Robbers, Early Dramas and Romances, the Works of Friedrich Schiller, Vol. 4

Author: Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller



RAZ. Are you come? Is it really you? Oh, let me squeeze thee into a jelly, my dear heart’s brother! Welcome to the Bohemian forests! Why, you are grown quite stout and jolly! You have brought us recruits in right earnest, a little army of them; you are the very prince of crimps.

SPIEGEL. Eh, brother? Eli? And proper fellows they are! You must confess the blessing of heaven is visibly upon me; I was a poor, hungry wretch, and had nothing but this staff when I went over the Jordan, and now there are eight-and-seventy of us, mostly ruined shopkeepers, rejected masters of arts, and law-clerks from the Swabian provinces. They are a rare set of fellows, brother, capital fellows, I promise you; they will steal you the very buttons off each other’s trousers in perfect security, although in the teeth of a loaded musket,* and they live in clover and enjoy a reputation for forty miles round, which is quite astonishing.

*[The acting edition reads, "Hang your hat up in the sun, and I’ll
take you a wager it’s gone the next minute, as clean out of sight
as if the devil himself had walked off with it."]

There is not a newspaper in which you will not find some little feat or other of that cunning fellow, Spiegelberg; I take in the papers for nothing else; they have described me from head to foot; you would think you saw me; they have not forgotten even my coat-buttons. But we lead them gloriously by the nose. The other day I went to the printing- office and pretended that I had seen the famous Spiegelberg, dictated to a penny-a-liner who was sitting there the exact image of a quack doctor in the town; the matter gets wind, the fellow is arrested, put to the rack, and in his anguish and stupidity he confesses the devil take me if he does not—confesses that he is Spiegelberg. Fire and fury! I was on the point of giving myself up to a magistrate rather than have my fair fame marred by such a poltroon; however, within three months he was hanged. I was obliged to stuff a right good pinch of snuff into my nose as some time afterwards I was passing the gibbet and saw the pseudo- Spiegelberg parading there in all his glory; and, while Spiegelberg’s representative is dangling by the neck, the real Spiegelberg very quietly slips himself out of the noose, and makes jolly long noses behind the backs of these sagacious wiseacres of the law.

RAZ. (laughing). You are still the same fellow you always were.

SPIEGEL. Ay, sure! body and soul. But I must tell you a bit of fun, my boy, which I had the other day in the nunnery of St. Austin. We fell in with the convent just about sunset; and as I had not fired a single cartridge all day,—you know I hate the /diem perdidi/ as I hate death itself,—I was determined to immortalize the night by some glorious exploit, even though it should cost the devil one of his ears! We kept quite quiet till late in the night. At last all is as still as a mouse —the lights are extinguished. We fancy the nuns must be comfortably tucked up. So I take brother Grimm along with me, and order the others to wait at the gate till they hear my whistle—I secure the watchman, take the keys from him, creep into the maid-servants’ dormitory, take. away all their clothes, and whisk the bundle out at the window. We go on from cell to cell, take away the clothes of one sister after another, and lastly those of the lady-abbess herself. Then I sound my whistle, and my fellows outside begin to storm and halloo as if doomsday was at hand, and away they rush with the devil’s own uproar into the cells of the sisters! Ha, ha, ha! You should have seen the game—how the poor creatures were groping about in the dark for their petticoats, and how they took on when they found they were gone; and we, in the meantime, at ’em like very devils; and now, terrified and amazed, they wriggled under their bedclothes, or cowered together like cats behind the stoves. There was such shrieking and lamentation; and then the old beldame of an abbess—you know, brother, there is nothing in the world I hate so much as a spider and an old woman—so you may just fancy that wrinkled old hag standing naked before me, conjuring me by her maiden modesty forsooth! Well, I was determined to make short work of it; either, said I, out with your plate and your convent jewels and all your shining dollars, or—my fellows knew what I meant. The end of it was I brought away more than a thousand dollars’ worth out of the convent, to say nothing of the fun, which will tell its own story in due time.

RAZ. (stamping on the ground). Hang it, that I should be absent on such an occasion.

SPIEGEL. Do you see? Now tell me, is not that life? ’Tis that which keeps one fresh and hale, and braces the body so that it swells hourly like an abbot’s paunch; I don’t know, but I think I must be endowed with some magnetic property, which attracts all the vagabonds on the face of the earth towards me like steel and iron.

RAZ. A precious magnet, indeed. But I should like to know, I’ll be hanged if I shouldn’t, what witchcraft you use?

SPIEGEL. Witchcraft? No need of witchcraft. All it wants is a head—a certain practical capacity which, of course, is not taken in with every spoonful of barley meal; for you know I have always said that an honest man may be carved out of any willow stump, but to make a rogue you must have brains; besides which it requires a national genius—a certain rascal-climate—so to speak.*

*[In the first (and suppressed) edition was added, "Go to the
Grisons, for instance; that is what I call the thief’s Athens."
This obnoxious passage has been carefully expunged from all the
subsequent editions. It gave mortal offence to the Grison
magistrates, who made a formal complaint of the insult and caused
Schiller to be severely rebuked by the Grand Duke. This incident
forms one of the epochs in our author’s history.]

