Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT II. - 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 II. - 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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The three doors of the temple are opened. Though this scene and many others, are supposed to pass in the innermost part of the temple, as theatres are not built in a manner favorable to the voice, the performers are obliged to advance forward towards the porch, but the three doors of the temple are open, to show that they are supposed to be in the temple.
the hierophants, the priests, and the priestesses.
- What in these sacred days, this shrine august,
- When God consoles the just, and sins forgives,
- Shall one of all the priestesses presume
- To interrupt the rites, and disobey?
- Must Arzane from duty be exempt?
one of the priestesses.
- Arzane bent on silence in retreat,
- Bathes with her tears the statues of the gods;
- She hides herself, my lord, from every eye;
- A prey to grief, and weakened by her woes,
- And wishes death may end her misery.
- Her woes we pity, but she must obey;
- Let her a moment at the rites attend.
- Since she has lain concealed in her retreat,
- First on this day her presence is required.
- Bid her approach, the sacred will of heaven
- [The inferior priestess goes in quest of Arzane.]
- Calls to the altar, and won’t brook delay.
- Adorned by her with wreaths of gayest flowers,
- Olympia must before the gods be led.
- Initiated in our sacred rites,
- Cassander must be purified by her;
- Our mysteries soon must be complete, and all
- The orders of the gods must be obeyed;
- They never vary, are forever fixed,
- Nor like the changeful laws of humankind.
the hierophants, the priests and priestesses, statira.
- [To Statira.
- You must not duty’s sacred call neglect,
- Nor your most holy ministry decline.
- Since in this blest asylum first you made
- The vow, which never more can be recalled;
- Upon this day first by the gods you’re chosen
- Their laws to Asia’s victors to declare.
- Be worthy of the god you represent.
- [Covered with a veil which does not conceal her features.]
- Oh heavens, why after fifteen years that here,
- Within deep solitudes and silent walls,
- Remote from mankind, fate has buried me;
- Why do you force me from obscurity?
- Why do you bring me to the light and woe?
- [To the Hierophants.
- My lord, when to this temple I repaired,
- ’Twas but to weep, and die in secret here.
- You know that was my purpose—
- —Other laws
- The will of heaven prescribes you on this day,
- And since at nuptials now you first preside,
- Your name, your rank no longer must be hid.
- You must declare them—
- —Sir, what matter these?
- The blood of beggars and the blood of kings,
- Are they not equal in the sight of heaven?
- By heaven we’re better known than by ourselves,
- Great names might formerly have dazzled me;
- They’re all forgotten in the silent tomb,
- Let them be ever blotted from my mind.
- Vain glory and ambition we renounce.
- In this point we’re agreed, but still the gods
- Exact a full confession of the truth.
- Say all, you shudder—
- —So you will yourself.
- [To the Priests and Priestesses.
- You, who on heaven’s high majesty attend,
- Who share my fate, whose lives are passed in prayer,
- Religiously my secret ever keep.
- —Ere I proceed,
- Say, is Cassander, that blood-thirsty man,
- Admitted to your sacred mysteries?
- —Are then his crimes atoned?
- Of mercy every mortal stands in need.
- If innocence alone could heaven approach,
- Who in this temple would the gods adore?
- All human virtue from repentance springs.
- Such is the eternal order of the gods.
- Mortals are guilty, but heaven pardons all.
- If you then knew the barbarous, horrid deeds
- Which make him sue for grace and vengeance dread,
- If you knew that by him his master fell,
- A master dear to heaven, and if you knew
- What blood he shed within these flaming walls,
- When even in dying Alexander’s eyes,
- He gored the bosom of his weeping queen,
- And threw her dying on her husband’s corpse,
- You’ll still be more surprised when I’ve revealed
- Secrets as yet unknown to human kind.
- That wife who once on glory’s summit sat,
- Whose memory bleeding Persia honors still,
- Darius’ daughter, Alexander’s wife,
- She’s here before you, ask her nothing more.
- [The priests and priestesses lift up their hands and bend their bodies.]
- What have I heard, you gods whom crimes offend,
- How do you strike your images on earth?
- Statira in this temple, give me leave
- Respect profoundest—
- —Rise, thou reverend priest,
- No longer am I mistress of the world,
- Only respect the anguish of my mind.
- In me of human greatness see the fate.
- What my sire found the moment of his death,
- I found in Babylon when drenched in blood
- Darius, king of kings of throne deprived,
- A fugitive in deserts, quite forlorn,
- By his own treacherous followers was slain,
- A stranger, wretched outcast of the earth,
- Consoled his misery in his dying hour,
- See you that woman to my court a stranger.
- [Showing the inferior priestess.
- Her hand, her hand alone preserved my life.
- ’Twas she that brought me from the slaughtered heap
- Where my base friends had left me to expire;
- She is of Ephesus; my steps she led
- To this asylum on my realm’s confines.
