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Joan of Are,
AN EPIC POEM.
Εις οιωνος αριστος αμυνεσθαι περι παρτης. .
TO EDITH SOUTHEY.
the puppet of a party, could have performed these things. The artifices of a court could not have per
suaded her that she discovered Charles in disguise; por EDITA! I brought thee late a humble gift, The songs of earlier youth; it was a wreath
could they have prompted her to demand the sword
which they might have hidden, without discovering With many an unripe blossom garlanded
the deceit. The Maid, then, was not knowingly an And many a weed, yet mingled with some flowers Which will not wither. Dearest! now I bring
impostor; nor could she have been the instrument of
the court; and to say that she believed herself inspired, A worthier offering; thou wilt prize it well,
will neither account for her singling out the King, or For well thou koow'st amid what painful cares
prophetically claiming the sword. After crowning My solace was in this; and though to me
Charles, she declared that her mission was accomThere is no music in the hollowness
plished, and demanded leave to retire. Enthusiasm Of common praise, yet well content am I
would not have ceased here; and if they who imposed Now to look back upon my youth's green prime,
on her could persuade her still to go with their armies, Nor idly, nor unprofitably past,
they could still have continued her delusion. Imping in such adventurous essay
This mysteriousness renders the story of Joan of ARC The wing, and strengthening it for steadier flight.
peculiarly fit for poetry. The aid of angels and devils 1797
is not necessary to raise her above mankind; she has no gods to lackey her, and inspire her with courage,
and heal her wounds : the Maid of Orleans acts wholly PREFACE.
from the workings of her own mind, from the deep feeling of inspiration. The palpable agency of superior
powers would destroy the obscurity of her character, The history of Joan of Arc is as mysterious as it is and sink her to the mere heroine of a fairy tale. remarkable. That she believed herself inspired, few The alterations which I have made in the history are will deny; that she was inspired, no one will venture few and trifling. The death of Salisbury is placed later, to assert; and it is difficult to believe that she was and of the Talbots earlier than they occurred. As the herself imposed upon by Charles and Dunois. That battle of Patay is the concluding action of the Poem, I she discovered the King when he disguised himself have given it all the previous solemnity of a settled among the courtiers to deceive her, and that, as a proof engagement. Whatever appears miraculous, is asof her mission, she demanded a sword from a tomb in serted in history, and my authorities will be found in the church of St Catharine, are facts in which all the notes. historians
agree. If this had been done by collusion, It is the common fault of Epic Poems, that we feel the Maid must have known herself an impostor, and little interest for the heroes they celebrate. The nawith that knowledge could not have performed the tional vanity of a Greek or a Roman might have been enterprise she undertook. Enthusiasm, and that of no gratified by the renown of Achilles or Eneas; but to common kind, was necessary, to enable a young maiden engage the unprejudiced, there must be more of human at once to assume the profession of arms, to lead her feelings than is generally to be found in the character troops to battle, to fight among the foremost, and to of a warrior. From this objection, the Odyssey alone subdue with an inferior force an enemy then believed may be excepted. Ulysses appears as the father and invincible. It is not; possible that one who felt herself the husband, and the affections are enlisted on his side.
The judgment must applaud the well-digested plan and The multitude of obscure Epic writers copy with the splendid execution of the Iliad, but the heart always most gross servility their ancient models. If a tempest bears testimony to the merit of the Odyssey : it is the occurs, some envious spirit procures it from the god poem of nature, and its personages inspire love rather of the winds or the god of the sea : is there a town than command admiration. The good herdsman Eu- besieged ? the eyes of the hero are opened, and he mæus is worth a thousand heroes ! Homer is, indeed, beholds the powers of Heaven assisting in the attack : the best of poets, for he is at once dignified and simple; an angel is at hand to heal his wounds, and the leader but Pope has disguised him in fop-finery, and Cowper of the enemy in his last combat is scized with the has stripped hjin naked.
sudden cowardice of Hector. Even Tasso is too often There are few readers who do not prefer Turnus to an imitator. But notwithstanding the censure of a Æneas; a fugitive, suspected of treason, who negli- satirist, the name of Tasso will still be ranked among gently left his wife, seduced Dido, deserted her, and the best heroic poets. Perhaps Boileau only condemned then forcibly took Lavinia from her betrothed husband. him for the sake of an antithesis; it is with such What avails a man's piety to the gods, if in all his writers, as with those who affect point in their converdealings with men he prove himself a villain? If we 'sation, they will always sacrifice truth to the gratifirepresent Deity as commanding a bad action, this is cation of their vanity. not exculpating the man, but criminating the God. I have avoided what seems useless and wearying in
The ill chosen subjects of Lucan and Statius have other poems, and my readers will find 'no description prevented them from acquiring the popularity they of armour, no muster-rolls, no geographical catalowould otherwise have merited; yet in detached parts, gues, lion, tiger, bull, bear and boar similes, Phæbuses the former of these is perhaps unequalled, certainly or Aurotas. And where in battle I have particularised unexcelled. I do not scruple to prefer Statius to the death of an individual, it is not I hope like the Virgil; with inferior taste, he appears to me to possess common lists of killed and wounded. a richer and more powerful imagination ; his images In Millin's National Antiquities of France, I find that are strongly conceived, and clearly painted, and the M. Laverdy was in 1791 occupied in collecting what force of his language, while it makes the reader feel, ever has been written concerning the Maid of Orleans. proves that the author felt himself,
I have anxiously expected his work, but it is probable, The power
of story is strikingly exemplified in the considering the tumults of the intervening period, that Italian heroic poets. They please universally, even in it has not been accomplished. Of the various protranslations, when little but the story remains. Inductions to the memory of Joan of Arc, I have only proportioning his characters, Tasso has erred; Godfrey collected a few titles, and, if report may be trusted, is the hero of the poem, Rinaldo of the poet, and need not fear a heavier condemnation than to be deemed Tancred of the reader. Secondary characters should equally bad. A regular canon of St Euverte has written not be introduced, like Gyas and Cloanthus, merely to une très mauvaise poème, entitled the Modern Amazon. fill a procession; neither should they be so prominent There is a prose tragedy called La Pucelle d'Orléans, as to throw the principal into shade.
