Friedrich Schiller.

The works of Frederick Schiller, translated from the German (Volume 3) online

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New signs of terror to my boding soul
Are pictured ; — in amazement lost I stand !
What light shall pierce this gloom of mystery ?

IsABEiiLA (to the Chorus, uho exhibit marks of confusion and
embarrassment).

ye hard hearts ! Ye rude unpitying men !

A mother's transport from your breasts of steel
Rebounds, as from the rocks the heaving surge !

1 look ai'ound your train, nor mark one glance

Of soft regard. Where are my sons ? Oh tell me

Why come they not, and from their beaming eyes

Speak comfort to my soul? For here euvii'oned,

I stand amid the desert's raging brood,

Or monsters of the deep !
DiRGO. She opes her eyes !

She moves ! She lives !
Isabella. She lives ! On me be thrown

Her earliest glance !
Diego. See I They are closed again —

She shudders !
JsvBELLA {to the Chorus).

Quick ! Retire — your aspect frights her

[Chorus steps back.
Bohem. Well pleased I shun her sight.
Diego. With outstretched eves,

And •wonderstruck, she seems to measure thee.
Beat. Not strange those lineaments — where am I ?
Isabella. Slowh

Her sense returns.
Diego. Behold ! upon her knees

She sinks.
Beatrice. O angel visage of my mother !

K S



4y8 THE BRIDE OF MKaSINA.

IsAB Child of niv heart !

Beai-rue. See! kneeling at thy feet

The guilty one !
Isabella. I hold thee in my arms !

Enough — forgotten all !
Diego. Look in my face,

Canst thou remember me ?
Beatrice The reverend bro^^s

Of honest old Diego !
Isabella. Faithful guardian

Of thy young years.
Beatrice. And am I once again

With kindred ?
Isabella Nought but death shall part us morei

Beat. . Will thou ne'er send me to the stranger?
Isabella. Never !

Fate is appeased.
Beatrice And am I next thy heart?

And was it all a dream — a hideous dream ?
My mother ! at my feet he fell ! — I know not
What brought me hither — yet 'tis well. — bliss !
That I am safe in thy protecting arms ;
They would have ta'en me to the Princess Mother-
Sooner to death !
Isabella. My daughter, calm thy fears ;

Messina's Princess —
Beatrice. Name her not again !

At that ill-omened sound the chill of death
Creeps through my trembling fi-nme.
Isabella. My child ! but hear me— *

Beat. . She has two sons by mortal hate dissevered,

Don Manuel and Don Caesar —
Isabella. 'Tis myself !

Behold thy mother !
Beatrice. Have I heard thee? Speak!

I sab. . I am thy mother, and Messina's Princess !
Beat. . Art thou Don Manuel's and Don Cfesar's mother?
IsAU. And thine ! They are thy brethren whom thou naui'et
Beat. . O gleam of horrid light I

Isabella What troubles thee "■:

Say, whence this .strar.ge emotion ?



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA. 4f>9

BEAiKiCE. Yes! 'twas they I

Now I remember all ; no dream deceived me.
They met — 'tis fearful truth ! Unhappy men I —
Where have ye hid him ?

She rushes towards tlie Chorus: they turn auay
from her. A funeral march is heard in the
distance
Chorus. Horror! Horror!

Isabella. Hid !

Speak — who is hid ? and what is true ? Ye stand
In silent dull amaze — as tlio' ye fathomed
Her words of mysteiy I — In your faltering tones —
Your brows — I read of horrors yet unknown.
That would refrain my tongue ! What is it ? Tell me !
I will linow all ! Why fix ye on the door
That awe-struck gaze ? What moumful music sounds?

[The march is heard nearer
Chtrus (Bohemund).

It comes 1 it comes ! and all shall be declared
With temble voice. My Mistress ! steel tlfy heart
Be firm, and bear \Yith courage what awaits thee —
For more than woman's soul thy destined griefs
Demand.
Isabella. What comes ? and what awaits me ? Hark !

With fearful tones the death-wail smites mine ear —
It echoes thro' the house ! Where are my sons ?

[The first Semichorus brings in the body of Dos
Manuel on a bier, which is placed at the side
of the staye A black pall is spread over it



Isabella. Beateice, Diego.

Both Choruses.

