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  • 1779
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So that it may have been on purpose, sister, That thou hast lost at times.

SITTAH.

At least, my brother’s
Great liberality may be one cause
Why I improve no faster.

SALADIN.

We forget
The game before us: lot us make an end of it.

SITTAH.

I move–so–now then–check! and check again!

SALADIN.

This countercheck I wasn’t aware of, Sittah; My queen must fall the sacrifice.

SITTAH.

Let’s see –
Could it be helped?

SALADIN.

No, no, take off the queen!
That is a piece which never thrives with me.

SITTAH.

Only that piece?

SALADIN.

Off with it! I shan’t miss it.
Thus I guard all again.

SITTAH.

How civilly
We should behave to queens, my brother’s lessons Have taught me but too well.

SALADIN.

Take her, or not,
I stir the piece no more.

SITTAH.

Why should I take her?
Check!

SALADIN.

Go on.

SITTAH.

Check! –

SALADIN.

And check-mate?

SITTAH.

Hold! not yet.
You may advance the knight, and ward the danger, Or as you will–it is all one.

SALADIN.

It is so.
You are the winner, and Al-Hafi pays. Let him be called. Sittah, you was not wrong; I seem to recollect I was unmindful –
A little absent. One isn’t always willing To dwell upon some shapeless bits of wood Coupled with no idea. Yet the Imam,
When I play with him, bends with such abstraction – The loser seeks excuses. Sittah, ’twas not The shapeless men, and the unmeaning squares, That made me heedless–your dexterity,
Your calm sharp eye.

SITTAH.

And what of that, good brother,
Is that to be th’ excuse for your defeat? Enough–you played more absently than I.

SALADIN.

Than you! What dwells upon your mind, my Sittah? Not your own cares, I doubt –

SITTAH.

O Saladin,
When shall we play again so constantly?

SALADIN.

An interruption will but whet our zeal. You think of the campaign. Well, let it come. It was not I who first unsheathed the sword. I would have willingly prolonged the truce, And willingly have knit a closer bond,
A lasting one–have given to my Sittah A husband worthy of her, Richard’s brother.

SITTAH.

You love to talk of Richard.

SALADIN.

Richard’s sister
Might then have been allotted to our Melek. O what a house that would have formed–the first – The best–and what is more–of earth the happiest! You know I am not loth to praise myself; Why should I?–Of my friends am I not worthy? O we had then led lives!

SITTAH.

A pretty dream.
It makes me smile. You do not know the Christians. You will not know them. ‘Tis this people’s pride Not to be men, but to be Christians. Even What of humane their Founder felt, and taught, And left to savour their found superstition, They value not because it is humane,
Lovely, and good for man; they only prize it Because ’twas Christ who taught it, Christ who did it. ‘Tis well for them He was so good a man: Well that they take His goodness all for granted, And in His virtues put their trust. His virtues – ‘Tis not His virtues, but His name alone They wish to thrust upon us–‘Tis His name Which they desire should overspread the world, Should swallow up the name of all good men, And put the best to shame. ‘Tis His mere name They care for –

SALADIN.

Else, my Sittah, as thou sayst,
They would not have required that thou, and Melek, Should be called Christians, ere you might be suffered To feel for Christians conjugal affection.

SITTAH.

As if from Christians only, and as Christians, That love could be expected which our Maker In man and woman for each other planted.

SALADIN.

The Christians do believe such idle notions, They well might fancy this: and yet thou errest. The templars, not the Christians, are in fault. ‘Tis not as Christians, but as templars, that They thwart my purpose. They alone prevent it. They will on no account evacuate Acca,
Which was to be the dower of Richard’s sister, And, lest their order suffer, use this cant – Bring into play the nonsense of the monk – And scarcely would await the truce’s end To fall upon us. Go on so–go on,
To me you’re welcome, sirs. Would all things else Went but as right!

SITTAH.

What else should trouble thee,
If this do not?

SALADIN.

Why, that which ever has.
I’ve been on Libanon, and seen our father. He’s full of care.

SITTAH.

Alas!

SALADIN.

He can’t make shift,
Straitened on all sides, put off, disappointed; Nothing comes in.

SITTAH.

What fails him, Saladin?

SALADIN.

What? but the thing I scarcely deign to name, Which, when I have it, so superfluous seems, And, when I have it not, so necessary.
Where is Al-Hafi then–this fatal money – O welcome, Hafi!

HAFI, SALADIN, and SITTAH.

HAFI.

I suppose the gold
From Egypt is arrived.

SALADIN.

Hast tidings of it?

HAFI.

I? no, not I. I thought to have ta’en it here.

SALADIN.

To Sittah pay a thousand dinars.

HAFI.

Pay?
And not receive–that’s something less than nothing. To Sittah and again to Sittah–and
Once more for loss at chess? Is this your game?

SITTAH.

Dost grudge me my good fortune?

HAFI (examining the board).

Grudge! you know –

SITTAH (making signs to Hafi).

Hush, Hafi, hush!

