Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

estate, then deeply in distress, in whom, for planting a credit the rather, first the company that towards the Dauphin did conduct her, through places all dangerous, as held by the English, where she never was afore, all the way and by nightertale* safely did she lead : then at the Dauphin's sending by her assignment, from Saint Katherine's church of Fierbois in Touraine (where she never had been and knew not), in a secret place there, among old iron, appointed she her sword to be sought out and brought her, that with five fleur-de-lis was graven on both sides, wherewith she fought and did many slaughters by her own hands. In warfare rode she in armour, cap-à-pie, and mustered as a man, before her an ensign all white, wherein was Jesus Christ painted with a fleur-de-lis in his hand.

“Unto the Dauphin into his gallery when first she was brought, and he shadowing himself behind, setting other gay lords before him to try her cunning from all the company, with a salutation (that indeed was all the matter) she picked him out alone, who thereupon had her to the end of the gallery, where she held him an hour in secret and private talk, that of his privy chamber was thought very long, and therefore would have broken it off; but he made them a sign to let her say on. In which (among other), as likely it was, she set out unto him the singular feats (forsooth) given her to understand by revelation divine, that in virtue of that sword she should achievc, which were, how with honour and victory she would raise the siege at Orleans, set him in state of the crown of France, and drive the English out of the country, thereby he to enjoy the kingdom alone. Hereupon he hearkened at full, appointed her a sufficient army with absolute power to lead them, and they obediently to do as she bade them."

SCENE. Before Orleans.
Enter Charles, with his forces ; Alençon, Reignier, and others.

Char. Mars his true moving, even as in the heavens,
So in the earth, to this day is not known :
Late did he shine upon the English side ;
Now we are victors, upon us he smiles.
What towns of any moment but we have ?
At pleasure here we lie near Orleans ;
Otherwhiles, the famish'd English, like pale ghosts
Faintly besiege us one hour in a month.

Alen. They want their porridge and their fat bull beeves :
Either they must be dieted like mules,
And have their provender tied to their mouths,
Or piteous they will look, like drowned mice.

Reig. Let 's raise the siege : Why live we idly here ?
Talbot is taken, whom we wont to fear :
Remaineth none but mad-brain'd Salisbury;
And he may well in fretting spend his gall,
Nor men nor money hath he to make war.

Char. Sound, sound alarum ; we will rush on them.
Now for the honour of the forlorn French :-
Him I forgive my death that killeth me,
When he sees me go back one foot, or fly.

Exeunt.

Alarums. They are beaten back by the English, with great loss. Re-enter Charles,

Alençon, Reignier and others.
Char. Whoever saw the like? what men have I?
Dogs! cowards ! dastards !-I would ne'er have fled,

But that they left me midst my enemies.
Night-time. The word is in Chaucer :-

“So hote he loved, that by nightertalo

He slept no more than doth the nightingale."
Tyrwhitt explains it as derived from the Saxon nightorn dwl --nocturna portie.

Reig. Salisbury is a desperate homicide ;
He fighteth as one weary of his life.
The other jords, like lions wanting food,
Do rush upon us as their hungry prey.

Alen. Froissart, a countryman of ours, records,
England all Olivers and Rowlands bred
During the time Edward the third did reign.
More truly now may this be verified ;
For none but Samsons and Goliasses,
It sendeth forth to skirmish. One to ten!
Lean raw-bon'd rascals! who would e'er suppose
They had such courage and audacity i

Char. Let's leave this town ; for they are hair-brain'd slaves,
And hunger will enforce them to be more eager :
Of old I know them ; rather with their teeth
The walls they 'll tear down than forsake the siege.

Reig. I think, by some odd gimmers or device,
Their arms are set like clocks, still to strike on;
Else ne'er could they hold out so as they do.
By my consent, we 'll even let them alone.

Alen. Be it so.

Enter the Bastard of Orleans.
Bast. Where's the prince dauphin ? I have news for him.
Char, Bastard of Orleans, thrice welcome to us.

Bast. Methinks your looks are sad, your cheer appallid ;
Hath the late overthrow wrought this offence ?
Be not dismay'd. for succour is at hand:
A holy maid hither with me I bring,
Which, by a vision sent to her from heaven,
Ordained is to raise this tedious siege,
And drive the English forth the bounds of France.
The spirit of deep prophecy she hath,
Exceeding the nine sibyls of old Rome ;
What's past, and what's to come, she can descry.
Speak, shall I call her in ? Believe my words,
For they are certain and unfallible.

Char. Go, call her in [Exit Bastard]: But, first, to try her skill,
Reignier, stand thou as dauphin in my place :
Question her proudly, let thy looks be stern :
By this means shall we sound what skill she hath,

[Retires.

