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Semiramis and other plays / by Olive Tilford Dargan. Burke, Fielding, 1869-1968. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images University of Kentucky, Electronic Information Access & Management Center Lexington, Kentucky 2002 b92-198-30751380 Electronic reproduction. 2002. (Beyond the shelf, serving historic Kentuckiana through virtual access (IMLS LG-03-02-0012-02) ; These pages may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Semiramis and other plays / by Olive Tilford Dargan. Burke, Fielding, 1869-1968. Brentano's, New York : c1904. 255 p. ; 20 cm. Coleman Semiramis -- Carlotta -- The poet. Microfilm. Atlanta, Ga. : SOLINET, 1994. 1 microfilm reel ; 35 mm. (SOLINET/ASERL Cooperative Microfilming Project (NEH PS-20317) ; SOL MN04496.01 KUK) Printing Master B92-198. IMLS This electronic text file was created by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). No corrections have been made to the OCR-ed text and no editing has been done to the content of the original document. Encoding has been done through an automated process using the recommendations for Level 1 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Digital page images are linked to the text file. Carlota, Empress, consort of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, 1840-1927 Drama. Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 Drama. SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS This page in the original text is blank. SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS BY OLIVE TILFORD DARGAN BRENTANO'S NEW YORK 1904 Copyright 1904 By Olive Tilford Dargan [Stage rights reserved] THE LITERARY COLLECTOR PRESS GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT CONTENTS SEMIRATMIS CARLOTTA THE POET 175 ERRATA Page 33, line 2, for No more! read No more " 95 " 30 " unpalling " unpaling " 123 " 32 " sacrifices " sacrifice " 190 " 6 " bloom " blown " 196 " 22 " mummy " mammy SEMIRAMIS This page in the original text is blank. ACT I. SCENE 1. The tent of iMenones ACT Il. SCENE 1. Hall in the palace of Ninus ACT III. SCENE 1. The gardens over the lake ACT IV. SCENE 1. The tent of Husak CHARACTERS NINUS, king of Assyria HUSAK. king of Armenia KHOSROVE, son of Husak MENONES, governor of Nineveh ARTAVAN, son of Menones SUMBAT, friend of Artavan VASSIN, officer of the king HADDO, a -guard ARMIN, a guard DOKAHRA, woman to Semiramis SOLA, wife of Artavan SEMIRAmIs, daughter of Menones Officers, heralds, messengers, guards, soldiers, dancers, c SE MIRAM. IS ACT I. Scene: Within the tent of Alenones, on the plain before Nineveh. Left, centre, entrance to tent from the plain. Curtains rear, forming partition with exits right and left of centre. The same at right, with one exit, centre. Couch rear, between exits. From a tent-pole near exit, right centre, hang helmet and a suit of chain armor. Sola parts curtains rear, left, and looks out, showing, effort to keep awake. She steps forward. Sol. Hist! Armin! Haddo! (Enter two guards, left centre) Still no news Arm. None, lady. Sol. Oh, Artavan, what keeps thee Haddo. He will come. Sol. Semiramis is sleeping. I am weary, But I'll not sleep. 10 SEA[IIRAM1IS AND OTHER PLA YS Arm. Rest, madam; we will call you. Sol. My lord shall find me watching, night or day! Arm. Two nights you have not slept. Sol. Ten thousand nights, I think, good Armin. Had. We will call you, madam. Arm. With the first hoof-beat ringing from the north! Sol. (At curtains, drowsily) I '11 be-awake. (Goes in) Had. She'll sleep now. Arm. Ay, she must. Had. And I d not call her for god Bel himself! Arm. Hark! (Goes to entrance) 'Tis a horseman! Had. (Following him) Two! Arm. Right! We must rouse The lady Semiramis. Had. MN1ake sure 'tis he. (They step out) Voice without. Is this Menones' tent Arm. (W17ithout) Ay, Sir! The word! Voice. God Ninus! (Semiramis enters, through curtains right centre) Sem. Artavan! His voice! (Enter Artavan, followed by Sumbat who waits near entrance) Sem. My brother! Art. Semiramis! (Embracing her) Three years this kiss Has gathered love for thee! Sem. Has 't been so long Since I left Gazim Art. Ay,-since Ninus called Our father here, and Gazim lost her dove. Sem. (On his bosom, laughing softly) The dove of Gazim,-so they called me then. iSEMIRAMIIS1 But now- (proudly, moving from him) the lioness of Nineveh! Art. A warrior's daughter! Sem. And a warrior's sister 0, I have prayed that you might come! The king Is gracious-loves the brave- Art. Our father Sem. Ah ! Art. He 's wvell Sem. Is't day Art. Almost. Sem. At dawn he meets The Armenians on the plain. Art. Then he is -vell! Sem. He went forth well,- and brave as Nxhen he drove The Ghecs from Gazim with his single sword! But-oh-he needs you, Artavan, he needs you! (Comes closer, speaking rapidly) I'm with him night and day but when he battles- I buckle on his arms-cheer him away- And wipe the foe's blood from his mighty sword When he returns! But I 've a fear so strange! At times he 'S moved quite from himself,-so far That I look on him and see not our lather! If I dared speak I'd almost say that he Who never lost a battle shrinks from wvar! Art. (Starting) No, no! Not that! You borrow eyes of fear And see what is not! Sem. But I've felt the drops Cold on his brow, and raised his lifeless arms Whose corded strength hung slack as a sick child's! 0, it is true! And you must stand by him! Fight at his side! I thought to do it! I! 11 121 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS See here, my armor! (viljo ing with him to where the armor hangs) When I had this made And swore to wear it in the fight, 'twas then He yielded-said that you might come- (Sound of trumpets at distance. They listen) The charge! Art. I go to him! Sem. (Taking a paper from her bosom) Take this! He'll understand! 'Tis some direction later thought upon! Art. My wife is safe- Sem. With me! Three days ago She came. And now she sleeps- (Points to curtains, rear left) Art. In there One kiss- Sem. Nay, nay, you go to battle, and should keep Steel in your eye, not woman's tears! . . . Who comes With you (Looks toward entrance where Sumbat stands) 0, Sumbat! (He advances and drops on knee. She gives him both hands and he rises) Welcome! But no time For gallant greetings! We are warriors here! (A roll of battle is heard) Art. We go . Sem. Ride! ride! The battle over, ye Shall meet the king! (Arta van and Sumbat hasten out. The noise of de- parture brings Sola to curtains) Sol. What is it Who was here Sem. (Absorbed) They'll reach my father! Sol. Not Artavan Sem. Ay-he. SEMIRAMIS Sol. And gone- my husb)alnid! Without a word-a look! Sem. The battle calls, And he who wears ambition's spur must ride! Sol. Ambition! 0, vou think of naught but war And glory! Hast thou no heart, Seiniramnis Sem. I faith, and love thee with it! (kisses her) Sol. Trifle not! Hadst thou a heart thou couldst not live a maid, So beautiful, and never dream of love! Thou 'rt somne strange thing- Sem. What, wilt be angry Come I'll tell thee all he said- thy Artavan,- Ay, every word, and how his eves grew soft With dimness sweeter than their vanquished light When thou wert his dear theme! (They move to curtains. Semiramis stops and lis tens) Go in. I'll come. (Sola goes in) Sem. (Listening) Is that a chariot My father! Nav! He 's safe with Artavan! Whatever comes His son will be his heart and bear him up! Safe, safe, lenones, and thv grizzled locks Shall wear their laurels to an honored grave! (NVoise ot'approaching chariot) It is a chariot! Can it be the king (Chariot stops without) Armin, who is it comes Arm. (Appearing at entrance) The Lord Menones. (Semiramis sways, steadies herself, and waits. Menones enters, livid and trembling. In lbrm he is large and mightyv, but is greyt with ag-e. He staggers over to couch and sits upon it, groaning heavily. Semiramis looks at him in silence. Then approaches and speaks in a low terrified tone) 13 14 SEMVIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA l S Sem. You fled the battle! .Men. Oh! Sem. You must go back! Men. Too late! Sem. (Gaining courage and putting her hands sternly on his shoulders) No! Men. We must fly! Sem. Fly! Never! M7len. (Rising) Come! The chariot! The king will leave niv race No blood on earth! Sem. If it be coward's blood 'Tis better lost! Men. Come, come! We yet can fly! Sem. Back to the battle! There I'll go with thee! Men. I can not! Oh, the terror's here-here-here! It clutches at my heart! Sem. Tear out thy heart And keep thy honor whole! (He falls on the couch, shaken with suffering. She kneels by him pleadaig passionately) Sem. Up, father, up! You must go back! You know not what you've done! Our Artavan- Men. Praise Bel, he's safe in Gazim! Sem. No . .. he is here . .. he came, and rode to find you. Men. He came Gods, no! Sem. Nay, true! He's in the battle! Now you will go! You will go back, my father! He does not know the plan! He can not lead Without your counsel! Come-your voice-his arm- And all is safe! (He rises; noise of battle; he sinks shuddering) Men. No-I'll die here-not there! SEMIRAMIS1 (Semiramis stands in despair; then lifts her arms praying) Sem. 0 mighty Belus, give me back my father! (She listens with sudden eagerness and goes to tent door) False! false! They're verging south! North, north, ye cowards! (Rushes to her armor and takes it down. Shakes the curtains right, and calls) Dokahra! (Throws off her robe and begins putting on armor. Enter Dokahra, right centre) Dok. Mistress! Sem. Buckle here! Be quick! Men. You shall not go! Sem. You have no might or right To stay me now! MAlen. You will be lost! Sem. Lost No! Did I not plan this battle Haste, Dokahra! Our lives are in your fingers! Courage, father! (Going, Dokahra still adjusting armor) The king has smiled on me-I do not know- But there was such a promise in his smile- And if the victory's mine he will forgive! Dok. This rivet, mistress! (Noise of battle) Sem. Artavan, I come! (Rushes out. Sound of chariot rolling away. Dokahra looks stolidly at Menones for a moment, then turns through curtains, right. Menones presses his heart in pain, moans wretchedly, and draws a blanket over his body) Men. Is this the form that bright Decreto loved But where the soul, 0, gods! (Lies shuddering) Voice without. The King! 15 16 SEMIRAMIS A.ND OTHER PLA IS (Mfenones draws blanket over his face and becomes motionless. Enter the king, with Vassin) Xin. (At entrance) Stand here! Godagon, haste! Ride to Menones; say We wait within his tent; his messengers Will reach us here. (A rider spurs off without. Ninus and Vassin ad- vance within the tent) Vas. Your majesty, suppose The Armenians gain, you'll be in danger here. Why come so near for news Nin. For news, good Vassin I had a better reason. Semiramis Tents with her father. (Points to curtains) Vas. Ah! Nin. The sun will break Through there! Vas. My lord - Vin. She stirs! She comes'! Wait-see! (Dokahra's gaunt figure appears at curtains) leas. A false dawn, is it not K in. Your mistress sleeps Dok. (Abasing herself) No, mighty king! .Min. She's up Then give her word We're here. Dok. She's not within, my lord. Mn. Abroad! So soon She's on the general's business Dok. And yours, O king! She's joined the battle! ANin. She! Vas. Ha! ha! Do you believe this Xiin. Ay. ... 'tis so. I know her spirit. Here's mettle for a queen! SE.MIIRA-1MIS17 (Menones uncov-ers and half rises) Ias. You would not make her one, your majesty' Though she should lead your troops to victory, Still is she but your general's daughter, and Assyria's crown is given of gods to gods! Nin. And Ninus knows to keep his race untainted. But all the jewels of a king, my Vassin, Are not worn in his crown. Some in the heart Are casketed, and there this maid shall shine For me alone. Were she of heavenly race- Men. (Starting tip) She is, my lord! (Ninus regards him in astonishment) Nil. What do you here, Menones Speak! Men. (Trembling) I am ill. .Vin. Ill, sir Ha! Now I know! Your daughter leads while you couch safe in tent! She sought to hide your shame! 0, what a heart! But you- Alen. I led, my lord, till illness seized - Nin. Too ill to fight, but not too ill to fly! Hound! hound! My troops are lost! I'd kill you nowv But 'tis an hour too soon! First you must be Of every honor stript! Men. (Kneeling) My lord and king, I know that I must die, but hear a prayer For my brave daughter's sake! Betray her not, Lest thou offend the gods that gave thee life, For she, too, is of heaven! Vas. Ha! Alen. I swear 'Tis true! MIy lord, Decreto was her mother' She met me on the plains of Gazim when This aged figure was called fair, and youth Still fed its fire to manhood's prime; 17 18 , SEMIRAMIIS AND OTHER PLAYS Our babe she left upon a mountain crest And sent her doves to tend it through a year, Then bade me scale the mount and take my own. I did, and named her for Decreto's dove- Semiramis! Nin. What precious tale is this lVas. He thinks to fright you from the maid, my lord. Dok. (Falling at the king's feet) 0 king, 'tis true' Ask thou in Gazim- Nin. Go! (Dokahra vanishes through curtains left rear) Kin. 'Twill take a better lie to save your head! Men. My head Thou'rt welcome to it: 'Tis not that! But she -my daughter- Nin. We will spare her life. Men. (Calmly) It is my prayer that she may die with me. Nin. Not while we love. If e'er she lose her charm, We may remember that you were her father. M11en. (Furiously, forgetting himself) She has a brother yet! Nin. A brother! So ! We'll look to him as well! Thanks for your news ! Men. (Towering up) Though every god in heaven gave thee blood Yet would I spill it! (Lifts his sword; suddenly drops it and falls, press- ing his heart. Ninus and Vassin watch him silently until he is still) Nin. Dead Vas. (Stooping) Ay, dead, my lord. Nin. I would have spared him though I threatened death. SEM11IRAMIS Vas. Have spared the coward Why, your majesty Win. Semiramis has spirit passing woman's; I have no hope to force her to toy arms, And I 'd have wrought her heart to tenderness By mercy to her father. Love is my aim. All else I can command-but that-Guards here! (Enter Armin and Haddo) Not you-my own! But wait-a word! Where sleeps Menones Arm. (Pointing) There, 0 king! (The body of Menones lies behind the king and I assin, unseen bythegaurds. ExeuntArminand Iladdo. Enter the king's guards) .Vin. Take up this body. Place it within. (Guards go in with Menones' body) Vas. What would you do, my lord MVin. You 'll know in time. (Re-enter guards) Hark! You saw nothing! Guards. (Bowing to floor) Nothing, 0 mighty Ninus! (Exeunt) N in. I will have her love! Vassin, this story of her goddess birth Is true! Vas. How knows your majesty Nin. It speaks In all her motions. Every glance and grace Revouches it. E'en your dull eye must know Her beauty is immortal, though her life Is forfeit to the clay and must have end. Vas. Thou 'lt find another fair! Youth blooms and goes! Nin. Not such as hers! Her brow 's a holy page Where chiselling Time dare never set a mark! 19 20 SEMIRA AIS ANVD OTHER PLAYS, The sun hath been her lover, and so deep Hath touched her locks with fire no winter hand Mav shake his kisses out! Vas. Why, thou 'rt in love! (Confused voices without. A messenger runs in and falls at the feet of the king) Nin. Speak, sir! Mses. Assyria wins! The Armenians fly! They've lost their leader- Alin. Khosrove! Is he taken Ales. Taken or slain, I know not which, but know He leads no more the enemy! They fly Before Semiramis! Vin. Semiramis! Ales. Ay, all was rout until she reached the field And spurred the- Voice ot'herald without. Victory! A victory! Ninus is god and king! Cries. A victory! (Enter herald) Herald. Assyria triumphs o'er his enemies! yin. Is Khosrove taken Her. Slain, the people cry! The soldiers hail Serniramis their chief, Call her a goddess, drag her chariot, And shout and swear by Belus' ruling star To be her slaves forever I N in. So they shall. Vas. Your majesty- Anin. Peace, Vassin! Wait and see! (Noise and cries without as Semiramis is drawn toward the tent in her chariot) Nin. Ho' Guards! (The king's guards enter. Ninus passes to right centre, facing entrance opposite. Guards station them- SEMIRAMIS 21 sell-es on each side of him and in his rear. Semiramis en- ters, followed by officers and soldiers. Her helmet is of, her hair falling) rinl. Hail goddess! (Semiramis looks at the king in astonishment, then glances feariully toward Menones' room) X'in. Hail, Assyria's queen Sew. (Faintly) 0 king- (Nimns advances to her. She kneels before him) Ain. Kneel down, Menones' daughter! Rise, The bride of Ninus, nevermore to kneel! (Raises her) This victory is proof, if proof I need, That you are a true daughter of the skies, Mate for the mightiest throne! (To soldiers) Cry festival' Tbh feast of triumph arid the wedding revel Wejii hold together! Go! (Exeunt soldiers, cheering without) Nin. (Taking the hand of Semiramis) To-day thou 'lt come Seem. (WTTithdrawing her hand and bowingher head) I am my king's. Nm. (Passing to exit) The royal chariot, Within the hour, will take you from the tent Unto our palace. (Exeunt Ninus and attendants. Semiramis stands dazed. Sola comes out softly and looks at her) Sem. tn rapture) Ah, my father's safe! I'll tell him! (Hurries toward curtains right, rear, and stops at exit) No . . . I'll wait. This joy is dead If Artavan be lost! (Sola springs toward her with a cry) Sol. Be lost Ah, no! 21 22 SEMIRA.MJlS ANVD OTHER PLA YS XWhere is he Oh, not lost! Sem. He pushed too far Amid the flying troops. Sol. And you -you stole His last look from my eyes! Sem. He may be saved. For Sumbat followed him. He must be saved! We '11 hope till Sumbat comes. Sol. 0, you know naught Of love! Sem. I was his sister, Sola, ere He made thee wife. Sol. A sister! 0, such love Is nothing! Thou wilt smile at it If ever thou 'rt a wife ! (Semiramis is removing her armor. She stops and looks questioningly at Sola; then shakes her head) Sem. Nay, Sola, nay'!. . Help me with this. . . Somehow my heart is gone And armor 's for the brave. (Putting on her robe) Now 't has come back. But beats and whispers like a maiden's own. I am but half a warrior. . . Do not sob. Sumbat will bring us news. . . Ah, he has come! (Enter Sumbat) Sol. (Rushing to him and looking into his face) Oh, lost! (Flies, sobbing, through the curtains, rear left) Sem. Speak. . . Is it true Sum. I fear it is. I could not save him, and they bore him off. Sem. Alive Sum. Alive! Sem. A prisoner! Not slain! Then we may hope! I've captured Husak's son! SEMIRAMIS Sum. Khosrove! Is he not under guard without A man most fair. . . of lordly form, and young Sem. 'Tis he! Have him brought hither instantly! To Hlusak word shall go on swiftest steed That I will yield the prince for Artavan! (Exit Sumbat) He 's safe. . . if there be time. . . if there be time! Husak, the Fierce. . . but he must love his son, And will be merciful to save him. Ay So brave a son. Now I recall his face, It would have made me pause had not my eyes Been dim with triumph. (Enter Sumbat, followed by officers with Khosrove. The officers fall back, leaving the captive before Semi- ramis. He is stripped of all armor, and clothed in a scant tunic revealing a figure of marked strength and grace. He stands erect, but with head bowed, and his arms bound to his sides) 'Sem. (Gazes at him) Ah! . . . (She advances a step) Armenian! (At sound of her voice he lifts his head and looks at her with eager recognition) Sem. (Stepping back) Armenian! Khos. (Proudly) Armenia, by your leave! I am my father's house. Sem. I'm glad 'tis so. Then he should value thee. Khos. He does. Sem. So much That he will spare the life of Artavan If we spare yours Khos. Who is this Artavan Who evens me in price 'Sem. Menones' son. 23 24 SEMIRAMIS AXD OTHER PLA YS Khos. Menones Governor of Nineveh Who fled my sword, fear-cold, and pale with terror Insult not Husak with so poor a suit! That coward's tace- Sem. Am I a coward, sir Khos. (In sudden dejection) These fettered arms make answer, princess. Sem. Nay, I am Menones' daughter, -Artavan My brother! Khos. Not the Assyrian princess 0, Forgive me, lady! I am proud to be Thy brother's price! Sem. What surety have I That Artavan still lives Khos. My word. Officer. His word! 0, noble madam, it is known to all That Husak takes no prisoners of war. They die before his tent. Kshos. Such is the custom- Sem. 0 me, my brother ! Khos. But I can avouch That Artavan still lives. Off Trust not the word Of captive foes, my lady. By wvhat means Can he know this Sem. Speak, sir. Khos. To you alone I'll speak. Sem. Nay -before all! Khos. Unto no ear But thine. Sem. Wouldst save thy life Khos. Perhaps. Wouldst save SEMIIRAMUIS Thy brother Sem. Sumbat, wilt advise me Sum. Trust him, And hear what he would say. Sem. Out then, my friends, I pray you. (All go out but Semiramis and Khosrove.) Now! Khos. My father swore to me Before I led his troops 'gainst Nineveh, All captives should be held at my disposal And bloody custom waived. I would not speak 'Fore all, lest I should rob fierce Husak's name Of terror which is half his sword. Sem. But now He thinks you dead. Khos. Not so. I've sent him word By a sure mouth that I'm unhurt and held A prisoner. Sem. 0 then my brother's safe'! How gracious art thou, Heaven! (Steps towards entrance) Sumbat! Khos. (Stepping before her) Wait! Sem. What more -Khos. All-everything-there's nothing said! Ninus will spare me not! 'Tis thou must save me! Sem. I! No! The king! Khos. Not he! Is Artavan Grown dearer than his hate to Husak Nay- Sem. Sir, fear not Ninus. He will grant my suit. Khos. He will You-you- Sem. I've saved his army! Khos. (Relieved) Ah! No more than that Sem. Enough! 25 26 SEMUIRAMIIIS AND OTHER PLAYS Khos. No! 'Twill not wipe Revenge from out his heart,- and you have saved But that your father threw away. Sem. Peace, sir! Khos. There's but one way for me-escape! Sem. No more! Nay-not another word! Khos. I must escape- Sem. Not one! Khos. That word unsaid slays Artavan, Spoken it saves him! Once in Ninus' power I have no hope of life, and with me dies Your brother. Sem. (Scornfully) Do not fear! Khos. I fear By Heaven! Think you this heart is not a soldier's own Because 'tis captive to a woman's sword A woman's sword! 0 little had thy sword To do wvith my defeat! Unartned thou wouldst Have taken me-for 'twas thy beauty struck My weapon to my side! (rapidly and passionately) When I bore down Upon your chariot, I could have swept you With one arm from the world! But suddenly A missile struck your helmet and dislodged The glory of your face before my eyes, Your hair ran gold, the shining East looked black Behind the star you made upon its breast! I knew thee for a goddess, and stood still Meek captive to thy wish! 0 blest am I To learn thou art not greater than myself, But so much less that I may lift thee up! Fly with me-be my queen - (Semiramis tries to speak) Go, call them in! kSEMIRAAIIS 27 I'll shout above their heads to reach thine ears! 0, trust to mne! In me thy brother lives! Coome, and thy fallen father shall be brave Beneath Armenia's smile! Here thou inayst save His life, but ne'er again will he know honor! H-lip tie to tly and save three lives in one! Give inc to Ninus-give tme up to death, And with a father aind a brother lost, Though thou wert worshipped 'miong thy country's gods Still thou couldst not be happy! Sc"]. Sir- Khos. But collme, And they are safe! Sem. (Beewildered) What do I hear Khos. 0, collie, Dost know what love is, daughter of Xentiones It is the fire that dead puts out the light Oil everv hearth, living makes all the world One altar feeding incense unto Heaven! It gives the soul to life, breath to the soul, Pulse to ambition, strength to warrior arms,- (Struggling with his frtters) Such strength that they may break all captive bonds To clasp their own! (Breaks his fetters and attempts to embrace her as she retreats gazing at him as itf ascinated. She escapes him, and throws off her bewilderment. Ile drops to his knees holding out his arms to her) And love I offer thee! Sem. Sir, I forgive thee, for thou knowest not To whom you speak! Khos. Know not! Sem. I who am now Menones' daughter, ere the night shall be The bride of Ninus, king of all Assyria! 28 SEM1I1RAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS (Khosrove rises, bows before her, and stands with silent dignity) Sem. You-you-were saying- Khos. Nothing, royal madam. Have you not friends without (Semiramis hesitates, goes to door and calls) Sem. Sumbat! (To Khosrove) Thou 'rt safe! Khos. (Ironically) Assyria's queen should know! Sem. She does! (Re-enter Sumbat and officers) Sum. Unbound! Sem. Ay, he is free! We only wait the word Of gracious Ninus. Guard him until then, We charge you, Sumbat. Keep you nearest him. (Exeunt Sumbat and officers with Khosrove) Sem. My father now! He must have heard the shouts Of victory, yet still he hides himself. .... The king asked not for love. He is Assyria. I would not lessen him by love. Not yet ... 'Tis my triumphant arms he weds. The heart Must sleep .... Voice of guard at entrance. The king approaches! Sem. Ah! . .. The king! His word, and all is done. I'll speak to him Before I see my father. Then I may say 'Thou art forgiven, and Artavan is safe!' .. And Khosrove .... safe .... The royal chariot!.. 0, mother, send thy doves-I am once more A babe! (The king enters alone) Sin. Art ready for thy king Sem. I am- And yet-a word before I go! Thou know'st That Khosrove is my prisoner- SEMIRAMIS Nini. Khosrove! He! We thought him slain! Sem. Nay, sir- Nin. A prisoner! 0, welcome gift! We ask no other dower! Sem. But, gracious lord - Nin. (Turning to entrance) Ho, Vassin! Khos- rove 's taken! Go! Find him out and drag him straight to dungeon! Bind him with chains until he can not move, Till we've devised some bitter way of death ! Vas. (Without) I haste, my lord! Sem, At last my enemy is 'neath my feet! (Returning to Semiramis) And 'tis to thee we owe this gift of fortune! . . You 're pale, Semiramis. Sem. 0 king - Nin. (Taking her hands) And trembling. Dost fear my greatness Nay, thou ledst my army- Sem. O, if for that thou ow'st me aught, grant mee- Nin. Whate'er thou wouldst! Sem. My brother, Artavan, Is Husak's captive! Thou canst save him! Nin. I Then he is saved! But how! Tell me the way! Sem. Husak will yield him up for Khosrove! Nin. What Send Khosrove back alive! Not though the gods Commanded it! Alive! 'Twas Husak slew My father, and his son shall die! Ten years I've sought for this revenge! And give it up For a green lad fresh from the fields of Gazim Sem. A warrior, sir, who '11 win thee many a battle! And crest thy glory with meridian stars! He's worth the price though pity lent no coin! 29 30 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Save him, my lord! A bridal boon I ask! Give me my brother ! Nin. A bridal boon I'll grant. Thou lov'st thy father Sem. (Choking) You know-that he- Nin. I know. Sem. Great king- Nin. One thou mavst save. Sem. 0 gods! Nin. Thy brother, or thy father Thou mayst choose. Sem. I know my duty, sir. I choose my father. Nin. A noble choice. We are not harsh, mY queen. The people know Menones' life is forfeit, And know how I have sought for Khosrove's death; Did I spare both for your sake they would say That Ninus' scepter is a woman's hand. (Shouts of rejoicing without) But come! The chariot waits. The people call. Sem. First will I tell my father that he lives. He 's waiting there the summons to his death. Ah, I must thank you, sir. (Takes the king's hand and kisses it. Goes through curtains, right, rear. 11cr cry is heard within. She returns.) Too late! Ile's dead! Cold, cold, my father! Oh! (Sobs, her hands covering her face) lin. (Removing her hands and putting his arm about her) Thou'rt not alone, My bride! Sem. (Withdrawing and kneeling to him, her hands upraised) 0 king, leave me my brother! Win. Nay! Did you not have your choice You ask too much. SE.MIRAMIS31 Sem. (Rising) Ah, so I do! I should demand, not ask! Nin. Demand! Sem. Av, king! ... 'Tis true I'm not alone. My goddess mother is again with me As when this morn my heart exultant rode The tides of triumph! When the heavens rolled And like a stooping sea caught up my soul Till ranged with the applauding gods it clapped My courage on below! You offer me A place beside your throne. I offer you The hearts of all your subjects now my own,- The love-the worship of your mighty army! (Cries without) They shout my name-not yours-great Ninus! Hear! Shouts: Semirainis is queen! Semiramis! Sem. I bring a hand, with yours inlocked, shall reach O'er Asia's breadth and draw her glory in! A heart ambitious with immortal beat To make Assyria greatest 'neath the stars! And in return I ask my brother's life! Give me your promise Khosrove goes to Husak, Or leave me where I stand - Menones' daughter! Nin. (Slowly, reading the determination in her face) I promise. Sem. Swear! Nin. J swear it! 'Scm. (Relaxes, falls at his feet, and reaches up, clasping his hands) 0, god Ninus! (CURTAIN) 31 32 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS ACT II. The great hall in the palace of Nineveh. The rear is open, showing the sky and the towers of the city. Along the floor, which is high above the ground court, rear, are sculptured lions. On each side of hall where right and left reach open rear are large entrances, with steps leading up to hall, guarded by spearmen and archers. Within the hall, between winged bulls, are entrances to chambers, right centre and left centre. Near front, right, smaller entrance between figures of men with lion heads. The same opposite, left. The walls of the hall are lined with alabaster slabs on which are sculptured and colored theponquests of Assyrian kings. Ninus alone. Enter Vassin, left centre. Nin. (As Vassin enters) You 've told her I/as. Ay, my lord. Nin. What does she say Does she suspect we ordered Khosrove's torture Vas. I can not answer that. Nin. Then answer this! You're sure that he will die You made good work Vas. Good work, my lord. He can not live a day. Nin. A day! You've hurried then! I bade you fill His wounds with mortal but a lingering bane! Go, have him brought within! He must not die Without my foot upon his neck! (As Vassin is going) What said The queen SEMIRAMIS IVas. She cried 'My brother's lost!' Nin. No more! Vas. 0, then her soul put sorrow's grandeur on, And those about her saw a noble storm; But yet so proud her royal eyes, each drop That fell from them were worth a world To him for whom they fell! Nin. (Aside) He loves the queen! (Enter Semiramis, left, centre) Sem. Is this thing true, my lord 0, surely Heaven Will cry out 'No' though thou must answer 'Ay!' Nin. (To Vassin) Go! (Exit Vassin, right front) Sem. Is it true Nin. Too true, my queen! Khosrove is maimed beyond all hope of life, And thou must make thy husband heir to love That was thy brother's. Sem. Oh! Sin. Thy grief is mine. Sem. I will not weep, though I could shed such streams As when the clouds from riven breast pour down Their torrent agonies! . . . How strange, my lord, The guards should venture so without your warrant! ATin. I've had their heads for it! Sem. (Shocked) Their heads!.. . Why, this 'Tis to be royal! Ah! Nin. Put by these thoughts, Semiramis. No theme to-day but love! Sem. Love, sir Nin. Ay, that! Thou lov'st me, dost thou not Sem. Thou art great Ninus! Nin. I'd be loved as man! Forget my kingdom, and put arms about me As dotb the peasant maid her beggar lord! 33 34 SEMIRAMIS AIND OTHER PLA YS Sem. (Moving from him) I thought thy greatness married my ambition To make Assyria brave e'en to the gods! I'll keep my promise . . . howsoever thine Is broken. Crowned, my glorious purpose beats Higher than any dream my maiden heart Could nourish! I will keep my word. But love If thou wouldst have it--win it! (Starts awaly, then turns back to him) Hast yet found A governor for the city Sin. No. Sem. Delay At this unsettled time Dost think it safe Nin. I've ordered every tower-watch redoubled, Each gate close-locked, and keep the keys myself! None goes or comes till I have found the man For governor. Sem. Would not Vassin serve Nin. (With suspicion) I 've other use for him. Per- chance he'll go From Nineveh. Sem. My lord, there's one from Gazim, Sumbat, thou'It find as true as thine own heart, Wtho with some aid from me- Nin. From you So, so! Sem. (In surprise) I was my father's head and hand, my lord. Who knows the guardian locks and wards and plans Secretive for thy safety but myself Whom thou dost choose must learn somewhat of me. Nin. Ay, you'll nob heads together! Sem. Sir A'in. Well, well- I'll choose a man! SEMIRAMIS (Exit moodilb, right centre) Sern. Strange... but he is the king! . . . Ah, Khosrove! Artavan! . . . Nay, I will think Of nothing hut my duty to the crown! . . . " And with a father and a brother lost-' (Enter Sola, lcft, front. S,'he sees that Semiranmis is allone and advances) `etun. "Though thou wert worshipped, thou couldst not le happy!! Sol. Tell me! When does he comen Xen1. \'Who, child Sol. You ask My husband-Artavan! S9CIIl. I Ie will not conlie. Sol. Art thou not queen Scm. And Ninus king. So!. I-le will not save thy brother cmll. Nay, he can not. Sol. 0 monster king! Scm. Elush, Sola... lie forgave My father. Sol. Oh !-because he knew him dead! Scm. Ile knew him dead! Sol. Ah, I will tell you now' (looks albont guardedly, and speaks in a /olo tone) I saw your father die-and Ninus saw him! I)okahra waked me-and unseen we watched! The king came to the tent-discovered all- I)oomed him to death-you to dishonor! Then Your father rose to strike himn-and fell dead. The king- S'cm. Go! Leave me, Sola! Leave mne! Go! (Exit Sola, left, near front) Sen1. (Stands in silent horror, then .speaks slowly) .1' ll keep my oath. . . and crown. Still will I make 35, 36 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Assyria great. Assyria is the army, And I ... am queen of arms... not love! Not love! (Re-enter Ninus) Sem. (Softly, not seeing Ninus) "Dost know what love is, daughter of Menones " Nin. (Advancing) My bride! Sem. (Turning to him) My lord, I would see Sumbat. Pray Let him be summoned. Nin. Nay, we 've sworn this day Shall be for us alone! Sem. 'T was he I charged With care of the Armenian prince. Nin. My queen Shall not be troubled. Sem. 'T will not trouble me, My lord. Nin. Enough it troubles me! Sem. He'd know Of this foul fault, against your will- Nin. Again That theme! Forget it! Sem. 0, my lord, forget That noble prince So brave-so proud-so fair- Nin. What do you say O you changed eyes with him! Sem. My lord! Nin. This is your grief! Your brother! Ha! Sem. Your majesty- Nin. Not majesty! Fool! Fool! Ho, there! Bring in the Armenian! You shall see This noble prince! So brave-so proud-so fair! Her brother! 0, fool, fool, fool! Sem. This the king Nin. Why, I'm a fool, my lady! SEMIRAMIS (Guards enter right front with a half lifeless body) Look on him! He' s had some kisses since you saw him last That struck full deep! Sem. (Staggering back) Is that - Nin. Ay, it is he! Look on him! 'Tis your Khosrove! Your- Sem. (M11tjestically) Peace, Ninus! When you have knelt to me I'll hear you speak! (Exit left centre) Nin. (Stares after her and becomes calm) Now I have ruined all. She'll not forgive! (Enter Vassin, left, rear) Vas. My lord, the brother of the queen has come. J7in. Not Artavan Vas. Ay, Artavan. Nin. He's here Vas. When Husak had your oath you 'd free his son, Prince Khosrove, Artavan was sent at once To Nineveh. Nin. How could he pass The gates Vas. He passed before your order fell. Nin. We'll welcome him. (Looks toward the queen's room) I'll make my peace with this. (Goes out with Vassin, left, rear. Semiramis enters hesitatingly, sees that Ninus is gone and advances fearfully toward the figure on the floor. The guards stand back, right front. She retreats, covering her eyes; then approaches and bends over the body. Searches his face, and throws up her hands in sudden joy) Sem. Not Khosrove! 0, it is not Khosrove! (Leaves him and hurries to exit, trying to suppress her emotion. Returns to the body) 3 7 38 SEMIRAMIS ANAD OTHER PLA IS Where is the prince Poor wretch! Can you not speak . Are these thy ways, ambition Voice without. Way! Make way-! (Sermiramis hurries to her room. Enter the king, left rcar, walking with Khosrove, and f6lowed by Vassin and Sumbat) Vin. Speak not of going, Artavan! Khos. I must, o king! I pray your leave to go at once To Gazim. Sudden troubles urge me there. I beg your kingly warrant I may pass The gates- in. Nay, you shall stay! Wye shall persuade you! (To attendant) Summon the queen. tier voice wee'll add to ours. Khos. My lord- yin. We like you, Artavan! By Bcl, We do! You're worthy of your sister queen! No more-you'll stay! .... See! This is Khosrovc! (Bends over body on the floor) Is- Or was . . . He lives. . . Think you these bones will hold Until they reach old Husak Now you ve conme, We must keep faith! Ha! ha! Khos. And that-is Khosrove Nin. Truth, 'tisI .... Bear out the dog! (Guards bear off body, righlit front. Enter Seiniram- is. Sumbat crosses to her) Sem. My brother Where Khos. Here! (Advancing to her) Sum. (To Semiramis) Be not amazed And Artavan is safe! Iin. This welcome 's cold Methinks. We gave him warmer greeting. Sem. Sir, Such sudden joy-My brother knows there's none SEMIRAMIS I hold more dear. Nin. How nofw Not one Sem. (Dropping her e)cys from Khosrov e) Yes- one- Perhaps. Nin. (Pleased, taking her handl) We are forgiven Sem. Indeed, my lord. Niin. And for your brother, hear our royal word. We make him governor of Ninevelh! Sem. (In alarm) No! no! Nin. 'Tis done! Go, Vassin, bring the keys' (Exit Vassin, right front) And wear this ring, my general! Khos. My lord, I could not undertake- Ngin. You shall !-The queen Will charge you with all duties. Sewi. No! I will not! Mim. Ay, ay! We know we please you 'gainst your word And not your will. Sem. He is too young, my lord! Nin. Menones was too old. And 'twas yourself Who taught us how to prize your brother. (Re-enter Vassin with a chain of great keys, which the king takes) Come ! (Throws chains about Khosrove's neck, and shngkcs out the keys) The citadel! The southern arsenal! The northern wall-the secret passages- And these the tunnel locks and river gates! You '11 take command at once, and so relieve The city which wre 've shut fast as a tomb, Fearing that spies from Husak's camp might creep Into our bosom. 39 40 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Khos. Wisely done, my lord. Sem. 0 king, if 't must be so, I'll map for him My father's safe division of the city. Nin. To you we leave him. (Talks apart with Vassin and Sumbat) Sem. Sir, what do you mean Khos. (Hurriedly) When Vassin came to take me into charge, Sumbat contrived another should be sent- Sem. We know the rest! But how save Artavan Khos. When I have entered Husak's camp he's free! You trust me Sem. O, I must! I do! But not To save my brother may I trust to you The city's keys! You are Assyria's foe- Khos. Not now! No more a foe, but truest friend! For in my heart you are Assyria, And you I'd serve - Nin. Cut short thy schooling, for The city waits. Sem. (Aloud, mapping in her hand) The river here divides The eastern guard- (lowers her voice) I must not do this! No! Risk every soul in Nineveh- Khos. Did I Not trust thee when I entered here I knew The face that shone upon me in the battle Would not betray me! Who gives perfect trust Is worthy of it! Thou dost know me true By Heaven's sign that only souls may read! I can not say what I would say because Thou art a wife, but wert thou not a wife, Though thou wert thousand times a queen, I'd pour Such worship to your ears you would believe SEMIRAMIIS My heart would rend my boiy's walls and leap Out of my bosom sooner than beat once A traitor to your trust! Take Ninus' ring! Give me this little one-(slipping a ring from her finger) that hath enclosed The sovereign rose and ruby of thy veins That dims his purple power-and thee I serve- Your general-not his! Whate'er you would I will! Command me now - Sem. Enough! Go,go! Lose no more time! Khos. 0, in some dream to come, When innocence may wear what form it will And on thy waking nature leave no blush, May words I must not speak take life and pay The debt they owe this hour! Sem. I beg you go! Assyria's in your hands! Khos. Nay, in my heart! Win. Come, Artavan! No more delay! Your troops Await before the citadel. Khos. Igo, My lord. (Confusion without, left rear. Enter an officer) Off: Pardon, your majesty! A man Who says he 's brother to the queen, makes bold To press before you! Ain. Yet another brother Sem. No, no, my lord! Off He comes from Husak's camp. Sem. It is some madman surely, or a spy Who plays his wits are lost and takes this way To force into the court! Khos. I'll thrust him out! He may mean danger to your person. 