Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.

The Bride of Messina, and On the Use of the Chorus in Tragedy online

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Produced by Tapio Riikonen and David Widger




By Frederich Schiller

Translated by A. Lodge



ISABELLA, Princess of Messina.
DON MANUEL | her Sons.
DIEGO, an ancient Servant.
THE CHORUS, consisting of the Followers of the two Princes.


A spacious hall, supported on columns, with entrances on both sides;
at the back of the stage a large folding-door leading to a chapel.


Forth from my silent chamber's deep recesses,
Gray Fathers of the State, unwillingly
I come; and, shrinking from your gaze, uplift
The veil that shades my widowed brows: the light
And glory of my days is fled forever!
And best in solitude and kindred gloom
To hide these sable weeds, this grief-worn frame,
Beseems the mourner's heart. A mighty voice
Inexorable - duty's stern command,
Calls me to light again.
Not twice the moon
Has filled her orb since to the tomb ye bore
My princely spouse, your city's lord, whose arm
Against a world of envious foes around
Hurled fierce defiance! Still his spirit lives
In his heroic sons, their country's pride:
Ye marked how sweetly from their childhood's bloom
They grew in joyous promise to the years
Of manhood's strength; yet in their secret hearts,
From some mysterious root accursed, upsprung
Unmitigable, deadly hate, that spurned
All kindred ties, all youthful, fond affections,
Still ripening with their thoughtful age; not mine
The sweet accord of family bliss; though each
Awoke a mother's rapture; each alike
Smiled at my nourishing breast! for me alone
Yet lives one mutual thought, of children's love;
In these tempestuous souls discovered else
By mortal strife and thirst of fierce revenge.

While yet their father reigned, his stern control
Tamed their hot spirits, and with iron yoke
To awful justice bowed their stubborn will:
Obedient to his voice, to outward seeming
They calmed their wrathful mood, nor in array
Ere met, of hostile arms; yet unappeased
Sat brooding malice in their bosoms' depths;
They little reek of hidden springs whose power
Can quell the torrent's fury: scarce their sire
In death had closed his eyes, when, as the spark
That long in smouldering embers sullen lay,
Shoots forth a towering flame; so unconfined
Burst the wild storm of brothers' hate triumphant
O'er nature's holiest bands. Ye saw, my friends,
Your country's bleeding wounds, when princely strife
Woke discord's maddening fires, and ranged her sons
In mutual deadly conflict; all around
Was heard the clash of arms, the din of carnage,
And e'en these halls were stained with kindred gore.

Torn was the state with civil rage, this heart
With pangs that mothers feel; alas, unmindful
Of aught but public woes, and pitiless
You sought my widow's chamber - there with taunts
And fierce reproaches for your country's ills
From that polluted spring of brother's hate
Derived, invoked a parent's warning voice,
And threatening told of people's discontent
And princes' crimes! "Ill-fated land! now wasted
By thy unnatural sons, ere long the prey
Of foeman's sword! Oh, haste," you cried, "and end
This strife! bring peace again, or soon Messina
Shall bow to other lords." Your stern decree
Prevailed; this heart, with all a mother's anguish
O'erlabored, owned the weight of public cares.
I flew, and at my children's feet, distracted,
A suppliant lay; till to my prayers and tears
The voice of nature answered in their breasts!

Here in the palace of their sires, unarmed,
In peaceful guise Messina shall behold
The long inveterate foes; this is the day!
E'en now I wait the messenger that brings
The tidings of my sons' approach: be ready
To give your princes joyful welcome home
With reverence such as vassals may beseem.
Bethink ye to fulfil your subject duties,
And leave to better wisdom weightier cares.
Dire was their strife to them, and to the State
Fruitful of ills; yet, in this happy bond
Of peace united, know that they are mighty
To stand against a world in arms, nor less
Enforce their sovereign will against yourselves.

[The ELDERS retire in silence; she beckons to
an old attendant, who remains.


Honored mistress!

Old faithful servant, then true heart, cone near me;
Sharer of all a mother's woes, be thine
The sweet communion of her joys: my treasure
Shrined in thy heart, my dear and holy secret
Shall pierce the envious veil, and shine triumphant
To cheerful day; too long by harsh decrees,
Silent and overpowered, affection yet
Shall utterance find in Nature's tones of rapture!
And this imprisoned heart leap to the embrace
Of all it holds most dear, returned to glad
My desolate halls;
So bend thy aged steps
To the old cloistered sanctuary that guards
The darling of my soul, whose innocence
To thy true love (sweet pledge of happier days)!
Trusting I gave, and asked from fortune's storm
A resting place and shrine. Oh, in this hour
Of bliss; the dear reward of all thy cares.
Give to my longing arms my child again!

