Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT I. - 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 I. - 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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- [Soldiers at the bottom of the stage.
- Yes, thou proud talker, thou vile instrument
- Of a deluded people, soon thy power
- Shall be no more; and thou whose savage virtue,
- Inflexibly severe, destroys the nation
- It means to save, imperious Cato, know
- Thy doom is passed, thou and the tyrant senate
- Must fall together; they who keep the world
- In bondage shall themselves be slaves; their chains
- Are forged already, and usurping Pompey
- Shall pay for dear bought honors with his blood.
- Cæsar, his haughty rival, shall oppose him,
- His equal Cæsar: he who, like myself,
- Was ever factious, shall assist my cause;
- The snare is laid, and Cæsar shall prepare
- The throne for Catiline; I’ll make them all
- Subservient to my purpose: Cicero’s self,
- The man whom most I hate, shall be my friend:
- My wife too may be useful, and may prove
- A step to greatness: fathers, husbands, all
- Those empty names mistaken mortals call
- Most sacred, hence, I give you to the winds:
- Ambition, I am thine.
- Well, my Cethegus,
- Whilst Rome and our designs are hid in night,
- Say, hast thou called together our brave chiefs?
- Even here, my lord, beneath this portico,
- Safe from the consul’s prying eyes, and near
- That impious scene where our proud tyrants sit,
- Thy friends shall meet—already they have signed
- The solemn compact, and are sworn to serve thee.
- But how stands Cæsar, will he second us?
- He is a turbulent unruly spirit,
- And acts but for himself.
- And yet without him
- We never shall succeed.
- I’ve laid a snare
- He cannot escape: my soldiers, in his name,
- Shall seize Præneste—he’s been long suspected.
- This will confirm his guilt—the furious consul
- Shall soon accuse him to the senate—Cæsar
- Will hazard all to satiate his revenge.
- I’ll rouse this sleeping lion from his den,
- And make him roar for me.
- But Nonnius still
- Rules in Præneste; he’s a friend to Rome.
- In vain already thou hast tried to tempt
- His stubborn virtue—what must be his fate?
- Thou knowest I love his daughter, though I hate
- Her surly father: long he strove in vain
- To thwart our mutual passion, and prevent
- Our private marriage, which at last the churl
- Unwillingly consented to: he feared
- To incur his angry party’s high displeasure
- And the proud consul’s—but I’ve made his pride
- Subservient to our purpose—he is bound
- By solemn oaths to keep our marriage still
- A secret: Sura only and Cethegus
- Are privy to it: this perhaps may serve
- More purposes than one: Aurelia’s palace
- Conducts us to the temple; there I’ve placed
- My instruments of ruin, arms, and firebrands,
- To execute our great design: thy zeal
- To friendship much I owe, but more to love.
- Beneath the senate’s sacred vault, beneath
- The roof of Nonnius will we sacrifice
- These tyrants—you, my friends, must to Præneste;
- You to the capitol; remember whom
- You serve, the oath that binds you, and the cause
- You are engaged in—thou, my loved Cethegus,
- Must watch o’er all, and guide the great machine.
- O Catiline, my lord, my husband, ease
- My troubled heart, remove my doubts, my fears,
- My horror, my despair—alas! what means
- This dreadful preparation?—every step
- I tread alarms me; why these soldiers, why
- With arms and torches is my palace filled?
- The days of Marius and of Sulla sure
- Are now returned, and discord reigns amongst us:
- Explain, my lord, this dreadful mystery:
- Do not turn from me—by the sacred tie
- That joins our hearts, by the dear babe thou lovest,
- I talk not to thee of its mother’s danger,
- For thee alone I tremble: pity me,
- Pity a wretched wife, and tell me all.
- Know then, my life, my fortune, and my fame,
- Thy safety, and my own, the common cause,
- Demand a conduct which thy fears condemn:
- But if thou lovest me, let whate’er thou seest
- Be buried in thy breast: I mean to save
- Rome’s better part; the senate and the people
- Are disunited—danger threats the state
- On every side; I’ve taken the best means
- To make all well again.
