Front Page Titles (by Subject) SÉMIRAMIS - 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).
SÉMIRAMIS - 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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Arsaces, or Ninias.
Azema, a Princess of the Family of Belus.
Assur, a Prince of the Family of Belus.
Oroes, High Priest.
Otanes, a Favorite of Semiramis.
Mitranes, Friend of Arsaces.
Cedar, Friend of Assur. Guards, Magi, Slaves, Attendants.
This was produced in 1748 and a burlesque upon it was played at Fontainebleau.
The scene represents a large peristyle, at the bottom of which is the palace of Sémiramis. Gardens with fine hanging terraces, raised above the palace: on the right hand the temple of the magi, and on the left a mausoleum adorned with obelisks.
[Two slaves at a distance carrying a coffer.
- Once more, Mitranes, thou beholdest thy friend,
- Who, in obedience to the royal mandate
- In secret sent, revisits Babylon,
- The seat of empire; how Sémiramis
- Imprints the image of her own great soul
- On every object! these stupendous piles,
- These deep enclosures, where Euphrates pours
- His tributary waves; the temple’s pride,
- The hanging gardens, and the splendid tomb
- Of Ninus, wondrous monuments of art!
- And only less to be admired than she
- Who raised them! here, in all her splendid pomp,
- More honored than the monarchs of the East,
- Arsaces shall behold this glorious queen.
- O my Arsaces, credit not the voice
- Of Fame, she is deceitful oft, and vain;
- Perhaps hereafter thou mayest weep with me,
- And admiration on a nearer view
- May turn to pity.
- Sunk in grief,
- Sémiramis hath spread o’er every heart
- The sorrows which she feels; sometimes she raves,
- Filling the air with her distressful cries,
- As if some vengeful God pursued her; sits
- Silent and sad within these lonely vaults,
- Sacred to night, to sorrow, and to death,
- Which mortals dare not enter; where the ashes
- Of Ninus, our late honored sovereign, lie:
- There will she oft fall on her knees and weep:
- With slow and fearful steps she glides along,
- And beats her breast besprinkled with her tears:
- Oft as she treads her solitary round,
- Will she repeat the names of son and husband,
- And call on heaven, which in its anger seems
- To thwart her in the zenith of her glory.
- Whence can her sorrow flow?
- The effect is dreadful:
- The cause unknown.
- How long hath she been thus
- Oppressed, Mitranes?
- From the very time
- When first her orders came to bring Arsaces.
- You, my lord: when Babylon
- Rejoicing met to celebrate thy conquests,
- And saw the banners thy victorious arm
- Had wrested from our vanquished foes; when first
- Euphrates brought to our delighted shore
- The lovely Azema, from Belus sprung,
- Whom thou hadst saved from Scythian ravishers,
- Even in that hour of triumph and success,
- Even in the bosom of prosperity,
- The heart of majesty was pierced with grief,
- And the throne lost its lustre.
- Was not to blame; she could not be the cause
- Of sorrow or distress; one look from her
- Would soothe the wrath of gods: but say, my friend,
- Sémiramis is still a sovereign here,
- Her heart is not forever sunk in grief?
- No: when her noble mind shakes off the burden,
- Resumes its strength, and shines in native lustre,
- Then we behold in her exalted soul
- Powers that excel whatever flattery’s self
- Hath e’er bestowed on kings; but when she sinks
- Beneath this dreadful malady, loose flow
- The reins of empire, dropping from her hand;
- Then the proud satrap, fiery Assur, guides
- The helm and makes the nations groan beneath him:
- The fatal secret never yet hath reached
- The walls of Babylon: abroad we still
- Are envied, but, alas! we mourn at home.
- What lessons of instruction to weak mortals,
- When happiness is mingled thus with woe!
- I, too, am wretched, thus deprived of him
- Whose piercing wisdom best could give me council,
- And lead me through the mazes of a court.
- O I have cause to weep: without a father,
- Left as I am to all the dangerous passions
- Of heedless youth, without a friendly guide,
- What rocks encompass and what shoals affright me!
- I weep with thee the loss of him we loved,
- The good old man; Phradates was my friend;
- Ninus esteemed and gave to him the care
- Of Ninias, his dear son, our country’s hope:
- But O! one fatal day destroyed them both,
- Father and son: to voluntary exile
- Devoted, long he lived: his banishment
- Was fortunate to thee, and made thee great:
- Close by his side, in honor’s glorious field,
- Arsaces fought, and conquered for his country:
- Now, ranked with princes, thy exalted virtue
- Claims its reward by merit all thy own.
- I know not what may be my portion here:
- Perhaps, distinguished on Arbazan’s plains
- With fair success, my name is not unknown:
- On Oxus’ banks to great Sémiramis,
- When vanquished nations paid the homage due,
- From her triumphant cars she dropped a ray
- Of her own glory on Arsaces’ head:
- But oft the soldier, honored in the field,
- In courts neglected lies, and is forgotten.
- My father told me in his dying hour
- The fortune of Arsaces here depended
- Upon the common cause; then gave to me
- These precious relics, which from every eye
- He had preserved: I must deliver them
- To the high priest, for he alone can judge,
- And know their value: I must talk with him
- In secret, touching my own fate, for he
- Can best conduct me to Sémiramis.
- He seldom sees the queen: in solitude
- Obscure he lives: his holy ministry
- Engrosses all his care; without ambition,
- Fearless, and void of art: is always seen
- Within the temple, never at the court:
- Never affects the pride of rank and title,
- Nor his tiara near the diadem
- Immodest wears: the less he seeks for greatness,
- The more is he admired, the more revered:
- I have access to every avenue
- Of his retirement in this sacred place,
- And can this moment talk to him in secret;
- Ere day’s too far advanced I’ll bring him hither.
- Immortal gods! for what am I reserved?
- Make known your will: why did my dying father
- Thus send me to the sanctuary, me
- A soldier, bred amidst the din of arms?
- A lover, too? How can Arsaces serve
- The gods of the Chaldæans?—Ha! what voice
- From yonder tomb in plaintive accents strikes
- My frighted ear, and makes my hair to stand
- On end with horror! Near this place I’ve heard
- The spirit of Ninus dwells—again it shrieks—
- It shocks my soul—Ye dark and dreary caves,
- And thou, the shade of my illustrious master,
- Thou voice of heaven, what wouldst thou with Arsaces?
arsaces, oroes,the high priest, the magi attending him,mitranes.
- [Speaking to Oroes.
- He’s here, my lord, and waits to give you up
- Those precious relics.
- Most revered father,
- Permit a soldier to approach your presence,
- Pleased to fulfil a father’s last command,
- One whom you deigned to love; thus at your feet,
- Obedient to his will, I here resign them.
- Welcome! thou brave and noble youth! that God
- Who governs all, and not a father’s will,
- Guided thee here: Phradates was my friend;
- Dear is his memory to me; thou shalt know
- Perhaps hereafter how I love his son:
- Where are the gifts he sent me?
[The slaves deliver the coffer to two of the magi, who place it on an altar.
[Opening the coffer, bowing reverentially to it, and seeming greatly affected.
- Ye sacred relics! do these eyes at length
- Behold you! O, I weep for joy to press
- These monuments of woe, whilst tears recall
- My solemn oath: Mitranes, let no ear
- Profane disturb our holy mystery:
- We would be private.
- [The magi retire.
- Mark this seal, Arsaces:
- ’Tis that which to the laws of Ninus gave
- Their public force, and kept the world in awe:
- The letter, too, which with his dying hand
- He wrote: Arsaces, view the wreath that crowned
- His royal brows, and his victorious sword:
- The vanquished Medes and Persians felt its power:
- It comes at last to vindicate its master,
- And to revenge him; useless instrument
- Against base treachery, and destructive poison,
- Whose mortal—
- Heaven! what sayest thou?
- The dread secret
- Hath long been hid in darkness from the eyes
- Of men within the sepulchre; the shade
- Of Ninus, and offended heaven, long time
- Have raised their voice in vain, and called for vengeance.
- It must be as thou sayest: for know, but now,
- Even on this spot, I heard most dreadful groans.
- It was the voice of Ninus.
- Twice the noise
- Affrighted me.
- ’Twas he: he calls for vengeance.
- He has a right to ask it: but on whom?
- On the vile murderers, whose detested hands
- Had of the best of sovereigns robbed mankind;
- No tracks are left behind of the base treason,
- But all with him lies buried in the tomb:
- With ease might they deceive the sons of men,
- But not the all-seeing eye of watchful heaven,
- Which pierces the deep night of human falsehood.
- O would to heaven this feeble hand had power
- To punish crimes like these! I know not wherefore,
- But when I cast my eyes towards you tomb,
- New horrors rise: O might I not consult
- That venerable shade, the inhabitant
- Of those dark mansions?
- No; it is forbidden:
- An oracle severe long since denounced
- The wrath of heaven against whoe’er should press
- Into this vale of tears, inhabited
- By death and the avenging gods: await
- With me, Arsaces, for the day of justice:
- Soon will it come, and all shall be accomplished:
- I can no more: sequestered from the world,
- I pray in secret to offended heaven,
- Which, as it wills, commissions me to speak,
- Or close my lips in silence: I have said
- All that I dare, and all I ought: be careful
- Lest in these walls a word, or look, or gesture,
- Betray the secret which the god by me
- Hath trusted with thee; for on that depends
- His glory, Asia’s welfare, and thy life.
- Approach, ye magi, hide these sacred relics
- Beneath the altar.
- [The great gate of the palace opens, Assur appears at a distance, surrounded by attendants and guards on every side.
- Ha! the palace opens:
- The courtiers crowding to the queen: behold
- The haughty Assur with his servile throng
- Of flatterers round him! O almighty power!
- On whom dost thou bestow thy bounties here?
- O monster!
- Fare thee well:
- When night shall cast her sable mantle o’er
- These guilty walls, I’ll have more converse with thee,
- Before the gods: revere them, my Arsaces,
- For know, brave youth, their eyes are fixed on thee.
