Early Works of Karl Marx: Book of Verse
Oulanem, a German traveller
Lucindo, his companion
Pertini, a citizen of a mountain town in Italy
Alwander, a citizen of the same town
Beatrice, his foster-daughter
Perto, a monk
The action takes place inside or before Pertini's house, Alwander's house, and in the mountains.
A mountain town
Pertini. Sirs, the whole town is crowded out with strangers,
Attracted to the spot by fame, to see
The wonders of the neighbourhood. In short,
I offer you my home. For at no inn
Will you find room. So all I can provide
With my small means I shall be glad to place
At your disposal. Truly, I am drawn
To friendship with you. That's no flattery.
Oulanem. We thank you, stranger, and I only fear
Lest your opinion of us be too high.
Pertini. Good ... good.... Then let us leave the compliments.
Oulanem. But we intend to make a lengthy stay.
Pertini. Each day the less you spend in pleasure here
Will be my loss.
Oulanem. Once more we thank you warmly.
Pertini (calling a servant).
Boy! See the gentlemen up to their room.
They wish to take some rest after their journey;
They also want to be alone and change
Their heavy travelling clothes for lighter wear.
Oulanem. We take our leave, but we shall soon return.
It's he, by God, it's he; the day has come;
He, the old friend I never could forget,
Any more than my conscience gives me rest.
That's excellent! Now I'll exchange my conscience;
He shall be it henceforth, yes, he, Oulanem.
So, conscience, now may it go well with you.
For every night you stood before my bed,
You went to sleep when I did, rose with me--
We know each other, man, my eyes upon it!
What's more, I know that there are others here;
They are Oulanem also, also Oulanem!
There's death rings in that name. Well, let it ring
Till in its owner vile it rings its last.
But wait, I have it now! As clear as air,
Firm as my bones, it comes up from my soul.
His oath stands up in arms before my eyes!
I've found it, and I'll see he finds it too!
My plan is made--you are its very soul,
Yes, you, Oulanem, are its very life.
Would you work Destiny as 'twere a puppet?
Make Heaven a plaything for your calculations?
Fabricate Gods out of your old spent loins?
Now, play your part off pat, my little God;
But wait--wait for your cue--leave that to me!
Pertini. Pray, why so much alone, my dear young sir?
Lucindo. Curiosity. The old find nothing new.
Pertini. Indeed! Your time of life!
Lucindo. No, but if ever
My soul cherished a strong desire, if ever
My heart was moved by a presentient yearning,
It was to call him Father, be his son,
That one's whose manly and impassioned spirit
Can drink in worlds entire; whose heart streams forth
The radiance of the Gods. Did you not know him,
Then you might not conceive that such a man
Pertini. It sounds indeed most fine and tender,
When from the warm voluptuous lips of youth
The praise of Age streams forth like tongues of fire.
It sounds so moral, like a Bible sermon,
Just like the story of the Dame Susannah,
Or like that tale about the Prodigal Son.
But dare I ask you if you know this man
With whom your heart would seem so closely bound?
Lucindo. Seem? Only semblance-- semblance and delusion?
You hate mankind?
Pertini. Well, at the very least I am a man!
Lucindo. Forgive if I've offended.
You are full well disposed towards the Stranger,
And he who goes in friendship to the Wanderer,
His spirit is not locked within itself.
You seek an answer. Answer you shall have.
We are together bound in a strange union
Deep woven in the bottom of our hearts
Which, even as bright blazing brands of fire,
The spirits of his breast weave round with radiance,
As if well-wishing Demons of the Light
With thoughtful tenderness had matched us both.
Thus have I known him since long, long ago--
So long ago, that Memory scarcely whispers
Of our first meeting. How we found each other,
I know it not.
Pertini. It sounds indeed romantic.
And yet, my dear young sir, it is but sound
That sounds only to parry a request.
Lucindo. I swear to it.
Pertini. What do you swear to, sir?
Lucindo. I do not know him, yet indeed I know him.
He hides some mystery deep within his breast,
Which I may not yet know--not now ... not yet ...
These words repeat themselves each day, each hour.
For see, I do not know myself!
Pertini. That's bad!
Lucindo. I stand here so cut off, so separate.
The poorest wretch takes pride in what he is
When, smiling, he tells of the line that bore him,
Cherishing in his heart each little detail.
I cannot do this. Men call me Lucindo,
But they could call me gallows too, or tree.
Pertini. What do you want, then? Friendship with the gallows?
Kinship, even? Well, I can help you there!
Lucindo (earnestly). Play not with empty syllables and sounds
When I rage inwardly.
Pertini. Rage on, my friend,
Till rage is spent.
Lucindo (indignantly). What do you mean?
Pertini. Mean? Nothing!
I am a dry house philistine, no more,
A man who simply calls each hour an hour,
Who goes to sleep at night-time, just to rise
When morning comes again; who counts the hours
Until he's counted out and the clock stops,
And worms become the hands that show the time;
And so on till the final Judgment Day
When Jesus, with the Angel Gabriel,
Pronouncing sentence on his wrathful trumpet,
Reads out the list of our recorded sins,
And stands us on the right or on the left,
And runs his God-fist over all our hides
To find out whether we are lambs or wolves.
Lucindo. He'll not name me, because I have no name.
Pertini. Well said! That's how I like to hear you speak!
But since I'm just a plain house philistine,
My thoughts are homely, and I handle thoughts
As you do stones and sand. So if a man
Cannot name his own family, but turns
Up with another, he's an off-shoot--born
On the wrong side of the blanket.
Lucindo. What was that?
Think sooner black the sun and flat the moon,
And neither sending forth one shaft of light,
But here a sound--a surmise--and Life weighs it.
Pertini. My friend, you must not improvise so wildly.
Believe me, I'm not prone to nervous fits!
But off-shoots are quite often green and messy,
Yes, yes, they take their own luxuriant way
And shoot up shining towards the very Heavens,
As if they knew that they had sprung from joy,
Begotten by no dull and slavish union.
For look you, off-shoots of this kind are satires;
Nature's a Poet, Marriage sits in a chair,
Its cap on, and with all the accessories,
Its sullen face with grimacing distorted,
And, lying at its feet, a dusty parchment
Scrawled over with the parson's blasphemies,
The church's dismal halls to give perspective,
The churlish rabble gaping in the background-
Give me off-shoots!
Lucindo (incensed). For God's sake, that's enough!
What is it, man? What do you mean? Speak out;
But by the Eternal I shall speak with you
What do I ask? Lies it not clear before me,
Grins not Hell out of it, does it not rise
Before my look like Death's own withered shape,
To glare at me and mutter threats of storm?
But, man, not easily, believe you me,
Have you hurled from your withered devil's fist
This blazing brand of fire into my breast:
For do not think you play dice with a boy,
Flinging the dice with shattering force straight at
His childish head. You've played too fast with me.
So now--and mark you this--we're gaming comrades.
You've quickly made yourself familiar. Out
With all that's heaving in your vile snake's bosom!
And be it mistrust only, or derision,
Then I shall throw it back into your throat,
And you yourself shall choke your poison down,
And then I'll play with you! But speak! I wish it!
Pertini. You do? You think of Faust and Mephistopheles.
You've brooded on them deeply, I dare say.
I tell you, no. Keep your wish to yourself,
And I'll throw dust into its silly eyes.
Lucindo. Take care. Don't blow upon the glowing embers
Until the flames blaze up and you yourself
Are burnt to cinders!
Pertini. A phrase! An empty phrase!
The only one they burn will be yourself!
Lucindo. Myself! So be it! To myself I'm nothing!
But you, oh, you my youthful arms enfold
And twine themselves in frenzy round your breast.
The abyss yawns gaping night to both of us,
If you sink down, smiling, I'll follow you,
And whisper to you, "Down! Come with me! Comrade!"
Pertini. It seems you're gifted with imagination.
You have dreamed much already in your life?
Lucindo. Just so. I am a dreamer, yes, a dreamer.
What knowledge do I want from you who have none?
You've only seen us, but you know us not,
Yet hurl against me scorn and blasphemy.
What am I waiting for? Still more of you?
You have no more ... but I have more for you.
For me--guilt, poison, shame--you must redeem it.
You've drawn the circle, and it leaves no room
For two of us. Now use your jumping skill.
As Fate draws, so it draws. So let it be.
Pertini. You must have read that ending out in class
From some dry, dusty hook of tragedies.
Lucindo. True, this is tragedy that we are playing.
Come on, now. Where and how you want. You choose.
