ページの画像
PDF

Devoted for the king-curst realm of France!
Ill-omen'd Maid, I pity thee!» so saying,
He turn'd into the crowd. At his strange words
Disturb’d, the warrior Virgin pass'd along,
And much revolving in her troubled mind,
Retreads the court.
And now the horn announced
The ready banquet; they partook the feast, 97
Then rose and in the cooling water cleans'd
Their hands; and seated at the board again
Enjoy'd the bowl, or scented high with spice,
Or flavour'd with the fragrant summer fruit,
Or luscious with metheglin mingled rich.”
Meantime the Trouveur struck the harp; he sang
Of Lancelot du Lake, the truest Knight
That ever loved fair Lady; and the youth
Of Cornwall, 69 underneath whose maiden sword
The strength of Ireland fell, and he who struck
The dolorous stroke, 79 the blameless and the brave,
Who died beneath a brother's erring arm.
Ye have not perish'd, Chiefs of Carduel!
The songs of earlier years embalm your fame,
And haply yet some Poet shall arise,
Like that divinest Tuscan, 71 and enwreathe
The immortal garland for himself and you.

The full sound echoed o'er the arched roof,

And listening eager to the favourite lay,
The guests sat silent, when into the hall
The messenger from that besieged town
Stalk'd stately. “It is pleasant, King of France,
To feast at ease, and hear the harper's song;
Far other music hear the men of Orleans!
Death is among them; there the voice of Woe
Moans ceaseless.”

« Rude unmannerly intruder!»
Exclaim'd the Monarch, a cease to interrupt
The hour of merriment; it is not thine
To instruct me in my duty.”

Of reproof

Heedless, the stranger to the minstrel cried,
“Why harpest thou of good King Arthur's fame
Amid these walls? Wirtue and Genius love
That lofty lay. Hast thou no loose lewd tale
To pamper and provoke the appetite?
Such should procure thee worthy recompense!
Or rather sing thou of that mighty one,
Who tore the ewe lamb from the poor man's bosom,
That was to him even as a daughter! Charles,
This holy tale would I tell, prophet-like,
And look at thee and cry, ‘Thou art the man!”

IIe said, and with a quick and troubled step Retired. Astonish'd at his daring phrase, The guests sat heedless of the minstrel's song, Pondering the words mysterious. Soon the harp Beguiled their senses of anxiety.

The court dispersed: retiring from the ball, Charles and the delegated Damscl sought The inner palace. There awaited them The Queen: with her JOAN lov'd to pass the hours, By various converse cheerd; for she had won The Virgin's heart by her mild melancholy, The calm and duteous patience that deplored A liusband's cold half-love. To her she told

[ocr errors]

With what strange words the messenger from Orleans
Had roused uneasy wonder in her mind;
For on her ear yet vibrated his voice,
When lo! again he came, and at the door
stood scowling round.
« Why dost thou haunt me thus?»

The Monarch cried; “Is there no place secure
From thy rude insolence? Unmanner'd man!
I know thee not!»

«Then learn to know me, Charles!»
Solemnly he replied; a read well my face,
That thou mayst know it on that dreadful day,
When at the throne of God I shall demand
His justice on thee!» Turning from the King,
To Agnes as she enterd, in a tone
More low, more awfully severe, he cried,
& Dost thou too know me not?»

She glanced on him,
And pale and breathless hid her head convulsed
In the Maid's bosom.
« King of France!» he said,
* She loved me! day by day I dwelt with her,
Her voice was music, very sweet her smiles;
I left her! left her, Charles, in evil hour,
To fight thy battles. Thou meantime didst come,
Staining most foul her spotless purity;
For she was pure:... Alas! these courtly robes
Hide not the hideous stain of infamy.
Thou canst not with thy golden belt 7” put on
An honourable name, unhappy one!
My poor polluted Agnes!—Charles, almost
My faith in Heaven is shaken! Thou art here
Riotint; in joy, while I, though innocent
Of ill, the victim of another's vice,
Drag on the loathsome burthen of existence,
And doubt Heaven's justice!”
So he said, and frown'd
Dark as the form who at Mallom med's door
Knock'd fierce and frequent; from whose fearful look,
Bath'd with cold damps, every beholder fled.
Even the prophet, almost terrified,
Endured but half to view him, for he knew
Azkael, the dreadful Messenger of Fate,
And his death-day was come. Guilt-petrified
The Monarch sate, nor could endure to face
His bosom-probing frown. The mission'd Maid
Meantime had read his features, and she cried,
“I know thce, Conrade!» Rising from her seat,
She took his land, for he stood motionless,
Gazing on Agnes now with steady eye,
Dreadful though calm; him from the court she drew,
And to the river's banks, resisting not,
Both sad and silent, led; till at the last,
As from a dream awaking, Conrade look'd
Full on the Maid, and falling on her neck,
He wept.
“I know thee, Damsel!» he exclaim'd :

