Olive Tilford Dargan.

Semiramis, and other plays online

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Who dares to add fire to the sun, or bring
The Spring a flower? Be angry if you will.
The morning's eye is not more glorious
Rising above a storm! I flatter thee!
When but to praise thee as thou art would put
A blush on Poesy that ne'er has rhymed
As I would speak! E'en thy defects would make
Another fair, and were they merchantable
Women would buy thy faults to adorn themselves!
O, sweet -

Asef. (Shrinking in horror)
What do you mean?

Char. (Seizing her hands) You know!
O, all my life has been but dreams of you,
And when I saw you first, my love! - my love! -
As lightning makes the midnight landscape speak
The language of the day, your beauty flashed
O'er all my years and made their meaning clear!
'Twas you made sweet the song of every bird,
'Twas you I found in every book I loved,
'Twas you that gave a soul to every star!
I can not speak it! Kiss me once - but once -
And you will understand!

Asef. What thing is this?
It is not man, for man respecteth sorrow,
Nor brute, for it doth speak!

Char. O look not down!
Thou canst not guard thee! Every silken sweep
Of thine eyes' soft defence but whets assault!
You shall not go! You are the element
In which I breathe! Go from me and I fall
A lifeless thing! Aseffa, pity me!
'Tis I who die, not you! (Drops her hands and kneels)
O blame me not
That I must worship here -

Asef. Ah, Rafael,
I'll live an hour to pray this wrong away
Before I meet thine eyes! (Goes. Charles grasps her cloak)
Beast! Claw me not!

(Goes in. Charles gazes after her in a bewildered way.
Tries to steady himself, and goes into theatre by main
entrance)

(CURTAIN)


Scene II: Within the theatre. Gay decorations. Part of stage
shown, on which chorus is assembled. The Emperor and Empress in
royal box. Imperial cabinet and friends in boxes adjoining. Part
of pit shown, filled with brightly dressed people.

Max. (To Carlotta)
O, this is welcome! Are you not happy now?
There's not a wrinkle on these smiling brows
Where discontent may write her annals dark!
My empire now is fixed, and strength and love
Are gathering to my side. I can not put
My hand out but 'tis clasped by some new friend.

Car. And true?

Max. And true. You are too fearful, sweet.

Car. And you too trustful.

Max. Nay, we can not trust
Too much. Brutus spoke noblest when he said
'My heart doth joy that yet in all my life
I found no man but he was true to me.'
And I would hope as much.

Car. (Aside) None, none are true!
Even I am false who fear to speak my fears
And ease his own when I should quicken them!

(Chorus from stage)

Hail, ye royal pair, O hail!
Like two souls within one star
May your heavenly light ne'er fail.
Empress and great Emperor!

Hail to thee who ruleth mild
As the manger-cradled child!
Hail to her who long may be
Guardian of us and thee!

Hail, O hail, ye pair divine!
As two souls within one star
May your light forever shine,
Empress and great Emperor!

(Estrada appears on stage in front of chorus)

Est. Great Majesties, forgive our feeble welcome.
We are in all things spotted and imperfect
Save in affection for your Highnesses.

Max. (Rising) No, no! My friend - and friends - had you not hearts
That turn to virtue as the flowers to sun,
We had not made such progress to an hour
When all the Empire wears the smile of peace,
And we may rest like Love with folded arms
Round his desire.

Est. 'Tis you have led us, sire.
Pardon this mockery of what we'd do
To celebrate this day had we but means.
We shout thy name, but not above the clouds;
We send up fires, but lightnings higher reach:
We have adorned the city and ourselves,
But India and the sea keep back the pearls
We would pour here!

Max. Enough - and more, my friends.
O, far too much! None mourn now but the gods
Who are made indigent by this display
Of wealth and joy!

