Olive Tilford Dargan.

Semiramis, and other plays online

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Is France in this the friend or enemy
To Prussia? There's not an inch of middle ground
To stand on. If our foe, then pour your strength
To Mexico. If friend, keep it at home,
Ready for Prussia's need.

Lou. To be your friend
May cost some blood to France.

Prus. I've heard it said
The left bank of the Rhine is a fair country,
And worth a little blood.

Lou. Enough, my lord.
Let Prussia know she has a friend in France,
And with your sanction cover our retreat
From Mexico.

(Enter Chamberlain)

Chamb. Pardon, your majesty.
The Empress of Mexico begs audience.

Lou. Carlotta? No!

Chamb. She presses urgently
To enter.

Lou. Here?... We sent our word to her
At Miramar!... And yet - she comes - she's here.
... Admit the deputation, and summon, too,
Our Empress.

Chamb. The Empress comes. (Enter Eugenie attended.
Exit Chamberlain. Enter guards)

Eug. I hear the ministers
Have come to us with state congratulations,
And though unbidden, I'll not leave my chair -
The co-seat of imperial dignity -
Vacant at such a time.

Lou. Welcome, Eugenie.
We were about to summon you.

Eug. Thanks even
For tardy courtesy.

Lou. But we have more
Than compliments to hear. Carlotta waits
Our audience.

Eug. Carlotta! I can not see her! (Rises)

Lou. Nay, it was you first cast ambitious eye
To Mexico. Now see the end.

Eug. My lord -

Lou. Be seated, madam.

Eug. You command me, sir?

Lou. We do.

Eug. (Going) Come, ladies!

Lou. (To guards) Let no one pass out!

Eug. France, sir, shall know this outrage!

Lou. When you wish
To make it known.

(Enter ambassadors, Austrian, Russian, Italian,
Belgian, and others)

Rus. Most glorious Majesty!

Belg. Mighty France!

It. Italy's savior!

Aus. Christendom's king!

Lou. I thank you, my good lords; but we're too sad
To smile at compliments; Carlotta comes
To beg our power to uphold her throne,
Though Heaven has decreed her empire's fall.
We ask you hear our open clear defence,
And help set forth our duty, that the Empress
May see our wisdom through our tears.

It. We'll lend
Your Majesty what voice we can.

Lou. I thank you.
(Aside to Austrian)
My lord, a word. The Prussian talons creep
Toward Austria. France is your friend.

Aus. O, sire!

Lou. If you would have her strong pray that no sword
Of hers be lost in Mexico.

Aus. I will,
My lord.

(Enter Carlotta, attended by Count Charles, Count
de Bombelles, her priest, and women. She goes to Louis
and would kneel. He takes her hand)

Lou. An Empress must not kneel.

Car. I'm still
An Empress, sir?

Lou. Once to have worn a crown
Is always to be queen.

Car. Sire, mock me not.
Didst mean no more than that?

Lou. Lady, you come
To beg your empire?

Car. I do not beg, Napoleon.
I come to ask you keep your sacred oath,
But do not make a beggar of me, sir,
Who was a princess in my cradle.

Lou. Nay,
Royal Carlotta, if beggar here must be,
See one in us who sue your gentle patience.
While strength was ours to give we gave it you,
But now is France grown needy of her troops,
With Europe surging to a conflict round her.

Car. My lord -

Lou. America turns baying on us.
Should we make war on one who twice o'ercame
Our island neighbors when she was but child
To what she now is grown?

Prus. Your majesty,
'T would be a folly for a clown, not king.

Car. America? Easier to stop her now
Than it will be when she wears Mexico
Like sword at her right side. Austria, Prussia,
Strike you no more at neighbor throats, but come
And win a fight for God. Napoleon, come!
There lies a world that's worth the price of war.
Whose swelling breasts pour milk of paradise,
Whose marble mountains wait the carver's hand,
Whose valley arms ne'er tire with Ceres' load,
Whose crownless head awaits the diadem
That but divine, ancestral dignity
May fix imperishably upon it! A bride
For blessed Rome! And will you give her up
To ravishers? To enemies of the Church?
To unclean hands ne'er dipped in holy chrism?

Aus. The time's not ripe for our united swords
To ransom her.

Car. The time is always ripe
For a good deed. Napoleon, you will come!
And though you fail, failure will be majestic.
Withdraw like frightened schoolboy and you make
Your throne a penance stool whereon you sit
For laughter of the nations. But come, and though
You fail, when time has brought America
To her full, greedy strength, these scornful kings
Will then unite in desperate endeavor
To give your great conception form and face,
And at your tomb they'll lift their shaken crowns
And beg a pardon from your heart of dust!

