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ACT II. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 3.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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I with uncertain footsteps follow thee.
O princess; there arise within my soul
Thoughts without rule and measure. Solitude
Appears to beckon me; complaisantly
She whispers: “Hither come, I will allay,
Within thy breast, the newly-waken’d doubt.”
Yet catch I but a glimpse of thee, or takes
My listening ear one utterance from thy lip,
At once a new-born day around me shines,
And all the fetters vanish from my soul.
To thee I freely will confess, the man
Who unexpectedly appear’d among us
Hath rudely wak’d me from a beauteous dream;
So strangely have his nature and his words
Affected me, that more than ever now
A want of inward harmony I feel,
And a distracting conflict with myself.
’Tis not to be expected that a friend,
Who long hath sojourn’d in a foreign land,
Should in the moment of his first return
The tone of former times at once resume;
He in his inner mind is still unchang’d,
And a few days of intercourse will tune
The jarring strings, until they blend once more
In perfect harmony. When he shall know
The greatness of the work thou hast achiev’d
Believe me, he will place thee by the bard,
Whom as a giant now he sets before thee.
My princess, Ariosto’s praise from him
Has more delighted than offended me.
Consoling ’tis to know the man renown’d,
Whom as our model we have plac’d before us;
An inward voice then whispers to the heart
“Canst thou obtain a portion of his worth,
A portion of his fame is also thine.”
No, that which hath most deeply mov’d my heart,
Which even now completely fills my soul,
Was the majestic picture of that world,
Which, with its living, restless, mighty forms
Around one great and prudent man revolves.
And runs with measur’d steps the destin’d course
Prescrib’d beforehand by the demigod.
I listen’d eagerly, and heard with joy
The wise discourse of the experienc’d man;
But ah! the more I heard, the more I felt
Mine own unworthiness, and fear’d that I
Like empty sound, might dissipate in air,
Or vanish like an echo or a dream.
And yet erewhile thou didst so truly feel
How bard and hero for each other live,
How bard and hero to each other tend,
And toward each other know no envious thought.
Noble in truth are deeds deserving fame,
But it is also noble to transmit
The lofty grandeur of heroic deeds,
Through worthy song, to our posterity.
Be satisfied to contemplate in peace,
From a small, shelt’ring state, as from the shore,
The wild and stormy current of the world.
Was it not here, amaz’d, I first beheld
The high reward on valiant deeds bestow’d?
An inexperienc’d youth I here arriv’d,
When festival on festival conspir’d
To render this the centre of renown.
Oh, what a scene Ferrara then display’d!
The wide arena, where in all its pomp
Accomplish’d valor should its skill display,
Was bounded by a circle, whose high worth
The sun might seek to parallel in vain.
The fairest women sat assembled there,
And men the most distinguish’d of the age.
Amaz’d the eye ran o’er the noble throng;
Proudly I cried, “And ’tis our Fatherland,
That small, sea-girded land, hath sen; them here.
They constitute the noblest court that e’er
On honor, worth, or virtue, judgment pass’d.
Survey them singly, thou wilt not find one
Of whom his neighbor needs to feel asham’d!”
And then the lists were open’d, chargers pranc’d,
Esquires press’d forward, helmets brightly gleam’d,
The trumpet sounded, shivering lances split,
The din of clanging helm and shield was heard,
And for a moment eddying dust conceal’d
The victor’s honor and the vanquisa’d’s shame.
Oh, let me draw a curtain o’er the scene,
The all too brilliant spectacle conceal,
That in this tranquil hour I may not feel
Too painfully mine own unworthiness!
If that bright circle and those noble deeds
Arous’d thee then to enterprise and toil,
I could the while, young friend, have tutor’d thee
In the still lesson of calm sufferance.
The brilliant festival thou dost extol,
Which then and since a hundred voices prais’d,
I did not witness. In a lonely spot,
So tranquil that unbroken on the ear
Joy’s lightest echo faintly died away,
A prey to pain and melancholy thoughts,
I was compell’d to pass the tedious hours.
Before me hover’d on extended wing
Death’s awful form, concealing from my view
The prospect of this ever-changing world.
Slowly it disappear’d, and I beheld,
As through a veil, the varied hues of life,
Pleasing but indistinct: while living forms
Began once more to flicker through the gloom.
Still feeble, and supported by my women,
For the first time my silent room I left,
When hither, full of happiness and life,
Thee leading by the hand, Lucretta came.
A stranger then, thou, Tasso, wast the first
To welcome me on my return to life.
