Come, lead us on! We follow! Why defer
Until tomorrow what today may do?
Tell’s arm was free when we at Rootli swore.
This foul enormity was yet undone.
And change of circumstance brings change of vow;
Who such a coward as to waver still?
RUDENZ (to WALTER FUeRST).
Meanwhile to arms, and wait in readiness
The fiery signal on the mountain tops!
For swifter than a boat can scour the lake
Shall you have tidings of our victory;
And when you see the welcome flames ascend,
Then, like the lightning, swoop upon the foe,
And lay the despots and their creatures low!
The pass near Kuessnacht, sloping down from behind, with rocks on either side. The travelers are visible upon the heights, before they appear on the stage. Rocks all around the stage. Upon one of the foremost a projecting cliff overgrown with brushwood.
TELL (enters with his cross-bow).
Through this ravine he needs must come. There
No other way to Kuessnacht. Here I’ll do it!
The ground is everything I could desire.
Yon elder bush will hide me from his view,
And from that point my shaft is sure to hit.
The straitness of the gorge forbids pursuit.
Now, Gessler, balance thine account with Heaven!
Thou must away from earth—thy sand is run.
Quiet and harmless was the life I led,
My bow was bent on forest game alone;
No thoughts of murder rested on my soul.
But thou hast scared me from my dream of peace;
The milk of human kindness thou hast turn’d
To rankling poison in my breast, and made
Appalling deeds familiar to my soul.
He who could make his own child’s head his mark,
Can speed his arrow to his foeman’s heart.
My boys, poor innocents, my loyal wife,
Must be protected, tyrant, from thy rage!
When last I drew my bow—with trembling hand—
And thou, with fiendishly remorseless glee
Forced me to level at my own boy’s head,
When I, imploring pity, writhed before thee,
Then in the anguish of my soul, I vow’d
A fearful oath, which met God’s ear alone,
That when my bow next wing’d an arrow’s flight,
Its aim should be thy heart. The vow I made,
Amid the hellish torments of that moment,
I hold a sacred debt, and I will pay it.
Thou art my lord, my Emperor’s delegate;
Yet would the Emperor not have stretch’d his power
So far as thou halt done. He sent thee here
To deal forth law—stern law—for he is wroth,
But not to wanton with unbridled will
In every cruelty, with fiend-like joy:—
There lives a God to punish and avenge.
Come forth, thou bringer once of bitter pangs,
My precious jewel now—my chiefest treasure—
A mark I’ll set thee, which the cry of grief
Could never penetrate—but thou shalt pierce it—
And thou, my trusty bow-string, that so oft
For sport has served me faithfully and well,
Desert me not in this dread hour of need—
Only be true this once, my own good cord,
That hast so often wing’d the biting shaft:—
For shouldst thou fly successless from my hand,
I have no second to send after thee.