First Chorus (Cajetan).

With Sorrow in his train,
From street to street the King of Terror glides ;

With stealthy foot, and slow,
lie creeps where'er the fleeting race

Of man abides !

K E 2



600 THE BKIDE OF MESSINA.

In turn at eveiy gate

Is heard the dreaded knock of Fate,

The message of unutterable woe I

Bekengak.
When, in the sere
And Autumn leaves decayed,
The mom-nful forest tells how quickly fade
The glories of the year !
When in the silent tomb opprest.

Frail man, with weight of days,
Sinks to his tranquil rest ;

Contented Nature but obeys
Her everlasting law, —
The general doom awakes no shuddering awe 1

But, mortals, oh ! prepare
For mightier ills : with ruthless hand.
Fell murder cuts the holy band —

The kindred tie : insatiate Death,
With unrelenting rage.
Bears to his bark the flower of blooming age !

Cajetan.
When clouds athwart the lowering sky

Are driven — when bursts with hollow moan

The thunder's peal — our trembling bosoms (-)wn
The might of awful Destiny !
Yet oft the lightning's glare
Darts sudden thro' the cloudless air : —

Then in thj^ short delusive day
Of bliss, oh ! dread the treacherous snare ;
Nor prize the fleeting goods and vain,

The flowers that bloom but to decay!
Nor wealth, nor joy, nor aught but pain.

Was e'er to mortal's lot secure : —

Our first best lesson — to endure !

Isab What shall I hear? What horrors Im'k beneath
Tills funeral pall ?

'^She steps towards the bier, but suddenly pauges,
and stands irresolute.

Some strange mysterious dread



THE BEIDE OF MESSINA. 501

Enthrals my sense. I would approach, and sudden
The icecold grasp of terror holds me back !

[To Beatrice, who has thrown herself between
her and the bier.
Whate'er it be, I will unveil —

[On raisincf the pall, she discovers the body of
Don Manuel.

Eternal Powers! It is mv son^
[She stands in mute horror. Beatrice ainks to
the ground with a shriek of anguish near the
bier.
Chorus. Unhappy mother ! 'tis thy son. Thy lips

Have uttered what my faltering tongue denied !
IsAB. . My soul ! My Manuel ! eternal grief !
And is it thus I see thee ? Thus thy life
Has bought thy sister from the spoiler's rage ?
Where was thy brother ? Could no arm be found
To shield thee ? — be curst the hand that dug
These gory wounds ! A curse on her that bore
The murderer of my son ! Ten thousand curses
On all their race !
Chorus. Wo! Wo!

Isabella. And is it tlius

Ye keep your word, ye Gods ? Is this your truth ?

Alas ! for him that trusts with honest heart

Your soothing wiles. Why have I hoped and trem

bled?
And this the issue of my prayers ! Attend,
Ye terror-stricken witnesses, that feed
Your gaze upon my anguish ; leana to know
How warning visions cheat, and boding seers
But mock our credulous hopes • — let none believe
The voice of Heaven !

When in my teeming womb
This daughter lay, her father, in a dream.
Saw from his nuptial couch two laurels grow,
And in the midst a Hly all in tlames.
That catching swift the boughs and knotted stems,
Burst forth with crackling rage, and o'er the houso
Spread in one mighty sea of lire. Perplexed
By this terrific dream, my husband sought
The counsels of the mystic art, and thus



602 THE BRIDE OF MESSIXA.

Pronounced the Sage — " If I a daughter bore,
The murderess of his sons, the destined spring
Of ruin to our house, the baleful child
Should see the light."

Chorus (Cajetan and Bohemund)

What hast thou said, my Mistress r
Wo! Wo!

Isabella. For this her ruthless father spoke

The dire behest of death. I rescued her.
The innocent, the doomed one : — from my arms
The babe was torn : to stay the curse of Heaven,
And save my sons, the mother gave her child ;
And now by robber hands her brother falls ; —
My child is guiltless ; — 0, she slew him not !

Cho7%is Wo! Wo!

