Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 3 - Scene 4
Chapel - Rouen - Evening

  Joan.

  Joan. What means this tumult in my soul? Restless,
Irresolute, or sad, I shun each eye,
Yet fly from solitude to fly from self.
Mysterious pow'rs! twelve times that full-orbed moon
Has scarce o'erspread these towers with silver light,
And I have lived more years than weeks before.
'Twould seem, indeed, I never lived till now,
Though now existence is beyond myself.
How strange the knowledge thus of self obtained!
Astonished o'er the deep of my own heart,
First to my startled view revealed I stand,
And almost trembling ask—Can this be so?

Enter   Du Nois.

  Du N. How ill in unison the sounds I fly
With that which passes here! This calm may soothe me.
Ha! 'tis herself. Shall I advance? She sees me.
Forgive, if inadvertently my steps
Have led me to intrude.

  Joan. Du Nois! thou'rt welcome.
Intention like my own, no doubt, hath brought thee
Here to plead the peace of our loved country.
We've fought for her, have bled for her together;
Meet then our prayers together should arise
For her prosperity.

  Du N. Together, saidst?
Together! (word awakening strange delight
In hearts where love has hidden him.) For thee,
As her I would implore all Heav'n can give;
But ere my willing lips may frame such prayer,
I must forgiveness ask of thee.

  Joan. Forgiveness!
All that the noblest nature shows most nobly
I owe to thee!

  Du N. Yet do I need thy pardon—
Thou once, of all that bears my Maker's impress,
Thou wert my scorn, aversion. Canst forgive—
Forget?

  Joan. Oh! sweeter far the kindness felt
Than injury atoned. I know thee but
As thou hast seemed, nor wish to know thee other.
Now on yon altar's steps.

  Du N. Before the altar!
Knows't thou what thou sayest?

  Joan. What place so meet?
Give me thy hand that thus—why dost thou tremble?

  Du N. Wilt thou indeed then plight, wilt vow with me,
To share through danger's hour, through sunny days—
What mean those tears?

  Joan. I know not more than thou.
Some pang inexplicable called them forth,
Waked, it may be, by some prophetic feeling.
The soul hath intimations of the future,
Sep'rate from all corporeal impressions,
And now, perhaps, some hov'ring spirit whispers
That in my parting hour thou wilt be near me,
And the unbidden drops that fill my eyes
Will then be welcomed in thine own. Promise
Thou'lt lay me in a grave whose mould is free.

  Du N. So Heaven be true to me! I thought to pledge
Another, happier vow. My spirit's chill'd,
And the bright hope just called to life is faded.
Footsteps approach. Farewell.

[Exit.

Enter   Bertha.

  Ber. Why here alone?
Why, when thy hopes have nearly gained their height,
Is thus thy cheek so pale, thy look so pensive?

  Joan. Hast thou then never felt that bliss approached
So near as just to meet the grasp, becomes
Extreme of pain?

  Ber. May not a softer cause—
Turn not thy cheek away—some noble knight—

  Joan. The dove of my desire may find no place
On earth to rest her chilled and weary foot.
I feel that Heaven has marked me from my kind,
From social life, from all endearing ties,
And dare not harbour thought of tender bliss.

  Ber. Banish the fear, and with myself believe
The treasures of thy heart shall be the prize
Of kindred worth.

  Joan. My lot is cast, and lone
I must pursue my path till it be ended.
For common love too proud,—too mean, alas!
To win such love as only could delight me.
Above e'en kindred ties, whose modest worth
I prize, but no assimilation find,
The gushing tide of fond affection checked,
I boundless pour upon my native land;
But no returning stream the waste supplies,
To make me richer for the theft from self.

  Ber. No common love is seeking thy acceptance—
Look at yon banner, waving in the wind.
Ah, wherefore start? How at the sudden sight
Of ought connected with the form we love,
The conscious heart stops in its full career!
Pale grows the cheek, but swift through ev'ry vein
The blood with force accelerated speeds,
And dyes with crimson blush the pallid skin.

  Joan. Fled from the precincts of my heart the secret
Which I had hoped e'en from myself to hide.
O traitor heart! why hast thou failed me thus?

  Ber. Wherefore hath anguish thus o'erspread each feature?

  Joan. Condemn me not. Would thou couldst read this breast!
Here no emotion dwells thou couldst reprove.
As angels view the charge to them consigned,
As o'er their forms with outstretched wings they lean,
Speechless with love, and only bent to serve
The appointed object of their holy vigils,
So I his form behold, such feeling share.

  Ber. Why should I censure thee, sweet friend, for that
Which is but honour to himself, as thee,
And marks the worth of both? Such love as thine—

  Joan. Oh no! I dare not, cannot call it love.
As well might the poor wren, that nestles there,
Become enamoured of the mountain bird,
As I fond thought of him might entertain.

  Ber. Nay, say not so: 'tis no offence to love.
Doth not the woodbine climb the loftiest tree,
With fond endearment clasp its stately trunk,
Smile midst its boughs, and shed her soft perfume
In token of delight, and fear no frown,
No censure for her daring?

  Joan. Soothing words
Fall like the dew upon the sterile soil,
Mocking the want it never can supply—
I am what I must be—he e'er the same.

  Ber. Thou art unjust to him as to thyself,
Bride of Du Nois.

  Joan. Du Nois! Thou art deceived.
Not he,—alas! I have betrayed myself.

  Ber. I see it now. O'er his a prouder ensign
Waves wide its ampler folds—the staff of France,—
The royal Charles has gained.

  Joan. Oh! do not frown.
Nought harbours in this breast that may provoke
Or scorn from him, or just rebuke from thee.
Yet have I shrunk from ev'ry eye, and now
I shrink from thine—think not unkindly of me,
And spare allusion to this painful hour.

[Exit.

  Ber. No, no, it cannot be. She doth mistake.
Love is no passion in her breast. It is
But sentiment refined, sustained and fed
By her own heart; the offspring of events,
Wherein so strange a part she hath performed.
Her country is her idol, centre, hope:
She knows no other passion but this one—
The love of her own land.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to ACT 3 SCENE 5 Joan of Arc Play

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