Kuno Francke.

The German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) online

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Her mouth is proud as it is sweet. 0, fate
Is trying to outwit me — but I scorn it —
If thou couldst see her, old man —

Shalnass. I will see her !

Tell her the man of years, upon whose gold
Her husband young so much depends — now

The good old man, say, the decrepit gray-
beard —
Desired to see her. Tell her men of years
Are childish, why should this one not be so ?
But still a call is little. Tell her this :

Vol. XX— 17



It is almost a grave that she would visit,
A grave just barely breathing. Will you do't?
Debtor. I've heard it said that you adore your gold
Like something sacred, and that next to that
You love the countenance of anguished men.
And looks that mirror forth the spirit's pain.
. But you are old, have sons, and so I think
These evil sayings false. And therefore I
Will tell her this, and if perchance she asks me,
'' What thinkest thou? " then I will say, '' My

Peculiar, but not bad." — Farewell, but pray

When your desire is granted, let not mine,
Shalnassar, wait long for its due fulfilment.

[The Debtor and the Armenian slave exeunt
down the stairs.']
Shalnass. (alone, rises, stretches, seems much taller now).
A honeyed fool is that, a sweet-voiced babbler,
' ' Hear, aged man ! " — ' ' I beg you, aged man ! ' '
I've heard men say his wife is beautiful,
And has such fiery color in her hair
That fingers tumbling it feel heat and billows
At once. If she comes not, then she shall learn
To sleep on naked straw. . . .

. . . 'Twere time to sleep.
They say that convalescents need much sleep.
But if I must be deaf, then I '11 be deaf
To wisdom such as this. Sleep is naught other
Than early death. I would enjoy my nights
Together with the days still left to me.
I will be generous, whenas I please :
To Glilistane I Avill give more this evening
Than she could dream. And this shall be my

To have her change her room and take a chamber
Both larger and near mine. If she will do %



Her bath shall be the juice of violets, roses,
Or pinks, and gold and amber she shall quaff.
Until the roof-beams reel in dizzy madness.
[He claps his hands, a slave comes. Exit
left, follotued by slave. Gulistane comes
up the stairs, an old slave-ivoman behind
her. Ganem bends forward from a niche
above, spies Gxilistane and comes down
the stairs.']
Ganem {takes her by the hand).

My dream, whence comest thou f So long I lay
To wait for thee.

[The old slave-woman mounts the stairs.']
I? From my bath I come
And go now to my chamber.

How thou shinest
From bathing.
It V was flowing, glowing silver










Of moonlight.

Were I one of yonder trees,
I would cast off my foliage with a quiver.
And leap to thee ! were I master here !
Aye, if thou wert ! Thy father is quite well.
He bade me dine alone with him this evening.
Accursed skill, that roused this blood again.
Which was already half coagulated.
I saw him speaking with thee just this morning.
What was it?
I have told thee.

Speak, was that all ? Thou liest, there was more !
He asked me —

What? But hush, the walls have ears.

[She whispers.]
Beloved !

Wliile thou art speaking, ripes in me a plan,
Most wonderful, note well, and based on this :
He now is but the shadow of himself,















And though he still stands threatening there,

his feet
Are clay. His wrath is thunder without light-
And — mark me well — all this his lustfulness
Is naught but senile braggadocio.

What dost thou base on this?

The greatest hope.
\_He whispers.']
But such a poison —

Suppose there should be one of such a nature,
To end the life, but leave the corpse unmarred —
This poison none will sell thee.

Aye, no man,
A woman will —

For what reward?

For this,
That, thinking I am wed, she also thinks
To call me husband — after.

Who'll believe it? . . .
There long has been a woman who believes it.
Thou liest: saidst thou not the plan was new?
And now thou sayst there long has been a

There has : I meshed her in this web of lies
Before I saw the goal. Today 'tis clear.
Who is't?

The limping daughter of a poor
Old pastrycook, who lives in the last alley
Down in the sailors ' quarter.

And her name?
What 's in a name ? Her eyes, with doglike fear,
Clung to me when I passed, one of those faces
That lure me, since so greedily they drink
In lies, and weave out of themselves such fancies.
And so I oft would stand and talk to her.

<^- -'yj-

'J j/ixj

WO-AVimA tailtkl^ ^>) yvnii)\iu'y wr\ \


From the Painting hy Walter LeistiJcow







GiJLISTANE. And who gives her the poison?
Ganem. ^^y, her father,

By keeping it where she can steal it from him.
What? He a pastry-maker?

