WILHELM (William) TELL
by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller or simply Friedrich Schiller
HERMANN GESSLER, governor of Schwytz, and Uri.
WERNER, Baron of Attinghausen, free noble of Switzerland.
ULRICH VON RUDENZ, his Nephew.
People of Schwytz:
HANS AUF DER MAUER. Hans on the Wall.
JORG IM HOFE.
ULRICH DER SCHMIDT. Ulrich the smithy
JOST VON WEILER.
People of Uri:
ROSSELMANN, the Priest.
People of Unterwald:
ARNOLD OF MELCHTHAL.
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.
RUDOLPH DER HARRAS, Gessler's master of the horse.
JOHANNES PARRICIDA, Duke of Suabia.
The Mayor of Uri.
Master Stonemason, Companions, and Workmen.
Monks of the Order of Charity.
Horsemen of Gessler and Landenberg.
Many Peasants; Men and Women from the Waldstetten.
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
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.)
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
'Twill rain ere long; my sheep browse eagerly, And Watcher there is
scraping up the earth.
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.
There goes brown Liesel, I can hear her bells.
Then all are safe; she ever ranges farthest.
You've a fine chime of bells there, master herdsman.
And likely cattle, too. Are they your own?
I'm not so rich. They are the noble lord's Of Attinghaus, and told
off to my care.
How gracefully yon heifer bears her ribbon!
Ay, well she knows she's leader of the herd, And, take it from her,
she'd refuse to feed.
You're joking now. A beast devoid of reason--
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?
The Alp is grazed quite bare.
A safe return, my friend!
The same to you! Men come not always back from tracks like yours.
But who comes here, running at topmost speed?
I know the man; 'tis Baumgart of Alzellen.
KONRAD BAUMGARTEN (rushing in breathless).
For God's sake, ferryman, your boat!
How now? Why all this haste?
Cast off! My life's at stake!
Set me across!
Why, what's the matter, friend?
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.
Why are the troopers in pursuit of you?
First make me safe and then I'll tell you all.
There's blood upon your garments--how is this?
The Imperial Seneschal, who dwelt at Rossberg--
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 Burgvogt, or Seneschal, of the Castle of Rossberg.
He was killed by Baumgarten in the manner, and for the cause, mentioned
in the text.
He'll ne'er hurt man again; I've settled him.
ALL (starting back).
Now, God forgive you, what is this you've done!
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.
How? Wronged you in your honour, did he so?
That he did not fulfil his foul desire, Is due to God, and to my trusty
And you have cleft his skull then with your axe?
O, tell us all! You've time enough, and more, While he is getting out
the boat there from the beach.
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.
And you did well; no man can blame the deed.
The tyrant! Now he has his just reward! We men of Unterwald have owed
The deed got wind, and now they're in pursuit. Heavens! whilst we speak,
the time is flying fast.
(It begins to thunder.)
Quick, ferryman, and set the good man over.
Impossible! a storm is close at hand, Wait till it pass! You must.
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.
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!
His life's at stake. Have pity on him, man!
He is a father: has a wife and children.
(Repeated peals of thunder.)
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.
Look! who comes here?
'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.)
What man is he that here implores of aid?
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.
Well, there is Tell can steer as well as I. He'll be my judge, if it
(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
The brave man thinks upon himself the last. Put trust in God, and help
him in his need!
Safe in the port, 'tis easy to advise. There is the boat, and there
the lake! Try you!
The lake may pity, but the Viceroy never. Come, risk it, man!
SHEPHERD and HUNTSMAN.
O save him! save him! save him!
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.
Nought's to be done with idle talking here. Each moment's precious;
the man must be help'd, Say, boatman, will you venture?
No; not I.
In God's name, then, give me the boat! I will, With my poor strength,
see what is to be done!
Ha, gallant Tell!
That's like a huntsman true.
You are my angel, my preserver, 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.
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!
Here come the troopers hard as they can ride!
Heavens! so they do! Why, that was help, indeed.
(Enter a troop of horsemen.)
Give up the murderer! You have him here!
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
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!
RUODI (wringing his hands).
Righteous Heaven! Oh, when will come Deliverance to this doom-devoted
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.
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.)
Wait till my mistress comes. Now do! You are My guest in Schwytz--I
in Lucerne am yours.
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.
(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.)
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 omfortable 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.
The house is strongly built, and handsomely, But, ah! the ground on
which we built it quakes.
Tell me, dear Werner, what you mean by that?
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.
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?
'Tis even so. For this doth Gessler hate me.
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.
What's to be done?
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?
I know full many a gallant fellow there, And nobles, too,--great men,
of high repute, In whom I can repose unbounded trust.
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.
You, too are men; can wield a battle axe As well as they. God ne'er
deserts the brave.
Oh wife! a horrid, ruthless fiend is war, That smites at once the shepherd
and his flock.
Whate'er great Heaven inflicts, we must endure; But wrong is what no
noble heart will bear.
This house--thy pride--war, unrelenting war Will burn it down.
