Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT IV. - 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 IV. - 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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- Perhaps the vigilance of good Pammenes
- May for awhile remove the king’s suspicions;
- And gracious heaven, in pity to our woes,
- Deceive Ægisthus to a fond belief,
- That the devoted race of Tantalus
- Is now no more; but, O my Pylades,
- The sword I offered at my father’s tomb
- Is stolen by sacrilegious hands, that reach
- Even to the sacred mansions of the dead:
- If it be carried to the tyrant, all
- Will be discovered; let us haste, my friend,
- And seize him, ere it be too late.
- Is watchful o’er our interest: we must wait
- For him: when we have gathered the few friends
- That mean to serve us, be this tomb the place
- Of meeting for us all, Pammenes then
- Will join us here.
- O Pylades, O heaven!
- This barbarous law that forces me to wound
- A tender heart that lives but for Orestes!
- And must I leave Electra to her sorrows?
- Yes: thou hast sworn it, therefore persevere;
- Thou hast more cause to dread Electra now
- Than all thy foes; she may destroy, but never
- Can serve us, and the tyrant’s eyes may soon
- Be opened: O subdue, if possible,
- The pangs of nature, and conceal thy love:
- We came not here to comfort thy Electra,
- But to avenge her.
- See, my Pylades,
- She comes this way, perhaps in search of me.
- Her every step is watched: you must not see her:
- Begone; and doubt not, I’ll observe her well;
- The eyes of friendship seldom are deceived.
electra, iphisa, pylades.
- The villain hath escaped me; he avoids
- My hated sight, and leaves me to my fate,
- To fruitless rage, and unavailing tears,
- Without the hope of vengeance: say, barbarian,
- Thou vile accomplice in his crimes, where went
- The murderer, my tyrant, my new lord,
- (For so it seems Ægisthus has decreed)
- Where is he gone?
- To do the will of heaven,
- In dutiful obedience to the gods,
- And well would it become the royal maid
- To follow his example: fate ofttimes
- Deceives the hearts of men, directs in secret,
- And guides their wandering steps through paths unknown;
- Ofttimes it sinks us in the deep abyss
- Of misery, and then raises us to joy;
- Binds us in chains, or lifts us to a throne,
- And gives us life midst horrors, tombs, and death.
- Complain no more, but yield to thy new sorrows;
- Be patient, and be happy: fare thee well.
- He swells my rage to fury and despair:
- Thinks he I’ll tamely bear these cruel insults?
- Could not a father’s and a brother’s death
- Fill up the measure of Electra’s woes;
- But she must bend beneath the vile assassin
- Of her Orestes; be a common slave
- To all the murderers of her hapless race?
- Thou dreadful sword, wet with Orestes’ blood,
- Exposed in triumph at the sacred tomb,
- Thou execrable trophy, for a moment
- Thou didst deceive me, but thou hast insulted
- The ashes of the dead; I’ll make thee serve
- A nobler purpose: though Ægisthus hides
- His guilty head, and with the queen in secret
- Plans future crimes, and meditates destruction,
- Still we may find the murderer of Orestes:
- I cannot bathe me in the blood of both
- My tyrants, but on one at least my soul
- Shall be revenged.
- I cannot blame the grief
- Which I partake; but hear me, hear the voice
- Of reason; every tongue speaks of Orestes;
- They say, he lives, and the king’s fears confirm it.
- You saw Pammenes talking with this stranger
- In secret, saw his ardent zeal to serve
- And to attend him: thinkest thou, our best friend,
- Our comforter, the good old man, would e’er
- Associate with a murderer? never, never,
- He could not be so base.
- He may be false,
- Or weak; old age is easily deceived:
- We are betrayed by all; I know we are:
- Did not the cruel stranger boast his deed?
- Did not Ægisthus yield me up a victim?
- Was not Electra made the price of guilt,
- The murderer’s reward? Orestes calls me
- To join him in the tomb: now then, my sister,
- If e’er thou lovest Electra, pity her
- In her last moments; bloody they must be,
- And terrible. Away; inform thyself
- Touching Pammenes; see if the assassin
- Be with the queen: she flatters all my foes;
- She heard unmoved the murder of her son,
- And seemed, O gods! a mother seemed, to share
- The guilty transport with her savage lord.
- O that this sword could reach him in her arms,
- And pierce the traitor’s heart! I’ll do it.
