Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT V. - 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 V. - 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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- I am forbid to enter here; oppressed
- With fears, in vain I lift these hands to heaven:
- Iphisa comes not; but behold the gates
- Are opened: ha! she’s here, I tremble.
- My dear Iphisa, what have I to hope,
- Will Clytemnæstra dare to be a mother?
- Has she the power, has she the will to make us
- Some poor amends for all the cruel evils
- She has inflicted on us? Could she e’er—
- But she’s a slave to guilt, and to Ægisthus:
- I am prepared to hear the worst; O speak,
- Say, all is past, and we must die.
- I hope,
- And yet I fear: Ægisthus hath received
- Some dark suggestions, but is doubtful still,
- Whether Orestes is his prisoner here,
- And Clytemnæstra never named her son:
- She seems to feel a mother’s fondness for him,
- And, pierced with anguish, trembles for his life:
- She struggles with herself, and fears alike
- To speak or to be silent; strives to soothe
- The tyrant’s rage, and save them from his vengeance:
- But should Orestes once be known, he dies.
- O cruel thought! perhaps when I implored
- My barbarous mother I destroyed Orestes;
- Her grief will but enrage the fierce Ægisthus;
- Nature is ever fatal here: I dread
- Her silence, and yet would not have her speak;
- Danger is on every side: but say, Iphisa,
- What hath Pammenes done?
- His feeble age
- Seems strengthened by misfortune, and our dangers
- But breathe new spirit o’er his ardent zeal
- To serve our cause; he animates our friends
- With double vigor; even the servile throng,
- That cringe around the tyrant’s throne, begin
- To murmur at the name of great Orestes:
- Veterans, who served beneath the father, burn
- With honest ardor to support the son:
- Such power have justice and the sacred laws
- O’er mortal minds, howe’er by vice corrupted.
- O that Electra could inflame their souls
- With glowing virtue, breathe her own fierce spirit
- Into their timid hearts, and animate
- Their cold resentment! would I had but known,
- Ere he arrived on this detested shore,
- That my Orestes lived! or that Pammenes
- Had further urged—
ægisthus, clytemnæstra, electra, iphisa,Guards.
- Guards, seize that hoary traitor,
- And let him be confronted with those strangers
- Whom I have doomed to death; he is their friend,
- And confidant, the accomplice in their crimes:
- How dreadful was the snare which they had laid!
- O, Claytemnæstra, ’tis the cursed Orestes,
- It must be he; do not deceive thyself,
- Do not defend him: O, I see it all,
- It is too plain: alas! this urn contains
- The ashes of my son: the murderers brought
- This fatal present to his weeping father.
- I can; I must rely
- On the sworn hatred ’twixt the unhappy children
- Of Atreus and Thyestes; must believe
- The time, the place, the rage of fierce Electra,
- Iphisa’s tears, your undeserved compassion,
- Your ill-timed pity for these base assassins;
- Orestes lives, and I have lost my son;
- But I have caught him in the toils; whiche’er
- It be, for yet I know not, I’ll be just,
- I’ll sacrifice the murderer to my son,
- And to his mother.
- Horrid sacrifice!
- I must not see it.
- O yes; already blood enough hath flowed
- In this sad scene of slaughter: O ’tis time
- To end the woes of Pelops’ hapless race:
- If after all it should not be Orestes,
- Wouldst thou, on dark suspicion’s vague report,
- Murder the innocent? and if it be
- Indeed my son, my lord, I must defend him,
- Must gain his pardon at thy hands, or perish.
- I cannot, dare not yield to thy request;
- For thy own sake I dare not; thy fond pity
- May be thy ruin; all that melts thy heart
- To soft compassion, sharpens mine to rage
- And fierce resentment: one of them I know
- Must be Orestes, therefore both shall die;
- I ought not even to hesitate a moment:
- Guards, do your office.
- O, my lord, behold me
- Low at your feet; must all our hapless race
- Thus humbly bend, thus supplicate in vain?
- Electra, kneel with me, embrace his knees,
- Thy pride destroys us.
- Can I stoop so low?
- Shall I bring foul disgrace on thee, my brother,
- And ignominy, and shame? it shocks my soul;
- But I will suffer all to save Orestes.
- [Turning to Ægisthus.
- It thou wilt save him, here I promise thee,
- (Not to forget my father’s murder, that
- I never can, but) in respectful silence
- To pay thee homage, still to live with thee
- A willing slave, let but my brother live.
- Thy brother dies, and thou shalt live a slave;
- My vengeance is complete: thy pride is humbled,
- And sues in vain.
