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CHARLEMAGNE'S HOSTAGE, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: A clean shift! Pure and shining -- clearly bleached
Last Line: He raised his sword! Hail! He has raised his sword!
Subject(s): Charlemagne (742-814); Legends, German


Nuns and pupils of the convent school.


The bed-chamber of KARL THE GREAT at Aix-la-Chapelle. It is the hour
before sunrise on a day of the month of wine.
KARL, still sitting on his bed, is being dressed by servants. Although over
sixty years of age, he is erect and vigourous. COUNT RORICO, a handsome
of noble carriage, not over thirty years old, stands at a becoming distance
awaiting the commands of the king.

A clean shift! Pure and shining—clearly bleached!
Cool! Ah, could I thus put on a new man!
Cool too? Ah, no! Tarry a little yet
Before the last cold shirt man ever wears
Runs chilling down my limbs! Ah, my good friend!
Not yet! Good friend, still let the cere-cloth hang
In its familiar cupboard! Leave me my heart
With its old thumping and still keep that shirt
Of ice, the wretched scarecrow which receives
The worm o' the grave with stiff-limbed courtesy.
Keep him a while—that new man—keep him yet!
Thus! Cloths about my loins: the Frankish garb.
I am a Frank! Who will deny it? Free!
Or else my duty's vassal at the most!
I know it well! I am mighty? Must I prove it?
And yet quite void of power! Knead me well
That old lame leg! Where is the barber? Haste!
And now Sir Count, briefly—the affairs of state.

[With a touch of humour.
My lord, the chancellries are still in great
Confusion. Excambald, the chancellor,
O'erslept the hour and now, it seems, is mad!

He sleeps away the time? The old fool who should
Be niggardly of every second's space?
If life means nothing to him, let him die!
My otter skin!
[He is clothed in his doublet of otter skin.

It was his evening draught!

Doubtless! For he praised life and praised the wine!
And even love! Then slept the hours away.
Let us awake—though blind unto what end!
Stare not! Bestir yourselves, as though ye were called
To hasten on some business in this world,
Delude me into thinking I am too.

[Desiring merely to employ the king's mind.
Bennit, a Saxon, lord, with a petition
Urges for weeks the warder of the gate.
In firm resolve he standeth there to-day.

Lead in that resolute man!
[RORICO instructs one of the servants, a lad of sixteen, to summon
BENNIT. The lad hastens zealously out.

[Continuing to himself.
Saxons! 'Tis well!
An old, old tale! For three and twenty years
Daily and hourly I am served that food!
The Saxons, Saxons! There is yet no end!
Faithfulness in my vassals still to nurse
Is a most thankless business. In its use
I grow aweary as the drowsy maid
At early morning milking. Still they break
Their oath again—faithless as summer storms.
[He puts his hand under his pillow and draws forth writing-tablets of

My tablets! Draw me that word—someone—
In the soft wax but with an aureole.
[Forgetting all about him he writes, with visible effort, upon the
tablets. In the meantime the chancellor EXCAMBALD and RORICO enter
softly. The chancellor is not far from his eightieth year, wearing long locks
like the emperor, with intellectual but fanatical features, not without traces

of senile decay.

[Whispers to RORICO.
How fares he?

"Well" would be a lie, and "ill"
No less! A strange and restless spirit broods
Over him as it does on many days.

[Speaking aloud to himself.
Ah, head! Where art thou, head? Quadrivium!
The seven liberal arts! First trivium—
Grammar and dialectics! Music? No!
Quadrivium and trivium: Now mark!
[To EXCAMBALD as though the latter had been there from the
A riddle: With whom did the Emperor Karl
Wage the severest fight of all his life?

Doubtless ...

Well, what?

'Twas with the Saxons, lord!

Wrong, wiseacre! With no one but himself!
[Making further notes.
Quadrivium: Music!
[Rising with a groan.
Rorico, beware
Of age!

Most blessèd and desirable,
An old age like to thine.

There's trivium,
Quadrivium. Wisdom of Solomon
Whose understanding unto me is given—
Not unto you! At table let the chaplain
Read me Ecclesiastes on this day.
How all is vanity, utter vanity,
That which has been and is again forever,
World without end! Men sow, and plant and reap;
Build palaces and raze them; people lands
And make them to a desert; and give wounds
And heal them; treasures find and lose them next,
And seek again and find again and lose,
And slay and love and build and breed and seek,
Reward and kiss ... And kiss ... hearest thou me,
Rorico? Ah?—Music! Quadrivium:
A heavenly sound cleaving the mortal noise!
Enough! Bring me my seal of Serapis!
[With high-spirited self-irony.
The world is wax and he who shapes it—I!
[BENNIT, a Saxon of heroic appearance, is led in by two
chaplains. His
attitude is one of sombre expectancy.

[Referring to BENNIT.
Like to a ghost upon the tree of death.
What wouldst thou?


Thou art of that folk
Which from the world's beginning, as the wise
Abbot of Fulda speaketh, has been thralled
In demon's chains.

When abbots speak, my lord,
A true man's answer is mere silence!

My rule is your compulsion: ye have lost
The right to justice!

Lead me to the king!

[Starts, looks at him ironically. Then seriously.
Give the petition! Take me in his stead.

[Stepping forth.
Behold this man is Bennit, Hiddi's son,
A Saxon. Late his kinsman, Assig called—
Assig, of Amalung's blood, at Aquisgranum,
Died without consolation of the Church.
Convicted of a breach of faith and peace
Together with this Bennit, he did suffer
The sequestration of his lands between
Werra and Fulda—the forest Bochonia
Which was the common heritage of these two.

The lands were confiscate?

And justly so.

The parson lies! True were we to the king,
Only not to the incense-brewing knave.

[Calming the horror of the company by a gesture.
Let be. Speak on!

My lord, whoever thou art,
Save me from perjury! Help me fulfill
The oath I made and open me the way
Unto the face of Karl the king himself.
[Several among the attendants laugh.

[With growing impatience.
There is no farther way. Thou art at the goal!

O Assig, kinsman, clearly now I read
The meaning of thy words: 'Tis easier
Through miles of ancient woods to make one's way,
Though one were stripped of axe or sword or knife,
Than through the crowd of courtiers, flatterers, priests,
To win unto the ear of Frankish Karl.

Ah, do you hear? The king, 'twould seem, grows old!
My son, speak freely! Oath is worthy oath!
Having my countenance thou hast the king's,
And lacking mine thou hast not his, in truth.

'Twould give three scriveners, lord, their work and pay
Merely to make a record of this saying
So oft as I have heard it.

[With rising irritation, weightily and threateningly.
Oath against oath!
They are of equal weight! Use thou thine hour!

[Softly to BENNIT.
Man! Which of all thy hundred idols robs
Thine eyes of vision, seeing not the king!
[BENNIT, recognising the king, stares at him pale and in

[In a businesslike tone.
Item: the man's petition pleadeth that
He be ...

Silence, chaplain!
But do thou speak!

[With resolute determination.
Sire, Gersuind, my brother's daughter, his,
Assig's who died here at Aix-la-Chapelle
Poor! Gersuind was snatched away from him
As hostage, as our lands were taken, not
In justice, but at wild despotic choice!
This child for whom her father grieved and grieved—
Thou art a father! Grieved more bitterly
Than for his heritage or the bitter breach
Of justice! Bitterer! This child succumbs
Unto its cold tormentors!

Who is Gersuind? Where have I heard that name?
Tell thy tale straight, and do not fear at all.
Thy brother Assig sought for justice here,
If I heard right, and also for his daughter—
Justice and daughter were refused to him.
Since torment cannot touch unbodied right,
Speak of the daughter who can suffer it.
Where dwells she? Who are her tormentors? Speak!

[Stepping forth.
Two words, my lord, before thou question more.
Gersuind, this Assig's daughter, is in charge
Of the convent on the lea. And were it true
As it is basely false, that she is tortured,
Then were the pious ladies of our cloister,
Which God forbid, themselves her torturers.
And all who know these reverend sisters, know
This accusation as a brood of lies.
Nay! Gersuind—well enough I know the child—
Is, as the sisters have reported to me,
How shall I speak it? Her ways are wild! That's it!
She is ... how do we call it ... well, perhaps:
No goodly fruit, rather what we may call
Worm-eaten ... and corrupted at the core.

Lord, this man with his white beard may revile
My race and Assig's. No man bids him cease.
He is thy chancellor and we—are Saxons.
[KARL remains unmoved. The attendants show signs of horror at
BENNIT's boldness.

No man revileth here unless it be
The stranger standing there. For I have put
A fairer face than just upon this thing.
Why clamourest thou upon us with Gersuind,
Pushing thy way even to the royal seat,
And gnashing still that name into our ears?
Weightier matters press upon us here!
She is in goodly training! Give us peace!

Thou call'st it training!

Ay! Goodly discipline
And seemly after sacred Christian wise.

I am not timid, though I foam not wild
In wrath. And yet my very blood rebels.
I speak of bloody stripes and not of care,
Of cruelty and not of discipline.
My lord, I am not mad, I do not rage!
Cause have I to be patient. Look, of late
The driven child sought refuge in my house,
And her white body showed the bloody thongs:
A child, in Christian care, in Christian wise
Mangled and tortured.

Christian, be obedient!

Whom shall the child obey? Speak swiftly!


And that same God of yours desires—nay, nay,
There is no god would have a child reply
With beggarly subservience when men
Revile her father and her mother—nay,
No Saxon god nor any Frankish god.

[Very quietly.
My lords, I have instructed the good sisters
Upon the lea—I speak with due respect!
Spite of the shaking of thy locks, Excambald ...
Spite of it, I suspect most grievously
That they, with holiest purpose, doubtlessly,
Are oft uncertain of the way of right.
Especially ...

[Involuntarily exclaiming.
Nay, lord!

[Continuing with quiet emphasis.
They err at times in care of hostages.
They touch, it seems, with harsh hand often that
Which should be left untouched—as I commended—
And others wiser with me! With rude grasp
They open deep wounds, difficult to heal,
In souls that from their native earth are torn,
And from their parents, from their kinsmen, friends,
And from the altars of their ... call them ... idols,
Even though it be to fairer life with God.
Mild should the urging be, gentle! And patient
The governing! Less command and more persuasion
Should lead these souls unto their only weal.
And thus ...

[Unable to control himself.
Nay, like a dog unto its vomit
The heathenish brood creeps back to hellish rites
Of all abomination, unless thong
And lash and stick and fist perform their work.
And so ...

[Again taking up the thread of his discourse with calm persistence.
And so lead me the abbess in, And also, as this matter's crux—the
[At this moment appears, as though at KARL's call, the venerable
abbess of the convent on the lea. She leads GERSUIND by the hand and is
accompanied by several nuns. GERSUIND is not yet sixteen years old. Her
loose blond hair reaches almost to the ground.

[A little out of breath through the haste which she has used to
forestall the complaints of BENNIT.
My lord, we are here!


Sister Barbara
Came breathless to us. For she had been called
To service in the palace, watching o'er
The chamberlain ... nay, rather, I should say,
The chamberlain's daughter who lies pitifully,
God help her, racked by fever. Thus she came—
Barbara, with the message that Bennit
Who sore oppresses us for months and months—
Poor suffering, helpless women that we are,
At last had made his way unto thy throne.
At once I called Gersuind! She slept, and still
Slumber is in her eye. The Saviour spake:
Watch, for innumerable are the snares
Of Satan! We are here, my lord, are here
Unworthy accusations to oppose.
[GERSUIND has become aware of BENNIT, hastens to him,
takes refuge
in his arms and, apparently in wild joy at seeing him again,
kisses his bearded

Gaze thither!

[Lets his glance rest long and in mild astonishment upon GERSUIND.
It is thou? Thou art Gersuind!

Ay, lord.

[As before.
'Tis true! 'Tis true! That was thy name.
[He turns to THE ABBESS.
Am I to understand, your reverence, then,
That this is she?

Ay, lord.

Thou knowest me still.
[GERSUIND nods her head in affirmation and KARL continues.
Rorico, thou must know that one day, late,
My weakness leading me, I gave myself
An idle hour. My poor old scholar's head
Had nearly burst against the grammar rules.
And thus, escaping from it all, in test
Of learning to the cloister on the lea
I hied and played the master in its school.
An oracle I stood before the scholars.
But from the frying-pan into the fire
Is a brief step; my pride went to its fall!
For without hesitation Gersuind knew
More than I know to-day or yet have known
Or in eternity am like to learn.
Had not a lovely radiance blinded me,
Like flashing sickles in the moon of Spring
Or young men's swords in battle—easily
Envy and anger had devoured me straight.
And now: What is't with her? What has occurred?

