Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Wallenstein’s Death’
By Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)
Translation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

MAX PICCOLOMINI  [advancing to Wallenstein]—My general!
  Wallenstein—        That I am no longer, if
Thou styl’st thyself the Emperor’s officer.
  Max—Then thou wilt leave the army, general?
  Wallenstein—I have renounced the service of the Emperor.
  Max—And thou wilt leave the army?
  Wallenstein—                        Rather I hope
To bind it nearer still and faster to me.  [He seats himself.]
Yes, Max, I have delayed to open it to thee,
Even till the hour of acting ’gins to strike.
Youth’s fortunate feeling doth seize easily
The absolute right,—yea, and a joy it is        10
To exercise the single apprehension
Where the sums square in proof;
But where it happens that of two sure evils
One must be taken, where the heart not wholly
Brings itself back from out the strife of duties,        15
There ’tis a blessing to have no election,
And blank necessity is grace and favor.
This is now present. Do not look behind thee!
It can no more avail thee. Look thou forwards!
Think not! Judge not! Prepare thyself to act!        20
The Court—it hath determined on my ruin,
Therefore I will to be beforehand with them.
We’ll join the Swedes—right gallant fellows are they
And our good friends.  [He stops himself, expecting Piccolomini’s answer.]
I have ta’en thee by surprise. Answer me not.        25
I grant thee time to recollect thyself.
[He rises and retires to the back of the stage.  Max remains for a long time motionless, in a trance of excessive anguish.  At his first motion Wallenstein returns, and places himself before him.]
  Max—My general, this day thou makest me
Of age to speak in my own right and person;
For till this day I have been spared the trouble
To find out my own road. Thee have I followed        30
With most implicit, unconditional faith,
Sure of the right path if I followed thee.
To-day, for the first time, dost thou refer
Me to myself, and forcest me to make
Election between thee and my own heart.        35
  Wallenstein—Soft cradled thee thy fortune till to-day:
Thy duties thou couldst exercise in sport,
Indulge all lovely instincts, act for ever
With undivided heart. It can remain
No longer thus. Like enemies, the roads        40
Start from each other, duties strive with duties:
Thou must needs choose thy party in the war
Which is now kindling ’twixt thy friend and him
Who is thy Emperor.
  Max—                    War! is that the name?
War is as frightful as Heaven’s pestilence;        45
Yet it is good, is it Heaven’s will, as that is.
Is that a good war, which against the Emperor
Thou wagest with the Emperor’s own army?
O God of heaven! What a change is this!
Beseems it me to offer such persuasion        50
To thee, who, like the fixed star of the Pole,
Wert all I gazed at on life’s trackless ocean?
Oh, what a rent thou makest in my heart!
The ingrained instinct of old reverence,
The holy habit of obediency—        55
Must I pluck life asunder from thy name?
Nay, do not turn thy countenance upon me:
It always was a god looking at me!
Duke Wallenstein, its power is not departed:
The senses still are in thy bonds; although,        60
Bleeding, the soul hath freed itself.
  Wallenstein—                            Max, hear me.
  Max—Oh! do it not, I pray thee, do it not!
There is a pure and noble soul within thee
Knows not of this unblest, unlucky doing.
Thy will is chaste; it is thy fancy only        65
Which hath polluted thee—and innocence.
It will not let itself be driven away
From that world-awing aspect. Thou wilt not,
Thou canst not, end in this. It would reduce
All human creatures to disloyalty        70
Against the nobleness of their own nature.
’Twill justify the vulgar misbelief
Which holdeth nothing noble in free-will,
And trusts itself to impotence alone,
Made powerful only in an unknown power.        75
  Wallenstein—The world will judge me sternly: I expect it.
Already have I said to my own self
All thou canst say to me. Who but avoids
Th’ extreme, can he by going round avoid it?
But here there is no choice. Yes, I must use        80
Or suffer violence,—so stands the case;
There remains nothing possible but that.
  Max—So be it then! Maintain thee in thy post
By violence. Resist the Emperor,
And if it must be, force with force repel.        85
I will not praise it, yet I can forgive it.
But do not be a traitor—yes! the word
Is spoken out—be not a traitor.
That is no mere excess! that is no error
Of human nature; that is wholly different;        90
Oh, that is black, black as the pit of hell!…
Oh, turn back to thy duty. That thou canst
I hold it certain. Send me to Vienna.
I’ll make thy peace for thee with the Emperor.
He knows thee not. But I do know thee. He        95
Shall see thee, duke, with my unclouded eye,
And I bring back his confidence to thee.
  Wallenstein—It is too late. Thou know’st not what has happened.
  Max—Were it too late, and were it gone so far,
That a crime only could prevent thy fall,        100
Then—fall! fall honorably, even as thou stood’st.
Lose the command. Go from the stage of war.
Thou canst with splendor do it—do it too
With innocence. Thou hast lived much for others:
At length live thou for thy own self. I follow thee.        105
My destiny I never part from thine.
  Wallenstein—It is too late. Even now, while thou art losing
Thy words, one after the other are the mile-stones
Left fast behind by my post couriers,
Who bear the order on to Prague and Egra.
[Max stands as convulsed, with a gesture and countenance expressing the most intense anguish.]
Yield thyself to it. We act as we are forced.
I cannot give assent to my own shame
And ruin. Thou—no—thou canst not forsake me!
So let us do what must be done, with dignity,
With a firm step. What am I doing worse        115
Than did famed Cæsar at the Rubicon,
When he the legions led against his country,
The which his country had delivered to him?
Had he thrown down the sword he had been lost,
As I were if I but disarmed myself.        120
I trace out something in me of his spirit.
Give me his luck, that other thing I’ll bear.

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