- Ægisthus, ’tis too much,
- To trample thus on the unhappy race
- Of him who was thy master once; away,
- Spite of thy rage, I will defend my son;
- Deaf as thou art to a fond sister’s prayers,
- A mother’s may prevail: O think, my lord,
- Think on thy happy state, above the reach
- Of adverse fortune no, Orestes ne’er
- Can hurt thee, and Electra bends submissive
- Beneath thy power, Iphisa at thy feet;
- Can nothing move thee? I have gone too far
- Already with thee in the paths of guilt,
- And offered up a dreadful sacrifice.
- Thinkest thou I’ll yield thee up my purest blood
- To glut thy rage? Am I forever doomed
- To take a murderous husband to my arms?
- At Aulis one a lovely daughter slew,
- The other threatens to destroy my son
- Before my eyes, close to his father’s tomb:
- O rather let this fatal diadem,
- Hateful to Greece, and to myself a load
- Of misery, fall with me, and be no more
- Remembered! O Ægisthus, well thou knowest,
- I loved thee, ’tis amongst my blackest crimes,
- And stands the foremost; but I love my children,
- And will defend them; against thy arm upraised
- To shed their blood will lift my vengeful hand,
- And blast thy purpose: tremble, for thou knowest me:
- The bands are sacred that united us,
- Thy interest is most dear to Clytemnæstra:
- Remember still, Orestes is my son,
- And fear his mother.
- You surpass my hopes.
- Surely a heart like thine could ne’er be guilty;
- Go on, my honored mother, and avenge
- Your children, and your husband.
- Slave, thou fillest
- The measure of thy crimes: gods! shall Ægisthus
- Withhold his vengeance for a woman’s cries,
- For Agamemnon’s widow, and her children?
- Unhappy queen! say, whom dost thou accuse?
- Whom dost thou plead for? hear me and obey.
- Away with them to instant death.
ægisthus, clytemnæstra, electra, iphisa, dymas.
- Thou seemest disordered: what has happened? Speak.
- Have you punished him
- As he deserves?
- My lord, as yet he lives.
- And wherefore were my orders disobeyed?
- His friend and fellow-captive, Pylades,
- Pointed him out, and to the soldiers showed
- Great Agamemnon’s son; they seemed much moved;
- I dread the consequence.
- I must prevent it,
- For they shall die: who dares not to revenge me
- Shall feel my justice: Dymas, follow me:
- Stay thou and guard his sisters; I defy
- The blood of Agamemnon: from the father
- Of Plisthenes, and great Thyestes’ son,
- What mortal, or what god, shall save Orestes?
clytemnæstra, electra, iphisa.
- Fear not, but follow him; Electra, speak,
- Exhort our friends, and animate their zeal.
- [To Clytemnæstra.
- O, in the name of powerful nature, now
- Complete thy noble work; conduct us, fly—
- You must not hence, the guards will not permit it:
- Stay here, my children, and rely on me,
- On a fond mother, and a tender wife:
- I will perform the double task, and take
- Orestes and Ægisthus to my care.
- Alas! the avenging god pursues us still;
- Though she defends Orestes, still Ægisthus
- Is at her heart; perhaps the tender cries
- Of pity and remorse shall naught avail
- Against the tyrant; he is proud, revengeful,
- Implacable, and furious; who shall save
- If he condemns? we must submit, and die.
- O that before my death I had not fallen
- So low as to entreat him, to belie
- My honest heart, and supplicate the tyrant!
- Despair and horror sink me to the tomb
- With infamy and shame; my vain endeavors
- To save Orestes but urge on his fate.
- Where are these boasted friends Pammenes talked of,
- Who, with fell rancor, and determined hate,
- Pursued Ægisthus? Where those vengeful gods
- Who hid Orestes from my sight, upraised
- His righteous arm, and promised to support him?
- Where are ye now, infernal goddesses,
- Daughters of night, ye who so lately shook
- Your dreadful torches here? all nature once
- United seemed to guard and to protect us,
- But all desert us now, all court Ægisthus,
- And men and gods, and heaven and hell betray me.
electra, pylades, iphisa.
- What sayest thou, Pylades? the deed is done?
- It is: Electra’s free, and heaven obeyed.
- Yes, Orestes reigns: he sent me hither.
- Orestes! is it possible!
- I faint, I die with joy.
- Orestes lives,
- And has avenged the blood of innocence.
- What wondrous power hath wrought this strange event.
- His father’s name, Electra’s, and his own;
- His valor, and his virtue; our misfortunes,
- Justice, and pity; and the power that pleads
- In human hearts for wretchedness like thine.