Pertini. And when, and everywhere, and any time,
Lucindo. Coward, don't make a mockery of my words,
Or I'll write coward across your very face,
And shout it out through each and every street
And thrash you publicly, if you'll not follow,
If you dare crack your feeble hackneyed jokes
When my heart's blood runs cold within my veins.
Not one word more; follow or do not follow,
Your sentence is pronounced, you coward, you knave!
Pertini (incensed). Say that again, boy! Say those words again!
Lucindo. Why, if it brings you joy--a thousand times;
If it stirs up your gall and sets it flowing
Until the blood starts furious from your eyeballs,
Then here it is again: you knave, you coward!
Pertini. We'll have this out. Write that upon your brain.
There's still one place to knit us two together,
And that is Hell--Hell not for me, but you!
Lucindo. Why count the syllables, if it can be settled
Here on the spot. Then fly away to Hell,
And tell the Devils it was I that sent you!
Pertini. Just one more word.
Lucindo. What is the use of words?
I hear them not. Blow bubbles in the wind,
Draw lineaments on your face to match your words,
I see them not. Bring weapons, let them speak,
I'll put my whole heart into them, and if
It breaks not, then-
Pertini (interrupting him).
Not quite so bold, my lad, and not so callow!
You, you have not a thing to lose, no, nothing!
You are a stone that's fallen from the moon,
That someone somewhere scratched one single word
You spelled the letters out: they read "Lucindo".
See! On that empty tablet I'll not dare
Wager myself, my life, my honour, all.
You want to use my blood for artist's colour?
Am I to be the brush that lends you tone?
We are too far removed in rank and station.
Am I to stand against you as you are?
I know what I am. Tell me, what are you?
You know not, are not, you have naught to lose!
Thief-like, you seek to pledge to me an honour
That never in your bastard's bosom glowed?
You seek to swindle, lay your empty ticket
Against my sterling worth, my friend?
Not so! First get you honour, name and life-
You are still nothing--then I'll gladly stake
My honour, name and life against your own!
Lucindo. So that's it, coward! You want to save your skin?
You've worked the sum out so ingeniously,
Oh, so ingeniously, in your dull brain?
Do not deceive yourself: I'll change your answer,
And I shall write down "coward" in its place.
I'll scorn you as I would a maddened beast;
I'll shame you, yes, shame you before the world,
And then you can explain, with all the details,
To aunts and uncles, children, everyone,
I call myself Lucindo, yes, Lucindo,
That is my name; it might have been some other;
I go by it, though it could have been different.
What men call being, I do not possess;
But you are what you are, and that's a coward!
Pertini. That's nice, that's very pretty. But supposing
I could give you a name--you hear, a name?
Lucindo. You have no name yourself, and yet you'd give one,
You who have never seen me, save this once;
And seeing's a lie, the eternal mockery
That hounds us down: we see, and that is all.
Pertini. Good. But who grasps more than is seen?
Lucindo. Not you.
You've seen in all things what you are: a scoundrel.
Pertini. True; I'm not easily fooled by the first glance.
But that man--he was not born yesterday!
Believe me, he has seen a thing or two.
What if we knew each other?
Lucindo. I don't believe it.
Pertini. But is there not a poet, wondrous strange,
A gloomy aesthete, butt of ridicule,
Who spends his hours in subtle meditation,
Who would make rhymes of Life, and would most gladly
Himself be author of the poem of Life?
Lucindo. Ha! It might well be chance. You don't deceive me!
Pertini. Chance! Such is the language of philosophers
When reason doesn't come to rescue them.
Chance--it's so easily said--one syllable,
A name is also chance. Anyone's name
Might be Oulanem if he had no other.
And so it is pure chance if I so call him.
Lucindo. You know him? Heavens! Speak! In Heaven's name!
Pertini. You know the boys' reward? Its name is--silence.
Lucindo. It sickens me to ask of you a favour,
But I beseech you, by all you hold dear!
Pertini. Dear? You think that I am going to bargain?
A coward, you know, is deaf to all entreaty.
Lucindo. You must, then, if you would wipe out the taunt
Of coward, you must speak without delay.
Pertini. Let's duel now, I'll fight you as you are.
You're good enough for me, so let us fight.
Lucindo. Don't drive me to the extreme, not to that verge
Where there are no more bounds, where all things end.
Pertini. Listen to him! We want to try extremes,
As Fate draws, so it draws. So let it be!
Lucindo. Ha! Is there no way out, no hope at all?
His breast as hard as iron, all feeling withered,
Cankered and dried with scorn, he mixes poison
And rubs it in for balsam. And he smiles.
This may be your last hour, man, yes, your last,
Seize it, absorb it, for in less than no time
You'll stand before your Judge; so break the chain
Of your life's vicious actions with one last,
One last good deed, one solitary word,
As lightly breathed as air!
Pertini.'Twas chance, good friend.
Believe me, I believe in chance myself.
Lucindo. In Vain! -- all-- all -- But stop, you shallow fool,
It won't be settled that way, no, by God!
Your sharp eye has deceived you once again.
I'll call him here in person. Then you may stand,
Before him, face to face and eye to eye,
Just like a little boy caught doing wrong.
You cannot hold me, man! Out of my way!
Pertini. A greater plan now rescues you, my lad;
Pertini can't forget, believe you me!
Pertini (calls). Lucindo, ho! In Heaven's name, come back!
Lucindo. What would you? Off with you!
Pertini. There's honour for you!
Go, tell the worthy gentleman we quarrelled;
You challenged me, but being a good boy
A good boy and a very pious child!-
Repented, begged forgiveness, were forgiven.
Then shed a pious tear, and kiss his hand,
And cut the rod for your repentant back!
Lucindo. You drive me to it.
Pertini. You let yourself be driven.
This sounds as moral as a children's primer.
Do you believe in God?
Lucindo. Confess to you?
Pertini. Don't you demand that I confess to you?
I shall. But say, do you believe in God?
Lucindo. What's that to you?
Pertini. It's hardly fashionable,
So I'd much like to hear you tell me plainly.
Lucindo. I don't believe with what is called belief,
And yet I know Him as I know myself.
Pertini. We'll talk of that when mood and moment suit;
How you believe is all the same to me,
At least you do believe. Good. Swear by Him.
Lucindo. What? Swear to you?
Pertini. Yes, swear you must that never
Will your tongue blab a single syllable.
Lucindo. By God, I swear it.
Pertini. Then swear you'll cherish only friendship for me.
See, I am not so bad--only outspoken.
Lucindo. By God, I would not swear it for a world
That I loved you or held you in esteem.
I cannot and I will not ever swear it,
But what is past, let that be all wiped out
As if it were a loathsome, evil dream.
I'll plunge it down where all dreams disappear to,
Deep in the rolling waves of oblivion.
That I will swear to you by Him that's holy,
From whom the worlds come whirling up through space,
Who with His glance brings forth Eternity,
I swear! But now the guerdon for my oath.
Pertini. Come! I will lead you to a quiet place,
And show you many a sight: rocky ravines,
Where lakes have welled up from volcanic Earth,
Cradling in quietude their rounded waters;
And where the years rush past in silent sequence,
Then will the storm indeed subside, and then-
Lucindo. What's this? You speak of stones, bays, worms and mud?
But rocks and crags tower upwards everywhere,
In every spot a spring comes bubbling forth:
Whether impetuous, low, high--what matter?
Mysterious places still are to be found
Where we are held enraptured and spellbound.
To see them wakes excitement in my breast,
And if it bursts, why, it is jest, no more.
So take me where you will, yes, to that goal!
Waver and falter not, but let's away!
Pertini. The rolling thunder first must cease its din
Ere the pure lightning cleanse your breast within.
So to a spot I'll make myself your guide
Where, I much fear, you'll wish too long to abide.
Lucindo. Oh, let our journey's goal lie where it may,
I'll follow you, if you will lead the way.
Pertini. Mistrustful! (They both go out.)
Oulanem. All lost! The hour is now expired, and time
Stands still. This pigmy universe collapses.
Soon I shall clasp Eternity and howl
Humanity's giant curse into its ear.
Eternity! It is eternal pain,
Death inconceivable, immeasurable!
An evil artifice contrived to taunt us,
Who are but clockwork, blind machines wound up
To be the calendar-fools of Time; to be,
Only that something thus at least might happen;
And to decay, that there might be decay!
The worlds must have had need of one thing more-
Dumb, searing agony to send them whirling.
Death comes to life and puts on shoes and stockings;
The sorrowing plant, the stone's inert erosion,
The birds that find no song to tell the pain
Of their aethereal life, the general discord
And the blind striving of the All to shake
Itself out of itself, be crushed in quarrel-
This now stands up and has a pair of legs,
And has a breast to feel the curse of life!
