Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT III. - 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 III. - 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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- Yes, my Ægina, I expect him here;
- ’Tis the last time these eyes shall e’er behold
- The wretched Philoctetes.
- Thou hast heard,
- My royal mistress, to what desperate height
- The clamorous people carry their resentment;
- Our dying Thebans from his punishment
- Expect their safety. Old men, women, children,
- United by misfortunes, breathe forth vengeance;
- Pronounce him guilty, and cry out that heaven
- Demands his blood: canst thou resist the torrent,
- Defend, or save him?
- Yes: I will defend him;
- Even though Thebes should lift the murderous hand
- Against her queen, beneath her smoking walls
- To crush Jocaste, ne’er would I betray
- Such injured innocence; but still I fear
- The tongue of slander: well thou knowest my heart
- Once sighed for Philoctetes; now, Ægina,
- Will they not say I sacrifice to him
- My fame, my gods, my country, and my husband?
- Will they not say Jocaste loves him still?
- Calm thy vain fears; thy passion had no witness
- But me, and never—
- Thinkest thou that a princess
- Can e’er conceal her hatred or her love?
- O no! on every side the eager eyes
- Of courtiers look upon us: through the veil
- Of feigned respect, with subtle treachery
- They search our hearts, and trace out every weakness.
- Naught can escape their sharp malignant sight;
- A little word, a sigh, or glance betrays us;
- Our very silence shall be made to speak
- Our thoughts; and when their busy artifice,
- Spite of ourselves, hath drawn the secret from us,
- Then their loud censures cast invidious light
- O’er all our actions, and the instructed world
- Is quickly taught to echo every weakness.
- But what hast thou to fear from calumny?
- What piercing eye can wound Jocaste’s fame?
- Who knows thy love, will know thy conquest o’er it;
- Will know thy virtue still supported thee.
- It is that virtue which distresses me;
- I look, perhaps, with too severe an eye
- On my own weakness, and accuse myself
- Unjustly; but the image still remains
- Of Philoctetes, engraved within my heart
- Too deep for time or virtue to efface it;
- And much I doubt, if when I strive to save him.
- I act not less from justice than from love:
- My pity hath too much of tenderness;
- I tremble oft, and oft reproach myself
- For my fond care; I could be more his friend,
- If he had been less dear to me.
- But say,
- Is it your will that he depart?
- It is:
- And O! if he would listen to Jocaste,
- Never return, never behold me more;
- Fly from this fatal, this distressful scene,
- And save my life and fame. But what detains him?
- Why hastes he not? Ægina, fly—
philoctetes, ægina, jocaste.
- He’s here.
- O prince, my soul is on the rack; I blush
- To see the man whom duty bids me shun,
- Which says I should forget and not betray thee.
- Doubtless thou knowest the dreadful fate that hangs
- O’er thy devoted head.
- The clamorous people
- Demand my life; but they have suffered much,
- And therefore, though unjust, I pity them.
- Yield not thyself a victim to their rage:
- Away, begone; as yet thou art thyself
- The master of thy fate; but this perhaps
- Is the last minute that can give me power
- To save thee: far, O fly far from Jocaste;
- And, in return for added life, I beg thee
- But to forget ’twas I who thus preserved it.
- I could have wished, Jocaste, thou hadst shown
- More strength of mind, and less compassion for me;
- Preferred with me my honor to my life,
- And rather bade me die than meanly quit
- My station here: I yet am innocent,
- But in obeying thee I should be guilty.
- Of all the blessings heaven bestowed upon me,
- My honor and my fame alone remain
- Untouched. O! do not rob me of a treasure
- So precious to me; do not make me thus
- Unworthy of Jocaste. I have lived,
- Lived to fulfil the fate allotted to me;
- Have passed my sacred word to Œdipus,
- And whatsoever suspicions he may cherish,
- I am a stranger to the breach of honor.
- O Philoctetes, let me here entreat thee,
- By the just gods, by that ill-fated passion,
- Which once inspired thy breast, if aught remains
- Of tender friendship, if thou still rememberest
- How much my happiness on thine depended,
- Deign to prolong a glorious life, and days
- That should have been united with Jocaste.
