ページの画像
PDF
ePub

THE

POETICAL WORKS

OF

ROBERT SOUTHEY.

Joan of Are,

AN EPIC POEM.

Εις οιωνος αριστος αμυνεσθαι περι παρτης. .

ΟΜΗΡΟΣ.
Ut homines, ita libros, in dies seipsis meliores fieri oportet.

ERASMUS.

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
Soliciting Heaven, may likeliest remedy
The stricken mind, or frenzied or possess'd.»

BOOK I.

I must go,

5

[ocr errors]

THERE was high feasting held at Vaucouleur,
For old Sir Robert had a noble guest,
The Bastard Orleans; ' and the festive hours,
Cheer'd with the Trobador's sweet minstrelsy, 2
Pass'd lightly at his hospitable board.
But not to share the hospitable board
And hear sweet minstrelsy, Dunois had sought
Sir Robert's hall; he came to rouse Lorraine,
And glean what force the wasting war had left
For one last effort. Little had the war
Left in Lorraine, but age, and youth unripe
For slaughter yet, and widows, and young maids
Of widow'd loves. And now with his high guest
The Lord of Vaucouleur sat communing
On what might profit France, and knew no hope,
Despairing of his country, when he heard
An old man and a maid awaited him
In the castle hall. He knew the old man well,
His vassal Claude, and at his bidding Claude
Approach'd, and after meet obeisance made,
Bespake Sir Robert.

« Good my Lord, I come,
With a strange tale; I pray you pardou me
If it should seem impertinent, and like
An old man's weakness. But, in truth, this Maid
Hath with such boding thoughts impress'd my heart,
I think I could not longer sleep in peace
Denying what she sought. 3 She saith that God
Bids her go drive the Englishmen from France!-
Her parents mock at her and call her crazed,
And father Regnier says she is possess'd;. .
But I, who know that never thought of ill
Found entrance in her heart,..for good my Lord,
From her first birth-day she hath been to me
As mine own child, .. and I am an old man,
And have seen many moon-struck in my time,
And some who were by evil spirits vex'd,.,
I, Sirs, do thiuk that there is more in this...
And who can tell if, in these perilous times,
It should please God,.. but hear the Maid yourselves,
For if, as I believe, this is of Heaven,
My silly speech doth wrong

While he spake
Curious they mark'd the Damsel. She appear'd
Of eighteen years; 4 there was no bloom of youth
Upon her cheek, yet had the loveliest hues
Of health with lesser fascination fixd
The gazer's eye; for wan the Maiden was,
Of saintly paleness, and there seein'd to dwell
In the strong beauties of her countenance
Something that was not earthly.

« I have heard Of this your niece's malady,» replied

So as Sir Robert ceased, the Maiden cried,
«I am not mad. Possess'd indeed I am!
The hand of God is strong upon my soul,
And I have wrestled vainly with the LORD,
And stubbornly I fear me. I can save
This country, Sir! I can deliver France!
Yea. .I must save the country! God is in me..
I speak not, think not, feel not of myself.
He knew and sanctified me cre my birth,
He to the nations hath ordained me,
And whither ue shall send me,
And whatso he commands, that I must speak,
And whatso is his will, that I must do;
And I must cast away all fear of man
Lest ue in wrath confound me.»

At the first
With pity or with scorn Dunois had heard
The Maid inspired; but now ise in his heart
Felt that misgiving which precedes belief
In what was disbelieved and scoffd at late
As folly. « Damsel!» said the Chief, « methinks
It would be wisely done to doubt this call,
llaply of some ill spirit prompting thee
To self-destruction.»

« Doubt!» the Maid exclaim'd,
« It were as easy when I gaze around
On all this fair variety of things,
Green fields and tufted woods, and the blue depth
Of heaven, and yonder glorious suo, to doubt
Creating wisdom! when in the evening gale
I breathe the mingled odours of the spring,
And hear the wild wood melody, and hear
The populous air vocal with insect life,
To doubt God's goodness! there are feelings, Chief,
That may not lie; and I have oftentimes
Felt in the midnight silence of my soul
The call of God.»

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.»

it.»

gone forth.

Taught wisdom to mankind !6 Unhappy France!
Fiercer than evening wolves thy bitter foes
Rush o'er the land and desolate and kill;7
Long has the widow's and the orphan's groan
Accused Heaven's justice ;-but the hour is come;
God hath inclined his ear, bath heard the voice
Of mourning, and his anger

is
Then said the Son of Orleans, « Holy Maid !
Fain would I know, if blameless I may seek
Such knowledge, how the heavenly call was heard
First in thy waken'd soul; nor deem in me
Aught idly curious, if of thy past days
I ask the detail. In the hour of age,
If haply I survive to see this realm
By thee deliver'd, dear will be the thought
That I have seen the delegated Maid,
And heard from her the wonderous ways of Heaven.»

