Part 10 out of 13
A miracle in thy behalf! I scarce
Can credit my own eyes. But tell me, now,
Whither you propose to betake yourself?
For you will be in peril, should perchance
The Viceroy 'scape this tempest with his life.
I heard him say, as I lay bound on board,
At Brunnen he proposed to disembark,
And, crossing Schwytz, convey me to his castle.
Means he to go by land?
So he intends.
Oh, then conceal yourself without delay!
Not twice will Heaven release you from his grasp.
Which is the nearest way to Arth and Kuessnacht?
The public road leads by the way of Steinen,
But there's a nearer road, and more retired,
That goes by Lowerz, which my boy can show you.
TELL (_gives his hand_).
May Heaven reward your kindness! Fare ye well.
[_As he is going, he comes back_.]
Did not you also take the oath at Rootli?
I heard your name, methinks.
Yes, I was there,
And took the oath of the confederacy.
Then do me this one favor: speed to Buerglen--
My wife is anxious at my absence--tell her
That I am, free, and in secure concealment.
But whither shall I tell her you have fled?
You'll find her father with her, and some more,
Who took the oath with you upon the Rootli;
Bid them resolute and strong of heart--
For Tell is free and master of his arm;
They shall hear further news of me ere long.
What have you, then, in view? Come, tell me frankly!
When once 'tis _done_, 'twill be in every mouth.
Show him the way, boy. Heaven be his support!
Whate'er he has resolved, he'll execute.
_Baronial mansion of Attinghausen. The_ BARON _upon a couch
dying_. WALTER FUeRST, STAUFFACHER, MELCHTHAL, _and_
BAUMGARTEN _attending round him_, WALTER TELL _kneeling
before the dying man_.
All now is over with him. He is gone.
He lies not like one dead. The feather, see,
Moves on his lips! His sleep is very calm,
And on his features plays a placid smile.
[BAUMGARTEN _goes to the door and speaks with some one_.]
Tell's wife, your daughter, she insists
That she must speak with you, and see her boy.
[WALTER TELL _rises_.]
I who need comfort--can I comfort her?
Does every sorrow centre on my head?
HEDWIG (_forcing her way in_).
Where is my child? unhand me! I must see him.
Be calm! Reflect, you're in the house of death!
HEDWIG (_falling upon her boy's neck_).
My Walter! Oh, he yet is mine!
And, is it surely so? Art thou unhurt?
[_Gazing at him with anxious tenderness_.]
And is it possible he aim'd at thee?
How could he do it? Oh, he has no heart--
And he could wing an arrow at his child!
His soul was rack'd with anguish when he did it.
No choice was left him but to shoot or die!
Oh, if he had a father's heart, he would
Have sooner perish'd by a thousand deaths!
You should be grateful for God's gracious care,
That ordered things so well.
Can I forget
What might have been the issue. God in Heaven,
Were I to live for centuries, I still
Should see my boy tied up--his father's mark--
And still the shaft would quiver in my heart.
You know not how the Viceroy taunted him!
Oh, ruthless heart of man! Offend his pride,
And reason in his breast forsakes her seat;
In his blind wrath he'll stake upon a cast
A child's existence, and a mother's heart!
Is then your husband's fate not hard enough,
That you embitter it by such reproaches?
Have you no feeling for his sufferings?
HEDWIG (_turning to him and gazing full upon him_).
Hast thou tears only for thy friend's distress?
Say, where were you when he--my noble Tell--
Was bound in chains? Where was your friendship then?
The shameful wrong was done before your eyes;
Patient you stood, and let your friend be dragg'd,
Ay, from your very hands. Did ever Tell
Act thus to you? Did he stand whining by,
When on your heels the Viceroy's horsemen press'd,
And full before you roared the storm-toss'd lake?
Oh not with idle tears his pity show'd!
Into the boat he sprang, forgot his home,
His wife, his children, and delivered thee!
It had been madness to attempt his rescue,
Unarmed, and few in numbers as we were.
HEDWIG (_casting herself upon his bosom_).
Oh, father, and thou, too, hast lost my Tell!
The country--all have lost him! All lament
His loss; and, oh, how he must pine for us!
Heaven keep his soul from sinking to despair!
No friend's consoling voice can penetrate
His dreary dungeon walls. Should he fall sick!
Ah! In the vapors of the murky vault
He must fall sick. Even as the Alpine rose
Grows pale and withers in the swampy air,
There is no life for him but in the sun
And in the breath of Heaven's fresh-blowing airs.
Imprison'd! Liberty to him is breath;
He cannot live in the rank dungeon air!
Pray you be calm! And hand in hand we'll all
Combine to burst his prison doors.
What have you power to do? While Tell was free,
There still, indeed, was hope--weak innocence
Had still a friend, and the oppress'd a stay.
Tell saved you all! You cannot all combined
Release him from his cruel prison bonds.
[_The_ BARON _wakes_.]
Hush, hush! He starts!
ATTINGHAUSEN (_sitting up_).
Where is he?
He leaves me--
In my last moments he abandons me.
He means his nephew. Have they sent for him?
He has been summoned. Cheer'ly, sir! Take comfort!
He has found his heart at last, and is our own.
Say, has he spoken for his native land?
Ay, like a hero!
Wherefore comes he not,
That he may take my blessing ere I die?
I feel my life fast ebbing to a close.