But quite skilful,
And very poor — and yet not to be purchased
By us at any price : he is of those
Who secretly reject our holy books,
And eat no food on which our shadow falls.
I'll visit her, while thou art eating dinner
With him.

So each will have his part to play.
But mine shall end all further repetition
Of thine. Soon I return. Make some excuse
To leave him. If I found thee with him —
GiJLISTANE {puts her hand over his mouth). Hush!

Ganem {overcome).

How cool thy fingers are, and yet, how burns
Thy blood within them, sorceress ! Thou boldest
Me captive in the deepest cell, and feedest
Me e 'er at midnight with thy kennels ' leavings ;
Thou scourgest me, and in the dust I grovel.
GiJLISTANE. E'en so, and thou?
Ganem {crushed by her look). And I?

[Loo/c.s doiun at his feet.}
My name is Ganem,
Ganem, the slave of love.

[He sinks before her, clasping her feet.]

Go quickly, go !
I hear thy father, go ! I bid thee go !
I will not have them find us here together.
I have a silly smile, quite meaningless,
'Twould serve me well to look him in the face.
[GiJLISTANE goes up the stairs. The Arme-
nian slave comes from below. Ganem
turns to go out on the right.l
Slave. Was Giilistane with thee?














[Shrugs his shoulders.']

But thou wast speaking.
Aye, with my hound.

Then she is doubtless here.
[He goes up the stairs. The stage remains
empty awhile, then Shalnassar enters
from the left with three slaves hearing ves-
sels and ornaments. He has everything
set down by the left wall, ivhere there is
a table with low seats.]
Put this down here, this here. Now ye may
[He goes to the lowest step of the stairway.]
Ah, convalescents, so they say, should seek
The sun. Well, here I stand,

[GiJLISTANE comes down and he leads her to
the gifts.]

And know no more
Of sickness, than that amber is its work,
And pearls, when it resides in trees or oysters.
My word, they both are here. And here are

Quite lifelike, woven into gleaming silk.
If it be worth thy while to look at them.
This is too much.

Aye, for a pigeon-house,
But scarcely for a chamber large enough
To hold such rose-perfume as yonder vases
Exhale, and yet not fill the air to stifling.
see, what wondrous vases !

This is onyx.
And that one Chrysophrase, beneath thy notice.
Impenetrable they are called, but odors
Can pass their walls as they were rotten wood.
How thank thee ?

[Shalnassar does not tinder stand.]
How, I say, am I to thank thee!




Shalnass. By squandering all this :

This desk of sandal-wood and inlaid pearl
Use stead of withered twigs on chilly nights
To warm thy bath: watch how the flames will

With sweet perfume!

[A dog is heard to give tongue, then several.']
What sheer and fragile lace! [Lifts it up.]
Dead, lifeless stuff. I'll bring to thee a dwarf.
Hath twenty tongues of beasts and men within

Instead of apes and parrots I will give thee
Most curious men, abortions of the trees
That marry with the air. They sing by night.
Thou shalt have kisses.

[The baying of the dogs grows stronger,
seems nearer.]

Say, do young lovers
Give better gifts?

What wretched blunderers
In this great art, but what a master thou !

[The Armenian slave coines, plucks Shal-
NASSAR by the sleeve, and tvhispers.]
A maiden sayst thou ? Doubtless 'tis a woman,
But young? I do not understand.
What maiden meanest thou. Beloved?
None, none. I merely bade this slave ' ' remain, ' '
And thou misheardest. {To the slave.) Hither

come, speak softly.
She is half dead with fear, for some high-
Pursued her here, and then the dogs attacked her
And pulled her down. All out of breath she

asked me.
Is this Shalnassar's house, the carpet-dealer! "
Shalnass. It is the wife of that sweet fool. He sent her."
Be still. (He goes to Gulistane, who is just

putting a string of pearls about her throat.)






















lovely! they're not worth their place.

[He goes back to the slave.']
She also speaks of Gaiiem.

Of my son?
All one. Say, is she fair?

I thought so.

. What!
But all deformed with fear.

Some business?
{to her). None,

But serving thee.

IHe puts out his hand to close the clasp at
her neck, but fails.]

{puts his hand to his eye). A little vein
Burst in my eye. I must behold thee dance,
To make the blood recede.

A strange idea.
Come, for my sake.

Why, then I must put up
My hair.

Then put it up. I cannot live
While thou delayest.

[GiJLISTANE goes up the stairs.]
{To the slave.)

Lead her here to me.
Say only this : the one she seeks awaits her.
Mark that: the one she seeks; no more.