41 42 SEMIRAJMIS AND OTHER PLA iS Win. N We '11 sport with him. Let him come in! (Es; lay, vit officer) Sem. My lord- Iin. Your brother! Ho, ho, ho! (tEnter Artavan) Art. My sister! Scm. (Staring) S Art. Though queen, art thou not still my sister Sem. Art. (Bowing wvith scornfil ceremony) Y( ir No! o)ur majesty! bin. Ha! ha! His sister! Then Thou wouldst be brother to the king Art. (Bitterly) My hope Runs not so high, and even to her I now Give up all claim. I'll own no blood but that In my own veins keeps honor! So farewell ! Nin. Be not so fast! Whence contest thou, my nila Art. From Husak's camp. When he received thy word His son should go to him, he set me free. Sem. Oh, set you free! Art. And now, 0 king- Sem. (Seeing that the king is impressed) My lord, If he came from the camp how has he passed The city gates Nin. Ah. . true... he could not pass. Sem. (.Mockingly) Perhaps he scaled the hundred feet of wall, And crossed the rampart 'neath the arrow watch Of towers eighty-score' Art. I found a way, Proud wtoman! lain. How SEMIRAM IS (As Artavan speaks Sola enters left front, and is held aside by Sunmbat) Art. This morning ere the battle She who was then my sister gave me this. (Shows paper) 'Twas some direction sent unto my father, The lord Menones. (Turning paper) On this side Ifound A map whose secret key I knew, that marked A passage 'neath the river. This I sought, Found it unguarded- Nin. By the seven winds ! - (Enter an officer) Off 0 king! 7in. You 're of the northern watch Off I am, 0 king! The Armenians advance upon The northern wall, but come with lances down! Art. They come in peace to meet the son of Husak! Scm. 0, haste, my lord! Haste, Artavan, to duty! Their rage when they shall learn the fate of Khosrove May give them courage to assail our walls! Go, brother! IVIin. Hold! This man speaks not as madmen! Scm. Should I not know my brother, sir Nin. You should. Choose which is he. The other we condemn To death. Art. (Holding out his arms) Save me, Semiramis! Khos. (Holding out his arms) Save me, My sister! Sem. (Going to Khosrove's arms) Brother! Nin. (To Khosrove) Haste thee to thy office! Vassin, attend him! Sumbat, be his chief! We trust where trusts the queen! Sem. (To Khosrove) Give up the keys 43 44 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS To Sumbat! (Exeunt Khosrove, Vassin, Sumbat, left rear) Nin. (To Artavan) You to death! (Signs to guards) Sem. My royal lord, First would I question him alone, and learn The truth about this passage. He may be In league with traitors subtler than himself One moment, sir, I pray. Nin. 0, ever wise! Bribe him with any promise death may keep To tell you all. But do not linger, love; We lose our bridal day! (Exit, right centre. Semiramis looks at Artavan with the greatest tenderness. He gazes coldly upon her, Sola clinging to him) Art. What would the queen Sem. To be again thy sister. Dost not guess That man- Art. Who can he be you prize above Your honor and my life Sem. The son of him Who set you free on Ninus' oath, an oath Broke in the heart ere it had left the lips! Art. My brave Semiramis! You've saved the prince, And with his life my honor! 0, pardon me! Sem. He was escaping in your name when you Arrived too soon - Art. Forgive me that! Sem. And now To save my brother! Art. Hope it not. Be glad That one is safe. Had Khosrove lost his life In Ninus' court, my oath had driven me back To Husak-and to death. No power then Had saved me. Now- Sem. Now thou shalt live ! SEMIRAMIS Art. Nay, see! His guards watch well! There is no way. Sem. No way But through the will of Ninus. He shall save thee! Art. 0, for your own dear life, Semiramis, Let Ninus know not I am Artavan! Sem. He dare not touch me, for the army's mine! (Goes into Ninus' chamber) Sol. My love! Art. 'Tis welcome and farewell, my Sola! Sol. 0, she will save thee! Art. Teach me not to hope. (A band of dancing maidens enter, left, and sing a bridal chorus before the doors of Ninus' chamber) Love and Beauty now are one, No more wandering away! Love 's the sky to Beauty's sun, From him she can not stray, And he is bright by her fair light or none! Love and Beauty dreaming lie, Who shall say it is not meet Who shall say, 0 fie, 0 fie, To the favor sweet That Love will ask and Beauty not deny (Maidens dance out, right. Re-enter Semiramis) Sem. He's wild with rage! I can not calm him! Sol. Oh, To lose thee now! (Enter Ninus. He advances upon Semiramis) Nin. Who is he, then-that man- If not thy brother To whose arms you went As you have never come to mine Sem. A man Whose life you owed to me by holiest promise 45 46 SEMIRAMIS AND) OTHER PLAYS And oath unto the gods! I saved your soul When I so saved- Sin. Speak! Who Sem. The son of Husak, Prince Khosrove, of Armenia! (Utter silence. Ninus stands choked and duimrb; thCn1 moves to strike Scmiramis) Sem. Strike me You strike your army! (Ninus drops his hand and stares at he-r, livid nn(l shaken, then turns fiercely ulpon Artaran) Seyn. (Rushes before him and falls, clinring to his knees) Wait, 0 wait, my lord! If thou dost hope to know my love! Dost dream Of bridal joy! Wouldst rest thy head in peace Upon my bosom, say thou wilt forgive! And I, too, will forgive! No more will ask What thou hast done or not done! All thy past Is fair as Heaven by this moment's sun! I'll love thee as thou hadst been born this hour That gives my brother life! 0, speak the word, And take me to thy heart-thy wife-thy slave- Nin. By earth and heaven, he shall die-and now! (Raises his dagger to strike. Enter Vassin) lVas. (Excitedly) My lord, this is the strangest governor ! He ordered me with Sumbat to lead out The city troops beyond the southern gate, Then spurred to north! Sumbat obeyed, but 1, Not liking this, returned to you! Nin. 'Tis Khosrove! Vas. (Staggered) Then we are lost! Nin. Pursue him! Fly! Call back Our troops! Vas. Too late! By now they're locked without SEMIRAM 4IS The southern wall, and Khosrove rides to ope The north to Husak! Scan. (Aside) False! Do wn, slanderous thought That darkens me not him! That face that looked As Truth had chosen it to show her own To mIla! That voice-each word the enchanted door To holier worlds unspoken! No, I '11 trust! (Enter an officer) Oil: 0, great Assyria, the Armenians come' The Gazim traitor 's sold thee unto Hlusak! Thy foes are pouring through the northern gate And bear down on the palace! Sumbat holds Thy troops lpo)l the southern plain, and bars All passage! There's no help! (Ninus listcs specechless) Attendants. (Running in) 0, we are lost! o/1: The city will he sacked! The palace guards Are but a handful! Scm. False 0, Khosrove! False Then there is no man true E'en Sumbat lost To thy sweet promises! False! false! (Enter a Second officer) 0GUS (Prostrating himself) 0, Ninus! Call on thy gods! Thv enemies are at thee! The palace is enclosed, and every foe Bears in his hand a torch that blazes death To all within! (The inmates of the palace are running to and fro, rear', and looking fearflvly out into the court below) Scm. 0 beauteous gods, is this Your earth Where Falsehood steals vour garments. nav Your smile, seduces with your voice, and stamps Your semblance upon fiends Voices. Save us, 0 king! (Ninus stands immov- able, as if made deaf and dumb by impending disaster) 47 48 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Voice. We burn! They cast the brands! Another. Not yet! They wait! Voices of prostrate figures. Save us, 0 king! Voice. See! see! The leader speaks! Another. His herald! Hear! (A trumpet sounds below) Voice of Khosrove's herald. Assyria, come forth! (All within listen, silent, eager, fearful) Hear thou, 0 Ninus! Hear the word of Khosrove! He will depart with the Armenian troops, And leave the city free of sword and fire, If thou 'it decree that Arta-v-an shall live Free and unharmed! (The face of Semiramis illumines with joy) Deny and Nineveh Shall flame! Nin. My herald there! Stand forth! (The herald of Ninus takes station centre rear) Decree As Khosrove wills! Her. of Khos. Appear, 0 Ninus! Nin. No! Her. of Khos. Appear, 0 Ninus! (Ninus goes slowly to rear and stands by his herald) Her. of Khos. Hear, all Nineveh! Hear the decree of Ninus, king and god! That Artavan, the brother of the queen, Shall freely live, and die by no man's hand! Her. of Ninus. (Blows trumpet, then speaks) Hear the decree of Ninus, king and god, That Artavan, the brother of the queen, Shall freely live, and die by no man's hand! (Silence. The voice of Khosrove below) Khos. Assyria, speak! Nin. I, Ninus, so decree I SEMIRAMIS (Staggers back toward front as all press to rear to see the troops go out. Semiramis, Artavan and Sola stand together gazing out) Sem. 0, Khosrove! See-he rides-away-away! (Leans forward waving her scarf Ninus, alone in front, goes toward his chamber, falls on the steps over- powered with rage and lifts his clenched hands) Kin. 0, vengeance! Vengeance for a king! (CURTAIN) ACT III. / Scene: The gardens over the lake. A wide bridge extends from the bank of the lake, left, to the gardens which are partly visible on the right. At the rear, right, is a garlanded archway. At the left, front, steps lead from the water to the bank and top of the bridge. Be- y ond the bridge, rear, clouds show that the sun is set- ting. A score of spearmen, with lances down, march in, right, front, and out through archway, right, rear. Enter, right, front, the king and Sumbat. The king is royally clad and crowned; Sumbat in official robe. Sumbat. Khosrove delays. Nin. But do not doubt he'll come. I have his word, and couriers have seen His horsemen on the plain. Sum. How noble, sir, To close the Feast of Peace with supreme revel 49 50 SEM3llIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA FS In honor of your foe! Nin. Not foe, good Sumbat. We have no foes. Our queen's triumphant arms Have made glad subjects of all enemies But one, and him we make our friend. To-night Assyria and Armenia sup as one! (Turns toward right, rear) We'11 see if all's prepared, as we gave order. (Exeunt uinder the arch of garlands. Danccrs enter, right, front, and pass out through arch. Following them, Semiramis with her women. All are in rich attire but the queen who wears simple white robe. A (love nestles on her bosom. She gives the women leave to pass on and they go out merrily through arch, right, rear. Semiramis lingers; comes to the railing of the bridge, centre, and leans upon it) Sem. Will Khosrove come I do not doubt the king,- And yet-I pray he will not come! (Re-enter Sumbat, throngllh arch. H-e comes out to the queen) S;cm. You, Suillba t Where is the king Sulm. I left him in the garden, Giving new orders for Prince Khosrove's honor. Sem. Sumbat, you trust the king Sum. I do. You've wrought Such noble change in him that drop by drop He 's mated all his blood unto your virtues. Sem. I must believe it, lest a doubt should breed The weakness it suspects. But is .t not strange Khosrolve should trust him too Sum. He knows that you Would warn him if there lay a danger here. Sem. I warn him But suppose the warning false SEAMIRAMIS 'T would wrong the king, whose purpose seems so pure It might have journeyed with his soul when first It came from Heaven! No. I '11 answer for him! lie could not counterfeit so deep my eyes Would find no bottom to deceit! . . . But now What hast thou heard of Artavan Sunm. No word. Scm. I fear- Sunm. He's safe. Be sure of that. No man Would dare lay finger on him! Sem. But to go Without a word! Poor Sola grieves, and weeps As though she'd drown her wits in tears. (A boat glides from under tame l)ridge and oi-er the watcr beneath them) See there! 'Tis she! Alone below! (Sola nlights from boat and runs up steps to the baridlge) I'll speak to her. Go, Sumbat! (Simnbatgocs offrighlmt) Sister, stay. (Stops Sola as she is passing) Whv do you run Sol. I'm running from the king! Scm. The king, my yov There's no king here. Sol. Nay, he's below! ,Sctn. Below So!. Under the bridge with Vassin! Sem. Vassin No. The king has sent him out of Nineveh! Sol. He did not go. I swear that he's below! Sem. What were you doing 'neath the bridge Sol. Ah m I seek in every place for Artavan. 51 c IC, 52 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS I '11 save him from the king! Sem. So kind a king Sol. 0, kind! As death, or plague, or leprosy! 'Tis he has taken revenge on Artavan! He'll kill the prince, too, when he comes! Sem. My child- Sol. (Pointing down) I heard them talking there! Sem. Thy husband's safe. Bethink thee that the king's decree protects him. Sol. Not from the king! From man, not from the gods, And Ninus is a god, or dreams he is! Sem. From man-not from-no, no! I will not say Or think it! My poor child- Sol. You 'll save the prince 'Tis you he trusts, not Ninus! Sem. Sweet, be calm. You did not see the king. Sol. Hear all, and save him! When Khosrove takes the seat of highest honor, Lord of the Revels by Assyria's favor, The floor will part, the chair fall to the lake, Where Vassin waits to slay him, while the king Strikes down in wrath the master of the feast For fault of accident! Sem. Where are your wits See, yonder comes the king! (Re-enter Ninus through archway) Sem. (As he approaches) Is all prepared, My lord Sol. (To Semiramis) 'Tis true-true-true! (Runs off, right) Nin. Ay, all is ready Except the queen. What means these simple robes, Semiramis SEMIRAMIS Sem. A compliment unto Your majesty. Nin. It shows more like affront! I would have Khosrove see a splendor here Unpainted in the daring of his dream, And thou the star of it! A merchant's daughter Would robe her handmaid with more care-lend her A pearl or two -a bit of scarf- or scrap Of tinsel sun - Sem. My lord - Nin. A compliment! 'Tis your disdain- Sem. It grieves me, sir, that you Should read in outward sign what never yet Was in my soul. Our wars are done, my lord; And exultation of the conquering hour Calms into peace; as I laid armor by For victor robes and symbol of my glory, I now cast off the purple of the queen, And but remember that I am a wife. Nin. (Embracing her) Beloved Semiramis! thy slave! No royal dye could shine so to my eyes As this soft white put on for me alone! Thy pardon, love, and thou shalt shortly learn A king, too, knows how best to compliment! An honor waits for thee - (Enter officer, left) Off 0 king! Nin. We hear! Off The Armenian approaches. Nin. Khosrove (Semiramis watches the king closely) Off He comes, great Ninus! Niz. Well, and more tk Forgive comes Lan well! 53 54 SEMI1RAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Summon our train. (Exit officer, right) But one is lack- ing here, Our brother -Artavan. Sem. My lord-you think- Kin. Who would dare harm him He is safe. Scm. (Coining very near him) From man, Not from the gods. Nin. (Stepping back) What do you mean Sem. The truth! Kin. (Seizing her arm) It is not so! I do deny it! Scm. (Calmly) What, My lord Kin. What meant you when you said 'the truth'! Sem. That gods may work some harm to Artavan. Kin. (At ease) True, love! Uncertain is their favor. Look! He comes! (Gazing off, left) Sem. (Aside) He's false! And if he's false in this - then is- 0, Khosrove, thou art lured to death! And I Have been thy traitorous star! (Enter Khosrove, left, attended by Armenians) Kain. Hail, Khosrove! Hail! Assyrians. Hail to Armenia! Hail! Khos. 0, Ninus, hail! Armenians. Hail to Assyria, greatest over kings! Nin. Thou'rt welcome, and we thank thee for thy trust, Which we'll betray when Heaven has no god To damn our treachery! In proof of faith, Wear thou the royal dagger with thy own. (Detaches his weapon, which he gives to Khosrovc) Our queen-has she no word (Khosrove bows low before Semiramis) Sem. Peace and long life SE MIRAMIS To Khosrove. Alin. Now to revel! Sound the trumpets! (Exeunt officers through archway. Trumpets sounld from the gardens. Dancing maidens in white robes, each with a dove resting on her hand, enter right front, reach the centre of the stage, and begin the dlance of doves. As the maidens describe circles in the dance the doves rise and fiv in similar circles above their heads, and re-alight on their extended hands) Sem. (Who has stood aside during the dance, ap- parently disturbed) It is not true! Were any man so vile Nature would spurn him back to chaos ere His mother had beheld him! (The dance ends. The maidens pass out under arch. All move to fIllow when Minus speaks) Nmi. Stay! Hear, all! Before wve feast in honor of our guest, We would do honor to our noble queen, Whose arms of might have brought our land to peace, Whose looks of love have brought our heart to rest! To-night we doff our crown that she may vear it! (Removing crown) And here decree her word shall be obeyed Above our own. (Puts crown on the queen's head) Dost like our compliment Scm. It is too much, my king. Vin. (Kneeling) Nay, nay, thy subject' (Semiramis seems gay with a sudden resolve) Sem. If it so please thee then I'll be the king! min. (Rising) We have decreed. If any here refuse To honor thy command, though thou shouldst doom My death, himself that instant dies. (To officer) You, sir, 5o 56 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Take order for it, and if your own hand fail, When we are king again we '11 have your head! Off My arm be as your will, my lord! Sem. 0, then I have a wish I did not dare to voice. Nin. Command it now. Sem. It hath much troubled ine That Khosrove should be honored over you, Lord of the Revels. Khos. (Astonished) Lady- Sem. King, if 't please you! I've laid my purple by, but I havc still The royal color in my heart. Think'st thou To sit above Assyria, who wearest not The brave investment of the gods who hold'st Thy sceptre still from warrior chiefs, not from Anointed kings Khos. Because my race is proud! Too proud to kneel to any earthly king And take the sacred vestment from his hands! Sem. You see, my lord, that even in his heart He ranks himself above you! Nin. But, my lovee- Khos. Farewell! Thou didst me service once, and here I thought to thank thee, but- Nin. Stay, Khosrove, stay! Khos. Farewell, with all my heart! Sin. Nay- Sem. 0, my lord, Let him depart. He mocks our glory, and bears A challenge in his proud simplicity That puts our splendor to defense. Khos. Nay, madam! I came to lay my duty at your feet, SEA1IRA.MIS And lift my eyes no higher than your hand Without your royal leave! But now 1 'll cast My gaze upon the stars, forgetting that You walk beneath them! (Going) Nin. Stay, 0 prince! (To Semirarnis) A boon, your majesty! 'Twould blot our honor To send him from us thus! We shall be plunged Anew in wars, for Husak will avenge it! I am thy most unhappy subject, and Thou 'lt hear my prayer! (Goes after Khosrove and leads him back) You'll stay, 0 Khosrove Khos. Av, On one condition. Xiin. Name it! Klios. That you will take Our seat at feast. NM 1X. Nav - Sem. That is our command! Xiin. No, no! Sem. We '11 have it so! Xiin. I'll not consent! Sem. It is our royal order! Guards for Ninus' Xiin. What do vou mean Sem. To have our wav! Guards here! You shall not do this wrong to your high self! We '11 look unto your honor! (To guards) Bear him in! (Guards stand in amazement) Did ye not hear the king's decree I reign! (Guards take hold of Xinus) Xiin. By Hut and Nitn! Sem. Place him in Khosrove's seat! (Guards draw Ninus through the archival. Kihos- 57 58 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS rove follows, then all but Semiramis, who lingers fear- fully, runs toward front, then back and listens) Sem. 'Tis true! What have I done Ye gods! 'tis true! He would not so rebel if 't were not true! But Vassin is below! He '11 know his king And save him! (Kneels) Belus, mighty Belus, pardon! The sun has set, and red clouds show almost black over water, rear. The front of stage is nearly dark. Lights glimmer from the gardens, and a faint torch shows in the darkness under the bridge. Shouts and shrieks come from within. People rush out) Voices. The king! the king! Sem. (Retreating to railing, front) 'T is done! Officer. (Running across) The king has fallen Into the lake! Lights there! below! (Runs down steps leading under the bridge) Other officers following. Lights! lights! (Torches flare under the bridge. Darkness above as the last light fades from the sky. A moment of noise and search, and officers appear 'on the bridge, right, rear, with Vassin. A guard bears torch which throws light on his face) Sem. (Confronting him) You've saved the king! Vas. I have. For I have slain His foe! Sem. His foe No-vou have killed the king! (Falls back into the arms of her women. Complete darkness on stage. An instant later moonlight. Khos- rove and Semiramis alone on the bridge, centre, front) Khos. (Bowing ceremoniously) Farewell, Assyria! Sem. 0, not that name! Not yet-not yet. Khos. Does it not please your pride SEMIRAMIS Sem. My pride 'Tis gone. Now I could lay my head Upon the dust. Khos. In truth! But you '11 not do it! Humility's a word the great think sweet Upon the tongue, but near the heart they find It loseth flavor! Sem. Ah. .. you do not know You think the words I spoke were born of pride So far from that-no, no-I will not tell, And yet you wrong me, prince. Khos. (Eagerly) Did you suspect Some danger to me here, and seek to force My angry leave You did not care so much Sem. I cared so much that rather than betray you I would have let you go believing me A woman worth your scorn. Ah, there my pride In truth did suffer! Khos. 0, Semiramis! Thou art the same as when I sawv thee last As when I rode away and left thy face- The only face in Nineveh-nav-I- Will go. Farewell, most noble queen! Sem. Farewell! (He lingers) Sem. Why go in haste Khos. I left my father sick. He will be troubled till I come again. Sem. How dared you trust- Khos. What would I not have dared To look on thee again . .. My horsemen wait. .. (IVaring toward left) I come! Sem. Farewell I . ... Armenia is my friend I 'm sad. . . The manner of this death. . . It weighs 59 6i) SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Upon me. Khos. Let it not. Thou 'rt innocent. Sem. 0, some may doubt! Khos. But who wrongs Virtue puts A crown upon her! If thou hadst foreknown The accident- Sem. The accident Khos. 'Twtas not Designed Sem. It was ... for Vou. Khos. By Ninus Sem. Ay. You were to die. Khos. Then you -you kne wv-that he- (Starts from her in horror) Sem. What 's in thy nind What thought doth paint thy face In dreadful silence Oh! vou think that I- (Looks at him with equal horror. Remov-es farther from him, regains composure, and speaks with haughtY coldness) This serves me well! Right well, Armenian! Yes-ves-I knew-I knew the king would fall. But knew, too, sir, that Vassin wvas below, And, by my precious gods, I did not dream He would not save his king! While you-my guest- You would have gone to death! Kslcs. Forgive me! (Semiramis walks farther, not heeding- him) Olh, i found a stream that ran from heavenly springs A.nd in it cast the soot of hell' Sem. Well served- Well served, Serniramis! . . . I was so sad. And wvould not be content to let him go. I v--anted but a wvord. . a word to cheer me. SE.1I1RAAMIS And now I have it-murderess! Khos. (IVho has advanced to her) No, no, I did not say it! Sen. The tongue mav wvell keep silent When eyes speak lightning. I have heard too much! 'Twere better I had let you die! Khos. Ay, better.. . Better than this! Sem. Now, now I am Assyria! No more a woman! Softness to the winds! And let my heart be as mv armnor-steel! Khos. Thou canst not make it so by saying it. There is no cold or heat may temper hearts Away from their true nature. Mail thyself From head to foot, thou 'rt still Semiramis! Sen. A queen! (An officer enters, left) Off Your majesty, an urgent hand Brings this report. (CGives paper to her, which she reads) Sem. The Ghecs are in revolt! Thank them for me! They could not show me favor More to my heart! (Exit officer, left) I'm sick of peace -this peace That gives men time to brood and breed foul thoughts And fouler deeds! Give me the open war whose blows Rain down as free as noonbeams from the sun! Who meets me there I know, at least, he's brave, And there - Khos. Semiramis! Sem. (Proudly) Armenia, speak! You have our leave. Khos These Ghecs-my father is Their ancient, sworn ally! 61t 62 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA IS Sem. Well, sir Khos. His Binds him to give them aid. Sem. The braver th The battle! Khos. I am my father's son! Sem. You In We'll meet upon the field! Khos. I can not take The field against you! Sem. No Why not Khos. Because I love you! Sem. Sir, I am Assyria! Khos. Nay, but Menones' daughter! heart oath en nean You know! She whose I touched- Sem. You touched Khos. Ere taint of pride or power Or mad ambition had laid a canker there! When she was maiden still, and knew no thought She might not whisper in her father's ear! Gentle as Spring when hushing the young dove, But strong from virgin battle, with the flush Of valorous purpose pure as goddess' dream Starting the noble war-blood in her cheek! 'Tis she I speak to now-she that I love- Not the proud queen grown bold in blood and triumph! Love me, Semiramis! You shall have peace! Not this sick peace that turns your heart to hate, But peace that charms the beauty back to life And new dreams to the soul! 0, no more war! Then lilies springing in thy steps shall say What fairer grace went by! These fingers shall Forget the sword whose music is men's groans, SEMIRAMIS And on sweet strings draw out the heart of love To give the world the key of melody! Ah, you shall war no more- Sem. Sir, vou forget! These Ghecs- Khos. Will not revolt if I become Assyria's head! They trust me as their- Sem. You! Assyria's head! You! you! 0, now I see! I'm not yet blind, although my heart was fast Upstealing to my eyes to make me so! Khos. 0 clear thy sight a second time, my queen, And read me true! Sem. And you had almost moved me! Khos. Melt, stony eyes- Sem. The magic's left the earth That had the power to soften them! Khos. Not so- Sem. You'd keep me still the general's humble daughter While you would wear the glory I have won! Khos. Nay, by Mylitta's fire! - Sem. We'd war no more, For who has all may well hang by the sword! Khos. By Heaven, I- Sem. 0, you are man as he was! (Looks toward the garden shuddering) I'll trust no more! Who's worthy trust will give it! So saidst thou once! But thou couldst doubt-so dark A doubt my soul- Khos. Nay, that's not my offense! You are a woman, and you must forgive! But you are queen, too, and the queen in you Guards her ambition from my honest love Lest it divide her glory! 63 64 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Sem. True, she guards it! Out of Assyrian stone I'll make a heart And wear it in my bosom! Khos. Do not say it! I did not mean the words! They are not so! Thou dost not know thyself! Hard are the lips That never know a kiss, and thine were made With softness of the rose! Though all the streams Of power on earth poured to thy sovereign sea, Still wouldst thou want, and empty be the heart One drop of love would fill! Sem. You speak As to a woman! Khos. Ay, for so thou art! Be now thyself! Thy peace alone I plead! I can bear all but thy unhappiness! For love-true love-forgets itself and makes But one prayer unto Heaven-prayer for the good Of the beloved! Sem. Thou wouldst not share my throne Khos. Thy throne Sem. Ay, so I said. Khos. I care not for it, But since 'tis thine, I could not be a man Worthy thyself and take a place beneath thee. I 'd be thy husband, and I know thou 'rt not A woman to look down and love! Sem. 0 theft In argument! To make my monarch soul Speak from thy mouth against me! Khos. Not against thee! To beg thee yield to love is but to plead Thy greater cause! Ah, days will come to thee When all the maiden in thy heart will rise And drown the queen's! Thou canst not call me back! SEMHIRAMIS 6 To-morrow is the battle! 0, I lied To say thou wert ambitious and ungentle- Sem. No, thou didst not! 'Tis true! Iam- Khos. No, no! I '11 prove it is not so! See here-the dove- That nestles at your breast! Why is it here Sem. Because I was a woman once-and dreamed On foolish, woman things! (Frees bird from her bosom) Fly! fly! And as I pluck thee out I pluck away All thought of mortal love, and stand alone Beneath Assyria's crown! Khos. (Gazes at her in despair) Then I'll be gone! 1Sem. You 'ye pleaded well, but my domains are broad, And might give tongue to wilder eloquence Without love's sweet excuse! Khos. No more! I go! (Moves oft, left. Near exit, turns) I lead my father's troops! Sem. I lead my own! (Exit Khosrove. She looks after him without moa- ing until he passes out of sight. The moonlight is less bright. Her dove flies over her head. She starts and looks after it. The bird alights. She watches it eagerly and waits. It circles about her, then darts to her bosom. With an exultant moan she clasps it to her breast) (CURTAIN) 66 66 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS ACT IV. Scene: Within Husak's tent. Husak, Khosrove, Armenian lords, and soldiers. Husak. Bring in the widow! (Exeunt officers) Now, my son, thou 'It see Assyria at thy feet. Ay, she who scorned To match her crown with thine, shall low as earth Cry up for favor! Khos. Sir, I would not see it! Hus. Still in that humor Well, I promise thee She shall have mercy. Khos. Mercy, father Hus. Ay. Khos. What wilt thou grant Hus. Ask of thy heart. (Khosrove is about to speak) Peace, boy! For once we'll be a father, not a soldier! Wait! (Khosrove kneels and kisses his father's hand as Semiramis enters between guards. She is robed and crowned, her arms fettered with golden chains, and holds herself proudly, not looking at Husak. She turns to Khosrove, who watches her eagerly) Sem. We meet again. Wert thou upon the field I saw thee not. Perchance thy father thought 'Twere wise to find his health and lead his troops Lest Love should blunt thy sword! Hus. By Bel, his sword SEMIRAMIS Was sharp enough to find the heart of Sumbat, - Your general! Sem. Sumbat slain! (Turns, to' Khosrove) and slain by you! Khos. I had my choice-to slay him or to die. Sem. (With bitter scorn) And did the love that makes one prayer to Heaven Rule in that choice Hus. These taunts, Semiramis- Khos. Nay, father, she has cause to use me so. Sem. Oh, you confess you played with me! Then, heart, In with thy scorn for this outbraves thy own! (Turns away, folding her chained hands on her breast, and stands as if she would speak no more) Hus. You make no suit for mercy Sem. (Turning to him) What! from thee Who kill your captives ere your tent is struck, Nor spare a guard to drive them from the field Hus. I grant what I would ask-death before serfdom! You 'd keep them for your dogs and slaves! Sem. And when Am I to die Why breach thy custom now Hus. We like your spirit, but push not so far, Or we shall break the bounds we've set ourselves. Have you not found us gracious to your rank You look not like a prisoner! Sem. No thanks For that! This robe and crown, these chains of gold Are compliments that Husak pays himself, Proclaiming him a royal victory, Though not a royal victor! Hus. What! Dar'st fling .nto my face that the Armenian kings 67 68 SEMIRAMIS ANID OTHER PLAYS Rule unanointed Dost think that I would sue To Nineveh or Babylon for leave To take my kingly emblems from their hands But thou-thou shalt owe thine to me! I wear No proud insignia of the gods, and yet My hands shall strip and clothe thee as I will! (Tears off her robe and crown) Khos. Father! Hus. By sun and moon - Khos. 0, sir- Hus. Her pride Insults my mercy, but I '11 keep my word. Take these. (Gives him the robe and crown) Now, woman, learn that Husak-ay, Husak, the Fierce, can pity fallen glory! Stand forth. my son! Look, captive, on this prince! A man not made to sue to less than gods! Make him thy husband-king, and from his hands Receive thy purple and remount thy throne! (All are astonished. Khosrove shrinks back in shame, which Semiramis misunderstands) Sem. Methinks this lover makes no ardent suit, King Husak! Why, the sun has not twice set Since he did swear me dearer than my crown, And now the crown 's too much if my poor self Must burden it! (Khosrove kneels before her, holding up the crown) Hus. Rise, sir! You give, not sue! (Semiramis looks down on Khosrove, then turns to Husak) Sem. Thank, thanks, Old man, for making me once more myself! For by the blood that storms through all my veins I know I'm still a queen! Now all the pride That lives in my lost crown, and all the scorn SEMIRAMIS 69 Should meet thy fawning suit, be in myv words,- I do refuse your son ! Assyria Shall owe her throne to none! (Khosrove springs up, trampling the robe) Hus. Now thou wilt rise! A prince who might have gone with gods to wive Nor bated them in choice! This to my face! I, Husak, fawn on woman ! Out with her! Drag her to death! To instant death! Out! out! (Guards approach Semiramis) Khos. To instant death Hus. (Looks searchingly at him.) Ha! ha! Not yet! She's thine! Choose thy revenge! Have now thy will! Khos. Thou 'lt grant it Hus. Ay, ay, whate 'er thou wouldst! hos. She is thy captive. Hus. I make her thine! Mv conqueror's right I yield To thee! Khos. Dost swear it Hus. Doubt me not! I swear! Khos. i3y Belus' star Hus. By Belus' star, whose beams Are death to breakers of an oath! We ask This crown-no more. (Takes crown from Khosrove's hand) You pause. Stand not, my son. Thy vengeance waits. Do what thou wilt with her, We'll question not. (Khosrove strikes off the chains ol Semiramis) Khos. Go free to Nineveh. (Husak stands in amazed silence, then understands and burns with speechless anger. At last he speaks slo0wi v with intense wrath) Hus. All madmen in my kingdom die! Bind him! G9 70 SEMIAIRAIVIIS AND OTHER PLAYS (Guards bind Khosrove) Sem. Die No! 0, sir, you would not slay your son Hus. This loathsome thing is not my flesh! Sem. Thy son! Hus. We have no son. Armenia has no heir. Bear him away! Sem. (Holding out her hands) My chains! Dost think I '11 owe My life to him Thou know'st not yet my pride! Bind me and set him free! Hus. (Thunderingly) No! Husok breaks No oath! We 're not a god as Nineveh, And bold to mock at Heaven! Khos. (To Semiramis) I knew the price, And chose to pay it. 'Tis my wish. Farewell! (Guards bear him out) Hus. (To Semiramis) Go free to Nineveh! Sem. No! 0, kill me' Hus. Nay,go! But go alone-onfoot-andthrough A hostile country! Sem. Ah! Hus. That subject who Shall give thee food or drink dies in the act! Proclaim it, all! .... Come, friends, we 've not yet held The feast of victory. The slighted gods Will snatch away their favor if we long Delay our revels. Though we '11 miss one face, (Suppresses a groan) We'll know this much-there'll be no traitor there! (All leave the tent but Semiramis) Sem. Alone. . on foot. . . and through a hostile country! I'll overtake thee, Khosrove, ere thou 'st reached Thy throne among the stars! Thou goest from love, SEM11IRA.1MIS And wilt look back and weep from every cloud; I on thy track shall pause not till our wings Stir the same air and lock in kisses flying! . . .So pay my scorn How then hadst loved if heart Had brought to heart its swelling measure Then Our rosy hours had been the pick of time, And hung a flower 'mong withered centuries When every age had brought its reckoning in! 0, why will we, some cubits high, pluck at The sun and moon, when we have that within Makes us the soul and centre of Heaven itself Ambition, thou hast played away my crown And life. That I forgive thee, but not this- Thou'st robbed me of the memnory of his kiss. . . . Go, world! The conqueror's trump that closed my ears Unto the angel in a lover's voice Dies to a moan that fills but one lone heart. And soon 'tis silent. Ah, though woman build Her house of glory to the kissing skies, And the proud sun her golden rafters lay, And on her turrets pause discoursing gods, Let her not dare forget the stanchion truth- Immortal writ in every mortal face - "Thou art the wife and mother of the world!" (Sees Khosrove's cloak upon the floor, and kneels by it, taking it in her hands) My Khosrove! . . . Methought a god struck off my chains So strong and fair he seemed, yet strove to hide The beauty of his act, as might a star Shrink in its own sweet light! (Buries her face in the folds of the cloak) 0, noble prince, I might have kissed thy lips and not thy garment! 71 72 SEMIRAMIIS AND OTHER PLAYS (Rises and wraps the cloak about her. Spurns wvith her foot her own robe which has been left trampled) Thou purple rag, lie there! Love's vesture shall Enfold me as I go: (Starts out) Alone. . . on foot. . . But I've not far to journey. Foes are kind. The first one met. . . well, I will thank him! . . . Cries It is the feast. A man may feast who had- But has no son' . . . . (Startled) 'Tis not the feast' I know That noise confused-hoarse shouts-shrieks-pawing steeds - And rumbling chariots : Those are the tones Of battle! 0, the bloody work ! 