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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- Welcome, my Seid, do I see thee here
- Once more in safety? what propitious god
- Conducted thee? at length Palmira’s woes
- Shall have an end, and we may yet be happy.
- Thou sweetest charmer, balm of every woe,
- Dear object of my wishes and my tears,
- O since that day of blood when flushed with conquest
- The fierce barbarian snatched thee from my arms,
- When midst a heap of slaughtered friends I lay
- Expiring on the ground, and called on death,
- But called in vain, to end my hated being,
- What have I suffered for my dear Palmira!
- How have I cursed the tardy hours that long
- Withheld my vengeance! my distracted soul’s
- Impatience thirsted for the bloody field,
- That with these hands I might lay waste this seat
- Of slavery, where Palmira mourned so long
- In sad captivity; but thanks to heaven!
- Our holy prophet, whose deep purposes
- Are far beyond the ken of human wisdom,
- Hath hither sent his chosen servant Omar;
- I flew to meet him, they required a hostage;
- I gave my faith, and they received it; firm
- In my resolve to live or die for thee.
- Seid, the very moment ere thou camest
- To calm my fears, and save me from despair,
- Was I entreating the proud ravisher;
- Thou knowest, I cried, the only good on earth
- I prized is left behind, restore it to me:
- Then clasped his knees, fell at the tyrant’s feet,
- And bathed them with my tears, but all in vain:
- How his unkind refusal shocked my soul!
- My eyes grew dim, and motionless I stood
- As one deprived of life; no succor nigh,
- No ray of hope was left, when Seid came
- To ease my troubled heart, and bring me comfort.
- Who could behold unmoved Palmira’s woes?
- The cruel Zopir; not insensible
- He seemed to my misfortunes, yet at last
- Unkindly told me, I must never hope
- To leave these walls, for naught should tear me from him.
- ’Tis false; for Mahomet, my royal master,
- With the victorious Omar, and forgive me,
- If to these noble friends I proudly add
- The name of Seid, these shall set thee free,
- Dry up thy tears, and make Palmira happy:
- The God of Mahomet, our great protector,
- That God whose sacred standard I have borne;
- He who destroyed Medina’s haughty ramparts
- Shall lay rebellious Mecca at our feet;
- Omar is here, and the glad people look
- With eyes of friendship on him; in the name
- Of Mahomet he comes, and meditates
- Some noble purpose.
- Mahomet indeed
- Might free us, and unite two hearts long since
- Devoted to his cause; but he, alas!
- Is far removed, and we abandoned captives.
palmira, seid, omar.
- Despair not; heaven perhaps may yet reward you,
- For Mahomet and liberty are nigh.
- I met the council, and by Mahomet
- Inspired, addressed them thus: “Within these walls,
- Even here,” I cried, “the favorite of heaven,
- Our holy prophet, first drew breath; the great,
- The mighty conqueror, the support of kings;
- And will ye not permit him but to rank
- As friend and fellow-citizen? he comes not
- To ruin or enslave, but to protect,
- To teach you and to save, to fix his power,
- And hold dominion o’er the conquered heart.”
- I spoke; the hoary sages smiled applause,
- And all inclined to favor us; but Zopir,
- Still resolute and still inflexible,
- Declared, the people should be called together,
- And give their general voice: the people met,
- Again I spoke, addressed the citizens,
- Exhorted, threatened, practised every art
- To win their favor, and at length prevailed;
- The gates are opened to great Mahomet,
- Who after fifteen years of cruel exile
- Returns to bless once more his native land;
- With him the gallant Ali, brave Hercides,
- And Ammon the invincible, besides
- A numerous train of chosen followers:
- The people throng around him; some with looks
- Of hatred, some with smiles of cordial love;
- Some bless the hero, and some curse the tyrant:
- Some threaten and blaspheme, whilst others fall
- Beneath his feet, embrace and worship him;
- Meantime the names of God, of peace, and freedom,
- Are echoed through the all-believing crowd;
- Whilst Zopir’s dying party bellows forth
- In idle threats its impotent revenge:
- Amidst their cries, unruffled and serene,
- In triumph walks the god-like Mahomet,
- Bearing the olive in his hand; already
- Peace is proclaimed, and see! the conqueror comes.
mahomet, omar, hercides, seid, palmira,Attendants.
