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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. III by Kuno Francke (Editor-in-Chief)

Part 9 out of 13

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If on the appointed day the castles fall,
From mountain on to mountain we shall speed
The fiery signal: in the capital
Of every Canton quickly rouse the Landsturm.[55]
Then, when these tyrants see our martial front,
Believe me, they will never make so bold
As risk the conflict, but will gladly take
Safe conduct forth beyond our boundaries.

STAUFF.

Not so with Gessler. He will make a stand.
Surrounded with his dread array of horse,
Blood will be shed before he quits the field,
And even expell'd he'd still be terrible.
'Tis hard, nay, dangerous, to spare his life.

BAUM.

Place me where'er a life is to be lost;
I owe my life to Tell, and cheerfully
Will pledge it for my country. I have clear'd.
My honor, and my heart is now at rest.

REDING.

Counsel will come with circumstance. Be patient!
Something must still be to the moment left.
Yet, while by night we hold our Diet here,
The morning, see, has on the mountain tops
Kindled her glowing beacon. Let us part,
Ere the broad sun surprise us.

FUeRST.

Do not fear.
The night wanes slowly from these vales of ours.

_[All have involuntarily taken off their caps, and
contemplate the breaking of day, absorbed in silence.]_

ROeSSEL.

By this fair light which greeteth us, before
Those other nations, that, beneath us far,
In noisome cities pent, draw painful breath,
Swear we the oath of our confederacy!
A band of brothers true we swear to be,
Never to part in danger or in death!

_[They repeat his words with three fingers raised.]_

We swear we will be free, as were our sires,
And sooner die than live in slavery!

_[All repeat as before_.]

We swear, to put our trust in God Most High,
And not to quail before the might of man!

_[All repeat as before, and embrace one another_.]

STAUFF.

Now every man pursue his several way
Back to his friends, his kindred, and his home.
Let the herd winter up his flock, and gain
In secret friends for this great league of ours!
What for a time must be endured, endure,
And let the reckoning of the tyrants grow,
Till the great day arrive when they shall pay
The general and particular debt at once.
Let every man control his own just rage,
And nurse his vengeance for the public wrongs:
For he whom selfish interests now engage
Defrauds the general weal of what to it belongs.

_[As they are going off in profound silence, in three
different directions, the orchestra plays a solemn air. The
empty scene remains open for some time, showing the rays of
the sun rising over the Glaciers.]_

[ILLUSTRATION: THE OATH ON THE RUeTLI As performed at the
Royal Theatre, Dresden 1906.]

* * * * *

ACT III

SCENE I

_Court before_ TELL'S _house_. TELL _with an axe_. HEDWIG
_engaged in her domestic duties_. WALTER _and_ WILLIAM _in
the background, playing with a little cross-bow._

(WALTER Sings).

With his cross-bow, and his quiver,
The huntsman speeds his way,
Over mountain, dale, and river,
At the dawning of the day.
As the eagle, on wild pinion,
Is the king in realms of air,
So the hunter claims dominion
Over crag and forest lair.
Far as ever bow can carry,
Thro' the trackless airy space,
All he sees he makes his quarry,
Soaring bird and beast of chase.

WILLIAM _(runs forward)._

My string has snapt! Oh, father, mend it, do!

TELL.

Not I; a true-born archer helps himself.

_[Boys retire_.]

HEDWIG.

The boys begin to use the bow betimes.

TELL.

'Tis early practice only makes the master.

HEDWIG.

Ah! Would to heaven they never learnt the art!

TELL.

But they shall learn it, wife, in all its points.
Whoe'er would carve an independent way
Through life, must learn to ward or plant a blow.

HEDWIG.

Alas, alas! and they will never rest
Contentedly at home.

TELL.

No more can I!
I was not framed by nature for a shepherd.
My restless spirit ever yearns for change;
I only feel the flush and joy of life
If I can start fresh quarry every day.

HEDWIG.

Heedless the while of all your wife's alarms,
As she sits watching through long hours at home.
For my soul sinks with terror at the tales
The servants tell about the risks you run;
Whene'er we part, my trembling heart forebodes
That you will ne'er come back to me again.
I see you on the frozen mountain steeps,
Missing, perchance, your leap from crag to crag.
I see the chamois, with a wild rebound,
Drag you down with him o'er the precipice.
I see the avalanche close o'er your head,
The treacherous ice give way, and you sink down
Entombed alive within its hideous gulf.
Ah! in a hundred varying forms does death
Pursue the Alpine huntsman on his course.
That way of life can surely ne'er be blessed,
Where life and limb are perill'd every hour.

TELL.

The man that bears a quick and steady eye,
And trusts in God, and his own lusty thews,
Passes, with scarce a scar, through every danger.
The mountain cannot awe the mountain child.

_[Having finished his work he lays aside his tools.]_

And now, methinks, the door will hold awhile--
Axe in the house oft saves the carpenter.

_[Takes his cap.]_

HEDWIG.

Whither away?

TELL.

To Altdorf, to your father.

HEDWIG.

You have some dangerous enterprise in view?
Confess!

TELL.

Why think you so?

HEDWIG.

Some scheme's on foot
Against the governors. There was a Diet
Held on the Rootli--that I know--and you
Are one of the confederacy, I'm sure.

TELL.

I was not there. Yet will I not hold back,
Whene'er my country calls me to her aid.

HEDWIG.

Wherever danger is, will you be placed.
On you, as ever, will the burden fall.

[ILLUSTRATION]

TELL.

Each man shall have the post that fits his powers.

HEDWIG.

You took--ay, 'mid the thickest of the storm--
The man of Unterwald across the lake.
'Tis marvel you escaped. Had you no thought
Of wife and children, then?

TELL.

Dear wife, I had;
And therefore saved the father for his children.

HEDWIG.

