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CHAPTER IV.: THE TRIAL. - 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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SOON as ’twas known by general report
Reynard was really coming to the court,
Out they all rushed in haste, both great and small,
Eager to see the famous criminal:
In flocks and herds and droves they thronged to meet him,
But scarce did one with word of welcome greet him.
Reynard cared little though for this: he thought—
Or seemed at least to think—it mattered naught.
With Graybeard on indiff’rent things he talked
As, bold as brass, along the street he walked;
He could not, had he been the king’s own son,
Free from all crime, with prouder step have gone:
And so before the king and all his peers
He stood, as though he felt nor doubts nor fears.
“Dread lord and gracious sov’reign!” thus said he,
“For ever gracious have you proved to me;—
Therefore I stand before you, void of fear,
Sure that my tale with patience you will hear;—
A more devoted servant to the crown,
Than I have been, my liege hath never known:
’Tis this brings me such hosts of enemies,
Who strive to work me mischief in your eyes;
And bitter reason should I have to grieve,
Could you one half their calumnies believe.
But high and just and righteous all your views are;
You hear th’ accused as well as the accuser:
Howe’er behind my back they slander me,
You know how great is my integrity.”
“Silence that lying tongue!” the monarch cries,
“Nor think to veil your crimes with sophistries.
In one career of vice your life is spent;
It calls aloud to heav’n for punishment.
How have you kept the peace that I ordained
Throughout my kingdom’s breadth should be maintained?
Yon mourns the Cock, disconsolate with grief;
His children slain by you, false-hearted thief!
You boast of your devotion to the crown,
Is’t by your treatment of my servants shown?
Bruin, by your devices, hath been lamed;
My faithful Tybalt so severely maimed,
The Leech doubts if he may his health restore—
But I will waste my words on you no more;
Lo! your accusers press on ev’ry side;
All further subterfuge seems now denied.”
“Ah! sire,” rejoined the Fox, “am I to blame
My Uncle Bruin has returned so lame?
Or is it my fault he has tastes so funny,
He must needs pilfer honest people’s honey?
What if the peasants caught him in the fact,
And, ’spite his size and strength, he got well whack’d?
I could not help it, nor could succor him;—
In sooth ’twas lucky he knew how to swim.
Then as for Tybalt, when he came to me,
I showed him ev’ry hospitality.
Gave him the best I had; but not content,
His mind was wholly upon thieving bent:
He scorned my larder, and would poke his nose in
The parson’s granary to go a-mousing,
In spite of all my caution and advice—
It seems he has a strange penchant for Mice.
Shall I be punished because they were fools?
Does that comport with justice’ sacred rules?
But you will do your royal will I know;
And I must e’en submit for weal or woe:
Whether I am imprisoned, tortured, martyred,
Burned or beheaded, or hung, drawn and quartered;
So it must be, if so it be you list;
Your pow’r is great, how can the weak resist?
Tho’ to the State small good my death will bring;
I shall at least die loyal to my king.”
Up spake the Ram then, “Friends, the time is come;
Urge now your plaints, or evermore be dumb!”
Then, all confederate for Reynard’s ruin,
Stepped Tybalt forth and Isegrim, and Bruin;
And other beasts came swarming by the score,
The thin-skinned Roebuck and the thick-skinned Boar,
Neddy the Donkey too, and many more.
Frizzy the Poodle also, and the Goat,
The Squirrel, and the Weazel, and the Stoat;
Nor did the Ox or Horse fail to appear;
And beasts of savage nature too were there;
The flitting Rabbit, and the nimble Hare.
The Swan, the Stork, the Heron and the Crane;
All thither flew, all eager to complain.
Sibby the Goose, with anger hissing, came,
And the Duck Quackley, who was sadly lame;
And Chanticleer, that most unhappy Cock,
Whose sorrows might have touched a heart of rock.
With the few children that to him were left,
Accused the Fox of murder and of theft.
In countless flocks came swarming in the Birds,
The Beasts in vast innumerable herds;
All vehement alike on vengeance bent,
All clam’rous pressed for Reynard’s punishment.
Charge upon charge there followed, thick and fast,
And each fresh plaint more weighty than the last.
Since Noble sat upon his father’s throne,
Was never yet such a grand Oyer known;
Indeed so num’rous the complainants were,
It seemed an Oyer with no Terminer.