Prus. (Aside) He'll yield to her!... Most noble lady, we -

Car. I speak, sir, to Napoleon.

Lou. What help
Can Austria give?

Aus. Sire, she has many troubles.
The clouds of war threat her with scarlet flood,
And little strength has she to spare abroad
When foes besiege at home.

Car. And Austria's chief
Is Maximilian's brother! It was not so
That day at Miramar when three proud crowns
Took oath to serve him in an hour like this.
Austria powerless! And Belgium - dead.
But France - Ah, France, she will prove noble, loyal
To God and honor!

Lou. My honor, dearest lady,
Permits me not to risk my country's life
That you may wear a crown in Mexico.
I can not save your empire.

Car. Then let it fall,
But save - my husband's life!

(Astonishment and silence)

Lou. You speak but madly.
America has sent us guaranties
She will demand that Maximilian
Be held but as a prisoner of war.
The Mexicans dare not proceed against him
Contrary to the mighty government
That is sole friend unto their scarce born state.

Car. America demands with paper words
That can be torn and laughed at. Would she save him?
Let her demand his life with cannon turned
Upon his murderers. Then, sire, I'll trust
To their obedience. Till then I'll plead
With you. All hope is here.

Lou. Not so, dear lady.
Italy, Austria, and your Belgium,
Have sent their ablest counsel to defend him.

Car. Troops, troops, my lord, not wordy men of law,
Are his sole need. Should God send angels there
He'd choose but those who bear the flaming sword.
... Here, here, my lords! Look here! His guaranties,
In his own hand set down! Here he vows faith
To Maximilian - and to Heaven! Hear!
'I, Louis Napoleon, take solemn oath
Upon the honor of a man and king - '
Shall I go on, my lord? Have you forgot?
Then let my tongue be as a burning pen
To write it new upon your heart!

Lou. No! no!
In God's name, no!

Aus. Dear lady, this is torture.

Car. Torture for you? - for him? Then what is it
For me, my lord?

Prus. Wouldst have his majesty
False to his country to be true to you?

Aus. The oath he took was, by the courtesy
Of nations, subject to the change that time
Visits on countries as on men.

Car. You'd win
His sword from me that you may use it! Sirs,
He plays you 'gainst each other as the eagle
Sets ospreys in contention over prey
That he may filch the prize!

Lou. Carlotta!

Car. Be warned!
He'll know no ease till in your capitals
He has re-crowned the great Napoleon!

Lou. Nay -

Car. Stop me not! Here you shall stand as bare
To these men's eyes as you do to my own!

Lou. My lords, you will not let her troubled mind
Weaken your trust in me?

Prus. Your majesty,
We know you noble.

Car. Noble! Napoleon,
This wondrous city is aflame with joy,
The blazing fires now dart aloft and write
In golden light your name upon the skies,
But in your heart will burn a torch of hell
Unquenchable, if you deny me aid!

Lou. Dear madam, pray believe that I am helpless.

Car. You are as strong as France, Eugenie, help me!
If e'er you held a dear head on your breast -
You have! - for you've both son and husband! Ah,
I have no child. My lord is all to me.
O put your two in one and you will know
What now I plead for! By the kisses dropped
Upon your baby's cheek, and by the hope
That you will see him grow up at your side,
Another self with heart-strings round your own,
I pray you, lady, soften that stone heart!
I kneel to you, an empress though my crown
Has fallen, as yours I pray will not,
And at your footstool beg my husband's life!

(Eugenie rises)

By your child's love, I beg you for one word!
Help me, Eugenie, or the day will come
When you will know a crown is but a band
Of metal cold, and one warm kiss more dear
Than all such circling glory! When you will grow
Mad with the longing but to touch the hand
Now lies in yours as it would never part,
Strain for the face whose beauty fed you once
Until your madness builds it out of air
To gaze with sweet unhuman pity on you
Yet come not near for kisses! O, even now
I look through sealed up time unto a night
When sleep will fly from your woe-drownéd eyes,
And you will cry to Heaven for blessed death
To lead you from the midnight desolation!
Eugenie, save thyself! For thy own sake
Show pity unto me, and in that hour
Receive the mercy that thou now dost give!

Eug. (Going) Help me! I'm ill! (Her women assist her out)

Car. Gone! Gone? And yet a woman!
Ah, there's a God will suffer not this wrong!
... Napoleon -

Lou. Nay, madam, we've said all.
I can not cast my country into war.
You but fatigue yourself.

Car. O Heaven! Fatigue!
Canst think of that when Maximilian
Is facing bayonets for honor's sake?

