Olive Tilford Dargan.

Semiramis, and other plays online

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(Runs off, right)

Nin. Ay, all is ready
Except the queen. What means these simple robes,

Sem. A compliment unto
Your majesty.

Nin. It shows more like affront!
I would have Khosrove see a splendor here
Unpainted in the daring of his dream,
And thou the star of it! A merchant's daughter
Would robe her handmaid with more care - lend her
A pearl or two - a bit of scarf - or scrap
Of tinsel sun -

Sem. My lord -

Nin. A compliment!
'Tis your disdain -

Sem. It grieves me, sir, that you
Should read in outward sign what never yet
Was in my soul. Our wars are done, my lord;
And exultation of the conquering hour
Calms into peace; as I laid armor by
For victor robes and symbol of my glory,
I now cast off the purple of the queen,
And but remember that I am a wife.

Nin. (Embracing her)
Beloved Semiramis! Forgive thy slave!
No royal dye could shine so to my eyes
As this soft white put on for me alone!
Thy pardon, love, and thou shalt shortly learn
A king, too, knows how best to compliment!
An honor waits for thee -

(Enter officer, left)

Off. O king!

Nin. We hear!

Off. The Armenian approaches.

Nin. Khosrove comes?

(Semiramis watches the king closely)

Off. He comes, great Ninus!

Nin. Well, and more than well!
Summon our train. (Exit officer, right) But one is lacking here,
Our brother - Artavan.

Sem. My lord - you think -

Nin. Who would dare harm him? He is safe.

Sem. (Coming very near him) From man,
Not from the gods.

Nin. (Stepping back) What do you mean?

Sem. The truth!

Nin. (Seizing her arm)
It is not so! I do deny it!

Sem. (Calmly) What,
My lord?

Nin. What meant you when you said 'the truth'!

Sem. That gods may work some harm to Artavan.

Nin. (At ease) True, love! Uncertain is their favor. Look!
He comes! (Gazing off left)

Sem. (Aside) He's false! And if he's false in this - then is -
O, Khosrove, thou art lured to death! And I
Have been thy traitorous star!

(Enter Khosrove, left, attended by Armenians)

Nin. Hail, Khosrove! Hail!

Hail to Armenia! Hail!

Khos. O, Ninus, hail!

Hail to Assyria, greatest over kings!

Nin. Thou'rt welcome, and we thank thee for thy trust,
Which we'll betray when Heaven has no god
To damn our treachery! In proof of faith,
Wear thou the royal dagger with thy own.

(Detaches his weapon, which he gives to Khosrove)

Our queen - has she no word?

(Khosrove bows low before Semiramis)

Sem. Peace and long life
To Khosrove.

Nin. Now to revel! Sound the trumpets!

(Exeunt officers through archway. Trumpets sound from the
gardens. Dancing maidens in white robes, each with a dove
resting on her hand, enter right front, reach the centre
of the stage, and begin the dance of doves. As the maidens
describe circles in the dance the doves rise and fly in
similar circles above their heads, and re-alight on their
extended hands)

Sem. (Who has stood aside during the dance, apparently disturbed)
It is not true! Were any man so vile
Nature would spurn him back to chaos ere
His mother had beheld him!

(The dance ends. The maidens pass out under arch. All move
to follow when Ninus speaks)

Nin. Stay! Hear, all!
Before we feast in honor of our guest,
We would do honor to our noble queen,
Whose arms of might have brought our land to peace.
Whose looks of love have brought our heart to rest!
To-night we doff our crown that she may wear it!

(Removing crown)

And here decree her word shall be obeyed
Above our own.

(Puts crown on the queen's head)

Dost like our compliment?

Sem. It is too much, my king.

Nin. (Kneeling) Nay, nay, thy subject!

(Semiramis seems gay with a sudden resolve)

Sem. If it so please thee then I'll be the king!

Nin. (Rising) We have decreed. If any here refuse
To honor thy command, though thou shouldst doom
My death, himself that instant dies. (To officer)
You, sir,
Take order for it, and if your own hand fail,
When we are king again we'll have your head!

Off. My arm be as your will, my lord!

Sem. O, then
I have a wish I did not dare to voice.

Nin. Command it now.

Sem. It hath much troubled me
That Khosrove should be honored over you,
Lord of the Revels.

Khos. (Astonished) Lady -

Sem. King, if 't please you!
I've laid my purple by, but I have still
The royal color in my heart. Think'st thou
To sit above Assyria, who wearest not
The brave investment of the gods? who hold'st
Thy sceptre still from warrior chiefs, not from
Anointed kings?

