JOHN THE BAPTIST
by Robert Pickering Ashe
Cast of persons represented in the play
John The Baptist
Jesus The Saviour
Andrew Disciple of Jesus
John Disciple of Jesus
James Disciple of Jesus
Herod The King
Herodias His wife
Salome Their daughter
Satan The evil spirit
Mars Attending Satan
Mammon Attending Satan
Venus Attending Satan
Muse Attending Satan
Alopa Attending Satan
Women Attending John
Michah A Disciple of John
Three other disciples
Ruler of the Feast
Satan seated on his throne
Enter Mars, Mammon, Venus, a Muse, and Alopa
Satan: I called you here because I have in hand
The fiercest warfare I have ever waged
For my opponent is a perfect man
And we will know that he is Son of God.
On that side therefore none may hope to strike
Or any wound inflict, but son of man,
Here is my hope, with man I well may deal
Man whom God loves and yet has left him free;
Here lies my chance to deal a blow at God
And pierce and break that mighty soul of love.
Mars, can you do aught to meet the Son of Man?
Come hither now, divulge your battle plan.
Mars steps forward
Mars With all my powers and splendours will I go
Offer devoted men in sacrifice
Ready to fight and die for some great king
Or some great cause, all glory will I take
That all the world could gain, and give it him.
Satan Then go, and with you my strong spirit goes
To meet the mightiest yet of all our foes.
Mammon, and now for you, what is your way?
Mammon My purse, my weapon, I bid gold for men”
If they refuse, still more I offer them
And show what gold can do and money buy.
With Mars I work, and rarely have we failed
To gain the soul with steel and gold assailed.
Satan Now Venus, fallen angel, what of you?
Venus The thought and sight and ever inward urge
To me doth madden men who are as wax
Within my hand to melt and mould and make;
I fail perhaps with one, but millions fall
To my soft power, and do what I invite.
Satan You’ll more than meet your match, I doubt today
But do your best and worst and go your way.
Now Mistress Muse, all you the sisters nine
I’ll use your powers and arts against the Man
Your beauties that can cleanse and purge the mind
That ever love the light and all things pure;
These can I prostitute to basest ends
If that be base which ministers to pride
Beneath your beauties, bitter hate I hide.
Alopa, have you brought some wise advice?
Alopa I little speak, but ever I watch men.
The baser sort are bribed and bought and won;
The nobler kind most often fall through pride
Are tempted most through those they trust and love;
Fail through respect of men and their old paths
And fear to walk or pioneer new ways.
Satan Well, what of that? Ah, now I see your point.
Alopa The Christ perhaps may yield to argument
To some persuasion from an honoured friend
Whom you may tempt and touch in a weak spot
Satan This means I’ll try – the Baptist preacher John;
Through him I will attempt the master-stroke
To bring the Son of Man in ruin down
Though John be great and true, yet I know well
How with God’s choicest souls to people hell!
By the Jordan
Enter Matthew, John and James
James How came you Andrew, first to hear of John?
Andrew Returning from the feast by Jordan’s bank
We made our nightly camp, kindled a fire:
I to the River’s brink for water went
When, as it were, a vision met my eye
From out a thicket suddenly there came
A goodly man who straightway spoke with me
His clothing was of woven camel’s hair
A leather girdle round about his loins.
‘Elijah like’ – the thought occurred to me.
Here speaks a prophet, for my heart did burn
Hearing the music of a voice that cried,
“The Kingdom with its King is drawing nigh.”
‘O Sir’, I said, ‘Come up and speak with us,
My brother and two friends are camping here’.
He came, and far into the night discoursed
Of God, his heaven and hell; of fear and hope
And of the Saviour King whose herald he
Is calling all people to repent
And be baptised in water; ready so
To meet their Lord who comes with cleansing flame.
Forthwith we four did gladly follow John;
Received his rite; called others to his side
Who listened, bound as with a spell, to one
Having the gift to win men’s hearts with more
Than magic music in his silver tones.
A wondrous holy light shone from his eyes
Sometimes his voice loud as a trumpet rang,
Then low – as thunder in the distance rolls.
