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

Act V

Scene II

Interior of Tell’s cottage. A fire burning on the hearth. The open door shows the scene outside.


Hedw.My own dear boys! your father comes to-day;

He lives, is free, and we and all are free;

The country owes its liberty to him!

Walt.And I, too, mother, bore my part in it!

I must be named with him. My father’s shaft

Ran my life close, but yet I never flinch’d.

Hedw.(embracing him). Yes, yes, thou art restored to me again!

Twice have I seen thee given to my sad eyes,

Twice suffered all a mother’s pangs for thee!

But this is past—I have you both, boys, both!

And your dear father will be back to-day.[A monk appears at the door.

Will.See, mother, yonder stands a holy friar;

He comes for alms, no doubt.

Hedw.Go lead him in,

That we may give him cheer, and make him feel

That he has come into the house of joy.[Exit, and returns immediately with a cup.

Will.(to the monk). come in, good man. Mother will give you food!

Walt.Come in and rest, then go refresh’d away!

Monk(glancing round in terror, with unquiet looks). Where am I? In what country? Tell me.


Are you bewildered, that you know not where?

You are at Bürglen, in the land of Uri,

Just at the entrance of the Shechenthal.

Monk(to HEDWIG). Are you alone? Your husband, is he here?

Hedw.I am expecting him. But what ails you, man?

There’s something in your looks, that omens ill!

Whoe’er you be, you are in want—take that.[Offers him the cup.

Monk.Howe’er my sinking heart may yearn for food,

Nought will I taste till you have promised first—

Hedw.Touch not my garments, come not near me, monk!

You must stand farther back, if I’m to hear you.

Monk.Oh, by this hearth’s bright, hospitable blaze,

By your dear children’s heads, which I embrace—[Grasps the boys.

Hedw.Stand back, I say! What is your purpose, man?

Back from my boys! You are no monk,—no, no,

Beneath the robe you wear peace should abide,

But peace abides not in such looks as yours.

Monk.I am the wretchedest of living men.

Hedw.The heart is never deaf to wretchedness;

But your look freezes up my inmost soul.

Walt.(springs up). Mother, here’s father!

Hedw.Oh, my God![Is about to follow, trembles and stops.

Will.(running after his brother). My father!

Walt.(without). Here, here once more!

Will.(without).My father, my dear father!

Tell(without). Yes, here once more! Where is your mother, boys?[They enter.

Walt.There at the door she stands, and can no further,

She trembles so with terror and with joy.

Tell.Oh Hedwig, Hedwig, mother of my children!

God has been kind and helpful in our woes.

No tyrant’s hand shall e’er divide us more.

Hedw.(falling on his neck). Oh, Tell, what anguish have I borne for thee![MONK becomes attentive.

Tell.Forget it, now, and live for joy alone!

I’m here again with you! This is my cot!

I stand again upon mine own hearthstone!

Will.But, father, where’s your crossbow? Not with you?

Tell.Thou shalt not ever see it more, my boy.

Within a holy shrine it has been placed,

And in the chase shall ne’er be used again.

Hedw.Oh, Tell! Tell![Steps back, dropping his hand.

Tell.What alarms thee, dearest wife?

Hedw.How—how doest thou return to me? This hand—

Dare I take hold of it? This hand—Oh, God!

Tell(with firmness and animation). Has shielded you and set my country free;

Freely I raise it in the face of Heaven.[MONK gives a sudden start—he looks at him.

Who is this friar here?

Hedw.Ah, I forgot him;

Speak thou with him; I shudder at his presence.

Monk(stepping nearer). Are you the Tell who slew the Governor?

Tell.Yes, I am he. I hide the fact from no man.

Monk.And you are Tell! Ah! it is God’s own hand,

That hath conducted me beneath your roof.

Tell(examining him closely).

You are no monk. Who are you?

Monk.You have slain

The Governor, who did you wrong. I, too,

Have slain a foe, who robb’d me of my rights.

He was no less your enemy than mine.

I’ve rid the land of him.

Tell(drawing back). You are—oh, horror!

In—children, children—in, without a word,

Go, my dear wife! Go! Go! Unhappy man,

You should be—

Hedw.Heav’ns, who is it?

Tell.Do not ask.

Away! away! the children must not hear it.

Out of the house—away! You must not rest

’Neath the same roof with this unhappy man!

Hedw.Alas! What is it? Come.[Exit with the children.

Tell(to the MONK).You are the Duke

Of Austria—I know it. You have slain

The Emperor, your uncle and liege lord.

John.He robb’d me of my patrimony.


Slain him—your King, your uncle! And the earth

Still bears you! And the sun still shines on you!

John.Tell, hear me; are you—

Tell.Reeking, with the blood

Of him that was your Emperor, your kinsman,

Dare you set foot within my spotless house,

Dare to an honest man to show your face,

And claim the rights of hospitality?

John.I hoped to find compassion at your hands.

You took, like me, revenge upon your foe!

Tell.Unhappy man! Dare you confound the crime

Of blood-imbrued ambition with the act

Forced on a father in mere self-defence?

