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

Act V

Scene V



I know not what the Queen intends to do,

But from her agitation dread the worst.

Fatal despair is painted on her features;

Death’s pallor is already in her face.

Œnone, shamed and driven from her sight,

Has cast herself into the ocean depths.

None knows what prompted her to deed so rash;

And now the waves hide her from us for ever.


What say you?


Her sad fate seems to have added

Fresh trouble to the Queen’s tempestuous soul.

Sometimes, to soothe her secret pain, she clasps

Her children close, and bathes them with her tears;

Then suddenly, the mother’s love forgotten,

She thrusts them from her with a look of horror.

She wanders to and fro with doubtful steps;

Her vacant eye no longer knows us. Thrice

She wrote, and thrice did she, changing her mind,

Destroy the letter ere ’twas well begun.

Vouchsafe to see her, Sire: vouchsafe to help her.


Heav’ns! Is Œnone dead, and Phædra bent

On dying too? Oh, call me back my son!

Let him defend himself, and I am ready

To hear him. Be not hasty to bestow

Thy fatal bounty, Neptune; let my pray’rs

Rather remain ever unheard. Too soon

I lifted cruel hands, believing lips

That may have lied! Ah! What despair may follow!