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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The Scene represents the place prepared for the reception of the Senate, with part of the gallery leading from Aurelia’s palace to the temple of Tellus; a double row of benches in a circular form, with a raised seat for Cicero in the middle of it.
- These reverend fathers are exceeding slow,
- I thought ere this they would have met; perhaps
- Uncertain yet, and trembling for their fate,
- They know not how to act.
- The oracle
- Of Rome, (for so he deems himself,) engaged
- In a continued round of toil, is busied
- In questioning his prisoner Septimus,
- Who will perplex him more; ’tis that retards
- Their meeting.
- Would to heaven that we already
- Had taken up arms! I own I dread the senate.
- That reverence and attachment to the state,
- That sacred name of country, which awakes
- The sense of honor in each patriot breast;
- I like it not.
- ’Tis nothing but a name,
- A word without a meaning; in the days
- Of our forefathers men respected it.
- Save a few stubborn stoics, none retain
- The memory of it; Cicero has raised
- Suspicions only; Cato’s credit’s lost;
- Cæsar is for us, what have we to fear?
- Defend yourselves, and Rome will be your own.
- But what if Catiline, by an artful wife
- Seduced, at last should leave us; we have all
- Our weaknesses, and well thou knowest Aurelia
- Can lead him as she lists; he loves, esteems,
- And may be ruled by her.
- His love will yield
- To his ambition.
- Thou beheldest him tremble.
- In short, my friend, when tender ties like these—
- [Taking him aside.
- Cato approaches, let us listen to him.
- [Lentulus-Sura and Cethegus sit down at one corner of the Senate-house.
catoenters the Senate withlucullus, crassus, favonius, clodius, murena, cæsar, catullus, marcellus, etc.
- [Observing the two conspirators.
- Lucullus, mark those dangerous men; behold them
- In secret conference; see, the blush of guilt
- Glows on their cheeks at sight of me; already
- Treason with bold and shameless front stalks forth
- Amongst us, and the senate still dissemble
- Their knowledge of it; Sulla’s demon sure
- Hath breathed its baneful influence o’er the souls
- Of our blind rulers.
- Cato, thy rash censure
- May cost thee dear.
- [Sits down, the other senators take their places.
- The gods of Rome sometimes
- Permit a traitor’s crimes to pass unpunished;
- They crushed our ancestors beneath the yoke
- Of cruel tyrants; shall imperial Rome,
- The mistress of the world, again submit
- To slavery? no: the guilt she spared in Sulla,
- In Catiline and Cethegus she may punish.
- Cato, what meanest thou? thy outrageous virtue
- Can serve no purpose but to make thee foes.
- [To Cæsar.
- Cæsar is still the factious leader’s friend,
- The patron of corruption, and preserves
- A soul unmoved whate’er his country suffers.
- When danger calls, my country will not say
- I am too calm, therefore complain not, Cato.
- I must complain, must weep the fate of Rome,
- Deserted and betrayed: now where is Pompey?
- Would he were here to save us!
- Pompey loves his country.
- Would I dispute with him.
- [Entering with precipitation, the senators rise.
- Why waste ye thus in idle altercation,
- The precious time when Rome is on the brink
- Of ruin, whilst on you she calls for succor,
- When the dread signal is already given?
- Already is this land of freedom stained
- With senatorial blood.
- The equestrian cohort, formed by my command,
- Were posted where they best might quell the foe;
- Nonnius, my friend, that generous old man,
- Who, amidst the crimes of this degenerate age,
- Still uncorrupted, from Præneste came,
- To guide us through this labyrinth of treason,
- And lead our wandering steps to peace and safety,
- When lo! two bloody ruffians rushed upon him,
- And plunged their daggers in his faithful heart:
- He fell: confusion followed, and wild uproar
- Amongst the people: we pursued the traitors,
- Spite of the multitude that thronged around them,
- And night’s dark shade to favor their escape:
- One I have seized, and bound in chains; already
- He has confessed that Catiline set him on.
- [Standing up between Cato and Cæsar, Cethegus next to Cæsar, the Senate seated.
- Yes, reverend fathers, know, the deed was mine;
- I slew your foes; ’twas Catiline who revenged
- His injured country, and destroyed a traitor.
- And darest thou boast of it?
- Remember, fathers, we’ve no right to punish
- Before we hear him.
- Speak, defend thyself,
- And triumph o’er the malice of thy foes.
- Amidst evil days
- And evil men, the horrors of foul discord
- And civil war; amidst determined foes,
- Whom I alone must conquer; Sulla’s spirit
- Inspires once more the haughty sons of Rome:
- With grief I see expiring liberty,
- With grief behold this reverend senate torn
- By discord, horrors spread on every side,
- And Cicero pouring in the senate’s ear
- Unjust suspicions: Cicero talks for Rome,
- But I avenge her: I have shown her cause
- Is dearer far to me than e’er it was
- To your proud consul. Nonnius was the soul,
- The leader of this foul conspiracy:
- It was a dangerous crisis; I stepped forth
- And saved you all: thus by a soldier fell
- The daring Spurius; thus was Gracchus slain
- By the brave Scipio: who shall punish me
- For acting like a Roman? which of you
- Will dare accuse me?
