The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. IV
Editor-in-Chief: Kuno Francke
Part 10 out of 11
Prince, I must beg your sword.
HOHENZOLLERN (_carrying his flag_). Quiet now, friend.
THE PRINCE. Speak! Am I dreaming? Waking? Living? Sane?
GOLZ. Prince, give your sword, I counsel, and say nothing.
THE PRINCE. A prisoner? I?
GOLZ. You heard him say it.
THE PRINCE. And may one know the reason why?
HOHENZOLLERN (_emphatically_). Not now!
We told you, at the time, you pressed too soon
Into the battle, when the order was
You should not quit your place till you were called.
THE PRINCE. Help, help, friends, help! I'm going mad!
GOLZ (_interrupting_). Calm! calm!
THE PRINCE. Were the Mark's armies beaten then?
HOHENZOLLERN (_with a stamp of his foot_). No matter!
The ordinance demands obedience.
THE PRINCE (_bitterly_).
So--so, so, so!
HOHENZOLLERN (_turning away from him_).
It will not cost your head.
Tomorrow morning, maybe, you'll be free.
[_The_ ELECTOR _folds his letters and returns to the circle of
THE PRINCE (_after he has unbuckled his sword_).
My cousin Frederick hopes to play the Brutus
And sees himself, on linen drawn with chalk,
Already seated in the curule chair.
The foreground filled with Swedish battle-flags,
And on his desk the ordinance of the Mark.
By God, in me he shall not find a son
Who shall revere him 'neath the hangman's axe!
A German heart of honest cut and grain,
I look for kindness and nobility;
And when he stands before me, frigidly,
This moment, like some ancient man of stone,
I'm sorry for him and I pity him.
[_He gives his sword to the officer and goes out._]
ELECTOR. Bring him to camp at Fehrbellin, and there
Assemble the court-martial for his trial.
[_He enters the church. The flags follow him, and, while he and his
retinue kneel in prayer at_ FROBEN's _coffin, are fastened to the
pilasters. Funeral music._]
_Scene: Fehrbellin. A prison._
_The_ PRINCE OF HOMBURG. _Two troopers as guards in the rear._ COUNT
THE PRINCE. Faith, now, friend Harry! Welcome, man, you are!
Well, then, I'm free of my imprisonment?
Lord in the heavens be praised!
THE PRINCE. What was that?
So then he's sent you back your sword again?
THE PRINCE. Me? No.
THE PRINCE. No.
HOHENZOLLERN. Then how can you be free?
THE PRINCE (after a pause).
I thought that _you_ were bringing it.--What of it?
HOHENZOLL. I know of nothing.
THE PRINCE. Well, you heard: What of it?
He'll send some other one to let me know.
[_He turns and brings chairs._]
Sit down. Now come and tell me all the news.
Has he returned, the Elector, from Berlin?
HOHENZOLL. Yes. Yester eve.
THE PRINCE. And did they celebrate
The victory as planned?--Assuredly!
And he was at the church himself, the Elector?
HOHENZOLL. With the Electress and with Natalie.
The church was wonderfully bright with lights;
Upon the palace-square artillery
Through the _Te Deum_ spoke with solemn splendor.
The Swedish flags and standards over us
Swung from the church's columns, trophy-wise,
And, on the sovereign's express command,
Your name was spoken from the chancel high,
Your name was spoken, as the victor's name.
THE PRINCE. I heard that.--Well, what other news? What's yours?
Your face, my friend, is scarcely frolicsome.
HOHENZOLL. Have you seen anybody?
THE PRINCE. Golz, just now,
I' the Castle where, you know, I had my trial.
HOHENZOLLERN (_regarding him doubtfully_).
What do you think of your position, Arthur,
Since it has suffered such a curious change?
THE PRINCE. What you and Golz and even the judges think--
The Elector has fulfilled what duty asked,
And now he'll do as well the heart's behest.
Thus he'll address me, gravely: You have erred
(Put in a word perhaps of "death" and "fortress"),
But I grant you your liberty again--
And round the sword that won his victory
Perhaps there'll even twine some mark of grace;
If not that, good; I did not merit that.
HOHENZOLL. Oh, Arthur! [_He pauses._]
THE PRINCE. Well?
HOHENZOLLERN. Are you so very sure?
THE PRINCE. So I have laid it out. I know he loves me,
He loves me like a son; since early childhood
A thousand signs have amply proven that.
What doubt is in your heart that stirs you so?
Has he not ever seemed to take more joy
Than I myself to see my young fame grow?
All that I am, am I not all through him?
And he should now unkindly tread in dust
The plant himself has nurtured, just because
Too swiftly opulent it flowered forth?
I'll not believe his worst foe could think that--
And far less you who know and cherish him.
Arthur, you've stood your trial in court-martial,
And you believe that still?
THE PRINCE. _Because_ of it!
No one, by heaven alive, would go so far
Who did not have a pardon up his sleeve!
Even there, before the judgment bar, it was--
Even there it was, my confidence returned.
Come, was it such a capital offense
Two little seconds ere the order said
To have laid low the stoutness of the Swede?
What other felony is on my conscience?
And could he summon me, unfeelingly,
Before this board of owl-like judges, chanting
Their litanies of bullets and the grave,
Did he not purpose with a sovereign word
To step into their circle like a god?
No, he is gathering this night of cloud
About my head, my friend, that he may dawn
Athwart the gloomy twilight like the sun!
And, faith, this pleasure I begrudge him not!
HOHENZOLL. And yet, they say, the court has spoken judgment.
THE PRINCE. I heard so: death.
HOHENZOLLERN (_amazed_). You know it then--so soon?
THE PRINCE. Golz, who was present when they brought the verdict
Gave me report of how the judgment fell.
HOHENZOLL. My God, man! And it stirred you not at all?
THE PRINCE. Me? Why, not in the least!
HOHENZOLLERN. You maniac!
On what then do you prop your confidence?
THE PRINCE. On what I feel of him! [_He rises._] No more, I beg.
Why should I fret with insubstantial doubts?
[_He bethinks himself and sits down again. Pause._]
The court was forced to make its verdict death;
For thus the statute reads by which they judge.
But ere he let that sentence be fulfilled--
Ere, at a kerchief's fall, he yields this heart
That loves him truly, to the muskets' fire,
Ere that, I say, he'll lay his own breast bare
And spill his own blood, drop by drop, in dust.
HOHENZOLL. But, Arthur, I assure you--
THE PRINCE (_petulantly_). Oh, my dear!
HOHENZOLL. The Marshal--
THE PRINCE (_still petulantly_). Come, enough!
HOHENZOLLERN. Hear two words more!
If those make no impression, I'll be mute.
THE PRINCE (_turning to him again_).
I told you, I know all. Well, now, what is it?
HOHENZOLL. Most strange it is, a moment since, the Marshal
Delivered him the warrant for your death.
It leaves him liberty to pardon you,
But he, instead, has given the command
That it be brought him for his signature.
THE PRINCE. No matter, I repeat!
HOHENZOLLERN. No matter?
THE PRINCE. For--
HOHENZOLLERN. By faith, I do assure you!
