Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Play
by J.A. Sargant

Act 5 - Scene 6
Prison

  Joan.

  Joan. How in its terrors hath the tempest raged!
'Tis misery's privilege alone to hear
The crash of warring elements unmoved,
And coldly tranquil press the iron couch.
These drops are but the remnant of the storm,
Cast by the pitying spirit as he fled,
His work of vengeance done, his fury quenched.
So fall the tears of fond regret, that bathe
The mourner's cheek, when time hath partly soothed her;
Large but not frequent, sad but not acute,
Sure proof of anguish past, not sorrow nigh.
And see, the young dawn from the sable couch
Of her more ancient spouse, now softly steals,
All bright and lovely, though in tears bedewed,
Silent to watch the rising beams of him
Beneath whose glance she melts, but must not wed.
Her love is set too high, and night, all foul,
As he appears in her averted eyes,
Again shall clasp her in his chilly arms,
And loathing claim her his. Her fate is mine,
And death, cold death, the bridegroom by whose side
I soon shall rest.

Enter   Du Nois.

  Du N. This then is thy abode!
This iron bed thy couch, this straw thy pillow!

  Joan. Whose voice——

  Du N. Knowst me not, Joan?

  Joan. Du Nois! thou here?
Oh say, what brings thee to this sad abode?
Alas! has evil too befallen thee?

  Du N. The anguish of a mind that ne'er has learnt
To bear a load exertion may not soothe.
My life was set to see thee once again,
Though in the gloom, the horrors of a prison.

  Joan. Thou dost not deem me then accursed, forsaken,
Stained with foulest crime?

  Du N. Thee cursed, forsaken!
Oh, yes! thou'rt cursed indeed with too much merit,
And greater crime is none.

  Joan. By thee acquitted!
Oh! happiness! oh! unexpected bliss!
I yet possess a friend!

  Du N. (Burst, heart, thy bonds!)
Doth friendship's sacred garb clothe friendship only?
Recall the past, remember Orleans' walls,
The battles fought, the warring perils shared,
The blessings joined—how have I wounded thee?

  Joan. I stand upon the confines of the grave,
And must not, dare not think upon the past.
The reed hath bounds, and by the tempest spared,
May sink beneath an insect. I've borne much,
And this unlooked-for kindness overpowers me.
But one request.

  Du N. Name it—give me some share
In thee, though in the giving it must cease.

  Joan. The seal of death is on me now. This chain, the king—
'Twill tell its own sad tale—but say to him—
No—down throbbing heart—farewell. Oh! leave me!
Yet let me gaze once more upon a friend,
Ere I and earthly comfort part for ever.
Thou'lt sometimes think of me when I am gone,
And midst the shouts of victory, perhaps,
Will hear the voice, will see the form of her
Who often shared those triumphs by thy side,—
Wilt mark the vacant place with kindly sorrow?
Once more I'll press this valiant hand—and then—
Farewell, for ever.

Enter   Countess.

  Count. Du Nois.

  Du N. Ha! who calls?

  Count. Behold this scroll: here read what you would know.
Haste! haste! from Warwick I have stol'n unseen,
And trait'rous been to him whom most I love,
In love's own cause.

  Du N. And thou, for this disloyalty,
Shall be absolved—this pure and holy act
Shall win approval e'en from Heaven itself,
And plead for thee when other deeds may fail thee.

  Count. Blame not my Warwick for his stern resolve:—
Firm as he is, he has a tender heart.
Had not his face been buried in his arm,
To hide the tears he shed, I had not thus
Escaped him unperceived.

  Du N. Yet is there hope.
Ah! say, couldst thou be plucked from this dread fate.

  Joan. Delude me not with erring thought of bliss,
Nor yet deceive thyself—ere morrow's dawn
The dews will bathe the spot where earthly suff'ring
Hath found an end. No hand, though brave as thine,
Can pluck me from it.

  Du N. Never has it failed me,
Nor shall it fail me now—nay, doubt me not;
I swore to lay thee in a grave that's free—
Rouen is cursed by the usurper's foot,
And here thou shalt not die, so hear me Heaven!—
But not another moment may I linger.
When next we meet—'twill be in bliss.

[Exit.

  Joan. When next
We meet 'twill be, I trust, in bliss, but bliss
That waits in heaven.

  Count. May I not speak to thee?
I would not give thee pain, no, not in thought.
I knew thee brave, so brave I feared thy name,
And never had I dared to venture near thee;
But now to see thee thus, so sweet, so gentle,
I feel as if some silver chord had linked
Our hearts together, and would claim thee sister.
And thou canst weep!

  Joan. Tears are woman's birthright,
Starting to her relief in joy or sorrow.
I thought myself abhorred, cast off by all,
And I have found a friend, midst all unchanged,
And sweeter still—compassion in my sex.

  Count. Thou must not, shall not die. I'll to my Warwick.

  Joan. It is in vain, and the swift moments fly.
Lady, leave me. I must be calm in death,
Lest nature's weakness make my foes to triumph.
The blessing of a spirit thou hast soothed
Gild thy bright path and cheer thy parting hour.
Farewell, for ever.

  Count. No; Du Nois, Warwick,
Shall save thee yet.

[Exit.

  Joan. Alas! hope cheats me not.
My hour is come, and I content to die.
It was a trying hour; for hard it is
To measure back our steps to life, when we
Have almost knocked at death's grim portals.
One tear for thee, Du Nois, the last I shed.
One prayer for thee, my country and my king.
My king! a princely diadem is his,
And mine this murky dungeon and these chains:
Yet have I placed him there—and mine
The hand that stemmed his fortune's tide, and broke
The fetters that enslaved the land.
Enough. The bitterness of death, is past.
That thought has robbed the flames of all their terrors.
Farewell to earth! farewell to earthly ties!
When next I think of him, of thee, my country,
Then will eternity have set its impress
Upon remembrance.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS       Continue to ACT 5 SCENE 7 Joan of Arc Play

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