A monologue from the play by Jean Racine
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Jean Racine. Trans. Robert Bruce Boswell. London: George Bell and Sons, 1911.
Would’st thou have me learn
Now at my age the worthless lore of love?
And shall a heart that years of toil have harden’d
Blindly submit to follow vain delights?
Nay, she attracts my gaze with other charms,
I love in her the blood of royal sires.
Through this alliance to the throne and brought near
By Bajazet, I thus secure a shield
To guard myself against him. Some offence
Is sure to rise, for scarcely has vizier
Been chosen ere the Sultan fears his creature,
And greed or envy soon effects his ruin.
To-day he honours me and courts my favour,
The risks he runs incline his heart toward me.
But stablish’d on the throne, this Bajazet
Perchance will throw aside a useless friend:
And, if my faithful service be forgotten,
The day may come when he will dare to doom me
To death–. I say no more, but ’tis my purpose
To keep him waiting for my head full long.
I know the duty that I owe my masters,
But ’tis for slaves to humour their caprices,
Nor am I so besotted as to lick
The hand that strikes me. Thus it comes to pass
That I within these walls have free admittance,
And with mine eyes may look upon Roxana.
At first she listen’d to my voice, herself
Unseen, and fear’d to break the rigid laws
That guard the harem. But those irksome scruples,
Our converse hampering, ere long were banish’d.
She has herself chosen this nook remote
Where eyes may hearts discover unrestrain’d.
A slave conducts me by a secret passage–
But here she comes, with her loved Atalide.
Stay, and be ready, should there need arise,
To ratify the statement I shall make her.