Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT IV. - 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 IV. - 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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- Jocaste, ’tis in vain: say what thou wilt,
- These terrible suspicions haunt me still;
- The priest affrights me; I acquit him now,
- And even, in secret, am my own accuser.
- O! I have asked myself some dreadful questions;
- A thousand strange events, which form my mind
- Were long effaced, now rush in crowds upon me,
- And harrow up my soul; the past obstructs,
- The present but confounds me, and the future
- Is big with horrid truths; on every side
- Guilt waits my footsteps.
- Will not virtue guard thee?
- Art thou not sure that thou art innocent?
- We’re oft more guilty than we think we are.
- Disdain the madness of a talking priest,
- Nor thus excuse him with unmanly fears.
- Now in the name of the unhappy king,
- And angry heaven, let me entreat thee, say,
- When Laius undertook that fatal journey,
- Did guards attend him?
- I’ve already told thee,
- One followed him alone.
- Superior even to the rank he bore.
- He was a king, who, like thyself, disdained
- All irksome pomp, and never would permit
- An idle train of slaves to march before him.
- Amidst his happy subjects fearless still,
- And still unguarded lived in peace and safety,
- And thought his people’s love his best defence.
- Thou best of kings, sent by indulgent heaven
- To mortals here; thou exemplary greatness!
- Could ever Œdipus his barbarous hand
- Lift against thee? but if thou canst, Jocaste,
- Describe him to me.
- Since thou wilt recall
- The sad remembrance, hear what Laius was:
- Spite of the frost which hoary age had spread
- O’er his fair temples in declining age,
- Which yet was vigorous, his eyes sparkled still
- With all the fire of youth, his wrinkled forehead
- Beneath, his silver locks attracted awe
- And reverence from mankind: if I may dare
- To say it, Laius much resembled thee;
- With pleasure I behold in Œdipus
- His virtues and his features thus united.
- What have I said to alarm thee thus?—
- I see
- Some strange misfortune will o’ertake me soon;
- The priest, I fear, was by the gods inspired,
- And but too truly hath foretold my fate:
- Could I do this, and was it possible?
- Are then these holy instruments of heaven
- Infallible? Their ministry indeed
- Binds them to the altar, they approach the gods,
- But they are mortals still; and thinkest thou then
- Truth is dependent on the flight of birds?
- Thinkest thou, expiring by the sacred knife,
- The groaning heifer shall for them alone
- Remove the veil of dark futurity?
- Or the gay victims, crowned with flowery garlands,
- Within their entrails bear the fates of men?
- O no! to search for truth by ways like these
- Is to usurp the rights of power supreme;
- These priests are not what the vile rabble think them,
- Their knowledge springs from our credulity.
- Would it were so! for then I might be happy.
- It is: alas! my griefs bear witness to it.
- Once I was partial to them like thyself,
- But undeceived at length lament my folly;
- Heaven hath chastised me for my easy faith
- In dark mysterious lying oracles,
- That robbed me of my child; I hate the base
- Deluders all; had it not been for them,
- My son had still been living.
- Ha! thy son!
- How didst thou lose him? By what oracles
- Did the gods speak concerning him?
- I’ll tell thee
- What from myself I would have gladly hidden.
- But ’twas a false one; therefore be not moved.
- Thou must have heard I had a son by Laius.
- A mother’s fond disquietude provoked me
- To ask his fate of the great oracle.
- Alas! what madness ’tis to wrest from heaven
- Those secrets which it kindly would conceal:
- But I was a weak woman, and a mother.
- Before the priestess’ feet I fell submissive,
- And thus her answer was; for O, too well
- I must remember what but to repeat
- Now makes me tremble; but thou wilt forgive me:
- “Thy son shall slay his father, sacrilegious,
- Incestuous parricide.” Shall I go on?
- In short, it then foretold me,
- This son, this monster should pollute my bed;
- That I, his mother, should embrace my son,
- Just recent from the murder of his father.
- That thus united by these dreadful ties,
- I should bear children to this hapless child.
- You seem to be disordered at my story,
- And dread perhaps to hear the sad remainder.
- Proceed: what did you with the wretched infant.
- Object of wrath divine?
