Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

THE MAID OF ORLEANS PLAY
by Friedrich Schiller

PROLOGUE SCENE III.

        THIBAUT, RAIMOND, JOHANNA.
        BERTRAND enters, a helmet in his hand.

RAIMOND.
Hush! here is Bertrand coming back from town;
What bears he in his hand?

BERTRAND.
                You look at me
With wondering gaze; no doubt you are surprised
To see this martial helm!

THIBAUT.
                We are indeed!
Come, tell us how you come by it? Why bring
This fearful omen to our peaceful vale?

        [JOHANNA, who has remained indifferent during the two
        previous scenes, becomes attentive, and steps nearer.]

BERTRAND.
I scarce can tell you how I came by it.
I had procured some tools at Vaucouleurs;
A crowd was gathered in the market-place,
For fugitives were just arrived in haste
From Orleans, bringing most disastrous news.
In tumult all the town together flocked,
And as I forced a passage through the crowds,
A brown Bohemian woman, with this helm,
Approached me, eyed me narrowly, and said:
"Fellow, you seek a helm; I know it well.
Take this one! For a trifle it is yours."
"Go with it to the soldiers," I replied,
"I am a husbandman, and want no helm."
She would not cease, however, and went on:
"None knoweth if he may not want a helm.
A roof of metal for the Head just now
Is of more value than a house of stone."
Thus she pursued me closely through the streets,
Still offering the helm, which I refused.
I marked it well, and saw that it was bright,
And fair and worthy of a knightly head;
And when in doubt I weighed it in my hand,
The strangeness of the incident revolving,
The woman disappeared, for suddenly
The rushing crowd had carried her away.
And I was left the helmet in my hand.

JOHANNA (attempting eagerly to seize it).
Give me the helmet!

BERTRAND.
        Why, what boots it you?
It is not suited to a maiden's head.

JOHANNA (seizing it from him).
Mine is the helmet--it belongs to me!

THIBAUT.
What whim is this?

RAIMOND.
        Nay, let her have her way!
This warlike ornament becomes her well,
For in her bosom beats a manly heart.
Remember how she once subdued the wolf,
The savage monster which destroyed our herds,
And filled the neighb'ring shepherds with dismay.
She all alone--the lion-hearted maid
Fought with the wolf, and from him snatched the lamb
Which he was bearing in his bloody jaws.
How brave soe'er the head this helm adorned,
It cannot grace a worthier one than hers!

THIBAUT (to BERTRAND).
Relate what new disasters have occurred.
What tidings brought the fugitives?

BERTRAND.
                May God
Have pity on our land, and save the king!
In two great battles we have lost the day;
Our foes are stationed in the heart of France,
Far as the river Loire our lands are theirs--
Now their whole force they have combined, and lay
Close siege to Orleans.

THIBAUT.
                God protect the king!

BERTRAND.
Artillery is brought from every side,
And as the dusky squadrons of the bees
Swarm round the hive upon a summer day,
As clouds of locusts from the sultry air
Descend and shroud the country round for miles,
So doth the cloud of war, o'er Orleans' fields,
Pour forth its many-nationed multitudes,
Whose varied speech, in wild confusion blent,
With strange and hollow murmurs fill the air.
For Burgundy, the mighty potentate,
Conducts his motley host; the Hennegarians,
The men of Liege and of Luxemburg,
The people of Namur, and those who dwell
In fair Brabant; the wealthy men of Ghent,
Who boast their velvets, and their costly silks;
The Zealanders, whose cleanly towns appear
Emerging from the ocean; Hollanders
Who milk the lowing herds; men from Utrecht,
And even from West Friesland's distant realm,
Who look towards the ice-pole--all combine,
Beneath the banner of the powerful duke,
Together to accomplish Orleans' fall.

THIBAUT.
Oh, the unblest, the lamentable strife,
Which turns the arms of France against itself!

BERTRAND.
E'en she, the mother-queen, proud Isabel
Bavaria's haughty princess--may be seen,
Arrayed in armor, riding through the camp;
With poisonous words of irony she fires
The hostile troops to fury 'gainst her son,
Whom she hath clasped to her maternal breast.

THIBAUT.
A curse upon her, and may God prepare
For her a death like haughty Jezebel's!

BERTRAND.
The fearful Salisbury conducts the siege,
The town-destroyer; with him Lionel,
The brother of the lion; Talbot, too,
Who, with his murd'rous weapon, moweth down
The people in the battle: they have sworn,
With ruthless insolence to doom to shame
The hapless maidens, and to sacrifice
All who the sword have wielded, with the sword.
Four lofty watch-towers, to o'ertop the town,
They have upreared; Earl Salisbury from on high
Casteth abroad his cruel, murd'rous glance,
And marks the rapid wanderers in the streets.
Thousands of cannon-balls, of pond'rous weight,
Are hurled into the city. Churches lie
In ruined heaps, and Notre Dame's royal tower
Begins at length to bow its lofty head.
They also have formed powder-vaults below,
And thus, above a subterranean hell,
The timid city every hour expects,
'Midst crashing thunder, to break forth in flames.

        [JOHANNA listens with close attention, and places
        the helmet on her head.]

