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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- It is enough: the power of Salome,
- By all acknowledged, and by all obeyed,
- On its firm basis stands immovable:
- I fled to Azor, with the lightning’s speed,
- Even from Samaria’s plain to Jordan’s spring,
- And quick returned: my presence there indeed
- Was needful, to cut off the aspiring hopes
- Of Israel’s moody race: thy brother Herod,
- So long detained at Rome, was almost grown
- A stranger in his kingdom; and the people,
- Ever capricious, turbulent, and bold,
- Still to their kings unjust, aloud proclaimed,
- That Herod was condemned to slavery
- By haughty Rome; and Mariamne, raised
- To the high rank of her proud ancestors,
- Would from the blood of our high-priests select
- A king, to rule o’er conquered Palestine.
- With grief I see, she is by all adored;
- Her name the dear delight of every tongue;
- Israel reveres the race from whence she sprang,
- Even to idolatry: her birth, her beauty,
- And, above all, her sorrows, melt the hearts
- Of the rude rabble, who, thou knowest, detest
- And rail at us. They call her their dear sovereign,
- And seem to threaten thee with swift destruction.
- I saw the fickle multitudes alarmed
- With idle tales like these, but soon I taught them
- Another lesson; soon I made them tremble:
- Told them great Herod, fraught with double power,
- And armed with vengeance, would ere long return:
- His name alone struck terror to their souls,
- They saw their folly then, and wept in silence.
- Thou toldest them truth, for Herod comes, and soon
- Shall make rebellious Sion bend beneath him.
- Antony’s favorite is Cæsar’s friend;
- Fortune attends him, at his chariot wheels
- Submissive chained: his subtle policy
- Is equal to his courage, and he rises
- With added strength and glory from his fall:
- The senate crown him.
- But when Mariamne
- Shall see her husband, where will be thy power?
- That haughty rival o’er the king had ever
- A fatal influence that supplanted thee;
- And her proud spirit, still inflexible,
- And still revengeful, holds its enmity:
- Her safety must depend on thy destruction,
- And mutual injuries nourish mutual hate.
- Dost thou not dread her all-subduing charms,
- Those lordly tyrants o’er the vanquished Herod?
- For five years past, ever since their fatal marriage,
- Hath his strange passion for her still increased,
- By hatred fixed, and nourished by disdain.
- Oft have we seen the haughty monarch kneel
- Before her feet, her eyes indignant turned
- In fury from him, whilst in vain he sued
- For softer looks than she would deign to give.
- How have we seen him rage, and sigh, and weep,
- Abuse, and flatter, threaten and implore!
- Mean in his rage, and cruel in his love;
- Abroad a hero, and a slave at home:
- He punished an ungrateful barbarous race,
- And, reeking with the father’s blood, adored
- The daughter; raised the dagger to her breast,
- Guided by thee, then dropped it at her feet.
- At Rome indeed, whilst from her sight removed,
- The chain was loosened; but ’twill re-unite
- When he returns, and shall again behold
- The fatal charms which he so long admired:
- Those powerful eyes are ever sure to please,
- And will resume their empire o’er his heart:
- Her foes will soon be humbled, and if she
- But gives the nod, must fall a sacrifice
- To her resentment. Let us guard against it,
- And court that power which we can never destroy:
- Respect well-feigned may win her to our purpose.
- No: there are better methods to remove
- Our fears of Mariamne.
- Perhaps even now she dies.
- And wilt thou dare
- To do a deed so desperate? If the king—
- The king assists me in the work of vengeance,
- And has consented: Zares is arrived
- At Solyma; my instrument of wrath
- Waits for his victim: know, the time, the place,
- The hand to execute, are ready all:
- To-day it must be done.
- Hast thou then gained
- At last the victory? Could the king believe thee?
- Spite of his passion, will he yield up all,
- And act as thou commandest?
- Not so: my power
- Is more confined: scarce could I urge to vengeance,
- With all my arts, his long-reluctant soul,
- But I availed me of his absence from her:
- Whilst Herod lived, exposed to all her charms,
- Thou knowest I led a life of wretchedness,
- Of doubt and fear, uncertain of my fate;
- When, by a thousand crooked paths, at last
- I found a passage to his heart, and thought
- I had secured it, Mariamne came;
- And, when he saw her, all was lost again;
- My arts all baffled by a single glance:
- Yes, the proud queen was mistress of my life,
- And might have taken it: had she known the way
- To manage well her easy lover’s fondness,
- Herod had signed the mandate for another,
- And not for Mariamne; then the blow
- I meant for her had fallen on Salome:
- But I have made her pride assist my vengeance,
- And I have only now to point the dart,
- Which her own hand hath fashioned, to destroy her.