- Believed the gods;
- Piously cruel, sacrificed my child,
- And stifled all a mother’s tenderness:
- In vain the clamors of parental love
- Condemned the rigid laws of partial heaven:
- Alas! I meant to save the tender victim
- From his hard fate that threatened future guilt,
- And doomed him to involuntary crimes:
- I thought to triumph o’er the oracle,
- And in compassion gave him up to death.
- Cruel compassion, and destructive too!
- Deceitful darkness of a false prediction!
- What did I reap from my inhuman care,
- Did it prolong my wretched husband’s life?
- Alas! cut off in full prosperity,
- He fell by the unknown hands of base assassins,
- Not by his son. Thus were they both torn from me:
- I lost my child, and could not save his father.
- By my example taught, avoid my errors,
- Banish these idle fears, and calm thy soul.
- After the dreadful secret thou hast told me,
- It were not fit I should conceal my own:
- Hear then my tale; perchance when thou shalt know
- The sad relation, which they bear each other,
- Thou too wilt tremble: Born the natural heir
- To Corinth’s throne, from Corinth far removed,
- I look with horror on my native land:
- One day—that fatal day I well remember,
- For O! ’tis ever present to my thoughts,
- And dreadful to my soul—my youthful hands,
- For the first time their solemn gift prepared
- An offering to the gods, when lo! the gates
- Throughout the temple on a sudden stood
- Self-opened, and the pillars streamed with blood;
- The altars shook; a hand invisible
- Threw back my offerings, and in thunder thus
- A horrid voice addressed me: “Come not here,
- Stain not the holy threshold with thy feet,
- The gods have from the living cut thee off
- Indignant, nor will e’er accept thy gifts;
- Go, take thy offerings to the furies, seek
- The serpents that stand ready to devour thee;
- These are thy gods, begone, and worship them.”
- While terror seized me at these dreadful words,
- Again the voice alarmed me, and foretold
- All those sad crimes which heaven to thee denounced
- Against thy son; said, I should slay my father,
- O gods! and be the husband of my mother.
- Where am I? what malicious dæmon joined
- Our hands, to make us thus supremely wretched?
- Reserve thy tears for something still more dreadful;
- Now list and tremble: fearful of myself,
- Lest I should e’er fulfil the dire prediction,
- Or oppose heaven, I left my native land,
- Broke from the arms of a distracted mother,
- Wandered from place to place, disguised my birth,
- My family, and name, by one kind friend
- Attended; yet, in my disastrous journey,
- The God who guided my sad footsteps oft
- Strengthened my arm, and crowned me with success:
- But happier had it been for Œdipus,
- If he had fallen with glory in the field,
- And by his death prevented all his woes:
- I was reserved to be a parricide:
- The hand of heaven, so long suspended o’er me,
- Hath from my eyes at length removed the veil
- Of Ignorance, and now I see it all:
- I do remember, in the fields of Phocis
- (Nor know I how I could so long forget
- The great event) that in a narrow way
- I met two warriors in a splendid car:
- The path was strait, and we disputed it:
- An idle contest for us both; but I
- Was young and haughty, from my earliest years
- Bred up to pride that flowed in with my blood;
- An unknown stranger in a foreign land,
- I thought myself upon my father’s throne,
- And whomso’er I chanced to meet, esteemed
- As my own vassals, born but to obey me:
- I rushed upon them, and with furious arm
- Their rapid coursers stopped in full career;
- Hurled from their chariot the intrepid pair.
- Forward advanced in rage, and both attacked me:
- The combat was not long, for victory soon
- Declared for Œdipus. Immortal powers!
- Whether from hatred or from love I know not,
- But surely on that day ye fought for me.
- I saw them both expiring at my feet,
- And one of them, I do remember well,
- Who seemed in age well-stricken, as he lay
- Gasping on the earth, looked earnestly upon me,
- Held out his arms, and would have spoke: I saw
- The tears flow plenteous from his half-closed eyes:
- Methought when I did wound him my shocked soul,
- All conqueror as I was—you shake, Jocaste.
- My lord, see Phorbas comes; this way they lead him.
- ’Tis well: my doubts will then be satisfied.
