Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT III. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VIII The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Mérope, Olympia, The Orphan of China, Brutus) and Part II (Mahomet, Amelia, Oedipus, Mariamne, Socrates).
ACT III. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VIII The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Mérope, Olympia, The Orphan of China, Brutus) and Part II (Mahomet, Amelia, Oedipus, Mariamne, Socrates). 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. VIII The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Mérope, Olympia, The Orphan of China, Brutus) and Part II (Mahomet, Amelia, Oedipus, Mariamne, Socrates).
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- O grief! O horror! O the weight of age!
- The youthful hero’s warm imprudent ardor
- Was not to be restrained; his courage burst
- The inglorious chains of vile obscurity,
- And he is lost to me, perhaps forever.
- How shall I dare to see my royal mistress!
- Unhappy Narbas! hither art thou come
- Without Ægisthus; Poliphontes reigns,
- That subtle, proud artificer of fraud,
- That savage murderer, who pursued us still
- From clime to clime, and laid the snares of death
- On every side, fixed on the sacred throne,
- Which by his crimes so oft he hath profaned,
- The proud usurper sits, and smiles secure:
- Hide me, ye gods, from his all-piercing eye,
- And save Ægisthus from the tyrant’s sword:
- O guide me, heaven, to his unhappy mother,
- And let me perish at her feet! Once more
- I see the palace, where the best of kings
- Was basely slain, and his defenceless child
- Saved in these arms; and after fifteen years
- Shall I return to fill a mother’s heart
- With anguish? Who will lead me to the queen?
- No friend appears to guide me: but behold,
- Near yonder tomb I see a weeping crowd,
- And hear their loud laments! Within these walls
- Forever dwells some persecuting god.
[At the farther end of the stage several of the queen’s attendants, near the tomb of Cresphontes.
- What bold intruder presses thus unknown
- To the queen’s presence, and disturbs the peace
- Of her retirement? comes he from the tyrant,
- A spy upon our griefs, to count the tears
- Of the afflicted?
- Whosoe’er thou art,
- Excuse the boldness of a poor old man;
- Forgive the intrusion; I would see the queen,
- Perhaps may serve her.
- What a time is this
- Which thou hast chosen to interrupt her griefs!
- Respect a mother’s bitter sorrows; hence,
- Unhappy stranger, nor offend her sight.
- O, in the name of the avenging gods,
- Have pity on my age, my misfortunes:
- I am no stranger here: O, if you serve
- And love the queen, forgive the tears that long
- Have flowed for her, and trust a heart that feels
- For Mérope as deeply as thy own.
- What tomb is that where you so late did join
- Your griefs?
- The tomb of an illustrious hero,
- A wretched father, and a hapless king,
- The tomb of great Cresphontes.
- [Going towards the tomb My loved master!
- Ye honored ashes!
- But Cresphontes’ wife
- Is more to be lamented still.
- What worse
- Could happen to her?
- A most dreadful stroke;
- Her son is slain.
- Her son! Ægisthus! gods!
- And is Ægisthus dead?
- A barbarous assassin
- Did slay him at Messene’s gates.
- O death,
- I did foretell thee: horror and despair!
- Is the queen sure, and art thou not deceived?
- O ’tis too plain; we have undoubted proofs;
- It must be so: he is no more.
- Is this
- The fruit of all my care?
- The wretched queen,
- Abandoned to despair, will scarce survive him:
- She lived but for her child, and now the ties
- Are loosed that bound her to this hated life:
- But, ere she dies, with her own hand she waits
- To pierce the murderer’s heart, and be revenged;
- Ev’n at Cresphontes’ tomb his blood shall flow.
- Soon will the victim, by the king’s permission,
- Be hither brought, to perish at her feet:
- But Mérope is lost in grief, and therefore
- Would wish to be alone: you must retire.
- If it be so, why should I seek the queen?
- I will but visit yonder tomb, and die.
- This old man seems most worthy: how he wept!
- Whilst the unfeeling slaves around us seem,
- Like their proud master, but to mock our sorrows:
- What interest could he have? yet tranquil pity
- Doth seldom shed so many tears; methought
- He mourned the lost Ægisthus like a father:
- He must be sought—but here’s a dreadful sight.
mérope, ismenia, euricles, ægisthusin chains, Guards, Sacrificers.
- [Near the tomb.
