Honeymoon Scene

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

(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,
   And I would have thee greater than thou art—
   Ay, greater than all other men on earth—
   Though forced long years to feed my hungry heart
   On food of memories and wine of tears,
   Wert thou but winning glory and renown.

                                AHASUERAS

   Thou art most noble, Esther; thou art fit
   To be the consort of a king of kings.
   But I have chewed upon ambition’s husks
   And starved for love through all my manhood’s years;
   And now the mighty gods have seen it fit
   To spread love’s banquet and to name thee host,
   May I not feast my fill? O Esther, take
   The tempting nectar of those lips away
   And give me wine to rouse the brute in me,
   To make me thirst for blood instead of love!
   Wine! Wine! I say!

                                  ESTHER

         Ahasueras, wait!
   Methinks good music is wine turned to sound.
   Here comes thy minstrel with an offering
   Pressed from the ripened fruit of my fond heart.
   Mine own the words and mine the melody
   And may it linger longer in thine ear
   Than on thy lip would stay the taste of wine.
   Sing on!

                                 MINSTREL

   When from the field returning,
   Love is a warrior’s yearning,
   Love in his heart is burning,
      Love is his dream.
   Talk not to him of glory,
   Speak not of faces gory,
   Sing of love’s tender story,
      Make it thy theme.
   Sing of his lady’s tresses,
   Sing of the smile that blesses,
   Sing of the sweet caresses,
      And yet again
   Sing of fair children’s faces,
   Sing of the dear home graces,
   Sing till the vacant places,
      Ring with thy strain.
   Yet as the days go speeding,
   Shall he arise unheeding
   Love songs or words of pleading,
      Strong in his might!
   Helmet and armour wearing,
   Hies he to deeds of daring,
   Forth to the battle faring,
      Back to the fight.
   Sing now of ranks contending,
   Sing of loud voices blending,
   Sing of great warriors sending
      Death to their foes!
   Sing of war missiles humming,
   Strike into martial drumming,
   Sing of great victory coming,
      As forth he goes.
   Back to the battle faring,
   Back into deeds of daring,
      Back to the fight.

                                AHASUERAS

   No less a lover but a greater man,
   A better warrior and a nobler king,
   I will be from this hour for thy dear sake.

 

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