PHAEDRA (alone) Ah, he is gone! What tidings struck mine ears? What fire, half smother'd, in my heart revives? What fatal stroke falls like a thunderbolt? Stung by remorse that would not let me rest, I tore myself out of Oenone's arms, And flew to help Hippolytus with all My soul and strength. Who knows if that repentance Might not have moved me to accuse myself? And, if my voice had not been choked with shame, Perhaps I had confess'd the frightful truth. Hippolytus can feel, but not for me! Aricia has his heart, his plighted troth. Ye gods, when, deaf to all my sighs and tears, He arm'd his eye with scorn, his brow with threats, I deem'd his heart, impregnable to love, Was fortified 'gainst all my sex alike. And yet another has prevail'd to tame His pride, another has secured his favour. Perhaps he has a heart easily melted; I am the only one he cannot bear! And shall I charge myself with his defence?
PHAEDRA Know you, dear Nurse, what I have learn'd just now?
OENONE No; but I come in truth with trembling limbs. I dreaded with what purpose you went forth, The fear of fatal madness made me pale.
PHAEDRA Who would have thought it, Nurse? I had a rival.
PHAEDRA Yes, he loves. I cannot doubt it. This wild untamable Hippolytus, Who scorn'd to be admired, whom lovers' sighs Wearied, this tiger, whom I fear'd to rouse, Fawns on a hand that has subdued his pride: Aricia has found entrance to his heart.
PHAEDRA Ah! anguish as yet untried! For what new tortures am I still reserved? All I have undergone, transports of passion, Longings and fears, the horrors of remorse, The shame of being spurn'd with contumely, Were feeble foretastes of my present torments. They love each other! By what secret charm Have they deceived me? Where, and when, and how Met they? You knew it all. Why was I cozen'd? You never told me of those stolen hours Of amorous converse. Have they oft been seen Talking together? Did they seek the shades Of thickest woods? Alas! full freedom had they To see each other. Heav'n approved their sighs; They loved without the consciousness of guilt; And every morning's sun for them shone clear, While I, an outcast from the face of Nature, Shunn'd the bright day, and sought to hide myself. Death was the only god whose aid I dared To ask: I waited for the grave's release. Water'd with tears, nourish'd with gall, my woe Was all too closely watch'd; I did not dare To weep without restraint. In mortal dread Tasting this dangerous solace, I disguised My terror 'neath a tranquil countenance, And oft had I to check my tears, and smile.
OENONE What fruit will they enjoy of their vain love? They will not see each other more.
PHAEDRA That love Will last for ever. Even while I speak, Ah, fatal thought, they laugh to scorn the madness Of my distracted heart. In spite of exile That soon must part them, with a thousand oaths They seal yet closer union. Can I suffer A happiness, Oenone, which insults me? I crave your pity. She must be destroy'd. My husband's wrath against a hateful stock Shall be revived, nor must the punishment Be light: the sister's guilt passes the brothers'. I will entreat him in my jealous rage. What am I saying? Have I lost my senses? Is Phaedra jealous, and will she implore Theseus for help? My husband lives, and yet I burn. For whom? Whose heart is this I claim As mine? At every word I say, my hair Stands up with horror. Guilt henceforth has pass'd All bounds. Hypocrisy and incest breathe At once thro' all. My murderous hands are ready To spill the blood of guileless innocence. Do I yet live, wretch that I am, and dare To face this holy Sun from whom I spring? My father's sire was king of all the gods; My ancestors fill all the universe. Where can I hide? In the dark realms of Pluto? But there my father holds the fatal urn; His hand awards th' irrevocable doom: Minos is judge of all the ghosts in hell. Ah! how his awful shade will start and shudder When he shall see his daughter brought before him, Forced to confess sins of such varied dye, Crimes it may be unknown to hell itself! What wilt thou say, my father, at a sight So dire? I think I see thee drop the urn, And, seeking some unheard-of punishment, Thyself become my executioner. Spare me! A cruel goddess has destroy'd Thy race; and in my madness recognize Her wrath. Alas! My aching heart has reap'd No fruit of pleasure from the frightful crime The shame of which pursues me to the grave, And ends in torment life-long misery.