Est. (Making low obeisance) We thank your majesty.
This land shall e'er be called the happy land,
And he who rules it -

Asef. (Stepping wildly from chorus) Prince of Murderers!
The happy land! O land where widows' cries
Choke Heaven, and mothers' tears make each new day
A flood!

Mir. Guards there! Take her away! The guards!

Max. No! Let her stay! We'll answer her!

Mir. My lord -

Max. Madam, we seek your country's love.

Asef. How do you seek it? By killing her dear sons!
Setting your tigers loose among her children!
Mejia from your very breast makes fire
On patriot virtue! Dupin wets his teeth
By day and night in infant and mother's blood!
Maximilian,
In brave Trevino's name, Salazar's name,
In name of all as noble and as dear
To Mexico as they, who daily die
Beneath their country's flag the death of dogs,
Shot down by your black law - signed by your hand -
In name of him as dear to me as thou
To that proud woman who shall know what 'tis
To clasp a ghost where throbbed her living love, -
I tell thee - die!

(Leaps from stage to Emperor's box attempting to stab him.
As she leaps Carlotta springs before the Emperor)

Car. This heart - not that!

(Aseffa drops her dagger and stands bewildered. An officer
seizes her. Utter confusion in theatre. Maximilian goes
onto the stage. Silence)

Max. My friends, -
All you who love me see me here unhurt,
And you who love me not, if any's here,

(Cries of "none, none!")

Take aim now as you will.

(Cries of "No! no! no! no!")

A Voice.
Long live the Emperor! Maximilian!

Max. Then if you love me, friends, I beg you'll leave
This place of song and go to the Cathedral.
There pray for me to Him who spared my life,
And, if you will, pray that He yet may spare it
To work His will and yours.

(Crowd goes out silently)

Mar. (To Labastida) That was well done.

Lab. Sincerity is once a diplomat.

Car. (To Princess Salm-Salm)
Princess, take this poor creature to your care.

(Officer releases Aseffa, who goes out as in a dream
with Prince and Princess Salm-Salm and several ladies)

Mar. (Approaching Maximilian) Your Majesty, let me congratulate -
Ill, sire?

Max. Sick, sick, O sick of compliments!
If I've a friend here let me hear the truth!
What did that creature mean? The truth, I say!
(Silence) You, Miramon? Lopez? (Silence) Trevino's dead?

Lop. He is.

Max. And Rafael Mendorez?

Lop. Dead.
The woman is his widow.

Max. Oh!... And this!
(Taking out message)
This from Dupin! 'All quiet in Savarro.'
It means -

Lop. The town is ashes.

Max. O God! O God!
You ministers! Ay, ministers of hell!
Didst think ye served the devil?

Est. O, my lord -

Max. No friend! Not one! Charles! Charles! you must have known!
These foreign hearts have their excuse, but you -
The tower of confidence between us two,
Built part by part by faithful mason hours,
Is shaken to atoms!

Char. I will build it o'er!

Max. First will the wind-strewn rose upgather all
Her petals from the dust, and cheek by cheek,
Hang them new-smiling on the nodding bough!

Mir. Your Majesty, what we have done was done
To save our country and your beloved life.
Your noble heart was blind to your great danger,
And 'twas our duty and our work of love
To save you from your fatal tenderness.

Lop. (Kneeling) O gracious sovereign, had I but known
You did not know, I would have dared the wrath
Of all the court, and spoken to you but truth!

Max. (Lifting him up)
And 'twas your tongue at last that broke the silence,
I must forgive you.

Mar. By your necessity,
Your Majesty, we may all hope for pardon.
Juarez, encouraged by the United States,
Is roused again to war. We have appealed
For compromise and terms of friendly union,
But his one answer for us all is - death!
Yet are we faithful to you, sire.

Max. O Heaven!
What poisonous opiate have you fed me with
And called it peace? But war is not the worst!
Oh, Miramon, did you not swear to me
All prisoners taken by that cruel law
Should be reported day or night to me
That I might pardon or remit their sentence?