[He walks up and down; exit slave.]
No being is so simple ; no, I cannot
Believe there are such fools. Highwaymen,

bosh !
He sent her here, and all that contradicts it
Is simply lies.

1 little thought that she would come tonight,
But gold draws all this out of nothingness.
I'll keep her if she pleases me : her husband
Shall never see her face again. With fetters
Of linked gold I'll deck her pretty ankles.



I '11 keep them both and make them both so tame
That they will swing like parrots in one ring.
[The slave leads Sobeide up the stairs. She
is agitated, her eyes staring, her hair dis-
heveled, the siloings of pearls torn off. She
no longer ivears her veil.']
Shalnass. that my son might die for very wrath !

Well, well, and how she trembles and dis-
sembles. [He motions the slave out.]
Sobeide {looks at him fearfully).
Art thou Shalnassarf
Shalnass. Yes. And has thy husband —
Sobeide. My husband? Knowst thou that? Why, did
I not
Just now . . . was it not just this very

night? . . .
What? ... or dost thou surmise?

Coquettish chatter
May do for youthful apes. But I am old,
And know the power that I have over you.
That power thou hast, but thou wilt not em-
ploy it
To do me hurt.
No, by the eternal light !
But I am not a maker of sweet sayings,
Nor fond of talk.

Deliberate flattery I put behind me:
The mouth that sucks the sweetness of the fruit
Is mute. And this is chiefly autumn's trade.
Yea, though the spring may breathe a sweeter

Old autumn laughs at him. — Nay, look not so
Upon my hand. Because 'tis full of veins,
Rank weeds, in which the juice of life dries up. —
0, it will seize thee yet and it can hold thee !
What, pain so soon? I'll soothe it with a string
Of pearls, come, come !

[Tries to draw her away."]





SoBEiDE {frees herself).

Have mercy, thou, my poor enfeebled brain
Is all deranged. Is it to me thou speakest?
Speak, thou art surely drunken or wouldst

mock me.
Knowst thou then who I am? Oh yes, thou

My husband. Yes, this was my wedding-day!
Knowst thou it ? When I stood with him alone,
My husband, then it all came over me ;
I wept aloud, and when he asked me, then
I lifted up my voice against him, spoke
To him of Ganem, of thy son, and told him
The whole. I'll tell thee later how it was.
Just now I know not. Only this : the door
He opened for me, kindly, not in anger.
And said to me I was no more his wife.
And I might go where'er I would. — Then go
And fetch me Ganem ! Fetch him here for me !

Shalnass. {angrily grasps his heard).

Accursed deception! Speak, what devil let
thee in?

SoBEiDE. Dear sir, I am the only child of Bachtjar,
The jeweler.

Shalnass. {claps his hands, the slave comes).
Call Ganem.

SoBEiDE {involuntarily). Call him hither.

Shalnass. {to the slave).

Bring up the dinner. Is the dwarf prepared?

Slave. They're feeding him; for till his hunger's gone,

He is too vicious.

Shalnass. Good, I'll go and see it.

\^Exit with the slave to the left.']

SoBBiDE {alone).

Now I am here. Does fortune thus begin?
Yes, this has had to come, and all these colors
I know because I dreamed them, mingled thus.


We drink from goblets wliich a little child,
With eyes that sparkle as through garlands gay,
Holds out — but from the branches of a tree-top
Black drops drip down into the goblet's bowl
And mingle death and night with what we drink.

[She sits down on the bench.]
With whatsoe'er we do some night is mingled.
And e 'en our eye has something of its blackness.
The glitter in the fabrics of our looms
Is but the woof, the pattern, its true warp
Is night.

Aye, death is everywhere ; and with our glances
And with our words we cover him from sight,
And like the children, when in merry playing
They hide some toy, so we forget forthwith
That we are hiding death from our own glances.
Oh, if we e 'er have children, they must keep
From knowing this for many, many years.
Too soon I learned it. And the cruel pictures
Are evermore in me : they perch within me
Like turtle-doves in copses and come swarming
Upon the least alarai.

[She looks up.]
But now Ganem will come. Oh, if my heart
Would cease from holding all my blood com-
I'm wearied unto death. Oh, I could sleep.

[With forced liveliness.]
Ganem mil come, and then all will be well!
[She breathes the scent of oil of roses and
becomes aware of the precious objects.]
How all this is perfumed, and how it sparkles !

[With alarmed astonishment.]
And there! Woe's me, this is the house of

Deluded, foolish eyes, look here and here !

