The Injured Mother, A Play
From the Rev. John Brown's tragedy of Barbarossa.
Barbarossa, an Usurper,
Othman, an officer,
Zaphira, the Widowed Queen.
[This play has many passages of splendid diction, well calculated for bold
declamation. The plot of the piece runs thus: Barbarossa having killed,
and then usurped the throne of his friend and master, tries to obtain the
hand of Zaphira, the late monarch's widow—having previously destroyed,
(as is supposed) her son, Selim. The following scene represents the interviews
between the unhappy queen and her faithful Othman, and of the
queen with Barbarossa.
Costumes.—Barbarossa green velvet robe, scarlet satin shirt, white
trousers, russet boots, and turban. Othman, scarlet fly, yellow satin shirt,
white slippers, turban white, scarlet cashmere vest. Zaphira, white dress,
embroidered with silver, turban, and Turkish shoes.
Note.—A little taste will enable any smart young lady to make up these
dresses. They are mostly loose, and the embroidery may be of tinsel—while
cheap velveteen looks as well as the best velvet on the stage.]
Scene i.—An apartment, with sofa.
Enter Zaphira, r.
Zap. (C.) When shall I be at peace? O, righteous heaven
Strengthen my fainting soul, which fain would rise
To confidence in thee! But woes on woes
O'erwhelm me. First my husband, now my son—
Both dead—both slaughter'd by the bloody hand
Of Barbarossa! What infernal power
Unchain'd thee from thy native depth of hell,
To stalk the earth with thy destructive train,
Murder and lust! To wake domestic peace,
And every heart-felt joy!
Enter Othman, l.
O, faithful Othman!
Our fears were true; my Selim is no more!
Oth. Has, then, the fatal secret reach'd thine ear? Inhuman tyrant!
Zap. Strike him, heav'n with thunder,
Nor let Zaphira doubt thy providence!
Oth. 'Twas what we fear'd. Oppose not heav'n's high will,
Nor struggle with the ten-fold chain of fate,
That links thee to thy woes. O, rather yield,
And wait the happier hour, when innocence
Shall weep no more. Rest in that pleasing hope,
And yield thyself to heaven, my honor'd queen.
Zap. Whom stylest thou king?
Zap. Does he assume the name of king?
Zap. O, title vilely purchas'd!—by the blood
Of innocence—by treachery and murder!
May heav'n, incens'd, pour down its vengeance on him,
Blast all his joys, and turn them into horror
Till phrensy rise, and bid him curse the hour
That gave his crimes their birth!—My faithful Othman,
My sole surviving prop, canst thou devise
No secret means, by which I may escape
This hated palace?
Oth. That hope is vain. The tyrant knows thy hate;
Hence, day and night, his guards environ thee.
Rouse not, then, his anger:
Let soft persuasion and mild eloquence
Redeem that liberty, which stern rebuke
Would rob thee of for ever.
Zap. An injur'd queen
To kneel for liberty!—And, oh! to whom!
E'en to the murd'rer of her lord and son!
O, perish first, Zaphira! Yes, I'll die!
For what is life to me? My dear, dear lord—
My hapless child—yes, I will follow you!
Oth. Wilt thou not see him, then?
Zap. I will not, Othman;
Or, if I do, with bitter imprecation
More keen than poison shot from serpents' tongues,
I'll pour my curses on him.
Oth. Will Zaphira
Thus meanly sink in woman's fruitless rage,
When she should wake revenge?
Zap. Revenge!—O, tell me—
Tell, me but how?—What can a helpless woman?
Oth. (c.). Gain but the tyrant's leave, and seek thy father;
Pour thy complaints before him; let thy wrongs
Kindle his indignation to pursue
This vile usurper, till unceasing war
Blast his ill-gotten pow'r.
Zap. (l.c.). Ah! say'st thou, Othman?
Thy words have shot like lightning through my frame,
And all my soul's on fire!—thou faithful friend!
Yes, with more gentle speech I'll soothe his pride;
Regain my freedom; reach my father's tents;
There paint my countless woes. His kindling rage
Shall wake the valleys into honest vengeance;
The sudden storm shall pour on Barbarossa,
And ev'ry glowing warrior steep his shaft
In deadlier poison, to revenge my wrongs! (crosses to r.)
Oth. (c.). There spoke the queen.—But, as thou lov'st thy freedom,
Touch not on Selim's death. Thy soul will kindle,
And passion mount in flames that will consume thee.
