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SEMIRAMIS AND OTHER PLAYS
OLIVE TILFORD DARGAN
By Olive Tilford Dargan
[Stage rights reserved]
THE LITERARY COLLECTOR PRESS
THE POET 175
SCENE 1. The tent of Menones
SCENE 1. Hall in the palace of Ninus
SCENE 1. The gardens over the lake
SCENE 1. The tent of Husak
NINUS, king of Assyria
HUSAK, king of Armenia
KHOSROVE, son of Husak
MENONES, governor of Nineveh
ARTAVAN, son of Menones
SUMBAT, friend of Artavan
VASSIN, officer of the king
HADDO, a guard
ARMIN, a guard
DOKAHRA, woman to Semiramis
SOLA, wife of Artavan
SEMIRAMIS, daughter of Menones
Officers, heralds, messengers, guards, soldiers, dancers, &c.
Scene: Within the tent of Menones, on the plain before Nineveh.
Left, centre, entrance to tent from the plain. Curtains rear,
forming partition with exits right and left of centre. The same
at right, with one exit, centre. Couch rear, between exits. From
a tent-pole near exit, right centre, hang helmet and a suit of
Sola parts curtains rear, left, and looks out, showing effort to
keep awake. She steps forward.
Sol. Hist! Armin! Haddo!
(Enter two guards, left centre)
Still no news?
Arm. None, lady.
Sol. Oh, Artavan, what keeps thee?
Haddo. He will come.
Sol. Semiramis is sleeping. I am weary,
But I'll not sleep.
Arm. Rest, madam; we will call you.
Sol. My lord shall find me watching, night or day!
Arm. Two nights you have not slept.
Sol. Ten thousand nights,
I think, good Armin.
Had. We will call you, madam.
Arm. With the first hoof-beat ringing from the north!
Sol. (At curtains, drowsily)
I'll be - awake.
Had. She'll sleep now.
Arm. Ay, she must.
Had. And I'd not call her for god Bel himself!
Arm. Hark! (Goes to entrance)
'Tis a horseman!
Had. (Following him) Two!
Arm. Right! We must rouse
The lady Semiramis.
Had. Make sure 'tis he. (They step out)
Is this Menones' tent?
Arm. (Without) Ay, Sir! The word!
Voice. God Ninus!
(Semiramis enters, through curtains right centre)
Sem. Artavan! His voice!
(Enter Artavan, followed by Sumbat who waits near entrance)
Sem. My brother!
Art. Semiramis! (Embracing her) Three years this kiss
Has gathered love for thee!
Sem. Has 't been so long
Since I left Gazim?
Art. Ay, - since Ninus called
Our father here, and Gazim lost her dove.
Sem. (On his bosom, laughing softly)
The dove of Gazim, - so they called me then.
But now - (proudly, moving from him) the lioness of Nineveh!
Art. A warrior's daughter!
Sem. And a warrior's sister!
O, I have prayed that you might come! The king
Is gracious - loves the brave -
Art. Our father?
Art. He's well?
Sem. Is 't day?
Sem. At dawn he meets
The Armenians on the plain.
Art. Then he is well!
Sem. He went forth well, - and brave as when he drove
The Ghees from Gazim with his single sword!
But - oh - he needs you, Artavan, he needs you!
(Comes closer speaking rapidly)
I'm with him night and day but when he battles -
I buckle on his arms - cheer him away -
And wipe the foe's blood from his mighty sword
When he returns! But I've a fear so strange!
At times he's moved quite from himself, - so far
That I look on him and see not our father!
If I dared speak I'd almost say that he
Who never lost a battle shrinks from war!
Art. (Starting) No, no! Not that! You borrow eyes of fear
And see what is not!
Sem. But I've felt the drops
Cold on his brow, and raised his lifeless arms
Whose corded strength hung slack as a sick child's!
O, it is true! And you must stand by him!
Fight at his side! I thought to do it! I!
See here, my armor!
(Moving with him to where the armor hangs)
When I had this made
And swore to wear it in the fight, 'twas then
He yielded - said that you might come -
(Sound of trumpets at distance. They listen)
Art. I go to him!
Sem. (Taking a paper from her bosom)
Take this! He'll understand!
'Tis some direction later thought upon!
Art. My wife is safe -
Sem. With me! Three days ago
She came. And now she sleeps -
(Points to curtains, rear left)
Art. In there? One kiss -
Sem. Nay, nay, you go to battle, and should keep
Steel in your eye, not woman's tears!... Who comes
(Looks toward entrance where Sumbat stands)
(He advances and drops on knee. She gives him both hands
and he rises)
Welcome! But no time
For gallant greetings! We are warriors here!
