Front Page Titles (by Subject) SCENE IV. - Goethe's Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc)
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SCENE IV. - 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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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.