HAFI.

And were the white men yours?
You gave the check?

SITTAH.

‘Tis well he does not hear.

HAFI.

And he to move?

SITTAH (approaching Hafi).

Say then aloud that I
Shall have my money.

HAFI (still considering the game).

Yes, yes! you shall have it –
As you have always had it.

SITTAH.

Are you crazy?

HAFI.

The game is not decided; Saladin,
You have not lost.

SALADIN (scarcely hearkening).

Well, well!–pay, pay.

HAFI.

Pay, pay –
There stands your queen.

SALADIN (still walking about).

It boots not, she is useless.

SITTAH (low to Hafi).

Do say that I may send and fetch the gold.

HAFI.

Aye, aye, as usual–But although the queen Be useless, you are by no means check-mate.

SALADIN (dashes down the board).

I am. I will then –

HAFI.

So! small pains, small gains;
As got, so spent.

SALADIN (to Sittah).

What is he muttering there?

SITTAH (to Saladin, winking meanwhile to Hafi).

You know him well, and his unyielding way. He chooses to be prayed to–maybe he’s envious –

SALADIN.

No, not of thee, not of my sister, surely. What do I hear, Al-Hafi, are you envious?

HAFI.

Perhaps. I’d rather have her head than mine, Or her heart either.

SITTAH.

Ne’ertheless, my brother,
He pays me right, and will again to-day. Let him alone. There, go away, Al-Hafi;
I’ll send and fetch my dinars.

HAFI.

No, I will not;
I will not act this farce a moment longer: He shall, must know it.

SALADIN.

Who? what?

SITTAH.

O Al-Hafi,
Is this thy promise, this thy keeping word?

HAFI.

How could I think it was to go so far?

SALADIN.

Well, what am I to know?

SITTAH.

I pray thee, Hafi,
Be more discreet.

SALADIN.

That’s very singular.
And what can Sittah then so earnestly, So warmly have to sue for from a stranger, A dervis, rather than from me, her brother? Al-Hafi, I command. Dervis, speak out.

SITTAH.

Let not a trifle, brother, touch you nearer Than is becoming. You know I have often
Won the same sum of you at chess, and, as I have not just at present need of money, I’ve left the sum at rest in Hafi’s chest, Which is not over-full; and thus the stakes Are not yet taken out–but, never fear,
It is not my intention to bestow them On thee, or Hafi.

HAFI.

Were it only this –

SITTAH.

Some more such trifles are perhaps unclaimed; My own allowance, which you set apart,
Has lain some months untouched.

HAFI.

Nor is that all –

SALADIN.

Nor yet–speak then!

HAFI.

Since we have been expecting
The treasure out of Egypt, she not only –

SITTAH.

Why listen to him?

HAFI.

Has not had an asper; –

SALADIN.

Good creature–but has been advancing to thee –

HAFI.

Has at her sole expense maintained thy state.

SALADIN (embracing her).

My sister–ah!

SITTAH.

And who but you, my brother,
Could make me rich enough to have the power?

HAFI.

And in a little time again will leave thee Poor as himself.

SALADIN.

I, poor–her brother, poor?
When had I more, when less than at this instant? A cloak, a horse, a sabre, and a God! –
What need I else? With them what can be wanting? And yet, Al-Hafi, I could quarrel with thee For this.

SITTAH.

A truce to that, my brother. Were it As easy to remove our father’s cares!

SALADIN.

Ah! now my joy thou hast at once abated: To me there is, there can be, nothing wanting; But–but to him–and, in him, to us all. What shall I do? From Egypt maybe nothing Will come this long time. Why–God only knows. We hear of no stir. To reduce, to spare, I am quite willing for myself to stoop to, Were it myself, and only I, should suffer – But what can that avail? A cloak, a horse, A sword I ne’er can want;–as to my God, He is not to be bought; He asks but little, Only my heart. I had relied, Al-Hafi,
Upon a surplus in my chest.

HAFI.

A surplus?
And tell me, would you not have had me impaled, Or hanged at least, if you had found me out In hoarding up a surplus? Deficits –
Those one may venture on.

SALADIN.

Well, but how next?
Could you have found out no one where to borrow Unless of Sittah?

SITTAH.

And would I have borne
To see the preference given to another? I still lay claim to it. I am not as yet Entirely bare.

SALADIN.

Not yet entirely–This
Was wanting still. Go, turn thyself about; Take where, and as, thou canst; be quick, Al-Hafi. Borrow on promise, contract, anyhow;
But heed me–not of those I have enriched – To borrow there might seem to ask it back. Go to the covetous. They’ll gladliest lend – They know how well their money thrives with me –

HAFI.

I know none such.

SITTAH.

I recollect just now
I heard, Al-Hafi, of thy friend’s return.

HAFI (startled).

Friend–friend of mine–and who should that be?

SITTAH.

Who?
Thy vaunted Jew!

HAFI.

A Jew, and praised by me?

SITTAH.

