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go and be thine own eternal executioner! before he concludes this speech, a cloud gathers over him, and the Maid sees God about to dart his lightnings at the head of the ungrateful Charles ; she prays for him, extenuates his fault, and with sighs and tears implores forgiveness for the worthless King.
Above the highest part of the Heavens, an illuminated cloud shines amid a thousand fires. Upon this dreadful bed of Justice God will sit when he shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and hence he darts his bolts when signal crimes call aloud for vengeance. At the words of Charles to the Maid, God mounted this cloud and hurled his lightning at the King, but her prayer intercepted it on its way.
Be it so, cried the Almighty-let him live! but abandon him to himself, and let him forever be the victim of Perfidy. Through the mouth of the winds God spake with the voice of Thunder ; the camp knew that he was incensed against Charles, but the Maid alone understood him. She departs in profound sadness, accompanied by her wounded brother Rodolfe. But nothing now inspires the French, and they determine to abandon the siege. Charles obstinately resolves to remain though abandoned by his soldiers, but the faithful old Tanneguy carries him away by force.
The Maid proceeds still praying for Charles, but she hears the voice of God. Thy will be done, she cries, restore the feeble shepherdess to her crook. I obey, but unwillingly!
Not far distant from Paris, is the church of the French Apostle, where he is said to have laid his own head with his own hands in the tomb. Near this on the trunk of an old tree, she hangs her useless armour, the trunk felt its burden and became proud, whilst with her dagger she engraved upon the bark, THE DYING MAID CONSECRATES THIS TROPHY TO THE HONOUR OF THE Most High. Lord ! she cries, since thy severe laws forbid me longer to bear these arms, let them be the eternal terror of Hell, by their virtue only let the English be subdued, let the French be victorious. The storm ceased as she spake, the armour suddenly became luminous, and the spot from that hour never knew night.
Her tears ceased at this miracle. Lost to France, to her King, and to herself, she journeyed on in silence, and her brother in silence accompanied her. The Devil, beholding her thus abandoned, forms a damnable design upon her life, he follows her, stops with her, proceeds with her, and leaves her no more.
There is a vast Forest in this part of France which the eye of the universe never penetrates. Its trees look not like yews and beeches and maples, but like new Giants who oppose their great arms to the fall of heaven, unlike the Titans. In this noble desert the Maid arrives, and in a cavern there, determines to end her days. They dwelt there a month, praying and living upon acorns, till their weakened limbs could scarcely support them.
Satan now stimulates the Burgundians to attack Compeigne; the troops pass through the forest, and Rodolfe and the Maid take shelter in that town, There she dwells in a Convent employed in praying and weeping, but her presence encourages the citizens, and they intreat her to arm and assist them. In vain she refuses, the governor Flavy reproaches her with being the object that Burgundy seeks to capture. She sallies out, and is at first successful, but attacked by superior numbers retreats the last, covering her troops. The Devil persuades Flavy to shut the gates upon her, and thus preserve the town by sacrificing her ; Flavy who is the bitterest enemy of Richemont and the Maid, and the sworn friend of Amaury, consents.
Higher than all the heavens there is a secret apartment to which the uncreated Being retires when he would deliberate upon
the fate of the universe. This inconceivable apartment forms with its three equal sides an unique triangle, the mystery of which confounds the place containing with that which it contains. There God repairs and decrees the fate of the Maid; Rodolfe then falls, and she is captured.
They are led to Roüen; the insults of the people affect her not, she blesses her chains, and endures her pain with pleasure. Celestial music cheers her dungeon. This astonishes the English, the Bishop of Beauvais insists upon burning her, and her death is resolved. The Devil cannot longer be absent from his dominions, he appoints a band of fiends to attend at the execution, returns then with his tidings, and makes a brief holyday in Hell.
It is remarkable that the name of the Heroine is never mentioned throughout this poem.
I have so arranged the matter of this Poem, says Chapelain, that France represents the Soul of Man, at war with itself, and agitated by the most violent of all emotions ; King Charles, the Will, absolute Ruler, attracted to good by its nature, but easily led to evil under the appearance of good. The English and the Burgundians, subjects and enemies of Charles, the
different transports of the irascible appetite, which disturb the legitimate empire of the Will. Amaury and Agnes the one the favourite, the other the mistress of the Prince, the different movements of the concupiscible appetite which corrupt the innocence of the will, by their allurements and by their charms. The Count of Dunois, related to the King, inseperable from his interests and the champion of his cause, Virtue which has its roots in the will, which supports the seeds of Justice in it, and combats always to deliver it from the tyranny of the Passions. Tanneguy chief of the Council of Charles, the Understanding which enlightens the deluded Will. And the Maid who comes to assist the Monarch against the Burgundians and the English, and delivers him from Agnes and from Amaury, the divine Grace, which in the embarrassment or oppression of all the Powers of the Soul, comes to re-establish the Will, to support the Understanding, to join itself to Virtue, and by a victorious effort subjecting to the Will the irascible and concupiscible appetites which troubled it, to produce that internal peace and that perfect tranquil
lity in which all opinions agree the supreme good , consists.