a Dost thou remember that tempestuous night,
When I, a weather-beaten traveller, sought
Your hospitable doors? ah me! I then
Was happy! you too sojourn'd then in peace.
Fool that I was, I blamed such happiness,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Answering, address'd, “I do remember well,
That night: for then the Holy Spirit first,
Waked by thy words, possess'd me.”
Conrade cried,
“Poor Maiden, thou wert happy! thou hadst lived
Blessing and blest, if I had never stray'd,
Needlessly rigid from my peaceful path.
And thou hast left thine home then, and obey'd
The feverish fancies of thine ardent brain!
And hast thou left him too, the youth whose eye,
For ever glancing on thee, spake so well
Affection's eloquent tale?»
So as he said,
Rush'd the warm purple to the Virgin's cheek.
* I am alone,” she answer'd, a for this realm
Devoted.» Nor to answer more the Maid
Endurd; for many a melancholy thought
Throng'd on her aching memory. Her mind's cyc
Beheld Dom remi and the fields of Arc:
Her burthen'd heart was full; such grief she felt,
Yet such sweet solacing of self-applause
As cheers the banish'd Patriot's lonely hours
when Fancy pictures to him all he loved,
Till the big tear-drop rushes o'er its orb,
And drowns the soft enchantment.
With a look
That spake solicitous wonder, Conrade eyed
The silent Maid; nor would the Maid suppress
The thoughts that swell'd within her, or from him
Hide her soul's workings. “T was on the last day
Before I left Domremi; eve had closed,
I sate beside the brook, my soul was full,
As if inebriate with Divinity—
Then, Conrade! I beheld a ruffian herd
Circle a flaming pile, where at the stake
A woman stood; the iron b, aised her breast.
And round her limbs ungarmented, the fire
Curl’d its fierce flakes. I saw her countenance,
I knew Myself.” 73 Then, in subdued tones
Of Calmness, “ There are moments when the soul
From her own impulse with strange dread recoils,
Suspicious of herself: but with a full
And perfect faith I know this vision sent
Fromi Heaven, and feel of its unerring truth,
As that God liveth, that I live myself,
The feeling that deceives not.”
By the hand
Her Comrade held and cried, “ Ill-fated Maid,
That I have torn thee from Affection's breast,
My soul will groan in anguish. Thou wilt serve,
Like me, the worthless Court, and having served,
In the hour of ill abandon'd, thou wilt curse
The duty that deluded. Of the world
Fatigued, and loathing at my fellow-men,
I shall be seen no more. There is a path 74—
The eagle hath not mark'd it, the young wolf
Knows not its hidden windings:—I have trod
That path, and mark'd a melancholy den,
Where one whose jaundiced soul abhors itself,
May pamper him in complete wretchedness.
There sepulchred, the ghost of what he was,
Conrade shall dwell; and in the languid hour,
When the jarr'd senses sink to a sick calm,
Shall mourn the waste of frenzy!"
- Then the Maid
Fix'd upon Conrade her commanding eye:

“I pass'd the fertile Auxerrois,” she cried;
“The vines had spread their interwoven shoots
Over the unpruned vineyards, and the grape
Rotted beneath the leaves, for there was none
To tread the vintage, and the birds of heaven
Had had their fill. I saw the cattle start
As they did hear the loud alarum bell,75
And with a piteous moaning vainly seek
To fly the coming slaughterers. I look'd back
Upon the cottage where I had partook
The peasant's meal, and saw it wrapt in flames.
And then I thank'd my God that I had burst
The stubborn ties which fetter down the soul
To selfish happiness, and on this earth
Was as a pilgrim.7%—Conrade rouse thyself!
Cast the weak nature off!77 a time like this
Is not for gentler feelings, for the glow
Of love, the overflowings of the heart;
There is oppression in thy country, Conrade :
There is a cause, a holy cause, that needs
The brave man's aid. Live for it, and enjoy
Earth's noblest recompense, thine own esteem :
Or die in that good cause, and thy reward
Shall sure be found in Heaven. »