John stirred the souls of men as wind the waves
And thousands soon were hanging on his words.
We were his men for life, till Jesus came
And John bare witness that He is the King
And that henceforth all men must follow him.
James How did John know that Jesus is the Christ?
Andrew We asked John how he knew, and what the sign.
He told us that he knew him not at first;
But once when preaching, looking up he saw
Some doves, and lifting up his heart he spoke
“Lord, let a dove alight upon thy Christ
That by this sign, so may I know my Lord”.
Then Jesus came from Galilee, and John
Knew him as one that read the scriptures well;
A man respected much in Nazareth;
Who never gave occasion for offence.
So John demurred when Jesus came to him
With others asking to receive the rite.
‘I rather need to be baptised by thee
John answered him, ‘And comest thou to me?’
‘Suffer it so,’; said Jesus, ‘For ’tis thus
By us all righteousness must be fulfilled.’
Then John baptised him; and when Jesus came
From out the River, lighted down a dove
And rested on him, and there was a voice
From heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son
In whom I am well pleased.’
But some aver ’twas said “This day have I begotten thee”.
James What happened then?
Andrew Jesus and John both stood
And bid the thronging folk to go their way.
And when the day was spent
They two together to the desert went.
Still by the Jordan. The multitudes melt away leaving Jesus and John alone
Jesus I seek a quiet place where far from men
I may consider how to undertake
The task that God has sent me to perform.
John Then come with me, for I the desert know;
Its secrets open lie before mine eyes
So will I guide you to a silent spot
Where you for days, except for creatures wild,
May spend your precious hours with God alone.
Meanwhile `I have a mission to perform
Which once accomplished, I will come to you.
Jesus Yes, come to me and I will then impart
My heavenly Father’s purpose for my life,
And how our war with evil we must wage.
John Time presses, all the nation is prepared.
So will I hasten to return to you
To hear God’s will for You, and if You please
To take such counsel as from Holy Writ
My constant study, I have garnered up
Humbly to lay it at your blessed feet
Jesus Then go in peace, but give me forty days
For fellowship with God, fasting and prayer
And should you e’er the forty days be past
Return, then near me, but some other where
My fellowship of prayer and fasting share.
A room in Herod’s Palace
Enter Herod, Herodias and attendants
Herodias ensconces herself behind a curtain.
Herod to attendant
My visitor may enter, bid him come.
Enter John. Salutes Herod.
You sent to me to say you have a word
That God commanded you that I should hear.
I, fearing God, and seeking his goodwill
Therefore give audience; You may speak to me.
John ADULTEROR ! With that adulterous wife
Whose lust unsated ever seeks new fields
In which to roam. Adultress, cursed of God.
O King, you well know God’s commands and yet commit
This vileness – a strange unlawful deed
To take your brother’s wife. Put her away.
God hates the sin; A King and Queen should show
The people an example pure and fair.
Herodias comes from behind the curtain.
Herodias The fool and fanatic, how dared he speak
And utter uninvited his rebuke
Turning to Herod
Both you and he forget you are a King;
But I will send and drag him to my feet,
And on his knees he shall my pardon beg,
As I on him such tortures will inflict
As never writhing body yet has known!
She claps her hands to summon her attendants
Herod Herodias, I pray you! Reason hear!
I dare not, as affairs at present stand
Lay hands on John: the people worship him
And many say he is indeed the Christ;
Pilate and I are watching close what comes,
And if the tumult raised by John still rise,
We must strong action take; if it subside
And all the people fall away from him;
Then may you safely think of some revenge
When I securely have imprisoned him.
He is a great man whom some call divine.
Come Love! dismiss all thoughts of him – and dine!
John is sitting reading a scroll
Jesus appears, etherialised, and John, emaciated with the long fast. Jesus comes forward and speaks.
Jesus I come to share with you your simple meal,
And then to hear what you may wish to say,
And afterwards what God hath taught to me
In tossing arguments and tempted hours
Through forty days of holding on to Him
John I have but sorry herbs and water clear;
Locusts I have not caught, nor honey bright
Collected: for mine hours of late have all been
Spent in study of the Scriptures, and in thought.
