‘The Play of the Wether': a sixteenth-century summit

December 16, 2009

In 1533 John Heywood’s ‘The Play of the Wether’ was published – an interlude in which Jupiter asks the people of earth to petition, via ‘Merry Report’ the vice, for their favourite weather, a topic on which the gods have already been debating.

A gentleman is the first to speal, and he pleads for calm weather so that he can enjoy the hunt:

It may please you to sende vs wether pleasaunte
Drye and nat mysty the wynde calme and styll
That after our houndes yournynge so merely
Chasynge the dere ouer pale and hyll
In herynge we may folowe and to comforte the cry

The merchant, next in line, asks for weather ‘Stormy nor mysty the wynde mesurable’ so that he can sail to the markets he requires. The ranger asks for ‘good rage of blusterynge and blowynge’ so that he can collect fallen debris. He also says:

And yf we can not get god to do some good
I wolde hyer the deuyil to runne thorowe the wood
The rootes to turne vp, the toppes to brynge vnder
A myschyefe vpon them and a wylde thunder.

Next, a water-miller asks for ‘plente of rayne’, and a wind-miller conplains that ‘The wynde is so weyke it sturrerh nat our stones’ and asks for ‘wynde continuall’. A gentlewoman asks Merry Report to ask Jupiter ‘To sende vs wether close and temperate / No sonne shyne no frost nor wynde to blowe’. Yet a launderer comes in and counter-argues:

I thynke it farre better
Thy face were sonne burned and thy clothes the swetter
Then that the sonne frome shynynge shulde he smytter
To kepe thy face fayre and thy smocke be shytter

Lastly, a boy asks for ‘plente of snowe’ so that he can continue making snowballs. Having heard all the petitioners (some via Merry Report, some directly) Jupiter decides to keep a variety of weather, as mankind cannot function with only one flourishing craft. In making this judgement Jupiter remarks:

All to serue at ones and one destroy an other
Or elles to serue one and destroye all the rest
Nother wyll we do the tone nor the other
But serue as many or as fewe as we thynke best
And where or what tyme to serue most or lest
The dyrectyon of that doubtles shall stande
Perpetually in the power of our hande.

Wherfore we wyll the hole worlde to attende
Eche sorte on suche wether as for them doth fall
Nowe one nowe other as lyketh vs to sende
Who that hath it ply it and sure we shall
So gyde the wether in course to you all
That eche with other ye shall hole remayne.
In pleasure and plentyfull welth certayne.

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