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Wilhelm Tell William Tell by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

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Etext prepared by Dagny, dagnyj@hotmail.com
Emma Dudding, emma_302@hotmail.com
and John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz

Wilhelm Tell

by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

Translator: Theodore Martin

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was born at Marbach,
Wurtemberg, Germany, November 10, 1759. His father had served both as
surgeon and soldier in the War of the Austrian Succession, and at the
time of the poet's birth held an appointment under the Duke of
Wurtemberg. Friedrich's education was begun with a view to holy
orders, but this idea was given up when he was placed in a military
academy established by the Duke. He tried the study of law and then of
medicine, but his tastes were literary; and, while holding a position
as regimental surgeon, he wrote his revolutionary drama, "The
Robbers," which brought down on him the displeasure of his ducal
master. Finding the interference with his personal liberty
intolerable, he finally fled from the Duchy, and in various retreats
went on with his dramatic work. Later he turned to philosophy and
history and through his book on "The Revolt of the Netherlands" he was
appointed professor extraordinarius at Jena, in 1789. His "History of
the Thirty Years' War" appeared in 1790-93, and in 1794 began his
intimate relation with Goethe, beside whom he lived in Weimar from
1799 till his death in 1805. His lyrical poems were produced
throughout his career, but his last period was most prolific both in
these and in dramatic composition, and includes such great works as
his "Wallenstein," "Marie Stuart," "The Maid of Orleans," "The Bride
of Messina," and "William Tell" (1804). His life was a continual
struggle against ill-health and unfavorable circumstances; but he
maintained to the end the spirit of independence and love of liberty
which are the characteristic mark of his writings.

This enthusiasm for freedom is well illustrated in "William Tell," the
most widely popular of his plays. Based upon a world-wide legend which
became localized in Switzerland in the fifteenth century and was
incorporated into the history of the struggle of the Forest Cantons
for deliverance from Austrian domination, it unites with the theme of
liberty that of the beauty of life in primitive natural conditions,
and both in its likenesses and differences illustrates Schiller's
attitude toward the principles of the French Revolution.

WILHELM TELL

by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

HERMANN GESSLER, governor of Schwytz, and Uri.
WERNER, Baron of Attinghausen, free noble of Switzerland.
ULRICH VON RUDENZ, his Nephew.

People of Schwytz:
WERNER STAUFFACHER.
CONRAD HUNN.
HANS AUF DER MAUER.
JORG IM HOFE.
ULRICH DER SCHMIDT.
JOST VON WEILER.
ITEL REDING.

People of Uri:
WALTER FURST.
WILHELM TELL.
ROSSELMANN, the Priest.
PETERMANN, Sacristan.
KUONI, Herdsman.
WERNI, Huntsman.
RUODI, Fisherman.

People of Unterwald:
ARNOLD OF MELCHTHAL.
CONRAD BAUMGARTEN.
MEYER VON SARNEN.
STRUTH VON WINKELRIED.
KLAUS VON DER FLUE.
BURKHART AM BUHEL.
ARNOLD VON SEWA.

PFEIFFER of Lucerne.
KUNZ of Gersau.
JENNI, Fisherman's son.
SEPPI, Herdsman's son.
GERTRUDE, Stauffacher's wife.
HEDWIG, wife of Tell, daughter of Furst.
BERTHA of Bruneck, a rich heiress.
ARMGART, peasant woman.
MECHTHILD, peasant woman.
ELSBETH, peasant woman.
HILDEGARD, peasant woman.
WALTER, Tell's son.
WILHELM, Tell's son.
FRIESSHARDT, Soldier.
LEUTHOLD, Soldier.
RUDOLPH DER HARRAS, Gessler's master of the horse.
JOHANNES PARRICIDA, Duke of Suabia.
STUSSI, Overseer.
The Mayor of Uri.
A Courier.
Master Stonemason, Companions, and Workmen.
Taskmaster.
A Crier.
Monks of the Order of Charity.
Horsemen of Gessler and Landenberg.
Many Peasants; Men and Women from the Waldstetten.

ACT I.

SCENE I.

A high rocky shore of the Lake of Lucerne opposite Schwytz. The lake
makes a bend into the land; a hut stands at a short distance from the
shore; the fisher boy is rowing about in his boat. Beyond the lake are
seen the green meadows, the hamlets and farms of Schwytz, lying in the
clear sunshine. On the left are observed the peaks of The Hacken,
surrounded with clouds; to the right, and in the remote distance,
appear the Glaciers. The Ranz des Vaches, and the tinkling of cattle
bells, continue for some time after the rising of the curtain.

FISHER BOY (sings in his boat) Melody of the Ranz des Vaches
The smile-dimpled lake woo'd to bathe in its deep,
A boy on its green shore had laid him to sleep;
Then heard he a melody
Floating along,
Sweet as the notes
Of an angel's song.
And as thrilling with pleasure he wakes from his rest,
The waters are rippling over his breast;
And a voice from the deep cries,
"With me thou must go,
I charm the young shepherd,
I lure him below."

HERDSMAN (on the mountains) Air.--Variation of the Ranz des Vaches
Farewell, ye green meadows,
Farewell, sunny shore,
The herdsman must leave you,
The summer is o'er.
We go to the hills, but you'll see us again,
When the cuckoo calls, and the merry birds sing,
When the flowers bloom afresh in glade and in glen,
And the brooks sparkle bright in the sunshine of Spring.
Farewell, ye green meadows,
Farewell, sunny shore,
The herdsman must leave you,
The summer is o'er.

CHAMOIS HUNTER (appearing on the top of a cliff) Second Variation of
the Ranz des Vaches
On the heights peals the thunder, and trembles the bridge,
The huntsman bounds on by the dizzying ridge.
Undaunted he hies him
O'er ice-covered wild,
Where leaf never budded,
Nor Spring ever smiled;
And beneath him an ocean of mist, where his eye
No longer the dwellings of man can espy;
Through the parting clouds only
The earth can be seen,
Far down 'neath the vapour
The meadows of green.

[A change comes over the landscape. A rumbling, cracking noise is
heard among the mountains. Shadows of clouds sweep across the scene.
Ruodi, the fisherman, comes out of his cottage.
Werni, the huntsman, descends from the rocks.
Kuoni, the shepherd, enters, with a milkpail on his shoulders, followed
by Seppi, his assistant.]

RUODI.
Come, Jenni, bustle; get the boat on shore.
The grizzly Vale-King[*] comes, the Glaciers moan,
The Mytenstein[+] is drawing on his hood,
And from the Stormcleft chilly blows the wind;
The storm will burst before we know what's what.

[*] The German is, Thalvogt, Ruler of the Valley--the name given
figuratively to a dense grey mist which the south wind sweeps into
the valleys from the mountain tops. It is well known as the
precursor of stormy weather.

[+] A steep rock, standing on the north of Rutli, and nearly opposite
to Brumen.

KUONI.
'Twill rain ere long; my sheep browse eagerly,
And Watcher there is scraping up the earth.

WERNI.
The fish are leaping, and the water-hen
Keeps diving up and down. A storm is brewing.

KUONI (to his boy).
Look, Seppi, if the beasts be all in sight.

SEPPI.
There goes brown Liesel, I can hear her bells.

KUONI.
Then all are safe; she ever ranges farthest.

