A Legend of Saint Nicholas
A miracle play of olden Italy, which is to be acted upon a bare platform, without drop-curtain or scenery, after the manner of the Ben Greet company in “Everyman.”
Azzo, A Mighty Lord
Pia, His Lady
Niccolo (Cola), Their Son
Mico, His Playfellow
Zoe, His Young Daughter
Ilbrahim, Paynim 1
Arbaces, Paynim 2
Mustapha, Paynim 3
Upon the bare stage PROLOGUS enters. He is clad in a scholar’s long robe of black, with a black cap, and a scroll in his hand. He speaks to the audience.
Prologus: Good gentles all, now listen unto me,
As many as in presence seated be.
A saintly legend here we shall you show,
A tale from the dim days of long ago.
Now all ye parents that have children dear,
Unto the woes of a young child give ear,v And all ye lads, and pretty maidens too,
List to the fortunes of a child like you!
(PROLOGUS goes out. Two ATTENDANTS, in long, belted robes, with broad collars, like Bluecoat boys, enter with a little garden bench which they set upon the stage and go out. Enter AZZO. He wears a belted robe, with slip shoes, and a girdle to which is hung a straight, cross-hilted sword.)
Azzo: Azzo am I, a proud and puissant lord.
My vassals tremble, and obey my word.
Full oft in savage fight in eastern land
I’ve faced the Paynim foe, with sword in hand,
But now in mine old age at last I come
To end my days in peace and ease at home.
Here have I house and farms and fields full wide,
And ships at sea, and mickle gold beside.
But oh alas! in this chief thing I’m poor:
One single child have I, to heir my store.
In this one son is all my hope and joy,
Yet he, alas! proveth a knavish boy.
But soft! Look yonder! Lo, who cometh here?
(Enter PIA, in a trailing robe of silk, with a head-dress.)
Welcome, my most sweet wife and lady dear!
Pia: My honoured lord, may fair days still be thine!
Azzo: What is amiss with thee, good lady mine?
Pia: Fair husband, at thy hand I crave a boon.
Azzo: Name it, good lady! It is granted soon.
Pia: Thy pardon, then, for an unlucky wight,
Who durst not show himself within thy sight.
Azzo: Aye, by my truth, it is my knavish son!v What mischief now has our wild Cola done—
The truant played, belike, and run from school,
Or ridden perchance and lamed my favourite mule,
Frightened the maids—
Pia: Good husband! Be thou mild!
When all is said, the boy is but a child—
Yea, and at heart I know him kind and true.
Azzo: Call him to me, and without more ado!
Pia: Be not too harsh with the poor lad, I pray.
Azzo: Cola! What, Cola! Cola! Wilt thou stay?
(COLA comes in—a gallant, erect little lad of ten or twelve, in a belted kirtle that reaches to the knee, and cross-gartered.)
Cola: Lo, here am I, good father, at command.
Azzo: What is yon stain I see upon thine hand?
Cola: That stain, my lord? ‘Tis blood, as I believe.
Azzo: And stained and rent behold thy doublet sleeve.
So! Thou hast truant played, down by the sea,
With comrades base that I’ve forbidden thee.
That is the truth, which thou dost not deny?
Cola: No, good my father, for I will not lie.
Azzo: Amongst these lawless ribalds of the street
Thou hast been fighting, and thou hast been beat.
Cola: Nay, father, if the truth thou’lt have me tell,
‘Twas I that beat them, soundly too and well.
Azzo: Thou malapert———
Pia: Oh, calm thee, dearest lord!
Azzo: Thou saucy sirrah, hearken well my word:
Thou shalt not wander from this ‘spot to-day.
Here in this orchard on my pleasure stay,
And sharper punishment await, thou knave!
(As he goes out.)
This is a son would make an angel rave!
(Azzo goes out, and PIA, very sorrowful, starts to follow him.
COLA speaks defiantly.)
Cola: Here in the orchard, then, I’ll gaily bide.
Good faith, I care not what shall me betide!
(PIA turns back and comes to COLA.)
Pia: Cola! My child! Mine own heart’s little lad!
Cola: O dear my mother! I have made thee sad.
Mother o’ me, indeed thou must not weep!
Lo, I will fall upon my knees and creep
For my lord’s pardon, nor will ever rise
Until I shall have seen thee wipe thine eyes.
Pia (she sits upon the bench): Why wilt thou vex him with thy headlong way?
Cola, With all my heart I set me to obey,
But then upon the breeze I smell the sea.
I think upon the ships, and woe is me!
