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ACT IV. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 2 (Faust 1 & 2, Egmont, Natural Daughter, Sorrows of Young Werther) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 2.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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Strong jagged rocky summit. A cloud approaches, leans against the rock, and sinks down upon a projecting level. It divides.
(Steps forth.) On deepest solitudes down-gazing, far below my feet,
Full thoughtfully I tread this lofty mountain ridge,
My cloudy car forsaking, me which softly bare,
Through days of sunshine, hither over land and sea.
Slowly it melts from me, not scatter’d suddenly;
Towards the East the mass strives in its rolling march.
In admiration lost, the eye strives after it;
Moving it now divides, wavelike, and full of change;
Yet will it shape itself—mine eye deceives me not,
On sun-illumin’d pillows, gloriously reclines,
Of giant size indeed, a godlike female form;
I see it, like to Juno, Leda, Helena;
In majesty and love before mine eye it floats!
Ah, now it scatters; formless, broad, uptowering,
Rests in the East, and there, like ice-hills far away,
Mirrors of fleeting life the deep significance.
Yet round me hovers still, a mist-wreath, tender, light,
Surrounding breast and brow, cheering, caressing, cool.
Lightly it rises now, still lingering, high and higher,—
Together draws. Doth me a rapturing form delude,
As youth’s first fondly priz’d, long-yearn’d for, highest good?
Well up the earliest treasures of my deepest heart:
To me Aurora’s love, so light of wing, it shows,
The swift-experienc’d glance, the first, scarce understood,
Which, long and firmly held, each treasure overshone!
Like beauty of the soul rises the gracious form,
Dissolveth not, but upward into ether floats,
And with it, of my being draws the best away.
[A seven-league boot tramps down, another immediately follows.Mephistophelesdescends. The boots stride onward in haste.
That’s forward striding, I must own!
But tell me, what dost thou intend,
That ’mid such horrors dost descend,
Such wilderness of yawning stone?
Though not precisely here, I know it well;
This was in sooth the very floor of Hell.
Of foolish legends never fails thy store;
Such to give forth dost thou begin once more?
(Seriously.) When God the Lord—the reason well I know,—
Us from the air had bann’d to depths profound,
There, where of fire eterne the central glow
With lurid flames still circles round and round,
By the too brilliant light, we found that we
O’ercrowded were, and plac’d unpleasantly.
Forthwith to cough the devils all were fain;
From top to bottom straight they spat amain;
With sulphur-stench and acids thus inflated,
Hell, with foul gas, so hugely was dilated,
That earth’s smooth surface, by the fiery blast,
Thick as it was, cracking must burst at last.
That all things are revers’d we now discern;
What bottom was, is summit in its turn;
Also in this the proper lore they base,
To give the undermost the highest place;
For from the hot and slavish cave we fare
Into the lordship of the boundless air;
An open secret, long time well conceal’d,
And to the folk only of late reveal’d.
To me are mountain-masses grandly dumb;
I question neither whence nor why they come.
Herself when Nature in herself had founded,
This globe of earth she then hath purely rounded,
Took both in summit and in gorge delight,
Pil’d rock on rock, and mountain-height on height;
The hills she fashion’d next with gentle force,
And to the valleys slop’d their downward course:
Then growth and verdure came, and for her joy
She needs no mad convulsive freak employ.
Ay! so you say, sun-clear to you it lies;
But who was present there, knows otherwise.
I was at hand when, seething still below,
Swell’d the abyss, belching a fiery tide,
When Moloch’s hammer rocks, with thunderous blow
Welding, the fragments scatter’d far and wide.
’Neath massive foreign blocks still groans the land—
Such hurling-might say who can comprehend;
This your philosopher can’t understand;
There lies the rock, must lie, and there’s an end;
But to our shame doth all our thinking tend.
Your genuine common folk alone conceive,
And naught disturbs them in their creed;
Long since their wisdom ripen’d: they believe
A marvel ’tis, Satan receives his meed;
On crutch of faith my pilgrim hobbles on
To Devil’s bridges, to the Devil’s stone.
Noteworthy ’tis, Nature, as now I do,
To study from the Devil’s point of view.
Be Nature what she may, what do I care!
My honor’s touch’d: the Devil, sooth, was there!
We are the folk, the mighty to attain:
Convulsion, madness, force. ’Tis written plain!—
But now, at last, to make my meaning clear,
Did nothing please thee in our upper sphere?
In boundless space the world thou hast survey’d,
Its kingdoms and their glory, all display’d.
And yet, insatiate as thou art,
To thee did they no joy impart?
A project vast allur’d me on;
That I’ll do anon.
Some capital I’d choose; therein a store
Of burgher-feeding rubbish at its core;
With crooked alleys, gabl’d peaks,
Markets confin’d, kale, turnips, leeks,
And shambles where blue flies repair,
On well-fed joints to fatten—there,
At any moment shalt thou find
Stench and activity combin’d;
Wide squares, with spacious streets between,
Which arrogate a lordly mien;
And lastly, boundless to the eye,
Beyond the gate, the suburbs lie.
Of coaches too, th’ eternal roar,
Still rattling, behind, before,
Would charm me and the ceaseless flow
Of ant-swarms, running to and fro;
And let me walk, or let me ride,
Their central point I should abide,
By thousands honor’d and admir’d.