RUODI.
You've a fine chime of bells there, master herdsman.

WERNI.
And likely cattle, too. Are they your own?

KUONI.
I'm not so rich. They are the noble lord's
Of Attinghaus, and told off to my care.

RUODI.
How gracefully yon heifer bears her ribbon!

KUONI.
Ay, well she knows she's leader of the herd,
And, take it from her, she'd refuse to feed.

RUODI.
You're joking now. A beast devoid of reason--

WERNI.
Easily said. But beasts have reason, too,--
And that we know, we chamois-hunters, well.
They never turn to feed--sagacious creatures!
Till they have placed a sentinel ahead,
Who pricks his ears whenever we approach,
And gives alarm with clear and piercing pipe.

RUODI (to the shepherd).
Are you for home?

KUONI.
The Alp is grazed quite bare.

WERNI.
A safe return, my friend!

KUONI.
The same to you!
Men come not always back from tracks like yours.

RUODI.
But who comes here, running at topmost speed?

WERNI.
I know the man; 'tis Baumgart of Alzellen.

KONRAD BAUMGARTEN (rushing in breathless).
For God's sake, ferryman, your boat!

RUODI.
How now? Why all this haste?

BAUM.
Cast off! My life's at stake!
Set me across!

KUONI.
Why, what's the matter, friend?

WERNI.
Who are pursuing you? First tell us that.

BAUM. (to the fisherman).
Quick, quick, man, quick! they're close upon my heels!
It is the Viceroy's men are after me;
If they should overtake me, I am lost.

RUODI.
Why are the troopers in pursuit of you?

BAUM.
First make me safe and then I'll tell you all.

WERNI.
There's blood upon your garments--how is this?

BAUM.
The Imperial Seneschal, who dwelt at Rossberg--

KUONI.
How! What! The Wolfshot?[*] Is it he pursues you?

[*] In German, Wolfenschiessen--a young man of noble family, and a
native of Unterwalden, who attached himself to the House of
Austria, and was appointed Burvogt, or Seneschal, of the Castle of
Rossberg. He was killed by Baumgarten in the manner, and for the
cause, mentioned in the text.

BAUM.
He'll ne'er hurt man again; I've settled him.

ALL (starting back).
Now, God forgive you, what is this you've done!

BAUM.
What every free man in my place had done.
Mine own good household right I have enforced
'Gainst him that would have wrong'd my wife--my honour.

KUONI.
How? Wronged you in your honour, did he so?

BAUM.
That he did not fulfil his foul desire,
Is due to God, and to my trusty axe.

WERNI.
And you have cleft his skull then with your axe?

KUONI.
O, tell us all! You've time enough, and more,
While he is getting out the boat there from the beach.

BAUM.
When I was in the forest felling timber,
My wife came running out in mortal fear.
"The Seneschal," she said, "was in my house,
Had ordered her to get a bath prepared,
And thereupon had ta'en unseemly freedoms,
From which she rid herself, and flew to me."
Arm'd as I was, I sought him, and my axe
Has given his bath a bloody benison.

WERNI.
And you did well; no man can blame the deed.

KUONI.
The tyrant! Now he has his just reward! We men of
Unterwald have owed it long.

BAUM.
The deed got wind, and now they're in pursuit.
Heavens! whilst we speak, the time is flying fast.

[It begins to thunder.]

KUONI.
Quick, ferryman, and set the good man over.

RUODI.
Impossible! a storm is close at hand,
Wait till it pass! You must.

BAUM.
Almighty heavens!
I cannot wait; the least delay is death.

KUONI (to the fisherman).
Push out--God with you!
We should help our neighbours;
The like misfortune may betide us all.

[Thunder and the roaring of the wind.]

RUODI.
The South-wind's up![*] See how the lake is rising!
I cannot steer against both wind and wave.

[*] Literally, The Fohn is loose! "When," says Muller, in his History
of Switzerland, "the wind called the Fohn is high, the navigation
of the lake becomes extremely dangerous. Such is its vehemence,
that the laws of the country require that the fires shall be
extinguished in the houses while it lasts, and the night watches
are doubled. The inhabitants lay heavy stones upon the roofs of
their houses, to prevent their being blown away."

BAUM. (clasping him by the knees).
God so help you as now you pity me!

WERNI.
His life's at stake. Have pity on him, man!

KUONI.
He is a father: has a wife and children.

[Repeated peals of thunder.]

RUODI.
What! and have I not, then, a life to lose,
A wife and child at home as well as he?
See how the breakers foam, and toss, and whirl,
And the lake eddies up from all its depths!
Right gladly would I save the worthy man,
But 'tis impossible, as you must see.

BAUM. (still kneeling).
Then must I fall into the tyrant's hands.
And with the shore of safety close in sight!
Yonder it lies! My eyes can see it clear,
My very voice can echo to its shores.
There is the boat to carry me across,
Yet must I lie here helpless and forlorn.

KUONI.
Look! who comes here?

RUODI.
'Tis Tell, ay, Tell, of Burglen.[*]

[*] Burglen, the birthplace and residence of Tell. A chapel, erected
in 1522, remains on the spot formerly occupied by his house.

[Enter Tell with a crossbow.]

TELL.
What man is he that here implores of aid?

KUONI.
He is from Alzellen, and to guard his honour
From touch of foulest shame, has slain the Wolfshot,
The Imperial Seneschal, who dwelt at Rossberg.
The Viceroy's troopers are upon his heels;
He begs the ferryman to take him over,
But frightened at the storm he says he won't.

RUODI.
Well, there is Tell can steer as well as I.
He'll be my judge, if it be possible.

[Violent peals of thunder--the lake becomes more tempestuous.]

Am I to plunge into the jaws of hell?
I should be mad to dare the desperate act.

TELL.
The brave man thinks upon himself the last.
Put trust in God, and help him in his need!

RUODI.
Safe in the port, 'tis easy to advise.
There is the boat, and there the lake! Try you!

TELL.
The lake may pity, but the Viceroy never.
Come, risk it, man!

SHEPHERD and HUNTSMAN.
O save him! save him! save him!

RUODI.
Though 'twere my brother, or my darling child,
I would not go. 'Tis Simon and Jude's day,
The lake is up, and calling for its victim.

TELL.
Nought's to be done with idle talking here.
Each moment's precious; the man must be help'd,
Say, boatman, will you venture?

RUODI.
No; not I.

TELL.
In God's name, then, give me the boat! I will,
With my poor strength, see what is to be done!

KUONI.
Ha, gallant Tell!

WERNI.
That's like a huntsman true.

BAUM.
You are my angel, my preserver, Tell.

TELL.
I may preserve you from the Viceroy's power,
But from the tempest's rage another must.
Yet better 'tis you fall into God's hands,
Than into those of men.

[To the herdsman.]

Herdsman, do thou
Console my wife if I should come to grief.
I could not choose but do as I have done.

[He leaps into the boat.]

KUONI (to the fisherman).
A pretty man to keep a ferry, truly!
What Tell could risk, you dared not venture on.

RUODI.
Far better men would never cope with Tell.
There's no two such as he 'mong all our hills.

WERNI (who has ascended a rock).
Now he is off. God help thee, gallant sailor!
Look how the little boat reels on the waves!
There! they have swept clean over it. And now--

KUONI (on the shore).
'Tis out of sight. Yet stay, there 'tis again!
Stoutly he stems the breakers, noble fellow!

