The Works of Frederick Schiller is a Webnovel produced by Friedrich Schiller.
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One night, when all was hushed, the castle’s wing, Where the young prince, apart from all the rest, With his attendants lay, was found on fire.
The raging flames ingulfed the pile; the prince Unseen, unheard, was spirited away, And all the world lamented him as dead.
All Moscow knows these things to be the truth.
ARCHBISHOP OF GNESEN.
Yes, these are facts familiar to us all.
The rumor ran abroad, both far and near, That Prince Demetrius perished in the flames When Uglitsch was destroyed. And, as his death Raised to the throne the Czar who fills it now, Fame did not hesitate to charge on him This murder foul and pitiless. But yet, His death is not the business now in hand!
This prince is living still! He lives in you!
So runs your plea. Now bring us to the proofs!
Whereby do you attest that you are he?
What are the signs by which you shall be known?
How ‘scaped you those were sent to hunt you down And now, when sixteen years are pa.s.sed, and you Well nigh forgot, emerge to light once more?
‘Tis scarce a year since I have known myself; I lived a secret to myself till then, Surmising naught of my imperial birth.
I was a monk with monks, close pent within The cloister’s precincts, when I first began To waken to a consciousness of self.
My impetuous spirit chafed against the bars, And the high blood of princes began to course In strange unbidden moods along my veins.
At length I flung the monkish cowl aside, And fled to Poland, where the n.o.ble Prince Of Sendomir, the generous, the good, Took me as guest into his princely house, And trained me up to n.o.ble deeds of arms.
ARCHBISHOP OF GNESEN.
How? You still ignorant of what you were?
Yet ran the rumor then on every side, That Prince Demetrius was still alive.
Czar Boris trembled on his throne, and sent His sa.s.safs to the frontiers, to keep Sharp watch on every traveller that stirred.
Had not the tale its origin with you?
Did you not give the rumor birth yourself?
Had you not named to any that you were Demetrius?
I relate that which I know.
If a report went forth I was alive, Then had some G.o.d been busy with the fame.
Myself I knew not. In the prince’s house, And in the throng of his retainers lost, I spent the pleasant springtime of my youth.
In silent homage My heart was vowed to his most lovely daughter.
Yet in those days it never dreamed to raise Its wildest thoughts to happiness so high.
My pa.s.sion gave offence to her betrothed, The Castellan of Lemberg. He with taunts Chafed me, and in the blindness of his rage Forgot himself so wholly as to strike me.
Thus savagely provoked, I drew my sword; He, blind with fury, rushed upon the blade, And perished there by my unwitting hand.
Yes, it was even so.
Mine was the worst mischance! A nameless youth, A Russian and a stranger, I had slain A grandee of the empire–in the house Of my kind patron done a deed of blood, And sent to death his son-in-law and friend.
My innocence availed not; not the pity Of all his household, nor his kindness–his, The n.o.ble Palatine’s,–could save my life; For it was forfeit to the law, that is, Though lenient to the Poles, to strangers stern.
Judgment was pa.s.sed on me–that judgment death.
I knelt upon the scaffold, by the block; To the fell headsman’s sword I bared my throat, And in the act disclosed a cross of gold, Studded with precious gems, which had been hung About my neck at the baptismal font.
This sacred pledge of Christian redemption I had, as is the custom of my people, Worn on my neck concealed, where’er I went, From my first hours of infancy; and now, When from sweet life I was compelled to part, I grasped it as my only stay, and pressed it With pa.s.sionate devotion to my lips.
[The Poles intimate their sympathy by dumb show.
The jewel was observed; its sheen and worth Awakened curiosity and wonder.
They set me free, and questioned me; yet still I could not call to memory a time I had not worn the jewel on my person.
Now it so happened that three Boiars who Had fled from the resentment of their Czar Were on a visit to my lord at Sambor.
