Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT I. - 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 I. - 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 Asseli, amidst this scene of horror,
- Whilst desolation rages through the land,
- And the proud Tartar threatens instant ruin
- To this devoted palace, must thy friend
- Experience new calamities?
- We all partake the general ruin; all
- Must with the public sorrows mix our own:
- Who doth not tremble for a father’s life,
- A husband’s, son’s, or brother’s? even within
- These sacred walls, where dwells the holy band,
- The ministers of heaven, the interpreters
- Of China’s laws, with helpless infancy,
- And feeble age; even here we are not safe:
- Who knows how far the cruel conqueror
- May urge his triumphs, whilst the thunder breaks
- On every side, and soon may burst upon us?
- Who is this great destroyer, this dire scourge
- Of Catai’s sinking empire?
- He is called
- The king of kings, the fiery Genghis Khan,
- Who lays the fertile fields of Asia waste,
- And makes it but a monument of ruin:
- Already Octar, his successful chief,
- Has stormed the palace; this once powerful empire,
- The mistress of the world, is bathed in blood!
- Knowest thou, my friend, that this destructive tyrant,
- Whom now we tremble at, who proudly thus
- Treads on the necks of kings, is yet no more
- Than a wild Scythian soldier; bred to arms
- And practised in the trade of blood; who long
- Had wandered o’er the neighboring deserts, there
- Formed a rude band of lawless rioters,
- And fought his way to glory; now successful,
- And now oppressed, at length by fortune led
- Hither he came for refuge: Asseli,
- I think thou must remember him, his name
- Was Temugin.
- Ha! he who once addressed
- His vows to thee! thy angry father then
- Rejected him with scorn; though now his name
- Is grown so terrible.
- It is the same:
- Methought even then I saw the rising dawn
- Of future glory: I remember well,
- Even when he came a beggar to the palace,
- And craved protection, he behaved like one
- Born to command: he loved me; and I own
- My foolish heart had well nigh listened to him:
- Perhaps it soothed the woman’s vanity
- To hold this lion in my toils; perhaps
- I hoped in time to soften his rude soul,
- And bend his savage fierceness to the ways
- Of social life: he might have served the state
- Which now he would destroy: our proud refusal
- Incensed the hero, fatal may it prove
- To this unhappy kingdom: well thou knowest
- Our pride and jealousy: the ancient laws
- Of this imperial city; our religion,
- Our interest and our glory, all forbid
- Alliance with the nations: for myself,
- The noble Zamti merited my love,
- And heaven hath joined me to him by the ties
- Of holy marriage: who would e’er have thought
- This poor despised abandoned Scythian thus
- Should triumph over us? I refused his hand;
- I am a wife and mother; how that thought
- Alarms me! he is fiery and revengeful;
- A Scythian never pardons: cruel fate!
- And will this valiant nation tamely yield
- Its neck to slavery, and be led like sheep
- To slaughter?
- ’Tis reported the Koreans
- Have raised an army, but we know not yet
- If it be true.
- This sad uncertainty
- But doubles our distress: heaven only knows
- What we must suffer, if the emperor
- Has found a place of refuge, if the queen
- Is fallen beneath the tyrant’s power, if yet
- They live; alas! the last surviving pledge
- Of their unhappy nuptials, the dear infant
- Entrusted to our care! I tremble for him.
- Perhaps my Zamti’s sacred character
- And holy office may subdue the hearts
- Of these proud conquerors; savage as they are,
- And thirsting for the blood of half mankind,
- They yet believe there is a power above
- That rules o’er all; nature in every breast
- Hath wisely stamped the image of its God:
- I talk of hope, but have a thousand fears
- That wring my heart.
idame, zamti, asseli.
- O my unhappy lord,
- Speak, what must be our fate? is it determined?
- What hast thou seen?
- I tremble to repeat it:
- We are undone: our empire is no more;
- A prey to robbers: what hath it availed us
- That we have trod in the fair paths of virtue?