« 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,
Though all subdued of soul, untroubled now
In that sad parting ;—but she calm'd herself,
Painfully keeping down her heart, and said,
« Comfort thyself, my Uncle, with the thought
Of what I am, and for what enterprise
Chosen from among the people. On be sure
I shall remember thee, in whom I found
A parent's love, when parents were unkind!
And when the ominous broodings of my soul
Were scoffd and made a mock of by all else,
Thou for thy love didst hear me and believe.
Shall I forget these things ?» ... By this Dunois
Had arm'd, the steeds stood ready at the gate;
But then she fell upon the old man's neck
And cried, « Pray for me!.. I shall need thy prayers !
Pray for me that I fail pot in my hour!»
Thereat awhile, as if some awful thought
Had overpower'd her, on his neck she hung;
Then rising with flush'd cheek and kindling eye,
« Farewell!» quoth she, « and live in hope! anon
Thou shalt hear tidings to rejoice thy heart,
Tidings of joy for all, but most for thee!
Be this thy comfort!» The old man received
Her last embrace, and weeping like a child
Scarcely through tears could see them on their steeds
Spring up and go their way.

So on they went,
And now along the mountain's winding path
Upward they journey'd slow, and now they paused
And gazed where o'er the plain the stately towers
Of Vaucouleur arose, in distance seen,
Dark and distinct; below the castled height,
Through fair and fertile pastures, the deep Meuse
Roll'd glittering on. Domremi's cottages
Gleam'd in the sun hard by, white cottages,
That in the evening traveller's weary mind
Had waken'd thoughts of comfort and of home,
Till his heart ached for rest. But on one spot,
One little spot, the Virgin's eye was fix'd,
Her native Arc; embower'd the hamlet lay
Upon the forest edge, whose ancient woods,
With all their infinite varieties,
Now form'd a mass of shade. The distant plain
Rose on the horizon rich with pleasant groves,
And vineyards in the greenest hue of spring,
And streams now hidden on their winding way,
Now issuing forth in light.

The Maiden gazed
Till all

grew
dim

upon
« () what a blessed world were this!» she cried,
But that the great and honourable men
Have seized the earth, and of the heritage
Which God, the Sire of all, to all had given,
Disherited their brethren! happy those
Who in the after days shall live when Time
Hath spoken, and the multitude of

my mother

« Seest thou, Sir Chief, where yonder forest skirts
The Meuse, that in its winding mazes shows
As on the farther bank the distant towers
Of Vaucouleur? there in the hamlet Arc
My father's dwelling stands; a lowly hut,
Yet nought of needful comfort did it lack,
For in Lorraine there lived no kinder Lord
Than old Sir Robert, and my father Jaques
In flocks and herds was rich. A toiling man
Intent on worldly gains, one in whose heart
Affection had no root. I never knew
A parent's love; for harsh

was,
And deem'd the cares which infancy demands
Irksome, and ill-repaid. Severe they were,
And would have made me fear them, but my soul
Possessid the germ of steady fortitude,
And stubbornly I bore unkind rebuke
And wrathful chatisement. Yet was the voice
That spake in tones of tenderness most sweet
To my young heart; how have I felt it leap
With transport, when mine Uncle Claude approach'd!
For he would place me on his knee, and tell
The wonderous tales that childhood loves to hear,
Listening with eager eyes and open lips
Devoutly in attention.

Good old man!
Oh if I ever pourd a prayer to Heaven
Unhallow'd by the grateful thought of him,
Methinks the righteous winds would scatter it!
He was a parent to me, and his home
Was mine, when in advancing years I found
No peace, no comfort in my father's house.
With him I pass'd the pleasant evening hours,
By day I drove my father's flock afield, 8
And this was happiness.

Amid these wilds
Often to summer pasture have I driven
The flock; and well I know these mountain wilds,
And
every

bosom'd vale, and valley stream
Is dear to inemory. I bave laid me down
Beside yon valley stream, that up the ascent
Scarce sends the sound of waters now, and watch'd
The Beck roll glittering to the noon-tide sun,
And listen'd to its ceaseless murmuring,
Till all was hush'd and tranquil in my soul,

her dizzy eye.

years

She sunk. Then would she sit and think all day
Upon the past, and talk of happiness
That never would return, as though she found
Best solace in the thoughts which minister'd
To sorrow: and she loved to see the sun
Go down, because another day was gone,
And then she might retire to solitude
And wakeful recollections, or perchance
To sleep more wearying far than wakefulness,
Dreams of his safety and return, and starts
Of agony; so neither night nor day
Could she find rest, but pin'd and pin'd away.