- My friends, and fellow-laborers, valiant Ali,
- Morad, and Ammon, and Hercides, hence
- To your great work, and in my name instruct
- The people, lead them to the paths of truth,
- Promise and threaten; let my God alone
- Be worshipped, and let those who will not love
- Be taught to fear him.—Seid, art thou here?
- My ever-honored father, and my king,
- Led by that power divine who guided thee
- To Mecca’s walls, preventing your commands
- I came, prepared to live or die with thee.
- You should have waited for my orders; he
- Who goes beyond his duty knows it not;
- I am heaven’s minister, and thou art mine;
- Learn then of me to serve and to obey.
- Forgive, my lord, a youth’s impatient ardor:
- Brought up together from our infant years,
- The same our fortunes, and our thoughts the same:
- Alas! my life has been a life of sorrow;
- Long have I languished in captivity,
- Far from my friends, from Seid, and from thee;
- And now at last, when I beheld a ray
- Of comfort shining on me, thy unkindness
- Blasts my fair hopes, and darkens all the scene.
- Palmira, ’tis enough: I know thy virtues;
- Let naught disturb thee: spite of all my cares,
- Glory, and empire, and the weight of war,
- I will remember thee; Palmira still
- Lives in my heart, and shares it with mankind:
- Seid shall join our troops; thou, gentle maid,
- Mayest serve thy God in peace: fear naught but Zopir.
- Brave Omar, stay, for in thy faithful bosom
- Will I repose the secrets of my soul:
- The lingering progress of a doubtful siege
- May stop our rapid course; we must not give
- These weak deluded mortals too much time
- To pry into our actions; prejudice
- Rules o’er the vulgar with despotic sway.
- Thou knowest there is a tale which I have spread
- And they believe, that universal empire
- Awaits the prophet, who to Mecca’s walls
- Shall lead his conquering bands, and bring her peace.
- ’Tis mine to mark the errors of mankind,
- And to avail me of them; but whilst thus
- I try each art to soothe this fickle people,
- What thinks my friend of Seid and Palmira?
- I think most nobly of them, that amidst
- Those few staunch followers who own no God,
- No faith but thine, who love thee as their father,
- Their friend, and benefactor, none obey
- Or serve thee with an humbler, better mind;
- They are most faithful.
- Omar, thou art deceived;
- They are my worst of foes, they love each other.
- And can you blame their tenderness?
- My friend,
- I’ll tell thee all my weakness.
- Thou knowest the reigning passion of my soul;
- Whilst proud ambition and the cares of empire
- Weighed heavy on me, Mahomet’s hard life
- Has been a conflict with opposing Nature,
- Whom I have vanquished by austerity,
- And self-denial; have banished from me
- That baleful poison which unnerves mankind,
- Which only serves to fire them into madness,
- And brutal follies; on the burning sand
- Or desert rocks I brave the inclement sky,
- And bear the seasons’ rough vicissitude:
- Love is my only solace, the dear object
- Of all my toils, the idol I adore,
- The god of Mahomet, the powerful rival
- Of my ambition: know, midst all my queens,
- Palmira reigns sole mistress of my heart:
- Think then what pangs of jealousy thy friend
- Must feel when she expressed her fatal passion
- For Seid.
- Judge thou
- If soon I ought not to take vengeance on them:
- That thou mayest hate my rival more, I’ll tell thee
- Who Seid and Palmira are—the children
- Of him whom I abhor, my deadliest foe.
- Is their father: fifteen years
- Are past since brave Hercides to my care
- Gave up their infant years; they know not yet
- Or who or what they are; I brought them up
- Together; I indulged their lawless passion,
- And added fuel to the guilty flame.
- Methinks it is as if the hand of heaven
- Had meant in them to centre every crime.
- But I must—Ha! their father comes this way,
- His eyes are full of bitterness and wrath
- Against me—now be vigilant, my Omar,
- Hercides must be careful to possess
- This most important pass; return, and tell me
- Whether ’tis most expedient to declare
- Against him, or retreat: away.
- Hard fate!