In the dull schoolroom then I cannot bide,
I must be ranging with the wind and tide.
And the brown ship-boys that I know full well—
Hey, but the wondrous tales they have to tell!
Pia: I see thou art thy father’s very son.
Cola: Yea, I would do as my dear lord hath done—
Fare over seas to the far Paynim coast,
And with a good sword smite their heathen host.
Pia: So shalt thou do, my gallant son, one day,
But yet for a few years must patient stay
Under thy father’s roof, as fits thine age,
Yea, and learn lessons from the written page.
Modest and eke obedient, without strife,
Be thou to those that may command thy life.
For right obedience thou first must learn,
Ere thou commandest others, in thy turn.
Cola: But oh! it irks me sore to sit in school,
And irks me too sometimes my father’s rule.
Canst thou not help me, O my mother kind,
To hold in the right path my wayward mind?
Pia: My little son, if it is help thou need,
Then thou must seek them that can help indeed.
Cola: ‘Tis the bright saints thou nam’st? So great and wise,
I doubt for me if they would quit the skies.
How should they ever leave their heavenly seat,
To help a lad that brawled once in the street?
Pia: Oh, foolish heart of my dear little son!
Cola: Then would they list the prayers of such a one?
Pia: Yea, there is one saint, if thou wilt attend,
That to young children always help will lend,
Blessed Saint Nicholas, thy name-saint, boy.
Call thou on him, whene’er thou hast annoy.
Cola: And he will make me as I fain would be?
Pia: He will not make; instead he will help thee.
Strive thou thine hardest first, mine own son dear,
Then, when thou need’st help, thou shalt find him near.
Cola: Yea, I will always my dear name-saint seek
For help, whene’er I find my strength grow weak.
Yea, I will pray to him in this same hour.
Pia: And thou shalt find thy saint of mighty power.
So for a little now my leave I take.
Cola: Weep thou no more for my most worthless sake!
For now I have this gracious saint to friend me,
Thou’lt see, dear mother, how I shall amend me!
(PIA goes out, and COLA kneels and prays, but he speaks
hurriedly, without putting his mind on his prayer.)
Sweet Nicholas, my saint, so kind and gent—
I wonder what it was my father meant?
Sore punished shall I be, and soon, I trove.
Sweet Nicholas, my saint, oh! help me now!
Hey, but the wind smells strongly o’ the salt
I would amend me of my every fault,
I would obedient be, and good, and mild,
All that beseemeth well so young a child.
Hey, but this hour the tide is setting strong!
I feel it sweeping all my thoughts along,
And the great ships go dancing down the strand,
And o’er the sea is the far Paynim land.
Great Nicholas, my saint, lo, here I bow—
(Enter MICO a boy of COLA’S own age, but meanly clad.)
Mico: Cola! Hey, Cola! Mercy save us now!
Art thou turned priest that thou art set at prayer?
Cola (springing up from his knees): Mock’st thou me,
Mico? Nay, then, have a care!
Mico: What! Wouldst thou quarrel and with me, thy friend?
Cola: Go hence, my Mico, for our love must end.
Back to my books must I, O Mico mine!
Mico: Wilt thou sit in the schoolroom, then, and pine?
Cola: After this one day, aye, such is my fate.
Mico: Then use this one day, ere it be too late.
Come forth with me, for one blithe ramble more.
Come, good my Cola, down to the sea-shore!
Cola: Nay, but I must not, for I am forbid.
Mico: Hark to the child that hath been soundly chid!
Cola: I am no child!
Mico: Then boldly come away!
Why in a thousand plagues should we delay?
There is a deep dell by the shore I know,
A sheltered spot, where purple wild grapes grow,
And bread have I, and eke a lump of cheese.
Upon the rocks we’ll lean and feast at ease.
Come, good my Cola! For the waves run high.
The clouds scud merrily across the sky.
Come forth this one day more and gaily roam.
This is no time to mope and pine at home.
Cola: O blessed Nicholas! I needs must stay.
Mico: Dost hear the wind? Canst thou not smell the spray?
Cola: Strong savour o’ the sea where tall ships ride,
And brown weed falls and rises with the tide.
Mico: Come then, my Cola! Dost thou linger still?
Cola: Have with thee, Mica, and let come what will!
One more day I will take o’ breeze and brine
One blithe day more of roving shall be mine.
Saint Nicholas, so kind, pray thee, forgive!
I’ll serve thee all the other days I live.