Ha, I must twine me on the wheel of flame,
And in Eternity's ring I'll dance my frenzy!
If aught besides that frenzy could devour,
I'd leap therein, though I must smash a world
That towered high between myself and it!
It would be shattered by my long-drawn curse,
And I would ding my arms around cruel Being,
Embracing me,'twould silent pass away.
Then silent would I sink into the void.
Wholly to sink, not be--oh, this were Life,
But swept along high on Eternity's current
To roar out threnodies for the Creator,
Scorn on the brow! Can Sun burn it away?
Bound in compulsion's sway, curse in defiance!
Let the envenomed eye flash forth destruction-
Does it hurl off the ponderous worlds that bind?
Bound in eternal fear, splintered and void,
Bound to the very marble block of Being,
Bound, bound forever, and forever bound!
The worlds, they see it and go rolling on
And howl the burial song of their own death.
And we, we Apes of a cold God, still cherish
With frenzied pain upon our loving breast
The viper so voluptuously warm,
That it as Universal Form rears up
And from its place on high grins down on us!
And in our ear, till loathing's all consumed,
The weary wave roars onward, ever onward!
Now quick, the die is cast, and all is ready;
Destroy what only poetry's lie contrived,
A curse shall finish what a curse conceived.
(He sits down at the table and writes.)
Lucindo. Why bring me here?
Pertini. For a succulent piece of woman,
That's all! See for yourself, and if she softly
Breathes a melodious peace into your soul,
Lucindo. What! You're taking me to whores?
And at the very time when all of Life
Comes down with crushing force upon my shoulders,
And when my breast swells irresistibly
In a mad frenzy craving self-destruction;
When each breath breathes a thousand deaths for me,
And now a woman!
Pertini. Ha! Rave on, young man,
Breathe hellfire and destruction, breathe away!
What whores? Did I misunderstand your meaning?
See, there's the house. Does it look like a brothel?
You think I want to play the pimp for you,
And use the very daylight for a lantern?
That's rich. But enter first and there, perhaps,
You'll learn what you desire.
Lucindo. I see your trick.
The stuff you made it of is very cheap.
You really seek to slip the hand that holds you.
Be grateful that this moment I must hear you;
But temporising will cost you your life.
(They go into the house. The curtain falls and another is raised.
A modern, elegant room.
Beatrice is sitting on the sofa, a guitar beside her.
Lucindo, Pertini, Beatrice.)
Pertini. Beatrice, a young traveller I bring,
A pleasant gentleman, my distant kinsman.
Beatrice (to Lucindo). Welcome!
Lucindo. Forgive me if I find no words,
No speech to express my heart's astonishment.
Beauty so rare quite overwhelms the spirits;
The blood leaps high, but not a word will come.
Beatrice. Fair words, young sir. You are in a pleasant mood.
I thank your disposition, not the favour
That Nature has denied me so unkindly,
When 'tis your tongue that speaks, and not your heart.
Lucindo. Oh, if my heart might speak, if it might only
Pour forth what you have quickened in its depths,
The words would all be flames of melody,
And every breath a whole eternity,
A Heaven, an Empire infinitely vast,
In which all lives would sparkle bright with thoughts
Full of soft yearning, full of harmonies,
Locking the World so sweetly in its breast,
Streaming with radiance of pure loveliness,
Since every word would only bear your name!
Pertini. You will not take it in bad part, young lady,
If I explain to you that he is German
And always raves of Melody and Soul.
Beatrice. A German! But I like the Germans well,
And I am proud to be of that same stock.
Come, sit here, German sir.
(She offers him a place on the sofa.)
Lucindo. Thank you, my lady.
(Aside to Pertini.)
Away! There is still time; here I am lost!
Beatrice (abashed). Did I speak out of place?
(Lucindo wants to speak, but Pertini cuts in.)
Pertini. Spare us your flourishes and your flattery!
Twas nothing, Beatrice; merely some business
That I must still arrange for him in haste.
Lucindo (confused, in a low voice).
By God, Pertini, you are playing with me!
Take it not so to heart, don't be so scared!
The lady trusts my word, is it not so?
Beatrice, he may stay, is it not so,
Till I am back. And please remember--prudence;
You are a stranger, so no foolishness.