Jesus Herbs will suffice, for he who gave us life
Will nurture it. Praise to His Holy Name.
They eat together
Here in this quiet place and fitting time
Speak freely from your garnered store of thought
Which you have gathered from the Holy Book.
John Thanks blessed Sir! For I am full of words
And pained to be delivered of the same.
The time is ripe! The hour is come! The people all
Baptised, repentant, and with all prepared
For the great venture that shall surely be.
They wait the Christ who with his axe and flail
Shall hew the rotten trees, beat out the chaff
And gather precious wheat into his barns.
The nations tremble, while all-haughty Rome
Like proud Belshazzar sees the writing plain,
Or soon shall see, when Jesus draws his sword
And vengeance, long delayed, arrives at last!
Jesus Do you not know that those who take the sword
Shall perish with the sword? Death, lawyer-like
Takes toll of both till each has lost his all
And naught remains but widows’ eyes to weep
And hungry, orphaned children left to starve.
John Jesus, my master! Hear me once again,
Sure David’s seat is your God-given throne,
And David’s people with you to a man
Nay more, and rather ’tis the Lord of Hosts
Himself is with you: with you Jacob’s God:
Ride on! The nations melt, and Rome o’ercome,
You’ll sit upon the throne that rules the world
And win by righteous war eternal peace.
Jesus ‘Who take the sword shall perish with the sword’.
‘Besides ’tis written plain: ‘Thou shalt not kill’
John Alas, dear Lord! Did Abraham ne’er kill?
And did that Father perish with the sword?
The Amorite to Jacob’s sword and bow
Did lose the land that joseph held in fee!
Levi and Simeon, Moses, Joshua too;
Those hands that wrote the law uplifted were
While Isreal the Canaanite did slay!
All fighting men whose arms Jehovah held.
Jesus Yet think of Isaac whose more gentle way
Won precious water and unruffled peace;
And of that King who in Samaria fed
His foes, and sent them safe away as friends.
John Think you of Gideon wielding the Lord’s sword;
Of Samson, Jephtha, David, Samuel, all
Bearing the sword, and late our Maccabees!
Enter Satan silently, and unseen by him, stands behind John
Surely God’s Son may take the fathers’ way
And lead us on, our enemies to slay.
Jesus Looking past John to Satan
Never to your god Violence I bow
Nor ever shall my knee to Mammon bend.
God of this world, unholy trinity Mammon and Force and Fear.
‘Tis written thus
‘Worship thy God alone, Him only serve.’
Satan takes a step nearer John, and whispers in his ear
John Thou knowest best, Lord Jesus; and I bow.
But if thou dost refuse our fathers’ way;
As they believed that God’s anointed Christ
Would rule through David’s sword and bow
Yet win men’s doubting minds, confirm their faith
In their Messiah, potent Prince of Peace
By giving them a sign none can gainsay
That they, as I, may know thee Son of God
At the next feast, when multitudes surround
The sacred precincts of the temple court
Do thou the highest pinnacle surmount
And bid the people watch God’s son descend
One sudden plunge, and then on angels’ hands
Upbourne, fulfil that scripture, trusting God
Whose angels have the charge to bear thee up
That never shalt thou fall upon the stones.
So prove to men thy mission and thy might;
Show once for all thou art indeed God’s son.
Jesus Gazing past John to Satan
Thus it stands written, thus the scripture reads:
‘Thou mayest never tempt the Lord thy God’.
John A faintness seizes me, sure death is near
Darkness comes over me. O Jesus! Grant,
If thou art Christ, God’s Son, give me a sign
Command this stone that it become a loaf.
Jesus Ah John, my friend, recall that written word,
‘Man shall not merely live by bread alone,
His true life comes breathed from the mouth of God.’
Satan begone! And darkness go with you.
Worshipped by this world, never will I bow
To Satan and his evil trinity
Mammon and Force and Fear.
How is it with you, friend? The flesh is weak
Too great the strain of these past months has been
Bearing the people’s burdens and their pains
And the long abstinence you shared with me,
John falls back in a faint
Enter some women bearing food, water and wine
1st woman Oh Sir, we have been seeking you and John
With anxious fear and dread. God led us here
Indeed we saw a light upon this place
And hither came; see, here is bread and wine.