(A roll of battle is heard)
Art. We go!
Sem. Ride! ride! The battle over, ye
Shall meet the king!
(Artavan and Sumbat hasten out. The noise of departure
brings Sola to curtains)
Sol. What is it? Who was here?
Sem. (Absorbed) They'll reach my father!
Sol. Not Artavan?
Sem. Ay - he.
Sol. And gone - my husband!
Without a word - a look!
Sem. The battle calls,
And he who wears ambition's spur must ride!
Sol. Ambition! O, you think of naught but war
And glory! Hast thou no heart, Semiramis?
Sem. I' faith, and love thee with it! (kisses her)
Sol. Trifle not!
Hadst thou a heart thou couldst not live a maid,
So beautiful, and never dream of love!
Thou'rt some strange thing -
Sem. What, wilt be angry? Come!
I'll tell thee all he said - thy Artavan, -
Ay, every word, and how his eyes grew soft
With dimness sweeter than their vanquished light
When thou wert his dear theme!
(They move to curtains. Semiramis stops and listens)
Go in. I'll come. (Sola goes in)
Sem. (Listening) Is that a chariot? My father!... Nay!
He's safe with Artavan! Whatever comes
His son will be his heart and bear him up!
Safe, safe, Menones, and thy grizzled locks
Shall wear their laurels to an honored grave!
(Noise of approaching chariot)
It _is_ a chariot! Can it be the king?
(Chariot stops without)
Armin, who is it comes?
Arm. (Appearing at entrance) The Lord Menones.
(Semiramis sways, steadies herself, and waits. Menones
enters, livid and trembling. In form he is large and
mighty, but is grey with age. He staggers over to couch
and sits upon it, groaning heavily. Semiramis looks at him
in silence. Then approaches and speaks in a low terrified
Sem. You fled the battle!
Sem. You must go back!
Men. Too late!
Sem. (Gaining courage and putting her hands sternly on his
Men. We must fly!
Sem. Fly! Never!
Men. (Rising) Come!
The chariot! The king will leave my race
No blood on earth!
Sem. If it be coward's blood
'Tis better lost!
Men. Come, come! We yet can fly!
Sem. Back to the battle! There I'll go with thee!
Men. I can not! Oh, the terror's here - here - here!
It clutches at my heart!
Sem. Tear out thy heart
And keep thy honor whole!
(He falls on the couch, shaken with suffering. She kneels
by him pleading passionately)
Sem. Up, father, up!
You must go back! You know not what you've done!
Our Artavan -
Men. Praise Bel, he's safe in Gazim!
Sem. No ... he is here ... he came, and rode to find you.
Men. He came? Gods, no!
Sem. Nay, true! He's in the battle!
Now you will go! You will go back, my father!
He does not know the plan! He can not lead
Without your counsel! Come - your voice - his arm -
And all is safe!
(He rises; noise of battle; he sinks shuddering)
Men. No - I'll die here - not there!
(Semiramis stands in despair; then lifts her arms praying)
Sem. O mighty Belus, give me back my father!
(She listens with sudden eagerness and goes to tent door)
False! false! They're verging south! North, north, ye cowards!
(Rushes to her armor and takes it down. Shakes the
curtains right, and calls)
Dokahra! (Throws off her robe and begins putting on armor.
Enter Dokahra, right centre)
Sem. Buckle here! Be quick!
Men. You shall not go!
Sem. You have no might or right
To stay me now!
Men. You will be lost!
Sem. Lost? No!
Did I not plan this battle? Haste, Dokahra!
Our lives are in your fingers! Courage, father!
(Going, Dokahra still adjusting armor)
The king has smiled on me - I do not know -
But there was such a promise in his smile -
And if the victory's mine he will forgive!
Dok. This rivet, mistress!
(Noise of battle)
Sem. Artavan, I come!
(Rushes out. Sound of chariot rolling away. Dokahra looks
stolidly at Menones for a moment, then turns through
curtains, right. Menones presses his heart in pain, moans
wretchedly, and draws a blanket over his body)
Men. Is this the form that bright Decreto loved?
But where the soul, O, gods! (Lies shuddering)
Voice without. The King!
(Menones draws blanket over his face and becomes
motionless. Enter the king, with Vassin)
Nin. (At entrance) Stand here!
