The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 04 Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. in Twenty Volumes online

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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 DÖRFLING _enters. The others as before._

DÖRFLING. 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!

ELECTOR (_sombrely_).
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
Beg audience!

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.


_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.

ELECTOR (_reading_).
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?

ELECTOR. No - understand - Who
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!
[_He reads_.]
"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.

[_Exit footman._]

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._]

KOTTWITZ (_amazed_).
Fetch whom? Call whom?

HENNINGS. Himself?

TRUCHSZ. Impossible!

[_The officers group themselves, disquieted, and speak with one

ELECTOR. Who has brought forth this other document?

HOHENZOLL. I, my liege lord!

ELECTOR (_reading_).
"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.

ELECTOR. Thereupon?

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 -

[_He pauses._]

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 Dörfling 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
as before._

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._]

KOTTWITZ (_distressed_).
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!

KOTTWITZ (_moved_).
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_

MARSHAL. God of earth! Did it have to come to that?

[_The_ ELECTOR _speaks in a low voice to an officer._]

KOTTWITZ (_frigidly_).
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_).
So, to the garden! Follow me, my friends!


_The Castle with the terrace leading down into the garden, as in ACT I.
It is night, as then. - The_ PRINCE OF HOMBURG, _with bandaged eyes,
is led in through the lower garden-wicket, by_ CAPTAIN STRANZ. _Officers
with the guard. In the distance one can hear the drumming of the

[Illustration: #STATUE OF THE GREAT ELECTOR# Sculptor, Andreas Schlüter]

THE PRINCE. All art thou mine now, immortality!
Thou glistenest through the veil that blinds mine eyes
With that sun's glow that is a thousand suns.
I feel bright pinions from my shoulders start;
Through mute, ethereal spaces wings my soul;
And as the ship, borne outward by the wind,
Sees the bright harbor sink below the marge,
Thus all my being fades and is submerged.
Now I distinguish colors yet and forms,
And now - all life is fog beneath my feet.

[_The_ PRINCE _seats himself on the bench which stands about the oak
in the middle of the open space. The_ CAPTAIN _draws away from him and
looks up toward the terrace._]

How sweet the flowers fill the air with odor!
D'you smell them?

STRANZ (_returning to him_). They are gillyflowers and pinks.

THE PRINCE. How come the gillyflowers here?

STRANZ. I know not.
It must have been some girl that planted them.
Come, will you have a bachelor's button?

When I get home I'll have it put in water.


_The_ ELECTOR _with the laurel-wreath, about which the golden chain is

Online LibraryUnknownThe German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 04 Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. in Twenty Volumes → online text (page 37 of 38)