Olive Tilford Dargan.

Semiramis, and other plays online

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Ere our star shines above all factious spite.
Stood I alone I should not hesitate,
But here is one more dear than my own life,
Whom I must cherish more than my own life,
Within whose heart I must find out my answer;
And God be thanked her wisdom beams so true
Above the hesitations of my mind
That I can love her yea or nay as 't were
By Heaven spoke!

Est. Then to your mercy, princess,
We now commit our hope.

Car. Most worthy lords,
I am so proud that I would wear a crown,
So pitying I would weep my heart away
For your sad country, and so vain I think
The lord that married me might lead you from
Rebellion's night to civil-kissing hours;
But yet a woman bonded unto love,
Not my own mistress. The life bound up with mine
Is dearer than the peace of any state,
And looking deep into your country's heart
I read some cruel marks of history
That teach me fear for any precious thing
Consigned unto its love.

Est. If ever souls
Lay bare to human eyes, read now in ours
The loyalty which you will find in every subject!

Ruiz. Be merciful! Earth aches through her rock-ribs
With our old woes, and it is you may heal them!

Ber. Pity will teach thee soon to love our land!

Car. My lords, already I love Mexico,
And would forego the peace of Miramar, -
All happy days that from the future lean
To meet my smiles, as trifles whose light thought
Shames this great hour; but when in dream I see
My lord beset by foes in foreign land,
The help he needs beyond a three-months' sea,
My princess pride flags to a peasant fear
For one dear life!

Est. Wrong not yourself, your lord,
And Mexico, O gentlest lady -

Car. Nay -

Est. Say yea, and our expectant land will feel
The thrill of that affirmative across
The glad Atlantic! Yea - and France, whose name
Is in our hearts as God's, will bless thy tongue!
Say yea, and noble England, watchful Spain,
Who with great France began the holy work
Of blessed liberation will applaud
With happy echoes to the guardian skies!
Say yea, and the white spirit of the Church
Will take 'neath her soft wings our blood-drenched land,
That waits but for that word to hail thy lord
Regenerator, king!

Car. My lords, my lords,
We are but human! Mayhap we will not keep
The love that we have won!

Senor Hur. Fear not, O princess!
Behind your throne, with unretreating sword,
Will stand the first great power of all the world!
Thus speak I for the emperor of France!

Princess Metternich. (Advancing)
I for the empress! Eugenie bade me speak
Her heart out here, and hail thee sister empress!
To ask when your young empire blooms above
The lily of old France, and lures the East
To pour her golden heart into your port,
And ocean blossoms with your argosies,
You'll still remember that she loved you when
You were but princess and no farther ruled
Then stretch the gardens of small Miramar!

Car. O generous Eugenie! But the fear -

Abbot of Lacroma.
To speak of fear in this is to doubt God!
He does not bless in vain a noble prince
With such rare qualities as crown the mind
Of Maximilian! 'Tis for some purpose rare
He rounds such excellence with highest birth
And puts a sword of power in his hand!
From over seas unto your very feet
A nation comes to choose from all the world
One made by Heaven to be its sovereign lord,
Cool hearts of passion in his amity,
Make bitter eyes forget their ancient hate,
And proudest knees bow with old enemies
In worship of his star beneficent!
There pale and crushéd Peace
Shall take the color of the living rose,
Hearing the voice of his protecting love
That comes to lift her beauty from the dust
And on that ground volcanic nobly build
Her temple indestructible!
There shall his kingly mind find outward means
To write sublimity upon the world,
And like old Egypt speak in pyramids
To nations unbegot in dream of Time!
And can you shock the hour with hesitation?
Ask all the waiting world, - ay, even God,
To pause and count the heart-beats of a woman?

Car. (Devoutly, with uplifted hands and eyes)
Forgive me, Heaven, that I doubted thee!

(Takes Maximilian's hands, turns with great dignity to the
deputies, and speaks solemnly)

Senors, we'll wear the crown of Mexico.

(Silence. The abbot of Lacroma advances; Carlotta and
Maximilian drop to their knees as he extends his arms
above them in blessing)


Scene II: A camp in the mountains of Mexico. Night. Aseffa
preparing food by a fire. She goes aside, listens, and returns.

Asef. O Mexico, thou traitress unto love,
Wilt trample every heart that's true to thee?

(Listens. Enter Miguel and Lerdo, very ragged and gaunt)
Miguel! Lerdo! Rafael not come? Where did you leave him?

Lerdo. Nowhere, Senora.

Asef. Oh!

Mig. Don't flutter, little bird. We mean that he left us. He
set off as fresh as the morning to make the circuit of
another mountain while we could barely creep up to camp.

Asef. You are hungry! I'll give you Rafael's supper!

Ler. Hungry? No! I've had two biscuits since yesterday, and
sixty miles isn't far to go on that.