Lou. Believe me, he is safe!

Car. I tell you no!
To-day the guns from Mont Valerien
Pealed out your glory! Your arm was in the arm
Of Prussia's monarch, and Waterloo forgot!
You laughed with Austria's chief, as though the duke
Of Reichstadt were not dead! The bloody snows
Of Moscow melt in Alexander's smile!
Edward's in France, St. Helena's a myth!
And all the world is trooping here to feed
Your monstrous vanity! But let the morn
Bring news of Maximilian's death,
These kings will shudder from you as from plague,
The conscious earth refuse your feet a base
For shame to bear you! Then will begin your fall.
Down, down you'll creep to an unpitied death,
And winds that shriek around your exile bed
Will cry me prophetess!

Lou. (After a silence) Your audience
Is over. Pray go and rest. You need much sleep.

Car. A woman sleeps not till her heart is safe.
My eyes shall not be closed till I've your answer.

Lou. You have it, lady, and we beg you leave us.

Car. Leave! leave! O sir, it is a lie I hear! (Falls at his feet)
You did not say it! See! I kiss your feet! O sir -

Lou. (Withdrawing) You put us to discourtesy.
Since you will not withdraw, we leave you.

Car. (Leaping up) Coward!
Then, Louis Napoleon, Emperor of France!
Thou art a murderer, and I have kissed
The devil's hoof! (Exit Napoleon)

(Carlotta stands dazed, looking after Napoleon. Puts her
hand over her eyes. Count Charles goes to her)

Char. Dear madam, come with me. (She looks about bewildered)

One of her women. Your majesty,
We pray you come.

Car. (Strangely) Yes - yes - I'll go. Away!

(Exit with her attendants)

Aus. A gloomy business, truly.

Prus. 'T has wrought upon me.

(Re-enter Napoleon)

Lou. My lords, believe me grateful for your help
In this most wretched business.

(Enter Secretary)

Sec. A dispatch, sire, from Mexico.

Lou. We'll hear it.
All here should share this news with me.

Sec. 'Tis short,
Your majesty.

Lou. The sooner read. We wait.

Sec. (Reads) 'By order of Juarez, the Austrian duke, Ferdinand
Maximilian, has been shot.'

(Silence. Napoleon groans)

It. It can't be true!

Bel. 'Tis false! I'll not believe it!

Prus. Grieve not, your Majesty. This is a mock
Dispatch.

Aus. A noble archduke! Bound by ties
Of blood and love to every court of Europe!
Believe this not, my lord!

Sec. Your Majesty,
This second message from America
Confirms the other.

Lou. 'Tis true! My God, 'tis true!

It. Carlotta! Who will tell her?

Lou. None shall do it!
She must not know.

Rus. Pardon me, sire, she must.

Lou. Then his death bullet has not stopped its flight.
'T will end but in her heart.

(Re-enter Count Charles. Napoleon silently gives him the
despatch, which he reads with great agitation)

Char. (To himself) O terrible! And yet
No news to me - to me.

Lou. You'll tell her, sir?

Char. There is no need, my lord. Her reason's fled.
She's mad.

Bel. 'Tis Heaven's mercy!

It. Unhappy woman!

Char. She is not wild, but gentle, and thinks, my lord,
You've granted her request.

Lou. Noble Carlotta!
My lords, forbear awhile. I'd be alone.

It. God grant you rest.

(All go out but Napoleon)

Lou. These kings I've called here to a dance must lead
A funeral. What can I say to them?
To Austria - his brother! England - his own cousin!
To Belgium - _her_ brother! Spain - O, all
The _world_, that loved him!... An Emperor - and shot.

(Musical procession passes in street. Shouts of
'Vive l'empereur! Vive l'empereur!')

He too heard shouts like those - saw fires ascend
To write his triumph - ay - and he is cold -
Quite cold - shot dead.... Carlotta! prophetess!
I feel - I know - thy oracle's from God!

(Falls at the foot of the imperial chair)

(CURTAIN)


Scene II: Miramar. A balcony overlooking the sea. Lady Maria
alone.

Mar. Here they went out together - arm in arm, -
Sweet, healing spirits to a bleeding land.
Down yonder terrace to the sea they passed, -
He unto death, and she - to - (Sighs deeply)

Car. (Without) Cousin!

Mar. Ah!

(Turns smiling to greet Carlotta who enters carrying
flowers)

So early out? What treasures have you there?

Car. The sweetest flowers that ever peeped up head.
They grow along the path in that dear wood
Where Maximilian took me gypsying
When we grew weary of the world.

Mar. I'm sure
That was not often.

