Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT V. - 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 V. - 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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brutus, senators, proculus, lictors. vindex (a Slave).
- A little more and Tarquin, armed with vengeance,
- This night had rushed upon us; Rome had fallen,
- And freedom sunk beneath the tyrant’s power:
- This subtle statesman, this ambassador,
- Had opened wide the fatal precipice:
- Would you believe it, even the sons of Rome
- United to betray her: false Messala
- Urged on their furious zeal, and sold his country
- To this perfidious Aruns; but kind heaven,
- Still watchful o’er the fate of Rome, preserved us.
- [Pointing to Vindex.
- This slave o’erheard it all; his faithful counsels
- Awaked my fears, and filled my aged breast
- With double vigor: I had scized Messala,
- And hoped by tortures to have wrested from him
- The names of his associates; but, behold,
- Surrounded by my lictors, on a sudden
- He from his bosom drew a poniard forth,
- Designed no doubt for other purposes,
- And cried, if you would know Messala’s secrets,
- Look for them here, within this bleeding breast;
- He who has courage to conspire against you,
- Can keep the counsel which he gives, and die:
- Then, as tumultuously they gathered round him,
- Pierced his false heart, and like a Roman died,
- Though he had lived unworthy of the name.
- Already Aruns was beyond the walls
- Of Rome; our guards pursued him to the camp,
- Stopped him with Tullia, and ere long will bring
- The traitor here, when heaven, I trust, will soon
- Unravel all their dark and deadly purpose.
- Valerius will detect them: but remember
- Friends, Romans, countrymen, I charge you all,
- When ye shall know the names of these vile slaves,
- These parricides, nor pardon nor indulgence
- Be shown to friends, to brothers, nay to children;
- Think on their crimes alone, preserve your faith,
- For liberty and Rome demand their blood,
- And he who pardons guilt like theirs, partakes it.
- [To the slave.
- Thou, whose blind destiny and lowly birth
- Made thee a slave, who shouldst have been a Roman;
- Thou, by whose generous aid the senate lives,
- And Rome is safe, receive that liberty
- Thou hast bestowed; henceforth let nobler thoughts
- Inspire thy soul; be equal to my sons,
- The dread of tyrants, the delight of Rome.
- But whence this tumult? Hark!
- The ambassador
- Is seized, my lord, and they have brought him hither.
brutus, senators, aruns, lictors.
- How long, insulting Romans,
- Will you thus violate the sacred rights
- Of all mankind? How long by faction led
- Thus in their ministers dishonor kings?
- Your lictors have with insolence detained me:
- Is it my master you thus treat with scorn,
- Or Aruns? Know, my rank respectable
- In every nation—
- The more sacred that,
- More guilty thou: talk not of titles here.
- Thou art not one:
- Thou are a traitor, with a noble name,
- Emboldened by impunity: for know
- That, true ambassadors interpret laws,
- But never break them; serve their king, but ne’er
- Dishonor him: with them reposed in safety
- Lie the firm ties of faith ’twixt man and man;
- And of their holy ministry the fruit
- Is grateful peace: they are the sacred bonds
- That knit the sovereigns of the earth together;
- And, as the friends of all, by all revered.
- Ask thy own heart if thou art such; thou darest not:
- But if thy master bade thee learn our laws,
- Our virtues, and our treasures, we will teach thee
- Now what Rome is, and what a Roman senate:
- Will teach thee that this people still respects
- The law of nations, which thou hast dishonored:
- The only punishment inflicted on thee,
- Shall be to see thy vile associates bleed,
- And tell thy king their folly and their fate.
- When thou returnest, be sure inform thy friends
- Of Rome’s resentment, and thy own disgrace:
- Lictors, away with him.
brutus, valerius, proculus, senators.
- Well, my Valerius,
- They’re seized, I hope, at least you know the traitors:
- Ha! wherefore is that melancholy gloom
- Spread o’er thy face, presaging greater ills?
- Thou tremblest too.
- Remember thou art Brutus.
- I dare not speak it: take
- [Gives him the tablets.
- These tablets, read, and know the guilty.
- My eyes deceive me; sure it cannot be!
