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Blood of Rachel : a dramatization of Esther, and other poems / by Cotton Noe. Noe, James Thomas Cotton, 1864-1953 400dpi TIFF G4 page images University of Kentucky, Electronic Information Access & Management Center Lexington, Kentucky 2002 b92-243-31440126 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. Blood of Rachel : a dramatization of Esther, and other poems / by Cotton Noe. Noe, James Thomas Cotton, 1864-1953 John P. Morton & Co., Inc., Louisville, Ky. : 1916. 150 p.,  leaves of plates : ill. ; 20 cm. Coleman Microfilm. Atlanta, Ga. : SOLINET, 1994. 1 microfilm reel ; 35 mm. (SOLINET/ASERL Cooperative Microfilming Project (NEH PS-20317) ; SOL MN04942.04 KUK) Printing Master B92-243. 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. sx 0 'ZS : :, 1 ! po - Z 'Z The Blood of Rachel I Agarnatfiation of v4ttr AND OTHE-IR POEINRS BY COTTON NOE Author of "The Loom of Life" JOHN P. MORTON COMPANY INCORPORATED LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY 1916 COPYRIG1HT 1916 By COTTON NOE All producing rights reserved, including photo play. Permission to produce must be obtained from the author. To HONORABLE MOSES KAUFMAN From whom I differ on some political and religious questions, but whose warm friendship and keen literary appreciation have been a source of much inspiration to me, particularly in the writing of this drama. This page in the original text is blank. CONTENTS. PAGE The Blood of Rachel.. I The Old Dog Irons ........ .................. 79 The Age Electric ......... ................... 82 Grandmother Days .......................... 86 Just to Dream .............................. 88 Amnemon .................................. go A Romance of the Cuniberland ................ 102 Morning Glories ........ .................... iII Christmastide .............................. 2 I12 K inship .................................... 113 Precocity........................ I14 The Secret.......... .............. ii5 A Rhymeless Sonnet ......................... II6 Ambition .................................. 117 Opportunity............... i8 Holiday Thoughts...............I . 9 The Old Year and the New ................... i20 Fellow Travelers .......... .......... I21 James Whitcomb Riley .................... 122 Cale Young Rice.................... 123 Pilate's Mono'ogue .1........................ 124 The Virile Spirit ....................1 28 Bluebird .................... 13I An Autumn Minor ................ .... 132 Slabs and Obelisk ........................... I33 On Broadway .............. I34 An Ember Etching. '37 A Tragedy in Birdland. 140 PERSONS OF THE DRAMA AHASUERUS ........................ King of Persia VASHTI... Queen of Persia ESTHER ...... Second Queen of Persia HAMAN ...... . Premier MORDECAI ... ... A Jew, afterwards Premier ZERESH...... Wife of Haman MEHEUMAN ............... ... A Chamberlain ABAGTHA.......... Another Chamberlain AHAFID.......... Court Poet SMERDIS.......... Court Fool SAADI.......................... Young Court Poet PARSHANDATHA .......... Lady in Waiting to Zeresh ZETHAR.......... Lady in Waiting to Vashti Chamberlains, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, Heralds, Royal Dancers, Nubian Slaves, Waiters, and others. The Blood of Rachel ACT I SBEND I Place-Shushan, the Capital of Persia. Time-478 B. C. IA hall in the potalace of !he keng e Enter Smerdis, the king's jester, and Ahafia, poet-and mninstrel to the king, from opposite sides of the hall. Ahafid is already an old man, with long grey beard and a little stooped with age. He carries a golden Persian harp on which he plays and accompanies his own song.] Ahafid [Sings.1 Now War has doffed his mailed coat And Peace forgot her art; The lute but not the bugle's note Can stir the kingly heart; Nights of revel and carp, And days of sensuous rust, How can a poet's harp Intone a song of lust 1 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL The king is mad. His flight from Salamis Was bad enough. But t1tt could be excused. For six months now what has he done but drink, Carouse and wallow in lascivious ease, While subjects driven to despair with tax Have fallen on the ooi.sonied sword and cursed In death the son of their once goody king Srwedas Ahafid, you do seem to think the first Great business of a king is war. Now pray You, why should Xerxes waste the lusty days Of youth in bloody strife To furnish themes, No doubt, for dullard bards and minstrelsv. Ahasuerus is the wisest king That ever sat upon a Persian throne. You graybeard fool, stupid as poets are. Can you not see the wisdom of our king In substitution of the flight for death, Of feast for fight, of wine for blood Think you 'Tis wise to wear the plaited mail of Mars When Venus bids you to the festival Of love THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A hafid You call me then a graybeard fool! Though I have dropped the purple bloom of spring The autumn's silvery down may indicate The ripened fruit of wisdom which your youth Has never tasted. Smerdis, you are blind! My beard is white, but vision clear. The king Does daily waste the substance of his realm, And nightly dissipates his energies In vices of the blood. Vashti, the queen, The idol of her people, is in grief. Smnerdis In grief for what Does she too wish the king To take the field I know our queen is fair Of face and most voluptuous of form. Perhaps her grief is due to jealousy. Would she monopolize his love, because Her beauty is surpassing A hafid Vashti does Not know that she is beautiful. She loves Her country and is brave as well as good. 3 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL I dread the issue of this night. The king Has ordered that the queen be brought before The court, a target for licentious eyes. She will refuse to go because her heart Is pure. Ahasuerus, flushed with wine, Will brook no opposition to his will. A tragedy that never Persia knew Will see the rising of to-morrow's sun. Smerdis A tragedy no country ever knew- A woman who is beautiful, but doesn't know it's true. A hafid [Sings.] Oh, for a song to cleanse the heart Or touch the sceptred power; Oh, might the gods a strength impart To meet this tragic hour. [Exeunt Ahafid and Smerdis.] [Enter Vashti and Zethar.] THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Vashli Oh, Zethar, do you think this night will end The revels that dishonor Persia's king To-day unknown I strolled through squalid parts Of this old city and observed the poor. My lord, unmindful of their misery, Has laid a heavy tax for his insane Extravagance upon the helpless child That begs in Shushan's streets. Not here alone, This suffering; but Persia's peasantry, The glory of the old empire, the heart That once defied the world, is broken on The wheel of tax. And all for what Zethar 0 queen, Always the world has had its poverty. You shall forget the poor. One stoop of wine Will bring you happiness. Vashti, drink. Vashti Forgive me, Zethar, but no wine to-night. [Enter Meheuman, BizIha and Abagtha.] THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Meheuman [Loftily.] Our most imperial queen, the king has laid A banquet in the palace garden court, The crowning act of that munificence Toward prince and people great and small alike, Ahasuerus now for many months Has shown the loyal subjects of his realm. The adornment of the court displays a rich Magnificence of taste; the couches are Of fretted gold and silver set upon A pavement of mosaic inlaid stone. The drinking is according to the law- None can compel, each vessel is diverse, But all of gold. Th' abundance of the wine Shows the unstinted bounty of the king. Our monarch's heart is merry in the cup, And boasts that Vashti's beauty does excel In magic power the fabled Helen's charms, And bids us bring immediately before The court great Persia's matchless queen! c THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Vashli Meheuman, tell Ahasuerus I Must thank his majesty since he can still Remember Vashti's beauty, though his grace Has lost all sense of modesty and shame. You say his heart is merry now in wine And that he glories with exceeding pride Because my face is fair to look upon! I do not doubt his tongue is eloquent; The fiery phrase is his! Why, often I Have heard him praise his horse in language that Seemed kindled at the altar of the gods. It may be that he holds me higher than His hundred concubines. Meheuman Your majesty, The king does hold his queen a goddess. Vashli Well, Perhaps he thinks himself divine. Go tell The king I do not wish to be enrolled Among divinities. I am the queen- He must respect me as the one who wears The Persian crown. THE BLOOD OF RACHEL 'Tis scarce three years since he Began to reign. He was Darius' son- A king of whom the world was proud. He wooed Me as a prince of noble blood, and I Received his hand with dignity as well As love. I was a princess, but I had A heart. Long since I found that he had none. A hundred eighty days continuous feast He has oppressed the people of his rule With drunken revels and with wanton waste. And now to crown his sensuality He sends his vulgar chamberlains to bring Me to his palace garden that his lords May gaze with unchaste eyes upon my form. Meheuman, Biztha, will you tell the king That Vashti bids him come to her if he Would see the queen. Meheuman You understand The costly hangings of the garden court Are blue and green and white 8 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Vashli Now pray you what Significance has that What if each couch Is gold and silver and each goblet set With stones Meheuman The king's great love for Vashti! Vashti Then He has prepared this banquet for his queen And does he think this is an evidence Of love. It rather means the king's debauched. I will not be a party to his sin. Meheuman The etiquette of court commands you to Obey. Vashti Commands! Well, has it come to that But I will not obey. I am a queen! Here! Take this purple robe and coronet, And tell Ahasuerus to adorn Some harlot of his harem. She will grace The queenship of his kingdom better than A pure and modest wife. 9 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A bagtha You do not know The meaning of your words! Vashti Abagtha, why Do you admonish me Do I not know The forfeit Chamberlains, this message take Licentious Xerxes from his virtuous queen: I do not fear his wrath. I will not come At his command. I have a royal heart And will not thus disgrace the Persian throne. The king that's halfway worthy of my hand Would hate the queen that yielded to his lust. My heart, 0 chamberlains, is broken, not That Vashti's crown is lost, but oh, to see The regal name of Persia brought so low! I weep. The tears are for my country. Go! [Exeunt Vashti, Abagtha, etc.] [Curtain is lowered to denote the passage of six yecrs.] 10 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL SCENE II [Outer hall in palace. Throne room back concealed by curtain. Queen Esther, disguised by loose dress thrown over royal robe and head and face below the eyes hidden by mask, approaches the door where Mordecai, the Jew, is standing.] Mordecai Ah, Esther! Though your queenly robe you do Conceal, I know that regal gait. Before I ever looked upon these palace walls, When you were yet a little child beyond The purple peaks, where shepherds led their flocks In pastures green, I often dreamed that you Would one day wear a golden coronet And sit in majesty upon a throne. Esther [Dejectedly.] Four years I have been queen, which time I have Not heard the voice of any one I love; And though disguised, I hardly dare to speak My heart even to you. This palace is A gloomy prison cell. The Persian crown 11 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Is meaningless to me. The hundred gems That blaze upon its field of gold are dull And heavy lead. I would exchange it all For but a glint of sunshine on the hills Where I was born. But why this interview Mordecai My royal niece, I know that you are queen. Esther A queen But what of that Though of my blood, You can not even look upon my face. What would you have [Wailing without.] Mordecai My daughter, do you hear The cries of anguish that disturb the peace Of Shushan's streets Your people everywhere Are clothed in sackcloth. Read the king's decree! [Handing her paper.] 