- I saw my spoils by numerous plunderers torn,
- The field strewed o’er with dying and the dead,
- All Alexander’s soldiers raised to kings,
- And public robberies called great exploits.
- The world I hated and its various woes;
- I left it, and lived here interred alive.
- I own I mourn a daughter much beloved,
- Torn from me whilst I weltered in my gore.
- This stranger here is all my family.
- My husband, daughter, and Darius lost,
- Heaven’s my resource alone—
- —Be heaven your prop.
- From the throne which you lost to heaven you rise,
- God’s temple is your court, be happy there.
- Your grandeur though august was dangerous,
- The throne was terrible, forget it quite
- And look upon it with a pitying eye.
- This temple, sir, sometimes has calmed my griefs,
- But you may well conceive how much I’m shocked
- At seeing by Cassander the same gods
- Implored whom I’ve invoked against his head.
- This, I acknowledge, needs must give you pain:
- But our law speaks to you and must be heard.
- You have embraced it.—
- —Could I ever think
- It would so horrid an injunction lay?
- The torch of my sad days grows pale and dim,
- And these last moments which high heaven bestows
- What purpose serve they?—
- —You’ll perhaps forgive,
- You have yourself traced out your great career.
- Proceed in it and never look behind.
- Shades when unbound from cumbrous, fleshly chains,
- Taste lasting rest, and are from passion free.
- A new day gives them light, a cloudless day;
- They live for heaven, their lot is like to ours.
- Soon on our hearts a blest retreat bestows
- Oblivion of our enemies and griefs.
- I’m priestess now, ’tis true, though once a queen,
- My duty’s harsh, oh! with my weakness bear.
- What must I do?—
- —Olympia on her knees
- Will soon appear before you, then ’tis yours
- To bless the marriage of the illustrious pair.
- I’ll reconcile her to a life of woe,
- That is the lot of mortals.—
- —The incense,
- The water for ablution, and the gifts
- Offered up to the gods, your royal hands
- Shall bear, and at their sacred shrine present.
- For whom should I present them, wretch—must then
- My life be filled with horror to its close?
- In my retreat I thought to ’scape from woe,
- Oh fruitless hope! woe everywhere abounds:
- Let me obey the law which I have made.
- Farewell, I both lament you and admire.
- Behold, she comes.
statira and olympia.
- [The stage shakes.
- Dark and awful cells,
- You shake, a horrid murmur strikes my ear:
- The temple quakes, must nature then be moved
- When she appears, must all my senses fail,
- And the same trouble and confusion feel?
- Young, tender victim to the nupital law,
- Approach. These frightful omens crime denote,
- Such charms as yours for virtue’s self seem made.
- My sinking courage, oh just gods support!
- Oh you, the confidant of their decrees,
- Deign to direct my innocence and youth.
- I claim your care, my terror dissipate.
- Alas, mine yours exceeds, embrace me, daughter,
- Do you then know your husband’s history,
- Or do you know your country or your birth?
- Of humble birth, I never did expect
- My present rank, to which I have no right.
- Cassander, madam’s king, he deigned in Greece
- To educate me at his father’s court.
- Since I’ve been near his person, I have seen
- In him the greatest of all human kind.
- The husband’s dear, the master is revered;
- Thus have I all my sentiments made known.
- How easily a youthful heart’s deceived!
- How much I love your candid innocence!
- Cassander, then, has taken charge of you.
- Do you not from some king derive your birth?
- Can none love virtue or obey its laws,
- But such as from a kingly race descend?
- I think not so, guilt dwells too near the throne.
- —I’m much surprised
- Upon your front august, and in your eyes,
- In every noble feature of your face
- We read the virtues of a royal mind.
- Could you be then a slave?
- Seized on my infancy by chance of war.
- All to his son I owe.—
- —Your first days thus
- Have felt misfortunes, which at length have ceased;
- My woes have been as lasting as my life.
- Say where and when you were by fate involved
- In ills which brought you to captivity?
- I’m told a king, the world’s victorious lord
- Was slain, and rivals for his empire strove;
- That whilst it was by fierce contentions torn,
- In Babylon Cassander saved my life,
- When it was threatened by the murderous blade.
- In days made sad by Alexander’s death,
- Were you then captive of Antipater,
- And did you by Cassander’s favors live?
- I never could learn more. Misfortunes past
- Felicity has banished from my thought.
- Captive at Babylon; eternal powers
- Do you then make of mortals’ woes your sport?
- The time, the place, her age, have in my soul
- At once roused joy, grief, tenderness, and dread.
- Am I not then deceived? Upon her face
- My valiant husband’s image is impressed. . . . .
- —Heavens! such looks the hero cast,
- When mild and from the bloody field retired!
- He raised my family, which scarce had escaped
- The insatiate fury of the murderous blade!
- When he raised all my fallen family
- To their first rank, and when his hand touched mine!
