Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MYRRHA, by VITTORIO AMEDEO ALFIERI



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MYRRHA, by            
First Line: Come, faithful eurycleia: now the dawn
Last Line: I had died ... Guiltless; ... Guilty ... Now ... I die. ...
Subject(s): Incest; Suicide; Tragedy


PERSONAGES.

CINYRAS.
CECRIS, his Wife.
MYRRHA, his Daughter.
PEREUS, Myrrha's Lover.
EURYCLEIA, Cecris' Friend.
CHORUS.
PRIESTS.
PEOPLE.

SCENE—THE PALACE IN CYPRUS.

ACT I. SCENE I.

Cecris, Eurycleia.

Cecris.—Come, faithful Eurycleia: now the dawn
Scarce glimmers; and to me so soon as this
My royal consort is not wont to come.
Now, thou canst tell me all that thou dost know
Of our afflicted daughter. Even now
Thy troubled face, and thy half-stifled sighs,
Announce to me ...
Eurycleia.—O queen! ... Unhappy Myrrha
Drags on a life far worse than any death.
I dare not to the monarch represent
Her dreadful state: the troubles of a maiden
Ill could a father understand; thou canst,
A mother. Hence to thee I come; and pray
That thou wilt hear me.
Ce.—It is true, that I
For a long time have seen the lustre languish
Of her rare beauty: obstinate and mute,
A mortal melancholy dims in her
That fascinating look: and, could she weep! ...
But, when with me, she's silent; and her eyes
With tears are pregnant, though forever dry.
In vain do I embrace her; and in vain
Request, entreat her, to divulge her grief:
Her sorrow she denies; while day by day
I see her by her grief consumed.
Eu.—A daughter
To you is she by blood; to me, by love;
Thou knowest that I brought her up: and I
Exist in her alone; and almost half
Of the fourth lustre is already spent,
Since ev'ry day I've clasp'd her to my breast
In my fond arms. ... And now, can it be true,
That e'en to me, to whom she was accustom'd
From earliest childhood to divulge each thought,
That e'en to me she now appears reserved?
And if I speak to her of her distress,
To me too she denies it, and insists,
And seems displeased with me. ... But yet she oft,
Spite of herself, bursts into tears before me.
Ce.—Such sadness, in a bosom still so young,
At first I deem'd to be the consequence
Of the irresolution which she felt,
In the oft-urged selection of a spouse.
The most illustrious, pow'rful potentates
Of Greece and Asia, all in rivalry
From the wide-spreading rumor of her beauty,
To Cyprus flock'd: and, as respected us,
She was the perfect mistress of her choice.
These various impulses, unknown, discordant,
Might in a youthful bosom well excite
No slight disturbance. She his valor praised
In one; his courteous manners in another:
This with a larger kingdom was endow'd;
In that were majesty and comeliness
Blended consummately: and he who caught
Her eyes the most, she fear'd perchance the least
Might gratify her father. Thoroughly
I, as a mother and a woman, know
What conflicts, in the young unpractised hearts
Of timid virgins, might be well excited
By such uncertainty. But, when by Pereus,
Heir of Epirus, ev'ry doubt seem'd banish'd;
To whom, for pow'r, nobility, and youth,
Valor, and comeliness, and sense, not one
Could be compared; then, when the lofty choice
Of Myrrha gave such pleasure to us all;
When she, on this account, ought to exult
With self-congratulation; we behold
The storm more furiously arise within her,
And more insufferable agonies
Consume her ev'ry day! ... At such a sight,
I feel my heart as if asunder torn.
Eu.—Ah, had she never made that fatal choice!
From that day forth, her anguish has increased:
This very night, the last one that precedes
Her lofty nuptial rites (O Heav'ns!), I fear'd
That it had been to her the last of life.—
Motionless, silent, lay I in my bed,
From hers not far remote; and, still intent
On all her movements, made pretence to sleep:
But I for months and months have now beheld her
In such a martyrdom, that all repose
Flies from my aged limbs. I for thy daughter
The comfort of benignant Sleep invoked
Most silently within myself; for o'er her
For many, many nights he has not spread
His downy wings.—Her sobs and sighs at first
Were almost smother'd; they were few; were broken:
Then (hearing me no longer) they increased
To such ungovernable agony,
That, at the last, against her will, they changed
To bitter tears, to sobs, to piercing screams.
Amid her lamentations, from her lips
One word alone escaped: "Death! ... death!"; and oft,
In broken accents, she repeated it.
I started from my couch; and hastily
I ran to her: and scarce had she beheld me,
When, in the midst, she suddenly repress'd
Each tear, each sigh, each word; and, recomposed
In royal stateliness, as if almost
Incensed with me, in accents calm she cried:
"Why comest thou to me? what wouldst thou with me?" ...
I could not answer her; I wept, embraced her,
Then wept again. ... At length my speech return'd.
O! how did I implore her, how conjure her,
To tell me her affliction, which, at last,
Thus in her bosom pent, would, with her life,
My life destroy! ... Thou surely, though a mother,
Couldst not have spoken to her with more fond,
And more persuasive love.—She well doth know
How much I love her; and, at my discourse,
Once more the torrents from her eyes gush'd forth,
And she embraced me, and with tenderness
To my fond importunities replied,
But still, inflexibly reserved, she said
That ev'ry maiden, when the nuptial day
Approaches, is oppress'd with transient grief;
And she commanded me to hide it from you.
But so deep-rooted is her malady,
So fearful are its inward ravages,
That I run tremblingly to thee; and beg
That, by thy means, these rites may be delay'd:
To death the maiden goes, be sure of this.—
Thou art a mother; I say nothing more.
Ce.—...Ah! ... choked by weeping ... scarcely ... can I speak.—
Whence can this malady arise, ah, whence? ...
No other martyrdom, at her young age,
Is there, except the martyrdom of love.
But, if she is inflamed by love for Pereus,
Whom of her own accord she chose, say, whence,
When on the point of gaining him, this grief?
And, if another flame feed on her heart,
Wherefore hath she herself selected Pereus
Among so many others?
Eu.—... Her fierce grief
Doth not, I swear to thee, arise from love.
She always was observed by me; nor could she,
Without my seeing it, resign her heart
To any passion. And she would, be sure,
Have told it me; her mother as to years,
But, in our love, a sister. Her deportment,
Her countenance, her sighs, her very silence,
Ah! all convince me that she loves not Pereus.
She, if not joyous, was, before she chose him,
Tranquil at least: and thou know'st well how she
Delay'd her choice. But yet, assuredly
No other man pleased her, ere she saw Pereus:
'Tis true, she seem'd to give to him the pref'rence,
Because it was, or so at least she deem'd it,
Her duty to choose one. She loves him not;
To me it seems so: yet, what other suitor,
Compared with noble Pereus, can she love?
I know her to possess a lofty heart;
A heart in which a flame, that is not lofty,
Could never enter. This I safely swear:
The man that she could love, of royal blood
Must be; or else she would not be his lover.
Now, who of these ye have admitted here,
Whom at her will she could not with her hand
Make happy? Then her grief is not from love.
Love, though it feeds itself with tears and sighs,
Yet still it leaves I know not what of hope,
That vivifies the centre of the heart;
But not a ray of hope is gleaming on her:
Incurable her wound; alas, too surely! ...
Ah, could the death, that she invokes forever,
Be granted first to me! I should, at least,
Not see her thus by a slow fire consumed! ...
Ce.—Thou dost distract me. ... To these marriage rites
Never will I consent, if they are destined
To take from us our only daughter. ... Go;
Return to her; and do not say to her
That thou hast spoken with me. I myself,
Soon as the tears are from my eyes dispersed,
And my face recomposed, will thither come.
Eu.—Ah! quickly come. I will return to her;
I am impatient once more to behold her.
O Heav'ns! who knows if she has not once more
Been with these frantic paroxysms seized,
While I have thus at length with thee conversed?
Alas! what pity do I feel for thee,
Unhappy mother! ... I fly hence; but thou,
Ah, linger not! ... The less that thou delayest,
The more good wilt thou do. ...
Ce.—How much delay
Costs me, thou mayst conceive: but I will not
Call her at such an unaccustom'd hour,
Nor go to her, much less present myself
With troubled countenance. It is not fit
To strike her either with distress, or fear:
So modest, timid, pliable is she,
That no means with that noble disposition
Can be too gentle. Quickly go; in me
Repose, as I in thee alone repose.

SCENE II.

Cecris.

Cecris.—What can it be? A year has well-nigh pass'd,
Since I was first tormented by her grief;
And yet no trace whence Myrrha's sorrow springs
Can I discern!—Perchance the gods themselves,
Envious of our prosperity, would snatch
From us so rare a daughter, the sole comfort,
Sole hope of both her parents? O ye gods,
'Twere better never to have giv'n her to us!
O Venus! thou sublime divinity
Of this to thee devoted, sacred isle,
Perchance her too great beauty moves thy envy?
And hence perchance thou, equally with her,
Reducest me to this distracted state?
Ah! yes, thou wilt that I should thus atone
In tears of blood, for my inordinate,
Presumptuous transports of a loving mother. ...

SCENE III.

Cinyras, Cecris.