- I, who know thy crime;
- I, who can prove it—bring those freedmen here,
- Let them be heard. Fathers, behold the man
- Who has destroyed a senator of Rome:
- Will ye permit him thus to speak, to boast
- Of his foul deed, and call his crime a virtue?
- And will ye, Romans, let this vile accuser
- Thus persecute your fellow-citizens,
- Your best, your noblest friends? but know from me
- What Cicero could not tell you, and improve
- The important secret to your best advantage:
- In his own palace, know, this impious man,
- This vile betrayer, Nonnius, had concealed
- Arms, torches, all the instruments of death
- Designed for our destruction: if Rome lives,
- She lives by me, and to this arm you owe
- Your safety: send and seize them, and then say
- What’s due to Catiline from his thankless country.
- [To the lictors.
- Go you to the palace, bring with you the daughter
- Of Nonnius—ha! thou tremblest.
- I? ’tis false:
- Know, I despise this mean, this last resource
- Of disappointed malice—fathers, say,
- Have I not cleared myself? are you convinced!
- I am, that thou art guilty: can ye think
- That good old man was ever capable
- Of such detested fraud? it was thy art,
- Thy cunning, miscreant, to conceal from me
- Thy treachery; therefore didst thou choose the palace
- Of Nonnius to secrete thy instruments
- Of vengeance; there thou wouldst have hid thy guilt:
- Perhaps thou hast seduced his wretched daughter:
- Alas! his family is not the first
- Where thou hast carried sorrows, crimes, and death;
- And now thou wouldst destroy thy country too;
- Yet boldly darest, instead of punishment,
- To call for approbation and reward.
- O thou abandoned traitor, murderer,
- Reviler, hypocrite; such titles suit
- Thy boasted services. O you, who once
- Stood forth the happy patrons of mankind,
- The sovereign judges of the world, at length
- Will you submit, to let a tyrant hold
- Dominion o’er you, will you shut your eyes
- And rush into the precipice? awake,
- Revenge yourselves, or you partake his guilt:
- This day or Rome or Catiline must perish:
- Lose not a moment therefore, but determine:
- Judgments too quickly made are oft unjust:
- This is the cause of Rome, and therefore merits
- Our strict attention: when our equals lag
- Beneath the stroke of censure, we should act
- With caution, and in them respect ourselves:
- Too much severity suits none but tyrants.
- Too much indulgence here suits none but traitors.
- What! balance ’twixt a murderer and Rome!
- Is it not Cicero speaks, and shall we doubt?
- These are suspicions only; give us proof:
- The arms once found, and Nonnius’ guilt confirmed,
- Catiline deserves our praise.
- [Turning to Catiline.
- Thou knowest I’ll keep
- My word with thee in all things.
- O my country!
- O Rome! O gods! thus shall a hero plead
- A traitor’s cause; art thou the senate’s friend,
- And canst be Catiline’s? henceforth Rome has naught
- To fear but from her own ungrateful sons.
- Rome is in safety; Cæsar loves his country,
- And we should think with him.
- It well becomes
- A man like Clodius to unite with those
- Who plan destruction, and delight in ruin:
- But whereso’er I turn my eyes, they meet
- With bold conspirators, or citizens
- Cold and inactive in the cause of Rome:
- Catiline, without or fear or danger, drives
- The storm upon us; he proscribes the senate;
- Already reaps in thought the bloody harvest;
- Marks out his victims, threatens, and commands;
- And when I point out the dread consequence,
- Then Cæsar talks of senatorial rights,
- And Clodius joins him: Cicero must be dumb:
- Catiline has murdered Nonnius; he who takes
- Another’s life should lose his own; no rights,
- No laws should plead for him: the first great care
- Is to defend our country; but, alas!
- That country is no more.
the senate, aurelia.
- Ye great avengers
- Of innocence oppressed, my only hope,
- And thou, O consul, virtue’s kind protector,
- To thee my murdered father calls for vengeance:
- O let me wash thy feet with tears—assist,
- [She falls at Cicero’s feet; he raises her up.
- Avenge me: tell me, if thou canst, who slew
- My father.
- There he stands.
- [Pointing to Catiline.
- ’Twas he
- Who did the deed, and boasts of it.
- Good heaven!
- Can it be Catiline? did I hear aright?
- O bloody monster, didst thou murder him?
- [The Lictors support her.
- [Turning to Cethegus, and fainting in his arms.
- This is a dreadful sight—support me—this
- Is punishment enough.
- Why droops my friend?
- Aurelia calls for vengeance: but if Catiline
- Has served his country, what has he to fear?
- [Turning to Aurelia.
- Aurelia, ’tis too true—my cruel duty—
- My country—think me not so base; Aurelia
- Thou knowest my love, my tenderness—but ties
- Of a more sacred nature, ties—
the senate, aurelia, chief of the lictors.
chief of the lictors.
