Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 42

SUMMARY OF HER CHARACTER

The interest which Joan of Arc inspires at the present day extends even to the house where she dwelt, and to the family from which she sprung. Her fibther died of grief at the tidings of her execu- tion; her mother long survived it, but fell into great distress. Twenty years afterwards we find her in receipt of a pension from the city of Orleans ; three francs a month, "to help her to live."* Joan's brothers and their issue took the name of Du Lis, from the Lily of France, which the King had assigned as their arms. It is said by a writer of the last century that their lineage ended in Cou- lombe du Lis, Prior of Coutras, who died in 1760. Yet we learn that there is still a family at Nancy, and another at Strasburg, which bear the name of Du Lis, and which put forth a pedigree to prove themselves the relatives--not, as a modem traveller imguardedly expresses it, the descendants!--of the holy Maid.

* Pour lui aider a vivre, Compte-rendu d'un Receveur d'Orleans. --Preface de Buchon, p. 66 ; and Sismondi, vol. xiii. p. 193.

The cottage in which Joan had lived at Domremy was visited by Montaigne in his travels. He found the front daubed over with rude paintings of her exploits, and in its vicinity beheld "L'Arbre des Fees," which had so often shaded her childhood, still flourishing in a green old age, under the new name of "L Arbre de la Pucelle" Gradually, the remains of this house have dwindled to one single room, which is said to have been Joan's, and which, in the year 1817, was employed as a stable; but we rejoice to learn that the Council-General of the Department has since, with becoming spirit, purchased the venerable tenement, and rescued it firom such unworthy uses.2

2 Collection des Memoires, vol. viii. p. 214.

From the preceding narrative it will be easy to trace the true character of Joan. A thorough and earnest persuasion that hers was the rightful cause-- that in all she had said she spoke the truth--that in all she did she was doing her duty--a courage that did not shrink before embattled armies or beleaguered walls, or judges thirsting for her blood-- a serenity amidst wounds and sufferings, such as the great poet of Tuscany ascribes to the dauntless usurper of Naples :--

"Now behold!" he said, and showed
High on his breast a wound ; then smiling spake,
"I am Manfredi!"2

--a most resolute will on all points that were con- nected with her mission--perfect' meekness and humility on all that were not--a clear, plain sense, that could confound the casuistry of sophists--an ardent loyalty, such as our own Charles I, inspired-- a dutiful devotion, on all points, to her coutry and to God, Nowhere do modern annals display a character more pure--more generous--more humble amidst fancied visions and umdoubted victories-- more free from all taint of selfishness--more akin to the champions and martyrs of old times. All this is no more than justice and love of truth would require us to say. But when we find some French histo- rians, transported by an enthusiasm almost eqtial to that of Joan herself, represent her as filling the part of a general or statesman--as skilful in leading armies, or directing councils--we must withhold our faith. Such skill, indeed, from a country girl, without either education or experience, would be, liad she really possessed it, scarcely less supernatural than the visions which she claimed. But the facts are far otherwise. In affairs of state Joan's voice was never heard : in afl&,irs of war all her proposals will be found to resolve themselves into two--either to rush headlong upon the enemy, often in the very point where he was strongest, or to offer frequent' and public prayers to the Almighty. We are not aware of any single instance in which her military suggestions were not these, or nearly akin to these. Nay, more, as we have elsewhere noticed, her want of knowledge and of capacity to command were so glaring, that scarce one of the chiefs, or princes, or prelates, who heard her in council or familiar conver- sation, appears to have retained, beyond the few first days, the slightest faith in her mission. At best, they regarded her as a useful tool in their hands, from the influence which they saw her wield upon the army and the people. And herein lies, we think, a further proof of her perfect honesty of purpose. A deliberate impostor is most likely to deceive those on wjiom he has opportunity and leisure to play his artifices, while the crowd beyond the reach of them most commonly remains unmoved. Now, the very reverse of this was always the case with Joan of Arc.

2 Dante, 'Prrgatorio,' canto iii. Mr. Cary's version.

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