Cinyras.—Weep not, O lady. I have briefly heard
The painful narrative; to this disclosure
Constrain'd I Eurycleia. Ah! believe me,
Sooner a thousand times would I expire,
Than with our idolized and only daughter
Adopt coercive means. Who could have thought
That by this marriage, which was once her choice
She could be brought to such extremity?
But, let it be dissolved. My life, my realm,
And e'en my glory are as nothing worth,
If I see not our only daughter happy.
Cecris.—Yet, Myrrha ne'er was fickle. We beheld her
In understanding far surpass her years;
Discreet in ev'ry wish; and constant, eager
Our smallest wishes to anticipate.
She knows full well, that in her noble choice
We deem'd ourselves most fortunate: she cannot,
No, never, hence repent of it.
Cin.—But yet,
If she in heart repent of it?—O lady,
Hear her: and all a mother's gentle pleadings
Do thou adopt with her; do thou at length
Compel her to unfold her heart to thee,
While there is time for this. And I meanwhile
Will mine unfold to thee; and I assure thee,
Nay, e'en I swear, that, of my heart's first thoughts,
My daughter is the object. It is true,
Epirus' king I wished to make my friend:
And the young Pereus, his distinguish'd son,
Adds, to the future hope of a rich kingdom,
Other advantages, in my esteem
More precious far. A gentle character,
A heart no less compassionate than lofty,
Doth he evince. Besides, he seems to me
By Myrrha's beauties fervently inflamed.—
I never could select a worthier consort
To make my daughter happy; and no doubts
Of these pledged marriage rites torment his heart;
His father's indignation and his own,
If we renounced our covenanted faith,
Would be most just; and their rage might to us
Be even terrible: in this behold
Many and potent reasons in the eyes
Of ev'ry other prince; but none in mine.
Nature made me a father; chance, a king.
Those which are deem'd by others of my rank
Reasons of state, to which they are accustom'd
To make all natural affections yield,
In my paternal bosom would not weigh
Against one single sigh of my dear daughter.
I, by her happiness alone, can be
Myself made happy. Go; say this to her;
Assure her, also, that she need not fear
Displeasing me, in telling me the truth:
Naught let her fear, except the making us,
Through her own means, unhappy. I meanwhile,
By questions artfully proposed, will learn
From Pereus if he deem his love return'd;
And thus will I prepare him for the issue,
No less afflicting to himself than me
But yet, the time is brief for doing this,
If fate decree that we retract our purpose.
Ce.—Thou speakest well: I fly to her.—It brings
Great solace to me, in our grief, to see
That one accordant will, one love, is ours.

ACT II. SCENE I.

Cinyras, Pereus.

Pereus.—Behold me here, obedient to thy wishes.
I hope, O king, the hour is not far distant,
When with the loving epithet of father
I may accost thee. ...
Cinyras.—Listen to me, Pereus.—
If thou well know thyself, thou canst not fail
To be convinced what happiness a father
Who loves his only daughter must experience
At having thee as son-in-law. 'Tis certain,
Had I myself been destined to select
A spouse for Myrrha, I had chosen thee
Among the many and illustrious rivals
Who, with thyself, contended for her hand.
Thence, thou thyself mayst judge how doubly dear
Thou wert to me, when by herself elected.
Thou, in the judgment of impartial men,
In all pretensions wert unparagon'd;
But, in my judgment, more than for thy blood,
And thy paternal kingdom, thou both wert,
And art, the first for other qualities
Intrinsically thine, whence thou wouldst be,
E'en if a private man, eternally
Greater than any king. ...
Pe.—Ah father! ... (I
E'en now exult to call thee by this name)
Father, my greatest, nay, my only prize,
Consists in pleasing thee. I have presumed
To interrupt thee; pardon me: but I
Cannot, before I merit them, receive
From thee so many praises. To my heart
Thy speech will be a high encouragement,
To make me that which thou believ'st me now,
Or wishest me to be. Thy son-in-law,
And Myrrha's consort, largely should I be
With ev'ry lofty quality endow'd:
And I accept from thee the augury
Of virtue.
Cin.—Ah! thou speakest as thou art.—
And, since thou art such, I shall dare to speak
To thee as to a son.—I clearly see
Thou lovest Myrrha with a genuine love;
And I should wrong thee most unworthily,
Could I e'en doubt of this. But, ... tell me now; ...
If my request is not too indiscreet, ....
Art thou as much beloved?
Pe.—... I ought to hide
Nothing from thee.—Ah! Myrrha would, methinks,
Love me again, and yet it seems she cannot.
I cherish'd once a hope of her regard;
And yet I hope to gain it; or, at least,
My flatt'ring wishes still prolong the dream.
'Tis true, that, most inexplicably, she
Persists in her reserve. Thou, Cinyras,
Although thou be a father, still retainest
Thy youthful vigor, and remember'st love:
Know then, that evermore with trembling steps,
And as if by compulsion, she accosts me;
Over her face a deadly pallor steals;
Her lovely eyes are never turned towards me;
A few irresolute and broken words.
She falters out, involved in mortal coldness;
Her eyes, eternally suffused with tears,
She fixes on the ground; in speechless grief
Her soul is buried; a pale sickliness
Dims, not annihilates, her charms divine:—
Behold her state. Yet, of connubial rites
She speaks; and now thou wouldst pronounce that she
Desired those rites; now, that, far worse than death,
She dreaded them; now, she herself assigns
The day for them, and now, she puts it off.
If I inquire the reason of her sadness,
Her lip denies it; but her countenance,
Of agony expressive, and of death,
Proclaims her great, incurable despair.
Me she assures, and each returning day
Repeats, that she would have me as her spouse;
She says not that she loves me; lofty, noble,
She knows not how to feign. I wish and fear
To hear from her the truth: I check my tears;
I burn, I languish, and I dare not speak.
Now from her faith, reluctantly bestow'd,
Would I myself release her; now again
I fain would die, since to resign her quite
I have no pow'r; yet, unpossess'd her heart,
Her person would I not possess. ... Alas! ...
Whether I live or die, I scarcely know.—
Thus, both oppress'd, and though with diff'rent griefs,
Both with affliction equally weigh'd down,
We have at last the fatal day attain'd,
The day which she herself irrevocably
Hath chosen for our marriage. ... Ah, were I
The only victim of such deep distress!
Cin.—As much as she, dost thou excite my pity. ...
Thy frank and fervid eloquence bespeaks
A soul humane and lofty: such a soul
Did I ascribe to thee; hence to thyself
I will not less ingenuously speak.—
I tremble for my child. I share with thee
A lover's grief; ah, prince! do thou too share
A father's grief with me. Ah, if she were
Unhappy by my means! ... 'Tis true, she chose thee;
'Tis true that none constrain'd her ... but, if fear,
Or maiden modesty ... In short, if Myrrha
Now should repent her promise wrongfully? ...
Pe.—No more; I understand thee. To a lover,
Who loves as I do, canst thou represent
The cherish'd object wretched for his sake?
Could I, though innocently, deem myself
The origin of all her wretchedness,
And not expire with grief?—Ah! Myrrha, now
Pronounce on me, and on my destiny,
A final sentence: fearlessly pronounce it,
If Pereus' love be irksome: yet for this
Never shall I regret that I have loved thee.
O, could I make her joyful by my tears! ...
To me 'twould be a blessing e'en to die,
So that she might be happy.
Cin.—Pereus, who
Can hear thee without weeping? ... No, a heart
More faithful, more impassion'd than thine own,
There cannot be. Ah! as thou hast to me,
Couldst thou disclose it also to my daughter:
She could not hear thee, and refuse to open
To thee with equal confidence her own.
I do not think that she repents her choice
(Who, knowing thee, could do this?); but perchance
Thou mayst solicit from her heart the source
Of her conceal'd distress.—Behold, she comes;
I had already summon'd her. With her
I leave thee; to the interview of lovers,
Fathers are ever a restraint. Now, prince,
Fully reveal to her thy lofty heart,
A heart by which all others must be sway'd.

SCENE II.

Myrrha, Pereus.