She fled, was guilty of the unheard of, lord,
Basely repaying beneficence and love
And all our patient care; the intercessions
That rose to Heaven, at every hour for her,
The long day through. Such were her thanks! She fled!
Wringing my hands thou seest me here. The grief
By her inflicted breaks my very heart.
How did I merit that? She would not hear
The Saviour's invitation soft, but follows
The first voice summoning her from the abyss!

Be calm, most venerable lady! Tell,
If so it please thee, how and when she fled.

'Twas not because we punished her with stripes:
No stripes she showed until that she returned.
Dread rumours are abroad of adamitic
Conspiracies—she denies, denies them not—
Horrors that carry on a hidden life,
Despite stern punishment, along the Rhine.
But how and in what way she fled from us ...
[Growing more and more tearful THE ABBESS has finally lost self-
control. The senior sister, administrator of the convent, resolutely takes up
the thread of the narrative.

Permit me. Down the trellis vines she crept
Straight into our great mallow bed at night.
I may not tell you how the girl was clad.
She crossed the yard, climbed up the wall, and dropped
Smooth down the trunk of a great tree. And there
A watchman saw her and called out to her.
Her teeth flashed—'tis his tale—she screeched like to
A bat infernal. Fear did grasp him; he
Restrained her not; may God forgive his sin.

Be brief and speak the truth I taught ye! Here
'Tis wisdom to place mirrors round about,
That his own image slay the basilisk.
Do this—ye gain the truth. There was a woman,
Who, fifteen years ago, received the fruit
Of her strange womb by Asmodeus' grace,
And to its father dedicated it.
This woman was her mother! Gaze at her!
Or rather, do not gaze at all! There is
That in her eye makes mirrors dim and dark.
Consider what our lord and emperor Karl
Speaks in her praise: knowledge and understanding
Unchildlike that confused the mighty king
And lord o' the world.—Thou, Cousin abbess, too
Art cured to-day! Thou also stood'st within
The power and circle of her evil magic,
Giving me proofs of her wild, agile mind!
Have we not waged for thirty years grim war
Upon the Saxon folk? Do ye believe
Their evil gods are idle, do not plot
Daily and nightly how they may destroy
God's empire and the empire's holy Church?

Can you behold the demon in her face
Conjuring storms in forest-clearings dim?
Lord, set her free! She is a lark and not
A raven, servant of the raven god!
Famishing innocent in a narrow cave,
What wonder that she beats her guiltless wings?
She scents the beech-tree tops, the forest free,
The golden stag of heaven whose antlers ring
Wild morning music in the groves of dawn.
She would come back to me and home, would see
Her brothers and her playmates; from the court
Clinging to her mare's back, she would fly forth,
And hurry through the valleys to the hunt,
With tresses streaming in the azure air!
Then will we keep again the holy days,
And be right true to Jesus and to Karl.
But ye, good women, tame a beast that was
Born in captivity and knows naught else.
The free-born spirit ye will never tame.

[Having let his glance linger long and thoughtfully, now upon
now upon GERSUIND, says in a tone of complete calm to BENNIT.
Give back the child!

[In consternation.
How, lord?

[Quietly but with the unanswerable decision of the ruler.
The maid remains
In your good care, my ladies of the lea,
But ye will give me stronger surety
For her safe-keeping than before. Bennit
Shall leave the city. Ere a new day dawns,
Bennit, thou art beyond Aix-la-Chapelle,
Or feelest grim the executioner's sword.
As for the lands in matter of which thou
Art pleading in our courts of justice here,
A strict accounting is assured to thee
And ultimate right. Return unto thy canton
In peace and wait for our decision there.

Farewell, Gersuind! Go willingly! For still
Are visible upon thy tender skin
The harsh marks of the fists that rudely tore
Thee from me when of late to me thou cam'st.
Go! I am helpless: I am void of hope!
Bear it as best thou canst. My strength is spent.
[He loosens himself from GERSUIND, who clings to him with soft
moaning, and hastens out. The SISTER SUPERIOR and the other nuns
GERSUIND. A gesture of KARL causes RORICO to urge the
women to depart.
At the same moment the chaplain and the servants withdraw.

[Takes up a waxen tablet that depends from his girdle.
Now that this matter of small moment has
Been well decided by the judgment sure
Of thrice-proved wisdom, it remains to think
Of duty. The undone calls for the deed.
Firstly, thou didst desire to stay that crime
O' the Romans, that repulsive shame and sin
Which culminates in selling Christian men
As bond-slaves to the heathen Saracens.—
Also, thou didst desire to inspect the marshes.
There has been brought in from thy royal farms
The apple harvest which thou didst desire
To see, also the bailiffs. Messengers
From Styria ...

Enough! Forget not! Later!

Pepin, thy son ...

Later! Leave me alone.
[EXCAMBALD, disconcerted, steps aside with a scarcely noticeable
shaking of the head and retires.

[Suddenly and emphatically.

[Entering swiftly.
My lord?

'Tis well! What would I have?
'Tis true! Call in my daughters! Nay, I would
Go hunting but with thee! Then to the baths.
The day grows dim.

'Tis clear and sunny, lord!

[Lost in thought.
Pure as the moon, as a saint's countenance.
Sawest thou this child for the first time?

Ah ... nay ...

Where didst thou see her?

I? I? ... Scarcely I
Can tell just in what place I saw the maid.
Perhaps I err and never saw her yet.

Rorico, friend, this glance of mine which oft
Grows dull with too much gazing—oh, I have seen
Far, far too much with these twin eyes of mine
Which from my youth have served me without rest—
Well, when this glance alights upon some crown,
As this same child's that we saw here to-day,
A soothing comes upon it; it melts and grows
Young in delighting in its pasture blond
And thaws the frozen heart within my breast.
Is't clear to thee?

Almost, my lord—almost!

Almost? Let be! 'Twill prove enough! Nay, more
Is wanted, understand me quite, for that
Rorico, do I keep thee at my side.
This blond grass on the heads of children, spun
Of threads of delicate gold—is't not the woof
Of innocence? Is it not wonderful?

Gladly I grant that she is exquisite.
And yet ...

A coxcomb give unto the fool
Who, like our chancellor Excambald, can do—
In face of so much loveliness and youth—
Naught but with broad mouth void his venom forth.
God keep me from such base senility!
Hast any news?

The elders and the priests
Of Jewry do petition me they would
Begin the building of their synagogue,
And Excambald delays yet to decide
In matter of the ground not yet allotted.

How is thy mistress?

Who? May God protect me!
I know naught of a mistress!

Knowest naught?
Thou gallows' bird, thou knowest naught of Judith?

Judith? Ah, if thou meanest Judith ...


If she should learn the sacred majesty
Our lord and king did graciously recall
Her being, then her utter glow would burst
High into flame.

The more hast thou to quench!
Ah, were I young once more, Rorico, young!
I'd give ... all my white hair—in fee therefor!
[With some hesitation.
And listen, Rorico: my plan is ... this ...
Guess what it is! Not by the help of gods
Heathen and old, Grimoald of whom 'tis said
That he contaminates our springs with poison.
My plan concerns ...

The synagogue?

Not so!
Thou art wrong. My plan is this. I tell it thee ...
For though I need no silent chancellor,
Being strong enough to rule a chattering one:
Yet on this day I'd see him not again.
And now: A secret business! It is this:
I have determined in my soul to play
The part of fortune in this maiden's life.
For she is pitiable with those wide eyes,
Helpless before her exile's misery.
A whim, if so thou please! Let her be free!
Her cage I'll open. But if I do so
Perchance a cruel hawk would straight swoop down
And pierce her beyond cure. This may not be!
Hence, face to face, I'd test her soul and strive
To learn wherein she may be truly served.
Hast thou my meaning?

Ay, lord.

Hasten then,
Before my morning mood doth pass away.

And the command? What is it?

Haste thee swift
And coming hither, with thee bring Gersuind.
Bring her alone. Let there be no one else.
Nor any outcry! This being smoothly done,
Doubly refreshed I'll hasten to the hunt.
[Upon a small table of silver, servants bring in the breakfast of
KARL; others bring water in a silver jug and a silver ewer. A chaplain
in a manuscript which he places upon a reading-desk and opens. RORICO
and withdraws. A pupil of the court-school, a lad of sixteen, takes up his
station near the emperor with tablets and stylus. KARL sits down at the
little table, water is poured over his hands. The chaplain clears his
throat in
preparation for the reading.

[Silencing the chaplain with a gesture. Read not to-day about the
City of God.
[The chaplain bows and withdraws. KARL begins to eat.

Ha, boy, speak! Did the ceiling once again
Crackle as thou didst tell me yestereve?
And are the palace walls about to burst
Ere Gottfried, the wild Dane, shall lay it waste?
What murmur the prophets? Are the king's days numbered?
They are! Even as theirs, even as thine,
And as each hair upon thy dullard's head!
Patience! Note this: Karl, emperor of the Franks,
Grew old and young again an hundred times
In his long life, and will not die for roofs
That crackle or omens—only when God wills!
[RORICO leads in GERSUIND who is talking to him. She is not as on
her first appearance, but shows a childlike boldness and gaiety. So soon as
hears the voice of KARL she assumes an attentive attitude.

[Not wholly without embarrassment.
This was an excellent thought in thee, to come
And to confide thy woes to me alone.
Even Rorico seems but superfluous now.
Tell me thy wishes and thy sorrows, then
Can we take council for some goodly change.
[At his gesture all but GERSUIND withdraw.

Speak without hesitation now, Gersuind.

[With an earnest but stealthily watchful glance.
I would be free!

'Tis well! Thy longing tends
Toward thy homeland, to the forests where
Upon the trunk of the mysterious beech
Still Freya's image hangs,—mother of death—
And not our Lady Mary's—mother of God!
And thou wouldst go to thy rough kinsman, too.

I would be free, too, of his guardianship!

What? In his arms thine eyes shed tears!

[Shrugging her shoulders.
I wept. Ay. For I would not wound his heart.
Besides ...

Speak boldly! What besides?

Besides, when old men weep, I must weep too,
Else must I fear to laugh at the quaint sight.

[Pushing the table from him.
What sayest thou?

I speak the truth. Naught else.

[Calm again.
My child ... yet when I think of what thou spak'st,
And the strange way of it—and turn my face
Aside from thee and see thee not at all—
Thee, who stands there—then do I hear a voice
That is like no child's voice in all the world.

[With a meaning glance.
I can be silent, too, King Karl!

[Seems scarcely to trust his senses; then swiftly and sharply.
Nay, speak!
And be not shy but utter thy heart's thoughts.

Shyness? Timidity? What would I gain
In this brief life of mine which all men seem
To grudge me, which to-morrow morn, perchance,
Will glide away from me, did I feel those?

And dost thou know who 'tis that speaks to thee?

Thou art an old man; that I know. Thy life
Stretches its years behind thee. As for me,
What does my past hold? Very little ... naught!
My future? Not much more, perhaps! Thou art
Satiated and canst understand me not.

How knowest thou old men are not hungry too?

Oh, yea, thou art hungry. One can see it well,
Can see it in thine eyes; for old men's eyes
Hurt one, beseeching like to beaten curs,
Or like the eyes of drowning men!

[With enforced humour.
Yet lives no mightier swimmer in this world
Than emperor Karl, unborn is yet that hand
That reaches beyond his, unborn that head
Before which his shall bow! His glances hurt!
In sooth they do when that his anger kindles
As lightning flashes from a sombre heaven!
Be brief! What wouldst thou have me do for thee?

Let me but live according to my mood. ...

How would that be?

To go my ways alone
Nor owe an answer unto any man
Who questions me my whither or my whence.

That is a strange wish at thy years, my child.
Thou knowest not, in very truth, its purport.
The air is full of dangers. If there fly
A small and golden bird, such as thou art,
Once, twice above the puddles that are life—
And notably here in my capital—
Straight is it slain by gorgeous birds of prey.
I would not thy destruction. Nay, I would
Confer some kindness on thee. Pray for that!

I have naught else to ask save this same thing.

'Tis well. Tell no one else but me alone:
What is the purpose of that liberty.

To do the thing that seems most merry to me.
[KARL arises and strikes his fist against a disk of metal suspended
between the columns of his chamber. At the sound RORICO appears.

This blond will o' the wisp, friend Rorico,
This half-mad child—is free! She goes from hence
Whither she would, no more a hostage now,
In no man's care, nor in the convent's guard.
Let no man train her, no man bid her halt,
Or cross her way, whatever way she take:
And though upon the edge of the abyss,
Blind and unwarned she stood! She is not the last
Who with the boundless heaven of her youth
Takes the last plunge into the deeps of hell.
[KARL goes without turning back. GERSUIND observes him with a
scurrilous expression until he is gone. RORICO alone with her, approaches
her, seriously, almost harshly.

