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Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

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SALADIN.

And now
I'm at your service.

NATHAN.

Sultan -

SALADIN.

For my treasures
Are all arrived. The caravan is safe.
I'm richer than I've been these many years.
Now tell me what you wish for, to achieve
Some splendid speculation--you in trade
Like us, have never too much ready cash.

NATHAN (going towards Recha).

Why first about this trifle?--I behold
An eye in tears, which 'tis far more important
To me to dry. My Recha thou hast wept,
What hast thou lost? Thou art still, I trust, my daughter.

RECHA.

My father!

NATHAN.

That's enough, we are understood
By one another; but be calm, be cheerful.
If else thy heart be yet thy own--if else
No threatened loss thy trembling bosom wring
Thy father shall remain to thee.

RECHA.

None, none.

TEMPLAR.

None, none--then I'm deceived. What we don't fear
To lose, we never fancied, never wished
Ourselves possessed of. But 'tis well, 'tis well.
Nathan, this changes all--all. Saladin,
At thy command we came, but I misled thee,
Trouble thyself no further.

SALADIN.

Always headlong;
Young man, must every will then bow to thine,
Interpret all thy meanings?

TEMPLAR.

Thou hast heard,
Sultan, hast seen.

SALADIN.

Aye, 'twas a little awkward
Not to be certain of thy cause.

TEMPLAR.

I now
Do know my doom,

SALADIN.

Pride in an act of service
Revokes the benefit. What thou hast saved
Is therefore not thy own, or else the robber,
Urged by his avarice thro' fire-crumbling halls,
Were like thyself a hero. Come, sweet maid,

[Advances toward Recha in order to lead her up to the Templar.

Come, stickle not for niceties with him.
Other--he were less warm and proud, and had
Paused, and not saved thee. Balance then the one
Against the other, and put him to the blush,
Do what he should have done--own thou thy love -
Make him thy offer, and if he refuse,
Or o'er forgot how infinitely more
By this thou do for him than he for thee -
What, what in fact has he then done for thee
But make himself a little sooty? That
(Else he has nothing of my Assad in him,
But only wears his mask) that was mere sport,
Come, lovely girl.

SITTAH.

Go, go, my love, this step
Is for thy gratitude too short, too trifling.

[They are each taking one of Recha's hands when Nathan with a solemn
gesture of prohibition says,

NATHAN.

Hold, Saladin--hold, Sittah.

SALADIN.

Ha! thou too?

NATHAN.

One other has to speak.

SALADIN.

Who denies that?
Unquestionably, Nathan, there belongs
A vote to such a foster-father--and
The first, if you require it. You perceive
I know how all the matter lies.

NATHAN.

Not all--
I speak not of myself. There is another,
A very different man, whom, Saladin,
I must first talk with.

SALADIN.

Who?

NATHAN.

Her brother.

SALADIN.

Recha's?

NATHAN.

Yes, her's.

RECHA.

My brother--have I then a brother?

[The templar starts from his silent and sullen inattention.

TEMPLAR.

Where is this brother? Not yet here? 'Twas here
I was to find him.

NATHAN.

Patience yet a while.

TEMPLAR (very bitterly).

He has imposed a father on the girl,
He'll find her up a brother.

SALADIN.

That was wanting!
Christian, this mean suspicion ne'er had past
The lips of Assad. Go but on -

NATHAN.

Forgive him,
I can forgive him readily. Who knows
What in his place, and at his time of life,
We might have thought ourselves? Suspicion, knight,

[Approaching the templar in a friendly manner.

Succeeds soon to mistrust. Had you at first
Favoured me with your real name.

TEMPLAR.

How? what?

NATHAN.

You are no Stauffen.

TEMPLAR.

Who then am I? Speak.

NATHAN.

Conrade of Stauffen is no name of yours.

TEMPLAR.

What is my name then?

NATHAN.

Guy of Filnek.

TEMPLAR.

How?

NATHAN.

You startle -

TEMPLAR.

And with reason. Who says that?

NATHAN.

I, who can tell you more. Meanwhile, observe
I do not tax you with a falsehood.

TEMPLAR.

No?

NATHAN.

May be you with propriety can wear
Yon name as well.

TEMPLAR.

I think so too. (God--God
Put that speech on his tongue.)

NATHAN.

