Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT IV. - 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 IV. - 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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- I almost thought she had discovered something
- Touching her husband’s murder, for she frowned
- Indignant on me; but I want her hand,
- And not her heart; the crowd will have it so;
- We must not disoblige them; by this marriage
- I shall secure them both: I look on her
- But as a slave that’s useful to my purpose,
- Chained to my chariot wheels to grace my triumph,
- And little heed her hatred or her love.
- But thou hast talked to this young murderer,
- What thinkest thou of him?
- He’s immovable,
- Simple in speech, but of undaunted courage,
- He braves his fate: I little thought to find
- In one of his low birth a soul so great;
- I own, my lord, I cannot but admire him.
- That I know not; but most certain
- He is not one of those whom we employed
- To watch for Narbas.
- Art thou sure of that?
- The leader of that band I have myself
- Despatched, and prudent buried in his blood
- The dangerous secret; but this young unknown
- Alarms me: is it certain he destroyed
- Ægisthus? has propitious fate, that still
- Prevented all my wishes, been thus kind?
- Mérope’s tears, her sorrow, and despair,
- Are the best proofs; but all I see confirms
- Thy happiness, and fortune hath done more
- Than all our cares.
- Fortune doth often reach
- What wisdom cannot: but I know too well
- My danger, and the number of my foes,
- To leave that fortune to decide my fate:
- Whoe’er this stranger be, he must not live,
- His death shall purchase me this haughty queen,
- And make the crown sit firmer on my head.
- The people then, subjected to my power,
- Will think at last their prince is dead, and know
- That I avenged him: but, inform me, who
- Is this old man that shuns me thus? there seems
- Some mystery in his conduct; Mérope,
- Thou tellest me, would have slain the murderer,
- But that this old man did prevent her; what
- Could move him to it?
- He’s the young man’s father,
- And came to implore his pardon.
- Ha! his pardon!
- I’ll see, and talk with him; but he avoids me,
- And therefore I suspect him; but I’ll know
- This secret: what could be the queen’s strange purpose,
- In thus deferring what so ardently
- She seemed to wish for? all her rage was changed
- To tenderest pity: through her griefs methought
- A ray of joy broke forth.
- What is her joy,
- Her pity, or her vengeance, now to thee?
- It doth concern me nearly; I have cause
- For many fears; but she approaches:—bring
- That stranger to me.
poliphontes, erox, ægisthus, euricles, mérope, ismenia,Guards.
- Fulfil your word, sir, and avenge me; give
- The victim to my hands, and mine alone.
- You see I mean to keep it: he’s before you:
- Revenge yourself, and shed the traitor’s blood;
- Then, madam, with your leave, we’ll to the altar.
- [To Poliphontes.
- Am I then to be made the purchase
- Of the queen’s favor? my poor life indeed
- Is but of little moment, and I die
- Contented; but I am a stranger here,
- A helpless, innocent, unhappy stranger;
- If heaven has made thee king, thou shouldst protect me:
- I’ve slain a man, ’twas in my own defence;
- The queen demands my life; she is a mother,
- Therefore I pity her, and bless the hand
- Raised to destroy me: I accuse none here
- But thee, thou tyrant.
- Hence, abandoned villain;
- Darest thou insult—
- O pardon his rash youth,
- Brought up in solitude, and far removed
- From courts, he knows not the respect that’s due
- To majesty.
- Amazing! justified
- By you!
- Yes, madam, you.
- Is this the murderer of your son?
- My child,
- My son, the last of a long line of kings,
- Beneath a vile assassin’s hand—
- O heaven!
- What wouldst thou do?
- Thine eyes are fixed upon him
- With tenderness and joy; thy tears too flow,
- Though thou wouldst hide them from me.
- No: ’tis false:
- I would not, cannot hide them: well thou knowest
- I’ve too much cause to weep.
- Dry up your tears;
- He dies this moment: soldiers, do your office.
- [Coming forward.
- O spare him, spare him.
- Stay, barbarian,
- He is—my son.
- [Embracing him.
- Thou art:
- And heaven, that snatched thee from this wretched bosom,
- Which now too late hath opened my longing eyes,
- Restores thee to a weeping mother’s arms
- But to destroy us both.
- What miracle
- Is this, ye gods?
- A vile imposture: thou
- His mother? thou, who didst demand his death?
- O if I die the son of Mérope
- I die contented, and absolve my fate.
- I am thy mother, and my love of thee
- Betrayed us both; we are undone, Ægisthus;
- Yes, Poliphontes, the important secret
- At length is thine; before thee stands my son,
- Cresphontes’ heir; thy master, and thy king;
- The offspring of the gods, thy captive now;
- I have deceived thee, and I glory in it;
- ’Twas for my child: but nature has no power
- O’er tyrants’ hearts, that still rejoice in blood:
- I tell thee, ’tis my son, ’tis my Ægisthus.
- It is; it must be so;
- Her tears confirm it: yes, I am the son
- Of Mérope, my heart assures me of it:
- And, hadst thou not disarmed me, with this hand
- I would chastise thee, traitor.
- ’Tis too much;
- I’ll bear no more: away with him.
- [Falling on her knees.
- Thus low on earth the wretched Mérope
- Falls at your feet, and bathes them with her tears:
- Doth not this humble posture speak my griefs,
- And say I am a mother? O I tremble
- When I look back on the dire precipice
- I have escaped, the murder of my son;
- Still I lament the involuntary crime
- Didst thou not say thou wouldst protect his youth,
- And be a father to him? and yet now
- Thou wouldst destroy him: O have pity on him:
- Some guilty hand bereaved him of a father;
- O save the son, defend the royal race,
- The seed of gods: defenceless and alone
- He stands before thee: trample not on him,
- Who is unable to resist thy power;
- Let him but live, and I am satisfied;
- Save but my child, and all shall be forgotten:
- O he would make me happy even in woe;
- My husband and my children all would live
- Once more in my Ægisthus: O behold,
- His royal ancestors with me implore thee
- To spare the noble youth, and save thy king.
