singing of this hymn, Gabriel returns into Heaven, and the gates are shut.


Naked I came out of My mother’s womb,

Naked God in a world of armed men.


When we had tasted knowledge we knew we were naked.


We were afraid and hid ourselves, being naked.


Sheol is naked before Him, and Abaddon hath no covering.


Who shall look on Abaddon unveiled and go down naked to Sheol.


Mother and daughter, bear Me forth to the world;

Show to them who were made in the image of God

The image of the Image of the Unimaginable

From the place where the Image and the Unimaged are one.


Good Christian people, you see, this is my Son;

Be tender to Him. It was a very long journey;

The ass was footsore before we came to Bethlehem,

And there was no room in the inn. He was born in a stable,

And I wrapped Him in linen and laid Him in the manger

Between the ox and the ass. The angels sang

And the simple shepherds worshipped; the wise kings

Brought incense and myrrh and gold. Then Herod was angry,

And sent his soldiers to kill the little children—

They died because Herod was afraid of a little child—

But we took the ass and fled away into Egypt,

And presently, when things seemed a little more safe,

Came home to the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth,

Where He lived thirty years in silence and obedience.

Consider now the work and word of the Son

Before the ass carries Him up to Jerusalem.


The Kingdom of God is come among you. I,

Being the Father’s Word and one with Him,

Am here with you in the power of the Holy Ghost.

Thus saith Isaiah: “He hath anointed Me

To speak good tidings to the humble, heal

The broken-hearted, open the blind eyes,

Unloose the captives whom your sins have bound,

And to proclaim God’s year of jubilee.”

To-day you see all prophecy fulfilled.


The World, the State, the Church shall see it, too.

[Enter Herod, Pilate and Caiaphas and sit upon the Upper Stage attended by two Soldiers.


Lo! I am come to make all these things new.

[Enter Judas and stands watching.


And some will see and hear and then betray.


Whoso sells Me sells his own soul away.


Behold, against the princes of this world

The banners of the King of kings unfurled!

Chorus (dispersedly)

Is it He that should come? or do we look for another?

Can he do what he says? These things are hard to believe.

I am sad. I am sick—his touch would heal me, perhaps.

He may be a quack. One does not want to look foolish

Or get into trouble. We thought we saw visions of angels.

But visions are dreams, and the thought is betrayed by the wish.


Why do you hesitate? I, who have nothing to lose,

Being so utterly bad, will fall at His feet.

Pity me, sir.


Pity me, sir.I will. You are forgiven.

Be glad, and sin no more. Sin-burdened souls

Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.

[The Chorus draws close to Him.


What is the meaning of this blasphemous folly?

No man can cleanse from sin but God alone.


Truly. Go now and say what you have heard

And seen.

[He lays His hands on Johnson.

And seen.Look up, dim eyes, behold the sun!

[Johnson falls at His feet. He lays His hand on the Hunchback.

Stand upright, crooked limbs, and walk with God.

[The Hunchback is healed.

You that are haunted with a spirit of fear——

[He lays hands on the Lunatic.

Lunatic (shrieking)

No, no! Let go! Take off your terrible hands,

Strong Son of God—let go!


Strong Son of God—let go!Come out of him!

[The Lunatic is healed.


Hosanna, Lord! O Lord, have mercy on us!


It looks as though there might be something in this.

[He comes down.



Hosanna!Hail! Hosanna!


Hosanna!Hail! Hosanna!Alas! alas!

Turn pitying eyes this way, O Son of Man!


Woman, why do you weep?


Woman, why do you weep?See here, see here,

This was my son!


This was my son!Mother, unloose your arms—

Wake, murdered innocence! Rise up from the dead!

[He raises Abel.




Hosanna!What’s all that noise?


Hosanna!What’s all that noise?A prophet, sir.


Prophet? Oh, well! He might start some new craze

To make a dull world seem less wearisome.

Hey, you there! Is there anything I can do

To save me from the boredom of myself?