Fill'd with a strange and undefined delight
That pass'd across the mind like summer clouds
Over the lake at eve, their fleeting hues
The traveller cannot trace with memory's eye,
Yet he remembers well how fair they were,
How lovely

Here in solitude and peace
My soul was nurst, amid the loveliest scenes
Of unpolluted nature. Sweet it was
As the white mists of morning rolld away
To see the mountain's wooded heights appear
Dark in the early dawn, and mark its slope
With gorse-flowers glowing, as the rising sun
On the golden ripeness pour d a deepening light.
Pleasant at noon beside the vocal brook
To lie me down, and watch the floating clouds,
And shape to Fancy's wild similitudes
Their ever-varying forms; and oh how sweet!
To drive my flock at evening to the fold,
And hasten to our little hut, and hear
The voice of kindness bid me welcome home.
Amid the village playmates of my youth
Was one whom riper years approved a friend.
A gentle maid was my poor Madelon,
I loved her as a sister, and long time
Her undivided tenderness possessid,
Till that a better and a holier tie
Gave her one nearer friend; and then

my

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
Went Arnaud to the war. The morn was fair,
Bright shone the sun, the birds sung cheerfully,
And all the fields look d lovely in the spring;
But to Domremi wretched was that day,
For there was lamentation, and the voice
Of anguish, and the deeper agony
That spake not. Never will my heart forget
The feelings that shot through me, when the horn
Gave its last call, and through the castle-gate
The banner moved, and from the clinging arms
Which hung on them, as for a last embrace
Sons, brethren, husbands went.

More frequent now
Sought I the converse of poor Madelon,
For now she needed friendship's soothing voice.
All the long summer did she live in hope
Of tidings from the war; and as at eve
She with her mother by the cottage door
Sat in the sunshine, if a traveller
Appear'd at distance coming o'er the brow,
Her eye was on him, and it might be seen
By the flush'd cheek what thoughts were in her heart,
And by the deadly paleness which ensued
How her heart died within her. So the days
And weeks and months pass'd on, and when the leaves
Fell in the autumn, a most painful hope
That reason own'd not, that with expectation
Did never cheer her as she rose at morn,
Still lingerd in her heart, and still at night
Made disappointment dreadful. Winter came
But Arnaud never from the war return'd,
He far away had perishd; and when latej
The tidings of his certain death arrived,
Sore with long anguish underneath that blow

« Death! to the happy thou art terrible,
But how the wretched love to think of thee!
O thou true comforter, the friend of all
Who have no friend beside! 9 By the sick bed
Of Madelon I sate, when sure she felt
The hour of her deliverance drawing near;
I saw her eye kindle with heavenly hope,
I had her latest look of earthly love,
I felt her hand's last pressure-Son of Orleans !
I would not wish to live to know that hour,
When I could think upon a dear friend dead,
And weep not.

I remember as her bier
Went to the grave, a lark sprung up aloft,
And soar'd amid the sunshine carolling
So full of joy, that to the mourner's ear
More mournfully than dirge or passing bell,
His joyful carol came, and made us feel
That of the multitude of beings, none
But man was wretched.

Then

my

soul awoke,
For it had slumber'd long in happiness,
And never feeling misery, never thought
What others suffer. I, as best I might,
Solaced the keen regret of Elinor;
And much my cares avail'd, and much her son's,
On whom, the only comfort of her

age,
She center'd now her love. A younger birth,
Aged nearly as myself was Theodore,
An ardent youth, who with the kindest cares
Had soothed his sister's sorrows. We had knelt
By her death-bed together, and no bond
In closer union knits two human hearts
Than fellowship in grief.

It chanced as once
Beside the fire of Elinor I sate,
The night was comfortless, the loud blast howl'd,
And as we drew around the social hearth,
We heard the rain beat hard: driven by the storm,
A warrior mark'd our distant taper's light;
We heapt the tire, and spread the friendly board.
• The storm beats hard,' the stranger cried : safe hous'd
Pleasant it is to hear the pelting rain.
I too were well content to dwell in peace,
Resting my head upon the lap of Love,
But that my country calls. When the winds roar,
Remember sometimes what a soldier suffers,
And think on Conrade.'

Theodore replied,
Success go with thee! Something we have known
Of war, and tasted its calamity;
And I am well content to dwell in peace,
Albeit inglorious, thanking that good God

« 前へ次へ »