A monologue from the play by Hermann Sudermann

NOTE: This translation by Charles Swickard was first published in 1904 by John W. Luce and Company, Boston. It is now a public domain work and may be performed without royalties.

GEORGE: No, no, dear uncle, not altogether. There I must defend you against yourself. A devout and pious man like yourself, t'was not entire wantonness, your desire to hear something other than religion, and since the Pastor has so eloquently declined, I will give you a toast. For, you see, my dear Pastor, something of the old pagan, a spark of heathenism, is still glowing somewhere within us all. It has outlived century after century, from the time of the old Teutons. Once every year that spark is fanned into flame -- it flames up high, and then it is called "The Fires of St. John." Once every year we have "free night." Then the witches ride upon their brooms -- the same brooms with which their witchcraft was once driven out of them -- with scornful laughter the wild hordes sweep across the tree-tops, up, up, high upon the Blocksberg! Then it is, when in our hearts awake those wild desires which our fates could not fulfill -- and, understand me well, dared not fulfill -- then, no matter what may be the name of the law that governs the world on that day, in order that that one single wish may become a reality, by whose grace we prolong our miserable existence, a thousand others must miserably perish. Part because they were never attainable; but the others, yes, the others, because we allowed them to escape us like wild birds, which, though already in our hands, but too listless to profit by opportunity, we failed to grasp at the right moment. But no matter. Once every year we have "free night." And yonder tongues of fire shooting up towards the heavens -- do you know what they are? They are the spirits of our dead and perished wishes! That is the red plumage of our birds of paradise we might have petted and nursed through our entire lives, but have escaped us! That is the old chaos, the heathenism within us; and though we be happy in sunshine and according to law, tonight is St. John's night. To its ancient pagan fires I empty this glass. Tonight they shall burn and flame up high -- high -- and again high ---! [Pause.] Will no one drink to my toast?