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Read The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Volume Vi Part 71

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What thoughtst thou of her while she still did live?

GARCERAN. O Sire, I thought her fair.

KING. What more was she?

GARCERAN. But wanton, too, and light, with evil wiles.

KING. And that thou hidst from me while still was time?

GARCERAN. I said it, Sire!

KING. And I believed it not?

How came that? Pray, say on!

GARCERAN. My Sire–the Queen, She thinks ’twas magic.

KING. Superst.i.tion, bah!

Which fools itself with idle make-believe.

GARCERAN. In part, again, it was but natural.

KING. That only which is right is natural.

And was I not a king, both just and mild– The people’s idol and the n.o.bles’, too?

Not empty-minded, no, and, sure, not blind!

I say, she was not fair!

GARCERAN. How meanest, Sire?

KING. An evil line on cheek and chin and mouth.

A lurking something in that fiery glance Envenom’d and disfigured all her charm.

But erst I’ve gazed upon it and compared.

When there I entered in to fire my rage, Half fearsome of the mounting of my ire, It happened otherwise than I had thought.

Instead of wanton pictures from the past, Before my eyes came people, wife, and child.

With that her face seemed to distort itself, The arms to rise, to grasp me, and to hold.

I cast her likeness from me in the tomb And now am here, and shudder, as thou seest.

But go thou now! For, hast thou not betrayed me?

Almost I rue that I must punish you.

Go thither to thy father and those others– Make no distinction, ye are guilty, all.

MANRIQUE (_with a strong voice_).

And thou?

KING (_after a pause_).

The man is right; I’m guilty, too.

But what is my poor land, and what the world, If none are pure, if malefactors all!

Nay, here’s my son. Step thou within our midst!

Thou shalt be guardian spirit of this land; Perhaps a higher judge may then forgive.

Come, Dona Clara, lead him by the hand!

Benignant fortune hath vouchsafed to thee In native freedom to pursue thy course Until this hour; thou, then, dost well deserve To guide the steps of innocence to us.

But hold! Here is the mother. What she did, She did it for her child. She is forgiv’n!

[_As the_ QUEEN _steps forward and bends her knee._]

Madonna, wouldst thou punish me? Wouldst show The att.i.tude most seeming me toward thee?

Castilians all, behold! Here is your King, And here is she, the regent in his stead!

I am a mere lieutenant for my son.

For as the pilgrims, wearing, all, the cross For penance journey to Jerusalem, So will I, conscious of my grievous stain, Lead you against these foes of other faith Who at the bound’ry line, from Africa, My people threaten and my peaceful land.

If I return, and victor, with G.o.d’s grace, Then shall ye say if I am worthy still To guard the law offended by myself.

This punishment be _yours_ as well as mine, For all of you shall follow me, and first, Into the thickest squadrons of the foe.

And he who falls does penance for us all.

Thus do I punish you and me! My son Here place upon a shield, like to a throne, For he today is King of this our land.

So banded, then, let’s go before the folk.

[_A shield has been brought._]

You women, each do give the child a hand.

Slipp’ry his first throne, and the second too!

Thou, Garceran, do thou stay at my side, For equal wantonness we must atone– So let us fight as though our strength were one.

And hast thou purged thyself of guilt, as I, Perhaps that quiet, chaste, and modest maid Will hold thee not unworthy of her hand!

Thou shalt improve him, Dona Clara, but Let not thy virtue win his mere respect, But lend it charm, as well. That shields from much.

[_Trumpets in the distance._]

Hear yet They call us. Those whom I did bid To help against you, they are ready all To help against the common enemy, The dreaded Moor who threats our boundaries, And whom I will send back with shame and wounds Into the and desert he calls home, So that our native land be free from ill, Well-guarded from within and from without.

On, on! Away! G.o.d grant, to victory!

[_The procession has already formed. First, some va.s.sals, then the shield with the child, whom the women hold by both hands, then the rest of the men. Lastly, the _KING,_ leaning in a trustful manner on _GARCERAN.]

ESTHER (_turning to her father_).

Seest thou, they are already glad and gay; Already plan for future marriages!

They are the great ones, for th’ atonement feast They’ve slain as sacrifice a little one, And give each other now their b.l.o.o.d.y hands.

[_Stepping to the centre._]

But this I say to thee, thou haughty King, Go, go, in all thy grand forgetfulness!

Thou deem’st thou’rt free now from my sister’s power, Because the p.r.i.c.k of its impression’s dulled, And thou didst from thee cast what once enticed.

But in the battle, when thy wavering ranks Are shaken by thy en’mies’ greater might, And but a pure, and strong, and guiltless heart Is equal to the danger and its threat; When thou dost gaze upon deaf heav’n above, Then will the victim, sacrificed to thee, Appear before thy quailing, trembling soul– Not in luxuriant fairness that enticed, But changed, distorted, as she pleased thee not– Then, pentinent, perchance, thou’lt beat thy breast, And think upon the Jewess of Toledo!

(_Seizing her father by the shoulder._)

Come, father, come! A task awaits us there.

[_Pointing to the side door._]

———-

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Published inThe German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries