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Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805). Wilhelm Tell.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


Scene II

A retired part of the forest—brooks dashing in spray over the rocks.

Enter BERTHA in a hunting dress. Immediately afterwards RUDENZ

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

Rud.(entering hastily).

At length, dear lady, we have met alone

In this wild dell, with rocks on every side,

No jealous eye can watch our interview.

Now let my heart throw off this weary silence.

Berth.But are you sure they will not follow us?

Rud.See, yonder goes the chase! Now, then, or never!

I must avail me of this precious chance,—

Must hear my doom decided by thy lips,

Though it should part me from thy side forever.

Oh, do not arm that gentle face of thine

With looks so stern and harsh! Who—who am I,

That dare aspire so high, as unto thee?

Fame hath not stamp’d me yet; nor may I take

My place amid the courtly throng of knights,

That, crown’d with glory’s lustre, woo thy smiles.

Nothing have I to offer, but a heart

That overflows with truth and love for thee.

Berth.(sternly and with severity). And dare you speak to me of love—of truth?

You, that are faithless to your nearest ties!

You, that are Austria’s slave-bartered and sold

To her—an alien, and your country’s tyrant!

Rud.How! This reproach from thee! Whom do I seek,

On Austria’s side, my own beloved, but thee?

Berth.Think you to find me in the traitor’s ranks?

Now, as I live, I’d rather give my hand

To Gessler’s self, all despot though he be,

Than to the Switzer who forgets his birth,

And stoops to be a tyrant’s servile tool.

Rud.Oh Heaven, what words are these?

Berth.Say! What can lie

Nearer the good man’s heart than friends and kindred?

What dearer duty to a noble soul,

Than to protect weak, suffering innocence,

And vindicate the rights of the oppress’d?

My very soul bleeds for your countrymen.

I suffer with them, for I needs must love them;

They are so gentle, yet so full of power;

They draw my whole heart to them. Every day

I look upon them with increased esteem.

But you, whom nature and your knightly vow,

Have given them as their natural protector,

Yet who desert them and abet their foes

In forging shackles for your native land,

You—you incense and wound me to the core.

It tries me to the utmost not to hate you.

Rud.Is not my country’s welfare all my wish?

What seek I for her, but to purchase peace

’Neath Austria’s potent sceptre?

Berth.Bondage, rather!

You would drive Freedom from the last stronghold

That yet remains for her upon the earth.

The people know their own true int’rests better:

Their simple natures are not warp’d by show.

But round your head a tangling net is wound.

Rud.Bertha, you hate me—you despise me!


And if I did, ’twere better for my peace.

But to see him despised and despicable,—

The man whom one might love—

Rud.Oh Bertha! You

Show me the pinnacle of heavenly bliss,

Then, in a moment, hurl me to despair!

Berth.No, no! the noble is not all extinct

Within you. It but slumbers,—I will rouse it.

It must have cost you many a fiery struggle

To crush the virtues of your race within you.

But, Heaven be praised, ’tis mightier than yourself,

And you are noble in your own despite!

Rud.You trust me, then? Oh, Bertha, with thy love

What might I not become!

Berth.Be only that

For which your own high nature destin’d you.

Fill the position you were born to fill;—

Stand by your people and your native land—

And battle for your sacred rights!


How can I win you—how can you be mine,

If I take arms against the Emperor?

Will not your potent kinsmen interpose,

To dictate the disposal of your hand?

Berth.All my estates lie in the Forest Cantons;

And I am free, when Switzerland is free.

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

Berth.Hope not to win my hand by Austria’s grace;

Fain would they lay their grasp on my estates,

To swell the vast domains which now they hold.

The selfsame lust of conquest, that would rob

You of your liberty, endangers mine.

Oh, friend, I’m mark’d for sacrifice;—to be

The guerdon of some parasite, perchance!

They’ll drag me hence to the Imperial court,

That hateful haunt of falsehood and intrigue,

And marriage bonds I loathe await me there.

Love, love alone—your love,—can rescue me.

Rud.And thou couldst be content, love, to live here;

In my own native land to be my own?

Oh Bertha, all the yearnings of my soul

For this great world and its tumultuous strife,

What were they, but a yearning after thee?

In glory’s path I sought for thee alone,

And all my thirst of fame was only love.

But if in this calm vale thou canst abide

With me, and bid earth’s pomps and pride adieu,

Then is the goal of my ambition won;

And the rough tide of the tempestuous world

May dash and rave around these firm-set hills!

No wandering wishes more have I to send

Forth to the busy scene that stirs beyond.

Then may these rocks, that girdle us, extend

Their giant walls impenetrably round,

And this sequestered happy vale alone

Look up to heaven, and be my paradise!

Berth.Now art thou all my fancy dream’d of thee.

My trust has not been given to thee in vain.

Rud.Away, ye idle phantoms of my folly;

In mine own home I’ll find my happiness.

Here, where the gladsome boy to manhood grew,

Where ev’ry brook, and tree, and mountain peak,

Teems with remembrances of happy hours,

In mine own native land thou wilt be mine.

Ah, I have ever loved it well, I feel

How poor without it were all earthly joys.

Berth.Where should we look for happiness on earth,

If not in this dear land of innocence?

Here, where old truth hath its familiar home.

Where fraud and guile are strangers, envy ne’er

Shall dim the sparkling fountain of our bliss,

And ever bright the hours shall o’er us glide.

There do I see thee, in true manly worth,

The foremost of the free and of thy peers,

Revered with homage pure and unconstrain’d,

Wielding a power that kings might envy thee.

Rud.And thee I see, thy sex’s crowning gem,

With thy sweet woman’s grace and wakeful love,

Building a heaven for me within my home,

And, as the spring-time scatters forth her flowers,

Adorning with thy charms my path of life,

And spreading joy and sunshine all around.

Berth.And this it was, dear friend, that caused my grief,

To see thee blast this life’s supremest bliss

With thine own hand. Ah! what had been my fate,

Had I been forced to follow some proud lord,

Some ruthless despot, to his gloomy keep!

Here are no keeps, here are no bastion’d walls

To part me from a people I can bless.

Rud.Yet, how to free myself; to loose the coils

Which I have madly twined around my head?

Berth.Tear them asunder with a man’s resolve.

Whate’er ensue, firm by thy people stand!

It is thy post by birth.[Hunting horns are heard in the distance.

But hark! The chase!

Farewell,—’tis needful we should part—away!

Fight for thy land; thou fightest for thy love.

One foe fills all our souls with dread; the blow

That makes one free, emancipates us all.[Exeunt severally.