SEPPI.
Here come the troopers hard as they can ride!

KUONI.
Heavens! so they do! Why, that was help, indeed.

[Enter a troop of horsemen.]

1ST H.
Give up the murderer! You have him here!

2ND H.
This way he came! 'Tis useless to conceal him!

RUODI and KUONI.
Whom do you mean?

1ST H. (discovering the boat).
The devil! What do I see?

WERNI. (from above).
Isn't he in yonder boat ye seek? Ride on,
If you lay to, you may o'ertake him yet.

2ND H.
Curse on you, he's escaped!

1ST H. (to the shepherd and fisherman).
You help'd him off,
And you shall pay for it! Fall on their herds!
Down with the cottage! burn it! beat it down!

[They rush off.]

SEPPI (hurrying after them).
Oh, my poor lambs!

KUONI (following him).
Unhappy me, my herds!

WERNI.
The tyrants!

RUODI (wringing his hands).
Righteous Heaven! Oh, when will come
Deliverance to this doom-devoted land?

[Exeunt severally.]

SCENE II.

A lime tree in front of Stauffacher's house at Steinen, in Schwytz,
upon the public road, near a bridge.

Werner Stauffacher and Pfeiffer, of Lucerne, enter into conversation.

PFEIFF.
Ay, ay, friend Stauffacher, as I have said,
Swear not to Austria, if you can help it.
Hold by the Empire stoutly as of yore,
And God preserve you in your ancient freedom!

[Presses his hand warmly, and is going.]

STAUFF.
Wait till my mistress comes. Now do! You are
My guest in Schwytz--I in Lucerne am yours.

PFEIFF.
Thanks! thanks! But I must reach Gersau to-day.
Whatever grievances your rulers' pride
And grasping avarice may yet inflict,
Bear them in patience--soon a change may come.
Another emperor may mount the throne.
But Austria's once, and you are hers for ever.

[Exit.]

[Stauffacher sits down sorrowfully upon a bench under the lime tree.
Gertrude, his wife, enters, and finds him in this posture. She places
herself near him, and looks at him for some time in silence.]

GERT.
So sad, my love! I scarcely know thee now.
For many a day in silence I have mark'd
A moody sorrow furrowing thy brow.
Some silent grief is weighing on thy heart.
Trust it to me. I am thy faithful wife,
And I demand my half of all thy cares.

[Stauffacher gives her his hand and is silent.]

Tell me what can oppress thy spirits thus?
Thy toil is blest--the world goes well with thee--
Our barns are full--our cattle, many a score;
Our handsome team of well-fed horses, too,
Brought from the mountain pastures safely home,
To winter in their comfortable stalls.
There stands thy house--no nobleman's more fair!
'Tis newly built with timber of the best,
All grooved and fitted with the nicest skill;
Its many glistening windows tell of comfort!
'Tis quarter'd o'er with' scutcheons of all hues,
And proverbs sage, which passing travellers
Linger to read, and ponder o'er their meaning.

STAUFF.
The house is strongly built, and handsomely,
But, ah! the ground on which we built it quakes.

GERT.
Tell me, dear Werner, what you mean by that?

STAUFF.
No later gone than yesterday, I sat
Beneath this linden, thinking with delight,
How fairly all was finished, when from Kussnacht
The Viceroy and his men came riding by.
Before this house he halted in surprise:
At once I rose, and, as beseemed his rank,
Advanced respectfully to greet the lord,
To whom the Emperor delegates his power,
As judge supreme within our Canton here.
"Who is the owner of this house?" he asked,
With mischief in his thoughts, for well he knew.
With prompt decision, thus I answered him:
"The Emperor, your grace--my lord and yours,
And held by me in fief." On this he answered,
"I am the Emperor's viceregent here,
And will not that each peasant churl should build
At his own pleasure, bearing him as freely
As though he were the master in the land.
I shall make bold to put a stop to this!"
So saying, he, with menaces, rode off,
And left me musing with a heavy heart
On the fell purpose that his words betray'd.

GERT.
My own dear lord and husband! Wilt thou take
A word of honest counsel from thy wife?
I boast to be the noble Iberg's child,
A man of wide experience. Many a time,
As we sat spinning in the winter nights,
My sisters and myself, the people's chiefs
Were wont to gather round our father's hearth,
To read the old imperial charters, and
To hold sage converse on the country's weal.
Then heedfully I listened, marking well
What now the wise man thought, the good man wished,
And garner'd up their wisdom in my heart.
Hear then, and mark me well; for thou wilt see,
I long have known the grief that weighs thee down.
The Viceroy hates thee, fain would injure thee,
For thou hast cross'd his wish to bend the Swiss
In homage to this upstart house of princes,
And kept them staunch, like their good sires of old,
In true allegiance to the Empire. Say,
Is't not so, Werner? Tell me, am I wrong?

STAUFF.
'Tis even so. For this doth Gessler hate me.

GERT.
He burns with envy, too, to see thee living
Happy and free on thine ancestral soil,
For he is landless. From the Emperor's self
Thou hold'st in fief the lands thy fathers left thee.
There's not a prince i' the Empire that can show
A better title to his heritage;
For thou hast over thee no lord but one,
And he the mightiest of all Christian kings.
Gessler, we know, is but a younger son,
His only wealth the knightly cloak he wears;
He therefore views an honest man's good fortune
With a malignant and a jealous eye.
Long has he sworn to compass thy destruction.
As yet thou art uninjured. Wilt thou wait
Till he may safely give his malice vent?
A wise man would anticipate the blow.

STAUFF.
What's to be done?

GERT.
Now hear what I advise.
Thou knowest well, how here with us in Schwytz
All worthy men are groaning underneath
This Gessler's grasping, grinding tyranny.
Doubt not the men of Unterwald as well,
And Uri, too, are chafing like ourselves,
At this oppressive and heart-wearying yoke.
For there, across the lake, the Landenberg
Wields the same iron rule as Gessler here--
No fishing-boat comes over to our side,
But brings the tidings of some new encroachment,
Some fresh outrage, more grievous than the last.
Then it were well, that some of you--true men--
Men sound at heart, should secretly devise,
How best to shake this hateful thraldom off.
Full sure I am that God would not desert you,
But lend His favour to the righteous cause.
Has thou no friend in Uri, one to whom
Thou frankly may'st unbosom all thy thoughts?

STAUFF.
I know full many a gallant fellow there,
And nobles, too,--great men, of high repute,
In whom I can repose unbounded trust.

[Rising.]

Wife! What a storm of wild and perilous thoughts
Hast thou stirr'd up within my tranquil breast!
The darkest musings of my bosom thou
Hast dragg'd to light, and placed them full before me;
And what I scarce dared harbour e'en in thought,
Thou speakest plainly out with fearless tongue.
But hast thou weigh'd well what thou urgest thus?
Discord will come, and the fierce clang of arms,
To scare this valley's long unbroken peace,
If we, a feeble shepherd race, shall dare
Him to the fight, that lords it o'er the world.
Ev'n now they only wait some fair pretext
For setting loose their savage warrior hordes,
To scourge and ravage this devoted land,
To lord it o'er us with the victor's rights,
And, 'neath the show of lawful chastisement,
Despoil us of our chartered liberties.

