Fiction > Harvard Classics > Jean Racine > Phædra
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Jean Racine (1639–1699).  Phædra.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act IV
 
Scene VI
 
 
PHÆDRA,  ŒNONE

Phædra

Know you, dear Nurse, what I have learn’d just now?
 
Œnone

No; but I come in truth with trembling limbs.
I dreaded with what purpose you went forth,
The fear of fatal madness made me pale.
 
Phædra

Who would have thought it, Nurse? I had a rival.
        5
 
Œnone

A rival?
 
Phædra

        Yes, he loves. I cannot doubt it.
This wild untamable Hippolytus,
Who scorn’d to be admired, whom lovers’ sighs
Wearied, this tiger, whom I fear’d to rouse,        10
Fawns on a hand that has subdued his pride:
Aricia has found entrance to his heart.
 
Œnone

Aricia?
 
Phædra

        Ah! anguish as yet untried!
For what new tortures am I still reserved?        15
All I have undergone, transports of passion,
Longings and fears, the horrors of remorse,
The shame of being spurn’d with contumely,
Were feeble foretastes of my present torments.
They love each other! By what secret charm        20
Have they deceived me? Where, and when, and how
Met they? You knew it all. Why was I cozen’d?
You never told me of those stolen hours
Of amorous converse. Have they oft been seen
Talking together? Did they seek the shades        25
Of thickest woods? Alas! full freedom had they
To see each other. Heav’n approved their sighs;
They loved without the consciousness of guilt;
And every morning’s sun for them shone clear,
While I, an outcast from the face of Nature,        30
Shunn’d the bright day, and sought to hide myself.
Death was the only god whose aid I dared
To ask: I waited for the grave’s release.
Water’ with tears, nourish’d with gall, my woe
Was all too closely watch’d; I did not dare        35
To weep without restraint. In mortal dread
Tasting this dangerous solace, I disguised
My terror ’neath a tranquil countenance,
And oft had I to check my tears, and smile.
 
Œnone

What fruit will they enjoy of their vain love?
        40
They will not see each other more.
 
Phædra

        That love
Will last for ever. Even while I speak,
Ah, fatal thought, they laugh to scorn the madness
Of my distracted heart. In spite of exile        45
That soon must part them, with a thousand oaths
They seal yet closer union. Can I suffer
A happiness, Œnone, which insults me?
I crave your pity. She must be destroy’d.
My husband’s wrath against a hateful stock        50
Shall be revived, nor must the punishment
Be light: the sister’s guilt passes the brothers’.
I will entreat him in my jealous rage.
  What am I saying? Have I lost my senses?
Is Phædra jealous, and will she implore        55
Theseus for help? My husband lives, and yet
I burn. For whom? Whose heart is this I claim
As mine? At every word I say, my hair
Stands up with horror. Guilt henceforth has pass’d
All bounds. Hypocrisy and incest breathe        60
At once thro’ all. My murderous hands are ready
To spill the blood of guileless innocence.
Do I yet live, wretch that I am, and dare
To face this holy Sun from whom I spring?
My father’s sire was king of all the gods;        65
My ancestors fill all the universe.
Where can I hide? In the dark realms of Pluto?
But there my father holds the fatal urn;
His hand awards th’ irrevocable doom:
Minos is judge of all the ghosts in hell.        70
Ah! how his awful shade will start and shudder
When he shall see his daughter brought before him,
Forced to confess sins of such varied dye,
Crimes it may be unknown to hell itself!
What wilt thou say, my father, at a sight        75
So dire? I think I see thee drop the urn,
And, seeking some unheard-of punishment,
Thyself become my executioner.
Spare me! A cruel goddess has destroy’d
Thy race; and in my madness recognize        80
Her wrath. Alas! My aching heart has reap’d
No fruit of pleasure from the frightful crime
The shame of which pursues me to the grave,
And ends in torment life-long misery.
 
Œnone

Ah, Madam, pray dismiss a groundless dread:
        85
Look less severely on a venial error.
You love. We cannot conquer destiny.
You were drawn on as by a fatal charm.
Is that a marvel without precedent
Among us? Has love triumph’d over you,        90
And o’er none else? Weakness is natural
To man. A mortal, to a mortal’s lot
Submit. You chafe against a yoke that others
Have long since borne. The dwellers in Olympus,
The gods themselves, who terrify with threats        95
The sins of men, have burn’d with lawless fires.
 
Phædra

What words are these I hear? What counsel this
You dare to give me? Will you to the end
Pour poison in mine ears? You have destroy’d me.
You brought me back when I should else have quitted        100
The light of day, made me forget my duty
And see Hippolytus, till then avoided.
What hast thou done? Why did your wicked mouth
With blackest lies slander his blameless life?
Perhaps you’ve slain him, and the impious pray’r        105
Of an unfeeling father has been answer’d.
No, not another word! Go, hateful monster;
Away, and leave me to my piteous fate.
May Heav’n with justice pay you your deserts!
And may your punishment for ever be        110
A terror to all those who would, like you,
Nourish with artful wiles the weaknesses
Of princes, push them to the brink of ruin
To which their heart inclines, and smooth the path
Of guilt. Such flatterers doth the wrath of Heav’n        115
Bestow on kings as its most fatal gift.
 
Œnone  (alone)

O gods! to serve her what have I not done?
This is the due reward that I have won.
 

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