Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 4 - Scene 1

  Charles, &c.   Joan.

  Cha. A monarch now confirmed by holy rite,
Our earliest duty is to recompense
All those who in our cause have been most zealous.
Thee above all, (to Joan,) to thee our realm we owe.
We would thy merit mark as may become
Ourself and thee: but pause to name award
As to thyself shall be most pleasing. Louvel,
'Tis thine to learn her wish, our joy to grant it.

  Lou. Such gracious speech may well embolden thee.
Name freely thy desire. Is wealth thy wish?

  Cha. How her eye kindles!

  Joan. Sell my heart's blood for gold!
Hazard each desperate chance, die ev'ry hour,
Deprive poor nature of her due, food—rest,
Make the vile flesh lord of the daring mind,
For sordid heaps of dross! Perish the thought!
I am not to be bought e'en by my country—
Toil, hardship, life, all she approved in me,
A free gift was bestowed, and must remain—
If she the present scorn, I scorn them too.

  Lou. Then, wherefore, peril life? Hope of reward,
The state's high honours, riches, rank, and greatness,
Justly make spirits bold, and wake brave action.

  Joan. The voice of Heaven first drew me from obscurity,
And no reward I seek but its approval.
Oh! never, for the hope of gain, could I
Have served my country. Claims she not by right,
All love, disinterested faith, all service?
Not hers the debt to recompense her sons,
Though, like fond mother, she delights to grant it;
But theirs the debt of gratitude first due
To her, which only thus can be discharged.
Then mark eternal shame upon his brow,
Though brave his deeds, though prodigal of toil,
Who honour, glory, high renown, or wealth,
Seeks for himself alone, and sheds the blood
She justly claims for selfish hope or aim.

  Lou. Ambition is the offspring of all hearts
In which a germ of noble passion dwells.
None who in secret feel themselves above
The sphere of those with whom they move, but sighed
For greatness—rank.

  Joan. What is it to be great?
To live in tapestried halls, beneath gay domes,
To sleep on beds of down, eat costly food,
Midst trembling slaves, who watch the stern command;
To call those friends who bow and cringe and fawn,
And flatter loud the vice they should condemn?
This is dependence, nought but servile pomp,
And this I scorn. To rise above the wants
Of this low state, to hold each appetite
In justest bounds, in native freedom both
Of mind and frame to dare all ills but vice,
And fear no danger but a tainted name;
Glory's own self to love, and not th' applause
Which follows open-mouthed amongst her train;
To walk the earth as one whose home is heaven,
And prizing life, yet view in death a friend,
Or clothed in frowns, or robed in smiles,—this, this
Alone is to be great:—then needs there rank
To make me such?

  Alen. The brave lives not for to-day.
He thinks of generations yet to come,
And trusts his ashes e'en will speak his praise,
And bid his memory live.

  Joan. No eye must read,
On tablet proud, what recompense were mine,
Lest it mistake the cause which prompted me.
In history's living page let me appear,
Simply as Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans.

  Cha. And wilt thou have it seen in that same page
Thy king ungrateful proved?

  Joan. Stain thy fair name!

  Cha. Then be our will obeyed, and this day's grant,
In rank, as erst in deed, shall make thee noble.
Countess of Lys, with fair demesnes and wide,
Assume thy proper seat, and grace a court
Which yet upon thyself confers no lustre—
To night a splendid fête we give, and there
Thy king, and all who honour him, shall show
Their just respect.

[Rises. Joan throws herself at his feet.

  Joan. My leige.

  Cha. What wouldst thou? Speak.

  Joan. Forgive my suit. Oh! deem me not ungrateful:—
Cancel the word, and let me sink again
Into obscurity.

  Cha. It cannot be.
Still with our host remain, and lead us forth
To victory. Of this anon. Pleasure
Now claims the hours. All here must join the fête.

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