And this it was, dear friend, that caused my grief,
To see thee blast this life’s supremest bliss
With thine own hand. Ah! what had been my fate,
Had I been forced to follow some proud lord,
Some ruthless despot, to his gloomy keep!
Here are no keeps, here are no bastion’d walls
To part me from a people I can bless.
Yet, how to free myself; to loose the coils
Which I have madly twined around my head?
Tear them asunder with a man’s resolve.
Whate’er ensue, firm by thy people stand!
It is thy post by birth.
[Hunting horns are heard in the distance.]
But hark! The chase!
Farewell—’tis needful we should part—away!
Fight for thy land; thou fightest for thy love.
One foe fills all our souls with dread; the blow
That makes one free, emancipates us all.
A meadow near Altdorf. Trees in the foreground. At the back of the stage a cap upon a pole. The prospect is bounded by the Bannberg, which is surmounted by a snow-capped mountain.
FRIESSHARDT and LEUTHOLD on guard
We keep our watch in vain. Zounds! not a soul
Will pass and do obeisance to the cap.
But yesterday the place swarm’d like a fair;
Now the old green looks like a desert, quite,
Since yonder scarecrow hung upon the pole.
Only the vilest rabble show themselves,
And wave their tattered caps in mockery at us.
All honest citizens would sooner make
A weary circuit over half the town,
Than bend their backs before our master’s cap.
They were obliged to pass this way at noon,
As they were coming from the Council House.
I counted then upon a famous catch,
For no one thought of bowing to the cap,
But Roesselmann, the priest, was even with me:
Coming just then from some sick man, he takes
His stand before the pole—lifts up the Host—
The Sacrist, too, must tinkle with his bell—
When down they dropp’d on knee—myself and all—
In reverence to the Host, but not the cap.
Hark ye, companion, I’ve a shrewd suspicion,
Our post’s no better than the pillory.
It is a burning shame, a trooper should
Stand sentinel before an empty cap,
And every honest fellow must despise us.
To do obeisance to a cap, too! Faith,
I never heard an order so absurd!
Why not, an’t please you, to an empty cap?
You’ve duck’d, I’m sure, to many an empty sconce.
[HILDEGARD, MECHTHILD, and ELSBETH enter with their children, and station themselves around the pole.]
And you are a time-serving sneak that takes
Delight in bringing honest folks to harm.
For my part, he that likes may pass the cap:—
I’ll shut my eyes and take no note of him.