The Bishop’s Gift

Note:  This is not the title of a song from the musical, but rather is a way of referencing the section from the show that includes Valjean Arrested/Forgiven and his response to the grace and mercy he receives from the Bishop.

[BISHOP]
Come in, Sir, for you are weary,
And the night is cold out there.
Though our lives are very humble
What we have, we have to share.
There is wine here to revive you.
There is bread to make you strong,
There’s a bed to rest till morning,
Rest from pain, and rest from wrong
.[VALJEAN]

He let me eat my fill
I had the lion’s share
The silver in my hand
Cost twice what I had earned
In all those nineteen years –
That lifetime of despair
And yet he trusted me.
The old fool trusted me –
He’d done his bit of good
I played the grateful serf
And thanked him like I should
But when the house was still,
I got up in the night.
Took the silver
Took my flight![CONSTABLES]
Tell his reverence your story
Let us see if he’s impressed
You were lodging here last night
You were the honest Bishop’s guest.
And then, out of Christian goodness
When he learned about your plight
You maintain he made a present of this silver.[BISHOP]

That is right.
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind
[The bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks]
You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
So, Messieurs, you may release him
For this man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
And God’s blessing go with you.

But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!

It may be helpful to refer to the song that follows the Bishop’s Gift, What Have I Done? which is Valjean’s response to the gift of grace.  This song is mirrored in Javert’s Song where the melody and structure are repeated. Javert’s response to grace/forgiveness could not be more different than Valjean’s.

What have I done?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?
Become a thief in the night,
Become a dog on the run
And have I fallen so far,
And is the hour so late
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate,
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?

If there’s another way to go
I missed it twenty long years ago
My life was a war that could never be won
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean
When they chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread

Yet why did I allow that man
To touch my soul and teach me love?
He treated me like any other
He gave me his trust
He called me brother
My life he claims for God above
Can such things be?
For I had come to hate the world
This world that always hated me

Take an eye for an eye!
Turn your heart into stone!
This is all I have lived for!
This is all I have known!

One word from him and I’d be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?

I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I’ll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!

[He tears up his yellow ticket-of-leave]

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