3. Act, 3. Scene
Tartuffe and Elmire
TARTUFFE: Our love for the beauty which is eternal, stifles not in us love for that which is fleeting and temporal; and we can easily be charmed with the perfect works Heaven has created. Its reflected attractions shine forth in such as you; but it is in you alone that its choicest wonders are centred. It has lavished upon you charms which dazzle the eye, and which touch the heart; and I have never gazed on you, perfect creature, without admiring the Creator of the universe, and without feeling my heart seized with an ardent love for the most beautiful picture in which He has reproduced Himself. At first I feared that this secret tenderness might be a skilful assault of the evil one; I even thought I would avoid your presence, fearing you might prove a stumbling-block to my salvation. But I have learnt, O adorable beauty, that my passion need not be a guilty one; that I can reconcile it with modesty; and I have given up my whole soul to it. I know that I am very presumptuous in making you the offer of such a heart as mine; but in my love I hope everything from you, nothing from the vain efforts of my unworthy self. In you is my hope, my happiness, my peace; on you depends my misery or bliss; and by your verdict I shall be for ever happy, if you wish it; unhappy if it pleases you. I know that such language from me seems somewhat strange; but after all, I am not an angel; and, if you condemn the confession I make, you have only your own attractions to blame for it. As soon as I beheld their more than human beauty, my whole being was surrendered to you. The unspeakable sweetness of your divine charms forced the obstinate resistance of my heart; it overcame everything -- fasting, prayers, and tears -- and fixed all my hopes in you. A thousand times my eyes and my sighs have told you this; to-day I explain myself with words. Ah! if you consider with some kindness the tribulations and trials of your unworthy slave, if your goodness has compassion on me, and deigns to stoop so low as my nothingness, I shall ever have for you, O marvellous beauty, a devotion never to be equalled. With me your reputation runs no risk, and has no disgrace to fear. All those court gallants upon whom women dote, are noisy in their doings, boastful in their talk. Ever vain of their success, they never receive favours without divulging them; and their indiscreet tongues dishonour the altar on which their hearts sacrifice. But men like me burn with a hidden flame, and secrecy is for ever assured. The care which we take of our own reputation is a warrant to the woman who accepts our heart, that she will find love without scandal, and pleasure without fear.