Arsaces, Mitranes,in the front of the stage,Assur, Cedar,with attendants, on one side.
- His words are dreadful; they affright my soul:
- What horrid crimes! and what a court is here!
- How little known! my royal master poisoned,
- And Assur, but too well I see, suspected!
- Assur is sprung of royal race, and claims
- The deference due to his authority:
- He is the favorite of Sémiramis,
- And thou, without a blush, mayest pay him homage.
- [To Cedar.
- Ha! do my eyes deceive me,
- Or is Arsaces here without my order?
- Amazing insolence!
- Come hither, youth: what new engagements here
- Have brought you from the camp?
- My duty, sir,
- And the queen’s orders.
- Did the queen send for you?
- But, know you not, with her commands
- You should have asked for mine?
- I know not that,
- And should have thought the honor of her crown
- Debased by such a mean submission to thee:
- My lord, you must forgive a soldier’s roughness,
- We are bad courtiers: bred up in the plains
- Of Arbazan and Scythia, I have served
- Your court, but am not much acquainted with it.
- Age, time, and place, perhaps, may teach you, sir.
- What would you with the queen? for know, young man,
- Assur alone can lead you to her presence.
- I come to ask my valor’s best reward,
- The honor still to serve her.
- Thou wantest more,
- Presumptuous boy! I know thy bold pretences
- To Azema, but that thou wouldst conceal.
- Yes: I adore that lovely maid: her heart
- Would I prefer to empire: my respect,
- My tenderest love—
- No more: thou knowest not whom
- Thou art insulting thus: what! join the race
- Of a Sarmatian to the demigods
- Of Tigris and Euphrates! mark me well:
- In pity to thy youth I would advise thee
- Ne’er, on thy peril, to Sémiramis
- Impart thy insolent request; for know,
- Rash boy, if thou shouldst dare to violate
- The rights of Assur, ’twill not pass unpunished.
- I’ll go this instant: thou hast given me courage:
- Thus threatenings always terrify Arsaces:
- Thou hast no right, whate’er thy power may be,
- To affront a soldier who has served his queen,
- The state, and thee: perhaps my warmth offends;
- But thou art rasher than myself, to think
- That I would bend beneath thy servile yoke,
- Or tremble at thy power.
- Perhaps thou mayest;
- I’ll teach thee what a subject may expect
- For insolence like this.
sémiramis,at the farther end of the stage, leaning on her women.
otanes, assur, arsaces, mitranes,in the front.
- My lord, the queen at present would be private:
- You must retire, and give her sorrows way:
- Withdraw, ye gods, the hand of vengeance from her!
- [To one of his attendants.
- Let us begone,
- And study how we best may turn her griefs
- To our advantage.
- [Sémiramis comes forward, and is joined by Otanes.
- My royal mistress, be yourself again,
- And wake once more to joy and happiness.
- O death! when wilt thou come with friendly shade
- To close these eyes that hate the light of day?
- Be shut, ye caves; horrible phantom, hence!
- Strike if thou wilt, but threaten me no more.
- Otanes, is Arsaces come?
- Ere morn
- Rose on the temple, madam, he was there.
- That dreadful voice, from heaven or hell I know not,
- Which in the dead of night so shakes my soul,
- Told me, my sorrows, when Arsaces came,
- Would soon be o’er.
- Rely then on the gods,
- And let the cheerful ray of hope dispel
- This melancholy.
- Is Arsaces here?
- Methinks, when I but hear his name, my soul
- Is less disturbed, and guilt sits lighter on me!
- O! quit, forever quit the sad remembrance:
- Let the bright days of great Sémiramis,
- Replete with glory, blot one moment out
- That broke the chain of thy ill-fated nuptials:
- Had Ninus driven thee from his throne and bed,
- All Babylon with thee had been destroyed;
- But happily for us, and for mankind,
- That wanted such distinguished virtues, you
- Prevented him; and fifteen years of toil,
- Spent in the service of thy country, lands
- Desert and waste made fertile by thy care,
- The savage tamed, and yielding to the laws,
- The useful arts, obedient to thy voice,
- Uprising still, the glorious monuments
- Of wealth and power, the wonder of mankind,
- And the loud plaudit of a grateful people,
- All plead thy cause before the throne of heaven;
- But if impartial justice hold the scale,
- If vengeance is required for Ninus’ death,
- Why thus should Assur brave the angry gods,
- And live in peace? He was more guilty far
- Than thou wert, yet the ruthless hand that poured
- The fatal draught never shakes with fear: he feels
- No stings of conscience, no remorse affrights him.
- Our duties different, different is our fate:
- Where ties are sacred, crimes are heavier far:
- I was his wife, Otanes, and I stand
- Without excuse; my conscience is my judge
- And my accuser: but I hoped the gods,
- Offended at my crimes, had punished me
- Enough, when they deprived me of my child;
- Hoped my successful toils, that made the earth
- Respect my name, had soothed the wrath of heaven:
- But months on months have passed in agony
- Since this dire spectre hath appalled my soul:
- My eyes forever see him, and my ears
- Still hear his cries: I get me to the tomb,
- But dare not enter: trembling I revere
- His ashes, and invoke his honored shade,
- Which only answers me in dismal groans.
- Some dread event is nigh: perhaps the time
- Is come to expiate the offence.
- But thinkest thou
- The spirit of thy lord hath left indeed
- The mansions of the dead, and stalks abroad?
- Ofttimes the soul, by powerful fancy led,
- Starts at a phantom of its own creation;
- Still it beholds the objects it has made,
- And everything we fear is present to us.
- O no! it was not the wild dream of fancy
- By slumber wrought, I saw him but too well:
- The stranger, Sleep, had long withheld from me
- His sweet delusions; watchful as I stood,
- And mused on my unhappy fate, a voice
- Close to my bed, methought, cried out, “Arsaces!”
- The name revived me: well thou knowest, long time
- Assur has pierced this heart with deadly grief:
- I shudder at his presence, and the blushes
- That show my guilt increase my punishment,
- Hate the reproachful witness of my shame,
- And wish I could—but wherefore should I add
- To crimes like mine fresh guilt? I sought Arsaces
- To punish Assur, and the thought of him
- Awhile relieved me! but in the sweet moment
- Of consolation, sudden stood before me
- That minister of death, all bathed in blood,
- And in his hand a falchion: still I see,
- Still hear him: comes he to defend, or punish?
- ’Twas at that very hour Arsaces came.
- This day was fixed by heaven to end my sorrows,
- But peace is yet a stranger to my soul,
- And hope is lost in horror and despair:
- The load of life is grown too heavy for me,
- My throne is hateful, and my glories past
- But add fresh weight to my calamities.
- Long time I’ve hid my sorrows from the world
- And blushed in secret, fearful to consult
- That reverend sage whom Babylon adores:
- I would not thus degrade the majesty
- Of sovereign power, or let Sémiramis
- Betray her fears before a mortal’s eye,
- But I have sent to Libya’s sands in secret
- There to consult the oracle of Jove:
- As if removed from man, the God of truth
- Had hid in desert plains his will divine.
- Alas! Otanes, that dread power which dwells
- Within these lonely walls, hath long received
- My fears and adorations; at his altars
- My gifts were offered, and my incense rose;
- But gifts and incense never can atone
- For crimes like mine: to-day I shall receive
- Answers from Memphis.
sémiramis, otanes, mitranes.
- An Egyptian priest
- Is at the palace gate, and begs admittance.
- Then will my woes be ended, or complete.
- Let us begone, and hide from Babylon
- Her queen’s disgraceful sorrows: let Arsaces
- Be sent to me: soon may his presence calm
- This storm of grief, and soothe my troubled soul!
End of the First Act.
- To thee, Arsaces, this great empire owes
- Its lustre, I my liberty and life.
- When vanquished Scythia, thirsting for revenge,
- From its wild desert rushed indignant forth,
- And bore down all before it; when my father,
- Oppressed by numbers, fell, and left me there
- A hapless slave; then, armed with thunder, thou,
- Piercing their dark retreats, didst break my chains,
- And give me ample vengeance on my foes.
- Thou wert my great deliverer, Arsaces,
- And in return I give thee all my heart;
- I will be thine, and only thine; but O!
- Our fatal passion will destroy us both:
- Thy generous heart, too open and sincere,
- Believed that gallant deeds, and fair renown
- In arms, would gain thee honors in a court;
- And, fearless of success, thou bringest with thee
- A hero’s fierceness and a lover’s heart.
- Assur is incensed: alas! thou dost not know him:
- He is too powerful for us; he rules all
- At Babylon; and much, I fear, abuses
- His fatal influence o’er Sémiramis:
- He is thy great inexorable—rival.
- No; that savage mind,
- Subtle and dark, a foe to every virtue,
- Insensible to love and every charm
- But those ambition boasts, could never feel
- A real passion for me: but he knows
- That Azema is descended from the race
- Of our Assyrian kings, and soon may claim
- My right of empire here, as next the throne;
- And therefore means to blend his interest here
- With mine, and gain the sceptre for himself:
- But if the youth whom Ninus had decreed,
- Even from my infant years, to be my husband,
- The son of great Sémiramis, and heir
- Of Babylon, were living now, and here
- Would offer me his heart and half his empire,
- By love I swear, and by thy precious self,
- Ninias should sue in vain, and see me quit
- A throne with him for banishment with thee.
- Even Scythia’s bleak inhospitable plains
- Would yield a sweet asylum to our love;
- For they would echo my Arsaces’ name,
- And sound his praise; those barren wilds, where first
- Our passion grew, would be to me a court,
- Nor should I cast a thought on Babylon.
- But much I fear this subtle statesman means
- To carry his resentment further still:
- I’ve searched his soul, and know the blackness of it:
- Or I mistake, or guilt sits lightly on him;
- Already he is jealous of thy glory,
- He fears, and hates thee.
