'TOBIAS AND THE ANGEL'
THE Bible only fails the modern author when he tries to be biblical. Let him attempt a pastiche of the trope and the rhythm of the Authorised Version and defeat is certain. That was the sad fate of a play about Samson and Delilah which Miss Edith Evans produced not long ago. The modern mummer who wanders about in a formidable beard crying 'O Rose of the Valley of Sharon' is bound to fail. He becomes a talkie version of the oleographic illustrations in the popular Bibles printed about 1880. Another method, once favourite, now certain to provoke derision, was the Livestock Parade. As a boy I used to attend all the productions of Mr. Beerbohm Tree. But compulsory Bible at school made me carefully omit to visit Joseph and his Brethren. What I do remember is the spectacle of camels waiting under English skies at the stage-door of His Majesty's Theatre. They displayed a discreditable patience. No doubt the wretched animals did carry the play on their backs. But they would scarcely manage it to-day. The theatre audience does grow up. To make the Muse collide with a menagerie is no longer a certain way to fill the house.
We know now that if the legends are to be used they must be used without pedantic or pretentious archaism. That was the earliest way. The authors of the Mystery Cycles had no English Bible on which to work; but they had the stories and they transferred them quite simply into the chatter of English working men. The Wakefield Nativity Play, for instance, is full of complaints about agricultural wages, and Mac,