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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- Thinkest thou thy friend will ever bend the knee
- To this proud hypocrite; shall I fall down
- And worship, I who banished him from Mecca?
- No: punish me, just heaven, as I deserve,
- If e’er this hand, the friend of innocence
- And freedom, stoop to cherish foul rebellion,
- Or aid imposture to deceive mankind!
- Thy zeal is noble, and becomes the chief
- Of Ishmael’s sacred senate, but may prove
- Destructive to the cause it means to serve:
- Thy ardor cannot check the rapid power
- Of Mahomet, and but provokes his vengeance:
- There was a time when you might safely draw
- The sword of justice, to defend the rights
- Of Mecca, and prevent the flames of war
- From spreading o’er the land; then Mahomet
- Was but a bold and factious citizen,
- But now he is a conqueror, and a king;
- Mecca’s impostor at Medina shines
- A holy prophet; nations bend before him,
- And learn to worship crimes which we abhor.
- Even here, a band of wild enthusiasts, drunk
- With furious zeal, support his fond delusions,
- His idle tales, and fancied miracles:
- These spread sedition through the gaping throng,
- Invite his forces, and believe a God
- Inspires and renders him invincible.
- The lovers of their country think with you,
- But wisest counsels are not always followed;
- False zeal, and fear, and love of novelty
- Alarm the crowd; already half our city
- Is left unpeopled; Mecca cries aloud
- To thee her father, and demands a peace.
- Peace with a traitor! coward nation, what
- Can you expect but slavery from a tyrant!
- Go, bend your supple knees, and prostrate fall
- Before the idol whose oppressive hand
- Shall crush you all: for me, I hate the traitor;
- This heart’s too deeply wounded to forgive:
- The savage murderer robbed me of a wife
- And two dear children: nor is his resentment
- Less fierce than mine; I forced his camp, pursued
- The coward to his tent, and slew his son:
- The torch of hatred is lit up between us,
- And time can never extinguish it.
- I hope
- It never will; yet thou shouldst hide the flame,
- And sacrifice thy griefs to public good:
- What if he lay this noble city waste,
- Will that avenge thee, will that serve thy cause?
- Thou hast lost all, son, brother, daughter, wife.
- Mecca alone remains to give thee comfort,
- Do not lose that, do not destroy thy country.
- Kingdoms are lost by cowardice alone.
- As oft perhaps by obstinate resistance.
- Then let us perish, if it be our fate.
- When thou art almost in the harbor, thus
- To brave the storm is false and fatal courage:
- Kind heaven, thou seest, points out to thee the means
- To soften this proud tyrant; fair Palmira,
- Thy beautous captive, brought up in the camp
- Of this destructive conqueror, was sent
- By gracious heaven, the messenger of peace,
- Thy guardian angel, to appease the wrath
- Of Mahomet; already by his herald
- He has demanded her.
- And wouldst thou have me
- Give up so fair a prize to this barbarian?
- What! whilst the tyrant spreads destruction round him,
- Unpeoples kingdoms, and destroys mankind,
- Shall beauty’s charms be sacrificed to bribe
- A madman’s frenzy? I should envy him
- That lovely fair one more than all his glory;
- Not that I feel the stings of wild desire,
- Or, in the evening of my days, indulge,
- Old as I am, a shameless passion for her;
- But, whether objects born like her to please,
- Spite of ourselves, demand our tenderest pity,
- Or that perhaps a childless father hopes
- To find in her another daughter, why
- I know not, but for that unhappy maid
- Still am I anxious; be it weakness in me,
- Or reason’s powerful voice, I cannot bear
- To see her in the hands of Mahomet;
- Would I could mould her to my wishes, form
- Her willing mind, and make her hate the tyrant
- As I do! She has sent to speak with me
- Here in the sacred porch—and lo! she comes:
- On her fair cheek the blush of modesty
- And candor speaks the virtues of her heart.