'T is war! Did it delight me once . . . Assyrian cries! My troops! my troops! They've rallied! How, they cheer! What brave heart leads them on (Cries come nearer) Poor creatures, they Would save me, knowing not I died with Khosrove. I will not live- (The rear of the tent is torn awal by an onslaught. Assyrian troops enter, led by Arta van) Art. Semiramis! Sem. My brother' You live ! Art. And Xou! Sem. Praise Heaven there is one Will comfort my sad kingdom. Art. Nay, all's well! The death of Ninus freed me from my prison; I gathered troops and pushed hard after you, To hear you had been taken; then I planned This rescue. Thank great Belus, I'm in time! SEMIRAMIS Sem. In time Nay, thou 'rt too late! Art. Too late When thou Dost live Sem. I live No! Thou'rt deceived! Art. 0 Heaven! She 's dazed! Her troubles have bewildered her. All's well, my sister! Husak has been taken. Thy crown itself is in our hands. . . The crown! (A soldier hands it to him) You see 'tis safe. (She takes it idly) Sem. A crown. For such a thing Wouldst give thy Sola Art. She is dear to me, But ay, by Heaven, I would! Sem. You would I know A greater thing than this. Art. What, sister Sem. (Letting the crown fall) Love. Art. 0, she is crazed! This is some evil work! Bring in the captive Husak! He shall speak! Sem. 0, brother, once I thought thy love was truest That ever husband gave to wife, but now It showeth dark against my lover's truth! Art. Semiramis. . . sweet sister. . Whatdostmean I'll know the cause of this! Call in the prince With Husak! Sem. Prince Art. Ay. . Khosrove, whom we found In chains-I know not why-and I unbound him, Recalling how he saved my life,-but now I'll know what thou hast suffered at his hands! Sem. You found him bound I can not hear-or see ! Art. She swoons-she dies-0, true, we are too late! 73 74 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Sem. No, brother, thou 'rt in time! I live! I live! I am Semiramis! Give me my crown! Now this small circlet seems to me the world, And it is mine-to wear-or give away! Is 't not, good friends Voices. Ay, 't is! (Enter soldiers with Husak and Khosrove, Husak in fetters) Sem. King Husak, hear! Assyria and Armenia should be friends, Joining true hands to bring a happy peace O'er all the East. And in that dearest hope I free thee. (Unbinds him) But thy son the prince, must be Again my prisoner. Hus. 0, queen, I 've spent One childless hour, and rather would I die Than know another. Take my life for his. Art. Dost thou forget, Semiramis, that once He saved thy brother Sem. I remember all, But will not change his doom. He must be bound, Nor from my fetters may he go alive. These are his chains- (Putting her arms about his neck) his prison deathless love, And here I pray that he will wear this crown, And hold with me the great Assyrian throne! ... (calls) My chariot! Khos. My queen! my queen! Sem. Wilt thou Consent Khos. (Kisses her lips) I answer here. (The royal chariot appears, rear. They step in) Sem. (Giving the reins to Khosrove) To Nineveh! (CURTAMN) CARLOTTA This page in the original text is blank. ACT 1. SCENE 1. Miramar. SCENE 2. In the mountains of Mexico. ACT II. SCENE 1. Chapultapec. ACT III. SCENE 1. Before the Imperial Theatre. SCENE 2. Within the theatre. ACT IV. SCENE 1. Queretaro. ACT V. SCENE 1. The Tuileries. SCENE 2. Miramar. CHARACTERS MAXIMILIAN, Emperor of Mexico CARLOTTA, Empress of Mexico Louis NAPOLEON, Emperor of France EUGENIE, Empress of France BENITO JUAREZ, President of Mexico IGNACIO, nephew to Juarez RAFAEL MENDORES, friend of Ignacio ASEFFA, wife of Rafael TREVINO, ESCOBEDO, GARZA, officers in the Liberal Army MIRAMON, leader of the Imperial party MARSHAL BAZAINE, head of the French Army in Mexico MARQUEZ, MEjIA, MENDEZ, DUPIN, LOPEZ, of the Imper- ial army ABBOT of Lacroma ARCHBISHOP LABASTIDA, head of the Mexican church PRINCE SALM-SALM, friend and officer of Maximilian PRINCE ZICHY, Ruiz, BERZABAL, ESTRADA, Mexican nobles LADY MARIA, sister to Count Charles PRINCESS SALM-SALM PRINCESS ZICHY PRINCESS METTERNICH SENOR JHURBET, GENERAL CASTLENAU, MARQUIS DE GALLIFET, in the service of Louis Napoleon AUSTRIAN, BELGIAN, PRUSSIAN, and other foreign minis- ters at the court of Napoleon III. Imperial soldiers, Liberal soldiers, guards, rabble, ladies of honor, officers of the court, etc., etc. CARLOTTA ACT I. Scene I: Reception hall, castle of Miramar, near Trieste. Enter Count Charles, book in hand. Char. Ah, books must be put by for swords, I wot, When this wild journey to the West begins. 'Tis change enough! 0 shifting, shuffling life! Come, Shakespeare, magic mason, build me worlds That never shake however winds may blow, Founded on dream imperishable! (Sits and reads. Enter Lady Maria) Mar. Charles! Not reading! Dost know what day it is Char. Ay, sister! A day to make a scholar tremble, and hug His books in fever of farewell. Mar. Didst see The splendid carriages glittering up the drive 80 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS And 0, so many! Char. They have arrived Mar. Arrived! Why, all the Mexican deputies, arrayed Like their own sunsets, -the ambassadors From Austria, Belgium, France, -the princesses, And countesses, now in the guest-room wait The stroke of twelve to enter! 'T is nearly time, And you sit here! Put by your Englishman! Come, put him by, I say! He's dead; we live. He's had his due and passed. Char. Nay, his account Is writ forever current. His book of praise Time closes not, but waits some language new To enter it, and at his monument Fame yet stands carving. Afar. (Taking book and closing it) So! She's time enough! We've other work. (Gently) Is not the princess sad Char. I pray her heavy tears, weighing like stones, Will hold her back from sea! Mar. Hush, Charles! She comes! (Enter Carlotta, richly dressed) Car. Ah, cousins, trimming now your smiles to greet The deputies Char. Nay, calling up our tears To grace farewell to Miramar! Car. No tears! We'll think but of an empire and a crown, Not Miramar! (Enter Maximilian, dressed in the uniform of Vice- Admiral of the Austrian navy) Max. An empire and a crown At last I am out-rivalled in your heart! CARLOTTA Car. Nay, nay, thou know'st, my lord, thou art my empire I Grant me so much as now I look upon And I 'm as rich as Jove with Saturn's sceptre New-swinging o'er the world! Char. Then vou risk much For an unstable throne. Car. Not risk! Char. The men Who 've governed Mexico, for the most part, Have paid their heads for it. Mear. 0, Charles! Char. 'T is true. Car. Our safety is in the Emperor of France. He 's the strong angel in this noble scheme! Char. Safety in him Nay, madam, by my soul, The lightest smile that breaks upon his lips, As though a breeze but touched there, hides a plot May hang our hearts with lead! Car. How you misjudge him! In Paris when he pledged his faith to us His eyes more than his words assured his heart Unto our cause. I trust him, yea, I trust him! Char. There is a woman on the throne of France! She is the Eve to this slow-blooded Adam, Dutch-born Napoleon, and holdeth up The globe as 't were an apple for his hand. She builds mock images of dreams that died On Helena's lone rock, and teaches him They are not ghosts of dream but dream indeed! Mexico, burning with gold and sunset's fire, Pouring the crimson of internal strife, To her is but a jewel in crude bed She'd have you pick and polish for her crown! Car. Had you but heard her sweet devoted voice 81 82 SEMIRAAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Pleading with us for sake of the true Church To finish now this great emprise begun, You would believe her holy. Char. If she is holy, And if Napoleon be true in this, Then is he God's perfection of a man, And she earth's sole and sainted paragon But wait-O wait and see ere you risk life And honor! Car. You'rewrong-sowrong-but this is strange. 0 why are we not happy (Turning to window and gazing out) Char. (Following her) Because, my cousin, This is not Miramar as we have known it. The scholar's home, the soldier's fair retreat, The noble heart's sweet fane and altar spot, But Miramar with great ambition's storm Rolling its thunders 'gainst her peaceful walls! Max. But to live idly is never to be born. Shall we sit here at ease when God has found The work for us He with his pontiff finger Points to the sea- Car. (Turning) Sweet Miramar! If God points to the sea, why gave he this This heaven-spot, this nesting place of love, Hung like a garland 'tween the sea and rocks! Ah, dear my lord, some curse will follow us Who can desert this peace-embalmed place To seek a glory fairer but in name! I dare not do it! Max. (Taking her hands) 'Tis you shall say, my wife. If to stay here 's your wish, that wish is mine, Maybe I've dreamed too much of deeds of good, And visionary feats in that far land; CARLOTTA Then let it be your yea or nay, my love. Car. 0 leave it not to me, for in a yea My vanity will speak, and in a nay My fear! Max. A slander on these lips A kiss Were better! (Kisses her. Enter Marquis Corio) Cor. The noble guests approach. Will't please Your Highnesses assume your places Max. Yea, Or nay, Carlotta Mar. O, they come! they come. Char. (Hastily and earnestly) Nay, if you love your lord! That is a land Of murder, treason, carnage and revolt! The very air cries out 'go not! go not!' E'en yon cloud-turbanned peak, that never moves Whate'er the circling stars propound to vex His silent wisdom, warns with forbidding nod! O noblest cousin - Car. (In agitation) An empire! Miramar. (Maximilian takes place centre. A table in front of him covered with maps and papers. Carlotta by him, Count Charles and Lady Maria in their rear. Enter Archduke of Austria, and nobles, who take position at some distance from Maximilian on his right. Enter Belgian Minister, Abbot of Lacroma, Princess of Met- ternich, Princess Zichy, Countess Kollonitz, and others. They stand at distance to left of Maximilian. Enter the Imperial delegate, Senor Hurbet, and General Frassart, Napoleon's Adjutant of the Field. The former takes place immediately at Maximilian's right, the latter at left of Carlotta. Marquis Corio at door. Enter the Mexican deputies, Estrada, Berzabal, Negrete, Ruiz, and a dozen others. Estrada, as president of the deputation, makes low salute) 83tr 84 SEMIRA AIIS AND OTHER PLAYS Max. Welcome, my lords, to Miramar! Est. Hail, Prince, And fairest princess! The grace and hope of morning Be ever on your lives! Car. Most noble senors, We give you thanks and greeting. Max. Your presence here, My lords, would move our hearts although you brought No crown to guerdon welcome. Est. 0, gracious prince, Our tongues but feebly bear the mighty love The land of Montezuma bade us lay Low at your feet. Your starry virtues draw Her prayers and hopes and holiest desires Across the sea in humblest supplication. We make no weary tale of our misfortunes; They are so great the world is heavy with them, And Mexico means but calamity To every ear. Max. My dear and honored lords, The heart is granite and the veins are ice That will not stir at your deep miseries. Est. Ah, sir, this crown is heavy, but you will bear The golden weight as 't were the aureole That seals the saint to God! Max. But not without Consent of every subject should I wear it. Does Mexico send all her hearts with you Ruiz. (Spreading paper on table) Read here the proclamation now in force In all our provinces. Max. And this has been By each assembly ratified Berzabal. Ay, prince! It is a nation, not these dozen men, CARLOTTA That with a million voices prays to you! Max. From childhood up I've sought to obey my God, But never dreamed that he would bless my life With such high sanction as I read herein. (Lifting paper) Forgive a tear, my lords. ... But we must ask That crowned Europe give a sacred oath To guarantee our empire's permanence. Archduke. Brother, I bring the word of Austria, Whose prayers, whose arms, whose subjects' blood are yours, While she has blood or arms to give! Belgian Minister. For Belgium I speak -the princess' true and royal father, Whose little kingdom measures not his heart! Senor Hurbet. And I, my lord, have here the signed oath Of Mightiest France, whose fifty-thousand men Now guard the cradle of the new born peace In Mexico! Read here what he will do. MUax. (Reads) Enough. ... My lords, should I accept this crown, 'T would be with holiest expectation To reign in love and peace, but your past struggles Point to a term of danger and much risk Ere our star shines above all factious spite. Stood I alone I should not hesitate, But here is one more dear than my own life, Whom I must cherish more than my own life, Within whose heart I must find out mv answer; And God be thanked her wisdom beams so true Above the hesitations of my mind That I can love her yea or nay as 'twere By Heaven spoke ! Est. Then to your mercy, princess, 85 86 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS We now commit our hope. Car. Most worthy lords, I am so proud that I would wear a crown, So pitying I would weep my heart away For your sad country, and so vain I think The lord that married me might lead you from Rebellion's night to civil-kissing hours; But yet a woman bonded unto love, Not my own mistress. The life bound up with mine Is dearer than the peace of any state, And looking deep into your country's heart I read some cruel marks of historv That teach me fear for any precious thing Consigned unto its love. Est. If ever souls Lay bare to human eyes, read now in ours The loyalty which you will find in every subject! Ruiz. Be merciful! Earth aches through her rock- ribs With our old woes, and it is you may heal them! Ber. Pity will teach thee soon to love our land! Car. My lords, already I love Mexico, And would forego the peace of Miramar, - All happy days that from the future lean To meet my smiles, as trifles whose light thought Shames this great hour; but when in dream I see My lord beset by foes in foreign land, The help he needs beyond a three-months' sea, My princess pride flags to a peasant fear For one dear life! Est. Wrong not yourself, your lord, And Mexico, 0 gentlest lady- Car. Nay- Est. Say yea, and our expectant land will feel The thrill of that affirmative across CARLOTTA The glad Atlantic! Yea-and France, whose name Is in our hearts as God's, will bless thy tongue! Say yea, and noble England, watchful Spain, Who with great France began the holy work Of blessed liberation will applaud With happy echoes to the guardian skies! Say yea, and the white spirit of the Church Will take 'neath her soft wings our blood-drenched land, That waits but for that word to hail thy lord Regenerator, king! Car. My lords, my lords, We are but human! Mayhap we will not keep The love that we have won! Senor Hur. Fear not, 0 princess! Behind your throne, with unretreating sword. Will stand the first great power of all the world! Thus speak I for the emperor of France! Princess Metternich (Advancing) I for the empress! Eugenie bade me speak Her heart out here, and hail thee sister empress! To ask when your young empire blooms above The lily of old France, and lures the East To pour her golden heart into your port, And ocean blossoms with your argosies, You '11 still remember that she loved you when You were but princess and no farther ruled Then stretch the gardens of small Miramar! Car. 0 generous Eugenie! But the fear- Abbot of Lacroma. To speak of fear in this is to doubt God! He does not bless in vain a noble prince With such rare qualities as crown the mind Of Maximilian! 'Tis for some purpose rare He rounds such excellence with highest birth And puts a sword of power in his hand! 87 88 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS From over seas unto your very feet A nation comes to choose from all the world One made by Heaven to be its sovereign lord, Cool hearts of passion in his amity, Make bitter eyes forget their ancient hate, And proudest knees bow with old enemies In worship of his star beneficent! There pale and crushed Peace Shall take the color of the living rose, Hearing the voice of his protecting love That comes to lift her beauty from the dust And on that ground volcanic nobly build Her temple indestructible! There shall his kingly mind find outward means To write sublimity upon the world, And like old Egypt speak in pyramids To nations unbegot in dream of Time! And can you shock the hour with hesitation Ask all the waiting world,-as, even God, To pause and count the heart-beats of a woman Car. (Devoutly, with uplifted hands and eyes) Forgive me, Heaven, that I doubted thee ! (Takes Maximilian's hands, turns with great dignity to the deputies, and speaks solemnly) Senors, we '11 wear the crown of Mexico. (Silence. The abbot of Lacroma advances; Carlotta and Maximilian drop to their knees as he extends his arms above them in blessing) Scene II: A camp in the mountains of Mexico. Night. Aseffa preparing food by a fire. She goes aside, listens, and returns. Asef 0 Mexico, thou traitress unto love, Wilt trample every heart that's true to thee CARLOTTA (Listens. Enter Miguel and Lerdo, very ragged and gaunt) Miguel! Lerdo! Rafael not come Where did you leave him Lerdo. Nowhere, Senora. Asef: Oh! Mig. Don't flutter, little bird. We mean that he left us. He set off as fresh as the morning to make the circuit of another mountain while we could barely creep up to camp. Asef You are hungry ! I '11 give you Rafael's supper! Ler. Hungry No! I've had two biscuits since yesterday, and sixty miles is n't far to go on that. Mig. And as much good air and water as a soldier need want! Asef Here! Take it. 'T is good. Indeed it is! Mig. Smoking meat! Ha! Who brought it Has the Holy Virgin been in camp Asef No, but I've been down to the valley. Ler. You Asef Yes,-and I've a little gold left, too! (Showing purse) Ml-ig. You paid five pesos for that dish! Asef A good guesser would double the price. Mig. And for Rafael's supper! No, I can go two more days yet. (Puts food aside) Asef But you shall not. Come, eat! I'll feed you then, and you don't want Juarez' soldiers to be turned into babies, do you Mig. I'll yield! In fact, there's an orator within that speaks with a most convincing pinch. (They eat) Asef (Watching) Poor fellows! They'll not leave him a mouthful! Ler. Where is the general Asef (Pointing up the hill) Asleep. Haveyounews 89 90 SEMIIRAMIS ANID OTHER PLA YS Ler. None to bring good dreams. Let him sleep. Aig. Lord, a meal a day like this and I could drive the whole French army into the sea! (Rising) Now if these rags could be turned back to their first fortunes, I'd be Don Miguel deTejada again! You would n't think that these tags and tatters had waltzed with the presi- dent's niece at the capital, would you now Asef You must let me mend your clothes as I do Rafael's. Mig. Faith, Senora, you would have to begin too many months back. No, I'll hang out my banners as a knight of liberty should, and be Don Miguel de Tejada still. Asleep, my Lerdo A good example, too. (Lies down) Good-night, Senora the Blessed! Asef Good-night, Don Miguel de Tejada! (The soldiers sleep. She waits and listens. Runs aside and looks down the valley) AsefJ Rafael! (Steps approach. Enter Rafael) Raf (Embracing her) Here's Heaven for the weary! Asef So tired And I have nothing for you! (Looks toward soldiers) They were so hungry. Raf Thev're welcome to it. (Kissing her) Here is my banquet, -my feast of beauty and my wine of love! (Staggers to a rock and sits feebly) Asef O-h! You've been so far!-too far! Raf: We rode all day, but made no terms for food. The people are afraid. Whoever gives us bread forfeits his life and home. Asef. I bought some meat of a poor woman to-day. She needed the money. Raf: And if the Imperials find her out they'll murder her and set her but in flames! Asef Oh! What shall we do Raf We are an army. We '11 do as armies do. Take food where we can find it. CARLOTTA Asei' 0, Rafael! Raf Yes, love, we'll play the robber to fill the mouth of Libertv,-she's fed too long on thistles. Asef She 's a stern mistress, Rafael. Raf: But sweeter, love, Her harshest frown that summer smiles of kings! 0, I reproach her not, even when I see My dearest friends lie dying in her name! A bed of stones is soft enough for me If she but rock to sleep, -a crust to-day, To-morrow none, and at her board I'm fed. But when I look on you, my traitor blood Flies from her service. Oh, to see these hands That plucked no beauty ruder than the rose, So meanly laboring in the basest needs! Your gentle body resting on cold earth, Glad of a blanket 'tween you and the sod, While in your bed the foreign robber sleeps! This shakes my loyalty till I could hate The fair, unspotted cause my sword is drawn in! Asef Stop, Rafael! 0 thank God these hands have known That blessed of all fortunes, -to toil for love! These eyes that sought for but a face more fair, A flower more sweet, have found the stars that rise Where Truth and Courage wander in the night! In southern vales maybe we '11 hear again The morning birds sing at our bowered windows, But we will not forget the nobler song Now borne by winds about these mountain peaks, - The song of man made free! Raf We '11 not forget. But will that sweet day come Tell me, Aseffa, You who are half a sibyl, -shall we go down That valley to our home 91 92 SEMIRAMIS ANID OTHER PLAYS Asef 'T is not to gain Our father's halls, and sit 'neath fig and vine, We hide and starve and stagger in these hills, But to keep noble the last hour of life, That Death who gathers it may read thereon The seal immortal of approving God. Raf Yes-dear Aseffa-but-(Faints) Asef Rafael! Rafael Ah, dying! 0 my prating virtue's gone! I care for naught but that my love shall live! 0, Liberty, wilt spare me this one life . . Ho! Miguel! Up! Mig. Hev! What' Senora! . . Ah! Lerdo. What's here AsezC There 's wine in the general's tent! Rafael! My love, my love, look up! . . . 0 Mexico, With all thy veins of -old thou art not worth One dear drop of his blood! (Enter General Trevino) Trey. What's this new grief Not Rafael! . . .. He faints. 'T is hunger. . . hunger. Miguel! Lerdo! Bear him to my tent. Give him what food vou find there. First the wine! (Soldiers go out Mith Rafael. Aseffa follows. As she passes the general she drops to her knees and kisses his hands) Trev. (Alone) Starvation now or plunder. Wee'll quarter where We can. . . A horseman! If 'tis Ignacio We shall have news. (Enter Ignacio, from riding) 1g. W ho's here Trev. Ignacio 1g. (Saluting) Your pardon, sir' Trev. You 're from the capital CARLOTTA9 1g. Three days ago I left the city. I've slept On horseback since. Trev. Your news! Ig. -We fight an empire. The Austrian is crowned. Trev. Impossible! Where are our people Salas and LeVal Ig. They shouted at his welcome. At Vera Cruz Began the unholy pageantry, that showed As Christ had come again and all men knew him! Each province drained its beauty by the way; The mules that drew him caught the vanity And picked their steps on flowers. Trer. Tell me no more. O Gratitude, thou hast no home on earth! Twelve months did Juarez rule, and in twelve months Did what no man can do but God is with him! He healed contention's wounds, set up new schools, Released the land from priestcraft's ancient grip, Rebuilt our credit, destroyed by Miramon, The robber president, who bonded the land To France, then set the sword of Europe 'gainst us Because we could not pay the unjust debt From treasuries that his own hands had emptied. 0, 't was a crime too big for Heaven's eye, And so God let it pass! France could not know- But our own people knew-how Juarez toiled To shape the nation to his noble thought! 1g. Yes-yes-they knew! Trev. We'll break our swords, my boy. We have no country. Ig. Is my uncle yet In Texas Trev. Ay, and we will go to him. . . .Ungrateful ground that casts all goodness from it, 93 91 SEMIRAMIIS AIND OTHER PLAYS And sucks a gilded poison! (Enter Rafael, Asefla, Miguel, Lerdo, and others of the camp) Raf (To Trevino) Sir, you will miss Your breakfast, but I pledge my sword you 'll have To-morrow's supper! .... Ignacio! 1g. You here, May Rafael! (They embrace) Aseffa too! Asef Dear friend' (They greet affectionatelyj) Raf And Maximilian is crowned Ig. Yes. .. crowned. Raf You saw him Ig. In the cathedral, with the empress. Asef The empress Raf What looks he like This Austrian duke That with a stolen crown mocks majesty: 1g. He looks like majesty, and yet is graced With Nature's gentlest stamp; his countenance Takes beauty from his smile; his smile, one thinks, Takes sweetness from a heart that has its own Nobility from heaven. Trev. An enemy Well praised! Asef The empress She bewitched you too (Ignacio is silent) Come, sir! The truth of her! Ig. The truth Go ask The angels. They 'ye tongues for such sweet purpose. Trev. What! Ignacio turned squire o' the empire 1g. No. But I can read a holy woman's face, Though she by some strange counterfeit of truth Would put an empress' foot upon our necks. CARLOTTA Asef What is she like 1g. Like nothing but herself. She is not gentle, for gentleness is but Rude servant to that quality in her; Gracious she's not, for grace herself doth serve A poor handmaiden to her excellence; Nor beautiful, for Beauty asks her name To wear but that and know her own no more. (In the silence that follows a rider rushes up and dis- mounts) Mlessenger. Where is the general, Trevino Trev. Here. Muess. Juarez approaches. (Saluting) Trev. Juarez! Call up the camp. Light all the beacons! Juarez ! Build up the fires! Shouts. Juarez! Juarez! Hurrah! El presidente! Trer. We'll let him know the hearts he left i' the hills Still beat with loyal blood! Shouts. Juarez! Juarez! (Enter Juarez. Silence) Jua. Trevino! Trev. Your Excellency! (They embrace) You've heard Jua. I know. Now monarchy has spread her gilded sails, And from the East comes like another sun To blind our eyes with wonder of a crown While shackling us by hand and foot to earth. But from these mountains will arise a queen, The figure grey of ancient Liberty, Mourning and wronged, but with the unpalling star Of God's own favor set upon her brow: These two shall meet -and that mock sun go down! Trev. You still have hope when Mexico deserts us Jua. Dost read your country in the smile she shows 95 96 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Her conqueror She has a heart beneath! Ay, sir, did she not prove it at Puebla Where dead fell on the dead with gun in hand Still pointed to the French! Where, hope once lost, And the enemy pouring through the shattered gates, Our men blew up their city and themselves To keep their souls free from Napoleon! These men have brothers left, and sons, And they are Mexico! Soldiers. El presidents! Liberty and Juarez! A soldier. (Waving his sword) We'll be revenged, Or spill more blood than hell can drunk! Soldiers. Down with the empire! Death to Maxi- milian! Jua. No, not revenge,-but justice. That's enough. We've but to wait-and strike. Yon mists now spread Their fair illusion o'er the eternal mountains 'Till't seems they are the world, and the great hills Are naught. But by to-morrow's noon-sun see Their fortunes faded as a dream of night, While the rock peak looks up as if to say From the foundation of the world I am! So will this glamour o'er our godly cause Pass as a breath, while all the world shall read Our right and title to unbonded life In our free bosoms founded and God-set! A soldier. We'll die for freedom! Jua. Die That's the one thing We can not do. We may lie down in graves, But from our living dust will spring new challenge To make in noble minds continual war Until our race be righted! Trev. Many fly From our misfortunes. Amaldo and LeVal- CARLOTTA Jua. Call 't not misfortune that teaches us our friends. Now are we sifted and the chaff is known! ...LeVal I .... But Diaz is true Trev. On yonder mountain His fires make answer for him. Jua. (Looking into distance) Forgive me, comrade! I know you true, and sooner will yon moon Make her last change and fall than you change once From the full circle of a complete man..... (Turns and sees Ignacio) My nephew here 1g. Just from the capital. Jua. Where you must back again. Rafael, too! Both my young soldiers! My right arm and my left, - Though which is which I know not. Ignacio, You saw the Austrian No matter. He 's but The drift-piece of a rotten monarchy That thinks to graft upon the living tree Of our new-sprung republic! We'll shake him off As a June oak a spray of winter wreck, Nor ever know he clung upon our boughs! 1g. The church is powerful yet, and seeks to join Tier cause with his. Jua. The church Say not the church, But mockers in Christ's name, who steal the land And drain its fruitage into Satan's purse, Keeping the poor a race of hopeless slaves Who worship their own shackles! 0, Ignorance, Thou art the great slave-mas ter! Thy very chains Are vital and beget themselves; and he Who strikes them seems the monster of the earth To the poor serf who thinks it is himself That bleeds! The church be with our foe, with us Be God, we '11 ask no more. Hear me, my men! The great republic of the North 's our friend. 97 98 SEM11IRAM1I1S AND OTHER PLA YS When her own war is done you'll hear her speak To France in cannon tones that will make quake Napoleon on his throne That great mock-god, Who seeks to free all men that he mav fit Their necks to his own yoke' (With growving intensity) That adder who Would coil about the world' That serpent scruffed With white deceit and low ambition's slime, That crept into the garden of my dream And cankered bud and root, nursed by mv toil, Fed with my dearest blood ! Av, he will quake, And cry for mercy to a stony Heaven Whose pity drops long since were drained upon The woe that he hath made! Ay, he- Trev. (Touching him) But now, Mv friend Jua. (Composed) You're right. No more of that. Nephew! 1g. Here, sir. Jua. Your place will be the capital. We must have eves there, and a heart to serve us. This hour set out. Here are instructions. (Gires papers) Trer. Sir, He 's had no rest. Jua. True.. . true.. . Ig. And need none when Juarez commands. Jua. (Taking his hand) Thou 'rt still my son. My house Will not fall down when I no longer prop it. Raf May I not beg this office, sir Trer. Send him' His heart is in the hills, and he'll come back. Ignacio 's vet unanchored. Trust him not To high tides of a court. CARLOTTA Jua. I trust them both. But my own blood I know. (To 1g.) Kneel for the oath. (Ignacio kneels. Murmurs around, then silence. Juarez takes a crucifix from his bosom and holds it over Ignacio) Jua. By this true image of the bleeding Christ, May you be damned to everlasting fire, Nor pravers of saints lift up your soul from hell, If you provefalse in what you undertake This night for Mexico' 1g. By Christ's own blood, I swear, and may that blood be powerless To save me from the damned if I prove false' Jua. The stars that hold The witness angels of the Lord have heard Thy oath. 1g. (Rising and looking up) Let them record it. Asef: (Fearfullv, Ah' Trel. (Holding out a brand) The brand' Jua. Not that' 1g. (Baring his arm) I choose it' (Trevino quickly brands his arm with a cross. Juarez, too late, dashes the brand from his hand) 1g. (Throwing up his arm) Sealed to the cause' (Hurries to go) Jua. MXv boy! (Ignacio returns for Juarez' em- brace) 1g. (Going) Liberty and Juarez! Soldiers. Juarez' Liberty and Juarez! (All but Juarez follow Ignatius out, cheering) Hurrah! hurrah! (Juarez draws his grey mantle about him and stands silent. The fires die down. The moon clouds. He looks up invoking) 99 100 SEMIRA4MIS AND OTHER PLA YS Jua. Spirit of Montezuma, be thou here And on thy son drop wisdom out of Heaven, That these thy children he may lead to peace, And this thy country give again to him Who set his iron in the earth and said Man, make thy weapon; there shall be no slaves. (CURTAIN) ACT II. Scene I: Palace of Chapultapec. Hall adjoining ball room. Gail/ dressed women, and men in glittering official costumes passing doors. Mlarquez and AMejia talking. Mlar. You 've caught Trevino ! .Mejia. Rafael Mendorez too. Mar. Still better. You '11 have them shot at once MUejia. They 've too many friends. I must have the emperor's warrant. Afar. He will sign the decree to-night. Mejia. The Lord be thanked! I'm tired of risking life and men taking prisoners that his majesty may have the pleasure of pardoning them. Mlar. If he signs the decree he will be sure to reserve the right to pardon. You must try my method. JMejia. And that Afar. Shoot on the spot, and report no captures. (Enter from the ball room Alaximilian, Marshal CARLOTTA Bazaine, General M1iramon, and Count Charles) Mfir. Your majesty will sign the law to-night Mfax. These men wear the brave name of soldiers; fight Beneath a flag, and claim the rights of war. Baz. Thev borrow war's fair name to kill and plunder! Max. It was my dream when I took up this crown To claim each subject of the land my own'. Mir. And so you may, your majesty. 'Tis true. These men are subjects to no law or nation; They are not Mexico's; they are not God's; But from the heavenly and the human pale They have outbarred themselves. Our honest land Has cast theni out as venom to her health' Nurse not this canker in your realm, my lord! Mlax. I do not know ... . but here's my head and heart, (Touching Prince Salm-Salm and Count Charles) And they may answer. Prince, what do you say Prince Salm. As friend and soldier to your majesty, I must advise the passage of the law. Mlax. You, Charles Char. My lord, if as you say, these men Fight 'neath a flag, and for supposed rights, You violate the law of noble nations In sentencing to death the prisoners Of recognized war. Baz. (Sneering) Sir, recognized Char. Does not the United States still call Juarez The president of Mexico Baz. Why, count, You'd best consult those books of yours again! Juarez has fled and given up his cause. These men are robbers! Your majesty will sign 101 102 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Max. Forgive me, friends, if I again say no. MVir. Your majesty, 't is we should ask your pardon For having failed to lustre as we should This seeming-dark decree,-so wise, so just, And as undoubtedly your duteous act As though some stern necessity of the stars Enjoined it. M1ax. (ULneasilv) Press it not now. The people wait. (All but Mfarquez go into ball room) Alar. Some fools have sat on crowns but not for long. He'll sign. The Liberals must be dispatched Fast as we capture them, for w, 've short time. The United States will soon be free again To turn to us, and what we wish to do Must be well done ere that. Dispatch! Dispatch! Use Maximilian and the French to crush The Liberals, then with the church unite To pull down Maximilian and set up- Marquez! . . . The Empress-and Ignacio' One I suspect,-a half-breed full of pride! Who'd have the court forget his Indian mother And bear in mind his father was a noble! (Goes aside. Enter Carlotta and Ignacio, followed by Prince and Princess Zich-, Prince and Princess Salm-Salm, Princess Josefa de Varela, Colonel Lopez, making merry with a fortune teller. The Empress steps apart with IIgnacio) Car. Ignacio! I 'ye met strange looks to-night! 1g. But not unkind ones, noble madam Car. 0, such As can not be distinguished by a word, Cold, warm, or dark or fair, bitter or kind! Ah, looks that will not advertise the heart, And yet betray too much! CARLOTTA kgf Your majesty- Car. A little coldness that might melt to love, A little pity that might soon be hate, A fair 'God with you' shaping to a curse- 1g. What eye can harbor evil meeting yours \W'here lies a grace that turns all ill to virtue Car. Would all were true as vou, Ignacio! (Looks to ballroom and shudders) Those eyes! Would I looked not so deep in eves ! . . .You love mv lord 1g. I do, your majesty. Car. Above all other men (He is silent) Nay, do not answer! 'T was wrong to ask, for vou have kinsmen maybe, Brother, or uncle, some one dear in blood Whom Heaven bids you cherish. But you wvill guard Your Emperor! You 'll watch with me for foes For foes He has nor.e! How the thought Blasphemes his excellence! But 'tis a world Where whitest merit drawes the darkest souls To prey upon it, while mere indifferent good Escapes! . . . Ignacio, is it true, Juarez Is not in Mexico 1g. 0, madam! Car. Ah! Is 't true the Liberals are disbanded Ig. True Car. You do not answer, sir! Ig. It is not true. Car. You know it! You And they still hope Ig. They do. Car. Then we are playing with an enemy! How do you know . . . You traitor, too! . . 0 Heaven! 'T is time now to be up or treachery Will take us all asleep! (Goes from him) 103 104 SEMIIRAMIIS ANVD OTHER PLA YS 1g. (Following her) 0 madam! madam! My heart is all your own! Car. (Turning to him) Forgive me, friend, And I will wrong no more these honest eyes. But there is danger here, and we must strike! We hold a nation's future in our hands, And now defence is virtue, patience crime! Ig. Your majesty- Car. (Not heeding) Shall we stand here and smile Till rebel blows have shattered life and throne . . . Dupin shall drive these desperate people back- This law be signed- 1g. (With horror) Dear Christ! Car. What do you mean Jg. Will Maximilian pass a law of death, Condemning patriots to a robber's grave 0, Empress, sue upon your knees that he Do not this thing, for every act of his Not marked with justice to his enemies Will rob him of the pity they would show When victory is theirs ! He writes his doom As certainly as he doth set his name To that black law, and gives Dupin his will Among our helpless people! Princess Zichy. (From group about the gipsy, as all laugh) Your majesty, You heard Car. I heard. (To Ignacio, much disturbed) Go join them! Go! (Ignacio joins group) He's true! My lord in danger! Princess de Varela. Now mother, my hand next! (Gipsy scans her hand) Car. 'Rob him of pity!' 'When victory is theirs!' I know the pity given to the fallen In this blood-drunken land! There 's but one way... CARLOTTA We must not fall! . . 'T is war, then, - xvar! Not for An empire, no,-but Maximilian's life! And we must use the weapons in our hands! Gip. (Reading) Days of brightness, days of smiles, Read I here or Fate beguiles ! Princess S. 0 these fortunes are like lines from a fairy book! Surely we are not all going to be happy! Gip. I'll read for you, madam. Princess S. But let not your change of song begin with me, dark mother! Gip. (Reading) DaYs of darkness, daYs of moan.' A friend shall sigh, a friend shall tall, And wring thi' bosom more than all The sonrow that thou Yet hast known! Princess S. 0 think better of it, mother! Gip. Your sweet eyes deserve a better portion than tears, and I read too, But ere thy last hour be nigh Sorrolwl from thy breast shall flu-! Princess S. A friend, you say I thank you, 't was not my husband! Gip. And Xet a husband he, And manly tears thou 'It see! Car. (Aside) A friend-a husband-and a fall! Gip. Shall I read for her majesty 1()5 106 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Car. No! no! Lopez. She has peeped into Fate's urn, madam, I assure you! Car. Nay, I 'm content. What I choose for myself I will abide, and what I choose not is the gift of God and I'll abide that too! Prince Zichy. I congratulate you! Majesty is not always able to show such noble indifference to the future, and lesser mortals -never! Gip. Please the stars, may I read for you, sir Prince Zichy. I give you a proxy,-Senor Ignacio. If the fortune be fair, I take it, if not, I leave it with him. Ladies. 0, hear Ignacio's fortune! (They crowd about him and the gypsy) Car. (To Lopez) A favor, sir! Will you take a message to his majesty Lopez. I am twice blest-to bear your message- and bear it to the emperor. (They talk apart) Gip. Here's a secret matter, sir. Shall I speak it out lg. 0 spare me! Come aside! Ladies. Nay, nay, Ignacio! You heard our fortunes! Ig. But yours were fair and innocent, and mine is dark and guilty-maybe with crime! Ladies. Oh! A crime! Ig. Come, witch! (They go aside, near where Marquez is stationed unseen) Aseffa! Asef Rafael is prisoner at Savarro! Trevino is taken, too! 1g. 0 Heaven! (To ladies) Stay back! 'Tis crime indeed! Ladies. Villain! Asef Help me to Maximilian! 0, I must see him! You called him gentle! When I tell him what Rafael is- CARLOTTA the fairest soul man ever called a foe- Ig. Softly, Aseffa! You can not see the emperor to- night. Asef: I must! To-morrow 'twill be too late! He dies at sunrise! 1g. Rafael! Mv friend! my brother!- Asef Quiet! quiet! Smile, Ignacio! Ha! ha! I 'll pray it be not true, sir! Ig. But you can see Count Charles. He's Maximil- ian's very heart, and once you win him the Emperor is won. Go in! Go in! I'll bring you to the count! Be light of heart! Our Rafael is safe! Asef Ignacio, the Empress is all you said. Prayers on their wav to Heaven meeting her Would think their journey ended. Can you be true 1g. (Touchin, his arm) I bear the seal. AsefJ God help thee! 1g. Go! (To ladies) 'Tis done! I know my sins! Princess de V. But what a smiling sinner! Princess Salm. A cloud is hovering. Come, sir! I shall know it! (Takes his arm. M211exi- can national dance begins. All go into ballroom, the Empress with Lopez) M7Uar. Ignacio a Liberal! And branded! He's finished! But I'll pick my hour for it! Mendorez safe! Ay, if he's bullet-proof! (Re-enter Carlotta with Archbishop Labastida) Lab. I thank your Highness for this gracious moment Most holy Empress- Car. Not holy, sir, and yet I hope with touch of God's anointment on me. Lab. Did it but rest with you His love would soon 107 105 SEM PdIRA7IS AND OTHE-R PLAYS Like cloud of rose veil Mfexico in beauty. Car. But rest with me Lab. Av, noble lady, you. I bear a letter from his Holiness, In which he says his Empress daughter's zeal Is jewelled in his heart,-but urges me To speak to Maximilian of his strange Reluctance to fulfill his promise. Car. Promise Lah. To give the Church the olden glory that She shone with here! Restore her rights- Car. 