Sell all you have, and give it to the poor,

And come and follow Me.


And come and follow Me.Follow you where?


To the gallows, if need be.


To the gallows, if need be.Preposterous!

[He takes no further interest.

Persona (sitting with the Chorus about Him)

Listen, My children. In the olden time

The law was made for sin: an eye for an eye,

A life for a life; requital, not revenge.

But I say this: the Law indeed must stand,

But do not seek the Law. Give, and forgive,

And make no claim; for what the Law concedes

Is your bare merit, grudgingly allowed,

Grudgingly taken; but the gifts of love

Are gifts, beyond desert, beyond desire—

And the meek heart inherits all the earth.


You can’t do things like that. It is not justice.


Oh, no! there is no justice in the Gospel,

There’s only love, which does not seek its own,

But finds its whole delight in giving joy



Unasked.Dreams, dreams. Men are not governed so.


Oh, if you want the Law, you shall have law,

Your own harsh measure, pressed down, running over,

Returned into your bosom. What you choose

You choose, and it is yours for ever—that

Is the great Law, of which no jot or tittle

Changes. But if you choose Me, you choose Love.


And who are you, to set yourself above

The Law? You know who gave the Law to Moses?

Speak! was it not the God of Abraham?


Your father Abraham longed to see My day—

He saw it and was glad.


He saw it and was glad.What do you mean?

Whom would you make yourself?


Whom would you make yourself?Ere Abraham was

I am.

[The Chorus hide their faces.


I am.O monstrous!

Judas (hastening across to Caiaphas)

I am.O monstrous!How much will you give me

If I betray him?


If I betray him?Thirty pieces of silver.

[Judas signifies agreement and returns.


Sir, that your law is good we well believe;

But how to keep it? Will the seed of Cain

Forgive, or seek forgiveness, or be meek?

Was it worth while—forgive my bluntness, sir—

That God should be made man, only to say

To man, “Be perfect,” when it can’t be done?

A rough-and-ready rule that can be kept

Is something; but impossible demands

Will only serve to make us desperate.


Only Myself can keep My law in you;

Merely to hear My words and nod approval

Is nothing—’tis a house that’s built on sand.

I must be closer to you than your marrow,

The sight of your eyes, the thought within your brain.

I say, unless you eat My flesh and blood

And make My substance and My self your own,

You cannot live. I am your bread, your wine;

I give My body to be broken for you

That I, in you, may break and give yourselves

For all the world. No man has greater love

Than he who lays his life down for his friends.


Is any man worth such a price?

[Judas goes to Caiaphas.


Is any man worth such a price?My child,

That is a question which love must not ask,

Though some will dip their hands deep in the dish

And sell the love that fed them, Love must bear it.


Is there no other way?


Is there no other way?Sir, I am sent

To call You.

Persona (rising)

To call You.Angel, is there no other way?


No other way, my Lord.

Persona (to Airman)

No other way, my Lord.You see, there’s none.

It is hard for the flesh to say, “Thy will be done.”

[He goes aside with the Recorder.

Judas (returning with Soldiers)

When I embrace him, seize him.


When I embrace him, seize him.Father, alas!

If this cup must be drunk and may not pass,

I am content.


I am content.Hail, Master!


I am content.Hail, Master!What is this?

Judas, will you betray love with a kiss?

[The Persona Dei is taken before Caiaphas, the Chorus following.


And they sought for witness against Him to put Him to death, and found none. For many bare false witness against Him, but their witness agreed not together.


Why do we waste our time? Our holy court

Is not concerned with what the prisoner did,

Whether good or bad, but only with his claim:

Now, by the living God, answer to me—

Are you the Christ, the Son of God?


Are you the Christ, the Son of God?I am.


What man of woman born may dare to say so?


I say that you shall see the Son of man

Throned in high Heaven at the right hand of power.


What need of witness? You have heard his blasphemy—

[The City groans.

He is guilty of death.

[The City groans again.

He is guilty of death.Take him away to Pilate.


What is your accusation against this man?


He has blasphemed; religion has condemned him.


In that case, let religion punish him.


The priesthood sheds no blood. We hand him over

To the secular arm. Creeds become policies—

He says he is a king.


He says he is a king.Are you a king?


Yes, but My kingdom is not of this world.


Speak plainly, man; what is your kingdom?


Speak plainly, man; what is your kingdom?Truth;

All true men are My people.


All true men are My people.What is truth?

This is some harmless mad philosopher—

The State cannot concern itself with truth;

Thought must be free; religious toleration

Is Caesar’s motto—we don’t care, provided

People will keep the peace and pay their taxes.


This man has stirred rebellion up in Galilee——


Galilee?—Not within my jurisdiction.

You should have said he was a Galilean;

Why waste my time? Take him away to Herod—

Passed to you, please, for information and action.

Herod (yawning)

What is all this? Something about religion?

The trouble is, it’s all so out of touch

With daily life. Can’t you put ginger in it?

A thrill is what we need, but in these days

There’s so much competition. What’s your line?

The scientific witness? Exploitation

Of fresh techniques? The new psychology?

Old truths in modern dress? Or politics—

God’s contribution to the perfect state?

I hope not merely brighter services

And congregational singing. Speak up, man!

Aren’t you the prophet born in Bethlehem?

They tell me you work miracles—well, begin!

Show us what you can do. You won’t? No thrills—

No sales-talk. Pilate, what’s this man accused of?


Of stirring up the people.


Of stirring up the people.Stirring up? . . .

[He dissolves into laughter.

Stirring? . . . don’t make me laugh . . . stirring the people . . .

Here, take him back—he comes from Bethlehem—

Your bit of boredom and not mine, thank goodness.

Pilate (waving them off)

I will chastise him then, and let him go.

Here, fellow, take the prisoner out and flog him,

And that may teach him not to call himself

A king in future.

1st Soldier

A king in future.Step this way, your majesty.

We’ll make a king of you—and crown you too.

[He takes the Persona Dei out of sight.


Pilate, this will not do; the man has theories,

That’s always dangerous.


That’s always dangerous.Doesn’t that depend

On what the theories are?


On what the theories are?No, not at all;

You said yourself that truth was not important—

Opinion is.


Opinion is.I find no fault in him.


Possibly not; but think what violent factions,

What tyrannous rule, how many bloody wars

Have risen out of words and theories

That seemed quite harmless—even virtuous—

While they were only theories and words.

You would let loose a sword upon the earth

Might sweep your Cæsar from his throne, and split

The Empire.


The Empire.How can any empire stand

Whose laws betray the innocent?


Whose laws betray the innocent?He is guilty;

But were he not, better that he should suffer

Than bring down ruin on the innocent people.


The people? . . . Soldier, go to the gaol and fetch

That murdering robber out—for you remind me:

This is the day when we release a prisoner

To please the people. Let the people choose. . . .

Where is the man who calls himself a king?

[Re-enter 1st Soldier with Persona, wearing scarlet robe and crown of thorns.

1st Soldier

Here, sir.


Here, sir.And where’s the robber?

2nd Soldier

Here, sir.And where’s the robber?Here he is.

[Cain brought from under the stage, in the guise of Barabbas.

Pilate (to the Chorus)

Look on the prisoner. (To Cain) What’s your name?


Look on the prisoner. (To Cain) What’s your name?Barabbas,

“Son of the father” in the Hebrew tongue;

I come, sir, of a very ancient family;

My father has many sons, but I am the first-born.


And you—what is your name?


And you—what is your name?Jesus called Christ.

Son of the Father and the sole-begotten.


You know that I am placed here in authority

To set you free or send you to the Cross?


You could have no authority over Me

Except as God appoints you for a judge

To men; therefore the greater sin is his

By whom I was delivered to your judgment.

Yet, as men must accept, I do accept

The verdict of your court.


The verdict of your court.Behold the man!