12 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Esther [Reads.] "It has been written and commanded by Ahasuerus, emperor of all The East, and sealed in every tongue with his Own ring-the royal seal-that governors And princes and lieutenants, everyone Within the Persian rule, shall make and cause To die and perish every Jew, both young And old, the women and the children, rich And poor alike, and forfeit all their goods. This is Ahasuerus' sovereign will And shall be done and executed in The month of Adar on the thirteenth day." Oh, God! It is Ahasuerus' seal. Mordecai But Haman's hand. Esther Why does the premier hate The Jews 13 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Mordecai Because the children of the true And living God will never bend the knee To heathen pride. He hates the Jews because Your uncle is a child of Abraham And will not do obeisance to a son Of Baal. Esther, though I made you queen, I plead not for the life of Mordecai, But for the sacred blood of Israel. You alone can intervene. Go straight Before the king and make demand that he Reverse this law that puts the Jews to death. Esther A Persian king can not reverse his own Decree. Besides, the queen who goes into The presence of her lord unless by his Express command, must sacrifice her life, Except through some unguarded impulse he Extends his golden sceptre that she live. I can not go unto the king. Mordecai Your life Is forfeited already, child; you are A Jew. 14 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Esther You did conceal my blood nor dare Reveal my lineage now. Your own deceit Has brought this death upon the house of Israel, Nor will Jehovah hold you guiltless in The hour of doom. Mordecai Esther, if you keep Your peace when Rachel's children wail and cry For help, deliverance will arise Unto the Jews but you shall be destroyed And all your father's house. Esther Depart. [Sound of trumpets within.] The king Is on his throne. I go, and if I die, I can but perish. Peace to Israel. [Exit Mordecai.] [The curtain back rises and discloses Ahasuerus on his throne surrounded by court. Esther approaches to center of hall before the king, and extends her hands as though supplicating. The king seems dazed for a moment and then deeply moved; slowly he lifts the golden sceptre and extends it toward the queen who approaches and touches it.] 15 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Ahasuerus. Why did you, Esther, 0 most beauteous queen, Thus dare to come unbidden to the king 'Twas jealous Death unbarred the royal door That he might claim you for his paramour Your innocence and charms have saved your life! Esther [Innocently.] My lord, how now was I in danger Ah, You know I am your loyal wife I would Not be your queen alone. The crown is naught Compared to pleasures of companionship. O Xerxes, may not Esther share your joys Of wine and song Too long you have denied That which I covet most-to be beside My king. Ahasuerus There is no favor, Esther, I Would longer hold from you; even to half My kingdom, tell me what you most desire, And I will give it you. 16 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Esther My lord, I have Already spoke my heart, but you will not Believe. To test Ahasuerus' love, I have a favor I would ask of you; But first that my most gracious lord may know His queen has taste and skill as well as charms, I will prepare a banquet for the king With my own hands. You are a judge of wine, And every dish that graces banquet halls. To-morrow, let Ahasuerus come, And bring his premier Haman, who no doubt Can tell a heron from a hawk, and if My lord shall praise my art, and I Find favor in his sight, I will make known My dearest wish. A hasuerus Oh, Esther, you have pleased Your king already far beyond what he Had ever hoped. To-morrow night at six! [Music and revels. Esther retires.] [The king and retinue retire in opposite direction. Haman and followers pass out front where Mordecai sits by the gate, together with others. All except Mordecai salaam, but the Jew remains stiff, looking Haman defi- antly in the face.] [Curtain.] 17 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL SCENE III Home of Haman-two days later. [Enter Haman, Zeresh, and Parshandatha.] Haman My star grows brighter with each setting sun; The lowly child of old Hammedetha Is first among the servants of the king. Ah, Mordecai, you did not know I am An Agagite, who fed upon the breast Of unrelenting hate toward every child Of Israel, who will not bend the knee Save to the God of Abraham. Oh, do [Wailing in Street.] You, Zeresh, hear that wail of anguish Love, I know that you are proud to be the wife Of him who can direct such music. Zeresh I Am proud of Haman's power. Haman Go call our friends. 18 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh Before the rising sun had touched with gold The treetops on the peaks of Zagros, Tesh, The son of Zalphon, was abroad In Shushan on the errand of my lord. Haman Not only in this city, but, my spouse, In every province of the king, the Jews In sackcloth mourn because of Haman's might. But would you know the secret of my strength This ring! The seal of Xerxes. It is death To every drop of Jacob's blood within The Domain of Ahasuerus' rule. Zeresh The guests are coming. Haman Oh, the messages Of enmity are swift as shafts of love. Now, Zeresh, call the servants of the house And set a sumptuous feast, for Haman would Take counsel of his friends. 19 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh My gracious lord, The table is already set. Go greet The guests and bring them in. [Exit Haman.] [Zeresh continues.] Parshandatha, What do you think of Haman Did you note My lord Parshandatha I did, madam. His happiness Is most complete. His rapid rise to power Has all but ravished him with joy. And yet, Methought that something still he lacked. Perhaps The queen's consent has not yet been obtained To this decree that puts the Jews to death. Zeresh What do you mean The queen's consent My Lord Has naught to do with Xerxes' wife, and why Should he be troubled for a woman's whim Besides, who knows but Esther does approve This slaughter of the Jews 20 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Parshandatha Approve, madam She is a queen, but still a woman! Zeresh So Am I, though not a queen! A woman, yes But with no stomach for that hated race! Parshandatha 'Tis whispered in the court that Esther is Herself a Jew. Zeresh The Persian queen a Jew! Then let her perish with her blood. Parshandatha But would My lord consent to Esther's death Zeresh Consent Again! Parshandatha, why do you harp Upon consent Now listen to my words. But should you e'er disclose one breath Of what I say, you are yourself a Jew, 21 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Nor is there any power in Persia's king To save your life. My lord pretends to hate The Jews. His hate is only wounded pride. The deference of Mordecai is all That Haman wants. He does not know the queen Is Hebrew blood. This fact must still be kept Concealed-concealed, that is, until the day Of death. Oh, he shall know who Esther is- This Israelite that banquets with my lord! You think his rise is due to Esther's power Parshandatha Madam, I do not know. Zeresh Not know! not know! But what think you, Parshandatha Of course You do not know. Pars/handatha Madam, he often dines With Esther and the king. The king no doubt Is very fond of your most gracious lord. 22 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh The king! Parshandatha Mayhap the queen also. Your lord Is young and handsome still. The king is far Beyond the queen in years. Zeresh I can Not catch X our drift. Parshandatha Madam, your husband has A ready wit. The queen enjoys life. Zeresh Enjoys life! And so do I, and likewise death. Now hold Your blasted tongue. My husband sups again To-morrow with the Jewish queen. They say When Haman dines her majesty prepares The banquet with her own most dainty hand! Parshandatha, whose hand, think you, has laid The feast of Adar 23 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Parshandatha Zeresh! call you death A feast! Zeresh A glorious feast on which my soul Already feeds, and Esther shall be there! [Re-enter Haman and Friends.,! Haman Be seated at the table. Citizens Of Shushan, patriots of Persia, friends, The servant of the king has called you here To tell you of his triumph and to ask Your sage advice. Two days ago the prince And I sat down together to a feast Within the palace walls and drank your health. The royal cup was blushing like the spume Of autumn clouds at sunset, when a wail Arose in Shushan that has sore perplexed The people. Mordecai, the haughty Jew, Who sits beside the palace gate, refused To bow or do me reverence, although 24 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Admonished by the king. I was born A humble subject in the private ranks Of life; but now I wear the signet ring Of Xerxes. Friends, the law that dooms the Jews To simultaneous slaughter can not be Revoked. Last night the queen invited me To banquet with her lord. The necklace that She wore of iridescent pearls was like A rainbow over polar snows. Ah, she Was fair to look upon! And now my cup Was filled to overflowing- [Zeresh shows great emotion.] (Zeresh, are You ill)-w hen Esther begged that I would come Again to-morrow to another feast Her hand would lay for Haman and the king. My wealth is multiplied beyond my ken; The sceptre is almost within my grasp. But all these things avail me naught, so long As yonder hated Jew remains unbent. A Friend Destroy the brute at once! 25 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Ilanzan Oh, that will not Suffice. 'Tis not his death, but homage that Must sweeten my revenge. Ah, I would see Him groveling on the earth as Haman passed. My rank and station must be recognized. I sit beside the king; I am premier Of Persia. Yet this Jewish dog is still Unmoved! Zeresh Hang him where the kites will eat His eyes! Haman 0 Zeresh, you are like the rising sun- An inspiration in the hour of gloom. We'll build this gallows fifty cubits high, And then his Hebrew pride will bite the dust. Oh, I can hear him whining like a cur, My love, your wisdom is above the head. A woman's heart is like an oracle Divine. Prepare this gallows. Friends, I go At dawn to greet the king. At night we dine Alone with Esther, and- [Zeresh faints.] THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Why Zeresh, are You ill again Send for the leech. Her blood Is over wrought with too much happiness. [Curtain.] 2t --> THE BLOOD OF RACHEL ACT II SCENE I Place-The palace of the king. Outer room of ban- quet hall. Curtain back. [Enter Meheuman, Biztha, and Smerdis.] Meheuman Ahafid has become most deaf of late; Advancing age has wrought a piteous change In him. He can not understand our king. Smerdis 'Tis not the king but age that makes him groan. I mean this age, the age in which we live. [IMeheuman and Biztha exeunt on the opposite side of stage, as Alzafid enters more stooped, and singing.] Ahafid [Sings.] A country but no king, An empire but no throne, An upstart wears the signet ring, My harp has lost its tone. I can no longer sing great Persia's praise. 28 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Smerdis The trouble isn't with the harp, the country, king, nor throne; Nor that an upstart wears the ring: Ahafid's voice is gone. Ahafid What say you, Smerdis Smerdis Ahafid Even Ahasuerus once was king. He was a despot, it is true, but still A prince. Smerdis Eh, Smerdis 29 Art is marvelous. If prince, then why not still a king Ahafid Smerdis [Aloud.] More than prince and less than king. THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A hafid Why now the sceptre, aye, almost the crown Are worn by Haman, not of noble birth, But lowborn, vulgar, raised by royal will To first place in a land renowned for blood. Smerdis To first place in a land renowned for fools. What's that A hafid Smerdis This Haman is a cunning fox. A hafid The exile of A fatal sin. the virtuous Vashti was Smerdis She should have feasted with The king. I did not hear. A hafid :3 ) THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Smerdis [A loud.] Old Xerxes lost The finest houri in his harem. Oh, The royal fool! A hafid The Jewess Esther's but A girl, as beauteous as a lustrous star, But innocent as dawn of dew-washed day. Smerdis As wise as snakes and innocent as doves! A hafid What, Smerdis, what You catch my simile Snierdis Ah, yes, Ahafid, yes, Aurora in The bath pool. That was fine. Your poetry Like wine improves with age. Go on, go on, Let's have another picture of the dawn. A hafid Her beauty made her queen, but can not save Her life. 2e1 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Smerdis Ahasuerus will attend To that. Ahafid [Not hearing.] Ahasuerus does not seem To know a Persian law can not be changed. Smerdis He knows that lawyers can be bribed. Ahafid What's that Smerdis [Louder.] Just thinking of the lustrous stars of dawn. A hafid But Mordecai believes that Esther can Control the king, and yet may save the Jews. Smerdis I am more interested in fools than Jews. THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A hafid The golden sceptre was extended when She went into his presence yesterday. Last night she banqueted with him but still Refused to name the favor that she wished. Smerdis A bathrobe or some new stars for her crown. Ahafid [Not hearing.] The king does not suspect her origin. What will he do when he finds out the truth Smerdis Since when has Xerxes cared for truth Ahafid What say Smerdis He'll add two extra stars to Esther's crown. 33 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A hafid Beloved Vashti lives in poverty, The victim of a lewd and brutal whim. And now it seems that Esther's fate was sealed When Haman wrote that every Jew must die Because the Hebrew Mordecai refused Obeisance to his over-bearing pride. Smerdis Watch Esther smash that seal. A hafid I did not hear. Smerdis [Louder.] Still quoting lines upon the innocence Of lustrous stars, and dawn of dew-washed day. A hafid [Singing.] Minstrelsy shall be no more, The poet's tongue is still; The strings that woke to deeds of yore No longer feel the thrill. 34 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Smerdis I'm glad no more we'll feel the thrill For I, for one have had my fill. Eh, Smerdis A hafid Snicrdis [Louder.] Bathing in that simile. [Exeuint Ahafid and Smerdis.] SCENE II [The curtain rises, disclosing Ahasuerus, Esther, Haman, and attendants at the banquet table.] A hasuerus Beloved Esther, my most beauteous queen, This banquet does surpass in excellence Even the feast of yesterday, which you Prepared for Haman and the king. Your hand Grows deft with practice. OR,1 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Esther But, my lord, you are A connoisseur, and can but speak these words In flattery. 