Meanwhile the Fox conducted his defence
With most consummate skill and impudence;
One time a witness he would browbeat so,
That what he said the poor man scarce should know;
Or else repeat his answers in a tone,
Which gave a sense quite diff’rent from his own;
Or interrupt with some facetious jest,
Or tell a story with such hum’rous zest,
That, serious things forgotten in the sport,
They laughed the prosecutor out of court.
And when he spoke, truth seemed to tip his tongue,
Indignant as each charge aside he flung;
They heard with wonder and diversion blent,
Almost disposed to think him innocent;
Nay, some there were who more than half believed
He was himself the party most aggrieved.
At length came witnesses who stood so high
For unimpeachable veracity,
That all his crimes and outrages, as clear
As is the sun at noon, were made appear;
The council all agreeing, with one breath,
Pronounced him guilty and condemned to death;
Bound, to the gallows he should thence be led,
And hanged there by the neck till he was dead.
And Reynard now gave up the game for lost;
His skill had served him for display at most;
And as the king himself his doom pronounced,
All hope of mercy he as vain renounced:
For seized and pinioned, hopeless was his case,
With ignominious death before his face.
As there he stood, disgraced, disconsolate,
His foes bestirred themselves to speed his fate.
His friends the while in silent awe stood round;
Great was their trouble, and their pain profound;
Martin the Ape, Graybeard and many more,
Who to the hapless culprit kindred bore:
The king’s will they respected as they ought;
But sorrowed all—more than one might have thought:
For Reynard was a peer of high degree,
And now stood stripped of ev’ry dignity;
Adjudged to die a death of infamy.
A sight indeed to make his kinsmen grieve!
Then of the king they one and all took leave,
And left the court, as many as were there;
Reynard’s disgrace they had no mind to share.
The king was sore chagrined though in his heart,
To see so many peers and knights depart:
It proved the Fox had some adherents still
Too much disposed to take his sentence ill.
Then turning to his chancellor, he said,
“Though Reynard’s crimes his doom have merited,
’Tis cause for anxious thought and deepest care,
How we his num’rous friends from court may spare.”
But Bruin, Isegrim and Tybalt, all
Were busied round the luckless criminal.
Anxious to execute the king’s decree,
They hurried forth their hated enemy,
And onward hastened to the fatal tree.
Thus to the Wolf then spake the spiteful Cat:
“Sir Isegrim, you’ve now got tit-for-tat;
You need not be reminded, I’ll be sworn,
Of all the wrongs from Reynard you have borne.
You’ll not forget, unless your heart’s grown callous,
He had your brother hanged on that same gallows,
And taunted him with many a biting scoff;
In his own coin your now can pay him off.
Remember too the foul trick you were played,
Sir Bruin, when by Reynard’s craft betrayed
To that base Joiner and his rabble crew;
The insults you received, the beating too;
Besides the deep and scandalous disgrace
To be the talking-stock of ev’ry place.
Keep close together then and have a care;
Lest he slip off before one is aware:
For if, by any artifice or chance,
He now contrive to ’scape our vigilance,
We shall remain eternally disgrac’d,
Nor ever shall the sweets of vengeance taste.”
Quoth Isegrim, “What boots it chattering so?
Fetch me a halter without more ado.
A halter, ho! and see that it be strong:
We would not have his suff’ring last too long.”
Thus against Reynard did they vent their wrath,
As tow’rds the gibbet they held on their path.
He’d heard all they had said, and not yet spoke;
But now, with sidelong leer, he silence broke:
“If you a halter want, Tybalt’s the man
To fit you one upon the newest plan;
He knows how best to make a running noose,
From which one cannot possibly get loose;
He learned it at the parson’s granary,
Where to catch Mice he went, and lost an eye.
But, Isegrim! and Bruin! why pretend
Such zeal to hasten your poor uncle’s end?
In sooth it does not to your credit tend.”
Now rose the king, with all his lords, to see
Justice was done with due solemnity;
And, by her courtly dames accompanied,
The queen herself walked by the monarch’s side:
And never was there seen a crowd so great
As followed them to witness Reynard’s fate.
Meanwhile Sir Isegrim his friends besought
To march close packed, and keep a sharp look out;
For much he feared, lest by some shifty wile
The Fox might yet their watchfulness beguile:
And specially did he conjure his wife:
“See that the wretch escape not, on thy life;
If he should this time slip from out our pow’r,
We ne’er should know another peaceful hour.
