Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT III. - 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 III. - 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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orestes, pylades, pammenes.
[A slave at the farther end of the stage carrying an urn and a sword.
- Blest be the day that to our wishes thus
- Restores the long-expected hope of Greece,
- My royal master’s son, the minister
- Of heaven’s high will, to execute swift vengeance
- On Agamemnon’s foes! The tyrant long
- Hath dreaded, long foreseen the impending blow;
- Conscious of guilt, in every face unknown
- Still he beholds his master and his judge,
- And still Orestes haunts his troubled soul:
- Much he inquires concerning you, and longs
- To see you both. I have a thousand fears,
- A thousand hopes; heaven grant we may succeed!
- Meantime I have obeyed your orders, sounded
- The people’s hearts, and strove to animate
- Their zeal; inspired them with the distant hope
- Of an avenger; soon or late the race
- Of rightful kings must prosper: every heart
- Glowed with warm transport at Orestes’ name;
- Awakened from her slumber, vengeance rises
- With double vigor; my few faithful friends,
- Who dwell in this lone desert with Pammenes,
- Lift up their hands to heaven, and call on thee;
- And yet I tremble to behold thee here
- Unarmed and unassisted, lest some chance
- Discover thee, and blast our hopes: the foe
- Is barbarous, active, vigilant, and bold;
- One fatal stroke may ruin all; whilst thou,
- Against a tyrant seated on his throne,
- Bringest nothing but Orestes, and his friend.
- And are not they sufficient? ’Tis the work
- Of heaven that oft fulfils its own designs
- By means most wonderful, that in the deep
- O’erwhelmed our little all, and here alone
- Hath left us to perform the sacrifice.
- Sometimes it arms the sovereigns of the earth
- With tenfold vengeance; sometimes, in contempt
- Of human valor, strikes in awful silence;
- Nature and friendship then assert the rights
- Of heaven, and vindicate its power divine.
- Orestes asks no other aid, no arm
- But thine, my Pylades.
- Take heed, my friend,
- Quit not the paths of safety pointed out
- By the just gods; remember thou art bound
- By solemn oath to hide thee from Electra;
- Thy peace, thy happiness, thy kingdom, all
- Depend upon it: O refrain thy transports,
- Dissemble, and obey; ’tis fit Electra
- Should be deceived, even more than Clytemnæstra.
- Thank heaven, that thus ordained it for thy safety.
- Already hath Electra, bathed in tears,
- And calling for her great avenger, filled
- These solitary mansions with her cries;
- Importunate and bold, she sought me out,
- And with imprudent warmth, demanded loud,
- Where was her brother, where her dear Orestes:
- Nature had whispered to her anxious heart
- He was not far from his Electra: scarce
- Could I withhold her eager steps.
- Ye gods!
- Must I refrain? O insupportable!
- You hesitate; O think, my dear Orestes,
- Think on the menaces of angry heaven,
- Think on its goodness that preserved thy life
- From every danger; if thou shouldst oppose
- Its sacred will, eternal wrath awaits
- To blast thy purpose; tremble, son of Atreus
- And Tantalus, remember what thy hapless race
- Hath suffered, nor expect a milder doom.
- What power invincible presides unseen
- O’er human actions, and directs our fate?
- Is it a crime to listen to the voice
- Of fond affection? O eternal justice,
- Thou deep abyss, unsearchable to man!
- Shall not our weakness and our guilt by thee
- Be still distinguished? shall the man who wanders
- From virtue’s paths unknowing, and who braves
- Thy power, shall he who yields to nature’s laws,
- And he who breaks them, share an equal fate?
- But shall the slave condemn his master? heaven
- Gave us our being, and can owe us nothing:
- Therefore no more: in silence I obey.
- Give me the urn, the ring, and bloody sword,
- Which thou hast hither brought, they shall be offered
- Far from Electra’s sight: let us be gone;
- I’ll see my sister when I have avenged her.
- [Turning to Pammenes.
- Go thou, Pammenes, and prepare the hearts
- Of thy brave followers for the great event
- Which Greece awaits, and I must execute:
- Deceive Ægisthus, and my guilty mother;
- Let them enjoy the transitory bliss,
- The short-lived pleasure of Orestes’ death,
- If an unnatural mother can behold
- With joy the ashes of a murdered son:
- Here will I wait, and stop them as they pass.
electraandiphisaon one side of the stageorestesandpyladeson the other, with a slave carrying an urn and a sword.
- [To Iphisa.
- Hope disappointed is the worst of sorrows.
- O my Iphisa, all thy flattering dreams
- Are vanished, and Pammenes, with a word,
- Hath undeceived us; the fair day that shone
- So bright is clouded o’er, and darkness spreads
- On every side: alas! our wretched life
- Is but a round of never-ending woes.
- [To Pylades.
- Two women, and in tears!
- Alas, my lord,
- Beneath a tyrant all things wear the face
- Of grief and misery.
- In Ægisthus’ court
- Nothing should reign but sorrow.
- [To Electra.
- Look, Electra,
- The strangers come this way.
- Unhappy omen!
- They did pronounce Ægisthus’ hated name.
- One is that hero whom I told thee of,
- The noble youth—
- [Looking at Orestes.
- Alas! I too, like thee,
- Have been deceived.
- [Turning to Orestes.
- Who are ye, wretched strangers;
- And what hath led you to this fatal shore?
- We come to see the king who reigns in Argos,
- And take our orders from him.
- Are ye Grecians,
- And call ye him a king, the murderer
- Of Agamemnon?
- He is sovereign here,
- And heaven commands us to respect his throne,
- Not to dispute his title.
- Horrid maxim!
- And what have you to ask of this proud king,
- This bloody monster here?
- We come to bring him
- Some happy tidings.
- Dreadful then to us
- They must be.
- [Seeing the Urn.
- Ha! an urn! O grief, O horror!
- O ye gods! Orestes dead!
- I faint, I die.
- What have we done, my friend!
- They could not be mistaken, for their grief
- Betrays them: O! my blood runs cold.—Fair princess,
- Be comforted, and live.
- Orestes dead?
- And can I live? O no, barbarians, here
- Complete your cruelty.
- Alas! you see
- The poor remains of Agamemnon; we
- Are his unhappy daughters, the sad sisters
- Of lost Orestes.
- O Electra! O
- Iphisa! O where am I? cruel gods!
- [To the slave carrying the urn.
- Take from their sight those monuments of woe,
- That fatal urn, which—
- [Running towards the urn.
- Wouldst thou take it from me?
- Wouldst thou deprive me of the little all
- That’s left Electra by offended heaven?
- O give it me.
- [She takes the urn, and embraces it.
- Forbear; what wouldst thou do?
- Away: Ægisthus only must receive
- These precious relics.
- Must I then behold
- My brother’s ashes in a tyrant’s hand,
- And are Orestes’ murderers before me?
- Horrid reproach! it shocks my very soul:
- I can no longer—
- Yet you weep with me:
- O, in the name of the avenging gods,
- If ye are guiltless, if your generous hands
- Collected his dear ashes—
- If ye lament his death, O answer me:
- Who told you of his fate: art thou his friend?
- Speak, noble youth: both dumb! yet both afflicted:
- Even whilst your words plant daggers in my heart,
- Ye seem to pity me.
- It is too much;
- The gods have been obeyed enough already.
- Leave those poor remains.
- O no:
- I never will: alas! is every heart
- Inflexible? I tell thee, cruel stranger,
- I must not, cannot give thee back again
- The fatal gift thy pity hath bestowed:
- ’Tis my Orestes; and I will embrace him:
- Behold his dying sister.
- Cruel gods!
- Where are your thunders now? O strike: Electra,
- I can no longer—
ægisthus, clytemnæstra, orestes, pylades, electra, iphisa, pammenes,Guards.
- O glorious spectacle!
- Fortune, I thank thee: Can it be, Pammenes?
- My rival dead! it is, it must be true,
- Electra’s grief confirms it.
- Seize on the urn,
- And wrest it from her.
- [They take the urn from her.
- O thou hast robbed me of the only good
- This life could e’er afford me, barbarous monster!