(MICO and COLA go out. The ATTENDANTS remove the bench and in its place put a low screen and go out. Enter the three Paynims, ILBRAHIM, who is lean and subtle, MUSTAPHA, who is fat and fearful, and ARBACES, who is a very bloodthirsty Paynim. They wear full trousers, short jackets, and blouses, with turbans, and sashes full of knives and pistols, and fierce moustaches. They bring with them a little cask to fetch water. They are not historical Paynims, of course, you know, but cousins-german of Captain Hook.)
Ilbrahim: Keep wary watch, my comrades! All be yare,
Now that we brave it here in Christian air.
Mustapha: Back to our ship and safety fain would I.
Arbaces: From Christian dogs, thou craven, wouldst thou fly?
Let them come on, although they be a score!
Full oft ere this I’ve bathed in Christian gore.
Ilbrahim: Arbaces, leave thine empty boasts of slaughter.
We come to do no more than draw fresh water.
So long the voyage that all our casks are dry.
Seek, if a spring or pool ye may espy.
Arbaces: Come, then, Mustapha! Knave, why dost thou stand?
Thou seem’st full loath to budge from the sea-strand.
Mustapha: Know ye, perchance, whose broad domains are these?
Haply, when known, ye will be less at ease.
Arbaces: What care I how the Christian lord is hight
Who holds these shores and forests in his might?
Mustapha: I doubt me if ye have forgot his name.
‘Tis great Lord Azzo called, who wrought us shame.
Ilbrahim: The haughty Azzo, that long years ago
Had wellnigh worked our Sultan’s overthrow?
Arbaces: May Termagant and Mahound send him harm!
Would I had strength to reach him with this arm!
Ilbrahim: Could we but work on him some great disaster,
We should rejoice the Sultan’s heart, our master.
Mustapha: Hist! Yonder ‘tis a footstep! Dost not hear?
Back to the ship, and swift!—I quake with fear.
Arbaces: Cowardly dog! Nay, but thou shalt not flee.
Come hide thyself behind yon rock with me.
Ilbrahim: Aye, let’s lie close, and let us all be dumb.
Soon we’ll discover who are these that come.
(The PAYNIMS hide themselves behind the screen. COLA and MICO come in. COLA is singing.)
Cola: Trip, trip,
The water’s top,
Never break your bones!
Mico: Stay, stay, good Cola! I am wearied well.
Leagues we have trudged since stroke of noontide bell.
Cola: In truth, this is a spot to me is strange.
Never so far from home I’ve chanced to range.
Black are the rocks and wild. The sea is stern.
Mico: Belike ‘tis fitting, Cola, we should turn.
Cola: What! Turn back, Mico, hast thou heart to say?
Art thou a coward that thou’dst run away?
Mico: Nay, but I’m wearied, and the hour draws late.
Cola: First sit and eat! Come then, old Grumble-pate!
(They sit and MICO takes from his pocket bread which they share.)
Mico: The bread I pledged, and thus I will it break.
Cola: And here my share that I will blithely take.
The spray of the salt sea shall serve for wine.
How good it is, this last free day of mine!
Soft is the air, though all the sky be gloom,
And kind the savour of the salty spume.
Flower o’ the foam!
My father’s a sailor; the sea is my home.
Flower o’ the tide!
My good ship’s the steed where I safely shall ride.
Flower o’ the wave!
When I shall die, let the sea be my grave!
Mico: Canst thou not sing us, lad, a stave more gay?
That is a chant fit for a burial day.
Cola: Mico the grudging grumbler still thou art;
Listen! Is this more welcome to thine heart?
Pipe, pretty bird, on the top o’ the tree!
Pipe, pretty bird, when I whistle to thee!
A cage all of gold shalt thou have to thy fee.
Pipe, pretty bird, when I whistle to thee!
(The two boys begin blithely to repeat the song together, when the three PAYNIMS rush from behind the screen and fall upon them.)
Mico: Out! Out! Run, Cola!
(ARBACES seizes MICO, who is too frightened to struggle. ILBRAHIM and MUSTAPHA seize COLA, who resists with all his might.)
Cola: Villain, set me free!
Ilbrahim: A humbler mien shall soon be taught to thee.
(MUSTAPHA binds COLA.)
Mico: Cola! Dear Cola! They will work us woe.
Cola: Where do you lead us? Whither must we go?
Ilbrahim: You shall fare with us over the salt waves.
The faithful can find use for Christian slaves.
Mico: Cola! They’ll sell us in their heathen mart.
Cola: I hear. And it will break my mother’s heart.