- Long time secure within the arms of peace
- We shone illustrious in the rolls of time,
- And gave a bright example to mankind:
- From us the world received its laws; but vain
- Is human worth when lawless power prevails:
- I saw the northern hive rush in upon us,
- And force their passage through a sea of blood;
- Where’er they passed they spread destruction round them:
- At length they seized the palace, where the best
- Of sovereigns and of men, with calm composure
- And resignation yielded to his fate:
- The wretched queen lay fainting in his arms:
- Those of their numerous sons, whom lusty manhood
- Had sent to battle, were already slain:
- The rest, who naught could give him but their tears,
- Hung at his knees and wept; by secret paths
- I found an entrance to the palace; there
- Did I behold the cruel tyrants bind
- In ignominious chains the conquered king,
- His children, and his wife
- Unhappy monarch!
- O what a change is this! relentless heaven!
- The wretched captive turned his eyes towards me,
- And in the sacred language, to the Tartar
- And to the multitude unknown, cried out,
- “Preserve my last and only hope—my son.”
- From my full heart I promised, swore to act
- As he directed me, then fled to thee.
- Whether the tyrants, busied in their search
- Of plunder, thought not of me, or the symbol
- Which here I wear of the divinity
- Struck their rude souls with reverential awe,
- Or whether heaven in kind compassion meant
- To save my precious charge, and cast a cloud
- O’er their deluded eyes, I know not what
- Drew their attention, but they let me pass.
- We yet may save him, he shall go with me,
- And with my son; old Etan shall conduct us:
- In some lone wood, or solitary cave,
- We may conceal him till the search is past:
- Thank heaven they have not reached us yet.
- No place is sacred, no asylum’s left
- For the dear royal infant: I expect
- The brave Koreans, but they’ll come too late:
- But let us seize the favorable hour,
- And lodge our precious pledge in safety.
zamti, idame, asseli, etan.
- Thou seemest disordered: what’s the news?
- My lord,
- We must away; the Scythian has prevailed,
- And all is lost.
- You are observed, and flight
- Is now impossible: a guard is placed
- Around us: all obey the conqueror,
- And tremble at his power: the emperor’s loss
- Fills every heart with terror.
- It was indeed a dreadful sight:
- Himself, his queen, his children, butchered all;
- A race divine, respected, loved, adored;
- Their headless trunks exposed to the derision
- Of their proud conqueror, whilst their trembling subjects
- Submissive bend beneath the yoke, nor dare
- To shed a tear o’er those whom long they loved.
- At length our haughty lord, grown tired of conquest,
- And satiated with blood, proclaimed to all
- The terms of life, eternal slavery.
- This northern tyrant, whom the wrath of heaven
- Hath sent for our destruction, once contemned
- And spurned at by our court, returns to glut
- His vengeance on us: these wild sons of rapine,
- Who live in tents, in chariots, and in fields,
- Will never brook confinement ’midst the walls
- Of this close city: they detest our arts,
- Our customs, and our laws; and therefore mean
- To change them all; to make this splendid seat
- Of empire one vast desert, like their own.
- I know the conqueror comes to sate his vengeance
- On this unhappy kingdom: whilst I lived
- Unnoticed and obscure, I might have hope
- Of safety; but that hope is now no more:
- The night is past that hid me from the eye
- Of persecution, and I must be wretched.
- Thrice happy those, who to a tyrant master
- Are still unknown.
- Who knows but gracious heaven
- May interpose and save the royal infant:
- ’Tis our first duty to preserve the charge
- Committed to our care, and guard him well.
- What comes this Tartar for?
- Hear, slaves; and let your answer be—obedience:
- An infant yet remains, of royal race,
- Amongst you: in the conqueror’s name I here
- Command you to deliver him—to me.
- I shall expect him here: begone; delay
- Were dangerous: bring him instantly, or know,
- Destruction waits on all, but first on you.
- The day’s far spent; ere night he must be found:
- Remember, and obey.