Nay, talk not thus, dear sir! This last short sleep
Has much refresh'd you, and your eye is bright.
Life is but pain, and that has left me now;
My sufferings, like my hopes, have pass'd away.
[_Observing the boy_.]
What boy is that?
Bless him. Oh, good my lord!
He is my grandson, and is fatherless.
[HEDWIG _kneels with the boy before the dying man_.]
And fatherless--I leave you all, ay, all!
Oh, wretched fate, that these old eyes should see
My country's ruin, as they close in death!
Must I attain the utmost verge of life,
To feel my hopes go with me to the grave?
STAUFFACHER (_to_ FUeRST).
Shall he depart 'mid grief and gloom like this?
Shall not his parting moments be illumed
By hope's inspiring beams? My noble lord,
Raise up your drooping spirit! We are not
Forsaken quite--past all deliverance.
Who shall deliver you?
Ourselves. For know,
The Cantons three are to each other pledged,
To hunt the tyrants from the land. The league
Has been concluded, and a sacred oath
Confirms our union. Ere another year
Begins its circling course--the blow shall fall.
In a free land your ashes shall repose.
The league concluded! Is it really so?
On one day shall the Cantons rise together.
All is prepared to strike--and to this hour
The secret closely kept, though hundreds share it;
The ground is hollow 'neath the tyrants' feet;
Their days of rule are number'd, and ere long
No trace will of their hateful sway be left.
Ay, but their castles, how to master them?
On the same day they, too, are doom'd to fall.
And are the nobles parties to this league?
We trust to their assistance, should we need it;
As yet the peasantry alone have sworn.
ATTING. (_raising himself up in great astonishment_).
And have the peasantry dared such a deed
On their own charge, without the nobles' aid--
Relied so much on their own proper strength?
Nay then, indeed, they want our help no more;
We may go down to death cheer'd by the thought
That after us the majesty of man
Will live, and be maintain'd by other hands.
[_He lays his hand upon the head of the child who is
kneeling before him_.]
From this boy's head, whereon the apple lay,
Your new and better liberty shall spring;
The old is crumbling down--the times are changing--
And from the ruins blooms a fairer life.
STAUFFACHER (_to_ FUeRST).
See, see, what splendor streams around his eye!
This is not Nature's last expiring flame,
It is the beam of renovated life.
From their old towers the nobles are descending,
And swearing in the towns the civic oath.
In Uechtland and Thurgau the work's begun;
The noble Berne lifts her commanding head,
And Freyburg is a stronghold of the free;
The stirring Zurich calls her guilds to arms;--
And now, behold!--the ancient might of kings
Is shiver'd 'gainst her everlasting walls.
[_He speaks what follows with a prophetic tone; his
utterance rising into enthusiasm_.]
I see the princes and their haughty peers,
Clad all in steel, come striding on to crush
A harmless shepherd race with mailed hand.
Desp'rate the conflict: 'tis for life or death;
And many a pass will tell to after years
Of glorious victories sealed in foemen's blood.
The peasant throws himself with naked breast,
A willing victim on their serried spears;
They yield--the flower of chivalry's cut down,
And Freedom waves her conquering banner high.
[_Grasps the hands of_ WALTER FUeRST _and_ STAUFFACHER.]
Hold fast together, then--forever fast!
Let freedom's haunts be one in heart and mind!
Set watches on your mountain tops, that league
May answer league, when comes the hour to strike.
Be one--be one--be one--
[_He falls back upon the cushion. His lifeless hands
continue to grasp those of_ FUeRST _and_ STAUFFACHER, _who
regard him for some moments in silence, and then retire,
overcome with sorrow. Meanwhile the servants have quietly
pressed into the chamber, testifying different degrees of
grief. Some kneel down beside him and weep on his body:
while this scene is passing, the castle bell tolls_.]
RUDENZ (_entering hurriedly_).
Lives he? Oh say, can he still hear my voice?
[Illustration: DEATH OF ATTINGHAUSEN _From the Painting by
Wilhelm von Kaulbach_]
FUeRST (_averting his face_).
You are our seignior and protector now;
Henceforth this castle bears another name.
RUDENZ (_gazing at the body with deep emotion_).
Oh, God! Is my repentance, then, too late?
Could he not live some few brief moments more,
To see the change that has come o'er my heart?
Oh, I was deaf to his true counselling voice,
While yet he walked on earth. Now he is gone--
Gone, and for ever--leaving me the debt--
The heavy debt I owe him--undischarged!
Oh, tell me! did he part in anger with me?
When dying, he was told what you had done,
And bless'd the valor that inspired your words!
RUDENZ (_kneeling down beside the dead body_).
Yes, sacred relics of a man beloved!
Thou lifeless corpse! Here, on thy death-cold hand,
Do I abjure all foreign ties for ever!
And to my country's cause devote myself.
I am a Switzer, and will act as one,
With my whole heart and soul.
Mourn for our friend,
Our common parent, yet be not dismay'd!
'Tis not alone his lands that I inherit--
His heart--his spirit, have devolved on me;
And my young arm shall execute the task,
Which in his hoary age he could not pay.
Give me your hands, ye venerable sires!
Thine, Melchthal, too! Nay, do not hesitate,
Nor from me turn distrustfully away.
Accept my plighted vow--my knightly oath!
Give him your hands, my friends! A heart like his,
That sees and owns its error, claims our trust.