To whom his God (I think I still retain Thy own expression used concerning him)
To whom, of all the good things of this world, His God in full abundance has bestowed
The greatest and the least.

HAFI.

What could I mean
When I said so?

SITTAH.

The least of good things, riches;
The greatest, wisdom.

HAFI.

How–and of a Jew
Could I say that?

SITTAH.

Didst thou not–of thy Nathan?

HAFI.

Hi ho! of him–of Nathan? At that moment He did not come across me. But, in fact, He is at length come home; and, I suppose, Is not ill off. His people used to call him The wise–also the rich.

SITTAH.

The rich he’s named
Now more than ever. The whole town resounds With news of jewels, costly stuffs, and stores, That he brings back.

HAFI.

Is he the rich again –
He’ll be, no fear of it, once more the wise.

SITTAH.

What thinkst thou, Hafi, of a call on him?

HAFI.

On him–sure not to borrow–why, you know him – He lend? Therein his very wisdom lies,
That he lends no one.

SITTAH.

Formerly thon gav’st
A very different picture of this Nathan.

HAFI.

In case of need he’ll lend you merchandise, But money, money, never. He’s a Jew,
There are but few such! he has understanding, Knows life, plays chess; but is in bad notorious Above his brethren, as he is in good.
On him rely not. To the poor indeed He vies perhaps with Saladin in giving:
Though he distributes less, he gives as freely, As silently, as nobly, to Jew, Christian, Mahometan, or Parsee–’tis all one.

SITTAH.

And such a man should be –

SALADIN.

How comes it then
I never heard of him?

SITTAH.

Should be unwilling
To lend to Saladin, who wants for others, Not for himself.

HAFI.

Aye, there peeps out the Jew,
The ordinary Jew. Believe me, prince, He’s jealous, really envious of your giving. To earn God’s favour seems his very business. He lends not that he may always have to give. The law commandeth mercy, not compliance: And thus for mercy’s sake he’s uncomplying. ‘Tis true, I am not now on the best terms With Nathan, but I must entreat you, think not That therefore I would do injustice to him. He’s good in everything, but not in that – Only in that. I’ll knock at other doors. I just have recollected an old Moor,
Who’s rich and covetous–I go–I go.

SITTAH.

Why in such hurry, Hafi?

SALADIN.

Let him go.

SALADIN and SITTAH.

SITTAH.

He hastens like a man who would escape me; Why so? Was he indeed deceived in Nathan, Or does he play upon us?

SALADIN.

Can I guess?
I scarcely know of whom you have been talking, And hear to-day, for the first time, of Nathan.

SITTAH.

Is’t possible the man were hid from thee, Of whom ’tis said, he has found out the tombs Of Solomon and David, knows the word
That lifts their marble lids, and thence obtains The golden oil that feeds his shining pomp?

SALADIN.

Were this man’s wealth by miracle created, ‘Tis not at David’s tomb, or Solomon’s,
That ‘twould be wrought. Not virtuous men lie there.

SITTAH.

His source of opulence is more productive And more exhaustless than a cave of Mammon.

SALADIN.

He trades, I hear.

SITTAH.

His ships fill every harbour;
His caravans through every desert toil. This has Al-Hafi told me long ago:
With transport adding then–how nobly Nathan Bestows what he esteems it not a meanness By prudent industry to have justly earned – How free from prejudice his lofty soul – His heart to every virtue how unlocked – With every lovely feeling how familiar.

SALADIN.

Yet Hafi spake just now so coldly of him.

SITTAH.

Not coldly; but with awkwardness, confusion, As if he thought it dangerous to praise him, And yet knew not to blame him undeserving, Or can it really be that e’en the best
Among a people cannot quite escape
The tinges of the tribe; and that, in fact, Al-Hafi has in this to blush for Nathan? Be that as’t may–be he the Jew or no –
Is he but rich–that is enough for us.

SALADIN.

You would not, sister, take his wealth by force.

SITTAH.

What do you mean by force–fire, sword? Oh no! What force is necessary with the weak
But their own weakness? Come awhile with me Into my harem: I have bought a songstress, You have not heard her, she came yesterday: Meanwhile I’ll think somewhat about a project I have upon this Nathan. Follow, brother.

SCENE–The Place of Palms, close to Nathan’s House. NATHAN, attired, comes out with RECHA.

RECHA.

You have been so very slow, my dearest father, You now will hardly be in time to find him.

NATHAN.

Well, if not here beneath the palms; yet, surely, Elsewhere. My child, be satisfied. See, see, Is not that Daya making towards us?

RECHA.

She certainly has lost him then.

NATHAN.

Why so?

RECHA.

Else she’d walk quicker.

NATHAN.

She may not have seen us.

RECHA.

There, now she sees us.

NATHAN.

And her speed redoubles,
Be calm, my Recha.

RECHA.

Would you have your daughter
Be cool and unconcerned who ’twas that saved her, Heed not to whom is due the life she prizes Chiefly because she owed it first to thee?

NATHAN.

I would not wish thee other than thou art, E’en if I knew that in thy secret soul
A very different emotion throbs.

RECHA.

Why–what my father?

NATHAN.

Dost thou ask of me,
So tremblingly of me, what passes in thee? Whatever ’tis, ’tis innocence and nature. Be not alarmed, it gives me no alarm;
But promise me that, when thy heart shall speak A plainer language, thou wilt not conceal A single of thy wishes from my fondness.

RECHA.

Oh the mere possibility of wishing
Rather to veil and hide them makes me shudder.

NATHAN.

Let this be spoken once for all. Well, Daya –

NATHAN, RECHA, and DAYA.

DAYA.

He still is here beneath the palms, and soon Will reach yon wall. See, there he comes.

RECHA.

And seems
Irresolute where next; if left or right.

DAYA.

I know he mostly passes to the convent, And therefore comes this path. What will you lay me?

RECHA.

Oh yes he does. And did you speak to him? How did he seem to-day?

DAYA.

As heretofore.

NATHAN.

Don’t let him see you with me: further back; Or rather to the house.

RECHA.

Just one peep more.
Now the hedge steals him from me.

DAYA.

Come away.
Your father’s in the right–should he perceive us, ‘Tis very probable he’ll tack about.

RECHA.

But for the hedge –

NATHAN.

Now he emerges from it.
He can’t but see you: hence–I ask it of you.

DAYA.

I know a window whence we yet may –

RECHA.

Ay.

[Goes in with Daya.

NATHAN.

I’m almost shy of this strange fellow, almost Shrink back from his rough virtue. That one man Should ever make another man feel awkward! And yet–He’s coming–ha!–by God, the youth Looks like a man. I love his daring eye, His open gait. May be the shell is bitter; But not the kernel surely. I have seen
Some such, methinks. Forgive me, noble Frank.

NATHAN and TEMPLAR.

TEMPLAR.

What?

NATHAN.

Give me leave.

TEMPLAR.

Well, Jew, what wouldst thou have?

NATHAN.

The liberty of speaking to you!

TEMPLAR.

So –
Can I prevent it? Quick then, what’s your business?

NATHAN.

Patience–nor hasten quite so proudly by A man, who has not merited contempt,
And whom, for evermore, you’ve made your debtor.

TEMPLAR.

How so? Perhaps I guess–No–Are you then –

NATHAN.

My name is Nathan, father to the maid Your generous courage snatched from circling flames, And hasten –

TEMPLAR.

If with thanks, keep, keep them all. Those little things I’ve had to suffer much from: Too much already, far. And, after all,
You owe me nothing. Was I ever told She was your daughter? ‘Tis a templar’s duty To rush to the assistance of the first
Poor wight that needs him; and my life just then Was quite a burden. I was mighty glad
To risk it for another; tho’ it were That of a Jewess.

NATHAN.

Noble, and yet shocking!
The turn might be expected. Modest greatness Wears willingly the mask of what is shocking To scare off admiration: but, altho’
She may disdain the tribute, admiration, Is there no other tribute she can bear with? Knight, were you here not foreign, not a captive I would not ask so freely. Speak, command, In what can I be useful?

TEMPLAR.

You–in nothing.

NATHAN.

I’m rich.

TEMPLAR.

To me the richer Jew ne’er seemed
The bettor Jew.

NATHAN.

Is that a reason why
You should not use the better part of him, His wealth?

TEMPLAR.

Well, well, I’ll not refuse it wholly, For my poor mantle’s sake–when that is threadbare, And spite of darning will not hold together, I’ll come and borrow cloth, or money of thee, To make me up a new one. Don’t look solemn; The danger is not pressing; ’tis not yet At the last gasp, but tight and strong and good, Save this poor corner, where an ugly spot You see is singed upon it. It got singed As I bore off your daughter from the fire.

NATHAN (taking hold of the mantle).

‘Tis singular that such an ugly spot
Bears better testimony to the man
Than his own mouth. This brand–Oh I could kiss it! Your pardon–that I meant not.

TEMPLAR.

What?

NATHAN.

A tear
Fell on the spot.

TEMPLAR.

You’ll find up more such tears –
(This Jew methinks begins to work upon me).

NATHAN.

Would you send once this mantle to my daughter?

TEMPLAR.

Why?

NATHAN.

That her lips may cling to this dear speck; For at her benefactor’s feet to fall,
I find, she hopes in vain.

TEMPLAR.

But, Jew, your name
You said was Nathan–Nathan, you can join Your words together cunningly–right well – I am confused–in fact–I would have been –

NATHAN.

Twist, writhe, disguise you, as you will, I know you, You were too honest, knight, to be more civil; A girl all feeling, and a she-attendant
All complaisance, a father at a distance – You valued her good name, and would not see her. You scorned to try her, lest you should be victor; For that I also thank you.

TEMPLAR.

I confess,
You know how templars ought to think.

NATHAN.

Still templars –
And only OUGHT to think–and all because The rules and vows enjoin it to the ORDER – I know how good men think–know that all lands Produce good men.

TEMPLAR.

But not without distinction.

NATHAN.

In colour, dress, and shape, perhaps, distinguished.

TEMPLAR.

Here more, there fewer sure?

NATHAN.

That boots not much,
The great man everywhere has need of room. Too many set together only serve
To crush each others’ branches. Middling good, As we are, spring up everywhere in plenty. Only let one not scar and bruise the other; Let not the gnarl be angry with the stump; Let not the upper branch alone pretend
Not to have started from the common earth.

TEMPLAR.

Well said: and yet, I trust, you know the nation, That first began to strike at fellow men, That first baptised itself the chosen people – How now if I were–not to hate this people, Yet for its pride could not forbear to scorn it, The pride which it to Mussulman and Christian Bequeathed, as were its God alone the true one, You start, that I, a Christian and a templar, Talk thus. Where, when, has e’er the pious rage To own the better god–on the whole world To force this better, as the best of all – Shown itself more, and in a blacker form, Than here, than now? To him, whom, here and now, The film is not removing from his eye –
But be he blind that wills! Forget my speeches And leave me.

NATHAN.

Ah! indeed you do not know
How closer I shall cling to you henceforth. We must, we will be friends. Despise my nation – We did not choose a nation for ourselves. Are we our nations? What’s a nation then? Were Jews and Christians such, e’er they were men? And have I found in thee one more, to whom It is enough to be a man?

TEMPLAR.

That hast thou.
Nathan, by God, thou hast. Thy hand. I blush To have mistaken thee a single instant.

NATHAN.

And I am proud of it. Only common souls We seldom err in.

TEMPLAR.

And uncommon ones
Seldom forget. Yes, Nathan, yes we must, We will be friends.

NATHAN.

We are so. And my Recha –
She will rejoice. How sweet the wider prospect That dawns upon me! Do but know her–once.

TEMPLAR.

I am impatient for it. Who is that
Bursts from your house, methinks it is your Daya.

NATHAN.

Ay–but so anxiously –

TEMPLAR.

Sure, to our Recha
Nothing has happened.

NATHAN, TEMPLAR, and DAYA.

DAYA.

Nathan, Nathan.

NATHAN.

Well.

DAYA.

Forgive me, knight, that I must interrupt you.

NATHAN.

What is the matter?

TEMPLAR.

What?

DAYA.

The sultan sends –
The sultan wants to see you–in a hurry. Jesus! the sultan –

NATHAN.

Saladin wants me?
He will be curious to see what wares, Precious, or new, I brought with me from Persia. Say there is nothing hardly yet unpacked.

DAYA.

No, no: ’tis not to look at anything. He wants to speak to you, to you in person, And orders you to come as soon as may be.

NATHAN.

I’ll go–return.

DAYA.

Knight, take it not amiss;
But we were so alarmed for what the sultan Could have in view.

NATHAN.

That I shall soon discover.

NATHAN and TEMPLAR.

TEMPLAR.

And don’t you know him yet, I mean his person?

NATHAN.

Whose, Saladin’s? Not yet. I’ve neither shunned, Nor sought to see him. And the general voice Speaks too well of him, for me not to wish, Rather to take its language upon trust,
Than sift the truth out. Yet–if it be so – He, by the saving of your life, has now –

TEMPLAR.

Yes: it is so. The life I live he gave.

NATHAN.

And in it double treble life to me.
This flings a bond about me, which shall tie me For ever to his service: and I scarcely
Like to defer inquiring for his wishes. For everything I am ready; and am ready
To own that ’tis on your account I am so.

TEMPLAR.

As often as I’ve thrown me in his way, I have not found as yet the means to thank him. The impression that I made upon him came Quickly, and so has vanished. Now perhaps He recollects me not, who knows? Once more At least, he must recall me to his mind, Fully to fix my doom. ‘Tis not enough
That by his order I am yet in being, By his permission live, I have to learn
According to whose will I must exist.

NATHAN.

Therefore I shall the more avoid delay. Perchance some word may furnish me occasion To glance at you–perchance–Excuse me, knight, I am in haste. When shall we see you with us?

TEMPLAR.

Soon as I may.

NATHAN.

That is, whene’er you will.

TEMPLAR.

To-day, then.

NATHAN.

And your name?

TEMPLAR.

My name was–is
Conrade of Stauffen.

NATHAN.

Conrade of Stauffen! Stauffen!

TEMPLAR.

Why does that strike so forcibly upon you?

NATHAN.

There are more races of that name, no doubt.

TEMPLAR.

Yes, many of that name were here–rot here. My uncle even–I should say, my father.
But wherefore is your look so sharpened on me?

NATHAN.

Nothing–how can I weary to behold you –

TEMPLAR.

Therefore I quit you first. The searching eye Finds often more than it desires to see. I fear it, Nathan. Fare thee well. Let time, Not curiosity make us acquainted.

[Goes.

NATHAN, and soon after, DAYA.

NATHAN.

“The searching eye will oft discover more Than it desires,” ’tis as he read my soul. That too may chance to me. ‘Tis not alone Leonard’s walk, stature, but his very voice. Leonard so wore his head, was even wont
Just so to brush his eyebrows with his hand, As if to mask the fire that fills his look. Those deeply graven images at times
How they will slumber in us, seem forgotten, When all at once a word a tone, a gesture, Retraces all. Of Stauffen? Ay right–right – Filnek and Stauffen–I will soon know more – But first to Saladin–Ha, Daya there?
Why on the watch? Come nearer. By this time, I’ll answer for’t, you’ve something more at heart Than to know what the sultan wants with me.

DAYA.

And do you take it ill in part of her? You were beginning to converse with him
More confidentially, just as the message, Sent by the sultan, tore us from the window.

NATHAN.

Go tell her that she may expect his visit At every instant.

DAYA.

What indeed–indeed?

NATHAN.

I think I can rely upon thee, Daya:
Be on thy guard, I beg. Thou’lt not repent it. Be but discreet. Thy conscience too will surely Find its account in ‘t. Do not mar my plans But leave them to themselves. Relate and question With modesty, with backwardness.

DAYA.

Oh fear not.
How come you to preach up all this to me? I go–go too. The sultan sends for you
A second time, and by your friend Al-Hafi.

NATHAN and HAFI.

HAFI.

Ha! art thou here? I was now seeking for thee.

NATHAN.

Why in such haste? What wants he then with me?

HAFI.

Who?

NATHAN.

Saladin. I’m coming–I am coming.

HAFI.

Where, to the sultan’s?

NATHAN.

Was ‘t not he who sent thee?

HAFI.

Me? No. And has he sent already?

NATHAN.

Yes.

HAFI.

Then ’tis all right.

NATHAN.

What’s right?

HAFI.

That I’m unguilty.
God knows I am not guilty, knows I said – What said I not of thee–belied thee–slandered – To ward it off.

NATHAN.

To ward off what–be plain.

HAFI.

That them art now become his defterdar. I pity thee. Behold it I will not.
I go this very hour–my road I told thee. Now–hast thou orders by the way–command, And then, adieu. Indeed they must not be Such business as a naked man can’t carry. Quick, what’s thy pleasure?

NATHAN.

Recollect yourself.
As yet all this is quite a riddle to me. I know of nothing.

HAFI.

Where are then thy bags?

NATHAN.

Bags?

HAFI.

Bags of money: bring the weightiest forth: The money thou’rt to lend the sultan, Nathan.

NATHAN.

And is that all?

HAFI.

Novice, thou’st yet to learn
How he day after day will scoop and scoop, Till nothing but an hollow empty paring, A husk as light as film, is left behind. Thou’st yet to learn how prodigality
From prudent bounty’s never-empty coffers Borrows and borrows, till there’s not a purse Left to keep rats from starving. Thou mayst fancy That he who wants thy gold will heed thy counsel; But when has he yet listened to advice?
Imagine now what just befell me with him.

NATHAN.

Well –

HAFI.

I went in and found him with his sister, Engaged, or rather rising up from chess. Sittah plays–not amiss. Upon the board
The game, that Saladin supposed was lost And had given up, yet stood. When I drew nigh, And had examined it, I soon discovered
It was not gone by any means.

NATHAN.

For you
A blest discovery, a treasure-trove.

HAFI.

He only needed to remove his king
Behind the tower t’ have got him out of check. Could I but make you sensible –

NATHAN.

I’ll trust thee.

HAFI.

Then with the knight still left.–I would have shown him And called him to the board.–He must have won; But what d’ye think he did?

NATHAN.

Dared doubt your insight?

HAFI.

He would not listen; but with scorn o’erthrew The standing pieces.

NATHAN.

Is that possible?

HAFI.

And said, he chose to be check-mate–he chose it – Is that to play the game?

NATHAN.

Most surely not:
‘Tis to play with the game.

HAFI.

And yet the stake
Was not a nut-shell.

NATHAN.

Money here or there
Matters but little. Not to listen to thee, And on a point of such importance, Hafi, There lies the rub. Not even to admire
Thine eagle eye–thy comprehensive glance – That calls for vengeance: –does it not, Al-Hafi?

HAFI.

I only tell it to thee that thou mayst see How his brain’s formed. I bear with him no longer. Here I’ve been running to each dirty Moor, Inquiring who will lend him. I, who ne’er Went for myself a begging, go a borrowing, And that for others. Borrowing’s much the same As begging; just as lending upon usury
Is much the same as thieving–decency Makes not of lewdness virtue. On the Ganges, Among my ghebers, I have need of neither: Nor need I be the tool or pimp of either – Upon the Ganges only there are men.
Here, thou alone art somehow almost worthy To have lived upon the Ganges. Wilt thou with me? And leave him with the captive cloak alone, The booty that he wants to strip thee of. Little by little he will flay thee clean. Thins thou’lt be quit at once, without the tease Of being sliced to death. Come wilt thou with me? I’ll find thee with a staff.