Myrrha.—With Pereus doth he leave me? ... Fatal trial!
This rends my heart indeed. ...
Pereus.—At length, O Myrrha,
The day is come, which, wert thou only happy,
Should render me supremely happy also.
Thy hair with nuptial coronal adorn'd,
Thy form enveloped in a festal robe,
I see indeed: but on thy countenance,
Thy looks, thy gestures, and in ev'ry step,
Pale melancholy lours. O Myrrha, he
Who loves thee more, far more than life itself,
Cannot behold thee with a mien like this
To an indissoluble tie approach.
This is the hour, the solemn hour is this,
When 'tis no more allowable for thee
To pass delusions on thyself, or others.
Thou shouldst divulge to me (whate'er it be)
The cause of thy distress; or shouldst at least
Confess that thou dost not confide in me;
That I have ill-responded to thy choice,
And that at heart thou hast repented of it.
I shall not hence account that I am wrong'd;
O no! though this sad heart will be surcharged
With mortal wretchedness. But, what car'st thou
For the distraction of a man not loved,
And slenderly esteem'd? It too much now
Concerns me not to render thee unhappy.—
Then speak to me explicitly and boldly.—
But, thou art mute and motionless! ... Thy silence
Breathes but disdain and death ... thy silence is
An answer too decisive: thou dost hate me;
And dar'st not say it. ... Now resume thy faith:
I instantly prepare myself to fly
Forever from thine eyes, since I am thus
An object of aversion. ... But if I
Was always so, how could I win thy choice?
If I became so afterwards, ah, tell me;
In what I have offended thee?
My.—... O prince! ...
Thy overweening love depicts my grief
More poignant than it is. Beyond the bounds
Of truth thy heated phantasy impels thee.
With silence thy unprecedented words
I hear; what wonder? unexpected things,
And little pleasing, and, e'en more than this,
Not true, dost thou express: how can I then
Reply to thee?—This, for our nuptial rites,
Is the appointed day; I come prepared
For their fulfilment; does my chosen spouse
Venture meanwhile to harbor doubts of me?
'Tis true, perchance my spirits are not radiant,
As hers should be who doth obtain a spouse
Distinguish'd like thyself: but pensiveness
Is oft a second nature; ill could one
Who feels its potent sway, explain the cause:
And often an officious questioning,
Instead of making manifest the cause,
Redoubles the effect.
Pe.—I'm irksome to thee;
I see it by unquestionable symptoms.
I knew indeed that thou couldst never love me;
Yet in my feeble heart I had caress'd
At least the flatt'ring hope thou didst not hate me:
In time, for thine and my peace, I discern
That I deceived myself.—'Tis not (alas!)
Within my pow'r to make thee hate me not:
But on myself doth it alone depend
To make thee not despise me. Now art thou
Freed, and released from all thy promised faith.
Against thy will 'twere vain to keep thy promise:
Not by thy parents, and still less by me,
But by false shame, art thou restrain'd. Thou wouldst,
Not to incur the blame of fickleness,
Render thyself, thine own worst enemy,
The victim of thy error: and dost thou
Hope I should suffer this? Ah, no!—That I
Love thee, that I perchance deserved thee, this
I ought to prove now, by refusing thee. ...
My.—Thou dost delight to drive me to despair. ...
Ah! how can I be joyous in thy presence,
If I am destined always to behold
Thy love ill-pleased with mine? Can I assign
The causes of a grief, which, in great measure,
Is but supposititious? which, indeed,
If true in part, p'rhaps has no other cause,
Than the new state which I'm about to enter;
The sad necessity of separation
From my belovèd parents; and the words
So oft repeated to myself: "Ah! maybe
I never more shall see them;" ... the departure
For other realms unknown; the change of sky; ...
And other thoughts, by thousands and by thousands,
All passionate and tender, and all sad;
And all indisputably better known,
And felt more keenly, than by any other,
By thy humane and courteous lofty heart!—
I gave myself spontaneously to thee:
Nor do I feel repentance; this I swear.
If it were so, I would have told it to thee:
Thee, above all men, I esteem: from thee
Nothing would I conceal, ... that I would not
Likewise from my own consciousness conceal.
Now, I implore; let him who loves me best,
Speak to me least of this my wretchedness,
And 'twill in time, I feel assured, depart.
Could I, not prizing thee, give thee my hand,
I should despise myself: and how not prize thee? ...
My lips could never utter what my heart
Doth not dictate: and yet those lips assure thee,
Swear to thee, that I never will belong
To any one but thee. What more can I
Profess to thee?
Pe.—... Alas! I venture not
To ask of thee one thing, which, couldst thou say it,
Would give me life. But fatal the demand!
'Twere death, I fear, to be assured of this.—
Thou to be mine, then, dost not now disdain?
Dost not repent of it? and no delay? ...
My.—No; 'tis the day; to-day will I be thine.—
But, let our sails be hoisted to the winds
To-morrow, and forever let us leave
These shores behind us.
Pe.—Do I hear thee rightly?
With such abrupt transition how canst thou
Thus differ from thyself? It tortures thee
So much to have to leave thy parents dear,
Thy native country; yet wouldst thou depart
Thus speedily, forever? ...
My.—Yes; ... forever
Will I abandon them; ... and die ... of grief. ...
Pe.—What do I hear? Thy anguish hath betray'd thee; ...
Thy words and looks are prompted by despair.
I swear that I will never be the means
Of thy destruction; never; of my own
Too certainly. ...
My.—'Tis true; 'tis too, too true;
I am distracted by a mighty woe. ...
But no, believe me not.—Inflexibly
I to my purpose keep.—While I have thus
My bosom harden'd as it were with grief,
My parting hence will be less keenly felt:
A solace in thyself. ...
Pe.—No, Myrrha, no:
I am the cause, I am (though innocent),
Of the dread conflict, which thus lacerates,
And agitates thy heart.—My hateful presence
No longer shall impose restraint on thee.—
Do thou thyself, O Myrrha, to thy parents
Propose some means, that may deliver thee
From ties so inauspicious; or from them
Thou'lt hear to-day the cruel death of Pereus.

SCENE III.

Myrrha.

Myrrha.—Ah, go not to my parents! ... Hear me, ... hear me! ...
He flies from me. ... O Heavn's! what have I said?
Let me to Eurycleia quickly run:
No, not one instant would I with myself
Remain alone. ...

SCENE IV.

Myrrha, Eurycleia.

Eurycleia.—O whither dost thou fly
Thus with such breathless haste, belov#232;d daughter?
Myrrha.—Where can I find, if not in thee, some solace? ...
To thee I came. ...
Eu.—I, from a distance, long
Have watch'd thee carefully. Thou knowest well,
I never can abandon thee: I hope
That thou wilt pardon me. From thence I saw
Pereus rush troubled forth; and thee I find
With heavier grief oppress'd: ah! dearest daughter;
Thy tears at least may freely have a vent
Upon my breast.
My.—Ah, yes; dear Eurycleia,
With thee I may at least shed tears. ... I feel
As if my heart would burst from checking them. ...
Eu.—And wilt thou, in a state like this, persist,
O daughter, in these hymeneal rites?
My.—I hope my agony may kill me first. ...
But no; that cannot be; the time's too short; ...
It afterwards will kill me, kill me soon. ...
Death, death, I have no other wish but death; ...
And death alone is all that I deserve.
Eu.—Myrrha, no other furies can assail
With such barbarity thy youthful breast,
Save those of love. ...
My.—What dar'st thou say to me?
What cruel falsehood? ...
Eu.—Ah, do not, I pray thee,
Be wroth with me. For a long time I've thought so:
But if it thus displease thee, I will dare
No more to say it to thee. Ah, mayst thou
Preserve with me the liberty of weeping!
Neither do I know well if I believe
What I have said; moreover, to thy mother
I hitherto have solemnly denied it. ...
My.—What do I hear? O Heav'ns! does she perchance
Also suspect it? ...
Eu.—And who, seeing thus
A tender maiden in excessive grief,
Would not deem love the origin of this?
Ah! were thy grief from love alone! at least
Some remedy might then be found.—Immersed
For a long time in this perplexing doubt,
I to the holy altar went one day
Of Venus, our sublime divinity;
With tears, with incense, and persuasive prayers,
With mournful heart, before her sacred image
Prostrate, I ventured to pronounce thy name. ...
My.—Ah! what audacity! what hast thou done?
Venus? ... O Heav'ns! ... inimical to me. ...
The force of her implacable revenge. ...
What do I say? ... Alas! ... I shudder, ... tremble. ...
Eu.—'Tis true indeed that I in this did wrong:
The angry deity disdain'd my vows;
The incense, in a smold'ring gloom involved,
With difficulty burn'd; and, downwards driven,
The smoke collected round my hoary head.
Wouldst thou hear further? I presumed to raise
To the stern image my afflicted eyes,
And, horribly incensed with indignation,
With threat'ning looks the goddess seem'd to me
Herself to drive me from her sacred feet.
With trembling steps, I totter'd from the temple,
Palsied with fear. ... In telling this, I feel
My hair with horror once more stand on end.
My.—And thou with terror mak'st me also shudder.
What hast thou dared to do? By Myrrha now
Must no celestial pow'r, and much less that
Of our tremendous goddess, be invoked.
I am abandon'd by the gods; my breast
Is open to the onslaught of the Furies;
There they alone authority possess,
And residence.—Ah! if there still remains
In thee the shadow of a genuine pity,
My faithful Eurycleia (thou alone
Canst do it), save me from despair: 'tis slow,
Too slow, although 'tis infinite, my grief.
Eu.—Thou mak'st me tremble. ... What can I?
My.—... I ask thee
My woes to shorten. My weak frame thou seest
Wearing away by little and by little;
My ling'ring agonies destroy my parents;
A burden to myself, a curse to others,
I never can escape: 'twere pity, love,
To expedite my death; from thee I ask it. ...
Eu.—O Heav'ns! ... from me? ... My very utt'rance falls, ...
My breath, ... my thoughts———
My.—Ah, no; thou lov'st me not.
I weakly deem'd that in thy aged breast
There dwelt a comprehensive tenderness. ...
Yet thou thyself didst in my tender years
Exhort me to nobility of thought:
Oft have I heard from thee, how virtuous souls
Should death prefer to infamy. Alas! ...
What do I say? ... But thou dost hear me not? ...
Motionless, ... mute, ... thou scarcely breath'st! O Heav'ns! ...
What have I said? distracted with my pangs, ...
I know not what I said: ah! pardon me;
My second mother, be once more thyself.
Eu.—... O daughter, daughter! ... Thou ask death from me?
Thou death from me?
My.—Esteem me not ungrateful;
And think not that the anguish of my woes
Robs me of pity for the pangs of others.—
Wouldst thou not see me dead in Cyprus? soon
Thou'lt hear that I Epirus reach'd, a corpse.
Eu.—'Twere vain, then, to endure these dreadful nuptials.
I to thy parents fly to tell the whole———
My.—Ah, do it not, or irretrievably
Thou forfeitest my love: ah, do it not;
I pray thee: in the name of thy true love,
I do conjure thee.—From a troubled heart
Accents escape, which should not be recorded.—
An ample solace (one which hitherto
I've not allow'd) hath been my tears with thee;
The speaking of my grief: in me already
My courage hence is doubled.—A few hours
Are wanting to the solemn nuptial rites:
Be ever near me: let us go: meanwhile,
It is thy province to confirm me more
In my inevitable lofty purpose.
Thou, by thy faithful counsel, and thy more
Than mother's love, at once shouldst strengthen me.
Thou shouldst so act, that firmly I may follow
The sole remaining honorable track.

ACT III. SCENE I.

Cinyras, Cecris.

Cecris.—There is no doubt that Pereus, though he be
Not yet return'd to us, by Myrrha's words
Was greatly mortified. She loves him not;
Of this I'm sure; she'll go to certain death,
If in these nuptials she should persevere.
Cinyras.—For the last trial now, will we ourselves
Hear from her lips the truth. I, in thy name,
Have summon'd her to meet thee in this place.
Neither of us, in short, would force her will:
How much we love her, well she knows, to whom
Ourselves are not less dear. To me it seems
Now utterly impossible, that she,
In this respect, should close to us her heart;
To us, who made her arbitress and mistress
Not only of herself, but of ourselves.
Ce.—Behold, she comes: and O! she seems to me
Somewhat more joyful; and her step more firm. ...
Ah! could she be again what once she was!
At the sole reappearance in her face
E'en of a flash of joy, I quickly seem
Restored once more to life.

SCENE II.

Myrrha, Cinyras, Cecris.

Cecris.—Belovèd daughter,
Ah, come to us! ah, come!
Myrrha.—What do I see?
O Heav'ns! my father also! ...
Cinyras.—Haste, advance;
Our only hope and life; advance securely;
And do not fear the aspect of thy father,
More than thou fear'st thy mother's. We are both
Ready to hear thee. Now, if thou art pleased
The cause to tell us of thy cruel state.
Thou giv'st us life; but if it please thee
Rather to hide it, thou mayst also, daughter,
Conceal it; for thy pleasure will be ours.
Before the nuptial knot is tied forever,
One hour alone is wanting; ev'ry one
Deems it a thing decided: but, if yet
Thy will is changed; if thy committed faith
Be irksome to thy heart; if thy free choice,
Though once spontaneous, be no longer such;
Be bold, fear nothing in the world, reveal
All the misgivings of thy heart to us.
Thou art by nothing bound; and we ourselves
The first release thee; and the gen'rous Pereus,
Worthy of thee, confirms this liberty.
Nor will we tax thee with inconstancy:
Rather will we admit, that thoughts mature,
Though unforeseen, constrain thee to this charge.
By reasons base thou never canst be moved:
Thy noble character, thy lofty thoughts,
Thy love for us, full well we know them all:
A step of thee, and of thy blood unworthy,
Thou never couldst e'en think of. Freely, then,
Do thou fulfill thy wish; provided thou
Art once more happy, with that happiness
Thou renderest thy parents happy also.
Now, this thy present will, whate'er it be,
Do thou to us reveal it, as to brothers.
Ce.—Ah, yes! thou see'st it well; for ne'er didst thou
Hear words of more persuasive tenderness,
More mild, more tender, from thy mother's lips
Than these.
My.—... Is there a torment in the world,
That can compare with mine? ...
Ce.—But what is this?
Sighing, thou talkest to thyself?
Cin.—Ah, let,
Ah, let thy heart speak to us: we will use
No other language with thee.—Quick, reply.
My.—... My lord ...
Cin.—Ah, Myrrha, 'tis a sad beginning:
To thee I am a father; not a lord:
Canst thou invoke me with another name,
O daughter?
My.—Myrrha, this is the last conflict.—
Be strong, my soul. ...
Ce.—O Heav'ns! The hues of death
Upon her countenance ...
My.—On mine? ...
Cin.—But whence
Tremblest thou thus? at me? ...
My.—I tremble not, ...
Methinks; ... or I, at least, no more shall tremble,
Since ye now so compassionately hear me.—
Your only, your too well belovèd daughter,
Well know I that I am. I see you always,
My joys enjoying, grieving in my griefs;
E'en this my grief increases. Mine, alas!
Passes the bounds of natural distress;
In vain I hide it; and to you would speak it, ...
If I knew it myself. My fatal sadness
With growing years augmented ev'ry day,
Long ere, amid th' illustrious company
Of noble suitors, Pereus I selected.
Within my breast an angry deity,
Unknown, inexorable, dwells; and hence,
All pow'r of mine is vain against his pow'r. ...
Mother, believe me; though I be but young,
My mind, e'en passing ordinary strength,
Was, and is, strong: but my distemper'd frame
Is fast succumbing; ... and I feel myself,
With gradual footsteps, tott'ring to the tomb. ...
—My rare and little food to me is poison:
Sleep everlastingly forsakes my pillow;
Or dreams, with horrid images of death,
Give greater martyrdom than sleepless nights:
I do not find, throughout the day or night,
A moment's peace, repose, or resting place.
Yet nothing in the shape of human comfort
Do I presume to covet; death I deem,
Expect, solicit, as my only cure.
But, for my punishment, still Nature keeps me,
With her strong ties, alive. I pity now,
And now I hate, myself: I weep, and rave,
And weep again. ... This, this is the incessant,
Insufferable, fierce vicissitude,
In which I drag along my heavy days.—
But what? ... do ye, too, at my horrid state
Shed tears? ... Belovèd mother! ... let me then,
To thy breast clinging, drinking in thy tears,
Forego the sense of suff'ring for a moment! ...
Ce.—Belovèd daughter, at a tale like this,
Who could refrain from weeping? ...
Cin.—At her words
I feel my bosom rent. ... But finally,
What ought we now to do? ...
My.—But finally
(Ah! trust to what I say), I ne'er conceived
The wish to vex you, or extort from you
Vain pity for myself, describing thus
My fierce unutterable pangs.—When I,
By choosing Pereus, fix'd my destiny,
At first, 'tis true, I to myself appear'd
Somewhat less troubled; but, within my heart
Proportionably fierce my grief return'd,
As nearer and more near the day approach'd
For forming the indissoluble tie;
So much so, that three times indeed I dared
To beg you to procrastinate the day.
In these delays I somewhat calm'd myself;
But, as the time diminish'd, all my pangs
Resumed their wonted fierceness. To their height,
To my consummate shame, consummate grief,
Are they to-day arrived: but something tells me
That they, to-day, are giving in my breast
The last proof of their strength. This day shall see me
The spouse of Pereus, or a breathless corpse.
Ce.—What do I hear? ... O daughter! ... Wilt thou thus
In these lugubrious nuptials persevere? ...
Cin.—No, this shall never be. Thou lov'st not Pereus;
And, spite of inclination, thou, in vain,
Wouldst give thyself to him. ...
My.—Ah, do not ye
Take me from him; or quickly give me death. ...
'Tis true, perchance, I love him not as much
As he loves me; ... and yet, of this I doubt. ...
Believe, that I sufficiently esteem him;
And that no other man in all the world,
If he have not, shall ever have my hand.
I hope that Pereus, as he ought to be,
Will to my heart be dear; by living with him
In constant and inseparable faith,
I hope that he will make both peace and joy
Return to me again: that life may be
Still dear to me, and peradventure happy.
Ah! if I hitherto have loved him not
As he deserves, 'tis not a fault of mine,
But rather of my state; which makes me first
Abhor myself. ... Him have I chosen once:
And now, again I choose him: long for him,
Solicit him, and him alone. My choice
Beyond expression to yourselves was grateful:
Be then, as ye did wish, as now I wish,
The whole accomplish'd. Since I show myself
Superior to my grief, do ye so likewise.
As joyfully as may be, soon will I
Come to the nuptials: ye will find yourselves
Some day made happy by them.
Ce.—O rare daughter!
How many true perfections thou unitest!
Cin.—Thy words a little calm me; but I tremble. ...
My.—I feel, while thus in conference with you,
My strength return. I may again perchance
Wholly become the mistress of myself
(If the gods will), provided ye will lend
Me your assistance.
Cin.—What assistance?
Ce.—Speak!
We will do ev'rything.
My.—I am constrain'd
Once more to grieve you. Hear.—To my worn breast,
And to my troubled, weak, distemper'd mind,
The sight of objects new to me will prove
A potent remedy; and this will be
Effectual in proportion as 'tis speedy.
What it will cost me to abandon you
(O Heav'ns!), I cannot say; my tears will tell it,
When I bid you the terrible farewell:
If, without falling lifeless, ... in thy arms,
I can, O mother, do it. ... But, if yet
I can abandon you, the day will come,
When, to this gen'rous effort, I shall owe
Life, peace, and happiness.
Ce.—Dost thou thus speak
Of leaving us? Wouldst do it instantly?
At once dost fear and wish to do it? Whence
Such inconsistency? ...
Cin.—Abandon us? ...
And what remains to us, if reft of thee?
Thou mayst at leisure afterwards depart
To Pereus' father; but meanwhile ere this
With us enjoy protracted happiness. ...
My.—If here I cannot possibly be happy,
Would ye prefer to see me dead in Cyprus,
Or know me happy on a foreign shore?—
Sooner or later, to Epirus' realm
My destiny invites me: there should I
With Pereus finally abide. To you,
When Pereus his paternal sceptre sways,
One day will we return. Ye shall again
In Cyprus see me, if the gods so grant,
The joyful mother of a num'rous offspring:
And we will leave to you, of all my children,
The one ye may love best, to be the prop
Of your declining years. Thus of your blood
Shall ye possess an heir to this rich realm;
Since offspring of the stronger sex, the gods
Have hitherto denied to you. Then ye,
The day on which ye suffer'd me to go,
Will be the first to hail with blessings.—Ah,
Grant that to-morrow Pereus may with me
Spread to the wind our sails. Within my heart
I feel a certain and tremendous presage,
That I, if ye prohibit my departure,
Alas! within this inauspicious palace,
To-day the hapless victim will remain
Of an inscrutable and unknown power:
That ye will lose me everlastingly. ...
Do ye, I pray, compassionately yield
To my unhappy presage; or be pleased,
Indulging my distemper'd phantasy,
To second what perchance you deem an error.
My life, my destiny, and also (Heav'ns!
I shudder as I speak) your destiny,
All, all, too much depend on my departure.
Ce.—O daughter! ...
Cin.—Ah! ... Thy accents make us tremble. ...
But yet, if such thy will, so be it done.
Whate'er may be my grief, I would prefer
Never to see thee, than to see thee thus.—
And thou, sweet consort, standest motionless,
In tears? ... Consentest thou to her desire?
Ce.—Ah! could her absence kill me, as (alas!)
I feel assured that I shall hence be doom'd
In tears to live disconsolate forever! ...
Ah! might the augury prove one day true,
Which she suggested of her precious offspring! ...
But yet, since such is her fantastic wish,
So that she lives, let it be gratified.
My.—Belovèd mother, now thou givest me
Life for the second time. Within an hour
Shall I be ready for the nuptial rites.
Whether I love you, time will prove to you;
Though now I seem impatient to forsake you.—
Now, for a little while, do I retire
To my apartments: fain would I appear
With tearless eyes before the altar; meeting
My noble spouse with brow serene, and cheerful.