Much then I hop’d for both of us, and hope
Hath not, methinks, deceiv’d us hitherto.
Stunn’d by the tumult, dazzled by the glare,
Impetuous passions stirring in my breast,
I by thy sister’s side pursu’d my way
In silence through the stately corridors,
Then in the chamber enter’d, where ere long
Thou didst appear supported by thy women.
Oh, what a moment! Princess, pardon me!
As in the presence of a deity
The victim of enchantment feels with joy
His frenzied spirit from delusion freed,
So was my soul from every phantasy,
From every passion, every false desire
Restor’d at once by one calm glance of thine.
And if, before, my inexperienc’d mind
Had lost itself in infinite desires,
I then, with shame, first turn’d my gaze within,
And recogniz’d the truly valuable.
Thus on the wide sea-shore we seek in vain
The pearl, reposing in its silent shell.
’Twas the commencement of a happy time.
And had Urbino’s duke not led away
My sister from us, many years had pass’d
For us is calm, unclouded happiness
But now, alas! we miss her all too much.
Miss her free spirit, buoyancy and ire.
And the rich war of the accomplish’d woman.
Too well I know since she departed hence
None hath been able to supply to thee
The pure enjoyment which her presence gave.
Alas, how often hath it griev’d my soul!
How often have I in the silent grove
Pour’d forth my lamentation! How! I cried.
Is it her sister’s right and joy alone
To be a treasure to the dear one’s heart?
Does then no other soul respond to hers,
No other heart her confidence deserve?
Are soul and wit extinguish’d? and should one,
How great soe’er her worth, engross her love?
Forgive me, princess! Often I have wish’d
I could be something to thee,—little, perhaps,
But something; not with words alone, with deeds
I wish’d to be so, and in life to prove
How I had worshipp’d thee in solitude,
But I could ne’er succeed, and but too oft
In error wounded thee, offending one
By thee protected, or perplexing more
What thou didst wish to solve, and thus, alas!
E’en in the moment when I fondly strove
To draw more near thee, felt more distant still.
Thy wish I never have misconstru’d, Tasso;
How thou dost prejudice thyself I know;
Unlike my sister, who possess’d the art
Of living happily with every one,
After so many years, thou art in sooth
Thyself well nigh unfriended.
But after say, where shall I find the man,
The woman where, to whom as unto thee
I freely can unbosom every thought?
Thou should’st in my brother more confide.
He is my Prince!—Yet do not hence suppose
That freedom’s lawless impulse swells my breast.
Man is not born for freedom, and to serve
A prince deserving honor and esteem
Is a pure pleasure to a noble mind.
He is my sovereign, of that great word
I deeply feel the full significance.
I must be silent when he speaks, and learn
To do what he commandeth, though perchance
My heart and understanding both rebel.
That with my brother never can befall.
And in Antonio, who is now return’d,
Thou wilt possess another prudent friend.
I hop’d it once, now almost I despair.
His converse how instructive, and his words
How useful in a thousand instances!
For he possesses, I may truly say.
All that in me is wanting. But, alas!
When round his cradle all the gods assembled
To bring their gifts, the Graces were not there;
And he who lacks what these fair powers impart,
May much possess, may much communicate,
But on his bosom we can ne’er repose.
But we can trust in him, and that is much.
Thou should’st not, Tasso, in one man expect
All qualities combin’d; Antonio
What he hath promis’d surely will perform.
If he have once declar’d himself thy friend,
He’ll care for thee, where thou dost fail thyself
Ye must be friends! I cherish the fond hope
Ere long this gracious work to consummate.
Only oppose me not, as is thy wont.
Then, Leonora long hath sojourn’d here,
Who is at once refin’d and elegant;
Her easy manners banish all restraint,
Yet thou hast ne’er approach’d her as she wish’d.
To thee I hearken’d, or believe me, princess,
I should have rather shunn’d her than approach’d,
Though she appear so kind, I know not why,
I can but rarely feel at ease with her;
E’en when her purpose is to aid her friends,
They feel the purpose, and are thence constrain’d.
Upon this pathway, Tasso, nevermore
Will glad companionship be ours! This track
Leadeth us on through solitary groves
And silent vales to wander; more and more
The spirit is untun’d, and fondly strives
The golden age, that from the outer world
For aye hath vanish’d, to restore within,
How vain soever the attempt may prove.
Oh, what a word, my princess, hast thou spoken!
The golden age, ah, whither is it flown,
For which in secret every heart repines?
