Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT II. - 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 II. - 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).
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- Whither, my Pylades, hath cruel fate
- Conducted us? alas! Orestes lives
- But to increase the sorrows of his friend:
- Our arms, our treasures, and our soldiers lost
- In the rude storm; here on this desert coast,
- No succor near, deserted and forlorn
- We wander on, and naught but hope remains.
- Where are we?
- That I know not; but since fate
- Hath led us hither, let us not despair;
- It is enough for me, Orestes lives:
- Be confident; the barbarous Ægisthus
- In vain pursued thy life, which heaven preserved
- In Epidaurus, when thy arm subdued
- The gallant Plisthenes: let naught alarm
- Or terrify thy soul, but boldly urge
- Thy way, protected by that guardian God
- Who watches o’er the just, the great avenger,
- Who hath already to thy valor given
- The son, and promised that ere long the father
- Shall follow him.
- Alas, my friend, that God
- In anger now withdraws his powerful aid,
- And frowns upon us, as thy cruel fate
- Too plainly shows; a terrible example!
- But say, within the rock didst thou conceal
- The urn, which to Mycenæ, horrid seat
- Of murder, by the gods command, we bear;
- That urn which holds the ashes of my foe,
- Of Plisthenes; with that we must deceive
- The tyrant.
- Gracious heaven!
- When shall we reap the fruits of our obedience?
- When will the wished-for day of vengeance come?
- Shall I again behold my native soil,
- The dear, the dreadful place where first I saw
- The light of day? Where, shall I find my sister,
- The pride, the glory, of admiring Greece;
- That generous maid, whom all unite to praise,
- But none will dare to succor? She preserved
- My life; and, worthy of her noble father,
- Hath never bent beneath the oppressive hand
- Of power, but braved the fury of the storm.
- How many kings, how many heroes, fought
- For Menelaus! Agamemnon dies,
- And Greece forgets him, whilst his hapless son,
- Deserted, wanders o’er a faithless world,
- To seek some blest asylum for repose.
- Alas, without thy friendship I had been
- The most distressed, most abject of mankind:
- But heaven, in pity to my woes, hath sent
- My Pylades; it would not let me perish,
- But gave me to subdue my hated foe,
- And half avenge my father: say, my friend,
- What path will lead us to the tyrant’s court?
- Behold that palace, and the towering height
- Of yon proud temple, the dark grove overgrown
- With cypress, and the tomb, rich images
- Of mournful splendor all: and see! this way
- Advancing, comes a venerable sage,
- Of mildest aspect, and whose years, no doubt,
- Have long experience of calamity;
- His soul will melt at thy disastrous fate.
- Is every mortal born to suffer? hark!
- He groans, my Pylades.
orestes, pylades, pammenes.
- Whoe’er thou art,
- Stop, and inform us: we are strangers here.
- Two poor unhappy friends, long time the sport
- Of winds and waves, now on this unknown shore
- Cast helpless, canst thou tell us if this place
- Will be or fatal to us, or propitious?
- I am a simple, plain old man, and here
- Worship the gods, adore their justice, live
- In humble fear of them, and exercise
- The sacred rights of hospitality;
- Ye both are welcome to my little cottage,
- There to despise with me the pride of kings,
- Their pomp and riches; come, my friends, for such
- I ever hold the wretched.
- Generous stranger,
- May gracious heaven inspire us with the means
- To recompense thy goodness! but inform us
- What place is this; who is your king?
- I am his subject.
- Terrors, crimes, and vengeance!
- O heaven, Ægisthus!
- Soft: do not betray us;
- Be careful.
- Gods, Ægisthus! he who murdered—
- And Clytemnæstra, lives she still
- After that fatal blow.
- She reigns with him;
- The rest is known too well.
- That tomb before us,
- And yonder palace—
- Is inhabited
- Now by Ægisthus; built, I well remember,
- By worthier hands, and for a better use.
- The tomb thou seest, forgive me if I weep
- At the remembrance, is the tomb of him
- I loved, my lord, my king—of Agamemnon.
- O ’tis too much! I sink beneath it.
- Thy tears, my friend.
- [To Orestes, who turns away from him.
- You seem much moved, and fain
- Would stop the tide of grief: O give it way,
- Indulge thy sorrows, and lament the son
- Of gods, the noble conqueror of Troy;
- Whilst they insult his sacred memory here,
- Strangers shall weep the fate of Agamemnon.
- A stranger as I am, I cannot look
- With cold indifference on the noble race
- Of Atreus, ’tis a Grecian’s duty ever
- To weep the fate of heroes, and I ought—
- But doth Electra live in Argos still?
- I run, I fly to meet her.
- Ha! whither wouldst thou go! What! brave the gods
- Hazard thy precious life! forbear, my lord.
- [To Pammenes.
- O, sir, conduct us to the neighboring temple,
- There will we lay our gifts before the altar
- In humble duty, and adore that God
- Who ruled the waves, and saved us from destruction.
- Wilt thou conduct us to the sacred tomb
- Where lie the ashes of a murdered hero?
- There must I offer to his honored shade
- A secret sacrifice.