- And I hate him more,
- But fear him not, since Azema is mine:
- Keep thou thy faith, and I despise his anger.
- At least I share with him the royal favor:
- I saw the queen, and her humanity
- Equalled the pride of Assur: when I fell
- Prostrate before her, gently she upraised me,
- And called me the support of Babylon:
- With pride I heard the flattering voice of her
- Whose name contending kings unite to honor:
- The distance ’twixt her royal state and mine
- Was lessened soon by mildest condescension;
- It touched, it melted me; and, after thee,
- To me she seemed, of all the human race,
- Most nearly to resemble the divine.
- If she protects us, Assur’s threats are vain:
- I heed them not.
- Inspired by thee, I went,
- Fearless and brave, to lay before the feet
- Of my great mistress, that aspiring passion
- Which Assur dreads, and Azema approves;
- When lo, that very moment came a priest
- From Egypt with Ammonian Jove’s decree:
- Trembling she opened quick the awful scroll,
- First fixed her eyes on me, then sudden turned
- Her face aside, and wept: stood fixed in grief
- Like one distraught, then sighed, and vanished from me.
- They tell me, she is fallen into despair,
- And hath of late been dreadfully pursued
- By some avenging god: I pity her:
- ’Tis wonderful that after fifteen years,
- Heaven, that so long defended, should at last
- Oppress her thus: by what hath she offended
- The angry gods, and wherefore are they changed?
- We hear of naught but dreadful spectres, omens,
- And vengeance from above: the queen of late
- Lets loose the reins of empire: we had cause
- To fear for Babylon, least subtle Assur,
- Who knows her weakness, in this dangerous time,
- Should seize the helm, and bury all in ruin;
- But the queen came, and all was calm again;
- All owned the power of her despotic sway.
- If I have any knowledge of the court,
- The queen hates Assur, but keeps fair with him,
- And watches close; they’re fearful of each other,
- Would quarrel soon, but that some secret cause,
- Some mutual interest, still prevents a rupture:
- I saw her fire indignant at his name;
- The blushes on her cheeks betrayed her thoughts,
- And her heart seemed to glow with deep resentment:
- But sudden changes happen in a court;
- Return, and speak to her.
- I will; but know not
- Whether again I e’er shall gain admittance.
- Thou hast my vows, my wishes, and my prayers
- For thy success: I glory in my love,
- And in my duty: let Sémiramis
- Rule o’er the vanquished East, I envy her
- Nor fame nor conquest; let the world be hers,
- Arsaces mine: but Assur comes this way.
- The traitor! how I shudder at his presence!
- My soul abhors him.
assur, arsaces, azema.
- Your reception, sir,
- I find, was noble, such as kings have oft
- Solicited in vain: you saw the queen
- In secret, did she not reprove a conduct
- Injurious to my honor and her own?
- Did she not tell thee Azema’s designed
- For Assur, not for thee? Long since her hand
- To Ninias given was for the blood of kings
- Alone reserved; and therefore is my right,
- As next to the throne: did she acquaint you, sir,
- Into what fatal snares your pride would lead you,
- That neither fame nor honors will excuse
- Your bold pretensions?
- I well know what’s due
- To your high birth, and to the rank you bear,
- And should have paid it, though you had not thus
- Instructed me; but as a master here
- I own you not: your royal ancestors,
- From Belus sprung, perhaps may give you claim
- To Azema; the welfare of the state,
- Present and future, all, I own, conspire
- To raise your hopes of bliss, and make her yours:
- These are your claims, and I acknowledge them:
- But I have one that’s worth them all: I love her:
- I might have added this, that I avenged
- And saved her, gave new lustre to the throne
- Which she was born to fill, if I had chosen,
- Like thee, to boast of my exploits before her.
- But I must leave thee, to perform her orders.
- Sémiramis and her I shall obey,
- And them alone: a day perhaps may come
- When thou shalt be our master: heaven sometimes
- In anger sends us kings: but thou art deceived,
- At least in one of thy ambitious views,
- If amongst thy subjects thou hast ranked Arsaces.
- The measure’s full: thou courtest thy own destruction.
- I’ve borne his insolence too long already,
- ’Tis time we enter on a nobler subject,
- And worthier thy attention.
- Can there be one?
- But speak.
- Ere long all Asia shall attend
- On our resolves, and low concerns like these
- Must pass unheeded by: a world demands
- Our mutual care: Sémiramis is now
- The shadow of herself, her glory’s past,
- That star which shone with such transcendent lustre,
- Declining now, sends forth a feeble ray;
- The people see and wonder at her fall,
- Whilst every tongue demands a—successor:
- That word sufficeth: you well know my right:
- ’Tis not for love to deal forth sovereign power,
- And point out who shall rule in Babylon;
- Not that my soul, to beauty blind, would make
- A virtue of insensibility;
- But I should blush for thee and for myself,
- To see the welfare of a nation thus
- Dependent on a sigh: thoughts worthier both
- Must guide my fortune, and determine thine:
- Our ancestors the same, we should offend
- Their venerable shades, and lose the world
- By not uniting: I astonish you:
- These are harsh words for tender age like thine;
- But I address me to the kings and heroes
- From whom you sprung, to all those demigods
- Whom here you represent: too long trod down
- Beneath a woman’s feet their ashes lay,
- Their glories she eclipsed, usurped their power,
- And fettered vanquished nations with her laws;
- But she is gone, and thou must now support
- The building she had raised: she had thy beauty,
- And thou must have her courage: let not love
- Or folly wrest the sceptre from thy hand,
- But grasp it close: you will not sacrifice
- To a Sarmatian’s idle passion for you
- The name you ought to honor, and the throne
- You should ascend, of universal empire.
- Let not Arsaces be the theme, my lord,
- Of your reproaches, but depend on me
- To vindicate the honor of my race,
- And to defend, whene’er occasion calls,
- The rights of my loved ancestors; I know
- Their worth and virtues, but I know not one
- Amongst the heroes which Assyria boasts
- More great, more virtuous, more beloved, than he,
- Than this Sarmatian, whom you thus disdain.
- Do justice to his merit: for myself,
- When I shall bend to Hymen’s laws, the queen
- Must guide my choice, and at her hands alone
- Will I receive a master: for the crowd,
- The babbling echo of one secret voice,
- I heed it not; nor know I if the people
- Are tired of their obedience to a woman,
- But still I see them bow the knee before her;
- And if they murmur, murmur in the dust:
- The hand of heaven, they say, is raised against her:
- I am a stranger to her guilt, but think
- That heaven would never have made choice of thee
- To tell its high commands, or minister
- Its justice to mankind: Sémiramis
- Is still a queen, and you who lord it here
- Receive from her the laws which you dispense:
- For me, I own her power, and hers alone:
- My glory is to obey, be thine the same.
- Obey! I blush to think how long already
- I have obeyed: O insupportable!
- But say, hast thou succeeded, are the seeds
- Of hatred sown in secret through the realm?
- Will they spring up into a fruitful harvest
- Of discord, and rebellion?
- All is well:
- The people, long deluded by the arts
- And dazzling glory of Sémiramis,
- At length have lost their idle veneration:
- No longer chained to silence, they demand
- A successor: each lover of his country
- Calls for a master, and looks up to thee.
- Heart-burning care! and ever-during shame!
- Still must my hopes, my fate depend on her?
- Was it for this that Ninus and his son
- Fell by my hand, that Assur might be still
- Only her first of slaves? So near the throne,
- To languish in illustrious servitude,
- And only be the second of mankind!
- The queen was satisfied with Ninus’ death,
- But I went further, and pursued my blow:
- Ninias, in secret murdered by my order,
- Opened my passage to the throne; but she
- Denied me entrance.—A long time in vain
- I soothed her pride with flattery on her charms;
- Still hoped one day to gain upon her youth
- That happy influence which assiduous care
- And humble adoration seldom fail
- To win o’er artless minds that bend with ease:
- I little knew the firmness of her soul,
- Inflexible, and bold; the world alone
- Could satisfy her pride: she seemed indeed
- Most worthy of it: spite of my resentment,
- I own she was, and yield the praise she merits.
- The reins of empire, that flowed loose before,
- Strongly she held; appeased the murmuring crowd,
- Silenced their plaints, and quashed conspiring rebels;
- Fought like a hero, like a monarch ruled:
- She led her army and her people captive,
- And spite of fame, with more than magic art,
- Chained down the minds of men: the universe
- Astonished stood, and trembled at her feet.
- In short, her beauty, woman’s best support,
- Strengthened the laws which power and valor made;
- And when I strove to raise conspiracies
- My friends stood mute, and only could admire her.
- At length the charm is broke: her power decays;
- Her genius droops; remorse, and idle fears,
- And fond credulity have bound her faith
- To lying oracles, which knavish priests
- Had taught to speak in Egypt’s barren plain:
- She pours her daily incense at their altars,
- And wearies heaven with vows: Sémiramis
- Creeps on a level now with common mortals,
- And condescends to fear: I know her weakness:
- Know, till she falls, Assur can never rise:
- But I have raised the people’s voice against her,
- And she must yield: this blow decides her fate:
- If she consents to give me Azema,
- She is no longer queen; if she refuses,
- The kingdom will revolt: on every side
- The snare is laid, and nothing now can save her.
- Yet, after all, perhaps I am deceived,
- And fortune, so long called for, comes at last
- But to betray me.
- If the queen is forced
- To name a successor, and yields the princess
- To Assur’s bed, what can he have to fear,
- When the divided branch of Asia’s kings
- Shall be united? all conspires to pave
- Your way to empire.
- Azema is safe;
- She must be mine; but wherefore send so far
- For this Arsaces? she supports him too;
- And when I would chastise his insolence,
- Her interposing hand prevents me still:
- A minister without the power, a prince
- Without a subject, girt around with honors,
- And yet a poor dependent, what is Assur?
