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

Act V

Scene VII



Madam, you’ve triumph’d, and my son is kill’d!

Ah, but what room have I for fear! How justly

Suspicion racks me that in blaming him

I err’d! But he is dead; accept your victim;

Rightly or wrongly slain, let your heart leap

For joy. My eyes shall be for ever blind:

Since you accuse him, I’ll believe him guilty.

His death affords me cause enough for tears,

Without a foolish search for further light

Which, pow’rless to restore him to my grief,

Might only serve to make me more unhappy.

Far from this shore and far from you I’ll fly,

For here the image of my mangled son

Would haunt my memory and drive me mad.

From the whole world I fain would banish me,

For all the world seems to rise up in judgment

Against me; and my very glory weights

My punishment; for, were my name less known

’Twere easier to hide me. All the favours

The gods have granted me I mourn and hate,

Nor will I importune them with vain pray’rs

Henceforth for ever. Give me what they may,

What they have taken will all else outweigh.


Theseus, I cannot hear you and keep silence:

I must repair the wrong that he has suffer’d—

Your son was innocent.


Unhappy father!

And it was on your word that I condemn’d him!

Think you such cruelty can be excused—


Moments to me are precious; hear me, Theseus.

’Twas I who cast an eye of lawless passion

On chaste and dutiful Hippolytus.

Heav’n in my bosom kindled baleful fire,

And vile Œnone’s cunning did the rest.

She fear’d Hippolytus, knowing my madness,

Would make that passion known which he regarded

With horror; so advantage of my weakness

She took, and hasten’d to accuse him first.

For that she has been punish’d, tho’ too mildly;

Seeking to shun my wrath she cast herself

Beneath the waves. The sword ere now had cut

My thread of life, but slander’d innocence

Made its cry heard, and I resolved to die

In a more lingering way, confessing first

My penitence to you. A poison, brought

To Athens by Medea, runs thro’ my veins.

Already in my heart the venom works,

Infusing there a strange and fatal chill;

Already as thro’ thickening mists I see

The spouse to whom my presence is an outrage;

Death, from mine eyes veiling the light of heav’n,

Restores its purity that they defiled.


She dies, my lord!


Would that the memory

Of her disgraceful deed could perish with her!

Ah, disabused too late! Come, let us go,

And with the blood of mine unhappy son

Mingle our tears, clasping his dear remains,

In deep repentance for a pray’r detested.

Let him be honour’d as he well deserves;

And, to appease his sore offended ghost,

Be her near kinsmen’s guilt whate’er it may,

Aricia shall be held my daughter from to-day.