Fiction > Harvard Classics > J. W. von Goethe > Egmont
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).  Egmont.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene III
Citizen’s House

  Clara.  Will you not hold the yarn for me, Brackenburg?  2
  Brackenburg.  I entreat you, excuse me, Clara.  3
  Clara.  What ails you? Why refuse me this trifling service?  4
  Brackenburg.  When I hold the yarn, I stand as it were spell-bound before you, and cannot escape your eyes.  5
  Clara.  Nonsense! Come and hold!  6
  Mother  (knitting in her arm-chair). Give us a song! Brackenburg sings so good a second. You used to be merry once, and I had always something to laugh at.  7
  Brackenburg.  Once!  8
  Clara.  Well, let us sing.  9
  Brackenburg.  As you please.  10
  Clara.  Merrily, then, and sing away! ’Tis a soldier’s song, my favourite.  (She winds yarn, and sings with BRACKENBURG.)
How boldly I’d follow,
        The drum is resounding,
And shrill the fife plays;
My love, for the battle,
His brave troop arrays;.
He lifts his lance high,
And the people he sways.
My blood it is boiling!
My heart throbs pit-pat!
Oh, had I a jacket,
With hose and with hat!
And march through the gate;
Through all the wide province
I’d follow him straight.
The foe yield, we capture
Or shoot them! Ah, me!
What heart-thrilling rapture
A soldier to be!