Godagon, haste! Ride to Menones; say
We wait within his tent; his messengers
Will reach us here.
(A rider spurs off without. Ninus and Vassin advance
within the tent)
Vas. Your majesty, suppose
The Armenians gain, you'll be in danger here.
Why come so near for news?
Nin. For news, good Vassin?
I had a better reason. Semiramis
Tents with her father.
(Points to curtains)
Nin. The sun will break
Vas. My lord -
Nin. She stirs! She comes! Wait - see!
(Dokahra's gaunt figure appears at curtains)
Vas. A false dawn, is it not?
Nin. Your mistress sleeps?
Dok. (Abasing herself)
No, mighty king!
Nin. She's up? Then give her word
Dok. She's not within, my lord.
So soon? She's on the general's business?
Dok. And yours, O king! She's joined the battle!
Vas. Ha! ha! Do you believe this?
Nin. Ay ... 'tis so.
I know her spirit. Here's mettle for a queen!
(Menones uncovers and half rises)
Vas. You would not make her one, your majesty!
Though she should lead your troops to victory,
Still is she but your general's daughter, and
Assyria's crown is given of gods to gods!
Nin. And Ninus knows to keep his race untainted.
But all the jewels of a king, my Vassin,
Are not worn in his crown. Some in the heart
Are casketed, and there this maid shall shine
For me alone. Were she of heavenly race -
Men. (Starting up) She is, my lord!
(Ninus regards him in astonishment)
Nin. What do you here, Menones?
Men. (Trembling) I am ill.
Nin. Ill, sir? Ha! Now I know!
Your daughter leads while you couch safe in tent!
She sought to hide your shame! O, what a heart!
But you -
Men. I led, my lord, till illness seized -
Nin. Too ill to fight, but not too ill to fly!
Hound! hound! My troops are lost! I'd kill you now
But 'tis an hour too soon! First you must be
Of every honor stript!
Men. (Kneeling) My lord and king,
I know that I must die, but hear a prayer
For my brave daughter's sake! Betray her not,
Lest thou offend the gods that gave thee life,
For she, too, is of heaven!
Men. I swear
'Tis true! My lord, Decreto was her mother!
She met me on the plains of Gazim when
This aged figure was called fair, and youth
Still fed its fire to manhood's prime;
Our babe she left upon a mountain crest
And sent her doves to tend it through a year,
Then bade me scale the mount and take my own.
I did, and named her for Decreto's dove -
Nin. What precious tale is this?
Vas. He thinks to fright you from the maid, my lord.
Dok. (Falling at the king's feet)
O king, 'tis true! Ask thou in Gazim -
(Dokahra vanishes through curtains left rear)
Nin. 'T will take a better lie to save your head!
Men. My head? Thou'rt welcome to it! 'Tis not that!
But she - my daughter -
Nin. We will spare her life.
Men. (Calmly) It is my prayer that she may die with me.
Nin. Not while we love. If e'er she lose her charm,
We may remember that you were her father.
Men. (Furiously, forgetting himself)
She has a brother yet!
Nin. A brother! So!
We'll look to him as well! Thanks for your news!
Men. (Towering up) Though every god in heaven gave thee blood
Yet would I spill it!
(Lifts his sword; suddenly drops it and falls, pressing
his heart. Ninus and Vassin watch him silently until he
Vas. (Stooping) Ay, dead, my lord.
Nin. I would have spared him though I threatened death.
Vas. Have spared the coward? Why, your majesty?
Nin. Semiramis has spirit passing woman's;
I have no hope to force her to my arms,
And I'd have wrought her heart to tenderness
By mercy to her father. Love is my aim!
All else I can command - but that - Guards here!
(Enter Armin and Haddo)
Not you - my own! But wait - a word! Where sleeps
Arm. (Pointing) There, O king!
(The body of Menones lies behind the king and Vassin,
unseen by the guards. Exeunt Armin and Haddo. Enter the
Nin. Take up this body.
Place it within.
(Guards go in with Menones' body)
Vas. What would you do, my lord?
Nin. You'll know in time.
(Re-enter guards) Hark! You saw nothing!
Guards. (Bowing to floor) Nothing.
O mighty Ninus! (Exeunt)
Nin. I will have her love!
Vassin, this story of her goddess birth
Vas. How knows your majesty?
Nin. It speaks
In all her motions. Every glance and grace
Revouches it. E'en your dull eye must know
Her beauty is immortal, though her life
Is forfeit to the clay and must have end.
Vas. Thou'lt find another fair! Youth blooms and goes!
