ACT I
Scene III
 

JUPITER, ALCMENE, CLEANTHIS, MERCURY

JUPITER
My dear Alcmene, forbid the torch-bearers to come near. They give me delight in enabling me to see you; but they might betray my being here, and this were best unrevealed. Restrained by all the heavy cares with which the glory of our arms held me bound, my heart has stolen from the duties of my post the moments it has just given to your charms. This theft, which I have consecrated to your beauty, might be blamed by the public voice; and the only witness I want, is she who can thank me for it.

ALCMENE
I take great interest, Amphitryon, in the glory which your illustrious exploits have cast upon you; the fame of your victory moves my heart to its depths. But when I see that this disastrous honour keeps my lover away from me, such is my heart's feeling that I cannot forbear to think ill of it, and to regret the high order which makes you general of the Thebans. It is sweet after a victory to see the glory to which one's lover has been raised; but, from among the perils attached to this glory, a deadly blow, alas! may soon fall. With how many fears is one's heart wounded at the report of the least skirmish! In the horror of such a thought, is there anything that can console for the threatened stroke? And with whatever laurels the victor may be crowned, whatever share one may have in that supreme honour, is it worth what it costs a tender heart, which trembles every moment for its lover?

JUPITER
I do not see anything in you but what inflames my passion; everything shows me a deeply enamoured heart; and, I confess, it is a great delight to find so much love in a beloved object. But, if I may dare say so, one scruple in the tender sentiments which you show me causes me anxiety; and, in order to enjoy you the more, dear Alcmene, my heart would rather see love only, and not duty, in the favours which I receive from you; may they arise solely from affection, and have respect to my person only; let not my condition as your husband be the reason for them.

ALCMENE
Yet it is in that name that the ardour which burns me holds the right to show itself: I do not understand this new scruple which troubles your heart.

JUPITER
The love and tenderness which I have for you far exceeds a husband's; in these sweet moments, you do not realise its delicacy; You do not understand that a heart deeply in love studiously attaches itself to a hundred little trifles, and is restless over the manner of being happy. In me, fair and charming Alcmene, you see a lover and a husband; but, to speak frankly, it is the lover that appeals to me; when near you, I feel the husband restrains him. This lover, who is supremely jealous of your love, wishes your heart to abandon itself solely to him: his passion does not wish anything the husband gives him. He wishes to obtain the warmth of your love from the fountain-head, and not to owe anything to the bonds of wedlock, or to a duty which palls and makes the heart sad, for by these the sweetness of the most cherished favours is daily poisoned. This idea, in short, tosses him to and fro, and he wishes, in order to satisfy his scruples, that you would differentiate where the occasion offends him, the husband to be only for your virtue, and the lover to have the whole affection and tenderness of a heart known to be full of kindness.

ALCMENE
In truth, Amphitryon, you must be jesting, to talk thus; I should be afraid anyone who heard you would think you were not sane.

JUPITER
There is more reason in this discourse, Alcmene, than you think. But a longer stay here would render me guilty, and time presses for my return to port. Adieu. The stern call of duty tears me away from you for a time; but, lovely Alcmene, I beseech you at least to think of the lover when you see the husband.

ALCMENE
I do not separate what the Gods unite: both husband and lover are very precious to me.

CLEANTHIS
O Heaven! How delightful are the caresses of an ardently cherished husband! How far my poor husband is from all this tenderness!

MERCURY
I must tell Night she has but to furl all her sails; the Sun may now arise from his bed and put out the stars.