Home  »  Phædra  »  Act V

Jean Racine (1639–1699). Phædra.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Act V

Scene III



Your colour comes and goes, you seem confused,

Madam! What business had my son with you?


Sire, he was bidding me farewell for ever.


Your eyes, it seems, can tame that stubborn pride;

And the first sighs he breathes are paid to you.


I can’t deny the truth; he has not, Sire,

Inherited your hatred and injustice;

He did not treat me like a criminal.


That is to say, he swore eternal love.

Do not rely on that inconstant heart;

To others has he sworn as much before.


He, Sire?


You ought to check his roving taste.

How could you bear a partnership so vile?


And how can you endure that vilest slanders

Should make a life so pure as black as pitch?

Have you so little knowledge of his heart?

Do you so ill distinguish between guilt

And innocence? What mist before your eyes

Blinds them to virtue so conspicuous?

Ah! ’tis too much to let false tongues defame him.

Repent; call back your murderous wishes, Sire;

Fear, fear lest Heav’n in its severity

Hate you enough to hear and grant your pray’rs.

Oft in their wrath the gods accept our victims,

And oftentimes chastise us with their gifts.


No, vainly would you cover up his guilt.

Your love is blind to his depravity.

But I have witness irreproachable:

Tears have I seen, true tears, that may be trusted.


Take heed, my lord. Your hands invincible

Have rid the world of monsters numberless;

But all are not destroy’d, one you have left

Alive—your son forbids me to say more.

Knowing with what respect he still regards you,

I should too much distress him if I dared

Complete my sentence. I will imitate

His reverence, and, to keep silence, leave you.