Fiction > Harvard Classics > J. W. von Goethe > Egmont
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).  Egmont.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act V
 
Scene III
 
 
Clara’s House
  1
 
>  Clara  (enters from her chamber with a lamp and a glass of water; she places the glass upon the table and steps to the window). Brackenburg, is it you? What noise was that? No one yet? No one! I will set the lamp in the window, that he may see that I am still awake, that I still watch for him. He promised me tidings. Tidings? horrible certainty!—Egmont condemned!—what tribunal has the right to summon him?—And they dare to condemn him!—Does the king condemn him, or the duke? And the Regent with draws herself! Orange hesitates, and all his friends!—Is this the world, of whose fickleness and treachery I have heard so much, and as yet experienced nothing? Is this the world?—Who could be so base as to bear malice against one so dear? Could villainy itself be audacious enough to overwhelm with sudden destruction the object of a nation’s homage? Yet so it is—it is—O Egmont, I held thee safe before God and man, safe as in my arms! What was I to thee? Thou hast called me thine, my whole being was devoted to thee. What am I now? In vain I stretch out my hand to the toils that environ thee. Thou helpless and I free!—Here is the key that unlocks my chamber door. My going out and my coming in, depend upon my own caprice; yet, alas; to aid thee I am powerless!—Oh, bind me that I may not despair; hurl me into the deepest dungeon, that I may dash my head against the damp walls, groan for freedom, and dream how I would rescue him if fetters did not hold me bound.—Now I am free, and in freedom lies the anguish of impotence.—Conscious of my own existence, yet unable to stir a limb in his behalf, alas! even this insignificant portion of thy being, thy Clara, is, like thee, a captive, and, separated from thee, consumes her expiring energies in the agonies of death.—I hear a stealthy step,—a cough—Brackenburg,—’tis he!—Kind, unhappy man, thy destiny remains ever the same; thy love opens to thee the door at night, alas! to what a doleful meeting. (Enter BRACKENBURG.) Thou com’st so pale, so terrified! Brackenburg! What is it?  2
  Brackenburg.  I have sought thee through perils and circuitous paths. The principal streets are occupied with troops;—through lanes and by-ways have I stolen to thee!  3
  Clara.  Tell me, how is it?  4
  Brackenburg  (seating himself). O Clara, let me weep. I loved him not. He was the rich man who lured to better pasture the poor man’s solitary lamb. I have never cursed him, God has created me with a true and tender heart. My life was consumed in anguish, and each day I hoped would end my misery.  5
  Clara.  Let that be forgotten, Brackenburg! Forget thyself. Speak to me of him! Is it true? Is he condemned?  6
  Brackenburg.  He is! I know it.  7
  Clara.  And still lives?  8
  Brackenburg.  Yes, he still lives.  9
  Clara.  How canst thou be sure of that? Tyranny murders the hero in the night! His blood flows concealed from every eye. The people stunned and bewildered, lie buried in sleep, dream of deliverance, dream of the fulfilment of their impotent wishes, while, indignant at our supineness, his spirit abandons the world. He is no more! Deceive me not; deceive not thyself!  10
  Brackenburg.  No,—he lives! and the Spaniards, alas, are preparing for the people, on whom they are about to trample, a terrible spectacle, in order to crush for ever, by a violent blow, each heart that yet pants for freedom.  11
  Clara.  Proceed! Calmly pronounce my death-warrant also! Near and more near I approach that blessed land, and already from those realms of peace, I feel the breath of consolation. Say on.  12
  Brackenburg.  From casual words, dropped here and there by the guards, I learned that secretly in the market-place they were preparing some terrible spectacle. Through by-ways and familiar lanes I stole to my cousin’s house, and from a back window, looked out upon the market-place. Torches waved to and fro, in the hands of a wide circle of Spanish soldiers. I sharpened my unaccustomed sight, and out of the darkness there arose before me a scaffold, black, spacious, and lofty! The sight filled me with horror. Several persons were employed in covering with black cloth such portions of the wood-work as yet remained white and visible. The steps were covered last, also with black;—I saw it all. They seemed preparing for the celebration of some horrible sacrifice. A white crucifix, that shone like silver through the night, was raised on one side. As I gazed the terrible conviction strengthened in my mind. Scattered torches still gleamed here and there; gradually they flickered and went out. Suddenly the hideous birth of night returned into its mother’s womb.  13
  Clara.  Hush, Brackenburg! Be still! Let this veil rest upon my soul. The spectres are vanished; and thou, gentle night, lend thy mantle to the inwardly fermenting earth, she will no longer endure the loathsome burden, shuddering, she rends open her yawning chasms, and with a crash swallows the murderous scaffold. And that God, whom in their rage they have insulted, sends down His angel from on high; at the hallowed touch of the messenger bolts and bars fly back; he pours around our friend a mild radiance, and leads him gently through the night to liberty. My path leads also through the darkness to meet him.  14
  Brackenburg  (detaining her). My child, whither wouldst thou go? What wouldst thou do?  15
  Clara.  Softly, my friend, lest some one should awake! Lest we should awake ourselves! Know’st thou this phial, Brackenburg? I took it from thee once in jest, when thou, as was thy wont, didst threaten, in thy impatience, to end thy days.—And now my friend—  16
  Brackenburg.  In the name of all the saints!  17
  Clara.  Thou canst not hinder me. Death is my portion! Grudge me not the quiet and easy death which thou hadst prepared for thyself. Give me thine hand!—At the moment when I unclose that dismal portal through which there is no return, I may tell thee, with this pressure of the hand, how sincerely I have loved, how deeply I have pitied thee. My brother died young; I chose thee to fill his place; thy heart rebelled, thou didst torment thyself and me, demanding with ever increasing fervour that which fate had not destined for thee. Forgive me and farewell! Let me call thee brother! ’Tis a name that embraces many names. Receive, with a true heart, the last fair token of the departing spirit—take this kiss. Death unites all, Brackenburg—us too it will unite!  18
  Brackenburg.  Let me then die with thee! Share it! oh, share it! There is enough to extinguish two lives.  19
  Clara.  Hold! Thou must live, thou canst live.—Support my mother, who, without thee, would be a prey to want. Be to her what I can no longer be, live together, and weep for me. Weep for our fatherland, and for him who could alone have upheld it. The present generation must still endure this bitter woe; vengeance itself could not obliterate it. Poor souls, live on, through this gap in time, which is time no longer. To-day the world suddenly stands still, its course is arrested, and my pulse will beat but for a few minutes longer. Farewell.  20
  Brackenburg.  Oh, live with us, as we live only for thy sake! In taking thine own life, thou wilt take ours also; still live and suffer. We will stand by thee, nothing shall sever us from thy side, and love, with ever-watchful solicitude, shall prepare for thee the sweetest consolation in its loving arms. Be ours! Ours! I dare not say, mine.  21
  Clara.  Hush, Brackenburg! Thou feelest not what chord thou touchest. Where hope appears to thee, I see only despair.  22
  Brackenburg.  Share hope with the living! Pause on the brink of the precipice, cast one glance into the gulf below, and then look back on us.  23
  Clara.  I have conquered; call me not back to the struggle.  24
  Brackenburg.  Thou art stunned; enveloped in night, thou seekest the abyss. Every light is not yet extinguished, yet many days!—  25
  Clara.  Alas! Alas! Cruelly thou dost rend the veil from before mine eyes. Yes, the day will dawn! Despite its misty shroud it needs must dawn. Timidly the burgher gazes from his window, night leaves behind an ebon speck; he looks, and the scaffold looms fearfully in the morning light. With re-awakened anguish the desecrated image of the Saviour lifts to the Father its imploring eyes. The sun veils his beams, he will not mark the hero’s death-hour. Slowly the fingers go their round—one hour strikes after another—hold! Now is the time. The thought of the morning scares me into the grave.  (She goes to the window as if to look out, and drinks secretly.)  26
  Brackenburg.  Clara! Clara!  27
  Clara  (goes to the table, and drinks water). Here is the remainder. I invite thee not to follow me. Do as thou wilt; farewell. Extinguish this lamp silently and without delay; I am going to rest. Steal quietly away, close the door after thee. Be still! Wake not my mother! Go, save thyself, if thou wouldst not be taken for my murderer.  [Exit.  28
  Brackenburg.  She leaves me for the last time as she has ever done. What human soul could conceive how cruelly she lacerates the heart that loves her? She leaves me to myself, leaves me to choose between life and death, and both are alike hateful to me. To die alone! Weep, ye tender souls! Fate has no sadder doom than mine. She shares with me the death-potion, yet sends me from her side! She draws me after her, yet thrusts me back into life! Oh, Egmont, how enviable a lot falls to thee! She goes before thee! The crown of victory from her hand is thine, she brings all heaven to meet thee!—And shall I follow? Again to stand aloof? To carry this inextinguishable jealousy even to yon distant realms? Earth is no longer a tarrying place for me, and hell and heaven offer equal torture. Now welcome to the wretched the dread hand of annihilation!  [Exit.  (The scene remains some time unchanged. Music sounds, indicating CLARA’S death; the lamp, which BRACKENBURG had forgotten to extinguish, flares up once or twice, and then suddenly expires. The scene changes to  29
 

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