0 king, it was my heart, And not my hand that flavored every dish That lies before you. A hasuerus Esther, now it is Your tongue that flatters. Still, it does rejoice Me much to hear such language from the queen. A connoisseur, say you Haman, can You tell me, now, what bay or bight in all The salted seas once held this shrimp [Holding up shrimp.] Haman [Tasting it meditatively.] My lord, I think it must have been the Persian Gulf. I6G THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A hasuerus Ha, ha, Haman, why you do not know A wild goose from the Bird of Paradise. This crangonoid is found nowhere except Along the Red Sea beach not far from where The hosts of Pharaoh were engulfed and lost. Esther [With suppressed emotion.] Oh, king, your tongue is most acute. But whence, Think you, this tinct of cinnamon that makes The savor of the dish. A hasuerus [Tasting for a long time.] I give it up, Unless it came from Java or Ceylon. Esther [Lautghing, changing rapidly to deep feeling.] My lord, it is not cinnamon at all, But spice that grew a thousand years ago In hills beyond the Jordon. Haman, can You tell the flavor of the grape that fills Your goblet 37 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Haman [Flattered.] Oh, I think it must have grown In islands of the blue Aegean Sea. Esther [Turning to the king.] My lord, it is the selfsame cup they drank From sacred vessels at Belshazzar's feast That night in Babylon. Haman What means the queen, This wine is not that old, and yet, 'tis not Excelled at banquets of the gods. A hasuerus [Showing effect of wine.] Nor kings. This is a joyous night! Oh, queen, your wit Has filled my cup with wine of happiness. What think you, Haman, should be done to him The king delighteth most to honor now THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Haman Bring forth the robe, 0 king, your majesty Does wear, and place it on the one your grace Does most delight to honor. Xerxes, set This man upon your royal horse, and place Your majesty's own jeweled crown upon His head, and let him be proclaimed Throughout the public streets. A hasuerus [Rises. Emphatic.] So let it then Be done to Mordecai, the Jew beside The palace gate. Haman What words are these You can not mean the Jew! A hasuerus [More emphatic.] The Jew I mean. Last night I could not sleep, and so I had The book of records read, the chronicles, Wherein I learned that this same Mordecai The Jew had saved Ahasuerus' life, 39 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL When Teresh and another chamberlain Had sought to lay the hand of violence Upon your king. Let nothing fail of all That you have spoken should be done to him The king delighteth now to honor most. And Esther, tell Ahasuerus now Your dearest wish. On yesterday I begged To know the favor you did most desire And now it shall be granted unto you, Whatever your request, even to half My kingdom, it shall be performed. Esther [With hands extended toward the king.] Have I Found favor in your sight, 0 king, then let My life be given unto me at my Petition and my people live at my Request! For we are sold to be destroyed- To perish and be slain. A hasuerus [Surprised and dazed.] 0 where is he- Oh, who is he, that dare presume to lay The hand of violence upon my queen! 40 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Esther There stands this adversary, 0 my king, The wicked Haman! Ahasuerus Haman! Haman! What Can be the meaning of this speech This man I have advanced to be my premier Esther I mean this craven whom you have advanced To put to death with your own royal seal The queen, as well as every other Jew That breathes the Persian air, both young and old Alike, the laughing child and gray-haired sire. A hasuerus What! Esther, you a Jew! Esther [Proudly.] I am a Jew. A daughter of the tribe of Benjamin- Pure Hebrew blood! 41 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL [A dramatic pause. Esther awaits the decision of the king, who for a time seems to waver, then extends his sceptre toward Esther. Harbonah, the king's high off icer, appears. Haman throws himself at Esther's feet.] Haman [Pleading.] Oh, queen, I do beseech You, save me from his wrath. A hasuerus [A ngrily.] Harbonah, let This traitor, Haman, die at once. Harbonah My lord, You know the scaffold that the premier built For Mordecai A hasuerus The premier! What's that, Harbonah You mock your king Let him Be hanged upon this gallows. Call the Jew! He holds the first place in my kingdom now. [Exeunt Ahasuerus, Esther, Haman, Harbonah, and attendants.] 42 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh [Who has been concealed in a corner of the hall, advancing.] At Esther's feet! An Aggagite! Ha, Ha! A hater of the Jews! You hypocrite! A lover of this queen! A paramour Of her who boasts that she can trace her blood An unpolluted stream a thousand years To one who watched his humble flocks on bleak Judean hills. A shepherd queen that rules The Persian throne, and you, 0 Haman, you That fed on venom for her race, are now, -Though premier, a cringing, craven wretch, Begging this Jewish girl for worthless life. "A rainbow over polar snows," ha, ha! No doubt her grace was fair to look upon. False-hearted queen, 0 royal prostitute! It was your jeweled hand that laid this feast But Zeresh's heart that furnished all the wine! [Curtain] 43 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL ACT III SCENE I Some time Later. Room in the Palace of Shushan. [Enter Ahafid and Smerdis.] A hafid [Singing.] In the morning man may flourish In the evening be cut down; Dawn may find a hero famous, Nightfall see him lose renown. Smerdis [Singing.] In his youth Ahafid's singing Was the pride of Persia's rule; Now that age has come upon him, Hear him braying like a mule. A hafid Still singing like a nightingale, say you 4 4 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Smerdis [A loud.] I did. [Aside.] The long-eared kind that crops the grass. A hafid Haman's hanged upon the scaffold that He built for Mordecai. The Jew now wears The signet ring that sealed his nation's life. His nation's life But how can he explain The slaughter of the Persian hosts Smerdis -Now if he would, I think he could, and if he should, He'd thus explain: "The hosts were slain because my brain Was not insane. So I raised Cain, obtained the reign Of this campaign, and still remain, though they were slain." Ahafid I think I must be growing deaf. You rhymed Smerdis I only spoke a little joke. If I could sing, I'd say the ring, And not the king explains the thing. 45 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Ahafid But does The God of Abraham inspire revenge The worshippers of Moloch would have shrunk From such a day of death. I marvel that Queen Esther did not intervene. She rules The king. But wherefore did I say the king Smerdis I think it must have been to rhyme with ring. A hafid Darius' son's a spineless debauchee. [Sings.- The Jew the purple robe enfolds And eke the royal gown; For Mordecai the sceptre holds And Esther wears the crown. [Exit Ahafid] Smerdis Ahafid said he couldn't sing Ahasuerus' praise, And that his harp had lost the tone it had in other days. 46 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL But though the Jews are on the throne and Xerxes maudlin full, Ahafid once more tunes his lyre and bellows like a bull. Look out, here comes the Jew, a cloud upon His brow, the weight of empires on his brain. What matters does he now revolve I fear The day of Adar troubles Mordecai. We'll stand aside and hear the premier. [Exit Smerdis.] [Enter AMordecai meditatively, followed by Zeresh, who is unseen by him at first.] Alordecai The name of Haman perish from the earth! The seed of Abraham be multiplied Until they are as numberless as sands Upon ocean's shore! This was my prayer, I learned it at my mother's knee. Was I Not justified Zeresh [Disguised as a Hebrew woman.] The Holy Scripture saith, "Vengeance belongs to God." 47 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Mordecai But was I not His instrument Jehovah wrought through me; His will, not mine was done. Zeresh And yet His will Was yours Mordecai The wicked Haman would have slain Even the queen herself and every Jew That lives within the hundred provinces Of Xerxes' weak and vacillating rule. Zeresh Thy action was no more than self-defense Mordecai Not self-defense of Mordecai alone, But of my blood, of Esther and the sons Of Jacob, exiled and defenseless else. The God of Abraham may chasten, but He keeps his promises, nor will forsake. 4i3 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Rameses sat upon his haughty throne And knew not Joseph, for my people were Oppressed with bitter bondage and their lives Made hard in mortar and in brick; but still They grew in numbers and increased and waxed Exceeding mighty, till the land was filled With them. And then the king was sore afraid And wroth because the Jews had never bent The knee at Egypt's shrines. He could enslave But not corrupt the children of the true And living God. And then he called The Hebrew midwives and commanded them To slay thereafter every son that might Be born to Jacob's sacred blood. God kept His covenant with Abraham and raised Up Moses, the deliverer, and when The plagues had failed to soften Pharaoh's heart, The Lord smote every firstborn in the land Of Egypt, save where hyssop mixed with blood Was sprinkled on the lintel of the door And on the two side posts, as Moses had Directed. Saviour of his people, son Of Amram and of Jochebed, obscure Levites, found in an ark of bulrushes Afloat among the flags near by the spot Where Pharaoh's daughter bathed, and yet, and yet- 49 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh Was Moses not selected by the Lord To lead the Israelites into the Land Of Promise Mordecai [As in soliloquy.] And did he not talk with God Upon the Mount of Sinai, when smoke Enveloped all the peak, and even priests Were not allowed upon that holy ground Was I more lowly than was Amram's child Zeresh Yet God exalted him until the throne Of Egypt was within his grasp. Mordecai Though I, Like Jesse's son, was once a shepherd's lad, To-day I rule ten million souls. Now Moses was a vessel of the Lord When Death passed over every Hebrew home, But slew the firstborn where no blood was found. Was this revenge Not Moses' hand, but God's Was red. 50 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh The servant must obey his Lord. Mordecai I did not plot the Persians' death. Of God was in it all. Zeresh The plan Else why were you Made premier at the moment when the Jews Faced death in every province of the king Mordecai It was my hand that stopped the massacre, But God avenged the awful wrong! Zeresh And Esther! How is it with her You made Her queen. She was a humble Hebrew girl, Unknown and friendless, but for Mordecai. Mordecai She should be grateful for the crown I gave. 51 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh But Hatach says her cheeks are often wet With tears. Mordecai It may be that she weeps for him Who won her girlish heart before we came To Shushan or had ever seen the king. Zeresh And yet that can not be. The shepherd's crook Is not the golden sceptre of a king. I have no doubt that she has long since ceased To think of youthful dreams. She rules the king, And what more does a woman want Mordecai I did Not hope to make her understand at once. My reasons were too subtle for her heart. And so I kept my counsel, for I knew No girl would ever sacrifice her love To save the remnant of a nation's life. 52 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh [Justifying.] And why might even Esther not forget When once she felt the spell of royal power,- The tinsel show and glamour of the court No woman lives that would not be a queen. Mordecai I knew Ahasuerus was a brute, But what of that Through Esther I have saved A half a million souls. Zeresh [Aside.] Through Esther you Have slain a million souls. M fordecai When Jepthah vowed A vow unto the Lord he kept his pledge And slew the only daughter of his flesh For a burnt offering unto God, because The Ammonites, his enemy, had been Delivered to the hands of Israel. Now Esther was my only child. 53 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh [A little sarcastically.] You have Not sacrificed, but elevated her. Although she does not understand your heart, She can but bless her uncle Mordecai. AMordecai But why should Esther weep At my behest, but did she not Great favor with the king She risked her life obtain Zeresh And Esther's life Was forfeit then through Haman's wicked hate. Mordecai I wear the royal robe of blue and white. Zeresh Does Esther think because her vanity Is flattered by the jewels of a queen That Mordecai is moved by pomp and show 54 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Afordecai 'Tis not the kingly trappings but the seal- Not sceptre merely but the signet ring, Not rank, but rule that Mordecai would have. I can not understand her tears no more Than she knows why I wear the crown. But I Am justified. Jehovah wrought through me. [Exit AMordecai. Zeresh [Bursting into fury.] Jehovah wrought through him! Hell wrought through him! I marvel that his tongue is not consumed By blasted lies. WVait till he feels the flame That rages in my heart. Hell may not burn A Jew, but even he can not withstand The simoon of a fiery dragon's breath! Parshandatha But Zeresh, was the Jew not justified 55 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh Justified! gratified! satisfied! Parshandatha, Justified in Jepthah; gratified That he is like the meek and lowly son Of Amram; satisfied that now the crown Of Persia presses only Hebrew brows. Parshandatha [Sarcastically.] You do forget my lord, Darius' son. You can not think the blood of Jacob flows Through Xerxes' veins Does he not wear the crown Zeresh (IWith contempt.] Ahasuerus wears a pigeon's heart. The Persian robe's a Jewish gabardine; The crown, a Hebrew priest's phylactery. But did you say forget Have you been so Long with me, dear, and doubt my memory Forget Ahasuerus, did you say That minion of a Jewish girl, who sealed The death of Haman and his sons His face Is seared upon my heart, his image burnt Into my brain. I tell you Xerxes is No longer king. 56 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Parshandatha But is not Esther queen Zeresh Parshandatha, why do you taunt me thus Have I not proved your friend Do I deserve Your mockery Parshandat ha I do but speak to sting You to revenge. Zeresh Let fly your venom then. The Persian empire is in arms. To-night The king does hold a great carouse. The Jew Will sit in state beside the profligate. This blade I have prepared against that hour. The queen, I understand, will be a blaze Of gems. Ahasuerus boasts this night Would all but wreck a petty kingdom. Parshandath a He Should never live to see the rising sun. THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh The rising sun! My dear, he shall not see The Pleiades again, and they are up At nine. When cornet and the trumpet bruit The entry of the queen, a hundred blades Like this [disclosing dagger] shall be unsheathed. Parshandatha, You know whose blood my blade shall drink! My hour has come! Ah, Esther, you shall sup Once more with Haman and your drunken lord, While Zeresh keeps her lonely watch Beneath the silent, glittering stars. Come on! [Exeutnt Zeresh and Parshandatha.] (Curtain.] SCENE II Place Outer hall to throne room, curtain back. Time-The following evening. [Enter Vashti and Esther from opposite sides of the stage.] Esther Ah, here already, Vashti, at my poor Request, who dared defy a despot king's Command to come before him and his lords THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Your beauty, radiant and spotless, grows Each hour of exiled life more potent still Than when it hurled an oriental crown, With all its flashing jewels, in the face Of brutal Xerxes rather than unveil Unto a drunken court of lustful eyes. Uncrowned, deposed, you are, yet thrice a queen! Vashti The sting, the sting of your envenomed words! Esther Forgive me, dear, I do not mock your fate; No word of mine is spoke in scorn. I would Exchange the royal robe and crown I wear For just one hour of virtuous freedom that Belongs to you. Vashti I can not understand! Esther I know; 'tis my misfortune, and I called You to the palace that I might explain. Yet every word seems cruel mockery. 59 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL I do not blame you that your cheek, as chaste As lilies, blushes at my seeming shame. Yet, Vashti, can you not believe I need Your sympathy I crave your high respect Vashti You must an explanation. Esther Well, did you Not sacrifice a qucenship for the gem That every woman holds above a throne How can we estimate your loss The pomp That follows majesty; the crooking knee; Ten thousand minions at your beck and call; A thousand syncophantic, fawning lords; A hundred gleaming jeweled chandeliers; The radiance and rich magnificence Of court; long hours of revel and of wine; And then above the splendor and the show God's finger writing on the wall! Is this The precious price that you have paid Vashti This is The price. t., THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Esther Sweet friend, I thank you. Yes, your loss Has been my gain! Yet what reward have I How I do hate the crown that you did spurn! O how I love the pearl of greatest price! God pardon my great sin! Vashti, I am A daughter of Rebecca and the blood Of Rachel pulses in my veins! Beyond The northern hills, within a valley green, A shepherd watches o'er his flocks to-night Beside a starlit stream, and dreams of her Who gave the promise of her hand when life Was young and all the earth was pure and fair. His love was constant as the northern star, And mine was like the needle pointing true. That day is but a sad remembrance now. I never knew the ones who gave me life. My uncle, Mordecai, who sits in state Beside the king instructed me in love And knowledge of my people. Every night, As well as every day, like Daniel, I Was taught to pray, my window open toward Jerusalem. God softened Cyrus' heart Because of Daniel's prayer. But, Vashti, you 6 1 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Must know from Persian Gulf to Caspian Sea, The sons of Jacob still in exile groan Beneath a tyrant's yoke. I hear the wail Of Rachel weeping for her children still; I hear my lover playing on his flute, Who waits the coming of a faithless bride! But Mordecai has stayed the hand of Death! Vashti And you did eat your heart to save your blood Esther You comprehend at last Your sympathy, O Vashti, I must have, if not respect, Else can I not return unto the king. [Vashti weeps.] There, there, I thank you, sister, friend, proud queen! The tears that glitter on your cheeks are worth A diadem of sparkling Indian stones. But weep no more-your hand-for Esther's heart Can now endure, since Vashti understands! The stars are twinkling in the northern skies; They shimmer on the stream beyond the hills; The shepherd's reed is wailing on the breeze; The revels in the palace now begin; The call has come; I must no longer stay. 62 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL The daughter of a Benjamite will lay Her heart upon the altar of her blood. Hear you the crimson riot in my veins 'Tis Rachel's voice! I would that you could know! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Forgive me, Vashti, for my brain's distraught! The lights die out beyond the palace walls. The stars are hid . . . I can no longer hear The wailing flute. . . Return unto your hut. Ahasuerus calls with mantling wine. My place is yonder by the king. I go! [Exeunt Esther and Vashti. [Enter Ahafid and Smerdis.1 A hafid The last word has been spoken The last true song been sung; My country's heart is broken, The poet's harp unstrung. Smerdis Ahafid seems to harp upon his strings. f6 3 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A hafid It seems Ahasuerus means to drink The cup of revel to its bitter lees. Smerdis The deeper in the cup he goes The sweeter is the wine that flows; The closer to the lees, he thinks, The purer is the wine he drinks. A hafid Messengers from every province bring Reports of mutterings and dangerous Revolt. But Xerxes, heedless still, declares This night shall dim the glories of the past. Smerdis [Sings.] The lower in the lamp the oil The fewer are the days of toil. The brighter burns the wick of life, The sooner end the days of strife. 'Tis not for oil that Xerxes cares, But brilliancy of flame that flares. THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Ahafid I hate the Hebrews and their Jewish God; I hate Jehovah for his jealous love, But Mordecai refuses to attend The feast. The God of Israel must save Us now, or Persia perish utterly. My hand will pen no ribald verse This revel to adorn; Ye gods, inspire my tongue to curse The day the king was born. [Exit Ahafid.] Smerdis The more he swears the less he sings, Then welcome is this news he brings; For listening to his song is worse Than hearing old Ahafid curse. [Exit Smerdis.] [Re-enter Ahafid.I A hafid [Sings.] Persia's heart is beating low, Thinking of the long ago, When the king that wore the crown Was a prince of great renown; 65 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL When her name without a peer Did inspire the world with fear; But to-night her sovereign's lust Trails her banner in the dust. Now my life is ebbing fast, Dreaming of the glorious past; Feeling all the shame and smart, Dying of a broken heart. [Sinks to floor.] [Curtain.] SCENE III [Curtain rises on Ahasuerus and his court.] Ahasuerus Sha-ashgaz, keeper of the concubines, Ahasuerus drinks your health And bids you bring immediately before The court the serpents of the Orient! The king would have a night of revelry. [The court fool, Smerdis, dances out before the court.] Ahasuerus (Continues) What, Smerdis, is the office of a fool 66 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Smerdis To charm these serpents of the Orient! [Aside] But more to furnish brains for idiot kings. A hasuerus Now tell the chief musicians every one To string his harp with golden wire and tune His finest Persian reed to touch the heart With joy. To-night the emperor of the East, The monarch of the world from Babylon To India, would show munificence Of entertainment never seen within The palace walls before. Smerdis You do forget That night six years ago. The palace was A blaze of light. The air was fragrant with The breath of spice from off the Indian seas. Ahasuerus, flushed with flattery And wine, was mad with passion . CT THE BLOOD OF RACHEL A hasuerus [Impetuously.] Smerdis, charm These serpents, if you will, your glittering words Are meaningless to me. Carshena, let The Jewish Esther come in Tyrian robe, In such a gown as never Vashti wore! Smerdis [Aside.] His orders have not always been obeyed. A hasuerus And I would have my queen adorned with gems, That diamond cluster from beyond the Ind, Which, sparkling in her aureole of gold, bedims The constellation of the Southern Cross. Smerdis [Aside.] And makes the Persian peasants mourn their loss! Ahasuerus I say, Meheuman, this shall be a night In which Ahasuerus feasts his friends- A banquet for the soul, as well as flesh. 63 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Snmerdis [Aside.] A famished soul such feasting would refresh! A hasuerus For who does not delight to look upon The rhythmic beauty of voluptuous form Smerdis [A side.] Cold-blooded heart a writhing snake can warm! A hasuerus Whose ear is not enthralled by luscious lute, Whose heart is not inspired by festive song! Smerdis [Aside.] The one bowed down by tyranny and wrong! A hasueris But why has Mordecai delayed to come The hated sons of Haman are no more; That reprobate who would have slain the queen Herself to gratify his wounded pride Has long since festered in the rain and sun. t39 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL No enemy remains alive who dares To touch the people of the Jew that saved The life of Persia's king. He wears my ring; The purple of my empire is a shield Against the world. I do not understand Why Mordecai is late. He should be here; The tabor and tymbrel sound anon. Smerdis [Dances and capers before the king, then speaks solemnly.] 0 king, I know why Mordecai is late He sits once more beside the palace gate, In sackcloth and bemoans his fate. He sits and dreams of hills and streams That flow through pasture lands and fields. He sees a child of golden hair, As happy as the vibrant air, And hears the notes and pulse of song Where birds and sheep and shepherds throng. And then he turns to banquet halls And scenes like this in palace walls, Where lords and queens and fools and kings, And concubines and underlings, Made one with wine and passion's thrall, Throw dice with Death, nor heed the call .I) THE BLOOD OF RACHEL That comes from Persia's bleeding heart, [Aside] (A fool that can not play his part). And this explains why he is late, The Jew beside the palace gate. A hasuerus You are a jester, not a bard. Your cap And bells, or else Death wins his throw with you. Meheuman, call the poet of the court, The great Ahafid. Let him celebrate This feast in song. This rhyming fool presumes Too much upon the patience of the king. Smerdis Your majesty, I Ahafid's dead. did but rhyme because A hasuerus His death A broken heart. Ahafid dead What caused Smerdis [Aside.] [Aloud.] He broke his harp And died of grief. [Aside again.] could Remember real kings. 71 The good gray poet THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Ahasuerus Of grief The fool! Well, let the younger minstrel, Saadi sing. Saadi [Sings.] Lift the voice and let us sing, The monarch's on his throne; Xerxes is the greatest king The world has ever known. Women, wine and happy song, Let the revels ring, Lift your voices loud and long, For Xerxes is our king. [Much revel and dancing. The trumpet sounds.] A hasuerus Ahafid's death was only Persia's gain. [Mlfeditatively.] Could Vashti look upon this gorgeous scene The bitter tears would scald her faded cheeks At thoughts of her own folly. 