Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 4

HER VISIONS

The fiery spirit of Joan, wrought upon by the twofold impulse of religious and political enthusiasm, was not slow in teaming with vivid dreams and ardent aspirations; ere long these grew in intesity, and she began to fancy that she saw the visions and heard the voices of her guardian saints, calling on her to re-establish the throne of France, and expel the foreign invaders. It is probable that a constitution which, though robust and hardy, was in some points imperfect, may have contributed in no small degree to the phantoms and illusions of her brain.* She said on her trial that she was thirteen years of age when these apparitions began. The first, according to her own account, took place in her father's garden, and at the hour of noon, when she suddenly saw a brilliant light shining in her eyes, and heard an unknown voice bidding her continue a good girl, and promising that God would bless her. The second apparition, some time afterwards, when she was alone, tending her flock in the fields, had become much more defined to her view, and precise in its injunctions ; some majestic forms floated before her ; some mysterious words reached her ears, of France to be delivered by her aid.2 Gradually these forms resolved themselves into those of St. Catherine and St. Margaret, while the third, from whom the voice seemed to come, and who looked, as she says, " a true worthy " {un vray preud'homme), announced himself to her as Michael the Archangel. " I saw him," she said to her judges, "with these eyes, as plainly as I see you now." In another part of her trial, when again questioned on the same subject, she answered" Yes, I do believe firmly, as firmly as I believe in the Christian faith, and that God has redeemed us from the pains of hell, that those voices came from Him, and by His command." Her own sincerity and strength of belief are, indeed, beyond doubt or cavil : .it was this feeling alone that could animate her to such lofty deeds, or support her in so dismal a death.

* Sexus sui infirmitates semper usque ad mortem afuisse constat,-- Sismondi, 'Histoire des Francais,' vol. xiii. p. 117.
2 It is plain, however, that Joan, in the account she gave at her trial of this second apparition, unconsciously transferred to it some circumstances that, according to her own view of the case, must have been of several years later date A promise "de faire lever le siege d'Orleans " could not be given until after the siege had begun, which it was not until October, 1428. Now, her second vision, as she states it, must have been about 1424.--Collection, vol. viii. p. 238.

It is alleged by Joan herself that she was struck with aflfright at the first of these visions {eut moult paour de ce), but that the following ones filled her with ecstacy and rapture. " When the saints were disappearing I used to weep and beseech I might be borne away with them, and after they had disappeared I used to kiss the earth on which they had rested." Sometimes she spoke of her celestial monitors as mes Vbix, and sometimes gave them the reverential title of Messire ; and, in gratitude for such signs of heavenly favour, she vowed to herself that she would consecrate her maiden state to God.

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