RAZ. Brother, I have heard Italy celebrated for its artists.

SPIEGEL. Yes, yes! Give the devil his due. Italy makes a very noble figure; and if Germany goes on as it has begun, and if the Bible gets fairly kicked out, of which there is every prospect, Germany, too, may in time arrive at something respectable; but I should tell you that climate does not, after all, do such a wonderful deal; genius thrives everywhere; and as for the rest, brother, a crab, you know, will never become a pineapple, not even in Paradise. But to pursue our subject, where did I leave off?

RAZ. You were going to tell me about your stratagems.

SPIEGEL. Ah, yes! my stratagems. Well, when you get into a town, the first thing is to fish out from the beadles, watchmen, and turnkeys, who are their best customers, and for these, accordingly, you must look out; then ensconce yourself snugly in coffee-houses, brothels, and beer- shops, and observe who cry out most against the cheapness of the times, the reduced five per cents., and the increasing nuisance of police regulations; who rail the loudest against government, or decry physiognomical science, and such like? These are the right sort of fellows, brother. Their honesty is as loose as a hollow tooth; you have only to apply your pincers. Or a shorter and even better plan is to drop a full purse in the public highway, conceal yourself somewhere near, and mark who finds it. Presently after you come running up, search, proclaim your loss aloud, and ask him, as it were casually, "Have you perchance picked up a purse, sir?" If he says "Yes," why then the devil fails you. But if he denies it, with a "pardon me, sir, I remember, I am sorry, sir," (he jumps up), then, brother, you’ve done the trick. Extinguish your lantern, cunning Diogenes, you have found your match.

RAZ. You are an accomplished practitioner.

SPIEGEL. My God! As if that had ever been doubted. Well, then, when you have got your man into the net, you must take great care to land him cleverly. You see, my son, the way I have managed is thus: as soon as I was on the scent I stuck to my candidate like a leech; I drank brotherhood with him, and, /nota bene/, you must always pay the score. That costs a pretty penny, it is true, but never mind that. You must go further; introduce him to gaming-houses and brothels; entangle him in broils and rogueries till he becomes bankrupt in health and strength, in purse, conscience, and reputation; for I must tell you, by the way, that you will make nothing of it unless you ruin both body and soul. Believe me, brother, and I have experienced it more than fifty times in my extensive practice, that when the honest man is once ousted from his stronghold, the devil has it all his own way—the transition is then as easy as from a whore to a devotee. But hark! What bang was that?

RAZ. It was thunder; go on.

SPIEGEL. Or, there is a yet shorter and still better way. You strip your man of all he has, even to his very shirt, and then he will come to you of his own accord; you won’t teach me to suck eggs, brother; ask that copper-faced fellow there. My eyes, how neatly I got him into my meshes. I showed him forty ducats, which I promised to give him if he would bring me an impression in wax of his master’s keys. Only think, the stupid brute not only does this, but actually brings me—I’ll be hanged if he did not—the keys themselves; and then thinks to get the money. "Sirrah," said I, "are you aware that I am going to carry these keys straight to the lieutenant of police, and to bespeak a place for you on the gibbet?" By the powers! you should have seen how the simpleton opened his eyes, and began to shake from head to foot like a dripping poodle. "For heaven’s sake, sir, do but consider. I will— will—" "What will you? Will you at once cut your stick and go to the devil with me?" "Oh, with all my heart, with great pleasure." Ha! ha! ha! my fine fellow; toasted cheese is the thing to catch mice with; do have a good laugh at him, Razman; ha! ha! ha!

RAZ. Yes, yes, I must confess. I shall inscribe that lesson in letters of gold upon the tablet of my brain. Satan must know his people right well to have chosen you for his factor.

SPIEGEL. Eh, brother? Eli? And if I help him to half a score of fellows he will, of course, let me off scot-free—publishers, you know, always give one copy in ten gratis to those who collect subscribers for them; why should the devil be more of a Jew? Razman, I smell powder.

RAZ. Zounds! I smelt it long ago. You may depend upon it there has being something going forward hereabouts. Yes, yes! I can tell you, Spiegelberg, you will be welcome to our captain with your recruits; he, too, has got hold of some brave fellows.

SPIEGEL. But look at mine! at mine here, bah!

RAZ. Well, well! they may be tolerably expert in the finger department, but, I tell you, the fame of our captain has tempted even some honorable men to join his staff.

SPIEGEL. So much the worse.

