The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Volume Iii Part 101

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You’re unjust!


Unjust! said you? Dares Uri taunt us so?


Peace, on your oath!


If Schwytz be leagued with Uri, Why, then, indeed, we must perforce be dumb.


And let me tell you, in the Diet’s name, Your hasty spirit much disturbs the peace.

Stand we not all for the same common cause?


What, if till Christmas we delay? ‘Tis then The custom for the serfs to throng the castle, Bringing the governor their annual gifts.

Thus may some ten or twelve selected men a.s.semble un.o.bserved, within its walls, Bearing about their persons pikes of steel Which may be quickly mounted upon staves; For arms are not admitted to the fort.

The rest can fill the neighb’ring wood, prepared To sally forth upon a trumpet’s blast, Soon as their comrades have secured the gate; And thus the castle will with ease be ours.


The Rossberg I will undertake to scale.

I have a sweetheart in the garrison, Whom with some tender words I could persuade To lower me at night a hempen ladder.

Once up, my friends will not be long behind.


Are all resolved in favor of delay?

_[The majority raise their hands_.]

STAUFFACHER _(counting them)._

Twenty to twelve is the majority.


If on the appointed day the castles fall, From mountain on to mountain we shall speed The fiery signal: in the capital Of every Canton quickly rouse the Landsturm.[55]

Then, when these tyrants see our martial front, Believe me, they will never make so bold As risk the conflict, but will gladly take Safe conduct forth beyond our boundaries.


Not so with Gessler. He will make a stand.

Surrounded with his dread array of horse, Blood will be shed before he quits the field, And even expell’d he’d still be terrible.

‘Tis hard, nay, dangerous, to spare his life.


Place me where’er a life is to be lost; I owe my life to Tell, and cheerfully Will pledge it for my country. I have clear’d.

My honor, and my heart is now at rest.


Counsel will come with circ.u.mstance. Be patient!

Something must still be to the moment left.

Yet, while by night we hold our Diet here, The morning, see, has on the mountain tops Kindled her glowing beacon. Let us part, Ere the broad sun surprise us.


Do not fear.

The night wanes slowly from these vales of ours.

_[All have involuntarily taken off their caps, and contemplate the breaking of day, absorbed in silence.]_


By this fair light which greeteth us, before Those other nations, that, beneath us far, In noisome cities pent, draw painful breath, Swear we the oath of our confederacy!

A band of brothers true we swear to be, Never to part in danger or in death!

_[They repeat his words with three fingers raised.]_

We swear we will be free, as were our sires, And sooner die than live in slavery!

_[All repeat as before_.]

We swear, to put our trust in G.o.d Most High, And not to quail before the might of man!

_[All repeat as before, and embrace one another_.]


Now every man pursue his several way Back to his friends, his kindred, and his home.

Let the herd winter up his flock, and gain In secret friends for this great league of ours!

What for a time must be endured, endure, And let the reckoning of the tyrants grow, Till the great day arrive when they shall pay The general and particular debt at once.

Let every man control his own just rage, And nurse his vengeance for the public wrongs: For he whom selfish interests now engage Defrauds the general weal of what to it belongs.

_[As they are going off in profound silence, in three different directions, the orchestra plays a solemn air. The empty scene remains open for some time, showing the rays of the sun rising over the Glaciers.]_

[ILl.u.s.tRATION: THE OATH ON THE RuTLI As performed at the Royal Theatre, Dresden 1906.]