Mahomet: Act III

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Mahomet (Le Fanatisme, ou Mahomet)
By: Voltaire
Act I
Act II
Act III
Act IV
Act V

ACT III. SCENE I.

Seid, Palmira


PALMIRA.

O Seid, keep me not in dread suspense,

What is this secret sacrifice? What blood

Hath heaven demanded?

SEID.

The eternal power

Deigns to accept my service, calls on me

To execute its purposes divine;

To him this heart's devoted, and for him

This arm shall rise in vengeance; I am bound

To Omar and to Mahomet, have sworn

To perish in the glorious cause of heaven:

My next and dearest care shall be Palmira.

PALMIRA.

Why was not I a witness to thy oath?

Had I been with thee, I had been less wretched;

But doubts distract me: Omar talks of treason,

Of blood that soon must flow; the senate's rage,

And Zopir's dark intrigues: the flames of war

Once more are kindled, and the sword is drawn

Heaven only knows when to be sheathed again:

So says our prophet, he who cannot lie,

Cannot deceive us: O I fear for Seid,

Fear all from Zopir.

SEID.

So base and so perfidious? But this morning,

When as a hostage, I appeared before him,

I thought him noble, generous and humane;

Some power invincible in secret worked,

And won me to him; whether the respect

Due to his name, or specious form external

Concealed the blackness of his heart I know not;

Whether thy presence filled my raptured soul

With joy that drove out every painful sense,

And would not let me think of aught but thee:

Whate'er the cause, methought I was most happy

When nearest him: that he should thus seduce

My easy heart makes me detest him more;

And yet how hard it is to look on those

With eyes of hatred whom we wish to love!

PALMIRA.

By every bond hath heaven united us,

And Seid and Palmira are the same:

Were I not bound to thee, and to that faith

Which Mahomet inspires, I too had pleaded

The cause of Zopir; but religion, love,

And nature, all forbid it.

SEID.

Think no more

Of vain remorse, but listen to the voice

Of heaven, the God we serve will be propitious:

Our holy prophet who protects his children

Will bless our faithful love: for thy dear sake

I hazard all. Farewell.

ACT III, SCENE II.

Palmira (Alone.)


PALIMRA

Some dark presage

Of future misery hangs o'er me still:

That love which made my happiness, this day,

So often wished for, is a day of horror:

What is this dreadful oath, this solemn compact

Which Seid talks of? I've a thousand fears

Upon me when I think of Zopir: oft

As I invoke great Mahomet, I feel

A secret dread, and tremble as I worship:

O save me, heaven! Fearful I obey,

And blind I follow” O direct my steps

Aright, and deign to wash my tears away!

ACT III, SCENE III.

Mahomet, Palmira.


PALMIRA.

Propitious heaven hath heard my prayers; he comes

The prophet comes. O gracious Mahomet, My Seid—

MAHOMET.

What of him? Thou seemest disturbed;

What should Palmira fear when I am with her!

PALMIRA.

Have I not cause when Mahomet himself

Seems touched with grief?

MAHOMET.

Perhaps it is for thee:

Darest thou, imprudent maid, avow a passion

Ere I approved it: is the heart I formed

Turned rebel to its master, to my laws

Unfaithful? O ingratitude!

PALMIRA.

My lord,

Behold me at your feet, and pity me

Didst thou not once propitious smile upon us,

And give thy sanction to our growing love?

Thou knowest the virtuous passion that unites us

Is but a chain that binds us more to thee.

MAHOMET.

The bonds that folly and imprudence knit

Are dangerous! Guilt doth sometimes follow close

The steps of innocence: our hearts deceive us,

And love, with all his store of dear delights,

May cost us tears, and dip his shafts in blood.

PALMIRA.

Nor would I murmur if it flowed for Seid.

MAHOMET.

Are you indeed so fond?

PALMIRA.

E'er since the day

When good Hercides to thy sacred power

Consigned us both, unconquerable instinct,

Still growing with our years, united us

In tender friendship; 'twas the work of heaven

That guides our every action, and o'errules

The fate of mortals; so thy doctrines teach:

God cannot change, nor gracious heaven condemn

That love itself inspired: what once was right

Is always so; canst thou then blame Palmira?

MAHOMET.

I can, and must; nay, thou wilt tremble more

When I reveal the horrid secret to thee.

Attend, rash maid, and let me teach thy soul

What to avoid, and what to follow: listen

To me alone.

PALMIRA.

To thee alone Palmira

Will listen ever the obedient slave

Of Mahomet; this heart can never lose

It's veneration for thy sacred name.

MOHAMET.

That veneration in excess may lead

To foul ingratitude.

PALMIRA.

When I forget

Thy goodness, then may Seid punish me!

MAHOMET.

Seid!

PALMIRA.

O why, my lord, that cruel frown,

And look severe?

MAHOMET.

