Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 1 - Scene 2
Council

  Charles,   Louvel,   Valancour, &c.

  Cha. We'll hear no more. Whilst one poor hope remained
We would have hazarded our chance; but now
Tis madness to resist.

Enter   Xaintrailles and   Alençon.

Returned! How met
The haughty occupant of our own place
The offer tendered him?

  Xaint. As one who holds
The game already in his hands may hear
His adversary's scheme to share the stake.
"I am not one," he said, "to beat the bush
That others may secure the birds. Ere Orleans
Can be sequestered, we must see good title
To execute the deed; Bedford, not Burgundy,
Must hold that city for his liege and lord."

  Cha. Fool that we were to court such insolence!
But yet perhaps 'tis only what ourselves
Had, in like circumstances, said more rudely.

  Alen. Will not your grace resent the indignity?

  Cha. But how? words are but poor revenge;
And words are all we boast. We will retire
To Dauphiné.

  Omnes. To Dauphiné!

  Alen. You jest.
You cannot mean—

  Cha. We've said, and mean it too.
Fear not, my friends, we'll lead a joyous life.
War we will have, as dappled deer shall find,
A court midst sylvan shades, not lacking beauty,
Though of but rural kind, to cheer our toils.

  Alen. (aside. Will nought correct this levity of speech?
Xaintrailles himself, though not a whit more staid,
Is by his thoughtless master shamed to gravity.)
Your grace forgets the maid from Domremie
Doth wait an audience.

  Cha. We much regret,
My lord, our weak compliance with such folly.

  Alen. The royal word is pledged.

  Cha. We'll not retract it.
It may at least afford us novelty.
Let her appear.

  Xaint. Why not devise some plan
To prove her truth, or to detect the fraud?

  Cha. Well thought—but how?

  Xaint. To thee she bears this message.
If Heaven, as she asserts, has sent her hither,
He will not fail, by certain proof, to mark
The mission his. Amongst ourselves then mingle,
And let another represent thee.

  Cha. Good.
No better representative than thou;
In truth we do but play the part of king,
And thou as aptly as ourself may act it.

[They exchange places.

Enter   Joan.

  Xaint. Thou hast an audience asked: thy suit thus granted,
We bid thee fearlessly declare thy will.

  Joan. I seek the royal ear: this is my prince!
And thus with veneration deep—

[Kneels to Charles.

  Cha. Not so.
No female at my feet may kneel thus lowly.
Maiden! I own no earthly state which claims
Such reverence; but simply as a man
I stand midst men, protector of thy sex,
Admirer of thy charms!

  Joan. Just is the homage—
But now (rises) I stand the delegate of heav'n,
And thus declare my mission. "Go!" said the Mighty,
"Go! tell thy prince deliverance is nigh:
And thine the hand to rid him of his foes!
Thou shalt raise the siege of Orleans!"

  Cha. Indeed!
Strong arms, and steeled, have not availed to raise it,
And shall a hand more fitting for the dance—

  Joan. Beware of such a sneer. The mountain lily
Would crush the mountain if 'twere bid to do it;
And midst the mighty ruin it had wrought
Itself would smile in safety. This I pledge thee!
The foe shall fly, the land once more be free,
The sceptre to thy line shall be confirmed,
And holy hands at Rheims shall crown thee.

  Cha. Thy bearing
Forbids all thought of fraud, and proves that thou
And falsehood have no fellowship: thou art
Thyself deceived.

  Joan. I know that I may seem
A mere enthusiast, a frail, weak woman:
None think more meanly of me than myself:
But sense of weakness proves me not deceived.
Then scorn me not; if mercy once be spurned,
Indignant Heaven in frowns may hide his face,
And change the dew of blessing to a curse.

  Cha. We have declared our will, but even now,
To pass to Dauphiné.

  Joan. Fly from the foe!
Leave thy inheritance! forfeit thy birthright!
Desert the post consigned to thee! the shepherd
Throw thus aside his crook, mean safety seeking,
And leave the hapless flock the fell wolf's prey!
O! France! poor land! then art thou lost indeed,
Though not by Heaven cast off. Thy prince deserts thee—
In evil hour betrays himself and thee.
These are my country's tears; and mark me, prince,
Such tears as these shall, in a sea of woe,
In judgment's awful hour, submerge thy soul.

  Alen. The prince is moved.

  Cha. We'll think upon this matter.
Meanwhile thou mayst retire.

[They withdraw.

  Joan. Yet dost thou doubt me?

  Cha. And now, sweet maid, we must evince
Our sense of kindness such—(takes her hand.)

  Joan. Thou dost mistake me.

  Cha. (aside, Oh! majesty of virtue! I stand abashed
Before the simple form thou hast assumed,
Still lower than the lowly who reproves me.)
Forgive the offence.

  Joan. It is forgotten;
Thou hast not injured me.

  Cha. Thou sayst aright.
The assailer not assailed sustains the injury,
When vice would sully purity. Speak thy wishes.

  Joan. I dare not trust the air with such a secret
As that which trembles here. (Approaches and whispers.)

  Cha. Who told thee this?
Can Death then ope his mouldy jaws, and speak
Without a tongue?

  Joan. Wouldst thou hear more?

  Cha. Forbear!

  Joan. The sword, which in the keeping of that church
Has since remained, must to my hand be given,
And thou must claim it.

  Cha. Approach! (To the court.)

  Omnes. Is there hope?

  Cha. Reason and hope are yet at variance;
But instantly to Fierbois we will send,
And prove the truth of words declared to us.
Valancour, the embassy is thine. Haste thee,
Thy failure or success decides our movements.
Louvel protect the maid.—On his return
We will again assemble.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to ACT 1 SCENE 3 Joan of Arc Play

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