To brave the lake in all its wrath! 'Twas not
To put your trust in God! 'Twas tempting Him.

TELL.

Little will he that's over cautious do.

HEDWIG.

Yes, you've a kind and helping hand for all
But be in straits, and who will lend you aid?

TELL.

God grant I ne'er may stand in need of it!

_[Takes up his cross-bow and arrows_.]

HEDWIG.

Why take your cross-bow with you? leave it here.

TELL.

I want my right hand, when I want my bow.

_[The boys return_.]

WALTER.

Where, father, are you going?

TELL.

To grand-dad, boy--
To Altdorf. Will you go?

WALTER. Ay, that I will!

HEDWIG.

The Viceroy's there just now. Go not to Altdorf!

TELL.

He leaves today.

HEDWIG.

Then let him first be gone,
Cross not his path.--You know he bears us grudge.

TELL.

His ill-will cannot greatly injure me.
I do what's right, and care for no man's hate.

HEDWIG.

'Tis those who do what's right, whom most he hates.

TELL.

Because he cannot reach them. Me, I ween,
His knightship will be glad to leave in peace.

HEDWIG.

Ay!--Are you sure of that?

TELL.

Not long ago,
As I was hunting through the wild ravines
Of Shechenthal, untrod by mortal foot--
There, as I took my solitary way
Along a shelving ledge of rocks, where 'twas
Impossible to step on either side;
For high above rose, like a giant wall,
The precipice's side, and far below
The Shechen thunder'd o'er its rifted bed;--

[_The boys press toward him, looking upon him_ _with excited
curiosity.]_

There, face to face, I met the Viceroy. He
Alone with me--and I myself alone--
Mere man to man, and near us the abyss,
And when his lordship had perused my face,
And knew the man he had severely fined
On some most trivial ground, not long before,
And saw me, with my sturdy bow in hand,
Come striding toward him, his cheek grew pale,
His knees refused their office, and I thought
He would have sunk against the mountain side.
Then, touch'd with pity for him, I advanced,
Respectfully, and said "'Tis I, my lord."
But ne'er a sound could he compel his lips
To frame in answer. Only with his hand
He beckoned me in silence to proceed.
So I pass'd on, and sent his train to seek him.

HEDWIG.

He trembled, then, before you? Woe the while
You saw his weakness; that he'll ne'er forgive.

TELL.

I shun him, therefore, and he'll not seek me.

HEDWIG.

But stay away today. Go hunt instead!

TELL.

What do you fear?

HEDWIG.

I am uneasy. Stay!

TELL.

Why thus distress yourself without a cause?

HEDWIG.

Because there is no cause. Tell, Tell! stay here!

TELL.

Dear wife, I gave my promise I would go.

HEDWIG.

Must you--then go. But leave the boys with me.

WALTER.

No, mother dear, I go with father, I.

HEDWIG.

How, Walter! will you leave your mother then?

WALTER.

I'll bring you pretty things from grandpa.

_[Exit with his father.]_

WILLIAM.

Mother, I'll stay with you!

HEDWIG _(embracing him_).

Yes, yes! thou art
My own dear child. Thou'rt all that's left to me.

_[She goes to the gate of the court and looks anxiously
after_ TELL _and her son for a considerable time.]_

SCENE II

_A retired part of the Forest.-Brooks dashing in spray over
the rocks._

_Enter_ BERTHA _in a hunting dress. Immediately afterward_
RUDENZ

BERTHA.

He follows me. Now, then, to speak my mind!

RUDENZ _(entering hastily)._

At length, dear lady, we have met alone
In this wild dell, with rocks on every side,
No jealous eye can watch our interview.
Now let my heart throw off this weary silence.

BERTHA.

But are you sure they will not follow us?

RUDENZ.

See, yonder goes the chase! Now, then, or never!
I must avail me of this precious chance--
Must hear my doom decided by thy lips,
Though it should part me from thy side forever.
Oh, do not arm that gentle face of thine
With looks so stern and harsh! Who--who am I,
That dare aspire so high, as unto thee?
Fame hath not stamp'd me yet; nor may I take
My place amid the courtly throng of knights,
That, crown'd with glory's lustre, woo thy smiles.
Nothing have I to offer but a heart
That overflows with truth and love for thee.

BERTHA _(sternly and with severity)_.

And dare you speak to me of love--of truth!
You, that are faithless to your nearest ties!
You, that are Austria's slave-bartered and sold
To her--an alien, and your country's tyrant!

RUDENZ.

How! This reproach from thee! Whom do I seek,
On Austria's side, my own beloved, but thee?

BERTHA.

Think you to find me in the traitor's ranks?
Now, as I live, I'd rather give my hand
To Gessler's self, all despot though he be,
Than to the Switzer who forgets his birth,
And stoops to be a tyrant's servile tool.

RUDENZ.

Oh heaven, what words are these?

BERTHA.

Say! what can lie
Nearer the good man's heart than friends and kindred!
What dearer duty to a noble soul
Than to protect weak suffering innocence,
And vindicate the rights of the oppress'd?
My very soul bleeds for your countrymen.
I suffer with them, for I needs must love them;
They are so gentle, yet so full of power;
They draw my whole heart to them. Every day
I look upon them with increased esteem.
But you, whom nature and your knightly vow
Have given them as their natural protector,
Yet who desert them and abet their foes
In forging shackles for your native land,
You--you incense and wound me to the core.
It tries me to the utmost not to hate you.

RUDENZ.

Is not my country's welfare all my wish?
What seek I for her but to purchase peace
'Neath Austria's potent sceptre?

BERTHA.

Bondage, rather!
You would drive freedom from the last stronghold
That yet remains for her upon the earth.
The people know their own true int'rests better:
Their simple natures are not warp'd by show.
But round your head a tangling net is wound.

RUDENZ.

Bertha, you hate me--you despise me!

