A woodland meadow. In the background, high cliffs on which stands a castle. Summer evening. Country folk; Simon, the Jew; Thomas, the Master miner; the Monk. Countryfolk walking across the meadow, and stopping to talk.
See yon vile Jew; he surely will not dare
To take the same road that we take ourselves;
For things might very well come to his ears
On hearing which they'd burn for many a day.
We must make clear to his effrontery,
Aye, very clear indeed, that we no more
Will tolerate his race in our good land
Across whose bounds he hath contrived to slink.
He is protected by the noble knights.
Who live in yonder castle; none of us
May enter; but the Jew is welcome there.
For he doth do whate'er the knights desire.
'Tis very hard to know who serves the Lord
And who the devil. Thankful should we be
To our good lords who give us food and work.
What should we be if it were not for them?
The Jew shall have my praise his remedies
Have cured the evil sickness that I had. —
Besides, he was so good and kind to me;
And many more can tell the selfsame tale.
Yet did a monk let slip the truth to me, —
The Jew employs the devil's remedies
Beware his drugs; transformed within the blood
They grant an entrance to all kinds of sin.
The men who wait upon the knights oppose
Our ancient customs, saying that the Jew
Hath stores of knowledge both to heal and bless
Which will in days to come be rightly prized.
New times and better are in store; I see
Their coming in my spirit, when my soul
Pictures to me what eyes cannot behold.
The knights intend to bring all this about.
We owe the Church obedience, for she guards
Our souls from devil-visions, and from death,
And from hell-fire. The monks bid us beware
The knights, and their vile sorcerer, the Jew.
Only a short time longer need we bear
In patience the oppression of the knights.
Soon will their citadel in ruins lie.
Thus hath it been foretold me in a dream.
I fear such tales betoken mortal sin —
That noble knights do plot to bring us harm —
Nought do I see but good come from their hands;
I needs must count them Christians, as ourselves.
What men shall think of them in days to come
'Twere best to leave to be adjudged by those
Who shall live after us. Mere tools are we,
Used by the knights in their satanic arts
To war against true Christianity.
If they be driven out we shall be freed
From their pernicious sway, and live our lives
As we shall choose, in this our native land.
Now let us go to vespers, there to find
That which our souls require, and that which is
In harmony with our ancestral ways.
These novel teachings suit us not at all.
(Exeunt the countryfolk.)
(Simon, the Jew, enters from the wood.)
Where'er I go, I find awaiting me
The ancient hatred and the bitter taunts.
And yet I suffer not a whit the less
Each time I find myself exposed to them.
There seems to be no reasonable cause
Why people should behave towards me thus.
And yet one thought pursues me evermore
Which Makes the truth apparent to my soul, —
That nothing can befall us without cause.
So too a reason there must be for this,
That suffering is the lot of all my tribe.
So with the lords of yonder citadel,
I find their lot is near akin to mine.
They have but chosen of their own free will
That which by nature is imposed on me.
They set themselves apart from all mankind,
And strive in isolation to acquire
The powers through which they may attain their goal.
Thus can I feel the debt I owe to fate
And find her blessing in my loneliness.
Forced to rely on mine own soul alone
I took the realms of science for my field,
And recognized from what I learned therein
That ripe for new attainments was our time.
The laws of nature, hitherto unknown,
Must now reveal themselves unto mankind
And make him master of the world of sense
Whence he will be allowed to liberate
Powers he can put to use for his own ends.
So have I tried, as far as in me lay,
To make fresh progress in the healing art.
This toil endeared me to the brotherhood;
Its members made me free of their estates
To seek to find the forces that reside
In plants and 'neath the surface of the ground,
That they may yield for us new benefits.
My actions therefore march with their designs,
And I confess that I have plucked with joy
Much goodly fruit whilst going on my way.
(Exit into the wood.)
(Thomas, the Master miner, enters from the wood. Enter the Monk.)
Here will I sit and rest a little while.
My soul hath need of rest to find itself
After the shocks which I have had to bear.
(The Monk comes up to him.)
I greet thee heartily, most valiant son.
Thou hast come here in search of solitude.
Thy work well done, thou wouldst have peace and quiet
In which to turn thy thoughts to spirit-worlds.
To see my well-loved pupil thus employed
Rejoiceth me. But why so sad-thine eyes?
'Twould seem anxiety weighs down thy soul.
Pain oft is neighbour unto highest bliss;
That this is so mine own life proves to-day.
Hast thou then met with bliss and pain at once?
I told thee, reverend father, that I loved
The overseer's daughter, and confessed
That she was also greatly drawn to me.
She is to marry me and share my life.
She will be true to thee, come weal, come woe;
She is a faithful daughter of the Church.
Such an one only would I take to wife;
Since, honoured master, I have learned from thee
The meaning of obedience to God's will.
And art thou also certain of thy soul,
That it will walk still further in the way
Of righteousness, which I have pointed out?
So sure as in this body beats a heart
So sure will I, thy son, be true for aye
To those exalted teachings which of old
From thine own lips I was allowed to learn.
And now that thou hast told me of thy bliss
Let me,hear also from thee of thy woe.
Oft have I told thee what my life hath been.
Scarce had I left my childhood's days behind
Than I began to travel and to roam.
I never worked for long in any place.
Ever I cherished in my heart the wish
To meet my father, whom I loved, although
I had not heard a good report of him.
He left my dear good mother all alone
Because he wished to start his life anew
Unhampered by a wife and children twain.
The impulse for adventure dwelt in him.
I was a child still, when he went from us;
My sister was a tiny new-born babe;
My mother died of grief in no long time.
My sister was adopted by good folk
Who later moved away from my old home,
And of her fate I never more heard tell.
Some relatives assisted me to learn
A miner's work, in which I grew expert,
So that I found employment where I wished.
The hope that some day I should once more find
My father, never vanished from my heart.
And now at last my hope is realized
But also is for ever torn from me.
Matters of business led me yesterday
To seek for speech with my superior.
Thou knowest how lightly I esteem the knight
Who issueth directions for my work,
Since I have learned he is thine enemy.
From that time forward I made up my mind
Not to remain in service under him.
For reasons which remain unknown to me
The knight alluded in our interview
To matters which allowed him to declare
Himself to be — the father whom I sought.
What followed ... I would gladly leave untold.
It would not have been hard to overlook
My mother's sufferings at his hands, and mine,
When he and I once more stood face to face,
And when he spoke, grief-burdened, of old days.
But in his form, stood facing me, thy foe.
And one thing then was manifest to me: —
How deep a gulf must ever separate
Myself from him, whom I so fain would love,
And whom I sought so long and ardently.
Now have I lost him for the second time, —
Such is the lot that hath befallen me.
I would not e'er estrange thee from those ties
Imposed on thee by blood-relationship.
But what I can bestow upon thy soul
Shall ever be to thee a gift of love.