SCENE III.

Cinyras, Cecris.

Cecris.—Unhappy parents we! unhappy daughter! ...
Cinyras.—Yet, to behold her ev'ry day more sad,
My heart hath not the firmness. 'Twere in vain
To be opposed. ...
Ce.—O spouse! ... A thousand fears
Invade my heart, lest her excess of grief,
When she is parted from us, should destroy her.
Cin.—From her expressions, from her looks and gestures,
And also from her sighs, it seems to me
That by some superhuman agency
She's fearfully possess'd.
Ce.—... Ah! well I know,
Implacable, vindictive Venus, well,
Thy rigorous revenge. Thus dost thou make me
Atone for my irrev'rent arrogance.
But innocent my daughter was; I only
Was the delinquent; I alone the culprit. ...
Cin.—O Heav'ns! what hast thou dared against the goddess?
Ce.—Unhappy I! ... Hear, Cinyras, my fault.—
When I beheld myself the spouse adored
Of one who was so loving as a husband,
A man for captivating grace unequall'd,
And by him mother of an only daughter
(For beauty, modesty, and sense, and grace
Throughout the world unrivall'd), I confess,
Intoxicated with my happy lot,
I dared deny to Venus, I alone,
Her tributary incense. Wouldst thou more?
Insensate, and extravagant, at last
To such a pitch (alas, how ill-advised!)
Of madness I arrived, that from my lips
I suffer'd the imprudent boast to fall,
That by the wondrous, celebrated beauty
Of Myrrha, now more votaries were drawn
From Asia and from Greece, than heretofore
Were e'er attracted to her sacred isle,
By warm devotion to the Cyprian queen.
Cin.—O! what is this thou say'st? ...
Ce.—Lo, from that day
Henceforward, Myrrha lost her peace; her life,
Her beauty, like frail wax before the fire,
Slowly consumed; and nothing in our hands
From that time seem'd to prosper. Afterwards
What did I not attempt to soothe the goddess?
What prayers, what tears, what penitential rites
Have I not lavish'd? evermore in vain.
Cin.—Ill hast thou done, O woman; and still worse
Hath been thy guilt, in keeping it from me.
A father wholly innocent, perchance
I might, by means of mediatorial rites,
The pardon of the goddess have obtain'd:
And yet perchance (I hope) I may succeed.—
But meanwhile, now indeed do I concur
In Myrrha's judgment: that we must perforce,
And with what promptitude we can effect it,
Remove her from this consecrated isle.
Who knows? perchance the anger of the goddess
Will not to other climes pursue her: hence
Our wretched daughter, feeling in her breast
Such strange forebodings, yearns perchance so deeply
For her departure, on it founds such hopes.—
But Pereus comes: he's welcome: he alone,
By taking her away from us, can now
For us our daughter save.
Ce.—O destiny!

SCENE IV.

Cinyras, Pereus, Cecris.

Pereus.—Tardy, irresolute, and apprehensive,
And full of mortal wretchedness, ye see me.
A bitter conflict lacerates my heart:
I have, by pity and a genuine love
Of others, not of self, been conquer'd. This
Will cost my life. No otherwise this grieves me,
Than that I thus have forfeited the power
To spend it in your service: but I will not,
No, I will never drag to hopeless death
My dearest Myrrha. The disastrous tie
Shall now be torn asunder; and, with that,
The thread of my existence.
Cinyras.—O my son! ...
Still by this name I call thee; and I hope
That thou ere long wilt be my son indeed.
We, since thyself, have heard explicitly
The secret thoughts of Myrrha: I have taken,
As a true father, ev'ry means with her,
So that she now, with absolute free will,
Her own unbiass'd judgment may pursue.
But 'mid the winds the rock is not so firm,
As she is firm to thee: thee, thee, alone
She wills, and she solicits; and she fears
Lest thou be taken from her. She knows not
Herself how to adduce to us a cause
For her despondency: her health infirm,
Which was the first effect of this, perchance
Is now its only cause. But her deep grief
Deserves much pity, be it what it may;
Nor should she wake in thee, more than in us,
Any dissatisfaction. A sweet solace
Thou of her ills wilt be: on thy firm love
Her hopes are founded all. What stronger proof
Wouldst thou require than this? she will herself
At ev'ry risk abandon us to-morrow
(Us, who so dearly love her!); and for this,
The reason given is to be with thee
More absolutely, to become more thine.
Pe.—Ah, could I trust to this! but specially
This her abrupt departure. ... Ah, I tremble,
Lest she in thought designs the instrument
To make me of her death.
Cecris.—To thee, O Pereus,
Do we confide her: fate to-day decrees it.
Too certainly, before our very eyes,
Here would she lifeless fall, if to her will
Our hearts permitted us to persevere
In opposition. Change of place and scene
Potently operates on youthful minds.
Then lay aside all inauspicious thoughts;
And think alone of making her more happy.
Bring to thy countenance its wonted joy;
And, by avoiding mention of her grief,
Soon wilt thou see that grief itself subside.
Pe.—May I believe, then, certainly believe,
That Myrrha hates me not?
Cin.—From me thou mayst
Believe it, yes! What heretofore I said,
Remember; by her words I'm now convinced,
That, far from being cause of her distress,
She deems these nuptials her sole remedy.
She must be treated with indulgence; thus
She will submit to anything. Go thou;
Quickly prepare thyself for festive pomp;
And at the same time ev'rything dispose,
For taking from us by to-morrow's dawn
Our much-loved daughter. We will not assemble
Before the altar of the public temple,
In sight of all the dwellers here in Cyprus;
For the long rite would be an obstacle
To such a quick departure. We will chant
The hymeneal anthems in this palace.
Pe.—Thou hast restored me suddenly to life.
I fly; and here will instantly return.

ACT IV. SCENE I.

Eurycleia, Myrrha.

Myrrha.—Dear Eurycleia, yea: thou seest me
Completely tranquilized; and almost joyous,
At my resolved departure.
Eurycleia.—Can this be? ...
Alone with Pereus wilt thou hence depart? ...
Nor, of so many of thy faithful handmaids,
Wilt thou select e'en one? Not even me
Wilt thou distinguish from this wide neglect? ...
What will become of me, my dearest child,
If thou abandon me? alas! I feel
Ready to die at the mere thought of this. ...
My.—Ah! hold thy peace. ... One day I shall return. ...
Eu.—Ah! may the Heav'ns grant this! Belovèd daughter! ...
I did not think that thou wert capable
Of such a stern resolve: I always hoped
That thou at last would close my dying eyes. ...
My.—I should have chosen thee, and thee alone,
If I, by any means, could have resolved
To take an inmate of this palace with me. ...
But on this point am I inflexible. ...
Eu.—And at to-morrow's dawn thou go'st from hence? ...
My.—I from my parents have at length obtain'd
Permission to do this; the rising sun
Will see our vessel wafted from this shore.
Eu.—Auspicious be the day to thee! ... Could I
Know thou wert only happy! ... 'Tis, in truth,
A cruel and a mortifying joy,
That thou dost manifest in leaving us. ...
Yet, if it please thee, I will weep, though mute,
With thy afflicted mother. ...
My.—Wherefore thus
My heart already too assailable
Dost thou assail? ... Why force me thus to weep? ...
Eu.—And how can I suppress my bursting tears? ...
This is the last time that I shall behold,
And shall embrace thee. Thou forsakest me,
With many years bow'd down, and still more bow'd
With wretchedness. I shall be in my grave
At thy return, if that should ever be:
Some tears, I hope that ... thou at least wilt give ...
To the remembrance ... of thy Eurycleia. ...
My.—For pity's sake ... O! quit me; or at least
Be silent.—I command thee; hold thy peace.
It is my duty now to be to all
Inflexible; and chiefly to myself.—
This is a day to nuptial joy devoted.
Now, if thou e'er hast loved me, I require
Of thee to-day the last hard proof of this;
Restrain thy tears, ... and mine.—I see already
My spouse approaching. Let all grief be mute.

