Vashti, the Queen

by Isabella Valancy Crawford

Isabella Valancy Crawford

VASHTI, the Queen, appear? Nay, slaves, begone
Before mine anger blaze fierce as the sun
On the red plains that stretch beyond the shades
Of palm-defended Shushan! I, Vashti, stand
Unveiled before the revellers, see them poise
The flashing goblet in mid-air, and cry
Aloud upon my beauty? No eye abashed,
No knee smite on the ground to do my state
Fit honour, for behold the King, great lord,
Leans from his throne and guides the vacant eyes
With "Lo, the Queen!"—and Vashti stands unveiled.

And so, my lord, who lives in sacred state
Beside the gold-vestured sun, in Vashti breathes
Dishonoured, bereft of that most kingly thing
That honoured his great state, the sacredness
Of the Queen's beauty! Vashti, the Queen,
So fallen, fallen! Lo, now I see the hall,—
The vision hurts mine eye,—Adhasuerus set
Upon his throne; the purple curtains sway
Between great pillars; and the princes, crowned
Each as his state; the golden goblets brimmed
With royal wine that blushes as the wind
Whispers its shameful tale of "Vashti comes!"

Nay, now, thou Sun, defend me; smite aside
The sheltering palms of Shushan; fold thine arms
Of fire about me; burn my royal beauty
To loathsomeness with thy quick kisses;
Drink the proud blood that leaps about my heart;
Yea, slay me ere I go before the King
In other sort than as the Wife and Queen!

That day when Vashti leaves her sacred state,
As holy to her lord and life, the King,
And decks her beauty servant to the eyes
Of those who gorge as on a fair-limbed toy,
Then let her be accursèd of all queens
Who thro' all time shall share a throne; and of
All wives who would be sacred in their husbands' eyes,
As they do centre, to such wives, the world!

Last updated April 01, 2023