Coll, Gib, and Daw: Three shepherds
Mak: A poor, hungry, dishonest man
Gill: his shrewish, starving wife
Mary: the mother of Jesus
A sheep (several, actually)
Sets: A pasture; Mak's house; the stable at Bethlehem.
(A pasture. Coll enters alone.)
Coll: Lord, but these weathers are cold! And I am ill wrapped.
I'm nearly numb, so long have I napped.
My legs give way, my fingers are chapped.
It is not as I would; I am in sorrow lapped.
In storms and tempest,
Now in the east, now in the west,
Woe is him that never has rest
Midday nor morrow.
But we silly shepherds that walk on the moor,
In faith, we are nearly turned out of the door;
Our harsh lords oppress us and keep us poor.
Whatever we do, they always want more.
Thus they hold us under,
They bring us in blunder--
It would be a great wonder
If ever we should thrive.
Gib: Bless us, Lord, what does this mean?
The weather is freezing, the frost so hideous
It makes my eyes water, no lie!
Now in dry, now in wet,
Now in snow, now in sleet,
My shoes freeze to my feet!
Coll: Hey, Gib, look! Have you seen Daw?
Gib: Here he comes. Let's hide and give him a scare. (They hide nearby)
Daw: Christ's cross bless me and St. Nicholas!
I can scarce keep my feet on the snow and the ice.
It's as brittle and slippery as glass.
The world hasn't fared this badly since the great flood of Noah--
Winds and rains so rude, And storms so keen.
We that walk in the night our flocks to keep,
We see sudden sights when other men sleep.
(notices others, is frightened, then recognizes them)
You are two wicked ones! You'll scare my sheep!
Ah, sir, God save you. I'd love a drink and something to eat.
Coll: Christ's curse, you knave, you're a lazy bum!
Gib: The boy must be crazy! Wait 'til later. Suppertime's over.
Coll: He comes late and wants to eat whenever he likes!
Daw: Servants like me work hard all day
and then eat dry bread for dinner, and that makes me mad.
We're all wet and weary when master-man winks,
But he's still stingy with dinners and drinks,
And manages to put off paying us.
But here's my plan:
I'll work according to what you pay me.
I'll do a little, sir, and then I'll knock off,
For your supper is never enough to fill me up.
Why should I whine when I can run away?
A servant hired cheap
Does cheap work.
Coll: You're a fool to keep working for a man who can't pay you well.
Gib: Knock it off, you two, or I'll give you something to yell
Where are our sheep in this storm?
Daw: Sir, I left them over in that field this morning. They have a good pasture; they can't go wrong.
Gib: That's right. By the Cross, these nights are long!
Before we get going, let's all sing a song.
Daw: Good idea.
Coll: Let me sing the tenor.
Daw: I'll sing the treble so high.
Gib: Then the low part falls to me. Let's see how you do.
(They sing, not very well. Enter Mak, who tries to sing along at a distance. He's tone deaf.)
Mak: Now Lord, that made the moon
and so many stars I can't count,
Bless me. I'm going mad!
I wish I were in heaven, for there are no crying children.
Coll: Who is this that pipes so poor?
Mak: (aside) Oh, if you knew how bad my life is...
(aloud) It's a man who walks on the hill and has no peace!
Gib: Mak! What's new? Tell us the news.
Daw: Is he here? Everyone look out for your things. (Grabs cloak from Mak to see if he's stolen anything)
Mak: (Grandly, pretending not to know them)
What?! I am a yeoman, I tell you, sent by the king and ... uh... some important people.
Fie on you! Go hence out of my presence. I must have reverence
Gib: Mak, the devil in your eye! I should smack you.
Coll: Mak, you know me! By God, I could skin you!
Mak: God bless you all three--I thought that I knew you!
You're a fair company; it's a pleasure to see you.
Daw: That's a laugh! Showing up late. You'll get a bad name--you're known for stealing sheep!
Mak: And I'm honest and true as steel, as all men know!
But I'm feeling sick. My belly's empty.
What I've eaten in the last month would fit on the point of a needle.
Coll: How's your wife? How's she doing?
Mak: Lies sprawling by the fire, with a house full of children.
She drinks well, too--she does that better than anything!
She eats as fast as she can, and every year she has another baby,
And some years two.
If I were a rich man I'd be eaten out of house and home.
