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