Nathan the Wise
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Part 3 out of 5
Here, introduce the Jew, whene'er he comes -
He seems in no great haste.
May be at first
He was not in the way.
Ah, sister, sister!
You seem as if a combat were impending.
With weapons that I have not learnt to wield.
Must I disguise myself? I use precautions?
I lay a snare? When, where gained I that knowledge?
And this, for what? To fish for money--money -
For money from a Jew--and to such arts
Must Saladin descend at last to come at
The least of little things?
Each little thing
Despised too much finds methods of revenge.
'Tis but too true. And if this Jew should prove
The fair good man, as once the dervis painted -
Then difficulties cease. A snare concerns
The avaricious, cautious, fearful Jew;
And not the good wise man: for he is ours
Without a snare. Then the delight of hearing
How such a man speaks out; with what stern strength
He tears the net, or with what prudent foresight
He one by one undoes the tangled meshes;
That will be all to boot -
That I shall joy in.
What then should trouble thee? For if he be
One of the many only, a mere Jew,
You will not blush to such a one to seem
A man, as he thinks all mankind to be.
One, that to him should bear a better aspect,
Would seem a fool--a dupe.
So that I must
Act badly, lest the bad think badly of me.
Yes, if you call it acting badly, brother,
To use a thing after its kind.
That woman's wit invents it can't embellish.
But their fine-wrought filligree
In my rude hand would break. It is for those
That can contrive them to employ such weapons:
They ask a practised wrist. But chance what may,
Well as I can -
Trust not yourself too little.
I answer for you, if you have the will.
Such men as you would willingly persuade us
It was their swords, their swords alone that raised them.
The lion's apt to be ashamed of hunting
In fellowship of the fox--'tis of his fellow
Not of the cunning that he is ashamed.
You women would so gladly level man
Down to yourselves. Go, I have got my lesson.
What--MUST I go?
Had you the thought of staying?
In your immediate presence not indeed,
But in the by-room.
You could like to listen.
Not that, my sister, if I may insist.
Away! the curtain rustles--he is come.
Beware of staying--I'll be on the watch.
[While Sittah retires through one door, Nathan enters at another,
and Saladin seats himself.]
SALADIN and NATHAN.
Draw nearer, Jew, yet nearer; here, quite by me,
Without all fear.
Remain that for thy foes!
Your name is Nathan?
Nathan the wise?
If not thou, the people calls thee so.
May be, the people.
Fancy not that I
Think of the people's voice contemptuously;
I have been wishing much to know the man
Whom it has named the wise.
And if it named
Him so in scorn. If wise meant only prudent.
And prudent, one who knows his interest well.
Who knows his real interest, thou must mean.
Then were the interested the most prudent,
Then wise and prudent were the same.
You proving what your speeches contradict.
You know man's real interests, which the people
Knows not--at least have studied how to know them.
That alone makes the sage.
Which each imagines
Himself to be.
Of modesty enough!
Ever to meet it, where one seeks to hear
Dry truth, is vexing. Let us to the purpose -
But, Jew, sincere and open -
I will serve thee
So as to merit, prince, thy further notice.
Thou shalt have the best I bring.
Shalt have them cheap.
What speak you of?--your wares?
My sister shall be called to bargain with you
For them (so much for the sly listener), I
Have nothing to transact now with the merchant.
Doubtless then you would learn, what, on my journey,
I noticed of the motions of the foe,
Who stirs anew. If unreserved I may -
Neither was that the object of my sending:
I know what I have need to know already.
In short I willed your presence -
To gain instruction quite on other points.
Since you are a man so wise, tell me which law,
Which faith appears to you the better?
I am a Jew.
And I a Mussulman:
The Christian stands between us. Of these three
Religions only one came be the true.
A man, like you, remains not just where birth
Has chanced to cast him, or, if he remains there,
Does it from insight, choice, from grounds of preference.
Share then with me your insight--let me hear
The grounds of preference, which I have wanted
The leisure to examine--learn the choice,
These grounds have motived, that it may be mine.
In confidence I ask it. How you startle,
And weigh me with your eye! It may well be
I'm the first sultan to whom this caprice,
Methinks not quite unworthy of a sultan,
Has yet occurred. Am I not? Speak then--Speak.
Or do you, to collect yourself, desire
Some moments of delay--I give them you -
(Whether she's listening?--I must know of her
If I've done right.) Reflect--I'll soon return -
[Saladin steps into the room to which Sittah had retired.]
Strange! how is this? what wills the sultan of me?
I came prepared with cash--he asks truth. Truth?