- O dreadful message!
- For what are we reserved? Alas! my lord,
- Ne’er till this day of blood did crimes like this
- Affright my soul: you answer not, but send
- Your fruitless sighs to heaven. Sweet innocent,
- Must we then give thee up a sacrifice
- To brutal rage?
- I’ve promised, sworn to save him.
- What can thy oaths, thy promises avail?
- Thou canst not keep them; every hope is lost.
- And wouldst thou have me sacrifice the son
- Of my loved sovereign?
- O I cannot bear
- To think of it; my eyes are bathed in tears.
- O were I not a mother, would kind heaven
- But grant me now to shorten my sad days,
- Then would I say to Zamti, come, my lord,
- We’ll die together; all is lost to us,
- And we will perish with our country.
- That sees the wretched fate of Cathay’s kings
- Would wish to live? what is this phantom death,
- That thus appalls mankind? the wretch’s hope,
- The villain’s terror, and the brave man’s scorn:
- Without reluctance, and without regret,
- The wise expect and meet him as a friend.
- What secret purpose labors in your breast?
- Your cheek is pale, your eyes are filled with tears;
- My sympathizing heart feels all your sorrows,
- And would relieve them; what have you resolved?
- To keep my oath; therefore away, and watch
- The royal infant: I shall follow you.
- Alas! a woman’s tears can ne’er defend him.
- Vain is your care, your kind compassion vain,
- For he must die; the nation’s weal demands it.
- Think rather how thou mayest preserve thy country.
- Yes, I will make the dreadful sacrifice.
- Etan, I know thou holdest this empire dear;
- Yes, thou adorest the God of heaven and earth,
- As worshipped by our ancestors; that God
- Our bonzes know not, and our tyrants scorn.
- In him I trust, on him alone rely
- For my own comfort, and my country’s safety.
- Swear then by him, and his all-ruling power,
- That thou wilt bury in eternal silence
- The solemn secret that I mean to pour
- Into thy faithful bosom: swear, thy hand
- Shall still be ready to perform whate’er
- Thy duty and thy God by me command.
- I swear; and may the miseries that have fallen
- On this unhappy kingdom light on me,
- If ever I am false in word or deed!
- I cannot now recede: then mark me, Etan.
- Alas! thou weepest: amidst the general ruin
- Can there be cause for added grief?
- The doom
- Is past, my friend, and cannot be reversed.
- I know it cannot; but a stranger’s son—
- When I remember
- He is our emperor’s child, I shudder at it:
- What’s to be done?
- My path thou seest, is here
- Prescribed, and every action noted down
- By our new tyrants; thou mayest act with freedom,
- Because unknown and unobserved: thou knowest
- The orphan’s place of refuge: for a time
- We may conceal him ’midst the secret tombs
- Of our great ancestors; then shelter him
- Beneath Korea’s chief; he will protect
- The royal infant: leave the rest to me.
- And how will you appear without him, how
- Appease the conqueror?
- I have wherewithal
- To glut his vengeance.
- I have a son,
- An only child, now in his cradle—go
- And seize him.
- To save—my king.
- Away, and let him—but I can no more.
- Alas! my lord, what a command is this!
- I never can obey it.
- Think on Zamti;
- Think on his love, his weakness, his misfortunes,
- Thy duty, and—thy oath.
- ’Twas rash and vain:
- Thou didst extort it from me: I admire
- Thy generous purpose; but if as a friend
- I might be heard—
- No more; I’ve heard too much
- Already: what is all that thou couldst say
- To what a father feels? When nature’s silenced,
- Friendship should urge no longer.
- Leave me for pity’s sake.
- Is nature silent?
- O wretched father! still thou hearest that voice
- So fatal and so dear: O drown it, heaven,
- In sweet oblivion; do not let my wife
- And her dear babe distract this heart; O heal
- My wounded heart: but man is far too weak
- To conquer nature: let thy aid divine
- Support me, and assist my feeble virtue!
End of the First Act.