Mir. O, sir, you knew not your extremity,
Nor could you know it though we told it you,
The hearts of Mexicans once turned to hate
Are far too deep for sincere eyes to pierce.
But I thank God we knew the danger, sire,
And struck the serpent raised even at your life.
When you, all gentleness, could not have given
The necessary blow. Ay, God be thanked, although
You cast me from your heart. 'T will be my comfort
To know I served you better than you dreamed.
And 'tis the penalty of over-love
To suffer by the hand that (kneels and
kisses Maximilian's hand) it would kiss!

Max. Must I forgive him, Heaven?

Lab. Ay, sir, you must,
For his deceit was but the greater truth
That served your blind necessity.

Est. O, sir,
Do not desert us! If now the Empire falls
'Tis death to all that have been true to you.
Juarez will give no quarter to your friends.

Max. The Liberals advance?

Mar. Each day they're nearer;
And towns and provinces fall by the way.

Berz. Without you, sir, our cause will die in blood,
And Mexico be but a grave for those
Who've loved and served you!

Mar. The United States has ranked
Full sixty thousand men on our frontiers, -
But we have France -

Max. I am awake! At last!
From now no man shall risk his life for me
But I take equal chance with him! Ah, this
Is war, not murder!

Mar. You will lead our troops?

Max. I will.

Mar. Then Mexico is saved! The way
To win the southern hearts is but to trust them.
Leave at your capital the foreign troops
And lead your native soldiers 'gainst the foe!

Car. (Aside) No! Never! Never! Alone with those dark hearts!

(Enter Marshal Bazaine with envoy from France,
Comte de St. Sueveur, Marquis de Gallifet, and General
Castlenau)

Baz. My lord, we bring new messages from France.

Gen. Cast.
Your majesty, we beg your gracious pardon
For this unseemly pressure.

Max. You have it, sir.
What says Napoleon?

Cast. He greets you, sire, with my unworthy tongue,
And sends this letter. (Maximilian reads)

Max. My eyes, I think, turn wizards
And conjure 'gainst the truth that must be here.
For I read false. (Puzzled) What does he mean? Not this -

Baz. My lord, my letters make the import clear.
I have instructions here to counsel you
To make immediate abdication.

Max. No!

Car. What? Abdication?

Baz. Ay! That is the word.

Car. A word for fear and weakness, not for strength,
And Maximilian is as strong as France
While great Napoleon respects his oath!
His troops are ours -

Baz. Nay, princess -

Mir. (Fiercely) Her Majesty!

Baz. (Sneers) You prize the feather when the cap is lost?
(To the Empress) Pardon a slipping tongue, your Majesty.
Those troops you speak of go with me to France.
Such is my order - such the firm demand
Of the United States.

Car. Is France a province
Of the United States? Napoleon
Page, lackey, footboy to America?
Is she an Empire, he an Emperor?
Or have we dreamed he is Napoleon?

Max. (Recovered from his bewilderment)
Withdraw his troops! He can not - dare not do it!
'T would blister history's page to set it down,
And 'tis his burning wish to be the star
Of human chronicles. I'll not believe it,
Though all my senses brand confirming yea
Upon my mind. O shout it in my ears,
And let me see the troops go marching out,
Still I'll believe it is my eyes and ears
That mutiny, not France turned traitor!

Baz. Your Majesty, you must believe the truth,
And make you ready for a swift departure.
'T will not be safe here let a moon go by.

Max. If danger's here, then here I stay to share it.
Dost think I'll leave my friends to die alone
While I by flight dishonor Majesty?

Baz. 'Tis death to stay. You would not be so mad.

Mir. Hail to our new-born king! New-born thou art
Unto our love. Nay, we did love before,
But now we'll worship thee.

Car. Napoleon!
You shall not do this monstrous thing! You shall not!

Baz. The crown of France doth ask consent of none.

