Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Switzerland
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI.  1876–79.
 
Switzerland: Küssnacht
William Tell
Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)
 
(From Act IV, Scene III)
Translated by C. T. Brooks

HE must needs come along this hollow pass;
No other road will lead to Küssnacht. Here
I ’ll do the deed. The opportunity
Is favorable; behind yon elder-bush
I ’ll hide me, and shoot down the fatal shaft;        5
The narrow way shall shield me from pursuit.
Now, Gessler, settle thy account with Heaven!
’T is time thou wert gone hence,—thy hour is up.
 
  My life was still and harmless. Save the beast
That roams the forest, not a living thing        10
Ere felt the shaft directed by my hand;
No thought of murder ever stained my soul,—
But thou hast scared me from my peaceful haunts;
To bloating serpent-poison thou hast changed
The milk of my pure nature, and hast made        15
Most horrible deeds familiar to my soul.
He who could make a mark of his child’s head
Can aim unerring at his foeman’s heart.
 
  The poor, dear children, little innocents,—
And my true wife; they cry to me for help        20
Against thy fury, Landvogt! In that hour
When with a trembling hand I drew the string,—
When thou with horrible, with devilish joy
Didst force me at my darling’s head to aim,—
When I in powerless agony knelt to thee,—        25
Then in my inmost heart I made a vow,
And sealed it with a solemn oath to God,
That the first mark of my next shot should be
Thy heart. The solemn vow silently made
In the tremendous anguish of that hour,        30
It is a sacred debt, I ’ll pay it now.
 
  Thou art my master and my emperor’s Vogt;
Yet never had the emperor dared to do
What thou hast done. He sent thee to this land
To be our judge, stern, like himself indeed,        35
But not to gratify thy murderous lust
With deeds of horror, and go all unscathed,—
No, there ’s a God to punish and avenge!
 
  Come forth, thou sometime source of bitter pain,
My costly jewel now, my highest joy,—        40
Soon thou shalt find a mark, which never yet
The voice of pity or of woe might pierce.
’T will not be proof ’gainst thee,—and, trusty string!
Thou that so oft hast done me faithful service
In games of pleasure, O, forsake me not        45
Now in this hour of awful earnestness!
Only this once hold fast, true sinew! thou
That hast so oft winged me the stinging shaft,—
If all in vain, this once the bow I bend,
No second arrow have I here to send.        50
 
  Upon this bench of stone I ’ll seat myself,
Where oft the traveller rests him by the way,—
For here no home is found. Each hurries on,
Nor stops to ask another’s sorrows. Here
The anxious pedler passes by,—the light        55
Thinly clad pilgrim and the pious monk,—
The gloomy robber and the gay musician,—
The carrier with his heavy-laden steed,
Who comes from farthest habitable lands,
For every road conducts to the world’s end.        60
With busy steps they hasten on their way
Each to his several business. Mine is murder!
 
Time was, dear children, if your sire went out,
There was rejoicing, when he came again;
For ever on ’s return he brought you home        65
Some lovely Alpine flower or rare bird,
Or other wondrous offspring of the mountains. Now
He seeks for other spoil; on the wild way
He sits with murderous thoughts. His foeman’s life,—
It is for that your sire is lurking now.        70
And yet on you alone he thinks as ever,
Dear children, to protect your innocent heads,
And save you from the tyrant’s vengeance, now
He ’s forced with deadly aim to bend his bow!
 
I lie in wait for noble game. The hunter        75
Tires not of roaming all the livelong day
In stern midwinter, making perilous leaps
From rock to rock, or climbing slippery heights,
Gluing his path with blood, and all for what?
All to entrap a miserable chamois!        80
Here is a far more costly prize at stake,
The heart of the fell foe who seeks my life.
 
All my life long this bow has been to me
My most familiar friend, I ’ve trained myself
By rules of archery, and oftentimes        85
I ’ve pierced the target-spot and brought me home
Full many a noble prize from shooting-match.
To-day I ’ll make my master-shot, and win
The proudest prize in all the mountains round.
 
 
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