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S. T. Coleridge - The d**h of Wallenstein (Act 1 Scene 7) lyrics

To these enter the COUNTESS TERZKY.

WALLENSTEIN.
Who sent for you? There is no business here
For women.

COUNTESS
I am come to bid you joy.

WALLENSTEIN.
Use thy authority, Terzky; bid her go.

COUNTESS.
Come I perhaps too early? I hope not.

WALLENSTEIN.
Set not this tongue upon me, I entreat you:
You know it is the weapon that destroys me.
I am routed, if a woman but attack me:
I cannot traffic in the trade of words
With that unreasoning s**.

COUNTESS.
I had already
Given the Bohemians a king.

WALLENSTEIN
(sarcastically).
They have one,
In consequence, no doubt.

COUNTESS
(to the others).
Ha! what new scruple?

TERZKY.
The duke will not.

COUNTESS.
He will not what he must!

ILLO.
It lies with you now. Try. For I am silenced
When folks begin to talk to me of conscience
And of fidelity.

COUNTESS.
How? then, when all
Lay in the far-off distance, when the road
Stretched out before thine eyes interminably,
Then hadst thou courage and resolve; and now,
Now that the dream is being realized,
The purpose ripe, the issue ascertained,
Dost thou begin to play the dastard now?
Planned merely, 'tis a common felony;
Accomplished, an immortal undertaking:
And with success comes pardon hand in hand,
For all event is God's arbitrament.

SERVANT
(enters).
The Colonel Piccolomini.

COUNTESS
(hastily).
—Must wait.

WALLENSTEIN.
I cannot see him now. Another time.

SERVANT.
But for two minutes he entreats an audience
Of the most urgent nature is his business.

WALLENSTEIN.
Who knows what he may bring us! I will hear him.

COUNTESS
(laughs).
Urgent for him, no doubt? but thou may'st wait.

WALLENSTEIN.
What is it?

COUNTESS.
Thou shalt be informed hereafter.
First let the Swede and thee be compromised.

[Exit SERVANT.

WALLENSTEIN.
If there were yet a choice! if yet some milder
Way of escape were possible—I still
Will choose it, and avoid the last extreme.

COUNTESS.
Desirest thou nothing further? Such a way
Lies still before thee. Send this Wrangel off.
Forget thou thy old hopes, cast far away
All thy past life; determine to commence
A new one. Virtue hath her heroes too,
As well as fame and fortune. To Vienna
Hence—to the emperor—kneel before the throne;
Take a full coffer with thee—say aloud,
Thou didst but wish to prove thy fealty;
Thy whole intention but to dupe the Swede.

ILLO.
For that too 'tis too late. They know too much;
He would but bear his own head to the block.

COUNTESS.
I fear not that. They have not evidence
To attaint him legally, and they avoid
The avowal of an arbitrary power.
They'll let the duke resign without disturbance.
I see how all will end. The King of Hungary
Makes his appearance, and 'twill of itself
Be understood, and then the duke retires.
There will not want a formal declaration.
The young king will administer the oath
To the whole army; and so all returns
To the old position. On some morrow morning
The duke departs; and now 'tis stir and bustle
Within his castles. He will hunt and build;
Superintend his horses' pedigrees,
Creates himself a court, gives golden keys,
And introduceth strictest ceremony
In fine proportions, and nice etiquette;
Keeps open table with high cheer: in brief,
Commenceth mighty king—in miniature.
And while he prudently demeans himself,
And gives himself no actual importance,
He will be let appear whate'er he likes:
And who dares doubt, that Friedland will appear
A mighty prince to his last dying hour?
Well now, what then? Duke Friedland is as others,
A fire-new noble, whom the war hath raised
To price and currency, a Jonah's gourd,
An over-night creation of court-favor,
Which, with an undistinguishable ease,
Makes baron or makes prince.

WALLENSTEIN
(in extreme agitation).
Take her away.
Let in the young Count Piccolomini.