- O take Electra too, tear forth this heart
- And join me to Orestes; father, son,
- Sister, and brother, all thy wretched victims
- Unite to satiate thy revenge: now, tyrant,
- Enjoy thy happiness, enjoy thy crimes:
- And thou, inhuman mother, look with him
- On the delightful spectacle, it suits
- Thy nature, and is worthy of you both.
- [Iphisa leads her off.
ægisthus, clytemnæstra, orestes, pylades,Guards.
- She shall be punished for it:
- Let her complain to heaven, for heaven itself
- Will justify Ægisthus; it approves
- Where it forbids not; therefore I am guiltless,
- And happy too: my throne stands firmly now,
- My life’s in safety; but I must reward
- The zeal and valor of these noble Grecians.
- It was our duty, royal sir, to lay
- These proofs before you: take this sword, this ring,
- You must remember it: ’twas Agamemnon’s.
- And was it then by thee Orestes fell?
- If thou hast served me, thine be the reward:
- But, say, who art thou, of what race?
- My name
- Must not as yet be known; perhaps hereafter
- It may be: in the fields of Troy my father
- Distinguished shone amongst the great avengers
- Of Menelaus; in those days of glory
- He fought, and fell: deserted and forlorn,
- Left by a cruel mother, and pursued
- By most inhuman foes, this friend alone
- Supported me; was fortune, father, all;
- With him I still have trod the paths of honor,
- With him defied the malice of my fate:
- Such is my story.
- But say where thy arm
- Avenged me of this hated prince: inform me.
- ’Twas a word that to the temple leads
- Of Epidaurus, near Achemor’s tomb.
- The king had set a price upon his head:
- How came you not to ask for your reward?
- Because I hated infamy, and fought
- For vengeance, not for hire; I did not mean
- To sell his blood; a private motive raised
- This arm against him, as my friend well knows,
- And I revenged myself without the aid
- Of kings, nor shall I boast the victory:
- Forgive me, sir: I tremble; for the widow
- Of Agamemnon’s here; perhaps I’ve served,
- Perhaps offended her; I’ll take my leave.
- Thou shalt not; stay, I charge thee.
- Let him go:
- That urn, and the sad story he has told,
- Have filled my soul with horror: heaven, my lord,
- Protects your throne and life, be thankful for it,
- And leave a mother to indulge her sorrows.
- Madam, I thought that Agamemnon’s son
- Was hateful to you.
- I did indeed; for he was born
- To be most guilty.
- The wretched wanderer, thou knowest, was doomed
- To hate a mother, doomed to shed the blood
- From whence he sprang; such was his horrid fate:
- Perhaps he had fulfilled—and yet, his death,
- I know not why, affrights me, and I tremble
- To look on you who saved me from his vengeance.
- Alas! a son against a mother armed!
- O who could loose that sacred tie? perhaps
- He wished—
- What sayest thou? didst thou know him?
- He will discover all.
- [To Ægisthus.
- He did, my lord,
- The wretched soon unite, and soon divide:
- At Delphi first we saw him.
- Yes: I know
- His purpose well.
- I’ve seen his malice long, but I despised it.
- Meantime Electra used Orestes’ name
- To spread division o’er my kingdom; she
- Was my worst foe: thou hast avenged me of her,
- Take thy reward, I yield her to thy power;
- She shall be thine: the haughty maid, who spurned
- The great alliance with Ægisthus’ son;
- Henceforth she is thy slave: the wretched race
- Of Priam long beneath the conqueror’s yoke
- Submissive bowed, and dragged the servile chain;
- And wherefore should not Agememnon’s blood
- Bend in its turn, and share an equal fate?
- Would Clytemnæstra suffer that!
- Thou wouldst not
- Defend thy worst of foes; proscribe Orestes,
- Yet spare Electra.
- [To Orestes.
- Leave the urn with me.
- We will, my lord, and shall accept your offer.