RAZ. Without joking. And they are not ashamed to serve under such a leader. He does not commit murder as we do for the sake of plunder; and as to money, as soon as he had plenty of it at command, he did not seem to care a straw for it; and his third of the booty, which belongs to him of right, he gives away to orphans, or supports promising young men with it at college. But should he happen to get a country squire into his clutches who grinds down his peasants like cattle, or some gold-laced villain, who warps the law to his own purposes, and hoodwinks the eyes of justice with his gold, or any chap of that kidney; then, my boy, he is in his element, and rages like a very devil, as if every fibre in his body were a fury.


RAZ. The other day we were told at a tavern that a rich count from Ratisbon was about to pass through, who had gained the day in a suit worth a million of money by the craftiness of his lawyer. The captain was just sitting down to a game of backgammon. "How many of us are there?" said he to me, rising in haste. I saw him bite his nether lip, which be never does except when he is very determined. "Not more than five," I replied. "That’s enough," he said; threw his score on the table, left the wine he had ordered untouched, and off we went. The whole time he did not utter a syllable, but walked aloof and alone, only asking us from time to time whether we heard anything, and now and then desiring us to lay our ears to the ground. At last the count came in sight, his carriage heavily laden, the lawyer, seated by his side, an outrider in advance, and two horsemen riding behind. Then you should have seen the man. With a pistol in each hand he ran before us to the carriage,—and the voice with which he thundered, "Halt!" The coachman, who would not halt, was soon toppled from his box; the count fired out of the carriage and missed—the horseman fled. "Your money, rascal!" cried Moor, with his stentorian voice. The count lay like a bullock under the axe: "And are you the rogue who turns justice into a venal prostitute?" The lawyer shook till his teeth chattered again; and a dagger soon stuck in his body, like a stake in a vineyard. "I have done my part," cried the captain, turning proudly away; "the plunder is your affair." And with this he vanished into the forest.

SPIEGEL. Hum! hum! Brother, what I told you just now remains between ourselves; there is no occasion for his knowing it. You understand me?

RAZ. Yes, yes, I understand!

SPIEGEL. You know the man! He has his own notions! You understand me?

RAZ. Oh, I quite understand.

(Enter SCHWARZ at full speed).

Who’s there? What is the matter? Any travellers in the forest?

SCHWARZ. Quick, quick! Where are the others? Zounds! there you stand gossiping! Don’t you know—do you know nothing of it?—that poor Roller—

PAZ. What of him? What of him?

SCHWARZ. He’s hanged, that’s all, and four others with him—

RAz. Roller hanged? S’death! when? How do you know?

SCHWARZ. He has been in limbo more than three weeks, and we knew nothing of it. He was brought up for examination three several days, and still we heard nothing. They put him to the rack to make him tell where the captain was to be found—but the brave fellow would not slip. Yesterday he got his sentence, and this morning was dispatched express to the devil!

RAZ. Confound it! Does the captain know?

SCHWARZ. He heard of it only yesterday. He foamed like a wild boar. You know that Roller was always an especial favorite; and then the rack! Ropes and scaling-ladders were conveyed to the prison, but in vain. Moor himself got access to him disguised as a Capuchin monk, and proposed to change clothes with him; but Roller absolutely refused; whereupon the captain swore an oath that made our very flesh creep. He vowed that he would light a funeral pile for him, such as had never yet graced the bier of royalty, one that should burn them all to cinders. I fear for the city. He has long owed it a grudge for its intolerable bigotry; and you know, when he says, "I’ll do it," the thing is as good as done.

RAZ. That is true! I know the captain. If he had pledged his word to the devil to go to hell he never would pray again, though half a pater- noster would take him to heaven. Alas! poor Roller!—poor Roller!

SPIEGEL. /Memento mori/! But it does not concern me. (Hums a tune).

Should I happen to pass the gallows stone,
I shall just take a sight with one eye,
And think to myself, you may dangle alone,
Who now, sir, ’s the fool, you or I?

RAZ. (Jumping up). Hark! a shot! (Firing and noise is heard behind the scenes).

SPIEGEL. Another!

RAZ. And another! The captain!

(Voices behind the scenes are heard singing).

The Nurnbergers deem it the wisest plan,
Never to hang till they’ve caught their man.
/Da capo/.

SCHWEITZER and ROLLER (behind the scenes). Holla, ho! Holla, ho!

RAZ. Roller! by all the devils! Roller!

SCHWEITZER and ROLLER (still behind the scenes). Razman! Schwarz! Spiegelberg! Razman!

RAZ. Roller! Schweitzer! Thunder and lightning! Fire and fury! (They run towards him.)

Enter CHARLES VON MOOR (on horseback), SCHWEITZER, ROLLER, GRIMM, SCHUFTERLE, and a troop of ROBBERS covered with dust and mud.

CHARLES (leaping from his horse) Liberty! Liberty!—Thou art on terra firma, Roller! Take my horse, Schweitzer, and wash him with wine. (Throws himself on the ground.) That was hot work!

RAZ. (to ROLLER). Well, by the fires of Pluto! Art thou risen from the wheel?