GERT.
You, too are men; can wield a battle axe
As well as they. God ne'er deserts the brave.

STAUFF.
Oh wife! a horrid, ruthless fiend is war,
That smites at once the shepherd and his flock.

GERT.
Whate'er great Heaven inflicts, we must endure;
But wrong is what no noble heart will bear.

STAUFF.
This house--thy pride--war, unrelenting war
Will burn it down.

GERT.
And did I think this heart
Enslaved and fettered to the things of earth,
With my own hand I'd hurl the kindling torch.

STAUFF.
Thou hast faith in human kindness, wife; but war
Spares not the tender infant in its cradle.

GERT.
There is a Friend to innocence in heaven.
Send your gaze forward, Werner--not behind.

STAUFF.
We men may die like men, with sword in hand;
But oh, what fate, my Gertrude, may be thine?

GERT.
None are so weak, but one last choice is left.
A spring from yonder bridge and I am free!

STAUFF. (embracing her).
Well may he fight for hearth and home, that clasps
A heart so rare as thine against his own!
What are the host of emperors to him?
Gertrude, farewell! I will to Uri straight.
There lives my worthy comrade, Walter Furst;
His thoughts and mine upon these times are one.
There, too, resides the noble Banneret
Of Attinghaus. High though of blood he be,
He loves the people, honours their old customs.
With both of these I will take counsel, how
To rid us bravely of our country's foe.
Farewell! and while I am away, bear thou
A watchful eye in management at home.
The pilgrim journeying to the house of God,
And holy friar, collecting for his cloister,
To these give liberally from purse and garner.
Stauffacher's house would not be hid. Right out
Upon the public way it stands, and offers
To all that pass a hospitable roof.

[While they are retiring, Tell enters with Baumgarten.]

TELL.
Now, then, you have no further need of me.
Enter yon house. 'Tis Werner Stauffacher's,
A man that is a father to distress.
See, there he is, himself! Come, follow me.

[They retire up. Scene changes.]

SCENE III.

A common near Altdorf. On an eminence in the background a castle in
progress of erection, and so far advanced that the outline of the
whole may be distinguished. The back part is finished: men are working
at the front. Scaffolding, on which the workmen are going up and down.
A slater is seen upon the highest part of the roof. All is bustle and
activity.

Taskmaster, Mason, Workmen and Labourers.

TASK. (with a stick, urging on the workmen).
Up, up!
You've rested long enough. To work!
The stones here! Now the mortar, and the lime!
And let his lordship see the work advanced,
When next he comes. These fellows crawl like snails!

[To two labourers, with loads.]

What! call ye that a load? Go, double it.
Is this the way ye earn your wages, laggards?

1ST W.
'Tis very hard that we must bear the stones,
To make a keep and dungeon for ourselves!

TASK.
What's that you mutter? 'Tis a worthless race,
For nothing fit but just to milk their cows,
And saunter idly up and down the hills.

OLD MAN (sinks down exhausted).
I can no more.

TASK. (shaking him).
Up, up, old man, to work!

1ST W.
Have you no bowels of compassion, thus
To press so hard upon a poor old man,
That scarce can drag his feeble limbs along?

MASTER MASON and WORKMEN.
Shame, shame upon you--shame! It cries to heaven.

TASK.
Mind your own business. I but do my duty.

1ST W.
Pray, master, what's to be the name of this
Same castle, when 'tis built?

TASK.
The Keep of Uri;
For by it we shall keep you in subjection.

WORK.
The Keep of Uri?

TASK.
Well, why laugh at that?

2ND W.
Keep Uri, will you, with this paltry place!

1ST W.
How many molehills such as that must first
Be piled up each on each, ere you make
A mountain equal to the least in Uri?

[Taskmaster retires up the stage.]

MAS. M.
I'll drown the mallet in the deepest lake,
That served my hand on this accursed pile.

[Enter Tell and Stauffacher.]

STAUFF.
O, that I had not lived to see this sight!

TELL.
Here 'tis not good to be. Let us proceed.

STAUFF.
Am I in Uri,--Uri, freedom's home?

MAS. M.
O, sir, if you could only see the vaults
Beneath these towers. The man that tenants them
Will ne'er hear cock crow more.

STAUFF.
O God! O God!

MASON.
Look at these ramparts and these buttresses,
That seem as they were built to last for ever.

TELL.
What hands have built, my friend, hands can destroy.

[Pointing to the mountains.]

/That/ home of freedom God hath built for us.

[A drum is heard. People enter bearing a cap upon a pole, followed by
a crier. Women and children thronging tumultuously after them.]

1ST W.
What means the drum? Give heed!

MASON.
Why, here's a mumming!
And look, the cap--what can they mean by that?

CRIER.
In the Emperor's name, give ear!

WORK.
Hush! silence! hush!

CRIER.
Ye men of Uri, ye do see this cap!
It will be set upon a lofty pole
In Altdorf, in the market place: and this
Is the Lord Governor's good will and pleasure;
The cap shall have like honour as himself,
All do it reverence with bended knee,
And head uncovered; thus the king will know
Who are his true and loyal subjects here;
His life and goods are forfeit to the crown
That shall refuse obedience to the order.

[The people burst out into laughter. The drum beats and the procession
passes on.]

1ST W.
A strange device to fall upon indeed:
Do reverence to a cap! A pretty farce!
Heard ever mortal anything like this?

MAS. M.
Down to a cap on bended knee, forsooth!
Rare jesting this with men of sober sense!

1ST W.
Nay, an it were the imperial crown! A cap!
Merely the cap of Austria! I've seen it
Hanging above the throne in Gessler's hall.

MASON.
The cap of Austria? Mark that! A snare
To get us into Austria's power, by Heaven!

WORK.
No freeborn man will stoop to such disgrace.

MAS. M.
Come--to our comrades, and advise with them!

[They retire up.]

TELL (to Stauffacher).
You see how matters stand.
Farewell, my friend.

STAUFF.
Whither away? Oh, leave us not so soon.

TELL.
They look for me at home. So fare ye well.

STAUFF.
My heart's so full, and has so much to tell you.

TELL.
Words will not make a heart that's heavy light.

STAUFF.
Yet words may possibly conduct to deeds.

TELL.
Endure in silence! We can do no more.

STAUFF.
But shall we bear what is not to be borne?

TELL.
Impetuous rulers have the shortest reigns.
When the fierce Southwind rises from its chasms,
Men cover up their fires, the ships in haste
Make for the harbour, and the mighty spirit
Sweeps o'er the earth, and leaves no trace behind.
Let every man live quietly at home;
Peace to the peaceful rarely is denied.

STAUFF.
And is it thus you view our grievances?

TELL.
The serpent stings not till it is provoked.
Let them alone; they'll weary of themselves,
When they shall see we are not to be roused.

STAUFF.
Much might be done--did we stand fast together.

TELL.
When the ship founders, he will best escape,
Who seeks no other's safety but his own.

STAUFF.
And you desert the common cause so coldly?

TELL.
A man can safely count but on himself!

STAUFF.
Nay, even the weak grow strong by union.

TELL.
But the strong man is strongest when alone.

STAUFF.
So, then, your country cannot count on you,
If in despair she rise against her foes.