THE PRINCE. The warrant?--No! The verdict--
HOHENZOLLERN. The death warrant.
THE PRINCE. Who was it told you that?
HOHENZOLLERN. The Marshal.
THE PRINCE. When?
HOHENZOLL. Just now.
THE PRINCE. Returning from the sovereign?
HOHENZOLL. The stairs descending from the sovereign.
And added, when he saw my startled face,
That nothing yet was lost, and that the dawn
Would bring another day for pardoning.
But the dead pallor of his lips disproved
Their spoken utterance, with, I fear it--no!
THE PRINCE (_rising_).
He could--I'll not believe it!--bring to birth
Such monstrous resolutions in his heart?
For a defect, scarce visible to the lens,
In the bright diamond he but just received,
Tread in the dust the giver? 'Twere a deed
To burn the Dey of Algiers white: with wings
Like those that silver-gleam on cherubim
To dizen Sardanapalus, and cast
The assembled tyrannies of ancient Rome,
Guiltless as babes that die on mother-breast,
Over upon the favor-hand of God!
HOHENZOLLERN (_who has likewise risen_).
My friend, you must convince yourself of that!
THE PRINCE. The Marshal then was silent, said nought else?
HOHENZOLL. What should he say?
THE PRINCE. Oh, heaven, my hope, my hope!
HOHENZOLL. Come, have you ever done a thing, perchance,
Be it unconsciously or consciously,
That might have given his lofty heart offense?
THE PRINCE. Never!
THE PRINCE. Never, by high heaven!
The very shadow of his head was sacred.
HOHENZOLL. Do not be angry, Arthur, if I doubt.
Count Horn has come, the Ambassador of Sweden,
And I am told with all authority
His business concerns the Princess Orange.
A word her aunt, the Electress, spoke, they say,
Has cut the sovereign to the very quick;
They say, the lady has already chosen.
Are you in no way tangled up in this?
THE PRINCE. Dear God, what are you saying?
HOHENZOLLERN. Are you? Are you?
THE PRINCE. Oh, friend, I am! And now all things are clear!
It is that wooing that destroys me quite.
I am accountable if she refuse,
Because the Princess is betrothed to me.
HOHENZOLL. You feather-headed fool, what have you done?
How often have I warned you, loyally!
THE PRINCE. Oh, friend! Then help me! Save me! I am lost!
HOHENZOLL. Ay, what expedient saves us in this gloom?
Come, would you like to see her aunt, the Electress?
THE PRINCE (_turning_).
TROOPER (_in the background_). Here!
THE PRINCE. Go, and call your officer!
[_He hastily takes a cloak from the wall and puts on a plumed hat
lying on the table._]
HOHENZOLLERN (_as he assists him_)
Adroitly used, this step may spell salvation.
For if the Elector can but make the peace,
By the determined forfeit, with King Charles,
His heart, you soon shall see, will turn to you,
And in brief time you will be free once more.
_The officer enters. The others as before._
THE PRINCE (_to the officer_).
Stranz, they have put me in your custody;
Grant me my freedom for an hour's time.
I have some urgent business on my mind.
OFFICER. Not in my custody are you, my lord.
The order given me declares that I
Shall leave you free to go where you desire.
THE PRINCE. Most odd! Then I am not a prisoner?
OFFICER. Your word of honor is a fetter, too.
HOHENZOLLERN (_preparing to go_).
'Twill do! No matter.
THE PRINCE. So. Then fare you well.
HOHENZOLL. The fetter follows hard upon the Prince.
THE PRINCE. I go but to the Castle, to my aunt,
And in two minutes I am back again.
_Room of the_ ELECTRESS. _The_ ELECTRESS _and_ NATALIE _enter_.
ELECTRESS. Come, daughter mine, come now! This is your hour.
Count Gustaf Horn, the Swedes' ambassador,
And all the company have left the Castle;
There is a light in Uncle's study still.
Come, put your kerchief on and steal on him,
And see if you can rescue yet your friend.
[_They are about to go._]
_A lady-in-waiting enters. Others as before._
Madam, the Prince of Homburg's at the door.
But I am hardly sure that I saw right.
ELECTRESS. Dear God!
ELECTRESS. Is he not prisoner?
He stands without, in plumed hat and cloak,
And begs in urgent terror to be heard.
Impulsive boy! To go and break his word!
NATALIE. Who knows what may torment him?
ELECTRESS (_after a moment in thought_). Let him come!
[_She seats herself._]
_The_ PRINCE OF HOMBURG _enters. The others as before._
THE PRINCE (_throwing himself at the feet of the_ ELECTRESS).
ELECTRESS. Prince! What are you doing here?
THE PRINCE. Oh, let me clasp your knees, oh, mother mine!
ELECTRESS (_with suppressed emotion_).
You are a prisoner, Prince, and you come hither?
Why will you heap new guilt upon the old?
THE PRINCE (_urgently_).
Oh, do you know what they have done?
ELECTRESS. Yes, all.
But what can I do, helpless I, for you?
THE PRINCE. You would not speak thus, mother mine, if death
Had ever terribly encompassed you
As it doth me. With potencies of heaven,
You and my lady, these who serve you, all
The world that rings me round, seem blest to save.
The very stable-boy, the meanest, least,
That tends your horses, pleading I could hang
About his neck, crying: Oh, save me, thou!
I, only I, alone on God's wide earth
Am helpless, desolate, and impotent.
ELECTRESS. You are beside yourself! What has occurred?
THE PRINCE. Oh, on the way that led me to your side,
I saw in torchlight where they dug the grave
That on the morrow shall receive my bones!
Look, Aunt, these eyes that gaze upon you now,
These eyes they would eclipse with night, this breast
Pierce and transpierce with murderous musketry.
The windows on the Market that shall close
Upon the weary show are all reserved;
And one who, standing on life's pinnacle,
Today beholds the future like a realm
Of faery spread afar, tomorrow lies
Stinking within the compass of two boards,
And over him a stone recounts: _He was_.
[_The_ PRINCESS, _who until now has stood in the background supporting
herself on the shoulder of one of the ladies-in-waiting, sinks into a
chair, deeply moved at his words, and begins to weep._]
ELECTRESS. My son, if such should be the will of heaven,
You will go forth with courage and calm soul.
THE PRINCE. God's world, O mother, is so beautiful!
Oh, let me not, before my hour strike,
Descend, I plead, to those black shadow-forms!
Why, why can it be nothing but the bullet?
Let him depose me from my offices,
With rank cashierment, if the law demands,
Dismiss me from the army. God of heaven!
Since I beheld my grave, life, life, I want,
And do not ask if it be kept with honor.
ELECTRESS. Arise, my son, arise! What were those words?
You are too deeply moved. Control yourself!
THE PRINCE. Oh, Aunt, not ere you promise on your soul,
With a prostration that shall save my life
Pleading to go before the sovereign presence.
Hedwig, your childhood friend, gave me to you,
Dying at Homburg, saying as she died:
Be you his mother when I am no more.
Moved to the depths, kneeling beside her bed,
Over her spent hand bending, you replied:
Yea, he shall be to me as mine own child.
Now, I remind you of the vow you made!
Go to him, go, as though I were your child,
Crying, I plead for mercy! Set him free!