variously attributed to Benserade, to Boyer, and to The lawless magic of Ariosto, and the singular theme Meoardière. The abbé Daubignac published a prose as well as the singular excellence of Milton, render it tragedy with the same title in 1642. There is one under impossible to deduce any rules of epic poetry from these the name of Jean Baruel of 1581, and another printed authors. So likewise with Spenser, the favourite of my anonymously at Rouen 1606. Among the manuscripts childhood, from whose frequent perusal I have always of the queen of Sweden in the Vatican, is a dramatic found increased delight.
piece in verse called Le Mystère du Siège d'Orléans. In Against the machinery of Camoens, a heavier charge these modern times, says Millin, all Paris has run to must be brought than that of profaneness or incon- the theatre of Nicolet to see a pantomime entitled Le gruity. His floating island is but a floating brothel, fameux Siège de la Pucelle d'Orléans. I may add, and no beauty can make atonement for licentiousness. that, after the publication of this Poem, a pantomime From this accusation, none but a translator would
upon the same subject was brought forward at Coventattempt to justify him; but Camoens had the most Garden Theatre, in which the heroine, like Don Juan, able of translators. The Lusiad, though excellent in was carried off by devils and precipitated alive into parts, is uninteresting as a whole: it is read with little hell.
I mention it, because the feelings of the auemotion, and remembered with little pleasure. But it dience revolted at such a catastrophe, and after a few was composed in the anguish of disappointed hopes, in nights an angel was introduced to rescue her. the fatigues of war, and in a country far from all he But among the number of worthless poems upon this loved; and we should not forget, that as the Poet of subject, there are two which are unfortunately notoPortugal was among the most unfortunate of men, so rious,—the Pucelles of Chapelain and Voltaire. I have he should be ranked among the most respectable. had patience to peruse the first, and never have been Neither his own country or Spain bas yet produced his guilty of looking into the second; it is well said by equal: his heart was broken by calamily, but the spirit Herbert the poet, of integrity and independence never forsook Camoens. I have endeavoured to avoid what appears to me the
Make not thy sport abuses, for the fly common fault of Epic poems, and to render the Maid of
That feeds on dung, is coloured thereby. Orleans interesting. With this intent I have given her, not the passion of love, but the remembrance of sub On the cighth of May, the anniversary of its delivedued affection, a lingering of luman feelings not rance, an annual fête is held at Orléans; and monuinconsistent with the enthusiasm and holiness of her ments have been erected there and at Rouen to the character.
memory of the Maid.
Her family was ennobled by
Charles; but it should not be forgotten in the history The Lord of Vaucouleur, « that she frequents of this monarch, that, in the hour of misfortune, he The loneliest haunts and deepest solitude, abandoned to her fale the woman who had saved his Estranged from human kind and human cares kingdom.
With loathing like to madness. It were best
To place her with some pious sisterhood, November, 1795.
Who, duly morn and eve for her soul's health
I must go,
THERE was high feasting held at Vaucouleur,
« Good my Lord, I come,
While he spake
« I have heard Of this your niece's malady,» replied
So as Sir Robert ceased, the Maiden cried,
At the first
« Doubt!» the Maid exclaim'd,
They listend to the Maid, And they almost believed. Then spake Dunois, « Wilt thou go with me, Maiden, to the king, And there anvounce thy mission ?» Thus he said, For thoughts of politic craftiness arose Within him, and his unconfirmed faith Determined to prompt action. She replied, « Therefore I sought the Lord of Vaucouleur, That with such credence as prevents delay, lle to the King might send me.
Now beseech you, Speed our departure.»
Then Dunois address d Sir Robert: «Fare thee well, my friend and host! It were ill done to linger here when Heaven Hath sent such strange assistance. Let what force Lorraine can yield to Chinou follow us; And with the tidings of this holy Maid, Rais'd up by Gop, till thou the country; soon The country shall awake as from the sleep Of death. Now, Maid! depart we at thy will.»
Taught wisdom to mankind !6 Unhappy France!
« A simple tale,» the mission d Maid replied, « Yel may it well employ the journeying hour, And pleasant is the memory of the past.
«God's blessing go with thee!» exclaim'd old Claude; « Good Angels guard my girl!» and as he spake The tears stream'd fast adown his aged cheeks. « And if I do not live to see thee more, As sure I think I shall not, yet sometimes Remember thine old Uncle. I have loved thee Even from thy childhood, JOAN! and I shall lose The comfort of mine age in losing thee. But God be with thee, Child!»
Nor was the Maid,
So on they went,
The Maiden gazed
« Seest thou, Sir Chief, where yonder forest skirts
Good old man!
Amid these wilds
bosom'd vale, and valley stream
her dizzy eye.
She sunk. Then would she sit and think all day
Fill'd with a strange and undefined delight
Here in solitude and peace
heart Partook her happiness, for never lived A happier pair than Arnaud and his wife.
« Lorraine was call'd to arms, and with her youth
More frequent now
« Death! to the happy thou art terrible,
I remember as her bier
It chanced as once