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From the Tragedy of Arminius.-Knight.
SIEGMAR, ARMINIUS, BRENNO, AND GISMAR.
Sieg. My brave and reverend warriors! I am here
To counsel with you on the public safety;
I yet may speak with all the honest freedom
That best becomes the leader of the free;
I yet may feel as one who has a country,
Nor own my conscience in a Roman's keeping.
How long this blameless pride may still be mine
I know not. On the Weser's farther bank,
Where once our German neighbors built their huts,
Tilled their poor fields in unobtrusive peace,
And found their wealth in many a simple joy;
In woods, where once the God of the Suevi
Received the incense of a virtuous nation,
There, even there, now stands a Roman camp,
Hemmed in with vice, oppression, fraud and ruin.
You know, my people, that the King Segesthes
Courts these destroyers, calls their yoke an honour,
Yields his poor country to the plunderer,
And asks of me to join this high alliance.
I understand the issue,—shame or war.
Which do you choose, my people? Gismar, speak.
Gismar. Two moons are past, since to the Suevian camp
I bore the solemn message of my king.
There did I see a tyrant in authority
Rob a poor German of his lowly meal
There did I see a heartless Roman ruffian
Strike a defenceless German to the earth.
Rather than feel such outrage, I would die.
My counsel is for battle, brave Cherusci.
Brenno. I am a Suevian, and that bare avowal
Will tell you why I sit in your assembly:
Rank and command were mine, but they were worthless
Whilst Rome was arbitress of my deserving.
Doubt ye of peace or war? oh! know ye not
The pangs, which yielding honesty must prove,
When vice and tyranny demand its homage?
Gods! could I smile with Varus? smile when Germans
Dragged the triumphal car of their disgrace-
Gaped on his trappings, and believed the name
Their fathers gave them was a rank dishonour!
True, my king smiled!—
I could have torn him from his throne for smiling.
Mine was a barren loyalty, and hateful.
Here then I came and proffered my allegiance,
Where, with obedience, I might give my conscience,
Where right and wrong retained their ancient meanings,
Where 't was no shame to call myself a German.
I would not hold my life on such a tenure
As Rome would ask me as the price of living;
Much less put on the baubles she would give,
And barter with me as the price of virtue.
Friends! there are none of you but think as I do!
Arm. Chieftains and friends! the awful time is come
When tyranny has bared his shameless front,
Stripped the thin gilding from his iron sceptre,
And scared immortal Justice from the earth!
Ye have been wont, my friends, to give your homage
Where right and mercy mingled with authority;
If that the conqueror's law, the sway of passion,
The proud, remorseless swoop of fell ambition,
If these be worthier than a lawful rule,
The change is easy. Bow to Roman Varus!
I know your hearts!
I would but move their sweet responsive chords,
With the bold breath of truth.-When loss of life
And base inglorious chains are weighed together,
Who would not rush upon the certain freedom?
Chains! were they made for Germans? Gods! what chains
Shall bind the towering spirit in the dust,
For Roman slaves to tread upon your necks?
They ask your friendship, 't is no trifling boon;
Eternal war were better than such concord;-
Go, give it, my Cherusci, if with peace
You think it light to yield your rugged freedom,
Your claim to feel, and think, and act as men,
Your privilege to eat the bread you 've toiled for!-
Oh! I have lived among these showy robbers,
Learned much that noble natures have unfolded,
And stored up something to improve my country;
But I have seen, in Rome, unholy power
Set up the pageants of its proud ambition,
Yours is wealth
And spread around its maddening dreams of conquest,
For starving, brawling citizens to feed on-
They call you barbarous, and think it kindness
To send their legions to improve your natures,
And teach you how a slave may be polite.
Germans! what answer will ye send to Rome?
Gismar. The heads of our invaders!
And should Rome wonder at your German language,
Arminius will interpret for her, thus:
Romans! your country hath an inward greatness
Might satisfy whate'er an honest pride
Would treasure for its birthright.
To minister to every just desire;
Yours is an uncontested, lawful power
To build the walls of your security;
Yours are the arts, the blameless luxuries,
The pomp, the grace, the wisdom of refinement.
Think ye the gods bestowed these gifts upon you
To poison all your cup of happiness,
And make your boasted greatness your disgrace?