Consider now, you people of the city,

Which of the twain shall I release to you,

Barabbas here? or Jesus called the Christ?


Barabbas! we’re accustomed to Barabbas—

Let us have back our old familiar sin!

Give us Barabbas! we will have Barabbas!


What shall I do with Jesus called the Christ?


Crucify him!


Crucify him!What crime has he committed?




Crucify!Shall I crucify your king?


His kingship makes too great demands on us—

He would be king of body and soul and all,

There would be nothing left of us. Away!

Crucify him!


Crucify him!If you let this man go

You are not Cæsar’s friend; there is no room

In one allegiance for both Christ and Cæsar.


Crucify! crucify!


Crucify! crucify!This is not justice.


Crucify him!


Crucify him!I take you all to witness,

I wash my hands of this. On your head be it.


His blood be upon us and upon our children.


O sons and daughters, consider what you have done—

How you have pulled the judgment of Cain upon you:

You are all the children of one father—you,

Judas and Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate and Cain—

The sons of Adam who was the son of God.


See how you have pulled the death of Abel upon you!

Are not all of you born of the same womb?

Now you are all involved in the same disaster,

In the intimate bond of the blood—all you, and Cain,

And Abel and Christ, the sons of Eve and Mary.


Crucify! crucify! let him be crucified!

[The voices of the Images stop abruptly and leave the Airman shouting all by himself.


Crucify! crucify!

[He becomes aware of the silence round him.

Crucify! crucify!What on earth am I doing?

That is not in the least what I meant to say;

I can’t think what came over me.


I can’t think what came over me.The voice of the City.

Speaking in one of its less inspired moments—

Or in one of its moments of greatest inspiration;

For the priesthood of the City is a true priesthood;

And the prophetic heritage still inalienable

By any corruption; the City never speaks truth

So surely as when it does not know what it’s saying.


The voice of the people has condemned the prisoner;

The voice of the people is the voice of God,

The Empire truckles to the divine voice.

And minor officials do wisely to know their place

And truckle accordingly. Take him to the Cross.


Take him by all means, so far as I am concerned,

He did not come up to what I expected of him.


This is a very satisfactory ending.

God is avenged, the Laws of the City are safe;

Everybody’s weakness has been successfully exploited

In the best interests of society: it is wonderful

To see how all things work together for good.


I have sinned; I have betrayed the innocent blood.


What is that to us?


What is that to us?Nothing at all,

Brother, although you are art and part with me.

There is no exchange in sin; when guilt is shared,

It is only as two men share the same disease

But cannot divide it; each has the whole disease,

And cannot give it away, although he gives it.

In death, you see, none can deliver his brother,

And the brotherhood of Cain is of that kind.

This guilt is yours and mine—altogether yours,

Altogether mine; it cannot be called “ours”—

Sin cannot say that word.


Sin cannot say that word.But I can say it,

Because our brotherhood is not in the sin

But in the blood—the fatherhood of God

And the motherhood of the first and the second Eve.

The yours and the mine can belong to both and either

By division or exchange, if you choose to make it so.

Say that the guilt is Mine; give it to Me

And I will take it away to be crucified.

It is all so very much simpler than you think:

Give Me the greedy heart and the little creeping treasons,

Give Me the proud heart and the blind, obstinate eyes (to Caiaphas);

Give Me the shallow heart, and the vain lust, and the folly (to Herod);

Give Me the coward heart and the spiritless refusals (to Pilate);

Give Me the confused self that you can do nothing with;

I can do something.


I can do something.You? What can you do?

No one can help me; I do not want to be helped.

Though I cast back guilt and price to the place they came from,

I shall find them again when I go to my own place.

[He throws the money back to Caiaphas.


There is a place in the desert for them that refuse hope,

Where one may lie for ever and hug the thing that one hates,

And fear becomes desire in the final fixation of choice.


I do not think there is any way out of these problems;

One is always at the mercy of events and the world-situation;

One takes the thing as one finds it and makes the best of it:

I do not believe there are any ultimate standards.