As if truth too were cash--a coin disused
That goes by weight--indeed 'tis some such thing -
But a new coin, known by the stamp at once,
To be flung down and told upon the counter,
It is not that. Like gold in bags tied up,
So truth lies hoarded in the wise man's head
To be brought out.--Which now in this transaction
Which of us plays the Jew; he asks for truth,
Is truth what he requires, his aim, his end?
That this is but the glue to lime a snare
Ought not to be suspected, 'twere too little,
Yet what is found too little for the great -
In fact, through hedge and pale to stalk at once
Into one's field beseems not--friends look round,
Seek for the path, ask leave to pass the gate -
I must be cautious. Yet to damp him back,
And be the stubborn Jew is not the thing;
And wholly to throw off the Jew, still less.
For if no Jew he might with right inquire -
Why not a Mussulman--Yes--that may serve me.
Not children only can be quieted
With stories. Ha! he comes--well, let him come.
So, there, the field is clear, I'm not too quick,
Thou hast bethought thyself as much as need is,
Speak, no one hears.
Might the whole world but hear us.
Is Nathan of his cause so confident?
Yes, that I call the sage--to veil no truth,
For truth to hazard all things, life and goods.
Aye, when 'tis necessary and when useful.
Henceforth I hope I shall with reason bear
One of my titles--"Betterer of the world
And of the law."
In truth a noble title.
But, sultan, e'er I quite unfold myself
Allow me to relate a tale.
I always was a friend of tales well told.
Well told, that's not precisely my affair.
Again so proudly modest, come begin.
In days of yore, there dwelt in east a man
Who from a valued hand received a ring
Of endless worth: the stone of it an opal,
That shot an ever-changing tint: moreover,
It had the hidden virtue him to render
Of God and man beloved, who in this view,
And this persuasion, wore it. Was it strange
The eastern man ne'er drew it off his finger,
And studiously provided to secure it
For ever to his house. Thus--He bequeathed it;
First, to the MOST BELOVED of his sons,
Ordained that he again should leave the ring
To the MOST DEAR among his children--and
That without heeding birth, the FAVOURITE son,
In virtue of the ring alone, should always
Remain the lord o' th' house--You hear me, Sultan?
I understand thee--on.
From son to son,
At length this ring descended to a father,
Who had three sons, alike obedient to him;
Whom therefore he could not but love alike.
At times seemed this, now that, at times the third,
(Accordingly as each apart received
The overflowings of his heart) most worthy
To heir the ring, which with good-natured weakness
He privately to each in turn had promised.
This went on for a while. But death approached,
And the good father grew embarrassed. So
To disappoint two sons, who trust his promise,
He could not bear. What's to be done. He sends
In secret to a jeweller, of whom,
Upon the model of the real ring,
He might bespeak two others, and commanded
To spare nor cost nor pains to make them like,
Quite like the true one. This the artist managed.
The rings were brought, and e'en the father's eye
Could not distinguish which had been the model.
Quite overjoyed he summons all his sons,
Takes leave of each apart, on each bestows
His blessing and his ring, and dies--Thou hearest me?
I hear, I hear, come finish with thy tale;
Is it soon ended?
It is ended, Sultan,
For all that follows may be guessed of course.
Scarce is the father dead, each with his ring
Appears, and claims to be the lord o' th' house.
Comes question, strife, complaint--all to no end;
For the true ring could no more be distinguished
Than now can--the true faith.
How, how, is that
To be the answer to my query?
But it may serve as my apology;
If I can't venture to decide between
Rings, which the father got expressly made,
That they might not be known from one another.
The rings--don't trifle with me; I must think
That the religions which I named can be
Distinguished, e'en to raiment, drink and food,
And only not as to their grounds of proof.
Are not all built alike on history,
Traditional, or written. History
Must be received on trust--is it not so?
In whom now are we likeliest to put trust?
In our own people surely, in those men
Whose blood we are, in them, who from our childhood
Have given us proofs of love, who ne'er deceived us,
Unless 'twere wholesomer to be deceived.
How can I less believe in my forefathers
Than thou in thine. How can I ask of thee
To own that thy forefathers falsified
In order to yield mine the praise of truth.
The like of Christians.
By the living God,
The man is in the right, I must be silent.
Now let us to our rings return once more.
As said, the sons complained. Each to the judge
Swore from his father's hand immediately
To have received the ring, as was the case;
After he had long obtained the father's promise,
One day to have the ring, as also was.
The father, each asserted, could to him
Not have been false, rather than so suspect
Of such a father, willing as he might be
With charity to judge his brethren, he
Of treacherous forgery was bold t' accuse them.
Well, and the judge, I'm eager now to hear
What thou wilt make him say. Go on, go on.