Whither away!

[In a passionate whisper.
Thou art handsome! Take me with thee!

[After a brief pause of astonishment.
Ay, as one carries small snakes, tightly wedged
Within the cleavage of a hazel twig,
That they may thrust not forth their tongue nor sting!
Come, little demon! Leave the emperor's house!
[Grasping the edge of her garment at her throat, he holds her far away

from him and pushes her out.

A country-seat of the emperor KARL in the neighbourhood of Aix-la-
Chapelle. An open colonnade with an entrance door to the house which gives on
the garden. Broad stairs lead down to the garden. The ancient trees are yellow

in their autumnal foliage. The background represents a sunny slope planted
vine. It is a clear morning of Autumn. Several days have passed since the
of the first act. The chancellor EXCAMBALD walks excitedly up and down
between the columns. COUNT RORICO comes from the house and joins him.

Well, count?

Your Excellency, it is vain.

So he will not receive me? Once again?
Affairs are urgent! He will see me not!
They heap themselves to mountains. He is deaf.
Am I not longer in his favour? Well!
Ill, I would say, but there's no help for it.
His confidence I never have abused,
And thus, with an unburdened soul, I may
Roll off the weight on other shoulders now.
But some one must support it, my lord count,
If not the course o' the world shall go awry.
What is it? Declare it freely! Speak the truth!

Naught can I say except protest once more
That I know naught. Hither the emperor fled,
Or almost fled. He sees no man at all,
Nor speaks to any, and himself is dumb.
Is lost in thought, plays with his dogs or gives
Fresh green to the young deer or catches else
The lizards. When one day to him I spake:
The wild steed o' the world runs bridleless,
He gave me as an answer: Let it run,
No one will lose much if it run away.

I cannot be contented with all this.
Thou seek'st to satisfy my anxious mind
In kindly wise. But this is not enough.
If thou art well disposed unto me, count,
Prove me that kindness by declaring straight
The very day on which I, ill-advised,
In matter of council to our sovereign lord
Failed the right way and the right tone to find.

Perchance in matter of the Saxon hostage.

Hold there! A hostage? Hostage? Help me think!

Hold it as nothing, as it is, good lord.
A mind so full of very great affairs
May hold the little as of little worth.
Yet in the mind of the great Karl himself—
That ruling mind in which there brood great things,
Greater than in another mortal soul—
This trivial matter has put forth deep roots
And like a noxious weed spreads over all.

Explain thyself! Thou mean'st

Think of Gersuind!

God's blood! I had my thoughts! This is, dear count,
The proper moment for enlightenment:
Gersuind! What is the question of this child?

There is none save that she absorbs his soul.

And in what sense does she absorb his soul?

It would be better to ask wiser men.
Perchance Alcuin, the sage from Britain, may
Give thee a clearer answer than can I.

These are mere subterfuges, count. 'Tis certain
That thou must know this one thing: For what cause
The Saxon hostage whom but now the king
Seemed to befriend, was bidden to fare forth
A helpless wanderer, why the good sisters
Coming to plead for her were not admitted,
The maiden, with an alien cruelty,
Being driven out into the dark of night.

The world's great lord at times has merry moods!
And if he thrust her forth to be the prey
Of beasts—'twas at her own beseeching done.
Forgive me, lord, I hear his steps approach.

The first man in the empire, save its lord,
Laden with the imperial cares and burdens,
Must flee his presence like a thief at night.
[He hastens out. Soon thereafter KARL enters, in country garb, a
garden knife in his hand, upright and commanding. He has come from the leafy
garden paths. He has the air of a great, noble, wild animal that scents
As he recognises RORICO he approaches slowly and without looking at him.

RORICO's attitude is one of quiet expectancy.

[Close by RORICO, holding out some chestnut leaves.
Lovest thou the bitter fragrance of the leaves,

Ay, but not when fields are full
Of multitudes of yellow primroses.

Thou egg!

Is that a title thou wouldst lend
Unto my greatness, my dear lord?

Ay, that—
As well as youngster, whipper-snapper, boy!

I bear these honours, though they are undeserved,
With patience. Only the last seems not unjust
When I behold the countenance of him
Who is the ruler of the mighty world.

A little reverence will harm thee not,
Nor me, my son. So it be not too much!
Else do ye forge me fast unto my throne,
And solder my poor head into the crown,
And, in the end, might undertake to feed me
Like the idol in Byzantium, with prayers.
I am no god; my duty 'tis to honour
God, like the lowest hind of all my folk,
For like that hind I am weary, hungry, thirsty
In season due, and sinful as thyself.—
A riddle! Rede it! What mean I by this?
Open thine eyes! It stands beside thee there,
Yet not beside. Thou drivest it forth! It flees,
And in its fleeing draws thee after it.
And thou wouldst seize it—it escapes; wouldst shake it
From thee—and closer to thy heart it clings;
Thou'dst sere it—the more wildly burns it thee!
Thou'dst plunge it in an icy sea—behold,
The ice takes fire—the ice of sixty winters
Bursts, melts, glows, soars into a living flame!
It is no riddle, friend; it is a sickness.

[After a silent pause.
My duty is most clearly this—to call
A wise physician hither, if thou art
In any way, in mind or body, ill.
Command me to call Winter, thy physician.

And must a man be sick who speaks of sickness?
And were I sick in very truth, this Winter,
As the white snow upon my head may teach thee,
Is not the proper man to heal my ill.
Enough of riddles! What are the news at court,
Over there, by the Rhine?

The head is wanting,
And hence the limbs are without governance.

Well, let them wriggle, and the head have rest.

Ambassadors are waiting; messages
Of threatening tone come from the Danish king.
The chancellor beseeches for an audience.

Oh, let the Danish braggart threaten, let
The noise not buzz about my ears awhile.
But let me cut ripe clusters of the grape.
Thus once the prince of the Avari swore
In iron armour to ride over me,
And many another with him who thereafter
Crept through the yoke that I held out for him,
So that to gain the domination due
I had no duty but stand firm and still.
Unprofitable 'tis to rule, to conquer,
To oppose one's shield to weaklings or to hold it
Protectingly above them! Take good care
That no man make his entrance past our guards.
Now tell me—and then leave me, for I would
Be quite alone—canst thou recall what was
The fate of that young hostage—thou rememberest—
Whom five days since I bade thee bring to me?
It was the daughter of a rebel Saxon. ...
Did she return unto her cloister soon?

[After a brief hesitation.
Nay, lord!



So she is out i' the world?

Unto the cloister she did not return.

All things were done as I had planned them for her?

To the letter! She was given garments, bread,
And wine and yellow gold upon her way,
And the assurance that the convent's gates
Were ever open against her return.

So that in going, Rorico, she had—
This is the point—the extreme certainty,
That, whether by night or day, at any hour,
Her coming back would be most welcome?

She had!

And still she came not yet?

Not yet!

Then farewell, folly! Rest thy bones in peace! ...
Ere I forget it, let the spears be brought!
And let us hurl them at the target disk.
Close is my doublet for my breast which swells
So mightily that it could shatter steel.
Rorico, come, behold—is not mine arm
As firm and sinewy as any? Wrinkles
There are i' the face—my vision is undimmed!
[At a beckoning gesture of RORICO huntsmen have emerged from the
bushes, carrying spears. KARL receiving one of the spears, continues.
Give me the spear and I will hit the heart
O' the target, bravely as thyself and well.
Only when a young woman comes to me,
The ghost of age torments me; it coughs and wheezes
Beside me, creeps beneath my coverlet
At night with icy touch and threatening
To turn me from below into cold stone.
Into cold stone, gradually, inch by inch,
My living body! Rorico, dost thou hear?
Let be! The ghost goes and king Karl remains.
His left leg, to be sure, is turned to stone,
But not his good right arm and not his heart.
Die, hag of eld!
[Mightily he hurls the spear. Thus shall my motto run!

[Standing by the target which has been set up in the meantime and in
the centre of which sticks the spear of KARL.
A mighty throw! The spear sits in the core
And, trembling, lauds its master.

Is she dead?


If that saint be dead I'd have thee tell.

A saint? I know of none.

Her whom a demon
Bade me destroy for the voluptuous game
Of cruelty.

She lives!

She lives?

Ay, lord,
Only, unhappily, she is no saint.

Come hither, Rorico, here is a place
On purpose made for youngsters who, like us,
Have 'scaped from school to think of merriment.
Come and report to me: How dwells she? Where?
Plucked like a bird? Dishevelled? Frightened?


Empty thy wallet, friend! Give what thou hast!
I am thy guest; spare me the need of prayer
And questioning! There passes through my soul,
A radiant little cloud; a balmy rain
Falls there—the rain that makes the brooks to flow,
The fields to put forth flowers, in every bush
The throstles to make music. So she lives!
A trivial life and almost without worth—
The sickles of my reapers year by year
Touch lives of higher moment—but my heart
In wayward stubbornness doth praise high Heaven
For that this poor child's heart is beating still,
And did not to my harsh command succumb.

Then I shall speak the truth. For, since I mark
That the unheard of favour of my lord
Is given to unworthiness extreme,
Truth grows a double duty. Gersuind, then,
The Saxon hostage whom thy kindness holds
As foolish, froward and yet innocent,
Is rich in frowardness and folly, ay!
But richer still in sin! 'Tis true, I saw
Never delusion equal, never yet
So strange a counterfeit of purity.
Men would surmise the holy wafer laid
Upon those seeming saintly lips of hers
Would blossom forth and in the spotless shrine
Of innocence endure a thousand years.
The lustral radiance of that forehead white
Is naught but poison, horror and destruction.
Sire ...

Softly, friend! Tell it me gradually!
For very new and thorny is the path,
Go slowly. If she is a sinner then,
An Irmintrud, as saith our chancellor,
Then tell me—judgment being my office here—
What is the member wherewith she offends?

Wherewith she offends? There is one virtue which
Should scarcely be a virtue at her years;
There is a vice—the vice that feeds and fattens
Ever upon the grave of chastity,
In insolent lewdness. I have named her sin.

'Tis well. And whence hast thou that knowledge won?

The greater part even from her own lips.

Aha, Count Rorico, I crave thy pardon. ...

Put thou me not to shame! What should I pardon?
Whatever thou in the long course of years
With boundless favour still forgavest me,
Yet in this matter am I free of guilt.
For she pursued me—I am frank—she clung
Closer to me the more I thrust her back.
She gave no peace, and yet, much as I am
A man like other men—there came o'er me
A strong revulsion, more: there came a fear!
Strange seemed her nature, potent in strange ways,
So strange I could not take what she would give!

[Turning pale.
Then look straight at me, Rorico!

[Frankly and fearlessly.
My lord?

And tell me further.

I do grant a man
Doing what I have done seems quaint enough.
I have braved mightier storms for lesser charms.
I am neither saint nor coward. Yet, although,
Naught remained here to spare and naught to conquer
Except perchance her clinging to one's neck
So madly that a fray would gain one's freedom—
I yet remained what in these delicate matters
A man is loth to be—a hero!


And this one thing happened but yestereve.
The hoar frost, as thou knowest, fell at night,
And lay until the sun of morning rose. ...
In short, I picked her up but yestereve;
Or, to speak truth, 'twas she caught sight of me,
And called to me and then ran after me
Unto the threshold of the garden house
Where I dismounted.

So behind thy horse
The child ran?

Three long miles. To gallop swift
I urged my steed. She flew along with it.

Her soles are wingèd, then?

My lord, she is
Swift as a hind before the hunter's pack,
An agile runner, light incredibly.
Yet pity came to me at last. I called:
Whom dost thou follow, wench? Thee, came the answer.
And I returned: Satan much more than me!
Thee, only thee! Nay, but the carrion
I cried, of lust,—then brought my horse to stand.
Thou wilt break down, I said, and thou wilt fare,
Thy wild heart breaking, in thy very sin
Thither where is no breathing any more!

And she?

Laughed wildly, shrilly, piercingly
As laughs the woodpecker. Away with thee!
I roared, into thy cloister! Else creep back
Into that ditch and gathering place of whores
Whither my horse itself with shuddering
Bore me, its nostrils trembling, and where I
God help us, picked thee up.

Thou wert not kind,
Nor very gentle with her, friend.

Not delicate
With her, my lord, nor truly with myself.
Yet would I strike her not nor let her lie
In the cold fields; and thus, my anger spent,
In memory of the good Samaritan,
I even wrapped her in my cloak and brought
Her hither. And the old man at the gate
Holding my horse, seeing us muffled, strange,
Did cross himself!

Where came ye?



To the old steward at the garden gate.

And so she is ...

More is the pity, here.
She is in the vintner's keeping at this hour,
And quartered in the cottage by the wall.
[KARL rises, looks at RORICO long and steadfastly and then breaks
out into laughter that has a touch of morbidity in it.

