Mahomet (Voltaire)/Act V
ACT V. SCENE I
Mahomet, Omar, Guards at a distance.
Zopir's approaching death alarms the people,
We have endeavored to appease their clamors,
And disavowed all knowledge of the deed;
To some, we called it the avenging hand
Of heaven that favors thus its prophet's cause:
With others, we lament his fall, and boast
Thy awful justice that will soon avenge it.
The crowd attentive listen to thy praise,
And all the danger of the storm is o'er;
If aught remains of busy faction's rage
It is but as the tossing of the waves
After the tempest, when the vault of heaven
Is placid and serene.
Be it our care
To keep it so: where are my valiant bands?
All ready; Osman in the dead of night
By secret paths conducted them to Mecca.
'Tis strange that men either deceived
or forced into obedience: Seid knows not
it is a father's blood that he has shed?
Who could inform him of it? He alone
Who knew the secret is no more; Hercides
Is gone, and Seid soon shall follow him;
For know, he has already drunk the poison;
His crime was punished ere it was committed:
Even whilst he dragged his father to the altar
Death lurked within his veins; he cannot live:
Palmira too, is safe, she may be useful:
I've given her hopes of Seid's pardon: that
May win her to our cause; she dare not murmur,
Besides, her heart is flexible and soft,
Formed to obey, to worship Mahomet,
And make him soon the happiest of mankind:
Trembling and pale, behold! They bring her to thee.
Collect my forced, Omar and return.
ACT V. SCENE II
Mahomet, Palmira, Guards.
O heaven! Where am I? Gracious God?
Be not alarmed; already I have fixed
Thy fate and Mecca's: know, the great event
That fills thy soul with horror is a mystery
'twixt heaven and me that's not to be revealed:
But thou art free, and happy: think no more
Of Seid, nor lament him; leave to me
The fate of men; be thankful for thy own:
Thou knowest that Mahomet hath loved thee long,
That I have ever been a father to thee;
Perhaps a nobler fate and fairer title
May grace thee still, if thou deserve it; therefore
Blot from thy memory the name of Seid,
And let thy soul aspire to greater blessings
That it could dare to hope for; let thy heart
Be my last noblest victory, and join
The conquered world to own me for its master.
What joys, what blessings, or what happiness
Can I expect from thee, thou vile impostor?
Thou bloody savage! This alone was wanting
This cruel insult to complete my woes:
Eternal father, look upon this king,
This holy prophet, this all-powerful god
Whom I adored: thou monster, to betray
Two guiltless hearts into the crying sin
Of parricide; thou infamous seducer
Of my unguarded youth, how darest thou think,
Stained as thou art with my dear father's blood,
To gain Palmira's heart? But know, proud tyrant,
Thou are not yet invincible: the veil
Is off that hid thee, and the hand of vengeance
Upraised to scourge thy guilt: dost thou not hear
The maddening multitude already armed
In the defense of injured innocence?
From the death's dark shades my murdered father comes
To lead them on: O that these feeble hands
Could tear thee piece-meal, thee and all thy train!
Would I cold see them weltering in their blood;
See Mecca, and Medina, Asia, all
Combined against thee! That the credulous world
Would shake off thy vile chains and thy religion
Become the jest and scorn of all mankind
To after ages! May that hell, whose threats
Thou hast so often denounced 'gainst all who dared
To doubt thy false divinity, now open
Her fiery gates, and be thy just reward!
These are the thanks I owe thee for thy bounties,
And these the prayers I made for Mahomet.
I see I am betrayed; but be it so:
Whe'er thou art, learn henceforth to obey you;
For know, my heart—
ACT V. SCENE III
Mahomet, Palmira, Omar, Ali, Attendants.