Mig. And as much good air and water as a soldier need want!

Asef. Here! Take it. 'Tis good. Indeed it is!

Mig. Smoking meat! Ha! Who brought it? Has the Holy Virgin been
in camp?

Asef. No, but I've been down to the valley.

Ler. You?

Asef. Yes, - and I've a little gold left, too!

(Showing purse)

Mig. You paid five pesos for that dish!

Asef. A good guesser would double the price.

Mig. And for Rafael's supper! No, I can go two more days yet.
(Puts food aside)

Asef. But you shall not. Come, eat! I'll feed you then, and you
don't want Juarez' soldiers to be turned into babies, do
you?

Mig. I'll yield! In fact, there's an orator within that speaks
with a most convincing pinch. (They eat)

Asef. (Watching) Poor fellows! They'll not leave him a mouthful!

Ler. Where is the general?

Asef. (Pointing up the hill) Asleep. Have you news?

Ler. None to bring good dreams. Let him sleep.

Mig. Lord, a meal a day like this and I could drive the whole
French army into the sea! (Rising) Now if these rags could
be turned back to their first fortunes, I'd be Don Miguel
de Tejada again! You wouldn't think that these tags and
tatters had waltzed with the president's niece at the
capital, would you now?

Asef. You must let me mend your clothes as I do Rafael's.

Mig. Faith, Senora, you would have to begin too many months
back. No, I'll hang out my banners as a knight of liberty
should, and be Don Miguel de Tejada still. Asleep, my
Lerdo? A good example, too. (Lies down) Good-night, Senora
the Blessed!

Asef. Good-night, Don Miguel de Tejada! (The soldiers sleep. She
waits and listens. Runs aside and looks down the valley)

Asef. Rafael! (Steps approach. Enter Rafael)

Raf. (Embracing her) Here's Heaven for the weary!

Asef. So tired? And I have nothing for you! (Looks toward
soldiers) They were so hungry.

Raf. They're welcome to it. (Kissing her) Here is my
banquet, - my feast of beauty and my wine of love!

(Staggers to a rock and sits feebly)

Asef. Oh! You've been so far! - too far!

Raf. We rode all day, but made no terms for food. The people
are afraid. Whoever gives us bread forfeits his life and
home.

Asef. I bought some meat of a poor woman to-day. She needed the
money.

Raf. And if the Imperials find her out they'll murder her and
set her hut in flames!

Asef. Oh! What shall we do?

Raf. We are an army. We'll do as armies do. Take food where we
can find it.

Asef. O, Rafael!

Raf. Yes, love, we'll play the robber to fill the mouth of
Liberty, - she's fed too long on thistles.

Asef. She's a stern mistress, Rafael.

Raf. But sweeter, love,
Her harshest frown that summer smiles of kings!
O, I reproach her not, even when I see
My dearest friends lie dying in her name!
A bed of stones is soft enough for me
If she but rock to sleep, - a crust to-day,
To-morrow none, and at her board I'm fed.
But when I look on you, my traitor blood
Flies from her service. Oh, to see these hands
That plucked no beauty ruder than the rose,
So meanly laboring in the basest needs!
Your gentle body resting on cold earth,
Glad of a blanket 'tween you and the sod,
While in your bed the foreign robber sleeps!
This shakes my loyalty till I could hate
The fair, unspotted cause my sword is drawn in!

Asef. Stop, Rafael! O thank God these hands have known
That blessed of all fortunes, - to toil for love!
These eyes that sought for but a face more fair,
A flower more sweet, have found the stars that rise
Where Truth and Courage wander in the night!
In southern vales maybe we'll hear again
The morning birds sing at our bowered windows,
But we will not forget the nobler song
Now borne by winds about these mountain peaks, -
The song of man made free!

Raf. We'll not forget.
But will that sweet day come? Tell me, Aseffa,
You who are half a sibyl, - shall we go down
That valley to our home?

Asef. 'Tis not to gain
Our father's halls, and sit 'neath fig and vine,
We hide and starve and stagger in these hills,
But to keep noble the last hour of life,
That Death who gathers it may read thereon
The seal immortal of approving God.

Raf. Yes - dear Aseffa - but - (Faints)

Asef. Rafael! Rafael!
Ah dying! O my prating virtue's gone!
I care for naught but that my love shall live!
O, Liberty, wilt spare me this one life?
... Ho! Miguel! Up!

Mig. Hey! What! Senora!... Ah!

Lerdo. What's here?

Asef. There's wine in the general's tent! Rafael!
My love, my love, look up!... O Mexico,
With all thy veins of gold thou art not worth
One dear drop of his blood!

(Enter General Trevino)

Trev. What's this new grief?
Not Rafael!... He faints. 'Tis hunger ... hunger.
Miguel! Lerdo! Bear him to my tent.
Give him what food you find there. First the wine!