And thus thou garnishest a wild exploit,
Rorico, and incomparable madness?
Thou usest many words! Was it for this
I give the little bird its freedom back
That thy rude bolt rest in its plumage soft?
Almost, Sir count, this breaks the patience of
My magnanimity! Rothraut, my daughter
Desires, as thou knowest better far than I
To make this court the abode of purity.

It hurts me that thou shouldst misjudge so harshly
Thy servant.

Me that thou shouldst so abuse
The object of my kindness—then revile it!
But say no more. What happened is my fault.
Yet that I heap no further guilt upon me,
I will obey the providential call
Which took thee as its instrument; will summon
The child to me and see her once again.
Thus I will test anew if wisdom weighed
In the exactest balance, joined to might,
May heal the ill a swift command has done.
I see thee start! Ah, hast thou never heard
Of one who from the brothel leapt into
The favour of a king? This is my whim:
Let her be brought into the garden where
The bushes meet the beds. Let her know naught.
Let her be left there without guidance. I
Will meet her there as though it were by chance.
[RORICO withdraws with a bow. KARL remains standing, lost in
for a space. Then he lets his glance wander about to discover whether he be
alone. He notices the two huntsmen who, at a distance, await his commands.

The spears away!
[The huntsmen draw the spear from the target and carry both away.
Who kneeleth, huntsman, there
Beside the box-tree near the gardener's house?

A child.

Is it the gardener's granddaughter?

The gardener's granddaughter? Perhaps! But she
Has raven hair and this child's locks are bright.

Discover who she be! Nay! Go! Enough!
[The huntsmen withdraw. The loud laughter of GERSUIND is heard.
The EMPEROR grows pale, stands unmoved and gazes steadily in the direction

whence GERSUIND presently appears chasing a butterfly. She comes very
KARL without appearing to notice him.
What dost thou here?

[With a soft cry.
I am catching butterflies!

Where and upon whose land doest thou that?

Methinks 'tis Rorico's, the count of Maine.

Thou deemest Rorico, the count of Maine,
Is master here?

I know not. Rothraut, perhaps.
It little matters whether it be she,
The emperor's daughter, or her lover else
Who weeds the beds and plants the bushes here.
They have not counted their white butterflies
Nor those of darker hue; whom will it hurt
If of one lizard I the garden rob?
[At this moment she begins chasing a lizard. The chase seems to
preoccupy her wholly.

Evil for thee, were my thoughts like to thine.
Now, if it may be, turn to me thy glance:
For the third time thou seest me to-day.
Recall! The old man with the look of one
Drowning, who gave thy freedom unto thee—
'Tis he still breathing, still unwhelmed, who crosses
Thy path once more to-day. It may well be
That his old eyes do hurt thee less this hour,
That a strong hand more welcome is than when
Thou knewest not what freedom held in store?

Hush! Look! How pretty is the little beast!

Ay, it is true, Gersuind. Yet he who stands
Before thee is not wont to address his words
Unto deaf ears. And at this moment I
Would counsel thee to hold such deafness folly.
I did thee wrong; for it was I, it was
The ruler's whim that thrust thee down so deep
Into the noisome depths which well I knew
Unclean and full of scurrying evil things.
And so to-day I stretch out my right hand
To draw thee to the light from out that deep
Corruption which thy knowledge measures now.
Dost understand?

By Irmin's gold, I do not.

Gersuind, how darest thou? The stubborn folk
That gave thee birth with all thy senses wild,
Though it is damned in darkness to abide,
Knows for thy kind one punishment alone:
The virgin who has thrown herself away
Is given the choice of throttling herself; else
The women lash her naked through the farms
And village-steads until in shame she dies.

[With harsh violence.
Ay, and like lecherous she-wolves practice shame
With their own husbands. In the lust for death
Insatiable as in the lust of love
For which they slaughter others.

Whose wild words
Are these, Gersuind, which thou repeatest there?

[Defiantly and rudely.
The words of my own language do I speak!

Ay, but whose thoughts?

Who need have told me that
Women are senseless as the wolves themselves?
The veriest dullard of a man knows that!

Gersuind, who art thou? Mine eyes do not trust
Mine ears, nor do these trust mine eyes at all.
Mine eye tells me most clearly: She's a child
To whom a man might lightly give a doll;
But mine ear counsels: She is a woman grown
And learnèd in the woes of womanhood!
Speak, from which sense shall I receive the truth?

Give me a doll, a little doll! Ay, give!
But do not think that fifteen years o' the world
Are fifteen days by a blind kitten lived.

What shall be done? Most clearly do I see
Thine actions are not thoughtless, childish, blind,
But knowingly and resolutely seek
The evil out. Is Excambald then right?
Dwells there a demon in that lovely house
Of gold and ivory which is thy form
And thrusteth forth its master and its God?
I look upon thee and can grasp it not!
Why must this vessel of high loveliness
Instead of holding precious ointment, be
The home of horror and corruption.

Strange. Are not men the strangest creatures, truly?
Each man who took me spoke the self-same words
Accusing me for what I gave to him.
[She gives KARL a swift, sidelong glance and suddenly throws her
arms about his neck.
Old man, be not so foolish!

[Without stirring.
If I were
Mere Rico, count of Maine, swift would I loosen
Those arms, thou little wanton, from my neck.
But I am only Karl the emperor
And in this matter cannot equal him.

[Standing on the base of a column and still holding her arms about
Ye make so many words—ye men! Be still,
And take in quietude the good one gives you.

Be silent, bastard of a saint, begotten
By a foul satyr on her innocent sleep.
Go! Have compassion! For my reason faints
And all my might of majesty before
The thin-lipped wreathing of thy scarlet smile!
What hinders me from pressing my dark hand
On that white throat until thy power is dead
And nothing but the sweet, chaste, faultless form,
Wronged nevermore by thy accursèd soul,
Lies lovely in my arms?
[In a passionate struggle with himself, about to succumb, he thrusts
her fiercely from him.

Ai! Ai! Thy fists
Are rude and strong and hard and hurt me sore!
[Turning his face from her KARL stands still, breathing deeply,
striving to conquer himself. GERSUIND slinks aside and watches him,
her wrists. After a brief pause he speaks.

Harsh force must help where admonition falls
Fruitless! Force exercised paternally
But quite inevitable. No punishment
Will fall on thee whom I gave leave to sin,
But upon those who did misuse thy youth!
Thus will my men at arms find work, my hangmen
Find that wherewith to glut their gallow trees.
Give me their names! Behold, here is my stylus,
And here a tablet covered with fresh wax.
Names! Give the names of those voluptuaries
Who in the shadow of my palace sinned
Beneath my very dome against thy girlhood!
Give me those names, Gersuind, and I will scrawl them
With heavy hand upon my tablet here
And set down after each name: He must die!

[Beside herself, but with the violent courage of terror.
Thou shalt not do this thing! Nay, thou shalt not!
Nor will I ever name the name of one
Who, in his kindness, did the thing I craved.

Then will I write down Rorico of Maine!

[With vulgar scorn.
Ay, write that name! It matters not to me
To see one blind fool blindly strike another.

'Tis well, Gersuind. If I unleash my pack,
It will not tarry to pursue the prey.
Instead of many, name the one to me
Who gave thee more, was more, than any other!

And him thou probably wilt crucify?

Nay, he shall live and thou shalt be his spouse!

[In swift fear.
Nay, nay! I cannot take for all men—one!

[Visibly relieved.
Thou knowest neither men nor yet one man
Gersuind, and for the first time the young down
Upon thy temples seems in place. Now first
There seems to rise from that poor soul of thine
The evil mists that hid it hitherto.
[Ever more nobly and more paternally.
Not yet thy glance can find me; still thy soul
Blinks in the brightness, half awakened only
To groping twilight. But once let the beam
Of that new day which thou art destined to,
Break full and clearly from its bursting bud,
Then in the radiance of a dawning light
Will thy true spring-tide rise upon thy soul.
Have patience, Gersuind! He who will not wait
Till the full berry of the grape is ripe—
His teeth with the sour wine are set on edge.
Thou knowest not thyself and far less me!
Both do I know, yet will I not withdraw
The hand of my protection from thy head.
And why? The great sage Alcuin holds the ant
Worthy of contemplation, on a straw
He carries home the small thing two long miles.
'Tis well! For do I fear? Am I in dread
Of ants? Did I not set victorious foot
On nations of them? Did I not fight to death
And to subjection thy unruly folk,
And shall I now take flight from thee alone?
Behold this manor and its gardens thine!
Thy homeless soul shall here find home at last.
Here shalt thou slowly grow in grace and bloom,
And put forth fruits in ripeness, tended well
By a wise gardener's hand. Be merry here,
Untroubled in the shadow of these walls!
Thou shalt be mistress of thy maids, well served
With costly garments and with gold and gems,
And all delight that thou commandest! Only
One thing. ...

As favourite flower of the king
I must stand still within the bed assigned.

Knowest thou his favourite flower?

Ay, in truth!
A little girl of seven, myself I planted
Mallows, in reverence of Karl the king.

[Ever more greatly, purely and paternally.
That reverence is lost! For, hadst thou it,
Thou wouldst not lose it for thine inmost self.
Thou wouldst repel dishonour from the clear
Image of God's own Mother which thou art.
Oh, thou wouldst fear to soil the treasure chaste
Of the high Queen of Heaven with the touch
Of ruthless hands impure! O Gersuind:
About this manor healing springs rise up
Which draw all ill from the corrupted body
And expiate all blood! And in my heart
The hot and healing wells have risen—wells
Of pure paternal love! I feel them run
Resistlessly for thee. Oh, haste to cleanse
Thy soul, to bathe it till 'tis clean indeed!
For though thou be with sin and blemish sown,
Yet shall there come an hour when I shall say,
If thou to my cleansed will canst but submit:
Go, show thyself unto the priests! And on
That day shalt thou in face of all the world
Be the immaculate flower of heaven, be
The lily held in Mary's moveless hands.
[He has laid his right hand on GERSUIND's head; she kisses his lef


The scene is once more the country-seat of the king at Aix-la-Chapelle. It
a room in the interior of the villa. The vaulted roof is upborne by columns; th
floor is of manicoloured marble. Doors, some open and some closed, lead into
interior of the house: one leads into the garden. From another room, built
on a
lower plane, MASTER ALCUIN and COUNT RORICO mount by several steps into

this chamber. ALCUIN is an aged man, tall and of noble bearing. In him are

blended the scholar, poet and man of the world. His garb is clerical.

No farther may I lead thee on, good master,
And at a signal which the warder gives,
Whether you have seen the emperor or not,
From house and garden I must send thee straight.

Even though a writing of the emperor's hand Has called me hither?

Thou wast summoned here?

Most surely, count. Were it not so I would
Be sitting peacefully among my books,
Careless and quite incurious as before,
Guarding my mind against all rumours wild.
[He speaks with gentle archness and always amiably.
What are these mighty secrets that ye have?
What masquerades are going on, Sir count?
Why does the mighty swinger of the club,
The emperor keep himself hidden here?
For truly, to approach this wilderness,
On narrow paths through marshes that enclose
This island and this house, a man must brave
Dangers that are not slight. Meantime men say
That beasts of prey are everywhere astir;
Hence there is need that our great Heracles
Shake but a little his lion's skin, instead
Of sitting o'er the spindle—to what end?

We have come here for the hot baths that rise
At the foundation of this house. Our lord
Bathes in them, calling them the founts of youth.

What calls he founts of youth?

The steaming springs.

Right and quite rightly understood, dear count.
Well do I know our excellent patriarch!
Have I not seen shepherds of sheep—not nations—
In fear of age that made them cold and stiff,
In entrails of the yearlings bathe their feet?
The supreme shepherd of both gods and men
Zeus, spite of youth eternal, froze at times.
The fear of age o'ertook him and he felt
Younger, 'tis strange, when he assumed the steer!
The founts of youth? Why not? Our man of men!
May they bring healing to our mortal Zeus,
And may he grasp among his many lambs ...
Or—bathe him where he would—I meant to say.

Since thou art summoned here, most reverend sir,
Rest thee a while. There went forth yet another
Summons unto our chancellor Excambald,
Which seems of excellent omen unto me!
For otherwise—there is no leech to heal.
I dare not speak and would not, by my troth!
My vision does not span our mighty lord,
And thus my wisest plan is to obey.
Yet look on him! No youth the bath has brought!
Behold, upon the terrace sounds his step.
[RORICO withdraws swiftly. ALCUIN throws another glance at his
and stands in waiting. A Moorish servant opens the garden-door from
without and
lets KARL pass him into the room. The emperor is paler than is
his wont. His
glance has lost in repose and determination. He comes with the
bright light of
day behind him, so that he is preceded by his tall shadow. He
notices ALCUIN
and holds his hand over his eyes as though to sharpen his vision.