Think of your wrongs;” thus Bruin he address’d;
“And see you pay them with full interest.
Tybalt can clamber; he the rope shall fix;
You hold Sir Reynard tight, and mind his tricks:
I’ll raise the ladder, and you may depend on’t
In a few minutes we shall make an end on’t.”
Quoth Bruin, “Quick! and get the ladder plac’d:
I’ll warrant me I’ll hold the ruffian fast.”
“Why should you take,” again thus Reynard saith,
“Such pains to expedite your uncle’s death?
You know, the more the haste, the worse the speed.
Ah! sad and cruel is my lot indeed,
To meet with hate from such old friends as you!
I know ’twere vain, or I for grace would sue.
Stern Isegrim hath e’en compelled his wife
Join this unkindly plot against my life:
Her mem’ries of the past might surely wake
Some feelings of compassion for my sake:
But when you can foretell to-morrow’s wind,
Then trust the constancy of womankind.
But if so be it must; so let it be
The sooner done, the sooner I am free.
My fate will but with my poor father’s match;
Albeit, good soul, he died with more despatch.
Neither did such a goodly company
Attend his death, as now has honored me.
You seem to fancy, if you spared me now
You’d all be shamed; and, haply, ’twould be so.”
“Hear him!” cried Bruin; “hear the ruffian boast;
Quick! prithee, quick! let no more time be lost.”
Then Reynard seriously to think began—
“Could I but now devise some cunning plan;
That, in this hour of my extremest need,
I might be pardoned and from bondage freed;
Escape with credit from death’s bitter throes,
And heap disgrace on these detested foes.
What can be done? ’tis worth some pains to take,
Since nothing less than life is here at stake.
Slight seem the chances for me; strong, against;
The king, no doubt, is bitterly incens’d;
My enemies all here; my friends away;
All my misdeeds brought to the light of day:—
And, truth to speak, but little good I’ve done;
Yet ever hoped this evil hour to shun.
If they’d but grant me liberty of speech,
Some of their cruel hearts I yet may reach;
And so get free of this accursed rope;
At least I’ll try it:—while there’s life there’s hope.”
Then turning on the ladder where he stood,
He thus addressed th’ assembled multitude:
“My doom is fixed; chance of escape is none;
Grant then a dying man one trifling boon:
Before you all, as many as are here,
Ere yet I close my criminal career,
Fain would I freely all my sins confess,
Lamenting that their number is not less;
Else for some crime in secret done by me,
The innocent perchance might punished be:
And thus my sinful soul some hope may have
Of mercy on the other side the grave.”
Many were moved at this and ’gan to say:
“Small is the favor, brief is the delay.”
And as it seemed a reasonable thing,
They begged it and obtained it of the king.
A load was now removed from Reynard’s heart,
And he at once prepared to play his part:
While through the crowd expectant murmurs ran,
With well-feigned penitence he thus began:
“Oh, aid me now, Spiritus Domini!
For I am sentenced and must shortly die.
Vast as this meeting, scarce can I see one,
To whom I’ve not some grievous inj’ry done.
Whilst I was still a tiny little brat,
Scarce weaned, and not much higher than my hat,
I loved to watch the Lambs and Kids at play
When from their watchful herds they chanced to stray:
It made my bosom throb to hear them bleat,
My bowels yearn too for substantial meat.
Ere long, in jest, I bit to death a Lamb,
Who’d strolled away some distance from its Dam;
While yet ’twas warm and fresh, I licked the blood,
And found that it was exquisitely good.
Four of the youngest Kids I next did slaughter:
The thought—Heav’n help me!—makes my mouth yet water.
Grown bolder, I indulged each wild caprice;
My tooth spared neither Fowls nor Ducks nor Geese;
I caught and ate them wheresoever found,
And some, half-eaten, buried in the ground.
“One winter, on the Rhine, it chanced I met
Is’grim.—a meeting I may well regret.
He claimed direct relationship with me,
Showed we were cousins, and in what degree.
Guileless myself, I readily believed;
Perhaps too ready to be so deceived.
Ourselves we bound then in a solemn league;
Force should be used by him; by me, intrigue;
Eternal friendship each to each we swore,
Ah! little did I ween what fruit his friendship bore.
“The provinces we traversed, one and all;
He the large booty stealing; I, the small.
Our bargain was, we should divide all fair;
But what he chose to leave was all my share;
Nor was this all th’ injustice I must bear.