Enter La Pucelle, Bastard of Orleans, and others.
Reig. Fair maid, is 't thou wilt do these wondrous feats ?
Puc. Reignier, is 't thou that thinkest to beguile me?
Where is the dauphin ?-come, come from behind ;
I know thee well, though never seen before.
Be not amaz’d, there's nothing hid from me:
In private will I talk with thee apart ;-
Stand back, you lords, and give us leave awhile.

Reig. She takes upon her bravely at first dash.

Puc. Dauphin, I am by birth a shepherd's daughter,
My wit untrain’d in any kind of art.
Heaven, and our Lady gracious, hath it pleas'd
To shine on my contemptible estate :
Lo, whilst I waited on my tender lambs,
And to sun's parching heat display'd my cheeks,
God's mother deigned to appear to me;
And, in a vision full of majesty,
Willd me to leave my base vocation,
And free my country from calamity :
Her aid she promis'd and assur'd success :
In complete glory she reveal'd herself ;
And, whereas I was black and swart before,
With those clear rays which she infus'd on me,
That beauty am I bless’d with which you may see.
Ask me what question thou canst possible,
And I will answer unpremeditated :
My courage try by combat, if thou dar’st,
And thou shalt find that I exceed my sex.
Resolve on this: Thou shalt be fortunate
If thou receive me for thy warlike mate.

*
Puc. Assign'd am I to be the English scourge.
This night the siege assuredly I'll raise :
Expect saint Martin's summer, halcyon days
Since I have entered into these wars.
Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till, by broad spreading, it disperse to nought.
With Henry's death the English circle ends ;
Dispersed are the glories it included.
Now am I like that proud insulting ship
Which Cæsar and his fortune bare at once.

*

134.-BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MAID OF ORLEANS.

PENNY CYCLOPÆDIA. Joan of Arc, surnamed the “Maid of Orleans," from her heroic defence of that city, was born about the year 1410 or 1411, in the little hamlet of Domremy, near the Meuse, and about three leagues south of Vaucouleurs, on the borders of Champagne. Her parents were humble and honest peasants. The district was remarkable for the devout simplicity of its inhabitants, as well as for those romantic superstitions which in a rude age are so often allied with religion. It appears from the copious depositions of witnesses from the neighbourhood of Domremy, examined at Joan's trial, that she was unremitting in her prayers, and other religious exercises, and was strongly imbued, at a very early age, with the prevailing superstitions of her native place.

During that period of anarchy in France, when the supreme power which had fallen from the hands of a monarch deprived of his reason was disputed for by the rival houses of Orleans and Burgundy, the contending parties carried on war more

by murder and massacre than by regular battles. When an army was wanted, both had recourse to the English, and these conquering strangers made the unfortunate French feel still deeper the horrors and ravages of war. At first, the popuiar feeling was undecided ; but when, on the death of Charles VI., the crown-fell to a young prince who adopted the Armagnac side, whilst the house of Burgundy had sworn allegiance to a foreigner (Henry V.) as king of France, then, indeed, the wishes and interests of all the French were in favour of the Armagnacs, or the truly patriotic party. Remote as was the village of Domremy, it was still interested in the issue of the struggle. It was decidedly Armagnac, and was strengthened in this sentiment by the rivalry of a neighbouring village which adopted Burgundian colours.

Political and party interests were thus forced upon the enthusiastic mind of Joan, and mingled with the pious legends which she had caught from the traditions of the Virgin. A prophecy was current, that a virgin should rid France of its enemies; and this prophecy seems to have been realised by its effect upon the mind of Joan. The girl, by her own account, was about thirteen when a supernatural vision first appeared to her. She describes it as a great light, accompanied by a voice telling her to be devout and good, and promising her the protection of heaven. Joan responded by a vow of eternal chastity. In this there appears nothing beyond the effect of imagination. From that time the voice or voices continued to haunt Joan, and to echo the enthusiastic and restless wishes of her own heart. We shall not lay much stress on her declarations made before those who were appointed by the king to inquire into the credibility of her mission. Her own simple and early account was, that “voices” were her visitors and advisers ; and that they prompted her to quit her native place, take up arms, drive the foe before her, and procure for the young king his coronation at Rheims. These voices, however, had not influence enough to induce her to set out upon the hazardous mission, until a band of Burgundians, traversing and plundering the country, had compelled Joan, together with her parents, to take refuge in a neighbouring town : when they returned to their village, after the departure of the marauders, they found the church of Domremy in ashes. Such incidents were well calculated to arouse the indignation and excite the enthusiasm of Joan. Her voices returned, and incessantly directed her to set out for France ; but to commence by making application to De Baudricourt, commander at Vaucouleurs. Her parents, who were acquainted with Joan's martial propensities, attempted to force her into a marriage ; but she contrived to avoid this by paying a visit to an uncle, in whose company she made her appearance before the governor of Vaucouleurs, in May, 1428. De Baudricourt at first refused to see her, and, upon granting an interview, treated her pretensions with contempt. She then returned to her uncle's' abode, where she continued to announce her project, and to insist that the prophecy, that "France, lost by a woman (Isabel of Bavaria), should be saved by a virgin from the frontiers of Lorraine," alluded to her. She it was, she asserted, who could save France, and not 'either kings, or dukes, nor yet the king of Scotland's daughter”—an expression which proves how well-informed she was as to the political events and rumours of the day.