BERTHA.

Nay!
And if I did, 'twere better for my peace.
But to see him despised and despicable--
The man whom one might love--

RUDENZ.

Oh, Bertha. You
Show me the pinnacle of heavenly bliss,
Then, in a moment, hurl me to despair!

BERTHA.

No, no! the noble is not all extinct
Within you. It but slumbers--I will rouse it.
It must have cost you many a fiery struggle
To crush the virtues of your race within you.
But, heaven be praised, 'tis mightier than yourself,
And you are noble in your own despite!

RUDENZ.

You trust me, then? Oh, Bertha, with thy love
What might I not become!

BERTHA.

Be only that
For which your own high nature destin'd you.
Fill the position you were born to fill;--
Stand by your people and your native land,
And battle for your sacred rights!

RUDENZ.

Alas!
How can I win you--how can you be mine,
If I take arms against the Emperor?
Will not your potent kinsmen interpose
To dictate the disposal of your hand?

BERTHA.

All my estates lie in the Forest Cantons;
And I am free, when Switzerland is free.

RUDENZ.

Oh! what a prospect, Bertha, hast thou shown me!

BERTHA.

Hope not to win my hand by Austria's grace;
Fain would they lay their grasp on my estates
To swell the vast domains which now they hold.
The selfsame lust of conquest, that would rob
You of your liberty, endangers mine.
Ob, friend, I'm mark'd for sacrifice;--to be
The guerdon of some parasite, perchance!
They'll drag me hence to the Imperial court,
That hateful haunt of falsehood and intrigue,
And marriage bonds I loathe await me there.
Love, love alone--your love can rescue me.

RUDENZ.

And thou couldst be content, love, to live here?
In my own native land to be my own?
Oh, Bertha, all the yearnings of my soul
For this great world and its tumultuous strife--
What were they, but a yearning after thee?
In glory's path I sought for thee alone,
And all my thirst of fame was only love.
But if in this calm vale thou canst abide
With me, and bid earth's pomps and pride adieu,
Then is the goal of my ambition won;
And the rough tide of the tempestuous world
May dash and rave around these firm-set hills!
No wandering wishes more have I to send
Forth to the busy scene that stirs beyond.
Then may these rocks, that girdle us, extend
Their giant walls impenetrably round,
And this sequestered happy vale alone
Look up to heaven, and be my paradise!

BERTHA.

Now art thou all my fancy dream'd of thee!
My trust has not been given to thee in vain.

RUDENZ.

Away, ye idle phantoms of my folly;
In mine own home I'll find my happiness.
Here, where the gladsome boy to manhood grew,
Where ev'ry brook, and tree, and mountain peak,
Teems with remembrances of happy hours,
In mine own native land thou wilt be mine.
Ah, I have ever loved it well, I feel
How poor without it were all earthly joys.

BERTHA.

Where should we look for happiness on earth,
If not in this dear land of innocence--
Here, where old truth hath its familiar home?
Where fraud and guile are strangers, envy ne'er
Shall dim the sparkling fountain of our bliss,
And ever bright the hours shall o'er us glide.
There do I see thee, in true manly worth,
The foremost of the free and of thy peers,
Revered with homage pure and unconstrain'd,
Wielding a power that kings might envy thee.

RUDENZ.

And thee I see, thy sex's crowning gem,
With thy sweet woman's grace and wakeful love,
Building a heaven for me within my home,
And, as the spring-time scatters forth her flowers,
Adorning with thy charms my path of life,
And spreading joy and sunshine all around.

BERTHA.

And this it was, dear friend, that caused my grief,
To see thee blast this life's supremest bliss
With thine own hand. Ah! what had been my fate,
Had I been forced to follow some proud lord,
Some ruthless despot, to his gloomy keep!
Here are no keeps, here are no bastion'd walls
To part me from a people I can bless.

RUDENZ.

Yet, how to free myself; to loose the coils
Which I have madly twined around my head?

BERTHA.

Tear them asunder with a man's resolve.
Whate'er ensue, firm by thy people stand!
It is thy post by birth.

[_Hunting horns are heard in the distance_.]

But hark! The chase!
Farewell--'tis needful we should part--away!
Fight for thy land; thou fightest for thy love.
One foe fills all our souls with dread; the blow
That makes one free, emancipates us all.

[_Exeunt severally_.]

SCENE III

_A meadow near Altdorf. Trees in the foreground. At the back
of the stage a cap upon a pole. The prospect is bounded by
the Bannberg, which is surmounted by a snow-capped
mountain._

FRIESSHARDT _and_ LEUTHOLD _on guard_

FRIESS.

We keep our watch in vain. Zounds! not a soul
Will pass and do obeisance to the cap.
But yesterday the place swarm'd like a fair;
Now the old green looks like a desert, quite,
Since yonder scarecrow hung upon the pole.

LEUTH.

Only the vilest rabble show themselves,
And wave their tattered caps in mockery at us.
All honest citizens would sooner make
A weary circuit over half the town,
Than bend their backs before our master's cap.

FRIESS.

They were obliged to pass this way at noon,
As they were coming from the Council House.
I counted then upon a famous catch,
For no one thought of bowing to the cap,
But Roesselmann, the priest, was even with me:
Coming just then from some sick man, he takes
His stand before the pole--lifts up the Host--
The Sacrist, too, must tinkle with his bell--
When down they dropp'd on knee--myself and all--
In reverence to the Host, but not the cap.

LEUTH.

Hark ye, companion, I've a shrewd suspicion,
Our post's no better than the pillory.
It is a burning shame, a trooper should
Stand sentinel before an empty cap,
And every honest fellow must despise us.
To do obeisance to a cap, too! Faith,
I never heard an order so absurd!

FRIESS.

Why not, an't please you, to an empty cap?
You've duck'd, I'm sure, to many an empty sconce.

