Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Wilhelm Tell William Tell by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

Part 3 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

sinks down with him quite exhausted. All crowd round them deeply

Oh, ye kind Heavens!

FURST (to father and son).
My children, my dear children!

God be praised!

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

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

[Hands the apple to Gessler.]

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

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

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

Come, to the mother let us bear her son!

[They are about to lead him off.]

A word, Tell.

Sir, your pleasure?

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.

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?

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

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.

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.]

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

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

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

Where are they? Has the Emp'ror confirm'd them?
He never has. And only by obedience
May you that favour 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.]

FURST (in violent anguish).
All's over now! He is resolved to bring
Destruction on myself and all my house.

STAUFF. (to Tell).
Oh, why did you provoke the tyrant's rage?

Let him be calm who feels the pangs I felt.

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!

LEUTH. (approaching him).
I'm sorry for you, Tell, but must obey.


WALT. (clinging to him in great agony).
Oh, father, father, father dear!

TELL (pointing to Heaven).
Thy father is on high--appeal to Him!

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

TELL. (clasping the boy passionately to his breast).
The boy's uninjured; God will succour me!

[Tears himself suddenly away, and follows the soldiers of the guard.]



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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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 to-day.


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!

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

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?

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

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.]

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.]

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 Fluelen bearing down.

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.]

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

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!

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

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

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

The Hakmesser[*]
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.

[*] Rocks on the shore of the Lake of Lucerne.

[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 towards the earth, then towards

BOY (observing him).
See, father! A man on's knees; who can it be?

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!

FISHER. (approaches).
Who is it? God in Heaven! What! Wilhelm Tell!
How came you hither? Speak, Tell!

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

Were they not carrying you to Kussnacht, Tell?

TELL (rising).
I am released.

Released, oh miracle!

Whence came you here?

From yonder vessel!


Where is the Viceroy?

Drifting on the waves.

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

By God's most gracious providence. Attend.

Say on, say on!

You know what passed at Altdorf.

I do--say on!

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

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

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.--

Oh, wretched man!

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,[*] 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--

[*] A rock on the shore of the Lake of Lucerne.

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.

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 left 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.

Tell, Tell, the Lord has manifestly wrought
A miracle in thy behalf! I scarce
Can credit my own eyes. But tell me, now,
Whither you purpose 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 Kussnacht?

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 him 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 confederacy.

Then do me this one favour; speed to Burglen--
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 be 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
Furst, 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.]

Who's there?

BAUM. (returning).
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?

HEDW. (forcing her way in).
Where is my child? unhand me! I must see him.

Be calm! Reflect, you're in the house of death!

HEDW. (falling upon her boy's neck).
My Walter! Oh, he yet is mine!

Dear mother!

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 of 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 not feeling for his sufferings?

HEDW. (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,
Unarm'd and few in numbers as we were!

HEDW. (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 vapours 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.

He gone,
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!

ATTING. (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. Cheerly, 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?

STAUFF. (to Furst).
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

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.

STAUFF. (to Furst).
See, see, what splendour 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 foeman'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.

[*] An allusion to the gallant self-devotion of Arnold Struthan of
Winkelried, at the battle of Sempach [9th July, 1386], who broke
the Austrian phalanx by rushing on their lances, grasping as many
of them as he could reach, and concentrating them upon his breast.
The confederates rushed forward through the gap thus opened by the
sacrifice of their comrade, broke and cut down their enemy's
ranks, and soon became the masters of the field. "Dear and
faithful confederates, I will open you a passage. Protect my wife
and children," were the words of Winkelried, as he rushed to

[Grasps the hands of Walter Furst 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 Furst 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.]

RUD. (entering hurriedly).
Lives he? Oh say, can he still hear my voice?

FURST. (averting his face).
You are our seignior and protector now;
Henceforth this castle bears another name.

RUD. (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 forever,--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 valour that inspired your words!

RUD. (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!