TELL.
Tell rescues the lost sheep from yawning gulfs:
Is he a man, then, to desert his friends?
Yet, whatsoe'er you do, spare me from council!
I was not born to ponder and select;
But when your course of action is resolved,
Then call on Tell: you shall not find him fail.

[Exeunt severally. A sudden tumult is heard around the scaffolding.]

MASON (running in).
What's wrong?

FIRST WORKMAN (running forward).
The slater's fallen from the roof.

BERTHA (rushing in).
Heavens! Is he dashed to pieces?
Save him, help!
If help be possible, save him! Here is gold.

[Throws her trinkets among the people.]

MASON.
Hence with your gold,--your universal charm,
And remedy for ill! When you have torn
Fathers from children, husbands from their wives,
And scattered woe and wail throughout the land,
You think with gold to compensate for all.
Hence! Till we saw you, we were happy men;
With you came misery and dark despair.

BERTHA (to the Taskmaster, who has returned).
Lives he?

[Taskmaster shakes his head.]

Ill-omened towers, with curses built,
And doomed with curses to be tenanted!

[Exit.]

SCENE IV.

The House of Walter Furst. Walter Furst and Arnold von Melchthal enter
simultaneously at different sides.

MELCH.
Good Walter Furst.

FURST.
If we should be surprised!
Stay where you are. We are beset with spies.

MELCH.
Have you no news for me from Unterwald?
What of my father? 'Tis not to be borne,
Thus to be pent up like a felon here!
What have I done so heinous that I must
Skulk here in hiding, like a murderer?
I only laid my staff across the fists
Of the pert varlet, when before my eyes,
By order of the governor, he tried
To drive away my handsome team of oxen.

FURST.
You are too rash by far. He did no more
Than what the Governor had ordered him.
You had transgress'd, and therefore should have paid
The penalty, however hard, in silence.

MELCH.
Was I to brook the fellow's saucy gibe,
"That if the peasant must have bread to eat,
Why, let him go and draw the plough himself!"
It cut me to the very soul to see
My oxen, noble creatures, when the knave
Unyoked them from the plough. As though they felt
The wrong, they lowed and butted with their horns.
On this I could contain myself no longer,
And, overcome by passion, struck him down.

FURST.
O, we old men can scarce command ourselves!
And can we wonder youth breaks out of bounds?

MELCH.
I'm only sorry for my father's sake!
To be away from him, that needs so much
My fostering care! The Governor detests him,
Because, whene'er occasion served, he has
Stood stoutly up for right and liberty.
Therefore they'll bear him hard--the poor old man!
And there is none to shield him from their gripe.
Come what come may, I must go home again.

FURST.
Compose yourself, and wait in patience till
We get some tidings o'er from Unterwald.
Away! away! I hear a knock! Perhaps
A message from the Viceroy! Get thee in!
You are not safe from Landenberger's[*] arm
In Uri, for these tyrants pull together.

[*] Berenger von Landenberg, a man of noble family in Thurgau, and
Governor of Unterwald, infamous for his cruelties to the Swiss,
and particularly to the venerable Henry of the Halden. He was
slain at the battle of Morgarten, in 1315.

MELCH.
They teach us Switzers what we ought to do.

FURST.
Away! I'll call you when the coast is clear.

[Melchthal retires.]

Unhappy youth! I dare not tell him all
The evil that my boding heart predicts!
Who's there? The door ne'er opens, but I look
For tidings of mishap. Suspicion lurks
With darkling treachery in every nook.
Even to our inmost rooms they force their way,
These myrmidons of power; and soon we'll need
To fasten bolts and bars upon our doors.

[He opens the door, and steps back in surprise as Werner Stauffacher
enters.]

What do I see? You, Werner? Now, by Heaven!
A valued guest, indeed. No man e'er set
His foot across this threshold, more esteem'd,
Welcome! thrice welcome, Werner, to my roof!
What brings you here? What seek you here in Uri?

STAUFF. (shakes Furst by the hand).
The olden times and olden Switzerland.

FURST.
You bring them with you. See how glad I am,
My heart leaps at the very sight of you.
Sit down--sit down, and tell me how you left
Your charming wife, fair Gertrude? Iberg's child,
And clever as her father. Not a man,
That wends from Germany, by Meinrad's Cell,[*]
To Italy, but praises far and wide
Your house's hospitality. But say,
Have you come here direct from Fluelen,
And have you noticed nothing on your way,
Before you halted at my door?

[*] A cell built in the 9th century, by Meinrad, Count of
Hohenzollern, the founder of the Convent of Einsiedeln,
subsequently alluded to in the text.

STAUFF. (sits down).
I saw
A work in progress, as I came along,
I little thought to see--that likes me ill.

FURST.
O friend! you've lighted on my thought at once.

STAUFF.
Such things in Uri ne'er were known before.
Never was prison here in man's remembrance,
Nor ever any stronghold but the grave.

FURST.
You name it well. It is the grave of freedom.

STAUFF.
Friend, Walter Furst, I will be plain with you.
No idle curiosity it is
That brings me here, but heavy cares. I left
Thraldom at home, and thraldom meets me here.
Our wrongs, e'en now, are more than we can bear
And who shall tell us where they are to end?
From eldest time the Switzer has been free,
Accustom'd only to the mildest rule.
Such things as now we suffer ne'er were known,
Since herdsman first drove cattle to the hills.

FURST.
Yes, our oppressions are unparallel'd!
Why, even our own good lord of Attinghaus,
Who lived in olden times, himself declares
They are no longer to be tamely borne.

STAUFF.
In Unterwalden yonder 'tis the same;
And bloody has the retribution been.
The imperial Seneschal, the Wolfshot, who
At Rossberg dwelt, long'd for forbidden fruit--
Baumgarten's wife, that lives at Alzellen,
He tried to make a victim to his lust,
On which the husband slew him with his axe.

FURST.
O, Heaven is just in all its judgments still!
Baumgarten, say you? A most worthy man.
Has he escaped, and is he safely hid?

STAUFF.
Your son-in-law conveyed him o'er the lake,
And he lies hidden in my house at Steinen.
He brought the tidings with him of a thing
That has been done at Sarnen, worse than all,
A thing to make the very heart run blood!

FURST. (attentively).
Say on. What is it?

STAUFF.
There dwells in Melchthal, then,
Just as you enter by the road from Kerns,
An upright man, named Henry of the Halden,
A man of weight and influence in the Diet.

FURST.
Who knows him not? But what of him? Proceed.

STAUFF.
The Landenberg, to punish some offence
Committed by the old man's son, it seems,
Had given command to take the youth's best pair
Of oxen from his plough; on which the lad
Struck down the messenger and took to flight.

FURST.
But the old father--tell me, what of him?

STAUFF.
The Landenberg sent for him, and required
He should produce his son upon the spot;
And when the old man protested, and with truth,
That he knew nothing of the fugitive,
The tyrant call'd his torturers.

FURST. (springs up and tries to lead him to the other side).
Hush, no more!

STAUFF. (with increasing warmth).
"And though thy son," he cried, "has 'scaped me now,
I have thee fast, and thou shalt feel my vengeance."
With that they flung the old man to the ground,
And plunged the pointed steel into his eyes.

FURST.
Merciful Heaven!

MELCH. (rushing out).
Into his eyes, his eyes?

STAUFF. (addresses himself in astonishment to Walter Furst).
Who is this youth?