[HILDEGARD, MECHTHILD, _and_ ELSBETH _enter with their
children, and station themselves around the pole_.]

LEUTH.

And you are a time-serving sneak that takes
Delight in bringing honest folks to harm.
For my part, he that likes may pass the cap:--
I'll shut my eyes and take no note of him.

MECH.

There hangs the Viceroy! Your obeisance, children!

ELSBETH.

I would to God he'd go, and leave his cap!
The country would be none the worse for it.

FRIESSHARDT (_driving them away_).

Out of the way! Confounded pack of gossips!
Who sent for you? Go, send your husbands here,
If they have courage to defy the order.

[TELL _enters with his cross-bow, leading his son_ WALTER
_by the hand. They pass the hat without noticing it, and
advance to the front of the stage_.]

WALTER (_pointing to the Bannberg_).

Father, is't true, that on the mountain there
The trees, if wounded with a hatchet, bleed?

TELL.

Who says so, boy?

WALTER.

The master herdsman, father!
He tells us there's a charm upon the trees,
And if a man shall injure them, the hand
That struck the blow will grow from out the grave.

TELL.

There is a charm about them--that's the truth.
Dost see those glaciers yonder--those white horns--
That seem to melt away into the sky?

WALTER.

They are the peaks that thunder so at night,
And send the avalanches down upon us.

TELL.

They are; and Altdorf long ago had been
Submerged beneath these avalanches' weight,
Did not the forest there above the town
Stand like a bulwark to arrest their fall.

WALTER (_after musing a little_).

And are there countries with no mountains, father?

TELL.

Yes, if we travel downward from our heights,
And keep descending where the rivers go,
We reach, a wide and level country, where
Our mountain torrents brawl and foam no more,
And fair large rivers glide serenely on.
All quarters of the heaven may there be scann'd
Without impediment. The corn grows there
In broad and lovely fields, and all the land
Is like a garden fair to look upon.

WALTER.

But, father, tell me, wherefore haste we not
Away to this delightful land, instead
Of toiling here and struggling as we do?

TELL.

The land is fair and bountiful as Heaven;
But they who till it never may enjoy
The fruits of what they sow.

WALTER.

Live they not free,
As you do, on the land their fathers left them?

TELL.

The fields are all the bishop's or the king's.

WALTER.

But they may freely hunt among the woods?

TELL.

The game is all the monarch's--bird and beast.

WALTER.

But they, at least, may surely fish the streams?

TELL.

Stream, lake, and sea, all to the king belong.

WALTER.

Who is this king, of whom they're so afraid?

TELL.

He is the man who fosters and protects them.

WALTER.

Have they not courage to protect themselves?

TELL.

The neighbor there dare not his neighbor trust.

WALTER.

I should want breathing room in such a land.
I'd rather dwell beneath the avalanches.

TELL.

'Tis better, child, to have these glacier peaks
Behind one's back than evil-minded men!

[_They are about to pass on_.]

WALTER.

See, father, see the cap on yonder pole!

TELL.

What is the cap to us? Come, let's begone.

[_As he is going_, FRIESSHARDT, _presenting his pike, stops
him_.]

FRIESS.

Stand, I command you, in the Emperor's name!

TELL (_seizing the pike_).

What would ye? Wherefore do ye stop me thus?

FRIESS.

You've broke the mandate, and with us must go.

LEUTH.

You have not done obeisance to the cap.

TELL.

Friend, let me go.

FRIESS.

Away, away to prison!

WALTER.

Father to prison? Help!

[_Calling to the side scene_.]

This way, you men!
Good people, help! They're dragging him to prison!

[ROeSSELMANN _the Priest, and the_ SACRISTAN, _with three
other men, enter_.]

SACRIST.

What's here amiss?

ROeSSELMANN.

Why do you seize this man?

FRIESS.

He is an enemy of the King--a traitor.

TELL (_seizing him with violence_).

A traitor, I?

ROeSSELMANN.

Friend, thou art wrong. 'Tis Tell,
An honest man, and worthy citizen.

WALTER (_descries_ FUeRST _and runs up to him_).

Grandfather, help, they want to seize my father!

FRIESS. Away to prison!

FUeRST (_running in_).

Stay, I offer bail.
For God's sake, Tell, what is the matter here?

[MELCHTHAL _and_ STAUFFACHER _enter_.]

LEUTH.

He has contemn'd the Viceroy's sovereign power,
Refusing flatly to acknowledge it.

STAUFF.

Has Tell done this?

MELCHTHAL.

Villain, you know 'tis false!

LEUTH.

He has not made obeisance to the cap.

FUeRST.

And shall for this to prison? Come, my friend,
Take my security, and let him go.

FRIESS.

Keep your security for yourself--you'll need it.
We only do our duty. Hence with him.

MELCHTHAL (_to the country people_).

This is too bad--shall we stand by and see
Him dragged away before our very eyes?

SACRIST.

We are the strongest. Friends, endure it not,
Our countrymen will back us to a man.

FRIESS.

Who dares the governor's commands?

OTHER THREE PEASANTS (_running in_).

We'll help you. What's the matter? Down with them!

[HILDEGARD, MECHTHILD _and_ ELSBETH _return_.]

TELL.

Go, go, good people, I can help myself.
Think you, had I a mind to use my strength,
These pikes of theirs should daunt me?

MELCHTHAL (_to_ FRIESSHARDT).

Only try--
Try from our midst to force him, if you dare.

FUeRST _and_ STAUFFACHER.

Peace, peace, friends!

FRIESSHARDT (_loudly_).

Riot! Insurrection, ho!

[_Hunting-horns without_.]

WOMEN.

The Governor!

FRIESSHARDT _(raising his voice_).

Rebellion! Mutiny!

STAUFF.

Roar till you burst, knave!