SCHWARZ. Art thou his ghost? or am I a fool? or art thou really the man?

ROLLER (still breathless). The identical—alive—whole.—Where do you think I come from?

SCHWARZ. It would puzzle a witch to tell! The staff was already broken over you.

ROLLER. Ay, that it was, and more than that! I come straightway from the gallows. Only let me get my breath. Schweitzer will tell you all. Give me a glass of brandy! You there too, Spiegelberg! I thought we should have met again in another place. But give me a glass of brandy! my bones are tumbling to pieces. Oh, my captain! Where is my captain?

SCHWARZ. Have patience, man, have patience. Just tell me—say—come, let’s hear—how did you escape? In the name of wonder how came we to get you back again? My brain is bewildered. From the gallows, you say?

ROLLER (swallows a flask of brandy). Ah, that is capital! that warms the inside! Straight from the gallows, I tell you. You stand there amid stare as if that was impossible. I can assure you, I was not more than three paces from that blessed ladder, on which I was to mount to Abraham’s bosom—so near, so very near, that I was sold, skin and all, to the dissecting-room! The fee-simple of my life was not worth a pinch of snuff. To the captain I am indebted for breath, and liberty, and life.

SCHWEITZER. It was a trick worth the telling. We had heard the day before, through our spies, that Roller was in the devil’s own pickle; and unless the vault of heaven fell in suddenly he would, on the morrow —that is, to-day—go the way of all flesh. Up! says the captain, and follow me—what is not a friend worth? Whether we save him or not, we will at least light him up a funeral pile such as never yet honored royalty; one which shall burn them black and blue. The whole troop was summoned. We sent Roller a trusty messenger, who conveyed the notice to him in a little billet, which he slipped into his porridge.

ROLLER. I had but small hope of success.

SCHWEITZER. We waited till the thoroughfares were clear. The whole town was out after the sight; equestrians, pedestrians, carriages, all pell-mell; the noise and the gibbet-psalm sounded far and wide. Now, says the captain, light up, light up! We all flew like darts; they set fire to the city in three-and-thirty places at once; threw burning firebrands on the powder-magazine, and into the churches and granaries. Morbleu! in less than a quarter of an hour a northeaster, which, like us, must have owed a grudge to the city, came seasonably to our aid, and helped to lift the flames up to the highest gables. Meanwhile we ran up and down the streets like furies, crying, fire! ho! fire! ho! in every direction. There was such howling—screaming-tumult—fire-bells tolling. And presently the powder-magazine blew up into the air with a crash as if the earth were rent in twain, heaven burst to shivers, and hell sunk ten thousand fathoms deeper.

ROLLER. Now my guards looked behind them—there lay the city, like Sodom and Gomorrah—the whole horizon was one mass of fire, brimstone, and smoke; and forty hills echoed and reflected the infernal prank far and wide. A panic seized them all—I take advantage of the moment, and, quick as lightning—my fetters had been taken off, so nearly was my time come—while my guards were looking away petrified, like Lot’s wife, I shot off—tore through the crowd—and away! After running some sixty paces I throw off my clothes, plunge into the river, and swim along under water till I think they have lost sight of me. My captain stood ready, with horses and clothes—and here I am. Moor! Moor! I only wish that you may soon get into just such another scrape that I may requite you in like manner.

RAZ. A brutal wish, for which you deserve to be hanged. It was a glorious prank, though.

ROLLER. It was help in need; you cannot judge of it. You should have marched, like me, with a rope round your neck, travelling to your grave in the living body, and seen their horrid sacramental forms and hangman’s ceremonies—and then, at every reluctant step, as the struggling feet were thrust forward, to see the infernal machine, on which I was to be elevated, glaring more and more hideously in the blaze of a noonday sun—and the hangman’s rascallions watching for their prey —and the horrible psalm-singing—the cursed twang still rings in my ears—and the screeching hungry ravens, a whole flight of them, who were hovering over the half-rotten carcass of my predecessor. To see all this—ay, more, to have a foretaste of the blessedness which was in store for me! Brother, brother! And then, all of a sudden, the signal of deliverance. It was an explosion as if the vault of heaven were rent in twain. Hark ye, fellows! I tell you, if a man were to leap out of a fiery furnace into a freezing lake he could not feel the contrast half so strongly as I did when I gained the opposite shore.

SPIEGEL. (Laughs.) Poor wretch! Well, you have got over it. (Pledges him). Here’s to a happy regeneration!

ROLLER (flings away his glass). No, by all the treasures of Mammon, I should not like to go through it a second time. Death is something more than a harlequin’s leap, and its terrors are even worse than death itself.

SPIEGEL. And the powder-magazine leaping into the air! Don’t you see it now, Razman? That was the reason the air stunk so, for miles round, of brimstone, as if the whole wardrobe of Moloch was being aired under the open firmament. It was a master-stroke, captain! I envy you for it.