She's a foul sweetheart. Nobody can imagine how bad I have it.
Gib: I'm exhausted. I need to retire. (lies down)
Daw: I'm frozen and tired and would have a fire. (lies down)
Coll: I'm tired from walking all day in the mire. (lies down)
Daw: Here, Mak, come lie down between us.
Mak: Then I'd be in the way if you wanted to whisper together.
(He lies down nearby, but not in the middle of the pack)
Manus tutus commendo Pontio Pilato. Christ's cross save me!
(He gets up as the others fall asleep.)
Now it's time for a man whose plate is cold
To stalk secretly as he can into a fold
And nimbly to plan, nor be too bold,
Or he'll be sorry when all is told
At the ending.
Lord! but they sleep hard--you can all hear!
I was never a shepherd, but now I'll learn.
If the flock is scared, I'll sneak up on one.
Here, come here! (He catches one.)
Now things are starting to look good.
A fat sheep, I dare say! with a good fleece, I'll bet!
When I can I'll repay, but this sheep I'll borrow.
(He takes the sheep home.)
Hey, Jill, are you up? Give us some light.
Jill: Who's making all that racket this late at night? I can't get my housework done with all these interruptions!
Mak: Good wife, open quick--don't you see what I bring?
Jill: Open the door yourself. (sees sheep) Oh, it's you, sweetheart!
Mak: Sure, let me stand here all night...
Jill: By your naked neck, you'll probably hang for this!
Mak: Get outta here! I'm worthy of my meat--in a pinch I can get
more than men who work all day.
I had some good luck today!
Jill: It would be a shame to be hanged for this.
Mak: I've gotten out of tighter situations.
Jill: But you know what they say: "If the pot keeps going to the water, eventually it will come back broken."
Mak: Oh, just come help me. Let's slay it so we can eat. I'm starved.
Jill: What if they show up and hear it bleating before we kill it?
Mak: Then I'm in big trouble. Go lock the gate.
Jill: Yes, but Mak, if they come in the back--
Mak: Then I'm really in trouble.
Jill: I have an idea, since you can't think of anything. Let's
hide him here until they leave, in the cradle!
Leave me alone, And I'll lie in bed and groan.
Mak: Get ready! And I'll say you've just had a baby boy tonight.
Jill: This is my lucky day! This is a good disguise.
A woman's advice saves the day once again.
You go back to the field in case anyone notices you're missing.
Mak: I'll get back before they wake up. (He sneaks back to the field)
Still sleep all this crew,
And I'll sneak in too,
As if I never knew
Who lifted their sheep. (Lies down and snores)
Coll: (wakes up and speaks to no one in particular)
Resurrex a mortuis! Take hold of my hand
Judas carnis dominus! I can hardly stand--
My foot's asleep, and I'm famished.
I dreamed we were somewhere in England.
Gib: Ah, yeah? Lord, but I've slept weel,
As fresh as an eel,
As light I feel
As a leaf on a tree.
Daw: God bless us--my body's quaking,
My heart is out of my skin and my limbs are shaking.
Who's making all this noise? My head hurts.
Hey, men, wake up! There were four of us. Where's Mak?
Gib: He's still asleep.
Daw: I thought he was covered in a wolf-skin.
Coll: So are many wrapped now, only within.
Daw: I dreamed he trapped a fat sheep, but he didn't make any noise.
Gib: Oh, you're crazy. You were just dreaming.
Mak! Wake up! You can't sleep all day.
Mak: (yawns, gets up) Christ's holy name be with us.
Ow, my neck is stiff. I can hardly stand up.
(Someone twists his neck).
Oh, I had a horrible dream. I thought Jill began to croak and cry
And labor at having a little boy to add to our flock.
That gave me a scare.
Oh, we have a house full of children already--The devil knock out their brains--
It's a shame to have so many kids and so little bread.
I must go home to Jill. Here, look in my sleeve--I wouldn't want you to think I've stolen anything.
Daw: Don't try to trick us! (Drives Mak away)
I think we'd better count our sheep.
Let's split up and meet by the crooked thorn.
(They divide up and go to look for the sheep.)
Mak: (arriving at his home): Open the door! You're asleep, I suppose,
You have nothing to do but play with your toes.
Jill: Why, who wanders, who wakes? Who comes, who goes?
