York Mystery Plays

mystery play

The forty-eight York Mystery Plays, or York Miracle Plays, cover sacred history from the Creation to the Last Judgement. The York cycle was written in Middle English by a number of anonymous writers, reaching its final state around 1440. It was performed annually in the streets of York by the city guilds until the 16th century.


The translations used here are by Chester N. Scoville and Kimberley M. Yates. [1]

  • I am gracyus and grete, God withoutyn begynnyng,
    I am maker unmade, all mighte es in me;
    I am lyfe and way unto welth-wynnyng,
    I am formaste and fyrste, als I byd sall it be.
    • I am gracious and great God without beginning.
      I am maker unmade; all might is in me.
      I am life and way, unto weal winning.
      I am foremost and first; as I bid, shall it be.
    • God, in The Barkers' Play: The Fall of the Angels, line 1.
  • O, what I am fetys and fayre and fygured full fytt!
    The forme of all fayrehede apon me es feste,
    All welth in my weelde es, I wote be my wytte;
    The bemes of my brighthede are bygged with the beste.
    My schewyng es schemerande and schynande,
    So bygly to blys am I broghte;
    Me nedes for to noy me righte noghte,
    Here sall never payne me be pynande.
    • Oh, how I am handsome and fair, with figure well fit!
      The form of all fairness upon me holds fast.
      All this wealth's for my wielding, I know by my wit;
      The beams of my brightness compare with the best.
      My appearance is shimmering and shining,
      So securely in bliss I am brought.
      To concern myself, that I need not;
      For no pain here shall bring me to pining.
    • Bad Angel, in The Barkers' Play: The Fall of the Angels, line 65.
  • Owe, certes, what I am worthely wroghte with wyrschip, iwys!
    For in a glorius gle my gleteryng it glemes;
    I am so mightyly made my mirth may noghte mys-
    Ay sall I byde in this blys thorowe brightnes of bemes.
    Me nedes noghte of noy for to neven,
    All welth in my welde have I weledande;
    Abowne yohit sall I be beeldand,
    On heghte in the hyeste of hewuen.
    • Oh, what, how I am worthily wrought with worship like this!
      In a glorious glow, my glittering gleams.
      I am so mightily made that my mirth may not miss;
      I shall abide in this bliss, through my brightness of beams.
      By concern I need never be driven;
      All might in my hand I am wielding;
      Above I shall always be dwelling,
      On high, in the highest of Heaven.
    • Lucifer, in The Barkers' Play: The Fall of the Angels, line 81.
  • I sall be lyke unto hym that es hyeste on heghte.
    Owe, what I am derworth and defte-Owe! Dewes! All goes downe!
    My mighte and my mayne es all marrande-
    Helpe, felawes! In faythe I am fallande.
    • I shall be like the One who is highest on height;
      Oh, how I am worthy and deft – Oh, Deus! All goes down!
      My might and my mirth are unsound;
      I am falling, in faith! Help me, friends!
    • Lucifer, in The Barkers' Play: The Fall of the Angels, line 91.
  • Nowe in my sawle grete joie have I,
    I am all cladde in comforte clere,
    Now will be borne of my body
    Both God and man togedir in feere.
    • Now in my soul great joy have I;
      I am all clad in comfort clear.
      Now will be born of my body
      Both God and man together here.
    • Mary, in The Tile Thatchers' Play: The Nativity, line 50.
  • Hayle my lord God, hayle prince of pees,
    Hayle my fadir, and hayle my sone;
    Hayle sovereyne sege all synnes to sesse,
    Hayle God and man in erth to wonne.
    Hayle, thurgh whos myht
    All this worlde was first begonne,
    Merknes and light.
    • Hail, my lord God, hail prince of peace;
      Hail, my father, and hail, my son;
      Hail, sovereign Lord, all sins to cease;
      Hail, God and man on earth to run;
      Hail, through whose might
      All this world was first begun:
      Darkness and light.
    • Mary, in The Tile Thatchers' Play: The Nativity, line 57.
  • Thus schall the sothe be bought and solde
    And treasoune schall for trewthe be tolde.
    • Thus shall the truth be bought and sold,
      And treason shall as truth be told.
    • Pilate, in The Winedrawers' Play: The Resurrection, line 449.
  • This woffull worlde is brought till ende,
    Mi fadir of heuene he woll it be;
    Therfore till erthe nowe will I wende
    Miselve to sitte in magesté.
    To deme my domes I woll descende;
    This body will I bere with me –
    Howe it was dight, mannes mys to mende,
    All mankynde there schall it see.
    • This woeful world is brought to end,
      My Father in Heaven so wills it be
      Therefore to earth now I will wend,
      To seat myself in majesty.
      To deem my dooms I will descend;
      This body I will bear with me.
      How it was hurt, man's sins to mend,
      All mankind there shall clearly see.
    • Jesus, in The Mercers' Play: The Last Judgement, line 177.

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