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.

XIPHARES: I love her, and may own my passion
Now that that brother is my only rival.
Doubtless you wonder at the words I speak,
But ’tis no secret of a few short days,
Long has this love of mine grown up in silence.
How I could make you realize its ardour,
My earliest sighs, my latest disappointment!
But in the state to which we are reduced
‘Tis no fit time to task my memory
With the recital of an amorous tale.
Let it suffice, to justify myself,
That it was I who first beheld the Queen,
And loved her. Ere the name of Monima
Had reach’d my father’s ears, her charms had roused
A lawful passion in my heart. He saw her,
And courted her, but with unworthy suit,
Deeming that she would prove an easy conquest,
Without presuming to claim marriage honours.
You know how warmly he assail’d her virtue,
And, weary of a long and fruitless struggle,
Absent, but never parted from his passion,
He by your hands sent her his diadem.
Judge of my grief, when tidings came that told
Too truly of the purpose of the King,
How Monima his destined bride had taken
Her journey hither under your protection!
‘Twas then, ah! odious time, my mother’s eyes
Were open’d to the offers of the Romans.
Whether in jealous rage at these new nuptials,
Or to procure me Pompey’s pow’rful favour,
My father she betray’d, and gave to Rome
The town and treasures to her care entrusted.
How did my mother’s crime affect my feelings?
No more I saw a rival in my father,
I thought not of the love his own had cross’d,
And had no eyes but for my father’s wrongs.
Soon I attack’d the Romans; and my mother,
Distracted, saw me wounded to the death
Recovering the place she had surrender’d,
And with my dying breath cursing her name.
Since then the Euxine has been free, and so
Remains; from Pontus to the Bosphorus
All own’d my father’s sway; his fleet victorious
Found winds and waves its only enemies.
More I would fain have done; I thought, Arbates,
To march upon Euphrates to his rescue,
When I was stunn’d by tidings of his death.
But mingled with my tears, I will confess it,
Back to my thoughts came charming Monima,
Entrusted by my father to your hands.
In these sad times I trembled for her life,
Dreading that in his cruel jealousy
The King, as oft before with many a mistress,
Might means have taken to secure her death.
Hither I flew, and ‘neath Nymphæum’s walls
My anxious eyes encounter’d Pharnaces,
A sight, I trow, of evil augury.
You received both of us, and know the rest.
Hasty in all his actions, Pharnaces
Of his presumptuous wishes made no secret,
Related to the Queen my father’s ruin,
And, since the King was dead, offer’d himself
To fill his place; nor will his deeds fall short
Of words. I too will show what I can do.
The love that bade me reverence a sire
To whom from childhood I have own’d submission,
This very love, now rising in revolt,
Scorns the authority of this new rival.
Either the suit I venture to advance
Must be by Monima herself rejected,
Or else, whatever ill may come of it,
She shall not be another’s, while I live.
Thus have I told the secrets of my heart;
With you it rests to choose the side you take.
Which of us seems the worthier of allegiance,
The slave of Rome, or Mithridate’s son?

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