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Nathan the Wise
by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
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NATHAN THE WISE: A Dramatic Poem in Five Acts

by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing



Translated by William Taylor of Norwich



INTRODUCTION



Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was born on the 22nd of January, 1729, eldest of ten sons of a pious and learned minister of Camenz in the Oberlausitz, who had two daughters also. As a child Lessing delighted in books, and had knowledge beyond his years when he went to school, in Meissen, at the age of twelve. As a school-boy he read much Greek and Latin that formed no part of the school course; read also the German poets of his time, wrote a "History of Ancient Mathematics," and began a poem of his own on the "Plurality of Worlds."

In 1746, at the age of seventeen, Lessing was sent to the University of Leipsic. There he studied with energy, and was attracted strongly by the theatre. His artistic interest in the drama caused him to be put on the free list of the theatre, in exchange for some translations of French pieces. Then he produced, also for the Leipsic stage, many slight pieces of his own, and he had serious thought of turning actor, which excited alarm in the parsonage at Camenz and caused his recall home in January, 1747. It was found, however, that although he could not be trained to follow his father's profession, he had been studying to such good purpose, and developing, in purity of life, such worth of character, that after Easter he was sent back to Leipsic, with leave to transfer his studies from theology to medicine.

Lessing went back, continued to work hard, but still also gave all his leisure to the players. For the debts of some of them he had incautiously become surety, and when the company removed to Vienna, there were left behind them unpaid debts for which young Lessing was answerable. The creditors pressed, and Lessing moved to Wittenberg; but he fell ill, and was made so miserable by pressure for impossible payments, that he resolved to break off his studies, go to Berlin, and begin earning by his pen, his first earnings being for the satisfaction of these Leipsic creditors. Lessing went first to Berlin to seek his fortune in December, 1748, when he was nineteen years old. He was without money, without decent clothes, and with but one friend in Berlin, Mylius, who was then editing a small journal, the Rudigersche Zeitung. Much correspondence brought him a little money from the overburdened home, and with addition of some small earning from translations, this enabled him to obtain a suit of clothes, in which he might venture to present himself to strangers in his search for fortune. A new venture with Mylius, a quarterly record of the history of the theatre, was not successful; but having charge committed to him of the library part of Mylius's journal, Lessing had an opportunity of showing his great critical power. Gottsched, at Leipsic, was then leader of the war on behalf of classicism in German literature. Lessing fought on the National side, and opposed also the beginning of a new French influence then rising, which was to have its chief apostle in Rousseau.

In 1752 Lessing went back to Wittenberg for another year, that he might complete the work for graduation; graduated in December of that year as Master of Arts, and then returned to his work in Berlin. He worked industriously, not only as critic, but also in translation from the classics, from French, English, and Italian; and he was soon able to send help towards providing education for the youngest of the household of twelve children in the Camenz parsonage. In 1753 he gave himself eight weeks of withdrawal from other work to write, in a garden-house at Potsdam, his tragedy of "Miss Sarah Sampson." It was produced with great success at Frankfort on the Oder, and Lessing's ruling passion for dramatic literature became the stronger for this first experience of what he might be able to achieve. In literature, Frederick the Great cared only for what was French. A National drama, therefore, could not live in Berlin. In the autumn of 1755, Lessing suddenly moved to Leipsic, where an actor whom he had befriended was establishing a theatre. Here he was again abandoning himself to the cause of a National drama, when a rich young gentleman of Leipsic invited his companionship upon a tour in Europe. Terms were settled, and they set out together. They saw much of Holland, and were passing into England, when King Frederick's attack on Saxony recalled the young Leipsiger, and caused breach of what had been a contract for a three years' travelling companionship. In May, 1758, Lessing, aged twenty-nine, returned to his old work in Berlin. Again he translated, edited, criticised. He wrote a tragedy, "Philotas," and began a "Faust." He especially employed his critical power in "Letters upon the Latest Literature," known as his Literatur briefe. Dissertations upon fable, led also to Lessing's "Fables," produced in this period of his life.

In 1760 Lessing was tempted by scarcity of income to serve as a Government secretary at Breslau. He held that office for five years, and then again returned to his old work in Berlin. During the five years in Breslau, Lessing had completed his play of "Minna von Barnhelm," and the greatest of his critical works, "Laocoon," a treatise on the "Boundary Lines of Painting and Poetry." All that he might then have saved from his earnings went to the buying of books and to the relief of the burdens in the Camenz parsonage. At Berlin the office of Royal Librarian became vacant. The claims of Lessing were urged, but Frederick appointed an insignificant Frenchman. In 1767 Lessing was called to aid an unsuccessful attempt to establish a National Theatre in Hamburg.

Other troubles followed. Lessing gave his heart to a widow, Eva Konig, and was betrothed to her. But the involvements of her worldly affairs, and of his, delayed the marriage for six years. To secure fixed income he took a poor office as Librarian at Wolfenbuttel. In his first year at Wolfenbuttel, he wrote his play of "Emilia Galotti." Then came a long-desired journey to Italy; but it came in inconvenient form, for it had to be made with Prince Leopold, of Brunswick, hurriedly, for the sake of money, at the time when Lessing was at last able to marry.

The wife, long waited for, and deeply loved, died at the birth of her first child. This was in January, 1778, when Lessing's age was 49. Very soon afterwards he was attacked by a Pastor Goeze, in Hamburg, and other narrow theologians, for having edited papers that contained an attack on Christianity, which Lessing himself had said that he wished to see answered before he died. The uncharitable bitterness of these attacks, felt by a mind that had been touched to the quick by the deepest of sorrows, helped to the shaping of Lessing's calm, beautiful lesson of charity, this noblest of his plays—"Nathan the Wise." But Lessing's health was shattered, and he survived his wife only three years. He died in 1781, leaving imperishable influence for good upon the minds of men, but so poor in what the world calls wealth, that his funeral had to be paid for by a Duke of Brunswick.

William Taylor, the translator of Lessing's "Nathan the Wise;" was born in 1765, the son of a rich merchant at Norwich, from whose business he was drawn away by his strong bent towards literature. His father yielded to his wishes, after long visits to France and to Germany, in days astir with the new movements of thought, that preceded and followed the French Revolution. He formed a close friendship with Southey, edited for a little time a "Norwich Iris," and in his later years became known especially for his Historic Survey of German Poetry, which included his translations, and among them this of "Nathan the Wise." It was published in 1830, Taylor died in 1836. Thomas Carlyle, in reviewing William Taylor's Survey of German Poetry, said of the author's own translations in it "compared with the average of British translations, they may be pronounced of almost ideal excellence; compared with the best translations extant, for example, the German Shakespeare, Homer, Calderon, they may still be called better than indifferent. One great merit Mr. Taylor has: rigorous adherence to his original; he endeavours at least to copy with all possible fidelity the term of praise, the tone, the very metre, whatever stands written for him."

H. M.



NATHAN THE WISE.



"Introite nam et heic Dii sunt!"—APUD GELLIUM.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

SALADIN, the Sultan. SITTAH, his Sister. NATHAN, a rich Jew. RECHA, his adopted Daughter. DAYA, a Christian Woman dwelling with the Jew a companion to Recha. CONRADE, a young Templar. HAFI, a Dervis. ATHANASIOS, the Patriarch of Palestine. BONAFIDES, a Friar. An Emir, sundry Mamalukes, Slaves, &c.

The Scene is at Jerusalem.



ACT I.



SCENE—A Hall in Nathan's House.

NATHAN, in a travelling dress, DAYA meeting him.

DAYA.

'Tis he, 'tis Nathan! Thanks to the Almighty, That you're at last returned.

NATHAN.

Yes, Daya, thanks, That I have reached Jerusalem in safety. But wherefore this AT LAST? Did I intend, Or was it possible to come back sooner? As I was forced to travel, out and in, 'Tis a long hundred leagues to Babylon; And to get in one's debts is no employment, That speeds a traveller.

DAYA.

O Nathan, Nathan, How miserable you had nigh become During this little absence; for your house -

NATHAN,

Well, 'twas on fire; I have already heard it. God grant I may have heard the whole, that chanced!

DAYA.

'Twas on the point of burning to the ground.

NATHAN.

Then we'd have built another, and a better.

DAYA.

True!—But thy Recha too was on the point Of perishing amid the flames.

NATHAN.

Of perishing? My Recha, saidst thou? She? I heard not that. I then should not have needed any house. Upon the point of perishing—perchance She's gone?—Speak out then—out—torment me not With this suspense.—Come, tell me, tell me all.

DAYA.

Were she no more, from me you would not hear it.

NATHAN.

Why then alarm me?—Recha, O my Recha!

DAYA.

Your Recha? Yours?

NATHAN.

What if I ever were Doomed to unlearn to call this child, MY child,

DAYA.

Is all you own yours by an equal title?

NATHAN,

Nought by a better. What I else enjoy Nature and Fortune gave—this treasure, Virtue.

DAYA.

How dear you make me pay for all your goodness! - If goodness, exercised with such a view, Deserves the name. -

NATHAN.

With such a view? With what?

DAYA.

My conscience -

NATHAN.

Daya, let me tell you first -

DAYA.

I say, my conscience -

NATHAN.

What a charming silk I bought for you in Babylon! 'Tis rich, Yet elegantly rich. I almost doubt If I have brought a prettier for Recha.

DAYA.

And what of that—I tell you that my conscience Will no be longer hushed.

NATHAN.

And I have bracelets, And earrings, and a necklace, which will charm you. I chose them at Damascus.

DAYA.

That's your way:- If you can but make presents—but make presents. -

NATHAN.

Take you as freely as I give—and cease.

DAYA.

And cease?—Who questions, Nathan, but that you are Honour and generosity in person; - Yet -

NATHAN.

Yet I'm but a Jew.—That was your meaning.

DAYA.

You better know what was my meaning, Nathan.

NATHAN.

Well, well, no more of this,

DAYA.

I shall be silent; But what of sinful in the eye of heaven Springs out of it—not I, not I could help; It falls upon thy head.

NATHAN.

So let it, Daya. Where is she then? What stays her? Surely, surely, You're not amusing me—And does she know That I'm arrived?

DAYA.

That you yourself must speak to, Terror still vibrates in her every nerve. Her fancy mingles fire with all she thinks of. Asleep, her soul seems busy; but awake, Absent: now less than brute, now more than angel.

NATHAN.

Poor thing! What are we mortals -

DAYA.

As she lay This morning sleeping, all at once she started And cried: "list, list! there come my father's camels!" And then she drooped again upon her pillow And I withdrew—when, lo! you really came. Her thoughts have only been with you—and him.

NATHAN.

And HIM? What him?

DAYA.

With him, who from the fire Preserved her life,

NATHAN.

Who was it? Where is he, That saved my Recha for me?

DAYA.

A young templar, Brought hither captive a few days ago, And pardoned by the Sultan.

NATHAN.

How, a TEMPLAR Dismissed with life by Saladin. In truth, Not a less miracle was to preserve her, God!—God! -

DAYA.

Without this man, who risked afresh The Sultan's unexpected boon, we'd lost her.

NATHAN.