There is a place in the desert for them that refuse faith,

Where one may fall for ever in a pit that has no bottom,

Endlessly adapted to a fixed monotonous change.

Caiaphas (to Judas)

You will suffer for this insolence (to Persona) and you, too;

I am not a sinner; I have nothing to reproach myself with;

I have kept the Law and been perfectly right throughout.

Fools and criminals get what is coming to them,

Or how could the City stand? It is quite grotesque

To say that we, who administer the laws of the City,

Are guilty of blood; it is they, not we, who are guilty.


There is a place in the desert for them who refuse charity,

Where the iron heart is bound in the bond of its own iron,

Enduring justice, since that is what it thought it inflicted,

Having no humility to see the injustice of justice.


I do not see what all this fuss is about:

We are in the world for what we can get out of it.

Plenty of comfort, and entertainment for leisure

Are all I ask for; I ordered no crucifixions;

You earnest people are always crucifying somebody.

I don’t interfere—no doubt you do it on principle—

I do not pretend to be intellectual.


I do not pretend to be intellectual.No;

But there is a place for your sort. There is a place

In the desert for those that have lost the good of the intellect;

Fathomless circles of perfectly meaningless nonsense—

Crucifixions, too, of an unredeeming sort,

In the everlasting exile. This way, brothers;

Here we receive exactly what we have chosen

And can practise on one another to all eternity.

[Exeunt Cain, Herod, Pilate, Judas and Caiaphas under the stage.


Guilt cannot carry guilt; can neither absorb it

Nor yet give it away; there is no subtraction

And no division in the mathematics of sin—

It can only add and multiply guilt with guilt,

Answering cruel injustice with no less cruel

Justice; yet without justice, where is the City?

Only the innocent can ever carry the guilt,

Only the soul that has never consented to sin

And is not concerned to justify itself

Can accept the whole guilt—the open injustice

And the hidden iniquity in the heart of equity—

Carry them away, purge them and sterilise them,

Taking them into itself and making conclusion.

What will you do, citizens, what will you do?

Since you cannot put down injustice without the Law,

And the Law is of sin, and turns to sin in your hands,

Because each one of you is at once Abel and Cain?


And Aaron shall confess over the scapegoat all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited, and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.


Now am I twice condemned; in the blood of Abel

Unjustly, and justly in the blood of Cain;

All men are so, and God, being made man,

Must walk the road that man chose for himself,

Carrying man’s sin and innocence to the cross;

Thus it becomes Us to fulfil all righteousness.


Bind on the back of God the sins of the City;

Bind Him for Judas, bind Him for Herod, bind Him

For Caiaphas, Pilate and Cain; bind the wrong,

Bind the wrath and the tyranny, bind the treason,

Bind the fear and the folly, the greed and the grudging,

The disease and the death, the lies told in the market,

The familiar fireside slander, the traffic in blood,

The lazing, the lust, the cruel insatiate wheels,

The needs and neglects, the callousness of the possessors,

The envy of dispossession; bind the City,

The plundered earth, the dull disconsolate streets,

The splitting wood and the sweating stone, the smoke

And the reek, the glare and the glitter, the filth of the kennels,

The slums and the stews, the soil and shame of the City.

Bind on the back of God the laws of the City;

Bind Him for the priest; bind Him for the assessor,

For the upright judge and the incorruptible jury;

Bind Him in fetters, bind Him in just retribution,

Bind Him in discipline; bind the surgeon’s knife,

The physic, the fasting; bind the holy war,

The weapons of defence, the armies of occupation;

Bind Him in power and in penalty; bind the rod,

The rule and the righteous judgment; bind the City,

The school, the asylum, the spires of the Cathedral,

The Courts of Justice, the police, the prison, the dock,

The gallows, the stern and salutary institutions,

The state and the standards, the shambles and sewers of the City.