SCENE II.

Pereus, Myrrha, Eurycleia.

Pereus.—Thy father, Myrrha, hath transported me
With unexpected joy: my destiny,
Which I expected trembling, he himself
Hath cheerfully announced to me as happy.
Since thou wilt have it so, to-morrow's dawn,
At thy command, shall see my sails unfurl'd.
At least I'm pleased that both thy parents yield
Contentedly and placidly to this:
For me no other pleasure can there be,
Save that of satisfying thy desires.
Myrrha.—Yes, much-loved spouse; for by this tender name
Already I accost thee; if a wish
My bosom ever fervently inspired,
I am all-burning at the break of day
To go from hence, in company with thee,
And so I will. To find myself at once
With thee alone; no longer to behold
Display'd before my sight the many objects
So long the witnesses, perchance the cause,
Of my distress; to sail in unknown seas;
To land in countries hitherto unseen;
To breathe a fresh invigorating air;
And evermore to witness at my side,
Beaming with exultation, and with love,
A spouse like thee; all this, I am convinced,
Will in a short time make me once again
Such as I used to be. Less irksome then
I trust that I shall be to thee. Meanwhile,
My state will stand in need of some indulgence;
But, be assured that this will not last long.
My grief, if never to my mind recall'd,
Will be eradicated soon. Do thou,
Of my abandon'd and paternal realm,
Of my disconsolate and childless parents,
In short, of nothing, that was once my own,
Once precious to my heart, remind me ever,
Nor even breathe to me their thrilling names.
This, this will be the only remedy
That will forever staunch the bitter fount
Of my all-fearful, never-ceasing tears.
Pe.—Strange and unparallel'd is thy design,
O Myrrha: ah, may Heav'n in mercy grant
That thou mayst not, when 'tis too late, repent it!—
Yet, though my heart the flatt'ring thought admits not
Of being dear to thee, I am resolved
Blindly to execute each wish of thine.
Provided that my destiny decrees
That I should ne'er be worthy of thy love,
My life, which only for thy sake I keep
(That life which I had sacrificed already
With my own hand, if I had been to-day
Forced to relinquish thee), this life of mine,
Since for this sacred purpose thou hast deign'd
To make a choice of me, I consecrate
Forever to thy grief. To weep with thee,
If thou shouldst wish it; with festivity,
And mirthful sports, to make the time pass by
With lighter wings, and cheat thee of thy cares;
With care unceasing, to anticipate
All thy desires; to show myself at all times,
Whichever most thou wishest me to be,
Thy husband, lover, brother, friend, or servant;
Behold, to what I pledge myself: in this,
And this alone, my glory and my life
Will all be centred. Yet, by this unmoved,
If thou canst never love me, still, methinks,
I cannot be the object of thy hate.
My.—What say'st thou? Learn, ah! better learn to know,
Better to value Myrrha and thyself.
To thy so numerous endowments, thou
Addest such boundless love, that thou deservest
A far, far diff'rent object to myself.
Love in my bosom will enshrine his fires,
When he has clear'd it of its blighting tears.
An ample and indubitable proof
Of this, thou'lt find, in seeing that to-day
I choose thee as the healer of my woes;
That I esteem thee, that with lofty voice
I hail thee as my only true deliv'rer.
Pe.—Thou dost inflame me with excessive joy:
Never till now did accents sweet as these
Flow from thy beauteous lips: within my heart
Engraved in characters of fire they live.—
Behold, the priests, and all the festal train,
And our dear parents, hither come. My spouse,
Ah! may this moment be to thee propitious,
As it is now the brightest of my life!

SCENE III.

Priests, Chorus of Children, Maidens, and old Men; Cinyras, Cecris, People,
Myrrha, Pereus, Eurycleia.

Cinyras.—Belovèd children, I infer, at least,
A joyful augury from seeing you
Going before us to the sacred rite.
On thy face, Pereus, transport is express'd;
And I behold my daughter's countenance
Serene and resolute. The deities
With looks benign assuredly regard us.—
With copious incense be the altars heap'd;
Peal forth the song, to make the gods propitious;
And let your grateful and devoted hymns
In sounding accents echo to the skies.
Chorus.—Hymen, benignant deity, of Love
The brother, of frail man the soothing friend;
On us propitiously do thou descend;
And bid henceforth these happy votaries prove
A flame so pure from thy inspiring breath,
That nothing may extinguish it, but death.—
Children.—Come to us, Hymen, with triumphant joy;
Borne on thy brother's wings, descend below;
Maidens.—With his own craft deceive the treach'rous boy,
Rob him of darts, of quiver, and of bow.
Old Men.—But do thou come exempt from all his arts,
His soft caprices, and insidious sighs:
Chorus.—And deign, O Hymen, to unite two hearts,
In mutual love unmatch'd, with thy firm ties.
Eurycleia.—Daughter, what ails thee? dost thou tremble? ...
Heav'ns! ...
Myrrha.—Peace... peace ...
Eu.—But yet———
My.—No, no; I do not tremble.———
Chorus.—Mother sublime of Hymen, and of Love,
A goddess e'en among the gods art thou;
Whose high supremacy in heav'n above,
Or in the earth, none dare to disavow;
From old Olympus' heights, O Venus, deign
Upon this pair propitiously to smile;
If e'er the rites of this thy sacred isle
Thy kind protection haply might obtain.
Children.—Those peerless charms from thee derive their birth,
Bestow'd on Myrrha with such lavish wealth;
Maidens.—Restoring her once more to joy and health,
Be pleased to leave thy image on the earth;
Old Men.—Lastly, make her the mother of a race
So noble, that their father may confess,
Grandsires, and subjects, that past wretchedness
Is all forgotten in their matchless grace.—
Chorus.—Benignant goddess, gloriously unfold,
From the pure azure of the heav'nly height,
Drawn by thy swans with plumes of downy white,
Throned in thy chariot of translucent gold,
Thy form majestical; and by thy side
Have thy two sons; thy rosy veil so fair,
As at thy shrine they kneel, cast o'er this pair,
And let two bodies one sole spirit hide.
Cecris.—Yes, daughter, yes; with meek subserviency
Thou always soughtest to secure the favor
Of our all-pow'rful goddess. ... But, alas! ...
Thy count'nance changes? ... Thou art faint, and trembling? ...
And scarce thy falt'ring knees———
My.—For pity's sake,
Do not, O mother, with thy accents bring
My constancy to too severe a test:
I cannot answer for my countenance; ...
But this I know, the purpose of my heart
Is steady and immutable.
Eu.—I feel
As if, for her, I were about to die.
Pereus.—Ah! more and more her countenance is troubled? ...
O what a tremor now assaults my frame!—
Chorus.—Pure Faith, and Concord, lasting and divine,
Have placed in this fond couple's breast their shrine;
And fell Alecto, and her sisters dread,
In vain their torches' lurid glare would shed
On the brave bosom of the bride so fair,
Whose praises all our pow'r exceed:
While deadly Discord, frantic with despair,
Upon himself in vain doth feed. ...
My.—What is it that ye say? My heart already
By all the baneful Furies is assail'd.
See them; the rabid sisters round me glare
With sable torches, and with snaky scourge:
Behold the torches, which these nuptials merit. ...
Cin.—O Heav'ns! what do I hear?
Ce.—My child, thou ravest. ...
Pe.—O fatal rites! ye ne'er shall be perform'd. ...
My.—But what? the hymns have ceased? ... Who to his breast
Thus clasps me? Where am I? What have I said?
Am I a spouse already? ...
Pe.—Thou art not,
Myrrha, espoused; nor shalt thou ever be
The spouse of Pereus: this I swear to thee.
Not less intense, but different to thine,
The execrable Furies tear my heart.
Thou hast made me a fable to the world;
And to myself, e'en more than I'm to thee,
An object of abhorrence: I for this
Will not make thee unhappy. Thou hast now,
Though 'gainst thy will, in full betray'd thyself:
And thou hast finally beyond all doubt
Proved the invincible and long aversion,
Which thou hast cherish'd tow'rds me. Both are happy,
That thou hast thus betray'd thyself in time!
Now from the self-imposed and hated yoke
Art thou released forever. Safe art thou,
And from all ties exempt. Henceforth will I
Remove forever from thy troubled sight
My odious presence. ... Satisfied, and happy,
I'll make thee now. ... Ere long shalt thou be told
What was the last resource of him who lost thee.