'T is true He promised that, and he has kept his word As an account with God. He is convinced The rights claimed by the Church are stolen rights She wrung from ignorance for her earthly glory, And he's resolved to maintain Juarez' law So far as it accords with justice. Lab. Madness' Call back Juarez to power! Yield the throne To the republican! For 'twill so end If Maximilian scorns us and our help! Car. He does not scorn you, sir, but seeks to find W;here the division comes 'tween you and Christ And set himself upon the side of Heaven. Lab. You will divorce the favor of the pope, Without whose help you may not hope to stand. Plead with your lord again to probe our claim, And find therein some vise and prudent reason To give us aid, -and thereby keep his crown. Car. Yes, I will speak; but I shall not forget, Whate'er I say, he is an Emperor! (Exit) Mlar. (Coming forward) A pair of fools are jiggling with a crown. Lab. You heard, Marquez CARLOTTA10 Alar. And knew before I heard. La b. And you are patient Mfar. Maximilian Means France, and France we must keep ours,-at least Till we have finished with the Liberals, - Lab. And then Mfar. WNe need not go so far to make A wiser choice. Lab. (Looking at him meaninglv) Not far indeed Alar. I thank vou. But that's hereafter. Come with me, your grace. I'd speak of something more immediate. (Exeunt lelt) (Enter from ballroom General Miramon, Marshal Hazaine and Colonel Dupin, the last a large, vain, blus- tering man, gorgeously and expensivelj arrayed firom head to fbot. A sombrero wonderfulhl trimmed with gold and silv-er is carried in his hand and used in sweep- ing salutations) Dup. At last I am called to court! I thought his majesty would soon or late have need of my experience in throat-cutting. Afir. But, my dear Dupin, it is not in Your capacitv of throat-cutter that we introduce vou. These towns that have given aid to the Liberals must be punished without the Emperor's knowledge. You will make an example of them Dup. Will I Hear him, Marshal! Will I Mfir. But not a word to the Emperor! Dup. Softish, eh AMir. His spongy heart is filled with water of com- passion. Touch it anywhere it pours! Baz. I'm not going to throw away the lives of any more Frenchmen just to give him a chance to play at 109 110 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS clemency! An emperor should be a sort of vitalized stone, capable of action but incapable of impression. Dup. Then I 'm the man for emperor! I 've always suspected my qualifications for the part. By the lord, I've made women who were hungry enough to eat their own children watch my soldiers throw bread into the sea! And when 1 was with the French and English in old Chinee-well, they've called me the 'Tigre' since then. You 've heard about that' (Struts and sings) I'm the tigre of the East, Got my claws in old Pekin W hen the yellow kids we fleeced And held up the mandarin.' 0 we caught him by the queue, As he from our captains fleiw, That quaking little, shaking little mandarin, And we dragged him out to view By that most convenient queue, When we sacked the summer palace at Pekin.' My friends, if you will excuse me, there are several dozens of ladies in the ball room waiting for a dance with the costume par excellence of the evening. I am not always sure of a welcome for my face, but my costume is never in doubt. Ah, sweet woman y vou can please me twice. I can dance with vou-and I can kill you! \When the Emperor asks for me I shall not decline an introduc- tion,-though he was not born an emperor and I wvas born Dupin! (Exit) Bas. Is he as villainous as his conversation Mir. His talk is but the mildest prologue to his deeds. Baz. Then he's the man for us. We shall never drive back the Liberals but by methods of unmitigated severity. CARLOTTA Mir. There is no barbarity too great for the intimi- dation of these towns. Baz. The only absolutely safe plan is to raze them from the earth. Mir. Trust Dupin! ( They go into ballroom. Enter, right, Count Charles and Aseffa. Her disguise is thrown back revealing her beauty) Asef You help me though a Liberal and your foe! Char. A foe! Dear lady, when you besought my aid Methought it was divinity that spoke, So sacred sweet seemed the request. I'll save Your brother. Asef Ah, dearer than a brother, sir It is my husband! Char. Husband! Asef. Yes, my lord. And dearer than -You have a wife Char. No, ladv. Asef. 0, then you can not know! But you have loved Char. I love. Asef A lover -not a husband. Ah! Add to thy love a thousand dearer loves And take their sum a thousand times a thousand, 'T will be the smallest part divisible Of my dear love for Rafael! You'll save him Char. Yes-I will save him. Do you trust me Asef. Trust you As I would Heaven! (Kisses his hands and goes out, right) Char. Gone! Aseffa! Gone No, never gone! Her kisses here! O lips That swept like drifting roses o'er my hands- Both hands,-sweet equity! Still are they warm As they were dipped in summer, though her touch ill 112 SE.1MIR.AM.1IS ANVD OTHER PL.4 A'S Was maiden light nor robbed him of a jot Who should have all. Her husband-'t was a word She used to slay me with! .... Even in sorrow She is more fair than any other fair Met on a holiday. But when she smiled She seemed like Fortune giving away a world, So gracious was her splendor. Thou art revenged, 0 little demon god so long my scorn' Would I had given my heart by piecemeal out Since I was ten than to have lost it so, For going all at once it takes my life And I must lose my life or follow it. Ah, love should come like waves unto a shore, Soft creeeping up and back and up again. Till 'taught to stand receptive we are firm When the last, highest wave envelops us. . ... Mlay God restore me! . . . 0 her beautv burns As she were limned by lightning on the night' Her eyes are torches that Eternity Lends life to read her dreams' Her cheek Is June within a bud Her veins have caught The falling sun that in them strives to rise To a new dawn' . . And I must save him -save him' This unknown man that holds the flaming sword Above my paradise: .... . If this decree Is signed she will be widowed. . . (Stops in horror) I am mad! . . . She will be free. . . Away, sweet hell, whose face Is masked like heaven: . . Let solid earth be air, The air be lead, light change to dark, and dark Be as the sun, 't will be no miracle When murder finds a welcome in my heart! (Enter AMaximilian, Bazaine, .lliramon, Dupin, Berzabal, Ruiz, Estrada, Ignacio) M1ax. (To Dupin) We're glad to welcome you. CARLOTT.4 'T will be X our charge to guard the unprotected towns now suflering from the raids of Liberals. fir. Of men, your majesty, who steal that title to grace a brigand's life' .ax. So we're assured. Dup. I'll see to it, sir, that these towns play no love- tricks with the enemy ' Baz. Sh' Max. No danger that way. Your duty is to protect them' Dup. No offense, I hope. But treason is a lively beast and hard to keep low. As your majesty's officer I must cudgel it down wherever I find it. Max. If unhappily you find it, sir- Dup. I 'll cut the throat of every man dog of 'emi' Max. Sir (Turns to Bazaine) The Colonel's speech is very figurative, good Marshal. (To Dupin) All instances of treason. (and God forbid there should be one') will be reported to me for careful investiga- tion. Dup. A thousand pardons, your Highness! I was swept away by my devotion to your majesty! I shall remember that you wish me to observe the mildest tem- perance in dealing with Your majesty's enemies. (As the emperor looks questioningly at Bazaine, Dupin snarls, then repeats suarelv) The mildest temperance in dealing with your majesty's enemies. M1ax. That is our wish. The mildest temperance. And this decree, Colonel Dupin Would you advise its passage Dup. I should be so hot to sign it, sir, my zeal would boil the ink in the bottle ! Alax. Very figurative, Marshal! (To Dupin) As yet we have not reconciled the matter with our con- science. 113 114 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAI'S (Lopez enters and comes up to the Emperor) Lop. (Handing him a slip of paper) Your majesty, the Empress sends you this. (Maximilian reads aside:) 'Sign the decree.' Max. (Aside) What has she heard Dup. (At a distance, in rear of Maximilian, folds his hands meekly on his breast and whistles softly) 'When we sacked the summer palace at Pekin!' (Mimics) 'As yet we have not reconciled the matter with our conscience.' Does he think he can govern Mexico with a prayer-book Put him in his cradle and sing by-lo-baby! Max. (To Miramon, '; ho has spoken to him) There's only one left to oppose it-Charles. Mir. My lord, you'd set a scholar's word against A general's in matters of the field The count's opinion, born within a closet, Would die in open air but for your nursing. Max. Come, Count, defend your cause. Char. My cause, my lord Max. You are but one against the government. Canst talk above so big a head If not, I fear we '11 pass this law of blood. Come, come! Be eloquent! My heart would have you win! Char. (Very pale and hesitating) Your majesty- I beg- Max. Goes it so deep To your good heart Mfir. My lord- Max. Forgive me, Charles, For pressing you so much. Wee'll rest to-night. To-morrow there'll be time. Char. (Hastily) No! Not to-morrow! Sign the decree! Sign it to-night! CARLOTTA (Maximilian looks with the greatest astonishment at his now flushed face and eager manner, then thinks he understands) Max. Ah, Charles, This tender heart of yours will kill you yet. No more of this. I'll keep you at your books. Char. (Recovering, proceeds with suavity, com- pletely sold to his desire) MLy mind has cleared with deeper thought, my lord, Discord, the ancients tell us, was at first So small a gnat did give her birth, but grew So great her feet o'erturned proud cities while Her head upset the gods in council. So this Small trouble may o'ercast your destiny- And is 't not better, sir, to pass a law, However dreaded, 'gainst the rebel few Than that the nation trusted to your care Should be broad cursed with civil slaughter Max. Better If such a danger threatens 'tis a crime Not to forfend it! (Enter Marquez and Archbishop Labastida) Lab. Gracious sovereign! Max. MLost reverend father, you would counsel us Lab. We would, your majesty. If yet the wish Of Heaven has power over you; and Christ Be your most high example, you will prove A careful guardian to your trusting people, And crush this villainous and robber race Now preying on the true and innocent, Swelling each day more poisonous and foul! Max. We are decided. Are we not, good Charles Mar. (Hastily) Nay, sire- Max. We are decided-to pass this law. Convinced that 'tis the honest course. 115 116 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS (All surprised and relieved but lgnacio, who starts with horror) 1g. AMy God' Mir. Blest majesty, we thank you! Lab. You do but set Your name where Heaven's seal already shines. 1g. The seal of Hell! 0 noblest man that breathes This corrupt air, take back that word of death Ere it is stamped in black upon your soul! Mfir. (After a silence) An Aztec, sire, and nephew to Juarez. Max. You think that is a sin Among our friends Are many whose nearest kinsmen nobly served The lost Republic. Hear us, Ignacio. This law is subject to a firm condition; Each officer shall make report to us, And every captive who deserves not death Shall have our pardon. 1g. Then, you '11 pardon two Now at Savarro, Trevino aud -Mendorcz, Both doomed to die at sunrise ! Mmli. Ravagers! Brigands' Av, murderers' 1g. No! Patriots! Soldiers! And martyrs if thev die' Mv lord, If they have plundered, 't was to feed an army; If they have killed,-that is the aim of war. They are your foes, but noble ones,-and men, Not creatures to be caught in traps and shot Like beasts' Mrax. We 'll look to this. -Marquez, at once Send a dispatch commanding they be held As prisoners of war until we 've time To examine them. Mfar. I will, your majesty. CARLOTTA 1g. My lord, at Callovalla when the French Had routed the Republicans, there came At night some student priests into the field To help the wounded and to cheer the dying. This man, Mlarquez, set on them with his troop And made them prisoners. The morning sun Beheld each saintly minister shot dead. And you would trust this devil with the life Of captive foes A man whose hands are red With God's own blood Mar. He lies! Your majesty. I 'll prove him traitor to your very eyes! 1g. Traitor Mrar. Ay, sir, and spy' Lay bare his arm, And see the branded cross '-the sacred mark Of those who 've swvorn to die in Juarez' cause! (Snatches at Ignacio's arm as if he would expose it) 1g. Liar and devil! do not touch me! M11ar. Spy! Lop. The proof is easy, sire. Expose his arm' Ig. I scorn such proof! And with my sword I'll meet Who dares lay hand upon me! Lab. Justice, sire! Command him to lay bare his arm! (Silence. Maximilian approaches Ignacio slowly and laYs his hand on his arm) Mla-. (Turning to Marquez, his hand still on Ignacio) You are a soldier, able and honorable. I trust You with my captives. . . Ignacio, You are no traitor, -and I trust you with My confidence. Both are deceived. 'T is I Must study how to heal this sad division. But now, w e 'll sign this necessary law. Come in with me. my friends. (Exeunt all but Ignacio) 117 118 SEMIRAMIIS AND OTHER PLAYS Ig. Too noble soul! Too gentle heart! 0 foul, most foul betrayal! He dooms himself. 0, Maximilian, We go on different ways, but each to death! The truest heart about thee is my own, And I'm a spy-death-vowed to be thy foe! I '11 warn the empress! . . . No. Sealed to the cause. Dead I may guard her. Death alone may give Me to her service. There 's no oath can bind The disembodied spirit. (Takes paper from his pocket) Here 's set down All I have learned of the Imperial plans. (Burns paper in candle flame) 'Tis fixed in memory, and if I live Juarez shall hear it all,-and-if I die- The grave is asked no questions. (Suddenly) Rafael! This signed to-night, to-morrow Rafael dies. Marquez will cut off all reprieve. One way Is left. . . I'll go. With life already lost Who would not fling the corpse to save a friend My honor 's bound to freedom and Juarez, My heart bound to the Empress and her lord. 0. love, while I have life thou must command me, Then to save honor. . . let me die! . . . Ah, could I save thee too, Carlotta! 0, what woe Awaits thy heart, madonna, saint. . . . and love! Might I but say farewell before I go, Then I could spur to death with happy heart, And I must travel fast to reach Savarro. (Takes a lady's glove from his bosom) My treasure, come! (Enter Carlotta) Car. It must be signed. . . it must. . . (Sees Ignacio) 1g. 0, little finger casements, do you mourn CARLOTTA. Your pretty tenants lost -five rose-sweet nuns That pray at one white shrine! (Kisses glove) Car. (Advancing) I hope, my friend, She 's worthy of your noble love. Ig. 0, madam, In her doth Heaven on earth make sweet beginning-, And aspirations tend her from the skies. Car. And she is beautiful as good 1g. 0, fair As olden marble walking down to us. Or that immortal Helen on whose lip Poets still feed the dream that's never fed! Car. She must be fair indeed. I hope she loves As much as she 's beloved. Ig. Nav, she dreams not Of my poor worship. Car. You must tell her, sir. Ig. With her I have no tongue, and can not woo. To see her is to think in hurrying dreams That move about some new desire of God. Nay, she 's the picture finished, vision complete, That perfect stands where dream no farther goes And shuts the gates to prophecy! Car. Would you But woo her thus you 'd win her, never fear! We women would be beautiful, and love The tongue that makes us so. Go, talk to her As you have talked to me. 1g. 'Tis not the same. There's something in your smile inviteth speech. Were she but you then would I kneel and say, (kneels) O rest me 'neath the heaven of your eye That gathers blessings as the sun his dews To give again to earth, and let your heart Throb once with pity sweeter than the love 119 120 SEMIIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA ES That other women give, and yet be dumb, That this sweet moment's balm may wrap my heart Till death bids it be still. 0, love mne not, But on my head lay thy madonna hand, And bless me as a mother would her child Who goes to death in going from her eyes! Car. (Laying her hand on his head) And I will bless thee, too, as she would do, True knight of love, gentle Ignacio! And yet I hope you will ask more of her, And she will grant it. 1g. (Rising) More is too much. Farewcll. I leave the court to-night, -bet go content, - Ay, happy' (Exit) Car. He leaves the court! . . . What a strange youth! But very true and noble, and well deserves The fairest woman's love. (Picks up glove dropped by Ignacio) He 's lost her glove. I'll send it after him. (Calls attendant) Andorro. Ah! It is my own! Yes. . yes. . the same. . . here is- My own indeed! ..... . And that is why he leaves The court! . . Poor youth! (She drops glove. Enter Andorro) Ignacio just passed out. He dropped this glove. His lady's favor maybe. I'm sure 't is prized. Haste, take it after him. And. (Picks up glove) Your pleasure, royal madam! (Going) Car. No-that way. (Exit Andorro) . ....Unhappy boy ! I'm glad I sent the glove. (Enter Mlaximilian and ministers) Car. (Going to him and taking his arm) 'T is signed CARLOTTA Max. 'Tis signed, my love. Come, friends! This act Of wisdom passed gives me a lighter heart! (All but Marquezgo into ballroom) Mar. The great death-warrant's signed. Ere its black list Be full, there'll be an emperor on the roll! (National music. Dancers seen through doors, the emperor and empress among them) (CURTAIN) ACT III. Scene I. Before the Imperial Theatre. Brilliant lights. Crowd confusedly assembled. All talking. Shouts. Long live the Empire! Citizen. 0 you mob, you puppet throat, that whistles as you 're squeezed! A Mob Orator. My friends, to-day we gloriously celebrate the birthday of the most glorious empire- Cit. Long live the Republic! Hail to Juarez ! Voices. To dungeon with him! The traitor! Tear him to pieces! (Guards dash upon citizen and drag him off) 1st Officer. Don't tell me the Republic is dead when a man is willing to die just to give one shout for it. 2d Officer. Three-fourths of the Mexicans have hearts of that color. But the Empire stands. Miramon is a miracle. How does he manage it 1st Off. He understands the use of the bayonet. 121 122 SE.MIRA.1 MIS AINID OTHER PLA S As our friend over the water says, you can do any thing with bayonets but sit on theu-. 2d Off Is n't this a rabble Motley's the oniv wear in Maximilian's court. He might succeed in running this country if so many people hadn't come along to help him do it. You ask a French question and you get a Dutch answer. You give an order in Prussian and it's obeyed in Irish,- Voices. He comes! Make wayv! Make way! hail to lMaximilian! Chief Guard. Back, all of you ! The Emperor wvill greet you yonder! We've orders to clear the plaza! Back' Back! His carriage stops! Go, get your places' Out' out! (Guards drive mob out) 1st Guard. If all the Empire's birthdays are to be like this I hope it will never come of age. It 's work, I tell you ' I'm dripping like a squeezed cloud! 2d Guard. If it had pleased the Empire to spend a little of the money it has wasted to-day for the widow,-s and orphans it has made- 1st Guard. Sh! We 're paid for our muscle, not our opinions. (Shouts outside) 2d Guard. And the mob is paid for its lungs' 1st Guard. Yes. Miramon sees to that. 2d Guard. Only the Emperor's carriage approaches the door 1st Guard. None but his. 2d Guard. If I were he I would n't make such a glittering show of myself in that Milan carriage-all gold and silver and tortoise shell, and an angel at every corner-while there are so many hearts breaking in sound of it. 1st Guard. Ph! He knows nothing of the breaking hearts! Miramon sees to that. CARL'LOTTA1 2d (tuardli. e 'll have to know soon, or Juarez will tell him in the capital. 1st Ciiard. Not a word! On Your life! (Shouts without) Here they are! By Jesu! The fools have have talken the inules fronm the carriage and dra-w it thlemselves' Now I wonder how much a head Miraniuon pays for that! (Entcr rabble of shou ting citizens drawving carriage in i'which sit the Emperor and Empress. They are to1- lowed byv a brilliant partjv of ladies and gentlemen. (encral and Madam Uiramon, Princess de Varela, I'rince an(l Princess Zichv, Prince and Princess Salm- Salm, Lopez, Count Charles, Alarquez, Archbishop Labastida, Estra(da, Perzablal, and others) Iaax. (To citizens) My friends, though I protest against this honor, I tlank You from my heart for such kind proof Of your affection. (Alights) Voices. Long live Maximilian! One of the rabble, awk-ward and ignorant. Long live ;he President of the Empire! MTax. (Snmiling) I've no objection to that title, fricnd, but I fear it would he criticised in Europe. (Crowd passes out shouting and dragging carriage) .A ax. (To Carlotta, as he looks at theatre) A noble building! Fair and magnificent! Car. I-How yonder gardens gleam beneath the lights Lik some soft dream of worlds we do not know! 1-fax. And all is vours, mv sweet,-allplanned by you! 0 love, you shall be mistress of a land The airest ever smiled up to the sun! Whia say you, Charles Does not this hour repay ''ven the sacrifices of Miramar Car. (Smiling) Nay, lie longs still for the old nooks and books. I 2: I 124 SEMIRAIXMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Char. Let me admit it. This mistress Pleasure, sir, Though she is fair is not so wondrous fair As goddess Knowledge. Beautiful as bride To her lord's eye is she to worshippers, Who seek and woo her till she yieldeth up Her locked virginity-the Truth! M1ax. (Affectionately) Ay, Charles, Get knowledge if thou canst, and yet despair not, For none so poor but virtue may be his; And though your knowledge is earth's silver key That opens man's and nature's heart, 'T is golden virtue opens Heaven and shows The God among his stars. . . But, come, dear friends! Pleasure is a true goddess too. We'll show Her fair respect. (All go into theatre but Charles, who drops back unnoticed) Char. He constantly unmasks me And knows it not. Knowledge! 'Tis withered leaves Amid a world of dewy boughs ! Knowledge! To one school will I go-one book I'll read, The school of love, the page of woman's eye, And I'll know more than sages and divines Who studv stars and Scripture! . . . 'For none so poor but virtue may be his' o noble soul, had I been true to thee I now could open thy deceived eyes. Crime seals my lips. I can but pray This empire built on blood may stand. We are The creatures of our deeds, more bound to them Than slave to master, for the terms of service Are fast indentured in the soul and know No razure ! .... But I will find Aseffa ! Then, Though sin should set a darkness on my life To draw each night out to a winter's length That constant storms from sallow leaf to green, CARLOTTA1 Still love's sweet lamp shall light me! In my heart 'Twill be as day! (Enter Aselta veiled, her dress covered with a black cloak. An attendant following. She tries to cross over to side entrance of theatre. A guard stops her) A4sef I am a singer. guard. Show Your pass. Asef Here, sir. (Guard signs for her to pass on. She sees Charles aond stops. Steps before him, throwing, back her veil) Asef You swore to save him! Char. You! Aseffa! Blest- Asef You swore it! Char. And would have died To keep my oath could I have kept it dying. Asef The Emperor refused you (He bowshis head) Demon! Oh! (Turns to go, moaning) Char. (Aside) I lose her! . . Stay! Is there no hope for grief Aset' Not mine! Can you not read it here Char. Too well. Thy sorrow is a veil through which thy beauty Burns like a shrouded sun. Asef You pity me Char. As Heaven knows ! Asef Then you will help me, sir Char. I'll give my life to do it! Asef: Ah, you will Then get me access to the Emperor. Char. 0 sweet Aseffa, you ask a miracle, And I am sadly mortal. Asef I knew! I knew! 125 126 SEAIRAMIl1S ANVD OTHER PLAYS My misery is your plaything' Char. His ministers So hedge him with their care- Asef 0 snare excuse' But I shall see him, sir Ay, face to face! Char. Why would you see himr He can not call the dead. Asef The dead! Thou hast but daggers for me! All Char. Aseffa- Asef Yes, I '11 see him! What think vou Should I go shouting 'murderer' through that hall, Would he arise and answer to his name Char You're mad, P seffa! Asef Thank Heaven, I am ' 'T would be The shame of woman to know all that I know And not be mad! Char. You must not go in there. Asefl (Fiercely) Must not! (Suddenlv calm) Nay, sir! Wh'hy see, I go to sing A welcome to the noble Emperor. (Throw-s back her cloak) As this dark cloak now hides nmy gay apparel, So shall my gay demeanor hide my woe. Char. You would not harm the Emperor Asef No need ! Yon moon is worshipped for her borrowed gold, Though charred and cold without a leaf to dower Her black sterility. So Maximilian. Napoleon's favor is the sun that gilds His worthless crown. But now the French are going- Char. What Asef Ah ! The French are going. Char. No! Asef And Maximilian shall fade to air, Unheeded as the moon no eye could find CARLOTTA1 itlhout her sun! Char. But hearts can live and love Though 'Maximilian falls. Asef Can live-and love! You torture me' Char. Forgive me. But the share Must rip the glehe before the corn may spring. Asef What do you mean, cold Austrian Char. Austrian! No' Your southern sun has poured into my veins A life that makes me new' I feel as vou Those throbs that shake the stars until thev fall Into the heart and make it heaven! My lips Can move toward lips as haste rose-gloried clouds To swoon into the sun! Asef Ah, yes-I know- You told me that You loved. But why say this To one who has lost all Char. I 'd have you learn That you must live. Aseffa, and life for you Means love. Your eyes, your lips, your hands, your hair, Like coiled sweetness of the night, and all Your swaying, melting body, gather love As roses gather smiles, as waves draw down The heart-flood of the moon and hold it deep And trembling. Asefl Sir, your roses, waves, and smiles, Are poet-nothings. You play with them as shells, Stirring chance colors for an idle eye. It is your way of saying, is it not, That I shall love again Char. You must! you must' Asef Such words are like bright raindrops falling in Another world. They glitter, but I hear No sound, grief has so closed mv ears. Take back 127 128 SEMIRAMYS ANVD OTHER PLA YS Your comfort. You would be kind, but noble count, You talk of what a man can never know, - A woman's sorrow for a husband loved. So high no height can reach it, so great and deep The sea can not embrace it, and yet her heart Can hold it all. 0 strangest of all love, That makes her rather stoop in beggar rags To kiss the happy dust where his foot pressed Than from a throne lean down to give her lips Unto a kneeling king! Char. Aseffa, grief Is not for you. You must-you must be happy! The shy and tender Dawn creeps up in fear That Night has laid some blight upon the world, But finding all is well, steps forth, and lo! Out of her courage the great sun is born. So doth the heart look outward after grief To find the world all dark, but nay, the light Is more of heaven than it was before, Because a face is shining from the clouds. You dim your loved one's eyes in paradise With your earth-tears. He mourns your splendor paled,- Though 't must be beautiful to the last tint, As sunset clouds that bear the heart of day Into the night. Asef You but offend my grief. Sir, keep your flattery for her you love! Char. I flatter thee It is not possible! Who dares to add fire to the sun, or bring The Spring a flower Be angry if you will. The morning's eye is not more glorious Rising above a storm! I flatter thee! When but to praise thee as thou art would put A blush on Poesy that ne'er has rhymed As I would speak! E'en thy defects would make CARLO TTA Another fair, and were they merchantable Women would buy thy faults to adorn themselves! 0, sweet- Asef (Shrinking in horror) What do you mean Char. (Seizing her hands) You know! 0, all my life has been but dreams of you, And when I saw you first, my love ! -my love ! - As lightning makes the midnight landscape speak The language of the day, your beauty flashed O'er all my years and made their meaning clear! 'T was you made sweet the song of every bird, 'T was you I found in every book I loved, 'T was you that gave a soul to every star! I can not speak it! Kiss me once-but once- And you will understand! Asef; What thing is this It is not man, for man respecteth sorrow, Nor brute, for it doth speak! Char. 0 look not down! Thou canst not guard thee! Every silken sweep Of thine eyes' soft defence but whets assault! You shall not go! You are the element In which I breathe! Go from me and I fall A lifeless thing! Aseffa, pity me! 'Tis I who die, not you! (Drops her hands and kneels) 0 blame me not That I must worship here- Asef Ah, Rafael, I'll live an hour to pray this wrong away Before I meet thine eyes! (Goes. Charles grasps her cloak) Beast! Claw me not! (Goes in. Charles gazes after her in a bewildered way. Tries to steady himself, and goes into theatre by main entrance) (CURTAIN) 129 130 SEMIRA.M'IS A.ND OTHER PLAYS Scene IS: IW'ithin the theatre. Gal decorations. Part of stage shown, on which chorus is assembled. The Emperor and Empress in royal box. Imperial cabinet and friends in boxes adjoining. Part of pit shown, filled with brightly dressed people. AMax. (To Carlotta) 0. this is welcome' Are you not happy now There's not a wrinkle on these smiling brows Where discontent mav write her annals dlark' My empire now is fixed, and strength and love Are gathering to my side. I can not put Mv hand out but 'tis clasped by some new friend. Car. And true Max. And true. You are too fearful, sweet. Car. And you too trustful. lMaax. Nav, we can not trust Too much. Brutus spoke noblest when he said 'Mr heart doth joy that vet in all my life I found no man but he was true to ine.' And I would hope as much. Car. (Aside) None, none are true' Even I am false who fear to speak my fears And ease his own when I should quicken them' (Chorus from stage) Hail, Ye roylal pair, 0 hail.' Like twro souls within one star May- vour heai-enly- light neer fail. Empress and great Emperor. Hail to thee who ruleth mild As the manger-cradled child!. Hail to her who long mary be Guardian of us and thee. CARLOTTA 1 Hail, 0 hail, ve pair divine.' As two souls within one star Mar vour light ibrever shine. Empress and great Emperor.' (Estrada appears on stage in front of chorus) Est. Great Majesties, forgive our feeble welcome. We are in all things spotted and imperfect St ve in affection for your Highnesses. Mlax. (Rising) No, no! vIv friend-and friends- had you not hearts That turn to virtue as the flowers to sun, We had not mnade such progress to an hour \When all the Empire wears the smile of peace, An] we may rest like Love with folded arms Inaund his desire. Est. 'Tis you have led us, sire. Iirdon this mockerv of what we'd do To celebrate this dav had we but means. We shout thv name, but not above the clouds; \Vc send up fires, but lightnings higher reach; We have adorned the city and ourselves, But India and the sea keep back the pearls We would pour here' Max. Enough-and more, my friends. 0. far too much! Nione mourn now but the gods \Who are made indigent by this dispiay Of wealth and joy! Est. (.M1aking low obeisance) We thank vour majesty. This land shall e'er be called the happy land, And he who rules it- Alsef: (Stepping wvildly from chorus) Prince of Murderers! The happy land' O land where widows' cries 1:1,1 132 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Choke Heaven, and mothers' tears make each new day A flood! Mlfir. Guards there! Take her away! The guards! M1ax. No! Let her stay! We'll answer her! Mir. My lord- Niax. Madam, we seek your country's love. Asef How do you seek it By killing her dear sons! Setting your tigers loose among her children! Mejia from your very breast makes fire On patriot virtue! Dupin wets his teeth By day and night in infant and mother's blood! Maximilian, In brave Trevino's name, Saiazar's name, In name of all as noble and as dear To Mexico as they, who daily die Beneath their country's flag the death of dogs, Shot down by your black law -signed by your hand- In name of him as dear to me as thou To that proud woman who shall know what 'tis To clasp a ghost where throbbed her living love, - I tell thee-die! (Leaps from stage to Emperor's box attempting to stab him. As she leaps Carlotta springs before the Emperor) Car. This heart-not that! (Aseffa drops her dagger and stands bewildered. An officer seizes her. Utter confusion in theatre. Maximil- ian goes onto the stage. Silence) Max. My friends, - All you who love me see me here unhurt, And you who love me not, if any 's here, (Cries of "none, none!"') Take aim now as you will. (Cries of " No ! no ! no ! no!") A Voice. Long live the Emperor! Maximilian! .M1ax. Then if you love me, friends, I beg you '11 leave CARLOTTA This place of song and go to the Cathedral. There pray for me to Him who spared my life, And, if you will, pray that He yet may spare it To work His will and yours. (Crowd goes out silently) Mar. (To Labastida) That was well done. Lab. Sincerity is once a diplomat. Car. (To Princess Salm-Salm) Princess, take this poor creature to your care. (Officer releases Aseffa, who goes out as in a dream with Prince and Princess Salm-Salm and several ladies) Mar. (Approaching Maximilian) Your Majesty, let me congratulate- Ill, sire Max. Sick, sick, 0 sick of compliments! If I've a friend here let me hear the truth! What did that creature mean The truth, I say! (Silence) You, Miramon Lopez (Silence) Trevino 's dead Lop. He is. Max. And Rafael Mendorez Lop. Dead. The woman is his widow. Max. Oh! ... And this! (Taking out message) This from Dupin! 'All quiet in Savarro.' It means- Lop. The town is ashes. Max. O God! O God! You ministers! Ay, ministers of hell! Didst think ye served the devil Est. O, my lord- Max. No friend! Not one! Charles! Charles! you must have known! These foreign hearts have their excuse, but you- The tower of confidence between us two, 133 134 SEM11IRAMI1S ANVD OTHER PLAYS Built part by part by faithful mason houl s, Is shaken to atoms! Char. I will build it o'er! mAax. First will the wind-strewn rose upgather all Her petals from the dust, and cheek by check, Hang them new-smiling on the nodd:ig 1L'ugh' lMir. Your Majesty, what we have done was done To save our country and your beloved life. Your noble heart was blind to your great danger, And 't was our duty and our work of love To save you from your fatal tenderness. Lop. (Kneeling) 0 gracious sovereign, had I but known You did not know, I would have dared the wrath Of all the court, and spoken to you but truth! Mlax. (Lifting him up) And 't was your tongue at last that broke the silence. I must forgive you. M1ar. By your necessity, Your Mlajesty, we may all hope for pardon. Juarez, encouraged by the United States, Is roused again to war. We have appealed For compromise and terms of friendly union, But his one answer for us all is-death' Yet are we faithful to you, sire. Max. 0 Heaven! What poisonous opiate have you fed me with And called it peace But war is not the worst! Oh, Miramon, did you not swear to me All prisoners taken by that cruel law Should be reported day or night to me That I might pardon or remit their sentence Mir. 0, sir, you knew not your extremity, Nor could you know it though we told it you, The hearts of Mexicans once turned to hate CARLOTTA 1'35 Are far too deep for sincere eves to pierce. But I thank God we knew the danger, sire, And struck the serpent raised even at your life, When vou, all gentleness, could not have given The necessary blow. Nv, God be thanked, althoughi You cast me from your heart. 'T will be my comntort To know I served you better than you dreamed. And 'tis the penalty of over-love To suffer bv the hand that (kneels and kisses Mlaximil- ian's hand) it would kiss ! .1Max. NMust I forgive him, Heaven Lab. Av, sir, you mnust, For his deceit was but the greater truth That served your blind necessity. Est. 0, sir, Do not desert us! If now the Empire falls 'T is death to all that have been true to vou. Juarez will give no quarter to your friends. .Max. The Liberals advance Miar. Each day they 're nearer; And towns and provinces fall by the way. Berz. Without you, sir, our cause will die in blood, And Mexico be but a grave for those Who 've loved and served you! Mar. The United States has ranked Full sixty thousand men on our frontiers, - But we have France- M1ax. I am awake! At last! From now no man shall risk his life for me But I take equal chance with him! Ah, this Is war, not murder' Mar. You will lead our troops Max. I will. MAlar. Then Mexico is saved! The way To win the southern hearts is but to trust them. 1235 136 SEMIRAMIS A.ND OTHER PLAYS Leave at your capital the foreign troops And lead your native soldiers 'gainst the foe! Car. (Aside) No! Never! Never! Alone with those dark hearts! (Enter Marshal Bazaine with envoy from France, Comte de St. Suereur, Marquis de Gallifet, and General Castlenau) Baz. My lord, we bring new messages from France. Gen. Cast. Your majesty, we beg your gracious pardon For this unseemly pressure. Max. You have it, sir. What says Napoleon Cast. He greets you, sire, with my unworthy tongue, And sends this letter. (Maximilian reads) Max. My eyes, I think, turn wizards And conjure 'gainst the truth that must be here. For I read false. (Puzzled) What does he mean Not this- Baz. My lord, my letters make the import clear. I have instructions here to counsel you To make immediate abdication. Max. No! Car. What Abdication Baz. Ay! That is the word. Car. A word for fear and weakness, not for strength, And Maximilian is as strong as France While great Napoleon respects his oath! His troops are ours - Baz. Nay, princess- Mir. (Fiercely) Her Majestv' Baz. (Sneers) You prize thefeather when the cap is lost CARLOTTA (To the Empress) Pardon a slipping tongue, your Majesty. Those troops you speak of go with me to France. Such is my order-such the firm demand Of the United States. Car. Is France a province Of the United States Napoleon Page, lackey, footboy to America Is she an Empire, he an Emperor Or have we dreamed he is Napoleon Max. (Recovered from his bewilderment) Withdraw his troops! He can not-dare not do it! 'T would blister history's page to set it down, And 'tis his burning wish to be the star Of human chronicles. I'll not believe it, Though all my senses brand confirming yea Upon my mind. 0 shout it in my ears, And let me see the troops go marching out, Still I'll believe it is my eyes and ears That mutiny, not France turned traitor! Baz. Your Majesty, you must believe the truth, And make you ready for a swift departure. 'T will not be safe here let a moon go by. Max. If danger's here, then here I stay to share it. Dost think I'll leave my friends to die alone While I by flight dishonor Majesty Baz. 'Tis death to stay. Youwouldnot beso mad. Mir. Hail to our new-born king! New-born thou art Unto our love. Nay, we did love before, But now we '11 worship thee. Car. Napoleon! You shall not do this monstrous thing! You shall not! Baz. The crown of France doth ask consent of none. Car. I'll go to him and say such words that from 137 138 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS His shame-marked brow his outraged crown will fall In horror. I will go! Take out the troops, Bazaine. Ay, take them out! He will be glad To send them back and purchase with his blood Redemption from such shame. He '11 empty France To do it! I will go. But I'll not kneel. A thousand years my blood has run through kings, And he's the third Napoleon! (Sinks, exhausted with emotion. Ladies attend her) Mir. The traitor! We have no need of him! To France, Bazaine, And tell your Emperor our Emperor Needs not his fickle strength to stand upon! Sire, we have men, and money in our banks- Lab. A mighty church whose power is untold If you restore her rights, as now we hope, And thus united we shall defy the world! Max. And Heaven, too For that is what we do When we set up the church in her old wrongs. Nay, keep your aid, and I will keep my soul. Lop. Your virtuous angel strives to make you god. Max. No, but to keep me honest. Mar. (Aside to Lab.) Yield to him. 