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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Death of Memnon

By Henry Guy Carleton (1856–1910)

[Born in Fort Union, New Mexico, 1856. Died in Hot Springs, Ark., 1910. Memnon. A Tragedy in Five Acts.—Printed, not Published. 1884.]

ACT V.—SCENE [at close]: The front of the palace of Luxor, at Thebes; the steps approaching which extend across the stage. Entrance to the palace at C. In front of the palace at R, the colossal statue of Amenophis. Time: the hour preceding dawn.

[Citizens rush in R and L, to the palace C. Reënter Persians and Egyptians fighting R, and exit L. Clash of swords, R.]

SESAK.[Without.]Down with thee! Now for Memnon! Where is he?[Enters.]

[Reënter MEMNON in full armor.]
MEMN.I answer to that name; come, what is thine?

SES.[Raising his sword.]This tongue shall tell it thee.
MEMN.Ha! Thy voice does that.

Well, we have met at last.
SES.At last, indeed.[Unmasks.]

Well, what’s the gossip?
MEMN.Villain of the world,

Hell starves for malice till I send thee there!

SES.Why, to it, then![They fight. After a few passes MEMNON strikes SESAK’S sword from him. SESAK recoils several paces.]

[Enter PHANES with Persian soldiers. PHANES rushes between MEMNON and SESAK.]
PHA.Stay, Memnon! Memnon, hold!

Seize him![Two soldiers seize SESAK.]
MEMN.Why come between me and my prey?

Hold off thy meddling hands, I say! Touch not

The tiger in me—that has tasted blood,

And I am dangerous.
SES.Why, let him come.

PHA.Nay, sir, you would not strike a pinioned man!

MEMN.Oh, thou hast robbed me![Enter NITETIS, attended.]
PHA.Is it so? Behold!

NITET.My father, father![Enter ASSETH.]
ASSETH.It is dawn.

MEMN.Oh, never fairer blossomed in the east!

NITET.My father!
MEMN.Closer, girl! this is the day

Which pinnacles my calendar. Close, close!

NITET.How I have hungered for this hour!

What guide like heaven? Through the grime of war

She comes unblackened.
ASSETH.[To SESAK.]Well, my dog?
SES.Laugh on.

MEMN.Thou art hungry, too?[Looses NITETIS’S arms from his neck, leads her to PHANES, then approaches SESAK.]
Thou art to die.

ASSETH.Hear’st that, my dog?
SES.I do; I am to die.

[Enter MENEPHTAH with drawn sword, a slave fanning him.]
MENEPH.A Persian! a Persian, I say! show me a Persian. Great Memnon, where are the Persians?[Sees Persians, and stops short, hiding his sword and getting behind the slave.]

PHA.O, if thou giv’st her me——[A flourish.]
MEMN.What trumpet’s that?

[Enter PREXASPES, attended; after him two pages bearing the Egyptian crown upon a cushion veiled.]
PREX.[To MEMNON.]Mightiest, hail!
[To NITETIS.]Hail, flower of the world; and joy to all!

Thus great Cambyses’ greeting.[Kneels and offers a scroll to MEMNON.]
MEMN.What is this?

To Hophra’s daughter——

PREX.[Unveiling the crown.]Hophra’s crown.[ASSETH directs SESAK’S attention.]
SES.Laugh on!

PREX.Hail, Queen of Egypt!
PHA.[Aside, turning away.]Queen? Then never mine.[NITETIS looks at PHANES, then goes to MEMNON.]

NITET.Father, what would you have me do?
MEMN.My girl,

Art thou not Hophra’s daughter?
NITET.[Pointing to PHANES.]But for him?

MEMN.Well, girl? There is thy golden heritage,

Thy father’s crown.
NITET.But he?
MEMN.Think not of him.

He will surrender thee.
NITET.Surrender me![Turns to PHANES.]

MEMN.Thou canst not marry with a foreigner,

And sit on Egypt’s throne.[PHANES points to the crown and turns away.]
MEMN.What! Weep?

And in thy grasp the majesty and rule

Of half the world?
NITET.No, not my world.

Still dumb? ’Tis written of thy womankind,

They may love poverty—till wooed by gold.

NITET.Is’t so? Then pray correct the lying scroll.

Were this the diadem of fifty worlds,

To sit immortally upon my head,

It could not tempt me.
MEMN.Why, thou foolish one?

NITET.O, who can analyze a young girl’s heart,

Or single out the wherefore of her love?

She only knows she loves, and that one love

Outshines the jewels on an empress’ brow.

I love him, sir,—that’s my philosophy.

O, my dear love, how proud I am of you![To PHANES.]

Take it away; I am a subject, sir.[To PREXASPES.]

Here is my king.—Father, approve my choice.[Kneels before MEMNON.]

MEMN.Approve![Raises her and takes her in his arms.][To PREXASPES.]
This brow would shame the diadem.

We thank Cambyses.
PREX.Then farewell, my lord.

[Exit PREXASPES and pages. SESAK steals knife from the girdle of the soldier guarding him, and secretes it in his bosom.]
MEMN.Approve—my girl of noble heart! approve?

Why, had’st thou faltered but a moment; touched—

Nay, looked upon the crown—and so forsworn

The love thou’st plighted him—I swear to thee,

Thou never should’st have called me father more.

My Greek, have I not proven her? Link your hands.

[NITETIS and PHANES, joining hands, kneel.]
I give her to thee wholly. Guard her well:

She will reward thee. She’ll not love at morn,

And ere the evening wasteth love thee not;

Nor harbor giddy tales, nor count thy purse

In her decision, nor decry thy gods

That they are different. She’ll be wife to thee,

At worst in sunshine, best in doubt and night,

As comforting as is the pilot’s star;

Wife to thy spirit, closer than thy body.

My girl, be this thy dower for all life—

Thy husband, unto thee, stands next to God.

PHA.My own, my own at last![SESAK whispers ASSETH, who approaches MEMNON.]
ASSETH.Noble my lord,

He craves a word with you.
MEMN.Ha! On what theme?

ASSETH.Your brother, sir——
MEMN.[Starting forward.]My brother!
ASSETH.Nay, my lord,

He does confess him innocent——
PHA.Away![Guards lay hold of SESAK.]

SES.Great Memnon, hear me!
NITET.Hear him, father.

NITET.Upon our wedding day—see it is dawn!

Let us be merciful.
SES.[Aside.]I’ll crack this tune!

Rare virgin, thanks.—My lord, I pray you, hear.

MEMN.What wouldst thou say to me? Devil thou art;

But if thou show’st my brother guiltless, lo!

Thou’lt play the angel to me. Speak, I say.

Thou hast the viper’s tooth, but I do swear—

Didst lead him on?—didst lie to him?—say that;

Unburden me and wash his memory,

And though thou showest blacker than the fiends,

I’ll call thee charitable. Speak to me!

SES.Great sir, am I to utter like a slave?

These vile ears nearest?—Stand aside from me![To the guards.]

PHA.Has he a weapon?
SES.Fear ye these hands?

Why, were these fingers each a knife—but sure—

Aside from me![At a signal from MEMNON, the guard falls back.]I humbly thank you, sir;—

You, lady—you, most gallant general.

Now may I speak, indeed.
MEMN.Well? Come to it.

SES.Nay, yet a little.—Pray you, general,[To PHANES.]

Stand yonder for a moment; ’tis a whim,

A vagary.—I am so soon to die,

And you so happy there—I pray you, sir!

PHA.Why, this is folly——
NITET.There is reason in ’t.

I do beseech you, go.
SES.O, thanks to you.

PHA.Quickly confess thee——
SES.Ay, so please you, sir.

Stand further from me, knave! Pardon, sweet sirs;

Though I’m your cagèd rat, I must have room,—

A little room to creep and breathe awhile.

Be patient yet.—I do confess me, sir,[To MEMNON.]

I led your brother on.—Your mercy, sir,[To PHANES.]

’Twas I that sent her into Persia. Then,

I do acknowledge that my dearest aim—

Fulfilled, fulfilled!—was to destroy

And scatter Egypt’s glory like a chaff

Before the whirlwind—nay, a moment, sir![To PHANES.]

This much I tell ye freely, with my heart!

Ye were my tools. Your brawn, your souls, your hands,

Were my good servitors, and I thank ye for it!

Now for my mystery,—catch it who can!

What should I speak—save of the hates I bear ye?

What do—except complete my sworn revenge?

I am a viper—look to it—behold,

Ye tread on me! I turn and sting ye—thus!

[Runs toward NITETIS with a knife drawn; MEMNON throws himself quickly between, and receives the blow.]
ASSETH.Disarm him!

SES.Sister, sister! sleep![Stabs himself and falls.]

PHA.Justice! where is thy sword![Bending over SESAK.]
MEMN.[Pointing upward.]Nay, peace to death![Sinks.]

NITET.O, father!——
PHA.Bring a surgeon. Asseth, go!

ASSETH.Nay, it is mortal.
PHA.Jupiter! ’twas foul.

NITET.O father, speak to me!
MEMN.Be happy, girl,—

Cherish her, Greek.
PHA.O Memnon, Memnon, live!

MEMN.Nay, this is better.—Life’s an empty dream,

Guessed only by the dead.
MEMN.My girl,

I loved thee fondly; give thy lips again.

Nay, gentle, mourn me not; my storm-tossed soul

Is at its anchorage, and all is calm.[Dies.]