  (During the song, BRACKENBURG has frequently looked at CLARA; at length his voice falters, his eyes fill with tears, he lets the skein fall, and goes to the window. CLARA finishes the song alone, her mother motions to her, half displeased, she rises, advances a few steps towards him, turns back, as if irresolute, and again sits down.)
  Mother.  What is going on in the street, Brackenburg? I hear soldiers marching.  12
  Brackenburg.  It is the Regent’s body-guard.  13
  Clara.  At this hour? What can it mean? (She rises and joins BRACKENBURG at the window.) That is not the daily guard; it is more numerous! almost all the troops! Oh, Brackenburg, go! Learn what it means. It must be something unusual. Go, good Brackenburg, do me this favour.  14
  Brackenburg.  I am going! I will return immediately.  (He offers his hand to CLARA, and she gives him hers.)  [Exit BRACKENBURG.  15
  Mother.  Thou sendest him away so soon!  16
  Clara.  I am curious; and, besides—do not be angry, mother—his presence pains me. I never know how I ought to behave towards him. I have done him a wrong, and it goes to my very heart to see how deeply he feels it. Well, it can’t be helped now!  17
  Mother.  He is such a true-hearted fellow!  18
  Clara.  I cannot help it, I must treat him kindly. Often without a thought, I return the gentle, loving pressure of his hand. I reproach myself that I am deceiving him, that I am nourishing in his heart a vain hope. I am in a sad plight! God knows, I do not willingly deceive him. I do not wish him to hope, yet I cannot let him despair!  19
  Mother.  That is not as it should be.  20
  Clara.  I liked him once, and in my soul I like him still. I could have married him; yet I believe I was never really in love with him.  21
  Mother.  Thou wouldst always have been happy with him.  22
  Clara.  I should have been provided for, and have led a quiet life.  23
  Mother.  And through thy fault it has all been trifled away.  24
  Clara.  I am in a strange position. When I think how it has come to pass, I know it, indeed, and I know it not. But I have only to look upon Egmont, and I understand it all; ay, and stranger things would seem natural then. Oh, what a man he is! All the provinces worship him. And in his arms, should I not be the happiest creature in the world?  25
  Mother.  And how will it be in the future?  26
  Clara.  I only ask, does he love me?—does he love me?—as if there were any doubt about it.  27
  Mother.  One has nothing but anxiety of heart with one’s children. Always care and sorrow, whatever may be the end of it! It cannot come to good! Thou hast made thyself wretched! Thou hast made thy mother wretched too.  28
  Clara  (quietly). Yet thou didst allow it in the beginning.  29
  Mother.  Alas! I was too indulgent; I am always too indulgent.  30
  Clara.  When Egmont rode by, and I ran to the window, did you chide me then? Did you not come to the window yourself? When he looked up, smiled, nodded, and greeted me, was it displeasing to you? Did you not feel yourself honoured in your daughter?  31
  Mother.  Go on with your reproaches.  32
  Clara  (with emotion). Then, when he passed more frequently, and we felt sure that it was on my account that he came this way, did you not remark it yourself with secret joy? Did you call me away when I stood behind the window-pane and awaited him?  33
  Mother.  Could I imagine that it would go so far?  34
  Clara  (with faltering voice, and repressed tears). And then, one evening, when, enveloped in his mantle, he surprised us as we sat at our lamp, who busied herself in receiving him, while I remained, lost in astonishment, as if fastened to my chair?  35
  Mother.  Could I imagine that the prudent Clara would so soon be carried away by this unhappy love? I must now endure that my daughter—  36
  Clara  (bursting into tears). Mother! How can you? You take pleasure in tormenting me!  37
  Mother  (weeping). Ay, weep away! Make me yet more wretched by thy grief. Is it not misery enough that my only daughter is a castaway?  38
  Clara  (rising, and speaking coldly). A castaway! The beloved of Egmont a castaway!.—What princess would not envy the poor Clara a place in his heart? Oh, mother,—my own mother, you were not wont to speak thus! Dear mother, be kind!—Let the people think, let the neighbours whisper what they like—this chamber, this lowly house is a paradise, since Egmont’s love dwelt here.  39
  Mother.  One cannot help liking him, that is true. He is always so kind, frank, and open-hearted.  40
  Clara.  There is not a drop of false blood in his veins. And then, mother, he is indeed the great Egmont; yet, when he comes to me, how tender he is, how kind! How he tries to conceal from me his rank, his bravery! How anxious he is about me! so entirely the man, the friend, the lover.  41
  Mother.  Do you expect him to-day?  42
  Clara.  Have you not seen how often I go to the window? Have you not noticed how I listen to every noise at the door?—Though I know that he will not come before night, yet, from the time when I rise in the morning, I keep expecting him every moment. Were I but a boy, to follow him always, to the court and everywhere! Could I but carry his colours in the field!—  43
  Mother.  You were always such a lively, restless creature; even as a little child, now wild, now thoughtful. Will you not dress yourself a little better?  44
  Clara.  Perhaps, mother, if I want something to do.—Yesterday, some of his people went by, singing songs in honour. At least his name was in the songs! The rest I could not understand. My heart leaped up into my throat,—I would fain have called them back if I had not felt ashamed.  45
  Mother.  Take care! Thy impetuous nature will ruin all. Thou wilt betray thyself before the people; as, not long ago, at thy cousin’s, when thou foundest out the woodcut with the description, and didst exclaim, with a cry: “Count Egmont!”—I grew as red as fire.  46
  Clara.  Could I help crying out? It was the battle of Gravelines, and I found in the picture the letter C. and then looked for it in the description below. There it stood, “Count Egmont, with his horse shot under him: I shuddered, and afterwards I could not help laughing at the woodcut figure of Egmont, as tall as the neighbouring tower of Gravelines, and the English ships at the side.—When I remember how I used to conceive of a battle, and what an idea I had, as a girl, of Count Egmont; when I listened to descriptions of him, and of all the other earls and princes;—and think how it is with me now!  47
  Clara.  Well, what is going on?  49
  Brackenburg.  Nothing certain is known. It is rumoured that an insurrection has lately broken out in Flanders; the Regent is afraid of its spreading here. The castle is strongly garrisoned, the burghers are crowding to the gates, and the streets are thronged with people. I will hasten at once to my old father.  (As if about to go.)  50
  Clara.  Shall we see you to-morrow? I must change my dress a little. I am expecting my cousin, and I look too untidy. Come, mother, help me a moment. Take the book, Brackenburg, and bring me such another story.  51
  Mother.  Farewell.  52
  Brackenburg  (extending his hand). Your hand.  53
  Clara  (refusing hers). When you come next.  [Exeunt MOTHER and DAUGHTER.  54
  Brackenburg  (alone). I had resolved to go away again at once; and yet, when she takes me at my word, and lets me leave her, I feel as if I could go mad.—Wretched man! Does the fate of thy fatherland, does the growing disturbance fail to move thee?—Are countryman and Spaniard the same to thee? and carest thou not who rules, and who is in the right?—I was a different sort of fellow as a schoolboy!—Then, when an exercise in oratory was given; “Brutus’ Speech for Liberty,” for instance, Fritz was ever the first, and the rector would say: “If it were only spoken more deliberately, the words not all huddled together.”—Then my blood boiled, and longed for action.—Now I drag along, bound by the eyes of a maiden. I cannot leave her! yet she, alas, cannot love me!—ah—no—she—she cannot have entirely rejected me-not entire-yet half love is no love!—I will endure it no longer!—Can it be true what a friend lately whispered in my ear, that she secretly admits a man into the house by night, when she always sends me away modestly before evening? No, it cannot be true! It is a lie! A base, slanderous lie! Clara is as innocent as I am wretched.—She has rejected me, has thrust me from her heart—and shall I live on thus? I cannot, I will not endure it. Already my native land is convulsed by internal strife, and do I perish abjectly amid the tumult? I will not endure it! When the trumpet sounds, when a shot falls, it thrills through my bone and marrow! But, alas, it does not rouse me! It does not summon me to join the onslaught, to rescue, to dare.—Wretched, degrading position! Better end it at once! Not long ago, I threw myself into the water; I sank—but nature in her agony was too strong for me; I felt that I could swim, and saved myself against my will. Could I but forget the time when she loved me, seemed to love me!—Why has this happiness penetrated my very bone and marrow? Why have these hopes, while disclosing to me a distant paradise, consumed all the enjoyment of life?—And that first, that only kiss!—Here (laying his hand upon the table), here we were alone,—she had always been kind and friendly towards me,—then she seemed to soften,—she looked at me,—my brain reeled,—I felt her lips on mine,—and—and now?—Die, wretch! Why dost thou hesitate? (He draws a phial from his pocket.) Thou healing poison, it shall not have been in vain that I stole thee from my brother’s medicine chest! From this anxious fear, this dizziness, this death-agony, thou shalt deliver me at once.  55


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