SCHWEITZER. If the town makes it a holiday-treat to see our comrade killed by a baited hog, why the devil should we scruple to sacrifice the city for the rescue of our comrade? And, by the way, our fellows had the extra treat of being able to plunder worse than the old emperor. Tell me, what have you sacked?

ONE OF THE TROOP. I crept into St. Stephen’s church during the hubbub, and tore the gold lace from the altarcloth. The patron saint, thought I to myself, can make gold lace out of packthread.

SCHWEITZER. ’Twas well done. What is the use of such rubbish in a church? They offer it to the Creator, who despises such trumpery, while they leave his creatures to die of hunger. And you, Sprazeler—where did you throw your net?

A SECOND. I and Brizal broke into a merchant’s store, and have brought stuffs enough with us to serve fifty men.

A THIRD. I have filched two gold watches and a dozen silver spoons.

SCHWEITZER. Well done, well done! And we have lighted them a bonfire that will take a fortnight to put out again. And, to get rid of the fire, they must ruin the city with water. Do you know, Schufterle, how many lives have been lost?

SCHUF. Eighty-three, they say. The powder-magazine alone blew threescore to atoms.

CHARLES (very seriously). Roller, thou art dearly bought.

SCHUF. Bah! bah! What of that? If they had but been men it would have been another matter—but they were babes in swaddling clothes, and shrivelled old nurses that kept the flies from them, and dried-up stove- squatters who could not crawl to the door—patients whining for the doctor, who, with his stately gravity, was marching to the sport. All that had the use of their legs had gone forth in the sight, and nothing remained at home but the dregs of the city.

CHARLES. Alas for the poor creatures! Sick people, sayest thou, old men and infants?

SCHUF. Ay, the devil go with them! And lying-in-women into the bargain; and women far gone with child, who were afraid of miscarrying under the gibbet; and young mothers, who thought the sight might do them a mischief, and mark the gallows upon the foreheads of their unborn babes—poor poets, without a shoe, because their only pair had been sent to the cobbler to mend—and other such vermin, not worth the trouble of mentioning. As I chanced to pass by a cottage I heard a great squalling inside. I looked in; and, when I came to examine, what do you think it was? Why, an infant—a plump and ruddy urchin—lying on the floor under a table which was just beginning to burn. Poor little wretch! said I, you will be cold there, and with that I threw it into the flames!

CHARLES. Indeed, Schufterle? Then may those flames burn in thy bosom to all eternity! Avaunt, monster! Never let me see thee again in my troop! What! Do you murmur? Do you hesitate? Who dares hesitate when I command? Away with him, I say! And there are others among you ripe for my vengeance. I know thee, Spiegelberg. But I will step in among you ere long, and hold a fearful muster-roll.
[Exeunt, trembling.]

CHARLES (alone, walking up and down in great agitation). Hear them not, thou avenger in heaven! How can I avert it? Art thou to blame, great God, if thy engines, pestilence, and famine, and floods, overwhelm the just with the unjust? Who can stay the flame, which is kindled to destroy the hornet’s nest, from extending to the blessed harvest? Oh! fie on the slaughter of women, and children, and the sick! How this deed weighs me down! It has poisoned my fairest achievements! There he stands, poor fool, abashed and disgraced in the sight of heaven; the boy that presumed to wield Jove’s thunder, and overthrew pigmies when he should have crushed Titans. Go, go! ’tis not for thee, puny son of clay, to wield the avenging sword of sovereign justice! Thou didst fail at thy first essay. Here, then, I renounce the audacious scheme. I go to hide myself in some deep cleft of the earth, where no daylight will be witness of my shame. (He is about to fly.)

Enter a ROBBER hurriedly.

ROBBER. Look out, captain! There is mischief in the wind! Whole detachments of Bohemian cavalry are scouring the forests. That infernal bailiff must have betrayed us.

Enter more ROBBERS.

2D ROBBER. Captain! captain! they have tracked us! Some thousands of them are forming a cordon round the middle forest.

Enter more ROBBERS again.

3D ROBBER. Woe, woe, woe! we are all taken, hanged drawn, and quartered. Thousands of hussars, dragoons, and chasseurs are mustering on the heights, and guard all the passes.

SPIEGELBERG, RAZMAN, and the whole troop.

SCHWEITZER. Ha! Have we routed them out of their feather-beds at last? Come, be jolly, Roller! I have long wished to have a bout with those knights of the bread-basket. Where is the captain? Is the whole troop assembled? I hope we have powder enough?

RAZ. Powder, I believe you; but we are only eighty in all and therefore scarcely one to twenty.

SCHWEITZER. So much the better! And though there were fifty against my great toe-nail—fellows who have waited till we lit the straw under their very seats. Brother, brother, there is nothing to fear. They sell their lives for tenpence; and are we not fighting for our necks? We will pour into them like a deluge, and fire volleys upon their heads like crashes of thunder. But where the devil is the captain.