Such things I slightly estimate.
That men, it is to be desir’d,
Should multiply, should live at ease,
Be taught, develop’d if you please;—
More rebels thus you educate.
Then, in grand style, with conscious power, I’d rear
A pleasure-castle, some fair pleasance near:
Hill, valley, meadow, forest, glade,
Into a splendid garden made,
With velvet lawns and verdurous walls,
Straight paths, art-guided shadows, waterfalls,
From rock to rock constrain’d to wind,
And water-jets of every kind;
Majestic soaring there while at the sides,
With whiz and gush, threadlike the stream divides.
Then for the loveliest women I’d prepare
A tiny lodge, cosy and quiet; there
The countless hours, according to my mood
I’d spend, in that sweet social solitude—
Women, I say: since, once for all,
I in the plural think upon the Fair.
Modern and base! Sardanapal!
Might one but guess thy purpose? High,
Doubtless, and grandly bold! Since thou
By so much nearer to the moon didst fly,
Aptly thy choice might thither tend, I trow!
Not so. Upon this globe of ours
For grand achievement still there’s space;
Something astounding shall take place,
For daring toil I feel new powers.
Fame also to achieve thou’rt fain?
That thou hast been with heroines is plain.
Dominion and estate by me are sought.
The deed is everything, the fame is naught!
Yet poets shall arise, thy fame
To after ages to proclaim,
Through folly, folly to inflame.
That is beyond thy scope, I ween;
How knowest thou, what man desires?
Adverse thy nature, bitter, keen,
How knoweth it, what man requires?
Be thy will done, since yield I must.
Me with the circuit of thy whims entrust.
Mine eye was fix’d upon the open sea:
Aloft it tower’d, upheaving; then once more
Withdrew, and shook its waves exultingly,
To storm the wide expanse of level shore—
That anger’d me, since arrogance of mood,
In the free soul, that values every right,
Through the impetuous passion of the blood,
Harsh feeling genders, in its own despite.
I deem’d it chance; more keenly eyed the main:
The billow paus’d, and then roll’d back again,
And from its proudly conquer’d goal withdrew;
The hour returns, the sport it doth renew—
(Ad spectatores.) For me there’s nothing novel here, I own;
This for some hundred thousand years I’ve known.
On through a thousand channels it doth press,
Barren itself, and causing barrenness;
It waxes, swells, it rolls and spreads its reign
Over the waste and desolate domain.
There, power-inspir’d, wave upon wave sweeps on,
Triumphs awhile, retreats—and naught is done:
It to despair might drive me to survey
Of lawless elements the aimless sway!
To soar above itself then dar’d my soul;
Here would I strive, this force would I control!
And it is possible. Howe’er the tide
May rise, it fawneth round each hillock’s side;
However proudly it may domineer,
Each puny height its crest doth ’gainst it rear,
Each puny deep it forcefully allures.
So swiftly plan on plan my mind matures;
This glorious pleasure for thyself attain;
Back from the shore to bar the imperious main,
Narrow the limits of the watery deep,
Constrain it far into itself to sweep!
My purpose step by step I might lay bare:
That is my wish, to aid it boldly dare!
[Drums and martial music behind the spectators, from the distance, on the right hand.
How easy ’tis!—Hear’st thou the drums afar?
What, war again!—The prudent likes not war.
In peace or war the prudent doth obtain
From every circumstance his proper gain.
We watch, we mark each favoring moment; now,
The occasion smileth—Faustus, seize it thou!
Me, I entreat, this riddling nonsense spare.
And short and good, speak out;—thyself declare.
On my way hither I became aware
That the good emperor is vex’d with care;
Thou knowest him. The while we him amus’d,
And with the show of riches him abus’d,
Then the whole world to him was cheap, since he
While young attain’d to regal dignity;
This false resolve did then beguile his leisure,
That possible it is and right
Together these two interests to unite,
At once to govern, and to take one’s pleasure.
A grievous error! He who would command,
His highest bliss must in commanding find.
With lofty will his bosom must expand,
Yet what he willeth may not be divin’d;
To trusty ear he whispers his intent,
’Tis realiz’d,—all feel astonishment;
So holds he still the most exalted place,
The worthiest. Enjoyment doth debase!
Such is he not; on pleasure he was bent!
Meanwhile the realm by anarchy was rent,
Where high and low were rang’d against each other,
And brother still pursu’d and slaughter’d brother,
Castle ’gainst castle, town ’gainst town had feud,
Guild against noble too; in conflict rude,
Chapter and flock against their bishop rose;
Who on each other gaz’d, were foes;
Within the churches death and murder reign,
Merchant and traveller at the gates were slain;
All wax’d in daring, nor to small extent;
To live was self-defence.—So matters went.
They went, they limp’d, they fell, again they rose,
Were overturn’d, roll’d headlong—such the close.
And such condition no one dar’d to blame,
Authority each could and each would claim;
The smallest even proudly rear’d his crest.
At length too mad it grew e’en for the best.
The able, they forthwith arose with might,
And said: Who gives us peace is lord, by right;
The Emperor cannot, will not!—Let us choose
Another, in the realm who shall infuse
Fresh life, and safety unto each assign,
Who in a world its vigor that renews,
Together peace and justice shall combine!