The judge said, If ye summon not the father
Before my seat, I cannot give a sentence.
Am I to guess enigmas? Or expect ye
That the true ring should here unseal its lips?
But hold--you tell me that the real ring
Enjoys the hidden power to make the wearer
Of God and man beloved; let that decide.
Which of you do two brothers love the best?
You're silent. Do these love-exciting rings
Act inward only, not without? Does each
Love but himself? Ye're all deceived deceivers,
None of your rings is true. The real ring
Perhaps is gone. To hide or to supply
Its loss, your father ordered three for one.
O charming, charming!
And (the judge continued)
If you will take advice in lieu of sentence,
This is my counsel to you, to take up
The matter where it stands. If each of you
Has had a ring presented by his father,
Let each believe his own the real ring.
'Tis possible the father chose no longer
To tolerate the one ring's tyranny;
And certainly, as he much loved you all,
And loved you all alike, it could not please him
By favouring one to be of two the oppressor.
Let each feel honoured by this free affection.
Unwarped of prejudice; let each endeavour
To vie with both his brothers in displaying
The virtue of his ring; assist its might
With gentleness, benevolence, forbearance,
With inward resignation to the godhead,
And if the virtues of the ring continue
To show themselves among your children's children,
After a thousand thousand years, appear
Before this judgment-seat--a greater one
Than I shall sit upon it, and decide.
So spake the modest judge.
Feel'st thou thyself this wiser, promised man?
I dust, I nothing, God!
[Precipitates himself upon Nathan, and takes hold of his hand, which
he does not quit the remainder of the scene.]
What moves thee, Sultan?
Nathan, my dearest Nathan, 'tis not yet
The judge's thousand thousand years are past,
His judgment-seat's not mine. Go, go, but love me.
Has Saladin then nothing else to order?
Nothing in the least, and wherefore?
I could have wished an opportunity
To lay a prayer before you.
Is there need
Of opportunity for that? Speak freely.
I come from a long journey from collecting
Debts, and I've almost of hard cash too much;
The times look perilous--I know not where
To lodge it safely--I was thinking thou,
For coming wars require large sums, couldst use it.
SALADIN (fixing Nathan).
Nathan, I ask not if thou sawst Al-Hafi,
I'll not examine if some shrewd suspicion
Spurs thee to make this offer of thyself.
I deserve this offer. Pardon,
For what avails concealment, I acknowledge
I was about -
To ask the same of me?
Then 'tis well we're both accommodated.
That I can't send thee all I have of treasure
Arises from the templar; thou must know him,
I have a weighty debt to pay to him.
A templar! How, thou dost not with thy gold
Support my direst foes.
I speak of him
Whose life the sultan -
What art thou recalling?
I had forgot the youth, whence is he, knowest thou?
Hast thou not heard then how thy clemency
To him has fallen on me. He at the risk
Of his new-spared existence, from the flames
Rescued my daughter.
Ha! Has he done that;
He looked like one that would--my brother too,
Whom he's so like, bad done it. Is he here still?
Bring him to me--I have so often talked
To Sittah of this brother, whom she knew not,
That I must let her see his counterfeit.
Go fetch him. How a single worthy action,
Though but of whim or passion born, gives rise
To other blessings! Fetch him.
In an instant.
The rest remains as settled.
O, I wish
I had let my sister listen. Well, I'll to her.
How shall I make her privy to all this?
SCENE.--The Place of Palms.
[The TEMPLAR walking and agitated.]
Here let the weary victim pant awhile. -
Yet would I not have time to ascertain
What passes in me; would not snuff beforehand
The coming storm. 'Tis sure I fled in vain;
But more than fly I could not do, whatever
Comes of it. Ah! to ward it off--the blow
Was given so suddenly. Long, much, I strove
To keep aloof; but vainly. Once to see her -
Her, whom I surely did not court the sight of,
To see her, and to form the resolution,
Never to lose sight of her here again,
Was one--The resolution?--Not 'tis will,
Fixt purpose, made (for I was passive in it)
Sealed, doomed. To see her, and to feel myself
Bound to her, wove into her very being,
Was one--remains one. Separate from her
To live is quite unthinkable--is death.
And wheresoever after death we be,
There too the thought were death. And is this love?
Yet so in troth the templar loves--so--so -
The Christian loves the Jewess. What of that?
Here in this holy land, and therefore holy
And dear to me, I have already doffed
Some prejudices.--Well--what says my vow?
As templar I am dead, was dead to that
From the same hour which made me prisoner
To Saladin. But is the head he gave me
My old one? No. It knows no word of what
Was prated into yon, of what had bound it.