NATHAN.

I should have thought,
Come what come may, that thy resource remained: But I’ll consider of it. Stay.

HAFI.

Consider –
No; such things must not be considered.

NATHAN.

Stay:
Till I have seen the sultan–till you’ve had –

HAFI.

He, who considers, looks about for motives To forbear daring. He, who can’t resolve In storm and sunshine to himself to live, Must live the slave of others all his life. But as you please; farewell! ’tis you who choose. My path lies yonder–and yours there –

NATHAN.

Al-Hafi,
Stay then; at least you’ll set things right–not leave them At sixes and at sevens –

HAFI.

Farce! Parade!
The balance in the chest will need no telling. And my account–Sittah, or you, will vouch. Farewell.

[Goes.

NATHAN.

Yes I will vouch it. Honest, wild – How shall I call you–Ah! the real beggar Is, after all, the only real monarch.

ACT III.

SCENE–A Room in Nathan’s House.

RECHA and DAYA.

RECHA.

What, Daya, did my father really say
I might expect him, every instant, here? That meant–now did it not? he would come soon. And yet how many instants have rolled by! – But who would think of those that are elapsed? – To the next moment only I’m alive. –
At last the very one will come that brings him.

DAYA.

But for the sultan’s ill-timed message, Nathan Had brought him in.

RECHA.

And when this moment comes,
And when this warmest inmost of my wishes Shall be fulfilled, what then? what then?

DAYA.

What then?
Why then I hope the warmest of my wishes Will have its turn, and happen.

RECHA.

‘Stead of this,
What wish shall take possession of my bosom, Which now without some ruling wish of wishes Knows not to heave? Shall nothing? ah, I shudder.

DAYA.

Yes: mine shall then supplant the one fulfilled – My wish to see thee placed one day in Europe In hands well worthy of thee.

RECHA.

No, thou errest –
The very thing that makes thee form this wish Prevents its being mine. The country draws thee, And shall not mine retain me? Shall an image, A fond remembrance of thy home, thy kindred, Which years and distance have not yet effaced, Be mightier o’er thy soul, than what I hear, See, feel, and hold, of mine.

DAYA.

‘Tis vain to struggle –
The ways of heaven are the ways of heaven. Is he the destined saviour, by whose arm His God, for whom he fights, intends to lead thee Into the land, which thou wast born for –

RECHA.

Daya,
What art thou prating of? My dearest Daya, Indeed thou hast some strange unseemly notions. “HIS God–FOR whom he fights”–what is a God Belonging to a man–needing another
To fight his battles? And can we pronounce FOR which among the scattered clods of earth You, I was born; unless it be for that
ON which we were produced. If Nathan heard thee – What has my father done to thee, that thou Hast ever sought to paint my happiness
As lying far remote from him and his. What has he done to thee that thus, among The seeds of reason, which he sowed unmixed, Pure in my soul, thou ever must be seeking To plant the weeds, or flowers, of thy own land. He wills not of these pranking gaudy blossoms Upon this soil. And I too must acknowledge I feel as if they had a sour-sweet odour, That makes me giddy–that half suffocates. Thy head is wont to bear it. I don’t blame Those stronger nerves that can support it. Mine – Mine it behoves not. Latterly thy angel
Had made me half a fool. I am ashamed, Whene’er I see my father, of the folly.

DAYA.

As if here only wisdom were at home – Folly–if I dared speak.

RECHA.

And dar’st thou not?
When was I not all ear, if thou beganst To talk about the heroes of thy faith?
Have I not freely on their deeds bestowed My admiration, to their sufferings yielded The tribute of my tears? Their faith indeed Has never seemed their most heroic side
To me: yet, therefore, have I only learnt To find more consolation in the thought, That our devotion to the God of all
Depends not on our notions about God. My father has so often told us so –
Thou hast so often to this point consented – How can it be that thou alone art restless To undermine what you built up together? This is not the most fit discussion, Daya, To usher in our friend to; tho’ indeed
I should not disincline to it–for to me It is of infinite importance if
He too–but hark–there’s some one at the door. If it were he–stay–hush –

(A Slave who shows in the Templar.)

They are–here this way.

TEMPLAR, DAYA, and RECHA.

RECHA.

(starts–composes herself–then offers to fall at his feet) ‘Tis he–my saviour! ah!

TEMPLAR.

This to avoid
Have I alone deferred my call so long.

RECHA.

Yes, at the feet of this proud man, I will Thank–God alone. The man will have no thanks; No more than will the bucket which was busy In showering watery damps upon the flame. That was filled, emptied–but to me, to thee What boots it? So the man–he too, he too Was thrust, he knew not how, and the fire. I dropped, by chance, into his open arm. By chance, remained there–like a fluttering spark Upon his mantle–till–I know not what
Pushed us both from amid the conflagration. What room is here for thanks? How oft in Europe Wine urges men to very different deeds!
Templars must so behave; it is their office, Like better taught or rather handier spaniels, To fetch from out of fire, as out of water.