- No more:
- Indeed you wrong her; for the sight of him
- Offends her: be not thus precipitate
- And rash, Electra; I will to Pammenes,
- And talk with him: or I am much deceived,
- Or by their silence they but mean to hide
- Some mystery from us: your imprudent warmth
- (Yet who would not forgive it in the wretched?)
- Perhaps alarms them, and they would conceal
- From you their purpose; what it is, I know not:
- Pammenes seems to shun you, let me go
- And speak to him; but do not, my Electra,
- Hazard a deed thou wilt too late repent of.
- The subtle tyrants have gained o’er Pammenes;
- Old age is weak and fearful: what can faith
- Or friendship do against the hand of power?
- Henceforth Electra to herself alone
- Shall trust her vengeance: ’tis enough: these hands,
- Armed with despair, shall act with double vigor.
- Arise ye furies, leave your dark abode
- For seats more guilty, and another hell,
- Open your dreary caverns, and receive
- Your victims: bring your flaming torches here,
- Daughters of vengeance, arm yourselves and me;
- Approach, with death and terror in your train;
- Orestes, Agamemnon, and Electra
- Invoke your aid: and lo! they come, I see
- Their glittering swords, and unappalled behold them;
- They are not half so dreadful as Ægisthus:
- The murderer comes; and see, they throng around him;
- Hell points him out, and yields him to my vengeance.
- [At the bottom of the stage.
- [On the other side at a distance from her.
- Where am I? hither they directed me:
- O my dear country! and thou, fatal spot
- That gave me birth, thou great but guilty race
- Of Tantalus, for ever shall thy blood
- Be wretched? horror here on every side
- Surrounds me: wherefore am I punished thus?
- What have I done? why must Orestes suffer
- For his forefathers’ crimes?
- [Advancing a little from the bottom of the stage.
- What power withholds me?
- I cannot lift my arm against him; but
- I will go on.
- Methought I heard a voice:
- O my dear father, ever-honored shade,
- Much injured Agamemnon, didst thou groan?
- Just heaven! durst he pronounce that sacred name?
- And see he weeps: can sighs and penitence
- Find entrance here? but what is his remorse
- To the dire horrors that Electra feels!
- [She comes forward.
- He is alone; now strike—die, traitor—O
- I cannot—
- Gods! Electra, art thou here,
- Furious and trembling?
- Sure thou art some god
- Who thus unnervest me—thou has slain my brother:
- I would have taken thy life for it, but the sword
- Dropped from my hand; thy genius hath prevailed;
- I yield to thee, and must betray my brother.
- Betray him, no! O, why am I restrained?—
- At sight of thee my resolution dies,
- And all is changed: could it be thou who filled
- My soul with terror?
- O, I would repay
- Thy precious tears with hazard of my life!
- Methought I heard thee speak of Agamemnon.
- O gentle youth, deceive me not, but speak:
- For I had well nigh done a desperate deed;
- O show me all the guilt of it! explain
- The mystery; tell me who thou art.
- O sister
- Of dear Orestes, fly from me, avoid me.
- No more—I am—take heed
- They see us not together.
- Gracious heaven!
- Thou fillest my heart with terror and with joy.
- O if thou lovest thy brother—
- Love him! yes:
- And O in thee I hear a father’s voice,
- And see his features; nature hath unveiled
- The mystery: O be kind and speak for her,
- Do not deny it; say thou art my brother:
- Thou art, I know thou art—my dear Orestes;
- How could a sister seek thy precious life?
- [Embracing her.
- Heaven threatens in vain, and nature will prevail:
- Electra is more powerful than the gods.
- The gods have given a sister to thy vows,
- And dost thou fear their wrath?
- Their cruel orders
- Would have deprived me of my dear Electra,
- And may perhaps chastise a brother’s weakness.
- Thy weakness there was virtue; O rejoice
- With me, Orestes; wherefore wouldst thou force me
- To that rash act? it might have cost thee dear.
- I’ve broken my sacred promise.
- A secret trusted to me by the gods.
- I drew it from thee; I extorted it;
- Mine be the guilt; an oath more sacred far
- Binds me to vengeance: what hast thou to fear?
- My destiny, the oracles, the blood
- From whence I sprung.
- That blood henceforth shall flow
- In purer streams; haste then, and join with me
- To scourge the guilty; oracles and gods
- Are all propitious to our great design,
- And the same power that saved will guide Orestes.
electra, orestes, pylades, pammenes.
- Rejoice with me, my friends, for I have found
- My dear Orestes.
- [To Orestes.