SPIEGEL. He forsakes us in this extremity. Is there no hope of escape?


SPIEGEL. Oh, that I had tarried in Jerusalem!

SCHWEITZER. I wish you were choked in a cesspool, you paltry coward! With defenceless nuns you are a mighty man; but at sight of a pair of fists a confirmed sneak! Now show your courage or you shall be sewn up alive in an ass’s hide and baited to death with dogs.

RAZ. The captain! the captain!

Enter CHARLES (speaking slowly to himself).

CHARLES. I have allowed them to be hemmed in on every side. Now they must fight with the energy of despair. (Aloud.) Now my boys! now for it! We must fight like wounded boars, or we are utterly lost!

SCHWEITZER. Ha! I’ll rip them open with my tusks, till their entrails protrude by the yard! Lead on, captain! we will follow you into the very jaws of death.

CHARLES. Charge all your arms! You’ve plenty of powder, I hope?

SCHWEITZER (with energy). Powder? ay, enough to blow the earth up to the moon.

RAZ. Every one of us has five brace of pistols, ready loaded, and three carbines to boot.

CHARLES. Good! good! Now some of you must climb up the trees, or conceal yourselves in the thickets, and some fire upon them in ambush—

SCHWEITZER. That part will suit you, Spiegelberg.

CHARLES. The rest will follow me, and fall upon their flanks like furies.

SCHWEITZER. There will I be!

CHARLES. At the same time let every man make his whistle ring through the forest, and gallop about in every direction, so that our numbers may appear the more formidable. And let all the dogs be unchained, and set on upon their ranks, that they may be broken and dispersed and run in the way of our fire. We three, Roller, Schweitzer, and myself, will fight wherever the fray is hottest.

SCHWEITZER. Masterly! excellent! We will so bewilder them with balls that they shall not know whence the salutes are coming. I have more than once shot away a cherry from the mouth. Only let them come on (SCHUFTERLE is pulling SCHWEITZER; the latter takes the captain aside, and entreats him in a low voice.)

CHARLES. Silence!

SCHWEITZER. I entreat you—

CHARLES. Away! Let him have the benefit of his disgrace; it has saved him. He shall not die on the same field with myself, my Schweitzer, and my Roller. Let him change his apparel, and I will say he is a traveller whom I have plundered. Make yourself easy, Schweitzer. Take my word for it he will be hanged yet.


FATHER DOM. (to himself, starts). Is this the dragon’s nest? With your leave, sirs! I am a servant of the church; and yonder are seventeen hundred men who guard every hair of my head.

SCHWEITZER. Bravo! bravo! Well spoken to keep his courage warm.

CHARLES. Silence, comrade! Will you tell us briefly, good father, what is your errand here?

FATHER Dom. I am delegated by the high justices, on whose sentence hangs life or death—ye thieves—ye incendiaries—ye villains—ye venomous generation of vipers, crawling about in the dark, and stinging in secret—ye refuse of humanity—brood of hell—food for ravens and worms—colonists for the gallows and the wheel—

SCHWEITZER. Dog! a truce with your foul tongue! or ------ (He holds the butt-end of his gun before FATHER DOMINIC’S face.)

CHARLES. Fie, fie, Schweitzer! You cut the thread of his discourse. He has got his sermon so nicely by heart. Pray go on, Sir! "for the gallows and the wheel?"

FATHER Dom. And thou, their precious captain!—commander-in-chief of cut-purses!—king of sharpers! Grand Mogul of all the rogues under the sun!—great prototype of that first hellish ringleader who imbued a thousand legions of innocent angels with the flame of rebellion, and drew them down with him into the bottomless pit of damnation! The agonizing cries of bereaved mothers pursue thy footsteps! Thou drinkest blood like water! and thy murderous knife holds men cheaper than air- bubbles!

CHARLES. Very true—exceedingly true! Pray proceed, Sir!

FATHER DOM. What do you mean? Very true—exceedingly true! Is that an answer?

CHARLES. How, Sir? You were not prepared for that, it seems? Go on— by all means go on. What more were you going to say?

FATHER DOM. (heated). Abominable wretch! Avaunt! Does not the blood of a murdered count of the empire cling to thy accursed fingers? Hast thou not, with sacrilegious hands, dared to break into the Lord’s sanctuary, and carry off the consecrated vessels of the /sanctissimum/? Hast thou not flung firebrands into our godly city, and brought down the powder-magazine upon the heads of devout Christians? (Clasps his hands). Horrible, horrible wickedness! that stinketh in the nostrils of Heaven, and provoketh the day of judgment to burst upon you suddenly! ripe for retribution—rushing headlong to the last trump!

CHARLES. Masterly guesses thus far! But now, sir, to the point! What is it that the right worshipful justices wish to convey to me through you?