- To thee devoted I would have them still
- In equal tenor flow, and worthy of thee;
- I’ve lived far from thee, and shall die content,
- If thy regard attends me to the tomb
- Who knows but heaven may yet refuse to see
- This bloody sacrifice; perhaps, in mercy
- It guided me to Thebes to save Jocaste;
- Shortened my days, perhaps, to lengthen thine.
- Happy event! the blood of innocence
- May be accepted; mine is not unworthy.
œdipus, jocaste, philoctetes, ægina, araspes,with Attendants.
- Fear not the clamors of an idle crowd,
- That rage tumultuous, and demand thy death:
- Know, Philoctetes, I have calmed their rage
- And will myself, if needful, be thy guard.
- I judge not with the hasty multitude,
- But wish to see thy innocence appear:
- My doubtful mind, uncertain where to fix,
- Nor dares or to condemn, or to acquit thee:
- Heaven can alone determine all, which hears
- My ardent prayer; at length it seems appeased,
- And by its priest shall soon point out the victim.
- The gods shall soon decide ’twixt Thebes and thee.
- Great is thy love of truth, O king, but know
- Justice extreme is height of injury;
- We must not always hearken to the voice
- Of rigor: honor is the first of laws,
- Let us observe it. But thou seest me sunk
- Beneath myself, answering the slandrous tongues
- Of base defamers, whom I should despise.
- O let not Œdipus unite with such
- To ruin my fair fame! it is enough
- That I deny it; ’tis enough to call
- My life before thee. Let Alcides come,
- And bring with him the monsters I destroyed,
- The tyrants I subdued; let these stand forth
- My witnesses, and let my enemies confute them.
- But ask your priest whether his gods condemn me;
- I’ll wait their sentence; not because I fear it,
- But to preserve thy persecuted people.
œdipus, jocaste, high priest, araspes, philoctetes, ægina,Attendants,chorus.
- Will heaven at last indulgent to our prayers
- Withdraw its vengeance? By what murderous hand
- Was it offended?
- Speak, whose blood must flow
- For expiation?
- Fatal gift of heaven!
- Unhappy knowledge! to what dangers oft
- Dost thou betray the heart of curious man!
- O would that fate, thus open to my view,
- Had o’er its secrets drawn the eternal veil
- To hide them from my sight!
- Comest thou the minister of wrath divine?
- Do the gods demand my life?
- If thou givest credit to me, ask me not.
- Whatever be the fate which heaven decrees,
- The safety of my country is concerned,
- And I will know it.
- Have pity on us,
- Pity the afflicted, pity—
- Deserves more, much more, pity than his people.
leader of the chorus.
- Œdipus loves them with paternal fondness;
- To his we join our prayers. O! hear us thou
- Interpreter of heaven; now hear, and save!
second person of the chorus.
- We die, O save us! turn aside the wrath
- Of the angry gods; name the perfidious monster!
leader of the chorus.
- Name him, and soon the parricide shall die
- Unhappy men! why will ye press me thus?
leader of the chorus.
- Speak but the word, he dies, and we are saved.
- O! ye will tremble but to hear his name,
- When ye shall know what pangs he must endure.
- The God, who speaks by me, in pity dooms him
- To banishment alone; but dreadful ills
- Await the murderer: driven to fell despair
- His own rash hand shall to the wrath of heaven
- Add woes more deep and heavier punishment:
- Even you shall shudder at his fate, and own
- Your safety purchased at a rate too dear.
- If I must speak, that thou didst force me to it.
- Insufferable delay! I’ll bear no more.
- Since thou wilt hear it then, ’tis—
- Thou, unhappy Prince,
- Thou art the man.
second person of the chorus.
- Say, can it be, interpreter of heaven?
- [To Œdipus.
- Thou, Œdipus, the murderer of my husband!
- To whom Jocaste yielded with herself
- The throne of Thebes: the oracle is false;
- I know it is; thy virtues must confute it.
leader of the chorus.
- O! heaven, whose power decrees the fate of mortals,
- O! name another, or to death devote us!
- [Turning to Œdipus.
- Think not I mean to render ill for ill;
- Or from this strange reverse of fortune take
- A mean advantage, to return the wrongs
- I suffered from thy people and from thee:
- No, Œdipus, I’ll do thee noble justice,
- That justice thou deniest to Philoctetes.
- Spite of the gods, I think thee innocent,
- And here I offer thee my willing hand
- Against thy foes: I cannot hesitate
- Which I should serve, a pontiff or a king.