- Hail, lovely maid! the chance of cruel war
- Hath made thee Zopir’s captive, but thou art not
- Amongst barbarians; all with me revere
- Palmira’s virtues, and lament her fate,
- Whilst youth with innocence and beauty plead
- Thy cause; whatever thou askest in Zopir’s power,
- Thou shalt not ask in vain: my life declines
- Towards its period, and if my last hours
- Can give Palmira joy, I shall esteem them
- The best, the happiest I have ever known.
- These two months past, my lord, your prisoner here,
- Scarce have I felt the yoke of slavery;
- Your generous hand, still raised to soothe affliction,
- Hath wiped the tears of sorrow from my eyes,
- And softened all the rigor of my fate:
- Forgive me, if emboldened by your goodness
- I ask for more, and centre every hope
- Of future happiness on you alone;
- Forgive me, if to Mahomet’s request
- I join Palmira’s, and implore that freedom
- He hath already asked: O listen to him,
- And let me say, that after heaven and him
- I am indebted most to generous Zopir.
- Has then oppression such enticing charms
- That thou shouldst wish and beg to be the slave
- Of Mahomet, to hear the clash of arms,
- With him to live in deserts, and in caves,
- And wander o’er his ever shifting country?
- Where’er the mind with ease and pleasure dwells,
- There is our home, and there our native country:
- He formed my soul; to Mahomet I owe
- The kind instruction of my earlier years;
- Taught by the happy partners of his bed,
- Who still adoring and adored by him
- Send up their prayers to heaven for his dear safety,
- I lived in peace and joy! for ne’er did woe
- Pollute that seat of bliss till the sad hour
- Of my misfortune, when wide-wasting war
- Rushed in upon us and enslaved Palmira:
- Pity, my lord, a heart oppressed with grief,
- That sighs for objects far, far distant from her.
- I understand you, madam; you expect
- The tyrant’s hand, and hope to share his throne.
- I honor him, my lord; my trembling soul
- Looks up to Mahomet with holy fear
- As to a god; but never did this heart
- E’er cherish the vain hope that he would deign
- To wed Palmira: No: such splendor ill
- Would suit my humble state.
- Whoe’er thou art,
- He was not born, I trust, to be thy husband,
- No, nor thy master; much I err, or thou
- Springest from a race designed by heaven to check
- This haughty Arab, and give laws to him
- Who thus assumes the majesty of kings.
- Alas! we know not what it is to boast
- Of birth or fortune; from our infant years
- Without or parents, friends, or country, doomed
- To slavery; here resigned to our hard fate,
- Strangers to all but to that God we serve,
- We live content in humble poverty.
- And can ye be content? and are ye strangers,
- Without a father, and without a home?
- I am a childless, poor, forlorn, old man;
- You might have been the comfort of my age:
- To form a plan of future happiness
- For you, had softened my own wretchedness,
- And made me some amends for all my wrongs:
- But you abhor my country and my law.
- I am not mistress of myself, and how
- Can I be thine? I pity thy misfortunes,
- And bless thee for thy goodness to Palmira;
- But Mahomet has been a father to me.
- A father! ye just gods! the vile impostor!
- Can he deserve that name, the holy prophet,
- The great ambassador of heaven, sent down
- To interpret its high will?
- Deluded mortals!
- How blind ye are, to follow this proud madman,
- This happy robber, whom my justice spared,
- And raise him from the scaffold to a throne!
- My lord, I shudder at your imprecations;
- Though I am bound by honor and the ties
- Of gratitude to love thee for thy bounties,
- This blasphemy against my kind protector
- Cancels the bond, and fills my soul with horror.
- O superstition, how thy savage power
- Deprives at once the best and tenderest hearts
- Of their humanity!
- Alas! Palmira,
- Spite of myself, I feel for thy misfortunes,
- Pity thy weakness, and lament thy fate.
- You will not grant me then—
- I cannot yield thee
- To him who has deceived thy easy heart,
- To a base tyrant; No: thou art a treasure
- Too precious to be parted with, and makest
- This hypocrite but more detested.
zopir, palmira, phanor.