FATHER Dom. What you are not worthy to receive. Look around you, incendiary! As far as your eye can reach you are environed by our horsemen—there is no chance of escape. As surely as cherries grow on these oaks, and peaches on these firs, so surely shall you turn your backs upon these oaks and these firs in safety.

CHARLES. Do you hear that, Schweitzer? But go on!

FATHER DOM. Hear, then, what mercy and forbearance justice shows towards such miscreants. If you instantly prostrate yourselves in submission and sue for mercy and forgiveness, then severity itself will relent to compassion, and justice be to thee an indulgent mother. She will shut one eye upon your horrible crimes, and be satisfied—only think!—to let you be broken on the wheel.

SCHWEITZER. Did you hear that, captain? Shall I throttle this well- trained shepherd’s cur till the red blood spurts from every pore?

ROLLER. Captain! Fire and fury! Captain! How he bites his lip! Shall I topple this fellow upside down like a ninepin?

SCHWEITZER. Mine, mine be the job! Let me kneel to you, captain; let me implore you! I beseech you to grant me the delight of pounding him to a jelly! (FATHER DOMINIC screams.)

CHARLES. Touch him not! Let no one lay a finger on him!—(To FATHER DOMINIC, drawing his sword.) Hark ye, sir father! Here stand nine-and- seventy men, of whom I am the captain, and not one of them has been taught to trot at a signal, or learned to dance to the music of artillery; while yonder stand seventeen hundred men grown gray under the musket. But now listen! Thus says Moor, the captain of incendiaries. It is true I have slain a count of the empire, burnt and plundered the church of St. Dominic, flung firebrands into your bigoted city, and brought down the powder-magazine upon the heads of devout Christians. But that is not all,—I have done more. (He holds out his right hand.) Do you observe these four costly rings, one on each finger? Go and report punctually to their worships, on whose sentence hangs life or death what you shall hear and see. This ruby I drew from the finger of a minister, whom I stretched at the feet of his prince, during the chase. He had fawned himself up from the lowest dregs, to be the first favorite;—the ruin of his neighbor was his ladder to greatness— orphans’ tears helped him to mount it. This diamond I took from a lord treasurer, who sold offices of honor and trust to the highest bidder, and drove the sorrowing patriot from his door. This opal I wear in honor of a priest of your cloth, whom I dispatched with my own hand, after he had publicly deplored in his pulpit the waning power of the Inquisition. I could tell you more stories about my rings, but that I repent the words I have already wasted upon you—

FATHER DOM. O Pharaoh! Pharaoh!

CHARLES. Do you hear it? Did you mark that sigh? Does he not stand there as if be were imploring fire from heaven to descend and destroy this troop of Korah? He pronounces judgment with a shrug of the shoulders, and eternal damnation with a Christian "Alas!" Is it possible for humanity to be so utterly blind? He who has the hundred eyes of Argus to spy out the faults of his brother—can he be so totally blind to his own? They thunder forth from their clouds about gentleness and forbearance, while they sacrifice human victims to the God of love as if he were the fiery Moloch. They preach the love of one’s neighbor, while they drive the aged and blind with curses from their door. They rave against covetousness; yet for the sake of gold they have depopulated Peru, and yoked the natives, like cattle, to their chariots. They rack their brains in wonder to account for the creation of a Judas Iscariot, yet the best of them would betray the whole Trinity for ten shekels. Out upon you, Pharisees! ye falsifiers of truth! ye apes of Deity! You are not ashamed to kneel before crucifixes and altars; you lacerate your backs with thongs, and mortify your flesh with fasting; and with these pitiful mummeries you think, fools as you are, to veil the eyes of Him whom, with the same breath, you address as the Omniscient, just as the great are the most bitterly mocked by those who flatter them while they pretend to hate flatterers. You boast of your honesty and your exemplary conduct; but the God who sees through your hearts would be wroth with Him that made you, were He not the same that had also created the monsters of the Nile. Away with him out of my sight!

FATHER DOM. That such a miscreant should be so proud!

CHARLES. That’s not all. Now I will speak proudly. Go and tell the right worshipful justices—who set men’s lives upon the cast of a die— I am not one of those thieves who conspire with sleep and midnight, and play the hero and the lordling on a scaling-ladder. What I have done I shall no doubt hereafter be doomed to read in the register of heaven; but with his miserable ministers of earth I will waste no more words. Tell your masters that my trade is retribution—vengeance my occupation! (He turns his back upon him.)

FATHER DOM. Then you despise mercy and forbearance?---Be it so, I have done with you. (Turning to the troop.) Now then, sirs, you shall hear what the high powers direct me to make known to you!—If you will instantly deliver up to me this condemned malefactor, bound hand and foot, you shall receive a full pardon—your enormities shall be entirely blotted out, even from memory. The holy church will receive you, like lost sheep, with renewed love, into her maternal bosom, and the road to honorable employment shall be open to you all. (With a triumphant smile.) Now sir! how does your majesty relish this? Come on! bind him! and you are free!

