The Boy Archer by Sheridan Knowles

The fire and energy of Tell contrasts nobly with the youthful ambition of his son's young and noble heart. It is a charming exercise, and exceedingly effective when well delivered:

Scene.Exterior of Tell's cottage.   Enter Albert (Tell's son) with bow and arrows, and Verner.

Verner.   Ah! Albert! What have you there?

Albert.   My bow and arrows, Verner.

Ver.   When will you use them like your father, boy?

 

Alb.   Some time, I hope.

Ver.                         You brag! There's not an archer

In all Helvetia can compare with him.

Alb.   But I'm his son; and when I am a man

I may be like him. Verner, do I brag,

To think I some time may be like my father?

If so, then is it he that teaches me;

For, ever as I wonder at his skill,

He calls me boy, and says I must do more

Ere I become a man.

Ver.                         May you be such

A man as he—if heaven wills, better—I'll

Not quarrel with its work; yet 'twill content me

If you are only such a man.

Alb.                 I'll show you

How I can shoot   (goes out to fix the mark.)

Ver. Nestling as he is, he is the making of a bird

Will own no cowering wing.

Re-enter Albert.

Alb.   Now, Verner, look!   (shoots)   There's within

An inch!

Ver.   Oh, fy! it wants a hand.                 [Exit Verner.

Alb.                         A hand's

An inch for me. I'll hit it yet. Now for it.

While Albert continues to shoot, Tell enters and watches him some time, in silence.

Tell.   That's scarce a miss that comes so near the mark?

Well aimed, young archer! With what ease he bends

The bow. To see those sinews, who'd believe

Such strength did lodge in them? That little arm,

His mother's palm can span, may help, anon,

To pull a sinewy tyrant from his seat,

And from their chains a prostrate people lift

To liberty. I'd be content to die,

Living to see that day! What, Albert!

Alb.                                 Ah!

My father!

 

Tell.   You raise the bow

Too fast.   (Albert continues shooting.)

Bring it slowly to the eye.—You've missed.

How often have you hit the mark to-day?

Alb.   Not once, yet.

Tell.                 You're not steady. I perceive

You wavered now. Stand firm. Let every limb

Be braced as marble, and as motionless.

Stand like the sculptor's statue on the gate

Of Altorf, that looks life, yet neither breathes

Nor stirs. (Albert shoots) That's better!

See well the mark. Rivet your eye to it

There let it stick, fast as the arrow would,

Could you but send it there.   (Albert shoots)

You've missed again! How would you fare,

Suppose a wolf should cross your path, and you

Alone, with but your bow, and only time

To fix a single arrow? 'Twould not do

To miss the wolf! You said the other day,

Were you a man you'd not let Gesler live—

'Twas easy to say that. Suppose you, now,

Your life or his depended on that shot!—

Take care! That's Gesler!—Now for liberty!

Right to the tyrant's heart!   (hits the mark)   Well done, my boy!

Come here. How early were you up?

Alb.   Before the sun.

Tell.   Ay, strive with him. He never lies abed

When it is time to rise. Be like the sun.

Alb.   What you would have me like, I'll be like,

As far as will to labor joined can make me.

Tell.   Well said, my boy! Knelt you when you got up To-day?

Alb.   I did; and do so every day.

Tell.   I know you do! And think you, when you kneel,

To whom you kneel?

Alb.                 To Him who made me, father.

Tell. And in whose name?

Alb.                 The name of Him who died

 

For me and all men, that all men and I

Should live

Tell.   That's right. Remember that my son:

Forget all things but that—remember that!

'Tis more than friends or fortune; clothing, food;

All things on earth; yea, life itself!—It is

To live, when these are gone, when they are naught—

With God! My son remember that!

Alb.                             I will.

Tell. I'm glad you value what you're taught.

That is the lesson of content, my son;

He who finds which has all—who misses, nothing.

Alb. Content is a good thing.

Tell.                             A thing, the good

Alone can profit by. But go, Albert,

Reach thy cap and wallet, and thy mountain staff.

Don't keep me waiting.                     [Exit Albert.

Tell paces the stage in thought.   Re-enter Albert.

Alb.   I am ready, father.

Tell.   (taking Albert by the hand).   Now mark me, Albert

Dost thou fear the snow,

The ice-field, or the hail flaw? Carest thou for

The mountain mist that settles on the peak,

When thou art upon it? Dost thou tremble at

The torrent roaring from the deep ravine,

Along whose shaking ledge thy track doth lie?

Or faintest thou at the thunder-clap, when on

The hill thou art o'ertaken by the cloud,

And it doth burst around thee? Thou must travel

All night.

Alb.   I'm ready; say all night again.

Tell.   The mountains are to cross, for thou must reach

Mount Faigel by the dawn.

Alb.                 Not sooner shall

The dawn be there than I.

Tell.                 Heaven speeding thee.

Alb.   Heaven speeding me.

Tell.                             Show me thy staff. Art sure

Of the point? I think 'tis loose. No—stay! 'Twill do.

 

Caution is speed when danger's to be passed.

Examine well the crevice. Do not trust the snow!

'Tis well there is a moon to-night.

You're sure of the track?

Alb.             Quite sure.

Tell.                                         The buskin of

That leg's untied; stoop down and fasten it.

You know the point where you must round the cliff?

Alb.   I do.

Tell.             Thy belt is slack—draw it tight.

Erni is in Mount Faigel: take this dagger

And give it him! you know its caverns well.

In one of them you will find him. Farewell.