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.
  • ATHALIAH: While thus disturb'd, before me rose
    The vision of a boy in shining robe,
    Such as the Hebrew priests are wont to wear.
    My drooping spirits at his sight revived:
    But while my troubled eyes, to peace restored,
    Admired his noble air and modest grace,
    I felt the sudden stroke of murderous steel
    Plunged deeply by the traitor in my breast.
    Perhaps to you this dream, so strangely mix'd,
    May seem a work of chance, and I myself,
    For long ashamed to let my fears prevail,
    Referr'd it to a melancholy mood;
    But while its memory linger'd in my soul,
    Twice in my sleep I saw that form again,
    Twice the same child before my eyes appear'd,
    Always about to stab me to the heart.
    Worn out at last by horror's close pursuit,
    I went to claim Baal's protecting care,
    And, kneeling at his altars, find repose.
    How strangely fear may sway our mortal minds!
    And instinct seem'd to drive me to those courts,
    To pacify the god whom Jews adore;
    I thought that offerings might appease his wrath,
    That this their god might grow more merciful.
    Baal's High Priest, my feebleness forgive!
    I enter'd; and the sacrifice was stay'd,
    The people fled, Jehoiada in wrath
    Advanced to meet me. As he spake, I saw
    With terror and surprise that self-same boy
    Who haunts me in my dreams. I saw him there;
    His mien the same, the same his linen stole,
    His gait, his eyes, each feature of his face;
    It was himself; beside th' High Priest he walk'd,
    Till quickly they removed him from my sight.
    That is the trouble which detains me here,
    And thereon would I fain consult you both.
    What means this omen marvellous?