From Stage to Page - Medieval and Renaissance Drama
Occupation and Idleness
OCCUPATION. The mighty Maker who made all things,
may he mix his mercy ever in our mending,
and our bales abate and to bliss us bring,
as he was our founder and we come from his kind.
For all the wealth of the world is turned to wrangling
and friendship is full faint now for to find;
For we may see a great example every day
of hunger and death before our eyes;
never escape from the pricking of pestilence we may,
from winds and weathers that come from the sky.
Therefore let righteousness reign and forsake simony,
rule you by reason, and labor for your meat,
in true occupation sell thyself and buy,
deceive no man with subtlety in cold nor in heat,
but sow reason and truth,
let ease and favor from thee flee.
Now if there be any here
that my name would require,
I tell you, sovereigns all and one,
that my name is Occupation.
I busy full busily in cold and in heat;
winds nor weathers we may not spare;
Oft weary and wetshod I suffer much care
in sessions of court, if there I fare,
because I have so little gathered to-heap.
I had rather be at plough,
to God I make a vow,
or thresh in a barn, reap and mow,
and therefore I am called Occupation where-so-ever I go
Here I think to abide
to rest me a little tide
in peace both safe and sound.
IDLENESS. A, rest you merry, I make a vow,
why say ye not welcome now?
By God, there be many of you
that I know well and fine.
This worthy man, I would dare say,
he hath known me many a day,
for he and I've well spent, in faith,
both our thirsts at wine.
A, sir, God give you good morrow!
Lo, sirs, this good man will be my borrow
if I have need.
Nay, good sir, laugh me not to scorn!
While I have money I will spend;
when I have none God will send.
For I have good meat and drink;
when I am full I will work.
Now, by my troth, as I think,
I am a sly clerk.
Therefore I tell you express,
my name is called Idleness.
I care not to arise for matins nor mass
nor to no other work.
Behold now this gracious face,
how gallantly I take my trace.
There is now none such in this place.
Should I not do thus?
Lo, how jolly get I,
Ey, who is that yonder gadelynge
that stands yonder all straddling?
I will learn for all his babbling
who he is anon.
All hail, good man, and well found!
OCCUPATION. A welcome, young man, on this ground.
IDLENESS. Why, sir, tell me now and tell me this:
know ye not me?
OCCUPATION. Of thee, son, what is thy name?
IDLENESS. Lo, now arises game!
I must change my name, y-wis,
and tell him Busyness my name is;
yes, for God, thus it is.
This is a pretty wile!
And when I'm with him, as I please,
I will take my own ease.
Sir, I wonder--ye have forgotten me, y-wys?
And I have served you ere this,
for Busyness my name is.
Sir, know ye that name?
OCCUPATION. Busyness, yes, in good faith!
He has served me many a day.
IDLENESS. Now, in good faith, believe me ye may:
I am the same.
OCCUPATION. Art thou Busyness? I think nay,
it seems by thy simple array.
IDLENESS. Sir, should I wear my best every day?
I have ten or twelve
of good gowns in my press,
and furs of great richness.
Of this man I take witness;
ye may ask him yourself.
OCCUPATION. Then what labor know ye best now?
IDLENESS. Thresh in your barn or go to plow,
reap, mow, and also sow,
and other husbandry;
go to market, buy and sell,
and keep an household I can well;
with sheep and swine I do excel.
Why ever should I lie?
OCCUPATION. Will thou be with me all this year?
Then thou shall be my partner.
IDLENESS. Yes, by my troth, with good cheer;
but I have no money in store.
OCCUPATION. Give me thy troth on this land
and have here ten pounds;
if thou govern it well on this ground,
and thou have need, come fetch more.
IDLENESS. Yes, heartily, sir, have ye no doubt!
Now have I need to look about,
both with-in and with-out,
that nothing be a-mys.
I have here in this purse
ten pounds of gold, it is no worse.
To the cooks will I me rush
anon, so have I bliss.
Yet, good sir, tell me in same,
what shall I call your name?
OCCUPATION. Sir, I say, by Saint James
my name is Occupation.
IDLENESS. Occupation, by my faith,
is a good name and a worthy,
to be commended honestly
in field and also in town.
But, sir, go you home or over the sea,
I will keep your land and property,
and when you wish come hither and see--
tarry not too long!
OCCUPATION. Fare well, then, in God's name.
IDLENESS. Now, in faith, he were to blame
that would do thee any wrong.