Where is he, Daya, where's this noble youth? Do, lead me to his feet. Sure, sure you gave him What treasures I had left you—gave him all, Promised him more—much more?

DAYA.

How could we?

NATHAN.

Not?

DAYA.

He came, he went, we know not whence, or whither. Quite unacquainted with the house, unguided But by his ear, he prest through smoke and flame, His mantle spread before him, to the room Whence pierced the shrieks for help; and we began To think him lost—and her; when, all at once, Bursting from flame and smoke, he stood before us, She in his arm upheld. Cold and unmoved By our loud warmth of thanks, he left his booty, Struggled into the crowd, and disappeared.

NATHAN.

But not for ever, Daya, I would hope.

DAYA.

For some days after, underneath you palms, That shade his grave who rose again from death, We saw him wandering up and down. I went, With transport went to thank him. I conjured, Intreated him to visit once again The dear sweet girl he saved, who longed to shed At her preserver's feet the grateful tear -

NATHAN.

Well?

DAYA.

But in vain. Deaf to our warmest prayers, On me he flung such bitter mockery -

NATHAN.

That hence rebuffed -

DAYA.

Oh, no, oh, no, indeed not, Daily I forced myself upon him, daily Afresh encountered his dry taunting speeches. Much I have borne, and would have borne much more: But he of late forbears his lonely walk Under the scattered palms, which stand about Our holy sepulchre: nor have I learnt Where he now is. You seem astonished—thoughtful -

NATHAN.

I was imagining what strange impressions This conduct makes on such a mind as Recha's. Disdained by one whom she must feel compelled To venerate and to esteem so highly. At once attracted and repelled—the combat Between her head and heart must yet endure, Regret, Resentment, in unusual struggle. Neither, perhaps, obtains the upper hand, And busy fancy, meddling in the fray, Weaves wild enthusiasms to her dazzled spirit, Now clothing Passion in the garb of Reason, And Reason now in Passion's—do I err? This last is Recha's fate—Romantic notions -

DAYA.

Aye; but such pious, lovely, sweet, illusions.

NATHAN.

Illusions though.

DAYA.

Yes: and the one, her bosom Clings to most fondly, is, that the brave templar Was but a transient inmate of the earth, A guardian angel, such as from her childhood She loved to fancy kindly hovering round her, Who from his veiling cloud amid the fire Stepped forth in her preserver's form. You smile - Who knows? At least beware of banishing So pleasing an illusion—if deceitful Christian, Jew, Mussulman, agree to own it, And 'tis—at least to her—a dear illusion.

NATHAN.

Also to me. Go, my good Daya, go, See what she's after. Can't I speak with her? Then I'll find out our untamed guardian angel, Bring him to sojourn here awhile among us - We'll pinion his wild wing, when once he's taken.

DAYA.

You undertake too much.

NATHAN.

And when, my Daya, This sweet illusion yields to sweeter truth, (For to a man a man is ever dearer Than any angel) you must not be angry To see our loved enthusiast exercised.

DAYA.

You are so good—and yet so sly. I'll seek her, But listen,—yes! she's coming of herself.

NATHAN, DAYA, and RECHA.

RECHA.

And you are here, your very self, my father, I thought you'd only sent your voice before you. Where are you then? What mountains, deserts, torrents, Divide us now? You see me, face to face, And do not hasten to embrace your Recha. Poor Recha! she was almost burnt alive, But only—only—almost. Do not shudder! O 'tis a horrid end to die in fire!

NATHAN (embracing her).

My child, my darling child!

RECHA.

You had to cross The Jordan, Tigris, and Euphrates, and Who knows what rivers else. I used to tremble And quake for you, till the fire came so nigh me; Since then, methinks 'twere comfort, balm, refreshment, To die by water. But you are not drowned - I am not burnt alive.—We will rejoice - We will praise God—the kind good God, who bore thee, Upon the buoyant wings of UNSEEN angels, Across the treacherous stream—the God who bade My angel VISIBLY on his white wing Athwart the roaring flame -

NATHAN (aside).

White wing?—oh, aye The broad white fluttering mantle of the templar.

RECHA.

Yes, visibly he bore me through the fire, O'ershadowed by his pinions.—Face to face I've seen an angel, father, my own angel.

NATHAN.

Recha deserves it, and would see in him No fairer form than he beheld in her,

RECHA.

Whom are you flattering, father—tell me now - The angel, or yourself?

NATHAN.

Yet had a man, A man of those whom Nature daily fashions, Done you this service, he to you had seemed, Had been an angel.

RECHA.

No, not such a one. Indeed it was a true and real angel. And have not you yourself instructed me How possible it is there may be angels; That God for those who love him can work miracles - And I do love him, father -

NATHAN.

And he thee; And both for thee, and all like thee, my child, Works daily wonders, from eternity Has wrought them for you.

RECHA.

That I like to hear.

NATHAN.

Well, and although it sounds quite natural, An every day event, a simple story, That you was by a real templar saved, Is it the less a miracle? The greatest Of all is this, that true and real wonders Should happen so perpetually, so daily. Without this universal miracle A thinking man had scarcely called those such, Which only children, Recha, ought to name so, Who love to gape and stare at the unusual And hunt for novelty -

DAYA.

Why will you then With such vain subtleties, confuse her brain Already overheated?

NATHAN.

Let me manage. - And is it not enough then for my Recha To owe her preservation to a man, Whom no small miracle preserved himself. For whoe'er heard before that Saladin Let go a templar; that a templar wished it, Hoped it, or for his ransom offered more Than taunts, his leathern sword-belt, or his dagger?

RECHA.

That makes for me; these are so many reasons He was no real knight, but only seemed it. If in Jerusalem no captive templar, Appears alive, or freely wanders round, How could I find one, in the night, to save me?

NATHAN.

Ingenious! dextrous! Daya, come in aid. It was from you I learnt he was a prisoner; Doubtless you know still more about him, speak.

DAYA.

'Tis but report indeed, but it is said That Saladin bestowed upon this youth His gracious pardon for the strong resemblance He bore a favourite brother—dead, I think These twenty years—his name, I know it not - He fell, I don't know where—and all the story Sounds so incredible, that very likely The whole is mere invention, talk, romance.

NATHAN.

And why incredible? Would you reject This story, tho' indeed, it's often done, To fix on something more incredible, And give that faith? Why should not Saladin, Who loves so singularly all his kindred, Have loved in early youth with warmer fondness A brother now no more. Do we not see Faces alike, and is an old impression Therefore a lost one? Do resembling features Not call up like emotions. Where's th' incredible? Surely, sage Daya, this can be to thee No miracle, or do THY wonders only Demand—I should have said DESERVE belief?

DAYA.

You're on the bite.

NATHAN.

Were you quite fair with me? Yet even so, my Recha, thy escape Remains a wonder, only possible To Him, who of the proud pursuits of princes Makes sport—or if not sport—at least delights To head and manage them by slender threads.

RECHA.

If I do err, it is not wilfully, My father.

NATHAN.

No, you have been always docile. See now, a forehead vaulted thus, or thus - A nose bow'd one way rather than another - Eye-brows with straiter, or with sharper curve - A line, a mole, a wrinkle, a mere nothing I' th' countenance of an European savage - And thou—art saved, in Asia, from the fire. Ask ye for signs and wonders after that? What need of calling angels into play?

DAYA.

But Nathan, where's the harm, if I may speak, Of fancying one's self by an angel saved, Rather than by a man? Methinks it brings us Just so much the nearer the incomprehensive First cause of preservation.

NATHAN.

Pride, rank pride! The iron pot would with a silver prong Be lifted from the furnace—to imagine Itself a silver vase. Paha! Where's the harm? Thou askest. Where's the good? I might reply. For thy IT BRINGS US NEARER TO THE GODHEAD Is nonsense, Daya, if not blasphemy. But it does harm: yes, yes, it does indeed. Attend now. To the being, who preserved you, Be he an angel or a man, you both, And thou especially wouldst gladly show Substantial services in just requital. Now to an angel what great services Have ye the power to do? To sing his praise - Melt in transporting contemplation o'er him - Fast on his holiday—and squander alms - What nothingness of use! To me at least It seems your neighbour gains much more than he By all this pious glow. Not by your fasting Is he made fat; not by your squandering, rich; Nor by your transports is his glory exalted; Nor by your faith his might. But to a man -

DAYA.

Why yes; a man indeed had furnished us With more occasions to be useful to him. God knows how readily we should have seized them. But then he would have nothing—wanted nothing - Was in himself wrapped up, and self-sufficient, As angels are.

RECHA.

And when at last he vanished -

NATHAN.

Vanished? How vanished? Underneath the palms Escaped your view, and has returned no more. Or have you really sought for him elsewhere?

DAYA.

No, that indeed we've not.

NATHAN.

Not, Daya, not? See it does harm, hard-hearted, cold enthusiasts, What if this angel on a bed of illness -

RECHA.

Illness?

DAYA.

Ill! sure he is not.

RECHA.

A cold shudder Creeps over me; O Daya, feel my forehead, It was so warm, 'tis now as chill as ice.

NATHAN.

He is a Frank, unused to this hot climate, Is young, and to the labours of his calling, To fasting, watching, quite unused -

RECHA.

Ill—ill!

DAYA.

Thy father only means 'twere possible.

NATHAN.

And there he lies, without a friend, or money To buy him friends -

RECHA.

Alas! my father.

NATHAN.

Lies Without advice, attendance, converse, pity, The prey of agony, of death -

RECHA.

Where—where?

NATHAN.

He, who, for one he never knew, or saw - It is enough for him he is a man - Plunged into fire.

DAYA.

O Nathan, Nathan, spare her.

NATHAN.

Who cared not to know aught of her he saved, Declined her presence to escape her thanks -

DAYA.

Do, spare her!

NATHAN.

Did not wish to see her more Unless it were a second time to save her - Enough for him he is a man -

DAYA.

Stop, look!

NATHAN.

He—he, in death, has nothing to console him, But the remembrance of this deed.

DAYA.

You kill her!

NATHAN.

And you kill him—or might have done at least - Recha 'tis medicine I give, not poison. He lives—come to thyself—may not be ill - Not even ill -

RECHA.

Surely not dead, not dead.

NATHAN.

Dead surely not—for God rewards the good Done here below, here too. Go; but remember How easier far devout enthusiasm is Than a good action; and how willingly Our indolence takes up with pious rapture, Tho' at the time unconscious of its end, Only to save the toil of useful deeds.

RECHA.

Oh never leave again thy child alone! - But can he not be only gone a journey?

NATHAN.

Yes, very likely. There's a Mussulman Numbering with curious eye my laden camels, Do you know who he is?

DAYA.

Oh, your old dervis.

NATHAN.

Who—who?

DAYA.

Your chess companion.

NATHAN.

That, Al-Hafi?

DAYA.

And now the treasurer of Saladin.

NATHAN.

Al-Hafi? Are you dreaming? How was this? In fact it is so. He seems coming hither. In with you quick.—What now am I to hear?

NATHAN and HAFI.

HAFI.

Aye, lift thine eyes in wonder.

NATHAN.