It is a better; for its patrial sky
Fitter than yon. I feel--I'm conscious of it,
With this I now begin to think, as here
My father must have thought; if tales of him
Have not been told untruly. Tales--why tales?
They're credible--more credible than ever -
Now that I'm on the brink of stumbling, where
He fell. He fell? I'd rather fall with men,
Than stand with children. His example pledges
His approbation, and whose approbation
Have I else need of? Nathan's? Surely of his
Encouragement, applause, I've little need
To doubt--O what a Jew is he! yet easy
To pass for the mere Jew. He's coming--swiftly -
And looks delighted--who leaves Saladin
With other looks? Hoa, Nathan!
NATHAN and TEMPLAR.
Are you there?
Your visit to the sultan has been long.
Not very long; my going was indeed
Too much delayed. Troth, Conrade, this man's fame
Outstrips him not. His fame is but his shadow.
But before all I have to tell you -
That he would speak with you, and that directly.
First to my house, where I would give some orders,
Then we'll together to the sultan.
I enter not thy doors again before -
Then you've been there this while--have spoken with her.
How do you like my Recha?
Words cannot tell -
Gaze on her once again--I never will -
Never--no never: unless thou wilt promise
That I for ever, ever, may behold her.
How should I take this?
TEMPLAR (falling suddenly upon his neck).
Nathan--O my father!
TEMPLAR (quitting him as suddenly).
Not son?--I pray thee, Nathan--ha!
Thou dear young man!
Not son?--I pray thee, Nathan,
Conjure thee by the strongest bonds of nature,
Prefer not those of later date, the weaker. -
Be it enough to thee to be a man!
Push me not from thee!
Dearest, dearest friend! -
Not son? Not son? Not even--even if
Thy daughter's gratitude had in her bosom
Prepared the way for love--not even if
Both wait thy nod alone to be but one? -
You do not speak?
Young knight, you have surprised me.
Do I surprise thee--thus surprise thee, Nathan,
With thy own thought? Canst thou not in my mouth
Know it again? Do I surprise you?
I know, which of the Stauffens was your father?
What say you, Nathan?--And in such a moment
Is curiosity your only feeling?
For see, once I myself well knew a Stauffen,
Whose name was Conrade.
Well, and if my father
Was bearer of that name?
Is from my father's, Conrade.
Then thy father
Was not my Conrade. He was, like thyself,
A templar, never wedded.
For all that -
For all that he may have been my father.
And you are captious. Boots it then
To be true-born? Does bastard wound thine ear?
The race is not to be despised: but hold,
Spare me my pedigree; I'll spare thee thine.
Not that I doubt thy genealogic tree.
O, God forbid! You may attest it all
As far as Abraham back; and backwarder
I know it to my heart--I'll swear to it also.
Knight, you grow bitter. Do I merit this?
Have I refused you ought? I've but forborne
To close with you at the first word--no more.
Indeed--no more? O then forgive -
Do but come with me.
Whither? To thy house?
No? there not--there not: 'tis a burning soil.
Here I await thee, go. Am I again
To see her, I shall see her times enough:
If not I have already gazed too much.
I'll try to be soon back. [Goes.
Too much indeed--
Strange that the human brain, so infinite
Of comprehension, yet at times will fill
Quite full, and all at once, of a mere trifle -
No matter what it teems with. Patience! Patience!
The soul soon calms again, th' upboiling stuff
Makes itself room and brings back light and order.
Is this then the first time I love? Or was
What by that name I knew before, not love -
And this, this love alone that now I feel?
DAYA and TEMPLAR.
Sir knight, sir knight.
Who calls? ha, Daya, you?
I managed to slip by him. No, come here
(He'll see us where you stand) behind this tree.
Why so mysterious? What's the matter, Daya?
Yes, 'tis a secret that has brought me to you
A twofold secret. One I only know,
The other only you. Let's interchange,
Intrust yours first to me, then I'll tell mine.
With pleasure when I'm able to discover
What you call me. But that yours will explain.
That is not fair, yours first, sir knight;
For be assured my secret serves you not
Unless I have yours first. If I sift it out
You'll not have trusted me, and then my secret
Is still my own, and yours lost all for nothing.
But, knight, how can you men so fondly fancy
You ever hide such secrets from us women.
Secrets we often are unconscious of.
May be--So then I must at last be friendly,
And break it to you. Tell me now, whence came it
That all at once you started up abruptly
And in the twinkling of an eye were fled?
That you left us without one civil speech!
That you return no more with Nathan to us -
Has Recha then made such a slight impression,
Or made so deep a one? I penetrate you.