[She rouses her memory feverishly.]


And that old man was fain with strings of

To bind my arms and hands — why, they are

rich !
And ' * poor ' ' was every second w^ord he uttered.
He lied then, lied not once bnt many times !
I saw him smiling when he lied, I feel it.
It chokes me here!

[She tries to calm herself.]
Oh, if he lied — but there are certain things
That can constrain a spirit. And his father
I have done much for my old father's sake —
His father this? That chokes me more than

Inglorious heart, he comes, and something,

Will be revealed, all this I then shall grasp,
I then shall grasp —

\_She hears steps, looks about her wildly, then
cries in fear.'}

Come, leave me not alone!
[GiJLisTANE and an old serving-woman come
down the stairs and go to the presents by
the table.']
SoBEiDE (starting).

Ganem, is it not thou 1
GiJLisTANE (in an undertone). Why, she is mad.

[She lays one present after another on the
servant's arm^s.]
SoBEiDE {standing at some distance from her).

No, no, I am not mad. Oh, be not angry.
The dogs are after me! But first a man.
I'm almost dead with fear. He is my friend,
Will tell you who I am. Ye do not know
How terror can transform a human being.
I ask you, are not all of us in terror
Of even drunken men? This was a murd'rer.


I am not brave, but with a lie that sped

Into my wretched head I held him off

Awhile — then he came on, and I could feel

His hands. Take pity on me, be not angry !

Ye sit there at the table fair with candles,

And I disturb. But if ye are his friends.

Ask him to tell you all. And later on.

When we shall meet and ye shall know me

We both will laugh about it. But as yet


I could not laugh at it.
GuLisTANE {turning to her).

Who is thy friend, and who will tell us all?
SoBEmE {with innocent friendliness).

Why, Ganem.
GiJLisTANE. Oh, what business hast thou here?
SoBEiDE {steps closer, looks fixedly at her).

What, art thou not the widow

Of Kamkar, the ship-captain?
GiJLisTANE. And thou the daughter

Of Bachtjar, the gem-dealer?

[They regard each other attentively.']
SoBEiDE. It is long since

We saw each other.
GuLisTANE. What com'st thou here

To do?
SoBEroE. Then thou liv'st here? — I come to question


About a matter — on which much depends —

Both for my father —
GtJLisTANE. Hast not seen him lately?

Ganem, I mean.
SoBEmE. ^ay, 'tis almost a year.

Since Kamkar died, thy husband, 'tis four


I know the day he died. How long hast thou
Lived here?
GuLisTANE. They are my kin. What is't to thee,

How long? But then, what odds? Why then,
three years. [Sobeide is silent.]

GiJLiSTANE {to the slave).

Look to't that nothing fall. Hast thou the

{To Sobeide.)

For it may be, if one were left to lie

And Ganem found it, he would take the notion

To bed his cheek on it, because my foot

Had trodden it, and then whate 'er thou spokest,

He would be deaf to thine affair. Or if

He found the pin that 's fallen from my hair

And breathing still its perfume : then his senses

Would fasten on that trinket, and he never

Would know thy presence.

(To the slave.)

Pick it up for me.
Come, bend thy back.

[She pushes the slave. Sobeide hends quickly
and holds out the pin to the slave. Gulis-
TANE takes it out of her hand and thrusts
with it at Sobeide.]
Sobeide. Alas, why prickst thou me?
GiJLisTANE. That I may circumvent thee, little serpent.
Go, for thy face is such a silly void
That one can see what thou wouldst hide in it.
Go home again, I counsel thee. — Come thou
And carry all thou canst.

{To Sobeide.)

Mark thou my words :
What's mine I will preserve and keep from
thieves !

[She goes up the stairs with the slave.]



SoBEiDE {alone).

What's left for me? How can this turn to good,

That so begins? No, no, my destiny

Would try me. What should mean to him this

This is not love, it is but lust, a thing
That men find needful to their lives. He comes,

{In feverish haste.)
And he will cast this from him with a word
And laugh at me. Arise, my recollections.
For now I need you or shall never need you !
Woe, woe, that I must call you in this hour!
Will not one loving glance return to me?
One unambiguous word? Ah, words and

Deceitful woof of air. A heavy heart
Would cling to you, and ye are rent like

Away, fond recollection! My old life
Todav is cast behind me, and I stand
Upon a sphere that rolls I know not whither.