Car. I'll go to him and say such words that from
His shame-marked brow his outraged crown will fall
In horror. I will go! Take out the troops,
Bazaine. Ay, take them out! He will be glad
To send them back and purchase with his blood
Redemption from such shame. He'll empty France
To do it! I will go. But I'll not kneel.
A thousand years my blood has run through kings,
And he's the _third_ Napoleon!

(Sinks, exhausted with emotion. Ladies attend her)

Mir. The traitor!
We have no need of him! To France, Bazaine,
And tell your Emperor our Emperor
Needs not his fickle strength to stand upon!
Sire, we have men, and money in our banks -

Lab. A mighty church whose power is untold
If you restore her rights, as now we hope,
And thus united we shall defy the world!

Max. And Heaven, too? For that is what we do
When we set up the church in her old wrongs.
Nay, keep your aid, and I will keep my soul.

Lop. Your virtuous angel strives to make you god.

Max. No, but to keep me honest.

Mar. (Aside to Lab.) Yield to him.
'Tis not the hour to cast him off.

Lab. My lord,
Your virtue conquers, and unto your hands
I yield the power o' the church.

Max. I thank your grace,
Nor for myself, but Mexico.

Baz. I go to France.
What message have you for Napoleon?

Max. Tell him that he has placed me here between
Death and dishonor - and my choice is made.

(Bazaine and French ambassadors turn slowly and go out)

Max. (Quietly to Miramon) We'll join you at the door.

(Exeunt all but Carlotta and Maximilian. He holds out his
arms, and she goes silently to his embrace)

(CURTAIN)




ACT IV.


Scene I: Queretaro. Plaza La Cruz before church and convent. Grey
light before dawn. Occasional distant firing of guns. Maximilian
comes out of church and walks about plaza.

Max. Carlotta! Where dost thou pray to-night? In all
Our fearful scanning of prophetic heavens
No swart star showed us this - our separation.
Thou wert the all of me, the breath, the soul!
Nature conceived thee when her blood was young,
And May was in her spirit, but stayed thy birth
Till Time had taught her skill in all perfections!
... I will not weep.... Yon stars have memories too,
And tell old tales of grandsire suns that shook
Their locks and fell ere they were young who now
Are eld of all!... (Walks) To lie so low.... O man,
Who in the heavens carvest out redemption,
Laying thy golden streets in very skies,
Making the stars but eyets of thy port,
Must thou compact thee to a little earth,
Displace some few small tenants of the sod,
And find thou 'st room enough?... (Looks up) City of dream!
Time's far ghost inn! Eternity's mirage!
Desire's dim temple fashioned out of prayer,
Builded and jointured by no carpenter
But captious Fancy!... O Carlotta, wife!
Thou wert my Christian heart! Faith, faith, my God!
Death to the unbeliever is to land
Upon a coast dumb in the moonless dark,
Where no hands wave a welcome, no eyes shine
With promise of sweet hours, no voices call
The greeting that makes every shore a home.
(Listens) My officers! I can not see them yet.
(Goes in. Enter Colonel Lopez in close talk with Lieutenant
Garza who is disguised as an Imperial officer)

Garza. I'm satisfied.

Lopez. This hill is the key to the city.

Gar. Yes.

Lop. And yours on terms we have considered.

Gar. Here's Escobedo's guarantee. (Gives paper)

Lop. This to my pocket, and Queretaro to the Liberals!

Gar. 'Tis heavy business. You do it lightly, colonel.

Lop. The world's a feather.

Gar. If we but think so.

Lop. At dawn my troops are yours.

Gar. And you command the Empress' regiment.

Lop. Yes. The pick of Maximilian's soldiers.

Gar. One other question. The southern gate - Hist!

Lop. The nuns. (They draw aside and converse. Two nuns come out
of convent and cross plaza)

1st Nun.
The good Emperor is not out yet. He is often here long
before day walking and thinking, 'Tis then, they say, his
mind is on the blessed Empress who has gone across the sea
to get help for him. By day he never speaks her name, but
thinks only of our poor country.