Walk on! God let thee never prevail!
Thou art full mad to trust me,
for this gold shall thou never see.
For I would sure beset this gold here
on sheep or lamb, but they be so dear.
And also a bad year
soon would them destroy.
If I beset it in cow or veal
peradventure some thief might them steal.
Nay, nay, therewith will I not deal;
such merchandise I defy.
If I would build any house then
might come some fire and it burn;
Nay, nay, I will not so, in faith,
but to the tavern will I go my way,
and to the cooks, by my faith,
thither will I me send!
But if Occupation come by the way,
tell me, sir, I thee pray,
for we two have loved many a day
these years four or five.
Till this be spent every deal,
fall hap, fall hell,
Mix with him no longer I will.
I go hence well alive.
OCCUPATION. [To my labor will I go,
till and travail in much woe,
my livelihood to get.
We may not spare wind nor rain,
but go to plow in croft and plain
and oft we labor without complaint
in dry and in wet.]
And, I pray you, tell me, if ye can,
saw any of you Busyness, my man,
since I was last here?
For he is so long out
with my gold walked about;
by my troth, I am in doubt
he is in some danger.
I know not what is best;
till I some tidings of him hear,
here I think to rest.
IDLENESS. A ha! God speed, I am come!
I have right well wet my throat.
A-ware! a little stand a-room,
for I am very cup-shot.
A, my brain begins to rout
and turns as round as any ball.
By my troth, I am in great doubt;
it seems the sky will on me fall.
I am ill aghast!
I come from the cooks now,
and to God I make a vow,
there have I well broke my fast.
I have eaten and drunk of the best
till me thought the dry way slither;
and my master's gold, so have I rest,
it is spent all to-gether
on good meat and drink.
For by God and Our Lady both,
I bought there-with neither thread nor cloth;
for be my partner never so wroth,
a while will I go wink.
OCCUPATION. A-bide, a word with you!
IDLENESS. A, welcome, I make a vow!
I have sought you wide enough
these two days or three.
OCCUPATION. Sought thou me? I pray the, where?
IDLENESS. By God, on foot--wherever ye were.
OCCUPATION. Me seems thou come late from the ale.
IDLENESS. By God, that is a true tale.
There did I well fare.
OCCUPATION. Now by God, I stand in doubt
that thou have spent my money out;
then am I in great care
IDLENESS. Sir, that money is a-gone,
even if there had been two times ten pounds.
There-fore my heart is sore.
OCCUPATION. A, sire, may evil befall thee!
Alas, that ever I met thee in this hall!
My gold thou have lost for me.
What, thou said Busyness thy name is called?
IDLENESS. So I did, by this light,
and yet I did lie.
But now I tell thee in game,
Idleness is my name.
OCCUPATION. I swear by Saint James,
thou art a wily pie!
Son, if thou will to me hark
I will teach thee some other work.
IDLENESS. What, would thou make me a clerk?
That will I not begin,
for I will go play me
and royally array me.
Who teaches that manner, I pray thee?
OCCUPATION. Truly, son, as I tell thee,
Doctrine, that worthy clerk.
IDLENESS. Doctrine, what man is he?
OCCUPATION. A master of divinity
of the university,
to teach thee to wax wise.
IDLENESS. A, a, will thou so?
Nay, I will not with thee go;
I have espied thee too wise.
OCCUPATION. Son, leave thy fantasy
and turn to grace, I tell thee.
IDLENESS. I will not, I make to God a vow.
I will eat as good as thou.
Go set to grass thy horse or thy cow,
or else, sir, go play thee!
OCCUPATION. Who shall find thee meat and drink all day?
IDLENESS. By my faith, Janet and Jill.
OCCUPATION. What will thou do, can thou me say,
when Janet and Jill are away?
IDLENESS. Then be it as it may,
there-fore care I will not.
DOCTRINE. What, sirs, what play is this
that ye make in this place?
I am come to mend all mys
by the help of God's grace.
IDLENESS. A, that man has an angry face.
OCCUPATION. Peace then, fool, and stand aside!
Sir, welcome might ye be,
and of your name I you pray.
DOCTRINE. Doctrine men call me;
to teach knowledge I am well known.
OCCUPATION. Doctrine, sir, ye be welcome!
I have busied me full sad
for to study and stir up wisdom.
Now of your company I am full glad.
DOCTRINE. What is your name, gentle brother?
OCCUPATION. Truly, my name is Occupation.