Oh, and return to me, and say: 'Tis so!
Beloved son! All has been done, erewhile.
But all my supplications were in vain.
THE PRINCE. I give up every claim to happiness.
And tell him this, forget it not, that I
Desire Natalie no more, for her
All tenderness within my heart is quenched.
Free as the doe upon the meads is she,
Her hand and lips, as though I'd never been,
Freely let her bestow, and if it be
The Swede Karl Gustaf, I commend her choice.
I will go seek my lands upon the Rhine.
There will I build and raze again to earth
With sweating brow, and sow and gather in,
As though for wife and babe, enjoy alone;
And when the harvest's gathered, sow again,
And round and round the treadmill chase my days
Until at evening they sink down, and die.
ELECTRESS. Enough! Now take your way home to your prison--
That is the first demand my favor makes.
THE PRINCE (_rises and turns toward the_ PRINCESS).
Poor little girl, you weep! The sun today
Lights all your expectations to their grave!
Your heart decided from the first on me;
Indeed, your look declares, that, true as gold,
You ne'er shall dedicate your heart anew.
Oh, what can I, poor devil, say to comfort?
Go to the Maiden's Chapter on the Main,
I counsel you, go to your cousin Thurn.
Seek in the hills a boy, light-curled as I,
Buy him with gold and silver, to your breast
Press him, and teach his lips to falter: Mother.
And when he grows to manhood, show him well
How men draw shut the eyelids of the dead.
That is the only joy that lies your way!
NATALIE (_bravely and impressively, as she rises and lays
her hand in his_).
Return, young hero, to your prison walls,
And, on your passage, imperturbably
Regard once more the grave they dug for you.
It is not gloomier, nor more wide at all
Than those the battle showed a thousand times.
Meanwhile, since I am true to you till death,
A saving word I'll chance, unto my kin.
It may avail, perhaps, to move his heart
And disenthrall you from all misery.
THE PRINCE (_folding his hands, as he stands lost in contemplation
An you had pinions on your shoulders, maid,
Truly I should be sure you were an angel!
Dear God, did I hear right? You speak for me?
Where has the quiver of your speech till now
Lain hid, dear child, that you should dare approach
The sovereign in matters such as this?
Oh, light of hope, reviving me once more!
NATALIE. The darts that find the marrow God will hand me!
But if the Elector cannot move the law's
Outspoken word, cannot--so be it! Then
Bravely to him the brave man will submit.
And he, the conqueror a thousand times,
Living, will know to conquer too in death!
ELECTRESS. Make haste! The favorable hour flies by!
THE PRINCE. Now may all holy spirits guard your way!
Farewell, farewell! Whate'er the outcome be,
Grant me a word to tell me how you fared.
_Scene: Room of the_ ELECTOR.
_The_ ELECTOR _is standing with documents in his hand near a table set
with lights_. NATALIE _enters through the centre door and, still some
distance away, falls on her knees to him_.
NATALIE. My noble uncle Frederick of the Mark!
ELECTOR (_laying the papers aside_).
[_He seeks to raise her._]
NATALIE. No, no!
ELECTOR. What is your wish?
NATALIE. As it behooves me, at your feet in dust
To plead your pardon for my cousin Homburg.
Not for myself I wish to know him safe--
My heart desires him and confesses it--
Not for myself I wish to know him safe;
Let him go wed whatever wife he will.
I only ask, dear uncle, that he live,
Free, independent, unallied, unbound,
Even as a flower in which I find delight;
For this I plead, my sovereign lord and friend,
And such entreaty you will heed, I know.
ELECTOR (_raising her to her feet_).
My little girl! What words escaped your lips?
Are you aware of how your cousin Homburg
NATALIE. But, dear uncle!
Was it so slight?
NATALIE. Oh, this blond fault, blue-eyed,
Which even ere it faltered: Lo, I pray!
Forgiveness should raise up from the earth--
Surely you will not spurn it with your foot?
Why, for its mother's sake, for her who bore it,
You'll press it to your breast and cry: "Weep not!
For you are dear as loyalty herself."
Was it not ardor for your name's renown
That lured him in the fight's tumultuous midst
To burst apart the confines of the law?
And oh, once he had burst the bonds asunder,
Trod he not bravely on the serpent's head?
To crown him first because he triumphs, then
Put him to death--that, surely, history
Will not demand of you. Dear uncle mine,
That were so stoical and so sublime
That men might almost deem it was inhuman!
And God made nothing more humane than you.
ELECTOR. Sweet child, consider! If I were a tyrant,
I am indeed aware your words ere now
Had thawed the heart beneath the iron breast.
But this I put to you: Have I the right
To quash the verdict which the court has passed?
What would the issue be of such an act?
NATALIE. For whom? For you?
ELECTOR. For me? No! Bah! For me!
My girl, know you no higher law than me!
Have you no inkling of a sanctuary
That in the camp men call the fatherland?
NATALIE. My liege! Why fret your soul? Because of such
Upstirring of your grace, this fatherland
Will not this moment crash to rack and ruin!
The camp has been your school. And, look, what there
You term unlawfulness, this act, this free
Suppression of the verdict of the court,
Appears to me the very soul of law.
The laws of war, I am aware, must rule;
The heart, however, has its charter, too.
The fatherland your hands upbuilt for us,
My noble uncle, is a fortress strong,
And other greater storms indeed will bear
Than this unnecessary victory.
Majestically through the years to be
It shall uprise, beneath your line expand,
Grow beautiful with towers, luxuriant,
A fairy country, the felicity
Of those who love it, and the dread of foes.
It does not need the cold cementing seal
Of a friend's life-blood to outlast the calm
And glorious autumn of my uncle's days!
ELECTOR. And cousin Homburg thinks this?
NATALIE. Cousin Homburg?
ELECTOR. Does he believe it matters not at all
If license rule the fatherland, or law?
NATALIE. This poor dear boy!
ELECTOR. Well, now?
NATALIE. Oh, uncle dear,
To that I have no answer save my tears!
ELECTOR (_in surprise_).
Why that, my little girl? What has befallen?
He thinks of nothing now but one thing: rescue!
The barrels at the marksmen's shoulders peer
So ghastly, that, giddy and amazed,
Desire is mute, save one desire: To live.
The whole great nation of the Mark might sink
To wrack mid flare and thunderbolt; and he
Stand by nor even ask: What comes to pass?--
Oh, what a hero's heart have you brought low?
[_She turns away, sobbing._]
ELECTOR (_utterly amazed_).
No, dearest Natalie! No, no, indeed!
Impossible!--He pleads for clemency?
NATALIE. If you had only, only not condemned him!
ELECTOR. Come, tell me, come! He pleads for clemency?
What has befallen, child? Why do you sob?
You met? Come, tell me all. You spoke with him?
NATALIE (_pressed against his breast_).
In my aunt's chambers but a moment since,
Whither in mantle, lo, and plumed hat
Stealthily through the screening dusk he came--
Furtive, perturbed, abashed, unworthy all,
A miserable, pitiable sight.
I never guessed a man could sink so low
Whom history applauded as her hero.
