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S. T. Coleridge - The d**h of Wallenstein (Act 4 Scene 2) lyrics

BUTLER and GORDON.

GORDON.
Is it you?
How my heart sinks! The duke a fugitive traitor!
His princely head attainted! Oh, my God!
Tell me, general, I implore thee, tell me
In full, of all these sad events at Pilsen.

BUTLER.
You have received the letter which I sent you
By a post-courier?

GORDON.
Yes: and in obedience to it
Opened the stronghold to him without scruple,
For an imperial letter orders me
To follow your commands implicitly.
But yet forgive me! when even now I saw
The duke himself, my scruples recommenced.
For truly, not like an attainted man,
Into this town did Friedland make his entrance;
His wonted majesty beamed from his brow,
And calm, as in the days when all was right,
Did he receive from me the accounts of office.
'Tis said, that fallen pride learns condescension.
But sparing and with dignity the duke
Weighed every syllable of approbation,
As masters praise a servant who has done
His duty and no more.

BUTLER.
'Tis all precisely
As I related in my letter. Friedland
Has sold the army to the enemy,
And pledged himself to give up Prague and Egra.
On this report the regiments all forsook him,
The five excepted that belong to Terzky,
And which have followed him, as thou hast seen.
The sentence of attainder is pa**ed on him,
And every loyal subject is required
To give him in to justice, dead or living.

GORDON.
A traitor to the emperor. Such a noble!
Of such high talents! What is human greatness?
I often said, this can't end happily.
His might, his greatness, and this obscure power
Are but a covered pitfall. The human being
May not be trusted to self-government.
The clear and written law, the deep-trod footmarks
Of ancient custom, are all necessary
To keep him in the road of faith and duty.
The authority intrusted to this man
Was unexampled and unnatural,
It placed him on a level with his emperor,
Till the proud soul unlearned submission. Woe is me!
I mourn for him! for where he fell, I deem
Might none stand firm. Alas! dear general,
We in our lucky mediocrity
Have ne'er experienced, cannot calculate,
What dangerous wishes such a height may breed
In the heart of such a man.

BUTLER.
Spare your laments
Till he need sympathy; for at this present
He is still mighty, and still formidable.
The Swedes advance to Egra by forced marches,
And quickly will the junction be accomplished.
This must not be! The duke must never leave
This stronghold on free footing; for I have
Pledged life and honor here to hold him prisoner,
And your a**istance 'tis on which I calculate.

GORDON.
O that I had not lived to see this day!
From his hand I received this dignity,
He did himself intrust this stronghold to me,
Which I am now required to make his dungeon.
We subalterns have no will of our own:
The free, the mighty man alone may listen
To the fair impulse of his human nature.
Ah! we are but the poor tools of the law,
Obedience the sole virtue we dare aim at!

BUTLER.
Nay! let it not afflict you, that your power
Is circumscribed. Much liberty, much error!
The narrow path of duty is securest.
[Lyrics from: https:/lyrics.az/s-t-coleridge/-/the-d**h-of-wallenstein-act-4-scene-2.html]
And all then have deserted him you say?
He has built up the luck of many thousands
For kingly was his spirit: his full hand
Was ever open! Many a one from dust
  [With a sly glance on BUTLER.
Hath he selected, from the very dust
Hath raised him into dignity and honor.
And yet no friend, not one friend hath he purchased,
Whose heart beats true to him in the evil hour.

BUTLER.
Here's one, I see.

GORDON.
I have enjoyed from him
No grace or favor. I could almost doubt,
If ever in his greatness he once thought on
An old friend of his youth. For still my office
Kept me at distance from him; and when first
He to this citadel appointed me,
He was sincere and serious in his duty.
I do not then abuse his confidence,
If I preserve my fealty in that
Which to my fealty was first delivered.

BUTLER.
Say, then, will you fulfil the attainder on him,
And lend your aid to take him in arrest?

GORDON
(pauses, reflecting—then as in deep dejection).
If it be so—if all be as you say—
If he've betrayed the emperor, his master,
Have sold the troops, have purposed to deliver
The strongholds of the country to the enemy—
Yea, truly!—there is no redemption for him!
Yet it is hard, that me the lot should destine
To be the instrument of his perdition;
For we were pages at the court of Bergau
At the same period; but I was the senior.

BUTLER.
I have heard so——

GORDON.
'Tis full thirty years since then,
A youth who scarce had seen his twentieth year
Was Wallenstein, when he and I were friends
Yet even then he had a daring soul:
His frame of mind was serious and severe
Beyond his years: his dreams were of great objects
He walked amidst us of a silent spirit,
Communing with himself; yet I have known him
Transported on a sudden into utterance
Of strange conceptions; kindling into splendor
His soul revealed itself, and he spake so
That we looked round perplexed upon each other,
Not knowing whether it were craziness,
Or whether it were a god that spoke in him.

BUTLER.
But was it where he fell two story high
From a window-ledge, on which he had fallen asleep
And rose up free from injury? From this day
(It is reported) he betrayed clear marks
Of a distempered fancy.

GORDON.
He became
Doubtless more self-enwrapped and melancholy;
He made himself a Catholic. 7 Marvellously
His marvellous preservation had transformed him.
Thenceforth he held himself for an exempted
And privileged being, and, as if he were
Incapable of dizziness or fall,
He ran along the unsteady rope of life.
But now our destinies drove us asunder;
He paced with rapid step the way of greatness,
Was count, and prince, duke-regent, and dictator,
And now is all, all this too little for him;
He stretches forth his hands for a king's crown,
And plunges in unfathomable ruin.

BUTLER.
No more, he comes.

Footnotes:

7 It appears that the account of his conversion being caused by
such a fall, and other stories of his juvenile character, are not
well authenticated.

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