Think you that on a limed twig the poor bird
Can flutter cheerfully, or hop at ease
With its wing pinioned? Come, come, in one word
Acknowledge to me plainly that you love her,
Love her to madness, and I'll tell you what.
To madness, oh, you're very penetrating.
Grant me the love, and I'll give up the madness.
Because that must be understood of course -
A templar love a Jewess -
But often there's more fitness in a thing
Than we at once discern; nor were this time
The first, when through an unexpected path
The Saviour drew his children on to him
Across the tangled maze of human life.
So solemn that--(and yet if in the stead
Of Saviour, I were to say Providence,
It would sound true) you make me curious, Daya,
Which I'm unwont to be.
This is the place
For wonders--well and good -
Can it be otherwise, where the whole world
Presses as toward a centre. My dear Daya,
Consider what you asked of me as owned;
That I do love her--that I can't imagine
How I should live without her--that
Then, knight, swear to me you will call her yours,
Make both her present and eternal welfare.
And how, how can I, can I swear to do
What is not in my power?
'Tis in your power,
A single word will put it in your power.
So that her father shall not be against it.
Her father--father? he shall be compelled.
As yet he is not fallen among thieves--
Aye to be willing that you should.
Compelled and willing--what if I inform thee
That I have tried to touch this string already,
It vibrates not responsive.
He refused thee?
He answered in a tone of such discordance
That I was hurt.
What do you say? How, you
Betrayed the shadow of a wish for Recha,
And he did not spring up for joy, drew back,
Drew coldly back, made difficulties?
Well then I'll not deliberate a moment.
And yet you are deliberating still.
That man was always else so good, so kind,
I am so deeply in his debt. Why, why
Would he not listen to you? God's my witness
That my heart bleeds to come about him thus.
I pray you, Daya, once for all, to end
This dire uncertainty. But if you doubt
Whether what 'tis your purpose to reveal
Be right or wrong, be praiseworthy or shameful,
Speak not--I will forget that you have had
Something to hide.
That spurs me on still more.
Then learn that Recha is no Jewess, that
She is a Christian.
I congratulate you,
'Twas a hard labour, but 'tis out at last;
The pangs of the delivery won't hurt you.
Go on with undiminished zeal, and people
Heaven, when no longer fit to people earth.
How, knight, does my intelligence deserve
Such bitter scorn? That Recha is a Christian
On you a Christian templar, and her lover,
Confers no joy.
She is a Christian of your making, Daya.
O, so you understand it--well and good -
I wish to find out him that might convert her.
It is her fate long since to have been that
Which she is spoiled for being.
Do explain -
She is a Christian child--of Christian
Parents was born and is baptised.
And Nathan -
Is not her father.
Nathan not her father -
And are you sure of what you say?
It is a truth has cost me tears of blood.
No, he is not her father.
And has only
Brought her up as his daughter, educated
The Christian child a Jewess.
And she is unacquainted with her birth?
Has never learnt from him that she was born
A Christian, and no Jewess?
And he not only let the child grow up
In this mistaken notion, but still leaves
The woman in it.
The wise good Nathan thus allow himself
To stifle nature's voice? Thus to misguide
Upon himself th' effusions of a heart
Which to itself abandoned would have formed
Another bias, Daya--yes, indeed
You have intrusted an important secret
That may have consequences--it confounds me,
I cannot tell what I've to do at present,
Therefore go, give me time, he may come by
And may surprise us.
I should drop for fright.
I am not able now to talk, farewell;
And if you chance to meet him, only say
That we shall find each other at the sultan's.
Let him not see you've any grudge against him.
That should be kept to give the proper impulse
To things at last, and may remove your scruples
Respecting Recha. But then, if you take her
Back with you into Europe, let not me
Be left behind.
That we'll soon settle, go.
SCENE.--The Cloister of a Convent.
The FRIAR alone.
Aye--aye--he's very right--the patriarch is -
In fact of all that he has sent me after
Not much turns out his way--Why put on me
Such business and no other? I don't care
To coax and wheedle, and to run my nose
Into all sorts of things, and have a hand
In all that's going forward. I did not
Renounce the world, for my own part, in order
To be entangled with 't for other people.
FRIAR and TEMPLAR.
TEMPLAR (abruptly entering).
Good brother, are you there? I've sought you long.
What, don't you recollect me?
I thought I never in my life was likely
To see you any more. For so I hoped
In God. I did not vastly relish the proposal
That I was bound to make you. Yes, God knows,
How little I desired to find a hearing,
Knows I was inly glad when you refused
Without a moment's thought, what of a knight
Would be unworthy. Are your second thoughts -
So, you already know my purpose, I
Scarce know myself.