You ever held the peasantry in scorn;
What surety have we, that you mean us fair?
Oh, think not of the error of my youth!
STAUFFACHER (_to_ MELCHTHAL).
Be one! They were our father's latest words.
See they be not forgotten!
Take my hand--
peasant's hand--and with it, noble sir,
The gage and the assurance of a man!
Without us, sir, what would the nobles be?
Our order is more ancient, too, than yours!
I honor it--will shield it with my sword!
The arm, my lord, that tames the stubborn earth,
And makes its bosom blossom with increase,
Can also shield its owner's breast at need.
Then you shall shield my breast, and I will yours,
Thus each be strengthen'd by the other's strength.
Yet wherefore talk we, while our native land
Is still to alien tyranny a prey?
First let us sweep the foemen from the soil,
Then reconcile our difference in peace!
[_After a moment's pause_.]
How! You are silent! Not a word for me?
And have I yet no title to your trust?--
Then must I force my way, despite your will,
Into the League you secretly have form'd.
You've held a Diet on the Rootli--I
Know this--know all that was transacted there;
And though not trusted with your secret, I
Have kept it closely like a sacred pledge.
Trust me--I never was my country's foe,
Nor would I ever have against you stood!
Yet you did wrong--to put your rising off.
Time presses! We must strike, and swiftly too!
Already Tell is lost through your delay.
We swore that we should wait till Christmastide.
I was not there--I did not take the oath.
If you delay, I will not!
What! You would--
I count me now among the country's chiefs,
And my first duty is to guard your rights.
Your nearest and your holiest duty is
Within the earth to lay these dear remains.
When we have set the country free, we'll place
Our fresh victorious wreaths upon his bier.
Oh, my dear friends, 'tis not your cause alone!--
with the tyrants have a cause to fight,
That more concerns myself. My Bertha's gone,
Has disappear'd--been carried off by stealth--
Stolen from amongst us by their ruffian hands!
So fell an outrage has the tyrant dared
Against a lady free and nobly born?
Alas! my friends, I promised help to you,
And I must first implore it for myself!
She that I love, is stolen--is forced away,
And who knows where she's by the tyrant hid,
Or with what outrages his ruffian crew
May force her into nuptials she detests?
Forsake me not!--Oh, help me to her rescue!
She loves you! Well, oh well, has she deserved,
That all should rush to arms in her behalf!
What course do you propose?
Alas! I know not.
In the dark mystery that shrouds her fate--
In the dread agony of this suspense,
Where I can grasp at naught of certainty--
One single ray of comfort beams upon me.
From out the ruins of the tyrant's power
Alone can she be rescued from the grave.
Their strongholds must be levell'd, every one,
Ere we can penetrate her dungeon walls.
Come, lead us on! We follow! Why defer
Until tomorrow what today may do?
Tell's arm was free when we at Rootli swore.
This foul enormity was yet undone.
And change of circumstance brings change of vow;
Who such a coward as to waver still?
RUDENZ (_to_ WALTER FUeRST).
Meanwhile to arms, and wait in readiness
The fiery signal on the mountain tops!
For swifter than a boat can scour the lake
Shall you have tidings of our victory;
And when you see the welcome flames ascend,
Then, like the lightning, swoop upon the foe,
And lay the despots and their creatures low!
_The pass near Kuessnacht, sloping down from behind, with
rocks on either side. The travelers are visible upon the
heights, before they appear on the stage. Rocks all around
the stage. Upon one of the foremost a projecting cliff
overgrown with brushwood._
TELL (_enters with his cross-bow_).
Through this ravine he needs must come. There is
No other way to Kuessnacht. Here I'll do it!
The ground is everything I could desire.
Yon elder bush will hide me from his view,
And from that point my shaft is sure to hit.
The straitness of the gorge forbids pursuit.
Now, Gessler, balance thine account with Heaven!
Thou must away from earth--thy sand is run.
Quiet and harmless was the life I led,
My bow was bent on forest game alone;
No thoughts of murder rested on my soul.
But thou hast scared me from my dream of peace;
The milk of human kindness thou hast turn'd
To rankling poison in my breast, and made
Appalling deeds familiar to my soul.
He who could make his own child's head his mark,
Can speed his arrow to his foeman's heart.
My boys, poor innocents, my loyal wife,
Must be protected, tyrant, from thy rage!
When last I drew my bow--with trembling hand--
And thou, with fiendishly remorseless glee
Forced me to level at my own boy's head,
When I, imploring pity, writhed before thee,
Then in the anguish of my soul, I vow'd
A fearful oath, which met God's ear alone,
That when my bow next wing'd an arrow's flight,
Its aim should be thy heart. The vow I made,
Amid the hellish torments of that moment,
I hold a sacred debt, and I will pay it.
Thou art my lord, my Emperor's delegate;
Yet would the Emperor not have stretch'd his power
So far as thou halt done. He sent thee here
To deal forth law--stern law--for he is wroth,
But not to wanton with unbridled will
In every cruelty, with fiend-like joy:--
There lives a God to punish and avenge.
Come forth, thou bringer once of bitter pangs,
My precious jewel now--my chiefest treasure--
A mark I'll set thee, which the cry of grief
Could never penetrate--but thou shalt pierce it--
And thou, my trusty bow-string, that so oft
For sport has served me faithfully and well,
Desert me not in this dread hour of need--
Only be true this once, my own good cord,
That hast so often wing'd the biting shaft:--
For shouldst thou fly successless from my hand,
I have no second to send after thee.