Jesus Give me a loaf, and fill a cup of wine.
‘Father, for all thy gifts we render thanks.
This bread and wine, thy sacrament of love’.
He breaks the bread
John, take this bread, and now some water drink
John, coming to, takes the bread and water
John Ah, God be praised! I thought that I had died
And wished it so, but I am better now;
Some evil presence seemed to press me down
`and even now a weight is on my heart.
Permit it gracious Lord, that I depart.
Jesus Go you with God, and peace be with your soul.
Jesus To the women
Thanks gentle friends; let us our journey take
And reach some village e’er the sun awake.
By the Jordan
A concourse of people
John I still baptise, for in whatever way
Our war is waged, God’ soldiers must be clean
No wrong by them must ever be allowed;
They must be generous, with open hand;
Braver than lions, warriors of God
To execute his vengeance on all vice;
Their bodies chaste; with temperance in food;
Men who despise the heady mocker wine
That makes men worse than swine in filthy mire
For wine does often lead men to a snare;
The more is drunk, the greater thirst ensues
Bodies to honest toil must be inured
Willing for every work that comes to hand,
For who can say what hour the trumpet blast
By an Archangel blown, may be a call
For all God’s enemies to stand prepared;
For though no leader yet can we discern
God raises up the man to meet His hour:
Abner for Saul, Joab to David given.
Meanwhile pursue in quiet works of peace,
And ever be your prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’.
A Centurion This is sedition; pure and unalloyed!
Soldiers, Fall in, and straightway follow me!
They march towards John. The people seeing it, form a solid wall round him.
John quietly slips away and is lost among the outskirts of the crowd.
A room in Herod’s Palace
Enter Herod, Herodias and a Spy
Herod The soldiers failed to bring the Baptist here;
The people hedged him round and he escaped.
The Captain thought his preaching stirred them up;
We must not let the matter further go.
Herodias Here is a man who knows the wilderness
He, an enquirer feigns to be,
Tracks John to his known haunts; appoints with him
To meet some eager prosylites his friends;
A time at night he fixes, and the place.
This seems a plan that promises success.
And thus our soldiers find him unaware
And lodge him safely behind prison bars.
Herod Come hither, Spy. By what name are you known?
Spy Judah of Magdala, my name O King
Herod Can you this task with secrecy perform?
Spy I can unseen by any, find out John;
Open as day he is, nor will suspect
That I approach with purpose to deceive.
Herod Fear you not God? If so, how dare you then
Entrap a good man with unmanly guile?
Spy Alas, my Lord! I am in dire distress;
I know your Highnesses have lawful right
For what you do, nor is it mine to ask
The reason why you seek to question John;
My part, alone to show his trysting place.
Herod Then go and lay your snare, nor miss your aim.
If you succeed, a rich reward you claim.
A prison; John sitting on a seat reading a scroll
Enter some of his disciples
1st. Disc. Hail, Master! How are you, and need you aught?
John Nay, I have all, and more than all I need
Except the priceless gift of liberty.
The King himself has only left me now.
He hears me gladly, and permits
The coming here of several of my friends.
But the best thing of all, he will not do;
Give up that wicked woman, his life’s star
False fatal light that leads the way to hell,
But I must ask your news of Jesus Christ.
How goes his gentle work mid’st graceless man?
1st Disc. They flock about him since he fed them once,
Many for love; more for their bellies’ sake.
2nd Disc. Sir, Master, we a bitter question had
With Pharisees about thy Cleansing Rite.
They say, as sons of Abram they are clean
Nor need the preparation you enjoin.
John Insensate clods! Know they not that from these stones
Such children God could raise to Abraham?
But let that be. What is your trouble, friend?
3rd Disc. Dear Master, we in grievous doubts were tossed
Concerning Jesus and to him we went
And plainly asked why his disciples fail
To fast, as thy disciples all are wont
And the disciples of the Pharisees?
He answered, ‘Can the Bridegroom’s children fast
While the new husband still with them remains?’
The time will come when he shall be removed;
Those are the days when they shall fast indeed!