- What wouldst thou?
- At the city gate that leads
- To Moad’s fertile plain, the valiant Omar
- Is just arrived.
- Indeed; the tyrant’s friend,
- The fierce, vindictive Omar, his new convert,
- Who had so long opposed him, and still fought
- For us!
- Perhaps he yet may serve his country,
- Already he hath offered terms of peace;
- Our chiefs have parleyed with him, he demands
- An hostage, and I hear they’ve granted him
- The noble Seid.
- Behold! my lord, he comes.
- Ha! Omar here!
- There’s no retreating now, he must be heard;
- Palmira, you may leave us.—O ye gods
- Of my forefathers, you who have protected
- The sons of Ishmael these three thousand years,
- And thou, O Sun, with all those sacred lights
- That glitter round us, witness to my truth,
- Aid and support me in the glorious conflict
- With proud iniquity!
zopir, omar, phanor,Attendants.
- At length, it seems,
- Omar returns, after a three years’ absence,
- To visit that loved country which his hand
- So long defended, and his honest heart
- Has now betrayed: deserter of our gods,
- Deserter of our laws, how darest thou thus
- Approach these sacred walls to persecute
- And to oppress; a public robber’s slave;
- What is thy errand? wherefore comest thou hither?
- To pardon thee: by me our holy prophet,
- In pity to thy age, thy well-known valor,
- And past misfortunes, offers thee his hand:
- Omar is come to bring thee terms of peace.
- And shall a factious rebel offer peace
- Who should have sued for pardon? gracious gods!
- Will ye permit him to usurp your power,
- And suffer Mahomet to rule mankind?
- Dost thou not blush, vile minion as thou art,
- To serve a traitor? hast thou not beheld him
- Friendless and poor, an humble citizen,
- And ranking with the meanest of the throng?
- How little then in fortune or in fame!
- Thus low and grovelling souls like thine pretend
- To judge of merit, whilst in fortune’s scale
- Ye weigh the worth of men: proud, empty being,
- Dost thou not know that the poor worm which crawls
- Low on the earth, and the imperial eagle
- That soars to heaven, in the all-seeing eye
- Of their eternal Maker are the same,
- And shrink to nothing? men are equal all;
- From virtue only true distinction springs,
- And not from birth: there are exalted spirits
- Who claim respect and honor from themselves
- And not their ancestors: these, these, my lord,
- Are heaven’s peculiar care, and such is he
- Whom I obey, and who alone deserves
- To be a master; all mankind like me
- Shall one day fall before the conqueror’s feet,
- And future ages follow my example.
- Omar, I know thee well; thy artful hand
- In vain hath drawn the visionary portrait;
- Thou mayest deceive the multitude, but know,
- What Mecca worships Zopir can despise:
- Be honest then, and with the impartial eye
- Of reason look on Mahomet; behold him
- But as a mortal, and consider well
- By what base arts the vile impostor rose,
- A camel-driver, a poor abject slave,
- Who first deceived a fond, believing woman,
- And now supported by an idle dream
- Draws in the weak and credulous multitude:
- Condemned to exile, I chastised the rebel
- Too lightly, and his insolence returns
- With double force to punish my indulgence.
- He fled with Fatima from cave to cave,
- And suffered chains, contempt and banishment;
- Meantime the fury which he called divine
- Spread like a subtle poison through the crowd;
- Medina was infected: Omar then,
- To reason’s voice attentive, would have stopped
- The impetuous torrent; he had courage then
- And virtue to attack the proud usurper,
- Though now he crouches to him like a slave.
- If thy proud master be indeed a prophet,
- How didst thou dare to punish him? or why,
- If an impostor, wilt thou dare to serve him?