ROeSSELMANN _and_ MELCHTHAL.

Will you hold your tongue?

FRIESSHARDT (_calling still louder_).

Help, help, I say, the servants of the law!

FUeRST.

The Viceroy here! Then we shall smart for this!

[_Enter_ GESSLER _on horseback, with a falcon on his wrist_:
RUDOLPH DER HARRAS, BERTHA, _and_ RUDENZ, _and a numerous
train of armed attendants, who form a circle of lances round
the whole stage_.]

HARRAS.

Room for the Viceroy!

GESSLER.

Drive the clowns apart.
Why throng the people thus? Who calls for help?

[_General silence_.]

[Illustration: TELL AND GESSLER As performed at the Royal
Theatre, Dresden, 1906.]

Who was it? I _will_ know.

[FRIESSHARDT _steps forward_.]

And who art thou?
And why hast thou this man in custody?

[_Gives his falcon to an attendant_.]

FRIESS.

Dread sir, I am a soldier of your guard,
And station'd sentinel beside the cap;
This man I apprehended in the act
Of passing it without obeisance due;
So as you ordered, I arrested him,
Whereupon to rescue him the people tried.

GESSLER (_after a pause_).

And do you, Tell, so lightly hold your King,
And me, who act as his vice-regent here,
That you refuse obeisance to the cap,
I hung aloft to test your loyalty?
I read in this a disaffected spirit.

TELL.

Pardon me, good my lord! The action sprung
From inadvertence--not from disrespect.
Were I discreet, I were not William Tell.
Forgive me now--I'll not offend again.

GESSLER (_after a pause_).

I hear, Tell, you're a master with the bow--
From every rival bear the palm away.

WALTER.

That's very truth, sir! At a hundred yards
He'll shoot an apple for you off the tree.

GESSLER.

Is that boy thine, Tell?

TELL.

Yes, my gracious lord.

GESSLER.

Hast any more of them?

TELL.

Two boys, my lord.

GESSLER.

And, of the two, which dost thou love the most?

TELL.

Sir, both the boys are dear to me alike.

GESSLER.

Then, Tell, since at a hundred yards thou canst
Bring down the apple from the tree, thou shalt
Approve thy skill before me. Take thy bow--
Thou hast it there at hand--make ready, then,
To shoot an apple from the stripling's head!
But take this counsel--look well to thine aim,
See, that thou hit'st the apple at the first,
For, shouldst thou miss, thy head shall pay the forfeit.

[_All give signs of horror_.]

TELL.

What monstrous thing, my lord, is this you ask?
What I from the head of mine own child!--No, no!
It cannot be, kind sir, you meant not that--
God, in His grace, forbid! You could not ask
A father seriously to do that thing!

GESSLER.

Thou art to shoot an apple from his head!
I do desire--command it so.

TELL.

What, I!
Level my cross-bow at the darling head
Of mine own child? No--rather let me die!

GESSLER.

Or thou must shoot, or with thee dies the boy.

TELL.

Shall I become the murderer of my child!
You have no children, sir--you do not know
The tender throbbings of a father's heart.

GESSLER.

How now, Tell, on a sudden so discreet?
I had been told thou wert a visionary--
A wanderer from the paths of common men.
Thou lov'st the marvelous. So have I now
Cull'd out for thee a task of special daring.
Another man might pause and hesitate;--
Thou dashest at it, heart and soul, at once.

BERTHA.

Oh, do not jest, my lord, with these poor souls!
See, how they tremble, and how pale they look,
So little used are they to hear thee jest.

GESSLER.

Who tells thee that I jest?

[_Grasping a branch above his head_.]

Here is the apple.
Room there, I say! And let him take his distance--
Just eighty paces--as the custom is--
Not an inch more or less! It was his boast
That at a hundred he could hit his man.
Now, archer, to your task, and look you miss not!

HARRAS.

Heavens! this grows serious--down, boy, on your knees,
And beg the governor to spare your life.

FUeRST (_aside to_ MELCHTHAL, _who can scarcely restrain his
indignation_).

Command yourself--be calm, I beg of you!

BERTHA (_to the governor_).

Let this suffice you, sir! It is inhuman
To trifle with a father's anguish thus.
Although this wretched man had forfeited
Both life and limb for such a slight offence,
Already has he suffer'd tenfold death.
Send him away uninjured to his home;
He'll know thee well in future; and this hour
He and his children's children will remember.

GESSLER.

Open a way there--quick! Why this delay?
Thy life is forfeited; I might dispatch thee,
And see, I graciously repose thy fate
Upon the skill of thine own practised hand.
No cause has he to say his doom is harsh
Who's made the master of his destiny.
Thou boastest thine unerring aim. 'Tis well!
Now is the fitting time to show thy skill;
The mark is worthy and the prize is great.
To hit the bull's eye in the target;--that
Can many another do as well as thou;
But he, methinks, is master of his craft,
Who can at all times on his skill rely,
Nor lets his heart disturb or eye or hand.

FUeRST.

My lord, we bow to your authority;
But oh, let justice yield to mercy here.
Take half my property, nay, take it all,
But spare a father this unnatural doom!

WALTER.

Grandfather, do not kneel to that bad man!
Say, where am I to stand? I do not fear;
My father strikes the bird upon the wing,
And will not miss now when 'twould harm his boy!

STAUFF.

Does the child's innocence not touch your heart?

ROeSSEL.

Bethink you, sir, there is a God in heaven,
To whom you must account for all your deeds.

GESSLER (_pointing to the boy_).

Bind him to yonder lime tree!

WALTER.

What! Bind me?
No, I will not be bound! I will be still,
Still as a lamb--nor even draw my breath!
But if you bind me, I cannot be still.
Then I shall writhe and struggle with my bonds.

HARRAS.

But let your eyes at least be bandaged, boy!