[_Travelers pass over the stage_.]
I'll sit me down upon this bench of stone,
Hewn for the way-worn traveler's brief repose--
For here there is no home. Men hurry past
Each other, with quick step and careless look,
Nor stay to question of their grief. Here goes
The merchant, all anxiety--the pilgrim,
With scantly furnished scrip--the pious monk,
The scowling robber, and the jovial player,
The carrier with his heavy-laden horse
That comes to us from the far haunts of men;
For every road conducts to the world's end.
They all push onward--every man intent
On his own several business--mine is murder.
Time was, my dearest children, when with joy
You hail'd your father's safe return to home
From his long mountain toils; for, when he came,
He ever brought with him some little gift--
A lovely Alpine flower--a curious bird--
Or elf-bolt, such as on the hills are found.
But now he goes in quest of other game,
Sits in this gorge, with murder in his thoughts,
And for his enemy's life-blood lies in wait.
But still it is of you alone he thinks,
Dear children. 'Tis to guard your innocence,
To shield you from the tyrant's fell revenge,
He bends his bow to do a deed of blood!
Well--I am watching for a noble prey!
Does not the huntsman, with unflinching heart,
Roam for whole days, when winter frosts are keen,
Leap at the risk of death from rock to rock--
And climb the jagged, slippery steeps, to which
His limbs are glued by his own streaming blood--
And all to hunt a wretched chamois down?
A far more precious prize is now my aim--
The heart of that dire foe, who seeks my life.
[_Sprightly music heard in the distance, which comes
From my first years of boyhood I have used
The bow--been practised in the archer's feats;
The bull's eye many a time my shafts have hit,
And many a goodly prize have I brought home
From competitions. But this day I'll make
My master-shot, and win what's best to win
In the whole circuit of our mountain range.
[_A bridal party passes over the stage, and goes up the
pass_. TELL _gazes at it, leaning on his bow. He is joined
by_ STUSSI _the Ranger_.]
There goes the cloister bailiff's bridal train
Of Moerlischachen. A rich fellow he!
And has some half score pastures on the Alps.
He goes to fetch his bride from Imisee.
At Kuessnacht there will be high feast tonight.
Come with us--ev'ry honest man is asked.
A gloomy guest fits not a wedding feast.
If you've a trouble, dash it from your heart!
Take what Heaven sends! The times are heavy now,
And we must snatch at pleasure as it flies.
Here 'tis a bridal, there a burial.
And oft the one close on the other treads.
So runs the world we live in. Everywhere
Mischance befalls and misery enough.
In Glarus there has been a landslip, and
A whole side of the Glaernisch has fallen in.
How! Do the very hills begin to quake?
There is stability for naught on earth.
Of strange things, too, we hear from other parts.
I spoke with one but now, from Baden come,
Who said a knight was on his way to court,
And, as he rode along, a swarm of wasps
Surrounded him, and settling on his horse,
So fiercely stung the beast, that it fell dead,
And he proceeded to the court on foot.
The weak are also furnish'd with a sting.
ARMGART (_enters with several children, and places herself
at the entrance of the pass_).
'Tis thought to bode disaster to the land--
Some horrid deeds against the course of nature.
Why, every day brings forth such fearful deeds;
There needs no prodigy to herald them.
Ay, happy he, who tills his field in peace,
And sits at home untroubled with his kin.
The very meekest cannot be at peace
If his ill neighbor will not let him rest.
[TELL _looks frequently with restless expectation toward the
top of the pass_.]
So fare you well! You're waiting someone here?
God speed you safely to your home!
You are from Uri, are you not? His grace
The governor's expected thence today.
Look not to see the governor today.
The streams are flooded by the heavy rains,
And all the bridges have been swept away.
ARMGART (_coming forward_).
Gessler not coming?
Want you aught with him?
Alas, I do!
Why then, thus place yourself
Where you obstruct his passage down the pass?
Here he cannot escape me. He _must_ hear me.
FRIESSHARDT (_coming hastily down the pass and calls upon
Make way, make way! My lord, the governor,
Is close behind me, riding down the pass.
The Viceroy comes!
[_She goes toward the pass with her children_. GESSLER _and_
RUDOLPH DER HARRAS _appear on horseback at the upper end of
STUSSI (_to_ FRIESSHARDT).
How got ye through the stream,
When all the bridges have been carried down?
We've fought, friend, with the tempest on the lake;
An Alpine torrent's nothing after that.
How! Were you out, then, in that dreadful storm?
We were! I'll not forget it while I live.
I can't--must to the castle haste,
And tell them, that the governor's at hand.
If honest men, now, had been in the ship,
It had gone down with every soul on board:--
Some folks are proof 'gainst fire and water both.
Where has the huntsman gone with whom I spoke?
_Enter_ GESSLER _and_ RUDOLPH DER HARRAS _on horseback_
Say what you will; I am the Emperor's liege,
And how to please him my first thought must be.
He did not send me here to fawn and cringe,
And coax these boors into good humor. No!
Obedience he must have. The struggle's this:
Is king or peasant to be sovereign here?
Now is the moment! Now for my petition!