TEMPLAR.

Oh Daya, Daya, if, in hasty moments
Of care and of chagrin, my unchecked temper Betrayed me into rudeness, why convey
To her each idle word that left my tongue? This is too piercing a revenge indeed;
Yet if henceforth thou wilt interpret better –

DAYA.

I question if these barbed words, Sir Knight, Alighted so, as to have much disserved you.

RECHA.

How, you had cares, and were more covetous Of them than of your life?

TEMPLAR.

[who has been viewing her with wonder and perturbation].

Thou best of beings,
How is my soul ‘twixt eye and ear divided! No: ’twas not she I snatched from amid fire: For who could know her and forbear to do it? – Indeed–disguised by terror –
[Pause: during which he gazes on her as it were entranced.

RECHA.

But to me
You still appear the same you then appeared.

[Another like pause–till she resumes, in order to interrupt him.

Now tell me, knight, where have you been so long? It seems as might I ask–where are you now?

TEMPLAR.

I am–where I perhaps ought not to be.

RECHA.

Where have you been? where you perhaps ought not – That is not well.

TEMPLAR.

Up–how d’ye call the mountain?
Up Sinai.

RECHA.

Oh, that’s very fortunate.
Now I shall learn for certain if ’tis true –

TEMPLAR.

What! if the spot may yet be seen where Moses Stood before God; when first –

RECHA.

No, no, not that.
Where’er he stood, ’twas before God. Of this I know enough already. Is it true,
I wish to learn from you that–that it is not By far so troublesome to climb this mountain As to get down–for on all mountains else, That I have seen, quite the reverse obtains. Well, knight, why will you turn away from me? Not look at me?

TEMPLAR.

Because I wish to hear you.

RECHA.

Because you do not wish me to perceive You smile at my simplicity–You smile
That I can think of nothing more important To ask about the holy hill of hills:
Do you not?

TEMPLAR.

Must I meet those eyes again?
And now you cast them down, and damp the smile – Am I in doubtful motions of the features To read what I so plainly hear–what you So audibly declare; yet will conceal? –
How truly said thy father “Do but know her!”

RECHA.

Who has–of whom–said so to thee?

TEMPLAR.

Thy father
Said to me “Do but know her,” and of thee.

DAYA.

And have not I too said so, times and oft.

TEMPLAR.

But where is then your father–with the sultan?

RECHA.

So I suppose.

TEMPLAR.

Yet there? Oh, I forget,
He cannot be there still. He is waiting for me Most certainly below there by the cloister. ‘Twas so, I think, we had agreed, Forgive, I go in quest of him.

DAYA.

Knight, I’ll do that.
Wait here, I’ll bring him hither instantly.

TEMPLAR.

Oh no–Oh no. He is expecting me.
Besides–you are not aware what may have happened. ‘Tis not unlikely he may be involved
With Saladin–you do not know the sultan – In some unpleasant–I must go, there’s danger If I forbear.

RECHA.

Danger–of what? of what?

TEMPLAR.

Danger for me, for thee, for him; unless I go at once. [Goes.

RECHA and DAYA.

RECHA.

What is the matter, Daya?
So quick–what comes across him, drives him hence?

DAYA.

Let him alone, I think it no bad sign.

RECHA.

Sign–and of what?

DAYA.

That something passes in him.
It boils–but it must not boil over. Leave him – Now ’tis your turn.

RECHA.

My turn? Thou dost become
Like him incomprehensible to me.

DAYA.

Now you may give him back all that unrest He once occasioned. Be not too severe,
Nor too vindictive.

RECHA.

Daya, what you mean
You must know best.

DAYA.

And pray are you again
So calm.

RECHA.

I am–yes that I am.

DAYA.

At least
Own–that this restlessness has given you pleasure, And that you have to thank his want of ease For what of ease you now enjoy.

RECHA.

Of that
I am unconscious. All I could confess Were, that it does seem strange unto myself, How, in this bosom, such a pleasing calm Can suddenly succeed to such a tossing.

DAYA.

His countenance, his speech, his manner, has By this the satiated thee.

RECHA.

Satiated,
I will not say–not by a good deal yet.

DAYA.

But satisfied the more impatient craving.

RECHA.

Well, well, if you must have it so.

DAYA.

I? no.

RECHA.

To me he will be ever dear, will ever Remain more dear than my own life; altho’ My pulse no longer flutters at his name, My heart no longer, when I think about him, Beats stronger, swifter. What have I been prating? Come, Daya, let us once more to the window Which overlooks the palms.

DAYA.

So that ’tis not
Yet satisfied–the more impatient craving.

RECHA.

Now I shall see the palm-trees once again, Not him alone amid them.

DAYA.

This cold fit
Is but the harbinger of other fevers.

RECHA.

Cold–cold–I am not cold; but I observe not Less willingly what I behold with calmness.

SCENE–An Audience Room in the Sultan’s Palace.

SITTAH: SALADIN giving directions at the door.

SALADIN.