For look--I am a woman and I shrink
From the mere worm that draws too near my foot;
But so undone, so void of all control,
So unheroic quite, though lion-like
Death fiercely came, he should not find me thus!
Oh, what is human greatness, human fame!
Well, then, by God of heaven and of earth!
Take courage, then, my girl, for he is free!
NATALIE. What, my liege lord?
ELECTOR. I pardon him, I say!
I'll send the necessary word at once.
NATALIE. Oh, dearest, is it really true?
ELECTOR. You heard.
NATALIE. You will forgive him? And he need not die?
ELECTOR. Upon my word! I swear it! How shall I
Oppose myself to such a warrior's judgment?
Within my heart of hearts, as you know well,
I deeply do esteem his inner sense;
If he can say the verdict is unjust,
I cancel the indictment; he is free!
[_He brings her a chair._]
Will you sit here and wait a little while?
[_He goes to the table, seats himself and writes. Pause._]
Why dost thou knock so at thy house, my heart?
The Prince is over in the Castle?
He has returned to his captivity.
ELECTOR (_finishes his letter and seals it; thereupon he returns
with the letter to the_ PRINCESS).
Well, well, my little niece, my daughter, wept!
And I, whose place it is to make her glad
Was forced to cloud the heaven of her fair eyes!
[_He puts his arm about her_.]
Will you go bring the note to him yourself?
NATALIE. How? To the City Hall?
ELECTOR (_presses the letter into her hand_).
Why not? Ho, lackeys!
Go, have the carriage up! Her ladyship
Has urgent business with Colonel Homburg.
[_The lackeys go out_.]
Now he can thank you for his life forthwith.
[_He embraces her_.]
Dear child, and do you like me now once more?
NATALIE (_after a pause_).
I do not know and do not seek to know
What woke your favor, liege, so suddenly.
But truly this, I feel this in my heart,
You would not make ignoble sport of me.
The letter hold whate'er it may--I trust
That it hold pardon--and I thank you for it.
[_She kisses his hand_.]
ELECTOR. Indeed, my little girl, indeed. As sure
As pardon lies in Cousin Homburg's wish.
_Room of the_ PRINCESS. _Enter_ PRINCESS NATALIE, _followed by two
ladies-in-waiting and Captain of Cavalry_, COUNT REUSS.
What is it, Count? About my regiment?
Is it of moment? Can it wait a day?
REUSS (_handing her a letter_).
Madam, a note for you from Colonel Kottwitz.
NATALIE (_opening it_).
Quick, give it me! What's in it?
REUSS. A petition,
Frankly addressed, though deferentially,
As you will note, to our liege lord, his Highness,
In furtherance of our chief, the Prince of Homburg.
"Petition, loyally presented by
The regiment of Princess Orange"--so.
This document--whose hand composed it, pray?
REUSS. As the formations of the dizzy script
May let you guess, by none but Colonel Kottwitz.
His noble name stands foremost on the list.
NATALIE. The thirty signatures which follow it?
REUSS. The names of officers, most noble lady,
Each following each according to his rank.
NATALIE. And they sent me the supplication--me?
REUSS. My lady, most submissively to beg
If you, our colonel, likewise, at their head
Will fill the space left vacant, with your name?
NATALIE. Indeed, I hear, the Prince, my noble kinsman,
By our lord's own volition shall be freed,
Wherefore there scarce is need for such a step.
NATALIE. Yet I'll not deny my hand
Upon a document, which, wisely used,
May prove a weight upon the scales to turn
Our sovereign's decision--even prove
Welcome, mayhap, to introduce the issue.
According to your wish, therefore, I set
Myself here at your head and write my name.
[_She goes to a desk and is about to write._]
REUSS. Indeed, you have our lively gratitude!
NATALIE (_turning to him again_).
My regiment alone I find, Count Reuss!
Why do I miss the Bomsdorf Cuirassiers
And the dragoons of Goetz and Anhalt-Pless?
REUSS. Not, as perchance you fear, because their hearts
Are cooler in their throbbing than our own.
It proves unfortunate for our petition
That Kottwitz is in garrison apart
At Arnstein, while the other regiments
Are quartered in the city here. Wherefore
The document lacks freedom easily
In all directions to expand its force.
NATALIE. Yet, as it stands, the plea seems all too thin.--
Are you sure, Count, if you were on the spot
To interview the gentlemen now here,
That they as well would sign the document?
REUSS. Here in the city, madam? Head for head!
The entire cavalry would pledge itself
With signatures. By God, I do believe
That a petition might be safely launched
Amid the entire army of the Mark!
NATALIE (_after a pause_).
Why does not some one send out officers
To carry on the matter in the camp?
REUSS. Pardon! The Colonel put his foot on that.
He said that he desired to do no act
That men might christen with an ugly name.
NATALIE. Queer gentleman! Now bold, now timorous!
But it occurs to me that happily
The Elector, pressed by other business,
Charged me to issue word that Kottwitz, cribbed
Too close in his position, march back hither.
I will sit down at once and do it!
[_She sits down and writes._]
REUSS. By Heaven,
Most excellent, my lady! An event
That could not timelier prove for our petition!
NATALIE (_as she writes_).
Use it, Count Reuss, as well as you know how.
[_She finishes her note, seals it and rises to her feet again._]
Meanwhile this note, you understand, remains
In your portfolio; you will not go
To Arnstein with it, nor convey 't to Kottwitz
Until I give more definite command.
[_She gives him the letter._]
A LACKEY (_entering_).
According to the sovereign's order, madam,
The coach is ready in the yard, and waiting.
NATALIE. Go, call it to the door. I'll come at once.
[_Pause, during which she steps thoughtfully to the table and draws on
Count, I desire to interview Prince Homburg.
Will you escort me thither? In my coach
There is a place I put at your disposal.
REUSS. Madam, a great distinction, I assure you--
[_He offers her his arm._]
NATALIE (_to the ladies-in-waiting_).
Follow, my friends!--It well may be that there
I shall decide about the note erelong.
_The_ PRINCE'S _cell. The_ PRINCE Of HOMBURG _hangs his hat on the wall
and sinks, carelessly reclining, on a mattress spread out on the floor._
THE PRINCE. The dervish calls all life a pilgrimage,
And that, a brief one. True!--Of two short spans
This side of earth to two short spans below.
I will recline upon the middle path.
The man who bears his head erect today
No later than tomorrow on his breast
Bows it, all tremulous. Another dawn,
And, lo, it lies a skull beside his heel!
Indeed, there is a sun, they say, that shines
On fields beyond e'en brighter than these fields.
I do believe it; only pity 'tis
The eye, that shall perceive the splendor, rots.
_Enter_ PRINCESS NATALIE _on the arm of_ COUNT REUSS, _and followed by
ladies-in-waiting. A footman with a torch precedes them. The_ PRINCE
FOOTMAN. Her Highness Princess Natalie of Orange!
THE PRINCE (_rising_).
FOOTMAN. Here she comes herself!
NATALIE (_with a bow to the COUNT_). I beg
Leave us a little moment to ourselves.
[COUNT REUSS _and the footman go._]
THE PRINCE. Beloved lady!
NATALIE. Dear good cousin mine!
