JUPITER, ALCMENE, CLEANTHIS, MERCURY
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
In truth, Amphitryon, you must be jesting, to talk thus; I
should be afraid anyone who heard you would think you were not sane.
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.
I do not separate what the Gods unite: both husband and lover
are very precious to me.
O Heaven! How delightful are the caresses of an ardently
cherished husband! How far my poor husband is from all this tenderness!
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.