Is it you? A dervis so magnificent! -

HAFI.

Why not? Can nothing then be made out of a dervis?

NATHAN.

Yes, surely; but I have been wont to think A dervis, that's to say a thorough dervis, Will allow nothing to be made of him.

HAFI.

May-be 'tis true that I'm no thorough dervis; But by the prophet, when we must -

NATHAN.

Must, Hafi? Needs must—belongs to no man: and a dervis -

HAFI.

When he is much besought, and thinks it right, A dervis must.

NATHAN.

Well spoken, by our God! Embrace me, man, you're still, I trust, my friend.

HAFI.

Why not ask first what has been made of me?

NATHAN.

Ask climbers to look back!

HAFI.

And may I not Have grown to such a creature in the state That my old friendship is no longer welcome?

NATHAN.

If you still bear your dervis-heart about you I'll run the risk of that. Th' official robe Is but your cloak.

HAFI.

A cloak, that claims some honour. What think'st thou? At a court of thine how great Had been Al-Hafi?

NATHAN.

Nothing but a dervis. If more, perhaps—what shall I say—my cook.

HAFI.

In order to unlearn my native trade. Thy cook—why not thy butler too? The Sultan, He knows me better, I'm his treasurer.

NATHAN.

You, you?

HAFI.

Mistake not—of the lesser purse - His father manages the greater still - The purser of his household.

NATHAN.

That's not small.

HAFI.

'Tis larger than thou think'st; for every beggar Is of his household.

NATHAN.

He's so much their foe -

HAFI.

That he'd fain root them out—with food and raiment - Tho' he turn beggar in the enterprize.

NATHAN.

Bravo, I meant so.

HAFI.

And he's almost such. His treasury is every day, ere sun-set, Poorer than empty; and how high so e'er Flows in the morning tide, 'tis ebb by noon.

NATHAN.

Because it circulates through such canals As can be neither stopped, nor filled.

HAFI.

Thou hast it.

NATHAN.

I know it well.

HAFI.

Nathan, 'tis woeful doing When kings are vultures amid caresses: But when they're caresses amid the vultures 'Tis ten times worse.

NATHAN.

No, dervis, no, no, no.

HAFI.

Thou mayst well talk so. Now then, let me hear What wouldst thou give me to resign my office?

NATHAN.

What does it bring you in?

HAFI.

To me, not much; But thee, it might indeed enrich: for when, As often happens, money is at ebb, Thou couldst unlock thy sluices, make advances, And take in form of interest all thou wilt.

NATHAN.

And interest upon interest of the interest -

HAFI.

Certainly.

NATHAN.

Till my capital becomes All interest.

HAFI.

How—that does not take with thee? Then write a finis to our book of friendship; For I have reckoned on thee.

NATHAN.

How so, Hafi?

HAFI.

That thou wouldst help me to go thro' my office With credit, grant me open chest with thee - Dost shake thy head?

NATHAN.

Let's understand each other. Here's a distinction to be made. To you, To dervis Hafi, all I have is open; But to the defterdar of Saladin, To that Al-Hafi -

HAFI.

Spoken like thyself! Thou hast been ever no less kind than cautious. The two Al-Hafis thou distinguishest Shall soon be parted. See this coat of honour, Which Saladin bestowed—before 'tis worn To rags, and suited to a dervis' back, - Will in Jerusalem hang upon the hook; While I along the Ganges scorching strand, Amid my teachers shall be wandering barefoot.

NATHAN.

That's like you.

HAFI.

Or be playing chess among them.

NATHAN.

Your sovereign good.

HAFI.

What dost thou think seduced me. The wish of having not to beg in future - The pride of acting the rich man to beggars - Would these have metamorphosed a rich beggar So suddenly into a poor rich man?

NATHAN.

No, I think not.

HAFI.

A sillier, sillier weakness, For the first time my vanity was tempter, Flattered by Saladin's good-hearted notion -

NATHAN.

Which was?

HAFI.

That all a beggar's wants are only Known to a beggar: such alone can tell How to relieve them usefully and wisely. "Thy predecessor was too cold for me, (He said) and when he gave, he gave unkindly; Informed himself with too precautious strictness Concerning the receiver, not content To leant the want, unless he knew its cause, And measuring out by that his niggard bounty. Thou wilt not thus bestow. So harshly kind Shall Saladin not seem in thee. Thou art not Like the choked pipe, whence sullied and by spurts Flow the pure waters it absorbs in silence. Al-Hafi thinks and feels like me." So nicely The fowler whistled, that at last the quail Ran to his net. Cheated, and by a cheat -

NATHAN.

Tush! dervis, gently.

HAFI.

What! and is't not cheating, Thus to oppress mankind by hundred thousands, To squeeze, grind, plunder, butcher, and torment, And act philanthropy to individuals? - Not cheating—thus to ape from the Most High The bounty, which alike on mead and desert, Upon the just and the unrighteous, falls In sunshine or in showers, and not possess The never-empty hand of the Most High? - Not cheating -

NATHAN.

Cease!

HAFI.

Of my own cheating sure It is allowed to speak. Were it not cheating To look for the fair side of these impostures, In order, under colour of its fairness, To gain advantage from them—ha?

NATHAN.

Al-Hafi, Go to your desert quickly. Among men I fear you'll soon unlearn to be a man.

HAFI.

And so do I—farewell.

NATHAN.

What, so abruptly? Stay, stay, Al-Hafi; has the desert wings? Man, 'twill not run away, I warrant you - Hear, hear, I want you—want to talk with you - He's gone. I could have liked to question him About our templar. He will likely know him.

NATHAN and DAYA. DAYA (bursting in).

O Nathan, Nathan!

NATHAN.

Well, what now?

DAYA.

He's there. He shows himself again.

NATHAN.

Who, Daya, who?

DAYA.

He! he!

NATHAN.

When cannot He be seen? Indeed Your He is only one; that should not be, Were he an angel even.

DAYA.

'Neath the palms He wanders up and down, and gathers dates.

NATHAN.

And eats?—and as a templar?

DAYA.

How you tease us! Her eager eye espied him long ago, While he scarce gleamed between the further stems, And follows him most punctually. Go, She begs, conjures you, go without delay; And from the window will make signs to you Which way his rovings bend. Do, do make haste.

NATHAN.

What! thus, as I alighted from my camel, Would that be decent? Swift, do you accost him, Tell him of my return. I do not doubt, His delicacy in the master's absence Forbore my house; but gladly will accept The father's invitation. Say, I ask him, Most heartily request him -

DAYA.

All in vain! In short, he will not visit any Jew.

NATHAN.

Then do thy best endeavours to detain him, Or with thine eyes to watch his further haunt, Till I rejoin you. I shall not be long.

SCENE—A Place of Palms.

The TEMPLAR walking to and fro, a FRIAR following him at some distance, as if desirous of addressing him.

TEMPLAR.

This fellow does not follow me for pastime. How skaunt he eyes his hands! Well, my good brother - Perhaps I should say, father; ought I not?

FRIAR.

No—brother—a lay-brother at your service.

TEMPLAR.

Well, brother, then; if I myself had something - But—but, by God, I've nothing.

FRIAR.

Thanks the same; And God reward your purpose thousand-fold! The will, and not the deed, makes up the giver. Nor was I sent to follow you for alms -

TEMPLAR.

Sent then?

FRIAR.

Yes, from the monastery.

TEMPLAR.

Where I was just now in hopes of coming in For pilgrims' fare.

FRIAR.

They were already at table: But if it suit with you to turn directly -

TEMPLAR.

Why so? 'Tis true, I have not tasted meat This long time. What of that? The dates are ripe.

FRIAR.

O with that fruit go cautiously to work. Too much of it is hurtful, sours the humours, Makes the blood melancholy.

TEMPLAR.

And if I Choose to be melancholy—For this warning You were not sent to follow me, I ween.

FRIAR.

Oh, no: I only was to ask about you, And feel your pulse a little.

TEMPLAR.

And you tell me Of that yourself?

FRIAR.

Why not?

TEMPLAR.

A deep one! troth: And has your cloister more such?

FRIAR.

I can't say. Obedience is our bounden duty.

TEMPLAR.

So - And you obey without much scrupulous questioning?

FRIAR.

Were it obedience else, good sir?

TEMPLAR.

How is it The simple mind is ever in the right? May you inform me who it is that wishes To know more of me? 'Tis not you yourself, I dare be sworn.

FRIAR.

Would it become me, sir, Or benefit me?

TEMPLAR.

Whom can it become, Whom can it benefit, to be so curious?

FRIAR.

The patriarch, I presume—'twas he that sent me.

TEMPLAR.

The patriarch? Knows he not my badge, the cross Of red on the white mantle?

FRIAR.

Can I say?

TEMPLAR.

Well, brother, well! I am a templar, taken Prisoner at Tebnin, whose exalted fortress, Just as the truce expired, we sought to climb, In order to push forward next to Sidon. I was the twentieth captive, but the only Pardoned by Saladin—with this, the patriarch Knows all, or more than his occasions ask.

FRIAR.

And yet no more than he already knows, I think. But why alone of all the captives Thou hast been spared, he fain would learn -

TEMPLAR.

Can I Myself tell that? Already, with bare neck, I kneeled upon my mantle, and awaited The blow—when Saladin with steadfast eye Fixed me, sprang nearer to me, made a sign - I was upraised, unbound, about to thank him - And saw his eye in tears. Both stand in silence. He goes. I stay. How all this hangs together, Thy patriarch may unriddle.

FRIAR.

He concludes, That God preserved you for some mighty deed.

TEMPLAR.

Some mighty deed? To save out of the fire A Jewish girl—to usher curious pilgrims About Mount Sinai—to -

FRIAR.

The time may come - And this is no such trifle—but perhaps The patriarch meditates a weightier office.

TEMPLAR.

Think you so, brother? Has he hinted aught?

FRIAR.

Why, yes; I was to sift you out a little, And hear if you were one to -

TEMPLAR.

Well—to what? I'm curious to observe how this man sifts.

FRIAR.

The shortest way will be to tell you plainly What are the patriarch's wishes.

TEMPLAR.

And they are -

FRIAR.

To send a letter by your hand.

TEMPLAR.

By me? I am no carrier. And were that an office More meritorious than to save from burning A Jewish maid?

FRIAR.

So it should seem; must seem - For, says the patriarch, to all Christendom This letter is of import; and to bear it Safe to its destination, says the patriarch, God will reward with a peculiar crown In heaven; and of this crown, the patriarch says, No one is worthier than you -

TEMPLAR.

Than I?

FRIAR.

For none so able, and so fit to earn This crown, the patriarch says, as you.

TEMPLAR.

As I?

FRIAR.

The patriarch here is free, can look about him, And knows, he says, how cities may be stormed, And how defended; knows, he says, the strengths And weaknesses of Saladin's new bulwark, And of the inner rampart last thrown up; And to the warriors of the Lord, he says, Could clearly point them out; -

TEMPLAR.

And can I know Exactly the contents of this same letter?

FRIAR.

Why, that I don't pretend to vouch exactly - 'Tis to King Philip: and our patriarch - I often wonder how this holy man, Who lives so wholly to his God and heaven, Can stoop to be so well informed about Whatever passes here—'Tis a hard task!