2d Nun. Hark! The enemy's guns! They can not reach us.

1st Nun.
Can not? A shell broke here yesterday. The Emperor stood
just there.

2d Nun. Holy mother! What did his Majesty do?

1st Nun.
He smiled, and said he might have chosen his place
better; then moved to the very spot where the ball had
burst, as though he hoped another would follow it.

2d Nun. Blessed virgin! Would he die?

1st Nun.
I'm sure he would not live. Come, sister. Ah, we have
but one loaf this morning.

2d Nun. Let us be glad we can give that, - for many are hungry.

1st Nun.
Many are starved - dead.

2d Nun. But the good Emperor! It is so sad to think of him
without food.

1st Nun.
He will give this to his officers. Yesterday I saw
Prince Salm-Salm and the general Miramon each with a bit
of white bread that can not be found in all Queretaro
outside of our convent.

2d Nun. The good man! Holy Mother bless and keep him! (They go
into the Cruz)

Lop. What will you do with Maximilian?

Gar. Make a Liberal of him.

Lop. Ha! How?

Gar. Shoot him!

Lop. Shoot him?

Gar. Yes. The grave's the great republican senate house, - where
each man has the floor.

Lop. (Laughing) And you will introduce him!

Gar. Hark!

Lop. The Emperor! Go! (Exit Garza. Enter Maximilian and Prince
Salm-Salm)

Max. (Greeting Lopez affectionately) You're early out, my boy.

Lop. Your majesty, I am the officer of the day.

Max. Yes, - I remember. Who was your friend?

Lop. Ramirez, of Dupin's regiment.

Salm. Ramirez! He's much changed if that was he.

Lop. Shall I call him back, your majesty, that the prince may
convince himself that his memory of faces is not
infallible?

Max. Nay, my trusted two! (Puts an arm about each) Would you
might love each other as I love you both. My prince, whose
courage is the very heart of my army, and my young hussar,
dear for your own sake - dearer still because - she trusted
you!

(Blasio, the Emperor's secretary, comes out of the Cruz)

Blasio. Your majesty, I have finished the letters.

Max. Good. There will be no more to write. (Stumbles over
something) What's this?

Blasio. A fallen Christ.

Max. You mean a fallen figure of the risen Christ.

Lop. Here is the crown of thorns.

Max. Give it to me. (Holds it meditatively) How well it suits
my fortunes!

Salm. Nay -

Max. Ay, better than my golden one. (Gives it to Blasio) Hang
it above my bed. My Queretaro crown!

Salm. Do not, your majesty!

Max. (To Blasio) Take it. (Exit Blasio) Why, prince, 'tis
something to have won a crown. My first was given me.
(Firing and falling of shells)

Salm. I beg you, sire, to move your quarters to a safer station.
This is death at any moment!

Max. Death at any moment - (Regretfully) And I have been here
sixty days.

Lop. Courage, sire! Marquez will come!

Max. (Eagerly) Has there been news?

Lop. Not yet, your majesty.

Max. Not yet! What does it mean? You heard him take the oath to
bring me help or die. 'Twas here he swore - before us all.
Vowed to return with troops in fifteen days! Ah, he is
dead.

Salm. No, your majesty.

Max. But if he lives?

Salm. He is a traitor.

Max. You heard his oath -

Salm. A traitor's oath!

Lop. He's true, your majesty. His messengers are murdered.

Salm. He's false!

Max. But that means - death.

Salm. Or flight.

Max. Not flight!

(Enter Miramon and Mendez) You're welcome, gentlemen. Your
eyes bring news.

Mir. Your majesty, Metz has returned.

Max. At last!
News of Marquez! He comes! I know he comes!

Men. O, sire, -

Max. The faithful Metz! Where is he?


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Online LibraryOlive Tilford DarganSemiramis, and other plays → online text (page 9 of 17)