- I punished him because I knew him not;
- But now, the veil of ignorance removed,
- I see him as he is; behold him born
- To change the astonished world, and rule mankind:
- When I beheld him rise in awful pomp,
- Intrepid, eloquent, by all admired,
- By all adored; beheld him speak and act,
- Punish and pardon like a god, I lent
- My little aid, and joined the conqueror.
- Altars, thou knowest, and thrones were our reward;
- Once I was blind, like thee, but, thanks to heaven!
- My eyes are opened now; would, Zopir, thine
- Were open, too! let me entreat thee, change,
- As I have done; no longer boast thy zeal
- And cruel hatred, nor blaspheme our God,
- But fall submissive at the hero’s feet
- Whom thou hast injured; kiss the hand that bears
- The angry lightning, lest it fall upon thee.
- Omar is now the second of mankind;
- A place of honor yet remains for thee,
- If prudent thou wilt yield, and own a master:
- What we have been thou knowest, and what we are:
- The multitude are ever weak and blind,
- Made for our use, born but to serve the great,
- But to admire, believe us, and obey:
- Reign then with us, partake the feast of grandeur,
- No longer deign to imitate the crowd,
- But henceforth make them tremble.
- Tremble thou,
- And Mahomet, with all thy hateful train:
- Thinkest thou that Mecca’s faithful chief will fall
- At an impostor’s feet, and crown a rebel?
- I am no stranger to his specious worth;
- His courage and his conduct have my praise;
- Were he but virtuous I like thee should love him;
- But as he is I hate the tyrant: hence,
- Nor talk to me of his deceitful mercy,
- His clemency and goodness; all his aim
- Is cruelty and vengeance: with this hand
- I slew his darling son; I banished him:
- My hatred is inflexible, and so
- Is Mahomet’s resentment: if he e’er
- Re-enters Mecca, he must cut his way
- Through Zopir’s blood, for he is deeply stained
- With crimes that justice never can forgive.
- To show thee Mahomet is merciful,
- That he can pardon though thou canst not, here
- I offer thee the third of all our spoils
- Which we have taken from tributary kings;
- Name your conditions, and the terms of peace;
- Set your own terms on fair Palmira; take
- Our treasures, and be happy.
- Thinkest thou Zopir
- Will basely sell his honor and his country,
- Will blast his name with infamy for wealth,
- The foul reward of guilt, or that Palmira
- Will ever own a tyrant for her master?
- She is too virtuous e’er to be the slave
- Of Mahomet, nor will I suffer her
- To fall a sacrifice to base impostors
- Who would subvert the laws, and undermine
- The safety and the virtue of mankind.
- Implacably severe; thou talkest to Omar
- As if he were a criminal, and thou
- His judge; but henceforth I would have thee act
- A better part, and treat me as a friend,
- As the ambassador of Mahomet,
- A conqueror and a king.
- A king! who made,
- Who crowned him?
- Victory: respect his glory,
- And tremble at his power: amidst his conquests
- The hero offers peace; our swords are still
- Unsheathed, and woe to this rebellious city
- If she submits not: think what blood must flow,
- The blood of half our fellow-citizens;
- Consider, Zopir, Mahomet is here,
- And even now requests to speak with thee.
- Were I the sole despotic ruler here
- He should be answered soon—by chastisement.
- I pity, Zopir, thy pretended virtue;
- But since the senate insolently claim
- Divided empire with thee, to the senate
- Let us begone; Omar will meet thee there.
- I’ll follow thee: we then shall see who best
- Can plead his cause: I will defend my gods,
- My country, and her laws; thy impious voice
- Shall bellow for thy vengeful deity,
- Thy persecuting god, and his false prophet.
- [Turning to Phanor.
- Haste, Phanor, and with me repulse the traitor;
- Who spares a villain is a villain:—come,
- Let us, my friend, unite to crush his pride,
- Subvert his wily purposes, destroy him,
- Or perish in the attempt: If Mecca listens
- To Zopir’s councils, I shall free my country
- From a proud tyrant’s power, and save mankind.
End of the First Act.