Be not alarmed; I meant

But to explore the secrets of thy heart

And try if thou were worthy to be saved:

Be confident, and rest on my protection;

On your obedience will depend your fate;

If ye expect a blessing at my hands,

Be careful to deserve it, and whate'er

The will of heaven determines touching Seid,

Be thou his guide, direct him in the paths

Of duty and religion; let him keep

His promise, and be worthy of Palmira.

PALMIRA.

O he will keep it; doubt him not, my lord,

I'll answer for his heart as for my own;

Seid adores thee, worships Mahomet

More than he loves Palmira; thou are all

To him, his friend, his father, and his king:

I'll fly, and urge him to his duty.

ACT III, SCENE IV.

Mahomet (Alone.)


MAHOMET

Well:

Spite of myself I must, it seems, be made

A confidant; the simple girl betrayed

Her guilty flame, and innocently plunged

The dagger in my heart: unhappy race!

Father and children, all my foes, all doomed

To make me wretched! But ye soon shall prove

That dreadful is my hatred—and my love.

ACT III, SCENE V.

Mahomet, Omar


OMAR.

At length the hour is come, to seize Palmira,

To conquer Mecca, and to punish Zopir;

His death alone can prop our feeble cause, And humble these proud citizens: brave Seid

Can best avenge thee; he has free access

To Zopir: yonder gloomy passage leads

To his abode; there the rebellious chief

His idle vows and flattering incense ours

Before his fancied deities; there Seid,

Full of the law divine by thee inspired,

Shall sacrifice the traitor to the God

Of Mahomet

MAHOMET.

He shall: that youth was born

For crimes of deepest dye: he shall be the first

My useful slave, my instrument, and then

The victim of my rage; it must be so:

My safety, my resentment, and my love,

My holy faith, and the decrees of my fate

Irrevocable, all require it of me:

But thinkest thou, Omar, he hath all the warmth

Of wild fanaticism?

OMAR.

I know he has,

And suits our purpose well; Palmira too,

Will urge him on: religion, love, resentment

Will bind his headstrong youth, and hurry him

To madness.

MAHOMET.

Hast thou bound him by an oath?

OMAR.

O yes; in all the gloomy pomp of rites

Nocturnal, oaths, and altars, we have fixed

His superstitious soul, placed in his hand

The sacred sword, and fired him with the rage

Of fierce enthusiasm—but behold him.

ACT III, SCENE VI.

Mahomet, Omar, Seid


MAHOMET.

Child

Of heaven, decreed to execute the laws

Of an offended God, now hear by me

His sacred will: thou must avenge his cause.

SEID.

O thou, to whom my soul devoted bends

In humblest adoration, king, and prophet,

Sovereign, acknowledged by the voice of heave,

O'er prostrate nations—I am wholly thine:

But O enlighten my dark mind! O say,

How can weak man avenge his God?

MAHOMET.

Oft-times

Doth he make use of feeble hands like thine

To punish impious mortals, and assert

His power divine.

SEID.

Will he, whose perfect image

Is seen in Mahomet, thus condescend

To honor Seid?

MAHOMET.

Do as he ordains;

That is the highest honor man can boast,

Blindly to execute his great decree:

Be thankful for the choice, and strike the blow:

The angel of destruction shall assist,

The God of armies shall protect thee.

SEID.

Speak;

What tyrant must be slain? What blood must flow?

MAHOMET.

The murderer's blood whom Mahomet abhors,

Who persecutes our faith, and spurns our God,

Who slew my son; the worst of all my foes,

The cruel Zopir.

SEID.

Ha! Must Zopir fall?

MAHOMET.

And dost thou pause? Presumptuous youth! 'tis impedious

But to deliberate: far from Mahomet

Be all who for themselves shall dare to judge

Audacious: those who reason are not oft

Prone to believe; thy part is to obey.

Have it not told thee what the will of heaven

Determines? If it be decreed that Mecca,

Spite of her crimes and base idolatry,

Shall be the promised temple, the chosen seat

Of empire, where I am appointed king,

And pontiff, knowest thou holy Abram here

Was born, that here his sacred ashes rest?

He who, obedient to the voice of God,

Stifled the cries of nature, and gave up

His darling child: the same all powerful Being

Requires of thee a sacrifice; to thee

He calls for blood; and darest thou hesitate

When God commands? Hence, vile idolater,

Unworthy Mussulman, away, and seek

Another master; go, and love Palmira;

But thou despiset her, and bravest the wrath

Of angry heaven; away, forsake thy lord,

And serve his deadliest foes.

SEID.

It is the voice

Of God that speaks in Mahomet—command,

And I obey.

MAHOMET.

Strike, then, and by the blood

Of Zopir merit life eternal.—Omar,

Attend and watch him well.

ACT III, SCENE VII.

Seid ( Alone)


SEID.