When o’er the yet unsubjugated earth
Men roam’d, like herds, in joyous liberty;
When on the flowery lawn an ancient tree
Lent to the shepherd and the shepherdess
Its grateful shadow, and the leafy grove
Its tender branches lovingly entwin’d
Around confiding love; when still and clear,
O’er sands forever pure, the pearly stream
The nymph’s fair form encircled; when the snake
Glided innoxious through the verdant grass,
And the bold youth pursu’d the daring faun;
When every bird winging the limpid air,
And every living thing o’er hill and dale
Proclaim’d to man,—What pleases is allow’d.
My friend, the golden age hath pass’d away;
Only the good have power to bring it back;
Shall I confess to thee my secret thought?
The golden age, wherewith the bard is wont
Our spirits to beguile, that lovely prime,
Existed in the past no more than now;
And did it e’er exist, believe me, Tasso,
As then it was, it now may be restor’d.
Still meet congenial spirits, and enhance
Each other’s pleasure in this beauteous world;
But in the motto change one single word,
And say, my friend:—What’s fitting is allow’d.
Would that of good and noble men were form’d
A great tribunal, to decide for all
What is befitting! then no more would each
Esteem that right which benefits himself.
The man of power acts ever as he lists,
And whatsoe’er he doth is fitting deem’d.
Would’st thou define exactly what is fitting,
Thou should’st apply, methinks, to noble women;
For them it most behoveth that in life
Naught should be done unseemly or unfit;
Propriety encircles with a wall
The tender, weak, and vulnerable sex.
Where moral order reigneth, women reign,
They only are despis’d where rudeness triumphs;
And would’st thou touching either sex inquire,
’Tis order woman seeketh; freedom, man.
Thou thinkest us unfeeling, wild and rude?
Not so! but ye with violence pursue
A multitude of objects far remote.
Ye venture for eternity to act,
While we, with views more narrow, on this earth
Seek only one possession, well content
If that with constancy remain our own.
For we, alas! are of no heart secure,
Whate’er the ardor of its first devotion.
Beauty is transient, which alone ye seem
To hold in honor; what beside remains
No longer charms,—what doth not charm is dead.
If among men there were who knew to prize
The heart of woman, who could recognize
What treasures of fidelity and love
Are garner’d safely in a woman’s breast
If the remembrance of bright single hours
Could vividly abide within your souls;
If your so searching glance could pierce the veil
Which age and wasting sickness o’er us fling;
If the possession which should satisfy
Waken’d no restless cravings in your hearts:
Then were our happy days indeed arriv’d,
We then should celebrate our golden age.
Thy words, my princess, in my breast awake
An old anxiety half lull’d to sleep.
What mean’st thou, Tasso? Freely speak with me.
I oft before have heard, and recently
Again it hath been rumor’d,—had I not
Been told, I might have known it,—princes strive
To win thy hand. What we must needs expect
We view with dread, nay, almost with despair.
Thou wilt forsake us,—it is natural:
Yet how we shall endure it, know I not.
Be for the present moment unconcern’d!
Almost, I might say, unconcern’d forever.
I am contented still to tarry here,
Nor know I any tie to lure me hence.
And if thou would’st indeed detain me, Tasso,
Live peaceably with all, so shalt thou lead
A happy life thyself, and I through thee.
Teach me to do whate’er is possible!
My life itself is consecrate to thee.
When to extol thee and to give thee thanks
My heart unfolded, I experienc’d first
The purest happiness that man can feel.
My soul’s ideal I first found in thee.
As destiny supreme is rais’d above
The wile and counsel of the wisest men,
So tower the gods of earth o’er common mortals.
The rolling surge which we behold with dread
Doth all unheeded murmur at their feet
Lake gentle billows; they hear not the storm
Which blusters round us, scarcely heed our prayers,
And treat us as we helpless children treat.
Letting us fill the air with sighs and plaints.
Thou hast, divine one! often borne with me,
And like the radiant sun, thy pitying glance
Hath from mine eyelid dried the dew of sorrow.
’Tis only just that women cordially
Should meet the poet, whose heroic song
In strains so varied glorifies the sex.
Tender or valiant, thou hast ever known
To represent them amiable and noble;
And if Armida is deserving hate,
Her love and beauty reconcile us to her.
Whatever in my song doth reach the heart
And find an echo there, I owe to one,
And one alone! No image undefin’d
Hover’d before my soul, approaching now
In radiant glory, to retire again.
I have myself, with mine own eyes, beheld
The type of every virtue, every grace;
What I have copied thence will aye endure;
The heroic love of Tancred to Clorinda,
Erminia’s silent and unnotic’d truth,
Sophronia’s greatness and Olinda’s woe;
These are not shadows by illusion bred;
I know they are eternal, for they are.
