Mahomet: Act IV

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

ACT IV. SCENE I

Mahomet, Omar.


OMAR.

My lord, our secret is discovered; Seid

Has told Hercides; we are on the verge

Of ruin, yet I know he will obey.

MAHOMET.

Revealed it, sayest thou?

OMAR.

Yes: Hercides loves him

With tenderness.

MAHOMET.

Indeed! What said he to it?

OMAR.

He stood aghast, and seemed to pity Zopir.

MAHOMET.

He's weak, and therefore not to be entrusted;

Fools ever will be traitors; but no matter,

Let him take heed; a method may be found

To rid us of such dangerous witnesses:

Say, Omar, have my orders been obeyed?

OMAR.

They have, my lord.

MAHOMET.

'Tis well: remember, Omar,

In one important hour or Mahomet

Or Zopir is no more; if Zopir dies,

The credulous people will adore that God

Who thus declared for me, and saved his prophet:

Be this our first great object; that once done,

Take care of Seid; art thou sure the poison

Will do its office?

OMAR.

Fear it not, my lord.

MAHOMET.

O we must work in secret, the dark shades

Of death must hide our purpose—while we shed

Old Zopir's blood, be sure you keep Palmira

In deepest ignorance; she must not know

The secret of her birth: her bliss and mine

Depend upon it; well thou knowest, my triumphs

From error's fruitful source incessant flow:

The ties of blood, and all their boasted power

Are mere delusions: what are nature's bonds?

Nothing but habit, the mere force of custom:

Palmira knows no duty but obedience

To me; I am her lord, her king, her father,

Perhaps may add the name of husband to them:

Her little heart will beat with proud ambition

To captivate her master—but the hour

Approaches that must rid me of my foe,

The hated Zopir: Seid is prepared—

And see, he comes: let us retire.

OMAR.

Observe

His wild demeanor; rage and fierce resentment

Possess his soul.

ACT IV. SCENE II

Mahomet, Omar. retired to one side of the stage; Seid at the farther end.


SEID.

This dreadful duty then

Must be fulfilled.

MAHOMET. To Omar.

Let us begone, in search

Of other means to make our power secure.

(Exit with Omar.)

SEID. Alone.

I could not answer: one reproachful word

From Mahomet sufficed: I stood abashed,

But not convinced: if heaven requires it of me,

I must obey; but it will cost me dear.

ACT IV. SCENE III

Seid, Palmira.


SEID.

Palmira, art thou here? What fatal cause

Hath led thee to this seat of horror?

PALMIRA.

Fear,

And love directed me to find thee, Seid,

To ask thee what dread sacrifice thou meanest

To offer here; do heaven and Mahomet

Demand it from thee, must it be? O speak.

SEID.

Palmira, thou commandest my every thought

And every action; all depend on thee:

Direct them as thou wilt, inform my soul,

And guide my hand: be thou my guardian god,

Explain the will of heaven which yet I know not;

Why am I chosen to be its instrument

Of vengeance? are the prophet's dread commands

Irrevocable?

PALMIRA.

Seid, we must yield in silence,

Nor dare to question his decrees; he hears

Our secret sighs, nor are our sorrows hid

From Mahomet's all seeing eye: to doubt

Is profanation of the deity.

His God is God alone; he could not else

Be thus victorious, thus invincible.

SEID.

He must be Seid's God who is Palmira's:

Yet cannot my astonished could conceive

A being, tender, merciful, and kind,

Commanding murder; then again I think

To doubt is guilt: the priest without remorse

Destroys the victim: by the voice of heaven

I know that Zopir was condemned, I know

That Seid was predestined to support

The law divine: so Mahomet ordained,

And I obey him: fired with holy zeal

I go to slay the enemy of God;

And yet methinks another deity

Draws back my arm, bids me spare the victim.

Religion lost her power when I beheld

The wretched Zopir; duty urged in vain

Her cruel plea, exhorting me to murder;

With joy I listened to the plaintive voice

Of soft humanity: but Mahomet—

How awful! How majestic! Who can bear

His wrath? His frowns reproached my shameful weakness;

Religion is a dreadful power: alas!

Palmira, I am lost in doubts and fears,

Discordant passions tear this feeble heart:

I must be impious, must desert my faith,

Or be a murderer: Seid was not formed

For an assassin; but 'tis heaven's command,

And I have promised to avenge its cause:

The tears of grief and rage united flow,

Contending duties raise a storm within,

And thou alone, Palmira, must appease it;

Fix my uncertain heart, and give it peace:

Alas! Without dreadful sacrifice,

The tie that binds us is forever broke;

This only can secure thee.

PALMIRA.

Am I then

The price of blood, of Zopir's blood?

SEID.

So heaven

And Mahomet decree.

PALMIRA.

Love ne'er was meant

To make us cruel, barbarous, and inhuman.

SEID.

To Zopir's murderer, and to him alone,

Palmira must be given.

PALMIRA.