To sacrifice

A poor, defenseless, weak old man!— no matter:

How many victims at the altar fall

As helpless! Yet their blood in grateful streams

Rises to heaven: God hath sworn, and Seid shall perform

His sacred promise—O assist me now,

Illustrious spirits, you who have destroyed

The tyrants of the earth, O join your rage

To mine, o guide this trembling hand, and thou

Exterminating angel who defendest

The cause of Mahomet, inspire this heart

With all thy fierceness!—ha! What do I see?

ACT III, SCENE VIII.

Zopir, Seid.


ZOPIR.

Seid, thou seemest disturbed; unhappy youth!

Why art thou ranked amongst my foes? My heart

Feels for thy woes, and trembles at thy danger;

My house may be a shelter from the storm.

Accept it, thou art welcome, for the life

Is dear to Zopir.

SEID.

Gracious heaven! Wilt thou

Protect me thus? Will Zopir guard his foe?

What do I hear! O duty, conscience, virtue!

O Mahomet, this rives my heart.

ZOPIR.

Perhaps

Thou art surprised to find that I can pity

An enemy, and wish for Seid's welfare;

I am a man like thee; that tie alone

Demands at least a sympathetic tear

For innocence afflicted: gracious gods,

Drive from this earth those base and savage men,

Who shed with joy their fellow-creatures' blood.

SEID.

O glorious sentiments! And can there be

Such virtue in an infidel?

ZOPIR.

Thou knowest

But little of that virtue, thus stand

Astonished at it! O mistaken youth,

In what a maze of errors art thou lost!\

Bound by a tyrant's savage laws, thou thinkest

Virtue resides in Mussulmans alone;

Thy master rules thee with a rod of iron,

And shackles thy free soul in shameful bonds;

Zopir thou hatest, alas! Thou knowest him not:

I pardon thee because thou are the slave

Of Mahomet; but how cants thou believe

A God who teaches hatred, and delights

In discord?

SEID.

O I never can obey him!

I know, and feel I cannot hate thee, Zopir.

ZOPIR.

Alas! The more I talk to him, the more

He gains upon me: his ingenuous look,

His youth, his candor, all conspire to charm me;

How could a follower of this vile impostor

This win my heart! Who gave thee birth what art

Thou?

SEID.

A wretched orphan; all I have on earth

Is a kind master, whom I never met

Have disobeyed; howe'er my love for thee

May tempt me to betray him.

ZOPIR.

Knowest thou not

Thy parents then?

SEID.

His camp was the first object

My eyes beheld; his temple is my country;

I know no other; and amidst the crowd

Of yearly tributes to our holy prophet,

None e'er was treated with more tenderness

Than Seid was.

ZOPIR.

I love his gratitude:

Thy kind return for benefits received

Merits my praise:--O why did heaven employ

The hand of Mahomet in such an office?

He was thy father, and Palmira's too;

Why dost thou sigh? Why dost thou tremble thus?

Why turn thee from me? Sure some dreadful thought

Hangs on the mind.

SEID.

It must be so: the times

Are full of terror.

ZOPIR.

If thou feelest remorse

Thy heart is guiltless; murder is abroad,

Let me preserve thy life.

SEID.

O gracious heaven!

And can I have a thought of taking thine?

Palmira! O my oath! O God of vengeance!

ZOPIR.

For the last time remember I entreat thee

To follow me; away thy fate depends

Upon this moment.

ACT III, SCENE IX.

Zopir, Seid. ,Omar


OMAR.

Traitor, Mahomet

Expects thee.

SEID.

O I know not where or what

I am; destruction, ruin and despair

On every side await me: wither now

Shall wretched Seid fly?

OMAR.

To him whom God

Hath chosen, thy injured king, and master.

SEID.

Yes:

And there abjure the dreadful oath I made.

ACT III, SCENE X.

Zopir (Alone)


ZOPIR.

The desperate youth is gone—I know not why,

But my heart beats for his distress; his looks,

His pity, his remorse, his every action

Affect me deeply: I must follow him.

ACT III, SCENE XI.

Zopir, Phanor


PHANOR.

This letter, sir, was by an Arab given

In secret to me.

ZOPIR.

From Hercides! Gods,

What do I read? Will heaven in tenderest pity

At length replay me for a life of sorrows?

Hercides begs to see me—he who snatched

From this fond bosom my two helpless children;

They yet are living, so this paper tells me,

Slaves to the tyrant—Seid and Palmira

Are orphans both, and know not whence they sprang,

Perhaps my children—O delusive hope,

Why wilt thou flatter me? It cannot be;

Fain would I credit thee, thou sweet deceiver:

I fly to meet and to embrace my children;

Yes, I will see Hercides: let him come

At midnight to me, to this holy altar

Where I so often have invoked the gods,

At last, perhaps, propitious to my vows:

O ye immortal powers, restore my children,

Give back to virtue's paths two generous hearts

Corrupted by an impious, vile usurper!

If Seid and Palmira are not mine,

If such is my heart fate, I will adopt

The noble pair, and be their fathers still


End of the Third Act.


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