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A race of bonded serfs from sire to son.
But we, the genuine race of ancient Swiss,
Have kept our freedom, from the first, till now.
Never to princes have we bowed the knee.
What said our fathers when the Emperor
Pronounced a judgment in the Abbey's favor,
Awarding lands beyond his jurisdiction?
What was their answer? This: "The grant is void;
No Emperor can bestow what is our own;
And if the Empire shall deny us justice,
We can, within our mountains, right ourselves."
Thus spake our fathers; and, shall we endure
The shame and infamy of this new yoke;
And, from the vassal, brook what never king
Dared, in the fulness of his power, attempt?
This soil we have created for ourselves,
By the hard labor of our hands; we've changed
The giant forest, that was erst the haunt
Of savage bears, into a home for man;
Blasted the solid rock; o'er the abyss
Thrown the firm bridge for the way-faring man.
By the possession of a thousand years,
The soil is ours. And, shall an alien lord,
Himself a vassal, dare to venture here,
On our own hearths insult us, and attempt
To forge the chains of bondage for our hands,
And do us shame on our own proper soil?
Is there no help against such wrong as this?
Yes! there's a limit to the despot's power.
When the oppressed looks round in vain for justice,
When his sore burden may no more be borne,
With fearless heart, he makes appeal to Heaven,
And thence brings down his everlasting rights,
Which there abide, inalienably his,
And indestructible as are the stars.
Nature's primeval state returns again,
Where man stands hostile to his fellow-man;
And, if all other means shall fail his need,
One last resource remains his own good sword!
Our dearest treasures call to us for aid
Against the oppressor's violence; we stand
For country, home, for wives, for children, here!
33. WILLIAM TELL IN WAIT FOR GESSLER. -Schiller.
HERE through this deep defile he needs must pass;
There leads no other road to Küssnacht :- - here
I'll do it the opportunity is good.
Yon alder-tree stands well for my concealment,
Thence my avenging shaft will surely reach him;
The straitness of the path forbids pursuit.
Now, Gessler, balance thine account with Heaven!
Thou must away from earth, — thy sand is run.
I led a peaceful, inoffensive life;
My bow was bent on forest game alone,
And my pure soul was free from thoughts of murder, ·
But thou hast scared me from my dream of peace;
The milk of human kindness thou hast turned
To rankling poison in my breast; and made
Appalling deeds familiar to my soul.
He who could make his own child's head his mark
Can speed his arrow to his foeman's heart.
My children dear, my loved and faithful wife,
Must be protected, tyrant, from thy fury!
When last I drew my bow, with trembling hand,
And thou, with murderous joy, a father forced
To level at his child, — when, all in vain,
Writhing before thee, I implored thy mercy,-
Then, in the agony of my soul, I vowed
A fearful oath, which met God's ear alone,
That when my bow next winged an arrow's flight,
Its aim should be thy heart. The vow I made,
Amid the hellish torments of that moment,
I hold a sacred debt, and I will pay it.
Thou art my lord, my Emperor's delegate; Yet would the Emperor not have stretched his power So far as thou. He sent thee to these Cantons To deal forth law, - stern law, - for he is angered; But not to wanton with unbridled will In every cruelty, with fiend-like joy: There is a God to punish and avenge.
Well, I am watching for a noble prey!
Does not the huntsman, with severest toil,
Roam for whole days amid the winter's cold,
Leap with a daring bound from rock to rock,
And climb the jagged, slippery steeps, to which
His limbs are glued by his own streaming blood, -
And all this but to gain a wretched chamois?
A far more precious prize is now my aim,
The heart of that dire foe who would destroy me.
From my first years of boyhood I have used
The bow, been practised in the archer's feats;
The bull's eye many a time my shafts have hit,
And many a goodly prize have I brought home,
Won in the games of skill. This day I'll make
My master-shot, and win the highest prize
Within the whole circumference of the mountains.
Come forth, thou bringer once of bitter pangs, [Draws an arrow from his belt. My precious jewel now, my chiefest treasure, A mark I'll set thee, which the cry of grief Could never penetrate, - but thou shalt pierce it; And thou, my trusty bow-string, that so oft Has served me faithfully in sportive scenes, Desert me not in this most serious hour! Only be true this once, my own good cord, That hast so often winged the biting shaft; For shouldst thou fly successless from my hand, I have no second to send after thee.
34. WILLIAM TELL DESCRIBES HIS ESCAPE.-Schiller.
I LAY on deck, fast bound with cords, disarmed,
In utter hopelessness. I did not think
Again to see the gladsome light of day,
Nor the dear faces of my wife and children,
And eyed disconsolate the waste of waters.