(Soldiers go out with Rafael. Aseffa follows. As she
passes the general she drops to her knees and kisses his
hands)

Trev. (Alone) Starvation now or plunder. We'll quarter where
We can.... A horseman! If 'tis Ignacio
We shall have news.

(Enter Ignacio, from riding)

Ig. Who's here?

Trev. Ignacio?

Ig. (Saluting) Your pardon, sir!

Trev. You're from the capital?

Ig. Three days ago I left the city. I've slept
On horseback since.

Trev. Your news!

Ig. We fight an empire.
The Austrian is crowned.

Trev. Impossible!
Where are our people? Salas? and LeVal?

Ig. They shouted at his welcome. At Vera Cruz
Began the unholy pageantry, that showed
As Christ had come again and all men knew him!
Each province drained its beauty by the way;
The mules that drew him caught the vanity
And picked their steps on flowers.

Trev. Tell me no more.
O Gratitude, thou hast no home on earth!
Twelve months did Juarez rule, and in twelve months
Did what no man can do but God is with him!
He healed contention's wounds, set up new schools,
Released the land from priestcraft's ancient grip,
Rebuilt our credit, destroyed by Miramon,
The robber president, who bonded the land
To France, then set the sword of Europe 'gainst us
Because we could not pay the unjust debt
From treasuries that his own hands had emptied.
O, 'twas a crime too big for Heaven's eye,
And so God let it pass! France could not know -
But our own people knew - how Juarez toiled
To shape the nation to his noble thought!

Ig. Yes - yes - they knew!

Trev. We'll break our swords, my boy.
We have no country.

Ig. Is my uncle yet
In Texas?

Trev. Ay, and we will go to him.
... Ungrateful ground that casts all goodness from it,
And sucks a gilded poison!

(Enter Rafael, Aseffa, Miguel, Lerdo, and others of the
camp)

Raf. (To Trevino) Sir, you will miss
Your breakfast, but I pledge my sword you'll have
To-morrow's supper!... Ignacio!

Ig. You here,
My Rafael! (They embrace) Aseffa too!

Asef. Dear friend!
(They greet affectionately)

Raf. And Maximilian is crowned?

Ig. Yes ... crowned.

Raf. You saw him?

Ig. In the cathedral, with the empress.

Asef. The empress?

Raf. What looks he like? This Austrian duke
That with a stolen crown mocks majesty!

Ig. He looks like majesty, and yet is graced
With Nature's gentlest stamp; his countenance
Takes beauty from his smile; his smile, one thinks,
Takes sweetness from a heart that has its own
Nobility from heaven.

Trev. An enemy
Well praised!

Asef. The empress? She bewitched you too?

(Ignacio is silent)

Come, sir! The truth of her!

Ig. The truth? Go ask
The angels. They've tongues for such sweet purpose.

Trev. What!
Ignacio turned squire o' the empire?

Ig. No.
But I can read a holy woman's face,
Though she by some strange counterfeit of truth
Would put an empress' foot upon our necks.

Asef. What is she like?

Ig. Like nothing but herself.
She is not gentle, for gentleness is but
Rude servant to that quality in her;
Gracious she's not, for grace herself doth serve
A poor handmaiden to her excellence;
Nor beautiful, for Beauty asks her name
To wear but that and know her own no more.

(In the silence that follows a rider rushes up and dismounts)

Messenger.
Where is the general, Trevino?

Trev. Here.

Mess. Juarez approaches. (Saluting)

Trev. Juarez! Call up the camp!
Light all the beacons! Juarez! Build up the fires!

Shouts. Juarez! Juarez! Hurrah! El presidente!

Trev. We'll let him know the hearts he left i' the hills
Still beat with loyal blood!

Shouts. Juarez! Juarez!
(Enter Juarez. Silence)

Jua. Trevino!

Trev. Your Excellency! (They embrace)
You've heard?

Jua. I know.
Now monarchy has spread her gilded sails,
And from the East comes like another sun
To blind our eyes with wonder of a crown
While shackling us by hand and foot to earth.
But from these mountains will arise a queen,
The figure grey of ancient Liberty,
Mourning and wronged, but with the unpaling star
Of God's own favor set upon her brow:
These two shall meet - and that mock sun go down!

Trev. You still have hope when Mexico deserts us?

Jua. Dost read your country in the smile she shows
Her conqueror? She has a heart beneath!
Ay, sir, did she not prove it at Puebla?
Where dead fell on the dead with gun in hand
Still pointed to the French! Where, hope once lost,
And the enemy pouring through the shattered gates,
Our men blew up their city and themselves
To keep their souls free from Napoleon!
These men have brothers left, and sons,
And _they are Mexico_!