72 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL [Confusion and much disturbance. Ahasuerus, surprised, cries in angry passion.] Ho! What means This rude confusion Who has dared disturb The king in this unwonted way [Enter messenger.] Messenger Tidings, O king, of riot and revolt! Ahasuerus Restore The court to order. I will hear no news! There is no news but this night's joy. What fear Need Persia have The world is safe; The emperor lives! Go put the messengers to death! This is no time to cloud the royal brow! Bring forth the vintage from the deepest vault. Here are a hundred irised pearls. They cost A million sesterces. Let each man crush A lustrous shell and drink it to the health Of Esther, beauteous queen of all the East. Arise! She comes! A blaze of splendor. Now Let every instrument be sounded. The revels shall continue till the dawn! 73 THE BLOOD OF RACHEL Zeresh [Rushing in with uplifted dagger and thrusting it into the heart of Esther, crying as she flourishes it before the astonished court.] The dawn, 0 king, is breaking in the east! [Curtain.] FINIS 74 POEMS AND SONNETS This page in the original text is blank. To DOCTOR W. W. RAY PHYSICIAN. SCIENTIST, POET, MUSICIAN To Whom Whether in Art or Nature Truth is Beauty and Beauty Truth, To Whose'Appreciation and Enthusiasm I Owed my Intellectual Awakening in Youth, and Whose Friendship and Love have Increased That Obligation Immeasureably as the Years have Passed, I Dedicate these Poems With the Affection of a Full Heart COTTON NOE This page in the original text is blank. This page in the original text is blank. - Then why not praise the tallow-dip, the dog irons and the crane. The kettle singing on the coals, or hanging to a chain Poems and Sonnets THE OLD DOG IRONS Oh, the old, old dog irons! How the picture thrills my soul, As I stir the ashes of the past and find this living coal: When I blow the breath of memory it flashes into flame, That seems to me far brighter than the most undying fame. Will you listen to the story of my early childhood days When I read the mystic symbols in the embers and the blaze Of the old wide-open fireplace, where the backlog, all aglow With its shifting scenes of fancy, was a motion picture show I know about your natural gas, your stoves and anthracite, Your phonograph and telephone and incandescent light; I've heard about the comforts and the use of gasoline, And the educative value of a Pathe photo-scene; The future of the biplane and the wonders of the press, And the blessings of the wireless when a ship is in distress. I marvel at invention and its all but magic art, But the things that make for happiness concern the human heart. 79 POEMS AND SONNETS Then why not praise the tallow dip, the dog irons and the crane, The kettle singing on the coals, or hanging to a chain The children gathered round the hearth to hear of early days- The wildcat and the panther, the redman's sneaking ways; The bravery of our fathers, the scalping knife and gun, The courage of the women folks; I tell you, boys, 'twas fun. We roasted sweet potatoes and we talked of Marion's men, How they routed all the redcoats, or slew them in the fen. We learned to love our country and we swore to tell the truth, And do no deed of treachery and never act uncouth; To guard the honor of our name, and shield a vir- tuous home, To read the Proverbs and the Psalms and love the sacred tome. I know our home was humble then-rag carpet on the floor- But the stranger found a welcome there, the latch- string on the door. The well-sweep and the woodpile and the ox team in the shed, Dried apples hung around the walls, and pumpkins overhead- 80 POEMS AND SONNETS Not sanitary, I'll admit, nor stylish-like, nor rich, But health and comfort and content; now tell me, which is which Then who can blame me that I love the good old dog iron days, When men had hearts and character that fortune couldn't faze; The years before the slitted skirts and the Turkish cigarettes, When women wove their linsey clothes instead of devilish nets; When children did the chores at night, nor ever heard of gym, Or movements such as boy scouts, yet kept in health and trim. We spent our evenings all at home, and read and sang and played, Or talked of work and feats of strength, or what our crops had made; And when we mentioned quilting bees and apple- peeling time, We had in mind our sweethearts and we sometimes made a rhyme: 'Twas then I read my future in the embers and the blaze, And this is why I celebrate the good old dog iron ways. 81 POEMS AND SONNETS THE AGE ELECTRIC The glory of the good old days has passed from earth away, The lumbering loom, the spinning wheel, Maud Muller raking hay; The old rail fence, the moldboard plough, the scythe and reaping hook, Corn shuckings, and Virginia reel, and young folks' bashful look. Now poor old father limps behind his motorcycle son And sees the world go whizzing by and knows his race is run. With rheumatism in his joints and crotchets in his brain, He finds that he can hardly catch th' accommodation train. Two dozen bottles of the oil of Dr. Up-To-Date Would put to flight the rheumatiz and straighten out his pate; But fogy folks don't have the faith, nor interest in the race, They'd rather drive a slow coach horse than go at such a pace. Efficiency! efficiency! In business, church and school, Where Culture in a dunce's cap sits grinning on a stool, 82 POEMS AND SONNETS And wondering where the thing will end, and what the prize will be, When Intellect, all geared and greased, is mere machinery. Old Homer and the Iliad, the Trojan and the Greek, The Parthenon and Phidias, not ancient, but antique. Great Caxsar and the Gallic War and Virgil with his rhyme, And Cicero have all gone down beneath the wheel of time. And Dante now lies buried deep beneath the art debris, Where Michael Angelo once wrought for immor- tality. The Swan of Avon's not in school, but on the movie screen, The Prince of Denmark can not talk but still he may be seen. All history and literature, philosophy and truth Would take about three evenings off of any modern youth To master through the picture art if he the time could spare, From vaudeville shows and joy rides and tango with the fair. 83 POEMS AND SONNETS The problem is to find an hour so busy is the age, And so important is the work and tempting is the wage. Then what's the use of poetry or history anyhow Best turn your back upon the past and face the present now! Get busy, and be on the job, the world will pay for skill. It says: " Deliver me the goods, and then present your bill." The family circle and the talk around the old hearth stone, The sage advice, when backlogs glowed and grease lamps dimly shone, Are mouldy pictures of the past, mere myths of long ago, When grandsires had found out some things that children didn't know. How many bushels can you raise upon your plot of ground How many blades of grass now grow where once just one was found Oh! Nature is the proper theme, but better Words- worth drop, San Jose scale and coddling moth will get your apple crop. 84 POEMS AND SONNETS Ben Johnson and Will Shakespeare and Goldsmith all are dead. Put nodules in alfalfa roots not dramas in your head. Tomato canning's orthodox if done with due dis- patch Don't let your daughter dream of fame, just show her how to patch. The laws of sanitation soon will put the fly to flight, Then stop tuberculosis next and win the hookworm fight. If man could live a century it may be in the strife, He'd learn to make a living if he didn't make a life! What matter if the primrQse is beside the river's brim, A yellow primrose growing there and nothing more to him, He's caught the trick of sustenance (but lost his taste for rhyme), Though the oxen in the clover fields have had that all the time! 65 POEMS AND SONNETS GRANDMOTHER DAYS Ah, Grandmother Young was wrinkled and o!d When she sat by the mantelpiece; And she wore a cap with many a fold Of ribbon and lace, as rich as gold, And worked in many a crease: And the billowy clouds of smoke that rolled From her little stone pipe whenever she told Of the quest of the Golden Fleece, Wrought me to think that Grandmother Young Was shriveled and gray when Homer sung Of the gods of ancient Greece. But all of her marvelous mythical lore Was naught to her magical power- Transforming a house with a puncheon floor To a palace of wealth with a golden door That lead to a castle tower- An attic loft with a wonderful store Of things that we feared, but longed to explore- Our grandmother's ancient dower. Oh, grandmother's charm could change but a base Rude vessel of clay to a Haviland vase, A weed to a royal flower. 86 POEMS AND SONNETS Ah, grandmother's home was a temple of grace And my child-heart worshipped there, When Balm-of-Gi'ead around the place, Like incense, for a mile of space, Perfumed the glorious air; And the song that came from the feathered race In the boughs of the tangled interlace Of apple and peach and pear, Enthralled me like the magic spell Of siren music when it fell On old Ulysses' ear. Last summer I passed where the palace once stood Whose beauty my life beguiled; It's a cabin now; and the charmed wood Of sugar and oak, in brotherhood Of walnut and hickory, aisled For gathering nuts and the merry mood That only our childhood understood, By man has been defiled. Oh, how can I ever cease to praise The fairy enchantment of grandmother days When I wvas a little child! POEMS AND SONNETS JUST TO DREAM Just to dream when sapphire skies Are as blue as maidens' eyes; Just to dream when petals sow All the earth with pink and snow; Just to sit by youth's bright stream, Gazing at its crystal gleam- Listening to the wren and dove- Hearing only songs of love- Just to dream. Just to dream of sabre's flash When the lines of battle clash; See the army put to rout- Hear the world's triumphant shout; Just to dream our name supreme- Hero of a poet's theme, First among the sons of men, Master of the sword or pen- Just /o dream. POEMS AND SONNETS Just to dream when skies grow gray. just to dream the days away- Living over childhood's joys, Sorrow that no longer cloys; Just to muse of days that seem Like the sunlight's golden beam, Summer nights and winter's snow, Just to dream of long ago- Just to dream. POEMS AND SONNETS AMN EMON "Dear, the struggle has been hard and long- The wine-press I have trodden, Paved with flint and shard; And many times my feet have stained The flagstones of the street with blood. Out yonder in the park where life's rich chalice Sparkles with the wine of happiness and love The world was always dull and dark to me. Hours I have stood upon the beach And watched the whitecaps glinting In the sunlight and listened to the breakers Booming on the sinuous shore, While little children clapped their hands And shouted out across the waters, And gray-haired men and women shook their heads In silence and looked toward the sunset. But everything was always meaningless to me. Season after season I have watched the butterflies By millions come and go And katydids each year have sung The song monotonous and passed away. Yesterday the sun arose upon another world. Gray skies have turned to brilliant blue; 90 POEMS AND SONNETS The droning hum of beetles on the breeze Is like an orchestra of lovely music. The air is sweet and fresh as dewdrops in convolvuli. For two bright hours I have strolled Among the flowering shrubbery near the seashore, Listening to a song I had not heard for years. And now once more that I am happy, May I not confess it all I did you wrong, great wrong. There was no stain upon my life, No taint of blood within my veins. I came of Pilgrim stock, vigorous and strong. I did not understand my heart, And knowing all the stress you placed upon heredity, I told a falsehood, partly as a test of love, And part for self-protection. I have suffered much, but justly. You said my story broke your heart, And left me where I stood, Pondering on the sin I had committed. I had proved your love, but all too late. Your talent meant a brilliant future, And I knew your great ambition. For years I scanned the periodicals Where names of most renown in literature are found, Expecting always to see my lover's there, 91 POEMS AND SONNETS But always doomed to disappointment. And yet I now rejoice That you have not achieved great fame, For otherwise I could not write this letter. Perhaps 'twere best that I should never send it; If so, it will not find its way to you. It may be that you think me dead, Or worse-I may have been forgotten. This is April twenty-first; The hillsides now are pink with peach and apple bloom. I will arrive in Salt Lake City, May the third, And be at Hotel Utah. If your heart, through all these years, Like mine, has hungered, you will be there too. Geraldine." Alfred Milner read this letter While great drops of perspiration Stood upon his brow and trembling hand. For seven winters he had tried To bury in oblivion a face and form That always with the dogwood blossoms Came again, and each time seemed more fair. He had tried for fame and failed. But now his book that bore a pen name only Was selling daily by the thousands 92 POEMS AND SONNETS And fame and fortune, latter-day twin saints, Were building him a shrine. But did she know of his success, And was her conduct Years before base cowardice Had she only told the cruel tale Because she knew his theory of insane blood, And hid her lack of faith By taking refuge in his prejudice Or was her story true If true or false, why had she kept it back Until she knew red passion Was a-riot in his heart He tore the letter into strips And blew them fiercely through the air. He had suffered much himself, But she was not concerned. What if this letter had been sent To open healing wounds, To win some wager with another man To whom she boasted of her power He would not go! The air was growing foul and stuffy In his suite of rooms, And Alfred threw the window open. 93 POEMS AND SONNETS The subway in the distance Rumbled like a gathering storm; The palisades across the Hudson Now were darkling in the falling shadows. April thirtieth at noon. The Rocky Mountains looked like towers On the Chinese Wall a hundred miles away. Would he make connection at Pueblo The gray monotony of grass and cacti Had begun to wear upon his nerves. He longed to see the Royal Gorge- The steep and jagged heights of hills. They spoke of giant strength He needed for the coming struggle. It might be that the air From off eternal snows Would cool the fever in his brain. "May second, and yonder lies the Great Salt Lake, Or else a mirage on the desert's rim." Alfred put his pen upon the register Of Hotel Utah, And read the list of names above. She was there, "Geraldine Mahaffy." Finally he scrawled a signature, But wrote his nom de plume. 