Khos. Because my race is proud!
Too proud to kneel to any earthly king
And take the sacred vestment from his hands!

Sem. You see, my lord, that even in his heart
He ranks himself above you!

Nin. But, my love -

Khos. Farewell! Thou didst me service once, and here
I thought to thank thee, but -

Nin. Stay, Khosrove, stay!

Khos. Farewell, with all my heart!

Nin. Nay -

Sem. O, my lord.
Let him depart. He mocks our glory, and bears
A challenge in his proud simplicity
That puts our splendor to defense.

Khos. Nay, madam!
I came to lay my duty at your feet,
And lift my eyes no higher than your hand
Without your royal leave! But now I'll cast
My gaze upon the stars, forgetting that
You walk beneath them! (Going)

Nin. Stay, O prince!

(To Semiramis)
A boon, your majesty! 'T would blot our honor
To send him from us thus! We shall be plunged
Anew in wars, for Husak will avenge it!
I am thy most unhappy subject, and
Thou'lt hear my prayer!

(Goes after Khosrove and leads him back)

You'll stay, O Khosrove?

Khos. Ay,
On one condition.

Nin. Name it!

Khos. That you will take
Our seat at feast.

Nin. Nay -

Sem. That is our command!

Nin. No, no!

Sem. We'll have it so!

Nin. I'll not consent!

Sem. It is our royal order! Guards for Ninus!

Nin. What do you mean?

Sem. To have our way! Guards here!
You shall not do this wrong to your high self!
We'll look unto your honor! (To guards) Bear him in!

(Guards stand in amazement)

Did ye not hear the king's decree? I reign!

(Guards take hold of Ninus)

Nin. By Hut and Nim!

Sem. Place him in Khosrove's seat!

(Guards draw Ninus through the archway. Khosrove follows,
then all but Semiramis, who lingers fearfully, runs
toward front, then back and listens)

Sem. 'Tis true! What have I done? Ye gods! 'tis true!
He would not so rebel if 't were not true!
But Vassin is below! He'll know his king
And save him!

(Kneels) Belus, mighty Belus, pardon!

(The sun has set, and red clouds show almost black over
water, rear. The front of stage is nearly dark. Lights
glimmer from the gardens, and a faint torch shows in the
darkness under the bridge. Shouts and shrieks come from
within. People rush out)

Voices. The king! the king!

Sem. (Retreating to railing, front)
'Tis done!

Officer. (Running across) The king has fallen
Into the lake! Lights there! below!
(Runs down steps leading under the bridge)

Other officers following. Lights! lights!

(Torches flare under the bridge. Darkness above as the
last light fades from the sky. A moment of noise and
search, and officers appear on the bridge, right, rear,
with Vassin. A guard bears torch which throws light on his

Sem. (Confronting him)
You've saved the king!

Vas. I have. For I have slain
His foe!

Sem. His foe? No - you have killed the king!

(Falls back into the arms of her women. Complete darkness
on stage. An instant later moonlight. Khosrove and
Semiramis alone on the bridge, centre, front)

Khos. (Bowing ceremoniously)
Farewell, Assyria!

Sem. O, not that name!
Not yet - not yet.

Khos. Does it not please your pride?

Sem. My pride? 'Tis gone. Now I could lay my head
Upon the dust.

Khos. In truth! But you'll not do it!
Humility's a word the great think sweet
Upon the tongue, but near the heart they find
It loseth flavor!

Sem. Ah ... you do not know?
You think the words I spoke were born of pride?
So far from that - no, no - I will not tell,
And yet you wrong me, prince.

Khos. (Eagerly) Did you suspect
Some danger to me here, and seek to force
My angry leave? You did not care so much?

Sem. I cared so much that rather than betray you
I would have let you go believing me
A woman worth your scorn. Ah, there my pride
In truth did suffer!

Khos. O, Semiramis!
Thou art the same as when I saw thee last?
As when I rode away and left thy face -
The only face in Nineveh - nay - I -
Will go. Farewell, most noble queen!

Sem. Farewell!

(He lingers)

Sem. Why go in haste?

Khos. I left my father sick.
He will be troubled till I come again.

Sem. How dared you trust -

Khos. What would I not have dared
To look on thee again?... My horsemen wait....

(Waving toward left)

I come!

Sem. Farewell!... Armenia is my friend?
I'm sad.... The manner of this death.... It weighs
Upon me.

Khos. Let it not. Thou'rt innocent

Sem. O, some may doubt!

Khos. But who wrongs Virtue puts
A crown upon her! If thou hadst foreknown
The accident -

Sem. The accident?

Khos. 'Twas not

Sem. It was ... for you.

Khos. By Ninus?

Sem. Ay.
You were to die.

Khos. Then you - you knew - that he -

(Starts from her in horror)

Sem. What's in thy mind? What thought doth paint thy face
In dreadful silence? Oh! you think that I -

(Looks at him with equal horror. Removes farther from him,
regains composure, and speaks with haughty coldness)

This serves me well! Right well, Armenian!
Yes - yes - I knew - I knew the king would fall.
But knew, too, sir, that Vassin was below,
And, by my precious gods, I did not dream
He would not save his king! While you - my guest -
You would have gone to death!

Khos. Forgive me!

(Semiramis walks farther, not heeding him)

I found a stream that ran from heavenly springs
And in it cast the soot of hell!

Sem. Well served -
Well served, Semiramis!... I was so sad ...
And would not be content to let him go ...
I wanted but a word ... a word to cheer me ...
And now I have it - murderess!

Khos. (Who has advanced to her) No, no,
I did not say it!

Sem. The tongue may well keep silent
When eyes speak lightning. I have heard too much!
'T were better I had let you die!

Khos. Ay, better ...
Better than this!

Sem. Now, now I am Assyria!
No more a woman! Softness to the winds!
And let my heart be as my armor - steel!

Khos. Thou canst not make it so by saying it.
There is no cold or heat may temper hearts
Away from their true nature. Mail thyself
From head to foot, thou'rt still Semiramis!

Sem. A queen!

(An officer enters, left)

Off. Your majesty, an urgent hand
Brings this report.

(Gives paper to her, which she reads)

Sem. The Ghecs are in revolt!
Thank them for me! They could not show me favor
More to my heart!

(Exit officer, left)

I'm sick of peace - this peace
That gives men time to brood and breed foul thoughts
And fouler deeds! Give me the open war whose blows
Rain down as free as moonbeams from the sun!
Who meets me there I know, at least, he's brave,
And there -

Khos. Semiramis!

Sem. (Proudly) Armenia, speak!
You have our leave.

Khos. These Ghecs - my father is
Their ancient, sworn ally!

Sem. Well, sir?

Khos. His oath
Binds him to give them aid.

Sem. The braver then
The battle!

Khos. I am my father's son!

Sem. You mean
We'll meet upon the field!

Khos. I can not take
The field against you!

Sem. No? Why not?

Khos. You know!
Because I love you!

Sem. Sir, I am Assyria!

Khos. Nay, but Menones' daughter! She whose heart
I touched -

Sem. You touched?

Khos. Ere taint of pride or power
Or mad ambition had laid a canker there!
When she was maiden still, and knew no thought
She might not whisper in her father's ear!
Gentle as Spring when hushing the young dove,
But strong from virgin battle, with the flush
Of valorous purpose pure as goddess' dream
Starting the noble war-blood in her cheek!
'Tis she I speak to now - she that I love -
Not the proud queen grown bold in blood and triumph!
Love me, Semiramis! You shall have peace!
Not this sick peace that turns your heart to hate,
But peace that charms the beauty back to life
And new dreams to the soul! O, no more war!
Then lilies springing in thy steps shall say
What fairer grace went by! These fingers shall
Forget the sword whose music is men's groans,
And on sweet strings draw out the heart of love
To give the world the key of melody!
Ah, you shall war no more -

Sem. Sir, you forget!
These Ghecs -

Khos. Will not revolt if I become
Assyria's head! They trust me as their -

Sem. You!
Assyria's head! You! you! O, now I see!
I'm not yet blind, although my heart was fast
Upstealing to my eyes to make me so!

Khos. O clear thy sight a second time, my queen,
And read me true!

Sem. And you had almost moved me!

Khos. Melt, stony eyes -

Sem. The magic's left the earth
That had the power to soften them!

Khos. Not so -

Sem. You'd keep me still the general's humble daughter
While you would wear the glory I have won!

Khos. Nay, by Mylitta's fire! -

Sem. We'd war no more.
For who has all may well hang by the sword!

Khos. By Heaven, I -

Sem. O, you are man as _he_ was!

(Looks toward the garden shuddering)

I'll trust no more! Who's worthy trust will give it!
So saidst thou once! But thou couldst doubt - so dark
A doubt my soul -

Khos. Nay, that's not my offense!
You are a woman, and you must forgive!
But you are queen, too, and the queen in you
Guards her ambition from my honest love
Lest it divide her glory!

