Supplementary Appendix 314.1

Schiller’s Maria Stuart,
act 5, scene 7: Maria Stuart and Melvil [*]

In her letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 7 May 1801 (letter 314), Caroline remarks concerning Schiller’s play Maria Stuart (Tübingen 1801) that “the scene in which Melvil uncovers his priestly head is one of the most exceptional in the play and is an excellent concluding appearance of Maria.” The scene occurs in act 5, scene 7. Mary Stuart and her former house steward, Andrew Melvil, are speaking alone before her execution:


Mary. [after the others are all gone.]
I have arrang’d all temporal concerns,
And hope to leave the world in debt to none;
Melvil, one thought alone there is, which binds
My troubled soul, nor suffers it to fly
Delighted, and at liberty, to heav’n.

Mel. Disclose it to me; ease your bosom, trust
Your doubts, your sorrows to your faithful friend.

Mary. I see eternity’s abyss before me; —
Soon must I stand before the highest judge,
And have not yet appeas’d the holy one. —
A priest of my religion is denied me,
And I disdain to take the sacrament,
The holy, heav’nly nourishment, from priests
Of a false faith; I die in the belief
Of my own church, for that alone can save.

Mel. Compose your heart; the fervent pious wish
Is priz’d in heav’n as high as the performance.
The might of tyrants can but bind the hands,
The heart’s devotion rises free to God,
The word is dead — ’tis faith which brings to life.

Mary. The heart is not sufficient of itself;
Our faith must have some earthly pledge to ground
Its claims to the high bliss of heav’n. For this
Our God became incarnate, and inclos’d
Mysteriously his unseen heav’nly grace
Within the outward figure of a body.
The church it is, the holy one, the high one,
Which rears for us the ladder up to heav’n :—
‘Tis call’d the general, the Catholic church,
For ’tis but gen’ral faith can strengthen faith;
Where thousands worship and adore, the heat
Breaks out in flame, and borne on eagle wings,
The soul mounts upwards to the heav’n of heav’ns.
Ah! happy they, who for the glad communion
Of pious pray’r, meet in the house of God!
The altar is adorn’d, the tapers blaze,
The bell invites, the incense smokes around,
The bishop stands enrob’d, he takes the cup,
And blessing it, declares the solemn marvel,
The transformation of the elements;
And the believing people fall delighted
To worship and adore the present Godhead.
Alas! — I only am debarr’d from this;
The heav’nly benediction pierces not –
My prison walls: its comfort is denied me.

Mel. Yes! it can pierce them — put thy trust in him
Who is almighty — in the hand of faith,
The wither’d staff can send forth verdant branches;
And he who from the rock call’d living water,
He can prepare an altar in this prison,
Can change

[seizing the cup, which stands upon the table.]

The earthly contents of this cup
Into a substance of celestial grace.

Mary. Melvil! — O yes, I understand you, Melvil!
Here is no priest, no church, no sacrament;
But the Redeemer says, “When two or three
Are in my name assembled, I am with them.”
What consecrates the priest? — say, what ordains him
To be the Lord’s interpreter? — a heart
Devoid of guile, and a reproachless conduct.
Well then, though unordain’d, be you my priest;
To you will I confide my last confession,
And take my absolution from your lips,

Mel. If then thy heart be with such zeal enflam’d,
I tell thee, that for thy special comfort,
The Lord may work a miracle. Thou say’st
Here is no priest, no church, no sacrament —
Thou err’st — here is a priest — here is a God;
A god descends to thee in real presence.

[at these words he uncovers his head,
and shews a host in a golden vessel.

I am a priest — to hear thy last confession,
And to announce to thee the peace of God
Upon thy way to death. I have receiv’d
Upon my head the seven consecrations.
I bring thee, from his Holiness, this host,
Which, for thy use, himself has deign’d to bless.

Mary. Is then a heav’nly happiness prepar’d
To cheer me on the very verge of death!
As an immortal one on golden clouds
Descends, as once the angel from on high,
Deliver’d the Apostle from his fetters: —
He scorns all bars, he scorns the soldier’s sword,
He steps undaunted through the bolted portals,
And fills the dungeon with his native glory;
Thus here the messenger of Heav’n appears,
When ev’ry earthly champion had deceiv’d me.
And you, my servant once, are now the servant
Of the most high, and his immortal word! —
As before me your knees were wont to bend,
Now humbled before you, I kiss the dust.

[She sinks before him on her knees.]

Mel. [making over her the sign of the cross.] Hear,
Mary Queen of Scotland: — In the name
Of God the Father, Son, and holy Ghost,
Hast thou examin’d carefully thy heart,
Swear’st thou, art thou prepar’d in thy confession
To speak the truth before the God of truth?