[Trumpets are heard in the distance.

Haste! be thy footsteps winged with joy - I hear
The trumpet's blast, that tells in warlike accents
My sons are near:

[Exit DIEGO. Music is heard in an opposite direction,
and becomes gradually louder.

Messina is awake!
Hark! how the stream of tongues hoarse murmuring
Rolls on the breeze, - 'tis they! my mother's heart
Feels their approach, and beats with mighty throes
Responsive to the loud, resounding march!
They come! they come! my children! oh, my children!


The CHORUS enters.

(It consists of two semi-choruses which enter at the same time
from opposite sides, and after marching round the stage range
themselves in rows, each on the side by which it entered. One
semi-chorus consists of young knights, the other of older ones,
each has its peculiar costume and ensigns. When the two choruses
stand opposite to each other, the march ceases, and the two leaders
speak.) [The first chorus consists of Cajetan, Berengar, Manfred,
Tristan, and eight followers of Don Manuel. The second of Bohemund,
Roger, Hippolyte, and nine others of the party of Don Caesar.

First Chorus (CAJETAN).

I greet ye, glittering halls
Of olden time
Cradle of kings! Hail! lordly roof,
In pillared majesty sublime!

Sheathed be the sword!
In chains before the portal lies
The fiend with tresses snake-entwined,
Fell Discord! Gently treat the inviolate floor!
Peace to this royal dome!
Thus by the Furies' brood we swore,
And all the dark, avenging Deities!

Second Chorus (BOHEMUND).

I rage! I burn! and scarce refrain
To lift the glittering steel on high,
For, lo! the Gorgon-visaged train
Of the detested foeman nigh:
Shall I my swelling heart control?
To parley deign - or still in mortal strife
The tumult of my soul?
Dire sister, guardian of the spot, to thee
Awe-struck I bend the knee,
Nor dare with arms profane thy deep tranquillity!

First Chorus (CAJETAN).

Welcome the peaceful strain!
Together we adore the guardian power
Of these august abodes!
Sacred the hour
To kindred brotherly ties
And reverend, holy sympathies; -
Our hearts the genial charm shall own,
And melt awhile at friendship's soothing tone: -
But when in yonder plain
We meet - then peace away!
Come gleaming arms, and battle's deadly fray!

The whole Chorus.

But when in yonder plain
We meet - then peace away!
Come gleaming arms, and battle's deadly fray!

First Chorus (BERENGAR).

I hate thee not - nor call thee foe,
My brother! this our native earth,
The land that gave our fathers birth: -
Of chief's behest the slave decreed,
The vassal draws the sword at need,
For chieftain's rage we strike the blow,
For stranger lords our kindred blood must flow.

Second Chorus (BOHEMUND).

Hate fires their souls - we ask not why; -
At honor's call to fight and die,
Boast of the true and brave!
Unworthy of a soldier's name
Who burns not for his chieftain's fame!

The whole Chorus.

Unworthy of a soldier's name
Who burns not for his chieftain's fame!

One of the Chorus (BERENGAR).

Thus spoke within my bosom's core
The thought - as hitherward I strayed;
And pensive 'mid the waving store,
I mused, of autumn's yellow glade: -
These gifts of nature's bounteous reign, -
The teeming earth, and golden grain,
Yon elms, among whose leaves entwine
The tendrils of the clustering vine; -
Gay children of our sunny clime, -
Region of spring's eternal prime!
Each charm should woo to love and joy,
No cares the dream of bliss annoy,
And pleasure through life's summer day
Speed every laughing hour away.
We rage in blood, - oh, dire disgrace!
For this usurping, alien race;
From some far distant land they came,
Beyond the sun's departing flame.
And owned upon our friendly shore
The welcome of our sires of yore.
Alas! their sons in thraldom pine,
The vassals of this stranger line.

A second (MANFRED).