And what is more deserving to survive,
And silently to work for centuries,
Than the confession of a noble love
Confided modestly to gentle song?
And shall I name to thee another charm
Which, all unconsciously, this song may claim?
It doth allure us still to listen to it:
We listen, and we think we understand;
We understand, and yet we censure not,
So with thy song, thou winnest us at last.
Oh, what a heaven thou dost open to me,
My princess! if this radiance blinds me not,
I see unhop’d-for and eternal bliss
Descending gloriously on golden beams.
No further, Tasso! many things there are
That we may hope to win with violence;
While others only can become our own
Through moderation and wise self-restraint.
Such, it is said, is virtue, such is love,
Which is allied to her. Think well of this!
And art thou then allow’d to raise thine eyes?
Around thee dar’st thou gaze? Thou art alone!
O’erheard these pillars what the princess spake?
And hast thou witnesses, dumb witnesses
Of thine exalted happiness to fear?
The sun arises of a new life-day,
Whose splendor dims the light of former days.
The goddess, downward stooping, swiftly bears
Aloft the mortal. What a wide expanse
Is to mine eye discover’d, what a realm!
How richly recompens’d my burning wish!
In dreams the highest happiness seem’d near,
This happiness surpasses all my dreams.
The man born blind conceiveth as he may
Of light and color; when upon his eye
The daylight pours, he hails a new-born sense.
Full of vague hope and courage, drunk with joy,
Reeling I tread this path. Thou giv’st me much;
Thou givest lavishly, as earth and heaven,
With bounteous hand, dispense their costly gifts,
Demanding in return what such a boon
Alone empowers thee to demand from me.
I must be moderate, I must forbear,
And thus deserve thy cherish’d confidence,
What have I ever done that she should choose me?
What can I do to merit her regard?
Her very confidence doth prove thy worth.
Yes, princess, to thine every word and look,
Be my whole soul forever consecrate!
Ask what thou wilt, for I am wholly thine!
To distant regions let her send me forth
In quest of toil, and danger, and renown;
Or in the grove, present the golden lyre,
Devoting me to quiet and her praise.
Hers am I, me possessing, she shall mould!
For her my heart hath garner’d every treasure.
Oh, had some heavenly power bestow’d on me
An organ thousandfold, I scarcely then
Could utter forth my speechless reverence.
The painter’s pencil, and the poet’s lip,
The sweetest that e’er sipp’d the vernal honey,
I covet now. No! Tasso shall henceforth
Wander no more forlorn, ’mong trees, ’mong men,
Lonely and weak, oppress’d with gloomy care!
He is no more alone, he is with thee.
Oh, would that visibly the noblest deed
Were present here before me, circled round
With grisly danger! Onward I would rush,
And with a joyous spirit risk the life
Now from her hand receiv’d—the choicest men
As comrades I would hail, a noble band,
To execute her will and high behest,
And consummate what seem’d impossible.
Rash mortal! wherefore did thy lip not hide
What thou didst feel, till thou could’st lay thyself
Worthy, and ever worthier, at her feet?
Such was thy purpose, such thy prudent wish!
Yet be it so! ’Tis sweeter to receive,
Free, and unmerited, so fair a boon,
Than, with self-flatt’ry, dream one might perchance
Successfully have claim’d it. Gaze with joy!
So vast, so boundless, all before thee lies!
And youth, with hope inspir’d, allures thee on
Towards the future’s unknown, sunny realms!
My bosom, heave! propitious seasons smile
Once more with genial influence on this plant!
It springeth heavenward, and shooteth out
A thousand branches that unfold in bloom.
Oh, may it bring forth fruit,—ambrosial fruit!
And may a hand belov’d the golden spoil
Cull from its verdant and luxuriant boughs!
Gladly I welcome thee, it seems indeed
As though I saw thee for the first time now!
Ne’er was arrival more auspicious. Welcome!
I know thee now, and all thy varied worth.
Promptly I offer thee my heart and hand.
And trust that thou wilt not despise my love.
Freely thou offerest a precious gift;
Its worth I duly estimate, and hence
Would pause awhile before accepting it.
I know not yet if I can render thee
A full equivalent. Not willingly
Would I o’erhasty or unthankful seem;
Let then my sober caution serve for both.
What man would censure caution? Every step
Of life doth prove that ’tis most requisite;
Yet nobler is it, when the soul reveals,
Where we, with prudent foresight, may dispense.
