To scare this valley’s long unbroken peace,
If we, a feeble shepherd race, shall dare
Him to the fight that lords it o’er the world.
Ev’n now they only wait some fair pretext
For setting loose their savage warrior hordes,
To scourge and ravage this devoted land,
To lord it o’er us with the victor’s rights,
And, ’neath the show of lawful chastisement,
Despoil us of our chartered liberties.
You, too, are men; can wield a battle axe
As well as they. God ne’er deserts the brave.
Oh wife! a horrid, ruthless fiend is war,
That smites at once the shepherd and his flock.
Whate’er great Heaven inflicts, we must endure;
But wrong is what no noble heart will bear.
This house—thy pride—war, unrelenting
Will burn it down.
And did I think this heart
Enslaved and fettered to the things of earth,
With my own hand I’d hurl the kindling torch.
Thou hast faith in human kindness, wife; but war
Spares not the tender infant in its cradle.
There is a Friend to innocence in heaven.
Send your gaze forward, Werner—not behind.
We men may die like men, with sword in hand;
But oh, what fate, my Gertrude, may be thine?
None are so weak, but one last choice is left.
A spring from yonder bridge and I am free!
STAUFF. (embracing her).
Well may he fight for hearth and home, that clasps
A heart so rare as thine against his own!
What are the host of Emperors to him?
Gertrude, farewell! I will to Uri straight.
There lives my worthy comrade, Walter Fuerst;
His thoughts and mine upon these times are one.
There, too, resides the noble Banneret
Of Attinghaus. High though of blood he be,
He loves the people, honors their old customs.
With both of these I will take counsel how
To rid us bravely of our country’s foe.
Farewell! and while I am away, bear thou
A watchful eye in management at home.
The pilgrim journeying to the house of God,
And holy friar, collecting for his cloister,
To these give liberally from purse and garner.
Stauffacher’s house would not be hid. Right out
Upon the public way it stands, and offers
To all that pass a hospitable roof.
[While they are retiring, TELL enters with BAUMGARTEN.]
Now, then, you have no further need of me.
Enter yon house. ’Tis Werner Stauffacher’s,
A man that is a father to distress.
See, there he is, himself! Come, follow me.
[They retire up. Scene changes.]
A common near Altdorf. On an eminence in the background a Castle in progress of erection, and so far advanced that the outline of the whole may be distinguished. The back part is finished: men are working at the front. Scaffolding, on which the workmen are going up and down. A slater is seen upon the highest part of the roof. All is bustle and activity.