Car. True. We loved too well
Our work among the people to hide ourselves
In little corners of delight. But oh, those times!
How he would catch me as I ran and say
His little wild-girl with her flower crown
Was dearer than his princess ermine-gowned.
And so I'll wreathe these buds into my hair,
And meet him as he loved me best.

(Goes to edge of the balcony and looks to sea)

To-day!
This blessed, beauteous day our eyes shall see him!

(Drops flowers in trance of happiness)

Mar. Sweet Empress -

Car. Empress? No! To-day I am
His little wild-girl with her wreath of flowers.
O, I must make my crown! Now, now, how careless!

(Picks up flowers, sits and weaves them)

You see this flower?

Mar. 'Tis very beautiful.
What is it?

Car. I've seen it only in our wood.
Maximilian says it grows but for my hair. (Sings)

In a young, sweet hour of Spring
I sat 'neath an old tree to sing
Of love, only love!
The little brook took up my tune
And to his soft green banks did croon,
The green grass rippled to the tree
And every leaf shook melody
Of love, only love!
And then the birds that flitted by
Told it the clouds that told the sky,
And all the world to song did start
With what I sang but to my heart!
Ay, all the world sang back to me
A little maiden 'neath a tree
Of love, only love!

(Puts down flowers and goes to Lady Maria)

Ah, cousin, do you think he'll be delayed?

Mar. Dear madam, I fear me so.

Car. These ships! these ships!
How slow their wings when they do bear our loved ones!
The wandering treasures of our empty arms!
The western waters must have sirens too,
And will not let him pass.

Mar. Indeed they would not,
Did they but know what majesty is in him.

Car. (Embracing her)
O help me love him, dear. My heart's too small.

(Enter Count Charles)

Char. A message.

Car. Oh! a message! I do not want
A message.

Char. The admiral of the port has word
The Emperor's ship's delayed.

Car. Why, we'll not weep....
'Tis but a day.... (Goes forward, looking out)
To-morrow, then - to-morrow!
(To Lady Maria) Why do you weep? A day's not worth a tear.
See, I can smile!... But my poor flowers will fade.
I plucked them all.... No more grow by the path....
(Suddenly) Cousin, why wear you black?

Mar. (Confused) I - madam - I -

Car. Such sable hues for this so rosy day?
Go dress your body like our happy hearts!
Dost think a coffin comes across the sea?
A coffin - (Shudders) Go! I can not bear this black!

(Exit Lady Maria)

I am displeased. Have I not reason, Charles?
'Twas very wrong of her to dress in black
When Maximilian comes. I will go in.
I'm tired - but I am very happy. Ah! (Exit)

Char. O wounded heart! Thus every day she hopes,
And every day begins her hope anew.
It is my penance now to watch her sorrow,
To guard perfection's wreck in her sad body,
And hear the name of Maximilian fall
Each moment from her lips. O, God, remember
When once I am in hell, I've suffered here!

(Re-enter Carlotta)

Car. I can not stay away. This is my place.
Here will I catch the first light on his sail.
O Charles, dear Charles, to-morrow we shall see him!
Look in his noble eyes, - ah me, what eyes!
Dost not remember? Talk of him, cousin.
It brings him faster to me. My heart! my heart!
This waiting breaks it though 'tis but a day!
An hour that keeps him from me lengthens like
The drawn out ages 'tween the ends of time!
But oh, to-morrow! Let me think of that!
Then will the small globe of mine eye contain
The wide and complete world of my desires!
... Have you forgot Aseffa? You do not speak;
But you have not forgot. She said - Oh, cruel! -
That he, my Maximilian, should lie cold
While yet my arms were warm and reaching for him.
How could she say it? But you stood by him - you -
His faithful friend. You knew 't would ne'er be true!
... Do you remember, Charles, the winter day
He climbed to Valtelina's ice-bound huts
To bear the starving people food?

Char. Yes - yes!
'Tis my sole virtue to remember his!

Car. And when the flooding Ambro left her banks,
Rolling a very sea o'er farm and town,
Who was the first to ride the dangerous waves,
A rescuing angel saving man and child?

Char. 'Twas Maximilian!

Car. Yes, our Maximilian.
I feared the Mexicans would take his life.
Was not that foolish, cousin? I should have known
God could not spare him from His world. Hast heard
The men of Licio tell how he was first
To bring them aid when all their silkworms died
And silence struck the looms that gave them food?
This man will say 'I have a son alive
Because of Maximilian!' And that will say
'I have a daughter now to tend my age,


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Online LibraryOlive Tilford DarganSemiramis, and other plays → online text (page 11 of 17)