WALTER.

And why my eyes? No! Do you think I fear
An arrow from my father's hand? Not I!
I'll wait it firmly, nor so much as wink!
Quick, father, show them what thy bow can do.
He doubts thy skill--he thinks to ruin us.
Shoot then and hit, though but to spite the tyrant!

[_He goes to the lime tree, and an apple is placed on his
head_.]

MELCHTHAL (_to the country people_).

What! Is this outrage to be perpetrated
Before our very eyes? Where is our oath?

STAUFF.

Resist we cannot! Weapons we have none,
And see the wood of lances round us! See!

MELCH.

Oh! would to heaven that we had struck at once!
God pardon those who counsell'd the delay!

GESSLER (_to_ TELL).

Now to your task! Men bear not arms for naught.
To carry deadly tools is dangerous,
And on the archer oft his shaft recoils.
This right these haughty peasant churls assume
Trenches upon their master's privileges:
None should be armed but those who bear command.
It pleases you to carry bow and bolt;--
Well--be it so. I will prescribe the mark.

TELL (_bends the bow, and fixes the arrow_).

A lane there! Room!

STAUFFACHER.

What, Tell? You would--no, no!
You shake--your hand's unsteady--your knees tremble.

TELL (_letting the bow sink down_).

There's something swims before mine eyes!

WOMEN.

Great Heaven!

TELL. Release me from this shot! Here is my heart!

[_Tears open his breast_.]

Summon your troopers--let them strike me down!

GESSLER.

'Tis not thy life I want--I want the shot.
Thy talent's universal! Nothing daunts thee!
The rudder thou canst handle like the bow!
No storms affright thee, when a life's at stake.
Now, savior, help thyself--thou savest all!

[TELL _stands fearfully agitated by contending emotions, his
hands moving convulsively, and his eyes turning alternately
to the governor and Heaven. Suddenly he takes a second arrow
from his quiver, and sticks it in his belt. The governor
notes all he does_.]

WALTER (_beneath the lime tree_).

Shoot, father, shoot! fear not!

TELL.

It must be!

[_Collects himself and levels the bow_.]

RUDENZ (_who all the while has been standing in a state of
violent excitement, and has with difficulty restrained
himself, advances_).

My lord, you will not urge this matter further;
You will not. It was surely but a test.
You've gained your object. Rigor push'd too far
Is sure to miss its aim, however good,
As snaps the bow that's all too straitly bent.

GESSLER.

Peace, till your counsel's ask'd for!

RUDENZ.

I will speak!
Ay, and I dare! I reverence my king;
But acts like these must make his name abhorr'd.
He sanctions not this cruelty. I dare
Avouch the fact. And you outstep your powers
In handling thus my harmless countrymen.

GESSLER.

Ha! thou grow'st, bold, methinks!

RUDENZ.

I have been dumb
To all the oppressions I was doomed to see.
I've closed mine eyes to shut them from my view,
Bade my rebellious, swelling heart be still,
And pent its struggles down within my breast.
But to be silent longer, were to be
A traitor to my king and country both.

BERTHA (_casting herself between him and the governor_).

Oh Heavens! you but exasperate his rage!

RUDENZ.

My people I forsook--renounced my kindred--
Broke all the ties of nature, that I might
Attach myself to you. I madly thought
That I should best advance the general weal
By adding sinews to the Emperor's power.
The scales have fallen from mine eyes--I see
The fearful precipice on which I stand.
You've led my youthful judgment far astray--
Deceived my honest heart. With best intent,
I had well-nigh achiev'd my country's ruin.

GESSLER.

Audacious boy, this language to thy lord?

RUDENZ.

The Emperor is my lord, not you! I'm free
As you by birth, and I can cope with you
In every virtue that beseems a knight.
And if you stood not here in that King's name,
Which I respect e'en where 'tis most abused,
I'd throw my gauntlet down, and you should give
An answer to my gage in knightly sort.
Ay, beckon to your troopers! Here I stand;
But not like these

[_Pointing to the people_.]

--unarmed. I have a sword,
And he that stirs one step--

STAUFFACHER (_exclaims_).
The apple's down!

[_While the attention of the crowd has been directed to the
spot where_ BERTHA _had cast herself between_ RUDENZ _and_
GESSLER, TELL _has shot_.]

ROeSSEL.

The boy's alive!

MANY VOICES.

The apple has been struck!

[WALTER FUeRST _staggers and is about to fall_. BERTHA
_supports him_.]

GESSLER (_astonished_).

How? Has he shot? The madman!

BERTHA.

Worthy father!
Pray you, compose yourself. The boy's alive.

WALTER (_runs in with the apple_).

Here is the apple, father! Well I knew
You would not harm your boy.

[TELL _stands with his body bent forward, as if still
following the arrow. His bow drops from his hand. When he
sees the boy advancing, he hastens to meet him with open
arms, and embracing him passionately sinks down with him
quite exhausted. All crowd round them deeply affected_.]

BERTHA.

Oh, ye kind Heavens!

FUeRST (_to father and son_).

My children, my dear children!

STAUFFACHER.

God be praised!

LEUTH.

Almighty powers! That was a shot indeed!
It will be talked of to the end of time.

HARRAS.

This feat of Tell, the archer, will be told
Long as these mountains stand upon their base.

[_Hands the apple to_ GESSLER.]

GESSLER.

By Heaven! the apple's cleft right through the core.
It was a master shot, I must allow.

ROeSSEL.

The shot was good. But woe to him who drove
The man to tempt his God by such a feat!

STAUFF.

Cheer up, Tell, rise! You've nobly freed yourself,
And now may go in quiet to your home.

ROeSSEL.

Come, to the mother let us bear her son!

[_They are about to lead him off_.]

GESSLER.

A word, Tell.

TELL. Sir, your pleasure?