'Twas not in sport that I set up the cap
In Altdorf--or to try the people's hearts--
All this I knew before. I set it up
That they might learn to bend those stubborn necks
They carry far too proudly--and I placed
What well I knew their pride could never brook
Full in the road, which they perforce must pass,
That, when their eye fell on it, they might call
That lord to mind whom they too much forget.
But surely, sir, the people have some rights--
This is no time to settle what they are.
Great projects are at work, and hatching now.
The Imperial house seeks to extend its power.
Those vast designs of conquest which the sire
Has gloriously begun, the son will end.
This petty nation is a stumbling-block--
One way or other, it must be put down.
[_They are about to pass on_. ARMGART _throws herself down
Mercy, lord governor! Oh, pardon, pardon!
Why do you cross me on the public road?
Stand back, I say.
My husband lies in prison;
My wretched orphans cry for bread. Have pity,
Pity, my lord, upon our sore distress!
Who are you? and your husband, what is he?
A poor wild hay-man of the Rigiberg,
Kind sir, who on the brow of the abyss,
Mows the unowner'd grass from craggy shelves,
To which the very cattle dare not climb.
HARRAS (_to_ GESSLER).
By Heaven! a sad and pitiable life!
I pray you set the wretched fellow free.
How great soever may be his offence,
His horrid trade is punishment enough.
You shall have justice. To the castle bring
Your suit. This is no place to deal with it.
No, no, I will not stir from where I stand,
Until your grace gives me my husband back.
Six months already has he been shut up,
And waits the sentence of a judge in vain.
How! would you force me, woman? Hence! Begone!
Justice, my lord! Ay, justice! Thou are judge,
Vice-regent of the Emperor--of Heaven.
Then do thy duty--as thou hopest for justice
From Him who rules above, show it to us!
Hence! Drive this insolent rabble from my sight!
ARMGART (_seizing his horse's reins_).
No, no, by Heaven, I've nothing more to lose.--
Thou stir'st not, Viceroy, from this spot, until
Thou dost me fullest justice. Knit thy brows,
And roll thine eyes--I fear not. Our distress
Is so extreme, so boundless, that we care
No longer for thine anger.
Give way, or else my horse shall ride you down.
Well, let it!--there--
[_Throws her children and herself upon the ground before him_.]
Here on the ground I lie,
I and my children. Let the wretched orphans
Be trodden by thy horse into the dust!
It will not be the worst that thou hast done.
Are you mad, woman?
ARMGART (_continuing with vehemence_).
Many a day thou hast
Trampled the Emperor's lands beneath thy feet.
Oh, I am but a woman! Were I man,
I'd find some better thing to do, than here
Lie grovelling in the dust.
[_The music of the bridal party is again heard
from the top of the pass, but more softly_.]
Where are my knaves?
Drag her away, lest I forget myself,
And do some deed I may repent me of.
My lord, the servants cannot force their way;
The pass is block'd up by a bridal train.
Too mild a ruler am I to this people,
Their tongues are all too bold--nor have they yet
Been tamed to due submission, as they shall be.
I must take order for the remedy;
I will subdue this stubborn mood of theirs,
This braggart spirit of freedom I will crush,
I will proclaim a new law through the land;
[_An arrow pierces him--he puts his hand on his heart, and
is about to sink--with a feeble voice_.]
Oh God, have mercy on my soul!
My lord! my lord! Oh God! What's this? Whence came it?
ARMGART (_starts up_).
Dead, dead! He reels, he falls! 'Tis in his heart!
HARRAS (_springs from his horse_).
Horror of horrors! Heavenly powers! Sir knight,
Address yourself for mercy to your God!
You are a dying man.
That shot was Tell's.
[_He slides from his horse into the arms of_ RUDOLPH DER
HARRAS, _who lays him down upon the beach_. TELL _appears
above upon the rocks_.]
Thou know'st the marksman--I, and I alone.
Now are our homesteads free, and innocence
From thee is safe: thou'lt be our curse no more.
[TELL _disappears. People rush in_.]
What is the matter? Tell me what has happen'd?
The Viceroy's shot--pierced by a cross-bow bolt!
PEOPLE (_running in_).
Who has been shot?
[_While the foremost of the marriage party are coming on the
stage, the hindmost are still upon the heights. The music
He's bleeding fast to death.
Away, for help--pursue the murderer!
Unhappy man, is this to be your end?
You would not listen to my warning words.
By Heaven, his cheek is pale! Life's ebbing fast.
Who did the deed?
What! Are the people mad,
That they make music to a murder? Silence!
[_Music breaks off suddenly. People continue to flock in_.]
Speak, if you can, my lord. Have you no charge
To trust me with?
[GESSLER _makes signs with his hand, which he repeats with
vehemence, when he finds they are not understood_.]
Where shall I take you to?
To Kuessnacht? What you say I can't make out.
Oh, do not grow impatient! Leave all thought
Of earthly things and make your peace with Heaven.
[_The whole marriage party gather round the dying man_.]
See there! how pale he grows! Death's gathering now
About his heart--his eyes grow dim and glazed.
ARMGART (_holds up a child_).
Look, children, how a tyrant dies!
Have you no touch of feeling, that your eyes
Gloat on a sight so horrible as this?
Help me--take hold. What, will not one assist
To pull the torturing arrow from his breast?
What! touch the man whom God's own hand has struck!
All curses light on you! [_Draws his sword_.]
