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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Reconciliation
By Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (1674–1762)
 
From ‘Rhadamistus and Zenobia’

ZENOBIA—                    My lord, a hapless woman
Whom Fate has fastened to a tyrant’s yoke,—
Dare she appeal, disgraced in chains of bondage,
To Romans, masters of the universe?
Ah! yet indeed what better part to play,        5
For these same masters of the universe,
Than to relieve my great misfortunes? Heaven,
That to their august laws subjected all—
  Rhadamistus—What do I see? Ah, wretched man! Those features—
That voice— Just gods! what sight do ye present        10
Before mine eyes?
  Zenobia—                How comes it that your soul,
My gracious lord, so stirs at sight of me?
  Rhadamistus—Had not my hand deprived of life—
  Zenobia—                          What is it
I see and hear in turn? Sad recollection!
I tremble, shudder! where and what am I?        15
My strength fast leaves me. Ah, my lord, dispel
My terror and confusion. All my blood
Runs cold to my heart’s core.
  Rhadamistus—                    Ah me! the passion
That fills my being, leaves no further doubt.
Hast thou, my hand, achieved but half thy crime?        20
Victim of man’s conspiring cruelty,
Sad object of a jealous desperate love
Swept on by rage to fiercest violence,—
After such storm of madness, frenzy, fury—
Zenobia, is it thou?
  Zenobia—                Zenobia!
        25
Ah, gods! O Rhadamistus, thou my husband,
Cruel but yet beloved—after trials
So many and so bitter, is it thou?
  Rhadamistus—Can it be possible thine eyes refuse
To recognize him? Yes, I am that monster,        30
That heart inhuman; yes! I am that traitor,
That murderous husband! Would to highest Heaven
That when to-day he stood unknown before thee,
Forgetting him, thou hadst forgot his crimes!
O gods! who to my mortal grief restore her,        35
Why could ye not return to her a husband
Worthy herself? What happy fate befalls me,
That Heaven, touched to pity by my torments
Of sharp regret, hath granted me to gaze
Once more upon such charms? But yet—alas!        40
Can it be, too, that at my father’s court
I find a wife so dear weighed down with chains?
Gods! have I not bewailed my crimes enow,
That ye afflict my vision with this sight?
O all too gentle victim of despair        45
Like mine! How all I see but fills afresh
The measure of thy husband’s guilt!—How now:
Thou weepest!
  Zenobia—                Wherefore, thou unhappy being,
Should I not weep, in such a fateful hour?
Ah, cruel one! would Heaven, thy hand of hatred        50
Had only sought to snatch Zenobia’s life!
Then would my heart, unstirred to depths of anger
At sight of thee, beat quickly on beholding
My husband; then would love, to honor lifted
By rage of jealousy, replace thy wife        55
Within thine arms, fresh filled with happiness,
Yet think not that I feel for thee no pity,
Or turn from thee with loathing.
  Rhadamistus—                            Ye great gods!
Far from reproaches such as should o’erwhelm me,
It is Zenobia who fears to hate me,        60
And justifies herself! Ah, punish me,
Rather than this; for in such fatal kindness,
Such free forgiveness, I am made to taste
Of mine own cruelty! Spare not my blood,
Dear object of my love! be just; deprive me        65
Of such a bliss as seeing thee again!  [He falls at her feet.
Must I, to urge thee, clasp thy very knees?
Remember what the price, and whose the blood,
That sealed me as thy spouse! All, even my love,
Demands that I should perish. To leave crime        70
Unpunished, is to share the culprit’s guilt.
Strike! but remember—in my wildest fury
Never wast thou cast down from thy high place
Within my heart; remember, if repentance
Could stand for innocence, I need no longer        75
Rouse thee to hatred, move thee to revenge.
Ay! and remember too, despite the rage
Which well I know must swell within thy soul,
My greatest passion was my love for thee.
  Zenobia—Arise! it is too much. Since I forgive thee,        80
What profit in regrets? The gods, believe me,
Deny to us the power of wreaking vengeance
On enemies so dear. But name the land
Where thou wouldst dwell, and I will follow thee
Whithersoe’er thou wilt. Speak! I am ready        85
To follow, from this moment forth, forever,
Assured that such remorse as fills thy heart
Springs from thy virtues, more than thy misfortunes;
And happy, if Zenobia’s love for thee
Could some day serve as pattern to Armenia,        90
Make her like me thy willing, loyal subject,
And teach her, if no more, to know her duty!
  Rhadamistus—Great Heaven! can it be that lawful bonds
Unite such virtues to so many crimes?
That Hymen to a madman’s lot should link        95
The fairest, the most perfect of all creatures
To whom the gods gave life? Canst look upon me,
After a father’s death? My outrages,
My brother’s love—that prince so great and generous—
Can they not make thee hate a hapless husband?        100
And I may tell myself, since thou disdainest
The proffered vows of virtuous Arsames,
Thou to his passion turn’st a heart of ice?
What words are these? too happy might I live
To-day, if duty in that noble heart        105
Might take for me the place of love!
  Zenobia—                            Ah, quiet
Within thy soul the groundless doubts that fill it;
Or hide at least thy unworthy jealousy!
Remember that a heart that can forgive thee
Is not a heart to doubt,—no, Rhadamistus,        110
Not without crime!
  Rhadamistus—                O thou dear wife, forgive me
My fatal love; forgive me those suspicions
Which my whole heart abhors. The more unworthy
Thy inhuman spouse, the less should thy displeasure
Visit his unjust fears. O dear Zenobia!        115
Give me thy heart and hand again, and deign
To follow me this day to fair Armenia.
Cæsar hath o’er that province made me monarch;
Come! and behold me henceforth blot my crimes
From thy remembrance with a list of virtues.        120
Come, here is Hiero, a faithful subject,
Whose zeal we trust to cover o’er our flight.
Soon as the night has veiled the staring sky,
Assured that thou shalt see my face again,
Come and await me in this place. Farewell!        125
Let us not linger till a barbarous foe,
When Heaven has reunited us, shall part us
Again forever. O ye gods, who gave her
Back to my arms in answer to my longings,
Deign, deign to give to me a heart deserving        130
Your goodness!
 
 
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