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, I come to say a word to thee,
If thou’rt dispos’d to hear me tranquilly.
I am denied, thou know’st, the power to act;
It well becomes me to attend and listen.
Tranquil I find thee, as I hop’d to find,
And speak to thee in all sincerity.
But in the prince’s name I first dissolve
The slender band, that seem’d to fetter thee.
Caprice dissolves it, as caprice impos’d;
I yield, and no judicial sentence claim.
Next, Tasso, on my own behalf I speak.
I have, it seems, more deeply wounded thee,
Than I,—myself by divers passions mov’d,—
Was conscious of. But no insulting word
Hath from my lip incautiously escap’d.
Naught hast thou, as a noble, to avenge,
And, as a man, wilt not refuse thy pardon.
Whether contempt or insult galls the most,
I will not now determine; that doth pierce
The inmost marrow, this but frets the skin.
The shaft of insult back returns to him
Who wing’d the missile, and the practis’d sword
Soon reconciles the opinion of the world—
A wounded heart is difficult to cure.
’Tis now my turn to press thee urgently;
Oh, step not back, yield to mine earnest wish,
The prince’s wish, who sends me unto thee.
I know the claims of duty, and submit.
Be it, as far as possible, forgiven!
The poets tell us of a magic spear,
Which could a wound, inflicted by itself
Through friendly contact, once again restore,
The human tongue hath also such a power;
I will not peevishly resist it now.
I thank thee, and desire that thou at once
Would’st put my wish to serve thee to the proof.
Then say if I in aught can pleasure thee;—
Most gladly will I do so; therefore speak.
Thine offer tallies with my secret wish.
But now thou hast restor’d my liberty,
Procure for me, I pray, the use of it.
What meanest thou? More plainly state thy wish.
My poem, as thou knowest, I have ended;
Yet much it wants to render it complete.
To-day I gave it to the prince, and hop’d
At the same time to proffer my request.
Full many of my friends I now should find
In Rome assembled; they have writ to me
Their judgments touching divers passages;
By many I could profit; others still
Require consideration; and some lines
I should be loath to alter, till at least
My judgment has been better satisfied.
All this by letter cannot be arrang’d,
While intercourse would soon untie the knots.
I thought myself to ask the prince to-day:
Th’ occasion fail’d; I dare not venture now,
And must for this permission trust to thee.
It seems imprudent to absent thyself
Just at the moment when thy finish’d work
Commends thee to the princess and the prince.
A day of favor is a day of harvest:
We should be busy when the corn is ripe.
Naught wilt thou win if thou departest hence,
Perchance thou’lt lose what thou hast won already.
Presence is still a powerful deity,—
Learn to respect her influence,—tarry here!
I nothing have to fear; Alphons is noble,
Such hath he always prov’d himself tow’rds me;—
To his heart only will I owe the boon
Which now I crave. By no mean, servile arts
Will I obtain his favor. Naught will I receive
Which it can e’er repent him to have given.
Then do not now solicit leave to go;
He will not willingly accord thy suit,
And much I fear he will reject it, Tasso.
Duly entreated, he will grant my prayer;
Thou hast the power to move him, if thou wilt.
But what sufficient reason shall I urge?
Let every stanza of my poem speak!
The scope was lofty that I aim’d to reach,
Though to my genius inaccessible.
Labor and strenuous effort have not fail’d;
The cheerful stroll of many a lovely day,
The silent watch of many a solemn night,
Have to this pious lay been consecrate.
With modest daring I aspir’d to near
The mighty masters of the olden time;
With lofty courage plann’d to rouse our age
From lengthen’d sleep to deeds of high emprise;
Then with a Christian host I hop’d to share
The toil and glory of a holy war,
And that my song may rouse the noblest men
It must be worthy of its lofty aim.
What worth it hath is to Alphonso due;
For its completion I would owe him thanks.
The prince himself is here, with other men,
Able as those of Rome to be thy guides.