Arbaces: Quickly! March on, thou little Christian whelp!
Mico (sobbing): O pitying saints! Oh, is there nowhere help?
Cola: Peace, Mico!
Mico: Sell us not in foreign lands!
Our friends will ransom us from your dread hands.
My comrade, mark you, ‘tis a great lord’s son.
Arbaces: What sayest thou?
Cola: Mico! For all sakes, have done!
Ilbrahim (to COLA): Peace, knave! Or quickly I shall make thee peace!
Mustapha: Were it not well we let them buy release?
Arbaces: Money is good, aye, true.
Ilbraham: First let us know
Who is this lord that ransom shall bestow.
Who is thy father? Speak! Art silent still?
Mico: Oh, answer, Cola! Thou must do their will.
Cola: That I am come to this is blame of mine.
I’ll not declare my father, nor my line.
Arbaces: Yea, but thou wilt, by great Mahound I swear!
Answer, if for thy safety thou dost care!
Mustapha: (seizing MICO roughly). Nay, answer thou!
Methinks this mouse will squeak.
Mico: Good sirs! Oh, be not rough, for I will speak.
Yon lad is Cola, son to a great lord,
The valiant Azzo!
Mustapha: May we believe this word?
Ilbrahim: Art thou the son of Azzo?
Cola: Yea, his son.
Ilbrahim: It is a master-stroke that we have done.
Mustapha: Our fortunes are established, firm and fast!
Arbaces: We’ll have the Sultan’s grace while life shall last.
Mico: Cola! They whisper. What should they intend?
I thought to speak would help thee, dear my friend.
Ilbrahim: Thou, sirrah, this same moment shalt go clear.
Mico: Free am I, say’st thou? Cola, be of cheer!
Ilbrahim: Speed to thine home, and as thou hopest to live,
Speak truthfully the message that I give.
Mico: Touching the ransom? What’s the sum ye’ve set?
Ilbrahim: Say to Lord Azzo : we do not forget!
Say to the Christian dog that his sole heir
Shall quit to us the wrongs he made us bear.
Say that we lead him to the Sultan’s hall,
Where he shall serve the Sultan as his thrall,
Humbly and basely.
Arbaces: Such shall be his fate.
Not all the gold and pomp of Azzo’s state
May buy his freedom. This to Azzo give:
He ne’er shall see his son while he shall live.
Mico: O Cola! Cola! Out and woe is me!
What shall I say when they ask news of thee?
Cola: O Mico, bid my mother not to weep.
Mico: Our Lady shield thee! All the kind saints keep!
Arbaces: Off with thee, slave, else thou shalt rue this stay!
Mico: Ah, Cola! Cola! Oh, alas the day! (Goes out, sobbing.)
Mustapha: Swift to the ship!
Arbaces: March forward, with all speed!
Cola: I must obey thee in my bitter need.
Ilbrahim: Proud Azzo’s son full soon shall learn to bow.
Cola: Sweet Nicholas! My saint! Oh, help me now!
(The PAYNIMS go out, leading COLA captive. The ATTENDANTS remove the screen and in its place set a stool and a table and go out. Enter the SULTAN, a very fierce, proud Paynim, in royal robes, with a plume and jewel in his turban.)
Sultan: He who doth love his life let him now be still!
eath is his portion who grudgeth at my will.
Wide is the land that my rough rule doth sway.
Many are the men that must my law obey.
Whoso withstandeth me, better were he dead;
Straight shall my minions smite me off his head!
Fell are the fierce gods to the which I kneel—
Termagant and Mahound, sharper than the steel.
Cruel to all Christians am I ever foe,
Deep my delight when’er I work ‘em woe.
Down, all ye people! To my bidding bend!
Render me homage, or your days shall end!
(Enter ZOE, the SULTAN’S little daughter, eight or ten years old. She wears full trousers that reach to the ankle, turned-up red slippers, a white blouse, a little embroidered jacket, and many bangles and chains.)
Zoe: Dread father and my lord, a boon I crave!
Sultan: Approach, my daughter Zoe, and my slave!
Zoe (kneeling): Lo, my dread lord, this favour do I seek,
That the young Christian thrall with me may speak.
In this great palace must I lonely stray.
There are no children here with whom to play.
The little Christian thrall, ‘tis but a boy.
Let me speak with him, lord. ‘Twould give me joy.
Sultan: What say’st thou, foolish prattler? Peace, be still!
Zoe: Oh, be not angered, for I’ll do thy will!
Sultan: Well do I know thy foolish heart is soft.