- All, all unite to persecute me now:
- A peevish mistress, and a haughty rival,
- Consulted priests that teach their gods to speak
- Against me; with Sémiramis, who strives
- To free herself, yet trembles at my presence:
- But we shall see how far this proud ingrate
- Will urge an angry rebel who defies her.
assur, otanes, cedar.
- My lord, the queen commands you to attend her
- In secret, and alone.
- I shall obey
- Her sacred orders, and with care perform
- My sovereign’s will.
- Whence springs this sudden change?
- These three months past she has avoided me,
- Even as the object of her hatred: oft
- When she beheld me she would cast her eyes
- Down on the earth, as if she loathed the sight:
- Whene’er we met, ’twas in a gaping crowd
- Of hearers; when she spoke, her sighs and tears
- Would interrupt our converse, or perchance
- Silence was all the answer she would give me.
- What can she want? What can she say to me?
- But here she comes: ’tis she—wait you within.
- [To Cedar.
- My lord, I come to ease a troubled heart
- Of its long hidden woes, and pour it all
- Before you: I have ruled o’er Asia long,
- And not ingloriously: Babylon perhaps
- May pay this tribute to my memory,
- And say Sémiramis deserved to rank
- Among the greatest of her kings: thy hands
- Have helped me to support the weight of empire;
- With absolute dominion have I ruled,
- Adored by all, and crowned with victory
- On every side: intoxicated long
- With flattery’s pleasing incense, I forgot
- The crimes that raised me to this envied state;
- Forgot the justice of high heaven: it comes;
- It speaks to me: Sémiramis must yield:
- This noble structure, which I fondly thought
- Superior to the injuries of time,
- Is tottering now, and shakes from its foundation;
- Means must be found to strengthen and support it.
- The work is yours, and you must finish it:
- Foresee the attacks of time, and stop his rapine:
- Who shall obscure the lustre of thy days,
- Or wherefore fearest thou heaven whilst earth obeys thee?
- Yonder the ashes of my husband lie;
- Canst thou look there, and wonder at my fears?
- I cannot bear to hear the noisy crowd
- Still talk of Ninus: wherefore should remembrance
- Call back the thoughts of that inglorious reign?
- Can they believe, that, after fifteen years,
- His angry spirit still calls out for justice?
- Ere now he would have taken due vengeance on us,
- Had he the power: why from the peaceful realms
- Of dark oblivion wouldst thou call the dead,
- Or search for truth in lying oracles?
- I am astonished too, but ’tis at thee,
- And thy vain fears: to make the gods propitious,
- We must be resolute: this idle phantom,
- At once the child and parent of your fears,
- Why should it thus alarm you? Prodigies
- Never appear to those who dread them not:
- Baits to allure the unthinking multitude,
- By knaves invented, and by fools believed;
- The great despise them: but if nobler views
- Inspire thy soul to immortalize the blood
- Of Belus, if the beauteous Azema
- Claims her high rank.—
- Assur, on that I came
- To speak with thee: our Babylon demands,
- For such is Ammon’s will, a successor:
- Heaven and my people will be satisfied
- When I shall take a partner to my throne:
- Thou knowest, my pride could never condescend
- To a divided sway; ’twas my resolve
- To rule alone, while the impatient world
- Urged me in vain; and when the people’s voice,
- Which now is echoed by the voice of heaven,
- Still presses me, in the bloom of youth, to give
- A sovereign to mankind, I still refused:
- If I had yielded then to any claim,
- It had been thine; you had a right to hope,
- And to expect it; but you knew too well,
- How much Sémiramis abhorred a master.
- Without submitting to a tie so fatal,
- I made thee then the second of mankind,
- And only not my equal; ’twas enough,
- I thought, to satisfy even thy ambition.
- At length the gods make known their will divine,
- And I obey them: hear the oracle:
- “All shall again be well at Babylon,
- When Hymen’s torch a second time shall blaze
- Propitious; then shalt thou, O cruel wife,
- And wretched mother, then shall thou appease
- The shade of Ninus.” Thus the voice of heaven
- Declares its sacred will: I know thy arts;
- Know, thou hast formed a party in the state,
- And mean to oppose me with the royal blood
- From whence you sprung: from thee and Azema
- My successor, it seems, must rise; I know
- You look that way, and she perhaps aspires
- To equal honors; but, observe me well:
- I shall not suffer your united claims
- To rob me of my right: remember, sir,
- You know my will; ’tis constant, and as fate
- Irrevocable: thinkest thou now the God
- Whose arm is lifted o’er me hath deprived
- My soul of all its wonted strength and spirit,
- Or dost thou still behold Sémiramis,
- Who can support the honor of her throne?
- Know, Babylon ere long shall at my hands
- Receive a master: whether the high choice
- Shall fall on thee, or be another’s lot,
- I’ll take a sovereign as a sovereign ought:
- Bring me the magi and the princess here
- To join their voices with Sémiramis.
- To give away my freedom and my empire
- Is the first, greatest act of royal power,
- And therefore let it be performed with awe
- And silence due to my authority.
- Heaven hath appointed this great day to show
- Its mercy to me, and the gods at length
- Remit their anger; nothing can disarm it
- But my repentance; ’tis the only virtue:
- Trust me, it is, howe’er you may despise it,
- Remaining for the guilty: weak, I know,
- And fearful thou esteemest me; but henceforth
- Remember, Assur, guilt alone is weakness:
- Think not that fear can e’er disgrace a throne,
- It has done good to kings, and might to thee;
- I tell thee, statesman, to obey the gods,
- And tremble at their power, is no abasement.
- Astonishment! such language, such designs!
- Or is it artifice, or weakness in her,
- Or cowardice or courage? Does she mean,
- By yielding thus, to prop her tottering power,
- And by our union to defeat my purpose?
- I must not think, it seems, of Azema,
- Because, perhaps, I’m destined for herself.
- It must be so. What all my cares in vain
- Solicited, my flattery of her charms,
- My deep intrigues, and our united crimes,
- With all her fears, could never gain, at length
- An idle dream, and a dark oracle
- From Egypt have performed. What power unknown
- Decrees the fate of mortals? Great events
- Hang on the slenderest thread: still I am doubtful:
- I’ll see Sémiramis again; she seemed
- Too much in haste; such sudden resolutions
- Betray an overanxious mind, and those
- Who change with ease are either weak, or wicked.
End of the Second Act.
[The scene represents an apartment in the palace.
- Who would have thought, Otanes, that the gods,
- Offended as they were, at length should smile
- Propitious thus, and threaten but to save!
- Should drop the uplifted thunder from their hand,
- And pardon me; should send Arsaces hither
- To change my fate! for know it is their will
- That I should wed, and by a second tie
- Expiate the crimes of my first fatal nuptials.
- They are the great disposers of our hearts,
- And mine with pleasure yields to their decrees:
- It even outruns their purposes: Arsaces,
- I’m thine; for thou wert born to rule o’er me,
- And o’er the world.
- Thou knowest,
- In Scythia’s plains, when I avenged the Persian,
- And conquered Asia, this young hero fought
- Beneath his father’s banners, and, surrounded
- With captives, brought to me the bloody spoils,
- And, blushing, laid his victims at my feet.
- When first I saw him, I could feel his heart,
- As by some secret power, attracting mine
- Insensibly towards him; all mankind,
- Besides Arsaces, seemed not worth my notice.
- Assur grew jealous of him, and ever since
- Has fired with indignation at his name;
- Whilst his dear image still employed my thoughts,
- Before that voice which guides my every word
- And every action named him for my husband,
- Before the gods had pointed out Arsaces.
- It was indeed a noble conquest, thus
- To bend that haughty spirit which disdained
- The proffered homage of our Eastern monarchs,
- Who as her subjects, not as lovers, still
- Accepted kings! You who contemned those charms,
- That sovereign beauty, which extended wide
- Your universal empire; whilst your eyes
- Pierced every heart, you scarce would condescend
- To mark their power; and dost thou yield at last
- To love’s imperious sway; to fears and horror
- Succeed the tender passions? Can it be?
- O, no; it is not love: I am not fallen
- So much beneath myself, as to bestow
- On beauty the reward that’s due to virtue;
- I feel a nobler passion in my breast:
- Alas! such weakness would but ill become
- Sémiramis: unhappy as I am,
- For me to think of love, Otanes, how
- Couldst thou suppose it? Once I was a mother,
- But scarce had studied to deserve the name
- By my fond cares, when heaven in anger snatched
- My child away, and left me here alone
- A prey to anguish. I had nothing near me
- That I could love; and, midst my grandeur, felt
- An aching void within my soul. I fled
- The court, endeavored to avoid myself,
- And sought relief in these proud monuments,
- Amusing flatterers of a restless heart
- That shunned reflection: rest was still a stranger,
- And long remained so; but he comes once more,
- I feel him now, and wonder at the power
- That charmed him hither: ’twas Arsaces; he
- Shall hold the place of husband and of son,
- A conquered world, and all my glories past.
- How much I owe to thee, celestial power,
- Who thus propitious leadest me to the altar
- So long abhorred; and hast thyself inspired
- That passion which alone can make me happy!
- But what will be the rage and grief of Assur?
- Hast thou reflected on it, when he hears
- Thy new resolves? He is not without hopes:
- The people have already fixed thy choice
- On him, and his resentment will not end
- In mere complaints.
- I never have deceived,
- And therefore fear him not: these fifteen years,
- Whate’er his views have been, I’ve taught him still
- To rank but with my subjects, though the first
- Amongst them; and set bounds to his ambition,
- Which he hath never o’erleaped: I reigned alone;
- And if this feeble hand so long could guide
- The helm of power, and curb his haughtiness,
- What can his courage or his cunning do
- Against Arsaces and Sémiramis?
