Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

THE MAID OF ORLEANS PLAY
by Friedrich Schiller

ACT I SCENE V.

        The same. LA HIRE.

CHARLES (meeting him).
Hope bringest thou, or not? Be brief, La Hire,
Out with thy tidings! What must we expect?

LA HIRE.
Expect naught, sire, save from thine own good sword.

CHARLES.
The haughty duke will not be reconciled!
Speak! How did he receive my embassy?

LA HIRE.
His first and unconditional demand,
Ere he consent to listen to thine errand,
Is that Duchatel be delivered up,
Whom he doth name the murderer of his sire.

CHARLES.
This base condition we reject with scorn!

LA HIRE.
Then be the league dissolved ere it commence!

CHARLES.
Hast thou thereon, as I commanded thee,
Challenged the duke to meet him in fair fight
On Montereau's bridge, whereon his father fell?

LA HIRE.
Before him on the ground I flung thy glove,
And said: "Thou wouldst forget thy majesty,
And like a knight do battle for thy realm."
He scornfully rejoined "He needed not
To fight for that which he possessed already,
But if thou wert so eager for the fray,
Before the walls of Orleans thou wouldst find him,
Whither he purposed going on the morrow;"
Thereon he laughing turned his back upon me.

CHARLES.
Say, did not justice raise her sacred voice,
Within the precincts of my parliament?

LA HIRE.
The rage of party, sire, hath silenced her.
An edict of the parliament declares
Thee and thy race excluded from the throne.

DUNOIS.
These upstart burghers' haughty insolence!

CHARLES.
Hast thou attempted with my mother aught?

LA HIRE.
With her?

CHARLES.
                Ay! How did she demean herself?

LA HIRE (after a few moments' reflection).
I chanced to step within St. Denis' walls
Precisely at the royal coronation.
The crowds were dressed as for a festival;
Triumphal arches rose in every street
Through which the English monarch was to pass.
The way was strewed with flowers, and with huzzas,
As France some brilliant conquest had achieved,
The people thronged around the royal car.

SOREL.
They could huzza--huzza, while trampling thus
Upon a gracious sovereign's loving heart!

LA HIRE.
I saw young Harry Lancaster--the boy--
On good St. Lewis' regal chair enthroned;
On either side his haughty uncles stood,
Bedford and Gloucester, and before him kneeled,
To render homage for his lands, Duke Philip.

CHARLES.
Oh, peer dishonored! Oh, unworthy cousin!

LA HIRE.
The child was timid, and his footing lost
As up the steps he mounted towards the throne.
An evil omen! murmured forth the crowd,
And scornful laughter burst on every side.
Then forward stepped Queen Isabel--thy mother,
And--but it angers me to utter it!

CHARLES.
                Say on.

LA HIRE.
Within her arms she clasped the boy,
And herself placed him on thy father's throne.

CHARLES.
Oh, mother! mother!

LA HIRE.
E'en the murderous bands
Of the Burgundians, at this spectacle,
Evinced some tokens of indignant shame.
The queen perceived it, and addressed the crowds,
Exclaiming with loud voice: "Be grateful, Frenchmen,
That I engraft upon a sickly stock
A healthy scion, and redeem you from
The misbegotten son of a mad sire!"

        [The KING hides his face; AGNES hastens towards him
        and clasps him in her arms; all the bystanders express
        aversion and horror.

DUNOIS.
She-wolf of France! Rage-breathing Megara!

CHARLES (after a pause, to the SENATORS).
Yourselves have heard the posture of affairs.
Delay no longer, back return to Orleans,
And bear this message to my faithful town;
I do absolve my subjects from their oath,
Their own best interests let them now consult,
And yield them to the Duke of Burgundy;
'Yclept the Good, he need must prove humane.

DUNOIS.
What say'st thou, sire? Thou wilt abandon Orleans!

SENATOR (kneels down).
My king! Abandon not thy faithful town!
Consign her not to England's harsh control.
She is a precious jewel in the crown,
And none hath more inviolate faith maintained
Towards the kings, thy royal ancestors.

DUNOIS.
Have we been routed? Is it lawful, sire,
To leave the English masters of the field,
Without a single stroke to save the town?
And thinkest thou, with careless breath, forsooth,
Ere blood hath flowed, rashly to give away
The fairest city from the heart of France?

CHARLES.
Blood hath been poured forth freely, and in vain
The hand of heaven is visibly against me;
In every battle is my host o'erthrown,
I am rejected of my parliament,
My capital, my people, hail me foe,
Those of my blood,--my nearest relatives,--
Forsake me and betray--and my own mother
Doth nurture at her breast the hostile brood.
Beyond the Loire we will retire, and yield
To the o'ermastering hand of destiny
Which sideth with the English.

SOREL.
                God forbid
That we in weak despair should quit this realm!
This utterance came not from thy heart, my king,
Thy noble heart, which hath been sorely riven
By the fell deed of thy unnatural mother,
Thou'lt be thyself again, right valiantly
Thou'lt battle with thine adverse destiny,
Which doth oppose thee with relentless ire.

CHARLES (lost in gloomy thought).
Is it not true? A dark and ominous doom
Impendeth o'er the heaven-abandoned house
Of Valois--there preside the avenging powers,
To whom a mother's crime unbarred the way.
For thirty years my sire in madness raved;
Already have three elder brothers been
Mowed down by death; 'tis the decree of heaven,
The house of the Sixth Charles is doomed to fall.

SOREL.
In thee 'twill rise with renovated life!
Oh, in thyself have faith!--believe me, king,
Not vainly hath a gracious destiny
Redeemed thee from the ruin of thy house,
And by thy brethren's death exalted thee,
The youngest born, to an unlooked-for throne
Heaven in thy gentle spirit hath prepared
The leech to remedy the thousand ills
By party rage inflicted on the land.
The flames of civil discord thou wilt quench,
And my heart tells me thou'lt establish peace,
And found anew the monarchy of France.

CHARLES.
Not I! The rude and storm-vexed times require
A pilot formed by nature to command.
A peaceful nation I could render happy
A wild, rebellious people not subdue.
I never with the sword could open hearts
Against me closed in hatred's cold reserve.

SOREL.
The people's eye is dimmed, an error blinds them,
But this delusion will not long endure;
The day is not far distant when the love
Deep rooted in the bosom of the French,
Towards their native monarch, will revive,
Together with the ancient jealousy,
Which forms a barrier 'twixt the hostile nations.
The haughty foe precipitates his doom.
Hence, with rash haste abandon not the field,
With dauntless front contest each foot of ground,
As thine own heart defend the town of Orleans!
Let every boat be sunk beneath the wave,
Each bridge be burned, sooner than carry thee
Across the Loire, the boundary of thy realm,
The Stygian flood, o'er which there's no return.

CHARLES.
What could be done I have done. I have offered,
In single fight, to combat for the crown.
I was refused. In vain my people bleed,
In vain my towns are levelled with the dust.
Shall I, like that unnatural mother, see
My child in pieces severed with the sword?
No; I forego my claim, that it may live.

DUNOIS.
How, sire! Is this fit language for a king?
Is a crown thus renounced? Thy meanest subject,
For his opinion's sake, his hate and love,
Sets property and life upon a cast;
When civil war hangs out her bloody flag,
Each private end is drowned in party zeal.
The husbandman forsakes his plough, the wife
Neglects her distaff; children, and old men,
Don the rude garb of war; the citizen
Consigns his town to the devouring flames,
The peasant burns the produce of his fields;
And all to injure or advantage thee,
And to achieve the purpose of his heart.
Men show no mercy, and they wish for none,
When they at honor's call maintain the fight,
Or for their idols or their gods contend.
A truce to such effeminate pity, then,
Which is not suited to a monarch's breast.
Thou didst not heedlessly provoke the war;
As it commenced, so let it spend its fury.
It is the law of destiny that nations
Should for their monarchs immolate themselves.
We Frenchmen recognize this sacred law,
Nor would annul it. Base, indeed, the nation
That for its honor ventures not its all.

CHARLES (to the SENATORS).
You've heard my last resolve; expect no other.
May God protect you! I can do no more.

DUNOIS.
As thou dost turn thy back upon thy realm,
So may the God of battle aye avert
His visage from thee. Thou forsak'st thyself,
So I forsake thee. Not the power combined
Of England and rebellious Burgundy,
Thy own mean spirit hurls thee from the throne.
Born heroes ever were the kings of France;
Thou wert a craven, even from thy birth.
        [To the SENATORS.]
The king abandons you. But I will throw
Myself into your town--my father's town--
And 'neath its ruins find a soldier's grave.

        [He is about to depart. AGNES SOREL detains him.]

SOREL (to the KING).
Oh, let him not depart in anger from thee!
Harsh words his lips have uttered, but his heart
Is true as gold. 'Tis he, himself, my king,
Who loves thee, and hath often bled for thee.
Dunois, confess, the heat of noble wrath
Made thee forget thyself; and oh, do thou
Forgive a faithful friend's o'erhasty speech!
Come, let me quickly reconcile your hearts,
Ere anger bursteth forth in quenchless flame.

        [DUNOIS looks fixedly at the KING, and appears to await an answer.]

CHARLES.
Our way lies over the Loire. Duchatel,
See all our equipage embarked.

DUNOIS (quickly to SOREL).
                Farewell.

        [He turns quickly round, and goes out. The SENATORS follow.]

SOREL (wringing her hands in despair).
Oh, if he goes, we are forsaken quite!
Follow, La Hire! Oh, seek to soften him!

        [LA HIRE goes out.]

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to ACT 1 SCENE 6 Maid of Orleans

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