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Pierre. 'Tis Sarnem.
Theodore. What is that he brings with him?
Pierre. A pole; and on the top of it a cap
That looks like Gesler's—I could pick it from
A thousand !
Theo. So could I !—My heart hath oft Leaped at the sight of it. What comes he now To do?
(Sarnem enters with soldiers bearing Gesler's cap upon a pole, which he fixes into the ground; the people looking on in silence and amazement.)
Sarnem. Ye men of Altorf!
Behold the emblem of
And dignity. This is the cap of Gesler,
Your governor ; let all bow down to it
Who owe him love and loyalty. To such
As shall refuse this lawful homage, or
Accord it sullenly, he shows no grace,
But dooms them to the penalty of bondage
Till they're instructed—'tis no less their gain
Than duty, to obey their master's mandate.
Conduct the people hither, one by one,
To bow to Gesler's cap.
Tell. Have I my hearing?
Ver. Away! away!
Tell. Or sight ?-They do it, Verner!
They do it!
Look! Ne'er call me man again!
I'll herd with the baser animals!
Look!-Look! Have I the outline of that caitiff
Who to the servile earth doth bend the crown
His god did rear for him to heaven?
Before they mark us.
Tell. No! no since I've tasted,
I'll e'll feed on.
A spirit's in me likes it.
Sar. (Striking a person.) Bow lower, slave!
Tell. Do you feel that blow—my flesh doth tingle with it.
I would it had been I!
Ver. You tremble, William ; come-you must not stay.
(Enter Michael through the crowd.)
Sar. Bow, slave.
Michael. For what?
Sar. Obey, and question then.
Mich. I'll question now, perhaps not then obey.
Tell. A man! a man!
Sar. "Tis Gesler's will that all
Bow to that cap.
Mich. Were it thy lady's cap,
I'd courtesy to it.
Sar. Do you
Mich. Not I. I'll bow to Gesler, if you please;
But not his cap, nor cap of any he
Tell. Well done!
The lion thinks as much of cowering.
Sar. Once for all bow to that cap.
slave? Mich. Slave! Tell. A man! I'll swear a man! Don't hold me, Verner.
Sar. Villain, bow
To Gesler's cap!
Mich No! not to Gesler's self.
Sar. Seize him. (Soldiers come forward.)
Tell. (Rushing forward.) Off, off, you base and hireling
Lay not your brutal touch
upon God made in his own image.
Sar. What! shrink you, cowards ? Must I do Your duty for you?
Tell. Let them stir-I've scattered
A flock of wolves did outnumber them
For sport I did it.-Sport !-I scattered them
With but a staff, not half so thick as this.
(Wrests Sarnem's weapon from him—Sarnem and Soldiers fly.)
Men of Altorf,
What fear ye!
See what things you fear—the show
And surfaces of men. Why stand you wondering there?
Why gaze you still with blanched cheeks upon me?
the manhood even to look on,
And see bold deeds achieved by others' hands?
Or is't that cap still holds your thralls to fear ?
Be free then. —There! Thus do I trample on
The insolence of Gesler. (Dashes down the pole.)
Druid. Say, thou false one!
What doom befits the slave who sells his country?
Elidurus. Death—sudden death!
Druid. No! lingering piecemeal death;
And to such death thy brother and thyself
We now devote. Villain, thy deeds are known;
'Tis known, ye led the impious Romans hither
To slaughter us even on our holy altars.
Elid. That on my soul doth lie some secret grief,
These looks perforce will tell : it is not fear,
Druid, it is not fear that shakes me thus ;
The great gods know it is not : ye can never :
For, what though wisdom lifts ye next those gods,
Ye cannot like to them, unlock men's breasts,
And read their inward thoughts. Ah! that ye
Arviragus. What hast thou done?
Elid. What, prince, I will not tell.
Druid. Wretch, there are means
Elid. I know, and terrible means ;
And 'tis both fit that you should try those means,
And I endure them; yet, I think, my patience
Will for some space baffle your torturing fury.