- I hope thou hast;
- But can we hide our hearts from those we love?
- Canst thou deceive me? yet what thou hast said
- Doubles my fears. Alas! thy looks are wild,
- And full of horror. What will Nonnius say
- When he shall see these dreadful preparations?
- The voice of nature, and the tender names
- Of father and brother oft have passed
- Unheard and unregarded when the cause
- Of Rome required it—well thou knowest our marriage
- Gave much offence, and when my angry father
- Returning, shall behold these sad effects
- Of our unhappy union, what, my lord,
- Must I expect? O why wilt thou abuse
- The power which love has given thee o’er a heart
- Devoted to thy service?—thou hast gained
- A party, but consider well my father,
- Cato, and Cicero, and Rome, and heaven,
- Are all thy foes: Nonnius perhaps may come
- This very day on purpose to destroy thee.
- Be not afraid, I know he cannot.
- Whene’er he comes he must approve our purpose:
- I am not left at liberty to tell thee
- What we design, suffice it that his interest
- And mine are one: I know when he shall find
- The fair result, he then will join with me
- To pull down the proud tyrants he obeys:
- Trust me, Aurelia, what I do shall prove
- The fertile spring of everlasting glory
- And honor to you both—
- Alas! the honor
- I fear is doubtful, and the danger certain:
- What seekest thou? wherefore wouldst thou urge thy fate?
- Is it not enough to rank among the first
- Of human kind, and rule the subject world?
- Why wouldst thou mount the giddy heights of power,
- And court destruction? my foreboding heart
- Already sees, and trembles at thy danger.
- Are these the promised joys of flattering love?
- The peace I hoped for? I have lost it now
- For ever: O, my lord, when last these eyes
- Were in a short and broken slumber closed,
- Methought I saw in flames imperial Rome;
- Saw murders, deaths, and rivers stained with blood,
- My father massacred in open senate,
- And thee, my Catiline, amidst a band
- Of vile assassins, breathing forth thy soul
- In dreadful agonies: I rose, and fled
- From these sad images to find my lord,
- My guardian, my protector—thou art here,
- And I, alas! am but the more unhappy.
- Away—thy omens fright not Catiline;
- Complain not, but be resolute: I want
- Thy courage, not thy tears, when I am serving
- Thee and my country.
- Is it thus thou meanst
- To serve her? O, my lord, I know not what
- Thy purpose is, but were it fair and just
- Perhaps I might long since have been consulted;
- Our mutual interest claimed it from a husband:
- If thou dissemblest with me, I have cause
- To doubt, and to be wretched—Cicero
- Has long suspected thee, and Rome thou knowest
- Adores him.
catiline, aurelia, martian.
One of the Conspirators.
- The consul comes this way—by his command
- The senate meet; he wishes first to see
- And speak with you.
- Why tremble at the name of Cicero?
- Let Nonnius fear and reverence him, disgrace
- His rank and character by mean submission;
- I pity the weak senator, but hoped
- To find in thee a noble soul: not thus,
- Remember, acted thy brave ancestors:
- Gods! that a woman, and a Roman, sprung
- From Nero’s blood, should thus be void of pride
- Or of ambition! noble minds are ne’er
- Without them.
- Mine perhaps thou thinkest is mean
- And timid; cruelty alone with thee
- Is courage; thy reproach is most unkind;
- But know me better; know that this fond wife,
- Whom thou contemnest, who has not power to change
- Or soften thee, has more of Roman in her
- Than thou canst boast; and, coward as she is,
- Can teach thee how to die.
- How many cares
- At once surround me!—Cicero comes—but him
- I fear not: this Aurelia.—
cicero, catiline,Chief of the Lictors.
- [To the Chief Lictor.