That sounds like priestcraft.
Priests in sooth were there;
The well-fed paunch, that was their primal care;
They implicated were above the rest.
The tumult swell’d, the priests the tumult bless’d;
Our Emperor, whom we beguil’d, perchance
To his last battle hither doth advance.
I pity him—so frank, so kind of heart.
Let us look on. There’s hope ere life depart.
Him from this narrow vale let us deliver!
If rescu’d now, he rescu’d is forever.
How yet the die may fall, who may divine!
Vassals he’ll have, if Fortune on him shine.
[They ascend the middle range of hills and survey the disposition of the army in the valley. Drums and military music resound from below.
Well chosen the position is, I see;
We’ll join them, perfect then the victory.
What there may we expect? Deceit!
Illusive sorcery! A hollow cheat!
Cunning to win war’s lofty game!
Be constant to thy mighty aim,
The while thy goal dost bear in sight;
Secure we to the Emperor throne and land,
Then kneel, from him receiving as thy right,
The fief of the unbounded strand.
Already much for me hast done;
By thee be now a battle won!
No, do thou win it; forthwith here
As general-in-chief appear.
To my true honor it would tend,
There to command where naught I comprehend!
The general’s staff, let that provide,
So the field-marshal’s safe whate’er betide.
War’s want of council to its source I’ve trac’d;
War’s council I forthwith have bas’d
On mountain’s and on man’s primeval force:
Bless’d who together draws their joint resource.
What yonder bearing arms appears?
Hast thou arous’d the mountaineers?
No, but like Master Peter Squenze,
Of the whole mass the quintessence.
[The three mighty ones enter.
My fellows now are drawing near!
Divers the clothes, the arms, they wear,
Of different ages they appear;
With them not badly shalt thou fare.
There’s not a child but loves to see
Harness and arms of warlike knight;
And, allegoric as the rascals be,
They, for that reason, give the more delight.
(Young, lightly armed, in motley attire.) If one but looks into my eyes,
Straight let his jaws my clenched fist beware,
And if a coward from me flies,
Forthwith I seize him by the hair!
(Manly, well armed, in rich attire.) Such brawls are foolish, are invidious,
They forfeit what the occasion brings;
In taking only be assiduous;
Hereafter look to other things.
(In years, strongly armed, without attire.) Not much by such a course is won;
Through great possessions soon we run,
Borne by the stream of life away.
To take is good, ’tis better fast to hold;
Be still by the gray carle controll’d,
And none from thee takes aught away.
[They descend the mountain together.
On the Headland.
Drums and martial music from below. TheEmperor’stent is pitched.Emperor, General-in-Chief, Attendants.
Still duly weigh’d appears our course,
Back to this vale at hand that lies,
To lead when somewhat press’d our force;
Our choice of ground, I trust, is wise.
How it succeeds must soon be known,
Me this half flight, this yielding, grieves, I own.
On our right flank, my prince, now cast your eyes!
Such ground doth war’s ideal realize:
Not steep the hills, nor yet too easy to ascend,
The enemy ensnaring, while they ours befriend;
We, on the wavelike plain, are half conceal’d—
No cavalry durst venture on such field.
Save to commend naught now remains for me;
Here strength and courage can well tested be.
There, where the middle plain allures the sight,
Behold the phalanx, eager for the fight;
In the bright sunshine, gilded by its rays,
The lances glitter through the morning haze.
How darkly waves the mighty square below!
For bold emprise its thousands all aglow.
The mass’s strength thou thus canst comprehend;
To them I trust, the foemen’s strength to rend.
So fair a sight ne’er have I seen before:
Such host is worth its number, twice told o’er.
Of our left flank naught have I to relate.
Holding the stubborn cliffs, stout heroes wait;
Ablaze with arms, the rocky height ascends,
Which the close entrance to the pass defends.
Here, where the bloody onslaught none expect,
The hostile force will, I foresee, be wreck’d.
There march my lying kinsfolk, still who claim’d,
As me they uncle, cousin, brother, nam’d,
More and more license; till the sceptre’s strength,
Its honor from the throne, they stole at length;
The empire, through their feuds, distracted lies,
Now, leagu’d as rebels, they against me rise!
The many waver, sway’d from side to side;
Then headlong rush, borne onward by the tide.
A trusty man, abroad for tidings sent,
Hastes down the rocks; oh, happy be the event.
Self-seekers, caring for themselves alone,
To duty, honor, gratitude, are blind!
If full your measure, you ne’er call to mind,
Your neighbor’s house-fire may consume your own.
The second comes, descending heavily;
Tremble his limbs, a weary man is he.
As gain a rival emperor I hail;
That I am emperor, now first I feel!
But as a soldier did I don the mail;
For higher purpose now I’m clad in steel.
At every festival, how bright soe’er,
Though naught was wanting—danger fail’d me there.
When to the ring-sport at your call I went,
My heart beat high, I breath’d the tournament;
From war had ye not held me back, my name
For deeds heroic had been known to fame!
What self-reliance in my breast did reign,
When I stood mirror’d in the fire-domain;
The ruthless element press’d on elate,
’Twas but a show, and yet the show was great.
Fame, victory, my troubl’d dreams display’d—
I’ll now achieve, what basely I delay’d!
[Heralds are despatched to challenge the rival Emperor.
[Faustin armor, with half-closed visor. The three mighty ones, armed and clothed, as above.
We come, we hope uncensur’d—foresight here
May yet avail, though needless it appear.
Thoughtful, thou know’st, and wise the mountain-race,
Of rock and nature they the secrets trace;
Spirits, who long have left the level ground,
Are to their rocky heights more firmly bound:
Through labyrinthine clefts they labor, where
Rich fumes metallic fill the gaseous air;
Untir’d they separate, combine and test;
The hidden to make known is their sole quest;
With the light touch of spirit-might, they rear
Transparent figures, then in crystal clear
And its eternal silence, mirror’d true,
The doings of the upper world they view.
This I have heard, and think that it may be;
But, honest man, say: what is this to me?
The Norcian sorcerer, the Sabine, he
True, honorable servant is to thee;
What ghastly fate appall’d him, on the pyre!
Crackl’d the brushwood, rose the tongues of fire;
Dry fagots all around up-piled were seen,
Mingl’d with pitch, with brimstone-bars between,
Man’s, God’s, or devil’s aid had been in vain—
Your majesty then burst the fiery chain!
’Twas there, in Rome. Deeply to thee he’s bound,
And o’er thy path keeps watch with care profound;
Himself forgetting, from that moment he
Questions the stars, questions the depths for thee.
He bade us, at the swiftest, hither post,
To succor thee. Great powers the mountains boast:
There Nature works, omnipotently free—
The priest’s dull mind blames it as sorcery.
On festal day when guest on guest we greet,
Joyful themselves, who joyance come to meet,
Well pleas’d we see them enter, each and all,
And, man by man, contract the spacious hall;
Yet highest welcome is the brave man’s dower,
Who, as ally to aid us, comes with power,
When morning breaks, which doubtful issues wait,
While over it are pois’d the scales of Fate.
Nathless withhold awhile thy stalwart hand,
In this high moment, from the willing brand!
Honor the hour, when many thousands wend
To battle, for or ’gainst me to contend!
Man’s self is man! Who would be thron’d and crown’d,
Of the high honor must be worthy found.
Now may this phantom, that against us stands,
This self-styl’d emperor, ruler of our lands,
The army’s duke, lord of our feudal train,
By my own hand, be thrust to death’s domain!
Whate’er the need to end the glorious fight,
To peril thine own head cannot be right.
Is not the helm with crest and plumage deck’d?
The head, our zeal which fires, it doth protect.
Without the head what could the members do?
Let that but sleep, forthwith all slumber too;
If it be injur’d, all are straight unsound,
And all revive, if it with health be crown’d.
Promptly the arm its own strong right doth wield,
And to protect the skull uplifts the shield;
Its proper duty well the sword doth know,
Parries with strength, and then returns the blow;
The active foot shares in the common weal,
And on the slain foe’s neck doth plant the heel.
Such is mine anger: him I thus would treat,
Make his proud head a footstool for my feet!
What hath occurr’d doth with their wish accord,
Who firm and true for thee would draw the sword.
The foe approach; thy troops impatient stand;
The moment favors; straight the charge command!
To the command all claim I now resign.
To execute that duty, prince, be thine!
March then our right wing onward to the field!
The foemen’s left, who even now ascend,
Ere they complete their final step, shall yield
To their tried valor who the slope defend!
Permission grant that this blithe hero be
Enroll’d among thy ranks, immediately,
That with thy ranks incorporate, he may
Have for his powerful nature ample play.
[He points to the right.
(Steps forward.) His face to me who shows doth not escape,
Till both his jaws I’ve smash’d with sudden bang;
His back to me who turns, I strike his nape,—
Dangling adown his back, neck, head, and top-knot hang!
And if, with sword and club, thy men
Will strike, as on I rage before,
Man over man down-smitten, then
The foe shall welter in their gore!
Now let the centre phalanx follow slow,
And in full force with caution meet the foe!
Distress’d, they yield already on the right,
Their plan, by our attack, is shatter’d quite.
(Pointing to the middle one.) Let this one also thy command obey.
(Steps forward.) Unto the host’s heroic pride,
Shall thirst for booty be alli’d;
Upon this goal be all intent;
The rival emperor’s sumptuous tent.
Not long upon his throne he’ll boast indeed!
Myself to battle will this phalanx lead.
(Fawning upon him.) Although his wife I may not be,
A sweetheart dear is he to me.
For us what harvest now is ripe!
Woman is fierce when she doth gripe,
Is ruthless when she robs; press on,
All is allow’d—when we have won.
Upon our left, as was to be expected,
With furious charge, their right is now directed.
The defile’s rocky path they hope to gain;
To thwart their purpose man for man must strain.
(Beckons to the left.) Sire, I entreat, look also on this one;
If strength be stronger made, no harm is done.
(Steps forward.) For the left wing dismiss all care!
For where I am, safe is possession there:
Herein doth age approve itself, we’re told;
No lightning rendeth, what I hold!
(Coming down from above.)
Now to the background turn your gaze;
Forth from the jagg’d and rocky ways,
See how the armed warriors pour,
The narrow paths to straiten more,
With helm, shield, harness, sword and spear,
A wall they’re forming in our rear,
Waiting the sign to strike the blow.
(Aside, to the knowing ones.)
From whence they come, ask not to know.
No time I lost; where I appear’d.
The armor-halls around were clear’d,
Footmen and horsemen, stood they there,
As if yet lords of earth they were;
Knight, emperor, king, they were of yore,
Now are they empty snail-shells, nothing more,—
Full many a ghost, thus arm’d for strife,
The middle ages have brought back to life;
What devilkin therein may lurk,
For this time it may do its work.
Hark, in their anger, how they clatter,
And like tin plates, each other batter;
Torn banners too, flapping aloft one sees,
That wait impatiently to catch the breeze.
Reflect, an ancient race stands ready there,
And in this modern combat fain would share.
[Terrible flourish of trumpets from above; perceptible wavering in the hostile army.
Now dark the whole horizon shows,
Yet here and there presageful glows
A ruddy and portentous ray;
The weapons gleam, distain’d with blood;
The atmosphere, the rock, the wood,
The heavens, mingle in the fray.
Firmly the right flank holds its ground;
Among them towering there I see
Stout Hans, the nimble giant, he
His wonted strokes now deals around.
First on one lifted arm I gaz’d,
A dozen now I see uprais’d:
Not nature’s laws are working here!
Of mist-wreaths hast not heard, above
The coast of Sicily that rove?
There hovering in daylight clear,
Uplifted in the middle air,
Mirror’d in exhalations rare,
A wondrous show the vision takes.
There cities waver to and fro,
There gardens rise, now high, now low,
As form on form through ether breaks.
It looks suspicious! For I there
See all the lofty spear-tops glare;
And through our phalanx, on each lance
I see a nimble flamelet dance:
Too spectral seems to me the sight!
Pardon, my lord! The traces they
Of spirit-natures pass’d away,
A reflex of the mighty Pair,
By whom were sailors wont to swear:
Here they collect their final might.
To whom are we beholden, say,
That nature, for our weal to-day,
Her rarest powers should here unite?
To whom save him, that master high,
Thy fate who bears within his breast?
The strong threat of thine enemy
His soul hath stirr’d to deep unrest.
His gratitude will see thee sav’d,
Though death in the attempt he brav’d.
They cheer’d, with pomp around my march they press’d;
I now was something: That I fain would test,
So, without thought, it pleas’d me, then and there,
To grant to that white beard the cooling air.
Thus of the clergy I the sport have cross’d,
And have, in sooth, thereby their favor lost;
Now shall I, when so many years are pass’d,
Of that glad deed the fruitage reap at last?
Rich interest bears the generous deed.
Now heavenward be thy glance directed:
An omen he will send; give heed!
Straight it appears—as I expected.
An eagle hovers in the heavenly height;
A griffin, with wild threats, attends his flight.
Give heed! Auspicious seems the sign.
Your griffin is of fabl’d line;
How, self-forgetting, can he dare
Himself with genuine eagle to compare!
Forthwith, in widespread circles wending,
Around they wheel; now, through the sky,
Impetuous, they together fly,
Each other’s throat and plumage rending.
Mark how the sorry griffin, torn
And ruffl’d sore, his flight now steereth,
With drooping lion-tail, forlorn,
And ’mid the tree-tops disappeareth.
So be it, e’en as these portend!
With wonder fill’d, I wait the end.
(Towards the right.) Press’d by our onslaught, oft-repeated,
Our foes must yield, well nigh defeated,
Yet, waging still a dubious fight,
Onward they press toward their right,
And thus embarrass in the fray
The left flank of their chief array.
Our phalanx its firm point doth bring,
Like lightning ’gainst their dexter wing,
The foe, where weakest, they engage.
Now, as when storm-vex’d billows rage,
Wildly contend, with equal might,
Both armies in the double fight.
More glorious deed was never done,
Ours is the field, the victory’s won!
(On the left side, toFaust.)
Suspicious yonder it doth seem;
Our station hazardous I deem,
No stones they hurl against the foe,
Scal’d are the lower rocks, and lo!
Deserted those above appear;
The foe,—in solid mass, draw near;
With might and main still pressing on,
Perchance the passage they have won:
Of skill unholy such the end!
Your arts to futile issues tend!
Hither, my ravens twain are winging!
For us what message are they bringing?
We are, I fear, in evil plight.
What want these birds, mischance portending?
They come their swarthy sails extending,
Straight from the hot and rocky fight.
(To the ravens.) Close to mine ears now take your post.
Whom you protect, is never lost;
For shrewd your counsel is and right.
(To the Emperor.) Of pigeons thou hast heard, returning
Homeward, for nest and fledglings yearning,
Steering their flight from far-off lands.
But here a difference obtaineth:
Pigeons suffice while peace still reigneth,
But war the raven-post demands.
The message tells of sore distresses.
See yonder how the tumult presses
Our heroes’ rocky wall around!
The nearest heights are now ascended,
Win they the pass by ours defended,
In sorry plight we should be found.
So I deluded am at last!
Around me you have drawn your net;
I’ve shudder’d, since it held me fast!
Take courage! Naught is lost as yet;
Patience unties the hardest knot!
Still sharpest is the final stand.
My trusty messengers I’ve got;
Command me, that I may command.
(Who meanwhile has arrived.) With these thou hast thyself alli’d,
I long have griev’d to see them at thy side;
No stable good doth conjuring earn.