DOCTRINE. Welcome are ye above all other
I wish with you some communication.
For with all that to good occupation belong
God is pleased, and so am I;
but occupation that pertains to wrong
does men no good, but villainy.
IDLENESS. Hearken, sirs, ye shall hear,
for now two shrews be met.
By my troth [faith], I will be gone.
DOCTRINE. By my faith, thou shall a-bide,
and ere thou pass from me this tide
I will teach thee a word or two.
IDLENESS. Whom? Me, sir? I know thee not,
DOCTRINE. Son, I will teach thee some little bit
how your living you should get.
OCCUPATION. Sir, in the name of heaven king,
give him some information
how he may get his living
in the way of his salvation;
that is all my desire.
DOCTRINE. Truly, brother Occupation,
that will I do without any hire,
for every good man is bound
to occupy himself in cleanness;
for if he in good occupation be found
the Fiend tempts him much the less.
Every man has enemies three,
the Devil, the World, and his own Flesh.
What they are I will tell thee,
and how then they embattle him fresh.
In pride, wrath, and envy, the Fiend tempts man;
These three sins with Lucifer began.
So thou will not into temptation fall,
occupy thee in cleanness,
for the Fiend upon no man may steal,
save in those that he finds in idleness;
in them will he hide.
For all the vices that there be
idleness is the worst, I tell thee.
IDLENESS. Out! Whither may I flee?
This angry man will beat me
if I longer abide.
DOCTRINE. Of idleness comes this:
thieves and strumpets, so have I rest.
Against this great fault, y-wys,
occupation I hold the best.
But the greatest fault now-adayes
in the people that I find,
men techen their children wanton plays,
and not as they should in kind.
Set your children unto school,
ye that be good men of fame;
maintain them not to play the fool,
but let them learn some good, for shame.
For if they set no goods at store,
soon shall they beg at your door.
OCCUPATION. Idleness is not convinced, as thynkith me.
DOCTRINE. Idleness, where is he?
OCCUPATION. Yonder, sir, as ye may see,
and scorns both me and you.
DOCTRINE. Idleness, come nearer
and learn from me some courtesy.
IDLENESS. I curse myself if I come there
while thou art so angry.
DOCTRINE. Thou shall come hither with nothing said
and learn some good in thy youth.
Thou will be likely to beg thy bread
unless thou draw thee from sloth.
I say, boy, a-rise!
IDLENESS. I pray thee, sir, go thy way;
I wish not with thee to play.
DOCTRINE. I will thee teach, in good faith,
now for to grow wise.
Therefore, boy, I say stand still
and some virtue thou will learn.
IDLENESS. Go forth and do me no ill.
I would ye were in the ditch both together!
DOCTRINE. I say, boy, scorn thou me now?
OCCUPATION. He acts as evil as he can.
IDLENESS. He lies, I make God a vow
in record of this worthy man.
Sir, saw me mock him to scorn?
Nay, he lies in his face.
DOCTRINE. I believe, boy, thy thrift be lost.
To goodness thou have no grace.
OCCUPATION. Sir, I bid him morning and eve
all that folly now to leave.
DOCTRINE. (to Idleness) Take, set hand on this book,
and to thy learning that thou lost.
IDLENESS. A, se, sir, how I look.
Near-hand I know it throughout.
DOCTRINE. Unless thou better to thy book return,
by my faith, thou shall burn.
OCCUPATION. In good faith, ye say well:
every man to labor in his learning.
IDLENESS. Ye be ever my back friend;
therefore have ye God's curse.
DOCTRINE. Son, take this book in thy hand
and learn in the name of God,
Unless I make thee to understand
thou shall be chastised with a rod.
IDLENESS. First let me rest a little while:
my eyes be heavy as any lead.
OCCUPATION. Sir, this boy will you beguile;
in the name of God take heed
and teach him some more.
IDLENESS. A, sir, the Devil be thy speed!
Thou art against me evermore.
DOCTRINE. thy father is the more to blame,
and thy friends all in same
that should have taught thee ere this.
OCCUPATION. Me seems it were an alms deed
to make him leave this lewd route.
IDLENESS. I will not do by thy word.
Old fool, thou begin to dote.
Thy beard begins to grey;
some for weariness falls down,
both in city, burgh, and town,
and rises never again, I say.
DOCTRINE. Truly, there lives no man on ground
--be he never so high of estate--
but he be strongly bound
to occupation early or late.
IDLENESS. A, sir, God let thee never thrive!
Thou would make me weary
as is any hound.
OCCUPATION. Doctrine, sir, I pray you,
tell us some of God's works,
that the common people may know
as do these worthy clerks.
DOCTRINE. With the High Trinity I will begin,
that with his might wrought all thing,
nine orders without sin
of angels to him obeying,
to the rule of God for to abide
full of mystery full of light.
Yet fell many a one that tide
from the place that mankind shall restore full right.
OCCUPATION. What manner of men, I would know,
shall restore that place again?
DOCTRINE. Their names are in legend written
and are called all Hallowes for certain.
OCCUPATION. All Hallows, what be they?
I pray you, declare them openly.
DOCTRINE. Angels, patriarchs, and prophets to say,
Martyrs and confessors truly,
virgins and others of clean life
that died in pure chastity,
that lived here without strife
in cleanness and humility;
OCCUPATION. I pray you, tell me in this place
how apostles suffered tribulation.
DOCTRINE. Some slain by the sword beheaded were,
some consumed by flames burnt in town,
lashed by the whip were some badly beaten,
these are the victors, God's friends on heath.
Their good deeds shall never be forgotten,
for their blessed name in remains eternal.
IDLENESS. Hear ye, sirs, all this breath?
A draft of ale I had rather.
OCCUPATION. This were a worthy company
that the apostle loved day and night.
DOCTRINE. You are the light of the world,
to all the world they shall give light.
OCCUPATION. The martyrs had a glorious life
that for God's love would die so.
DOCTRINE. A, sir, these are the blessed who never dreaded knife
but for the love of God they suffered woe.
O how glorious their death is,
and their blood shedding did us much good.
The blood shedding would bring us to bliss
if that we be mild of mood.
For the cleanness of the hallowes all
the host of heaven now rejoices.
All Hallowes Day their day men call,
and worship them with mild voices.
OCCUPATION. A, sir, of men that live a-day now:
shall they in that number be?
DOCTRINE. Yes, sir, and will ye see how?
They radiate with justice and thus say we.
OCCUPATION. And how do they that have done sin,
and amend themselves before they die?
DOCTRINE. Heaven's bliss they may not win.
Unless they were ready to ask Christ's mercy.
OCCUPATION. What is mercy? That would I know;
I pray you, make me to understand.
DOCTRINE. Mercy is the best seed sown,
for above all works it shall stand.
For as through a tree death will die for certain
through a tree also our death first arose,
for even as Adam by a tree did fall,
on a tree God died for us all.
There was oil poured forth showed
that from Christ's body ran.
God's body thereto was all to-rent
and made full of holes that ever shall run.
None shall be kept from that blood of bliss;
to every man it is so kind.
This is the licoure of mercy that every day,
in Holy Church may we find.
OCCUPATION. I thank Jesus my savior
with all my heart and my speech,
so free of that worthy lycoure
as well to poor as to rich.
DOCTRINE. Ye, sir, ye fail not there.
There is no difference between brother and brother;
God bought all alike and dear
and paid as much for one as for other.
At Doomsday God knows
who shall be riche, who shall be poor,
for that day will be so called
that by gold men will set no store.
OCCUPATION. Sir, that is come to my mind:
why call ye that the great day?
DOCTRINE. For many reasons that I find;
I will declare them, if I may.
Then shall sit the greatest justice on land
that ever sat in any place;
all other justices before him shall stand,
and every lord that ever was.
That day will be the greatest weeping
that ever was seen in any place before.
Many thousands their hands shall wring
and curse the time that they were born.
Therefore the great day call I,
for those that shall be damned in that route
shall weep more water with their eyes
than is in all the world round about.
They shall never after cease weeping,
the water from their eyes shall run.
Therefore think on this day of reckoning,
and ever after hate thou sin,
and in haste thy life amend.
OCCUPATION. Will I never work begin
but I think on the end.
IDLENESS. By my troth, no more will I,
for I have no will to be a clerk.
Of my book I am weary;
I was not used to no such work.
This book is not worth a reed;
ten such are not worth a bean!
By my faith, I will him wash
and make him fair and clean.
Good, give me a little water
that I may wash my book,
for though my master chide and chatter,
and though Occupation here-of smatter,
I will no more here-on look.
OCCUPATION. What, son, what play is this?
IDLENESS. By God, it is never the worse.
OCCUPATION. I will tell thy master, y-wis.
IDLENESS. There-fore have thou God's curse.
