Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Paid ere 'tis due, which fills the owner's heart With gratitude, and yet 'tis but his own! · And are you well ? and has the chase proved good ? | How has it fared with you? Come in ; I'm sure

You want refreshment, William. ; Tell. No; I shared

A herdsman's meal, upon whose lonely chalet
I chanced to light. I've had bad sport! My track
Lay with the wind, which to the startlish game
Betray'd me still. One only prize; and that
I gave mine humble host. You raise the bow
Too fast. [To Albert, who has returned to his practice.]

Bring't slowly to the eye- [ALBERT shoots.
You've miss'd.
How often have you hit the mark to-day?

Alb. Not once yet.

Tell. You're not steady. I perceived
You waver'd now. Stand firm! -Let every limb
Be braced as marble, and as motionless.
'Stand like the sculptor's statue on the gate
Of Altorf, that looks life, yet neither breathes
Nor stirs. [ALBERT shoots.] That's better!

Emma William ! William -0!
To be the parents of a boy like that!
Why speak you not—and wherefore do you sigh ?
What's in your heart to keep the transport out
That fills up mine, when looking on our child,
Till it o'erflows mine eye?

[ALBERT shoots. Tell. You've miss'd again! Dost see the mark ? Rivet your eye to it!

There let it stick, fast as the arrow would,
Could you but send it there !

Emma. Why, William, don't
You answer me?

[ALBERT shoots.
Tell. Again! How would you fare,
Suppose a wolf should cross your path, and you
Alone, with but your bow, and only time
To fix a single arrow ? 'Twould not do
To miss the wolf! You said, the other day,
Were you a man, you'd not let Gesler live-
'Twas easy to say that. Suppose you, now,
Your life or his depended on that shot !-
Take care! That's Gesler! Now for liberty ;
Right to the tyrant's heart! [ALBERT shoots.] Well

done, my boy!
Come here !– Now, Emma, I will answer you !
Do I not love you? Do I not love our child ?
Is not that cottage dear to me, where I
Was born? How many acres would I give
That little vineyard for, which I have watch'd
And tended since I was a child ? Those crags
And peaks—what spired city would I take
To live in, in exchange for them ?-Yet what
Are these to me? What is this boy to me?
What art thou Emma, to me—when a breath
Of Gesler's can take all !

Emma. O William, think
How little is that all to him—too little
For Gesler, sure, to take. Bethink, thee, William,
We have no treasure.

Tell. Have we not? Have we
No treasure? How! No treasure? What!
Have we not liberty ?- That precious ore,
That pearl, that gem, the tyrant covets most ;
Yet can't enjoy himself—for which he drains
His coffers of their coin—his land of blood ;
Goes without sleep-pines himself sallow-pale-
Yea, makes a pawn of his own soul—lacks ease--
Frets, till the bile gnaws appetite away-
Forgets both heaven and hell, only to strip
The wearer of it! Emma, we have that,
And that's enough for Gesler !

Emma. Then, indeed,
My William, we have much to fear !

Tell. We have!
And best it is to know how much. Then, Emma,
Make up thy mind, wife! Make it up! Remember
What wives and mothers on these very hills
Once breathed the air you breathe. Helvetia
Hath chronicles, the masters of the world,
As they were call’d—the Romans-kept for her!
And in those chronicles I've heard 'tis writ-
And praise set down by foes must needs be true-
'Tis writ, I say, that when the Rhetians-
They were the early tenants of those hills
Withstood the lust of Roman tyranny,
With Claudius Drusus, and a certain Nero,
Sons-in-law of Octavius Cæsar, at
Its head—the Rhetian women--when the men
By numbers overmatch'd at last gave way,

Seeing that liberty was gone, threw life
And nature, too, as worthless, after it;
Rush'd through the gaping ranks of them that fled,
And on the dripping weapons of the red
Resistless van impaled themselves and children!

Emma. O William !

Tell. Emma, let the boy alone ! Don't clasp him so—"T'will soften him! Go, sir ! See if the valley sends us visitors To-day. Some friend, perchance, may need thy guid

ance. Away! [ALBERT goes out.] He's better from thee,

Emma!

The time
Is come, a mother on her breast should fold
Her arms, as they had done with such endearments,
And bid her children go from her to hunt
For danger—which will presently hunt them
The less to heed it!

Emma. William, you are right.
The task you set me I will try to do.
I would not live myself to be a slave-
I would not live to be the dam of one!
No! woman as I am, I would not, William !
Then choose my course for me. Whate'er it is,
I will say, ay, and do it, too-Suppose
To dress my little stripling for the war,
And take him by the hand, and lead him to't !
Yes, I would do it at thy bidding, William,
Without a tear-I say that I would do it-

7

Though now I only talk of doing it,
I can't help shedding one !

[Weeps.
Tell. Did I not choose thee
From out the fairest of the maids of Uri,
Less that in beauty thou didst them surpass,
Than that thy soul that beauty overmatch'd ?
Why rises on thy matron cheek that blush,
Mantling it fresh as in thy virgin morn,
But that I did so ? Do I wonder, then,
To find thee equal to the task of virtue,
Although a hard one ? No, I wonder not!
Why should I, Emma, make thy heart acquainted
With ills I could shut out from it-rude guests
For such a home! Here, only, we have had
Two bearts; in all things else-in love, in faith,
In hope, and joy, that never had hut one!
But henceforth we must have but one, here, also.
Emma. 0, William, you have wrong'd me—kindly

wrong'd me! When ever yet was happiness the test Of love in man or woman? Who'd not hold To that which must advantage him? Who'd not Keep promise to a feast, or mind his pledge To share a rich man's purse? There's not a churl, However base, but might be thus approved Of most unswerving constancy. But that Which loosens churls, ties friends! or changes them, Only to stick the faster. William! William ! That man knew never yet the love of woman, Who never had an ill to share with her!

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »