The Spike or Victoria University College Review September 1925
Thea, the Queen.
Dirce, her attendant
Ion, a soldier.
[The stage forms a triangle with its apex away from the audience. To the left of the spectators, a large illumined swinging lamp shows an arch beyond which glimmer lighted rooms and glimpses of Graeco-Asiatic luxury. Right, a huge door of wrought iron; behind it, the desert, night, and the stars. R. front, forming an angle with the audience, stands a marble couch with a leopard skin thrown over it. Tumultuous cries from left, and a red flickering light]
Ion [enters, with sword drawn, L.] The Queen!Dirce:The Queen? Ion:By the Gods, I'll see the Queen!
Why stand'st thou white against the iron door,
Thine arms wide-stretched, keeping the starlight out?
Is she gone into the desert? Dirce:Ion, the streets—
The flaming palace, tigrish, cry "The Queen!"
For ye are come to rend her in revolt—
And thou, that wert her swordsman! Fire has crowned
These conquered halls with glory born of pain— Ion:Dirce, thy life or the Queen's! Dirce:My life, then, lion!
[Ion advances upon her. Thea flings aside the curtains and appears from the flaming palace.]Ion:Thea, the Queen! Dirce:Why did'st thou not let me die? Thea:Strike, Ion. Ion:Since thou standest there so royal,
The fires of ruin in thy hair, my sword Is quelled within the marvel of thine eye.
[Shouts without]Thea:Watch Dirce—I am tired.
[Crosses and sits on couch.]
This hour ago I was a queen, and now my words are wan, And all my limbs one languor. Dirce:Lady, they leave
Us lonely; all the pillars are one flame Of pillaging armour. O my royal Thea— Thea:No words, but watch. We are alone—so much As ne'er before. Ion:Queen of caprice! thou Thea
Who clad in whims, held all thy people's lives Worth not thy sandal's footfall—beautiful, Unruly, cruel and vain— Dirce:She never did
But what her human heart had bade her do— Thea:Peace, Dirce!—I am grown so languorous, girl.
That peace alone is pitiful. Ion:That peace
Shall soon be pitiless.
O! was a woman's whim a fit exchange
Made for the thousand-hearted happiness
page 18 Of these, thy people?—For an emerald
Thou gav'st my sister to the Indian king—
My father to the lions since his mouth
Bit thy soft vanity— Dirce:Peace, Ion! she e'er
Was loveliness to eye and ear and loved I' the streets:all hearts she beggared of their love— Ion:Charm is no warrant royal to o'errule All laws of earth and heaven—Wilt thou go (to Thea.) To the slaughter in the flaming of the swords Or-lone into the desert?—I'll keep watch. One moment, and I come to kill or spare. Out, lamp—thou art the spirit of her pride!
[Exit L., extinguishing lamp with his sword.]
[Thea on couch—Dirce at her feet; her arms in the lap of the Queen. The stage is flooded with moonlight.]Thea:Ah, Dirce, even peace is pitiless.— Nightfall—the lions prowl o'er Asia's sands. How cold's the moonlit air!—My slender Dirce, I have spent iron pride and silken vanity—My heart's blood and my will. I am sick and tired—Sickened of action and all languid-calm. Dirce:Thy hand has fever in't. There is no calm. Thea:All the long hours our marble doors that keep The tawny heat at bay, the heat that comes Like mountain beasts upon the weary heart, Have clanged far-flung upon their grating bars Before the rebels that have burst on them As the wave surges headlong on the sand. Mine eyes are full of gashed and strewn hot halls of battle-anger. Dirce:Thou hast married Greece To Asia:Queen of these Arabian hills, Thou'st woven the most Grecian luxuries For garments— Thea:I am sunk into a void.
Desert or death! Dirce:No death—thou art too young. Thea:I have known all things and I am fit to die. Ion! Ion [enters]:Hast chosen death? Thea:The fairest thing—
Give me thy sword. [Takes it.] This is too bright. O no, Give anything but death!—To cease to feel, To go forth limbless into the dark night—Mine eye is full of horror.—Dirce, speak! Ion:It was too light a punishment. Thea:I am young. Ion:So let this last whim royal be thy doom—The sands. Thea:The desert crouches like a lion at bay. Ion:So hast thou crouched upon thy people's face. Thea:There is a panic terror in the night. Ion:Fear walked by day the noon that thou wast crowned—
The wavering cruelty of irresolute youth
That has all and that knows all but itself.
O mighty stars, avenge! page 19 Thea:Thou standest upright,
Holding thy sword up like a whip of flame
In the leap of the dying fires of my home.
I will go. Dirce:Thou are so young, Ion, and thy face so fierce— Thea:Ah, fiercely beautiful.—I have said my whim—
Vain have I been and cruel—never false—
In all my sins T never broke my word.
There's something of the panther in my blood, And wild cries unto wild. How the wind flows I' the flame about thee, Ion! thou art like A challenger of heaven. Dirce:Thea is dead! Thea:Wail not, but hear my prayer. O mighty Night, Receive my spirit into thy grand breast—For thou art epic. I will go to thee, And bathe my fevers in the mountain brooks;Where the wind leaps upon the mountain-tops I'll purge my heart. Never was night so calm! There is a great completeness in the void Beneath those Asian stars. O take me, Night!
[A gust of wind blows open the iron door. Thea walks into the night.]Dirce:Thea is dead! Ion:Thea is born. My work
Is done. The gusty airs have past away,
And blown my torch out . . .
Peace! a new spirit moves upon the earth,
The very hills and desert lie in calm
To consecrate its coming. Low's the flame,
And all the winds are silent.
—E. L. Palmer