THE PRINCE (_leading her up stage_).
What is your news? Speak! How stand things with me?
NATALIE. Well. All is well, just as I prophesied.
Pardoned are you, and free; here is a letter
Writ by his hand to verify my words.
THE PRINCE. It cannot be! No, no! It is a dream!
NATALIE. Read! Read the letter! See it for yourself!
THE PRINCE (_reading_).
"My Prince of Homburg, when I made you prisoner
Because of your too premature attack,
I thought that I was doing what was right--
No more; and reckoned on your acquiescence.
If you believe that I have been unjust,
Tell me, I beg you in a word or two,
And forthwith I will send you back your sword."
[NATALIE _turns pale. Pause. The_ PRINCE _regards her questioningly._]
NATALIE (_feigning sudden joy_).
Well, there it stands! It only needs two words,
My dear, sweet friend!
[_She presses his hand._]
THE PRINCE. Ah, precious lady mine!
NATALIE. Oh, blessed hour that dawns across my world!
Here, take it, take the pen, take it and write.
THE PRINCE. And here the signature?
NATALIE. The F--his mark!
Oh, Bork! Be glad with me. His clemency
Is limitless, I knew it, as the sea!
Do bring a chair, for he must write at once.
THE PRINCE. He says, if I believed--
NATALIE (_interrupting_). Why, yes, of course!
Quick now! Sit down. I'll tell you what to say.
[_She sets a chair in place for him._]
THE PRINCE. I wish to read the letter once again.
NATALIE (_tearing the letter from his hand_).
Why so? Did you not see the pit already
Yawning beneath you in the graveyard yonder?
The time is urgent. Come, sit down and write.
THE PRINCE (_smiling_).
Truly, you act as though it had the power
To plump down, panther-fashion, on my back.
[_He sits down and seizes a pen._]
NATALIE (_turning away with a sob_).
Write, if you do not want to make me cross.
[_The_ PRINCE _rings for a lackey, who enters._]
THE PRINCE. Bring pen and paper, seal and sealing-wax.
[_The lackey, having collected these and given them to the_ PRINCE,
_goes out. The_ PRINCE _writes. Pause, during which he tears the
letter he has begun in two and throws the pieces under the table_.]
A silly opening!
[_He takes another sheet_.]
NATALIE (_picking up the letter_). What did you say?
Good heavens! Why, it's right, it's excellent.
THE PRINCE (_under his breath_).
Bah! That's a blackguard's wording, not a Prince's.
I'll try to put it in some other way.
[_Pause. He clutches at the_ ELECTOR'S _letter which the_ PRINCESS
_holds in her hand._]
What is it, anyway, his letter says?
NATALIE (_keeping it from him_).
Nothing at all!
THE PRINCE. Give it to me!
NATALIE. You read it!
THE PRINCE (_snatches it from her_).
What if I did? I only want to see
How I'm to phrase my answer.
NATALIE (_to herself_). God of earth!
Now all is done with him!
THE PRINCE (_surprised_). Why, look at this!
As I'm alive, most curious! You must
Have overlooked the passage.
NATALIE. Why! Which one?
THE PRINCE. He calls on me to judge the case myself!
NATALIE. Well, what of that?
THE PRINCE. Gallant, i' faith, and fine!
Exactly what a noble soul would say!
NATALIE. His magnanimity is limitless!
But you, too, friend, do _your_ part now, and write,
As he desires. All that is needed now
Is but the pretext, but the outer form.
As soon as those two words are in his hands,
Presto, the quarrel's at an end.
THE PRINCE (_putting the letter away_). No, dear!
I want to think it over till tomorrow.
NATALIE. Incomprehensible! Oh, what a change!
But why, but why?
THE PRINCE (_rising in passionate excitement_).
I beg you, ask me not!
You did not ponder what the letter said.
That he did me a wrong--and that's the crux--
I cannot tell him that. And if you force me
To give him answer in my present mood,
By God, it's this I'll tell him--"You did right!"
[_He sinks down beside the table, again with folded arms, and stares
at the letter._]
You imbecile, you! What a thing to say!
[_She bends over him, deeply stirred_.]
THE PRINCE (_pressing her hand_).
Come, just a second now! I think--
NATALIE. What is it?
THE PRINCE. I'll know soon now what I shall write to him.
THE PRINCE (_taking up his pen_)
Yes, dear. What is it?
NATALIE. Sweetest friend!
I prize the impulse that upstirred your heart;
But this I swear to you: the regiment
Has been detailed, whose muskets are to sound
At dawn the reconciling burial rite
Above the grave where your dead body lies.
If you cannot resist the law's decree,
Nor, noble as you are, do what he asks
Here in this letter to repeal it, then
I do assure you he will loftily
Accept the situation, and fulfil
The sentence on the morrow ruthlessly.
THE PRINCE (_writing_).
NATALIE. What? No matter?
THE PRINCE. Let him do
What his soul bids. I must do what I must.
NATALIE (_approaching him frightened_).
Oh, terrible! You are not writing there?
THE PRINCE (_concluding_).
"Homburg!" And dated, "Fehrbellin, the twelfth."
So, it's all ready. Frank!
[_He closes and seals the letter_.]
NATALIE. Dear God in heaven!
THE PRINCE (_rising_).
Here, take this to the Castle to my liege!
[_The lackey goes out_.]
I will not face man who faces me
So nobly, with a knave's ignoble front!
Guilt, heavy guilt, upon my conscience weighs,
I fully do confess. Can he but grant
Forgiveness, when I contest for it,
I do not care a straw for any pardon.
NATALIE (_kissing him_).
This kiss, for me! And though twelve bullets made
You dust this instant, I could not resist
Caroling, sobbing, crying: Thus you please me!
However, since you follow your heart's lead,
I may be pardoned if I follow mine.
[_The footman opens the door. The_ COUNT _enters_.]
NATALIE. Go, and bear the note I gave
Post-haste to Arnstein and to Colonel Kottwitz!
The regiment shall march, our liege directs.
Ere midnight I shall look to see it here!
_Scene: a hall in the Castle._
_The_ ELECTOR, _scantily clad, enters from the adjoining chamber,
followed by_ COUNT TRUCHSZ, COUNT HOHENZOLLERN, _and_ CAPTAIN VON DER
GOLZ. _Pages with lights_.
ELECTOR. Kottwitz? And with the Princess's dragoons?
Here in the town?
TRUCHSZ (_opening the window_). Indeed, my sovereign!
Drawn up before the Castle, here he is!
ELECTOR. Well? Will you read the riddle, gentlemen?
Who called him hither?
HOHENZOLLERN. I know not, my liege.
ELECTOR. The place I set him at is known as Arnstein!
Make haste, some one, and go and bring him in.
GOLZ. He will appear forthwith, my sovereign.
ELECTOR. Where is he?
GOLZ. At the City Hall, I hear,
Where the entire generality,
That bears obedience to your house, is met.
ELECTOR. But why? What is the object?
HOHENZOLLERN. I know not.
TRUCHSZ. My prince and lord, will you vouchsafe that we
Likewise betake ourselves a moment thither?
ELECTOR. Whither? The City Hall?
HOHENZOLLERN. The lords' assemblage.