They saw the trinket,–recognized it by Nine emeralds alternately inlaid With amethysts, to be the very cross Which Ivan Westislowsky at the font Hung on the neck of the Czar’s youngest son.
They scrutinized me closer, and were struck To find me marked with one of nature’s freaks, For my right arm is shorter than my left.
Now, being closely plied with questions, I Bethought me of a little psalter which I carried from the cloister when I fled.
Within this book were certain words in Greek Inscribed there by the Igumen himself.
What they imported was unknown to me, Being ignorant of the language. Well, the psalter Was sent for, brought, and the inscription read.
It bore that Brother Wasili Philaret (Such was my cloister-name), who owned the book, Was Prince Demetrius, Ivan’s youngest son, By Andrei, an honest Diak, saved By stealth in that red night of ma.s.sacre.
Proofs of the fact lay carefully preserved Within two convents, which were pointed out.
On this the Boiars at my feet fell down, Won by the force of these resistless proofs, And hailed me as the offspring of their Czar.
So from the yawning gulfs of black despair Fate raised me up to fortune’s topmost heights.
And now the mists cleared off, and all at once Memories on memories started into life In the remotest background of the past.
And like some city’s spires that gleam afar In golden sunshine when naught else is seen, So in my soul two images grew bright, The loftiest sun-peaks in the shadowy past.
I saw myself escaping one dark night, And a red lurid flame light up the gloom Of midnight darkness as I looked behind me A memory ’twas of very earliest youth, For what preceded or came after it In the long distance utterly was lost.
In solitary brightness there it stood A ghastly beacon-light on memory’s waste.
Yet I remembered how, in later years, One of my comrades called me, in his wrath Son of the Czar. I took it as a jest, And with a blow avenged it at the time.
All this now flashed like lightning on my soul, And told with dazzling certainty that I Was the Czar’s son, so long reputed dead.
With this one word the clouds that had perplexed My strange and troubled life were cleared away.
Nor merely by these signs, for such deceive; But in my soul, in my proud, throbbing heart I felt within me coursed the blood of kings; And sooner will I drain it drop by drop Than bate one jot my t.i.tle to the crown.
ARCHBISHOP OF GNESEN.
And shall we trust a scroll which might have found Its way by merest chance into your hands Backed by the tale of some poor renegades?
Forgive me, n.o.ble youth! Your tone, I grant, And bearing, are not those of one who lies; Still you in this may be yourself deceived.
Well may the heart be pardoned that beguiles Itself in playing for so high a stake.
What hostage do you tender for your word?
I tender fifty, who will give their oaths,– All Piasts to a man, and free-born Poles Of spotless reputation,–each of whom Is ready to enforce what I have urged.
There sits the n.o.ble Prince of Sendomir, And at his side the Castellan of Lublin; Let them declare if I have spoke the truth.
ARCHBISHOP OF GNESEN.
How seem these things to the august Estates?
To the enforcement of such numerous proofs Doubt and mistrust, methinks, must needs give way.
Long has a creeping rumor filled the world That Dmitri, Ivan’s son, is still alive.
The Czar himself confirms it by his fears.
–Before us stands a youth, in age and mien Even to the very freak that nature played, The lost heir’s counterpart, and of a soul Whose n.o.ble stamp keeps rank with his high claims.
He left a cloister’s precincts, urged by strange, Mysterious promptings; and this monk-trained boy Was straight distinguished for his knightly feats.
He shows a trinket which the Czarowitsch Once wore, and one that never left his side; A written witness, too, by pious hands, Gives us a.s.surance of his princely birth; And, stronger still, from his unvarnished speech And open brow truth makes his best appeal.
Such traits as these deceit doth never don; It masks its subtle soul in vaunting words, And in the high-glossed ornaments of speech.
No longer, then, can I withhold the t.i.tle Which he with circ.u.mstance and justice claims And, in the exercise of my old right, I now, as primate, give him the first voice.
ARCHBISHOP OF LEMBERG.
My voice goes with the primate’s.
So does mine.
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