Beatrice. Oh, come, young sir, was then my welcome such
That you could think I'd banish you, a stranger,
Friend of Pertini, an old friend of ours,
Unceremoniously from this house,
Whose hospitable doors are open to all?
You need not flatter, but you must be fair.
Lucindo. By God, your gracious kindness overwhelms me!
You speak as gently as the angels speak.
Forgive if overawed and overcome
By the wild stream of passion long forgotten,
The lips spoke what they ought to have concealed.
Yet see the sky all clear and luminous
Smile down upon us from the clouds' blue realm,
And see the colours throb so sweet and bright,
Now wrapped in shade and now in gentle light,
Mingling in harmonies so soft and full,
One lovely picture, one inspired soul.
See this, and then be silent if your lips
Obey. But no! your heart enchanted leaps,
Prudence and circumspection vanished all.
The lips must speak what holds your heart in thrall.
Even as the Aeolian lyre is stirred to sound
When Zephyr wraps his fluttering pinions round.
Beatrice. Reproof I cannot find within my heart,
You dress the poison, sir, with such sweet art.
Lucindo (aside to Pertini).
Confounded villain, yet good villain too,
What shall I do? Get out of here, by God!
It rankles in his mind, remembering how
I took the words out of his mouth just now.
In language beautiful he would have talked,
When by my interruption he was balked.
But never mind,'tis Beatrice's belief
You kindly wished to afford her some relief
From your grand talk; like any German jest,
Once swallowed, it's not easy to digest.
Lucindo (in a low voice). But man!
Pertini (aloud). Think of the sympathies
That from the stomach to the heart soon rise;
I'll soon be back to fetch you swift away,
Or else in this sweet place too long you'll stay.
(Aside.) I must be gone. And while he pays his court,
I'll see the old man brings it all to naught.
(Exit Pertini. Lucindo is in confusion.)
Beatrice. And must I yet once more bid you be seated?
Lucindo. I'll gladly sit here if you truly wish it.
Beatrice. Our friend Pertini's often strangely moody.
Lucindo. Yes, strangely so! Most strangely! Very strangely!
Forgive me, lady--you esteem this man!
Beatrice. He has long been a true friend of the household,
And always treated me most amiably.
And yet -- I know not why -- I cannot bear him.
He's often violent. Often from his breast-
Forgive me, he's your friend--some secret spirit
Calls strangely, in a voice I do not like.
It is as though some inner turbulent darkness
Shrank from the daylight's open look of love
And feared to make response, as if he harboured
An evil worse than his tongue speaks, worse even
Than his heart dares to think. This is but surmise,
And I do wrong, confiding it so soon;
It is suspicion; suspicion is a viper.
Lucindo. Do you regret confiding in me, then?
Beatrice. Were it a secret that concerned myself-
But oh, what am I saying! Have you won
My trust already? Yet it is not wrong
That I should tell you everything I know;
I could confide it all to anyone,
Since I know nothing that's not known to all.
Lucindo. To all? Well said! You would be kind to all?
Beatrice. Would you not too?
Lucindo. O angel, O sweet being!
Beatrice. You make me fearful, sir. What mean these words?
You jump so suddenly from theme to theme!
Lucindo. I must act quickly, for the hour is striking.
Why hesitate? Death is in every minute.
Can I conceal it? It's a miracle,
I have just met you; strange though it appears,
We might have known each other many years.
It is as if the music I heard sound
Within my own heart, living form had found,
And into vibrant, warm reality
The spirit-bond uniting us breaks free.
Beatrice. I won't deny it: you are not to me
A stranger, yet still strange you are, unknown.
But as dark spirits would not let us see
Each other till this hour, so we must own
There may be other spirits whose deceit
Binds us with treacherous bonds, however sweet.
Foresight and wisdom we must not despise;
The strongest lightning strikes not from dark skies.
Lucindo. O fair philosopher of the heart! O God,
I can resist no more, for you compel me!
Do not imagine that I do not hold
You in respect because my heart grows bold.
It throbs to bursting, all my nerves are tense.
I can resist no more. Soon I'll be gone,
Far, far away from here, from you divided.
Then, worlds, plunge down, plunge down into the abyss!
Forgive me, sweet my child, forgive the hour
That drives me onward with such violent power.
I love you, Beatrice, by God I swear it,
And Love and Beatrice make but one word
That I can utter only in one breath,
And in this thought I'd go to meet my death.
