Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 5

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

Collected together, they would have constituted a respectable force; but they were distributed among a dozen bastilles or boulevards, between which there was, for the most part, no com munication ; a disposition of their forces, which proves that Talbot and the other English leaders had hitherto been rather brave and lucky than intel ligent and skilful. It was evident that each of these small isolated forts would be weak against the large city which they pretended to hold in check ; that its numerous population, rendered warlike by a siege, would at last be- siege the besiegers.

On reading the formidable list of the captains who threw themselves into Orleans, La Hire, Saintrailles, Gaucourt, Culan, Coaraze, Armagnac ; and remembering that, independently of the Bretoiis under Marshal de Retz, and the Gascons under Marshal de St. Severe - the captain of Chslteaudun, Florent dllliers, had brought all the nobility of the neighborhood with him to this short expedition, the deliver ance of Orleans seems less miraculous.

It must, however, be acknowledged that for this great force to act with efficiency, the one essential and indis pensable requisite, unity of action, was wanting. Had skill and intelligence sufficed to impart it, the want would have been supplied by Dunois; but there was something more required - authority, and more than royal author ity, too, for the king^s captains were little in the habit of obeying the king : to subject these savage, untamable spirits, God's authority was called for. Now, the God of this age was the Vir gin much more than Christ ; and it be hooved that the Virgin should descend upon earth, be a popular Virgin, young, beauteous, gentle, bold.

War had changed men into wild beasts ; these beasts had to be restored to human shape, and be converted into docile Christian men - a great and a hard change. Some of these Armag nac captains were, perhaps, the most ferocious mortals that ever existed ; may be inferred from the name of but one of them, a name that strikes terror, Gilles de Betz, the original of Blue Beard.

One hold, however, was left upon their souls ; they had cast off humanity and nature, without having been able wholly to disengage^ themselves from religion. These brigands, it is true, hit upon strange means of reconciling religion and robbery. One of them, the Gascon La Hire, gave vent to the original remark, "Were God to turn manatarms, he would be a plunderer;" and when he went on a foray, he of fered up his little Gascon prayer with out entering too minutely into his wants, conceiving that God would take a hint - " Sire God, I pray thee to do for La Hire what La Hire would do for thee, wert thou a captain, and were La Hire God."*

* "Sire Dieu, je te prie de fair pour la Hire"

It was at once a risible and a touch ing sight to see the sudden conversion of the old Armagnac brigands. They did not reform by halves. La Hire durst no longer swear; and the Pu celle took compassion on the violence he did himself, and allowed him to swear "by his baton." The devils found themselves all of a sudden turned into little saints.

The Pucelle had begun by requiring them to give up their mistresses, and attend to confession. Next, on their march along the Loire, she had an al tar raised in the open air, at which she partook rof the communion, and they as well The beauty of the season, the charm of a spring in Touraine, must have added singular religious supremacy of the young maid. They themselves had grown young again, had utterly forgotten what they were, and felt, as in the springtime of life, full of goodwill and of hope, all young like her, all children. . . . With her they commenced, and unreservedly, a new life. Where was she leading them? Little did it matter to them. They would have followed her, not to Orleans only, but just as readily to Je rusalem. And the English were wel come to go thither too : in a letter she addressed to them she graciously pro posed that they all, French and Eng lish, should unite, and proceed con jointly to deliver the Holy Sepulchre. The first night of encamping she lay down all armed, having no females with her ; and, not being yet accustomed to the hardships of such a mode of life, felt indisposed the next day.

As to danger, she knew not what it meant. She wanted to cross the river, and ad vance on the northerti or English side, right among their bastilles, asserting that the enemy would not budge ; but the captains would not listen to her, and they followed the other bank, crossing two leagues below Orleans. Dunois came to meet her: "I bring you," she said, " the best succor mor tal ever received, that of the King of heaven. It is no succor of mine, but from God himself, who, at the prayer of St. Louis and St. Charlemagne, has taken pity on the town of Orleans, and will not allow the enemy to have at one and the same time the duke's body and his city.

She entered the city at eight o'clock of the evening of April 29th, and so great and so eager was the crowd, striving to touch her horse at least. That her progress through the streets was. exceedingly slow ; they gazed at her " as if they were beholding God." * She rode along speaking kindly to the people, and, after offering up prayers in the church, repaired to the house of the Duke of Orleans' treasurer ; an honorable man, whose wife and daugh ters gladly welcomed her; she slept with Charlotte one of the daughters. She had entered the city with the supplies ; but the main body of the relieving force fell down as far as Blois, where it crossed the river. Nevertheless, she was eager for an immediate attack on the English bastilles, and would summon the northern bastilles to surrender, a summons which she repeated, and then proceeded to summon the southern bastilles. Here Glasdale overwhelmed her with abuse, calling her cowherd and prostitute (vachere et ribaude.) In reality, they believed her to be a sorceress, and felt great terror of her. They detained her heraldatarms, and were minded to burn him, in the hope that it would break the charm ; but, first, they con sidered it advisable to consult the doc tors of the university of Paris. Be sides, Dunois threatened to retaliate on their herald whom he had in his power. As to the Pucelle, she had no fears for her herald, but sent another, saying, " Go, tell Talbot if he will ap pear in arms, so will I. ... if he can take me, let him burn me."

* She seemed, at the least, an angel, a creature above all physical wants. At times, she would con tinue a whole day on horseback, without alighting, eating, or drinking, and would only take in the evenrng some sippets of broad in wine and water. See the evidence of the various witnesses, and the Chronique de la Pucelle, d. Buchon (1827), p. 309.

The army delaying, Dunois ventured to sally forth in search of it ; and the Pucelle, left behind, found herself ab solute mistress of the city, where all authority but hers seemed to be at an end. She caracolled round the walls, and the people followed her fearlessly. The next day, she rode out to recon noitre the English bastilles, and young women and children went, too, to look at these famous bastilles, where all re mained still, and betrayed no sign of movement. She led back the crowd with her to attend vespers at the church of SaintCroix; and as she wept at prayers, they all wept like wise. The citizens were beside them selves ; they were raised above all fears, were drunk with religion and with war, - seized by one of those for midable accesses of fanaticism in which men can do all, and believe all, and in which they are scarcely less terrible to friends than to enemies.

Charles Tilth's chancellor, the arch bishop of Rheiras, had detained the small army at Blois. The old politi cian was far from imagining such re sistless enthusiasm, or, perhaps, he dreaded it. So he repaired to Orleans with great unwillingness. The Pu celle, followed by the citizens and priests singing hymns, went to meet him, and the whole procession passed and repassed the English bastilles. The army entered, protected by priests and a girl.


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