MELCH. (grasping him convulsively).
Into his eyes? Speak, speak!

FURST.
Oh, miserable hour!

STAUFF.
Who is it, tell me?

[Stauffacher makes a sign to him.]

It is his son! All-righteous Heaven!

MELCH.
And I
Must be from thence! What! Into both his eyes?

FURST.
Be calm, be calm; and bear it like a man!

MELCH.
And all for me-- for my mad willful folly!
Blind, did you say? Quite blind--and both his eyes?

STAUFF.
Ev'n so. The fountain of his sight is quench'd,
He ne'er will see the blessed sunshine more.

FURST.
Oh, spare his anguish!

MELCH.
Never, never more!

[Presses his hands upon his eyes and is silent for some moments: then
turning from one to the other, speaks in a subdued tone, broken by
sobs.]

O, the eye's light, of all the gifts of Heaven,
The dearest, best! From light all beings live--
Each fair created thing--the very plants
Turn with a joyful transport to the light,
And he--he must drag on through all his days
In endless darkness! Never more for him
The sunny meads shall glow, the flow'rets bloom;
Nor shall he more behold the roseate tints
Of the iced mountain top! To die is nothing.
But to have life, and not have sight,--oh that
Is misery, indeed! Why do you look
So piteously at me? I have two eyes,
Yet to my poor blind father can give neither!
No, not one gleam of that great sea of light,
That with its dazzling splendour floods my gaze.

STAUFF.
Ah, I must swell the measure of your grief,
Instead of soothing it. The worst, alas!
Remains to tell. They've stripp'd him of his all;
Nought have they left him, save his staff, on which,
Blind, and in rags, he moves from door to door.

MELCH.
Nought but his staff to the old eyeless man!
Stripp'd of his all--even of the light of day,
The common blessing of the meanest wretch?
Tell me no more of patience, of concealment!
Oh, what a base and coward thing am I,
That on mine own security I thought,
And took no care of thine! Thy precious head
Left as a pledge within the tyrant's grasp!
Hence, craven-hearted prudence, hence! And all
My thoughts be vengeance, and the despot's blood!
I'll seek him straight--no power shall stay me now--
And at his hands demand my father's eyes.
I'll beard him 'mid a thousand myrmidons!
What's life to me, if in his heart's best blood
I cool the fever of this mighty anguish?

[He is going.]

FURST.
Stay, this is madness, Melchthal! What avails
Your single arm against his power? He sits
At Sarnen high within his lordly keep,
And, safe within its battlemented walls,
May laugh to scorn your unavailing rage.

MELCH.
And though he sat within the icy domes
Of yon far Schreckhorn--ay, or higher, where,
Veil'd since eternity, the Jungfrau soars,
Still to the tyrant would I make my way;
With twenty comrades minded like myself,
I'd lay his fastness level with the earth!
And if none follow me, and if you all,
In terror for your homesteads and your herds,
Bow in submission to the tyrant's yoke,
Round me I'll call the herdsmen on the hills,
And there beneath heaven's free and boundless roof,
Where men still feel as men, and hearts are true,
Proclaim aloud this foul enormity!

STAUFF. (to Furst.)
The measure's full--and are we then to wait
Till some extremity--

MELCH.
Peace! What extremity
Remains for us to dread? What, when our eyes
No longer in their sockets are secure?
Heavens! Are we helpless? Wherefore did we learn
To bend the cross-bow,--wield the battle-axe?
What living creature but in its despair,
Finds for itself a weapon of defence?
The baited stag will turn, and with the show
Of his dread antlers hold the hounds at bay;
The chamois drags the hunstman down th' abyss,
The very ox, the partner of man's toil,
The sharer of his roof, that meekly bends
The strength of his huge neck beneath the yoke,
Springs up, if he's provoked, whets his strong horn,
And tosses his tormentor to the clouds.

FURST.
If the three Cantons thought as we three do,
Something might then be done, with good effect.

STAUFF.
When Uri calls, when Unterwald replies,
Schwytz will be mindful of her ancient league.[*]

[*] The League, or Bond, of the Three Cantons was of very ancient
origin. They met and renewed it from time to time, especially when
their liberties were threatened with danger. A remarkable instance
of this occurred in the end of the 13th century, when Albert of
Austria became Emperor, and when, possibly, for the first time,
the Bond was reduced to writing. As it is important to the
understanding of many passages of the play, a translation is
subjoined of the oldest known document relating to it. The
original, which is in Latin and German, is dated in August, 1291,
and is under the seals of the whole of the men of Schwytz, the
commonalty of the vale of Uri, and the whole of the men of the
upper and lower vales of Stanz.

THE BOND

Be it known to every one, that the men of the Dale of Uri, the
Community of Schwytz, as also the men of the mountains of
Unterwald, in consideration of the evil times, have full
confidently bound themselves, and sworn to help each other with
all their power and might, property and people, against all who
shall do violence to them, or any of them. That is our Ancient
Bond.

Whoever hath a Seignior, let him obey according to the conditions
of his service.

We are agreed to receive into these dales no Judge, who is not a
countryman and indweller, or who hath bought his place.

Every controversy amongst the sworn confederates shall be
determined by some of the sagest of their number, and if any one
shall challenge their judgment, then shall he be constrained to
obey it by the rest.

Whoever intentionally or deceitfully kills another, shall be
executed, and whoever shelters him shall be banished.

Whoever burns the property of another shall no longer be regarded
as a countryman, and whoever shelters him shall make good the
damage done.

Whoever injures another, or robs him, and hath property in our
country, shall make satisfaction out of the same.

No one shall distrain a debtor without a judge, nor any one who is
not his debtor, or the surety of such debtor.

Every one in these dales shall submit to the judge, or we, the
sworn confederates, all will take satisfaction for all the injury
occasioned by his contumacy. And if in any internal division the
one party will not accept justice, all the rest shall help the
other party. These decrees shall, God willing, endure eternally
for our general advantage.

MELCH.
I've many friends in Unterwald, and none
That would not gladly venture life and limb,
If fairly back'd and aided by the rest.
Oh! sage and reverend fathers of this land,
Here do I stand before your riper years,
An unskill'd youth, who in the Diet must
Into respectful silence hush his voice.
Yet do not, for that I am young, and want
Experience, slight my counsel and my words.
'Tis not the wantonness of youthful blood
That fires my spirit; but a pang so deep
That e'en the flinty rocks must pity me.
You, too, are fathers, heads of families,
And you must wish to have a virtuous son,
To reverence your grey hairs, and shield your eyes
With pious and affectionate regard.
Do not, I pray, because in limb and fortune
You still are unassailed, and still your eyes
Revolve undimm'd and sparkling in their spheres;
Oh, do not, therefore, disregard our wrongs!
Above you, also, hangs the tyrant's sword.
You, too, have striven to alienate the land
From Austria. This was all my father's crime:
You share his guilt, and may his punishment.

STAUFF. (to Furst).
Do thou resolve! I am prepared to follow.

FURST.
First let us learn what steps the noble lords
Von Sillinen and Attinghaus propose.
Their names would rally thousands to the cause.

MELCH.
Is there a name within the Forest Mountains
That carried more respect than yours--and yours?
On names like these the people build their trust
In time of need--such names are household words.
Rich was your heritage of manly worth,
And richly have you added to its stores.
What need of nobles? Let us do the work
Ourselves. Yes, though we have to stand alone,
We shall be able to maintain our rights.