To change the battle now I can’t pretend;
They have begun it, they may end!
My staff I unto thee return.
It for some better hour retain,
Which Fate for us may have in store.
This fellow and his ravens twain,
His horrid comrades, I abhor!
The staff I can’t on thee bestow,
Thou seemest not the proper man;
Command, and save us from the foe!
Then happen may what happen can.
[Exit into the tent with theGeneral-in-Chief.
Him may the stupid staff defend!
To us small profit would it lend;
There was a kind of cross thereon.
What is to do?
Why, all is done!
Now haste, my cousins, swart and fleet,
To the great mountain lake; the Undines greet,
And for a seeming flood, entreat them fair!
The actual they indeed, through female art,
Hard to conceive, from semblance know to part;
That it the actual is, then each will swear.
The water-maidens must our raven-pair
Rightly have flatter’d and with cunning rare:
Yonder it drops already; see
From many a bare rock’s barren side,
Gushes the full, swift-flowing tide—
’Tis over with their victory.
Strange greeting give the rushing streams—
Perplex’d the boldest climber seems.
Already downward brook to brook is sweeping,
Doubl’d from many a gorge again they’re leaping;
A stately water-arch one stream doth throw;
Now o’er the rock’s broad level smoothly gliding,
Anon, with flash and roar, again dividing,
It plunges stepwise to the vale below.
To stem the flood what boots their brave endeavor?
Them from the mighty flood may none deliver.
Before the tumult wild myself must quail!
Nothing I see of all these watery lies;
They bring illusion but to human eyes;
With joy the wondrous change I hail.
Headlong the masses pour, a shining throng;
The fools imagine they will soon be drown’d,
And while they snort upon the solid ground,
Like swimmers laughably they move along.
Now reigns confusion all around.
[The ravens return.
To the high master you I will commend.
Yourselves, would ye as masters prove—attend;
Straight to the glowing smithy fare,
To the dwarf-folk, who tireless there
Strike sparks from metal and from stone—
With them, while chattering, desire
A shining, dazzling, bursting fire,
As to man’s highest fancy shown.
True, lightning-flashes gleaming from afar,
And, swift as vision, fall of loftiest star,
May happen every summer night;
But flashes amid tangl’d bushes found,
And stars that hiss upon the humid ground—
These are in sooth, no common sight:
So must ye, without much annoy,
Entreaties first, and then commands, employ.
[Exeunt the ravens. All happens as prescribed.
Thick darkness o’er the foe is spreading!
They in uncertainty are treading!
Deluding flashes everywhere;
Then blindness, from the sudden glare!—
All that has wondrously succeeded;
But now some terror-sound is needed.
The hollow weapons from the armories,
Feel themselves stronger in the open breeze;
They rattle there above, and clatter on—
A wonderful discordant tone.
Quite right. They can be rein’d no more;
As in the gracious times of yore,
The sound of knightly blows is rife;
Armlets and leg-protecting gear,
As Guelphs and Ghibellines appear,
Swift to renew the eternal strife:
Firm in transmitted hate, they close,
While far and wide resound their blows,
The rancor ending but with life.
At last, in every devil’s fête
Most potently works party hate,
Till the last horror closes all;
Discordant sounds of rout and panic,
Between whiles, piercing, shrill, Satanic,
Through the wide valley rise and fall.
[War tumult in the Orchestra, passing at last into cheerful military music.
The Rival Emperor’s Tent. Throne, Rich Surroundings.
So here the first we are, I see!
No raven flies so fast as we.
What treasure-heaps lie here and there!
Where to begin? To finish, where?
So full the space, I’m hard to please:
I know not what I first should seize!
This carpet is the thing for me,
My bed is apt too hard to be.
Here a steel club is hanging, such,
Long, as mine own, I’ve wish’d to clutch.
The mantle red, with golden seams—
I’ve seen its fellow in my dreams.
(Taking the weapon.)
With this full soon the work is done:
One strikes him dead, and passes on.
Much hast thou pack’d, yet, for thy pains,
Nothing of worth thy sack contains:
This plunder in its place may rest.
One among many, take this chest!
The host’s appointed pay they hold;
Within its belly is pure gold.
A murderous weight is this! I may
Nor lift, nor carry it away.
Duck quickly! Thou must bend! I’ll pack
The booty on thy stalwart back.
Alack! alack! ’Tis all in vain!
The load will break my back in twain.
[The chest falls, and springs open.
There lies of ruddy gold a heap;
Be quick, the prize away to sweep!
(Stoops down.) Now fling it in my lap with speed!
There’s plenty to supply our need.
Now there’s enough! Away then, pack!
The apron has a hole, alack!
Where thou dost stand, and where dost go,
The treasure lavishly dost sow.
(Of our Emperor.) Sacred this place! What do ye here?
Why pillage thus the Emperor’s gear?
Cheaply we sold our limbs, I trow!
Our share of spoil we gather now,
In hostile tents, the victors’ due;
And we—why we are soldiers too.
It suits not in our ranks to be
Soldier at once and thief. For he
To serve our Emperor who would claim,
Must bear an honest soldier’s name!
Such honesty we know, by you
’Tis Contribution styl’d! Ye, too,
Upon the self-same footing live:
The password of your trade is—Give!
