The words “wanken” and “schweben” are not easily translated. The English words, by which we attempt to render them, are either vulgar or pedantic, or not of sufficiently general application. So “der Wolken Zug”—literally, The Draft, the Procession of clouds; freely—The Masses of the Clouds sweep onward in swift stream.]
[Footnote 35: A very inadequate translation of the original—
Verschmerzen werd’ ich diesen Schlag,
das weiss ich,
Denn was verschmerzte nicht der Mensch!
I shall grieve down this blow,
of that I’m conscious:
What does not man grieve down?]
* * * * *
BY WILLIAM H. CARRUTH, PH.D.
Professor of Comparative Literature, Leland Stanford University
William Tell is the last complete drama written by Schiller, finished February 18, 1804, in the author’s forty-fifth year and something over a year before his death. After this he completed only a pageant, The Homage of the Arts, although he was occupied with many plans for other plays, including Demetrius, founded on the career of the Russian pretender of this name, of which he left the first act. William Tell is the last of Schiller’s five great dramas, a series beginning with Wallenstein, written within nine years, constituting, along with his ballads and many other poems, the work of what is called his “third period.” This period was preceded by Schiller’s chief prose works and the historical and philosophical studies preparatory thereto, together with considerable reading of Greek and English classics, notably Homer and Shakespeare. The influence of his historical and critical studies and of this reading is evident in the dramas: Wallenstein, Maria Stuart, The Maid of Orleans, The Bride of Messina, William Tell. But of these, William Tell stands apart in several ways.
For all of them Schiller made careful preliminary studies, but for none in such detail as for Tell. He had not only a remote historical material to deal with, but also a land and customs which he had never seen and which nevertheless he wished to present with great fidelity. His chief source was the Swiss chronicler Tschudi, of the sixteenth century, from whom he took not only the main features of his action, but many touches of scenery and much actual phraseology. In addition he studied the Swiss historian Johannes von Mueller, maps and natural histories of Switzerland, and received also some oral notes from Goethe, to whom, in fact, he owed the original suggestion of dramatizing the story of William Tell.