- Yes: Ninus hath accepted my repentance,
- And leaves the mansions of the dead to urge
- Our happy union: his illustrious shade
- Again would rage to see his murderer seize
- His throne and bed: this calls him from the tomb,
- And Ammon’s oracles unite with him
- To crown my bliss: no more the awful virtue
- Of Oroes affrights me; I’ve sent for him
- To be a witness of the great event,
- And soon expect him here.
- His honored name
- And sacred character may give indeed
- A sanction to your choice.
- I know it will,
- And establish my resolves.
- Great successor of Zoroaster, welcome:
- To-day must Babylon receive a king;
- Thy office is to crown him; is all ready
- For the solemnity?
- The magi wait
- Thy pleasure, and the nobles all attend:
- To pay obedience to the sovereign power
- Is all my duty, and I shall fulfil it:
- I am not to judge kings, for that belongs
- To heaven alone.
- By this mysterious language,
- It seems you disapprove my purpose.
- I know it not, but wish it fair success.
- Thou canst interpret heaven’s high will: these signs
- Which I have seen, can they be fatal to me?
- A spectre hath of late, perhaps some god,
- Appeared, and in the bosom of the earth
- Re-entered soon: what power hath thus broke down
- The eternal barrier that divides the light
- From darkness? wherefore should a mortal thus
- Rise from the tomb to visit me?
- Know, heaven
- Doth oft suspend its own eternal laws
- When justice bids, reversing death’s decree;
- Thus to chastise the sovereigns of the earth,
- And terrify mankind.
- The oracles
- Demand a sacrifice.
- Eternal justice, thou whose piercing eye
- Beholdest my naked heart, O fill it not
- Again with horror, bury in oblivion
- My first unhappy nuptials!
- Oroes, stay.
- [To Oroes, who is retiring.
- I thought my presence might disturb you, madam.
- Return, and answer me: this morning, say,
- Did not Arsaces offer at your altars
- Gifts to the gods?
- He did; and precious were they:
- Arsaces is the favorite of heaven.
- I know he is, and I rejoice to hear it.
- Can I be wretched if I trust to him?
- He is the empire’s best support; the gods
- Conducted him; his glory is their care.
- With transport I accept the fair presage,
- Whilst hope and peace return to calm my breast.
- Away: again let purest incense rise
- Before your altars; let your magi come
- And sanctify the choice; bring down the smiles
- Of the assenting gods, and make us happy.
- Henceforth may Babylon with me revive,
- And shine amongst the nations of the earth
- With double splendor! Go thou, and prepare
- The solemn pomp.
- Heaven seconds my design,
- And I am only the interpreter
- Of its high will, to give the world a master:
- Thus to receive a kingdom at my hand
- Will strike him with astonishment: even now
- How little thinks he of the approaching greatness!
- How will proud Assur and his fawning crowd
- Be humbled! But a word, and the whole earth
- Falls at his feet; and, grateful as he is,
- I know he will repay me: I shall wed him,
- And for my portion carry him a world;
- My glory’s pure, and now I shall enjoy it.
sémiramis, otanes, mitranes. an officer of the palace.
- Arsaces begs admittance to your presence,
- To lay his sorrows at your feet.
- What sorrows can Arsaces feel when I
- Am near him, he who thus hath banished mine?
- Quick, let him come: he knows not yet his power
- O’er the fond heart of his Sémiramis.
- O thou dread shade whose voice alarmed my soul,
- Whose blood no more calls out for vengeance on me,
- And you, the guardian gods of this great empire.
- Of the Assyrians, Ninus, and my son,
- Unite to bless Arsaces! Ha! the sight
- Alarms me; whence can these strange terrors rise?
- O queen, I am devoted to thy service;
- My life is thine; and when I shed this blood,
- I am rewarded if it flows for thee.
- My father had some small renown in arms;
- I saw him perish bravely in the field,
- And at the head of thy victorious bands;
- He left his hapless son a fair example,
- Perhaps but ill pursued: I’ll not recall
- The memory of my father’s services.
- ’Twould ill become me; at your royal knees,
- Though here I sue for favor and protection:
- Pity the rashness of a guilty youth,
- Who listened to the dictates of imprudence.
- And even in serving feared he might offend you.
- Offend me! thou, Arsaces! fear it not.
- To-day you give your kingdom and your hand:
- My heart, I know, should on the great event
- Keep secret all its fears, and humbly still
- In silence, with depending monarchs, wait
- To know our master; but this Assur steps
- So haughtily, and triumphs in his conquest,
- We cannot brook his pride: the people call him
- Already their new sovereign; his high blood
- And rank support him: may he prove himself
- Worthy of both! but I have still a soul
- Too proud to bend beneath him, or adore
- The power I had defied: his jealous heart
- I know detests Arsaces: let me then
- Retire in safety, far from him, and thee:
- Permit me to revisit the dear climes
- Where first I served my royal mistress, there
- His tyranny can never reach: perhaps
- I may hereafter—
- Wilt thou leave me then,
- And fearest thou Assur?
- No: Arsaces fears
- Naught but the anger of Sémiramis.
- Perhaps thou knowest my fond ambition, then
- I’ve cause indeed to tremble.
- Hope the best,
- And know that Assur ne’er shall be thy master.
- I own it shocked my soul to look on him
- As Ninus’ successor: but is he then
- Designed for Azema? forgive this bold
- Presumptuous questioner: long since I know
- She was to Ninias given, proud Assur sprung
- From the same race, and claims her as his own:
- I am but a poor subject, yet I dare—
- Such subjects are my kingdom’s best support;
- I know thee well; thy noble soul, superior
- To vulgar minds, hath sought Sémiramis,
- Not for her fortunes, but herself; thy eyes
- Are fixed on her true interest, and on thee
- I shall depend: Assur and Azema
- Shall never meet; their union would be dangerous:
- But their designs are known, and by my care
- Will be prevented.
- Since my heart at length
- Is open to thee, and thou hast discovered—
- [Enters suddenly, and throws herself at the feet of Sémiramis.
- O queen, permit me thus—
- Rise, Azema:
- Where’er my choice may light, thou mayest depend
- On my protection, and shalt find respect
- Due to thy birth; for, destined as thou wert
- To be the wife of my lamented son,
- I look upon thee with a mother’s eye:
- [To them both.
- Go, place yourselves with those whom I have called
- To witness my resolves, and mark my choice.
- [To Arsaces.
- Be thou, my best protector, near the throne.
The apartment of Sémiramis opens into a magnificent saloon richly ornamented; a number of officers in their proper habits on the steps of the throne, which is raised in the middle; the satraps on each side: the high priest enters with the magi, and places himself between Assur and Arsaces: the queen in the midst with Azema, and her attendants: guards at the lower end of the saloon.
- Ye princes, magi, warriors, the support
- Of Babylon, assembled by command
- From great Sémiramis, the will of heaven
- Soon shall ye know: the gods that guard our empire
- Have fixed on this important hour to work
- A great and mighty change; whoe’er the queen
- Shall here appoint her sovereign and our own
- It is our duty to obey; and here
- I bring my tribute to the throne, my prayers
- And wishes for the glory and the welfare
- Of them, and of their kingdom: may these days
- Of joy and gladness ne’er be changed to hours
- Of grief and sorrow, nor these songs of mirth
- To mournful plaints!
- A king, my lords, will soon
- Be named; whoe’er he be, the choice will injure
- Myself alone; but Azema was born
- And must remain a subject; I submit
- To the queen’s pleasure, and on her protection
- Shall still depend; nor with the dark presage
- Of future ills shall interrupt your joy:
- But leave you my example of obedience.
- Howe’er the queen may choose, and heaven determine,
- We must consult the public good alone;
- Let us then swear by this imperial throne,
- And great Sémiramis, to yield submissive,
- And without murmuring to obey her will.
- I swear it; and this arm that fought for her,
- This heart obedient ever to her voice,
- Which next the voice of heaven I still revered,
- This blood which flowed with pleasure for her sake,
- Shall be devoted to that royal master
- Whom she appoints.
- I wait the great award
- Of heaven and Sémiramis.
- Each to his place, and now attend, my people.
- [She seats herself on the throne.
- [azema, assur, oroes (the high priest) andarsacestake their places, and she proceeds.
- If in that hand which custom and the laws
- Of an imperious husband had confined
- To homely cares, and to a distaff chained,
- I bore aloft the sceptre and the sword,
- Beyond my subjects’ hope, nor sunk beneath
- The weight of empire, let me now extend
- To latest times its glory: ’tis my purpose
- This day to take a partner in the throne:
- The gods must be obeyed, whose dread command
- At length subdued my long unconquered heart:
- They who deprived me of my son, perhaps
- May one day raise an heir to Babylon
- Worthy of empire, who shall follow me
- Through all the thorny paths that I have trod,
- Finish my work, and make my reign immortal.
- I might have chosen a sovereign from the kings
- That dwell around me, but they are all my foes,
- Or tributary slaves: a foreign hand
- Shall never wield this sceptre: my own subjects
- Are better than the kings which they have conquered:
- Belus was born a subject; if he gained
- The diadem, he owed it to the people,
- And to himself: by rights like his I hold
- The power supreme; and, mistress of a kingdom
- Larger than his, have bent beneath my yoke
- The nations of the East, which Belus ne’er
- Had seen or heard of: what he but attempted
- Sémiramis performed; for they who found
- A kingdom, and they only, can preserve it.
- You want a king who may be worthy of you,
- Worthy of such an empire, shall I add
- Worthy the hand that crowns him, and the heart
- Which I shall give: I have consulted heaven,
- My country’s weal, the interest of mankind,
- And choose a king to make the world more happy.
- Adore the hero, see in him revived
- The princes of my honored race; observe him,
- And know, this king, this hero, is—Arsaces.
- [She descends from the throne, and they all rise.
- Just heaven! avert
- These omens.
- Thou who sanctifiest my choice,
- Confirm it at the altar: see in him
- Ninus and Ninias both restored.
- [It thunders, and the tomb shakes.
- O heaven!
- What do I hear?
- Great gods, protect us now!
