|Iphigenia Monologue by Jean Racine|
- CLYTEMNESTRA: Fit offspring of a fatal stock!
- Thine is the blood of Atreus and Thyestes:
- Thy daughter's murderer; there but remains
- One horror more, to serve her as a feast
- Before her mother. Savage, this is then
- The gladsome sacrifice thou was preparing
- With artful care! Did not thy hand refuse
- The infamy of writing a command
- So cruel! Why dost thou pretend to feel
- A false distress? Think not that tears can prove
- A love that shrinks from bold defense in arms.
- Why has not blood been shed for her in torrents?
- What wreck and ruin till of thy resistance?
- What field of corpses cover'd seals my mouth?
- Proofs such as these I would have had thee bring me
- Of thine affection and desire to save her.
- A fatal oracle ordains her death!
- But what an oracle may seem to say
- Not always is its meaning. Can just Heav'n
- Thirst for the blood of innocence, or be
- Honour'd by murder? If for Helen's crime
- Her kin are punish'd, for her daughter send
- To Sparta. So let Menelaus ransom
- The wife whose frailty in his eyes seems small
- Match'd with her charms. But surely it is madness
- To make thyself the victim of her sin.
- And why should I, smiting upon my breast,
- With my own flesh and blood pay for her folly?
- Does Helen then, for whom such jealous fires
- Were kindled, curse of Europe and of Asia,
- Seem worthy of thine efforts to regain her?
- How often have we blush'd to speak her name!
- Ere, to his woe, thy brother link'd his fate
- With hers, she had been carried off by Theseus,
- Who, as thou knowest and hast heard from Calchas
- A thousand times, clandestinely unloosed
- Her virgin zone; and, pledge of that amour,
- A princess of her blood has been by her
- Kept in concealment. But a brother's honour
- Is the least cause of thy solicitude:
- That lust of empire nothing can extinguish,
- The pride of seeing twenty monarchs serve
- And fear thee, empire to thine hands confided,
- These are the gods who claim this sacrifice
- From thee, who far from offering resistance
- Dost make a barbarous merit of submission.
- Jealous of pow'r that can excite their envy,
- Thou dost not grudge to pay a heavy price
- From thine own veins, that so thou mayest quell
- All opposition to thy sovereign sway.
- Is this to be a father? Outraged nature
- Revolts at this perfidious cruelty.
- A priest, surrounded by a brutal crowd,
- Will on my child lay hands of violence,
- Rend her bared bosom, and with curious eye
- For omens search her palpitating heart!
- While I, who brought her hither proud and happy,
- Must needs go back alone and in despair!
- Still will the ways be scented with the flow'rs
- That 'neath her feet were scatter'd as we came!
- It shall not be that to her doom I brought her,
- Or thou wilt have to add my death to hers.
- Ay, thou shalt never tear her from these arms,
- While life is mine: no fears can shake my purpose.
- Ruthless alike as husband and as father
- Come, if thou darest, snatch her from the breast
- That nursed her!
Credits: Reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Jean Racine. Trans. Robert Bruce Boswell. London: George Bell and Sons, 1911.