- O heavenly justice,
- Thou sacrifice to him! amidst his foes!
- O noble youth! my master had a son,
- Who, in Electra’s arms—but I forbear,
- Ægisthus comes: away; I’ll follow you.
- We must avoid his presence.
ægisthus, clytemnæstra, pammenes.
- [To Pammenes
- Who are those strangers? one of them methought
- Seemed, by his stately port and fair demeanor,
- Of noble birth, a gloom of melancholy
- Hangs on his brow: he struck me as he passed:
- Is he our subject? knowest thou whence he came?
- I only know they are unfortunate;
- Driven by the tempest on those rocks, they came
- For shelter here; as strangers I relieved them;
- It was my duty: if they tell me truth,
- Greece is their country.
- Thou shalt answer for them
- On peril of thy life.
- Alas! my lord,
- Can these poor objects raise suspicion?
- The people murmur; everything alarms me.
- Such for these fifteen years hath been our fate,
- To fear, and to be feared; the bitter poison
- To all my happiness.
- Away, Pammenes;
- Let me know who and whence they are; why thus
- They come so near the palace; from what port
- Their vessel sailed, and wherefore on the seas
- Where I command: away, and bring me word.
- Well, madam, to remove thy idle fears,
- The interpreters of heaven it seems at length
- Have been consulted; but in vain: their silence
- Doubles thy grief, and heightens thy despair;
- For to thyself, thy restless spirit ne’er
- Will know repose; thou tremblest at the thought
- Of thy son’s death, yet fearest his dangerous life:
- Consult no more thy doubtful oracles,
- And hesitating priests, that brood in secret
- O’er the dark bosom of futurity;
- But hear Ægisthus, he shall give thee peace,
- And satisfy thy soul: this hand determines,
- This tongue pronounces Clytemnæstra’s fate:
- If thou wouldst live and reign, confide in me,
- And me alone, and let me hear no more
- Of your unworthy son; but for Electra,
- She’s to be feared, and we must think of her:
- Perhaps her marriage with my Plisthenes
- Might stop the mouth of faction, and appease
- The discontented people: thou wouldst wish
- To see the deadly hatred, that so long
- Hath raged between us, softened into peace;
- To see our interests and our hearts united:
- Let it be so. Go thou, and talk with her;
- But take good heed her pride refuses not
- The proffered boon, that were an insult soon
- She might repent of; but I hope with you,
- That slavery hath bowed down her haughty spirit,
- That this unhoped for, unexpected change
- From poverty and chains to rank and splendor,
- Joined to a mother’s kind authority,
- And above all, to Ambition, will persuade her
- To seize the golden minutes, and be wise:
- But if she spurns the happiness that courts her,
- Her insolence shall meet its due reward.
- Your foolish fondness, and her father’s name,
- Have fed her pride too long; but let her dread,
- If she submits not, a severer fate,
- Chains heavier far, and endless banishment.
- Come near, my daughter, and with milder looks
- Behold thy mother: I have mourned in secret,
- And wept with thee thy hard and cruel bondage,
- Though not unmerited; for sure thy hatred
- Was most unjust, Electra: as a queen,
- I was offended; as a mother, grieved;
- But I have gained your pardon, and your rights
- Are all restored.
- But I would still do more.
- Your race, restore the honored name of Pelops,
- And re-unite his long-divided children.
- Ha! talkest thou of Orestes? speak, go on.
- I speak of thee, and hope at last Electra
- Will be Electra’s friend: I know thy soul
- Aspires to empire, be thyself again,
- And let thy hopes transport thee to the throne
- Of Argos and Mycenæ; rise from chains
- And ignominious slavery to the throne
- Of thy great ancestors: Ægisthus yields
- To my entreaties, as a daughter yet
- He would embrace thee, to his Plisthenes
- Would join Electra; every hour the youth
- From Epidaurus is expected here;
- When he returns he weds you: look, my daughter,
- Towards the bright prospect of thy future glory,
- And bury all the past in deep oblivion.
- Can I forget the past, or look with joy
- On that which is to come? O cruel fate,
- This is the worst indignity that e’er
- Electra bore: remember whence I sprang,
- Remember, I am Agamemnon’s daughter,
- And wouldst thou bind me to his murderer’s son?
- Give me my chains again, oppress my soul
- With all the horrors of base servitude;
- All that the tyrant e’er inflicted on me,
- Shame and reproach suit with my sad condition;
- I have supported them, and looked on death
- Without a fear: a thousand times Ægisthus
- Hath threatened me with death, but this is worse;
- Thou art more cruel far to ask my vows,
- My love, my honor; but I see your aim,
- I know your purpose; poor Orestes slain,
- His murderer trembles at a sister’s claim,
- And dreads my title to a father’s throne:
- The tyrant wants my hand to second him,
- To seal his poor precarious rights with mine,
- And make me an accomplice in his guilt:
- O, if I have a right Ægisthus fears,
- Let him erase my title in my blood,
- And tear it from me: if another arm
- Be needful to his purpose, lend him thine;
- Strike here, and join Electra to her brother;
- Strike here, and I shall know ’tis Clytemnæstra.