OCCUPATION. Doctrine, sir, take heed
how your clerk shunned his book.
IDLENESS. A, sir, the Devil be thy speed.
Who bade thee hither look?
DOCTRINE. A, lewd wastrel, what japes be these?
Thou take thee to fantasies.
Fast sit down, thou shall not choose.
IDLENESS. A, sire, here be many butterflies
both white and brown.
For cock's blood,
give me thine hood,
and I will smite them down.
DOCTRINE. A, a, thou do well and fine!
I will thee tame, by Saint Augustine,
be thou never so wild.
Occupation, lay hand on him, have do,
and myself will help there-to.
Come forth, my fair child!
IDLENESS. Come no nearer, I charge thee now,
for, if thou do, I make a vow,
I will strike thee to the heart.
Would to God my dagger were ground!
DOCTRINE. Set hand on him anon against his will;
let him not start.
OCCUPATION. Come forth thou shall, without thy teeth!
IDLENESS. Out upon thee, strong thief!
Will thou me spill?
DOCTRINE. Take here--one two, and three!
Idleness, now think on me
and hold thy tongue still.
IDLENESS. If I live I will be a-wreck.
Some of your heads will I break,
for ye have made me wroth.
DOCTRINE. How say thou? That let me see.
IDLENESS. Nay, for God, it is he,
in record of all this company,
he did be-shrew you both.
DOCTRINE. Fy on thee, harlot, with thy glossing!
IDLENESS. A, mercy, master, I cry mercy!
Forgive me this and readily
your teachings will I show.
DOCTRINE. In good faith, thou shall have more,
unless thou leave thy idleness,
and unless thou study and labor
in all the works of cleanness.
We know not hour of our dying.
There-fore in prayers ever shall we be;
for with our Pater Noster we should worship heaven king
and his blessed mother with an Ave.
IDLENESS. I say now mercy, with heart and speech,
for-ever to you will I obedient be,
and I will do as ye me teach
in all the works of honesty.
Pater Noster I will begin.
OCCUPATION. Lo, how little mastery it is
to bring in a child in youth.
Friends, take heed to this,
and ever draw you from sloth.
DOCTRINE. Art thou sorry for thy mys,
the which to thee I will rehearse?
IDLENESS. Yes, sir, that I am, y-wys.
there-of I cry God and you mercy.
DOCTRINE. The ten commandments thou broke ever-more,
thy five wits thou kept them ill.
IDLENESS. Truly that I repent sore.
I will amend with all my will.
DOCTRINE. The deeds of mercy do thou not fulfill
to poor, sick, prisoners also.
IDLENESS. I will amend it with good will
if I may have life there-to.
DOCTRINE. Now thou forsake thine idleness,
and here-after will dread shame
here I cast on thee a cloth of cleanness,
and Cleanness shall be thy name.
IDLENESS. Worthy master, I thank the,
and you, Occupation, also;
of this man that is so free,
and to you will I ever draw to.
OCCUPATION. Now am I glad with all my heart
that ever I met with thee in this place,
So fairly thou art now converted,
from folly and fantasy turned to grace
IDLENESS. Master, I pray you for charity,
that ye would tell me
what power has Our Lady in heaven.
DOCTRINE. Above all the women that ever were
God chose Mary unto this,
in her body him to bear,
and thus chose her Jesus.
As a lily among thorns growing
so is my beloved among women;
so is his mother most shining,
passing all the women that ever was.
The lady of all the world she is,
her power is of great estate.
Who-so honor her with aves
all his dis-ease she will abate,
If you are clean and out of sin,
And bend your will to amend,
in every work you will begin
Our dear Lady will be your friend.
CLEANNESS. I thank my Lord in Trinity
that ever I met with you here.
OCCUPATION. Thank we him of might's most,
Father and Son in Trinity,
destroyer of the Fiend's boast,
wholly my heart I yield to thee.
CLEANNESS. He us bring to good end
that died for us on Good Friday,
and Mary his mother be our friend
un-to thy Son as ye best may.
DOCTRINE. He that is registered as the rightful heir,
that doubtful judge that sits in throne,
may he keep you ever out of all despair
and grant you his blessing everyone.
This text was transcribed from Winchester College MS. 33 in 1992 and modernized for performance in 1998.
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Proper Citation: Occupation and Idleness. At From Stage to Page - Medieval and Renaissance Drama. NeCastro, Gerard, ed. http://www.umm.maine.edu/faculty/necastro/drama. Date Visited.