Fiction > Harvard Classics > J. W. von Goethe > Egmont
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).  Egmont.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act V
Scene I
A Street. Twilight

  Brackenburg.  Dearest, for Heaven’s sake, what wouldst thou do?  2
  Clara.  Come with me, Brackenburg! Thou canst not know the people, we are certain to rescue him; for what can equal their love for him? Each feels, I could swear it, the burning desire to deliver him, to avert danger from a life so precious, and to restore freedom to the most free. Come! A voice only is wanting to call them together. In their souls the memory is still fresh of all they owe him, and well they know that his mighty arm alone shields them from destruction. For his sake, for their own sake, they must peril everything. And what do we peril? At most, our lives, which if he perish, are not worth preserving.  3
  Brackenburg.  Unhappy girl! Thou seest not the power that holds us fettered as with bands of iron.  4
  Clara.  To me it does not appear invincible. Let us not lose time in idle words. Here comes some of our old, honest, valiant burghers! Hark ye, friends! Neighbours! Hark!—Say, how fares it with Egmont?  5
  Carpenter.  What does the girl want? Tell her to hold her peace.  6
  Clara.  Step nearer, that we may speak low, till we are united and more strong. Not a moment is to be lost! Audacious tyranny, that dared to fetter him, already lifts the dagger against his life. Oh, my friends! With the advancing twilight my anxiety grows more intense. I dread this night. Come! Let us disperse; let us hasten from quarter to quarter, and call out the burghers. Let every one grasp his ancient weapons. In the market-place we meet again, and every one will be carried onward by our gathering stream. The enemy will see themselves surrounded, overwhelmed, and be compelled to yield. How can a handful of slaves resist us? And he will return among us, he will see himself rescued, and can for once thank us, us, who are already so deeply in his debt. He will behold, perchance, ay doubtless, he will again behold the morn’s red dawn in the free heavens.  7
  Carpenter.  What ails thee, maiden?  8
  Clara.  Can ye misunderstand me? I speak of the Count! I speak of Egmont.  9
  Jetter.  Speak not the name! ’tis deadly.  10
  Clara.  Not speak his name? How? Not Egmont’s name? Is it not on every tongue? Where stands it not inscribed? Often have I read it emblazoned with all its letters among these stars. Not utter it? What mean ye? Friends! good, kind neighbours, ye are dreaming; collect yourselves. Gaze not upon me with those fixed and anxious looks! Cast not such timid glances on every side! I but give utterance to the wish of all. Is not my voice the voice of your own hearts? Who, in this fearful night, ere he seeks his restless couch, but on bended knee will, in earnest prayer, seek to wrest his life as a cherished boon from heaven? Ask each other! Let each ask his own heart! And who but exclaims with me,—“Egmont’s liberty, or death!”  11
  Jetter.  God help us! This is a sad business.  12
  Clara.  Stay! Stay! Shrink not away at the sound of his name, to meet whom ye were wont to press forward so joyously!-When rumour announced his approach, when the cry arose, “Egmont comes! He comes from Ghent!”—then happy indeed were those citizens who dwelt in the streets through which he was to pass. And when the neighing of his steed was heard, did not every one throw aside his work, while a ray of hope and joy, like a sunbeam from his countenance, stole over the toil-worn faces that peered from every window? Then, as ye stood in the doorways, ye would lift up your children in your arms, and pointing to him, exclaim: “See, that is Egmont, he who towers above the rest! ’Tis from him that ye must look for better times than those your poor fathers have known.” Let not your children inquire at some future day, “Where is he? Where are the better times ye promised us?”—Thus we waste the time in idle words! do nothing,—betray him.  13
  Soest.  Shame on thee, Brackenburg! Let her not run on thus! Prevent the mischief!  14
  Brackenburg.  Dear Clara! Let us go! What will your mother say? Perchance—  15
  Clara.  Thinkest thou I am a child, or frantic? What avails perchance?—With no vain hope canst thou hide from me this dreadful certainty ... Ye shall hear me and ye will: for I see it, ye are overwhelmed, ye cannot hearken to the voice of your own hearts. Through the present peril cast but one glance into the past,—the recent past. Send your thoughts forward into the future. Could ye live, would ye live, were he to perish? With him expires the last breath of freedom. What was he not to you? For whose sake did he expose himself to the direst perils? His blood flowed, his wounds were healed for you alone. The mighty spirit, that upheld you all, a dungeon now confines, while the horrors of secret murder are hovering around. Perhaps he thinks of you—perhaps he hopes in you,—he who has been accustomed only to grant favours to others and to fulfil their prayers.  16
  Carpenter.  Come, gossip.  17
  Clara.  I have neither the arms, nor the vigour of a man; but I have that which ye all lack—courage and contempt of danger. O that my breath could kindle your souls! That, pressing you to this bosom, I could arouse and animate you! Come! I will march in your midst!—As a waving banner, though weaponless, leads on a gallant army of warriors, so shall my spirit hover, like a flame, over your ranks, while love and courage shall unite the dispersed and wavering multitude into a terrible host.  18
  Jetter.  Take her away; I pity her, poor thing!  [Exeunt BURGHERS.  19
  Brackenburg.  Clara! Seest thou not where we are?  20
  Clara.  Where? Under the dome of heaven, which has so often seemed to arch itself more gloriously as the noble Egmont passed beneath it. From these windows I have seen them look forth, four or five heads one above the other; at these doors the cowards have stood, bowing and scraping, if he but chanced to look down upon them! Oh, how dear they were to me, when they honoured him. Had he been a tyrant they might have turned with indifference from his fall! But they loved him! O ye hands, so prompt to wave caps in his honour, can ye not grasp a sword? Brackenburg, and we?—do we chide them? These arms that have so often embraced him, what do they for him now? Stratagem has accomplished so much in the world. Thou knowest the ancient castle, every passage, every secret way.—Nothing is impossible,—suggest some plan—  21
  Brackenburg.  That we might go home!  22
  Clara.  Well.  23
  Brackenburg.  There at the corner I see Alva’s guard; let the voice of reason penetrate to thy heart! Dost thou deem me a coward? Dost thou doubt that for thy sake I would peril my life? Here we are both mad, I as well as thou. Dost thou not perceive that thy scheme is impracticable? Oh, be calm! Thou art beside thyself.  24
  Clara.  Beside myself! Horrible. You, Brackenburg, are beside yourself. When you hailed the hero with loud acclaim, called him your friend, your hope, your refuge, shouted vivats as he passed;—then I stood in my corner, half opened the window, concealed myself while I listened, and my heart beat higher than yours who greeted him so loudly. Now it again beats higher! In the hour of peril you conceal yourselves, deny him, and feel not, that if he perish, you are lost.  25
  Brackenburg.  Come home.  26
  Clara.  Home?  27
  Brackenburg.  Recollect thyself! Look around thee! These are the streets in which thou wert wont to appear only on the Sabbath-day, when thou didst walk modestly to church; where, over-decorous perhaps, thou wert displeased if I but joined thee with a kindly greeting. And now thou dost stand, speak, and act before the eyes of the whole world. Recollect thyself, love! How can this avail us?  28
  Clara.  Home! Yes, I remember. Come, Brackenburg, let us go home! Knowest thou where my home lies?  [Exeunt.  29


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