'Tis not the hour to cast him off. Lab. My lord, Your virtue conquers, and unto your hands I yield the power o' the church. Max. I thank your grace, Nor for myself, but Mexico. Baz. I go to France. What message have you for Napoleon Max. Tell him that he has placed me here between Death and dishonor - and my choice is made. (Bazaine and French ambassadors turn slowly and go out) CARLOTTA Max. (Quietly to Miramon) We'll join you at the door. (Exeunt all but Carlotta and Maximilian. He holds out his arms, and she goes silently to his embrace) (CURTAIN) ACT IV. Scene I: Queretaro. Plaza La Cruz before church and convent. Grey light before dawn. Occasional dis- tant firing of guns. Maximilian comes out of church and walks about plaza. Max. Carlotta! Where dost thou pray to-night In all Our fearful scanning of prophetic heavens No swart star showed us this-our separation. Thou wert the all of me, the breath, the soul! Nature conceived thee when her blood was young, And May was in her spirit, but stayed thy birth Till Time had taught her skill in all perfections! . . . I will not weep. .. Yon stars have memories too, And tell old tales of grandsire suns that shook Their locks and fell ere they were young who now Are eld of all! . . . (Walks) To lie so low... . 0 man, Who in the heavens carvest out redemption, Laying thy golden streets in very skies, Making the stars but eyets of thy port, Must thou compact thee to a little earth, Displace some few small tenants of the sod, 139 140 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS And find thou 'st room enough .... (Looks up) City of dream! Time's far ghost inn! Eternity's mirage! Desire's dim temple fashioned out of prayer, Builded and jointured by no carpenter But captious Fancy! . .. 0 Carlotta, wife! Thou wert my Christian heart! Faith, faith, my God' Death to the unbeliever is to land Upon a coast dumb in the moonless dark, Where no hands wave a welcome, no eyes shine With promise of sweet hours, no voices call The greeting that makes every shore a home. (Listens) My officers! I can not see them yet. (Goes in. Enter Colonel Lopez in close talk with Lieu- tenant Garza who is disguised as an Imperial officer) Garza. I 'm satisfied. Lopez. This hill is the key to the city. Gar. Yes. Lop. And yours on terms we have considered. Gar. Here 's Escobedo's guarantee. (Gives paper) Lop. This to my pocket, and Queretaro to the Liberals! Gar. 'Tis heavy business. You do it lightly, colonel. Lop. The world 's a feather. Gar. If we but think so. Lop. At dawn my troops are yours. Gar. And you command the Empress' regiment. Lop. Yes. The pick of Maximilian's soldiers. Gar. One other question. The southern gate-Hist! Lop. The nuns. (They draw aside and converse. Two nuns come out of convent and cross plaza) 1st Nun. The good Emperor is not out yet. He is often here long before day walking and thinking. 'T is then, they say, his mind is on the blessed Empress who has gone across the sea to get help for him. By day he CARLOTTA never speaks her name, but thinks only of our poor country. 2d Nun. Hark! The enemy's guns! They can not reach us. 1st Nun. Can not A shell broke here yesterday. The Emperor stood just there. 2d Nun. Holy mother! What did his Majesty do 1st Nun. He smiled, and said he might have chosen his place better; then moved to the very spot where the ball had burst, as though he hoped another would follow it. 2d Nun. Blessed virgin! Would he die 1st Nun. I 'm sure he would not live. Come, sister. Ah, we have but one loaf this morning. 2d Nun. Let us be glad we can give that,-for many are hungry. 1st Nlun. Many are starved-dead. 2d Nun. But the good Emperor! It is so sad to think of him without food. 1st Nun. He will give this to his officers. Yesterday I saw Prince Salm-Salm and the general Miramon each with a bit of white bread that can not be found in all Queretaro outside of our convent. 2d Nun. The good man! Holy Mother bless and keep him ! (They go into the Cruz) Lop. What will you do with Maximilian Gar. Make a Liberal of him. Lop. Ha! How Gar. Shoot him! Lop. Shoot him Gar. Yes. The grave 's the great republican senate house, -where each man has the floor. Lop. (Laughing) And you wvill introduce himr! Gar. Hark! Lop. The Emperor! Go! (Exit Garza. Enter Maxi- milian and Prince Salm-Salm) 141 142 SEMIRAMIIS AND OTHER PLAYS Max. (Greeting Lopez affectionately) You 're early out, my boy. Lop. Your majesty, I am the officer of the day. Max. Yes,-I remember. Who was your friend Lop. Ramirez, of Dupin's regiment. Salm. Ramirez ! He's much changed if that was he. Lop. Shall I call him back, your majesty, that the prince may convince himself that his memory of faces is not infallible Max. Nay, my trusted two' (Puts an arm about each) Would you might love each other as I love you both. My prince, whose courage is the very heart of my army, and my young hussar, dear for your own sake- dearer still because-she trusted you! (Blasio, the Emperor's secretary, comes out of the Cruz) Blasio. Your majesty, I have finished the letters. Mlax. Good. There will be no more to write. (Stumbles over something) What 's this Blasio. A fallen Christ. Max. You mean a fallen figure of the risen Christ. Lop. Here is the crown of thorns. Max. Give it to me. (Holds it meditatively) How well it suits my fortunes! Salm. Nay- Max. Ay, better than my golden one. (Gives it to Blasio) Hang it above my bed. My Queretaro crown' Salm. Do not, your majesty! Max. (To Blasio) Take it. (Exit Blasio) Why, prince, 'tis something to have won a crown. My first was given me. (Firing and falling of shells) Salm. I beg you, sire, to move your quarters to a safer station. This is death at any moment' UMax. Death at any moment-(Regretfully) And I have been here sixty days. Lop. Courage, sire! Marquez will come! Max. (Eagerly-) Has there been news Lop. Not yet, your majesty. Max. Not yet! What does it mean You heard him take the oath to bring me help or die. 'T was here he swore-before us all. Vowed to return with troops in fifteen days! Ah, he is dead. Salm. No, your majesty. Max. But if he lives Salm. He is a traitor. Mlax. You heard his oath- Salm. A traitor's oath! Lop. He's true, your majesty. His messengers are murdered. Salm. He's false! Max. But that means-death. Sain. Or flight. Max. Not flight! (Enter Miramon and Mendez) You're welcome, gentlemen. Your eyes bring news. Mir. Your majesty, Metz has returned. Max. At last! News of Marquez! He comes! I know he comes! Men. 0, sire,- Max. The faithful Metz! Where is he Metz. (Entering) Sire! (Kneels) Max. Rise, sir. Metz. 0 pardon me, your majesty! I bring but wintry news. Max. Marquez- Metz. Is false. Max. Oh, no, no, no! He comes! I know he comes! CARLOTTA 143 144 SEAIIRAMJS ANVD OTHER PLAYS .Metz. He's leagued with Labastida, -for the church Deserts you too. Max. The church gone with him! No' no' I can't believe it ! Mletz. You do not doubt me! Max. Not you! But in mv ear The tale turns miracle! And I must doubt, Though on your tongue 'tis truth! Metz. 'T is truth indeed! The troops he was to bring you from the city, He led for his own glory against Diaz, Thinking to make himself the conqueror And president of Mexico. Max. My troops! What then Metz. Porfirio Diaz routed them To the last man. Marquez himself escaped Alone,-fled unattended from the field. Max. My troops! my troops' . . And this is friend- ship! 0 God, Give me but enemies! Salm. Your Majesty- Max. Who calls me majesty There's none in me. I am a riven oak whose leaf-light friends Fly with misfortune's Autumn. (Steps away, bowed in grief) Salm. (Following him) I love you, sire. Lop. (Eagerly) So do we all' Your majesty, believe us! Mir. Canst not spare one who have so many true Max. Forgive me, friends. This treachery 's the night Wherein vour hearts of gold beat out like stars! Lop. My life is Yours, my lord' CARLOTTA Max. Thanks, dear Lopez. (Takes his hand) In friendship lies the joy superlative, And nearest Heaven. We touch God's hand whene'er We clasp a friend's. ..... But now we must take counsel. Salm. No, sire, we must take action. Pardon me, But our sole hope of safety lies in flight. Max. What! Leave the town to sack and ruin No' Desert the poor inhabitants, so long our friends And all our wounded, sick and dying Never! Salm. But if You stay, my lord, you sacrifice The living with the dying. Max. Oh, Heaven, Heaven! Lop. Your MIajesty, this counsel is not wise. It is not honor! Salm. Honor will lead the flight! To stav were crime' Sire, give the order now. At once! The firing to the north has ceased. All night I've reconnoitered. The way is clear For the last time. We'll arm the citizens To cover flight, and in an hour- Lop. We'll be Attacked on everv side! A madman's counsel! Salm. 0, sire, lose not a moment' Mir. Lopez is right. To flv from death is not dishonor, but who That values honor throws away one chance Of victory Salm. There is no chance. Not one. .Mv word is fly, and I'm no coward, sire. Max. You 've led our troops where every track was blood, And in the throat of battle, hand to hand, Have fought with Death! We know you'll dare a fight 14.5 146 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS As far as any man while there 's a hope Of victory. Salm. But I '11 not make my folly The captain to defeat Lop. 'T is not defeat! The Liberals are at their fortune's ebb. They're sick with fear, and tremble in their rags. Mendez. Let's fight it out, my lord! Max. With starving men. Lop. We're starving, but our foes are starved. Our ammunition fails, but theirs has failed- (A shell breaks near them) Salm. That, sir, unspeaks your words. Lop. Not so. One shell But tells how few they are, for yesterday They fell in numbers. And to the north, you say, The guns are silent. Salm. Sire, a moment lost May mean the loss of all. (Enter Dupin with two prisoners. Lopez goes to meet him) Dupin. What did you mean by your infernal order to bring these men here Don't you know old Saint- face won't let them be shot Lop. Keep quiet. They are my captives, not yours. Dup. I've plugged just ninety-eight this week, and it's too bad not to make an even hundred. Max. (Approaching) Prisoners Dup. Deserters, your majesty. They have con- fessed it. I 've brought them here for sentence. Will you have them shot at once, or wait till sunrise Max. None shall be shot. Not one. How often must we say it If things go well here, good; if not, still is my conscience clear of blood. (To deserter) You 've been with the enemy CARLOTTA Ist Des. Yes, curse the day! Your pardon, blessed majesty! Max. How fare our foes 1st Des. The best of them as bad as the worst with us. Lop. You note that, prince 2d Des. We have a little food, but they have none. The country is eaten bare. Diaz is trying to reach them with supplies, but at present there isn't enough meal in ten miles of the army to make an ash-cake. Lop. More proof for the prince, your majesty. Max. Their powder fails 2d Des. Yes, sire. 'T would be all the same if it didn't, for they've hardly strength left to stand on their toes and fire the guns. M1ax. Poor fellows! Lop. You can not doubt, my lord, that we shall win with the next assault. Mir. Cast fear to the winds, your majesty! Salm. Who spoke of fear .Mir. Not I' Fear is the devil's magie-glass He holds before us to swell out our vision, Turn hares to lions, stones a lamb might skip To beetling cliffs that ne'er knew human foot, And slightest obstacles, that do but make The mind's fair exercise and moral zest, To barriers, high as heaven, to success' Lop. (Sneering) And Juarez' men of rags to glittering armies! Max. We'll hazard battle. Salm. I beg your majesty- Max. We know your courage, prince, for it is writ In many a scar; but you are wrong in this. Lop. You'll bear no more of flight, my lord Ma x. No more. 147 148 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Lop. Then I'll to duty, knowing all is well. (Exit Lopez) Dupin. (Aside) And I 'll go find a breakfast for my little man-eater. (Clapping his weapon) There's never anything to be done around his saintship. (Exit) Mir. In half an hour Max. Yes. The plans will then be ready. (Turns to go in) You, prince, with me. Though I've dismissed your head from service, I still must have your heart. (Goes into church with Salm-Salm) Mir. (To Mendez) Wbat do you think of it Men. Why, sir, I'd rather die fighting than running. And there's a chance for us. The Liberals are beggared. There's hardly a uniform in camp. If Marquez had kept true, we should have saved the empire. Mir. Don't speak of him! Hell's throne is empty while he 's on earth! (Exeunt lendez and Mir.) 1st Des. Well, comrade, here 's promotion fast enough. We that were prisoners are captains of the field. Lead on! 2d Des. Be sure the Tigre is not around. He 's got a long claw. Ugh! I feel shaky yet. (Exeunt. It grows lighter. Guard comes out of the Cruz and takes station by door. Enter Princess Salm- Salm, Aseffa, and women of Queretaro) Princess S. (Excitedly) Admit me to the emperor! Guard. Your pardon. He must not be disturbed. Princess S. Oh, but he must! The pity of it that he must! Guard. Nay, madam- Princess S. Admit us, sir, or I will beat the door! (Maximilian comes to door) CARLOTTA Max. Some trouble here The princess! Always welcome! Princess S. But such unwelcome news, your majesty! You know I've rooms at Senor Barrio's house. I've long suspected him. Last night he lodged Two men whose conference I overheard. All was not clear, but part was clear enough. One of your trusted officers is false, And you to-day-this hour-will be betrayed Unto your foes. Max. Impossible! Princess S. 0, sire, Be blind no longer. This lady heard the men As I did. There's no doubt! Lady. 'T is certain, sire, That they were officers in the Liberal army, And spoke of things that set me all aghast. Max. Good women, I thank you, but you are deceived. There 's not a man about me whose true face Is not the table where fidelity Writes him my own. Princess S. 0, sir, 't is one whose hand Is in your bosom. Max. Nay- Princess S. That much I know, Though I know not his name. Max. Bold Miramon Is staunch as death. Mendez would in his breast Receive the bullet meant for me. Dupin Has been too cruel to the enemy To hope for life even at treason's price. And Lopez is my own created love, The Empress' guard, -the only Mexic heart I've taken a very brother's to my own. 149 150 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Princess S. What shall I do This moment you must fly! Stand not, your majesty! 'Twill be too late! (Prince Salm-Salm comes to door) Thank God, my husband! His majesty's betrayed! You 've never doubted me! Prince Salm. Betrayed Max. No, prince, - Prince Salm. I'll visit every post! Princess S. You but lose time. (The prince hurries out) Oh God! Oh God! Max. Sweet princess, be not troubled. There is no cause. Princess S. Ah, we are lost! (The bells of the city begin to ring) Max. You hear The bells! The enemy has raised the siege! O joyous news! Princess S. No, no, your majesty. That is the traitor's signal of success. Oh Heaven! Max. What madness! 'Tis impossible! Princess S. Those bellsproclaim that every Imperial post Is in a Liberal's command. We're lost! (Enter citizens and soldiers in confusion) 1st Cit. What mean the bells 2d Cit. That Escobedo 's fled! 3d Cit. Marquez has come! 1st Soldier. No, no! The city's taken! 2d Soldier. Juarez is here! The Liberals are on us! (Confused talking and shouts continue. Re-enter Prince Salm-Salm) Max. What is it, prince CARLOTTA Prince SaIm. 0 dearest majesty - Max. The worst! P Salm. 'T is treachery. We are surrounded! AMax. Those bells- P Salm. Ring out the enemy's success. Each post is captained by a Liberal. Max. (Calmly to princess) Forgive me. You were right. (To Prince Salm-Salm) Who is the traitor P Salm. Ask not, I beg you. Max. His name! P Salm. Lopez. Max. Lopez (Staggers) Unsay that word -and take my crown! P Salm. 0, would I could, your majesty! It is too true! AMaix. Lopez! Carlotta's chosen officer! And heaped with favors high enough to make A pyramid to faith! ..... Is this the world, Or some strange fancy spinning in my eyes P Salm. My dearest liege - Max. Who would not leave a life Where such things be, though death were sleep eternal . . . Lead me 'mong shells and bayonets. But not To kill. My God, there's blood enough been shed. Bid all surrender. Let no more lives be lost. Farewell, my prince. ... Now for a friendly shell! - Just here! (Striking his heart, rushes out) Princess S. 0 save him! I am safe! Go! go! (Exit Salm-Salm) 1st Woman. We shall all be butchered! Aseffia. Juarez is no butcher. 2d Woman. 'Tis Escobedo leads,-and many have bled by him. Aseffia. Be not afraid. I know the Liberals. 151 152 SEMIRAMIS ANVD OTHER PLA YS Voices. They come' thev come' (Miramon and Dupin rush in) Mir. Where is the Emperor Dup. Emperor dunce-cap' We must look to our own skins. (Enter a score of ragged Liberals led by Rafael. Aseffa stares at him, speechless) Mir. Too late for that' Raf You are our prisoners. (Liberals take Dupin and Miramon) Soldiers. Shoot them' Shoot them: 'Miramon and Dupin' The butchers' The dogs' Rat Hold: You are soldierE' Not murderers' Dup. (To soldiers) You rags and bones: Go wash and eat before you touch a gentleman' Sol. You'll not be so nice to-morrow when the worms are at vou' Asef Raphael' (Flies to him) Raf You here' 0 blessed fortune' Mfv love' mv love: Asel: 0. is it true You are alive' Alive' I too am resurrected, for I was dead, Slain with the news that you were murdered' Rat I've news too bitter for so sweet a moment. Ignacio bribed my guard-stood in my place- And died. Asef (Recoiling) You let him die for you Raf No, no. He carefully deceived me. I thought he planned His own escape with mine. Asef 0 noble friend' . Juarez' He knows Raf. Not vet. Asef What grief for that Great heart' . . But you are here-mmy Rafael! CARLO TTA Raf Bv all these kisses-ves' Asef These are your lips- Your eves-vour hands-alive' I hear your heart! Your arms are round me, vet this is the earth' Mv country and my husband safe' Raf. God gives Some moments out of Heaven, and this is one. (Enter a soldier) Sol. The Emperor is captured by Escobedo! Princess S. Not killed' not killed' Thank Heaven for that' Sol. 'T was strange To see him stand like this (folds his arms) among the shells' Asef Now I could pity him, for he must die. Princess S. Die, woman' Die You know not who he is' Why all the outraged world would rise and raze This devil's country from the face of earth Were Mlaximilian slain' LetJuarez dare To harm this son of kings and he will learn His beggar's power is but an infant's breath: Asef Good madam, you have been my noble friend. I would not wound you, but would have vou know That better men than Maximilian Have died for lesser crimes. (Enter Juarez with soldiers. Dawn has graduall opened and it is now broad sunlight) Voices. Juarez' Juarez' El Presidente' El Presidente' Jua. My men, The town is ours, and with it Mexico. Citizens of Queretaro. I give vou back More than vour homes,-your liberated country. Voices. Long live the Republic' Liberty forever! (Enter Escobedo) 153 154 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Esc. Your Excellency will see the prisoner Jua. The illustrious duke Ay, bring him here. Esc. He comes. (Enter Maximilian under guard) Jua. Great duke, I grieve that I have cause for joy To see you thus. What wishes would your grace Prefer to us Max. I have but one request, Your excellency. If more blood must be spilt, Let it be mine alone. Jua. We grant it, sir, With two exceptions justice d'th demand. Dupin and Miramon must die with you. Dupin, who put to most ignoble death The noblest prisoners of righteous war. Dark Miramon, whose cowardly ambition Has sunk his country in her own dear blood, And would do so again did life permit Him opportunity. And you, my lord, Who signed the foulest, most inhuman law Writ down since Roman Sulla's hand grew cold. Princess S. 0 spare him! Spare him, sir! He was deceived By treacherous ministers! Jua. His ministers Were but his many hands, and for their deeds His heart must answer. Princess S. 0 could you know that heart! Max. Dear lady, peace. Princess S. Beloved majesty, I speak for her who prays beyond the sea. . . 0, sir, you can not mean that he must die! Help me, Aseffa! Help me plead for him! Does not your Rafael live Asef. He lives because CARLOTTA Ignacio is dead. (Juarez starts) I must be just. Princess S. What has a woman's heart to do with justice 'Tis mercy is its heavenly quality! Jua. Is this thing true My boy .... . Speak, Rafael. Tears in your eyes. You need not speak. My boy. . . Ignacio. . . . Unto God I give thee! ... Princess S. 'T is right That they who would be gods to others' woe Should be proved human by their own. Jua. (Not hearing her) And this Is what so many hearts have borne since first The Austrian came. Princess S. 0 mercy, mercy, sir! By your own woe show pity unto those Whose hearts must bleed if Maximilian dies! Be merciful ! These tears of mine are but The first few drops of the unbounded tide That weeping as the sea weeps round the world Shall drink thy hated land if this good man Dies by your word! Be Christ, not man, and spare him! Juarez. Madam, it is the people and the law Demand this expiation, not Juarez. I grieve to see you on your knees before me, But did each queen of Europe-ay, and king,- Kneel in your place, I could not spare that life. (Silence. Sobs. Juarez signs to Escobedo, who leads prisoners away. Dupin's broad hat is pulled low. Mira- mon steps proudly. At exit Maximilian turns and salutes the people) Max. Mexicans! Long live Mexico! (CURTAIN) 155 156 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS ACT V. Scene I: Audience chamber, the Tuileries. Louis Napoleon alone. Lou. Succeed or fail ! However men may run The goal is marked. Yet will we race with Fate In forgone match. Some free of foot and hand, Some stumbling with huge empires on our backs Less certain than the overburdened ant Housing a winter crumb ...... Victoire! (Enter Secretary) Sec. My lord. Lou. If any dispatch from the West arrives Bring it at once. Sec. Yes, sire. (Exit) Lou. America! Thou strange, new power where each man is a king, I have obeyed thy will. Pulled down my empire, Built up that France might the Atlantic stride And stand firm-footed in two worlds. This slap Upon the cheek imperial insults All monarchy, yet Europe shrugs and smiles, When she should blush to ruddy rage of war. ..... .The West must go.... but here I'll be supreme. Austria and Prussia I urge again to conflict, And promise aid to each, but in my dream They both are doomed and France shall reign alone. (Enter Chamberlain) Chamb. Your majesty, the Marechal Bazaine. CARLOTTA Lou. Bazaine! Admit him. (Exit Chamberlain) 'Tis penance night with us, And this man is the mirror of our conscience, Showing its foulest spots. (Enter Bazaine) Baz. Sire, I salute you. Now Paris is the star that all eyes seek. The Exposition draws the world to you, Who glitter here as you were made for heaven. Lou. Ay, Here we would shine that none may see our star I' the West grow dark! . .. Now Maximilian Baz. He will be shot. Lou. No jests! I ask you, sir, What terms he may arrange for freedom. Baz. None. Lou. You speak not to a fool. Baz. I trust not, sire. Lou. You know the Mexicans. Tell me the truth. Baz. I know the Mexicans. He will be shot. Lou. God, no! That noble man! Baz. Pray, sir, what fate Had you in mind for Maximilian When finding him too true to Mexico For your proud aims, you sent such covered word To one Bazaine he could but read therein A revolution and the Emperor's fall Lou. I would have spared his life. Baz. (Taking out paper) Then what means this (Reads) 'France weeps no death that brings her better fortune.' Lou. You 'd spy a warrant in the alphabet Did you but wish to find one ! Think you that Meant-death 157 158 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Baz. (Closer) I know it. Lou. What dare you Baz. Any With this safe in my pocket. (Puts up paper) Lou. Beware, Bazaine! Baz. When one so mighty as your Majesty Is my protector Lou. You- (Enter Chamberlain) Chamb. The Count von Ostein Beseeches word with you. Lou. He's welcome to it. thing - (Exit Chamberlain) Adieu, le marechal. Baz. Lou. My lord- Adieu, Le marechal. (Exit Bazaine) Prussia's ambassador. Now for our role of cheat and crowned dissembler. 0 for a throne where Truth might keep her head! (Enter the Prussian Minister) Welcome, my lord. Prus. Most gracious majesty, The foreign ministers have come in body To speak congratulations and confirm The triumph of the Exposition. Lou. They have our truest thanks. But first, my lord, A word in private with you. Is't Prussia's wish That we withhold our aid from Mexico Prus. A question, sire. You know that Austria threatens. Is France in this the friend or enemy To Prussia There's not an inch of middle ground To stand on. If our foe, then pour your strength CARLOTTA To Mexico. If friend, keep it at home, Ready for Prussia's need. Lou. To be your friend May cost some blood to France. Prus. I've heard it said The left bank of the Rhine is a fair country, And worth a little blood. Lou. Enough, my lord. Let Prussia know she has a friend in France, And with your sanction cover our retreat From Mexico. (Enter Chamberlain) Chamb. Pardon, your majesty. The Empress of Mexico begs audience. Lou. Carlotta No! Chamb. She presses urgently To enter. Lou. Here . . We sent our word to her At Miramar! . . . And yet-she comes-she's here. .... Admit the deputation, and summon, too, Our Empress. Chamb. The Empress comes. (Enter Eugenic at- tended. Exit Chamberlain. Enter guards) Eug. 1 hear the ministers Have come to us with state congratulations, And though unbidden, I'll not leave my chair- The co-seat of imperial dignity- Vacant at such a time. Lou. Welcome, Eugenie. We were about to summon you. Eug. Thanks even For tardy courtesy. Lou. But we have more Than compliments to hear. Carlotta waits Our audience. 159 160 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Eug. Carlotta! I can not see her! (Rises) Lou. Nay, it was you first cast ambitious eye To Mexico. Now see the end. Eug. My lord- Lou. Be seated, madam. Eug. You command me, sir Lou. We do. Eug. (Going) Come, ladies! Lou. (To guards) Let no one pass out! Eug. France, sir, shall know this outrage! Lou. When you wish To make it known. (Enter ambassadors, Austrian, Russian, Italian, Belgian, and others) Rus. Most glorious Majesty! Beig. Mighty France! It. Italy's savior! Aus. Christendom's king! Lou. I thank you, my good lords; but we're too sad To smile at compliments; Carlotta comes To beg our power to uphold her throne, Though Heaven has decreed her empire's fall. We ask you hear our open clear defence, And help set forth our duty, that the Empress May see our wisdom through our tears. It. We'll lend Your Majesty what voice we can. Lou. I thank you. (Aside to Austrian) My lord, a word. The Prussian talons creep Toward Austria. France is your friend. Aus. 0, sire! Lou. If you would have her strong pray that no sword CARLOTTA Of hers be lost in Mexico. Aus. I will, My lord. (Enter Carlotta, attended by Count Charles, Count de Bombelles, her priest, and women. She goes to Louis and would kneel. He takes her hand) Lou. An Empress must not kneel. Car. I'm still An Empress, sir Lou. Once to have worn a crown Is always to be queen. Car. Sire, mock me not. Didst mean no more than that Lou. Lady, you come To beg your empire Car. I do not beg, Napoleon. I come to ask you keep your sacred oath, But do not make a beggar of me, sir, Who was a princess in my cradle. Lou. Nay, Royal Carlotta, if beggar here must be, See one in us who sue your gentle patience. While strength was ours to give we gave it you, But now is France grown needy of her troops, With Europe surging to a conflict round her. Car. My lord- Lou. America turns baying on us. Should we make war on one who twice o'ercame Our island neighbors when she was but child To what she now is grown Prus. Your majesty, 'T would be a folly for a clown, not king. Car. America Easier to stop her now Than it will be when she wears Mexico Like sword at her right side. Austria, Prussia, 161 162 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Strike you no more at neighbor throats, but come And win a fight for God. Napoleon, come! There lies a world that 's worth the price of war. Whose swelling breasts pour milk of paradise, Whose marble mountains wait the carver's hand, Whose valley arms ne'er tire with Ceres' load, Whose crownless head awaits the diadem That but divine, ancestral dignity May fix imperishably upon it! A bride For blessed Rome! And will you give her up To ravishers To enemies of the Church To unclean hands ne'er dipped in holy chrism Aus. The time's not ripe for our united swords To ransom her. Car. The time is always ripe For a good deed. Napoleon, you will come! And though you fail, failure will be majestic. Withdraw like frightened schoolboy and you make Your throne a penance stool whereon you sit For laughter of the nations. But come, and though You fail, when time has brought America To her full, greedy strength, these scornful kings Will then unite in desperate endeavor To give your great conception form and face, And at your tomb they'll lift their shaken crowns And beg a pardon from your heart of dust! Prus. (Aside) He '11 yield to her! .... Most noble lady, we- Car. I speak, sir, to Napoleon. Lou. What help Can Austria give Aus. Sire, she has many troubles. The clouds of war threat her with scarlet flood, And little strength has she to spare abroad When foes besiege at home. CARLOTTA Car. And Austria's chief Is Maximilian's brother! It was not so That day at Miramar when three proud crowns Took oath to serve him in an hour like this. Austria powerless! And Belgium-dead. But France-Ah, France, she will prove noble, loyal To God and honor! Lou. My honor, dearest lady, Permits me not to risk my country's life That you may wear a crown in Mexico. I can not save your empire. Car. Then let it fall, But save-my husband's life! (Astonishment and silence) Lou. You speak but madly. America has sent us guaranties She will demand that Maximilian Be held but as a prisoner of war. The Mexicans dare not proceed against him Contrary to the mighty government That is sole friend unto their scarce born state. Car. America demands with paper words That can be torn and laughed at. Would she save him Let her demand his life with cannon turned Upon his murderers. Then, sire, I'll trust To their obedience. Till then I'll plead With you. All hope is here. Lou. Not so, dear lady. Italy, Austria, and your Belgium, Have sent their ablest counsel to defend him. Car. Troops, troops, my lord, not wordy men of law, Are his sole need. Should God send angels there He 'd choose but those who bear the flaming sword. . . Here, here, my lords! Look here! His guaranties, In his own hand set down! Here he vows faith 163 164 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS To Maximilian-and to Heaven! Hear! 'I, Louis Napoleon, take solemn oath Upon the honor of a man and king-' Shall I go on, my lord Have you forgot Then let my tongue be as a burning pen To write it new upon your heart! Lou. No! no! In God's name, no! Aus. Dear lady, this is torture. Car. Torture for you -for him Then what is it For me, my lord Prus. Wouldst have his majesty False to his country to be true to you Aus. The oath he took was, by the courtesy Of nations, subject to the change that time Visits on countries as on men. Car. You'd win His sword from me that you may use it! Sirs, He plays you 'gainst each other as the eagle Sets ospreys in contention over prey That he may filch the prize! Lou. Carlotta! Car. Be warned! He 'll know no ease till in your capitals He has re-crowned the great Napoleon! Lou. Nay- Car. Stop me not! Here you shall stand as bare To these men's eyes as you do to my own! Lou. My lords, you will not let her troubled mind Weaken your trust in me Prus. Your majesty, We know you noble. Car. Noble! Napoleon, This wondrous city is aflame with joy, The blazing fires now dart aloft and write CARLOTTA In golden light your name upon the skies, But in your heart will burn a torch of hell Unquenchable, if you deny me aid! Lou. Dear madam, pray believe that I am helpless. Car. You are as strong as France. Eugenie, help me! If e'er you held a dear head on your breast- You have !-for you've both son and husband! Ah, I have no child. My lord is all to me. O put your two in one and you will know What now I plead for! By the kisses dropped Upon your baby's cheek, and by the hope That you will see him grow up at your side. Another self with heart-strings round your own, I pray you, lady, soften that stone heart! I kneel to you, an empress though my crown Has fallen, as yours I pray will not, And at your footstool beg my husband's life! (Eugenie rises) By your child's love, I beg you for one word! Help me, Eugenie, or the day will come When you will know a crown is but a band Of metal cold, and one warm kiss more dear Than all such circling glory! When you will grow Mad with the longing but to touch the hand Nowv lies in yours as it would never part, Strain for the face whose beauty fed you once Until your madness builds it out of air To gaze with sweet unhuman pity on you Yet come not near for kisses! 0, even now I look through sealed up time unto a night When sleep will fly from your woe-drowned eyes, And you will cry to Heaven for blessed death To lead you from the midnight desolation! Eugenie, save thyself! For thy own sake 165 166 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Show pity unto me, and in that hour Receive the mercy that thou now dost give! Eug. (Going) Help me! I'm ill ! (Her women assist her out) Car. Gone! Gone And vet a woman! Ah, there's a God will suffer not this wrong! Napoleon - Lou. Nay, madam, we've said all. I can not cast my country into war. You but fatigue yourself. Car. 0 Heaven! Fatigue! Canst think of that when Maximilian Is facing bayonets for honor's sake Lou. Believe me, he is safe! Car. I tell you no! To-day the guns from Mont Valerien Pealed out your glory! Your arm was in the arm Of Prussia's monarch, and Waterloo forgot! You laughed with Austria's chief, as though the duke Of Reichstadt were not dead! The bloody snows Of Moscow melt in Alexander's smile! Edward's in France, St. Helena 's a myth! And all the world is trooping here to feed Your monstrous vanity! But let the morn Bring news of Maximilian's death, These kings will shudder from you as from plague, The conscious earth refuse your feet a base For shame to bear you! Then will begin your fall. Down, down you '11 creep to an unpitied death, And winds that shriek around your exile bed Will cry me prophetess! Lou. (After a silence) Your audience Is over. Pray go and rest. You need much sleep. Car. A woman sleeps not till her heart is safe. My eyes shall not be closed till I 've your answer. CARLOTTA Lou. You have it, lady, and we beg you leave us. Car. Leave! leave! 0 sir, it is a lie I hear! (Falls at his feet) You did not say it! See! I kiss your feet! 0 sir- Lou. (Withdrawing) You put us to discourtesy. Since you will not withdraw, we leave you. Car. (Leaping up) Coward! Then, Louis Napoleon, Emperor of France! Thou art a murderer, and I have kissed The devil's hoof! (Exit Napoleon) (Carlotta stands dazed, looking after Napoleon. Puts her hand over her eyes. Count Charles goes to her) Char. Dear madam, come with me. (She looks about bewildered) One of her women. Your majesty, We pray you come. Car. (Strangely) Yes-yes- I'll go. Away! (Exit with her attendants) Aus. A gloomy business, truly. Prus. 'T has wrought upon me. (Re-enter Napoleon) Lou. My lords, believe me grateful for your help In this most wretched business. (Enter Secretary) Sec. A dispatch, sire, from Mexico. Lou. We '11 hear it. All here should share this news with me. Sec. 'T is short, Your majesty. Lou. The sooner read. We wait. Sec. (Reads) 'By order of Juarez, the Austrian duke, Ferdinand Maximilian, has been shot.' (Silence. Napoleon groans) It. It can't be true! Bel. 'T is false! I'll not believe it! 167 168 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Prus. Grieve not, your Majesty. This is a mock Dispatch. Aus. A noble archduke! Bound by ties Of blood and love to every court of Europe! Believe this not, my lord! Sec. Your Majesty, This second message from America Confirms the other. Lou. 'Tistrue! My God, 'tistrue! It. Carlotta! Who will tell her Lou. None shall do it! She must not know. Rus. Pardon me, sire, she must. Lou. Then his death bullet has not stopped its flight. 'Twill end but in her heart. (Re-enter Count Charles. Napoleon silently gives him the despatch, which he reads with great agitation) Char. (To himself) 0 terrible! And yet No news to me-to me. Lou. You '11 tell her, sir Char. There is no need, my lord. Her reason 's fled. She's mad. Bel. 'Tis Heaven's mercy! It. Unhappy woman! Char. She is not wild, but gentle, and thinks, my lord, You 've granted her request. Lou. Noble Carlotta! My lords, forbear awhile. I 'd be alone. It. God grant you rest. (Allgo out but Napoleon) Lou. These kings I've called here to a dance must lead A funeral. What can I say to them CARLOTTA To Austria-his brother! England-his own cousin! To Belgium-her brother! Spain- O all The world, that loved him! ...... An Emperor-and shot. (Musical procession passes in street. Shouts of 'Vive l'empereur! Vive 1' empereur!') He too heard shouts like those-saw fires ascend To write his triumph-ay-and he is cold- Quite cold-shot dead.. ..... Carlotta! prophetess! I feel-I know-thy oracle's from God! (Falls at the foot of the imperial chair) (CURTAIN) Scene II:-Miramar. A balcony overlooking the sea. Lady Maria alone. Mar. Here they went out together-arm in arm, - Sweet, healing spirits to a bleeding land. Down yonder terrace to the sea they passed, - He unto death, and she-to- (Sighs deeply) Car. (Without) Cousin! Mar. Ah! (Turns smiling to greet Carlotta who enters carrying flowers) So early out What treasures have you there Car. The sweetest flowers that ever peeped up head. They grow along the path in that dear wood Where Maximilian took me gypsying When we grew weary of the world. Mar. I'm sure That was not often. Car. True. We loved too wvell Our work among the people to hide ourselves In little corners of delight. But oh, those times! 169 170 SEIMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS How he would catch me as I ran and say His little wild-girl with her flower crown Was dearer than his princess ermine-gowned. And so I'll wreathe these buds into my hair, And meet him as he loved me best. (Goes to edge of the balcony and looks to sea) To-day! This blessed, beauteous day our eyes shall see him! (Drops flowers in trance of happiness) Mar. Sweet Empress - Car. Empress No! To-day I am His little wild-girl with her wreath of flowers. 0, I must make my crown! Now, now, how careless! (Picks up flowers, sits and weaves them) You see this flower Mar. 