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- Nathan the Wise - 4/43 -


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


Nathan the Wise - 4/43

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