Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Maid of France
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)
CHAPTER 4

DOMREMY IN TIME OF WAR

Had there been no cruel wars in France, Jeanne would probably have lived and died as obscurely as her little friend Hauviette. Her mission was, by conciliation if possible, if not, by the sword, to free France from the English invaders; to restore the rightful king; and to make him reign well and in Christian fashion. Had there been no pressure of national danger and of enslavement, it does not seem probable that she, like her elder contemporary St. Colette the daughter of a carpenter, would have embraced the religious life, and have reformed some convents and founded others. Jeanne was a child of the free air, not of the cloister. She made no vow of perpetual maidenhood; she would remain, as we saw, a maiden"while it was the will of God"that is, probably, till she had accomplished her task. She had no ambition to be a Saint; to deliver France and restore the rightful king was her one ambition, save that she dreamed, when France was free, of some great deed of Christian chivalry, with England and France allied.

The distress of France was her ruling and inspiring motive. Many regions were depopulated; in many the wild wood had overrun the cultivated soil; in others agriculture could only be practised near castles and walled towns. Under the sound of the warning horn or church bell, the cattle would run of themselves to places of refuge. Whether the vicinity of Domremy was thus harried and devastated or not, is matter of dispute. In the battle of Verneuil, of August 17, 1424, France was beaten to her knees. If we are to look for anyone national sorrow or disaster which especially stimulated the Maid, Verneuil, in the apparent year and summer of her earliest visions (1424), naturally attracts the eyes. But neither from Jeanne nor from any one of her contemporaries in Domremy do we gather that she thought more seriously than other children about the condition of her country, till the light came and the Voice spoke to her of"the great pity that was in France."She may have wept in secret, she does not say so; and none of those who speak of her devotions add that she was melancholy through patriotic regret.

Historians, especially the late erudite and sympathetic M. Simeon Luce, have recovered from old documents many particulars of the tribulations of Domremy between 1419 and 1428. The sight of these sorrows is supposed to have roused Jeanne to the desperate resolution of riding in the van of armies. But she certainly was no Maid of Saragossa, no rival of that"brave, bonny lass, Mary Ambree,"when the waves of war reached her own village. She did not take jack (jaseran) and steel cap and sword, like the legendary"fair maiden Liliard"who"fought upon her stumps" when"the bold Buccleugh 'gainst stout Lord Evers stood," at the battle of Ancrum Moor. It was not at home that she found "great pity,"but"in France"; wherefore to France she would go. She was not a virago. Her first wish was to prevail on the English to go home peacefully as the allies, no longer the scourges, of France. She was religious first; she would have her Dauphin" consecrated, would have him reign as"God's vassal,"as His lieutenant over a peaceful and devout realm. St. Colette reformed convents; Jeanne would bring a kingdom back to freedom and duty and religion. She had th at faith which moves mountains; it was by faith that she wrought military miracles for the conversion of the English. The sight of the sufferings of her village could not, alone, suggest these ideas, and did not suggest them to any other child in Domremy and Greux. Childhood is careless and elastic, though patriotic; and the troubles which Jeanne actually witnessed at home were less than those to which the boys and girls of the Border, English and Scottish, were hardened by familiarity. On many nights in the year the prickers of Bewcastle and Tyne were riding through the steadings of Liddesdale, burning, driving cattle, plundering, slaying any Armstrong, Elliot, or Scott, who drew sword. On as many nights the Elliots, Armstrongs, and Scotts were leaving empty byres, weeping widows, and fatherless children in peel towers of Tynedale. Cattle were taken, Scottish lairds and tenants were slain, houses were burned; and the stolen cattle, or other cattle, were recovered; English gentlemen and farmers had their throats cut and their dwellings fired.

On other days the combatants met at races and football matches and marriages. Musgraves of England wedded Armstrongs of Scotland; Gordons of Lochinvar took as brides Grahams of Netherby. We read accurately kept balance-sheets of slayings and revenges, of robberies and recoveries, in the"Border Papers" of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. All these things were in the day's work; nobody made great moan; no little girl of the Border took it upon herself to save her country.