SCENE IV.

Cinyras, Myrrha, Cecris, Eurycleia, Priests, Chorus, People.

Cinyras.—The rite is now profaned; hence, hence this pomp,
This ineffectual pomp; let all hymns cease.
Meanwhile, O priests, withdraw elsewhere. I fain
(Unhappy sire!) would weep at least unseen.

SCENE V.

Cinyras, Myrrha, Cecris, Eurycleia.

Eurycleia,—Ah! far more dead than living, Myrrha stands:
See ye that I can scarce support her form?
O daughter! ...
Cinyras.—Women, leave her to herself
A prey, and to her own flagitious Furies.
She, with her unexampled waywardness,
Spite of myself, at last hath render'd me
Inflexible and cruel: for her state
No more I feel compassion. She herself,
Almost against the wishes of her parents,
Would to the altar come: and this alone
To shame us with her own disgrace and ours? ...
Thou too compassionate, deluded mother,
Leave her: if hitherto we were not stern,
The day at length is come to be so.
Myrrha.—Yes:
'Tis as it should be: Cinyras, be thou
With me inexorable; for naught else
I wish; naught else I will. He, he alone
Can terminate the bitter martyrdom
Of an unhappy and unworthy daughter.—
Plunge thou within my breast that vengeful sword,
Which now is hanging idly by thy side:
Thou gavest me this wretched, hateful life;
Take thou it from me: lo! the last, last gift
For which I supplicate thee. ... Ah, reflect,
If thou thyself, and with thy own right hand,
Dost not destroy me, thou reservest me
To perish by my own, and for naught else.
Cin.—O daughter! ...
Cecris.—O sad words! ... O speechless anguish! ...
Ah! thou'rt a father; thou a father art; ...
Wherefore exasperate her? ... Is she not
Sufficiently afflicted? ... Thou see'st clearly
That she is scarce the mistress of herself;
Her reason sinks beneath her mighty anguish. ...
Eu.—O Myrrha, ... daughter, ... dost thou hear me not? ...
My tears, ... prevent ... my utterance ...
Cin.—O state! ...
By such a dreadful sight I am o'ercome ...
Ah! yes, I am e'en yet too much a father;
And of all fathers most unfortunate. ...
Already by compassion, more than rage,
Am I possess'd. I will betake myself
Elsewhere to weep. Watch over her, meanwhile.—
As soon as she shall have regain'd her reason,
She must prepare to hear her father speak.

SCENE VI.

Cecris, Myrrha, Eurycleia.

Eurycleia.—Ah see, once more her senses she resumes. ...
Cecris.—Leave me alone with her. good Eurycleia;
I would speak to her.

SCENE VII.

Cecris, Myrrha.

Myrrha.—Has my father gone? ...
He, then, he will not kill me? ... Ah, do thou
In pity, mother, give to me a sword;
Ah, yes; if there indeed remains in thee
The shadow of thy love for me, a sword
Give me thyself, without delay. I am
In full possession of my faculties;
And well I know the mighty consequence
Of this my fervent prayer: ah, trust for once
My judgment; trust it while there yet is time:
Thou wilt repent hereafter, but in vain,
If thou to-day dost grant me not a sword.
Cecris.—Belovèd child, ... O Heav'ns! ... assuredly
From grief thou ravest. From thy mother thou
Wouldst never ask a sword. ... Now let us speak
No more of nuptial rites: a strength of mind,
Not to be parallel'd, hath led thee on
To execute thy promise; but, in truth,
Stronger than self was nature: fervently
For this I thank the gods. Thou shalt be ever
Clasp'd in the arms of thy indulgent mother:
And if to endless tears thou'rt self-condemn'd,
I will weep also evermore with thee.
Nor ever, even for an instant, leave thee:
We will be one in all things; e'en thy grief,
Since it will not abandon thee, will I
Appropriate to myself. And thou shalt find
In me a sister, rather than a mother. ...
But what, O Heav'ns, is this? ... Belovèd child, ...
Art thou incensed against me? ... repellest me? ...
Refusest to embrace me? and dost dart
Indignant and exasperated looks? ...
Alas! O daughter, ... e'en towards thy mother? ...
My.—Ah! too much it increases my despair,
Even the seeing thee: thou, more and more,
Rendest my heart when thou embracest me. ...
Alas! ... what do I say? ... Belovèd mother! ...
A vile, ungrateful, and unworthy daughter
Am I, who love deserve not. Leave thou me
To my dire destiny; ... or if thou feel
For me true pity, I repeat it to thee,
Kill me.
Ce.—Ah, rather should I kill myself,
If I were doom'd to lose thee: cruel one!
Canst thou speak to me, and repeat to me
So horrible a wish?—I rather will
From this hour forth perpetually watch
Over thy life.
My.—Thou, thou watch o'er my life?
Must I, at ev'ry instant, I, behold thee?
Thee evermore before my eyes? Ah, first
I will that these same eyes of mine be closed
In everlasting darkness: I myself
With these my very hands would pluck them first
From my own face. ...
Ce.—O Heav'ns! What hear I? ... Heav'ns! ...
Thou mak'st me shudder. Then thou hatest me? ...
My.—Thou first, thou sole, eternal, fatal cause
Of all my wretchedness———
Ce.—What words are these? ...
O daughter! ... I the cause? ... But, see, thy tears
Gush forth in torrents. ...
My.—Pardon, pardon me! ...
It is not I that speak; an unknown power
Rules my distemper'd organs. ... Dearest mother!
Too much thou lovest me; and I———
Ce.—Dost thou
Deem me the cause? ...
My.—Yes, thou, alas! hast been,
In giving life to such an impious wretch,
The cause of all my woes: and art so still,
If thou refusest now to take it from me;
Now that I importune thee for this deed
So fervently. There yet is time for this;
Still am I innocent, almost. ... But, O! ...
Against such agonies ... my ... languid ... frame ...
No more bears up. ... My strength, ... my senses fail me. ...
Ce.—To thy apartments suffer me to lead thee.
Thou need'st some cordial to restore thy strength;
This transient frenzy, trust me, hath arisen
From too long fasting. Ah, come thou; in me
Fully confide: I, I alone will serve thee.

ACT V. SCENE I.

Cinyras.

Cinyras.—O ill-starr'd, wretched Pereus! Too true lover! ...
Ah, had I been more swift in my arrival,
Thou hadst not then perchance within thy breast
The fatal weapon buried.—O great Heav'ns!
What will his poor bereavèd father say?
Espoused and joyful he expected him;
Now will he see him brought before his eyes,
By his own hands destroy'd, a lifeless corpse.—
But I, alas! am I then less than he
Despairing as a father? Is this life,
The state in which, amid atrocious furies,
The frantic Myrrha pines? and is this life,
To which we're doom'd by her mysterious pangs?—
But I will question her; and I have arm'd
My heart in iron mail. She well deserves
(And this she knows) my anger; as a proof,
She tardily obeys my summons hither:
Yet, my command hath she already heard
By the third messenger.—Assuredly
Beneath these pangs of hers there is conceal'd
Some secret no less dreadful than important.
I, from her lips, will now hear all the truth,
Or never, never more will I henceforth
Admit her to my presence. ... But (O Heav'ns!),
If she's condemn'd to everlasting tears,
Though innocent, by force of destiny,
And by the anger of offended gods,
Should I to such calamities as these
Add the displeasure of a father? Should I,
Despairing, and despised, abandon her
To ling'ring death? ... Alas! at such a thought
My heart doth break. ... But, yet, in part, at least,
'Tis indispensable that I should hide,
From her, in this my last experiment,
My boundless fondness. Never hath she yet
Heard me address her in reproachful terms:
No maiden surely hath a heart so firm,
As may suffice to hear without emotion
The unaccustom'd menace of a father.—
At length she comes.—Alas, how she approaches
With tardy and reluctant steps! It seems
As if she came to die before my eyes.

SCENE II.

Cinyras, Myrrha.