Yes! pleased, on our land, from his azure way,
The sun ever smiles with unclouded ray.
But never, fair isle, shall thy sons repose
'Mid the sweets which the faithless waves enclose.
On their bosom they wafted the corsair bold,
With his dreaded barks to our coast of old.
For thee was thy dower of beauty vain,
'Twas the treasure that lured the spoiler's train.
Oh, ne'er from these smiling vales shall rise
A sword for our vanquished liberties;
'Tis not where the laughing Ceres reigns,
And the jocund lord of the flowery plains: -
Where the iron lies hid in the mountain cave,
Is the cradle of empire - the home of the brave!

[The folding-doors at the back of the stage are thrown open.
DONNA ISABELLA appears between her sons, DON MANUEL and DON CAESAR.

Both Choruses (CAJETAN).

Lift high the notes of praise!
Behold! where lies the awakening sun,
She comes, and from her queenly brow
Shoots glad, inspiring rays.
Mistress, we bend to thee!

First Chorus.

Fair is the moon amid the starry choir
That twinkle o'er the sky,
Shining in silvery, mild tranquillity; -
The mother with her sons more fair!
See! blooming at her side,
She leads the royal, youthful pair;
With gentle grace, and soft, maternal pride,
Attempering sweet their manly fire.

Second Chorus (BERENGAR).

From this fair stem a beauteous tree
With ever-springing boughs shall smile,
And with immortal verdure shade our isle;
Mother of heroes, joy to thee!
Triumphant as the sun thy kingly race
Shall spread from clime to clime,
And give a deathless name to rolling time!

ISABELLA (comes forward with her SONS).
Look down! benignant Queen of Heaven, and still,
This proud tumultuous heart, that in my breast
Swells with a mother's tide of ecstasy,
As blazoned in these noble youths, my image
More perfect shows; - Oh, blissful hour! the first
That comprehends the fulness of my joy,
When long-constrained affection dares to pour
In unison of transport from my heart,
Unchecked, a parent's undivided love:
Oh! it was ever one - my sons were twain.
Say - shall I revel in the dreams of bliss,
And give my soul to Nature's dear emotions?
Is this warm pressure of thy brother's hand
A dagger in thy breast?
Or when my eyes
Feed on that brow with love's enraptured gaze,
Is it a wrong to thee?
Trembling, I pause,
Lest e'en affection's breath should wake the fires
Of slumbering hate.
[After regarding both with inquiring looks
Speak! In your secret hearts
What purpose dwells? Is it the ancient feud
Unreconciled, that in your father's halls
A moment stilled; beyond the castle gates,
Where sits infuriate war, and champs the bit -
Shall rage anew in mortal, bloody conflict?

Chorus (BOHEMUND).

Concord or strife - the fate's decree
Is bosomed yet in dark futurity!
What comes, we little heed to know,
Prepared for aught the hour may show!

ISABELLA (looking round).
What mean these arms? this warlike, dread array,
That in the palace of your sires portends
Some fearful issue? needs a mother's heart
Outpoured, this rugged witness of her joys?
Say, in these folding arms shall treason hide
The deadly snare? Oh, these rude, pitiless men,
The ministers of your wrath! - trust not the show
Of seeming friendship; treachery in their breasts
Lurks to betray, and long-dissembled hate.
Ye are a race of other lands; your sires
Profaned their soil; and ne'er the invader's yoke
Was easy - never in the vassal's heart
Languished the hope of sweet revenge; - our sway
Not rooted in a people's love, but owns
Allegiance from their fears; with secret joy -
For conquest's ruthless sword, and thraldom's chains
From age to age, they wait the atoning hour
Of princes' downfall; - thus their bards awake
The patriot strain, and thus from sire to son
Rehearsed, the old traditionary tale
Beguiles the winter's night. False is the world,
My sons, and light are all the specious ties
By fancy twined: friendship - deceitful name!
Its gaudy flowers but deck our summer fortune,
To wither at the first rude breath of autumn!
So happy to whom heaven has given a brother;
The friend by nature signed - the true and steadfast!
Nature alone is honest - nature only -
When all we trusted strews the wintry shore -
On her eternal anchor lies at rest,
Nor heeds the tempest's rage.

My mother!

Hear me

ISABELLA (taking their hands).
Be noble, and forget the fancied wrongs
Of boyhood's age: more godlike is forgiveness
Than victory, and in your father's grave
Should sleep the ancient hate: - Oh, give your days
Renewed henceforth to peace and holy love!

[She recedes one or two steps, as if to give them space
to approach each other. Both fix their eyes on the ground
without regarding one another.