Who brews? Who bakes? Who makes me these hose?
My no-good man?
What would a house do without a woman?
But what did you do about those shepherds, Mak?
Mak: When I left they were going off to count the sheep. I know they'll miss one, and I'm sure they'll come after me. Come, save me, my mate!
Jill: Okay. I'll swaddle him here in the cradle. Now I'll lie
down. Tuck me in.
Now get ready and sing a lullaby. I'll groan and cry.
When you hear them coming, sing loudly, and I'll do my part.
(The shepherds gather by the bush)
Daw: What's wrong, Coll? Why aren't you smiling?
Coll: Oh, we have big trouble. We've lost a fat sheep.
Daw: God forbid!
Gib: Who would steal a sheep from us? What a disgrace!
Coll: I've looked everywhere.
Daw: What would you bet--either Mak or Jill was in on this!
Coll: Peace, man, be quiet: I saw him when he left. He didn't
You're slandering him.
Daw: I swear to you, if I were to die right here,
I'd say Mak did this deed.
Gib: Let's go find him!
(They hurry to Mak's house. Mak singing lullaby, Jill in bed, groaning loudly.)
Daw: Listen to them squawk! The man's trying to croon!
Coll: I've never heard anyone sing so out of tune. Call to him.
Gib: Mak--open up!
Mak: Who's out there, yelling as if it were noon? Who's there?
Daw: Good friends, if it were daytime.
Mak: Keep it down, gentlemen--I've got a sick woman inside.
I'd rather die than give her more sorrows.
Jill: Get away from my bed, and walk on your toes:
Each step you take goes clean through my nose. SHHHH!
Coll: How are you doing, Mak?
Mak: What brings you to town? How are you? You're wet and cold.
Let me build you a fire and get you something to eat.
Gib: That won't help.
Mak: What's wrong?
Daw: Someone stole our best sheep. It touches us deep.
Mak: Had I not been asleep, I'd have made his teeth chatter!
Gib: Mak, this guy thinks it was you.
Daw: Either you or your wife, that's what I say.
Mak: If you don't trust us, Jill or me,
Come search our house, and you can see for yourself
If I have any sheep or cow or anything.
And Jill hasn't been out of bed since we put her there.
This will be my first meal of the day.
Coll: Mak, by my soul, listen to me: "He learned early to steal who couldn't say no."
(The shepherds begin to search)
Gill: Oh, I'm dying! Get out, you thieves; you've come to rob us. Ohhhh!
Gib: She's moaning.
Mak: Don't you hear that? Your hearts should melt.
Jill: Get out, get away from my baby. Don't go near him.
Mak: If you knew what she's been through you'd feel terrible.
I'm telling you, you do wrong to accuse a woman who's been though...oh, I won't say it.
Jill: Ahhh, my middle!
I pray to God so mild
If I ever you beguiled
That I eat this child
That lies in this cradle
Mak: Peace, woman, for God's pain, and don't cry so!
You spill your brain and make me full of woe!
Gib: I think our sheep's been butchered--what do you two think?
Coll: I can't find anything here but two empty platters.
There's no cattle here but this one (gesturing to cradle and walking over to admire the baby).
Jill: No, so God give me bliss, and joy of my child.
Coll: We searched for nothing. We were mistaken.
Gib: That's right. Sir, is your child a boy?
Mak: Any lord might enjoy this child for his son.
Gib: Mak, we're all friends here--we're all one.
Mak: But I get no apology. Farewell, all three (aside) and get yourselves out of here
Daw: Fair words there may be, but love is there none this year.
Did you give the child anything?
Gib: Nothing. Not a penny.
Daw: I'm going back to give him a present. Wait here. (He returns
to the door.)
Mak, don't take it wrong if I come back to your child.
Mak: No: you want to do me some harm.
Daw: I won't bother your or him, the little day-star--Just let me give your baby a sixpence.
Mak: No, go away; he's sleeping.
Daw: I think I hear him crying.
Mak: If he wakes up he'll cry. Please, just go.
(The other shepherds return.)
Daw: Let me just give him a kiss, and lift up the blanket.
What the devil is this? He has a long snout.
Coll: Something's wrong with this baby.
Gib: I'll say: he looks like our sheep!