Womanish-pitiful I’ve seen thee oft.
Now would’st thou to this slave some comfort take,
Since I misuse him, for his father’s sake.
Zoe: Ah, good my lord, no more than child is he.
Sultan: Right soon a sorrier child he’ll learn to be.
Ah, proud Lord Azzo, all the wrongs thou’st wrought
For thy dear son heaped misery hath bought.
Lo, deeming thus, my heart hath waxed full glad.
I’ll praise the gods that gave to me this lad.
Come, my young daughter, come, and incense sweet
We will burn yonder at great Mahound’s feet.
(The SULTAN and ZOE go out. Then come in ARBACES, and COLA, in a ragged kirtle, who carries a great drinking goblet of metal.)
Arbaces: Now to thy task, thou little Christian dog,
Or else right soundly straight we shall thee flog.
Cola: Am I not ever swift at thy behest?
Arbaces: Aye, since thou’st learned we are not prone to jest.
Cleanse thou yon cup, and leave it without fleck,
If thou’rt not fain to have a twisted neck.
(ARBACES goes out. COLA kneels and polishes the cup, and presently speaks.)
Cola: Scarce have I eaten, lo, this many an hour.
Always new tasks, and far beyond my power.
Once would I not obey my father kind.
Now have I masters of a sterner mind.
Sweet Nicholas, my saint, all this I’ve earned.
May I go home, now that my lesson’s learned?
All my life long I’ll bear me as I should.
Kind Nicholas! Dear Saint! I’ll be so good!
(COLA sobs, and at that moment ZOE comes in.)
Zoe: Cola! Ho, little Christian! It is I.
What is amiss? Why, Cola, dost thou cry?
Cola: Cry? Art thou crazed, thou little silly maid?
Boys do not cry, nor are they e’er afraid.
Zoe: Thou must not call me little silly girl!
I am a princess, and thou but a churl.
Cola: A lord was I once, in my father’s hall.
Zoe: Here thou art nothing but my father’s thrall.
Cola: Aye, but a slave. Go hence! Leave me alone!
For time it is long since my task were done.
Zoe: Cola! Nay, Cola! Wilt thou force me seek thee?
Cola: How should thy father’s thrall dare to bespeak thee?
Zoe: Wilt thou be angered then against me still?
I am right sorry that I spoke thee ill.
Cola: Mine only friend! (He kisses her hand.)
Zoe: Hush, Cola! Here’s a cake.
I brought it hither stealthy, for thy sake.
Cola: Thou little Princess! Ever art thou kind.
In all my prayers I’ll hold thee still in mind. (He eats the cake while he talks.)
Zoe: What are the gods to whom thou shapest thy prayer?
What is the name I hear thee oft declare?
Cola: ‘Tis sweet Saint Nicholas that most I praise,
He giveth help through all the long, hard days.
Zoe: Saint Nicholas! Speak I the name aright?
Now, tell me more of this most wondrous wight!
Cola: Chiefest to children, Zoe, is he friend,
Ever to children doth he blessings send.
Zoe: Had I been born in some good Christian land,
Fain had I praised that saint, with heart and hand.
Our gods are fierce, with cruel eyes so hot.
I’ll whisper to thee: Truth, I love them not!
Cola: My sweet Saint Nicholas is ever mild.
Always he hearkens to the least, small child.
Zoe: But if thy saint have power, call his name!
Wilt he not come and snatch thee from thy shame?
Cola: Why should he help me? Why should he lend aid
Until mine own strength shall be quite outpaid?
One must do all, and so my mother taught,
Before he ask that great aid shall be brought.
When I am older grown, and big, and strong,
Thou’lt see they shall not hold me captive long.
But till that day, dear lass, I must endure
Whatever my ill fortune hath in store.
Zoe: Cola, I pity thee with all my heart.
Cola: Ah, Zoe, thou dost ever take my part,
So good, so kind! To Nicholas I’ll pray
To make of thee a Christian, too, some day.
Ilbrahim: Fair Princess Zoe, lo, thy father calls.
Grudge will he sore that thou dost talk with thralls.
Zoe: Say thou naught, then, for my dread father’s ear.
(She gives ILBRAHIM a ring from her hand.)
This ring from mine own finger—have it here.
Ilbrahim: Get to thy task, thou little idle knave!
Hast thou forgotten that thou art a slave?
Zoe: Ilbrahim, come, do thou attend on me!
Chide not the lad, friend.
(She gives ILBRAHIM gold.)
There is gold for thee.
