Imágenes de páginas

answered; the sergeant replied; and the dialogue ended with several strokes with the flat side of the sword, which Guillermo received. Several persons passing by took the vintner's part; the sergeant wounded three or four, but was suddenly fallen on by a crowd of alguazils, who seized him as a disturber of the public peace and carried him to prison. He there declared what I have told you: and upon his deposition, the officers have also seized Guillermo; the father-in-law requires the annulling of the marriage; and the Holy Office being informed that Guillermo is rich, have thought fit to take cognizance of it."

"As I hope to be saved," said Don Cleofas, "this same Holy Inquisition is very alert. The moment they see the least glimpse of profit "—

"Softly," interrupted the cripple; "have a care what freedom you take with this tribunal, for it has its spies everywhere, even of things that were never spoken. I myself dare not speak of it without trembling."


GOTTHOLD EPHRAIM LESSING, a celebrated German dramatist and critic, born at Kamenz in 1729; died at Brunswick in 1781. At the age of seventeen he was sent to the University of Leipzic to study theology. But he found the stage more attractive than the pulpit, and wrote several dramatic pieces. At twenty he went to Berlin, when he devoted himself to literary pursuits. He early conceived the project of freeing German literature from the preva lent imitation of that of France, and giving it a new and original character. In conjunction with Nicolai he founded the Literaturbriefe, a periodical. About 1763 he produced the admirable drama "Minna von Barnhelm." In 1772 he put forth the tragedy "Emilia Galotti;" this still remains one of the best tragedies on the German stage. In 1776 he published "Laocoon" a treatise upon Painting and Poetry. In 1779 he put forth the dramatic poem "Nathan the Wise." His latest work, published in 1780, was "The Education of the Human Race." All the foregoing have been excellently translated into English. A complete edition of his "Works," in 30 vols., was published at Berlin in 1771-1794.





[ocr errors]

- Thy name is Nathan.


Draw nearer, Jew! Still nearer! Close to me,
And have no fear!

Let that be for thy foe!


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Saladin-Thou dost not think, forsooth, that I
The people's voice do scornfully disdain?
Indeed, I have long wished to know the man
The people call the Wise.

What if they mean

Nathan the Wise ?

Well if not by thee thyself so called,
The people call thee so.

Maybe, the people.


By wise that he is only shrewd, and knows
His own advantage craftily to gain ?
Saladin-His true advantage meanest thou thereby?
Nathan-Then the most selfish were the shrewdest too;
Then were indeed "crafty" and "wise" the same.
Saladin-I hear thee prove what thou wouldst contradict.
Man's truest gain, which people do not know,
Thou knowest or at least has sought to know;
This thou hast pondered, and 'tis this alone
That makes man wise.

And which each deems himself






[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]



To be.

And now of modesty enough!
To hear it evermore, where one expects
Dry reason, sickens.

But be honest, yes, be honest!

Nathan ―Then doubtless thou thyself wouldst know what I

Have on my journey, of the foe, who seems
To stir again, observed or happened on?
If plainly I -

To the matter now!

[He springs up.


It surely is my wish to serve thee so,
That worthy of thy further custom I
May still remain.

To serve me? how?

Of all shalt thou receive, and have it at
The fairest price.

That too is not my drift
With thee. Of that I know already what
I require. — In short

Command me, Sultan.
Saladin-In something else that's wholly different
I now desire thy teaching.. Since thou art
So wise, pray tell me once what faith, what law
Has seemed to thee most genuine.


The best

What dost thou speak of, Jew?
The chafferer with thee

Not of thy wares!
Shall be my sister. [Aside: That for the eavesdropper.]
With thee as merchant have I naught to do.

I am a Jew.

And I a Mussulman.
Between us is the Christian. Of these three



Religions, one alone can be the true.
A man like thee remains not standing there,
Where merely chance of birth has cast his lot;
Or if he there remain, then he remains
Through insight, reason, or through better choice.
Come now, impart to me thy insight, let

Me hear the reasons which I've lacked the time
Minutely to examine. Let me know —
Of course in strictest confidence the grounds
That have availed to fix thy final choice,

That I may make it mine. How? Thou dost start?
Dost weigh me with thy eye? It may well be
That I'm the first of Sultans who e'er had

A whim like this, which yet methinks is not
Unworthy of a Sultan. - Is't not so?
Give answer! Speak!
A moment to reflect?
Reflect, quickly reflect.
Without delay.

Or wishest thou to have
I give it thee.
I shall return

[Retires to an adjoining room.]

Hm! hm! How very strange!
How dazed I am! What does the Sultan want?

What? I thought 'twas money, and he wishes — Truth.
And wishes it cast down and unalloyed,

As though 'twere coin-yes, ancient coin-that's weighed.
And that perhaps might do; but coin so new,
Which by the stamp alone is made to pass,
And may be counted out upon the board,
That it is surely not. Can truth be put
Into the head like coin into a bag?
Who then is here the Jew? Is't I or he?
How then? If he in truth demand the truth?
For the distrust that he employs the truth
But as a trap, would be too mean! Too mean?
And what then for a magnet is too mean?
He rushed into the house and burst the door,
'Tis true people should knock and listen first,
If they approach as friends. I must proceed
With care.
But how? To be a downright Jew
Will never do. And not to be at all
A Jew, will do still less. If I'm no Jew,
Might he then ask why not a Mussulman?
That's it! That can save me! Not children only

Are fed with tales. He comes.

Well, let him come.

SALADIN returns.


[Aside - Here then the field is clear.] I've not returned Too soon for thee? Are thy reflections ended? If so, speak out. There's none that hears us here. Nathan Would the whole world might hear us. Saladin


Is Nathan
So certain of his cause? Ha! that I call
A wise man! never to conceal the truth!
For it to hazard all - body and life,
Estate and blood!


If it be needful, yes!

Or be of use.

Henceforth then I may hope

That I rightly bear one of my titles:
"Reformer of the world and of the law."
Nathan-Faith, 'tis a splendid title; yet before,
O Sultan, I may quite confide in thee,
Permit me to relate a tale.


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Why not?

I'm always fond of tales if they're well told. Nathan -To tell them well is not my strongest point.

Saladin-Again so proudly modest? Make haste! the tale!

Nathan -In olden times a man lived in the East,

Who from a loving hand possessed a ring
Of priceless worth. An opal was the stone,
In which a hundred brilliant colors played,
And which the hidden virtue also had
Of making him who wore it, in this trust,
Pleasing to God and well beloved by man.
What wonder then that this man in the East
The ring upon his finger always kept,
And so disposed that it should be for aye
An heirloom in his house? He left the ring
Bequeathed unto the dearest of his sons,
Ordaining that he too the ring should leave
To that one of his sons whom he most loved,
And that this dearest one, without regard
To birth, by virtue of the ring alone
Should ever be the house's head and prince.
Thou understandest, Sultan?


Yes; go on!
Nathan-Thus the ring came, from son to son, at last

To one who was the father of three sons,
Who all alike were dutiful to him,

And all of whom he therefore could not help

« AnteriorContinuar »