- Do as I
- Command you—I’ll try if I can sound
- This faithless heart; leave me alone with him:
- Sometimes a villain may be wrought by fear
- To better counsel, and renounce his purpose.
- Who’s there? the proud plebeian, chosen by Rome
- To be her master?
- [Turns to Cataline.
- Ere the senate meet,
- Catiline, I come for the last time to hold
- The friendly torch, and save thy wandering steps
- From the dread precipice of guilt and ruin.
- And is it thus thy hate
- Pursues me?
- Call it pity—but observe me.
- The capitol is weary of thy plaints,
- Thy factious cries, and bold impertinence;
- Rome, and the senate have, it seems, debased
- The consul’s dignity by choosing me:
- Thy pride we know expected it, but how
- Hadst thou deserved it? was it by the name,
- Or family, thy valor, or the pride
- Of a loose prodigal in shows and feasts
- And idle pomp; could these entitle thee
- To such exalted honors? couldst thou hope
- To be the great dispenser of the laws,
- To guide the mistress of the world who rules
- O’er prostrate kings? had Catiline been what
- He ought to be, I might perhaps to him
- Have yielded the contested palm.—Hereafter
- Thou mayest support the state, but to be consul
- ’Tis fit thou first shouldst be—a citizen.
- Thinkest thou by vile reflections on my birth,
- My fortune, and my fame, to taint my honor,
- Or weaken the firm basis of my power?
- In our corrupted days it is not name,
- Or family, that Rome has need of: no:
- ’Tis virtue; and the pride of Cicero
- Hath ever been, that he should nothing owe
- To his forefathers—my nobility
- Springs from myself, and thine may end in thee.
- It ill becomes a temporary power,
- Like thine, to boast of its authority.
- Had Cicero used that power as thou deservest,
- Thou wouldst not have been here to question it:
- Thou who hast stained our altars with pollution
- And sacrilegious rage, thy days are numbered
- But by thy crimes: thy merit is to dare,
- To strike at all, dissemble, and betray:
- Thou hast abused the precious gifts that heaven
- Bestowed on thee for other purposes:
- Sense, beauty, courage, and heroic warmth,
- All the fair ornaments of human nature,
- In thee are but the instruments of ill.
- My voice, which still is raised to scourge the wicked,
- And plead for the oppressed, hath spared thee yet;
- Nor with the odious Verres ranked the name
- Of Catiline: but long impunity
- Hath made thee shameless, and insensible
- Of all reproof—thou hast betrayed the state:
- At Rome, and in Etruria all is discord,
- And foul confusion; Umbria is revolted;
- Præneste staggers in her faith; the soldiers
- Of barbarous Sulla, drenched in blood, come forth
- From their dark caves prepared for slaughter, armed
- By cruel Mallius; all are leagued with thee;
- Thy partisans declared, or secret friends,
- All are united in one guilty bond,
- And sworn to the destruction of their country:
- I know thee for their chief, for I have eyes
- On every side, and hands too, thou shalt find,
- That, spite of thee, shall vindicate the cause
- Of injured Rome; thy guilty friends shall feel
- My justice too: thou hast beheld me long
- But as thy rival, now behold thy judge,
- And thy accuser, who will force thee soon
- To answer for thy actions by those laws
- Which thou so oft hast trampled on unpunished,
- Those laws which thou contemnest, and I revenge.
- I’ve told you, sir, already, that your office
- But ill excuses this indecent freedom:
- But for that country’s sake, whom both are bound
- To serve, I pardon your unjust suspicions;
- Nay, I do more, I honor your warm zeal;
- Blind though it be, in such a cause ’tis just:
- But do not thus reproach me for past errors,
- For the wild follies of impetuous youth,
- That soon are o’er; your senate is to blame,
- I followed their example; pomp and pride,
- Excess and luxury, the fruits of conquest,
- Are the time’s vices, not the native bent
- Of Catiline’s heart: I served the commonweal
- In Asia as a soldier, as a judge
- In Africa: spite of our domestic feuds,
- Did I not make the name of Rome revered
- Among the nations? I who have defended
- Shall ne’er betray her.