I cannot yet see clearly who thou art.

But thou, O unmistakeable, art David!

And Flaccus thou!

Ay, the same feeble Flaccus
Whom thy rude warriors in the forest stationed,
Who guard their king as though his castle stood
In hostile territory, deigned to spare.

Ah, Flaccus, in an enemy's land is man
As long as men are round about him!
[He claps his hands.
Haroun-al-Rashid claps his hands and straight
Grow Paradises out of nothingness.
I am no magian, only a rough Frank
Who can but offer thee thy favourite wine
And some plain country-fare of roast or boiled
To ease thee for the fear that thou hast felt.

A modest man like Flaccus asks no more!
[Two Saracen slaves in manicoloured turbans appear and kiss the earth
before KARL.
[Glancing at the slaves.
Thy poverty I also can endure.

Hassan, prepare a feast fit for the gods.
[The slaves, who have arisen, throw themselves once more upon the
arise and withdraw.

Not despicable is thy magic, lord.

Ah, had I it! I have it not. Four slaves
Like unto these the Caliph sent to me
Together with six dusky female slaves.
Almost I had forgotten them, of late
An idle whim made me recall them here
Unto my service. Only now I learn
To honour rightly the imperial gift.
For they prepare thy bath, wind thee about
With linen, knead thee, fly at thy desire,
And serve thy body's need beyond all praise!
'Tis enervating if thou wilt; they are
Weaklings by nature. I am not, my friend.
But hear, in brief now, why I called thee here.
Wert thou not born in far Northumbria
Of Saxon blood and lineage?

Ay, king David.

Then soon within this house thou'llt hear a soul
Living and speaking that's akin to thine.
But thereof later. What I need in thee
Is not the Saxon's but the brother's heart—
The man of equal insight, equal worth!
And that art thou, my Flaccus, wielding still
The spiritual sword which God Himself
Did leave behind him in this world. That sword
Didst thou assume, as I the temporal,
And thou art Peter's heritor to me—
More than the Roman! For in things divine
And in things human thou hast knowledge of
God's wisdom high, given to thee alone.
Therefore art thou the man most welcome here
To understand, not judge! One who desires
To honour life, not to extinguish it!
For did I care to cast aside the weight
Of my humanity, I needed but
An empty cloistral cell in which to breathe
And not the breast of brother or of friend.
Thou art my friend in truth, my Flaccus! Well,
Strange things are happening to me! People say
Perhaps. ... I know not truly what they say.
I only know that there is that within me
Which fills me like an aging tree with sap
Anew as from a thousand springs of life!
Perchance this is ridiculous enough,
And mocks this untamed peasant's head of mine
And all men's goodly, seasonable rules.
For think: an old tree, bare and thin for long,
Sucked dry by parasites to whom its trunk
Yet gives a slight support that they may still
Be fruitful in the light of the great sun—
That old, dead tree puts forth new foliage now!
There is a stirring in the little leaves
O' the parasite: Behold, the old fellow would
Live for himself and not for us alone!
Well—so it is! The old, superfluous fool
May have good cause to be ashamed. 'Tis true
Nevertheless, that he would live once more.

O thou great David of our table round
Which, radiant with the spirit's seven gifts,
Exalted above all mere mortal things,
Surrounds thee as the gold the flaming gem ...
What are we lacking thee? Dost thou not wield
The plough, the stylus and the sword at once?
Thou summonest forth what rests in the deep earth!
That which would live in peace thou nourishest
And still protectest! That which is above
Thou honourest—sower of the Saviour's seed!
The child lisps "Karl" ere its own father's name;
Karl is not Karl—the word spells might and strength.
Two neighbours quarrel? Karl! The quarrel's done!
Great nations are at war? Karl! There is peace.
The whole world rests in quiet? Karl! The earth
Thunders, the welkin darkens, and thy name
Means no more peace and quietude, but war!
Who would presume to master thy desires?

That men should master me—I fear it not.
I am too much the rough, unruly Frank,
And if, in armour, I assume my shield
Scarcely will any spear reach to my skin.
But I am vulnerable in my trust,
Where I reveal my soul without disguise
And show the tenderness that lurks beneath
The roughness of my mere exterior self.
[The Saracen slaves have brought in a covered table. Others hold
pitchers and ewers.
I was a little lonely here. Come now
And seat thee!
[He and ALCUIN sit down at the table. The slaves pour water over
their hands.
Look, my solitariness
Was very dear to me, and yet I lacked
Not friends, as well thou knowest, but—one friend.
[He raises his beaker and silently drinks to ALCUIN's health. The
latter responds. A brief pause ensues. Then KARL says.
Fair company I'll call, if thou desire.

[With delicate courtesy.
Were Horace to invite Anacreon,
The Grecian would await such goodly things
As wine, as song, as beauty above all!

Well said, old pagan! But I bid thee gird
Thy heart with stoutest armour round about.
[He strikes upon a disk of metal which one of the slaves holds.
has the sound died away when GERSUIND, hurrying in, stands before the two
men. She is lightly and fantastically clad. Her hair is open.

[Starts back as she sees the two at table.
Ye are eating? Fy!

Fy? Must not man be nourished?

It irks me to see people eat.

What? People?
Are we mere common folk?

What are ye more?

One of us two is more; and hence thou errest!

To her all men are people merely; and
Unhappily all people are men too.

What more? I do not love my kind at all.

Save, let us hope, our lord the king himself,
The honoured and beloved of all men.

Friend, she excepts no one, so help me God!
Ay, if I were a field-fare and could sing,
Or else a kitten, blind and whimpering,
Then might I hope for some small tenderness.

[Greedily gazing about her.
And have ye naught for me?

[Offering her his beaker.


She feeds upon the dew of orange blooms,
Or rose-leaf water, at the most, well cooled
In snow, even as the dusky slaves prepare it.
We feed Angora goats, for her small mouth
Slakes its thirst only with their delicate milk.

So it is nectar and ambrosia
With which thou nourishest thy flower of life
Like the Olympian gods, and truly thou
Seem'st not of mortal substance to be formed.

She is of mortal substance—never fear!

Ay! Call me not a saint, whate'er ye do!
For I would rather be all things than that!
I eat, I drink, I follow my desires
Spite of all other wills; let others do
Equally what they can and what they would.

And if the others would that righteousness
Prevail and that good deeds ...

What's that to me?

Ah, my wise Flaccus, try thy wisdom out!
Summon the long experience of thy years,
The knowledge gathered with untiring zeal,
The wisdom conquered in the endless nights,
Thou, the insatiable of work and light!
See if the spirit in God's wisdom tried,
And in the heat of all the arts of man
Avail thee lest thou stand before this child
Helplessly gaping like the unlettered hind?
To me she long has proved my ignorance!

Can Flaccus venture where Augustus feels
Spite the Heraclean laurel round his brow
Quite powerless. But I am at thy bidding!

Then let us teach thee. ... Let us ask at once
What sin is?

There is no such thing as sin.

And modesty! Question her of that next!

Ay, tell me, maiden, what is modesty?

[First laughs to herself, then quite frankly.
I am no child of Adam or of Eve;
My ancestors touched not the fatal tree;
I know not what is evil, what is good.

Thou hast not the knowledge making thee as God,
And yet art thou thrust forth from Paradise.
How dost thou hope to gain it in the end!

Trouble thyself but for thyself, O greybeard!
What do ye chatter there of modesty?
Am I to be ashamed of my lithe limbs
And in my tailor set my pride perchance?
Are wool or gossamer of silk or fibre
Of linen better than my own fair self
With which I see and hear and taste and breathe?
And though thy daughters walk about adorned
In gold and jewels which I do not want,
Are not they more than the dead stone or ore?
Did not God make me naked? Would ye change that?
Speak and I'll strip these garments off and leave
Them in my stead to bear ye company!

Hold! She is capable of doing it, friend!
[GERSUIND has in all seriousness made a motion to strip off her
What sayest thou now, good master?

I am speechless!

What arguments hast thou against her words?

[Throwing aside a long veil with which she has been draped.
If ye would question, question ye my veil!
'Twill give more pleasing answers than myself.
[She throws the veil down and, laughing, runs out.

[She does not heed the call.
She is gone! Speak: Does her laughter
Sound pleasant to thee?

Far in Jutland once
Hidden I saw the sacrifice to idols.
It was a bitter night of wintry frost.
The forest pyres burned with a great roar
As of innumerable trampling demons.
A red horse, long of mane, sweeping of tail,
Scarce two years old, was led to sacrifice.
And near the hiding place in which we lay
A naked giant by the halter held
The noble beast destined to fiery death.
Touched by the sudden glow of the red flame
It raised its head. And then it neighed ... it neighed!
I cannot tell thee how it sounded, whether
Liker wild laughter or a weeping wild.

Her true self hast thou seen, my Flaccus. 'Tis
Nearer akin to sorrow than to joy.

The horror of the mystical midnight
Around her breathes, though she seems nothing less
Than a full beam of radiant day itself.

Forget thou not to eat and drink!

I thank thee!
For sixty long years have I drunk and eaten
In quiet trust that, doing it, I was
Not guilty of a wrong. To-day, to-day
For the first time a doubt assails me sore!
And I reflect: Had I not better fast?
And over many other things I brood
That come into my mind with her strange words
And all that strange thing which she seems and is.

Now hast thou come where I would have thee, Flaccus!
Many a little beast, as well thou knowest,
With drag-net, bolt or springes have I caught,
But never snared a wild thing like to this.
Therefore I guard it, hold it of high worth.
She, to be sure, is human; thus do I
Practice a nobler calling than the mere
Tamer of beasts; she is in my charge as though
I were the ghostly father of her soul.
And I deny not that I take delight
In proving wisdom with a single soul,
I who have turned the desert bare and bleak
Into rich habitations of good men,
Here too would slowly sow the seed of good.

And scatters she no seed about her?

Difficult is the struggle for a soul,
Deadlier than a fight of swords! The foe
Of God and of all good, he who doth scorch
The desert, sleeps not, sends corroding flames
Into the very heart of Paradise.
I know it well, and yet I take delight
In the grim combat and will face the foe.
Also, it is my fault! ...

Lord, thou didst hew
Upon their knees Bavarians, Huns and Saxons,
Normans and Basques and the grim Lombards too,
And who arose before thee crashed to earth!
And yet compared to this exalted plan
Of thy high will, all victory was light.

Thou art distrustful?

It were ill to doubt.
Karl were yet Karl, though conquered in this fray.

[Arises, his expression grows sombre.
Dost thou believe that from one trough I feed
With mangy dogs?

May God's own lightning strike me
If ever such a thought, in sleep or waking
Entered my head.

'Tis well! Indeed, 'tis well!
[KARL takes several turns up and down the room. His sudden excitement
allayed. RORICO enters.
What is it, Rorico?

The chancellor!

There is no hurry. Let the old fool wait!

He follows at my heel.

I beg thee then,
That since our goodly feast is broken up
Thou flee a most morose encounter with him.
[He takes a ring from his finger and slips it into ALCUIN's
Meantime laugh, exercise thy nimble wit.
There is a ring, a plaything, nothing else,
And into seven rings it falls apart;
Then of the seven canst thou again make one,
And doing so, consider while thou laughest—
Thy laughter's cause a plaything is to me,
No less assuredly and yet no more.
[EXCAMBALD has appeared. He has heard KARL's last words. ALCUIN
bows toward KARL and withdraws. RORICO also goes out. KARL
slowly across the chamber and looks at EXCAMBALD with a questioning

I come in answer to thy summons, lord.

Thou comest? How? In answer unto what?

[Very pale.
My lord imperial did call me hither.

Ay, true! How stands the matter of that Bennit?
Did not his name run thus? Has his estate
That was unjustly confiscated, been
At last adjudged to him again?

[With sombre defiance.
Nay, lord.

Why not?

Renewed inquiry serves to show
Anew the guilt of Assig and Bennit!
Here is the record of the session held,
Here of the sober judgment of the court,
Only the seal is lacking.

[Takes the document and tears it.
Thus and thus!
Would ye defy me?

What command'st thou?


That is, forgive me, what each faithful soul
In all thy realm regrets with bitterness!

What? That I issue no commands! Perform
Goodness and righteousness without command!
In the sweat of my brow must I command
Until my very tongue is lame with speech?
The hewers of wood, the drawers of water rest!
Open your slothful mouths! Cry out commands:
Here this and yonder that! Do that, not this!
Not through a single year but a long life
And ye will feel my weariness enow.
What is it ye would have me to command?

Innumerable letters crave an answer.

From whom? The most important? Name their names!

His high serenity and king, thy son,
Ludwig of Aquitaine. Here Peter next
Of Pisa! Fulda's abbot next, and then
The Bishops of Cologne, Mayence and Rheims!
In Basle, lord Hildigern! In Besançon
Richwin and others! Letters, too, have come
Urgent and full of care, from Rome!

And why
Bursts this flood suddenly?

Read them thyself!


Lord, matters of state, momentous, high
Can make no progress, linger where they are!
A dire stagnation is upon us! Also,
In strangest wise a rumour makes its way
To the remotest corners of the land!
And it has gone even to our enemies.
Also our ally, Alphonse of Gallicia
And the Asturias, though he is in doubt,
Makes mention of the whispering he has heard.

What mentions he? Of what is he in doubt?

No easy matters to repeat, my lord.

Then let it be! What more?

This letter, lord
Fell by the merest chance into my hands.
Pipin thy son did write it and it too
Makes mention of that rumour strange, obscure.
'Twas written to Duke Gelimer whom thou
Unhappily hast overwhelmed with grace.

Show it!

An evil plan it speaks of, which
The ill-advised young prince did not repel
With the swift justice which he should have used.

[Having read the letter.
Son of a wanton! Coxcomb! Knave and fool!
Thou writest of an unclean whore who leads
The lame and senile Karl at her foul will!
Thus writes Pipin whom in a tent I made
Stumbling by chance upon a wench who fled,
And whom, when she had given birth to him,
I raised, as 'twere the Saviour, from the manger
And stamped him not into his native mire!
'Tis well! The hunchback would o'erthrow the lame?
Is it for this I am to be annoyed?
Shave me his head and hurl him in a cloister.
[After a brief pause, quite objectively.
Let all these lords use their new brooms to sweep
Where'er they would, but let them not come here
Upon the threshold of my country-seat,
Else with my broom of thunder will I fare
Forth in the world with terror as of old.
The hostage Gersuind is of noble blood,
And it is my design to have her married,
Probably to that young prince Friedugis
Whom I will send into some Saxon land
As my pro-consul, he being strong and wise.

May God prevent the unnatural attempt!


To ally him to the girl Gersuind.

Why not?

Because I fear me for his life
Were this intention once made known to him.

He'd slay himself?

Ay, lord.

What, he would flee
This Friedugis, to hasten from my grace
And rather plunge into perdition?


Thou utterest that word with grim intent!
Lives there no countess and no margravine
Who in the ecstasy of sightless youth
Was guilty of evil, evil things as she,
And who now lives, the target of no scorn
In chastity and honour with her lord?

In chastity and honour? I must speak!
Yet how begin? A lady who in youth
Sinned because passion is the mark of youth?
Nay, that is not unheard of, is not new!
Is not unspeakable as Gersuind's deeds!
And heavy is my office at this hour,
For oft have I been judge, but never hangman!
And fear o'ertakes me at this dreadful thing.

Not me! Off with it! Speak! I mean the head!
We'll cut the throats that tend not unto good!

[Weeping, almost crying out.
Rather bid me be silent, my lord king!

According to thy chatter, thou shouldst speak!

May God destroy all who deceive the king.

God will not do that, being merciful,
And having made a covenant of old
With Noah that no second flood shall come.

The flood will come! 'Twill come and whelm my head!
Lord, my knees tremble, give me leave to go.

Deemest thou that I fear what makes thee tremble?
What is it?

Crime! Lechery! Blasphemous shame!

Such things have happened since the world began.

But never saw I them so near thy throne.

Speak clearly!

Spattering never thy purple yet!

More clearly still!

Never did any one
That's born of woman heap such shame on thee ...

As who?

As Gersuind, the hostage, does.

Thy proofs?

With bitter trouble give I them!
God is my witness. ...

Not he alone, I trust!

In the night lately fled this came to pass ...
In a vile tavern by the river bank,
This is what came to pass—this and naught else!
I, Excambald, in sack-cloth garments, I
The chancellor crept there unknown to men
Because the rumours like a maelstrom swol'n
Spurred almost to rebellion on thy folk!
Naught did I hope to see and saw—too much!
I found the rumours tepid, toothless, tame!
I saw Gersuind, naked! Ay, she was clad
But in the floating tresses of her hair
Which flowed about her like a living glow
And sea of fire that had its ebb and flood!
And in that sea with twittering laugh she danced
And her white limbs flashed in the eyes of men.
The topers roared: Fishers, apprentices
From near Saint Mary's, plasterers and Italians
Who brought the statue of Theodoric
From far Ravenna. Thou hast seen it not.
They cried and sang and screamed, gave her the name
Of the king's wanton, the while she did lift
Alternately her smooth knees in the dance,
Till by the luring of her pallid mouth
Awakened—I myself could scarce withstand
The vile enchantment of druidic charms—
A storm infernal broke about us there!
Lord, let me gain my breath!

Do so!

'Tis true!
Ay, it is true that thou art Karl the king
I Excambald, nor do I speak in madness.
I speak the truth. What happened then, is this:
Let me remember! Suddenly, at one blow
The Prince of the Abyss was with us there!
My brain reeled! They tore her from the table
And now one grasped her, now another ... panting,
Wild trampling sounded! Curses rent the air!
They hurled Gersuind to earth; strands of her locks
Were wound about their calloused fists, they thrust her
Hither and thither, wreaking on her their lust. ...
The light went out; I saw not what they did,
Till deathlike, waxen, on the floor she lay.

Unless thou jestest, Excambald, thy words
Mean that this thing took place with whom?
Surely not with the hostage in mine house?

With the same hostage whom thou keepest here.

And when this came to pass, didst thou stand still?

I was benumbed! Naught did I nor could do!
When last that grave did open—for it was
A grave of dark and silence round about
Suddenly—When I came to myself again,
There lay she with contorted limbs, she lay
Rigid as death and icy to the touch.

[With mighty self-mastery.
And yet she lives and breathes and is not dead,
And hence thy story clearly has a gap!
Enough! Mere chatter! Speak of weightier things!
Speak of the shipwrights of whom I have need,
Of all those things for which thou earn'st thy bread
And wearest thy garb of office, not of what
Old country wives relate in idleness.
[He calls aloud.
Rorico! Go! Rorico!
[RORICO appears and EXCAMBALD withdraws.
Hither, guards!
Rascals! Have I no guards at call! Come hither!
Curs, do ye sleep? Would ye do naught but feed
And sleep? Have I no guards! Watch ye asleep?
He lies! Bring me the Saxon hostage hither!

She sleeps.

She sleeps?

Thus saith the serving maid.
Gersuind desired to cut grapes in the garden,
Scarcely beginning, she did fall asleep.

Slept in the vineyard? Where, then, lies she now?
In the garden?

Nay, in her bedchamber. Her tiring women brought her thither straight.

Then tear her from her couch and bring her here!
[RORICO hastens out. KARL, alone, is suddenly overwhelmed with
confusion, almost with madness.
Stones! Ah, my shield! The very air grows dark!
Missiles and stones! They are hurling stones at me!
Ah, scoundrels, myriad-handed! Each one strikes!
Ay, that one too! Would ye stone me to death?
[It is with an effort that he keeps himself erect. GERSUIND
suddenly awakened from her sleep, yet sharply and cunningly
observant. Holding
himself erect with iron energy, KARL gazes long into GERSUIND's eyes.
Finally the words wring themselves from him.
He lies!

Who slanders me does lie indeed.

Witch, dost thou speak? Who bade thee speak? Who bade thee
With such a voice and with such words thyself
Deep to reprove and to accuse?

I ... me?

Close me the gates!
[RORICO withdraws to carry out the command.
Now justify thyself!

I? Justify myself? Did I do more
Wrong that what openly I have confessed?

Ay, so men say! And if thou cleansest not
Both thee and me from infamy and ordure,
I'll wipe thee from the living face of things
Like a vile blot upon a human world.

[With frivolous impudence.
Why, may I ask? I like not to confess!

[Cries out.

[Gazes about, seeking help, like a wild animal at bay. Since no
seems possible, a wild fear suddenly overtakes her. She hastens to
KARL and
covers his hands, his arms and his garment with kisses.
Let me live! Oh, let me live, King Karl!
Mercy! I crave thy mercy! Let me live!

[Thrusting her back.
Thou scum!

[As before.
Oh, let me live! Oh, let me live!
Put heavy chains about me, O King Karl!
Let no man see me but thyself alone,
And no one touch me! Do thou put the chains
About me, O sweet father, and do thou
Like a great cherub loosen them at last!

All these things shall another do instead!
Not I.

Who, then?

Another one! Enough!
Yet ere I beckon—ready doth he stand
That other whom thou may'st call "father," "lord,"
If so it please thee, greater he than I—
Ere that I beckon him who loosens chains
And forges others indissoluble,
Confess the sin which thou hast sinned to me.

Ah, thou wouldst have me slain.

That would I do.

[With sudden boldness.
And wilt thou tell me wherefore I must die?

Too late for all denial now—too late!
Denial first and then confession—well!
The other way, O wanton, helps thee not!
Thou didst beguile the watchmen in the night?

Who says that I beguiled them?

I, myself!

Wherefore should I beguile the watchmen? Call
The serfs! Ay, let them come and question them!

So with thy foul, obliterated coin,
Didst thou, vile outcast, buy the watchmen's silence?

[With sudden rage.
Why didst thou drag the outcast in? Why didst thou
Not let me lie where I had made my bed?
Why liftedst thou me up, unsought, unbidden?
I made no plaint, I cried not, called thee not!
I threw myself not at thy royal feet
Beseeching thee to raise me from the dust!
But thou didst grasp me and didst hold me tight!
Why? Wherefore was it? Seeing that thou didst
Jeer at me only and desire me not!
I do not want thy jeers, nor yet that glance
Which falling on me still accuses me,
Or rests on me in horror ill restrained.
I would not have thy prison and thy cage,
Which shuts me out from life itself, from God,
From the divinity of mine own fire!
For I must burn or else lie cold in death.

With me art thou acold ... and so thou diest!
Thou art impatient then.

Ay, who delays,
Feeding me with mere words, he loves me not!
Delay but makes me famish, he who lets
Me thirst and hunger gives me bitter pain,
And makes me solitary and unloved,
And lets me stand a stranger, terror stricken,
And weighted with the weight of loneliness.
He who delays ere to his breast he takes me
Precedence gives to the old murderer Death
Who cheats us of the little all we have!

[Regards the breathless girl silently for a while. Then he speaks
Thou hast made me very still and very mild.
So mild that single death will not suffice
Which thou hast suffered in the king's house here.
It needs no second death to slay thee quite!
Unsummoned Death will come upon thee swift
In time of his own choosing, as thou sayest.
Now go.
[GERSUIND does not move.
Thou shalt be taken to thy home
Thy God—the horrors that thou honourest!
There seek thy mire, nor ever think of me!
[He has turned away from her; she remains standing movelessly before
Art thou still there? We have a lash for such ...

Beat me!

I am no gaoler!
[He calls out into the garden.
Flaccus! Flaccus!
[He claps his hands and the Saracen slaves enter.
Come, clear the table! Sweep me clean the house!
Bring to us nobler wine and better food!
[ALCUIN enters from the garden.
Now art thou truly welcome to me, friend!
The air is pure, my breast is free! We have
No longer unclean spirits, as our guests!
No longer does corruption's breath make foul
The wine's aroma to our thirsting lips.
The horses, Rico, and the hawks! But first
Let us carouse in goodly Frankish wise
And fill our bellies with the healthful meats!
Then—with a huntsman's hail—unto the chase!

Here is thy ring, King David, back again:
I could not fit the seven parts into one.

[Takes the ring.
Thou art weary of the plaything?
[Contemptuously he throws the ring down. It rolls at GERSUIND's
So am I!

[With lightning-like rapidity she picks up the ring and hides it.
He who would have it must first take my life.
[She runs out.


A hall in the cloister on the lea, vaulted ceilings, a staircase, corridors
that cross each other, an open loggia. A week has passed since the happenings
the preceding act. It is late afternoon.
GERSUIND reclining in an armchair shows traces of severe illness in her
The SISTER SUPERIOR, busy dressing a doll, keeps her company. The
sick girl
has been so placed that she can enjoy the warmth of the autumnal sun as it
enters through the loggia.

Who gave to thee that jewel strange, that ring?

I have told thee that my mother gave it me.

Then dost thou well to hold it precious.

And so I do indeed.

I see thou dost.

I carry it ever near my heart, dear sister.

And yet thou never knewest thine own mother.

Thinkest thou the ring is from my mother?

Thou saidest so and I believed thee.

I speak untruth at times.

And didst thou lie?

Ay, sister.

Then whose gift is the strange ring
Thou hast?

His gift.

But whose?

The emperor's.