Have you by this reflected
That our good patriarch is not so much out,
That gold and fame in plenty may be got
By his commission, that a foe's a foe
Were he our guardian angel seven times over.
Have you weighed this 'gainst flesh and blood, and come
To strike the bargain he proposed. Ah, God.
My dear good man, set your poor heart at ease.
Not therefore am I come, not therefore wish
To see the patriarch in person. Still
On the first point I think as I then thought,
Nor would I for aught in the world exchange
That good opinion, which I once obtained
From such a worthy upright man as thou art,
I come to ask your patriarch's advice -
FRIAR (looking round with timidity).
Our patriarch's--you? a knight ask priest's advice?
Mine is a priestly business.
Yet the priests
Ask not the knights' advice, be their affair
Ever so knightly.
Therefore one allows them
To overshoot themselves, a privilege
Which such as I don't vastly envy them.
Indeed if I were acting for myself,
Had not t' account with others, I should care
But little for his counsel. But some things
I'd rather do amiss by others' guidance
Than by my own aright. And then by this time
I see religion too is party, and
He, who believes himself the most impartial,
Does but uphold the standard of his own,
Howe'er unconsciously. And since 'tis so,
So must be well.
I rather shall not answer,
For I don't understand exactly.
Let me consider what it is precisely
That I have need of, counsel or decision,
Simple or learned counsel.--Thank you, brother,
I thank you for your hint--A patriarch--why?
Be thou my patriarch; for 'tis the plain Christian,
Whom in the patriarch I have to consult,
And not the patriarch in the Christian.
I beg no further--you must quite mistake me;
He that knows much hath learnt much care, and I
Devoted me to only one. 'Tis well,
Most luckily here comes the very man,
Wait here, stand still--he has perceived you, knight.
I'd rather shun him, he is not my man.
A thick red smiling prelate--and as stately -
But you should see him on a gala-day;
He only comes from visiting the sick.
Great Saladin must then be put to shame.
[The Patriarch, after marching up one of the aisles in great pomp,
draws near, and makes signs to the Friar, who approaches him.]
PATRIARCH, FRIAR, and TEMPLAR.
Hither--was that the templar? What wants he?
I know not.
PATRIARCH (approaches the templar, while the friar and the rest of
his train draw back).
So, sir knight, I'm truly happy
To meet the brave young man--so very young too -
Something, God helping, may come of him.
Than is already hardly will come of him,
But less, my reverend father, that may chance.
It is my prayer at least a knight so pious
May for the cause of Christendom and God
Long be preserved; nor can that fail, so be
Young valour will lend ear to aged counsel.
With what can I be useful any way?
With that which my youth is without, with counsel.
Most willingly, but counsel should be followed.
Surely not blindly?
Who says that? Indeed
None should omit to make use of the reason
Given him by God, in things where it belongs,
But it belongs not everywhere; for instance,
If God, by some one of his blessed angels,
Or other holy minister of his word,
Deign'd to make known a mean, by which the welfare
Of Christendom, or of his holy church,
In some peculiar and especial manner
Might be promoted or secured, who then
Shall venture to rise up, and try by reason
The will of him who has created reason,
Measure th' eternal laws of heaven by
The little rules of a vain human honour? -
But of all this enough. What is it then
On which our counsel is desired?
My reverend father, that a Jew possessed
An only child, a girl we'll say, whom he
With fond attention forms to every virtue,
And loves more than his very soul; a child
Who by her pious love requites his goodness.
And now suppose it whispered--say to me -
This girl is not the daughter of the Jew,
He picked up, purchased, stole her in her childhood -
That she was born of Christians and baptised,
But that the Jew hath reared her as a Jewess,
Allows her to remain a Jewess, and
To think herself his daughter. Reverend father
What then ought to be done?
I shudder! But
First will you please explain if such a case
Be fact, or only an hypothesis?
That is to say, if you, of your own head,
Invent the case, or if indeed it happened,
And still continues happening?
I had thought
That just to learn your reverence's opinion
This were all one.
All one--now see how apt
Proud human reason is in spiritual things
To err: 'tis not all one; for, if the point
In question be a mere sport of the wit,
'Twill not be worth our while to think it through
But I should recommend the curious person
To theatres, where oft, with loud applause,
Such pro and contras have been agitated.
But if the object should be something more
Than by a school-trick--by a sleight of logic
To get the better of me--if the case
Be really extant, if it should have happened
Within our diocese, or--or perhaps
Here in our dear Jerusalem itself,
Why then -
Then were it proper
To execute at once upon the Jew
The penal laws in such a case provided
By papal and imperial right, against
So foul a crime--such dire abomination.
And the laws forementioned have decreed,
That if a Jew shall to apostacy
Seduce a Christian, he shall die by fire.
How much more the Jew, who forcibly
Tears from the holy font a Christian child,
And breaks the sacramental bond of baptism;
For all what's done to children is by force -
I mean except what the church does to children.
What if the child, but for this fostering Jew,
Must have expired in misery?
The Jew has still deserved the faggot--for
'Twere better it here died in misery
Than for eternal woe to live. Besides,
Why should the Jew forestall the hand of God?
God, if he wills to save, can save without him.
And spite of him too save eternally.
That's nothing! Still the Jew is to be burnt.
That hurts me--more particularly as
'Tis said he has not so much taught the maid
His faith, as brought her up with the mere knowledge
Of what our reason teaches about God.
That's nothing! Still the Jew is to be burnt -
And for this very reason would deserve
To be thrice burnt. How, let a child grow up
Without a faith? Not even teach a child
The greatest of its duties, to believe?
'Tis heinous! I am quite astonished, knight,
That you yourself -
The rest, right reverend sir,
In the confessional, but not before. [Offers to go.
What off--not stay for my interrogation -
Not name to me this infidel, this Jew -
Not find him up for me at once? But hold,
A thought occurs, I'll straightway to the sultan
Conformably to the capitulation,
Which Saladin has sworn, he must support us
In all the privileges, all the doctrines
Which appertain to our most holy faith,
Thank God, we've the original in keeping,
We have his hand and seal to it--we -
And I shall lead him easily to think
How very dangerous for the state it is
Not to believe. All civic bonds divide,
Like flax fire-touched, where subjects don't believe.
Away with foul impiety!
Somewhat unlucky that I want the leisure
To enjoy this holy sermon. I am sent for
Why then--indeed--if so -
And will prepare the sultan, if agreeable.
For your right reverend visit.
I have heard
That you found favour in the sultan's sight,
I beg with all humility to be
Remembered to him. I am purely motived
By zeal in th' cause of God. What of too much
I do, I do for him--weigh that in goodness.
'Twas then, most noble sir--what you were starting
About the Jew--a problem merely!
Of whose foundation I'll have nearer knowledge.
Another job for brother Bonafides.
Hither, my son!
[Converses with the Friar as he walks off.
SCENE--A Room in the Palace.
[SLAVES bring in a number of purses and pile them on the floor.
SALADIN is present.]
In troth this has no end. And is there much
Of this same thing behind?
About one half.
Then take the rest to Sittah. Where's Al-Hafi?
What's here Al-Hafi shall take charge of straight.
Or shan't I rather send it to my father;
Here it slips through one's fingers. Sure in time
One may grow callous; it shall now cost labour
To come at much from me--at least until
The treasures come from AEgypt, poverty
Must shift as 't can--yet at the sepulchre
The charges must go on--the Christian pilgrims
Shall not go back without an alms.
SALADIN and SITTAH.
Wherefore the gold to me?
Pay thyself with it,
And if there's something left 'twill be in store.
Are Nathan and the templar not yet come?
He has been seeking for him everywhere -
Look what I met with when the plate and jewels
Were passing through my hands -
[Showing a small portrait.
Ha! What, my brother?
'Tis he, 'tis he, WAS he, WAS he alas!
Thou dear brave youth, and lost to me so early;
What would I not with thee and at thy side
Have undertaken? Let me have the portrait,
I recollect it now again; he gave it
Unto thy elder sister, to his Lilah,
That morning that she would not part with him,
But clasped him so in tears. It was the last
Morning that he rode out; and I--I let him
Ride unattended. Lilah died for grief,
And never could forgive me that I let him
Then ride alone. He came not back.
Poor brother -
Time shall be when none of us will come back,
And then who knows? It is not death alone
That balks the hopes of young men of his cast,
Such have far other foes, and oftentimes
The strongest like the weakest is o'ercome.
Be as it may--I must compare this picture
With our young templar, to observe how much
My fancy cheated me.
I therefore brought it;
But give it me, I'll tell thee if 'tis like.
We women see that best.
SALADIN (to a slave at the door).
Ah, who is there?
The templar? let him come.
SITTAH (throws herself on a sofa apart and drops her veil).
Not to interfere,
Or with my curiosity disturb you.
That's right. And then his voice, will that be like?
The tone of Assad's voice, sleeps somewhere yet -
TEMPLAR and SALADIN.
I thy prisoner, sultan,
Thou my prisoner -
And shall I not to him whose life I gave
Also give freedom?
What 'twere worthy thine
To do, it is my part to hear of thee,
And not to take for granted. But, O Sultan,
To lay loud protestations at thy feet
Of gratitude for a life spared, agrees
Not with my station or my character.
At all times, 'tis once more, prince, at thy service.
Only forbear to use it against me.
Not that I grudge my enemy one pair more
Of hands--but such a heart, it goes against me
To yield him. I have been deceived with thee,
Thou brave young man, in nothing. Yes, thou art
In soul and body Assad. I could ask thee,
Where then hast thou been lurking all this time?
Or in what cavern slept? What Ginnistan
Chose some kind Perie for thy hiding-place,
That she might ever keep the flower thus fresh?
Methinks I could remind thee here and yonder
Of what we did together--could abuse thee
For having had one secret, e'en to me -
Cheat me of one adventure--yes, I could,
If I saw thee alone, and not myself.
Thanks that so much of this fond sweet illusion
At least is true, that in my sear of life
An Assad blossoms for me. Thou art willing?
All that from thee comes to me, whatsoever
It chance to prove, lies as a wish already
Within my soul.
We'll try the experiment.
Wilt thou stay with me? dwell about me? boots not
As Mussulman or Christian, in a turban
Or a white mantle--I have never wished
To see the same bark grow about all trees.
Else, Saladin, thou hardly hadst become
The hero that thou art, alike to all
The gardener of the Lord.
If thou think not
The worse of me for this, we're half right.
SALADIN (holds out his hand).
TEMPLAR (takes it).
One man--and with this receive more
Than thou canst take away again--thine wholly.
'Tis for one day too great a gain--too great.
Came he not with thee?
I came alone.
O, what a deed of thine!
And what a happiness, a blessing to thee,
That such a deed was serving such a man.
So cold--no, my young friend--when God
Does through our means a service, we ought not
To be so cold, not out of modesty
Wish to appear so cold.
In this same world
All things have many sides, and 'tis not easy
To comprehend how they can fit each other.
Cling ever to the best--Give praise to God,
Who knows how they can fit. But, my young man,
If thou wilt be so difficult, I must
Be very cautious with thee, for I too
Have many sides, and some of them perhaps
Such as mayn't always seem to fit.
That wounds me;
Suspicion usually is not my failing.
Say then of whom thou harbour'st it, of Nathan?
So should thy talk imply--canst thou suspect him?
Give me the first proof of thy confidence.
I've nothing against Nathan, I am angry
With myself only.
And for what?
That any Jew could learn to be no Jew -
For dreaming it awake.
Out with this dream.
Thou know'st of Nathan's daughter, sultan. What
I did for her I did--because I did it;
Too proud to reap thanks which I had not sown for,
I shunned from day to day her very sight.
The father was far off. He comes, he hears,
He seeks me, thanks me, wishes that his daughter
May please me; talks to me of dawning prospects -
I listen to his prate, go, see, and find
A girl indeed. O, sultan, I am ashamed -
A shamed that a Jew girl knew how to make
Impression on thee, surely not.
To this impression my rash yielding heart,
Trusting the smoothness of the father's prate,
Opposed no more resistance. Fool--I sprang
A second time into the flame, and then
I wooed, and was denied.
The prudent father does not flatly say
No to my wishes, but the prudent father
Must first inquire, and look about, and think.
Oh, by all means. Did not I do the same?
Did not I look about and ask who 'twas
While she was shrieking in the flame? Indeed,
By God, 'tis something beautifully wise
To be so circumspect.
Come, come, forgive
Something to age. His lingerings cannot last.
He is not going to require of thee
First to turn Jew.
Who? I, who know
This Nathan better.
Yet the superstition
In which we have grown up, not therefore loses
When we detect it, all its influence on us.
Not all are free that can bemock their fetters.
Maturely said--but Nathan, surely Nathan -
The worst of superstitions is to think
One's own most bearable.
May be, but Nathan -
Must Nathan be the mortal, who unshrinking
Can face the moon-tide ray of truth, nor there
Betray the twilight dungeon which he crawled from.
Yes, Nathan is that man.
I thought so too,
But what if this picked man, this chosen sage,
Were such a thorough Jew that he seeks out
For Christian children to bring up as Jews -
Who says this of him?
E'en the maid
With whom he frets me--with the hope of whom
He seemed to joy in paying me the service,
Which he would not allow me to do gratis -
This very maid is not his daughter--no,
She is a kidnapped Christian child.
Has, notwithstanding, to thy wish refused?
TEMPLAR (with vehemence).
Refused or not, I know him now. There lies
The prating tolerationist unmasked -
And I'll halloo upon this Jewish wolf,
For all his philosophical sheep's clothing,
Dogs that shall touze his hide.
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