STUSSI (_seizes his arm_).
Gently, sir knight!
Your power is at end. 'Twere best forbear.
Our country's foe has fallen. We will brook
No further violence. We are free men.
The country's free.
And is it come to this?
Fear and obedience at an end so soon?
[_To the soldiers of the guard who are thronging in_.]
You see, my friends, the bloody piece of work
Has here been done. 'Tis now too late for help,
And to pursue the murderer were vain.
We've other things to think of. On to Kuessnacht,
And let us save that fortress for the king!
For in a moment such as this, all ties
Of order, fealty and faith are rent,
And we can trust to no man's loyalty.
[_As he is going out with the soldiers, six_ FRATRES
Here comes the brotherhood of mercy. Room!
The victim's slain, and now the ravens stoop.
BROTHERS OF MERCY (_form a semicircle round the body, and
sing in solemn tones)._
Death hurries on with hasty stride,
No respite man from him may gain,
He cuts him down, when life's full tide
Is throbbing strong in every vein.
Prepared or not the call to hear,
He must before his Judge appear.
[_While they are repeating the two last lines, the curtain
_A common near Altdorf. In the background to the right the
Keep of Uri, with the scaffold still standing, as in the
Third Scene of the first Act. To the left, the view opens
upon numerous mountains, on all of which signal fires are
burning. Day is breaking, and distant bells are heard
ringing in several directions._
RUODI, KUONI, WERNI, MASTER MASON, _and many other country
people, also women and children_.
See there! The beacons on the mountain heights!
Hark how the bells above the forest toll!
The enemy's routed.
And the forts are storm'd.
And we of Uri, do we still endure
Upon our native soil the tyrant's keep?
Are we the last to strike for liberty?
Shall the yoke stand, that was to curb our necks?
Up! Tear it to the ground!
Down, down with it!
Where is the Stier of Uri?
Here. What would ye?
Up to your tower, and wind us such a blast
As shall resound afar, from peak to peak;
Rousing the echoes of each glen and hill,
To rally swiftly all the mountain men!
[_Exit_ STIER OF URI--_Enter_ WALTER FUeRST.]
Stay, stay, my friends! As yet we have not learn'd
What has been done in Unterwald and Schwytz.
Let's wait till we receive intelligence!
Wait, wait for what? The accursed tyrant's dead.
And on us freedom's glorious day has dawn'd!
How! Are these flaming signals not enough,
That blaze on every mountain top around?
Come all, fall to--come, men and women, all!
Destroy the scaffold! Burst the arches! Down,
Down with the walls, let not a stone remain!
Come, comrades, come! We built it, and we know
How best to hurl it down.
Come! Down with it!
[_They fall upon the building on every side_.]
The floodgate's burst. They're not to be restrained.
[_Enter_ MELCHTHAL _and_ BAUMGARTEN.]
What! Stands the fortress still, when Sarnen lies
In ashes, and the Rossberg's in our hands?
You, Melchthal, here? D'ye bring us liberty?
Are all the Cantons from our tyrants freed?
We've swept them from the soil. Rejoice, my friend,
Now, at this very moment, while we speak,
There's not one tyrant left in Switzerland!
How did you get the forts into your power?
Rudenz it was who by a bold assault
With manly valor mastered Sarnen's keep.
The Rossberg I had storm'd the night before.
But hear what chanced! Scarce had we driven the foe
Forth from the keep, and given it to the flames,
That now rose crackling upwards to the skies,
When from the blaze rush'd Diethelm, Gessler's page,
Exclaiming, "Lady Bertha will be burnt!"
[_The beams of the scaffold are heard falling_.]
'Twas she herself. Here had she been
By Gessler's orders secretly immured.
Up sprang Rudenz in frenzy. For even now
The beams and massive posts were crashing down,
And through the stifling smoke the piteous shrieks
Of the unhappy lady.
Is she saved?
'Twas not a time to hesitate or pause!
Had he been but our baron, and no more,
We should have been most chary of our lives;
But he was our confederate, and Bertha
Honor'd the people. So, without a thought,
We risk'd the worst, and rush'd into the flames.
But is she saved?
She is. Rudenz and I
Bore her between us from the blazing pile,
With crashing timbers toppling all around.
And when she had revived, the danger past,
And raised her eyes to look upon the sun,
The baron fell upon my breast; and then
A silent vow between us two was sworn,
A vow that, welded in yon furnace heat,
Will last through ev'ry shock of time and fate.
Where is the Landenberg?
Across the Bruenig.
'Twas not my fault he bore his sight away,
He who had robb'd my father of his eyes!
He fled--I followed--overtook him soon,
And dragg'd him to my father's feet. The sword
Already quiver'd o'er the caitiff's head,
When from the pity of the blind old man,
He wrung the life which, craven-like, he begged.
He swore URPHEDE, never to return
He'll keep his oath, for he has felt our arm.
Oh, well for you, you have not stain'd with blood
Our spotless victory!
CHILDREN (_running across the stage with fragments of_
We're free! we're free!
Oh! what a joyous scene! These children will
Remember it when all their heads are gray.
[_Girls bring in the cap upon a pole. The whole stage is
filled with people_.]
Here is the cap, to which we were to bow!
What shall we do with it? Do you decide!
Heavens! 'Twas beneath this cap my grandson stood!
Destroy the emblem of the tyrant's power!
Let it be burnt!