Soldiers. El presidente!
Liberty and Juarez!

A soldier. (Waving his sword) We'll be revenged,
Or spill more blood than hell can drink!

Soldiers.
Down with the empire! Death to Maximilian!

Jua. No, not revenge, - but justice. That's enough.
We've but to wait - and strike. Yon mists now spread
Their fair illusion o'er the eternal mountains
'Till 't seems they are the world, and the great hills
Are naught. But by to-morrow's noon-sun see
Their fortunes faded as a dream of night,
While the rock peak looks up as if to say
From the foundation of the world I am!
So will this glamour o'er our godly cause
Pass as a breath, while all the world shall read
Our right and title to unbonded life
In our free bosoms founded and God-set!

A soldier.
We'll die for freedom!

Jua. Die? That's the one thing
We can not do. We may lie down in graves,
But from our living dust will spring new challenge
To make in noble minds continual war
Until our race be righted!

Trev. Many fly
From our misfortunes. Amaldo and LeVal -

Jua. Call 't not misfortune that teaches us our friends.
Now are we sifted and the chaff is known!
... LeVal! ... But Diaz is true?

Trev. On yonder mountain
His fires make answer for him.

Jua. (Looking into distance) Forgive me, comrade!
I know you true, and sooner will yon moon
Make her last change and fall than you change once
From the full circle of a complete man....
(Turns and sees Ignacio)
My nephew here?

Ig. Just from the capital.

Jua. Where you must back again. Rafael, too!
Both my young soldiers! My right arm and my left, -
Though which is which I know not. Ignacio,
You saw the Austrian? No matter. He's but
The drift-piece of a rotten monarchy
That thinks to graft upon the living tree
Of our new-sprung republic! We'll shake him off
As a June oak a spray of winter wreck,
Nor ever know he clung upon our boughs!

Ig. The church is powerful yet, and seeks to join
Her cause with his.

Jua. The church? Say not the church,
But mockers in Christ's name, who steal the land
And drain its fruitage into Satan's purse,
Keeping the poor a race of hopeless slaves
Who worship their own shackles! O, Ignorance,
Thou art the great slave-master! Thy very chains
Are vital and beget themselves; and he
Who strikes them seems the monster of the earth
To the poor serf who thinks it is himself
That bleeds! The church be with our foe, with us
Be God, we'll ask no more. Hear me, my men!
The great republic of the North's our friend.
When her own war is done you'll hear her speak
To France in cannon tones that will make quake
Napoleon on his throne! That great mock-god.
Who seeks to free all men that he may fit
Their necks to his own yoke! (With growing intensity)
That adder who
Would coil about the world! That serpent scruffed
With white deceit and low ambition's slime,
That crept into the garden of my dream
And cankered bud and root, nursed by my toil,
Fed with my dearest blood! Ay, he will quake,
And cry for mercy to a stony Heaven
Whose pity drops long since were drained upon
The woe that he hath made! Ay, he -

Trev. (Touching him) But now,
My friend?

Jua. (Composed) You're right. No more of that. Nephew!

Ig. Here, sir!

Jua. Your place will be the capital.
We must have eyes there, and a heart to serve us.
This hour set out. Here are instructions. (Gives papers)

Trev. Sir,
He's had no rest.

Jua. True ... true....

Ig. And need none when
Juarez commands.

Jua. (Taking his hand) Thou'rt still my son. My house
Will not fall down when I no longer prop it.

Raf. May I not beg this office, sir?

Trev. Send him!
His heart is in the hills, and he'll come back.
Ignacio's yet unanchored. Trust him not
To high tides of a court.

Jua. I trust them both.
But my own blood I know. (To Ig.) Kneel for the oath.

(Ignacio kneels. Murmurs around, then silence. Juarez
takes a crucifix from his bosom and holds it over Ignacio)

Jua. By this true image of the bleeding Christ,
May you be damned to everlasting fire,
Nor prayers of saints lift up your soul from hell,
If you prove false in what you undertake
This night for Mexico!

Ig. By Christ's own blood.
I swear, and may that blood be powerless
To save me from the damned if I prove false!

Jua. The stars that hold
The witness angels of the Lord have heard
Thy oath.

Ig. (Rising and looking up)
Let them record it.

Asef. (Fearfully) Ah!

Trev. (Holding out a brand) The brand!

Jua. Not that!

Ig. (Baring his arm) I choose it!

(Trevino quickly brands his arm with a cross. Juarez, too
late, dashes the brand from his hand)

Ig. (Throwing up his arm) Sealed to the cause!

(Hurries to go)

Jua. My boy! (Ignacio returns for Juarez' embrace)

Ig. (Going) Liberty and Juarez!

Soldiers. Juarez!


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Online LibraryOlive Tilford DarganSemiramis, and other plays → online text (page 6 of 17)