You mustn’t be afraid. You are strong, you are a genius, you will conquer. Your momentary despair will pass away, and divine inspiration will again quicken your proud head.
MAN (assumes a challenging attitude and throws an oak leaf into the corner where the Unknown stands, saying) Ho, you, whatever your name, Fate, Devil, or Life, I fling my glove down before you, I challenge you to combat! The poor in spirit bow before your enigmatic power. Your stony face inspires them with fear; in your silence they hear the approaching tread of misery and terrible ruin. But I am strong and bold, and I challenge you to combat! Come on! Let the swords glitter, the shields clang! Deal and receive blows so that the earth trembles! Ho, come forth to battle!
WIFE (nestling up at his left, somewhat behind, speaking solemnly) Bolder, my husband, still bolder!
To your evil-boding inaction I oppose my living, daring strength; to your gloom my clear, resonant laugh! Ho, repel the blows! You have a stone brow, devoid of reason. I will throw the glowing balls of my sparkling thought at it. You have a stone heart, devoid of pity. Take care, I will pour into it the poison of my rebellious outcries. The dark cloud of your grim wrath overshadows the sun. We will light the darkness with our swords. Ho, repel the blows!
Bolder, still bolder, my proud knight! Your squire is behind you.
Victorious, I will sing songs which the whole world will reecho; fallen under your blows, my only thought shall be to rise again and rush into battle. There are weak spots in my armor, but when my red blood is flowing, I will gather my last strength and cry: “You have not conquered, evil Enemy of Man!”
Bolder, my knight! I will wash your wounds with my tears. I will stop the flow of your red blood with my kisses.
And dying on the field of battle as the brave die, with one cry I will destroy your blind joy: “I have conquered!” I have conquered, O cruel Enemy. Unto my last breath I did not recognize your power!
Bolder, my knight, bolder! I will die beside you.
Ho, come forth to battle! Let the swords glitter, the shields clang! Deal and receive blows to make the earth tremble! Ho, come forth!
[For some time Man and his Wife remain in the same posture; then they turn around, facing each other, and kiss.