IsAB. No trust the fabhng readers of the stars

Have e'er deserved ! Hear how another spoke
With comfort to my soul, and him I deemed
Inspired to voice the secrets of the skies !
" My daughter should imite in love the hearts
Of my dissevered sons :" — and thus their tales
Of curse and blessing on her head, proclaim
Each other's falsehood. No ! she ne'er has broui:'ht
A curse — the innocent ! nor time was given
The blessed promise to fulfil ! Their tongues
Were false alike — their boasted art is vain —
With trick of words they cheat our credulous ears.
Or are themselves deceived ! Nought ye may ku:>w
Of dark futurity, the sable streams
Of Hell the fountain of your hidden lore,
Or you bright spring of everlasting light !
First Cliorus (Cajetan).
Wo ! Wo ! thy tongue refrain !
Oh, pause, nor thus with impious rage

The might of Heaven profane ;
The holy oracles are wise —
Expect with awe thy coming destinies !

IsAB. My tongue shall speak as prompts my swelling heart ;
My griefs shall cry to Heaven ! Why do we lift
Our suppliant hands, and at the sacred shrines
Kneel to adore ? Good easy dupes ! What win we
From faith and pious awe ? — to touch with prayers



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA. 5U3

The tenants of yon azure realms on high,
Were hard as with an arrow's point to pierce
The silvery moon. Hid is the womb of Time,
Impregnable to mortal glance, and deaf
The adamantine walls of Heaven rebound
The voice of anguish : — 'tis one, whate'er
The flight of birds — the aspect of the stars !
The Book of Nature is a maze — a dream
The Sage's art, — and every sign a falsehood !

Second Chorus (Bohemund).
Wo ! Wo ! Ill-fated woman, stay

Thy maddening blasphemies ;

Thou but disown 'st, with purblind eyes,
The flaming Orb of day !
Confess the Gods, — they dwell on high-r-
They circle thee with awful majesty !

All the Knights.
Confess the Gods — they dwell on high —
They circle thee with awful majesty !

Beatrice.
Why hast thou saved thy daughter, and defied
The curse of Heaven, that marked me in thy womb
The child of woe ? Short-sighted mother ! — vain
Thy little arts, to cheat the doom declared
By the all-wise intei'preters, that knit
The far and near ; and, with prophetic ken,
See the late harvest spring in times unborn.
thou hast brought destniction on thy race,
Withholding from the avenging Gods their prey;
Threefold, with new embittered rage, they ask
The direful penalty ; no thanks thy boon
Of life deserves — the fatal gift was sorrow !

Second Chorus (Berengar) looking towards the doot with
signs of agitation.
Hark to the sound of dread !
The rattling brazen din I hear !
Of hell-born snakes the hissing tones are near I
Yee — 'tis the Furies' tread I



504 the bride of messixa

Cajetan

In crumbling rain -wide,
Fall, fall, thou roof, and sink thou tremblirg flooi

That hear'st the dread unearthly stride !
Ye sable damps arise !

Mount from the abyss in smoky spray,

And pall the brightness of the day !
Vanish, ye guardian Powers !
They come ! The avenging Deities !



Don C^sak, Isabella, Beatrice. Tlie Chorus

On the entrance of Don C^sar, the Chorus station themselves
before him imploringly. He remains standing alone in the
centre of the stage.

Beat. . Alas ! 'tis he —
Isabella [stepping to meet him).

My Caesar ! 0, my son !
And is it thus I meet thee ? Look ! Behold !
The crime of hand accurst ! —

[She leads him to the corse

First Chorus (Cajetan, Besengar).
Break forth once more
Ye wounds ! Flow, flow, in swarthy flood.
Thou streaming gore !
IsAB. , Shuddering with earnest gaze, and motionless.

Thou stand'st: — yes! there my hopes repose, and all
That earth has of thy brother ; in the bud
Nipp'd is your concord's tender flower, nor ever
With beauteous frait shall glad a mother's eyes.
Don C. Be comforted ; thy sons, •«ith honest heart.

To peace aspired, but Heaven's decree was blood!
IsAB • I know thou lovedst him well ; I saw between ye.
With joy, the bands of nature sweetly twined ;
Thou vvouldst have borne him in thy heart of beans
With rich atonement of long wasted years !
But see — fell Murder thwarts thy dear design.
And nought remains but vengeance !
Don C^sab. Come, mv mother



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA. 505

This is no place for thee. Oh, haste and leave
This sight of woe I [He endeavours to drag her auay

Isabella (throwing herself into his arms).