Zap. (r.). My murder'd son!—Yes, to revenge thy death,
I'll speak a language which my heart disdains.
Oth. Peace, peace,!—the tyrant comes. Now, injur'd Queen,
Plead for thy freedom, hope for just revenge,
And check each rising passion. [Exit Othman, r.
Enter Barbarossa, l.
Bar. (l.). Hail sovereign fair! in whom
Beauty and majesty conspire to charm:
Behold the conqu'ror.
Zap. (r.c.) O, Barbarossa,
No more the pride of conquest e'er can charm
My widow'd heart. With my departed lord
My love lies buried!
Then turn thee to some happier fair, whose heart
May crown thy growing love with love sincere;
For I have none to give.
Bar. Love ne'er should die:
'Tis the soul's cordial—'tis the font of life;
Therefore should spring eternal in the breast.
One object lost, another should succeed,
And all our life be love.
Zap. Urge me no more.—Thou mightst with equal hope
Woo the cold marble, weeping o'er a tomb,
To meet thy wishes. But, if generous love (approaches him.)
Dwell in thy breast, vouchsafe me proof sincere:
Give me safe convoy to the native vales
Of dear Mutija, where my father reigns.
Bar. O, blind to proffer'd bliss!—What! fondly quit
Of empire for an Arab's wand'ring tent,
Where the mock chieftain leads his vagrant tribes
From plain to plain, and faintly shadows out
The majesty of kings!—Far other joys
Here shall attend thy call:
Shall bow the neck; and swarthy kings and Queens,
From the far-distant Niger and the Nile,
Drawn captive at my conqu'ring chariot wheels,
Shall kneel before thee.
Zap. Pomp and pow'r are toys,
Which e'en the mind at ease may well disdain:
But oh! what mockery is the tinsel pride
Of splendour, when the mind
Lies desolate within!—Such, such is mine!
O'erwhelm'd with ills, and dead to ev'ry joy;
Envy me not this last request, to die
In my dear father's tents.
Zap. Thus, kneeling at thy feet—(kneels.)
Bar. Thou thankless fair! (raises Zaphira.)
Thus to repay the labours of my love!
Had I not seiz'd the throne when Selim died,
Ere this thy foes had laid Algiers in ruin.
I check'd the warring pow'rs, and gave you peace,
Make thee but mine,
I will descend the throne, and call thy son
From banishment to empire.
Zap. O, my heart!
Can I bear this?
Inhuman tyrant!—curses on thy head!
May dire remorse and anguish haunt thy throne,
And gender in thy bosom fell despair,—
Despair as deep as mine! (crosses to L.)
Bar. (r.c.). What means Zaphira?
What means this burst of grief?
Zap. (l.). Thou fell destroyer!
Had not guilt steel'd thy heart, awak'ning conscience
Would flash conviction on thee, and each look,
Shot from these eyes, be arm'd with serpent horrors,
To turn thee into stone!—Relentless man!
Who did the bloody deeds—O, tremble, guilt,
Where'er thou art!—Look on me; tell me, tyrant,
Who slew my blameless son?
Bar. What envious tongue
Hath dar'd to taint my name with slander?
Thy Selim lives; nay, more, he soon shall reign,
If thou consent to bless me.
Zap. Never, O, never!—Sooner would I roam
An unknown exile through the torrid climes
Of Afric—sooner dwell with wolves and tigers,
Than mount with thee my murder'd Selim's throne!
Bar. Rash queen, forbear; think on thy captive state,
Remember, that within these palace walls
I am omnipotent. Yield thee, then;
Avert the gath'ring horrors that surround thee,
And dread my pow'r incens'd.
Zap. Dares thy licentious tongue pollute mine ear
With that foul menace? Tyrant! dread'st thou not
Th' all-seeing eye of heav'n, its lifted thunder,
And all the red'ning vengeance which it stores
For crimes like thine?—Yet know, Zaphira scorns thee.
[crosses to R.
Though robb'd by thee of ev'ry dear support,
No tyrant's threat can awe the free-born soul,
That greatly dares to die. [Exit Zaphira, r.
Bar. (c.). Where should she learn the tale of Selim's death?
Could Othman dare to tell it?—If he did,
My rage shall sweep him swifter than the whirlwind,
To instant death! [Exit.
(R.) Right. (L.) Left. (C.) Centre. (R.C.)
(L.C.) Left Centre.