The fortunes of the dauphin Charles at this time had sunk to the lowest ebb; Orleans, almost his last bulwark, was besieged and closely pressed, and the loss of the “ battle of Herrings" seemed to take away all hope of saving the city from the English. In this crisis, when all human support seemed unavailing, Baudricourt no longer despised the supernatural aid promised by the damsel of Domremy, and gave permission to John of Metz and Bertram of Poulengy, two gentlemen who had become converts to the truth of her divine mission, to conduct Joan of Arc to

the dauphin. They purchased a horse for her, and at her own desire farnished her with male habits, and other necessary equipments. Thus provided, and accompanied by a respectable escort, Joan set out from Vaucouleurs on the 13th of February, 1429. Her progress, through regions attached to the Burgundian interest, was perilous, but she safely arrived at Fierbois, a place within five or six leagues of Chinon, where the dauphin then held his court. At Fierbois was a celebrated church dedicated to St. Catherine, and here she spent her time in devotion, whilst a messenger was despatched to the dauphin to announce her approach. She was commanded to proceed, and reached Chinon on the eleventh day after her departure from Vaucouleurs.

Charles, though he desired, still feared to accept the proffered aid, because he knew that the instant cry of his enemies would be, that he had put his faith in sorcery, and had leagued himself with the infernal powers. In consequence of this, Joan encountered every species of distrust. She was not even admitted to the dauphin's presence without difficuity, and was required to recognize Charles amidst all his court; this Joan happily was able to do, as well as to gain the good opinion of the young monarch by the simplicity of her demeanour. Nevertheless, the prince proceeded to take every precaution before he openly trusted her. He first handed her over to a commission of ecclesiastics, to be examined ; then sent her for the same purpose to Poictiers, a great law-school, that the doctors of both faculties might solemnly decide whether Joan's mission was from heaven or from the devil; for none believed it to be merely human. The greatest guarantee against sorcery was considered to be the chastity of the young girl, it being an axiom, that the devil would not or could not take part with a virgin; and no pains were spared to ascertain her true character in this respect. In short, the utmost incredulity could not have laboured harder to find out imposture, than did the credulity of that day to establish its grounds of belief. Joan was frequently asked to do miracles, but her only reply was, 'Bring me to Orleans, and you shall see. The siege shall be raised, and the dauphin crowned king at Rheims."

They at length granted her request, and she received the rank of a military commander. A suit of armour was made for her, and she sent to Fierbois for a sword, which she said would be found buried in a certain spot within the church. It was found there, and conveyed to her. The circumstance became afterwards one of alleged proofs of her sorcery or imposture. Her having passed some time at Fierbois amongst the ecclesiastics of the place must have led, in some way or other, to her knowledge of the deposit. Strong in the conviction of her mission, it was Joan's desire to enter Orleans from the north, and through all the fortifications of the English. Dunois, however, and the other leaders, at length overruled her, and induced her to abandon the little company of pious companions which she had raised, and to enter the beleaguered city by water, as the least perilous path. She succeeded in carrying with her a convoy of provisions to the besieged. The entry of Joan of Arc into Orleans, at the end of April, was itself a triumph. The hearts of the besieged were raised from despair to a fanatical confidence of success; and the English, who in every encounter had defeated the French, felt their courage paralyzed by the coming of this simple girl. Joan announced her arrival to the. foe by a herald, bearing a summons to the English generals to be gone from the land, or she, the Pucelle, would slay them. The indignation of the English was increased by their terror; they detained the herald, and threatened to burn him, as a specimen of the treatment which they reserved for his mistress. But in the mean time the English, either from being under the influence of terror, or through some unaccountable want of precaution, allowed the armed force raised and left behind by Joan, to reach Orleans unmolested, traversing their entrenchments. Such

« AnteriorContinuar »