- He answer'd not,
But clasping to his heart the Virgin's hand,
Hasten’d across the plain. She with dim eyes,
For gushing tears obscured them, follow'd him
Till lost in distance. With a weight of thought
Opprest, along the poplar-planted Vienne
Awhile she wander'd, then upon the bank
She laid her down, and watch'd the tranquil stream
Flow with a quiet murmuring, by the clouds
Of evening purpled. The perpetual flow,
The ceaseless murmuring, lull'd her to such dreams
As Memory in her melancholy mood
Loves best. The wonted scenes of Arc arose;
She saw the forest brook, the weed that waved
Its long green tresses in the stream, the crag
Which overbrow'd the spring, and that old yew
Which through the bare and rifted rock had forced
Its twisted trunk, the berries, cheerful red
Starring its gloomy green. Her pleasant home
She saw, and those who made that home so dear,
Her loved lost friends. The mingled feelings fill'd
Her eyes, when from behind a voice was heard,
« O Lady canst thou tell me where to find
The Mlaid whom Heaven hath sent to rescue France?»
Thrill'd by the well-known tones, she started up,
And fell upon the neck of Theodore.

[ocr errors][merged small]

with silent tears of joy bedev'd his neck.
At length,-- I hope,” she cried, “ thou art not come
With heavier fault and breach of nearer tie
How did thy mother spare thee,_thou alone
The stay and comfort of her widow’d age?
Did she upon thy parting steps bestow
Her free-will blessing, or hast thou set forth,
Which Heaven forbid, unlicensed, and unblest?”

* Oh, surely not unblest!» the youth replied: Yet conscious of his unrepented fault, with countenance flush'd, and faltering in reply: « She wept at my departure, she would fain Have turn'd me from my purpose, and my heart Perhaps had fail'd me, if it had not glow'd With ardour like thine own; the sacred fire with which thy bosom burns had kindled me: High in prophetic hope, I bade her place Her trust in Heaven; I bade her look to hear Good tidings soon of glorious victory : I told her I sliould soon return,-return With thee, and thou wouldst be to her old age What Mladelon had been.” As thus he spake, Warm with the imaginary bliss, he clasp'd The dear one closer to his yearning heart. But the devoted Virgin in his arms Started and shudder'd, for the flaming pile Flash'd on remembrance uow, and on her soul The whole terrific vision rose again. A death-like paleness at the dreadful thought Wither'd her cheek; the sweat suffused her brow, And, falling on the neck of Theodore, Feeble and faint she hung. Concentring all the anguish of the soul, And strain'd in anxious love, gazed fearfully With wondering anguish; tıll the ennobling thought Of her high mission roused her, and her soul Collected, and she spake. • My Theodore, Thou hast done ill to quit thy mother's home! Alone and aged she will weep for thee, Wasting the little that is left of life In anguish. Now go back again to Arc, And cheer her wintry hours of widowhood, And love my memory there. * Swift he exclaimed,— « Nay, Maid! the pang of parting is o'erpast, And Elinor looks on to the glad hour When we shall both return. Amid the war How many an arm will seek thy single life, How many a sword and spear—I will go with thee And spread the guardian shield on « Nay,” she replied, * I shall not need thy succour in the war. Mc Heaven, if so seem good to its high will, Will save I shall be happier, Theodore, Thinking that thou dost sojourn safe at home, And make thy mother happy.” The youth's cheek A rapid blush disorder'd. • Oh! the court Is pleasant, and thy soul would fain forget A humble villager, who only boasts The treasure of the heart lo She look'd at him With the reproaching eye of tenderness:

