Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 4 - Scene 3
Gardens illuminated

  Xaintrailles.   Lords.

  First Lord. What vain extravagance! None may deny
That she hath served the state; but truest service,
Suppose hers such, may yet be overpaid.

  Second Lord. Others have nobly planned, and nobly fought;
But all their glory is eclipsed in hers.
I sicken of the name!

  Xaint. For shame! true glory
Never can be eclipsed. Is not yon planet
Distinct in its own splendour, though the moon
Sheds more and brighter beams? Well hath she earned
The honour she receives: a soul like hers
Has nature's patent, fairer than a monarch's.

  First Lord. Soon will she feel she hath uneasy place
Among the nobles of the land, and find
Wide difference between a court and camp.

  Xaint. Away with such surmise! Let us not mar
The gay festivities by churlish murmurs.
Many our toils to come, and if we slight
The present, pleasure in despite may shun us.

Enter   Valancour and   Bertha.

  Ber. Urge me no more.

  Val. Nay, hear what I would say.
Such is the madness of my passion for her,
She must, and shall be mine! and thou must aid me!
This night decides my fate!

  Ber. Oh! ask me not!

  Val. In tears! and why? Loves she then another?

  Ber. Look not so wildly!

  Val. Speaks she of Du Nois!

  Ber. Who does not speak of him! the brave! the noble!

  Val. She loves him, then?

  Ber. I said not so!

  Val. What trifling!
Has then Du Nois declared?

  Ber. I may not break
The confidence reposed in me.

  Val. Most cruel!
Wilt thou do nought for me? Hast thou forgot
A brother, once my friend?

  Ber. Alas! that name,
I may not dare withstand!—begone! Oh! spare me!

  Val. Thou wilt comply then? Go—I'll wait thee yonder.

[Exit   Bertha.

Enter   Richemont and Attendant.

  Riche. Thou knowst the wretch who followed us
When late we passed to Baugenci?

  Att. But now I saw her.

  Riche. Lead her hither.

[Exit Attendant.

  Val. Earl Richemont here!

  Riche. He is!
But would be known by none. Thou hast my secret:
Silence I demand!

  Val. It is thine, but much
I marvel to behold—

  Riche. The sovereign's scorn
Infects thee, then?

  Val. None owns respect
More deep than I; my wonder only rose
To see thee here, whom I believed in Normandy;—
So the maid besought!

  Riche. The maid besought!
Is insult then annexed to gross injustice?
The charge was mean enough, without such aid.
Where will the folly end? But well it suits
With that which now so speedily will follow.
Thou hast companion been in arms, and fought
With Orleans' bastard son, and knowst, no doubt,
That he, forsooth, must shortly play the fool,
And wed, to please the royal will, the maid.
The prospect charms thee, sure!

  Val. (The royal will,
It is his own request! aside.) The proud Du Nois?
It cannot be. Not so. (Has hell worse torture? aside.)

  Riche. Du Nois! the proud, unbending, stern Du Nois!
He with Alençon now is with the king,
On weighty news from Compeigne, which he brings:
The governor beseeches instant aid,
And who but the redoubted maid must lead it?

  Val. She has resigned her arms, and has declared
Her mission closed.

  Riche. What then? she may be gained,
And will be gained. Who trusts a woman's word,
Which varies with her varying mood? The hand
Of Count Du Nois will be the recompense
Of her consent; and is not this a prize
To tempt the breaking of a word she ne'er
Intended to observe? If this concern thee,
Meet me at midnight by yon temple. (Fool!
He yet shall prove a useful instrument. Aside.)

[Exit.

  Val. Some fiend, but just escaped his doom, hath cast
His brand into my heart. Whom do I see?
Herself and Bertha! In this shade I'll hide me,
And there from her own lips the truth discover.

Enter   Joan and   Bertha.

  Joan. Forbear!

  Ber. Hear me. Where native worth exists,
Esteem will surely kindle into love,
And gently ripen into purest bliss!

  Joan. Beware that fallacy. The solemn vow,
Before the altar pledged, but sanctifies
The love which first was gendered in the heart,
But ne'er creates; a golden link to bind
The fonder heart—a chain that galls the cold!

