Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT I. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. IX The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Alzire, Orestes, Sémiramis, Catiline, Pandora) and Part II (The Scotch Woman, Nanine, The Prude, The Tatler).
ACT I. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. IX The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Alzire, Orestes, Sémiramis, Catiline, Pandora) and Part II (The Scotch Woman, Nanine, The Prude, The Tatler). 
From The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901), A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming. Vol. IX The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Alzire, Orestes, Sémiramis, Catiline, Pandora) and Part II (The Scotch Woman, Nanine, The Prude, The Tatler).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
- At length, for so the council hath decreed,
- Guzman succeeds Alvarez; long, my son,
- Mayest thou preserve for heaven and for thy king
- This better half of our new conquered world,
- This fertile source of riches and of crimes!
- Joyful to thee I yield the post of honor,
- That suits but ill with feeble age like mine;
- In youth thy father trod the paths of glory;
- Alvarez first our winged castles bore
- To Mexico’s astonished sons; he led
- Spain’s gallant heroes to this golden shore:
- After a life spent in my country’s service,
- Could I have formed these heroes into men,
- Could I have made them virtuous, mild, and good,
- I had been amply paid for all my toils:
- But who shall stop the haughty conqueror?
- Alas! my son, their cruelties obscure
- The lustre of their fame; I weep the fate
- Of these unhappy victors, raised by heaven
- To greatness but to be supremely wicked.
- O Guzman, I am verging to the grave,
- Let me but live to see thee govern here
- As justice shall direct thee, and I die
- With pleasure.
- By thy great example fired,
- With thee I fought and conquered for my country;
- From thee must learn to rule: it is not mine
- To give the wise and good Alvarez laws,
- But to receive them from him.
- No; my son,
- The sovereign power can never be divided:
- Worn down with years and labor, I resign
- All worldly pomp; it is enough for me
- If yet my feeble voice be sometimes heard
- To counsel and direct thee; trust me, Guzman,
- Men are not creatures one would wish to rule:
- To that almighty being, whom too long
- I have neglected, would I consecrate
- My poor remains of life; one boon alone,
- As friend, I ask of thee, as father claim;
- To give me up those slaves who by your order
- Are here confined; this day, my son, should be
- A day of pardon, marked by clemency,
- And not by justice.
- A request from you
- Is a command; but think, my lord, I beg,
- What dangers may ensue: a savage people,
- But half subdued, and to the yoke of slavery
- Bending reluctant, ready for revolt,
- Should never be familiar with their conquerors,
- Or dare to look on those they should be taught
- To tremble at: unarmed with power and vengeance
- They would despise us: these untutored Indians,
- Fiery and bold, ill brook the galling rein
- Of servitude, by chastisement alone
- Made tame, and humble, pardoned once, they think
- You fear them; power, in short, is lost by mildness;
- Severity alone insures obedience.
- The brave Castilian serves in honor’s cause,
- With cheerful resignation, ’tis his pride,
- His glory; but inferior nations court
- Oppression; force and only force constrains them:
- Did not the gods of these barbarians drink
- The blood of men, they would not be adored.
- And can a Christian, as thou art, approve
- These tyrant maxims, the detested offspring
- Of narrow policy? are these the means
- To win the wild barbarian to our faith?
- Thinkest thou to rule them with an iron hand,
- And serve a God of peace with war and slaughter?
- Braved I for this the burning tropic’s rage,
- And all the terrors of a world unknown,
- To see our country cursed, our faith disgraced?
- God sent us here for other purposes,
- Sent us to make his holy name revered,
- His sacred laws beloved: whilst we, my son,
- Unmindful of that faith which we profess,
- The laws we teach, and all the tender ties
- Of soft humanity, insatiate still
- For blood and gold, instead of winning o’er
- These savages by gentle means, destroy them.
- All is confusion, death, and horror round us,
- And nought have we of heaven but its thunder;
- Our name indeed bears terror with it; Spain
- Is feared, but hated too: we are the scourge
- Of this new world, vain, covetous, unjust;
- In short, I blush to own it, we alone
- Are the barbarians here: the simple savage,
- Though fierce by nature, is in courage equal,
- In goodness our superior. O my Guzman,
- Had he, like us, been prodigal of blood,
- Had he not felt the throbs of tender pity,
- Alvarez had not lived to speak his virtues:
- Hast thou forgot that day, when by a crowd
- Of desperate natives I was circled in
- On every side, and all my faithful band
- Of followers cut off; alone I stood,
- And every moment looked for death, when, lo;
- At mention of my name, they dropped their arms;
- And straight a young American approached me,
- Embraced my knees, and bathed them with his tears;
- And “is it you,” he cried, “is it my friend?
