Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 1 - Scene 4
Chinon

  Joan.   Bertha.

  Joan. Alas! not yet returned?

  Ber. The way is far.

  Joan. What, if too careful of his charge, the abbot
Coldly deny his suit, some fraud suspecting?
Wouldst know the heaviest ill mortality
Can bear? 'Tis this—suspense. Suspense dries up
The fertile mind, holds captive ev'ry nerve,
The spirit sinks, impedes swift Time's career,
And stays the golden chariot of the sky;
Clothes noon's resplendent face with heavy clouds,
Makes peaceful night laborious, watchful day.
Ill, and its train of ills, may all be borne;
But dire suspense, that canker of the soul,
Like a fell blight encrusts each energy
Of mind and frame, and with unnatural heat
Consumes the oil of life.

  Ber. Let's cheat the hours
With converse of the past. Sit on this turf,
And here recount the story of thy days.
Sure thou wert deemed, from reason's dawn, a treasure.

  Joan. E'en from my childhood I was never like
Those whom my childhood shared. To be alone
My joy, thoughts undefined my fancy filling.
Sometimes my heart would throb, my young eye swim
With sudden tears; but why I could not tell.
I seemed, e'en then, cast from some other sphere,
Of which sufficient memory was left
To link me closer to a former state!
And make me feel an exile.

  Ber. Would I'd known thee!
How sweet to mark developement of mind
Pregnant as thine!

  Joan. Thou might'st have been as others.
I was not loved. I was not understood.
Some deemed me void of Nature's kindly gifts,
In intellect deficient, and in heart
Most cold. Oh! how they wronged that heart! I loved
Too keen, alas! yet had but few to love,
And fewer still to answer to my love.

  Ber. I pain thee now.

  Joan. Regret it not; the heart,
Like the swelled ocean, must exceed its bounds,
And find departed calm best in exhaustion.
'Tis past, and I can smile again, dear Bertha.
It was a bitter time, and I, perhaps,
Had been a ruined child, when Heaven first sent
A holy man to shelter in our village.
A warrior he had been, but heavy woes
Had made him change the helmet for the cowl.
In hist'ry's page he deep was skilled. I heard,
And stole beside him. He did not notice me.
Then afterwards he marked my kindling eye,
And soon, amazed, I found myself his favourite.
A new bright world was opened to my view.
He told of ages past, of heroes bold,
Of women too, who, for their country's weal,
Had nobly died. No longer now alone,
I dwelt where mighty spirits dwelt. I heard
Their lofty thoughts, their sentiments sublime,
And lived but in the glorious creation
My fancy had called forth. Had I a sorrow?
'Twas, how mean myself. Had I a hope?
It was that I might emulate their deeds,
And prove as great as them whom thus I honoured.

  Ber. Strange tissue of events, which Heaven delights
Ofttimes to weave, making the link which seems
Meanest to our poor, erring comprehension,
The chief on which the chain of life depends.

  Joan. Now could I feel the smart of England's yoke,
And now one burning wish my heart consumed—
To save my country and my prince. Day-dreams
Or nightly visions had one single theme.
Whole nights I wept, whole nights I prayed. One day,
Upon a gentle slope I stood. Beneath me
Lay the smiling plain in vernal beauty.
Thence I beheld (how swells my heart e'en now!)
A squadron of the foe passing triumphant.
The trumpet's voice I heard, and the loud laugh
Alternate rang in echoes through the woods.
I gazed; a madd'ning fire, a deadly chill
Seized on my frame. I fled the sound, nor paused
Till at the altar's foot I threw myself,
In agony and spent. Words issued not—
I raised my supplicating hands on high:
Then sank into a trance, as since I find.

  Ber. Scarce have I drawn my breath, lest one brief word
Should 'scape my ear; and now I gaze on thee
Almost with awe, temp'ring my fond affection.
What followed?

  Joan. As I lay soft music fell
Upon my ear, diffusing calm ineffable,
When thus a voice pronounc'd—"Go, raise the siege
Of Orleans." I awoke. The organ's swell
Filled aisle and vault, and choral voices sang
The hymn of praise; but I could hear alone
The voice which still was thrilling on my ear,
And in a burst of joy I joined the chaunt.
Then forth I rushed to execute my mission.

  Ber. And that resplendent vision shall not fail—
Thy simple name brightest shall stand upon
The roll of time—the glory of thy sex—
The wonder of thy age.

  Joan. Hark! hasty footsteps!
'Tis Valancour! How hast thou sped?—the sword?

  Val. Is found.

[  Joan sinks on her knee.

  Ber. Dost hear?

  Val. Forbear.

  Joan. Omnipotent!
Now lead me forth, strong in thy strength, prepared
To meet what thou hast marked for my career;
And though, with gory steps or painful death
I work thy will, so freedom crown the land,
I'll bless thy mercy.

  Val. The prince impatiently
Summons thee in council.

  Joan. I obey.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to ACT 1 SCENE 5 Joan of Arc Play

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