TEMPLAR.

Well—and your patriarch -

FRIAR.

Knows, with great precision, And from sure hands, how, when, and with what force, And in which quarter, Saladin, in case The war breaks out afresh, will take the field.

TEMPLAR.

He knows that?

FRIAR.

Yes; and would acquaint King Philip, That he may better calculate, if really The danger be so great as to require Him to renew at all events the truce So bravely broken by your body.

TEMPLAR.

So? This is a patriarch indeed! He wants No common messenger; he wants a spy. Go tell your patriarch, brother, I am not, As far as you can sift, the man to suit him. I still esteem myself a prisoner, and A templar's only calling is to fight, And not to ferret out intelligence.

FRIAR.

That's much as I supposed, and, to speak plainly, Not to be blamed. The best is yet behind. The patriarch has made out the very fortress, Its name, and strength, and site on Libanon, Wherein the mighty sums are now concealed, With which the prudent father of the sultan Provides the cost of war, and pays the army. He knows that Saladin, from time to time, Goes to this fortress, through by-ways and passe With few attendants.

TEMPLAR.

Well -

FRIAR.

How easy 'twere To seize his person in these expeditions, And make an end of all! You shudder, sir - Two Maronites, who fear the Lord, have offer To share the danger of the enterprise, Under a proper leader.

TEMPLAR.

And the patriarch Had cast his eye on me for this brave office?

FRIAR.

He thinks King Philip might from Ptolemais Best second such a deed.

TEMPLAR.

On me? on me? Have you not heard then, just now heard, the favour Which I received from Saladin?

FRIAR.

Oh, yes!

TEMPLAR.

And yet?

FRIAR.

The patriarch thinks—that's mighty well - God, and the order's interest -

TEMPLAR.

Alter nothing, Command no villainies.

FRIAR.

No, that indeed not; But what is villainy in human eyes May in the sight of God, the patriarch thinks, Not be -

TEMPLAR.

I owe my life to Saladin, And might take his?

FRIAR.

That—fie! But Saladin, The patriarch thinks, is yet the common foe Of Christendom, and cannot earn a right To be your friend.

TEMPLAR.

My friend—because I will not Behave like an ungrateful scoundrel to him.

FRIAR.

Yet gratitude, the patriarch thinks, is not A debt before the eye of God or man, Unless for our own sakes the benefit Had been conferred; and, it has been reported, The patriarch understands that Saladin Preserved your life merely because your voice, Your air, or features, raised a recollection Of his lost brother.

TEMPLAR.

He knows this? and yet - If it were sure, I should—ah, Saladin! How! and shall nature then have formed in me A single feature in thy brother's likeness, With nothing in my soul to answer to it? Or what does correspond shall I suppress To please a patriarch? So thou dost not cheat us, Nature—and so not contradict Thyself, Kind God of all.—Go, brother, go away: Do not stir up my anger.

FRIAR.

I withdraw More gladly than I came. We cloister-folk Are forced to vow obedience to superiors. [Goes

TEMPLAR and DAYA. DAYA.

The monk, methinks, left him in no good mood: But I must risk my message.

TEMPLAR.

Better still The proverb says that monks and women are The devil's clutches; and I'm tossed to-day From one to th' other.

DAYA.

Whom do I behold? - Thank God! I see you, noble knight, once more. Where have you lurked this long, long space? You've not Been ill?

TEMPLAR.

No.

DAYA.

Well, then?

TEMPLAR.

Yes.

DAYA.

We've all been anxious Lest something ailed you.

TEMPLAR.

So?

DAYA.

Have you been journeying?

TEMPLAR.

Hit off!

DAYA.

How long returned?

TEMPLAR.

Since yesterday.

DAYA.

Our Recha's father too is just returned, And now may Recha hope at last -

TEMPLAR.

For what?

DAYA.

For what she often has requested of you. Her father pressingly invites your visit. He now arrives from Babylon, with twenty High-laden camels, brings the curious drugs, And precious stones, and stuffs, he has collected From Syria, Persia, India, even China.

TEMPLAR.

I am no chap.

DAYA.

His nation honours him, As if he were a prince, and yet to hear him Called the WISE Nathan by them, not the RICH, Has often made me wonder.

TEMPLAR.

To his nation Are RICH and WISE perhaps of equal import.

DAYA.

But above all he should be called the GOOD. You can't imagine how much goodness dwells Within him. Since he has been told the service You rendered to his Recha, there is nothing That he would grudge you.

TEMPLAR.

Aye?

DAYA.

Do—see him, try him.

TEMPLAR.

A burst of feeling soon is at an end.

DAYA.

And do you think that I, were he less kind, Less bountiful, had housed with him so long: That I don't feel my value as a Christian: For 'twas not o'er my cradle said, or sung, That I to Palestina should pursue My husband's steps, only to educate A Jewess. My husband was a noble page In Emperor Frederic's army.

TEMPLAR.

And by birth A Switzer, who obtained the gracious honour Of drowning in one river with his master. Woman, how often you have told me this! Will you ne'er leave off persecuting me?

DAYA.

My Jesus! persecute -

TEMPLAR.

Aye, persecute. Observe then, I henceforward will not see, Not hear you, nor be minded of a deed Over and over, which I did unthinking, And which, when thought about, I wonder at. I wish not to repent it; but, remember, Should the like accident occur again, 'Twill be your fault if I proceed more coolly, Ask a few questions, and let burn what's burning.

DAYA.

My God forbid!

TEMPLAR.

From this day forth, good woman, Do me at least the favour not to know me: I beg it of you; and don't send the father. A Jew's a Jew, and I am rude and bearish. The image of the maid is quite erased Out of my soul—if it was ever there -

DAYA.

But yours remains with her.

TEMPLAR.

Why so—what then - Wherefore give harbour to it? -

DAYA.

Who knows wherefore? Men are not always what they seem to be.

TEMPLAR.

They're seldom better than they seem to be.

DAYA.

Ben't in this hurry.

TEMPLAR.

Pray, forbear to make These palm-trees odious. I have loved to walk here.

DAYA.

Farewell then, bear. Yet I must track the savage.



ACT II.



SCENE—The Sultan's Palace.—An outer room of Sittah's apartment.

SALADIN and SITTAH, playing chess.

SITTAH.

Wherefore so absent, brother? How you play!

SALADIN.

Not well? I thought -

SITTAH.

Yes; very well for me, Take back that move.

SALADIN.

Why?

SITTAH.

Don't you see the knight Becomes exposed?

SALADIN.

'Tis true: then so.

SITTAH.

And so I take the pawn.

SALADIN.

That's true again. Then, check!

SITTAH.

That cannot help you. When my king is castled All will be safe.

SALADIN.

But out of my dilemma 'Tis not so easy to escape unhurt. Well, you must have the knight.

SITTAH.

I will not have him, I pass him by.

SALADIN.

In that, there's no forbearance: The place is better than the piece.

SITTAH.

Maybe.

SALADIN.

Beware you reckon not without your host: This stroke you did not think of.

SITTAH.

No, indeed; I did not think you tired of your queen.

SALADIN.

My queen?

SITTAH.

Well, well! I find that I to-day Shall earn a thousand dinars to an asper.

SALADIN.

How so, my sister?

SITTAH.

Play the ignorant - As if it were not purposely thou losest. I find not my account in 't; for, besides That such a game yields very little pastime, When have I not, by losing, won with thee? When hast thou not, by way of comfort to me For my lost game, presented twice the stake?

SALADIN.

So that it may have been on purpose, sister, That thou hast lost at times.

SITTAH.

At least, my brother's Great liberality may be one cause Why I improve no faster.

SALADIN.

We forget The game before us: lot us make an end of it.

SITTAH.

I move—so—now then—check! and check again!

SALADIN.

This countercheck I wasn't aware of, Sittah; My queen must fall the sacrifice.

SITTAH.

Let's see - Could it be helped?

SALADIN.

No, no, take off the queen! That is a piece which never thrives with me.

SITTAH.

Only that piece?

SALADIN.

Off with it! I shan't miss it. Thus I guard all again.

SITTAH.

How civilly We should behave to queens, my brother's lessons Have taught me but too well.

SALADIN.

Take her, or not, I stir the piece no more.

SITTAH.

Why should I take her? Check!

SALADIN.

Go on.

SITTAH.

Check! -

SALADIN.

And check-mate?

SITTAH.

Hold! not yet. You may advance the knight, and ward the danger, Or as you will—it is all one.

SALADIN.

It is so. You are the winner, and Al-Hafi pays. Let him be called. Sittah, you was not wrong; I seem to recollect I was unmindful - A little absent. One isn't always willing To dwell upon some shapeless bits of wood Coupled with no idea. Yet the Imam, When I play with him, bends with such abstraction - The loser seeks excuses. Sittah, 'twas not The shapeless men, and the unmeaning squares, That made me heedless—your dexterity, Your calm sharp eye.

SITTAH.

And what of that, good brother, Is that to be th' excuse for your defeat? Enough—you played more absently than I.

SALADIN.

Than you! What dwells upon your mind, my Sittah? Not your own cares, I doubt -

SITTAH.

O Saladin, When shall we play again so constantly?

SALADIN.

An interruption will but whet our zeal. You think of the campaign. Well, let it come. It was not I who first unsheathed the sword. I would have willingly prolonged the truce, And willingly have knit a closer bond, A lasting one—have given to my Sittah A husband worthy of her, Richard's brother.

SITTAH.

You love to talk of Richard.

SALADIN.

Richard's sister Might then have been allotted to our Melek. O what a house that would have formed—the first - The best—and what is more—of earth the happiest! You know I am not loth to praise myself; Why should I?—Of my friends am I not worthy? O we had then led lives!

SITTAH.

A pretty dream. It makes me smile. You do not know the Christians. You will not know them. 'Tis this people's pride Not to be men, but to be Christians. Even What of humane their Founder felt, and taught, And left to savour their found superstition, They value not because it is humane, Lovely, and good for man; they only prize it Because 'twas Christ who taught it, Christ who did it. 'Tis well for them He was so good a man: Well that they take His goodness all for granted, And in His virtues put their trust. His virtues - 'Tis not His virtues, but His name alone They wish to thrust upon us—'Tis His name Which they desire should overspread the world, Should swallow up the name of all good men, And put the best to shame. 'Tis His mere name They care for -

SALADIN.

Else, my Sittah, as thou sayst, They would not have required that thou, and Melek, Should be called Christians, ere you might be suffered To feel for Christians conjugal affection.

SITTAH.

As if from Christians only, and as Christians, That love could be expected which our Maker In man and woman for each other planted.

SALADIN.

The Christians do believe such idle notions, They well might fancy this: and yet thou errest. The templars, not the Christians, are in fault. 'Tis not as Christians, but as templars, that They thwart my purpose. They alone prevent it. They will on no account evacuate Acca, Which was to be the dower of Richard's sister, And, lest their order suffer, use this cant - Bring into play the nonsense of the monk - And scarcely would await the truce's end To fall upon us. Go on so—go on, To me you're welcome, sirs. Would all things else Went but as right!