'T is very beautiful. What is it Car. I 've seen it only in our wood. Maximilian says it grows but for my hair. (Sings) In a young, sweet hour of Spring I sat 'neath an old tree to sing Of love, only love! The little brook took up my tune And to his soft green banks did croon, The green grass rippled to the tree And every leaf shook melody Of love, only love! And then the birds that fitted by Told it the clouds that told the sky, And all the world to song did start With what I sang but to my heart! Ay, all the world sang back to me A little maiden 'neath a tree Of love, only love! (Puts down flowers and goes to Lady Maria) CARLOTT.A1 Ah, cousin, do you think he'll be delayed Mar. Dear madam, I fear me so. Car. These ships! these ships! How slow their wings when they do bear our loved ones! The wandering treasures of our empty arms! The western waters must have sirens too, And will not let him pass. Alfar. Indeed thev would not, Did they but know what majesty is in him. Car. (Embracing her) 0 help me love him, dear, My heart 's too small. (Enter Count Charles) Char. A message. Car. Oh! a message! I do not want A message. Char. The admiral of the port has word The Emperor's ship's delayed. Car. Why, we'll not weep..... 'Tis but a day ... . (Goes forward, looking out) To-morrow, then-to-morrow' (To Lady Mlaria) Why do you weep A day's not worth a tear. See, I can smile! ..... . But my poor flowers will fade. I plucked them all ... . No more grow by the path.. (Suddenly) Cousin, why wear you black Mar. (Confused) I-madam-I- Car. Such sable hues for this so rosy day Go dress your body like our happy hearts! lost think a coffin comes across the sea A coffin- (Shudders) Go ! I can not bear this black! (Exit Lady Maria) I am displeased. Have I not reason, Charles 'T was very wrong of her to dress in black When Maximilian comes. I will go in. I'm tired-but I am very happy. Ah' (Exit) 171 172 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Char. 0 wounded heart! Thus every day she hopes, And every day begins her hope anew. It is my penance now to watch her sorrow, To guard perfection's wreck in her sad body, And hear the name of Maximilian fall Each moment from her lips. 0, God, remember When once I am in hell, I 've suffered here. (Re-enter Carlotta) Car. I can not stay away. This is my place. Here will I catch the first light on his sail. 0 Charles, dear Charles, to-morrow we shall see him! Look in his noble eyes, - ah me, what eves ! Dost not remember Talk of him, cousin. It brings him faster to me. My heart! my heart! This waiting breaks it though 'tis but a day! An hour that keeps him from me lengthens like The drawn out ages 'tween the ends of time! But oh, to-morrow! Let me think of that! Then will the small globe of mine eye contain The wide and complete world of my desires! . . . Have you forgot Aseffa You do not speak; But you have not forgot. She said-Oh, cruel'- That he, my Maximilian, should lie cold While yet my arms were warm and reaching for him. How could she sav it But you stood by him-you- His faithful friend. You knew 'twould ne'er be true! . . . Do you remember, Charles, the winter day He climbed to Valtelina's ice-bound huts To bear the starving people food Char. Yes-yes! 'T is my sole virtue to remember his! Car. And when the flooding Ambro left her banks, Rolling a very sea o'er farm and town, Who was the first to ride the dangerous waves, A rescuing angel saving man and child CARLOTTA Char. 'T was Maximilian! Car. Yes, our Maximilian. I feared the Mexicans would take his life. Was not that foolish, cousin I should have known God could not spare him from His world. Hast heard The men of Licio tell how he was first To bring them aid when all their silkworms died And silence struck the looms that gave them food This man will sav 'I have a son alive Because of Maximilian " And that wvill say 'I have a daughter now to tend my age, Because the Lombard governor brought bread Unto her cradle.' . . . And he is coming back. . . Beautiful Miramar! We '11 never leave thee, Though stars should beckon to a golden world! To-morrow he'll come! Maximilian! (Holds out her (arms toward the sea, looking radiantly into distance) Charles' (Turns suddenly, laying her hand on his arm) Look! What men are those Do you not see them Char. There's nothing, cousin,-nothing but the sea. Car. Oh, look! They wear the Mexican dress! Char. Come in, Sweet princess! Car. Ah yes, they're Mexicans. Char. Come! You've had some fever. 'Tis a sick-room vision. Car. No, no! I 'm well! Ah, never in such health! I see like God! O look! A score of themr! Moving but silent as death! Where are they marching The sun gleams on their guns! 0 see, Charles, see! There is a prisoner! Poor man! poor man! I can not see his face. He walks most sadly, - And proudly too' An upright soul, I know. 17 t3 174 SEMIRAAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Char. Dear cousin, come away! Car. He's humblv dressed, And but for that I'd think he might be royal, Ah, royal as Maximilian! 0 Charles, I am so glad he's safe upon the sea! Safe-safe-and coming to me! Char. (Most pleadingly) Come, wait within, Dear princess! Come! Car. I will not leave him! No! The poor, sad prisoner! Those cruel weapons ! I fear-I fear-he is condemned to die. . . Perhaps he has a wife. Ah me, I pray not. Then would be tears! He is a noble man, - But still his face is from me. .... They reach the field. The soldiers halt and lift their guns. 0 how they gleam! . . I can not see. . . Why is the face so dim Will no one save him Let us pray for him! We can do that! Down on our knees and pray' O men, men, men! What sin beneath the sun Can give excuse for such a deed as this 0, Heaven, are you looking too A man So noble! Oh, he turns-he turns-his breast Is to the weapons! Now they fire! He falls! His face! (Gives a wild cry) Oh God! 't is Maximilian! (Falls forward on her face) (CURTAIN) THE POET This page in the original text is blank. ACT I. SCENE 1. Helen's room, Truelord house, New York. ACT II. SCENE 1. Exterior of Clemm cottage, near Richmond. ACT III. SCENE 1. Interior of Clemm cottage. SCENE 2. The Same. ACT IV. SCENE 1. An old book store, New York. SCENE 2. Poe's cottage, Fordham. ACT V. SCENE 1. Poe's lodging, Baltimore. SCENE 2. A bar-room. CHARACTERS EDGAR ALLAN POE VIRGINIA CLEMM MRS. MARIA CLEMM HELEN TRUELORD MRS. TRUELORD ROGER BRIDGMORE NELSON CLEMM MRS. DELORMIS DOCTOR BARLOW MRS. SCHMIDT GEORGE THOMAS, Barkeeper HAINES, JUGGERS, SHARP, BLACK, gamblers BOOKSELLER MUM ZURIE, TAT, BONY, servants at Clemm cottage. Gertrude, Mabel, Annie, Sallie, Dora, Gladys, Ethel, Alma, Allie, friends of Virginia. THE POET ACT I. Scene: Room in the Truelord House. Helen lies on a couch before large windows, rear, reading by light from a small lamp on table near couch. She wears a loose robe over night-dress. A light knock is heard at door, left centre. Hel. (Sitting up) Mamma Voice. Yes, dear. Hel. (Kissing book and closing it) Good-bye, my poet! (Drops book on couch and goes to door) Voice, as Helen opens door. I saw your light. (Enter Mrs. Truelord) Forgive me, love. I could not rest. (Helen is closing door) No! Kate is coming. Mrs. Delormis. (In door) Yes, I'm here, too, Helen. Hel. Come in, Cousin Catherine. (All three advance) slurs. Del. Madela had a feminine version of the jim- janis-tea-nerves, you know-so must get us both up. 180 SEAMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS Hel. (Drawing forward a huge chair for Mrs. Truelord while Mrs. Delormis takes a smaller one) I was not in bed. JMrs. Tru. (Looking toward bed in alcove, right) But you have been! You could not sleep either. Ah! (Sighs deeply) Hel. (Goes to couch) Now, mamma! Mrs. Tru. (Embarrassed by Helen's straight- forward look) Helen-I-I 've just got to have it out to-night. You are only my step-daughter, but I 've loved you like my own. Hel. (Quaintly) Yes. Mrs. Tru. Have n't I always treated you as if you were my daughter born Hel. (Slowly) You have indeed! Mrs. Tru. And I can't bear for you to-to- 0, I just can't bear it, I say! Hel. Bear what, mamma Mrs. Tru. This-this man- Mrs. Del. Edgar Poe, Helen. Mrs. Tru. You are going to give up Roger-Roger who has worshipped you since you were a baby, who has lived under the same roof and been a brother to you since you weretwo yea rs old-you are going to givehim up for a strange man-a man without a penny-a man you have seen but once-(Almost shrieking) -but once -(Rising) Hel. (Crosses, and stands before her, speaking calmly) We know dngels at first sight, mamma. Mrs. Tru. (Grabbing Helen by the shoulders and staring at her) You have done it already! (Falls to chair as if fainting) Hel. Soothe her, Catherine. I will get some wine. (Exit) Mrs. Tru. (Sitting up, at once recovered) She 's THE POET made up her mind. When her eyes shine like that it's no use to argue. And all of Roger's fortune in Mr. True- lord's hands! We 've considered it a family resource for years! MUrs. Del. What a fool Roger was to bring Edgar Poe to the house! Mrs. Tru. He's crazy about the man. Says he's a genius, and all that stuff. Mrs. Del. Well, he is. But to introduce him to a girl like Helen! They'll be off before morning! Mrs. Tru. Oh-h! Don't, Kate! Roger actually wants me to ask him to stay in the house. Mrs. Del. Idiot! He deserves to lose her.... But your guest! (Laughs) Poor Madela! How he would upset your nice, comfortable theories of life! Why, you could n't hand him a cup of tea without feeling the planet quake. M1rs. Tru. But what are we to do Kate, you must help me. Mrs. Del. I'm going to. You can't tell her father, because Helen must be persuaded, not opposed. And don't speak about the money. If she loved a beggar she would trudge barefoot behind him. Urs. Tru. (Despairingly) 0, don't I know it Mrs. Del. Now you leave this to me, Madela. I will say a few things to Helen about meeting Mr. Poe in Europe-and -you know - Mrs. Tru. (Kissing her violently) 0, Kate! Tell her all-and more, if necessary! Don't think about your reputation if you can save Roger's fortune- Mrs. Del. Sh!- (Enter Helen, with wine and a glass) Mrs. Tru. (Feebly) Thank you, dear, but I'm bet- ter now. (Rising) I'll try to rest. (Goes to door) Hel. I would see you to your room, mamma, but 181 182 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS I'm sure you would rather have Catherine. (Mrs. Del- ormis makes no move to go) Mrs. Tru. 0, I am quite well-I mean- I need no one-no one at all! Goodnight, my dears! (Exit) Hel. (Politely) And is there anythiig which you must have out to-night, cousin Catherive x Mrs. Del. Sit down, Helen. (Helen takes a chair) You have never loved me, but I have alw ays bad a warm heart for you, little girl. And you will take a warning from me in good part, won't you Hel. A good warning, yes. Mrs. Del. I told you about meeting Mr. Poe last summer in Normandy. But-i did not tell you how often I met him. (Helen rises, then Mrs. Delormis rises) Helen, I prove my love for you by saying what it is so hard to utter to your pure self. My life has not been- all you would wish it to be-and Mr. Poe knows more about it than any other man. Hel. You lie! I have seen his soul! (She goes to door and opens it for Mrs. Delormis to pass out. Mirs. Delormis sweeps through with an at- tempt at majesty) Hel. (Motionless with clenched hands) Wicked, wicked woman! ... . (Goes to window, rear, opens it, draws long breaths as if stifling, and turns back into room) Edgar! My love! I was a thing of clay. One look from your eyes has made me a being of fire and air. .... (Lies down on couch and takes up her book) ... I can not read. . . or sleep.... or pray. There 's too much whirling in my heart for praver ...... (Starts) What moan is that . . (Rises, takes light from table. goes to window, leans out, casting the rays down) Nothing.... I'm fanciful. . . The moon is rising. (Goes back, putting light on table) 0, Edgar! God help me to be what love must be to thee. Love that can look THE POET on miracles and be sane. What a face when he said goodnight! Like an angel's whose immortality is his wound. . . . Poor Roger! .... What will my father say ... (Moonlight floods the window) Welcome, soft nurse of dreams! (Extinguishes lamp) A little rest .Ah, I know he does not sleep . (She lies on couch in the moonlight, her eyes closed. Poe enters b1 window, gazes at her, and throws up his arms in gesture of prayer) Hel. (Looking up, and springing to her feet) Edgar! My God, you must not come here! Poe. Is this love's welcome Hel. Go! go! Poe. I was dying out there. Hel. Leave me! Poe. Life was passing from my veins. Only your eyes could draw back the ebbing flood. Hel. I will light the lamp! (Turns hastily) Poe. And put out Heaven's! (She drops her hand) Hel. Go, 0 go at once! Poe. Again I am alone! The twin angel who put her hand in mine is flown! Hel. Edgar, be calm! Poe. Calm! With such a look from you burning me as if I were a devil to be branded Such words from you hissing like snakes through my brain Hel. O, I beg you- Poe. I would but touch the hand that soothes my blood-look in the eyes that wrap my soul in balm-and you cry out as though some barbarous infidel had tram- pled you at prayers! Hel. My father- Roger-they will not understand. Poe. 0, you would bring the world in to say how and when we shall love! Take note of the hour, and kiss by the clock! Great love is like death, Helen. It 183 184 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS knows no time of day. If a man were dying at your gates would you keep from him because 't was midnight and not noon, and you were robed for sleep It was your soul I sought. Must you array that to receive me 0, these women! On Resurrection day they'll not get up unless their clothes are called with them from the dust! 'Excuse me, God, and send a dressmaker!' Ha! ha! ha! (Walks the floor in maniac humor) Hel. Edgar, for love's sake hear me! Poe. Speak loud if you would drown the winds! Hel. Listen! Poe. (Turning upon her) If my body bled at your feet you would stoop to me, bkt when my spirit lies in flames you cry 'Don't writhe! Don't be a spectacle!' Hel. (Putting her hands on his shoulders and speak- ing steadily) The spirit does not murmur. Only the body cries. Poe. (Calming) Forgive me, Helen! Hel. Yes, love. (Draws him to couch and sits by him soothingly) . . 0, your forehead is on fire. Poe. No wonder, when I have just come out of hell. ...Keep your cool hand over my eyes ..... 0, this is peace! . . . (Takes her hand from his forehead and holds it) I made you a song out there, in the darkness. I was fainting for one gleam of light when you opened the window and stood as beautiful as Psyche leaning to the god of love. Listen. . and believe that my heart was as pure as the lines. (Sings softly) Helen, thy beauty is to me Like those Nicean barks of yore That gently o'er a perfumed sea The weary, wayworn wanderer bore To his own native shore. THE POET On desperate seas long wont to roam, Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face, Thy Naiad airs, have brought me home To the glory that was Greece And the grandeur that was Rome. Lo, in yon brilliant window-niche How statue-like I see thee stand, An agate lamp within thy hand, - Ah ! Psyche, from the regions which Are holy-land.' (Drops his head to her hand and kisses it gently) Hel. Edgar, my life shall be my song to thee. (They are silent for a second. His hand touches her book) Poe. A book! Who could write for such an hour. (Holds book in moonlight) Shelley! Lark of the world! You would know! . . You will give me this book, Helen Hel. It is precious. You will love it Poe. Always! (Kisses book, and puts it inside his coat. Taking her hand) O all our life shall be a happy wonder! Wilt lie with me on summer hills where pipings of dim Arcady fall like Apollo's mantle on the soul Dost know that silence full of thoughts -and then the swelling earth-the throbbing heaven Canst be a pulse in Nature's very body (Leaping up) Take for- ests in thy arms, and feel the little leaf-veins beat thy blood Hel. (Rising) Yes-yes-I know. Come to the window, love. The soft Spring air begins to stir. (They move to window) Poe. 0, what a night! 'Tis like a poem flowing to the sea. Here I shake death from my garments. Oh, had my soul a tongue to trumpet thought, men from yon planets now would stare and lean to earth with listening 185 186 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS ears! . . . Hark! 'Tis music! Hel. (Looking down) A serenade. Poe. Canst call it that I hear nothing that comes not from the stars. 'Tis Israfel! The angel whose lute is his own heart! If I could dwell Where Israfel Hath dwelt, and he where I, He might not sing so wildly well A mortal melody, While a bolder note than his might swell From my lyre within the sky! Some day we shall live there, Helen, and then I will sing to thee! Hel. But now-my love-you must rest-you must sleep. Poe. Sleep! Nothing sleeps but mortality! Hel. And you are mortal, Edgar. Poe. I! Nay, thy love has given me kinship with the deities! Sleep Ay, when Nature naps, and God looks for a bed! When yonder moon forgets her starry whirl and nodding falls from heaven! When Ocean's giant pulse is weary and grows still! When Earth heaves up no seasons with their buds! No, no, we will not sleep! But see-there gleams the river-and yonder rise the hills touched new with Spring! Wilt go there with me, Helen Now! Hel. Now Poe. To-night! Hel. To-night Poe. Why not You say it as though night and day were not the same to the soul-except that night is more beautiful! Why not go THE POET Hel. I will tell you, love. (Drawing him back to the large chair) Come, listen. (She sits in chair, and he kneels b- her, the moonlight covering them) Because I love you more than you love beauty, God or night, and you must live for me. And to live means-rest-sleep- Poe. Do you love me so much 0, 'tis like cool waters falling about me to hear you say it. Hel. I will help you, Edgar. Already I feel my strength. Where I may serve you I'll not meekly go, but go exultant. The thorns and stones so harsh to human feet, I'll press as they were buds, and leave my blood for kisses. Poe. Oh, go on. Hel. Yes, I've more to tell you. It is-that you must help me, too. To-day-before you looked at me the first time-I was dying. Ah, more,-I was about to set the seal of death on my soul. My mother, who died at sea when I was born, gave me a heritance with winds and waves and stars. But I was nursed by hands through whose clay ran no immortal streams. Cradled in convention, fed on sophistries, I wove a shroud about my soul, and within that hardening chrysalis it was dying away when you called it forth in time to live- dear God, in time to live! Now you see how much you are to me, Edgar. I must not lose you. But you must be careful and patient with me, for my newly-bared soul shrinks from the wonders so familiar to you, and I may fly back to my chrysalis to escape the pain. Poe. I am not afraid. Would a mother leave her babe And I am a child now, Helen. This strange, new rest you give me is like a gentle birth. I have been old all my life. Now the longing comes for a little of the childhood that was never mine. The years fall from me, and I have no wish but to lie on a mother's bosom and hear her voice prattling above me. 187 188 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Hel. (Archly, leaning over him as he sits at her feet) Does my little boy want a story Poe. (Smiling) About the fairies, mama He!. About the fairies-and a big giant-and a little girl lost in a wood- Poe. And a little boy too Hel. Yes, a little boy, too' And the little girl was crying- Poe. And the little boy found her Hel. Yes, and he told her not to cry, that he could kill the big giant, and he hid the little girl in a cavee- Poe. Was it a dark cavr, mama. Hel. No-o-o! It wasacave-with-windows in it! And by and by he heard the giant coming- Poe. Oh! (Hides his face on her breast. She holds him to her, her hands on his hair) And when the little boy heard the leaves rustling closer andcloser he climbed a great tree - Poe. (Lifting his head) But he wasn't afraid, mama Hel. O, no-o! Poe. Because that little boy was me! Hel. Yes. And when you got to the top of the tree - Poe. 0, what did I do then Hel. Why, you see this was the biggest giant that e- -e-r lived-and his head was just as high as the top of the tree-so when he came by- Poe. I know! I know! I just out with my sword, and off went his head! He!. So it did! And then you climbed down from the tree- Poe. And the little girl came out of the cave- He!. And you went off together happy ever after! Poe. What was that little girl's name, mama THE POET Hel. Why,I don't think vou ever told me that,did you Poe. I was just thinking- Hel. What, darling Poe. That I wish you weren't my mama, so you could be that little girl! Hel. 0, I can, dear. For there were the fairies. We forgot the fairies. They gave me this pretty ring, so that when I put it on I can be whoever I please, and I please to be just whoever my little boy likes best. Poe. (Rises, and speaks in his own manner) Madonna, Oh, Madonna! You will save me. (Kisses her forehead) Good-night. To-morrow I will tell you about mv work-our work. There are miracles yet to be. And Poesy shall speak them. Hel. But do not try to write out all your soul, Edgar. That cannot be. Poetry is but one gate. The soul goes out by a thotsand ways. Poe. True. And we will find those ways together, Helen. We will gather truth in every path,-truth that flowers out of the struggle and carnage of life like the bloom of song on the crimson of war. Hel. But we may not know all. Man's greatest knowledge is but the alphabet of the eternal book. We must be content with the letters, and not unhappily strive to read. Poe. I will remember. But what mortal can attain shall be mine. Already thoughts that fled my agony come to me as gently as the alighting of birds. Truths open about me like the unfolding of roses yet warm with God's secret. Good-night. (Takes her hand) I am not the greatest genius, Helen, for I can not stand alone. (Drops her hand and goes to window. Hesitates and turns back) One kiss. (Kisses her) 0, look at me' I lose divinity wihen you close your eyes! Look at me, and I can not fall for Heaven bears me up! 189 190 SEMIRAMUIS AINID OTHER PLA YS Hel. (In sudden alarm) I hear a step! Poe. (Looking- at her reproachfullly) Listen better, vou will bear God's footfall. Hel. Some one is up. Poe. And do you care Would you put a stain upon this hour This flower of love bloom perfect from the skies Hel. Ah, it is gone. Poe. (W1'ildly) 0, vou will leave me, Helen! You can not stay' For I will play the madman to thy sense when I am sanest, and like a shivering Atlas shake thy world when most thou wouldst be still. This body wraps more lives then one, rry girl. When I was born no pitying angel dipped my spirit-fire in Lethe. I wteep with all the dead as they my brothers were, and haunt the track of time to shudder with his ghosts. Wilt fare with me, brave Helen Wilt tread the nadir gloom and golden path of suns Canst gaze with me into the fear- ful, grey infinitude- Hel. That grey infinitude is yet the circle of your being. The mind can not leave itself. You are always in your own country. Why should you fear Poe. The mind that can not leave itself knows noth- ing. Not the 'I am' but 'Thou art' is God. 0, there is a realm of which imagination is but a shadow-where the mind is burnt awav in His vision's fire, and thought becomes celestial angel of itself! And you turn back with the first step-already I am alone- Hel. No! I, too, have hung upon the bound- aries of the world to catch God's flying dreams! O, trust me! Thou shalt fling no lance but I lwill cast it on to gleam in a farther sun ! Bring me roses from Jupiter, I'll bring thee lilies from Uranus! 0,- Poe. Mine, by Heaven! (Catches her to him) Here we'll begin the immortal pilgrimage' We need not wait for death! From world to world - THE POET Hel. (Springing from him) It is a step! Go, Edgar! Go! Poe. No! By the god in my bosom, you are mine from this moment! Hel. NI v father! my father! He will tear me from vou-You do not know him! Poe. I know he's mortal. Heaven could not part us. I will not move: (He is standing in the window. She hastily draws the curtain before him) Hel. Then keep your word! (A knock at the door. Helen is silent) Voice. Helen Hel. It is you, Roger Come in. (Roger enters, carrying a lamp. Looks about and sees Helen.) Rog. I heard voices.... NY ho was with you, Helen ..... .I could not be mistaken ....... (puts lamp on a table, and comes nearer Helen.) Look at me, Helen .... I am your brother. Who was here .... I know that Love has laid his mighty hand upon you, but yet you are an angel. I thought- it was-his voice. ... Tell me what this means.... He was not here! 0, I shall die when I learn that you are but a woman! Poe. (Leaping out) I am here, sir, to defend that lady's honor! Rog. (Staggers back, regains composure, and bows ironically) I rejoice to hear it, sir, for you alone can do it. It is wholly in your keeping. (Turns to go) Hel. Roger! Rog. Madam. Hel. You forsake me Rog. You have forsaken yourself. He]. Oh! (Swoons. Poe bends over her wildly affectionate. Roger stands apart, proud and despairing) 191 192 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Poe. Helen! Speak! Speak to me! Hel. Leave me! Leave me! Poe. It is I, Helen! Your lover! Edgar! Hel. You, you, I mean! (Rising) Thou wing of hell across my life! Away from me! (Poe stands back speechless with bewilderment. Roger goes to Helen, takes her hand, and leads her from the room) Poe. Lost! lost! lost ! (Looks about the room) This place! .... 0, I was mad to come here! ... She will never forgive me! (Falls on the couch and lies motionless. After a moment enter Mrs. Delormis.) Mrs. Del. Where is the wild man .... Oh, he has fainted ! The wine! (Goes to the table andpours wine) Poe. Oh! (Murs. Delormis turns to him. He rises ceremonious- ly, with effort) Well Mrs. Del. Well, indeed ! Here I am to your rescue, and you reward me with a 'well' (mimicking) up to ceiling. Poe. What are they saying to her I must go to her! I must! Mrs. Del. Must not! Listen' (Grasps his arm to detain him) Poe. (Releasing his arm and bowing stiffly) Mrs. Delormis. Mrs. D. (Copyinghismanner) Mr. Poe! .... Mr. Truelord has not yet been roused. No one will wake him unless you choose to do it yourself by increasing the hubbub. Roger defends you to Mrs. Truelord-says you are ill-out of your senses-and other compli- mentary things. Both of them are soothing and mothering Helen, and-(dropping into tenderness) I wanted you to have a little mothering, too- Poe. Do you really want to help me THE POET Mrs. Del. O, if you wouldonly let me beyourfriend! Poe. You may! Stay here with me till she comes! I know she will come. She can not let me go without one word. It would be too terrible. She can not! Stay till she comes. Talk to me. Do not let me think! Mrs. Del. I'll make mvself comfortable then, and we '11 have a good chat. You know I 've been told that I talk my best between two and three in the morning- (Takes pillow from couch to make herself cosy in chair) Poe. Do not touch that pillow! MIrs. Del. (Dropping into chair) Well! Poe. Do not sit in that chair ! Mrs. Del. (Rising) May I stand on the carpet, or shall I take off my slippers before the burning bush of vour love Poe. Forgive me! Don't you see that I have lost her Mrs. Del. Well, you were out of your senses to come here and think Helen would understand it. Poe. I was not! She did understand! The vision that led me to her feet was as clear as an archangel's! It is now that I am mad, and see everything gross and darkened with earth and flesh! (Overcome, sinks on couch. She hastily brings wine) Mrs. Del. Drink it. You must. Poe. No! You offer me hell! And vou know it. Put it down. If you want to help me, go to her and bring me one word. Mrs. Del. Drink this for me, and I will. Poe. (Taking glass) You will . . . No! (Puts glass down) Mtrs. Del. My dear boy, you are too weak to stand! It's that old habit of not eating. I don't believe you have tasted food for days. 193 194 SEM.1IRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Poe. True. . . but. . . . (Faints. MIrs. Delormis gives him wine. He rouses) AIrs. Del. Now will vou kill me Poe. (Brightening) No. You were right. 'T was what I needed. 'Twill keep life in me till she comes. Go to her now. Tell her I will leave her-I will go away for a year-a thousand years-if she will only say Imav come back some day. I will live in a desert and pray myself to the bone! Bring me one word from her-a curse-anything! Mrs. Del. (Pouring wine) A little more of this then, so I shall be sure to find you alive when I return. Poe. (Drinks eagerly) "I'is life! Life! I've drunk of Cretan wines against whose fragrant tide the Venus- rose poured all her flood in vain, but never thrilled my lips till now with drop so ravishing! And you brought it to me! Helen left me to die.... cruel.... cruel. . cruel.... (Sits on couch, taking his head in his hands. Looks up) Florimel! Mrs. Del. My Calidore! Poe. You are a very beautiful devil. Mrs. Del. (Pouring wine) Thanks. I'm glad you like my style. (Sips wine) It is good, is n't it Poe. 'Tis an enchantment to pilot grief to new and festal worlds! Another cup! (Drinks) 0, 'tis a drink to rouse the drooping soul for warrier quest till on the conquered shores of dream man strides a god! ... (Pours another glass) Again No. . no more! .... (Sinks down) 0, my bird of Heaven, come quickly, or I am lost!.. .. Florimel ! Mirs. Del. My knight of Normandy! Poe. Since we are going to hell let us be merry about it. Mrs. Del. At last you are sensible. Poe. Wine! wine! THE POET Mrs. Del. (Holding glass) I mean to have my price for this. Poe. Take my soul! Ailrs. Del. Something better -a kiss! Poe. 'Tis vours! (Kissesher) Whynot Forbut a kiss did Jove forsake the skies, and jeopard his high realm! Mrs. Del. For but a kiss did Dian leave her throne and waste her goddess dower on shepherd lips' (Sits by him) Now you are going to tell me something. Why did vou fly from Normandy, and not a word, not a word to me Come, my Calidore! Why did you fly from me Poe. (.Momentarily sober) Because-a woman shall never become less holy than God made her through mne. (Rises and walks away) Helen. . . . mv amaranth, I niay not pluck thee' . . . . (Staggers) One cup more. one. . . (Pours wine, and holds up glass apostro- phizing as Roger and Helen enter unnoticed) 0, little ruby ocean that can drown all mortal sighs! Call buried hope to put life's garland on, and limping woes to trip like Nereids on a moonlit shore! For thee, frail sickness casts her pallid chrysalis and blooms a rosy angel! For thee, Death breaks his scythe and owns Life conqueror! (Drinks) Were this Antonius' cup..... . . .Ha! Are you there, my devil Another kiss, sweetheart! (Throws his arm about Mrs. Delormis. Helen cries out. Poe turns and faces her) Hel. (To Poe, speaking slowly and mechanically) I came, sir, to ask you to forgive me. (Turns to Roger) It is to you, Roger, that I make my plea. (Poe looks at her helplessly, then understands, and with a terrible face, turns and leaps through the open window. Helen, with a sob, droops, and Roger takes her in his arms) (CURTAIN) 195_ 196 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS ACT II. Scene: Lawn in front of Clemm cottage, near Rich- mond. Bony and Tat on a side porch shelling peas. Tat. Sho' Mars Edgah come in good time! Pea- vines jes a hangin' low, an' sweet as honey! Bony. MarsEdgahhab peas ebry day wha' he came f om! Big city hab ebryting! Tat. Dey can't hab ebryting when it don' grow! Bony. Sho', dey hab it when it don' grow same lak when he do grow! Tat. You nebah did hab no sense! Bony. I ain't got no sense Take dat, Tatermally Clemm! (Strikes at her. They scuffle and bring Zurie to side door) Zu. Dem chillun' jes kill me! Why de Lawd make ol' Zurie bring dem two twins to dis heah wor' she nebah could tell! Dey haint shell 'nuf fo' a hummin' bird's stomach, an' de pot bilin' mad fo' 'm dis minute! Wha' yo' do, yo' black niggahs Come in heah! I make yo' sit still an' do nuffin' an' yo' ol' mammywu'kin' hus- sef to def! (Picks up basket and drives children into the kitchen. Calls after them beamingly) Wha' yo' reckon yo' ol' mummy cookin' in dat ubbin fo' two little no 'count niggahs Children. (Witbin,scampering withdelight) Cherry cobblah! Cherry cobblah! Zu. (Shutting the door) Don' want dat wind blowin' on my poun' cake! It '11 fall sho'! THE POET (Virginia comes out at the front door ofcottage, and walks across the lawn to the shade of a bay tree where Poe lies in a hammock as if asleep. A book on the ground. She goes up softly and sits on a garden chair near him. He opens his eyes) Vir. 0, I have waked you! Poe. No, little houri. I was not asleep. I would not give one breath of this sweet world to cold, uncon- scious sleep. Vir. You are happy, cousin Edgar Poe. No, Virginia. This is all too delicious to be called happiness. Too calm, like the stilling of a con- dor's wings above sea-guarding peaks. He flies when he is happy. When more than happy, it is enough to pause in the blue and breathe wonders. Vir. Is it wonderful here, Edgar It has always seemed so to me, but I have been afraid to tell anyone. It seems like a great fairy house with God in it. Is it wonderful, cousin Poe. You are wonderful. Vir. 0, no, no. no! I want to tell you too, Edgar, I have never felt that I quite belong here. It is all too good for me-so beautiful, and I am not beautiful. Poe. (Rising) Why, my little aspiring Venus, let me tell you something. I have wandered somewhat in life -at home and over sea-and I have never looked upon a woman fairer than yourself. Vir. (Springing up in delight) 0, I am so happy! You would not flatter me! You are the soul of truth! Poe. It is no flattery, little maid, as the world will soon teach you. Vir. I have nothing to do with that world, Edgar. My world is the circuit of our mocking-bird's wing. 0, where is he (Calls) Freddy! Freddy! He is not near or he would come. But he never goes farther than 197 198 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS the orchard. Freddy! . . He has not sung to me this morning. You haven't heard his finest song yet. 0, 'tis sweeter than- Poe. (Picking up book) Than Spenser Vir. Yes-than Spenser. Though he makes music too, and we were just coming to the siren's song. Shall I read Poe. Do! I knew not how to love him till he war- bled from your tongue. Vir. 'Tis where the mermaid calls the knight. (Reads) 0, thou fair son ofgentle faery, That art in mighty arms most magnifyde Above all knights that ever battle tried, 0, turn thy rudder hetherward awhile! Here may the storm-bett vessel safely ride This is the port of ease from troublous toil, The world's sweet inn from pain and wearisome turmoyle! Poe. No more-no more' Vir. Why, cousin Poe. I shall have the water about my ears presently. I thought I was drowningona mermaid's bosom. Read no more, Virginia. One nibble at a time is enough of Spenser. He ought to be made into a thousand little poems. Then we should have a multitude of gems in- stead of a great granite mountain that nobody can circuit without weariness. Vir. You know so much, Edgar. Will you teach me while you are here, if I try very hard to learn Poe. (Plucking a flower) My little girl, what lore would you teach this bud God makes some people so. Be happy that you are a beautiful certainty and not a struggling possibility. THE POET Vir. But the rose has no soul, Edgar-no heart, as I have. It does not sigh to see you look so pale, and read these lines of suffering here, (touching his brow) but I-it kills me, cousin! (He hides his face) Forgive me! 0, I am so unkind! (Mrs. Clemm comes out of cottage and crosses to them. She gently takes Poe's hand from his face and kisses him) Mrs. C. My dear boy! Poe. (Seizing her hand and holding it) Don't- don't be so kind to me, aunt! It tells too much of what has never been mine. Curious interest-passing friend- ship-love born in a flash and dead in an hour-these I have had, while my heart was crying from its depths for the firmly founded love that shakes but with the globe itself. Mrs. C. (Taking his head on her breast) My dear Edgar! You will be my son-Virginia's brother! Poe. (Lifting his face smiling) I will be happy! No more of that solitude lighted only by the eyes of ghouls! Here I have come into the light. I have found the sun. I see what my work should be- what Art is. She is beauty and joy. Her light should fall on life like morning on the hills. The clouds of passion and agony should never darken her face. 0, I can paint her now ready for the embrace of the soul! Mrs. C. I can not see things with your rapturous eyes, Edgar, but I know that your work will be noble, and I love you. Poe. 0, aunt, you and this little wonder-witch have enchanted me back to happiness. I promise vou never again shall you see a tear on my face or a frown on my brow. (Virginia, looking toward the road, bows as to some one passing) Poe. Blushing, cousin Who is worth such a rosy 199 200 SEMIRAMIS AAND OTHER PLA YS flag (Stands up and looks down the road) Brackett! I do believe! Mrs. C. You know him, Edgar He is staying with my brother-in-law, Nelson Clemm, for a short time, and has asked to call on us-on Virginia, I mean, for of course I don't count, now that my little girl is suddenly turned woman. Poe. Don't for Heaven's sake Uirs. C. You don't like him, Edgar Poe. Like him! We were at West Point together. He refused to accept a challenge after slandering me vilely, and I was obliged to thrash him. That's all. (Turns suddenly to Virginia) And you were blushing for him! Vir. It was not because I like him, Edgar. Poe. (Looking into her eyes) You are a wise little piece. Mrs. C. This is painful, Edgar. Of course he must not call. Poe. Call! Let him but look toward the house again, and I '11 give him a drubbing that will make him forget the first one! The coward! He wouldn't meet me-after- Vir. How about the frowns, Edgar; Poe. (Smiling) Let him go! Mrs. C. You should not make such bitter enemies at the beginning of life, my boy. Poe. He can not touch me. He is not of my world. Mrs. C. We are all of one world, Edgar, and never know when we may lap fortunes with our foes. MTNr. Brackett is going into literature too. Poe. Yes. The trade and barter part of it. I shall be in the holy temple while he keeps a changer's table on the steps. (Shrugging) Brackett ! . ... But goodbye for half an hour. I'm goingtothe orchard THE POET to take counsel with the birds on my new philosophy. (Starts away) Come, (turning to Virginia) my mock- ing bird, there won't be a quorum without you! (Virginia goes to him. Zurie puts her head out of a window and calls.) Mum Zurie. Mars Nelson comin' up de lane! Mrs. C. Come back, Virginia, you must see your uncle. Edgar, won't you wait and meet him Poe. Thank you aunt, but I don't think it would give him any pleasure. (Exit) Vir. (Coming hack reluctantl;') 0 mama, we will make him happy! Mtrs. C. We'll try, my dear. But you must get ready for the picnic. The girls will be here soon. Is Edgar going with you Viir. No, mother. He said he would go to a picnic only with nymphs and naiads. Mrs. C. Here is uncle. (Enter, from the road, Nelson Clemm) Mr. C. How d' do, Maria! Howdy, girl! Go get your hat. MUrs. C. W\hat now, Nelson Mur. C. Nothin'. Only I'm tired o' foolin' and talkin' about that girl's education. I 've come to take her this time. Vir. To send me to school MU-r. C. High time, ain't it I couldn't make up my mind before whether 't was to be the seminary at Bowville or Marvburg. But I had a letter this morning which settled it for Bowville. Suits me exactly-suits me exactly. So get your hat and come along, I drove across the ridge and left my trap at Judge Carroll's. MUrs. C. Her clothes, Nelson! There's nothing ready- MUr. C. You mean to say! When we've been talkin' 201 202 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS this thing a whole year And you a thrifty woman tell me her clothes ain't ready Well, she '11 come without 'em, that's all. You can send 'em along afterwards. I 've got it all fixed up, I tell you. My brother's child shall hate her chance-she shall have her chance, so long as I'ye got a dollar in my pocket and she walks exactly to please me-walks exactly to please me. It's for you to say, Maria, whether you '11 stand in the way o' your own flesh and blood or not. Mlrs. C. Of course, Nelson, I am very grateful, and do not dream of depriving Virginia of this opportunity, only- Mr. C. That's all there is to it then. No onlys about it. Go get your hat, girl. (Virginia goes slowly into the house. At the door she meets Zurie who turns back and goes in with her) Mrs. C. Now, Nelson Mr. C. It's just this. My brother's child shan't stay another hour in the same house with Edgar Poe. That's the plain tale of it, Maria. Mrs. C. Nelson Clemm! Mr. C. 0, I 've been hearin' things-I 'ye been hear- in'! He didn't cover all his tracks at West Point-or New York either! Mrs. C. Lies! All lies! Every one of them! He is the soul of honor! Already Virginia loves him like a brother! I trust her instinct! I trust my own! Mr. C. 0, I'm not arguin', I'm just doin'. You can't turn him out, of course. Wouldn't do it myself. Nobody'll ever say Nelse Clemm was an inhospitable dog! But I can look out for Virginia, and I will. She goes with me now, or I'm done with you and yours- and you know that mortgage ain't paid off yet. Mrs. C. Yes, she shall go. She ought to be in school and again I thank you for helping us. But you are THE POET wronging my nephew,-one of the noblest of men. You don't know him! Mr. C. It 's plain enough you don't! Mrs. C. Has Mr. Brackett- Mr. C. Mr. Brackett is a guest in my house. Now, Maria, say what you please. (Virginia comes out of cottage carrying a small satchel) That's a good girl! We '11 fix up a fine trunk and send it after her, won't we, mother Vir. (Putting her arms about her mother's neck) He-wasn't in the orchard, mama. Won't you say goodbye to him for me Mr. C. Come,come now! (Leadsheraway) Don't worry, Maria. I'll drive you over to Bowville every Sunday Doctor Barlow doesn't preach. (Half turning) By the by, I saw him down the lane at the widow Simson's. Reckon he'll be along here pretty soon. Seems to be on his widow's route to-day. Good morning! (Exeunt) Mrs. C. (Looking after them) I shall go to her myself to-morrow. My little daughter! A stately woman now, but always my little daughter! (Starts into the house, pausing on steps) Poor Edgar! How he is misjudged! (Goes in) (Zurie, Tat following, comes outof the sidedoor and sets to work digging up a shrub) Zu. (Muttering) Wha' Mis' Clemm gwine ter say ter all dem young ladies comin' heah fo' de picnic An' who gwine ter eat dem pies Zurie been two days makin' An' sech a poun' cake! It ought to be a weddin' cake, deed it ought! (Bony comes out of kitchen with a knife in his hand) Heah, niggah, gimme up dat knife an' don' be so slow-back! Dis heah bush done grow an' bloom till yo' get heah! (Enter Poe, left, singing) 203 204 SEMUIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Old winter is a lie As every spring doth prove, And care is born to die If we but let in love- Hey Mum Zurie, what are you doing Zu. I's diggin', honey. Poe. That rosebay is the most graceful shrub in the yard. You kill one leaf of it, if you dare! Zu. Miss Virginia she say how her bru 'r Edgah lub dis heah tree, an' she want it under her window. Poe. Oh! Can't I help you, Zurie Tenderly now! Zu. Miss Babylam' ax me to move it yistiddy but I don't git no time, an' I ain' gwine to leab it now jes cause she's gone away. Poe. Gone away Zu. 0 Lawd, I forgot you don' know! Why, honey, Mars Nelson he come jes now an' frisk her off to school. Zip! an' Babylam' gone! An' law, ef you seen dat po' chile cryin'! Poe. She cried, Zurie Zu. Deed she did, and she ax me twenty hundred times to tell her bru'r Edgah goodbye. Poe. Virginia gone Zu. I done tol' yo, Mars Edgah! Sho' yo' don't think ol' Zurie know how ter tell lies, does yo', honey Poe. No, Zurie, I know she is gone. The birds have all stopped singing. Zu. Law, Mars Edgah, dey jes be a chipperin'! Heah dat now Poe. That is not a song, Zurie. It is a wail from Stygian boughs. Zu. 0, yo' go way! Poe. Gone! I'll not permit it! My aunt must bring her back! (Hurries into house) THE POET Zu. Wha' make him ac' so now An' wha' make Miss Babylam' cry hussef sick when she 's gwine away ter be a fine lady Mars Nelson he mighty good to gib her eddication, but true fo' sho he might jes' well gib it to my Tatermally fer all de thanks he's gittin.' 