- That were to carry our resentment further
- Than justice warrants: let him hence, and bear
- Some other recompense: we too must go:
- Let us, my lord, I beg thee, let us quit
- These horrid mansions of the dead, where naught
- But dreadful images on every side
- Surrounds me: O we never can prepare
- The bloody feast between the father’s tomb
- And the son’s ashes! How shall we invoke
- The household gods, whom we have injured; how,
- Amidst our cruel sports, give up the blood
- Of Clytemnæstra to the murderer
- Of her Orestes? O it must not be!
- I tremble at the thought: my fears, Ægisthus,
- Should waken thine: this stranger rives my heart;
- His very sight is deadliest poison to me.
- Away, my lord, and let me be concealed
- From every eye; would it were possible
- To hide me from myself!
- [Exit Clytemnæstra.
- [To Orestes.
- Stay thou, and wait
- Till time befriend thee; nature for a moment
- Is clamorous and loud, but soon as reason
- Shall reassume its empire, interest then
- Must plead thy cause, and she alone be heard.
- Meantime remain with us, and celebrate
- Our nuptial day:
- [To one of his attendants.
- Haste you to Epidaurus,
- And hither bring my son; let him confirm
- The welcome tidings.
- Yes, Orestes comes
- To join the cruel pomp, and make thy feast
- A feast of blood.
- O how I trembled for thee!
- I feared thy love; I feared thy tenderness;
- And, more than all, thy honest rage, that burst
- In transports forth when thou beheldest the tyrant:
- I saw thee ready to insult him; saw
- Thy soul take fire at Agamemnon’s name,
- And dreaded the sad consequence.
- My mother,
- O, Pylades, my mother pierced my heart.
- Didst thou not mark the workings of her soul
- Whilst I was speaking? O I felt them all!
- Scarce could my voice in faltering accents tell
- The melancholy tale, whilst Clytemnæstra
- Still gazed, and trembled still: a father’s murder;
- A sister unrevenged; a tyrant yet
- Unpunished; and a mother to be taught
- Her interest and her duty; what a weight
- Of secret cares! great heaven complete thy work!
- Urge on the lingering moments that retard
- My vengeance; O, let me perform the task
- Of love, and hatred; let me mix the blood
- Of base Ægisthus with the vile remains
- Of Plisthenes; let sweet Electra see
- The cruel tyrant gasping at my feet,
- And know her dear deliverer in Orestes!
orestes, pylades, pammenes.
- What hast thou done, Pammenes, may we hope—
- O my dear lord, never, since the fatal day
- When Agamemnon fell, did greater perils
- Threaten thy precious life.
- Must I have cause to tremble for Orestes?
- This instant is arrived a messenger
- From Epidaurus, and ere this related
- The death of Plisthenes.
- And knows he that Orestes slew his son?
- They speak of nothing but his death; ere long
- Fresh tidings are expected; and the news
- Meantime concealed from Greece that she has lost
- One of her tyrants; the king, still in doubt,
- Shuts himself up with Clytemnæstra: this
- I learned from one, who, to the royal blood
- Still faithful, pines in loathsome servitude
- Beneath the proud usurper.
- I have gathered
- At least the first fair fruits of promised vengeance;
- Grant me, ye gods, to reap a plenteous harvest!
- Thinkest thou, my friend, they would uplift this arm
- In vain, and only prosper to deceive me;
- To my successful valor give the son,
- And after yield me to the father’s power?
- Let us away: danger should make us bold;
- Who fears not death is master of his foe;
- I’ll seize the moment of uncertainty,
- Ere the full day of truth glares in upon him,
- And points his rage.
- Away: you must be known
- To those few noble spirits who will die
- To serve their prince; this secret place conceals
- Some faithful friends, who may be still more useful,
- Because unknown.
- Haste then; and if the tomb
- Of thy dear father, if thy honored name
- Joined to Electra’s, if the wrath of heaven
- Against usurpers, if the gracious gods
- Who hither led thee, if they all should fail,
- If this detested spot is doomed by fate
- To be thy grave, O take a wretched life
- To thee devoted, we will die together,
- That comfort’s left; for Pylades shall fall
- Close by thy side, and worthy of Orestes.
- Strike me, kind heaven! but O for pity save
- His matchless valor, and protect my friend!
End of the Third Act.