Mary. Before my God and thee, my heart lies

Mel. What calls thee to the presence of the Highest!

Mary. I humbly do acknowledge to have err’d
Most grievously, I tremble to approach,
Sullied with sin, the God of purity.

Mel. Declare the sin which weighs so heavily
Upon thy conscience, since thy last confession,

Mary. My heart was fill’d with thoughts of envious hate,
And vengeance took possession of my bosom.
I hope forgiveness of my sins from God,
Yet could I not forgive my enemy.

Mel. Repent’st thou of the sin? — art thou, in sooth,
Resolv’d to leave this world at peace with all?

Mary. As surely as I wish the joys of heav’n,

Mel. What other sin hath arm’d thy heart against

Mary. Ah! not alone through hate; through lawless love
Have I still more abus’d the sov’reign good —
My heart was vainly turn’d towards the man,
Who left me in misfortune, who deceiv’d me.

Mel. Repent’st thou of the sin? and hast thou turn’d
Thy heart, from this idolatry, to God?

Mary. It was the hardest trial I have pass’d;
This last of earthly bands is torn asunder.

Mel. What other sin disturbs thy guilty conscience?

Mary. A bloody crime, indeed of antient date,
And long ago confess’d; yet with new terrors,
It now attacks me, black and grisly steps
Across my path, and shuts the gates of heav’n: —
By my connivance fell the king, my husband —
I gave my hand and heart to a seducer —
By rigid penance I have made atonement;
Yet in my soul the worm is still awake.

Mel. Has then thy heart no other accusation,
Which hath not been confess’d and wash’d away?

Mary. All you have heard, with which my heart is charg’d.

Mel. Think on the presence of omniscience: —
Think on the punishments, with which the church
Threatens imperfect, and reserv’d confession!
This is the sin to everlasting death,
For this is sinning ‘gainst his holy spirit.

Mary. So may eternal grace with victory
Crown my last contest, as I wittingly
Have nothing hid —

Mel. How? wilt thou then conceal
The crime from God, for which thou art condemn’d?
Thou tell’st me nothing of the share thou had’st,
In Babington’s, and Parry’s bloody treason:
Thou diest for this a temp’ral death, for this
Wilt thou too die the everlasting death?

Mary. I am prepar’d to meet eternity: —
Within the narrow limits of an hour,
I shall appear before my judge’s throne;- —
But, I repeat it, my confession’s ended.

Mel. Consider well — the heart is a deceiver. —
Thou hast perhaps, with sly equivocation,
The word avoided, which would make thee guilty,
Although thy will was party to the crime.
Remember, that no juggler’s tricks can blind
The eye of fire which darts through ev’ry breast.

Mary. ‘Tis true, that I have call’d upon all princes
To free me from unworthy chains; yet ’tis
As true, that neither by intent or deed,
I have attempted my oppressor’s life.

Mel. Your secretaries then have witness’d falsely.

Mary. It is, as I have said: — what they have witness’d
The Lord will judge. —

Mel. Thou mount’st then, satisfied
Of thy own innocence, the bloody scaffold?

Mary. God suffers me in mercy to atone
By undeserved death, my youth’s transgressions.
Mel. [making over her the sign of the cross.] Go then,
and expiate them all by death: —
Sink a devoted victim on the altar, —
Thus shall thy blood atone the blood thou spill’dst.
From female frailty were deriv’d thy faults,
Free from the weakness of mortality,
The spotless spirit seeks the blest abodes.
Now then, by the authority which God
Hath unto me committed, I absolve thee
From all thy sins — be as thy faith thy welfare!

[He gives her the host.]

Receive the body which for thee was offer’d

[He takes the cup which stands upon the table,
consecrates it with silent prayer, then presents it to her;
she hesitates to take it, and makes signs to him to withdraw it.

Receive the blood, which for thy sins was shed —
Receive it — ’tis allow’d thee by the Pope,
To exercise in death the highest office
Of kings, the holy office of the priesthood.

[She takes the cup.]

And as thou now in this his earthly body
Hast held with God mysterious communion,
So may’st thou henceforth, in his realm of joy,
Where sin no more exists, nor tears of woe,
A fair transfigur’d spirit, join thyself
For ever with the Godhead, and for ever.

[He sets down the cup; hearing a noise,
he covers his head, and goes to the door;
Mary remains in silent devotion, on her knees.

Mel. [returning.]
A painful conflict is in store for thee;
Feel’st thou within thee strength enough to smother
Each impulse of malignity and hate?

Mary. I fear not a relapse; I have devoted
My hatred, and my love to God. —


[*] Mary Stuart. A Tragedy, trans. Joseph Charles Mellish (London 1801), 197–207. Illustration: anonymous nineteenth-century engraving. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott