Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 43

HER FATE IN LITERATURE

The fate of Joan, in literature, has been strange--almost as strange as her fate in life. The ponderous cantos of Chapelain in her praise have long since perished--all but a few lines that live embalmed in the satires of Boileau. But, besides Schiller's powerful drama, two considerable narrative poems yet survive with Joan of Arc for their subject--the epic of Southey and the epic of Voltaire. The one, a young poet's earnest and touching tribute to heroic worth--the first flight of the muse that was, ere long, to soar over India and Spain ; the other, full of ribaldry and blasphemous jests, holding out the Maid of Orleans as a fitting mark for slander and derision. But from whom did these far different poems proceed ? The shaft of ridicule came from a French--the token of respect from an English-hand!

Of Joan's person no authentic resemblance now remains. A statue to her memory had been raised , upon the bridge at Orleans, at the sole charge--so said the inscription--of the matrons and maids of that city : this probably preserved some degree of likeness, but unfortunately perished in the religious wars of the sixteenth century. There is no portrait extant ; the two earliest engravings are of 1606 and 1612, and they greatly differ firom each other. Yet, who would not readily ascribe to Joan in fancy the very form and features so exquisitely moulded by a young princess? Who that has ever trodden the gorgeous galleries of Versailles has not fondly lingered before that noble work of art--before that touching impersonation of the Christian heroine--the head meekly bended, and the hands devoutly clasping the sword in sign of the cross, but firm resolution imprinted on that close-pressed mouth, and beaming from that lofty brow?--Whose thoughts, as he paused to gaze and gaze again, might not sometimes wander from old times to the present, and turn to the sculptress--sprung from the same Royal lineage which Joan had risen in arms to restore--so highly gifted in talent, in fortunes, in hopes of happiness--yet doomed to an end so grievous and untimely ? Thus the statue has grown to be a monument, not only to the memory of the Maid, but to her own : thus future generations in France--all those, at least, who know how to prize either genius or goodness in woman--will love to blend together the two names-- the female artist with the female warrior--MARY OF WURTEMBERG and JOAN OF ARC.

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