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- Poems of Progress - 6/16 -


What can a humble Jewish maiden know That would instruct a warrior and a king? I have but dreamed of love as maidens will While thou hast known its fulness. All the world Loves Great Ahasueras!

AHASUERAS

All the world FEARS GREAT Ahasueras! Kings, my child, Are rarely loved as anything but kings. Love, as I see it in the court and camp, Means seeking royal favour. I would know How love is fashioned in a maiden's dreams.

ESTHER

Sire, love seeks nothing that kings can bestow. Love is the king of all kings here below; Love makes the monarch but a bashful boy, Love makes the peasant monarch in his joy; Love seeks not place, all places are the same, When lighted by the radiance of love's flame. Who deems proud love could fawn to power and splendour Hath known not love, but some base-born pretender.

AHASUERAS

If this be love, I would know more of it. Speak on, fair Esther! What is love beside?

ESTHER

Love is in all things, all things are in love. Love is the earth, the sea, the skies above; Love is the bird, the blossom, and the wind; Love hath a million eyes, yet love is blind; Love is a tempest, awful in its might; Love is the silence of a moon-lit night; Love is the aim of every human soul; And he who hath not loved hath missed life's goal!

AHASUERAS

But tell me of thyself, of thine own dreams! How wouldst thou love, and how be loved again?

ESTHER

Who most doth love thinks least of love's return; She is content to feel the passion burn In her own bosom, and its sacred fire Consumes each selfish purpose and desire. 'Tis in the giving, love's best rapture lies, Not in the counting of the things it buys.

AHASUERAS

Yet, is there not vast anguish and despair In love that finds no answering word or smile?

ESTHER

So radiant is love, it lends a glow To each dark sorrow and to every woe. To love completely is to part with pain, Nor is there mortal who can love in vain. Love is its own reward, it pays full measure, And in love's sharpest grief lies subtlest pleasure.

AHASUERAS

Methinks, a mighty warrior, lord or king Must in thy fancy play the lover's part; None else could wake such reverential thought.

ESTHER

When woman loves one born of lowly state, Her thought gives crown and sceptre to her mate; Yet be he king, or chief of some great clan, She loves him but as woman loves a man. Monarch or peasant, 'tis the same, I wis When once she gives him love's surrendering kiss.

HONEYMOON SCENE (FROM THE DRAMA OF MIZPAH)

AHASUERAS

What were thy thoughts, sweet Esther? Something passed Across thy face, that for a moment veiled Thy soul from mine, and left me desolate. Thy thoughts were not of me?

ESTHER

Ay, ALL of thee! I wondered, if in truth, thou wert content With me--thy choice. Was there no other one Of all who passed before thee at thy court Whose memory pursues thee with regret?

AHASUERAS

I do confess I much regret that day And wish I could relive it.

ESTHER

Oh! My lord!

AHASUERAS

Yea! I regret those hours I wasted on The poor procession that preceded thee. Hadst thou come first, then all the added wealth

Of one long day of loving thee were mine - A boundless fortune squandered. Though I live To three score years and ten, as I do hope, In wedded love beside thee, that one day Was filched from me and cannot be restored.

ESTHER

And then to think how frightened and abashed I hung outside thy gates from early morn, Not daring to go in and meet thine eyes, Till pitying twilight clothed me in her veil, And evening walked beside me to thy door.

AHASUERAS

So it was thou, fair thief, who stole that day, And made me poorer, by--how many hours?

ESTHER

Full eight, I think. They seemed a hundred then, And now time flies a hundred times too fast.

AHASUERAS

Then eight more kisses do I claim from thee, This very hour--first tithes of many due. I shall exact these payments as I will, And if they be not ready on demand, I'll lock thee in the prison of my arms, Like this--and take them so--and so--and so!

ESTHER

But kings must think of other things than love And live for other aims than happiness. I would not drag thee from thy altitude Of mighty ruler and great conqueror To chain thee by my side.

AHASUERAS

Such slavery Would please me better than to conquer earth Without thee, Esther. I have stood on heights And heard the cheers of multitudes below; Have known the loneliness of being great. Now, let me live and love thee, like a man, Forgetting I am king - I am content.

ESTHER

Content is not the pathway to great deeds. As man, I hold thee higher than all kings; As king, thou must stand higher than all men In other eyes. Let no one say of me: 'She spoiled his greatness by her littleness; She made a languorous lover of a king, And silenced war-cries on commanding lips - With honeyed kisses; made her woman's arms Preferred to armour, and her couch to tents, Until the kingdom, with no guiding hand, Plunged down to ruin.'

AHASUERAS

Thou wouldst have me go - So soon thy heart hath wearied?

ESTHER

My heart is bursting with its love for thee! Canst thou not feel its fervour? But great men Need wiser guidance than a woman's heart. My pride in thee is equal to my love,


Poems of Progress - 6/16

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