- Live, good Alvarez, virtue pure as thine
- May be most useful to us; be a father
- To the unhappy; let thy tyrant nation,
- That would enslave us, learn from hence—to pardon,
- And own a savage capable of virtue.”
- I see you are moved; O hearken to the voice
- Of mild humanity, by me she speaks,
- By me addresses Guzman; O my son,
- Canst thou expect the object of thy wishes,
- The fair Alzire ever will crown thy hopes,
- If thou art cruel? thinkest thou to cement
- The dearest bonds of nature in the blood
- Of her loved countrymen, or shall their groans
- Be heard, and Guzman soften into mercy?
- ’Tis your command, my lord, and I submit;
- They have their freedom, but on this condition,
- For so our laws require, they must be Christians:
- To quit their idols, and embrace our faith,
- Alone can save them; we must bend by force
- Their stubborn hearts, and drag them to the altar;
- One king must be obeyed, one God adored.
- Hear me, my son, I wish, as much as Guzman,
- That truth may fix her sacred empire here,
- That neither heaven nor Spain henceforth may find
- A foe on earth; but know, the heart oppressed
- Is never conquered: I force none, yet I
- Have conquered many; the true God, my son,
- The God of Christians is a God of mercy.
- You’ve conquered, sir, the father over his son
- Is absolute; and you, my lord, would soften
- The hardest heart, whilst virtue by Alvarez
- In mildest accents pleads her powerful cause:
- O since kind heaven to thee hath lent the art
- Of soft persuasion, use it for thy son,
- On thee alone depends the happiness
- Of Guzman’s life: the proud Alzire scorns
- My proffered hand: I love her but too well,
- Heaven knows how dearly! but I cannot stoop
- Meanly to sooth a haughty woman’s pride,
- I cannot make myself a poor tame slave
- To her imperious will; but thou hast power
- O’er the fair tyrant’s father; talk to him
- For the last time; let him command his daughter
- To take my hand, and make your Guzman happy;
- And yet it hurts my soul to think Alvarez
- Should stoop so low, and be a suppliant for me.
- Already I have spoke, and Montezuma
- Hath seen his daughter; she will soon be thine.
- I’ve been a friend to his unhappy race,
- And soothed the sorrows of captivity:
- Already he hath quitted his false gods;
- Alzire too, a convert to our faith,
- To this new world shines forth a bright example.
- She only can unite the jarring nations,
- And make us happy; thy long wished-for nuptials
- Shall join two distant globes; these fierce barbarians,
- Who now detest our laws, when they shall see
- The daughter of their king in Guzman’s arms,
- Cheerful beneath thy easy yoke shall bend
- Their willing hearts, and soon be all our own:
- But Montezuma comes; away, my son,
- Expect me with Alzire at the altar.
- At length, obedient to a father’s will,
- Alzire yields, I hope, to thy persuasion.
- If yet my daughter trembles at the thought
- Of wedding him who has destroyed her race,
- Alvarez will forgive a woman’s weakness;
- For thou hast been a father to the wretched:
- Thy gentle manners teach us to revere
- That holy faith from whence they sprung; by thee
- The will of heaven to this new world revealed,
- Enlightened our dark minds; what mighty Spain
- Unconquered left, thy virtue has subdued:
- Thy cruel countrymen’s remorseless rage
- Had rendered even thy God detestable,
- But that in thee His great perfections shine,
- His goodness, and His mercy; in thy heart
- We trace his image; Montezuma’s thine,
- His daughter, and his house; the good Alvarez
- Shall have them all: Potosi and Peru,
- With my Alzire, shall descend to Guzman:
- Prepare the nuptial rites, adorn your temple,
- And let your son be ready to receive her:
- Methinks it is as if the immortal beings
- Had deigned to visit earth, and mix with men.
- O Montezuma, let me live to see
- This blest event, and I shall die content.
- O God, whose gracious hand conducted us
- To this new world, enlighten and preserve it;
- Propitious smile on these first holy vows
- Made at thy altar here! adieu, my friend,
- To thee I owe my Guzman’s happiness.
- O thou true God, whose powerful arm destroyed
- Those idle deities I once adored,
- Watch o’er the poor remains of my sad life,
- And sooth my sorrows; I have lost my all,
- All but Alzire, O protect her youth,
- Watch o’er her steps, and guide her tender heart!
- Daughter, the hour is come to make thyself
- And the world happy, to command the conqueror,
- And make the vanquished smile, restore thy country
- To her lost honor, and to regal power
- Rise from the bosom of adversity.
- Alzire will obey, I know she will;
- Dry up thy tears, a father must not see them.
- I have no will but yours; yet, O my lord,
- See my despair, and look into my soul.
- No more of that; thy word is passed, Alzire,
- And I depend on it.