Druid. Be that best known when our inflicted goads Harrow thy flesh!
Arvi. Stranger, ere this be tried,
Confess the whole of thy black perfidy;
So black, that when I look upon thy youth,
Read thy mild eye, and mark thy modest brow,
I think, indeed, thou durst not.
Elid. Such a crime
Indeed I durst not; and would rather be
The very wretch thou seest, I'll speak no more.
Druid. Brethren, 'tis so.
This youth has been deceived.
Elid. Yet, one word more.
the Romans have invaded Mona.
Give me a sword, and twenty honest Britons,
And I will quell those Romans. Vain demand !
Alas! you cannot; ye are men of peace :
Religion's self forbids. Lead then to torture.
Arvi. Now on my soul this youth doth move me much.
Druid. Think not religion and our holy office
Doth teach us tamely, like the bleating lamb,
To crouch before oppression, and with neck
Outstretched await the stroke. Mistaken boy!
Did not strict justice claim thee for her victim,
We might full-safely send thee to these Romans,
Inviting their hot charge. Know, when I blow
That sacred trumpet, bound with sable fillets
To yonder branching oak, the awful sound
Calls forth a thousand Britons, trained alike
In holy and in martial exercise ;
Not by such mode and rule, as Romans use,
But of that fierce, portentous, horrible sort,
As shall appall even Romans.
Elid. Gracious gods!
Then there are hopes indeed. Oh, call them instant!
This prince will lead them on: I'll follow him,
Though in my chains, and some way dash them round
To harm the haughty foe.
1 Arvi. A thousand Britons,
And armed! Oh instant blow the sacred trump,
And let me head them. Yet methinks this youth-
Druid. I know what thou wouldst say, might join thee,
True, were he free from crime, or had confessed.
Elid. Confessed. Ah, think not, I will e'er
Either thyself or brother must have wronged us :
Then why conceal-
Elid. Hast thou a brother ? no !
Else hadst thou spared the word.
Hear me, Druid:
Though I would prize an hour of freedom. now
Before an age of any after date :
Though I would seize it as the gift of heaven,
And use it as heaven's gift: yet do not think,
I so will purchase it. Give it me freely,
the boon, and hug my chains, Till
you do swear by your own hoary head, My brother shall be safe.
Druid. Excellent youth!
Thy words do speak thy soul, and such a soul,
As wakes our wonder. Thou art free; thy brother
Shall be thine honor's pledge! so will we use him,
As thou art false or true.
Elid. I ask no other.
Arvi. Thus then, my fellow-soldier, to thy clasp
I give the hand of friendship. Noble youth
We'll speed, or die together.
Raimond. When shall I breathe in freedom, and give scope To those untamable and burning thoughts, And restless aspirations which consume My heart in the land of bondage ?-Oh! with you, Ye everlasting images of power, And of infinity! thou blue-rolling deep, And you, ye stars! whose beams are characters Wherewith the oracles of fate are traced ; With you my soul finds room, and casts aside The weight that doth oppress her.-But my thoughts Are wandering far; there should be one to share This awful and majestic solitude. (Procida enters unobserved.)
Procida. He is here.
Rai. Now, thou mysterious stranger, thou whose glance Doth fix itself on memory,
Thought, like a spirit, haunting its lone hours ;
Reveal thyself; what art thou?
Proc. One, whose life
Hath been a troubled stream, and made its way
Through rocks and darkness, and a thousand storms,
With still a mighty aim.—But now the shades
Of eve are gathering round me, and I come
To this, my native land, that I
rest Beneath its vines in peace.
Rai. Seekest thou for peace ?
There is no land of peace; unless that deep
And voiceless terror, which doth freeze men's thoughts
Back to their source, and mantle its pale mien
With a dull hollow semblance of repose,
May so be called. He were bold
Who now should wear his thoughts upon his brow
Beneath Sicilian skies. And this it is
To wear a foreign yoke.