SITTAH.

What else should trouble thee, If this do not?

SALADIN.

Why, that which ever has. I've been on Libanon, and seen our father. He's full of care.

SITTAH.

Alas!

SALADIN.

He can't make shift, Straitened on all sides, put off, disappointed; Nothing comes in.

SITTAH.

What fails him, Saladin?

SALADIN.

What? but the thing I scarcely deign to name, Which, when I have it, so superfluous seems, And, when I have it not, so necessary. Where is Al-Hafi then—this fatal money - O welcome, Hafi!

HAFI, SALADIN, and SITTAH.

HAFI.

I suppose the gold From Egypt is arrived.

SALADIN.

Hast tidings of it?

HAFI.

I? no, not I. I thought to have ta'en it here.

SALADIN.

To Sittah pay a thousand dinars.

HAFI.

Pay? And not receive—that's something less than nothing. To Sittah and again to Sittah—and Once more for loss at chess? Is this your game?

SITTAH.

Dost grudge me my good fortune?

HAFI (examining the board).

Grudge! you know -

SITTAH (making signs to Hafi).

Hush, Hafi, hush!

HAFI.

And were the white men yours? You gave the check?

SITTAH.

'Tis well he does not hear.

HAFI.

And he to move?

SITTAH (approaching Hafi).

Say then aloud that I Shall have my money.

HAFI (still considering the game).

Yes, yes! you shall have it - As you have always had it.

SITTAH.

Are you crazy?

HAFI.

The game is not decided; Saladin, You have not lost.

SALADIN (scarcely hearkening).

Well, well!—pay, pay.

HAFI.

Pay, pay - There stands your queen.

SALADIN (still walking about).

It boots not, she is useless.

SITTAH (low to Hafi).

Do say that I may send and fetch the gold.

HAFI.

Aye, aye, as usual—But although the queen Be useless, you are by no means check-mate.

SALADIN (dashes down the board).

I am. I will then -

HAFI.

So! small pains, small gains; As got, so spent.

SALADIN (to Sittah).

What is he muttering there?

SITTAH (to Saladin, winking meanwhile to Hafi).

You know him well, and his unyielding way. He chooses to be prayed to—maybe he's envious -

SALADIN.

No, not of thee, not of my sister, surely. What do I hear, Al-Hafi, are you envious?

HAFI.

Perhaps. I'd rather have her head than mine, Or her heart either.

SITTAH.

Ne'ertheless, my brother, He pays me right, and will again to-day. Let him alone. There, go away, Al-Hafi; I'll send and fetch my dinars.

HAFI.

No, I will not; I will not act this farce a moment longer: He shall, must know it.

SALADIN.

Who? what?

SITTAH.

O Al-Hafi, Is this thy promise, this thy keeping word?

HAFI.

How could I think it was to go so far?

SALADIN.

Well, what am I to know?

SITTAH.

I pray thee, Hafi, Be more discreet.

SALADIN.

That's very singular. And what can Sittah then so earnestly, So warmly have to sue for from a stranger, A dervis, rather than from me, her brother? Al-Hafi, I command. Dervis, speak out.

SITTAH.

Let not a trifle, brother, touch you nearer Than is becoming. You know I have often Won the same sum of you at chess, and, as I have not just at present need of money, I've left the sum at rest in Hafi's chest, Which is not over-full; and thus the stakes Are not yet taken out—but, never fear, It is not my intention to bestow them On thee, or Hafi.

HAFI.

Were it only this -

SITTAH.

Some more such trifles are perhaps unclaimed; My own allowance, which you set apart, Has lain some months untouched.

HAFI.

Nor is that all -

SALADIN.

Nor yet—speak then!

HAFI.

Since we have been expecting The treasure out of Egypt, she not only -

SITTAH.

Why listen to him?

HAFI.

Has not had an asper; -

SALADIN.

Good creature—but has been advancing to thee -

HAFI.

Has at her sole expense maintained thy state.

SALADIN (embracing her).

My sister—ah!

SITTAH.

And who but you, my brother, Could make me rich enough to have the power?

HAFI.

And in a little time again will leave thee Poor as himself.

SALADIN.

I, poor—her brother, poor? When had I more, when less than at this instant? A cloak, a horse, a sabre, and a God! - What need I else? With them what can be wanting? And yet, Al-Hafi, I could quarrel with thee For this.

SITTAH.

A truce to that, my brother. Were it As easy to remove our father's cares!

SALADIN.

Ah! now my joy thou hast at once abated: To me there is, there can be, nothing wanting; But—but to him—and, in him, to us all. What shall I do? From Egypt maybe nothing Will come this long time. Why—God only knows. We hear of no stir. To reduce, to spare, I am quite willing for myself to stoop to, Were it myself, and only I, should suffer - But what can that avail? A cloak, a horse, A sword I ne'er can want;—as to my God, He is not to be bought; He asks but little, Only my heart. I had relied, Al-Hafi, Upon a surplus in my chest.

HAFI.

A surplus? And tell me, would you not have had me impaled, Or hanged at least, if you had found me out In hoarding up a surplus? Deficits - Those one may venture on.

SALADIN.

Well, but how next? Could you have found out no one where to borrow Unless of Sittah?

SITTAH.

And would I have borne To see the preference given to another? I still lay claim to it. I am not as yet Entirely bare.

SALADIN.

Not yet entirely—This Was wanting still. Go, turn thyself about; Take where, and as, thou canst; be quick, Al-Hafi. Borrow on promise, contract, anyhow; But heed me—not of those I have enriched - To borrow there might seem to ask it back. Go to the covetous. They'll gladliest lend - They know how well their money thrives with me -

HAFI.

I know none such.

SITTAH.

I recollect just now I heard, Al-Hafi, of thy friend's return.

HAFI (startled).

Friend—friend of mine—and who should that be?

SITTAH.

Who? Thy vaunted Jew!

HAFI.

A Jew, and praised by me?

SITTAH.

To whom his God (I think I still retain Thy own expression used concerning him) To whom, of all the good things of this world, His God in full abundance has bestowed The greatest and the least.

HAFI.

What could I mean When I said so?

SITTAH.

The least of good things, riches; The greatest, wisdom.

HAFI.

How—and of a Jew Could I say that?

SITTAH.

Didst thou not—of thy Nathan?

HAFI.

Hi ho! of him—of Nathan? At that moment He did not come across me. But, in fact, He is at length come home; and, I suppose, Is not ill off. His people used to call him The wise—also the rich.

SITTAH.

The rich he's named Now more than ever. The whole town resounds With news of jewels, costly stuffs, and stores, That he brings back.

HAFI.

Is he the rich again - He'll be, no fear of it, once more the wise.

SITTAH.

What thinkst thou, Hafi, of a call on him?

HAFI.

On him—sure not to borrow—why, you know him - He lend? Therein his very wisdom lies, That he lends no one.

SITTAH.

Formerly thon gav'st A very different picture of this Nathan.

HAFI.

In case of need he'll lend you merchandise, But money, money, never. He's a Jew, There are but few such! he has understanding, Knows life, plays chess; but is in bad notorious Above his brethren, as he is in good. On him rely not. To the poor indeed He vies perhaps with Saladin in giving: Though he distributes less, he gives as freely, As silently, as nobly, to Jew, Christian, Mahometan, or Parsee—'tis all one.

SITTAH.

And such a man should be -

SALADIN.

How comes it then I never heard of him?

SITTAH.

Should be unwilling To lend to Saladin, who wants for others, Not for himself.

HAFI.

Aye, there peeps out the Jew, The ordinary Jew. Believe me, prince, He's jealous, really envious of your giving. To earn God's favour seems his very business. He lends not that he may always have to give. The law commandeth mercy, not compliance: And thus for mercy's sake he's uncomplying. 'Tis true, I am not now on the best terms With Nathan, but I must entreat you, think not That therefore I would do injustice to him. He's good in everything, but not in that - Only in that. I'll knock at other doors. I just have recollected an old Moor, Who's rich and covetous—I go—I go.

SITTAH.

Why in such hurry, Hafi?

SALADIN.

Let him go.

SALADIN and SITTAH.

SITTAH.

He hastens like a man who would escape me; Why so? Was he indeed deceived in Nathan, Or does he play upon us?

SALADIN.

Can I guess? I scarcely know of whom you have been talking, And hear to-day, for the first time, of Nathan.

SITTAH.

Is't possible the man were hid from thee, Of whom 'tis said, he has found out the tombs Of Solomon and David, knows the word That lifts their marble lids, and thence obtains The golden oil that feeds his shining pomp?

SALADIN.

Were this man's wealth by miracle created, 'Tis not at David's tomb, or Solomon's, That 'twould be wrought. Not virtuous men lie there.

SITTAH.

His source of opulence is more productive And more exhaustless than a cave of Mammon.

SALADIN.

He trades, I hear.

SITTAH.

His ships fill every harbour; His caravans through every desert toil. This has Al-Hafi told me long ago: With transport adding then—how nobly Nathan Bestows what he esteems it not a meanness By prudent industry to have justly earned - How free from prejudice his lofty soul - His heart to every virtue how unlocked - With every lovely feeling how familiar.

SALADIN.

Yet Hafi spake just now so coldly of him.

SITTAH.

Not coldly; but with awkwardness, confusion, As if he thought it dangerous to praise him, And yet knew not to blame him undeserving, Or can it really be that e'en the best Among a people cannot quite escape The tinges of the tribe; and that, in fact, Al-Hafi has in this to blush for Nathan? Be that as't may—be he the Jew or no - Is he but rich—that is enough for us.

SALADIN.

You would not, sister, take his wealth by force.

SITTAH.

What do you mean by force—fire, sword? Oh no! What force is necessary with the weak But their own weakness? Come awhile with me Into my harem: I have bought a songstress, You have not heard her, she came yesterday: Meanwhile I'll think somewhat about a project I have upon this Nathan. Follow, brother.

SCENE—The Place of Palms, close to Nathan's House. NATHAN, attired, comes out with RECHA.

RECHA.

You have been so very slow, my dearest father, You now will hardly be in time to find him.

NATHAN.

Well, if not here beneath the palms; yet, surely, Elsewhere. My child, be satisfied. See, see, Is not that Daya making towards us?

RECHA.

She certainly has lost him then.

NATHAN.

Why so?

RECHA.

Else she'd walk quicker.

NATHAN.

She may not have seen us.

RECHA.

There, now she sees us.

NATHAN.

And her speed redoubles, Be calm, my Recha.

RECHA.

Would you have your daughter Be cool and unconcerned who 'twas that saved her, Heed not to whom is due the life she prizes Chiefly because she owed it first to thee?

NATHAN.

I would not wish thee other than thou art, E'en if I knew that in thy secret soul A very different emotion throbs.

RECHA.

Why—what my father?

NATHAN.

Dost thou ask of me, So tremblingly of me, what passes in thee? Whatever 'tis, 'tis innocence and nature. Be not alarmed, it gives me no alarm; But promise me that, when thy heart shall speak A plainer language, thou wilt not conceal A single of thy wishes from my fondness.

RECHA.