- O heavy hour! and most unhappy father!
- My son! Tiberius! pardon me, my friends,
- Unlooked for misery! Have you seized the traitor?
- My lord, with two of the conspirators,
- He stood on his defence, and rather chose
- To die than yield himself a prisoner: close
- By them he fell all covered o’er with wounds:
- But O there still remains a tale more dreadful
- For thee, for Rome, and for us all.
- Once more, my lord, look on that fatal scroll
- Which Proculus had wrested from Messala.
- I tremble, but I will go on: ha! Titus!
- [He sinks into the arms of Proculus.
- Disarmed I found him, wandering in despair
- And horror, as if conscious of a crime
- Which he abhorred.
- Return, ye conscript fathers,
- Straight to the senate; Brutus hath no place
- Amongst you now: go, pass your judgment on him,
- Exterminate the guilty race of Brutus;
- Punish the father in the blood of him
- Who was my child: I shall not follow you,
- Or to suspend or mitigate the wrath
- Of injured Rome.
- Great gods! to your decrees
- I yield submissive, to the great avengers
- Of Rome, and of her laws: by you inspired
- I reared the structure of fair liberty
- On justice and on truth; and will you now
- O’erthrow it? will you arm my children’s hands
- Against your own work? Was it not woe enough
- That fierce Tiberius, blind with furious zeal,
- Should serve the tyrant, and betray his country?
- But that my Titus too, the joy of Rome,
- Who, full of honor, but this very day
- Enjoyed a triumph for his victories,
- Crowned in the capitol by Brutus’ hand,
- Titus, the hope of my declining years,
- The darling of mankind, that Titus—gods!
brutus, valerius, lictors, attendants.
- My lord, the senate has decreed, yourself
- Should pass the sentence on your guilty son.
- Touching the rest,
- Say, what have they determined?
- All condemned
- To death; even now perhaps they are no more.
- And has the senate left to my disposal
- The life of Titus?
- They esteem this honor
- Due to thy virtues.
- Must I return in answer to the senate?
- That Brutus knows the value of a favor
- He sought not, but shall study to deserve.
- But could my son without resistance yield?
- Could he—forgive my doubts, but Titus ever
- Was Rome’s best guard, and still I feel I love him.
- Our just suspicions.
- Soon as she saw,
- In her return, the dreadful preparation
- Of torture for the offenders, at our feet
- She fell, and soon in agonies expired;
- The last poor victim of the hated race
- Of tyrants: doubtless ’twas for her, my lord,
- Rome was betrayed: I feel a father’s grief,
- And weep for Brutus; but in her last moments
- This way she turned her eyes, and called on Titus.
- Thou art his judge, perform thy office,
- Or strike, or spare; acquit him, or condemn;
- Rome will approve what Brutus shall determine.
- Lictors, bring Titus hither.
- I retire,
- And trust thy virtue; my astonished soul
- Admires and pities thee: I go to tell
- The senate, naught can equal Brutus’ grief
- But Brutus’ firmness.
- No: the more I think,
- The less can I believe my son could e’er
- Conspire with traitors to betray his country:
- No: he loved Rome too well; too well he loved
- His father: sure we cannot thus forget
- Our duty and ourselves in one short day:
- I cannot think my son was guilty still.
- ’Twas all conducted by Messala; he
- Perhaps designed to shelter his own crimes
- Beneath the name of Titus; his accusers
- Envy his glory, and would fain obscure it.
- O! would to heaven it were so!
- He’s thy son,
- Thy only hope; and innocent or guilty,
- The senate has to thee resigned his fate:
- His life is safe whilst in the hands of Brutus;
- Thou wilt preserve a great man for his country;
- Thou art a father.
brutus, proculus, titus.
[At the farther end of the stage, guarded by Lictors.
- ’Tis Brutus: O distressful sight!
- Open, thou earth, beneath my trembling steps!
- My lord, permit a son—
- Rash boy, forbear:
- I was the father of two children once,
- And loved them both; but one is lost: what sayest thou?
- Speak, Titus, have I yet a son?
- Answer then thy judge, thou shame
- To Brutus; say, didst thou betray thy country,
- Give up thy father to a tyrant’s power,
- And break thy solemn vows? Didst thou resolve
- To do this, Titus?
- I resolved on nothing.
- Filled with a deadly poison that possessed
- My frantic mind, I did not know myself,
- Nor do I yet; and my distempered soul,
- In its wild rage, was for a moment guilty;
- That moment clothed me with eternal shame,
- And made me false to what I loved, my country:
- ’Tis past; and anguish and remorse succeed
- To avenge their wrongs, and scourge me for the crime.
- Pronounce my sentence: Rome, that looks upon thee,
- Wants an example, and demands my life:
- By my deserved fate she may deter
- Those of her sons, if any such there be,
- Who might be tempted to a crime like mine.
- In death at least thus shall I serve my country;
- Thus shall my blood, which never till this hour
- Was stained with guilt, still flow for liberty.
- Unnatural mixture! perfidy and courage;
- Such horrid crimes with such exalted virtue!
- With all thy dear-bought laurels on thy brow,
- What power malignant could inspire thee thus
- With vile inconstancy?
- The thirst of vengeance,
- Ambition, hatred, madness; all united—
- One error more,
- And worse than all the rest; one cruel flame;
- That fired my guilt, and still perhaps augments it,
- Completed my destruction: to confess it
- Is double shame, to Rome of little service,
- And most unworthy of us both: I own it:
- But I have reached the summit of my guilt,
- And of my sorrows too: end with my life
- My crimes, and my despair, my shame and thine.
- But if in battle I have ever traced
- Thy glorious steps; if I have followed thee,
- And served my country; if remorse and anguish
- Already have o’erpaid my crimes; O deign
- Within thy arms once more to hold a wretch
- Abandoned and forlorn: O say, at least,
- “My son, thy father hates thee not”: that word
- Alone my fame and virtue shall restore,
- And save my memory from the brand of shame.
- The world will say, when Titus died, a look
- From you relieved him from his load of grief,
- And made him full amends for all his sorrows;
- Spite of his guilt, that still esteemed by thee,
- He bore thy blessing with him to the grave.
- O Rome! his pangs oppress me: O my country!
- Proculus, see they lead my son to death.
- Rise, wretched Titus, thou wert once the hope
- Of my old age, my best support; embrace
- Thy father who condemned thee; ’twas his duty.
- Were he not Brutus, he had pardoned thee;
- Believe my tears that trickle down thy cheeks
- Whilst I am speaking to thee: O my Titus,
- Let nobler courage than thy father shows
- Support thee in thy death; my son, farewell:
- Let no unmanly tears disgrace thy fall,
- But be a Roman still, and let thy country,
- That knows thy worth, admire while she destroys thee.
- Farewell: I go to death; in that at least
- Titus once more shall emulate his father.
- My lord, the senate, with sincerest grief,
- And shuddering at the dreadful stroke—
- No more:
- Ye know not Brutus who condole with him
- At such a time: Rome only is my care;
- I feel but for my country: we must guard
- Against more danger: they’re in arms again:
- Away: let Rome in this disastrous hour
- Supply the place of him whom I have lost
- For her, and let me finish my sad days,
- As Titus should have done, in Rome’s defence.
SCENE the LAST.
brutus, proculus, a senator.
- Thank heaven! Rome’s free; and I am satisfied.
THE DRAMATIC WORKS OF VOLTAIRE Vol. VIII—Part II
This powerful work was read by Voltaire to Frederick of Prussia in 1740, to the king’s great delight. The following correspondence has peculiar interest. In his “Life of Voltaire” James Parton says: “The great lesson of the play is that the founders of false religions at once despise and practise upon the docile credulity of men. When I remember that this powerful exhibition of executive force triumphing over credulity and weakness was vividly stamped upon the susceptible brain of Frederick by Voltaire’s impassioned declamation, at the very time he was revolving his Silesian project, I am inclined to the conjecture that it may have been the deciding influence upon the king’s mind.” The play was withdrawn after the fourth representation, under pressure of Church authorities who professed to see in it a “bloody satire against the Christian religion.” This letter preserves the original characteristics.