{With increasing agitation.)
Ganem will come to me, and his first word
Will rend the noose that tightens on my throat.
He comes, will take me in his arms — all

With fear and horror, stead of oils and per-
fumes, —
I'll say no word, I'll hang upon his neck
And drink the words he speaks. For his first

The very first will lull all fears to sleep . . .
He'll smile all doubt away . . . and put to

flight . . .
But if he fail? ... I will not think it, will

not ! [Ganem comes up the stairs.']



SoBEiDE {cries out).
Ganem !

[She runs to him, feels his hair, his face,
falls before him, presses her head against
him, at once laughing and weeping con-
I'm here, Oh take me, take me, hold me fast!
Be good to me, thou knowst not all as yet.
I cannot yet . . . How lookest thou upon me?
[She stands up again, steps hack, and looks
at him in fearful suspense.]
Ganem {stands motionless before her.)

SoBEiDE {in breathless haste).

I belong to thee, am thine, my Ganem!
Ask me not now how this has come to pass :
This is the centre of a labyrinth.
But now we stand here. Wilt thou not behold

He gave me freedom, he himself, my hus-
band . . .
Why does thy countenance show such a change ?
Ganem. No cause. Come hither, they may overhear

us . . .
SoBEiDE. I feel that there is something in me now

Displeases thee. Why dost thou keep it from
Ganem. What wouldst thou?

SoBEiDE. Nothing, if I may but please thee.

Ah, be indulgent. Tell me my shortcomings.
I will be so obedient. Was I bold?
Look thou, 'tis not my nature so; I feel
As if this night had gripped me with its fists
And flung me hither, aye, my spirit shudders
At all that I had power there to say.
And that I then had strength to walk this road.
Art sorry that I had it?




Ganem. Why this weeping?

SoBEiDE. Thou hast the power to change me so. I cannot

But laugh or weep, or blush or pale again

As thou wouldst have it.

[Ganem kisses her.']
SoBEiDE. When thou kissest me,

look not thus ! But no, I am thy slave.
Do as thou wilt. Here let me rest. I will
Be clay unto thy hands, and think no more.
And now thy brow is wrinkled?

Ganem. Aye, for soon

Thou must return. Thou smilest?
SoBEiDE. Should I not 1

1 know thou wouldst but try me.

Ganem. No, in earnest.

Thou art in error. Thinkest thou perhaps
That I can keep thee here? Say, has thy

Gone over land, that thou art not afraid?
SoBEiDE. I beg thee cease, I cannot laugh just now.
Ganem. No, seriously, when shall I come to thee?
SoBEiDE. To me, what for ? Thou seest, I am here :
Look, here before thy feet I sit me down;
I have no other home except the straw
Beside thy hound, if thou wilt not provide
A bed for me ; and none will come to fetch me.
[He raises her, then claps his hands de-
Ganem. splendid! How thou playst a seeming part
When opportunity demands. And it becomes

Oh, most superbly ! We '11 draw profit from it.
There'll be no lack of further free occasion,
To yield ourselves to pleasure undismayed —
When shall I come to thee?
Vol. XX— 18



SoBEiDE {stepping back). Oh, I am raving!

My head 's to blame, for that I hear thee speaking
Quite other words than those thou really
utter 'st.

Ganem, help me ! Have thou patience with me.
What day is this today?

Ganem. Why ask that now?

SoBEmE. 'Twill not be always so, 'tis but from fear,
And then because I've had to feel too much
In this one fleeting night ; that has confused me.
This was my wedding-day : then when alone
With him, my husband, I did weep and said
It was because of thee. He oped the door
And let me out. —

Ganem. He has the epilepsy,

I'll wager, sought fresh air. Thou art too

foolish !
Let me undo thy hair and kiss thy neck.
But then go quickly home : what happens later
Shall be much better than this first beginning.
[He tries to draw her to him.']

SoBEroE {frees herself, steps hack).

Ganem, he oped the door for me, and said

1 was no more his wife, and I might go
Where 'er I would . . . My father free of debt
. . . And he would let me go where'er I

would . . .
To thee, to thee! [She bursts into sobs.]

I ran, there was the man who took away
My pearls and would have slain me —
And then the dogs —

{With the pitiable expression of one forsaken.)

And now I'm here with thee !
Ganem {inattentively, listening intently up stage).

I think I hear some music, hear'st it thou? —
'Tis from below.




SoBEiDE. Thy face and something else,

Ganem, fill me with a mighty fear —

Hark not to that, hear me ! hear me, I beg thee !
Hear me, that here beneath thy glance am lying
With open soul, whose ebb and flow of blood
Proceeds but from the changes of thy mien.
Thou once didst love me — that, I think, is

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