- Rise, madam, rise, or I shall never believe
- Cresphontes was my father; ’tis beneath
- His queen, beneath the mother of Ægisthus
- To supplicate a tyrant; my fierce heart
- Will never stoop so low: undaunted long
- I braved the meanness of my former fortune,
- Nor am I dazzled by the splendid lustre
- Of these new honors; but I feel myself
- Of royal blood, and know I am thy son.
- Great Hercules, like me, began his days
- In misery and sorrow; but the gods
- Conducted him to immortality,
- Because, like me, he rose superior to them:
- To me his blood descends; O let me add
- His courage, and his virtues; let me die
- Worthy of thee; be that my heritage!
- Cease then thy prayers, nor thus disgrace the blood
- Of those immortal powers from whom I sprang.
- [To Mérope.
- Trust me, I bear a part in your misfortunes,
- Feel for your griefs, and pity your distress;
- I love his courage, and esteem his virtue;
- He seems well worthy of the royal birth
- Which he assumes; but truths of such importance
- Demand more ample proofs; I take him therefore
- Beneath my care, and, if he is thy son,
- I shall adopt him mine.
- His fate depends on thee:
- It is not long since, to secure his death.
- Thou didst consent to marry Poliphontes;
- Now thou wouldst save him, shall not love do more
- Than vengeance?
- Madam, know
- His life, or death, depends on thy resolve:
- I know your love, your tenderness, too well,
- To think you will expose to my just wrath
- So dear an object by a harsh refusal.
- My lord, at least let me be free, and deign—
- He is your son, or he’s a traitor, madam;
- I must be yours before I can protect him,
- Or be revenged on both; a word from you
- Decides his fate, or punishment, or pardon;
- Or as his mother I shall look upon you
- As his accomplice; therefore make your choice:
- I will receive your answer at the temple
- Before the attesting gods.
- [To the soldiers.
- Guard well your prisoner:
- Come, follow me:
- [Turning to Mérope.
- I shall expect you, madam;
- Be quick in your resolve; confirm his birth
- By giving me your hand; your answer only
- Saves or condemns him; and as you determine
- He is my victim, madam, or—my son.
- O grant me but the pleasure to behold him;
- Restore him to my love, to my despair.
- You’ll see him at the temple.
- [As the guards are carrying him off.
- O great queen,
- I dare not call thee by the sacred name
- Of mother, do not, I beseech thee, aught
- Unworthy of thyself, or of Ægisthus;
- For, if I am thy son, thy son shall die
- As a king ought.
- Ye cruel spoilers, why
- Will you thus tear him from me? O he’s gone,
- I’ve lost him now forever; wherefore, heaven,
- Didst thou restore him to a mother’s vows,
- Or why preserve him in a foreign land,
- To fall at last a wretched sacrifice,
- A victim to the murderer of his father?
- O save him, hide him in the desert’s gloom;
- Direct his steps, and shield him from the tyrant!
mérope, narbas, euricles.
- O Narbas, knowest thou the unhappy fate
- To which I am doomed?
- Well I know the king
- Must die; I know Ægisthus is in chains.
- Discovered all:
- But thinkest thou, Narbas, ever mother yet
- Could see a child, as I did, and be silent?
- But it is past: and now I must repair
- My weakness with my crimes.
mérope, narbas, euricles, ismenia.
- O madam,
- Now call forth all the vigor of your soul,
- The hour of trial comes: the fickle crowd,
- Still fond of novelty, with ardent zeal,
- Press forward to behold the expected nuptials;
- Each circumstance conspires to serve the tyrant:
- Already the bribed priest has made his god
- Declare for Poliphontes: “He received
- Your vows, Messene was a witness to them,
- And heaven will see the contract is fulfilled:”
- Thus spoke the holy seer; the people answered
- With acclamations loud, and songs of joy;
- They little know the grief that wrings thy heart;
- But thank the gods for these detested nuptials,
- And bless the tyrant for his cruelty.
- And are my sorrows made the public joy?
- O these are dreadful means to save thy son.
- They are indeed: thou shudderest at the thought:
- It is a crime.
- But to destroy thy child
- Were still more horrible.
- Away: despair
- Has given me courage, and restored my virtue:
- Let’s to the temple; there I’ll show the people
- My dear Ægisthus; ’twixt myself and the altar
- Will place my son; the gods will see him there;
- They will defend him, for from them he sprang:
- Too long already persecuting heaven
- Hath scourged his helpless innocence; and now
- It will avenge him: O I will set forth
- His savage murderer in the blackest colors,
- Till vengeance shall inspire each honest heart
- With tenfold rage: now dread a mother’s cries,
- Ye cruel tyrants, for they will be heard:
- They come; alas! I tremble yet, despair
- And horror seize me: hark, they call, my son
- Is dying: see the cruel murderer plants
- A dagger in his breast: a moment more
- And he is lost: ye savage ministers
- [Turning to the sacrificers.
- Of the base tyrant, you must drag the victim
- Up to the altar; can you, must you do it?
- O vengeance, duty, tenderness, and love,
- And thou great nature, what will ye ordain,
- What will ye do with an unhappy queen,
- Abandoned to despair?
End of the Fourth Act.