Here is thy station, here complete thy work;
Then haste to Rome to carry out thy plan.
Alphonso first inspir’d my muse, and he
Will be the list to counsel me. Thy judgment,
The judgment also of the learned men
Assembled at our court, I highly value;
Ye shall determine when my friends at Rome
Fail to produce conviction in my mind.
But them I must consult. Gonzaga there
Hath summon’d a tribunal before which
I must present myself. I scarce can wait.
Flaminio de’ Nobili, Angelio
Da Barga, Antoniano, and Speron Speroni!
To thee they must be known.—What names they are!
They in my soul, to worth which gladly yields,
Inspire at once both confidence and fear.
Self-occupied, thou think’st not of the prince.
I tell thee that he will not let thee go;
And if he does, ’twill be against his wish.
Thou wilt not surely urge what he to thee
Unwillingly would grant. And shall I here
Still mediate what I cannot approve?
Dost thou refuse me then my first request
When I would put thy friendship to the proof?
Timely denial is the surest test
Of genuine friendship; love doth oft confer
A baneful good when it consults the wish,
And not the happiness of him who sues.
Thou in this moment dost appear to me
To overprize the object of thy wish,
Which, on the instant, thou would’st have fulfill’d.
The erring man would oft by vehemence
Compensate what he lacks in truth and power.
Duty enjoins me now, with all my might,
To check the rashness that would lead thee wrong.
I long have known this tyranny of friendship,
Which of all tyrannies appears to me
The least endurable. Because forsooth
Our judgments differ, thine must needs be right.
I gladly own that thou dost wish my welfare;
Require me not to seek it in thy way.
And would’st thou have me, Tasso, in cold blood,
With full and clear conviction, injure thee?
I will at once absolve thee from this care!
Thou hast no power to hold me with thy words.
Thou hast declar’d me free; these doors, which lead
Straight to the prince, stand open to me now.
The choice I leave to thee. Or thou or I!
The prince goes forth, no time is to be lost;
Determine promptly! Dost thou still refuse,
I go myself, let come of it what will.
A little respite grant me; not to-day;
Wait, I beseech thee, till the prince returns!
If it were possible, this very hour!
My soles are scorch’d upon this marble floor,
Nor can my spirit rest until the dust
Of the free highway shrouds the fugitive.
I do not entreat thee! How unfit I am
Now to appear before the prince, thou seest,
And thou must see, how can I hide from thee,
That I’m no longer master of myself;
No power on earth can sway my energies;
Fetters alone can hold me in control!
No tyrant is the prince; he spake me free.
Once to his words how gladly I gave ear!
To-day to hearken is impossible.
Oh, let me have my freedom but to-day,
That my vex’d spirit may regain its peace!
Back to my duty I will soon return.
Thou mak’st me dubious. How shall I resolve?
That error is contagious, I perceive.
If thy professions I’m to count sincere,
Perform what I desire, as well as thou canst.
Then will the prince release me; and I lose
Neither his favor nor his gracious aid.
For that I’ll thank thee, ay, with cordial thanks.
But if thy bosom bear an ancient grudge,
Would’st thou forever banish me this court,
Forever would’st thou mar my destiny,
And drive me friendless forth into the world,
Then hold thy purpose and resist my prayer!
O Tasso!—for I’m doom’d to injure thee—
I choose the way which thou thyself dost choose;
The issue will determine who doth err!
Thou wilt away! I warn thee ere thou goest:
Scarce shalt thou turn thy back upon this house,
Ere thou shalt yearn in spirit to return,
While wilful humor still shall urge thee on.
Sorrow, distraction and desponding gloom
In Rome await thee. There as well as here
Thou’lt miss thine aim. But this I do not say
To counsel thee. Alas! I but predict
What soon will happen, and invite thee, Tasso,
In the worst exigence to trust to me.
I now, at thy desire, will seek the prince.