[The Cross is laid upon the back of the Persona Dei, and He is led away about the church by the Soldiers, Adam, Eve, Abel and Mary following, with four Singers.


What is this you have done to Me, O My people?

Was ever such unjust vengeance? Am I not God?


God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds;

God altogether; from everlasting to everlasting.


How shall I answer to Thee, O God my God?

Was ever so just a vengeance? Am I not Man?


Man of the substance of His Mother, born in the world;

Man altogether, in body and mind subsisting.


Is not this well done, that the Godhead should stoop to the Manhood,

Lifting it back to God, being God and Man?


Who, although He be God and Man,

Yet He is not two, but one Christ.

[The Persona Dei falls.


You that are men, made in the image of God,

Will you see all the burden laid upon one Man’s shoulder?

For the flesh faints and falls with the heavy weight of the glory,

But the power of the Godhead is enough for all mankind.


Who will carry the cross and share the burden of God

Now, in the moment of choice when the act and the image are one?

When the angels of Heaven, who are ignorant of sorrow,

Are helpless to do for God what only man can do?

[The Chorus run down to carry the Cross.


I am ready to carry the burden of the oppressor.


I will carry the shame.


I will carry the shame.I’ll give a hand with the toil.


I’ll make a shift to carry my dear Lord’s pain.


And I will carry the fear that shatters the heart and brain.


I will carry the bitterness of betrayal.


I’ll take the poverty.


I’ll take the poverty.And I the grief.


I will bear man’s ingratitude.


I will bear man’s ingratitude.And I

The ignorance, that suffers and knows not why.


Lift up your hearts. Hosanna!


We lift them up unto the Lord. Hosanna!


Whoso will carry the Cross, the Cross shall carry him.


For the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together,

Making up that which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ.


Lift the Cross! Lift the banners! Bring the King to the City!


Meek, riding on an ass, bring Christ into Jerusalem!

Airman (at the foot of the steps)

Sir, I understand now what I ought to do.

Am I too late to bring to the wood of Your Cross

Whatever in me is guilty and ought to be crucified?

Whatever, being innocent, is privileged to die in Your Death?


The moment when you meet Me is never too late,

Though the moment of death and moment of choice were one.

Take up the Cross and come and follow Me,

For you shall carry the burden of bewilderment:

We shall find one another in the darkest hour of all.

[They go up to the place of crucifixion, the Chorus remaining upon the steps.


It is thought proper, sir, for the executioner

To ask the criminal’s pardon; ours, you see,

Is a nasty job whichever way you look at it.

The city needs us, as she needs shambles and sewers;

It is our duty to carry out the sentence,

Not try the case; we cannot pretend to know

Whether you are guilty or innocent; either way

The job is nasty; therefore we ask your pardon,

Since, howsoever, our intention is to the City.

[Here the Soldiers crucify the Persona Dei upon the Upper Stage, Mary and the Airman standing at the foot of the Cross.


Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.


Sir, You are privileged to forgive them so;

But we know what we are doing; we, Christ’s Church,

Who sin and suffer with the whole creation,

Not without understanding, self-condemned

For our misdeeds, assenting to the judgment

Which we must still endure, assent or no;

Yet somehow trusting that our free assent

Will “turn necessity to glorious gain”

And make our penalty count as sacrifice.

Look now! we are but thieves of righteousness,

Pocketing up Your merits as our own

And from Your treasure paying back to You

The debt we owe You. Lord, will You remember,

When You return to rule us in Your Kingdom,

How ragged, poor, and beggarly we were

Till we laid hands on You, and so accept

What is not ours to give You?


What is not ours to give You?Verily

This day shall you be with Me in Paradise.


Blessed indeed, thrice blessed are the dead

Who die in Christ. But what will You bequeath

To those who live, still prisoners of the hope

That like a tiny child seems every day

Ready to die, it is so frail, which yet

Will not let go its hold on life and us?

Is there some strong and natural tenderness

That can feed hope, and which that hope, grown strong,

Can in its turn sustain until You come

To be reborn in us and in the world?