  Ber. But thou wert born to bless! ay, to be blessed!
A heart like thine must find—

  Joan. I do believe
That nought on earth may hold fond thought from me.
The love which in another would have nourished
What most it prized, has but in me proved fatal,
And wrought its ruin.

  Ber. Thou dost chase a shade,
To wither ev'ry flower within thy path.
No bliss can rise through him, while Valancour—

  Joan. I cannot love, and therefore will not wed him.
What noise was that?

  Val. Cursed be the ear that heard,
The tongue that uttered such determination.
I'll hear no more! Now, hate, revenge befriend me.

[Exit.

  Ber. 'Twas but the rustling of the scattered leaves,
Or bird disturbed. Ah! tears are in those eyes,
And I perhaps the cause. Come, chase past thought
By sweet enjoyment of this lovely scene.
Sound, fragrance, air, celestial seems, and wakes
A gentle bliss.

  Joan. I'm sick at heart: the bird
Hath lost its melody, the flower its scent,
Creation's self to me is now a blank.

  Ber. That tone! those words! say, what has caused this change?

  Joan. The agony the firmest e'en must feel,
Who having crushed, with desperate hand, his bliss,
Stands o'er the wreck, and in destruction reads
What he has lost. I leave for Domremie
To-morrow.

  Ber. Leave the court! refined society?

  Joan. Society has charms alone for one
Whose heart's at ease. All converse to the sad
Is as the pressure of the felon's fetter,
Pricking the deadened sense to active pain.
The glare of lights, gay sounds, and voice of men,
Mock misery's sense, and shock as knell of death.

  Ber. Can lonely woods and dells restore then peace?

  Joan. Alas! I may not so deceive myself.
Too well I know what I must soon endure.
My charm of life is gone. My full, bold pulse
Has learnt to swell with mighty hopes, my mind
On food of such excitement has been fed,
That common, quiet life will be a load
Too heavy for endurance. Mem'ry too
Will goad with bitter thoughts!

  Ber. Oh! say not so;
Joy is the rainbow of this weeping life,
From deepest gloom of sorrow first awoke:
But mem'ry is that secondary arch
Where each bright shade is seen distinct and clear,
Though softened and subdued, and dear to sight,
As faithful copy of the dearer truth.
Be but thyself—forget but him!

  Joan. Forget!
As clings the woodbine to the new-felled tree,
I cling to him, though not a hope remains.
But how shall I forget? My very prayers
Are holy thoughts of him. Leave me awhile.

  Ber. I obey thee. Ah, why should this be so?
Alas! the heart is e'er a wayward thing,
Loving too oft that most which loves it not.

[Exit.

  Joan. For the last time I see you, beauteous scenes!
The last! oh, word of heaviest sense,
Where all that's lovely finds one common grave.
Light footsteps soon shall tread these gay parterres,
And sighs, but not like these, shall mingle bliss
With bliss. None will regret me here; the proud
Who envied, or the brave who shared my fame,
Alone will recollect that I have lived.
And he!—he'll never give one thought on me
When I am gone:—the great, the beautiful
Will share his smiles, or soothe his cares, while tears
Shall stagnate in these eyes; and lovely forms
Shall charm his gaze, when the pale eye of night
Alone shall view the spot where I am laid,
And weep for me.

Enter   Widow.

  Wid. Where dost thou speed so fast?
Shall not the net be spread in vain before
The simple bird, and wilt thou rush to peril?
Seest thou yon star? Observe how dim it shines,
How its wan disk is overspread with spots.
Those spots are blood!—that fading star thine own!
Fainter and fainter still it quivers.—Now
'Tis gone! I've cast thy horoscope, and read
Thy fate is linked with mine! Beware thee, maiden!
If e'er on earth we meet again, 'twill be—
To meet the spectre king.

[Exit.

  Joan. What may this mean?
Awe steals upon my mind, and my faint heart
Beats heavily!

Enter   Attendant.

  Att. Haste! the king calls thee!
The council is assembling—danger presses.

  Joan. Hath then the unchanging voice of destiny
Indeed been heard, and I and death in league?
He hath bade farewell—shall I refuse?—no!—
Protect me, Heaven!—Lead on!

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