- It is too much: ungrateful as thou art,
- I pitied thee; but all my hopes are past:
- What have I done, what would I do, to bend
- Thy stubborn heart? tears, menaces, reproaches,
- And love and tenderness, the throne itself,
- Which but for me thou never couldst have hoped,
- Prayers, punishment, and pardon, naught availed,
- And now I yield thee to thy fate: farewell!
- Thou sayest that thou shalt know me for thy mother,
- For Clytemnæstra, by my cruelty:
- I am thy mother, and I am thy queen,
- Remember that; to Agamemnon’s race
- Naught do I owe but hatred and revenge;
- I will not warm a serpent in my breast
- To sting me: henceforth storm, complain, and weep,
- I shall not heed the clamors of a slave:
- I loved thee once, with grief I own I loved thee;
- But from this hour remember Clytemnæstra
- Is not thy mother, but Ægisthus’ wife;
- The bonds are broken that united us,
- Electra broke them; nature hath disclaimed,
- And I abjure them.
- Gracious heaven! is this
- A mother’s voice? O day the bitterest sure
- That ever rose since my dear father’s death!
- I fear I said too much, but my full heart,
- Spite of myself, would pour its venom forth:
- She told me my Orestes was no more;
- Could I bear that? O if a cruel mother
- Has robbed me of my best, my dearest treasure,
- Why should I court my worst of foes, why fawn
- And cringe to her, to live a vile dependant
- On her precarious bounties; to lift up
- These withered hands to unrelenting heaven,
- To see my father’s bed and throne usurped
- By this base spoiler, this inhuman tyrant,
- Who robbed me of a mother’s heart, and now
- Hath taken Orestes from me?
- O Electra,
- Complain no more.
- Joy is a stranger to this heart, Iphisa,
- And ever shall be.
- O no,
- Still must we weep: for if I may believe
- A mother, our dear brother, our Orestes,
- Is dead.
- And if I may believe these eyes,
- He lives, he’s here, Electra.
- Can it be?
- Good heaven! O do not trifle with a heart
- Like mine: Iphisa, didst thou say Orestes?
- Thou wouldst not with a flattering dream
- Deceive me, my Iphisa—but, go on,
- For hope and fear distract me.
- O my sister,
- Two strangers, cast by some benignant God
- On these unhappy coasts, are just arrived,
- And hither, by the care of good Pammenes,
- Conducted; one of them—
- I faint: die—
- Well, one of them—
- I saw the noble youth:
- O what a lustre sparkled in his eye!
- His air, his mien, his every gesture bore
- The perfect semblage of a demi-god;
- Even as they paint the illustrious Grecian chief,
- The conqueror of Troy; such majesty
- And sweet deportment ne’er did I behold;
- But with Pammenes he retired, and hid
- His beauteous form from my desiring eyes:
- Struck with the charming image, and amazed,
- I ran to seek thee here, beneath the shade
- Of this dark grove, to tell the pleasing tale:
- But mark what followed—on the sacred tomb,
- Where we so oft have mingled our sad tears,
- I saw fresh garlands, saw the votive wreath,
- The water sprinkled over it, and the hair
- Doubtless of those whom I so late had seen,
- The illustrious strangers: near to these was laid,
- What most confirmed my hopes, a glittering sword,
- That spoke methought the day of vengeance near:
- Who but a son, a brother, and a hero,
- Raised by the gods to save his falling country,
- Would dare to brave the tyrant thus? ’Tis he,
- Electra, heaven hath sent him to our aid,
- The lightning glares upon us, and the thunder
- Will soon be heard.
- I must believe Iphisa,
- And hope the best; but is it not a snare
- Laid by the tyrant? Come: we’ll know the truth,
- Let us away—I must be satisfied.
- We must not search him in the dark retreat
- Where he is hid. Pammenes says, his life
- Would answer for it.
- Ha! what dost thou say?
- Alas! we are deceived, betrayed, Iphisa,
- By cruel heaven: thus, after fifteen years,
- Restored, Orestes would have run with joy
- To the dear arms that saved him, would have cheered
- Electra’s mournful heart, he ne’er had fled
- From thee, Iphisa: O that sword thou sawest,
- Which raised thy sanguine hope, alarms my fears;
- A cruel mother would be well informed,
- And in her eyes I read the barbarous joy
- She felt within: O dart one ray of hope,
- Ye vengeful gods, on my despairing soul!
- Will not Pammenes yield to my entreaties?
- He will; he must: away, I’ll speak to him.
- Do not, Electra; think what cruel eyes
- Watch o’er our steps, and mark our every action.
- If he is come, we shall discover him
- By our fond zeal, and hazard his sweet life:
- If we’re deceived, our search but irritates
- The tyrant, and endangers good Pammenes;
- But let us pay our duty at the tomb,
- There we at least may weep without offence.
- Who knows, Electra, but the noble stranger
- May meet us in that blest asylum; there
- That heaven, whose goodness thy impatient rage
- Hath called in question, may yet hear my vows,
- And give him to our wishes and our tears:
- Let us be gone.
- Thou hast revived my hopes:
- But O, I die with grief, if thou deceivest me!
End of the Second Act.