- ’Twas extorted from me;
- The cruel sacrifice: is this a time
- To plight my faith, and think of nuptial joy,
- This hapless day, when all I held most dear
- Was ravished from me, when our wide-stretched empire
- And all her hosts, the children of the sun,
- Inglorious fell beneath the cruel Guzman?
- O ’twas a day marked by the hand of heaven
- As most unfortunate.
- Our days, Alzire,
- Are happy or unhappy from ourselves,
- And not from circumstance or accident,
- As superstition taught our ancestors
- To credit; think no more on it.
- On this day
- My Zamor fell, our country’s great avenger,
- My lover, chosen by thee, by thee, my father,
- To be Alzire’s husband.
- I have paid
- The debt of sorrow due to Zamor’s ashes,
- And hold his memory dear; but death has cancelled
- Your mutual bonds; therefore no longer shed
- Those fruitless tears, but carry to the altar
- A free and cheerful heart; thy God commands,
- He calls thee to him; if thou art a Christian,
- Now hear his voice.
- Alas! my lord, I know
- A father’s power, and know my duty to him,
- ’Tis to obey, to fall a sacrifice
- Before him; I have passed the utmost bounds
- Which nature ever prescribed; thy will alone
- Hath been my law, nor did I ever stain
- With disobedience my true faith, for thee
- I left my country’s gods, and am a Christian:
- Alas! my father, why wouldst thou deceive me,
- Why tell me, the new deity I serve
- Would bring me peace, that his all-healing power
- Would ease my tortured heart? delusive promise!
- For O my lord, the deadly poison still
- Lurks in my veins, still Zamor’s image dwells
- In his Alzire’s heart, nor time nor death
- Can e’er efface it: well I know Alvarez
- Condemns that passion which he once approved:
- But I will make him ample recompense
- By my obedience:—wed me to the tyrant,
- Give me to Guzman, ’tis a sacrifice
- I owe my country; but remember, sir,
- How dreadful ’tis, and tremble at the thought
- Of such unnatural, such detested bonds,
- Thou who condemnest me to these fatal nuptials,
- Who bidst Alzire give her hand to Guzman,
- And at the altar promise him a heart
- Which is not hers to give.
- What says my child?
- O in the name of every tender tie
- That binds thee to me, spare a wretched father!
- Pity my age, and do not, by the woes
- Which thou alone, Alzire, canst remove,
- Let me entreat thee, O embitter not
- The sad remainder of Alvarez’s life!
- Have I not ever strove to make thee happy,
- And wilt thou not return it? O my daughter,
- Let virtue guide thy steps in duty’s path,
- And lead thee on to bliss! thy country calls,
- Wilt thou betray her? learn henceforth, Alzire,
- To be the mistress of thyself.
- And must I
- Learn to dissemble then? ungrateful task!
- These long delays, Alzire, are unkind,
- And, let me add, ungenerous, to the man
- Who lives but to oblige you: for thy sake
- I stopped the hand of justice; all those captives,
- Whose pardon you solicited, are free:
- But I should blush to think that Guzman owed
- Thy kind compliance to so poor a service;
- ’Tis on thyself, and thy consenting heart,
- He founds his hopes, nor thought I ever till now
- My happiness could make Alzire wretched.
- Wretched indeed! O grant, kind heaven, this day
- May not prove fatal to us both! you see
- I am abashed, confounded, left a prey
- To horror and despair: do not these eyes
- Alone betray the anguish of a mind
- Oppressed with grief? canst thou not read it there?
- I know thou canst: such is my nature, Guzman;
- Ne’er did Alzire’s face belie her heart:
- Dissimulation and disguise, my lord,
- Are European arts, which I abhor.
- I love thy frankness, but lament the cause;
- Zamor is still beloved, his memory lives
- Within thy breast, my rival even in death:
- This is too much, Alzire; duty, honor,
- Virtue forbid it: weep no more, it wounds
- My heart, and I am jealous of thy tears.
- Jealous of him, my lord, who in the grave
- Is mouldering now, my loved, lamented Zamor?
- For I confess I loved him, we were bound
- By mutual vows, and still I weep his fate:
- If thou art a friend to constancy and truth,
- Thou wilt not blame my passion, but approve it.
- By this, and this alone, may Guzman gain
- Alzire’s heart.
- Her pride astonishes,
- And yet I know not how her freedom charms me:
- There is a savage beauty in her heart
- That suits the wildness of her native clime;
- But softer manners may subdue her mind,
- And bind her stubborn fierceness to the yoke
- Of duty; Guzman now is lord of all,
- And nought remains unconquered but Alzire:
- Resolved by force or art to make her mine,
- Our hands, if not our hearts, shall be united.
End of the First Act.