Cinyras.—Myrrha, I never, never could have thought
That thou regardedst not thy father's honor;
Thou hast too certainly of this convinced me
On this day fatal to us all: but yet,
That thou shouldst now reluctantly obey
Thy sire's express and oft-repeated summons,
E'en this was less expected than the other.
Myrrha.—... Thou of my life art arbiter supreme. ...
I did implore from thee ... myself, ... erewhile, ...
And on this very spot, ... the punishment ...
Of my so many, ... and enormous faults. ...
My mother, too, was present; ... wherefore then ...
Didst thou not kill me? ...
Cin.—It is time, O Myrrha,
Yes, it is time to alter thy deportment.
In vain thou usest accents of despair;
In vain despairing and confounded looks
Thou fixest on the ground. Through all thy grief,
Alas, too evidently shame appears;
Guilty thou feel'st thyself. Thy heaviest fault,
Is thy concealment with thy father: hence
His anger thoroughly thou meritest;
And that the partial and indulgent love
I bore to thee, my dear and only daughter,
Henceforth should cease.—But what? thy tears gush forth?
Thou tremblest? shudderest? ... and thou art silent?—
Would, then, thy father's anger be to thee
An insupportable infliction?
My.—Ah! ...
Worse ... than the worst of deaths. ...
Cin.—Hear me.—Thou hast
Render'd thy parents, as thou hast thyself,
A fable to the world, by the sad end
Which thou hast given to thy nuptial rites.
Thy cruel outrage has cut short already
The days of wretched Pereus. ...
My.—Heav'ns! what hear I?
Cin.—Yes, dead is Pereus; and 'tis thou hast slain him.
Soon as he left our presence, he withdrew,
Alone, and by mute anguish overwhelm'd,
To his apartments: no man durst pursue him.
Too late, alas! I came. ... He lay, transfix'd
By his own dagger, in a sea of blood:
To me, his eyes bedimm'd with tears, and death,
He raised; ... and. 'mid his latest sighs, he breathed
The name of Myrrha from his lips.—Ungrateful ...
My.—Ah, say no more to me. ... I, I alone
Deserve to breathe my last. ... And yet I live?
Cin.—The horrid anguish of the wretched father
Of Pereus, I alone can comprehend,
I, who at once am wretched and a father:
Hence, I'm aware what now must be his rage,
His hatred, and his thirst to wreak on us
A just and bitter vengeance.—Hence, not moved
By terror of his arms, but by a just
Compassion for his son, I am resolved
To know from thee, as doth befit a father
Offended and deceived (and at all risks
Do I insist on this), the real cause
Of such a horrible catastrophe.—
Myrrha, in vain wouldst thou conceal it from me:
Thou by thy each least gesture art betray'd.—
Thy broken words; the changes of thy face,
Now dyed with scarlet, and with hues of death
Now blanch'd; thy mute and bosom-heaving sighs;
The ling'ring hectic that consumes thy frame;
Thy restless glances, indirect and stolen;
Thy dumb confusion; and the cleaving shame,
And blushing consciousness that ne'er forsakes thee: ...
Ah! all that I behold in thee persuades me,
And ineffectual thy denial is, ...
That these thy furies all ... love's children are.
My.—I? ... love's? ... Ah, think it not! ... Thou art deceived.
Cin.—The more that thou deniest it, the more
Am I convinced of this. And I, alas!
Am but too well assured, that this thy flame,
Which thou so pertinaciously dost hide,
To some degrading object owes its birth.
My.—Alas! ... what art thou thinking? ... Thou wilt not
Destroy me with thy sword; ... and thou meanwhile ...
Destroyest me with words. ...
Cin.—And darest thou
Assert to me that thou'rt untouch'd by love?
And shouldst thou tell me so, and even dare
Also to swear it, I should deem thee perjured.—
But who is ever worthy of thy heart,
If Pereus, true, incomparable lover,
Could not indeed obtain it?—But so fierce
Are thy emotions; ... such thy agitation;
So conscious and so passionate thy shame;
And in such terrible vicissitudes
The conflict of these passions is engraved
Upon thy countenance, that all in vain
Thy lips deny the charge. ...
My.—Ah, wouldst thou then ...
E'en in thy presence ... make me ... die ... of shame? ...
And thou a father?
Cin.—And wouldst thou with cruel,
Inflexible, and unavailing silence,
Poison, and prematurely terminate
The days of a fond father who doth love thee
Far better than himself?—I'm yet a father:
Banish thy fear; whatever be thy flame
(So that I once might see thee happy), I,
If thou confess it to me, for thy sake,
Am capable of any sacrifice.
I saw, and still I see (unhappy daughter!)
The struggle generous and horrible,
Which tears thy heart to pieces betwixt love
And duty. Thou hast done too much already,
To sense of right self-sacrificed: but love,
More pow'rful than thyself, forbids the off'ring.
Passion may be excused; its impulses
Oft foil our best endeavors to resist them;
But to withhold thy secret from thy father,
Who prays for, who commands, thy confidence,
Admits of no excuse.
My.—O death, O death,
Whom I so much invoke, wilt thou still be
Deaf to my grief? ...
Cin.—Ah, daughter, try to calm,
Ah, try to calm thy heart: if thou wilt not
Make me hereafter more incensed against thee,
I am already almost pacified;
Provided thou wilt speak to me. Ah, speak
To me, as to a brother. Even I
Love by experience know: the name———
My.—O Heav'ns! ...
I love, yes; since thou forcest me to say it;
I desperately love, and love in vain.
But, who's the object of that hopeless passion,
Nor thou, nor any one, shalt ever know:
He knows it not himself ... and even I
Almost deny it to myself.
Cin.—And I
Both will, and ought to know it. Nor canst thou
Be cruel to thyself, except thou be
At the same time still more so to thy parents,
Who thee adore, thee only. Speak, ah, speak!—
Thou see'st already, from an angry father,
That I become a weeping supplicant:
Thou canst not die, without condemning us
To share thy tomb.—He, whosoe'er he be,
Whom thou dost love, I will that he be thine.
The monarch's foolish pride can never tear
The true love of a father from my breast.
Thy love, thy hand, my realm, may well convert
The lowest individual to a rank
Lofty and noble: and I feel assured
That he whom thou couldst love, could never be
Wholly unworthy, though of humble birth.
I do conjure thee, speak: whate'er the cost,
I wish thee saved.
My.—Me saved? ... What dreamest thou? ...
These very words accelerate my death. ...
Let me, for pity's sake, ah, let me quickly
Forever ... drag myself ... from thee. ...
Cin.—O daughter,
Sole, and belovèd; O, what say'st thou? Ah!
Come to thy father's arms.—O Heav'ns! like one
Distract, and frantic, thou repellest me?
Thou then dost hate thy father? and dost thou
Burn with so vile a passion that thou fearest ...
My.—Ah no, it is not vile; ... my flame is guilty;
Nor ever ...
Cin.—What is this thou sayest? Guilty,
Provided that thy sire condemn it not,
It cannot be: reveal it.
My.—Thou wouldst see
Even that sire himself with horror shudder,
If it should reach the ears of ... Cinyras. ...
Cin.—What do I hear!
My.—What have I said? ... alas! ...
I know not what I say. ... I do not love. ...
Ah, think it not; O no! ... Ah, suffer me,
I for the last time fervently conjure thee,
To hasten from thy presence.
Cin.—Thankless one:
Now, by exasperating thus my rage
With thy fantastic moods, by trifling thus
With my excessive grief, eternally
Now hast thou forfeited thy father's love.
My.—O cruel, bitter, and ferocious menace! ...
Now, in the anguish of my dying gasp,
Swiftly approaching, ... to my pangs so dire,
So various, and so fierce, will now be added
The cruel execration of my father? ...
Shall it be mine to die, removed from thee? ...
O happy is my mother! ... she, at least,
Press'd in thy arms ... may breathe ... her latest sigh. ...
Cin.—What wouldst thou say to me? ... What dreadful light
Breaks from these words! ... Thou, impious one, perchance? ...
My.—O Heav'ns! what have I said indeed? ... Alas!
Unhappy I! ... Where am I? ... Whither now
Shall I betake myself? ... Where shall I die?—
But now thy dagger may befriend me. ...
Cin.—Daughter! ...
What hast thou done? my dagger ...
My.—Lo! ... to thee ...
I now restore it. ... I at least possess'd
A hand as swift and desp'rate as my tongue.
Cin.—... I'm petrified ... with fear ... and agony,
With pity. ... and with rage.
My.—O Cinyras! ...
Thou ... see'st me ... now ... expiring ... in thy presence. ...
I have ... at once ... both known how ... to avenge
Thee, ... and myself ... to punish. ... Thou thyself,
By dint of force, from out my heart ... didst wrest ...
The horrid secret. ... But, since with my life
Alone ... it left my lips, ... I die ... less guilty. ...
Cin.—O day! O crime! ... O grief!—To whom my tears? ...
My.—Ah, weep no more; ... I merit not thy tears. ...
Shun my contagious presence; ... and conceal ...
From Cecris ... ever———
Cin.—Wretchedest of fathers! ...
And doth the gaping earth not burst asunder
To swallow me alive? ... I dare not now
Approach the dying and flagitious woman; ...
And yet, I cannot utterly abandon
My immolated daughter. ...

SCENE III.

Cecris, Eurycleia, Cinyras, Myrrha.

Cecris.—By the shrieks
Of death brought hither———
Cinyras.—Do not thou advance. ...
O Heav'ns! ...
Ce.—To my dear daughter's side. ...
Myrrha.—O voice!
Eurycleia.—Ah, spectacle of horror! on the earth
Myrrha lies welt'ring in her blood? ...
Ce.—My daughter? ...
Cin.—Stop ...
Ce.—Murder'd! ... How? by whom? ... I will behold her. ...
Cin.—Ah, stop ... and hear with terror. ... With my dagger
She, ... with her own hand, has transpierced herself. ...
Ce.—And dost thou thus desert thy daughter? ... Ah!
I will myself ...
Cin.—She is no more our daughter.
With a detestable, disgraceful love
She burn'd for ... Cinyras. ...
Ce.—What do I hear?—
O crime! ...
Cin.—Ah, come! I pray thee let us go,
To die with agony and shame elsewhere.
Ce.—Impious ... O daughter! ...
Cin.—Come thou! ...
Ce.—Hapless one! ...
Not once more to embrace her? ...

SCENE IV.

Myrrha, Eurycleia.

Myrrha.—When I ask'd ...
It ... of thee, ... thou, ... O Eurycleia, ... then ...
Shouldest ... have given ... to my hands ... the sword: ...
I had died ... guiltless; ... guilty ... now ... I die. ...




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