Oh the mere possibility of wishing Rather to veil and hide them makes me shudder.

NATHAN.

Let this be spoken once for all. Well, Daya -

NATHAN, RECHA, and DAYA.

DAYA.

He still is here beneath the palms, and soon Will reach yon wall. See, there he comes.

RECHA.

And seems Irresolute where next; if left or right.

DAYA.

I know he mostly passes to the convent, And therefore comes this path. What will you lay me?

RECHA.

Oh yes he does. And did you speak to him? How did he seem to-day?

DAYA.

As heretofore.

NATHAN.

Don't let him see you with me: further back; Or rather to the house.

RECHA.

Just one peep more. Now the hedge steals him from me.

DAYA.

Come away. Your father's in the right—should he perceive us, 'Tis very probable he'll tack about.

RECHA.

But for the hedge -

NATHAN.

Now he emerges from it. He can't but see you: hence—I ask it of you.

DAYA.

I know a window whence we yet may -

RECHA.

Ay.

[Goes in with Daya.

NATHAN.

I'm almost shy of this strange fellow, almost Shrink back from his rough virtue. That one man Should ever make another man feel awkward! And yet—He's coming—ha!—by God, the youth Looks like a man. I love his daring eye, His open gait. May be the shell is bitter; But not the kernel surely. I have seen Some such, methinks. Forgive me, noble Frank.

NATHAN and TEMPLAR.

TEMPLAR.

What?

NATHAN.

Give me leave.

TEMPLAR.

Well, Jew, what wouldst thou have?

NATHAN.

The liberty of speaking to you!

TEMPLAR.

So - Can I prevent it? Quick then, what's your business?

NATHAN.

Patience—nor hasten quite so proudly by A man, who has not merited contempt, And whom, for evermore, you've made your debtor.

TEMPLAR.

How so? Perhaps I guess—No—Are you then -

NATHAN.

My name is Nathan, father to the maid Your generous courage snatched from circling flames, And hasten -

TEMPLAR.

If with thanks, keep, keep them all. Those little things I've had to suffer much from: Too much already, far. And, after all, You owe me nothing. Was I ever told She was your daughter? 'Tis a templar's duty To rush to the assistance of the first Poor wight that needs him; and my life just then Was quite a burden. I was mighty glad To risk it for another; tho' it were That of a Jewess.

NATHAN.

Noble, and yet shocking! The turn might be expected. Modest greatness Wears willingly the mask of what is shocking To scare off admiration: but, altho' She may disdain the tribute, admiration, Is there no other tribute she can bear with? Knight, were you here not foreign, not a captive I would not ask so freely. Speak, command, In what can I be useful?

TEMPLAR.

You—in nothing.

NATHAN.

I'm rich.

TEMPLAR.

To me the richer Jew ne'er seemed The bettor Jew.

NATHAN.

Is that a reason why You should not use the better part of him, His wealth?

TEMPLAR.

Well, well, I'll not refuse it wholly, For my poor mantle's sake—when that is threadbare, And spite of darning will not hold together, I'll come and borrow cloth, or money of thee, To make me up a new one. Don't look solemn; The danger is not pressing; 'tis not yet At the last gasp, but tight and strong and good, Save this poor corner, where an ugly spot You see is singed upon it. It got singed As I bore off your daughter from the fire.

NATHAN (taking hold of the mantle).

'Tis singular that such an ugly spot Bears better testimony to the man Than his own mouth. This brand—Oh I could kiss it! Your pardon—that I meant not.

TEMPLAR.

What?

NATHAN.

A tear Fell on the spot.

TEMPLAR.

You'll find up more such tears - (This Jew methinks begins to work upon me).

NATHAN.

Would you send once this mantle to my daughter?

TEMPLAR.

Why?

NATHAN.

That her lips may cling to this dear speck; For at her benefactor's feet to fall, I find, she hopes in vain.

TEMPLAR.

But, Jew, your name You said was Nathan—Nathan, you can join Your words together cunningly—right well - I am confused—in fact—I would have been -

NATHAN.

Twist, writhe, disguise you, as you will, I know you, You were too honest, knight, to be more civil; A girl all feeling, and a she-attendant All complaisance, a father at a distance - You valued her good name, and would not see her. You scorned to try her, lest you should be victor; For that I also thank you.

TEMPLAR.

I confess, You know how templars ought to think.

NATHAN.

Still templars - And only OUGHT to think—and all because The rules and vows enjoin it to the ORDER - I know how good men think—know that all lands Produce good men.

TEMPLAR.

But not without distinction.

NATHAN.

In colour, dress, and shape, perhaps, distinguished.

TEMPLAR.

Here more, there fewer sure?

NATHAN.

That boots not much, The great man everywhere has need of room. Too many set together only serve To crush each others' branches. Middling good, As we are, spring up everywhere in plenty. Only let one not scar and bruise the other; Let not the gnarl be angry with the stump; Let not the upper branch alone pretend Not to have started from the common earth.

TEMPLAR.

Well said: and yet, I trust, you know the nation, That first began to strike at fellow men, That first baptised itself the chosen people - How now if I were—not to hate this people, Yet for its pride could not forbear to scorn it, The pride which it to Mussulman and Christian Bequeathed, as were its God alone the true one, You start, that I, a Christian and a templar, Talk thus. Where, when, has e'er the pious rage To own the better god—on the whole world To force this better, as the best of all - Shown itself more, and in a blacker form, Than here, than now? To him, whom, here and now, The film is not removing from his eye - But be he blind that wills! Forget my speeches And leave me.

NATHAN.

Ah! indeed you do not know How closer I shall cling to you henceforth. We must, we will be friends. Despise my nation - We did not choose a nation for ourselves. Are we our nations? What's a nation then? Were Jews and Christians such, e'er they were men? And have I found in thee one more, to whom It is enough to be a man?

TEMPLAR.

That hast thou. Nathan, by God, thou hast. Thy hand. I blush To have mistaken thee a single instant.

NATHAN.

And I am proud of it. Only common souls We seldom err in.

TEMPLAR.

And uncommon ones Seldom forget. Yes, Nathan, yes we must, We will be friends.

NATHAN.

We are so. And my Recha - She will rejoice. How sweet the wider prospect That dawns upon me! Do but know her—once.

TEMPLAR.

I am impatient for it. Who is that Bursts from your house, methinks it is your Daya.

NATHAN.

Ay—but so anxiously -

TEMPLAR.

Sure, to our Recha Nothing has happened.

NATHAN, TEMPLAR, and DAYA.

DAYA.

Nathan, Nathan.

NATHAN.

Well.

DAYA.

Forgive me, knight, that I must interrupt you.

NATHAN.

What is the matter?

TEMPLAR.

What?

DAYA.

The sultan sends - The sultan wants to see you—in a hurry. Jesus! the sultan -

NATHAN.

Saladin wants me? He will be curious to see what wares, Precious, or new, I brought with me from Persia. Say there is nothing hardly yet unpacked.

DAYA.

No, no: 'tis not to look at anything. He wants to speak to you, to you in person, And orders you to come as soon as may be.

NATHAN.

I'll go—return.

DAYA.

Knight, take it not amiss; But we were so alarmed for what the sultan Could have in view.

NATHAN.

That I shall soon discover.

NATHAN and TEMPLAR.

TEMPLAR.

And don't you know him yet, I mean his person?

NATHAN.

Whose, Saladin's? Not yet. I've neither shunned, Nor sought to see him. And the general voice Speaks too well of him, for me not to wish, Rather to take its language upon trust, Than sift the truth out. Yet—if it be so - He, by the saving of your life, has now -

TEMPLAR.

Yes: it is so. The life I live he gave.

NATHAN.

And in it double treble life to me. This flings a bond about me, which shall tie me For ever to his service: and I scarcely Like to defer inquiring for his wishes. For everything I am ready; and am ready To own that 'tis on your account I am so.

TEMPLAR.

As often as I've thrown me in his way, I have not found as yet the means to thank him. The impression that I made upon him came Quickly, and so has vanished. Now perhaps He recollects me not, who knows? Once more At least, he must recall me to his mind, Fully to fix my doom. 'Tis not enough That by his order I am yet in being, By his permission live, I have to learn According to whose will I must exist.

NATHAN.

Therefore I shall the more avoid delay. Perchance some word may furnish me occasion To glance at you—perchance—Excuse me, knight, I am in haste. When shall we see you with us?

TEMPLAR.

Soon as I may.

NATHAN.

That is, whene'er you will.

TEMPLAR.

To-day, then.

NATHAN.

And your name?

TEMPLAR.

My name was—is Conrade of Stauffen.

NATHAN.

Conrade of Stauffen! Stauffen!

TEMPLAR.

Why does that strike so forcibly upon you?

NATHAN.

There are more races of that name, no doubt.

TEMPLAR.

Yes, many of that name were here—rot here. My uncle even—I should say, my father. But wherefore is your look so sharpened on me?

NATHAN.

Nothing—how can I weary to behold you -

TEMPLAR.

Therefore I quit you first. The searching eye Finds often more than it desires to see. I fear it, Nathan. Fare thee well. Let time, Not curiosity make us acquainted.

[Goes.

NATHAN, and soon after, DAYA.

NATHAN.

"The searching eye will oft discover more Than it desires," 'tis as he read my soul. That too may chance to me. 'Tis not alone Leonard's walk, stature, but his very voice. Leonard so wore his head, was even wont Just so to brush his eyebrows with his hand, As if to mask the fire that fills his look. Those deeply graven images at times How they will slumber in us, seem forgotten, When all at once a word a tone, a gesture, Retraces all. Of Stauffen? Ay right—right - Filnek and Stauffen—I will soon know more - But first to Saladin—Ha, Daya there? Why on the watch? Come nearer. By this time, I'll answer for't, you've something more at heart Than to know what the sultan wants with me.

DAYA.

And do you take it ill in part of her? You were beginning to converse with him More confidentially, just as the message, Sent by the sultan, tore us from the window.

NATHAN.

Go tell her that she may expect his visit At every instant.

DAYA.

What indeed—indeed?

NATHAN.

I think I can rely upon thee, Daya: Be on thy guard, I beg. Thou'lt not repent it. Be but discreet. Thy conscience too will surely Find its account in 't. Do not mar my plans But leave them to themselves. Relate and question With modesty, with backwardness.

DAYA.

Oh fear not. How come you to preach up all this to me? I go—go too. The sultan sends for you A second time, and by your friend Al-Hafi.

NATHAN and HAFI.

HAFI.

Ha! art thou here? I was now seeking for thee.

NATHAN.

Why in such haste? What wants he then with me?

HAFI.

Who?

NATHAN.

Saladin. I'm coming—I am coming.

HAFI.

Where, to the sultan's?

NATHAN.

Was 't not he who sent thee?

HAFI.

Me? No. And has he sent already?

NATHAN.

Yes.

HAFI.

Then 'tis all right.

NATHAN.

What's right?

HAFI.

That I'm unguilty. God knows I am not guilty, knows I said - What said I not of thee—belied thee—slandered - To ward it off.

NATHAN.

To ward off what—be plain.

HAFI.

