Excerpt, “The Death of Wallenstein,” by Friedrich Schiller.
WALLENSTEIN IN SOLILOQUY
Is it possible?
Is't so? I can no longer what I would?
No longer draw back at my liking? I
Must do the deed, because I thought of it?
And fed this heart here with a dream?
Because I did not scowl temptation from my presence,
Dallied with thoughts of possible fulfillment,
Commenced no movement, left all time uncertain,
And only kept the road, the access open?
By the great God of Heaven! It was not
My serious meaning, it was ne'er resolved.
I but amused myself with thinking of it.
The free-will tempted me, the power to do
Or not to do.
Was it criminal
To make the fancy minister to hope,
To fill the air with pretty toys of air,
And clutch fantastic sceptres moving toward me?
Was not the will kept free? Beheld I not
The road of duty close beside me—but
One little step, and once more I was in it!
Where am I? Whither have I been transported?
No road, no track behind me, but a wall,
Rises obedient to the spells I muttered
And meant not—my own doings tower behind me.
Pauses and remains in deep thought.
A punishable man I seem, the guilt,
Try what I will, I cannot roll off from me;
The equivocal demeanor of my life
Bears witness on my prosecutor's party.
And even my purest acts from purest motives
Suspicion poisons with malicious gloss.
Were I that thing for which I pass, that traitor,
A goodly outside I had sure reserved,
Had drawn the coverings thick and double round me,
Been calm and chary of my utterance;
But being conscious of the innocence
Of my intent, my uncorrupted will,
I gave way to my humors, to my passion:
Bold were my words, because my deeds were not.
Now every planless measure, chance event,
The threat of rage, the vaunt of joy and triumph,
And all the May-games of a heart o’erflowing,
Will they connect, and weave them all together
Into one web of treason; all will be plan,
My eye ne'er absent from the far-off mark,
Step tracing step, each step a politic progress;
And out of all they'll fabricate a charge
So specious, that I must myself stand dumb.
I am caught in my own net, and only force,
Naught but a sudden rent can liberate me.
How else! Since that the heart's unbiased instinct
Impelled me to the daring deed, which now
Necessity, self-preservation, orders.
Stern is the on-look of necessity,
Not without shudder may a human hand
Grasp the mysterious urn of destiny.
My deed was mine, remaining in my bosom;
Once suffered to escape from its safe corner
Within the heart, its nursery and birthplace,
Sent forth into the foreign, it belongs
Forever to those sly malicious powers
Whom never art of man conciliated.
Paces in agitation through the chamber, then
pauses, and, after the pause, breaks out again
into audible soliloquy.
What is thy enterprise? Thy aim? Thy object?
Hast honestly confessed it to thyself?
Power seated on a quiet throne thou'dst shake,
Power on an ancient, consecrated throne,
Strong in possession, founded in all custom;
Power by a thousand tough and stringy roots
Fixed to the people's pious nursery faith.
This, this will be no strife of strength with strength.
That feared I not. I brave each combatant,
Whom I can look on, fixing eye to eye,
Who, full himself of courage, kindles courage
In me too. 'Tis a foe invisible
The which I fear—a fearful enemy,
Which in the human heart opposes me,
By its coward fear alone made fearful to me.
Not that, which full of life, instinct with power,
Makes known its present being; that is not
The true, the perilously formidable.
O no! it is the common, the quite common,
The thing of an eternal yesterday.
Whatever was, and evermore returns,
Sterling to-morrow, for to-day 'twas sterling!
For of the wholly common is man made,
And custom is his nurse! Woe then to them
Who lay irreverent hands upon his old
House furniture, the dear inheritance
From his forefathers! For time consecrates;
And what is gray with age becomes religion.
Be in possession, and thou hast the right,
And sacred will the many guard it for thee!