To modern historians and literary men such sufferings and such anxiety, such patrollings, and watchings from the tower-top, and lighting of beacon fires, and ringing of the church bells backward, seem terrible enough to create and inspire a Pucelle ! Hundreds of years of these agitating experiences produced no Pucelle on the Border, and only one on the Meuse.

"Stout hearts of men !"Light hearts of children ! People grew stoical, and took what pleasures came in their way. Never were games and athletic sports pursued more eagerly, says M. Simeon Luce, than during the Hundred Years' War. Hockey and football were the favourite rural pastimes. Domremy was a healthy, happy place, a village proverbially remarkable for the longevity of its inhabitants, and justly remarkable, as we see when we look at the ages of the contemporaries of Jeanne, the witnesses in the Trial of Rehabilitation (1450-1456). The ages of witnesses are 70, 35, 80, 70, 56, 54, 60, 56, 70, 60, 90, 60, 40, 45, 45, 60, 44, 50, 46, 66, 50, 57, 44, 5o, 60, 54, 64, 60, 60, 64, 38, 47.

The mother of the Maid, in 1456, was, allowing that she married at seventeen, sixty-four years of age. These poor labouring folk lived a wholesome life in Domremy, were mainly engaged in tillage and in growing pigs for distant markets, and did not shorten their days by lamenting their perils and sorrows. Yet perils enough they had passed through, living, as they did, surrounded by fighting and plundering lords, Dukes of Loraine and Bar, the Comte de Vaudemont, the Damoiseau de Commercy, who fought now for Burgundy, now for France, now for his own hand. In 1419 this chief was engaged in a private war with neighbours, and, far from being heartbroken, Jeanne, as she says,"helped well in driving the beasts from and to the island castle, named the Island, for fear of the men-at-arms."But, on reflection, she must have done this after 1419, when she was rather young for a shepherdess, and the castle had not yet been rented by her father and others.

In 1419 the Damoiseau de Commercy fought his private foes at Maxey, the village on the right bank of the Meuse, opposite Domremy. He took and held to ransom a few prisoners, among them the husband of one of the godmothers of the Maid. He was an fcuyer^ an Esquire : the event was fortune of war.

This was no affair of an assault on poor labourers. The men were noble; and in the treaty for their ransom, they swear to keep it sur Vhonneur de nos noblesses,"on our honour as men of noble birth."

In 1419-1420 bands of English and Burgundians prowled and plundered, and Jacques d'Arc with five or six of his neighbours hired the castle of the Isle as a place of safety for their cattle. Thither the pigs, sheep, and kine were driven at every rumour of the approach of raiders; but we do not learn that the castle, with its fortified walls and moat, was ever actually assailed.

In 1423 the Duke of Loraine was at strife with the famous La Hire, later Jeanne's companion-in-arms. In this affair one Turlaut, who had married a cousin of the Maid, was killed by a ball or stone from a gun, at the siege of Sermaize, a long way from Domremy. At the age of eleven a child is not too much impressed by the death of a distant connection in war. On October 7, 1423, the people of the linked villages of Domremy and Greux formally acknowledged, through their representatives, a yearly debt for protection money to the Damoiseau de Commercy. The sum to be paid was two gros for each hearth or household; in the case of widows, one gros. Now a gros was merely a fraction of a livre; twenty- five gros (as a rule) went to one gold crown, or e'en dor.

In the long legal contract between the peasants and the Damoiseau, Jacques d'Arc appears as doyen of his village. The gardes or protection money answered to the blackmail which Highland chiefs levied on their Lowland neighbours in return for protecting their cattle and recovering their cows when stolen. But in Scotland the contract was illegal; in France it was guarded by all the solemnity and technical jargon of the law. Manifestly if the peasants received the protection for which they paid, the sum of two gros yearly for each household was a rather low police rate. The population of Domremy is roughly reckoned at thirty hearths or households, and Greux was of much the same size. Thus for sixty householders (leaving widows out of account) the Damoiseau would draw 120 gros annually. But a great modern authority reckons the impost at not less than 220 gold crowns {e'cus dor) payable at Martinmas. Even if we estimate the households of Domremy and Greux at eighty instead of sixty, it is impossible to see how a yearly impost of 160 gros could amount to 220 gold crowns, for the gros was a fraction of the livre, and there went from two and a half to three and a half livres to the gold crown. In a note to this passage an attempt is made to clear up the facts, and show that the blackmail has been vastly overstated.

One may be permitted to hint that the appalling horrors of life in Domremy, during the childhood of the Maid, have, as they are stated, an air of mythological exaggeration.

"At Domremy all lived in perpetual alarms. There was always a sentinel on the church tower. Each inhabitant, by custom the cure' himself, went on guard in turn; gazing through the dust, in the sun, along the pale ribbon of the roads, to spy out the glitter of lances; searching the terrific deeps of the woods; and, at night, watching with horror the horizon lit with the flames of burning villages. At the approach of men-at-arms the watcher set ringing these bells which now pealed for births, now bewailed the dead, now called the people to prayer, now laid a spell on the lightning, now announced dangers. The awakened villagers leaped half-naked to the stalls, and drove the herds towards the fortress enislanded by two branches of the Meuse."

The authorities cited for this brilliant description of affairs in Domremy are, first, Jeanne's often quoted remark about driving the cattle, in case of alarm, to the isle; and, next, the text of a will written in 1393, and containing a reference to the testator's "chapel on the isle." That is all, though there is evidence abundant for burnings and plunderings in adjacent regions. Father Ayroles quotes a sweeping statement of M. Luce." In most of the villages of the Bassigny work was interrupted, and almost all the mills were destroyed."This remark is based, says the learned father, on a record concerning two mills in one parish. I can find none of the afflicted villages in Chanoine Dunand's map of the Meuse valley from Neufchateau to Vaucouleurs.

Perhaps we need not accept the picturesque account of perpetual alarm, and half- naked peasants at Domremy as convincingly vouched for by the records of the sufferings of other villages, and the statement of Jeanne about the island. In fact, we know but two cases in which there is evidence of grave trouble at Domremy during the residence there of the Maid.

In 1425, Henri d'Orly drove a creagh of the cattle of Domremy and Greux, drove it many miles, to his castle of Doulevant and to Dommartin le Franc. The lady of Ogiviller"brought the cry '' to the Comte de Vaudemont, at Joinville, who sent Barthelemy de Clefmont, with some seven or eight riders, on the"hot trod,"just as Buccleugh and Watty Grieve send men to follow Jamie Telfer's kye, in the ballad. They recovered the kine, fought a skirmish like that in which the Captain of Bevvcastle was taken by the Armstrongs, and the kye were restored to the restful meadows of Greux and Domremy.

One sees no reason why such an event should cause a child on the marches of Loraine, any more than a child in the Debatable Land, to become a warrior maid, a prophetess, and a virgin martyr. Genius would have been common in Liddesdale, if a reiving environment were the necessary condition for its development."The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh or whither it goeth."He who will may satisfy his curiosity by explaining that the Voices of Jeanne came to her first in 1425 (not 1424), and were the subjective results of the raiding and recovery of some cows. The Voices did not speak to the child about local troubles, but bade her leave her home and"go into France."

It was M. Simeon Luce, after Ouicherat the most sympathetic and erudite student of the history of the Maid, who discovered the record of the creagh of cattle driven from Domremy, and of the successful pursuit on the"hot trod"in the summer of 1425. Delighted with his trouvaille, he supposed that the recovery of the cows, with the repulse of the English at Mont-St-Michel, in the end of June 1425, and the invasion of the Barrois by the English, are events which"explain, at least in some measure, the first appearance of the Archangel to little Jeanne."He then "combines his information."If Boulainvilliers is right in his story that Jeanne first heard the Voice and saw the light after being"rapt and as it were out of her senses"by the exertion of a foot race, then the race, M. Luce argues, was one of the rejoicings after the regaining of the kye. But, after the excitement of winning the prize of the race, the bouquet of flowers, Jeanne, in a moment of pious reaction,"would almost reproach herself as she remembered that all the evils which her native village had escaped by a remarkable favour of Providence"(and of eight riders)"continued to ravage the rest of the realm. . . . This is, at least by our hypothesis, the chain of circumstances by which Jeanne was led to think herself called by Heaven to be an instrument in the salvation of her country."