Thou livst ! I have a son !

Beat. . Alas ! my mother !

Don C^sar. On this faithful hosom

Weep out thy pains ; — nor lost thy son, — his love
Shall dwell immortal in thy Caesar's breast.

First Chorus (Cajetan, Berengar, Manfred).

Break forth, ye wounds ! —
Dumb wtnesses ! — the truth proclaim ;
Flow fast, thou gory stream !

Isabella [clasping the hands of Don C^sab and Beatrice).

My children !
Don CiESAR. Oh, 'tis ecstasy ! my mother,

To see her in thy anns ! — henceforth in love

A daughter — sister —
Isabella [interrupting him).

Thou hast kept thy word,

My son ; — to thee I owe the rescued one ;

Yes, thou hast sent her —
Don Oesar (in astonishment).

WTiom, my mother, sayst thoii,

That I have sent ?
IsABELi^. She stands before thine eyes —

Tliy sister.
Don Cesar. She ! My sister '?

Isabella, Ay, what other?

Don C. My sister!

IsABELLtV. Thou hast sent her to me !

Don CiESAR. Horror!

His sister, too!
Chorus. Woe ! woe !

Beatrice. Alas ! my mother !

IsAB. . Speak ! I urn all amaze !
Don C^sar. Be curst the day

When I was bom I
Isabella. Eternal Powers !

Don Cjcs^r. AccuTBt



506 THE BKIDE OF MESSINA.

The 'womb that bore me ; curst thy secret arts,
The spring of all this woe ; instant to crush thee,
Though the dread thunder swept — ne'er should this

arm
Refrain the bolts of death : — 1 slew my brother !
Hear it and tremble ! in her arms I found him —
She was my love, my chosen bride ; — and he —
My brother — in her arms ! Thou hast heard all !
If it be time — oh, if she be my sister —
And his ! — then I have done a deed that mocks
The power of sacrifice and prayers to ope
The gates of Mercy to my soul !

Chorus (Bohemund)

The tidings on thy heart dismayed

Have burst, and nought remains ; behold !
'Tis come, nor long delayed,

Whate'er the warning seers foretold :
They spoke the message from on high,
Their lips proclaimed resistless destiny!
The mortal shall the curse fulfil.
Who seeks to turn predestined ill

IsAB . The Gods have done their worst ; if they be tnie
Or false, "tis one — for nothing they can add
To this — the measure of their rage is full.
Why should I tremble that have nought to fear ?
My dai'ling son lies murdered, and the living
I call my son no more. Oh ! I have borne
And nourished at my breast a basilisk
That stung my best-loved child My daughter, haste
And leave this house of hoiTors — I devote it
To the avenging Fiends ! — In evil hour,
'Twas crime that brought me hither, and of crime
The victim I depart. Unwillingly
I came — in sorrow I have lived — despairing
I quit these halls ; on me, the innocent,
Descends this weight of woe ! Enough — 'tis shown
That Heaven is just, and oracles are true !

[Exit, folowed by DiKOO



THE BRTDE OF MESSINA 507

Beatrice, Don Cesar, The Chorus
Do^• Cji;sAR (detaining Beatrice).

My sister, wouldst thou leave me ? On this head
A mother's curse may fall — a brother's blood
Cry -nith accusing voice to Heaven — all Nature
Invoke eternal vengeance on my soul —
But thou — Oh ! curse me not — I cannot bear it !

[Beatrice pniuts n'lth averted eyes to the body
I have not slain thy lover ! 'twas thy brother.
And mine, that fell beneath my sword ; and near
As the departed one, the living owns
The ties of blood : remember, too, 'tis I
That most a sister's pity need — for pure
His spirit -svinged its flight, and I am guilty !

[Beatrice hursts into an agony of tears.
Weep I I -will blend my tears with thine — nay. more,
I will avenge thy brother ; but the lover —
Weep not for him — tliy passionate yearning tears
My inmost heart. Oh ! from the boundless depths
Of our affliction, let me gather this.
The last and only comfort — but to know
That we are dear alike. One lot fulfilled
Has made our rights and wretchedness the same ;
Entangled in one snare we fall together,
Three hapless victims of unpitying Fate,
And share the mournful privilege of tears.
But when I think that for the lover more
Than for the brother liursts thy sorrow's tide,
Then rage and envy mingle with my pain.
And Hope's last balm forsakes my withering soul! —
Nor joyful, as beseems, can I requite
This injured Shade : — yet after him content
To Mercy's throne my contrite spirit shall fly.
Sped by this hand — if dying I may know
That in one um our ashes shall repose,
With pious office of a sister's care.

[He throws his amis around her uith passionate
tenderness.
I loved thee, as I ne'er had loved before,
When thou wert strange; and that I bear the curse



5j8 the bride of MESSINA

Of brother's blood, 'tis but l<ecause 1 tovod tbee
With, measureless transport : love was all my guilt
But now thou art my sister, and I claim
Soft pity's tribute.

[He regards her tcith inquiring glances, and an

air of painful suspense — then turns away with

vehemence.

Xo ! in this dread presence
I cannot bear these tears — my courage flies,
And doubt distracts my soul. Go, weep in secret —
Leave me in error's maze — but never, never.
Behold me more : I will not look again
On thee, nor on thy mother. Oh ! how passion
Laid bare her secret heart ! She never loved me !
She moui-ned her best-loved son — that was her cry
Of grief — and nought was mine but show of fondness !
And thou art false as she ! make no disguise —
Recoil with horror from my sight — this form
Shall never shock thee more — begone for ever! [Eocit
[She stands irresolute in a tumult of conflicting

passions — then tears herself from the spot.

Chorus (Cajetan).

H • • • •

Happy the man — his lot I prize —

That far from pomps and turmoil vain,
Child-like on Nature's bosom lies

Amid the stillness of the plain.
My heart is sad in the princely hall,

When from the towering pride of state,
I see with headlong rain fell.

How swift ! the good and great !

And he — from Fortune's storms at rest -

Smiles, in the quiet haven laid,
Who, timely warned, has owned how lUtiSt

The refuge of the cloistered shade ;
To honour's race has bade farewell.

Its idle joys and empty shows ;
Insatiate \\ishes learned to quell,

And lulled in Wisdom's calm repose : —



I



i



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA.



509



No more shall Passion's maddening brood

Impel the busy scenes to try,
Nor on his peaceful cell intrude

The form of sad Humanity !
*Mid ciwvds and strife each mortal ill

Abides — the grisly train of woe
Shuns like the Pest the breezy hill,

To haunt the smoky marts below

Bebengar, Bohemdnd, and IManfred
On the mountains is freedom 1 the breath of decay

Never sullies the fresh flowing air ;

Nature is perfect wherever we stray;

'Tis man that deforms it with care

The tvliole Choi-m repeaU.

.On the mountains is freedom, &c , &c.



Don C^sar, the Chorus

Don Casab [viore collected).

I use the princely rights — 'tis the last time —
To give this body to the ground, and pay
Fit honours to the dead. So mark, my friends,
My bosom's firm resolve, and quick fulfil
Your lord's behest. Fresh in your memory lives
The mournful pomp, when to the tomb ye bore
So late my royal sire ; scarce in these halls
Are stilled the echoes of the funeral wail ; —
Another corse succeeds, and in the grave
Weighs down its fellow-dust — almost our torch,
"With borrowed lustre from the last, may pierce
The monumental gloom ; and on the stair,
Blend in one throng confused tw^o monrning trains.
Then in the sacred royal dome that guards
The ashes of my sire, prepare with speed
The fmieral rites ; unseen of mortal eye.
And noiseless be your task — let all be graced,
As then, with circumstance of kingly state.
BcHEM My Prince, it shall be quickly done ; for still



610 THE BRIDE OF MESSINA.

Upreared, the gorgeous Catafalque recalls
The dread solemuity : no hand disturbed
The edifice of Death.

Don C^sar. The yawning gi-ave

Amid the haunts of life ? ^no goodly sign
Was this : the rites fulfilled, why lingered yet
The trappings of the fimeral show ?

BoHEMUND. Your strife

With fresh embittered hate o'er all Messina
Woke Discord's maddening flames, and from the deed
Our cares withdrew — so desolate remained,
And closed the sanctuary,

Don C^sar. Make no delay ;

This very r.ight fulfil your task, for well
Beseems the midnight gloom I To-morrow's sun
Shall find this palace cleansed of every stain,
And light a happier race.