ISABELLA (after awaiting for some time, with suppressed emotion,
a demonstration on the part of her sons).
I can no more; my prayers - my tears are vain: -
'Tis well! obey the demon in your hearts!
Fulfil your dread intent, and stain with blood
The holy altars of your household gods; -
These halls that gave you birth, the stage where murder
Shall hold his festival of mutual carnage
Beneath a mother's eye! - then, foot to foot,
Close, like the Theban pair, with maddening gripe,
And fold each other in a last embrace!
Each press with vengeful thrust the dagger home,
And "Victory!" be your shriek of death: - nor then
Shall discord rest appeased; the very flame
That lights your funeral pyre shall tower dissevered
In ruddy columns to the skies, and tell
With horrid image - "thus they lived and died!"

[She goes away; the BROTHERS stand as before.

Chorus (CAJETAN).

How have her words with soft control
Resistless calmed the tempest of my soul!
No guilt of kindred blood be mine!
Thus with uplifted hands I prey;
Think, brothers, on the awful day,
And tremble at the wrath divine!

DON CAESAR (without taking his eyes from the ground).
Thou art my elder - speak - without dishonor
I yield to thee.

One gracious word, an instant,
My tongue is rival in the strife of love!

I am the guiltier - weaker - -

Say not so!
Who doubts thy noble heart, knows thee not well;
The words were prouder, if thy soul were mean.

It burns indignant at the thought of wrong -
But thou - methinks - in passion's fiercest mood,
'Twas aught but scorn that harbored in thy breast.

Oh! had I known thy spirit thus to peace
Inclined, what thousand griefs had never torn
A mother's heart!

I find thee just and true:
Men spoke thee proud of soul.

The curse of greatness!
Ears ever open to the babbler's tale.

Thou art too proud to meanness - I to falsehood!

We are deceived, betrayed!

The sport of frenzy!
And said my mother true, false is the world?

Believe her, false as air.

Give me thy hand!

And thine be ever next my heart!

[They stand clasping each other's hands,
and regard each other in silence.

I gaze
Upon thy brow, and still behold my mother
In some dear lineament.

Her image looks
From thine, and wondrous in my bosom wakes
Affection's springs.

And is it thou? - that smile
Benignant on thy face? - thy lips that charm
With gracious sounds of love and dear forgiveness?

Is this my brother, this the hated foe?
His mien all gentleness and truth, his voice,
Whose soft prevailing accents breathe of friendship!

[After a pause.

Shall aught divide us?

We are one forever!

[They rush into each other's arms.

First CHORUS (to the Second).

Why stand we thus, and coldly gaze,
While Nature's holy transports burn?
No dear embrace of happier days
The pledge - that discord never shall return!
Brothers are they by kindred band;
We own the ties of home and native land.

[Both CHORUSES embrace.


Rejoice, my prince, thy messenger returns
And mark that beaming smile! the harbinger
Of happy tidings.

Health to me, and health
To this delivered state! Oh sight of bliss,
That lights mine eyes with rapture! I behold
Their hands in sweet accord entwined; the sons
Of my departed lord, the princely pair
Dissevered late by conflict's hottest rage.

Yes, from the flames of hate, a new-born Phoenix,
Our love aspires!

I bring another joy;
My staff is green with flourishing shoots.

DON CAESAR (taking him aside).
Oh, tell me
Thy gladsome message.

All is happiness
On this auspicious day; long sought, the lost one
Is found.

Discovered! Oh, where is she? Speak!

Within Messina's walls she lies concealed.

DON MANUEL (turning to the First SEMI-CHORUS).
A ruddy glow mounts in my brother's cheek,
And pleasure dances in his sparkling eye;
Whate'er the spring, with sympathy of love
My inmost heart partakes his joy.

Come, lead me;
Farewell, Don Manuel; to meet again
Enfolded in a mother's arms! I fly
To cares of utmost need.

[He is about to depart.

Make no delay;
And happiness attend thee!

DON CAESAR (after a pause of reflection, he returns).
How thy looks
Awake my soul to transport! Yes, my brother,
We shall be friends indeed! This hour is bright
With glad presage of ever-springing love,
That in the enlivening beam shall flourish fair,
Sweet recompense of wasted years!

The blossom
Betokens goodly fruit.

I tear myself
Reluctant from thy arms, but think not less
If thus I break this festal hour - my heart
Thrills with a holy joy.

DON MANUEL (with manifest absence of mind).
Obey the moment!
Our lives belong to love.

