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A New and Complete Translation

Essay 67

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [†] 22 December 1767[67.1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 A scene now follows that one hardly would have expected.[67.2] Everything is peaceful and calm, when all of a sudden the very lady whose life Essex saved in the first act, wearing the same clothing and half mask on her face, comes to the Earl in prison carrying a light in her hand. It is the Queen. “The Earl,” she says to herself as she enters, “preserved my life; I am indebted to him for it. The Earl wanted to take my life; that clamors for revenge. Justice has been satisfied by way of his conviction; now gratitude and love must also be satisfied!”[*][67.3] As she comes close, she notices that the earl is writing. “Doubtless,” she says, “to Blanca! What harm is that? I come out of love, out of the most passionate, unselfish love; now is no time for jealousy! – Earl!” – The Earl hears himself called, looks behind him, and springs to his feet in astonishment. “What do I see!” – “No dream,” declares the Queen, “but the truth. Hurry and convince yourself of it, and do not waste our precious moments in doubt. – You do remember me? I am the one whose life you rescued. I hear that you are to die tomorrow, and I come to clear my debt to you and give you life for life. I have managed to get the key to the prison. Do not ask me how. Here it is: take it, it will open the gate into the park for you. Escape, Earl, and preserve a life that is so dear to me.” –

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 ESSEX: Dear to you, Madame?

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 QUEEN: Would I have otherwise risked as much as I do now?

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 ESSEX: How clever is the fate that hounds me! It finds a way to make me unfortunate through my good fortune itself. I seem fortunate, because the person who wants my death is the one who comes to free me; but I am that much more unfortunate, because the person who offers me freedom wants my death – [†][67.4]

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 The Queen understands from this that Essex knows who she is. He refuses outright the favor she has offered him, but he asks her to exchange it for another.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 QUEEN: With what?

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 ESSEX: With one that I know is in your power to grant, – with the favor of letting me see the face of my Queen. It is the only thing I desire as repayment for what I did for you. By the life I saved for you, I beseech you, Madame, to grant me this favor.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 QUEEN to herself: What should I do? Perhaps, if he sees me, he will clear himself! I only wish.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 ESSEX: Do not delay my happiness, Madame.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 QUEEN: If this is what you absolutely want, Earl, so be it; but first take this key – your life depends on it. What I may do for you now, I may perhaps not be able to do later. Take it; I wish to know you safe.[‡][67.5]

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 ESSEX taking the key: I recognize this precaution with gratitude. – And now, Madame, – I burn to read my fate on the face of the Queen, or on yours.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 QUEEN: Earl, although both are the same, nevertheless what you see here belongs to me alone; for what you now see (as she removes the mask) is the Queen. The one to whom you first spoke is no more.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 ESSEX: Now I die content! To be sure, it is the privilege of the royal visage that it must pardon every guilty man who beholds it, and this benefit of the law must also assist me. Yet I will seek refuge not through this, but rather through myself. I will venture to remind my Queen of the services I rendered to her and the nation – [§][67.6]

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 QUEEN: I have already reminded myself of these. But your crime, Earl, is greater than your services.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 ESSEX: And I can promise myself nothing from the Queen’s benevolence?

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 QUEEN: Nothing.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 ESSEX: If the Queen is so strict, then I call upon the lady whose life I saved. She will surely deal with me more kindly?

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 QUEEN: She has already done more than she ought; she opened the path for you to escape justice.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 ESSEX: And I have not deserved more from you, from you, who owe me your life?

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 QUEEN: You have already heard, I am not that lady. But suppose I were: am I not giving back to you just as much as I received from you?

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 ESSEX: How so? Surely not by giving me the key?

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 QUEEN: Absolutely by doing so.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 ESSEX: The path that this key can open for me is less a path to life than a path to infamy. The means to my freedom must not appear to presume fear on my part. The Queen thinks to pay me off with this key for the kingdom that I fought for and won, for the blood I spilled for her, for the life I preserved for her; for all that, this miserable key?[**][67.7] I will owe my life to a more respectable means, or die. As he goes to the window.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 QUEEN: Where are you going?

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 ESSEX: Worthless instrument for my life and my dishonor! If all of my hopes rest on you, then let the tide take all my hopes to its deepest abyss! He opens the window and throws the key through the bars into the canal. My life would be bought at too dear a price through flight. [††] [67.8]

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 QUEEN: What have you done, Earl? – You have made a grave mistake.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 ESSEX: When I die, I will at least be able to say out loud that I leave behind an ungrateful Queen. – If she does not want this accusation, then she should think of another means to rescue me. I have taken this ignoble one from her. I appeal once again to my service; it is up to her either to reward it, or to immortalize that service as a monument to her ingratitude.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 QUEEN: I must take the latter risk. – For in truth, I could not do more for you without damage to my honor.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 ESSEX: Then I must die?

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 QUEEN: With certainty. The woman wanted to save you; the Queen must let the law take its course. In the morning you must die, and it is already morning. You have my full compassion; my heart breaks with sorrow, but it is simply the fate of kings that they are far less able to act according to their feelings than other people. – Earl, I leave you to your fate!


32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 [*]     El Conde me dió la vida,
y así obligada me veo:
el Conde me daba muerte,
y así ofendida me quejo;
pues ya que con la sentencia
esta parte he satisfecho,
pues cumplí con la justicia,
con el amor cumplir quiero.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 [†]     Ingeniosa mi fortuna,
halló en la dicha mas nuevo
modo de hacerme infeliz,
pues quando dichoso veo,
que me libra quien me mata,
tambien desdichado advierto
que me mata quien me libra.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 [‡]     Pues si esto ha de ser, primero
tomad, Conde, aquesta llave,
que si ha de ser instrumento
de vuestra vida, quizá
con otra, quitada el velo,
seré, que no pueda entónces
hacer lo que ahora puedo;
y como á daros la vida
me empeñé, por lo que os debo,
por si no puedo despues,
de esta suerte me prevengo.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 [§]     Ya moriré consolado,
aunque, si por privilegio,
en viendo la cara al Rey,
queda perdonado el reo:
yo de este indulto, señora,
vida por ley me prometo;
esto es en comun, que es
lo que á todos da el Derecho;
pero si en particular
merecer el perdon puedo,
oid, veréis que me ayuda
mayor indulto en mis hechos;
mis hazañas.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 [**]    Luego esta, que así camino
abrirá á mi vida abriendo,
tambien la abrirá á mi infamia?
luego esta, que instrumento
de mi libertad es, tambien
lo habrá de ser de mi miedo?
Esta, que solo me sirve
de huir, es el desempeño
de Reynos, que os he ganado,
de servicios que os he hecho?
Y en fin, de esa vida, de esa,
que teneis hoy por mi esfuerzo,
en esta se cifra tanto? […]

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 [††]   Vil instrumento
de mi vida y de mi infamia,
por esta reja cayendo
del Parque, que bate el rio,
entre sus cristales, quiero,
si sois mi esperanza, hundiros:
caed al humilde centro,
donde el Támesis sepulte
mi esperanza y mi remedio […]

  • 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0
  • [†] Text in blue indicates passages ommitted by Zimmern in her 1890 translation.
  • [67.1] Actually published in early 1768.
  • [67.2] In [54], Lessing begins his analysis of The Unhappy Favourite: or, The Earl of Essex (1682) by John Banks; here Lessing continues, from [60], his extended synopsis and discussion of a “Spanish Essex” (Antonio Coello’s Dar la vida por su Dama, 1633). See [60.2].
  • [67.3] For the quotation in Lessing’s footnote, see Coello 27.
  • [67.4] Ibid. 28.
  • [67.5] Ibid. 29.
  • [67.6] Ibid.
  • [67.7] Ibid.
  • [67.8] Ibid.
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/hamburg/essay-67/