THIBAUT.
But where were then our heroes? Where the swords
Of Saintrailles, and La Hire, and brave Dunois,
Of France the bulwark, that the haughty foe
With such impetuous force thus onward rushed?
Where is the king? Can he supinely see
His kingdom's peril and his cities' fall?

BERTRAND.
The king at Chinon holds his court; he lacks
Soldiers to keep the field. Of what avail
The leader's courage, and the hero's arm,
When pallid fear doth paralyze the host?
A sudden panic, as if sent from God,
Unnerves the courage of the bravest men.
In vain the summons of the king resounds
As when the howling of the wolf is heard,
The sheep in terror gather side by side,
So Frenchmen, careless of their ancient fame,
Seek only now the shelter of the towns.
One knight alone, I have been told, has brought
A feeble company, and joins the king
With sixteen banners.

JOHANNA (quickly).
                What's the hero's name?

BERTRAND.
'Tis Baudricour. But much I fear the knight
Will not be able to elude the foe,
Who track him closely with too numerous hosts.

JOHANNA.
Where halts the knight? Pray tell me, if you know.

BERTRAND.
About a one day's march from Vaucouleurs.

THIBAUT (to JOHANNA).
Why, what is that to thee? Thou dost inquire
Concerning matters which become thee not.

BERTRAND.
The foe being now so strong, and from the king
No safety to be hoped, at Vaucouleurs
They have with unanimity resolved
To yield them to the Duke of Burgundy.
Thus we avoid the foreign yoke, and still
Continue by our ancient royal line;
Ay, to the ancient crown we may fall back
Should France and Burgundy be reconciled.

JOHANNA (as if inspired).
Speak not of treaty! Speak not of surrender!
The savior comes, he arms him for the fight.
The fortunes of the foe before the walls
Of Orleans shall be wrecked! His hour is come,
He now is ready for the reaper's hand,
And with her sickle will the maid appear,
And mow to earth the harvest of his pride.
She from the heavens will tear his glory down,
Which he had hung aloft among the stars;
Despair not! Fly not! for ere yonder corn
Assumes its golden hue, or ere the moon
Displays her perfect orb, no English horse
Shall drink the rolling waters of the Loire.

BERTRAND.
Alas! no miracle will happen now!

JOHANNA.
Yes, there shall yet be one--a snow-white dove
Shall fly, and with the eagle's boldness, tear
The birds of prey which rend her fatherland.
She shall o'erthrow this haughty Burgundy,
Betrayer of the kingdom; Talbot, too,
The hundred-handed, heaven-defying scourge;
This Salisbury, who violates our fanes,
And all these island robbers shall she drive
Before her like a flock of timid lambs.
The Lord will be with her, the God of battle;
A weak and trembling creature he will choose,
And through a tender maid proclaim his power,
For he is the Almighty!

THIBAULT.
                What strange power
Hath seized the maiden?

RAIMOND.
Doubtless 'tis the helmet
Which doth inspire her with such martial thoughts.
Look at your daughter. Mark her flashing eye,
Her glowing cheek, which kindles as with fire.

JOHANNA.
This realm shall fall! This ancient land of fame,
The fairest that, in his majestic course,
The eternal sun surveys--this paradise,
Which, as the apple of his eye, God loves--
Endure the fetters of a foreign yoke?
Here were the heathen scattered, and the cross
And holy image first were planted here;
Here rest St. Louis' ashes, and from hence
The troops went forth who set Jerusalem free.

BERTRAND (in astonishment).
Hark how she speaks! Why, whence can she obtain
This glorious revelation? Father Arc!
A wondrous daughter God hath given you!

JOHANNA.
We shall no longer serve a native prince!
The king, who never dies, shall pass away--
The guardian of the sacred plough, who fills
The earth with plenty, who protects our herds,
Who frees the bondmen from captivity,
Who gathers all his cities round his throne--
Who aids the helpless, and appals the base,
Who envies no one, for he reigns supreme;
Who is a mortal, yet an angel too,
Dispensing mercy on the hostile earth.
For the king's throne, which glitters o'er with gold,
Affords a shelter for the destitute;
Power and compassion meet together there,
The guilty tremble, but the just draw near,
And with the guardian lion fearless sport!
The stranger king, who cometh from afar,
Whose fathers' sacred ashes do not lie
Interred among us; can he love our land?
Who was not young among our youth, whose heart
Respondeth not to our familiar words,
Can he be as a father to our sons?

THIBAUT.
God save the king and France! We're peaceful folk,
Who neither wield the sword, nor rein the steed.
--Let us await the king whom victory crowns;
The fate of battle is the voice of God.
He is our lord who crowns himself at Rheims,
And on his head receives the holy oil.
--Come, now to work! come! and let every one
Think only of the duty of the hour!
Let the earth's great ones for the earth contend,
Untroubled we may view the desolation,
For steadfast stand the acres which we till.
The flames consume our villages, our corn
Is trampled 'neath the tread of warlike steeds;
With the new spring new harvests reappear,
And our light huts are quickly reared again!

        [They all retire except the maiden.]

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to PROLOGUE SCENE 4 Maid of Orleans

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