- Thou mayest remember well the fatal time
- That blasted all our hopes; when, Antony
- Subdued. Augustus took the reins of empire,
- Each Eastern monarch trembled on his throne:
- Amongst the rest my hapless brother feared,
- With his protector, he had lost his crown.
- Resistance now was vain, and naught remained
- But to address the conqueror of the world
- In lowliest terms, and ask forgiveness of him.
- Call back that dreadful day, when Herod, driven
- Even to despair, beheld proud Mariamne
- Spurn at his offered love and kind farewell;
- Heard her with anguish heap reproaches on him;
- Call for a father’s and a brother’s blood,
- Shed by her tyrant husband: Herod flew
- To me, and told his griefs; I seized the moment
- Propitious to my vengeance, and regained
- A sister’s power o’er his distressed heart;
- Inflamed his rage, and sharpened his despair;
- Dipped in fresh poison the envenomed dart
- That pierced his soul: then, desperate in his wrath,
- Thou heardest him swear to exterminate the race
- Of Hebrews, and destroy its poor remains;
- Condemn the mother, and cut off her sons
- From their inheritance: but soon to rage
- Succeeded love; one look from her disarmed
- His vengeance. I, with double eagerness,
- Pressed his departure, and at length prevailed:
- He left her; from that hour I was successful;
- My frequent letters kept up his resentment,
- And, absent from her, all his rage returned:
- He blushed in secret for his weakness past,
- And by degrees, as I removed the veil,
- His eyes were opened: Zares caught with me
- The favorable hour, and painted her
- In blackest colors; told him of her power,
- Her interest, friends, and the seditious faction,
- The partisans of the Asmonæan race.
- But I did more, I raised his jealousy;
- He trembled for his glory, and his life:
- Continual treasons had alarmed his soul,
- And left it ever open to suspicion:
- Whate’er he fears, still ready to believe,
- He is not able to distinguish guilt
- From innocence; in short, I fixed his soul,
- Guided his hand, and made him sign the mandate.
- ’Twas nobly done: but what will Varus say,
- The haughty prætor, will he see unmoved
- A deed so daring? he’s thy master here,
- And, unconfirmed by Rome, thy power is nothing.
- From Varus’ hand thy brother must receive
- His crown; nor can he act as sovereign here
- Till the proud prætor shall restore it to him.
- Will Varus, thinkest thou, e’er permit a queen,
- Left to his care, to fall a sacrifice?
- I know the Romans well, they ne’er forgive
- Such rude contempt of their authority.
- Thou wilt bring down the storm on Herod’s head;
- Their thunder’s always ready; those proud conquerors
- Are jealous of their rights, and take, thou knowest,
- Peculiar pleasure in the fall of kings.
- Fear not for Herod, Cæsar is his friend,
- And Varus knows it, therefore will respect him:
- Perhaps this Roman means to manage all,
- But be it as it may, my aim is vengeance;
- I’m on the verge of glory or of shame;
- To-morrow, nay, to-day may change the scene:
- Who knows if e’er hereafter I shall find
- An hour propitious to me, who can tell
- If Herod will be steady to his purpose?
- I know his weakness, and I must prevent it,
- Nor give him time to say, it shall not be.
- When it is done, let Varus rage, and Rome
- Pour forth her threats, it shall not damp my joys:
- The Romans are not here my worst of foes;
- No, I have more to fear from Mariamne;
- I must subdue her rival powers, or perish:
- But Varus comes this way, we must avoid him:
- Zares ere now should have been here: I’ll hence
- And meet him; fare thee well.—If there be need,
- My soldiers at the least alarm are ready,
- And will defend us.
varus, albinus, mazael,Attendants onvarus.
- Salome and Mazael—
- They seem to shun us; in their eyes I read
- Their terrors; guilt hath reason to be fearful,
- And dread my presence.—Mazael, stay: go, tell
- Thy cruel master his designs are known;
- His wicked instrument is now in chains,
- And should have met the death he merited,
- But my regard for Herod bids me hope
- That he will soon behold the snare they laid.