That them art now become his defterdar. I pity thee. Behold it I will not. I go this very hour—my road I told thee. Now—hast thou orders by the way—command, And then, adieu. Indeed they must not be Such business as a naked man can't carry. Quick, what's thy pleasure?

NATHAN.

Recollect yourself. As yet all this is quite a riddle to me. I know of nothing.

HAFI.

Where are then thy bags?

NATHAN.

Bags?

HAFI.

Bags of money: bring the weightiest forth: The money thou'rt to lend the sultan, Nathan.

NATHAN.

And is that all?

HAFI.

Novice, thou'st yet to learn How he day after day will scoop and scoop, Till nothing but an hollow empty paring, A husk as light as film, is left behind. Thou'st yet to learn how prodigality From prudent bounty's never-empty coffers Borrows and borrows, till there's not a purse Left to keep rats from starving. Thou mayst fancy That he who wants thy gold will heed thy counsel; But when has he yet listened to advice? Imagine now what just befell me with him.

NATHAN.

Well -

HAFI.

I went in and found him with his sister, Engaged, or rather rising up from chess. Sittah plays—not amiss. Upon the board The game, that Saladin supposed was lost And had given up, yet stood. When I drew nigh, And had examined it, I soon discovered It was not gone by any means.

NATHAN.

For you A blest discovery, a treasure-trove.

HAFI.

He only needed to remove his king Behind the tower t' have got him out of check. Could I but make you sensible -

NATHAN.

I'll trust thee.

HAFI.

Then with the knight still left.—I would have shown him And called him to the board.—He must have won; But what d'ye think he did?

NATHAN.

Dared doubt your insight?

HAFI.

He would not listen; but with scorn o'erthrew The standing pieces.

NATHAN.

Is that possible?

HAFI.

And said, he chose to be check-mate—he chose it - Is that to play the game?

NATHAN.

Most surely not: 'Tis to play with the game.

HAFI.

And yet the stake Was not a nut-shell.

NATHAN.

Money here or there Matters but little. Not to listen to thee, And on a point of such importance, Hafi, There lies the rub. Not even to admire Thine eagle eye—thy comprehensive glance - That calls for vengeance: —does it not, Al-Hafi?

HAFI.

I only tell it to thee that thou mayst see How his brain's formed. I bear with him no longer. Here I've been running to each dirty Moor, Inquiring who will lend him. I, who ne'er Went for myself a begging, go a borrowing, And that for others. Borrowing's much the same As begging; just as lending upon usury Is much the same as thieving—decency Makes not of lewdness virtue. On the Ganges, Among my ghebers, I have need of neither: Nor need I be the tool or pimp of either - Upon the Ganges only there are men. Here, thou alone art somehow almost worthy To have lived upon the Ganges. Wilt thou with me? And leave him with the captive cloak alone, The booty that he wants to strip thee of. Little by little he will flay thee clean. Thins thou'lt be quit at once, without the tease Of being sliced to death. Come wilt thou with me? I'll find thee with a staff.

NATHAN.

I should have thought, Come what come may, that thy resource remained: But I'll consider of it. Stay.

HAFI.

Consider - No; such things must not be considered.

NATHAN.

Stay: Till I have seen the sultan—till you've had -

HAFI.

He, who considers, looks about for motives To forbear daring. He, who can't resolve In storm and sunshine to himself to live, Must live the slave of others all his life. But as you please; farewell! 'tis you who choose. My path lies yonder—and yours there -

NATHAN.

Al-Hafi, Stay then; at least you'll set things right—not leave them At sixes and at sevens -

HAFI.

Farce! Parade! The balance in the chest will need no telling. And my account—Sittah, or you, will vouch. Farewell.

[Goes.

NATHAN.

Yes I will vouch it. Honest, wild - How shall I call you—Ah! the real beggar Is, after all, the only real monarch.



ACT III.



SCENE—A Room in Nathan's House.

RECHA and DAYA.

RECHA.

What, Daya, did my father really say I might expect him, every instant, here? That meant—now did it not? he would come soon. And yet how many instants have rolled by! - But who would think of those that are elapsed? - To the next moment only I'm alive. - At last the very one will come that brings him.

DAYA.

But for the sultan's ill-timed message, Nathan Had brought him in.

RECHA.

And when this moment comes, And when this warmest inmost of my wishes Shall be fulfilled, what then? what then?

DAYA.

What then? Why then I hope the warmest of my wishes Will have its turn, and happen.

RECHA.

'Stead of this, What wish shall take possession of my bosom, Which now without some ruling wish of wishes Knows not to heave? Shall nothing? ah, I shudder.

DAYA.

Yes: mine shall then supplant the one fulfilled - My wish to see thee placed one day in Europe In hands well worthy of thee.

RECHA.

No, thou errest - The very thing that makes thee form this wish Prevents its being mine. The country draws thee, And shall not mine retain me? Shall an image, A fond remembrance of thy home, thy kindred, Which years and distance have not yet effaced, Be mightier o'er thy soul, than what I hear, See, feel, and hold, of mine.

DAYA.

'Tis vain to struggle - The ways of heaven are the ways of heaven. Is he the destined saviour, by whose arm His God, for whom he fights, intends to lead thee Into the land, which thou wast born for -

RECHA.

Daya, What art thou prating of? My dearest Daya, Indeed thou hast some strange unseemly notions. "HIS God—FOR whom he fights"—what is a God Belonging to a man—needing another To fight his battles? And can we pronounce FOR which among the scattered clods of earth You, I was born; unless it be for that ON which we were produced. If Nathan heard thee - What has my father done to thee, that thou Hast ever sought to paint my happiness As lying far remote from him and his. What has he done to thee that thus, among The seeds of reason, which he sowed unmixed, Pure in my soul, thou ever must be seeking To plant the weeds, or flowers, of thy own land. He wills not of these pranking gaudy blossoms Upon this soil. And I too must acknowledge I feel as if they had a sour-sweet odour, That makes me giddy—that half suffocates. Thy head is wont to bear it. I don't blame Those stronger nerves that can support it. Mine - Mine it behoves not. Latterly thy angel Had made me half a fool. I am ashamed, Whene'er I see my father, of the folly.

DAYA.

As if here only wisdom were at home - Folly—if I dared speak.

RECHA.

And dar'st thou not? When was I not all ear, if thou beganst To talk about the heroes of thy faith? Have I not freely on their deeds bestowed My admiration, to their sufferings yielded The tribute of my tears? Their faith indeed Has never seemed their most heroic side To me: yet, therefore, have I only learnt To find more consolation in the thought, That our devotion to the God of all Depends not on our notions about God. My father has so often told us so - Thou hast so often to this point consented - How can it be that thou alone art restless To undermine what you built up together? This is not the most fit discussion, Daya, To usher in our friend to; tho' indeed I should not disincline to it—for to me It is of infinite importance if He too—but hark—there's some one at the door. If it were he—stay—hush -

(A Slave who shows in the Templar.)

They are—here this way.

TEMPLAR, DAYA, and RECHA.

RECHA.

(starts—composes herself—then offers to fall at his feet) 'Tis he—my saviour! ah!

TEMPLAR.

This to avoid Have I alone deferred my call so long.

RECHA.

Yes, at the feet of this proud man, I will Thank—God alone. The man will have no thanks; No more than will the bucket which was busy In showering watery damps upon the flame. That was filled, emptied—but to me, to thee What boots it? So the man—he too, he too Was thrust, he knew not how, and the fire. I dropped, by chance, into his open arm. By chance, remained there—like a fluttering spark Upon his mantle—till—I know not what Pushed us both from amid the conflagration. What room is here for thanks? How oft in Europe Wine urges men to very different deeds! Templars must so behave; it is their office, Like better taught or rather handier spaniels, To fetch from out of fire, as out of water.

TEMPLAR.

Oh Daya, Daya, if, in hasty moments Of care and of chagrin, my unchecked temper Betrayed me into rudeness, why convey To her each idle word that left my tongue? This is too piercing a revenge indeed; Yet if henceforth thou wilt interpret better -

DAYA.

I question if these barbed words, Sir Knight, Alighted so, as to have much disserved you.

RECHA.

How, you had cares, and were more covetous Of them than of your life?

TEMPLAR.

[who has been viewing her with wonder and perturbation].

Thou best of beings, How is my soul 'twixt eye and ear divided! No: 'twas not she I snatched from amid fire: For who could know her and forbear to do it? - Indeed—disguised by terror - [Pause: during which he gazes on her as it were entranced.

RECHA.

But to me You still appear the same you then appeared.

[Another like pause—till she resumes, in order to interrupt him.

Now tell me, knight, where have you been so long? It seems as might I ask—where are you now?

TEMPLAR.

I am—where I perhaps ought not to be.

RECHA.

Where have you been? where you perhaps ought not - That is not well.

TEMPLAR.

Up—how d'ye call the mountain? Up Sinai.

RECHA.

Oh, that's very fortunate. Now I shall learn for certain if 'tis true -

TEMPLAR.

What! if the spot may yet be seen where Moses Stood before God; when first -

RECHA.

No, no, not that. Where'er he stood, 'twas before God. Of this I know enough already. Is it true, I wish to learn from you that—that it is not By far so troublesome to climb this mountain As to get down—for on all mountains else, That I have seen, quite the reverse obtains. Well, knight, why will you turn away from me? Not look at me?

TEMPLAR.

Because I wish to hear you.

RECHA.

Because you do not wish me to perceive You smile at my simplicity—You smile That I can think of nothing more important To ask about the holy hill of hills: Do you not?

TEMPLAR.

Must I meet those eyes again? And now you cast them down, and damp the smile - Am I in doubtful motions of the features To read what I so plainly hear—what you So audibly declare; yet will conceal? - How truly said thy father "Do but know her!"

RECHA.

Who has—of whom—said so to thee?

TEMPLAR.

Thy father Said to me "Do but know her," and of thee.

DAYA.

And have not I too said so, times and oft.

TEMPLAR.

But where is then your father—with the sultan?

RECHA.

So I suppose.

TEMPLAR.

Yet there? Oh, I forget, He cannot be there still. He is waiting for me Most certainly below there by the cloister. 'Twas so, I think, we had agreed, Forgive, I go in quest of him.

DAYA.

Knight, I'll do that. Wait here, I'll bring him hither instantly.

TEMPLAR.

Oh no—Oh no. He is expecting me. Besides—you are not aware what may have happened. 'Tis not unlikely he may be involved With Saladin—you do not know the sultan - In some unpleasant—I must go, there's danger If I forbear.

RECHA.

Danger—of what? of what?

TEMPLAR.

Danger for me, for thee, for him; unless I go at once. [Goes.

RECHA and DAYA.

RECHA.

What is the matter, Daya? So quick—what comes across him, drives him hence?

DAYA.

Let him alone, I think it no bad sign.

RECHA.

Sign—and of what?

DAYA.

That something passes in him. It boils—but it must not boil over. Leave him - Now 'tis your turn.

RECHA.

My turn? Thou dost become Like him incomprehensible to me.

DAYA.

Now you may give him back all that unrest He once occasioned. Be not too severe, Nor too vindictive.

RECHA.