Had you to shield your children’s darling heads,

To guard your fireside’s sanctuary—ward off

The last, the direst doom from all you loved?

To Heaven I raise my unpolluted hands,

To curse your act and you! I have avenged

That holy nature which you have profaned.

I have no part with you. You murdered, I

Have shielded all that was most dear to me.

John.You cast me off to comfortless despair!

Tell.I shrink with horror while I talk with you.

Hence, on the dread career you have begun!

Cease to pollute the home of innocence![JOHN turns to depart.

John.I cannot and I will not live this life!

Tell.And yet my soul bleeds for you. Gracious Heaven,

So young, of such a noble line, the grandson

Of Rudolph, once my lord and Emperor,

An outcast—murderer—standing at my door,

The poor man’s door—a suppliant, in despair![Covers his face.

John.If you have power to weep, oh let my fate

Move your compassion—it is horrible!

I am—say, rather was—a prince. I might

Have been most happy, had I only curb’d

The impatience of my passionate desires:

But envy gnaw’d my heart—I saw the youth

Of mine own cousin Leopold endow’d

With honour, and enrich’d with broad domains,

The while myself, of equal age with him,

In abject slavish nonage was kept back.

Tell.Unhappy man, your uncle knew you well,

When from you land and subjects he withheld!

You, by your mad and desperate act have set

A fearful seal upon his wise resolve.

Where are the bloody partners of your crime?

John.Where’er the avenging furies may have borne them;

I have not seen them since the luckless deed.

Tell.Know you the Empire’s ban is out,—that you

Are interdicted to your friends, and given

An outlaw’d victim to your enemies!

John.Therefore I shun all public thoroughfares,

And venture not to knock at any door—

I turn my footsteps to the wilds, and through

The mountains roam, a terror to myself!

From mine own self I shrink with horror back,

If in a brook I see my ill-starr’d form!

If you have pity or a human heart—[Falls down before him.

Tell.Stand up, stand up! I say.

John.Not till you give

Your hand in promise of assistance to me.

Tell.Can I assist you? Can a sinful man?

Yet get ye up—how black soe’er your crime—

You are a man. I, too, am one. From Tell

Shall no one part uncomforted. I will

Do all that lies within my power.

John(springs up and grasps him ardently by the hand). Oh, Tell,

You save me from the terrors of despair.

Tell.Let go my hand! You must away. You can not

Remain here undiscover’d, and, discover’d,

You cannot count on succour. Which way, then,

Would you be going? Where do you hope to find

A place of rest?

John.Alas! I know not where.

Tell.Hear, then, what Heaven unto my heart suggests.

You must to Italy,—to Saint Peter’s City—

There cast yourself at the Pope’s feet,—confess

Your guilt to him, and ease your laden soul!

John.Will he not to the avengers yield me up?

Tell.Whate’er he does, accept it as from God.

John.But how am I to reach that unknown land?

I have no knowledge of the way, and dare not

Attach myself to other travellers.

Tell.I will describe the road, so mark me well!

You must ascend, keeping along the Reuss,

Which from the mountains dashes wildly down.

John(in alarm). What! See the Reuss? The witness of my deed!

Tell.The road you take lies through the river’s gorge,

And many a cross proclaims where travellers

Have been by avalanches done to death.

John.I have no fear for nature’s terrors, so

I can appease the torments of my soul.

Tell.At every cross, kneel down and expiate

Your crime with burning penitential tears—

And if you ’scape the perils of the pass,

And are not whelm’d beneath the drifted snows,

That from the frozen peaks come sweeping down,

You’ll reach the bridge that’s drench’d with drizzling spray.

Then if it give not way beneath your guilt,

When you have left it safely in your rear,

Before you frowns the gloomy Gate of Rocks,

Where never sun did shine. Proceed through this,

And you will reach a bright and gladsome vale.

Yet must you hurry on with hasty steps,

You must not linger in the haunts of peace.

John.O, Rudolph, Rudolph, royal grandsire! Thus

Thy grandson first sets foot within thy realms!

Tell.Ascending still, you gain the Gotthardt’s heights,

Where are the tarns, the everlasting tarns,

That from the streams of Heaven itself are fed,

There to the German soil you bid farewell;

And thence, with swift descent, another stream

Leads you to Italy, your promised land.[Ranz des Vaches sounded on Alp-horns is heard without.

But I hear voices! Hence!

Hedw.(hurrying in).Where art thou, Tell?

My father comes, and in exulting bands

All the confederates approach.

Duke John(covering himself). Woe’s me!

I dare not tarry ’mong these happy men!

Tell.Go, dearest wife, and give this man to eat.

Spare not your bounty; for his road is long.

And one where shelter will be hard to find.

Quick—they approach!

Hedw.Who is he?

Tell.Do not ask!

And when he quits you, turn your eyes away,

So that you do not see which way he goes.[DUKE JOHN advances hastily towards Tell, but he beckons him aside and exit. When both have left the stage, the scene changes.