[Exit the Second Chorus, idth the body of Do^
Manuel

Cajetan. Shall I invite

The Brotherhood of monks, with rites ordained
By Holy Church of old, to celebrate
The ofiice of departed souls, and hymn
The buried one to everlasting rest ?

Doi^' C. Their strains above my tomb shall sound for ever
Amid the torches' blaze — no solemn rites
Beseem the day when gory murder scares
Heaven's pardoning grace.

Cajetan. 0, let not mid despair

Tempt thee to impious rash resolve. My Prince,
No mortal arm sliall e'er avenge this deed ;
And penance calms, with soft atoning power.
The wrath on high

Don C^sar. If for eternal justice

Earth has no minister, myself shall wield
The avenging sword ; though Heaven, with gracioiw

ear,
Inclines to sinners' prayers, with blood aloce
Atoned is murder's guilt.

Cajetam. To stem the tide



I



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA 511

Of dire misfortune, that with maddening rago
Bursts o'er jour house, were nobler than to pile
Accumulated woe

Don C^sar. The curse of old

Shall die with me ! Death self-imposed alone
Can break the chain of Fate.

Cajetan. Thou ow'&t thyself

A sovereign to this orphaned land, by thee
Robbed of its other lord !

Don C^sar. The avenging Go is

Demand their prey — some other Deity
May guard the living !

Cajetan. Wide as e'er the sun

In glory beams, the realm of Hope extends ;
But— Oh remember! — nothing may we gain
From Death !

DjN CiESAR. Remember thou thy vassal's duty;—

Remember, and be silent ! Leave to me
To follow, as I list, the Spirit of power
That leads me to the goal. No happy one
May look into my breast : — but if thy' Prince
Owns not a subject's homage, dread at least
The murderer ! — the accurst ! — and to the head
Of the unhappy — sacred to the Gods —
Give honours due The pangs that rend my soul —
What I have suffered— what I feel — have left
No place for earthly thoughts 1



Donna Isabella, Don C^sar, The Chorus

Isabella (enters uith hesitatinrj steps, and looks irresolutily
towards Don C^sar ; at last she approaches,
and addresses him uith collected tones).
I thought mine eyes should ne'er behold thee more ; —
Thus I had vowed despairing ! Oh, my son !
How quickly all a mother's stem resolves
Melt into air ! 'Twas but the cry of rage
That stilled Nature's pleading voice : but now
What tidings of mysterious import call me
Forth fr;m the desolate chambers of my sorrow ?



512 THE BRIDE OP MESSINA.

Shall 1 believe it ? Is it true ? — one day
Robs me of both my sons ?

Chorus.
Behold ! with -willmg steps and free,

Thy son prepares to tread
The paths of dai'k eternity —

The silent mansions of the dead.
My prayers are vain ; but thou, with jiower confest
Of nature's holiest passion, storm his breast!

IsAB. . I call the curses back — that in the frenzy
Of blind despair on thy beloved head
I poured. A mother may not curse the child
That from her nourishing breast drew life, and gave
Sweet recompense for all her travail past :
Heaven would not hear the impious vows ; they fed
With quick rebound, and heavy with my teai's,
Down from the flaming vault.

Live ! live ! my son
For I may rather bear to look on thee —
The murderer of one child — than weep for both !

Don C. Heedless and vain, my mother, are thy prayers
For me and for thyself ; — I have no place
Among the living : — if thine eyes may brook
The murderer's sight abhorred — I could not bear
The mute reproach of thy eternal sorrow.

IsAB. Sileut or loud, my son, reproach shall never

Disturb thy breast — ne'er in these halls shall sound
The voice of wailing, gently on my tears
My griefs shall flow away : — the sport alike
Of pitiless Fate, together we will mourn,
And veil the deed of blood.

Don CjEsar {with a faltering voice, and taking her hand)

Thus it shall be,
My mother — thus with sileut, gentle woe
Thy grief shall fade : but when one common tomb
The murderer and his victim closes round —
When o'er our dust one monumental stone



Online LibraryFriedrich SchillerThe works of Frederick Schiller, translated from the German (Volume 3) → online text (page 33 of 37)