Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Lovers
By Pierre Corneille (1606–1684)
From ‘The Cid’

Unrhymed literal version in the metre of the original, by Edward Irenæus Prime-Stevenson
  The scene is an apartment in the house of Chimène’s father in Seville. Chimène and Elvire are conversing, after Chimène has learned that her father, the Count de Gormas, has lost his life in a duel with Don Rodrigue, the son of an aged nobleman insulted by De Gormas.

CHIMÈNE—At stake is my honor; revenge must be mine;
Whate’er the desire love may flattering stir,
To the soul nobly born all excuse is disgrace.
  Elvire—Thou lov’st Don Rodrigue; he can never offend.
  Chimène—I admit it.
  Elvire—            Admitting it, how canst thou act?
  Chimène—By sustaining my honor, by casting my care—
Pursue him, destroy him, and after him—die.
  Don Rodrigue  [entering as she speaks the last words]—’Tis well! Without taking the pains of pursuit,
Be secure in the pleasure of ending my days.
  Chimène—Elvire, oh where are we? What, what do I see?        10
Rodrigue in this house! Before me, Rodrigue!
  Don Rodrigue—Oh, spare not my blood; unresisted, pray taste
Of my ruin the sweetness, of vengeance the joy.
  Don Rodrigue—  Hear me, lady!
  Chimène—                I die!
  Don Rodrigue—                        But one word—
  Chimène—Go, I say; let me die!
  Don Rodrigue—            Ah, vouchsafe me a word!
And once I have spoke, make reply with—this sword.
  Chimène—What! The sword e’en now red with the blood of my sire!
  Don Rodrigue—Chimène, my Chimène!
  Chimène—                    Hide that hideous steel,
That rebuketh my eyes for thy crime and thy life.
  Don Rodrigue—Nay, rather behold it, thy hate to excite,        20
Thy wrath to increase—and my doom so to speed.
  Chimène—It is tinged with my blood.
  Don Rodrigue—                Plunge it then into mine,
That so it may lose the dread tint of thy veins.
  Chimène—Ah, fate all too cruel! that slays in one day
The father by steel, and the daughter by sight!        25
Take away, as I bid, what I cannot endure;
Thou will’st that I hearken—and kill’st me meantime!
  Don Rodrigue—What thou wishest I do; but with no less desire
That my life, now deplorable, ends by your hand;
For expect not, I beg, from my passion itself        30
A coward’s repentance of deed so deserved.
From thy father’s rash hand came a blow—past recall;
It dishonored my sire in his honored old age.
What are blows to a man of due honor thou knowest.
In the shame I had part, and its author must seek;        35
Him I saw—both my father and honor I ’venged;
I would do it again, if I had it to do.
Yet think not ’gainst duty to father and self
My love for thee, lady, no contest has made;
Of thy power in this moment do thou be the judge.        40
Too well might I doubt if such vengeance I dared.
Bound to please thee, Chimène, or to suffer affront,
Too rash seemed my arm—I would fain hold it back;
With a deed all too violent blamed I myself:
Thy beauty had weighed down the balance at last,        45
Had I not, to thy charms, countervailing, opposed
That a man lost to honor could not thee deserve;
That once having loved me when blameless I lived,
She who cared for me stainless must hate me disgraced;
That to hearken to love, to obey its soft voice,        50
Was to find myself shameful—thy favor to stain.
Again do I tell thee—and while I shall breathe
Unchanged shall I think and unchanging will say—
I have done thee offense, but I could not halt back,
A disgrace to remove and thyself to deserve.        55
But now, quits with honor, and quits toward my sire,
’Tis thee, thee alone, I would fain satisfy;
’Tis to proffer my blood that thou seest me here.
I have done what I should—what is left I would do.
Well I know that thy father’s death arms thee toward mine;        60
Not thee have I wished of thy victim to cheat.
Boldly immolate, now, the blood he has spilled—
The being who glories that such was his deed.
  Chimène—Ah, Rodrigue! True it is that though hostile I am,
No blame can I speak that disgrace thou hast fled;        65
Howe’er from my lips this my dolor break forth,
I dare not accuse thee—I weep for my woes.
I know that thy honor, on insult so deep,
Demanded of ardor a valorous proof,
Thou hast done but the duty enjoined on the brave:        70
Yet more, in its doing ’tis mine thou hast taught.
By thy courage funest, and thy conquest, I’m schooled;
Thy father avenged and thine honor upheld,
Like care, see, is mine; for to load me with grief,
I must father avenge, I must honor uphold!        75
Alas, ’tis thy part here that brings me despair.
Had aught other misfortune bereft me of sire,
My heart in the joy of beholding thyself
The sole solace that heart could receive would have found;
Against my affliction a charm would be strong,        80
My tears would be dried by the dearest of hands.
But lo! I must lose thee, my father a loss;
And the more that my soul may in torment be thrown,
My star has decreed that I compass thy end.
Expect not, in turn, from the passion I own,        85
That my hand I shall stay from thy punishment meet;
Thy direful offense makes thee worthy of me;
By thy death I shall show myself worthy of thee.

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