We gave our word of honor to appear.
ELECTOR (_after a short pause_).
You are dismissed!
GOLZ. Come, follow, gentlemen!
[_The officers go out_.]
_The_ ELECTOR. _Later, two footmen._
ELECTOR. Most curious! Were I the Dey of Tunis
I'd sound alarm at such a dubious move,
Lay on my desk despair's thin silken cord,
And at my palisaded castle-gate
Set up my heavy guns and howitzers.
But since it's just Hans Kottwitz from the Priegnitz
Who marches on me of his own sweet will
I'll treat the matter in the Mark's own way;
Of the three curls that gleam so silvery
On his old skull, I'll take firm hold of one
And lead him calmly with his squadrons twelve
To Arnstein, his headquarters, back again.
Why wake the city from its slumber thus?
[_He goes to the window a moment, then returns to the table and rings
a bell. Two lackeys enter_.]
Do run below and ask, as for yourself,
What's doing in the City Hall.
1st LACKEY. At once!
[_He goes out._]
ELECTOR (_to the other_).
But you go now and fetch me my apparel.
[_The lackey goes and brings it. The_ ELECTOR _attires himself and
dons his princely insignia._]
FIELD-MARSHAL DOeRFLING _enters. The others as before._
DOeRFLING. Rebellion, my Elector!
ELECTOR (_still occupied with his clothes_). Calm yourself!
You know that I detest to have my room
Without a warning word, invaded thus.
What do you want?
MARSHAL. Forgive me! An affair
Of special consequence has brought me hither.
Unordered, Colonel Kottwitz moved his force
Into the city; hundred officers
Are gathered round him in the armor-hall.
From hand to hand a paper passes round
That purposes encroachment on your rights.
ELECTOR. I am informed of it. What can it be
Except a ferment friendly to the Prince
On whom the law has laid the sentence, death?
MARSHAL. 'Tis so, by God on high! You struck it right!
ELECTOR. Well, then, and good. My heart is in their midst.
MARSHAL. The rumor goes the maniacs intend
This very night to hand you their petition
Here in the Castle; and should you persist
In carrying out, irreconcilably,
The sentence--scarce I dare to bring you this!--
To liberate him from his bonds by force!
Come now, who told you that?
MARSHAL. Who told me that?
The lady Retzow, cousin of my wife,
Whom you may trust. She spent this evening
In Bailiff Retzow's, in her uncle's house,
And heard some officers who came from camp
Brazenly utter this audacious plan.
ELECTOR. A man must tell me that ere I'll believe it.
I'll set this boot of mine before his house
To keep him safe from these young heroes'
MARSHAL. My lord, I beg you, if it be your will,
To grant the Prince his pardon after all:
Fulfil it ere an odious deed be done.
You know that every army loves its hero.
Let not this spark which kindles in it now
Spread out and wax a wild consuming fire.
Nor Kottwitz nor the crowd he has convened
Are yet aware my faithful word has warned you.
Ere he appears, send back the Prince's sword,
Send it, as, after all, he has deserved.
One piece of chivalry the more you give
To history, and one misdeed the less.
ELECTOR. Concerning that I'd have to ask the Prince,
Who was not idly made a prisoner,
As you may know, nor idly may be freed.--
I'll see the gentlemen when they arrive.
MARSHAL (_to himself_).
Curse it! His armor's proof to every dart.
_Two lackeys enter, one with a letter in his hand. The others as before_.
1st LACKEY. Sir, Colonels Kottwitz, Hennings, Truchsz and others
ELECTOR (_to the second lackey, as he takes the letter_).
This from the Prince of Homburg?
2D LACKEY. Indeed, your Highness.
ELECTOR. Who delivered it?
2D LACKEY. The Swiss on guard before the castle gate,
Who had it from the Prince's bodyguard.
[_The_ ELECTOR _stands by the table, and reads; whereupon he turns and
calls to a page_.]
Prittwitz! Bring me the warrant, bring it here.
And let me have the passport for the Swede's
Ambassador, Gustaf, the Count of Horn.
[_Exit the page_.]
[_To the first lackey_.]
Now Kottwitz and his retinue may come.
COLONEL KOTTWITZ _and_ COLONEL HENNINGS, COUNT TRUCHSZ, COUNTS
HOHENZOLLERN _and_ SPARREN, COUNT REUSS, CAPTAIN VON DER GOLZ, STRANZ
_and other officers enter. The others as before_.
KOTTWITZ (_bearing the petition_).
Permit me, my exalted sovereign,
Here in the name of all your soldiery
Most humbly to submit this document.
ELECTOR. Kottwitz, before I take it, tell me now
Who was it called you to this city here?
KOTTWITZ (_regarding him_).
With the dragoons?
ELECTOR. Ay, with your regiment!
I nominated Arnstein as your station.
KOTTWITZ. Sir! It was your behest that brought me
ELECTOR. Eh? Let me see the order!
KOTTWITZ. Here, my liege.
Signed: "Natalie." And dated: "Fehrbellin,
By order of my liege, my uncle Frederick."
KOTTWITZ. By God, my prince and lord, I will not hope
The order's news to you?
was it who conveyed the order thither?
KOTTWITZ. Count Reuss!
ELECTOR (_after a momentary pause_).
What's more, you're welcome, very welcome!
You have been chosen with your squadrons twelve
To pay Prince Homburg, sentenced by the law,
The final honors of the morrow.
KOTTWITZ (_taken aback_). What, My sovereign?
ELECTOR (_handing back the order_).
The regiment stands yet,
Benighted and befogged, outside the Castle?
KOTTWITZ. Pardon, the night--
ELECTOR. Why don't they go to quarters?
KOTTWITZ. My sovereign, they have gone. As you directed
They have found quarters in the city here.
ELECTOR (_with a turn toward the window_).
What? But a moment since--Well, by the gods!
You've found them stables speedily enough.
So much the better! Welcome, then, once more!
Come, say, what brings you here? What is your news?
KOTTWITZ. Sir, this petition from your loyal men.
KOTTWITZ. But the words your lips have spoken strike
All my anticipations down to earth.
ELECTOR. Well, then, a word can lift them up again!
"Petition, begging royal clemency
For our commandant, vitally accused,
The General, Prince Frederick Hessen-Homburg."
[_To the officers._]
A noble name, my lords! And not unworthy
Your coming in such numbers to its aid.
[_He looks into the document again._]
By whom is the petition?
KOTTWITZ. By myself.
ELECTOR. The Prince has been apprized of what it holds?
KOTTWITZ. Not in the very faintest. In our midst
The matter was conceived and given birth.
ELECTOR. Grant me a moment's patience, if you please.
[_He steps to the table and glances over the paper. Long pause._]
Hm! Curious! You ancient war-horse, you,
You plead the Prince's cause? You justify
His charging Wrangel ere I gave command?
KOTTWITZ. My sovereign, yes. That's what old Kottwitz does.
ELECTOR. You did not hold that notion on the field!
KOTTWITZ. I'd weighed the thing but ill, my sovereign.
I should have calmly yielded to the Prince
Who is most wonderfully versed in war.