His eager eye

« Injurious man Devoted for this realm,
I go a willing victim. The dark veil
Hath been for me withdrawn, these eyes beheld
The fearful features of Futurity.
Yes, Theodore, I shall redeem my country,
Abandoning for this the joys of life,
Yea, life itself!» Then on his neck she fell,
And with a faltering voice, a Return to Arc'
I do not tell thee there are other maids
As fair; for thou wilt love my memory,
Hallowing to me the temple of thy heart.
Worthy a happier, 78 not a better love,
My Theodore ow-Then, pressing his pale lips,
A last and holy kiss the Virgin fix’d,
And rush'd across the plain.
She reach'd the court
Breathless. The mingled movements of her mind
Shook every fibre. Sad and sick at heart,
Fain to her lonely chamber's solitude
The Maiden had retired; but her the King
Mct on the threshold. He of the late scene
Forgetful and his crime, as cheerful seem'd
As though there had not been a God in Heaven'
« Enter the hall,” he cried, “ the masquers there
Join in the dance. Why, Maiden, art thou sad
Has that rude madman shook thy gentle frame
With his strange frenzies?»
Ere the Maid replied,
The Son of Orleans came with joyful speed,
Poising his massy javelin.
“Thou hast roused
The sleeping virtue of the sons of France;
They crowd around the standard,” cried the Chief.
“My lance is ponderous, and my sword is sharp'd
To meet the mortal combat. Mission'd Maid,
Our brethren sieged in Orleans, every moment
Gaze from the watch-tower with the sick'ning eye
Of expectation.”
Then the King exclaim’d,
« O chosen by Heaven! defer one day thy march,
That, humbled at the altar, we may join
The general prayer. Be these our holy rites
To-morrow's task;-to-night for merriment a

The Maid replied,—“ The wretched ones in Orleans,
In fear and hunger and expiring hope,
Await my succour, and my prayers would plead
In Heaven against me, did they waste one hour
When active duty calls. For this night's mirth
Hold me excused ; in truth I am not fit
For merriment; a heavy charge is on me,
And I must put away all mortal thoughts.” 79
Her heart was full ; and pausing, she repress'd
The unbidden anguish. “Lo they crowd around
The standard! Thou, Dunois, the chosen troops
Marshal in speed, for early with the dawn
We march to rescue Orleans from the foe.”

BOOK W.

ScArce had the early dawn from Chinon's towers
Made visible the mist that curl’d along
The river's winding way, when from her couch
The martial Maid arose. She mail'd her limbs;

The white plumes nodded o'er her helmed head;
She girt the sacred falchion by her side,
And, like a youth who from his mother's arms,
For his first field impatient, breaks away,
Poising the lance went forth.
Twelve hundred men,

Rearing in order'd ranks their glittering spears,
Await her coming. Terrible in arms
Before them tower'd Dunois, his manly face
O'ershadow’d by the helmet's iron cheeks.
The assembled court gazed on the marshall'd train,
And at the gate the aged prelate stood
To pour his blessing on the chosen host.
And now a soft and solemn symphony
Was heard, and, chaunting high the hallow'd hymn,
From the near convent came the vesta! maids.
A holy banner, woven by virgin hands, -
Snow-white they bore. A mingled sentiment
Of awe, and eager ardour for the fight,
Thrill'd through the army, as the reverend man
Took the white standard, and with heaven-ward eye
Call'd on the God of Justice, blessing it.
The Maid, her brows in reverence unhelm'd,
Her dark hair floating on the morning gale,
Knelt to his prayer, and stretching forth her hand
Received the mystic ensign. From the host
A loud and universal shout burst forth,
As rising from the ground, on her white brow
She placed the plumed casque, and waved on high
The banner'd lilies. On their way they march,
And dim in distance, soon the towers of Chinon
Fade from the eye reverted.

. The sixth sun,
Purpling the sky with his dilated light,
Sunk westering; when embosom'd in the depth
Of that old forest, which for many a league
Shadows the hills and vales of Orleannois,
They pitch their tents. The hum of occupation
Sounds ceaseless. Waving to the evening gale
The streamers wanton ; and, ascending slow
Beneath the foliage of the forest-trecs,
With many a light hue tinged, the curling smoke
Melts in the impurpled air. Leaving her tent,
The martial Maiden wander'd through the wood;
There, by a streatmlet, on the mossy bank
Reclined, she saw a damsel; her long locks
With willow wreathed; upon her lap there lay
A dark-hair'd man listening as she did sing
Sad ditties, and enwreathe to bind his brow
The melancholy garland. At the sound
Of one in arms approaching, she had fled;
But Conrade, looking upward, recognized
The Maid of Arc. & Nay, fear not, Isabel,”
Said he, a for this is one of gentle kind,
Whom even the wretched need not fear to love.”