- Unhappy Zopir! thus compelled to meet
- My worst of foes, the foe of all mankind!
- Since ’tis the will of heaven that Mahomet
- And Zopir should at length unite, approach
- Without a blush, and fearless tell thy tale.
- I blush for thee alone, whose baneful arts
- Have drawn thy country to the brink of ruin;
- Who in the bosom of fair peace wouldst wage
- Intestine war, loosen the sacred bonds
- Of friendship, and destroy our happiness;
- Beneath the veil of proffered terms thou meanest
- But to betray, whilst discord stalks before thee:
- Thou vile assemblage of hypocrisy
- And insolence, abhorred tyrant! thus
- Do the chosen ministers of heaven dispense
- Its sacred blessings, and announce their God?
- Wert thou not Zopir, I would answer thee
- As thou deservest, in thunder, by the voice
- Of that offended Being thou deridest:
- Armed with the hallowed Koran I would teach thee
- To tremble and obey in humble silence:
- And with the subject world to kneel before me;
- But I will talk to thee without disguise,
- As man to man should speak, and friend to friend:
- I have ambition, Zopir; where’s the man
- Who has it not? but never citizen,
- Or chief, or priest, or king projected aught
- So noble as the plan of Mahomet;
- In acts or arms hath every nation shone
- Superior in its turn; Arabia now
- Steps forth; that generous people, long unknown
- And unrespected, saw her glories sunk,
- Her honors lost; but, lo! the hour is come
- When she shall rise to victory and renown;
- The world lies desolate from pole to pole;
- India’s slaves, and bleeding Persia mourns
- Her slaughtered sons; whilst Egypt hangs the head
- Dejected; from the walls of Constantine
- Splendor is fled; the Roman Empire torn
- By discord, sees its scattered members spread
- On every side inglorious;—let us raise
- Arabia on the ruins of mankind:
- The blind and tottering universe demands
- Another worship, and another God.
- Crete had her Minos, Egypt her Osiris,
- To Asia Zoroaster gave his laws,
- And Numa was in Italy adored:
- O’er savage nations where nor monarchs ruled
- Nor manners softened, nor religion taught,
- Hath many a sage his fruitless maxims spread;
- Beneath a nobler yoke I mean to bend
- The prostrate world, and change their feeble laws,
- Abolish their false worship, pull down
- Their powerless gods, and on my purer faith
- Found universal empire: say not, Zopir,
- That Mahomet betrays his country, no:
- I mean but to destroy its weak supports,
- And, banishing idolatry, unite it
- Beneath one king, one prophet, and one God;
- I shall subdue it but to make it glorious.
- Is this thy purpose then, and darest thou thus
- Avow it? canst thou change the hearts of men,
- And make them think like thee? are war and slaughter
- The harbingers of wisdom and of peace;
- Can he who ravages instruct mankind?
- If in the night of ignorance and error
- We long have wandered, must thy dreadful torch
- Enlighten us? What right hast thou to empire?
- That right which firm, exalted spirits claim
- O’er vulgar minds.
- Thus every bold impostor
- May forge new fetters, and enslave mankind:
- He has a right, it seems, to cheat the world
- If he can do it with an air of grandeur.
- I know your people well; I know they want
- A leader; my religion, true or false,
- Is needful to them: what have all your gods
- And all your idols done? what laurels grow
- Beneath their altars? your low, grovelling sect
- Debases man, unnerves his active soul,
- And makes it heavy, phlegmatic, and mean;
- Whilst mine exalts it, gives it strength and courage:
- My law forms heroes.
- Rather call them robbers:
- Away; nor bring thy hateful lessons here;
- Go to the school of tyrants, boast thy frauds
- To lost Medina, where thou reignest supreme,
- Where blinded bigots bend beneath thy power,
- And thou beholdest thy equals at thy feet.
- My equals! Mahomet has none; long since
- I passed them all; Medina is my own,
- And Mecca trembles at me; if thou holdest
- Thy safety dear, receive the peace I offer.
- Thou talkest of peace, but ’tis not in thy heart;
- I’m not to be deceived.
- I would not have thee;
- The weak deceive, the powerful command:
- To-morrow I shall force thee to submit;
- To-day, observe, I would have been thy friend.
- Can we be friends? can Mahomet and Zopir
- E’er be united? say, what god shall work
- A miracle like that?
- I’ll tell thee one,
- A powerful God, one that is always heard,
- By me he speaks to thee.
- Interest, thy own dear interest.
- Sooner heaven
- And hell shall be united; interest
- May be the god of Mahomet, but mine
- Is—justice: what shall join them to each other?
- Where is the cement that must bind our friendship?
- Is it that son I slew, or the warm blood
- Of Zopir’s house which thou has shed?
- It is
- Thy blood, thy son’s—for now I will unveil
- A secret to thee, known to none but me:
- Thou weepest thy children dead; they both are—living.
- What sayest thou? living? unexpected bliss!
- My children living?
- Yes; and both—my prisoners.
- My children slaves to thee? impossible!
- My bounty nourished them.
- And couldst thou spare
- A child of Zopir’s?
- For their father’s faults
- I would not punish them.
- But tell me, say,
- For what are they reserved?
- Their life or death
- Depend on me: speak but the word, and thou
- Art master of their fate.
- O name the price
- And thou shalt have it; must I give my blood,
- Or must I bear their chains, and be the slave
- Of Mahomet?
- I ask not either of thee:
- Lend me thy aid but to subdue the world;
- Surrender Mecca to me, and give up
- Your temple, bid the astonished people read
- My sacred Koran; be thou my vassal,
- And fall before me, then will I restore
- Thy son, perhaps hereafter may reward thee
- With honors, and contract a closer tie
- With Zopir.
- Mahomet, thou seest in me
- A tender father: after fifteen years
- Of cruel absence, to behold my children,
- To die in their embraces, were the first
- And fairest blessings that my soul could wish for;
- But if to thee I must betray my country,
- Or sacrifice my children, know, proud tyrant,
- The choice is made already—fare thee well.
- Inexorable dotard! but henceforth
- I will be more implacable, more cruel
- Even than thyself.
- And so indeed thou must be,
- Or all is lost: already I have bought
- Their secret counsels: Mahomet, to-morrow
- The truce expires, and Zopir reassumes
- His power; thy life’s in danger: half the senate
- Are leagued against thee: those who dare not fight
- May hire the dark assassin to destroy thee;
- May screen their guilt beneath the mask of justice,
- And call the murder legal punishment.
- First they shall feel my vengeance: persecution,
- Thou knowest, has ever been my best support.
- Zopir must die.
- ’Tis well resolved: his fate
- Will teach the rest obedience: lose no time.
- Yet, spite of my resentment, I must hide
- The murderous hand that deals the blow, to ’scape
- Suspicion’s watchful eye, and not incense
- The multitude.
- They are not worth our care.
- And yet they must be pleased: I want an arm
- That will strike boldly.
- Seid is the man;
- I’ll answer for him.
- Ay: the best,
- The fittest instrument to serve our purpose:
- As Zopir’s hostage he may find occasion
- To speak with him, and soon avenge his master.
- Thy other favorites are too wise, too prudent
- For such a dangerous enterprise; old age
- Takes off the bandage of credulity
- From mortal eyes; but the young, simple heart,
- The willing slave to its own fond opinions,
- And void of guile, will act as we direct it:
- Youth is the proper period for delusion.
- Seid, thou knowest, is superstitious, bold,
- And violent, but easy to be led;
- Like a tame lion, to his keeper’s voice
- What! the brother of Palmira?
- Ay; Seid, the fierce son of thy proud foe,
- The incestuous rival of great Mahomet,
- His master’s rival.
- I detest him, Omar,
- Abhor his very name; my murdered son
- Cries out for vengeance on him; but thou knowest
- The object of my love, and whence she sprung:
- Thou seest I am oppressed on every side;
- I would have altars, victims, and a throne;
- I would have Zopir’s blood, and Seid’s too:
- I must consult my interest, my revenge,
- My honor, and my love, that fatal passion,
- Which, spite of my resentment, holds this heart
- In shameful chains: I must consult religion,
- All powerful motive, and necessity
- That throws a veil o’er every crime: away.
End of the Second Act.