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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,

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

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?

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?

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?

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,

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,

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!

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

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

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

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,

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

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

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

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,

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

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,

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

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?

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

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,

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!

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.

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!

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

Your goodness!