Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT IV. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. IX The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Alzire, Orestes, Sémiramis, Catiline, Pandora) and Part II (The Scotch Woman, Nanine, The Prude, The Tatler).
ACT IV. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. IX The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Alzire, Orestes, Sémiramis, Catiline, Pandora) and Part II (The Scotch Woman, Nanine, The Prude, The Tatler). 
From The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901), A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming. Vol. IX The Dramatic Works Part 1 (Alzire, Orestes, Sémiramis, Catiline, Pandora) and Part II (The Scotch Woman, Nanine, The Prude, The Tatler).
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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.