Whose gracious kindness thou hast ill repaid?

One can well see how credulous thou art!

Fy, Gersuind!

Thinkest that I would hold dear
Karl's ring nor throw it from me straight?

In truth,
Thus shouldst thou love it and thus hold it dear.

Indeed? Oh, thou art very wise, but give
My doll now, sister!

Not until thou dost
Confess when for the first time that strange fear
And that sharp fever shook thee and what cause,
According to thy thinking, brought these forth.

How do these things concern thee and the rest?

Thou art not obedient! Why did the wise leech,
Why did our kindly mother abbess ask
When first there came that horror to thy breast
Strangely and softly, of which thou hast told?
To heal thee! For the evil's cause being known
Sooner may proper remedies be given
To heal thee.

I would have all as it is!

What wouldst thou?

I would hurt you all, all, all!

I must believe that, for thou sayest it hourly.
But rather tell me who gave thee this hurt,
Who in that evil night gave thee the draught
That is the cause of all this ill to thee.

Like to our emperor Karl he had long hair
And white, and therefore did I drink the draught.

What was the taste of it? The hue?

'Twas wine!
And yet I know not, so repulsive was it.

Where happened this?

Ever thou askest where?
And when and what and who? I know it not!

I am a woman like thyself, Gersuind!
Speak freely: If for love of that strange man
Who but resembled him, thou drank'st the draught
Repulsive, why then did thy violence spill
Karl's gracious goblet filled with good and love?

Give me the doll, sister! Dost thou not hear?

And when the mixture thou hadst drunk in pity
Of the old man who offered it to thee ...?

Then was the draught as evil as before
And quite as horrible unto the taste.

And fever seized thee?

I was a little cold

And if that old man met thee as before
Then wouldst thou know him, Gersuind?

[With decision.
I would not!

All his aspect thou hast forgotten then?

I see him clearly as though he stood here.

And yet thou wouldst not name him nor report
Even though he stepped before our very eyes,
The man who made thee weak and sick and wretched?

Nay, for I am not wretched! Were I so,
As I am not, I tell thee once again,
Then would I name him straightway—but I am not.
Come warm my hands a little, warm my body.
[THE SISTER looking with grave anxiety into GERSUIND's face winds a

heavy cloth about her hands. Almost unconscious GERSUIND leans back her
head. THE ABBESS enters softly. COUNT RORICO follows her just as he
come in from the street.

It is impossible, count Rorico!
Behold! Convince thyself! She is as helpless
As a poor infant, needy of all care.
Not a day's journey would her strength endure.

Yet must she go, O venerable mother.
Time presses! I have dared too much e'en now!
Yet on that morning when our lord and king
Aweary of his strange autumnal mood
Hurled her aside as though she were a midge,
I had not the heart to do but what I did.

And thou didst right, count Rorico, in truth!
And like a noble gentleman didst thou
Act in accordance with the imperial order
Which we keep safely in our treasury.
Thus didst thou act in bringing home this lamb.
A ruler may forget his word, for great
The circle of his cares and agitations!
The child to whom 'twas given may forget it,
For youth is full of light forgetfulness!
But the child's guardian, in forgetting it,
Deserves God's anger surely.

Tell me then:
How runs the document thou keepest safe?

The duty is enjoined upon us even
Unto the ending of her days to give
A home and hearth unto the maiden.

Ay, Thus and not otherwise do I recall it.
But he has driven her from Aix-la-Chapelle.

What is there here to expel? Behold her close:
A little heap of wretchedness which soon
The ancient cleanser Death will sweep aside,
To-day or else to-morrow, with naught left
Unless it be our emperor himself
Robbed her of a few strands of golden hair!
Has she not expiated more than all?
For I will tell thee now a secret thing:
She has been given poison! Ay, 'tis true!
O human creatures, men! Is't not enough
That ye her tender garden plundered quite
Which her child's ignorance did open? Nay,
A race of wolves, ye slew her at the last!
For always are we women foolish, never
Do we behold the cruel wolf in man
Nor evil thought upon the smiling lip.

Most loving mother, would that never she
From thy hand's kindly guidance had withdrawn.
Yet is she not thus guiltless. Above all,
Not guiltless in the eyes of Karl the king.
For since this morning he doth dwell again
Here in his palace in Aix-la-Chapelle!
And he is changed, I tell thee, ridges deep
Are graven in his forehead which no man
Beholds devoid of terror and of fear!
His brows are dark, shadowing his deep eyes;
Now and again he lifts a terrible glance,
Remorseless, threatening, not as in other days.
And if Karl learn that not in Saxon lands
But in this cloister Gersuind still doth dwell,
Then are we all in deadliest danger caught.

I practice righteousness and fear no man.

Fear Karl, I beg of thee, and hear my counsel!
This very night I will have horses ready
And two most trusty servants who can take
The child unto her kinsmen. It may be
That even now we have lingered far too long,
That we must live to see the hangman's hands
Tear her from us and lead her unto death.
The rumour that she dwells within the city
Spurs on the people unto wild revolt,
The unbridled rabble gathers hourly now
To drag her forth and stone her unto death.

For her last journey she is ready, count!
Oh, once before ye took her from my care,
The pledge which God entrusted unto us.
How did ye take her? How did she return?
A higher power demandeth her to-day,
A heavenly power, and I will guard her well.
The rabble calls her witch, the Saviour who
Befriended children calls her but a child.
But why this senseless fear of thine, for late
Has my confessor brought me news of this—
The emperor's soul is sore oppressed with pain,
Full of humility and deep contrition:
He is not angry, nay, he melts in tears.

Karl weeps! Then God have mercy on the Franks!
For when Karl weeps the deed outstrips the word
And execution judgment, not the roll
Of thunder comes before the lightning stroke!
Trust me! For once, at Verdun, Karl did weep
And the brooks overflowed with blood of men.
Karl weeps again, he weeps and sobs at night,
And on the lea behind Saint Mary's church,
While the unfinished building roofless stands,
Thou mayest the terror of Karl's tears behold
With black and swollen tongues and necks awry—
Workmen, the very best, are idling there
On weekdays, their limbs tossing in the wind.

[Waking up.

Well, child?

I hear one speaking.

Count Rorico is speaking to the abbess.

Will the king shield me from that bad old man?

From what old man?

From him who yonder stands
And calls me pagan vile and evil demon.

She means the worthy chancellor Excambald.
The dream that most torments her is the one
Of that momentous morning on which we
Accused and dragged forth by her kinsman Bennit
Appeared before the throne of Karl the king.

And he who speaks, sister, is Rorico,
The emperor's favourite?

Ay, the count is here.
Open thine eyes and thou canst see him plain.

[With closed eyes.
I see him clear before me as he lives.
Handsome he is, but not by far as Karl!
Karl is a god, we others are but men.

Wilt thou believe it, sore as she grieved and vexed him
She honours him as though he were a saint?

May He who made her penetrate her heart.

I cannot drink the horrible mixture! Oh!
It is nauseating, frightful! Bid him go!

They gave her poison on that dreadful night,
In that strange den to which the will of hell
Compelled her. 'Twas a man, unknown and old
Who in a beaker wine gave her her death.

Who would believe that such a heavy curse
Lay on that fragile body and soul of hers!
See how she lies there, small and weak! O weakness
Against which arms of steel did not prevail!
Alone she stood, trusting that weakness, even
As Karl the king stands, leaning on his strength!
And thus, like him, is she surrounded now
By enemies, good mother, and sore oppressed,
And I who coldly stood beside her feel
Guiltily guiltless deep compassion now.
[EXCAMBALD enters hastily.

At last I meet thee then, count Rorico!

[Starts up at the sound of EXCAMBALD's voice, opens her eyes and
stares at him.
There art thou ... it is he ... what wouldst thou now?

[Without taking notice of GERSUIND.
And ye returned straightway, without ado?

Ay, his command to travel came at dawn.
Heaven only knows what now he means to do.

Hide but the girl, good cousin abbess, swift,
For Karl is on his way unto the cloister.

I feared the secret would be told to him.

Hide her! Rebellion is fomenting; Karl
Is in a hangman's mood. Though folk and king
Be at swords' points since the rash masons hang,
They are at one in hatred of this harlot.

[Lifting GERSUIND from the chair. The child still gazes in
horror at EXCAMBALD.
Lay fast thy arms about my neck, Gersuind!
The mighty are sinning, our protection lies
With God!
[She carries GERSUIND out. RORICO helps her.

[Alone with THE ABBESS.
Nay, death itself would have her not.
Ye stand right firmly in the emperor's grace,
Since your compassion seeks this dangerous road.
Spite of her illness, I had rather sent her
Like Freya's kitten home, by drowning her.

[Looking steadily at EXCAMBALD.
I know that thou hadst rather done so! What
In truth thou didst is known to thee alone;
I know it not!

And therefore, cousin, speak
Only of that whereof thou hast the knowledge.
[EXCAMBALD hurries out. From another direction ALCUIN
enters gravely
and slowly.

Blessèd be God who leads thee unto us,
My father! Speak unto thy daughter now
Who is sore pressed and harried on all sides:
Does Karl so hate the piteous hostage? Brings he
Death unto who would pity or succour her?

So it is true? She has found refuge here?
Learn that dark presage in him seeks her here!
His soul, far, far from hatred, is in pain!
And yet this man is terrible, good daughter,
Whether he serve the truth, whether he err,
Whether his eagle glance doth mark his foe
In the remotest hiding; whether he
Blinded by madness goes and lifts his hands
In rage and sorrow against his own head.

Precious thy words to me, good father! Speak
And tell me more! How shall I bear myself?
What shall I say in his high presence? Speak!

Believe that he would see the child again,
And that his whole wild soul cries out for her,
Spite of all things that he may say or feign,
For what has made the festering ill is this:
Had this child been innocent, chaste and true—
Often have we experienced it, my daughter—
All things had gone the usual, ancient way,
We would have seen another emperor's son
And nothing else! What came to pass was this:
Strange she remained, powerless his mastery,
And though his senses begged, nay, whined for her
His pride, unbendable, did hold him back.
And so one day he thrust her from him—her
Who now most terribly in his heart held rule.
The glow suppressed burned on, fiercelier still,
And burned at one with his balked kingly will
And set on fire both barn and threshing floor—
In other words, the very king himself.

And so the king is truly ill?

Most ill!

Where is the leech will heal his ill for us?

She whom he seeks through all the world—none else!
He comes! Listen: The thunder of his voice!
[THE SISTER SUPERIOR hastens in; with her a second SISTER.

Help, help her quick ...

The emperor enters in!

Gersuind is calling thee!

The king
Demands thee, mother!

Mother, Gersuind fights
For breath, we are in terror lest she die!

What shall I answer when the emperor asks?

She would entrust a secret to thee, mother.
She cannot die before she has confessed!

What shall I do?

The destined way is thine!
Go without hesitation, O my daughter!
nuns hasten through
the chamber putting things to rights. ALCUIN holds
himself in readiness.
THE EMPEROR, speaking loudly to his attendants, is heard to approach. From
without resounds the thunder of a mob which has
gathered at the convent gates.
At last KARL enters, followed by RORICO,
EXCAMBALD, several attendants
and many nuns.

[To the nuns.
The field behind the buildings shall be yours!
Ay, ye shall hold it on this one condition,
That with your cabbage, lettuce, spinach, kale,
Ye also plant mallows and rosemary,
[The nuns give expression to their delight, several kissing his
Where is your mother abbess at this hour?

Where is the mother abbess?

Is she not here?

Dear Lord, where is she? We must seek her straight!
[The nuns hasten helplessly about.

My master Alcuin, is not this the room
In which, one day, we kept the convent school?
[He turns to a nun.
How many pupils do ye care for now
Here in your cloister? There were thirty once
When I did count them in this very room.

We have again just thirty, my lord king.

Yet there's a gap ye never can supply.
[A restless hurrying to and fro is
heard in the corridors. A whispering
arises among the nuns in the room. Most of them turn pale and withdraw. Two
girls, pupils of the convent school, enter hastily with burning tapers and try

to slip by. KARL holds them back.

Where would ye hasten with your candle ends?
[Frightened they elude him and vanish through a door.
Aha, it seems we are superfluous here!
It is damp here and draughty! Close the door!
Why are ye all so pale? What has come to pass?

The moment that thou camest, my good lord,
They called the abbess, for a dying soul
Desired her shriving ere it went away.

'Tis no good omen that the old kinsman Death
Precedes me here and meets me at the goal!
[His attention is called by the roaring of the rabble.
What is it makes yon swarm of bees to buzz?

Learn then at once what thou too soon must know:
The bridge that thou didst build across the Main,
The wondrous structure of the Italian workmen
Is gone. The flood has borne it far away.
The news thereof came and did spread this morn.