- Bring forth that horrid victim to my sight;
- I must invent some new unheard of torment,
- That may be equal to his crime; alas!
- Not to my grief, that were impossible.
- Dear have I bought thy momentary kindness,
- Guardians of innocence, protect me now!
- Before the traitor suffers, let him name
- His vile accomplices.
- [Coming forward.
- He must; he shall:
- Say, monster, what induced thee to a crime
- So horrible to nature! How had I
- E’er injured thee?
- Now bear me witness, gods,
- You who avenge the perjuries of men,
- If e’er my lips knew fraud or base imposture;
- I told thee naught but simple truth: thy heart,
- Fierce as it was, relented at my tale,
- And you stretched forth a kind, protecting hand;
- So soon is justice weary of her talk?
- Unwitting I have shed some precious blood:
- Whose was it, tell me, what new interest sways thee?
- What interest? barbarian!
- O’er her cheek
- A deadly paleness spreads: it wounds my soul
- To see her thus. O I would spill my blood
- A thousand times to save her.
- Subtle villain!
- How artfully dissembled is that grief!
- He kills me, and yet seems to weep my fate.
- [She falls back into the arms of Ismenia.
- Madam, avenge yourself, avenge the laws,
- The cause of nature, and the blood of kings.
- Is this the royal justice of a court?
- Ye praise and flatter first, and then condemn me.
- Why did I leave my peaceful solitude!
- O good old man, what will thy sorrows be,
- And thou, unhappy mother, whose dear voice
- So oft foretold—
- Barbarian, and hast thou
- A mother? I had been a mother yet
- But for thy rage, thou hast destroyed my son.
- If I am thus unhappy, if he was
- Indeed thy son, I ought to suffer for it;
- But though my hand was guilty, yet my heart
- Was innocent: heaven knows I would have given
- This day my life to save or his or thine.
- Didst thou take this armor from him?
- Yes; I swear
- By thee, by him, by all thy ancestors,
- My father gave to me that precious gift.
- Thy father! where? in Elis: how he moves me!
- What was his name? speak, answer.
- I’ve told thee so already.
- O thou rivest
- My heart: what foolish pity stopped my vengeance?
- It is too much: assist me, friends, bring here
- The monster, the perfidious—
- [Lifting up the dagger.
- O ye manes
- Of my dear son, this bloody arm—
- [Entering on a sudden.
- O gods!
- What wouldst thou do?
- Stop: stop—alas!
- If I but name his mother, he’s undone.
- [Turning towards Narbas.
- My father!
- [To Narbas.
- What do I see? and whither wert thou going?
- Camest thou to be a witness of my death?
- O, madam, go no further: Euricles,
- Remove the victim, let me speak to thee.
- [Takes away Ægisthus, and shuts up the lower part of the scene.
- O heaven!
- [Coming forward.
- Thou makest me tremble: I was going
- To avenge my son.
- [Kneeling down.
- To sacrifice—Ægisthus.
- ’Twas he, whom thy rash arm
- Had well nigh slain; believe me, ’twas Ægisthus.
- [Fainting in the arms of Ismenia.
- I die!
- [To Ismenia.
- Recall her fleeting spirit;
- This sudden transport of tumultuous joy,
- Mixed with anxiety and tender fears,
- May quite o’erpower her.
- [Coming to herself.
- Narbas, is it you?
- Or do I dream? is it my son? where is he?
- Let him come hither.
- No: refrain your love,
- Restrain your tenderness.
- [To Ismenia.
- O keep the secret;
- The safety of the queen, and of Ægisthus,
- Depend on that.
- Alas! and must fresh danger
- Embitter my new joys? O dear Ægisthus,
- What cruel god still keeps thee from thy mother?
- Was he restored but to afflict me more?
- You knew him not, and would have slain your son:
- If his arrival here be once discovered,
- And you acknowledge him, he’s lost forever.
- Dissemble, therefore, for thou knowest that guilt
- Reigns in Messene: thou art watched; be cautious.
mérope, euricles, narbas, ismenia.
- ’Tis the king’s order, madam, that we seize—
- The young stranger, whom thou had’st condemned
- To death.
- [With transport.
- That stranger is my child, my son:
- They would destroy him, Narbas, let us fly—
- It is my son; they’ll have him from me,
- My dear Ægisthus: why is this?
- The king
- Would question him before he dies.
- And knows he then I am his mother?