94 POEMfS AND SONNETS The clerk thrust out his hand and beamed. Two porters swooped upon his grips, And soon the lobby hummed. But Alfred Milner sat alone within his room Battling with emotions he could neither Overcome nor understand. He did not know the stir his name upon the register Had made below, or knew what name he wrote. At last: "Geraldine Mahaffy: This is May the third and I am here." Thoughtfully he creased the sheet And rang: - Room ten, and answer, please." The smell of brine was heavv on the air That blew across the lake. The mountains to the north were white with snow above And dogwood petals on the southern slopes. But winter was forgotten in the plains, For rivulets imprisoned long in cataracts Were leaping over waterfalls And shouting like a red bird, In an April cedar tree. Milner drew a long deep breath of spring And walked into the parlor. "Alfred!" "Geraldine!" 95 POEMS AND SONNETS " Last night I dreamed of Cornell days, And saw the redbuds blooming in the hills Behind the cliffs of Ithaca!" "The ice in Cascadilla Creek is gone. All night I heard the roaring of the falls!" "The call of flickers sounded through the canyons Of Old Buttermilk, and peckerwoods were beating Reveilles before the sun was up!" "Two blue birds built a mansion In a dead oak trunk And called the world to witness!" "Alfred!" "Geraldine!" "The train for California leaves at nine!" Some hours out from Great Salt Lake, The sand dunes stretching southward O'er a waste of shubbery and alkali Were shimmering in the sunshine Like copper kettles on a field of bronze. 96 POEMS AND SONNETS "Dear Alfred, can you still recall I Those afternoons upon the cliffs above Cayuga Lake The little city, Ithaca, Was like a jewel on the breast of Nature. The lake a band of silver, stretching northward. A hundred waterfalls were visible From where we used to sit. We often thought the lime-washed houses Far to west, resembled whited decks Upon a sea of emerald; And wondered if our own good ship Would one day cast its anchor in the harbor. Over to the right the Cornell towers, Like mediawal castles beetling o'er the precipice, Were keeping silent watch above it all. The memory of those blessed days alone Has kept my heart alive." " But Geraldine, our vessel richly laden Has at last come in Nor ever will put out to sea again. Happy as those moments were, Forget the past, so fraught with bitterness to me." The desert now a hundred miles behind Was fading like a crescent sea beach In the setting sun. 97 POEMS AND SONVNETS Slowly like a giant serpent The Sunset Limited climbed the great Sierras And started down the western slope at dawn. The valley of the Sacramento Never bloomed so beautiful before. The blue Pacific through the haze Was like a canvas sea. Peace permeated all the earth. The sun at last was resting on the ocean's rim. The turquoise waters turned to liquid gold. " Life, 0 my beloved, is like eternal seas- Emerald in the morning, changing into opal, Amethyst and pearl, but ruby red at last. Behold the Golden Gate! The seas beyond are all like that!" Morning in the Sacramento! Petals, dew and fragrance-indescribable! Plumage, song and sunshine, And over all a California sky! " 0 Alfred, could it only be like this forever! Back yonder in New York, The world is built of brick and mortar, And men forget the handiwork of God. How can a poet hope to win a name Where men are mad for gold" 93 PLEAIS -AND SO.\VLETS "A name! XVhy Geraldine! I had forgot To tell the storv of mv fame. The ecstacy of these three days Had blotted all earthly fortune from my memory. I am Ralph Nixon, author of the Topaz Mlystery." " Ralph Nixon! You! Then who am I" A heavy tide of blood swept over All the tracery of the bitter past, And in a moment more She lay unconscious on a bed of thorny cactus. The City Argentina blew a long loud blast And anchored in the bay. The woman opened wondering eyes And looked at Milner. "Why do you call me Geraldine My Christian name's Amnemon. We never met before. I am Major Erskine's wife. We live in Pasadena. I do not know your name or face, Nor how I came to be with you. I never saw this place before, But those are California hills And yonder is the great Pacific. The mystery of who you are, 99 POEMS AND SONNETS And where I am, I can not solve. I only know I wish to see my home and child; Little Alfred never has been left alone, And may be calling for his mother now. You seem to be a gentleman. Please show me to the nearest train That goes to Pasadena." Half in fright and half in rage Milner looked at Geraldine and tried to speak. The mountains reeled and pitched into the sea. A clevage in the brain! But whose This was insanity, but whether his Or hers he was unable to decide. The memory of the Cornell days came back- The cliffs above the lake, the emerald farms, The gorges and the waterfalls, And finally the wild, weird light That played in iridescent eyes That last day on the hills- The story of the tainted blood and what it meant For future generations. Milner saw an eagle soaring high above the park And then he heard a scream As though a ball had pierced its heart. 100 POEMS A.N\D SO NNETS The bird careened and dropped a hundred feet, Then spreading broad its wings again, Shot upward to the heights. The train for Pasadena speeded onward Toward its destination. A poet sat within his room That opened on the Golden Gate And as the sun dropped into the wave, He wrote a Requiem to Hope, That filled the earth with fame. I (0I POEMS AND SONNE ETS A ROMANCE OF THE CUMBERLAND Early in the day they passed the pinnacle, And now the shadow of each human form Was lengthening backwards like Lombardy poplars Fallen toward the east. For days the fairest maiden of the caravan Had fevered-whether from malaria and fatigue, Or more because of one whom they had left behind, Beyond the wooded mountains, Neither sire nor matron could agree. But Martha Waters, as they laid her stretcher down And prepared the camp for coming night, Declared unless they rested here for davs to come, Her bones must bleach beside the trail That led into the Dark and Bloody Ground. And so they waited for the fever to abate, But when they thought her strong enough, A score of hardy pioneers trudged down The slope and launched canoes and dug-outs And a flatboat in the turgid waters Of the Cumberland, for heavy rains had fallen And all the mountain streams were swollen In these early days of June. 102 POEMS AND SONNETS But the air was sweet with the odor Of wild honeysuckle and the ivy With its starry clusters fringed The milky way of elder bloom That filled each sheltered cove Like constellations on a summer night. But now the rains had ceased, the air Was fresh and bracing, and each glorious day Out-rivaled all the rest in beauty. Lying on her pallet on the flatboat, The maiden breathed the fragrant atmosphere, And drank refreshing whiffs of air That drove the fever from her blood And wakened dreams of conquest In the wilderness toward which Her life was drifting rapidly. But how could she find heart for conquest Why seek this new land anyway, where only And forever to card the wool and spin the flax Would be the woman's portion Would ever in the forest or beyond it In the rolling bluegrass, Return the vision that was hers, When only a few brief months ago She watched the sea gulls battling with the storm Above the waves of Chesapeake Bay 103 POEMS AND SONNETS Oh, how that day was filled with meaning For her now! For as the birds disported With the whirlpools of the air, A lover's magic words were whispered in her ear, How that storm and stress of life to those that love Are little more than winds to swallows of the sea. But now, if hardship meant so little, Why had he remained behind, when she Was forced to go upon the long and weary journey Ah! Could it be he cared no longer for her love His arm was strong. Then was his heart Not brave enough to conquer this new world, Where savage lurked and wild beast made The darkness dreaded by the most courageous soul For days the fleet had drifted down the river, But now her boat was anchored to a tree That grew upon an island in the Cumberland, And every man and woman but the convalescent Had gone ashore to stalk a deer or gather' berries That everywhere were found along the river bank. But Martha Waters lay upon her bed and pondered- Dreaming day dreams, as she watched A golden oriole who fed her young In boughs that overhung the water, And a vague unhappiness arose 104 POEMS AND SONNETS Within her heart, until she tossed Again in fever on her couch. She could hear the roaring falls A mile below, but she thought the sounding Cataract the sickness booming in her ears again. When she looked to eastward where the mountain Rose a thousand feet, she saw a crown of wealth Upon its crest of which no pioneer yet had dreamed. Long she lay and marveled at its beauty, Wondering how many ages would elapse before The god of Mammon would transport its treasures To his marts beside the sea. Feverish she mused and pondered until at last she slept. And then upon the little island, A city rose as from the ocean wave- A city of a thousand streets, and every house Was made from trees that grew upon the mountain. Many were the palaces of wealth and beauty, But those who dwelt therein she did not recognize. Strange were their faces and their manners haughty, And while they lived in luxury and ease, Others toiled at mill and furnace. Oh! The awful din Of sledge and hammer, beating in her ears. She woke. A storm seemed just about to burst in fury, So loud and terrible was the roaring! 1I ()0 POEMS AND SONNETS But the sky was clear. It is the booming Of the falls, for her boat has broke its moorings, And now is rapidly drifting toward the cataract, But four hundred yards away! She leaped upon her feet and screamed for help. It was impossible for her to swim ashore, And her fever-wasted frame could find no strength With which to steer the boat. Again she saw the crown of wealth Upon the mountain top, untouched by human hands. But the island city now had faded from her vision, The mountain lowered and the world grew dark. Onward the boat shot faster toward the roaring falls. But look! A race is on! A birch canoe, Driven by as swift a hand as ever gripped An oar, is leaping o'er the waves in mad pursuit. With every stroke the Indian bark is gaining twenty feet. Will it reach the flatboat soon enough to save the girl But who is he that rides the fleet canoe No red man ever had an arm like that, For already he has reached the speeding raft, And with gigantic strength he steers it toward the shore. But no! The current is too swift! 10C6 POEMS AND SONNETS A moment more and all will be engulfed within The swirling flood. It is too late! Too late But love is swifter than the angry tide, For like a mighty porpoise, wallowing in the wave, The valiant hero leaps into the stream, And holding Martha Waters in his strong right arm High above the water, reaches shore A hundred feet above the deadly precipice. The air was growing chilly even on this summer night, And the emigrants had gathered round a crackling fire, Discoursing of the past, and listening to a modest tale of love. Simply and unfaltering James Hunt related How his heart had hungered back beside the old Potomac, Till he found he could no longer brook the passion That grew stronger as the days of summer lengthened. At last he started, and following every night The blazing dogstar, and resting through the day till evening, In just three weeks he reached the river Where he found the birch canoe that rode The seething waters like a greyhound of the ocean. 1 0 POEMS AND SONNETS Then the maiden told her vision of the island city, How its palaces and mansions, rich as gold and beauti- ful as crystal, Were constructed by her people, toiling hundreds, Sore and weary, of times cold and hungry. She had seen them fell the forests, Hew and mill and dress the lumber, Till the soil and reap the harvests, gathering into others' garners. Stalwart were these men and women, pure of heart And strong of muscle, fitted for the tasks before them. She had seen her brothers laboring at the forge and sounding anvil; Sisters toiling at the wheel and distaff, heard them at the loom While flying shuttle threaded warp with web of beauty; Watched them till they fell asleep with weariness, While the sons of leisure feasted. Thus the maiden told her story, saying: "Shall we undertake the journey Plows are waiting In the furrows back in Maryland, my people, Back beyond the rugged mountain. There are harvests 108 POEMS AND SONNETS Yet ungarnered, waiting for scythe and sickle. Calculate the cost, and weigh it, for my vision is prophetic. For my part, I choose this lover, for my guide and valiant leader. He shall point the way forever, Though he take the road that's darkest." Then James Hunt, the hero lover, Who had never quailed at danger, Trembling for his happy passion, Rose and pointed toward the westward, Toward the Pleiades descending, Deep behind the gloomy forest. "Let us face toward dark Kentucky, fell its forests, Build its roads and bridge its rivers, Give our children to the nation. What though others reap our harvests, Hoard the wealth we have created Ours shall be the nobler portion. Blessed is the one that suffers, If he spends himself for others. Should the toiling millions falter, Though they work for others' comfort, Building homes they can not enter Christ was born within a manger, 109 POEMS AND SONNETS May we not produce a leader, Who shall save our nation's honor At to-morrow morning's dawning, Ere the sunrise gild the treetops, Let us take the darkling pathway." Still the Pleiades are circling, Still the dogstar glows in heaven, But the oak and pine and poplar All have gone from off the mountain- Passed into the marts of Mammon, By the hands of toil and labor. Silent are the loom and distaff, In the cabin and the cottage, And the songs of scythe and sickle Gathering in the golden harvests. But the pain of drudgery lingers, And the heart still longs and hungers For the fruitage it shall gather, Yet beyond the wooded westward. 