Coll: Let me see, Gib! (Mak and Jill try to escape)
Daw: I see thieves trying to sneak away!
Gib: That was clever. I've never seen anything like it.
Coll: What a fraud!
Daw: Yes, men, wasn't it?
Let's tie her up and bind her fast.
A false scold when she's caught hangs at last.
So will you.
Look how they swaddled his four feet in the middle?
I've never seen a horned baby in a cradle before.
I know him by his ear-mark. He's ours.
Mak: I'm telling you, sirs, his nose was broken!
The doctor told me he's under a spell.
Coll: Let's ring his bell. Get a weapon.
Jill: He was cursed by an elf! I saw it, at the stroke of midnight!
Gib: You two are wasting your breath.
Coll: Since they won't confess, let's put them to death.
Mak: I'm left to your mercy. If I'm not a changed man, I'll lose my head.
Daw: Men, listen: let's not fight or kill him for this theft.
Let's just wrap him up and toss him in this blanket.
(They toss Mak around inside the blanket--unpleasant for Mak, but better than hanging--then Mak and Jill creep away.)
Coll: I'm sore. I need a rest before we go on.
Daw: Let's take a nap.
(They lie down and sleep. An angel appears.)
Angel: Rise, shepherds, have joy, for now is he born
That will take from the fiend what Adam had lost;
That fiend to destroy this night is he born.
God is made your friend on this very morn,
To Bethlehem go see
There lies that baby
In a cradle so poorly
Beside two beasts.
(Sings Gloria in Excelsis)
Coll: That was amazing. I've never heard such a wonderful voice.
Daw: He spoke of God's son. And he made a star appear in the sky.
He spoke of a child in Bethlehem, remember?
Coll: That's what the star is for. Let's go find him!
Gib: Say, what was that song? Did you hear how he sang it?
Daw: It was perfect. Beautiful.
Gib: Let's try to sing it ourselves. (He/they try to sing the Gloria, but not very well; they laugh)
Coll: Hurry, let's go to Bethlehem.
Daw: Be merry and not sad; we're strong and glad, and we don't
need a song to keep us going.
Coll: Let's go quickly, though we're wet and weary.
To see that child and that lady, let nothing delay us.
Gib: We know by the prophecy--be quiet and listen!--
Of David and Isaiah and more,
They prophesied that a virgin would give birth to a child
relieve our sin and save humankind.
Isaiah said it: Ecce Virgo Concipiet a child.
Daw: Let's be glad and remember this wonderful day.
Lord, I would love to kneel before that child.
But the angel said he was poorly clothed
And laid in a crib among animals.
Coll: Patriarchs and prophets have longed to see this child;
They are long gone, but we will see him before morning.
When I see him I'll know that the prophets have spoken true.
They said he would appear first to poor people like us,
announced first by his messenger.
Gib: Let's go find him; the place is near.
Daw: Lord, if it be your will,
We are poor and rude, all three,
But grant us this great joy.
(They go to the stable in Bethlehem.)
Coll: Hail, comely and clean! Hail, young child!
Hail, Maker, born of a maiden!
You have tricked the devil!
Ha, he's laughing! This is wonderful!
Here, I brought you a bob of cherries.
Gib: Hail, sovereign Savior, for you've bought us,
Hail, full of favor, who made everything from nothing.
Hail, I kneel and I cower. I've brought a little bird for my baby.
Hail, tiny little mop! Little day-star!
Daw: Hail, darling dear, full of Godhead!
I pray you will be near when I'm in need.
Hail, sweet is your cheer! My heart bleeds
To see you here in so poor need with no pennies.
Here, put out your hand; I've brought you a ball.
Have it, enjoy it, go play some tennis.
Mary: The father of might, God omnipotent,
Who set all things alight, his Son has us lent.
I conceived him forthright, through his Holy Spirit.
He came forth as light comes through glass
And now he is born.
He keeps you from woe; I'll pray him do so.
Tell his praise as you go, and remember this morning.
Coll: Farewell, lady so fair to see,
With your child upon your knee.
Gib: But he's cold. (Wraps cloak around child)
Now we are all well, and we may go.
Daw: It seems as though the story is already being told everywhere.
Coll: What grace have we found!
Gib: Now we are safe and sound.
Daw: To sing we are bound; make it echo around!
(The shepherds exit, singing Gloria better than they have ever sung