Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 1 - Scene 3
Church of St. Catherine de Fierbois.--Midnight

  Abbot and   Father Austin.

  Aus. Nay, rest awhile, my lord.

  Abb. It may not be,
A secret presses here, which ere my soul
Can quit in peace its tenement of clay,
Must be discharged; and on no other spot
May I divulge that secret.

  Aus. Aid me then.
Here divers tombs of knights attract my eyes,
But none with such device as thou hast said.

  Abb. Look where the eastern window proudly throws
A stream of crimson light, when ev'ning's gloom
Enshrouds all else—in token of respect
To him who sleeps below. Did not the chill
Of age, perhaps of death, benumb my limbs,
My watchful feet, accustomed to the path,
Had led me to the spot.

  Aus. 'Tis here.

  Abb. Alas!
There then at rest lies he, the brave, the young,
And oh! for kingly shame, for kingly woe,
The murdered, the betrayed.

  Aus. Compose thyself.
Here on this mutilated effigy,
(Stern lesson of rebuke for haughty pride,)
By warrior felt, rest thee.

  Abb. What sound was that?

  Aus. Nought save the wind, which tired of being pent
Within these cloistered aisles, and heavy made
By penitential sighs, doth sullen moan
For liberty, and free access to heaven.

  Abb. 'Tis hushed, whate'er it was. Now listen, Austin:—
When 'gainst the legions of the Saracen
The hearts of knights with holy ardour burned,
And kings and nobles left their native land,
The young Montalbert, fav'rite of his prince,
Joined those heroic ranks.

  Aus. Montalbert! he
Of whom tradition speaks a royal damsel
Viewed with eyes of love?

  Abb. Alas! here secretly
Their marriage vows were pledged.

  Aus. He fell in fight.

  Abb. Oh! would that it were so. Come nigher, Austin.
That marriage was discovered to the monarch,
And pride, primeval sin of men and angels,
Betrayed the kingly mind, and he—

  Aus. Why pause?

  Abb. It is a dreadful thing, my son, to drag
Forgotten crime to light, and turn aside
The veil which time hath drawn o'er guilt in pity.
Montalbert secretly was sent to France
On private embassy.—He sought his bride!
His steps were tracked—beneath these walls he fell,
Here breathed his parting groan.

  Aus. Hark! midnight strikes!

  Abb. Beneath this stone his cold remains were laid,
In stately armour clad, as he desired,
That he might lie, as warrior ought to lie,
Prepared at once to start again to life,
When the last trump shall sound. All save his sword,
All in this grave, name, honours, wrongs, revenge,
Were buried deep.

  Aus. Why not his sword?

  Abb. The screen
Which darkens life ofttimes unveils futurity;
And simple dying men have proved true prophets.
"This sword," he cried, to our good, weeping father,
"First won from holiest tomb in Palestine,
Hath earnest reaped of glorious deeds to come.
Darkness shall cover France: in that her hour
Of utmost peril, blood of mine shall claim it,
And with it work deliverance. Where it lies
Let none ere know, save those who shall succeed thee."
His wish has been obeyed.

  Aus. How of his race?

  Abb. He left a babe—its fate unknown to me.

  Aus. What greater need than that which now afflicts us?

  Abb. I have not laid me down to rest, for months,
Without impatient hope I might be called,
Before night visited again these walls,
To yield the sacred weapon.

[Knocking.

  Aus. Hark! that tumult!

  Abb. May righteous Heaven forfend no danger nigh.
Let us withdraw behind this massy pillar,
Lest we create suspicion.

Enter   Valancour, and Monks.

  Val. To the abbot!—
We have an embassy to him, on which
The fate of France may rest.

  Abb. Dost hear? Release me.[Advances.
Who thus disturbs the peaceful hours of night,
And what thy purpose?

  Val. This: in the king's name,
We here demand a sword which in the keeping
Of this house has long been held.

  Abb. Wherefore claimed?

  Val. In faith of one, a wondrous maid, who says
She is decreed to save the country.

  Abb. What proof
Produced of such a mission?

  Val. This with others—
She has in private told the prince a fact,
Known to himself alone, and challenges
Production of this sword, as pledge and proof
Of her authority.

  Abb. Of noble birth
The maid?

  Val. Most humble.

  Aus. Crushed the rising hope
Of near deliverance.

  Abb. And why? Faint heart,
Why doubt that noble blood doth show itself,
Though severed from its fount by laspe of years?
Hast thou ne'er marked the far and devious course
Of proudest rivers, borne from highest mountain,
Now lost midst rocks; now over beds impure,
Slow, sluggish seen; now hidden from all sight,
And only heard in murmurs low beneath
The shade of dark, impervious boughs; and now
So shallow found, that urchin foot dare tempt
Its depth, and laughing overleap its banks;
Then sudden bursting forth, and scorning bounds,
It pours its sparkling waters in a flood,
Spreads its wide bosom to the smiling sun,
The pride and wonder of the land it feeds?

  Val. We wait impatient thy reply, good father.
Is there such weapon in these walls?

  Abb. There is:—
And knowledge of the fact attests the mission
Heaven's work. See where the holy weapon lies,
Beneath yon massy stone.

Chorus of Monks.

Spring from thy resting-place, sword of the brave!
Arm the deliv'rer's hand, destined to save—
France calls on thee.

Chorus of Soldiers.

Give it rejoicing light—see! it is ours.—
Now we defy the foe—England's great pow'rs!—
France shall be free.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to ACT 1 SCENE 4 Joan of Arc Play

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