So saying, he arose and took her hand, And held it to his bosom. “My weak heart, Though school'd by wrongs to loathe at human kind, Will beat, rebellious to its own resolves. Come hither, outcast one ! and cali her friend, And she shall be thy friend more readily, Because thou art unhappy.”

Isabel

Saw a tear starting in the Virgin's eye,

And glancing upon Comrade, she too wept,

Wailing his wilder'd senses.
« Mission'd Maid 'n
The warrior cried, “ be happy! for thy power
Can make this sufferer so. From Orleans driven,
Orphan'd by war, and of her only friend
Bereft, I found her wandering in the wilds,
Worn out with want and wretchedness. Thou, JOAN,
Wilt his beloved to the youth restore;
And, trust me, Maid : the miserable feel
When they •n others bestow happiness,
Their happiest consolation.”
She replied,
Pressing the damsel's hand, in the mild tone
Of equal friendship, solacing her cares:
* Soon shall we euter Orleans, o said the Maid;
* A few hours in her dream of victory
England shall triumph; then to be awaked
By the loud thunder of Almighty wrath
Irksome meantime the busy camp to me,
A solitary woman. Isabel,
Wert thou the while companion of my tent,
Lightlier the time would pass. Return with me,
I may not long be absent.”
So she spake.
The wanderer in half-utter'd words express'd
Grateful assent. “Art thou astonish'd, Maid,
* That one though powerful is benevolent 1
In truth thou well mayest wonder!» Conrade cried,
“But little cause to love the mighty ones
Hath the low cottager' for with its shade
Doth Power, a barren death-dew-dropping tree,
Blast ev'ry herb beneath its baleful boughs .
Tell thou thy sufferings, Isabel ! Relate
How warr'd the chieftains, and the people died.
The mission'd Virgin hath not heard thy woes;
And pleasant to mine ear the twice-told tale
Of sorrow.”
Gazing on the martial Maid,
She read her wish, and spake. “A wanderer now,
Friendless and hopeless, still I love to think
Upon my native home, and call to mind
Each haunt of careless youth; the woodbined wall,
The jessamine that round the straw-roofd cot
Its fragrant branches wreath'd, beneath whose shade
I wont to sit and watch the setting sun,
And hear the redbreast's lay. Nor far remote,
As o'er the subject landscape round I gazed,
The towers of Yenville rose upon the view.
A foreign master holds my father's home
I, far away, remember the past years,
And weep.
Two brethren form'd our family;
Humble we were, and happy. Honest toil
Procured our homely sustenance; our herds
Duly at morn and evening to my hand
Gave their full stores; the vineyard we had rear'd
Purpled its clusters in the southern sun,
And, plenteous produce of my father's toil,
The yellow harvest billow'd o'er the plain.
How cheerful, seated round the blazing hearth
When all the labour of the day was done,
We past the evening hours! for they would sing
Or cheerful roundelay, or ditty sad
Of maid forsaken and the willow weed,
Or of the doughty Paladins of France,
Some warlike fit, the while my spinning wheel

Humm'd not unpleasing round ! Thus long we lived, And happy. To a neighbouring youth my hand, In holy wedlock soon to be consign'd, Was plighted my poor Francis 'n Here she paused, And here she wept awhile. « We did not dream The desolating sword of War would stoop To us; but soon, as with the whirlwind's speed, Ruin rush'd round us.* Mehun, Clery, fell, The banner'd Leopard waved on Gergeau's wall ! Baugenci yielded; soon the foe approach'd The towers of Yenville. Fatal was the hour To wretched Isabel : for from the wall The rusty sword was taken, and the shield Which long had moulder'd on the mouldering nail, To meet the war repaird. No more was heard The ballad, or the merry roundelay; The clattering hammer's clank, the grating file Harsh sounded through the day a dismal din. . I never shall forget their mournful sound !

“My father stood encircling his old limbs
In long-forgotten arms. ‘Come, boys, he cried,
“I did not think that this grey head again
Should bear the helmet's weight! but in the field
Better to boldly die a soldier's death,
Than here be tamely butcher'd. Isabel,
Go to the abbey : if we should survive
We soon shall meet again : if not, my child,
There is a better world !'

In broken words,
Liftint; his looks to Heaven, my father breath'd
His blessing on me. As they strode away,
My brethren gazed on me and wrung my hand
In silence, for they loved their Isabel.
From the near cottage Francis join'd the troop.
Then did I look on our forsaken home,
And almost sob my very soul away!
For all my hopes of happiness were fled,
Like a vain dream!»

« Perish these mighty ones,”

Cried Conrade, a these prime ministers of death,
Who stalk elated o'er their fields of fame,
And count the thousands they have massacred,
And with the bodies of the innocent, rear
Their pyramid of glory' perish these,
The epitome of all the pestilent plagues
That Egypt knew' who pour their locust swarms
O'er ravaged realms, and bid the brooks run blood.
FEAR and Destruction go before their path,
And FAMINE dogs their footseps. God of Justice,
Let not the innocent blood cry out in vain on

Thus while he spake, the murmur of the camp

Rose on their ear: first like the distant sound
When the full-foliaged forest to the storm
Shakes its hoarse head; anon with louder din;
And through the opening glade gleam'd many a fire.
The Virgin's tent they enterd; there the board
Was spread, the wanderer of the fare partook,
Then thus her tale renew'd.

« Slow o'er the hill Whose rising head conceald our cot I past,

Yet on my journey paused awhile, and gazed
And wept; for often had I crost the hill
With cheerful step, and seen the rising smoke
Of hospitable fire; alas! no smoke
Curl’d o'er its melancholy chimneys now!
Orleans I reach'd. There in the suburbs stood
The abbey; and ere long I learnt the fall
Of Yenville.

On a day, a soldier ask'd
For Isabel. Scarce could my faltering feet
Support me—It was Francis, and alone—
The sole survivor of the fatal fight!

« And soon the foes approach'd : impending war

Soon sadden'd Orleans. 8. There the bravest chiefs
Assemble : Thouars, Coarase, Chabannes,
And the Sire Chappelle * in successful war
Since wounded to the death, and that good Knight
Giresme of Rhodes, who in a better cause
Can never wield the crucifix that hilts
His hallow'd sword, 83 and Xaintrailles ransom'd now,
And Fayette late released, and that young Duke 84
Who at Verneuil senseless with many a wound
Fell prisoner, and La Hire, the merriest man **
That ever yet did win his soldiers' love,
And over all for hardihood renown'd
The Bastard Orleans.

These within the town
Expect the foe. Twelve hundred chosen men
Well tried in war, uprear the guardian shield
Beneath their banners. Dreadful was the sight
Of preparation. The wide suburbs stretch'd
Along the pleasant borders of the Loire,
Late throng'd with multitudes, now feel the hand
Of ruin. 86 These preventive care destroys,
Lest England, shelter'd by the friendly walls,
Securely should approach. The monasteries
Fell in the general waste. The holy monks
Unwillingly their long-accustom'd haunts
Abandon, haunts where every gloomy nook
Call'd to awaken'd memory some trace
Of vision seen, or sound miraculous.
Trembling and terrified, their noiseless cells
For the rude uproar of a world unknown
The nuns desert: their abbess, more composed,
Collects her maids around, and tells her beads,
And pours the timid prayer of piety.
The citizens with long and ceaseless stroke
Dig up the violated earth, to impede
The foe: the hollow chambers of the dead
Echoed beneath. The brazen-trophied tomb,
Thrown in the furnace, now prepares to give
The death it late recorded. It was sad
To see so wide a waste; the aged ones
Hanging their heads, and weeping as they went
O'er the fall'n dwellings of their happier years;
The stern and sullen silence of the men
Musing on vengeance : and, but ill represt,
The mother's fears as to her breast she clasp'd
Her ill-doom'd infant. Soon the suburbs lay
One ample ruin; the huge stones removed,
Wait in the town to rain the storm of death.

• And now without the walls the desolate plain Stretch'd wide, a rough and melancholy waste, With uptorn pavements and foundations deep

« 前へ次へ »