Off with thy prey, right speedily!
For here no welcome guests are we.
Say, wherefore didst thou not bestow
Upon the rascal’s cheek a blow?
I know not; me my strength forsook;
So phantom-like to me their look!
Something there came to mar my sight.
It glimmer’d—I saw naught aright.
In sooth, I know not what to say.
So hot it was the livelong day!
Fearful, oppressive, close, as well;
While one man stood, another fell;
We grop’d, still striking at the foe;
Opponents fell at every blow—
Floated before our eyes a mist;
Then in our ear it buzz’d, humm’d, hiss’d.
So on it went—now are we here;
The manner of it is not clear!
[Enter theEmperor,with four Princes. TheHalberdiersretire.
Be with him as it may, the day is ours. Sore-batter’d,
Over the level plain the foe in flight are scatter’d.
Here stands the vacant throne; with tapestry hung round,
The traitor’s treasure too narrows the tented ground.
By our own guards defended, we wait with exultation,
And with imperial pomp, the envoys of each nation.
Here from all sides arrive glad tidings hour by hour:
The realm is pacified, and gladly owns our power.
Though in our fight perchance some magic arts were wrought,
Yet at the last, ourselves—we, only we, have fought.
To combatants, in sooth, chance still may work for good—
From Heaven falls a stone, on foemen it rains blood;
Strange sounds of wondrous power from rocky caves may flow,
Which lift our courage high, and strike with fear the foe.
Object of lasting scorn, prostrate the vanquish’d lies,
While to the favoring God the victor’s praises rise;
All blend with him, nor need that he should give the word—
“We praise Thee, Lord our God!” from million throats is heard.
Yet as the highest praise, my own breast I’ll explore,
Searching with pious glance, which rarely happ’d before.
A young and joyous prince, of time may waste the dower:
Him years will teach, at last, th’ importance of the hour.
Hence to ally myself with you, most worthy four,
For house, and court, and realm, will I delay no more.
Thine was, O Prince, the wise arrangement of the host,
And in the crisis thou heroic skill could’st boast;
Therefore work thou as may with times of peace accord.
Arch-Marshal name I thee; to thee I give the sword.
Thy host, within the realm till now employ’d alone,
Shall on the border guard thy person and thy throne.
Then be it ours, when crowds make glad on festive day
Thy large ancestral hall, thy banquet to array.
I’ll hold it at thy side, or bear it thee before,
Of highest majesty the escort evermore.
(To theSecond.) With valor who, like thee, doth courtesy unite,
Arch-Chamberlain shall be. The duties are not light.
Of all the house-retainers chief art thou; them I find
But sorry servants, still to household strife inclin’d:
In honor held, may they, from thy example, see
How they to prince, to court, to all, may gracious be.
The master’s lofty thought to further, bringeth grace:
Ever to aid the good, nor injure e’en the base,
Frank, without guile to be, and calm without disguise,
That thou should’st know me, Sire, this boon alone I prize.
Dare fancy to that feast press on with pinions bold—
Thou goest to the board, I reach the ewer of gold,
Thy rings I take, that while joy reigneth and delight,
Thy hand may be refresh’d, while gladdens me thy light.
Too earnest feel I now to think of joyous fest;
Yet be it so—a glad commencement still is best!
Arch-Steward thee I choose. Therefore henceforth to thee
The chase, the poultry-yard, the farm shall subject be.
Choice of my favorite dishes still for me prepare,
As them the month brings round, and dress’d with proper care.
Strict fasting be for me the duty that I boast,
Until before thee plac’d the dish to please thee most:
The kitchen-service shall with me co-operate,
The far to bring anear, seasons to ante-date.
Thee charm not viands rare, wherewith thy board is grac’d;
Simple and racy food, thereto inclines thy taste.
(To theFourth.) Since festivals perforce alone engage us now,
To Cupbearer transform’d, young hero, straight be thou!
Arch-Cupbearer, henceforth the duty shall be thine
To see our cellars stor’d richly with generous wine.
Be temperate thyself; be not misled through mirth,
Howe’er allurements tempt, to which the hour gives birth!
Your highness, youth itself, if trust therein be shown,
Stands, ere one looks around, to man’s full stature grown.
Myself I too transport to that great festive day:
The imperial sideboard then right nobly I’ll array;
Of gold and silver there shall splendid vessels shine,
Yet first the loveliest cup will I select as thine—
A clear Venetian glass, wherein joy lurking waits:
The flavor it improves, yet ne’er inebriates.
In such a wondrous cup too great our trust may be;
Thy moderation, Sire, still more protecteth thee.
What, in this solemn hour, I have conferr’d on you,
Receive with confidence, from valid lips and true;
Great is the Emperor’s word, and every gift makes sure,
For confirmation yet there needs his signature.
This duty to prepare, and royal writ thereto,
The fitting man appears, at the fit moment too.
If to the keystone trusts its weight the vaulted arch,
Securely built it then defies time’s onward march.
Thou seest four princes here. E’en now we have decided
How governance shall be for house and court provided.
What the whole realm concerns, be that with weight and power,
To you, ye princes five, entrusted from this hour.