(ZOE and ILBRAHIM go out. COLA kneels to his task, and presently speaks.)
Cola: Sweet my Saint Nicholas, my shame is deep
That like a maiden thou hast seen me weep.
Gentle my name-saint, straight I will amend,
But through the long days, do thou stand my friend.
My fathers’ faith I must not bring to shame.
Sweet my Saint Nicholas, I praise thy name!
Lo, on the hot air comes a smack o’ spray.
How fare my parents, weary leagues away?
Kind Nicholas, let not my mother know
The shame I suffer here, the pain and woe.
Could I but see her once before I die—
Indeed, Saint Nicholas, I do not cry!
Brave I will be through all the days that come,
Only by night, oh! send me dreams of home!
(He looks up to the sky and sings.)
Swallow, my swallow!
Fain would I follow,
Over the foam.
Over the foam!
Follow, oh! follow!
Swallow, my swallow!
Follow thee home!
Follow thee home!
Saint Nicholas! The tears I cannot keep.
Saint Nicholas! They must not see me weep.
(The SULTAN comes in, and with him ZOE, ARBACES, ILBRAHIM, and MUSTAPHA. The last named carries a jar of wine.)
Sultan: Lo, I am merry. I will drink red wine. (He sits.)
And he shall serve me, yonder thrall of mine.
(ILBRAHIM fills the cup, which COLA holds, from the jar.)
Ilbrahim: Speed, then, thou slave! Dost hear thy master’s voice?
(COLA presents the cup to the SULTAN.)
Sultan: Thy woe, proud Azzo’s son, makes me rejoice.
Why on this day dost keep such sorry cheer?
Upon thy cheek, by Mahound! ‘tis a tear.
Stout heart is thine, great Azzo’s only heir.
‘Tis a maid’s garments fitter thou should’st wear.
Cola: Wilt thou be pleased to drink, O mighty lord?
Sultan: I’ve blither sport than drink could e’er afford.
So thou hast dared to prattle with yon maid?
Spies do I keep, and know each word that’s said.
Zoe: O dread my lord, thine anger turn on me!
Sultan: Peace, silly wench! Thou slave, I spoke to thee.
What is the false saint on whose name thou’lt call?
Cola: ‘Tis great Saint Nicholas, not false at all.
Sultan: If strong thy gods, as they do boast in vain,
Why art thou left my captive, in such pain?
Thou seest our gods are stronger far than thine.
Then be thou wise, and worship at our shrine.
Cola: Great lord, thou bid’st me mine own faith forsake?
Sultan: A truer worship, boy, I bid thee take.
Bow to our gods, and I will set thee free—
Yea, more, as mine own son will cherish thee.
Cola: Great lord, I thank thee for this kindness shown,
But for thy faith I’ll never leave mine own.
Sultan: Thou wilt defy me then, presumptuous slave?
Ere the sun-setting thou wilt be less brave.
Zoe: Father! My father! Lo, I thee entreat.
Sultan: Be silent, fool, or I shall have thee beat.
(To COLA:) Full little wont am I to beg and sue.
Bend to my bidding straight, or thou shalt rue.
Thou young dog, take this cup within thine hand.
Now pour the red wine forth upon the sand,
And praise thou great Mahound thou’st held in scorn,
Or thou shalt wish that thou had’st ne’er been born.
Zoe: O Cola, thou must do my father’s will,
Or they will hurt thee sore and haply kill.
Cola: I may not praise thy gods, for they are naught.
Sultan: Another fashion will I have thee taught.
Bind yonder slave and scourge him sore with rods,
Until he humbly kneel and praise our gods.
(ILBRAHIM and ARBACES lay hands upon COLA.)
Cola: Upon my body you may work your scathe,
And yet I’ll not renounce my father’s faith.
Sultan: With torments dire we soon shall make thee bow,
Dost think thy silly saint can help thee now?
Cola: Yea, my strong saint could save me in this hour.
Sultan: Call on him, then, and let him show his power!
Arbaces: Shall we about it, then, without delay?
Sultan: Yea, lead him hence to torment, without stay.
Cola: Saint Nicholas! Oh, help me to be strong!
Let not my martyrdom endure too long!
Sultan: Yea, call thy saint, for haply he doth sleep.
Cola: Saint of my heart, thy watch above me keep!
Sultan: Saint Nicholas! Thou canst not win his ear.
Zoe: O Christian saint! Oh, why wilt thou not hear?
Cola: Saint Nicholas! I’ve done my little all.