The Swedes' left wing was wavering; on their right
Came reinforcements; had he been content
To bide your order, they'd have made a stand
With new intrenchments in the gullies there,
And never had you gained your victory.
ELECTOR. That's what it pleases you to presuppose!
I sent out Colonel Hennings, as you know,
To pounce upon and seize the knot of bridges
Held by the Swedes to cover Wrangel's rear.
If you'd not disobeyed my order, look,
Hennings had carried out the stroke as planned--
In two hours' time had set afire the bridges,
Planted his forces firmly on the Rhyn,
And Wrangel had been crushed with stump and stem
In ditches and morasses, utterly.
KOTTWITZ. It is the tyro's business, not yours,
To hunger after fate's supremest crown.
Until this hour you took what gift she gave.
The dragon that made desolate the Mark
Beneath your very nose has been repelled
With gory head! What could one day bring more?
What matters it if, for a fortnight yet,
Spent in the sand, he lies and salves his wounds?
We've learnt the art of conquering him, and now
Are full of zeal to make the most of it.
Give us a chance at Wrangel, like strong men,
Breast against breast once more; we'll make an end
And, down into the Baltic, down he goes!
They did not build Rome in a single day.
ELECTOR. What right have you, you fool, to hope for that,
When every mother's son is privileged
To jerk the battle-chariot's reins I hold?
Think you that fortune will eternally
Award a crown to disobedience?
I do not like a bastard victory,
The gutter-waif of chance; the law, look you,
My crown's progenitor, I will uphold,
For she shall bear a race of victories.
KOTTWITZ. My liege, the law, the highest and the best,
That shall be honored in your leaders' hearts--
Look, that is not the letter of your will!
It is the fatherland, it is the crown,
It is yourself, upon whose head it sits.
I beg you now, what matters it to you
What rule the foe fights by, as long as he
With all his pennons bites the dust once more?
The law that drubs him is the highest law!
Would you transform your fervid soldiery
Into a tool, as lifeless as the blade
That in your golden baldrick hangs inert?
Oh, empty spirit, stranger to the stars,
Who first gave forth such doctrine! Oh, the base,
The purblind statecraft, which because of one
Instance wherein the heart rode on to wrack,
Forgets ten others, in the whirl of life,
Wherein the heart alone has power to save!
Come, in the battle do I spill in dust
My blood for wages, money, say, or fame?
Faith, not a bit! It's all too good for that!
Why! I've my satisfaction and my joy,
Free and apart, in quiet solitude,
Seeing your splendor and your excellence,
The fame and crescence of your mighty name!
That is the wage for which I sold my heart!
Grant that, because of this unplanned success;
You broke the staff across the Prince's head,
And I somewhere twixt hill and dale at dawn
Should, shepherd-wise, steal on a victory
Unplanned as this, with my good squadrons, eh?--
By God, I were a very knave, did I
Not merrily repeat the Prince's act!
And if you spake, the law book in your hand:
"Kottwitz, you've forfeited your head!" I'd say:
I knew it, Sir; there, take it, there it is;
When with an oath I bound me, hide and hair,
Unto your crown, I left not out my head,
And I should give you nought but what was yours!
ELECTOR. You whimsical old gentleman, with you
I get nowhere! You bribe me with your tongue--
Me, with your craftily framed sophistries--
Me--and you know I hold you dear! Wherefore
I call an advocate to bear my side
And end our controversy.
[_He rings a bell. A footman enters._]
Go! I wish
The Prince of Homburg hither brought from prison.
He will instruct you, be assured of that,
What discipline and what obedience be!
He sent me words, at least, of other pitch
Than this astute idea of liberty
You have rehearsed here like a boy to me.
[_He stands by the table again reading._]
Fetch whom? Call whom?
[_The officers group themselves, disquieted, and speak with one
ELECTOR. Who has brought forth this other document?
HOHENZOLL. I, my liege lord!
"Proof that Elector Frederick
The Prince's act himself--"--Well, now, by heaven,
I call that nerve!
What! You dare say the cause of the misdeed
The Prince committed in the fight, am I!
HOHENZOLL. Yourself, my liege; I say it, Hohenzollern.
ELECTOR. Now then, by God, that beats the fairy-tales!
One man asserts that _he_ is innocent,
The other that the guilty man am _I_!--
How will you demonstrate that thesis now?
HOHENZOLL. My lord, you will recall to mind that night
We found the Prince in slumber deeply sunk
Down in the garden 'neath the plantain trees.
He dreamed, it seemed, of victories on the morrow,
And in his hand he held a laurel-twig,
As if to test his heart's sincerity.
You took the wreath away, and smilingly
Twined round the leaves the necklace that you wore,
And to the lady, to your noble niece,
Both wreath and necklace, intertwining, gave.
At such a wondrous sight, the Prince, aflush,
Leaps to his feet; such precious things held forth
By such a precious hand he needs must clasp.
But you withdraw from him in haste, withdrawing
The Princess as you pass; the door receives you.
Lady and chain and laurel disappear,
And, solitary, holding in his hand
A glove he ravished from he knows not whom--
Lapped in the midnight he remains behind.
ELECTOR. What glove was that?
HOHENZOLLERN. My sovereign, hear me through!
The matter was a jest; and yet, of what
Deep consequence to him I learned erelong.
For when I slip the garden's postern through,
Coming upon him as it were by chance,
And wake him, and he calls his senses home,
The memory flooded him with keen delight.
A sight more touching scarce the mind could paint.
The whole occurrence, to the least detail,
He recapitulated, like a dream;
So vividly, he thought, he ne'er had dreamed,
And in his heart the firm assurance grew
That heaven had granted him a sign; that when
Once more came battle, God would grant him all
His inward eye had seen, the laurel-wreath,
The lady fair, and honor's linked badge.
ELECTOR. Hm! Curious! And then the glove?
This fragment of his dream, made manifest,
At once dispels and makes more firm his faith.
At first, with large, round eye he looks at it:
The color's white, in mode and shape it seems
A lady's glove, but, as he spoke with none
By night within the garden whom, by chance,
He might have robbed of it--confused thereto
In his reflections by myself, who calls him
Up to the council in the palace, he
Forgets the thing he cannot comprehend,
And off-hand in his collar thrusts the glove.
HOHENZOLLERN. Thereupon with pen and tablet
He seeks the Castle, with devout attention
To take the orders from the Marshal's lips.
The Electress and the Princess, journey-bound,
By chance are likewise in the hall; but who
Shall gauge the uttermost bewilderment
That takes him, when the Princess turns to find
The very glove he thrust into his collar!
The Marshal calls again and yet again
'The Prince of Homburg!' 'Marshal, to command!'
He cries, endeavoring to collect his thoughts;
But he, ringed round by marvels--why, the thunders
Of heaven might have fallen in our midst--
ELECTOR. It was the Princess' glove?
HOHENZOLLERN. It was, indeed!
[_The_ ELECTOR _sinks into a brown study._]
A stone is he; the pencil's in his hand,
And he stands there, and seems a living man;
But consciousness, as by a magic wand,
Is quenched within him; not until the morrow,
As down the lines the loud artillery
Already roars, does he return to life,
Asking me: Say, what was it Doerfling said
Last night in council, that applied to me?