4th Disc. Dear honoured Lord, I have a word to say,
I know not how to speak. We grieve to hear
It said that Jesus companys with men
Of doubtful character; with publicans
Has feasted, nor refused a second cup of wine,
And at a feast in Cana, when the wine
Failed, he supplied a goodly quantity
O quality perchance, I know not which.
No Rabbi speaks with women openly
Yet Jesus, as men’s equals honours them!
Indeed a number follow him about
Nor are denied discipleship.
John I cannot bear to hear my Lord in aught
Detracted from, for He, I know is true
And yet a doubt that in the desert came
When he and I held converse, will return.
Two of you hither come; for I this once
Will settle what I feel unworthy doubt.
Jesus is true, and should the heavens fall
He will not flinch, but utter perfect truth.
Go you, and put the question: ‘Art thou He?’
He who should come, or must we forward look
For other than myself? ‘ This question ask
Receive his answer and return to me.
The two Disciples
Master we go to put your question plain
Farewell dear Lord till we come back again.
An open plain
Jesus is seen addressing a multitude.
The two disciples draw near, and stand waiting. The people make way for them.Michah, a third disciple stands near also.
Jesus finishes his discourse and beckons the two disciples, who approach.
Jesus Whence come you friends, and would you speak with me?
1st Disc. Rabbi, the Baptist John has sent us here
For in his prison having heard of you:
Of wondrous works and people’s praise and blame
He asks by us a question of great weight:
‘Art thou the Coming One, or other yet
Must we expect? Your answer Lord vouchsafe’.
Jesus Go you, tell John what you do hear and see:
The blind receive their sight, and lame men walk.
Lepers are cleansed; deaf hear; the dead are raised
And to the poor the Gospel is proclaimed:
And blessed be the man, whoe’er he be
Who does not find a stumbling block in me.
Exuent the two disciples Michah draws close to Jesus
Jesus Again addressing the people
What in the desert went ye out to see?
A wind tossed reed? What went ye out to see?
A man arrayed in clothing soft and fine?
Such men in Palaces of Kings are found!
Why went ye forth? A prophet to behold?
I tell you yes! And more than prophet he,
For it is written thus concerning him,
‘Behold, before thy face my messenger
I send in front of thee to smooth thy way.
I say to you in truth there never rose
A woman’s son greater than Baptist John.
He lifts up John our Master heaven high
Jesus Yet in God’s realm the least is more than he.
A Disciple of Jesus Drops him to earth again.
What can it mean?
Now he continues, and will let us know
The reason John attains so low a place:
Jesus The Heaven’s Realm from John the Baptist’s days
Even till now is suffering violence
And men of violence make it a prey.
For all the prophets prophesied till John
As Moses in the Law did prophesy
And if you will receive it this is he,
Elijah who was destined for to come.
He that hath ears for hearing, let him hear.
What is this generation like unto?
Small children playing in the Market Place
Who say. ‘We piped to you; ye did not dance!
We mourned to you and yet ye did not weep!
For John came eating not, nor drinking wine’
And so they say that he a demon has.
The Son of Man then came who ate and drank;
A glutton and wine-bibber dub they him!
A friend of sinners and of publicans.
But wisdom by her works is justified.
The Prison, John seated reading a scroll
Enter the two disciples who had been sent to Jesus,
1st Disc. We went, dear Master, as you ordered us
And to the presence straight of Jesus came;
He welcomed us, and we your message gave;
He answered us with gracious words and looks:
‘Go and tell John what ye do hear and see
The blind receive their sight and lame men walk,
Lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, the dead are raised,
And to the poor the Gospel is proclaimed
And blessed whosoever is the man
Who does not find a stumbling block in me.’
John This, and no more?
1st Disc. We forthwith came away
And hastened back to bring his word to you.
John He casts me back on God, and faith in Christ;
His answer must I ponder o’er today.
Tomorrow come and hear what I shall say.
The Prison – the same
Michah Dear Master, Is it well with you? Oh say.
John Thank God, ’tis well with me, though Prison irks
And sometimes I desire the desert’s breath
Whence come you Michah? Pray your tidings tell.
