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- Poems of Progress - 5/16 -


'Give me the dagger!' or creep down the stage In that sleep-walking scene. Oh, art like mine Will send the chills down every listener's spine! And when I choose, salt tears shall freely flow As in the moonlight I cry, 'Romeo! Romeo! Oh, wherefore art thou, Romeo?' Ay, 'tis done My dream of home life.

CUPID

It is but begun.

MAIDEN

The heart but once can dream a dream so fair, And so henceforth love thoughts I do forswear; Since faith in love has crumbled to the dust, In fame alone, I put my hope and trust.

[CUPID at the door beckons excitedly. Enter lover with outstretched arms.]

CUPID

Here's one who will explain yourself to you And make that old sweet dream of love come true. Fix up your foolish quarrel; time is brief - So waste no more of it in doubt or grief.

[The lovers meet and embrace.]

CUPID (in doorway)

Warm lip to lip, and heart to beating heart, The cast is made--My Lady has her part.

CURTAIN

THE REVOLT OF VASHTI (FROM THE DRAMA OF MIZPAH)

AHASUERAS

Is this the way to greet thy loving spouse, But now returned from scenes of blood and strife? I pray thee raise thy veil and let me gaze Upon that beauty which hath greater power To conquer me than all the arts of war!

VASHTI

My beauty! Ay, my BEAUTY! I do hold, In thy regard, no more an honoured place Than yonder marble pillar, or the gold And jewelled wine-cup which thy lips caress. Thou wouldst degrade me in the people's sight!

AHASUERAS

Degrade thee, Vashti? Rather do I seek To show my people who are gathered here How, as the consort of so fair a queen, I feel more pride than as the mighty king: For there be many rulers on the earth, But only ONE such queen. Come, raise thy veil!

VASHTI

Ay! only ONE such queen! A queen is one Who shares her husband's greatness and his throne. I am no more than yonder dancing girl Who struts and smirks before a royal court! But I will loose my veil and loose my tongue! Now listen, sire--my master and my king; And let thy princes and the court give ear! 'Tis time all heard how Vashti feels her shame.

AHASUERAS

Shame is no word to couple with thy name! Shame and a spotless woman may not meet, Even in a sentence. Choose another word.

VASHTI

Ay, SHAME, my lord--there is no synonym That can give voice to my ignoble state. To be a thing for eyes to gaze upon, Yet held an outcast from thy heart and mind; To hear my beauty praised but not my worth; To come and go at Pleasure's beck and call, While barred from Wisdom's conclaves! Think ye THAT A noble calling for a noble dame? Why, any concubine amongst thy train Could play my royal part as well as I - Were she as fair!

AHASUERAS

Queen Vashti, art thou MAD? I would behead another did he dare To so besmirch thee with comparison.

VASHTI (to the court)

Gaze now your fill! Behold Queen Vashti's eyes! How large they gleam beneath her inch of brow! How like a great white star, her splendid face Shines through the midnight forest of her hair! And see the crushed pomegranate of her mouth! Observe her arms, her throat, her gleaming breasts, Whereon the royal jewels rise and fall! - And note the crescent curving of her hips, And lovely limbs suggested 'neath her robes! Gaze, gaze, I say, for these have made her queen! She hath no mind, no heart, no dignity, Worth royal recognition and regard; But her fair body approbation meets And whets the sated appetite of kings! Now ye have seen what she was bid to show. The queen hath played her part and begs to go.

AHASUERAS

Ay, Vashti, go and never more return! Not only hast thou wronged thine own true lord, And mocked and shamed me in the people's eyes, But thou hast wronged all princes and all men By thy pernicious and rebellious ways. Queens act and subjects imitate. So let Queen Vashti weigh her conduct and her words, Or be no more called 'queen!'

VASHTI

I was a princess ere I was a queen, And worthy of a better fate than this! There lies the crown that made me queen in name! Here stands the woman--wife in name alone! Now, no more queen--nor wife--but woman still - Ay, and a woman strong enough to be Her own avenger.

THE CHOOSING OF ESTHER (FROM THE DRAMA OF MIZPAH)

AHASUERAS

Tell me thy name!

ESTHER

My name, great sire, is Esther.

AHASUERAS

So thou art Esther? Esther! 'tis a name Breathed into sound as softly as a sigh. A woman's name should melt upon the lips Like Love's first kisses, and thy countenance Is fit companion for so sweet a name!

ESTHER

Thou art most kind. I would my name and face Were mine own making and not accident. Then I might feel elated at thy praise, Where now I feel confusion.

AHASUERAS

Thou hast wit As well as beauty, Esther. Both are gems That do embellish woman in man's sight. Yet they are gems of second magnitude! Dost THOU possess the one great perfect gem - The matchless jewel of the world called LOVE?

ESTHER

Sire, in the heart of every woman dwells That wondrous perfect gem!

AHASUERAS

Then, Esther, speak! And tell me what is LOVE! I fain would know Thy definition of that much-mouthed word, By woman most employed--least understood.

ESTHER


Poems of Progress - 5/16

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