110 POEMS AND SONNETS MORNING GLORIES. A roguish laugh, a rustling vine, I turn my eager eye; Big drops of dew in bells of blue And red convolvuli. But nothing more; I hold my breath And strain my eager eye; A yellow crown, two eyes of brown, And pink convolvuli! The golden curls, the elfish laugh, Rose cheeks and glittering eye Are glories, too, like bells of blue And red convolvuli. I I POEMS AND SONNETS CHRISTMASTIDE Evergreen and tinsel'd toys, Drums and dolls, and bursting joys- Blessed little girls and boys! Holly, bells, and mistletoe, Tinkling sledges, here we go- Youth and maiden o'er the snow. Chilling winds and leaden days, Vesper songs and hymns of praise Silver hair and dying blaze! Christmas morn and yuletide eve, Dear Lord, help us to believe- Naught but blessings we receive. 112 POEMS AND SONNETS KINSHIP Oh, little children, ye who watch the trains go by, With yearning faces pressed against the window panes, You do not know the reason why Your lingering image dims my eye Though I have passed beyond the hills into the rolling plains. Dear little children, I once watched the trains go by, And hungered, much as when I feel the silent stars; And then I saw the cold gray skies, And felt the warm tears in my eyes, When far beyond the distant hills I heard the rumbling cars. 113 POEMS AND SONNETS PRECOCITY "Oh, grandfather, what are the stars Stones on the hand of God I heard you call that red one Mars And those three Aaron's rod; And these are great Orion's band!" "My child, you are too young to understand!" "Oh, grandfather, what are the winds That sough and moan and sigh Does God grow angry for men's sins He lifts the waves so high And blows his breath o'er sea and land" "My boy, you are too young to understand!" "Oh, grandfather, what are the clouds In yonder sunset sky They look to me like winding shrouds For men about to die! Dear grandfather, your trembling hand !" "My son, you are too young to understand!" 114 POEMS AND SONNETS THE SECRET Old Santa Claus came with his pack On his back Right down the chimney flue; His long flowing beard was ghostlike and weird But his cheeks had a ruddy hue; And his jacket was as red as a woodpecker's head But his breeches, I think, were blue. I heard a soft step like a hoof On the roof, And I closed my outside eye; Then played-like I slept, but the other eye kept A watch on the jolly old guy; And I caught him in the act with his bundles all unpacked, But I'm not going to tell, not I. When Santa comes again this year With his deer And a sled full of toys for me, I don't mean to keep either eye from its sleep While he climbs my Christmas tree; For I don't think it's right to the happy old wight To spy on his mystery. 115 POEMS AND SONNETS A RHYMELESS SONNET Sardonic Death, clothed in a scarlet shroud, Salutes his minions on the crumbling thrones Of Tyranny, and with malicious leer, He points a fleshliess finger toward the fields Of Belgium: " No harvest since the days Of Bonaparte and Waterloo hath filled My flagons with a wine of such a taste; Your crowns ye hold by rights divine indeed!" But One has entered in at lowly doors And sits by every hearthstone where they will: "My Word enthron-ed in Democracy Has twined the holly round Columbia's brow- A crown of 'Peace on earth, good will to men.' I am the Resurrection and the Life!" 116 POEMS AND SONNETS AMBITION I covet not the warrior's flashing steel That drives the dreaded foe to headlong flight; I envy not the czar his ruthless might That grinds a state beneath an iron heel; I do not ask that I may ever feel The thrill that follows fame's uncertain light; And in the game of life I do not quite Expect always to hold a winning deal. Grant me the power to help my fellow man To bear some ill that he may not deserve; Give me the heart that I may never swerve, In scorn of Death, to do what good I can; But most of all let me but light the fires Upon the altar of the youth's desires. 117 POEMS AND SONNETS OPPORTUNITY I often met her in the days of youth Along the highway where the world goes by; And sometimes when I caught her wistful eye I wondered that it seemed so filled with ruth. She was a modest maiden, plain, in truth, And unattractive, and I thought, " Now why Should one seek her companionship; not I- At least, until I've had my fling, forsooth!" And so I passed her by and had my day, And met a thousand whom I thought more fair In tinsel gowns beneath electric glare- A thousand, but they went their primrose way. Now she's a queen, and boasts a score of sons- Her consort he who shunned my charming ones! 113 POEMS AND SONNETS HOLIDAY THOUGHTS The night was like some monster omen ill, Whose shrieking froze the marrow of my bones; But day dawned calm, though white as polar zones, The bluebird shouting "Spring!" from every hill. The world lay parching in the noonday grill, And blades of corn were twisting into cones; But night brought rain, and now, like golden thrones, The fruited shocks deride October's chill. Dear Lord, I would that we might live by faith, However cold and dark the day may seem, And trust that every cloud is just a wraith, And every shadow but a fading dream. Oh, grant our eyes may see the beacon lights That blaze forever on the peaks and heights! 119 POEMS AND SONNETS THE OLD YEAR AND THE NEW Good-bye, Old Year; our journey has been brief; I'm sorry now to leave thee dying here, For thou hast borne my burdens with good cheer, And never murmured, but assuaged my grief. When buds of promise never came to leaf; When broken resolutions, doubt, and fear Did mock at my defeat, 0 good Gray Year, Thy reassuring smile restored belief. Good-bye-farewell! I trust thy dear young child, Who greets me at the gateway of the dawn, Will deal as gently with me and my friends, And lead our footsteps through the springtime mild, O'er summer's lawn, down autumn's slopes, and on To where the path of chill December ends. 120 POEMS AND SONNETS FELLOW TRAVELERS Old comrade, must we separate to-day Sometimes my feet have faltered, sore and tired, And sometimes in the sloughs and quicksands mired, But it has always helped to hear you say, "The road is fine a little further on." Your optimism and your hearty cheer Have made the journey pleasant, good Old Year, And 1, in truth, regret to see you gone. Young New Year whom you leave me as a guide, In doubt, would have me pledge a lot of things Before we start, and make some offerings To gods whose love, I fear, will not abide. And yet I like my new companion's face. Old Year, lend him your wisdom and your grace. 121 POEMS AND SONNETS JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Beloved Poet, thou hast taught our heart A sympathy it hardly knew before- A yearning kinship and a spirit lore Of humble folk, a love transcending art! The pulse of brotherhood throbs in thy song. No mystic, blindly groping on the shore Of dark uncertainty; unlike Tagore, Thy faith is pure and definite and strong. Consumpted Jim and thriftless Coon-dog Wess, The Girly Girl with eyes of limpid blue, The Raggedy Man that Orphant Annie knew; The Little Cripple, glad, though motherless; Poor hare-lip Joney and the Wandering Jew- All these thy pen doth glorify and bless! 122 POEMS AND SONNETS CALE YOUNG RICE He loves the boom of breakers on the shore, And winds that lash the billows into foam; He loves the placid seas beneath the dome Of blue infinitudes-not less, but more; He loves to brood upon the mystic lore Of silent stars above the silent seas, And feel the passion of infinities Beyond, where only Faith would dare explore. Thus groping after God has helped him find Divinity in man (where only sin And brutal lusts have seemed to hedge him in), And taught his heart that Fate is never blind. That somehow, somewhere, now beyond our ken, One day we'll understand the wrongs of men. 123 POEMS AND SONNETS PILATE'S MONOLOGUE [This monologue of Pilate to Herod takes place a few days after the resurrection at the home of Pontius Pilate. Pilate and Herod are standing on the east porch of the Governor's mansion in Jerusalem, looking toward the Mount of Olives. The time is jus' at sunset.j Oh! Herod, couldst thou find no fault in Him- The Man of Galilee Clearly He Belonged within thy jurisdiction. Didst Thou fear to do thy duty Still I blame Thee not-the mob was clamorous for bWood! I questioned Him, but like a lamb before His shearers He was dumb and answered me No word. Was not His silence proof of guilt But ev-en then I offered to release Him, till the rabble shouted, "Crucify This Man: set free Barabbas, if thou wilt, But we demand the life of Jesus whom They call the Christ." Oh! dost thou think His blood Can be upon my head I washed my hands Before the multitude and told them I Was innocent of any crime toward Him. I scourged Him, it is true, but that was all. They stripped Him and bedecked Him with a robe 124 POEMS AND SONNETS Of scarlet cloth, and placed a crown of thorns Upon His head, and then they mocked and jeered And spat upon Him, hailing Him as King.' I can not think that this was right, but still They say He blasphemed and deserved to die. But what is blasphemy Oh, Herod, I Can never rid my dreams of Jesus' look. He turned His eyes upon me as I dipped My fingers in the bowl-a glance that seemed More fraught with love and pity than with hate. He blessed the people as He hung upon The cross in agony of pain, and prayed His God to pardon them because they knew Not what they did. Thou canst not, Herod, think This Nazarene was more than man It can't Be possible that He whom Pilate scourged Was Christ indeed! But could a man forgive His murderers They say the tomb is burst And that His bodv is no longer there! I might endure His curse. My pen has stabbed To death a thousand men and never felt Compunction for the deed, because I knew They hated me. But now the voice that haunts My sleep asks only blessings on my head. 1., POEMS AND SONNETS They say He wept for men because of sin, And yet no guile was found in Him. If I Could close my eyes and see that face no more I might find peace again. Three nights I have Not slept. I hear that Judas hanged himself! And now no guard that watched before The sepulchre can anywhere be found. Had I but set the Galilean free! But did he not insult my majesty He must have known I ruled in Cxsar's stead. What if my wife was troubled in a dream And suffered many things on His account A Roman governor must be a man! They say the temple's veil was rent in twain- The sky was darkened and the sun was hid. He said I had no power to crucify Except that it be given from above. He did not know the strength of Pilate's arm! 'Tis said He cried, " My God, my God, why hast Thou now forsaken me" The earth did quake, The tombs were cracked, and then the shrouded dead Stalked ghost-like through the fields and open streets! Look! Look! What is yon robe of shining white Behold the Man-the Man of Galilee! 126 POEMS AND SONNETS With outstretched arms He stands on Olivet, The shadows purpling o'er Gethsemane. I hear Him cry in agony of soul, " How often would I, 0 Jerusalem, Have gathered unto Me thy children as A hen her brood beneath her wing, but ye Would not come." Herod, canst thou hear His voice It is impossible! It can not be! He must not know that I am Pilate! Still He calls my name! I can not, dare not go! What would the people think I will Be free. There is no blood upon my hands. See, I wash them clean and am myself Again. Oh! Now the spell is gone. Though not The king, I am governor of the Jews! 127 POEMS AND SONNETS THE VIRILE SPIRIT [Written after reading a letter in which the writer said: "I covet for our country a great war-one that will stir our virile spirits and send forth our youth to fight and die for our country."] What is courage To face the bursting shell When rhythmic sheets of fire discover gulfs Of death, yet rather steel than daunt the heart; When comrades fall beneath the knapsack's weight, Foot froze and bleeding on the icy road, To hear the blasts from towering snow-crowned Alps Sing only martial airs that stir the blood! It is a noble thing to die in war- To sacrifice the breath of life; to feel The pain of hunger and of cold, yet flinch Not that one's country may be great or free. Many a generation yet unborn Will bless the name of Valley Forge, and hold In reverence the field of Gettysburg. But war is not the only thing that tries The bravest soul. To live does sometimes take More courage than to close with death; and oft The coward shrinks from living when the brave Man scorns to die. We need no bugle note 128 POEAMS AND SONNETS To rouse our manhood's strength. The call to men Is clear and strong. It is not to repel The Hun, the Teuton, or the Slav, nor yet To drive the Yellow Peril from the seas. We must send forth our men to live, not die- We need to save, not kill our fellow man, To smite the Minotaur of Sin, and stop The tribute greater now than all the tolls Of war. The beast in man is ravenous And must be slain. He feeds upon the fruits Of toil, and blights the home with poverty; He drags the innocent to dens of shame To satisfy his brute carnality. No fiery dragon in the days of myth Laid waste a land or blasted life with breath More foul or appetite insatiate. This is the enemy that we must fight. No dreadnaughts now afloat, no submarines, No legions that may ever bivouac on Our shores, no Zeppelins disgorging fire Portend the dire disasters wrought upon Our nation's strength by Avarice and Lust. The sword of Theseus is too dull a blade, The arm of Beowulf not strong enough To battle with Cupidity and Sin. 1 29 POEMS AND SONNETS We need the breastplate of a righteous life, Our loins must be girt about with truth, The heart protected by the shield of faith, And in the right hand there must ever be The spirit's sword, which is the Word of God! And even clothed and weaponed thus it takes A heart as fearless as the dauntless Dane's To strike the Mammon of Unrighteousness- To grapple with this Grendel that invades The mead-halls still and ravishes our youth. 