- ’Tis yet a secret to them all.
- We’ll fly
- To Poliphontes, and implore his aid.
- Fear Poliphontes, and implore the gods.
- Howe’er Ægisthus may alarm the tyrant,
- Thy promised nupitals make his pardon sure:
- Bound to each other in eternal bonds,
- Thy son will soon be his; though jealousy
- May now subsist, it must be lost in love
- When he’s your husband.
- He your husband, gods!
- I’m thunderstruck.
- I will no longer bear
- Such anguish, let me hence.
- Thou shalt not go:
- Unhappy mother! thou shalt ne’er submit
- To these detested nuptials.
- She is forced
- To wed him, that she may avenge Cresphontes.
- By Poliphontes thy Ægisthus fell,
- His father, and his brothers: I beheld
- The tyrant weltering in Cresphontes’ blood.
- I saw him glorying in his crimes;
- Saw him admit the foe, and through the palace
- Spread fire and slaughter; yet appeared to those
- Who knew him not, the avenger of that king
- Whom he had slain: I pierced the savage crowd,
- And in my feeble arms upraised your son,
- And bore him thence; the pitying gods protected
- His helpless innocence: these fifteen years,
- From place to place I led him, changed my name
- To Polycletes, hid him from the foe,
- And now at last it seems have brought him hither,
- To see a tyrant on Messene’s throne,
- And Mérope the wife of Poliphontes.
- Thy tale has harrowed up my soul.
- He comes:
- ’Tis Poliphontes.
- Is it possible?
- Away, good Narbas, hide thee from his rage.
- Now, if Ægisthus e’er was dear to thee,
- Dissemble with the tyrant.
- We must hide
- This secret in the bottom of our hearts,
- A word may ruin all.
- [To Euricles.
- Go thou and guard
- That precious treasure well.
- My hopes depend on thee: he is my son
- Remember, and thy king.—The monster comes.
mérope, poliphontes, erox, ismenia,Attendants.
- The altar is prepared, the throne awaits you,
- Our interests soon will with our hearts be joined:
- As king, and husband, ’tis my duty now
- Both to defend and to avenge you, madam:
- Two of the traitors I have seized already,
- Who shall repay the murder with their blood:
- But, spite of all my care, the tardy vengeance
- Hath seconded but ill my purposes:
- You told me you would wish yourself to slay
- The murderer, and I gave him to your justice.
- O that I might be my own great avenger!
- ’Tis a king’s duty, and shall be my care.
- Wherefore is the sacrifice
- Delayed? dost thou no longer love thy son?
- May all his foes meet with their due reward!
- But if this murderer has accomplices,
- By him perhaps I may hereafter learn
- Who killed my dear Cresphontes: they who slew
- The father would forever persecute
- The mother and the son: O if I e’er—
- I too could wish to be informed of that,
- And therefore I have taken him to my care.
- Yes, madam, and I hope to draw
- The secret from him.
- But you must not keep
- This murderer: I must have him; nay, you promised,
- You know you did—
- O cruel fate! my son!
- What art thou doomed to?
- [To Poliphontes.
- Pity me, my lord!
- Whence is this sudden transport? he shall die.
- His death shall satisfy thy soul.
- Ay: but I want to see, to speak to him.
- These starts of passion, and these sudden transports
- Of rage and tenderness, that face of horror,
- Might give me cause perhaps of just suspicion;
- And, to be plain with you, some strange disgust,
- Some groundless fears, some new alarm, hath raised
- This tempest in your soul; what have you heard
- From that old man who went so lately hence?
- Why doth he shun me? what am I to think?
- Who is he?
- O my lord! so lately crowned
- Do fears and jealousies already wait
- Around your throne?
- Why wilt not thou partake it?
- Then should I bid adieu to all my fears:
- The altar waits, prepared for Mérope
- And Poliphontes.
- Thou hast gained the throne,
- The gods have given it thee, and now thou wantest
- Cresphontes’ wife to make his kingdom sure.
- This crime alone—
- My lord, forgive me;
- I am a wretched mother; I have lost
- My all; the gods, the cruel gods have robbed me
- Of every bliss: O give me, give me back
- The murderer of my son!
- This hand shall shed
- The traitor’s blood: come, madam, follow me.
- O gracious heaven! in pity to my woes,
- Preserve a mother, and conceal her weakness!
End of the Third Act.