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SCENE ONE—A road through a forest. On either side trees stand thick and dark. Immediately in front the light sifts down upon a rude bridge spanning a narrow stream. At the roadside, to the right, a large crucifix, apparently new, stands upon a post some ten feet in height. It is elaborately carved and is set in a deep frame to protect it from the weather. At the foot of the post, cut into the mossy bank which slopes toward the road, is a kneeling place with a white sheep's pelt lying upon it. A sound of voices is heard. Fritz and Rudolph enter from the left and pause where a path leads off through the wood. The latter has an ax upon his shoulder. Far in the forest a faint sound of chopping is heard. TIME—Mid-day in summer, in the early part of the thirteenth century. Rudolph—He's worth six. Fritz— I'll give you five, you pick them. Rudolph—I'll pick six. Fritz— I'll keep my ewes, then. Rudolph— And walk To the mountains? Fritz— We have not gone yet. Rudolph— But— Fritz—And if I had my way we would not go. Rudolph—Nor would we go had I mine, Fritz. But we Have not our way. The dragon has his way. As far as Niflheim the North is red. Fritz—Are we their sheep that we must follow them Or be hung up on trees? Rudolph— He follows us. Fritz—Who do these woods belong to, anyhow? Rudolph—Where a man puts his foot the dragon puts His belly, and the man's track disappears. Where is the tree that has not felt the storm? Have they not disappeared? Like leaves the tribes Are scattered. Fritz— It has blown down trunk and all. Rudolph—Forests and rivers and ten thousand graves Lie under that red paw. Fritz— It stains the world. Rudolph—The Weser rolls down bodies to the sea; Their yellow hair is matted in the Rhine; The deer that drinks the Aller in the night Starts back from bloody faces in the stream. They are our fathers, Fritz, who cannot sleep While this coiled Hunger tracks us toward the north. Fritz—And we must feed it, eh? We must grub roots, Fatten ourselves on acorns in the wood, As swine do, and then waddle to the swamp And stuff its belly so that it will sleep And trouble us no more, we must do that? Rudolph—No; we must leave, and starve it. Fritz— It don't starve. More hunger means more flesh. Let's feed it steel. Rudolph—Steel draws the blood and brings the hunger on. Fritz—Then draw the life. We don't feed it enough. Rudolph—It eats the blade— Fritz— Then feed it hilt and all. Rudolph—It eats our swords and they come out in claws. As Canzler says, a thousand spears have but Peeled off its poisonous scales, and where they fall A deadly fire burns and the elves die. Fritz—We will call Wittikind. Rudolph— From out the grave? Fritz—His spirit will hear. Rudolph— Wittikind was baptized. Fritz—His head was baptized, but his heart was not. A few drops here could not put out a fire That scarred and seamed the dragon till it lashed, Maddened and bleeding, all the tribes away. A spark of him is in this forest. Rudolph— Oswald. Fritz— Yes. Rudolph—Silent and shy. Fritz— Their fate whom Woden loves. He homes the lightning in the silent cloud. Rudolph—Weak. Fritz— In himself, but strong by prophesy. Rudolph—Can you or I or chief hasten the day Wherein Val-father's voice shall wake the North? What man can say unto the lightning, "Leap"? Of Woden's race, a million summer leaves, We are, as it were, the winter mistletoe, A lone green sprig with barren woods all round. Can we shake off the snow and say, "Appear," To the young race asleep within the trees? Cry out above the dragon winter, "Die"? You cannot hurry in its growth one leaf. Yet you would thrust a sword in Oswald's hands, Thinking to hurry Prophesy along. If naked strength can save us, why not chief's? Why Oswald, if the battle is to be now? Without the aid of Woden, he is naught.
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