01' Zurie reckon it a sin to cry ober de goodness ob God! (Mrs. Clemm and Poe come out of cottage, both disturbed) Poe. But, aunt, how are we going to live without her Mrs. C. My dear Edgar, we must not let our affec- tions root so deep in mortal things. Poe. Mortal Virginia mortal! She is a sister to Psyche, immortal as the breath that blew her into beauteous bloom' Mrs. C. While I am glad, my son, to see you so devoted to your sister- Poe. Sister! Thank Heaven she is not my sister! Aunt, Virginia must be my wife! Mrs. C. (Bewildered) Are you mad, Edgar Poe. No. Sane at last. I have been maduntilnow. I have drunk loneliness and death. Here I breathe, grate- ful, glad as a flower! My breast swells and falls as a bird's throat with happy song! 0, aunt, help me to accept this fairnew life-theonly real life! Do not drive me back to gloom and the devils! Give me your Virginia! Mrs. C. A child, Edgar! A child! Poe. To you-only to you. She has her full dower of beauty--womanhood's portion. Mrs. C. She has a right to her education. I can not wrong my child. Poe. I will teach her-teach her more than she will ever learn at the great mess table of knowledge where the genius must take his treacle and the blacksmith his ambrosia! 0, aunt, you will give her to me 205 206 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Mrs. C. Edgar, I love you dearly,-butt-my little girl-my Virginia- Poe. (Bitterly) There is a difference then. She is yours, I am not. Mrs. C. Do not be cruel. I am a distracted mother! Poe. My dear aunt! (Virginia runs into yard and flings herarms about her mother) Vir. 0, mama, uncle had to stop at Judge Carroll's and they got into an argument and Mrs. Carroll said they would be at it for hours-she knew by the way the judge was filling his pipe-and told me to run back if I wanted to -Mama! Edgar! What is the matter Mrs. C. Edgar does not want you to leave home, dear. Poe. Tell her all, aunt. (Mrs. Clemm is silent, Poe takes Virginia's hand) Poe. Virginia, you who have the face of a houri, the form of a sylph, and the heart of an angel, will you be my wife Mrs. C. Edgar! Poe. My gentle one, can I not teach you to love me Vir. Teach me Ab, I love you now, Edgar! Mrs. C. Virginia! Vir. I do! I do, mama! And oh, what happiness beyond my dream-to be-his wife! (Poe embraces her gently and draws her toward the garden, right. They go out slowly. Mrs. Clemm turns toward the cottage, weeping. At the step she hesi- tates, looks toward the garden, and slowly goes after them, murmuring distractedly) Zu. (Who has observed the scene with growing hor- ror) Fo' de Lawd, fo'de Lawd, bless dem two babies! 0, THE POET de signs am all wrong! Miss Babvlam' came back when she done start away! An' Freddy bird hop right on my ol' wool dis mawnin', kase why, he want tell me sumpin gwine happen to Babylam'. An', oh, dis po' ol' niggah is kilt, kase dis is de day Miss Babylam'sfadder done die! De missus she go 'bout cryin' dis mawnin, an' I allus 'member she do dat dis bery day! Wha' make Mars Nelson come fo' Babylam' 0, fo de Lawd, fo de Lawd! (Tat and Bony stare at their mother in terror as she proceeds) I see de black hawk what flies outen de dead swamp! Ooo! I see knives a drippin' an' guns a pop- pin'! Oooooooo! I see de coffin, de coffin-an' it's all dark night, an' de rain comin' down de chimney-an' de wind-de wind-it say "Ooooooooooo2' (Bends her knees and body, and stares moaning. Tat and Bony cling to her skirts. She turns on them with a scream, at which they tumble to the ground) Wha yo' doin' heah, yo' black no 'count niggahs (Enter from the gate the old minister, Doctor Bar- low) Doctor B. Good morning, Mum Zurie. You seem to be agitated. Can I help you Zu. Lawd, no! beg yo' pahdon, sah! I's jes so mighty tickled! Dese heah two niggahs so comicky like! Lawd, no, I was n't alligated at all, beg yo' pahdon, sah! Doctor B. I'm glad to hear it, Zurie. Is your mis- tress at home Zu. Yes, sah. Dey all be in de gahden. Doctor B. I'll just take a walk in there then. (Exit, right) Zu. Wha' make me le 'm go in de gahden My brain it jes all wool and no sense at all! Wha' now he fin' Mars Edgah kissin' Miss Babylam' Well, ain't dey gwine ter be married Married! 0, lawd! (Throws her apron over her head and sits on the ground. Re- 207 208 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS enter Mrs. Clemm and Doctor Barlow. He carries his hat in one hand and mops his brow with the other) Doctor B. Well, well, well! Upon my word! Your nephew - pardon me - is possessed of a rather impetuous spirit -rather impetuous, pardon me! Mrs. C. 0, Doctor Barlow, what must I do You heard him! He wants to be married now-this hour! Doctor B. Trust me, Mrs. Clemm, I shall perform no ceremony without your full consent. Mrs. C. 0, I am sure of that! But must I consent If I refuse him he may take her away from me. And Nelson will make trouble if we wait. Edgar will let no one oppose him. Doctor B. I should not attempt it, Mrs. Clemm. Mrs C. If it is to be, it is better to let it be now. What makes me so helpless is the fact that Virginia is against me. She loves him. Doctor B. Naturally, Mrs. Clemm, naturally. (They enter the cottage) Zu. Wha' dat man talk so now He better quit preachin' ef he can't hep folks no more 'n dat! Sho', ol' Zurie hussef know dat much! (Enter from the road a swarm of girls. They wear graceful organdie gowns, and large ricestraw hats trimmed with bows and streamers. Some carry baskets, which they drop, and all troop about the yard) Gertrude. Where 's Virginia, Mum Zurie Zu. (Hesitating) She wa' in de house 'bout so long ago. Ger. I'll see! Zu. Wait a minute! Mis' Clemm she an' de minister talkin' on impo'tant business. Maybe it 's dat mort- gage, I dunno! (Grimaces) Ger. We'll go into the garden then. (All start, right) THE POET Zu. Law, voujes oughter seedat cherry tree hangin' full by de back gate! Girls. O! 0! O! (They rush off, disappearing behind the cottage. Re-enter Poe and Virginia from the garden as Mrs. Clemm appears at the front door) Vir. 0, 'tis too sweet to be true! How have I won vou, Edgar Poe. By beauty, that speaks loudest when most silent. (Mrs. Clemm meets them) God bless you, aunt. I see 'yes' in your eyes. You could not deny me. Mrs. C. No. Poe. Run, Virginia, and put on your fairy's dress! I want you to look as if you were leaping out of a flower into my heart! (Virginia goes in) 0 this beautiful world! Just to live, my aunt! Is it not enough Literature is disease! The sick-robe of the soul! Who can write that does not live-and who that lives would write! But I must do it-I must work for her. Not a wind shall blow upon my Virginia! I will find the fairy paths for her feet! Not a satyr shall leer from the wood! She will be ready soon. I shall wait for her in the or- chard. I would not see her again until she is mine-all mine! (Exit, left, singing) 'Come, Apollo's pipes are merry-' (Mrs. Clemm goes in) Zu. (Rising) I don' reckon it make no difference 'bout dis heah bush now! (Goes to side door and sits on step disconsolately. The girls come running back) Mabel. Here's the finest cherry on the tree for the prettiest mouth! Open, who gets it! (Girls open their mouths. Mabel eats cherry) Gertrude. 0, vanity! 209 210 SEMIRA.MIS AND OTHER PLAYS Mab. No, I just took it for Virginia. Annie. Let 's play Ant'ny Over while we 're waiting! Where's a ball Bony, get a ball! Bony. Can't do it, missis! Y'all los' it las' time yo's all here! Dora. Marlow Bright then! Half with me and half with Mabel! (Girls divide, the two companies tak- ing opposite bases some distance apart) Dora. Marlow, marlow, marlow bright! How many miles to the old turnpike Mab. Three score and ten! Dora. Can we get there by candle light Mab. Yes, if your toes are tripping light! Dora. Anv robbers on the way Mab. Three blind witches, so they say, And Robin Hood with all his men! (With the last word the girls exchange bases, the travellers, with Dora, trying to reach the opposite base without being caught by the robbers with Mabel. Vir- ginia comes to the door of cottage) Annie. There's Virginia! (Girls stop playing as Virginia joins them) Gert. How pretty you look! Mab. You're a real nymph! Annie. Come, let's be off now! (Picks up a basket) Vir. Girls-I-there is n't going to be any picnic. Girls. No picnic! Vir. But a wedding. Girls. A wedding! Where Where Vir. Right here -under the bay tree. Girls. Who Who Vir. Why-cousin Edgar-and- Girls. You! you! (All talk at once in excited bab- ble. Virginia breaks from them and runs into the house. Girls keep tumultuous talk partly distinguishable) THE POET Gert. He 's so handsome Sallie. He's a prince! Annie. Too young to be married! Ethel. He's twenty! Glady;s. Older' Mab. No! Mamie. Virginia is a baby! Alma. She 's taller than anv of us! Annie. But younger! Sallie. Yonder 's Allie Kirby! AMamie. Won't she be surprised! I wasn't one bit! Annie. Nor I! Other Girls. Nor I! Nor I! Ethel. I'll tell her! Annie. No, let me! Other Girls. I will! I will! (As Allie enters all the girls rush to her and talk at once, trying to tell her the news. Mrs. Clemm and Vir- gienia come out of the house andjoin them) Mrs. C. My little yard never held so many flowers before. Allie. Is it true, Mrs. Clemm Annie. Of course it is! But you 're not going to let him take her away from us! Mirs. C. No, my dears. She will be one of you still. Vir. Where is Edgar Bony. 'Deed, he wah in de orchard 'bout two drecklys ago. Vir. He doesn't know I'm ready. I'll go tell him! Girls. Do! do! Mrs. C. Daughter! Girls. Do let her go, Mrs. Clemm! Mab. We'll all go! What fun! Gert. We'll play 'hunt the bridegroom!' (Girls run off, disappearing in -Various directions) 211 212 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Mrs. C. What will Doctor Barlow think (Goes in. Allie, the last of thegirls, pauses asshe passes to the side door where Zurie is sitting) Aifie. Why, Mum Zurie, you look as if Miss Virginia were going to be buried instead of married. Zu. (Jumping at the word 'buried') Sho' now, can't Zurie hab de toothache wheneber she please, missus Allie. Toothache 0, I'm sorry, Mum Zurie. Zu. Mars Edgah he's a mighty fine young man! Yo' won't see no sech grow up roun' heah ! Aifie. But what a pity he is n't rich! Zu. Rich Wha' fo' Mars Edgah want to be rich All he got to do is jes scribble, scribble on a piece o' papah, an' de gol' come rollin' down de chimney! Rich! Yo' better say yo' prayers yo' get a Mars Edgah too! Allie. I'll get you to pray for me, Mum Zurie. (Runs away laughing) Zu. Wha' fo' now she say I look lak Miss Babylam' gwine ter be buried 0, de good Lawd hep ol' Zurie! (Goes in. Enter Poe, left. He is moody and dis- turbed) Poe. I feel it-a wind from out that solitude. It calls me back.... it calls me back.... Vir. (Without, calling) Edgar! Poe. Sweet voice from the fields of the sun! (Prays) Jehovah, guide thou me ! (Virginia peers around a shrub) Who could lock life's door on such a face It is God's gift. I take it. (Virginia comes to him slowly. He takes her in his arms. Mrs. Clemm and the minister come out of the house and pause on the steps looking at them. The girls come rushing back laughing and shout- ing, and at sight of Poe and Virginia become suddenly silent) (CURTAIN) THE POET ACT III. Scene I: Interior of Clemm cottage. A large room simply furnished. Low fire burning in fireplace. Poe at table writing. Suddenlv drops pen and picks up two letters) Poe. I must destroy these. She must not know. My wife. . . (drops letters absentmindedly) . . . Mar- ried. Married What spirit so subtly fine can mingle here .... Back, back, ye troops of devils damned or angels blest- I know not which to call ye-summoning me to those lone regions of the mind where none may follow! None . . Helen could tread those airy worlds with me! . . . Helen! . . Far, far as zenith stars that ride the blue meridian thou art, and I, deep, deep, to nadir sink ! (Drops his head to the table) Virginia. (Without) Edgar! (He lifts his head smiling as she enters) Vir. (Holding out a book) 0, I know the alphabet! I can say it all! (Gives him the book) Watch now, and see if I make a mistake! Edgar. (Smiling.) I'll hardly need the book, dear. Vir. (Pouting.) 0, I forget that you know every- thing! Poe. Not everything. (Taking her face between his hands as she sits on his knee, the book falling at their feet) I do not know how to be happy when this beauti- ful face is gone. My wife is the fairest lady in all the world. 213 214 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Vir. Then what does it matter about this old Greek, Edgar (Touching book with her foot) Poe. Just this. You can not always be young and beautiful, and when you are no longer the fairest I want you to be the wisest. Vir. And if I am you will love me always Poe. Always. Vir. Give me the book! (Picks it up) 0, I will eat Greek' I will breakfast with the heroes, dine with the bards, and sup with the gods! But what a pity one must begin with the alphabet to end with-what were those lovely lines I found in your book yesterday And Helen on the walls rose like a star, And every Trojan said 'she's worth our blood,' And every Greek ploughed new his way to her - Go on, Edgar! I'm sure you know them! (As she repeats the lines he presses her head to his shoulder and puts his hand over her eyes. His face is full of agony, but there is only sweetness in his voice.) Poe. Not now, my little wife. Some other time. Vir. Helen is such a beautiful name. I wish I had been named Helen. Poe. Thank God you are not! Vir. (Looking up hastily) Why- Poe. I mean that I want you to be just as you are -my Virginia-nothing else! Vir. (Seeing he is troubled) I am keeping you from your work. You should have sent me away. I'll be angry with you, Edgar, if you let me disturb you. Now I 'm going to find the last rose of summer for you. Poe. But you haven't said your lesson. Vir. 0! (begins) Alpha, beta, -now if I say them right you are to give me a kiss for reward! Poe. And if you miss one, I'll give you a kiss for encouragement. THE POET Vir. (Seeing letter) 0, a letter from New York! You've made me your secretary, you know, and of course I must read your letters! (Picks it up and glances at it) He says Mr. Willis will certainly give you a place on his paper. (Drops letter and looks at him quietly) It is your chance for fortune. Poe. I am not going, love. Vir. If you go now it means success, if you wait failure. Poe. I shall not go, Virginia. Vir. If you were not married you would go. Poe. Then I am glad I can not go. Vir. But you can go, Edgar. Poe. My darling, I will never take you away from your mocking birds and roses. Don't you think any more about it. Run away now and find me a flower. You will have to look sharp under the leaves, for the wind is whistling to-day. Our little sham winter has begun to bluster. (Exit Virginia) She shall not suffer. She shall not! Though my heart surges like a prisoned sea hers shall not move her bosom's alabaster! .... Why did n't I burn that letter. (Throws it into the fire. Take up the other one) I must keep the lawyer's. I shall need it. (Puts it in his pocket) Now work - work-work-(Resumes writing) 'The Kingdom of the Sun is peopled with beings whose distinguishing attri- bute is color instead of form as with us. This color varies with each thought of the spirit that it invests, and also with the eye that beholds it. There is no need to pellet the ear with rude words, for the most refined meanings and emotions are conveyed by these subtle va- riations of color coming and going like breathing light. Were-' (Enter Mrs. Clemm) Mrs. C. Edgar, dear, your breakfast has been wait- ing two hours. 215 216 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Poe. 0, thank you, aunt. Don't trouble about me this morning. I shall want nothing. Mrs. C. But, Edgar, my son, I must speak. You do not sleep and eat as people should who wish to live long for those who love them. Poe. Dear aunt, pray-we'll talk about it some other time. I must work now! Mrs. C. I am sorry to disturb you, love, but there is one question I must ask you. Have you heard from the lawyer (Poe is silent) A letter came. I thought you would tell me, and not force me to ask about what I must know. Is the place sold Poe. No. Mrs. C. But it will be We must lose our home Poe. No, darling mother! I am going to pay off everything! This very article I am writing will bring me fame if I finish it. So please help me by not worrying one bit, and don't let our Virginia suspect anything. Mrs. C. It would kill her! 0, Edgar, I have been wanting to tell you how grateful I am to you for your gentleness to her. Though she looks so strong, she has been frail from her birth. I know that she must die early. I ought to have told you-that day-but I could think of nothing. You will forgive me, Edgar She is such a child. I wonder at your patience. But you will never be impatient with her, Edgar Poe. If I am,may God that moment end my villain's life! Go now, sweet mother, for I must work, and re- member that you are to be troubled about nothing. (Exit Mrs. Clemm, right, rear) Goodbye, Art! Thou pure chrystalline dream! I must turn my brain into a mint and coin money! 0, Poesy, thou only divine mis- tress given to man, some day I will return to thee! (Writes) 'Were zephyrs made visible by means of ever changing hues-' (Bony and Tat rush into the room. THE POET Poe glares at them with a face of fury. They turn to fiy panic-stricken. Tat trips on a chair and lies moaning. Poe goes to her) Poe. (Gently) Are you hurt, Tatsy Bony. (At door, turning back, suddenly impudent at sound of Poe's softened voice) She jes sullin', Mars Edgah. She play possum like dat wid me! Poe. Get out, you little imp! (Bony vanishes) Where are you hurt, Tatsy (She moans bitterly) Poor little girl! Her foot is twisted. A sprain perhaps. (Picks her up and carries her to sofa) Never mind! I've got a fairy in a bottle will cure that in a jiffy. Just rub it on, and ho, Tatsy is well again! (Enter Zurie, Bony clinging to her) Zu. Wha' mychile Lawdy God, my chile sho' 'nuf hurt! (Goes to Tatsy) Poe. It 's the foot, Zurie. Be careful! Zu. Yas, I 's seen dat foot befoh! (Gives foot a yank) Dat 's her ol' trick, Mars Edgah. She jes foolin' yo'! Don' yo' be so soft hearted next time. Yo' jes take her by de back ob de neck and wring her head off! Poe. I certainly will! (Exit Zurie, drawing Tat. Poe goes back to his work. Groans, and looks with desperation at his manuscript) Poe. 0, if this eludes me! I must not lose it now! (Writes) 'In this Kingdom of the Sun there is a central creating light that plays upon these color-beings with its own transmuting-' (Re-enter Mrs. Clemm, bearing a tray) Mrs. C. My dear, I 've brought you some toast and an egg. Poe. (Jumping up and staring at her) They don't eat toast and eggs in the Kingdom of the Sun! Mrs. C. Edgar! 217 218 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Poe. Forgive me! It's just something I'm writing here. But for God's sake take the stuff away! (Mrs. Clemm turns to go, the tray trembling in her hands. Poe runs to her and kisses her) You sweetest and best of mothers, don't you see that if I eat this I'll spend the next two hours digesting toast and eggs, and if I don't eat it I'll be making our fortune, putting a roof over our heads, and keeping our Virginia happy! Mrs. C. I only meant to be kind, Edgar. Poe. I know you did, and you're my darling mother, -but don't be kind any more. (Exit Mrs. Clemm. Poe sits despairingly at table. Enter Ethel and Annie) Eth. 0, Edgar, where is Virginia We want her to go nutting with us. Annie. We shall have her now! You shan't keep her all to yourself just because you 've married her! Poe. Take her by all means! Eth. You need n't be vicious about it. Where is she Poe. I don't know,-and pardon if I say that just at this moment I don't care! (Gathers up papers and goes toward stairway in corner of room) Annie. You needn't run from us. I'm sure we're glad to go. I'll find Virginia. Eth. And I'll write that note to Gladys while you're gone. (Seats herself in Poe's chair. Exit Annie, left, rear) Come back, if you want to, Edgar. You won't disturb me at all. (Writes. Poe pauses on stair- way and looks at her. Ethel lifts her eyes) You needn't look so far to see me. I'm not the North Pole! What are you thinking of, Edgar Poe. Of what Anacreon said to a fly that lighted on his brow when he was composing an ode to Venus. THE POET Ethel. O! What was it Poe. Away, thou rude and slight impertinence, That with thy puny and detested bill Dost think to feed on immortality. (Goes upstairs) Ethel. Beast! (Writes) Virginia spoils him. If I had him now I'd soon make a nice comfortable husband out of him! . . . An envelope ... Yes. . . (Takes one) Stamp . . Yes. . . (Takes one) I'll get Bony to mail this for me. (Exit, right, .rear. Poe comes down stairway) Poe. Gone Deliverance! It's too chilly for work upstairs. (Coughs) What shall I do here this winter with only one comfortable room in the house Keep warm by the fire in my brain, I suppose. (Sits and writes. Virginia is heard without, humming a song. She enters, left, front, with a rose in her hand) Vir. Darling, I found it deep under the leaves-Oh! (Starts out softly. Poe writes on without looking up. At the door she turns and throws the rose towards him. It falls onto the table and upsets ink over papers) Poe. (Leaping up) By every fiend in hell ! (Mrs. Clemm rushes in, followed by Zurie, Tat and Bony) Mrs. C. My son, what is the matter Poe. See what that child has done! Mrs. C. (With dignity) Your wife, Edgar. Poe. My wife! Great God! 0, Helen! Helen! (Rushes from the room, left rear) Bony. I tol' yo' he wah mad! I done tol' yo' Mars Edgah gone mad! He look at me jes so! (Mimics) Tat. (Looking through window) Dah he go now troo de orchard jes a runnin'! 219 220 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Bonr. Obah de fence' Tat. An' no hat on' Zu. Stop yo' mouf an' come out o' heah, yo' wuss- less niggahs' I make yo' know wha' vo' b'longs' (Takes them out) Mrs. C. 0. Virginia' What an hour for you! Iir. What an hour for him, mamma' Mrs. C. Strange child' Not to think of yourself Iir. How can I, when he is suffering so MUrs. C. Mv angel daughter! lir. (Kissing her) We will be brave, mv mother. I hear the girls. Go to them one moment-do! (Exit Mrs. Clemm). . . Helen! Dear God above ! (Drops on her knees by a chair. After a moment of agony, rises, goes to table and looks at papers) What is it I have ruined (Reads silently) 0, what beauty! . . . I think I can make this out and copy it for him. But now he may never finish it. The heavenly moment is gone... and I robbed him of it. .. I, who should guard him and keep the world away. That is mv little part-too lit- tle, God knows! 0, if I could really help him' (Enter Ethel and Annie) Eth. 0, Virginia, now that w-e're rid of that troublesome husband let 's have one of our good old- fashioned times! ' e '11 sit by the fire and tell tales. It's too cold anyway to go to the woods. Vir. (Absentli-) Edgar is there. Annie. And there let him stay! I'm sure it's better for both of vou. You hang about him too much, Vir- a-inia. He'll quit loving you, mamma says he will, if you 're not more sensible. Help me draw up this sofa, Ethel. (Thev pull sofa to the fire. Annie settles herself comfortably) I feel just like giving you a lecture, Vir- ginia. You must make Edgar go out more. Anybody w-ill get queer shut up here. The other day when mamma THE POET asked him to come to our party he wasn't more than half polite when he refused, and we were going to have Mr. -Melrose Libbie to meet him too. Said his work would keep him at home!' Now vou know, Virginia, that poetry isn't work. It's just dash off a line now and then, and there You are' Mr. Libbie said so. 0, he had the sweetest thing on the woman's page in last Sun- day's paper' Did vou see it You 'd better call Edgar's attention to it. Mamma read it to all of us at the breakfast table, and- Eth. 0, stop your chatter, Annie, and let Virginia tell us one of her fairy stories just as she used to do. We '11 forget all about Edgar and make believe she is n't married at all. VIir. (Painfulli-) Forgive me, dear girls, but I've some work that I must do to-dav. M1abel. Must do' Who ever heard the like Vir. I was wrong. It is some work that I choose to do-that it will be my happiness to do. Ethel. For Edgar Vir. Yes. Annie. You are a little fool' Vir. Yes. . . I am a little fool. Ethel. 0, there's help for You if vou know it' I ir. If I were not a little fool I could be of more help to Edgar. Ethel and Annie. Oh' Annie. (Jumping up) Then we can't stay to-day' Iir. I am so sorry-but- Annie. 0, we might as well give vou up first as last' (Exeunt girls) Iir. (Sits at table and stares at the papers) ..... A little fool. . . a little fool. (CURTAIN) 221 222 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Scene II: Same room as before. Night. Virginia sits motionless in the dim firelight. Mrs. Clemm comes softly down the stairs) Mrs. C. Virginia Vir. Naughty mamma! You said you would sleep. What a story to tell your little girl! Mrs. C. (Advancing) The rain - wakes me. (Comes to fire) Did Edgar take his cloak, dear Vir. No, mother. Mrs. C. Are you not cold in that dress, darling Vir. 0 no-quite comfortable-and Edgar likes me in white, you know. (A windo w rattles. Both look anxiously toward the door) Mrs. C. What a gust! . . I wonder what winter is like at the north. (Virginia looks at her quickly, and both drop their eyes) . . . To think of him out on a night like this! And he has not been well lately. Had he no purpose Did he say nothing when he went out Vir. He said he was going to seek Truth. Mrs. C. And what does he mean by truth, Virginia Vir. O, I don't know. When he is talking I under- stand, but when he is gone it all fades and I know noth- ing about it. Mrs. C. Nor does Edgar, mark me, dear. He is trying to know things that the wise God decreed should remain unknown to mortals. That is what makes him so unhappy. . . Did he eat his breakfast this morning, Virginia Vir. No, mamma. Mrs. C. Did he take any food yesterday . .. Tell me, daughter. I can not help you if I do not know. (Virginia begins to sob) There! there, darling! A little patience and we '11 get him over this. Vir. 0, mother! Mrs. C. Come here, my little girl. (Takes Virginia THE POET in her arms) Now tell me! Don't let the heart go heavy when mother ears are waiting. Vir. He.... goes out at night.. .. and I follow him because it kills me to think of him wandering alone. We were on Burney hill last night. Mrs. C. Five miles! ... Then that is what these pale cheeks and dark eyes mean! And Edgar let you go! Vir. No! I go! I am not a child, mother. Ah, I knew you would not understand! Mrs. C. Yes, yes, I do, Virginia. I know he suffers, but you- V1ir. Don't speak of me! You shame me! Were I to lie down on those coals my torture would be less than his. Remember that, mother. When you doubt, as you surely will, remember that I told you, and I know. His mind is a living thing, throbbing through his body and leaving him no shield of flesh. 0, mamma, help him! Promise me! You will never forsake him Mrs. C. Never, my love. Vir. I would not have told you, but my strength is gone, and somebody must know,,-somebody who is strong. (A gust shakes the window) O0 my darling! Out in that blackness alone! And if I were there I could say nothing. That is the pity of it, mamma. I have no words, and thought without tongue is nothing so long as we are mortal and wear these bodies. Some day it may be enough just to be a soul, but not now- not now! Mrs. C. 0, my daughter! Vir. Promise me, mamma, that if I die you will find Helen. She could help him! Mrs. C. (Rising) Virginia, if you say another word like that I shall think you are mad-or I am! (Bursts into weeping) Vir. Darling, darling mother! Now I have given 223 224 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS you all my burdens you will grow weak under them, and I want strength, strength by my side! Mrs. C. (Calm) You must go to bed, dear. I will wait for Edgar. Vi. No, no! MUrs. C. I will coax him to eat something. Vir. (Smiling sadly) Coax him, mamma Mrs. C. Yes, dear. Go now. Vir. I can not. Mrs. C. I command you, my daughter. Vir. Please do not command me. You have never had to pardon disobedience in me. Mrs. C. Nor shall I have cause now. Obey me, Vir- ginia. Vir. Would you send me into hell, mother Mrs. C. Daughter! Vir. That is what a bed is to me when Edgar is out like this. Mirs. C. You make too much of these wanderings. Night and day are alike to him. Vir. Ah, it is not the night that I fear! . . . Go, mamma! It is you who must rest. 0, how we need these strong arms -this clear head! I shall nod in my chair for the thought of you getting your needed rest will bring the winks to my own eyes. Come! (Draws her toward stairway) I promise you that I will sleep in the big chair as snug and tight as kitty herself. (Kisses her) Mrs. C. (On the stairs) I can not leave my sick child to watch. You ask me to do an inhuman thing, Virginia. I will not go. Vir. Mother! . . . Do not let me hurt you. . . the dearest, the most unselfish of mothers. . . but it is better for me to meet my husband alone. (MUrs. Clemm turns and goes slowly upstairs. Vir- ginia goes back to fire) THE POET Vir. Watch and pray! I can but watch and pray! He said 't was love he wanted. . . and I brought him that.. . love that shakes but with the globe itself. But it does not help. . . . 't was all wrong. . . all wrong! (Weeps. Rises, and busies herself about an oven on the hearth) Three times I have prepared his supper that it might be fresh enough to tempt him. But now. . . I am so tired. I must try to keep this warm. The sight of it may make him angry. . . but I must try. (Arranges some clothes on a chair) He will be so wet with the rain. Ah. I can do nothing. . . nothing. (Looks toward door) He is coming! Strength, strength. o my God! (Poe throws door open. Turns and speaks as if to companions outside) Poe. Goodnight, goodnight, brave Beauty's fear- less angels! (Comes in) Well, Dame Venus, what thoughts for your hobbling Vulcan Vir. (Brightly) My Hermes, you mean. I'm sure you're feather-footed, you go so far and fast. Poe. Why, sweet-mouth, a kiss for that! (Kisses her) Vir. 0, my love, you are dripping with the rain. Poe. Well, and so are the trees. Not a leaf out there but is shaking her pearls. Who flies from Nature but man Let her be terrible, glorious, worthy of his eyes and his heart, and forthwith he takes to his hole. Vir. I hate her to-night. She kept me from follow- ing you. Poe. Virginia! (Seizes her hands, crushing them in his, and gazing at her with fierce earnestness) Never do that again! Never again! (Lets her hands fall, and turns toward door as if he must go out. Her eyes follow him eagerly, but she tries to speak carelessly) Vir. Here are your dry things, dear, and I've kept something hot for your supper. 225 226 SEMAIRAiMIIS AND OTHER PLAYS Poe. (Turning) Yes. . . this is a very valuable skin of mine. Make it comfortable. But what of me, Vir- ginia That something here burning with fires that would brighten Olympos' head! Have you no welcome for me (Virginia is silent) Why are you so pale Light all the lamps! You should not sit in the dark. There are no stars in this den! Vir. (Hurriedly lighting lamp) I'm sorry, love, but last night you wanted the dark-don't you remember Poe. No, I don't remember. Memory is a hyena, always scratching up our dead selves! You must not remember, Virginia! Vir. Yes, dear. Poe. Forgive me, love. 0, I am driving myself mad' Selling myself to the devil of prose that I may bring in that fool's litter-money, money, money-andfor what That we may feed the flesh that devours our souls, and hang such rubbish as this on our backs! (Sweeps gar- ments from chair) 0, Virginia, if you were brave enough we would forget these rags of the body and go like spirits to meet our brothers of the night! They are all out there! Will you go with me, my bride Vir. 0, Edgar! Poe. Ha! You would rather ask them in to have something dry and something hot! But I must have the air! (Throws door open. Lightning flashes on falling rain. Virginia shrinks from the wind) Hear those winds! Gathering lost souls to the bosom of Night! Feel those drops! Every one of them the tear of a fallen god! 0, is it nothing but rain Ha! ha! ha! (Virginia coughs. Poe closes the door hastily. She coughs again) Poe. Don't, Virginia! Vir. Yes, dear. Poe. My angel! (Embraces her. She coughs) 0, THE POET it is these wet clothes! (Throws off coat, picks up dressing gown from the floor and puts it on hurriedli-) Viir. (Eagerly) Your slippers too, dear! Poe. Yes, yes, my slippers! (Puts them on. Sits in big chair, taking her on his knee, and embracing her tenderly) What made you cough, Virginia Vir. 0, 'twas nothing, dear. 'Tis all right now. Everything is all right. Poe. Is it, little wisdom 0, ye gods! Vir. (Concealing anxiety) Darling Poe. What, my beautiful earth-bird Vir. You will take your supper now Poe. (Impatiently) No, no! Is there any wine in the house VIir. Yes, love, but- Poe. I must have it! Quick! I shall faint. Vir. (Rising) No, Edgar. It is food you need. Poe. (Rising) Where is it Vir. 0, my dearest! Poe. Tell me, Virginia! (Goes toward a closet) I1ir. (Getting before him) If you were reaching for a cup of poison, Edgar, I would risk my life, ay, risk your love, to dash it from you. And wine is your poison. I can not let you drink death. Poe. Death! It is all the life that is left to me, and you deny it! Vir. Be quiet, love. You will wake our mother. Poe. Down, gods, and let the lady sleep! Vir. She is not well, Edgar. Poe. But she will be well to-morrow, and I-I am immortally sick and you deny me a drop of wine. Vir. 0, my poor boy! I'm so sorry for you! Poe. And is that all, 0 Heaven I'm her poor boy, and she is so sorry for me! Why, here's a heart that loosens in its throbs the birth-song of new stars! Come, 227 228 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS strike thy chime with mine, and though all bells upon the planet jingle, in us will still be music! Vir. 0, Edgar! Poe. Well Vir. I can not speak. Poe. Virginia, Virginia! I pour out my soul to you! I keep back no drop of its sea! From the infinite, shrouded sources of life I rush to you in a thousand singing rivers, only to waste, to burn, to die on the sands of silence! (She remains motionless, her head bowed) . . . It is so still upon the eternal peaks. Will you not come up with me and be the bride of my dreams You need not speak. . . you need not say a word. Only put the light of poesy in your eyes and let me see that through the channel of their beauty course the mysteries that begin with God and end not with time! (She looks at him. He gazes into her eyes) . . Tears. . . only tears. (Turns away) Can a soul's eyes be dumb (She sits, weeping silently) . . Come then. . talk of what you will. Only talk! You have read a little Byron to-day The new magazine came And you have made me a handkerchief (She sobs. He looks at her remorsefully, crosses the room, gets her harp and brings it to the fire- side) Come. . sing to me, Virginia. You can do that. Vir. (Taking harp) What shall I sing, dear Poe. Something to charm the very heart of AEolus! That will turn a tempest into a violet's breath! lir. Ah, my love! Poe. 0, sing-sing anything! Fir. (Sings) Great and calm, cool-hosomed blue, Take me to the heart of you ! Not where thy blue mystery Sweeps the surface of the sea, THE POET Leaving in a dying gleam Living trouble of a dream; Not where loves of heaven lie Rosy 'gainst the upper sky Burning with an ardent touch Where an angel kissed too much; But where sight and sound come not, All of life and love forgot, All of Heaven forfeited For thy deep Nirvana bed. Wide and far enfolding blue, Take me to the heart - (Her voice breaks suddenly) Poe. Virginia! (She coughs) Don't! (Her cough increases. She puts her handkerchief to her lips. Poe takesit from her hand and looks atit.) Blood! (Throwrs handkerchief into the fire, and stands as if paralyzed, gazing at Virginia. Falls at her feet and begins kissing her skirt) My angel! my angel! I have killed my little bride! Vir. (Urging him gently up) No, dear. I was marked for this from birth. My doom was written by Heaven, not you. Poe. Not doom, my Virginia! (Rising) I will save you, my darling! You shall have everything! With the sickle of a wish you shall harvest the earth! We will sail southern seas! We will follow the Spring as she flies! I will knock at the orient gates and bring thee the health of morning! I'll make the world so bright for thee, Hyperion's self shall wear new gold and shame re- membered suns from chronicle! Spring from perfection's heart shall pluck her buds, and set such gloss on Nature she may laud her old self in one violet's requiem! 