Nin. Not such as hers! Her brow's a holy page
Where chiselling Time dare never set a mark!
The sun hath been her lover, and so deep
Hath touched her locks with fire no winter hand
May shake his kisses out!
Vas. Why, thou'rt in love!
(Confused voices without. A messenger runs in and falls
at the feet of the king)
Nin. Speak, sir!
Mes. Assyria wins! The Armenians fly!
They've lost their leader -
Nin. Khosrove! Is he taken?
Mes. Taken or slain, I know not which, but know
He leads no more the enemy! They fly
Mes. Ay, all was rout until she reached the field
And spurred the -
Voice of herald without. Victory! A victory!
Ninus is god and king!
Cries. A victory!
Herald. Assyria triumphs o'er his enemies!
Nin. Is Khosrove taken?
Her. Slain, the people cry!
The soldiers hail Semiramis their chief,
Call her a goddess, drag her chariot,
And shout and swear by Belus' ruling star
To be her slaves forever!
Nin. So they shall.
Vas. Your majesty -
Nin. Peace, Vassin! Wait and see!
(Noise and cries without as Semiramis is drawn toward
the tent in her chariot)
Nin. Ho! Guards!
(The king's guards enter. Ninus passes to right centre,
facing entrance opposite. Guards station themselves on
each side of him and in his rear. Semiramis enters,
followed by officers and soldiers. Her helmet is off,
her hair falling)
Nin. Hail goddess!
(Semiramis looks at the king in astonishment then glances
fearfully toward Menones' room)
Nin. Hail, Assyria's queen!
Sem. (Faintly) O king -
(Ninus advances to her. She kneels before him)
Nin. Kneel down, Menones' daughter! Rise,
The bride of Ninus, nevermore to kneel!
This victory is proof, if proof I need,
That you are a true daughter of the skies,
Mate for the mightiest throne!
(To soldiers) Cry festival!
The feast of triumph and the wedding revel
We'll hold together! Go!
(Exeunt soldiers, cheering without)
Nin. (Taking the hand of Semiramis)
To-day thou'lt come?
Sem. (Withdrawing her hand and bowing her head)
I am my king's.
Nin. (Passing to exit) The royal chariot,
Within the hour, will take you from the tent
Unto our palace.
(Exeunt Ninus and attendants. Semiramis stands dazed.
Sola comes out softly and looks at her)
Sem. (In rapture) Ah, my father's safe!
I'll tell him!
(Hurries toward curtains right, rear, and stops at exit)
No ... I'll wait. This joy is dead
If Artavan be lost!
(Sola springs toward her with a cry)
Sol. Be lost? Ah, no!
Where is he? Oh, not lost!
Sem. He pushed too far
Amid the flying troops.
Sol. And you - you stole
His last look from my eyes!
Sem. He may be saved.
For Sumbat followed him. He must be saved!
We'll hope till Sumbat comes.
Sol. O, you know naught
Sem. I was his sister, Sola, ere
He made thee wife.
Sol. A sister! O, such love
Is nothing! Thou wilt smile at it
If ever thou'rt a wife!
(Semiramis is removing her armor. She stops and looks
questioningly at Sola; then shakes her head)
Sem. Nay, Sola, nay!...
Help me with this.... Somehow my heart is gone
And armor's for the brave.
(Putting on her robe) Now 't has come back.
But beats and whispers like a maiden's own.
I am but half a warrior.... Do not sob.
Sumbat will bring us news.... Ah, he has come!
Sol. (Rushing to him and looking into his face)
Oh, lost! (Flies, sobbing, through the curtains, rear left)
Sem. Speak.... Is it true?
Sum. I fear it is.
I could not save him, and they bore him off.
Sem. A prisoner! Not slain!
Then we may hope! I've captured Husak's son!
Sum. Khosrove! Is he not under guard without?
A man most fair ... of lordly form, and young?
Sem. 'Tis he! Have him brought hither instantly!
To Husak word shall go on swiftest steed
That I will yield the prince for Artavan!
He's safe ... if there be time ... if there be time!...
Husak, the Fierce ... but he must love his son,
And will be merciful to save him. Ay....
So brave a son. Now I recall his face,
It would have made me pause had not my eyes
Been dim with triumph.
(Enter Sumbat, followed by officers with Khosrove. The
officers fall back, leaving the captive before Semiramis.
He is stripped of all armor, and clothed in a scant tunic
revealing a figure of marked strength and grace. He stands
erect, but with head bowed, and his arms bound to his