- The thunder comes, in anger or in love
- I know not: pardon, gracious gods! Arsaces
- Must win them to forgiveness. Ha! what voice
- Distracts me thus? and see, the tomb is open.
- O heaven! I die.
- [The ghost of Ninus comes out of the tomb.
- The shade of Ninus’ self.
- Gods! is it possible?
- What sayest thou? speak,
- Thou god of terrors.
- Comest thou to pardon, or to punish me?
- It is thy sceptre and thy bed which here
- I have bestowed: speak, is he worthy of it?
- Determine: I obey thee.
the ghost of ninus to arsaces.
- Thou shalt reign,
- Arsaces, but there are some dreadful crimes
- Which thou must expiate: hie thee to the tomb,
- And to my ashes offer sacrifice:
- Serve me and Ninias: remember well
- Thy father: listen to the pontiff.
- Thou venerable shade, thou demigod,
- Who dwellest within these walls, the sight of thee
- Inspires but does not amaze Arsaces:
- Yes, I will go, on peril of my life,
- And meet thee in the tomb: but tell me, what
- Must be the sacrifice? O speak! he’s gone.
- [The ghost retires towards the entrance of the mausoleum.
- Thou honored spirit of my lord, permit me
- Thus on my knees to pour my sorrows forth,
- Permit me in the tomb to—
- [At the entrance of the tomb.
- Stop: no farther:
- Respect my ashes: when the time is come
- I’ll send for thee.
- [The ghost goes into the tomb, and the mausoleum closes.
- Follow me,
- My people, to the temple: be not thus
- Dismayed: for know, the gentle shade of Ninus
- Is not implacable; it loves your king,
- And therefore will it spare Sémiramis:
- Heaven that inspired my choice will now support it:
- Haste then, and pray for me, and for Arsaces.
End of the Third Act.
Representing the porch of the temple.
- Do not oppress me in this hour of grief,
- And aggravate my sorrows; I have borne
- Enough already: this dread oracle
- Affrights me; prodigies on every side
- Disturb the course of nature: heaven deprives me
- Of all, if Azema is lost.
- No more,
- False man, nor to the horrors of this day
- Add the remembrance of thy perfidy;
- No more the terrors of Sémiramis,
- The walking spectre, and the opening grave,
- Appal me now; of all the prodigies
- Which I have seen, thy base inconstancy
- Hath shocked me most: go on, appease the shade
- Of Ninus, and begin the sacrifice
- With Azema; behold, and strike the victim.
- It is too much; my heart was not prepared
- Against this cruel stroke: thou knowest, my soul
- Prefers thee to the empire of the world:
- What was the object of that fame in arms
- I held so dear, of all my victories?
- All my ambition hoped for was at last
- To merit thee: Sémiramis, thou knowest,
- Was dear to both; thy tongue unites with mine
- To praise her; she was still the guardian god
- That cherished and protected us; as such
- We both revered her with that pious zeal
- And chaste regard which mortals bear to heaven:
- Judge of my spotless faith by my surprise
- At the queen’s choice, and mark the precipice
- It leads us to, thence learn our future fate.
- Learn, that neither thou nor empire
- Were destined for Arsaces; know, that son
- Whom I must serve, the child of Ninus, he
- Who must inherit here—
- That Ninias, he who from his cradle lit
- The torch of Hymen with thee, who was born
- My rival and my master—
- And will be with us soon.
- Even to this day deceived, laments his death.
- It is a secret yet
- Within the temple, and she knows it not.
- But Ninus crowns thee, and his widow’s thine.
- Ay, but his son was born for Azema;
- He is my king, so says the oracle,
- And I must serve him.
- But love claims his own,
- And will be heard in spite of all, Arsaces:
- His orders are not doubtful, or obscure.
- Love is my oracle, and that alone
- Shall be obeyed. Ninias, thou sayest, yet lives,
- Let him appear, and let Sémiramis
- Recall her plighted faith to him; let Ninus
- Rise from the tomb, to join the fatal knot
- Made in our infant years; let Ninias come,
- My king, thy master, and thy rival, fired
- With all the love which once Arsaces had
- For Azema, then see how I will slight
- His proffered vows; then shalt thou see me scorn
- The sceptre at my feet, and spurn a crown
- Which is my due: where is he now? What secret,
- What mystery veils him from us? Let him come;
- But know, nor Ninias, nor Sémiramis,
- No, nor the sacred spirit of his father
- Risen from the tomb, nor all the powers of nature
- Thrown in confusion, from my heart would wrest
- The image of my perjured dear Arsaces:
- Go, ask thy own, if it will dare to act
- As mine hath done. What are those dreadful crimes
- Which thou must expiate? if thou e’er shouldst break
- The sacred tie that binds us, if thou art false,
- I know no crime, no treachery like thy own.
- I see the sage interpreter of fate
- This way advancing, love will never plead
- Thy cause with heaven, if thou betrayest me: go,
- From Ninus’ hand receive thy doom; remember,
- Thy fate depends on heaven, and mine on thee.
- [Exit Azema.
- Arsaces still is thine: stay, cruel maid:
- How mingled is our happiness and woe!
- What strange events that contradict each other—
arsaces, oroes,the magi attending.
- [To Arsaces.
- Let us retire to yonder lonely walk;
- I see you are much moved: prepare yourself
- For strokes more dreadful.
- [To the magi.
- Bring the royal wreath.
- [The magi bring the coffer.
- This letter, and this sacred sword, to thee,
- Arsaces, I deliver.
- Reverend father,
- Wilt thou not save me from the precipice
- That gapes before me? wilt thou not at length
- Uplift the veil, that from my eyes conceals
- My future fate?
- ’Twill be removed, my son;
- The hour is come, when in his dreary mansions,
- Ninus from thee expects a sacrifice
- That shall appease his angry spirit.
- Can Ninus ask, what sacrifice from me?
- Must I be his avenger, when his son
- Still lives? Let Ninias come; he is my king,
- And I will serve him.
- ’Tis his father’s will,
- Thou must obey him: an hour hence, Arsaces,
- Be at his tomb, armed with this sacred sword,
- And with this wreath adorned, which Ninus wore,
- And which thyself did bring to me.
- ’Tis his royal will that thus
- Thou shouldst appear, to offer up the blood
- That must be shed; the victim will be there:
- Strike thou, and leave the rest to him, and heaven.
- If he requires my life, I’ll give it him:
- But where is Ninias? thou speakest naught of him:
- Thou hast not told me how his father gives
- To me his kingdom and his queen.
- To thee
- His queen! O heaven, to thee Sémiramis
- Be given! Arsaces, the important hour
- Which I had promised thee is come, when thou
- Shalt know thy fate, and this abandoned woman.
- ’Twas she who murdered Ninus.
- Saidst thou, the queen?
- Assur, that foul disgrace
- Of human nature, Assur gave the poison.
- I’m not surprised at Assur’s cruelty,
- But that a wife, a queen, and such a queen,
- The pride of sovereigns, the delight of nations,
- That she should e’er be guilty of a crime
- So horrible! it passes all belief.
- How can such virtues and such guilt as hers
- Subsist together!
- How indeed! the question
- Is worthy of thy noble heart: but now
- ’Twere needless to dissemble, every moment
- Is big with some new secret, horrible
- To nature, who already whispers to thee
- Her soft complaints; thy generous heart, I see,
- Spite of thyself, is shocked, and mourns within thee:
- But wonder not that Ninus from the tomb
- Indignant rises on this seat of guilt;
- He comes to break the horrid nuptial tie,
- Woven by the furies, and expose to light
- Unpunished crimes; to save his son from incest:
- He speaks to, he expects thee: know thy father,
- For thou art Ninias, and the queen’s thy mother.
- Thou hast o’erpowered me in one dreadful moment
- With such repeated wonders, that I stand
- Astonished, and the night of death surrounds me.
- Am I his son, and can it be?
- Thou art:
- Ninus, the morn before he died, foresaw
- His end approaching; knew the deadly draught
- Which he had drunk was ministered to thee
- By the same hand, and, dying as thou wert,
- Withdrew thee from this wicked court: for Assur
- Had poisoned thee that he might wed thy mother,
- Thought to exterminate the royal race,
- And open thus his passage to the throne:
- But whilst the kingdom mourned thy loss, Phradates,
- Our faithful friend, secreted and preserved thee;
- With skilful hand the precious herbs prepared,
- O’er Persia spread by her benignant God,
- Whose wondrous power drew forth the latent venom
- From thy parched limbs: his own son dying, you
- Supplied his place, and still wert called Arsaces.
- He waited patient for some lucky change,
- But the great judge of kings had otherwise
- Determined; truth at length descends from heaven,
- And vengeance rises from the tomb.
- O God!
- Enough already hast thou tried thy servant,
- Or must I yield that life which you restored?
- Yes: I was born midst grandeur, shame, and horror:
- My mother—Ninus! O what deadly purpose—
- But if the traitor Assur was alone
- To blame, if he—
- [Giving him the letter.
- Behold this paper here,
- Too faithful witness of her guilt, then say
- If yet a doubt remains.
- Haste, give it me,
- And clear them all.
- [He reads.
- Ha! “Ninus to Phradates:
- I die by poison, guard my Ninias well,
- Defend him from his foes: my guilty wife—”
- Needest thou more proof? this witness came from thee.
- He had not finished; death, thou seest, broke off
- The imperfect scroll, and stopped his feeble hand;
- Phradates hath unfolded all the rest,
- Read this, and learn the whole.
- [Gives him another paper.
- It is enough
- That Ninus hath commanded thee, he guides
- Thy steps, and leads thee to the throne, but says
- He must have blood.
- [After reading the paper.
- O day of miracles,
- And you, ye dreadful oracles from hell,
- Dark as the tomb which I must visit, how
- Shall I unveil your secret purposes,
- When he who is to make the sacrifice
- Knows not his victim! Who shall guide my choice?