CHARLES. Do you hear that? Do you hear it? What startles you? Why do you hesitate? They offer you freedom—you that are already their prisoners. They grant you your lives, and that is no idle pretence, for it is clear you are already condemned felons. They promise you honor and emolument; and, on the other hand, what can you hope for, even should you be victorious to-day, but disgrace, and curses, and persecution? They ensure you the pardon of Heaven; you that are actually damned. There is not a single hair on any of you that is not already bespoke in hell. Do you still hesitate? are you staggered? Is it so difficult, then, to choose between heaven and hell?—Do put in a word, father!

FATHER DOM. (aside.) Is the fellow crazy? (Aloud.) Perhaps you are afraid that this is a trap to catch you alive?—Read it yourselves! Here—is the general pardon fully signed. (He hands a paper to SCHWEITZER.) Can you still doubt?

CHARLES. Only see! only see! What more can you require? Signed with their own hands! It is mercy beyond all bounds! Or are you afraid of their breaking their word, because you have heard it said that no faith need be kept with traitors? Dismiss that fear! Policy alone would constrain them to keep their word, even though it should merely have been pledged to old Nick. Who hereafter would believe them? How could they trade with it a second time? I would take my oath upon it that they mean it sincerely. They know that I am the man who has goaded you on and incited you; they believe you innocent. They look upon your crimes as so many juvenile errors—exuberances of rashness. It is I alone they want. I must pay the penalty. Is it not so, father?

FATHER DOM. What devil incarnate is it that speaks out of him? Of course it is so—of course. The fellow turns my brain.

CHARLES. What! no answer yet? Do you think it possible to cut your way through yon phalanx? Only look round you! just look round! You surely do not reckon upon that; that were indeed a childish conceit—Or do you flatter yourselves that you will fall like heroes, because you saw that I rejoiced in the prospect of the fight? Oh, do not console yourself with the thought! You are not MOOR. You are miserable thieves! wretched tools of my great designs! despicable as the rope in the hand of the hangman! No! no! Thieves do not fall like heroes. Life must be the hope of thieves, for something fearful has to follow. Thieves may well be allowed to quake at the fear of death. Hark! Do you hear their horns echoing through the forest? See there! how their glittering sabres threaten! What! are you still irresolute? are you mad? are you insane? It is unpardonable. Do you imagine I shall thank you for my life? I disdain your sacrifice!

FATHER DOM. (in utter amazement). I shall go mad! I must be gone! Was the like ever heard of?

CHARLES. Or are you afraid that I shall stab myself, and so by suicide put an end to the bargain, which only holds good if I am given up alive? No, comrades! that is a vain fear. Here, I fling away my dagger, and my pistols, and this phial of poison, which might have been a treasure to me. I am so wretched that I have lost the power even over my own life. What! still in suspense? Or do you think, perhaps, that I shall stand on my defence when you try to seize me? See here! I bind my right hand to this oak-branch; now I am quite defenceless, a child may overpower me. Who is the first to desert his captain in the hour of need?

ROLLER (with wild energy). And what though hell encircle us with ninefold coils! (Brandishing his sword.) Who is the coward that will betray his captain?

SCHWEITZER (tears the pardon and flings the pieces into FATHER DOMINIC’S face). Pardon be in our bullets! Away with thee, rascal! Tell your senate that you could not find a single traitor in all Moor’s camp. Huzza! Huzza! Save the captain!

ALL (shouting). Huzza! Save the captain! Save him! Save our noble captain!

CHARLES (releasing his hand from the tree, joyfully). Now we are free, comrades! I feel a host in this single arm! Death or liberty! At the least they shall not take a man of us alive!

[They sound the signal for attack; noise and tumult.
Exeunt with drawn swords.]


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Chicago: Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, "Scene III.— The Bohemian Woods.," Robbers, Early Dramas and Romances, the Works of Friedrich Schiller, Vol. 4, ed. Bohn, Henry G. in The Robbers, Early Dramas and Romances, the Works of Friedrich Schiller, Vol. 4 (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1881), Original Sources, accessed March 25, 2023,

MLA: von Schiller, Johann Christoph Friedrich. "Scene III.— The Bohemian Woods." Robbers, Early Dramas and Romances, the Works of Friedrich Schiller, Vol. 4, edited by Bohn, Henry G., in The Robbers, Early Dramas and Romances, the Works of Friedrich Schiller, Vol. 4, London, G. Bell & Sons, 1881, Original Sources. 25 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: von Schiller, JC, 'Scene III.— The Bohemian Woods.' in Robbers, Early Dramas and Romances, the Works of Friedrich Schiller, Vol. 4, ed. . cited in 1881, The Robbers, Early Dramas and Romances, the Works of Friedrich Schiller, Vol. 4, G. Bell & Sons, London. Original Sources, retrieved 25 March 2023, from