- Illusion dear! enchanting hope! but vain.
- Can it be possible! List, princess, list,
- Pity the agitation of my soul!
- Have you no memory of a mother left!
- Those who have had it in their power to tell
- Of the transactions of my infancy,
- Informed me that I, in those days of slaughter,
- Was even, when in my cradle, made a slave.
- A mother’s fondness ne’er to me was known.
- I know not who I am, from whom I’m sprung.
- Alas, you sigh, you weep; my trickling tears
- I mix with yours, and in them I find charms.
- With faint embrace your languid arms clasp me;
- Your organs fail; you strive to speak, in vain.
- Speak to me.—
- My utterance fails, I sink, I’m overwhelmed;
- The trouble which I feel will end my days.
statira, olympia, the hierophants.
- Priestess of heaven, and queen of human race,
- Say what new change has happened in your fate?
- What must we do? What art thou now to hear?
- Misfortunes, but I’m now prepared for all.
- The greatest good is ever dashed with grief;
- No bliss is pure. Antigones’s rage,
- The troops, the citizens that rise in arms,
- The general voice, by ardent zeal inspired,
- All these things prove the object you behold,
- Like you long buried in obscurity.
- The object which your hands should to Cassander
- This day have given, Olympia—
- Is daughter of the late victorious king.
- [Running to embrace Olympia.
- My torn heart had told me this before.
- My child! my daughter! dear, but fatal names;
- Do I then press you in a close embrace,
- When by your marriage thus you wound my soul!
- Does then to be my mother make you grieve?
- No, I thank heaven, whose anger long I felt,
- Nature pleads loudly, joy pours on my soul;
- But heaven deprives me of the promised bliss.
- You are to wed Cassander.—
- If from you
- Olympia is descended, if the love
- A parent bears a child inspires your heart,
- Cassander surely never could offend.
- You are descended from her, doubt it not;
- Cassander owns and will attest the truth.
- With him united, may you both find means
- To make two hostile races live in peace.
- Is he your foe then, am I so accursed?
- The villain poisoned your victorious sire;
- He plunged his dagger in your mother’s breast,
- Even in her breast whose hapless womb first bore you;
- He plunged the steel which oft had princes pierced:
- Even to this temple he pursues my steps;
- The gods he braves, pretending to appease:
- He tears you from your weeping mother’s arms,
- And can you ask me why I hate this man?
- Does then the conqueror’s family survive?
- Are you his widow; is he then my sire?
- Have I my mother’s assassin espoused?
- Am I become an object of your wrath,
- And is this marriage then a horrid crime?
- Ah, if their ruthless hate
- To my soul’s wishes can no hopes afford;
- Opening my eyes a pit they opened before me.
- Knowing myself too well I know my fate.
- My great misfortune is to know my birth,
- Before the altar where you joined our hands
- I should have fallen, and at your feet expired.
statira, olympia, the hierophants,and a priest.
- The temple’s threatened, all our mysteries
- Quickly will be profaned by impious hands;
- The two contending kings dispute the right
- There to command where gods alone should sway.
- Groans heard within these vaults foreboded this,
- In sign of this the ground shook under us.
- The gods denounce some change to mortal man,
- The earth offends them; they must be appeased.
- The furious people whom fell discord fires
- Run headlong to this temple’s sacred porch;
- Two rival factions Ephesus divide.
- Like other nations we shall be at strife;
- Morals, peace, sanctity, shall all give way;
- Kings shall prevail and we shall have a Lord.
- Ah may they bear from Ephesus their crimes,
- And leave one place of refuge to the earth:
- Oh royal mother sprung from royal race,
- Olympia, shall I say Cassander’s wife?
- Before these altars you’ll protection find.
- To daring kings I shall present myself.
- I know how much respect is due to crowns,
- But more by far is due to Heaven that gives them.
- Let them keep fair with Heaven if they would reign:
- We have not arms or soldiers, it is true,
- Our power we only from our laws derive.
- God’s my support, his temple’s my defence,
- Should tyranny once dare to make approach.
- My bloody corpse awhile shall bar its way.
- [The Hierophants go out with the inferior priest.
- Oh fate! oh God of altars and of thrones!
- Oppose Cassander, shield Antigones
- I must, my daughter, in my close of life
- Aid only from my enemies expect,
- And look for vengeance in my misery
- From the usurpers of your father’s throne;
- From my own subjects who with jealous rage
- Contend for states of which I was possessed!
- They’re now my masters; once they were my slaves.
- Oh noble race of Cyrus the renowned,
- How from thy ancient glory art thou fallen!
- So vain is greatness, thou art known no more.
- Mother, I follow you, in this sad day
- Render me worthy of your glorious name;
- To do my duty’s all I hope for now.
- Sprung from a king who over kings has reigned,
- Do that and equal glory thou hast gained.
End of the Second Act.