Michah Dear Master, words more graceful never were
Than those that fell from the Lord Jesus’ lips
Concerning you, nor words more grand to hear!
John What were the words my gracious Lord did say?
Michah While as your messengers were passing through
The wide prevailing throng, thus Jesus spoke,
‘What in the desert went ye out to see?
A wind-tossed reed? What went ye out to see?
A man arrayed in clothing soft and fine?
Such men in Palaces of Kings are found.
Why went ye forth? A prophet to behold
I tell you, yes! And more than prophet he
For it is written thus concerning him,
‘Behold, before thy face my messenger
I send in front of thee to smooth thy way.
I say to you in truth there never rose
A woman’s son greater than Baptist John’.
These are the words that gracious Jesus spoke
And blessed be his name who honours you.
John O gracious Lord! Most generous of friends.
I have disciples who would die for me
But, O Lord Jesus, God who reads all hearts
He only knows how good thou art to me.
And did he say no more, this loving friend?
Michah No more he said that it imports to speak.
John Michah! What mean you! Not imports to speak!
A sentence from the lips of Christ which fell!
Tell me what more he said. I charge you, speak.
Michah Indeed, my Lord, he added, ‘Yet withal
Within God’s Realm the least is more than he;
The Heaven’s Realm from John the Baptist’s day
Till now is suffering from violence
And men of violence make of it a prey.
John O Lamb of God, thou who dost take away
The world’s sin, humbly at thy feet I fall.
I see the Door, and joyful enter in
Gladly to take the very lowest place
That thou in mercy did’st reserve for me.
And yet I know that where the poorest sits
The King will come and take his seat by him.
Jesus is right, his way of love doth win
Though he must suffer witnessing the same.
I had been all for Force, but now I see
That love is better than Elijah’s wrath
And stronger too to bow the hearts of men.
God grant me that I still prepare his way
Although it be the blood-stained path to death
Enter a group of disciples
1st Disc. Hail, Master dear, but sure some happy news
Has come to you this day: such radiant joy
Shines from your face, and every line erased
Of pain and conflict, and a heavenly calm
The face we love and honour, glorifies.
John Now in this happy hour rejoyce with me,
And hear me witness: Jesus Christ is Lord
And that his blessed way of serving men
Is God’s appointed means to save the world:
Not by the mastery of conquering swords
But by the mystery of endless love.
Herod’s Palace. A grand supper room where are assembled Herod,his Lords, High Captains and Chief men of Galilee, Ruler of the Feast and attendants.
Herod rises and speaks
Herod My Lords, High Captains, Chiefs of Galilee
I welcome you upon this festal day!
Birthdays are like the milestones on a road
That whither leads? Homeward, or far away
To wilds untrodden? Or to that strange shore
Where roll the hungry tides of ocean death?
Oh what a dark enigma is our life!
Whence have we come, and whither do we go?
Eternal riddle always unresolved.
Better to drink than think; God gave us wine;
And so my Lords fill goblets to the brim
And we will drink to life while life remains.
Herod sits down
Ruler of the feast, rising
All rise, and pledge the King. Long live the King
They sit down, the feast continues
A High Captain rises
My Lord, O King, on this most happy day
When you so royally have welcomed us,
We have been greatly privileged to hear
Your haunting words, which vibrate in our hearts
Concerning life, and its dark mystery.
We marked your wisdom when you poke of wine
That makes man merry: yet another gift
God given, know we better than the grape
Her whom God gave to Adam, Zoe called:
Life’s misery and mystery to share.
Brim deeper cups when women’s health we pledge!
And if the King will give me leave to speak
One woman’s name, his dear and beauteous Queen
Herodias, and with it coupled be
That name the image of herself doth bear,
Salome, Princess, fair and blithe and young.
All rise. Attendants fill cups. They drink and shout
Long live Herodias, our gracious Queen
Herodias! Herodias! Long life!
Ruler of the Feast
Now let us pledge Salome, the Princess!
All Long life, Salome! Live, Salome, live!