130 POEMS AND SONNETS BLUEBIRD. Bluebird in the cedar bush- Fresh and clean as the evergreen, Through a rift of leaves, Or my eye deceives. But silent! Hush! lie calls, he calls! The first spring note From a feathered throat My heart enthralls; And my pulses leap As a child from sleep On Christmas morn, at the blast of horn, To meet, to greet, The choral sweet From bluebird in the cedar bush: At last, at last lThe snow and sleet Of winter's blast Have passed, have passed, And spring is here, good cheer, good cheer! The call comes ringing in to me From Bluebird in the cedar tree. 131 POEMS AND SONNETS AN AUTUMN MINOR Russet and amber and gold, Crimson and yellow and green, And far away the blue and gray, A twinkling silver sheen. Violet, scarlet and red, Purple and dark maroon, And over it all the music of fall- A weird prismatic tune. An opera serious and grand, An orchestra mystic and sad- A symphony alone of color and tone To drive a mortal mad. I ,2 POEMS AND SONNETS SLABS AND OBELISK Hollyhocks were blooming in the backyard near the barn, Proud as rhododendrons by a regal mountain tarn, Purple, white and yellow, bluV and velvet red- Humble little cottage, but a royal flower bed. Pink and crimson roses and carnations took your breath- Dark-eyed little pansies looking like the Head of Death; Golden-raved sunflowers, lifting discs of hazel brown, Filled the heart with wonder and the garden with renown. Little Harold, born a poet, watched the petals blow, Read the mystic cryptographs his elders didn't know; Heard the music in the wind like sirens on the shore, Far beyond the sunset in the land Forevermore. Oft the village sages saw him lying in the shade. Gazing where the sun and vapor wrought a strange brocade Tapestries of gold and silver on a field of blue, Heard him murmur softly riddles no one ever knew. 133 POEMS AND SONNETS All the people pitied Harold, thinking of the end In the cold, unfeeling world he couldn't comprehend- Seeing nothing else but lilies, living in a trance, In an age of facts and figures, dreaming wild romance. But the sages now are sleeping on the little hill, Modest slabs are keeping watch with rue and daffodil. Harold has an obelisk that towers toward the sky, Hollyhocks upon his mound to bless and glorify. ON BROADWAY Even as to-night on Broadway Long ago I wandered down The Great White Way of childhood, Mystified, enchanted, as I watched The million butterflies That tilted through the air in rhythmic flight, And pulsed above the petaled sweets, And sipped the nectar of the purple thistle bloom, Until at last they staggered down the dusty Road to Death. 1 4 POSTSCRIPT This page in the original text is blank. Postscript AN EMBER ETCHING An old man sat before his great log fire And gazed dreamily into the dying blaze. His eyes were red as though with weeping. The long, thin locks of hair Were spotless as the snow Silently mantling the earth That last sad night of the dying year. Four days and nights He had sat beside the bed Of his life-cormpanion. But nows the watchers by the bier In the adjoining room, Were dozing in their chairs. The cold night Had driven the mice from their hiding, And the loud tick of the clock No longer frightened them As they scampered over the hearth. The man was breathing heavily, Although his eves were open, And his stare fixed upon the fire: Down by a gnarled oak near the spring Two children played. 137 POSTSCR I PT Rebecca had dipped a dock leaf In the water, And now whisked it in the sunlight. Against the trunk of the tree There was a playhouse made of broken boughs. The girl's dolls were lying on the green moss bed, And a little cracked slate lay upon the ground. An almost illegible scrawl was written on the slate. Tewo childish hands had traced their names: " Ru pert-Rebecca." A4nd the words were linked together by lines That looked like twisted ropes. The boy and girl sat down before the playhouse, And crossed their hands in imitation Of the lines that bound their names together. And then they smiled And looked upon the dolls Asleep in the fresh June morning. A chunk broke and fell in the ashes. The blaze died into a glow of coals. In the gray beyond the dog irons The old man saw two figures Sitting before an awning: Two golden haired children Slept in a little bed. 138 POSTSCRIPT The man and woman who sat beside the shelter Were old and bent, Their faces thin and white. They clasped their hands And looked into each other's face. And then they turned and looked Upon the children. A coal dropped into the picture, And the fitfulfire died Into deepening shadows. Next day the pall-bearers Bore two bodies away And lowered a single coffin Into a grave Beneath the snow-laden cedar. 139 POSTSCR I PT A TRAGEDY IN BIRDLAND A little maiden blue-jay, Fresh from her April morning bath, Sat on the limb of a weeping willow, Preening her shining feathers And dreaming of a song To which she had listened On the afternoon of the preceding day. A wild joy was in her heart And yet it took all the sunshine and song From a hundred other throats To withstand the gloom That seemed hovering just above her. She was conscious of the threatening cloud, But her heart beat furiously And hope thrilled her bird-being With an unwonted light. And yet she knew, When she dared to think at all, That it was a hopeless hope That flooded her soul with love A hope that must ere long Change to a black despair. 140 POSTSCR IPT She lifted her crested head And looked toward the old beech tree Where her blue-jay lover now sat In melancholy gloom. Why not raise her voice And gladden his heart He had been true and faithful For many weeks, And his suit would long since Have won another's love. Why had she thrilled At the alien voice of another throat She had been a foolish maiden To have entertained so wild a thought. But hark! Again the song! On the topmost spire Of yonder Gothic poplar Sits a cardinal fop, In a coat of matchless red, And a beak of shining ivory. He lifts his sumach plume Into the glinting sunlight And sends a Cupid shaft From his beaded eye Into the trembling breast 141. POSTSCR IPT Of little maiden blue-jay. Poor little mademoiselle! Once more the notes Come whistling and glittering Like a shower of pearls Through the sunshine: 'Oh! my true love is a little blue-jay- Mademoiselle, my bird gazelle, Mly little gazelle, and I love her well. Fresh and sweet from her morning spray She sits on the willow and her crest is gay- Mademoiselle, my little gazelle I love so well." Down from his commanding height Flashed the cardinal flame And perched on another limb Of the weeping willow. And then he strutted and pranced And capered and danced And shot his fiery glances Toward the modest little maiden Whose heart was now fluttering Beyond all control. Master blue-jay Over on the beech bough Saw the terrible tragedy That would follow in the wake of betrayal 142 POSTSCR I PT And was desperate to save this Psyche To whom he had often poured out his soul In amorous vows, Swearing by all the gods in birdland That there was none other beside her. But like many another lover Of larger experience and better advantage, He forgot that the very way To lose his loved one Was to berate his rival, And lifting his reed To the upper register of a clarinet, He almost screamed: He's a liar, he is, by the god of all birds, A master of villainous art- A hypocrite, a varlet, believe not his words, This dandy, this fop, deceiver, betrayer, A coward, seducer, a murderous slayer- He'll crush thy innocent heart." Poor little maiden blue-jay Heard his screams of anger and despair But heeded not the warning. She only fluttered over 143 POSTSCRIPT To where the cardinal sat And threw herself under his protecting arm, Declaring her perfect faith In his undying love. The red prince lifted His burning plume triumphantly Into the sunlight, And shot a contemptuous glance Toward the old beech tree. Master Blue-Jay unable Longer to control himself, Darted like a lance of blue steel At the red coat. But the high churchman was a skilled fencer, And stepped aside just in time To send his antagonist With terrible momentum Into the thorn tree Beyond the willow, Where a moment later he writhed and fluttered, Pinioned through his body By a sword-like thorn That projected from the trunk of the spiny tree. It was a sight to touch the heart Of the most abandoned denizen of birdl and. 144 POSTSCRI PT But Mademoiselle Blue-Jay, Who would ordinarily have wept At so sad a fate of one of her kind, Was just now too happy In the love of her wooer To notice another; And unmindful of the ebbing life-blood That was fast turning her unfortunate lover's coat Of bright and shining blue To one of dark and dull maroon, She nestled close To the false-hearted ecclesiastic And sighed the lovelorn sigh That has come from the maiden heart Since the foundation of the world. The low cedar In which Madam Blue-Jay-Cardinal now sat On such a nest of eggs As no blue-jay had ever brooded over before, Wondering, fearing, doubting, longing- Was only a rod or so fromn the spiny thorn Where the dried body of the fated lover Still hung. But where now was the supercilious fop Whose seductive vows of love 145 POSTSCR I PT Had won the little maiden's confidence And robbed her true and faithful lover Of that incense that belonged of right Only to him For more than a week She had not seen him. Surely he would return on the morrow, For he must remember That soon the little brood Would need his protecting love. Yes, he would return again To praise her slender form and shining cres t And call her once more his little gazelle. But the cardinal came not. The brood had hatched, And the little birds were covered now With tiny feathers. Strange sight! All the blue-jays in the woods around Had gathered to witness What no mortal bird had ever seen before- Little birdling blue-jays With crimson stains on wings and breasts! And the poor little mother, Madam Blue-Jay-Cardinal, 146 POSTSCR I PT No longer mademoiselle, the bird gazelle, But an outcast and disgraced mother Of a mongrel offspring, Left alone in this hour of shame, Remembered now the words of him Who had warned against this sad hour. But the memory brought her only bitter grief, And she watched her brood in broken-hearted sorrow, As they looked with wondering eyes At the strange panorama in birdland. And all the blue-jays sat in silent condemnation Of the unpardonable sin. There was no mercy To be found in all the land of birds For either the forsaken mother Or her little brood. The deserted wife and widowed mother blue-jay Suddenly threw her wings Over the astonished little children, As though to wipe the stain of sin From their innocent lives, And as she (lid so, The crested cardinal 147 POSTSCRIPT With a fresh crimson bride flashed by, And perched upon the old beech limb. And there he sat In undisturbed and cynical silence, While all the court Of high crimes and misdemeanors Praised his sacerdotal coat and shining mitre. The mother felt the birdlings stir beneath her wing, And their scarlet stain suffuse her being. She looked toward the thorn tree But no word was spoken. A wise old owl that moped and moaned On the limb of a sycamore tree That overhung the little stream Suddenly lifted his voice and cried: " Let him who is without stain of sin, Lift the first note of song Against the little blue-jay." But all the woods were still. Only the thorn tree swayed slightly in the breeze, And then a flute-like note floated out Upon the wondering air: 14e POSTSCRIPT "Oh! my little blue-jay, my little bluebe l, I would I could come to thee; I would find all the food for thy sin-stained brood, And thy bridegroom I should be. That villainous fop on the old beech limb And the arrogant wife that sits by him Have broken the heart of mry little bluebell, The little gazelle, the bird gazelle he loved so well, And they laugh in their cynical glee. Oh! I would heal thy deep chagrin, Forgive thy blood-stained life its sin, And thou shouldst be my beauteous bride, Forever happy at my side. My hope, my joy, my love, my pride, If I could only come to thee, If I could only come to thee." Again the air was silent as the tomb. The little mother bird Moved with her frightened children Toward the old thorn tree. And when she at last stood Beneath the sword Upon which her faithful lover was pinioned Behold the miracle that was enacted Before her wondering eyes. 149 POSTSCR I PT The crimson dyes That streaked the birdlings' wings and breasts Turned suddenly to a dull and dark maroon, And not a jay in all birdland But would swear that her little children Now resembled in every line and stain The dead body of her valiant lover Who had shed his blood To save his little bluebell from betrayal. 50