The heart of each be here his oracle,
Since each his error must himself atone.
So let it be! My duty I’ve perform’d.
It is the princess’ wish we should be friends,
Her words I honor’d and thy friendship sought.
I wish’d not to hold back, Antonio,
But I will never be importunate.
Time and more near acquaintance may induce thee
To give a warmer welcome to the gift,
Which now thou dost reject, almost with scorn.
Oft is the moderate man nam’d cold by those
Who think themselves more warm than other men,
Because a transient glow comes over them.
Thou blamest what I blame,—what I avoid.
Young as I am I ever must prefer
Unshaken constancy to vehemence.
Most wisely said! Keep ever in this mind.
Thou’rt authoriz’d to counsel and to warn,
For, like a faithful, time-approved friend,
Experience holds her station at thy side.
But trust me, sir, the meditative heart
Attends the warning of each day and hour,
And practises in secret every virtue,
Which in thy rigor thou would’st teach anew.
’Twere well to be thus occupied with self,
If it were only profitable too.
His inmost nature no man learns to know
By introspection; still he rates himself,
Sometimes too low, but oft, alas! too high.
Self-knowledge comes from knowing other men;
’Tis life reveals to each his genuine worth.
I listen with applause and reverence.
Yet to my words I know thou dost attach
A meaning wholly foreign to my thought.
Proceeding thus, we ne’er shall draw more near.
It is not prudent, ’tis not well, to meet
With purpos’d misconception any man,
Let him be who he may! The princess’ word
I scarcely needed;—I have read thy soul:
Good thou dost purpose and accomplish too.
Thine own immediate fate concerns thee not;
Thou think’st of others, others thou dost aid,
And on life’s sea, vex’d by each passing gale,
Thou hold’st a heart unmov’d. I view thee thus;
What then were I, did I not draw tow’rds thee?
Did I not even keenly seek a share
Of the lock’d treasure which thy bosom guards?
Open thine heart to me, thou’lt not repent;
Know me, and I sure am thou’lt be my friend:
Of such a friend I long have felt the need.
My inexperience, my ungovern’d youth
Cause me no shame; for still around my brow
The future’s golden clouds in brightness rest.
Oh! to thy bosom take me, noble man;
Into the wise, the temperate use of life
Initiate my rash, my unfledg’d youth.
Thou in a single moment would’st demand
What time and circumspection only yield.
In one brief moment love has power to give
What anxious toil wins not in lengthen’d years.
I do not ask it from thee, I demand.
I summon thee in Virtue’s sacred name,
For she is zealous to unite the good;
And shall I name to thee another name?
The princess, she doth wish it.—Leonora.
Me she would lead to thee, and thee to me.
Oh, let us meet her wish with kindred hearts!
United let us to the goddess haste,
To offer her our service, our whole souls,
Leagu’d to achieve for her the noblest aims.
Yet once again!—Here is my hand! Give thine!
I do entreat, hold thyself back no longer,
O noble man, and grudge me not the joy.
The good man’s fairest joy, without reserve,
Freely to yield himself to nobler men!
Thou goest with full sail! It would appear
Thou’rt wont to conquer, everywhere to find
The pathways spacious and the portals wide.
I grudge thee not or merit or success,—
Only I see indeed, too plainly see,
We from each other stand too far apart.
It may be so in years and timetried worth;—
In courage and good-will I yield to none.
Good-will doth oft prove deedless; courage still
Pictures the goal less distant than it is.
His brow alone is crown’d who reaches it,
And oft a worthier must forego the crown.
Yet wreaths there are of very different fashion:
Light, worthless wreaths, which, idly strolling on,
The loiterer oft without the toil obtains.
What a divinity to one accords,
And from another sternly doth withhold,
Is not obtain’d by each man as he lists.
To Fortune before other gods ascribe it;
I’ll hear thee gladly, for her choice is blind.
Impartial Justice also wears a band,
And to each bright illusion shuts her eyes.
Fortune ’tis for the fortunate to praise!
Let him ascribe to her a hundred eyes
To scan desert,—stern judgment, and wise choice.
Call her Minerva, call her what he will,
He holds as just reward her golden gifts,
Chance ornament as symbol of desert.
Thou need’st not speak more plainly. ’Tis enough!
Deeply I see into thine inmost heart,
And know thee now for life. Oh, would that so
My princess knew thee also! Lavish not
The arrows of thine eyes and of thy tongue!
In vain thou aimest at the fadeless wreath
Entwin’d around my brow. First be so great
As not to envy me the laurel wreath!
And then perchance thou may’st dispute the prize.
I deem it sacred, yea, the highest good;
Yet only show me him, who hath attain’d
That after which I strive; show me the nero,
Of whom on history’s ample page I read;
The poet place before me, who himself
With Homer or with Virgil may compare;
Ay, what is more, let me behold the man
Who hath deserv’d threefold this recompense,
And yet can wear the laurel round his brow
With modesty thrice greater than my own.—
Then at the feet of the divinity
Who thus endow’d me, thou should’st see me kneel,
Nor would I stand erect, till from my brow,
She had to his the ornament transferi’d.
Till then thou’rt doubtless worthy of the crown.
Let me be justly weigh’d: I shun it not:
But your contempt I never have deserv’d.
The wreath consider’d by my prince my due.
Which for my brow my princess’ hand entwin’d,
None shall dispute with me, and none asperse!
This haughty tone, methinks, becomes thee not,
Nor this rash glow, unseemly in this place.
The tone thou takest here becomes me too.
Say, from these precincts is the truth exil’d?
Within the palace is free thought imprison’d?
Here must the noble spirit be oppress’d?
This is nobility’s appropriate seat,
The soul’s nobility! and may she not
In presence of earth’s mighty ones rejoice?
She may and shall. Nobles draw near the prince
In virtue of the rank their sires bequeath’d;
Why should not genius then, which partial Nature
Grants, like a glorious ancestry, to few?
Here littleness alone should feel confus’d,
And envy shun to manifest its shame:
As no insidious spider should attach
Its noisome fabric to these marble walls.
Thyself dost show that my contempt is just!
The impetuous youth, forsooth, would seize by force
The confidence and friendship of the man!
Rude as thou art, dost think thyself of worth?
I’d rather be what thou esteemest rude,
Than what I must myself esteem ignoble.
Thou’rt still so young that wholesome chastisement
May tutor thee to hold a better course.
Not young enough to bow to idols down,
Yet old enough to conquer scorn with scorn.
From contests of the lip and of the lyre,
A conquering hero, thou may’st issue forth.
It were presumptuous to extol my arm;
As yet ’tis deedless; still I’ll trust to it.
Thou trustest to forbearance, which too long
Hath spoil’d thee in thine insolent career.
That I am grown to manhood, now I feel:
It would have been the farthest from my wish
To try with thee the doubtful game of arms:
But thou dost stir the inward fire; my blood,
My inmost marrow boils; the fierce desire
Of vengeance seethes and foams within my breast.
Art thou the man thou boast’st thyself,—then stand.
Thou know’st as little who, as where thou art,
No fane so sacred as to shield contempt.
Thou dost blaspheme, thou dost profane this spot,
Not I, who fairest offerings,—confidence,
Respect and love, for thine acceptance brought.
Thy spirit desecrates this paradise;
And thy injurious words this sacred hall;
Not the indignant heaving of my breast,
Which boils to wipe away the slightest stain.
What a high spirit in a narrow breast!
Here there is space to vent the bosom’s rage.
The rabble also vent their rage in words.
Art thou of noble blood as I am, draw!
I am, but I remember where I stand.
Come then below, where weapons may avail.
Thou should’st not challenge, therefore I’ll not follow.
To cowards welcome such impediments.
The coward only threats where he’s secure.
With joy would I relinquish this defence.
Degrade thyself: degrade the place thou canst not.
The place forgive me that I suffer’d it!
[He draws his sword.
Or draw or follow, if, as now I hate,
I’m not to scorn thee to eternity!
Tasso, Antonio, Alphonso.
In what unlook’d-for strife I find you both?
Calm and unmov’d, O prince, thou find’st me here,
Before a man whom passion’s rage hath seiz’d.
As a divinity I worship thee
That thus thou tam’st me with one warning look.
Relate, Antonio, Tasso, tell me straight;—
Say, why doth discord thus invade my house?
How hath it seiz’d you both, and hurried you
Confus’d and reeling from the beaten track
Of decency and law? I stand amaz’d.
I feel it, thou dost know nor him, nor me.
This man, reputed temperate and wise,
Hath tow’rds me, like a rude, ill-manner’d churl,
Behav’d himself with spiteful insolence.
I sought him trustfully, he thrust me back;
With constancy I press’d myself on him,
And still, with growing bitterness imbu’d,
He rested not till he had turn’d to gall
My blood’s pure current. Pardon! Thou, my prince,
Hast found me here, possess’d with furious rage.