STAUFF. (to Melch.).
Be one! They were our father's latest words.
See they be not forgotten!

Take my hand,--
A 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 honour 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 ye, 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 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!--
I 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 nought 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 to-morrow, what to-day 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?

RUD. (to Walter Furst).
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 Kussnacht, sloping down from behind, with rocks on
either side. The travellers are visible upon the heights, before they
appear on the stage. Rocks all round the stage. Upon one of the
foremost a projecting cliff overgrown with brushwood.

TELL. (enters with his crossbow).
Through this ravine he needs must come. There is
No other way to Kussnacht. 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 hast 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 bowstring, 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.

[Travellers pass over the stage.]

I'll sit me down upon this bench of stone,
Hewn for the way-worn traveller'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 scanty 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 onwards--every man intent
On his own several business--mine is murder!

[Sits down.]

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 gradually nearer.]

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 Morlischachen. A rich fellow he!
And has some half score pastures on the Alps.
He goes to fetch his bride from Imisee.
At Kussnacht there will be high feast to-night--
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 Glarnisch has fallen in.

How! Do the very hills begin to quake?
There is stability for nought 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 neighbour will not let him rest.

[Tell looks frequently with restless expectation towards the top of
the pass.]

So fare you well! You're waiting some one here?

I am.

God speed you safely to your home!
You are from Uri, are you not? His grace
The Governor's expected thence to-day.

TRAVELLER (entering).
Look not to see the Governor to-day.
The streams are flooded by the heavy rains,
And all the bridges have been swept away.

[Tell rises.]

ARM. (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.

FRIESS. (coming hastily down the pass and calls upon the stage).
Make way, make way! My lord, the Governor,
Is close behind me, riding down the pass.

[Exit TELL.]

ARM. (excitedly).
The Viceroy comes!

[She goes towards the pass with her children, Gessler and Rudolph der
Harras appear on horseback at the upper end of the pass.]

STUSSI. (to Friess.).
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.

Stay, speak--

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.

[Looking round.]

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 humour. 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 not 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 before

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.

HAR. (to GESSL.).
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.

[To Armgart.]

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 art 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!

ARM. (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.

Woman, hence!
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?

ARM. (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;
I will--

[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?

ARM. (starts up).
Dead, dead! He reels, he falls! 'Tis in his heart!

HAR. (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 bench. 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 continues.]

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 Kussnacht? 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.

ARM. (holds up a child).
Look, children, how a tyrant dies!

Mad hag!
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 Kussnacht.
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 Misericordiae

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 falls.]



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 Furst.]

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 valour 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!"

Good heavens!

[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
Honour'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 Brunig.
'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.

[*] The Urphede was an oath of peculiar force. When a man, who was at
feud with another, invaded his lands and was worsted, he often
made terms with his enemy by swearing the Urphede, by which he
bound himself to depart, and never to return with a hostile

Oh! well for you, you have not stain'd with blood
Our spotless victory!

CHILDREN (running across the stage with fragments of wood).
We're free! we're free!

Oh! what a joyous scene! These children will
Remember it when all their heads are grey.

[Girls bring in the cap upon a pole. The whole stage is filled with

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 expelled.

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 Rosselmann and Stauffacher.]

ROSSEL. (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 tidings?

What's the matter?

Hear and wonder!

We are released from one great cause of dread.

The Emperor is murdered.

Gracious Heaven!

[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 Muller, 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 Hapsburg'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 it 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 Hapsburg's house into another line;
The Empire is determined to assert
Its old prerogative of choice, I hear.

FURST (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 shield.

[The peasantry embrace. Enter Sacristan with Imperial messenger.]

Here are the worthy chiefs of Switzerland!

ROSSEL. (and several others.)
Sacrist, what news?

A courier brings this letter.

ALL (to Walter Furst).
Open and read it.

FURST (reading).
"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.

FURST (reading).
"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!

FURST (reading).
"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 son?
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

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest