ページの画像
PDF
[blocks in formation]

The mission'd Maid replied, “Go thou, Dunois,

Announce my mission to the royal ear;
I on the river's winding banks the while
Would roam, collecting for the enterprise
My thoughts, though firm, yet troubled. Who essays
Achievements of great import will perforce
Feel the heart heave; and in my breast I feel
Such perturbation.”

On the banks of Vienne
Devious the Damsel turn'd. Through Chinon's gates
The Son of Orleans press'd with rapid step,
Seeking the King. Him from the public view
Ile found secluded with his blameless Queen,
And his partaker of the unlawful bed,
The lofty-minded Agnes.

« Son of Orleans!»

So as he entered cried the haughty Fair,
“Thou art well come to witness the disgrace,
The weak, unmanly, base despondency
of this thy Sovereign Liege. He will retreat
To distant Dauphiny, 3° and fly the war!
Go then, unworthy of thy rank! retreat
To distant Dauphiny, and fly the war,
Recreant from battle; I will not partake
A fugitive's fate; when thou hast lost thy crown
Thou hast lost Agnes.—Dost not blush, Dunois!
To bleed in combat for a Prince like this,
Fit only, like the Merovingian race
On a May morning deck'd with slowers,” to mount
His gay-bedizen'd car, and ride abroad
And make the multitude a holiday.
Go, Charles—and hide thee in a woman's garb,
And these long locks will not disgrace thee then!» 34

• Nay, Agnes!» Charles replied, a reproach me not,
I have enough of sorrow. Look around,
See this fair country ravaged by the foe,
My strong holds taken, and my bravest Chiefs
Fall’n in the field, or captives far away.
Dead is the Douglas; cold thy gallant heart,
Illustrious Buchan! ye from Scotland's hills,
Not mindless of your old ally distress'd,
Rush'd to his succour: in his cause ye fought,
For him ye perish'd, Rash, impetuous Narbonne!
Thy mangled corse waves to the winds of Heaven. 33
Cold, Graville, is thy sinewy arm in death;
Fall'n is Wentadaur; silent in the grave
Rambouillet sleeps: Bretagne's unfaithful chief
Leagues with my foes, and Richemont,” or in arms
Defies my weak control, or from my side,
A friend more dreaded than the enemy,
Drives my bests servants with the assassin sword.
Soon must the towers of Orleans fall !—But now

These sad thoughts boot not. Welcome to our court,
Dunois! We yet can give the friendly feast,
And from the heavy cares of empire win
One hospitable day of merriment.”

The Chief replied, “So may thy future years
Pass from misfortune free, as all these ills
Shall vanish like a vision of the night!
To thee and France 1 come the messenger
Of aid from Heaven. The delegated Maid
With me, whom all-wise Providence decrees
The Saviour of the realm;-a holy Maid,
Bearing strange promise of miraculous things,
One whom it were not possible to hear
And disbelieve.”

Astonish’d by his speech
Stood Charles. “At one of meaner estimation
I should have smiled, Dunois. Thy well-known worth,
The loyalty of all thy noble house,
Compel me even to this, a most strange tale,
To lend a serious ear. A woman sent
From Heaven, the saviour of this wasted realm,
One whom it were not possible to hear,
And disbelieve! Dunois, ill now beseems
Aught wild and hazardous; the throne of France
Totters upon destruction. Is my person
Known to this woman?»
* She has lived retired,”
The Bastard answer'd, “ignorant of courts,
And little heeding, till the spirit of God
Roused her to this great work.”
To him the King :

* If then she knows me not, abide thou here,
And hither, by a speedy messenger,
Summon the Maiden. On the throne meantime,
I the while mingling with the Menial throng,
Some courtier shall be seated. If the Mlaid
Be by the spirit of God indeed inspired,
That holy spirit will gift her with the power
To pierce deception. But if strange of mind
Enthusiast fancy fire her wilder'd brain,
She to obscurity again, thus proved,
May guiltlessly retire. Our English foes
Might well exult to see the sons of France
Led by a frenzied female.” So he said;
And, with a faith half-faltering at the proof,
Dunois dispatched a messenger, to seck
Beside the banks of Wieliue, the Mission'd Maid.

Soon is the court convened; the jewell'd crown Shines on a menial's head. Amid the throng The Monarch stands, and anxious for the event, IIis heart beats high. She comes, the Maid inspired; And as the lastard led her to the throne, Quick glancing o'er the mimic Majesty Fix'd full her eye on Charles. *

“Thou art the Kiu; ,

I come the avenging Delegate of Heaven,
To wield the fated weapon, from whose death,
Their stern hearts palsied by the arm of God,
Far, far from Orleans shall the English wolves
speed their disastrous slight. Monarch of France!
spread the good tidings through thy ravaged realin'
The Maid is come, the mission'd Maid, whose hand
Shall in the consecrated walls of Rheims
Crown thee the anointed King.” ”

t

In wonder mute The courtiers heard. The astonish'd King exclaimed, * This is indeed the agency of Heaven! IIard, Maiden, were I of belief,” he cried, « Did I not now, with full and confirm'd faith, Thee the redeemer of this ravaged realm Believe. Not doubting therefore the strange will Of all-wise Providence, delay I now Instant to marshal the brave sons of France Beneath thy banners; but to satisfy Those who at distance from this most clear proof May hear and disbelieve, or yield at best A cold assent, these fully to confirm And more to manifest thy holy power, Forthwith with all due speed I shall convene The Doctors of Theology, to wise men And skilful in the mysteries of Heaven. By these thy mission studied and approved, As needs it must, their sanction to all minds Shall bring conviction, and the firm belief Lead on thy favour'd troops to mightiest deeds, Surpassing human credibility.”

Well pleas'd the Maiden heard. Her the King leads From the disbanding throng, meantime to dwell With Mary. Watchful for her Lord's return, She sat with Agnes; Agnes, proud of heart, Majestically fair, whose large full eye or flashing anger, or with scornful scowl, Deform'd her beauteous features. Yet with her The lawless idol of the Monarch's heart, Mary, obedient to her husband's will, Dwelt meekly in accord. The Maiden soon Loved the mild Queen, and sojourning with her, Expects the solemn summons.

Through the realm

Meantime the King's convoking voice was heard,
And from their palaces and monasteries
Forth came the Doctors, men acute and deep,
Grown grey in study; Priests and Bishops haste
To Chinon: teachers wise and with high names,
Seraphic, Subtile or Irrefragable,
By their admiring pupils dignificd.

The Doctors met, from cloister gloom recluse, Or from the haunts luxurious of abode Episcopal, they met, and sought the place of judgment, in the ancient church assign'd. The floor with many a monumental stone Was spread, and brass-ensculptured effigy Of holy abbots honour'd in their day, Now to the grave gone down. The branching arms Of many a ponderous pillar met aloft, Wreath'd on the roof emboss'd. Through storied panes of high arch'd windows came the tinctured light. Pure water in a font beneath reflects The many-colour'd ravs; around that font The fathers stand, and there with rites ordain'd And signs symbolic strew the hallowing salt, Wherewith the limpid water, thus imbued, So taught the church, became a spell approv'd Against the fiends of Satan's fallen crew: A licens'd spell of mightier potency Than e'er the hell-hags taught in Thessaly; Or they who sitting on the rifled grave, By the blue tomb-sire's lurid light dim seen,

i “ Of dark and shadowing visions of the night.

Share with the Gouls their banquet.
This perform'd,
The Maid is summon'd. Round the holy vase
Mark'd with the mystic tonsure and enrobed
In sacred vests, a venerable train,
They stand. The delegated Maid obeys *-
Their summons. As she came, a loveliest blush
O'er her fair cheek suffus d, such as became
One mindful still of maiden modesty,
Though of her own worth conscious. Through the aisle
The cold wind moaning, as it pass'd along
Waved her dark flowing locks. Before the train |
In reverent silence waiting their sage will,
With half-averted eye she stood composed.
So have I seen the simple snow-drop rise
Amid the russet leaves that hide the earth
In early spring, so seen it gently bend
In modest loveliness alone amid
The waste of winter.
By the Maiden's side
The Son of Orleans stood, prepared to vouch
That when on Charles the Maiden's eye had six’d,
As led by power miraculous, no fraud,
Nor juggling artifice of secret sign
Dissembled inspiration. As he stood
Steadily viewing the mysterious rites,
Thus to the attentive Maid the Arch-Priest spake
Severe.
« Woman, if any fiend of hell
Lurk in thy bosom, so to prompt the vaunt
Of inspiration, and to mock the power
Of God and holy Church, thus by the virtue
Of water hallowed in the name of God
That damned spirit adjure I to depart
From his possessed prey.»
Slowly he spake,
And sprinkled water on the virgin's face:
Indignant at the unworthy charge, the Maid
Felt her cheek flush; but soon the transient glow
Fading, she answer'd meek.
* Most holy Sires,
Ye reverend Fathers of the Christian church,
Most catholic! I stand before you here
A poor weak woman; of the grace vouchsafed,
How far unworthy, conscious : yet though mean,
Innocent of fraud, and chosen by high Heaven
The minister of aid. Strange voices heard,
The dark and shadowing visions of the night,
Aud feelings which I may not dare to doubt,
These portents make me conscious of the God
Within me; he who gifted my purged eye
To know the Monarch 'mid the menial throng,
Unseen before. Thus much it boots to say.
The life of simple virgin ill deserves
To call your minds from studies wise and deep,
Not to be fathom'd by the weaker sense
Of man profane.” -
• Thou speakest,” said the Priest,

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][merged small]

When by a sudden storm surprised, I sought
A chapel's neighbouring shelter; ruined now,"
But I remember when its vesper bell
Was heard among the hills, a pleasant sound,
That made me pause upon my homeward road,
Awakening in me comfortable thoughts
Of holiness. The unsparing soldiery
Had sack'd the hamlet near, and none was left
Duly at sacred seasons to attend
Saint Agnes' chapel. In the desolate pile
I drove my flock, with no irreverent thoughts,
Nor mindless that the place on which I trod
was holy ground. It was a fearful night!
Devoutly to the virgin Saint I pray'd,
Then heap'd the wither'd leaves which autumn winds
llad drifted in, and laid me down upon them,
And sure I think I slept. But so it was
That, in the dead of night, Saint Agnes stood"
Before mine eyes, such and so beautiful
As when, amid the house of wickedness,
The Power whom with such fervent love she served
Weil'd her with glory. And she seem'd to point
To the moss-grown altar, and the crucifix
Half hid by weeds and grass;.... and then I thought
I could have wither'd armies with a look,
For from the present Saint such divine power
I felt infused..... T was but a dream perhaps.
And yet methought that when a louder peal
Burst o'er the roof, and all was left again
Utterly dark, the bodily sense was clear
And accurate in every circumstance
Of time and place.”

Attentive to her words
Thus the Priest answer'd.

• Brethren, ye have heard The woman's tale. Besecrps us now to ask whether of holy Church a duteous child Before our court appears, so not unlike Ileaven might vouchsafe its gracious miracle; or silly heretic, whose erring thoughts, Monstrous and vain, perchance might stray beyond All reason, and conceit strange dreams and signs Impossible. Say, woman, from thy youth Hast thou, as rightly mother Church demands, Confess'd to holy Priest each secret sin, That, by the grace vouchsafed to him from Heaven, He might absolve thee?» • Father,” she replied,

• The forms of worship in mine earlier years
Wak'd my young mind to artificial awe,
And made me fear my Gon. Warm with the glow
Of health and exercise, whene'er I pass'd
The threshold of the house of prayer, I felt
A cold damp chill me; I beheld the flame
That with a pale and feeble glimmering
Dimm'd the noon-light: I heard the solemn mass,
And with strange feelings and mysterious dread
Telling my beads, gave to the mystic prayers
Devoutest meaning. Often when I saw
The pictur'd flames writhe round a penanced soul,
Have I retired, and knelt before the cross,
And wept for grace, and trembled, and believed
A God of Terrors. But in riper years,
When as my soul grew strong in solitude,
I saw the eternal energy pervade
The boundless range of nature, with the sun

Pour life and radiance from his flamy path,
And on the lowliest flowret of the field
The kindly dew-drops shed. And then I felt
That he who form'd this goodly frame of things
Must needs be good, and with a FATHER's name
I call'd on him, and from my burthend heart
Pour'd out the yearnings of unmingled love.
Methinks it is not strange then, that I sled
The house of prayer, and made the lonely grove
My temple, at the foot of some old oak
Watching the little tribes that had their world
Within its mossy bark; or laid me down
Beside the rivulet whose murmuring
Was silence to my soul,” and mark'd the swarm
Whose light-edged shadows on the bedded sand
Mirror'd their mazy sports; the insect hum,
The flow of waters, and the song of birds
Making a holy music to mine ear:
Oh! was it strange, if for such scenes as these,
Such deep devoutness, such intense delight
Of quiet adoration, I forsook
The house of worship? strange that when I felt
Ilow God had made my Spirit quick to feel
And love whate'er was beautiful and good,
And from aught evil and deform'd to shrink
Even as with instinct; father! was it strange
That in my heart I had no thought of sin
And did not need forgiveness?»
As she spake
The Doctors stood astonish'd, and some while
They listen’d still in wonder. But at length
A Priest replied,
« Woman, thou seemst to scorn
The ordinances of our holy Church;
And, if I rightly understand thy words,
Thou sayst that Solitude and Nature taught
Thy feelings of religion, and that now
Masses and absolution and the use
Of mystic wafer, are to thee unknown.
How then could Nature teach thee true religion,
Deprived of these? Nature can teach to sin,
But t is the Priest alone can teach remorse,
Can bid St Peter ope the gates of Heaven,
And from the penal fires of purgatory
Absolve the soul. Could Nature teach thee this?
Or tell thee that St Peter holds the keys,
And that his successor's unbounded power
Extends o'er either world? Although thy life
Of sin were free, if of this holy truth
Ignorant, thy soul in liquid flames must rue
Its error.”
Thus he spake; the applauding look
Went round. Nor dubious to reply the Maid
Was silent.
• Fathers of the holy Church,
If on these points abstrusc a simple maid
Like me should err, impute not you the crime
To self-will'd reason, vaunting its own strength
Above the eternal wisdom. True it is
That for long time I have not heard the sound
Of mass high-chaunted, nor with trembling lips
Partook the mystic wafer: yet the bird
who to the matin ray prelusive pour’d
His joyous song, methought did warble forth
weeter thanksgiving to Religion's ear
In his wild melody of happiness,

Than ever rung along the high-arch'd roofs
Of man :... yet never from the bending vine
Pluck'd I its ripen'd clusters thanklessly,
Or of that God unmindful, who bestow'd
The bloodless banquet. Ye have told me, Sirs,
That Nature only teaches man to sin
If it be sin to seek the wounded lamb,
To bind its wounds, and bathe them with my tears,
This is what Nature taught! No, Fathers! no,
It is not Nature that can teach to sin:
Nature is all Benevolence, all Love,
All Beauty! In the greenwood's quiet shade
There is no vice that to the indignant cheek
Bids the red current rush; no misery there;
No wretched mother, who with pallid face
And famine-fall n, hangs o'er her hungry babes,
With such a look, so wan, so woe-begone,
As shall one day, with damning eloquence,
Against the mighty plead!... Nature teach sin!
O blasphemy against the Holy One,
Who made us in the image of Himself,
Who made us all for happiness and love,
Infinite happiness, infinite love,
Partakers of his own eternity.”

Solemn and slow the reverend Priest replied,—
“ Much, woman, do I doubt that all-wise Heaven
Would thus vouchsafe its gracious miracles
On one fore-doom'd to misery; for so doom'd
Is that deluded one, who, of the mass
Unheeding, and the Church's saving power,
Deems nature sinless. Therefore, mark me well,
Brethren, I would propose this woman try
The holy ordeal. Let her, bound and stript,
Lest haply in her clothes should be conceal’d
Some holy relic so profaned, be cast
In the deep pond; there if she float, no doubt
Some fiend upholds, but if she instant sink,
Sure sign is that that Providence displays
ller free from witchcraft. This done, let her walk
Blinded and bare o'er ploughshares heated red,
And o'er these past, her naked arm plunge deep
In scalding water. If from these she pass
Unhurt, to holy father of the church,
Most blessed Pope, we then refer the cause
For judgment: and this Chief, the Son of Orleans,
Who comes to vouch the royal person known
By her miraculous power, shall pass with her
The sacred trial.”

« Grace of God ly, exclaim'd
The astonish'd Bastard; a plunge me in the pool!
O'er red-hot ploughshares make me dance to please
Your dotard fancies! Fathers of the church,
Where is your gravity? what! elder-like
Would ye this fairer than Susannah eye.”
Ye call for ordeals; and I too demand
The noblest ordeal, on the English host
By victory to approve the mission sent
From favouring Heaven. To the Pope refer
For judgment! Know ye not that France even now
Stands tottering on destruction?”

Starting wild,

With a strange look, the mission'd Maid exclaim'd, • The sword of God is here! the grave shall speak

To manifest me!»
Even as she spake,

A pale blue flame rose from the trophied tomb
Beside her: and within that house of death
A clash of arms was heard, as though below
The shrouded warrior shook his mailed limbs.
* Ilear ye?» the Damsel cried; a these are the arms
Which shall flash terror o'er the hostile host.
These, in the presence of our Lord the King,
And of the assembled people, I will take
Here from the sepulchre, where many an age,
Incorruptible, they have lain conceal’d,
For me preserved, the delegate of Heaven n

Recovering from amaze, the Priest replied: “Thou art indeed the delegate of Heaven! What thou hast said surely thou shalt perform We ratify thy mission. Go in peace.”

BOOK I V.

The feast was spread, the sparkling bowl went round, And to the assembled court the minstrel harp'd The song of other days. Sudden they heard The horn's loud blast. “ This is no time for cares; Feast ye the messenger without!» cried Charles; « Enough is given of the wearying day To the public weal.” Obedient to the King, The guard invites the traveller to his fare. « Nay, I will see the monarch,” he replied, • And he shall hear my tidings; duty-urged, I have for many a long league hastend on, And will not be repell d.” Then with strong arm Removing him who barr'd his onward way, The hall he enterd. « King of France! From Orleans, speedy and effectual aid Demanding for her gallant garrison, Faithful to thee, though thinn'd in many a fight, And wither'd now by want. Thee it beseems, For ever anxious for thy people's weal, To succour the brave men whose honest breasts Bulwark thy throne.” He said, and from the lall With upright step departing, in amaze At his so bold deportment left the court. The King exclaim d, “ But little need to send Quick succour to this gallant garrison, lf to the English half so firm a front They bear in battle!» « In the field, my liege,” Dunois replied, a yon Knight has served thee well. Him have I seen the foremost of the fight, Wielding so fearfully his death-red axe, That wheresoe'er he turn'd, the affrighted foe Let fall their palsied arms with powerless stroke, Desperate of safety. I do marvel much That he is here : Orleans must be hard press'd, To send the bravest of her garrison On such commission.” Swift the Maid exclaim d, * I tell thee, Chief, that there the English wolves Shall never pour their yells of victory! The will of God defends those fated walls; And resting in full faith on that high will,

I come

F

I mock their efforts. But the night draws on;
Retire we to repose. To morrow's sun,
Breaking the darkness of the sepulchre,
Shall on that armour gleam, through many an age
Kept holy and inviolate by time.”
She said, and, rising from the board, retired.

Meantime the herald's brazen voice proclaim'd Coming solemnity, and far and wide Spread the strange tidings. Every labour ceased; The ploughman from the unfinish'd furrow hastes; The armourer's anvil beats no more the din Of future slaughter. Through the thronging streets The buzz of asking wonder hums along.

On to St Catharine's sacred fine they go; The holy fathers with the imaged cross Leading the long procession. Next, as one Suppliant for mercy to the King of Kings, And grateful for the benefits of Heaven, The Monarch pass'd; and by his side the Maid, Her lovely limbs robed in a snow-white vest;

Wistless that every eye on her was fix d,

With stately step she moved : her labouring soul
To high thoughts elevate; and gazing round
With the wild eye, that of the circling throng
And of the visible world unseeing, saw
The shapes of holy fantasy. By her -
The warrior Son of Orleans strode along
Preeminent. He, nerving his young frame
With manly exercise, had scaled the cliff,
And dashing in the torrent's foaming flood,
Stemm'd with broad breast its fury; so his form,
Sinewy and firm, and 'fit for loftiest deeds,
Tower d high amid the throng effeminate;
No dainty bath had from his hardy limbs
Effaced the hauberk's honourable marks; 64
His helmet bore of hostile steel the dints
Many and deep; upon his pictured shield
A Lion vainly struggled in the toils,
Whilst by his side the cub with pious rage,
His young mane floating to the desert air,
Rends the fallen huntsman. Tremouille him behind,
The worthless favourite of the slothful Prince,
Stalk'd arrogant, in shining armour clasp'd,
Emboss'd with gold and gems of richest hue,
Gaudily graceful, by no hostile blade
Defaced, and rusted by no hostile blood;
Trimly accoutred court habiliments,
Gay lady-dazzling armour, fit to adorn
In dangerless manoeuvres some review,
The mockery of murder! follow'd him
The train of courtiers, summer-flies that sport
In the sun-beam of favour, insects sprung
From the court dunghill, greedy blood-suckers,
The foul corruption-gender'd swarm of state.

As o'er some flowery field the busy bees Pour their deep music, pleasant melody To the tired traveller, under some old oak Streich'd in the checquerd shade; or as the sound Of many waters down the far off steep Dash'd with loud uproar, rose the murmur round Of admiration. Every gazing eye Dwelt on the mission'd Maid; of all beside, The long procession and the gorgeous train,

Though glittering they with gold and sparkling gems,
And their rich plumes high waving to the air,
Heedless.

The consecrated dome they reach,
Reard to St Catharine's holy memory.
Her tale the altar told; when Maximin,
His raised lip kindled with a savage smile,
In such deep fury bade the tenter'd wheel
Tear her life piecemeal, that the very face
Of the hard executioner relax'd
With horror; calm she heard, no drop of blood
Forsook her cheek, her steady eye was turn'd
Heaven-ward, and Hope and meekest Piety
Beam'd in that patient look. Nor vain her trust,
For lo! the Angel of the Lord descends
And crumbles with his fiery touch the wheel !
One glance of holy triumph Catharine cast,
Then bow'd her to the sword of martyrdom.0%

Her eye averting from the storied woe,

The delegated Damsel knelt and pour'd
To Heaven the earnest prayer.

A trophied tomb
Close to the altar rear'd its ancient bulk.
Two pointless javelins and a broken sword,
Time-mouldering now, proclaim'd some warrior slept
The sleep of death beneath. A massy stone
And rude-ensculptured effigy oerlaid
The sepulchre. In silent wonderment
The expectant multitude with eager eye
Gaze, listening as the mattock's heavy stroke
Invades the tomb's repose: the heavy stroke
Sounds hollow; over the high-vaulted roof
Roll the repeated echoes: soon the day
Dawns on the grave's long night, the slant sun-beam
Beams on the inshrined arms, the crested helm,
The baldrick's strength, the shield, the sacred sword.
A sound of awe-repress'd astonishment
Rose from the crowd. The delegated Maid
Over her robes the hallowed breast-plate threw,
Self-fitted to her form ; on her helm'd head
The white plumes nod, majestically slow;
She lifts the buckler and the sacred sword,"
Gleaming portentous light.

The wondering crowd

Raise the loud shout of transport. “God of Heaven,”
The Maid exclaimed, “Father all merciful!
Devoted to whose holy will, I wield
The sword of vengeance, go before our host!
All-just avenger of the innocent,
Be thou our Champion! God of Love, preserve
Those whom do lust of glory leads to arms.”

She ceased, and with an eager hush the crowd Still listen’d; a brief while throughout the dome Deep silence dwelt; then with a sudden burst Devout and full, they rais'd the choral hymn, * Thee, Lord, we praise, our God!» the throng without Catch the strange tidings, join the hymn of joy, And th:undering transport peals along the heavens.

As through the parting crowd the Virgin pass'd, He who from Orleans on the yesternight Demanded succour, clasp'd with warmth her hand, And with a bosom-thrilling voice exclaim'd, « Ill-omen'd Maid! victim of thine own worth,

« 前へ次へ »