- Punish the traitors, and revenge the cause
- Of injured virtue: if thou lovest thy king,
- If thou regardest his honor or his peace,
- Calm his wild rage, embitter not his soul
- With vile suspicions, and remember, slave,
- Rome is the scourge of villainy; remember
- That Varus knows thee; that he’s master here,
- And that his eyes are open to detect thee
- Away: let Mariamne be obeyed,
- And treated like a queen; observe her well,
- And, if thy life be dear to thee, respect her.
- Begone: you know my last commands;
- Reply not, but obey them.
- Without thee,
- And thy well-timed advice, thou seest, my friend,
- The beautous Mariamne had been lost.
- Zares’ return raised my suspicions of him;
- His most officious care to avoid thy presence,
- And troubled features, I must own, alarmed me.
- How much I owe thee for the important service!
- By thee she lives; by thee my heart once more
- Shall taste its noble happiness, the best
- And fairest treasure of the virtuous mind,
- The happiness to succor the oppressed.
- Such generous cares befit the soul of Varus;
- Thy arm was ever stretched to help the wretched;
- Still hast thou born Rome’s thunder through the world,
- And only conquered but to bless mankind;
- Would I might say thy pity dictates here,
- And not thy love!
- Must love then be the cause?
- Who would not cherish innocence like hers?
- What heart, howe’er indifferent, would not plead
- So fair a cause? who would not die to save her?
- Thus the deceitful passion hides itself
- In virtue’s garb, and steals into the heart:
- Thy hapless flame—
- Albinus, I confess it;
- The wretched Varus dotes on Mariamne:
- Thou seest my naked heart, which fears not thee,
- Because thou art my friend: judge then, Albinus,
- How must her dangers have alarmed my soul!
- Her safety and her welfare are my own;
- Death in its ugliest form were welcome to me,
- If it could make my Mariamne happy.
- How altered is the noble heart of Varus!
- Love has avenged himself of all thy flights;
- No longer do I see the virtuous Roman,
- Severe and unimpassioned, ’midst the crowd
- Of rival beauties, who solicited
- His wandering eyes, regardless of their charms.
- To virtue then, thou knowest, and her alone,
- I paid my vows: in vain corrupted Rome
- Offered her venal beauties to my eyes;
- Their pride disgusted, and their arts displeased;
- False in their vows, and in their vengeance cruel:
- I saw their shameless fronts all covered o’er
- With foul dishonor: vanity, ambition,
- Caprice, and folly, bore the name of love;
- Such conquests were unworthy of thy friend.
- At length the power I had so long contemned
- Indignant saw me from his Eastern throne,
- And soon subdued; it was my fate to rule
- O’er Syria’s melancholy plains: when heaven
- Had to Augustus given the vanquished world,
- And Herod, midst a crowd of kneeling kings,
- Fell at his feet, and sued for his protection,
- Hither I came, and fatal to my peace
- Was Palestine, for there I first beheld her.
- The melancholy theme of every tongue
- Was Mariamne’s woes; all wept her fate,
- Doomed to the arms of an inhuman husband,
- Who slew the father of his lovely bride:
- Thou knowest what miseries she had suffered since,
- Her sorrows only equalled by her virtue:
- Truth, ever banished from the courts of kings,
- Dwells on her lips, and all the art she knows
- Is but the generous care to serve the wretched.
- Her duty is her law; her innocence,
- Calm and serene, contemns the tyrant’s power,
- And pardons her oppressor; even solicits
- My aid to save the man who would destroy her.
- Her virtues, her misfortunes, and her charms
- United, are too powerful for my soul;
- I love her, my Albinus; but my love
- Is not a passion which one day creates,
- And in another is forgotten; no:
- The heart she has subdued is not the slave
- Of loose desire, but by her virtue fired,
- Means to revenge but never to betray her.
- But if the king, my lord, has gained from Rome
- Permission to return.
- Ay, that I fear:
- Alas! myself did move the senate for him.
- Perhaps already he returns to empire,
- And this abhorred mandate is his own;
- The first sad proof of his authority:
- It may be fatal to him. Varus’ power
- May soon be lost, but O! his love remains;
- Yes, I will die in Mariamne’s cause;
- The world shall weep her fate, and I avenge it.
End of the First Act.