- I tremble at it.
- Tremble for the guilty.
- Amidst the horrors that oppress thy soul,
- The gods will guide thee; deem not thou thyself
- A common mortal, from the race of men
- Thou art distinguished, set apart by heaven,
- And noted by its signature divine,
- Walk thou secure, though night conceals thy fate,
- The gods of thy great ancestors employ thee
- But as their instrument. What right hast thou
- To litigate their power, and to oppose
- Thy masters? Saved from death, as thou hast been,
- Be thankful still; complain not, but adore.
- I cannot reconcile this strange event:
- Sémiramis my mother! can it be?
- [Entering in haste.
- My lord, the people in this hour of terror
- Demand their king: permit me first to hail thee
- The husband of Sémiramis, and lord
- Of Babylon: the queen is hasting hither
- In search of thee; I bless the happy hour
- That gave her to thee: ha! not answer me!
- Despair is in thy looks, thy lips are closed
- In dreadful silence, thou art pale with terror,
- And thy whole frame’s disordered: what has passed?
- What have they said?
- Amazing! can it be Arsaces? fly
- A queen’s embraces; scorn her proffered love;
- Insult her choice; the royal hand that spurned
- Kings for thy sake! thus are her hopes betrayed?
- Gods! ’tis Sémiramis herself; O Ninus,
- Now let thy tomb in its dark bosom hide
- Her crimes, and me!
- Arsaces, all is ready,
- We want but thee, great master of the world,
- Whose fate, like mine, depends on thee; O haste,
- And make our bliss complete! with joy I see
- Thy brows encircled with that sacred wreath:
- The priest, I know, was by the gods commanded
- To crown thee with it; heaven and hell at once
- Approve my choice, and by these signs confirm it:
- Assur’s seditious party, struck with awe
- And holy reverence, tremble at my presence;
- Ninus, at length propitious, hath required
- A sacrifice, O haste, and give it him,
- That we may soon be blest: the people’s hearts
- Are all with us, and Assur’s threats are vain.
- [Walking about with great emotion.
- Assur! away! in his perfidious blood
- The parricide—we will revenge thee, Ninus.
- What do I hear? just heaven! speakest thou of him,
- Of Ninus?
- Saidst thou not, his guilty hand
- [Coming to himself.
- Had shed—to arm against his queen! the slave,
- That was enough to make me hate him.
- Haste then,
- Receive my hand, and thus begin thy vengeance.
- Ha! what looks are those, Arsaces?
- Is this the soft submissive tender heart
- Which I expected from thee, when I gave
- My willing hand? That fearful prodigies,
- And spectres rising from their dark domain,
- Should leave the marks of horror on thy soul,
- Alarms me not, I feel them too, but less
- When I behold Arsaces: do not thus
- O’erspread this fairest dawn of happiness
- With sorrow’s gloomy shade, but still appear
- Such as thou wert when trembling at my feet,
- Lest Assur e’er should be thy master; fear
- Nor him, nor Ninus and his angry shade;
- My dear Arsaces, thou art my support,
- My lord, my husband.
- [Turning aside from her.
- ’Tis too much, O stop:
- Her guilt o’erwhelms me.
- How his soul’s disturbed!
- Alas! he wants that peace which he bestowed
- On me.
- What wouldst thou? speak.
- I cannot: leave me, leave me: hence! begone.
- Amazing! leave thee! can I e’er forsake
- Arsaces? O explain this mystery to me,
- And ease my tortured soul: it makes us both
- Unhappy:—ha! despair is in thy aspect;
- Thou chillest my veins with horror, and thy eyes
- Are dreadful; they affright me more than heaven
- And hell united to oppose my vows:
- Scarce can my trembling lips pronounce, I love thee:
- Some power invisible now leads me on
- Towards thee, now withholds me from thy arms,
- And mingles, how I know not, tenderest love
- With sentiments of horror and despair.
- Canst thou bid me hate thee?
- Cruel Arsaces, no: I still must trace
- Thy footsteps, still my heart must follow thine:
- What is that paper which thou lookest on thus
- With horror, whilst thy eyes are bathed in tears,
- Does that contain a reason for thy coldness?
- Leave to me that dreadful scroll,
- To thee ’twere fatal, I have use for it.
- Give it me, let me know at once my fate.
- Urge it no more; there is death in every line.
- No matter: clear my doubts, or I shall think
- That thou art guilty.
- Ye immortal powers
- That guide our steps, it is to your decrees
- That I submit.
- For the last time, Arsaces,
- I here command thee, listen, and obey.
- [Giving her the letter.
- O may thy justice, heaven, be satisfied!
- And this the only punishment that e’er
- Shall be inflicted on her! now ’tis past,
- And thou wilt know too much.
- [She reads.
- [To Otanes.
- What do I read?
- Support me, or I die.
- [She faints.
- [Coming to herself, after a long silence.
- Delay not, but fulfil thy destiny:
- Punish this guilty, this unhappy wretch,
- And in my blood wash out the deadly stain.
- Nature deceived is horrible to both,
- Avenge thy father, strike, and punish me.
- No: let the sacred character I bear,
- The name of son, preserve me from that crime!
- Much rather would I pierce the heart of him
- Who still reveres thee, the poor lost Arsaces.
- Be cruel as Sémiramis; she felt
- No pity, therefore be the son of Ninus,
- And take my life: thou wilt not; nay, thy tears
- Even mix with mine: O Ninias, ’tis a day
- Of horrors, yet there’s pleasure in this pain.
- Before thou givest me what I have deserved,
- The stroke of death, let nature’s voice be heard:
- O let a guilty mother’s tears bedew
- That dear, that fatal hand.
- I am thy son,
- ’Tis not for thee, whate’er thy guilt, to fall
- Thus at my feet: O rise, thy Ninias begs,
- He loves thee still, still vows obedience to thee,
- Respect and purest love: consider me
- As a new subject, only more submissive,
- More humble, than the rest; I hope, more dear.
- Heaven that restores thy son is sure appeased:
- The gods who pardon thee reserve their vengeance
- For Assur; leave him to his fate.
- My crown and sceptre, I have much disgraced them.
- Still, I beseech you, hold me ignorant
- Of all, and let me with the world adore you.
- O no: my guilt’s too flagrant.
- But repentance
- May blot it out.
- Ninus hath given to thee
- The reins of empire, thou must not offend
- His vengeful spirit.
- O it will relent
- At thy remorse, and soften at my tears.
- Otanes, in the name of heaven, preserve
- My mother, and conceal the horrid secret.
End of the Fourth Act.
- O ’twas some god that smiled propitious on thee,
- Who thus prevented these abhorred nuptials;
- Whilst nature shuddered at the approaching danger,
- Gave thee a son, and saved thee thus from incest.
- The oracles of Ammon, and the voice
- From hell, the shades of Ninus, all declared
- The day appointed for thy second marriage
- Should end thy sorrows, but they never said
- That marriage e’er should be accomplished: No:
- The nuptials were prepared: thou hast fulfilled
- Thy destiny: thy son reveres thee still:
- Mild is the justice of offended heaven,
- Which only asks a private sacrifice:
- This day Sémiramis shall still be happy.
- Alas! there is no happiness for me,
- Otanes: Ninias smiles indeed upon me:
- A mother’s sorrows for a time will plead
- More strongly with him than the blood of Ninus,
- And my past crimes; but soon his tenderness
- And filial love may change perhaps to wrath
- And fierce resentment for a murdered father.
- What fearest thou from a son? what dire presage—
- Fear is the natural punishment of guilt,
- And still attends it: this detested Assur,
- Has he attempted aught, say, does he know
- What passed of late, and who Arsaces is?
- The dreadful secret still remains unknown;
- The shade of Ninus is by all revered;
- But how to comprehend the oracle
- They know not; how they must avenge his ashes;
- How serve his son—the minds of men are struck
- With wild astonishment, in silence now
- They wait the hour when the self-opened tomb
- Shall banish all their fears, and make them happy.
- Meantime the soldiers are in arms, the people
- Crowd to the altars; wretched Azema,
- Trembling and pale, with terror in her looks,
- Walks round the tomb, and lifts her hands to heaven;
- Whilst Ninias stands astonished in the temple,
- Prepared to strike his victim yet unknown:
- The gloomy Assur meditates revenge,
- Unites the remnants of his scattered party,
- And forms some dark design.
- I have kept fair
- Too long already with him: seize the traitor,
- Otanes, bear him to my son in chains;
- Ninias shall soon appease eternal justice,
- At least with Assur’s blood, my vile accomplice.
- Ninus, thou seest I am a mother still;
- Thou seest my heart, O take it, take it all,
- And may it rise a grateful sacrifice!
- Ha! who approaches with such hasty steps?
- How everything appals my fluttering soul!
sémiramis, azema, otanes.
- O Queen, forgive me if I come uncalled;
- But terrors worse than death have forced me thus
- To clasp thy knees, and beg thy royal mercy—
- What wouldst thou, princéss? speak.
- To snatch a hero
- From instant danger, stop a traitor’s hand,
- And save Arsaces.
- He is thy husband, Azema’s betrayed,
- He lives for you alone; no matter—
- The sacred tie that binds you—
- The tie is dreadful, impious, and abhorred:
- Arsaces is—but speak, go on; I tremble:
- What dangers? haste, and tell me.
- Well thou knowest,
- Perhaps this very moment, whilst I ask
- Thy aid, perhaps—
- That demigod
- Whom we adore, demands the sacrifice
- Within the dreary labyrinths of the tomb:
- What are the crimes Arsaces must atone for
- I know not.
- But impious Assur
- Hath sworn to violate that sacred place
- Which mortals dare not enter.
- Ay! indeed!
- Hath Assur sworn it?
- In the dead of night
- The wily traitor had long since secured
- A safe retreat, if e’er occasion called,
- Within the secret windings of the tomb,
- Where now he means to do the bloody deed,
- To brave the powers of hell, and wrath of heaven;
- With sacrilegious hand he would destroy
- The generous Arsaces.