Woman, behold thy son; behold thy mother.

[The Airman brings Mary down to the Chorus.


O Mary of the seven swords of sorrow,

Come home with us, come home; the time is near

When the great night shall cover us all over,

Closer than death and darker, the thick blind

Pressure and stifling darkness of the womb.

[Here the curtains of the Upper Stage are shut.

O it is hard, this dying into life,

Helpless and hid, without communication

And with no contact left but through the blood.

Now we are nothing at all—only a pulse

Ticking out time; I am dying, Egypt, dying,

Dying into nothing, dying into nothing, nothing. . . .

Persona (from behind the curtains)

Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani!


I did not know—there is a worse deep still

Under the dark and the silence. Iron teeth

Closing down like a cramp. What is the name

Of the wringing horror? If I knew its name

There is a word of power that might command it,

Here in the bottom of the forgotten world

Where God’s face never comes, but only man

Suffers and bleeds in the darkness. You, then, You—

You that are Man here in the dark with me,

Tell me the name, that we may break its jaws

And both go free. . . . Oh, no, I have remembered;

Its name is justice; it cannot be commanded,

Only endured. Why then, we will endure it,

Helping each other as we may.


Helping each other as we may.I thirst.


Once, long ago, You gave us bread and wine

But all my wine has turned to vinegar.

If it will serve, then all I have is Yours—

If there is anything left in me at all

That was not always Yours.


That was not always Yours.It is accomplished.

Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.


This is it. This is what we have always feared—

The moment of surrender, the helpless moment

When there is nothing to do but to let go. . . .

“Into Thy hands”—into another’s hand

No matter whose; the enemy’s hand, death’s hand,

God’s. . . . The one moment not to be evaded

Which says, “You must,” the moment not of choice

When we must choose to do the thing we must

And will to let our own will go. Let go.

It is no use now clinging to the controls,

Let some one else take over. Take, then, take . . .

There, that is done . . . into Thy hand, O God.

Mary (sings)

See now, you shepherds and mages wise,

How helpless laid in other hands

The very Lord of glory lies

Wrapped head to foot in swathing bands.


In swaddling-bands and strong grave-bands.


Noël, noël, Emmanuel

Is sleeping sound and doth not stir,

Then go your way, before Him lay

Your gold and frankincense and myrrh.


Your funeral spices mixed with myrrh.

Fox (over music)

So on the third day, very early in the morning, the women came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices that they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.


Whom seek you in the sepulchre, O citizens of Christ?


Jesus Christ of Nazareth, O citizens of Heaven.


He is not here; He is risen as He said; behold the place where they laid Him.

[The curtains are opened, to disclose the Persona Dei standing before the Cross of glory.


Speak, speak, speak the name of the city,

The new name, the true name, where the King and the City are one;

Call us by name, who came

Out of the blind places, to the blinding of the white sun.

Answer to our surprise,

Seeing with our eyes,

The obscure demanding

Of bowels and bones and heart, each feeling part

Made suddenly plain in the brain and understanding.

Deal gently with us, because we are so much astonished

To find ourselves thus replenished. Lord, have pity

On our bewilderment; speak! speak peace O, Lord, to the City.


I the Image of the Godhead bodily

In whom the Godhead and the Manhood are one,

Born into time, begotten from everlasting

Of the Father’s love, by the gift of the Holy Ghost,

In whom all Heaven subsists; who, being in Heaven,

And being made Man, descending out of Heaven,

Bore for man’s sake to set My feet in Hell:

I the end, and I the beginning of all things,

Call My Christendom out of the waste places,

Call the dry bones back from Jehoshaphat,

Call My multitudes in the valley of decision,

Call you home to Myself, in whom your selves

Find their true selfhood and their whole desire.

What has astonished you? Shall not I keep faith

Now with My chosen, and give you all you chose

When you laid your will in Mine in the moment of choice

And bade Me choose for you? When you chose Me

You were made Mine; and I am yours for ever.

