St. Nicholas

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The Miracle of Saint Nicholas and the Image

from Representative Medieval and Tudor Plays translated and edited by Henry W. Wells and Roger S. Loomis

Plays telliing saints' legends were among the earliest Medieval mystery plays.  This school drama, written around 1125 by Hilarius, a student of Abelard thought to be English, was performed by boys in monastery schools.

St. Nicholas icon
St Nicholas the Wonderworker, Russia, 19th century
St Nicholas Center Collection

by Hilarius

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

A BARBARIAN
FOUR OR SIX ROBBERS
ST. NICHOLAS' IMAGE
ST. NICHOLAS
First of all, the BARBARIAN, who has gathered together his goods, comes to the image of ST. NICHOLAS, and commending them to his charge, says:
All things whereof I am possessed
I've put here, Nicholas, in this chest.
Be thou their guardian, I request;
          Take of them good care.
Pray to my humble prayer give ear,
Look well that robbers come not near,
Unto thee I deliver here
          Gold and vestments rare.
To journey abroad is my design.
I to thy ward my goods consign.
When I return, see thou resign
          All again to me.
Now no more fears my mind beset,
Since in thy ward my goods are set.
Let me, returning, not regret
          The trust I put in thee.

When he has departed, some passing THIEVES, seeing the door open and no guardian, bear everything away. The BARBARIAN returns, and not finding the treasure, says:

Out Harro! Murder, theft!
Here all my wealth I left.
The more fool I—'tis reft!
          God! this is foul treason!
If I be wroth, 'tis not without good reason.
Treasures, at least a hundred,
I placed here. How I blundered!
Money and all are plundered.
          God! this is foul treason!
If I be wroth, 'tis not without good reason.
'Twas here I left my store.
But here it is no more!
This saint must pay the score!
          God! this is foul treason!
If I be wroth, 'tis not without good reason.

Then, approaching the IMAGE, he says to it:

Here all my pelf I brought,
And unto thee betaught.
How like a fool I wrought!
          Nicholas, hear!
I Give up my goods, or thou shalt buy them dear.

Taking up a scourge, he says:

To thee I'll now impart
A most improving art.
Not lightly shalt thou part.
Thou'rt in my power;
Therefore the goods I left with thee restore.
I call thy God to testify:
If me thou'lt not indemnify,
Thy knavish back I'll scarify.
Thou'rt in my power;
Therefore the goods I left with thee restore.

Then ST. NICHOLAS, coming to the ROBBERS, says:

Wretches, what is it ye do?
Short will be the hours and few
That ye gloat upon your prey.
It was in my custody.
Think not ye escaped my eye
When ye bore the spoil away.
Stripes I've suffered, without fable,
Since through you I was not able
To give back the treasure due;
Borne the assault of tongue and lip;
Nay, even more, the bite of whip.
In this pass I've come to you,
Speedily the goods restore
O'er whose safety I presided;
All was to my charge confided
Which by stealth away ye bore.
If ye do not this in sorrow,
Ye'll be dangling on the morrow
From the timbers of a cross;
For I'll openly proclaim
Your misdeeds and works of shame.
Therefore, haste, repair the loss.

The ROBBERS in fear bring back all, and the BARBARIAN on finding them says:

Unless my sight's declining,
          They're mine once more;
Look, gold and jewels shining!
I marvel every moment more and more.
The lost are found again
          (They're mine once more),
Without expense or pain.
I marvel every moment more and more.
O true custodian,
          (They're mine once more)
Who hast returned each one!
I marvel every moment more and more.

Then approaching the IMAGE and kneeling he says:

Humbly I come to thee,
          Good Santa Claus!
Thou hast restored to me
What in thy keeping was.
Awhile I've been a rover,
          Good Santa Claus!
I now entire recover
What in thy keeping was.
My soul has gained new health,
          Good Santa Claus! Since naught lacks of the wealth
That in thy keeping was.

Anon appearing to him BLESSED NICHOLAS Says:

Oh, pray not brother unto me.
To God alone make thou thy plea.
The same it is by whose decree
Were fashioned heaven and earth and sea
That hath returned thy precious hoard.
Be then no other than thou wast,
Adoring Christ both first and last:
Thy trust on Jesu only cast,
Through whom thine own again thou hast.
Mine is no merit nor reward.

In reply to him the BARBARIAN says:

Thy counseling I do not need;
For I'm determined with all speed
Each cruel wrong and loathsome deed
          To cast away.
I'll trust in Christ, God's only Son,
Who wondrous miracles hath done,
And all the law of Apollon
          Abjure for aye.
For Christ it is who by His hand
Hath wrought the sky, the sea, the land;
And yet to those who make demand
          His grace doth bring.
For Christ, the Lord of high degree,
Hath blotted out my sin for me.
So may His kingdom ever be
          Without ending!


from Representative Medieval and Tudor Plays translated and edited by Henry W. Wells and Roger S. Loomis, New York: Sheed & Ward, Inc., copyright © 1942, Copyright administered by the Continuum International Publishing Group. Used by permission.

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