The feast continues
Enter an attendant who whispers to the King
Herod Rising somewhat unsteadily
My Lords, High Captains, Chiefs of Galilee
To crown our banquet and our birthday’s joy
My gracious spouse and Queen, a glad surprise
Has now provided you, our highest cheer;
Wine we have praised, intoxicating joy
And woman whose delights can deeper thrill
Than any words of men can e’er describe.
Welcome Salome who will grace our feast
And dance before us for our dear delight.
Enter Salome, attendants, Musicians. A polished marble table is placed in full view of the feasters. Music strikes up. Salome, throwing off her cloak springs lightly on to the table and dances ravishingly. Roses and other flowers are thrown to Salome amid shouts and cheer. She once more leaps onto the table, and renews her maddening dance. Again she is greeted with a storm of rapturous applause which at last subsides, and Herod speaks
Herod Salome! Damsel mine, come here to me!
Ask what you will, and I will give it you .
Sweet maid, ask half my Kingdom, and I swear
By all that’s sacred I will give it you!
Salome My gracious Lord! A moment give me leave
Till I return and my petition make
The King and guests continue to converse loudly.
Salome goes through a curtain to where her mother is sitting. They speak together.
Salome Mother, the King has bid me ask what e’er I will.
Oh, mother, let me beg a string of pearls.
Herodias Have you no pride?
My name has been besmirched
Both far and wide by the vile preacher John.
Now is our chance to be revenged on him.
Ask for John Baptist’s head upon a tray.
And all my priceless pearls are yours today.
Salome returns to the banqueting hall
Goes and kneels before the King
Herod Now shall my oath be honoured. Name your gift.
Salome I ask that you will give me here forthwith
The head of John the Baptist on a tray.
Herodias’ deep plan! What can I do?
Caught by the huntress in her hellish net.
So strong my oath, I dare not be forsworn
Nor now reject the damsel’s dire request.
Beckons a soldier
Go, Soldier to the prison. Take this ring
And forthwith bring me John the Baptist’s head.
Enter Herodias.A dreadful silence Many of the guests slip away. A few remain.The lamps burn low
Herodias Bid the musicians play
They strike up a dirge
Leave off that dirge
Play something that will suit a victory.
The musicians play a march
Enter a soldier bearing John’s head on a tray covered with a cloth
Salome takes the tray and hands it to her mother who lifts the cloth
Herodias Now you are silent who were once so loud
You will not e’er again rebuke a queen.
Turns to the soldier
Soldier, take this.
Handing him the head
and put it on a spear
And place it on our castle’s highest wall
Herod Herodias, no! Permission I refuse.
Herodias Then throw it on a dunghill to the dogs.
Herod to soldier
Take back his head, and place by his corpse.
I will give orders for his burial.
Herodias I do protest! This head is mine alone.
Herod Silence! Herodias. Know that I am King
What you have done I deem a loathsome thing.
Outside a rock tomb. A group of John’s disciples, who have just concluded his burial, and Michah
1st Disc. Tell us, good Michah of John’s latest hours;
You were the last to see him in this life.
Michah John seemed to have a pressage of his death
And bid me tell the Christ, when he was gone
That he had hoped to see an earthly throne
And Jesus seated with a golden crown;
That now he understands the better way,
And knows the weapon that God’s people wield.
He thinks God sends him forward on the road
That Jesus treads, his herald in advance
Along the blood-stained path which upward leads
To that high altar where the Son of God
Will make the sacrifice that saves the world.
Some lines John spoke from David’s Shepherd-psalm:
‘When to death’s valley dark I come at last
Thy rod and staff are still my strength and stay.
I see thy face, the shadows flee away,
And all my fears for evermore are past’.
He kissed me then, and laid him down to sleep.
2nd Dicc. Is there not one to tell the final scene?
Michah Yes, the third jailer told me what occurred.
King Herod’s messenger did summon him,
Showed the King’s ring; repeated his command.
Softly they went to where the Baptist lay
Soundly asleep; threw back the coverlet
Exposed his throat; then with a muttered prayer
The soldier drew his sword, and with one blow
Cut off John’s head and went with it away.
King Herod sent it back and order gave
That we should lay his body in this grave.
Now we have laid our Master to his rest
Let us join Jesus, that was John’s behest.
They turn away and take their path leading towards the dawn