St. Nicholas

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The Miracle of Saint Nicholas and the Virgins

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.  Four St. Nicholas miracle plays were in the 12th century Fleury manuscript and it is believed some go back to the late 11th century.  The plays, set to music, were sung in Latin and still had connections to liturgy, though it is unknown just where they were perormed.

 

St Nicholas with three maidens
St. Nikolaus, Germany
St Nicholas Center Collection

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

FATHER
FIRST DAUGHTER
SECOND DAUGHTER
THIRD DAUGHTER
ST. NICHOLAS
FIRST SON-IN-LAW
SECOND SON-IN-LAW
THIRD SON-IN-LAW

FATHER:

Groaning and grief have come upon us, in the stead
Of all the happiness our former fortune shed.
Oh poverty!
Alas and woe is me, the joys of life have fled!
Good manners, beauty, youth, a famous name and old
Are now worth nothing, less than nothing without gold.
Oh poverty!
Alas and woe is me the joys of life have fled!

DAUGHTERS:

When money leaves us, toil and misery come instead.
See where our father mourns his desperate finances.
Let's hope we still may live in moderate circumstances.
Oh poverty!
Alas and woe is me, the joys of life are fled!
Come let us hear what plan he's hatching in his head.

FATHER [complaining, to DAUGHTERS]:

Dear daughters, you are now the only pleasure
Of miserable me, the only treasure Of this your treasureless old father. Pray
Console me and advise as best you may.
Once I was rich, and now I am so poor
That neither day nor night I feel secure.
We'll suffer twice as much from this privation
As people who were born to lower station.
Little I care what penury may do
To me, but what will be the effect on you,
My darlings? How will hungry days and weeks
Transform your lively bodies, your full cheeks!

FIRST DAUGHTER [to FATHER]:

Dear father, do not sorrow sore;
By grieving you grieve us the more.
But listen calmly and take heed
To this design for which I plead.
We are so prostrate that perforce
We must adopt the only course
hat's open. Thus to sell our beauty
Is now your daughters' bounden duty.
As eldest it devolves on me
To show my filial piety
Before my sisters, and I first
Must enter on the life accurst.
O father dear!

[A bag of gold is thrown in.]

FATHER [joyfully to DAUGHTERS]:

Rejoice with me, rejoice, my darling daughters!
Farewell to all our poverty and grief!
Behold, this gold, miraculously brought us,
Will furnish instantaneous relief!
O day of cheer!

DAUGHTERS [standing, say]:

Now for this mercy let us raise
A grateful prayer and joyous praise
To God, and give to Him, the Giver,
Laud, honor, glory, love forever!
0 father dear!

FIRST SON-IN-LAW [entering, to FATHER]:

A gentleman, whose name none can disparage,
I come to seek your daughter's hand in marriage,
With your permission.

FATHER [to FIRST DAUGHTER]:

Say, daughter, are you willing to espouse
This youth of handsome figure, ancient house,
And high position?

FIRST DAUGHTER [to FATHER]:

My future in your keeping I have placed:
Father, dispose of me to suit your taste,
And I'll obey.

FATHER [to SON-IN-LAW]:

Since this is so, to you I now confide
My daughter. Let the nuptial knot be tied
This very day.

[Exeunt FIRST DAUGHTER and SON-IN-LAW.]

FATHER [again lamenting, to DAUGHTERS]:

Dear daughters, you are now the only pleasure
Of miserable me, the only treasure
Of this your treasureless old father. Pray
Console me and advise as best you may.
Once I was rich, and now I am so poor
That neither day nor night I feel secure.
We'll suffer twice as much from this privation
As people who were born to lower station.
Little I care what penury may do
To me, but what will be the effect on you,
My darlings? How will hungry days and weeks
Transform your lovely bodies, your full cheeks!