COUNTESS.
Art thou in earnest? I entreat thee!
Canst thou consent to bear thyself to thy own grave,
So ignominiously to be dried up?
Thy life, that arrogated such an height
To end in such a nothing! To be nothing,
When one was always nothing, is an evil
That asks no stretch of patience, a light evil;
But to become a nothing, having been——

WALLENSTEIN
(starts up in violent agitation).
Show me a way out of this stifling crowd,
Ye powers of aidance! Show me such a way
As I am capable of going. I
Am no tongue-hero, no fine virtue-prattler;
I cannot warm by thinking; cannot say
To the good luck that turns her back upon me
Magnanimously: "Go; I need thee not."
Cease I to work, I am annihilated.
Dangers nor sacrifices will I shun,
If so I may avoid the last extreme;
But ere I sink down into nothingness,
Leave off so little, who began so great,
Ere that the world confuses me with those
Poor wretches, whom a day creates and crumbles,
This age and after ages 2 speak my name
With hate and dread; and Friedland be redemption
For each accursed deed.

COUNTESS.
What is there here, then,
So against nature? Help me to perceive it!
Oh, let not superstition's nightly goblins
Subdue thy clear, bright spirit! Art thou bid
To murder? with abhorred, accursed poniard,
To violate the breasts that nourished thee?
That were against our nature, that might aptly
Make thy flesh shudder, and thy whole heart sicken. 3
Yet not a few, and for a meaner object,
Have ventured even this, ay, and performed it.
What is there in thy case so black and monstrous?
Thou art accused of treason—whether with
Or without justice is not now the question—
Thou art lost if thou dost not avail thee quickly
Of the power which thou possessest—Friedland! Duke!
Tell me where lives that thing so meek and tame,
That doth not all his living faculties
Put forth in preservation of his life?
What deed so daring, which necessity
[Lyrics from: https:/lyrics.az/s-t-coleridge/-/the-d**h-of-wallenstein-act-1-scene-7.html]
And desperation will not sanctify?

WALLENSTEIN.
Once was this Ferdinand so gracious to me;
He loved me; he esteemed me; I was placed
The nearest to his heart. Full many a time
We like familiar friends, both at one table,
Have banqueted together—he and I;
And the young kings themselves held me the basin
Wherewith to wash me—and is't come to this?

COUNTESS.
So faithfully preservest thou each small favor,
And hast no memory for contumelies?
Must I remind thee, how at Regensburg
This man repaid thy faithful services?
All ranks and all conditions in the empire
Thou hadst wronged to make him great,—hadst loaded on thee,
On thee, the hate, the curse of the whole world.
No friend existed for thee in all Germany,
And why? because thou hadst existed only
For the emperor. To the emperor alone
Clung Friedland in that storm which gathered round him
At Regensburg in the Diet—and he dropped thee!
He let thee fall! he let thee fall a victim
To the Bavarian, to that insolent!
Deposed, stripped bare of all thy dignity
And power, amid the taunting of thy foe
Thou wert let drop into obscurity.
Say not, the restoration of thy honor
Has made atonement for that first injustice.
No honest good-will was it that replaced thee;
The law of hard necessity replaced thee,
Which they had fain opposed, but that they could not.

WALLENSTEIN.
Not to their good wishes, that is certain,
Nor yet to his affection I'm indebted
For this high office; and if I abuse it,
I shall therein abuse no confidence.

COUNTESS.
Affection! confidence!—they needed thee.
Necessity, impetuous remonstrant!
Who not with empty names, or shows of proxy,
Is served, who'll have the thing and not the symbol,
Ever seeks out the greatest and the best,
And at the rudder places him, e'en though
She had been forced to take him from the rabble—
She, this necessity, it was that placed thee
In this high office; it was she that gave thee
Thy letters-patent of inauguration.
For, to the uttermost moment that they can,
This race still help themselves at cheapest rate
With slavish souls, with puppets! At the approach
Of extreme peril, when a hollow image
Is found a hollow image and no more,
Then falls the power into the mighty hands
Of nature, of the spirit-giant born,
Who listens only to himself, knows nothing
Of stipulations, duties, reverences,
And, like the emancipated force of fire,
Unmastered scorches, ere it reaches them,
Their fine-spun webs, their artificial policy.

WALLENSTEIN.
'Tis true! they saw me always as I am—
Always! I did not cheat them in the bargain.
I never held it worth my pains to hide
The bold all-grasping habit of my soul.

