The Misanthrope Reclaimed - ACT IV.

Category: Poetry
Scene I. A peak of the Alps. Werner alone. Time, morning.


How gloriously beautiful is earth!
In these her quiet, unfrequented haunts,
To which, except the timid chamois' foot,
Or venturous hunter's, or the eagle's wing,
Naught from beneath ascends. As yet the sun
But darts his earliest rays of golden light
Upon the summits of the tallest peaks,
Which robed in clouds and capped with glittering ice,
Soar proudly up, and beam and blaze aloft,
As if they would claim kindred with the stars!
And they may claim such kindred, for there is
Within, around, and over them, the same
Supreme, eternal, all-creating spirit
Which glows and burns in every beaming orb
That circles in immeasurable space!
Far as the eye can trace the mountain's crest
On either hand, a gorgeous, varied mass
Of glowing, cloud-formed ranges are at rest,
Reflecting back in every hue and tint,

Purple and crimson, orange and bright gold,
The sunny smile with which Morn hails the world.
Beneath me all is quiet yet and calm,
For the dim shadow of the silent night
Still rests upon the valley, still the flock
Sleeps undisturbed within the guarded fold,
The lark yet slumbers in her lowly nest,
The dew hangs heavy upon leaf and blade,
The gray mist still o'erveils the unruffled lake,
And all is tranquil as an infant's sleep;
Tranquil around me, but not so within,
For in my breast a thousand restless thoughts
Conflict in wild, chaotical confusion.
Thoughts of long bygone years, and things that were
But are no more, and thoughts that sternly strive
To grapple with the mysteries I late
Have looked upon; for I, since yesternight,
Have traversed the wide sea of space that rolls
Between the shores of this and other worlds;
Have gazed upon and scanned those worlds, or shades
That wear the lineaments of such; have seen
The damned in their own place, and marked the deep,
Terrific retribution Error brings
To such as are her votaries in life.
And now I feel how baseless was my hope
That Peace, the solitary boon I crave,
Might spring from knowledge. Tis a fatal tree,
Which ever hath borne bitter fruit, since first
'Twas set in Paradise. But I must seek
The cottage of some honest mountaineer,
Who may afford me nurture and repose,
For I am weary, both in mind and frame.

Scene II. A chamber in the cottage of Manuel. Albert asleep.
Rebecca standing by his couch.


My boy! my beautiful, my dearest hope!
The garner where my trust of future joy
Is treasured. Heaven bless thee! May thy life,
If it seem good to Him who gave it, be
Blest to the fulness of a mother's prayer!

[She stoops to kiss him, and continues.]

How well his sleep portrays a quiet mind,
The embodied image of a sunny day,
A day without a cloud, whose only voices
Arise from sighing airs, and whispering leaves,
And tell-tale brooks that of their banks beseech
A gift, a wreath of their sweet flowers, wherewith
To soothe the angry Geni of the deep!
And free, glad birds that flit from bough to bough,
And ring their songs of love in the clear air,
Till heaven is filled with gushing melody,
And the all-glowing horizon becomes
A thing of life, whose breath is sweetest music!

[Kisses him again, and continues.]

His brow to me is as a spotless page,
Whereon is traced the story of my first
And only love, the bright and holy dream
That stole into my bosom, when beside
The crystal stream that threads a neighbouring vale,
I and his father watched our fathers' flocks,
And he would lay aside his shepherd's pipe,
And in low words, far sweeter than its music,
Talk of the sun and stars and gentle moon,
The earth and all its loveliness, the trees
And shrubs and flowers; how these were all pervaded
And quickened by the spirit of deep love;
Till, by the frequent blush that tinged my cheek,
The light that would break from my downcast eyes,
And the quick beat of my too happy heart,
Emboldened, he poured out his own pure passion,
On my enchanted ear! Since then my life
Has had no eras, - days, and months, and years,
Have all gone by uncounted, in the full,
Deep, fervent, soul-sufficing happiness,
Of all I prayed for, panted for, obtained!
But I must rouse him, it is time his flock
Should leave the fold, and -

[The boy starts and murmurs in his sleep.]

Down by yonder stream,
Where the green willows cluster thickest, there
They dwell. 'Tis scarce so far as I could cast
A pebble from my sling. Seek it, and they
Will minister to thee what thou mayest need.

[He awakes, and recognising his mother, exclaims - ]

Ah, mother! I have dreamed so strange a dream,
So strange, and yet so palpable, that I
Believed it a reality. Methought
As closely followed by my bleating flock,
I climbed the rugged mountain side where spring
Our greenest pastures, singing as I went,
I met a lonely wanderer in my way,
Of brow so pale, and eye so darkly sad,
That my own heart, to sadness little used,
Grew heavy at the sight; and he seemed worn
And very weary, not so much with toil
As by some hidden, inward strife of soul,
Which even then seemed raging in his breast.
He stayed to question me where he might find
The cottage of some honest mountaineer,
Where he might crave the boons of rest and food, -
And mindful of the lesson taught by thee,
To give the hungry bread, the weary rest,
I pointed him to where our cottage stands,
Assuring him that thou and my sweet sister, -
Fair as aught earthly, and as pure as fair, -
Would entertain him as a welcome guest:
And so we parted.

Thou didst well to mind
The lesson I so often have repeated.
It is our first of duties to give aid
To those who beg for succour at our hands;
For we ourselves, whatever we possess,
Are but the stewards of the bounteous Lord
Who giveth to his creatures all good gifts.
But it is time that thou shouldst seek the hills,
So take thy crook and pipe and hie away.


Scene III. The side of a mountain. Werner descending.
Enter a shepherd boy, followed by his flock, singing.