O hard condition!

SEID.

But 'tis the will of Mahomet and heaven.

PALMIRA.

Alas!

SEID.

Thou knowest the dreadful curse that waits

On disobedience—everlasting pain.

PALMIRA.

If thou must be the instrument of vengeance,

If at thy hands the blood which thou hast promised

Shall be required—

SEID.

What's to be done?

PALMIRA.

I tremble

To think of it—yet—

SEID.

It must be so then: thou

Hast fixed his doom; Palmira has consented.

PALMIRA.

Did I consent?

SEID.

Thou didst.

PALMIRA.

Detested thought!

What have I said?

SEID.

By thee the voice of heaven

Speaks its last dread command, and I obey:

Yon fatal altar is the chosen seat

Of Zopir's worship, there he bends the knee

To his false gods; retire, my sweet Palmira.

PALMIRA.

I cannot leave thee.

SEID.

Thou must not be witness

To such as a deed of horror: these, Palmira

Are dreadful moments: fly to yonder grove,

Thou wilt be near the prophet there: away.

PALMIRA.

Zopir must die then?

SEID.

Yes: this fatal hand

Must drag him to the earth, there murder him,

And bathe yon ruined altar in his blood.

PALMIRA.

Die by thy hand! I shudder at the thought:

But see! He comes; just heaven!

(the farther part of the stage opens, and discovers an altar.)

ACT IV. SCENE IV

Seid, Palmira, on the side; Zopir, standing near the altar.


ZOPIR.

Ye guardian god's

Of Mecca, threatened by an impious sect

Of vile imposters, now assert your power,

And let your Zopir's prayers, perhaps the last

He e'er shall make, be heard! The feeble bonds

Of our short peace are broken, and fierce war

Vindictive rages; O if ye support

The cause of this usurper—

SEID.

Aside to Palmira.

Hear, Palmira,

How he blasphemes!

ZOPIR.

May death be Zopir's lot!

I wish for naught on earth but to behold,

In my last hour, and to embrace my children,

To die in their loved arms, if yet they live,

If they are here, for something whispers me

That I shall see them still.

PALMIRA.

Aside to Seid.

His children, said he?

ZOPIR.

Or I should die with pleasure at the sight:

Watch over and protect them, ye kind gods,

O let them think like me, but not like me

Be wretched!

SEID.

See! He prays to his false gods:

This is the time to end him.

(draws his sword.)

PALMIRA.

Do not, Seid.

SEID.

To serve my God, to please and merit thee,

This sword, devoted to the cause of heaven,

Is drawn, and shall destroy its deadliest foe;

Yon dreary walk invites me to the deed,

Methinks the path is bloody, wandering ghosts

Glide through the shade, and beckon me away.

PALMIRA.

What sayest thou, Seid?

SEID.

Ministers of death,

I follow you; conduct me to the altar,

And guide my trembling hand!

PALMIRA.

It must not be;

'tis horrible: O stop, my Seid.

SEID.

No:

The hour is come, and see! The altar shakes.

PALMIRA.

'Tis heaven's assent, and we must doubt no more.

SEID.

Means it to urge no me on, or to restrain?

Our prophet will reproach me for this weakness:

Palmira!

PALMIRA.

Well!

SEID.

Address thyself to heaven;

I go to do the deed.

(he goes behind the altar where Zopir is retired.)

PALMIRA. alone.

O dreadful moment!

What do I feel within! My blood runs cold:

And yet if heaven demands the sacrifice,

Am I to judge, to ask, or to complain?

Where is the heart that knows itself, that knows

Its innocence or guilt? We must obey:

But hark! Methought I heard the plaintive voice

Of death; the deed is done—alas! My Seid.

SEID.

(returns looking wildly around.)

What voice was that? Where am I? Where is Palmira?

I cannot see Palmira; O she's gone,

She's lost forever.

PALMIRA.

Art thou blind to her

Who only lives for thee?

SEID.

Where are we?

PALMIRA.

Speak,

My Seid, is the dreadful sacrifice

Performed, and thy sad promise fulfilled?

SEID.

What sayest thou?

PALMIRA.

Zopir? Is he dead?

SEID.

Who? Zopir?

PALMIRA.

Good heaven, preserve his sense!—Come, my Seid,

Let us be gone.

SEID.

How will these tottering limbs

Support me!—I recover—it is you,

Palmira?

PALMIRA.

Yes: what has thou done?

SEID.

Obeyed

The voice of heaven, seized with this desperate hand

His silver hairs, and dragged him to the earth:

'twas thy command: O God! Thou couldst not bid me

Commit a crime! Trembling and pale a while

I stood aghast, then drew this sacred sword,

And plunged it in his bosom: what a look

Of tenderness and love the poor old man

Cast on his murderer! A scene so mournful

Ne'er did these eyes behold: my heart retains

And will forever keep the sad idea:

Would I were dead like him!

PALMIRA.