GESSLER.

Thou didst place
A second arrow in thy belt--nay, nay!
I saw it well. Thy purpose with it? Speak!

TELL (_confused_).

It is a custom with all archers, sir.

GESSLER.

No, Tell, I cannot let that answer pass.
There was some other motive, well I know.
Frankly and cheerfully confess the truth;--
Whate'er it be, I promise thee thy life.
Wherefore the second arrow?

TELL.

Well, my lord,
Since you have promised not to take my life,
I will, without reserve, declare the truth.

[_He draws the arrow from his belt, and fixes his eyes
sternly upon the governor_.]

If that my hand had struck my darling child,
This second arrow I had aimed at you,
And, be assured, I should not then have miss'd.

GESSLER.

Well, Tell, I promised thou shouldst have thy life;
I gave my knightly word, and I will keep it.
Yet, as I know the malice of thy thoughts,
I'll have thee carried hence, and safely penn'd,
Where neither sun nor moon shall reach thine eyes.
Thus from thy arrows I shall be secure.
Seize on him, guards, and bind him!

[_They bind him_.]

STAUFFACHER.

How, my lord--
How can you treat in such a way a man
On whom God's hand has plainly been reveal'd?

GESSLER.

Well, let us see if it will save him twice!
Remove him to my ship; I'll follow straight;
At Kuessnacht I will see him safely lodged.

ROeSSEL.

You dare not do't. Nor durst the Emperor's self
So violate our dearest chartered rights.

GESSLER.

Where are they? Has the Emp'ror confirm'd them?
He never has. And only by obedience
May you that favor hope to win from him.
You are all rebels 'gainst the Emp'ror's power--
And bear a desperate and rebellious spirit.
I know you all--I see you through and through.
Him do I single from amongst you now,
But in his guilt you all participate.
If you are wise, be silent and obey!

[_Exit, followed by_ BERTHA, RUDENZ, HARRAS, _and
attendants_. FRIESSHARDT _and_ LEUTHOLD _remain_.]

FUeRST (_in violent anguish_).

All's over now! He is resolved to bring
Destruction on myself and all my house.

STAUFFACHER (_to_ TELL).

Oh, why did you provoke the tyrant's rage?

TELL.

Let him be calm who feels the pangs I felt.

STAUFF.

Alas! alas! Our every hope is gone.
With you we all are fettered and enchain'd.

COUNTRY PEOPLE (_surrounding_ TELL).

Our last remaining comfort goes with you!

LEUTHOLD (_approaching him_).

I'm sorry for you, Tell, but must obey.

TELL.

Farewell!

WALTER TELL (_clinging to him in great agony_).

Oh, father, father, father dear!

TELL (_pointing to Heaven_).

Thy father is on high--appeal to Him!

STAUFF.

Have you no message, Tell, to send your wife?

TELL (_clasping the boy passionately to his breast_).

The boy's uninjured; God will succor me!

[_Tears himself suddenly away, and follows the soldiers of
the guard_.]

ACT IV

SCENE I

_Eastern shore of the Lake of Lucerne; rugged and singularly
shaped rocks close the prospect to the west. The lake is
agitated, violent roaring and rushing of wind, with thunder
and lightning at intervals._

KUNZ OF GERSAU, FISHERMAN _and_ BOY

KUNZ.

I saw it with these eyes! Believe me, friend,
It happen'd all precisely as I've said.

FISHER.

How! Tell a prisoner, and to Kuessnacht borne?
The best man in the land, the bravest arm,
Had we for liberty to strike a blow!

KUNZ.

The Viceroy takes him up the lake in person:
They were about to go on board, as I
Started from Flueelen; but the gathering storm,
That drove me here to land so suddenly,
May well have hindered them from setting out.

FISHER.

Our Tell in chains, and in the Viceroy's power!
O, trust me, Gessler will entomb him where
He never more shall see the light of day;
For, Tell once free, the tyrant well might dread
The just revenge of one so deeply wrong'd.

KUNZ.

The old Landamman, too--von Attinghaus--
They say, is lying at the point of death.

FISHER.

Then the last anchor of our hopes gives way!
He was the only man that dared to raise
His voice in favor of the people's rights.

KUNZ.

The storm grows worse and worse. So, fare ye well!
I'll go and seek out quarters in the village.
There's not a chance of getting off today.

[_Exit_.]

FISHER.

Tell dragg'd to prison, and the Baron dead!
Now, tyranny, exalt thy brazen front--
Throw every shame aside! Truth's voice is dumb!
The eye that watch'd for us, in darkness closed,
The arm that should have struck thee down, in chains!

BOY.

'Tis hailing hard--come, let us to the hut!
This is no weather to be out in, father!

FISHER.

Rage on, ye winds! Ye lightnings, flash your fires!
Burst, ye swollen clouds! Ye cataracts of Heaven,
Descend, and drown the country! In the germ
Destroy the generations yet unborn!
Ye savage elements, be lords of all!
Return, ye bears: ye ancient wolves, return
To this wide howling waste! The land is yours.
Who would live here, when liberty is gone!

BOY.

Hark! How the wind whistles, and the whirlpool roars,
I never saw a storm so fierce as this!

FISHER.

To level at the head of his own child!
Never had father such command before.
And shall not nature, rising in wild wrath,
Revolt against the deed? I should not marvel,
Though to the lake these rocks should bow their heads,
Though yonder pinnacles, yon towers of ice,
That, since creation's dawn, have known no thaw,
Should, from their lofty summits, melt away
Though yonder mountains, yon primeval cliffs,
Should topple down, and a new deluge whelm
Beneath its waves all living men's abodes!

[_Bells heard_.]

BOY.

Hark, they are ringing on the mountain, yonder!
They surely see some vessel in distress.
And toll the bell that we may pray for it.

[_Ascends a rock_.]