Oh, aid me now! Oh, come thou at my call!
(SAINT NICHOlAS comes in as a comely youth and tall, in the splendid robes of a bishop. COLA stands with his face to the front and his hands upraised. He seems to feel the Saint draw near, but dares not look, lest it be a dream.)
Zoe: What is this perfume steals upon the air?
(She crosses her arms on her breast and gazes raptly toward the Saint.)
Ilbrahim: What is yon light that beams so clear and fair?
(The three PAYNIMS release their hold on COLA, and fall on their knees. The SULTAN covers his face with his arms as if dazzled.)
Mustapha: Out and alas! I can no longer stand.
Arbaces: The strength is withered wholly from mine hand.
(COLA turns, slowly and fearfully, and sees SAINT NICHOLAS.)
Cola: Saint Nicholas! Oh, surely thou art come!
(He goes to the Saint.) O Nicholas, my saint! Oh, take me home!
Saint Nicholas: Saint of the weak ones, Nicholas am I!
Wherever children call, I hear their cry.
Rise up and fear not, Cola, my name-son!
My little soldier, now thy fight is done.
Lean thou thy tired head upon thine arm,
And I will hold thee safe from every harm,
Thou weary one! Full softly thou shalt sleep,
And I will bear thee home across the deep.
(SAINT NICHOLAS leads COLA off, with his arm about him.)
Zoe: O Nicholas! Great saint! Oh, stay for me!
(She runs out after the SAINT.)
Sultan: Ho, where are ye, my knaves? I cannot see.
(He rises, groping like one gone blind.)
Why hath this darkness fallen on the land?
Why are there none to list to my command?
(The PAYNIMS, awe-stricken and trembling, rise and hasten to him.)
Ilbrahim: Here am I, lord, to do thy least behest.
Sultan: Why is this darkness? Is it some mad jest?
Arbaces: Out and alas, my lord, the sun shines clear!
Sultan: Then I am blinded—blinded! Are ye near?
Ilbrahim: A dread enchantment surely hath been wrought
By the great Christian saint we set at naught.
Sultan: Lead me unto the temple without stay.
There will we fall upon our knees and pray.
Mahound and Termagant to whom we bow,
Oh, save me, save me from my blindness now!
(The PAYNIMS lead out the blind SULTAN. The ATTENDANTS remove the stool, table, cup, and jar. In their place they set a great chair and go out. Enter AZZO and PIA, clad in black and very sorrowful.)
Azzo: Oh, good my lady, thou must solace take,
And cease to grieve for our poor Cola’s sake.
Pia: Chide not, dear lord, for I must still be sad,
Whene’er I think upon our poor, lost lad. (She sits.)
Azzo: Alas, alas, that ever this should be!
My son doth serve the Sultan on his knee,
And so must serve until the day he die,
For all my gold his freedom may not buy.
Pia: This is the feast of Nicholas the saint.
Azzo: Why warms the colour in thy cheek so faint?
Pia: A foolish hope indeed to thee ‘twill seem,
But yesternight I had a blithesome dream.
Azzo: Say on, dear lady, if ‘twill bring thee peace.
Pia: Within my dreaming, sorrow seemed to cease.
For I beheld a noble youth, and mild,
And in his arms he bore a little child.
Across the burning plains he seemed to stride,
And o’er the mountains, and the sea’s rough tide.
As he drew near, I looked upon his face,
And saw it shining bright with Heaven’s own grace,
And then methought I cried aloud with joy,
For in his arms—O husband! ‘twas our boy!
‘Twas Nicholas the saint that strode the foam,
And in his arms he bore our lost lad home.
Azzo: ‘Twas a fair dream, my lady bright and dear!
Pia: Shall I draw hope therefrom, or haply fear?
Perchance it meaneth that our lad is dead,
And the saint helped him in the hour he sped.
Alas, alas, my heart, I think, will break!
Again I weep for my lost darling’s sake.
Azzo: Take comfort!
Pia: Oh, my little, tender son—
The Sultan’s slave! My tears will ne’er be done.
(COLA is heard to sing outside.)
Cola: Sweet Saint Nicholas,
Ever gent and mild,
Hear a little child!
Pia: What is the sound I hear that rings so sweet?
Azzo: Naught but the young lads, singing in the street.
‘Tis Nicholas’s day, of all the days,
And through the town they go and sing his praise.
Cola (singing outside). Sweet Saint Nicholas,
Be thou to me kind,
Hold me still in mind!
Pia: That song—it echoes! Is my brain gone wild?