Think ye they sent them that your bloated pride
Might lead you forth to range the untrod wilds
And solemn woods of rude Germania?
To strip the rugged freeman of his meal,
Devour his fields and plunder his poor hovel?
Oh senseless Romans! you mistake your glory;
Let Germans teach you that a nation's safeguards
Are liberty, content, and principle:-
Should these be lessons that ye cannot brook,
Our swords, at least, may tell you what it is
To tempt the energies of native virtue!
Cherusci, do I speak your German feelings?
Gismar. Yes, brave Arminius! battle, instant battle
Then, my people,
I have a solemn purpose to disclose.
The cause, the glorious cause ye have espoused,
Demands a champion fit for noble deeds.
It is no light thing, Sirs, to hurl the bolt
Of justice at a tyrant's guarded head;
To guide the risings of indignant nature:
To make the wavering firm, the timid strong,
The incautious prudent; 't is no easy thing,
To mould a people to new warlike arts,
Such as triumphant enemies may teach;
It is a solemn charge to count one's self
The last avenger of insulted freedom;-
To stand upon a solitary shoal,
Whilst all around is one dark, cheerless waste,
And there to buffet with the tyrannous waves.
Cherusci! I am old, unskilled in arts
To turn this power upon the conqueror;
I can but lead you as my German fathers,
And set your strength against the Roman cunning;
I would, my people, that some bolder spirit,
Rich in the honours of a well-tried virtue,
Warm in the generous might of youthful daring
Schooled in the lessons by which Rome has conquered-
I would that such a man might be your leader.
Choose such a chief; my father's sword is his.
Gismar. We know him! he is with us! 'Tis Arminius.
Sieg. Arminius will be faithful to your trust.-
Take, then, my son, this sword of well-tried strength;
'Tis what your great progenitors have worn;
With this did Ariovistus, the Suevian,
Dash back the legions of insulting Cæsar;
Dying he gave it to your ancestor;
Heroes and kings have wielded it with glory;
Your father never sheathed it in dishonour.
(delivers the sword to Arm.) Arm. My sire! I vow-be witness, fellow-soldiers, Arminius here receives this honoured pledge, Not as a bauble to command obedience, To cut the check-strings of his blind ambition Or wanton with the life-blood of his country! O sacred weapon, grow to my firm arm, Till not a Roman shall pollute Germania. Germans, we stand upon an eminence Which puny souls below will gaze upon With fear and admiration. O'er the world, In climes as far as venturous men have ranged, Rome holds an undivided, awful sway; 'Tis a rule of terror and oppression,The lust of empire struggling with the fears, And jealousies, and vices of mankind. Rome once was free, ennobled and ennobling; Queen of the nations, favored of the gods; The nurse of mighty deeds, the kindling soil
Of heroes and of poets. She is fallen.
Her empire stands upon a mouldering base;
The will of despots, the proud pampered rule
Of heartless tyrants blots out all her virtues,
And makes her wisdom worthless. Here her legions
Come to instruct us in her Cæsar's humours.-
Germans! the law of one inflated man,
Was never meant to stand instead of reason,
To trample on his own submissive land,
Much less, to lord it over distant nations.
Or wherefore is this holy spark within us,
Which lights up all the soul against oppression;
Or whence this honest pride of untaught nature,
Which binds us to the circle of our country!
Gods! ye have planted in these lonely wilds
Souls that will vindicate your injured justice!
Strike we one honest blow of German vengeance,
And Rome's proud empire crumbles into ruin!
THE WORLD PURIFIED BY THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD.-Tzschirner.
WE should preserve the belief that the world is purified through God's judgments; because it gives us a grand and solemn, and at the same time a consolatory view of the history of the world.
If you see nothing in the actions and destinies of nations, but a succession of bloody wars and quickly broken treaties of peace, of kingdoms rising and passing away, of countries separating and uniting; a multifarious picture worthy of contemplation, is certainly exhibited before you, but not a great and imposing spectacle. For then it is nothing more than a long line of common appearances, a long continued play of the passions, incidentally varying, but essentially always the same. The history of the world, then, only becomes grand and sublime, when we perceive the spirit of God moving over the depths of the stream of time, and behold the reflection of the divine glory in the mirror of its
He only, who finds the manifestation of God in the history of the world, and in declining and rising kingdoms, discerns