FISHER.

Woe to the bark that now pursues its course,
Rock'd in the cradle of these storm-tost waves!
Nor helm nor steersman here can aught avail;
The storm is master. Man is like a ball,
Toss'd 'twixt the winds and billows. Far or near,
No haven offers him its friendly shelter!
Without one ledge to grasp, the sheer smooth rocks
Look down inhospitably on his despair,
And only tender him their flinty breasts.

BOY (_calling from above_).

Father, a ship: from Flueelen bearing down.

FISHER.

Heaven pity the poor wretches! When the storm
Is once entangled in this strait of ours,
It rages like some savage beast of prey,
Struggling against its cage's iron bars!
Howling, it seeks an outlet--all in vain;
For the rocks hedge it round on every side,
Walling the narrow gorge as high as Heaven.

[_He ascends a cliff_.]

BOY.

It is the Governor of Uri's ship;
By its red poop I know it, and the flag.

FISHER.

Judgments of Heaven! Yes, it is he himself,
It is the Governor! Yonder he sails,
And with him bears the burden of his crimes.
The avenger's arm has not been slow to strike!
Now over him he knows a mightier lord.
These waves yield no obedience to his voice.
These rocks bow not their heads before his cap.
Boy, do not pray; stay not the Judge's arm!

BOY.

I pray not for the Governor, I pray
For Tell who's with him there on board the ship.

FISHER.

Alas, ye blind, unreasoning elements!
Must ye, in punishing one guilty head,
Destroy the vessel and the pilot too?

BOY.

See, see, they've clear'd the Buggisgrat;[56] but now
The blast, rebounding from the Devil's Minster,[56]
Has driven them back on the Great Axenberg.[56]
I cannot see them now.

FISHERMAN.

The Hakmesser[56]
Is there, that's founder'd many a gallant ship.
If they should fail to double that with skill,
Their bark will go to pieces on the rocks
That hide their jagged peaks below the lake.
The best of pilots, boy, they have on board.
If man could save them, Tell is just the man,
But he is manacled both hand and foot.

[_Enter_ WILLIAM TELL, _with his cross-bow. He enters
precipitately, looks wildly round, and testifies the most
violent agitation. When he reaches the centre of the stage,
he throws himself upon his knees, and stretches out his
hands, first toward the earth, then toward Heaven_.]

BOY (_observing him_).

See, father! A man on's knees, who can it be?

FISHER.

He clutches at the earth with both his hands,
And looks as though he were beside himself.

BOY (_advancing_).

What do I see? Come father, come and look!

FISHERMAN (_approaches_).

Who is it? God in Heaven! What! William Tell!
How came you hither? Speak, Tell!

BOY.

Were you not
In yonder ship, a prisoner, and in chains?

FISHER.

Were they not carrying you to Kuessnacht, Tell?

TELL _(rising)._

I am released.

FISHERMAN _and_ BOY.

Released, oh miracle!

BOY.

Whence came you here

TELL.

From yonder vessel!

FISHERMAN.

What?

BOY.

Where is the Viceroy?

TELL.

Drifting on the waves.

FISHER.

Is't possible? But you! How are you here?
How 'scaped you from your fetters and the
storm?

TELL.

By God's most gracious providence. Attend.

FISHERMAN _and_ BOY.

Say on, say on!

TELL.

You know what passed at Altdorf.

FISHER.

I do--say on!

TELL.

How I was seized and bound,
And order'd by the governor to Kuessnacht.

FISHER.

And how at Flueelen he embarked with you.
All this we know. Say, how have you escaped?

TELL.

I lay on deck, fast bound with cords, disarm'd,
In utter hopelessness. I did not think
Again to see the gladsome light of day,
Nor the dear faces of my wife and boys,
And eyed disconsolate the waste of waters.--

FISHER.

Oh, wretched man!

TELL.

Then we put forth; the Viceroy,
Rudolph der Harras, and their suite. My bow
And quiver lay astern beside the helm;
And just as we had reached the corner, near
The little Axen,[57] Heaven ordain'd it so,
That from the Gotthardt's gorge, a hurricane
Swept down upon us with such headlong force
That every oarsman's heart within him sank,
And all on board look'd for a watery grave.
Then heard I one of the attendant train,
Turning to Gessler, in this wise accost him:
"You see our danger, and your own, my lord,
And that we hover on the verge of death.
The boatmen there are powerless from fear,
Nor are they confident what course to take;--
Now, here is Tell, a stout and fearless man,
And knows to steer with more than common skill;
How if we should avail ourselves of him
In this emergency?" The Viceroy then
Address'd me thus: "If thou wilt undertake
To bring us through this tempest safely, Tell,
I might consent to free thee from thy bonds."
I answer'd, "Yes, my lord; so help me God,
I'll see what can be done." On this they loosed
The cords that bound me, and I took my place
Beside the helm, and steered as best I could,
Yet ever eyed my shooting gear askance,
And kept a watchful eye upon the shore,
To find some point where I might leap to land:
And when I had descried a shelving crag,
That jutted, smooth atop into the lake--

FISHER.

I know it. At the foot of the Great Axen;
So steep it looks, I never could have dreamt
That from a boat a man could leap to it.

TELL.

I bade the men to row with all their force
Until we came before the shelving ledge.
For there, I said, the danger will be past!
Stoutly they pull'd, and soon we near'd the point;
One prayer to God for His assisting grace,
And, straining every muscle, I brought round
The vessel's stern close to the rocky wall;
Then snatching up my weapons, with a bound
I swung myself upon the flattened shelf,
And with my feet thrust off, with all my might,
The puny bark into the watery hell.
There let it drift about, as Heaven ordains!
Thus am I here, deliver'd from the might
Of the dread storm, and man's more dreadful still.

FISHER.

Tell, Tell, the Lord has manifestly wrought

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