"It is to consider too curiously to consider thus."The first Voices may be even more probably dated in the summer of 1424, perhaps after the disaster of Verneuil on August 17. In fact, we do not know anything at all about the conditions which determine the advent of Voices, lights, and angels.

Had^Jganne^ at the age, ._of twelve or thirteen, been constant and fervent in prayer, and given to prolonged fasts in Lent, and had the first Voice and vision come in Lent instead of in the heighf of summer, her religious exercises might have predisposed her, and her macerated body might have prepared her for hallucinations. But we have no evidence that she was so precociously ascetic, or so precociously devout. It was after the visions appeared that she grew serious, pensive, and prayerful: she says so herself.

We must not be thought to speak too lightly of the state of Domrem3^7^ax~ey,~inTd~ Greux. To do so is not our purpose. We endeavour to attain to the contemporary point of view; to show how rural people, in the Middle Ages and later, comported themselves in times of great anxiety and of occasional peril. They beheld their own condition with other eyes and faced them with stouter hearts than ours, as we look back on the picture of raids and burnings which research reveals.

In considering the surroundings of Jeanne in youth, we must not persuade ourselves that her environment accounts for her.

The most ardent and learned explorer of the surroundings of Jeanne in early youth, M. Simeon Luce, writes,"To show that the Maid found in her environment some of the elements of her inspiration is not, if properly understood, to diminish her merit and Tier greatness."

Her greatness was in her own spirit, and in "something yet more widely interfused."

It is very probable that, as the years passed by, a deeper and more solemn element entered into the religion of the Maid. Her chief and central devotion came to be given, not to her Saints, but to her Master (Messzre), to Our Lord and to the name of Jesus. Her letters, during her mission, were usually headed JESUS-MARIA. The ring of laiton, or electrum, a heavily alloyed gold, which her father and mother gave her, bore the names Jesus Maria. Though so much was said about this ring, at which she loved to gaze, her possession of it may have implied no special devotion to the divine Name. Such rings, peculiar in style,--no seal, but a broad central ridge, and two sloping sides engraved with the Holy Names (or with figures of Saints, the Virgin, and the priest with the chalice),--were common in the early fifteenth century, and were supposed to be sovran against epilepsy. The ring, so much suspected by Jeanne's judges, was a common sort of trifle; but her special devotion to our Lord was later displayed on her standard, and the last word of her dying lips was JESUS. It has been shown, with much learning, that a special devotion to our Lord was inculcated by the begging and preaching friars of the Order of St. Francis (who, as a rule, were in the French interest), and, in 1427-1429, by Bernardino of Siena; while a certain Brother Richard, a foolish enthusiast, is said, probably incorrectly, to have preached "Christ and Country," and he did prophesy the advent of Antichrist, in Champagne, at the end of 1428. The Maid never saw him till she was in the full tide of her successes, and she found out his frothy folly: he was the Dr. Cumming of the period.

It may be more important that St. Colette used the name JESUS as the blazon of her reform and the superscription of her letters; and her influence was potent among the s devout. The devotion to Jesus, again, may have been suggested to Jeanne by the sermons of Franciscan preachers, though all that we really know about her early relations with them is that at Neufchateau she confessed herself, twice or thrice, to mendicant friars. It was to her curt that she usually confessed; when he could not receive her, she got from him a licence to approach another priest. However it came about, whether in accordance with the example of St. Colette, then at the height of her fame, or through the influence of sermons by wandering Cordeliers, or through her own musings, the devotion to Our Lord, Messire, was the deep foundation of the Maid's belief before she undertook her great adventure; and in this faith she chose to live and die. Of her Master she never beheld any vision, despite a baseless contemporary rumour. The Saints were"her brothers of Paradise' 7; her Master was Christ; whom she sought not, like St. Colette, through cruel macerations of the body, and self-inflicted torture, and in helpless ecstasy, but followed over the bridge of war "in armed and iron maidenhood."

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