No. Rather be preserved;
'Twas once the instrument of despots--now
'Twill of our freedom be a lasting sign.
[_Peasants, men, women, and children, some standing, others
sitting upon the beams of the shattered scaffold, all
picturesquely grouped, in a large semicircle_.]
Thus now, my friends, with light and merry hearts,
We stand upon the wreck of tyranny;
And gloriously the work has been fulfilled
Which we at Rootli pledged ourselves to do.
No, not fulfilled. The work is but begun:
Courage and concord firm, we need them both;
For, be assured, the king will make all speed,
To avenge his Viceroy's death, and reinstate,
By force of arms, the tyrant we've expell'd.
Why let him come, with all his armaments!
The foe's expelled that press'd us from within;
The foe without we are prepared to meet?
The passes to our Cantons are but few;
These with our bodies we will block, we will!
Knit are we by a league will ne'er be rent,
And all his armies shall not make us quail.
[_Enter_ ROeSSELMANN _and_ STAUFFACHER.]
ROeSSELMANN (_speaking as he enters_).
These are the awful judgments of the Lord!
What is the matter?
In what times we live!
Say on, what is't? Ha, Werner, is it you?
What's the matter?
Hear and wonder!
We are released from one great cause of dread.
The Emperor is murdered.
[PEASANTS _rise up and throng round_ STAUFFACHER.]
Murder'd!--the Emp'ror? What! The Emp'ror! Hear!
Impossible! How came you by the news?
'Tis true! Near Bruck, by the assassin's hand,
King Albert fell. A most trustworthy man,
John Mueller, from Schaffhausen, brought the news.
Who dared commit so horrible a deed?
The doer makes the deed more dreadful still;
It was his nephew, his own brother's son,
Duke John of Austria, who struck the blow.
What drove him to so dire a parricide?
The Emp'ror kept his patrimony back,
Despite his urgent importunities;
'Twas said, he meant to keep it for himself,
And with a mitre to appease the duke.
However this may be, the duke gave ear
To the ill counsel of his friends in arms;
And with the noble lords, Von Eschenbach,
Von Tegerfeld, Von Wart and Palm, resolved,
Since his demands for justice were despised,
With his own hands to take revenge at least.
But say--the dreadful deed, how was it done?
The king was riding down from Stein to Baden.
Upon his way to join the court at Rheinfeld--
With him a train of high-born gentlemen,
And the young Princes John and Leopold;
And when they'd reach'd the ferry of the Reuss,
The assassins forced their way into the boat,
To separate the Emperor from his suite.
His highness landed, and was riding on
Across a fresh plough'd field--where once, they say,
A mighty city stood in Pagan times--
With Habsburg's ancient turrets full in sight,
That was the cradle of his princely race.
When Duke John plunged a dagger in his throat,
Palm ran him thro' the body with his lance,
And Eschenbach, to end him, clove his skull;
So down he sank, all weltering in his blood,
On his own soil, by his own kinsmen slain.
Those on the opposite bank beheld the deed,
But, parted by the stream, could only raise
An unavailing cry of loud lament.
A poor old woman, sitting by the way,
Raised him, and on her breast he bled to death.
Thus has he dug his own untimely grave,
Who sought insatiably to grasp at all.
The country round is fill'd with dire alarm,
The passes are blockaded everywhere,
And sentinels on ev'ry frontier set;
E'en ancient Zurich barricades her gates,
That have stood open for these thirty years,
Dreading the murd'rers and th' avengers more.
For cruel Agnes comes, the Hungarian queen,
By all her sex's tenderness untouch'd,
Arm'd with the thunders of the ban, to wreak
Dire vengeance for her parent's royal blood
On the whole race of those that murder'd him--
Their servants, children, children's children--yea,
Upon the stones that built their castle walls.
Deep has she sworn a vow to immolate
Whole generations on her father's tomb,
And bathe in blood as in the dew of May.
Is't known which way the murderers have fled?
No sooner had they done the deed, than they
Took flight each following a different route,
And parted ne'er to see each other more.
Duke John must still be wand'ring in the mountains.
And thus their crime has borne no fruit for them.
Revenge bears never fruit. Itself, it is
The dreadful food it feeds on; its delight
Is murder--its satiety despair.
The assassins reap no profit by their crime;
But we shall pluck with unpolluted hands
The teeming fruits of their most bloody deed.
For we are ransomed from our heaviest fear;
The direst foe of liberty has fallen,
And, 'tis reported, that the crown will pass
From Habsburg's house into another line;
The Empire is determined to assert
Its old prerogative of choice, I hear.
FUeRST _and several others_.
Is any named?
The Count of Luxembourg's
Already chosen by the general voice.
'Tis well we stood so staunchly by the Empire!
Now we may hope for justice, and with cause.
The Emperor will need some valiant friends.
He will 'gainst Austria's vengeance be our
[_The peasantry embrace. Enter_ SACRISTAN _with Imperial
Here are the worthy chiefs of Switzerland!
ROeSSELMANN _and several others_.
Sacrist, what news?
A courier brings this letter.
ALL (_to_ WALTER FUeRST).
Open and read it.
"To the worthy men
Of Uri, Schwytz, and Unterwald, the Queen
Elizabeth sends grace and all good wishes!"
What wants the queen with us? Her reign is done.