Let us repair

To Mahomet, the prophet will protect us;

Here you're in danger; follow me.

SEID.

I cannot:

Palmira, pity me.

PALMIRA.

What mournful thought

Can thus depress thee?

SEID.

O if thou hadst seen

His tender looks, when from his bleeding side

He drew the fatal weapon forth, and cried:

“Dear Seid, poor unhappy Seid!” Oh,

That voice, those looks, and Zopir at my feet

Weltering in blood, are still before my eyes:

What have we done?

PALMIRA.

I tremble for thy life:

O in the name of all the sacred ties

That bind us, fly, and save thyself.

SEID.

Away,

And leave me: why did thy ill-fated love

Command thy cruel order heaven itself

Had never been obeyed

PALMIRA.

Unkind reproach!

Couldst thou but know what thy Palmira suffers

How wouldst thou pity her!

SEID.

What dreadful object

Is that before us?

(Zopir rises up slowly from behind the altar, and leans upon it.)

PALMIRA.

'Tis the murdered Zopir;

Bloody and pale he drags his mangled limbs

Towards us.

SEID.

Wilt thou go to him?

PALMIRA.

I must;

For pity and remorse distract my soul,

And draw me to him.

ZOPIR.

(comes forward leaning on Palmira.)

Gentle maid, support me!

(he sits down.)

Ungrateful Seid, thou has slain me; now

Thou weepest; alas! Too late.

ACT IV. SCENE V

Zopir, Seid, Palmira, Phanor.


PHANOR.

O dreadful sight!

What's here?

ZOPIR.

I wish I could have seen my friend

Hercides—Phanor, art thou there?—behold

My murderer.

(points to Seid.)

PHANOR.

O guilt! Accursed deed!

Unhappy Seid, look upon—thy father.

SEID.

Who?

PALMIRA.

He?

SEID.

My father?

ZOPIR.

Gracious heaven!

PHANOR.

Hercides

In his last moments took me to his arms,

And weeping cried: “It there be time, O haste

Prevent a parricide and stop the arm

Of Seid;” in my breast the tyrant lodged

The dreadful secret; now I suffer for it,

And die by Mahomet's detested hand:

Haste, Phanor, fly, inform the hapless Zopir,

That Seid and Palmira are—his children.

SEID.

Palmira!

PALMIRA.

Thou my brother?

ZOPIR.

O ye gods!

O nature, thou hast not deceived me then,

When thou didst please for them! Unhappy Seid,

What could have urged thee to so foul a deed?

SEID.

(kneeling.)

My gratitude, my duty, my religion,

All that mankind hold sacred, urged me on

To do the worst of actions:--give me back

That fatal weapon.

PALMIRA.

(laying hold of Seid's arm.)

Plunge it in my breast;

I was the cause of my dear father's murder;

And incest is the price of parricide:

SEID.

Strike both: heaven hath not punishment enough

For crimes like ours.

ZOPIR.

(embracing them.)

Let me embrace my children:

The gods have poured into my cup of sorrow

A draught of sweetest happiness: I die,

Contented, and resign me to my fate:

But you must live, my children; you, my Seid,

And you, Palmira, by the sacred name

Of nature, by the dying father's blood,

Fast flowing from the wound which thou hast made,

Let me entreat you, live; revenge yourselves

Avenge the injured Zopir; but preserve

Your gracious lives; the great, the important hour

Approaches, that must change the mournful scene:

The offended people ere tomorrow's dawn,

Will rise in arms and punish the usurper;

My blood will add fresh fuel to their rage;

Let us await the issue.

SEID.

O I fly

To sacrifice the monster, to take vengeance

For a dear father's life, or lose my own.

ACT IV. SCENE VI

Zopir, Seid, Palmira, Omar, Attendants.


OMAR.

Guards, seize the murderer; Mahomet is come

To punish guilt, and execute the laws.

ZOPIR.

What do I hear?

SEID.

Did Mahomet command thee

To punish Seid?

PALMIRA.

Execrable tyrant!

Was not the murder done by thy command?

OMAR.

'Twas not commanded.

SEID.

Well have I deserved

This just reward of my credulity.

OMAR.

Soldiers, obey.

PALMIRA.

O stop, ye shall not—

OMAR.

Madam,

If Seid's life is dear to you, submit

With patience, lest the prophet's anger fall

Like thunder on your head; if you obey,

Great Mahomet is able to protect you:

Guards, lead her to the king.

PALMIRA.

O take me death,

From this sad scene of never ending woe!

(Seid and Palmira are carried off.)

ZOPIR.

(To Phanor).

They're gone, they're lost: O most unhappy father,

The wound which Seid gave is not so deep,

So painful as this parting.

PHANOR.

See, my lord,

The day appears, and the armed multitudes

Press onward to defend the cause of Zopir.

ZOPIR.

Support me, Phanor: yet thy friend may live

To punish this vile hypocrite; at least

In death may serve my dear—my cruel—children.


End of the Fourth Act.


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