Daya, what you mean You must know best.

DAYA.

And pray are you again So calm.

RECHA.

I am—yes that I am.

DAYA.

At least Own—that this restlessness has given you pleasure, And that you have to thank his want of ease For what of ease you now enjoy.

RECHA.

Of that I am unconscious. All I could confess Were, that it does seem strange unto myself, How, in this bosom, such a pleasing calm Can suddenly succeed to such a tossing.

DAYA.

His countenance, his speech, his manner, has By this the satiated thee.

RECHA.

Satiated, I will not say—not by a good deal yet.

DAYA.

But satisfied the more impatient craving.

RECHA.

Well, well, if you must have it so.

DAYA.

I? no.

RECHA.

To me he will be ever dear, will ever Remain more dear than my own life; altho' My pulse no longer flutters at his name, My heart no longer, when I think about him, Beats stronger, swifter. What have I been prating? Come, Daya, let us once more to the window Which overlooks the palms.

DAYA.

So that 'tis not Yet satisfied—the more impatient craving.

RECHA.

Now I shall see the palm-trees once again, Not him alone amid them.

DAYA.

This cold fit Is but the harbinger of other fevers.

RECHA.

Cold—cold—I am not cold; but I observe not Less willingly what I behold with calmness.

SCENE—An Audience Room in the Sultan's Palace.

SITTAH: SALADIN giving directions at the door.

SALADIN.

Here, introduce the Jew, whene'er he comes - He seems in no great haste.

SITTAH.

May be at first He was not in the way.

SALADIN.

Ah, sister, sister!

SITTAH.

You seem as if a combat were impending.

SALADIN.

With weapons that I have not learnt to wield. Must I disguise myself? I use precautions? I lay a snare? When, where gained I that knowledge? And this, for what? To fish for money—money - For money from a Jew—and to such arts Must Saladin descend at last to come at The least of little things?

SITTAH.

Each little thing Despised too much finds methods of revenge.

SALADIN.

'Tis but too true. And if this Jew should prove The fair good man, as once the dervis painted -

SITTAH.

Then difficulties cease. A snare concerns The avaricious, cautious, fearful Jew; And not the good wise man: for he is ours Without a snare. Then the delight of hearing How such a man speaks out; with what stern strength He tears the net, or with what prudent foresight He one by one undoes the tangled meshes; That will be all to boot -

SALADIN.

That I shall joy in.

SITTAH.

What then should trouble thee? For if he be One of the many only, a mere Jew, You will not blush to such a one to seem A man, as he thinks all mankind to be. One, that to him should bear a better aspect, Would seem a fool—a dupe.

SALADIN.

So that I must Act badly, lest the bad think badly of me.

SITTAH.

Yes, if you call it acting badly, brother, To use a thing after its kind.

SALADIN.

There's nothing That woman's wit invents it can't embellish.

SITTAH.

Embellish -

SALADIN.

But their fine-wrought filligree In my rude hand would break. It is for those That can contrive them to employ such weapons: They ask a practised wrist. But chance what may, Well as I can -

SITTAH.

Trust not yourself too little. I answer for you, if you have the will. Such men as you would willingly persuade us It was their swords, their swords alone that raised them. The lion's apt to be ashamed of hunting In fellowship of the fox—'tis of his fellow Not of the cunning that he is ashamed.

SALADIN.

You women would so gladly level man Down to yourselves. Go, I have got my lesson.

SITTAH.

What—MUST I go?

SALADIN.

Had you the thought of staying?

SITTAH.

In your immediate presence not indeed, But in the by-room.

SALADIN.

You could like to listen. Not that, my sister, if I may insist. Away! the curtain rustles—he is come. Beware of staying—I'll be on the watch.

[While Sittah retires through one door, Nathan enters at another, and Saladin seats himself.]

SALADIN and NATHAN.

SALADIN.

Draw nearer, Jew, yet nearer; here, quite by me, Without all fear.

NATHAN.

Remain that for thy foes!

SALADIN.

Your name is Nathan?

NATHAN.

Yes.

SALADIN.

Nathan the wise?

NATHAN.

No.

SALADIN.

If not thou, the people calls thee so.

NATHAN.

May be, the people.

SALADIN.

Fancy not that I Think of the people's voice contemptuously; I have been wishing much to know the man Whom it has named the wise.

NATHAN.

And if it named Him so in scorn. If wise meant only prudent. And prudent, one who knows his interest well.

SALADIN.

Who knows his real interest, thou must mean.

NATHAN.

Then were the interested the most prudent, Then wise and prudent were the same.

SALADIN.

I hear You proving what your speeches contradict. You know man's real interests, which the people Knows not—at least have studied how to know them. That alone makes the sage.

NATHAN.

Which each imagines Himself to be.

SALADIN.

Of modesty enough! Ever to meet it, where one seeks to hear Dry truth, is vexing. Let us to the purpose - But, Jew, sincere and open -

NATHAN.

I will serve thee So as to merit, prince, thy further notice.

SALADIN.

Serve me—how?

NATHAN.

Thou shalt have the best I bring. Shalt have them cheap.

SALADIN.

What speak you of?—your wares? My sister shall be called to bargain with you For them (so much for the sly listener), I Have nothing to transact now with the merchant.

NATHAN.

Doubtless then you would learn, what, on my journey, I noticed of the motions of the foe, Who stirs anew. If unreserved I may -

SALADIN.

Neither was that the object of my sending: I know what I have need to know already. In short I willed your presence -

NATHAN.

Sultan, order.

SALADIN.

To gain instruction quite on other points. Since you are a man so wise, tell me which law, Which faith appears to you the better?

NATHAN.

Sultan, I am a Jew.

SALADIN.

And I a Mussulman: The Christian stands between us. Of these three Religions only one came be the true. A man, like you, remains not just where birth Has chanced to cast him, or, if he remains there, Does it from insight, choice, from grounds of preference. Share then with me your insight—let me hear The grounds of preference, which I have wanted The leisure to examine—learn the choice, These grounds have motived, that it may be mine. In confidence I ask it. How you startle, And weigh me with your eye! It may well be I'm the first sultan to whom this caprice, Methinks not quite unworthy of a sultan, Has yet occurred. Am I not? Speak then—Speak. Or do you, to collect yourself, desire Some moments of delay—I give them you - (Whether she's listening?—I must know of her If I've done right.) Reflect—I'll soon return -

[Saladin steps into the room to which Sittah had retired.]

NATHAN.

Strange! how is this? what wills the sultan of me? I came prepared with cash—he asks truth. Truth? As if truth too were cash—a coin disused That goes by weight—indeed 'tis some such thing - But a new coin, known by the stamp at once, To be flung down and told upon the counter, It is not that. Like gold in bags tied up, So truth lies hoarded in the wise man's head To be brought out.—Which now in this transaction Which of us plays the Jew; he asks for truth, Is truth what he requires, his aim, his end? That this is but the glue to lime a snare Ought not to be suspected, 'twere too little, Yet what is found too little for the great - In fact, through hedge and pale to stalk at once Into one's field beseems not—friends look round, Seek for the path, ask leave to pass the gate - I must be cautious. Yet to damp him back, And be the stubborn Jew is not the thing; And wholly to throw off the Jew, still less. For if no Jew he might with right inquire - Why not a Mussulman—Yes—that may serve me. Not children only can be quieted With stories. Ha! he comes—well, let him come.

SALADIN (returning).

So, there, the field is clear, I'm not too quick, Thou hast bethought thyself as much as need is, Speak, no one hears.

NATHAN.

Might the whole world but hear us.

SALADIN.

Is Nathan of his cause so confident? Yes, that I call the sage—to veil no truth, For truth to hazard all things, life and goods.

NATHAN.

Aye, when 'tis necessary and when useful.

SALADIN.

Henceforth I hope I shall with reason bear One of my titles—"Betterer of the world And of the law."

NATHAN.

In truth a noble title. But, sultan, e'er I quite unfold myself Allow me to relate a tale.

SALADIN.

Why not? I always was a friend of tales well told.

NATHAN.

Well told, that's not precisely my affair.

SALADIN.

Again so proudly modest, come begin.

NATHAN.

In days of yore, there dwelt in east a man Who from a valued hand received a ring Of endless worth: the stone of it an opal, That shot an ever-changing tint: moreover, It had the hidden virtue him to render Of God and man beloved, who in this view, And this persuasion, wore it. Was it strange The eastern man ne'er drew it off his finger, And studiously provided to secure it For ever to his house. Thus—He bequeathed it; First, to the MOST BELOVED of his sons, Ordained that he again should leave the ring To the MOST DEAR among his children—and That without heeding birth, the FAVOURITE son, In virtue of the ring alone, should always Remain the lord o' th' house—You hear me, Sultan?

SALADIN.

I understand thee—on.

NATHAN.

From son to son, At length this ring descended to a father, Who had three sons, alike obedient to him; Whom therefore he could not but love alike. At times seemed this, now that, at times the third, (Accordingly as each apart received The overflowings of his heart) most worthy To heir the ring, which with good-natured weakness He privately to each in turn had promised. This went on for a while. But death approached, And the good father grew embarrassed. So To disappoint two sons, who trust his promise, He could not bear. What's to be done. He sends In secret to a jeweller, of whom, Upon the model of the real ring, He might bespeak two others, and commanded To spare nor cost nor pains to make them like, Quite like the true one. This the artist managed. The rings were brought, and e'en the father's eye Could not distinguish which had been the model. Quite overjoyed he summons all his sons, Takes leave of each apart, on each bestows His blessing and his ring, and dies—Thou hearest me?

SALADIN.

I hear, I hear, come finish with thy tale; Is it soon ended?

NATHAN.

It is ended, Sultan, For all that follows may be guessed of course. Scarce is the father dead, each with his ring Appears, and claims to be the lord o' th' house. Comes question, strife, complaint—all to no end; For the true ring could no more be distinguished Than now can—the true faith.

SALADIN.

How, how, is that To be the answer to my query?

NATHAN.

No, But it may serve as my apology; If I can't venture to decide between Rings, which the father got expressly made, That they might not be known from one another.

SALADIN.

The rings—don't trifle with me; I must think That the religions which I named can be Distinguished, e'en to raiment, drink and food,

NATHAN.

And only not as to their grounds of proof. Are not all built alike on history, Traditional, or written. History Must be received on trust—is it not so? In whom now are we likeliest to put trust? In our own people surely, in those men Whose blood we are, in them, who from our childhood Have given us proofs of love, who ne'er deceived us, Unless 'twere wholesomer to be deceived. How can I less believe in my forefathers Than thou in thine. How can I ask of thee To own that thy forefathers falsified In order to yield mine the praise of truth. The like of Christians.

SALADIN.

By the living God, The man is in the right, I must be silent.

NATHAN.

Now let us to our rings return once more. As said, the sons complained. Each to the judge Swore from his father's hand immediately To have received the ring, as was the case; After he had long obtained the father's promise, One day to have the ring, as also was. The father, each asserted, could to him Not have been false, rather than so suspect Of such a father, willing as he might be With charity to judge his brethren, he Of treacherous forgery was bold t' accuse them.

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