- My lord,
- We’ve seized these arms.
- His house
- Was the receptacle of all: our prisoners
- Accuse him as the chief conspirator.
- Malice and calumny! the lying slaves
- First take his life, and then destroy his fame:
- The wretch whose murderous hand—
- Just gods.
- For what have ye reserved me?
- Speak: let truth
- In open day appear: but at the sight
- Of him you tremble; your dejected eyes,
- And sudden silence, show how much you dread
- The tyrant.
- I have been to blame; Aurelia
- Alone is guilty.
- Detested monster, I abhor thy pity,
- Disclaim all converse, all relation with thee:
- Alas! too late, I see my guilt; too late
- Confess my crimes; yes, reverend fathers; yes,
- Aurelia knew the traitor, and concealed him:
- I asked for aid, but merit punishment;
- My weakness may be fatal; Rome’s in danger;
- The world this day may be subverted: thou,
- Thou traitor, ledst me to the dark abyss
- Of infamy; thou madest my tenderness
- Subservient to thy wicked purposes;
- Curse on the guilty hour that gave my heart
- To Catiline; to thee I have been faithful,
- But false to heaven, and to my country; false
- To my unhappy father: I betrayed,
- And I destroyed him.
- [Whilst Aurelia is speaking, Cicero seems deeply affected.
- Ye avenging gods,
- Ye sacred walls, and thou much injured spirit
- Of my dear father, Romans, senators,
- Behold my husband, your inveterate foe.
- [Turning to Catiline.
- Now, miscreant, mark, and imitate Aurelia.
- [Stabs herself.
- ’Tis worthy of this guilty age.
- O consul!
- There was a letter sent you—murder threatens
- On every side—take heed—alas!—I die.
- [Aurelia is carried off.
- Let her have needful succor: Aufidus,
- Search for that paper—still are ye in doubt;
- Still will ye suffer this vile murderer
- To lord it o’er the senate, shall the deaths
- Of Nonnius and Aurelia pass unpunished?
- The guilt was thine: thy rancor and fell hatred
- Of Catiline urged him to the deed; ambition
- Inspired us both; thy happier fortune soared
- Above me, thou hast been the cause of all:
- I hate thee, Cicero, hate Rome itself
- For loving thee: long have I sought thy ruin,
- And I will seek it still: the wrongs I suffer
- Shall be revenged on thee; thy blood shall pay
- For mine; inconstant Rome, that now adores thee,
- Shall one day see with joy the mangled limbs
- Of her proud consul scattered o’er the senate:
- Remember Catiline has foretold thy fate;
- I hasten to accomplish it: farewell.
- Guards, seize the traitor.
- The senate is divided: we defy thee.
- The war then is declared: friends, follow me,
- We must to battle: the uncertain senate
- Will think on’t, and determine at their leisure.
- [He goes out with some senators of his party.
- Now, ye illustrious conquerors of the world,
- Which will ye choose, or slavery or empire:
- Where is the freedom, where the majesty
- Of ancient Rome? where is her lustre now?
- ’Tis faded all: awake, my slumbering country;
- Lucullus, Cæsar, and Murena, listen;
- O listen to the voice of Rome; she calls
- Aloud for help, demands some gallant leader
- To fight for her; equality of rank
- Must be reserved for happier times, the Gauls
- Are here, Camillus must be found, we want
- A chief, a warrior, a dictator; now
- Name the most worthy, and I’ll follow him.
the senate, chief lictor.
- My lord, I found this letter to Aurelia
- From Nonnius: all our cares for her were vain.
- [Reading the letter.
- More dangers threatening! “Cæsar, who betrays us,
- Would seize Præneste,” ha!
- [Turning to Cæsar.
- Art thou too, Cæsar,
- A vile accomplice? this completes our woes;
- And wilt thou bend beneath a tyrant?—read it.
- I have: I am a Roman, ruin comes
- Upon us, danger is on every side;
- ’Tis well: I must be gone: you have my answer.
- It was a doubtful one: most certainly
- He is their friend.
- Away: let us defend
- The state against them all: O Senators!
- If Nonnius’ death, if poor Aurelia’s pangs,
- If bleeding Rome, if a subverted world
- Have power to stir up your resentment, rise,
- Fly to the capitol, defend your gods,
- Defend your country, punish Catiline.
- I’ll not reproach you; though ’twas most unkind,
- To spurn at Cicero, and embrace a villain.
- But to avoid a tyrant, name your chief:
- You, who are friends to virtue, separate
- From traitors.
- [The Senators separate themselves from Cethegus and Lentulus-Sura.
- Now let us unite, my friends,
- Never let quarrels, jealousies, and strife,
- Divide us; ’twas by them that Sulla triumphed.
- For me, wherever danger calls, I go
- Intrepid and inflexible: O gods!
- Strengthen this arm, and animate this voice:
- O grant me still to save ungrateful Rome!
End of the Fourth Act.