Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 13

CHINON

Any romantic legend or popular tradition may be readily welcomed by a poet to adorn his tale, without any nice inquiry as to its falsehood or its truth. But we may notice, in passing, another departure of Schiller from the facts, without any motive of poetical beauty to explain and to excuse it. He has transferred the position of Chinon to the northern bank of the Loire, and made the passage of that river the signal of retreat towards the southern provinces,* evidently conceiving the place to be Chateau Chinon, a town some fifty leagues distant, in the ancient Duchy of Burgimdy, in the modem Department of Nievre. But no English reader-- no English traveller--will thus lightly mistake the favourite resort of our own Henry II.--of our own Richard Coeur de Lion. Long will they love to trace along the valley of the Loire, between Tours and Saumur, on the last of the bordering hills, the yet proud though long since forsaken and moulder- ing battlements of Chinon. Ascending the still imbroken feudal towers, a glowing and glorious prospect spreads before them--a green expanse of groves and vineyards, all blending into one--the clear mountain stream of Vienne sparkling and glancing through the little town at their feet-- while, more in the distance, they survey, winding in ample folds, and gemmed with many an islet, the wide waters of the Loire. They will seek to recog- nise, amidst the screen of hills which there encircles it, the neighbouring spire of Fontevrault, where lie interred the Second Henry and his lion-hearted son. They wiU gaze with fresh delight on the ever-living landscape, when they remember the departed great who loved to gaze on it before. Nor, amidst these scenes of historic glory or of present loveliness, will any national prejudice, or passion, or ill-will (may God in his goodness dispel it from both nations ! ), forbid them many a lingering look to that ruined hall,--the very one, as tradition tells us, where the Maid of Orleans was first received by Charles!

* Act i. scene 5. 'The Court at Chinon:'--
"We will across the Loire,
And meekly yield to Heaven's high chastening hand."

And again, scene 7 :--
"Do not grieve, my Agnea-- Beyond the Loire there lies another France; Our course is to a happier clime."

It was not, however, to the castle of Chinon that Joan in the first instance repaired. She stopped short within a few leagues of it, at the village of St. Catherine de Fierbois, and sent forward to the King to announce her arrival and her object. The permission to proceed to an hostelry at Chinon was readly accorded her ; not so admission to the King. Two days wore spent in deliberation by Charles's counsellors. Some oi' them imagined that Joan might be a sorceress and emissary of Satan ; by some she was suppivsed to be a brain-sick enthusiast ; while others thought tliat, in this their utmost need, no means of deliverance, however slight or impromising, should be rashly cast aside. At length, as a compromise between all these views, a commission was appointed to receive her answers to certain interrogatories. Their report proved favourable; and meanwhile several other lords of the Court, whom curiosity led to visit her, came back much struck with her natural eloquence, with her high strain of inspiration, and with her unaffected fervour of piety. No sign of imposture appeared in any of her words or deeds; she passed whole days in prayers at the church, and everything in her demeanour bore the stamp of an earnest and undoubting conviction which gradually impressed itself on those around her. Charles still wavered : after some further delay, however, he appointed an hour to receive her.

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