Softly! I know! Also my horse did stumble
And threw me roughly on the earth to-day!
This very day, hard by the city gate.
'Tis well. The longest day draws to a close.

Even as upon each night there follows morning.

So that naught serves but patiently to wait.
[Gazing about him.
And here too patience is our need, it seems.
See what takes place within!
[EXCAMBALD, RORICO and the other attendants of KARL obey his
and withdraw. Only ALCUIN remains behind. KARL gives him a look
full of
meaning and continues.
And so we are here!
And I will tell thee now what drove me hither.
When thou didst ask me, ah, I knew it not!
A dream: Here on the bench did sit Gersuind
Laughing, and spoke ... her words have passed from me!
Nay, nay, though I know not her very words,
This was the purport. First I spoke to her:
How is it with my ring, I asked her then.
For since this unhealed madness is upon me,
The ring torments me in the dreams of night.
Thou knowest it! Well: Why didst thou take the ring,
I asked her, and she answered: Come and see!

It seems to me, my lord, as though we stood
Midmost within a blinding cloud that is
Heavy with hidden fate for us! May God
Give us the strength to bear it worthily.
[THE ABBESS comes in weeping.

[Goes to meet her.
Mother, most strange of mood am I to-day
Within thy walls—tossed by a spirit strange,
Almost in dread, despite this sword of mine;
As though it were my ghost that walketh here
The while another king has long held rule!
Yet do I live! Knowest thou me, O Mother?

[Kissing the hem of his garment.
God bless and succour thine anointed head!

And tears again from thee, as on that day
I' the palace when we saw each other last?
Leave me alone with our good mother here.
[ALCUIN withdraws. Pale listening faces of nuns draw away from the

Thou comest from a bed of death, I hear.
Who dies, mother, is rid of this hard life!
On us still lies the strange and ancient curse
Of God given to Eve our ancestress,
The curse which still will visit us at times
That the great pain of living perish not—
Visits us with new apples and new guilt.
How long is it since last I saw thy face?

Far, far too long for me, thy servant, for
They whom thy grace protects within these walls
And who are orphans in their father's absence.

Orphans and father? Does thy thought run thus?
If that ye need a father, look to heaven!
No earthly father is worth half these tears.
Deny it not! Thy tears belie thee! Well,
The pagan Bennit who once lost his lands
Is now a lord in Saxon woods again
And bears him haughtily in his new power!
The right was his! That grieves thee not so sore
O mother, as his second victory
Whereby he won the young soul of a child
From thee and from the Saviour Christ, our Lord!

The hostage grew to be a scourge to all.

'Tis true, and if she grew to be a scourge,
Were I indeed a father, as I am not,
Then would I grieve me day and night, like thee,
Because she lives not in thy pious keeping
But far away by unclean pagan hearths!
Mother, let me confess to thee! Behold ...
I am here ... she was thy pupil. ... Well, Gersuind ...
The things that were concerning her thou knowest,
The very palace walls have ears to hear!
'Tis well! The world doth curse her and I thrust
The sinner forth from me into the world
And now am pining with most sour remorse!
Ah, mother, think not I am mad! But think
How bitter his remorse had been if when
Wading across the stream St. Cristopher
Carried the Christ child to the foaming bank
He had abandoned it to the wild waves!
And, mother, the reinless impulse in her was
More than the evil of a harlot far!
It was the devil's sombre slavery!
Often I saw it when the demon touched
Her body white and made of it his prey
And servant of the greedy lusts of hell!
Scarcely, at such hours, did she touch my hand,
But torment showed upon her stony face
While helpless her poor body writhed in woe!
And so, in brief, guiltless or not, her face
Still lures me with the features of a saint,
Deep in me with the glory of innocence
She shines! Is it delusion? Help me, then!
Destroy the aureole that frames her head—
Else will I make her saint of Frankish lands
Praying to the sanctuary from which she smiles!

Dear lord, the providence of God which now
Doubly I honour and adore has saved
Thee and thy soul from such a sin as that.

Mother, she lures me on; I am not free
But am her prisoner still unto this hour.
Oh, whereby did she bind me then when I
Thrust her so cruelly from me? By what arts?
Was it the ring perchance she stole from me?
I cannot think it out nor name its cause.
But thou must help me loosen this strange charm
That has me in its ban and tortures me.
Thou must fare forth and find her that I may
If so thou find her dead, know who did kill
The soul of her; if living thou shouldst find her,
Perchance, by grace, I need not let her die!
But if thou sayest: " 'Tis thou destroyed her, thou
Who knewest not her true life!" Then will I
Straight call my sons together and convene
The great men of the kingdom and disclose
Their lord's last will to them and humbly go
Into a cloister.

Gersuind never was
In Saxon lands or with her kinsman, lord!
Here was she and she found her refuge here
Even as through my mouth thou didst promise her.
But she has gone from us a second time
And will not come again forevermore.
The moment that thy foot our threshold touched
Invisibly her spirit fluttered past,
For at that very moment did she die!
She started from her pillows, crying aloud
With voice that made our very blood to freeze
The name of Karl her king and spake no more.
[KARL stands silent while the roaring of the people at the gates
increases. In the background children, bearing lighted tapers, are
ALCUIN, EXCAMBALD as well as several nuns enter anxiously.

[In a toneless voice.
My master Alcuin!

I am here, my king!

My master Alcuin!

I am at thy service!

Mother, are those sparks of my blood that glow?
Nay, lighted tapers are approaching me!
[KARL stares at the tapers in the background. It is
apparent now that
the children form the front ranks of a procession which begins slowly to move

O my lord king and gracious paladin,
Turn thou thy glance and turn thy step away
From this grey deed of the old enemy death.
[The procession now crosses from left to right and a bier, carried by

nuns, appears. On it lies the body of GERSUIND covered with a cloth.

Still! A dead woman? Know ye who it is?

[Stepping to the bier.
At peace with God she died within my arms.

She died? Died in thy arms thou sayest? Who?
Who died? Draw back the cloth! Who made her die?
Why howls the rabble in the square below!
Let be!
[He approaches the bier with firm steps and himself draws the cloth
from GERSUIND's face.
'Tis thou, Gersuind? Whither comest thou?
[The EMPEROR draws himself up but a trembling overtakes him as though a
tower were shaken by an earthquake. He falters, raises himself up again and
grasps after support which RORICO and ALCUIN offer him. Once more he
falters, once more draws himself up, pushes his friends aside and stares at
dead girl.
Too late! 'Tis strange and wondrous, my good lords. ...
Ye are astonished ... I am very calm. ...
'Tis strange a grief that makes me very calm
Should point the way unto an everlasting
Renunciation. See, her hand is warm!
From here a rosy cloth slipped down and fell
And seemed then to be lying at her feet?
But when ye sought for it, ye found it not!
Thus life departs! Oh, I have seen it oft
And therefore—
[He fixes EXCAMBALD with a penetrating glance.
Excambald, art thou content?
Ay, thou—not I! What happened here is murder!
Come nearer, Excambald, for this is murder!
Silence! Would she not speak? Her breast, I weened,
Did rise a very little! Nearer! Murder!
She sees you and accuses you—of murder!
Rico, set watchmen at the gates and lock
The door, for murder in the convent reigns.

[Throwing herself down at his feet.
If murder was done here, my lord and king,
God, the omniscient can witness bear. ...
If wrong was done unto this child, and she
The victim of some ill and blasphemous deed,
Yet may I raise both hands unto high heaven
In oath! May all damnation come upon us! Lost
Be our eternal weal if any guilt ...
Ay, of a dust grain's weight, fall upon us!
For in this house no evil touched her head.

This is no deed of mine that here ye see!
Rico, 'tis common murder! Guard the gates!
Blood shall be paid with blood, for this is murder!
And this dead girl shall lead us! Lead, Gersuind,
And we will follow in thy footsteps, even
Though to my kinsmen thou shouldst lead us on!
We'll stride into their very midst and there
Where'er thy murdered finger points, demand,
And though it were the son of my own loins,
Blood for thy blood!

Take mine, my lord and king!
Take mine in peace, the little that is left!
But take it! Ever was each drop of it
Thine all my life, if spilt for thee or not.
But ere I bend my neck and gladly bend it
Beneath the axe, once more I raise mine head
By thy high favour and speak out the truth!
No more art thou with godlike wisdom filled!
A sleep has come upon thee! Locked and sealed
To thee are eyes and ears! Thou seest not
Nor hearest any more! Hearest thou thy folk!
Fear rages in them and a wild despair!
Hear thou their thunder at the cloister gate.
A cry doth rise: The harlot shore his hair!
And they believe a heathen demon sucks
Thy lifeblood in the cloister while the realm
Thy victories have built falls into dust.
'Tis that! And there is rumour on all lips
That with two hundred warships Godofried.
The Dane has landed upon Frisian earth,
That he has fallen on the settlements
And razed the mighty towers that thou hast built
And slain or else enslaved the garrisons.
Unheard of such a blow! To victory
The Franks accustomed are confused in soul.
They rage and raise their weapons in their hands,
Thinking the Saxon folk's idolatrous priests
Do lame thee as the Philistines lamed Samson,
Through that Delilah who did steal his strength
By shearing the long locks upon his head.
[During EXCAMBALD's speech KARL has not taken his eyes from
GERSUIND. More and more strangely attracted by her he approaches the bier,
gradually forgetting all about him. The sudden silence of EXCAMBALD seems
recall him to consciousness.

[With a deep but soft voice.
Art thou at an end? Go, and leave us alone!
Rico! Rico!

Ay, lord!

Go! ... Thou remain,
And thou and thou!
[He has pointed out RORICO, ALCUIN and THE ABBESS and
the others to withdraw. EXCAMBALD, the nuns and the attendants, also the
children flee at the stern command of his gesture. Slowly the
close up to the bier.
Mother, was Satan not
One of God's angels who aspired to be
Like God and fell and thus God thrust him forth!
O unimaginable fall of radiant
Armies to the abyss! Children of heaven
Made of its purest glory who were yet
Unsatisfied and whose great cry rang out,
Whose cry of love rose in the halls of heaven:
Help, Satan, help! We would be like to God!
See ye the dark defiance in her face?
God's might was shattered 'gainst his angel here,
And human might was shattered and mine own!
Now she is dumb, but in my dreams I saw
Her radiant body white, for what I spake
Never to her I say to you this hour:
I loved her.
God fills the universe with his great name:
But she is silent and no echo comes!
Ah, tell me what I know not, why the world
Did burst in two and the crack cleave my heart?
She stands to-day before her heavenly Judge!
What will he say, oh, what oppose unto
The proud and searching silence of her lips?
Will the great King ask her: Where is my ring?
And for her silence slay her, as I did,
Again, that she arise defiant more
Unto new passions and to torment old?
Pain was her portion here, both pain and pride,
As both are mine. And so—a long farewell!
Was she a flake of the infernal fire?
Then think, my lords, of seas of equal fire!
No wonder then that with a singèd heart
The happy spirits to destruction crowd!
'Tis well! I am yours! If her sleep is such sleep
As knows no waking, I have time enough
For your affairs and Godofried, the Dane.

She shore his hair! The harlot shore his hair!

At thy command I'll lead my cavalry
And thrust the rabble back!
[EXCAMBALD hastens in.

They'll storm the house!
There's no resisting lest thou show thyself
Once more unto thy people as of old!

'Tis well! Ere 'tis too late! Go, workman, go
Unto thy work! Forbear with me that I
Took from my duty this brief holiday!
I know that duty, know I am indeed
The necessary serf of our great Lord!
Accuse me not! Have pity! Say no word!
Doubly I'll shed my sweat; I will assume
A yoke of iron, if need be, the strong
Bison will be but feeble unto me.
So lift her up and carry her away!
Ever I must be learning, learn from her
Even that thing her lips would not disclose!
Tell no one that from children still I learn!
Say unto men that Karl the king knows not
What error is! Say to them that he is
Harder than adamant and knows not tears.
See ye the man that follows yon dead girl?
The mass of men knows nothing of this man!
Betray him not but let him go his way!
Not him the people lacks; the ruler old
Remains after that other wight is gone.
And that old ruler—yearns for the open field,
The level field under the boundless sky,
Above him the cloud's thunder and about
Thunder of armaments that fill the world!
He yearns to be astride the warhorse bold,
To rest at night under a wind-blown tent!
Ay, the old war serf whom ye know as king
Cries, as a hart for water, for those storms
In which he breathed the years of all his life—
For clash of arms, combat of men, for war!
[He has stepped out into the loggia and
shows the surging crowd his sword. For
one moment there is a stillness as of
death. The crowd breaks out in jubilation.

Hail to king Karl! Cursed be his foemen! War!

He raised his sword! Hail! He has raised his sword!

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