Azzo: It brings me heavy thoughts of our lost child.
I’ll bar the door. The sound I may not brook.
Pia: What manner child doth sing? Good husband, look!
(AZZO looks forth at the door.)
Cola (singing outside). Sweet Saint Nicholas,
All a life of days,
I will give thee praise!
Azzo: It is a ragged, sorry-looking wight.
Pia: And is he ragged, then, and in sad plight?
Then call him in, for our poor Cola’s sake.
Some good cheer for him surely we should make.
Azzo: Ho, there! Come in, thou little, noisy knave!
(COLA comes in, muffled in a ragged cloak.)
‘Tis this dame’s pleasure thou shouldst sing a stave.
What! Stand’st thou dumb and frightened, my good boy?
Nay, sing and fear not! None shall thee annoy.
Cola (he sings): Sweet Saint Nicholas,
Far across the foam,
Thou last led me home!
Pia: What is that voice? Should things be as they seem—
(COLA throws off his cloak.)
Cola! My Cola! Oh, let me still dream!
Cola: Mother! My mother! Clasp me to thee tight!
Pia: Methinks I waken from a long, black night.
Azzo: Full welcome art thou home!
(COLA kneels for his father’s blessing.)
Cola: Father, forgive
The wrong I’ve done thee. As I hope to live
Henceforth thou’lt find me—
Azzo (raising him): Let the future show
All that we both have learned in days of woe!
Pia: My child redeemed before mine eyes I see.
It was a true dream then that came to me.
Cola: Belike I, too, have dreamed, O mother mine!
Methought the good saint bore me o’er the brine.
Methought he snatched me from the Sultan’s court,
Where to the Paynim folk my shame was sport,
Where all were harsh, and none were kind—save one!
Pia: Why dost thou look so sad, my dearest son?
Cola: I think upon my little comrade true,
Would that the saint had brought her hither, too!
(MICO is heard to sing outside.)
Mico: Turn about, turn about, turn about again!
Silly maid, silly maid, thou dost seek in vain.
Trip her in the puddle, so all her clothes are wet.
Heathen jade, heathen jade, no better should she get.
Pia: What are those voices in the alley-way?
Azzo: It is the street-boys still about their play.
(ZOE is heard to call piteously, outside.)
Zoe: Cola! O Cola! Dost not hear me cry?
Come thou and help me! Zoe! It is I!
Cola: Father! My father! ‘Tis my little friend.
(COLA runs out at the door, and is heard to speak outside.)
Out on ye, cowards! Now your sport’s at end!
(He comes in again, leading ZOE, who is much frightened and dishevelled.)
Azzo: Methinks this is some little heathen lass.
Pia: Poor little heart! What brought thee to such pass?
Cola: My lady mother, lo, this little maid—
Look up now, Zoe! Be thou not afraid!
When all were harsh, to me she was right kind.
Pia: My little maid, in me a mother find!
Zoe: Oh, thou art gentle! With thee shall I stay?
For I have come, oh! such a weary way.
But good Saint Nicholas was aid to me.
When once I vowed that I’d a Christian be.
Azzo: And thou shall be baptized our daughter dear.
Cola: Thou’lt be my sister, Zoe. Dost thou hear?
Zoe: Saint Nicholas! To him I give all praise.
Cola: Saint Nicholas that helped us in hard days,
Make us in fair days good and gentle still!
Saint Nicholas! We bow us to thy will.
Azzo: Now go thou in, my good son, Heaven-sent!
Pia: And go thou, little one that Heaven hath lent!
Cola: Yea, hand in hand, dear Zoe, let us wend.
Azzo: Now have we comfort, and our sorrows end.
(COLA leads off ZOE, and AZZO leads off PIA: Then comes PROLOGUS and speaks.)
Prologus: My masters all, that here are set in row,
Your praise upon Saint Nicholas bestow,
That ever hath been known the children’s friend.
To him give laud and honour without end.
* (And may Saint Nicholas be with ye still,
And at this season all your joys fulfill.)
And to all children for his sake be kind.
The little, ragged, poor ones have in mind.
Now may the saint, and all the saints above,
Keep ye and hold ye ever in their love!
(So goeth out PROLOGUS and the play endeth.)
* (This couplet is best omitted except the play be given at Christmas time.)
A Legend of Saint Nicholas: A Miracle Play of Olden Italy by Beulah Marie Dix, French’s Plays for Juvenile Performers, No. 6, copyright © 1914 Poet Lore Company, copyright © 1928 Samuel French, Ltd.>