That which you gave, you have. All you who choose

To bear with Me the bitter burden of things

In patience, or, being burdened without choice,

Choose only to be patient, whether you give

Your bodies to be burned, your hearts to be broken,

Or only stand and wait in the market-place

For work or bread in a long tediousness,

Think, it is I that stand and suffer with you,

Adding My innocence to redeem your guilt,

And yours with Mine, to ransom all mankind.

This is My courtesy, to make you partners

With God in your own rescue, nor do anything

But by your love and by your will consenting.

Come then, and take again your own sweet will

That once was buried in the spicy grave

With Me, and now is risen with Me, more sweet

Than myrrh and cassia; come, receive again

All your desires, but better than your dreams,

All your lost loves, but lovelier than you knew,

All your fond hopes, but higher than your hearts

Could dare to frame them; all your City of God

Built by your faith, but nobler than you planned.

Instead of your justice, you shall have charity;

Instead of your happiness you shall have joy;

Instead of your peace the emulous exchange

Of love; and I will give you the morning star.

Rise up, My mother Mary and come away,

Rise up, My daughter Eve and My sweet son Adam,

Rise up, My city, rise up, My church, My bride!

For the time of your singing is come, and My bright angels

Unwinter hosanna in the perpetual spring;

So enter My Father’s house, and there take seizure of the crown laid up and the incorruptible treasure,

Where the endless Now is one with the moment’s measure,

The truth with the image, the City one with the King.

Choir (with trumpet-echo)

God is gone up. . . . God is gone up. . . . God is gone up with a merry noise, with a merry noise . . . and our Lord with the sound of the trumpet.

[Here the Persona Dei goes up into Heaven, with the people going up lovingly together after Him; and the Angels give to each of them a new robe and a palm of gold.


Well done, good and faithful servants,

Enter now into the joy of your Lord.

The earth is yours, and the voice of sounding metal,

The gold and the iron and the brass, the clarions of conquest.

You shall command the eagles, you shall laugh at leviathan;

The striped tiger shall sit with velvet feet

At the hearth; you shall be made glad with the grape and the wheat;

Nothing at all shall offend you, no snare shall enmesh—

You shall praise God with the glorious and holy flesh.

The sea is yours and the waters, with the voice

Of the dropping rain; O lute and harp, awake!

Rivers shall not drown love, nor the floods o’erwhelm it;

You shall be poured out with the cataract, ride the tide,

Run with the stream; beauty shall mould and hold you;

You shall fill up the cup of all delight; your art

Shall praise God with the moving and sensitive heart.

The air is yours, the wind that bends the cedars

And breathes in the reeds, the bodiless mighty voice

That comes and goes unseen; you shall be keen

To pierce and pass between a thought and a thought;

Nothing shall stay you or stain; by south and north,

East, west, you shall go forth and turn again—

You shall praise God with the searching and subtle brain.

The fire is yours; the fire mounts up to God

Beyond the angels of the spheres, whose strings

Are tuned too deep and high for mortal ears;

You shall possess that music; you shall go

Secure among the mysteries; the sun

Shall harm you not by day nor the moon by night—

Your soul shall praise God, and your spirit shall fathom the depth and the height.

Mary (sings)

Behold our City, how wide it spreads its gyres,

How great the company of the robes of light!


The City is yours; proclaim the name of the city!

She is set on a rock; she cannot be moved; her foundations

Are everlasting adamant; she stands

Foursquare; her walls are order; her streets meet

In the market-place of exchange; there is joy in her houses;

Her King has called her Zion; she was built without hands.

Proclaim the city!—Hosanna! God is her light.

Proclaim the city!—Hosanna! God is her strength.

Proclaim the city!—Hosanna! God is her confidence.

Proclaim the City! Proclaim Salvation! Proclaim Christ!


Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been fixed.

Inconsistency in hyphenation has been retained.

Inconsistency in accents has been retained.

[The end of Four Sacred Plays by Dorothy L. Sayers]