0, I'll 229 230 SEMIRAM1SIS AND OTHER PLAYS sing the world into a flower for thy bosom! My love, my love, my love! (She coughs restrainedly. He hides his face till she stops) Even the senseless oak velvets its rude sides to the tender vine! But I - a man -0, beast too vile for hell! too low to be damned! Vir. Edgar! Poe. Do not touch me! Is not the mark here (Touching his brow) 0, where shall I hide it Vir. (Drawing him to her) On my bosom, Edgar. (Presses him to the large chair and sits on the arm of it, caressing him) This forehead is as pure as heaven-lit ivory of angels' brows! Poe. 0, golden heart! (Kisses her over her heart) I will work so hard, Virginia! We shall be rich, and I will take you to some wonderful land where beauty can not die! Will you forgive me then when you are bright and strong in some happy isle of roses Vir. I will forgive you now, dearest, if you will do one thing for me. Poe. 0, what, my darling Vir. Eat the poor little supper I have cooked for you. Poe. Yes-yes-I '11 eat it though it be hell's coals! Vir. Now that's a compliment to your cook, isn't it (Takes food from oven and puts it on table. Poe eats, at first reluctantly, then hungrily) Poe. It is late-so late! 0, my Lenore, you kept up for me! Your weary eyes would not close until they had found their lover! 0, can you forgive me, and take me back to your heart You will love me again Vir. Ah, Edgar, if love were enough we should always be happy. Poe. Love me, love me, dear! I want no more! And this cough.... we shall stop all that, darling! 0, how weary you must be, and you tried to have everything so THE POET beautiful for me! How pretty your dress is! You look like a Naiad smiling out of a lily. But it's too cold! Here, I will wrap you! (Puts shawl about her) Ah, little wife, little wife, what evil power locked your gentle heart with mine Bear with me, love. It will all be different soon. I shall try so hard the gods for pity will not let me fail! See how I have eaten! You may give me more, love. You did not cook this, I know. You stole it from Jove's kitchen. Vir. (Getting food) Yes, I did, and Jove caught me, but he let me go when I told him it was for a poet. Poe. Little witch! (Kisses her) How happy we shall be, Virginia, as soon as I have money. I shall go to New York for a year. It will take only a year. Then I shall come back bringing the lady Fame with me, and you must not be jealous of her. Vir. (Slowly) You-would not-take me Poe. Why, the north wind would blow the Spring from my little girl's cheek! Just a year! That is the first step-a cruel one-but we shall be happy when it is over. Just a year, sweetheart! I must take no chances now! I must win! Vir. You shall not leave me! A year will not hurt me, Edgar! But it would kill me to be left here. . and not know. . . every minute... Poe. Do you care so much, Lenore Then we will both stay here. It will take longer, but I will work harder - Vir. Enough for to-night. We are too happy for to-morrows, Edgar. Now you must have a long, long sleep - Poe. No, no! No bed for me to-night! I must work! Vir. No bed, indeed! I did not say bed, my lord! You are going to sit down here (Places him on foot- 231 232 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS stool) and I shall sit here, (settles in chair) and your head in my lap-mmy hands on your head-and the crooning- est of little songs will bring you the sweetest snatch of sleep that you ever, ever had! Poe. 0, 'tis heaven, Virginia! But you are too tired, my angel. You must sleep. Vir. And so I shall when my lord shows me the way. (Poe drops his head on her lap. She turns down light. He falls asleep as she sings softly) Like a fallen star on the breast of the sea My lover rests on the heart of me; The lord of the tempest hies him down From his billow-crest to his cavern-throne, And 'tis peace as wide as the eye can see When my lover rests on the heart of me. (Silence. Virginia droops in sleep. No light but dull red coals.) (CURTAIN) ACT IV. Scene I: An old bookstore, New York. Bookseller arranging books. Helen at one sidelooking over shelves. Poe enters. He wrears a military cloak and jaunty cap. Throws book on table and whistles carelessly. Bookseller. (Looking book over doubtfully) Forty cents. Poe. (Loudly) Forty devils! (Helen turns and recognizes him. He does not see her) Look at that THE POET binding. You can't get a Shelley put up like that for less than ten dollars. Hel. (Aside) My book! Bookseller. It's badly marked. Poe. Marked! Of course it's marked. And every mark there worth its dollar. In ten years you'll wish the marks were as thick as the letters. Bookseller. Sayfifty, and strike off. Notacent more. Poe. Take it. Hel. To sell my book! (Moves slowly to door) How pale he is! But he is neatly dressed. He can not need fifty cents. To sell my book! I'll speak to him and see if he is past shame. (Steps before Poe as he turns to go out) Hel. Mr. Poe! Don't you remember me 'Tis de- lightful to meet an old friend. Poe. (Bowing low) Mrs..... Hel. Yes, I am Mrs. Bridgmore. Poe. My dear Mrs. Bridgmore! The pleasure of years gathers in this happy moment. Are you making holiday purchases Hel. No. . just poking about. I love these old stores. I see you've made a sale. 'T is a relief to get rid of old books when we've lost our love for them, isn't it They take up good room on our shelves pretty much as people do in our lives long after we have ceased to care for their friendship. But what one is weary of another is ready to take up. (To bookseller) May I see the book the gentleman has just disposed of (To Poe) Anything you have liked will be sure to please me. Poe. 0, you are mistaken! I am simply leaving the book to be duplicated if possible for a friend of mine who has taken a fancy to my copy. (Gesticulates to bookseller) One glance, Mrs. Bridgmore, will tell you that the book is not for sale. 233 234 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Hel. Ah. . . of course not. Pardon the mistake. It seems to be my fate to blunder where you are con- cerned. (Icily) Good morning, Mr. Poe. (As she is going out she drops her purse. Poe has- tens to pick it up and restores it to her with a bow. In doing so he forgets his shabby coat and throws back his cloak over his arm, exposing a badly worn sleeve. He becomes suddenly conscious of her observation, and straightens up in his most dignified fashion) Hel. Thank you. (Goes out) Poe. (Turning to bookseller) Here! Take your damned silver! Give me my book! Bookseller. A bargain 's a bargain, sir. Poe. Bargain! bargain! Do you call that theft a bargain You parasite! you bookgnat! You insect feeding on men's brains! You worm in the corpse of genius! My book, I say, or by Hector I'll tear your goose-liver from your body, you pocket-itching Jacob! Bookseller. Here! take it! Poe. There's your Judas' blood! (Throws down money and starts out with the book. Enter Brackett) Brackett. (Stopping Poe) Mr. Poe, I believe. Poe. Right, sir. And Brackett, I think your name was when I knew you. Bra. Quite right, Mr. Poe. I saw you coming in here, and though you have changed somewhat with the help of years I was sure it was you. Poe. And how, Mr. Brackett, may that knowledge be of interest to you Bra. Well, perhaps it does concern you more than myself. Poe. Kindly tell me in what way that I may re- gret it. Bra. Your pen has been supplying matter for The Comet, I believe. THE POET Poe. If you have any doubt of it a perusal of that magazine's issues for the past two years will satisf- you. Bra. The returns therefrom have contributed some- what to your comfort, I suppose. Poe. Do you Bra. Ah, I am mistaken Then I have less hesita- tion to tell you that the articles recently submitted are unavailable. Poe. You tell me! What have you to do with it Who are you Bra. I am the present editor of The Comet. Poe. You! Bra. I! You see I am in a position to speak with authority,-and it is only just to tell you that your ar- ticles will meet with no further recognition in that quarter. Poe. Brackett. . . I have been very ill. I wrote those things on what I believed to be my death bed. My wife... . . Bra. I should say then that you are in great need of money. Poe. God help me, I am! You know I am not one to beg! Bra. But it 's beg or starve with you, eh (Poe looks at him silently) Well, I should advise you to make application without loss of time to some one who does not know you quite so well as the new editor of The Comet. Good morning. Poe. (Calling to him as he stands in door) I say, Brackett! (Brackett turns) I should advise you to change the name of The Comet as well as its editor. Suppose you call it The Falling Star Ha! ha! (Exit Brackett) Curse me for a whining dog-but Vir- ginia- (Goes out) 235 236 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Bookseller. (Arranging books) Queer chap. We public men get to know all sorts. That book will be mine yet. It 's a good seller at ten dollars, and blest if I wouldn't like to help the wretch out with fifty cents. He'll be back. (Enter Helen) Hel. I wish to buy the book the gentleman has just left with you. Bookseller. Why ma'am, he 's gone and took it with him. Hel. Took it with him Bookseller. Yes, ma'am, and thereby I've lost time and trade. (Aside) She'd give fifteen! Hel. He needed money Bookseller. Well, I should guess so, ma'am. That's the last book he had. He told me about it before. He's been bringin' them all here. I think he'll be back, ma'am, and I'll keep the book for you. Hel. Thank you. (Turns to go. Sees letter on the floor and picks it up) Why, 'tis. . . he dropped it! I wonder if I may ..... he is suffering... that shabby coat. . . and he is so proud. I think I ought to read it. I must know where to find him. (Looks at letter) Ford- ham! (Reads) My Dear Son: One last prayer the mother of your Virginia makes to you. She is dying. Come and sit by her and she will carry a smile to her grave. Do not stay away because you can not bear to witness her suf- fering,-because you have nothing to give her. Come, and by your loving presence lessen her pain. God bless you! Your devoted mother, MARIA CLEMM. (Helen stands trembling and holding the letter). .. And I hurt him... I hurt him.... (CURTAIN) THE POET Scene II: Poe's cottage, Fordham. A room almost bare. Virginia sleeping on bed. Poe's cloak over her. AIrs. Clemm kneeling in prayer beside her. Poe enters, carrying a bundle of broken sticks which he lays down softly, one by one, on the hearth, looking anxiously to- ward the bed. Mrs. Clemm rises and comes to the fire) Mrs. C. My child, you have been out in the snow without your cloak! (Brushes snow from his shoulders) Poe. Could I take the least warmth from yon shiv- ering angel Mrs. C. You forget that you, too, are ill. 0, my boy, be careful, or I shall soon be childless in the world. One is already lost.... Poe. Not lost. See how she sleeps! She is better. I know she is better. Mrs. C. Since you came. We will hope so, dear. Poe. If she would only speak to us! 0, why does she not speak Not once to-day. Mrs. C. She is very weak, my son. Poe. I could bear it so long as she could tell us there was no pain. . . but now she only looks at us. . . Oh- Mlrs. C. You will control yourself for her sake. Poe. Yes, yes, for her sake. lfrs. C. It will take her last breath to see you dis- turbed. Poe. I know! I know! Have no fear, mother. I am strong now. Vir. Edgar! (He flies to the bed) Poe. My darling! Vir. I am better, dear. Mamma! (Mrs. Clemm goes to her) I feel so rested, mamma. Poe. I told you! She is better! And you will sit up a little now, dear I will carry you to the fire. MUrs. C. My boy! Poe. 0, mother, don't you see how well she is 237 238 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Look at her cheeks-her eyes-how beautiful! Vir. (Smiling) Hear him, mamma! How proudhe is! He must always have it that his wife is beautiful. Poe. But it is so true, my dearest! Vir. Let me believe it, for it is sweet to think that I have been that, at least, to you. Poe. 0, my darling, you have been everything! Vir. You think so now, dear, and I love to hear you say it. Poe. And you will get well for me VIir. No, 0 no! That would bring all your troubles back. You will live a great life, Edgar, when you have left this little care-bundle of a wife behind you. Poe. 0, don't, Virginia! I shall do nothing without you! Vir. You will do everything. I am the wise one now, Edgar. And, dear, while I can talk. . . I must ask you. . . must beg you. . . I must hear you say that you forgive me. Poe. Forgive you! Vir. Yes, dear. I was so young... I thought I could help you. . . and so I let you marry me. I did not know. I thought because I loved you so much that I could make you happy. But women who can only love are not the women who help. They must be wise and strong too, and oh, so many other wonderful things. If they are not, then all the love only hurts and makes things go wrong. Poe. 0, little angel! Vir. Yes. . little angel. . . when I ought to have been a brave, great angel who could bear heaven on her wings. Long ago I knew it, Edgar. When the truth came I looked every way and there was no help. Then when I found I was to die, it seemed that God had pitied and helped me. For that was the only way. . . . 0, THE POET these little women who can do nothing but love' I wish I could take them all with me. These tears are for them, not for myself, darling. 0, I am happy, but they must wait. . . they can not die. How you shiver! You must take your cloak. I am warm now. Indeed, I am quite comfortable. . . . . Don't-don't weep. You must be happy because I am. Let us smile the rest of the time, darling,-it-is such a little while. Poe. (Brokenly) Yes.... yes.... 0 little flower, little flower, dropping back to God's bosom, how have I dared to touch thee! Vir. (Rubbing her hand on his arm) 'Tis damp! You have been out 0, my dear, you must, must take your cloak! I am quite, quite warm' See, feel my hands! (Smiling) Poe. (Taking her hands) Little icicles! Vir. You have been out! 0, save yourself for the great things. . . now I am going out of your way. Don't let my deathbe as vain as my life. Let that count for something, Edgar. 0, promise me you will live for your genius' sake, you will be true to your heavenly gift! Kneel by me and promise! Poe. I. . . promise. Vir. Dear husband... I. (faints) Mrs. C. 0, she isgone' Poe. No! She faints! My beautiful idol! 0, some wine! Heaven and earth for some wine! Mrs. C. She looks at us! My daughter! Poe. 0, do not try to speak! Let your beautiful eyes do all the talking! Mrs. C. She looks toward the fire. She would have you go, Edgar, and try to keep warm. Come, dear. (Poe kisses Virginia gently, and goes to fireside, looking back adoringly) Do not look at her, and she will sleep again. 239 240 SEMUIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Poe. Ah, God! It will take more than sleep to help her. And I can give her nothing-nothing! Mrs. C. Don't, Edgar! Remember your terrible ill- ness-how you worked for her when fever was burning your brain-until your pen fell from your hand. Poe. I brought her to this land of ice and snow! Mrs. C. No. Destiny brought her. We lost our home. Your work was here-and she would not stay behind you. Poe. A man would have saved her! Mrs. C. O my boy, do not takethis burden on your soul! For once spare yourself! Poe. I can not even give her food! Mrs. C. (Restraining him) My son, she sleeps. Poe. Yes. . sleep. . . let me not rob her of that too! Be quiet. . . just be quiet. . . while she dies. (Seats himself with strange calmness) Come, mother, let us be cheerful. Take this chair. Let us be rational. Let us think. Death is strange only because we do not think enough. God must breathe. Life is the exhalation, death the inhalation of deity. He breathes out, and the Universe flames forth with all her wings -her suns and clusters of suns-down to her mote-like earth, the but- terfly of space, trimmed with its gaudy seasons, and nourishing on its back the parasitical ephemeran, Man! Murs. C. My lovee- Poe. Be calm, mother. Be calm. Then the great in- breathing begins. The creative warmth no longer goes out. The parasites vanish first, then the worlds on which they ride, and last the mighty suns, -all sink ,into the still, potential unity, and await the recurrent breath which may bear another universe, unlike our own, where the animate may control the inanimate, the or- ganic triumph over the inorganic,-(rising) ay, man him- self may dominate nature, control the relentless ecliptic, THE POET and say to the ages of ice and fire 'Ye shall not tread on me!' Mrs. C. Edgar! Poe. I beg your pardon. We must be calm. (Re- sumes his seat) But God will not stop breathing (with bitter sarcasm) though your daughter-and my wife- is dying. (Mrs. Clemm weeps. He turns to the win- dow) Do you know that elephants once nibbled boughs out there where the snow is falling They ran a mighty race-and died-but no tears were shed. In the records of the cosmos, if man is written down at all, I think he will be designated as the 'weeping animal.' Mrs. C. Are you human Poe. I regret that I belong to that feeble and limited variety of creation, but with the next self diffusion of the concentrated Infinite I may be the Sun himself! Mrs. C. 0, my mother-heart! Poe. Think a little more and you will forget it. The heart makes the being there on the bed your daughter- mv wife-but the mind makes her a part of the divine force which has chosen her shape for its visible flower. The heart is wrung by the falling of the bloom, for it is endeared to that only, but the mind rejoices in its re- united divinity. Come. . (Moves a step toward the bed) I can look on her now. . and be quiet. Sweet rose, I can watch your petals fall. But they fall early. . . they fall early. .. . blasted in the May. Not by the divine breath drawing you home, but by my mortal, shattering hand! I promised you sun and dew..... I have given you frost and shadows. 0 God! 0 God! let me not think! Keep me a little, weeping child! Mrs. C. Dear son, cast out this bitterness. Only your love and devotion have kept her alive so long. Poe. No! I touched her like a wing of doom, and 241 242 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS she fell blasted! (She tries to soothe him) No, no! Call devils from hell to curse me! (A knock at the door. Mrs. Clemm opens it and a basket is delivered to her. Poe, deep in agony, does not notice. She takes things from the basket) Mrs. C. 0, Edgar! Wine, and soft blankets! (Hle looks up, and rushes across to her) Poe. Wine! wine! 0, spirit that bendest from pity- ing clouds, a mortal thanks thee! Quick, mother, these drops of strength will give her back to us! Mrs. C. She sleeps, my son, which is ease more pre- cious than these drops can give. Poe. (Taking bottle) Give it to me! Mrs. C. Edgar, Edgar, do not wake her! Poe. Lenore, Lenore, out of thy dream, though 't were the fairest ever blown to mortal from Elysium! This will put thee to such smiles that dreams - Mrs. C. Be quiet, for God's sake! Poe. Quiet! 'T is a word for clods and stones! You'd hold me from her when my hand brings life (Rushes to cupboard and gets a glass which he fills) Mrs. C. Just a little, Edgar. Too much would- Poe. She shall drink it all, by Heaven! I will save her! (Mrs. Clemm sinks to a chair, helpless and sobbing. A knock at the door which neither hears. Enter Helen. As Poe turns to approach the bed he faces her, stares, and lets the glass drop shivering) Poe. You! Hel. I, Edgar. You see I can remember myfriends- and I've come to scold you for not-letting me know- Poe. It was you who sent - Hel. Some blankets soft as summer clouds for the most beautiful lady in the world And wine delicate enough for a fairy's throat I knew you would not THE POET have it else. (Turns to Mrs. Clemm) You do not know me, but- Mrs. C. (Taking her hand) I know you are a good woman reaching a hand to me in my sorrow. HeL (Embracing her) No. . my arms! (Poe goes to bed and kneels by Virginia. Speaks softly to her, then rises and brings a little wine) Poe. Just a drop, dear,-a butterfly's portion. (Virginia drinks) Hel. (To Mrs. Clemm) How is she Mrs. C. She will have but one more word for us- goodbye. He!. Can I-may- 0, you must let me do some- thing for her-for you! Do not make me miserable by saying there is nothing I can do. Mrs. C. There is. . . something. I have never begged - Hel. -Do not use such a word. It is you who give- who make me happy. Mrs. C. But I will beg this. Some linen for her last robe. Hel. God bless you for telling me! Poe. (Rising from his knees by Virginia) Helen, Virginia would speak to you. Hel. 0, save the precious breath! (Approaches bed) Ah. . how lovely. . . I understand... Vir. (Lifting her head) Helen.... help my Edgar. (Sinks back. Poe lays his head on her pillow. Helen stands with her arm about Mrs. Clemm. Curtain falls, and rises on same room at night. Virginia's body lies on the bed. Poe watches alone. A candle burns on table) Poe. (Standing by bed) . . So low in sleep, little girl . . I took thee mid thy roses. 0, broken gentle- ness, little saint-love, move but a hand, a finger, to tell 243 244 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLA YS me thou art still my pleading angel! . . Not one breath's life. Still. . . quite still. 0, might such rest be mine! (Turns away) I'll write. (Goes to table) I promised. Yes. . . I'll write. Behind the glorious chancel of the mind still swings the incense to the deathless gods! . . (Sits and writes) . . . No. (Rising) No rhymes-for Poesy must mourn to-night. (Goes toward bed) Too much of her is dead. (Gazes at Virginia) Cold. . . cold. What art thou death Ye demons of a mind distraught, keep ye apace till I have fathomed this! . . . Ha! What scene is that (Stares as at visions) A valley laid in the foundations of darkness! The unscalable cliffs jut to heaven, and on the amethystine peaks sit angels weep- ing into the abyss where creatures run to and fro with- out escape! Some eat, some laugh, some weep, some wonder. Now they make themselves candles whose little beams eclipse the warning stars. . and in the pallid light they dance and think it sun! But on the revel creeps a serpent, fanged and crimson, with multitudinous folds lapping the dancing creatures in one heaving carnage! The candles die. . . The stars cannot pierce the writhing darkness. . Above on the immortal headlands sit the angels, looking down no more, for the dismal heap no longer throbs ...... I must write this! Now! While I see it! That moaning flood ebbing to silence. . those rosy promontories lit with angel wings. . . and over all as large and still as heaven, the cold, unweeping eyes of God! . .. . (Writes... A tapping at the door. He does not hear. Another tapping. He looks up) Who's there . . . This is my vigil. Nor devil nor angel shall share it! . . . (Listens. Tapping. He goes to door and throws it open) . . Nothing.. . nothing. . . but darkness. (Stands peering, and whispers) Lenore! ... (Closes door, bolts it, returns to table and writes silently. Utter still- ness, then a rattling at the window. Poe leaps up) THE POET What's that (The shutter is blown open. Poe stands watching. Araven flies in and perches abovedoor) Out, you night-wing! (He looks at raven silently) You won't Why, sit there then!' Xou're but a feather! (Sits and writes. After a moment rises and reads) Out-out are the lights-out all! And over each quivering form, The curtain, a funeralpall, Comes down with the assh of a storm- And the angels all pallid and wan, UI:prising, unveiling affirm That the play is the tragedy 'IMan!' And its hero the Conqueror 11orm! Ah ! the thought pales from these lines like light from dying cinders. Poetry is but ashes telling that a fire has passed. (Sits gloomily. Suddenly remembers the raven, turns and stares at it) You bird of damnation, leave me in peace with my dead! . . . 0, dreaming fool, 'tis nothing.... MIy mind 's a chaos that surges up this fancy. (Tries to write, stops, goes on, trembles, and looks up) . . Can I know fear I, the very nursling of dreams Who have lived in a world more tenanted with ghosts than men I can not be afraid. . . . (Tries to write. Drops pen. Shudders, looking with furtive fear at the raven) . . . I am. .. I am afraid. . . . Vir- ginia! (Creeps toward bed) Stay with me, little bride. My little rose-bride! (Fingers along coverlet, looking at raven) Do not leave me. Quick, little love! Give me life in a kiss! (Touches her hand, shrinks, and springs up) Dead! . . (Leans against foot of bed, wildly facing the raven) Speak, fiend! From what dim region of unbodied souls hast come What hell ungorged thee for her messenger What sentence have the devils passed 245 246 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS upon me To what foul residence in some blasted star am I condemned Speak! By every sigh that poisons happy breath! - by every misery that in me rocks and genders her swart young! -by yonder life that now in golden ruin lies ! -I charge thee speak! How long shall I wander without rest How long whirl in the breath of unforgiving winds Or burn in the refining forges of the sun When will the Universe gather me to her heart and give me of her still, unthrobbing peace Speak! When-O when will this driven spirit be at home (Silence. Poe listens with intense expectation and fear. The raven flies out) It spoke! (Hoarsely) It spoke! I heard it! (Whispers) Nevermore! (He falls in a swoon. Candle flickers in the wind and goes out. Darkness) (CURTAIN) ACT V. Scene I: Poe's lodging, Baltimore. Small room. Cot, table, and one chair. Poe writing) Poe. (Pressing his temples) Throb-throb-but you shall finish this. (Writes) You, too, rebel, old pen On, on like a lusty cripple, and we 'll scratch out of this hole. (Lifting pen) Why, old fellow, this will buy bread. 0, bread, bread, bread, for one sweet crumb of thee to feed an angel here! (Touching his forehead) Gordon will not fail me. His letter will come to-day. THE POET And with his help I'll get on good ground once more. And then! . (Writes. Drops pen with a groan) . . Gor- don's letter must come to-day. 0, I would live, would live, for seeds are gendering in my mind that might their branches throw above the clouds and shake immortal buds to this bare earth! . . . (Looks at writing) Words! Ye are but coffins for imagination! No more of you! (Crushes paper) Eternity's in labor with this hour! (Leaps up) I could make Time my page to carry mem- ories from star to star ! 0 Heaven, wouldst thou vouch- safe thy visions to these eyes, then fill them with cold clay Pour to these ears thine own philosophies, then send the crawling worm to pluck their treasure out (Falls to chair. Enter Mrs. Schmidt) Mrs. S. (Holding out letter) Here it is, sir. Poe. (Rousing) What, Smidgkin Mrs. S. The letter 's come, sir. Poe. Thank you. (Takes letter. Mrs. Schmidt waits expectantly) If you will be so good, Smidgkin- I mean if you will be so cruel as to bereave me of your presence while I break this very personal seal-very per- sonal, I assure you- Mrs. S. No, sir. I stay to see what 's inside o' that! Poe. Since you desire it, madam. (Starts to open letter and hesitates) I-hope you are well, my good Smidgkin. Mrs. S. Always am. Had n't you better see what 's in it Poe. To be sure.... I hope you have a good fire in your room this chilly weather, Smidgkin. MUrs. S. Always do. I '11 break it for you, Mr. Poe. Poe. 0, no, no! I could n't think of troubling you. The rain beats very heavily. I hope your-er-roof will not be injured. 247 248 SEMIRAMIS ANVD OTHER PLAYS Mrs. S. Law me, I had every leaf tinkered up them sunny days last week. I believe in preparin' for a rainy day, 1 do, Mr. Poe. Poe. Indeed, yes, -if only we were all so wise, but, alas, my dear Smidgkin, some of us build so high that the angels have to come down and tinker our roofs. . and when they won't, Smidgkin.... when they won't (Lays letter on the table) . . I hope you have no er- rands to take you from your cheerful fireside in weather like this, Mrs. Smidgkin. Mrs. S. My name is Schmidt, Mr. Poe. Poe. Pardon me, madam. Mrs. S. Air you a goin' to open that letter or air you not Poe. Why, good woman, to be sure I am. I did not know you were particularly interested. Excuse me. Here goes-and God mend the devil's work. (Opens letter and reads) 'I have talked with Brackett-' Brackett! (Drops letter and sits dumb) Mrs. S. He sent you the ten dollars, hey Where is it, hey Seems to me that's white paper with mighty few marks on it! Not much like a ten dollar bill! Where is it, I say Lost in the mailbags, I reckon! It will come by next post! You're certain-quite certain, Smidgkin! I tell you, Mr. Poe, this is once too often! Poe. A bare, unfurnished room like this- Mrs. S. Is worth just a dollar a week to me, which is exactly a dollar more than you can pay! Poe. Mrs. Smidgkin, there is a legend in the world that pity never wholly leaves the breast of woman. Mrs. S. Shame to your tongue, Mr. Poe, that says I haven't been as kind to you asyour own mother-sister! Haven't you had this room nigh to a month since I 've seen a cent for it Did n't I give you stale bread a whole week, an' coffee a Sunday mornin' An' you THE POET dare say I'm not a Christian, merciful woman You come out o' here, or I'll put hands on you, I will! Poe. Mrs. Smidgkin, Mrs. Smidgkin, are you aware that the rain pours outside like the tears of the Danaides on their wedding night And speaking of weddings, Smidgkin- Mrs. S. Schmidt! As you'll find on my good man's tombstone, an' some day on my own, bless God! Poe. 0, do n't talk so, I beg you! Mrs. S. Why now, Mr. Poe! Law me, who 'd a thought you could be so softhearted-about a tomb- stone, too! Poe. As I said, my dear madam-speaking of wed- dings-pray take this chair. 'Tis all I have to offer. Gladly will I stand before you, though I am but slightly bolstered within for the attitude. Speak to me, madam. Let one thought fly from thy caging brow to me a beg- gar vile. Mrs. S. 0, Mr. Poe! Poe. Thanks for the burden of those syllables. Mrs. S. My dear Mr. Poe! Poe. Again You overwhelm me! Dare I speak You have suspected You know why I linger in this dear room -dear as the barrier that staves off guttery death This kindness is sincere I may trust it and speak Mrs. S. You may, Mr. Poe. Poe. Well then, sweet Smidgkin, will you open the broad gates of genial widowhood to admit a fallen wretch to the warmth of your bosom and hearthstone- particularly the latter Mrs. S. (With dignity) I presume, Mr. Poe, that I am addressed by an offer of marriage. I have had offers before, Mr. Poe, -one an undertaker who drove a good business, but he looked for all the world like one of 249 250 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS his own corpses an' what is business says I to a woman in good circumstances with a longin' heart I don't mind sayin' it, Mr. Poe, a nice lookin' man always did take my eye, an' you'll be a pretty figure when you 're plumped out a bit, indeed you will, but your addresses of this offer is somewhat unusual, an' if you '11 give me time- Poe. The weather, madam, will admit of no delay. Since you are so determined, I must give up hope and seek shelter under Jove's great canopy. Mrs. S. 0, don't go there, Mr. Poe-it's a bad place, that Canpy house, an' I'uve heard Jove talked about for a vile barkeep! I guess since you 're so impetus I '11 say yes to these addresses of marriage, Mr. Poe. Poe. Ha! ha! ha! Mrs. S. What do you mean, Mr. Poe My dear Eddie, I should say! Poe. I mean, madam, that death loves a joke. Mrs. S. 0, my sweet Eddie, don't be talkin' about death. You're so pale I don't wonder-and a'most starved out I '11 venture my word for it. But you won't know yourself in a week. I've got the sweetest room downstairs-all in blue an' white, with a bed three feet o' feathers, soft as a goosebreast, I warrant, an' I'll tuck you in an' bring you a toddy that '11 warm you to your toes, it will, an'- Poe. Ha! ha! ha! Well, why not I seize this wretched plank or sink with all that in me is. Men have done it. But not Edgar Poe! Sell my soul for a broth- dish-a saucepan-a feather-bed- Mrs. S. 0, he's out of his mind, sure he is! My sweet Eddie, he's loved me distracted! Poe. Can this be woman Mrs. S. Law me! THE POET Poe. The sex that knew a Virginia- that knows a Helen No! there are men, women . . and angels! Mrs. S. Look here, Mr. Poe, don't you mention no women 'round me! 0, Eddy, my Eddy! (Offers to caress him) Poe. Away! You wench from Venus' kitchen! (Going) This weather . . . once I could have braved it with the wildest wing that ever flew. But now .... (coughs wretchedly) Mrs. S. No rent an' no husband either! Poe. Up, heart, we go! Henceforth I live by spirit- bread! Lead me, ye unseen comrades, to immortal feasts! (Exit) (CURTAIN) Scene II: An hour later. A bar-room. Door in center, rear. Four men at table, left, rear,playing cards. Haines. Was afraid you wouldn't show up to-night, Juggy. Juggers. Nothing like a stormy night for a good game. Never miss one. Rain brings me luck. Black. Then, by Jacks, you'll have it all your way to-night. It's pouring hogsheads. Your deal, Sharp. (They play in silence. Poe enters, rear, walks uncer- tainly across the room and takes a seat, right, front. There seems to be life only in his eyes, their burning light revealing a soul struggling tree from a corpse. He sits unnoticed for a short time) Sharp. (To barkeeper) Say, Thomas, I thought this was a gentleman's house. What's that in the cor- ner Looks like a coffin might 'a' spilt it on the way to the graveyard. Bark. (In lower tone) He's one o' these writin' 251 252 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS fellers in hard luck. I've let him hang around here a good deal, for he's always quiet and gives me no show for kickin' him out. But say the word and he goes. Haines. Looks more like a sick man than a bum. Sharp. Bah! He can drink till he wets his boots. I know that sort of a face. Bark. Never drinks anything 'round here. Sharp. Good reason. You don't wear a charity medal. Jug. Let him stay for luck. Sharp. Whose luck You're doing all the winning to-night, Juggers. He's a Jonah for the rest of us. I want his eye off me, I say. Black. 0, let him alone. I'd ask a burglar to have a seat in my house a night like this -'pon honor, I would. Play up. (They play on) Poe. What a noble palace is here! How the gleaming vault reaches to heaven and mocks the stars! What resplendent lights! As though the master had taken burning planets for his candles! How far they throw their beams-around the world and into the nether sea! Jug. (To Haines, who is looking at Poe) Mind your play there, Haines. Poe. I know this place. It is the poet's house of dream that all my life I 've sought to reach. I am dying now, and they let me in, because I have been true to them. The master will read it in my face. I have not eaten of the flesh-pots! I have beggared my body, but I have not beggared my soul! Sharp. Curse it, Juggers! It's yours again! Haines. Take your medicine, Sharp. A man must know how to lose as well as win. Poe. Yonder is the master, arrayed all in white and gold and sapphire. Those angels that attend him are THE POET 253 poets wrapped in fires of love. They talk about me now, and ask if I am worthy to come in. 0, I have loved ye well, immortal dead! Through noons that burnt the world I've tracked your dewy shadows! No day died in my eyes but ye were whispering priests! And midnight stars have learned your names of me! Sharp. (Throwing down cards) It's that hoodoo in the corner! Poe. How wonderful their voices! They speak a strange language, but I can interpret it. Sharp. I'll not play another card until he goes! Poe. He says that by the trembling of the planet- lights an earth-soul come this way. He sees me! Black. Well, by Jacks, I've got a dollar for his supper and bed. Poe. He says that 'tis a strange creature carrying a burning brand in his bosom. Sharp. You can afford to be a fool. You've helped Juggers rake in. Poe. Not a brand, he says, but an immortal star. Sharp. Thomas, set that oil painting outside, will you Poe. They ask the master if they may come to meet me. (Barkeeper approaches Poe) Ah, the master comes himself, for I am one of the chosen. Barkeeper. Get out o' this! Poe. (Rising slowly) Thou mighty one, thy serv- ant hears thee! Bark. Eh Poe. I '11 be the humblest round thy throne. Bark. Look here, I was a little soft about you, but now you just shove along! Poe. I beg your pardon,-may I ask the name of this planet Bark. Eh 254 SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS Poe. Is it-the earth Bark. (Shaking him) None o' your squibs! Poe. (Recognizing and throwing him off with momentary strength) Do not touch me, George Thomas. I will go. Black. (Flinging him a piece of silver, which falls to the floor) There's a bed for you. Poe. I dare not touch it, sir, lest I be infected, for the angels who look upon us know that I shall be in health when fever shall sit on your bones and agues make their bed in your marrow! Jug. A gentleman can't stand that jaw. Kick him out, Thomas, or I will. Poe. Do not touch me! You walking clay! who button your coats about three meals a day and think you have belted in the universe! Go listen to the sea lapping rock and bone to her oblivious mill, and know your hearts shall sleep as sand within her shells! By the dead worlds that drift in yonder void, and long have sung the swan-song of their deities, this too shall pass, and ere it passes flesh shall learn its impotence! Grey stalkers from the past shall clutch the throat of days! All wrongs shall rise and gather their revenge! And man- Sharp. Here you crazy Tom! That's just enough! (Tries to take hold of Poe) Poe. Off! See what I see! The Conqueror Worm! Fold on fold the red-fanged monster creeps! Look! your doom, ye swine with sodden eyes fast shut against sublimities! Ye- Jug. (Taking Poe by the throat) I'll stop your croaking! (Haines and Black pullJuggers from Poe, who falls to seat utterly exhausted) Haines. Can't you keep your hands off a sick man THE POET 255 Jug. Sick! He's the devil! Haines. Then you might as well make his acquaint- ance. Poe. 'Tis here .... death ... and all is yet to say. 0, I have chattered as a babe! Now, I could speak, and dust is in my mouth! . . . Helen, you told me to be content with the letters..... I h ave tried to read to steal God's book. He has punished . . but death pays my bond. Soon I shall read with His eyes and be at peace. Peace! (Gives a dying shudder) Never- more! . . (Rises, staggers to door and opens it wide) 0, Night, with thy minstrel winds, blow gently on me dead . . . for I have been thy lover! (Looks back at the men who are gazing at him intently, and speaks slowly, erect and godlike) In His own image created He man! . . (Turns and steps into the darkness.) (CURTAIN)