- ’Tis a priest’s business, whosoever he be,
- By whatsoever deity inspired,
- To pray for, not to curse, his royal master.
- Transcendent virtue! execrable traitor!
- Here I behold a demi-god, and there
- A base impostor: see the glorious privilege
- Of altars; thanks to their protecting veil,
- With lips profane thou hast abused the power
- Given thee by heaven, to arraign thy king;
- And yet thou thinkest the sacred ministry
- Thou hast disgraced shall withhold my wrath:
- Traitor, thou shouldst have perished at the altar
- Before those gods whose voice thou hast usurped.
- My life is in thy hands, and thou art now
- The master of my fate: seize then the time
- Whilst yet thou art so, for to-day thy doom
- Will be pronounced. Tremble, unhappy Prince,
- Thy reign is past; a hand unseen suspends
- The fatal sword that glitters o’er thy head:
- Soon shall thy conscious soul with horror feel
- The weight of guilt; soon shalt thou quit the throne,
- Where now thou sittest secure, to wander forth
- A wretched exile in a distant land;
- Of wholesome water and of sacred fire
- Deprived, shalt take thy solitary way,
- And to the caves and hollow rocks complain.
- Where’er thou goest, a vengeful God shall still
- Pursue thy steps; still shalt thou call on death,
- But call in vain: heaven, that beholds thy fate,
- Shall hide itself in darkness from thy sight;
- To guilt and sorrow doomed, thou shall regret
- Thy life, and wish that thou hadst ne’er been born.
- Thus far I have constrained my wrath, and heard thee.
- Priest, if thy blood were worthy of my sword,
- Thy life should answer for this insolence:
- But hence, begone, nor urge my temper further,
- Thou author of abominable falsehood.
- Thou callest me hypocrite, and base impostor;
- Thy father thought not so.
- Who? Polybus?
- My father, saidst thou?
- Thou wilt know too soon
- Thy wretched fate: to-day shall give thee birth;
- To-day shall give thee death: unhappy man,
- Tell me who gave thee birth, or say with whom
- Thou livest, beset with sorrows and with crimes
- For thee alone reserved. O Corinth! Phocis!
- Detested nuptials! impious wretched race,
- Too like its parent stem! whose deadly rage
- Shall fill the world with horror and amaze.
œdipus, philoctetes, jocaste.
- His last words fix me to the earth
- Immovable; my passion is subsided;
- I know not where I am: methinks some god
- Descended from above to calm my rage;
- Who to his priest imparted power divine,
- And by his sacred voice pronounced my ruin.
- If thou hadst naught to oppose but king to king,
- I would have fought for Œdipus; but know
- That Priests are here more formidable foes,
- Because respected, feared and honored more.
- Supported by his oracles, the priest
- Shall often make his sovereign crouch beneath him;
- Whilst his weak people, dragged in holy chains,
- Embrace the idol, tread on sacred laws
- With pious zeal, and think they honor heaven
- When they betray their master and their king,
- But above all, when interest, fruitful parent
- Of riot and licentiousness, increase
- Their impious rage, and back their insolence.
- Alas! thy virtue doubles all my woes,
- For great as my misfortunes is thy soul;
- Beneath the weight of care that hangs upon me;
- Who strives to comfort can but more oppress.
- What voice is this which from my inmost soul
- Pours forth complaints? What crime have I committed?
- Say, vengeful gods, is Œdipus so guilty?
- Talk not of guilt, my lord, your dying people
- Demand a victim; we must save our country;
- Delay it not: I was the wife of Laius,
- And I alone should perish: let me seek
- The wandering spirit of my murdered lord
- On the infernal shore, and calm his rage:
- Yes, I will go: may the kind gods accept
- My life and ask no other sacrifice!
- May thy Jocaste save her Œdipus!
- And wouldest thou die! are there not woes enough
- Heaped on this head? O cease, my loved Jocaste,
- This mournful language, I am sunk already
- Too deep in grief without new miseries,
- Without thy death to fill my cup of sorrow.
- Let us go in: I must clear up a doubt
- Too justly formed, I fear: but follow me.
- How couldst thou ever, my lord—
- No more: come in,
- And there confirm my terrors, or remove them.
The End of the Third Act.