THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
Elles trewly nothinge, Were I in the rockes or in, I coulde make this pippe That all this woode should ringe, And quiver, as yt were.
The Fourth Boye. Nowe, childe, although thou be comon from God, And be God thy selfe in thy manhoode, Yet I knowe that in thy childehoode Thou wylte for sweete meate loke, To pull downe aples, peares, and plumes, Oulde Joseph shall not nede to hurte his thombes, Because thou hast not pleintie of crombes, I geve thee heare my nutthocke." js
Let no one deem this irreverent; the spirit of this adoration of the shepherds is intensely devout ; they go away longing to tell all the world the wonder they have seen ; one will become a pilgrim ; even the rough Trowle exclaims that he will forsake the shepherd's craft and will betake himself to an anchorite's hard by, in prayers to "wache and wake."
More famous than this Chester " Pastores" are the two shepherd plays in the Towneley cycle.16 The first begins with racy talk, leading to a wrangle between two of the shepherds about some imaginary sheep ; then a third arrives and makes fun of them both ; a feast follows, with much homely detail ; they go to sleep and are awakened by the angelic message ; after much debate over its meaning and over the foretellings of the prophets—one of them, strangely enough, quotes a Latin passage from Virgil—they go to Bethlehem and present to the Child a " lytyll spruse cofer," a ball, and a gourd-bottle.
The second play surpasses in humour anything else in the mediaeval drama of any country. We find the shepherds first complaining of the cold and their hard lot ; they are " al lappyd in sorow." They talk, almost like modern Socialists, of the oppressions of the rich :—
" For the tylthe of our landys lyys falow as the floore, As ye ken.