When the Morning starts up from her couch on the deep,
Where through the dim night hours, she pillows her sleep,
I start from my slumbers, and hie me away
Where the white torrent dashes its feathery spray, -
I quaff the fresh stream as it bursts from the hill, -
I pluck the fresh flowers that spring by the rill, -
I watch the gray clouds as they curl round the peak
That rises high over them, barren and bleak;
And I think how the worldling who courts fortune's smile,
In his heart, like that peak, may be lonely the while;
And then my own heart sings aloud in its joy,
That Heaven has made me a free shepherd boy!


When the horn of the hunter resounds from on high,
Where the tall giant ice-cliffs ire piled to the sky,
Where, shunning the verdure of valleys and dells,
The brave eagle builds, and the shy chamois dwells, -
I list to its gay tones, as by me they float,
And I echo them merrily back, note for note;
With the wild bird a song full as gladsome I sing,
I crown me with flowers, and sit a crowned king, -
My flock are my subjects, my dog my vizier,
And my sceptre - a mild one - the crook that I bear;
No wants to perplex me, no cares to annoy,
I live an unenvying, free shepherdboy!

Werner [meets and addresses him].

Thou'rt merry, lad.


Ay, I have cause to be so.
It is the wanderer of my last night's dream,
The same pale brow, and darkly mournful eye,
And weary gait, and melancholy voice, -
If he seeks friendly guidance, food, or shelter,
He shall not want them long.


So thou hast cause
For merriment, - then thou perchance hast wealth,
Broad, fruitful lands, and tenements, and all
Which wealth confers.


Nay, I have none of these,
And yet have more than all which thou hast named.
I have a father, whose unsullied name
No tongue has ever spoken with reproach,
A mother, whose idea is with me
A holy thing, and a dear sister, who
Is fair as pure, and pure as is the snow
Upon the summit of the tallest peak
Of these my native mountains. I have health,
And strength, and food, and raiment, and employ,
And should I not then have a joyous heart?


Yea, verily thou shouldst.


And there is yet,
Among the blessings Heaven has given to me,
One which I have not named to thee; it is
An humble home, whose hospitable door
Was never closed against the wayfarer, -
If thou hast need of aught which it affords,
Seek it, my mother and my sister will
Delight to minister unto thy wants.
There where the wide-armed willows cluster thickest
Upon the green banks of yon crystal stream,
Our cottage stands. The path to it is short
And easily traversed, - so, now, farewell.


Stay yet a moment. That which thou hast proffered,
Is what I sought. Thou hast a noble heart,
One fit to fill the bosom of a king, -
I fain would give thee guerdon, - here is gold.


Keep it for those who covet it. If ever
Thou meet'st with one, bowed down by suffering,
Who calls on thee for pity and relief,
Then if thou heed'st his prayer for my sake,
I shall be well repaid. Again, farewell.


Scene IV. After a lapse of time. A rustic arbour near the cottage of Manuel. Enter Rose and Werner.


Nay, let my silent blushes plead with thee
That thou wilt be as silent.


Rather let
My ardent love, which will not be repressed,
Plead with thee for acceptance of my suit;
For I do love thee with such passionate love,
That life itself, if weighed against that love,
Were scarce a feather in the scale.


I'm but a simple shepherd's simple child,
Unused to courtly speeches, and they say
That in the world thy name and rank are high,
And that when such as thou do proffer love
And faith to lowly maidens, 'tis a jest, -
And that when they have won our honest love,
They cast it from them with unpitying hands,
As idly as they would a withered flower.


Nay, maiden, let me tell thee of the past,
Let me lay bare my heart beneath thy gaze,
And thou wilt pity if thou canst not love.
I loved in youth with love as fond and deep
As ever made the heart of man its slave,
But, ere my hopes could ripen to fruition,
Death came and made my worshipped one his prize;
And though my peace departed when she died,
Yet I was proud, and would not bond to sorrow,
But with calm brow and eye, and smiling lip,
I mingled with the giddy thoughtless world,
Seeking from out its varied realms to wring
Some recompense for that which I had lost.
Wealth, fame, and power, I sought for and obtained,
Yet found them only gilded mockeries.
The paths of hidden knowledge I essayed,
And trod their mazy windings till they led
My footsteps - whither I may not disclose, -
But all availed me nothing, still my heart
Ached with the dreary void lost love had made,
Ached ever till that void was filled by thee!
Since first fate led me to your kindly door,
Three times the moon with full-orbed light hath shone,
Thrice thirty times, with song of merry birds
And breath of fragrance, Morn has blest the earth
And all its dwellers with her radiant presence;
Thrice thirty times, with star-bound brow, dim Night
Hath kept her tearful watch above the earth;
And every time the full-orb'd moon hath shone,
And every time the merry Morn hath smiled,
And every time dim Night with star-bound brow
Above the earth hath kept her tearful watch,
My heart has added to its store of love,
Its pure, deep, fervent, passionate love for thee!
By all my hopes of heaven, my words are true.
Dost thou not pity now?


Ay, more! My heart,
And its full treasury of maiden love,
Never before surrendered to another,
I pledge to thee, as thine, for evermore!


An Aerial Chorus.

Seek the dell and seek the bower,
Pluck the bud and pluck the flower,
Search for buds of sweetest breath,
Search for flowers of brightest hue;
Fit to weave the bridal wreath,
Of a maid so fair and true.

She has bowed the haughty heart,
Won the stubborn will from guile,
With no aid of other art
Than the sweet spell of her smile!

Seek the dell and seek the bower,
Pluck the bud and pluck the flower,
Search for buds of sweetest breath,
Search for flowers of brightest hue;
Fit to weave the bridal wreath,
Of a maid so fair and true!


Available translations:

English (Original)