- Hast thou then revealed
- The dangerous secret? Couldst thou think—
- If heaven
- Expects obedience, it must give us laws
- We can obey.
- Canst thou reproach him thus
- Only for making poor Electra happy?
- Wouldst thou adopt the cruel sentiments
- Of persecuting foes, and hide Orestes
- From my embraces? what unjust decree
- What harsh commands—
- I meant to save him for thee,
- That he might live, and be thy great avenger.
- Princess, thou knowest, in this detested place
- They watch thee nearly; every sigh is heard,
- And every motion carefully observed:
- Those private friends, whose humble state eludes
- The tyrants search, adore this noble youth,
- And would have served him; everything’s prepared;
- But thy imprudence now will hazard all.
- Did not Ægisthus give me to a hand,
- Stained, as he thought, with my Orestes’ blood?
- [To Orestes.
- Thou art my master; I am bound to serve thee;
- I will obey the tyrant; his commands,
- For once, are welcome, and the prospect brightens
- On every side.
- It may be clouded soon,
- Ægisthus is alarmed, and we have cause
- To tremble; if he but suspects us, death
- Must be our portion, therefore let us part.
- [To Pammenes.
- Hence, good Pammenes, bring our friends together,
- The hours are precious; haste and finish soon
- Thy noble work; ’tis time we should appear,
- And—like ourselves.
ægisthus, clytemnæstra, electra, orestes, pylades,Guards.
- Slaves, execute your office,
- And bear these traitors to the dungeon.
- There ruled o’er Argos those who better knew
- The rights of hospitality.
- What is our crime? Inform us, and at least
- Respect this noble youth.
- Away with them;
- Ye stand aghast, as if ye feared to touch
- His sacred person: hence, I say, take heed
- Ye disobey me not: guards, drag them off.
- O stay, barbarian, stay; for heaven itself
- Pleads for their sacred lives—they tear them from me,
- O gods!
- Electra, tremble for thyself,
- Perfidious as thou art, and dread my wrath.
- O hear me, if thou art a mother, hear;
- Let me recall thy former tenderness,
- Forgive my guilty rage, the sad effect
- Of unexampled sorrows; to complain,
- Is still, the mournful privilege of grief:
- Pity these wretched strangers; heaven perhaps,
- Whose dreadful vengeance thou so long hast feared,
- May for their sakes forgive thy past offences;
- The pardon thou bestowest on them may plead
- For thee: O save them, save them.
- Why shouldst thou
- Be thus solicitous? What interest prompts
- Thy ardent zeal?
- Thou seest, the gods protect them,
- Who saved them from the Ocean’s boisterous rage,
- And brought them here: heaven gives them to thy care,
- And will require them at thy hands—to one,
- O if thou knewest him—but they both are wretched.
- Are we in Argos, or at Tauris, where
- The cruel priestess bids her altars smoke
- With stranger’s blood? What must I do to save him?
- Command, and I obey: to Plisthenes
- You’d have me wedded; I submit, though death
- Were far more welcome; lead me to his bed.
- You mean to mock us: knowest thou not, he’s dead?
- Just heaven! and hath Ægisthus lost a son?
- I see the joy that sparkles in thy eyes;
- Thou art pleased to hear it.
- No: I am too wretched
- To be delighted with another’s woe:
- I pity the unhappy, nor would shed
- The blood of innocence: O save the strangers!
- I ask no more.
- Away: I understand thee,
- And know thee but too well; thou hast confirmed
- The king’s suspicions, and revealed the secret:
- One of these strangers is—Orestes.
- Suppose it were; suppose that gracious heaven,
- In tender pity, had restored thy son—
- O dreadful moment! how am I to act?
- Is it a doubt, and canst thou hesitate?
- Thy son! O heaven! think on his past misfortunes,
- Think on his merits; but if still thy mind
- Is doubtful, all is lost: farewell Orestes.
- I’m not in doubt; I am resolved; even thou,
- With all thy fury, canst not change the love,
- The tenderness I bear him: I will guard,
- Save, and protect him—he may punish me,
- Perhaps he will; I tremble at his name;
- No matter—I’m a mother still, and love
- My children; thou mayst yet preserve thy hate.
- No: I will fall submissive at thy feet,
- And thank thy bounty: now, indulgent heaven,
- Thy mercy shines superior to thy wrath;
- For thou hast given a mother to my vows,
- Changed her resentful heart, and saved Orestes.
End of the Fourth Act.