COUNTESS.
Nay rather—thou hast ever shown thyself
A formidable man, without restraint;
Hast exercised the full prerogatives
Of thy impetuous nature, which had been
Once granted to thee. Therefore, duke, not thou,
Who hast still remained consistent with thyself,
But they are in the wrong, who, fearing thee,
Intrusted such a power in hands they feared.
For, by the laws of spirit, in the right
Is every individual character
That acts in strict consistence with itself:
Self-contradiction is the only wrong.
Wert thou another being, then, when thou
Eight years ago pursuedst thy march with fire,
And sword, and desolation, through the circles
Of Germany, the universal scourge,
Didst mock all ordinances of the empire,
The fearful rights of strength alone exertedst,
Trampledst to earth each rank, each magistracy,
All to extend thy Sultan's domination?
Then was the time to break thee in, to curb
Thy haughty will, to teach thee ordinance.
But no, the emperor felt no touch of conscience;
What served him pleased him, and without a murmur
He stamped his broad seal on these lawless deeds.
What at that time was right, because thou didst it
For him, to-day is all at once become
Opprobrious, foul, because it is directed
Against him. O most flimsy superstition!

WALLENSTEIN
(rising).
I never saw it in this light before,
'Tis even so. The emperor perpetrated
Deeds through my arm, deeds most unorderly.
And even this prince's mantle, which I wear,
I owe to what were services to him,
But most high misdemeanors 'gainst the empire.

COUNTESS.
Then betwixt thee and him (confess it, Friedland!)
The point can be no more of right and duty,
Only of power and the opportunity.
That opportunity, lo! it comes yonder
Approaching with swift steeds; then with a swing
Throw thyself up into the chariot-seat,
Seize with firm hand the reins ere thy opponent
Anticipate thee, and himself make conquest
Of the now empty seat. The moment comes;
It is already here, when thou must write
The absolute total of thy life's vast sum.
The constellations stand victorious o'er thee,
The planets shoot good fortune in fair junctions,
And tell thee, "Now's the time!" The starry courses
Hast thou thy life-long measured to no purpose?
The quadrant and the circle, were they playthings?

[Pointing to the different objects in the room.

The zodiacs, the rolling orbs of heaven,
Hast pictured on these walls and all around thee.
In dumb, foreboding symbols hast thou placed
These seven presiding lords of destiny—
For toys? Is all this preparation nothing?
Is there no marrow in this hollow art,
That even to thyself it doth avail
Nothing, and has no influence over thee
In the great moment of decision?

WALLENSTEIN
(during this last speech walks up and down with inward
struggles, laboring with pa**ion; stops suddenly, stands still, then
interrupting the COUNTESS).
Send Wrangel to me—I will instantly
Despatch three couriers——

ILLO
(hurrying out).
God in heaven be praised!

WALLENSTEIN.
It is his evil genius and mine.
Our evil genius! It chastises him
Through me, the instrument of his ambition;
And I expect no less, than that revenge
E'en now is whetting for my breast the poinard.
Who sows the serpent's teeth let him not hope
To reap a joyous harvest. Every crime
Has, in the moment of its perpetration,
Its own avenging angel—dark misgiving,
An ominous sinking at the inmost heart.
He can no longer trust me. Then no longer
Can I retreat—so come that which must come.
Still destiny preserves its due relations,
The heart within us is its absolute
Vicegerent. [To TERZKY.
Go, conduct you Gustave Wrangel
To my state cabinet. Myself will speak to
The couriers. And despatch immediately
A servant for Octavio Piccolomini.

[To the COUNTESS, who cannot conceal her triumph.

No exultation! woman, triumph not!
For jealous are the powers of destiny,
Joy premature, and shouts ere victory,
Encroach upon their rights and privileges.
We sow the seed, and they the growth determine.

[While he is making his exit the curtain drops.

Footnotes:

1 A great stone near Luetzen, since called the Swede's Stone, the body
of their great king having been found at the foot of it, after the
battle in which he lost his life.

2 Could I have hazarded such a Germanism as the use of the word
afterworld for posterity,—"Es spreche Welt und Nachwelt meinen
Namen"—might have been rendered with more literal fidelity: Let
world and afterworld speak out my name, etc.

3 I have not ventured to affront the fastidious delicacy of our age
with a literal translation of this line,

werth
Die Eingeweide schaudernd aufzuregen.

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