If guilty, to this man the guilt is due;
With violence he fann’d the fiery glow
Which, seizing me, hath injur’d both of us.
Poetic frenzy hurried him away!
Thou hast, O prince, address’d thyself to me,
Hast question’d me: be it to me allow’d
After this rapid orator to speak.
Oh, yes, repeat again each several word;
And if before this judge thou canst recall
Each syllable, each look,—then dare to do so!
Disgrace thyself a second time, and bear
Witness against thyself! I’ll not disown
A single pulse-throb, nor a single breath.
If thou hast somewhat more to say, proceed;
If not, forbear, and interrupt me not.
Whether at first his fiery youth or I
Began this quarrel, whether he or I
Must bear the blame, is a wide question, prince,
Which stands apart, and need not be discuss’d.
How so? The primal question seems to me,
Which of the two is right and which is wrong.
Not so precisely, as the ungovern’d mind
Might first suppose.
Thy hint I honor; but let him forbear:
When I have spoken he may then proceed:
Thy voice must then decide. I’ve but to say,
I can no longer with this man contend:
Can nor accuse him, nor defend myself,
Nor give the satisfaction he desires;
For as he stands, he is no longer free.
There hangeth over him a heavy law,
Which, at the most, thy favor may relax.
Here hath he dar’d to threat, to challenge me,
Scarce in thy presence, sheath’d his naked sword;
And if between us, prince, thou hadst not stopp’d,
Obnoxious to reproof I now had stood,
Before thy sight, the partner of his fault.
(ToTasso.) Thou hast not acted well.
Mine own heart, prince,
And surely thine, doth speak me wholly free.
Yes, true it is, I threaten’d, challeng’d, drew;
But how maliciously his guileful tongue,
With words well chosen, pierc’d me to the quick;
How sharp and rapidly his biting tooth
The subtle venom in my blood infus’d;
How more and more the fever he inflam’d—
Thou thinkest not! cold and unmov’d himself,
He to the highest pitch excited me.
Thou know’st him not, and thou wilt never know him!
Warmly I tender’d him the fairest friendship;
Down at my feet he flung the proffer’d gift;
And had my spirit not with anger glow’d,
Of thy fair service and thy princely grace
I were for aye unworthy. If the law
I have forgotten, and this place, forgive!
The spot exists not where I dare be base,
Nor yet where I debasement dare endure.
But if this heart in any place be false,
Or to itself or thee,—condemn, reject,—
And let me ne’er again behold thy face.
How easily the youth bears heavy loads,
And shaketh misdemeanors off like dust!
It were indeed a marvel, knew I not
Of magic poesy the wondrous power,
Which loveth still with the impossible
In frolic mood to sport. I almost doubt
Whether to thee, and to thy ministers,
This deed will seem so insignificant.
For Majesty extends its shield o’er all
Who draw near its inviolate abode,
And bow before it as a deity;
As at the altar’s consecrated foot,
So on its sacred threshold rage subsides;
No sword there gleams, no threat’ning word resounds.
E’en injur’d innocence seeks no revenge.
The common earth affordeth ample scope
For bitter hate, and rage implacable.
There will no coward threat, no true man flee;
Thy ancestors, on sure foundations bas’d
These walls, fit shelter for their dignity;
And, with wise forecast, hedg’d the palace round
With fearful penalties. Of all transgressors,
Exile, confinement, death, the certain doom.
Respect of persons was not, nor did mercy
The arm of justice venture to restrain.
The boldest culprit felt himself o’eraw’d.
And now, after a lengthen’d reign of peace,
We must behold unlicens’d rage invade
The realm of sacred order. Judge, O prince,
And punish! for unguarded by the law,
Unshielded by his sov’reign, who will dare
To keep the narrow path that duty bounds.
More than your words, or aught that ye could say,
My own impartial feelings let me heed.
If that your duty ye had both fulfill’d,
I should not have this judgment to pronounce;
For here the right and wrong are near allied.
If that Antonio hath offended thee,
Due satisfaction he must doubtless give,
In such a sort as thou shalt chose to ask.
I gladly would be chosen arbiter.
Meanwhile thy misdemeanor subjects thee
To brief confinement. Tasso. I forgive thee,
And therefore, for thy sake, relax the law.
Now leave us, and within thy chamber bide,
Thyself thy sole companion, thy sole guard.
Is this, then, thy judicial sentence, prince?
Discern’st thou not a father’s lenity?
(ToAntonio.) With thee, henceforth, I have no more to say.
Thine earnest word, O prince, delivers me,
A freeman, to captivity. So be it!