Then we put forth upon the lake, the Viceroy,
Rudolph der Harras, and their suite. My bow
And quiver lay astern beside the helm ;
And just as we had reached the corner, near
The Little Axen, Heaven ordained it so,
That from the Gotthardt's gorge a hurricane
Swept down upon us with such headlong force,
That every rower's heart within him sank,
And all on board looked for a watery grave.
Then heard I one of the attendant train,
Turning to Gessler, in this strain accost him :
"You see our danger, and your own, my lord,
And that we hover on the verge of death.
The boatmen there are powerless from fear,
Nor are they confident what course to take;
Now, here is William Tell, a fearless man,
And knows to steer with more than common skill.
How if we should avail ourselves of him,
In this emergency?" The Viceroy then
Addressed me thus: "If thou wilt undertake
To bring us through this tempest safely, Tell,
I might consent to free thee from thy bonds.".
I answered, "Yes, my lord, with God's assistance,
I'll see what can be done, and help us Heaven!"
On this they loosed me from my bonds, and I
Stood by the helm and fairly steered along;
Yet ever eyed my shooting gear askance,
And kept a watchful eye upon the shore,
To find some point where I might leap to land:
And when I had descried a shelving crag,
That jutted, smooth atop, into the lake,
I bade the men put forth their utmost might,
Until we came before the shelving crag.
For there, I said, the danger will be past!
Stoutly they pulled, and soon we neared the point;
One prayer to God for His assisting grace,
And, straining every muscle, I brought round
The vessel's stern close to the rocky wall;
Then, snatching up my weapons, with a bound
I swung myself upon the flattened shelf,
And with my feet thrust off, with all my might,
The puny bark into the hell of waters.
There let it drift about, as Heaven ordains!
Thus am I here, delivered from the might
Of the dread storm, and man, more dreadful still.
35. WALLENSTEIN'S SOLILOQUY.-Schiller. Coleridge's Translation
Is it possible?
Is 't so? I can no longer what I would?
No longer draw back at my liking? I
Must do the deed because I thought of it,
And fed this heart here with a dream? Because
I did not scowl temptation from my presence,
Dallied with thoughts of possible fulfilment,
Commenced no movement, left all time uncertain,
And only kept the road, the access, open?
I but amused myself with thinking of it.
The free-will tempted me, the power to do
Or not to do it. Was it criminal
To make the fancy minister to hope,
To fill the air with pretty toys of air,
And clutch fantastic sceptres moving toward me!
Was not the will kept free? Beheld I not
The road of duty close beside me, - but
One little step, and once more I was in it!
Where am I? Whither have I been transported?
No road, no track behind me, but a wall,
Rises obedient to the spells I muttered
And meant not, - my own doings tower behind me.
What is thy enterprise? thy aim? thy object?
Hast honestly confessed it to thyself?
Power seated on a quiet throne thou 'dst shake,
Power on an ancient consecrated throne,
Strong in possession, founded in all custom
Power by a thousand tough and stringy roots
Fixed to the people's pious nursery-faith.
This, this will be no strife of strength with strength.
That feared I not. I brave each combatant,
Whom I can look on, fixing eye to eye,
Who, full himself of courage, kindles courage
In me, too. "Tis a foe invisible
The which I fear, a fearful enemy,
Which in the human heart opposes me,
By its coward fear alone made fearful to me.
Not that, which full of life, instinct with power,
Makes known its present being; that is not
The true, the perilously formidable.
O no! it is the common, the quite common,
The thing of an eternal yesterday.
What ever was, and evermore returns,
Sterling to-morrow, for to-day 't was sterling!
For of the wholly common is man made,
And custom is his nurse! Woe, then, to them
Who lay irreverent hands upon his old
House furniture, the dear inheritance
From his forefathers! For time consecrates;
And what is gray with age becomes religion.
Be in possession, and thou hast the right,
And sacred will the many guard it for thee!
86. THE BELIEF IN ASTROLOGY. -- Schiller. Coleridge's Translation.
O NEVER rudely will I blame his faith
In the might of stars and angels. 'Tis not merely
The human being's Pride that peoples space
With life and mystical predominance;
Since likewise for the stricken heart of Love
This visible nature, and this common world,
Is all too narrow; yea, a deeper import
Lurks in the legend told my infant years
Than lies upon that truth, we live to learn.
For fable is Love's world, his home, his birth-place;
Delightedly dwells he 'mong fays and talismans,
And spirits; and delightedly believes
Divinities, being himself divine.
The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of old religion,
The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty,
That had her haunts in dale, or piny mountain,
Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms, and watery depths, all these have vanished.
They live no longer in the faith of reason!