SECOND DAUGHTER [to FATHER]:

O father, do not add remorse
To make our misery ten times worse.
Do not make passing ills eternal
By plunging us in crimes infernal.
For well we know the heavenly portals
Are closed forever to those mortals
Who live in lust. Father, beware,
Or we their awful lot may share.
Do not, O father, do not force
our daughters to this hideous course;
Or when we die, we'll plunge from earthly woe
Into the lake of endless fire below.
[A bag of gold is thrown in.]

FATHER [to DAUGHTERS]:

Rejoice with me, rejoice, my darling daughters!
Farewell to all our poverty and grief!
Behold, this gold, miraculously brought us
Will furnish instantaneous relief!
O day of cheer!

DAUGHTERS [to FATHER]:

Now for this mercy let us raise
A grateful prayer and joyous praise
To God, and give to Him, the giver,
Laud, honor, glory, love forever!
O father dear!

SECOND SON-IN-LAW [entering, to FATHER]:

A gentleman, whose name none can disparage,
I come to seek your daughter's hand in marriage,
With your permission.

FATHER [to SECOND DAUGHTER]:

Say, daughter, are you willing to espouse
This youth of handsome figure, ancient house,
And high position?

SECOND DAUGHTER [to FATHER]:

My future in your keeping I have placed;
Father, dispose of me to suit your taste,
And I'll obey.

FATHER [to SON-IN-LAW]:

Since this is so, to you I now confide
My daughter. Let the nuptial knot be tied
This very day.

[Exeunt SECOND DAUGHTER and SON-IN-LAW.]

FATHER [again lamenting, to THIRD DAUGHTER]:

Little I care what penury may do
To me, but what will be the effect on you,
My sole remaining daughter?
Till This fear is laid, I tremble still.

THIRD DAUGHTER [to FATHER]:

O father, dearest father mine,
Listen to me, no more repine.
I'll give you now my counsel briefly:
Fear God and glorify Him chiefly.
Those who feared God, as you may read
In Scripture, never were in need.
The Almighty gave from Heaven above
All things to all who gave Him love.
Take heart, let not this destitution
Affect your righteous resolution.
See, from abysmal indigence
Job swiftly rose to opulence.

[A third bag of gold is thrown by ST. NICHOLAS.
FATHER falls at his feet.]

FATHER:

Stop, noble sir, whoever you may be,
Stop and reveal yourself, for surely we
Must thank you for this wondrous restoration
Of our lost fortunes, and our souls' salvation.

NICHOLAS [to FATHER]:

Nicholas is my name, but do not lift
Your praise to me for this most timely gift.
0 brother, do not think that 'twas my hand that poured
This gold so lavishly upon you: 'twas the Lord!

FATHER [to THIRD DAUGHTER]:
[Exit ST. NICHOLAS.]

Rejoice, my child, lift up your voice in gladness!
Farewell to all our poverty and grief!
Behold this gold, which now to all our sadness
Will furnish instantaneous relief.
O day of cheer!

THIRD DAUGHTER [to FATHER]:

Now for this mercy let us raise
A grateful prayer and joyous praise
To God, and give to Him, the giver,
Laud, honor, glory, love forever!
O father dear!

THIRD SON-IN-LAW [to FATHER]:

A gentleman, whose name none can disparage,
I come to seek your daughter's hand in marriage
With your permission.

FATHER [to THIRD DAUGHTER]:

Say, daughter, are you willing to espouse
This youth of handsome figure, ancient house,
And high position?

THIRD DAUGHTER [to FATHER]:

My future in your keeping I have placed.
Father, dispose of me to suit your taste,
And I'll obey.

FATHER [to SON-IN-LAW]:

Since this is so, to you I now confide
My daughter. Let the nuptial knot be tied
This very day.

THE WHOLE CHOIR [sings thus]:

O compassion of Christ, worshiped with all praise,
who proclaims far and wide the merits of His servant Nicholas,
for from his tomb the oil flows, and heals all who suffer.
St. Nicholas with three maidens
St Nicholas giving dowry money, Winchester Cathedral Font
Photo: Gerry Dutton,
Winchester Fonts, used by permission


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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