Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 5 - Scene 4

  Council.   Bedford.   Beauvais, &c. &c.   Joan.

  Bed. Advance!
Thou knowest the conditions upon which
Thy life was spared—thou hast presumed to break them—
Thine are the consequences. Found in arms,
A rebel's doom deferred now justly waits thee.

  Joan. That I have erred, I own with deepest sorrow;
But 'twas through weakness: with like justice might
The poor, fond bird, unwitting of deceit,
Be blamed because it fell into the snare
The cunning fowler laid for its destruction.
It was a cruel deed—but let it pass:
Not so thy charge of rebel—I repel it.
Here silence would be guilty fear—not innocence.
Who rears his country's standard 'gainst the foe—
'Gainst the usurper, claims a nobler epithet.
The God of heaven approves the patriot's aim,
And sanctifies the deed. Not mine, not mine
The traitor's guilt, the traitor's doom: I die,
As I have wish'd to die,—in proof, in seal
Of my fidelity.

  Beau. Think'st thus to die?
More weighty crimes deserve more weighty punishment.
Whence this boldness, unnat'ral to thy sex?
Whence but in strength of some infernal spell,
Of the foul prompting of some lying fiend?
Remember thy connexion with the hag
Who fell on Compeigne's field, men's awe of thee—
Confess the truth—declare what witchery used.

  Joan. What witchery used! the witchery which a mind,
Bent on one single project, can exert,
When fitting opportunity doth meet
The master-passion which has fed its fires:
That witchery, harsh man and most unjust,
By which insulted virtue makes thee crouch,
As now thou dost, beneath a prisoner's eye,
Though deemed forsaken and alone.

  Bed. No more!
Thou dost but aggravate the guilt too clear.
Hear thy dread sentence, and prepare to meet it—
Convicted of the cursed crime of witchcraft,
Thou diest at noon to-morrow.

  Beau. This subdues her.
The blood has left her cheek, and as a statue,
Transfixed, she stands. One might dispute she breathed
But for her quivering lip. See! she would speak,
But the words die.

  Joan. The bitter cup is full!
Believed a reprobate and leagued with hell,
My name, my memory held in destestation!
Die as accursed of Heaven! (to   Beau.) 'Tis false! most false!
And on thy head a deeper crime shall rest,
Than this so foul thou lay'st to me—the weight
Of guiltless blood. Thou mays't condemn me here;
But think, once more before the judgment-seat
Of Him who all shall judge, we must again
Each other meet. How wilt thou meet me there?
This charge unjust shall scathe thy shudd'ring soul,
And sight of me shall blast thy hopes of heaven.
Prince, thou'rt of gallant race.

  Bed. I'll hear no more.

  Joan. Oh! there are those who on this hour will think
With bitterness, when princely honour goads,
And noblest blood proves no defence.

  Beau. (to Bed.) She threatens!
Beware lest some malign, some fatal influence—

  Joan. Blind Man! the dumb e'en now have found a voice
To curb injustice. The poor worm itself
Will, by its very writhings, plead its wrongs,
And show the cruelty of him that crushed it.
Oh! not for life I plead—death hath no terror,
Existence scarce one charm to cheat my eyes.
Grant me the doom thou threat'st—nor passing sigh,
Nor murmur shall escape me; but to die
On this most monstrous charge! I kneel to thee
And thus would stir the soldier in thy breast,
The patriot, the upright man, if not the judge.

[Kneels to   Bedford.

  Bed. We owe the act in justice to ourselves
And to our veterans' arms.

  Joan. Welcome that thought. [Rises.
I have no more to ask: rightly thou sayst.
A woman's hand hath dimmed thy splendid name,
And writ upon thy soldier's brow—defeat,
And in a woman's blood wash out the stain.
But oh! injurious prince, of this be sure—
Thou never wilt regain what thou hast lost.
The land is free, her chain for ever broken;
Nor force of arms nor policy shall wrest
The sceptre from the hand that wields it now.
But hark! what means that agonizing shout,
That wail of lamentation, noise confused,
The braying of the battle? A frantic matricide
The mother is become, and drunk with blood
Of sons of France, now slakes unnat'ral thirst
In the red fountain of her children's veins—
Showing in all her cruelty and rage,
From whom she took the cup of retribution.
(To Bedford.) And thou, thou art disgraced—this unjust deed
Shall sully thy fair name to latest time—
Shall wrest from England's son a blush for thee—
A proud acquittal for myself.

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

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