What calls me hence - -

Enough! thou leav'st thy heart.

No envious secret
Shall part us long; soon the last darkening fold
Shall vanish from my breast.

[Turning to the CHORUS.

Attend! Forever
Stilled is our strife; he is my deadliest foe,
Detested as the gates of hell, who dares
To blow the fires of discord; none may hope
To win my love, that with malicious tales
Encroach upon a brother's ear, and point
With busy zeal of false, officious friendship.
The dart of some rash, angry word, escaped
From passion's heat; it wounds not from the lips,
But, swallowed by suspicion's greedy ear,
Like a rank, poisonous weed, embittered creeps,
And hangs about her with a thousand shoots,
Perplexing nature's ties.

[He embraces his brother again, and goes away
accompanied by the Second CHORUS.

Chorus (CAJETAN).
Wondering, my prince,
I gaze, for in thy looks some mystery
Strange-seeming shows: scarce with abstracted mien
And cold thou answered'st, when with earnest heart
Thy brother poured the strain of dear affection.
As in a dream thou stand'st, and lost in thought,
As though - dissevered from its earthly frame -
Thy spirit roved afar. Not thine the breast
That deaf to nature's voice, ne'er owned the throbs
Of kindred love: - nay more - like one entranced
In bliss, thou look'st around, and smiles of rapture
Play on thy cheek.

How shall my lips declare
The transports of my swelling heart? My brother
Revels in glad surprise, and from his breast
Instinct with strange new-felt emotions, pours
The tide of joy; but mine - no hate came with me,
Forgot the very spring of mutual strife!
High o'er this earthly sphere, on rapture's wings,
My spirit floats; and in the azure sea,
Above - beneath - no track of envious night
Disturbs the deep serene! I view these halls,
And picture to my thoughts the timid joy
Of my sweet bride, as through the palace gates,
In pride of queenly state, I lead her home.
She loved alone the loving one, the stranger,
And little deems that on her beauteous brow
Messina's prince shall 'twine the nuptial wreath.
How sweet, with unexpected pomp of greatness,
To glad the darling of my soul! too long
I brook this dull delay of crowning bliss!
Her beauty's self, that asks no borrowed charm,
Shall shine refulgent, like the diamond's blaze
That wins new lustre from the circling gold!

Chorus (CAJETAN).
Long have I marked thee, prince, with curious eye,
Foreboding of some mystery deep enshrined
Within thy laboring breast. This day, impatient,
Thy lips have burst the seal; and unconstrained
Confess a lover's joy; - the gladdening chase,
The Olympian coursers, and the falcon's flight
Can charm no more: - soon as the sun declines
Beneath the ruddy west, thou hiest thee quick
To some sequestered path, of mortal eye
Unseen - not one of all our faithful train
Companion of thy solitary way.
Say, why so long concealed the blissful flame?
Stranger to fear - ill-brooked thy princely heart
One thought unuttered.

Ever on the wing
Is mortal joy; - with silence best we guard
The fickle good; - but now, so near the goal
Of all my cherished hopes, I dare to speak.
To-morrow's sun shall see her mine! no power
Of hell can make us twain! With timid stealth
No longer will I creep at dusky eve,
To taste the golden fruits of Cupid's tree,
And snatch a fearful, fleeting bliss: to-day
With bright to-morrow shall be one! So smooth
As runs the limpid brook, or silvery sand
That marks the flight of time, our lives shall flow
In continuity of joy!

Chorus (CAJETAN).
Our hearts, my prince, with silent vows have blessed
Thy happy love; and now from every tongue,
For her - the royal, beauteous bride - should sound
The glad acclaim; so tell what nook unseen,
What deep umbrageous solitude, enshrines
The charmer of thy heart? With magic spells
Almost I deem she mocks our gaze, for oft
In eager chase we scour each rustic path
And forest dell; yet not a trace betrayed
The lover's haunts, ne'er were the footsteps marked
Of this mysterious fair.

The spell is broke!
And all shall be revealed: now list my tale: -
'Tis five months flown, - my father yet controlled
The land, and bowed our necks with iron sway;
Little I knew but the wild joys of arms,
And mimic warfare of the chase; -
One day, -
Long had we tracked the boar with zealous toil
On yonder woody ridge: - it chanced, pursuing
A snow-white hind, far from your train I roved
Amid the forest maze; - the timid beast,

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