In landed wealth ye shall all others far excel;
Hence, with their heritage who from our standard fell,
The bounds of your possessions I forthwith expand:
Ye faithful ones, be yours full many a goodly land,
Also the lofty right, should time the occasion send,
Through purchase, chance, exchange, their limits to extend;
To practise undisturb’d, this is secur’d to you,
What sovereign rights soe’er, as landlords, are your due;
As judges, be it yours to speak the final doom,—
From your high stations none will to appeal presume.
Then tribute, tax, and tithe, safe-conduct, toll, and fee,
Mine-salt, and coinage-dues, your property shall be.
That thus my gratitude may validly be shown,
In rank I you have rais’d next the Imperial throne.
In name of all be given our deepest thanks to thee!
Us mak’st thou strong and firm,—thy power shall strengthen’d be.
Yet higher dignities I to you five will give.
Still live I for my realm, and still rejoice to live;
Nathless of my great sires the chain withdraws my gaze,
From keen endeavor back, the coming doom to face:
I also, in His time, must bid my friends adieu;
The emperor to name shall then belong to you.
On the high altar rais’d, crown ye his sacred brow,
And peacefully shall end, what stormful was e’en now!
With pride in their deep breasts, with lowly gestures, stand
Princes, before thee bow’d, the foremost of the land.
So long as in our veins the faithful current plays,
The body we, which still thy lightest impulse sways!
And, to conclude, what we to-day have done, made sure,
Shall be henceforth for aye, by writ and signature;
Ye hold indeed as lords, possession, full and free,
Yet on these terms—that it partition’d ne’er shall be,
And howsoe’er increas’d, what ye from us receive
Ye to your eldest son shall undivided leave.
For our weal and the realm’s, to parchment will I straight,
With joyful mind, confide a statute of such weight;
The Chancery shall seal and document procure,
Then shall confirm it, Sire, thy sacred signature!
And so I you dismiss, that on this glorious day,
In solemn conclave met, deliberate ye may.
[The temporal lords retire. TheArchbishopremains, and speaks in a pathetic tone.
The chancellor is gone; the bishop doth remain,
His father’s heart for thee trembles with anxious pain:
Him a deep warning soul impels thine ear to seek.
What in this joyous hour is thy misgiving? Speak!
With what a bitter pang find I, in such an hour,
Thy consecrated head in league with Satan’s power!
Confirm’d upon thy throne, as it appeareth,—true;
But in despite of God, and Father Pontiff too!
Hearing of this, forthwith, will he pronounce thy doom;
With sacred fire thy realm, accurs’d, will he consume;
For he forgets not how, the day when thou wast crown’d,
E’en at that hour supreme, the sorcerer hast unbound;
To Christendom’s foul shame, on that accursed head,
From out thy diadem, mercy’s first beam was shed.
Now smite upon thy breast, and from thy guilty prey
Back to our holy church some little share repay.
The broad hill-space whereon thy tent did lately stand,
Where, thee to aid, themselves did evil spirits band,
There, where the Prince of Lies did late thine ears abuse,
Taught piously, that spot devote to pious use,—
With mountains and thick wood, so far as they extend,
With verdant slopes which yield rich pasture, without end;
Clear lakes, alive with fish, unnumber’d brooks that flow,
With swift and snakelike course, down to the vale below;
Then the broad vale itself, with meadow, hollow, plain—
Let thy repentance speak, and mercy thou’lt obtain!
For this, my grievous fault, terror so fills my mind,
By thine own measure be the bounds by thee assign’d.
First shall the space defil’d, by sin so desecrated,
To service of the Highest straight be consecrated!
Swift, to the spirit-eye, the massive walls aspire,
The morning sun’s first beam already gilds the choir;
Crosswise the structure grows, the nave, in length and height
Expanding, straightway fills believers with delight.
Through the wide portal now, they throng with ardent zeal,
While over hill and vale resounds the bells’ first peal—
From lofty towers they ring, which heavenward strive amain,
The penitent draws near, there to be born again.
On consecration day—that day soon may we see!—
The highest ornament shall then thy presence be.
And be my pious wish, through work so great made known,
The Lord our God to praise, and for my sin atone!
Enough! Already rais’d my spirit now I feel.
As chancellor, I claim both covenant and seal.
A deed which to the church shall all these rights secure—
Bring it, I will with joy affix my signature.
(Takes leave, but turns back again at the door.) Thou, as the work proceeds, to it must dedicate
The land’s collective dues—tribute, and tithe, and rate—
Forever. Ample wealth for due support we need,
And careful governance still heavy costs doth breed.
For swift erection too, on spot so waste, some gold,
From thy rich plunder, thou from us wilt not withhold.
Moreover, we shall want—this I cannot disguise—
Timber, and lime, and slate, and such far-off supplies;
Taught from the pulpit, these the willing people bears:
The church still blesses him, who for her service cares.
Heavy and sore the sin whose burden I bewail!
Those odious sorcerers have wrought me grievous bale!
(Returning once more with profound obeisance.) Pardon, O Sire, thou hast to that unworthy man
The realm’s seashore convey’d; yet him shall smite the ban,
Unless with tithe and dues, with rent and taxes, thou,
Repentant, also there our holy church endow.
(With ill-humor.) The land is not yet there; broad in the sea it lies.
For him the time will come who potent is and wise.
For us still may your word in its full powers remain.
(Alone.) So may I sign away the realm o’er which I reign!