STAUFF.
The noble's wrongs are not so great as ours.
The torrent, that lays waste the lower grounds,
Hath not ascended to the uplands yet.
But let them see the country once in arms,
They'll not refuse to lend a helping hand.

FURST.
Were there an umpire 'twixt ourselves and Austria,
Justice and law might then decide our quarrel.
But out oppressor is our Emperor too,
And judge supreme. 'Tis God must help us, then,
And our own arm! Be yours the task to rouse
The men of Schwytz. I'll rally friends in Uri.
But whom are we to send to Unterwald?

MELCH.
Thither send me. Whom should it more concern!

FURST.
No, Melchthal, no; you are my guest, and I
Must answer for your safety.

MELCH.
Let me go. I know each forest track and mountain path;
Friends too, I'll find, be sure, on every hand,
To give me willing shelter from the foe.

STAUFF.
Nay, let him go; no traitors harbour there:
For tyranny is so abhorred in Unterwald,
No tools can there be found to work her will.
In the low valleys, too, the Alzeller
Will gain confederates, and rouse the country.

MELCH.
But how shall we communicate, and not
Awaken the suspicion of the tyrants?

STAUFF.
Might we not meet at Brunnen or at Treib,
Where merchant vessels with their cargoes come?

FURST.
We must not go so openly to work.
Hear my opinion. On the lake's left bank,
As we sail hence to Brunnen, right against
The Mytenstein, deep-hidden in the wood
A meadow lies, by shepherds called the Rootli,
Because the wood has been uprooted there.

[To Melchthal.]

'Tis where our Canton bound'ries verge on yours;

[To Stauffacher.]

Your boat will carry you across from Schwytz.

Thither by lonely bypaths let us wend
At midnight, and deliberate o'er our plans.
Let each bring with him there ten trusty men,
All one at heart with us; and then we may
Consult together for the general weal,
And, with God's guidance, fix what next to do.

STAUFF.
So let it be. And now your true right hand!
Yours, too, young man! and as we now three men
Among ourselves thus knit our hands together
In all sincerity and truth, e'en so
Shall we three cantons, too, together stand
In victory and defeat, in life and death.

FURST and MELCH.
In life and death!

[They hold their hands clasped together for some moments in silence.]

MELCH.
Alas, my old blind father!
The day of freedom, that thou canst not see,
But thou shalt hear it, when from Alp to Alp
The beacon fires throw up their flaming signs,
And the proud castles of the tyrants fall,
Into thy cottage shall the Switzer burst,
Bear the glad tidings to thine ear, and o'er
Thy darken'd way shall Freedom's radiance pour.

ACT II.

SCENE I.

The mansion of the Baron of Attinghausen. A Gothic Hall, decorated
with escutcheons and helmets. The Baron, a grey-headed man, eighty-
five years old, tall and of a commanding mien, clad in a furred
pelisse, and leaning on a staff tipped with chamois horn. Kuoni and
six hinds standing round him with rakes and scythes. Ulrich of Rudenz
enters in the costume of a knight.

RUD.
Uncle, I'm here! Your will?

ATTING.
First let me share,
After the ancient custom of our house,
The morning cup, with these my faithful servants!

[He drinks from a cup, which is then passed round.]

Time was, I stood myself in field and wood,
With mine own eyes directing all their toil,
Even as my banner led them in the fight,
Now I am only fit to play the steward:
And, if the genial sun come not to me,
I can no longer seek it on the hills.
Thus slowly, in an ever-narrowing sphere,
I move on to the narrowest and the last,
Where all life's pulses cease. I now am but
The shadow of my former self, and that
Is fading fast--'twill soon be but a name.

KUONI (offering Rudenz the cup).
A pledge, young master!

[Rudenz hesitates to take the cup.]

Nay, Sir, drink it off!
One cup, one heart! You know our proverb, Sir?

ATTING.
Go, children, and at eve, when work is done,
We'll meet and talk the country's business over.

[Exeunt servants.]

Belted and plumed, and all thy bravery on!
Thou art for Altdorf--for the castle, boy?

RUD.
Yes, uncle. Longer may I not delay--

ATTING. (sitting down).
Why in such haste? Say, are thy youthful hours
Doled in such niggard measure, that thou must
Be chary of them to thy aged uncle?

RUD.
I see my presence is not needed here,
I am but as a stranger in this house.

ATTING. (gazes fixedly at him for a considerable time).
Ay, pity 'tis thou art! Alas, that home
To thee has grown so strange! Oh, Uly! Uly!
I scarce do know thee now, thus deck'd in silks,
The peacock's feather[*] flaunting in thy cap,
And purple mantle round thy shoulders flung;
Thou look'st upon the peasant with disdain;
And tak'st his honest greeting with a blush.

[*] The Austrian knights were in the habit of wearing a plume of
peacock's feathers in their helmets. After the overthrow of the
Austrian dominion in Switzerland, it was made highly penal to wear
the peacock's feather at any public assembly there.

RUD.
All honour due to him I gladly pay,
But must deny the right he would usurp.

ATTING.
The sore displeasure of its monarch rests
Upon our land, and every true man's heart,
Is full of sadness for the grievous wrongs
We suffer from our tyrants. Thou alone
Art all unmoved amid the general grief.
Abandoning thy friends, thou tak'st thy stand
Beside thy country's foes, and, as in scorn
Of our distress, pursuest giddy joys,
Courting the smiles of princes all the while
Thy country bleeds beneath their cruel scourge.

RUD.
The land is sore oppress'd, I know it, uncle.
But why? Who plunged it into this distress?
A word, one little easy word, might buy
Instant deliverance from all our ills,
And win the good will of the Emperor.
Woe unto those who seal the people's eyes.
And make them adverse to their country's good--
The men who, for their own vile, selfish ends,
Are seeking to prevent the Forest States
From swearing fealty to Austria's House,
As all the countries round about have done.
It fits their humour well, to take their seats
Amid the nobles on the Herrenbank;[*]
They'll have the Kaiser for their lord, forsooth,
That is to say, they'll have no lord at all.

[*] The bench reserved for the nobility.

ATTING.
Must I hear this, and from thy lips, rash boy!

RUD.
You urged me to this answer. Hear me out.
What, uncle, is the character you've stoop'd
To fill contentedly through life? Have you
No higher pride, than in these lonely wilds
To be the Landamman or Banneret,[*]
The petty chieftain of a shepherd race? How!
Were it not a far more glorious choice,
To bend in homage to our royal lord,
And swell the princely splendours of his court,
Than sit at home, the peer of your own vassals,
And share the judgment-seat with vulgar clowns?

[*] The Landamman was an officer chosen by the Swiss Gemeinde, or
Diet, to preside over them. The Banneret was an officer entrusted
with the keeping of the State Banner, and such others as were
taken in battle.

ATTING.
Ah, Uly, Uly; all too well I see,
The tempter's voice has caught thy willing ear,
And pour'd its subtle poison in thy heart.

RUD.
Yes, I conceal it not. It doth offend
My inmost soul, to hear the stranger's gibes,
That taunt us with the name of "Peasant Nobles!"
Think you the heart that's stirring here can brook,
While all the young nobility around
Are reaping honour under Hapsburg's banner,
That I should loiter, in inglorious ease,
Here on the heritage my fathers left,
And, in the dull routine of vulgar toil,
Lose all life's glorious spring? In other lands
Great deeds are done. A world of fair renown
Beyond these mountains stirs in martial pomp.
My helm and shield are rusting in the hall;
The martial trumpet's spirit-stirring blast,
The herald's call, inviting to the lists,
Rouse not the echoes of these vales, where nought
Save cowherd's horn and cattle bell is heard,
In one unvarying dull monotony.

ATTING.
Deluded boy, seduced by empty show!
Despise the land that gave thee birth! Ashamed
Of the good ancient customs of thy sires!
The day will come, when thou, with burning tears,
Wilt long for home, and for thy native hills,
And that dear melody of tuneful herds,
Which now, in proud disgust, thou dost despise!
A day when wistful pangs shall shake thy heart,
Hearing their music in a foreign land.
Oh! potent is the spell that binds to home!
No, no, the cold, false world is not for thee.
At the proud court, with thy true heart, thou wilt
For ever feel a stranger among strangers.
The world asks virtues of far other stamp
Than thou hast learned within these simple vales.
But go--go thither,--barter thy free soul,
Take land in fief, be minion to a prince,
Where thou might'st be lord paramount, and prince
Of all thine own unburden'd heritage!
O, Uly, Uly, stay among thy people!
Go not to Altdorf. Oh, abandon not
The sacred cause of thy wrong'd native land!
I am the last of all my race. My name
Ends with me. Yonder hang my helm and shield;
They will be buried with me in the grave.[*]
And must I think, when yielding up my breath,
That thou but wait'st the closing of mine eyes,
To stoop thy knee to this new feudal court,
And take in vassalage from Austria's hands
The noble lands, which I from God received,
Free and unfetter'd as the mountain air!

[*] According to the custom, by which, when the last male descendant
of a noble family died, his sword, helmet, and shield were buried
with him.

RUD.
'Tis vain for us to strive against the king.
The world pertains to him:--shall we alone,
In mad presumptuous obstinacy, strive
To break that mighty chain of lands, which he
Hath drawn around us with his giant grasp?
His are the markets, his the courts,--his, too,
The highways; nay, the very carrier's horse,
That traffics on the Gotthardt, pays him toll.
By his dominions, as within a net,
We are enclosed, and girded round about.
And will the Empire shield us? Say, can it
Protect itself 'gainst Austria's growing power?
To God, and not to emperors must we look!
What store can on their promises be placed,
When they, to meet their own necessities,
Can pawn, and even alienate the towns
That flee for shelter 'neath the Eagle's wings?[*]
No, uncle! It is wise and wholesome prudence,
In times like these, when faction's all abroad,
To vow attachment to some mighty chief.
The imperial crown's transferred from line to line.[+]
It has no memory for faithful service:
But to secure the favour of these great
Hereditary masters, were to sow
Seed for a future harvest.

[*] This frequently occurred. But in the event of an imperial city
being mortgaged for the purpose of raising money, it lost its
freedom, and was considered as put out of the realm.

[+] An allusion to the circumstance of the Imperial Crown not being
hereditary, but conferred by election on one of the Counts of the
Empire.

ATTING.
Art so wise?
Wilt thou see clearer than thy noble sires,
Who battled for fair freedom's priceless gem,
With life, and fortune, and heroic arm?
Sail down the lake to Lucerne, there inquire,
How Austria's thraldom weighs the Cantons down.
Soon she will come to count our sheep, our cattle,
To portion out the Alps, e'en to their peaks,
And in our own free woods to hinder us
From striking down the eagle or the stag;
To set her tolls on every bridge and gate,
Impoverish us, to swell her lust of sway,
And drain our dearest blood to feed her wars.
No, if our blood must flow, let it be shed
In our own cause! We purchase liberty
More cheaply far than bondage.

RUD.
What can we,
A shepherd race, against great Albert's hosts?

ATTING.
Learn, foolish boy, to know this shepherd race!
I know them, I have led them on in fight,--
I saw them in the battle at Favenz.
What! Austria try, forsooth, to force on us
A yoke we are determined not to bear!
Oh, learn to feel from what a stock thou'rt sprung;
Cast not, for tinsel trash and idle show,
The precious jewel of thy worth away,
To be the chieftain of a free-born race,
Bound to thee only by their unbought love,
Ready to stand--to fight--to die with thee,
Be that thy pride, be that thy noblest boast!
Knit to thy heart the ties of kindred--home--
Cling to the land, the dear land of thy sires,
Grapple to that with thy whole heart and soul!
Thy power is rooted deep and strongly here,
But in yon stranger world thou'lt stand alone,
A trembling reed beat down by every blast.
Oh come! 'tis long since we have seen thee, Uly!
Tarry but this one day. Only to-day!
Go not to Altdorf. Wilt thou? Not to-day!
For this one day, bestow thee on thy friends.

[Takes his hand.]

RUD.
I gave my word. Unhand me! I am bound.

ATTING. (drops his hand and says sternly).
Bound, didst thou say? Oh yes, unhappy boy,
Thou art indeed. But not by word or oath.
'Tis by the silken mesh of love thou'rt bound.

[Rudenz turns away.]

Ah, hide thee, as thou wilt. 'Tis she,
I know, Bertha of Bruneck, draws thee to the court;
'Tis she that chains thee to the Emperor's service.
Thou think'st to win the noble knightly maid
By thy apostasy. Be not deceived.
She is held out before thee as a lure;
But never meant for innocence like thine.

RUD.
No more, I've heard enough. So fare you well.

[Exit.]

ATTING.
Stay, Uly! Stay! Rash boy, he's gone! I can
Nor hold him back, nor save him from destruction.
And so the Wolfshot has deserted us;--
Others will follow his example soon.
This foreign witchery, sweeping o'er our hills,
Tears with its potent spell our youth away.
O luckless hour, when men and manners strange
Into these calm and happy valleys came,
To warp our primitive and guileless ways!
The new is pressing on with might. The old,
The good, the simple, all flee fast away.
New times come on. A race is springing up,
That think not as their fathers thought before!
What do I hear? All, all are in the grave
With whom erewhile I moved, and held converse;
My age has long been laid beneath the sod;
Happy the man, who may not live to see
What shall be done by those that follow me!

SCENE II.

A meadow surrounded by high rocks and wooded ground. On the rocks are
tracks, with rails and ladders, by which the peasants are afterwards
seen descending. In the back-ground the lake is observed, and over it
a moon rainbow in the early part of the scene. The prospect is closed
by lofty mountains, with glaciers rising behind them. The stage is
dark, but the lake and glaciers glisten in the moonlight.

Melchthal, Baumgarten, Winkelried, Meyer von Sarnen, Burkhart am
Buhel, Arnold von Sewa, Klaus von der Flue, and four other peasants,
all armed.

MELCHTHAL (behind the scenes).
The mountain pass is open. Follow me!
I see the rock, and little cross upon it:
This is the spot; here is the Rootli.

[They enter with torches.]

WINK.
Hark!

SEWA.
The coast is clear.

MEYER.
None of our comrades come?
We are the first, we Unterwaldeners.

MELCH.
How far is't i' the night?

BAUM.
The beacon watch
Upon the Selisberg has just called two.

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