MARSHAL. Truly, my liege, that tale I can indorse.
The Prince, I call to mind, took in no word
Of what I said; distraught I've seen him oft,
But never yet in such degree removed
From blood and bone, never, as on that night.
ELECTOR. Now then, if I make out your reasoning,
You pile your climax on my shoulders thus:
Had I not dangerously made a jest
Of this young dreamer's state, he had remained
Guiltless, in council had not roamed the clouds,
Nor disobedient proved upon the field.
Eh? Eh? Is that the logic?
HOHENZOLLERN. My liege lord,
I trust the filling of the gaps to you.
ELECTOR. Fool that you are, you addlepate! Had you
Not called me to the garden, I had not,
Following a whim of curiosity,
Made harmless fun of this somnambulist.
Wherefore, and quite with equal right, I hold
The cause of his delinquency were you!--
The delphic wisdom of my officers!
HOHENZOLL. Enough, my sovereign! I am assured,
My words fell weightily upon your heart.
_An officer enters. The others as before._
OFFICER. My lord, the Prince will instantly appear.
ELECTOR. Good, then! Let him come in.
OFFICER. Two minutes, sir!
He but delayed a moment on the way
To beg a porter ope the graveyard gate.
ELECTOR. The graveyard?
OFFICER. Ay, my sovereign.
ELECTOR. But why?
OFFICER. To tell the truth, my lord, I do not know.
It seemed he wished to see the burial-vault
That your behest uncovered for him there.
[_The commanders group themselves and talk together._]
ELECTOR. No matter! When he comes, let him come in!
[_He steps to the table again and glances at the papers._]
TRUCHSZ. The watch is bringing in Prince Homburg now.
_Enter the_ PRINCE OF HOMBURG. _An officer and the watch. The others
ELECTOR. Young Prince of mine, I call you to my aid!
Here's Colonel Kottwitz brings this document
In your behalf, look, in long column signed
By hundred honorable gentlemen.
The army asks your liberty, it runs,
And will not tolerate the court's decree.
Come, read it and inform yourself, I beg.
[_He hands him the paper._]
THE PRINCE (_casts a glance at the document, turns and
looks about the circle of officers_).
Kottwitz, old friend, come, let me clasp your hand!
You give me more than on the day of battle
I merited of you. But now, post-haste,
Go, back again to Arnstein whence you came,
Nor budge at all. I have considered it;
The death decreed to me I will accept!
[_He hands over the paper to him._]
No, nevermore, my Prince! What are you saying?
HOHENZOLL. He wants to die--
TRUCHSZ. He shall not, must not die!
VARIOUS OFFICERS (_pressing forward_).
My lord Elector! Oh, my sovereign! Hear us!
THE PRINCE. Hush! It is my inflexible desire!
Before the eyes of all the soldiery
I wronged the holy code of war; and now
By my free death I wish to glorify it.
My brothers, what's the one poor victory
I yet may snatch from Wrangel worth to you
Against the triumph o'er the balefullest
Of foes within, that I achieve at dawn--
The insolent and disobedient heart.
Now shall the alien, seeking to bow down
Our shoulders 'neath his yoke, be crushed; and, free,
The man of Brandenburg shall take his stand
Upon the mother soil, for it is his--
The splendor of her meads alone for him!
My son! My dearest friend! What shall I name you?
TRUCHSZ. God of the world!
KOTTWITZ. Oh, let me kiss your hand!
[_They press round him._]
THE PRINCE (_turning toward the_ ELECTOR).
But you, my liege, who bore in other days
A tenderer name I may no longer speak,
Before your feet, stirred to my soul, I kneel.
Forgive, that with a zeal too swift of foot
I served your cause on that decisive day;
Death now shall wash me clean of all my guilt.
But give my heart, that bows to your decree,
Serene and reconciled, this comfort yet:
To know your breast resigns all bitterness--
And, in the hour of parting, as a proof,
One favor more, compassionately grant.
ELECTOR. Young hero, speak! What is it you desire?
I pledge my word to you, my knightly honor,
It shall be granted you, whate'er it be!
THE PRINCE. Not with your niece's hand, my sovereign,
Purchase the peace of Gustaf Karl! Expel,
Out of the camp, expel the bargainer
Who made this ignominious overture.
Write your response to him in cannon-shots!
ELECTOR (_kissing his brow_).
As you desire then. With this kiss, my son,
That last appeal I grant. Indeed, wherein
Now have we need of such a sacrifice
That war's ill-fortune only could compel?
Why, in each word that you have spoken, buds
A victory that strikes the foeman low!
I'll write to him, the plighted bride is she
Of Homburg, dead because of Fehrbellin;
With his pale ghost, before our flags a-charge,
Let him do battle for her, on the field!
[_He kisses him again and draws him to his feet._]
THE PRINCE. Behold, now have you given me life indeed!
Now every blessing on you I implore
That from their cloudy thrones the seraphim
Pour forth exultant over hero-heads.
Go, and make war, and conquer, oh, my liege,
The world that fronts you--for you merit it!
ELECTOR. Guards! Lead the prisoner back to his cell!
NATALIE _and the_ ELECTRESS _appear in the doorway, followed by
ladies-in-waiting. The others as before._
NATALIE. Mother! Decorum! Can you speak that word?
In such an hour there's none but just to love him--
My dear, unhappy love!
THE PRINCE (_turning_). Now I shall go!
TRUCHSZ (_holding him_).
No, nevermore, my Prince!
[_Several officers step in his way._]
THE PRINCE. Take me away!
HOHENZOLL. Liege, can your heart--
THE PRINCE (_tearing himself free_).
You tyrants, would you drag me
In fetters to my execution-place?
Go! I have closed my reckoning with this world.
[_He goes out under guard._]
NATALIE (_on the_ ELECTRESS' _breast_).
Open, O earth, receive me in your deeps.
Why should I look upon the sunlight more?
_The persons, as in the preceding scene, with the exception of the_
PRINCE OF HOMBURG.
MARSHAL. God of earth! Did it have to come to that?
[_The_ ELECTOR _speaks in a low voice to an officer._]
My sovereign, after all that has occurred
Are we dismissed?
ELECTOR. Not for the present, no!
I'll give you notice when you are dismissed!
[_He regards him a moment straightly and steadily; then takes the
papers which the page has brought him from the table and turns to the_
This passport, take it, for Count Horn the Swede.
Tell him it is my cousin's wish, the Prince's,
Which I have pledged myself to carry out.
The war begins again in three days' time!
[_Pause. He casts a glance at the death warrant._]
Judge for yourselves, my lords. The Prince of Homburg
Through disobedience and recklessness
Of two of my best victories this year
Deprived me, and indeed impaired the third.
Now that he's had his schooling these last days
Come, will you risk it with him for a fourth?
KOTTWITZ _and_ TRUCHSZ (_helter-skelter_).
What, my adored--my worshipped--What, my liege?--
ELECTOR. Will you? Will you?
KOTTWITZ. Now, by the living God,
He'd watch you standing on destruction's brink
And never twitch his sword in your behalf,
Or rescue you unless you gave command.
ELECTOR (_tearing up the death warrant_).
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