The secret is revealed;
Hercides told it in his dying moments:
The people all enraged have forced the prison:
They're up in arms, and bearing on their shoulders
The bloody corpse of their unhappy chief,
Lament his fate, and cry aloud for vengeance:
All is confusion: Seid at their head
Excited them to rebellion, and cries out,
“I am a parricide;” with rage and grief
He seems distracted; with one voice the crowd
United to curse the prophet and his God:
Even those who promised to admit our forces
Within the walls of Mecca, have conspired
With them to raise their desperate arms against thee;
And naught is heard but cries of death and vengeance.
Just heaven pursue him, and defend the cause
MAHOMET. (to Omar.)
Well, what have we to fear?
Omar, my lord, with your few faithful friends,
Despising danger, are prepared to brave
The furious storm, and perish at your feet.
Alone I will defend you all; come near:
Behold and say I act like Mahomet.
ACT V. SCENE IV
Mahomet, Omar, Ali, and his party one side, Seid and the People on the other. Palmira in the middle.
Avenge my father, seize the traitor.
Born to obey me, listen to your master.
Hear not the monster; follow me:
(he comes forward a little, and then staggers.)
What sudden darkness spread o'er my dim eyes?
Now strike, my friends—O I am dying.
Then all is well.
My brother, canst thou shed
No blood but Zopir's?
Yes: come on—I cannot;
Some god unnerves me.
Hence let every foe
Of Mahomet be taught to fear and tremble:
Know, ye proud infidels, this hand alone
Hath power to crush you all, to me the God
Of nature delegates his sovereign power:
Acknowledge then his prophet, and his laws,
'Twixt Mahomet and Seid let that God
decide the contest, which of us forever
is guilty, now, this moment let him perish!
My brother—Seid—can this monster boast
Such power? The people stand astonished at him,
And tremble at his voice; and wilt thou yield
(supported by his attendant.).
Alas! The hand of heaven
Is on me, and the involuntary crime
Is too severely punished: O Palmira,
In vain was Seid virtuous: O if heaven
Chastises this our errors, what must crimes
Like think expect, detested Mahomet?
What cause hast thou to tremble—O I die;
Receive me, gracious heaven, and spare Palmira.
'Tis not, ye people, 'tis not angry heaven
Pursues my Seid. No: he's poisoned—
(interrupting her, and addressing himself to the people.)
From Seid's fate, ye unbelievers, how
To reverence Mahomet whom heaven defends;
And this pale corpse hath witnessed their obedience;
The sword of fate hangs o'er your heads, beware
It fall not on you: thus will I reward
All impious rebels, all vile infidels,
And punish every word and thought against me.
If I withhold my rage, and let you live,
Remember, traitors, that you owe your beings
To my indulgence; hasten to the temple,
Prostrate yourselves before the throne of grace,
And deprecate the wrath of Mahomet.
(the people retire.)
O stay, and hear me, people—the barbarian
Poisoned my brother—monster, raised by crimes
To empire thus, and deified by guilt,
Thou murderer of Palmira's hapless race,
Complete thy work, and take my wretched life:
O my dear brother, let me follow thee!
(she seizes her brother's sword and stabs herself.)
Seize, and prevent her—
'Tis too late; I die:
and dying hope a God more just than thine
has yet in store a state of happiness
for injured innocence: let Mahomet
reign here in peace: this world was made for tyrants.
She's gone; she's lost; the only dear reward
I wished to keep of all my crimes: in vain
I fought and conquered; Mahomet is wretched
Without Palmira: Conscience, now I feel thee,
And feel that thou canst rive the guilty heart.
O thou eternal God, whom I have wronged
Braved and blasphemed; O thou whom yet I fear,
Behold me self-condemned, behold me wretched,
Even whilst the world adores me: vain was all
My boasted power: I have deceived mankind;
But how shall I impose on my own heart?
A murdered father, and two guiltless children
Must be avenged: come, ye unhappy victims,
And end me quickly!—Omar, we must strive
To hide this shameful weakness, save my glory,
And let me reign o'er a deluded world:
For Mahomet depends on fraud alone,
And to be worshipped never must be know.
End of the Fifth and Last Act.