- Pammenes, by the tyrant’s order bound,
- Was led with us to death; in weeping crowds
- The people followed, and deplored our fate:
- I saw their rage was equal to their fears,
- But the guards watched them closely: then Orestes
- Cried, “Strike, ye slaves, and sacrifice the last
- Of Argos’ kings; ye dare not.” When he spoke,
- On his fair front such native majesty
- And royal lustre shone, we almost thought
- Great Agamemnon’s spirit from the tomb
- Had risen, and came once more to bless mankind.
- I spoke, and friendship’s happy voice prevailed;
- The people rose, the soldiers stood aghast,
- And dropped the uplifted falchions from their hands;
- The crowd encircled us, and desperate love,
- With friendship joined, fought nobly for Orestes;
- The joyful people bore him off in triumph:
- Ægisthus flew to seize his destined prey,
- And in the slave he meant to punish, found
- A conqueror: pleased I saw his humbled pride;
- His friends deserted, and his guards betrayed him:
- The insulting people triumphed in his fall.
- O glorious day! O all discerning justice!
- Ægisthus wears the chains that bound Orestes;
- The queen alone attends, protects, and saves him
- From the mad crowd, that press tumultuous on,
- Big with revenge, and thirsting for his blood;
- While Clytemnæstra holds him in her arms,
- And shields him from their rage, implores Orestes
- To save her husband: he respects her still,
- Fulfils the duties of a son and brother:
- Safe from the foe you will behold him soon
- Triumphant here, a conqueror and a king.
- Let us away, to greet the loved Orestes,
- And comfort our afflicted mother.
- What unexpected bliss! O Pylades,
- Thou best of friends, thou kind protector, haste,
- Let us begone.
- [To his attendants.
- Take off those shameful bonds;
- [They take off her chains.
- Fall from her hands, ye chains, for they were made
- To wield a sceptre.
electra, iphisa, pylades, pammenes.
- O Pammenes, where,
- Where is my Orestes, my deliverer?
- Why comes he not?
- This is a dreadful moment,
- And full of terror, for his father’s spirit
- Demands a sacrifice, and justice waits
- To pay it, so hath heaven decreed: this tomb
- Must be the altar where the victim’s blood
- Shall soon be shed; that sacred duty done,
- He will attend thee; but thou must not see
- A sight so terrible: thou knowest the laws
- Of Argos suffer not thy spotless hands
- To join with her ere the appointed time.
- But say, Pammenes, what of Clytemnæstra,
- How acts she in this dreadful crisis?
- She deprecates the wrath of fierce Orestes,
- And strives to save Ægisthus; kneels for pardon,
- And craves that boon she never will obtain:
- Meantime the furies, deaf to her entreaties,
- And thirsting for the cruel murderer’s blood,
- Throng round Orestes, and demand his life.
- O may this day of terror be a day
- Of pardon and forgiveness; may it finish
- The cruel woes of our unhappy race!
- Hark, Pylades, Electra, heard ye not
- A dreadful groan?
- [Behind the scenes.
- O spare me!
- [Behind the scenes.
- My son!
- He kills Ægisthus.
- O hear her not, Orestes, but go on,
- Revenge, revenge, dissolve the horrid tie,
- And sacrifice the murderer in her arms:
- Strike deep.
- My son! O, thou hast slain thy mother.
- O wretched brother!
- Crimes punish crimes; forever be this day
- Lamented by us!
- Open wide, thou earth,
- And swallow me: O Clytemnæstra, Atreus,
- And Tantalus, I come, I follow you
- To Erebus, a partner in your crimes,
- To share your tortures.
- She strove to save him, and I smote them both—
- I can no more—
- She fell then by thy hand!
- O dreadful stroke! and couldst thou—
- ’Twas not I;
- ’Twas not Orestes; some malignant power
- Guided my hand, the hateful instrument
- Of heaven’s eternal wrath: Orestes lives
- But to be wretched; banished from my country,
- When my dear father fell, my mother slain,
- And by my hand; an exile from the world,
- Bereft of parents, country, fortune, friends,
- Now must I wander: all is lost to me:
- O thou bright orb, thou ever glorious sun,
- Shocked at our crimes, and Atreus’s horried feast,
- Thou didst withdraw thy beams, and yet thou shinest
- On me! O wherefore in eternal night
- Dost thou not bury all? O tyrant gods,
- Merciless powers, who punished me for guilt
- Yourselves commanded, O for what new crime
- Am I reserved? speak—ye pronounce the name
- Of Tauris, there I’ll seek the murderous priestess,
- Who offers blood alone to the angry gods,
- To gods less cruel, less unjust than you.
- Stay, and conjure their justice and their hate.
- Where’er the gods may lead, thy Pylades
- Shall follow still, and friendship triumph o’er
- The woes of mortals, and the wrath of heaven.
End of the Fifth and Last Act.