Beatrice. Since good can never come of it, I pray
Speak no more thus. If--but this cannot be--
You were to win my heart, now, straightaway,
Surely you would no longer honour me.
You'd say that I was just a common thing,
Ready, as thousands are, to have her fling.
If for a moment such a notion crossed
Your mind, then love and honour would be lost.
Twould mean that you cared for me not a jot,
And self-reproach would have to be my lot.
Lucindo. Tender and lovely being, hear me plead!
If only in my bosom you could read,
I never loved till now, by God above,
And your reproaches make a mock of love.
Let the base merchant haggle over flaws,
By shrewd delays more profit still he draws.
Love brings the union of the worlds about,
Naught is beyond, and naught else to desire.
Let those who bind themselves in hatred doubt.
Love is a flashing spark from Life's own fire,
Magic that holds us in an open ring,
So yield to it--this is the only thing
That counts in love, not prudent carefulness;
For love is quick to kindle, quick to bless.
Beatrice. Shall I be modest? Coy? No, I must dare,
However high may leap the flames' fierce flare.
Yet my breast tightens under fearful strain
As if delight were mixed with searing pain,
As if between our union there came floating
A hissing sound mixed in by devils gloating.
Lucindo. It is the fire which you do not yet know,
And the old life, which now has turned to go
Away from us, is speaking its last word;
Then its reproaches will no more be heard.
But tell me, Beatrice, how will you be mine!
Beatrice. My father wants to tie me to a man
Whom I would hate if I could hate my fellows.
But be assured you soon will hear from me.
Where are you staying, sweet friend of my heart?
Lucindo. Why, at Pertini's house.
Beatrice. I'll send a courier.
But now your name? Most surely it must sound
As does the music of the circling spheres.
Lucindo (in a serious voice). Lucindo is my name.
Beatrice. Lucindo! Sweet,
Sweet rings that name to me. Ah, my Lucindo,
He is my world, my God, my heart, my all.
Lucindo. Beatrice, that's yourself, and you are more,
You are yet more than all, for you are Beatrice.
(He presses her ardently to his breast. The door bursts open and Wierin enters.)
Wierin. A pretty sight! O Beatrice! O snake!
Puppet of virtue, are you, cold as marble!
Lucindo. What do you mean by this? What do you seek?
By God, no ape could ever look so sleek.
Wierin. Damned boy, you'll soon enough learn what I mean.
We'll speak together, you and I, O rival
Fashioned in human form to make it loathsome,
Creature puffed up with impudent conceit,
A piece of blotting-paper to wipe pens on,
A comic hero of some wretched jape.
Lucindo. And as remarked, behold the complete ape!
Shame on you thus to bandy words with me!
Such courage is like barrel-organ music
Played to a painted picture of a battle.
Soon the real thing will count.
Wierin. Soon? Now boy, now we'll have this matter out!
B-b-by God--my very blood runs cold!
Beatrice, I'll finish off this paramour.
Lucindo. Silence, fellow, I'll follow you this instant.
Pertini. What's all this noise? You think you're on the street?
Why do you screech, you crow? I'll stop your mouth!
I've come just in the nick of time. The fellow
Has somewhat misinterpreted my meaning.
(Beatrice falls in a faint.)
Lucindo. Help! She swoons! O God!
(He bends over her.)
Come to yourself, angel, sweet spirit, speak!
(He kisses her.)
Feel you the warmth? Her eyelids flutter, she breathes!
Beatrice, why are you so? Oh, tell me, why?
You want to kill me? Can I see you thus?
(He raises her up, embracing her. Wierin wants to rush upon him.
Pertini holds him back.)
Pertini. Come, friend Crow, just a few words in your ear.
Beatrice (in a faint voice). Lucindo, my Lucindo, ah, my lost one,
And lost to me, my heart, before I won you.
Lucindo. Be calm, my angel, nothing shall be lost,
And soon I'll see this fellow breathe his last.
(He carries her to the sofa.)
Lie there a while; we cannot long remain,
This holy place must bear no evil stain.
Wierin. Come, we shall speak together.
Pertini. I'll come too.
One second at a duel is something new.
Lucindo. Compose yourself, sweet child, be of good cheer.
Lucindo. Angel, farewell.
Beatrice (with a deep sigh). I'm full of fear.
(Curtain. End of Act I.)