œdipus, jocaste, phorbas,Attendants.
- Come hither, thou unfortunate old man;
- The sight of him alarms my conscious soul;
- Confused remembrance tortures me; I dread
- To look on, or to question him.
- O queen,
- Is this the day appointed for my death;
- Hast thou decreed it? Never but to me
- Wert thou unjust.
- Fear not, but hear the king,
- And answer him.
- Thou standest before him.
- Ye gods! is this the successor of Laius?
- Waste not the time thus idly, but inform me,
- Thou wert the only witness of his death,
- And wounded, so ’tis said, in his defence.
- He’s dead, and let his ashes rest in peace;
- Embitter not my fate, nor thus insult
- A faithful subject wounded by thy hand.
- Now satiate thy revenge,
- And put an end to this unhappy life;
- The poor remains of blood which then escaped thee
- Now thou mayest shed; and since thou must remember
- The fatal place where Laius—
- Spare the rest:
- It is enough: I see it now: ’twas I:
- Ye gods! my eyes are opened.
- And art thou he whom my unhappy rage
- Attacked at Daulis in the narrow path?
- O yes it is, must be so: in vain myself
- Would I deceive, all speaks too plain against me,
- I know thee but too well.
- I saw him fall,
- My royal master fall beneath thy hand:
- Thou didst the crime, and I have suffered for it:
- A prison was my fate, and thine a throne.
- Away: I soon shall do thee ample justice,
- Thee and myself; leave then to me the care
- Of my own punishment: begone, and save me
- At least the painful sight of innocence,
- Which I have made unhappy.
- O Jocaste!
- For cruel fate forbids me ever more
- To call thee by the tender name of wife;
- Thou seest my crimes; no longer bound to love;
- Strike now, and free thyself from the dread thought
- Of being mine.
- Take, take this sword,
- The instrument of my unhappy rage;
- Receive, and use it for a noble purpose,
- And plunge it in my breast.
- What wouldst thou do!
- O stop thy furious grief, be calm, and live.
- Canst thou have pity on a wretch like me?
- No, I must die.
- Thou must not: hear Jocaste,
- O hear her prayers!
- I will not, must not hear thee.
- I slew thy husband.
- I did, but ’twas by guilt.
- No matter, still ’twas guilt.
- O fatal nuptials! once such envied bliss!
- Such be it still, for still thou art my husband.
- O no! I am not; this destructive hand
- Hath broke the sacred tie, and deep involved
- Thy kingdom in my ruin. O! avoid me,
- Fear the vindictive God who still pursues
- The wretched Œdipus; I fear myself,
- My timid virtue serves but to confound me;
- Perhaps my fate may reach even thee, Jocaste;
- Pity thyself, pity the hapless victims
- That perish daily for my guilt; O strike,
- And save thy Œdipus from future crimes.
- Do not accuse, do not condemn thyself;
- Thou art unhappy, but thou art not guilty:
- Thou didst not know whose blood thy hand had shed
- In Daulis’ fatal conflict; when remembrance
- Calls forth the melancholy deed, I must
- Weep for myself, but should not punish thee.
- Live therefore—
- No; it is impossible:
- Farewell, Jocaste! whither must I go,
- O whither must I drag this hateful being?
- What clime accursed, or what disastrous shore
- Shall hide my crimes, and bury my despair?
- Still must I wander on from clime to clime,
- Or rise by murder to another throne?
- Shall I to Corinth bend my way, where fate
- Hath heavier crimes in store for Œdipus?
- O Corinth! ne’er on thy detested borders—
œdipus, jocaste, dimas.
- My lord, this moment is arrived a stranger,
- He says, from Corinth, and desires admittance.
- I’ll go and meet him—fare thee well, Jocaste:
- But stop thy tears; no more shalt thou behold
- The wretched Œdipus; it is determined:
- My reign is past; thou hast no husband now,
- I am no more a sovereign, nor Jocaste’s.
- Oppressed with ills I go, in search of climes,
- Where far removed from thee and from my country,
- I still may act as shall become a king,
- Worthy of thee, and justify the tears
- Thou sheddest for Œdipus: farewell! forever.
The End of the Fourth Act.