Sem. True, she guards it!
Out of Assyrian stone I'll make a heart
And wear it in my bosom!

Khos. Do not say it!
I did not mean the words! They are not so!
Thou dost not know thyself! Hard are the lips
That never know a kiss, and thine were made
With softness of the rose! Though all the streams
Of power on earth poured to thy sovereign sea,
Still wouldst thou want, and empty be the heart
One drop of love would fill!

Sem. You speak
As to a woman!

Khos. Ay, for so thou art!
Be now thyself! Thy peace alone I plead!
I can bear all but thy unhappiness!
For love - true love - forgets itself and makes
But one prayer unto Heaven - prayer for the good
Of the beloved!

Sem. Thou wouldst not share my throne?

Khos. Thy throne?

Sem. Ay, so I said.

Khos. I care not for it,
But since 'tis thine, I could not be a man
Worthy thyself and take a place beneath thee.
I'd be thy husband, and I know thou'rt not
A woman to look down and love!

Sem. O theft
In argument! To make my monarch soul
Speak from thy mouth against me!

Khos. Not against thee!
To beg thee yield to love is but to plead
Thy greater cause! Ah, days will come to thee
When all the maiden in thy heart will rise
And drown the queen's! Thou canst not call me back!
To-morrow is the battle! O, I lied
To say thou wert ambitious and ungentle -

Sem. No, thou didst not! 'Tis true! I am -

Khos. No, no!
I'll prove it is not so! See here - the dove -
That nestles at your breast! Why is it here?

Sem. Because I was a woman once - and dreamed
On foolish, woman things! (Frees bird from her bosom)
Fly! fly!
And as I pluck thee out I pluck away
All thought of mortal love, and stand alone
Beneath Assyria's crown!

Khos. (Gazes at her in despair) Then I'll be gone!

Sem. You've pleaded well, but my domains are broad,
And might give tongue to wilder eloquence
Without love's sweet excuse!

Khos. No more! I go!

(Moves off, left. Near exit, turns)

I lead my father's troops!

Sem. I lead my own!

(Exit Khosrove. She looks after him without moving until
he passes out of sight. The moonlight is less bright. Her
dove flies over her head. She starts and looks after it.
The bird alights. She watches it eagerly and waits. It
circles about her, then darts to her bosom. With an
exultant moan she clasps it to her breast)



Scene: Within Husak's tent. Husak, Khosrove, Armenian lords and

Husak. Bring in the widow!

(Exeunt officers)

Now, my son, thou'lt see
Assyria at thy feet. Ay, she who scorned
To match her crown with thine, shall low as earth
Cry up for favor!

Khos. Sir, I would not see it!

Hus. Still in that humor? Well, I promise thee
She shall have mercy.

Khos. Mercy, father?

Hus. Ay.

Khos. What wilt thou grant?

Hus. Ask of thy heart,

(Khosrove is about to speak) Peace, boy!
For once we'll be a father, not a soldier! Wait!

(Khosrove kneels and kisses his father's hand as Semiramis
enters between guards. She is robed and crowned, her arms
fettered with golden chains, and holds herself proudly,
not looking at Husak. She turns to Khosrove, who watches
her eagerly)

Sem. We meet again. Wert thou upon the field?
I saw thee not. Perchance thy father thought
'T were wise to find his health and lead his troops
Lest _Love_ should blunt thy sword!

Hus. By Bel, his sword
Was sharp enough to find the heart of Sumbat, -
Your general!

Sem. Sumbat slain! (Turns to Khosrove)
and slain by you!

Khos. I had my choice - to slay him or to die.

Sem. (With bitter scorn)
And did the love that makes one prayer to Heaven
Rule in that choice?

Hus. These taunts, Semiramis -

Khos. Nay, father, she has cause to use me so.

Sem. Oh, you confess you played with me! Then, heart,
In with thy scorn for this outbraves thy own!

(Turns away, folding her chained hands on her breast, and
stands as if she would speak no more)

Hus. You make no suit for mercy?

Sem. (Turning to him) What! from thee?
Who kill your captives ere your tent is struck,
Nor spare a guard to drive them from the field?

Hus. I grant what I would ask - death before serfdom!
You'd keep them for your dogs and slaves!

Sem. And when
Am I to die? Why breach thy custom now?

Hus. We like your spirit, but push not so far,
Or we shall break the bounds we've set ourselves.

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Online LibraryOlive Tilford DarganSemiramis, and other plays → online text (page 4 of 17)