And did I think this heart Enslaved and fettered to the things of earth,
With my own hand I'd hurl the kindling torch.
Thou hast faith in human kindness, wife; but war Spares not the tender
infant in its cradle.
There is a Friend to innocence in heaven. Send your gaze forward, Werner--not
We men may die like men, with sword in hand; But oh, what fate, my
Gertrude, may be thine?
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.)
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.)
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).
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
'Tis very hard that we must bear the stones, To make a keep and dungeon
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!
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.
Mind your own business. I but do my duty.
Pray, master, what's to be the name of this Same castle, when 'tis
The Keep of Uri; For by it we shall keep you in subjection.
The Keep of Uri?
Well, why laugh at that?
Keep Uri, will you, with this paltry place!
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.)
I'll drown the mallet in the deepest lake, That served my hand on this
(Enter Tell and Stauffacher.)
O, that I had not lived to see this sight!
Here 'tis not good to be. Let us proceed.
Am I in Uri,--Uri, freedom's home?
O, sir, if you could only see the vaults Beneath these towers. The
man that tenants them Will ne'er hear cock crow more.
O God! O God!
Look at these ramparts and these buttresses, That seem as they were
built to last for ever.
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.)
What means the drum? Give heed!
Why, here's a mumming! And look, the cap--what can they mean by that?
In the Emperor's name, give ear!
Hush! silence! hush!
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
A strange device to fall upon indeed: Do reverence to a cap! A pretty
farce! Heard ever mortal anything like this?
Down to a cap on bended knee, forsooth! Rare jesting this with men
of sober sense!
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.
The cap of Austria? Mark that! A snare To get us into Austria's power,
No freeborn man will stoop to such disgrace.
Come--to our comrades, and advise with them!
(They retire up.)
TELL (to Stauffacher).
You see how matters stand.
Farewell, my friend.
Whither away? Oh, leave us not so soon.
They look for me at home. So fare ye well.
My heart's so full, and has so much to tell you.
Words will not make a heart that's heavy light.
Yet words may possibly conduct to deeds.
Endure in silence! We can do no more.
But shall we bear what is not to be borne?
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.
And is it thus you view our grievances?
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.
Much might be done--did we stand fast together.
When the ship founders, he will best escape, Who seeks no other's safety
but his own.
And you desert the common cause so coldly?
A man can safely count but on himself!
Nay, even the weak grow strong by union.
But the strong man is strongest when alone.
So, then, your country cannot count on you, If in despair she rise
against her foes.
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).
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.)
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
BERTHA (to the Taskmaster, who has returned).
(Taskmaster shakes his head.)
Ill-omened towers, with curses built, And doomed with curses to be tenanted!
The House of Walter Furst. Walter Furst and Arnold von Melchthal enter
simultaneously at different sides.
Good Walter Furst.
If we should be surprised! Stay where you are. We are beset with spies.
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.
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.
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.
O, we old men can scarce command ourselves! And can we wonder youth
breaks out of bounds?
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.
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,
They teach us Switzers what we ought to do.
Away! I'll call you when the coast is clear.
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
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.
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
STAUFF. (sits down).
I saw A work in progress, as I came along, I little thought to see--that
likes me ill.
O friend! you've lighted on my thought at once.
Such things in Uri ne'er were known before. Never was prison here in
man's remembrance, Nor ever any stronghold but the grave.
You name it well. It is the grave of freedom.
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.
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.
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.
O, Heaven is just in all its judgments still! Baumgarten, say you?
A most worthy man. Has he escaped, and is he safely hid?
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!
Say on. What is it?
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.
Who knows him not? But what of him? Proceed.
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.
But the old father--tell me, what of him?
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.
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!
Oh, miserable hour!
Who is it, tell me?
(Stauffacher makes a sign to him.)
It is his son! All-righteous Heaven!
Must be from thence! What! Into both his eyes?
Be calm, be calm; and bear it like a man!
And all for me-- for my mad willful folly! Blind, did you say? Quite
blind--and both his eyes?
Ev'n so. The fountain of his sight is quench'd, He ne'er will see the
blessed sunshine more.
Oh, spare his anguish!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
And though he sat within the icy domes Of yon far Schreckhorn--ay,
or higher, where, Veil'd since eternity, the Jungfrau (virgin)
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--
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.
If the three Cantons thought as we three do, Something might then be
done, with good effect.
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 helvetic bond). 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(Read The Helvetic Confederation)
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.
First let us learn what steps the noble lords Von Sillinen and Attinghaus
propose.Their names would rally thousands to the cause.
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.
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
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?
Thither send me. Whom should it more concern!
No, Melchthal, no; you are my guest, and I Must answer for your safety.
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
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.
But how shall we communicate, and not Awaken the suspicion of the tyrants?
Might we not meet at Brunnen or at Treib, Where merchant vessels with
their cargoes come?
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.
'Tis where our Canton bound'ries verge on yours;
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.
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.)
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.
next: Wilhelm Tell Act 2 perhaps tomorrow...
Thanks go to Webster for the definition of all "old style"-words.