- Sulla too and Marius
- Both served their country well, and then destroyed her.
- Tyrants have all some specious show of virtue,
- And ere they break their country’s laws support them.
- If you suspect each brave and gallant soldier,
- Let Cæsar, Pompey, Crassus be accused:
- Why fix on me amongst so many? why
- Am I the only object of your fears?
- Have I deserved it?
- That you best can tell.
- But wherefore deign I thus to answer you?
- The more I plead in my defence, the more
- Will Cicero condemn me: if as friend
- Thou talkest to me, thou but deceivest thyself,
- I am thy foe; if as a citizen,
- So too is Catiline; if as a consul,
- A consul’s not a master, he presides
- But in the senate, I defy him there.
- Thou durst not; for I there can punish guilt:
- If thou art innocent, I will protect thee;
- If not, I charge thee, be not seen in Rome.
- This is too much: I will no longer bear
- Thy insults, though I scorn thy vague suspicions:
- Yet know I think the worst affront that thou
- Couldst put on Catiline, would be to protect him.
- Insolent traitor! means he thus to prove
- His innocence by false affected pride?
- Perfidious wretch, I’m not to be deceived,
- Nor shalt thou thus escape the watchful eye
- Of vengeance.
- Well, my friend, hast thou prepared
- For Rome’s defence?
- Your orders are obeyed;
- I have disposed the chiefs, and all are ready
- To march as you direct them; but I fear
- The people, nay the senate.
- Ay—they are swollen with pride—and foul division
- Will soon enslave them.
- Much indeed I fear
- Our vices will avenge the conquered world;
- Our liberty and virtue are no more;
- But Rome may still have hope whilst Cato lives.
- Alas! who serves his country often serves
- A most ungrateful mistress—even thy merit
- Offends the senate; with a jealous eye
- It views thy greatness.
- Cato’s approbation
- Is recompense enough; thy honest praise
- Will more than balance their ingratitude;
- On that and on posterity alone
- I shall rely; let us perform our duty,
- And leave the rest to heaven.
- How shall we stem
- The torrent of corruption? when I see,
- Even in this sacred temple, raised to virtue,
- Infamous treason rise with shameless front:
- Can we suppose that Manlius, that proud rebel,
- Would dare advance his standard, and blow up
- The flames of civil war, if greater powers
- Did not support him, if some secret foe
- Abetted not their vile conspiracy?
- The leaders of the senate may betray us;
- From Sulla’s ashes may new tyrants rise:
- My just suspicions light on Cæsar.
- On Catiline; perfidious, sordid, rash,
- And bold; he loves rebellion, and delights
- In novelty; more dangerous than Cæsar;
- I know him well; even now I parted from him:
- What passed between us but confirms me more
- In my suspicions; on his face I read
- Rage and resentment, the determined pride
- Of his fierce spirit, that no longer deigned
- To hide its purpose, but stood forth, and owned
- Its enmity to Rome.—I must discover
- His bold compeers, perhaps I may prevent
- His future crimes, and save my falling country.
- Catiline has friends, and much I fear the power
- Of these united tyrants may prove fatal:
- Our forces are in Asia, and at Rome
- We are corrupted; but one upright man
- May save the state.
- If we unite, our country
- Has naught to fear—in factions discord soon
- Dissolves the tie: Cæsar perhaps may join them;
- But, if I know him right, his noble soul
- Will never stoop to serve a worthless tyrant;
- He loves his country still, and hates a master;
- Though soon the time will come when he shall strive
- To be one; both are eager for applause,
- And both ambitious: both are raised too high
- To meet in friendship long; by their division
- Rome may be saved; let us not tamely wait
- To see our country’s ruin, or behold
- In shameful chains the masters of mankind.
End of the First Act.