A brave man hazards life, but not his conscience.
What then? Shall he go forth anew to kindle
The unextinguishable flame of war?
Seize him, and hold him prisoner—do not kill him.
Had not the Emperor’s army been defeated,
I might have done so.—But ’tis now past by.
O, wherefore open’d I the stronghold to him?
His destiny and not the place destroys him.
Upon these ramparts, as beseem’d a soldier,
I had fallen, defending the Emperor’s citadel!
Yes, and a thousand gallant men have perish’d.
Doing their duty—that adorns the man!
But murder’s a black deed, and nature curses it.
BUTLER (brings out a paper).
Here is the manifesto which commands us
To gain possession of his person. See—
It is addressed to you as well as me.
Are you content to take the consequences,
If through our fault he escape to the enemy?
Take it on yourself
Come of it what may; on you I lay it.
O God in heaven!
Can you advise aught else
Wherewith to execute the Emperor’s purpose?
Say if you can. For I desire his fall,
Not his destruction.
Merciful heaven! what must be
I see as clear as you. Yet still the heart
Within my bosom beats with other feelings!
Mine is of harder stuff! Necessity
In her rough school hath steel’d me. And this Illo,
And Terzky likewise, they must not survive him.
I feel no pang for these. Their own bad hearts
Impell’d them, not the influence of the stars.
’Twas they who strew’d the seeds of evil passions
In his calm breast, and with officious villiany
Water’d and nursed the pois’nous plants. May they
Receive their earnests to the uttermost mite!
And their death shall precede his!
We meant to have taken them alive this evening
Amid the merry-making of a feast,
And keep them prisoners in the citadel.
But this makes shorter work. I go this instant
To give the necessary orders.
To these enter ILLO and TERZKY
Our luck is on the turn. Tomorrow come
The Swedes—twelve thousand gallant warriors, Illo,
Then straightwise for Vienna. Cheerily, friend!
What! meet such news with such a moody face?
It lies with us at present to prescribe
Laws, and take vengeance on those worthless traitors,
Those skulking cowards that deserted us;
One has already done his bitter penance,
The Piccolomini: be his the fate
Of all who wish us evil! This flies sure
To the old man’s heart; he has his whole life long
Fretted and toil’d to raise his ancient house
From a Count’s title to the name of prince;
And now must seek a grave for his only son.