If e’er he chanced a Goat or Sheep to steal,
And I came up, and found him at his meal;
Or caught him gorging a fresh-slaughtered Calf,
Of which he’d not devoured more than half;
He’d grin his teeth at me, and swear and curse;
I was e’en glad that matters were no worse.
And thus it was he always treated me,
However large the booty chanced to be.
In hunting, if we ever caught, by luck,
Some head of noble game, as Hind, or Buck,
Or Ox, or Cow, whose carcass vast was more
Than e’en his gluttony could all devour;
His wife and children straight made their appearance,
And in a trice there was a total clearance;
Not e’en a spare rib fell unto my share,
But what was gnawed and polished, clean and bare:
And thus was I forever forced to fare.
But Heav’n be thanked I never suffered hunger;
I’d means to live on, twenty years or longer;
A treasure vast of silver and of gold,
Securely hidden in a secret hold.
More than a single wagon, I might say
Even at seven loadings, could convey.”
Noble, the king, heard all that Reynard said,
And bending forward now his royal head:
“Say, then, where did you get it from?” he cried,
“I mean the treasure.” And the Fox replied,
“It boots me naught to keep my secret now;
I cannot take my wealth to where I go;
All, as your grace commands me, will I tell;
From fear or favor naught will I conceal.
Stol’n was the treasure; I’ll not tell a lie:
Th’ occasion though the theft shall justify.
“There was a plot, a most atrocious thing!
Even to murder you, my lord and king;
And then to seize upon the vacant throne.
Beyond all doubt the deed would have been done,
If but secure that treasure had been left;
Your life, my liege, depended on that theft,
It helped indeed to lay my father low,
Perchance involved his soul in endless woe:
But private interests, however dear,
With public duties must not interfere.”
The queen had heard this lengthy rigmarole
With most extreme bewilderment of soul,
Alternating between alarm and pleasure;
Her husband’s murder, heaps of glitt’ring treasure,
And widow’s weeds, and bridal garments white,
In wild confusion danced before her sight.
“Reynard,” she cried, “your hour is almost come;
Before you lies the road to your long home;
Naught but true penitence can save your soul;
Tell nothing but the truth, and tell the whole.”
Then spake the king, “Be silent, ev’ry one!
Let Reynard from the gallows-tree come down;
And let him—but still bound—approach mine ear;
’Tis fit that this strange hist’ry I should hear.”
With cheerful hopes buoyed up the Fox descends,
While grieved his foes were, and rejoiced his friends;
Approached, as he was bid, the king and queen;
Who longed to know what might this myst’ry mean.
His web of lies he straight prepared to spin;
“If the king’s grace,” he thought, “I could but win,
And, by some cunning trick of policy,
Could ruin those who seek to ruin me,
From peril then should I be wholly freed.
Ah! that would be a master-stroke indeed.
’Tis a bold cast; if I would prosper in ’t,
’Twill need the use of falsehood without stint.”
The queen impatient questioned him again:
“The whole proceeding, Reynard, now explain;
Speak truth, and case your conscience and your soul.”
“Truly,” said Reynard, “will I tell the whole.
Am I not doomed, too justly doomed, to die?
No chance there is to ’scape my destiny.
My soul to burden more at such a time
Were but to add a folly to my crime.
Better to speak the truth at any rate,
Though friends and kinsmen I may implicate.
There is no help for it, I know right well;
Before mine eyes I have the pains of hell.”
And the king’s heart with gloom was overspread;
“And speak’st thou naught but sober truth?” he said.
Reynard replied, with sanctimonious mien,
“A miserable sinner have I been;
And oft have lied to serve mine interest;
But surely now the truth shall aid me best:
Falsely to make a dying declaration
Would be to court eternal condemnation.
Yourself, my liege, have doomed that I must die;
With my last words I dare not breathe a lie.”
While thus did Reynard, vile dissembler, speak,
Remorse and terror seemed to blanch his cheek.
And the queen said, “His anguish moves my ruth:
Encourage him, dear lord, to speak the truth;
And hear his story calmly to the end:
Our safety may upon his tale depend.
Give your commands that no one silence break,
And let him publicly his statement make.”
At the king’s bidding not a sound was heard;
And Reynard spake, “Please you, my gracious lord,
Receive with favor what I have to say;
Though note nor minute have I here to-day,
The whole conspiracy will I lay bare,
And no one, be he friend or foe, will spare.”