"In the great grief and doleful widowhood,
In which the bloody exit of her lord
Has plunged the queen, still in her mind she bears
The ancient faith and love of Switzerland."
She ne'er did that in her prosperity.
Hush, let us hear!
"And she is well assured,
Her people will in due abhorrence hold
The perpetrators of this damned deed.
On the three Cantons, therefore, she relies,
That they in nowise lend the murderers aid;
But rather, that they loyally assist,
To give them up to the avenger's hand,
Remembering the love and grace which they
Of old received from Rudolph's royal house."
[_Symptoms of dissatisfaction among the peasantry_.]
The love and grace!
Grace from the father we, indeed, received,
But what have we to boast of from the song
Did he confirm the charter of our freedom,
As all preceding emperors had done?
Did he judge righteous judgment, or afford
Shelter, or stay, to innocence oppress'd?
Nay, did he e'en give audience to the men
We sent to lay our grievances before him?
Not one of all these things did the king do,
And had we not ourselves achieved our rights
By our own stalwart hands, the wrongs we bore
Had never touch'd him. Gratitude to him!
Within these vales he sowed no seeds of that;
He stood upon an eminence--he might
Have been a very father to his people,
But all his aim and pleasure was to raise
Himself and his own house: and now may those
Whom he has aggrandized, lament for him;
We will not triumph in his fall, nor now
Recall to mind the wrongs that we endured.
Far be't from us! Yet, that we should avenge
The sovereign's death, who never did us good,
And hunt down those who ne'er molested us,
Becomes us not, nor is our duty. Love
Must be a tribute free, and unconstrain'd;
From all enforced duties death absolves,
And unto him we owe no further debt.
And if the queen laments within her bower,
Accusing Heaven in sorrow's wild despair;
Here see a people, from its anguish freed,
To that same Heav'n send up its thankful praise.
Who would reap tears must sow the seeds of love.
[_Exit the Imperial Courier_.]
STAUFFACHER (_to the people_).
But where is Tell? Shall he, our freedom's founder,
Alone be absent from our festival?
He did the most--endured the worst of all.
Come--to his dwelling let us all repair,
And bid the Savior of our country hail!
_Interior of_ TELL's _cottage. A fire burning on the hearth. The open door
shows the scene outside._
HEDWIG, WALTER, _and_ WILLIAM
My own dear boys! your father comes today;
He lives, is free, and we, and all are free;
The country owes its liberty to him!
And I, too, mother, bore my part in it!
I must be named with him. My father's shaft
Ran my life close, but yet I never flinch'd.
HEDWIG (_embracing him_).
Yes, yes, thou art restored to me again!
Twice have I seen thee given to my sad eyes,
Twice suffered all a mother's pangs for thee!
But this is past--I have you both, boys, both!
And your dear father will be back today.
[_A monk appears at the door_.]
See, mother, yonder stands a holy friar;
He comes for alms, no doubt.
Go lead him in,
That we may give him cheer, and make him feel
That he has come into the house of joy.
[_Exit and returns immediately with a cup_.]
WILLIAM (_to the monk_).
Come in, good man. Mother will give you food!
Come in and rest, then go refresh'd away!
MONK (_glancing round in terror, with unquiet looks_).
Where am I? In what country? Tell me.
Are you bewildered, that you know not where?
You are at Buerglen, in the land of Uri,
Just at the entrance of the Shechenthal.
MONK. (_to_ HEDWIG).
Are you alone? Your husband, is he here?
I am expecting him. But what ails you, man?
There's something in your looks, that omens ill!
Whoe'er you be, you are in want--take that.
[_Offers him the cup_.]
Howe'er my sinking heart may yearn for food,
Nought will I taste till you have promised first--
Touch not my garments, come not near me, monk!
You must stand farther back, if I'm to hear you.
Oh, by this hearth's bright hospitable blaze,
By your dear children's heads, which I embrace--
[_Grasps the boys_.]
Stand back, I say! What is your purpose, man?
Back from my boys! You are no monk,--no, no,
Beneath the robe you wear peace should abide,
But peace abides not in such looks as yours.
I am the wretchedest of living men.
The heart is never deaf to wretchedness;
But your look freezes up my inmost soul.
WALTER (_springs up_).
Mother, here's father!
Oh, my God!
[_Is about to follow, trembles and stops_.]
WILLIAM (_running after his brother_).
Here, here once more!
My father, my dear father!
Yes, here once more! Where is your mother, boys?
There at the door she stands, and can no further,
She trembles so with terror and with joy.
Oh Hedwidg, Hedwig, mother of my children!
God has been kind and helpful in our woes.
No tyrant's hand shall e'er divide us more.
HEDWIG (_falling on his neck_).
Oh, Tell, what anguish have I borne for thee!
[_Monk becomes attentive_.]
Forget it now, and live for joy alone!
I'm here again with you! This is my cot!
I stand again upon mine own hearth stone!
But, father, where's your cross-bow? Not with you?
Thou shalt not ever see it more, my boy.
Within a holy shrine it has been placed,
And in the chase shall ne'er be used again.
Oh, Tell! Tell!
[_Steps back, dropping his hand_.]
What alarms thee, dearest wife?
HEDWIG. How--how dost thou return to me? This hand--
Dare I take hold of it? This hand--Oh God!
TELL (_with firmness and animation_).
Has shielded you and set my country free;
Freely I raise it in the face of Heaven.