- Heaven! what sayest thou?
- By what detested means?
- Believe a heart
- By love enlightened, and by love inspired:
- I know the traitor’s rank envenomed hatred,
- Marked how the trembling faction by his zeal
- Revived; I pried into their secret councils,
- Pretended to unite his cause with mine,
- And join our interests; I have looked into him,
- Have wrested from his heart the fatal secret.
- Boldly he marches on, and hopes to pass
- Unpunished: well he knows that none dare enter
- That holy place, not Oroes himself:
- Thither he’s gone: meantime his slaves report
- Arsaces is the victim that must die
- For Babylon, and Ninus in his blood
- Shall satiate his revenge: the nobles meet,
- The people murmur; Ninus, Assur, heaven,
- Are all incensed: I tremble for Arsaces.
- My dearest Azema, heaven speaks by thee:
- It is enough: I see what must be done.
- Repose thyself with safety on a mother;
- Daughter, our danger is the same; go thou,
- Defend thy husband, I will save my son.
- I meant to wed him, but the gods
- In mercy have forbade it: they inspire
- A hapless mother now—but time is precious;
- Go: leave me here, and in my name command
- The nobles, priests, and people, to attend me.
- [Azema goes into the porch of the temple, and Sémiramis advances toward the tomb.
- Thou shade of Ninus, lo! I fly to avenge thee;
- The hour is come when thou didst promise me
- Admittance to thy tomb; I have obeyed thee,
- Called by thy voice, behold me here to save
- My son. Ye guards that wait around my throne
- Approach: henceforth Arsaces is your king;
- No more obedient to Sémiramis,
- Observe his laws, to him the sovereign power
- I here resign: be you his subject now,
- And his defenders.
- [Guards appear, and range themselves on each side at the further part of the stage.
- Gracious heaven! protect me.
- [She goes into the tomb.
- [Returning from the porch of the temple to the front of the stage.
- What can she purpose? O it is too late
- To save him now; I know not what to think:
- ’Tis wondrous all; O ’tis a dreadful moment,
- Arsaces! Ninias! ye immortal powers
- Who guide our fate, O say, did you restore
- My loved Arsaces but to snatch him from me?
- Ha! Ninias! can it be? Art thou indeed
- Great Ninus’ son, my sovereign, and my husband?
- O! thou beholdest me, Azema, ashamed
- To know myself, sprung from the blood of gods,
- And shuddering at the thought: O! Azema,
- Remove my terrors, calm my troubled soul,
- Strengthen my arm upraised to avenge a father.
- Take heed how thou performest that dreadful office.
- He hath commanded, and I must obey.
- Ninus would never sacrifice his son:
- Ne’er shalt thou enter that abhorred place,
- For know, a traitor lies in wait for thee.
- Who shall withhold or terrify Arsaces?
- Thou art the victim to be offered there:
- With sacrilegious steps the impious Assur
- Profanes the sacred tomb, and rashly dares
- To violate its privilege divine:
- He waits thee there.
- Good heaven! then all is plain;
- I’m satisfied: the victim is prepared;
- My father, poisoned by the wicked Assur,
- Demands the traitor’s blood: instructed thus
- By Oroes, and conducted by the gods,
- Armed by the hand of Ninus’ self, I go
- To punish the assassin: thither led
- By heaven’s eternal justice, my weak hand
- Is but the instrument of power divine:
- The gods do all, and my astonished soul
- Yields to that voice which must decree my fate:
- Spite of ourselves, our ways are noted down,
- Marked, and determined: prodigies are spread
- Around the throne, and spirits called from hell
- To wander here: but fearless I obey.
- Believe, and trust in heaven.
- Whate’er the gods
- Have done but fills my soul with sad dismay:
- Ninus was loved by them; yet Ninus perished.
- But now they will avenge him: cease thy plaints.
- Oft have they chose the purest victim, oft
- Have shed the blood of innocence.
- No more;
- They will defend whom thus they have united:
- They by a father’s voice exhorted us,
- Gave me a throne, a mother, and a wife.
- Soon shalt thou see me sprinkled with the blood
- Of the vile murderer; from the tomb those gods
- Shall lead me to the altar; I obey;
- It is enough: the rest be left to heaven.
- O guard his footsteps in this fatal tomb!
- Ye powers inscrutable, whose blood must flow
- This day? I tremble for the event, and dread
- The hand of Assur, long inured to slaughter;
- Even on his father’s ashes may he shed
- The blood of Ninias: O may the dark womb
- Of hell receive and swallow up his rage!
- Ye lightnings blast him! O illustrious shade
- Of Ninus, wherefore wouldst thou not permit
- A wretched wife to go with her dear lord?
- O guide, support him in this place of darkness!
- Did I not hear the voice of Ninias mixed
- With deadly groans? O would this sacred tomb,
- Which I profane, but open to my wishes
- The gate of death!—I will descend:—I go—
- Hark! the earth shakes, and dreadful lightnings flash
- Athwart the skies: fear, hope, despair—he comes.
ninias,a bloody sword in his hand,azema.
- O! my lord, you’re pale,
- And bloody, frozen with horror.
- ’Tis the blood
- Of the vile parricide: I wandered down
- Even to the bottom of the tomb; my father
- Still led me onward through its winding paths,
- He walked before, and pointed out the place
- Of my revenge: there, by the imperfect light
- That glimmered through the dreary vault, I saw,
- Or thought I saw, upraised the murderer’s sword:
- Methought he trembled; guilt is ever fearful:
- Twice did I plunge my sword into his heart,
- And with my bloody arm, which rage had strengthened,
- Had dragged him in the dust towards the place
- Whence the dim rays of light appeared: and yet
- I own to thee, his deep heart-rending sighs,
- The mournful sounds, imperfect as they were,
- That reached my ears, his humble vows to heaven,
- With that repentance which in his last hour
- Seemed to possess his soul, the hallowed place,
- The voice of pity, which, revenge once o’er,
- Calls loudly on us, with I know not what
- Of dark mysterious terror, shook my soul,
- And made me leave the bleeding victim there.
- What can this trouble, this strange horror mean
- That dwells upon me, Azema? My heart
- Is pure, ye gods, my hands are innocent,
- Stained only with the blood you bid me shed;
- I’ve served the cause of heaven, and yet am wretched.
- The dead are satisfied, and nature too:
- Come let us quit this horrid place, and seek
- Thy mother, she shall calm thy troubled mind:
- Since Assur is no more—
ninias, azema, assur.
[Assur appears at a distance with Otanes, surrounded by guards.
- O haste, ye ministers of heaven,
- Ye servants of the king, defend your master.
oroes,the high priest, with the magi and people assembled,otanes, ninias, azema, mitranes, assur.
- They need not: by the queen’s command I’ve seized
- The traitor, who attempted to profane
- Yon sacred monument, and enter there:
- I shall deliver him to thee.
- What victim then hath Ninias sacrificed?
- Heaven is appeased, and vengeance now complete.
- Behold, ye people, your king’s murderer.
- [Pointing to Assur.
- Behold, ye people, your king’s successor.
- [Pointing to Ninias.
- ’Tis Ninias, Babylon’s lost prince, restored:
- He is your sovereign, know him, and obey.
- Ay; ’tis he: the guardian god,
- Who saved him from thy rage, hath brought him hither;
- That god whose vengeance hath o’erthrown thee.
- Ha! did Sémiramis then give thee life?
- She did, and power withal to punish thee:
- Guards take him hence, and rid me of a monster.
- He was not worthy of my sword; to fall
- By Ninias’ hand had been a death too glorious.
- The victim hath escaped me; let him die,
- Even as he lived, with infamy: away.
- It is my heaviest punishment to see
- Ninias my sovereign: but ’tis pleasure still
- To leave thee more unhappy than myself;
- [Sémiramis appears at the foot of the tomb, wounded, and almost dead, one of the magi supporting her.
- Look yonder, and behold what thou hast done.
- [Pointing to Sémiramis.
- Fly, my dear Ninias, fly
- This fatal place.
- [Placing himself between Ninias and the tomb.
- And cleanse those bloody hands: give me the sword,
- That fatal instrument of wrath divine.
- No: let me plunge it to my heart.
- [He attempts to destroy himself, the guards interpose.
- [Brought forward and seated on a sofa.
- Revenge me, O my son; some base assassin
- Has slain thy mother.
- O unhappy hour;
- Unheard of guilt! for know, that base assassin,
- That monster was—thy son: this hand hath pierced
- The breast that nourished and supported me:
- But soon thou shalt have vengeance, Ninias soon
- Shall follow thee.
- I went into the tomb
- To save thee, Ninias; thy unhappy mother—
- But from thy hands, I have received the fate
- I merited.
- This last, this fatal stroke,
- Sinks deep into my soul: but here I call
- Those gods to witness who conducted me,
- Those who misled my steps—
- No more, my son:
- Freely I pardon thee, and only make
- This last request, that those dear hands may close
- My dying eyes.
- [He kneels.
- A mother begs it of thee:
- Thy heart I know was stranger to the deed:
- O would that I had been as innocent
- When Ninus died! but I have suffered for it.
- Henceforth let mortals know, that there are crimes
- Offended heaven never can forgive.
- O Ninias, Azema, let your blessed union
- Blot out my crimes; come near your dying mother;
- Give me your hands; long may ye live and reign
- In happiness! that hope still gives me comfort,
- And mingles joy even with the pangs of death.
- It comes, I feel it. O! my children, think
- On your Sémiramis, O do not hate
- My memory,—O my son, my son—’tis past.
- Her eyes are sunk in darkness: help the king
- And guard his life. Learn from her sad example,
- That heaven is witness to our secret crimes:
- The higher is the criminal, remember,
- The gods inflict the greater punishment;
- Kings, tremble on your thrones, and fear their justice.
End of the Fifth and Last Act.