In fact your mother -
She was a Stauffen: and her brother's name,
(The uncle to whose care you were resigned,
When by the rigour of the climate chased,
Your parents quitted Germany to seek
This land once more) was Conrade. He perhaps
Adopted you as his own son and heir.
Is it long since you hither travelled with him?
Is he alive yet?

TEMPLAR.

So in fact it stands.
What shall I say? Yes, Nathan, 'tis all right:
Tho' he himself is dead. I came to Syria
With the last reinforcement of our order,
But--but what has all this long tale to do
With Recha's brother, whom -

NATHAN.

Your father -

TEMPLAR.

Him,
Him did you know?

NATHAN.

He was my friend.

TEMPLAR.

Your friend?
And is that possible?

NATHAN.

He called himself
Leonard of Filnek, but he was no German.

TEMPLAR.

You know that too?

NATHAN.

He had espoused a German,
And followed for a time your mother thither.

TEMPLAR.

No more I beg of you--But Recha's brother -

NATHAN.

Art thou

TEMPLAR.

I, I her brother -

RECHA.

He, my brother?

SITTAH.

So near akin -

RECHA (offers to clasp him).

My brother!

TEMPLAR (steps back).

Brother to her -

RECHA (turning to Nathan).

It cannot be, his heart knows nothing of it.
We are deceivers, God.

SALADIN (to the templar).

Deceivers, yes;
All is deceit in thee, face, voice, walk, gesture,
Nothing belongs to thee. How, not acknowledge
A sister such as she? Go.

TEMPLAR (modestly approaching him).

Sultan, Sultan
O do not misinterpret my amazement -
Thou never saw'st in such a moment, prince,
Thy Assad's heart--mistake not him and me.

[Hastening towards Nathan.

O Nathan, you have taken, you have given,
Both with full hands indeed; and now--yes--yes,
You give me more than you have taken from me,
Yes, infinitely more--my sister--sister.

[Embraces Recha.

NATHAN.

Blanda of Filnek.

TEMPLAR.

Blanda, ha! not Recha,
Your Recha now no longer--you resign her,
Give her her Christian name again, and then
For my sake turn her off. Why Nathan, Nathan,
Why must she suffer for it? she for me?

NATHAN.

What mean you? O my children, both my children -
For sure my daughter's brother is my child,
So soon as he but will it!

[While they embrace Nathan by turns, Saladin draws nigh to Sittah.

SALADIN.

What sayst thou
Sittah to this?

SITTAH.

I'm deeply moved.

SALADIN.

And I
Half tremble at the thought of the emotion
Still greater, still to come. Nathan, a word

[While he converses with Nathan, Sittah goes to express her sympathy
to the others.

With thee apart. Wast thou not saying also
That her own father was no German born?
What was he then? Whence was he?

NATHAN.

He himself
Never intrusted me with that. From him
I knew it not.

SALADIN.

You say he was no Frank?

NATHAN.

No, that he owned: he loved to talk the Persian.

SALADIN.

The Persian--need I more? 'Tis he--'twas he!

NATHAN.

Who?

SALADIN.

Assad certainly, my brother Assad.

NATHAN.

If thou thyself perceive it, be assured;
Look in this book--[Gives the breviary.

SALADIN (eagerly looking.)

O 'tis his hand, his hand,
I recollect it well.

NATHAN.

They know it not;
It rests with thee what they shall learn of this.

SALADIN (turning over the breviary.)

I not acknowledge my own brother's children,
Not own my nephew--not my children--I
Leave them to thee? Yes, Sittah, it is they, [Aloud.
They are my brother's and thy brother's children. [Rushes to
embrace them.

SITTAH.

What do I hear? Could it be otherwise? [The like.

SALADIN (to the templar).

Now, proud boy, thou shalt love me, thou must love me,

[To Recha.

And I am, what I offered to become,
With or without thy leave.

SITTAH.

I too--I too.

SALADIN (to the templar.)

My son--my Assad--my lost Assad's son.

TEMPLAR.

I of thy blood--then those were more than dreams
With which they used to lull my infancy -
Much more.

[Falls at the Sultan's feet.

SALADIN (raising him.)

Now mark his malice. Something of it
He knew, yet would have let me butcher him -
Boy, boy!

[During the silent continuance of reciprocal embraces the curtain falls.]

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