Thou deem’st it right. Thy sacred word I hear
And counsel silence to mine inmost heart.
It seems so strange, so strange,—myself and thee,
This sacred spot, I scarce can recognize.
Yet him I know full well.—Oh, there is much
I might and ought to say, yet I submit.
My lips are mute. Was it indeed a crime?
At least, they treat me as a criminal.
Howe’er my heart rebel, I’m captive now.
Thou tak’st it, Tasso, more to heart than I.
To me it still is inconceivable;
And yet not so, I am no child. Methinks
I should be able to unravel it.
A sudden light breaks in upon my soul;—
As suddenly it leaves me in the dark:—
I only hear my sentence and submit.
These are, indeed, superfluous, idle words!
Henceforth inure thy spirit to obey.
Weak mortal! To forget where thou didst stand!
Thou didst forget how high the abode of gods,
And now art stagger’d by the sudden fall.
Promptly obey, for it becomes a man
Each painful duty to perform with joy.
Take back the sword thou gavest me, what time
The cardinal I follow’d into France.
Though not with glory, not with shame I word it.—
No, not to-day. The bright auspicious gift,
With heart sore troubled, I relinquish now.
Thou know’st not, Tasso. how I feel towards thee.
My lot is to obey, and not to think!
And destiny, alas! demands from me
Renunciation of this precious gift
Ill doth a crown become a captive’s brow.
I from my head myself remove the wreath
Which seem’d accorded for eternity.
Too early was the dearest bliss bestow’d,
And is, alas, as if I had been boastful,
Too early taken away.
Thou takest back what none beside could take,
And what no God a second time accords,
We mortals are most wonderfully tried;
We could not bear it, were we not endow’d,
By Nature, with a kindly levity,
Calmly necessity doth tutor us
With priceless treasures lavishly to sport;
Our hands we open of our own free will—
The prize escapes us, ne’er to be recall’d.
A tear doth mingle with this parting kiss,
Devoting thee to mutability!
This tender sign of weakness may be pardon’d!
Who would not weep when what was deem’d immortal
Yields to destruction’s power! Now to this sword
(Alas, it won thee not!) ally thyself,
And round it twin’d, as on a hero’s bier
Reposing, mark the grave where buried lie
My short-liv’d happiness, my wither’d hopes!
Here at thy feet, O prince, I lay them down;
For who is justly arm’d if thou art wroth?
Who justly crown’d, on whom thy brow is bent?
I go a captive, and await my doom.
[On a sign from thePrince,a page raises the sword and wreath and bears them away.
Whither doth frenzied fancy lead the boy?
And in what colors doth he picture forth
His high desert and glorious destiny?
Rash, inexperienc’d, youth esteems itself
A chosen instrument, and arrogates
Unbounded license. He has been chastis’d,
And chastisement is profit to the boy.
For which the man will render cordial thanks.
He is chastis’d too painfully I fear.
Art thou dispos’d to practise lenity,
Restore to him his liberty, O prince,
And then the sword may arbitrate our strife.
So be it, if the public voice demands.
But tell me, how didst thou provoke his ire?
In sooth, I scarce can say how it befell.
As man, I may perchance have wounded him;
As nobleman, I gave him no offence.
And in the very tempest of his rage
No word unseemly hath escap’d this lip.
Of such a sort your quarrel seem’d to me;
And your own word confirms me in my thought.
When men dispute we justly may esteem
The wiser the offender. Thou with Tasso
Should’st not contend, but rather guide his steps;
It would become thee more. ’Tis not too late
The sword’s decision is not call’d for here.
So long as I am bless’d with peace abroad,
So long would I enjoy it in my house.
Restore tranquillity, thou canst with ease.
Leonora Sanvitale may at first
Attempt to soothe him with her honey’d lip;
Then go thou to him; in my name restore
His liberty; with true and noble words
Endeavor to obtain his confidence.
Accomplish this with all the speed thou canst;
As a kind friend and father speak with him.
Peace I would know restor’d ere I depart;
All if thou wilt—is possible to thee.
We gladly will remain another hour,
Then leave it to the ladies’ gentle tact
To consummate the work commenc’d by thee.
So when we come again, the last faint trace
Of this rash quarrel will be quite effac’d.
It seems thy talents will not rust, Antonio!
Scarcely hast thou concluded one affair,
And on thy first return thou seek’st another.
In this new mission may success be thine!
I am asham’d; my error in thy words,
As in the clearest mirror, I discern!
How easy to obey a noble prince
Who doth convince us while he doth command!