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The autumn winds rushing waft the leaves that are serest,
CXXI. — JOAN OF ARC.
1. What is to be thought of her ? What is to be thought of the poor shepherd girl from the hills and forests of Lorraine, who rose suddenly out of the quiet, out of the safety, out of the religious inspiration of deep pastoral solitudes, to a station in the van of armies, and to the more perilous station at the right hand of kings? The poor maiden drank not herself from that cup of rest which she had secured for France. No! for her voice was then silent. No! for her feet were dust.
2. Pure, innocent, noble-hearted girl! When the thunders of universal France, as even yet may happen, shall proclaim the grandeur of her who gave up all for her country, thy car will have been deaf for five centuries. To suffer and to do, that was thy portion in this life: to do, — never for thyself, always for others; to suffer, — never in the persons of generous champions, always in thy own, that was thy destiny ; and not for a moment was it hidden from thyself. Life, thou saidst, is short; let me use that life, so transitory, for glorious ends.
3. This pure creature — pure from every suspicion of even a visionary self-interest, even as she was pure in senses more obvious — never once relaxed in her belief in the darkness that was travelling to meet her. She might not prefigure the very manner of her death ; she saw not in vision, perhaps, the aërial altitude of the fiery scaffold, the spectators on every road pouring into Rouenel as to a coronation, the surging smoke, the volleying flames; but the voice that called her to death, — that she heard forever.
4. Great was the throne of France even in those days, and great was he that sat upon it; but well Joän knew that not the throne, nor he that sat upon it, was for her ; but, on the contrary, that she was for them. Not she by thenı, but they by her, should rise from the dust. Gorgeous were the lilies of France, and for centuries had they the privilege to spread their beauty over land and sea, until, in another century, the wrath of God and man combined to wither them; but well Joan knew — early at Domre'my she had read that bitter truth that the lilies of France
would decorate no garland for her. Flower nor bud, bell nor blossom, would ever bloom for her.
5. Joan of Arc was born in 1112, in the little villa ge of Dome re'my, on the borders of Lorraine, in France. Her parents were poor, and maintained themselves by their own labor upon a little land, with a few cattle. Joan worked in the field in summer, and in winter she sewed and spun. Small was her stock of learning, for she could neither read nor write ; but she would often go apart by herself in the pasture, as if to talk with God. She was a devout attendant at church, and gave to the poor to the utmost extent of her means; a girl of natural piety, that saw God in forests, and hills, and fountains, but did not the less seek him in places consecrated by religion.
6. Her native land was at this period in a distracted state. Paris was occupied by English troops; and the King of England was declared by a strong party the rightful heir of the throne of France. The people of the north of France, seeing in his success the end of strife, favored his cause ; but in the south, the country people, and a part of the nobility, stood by the lineal heir, Charles the Seventh, and by the old nationality. Meanwhile the English were extending their power; and the city of Orleans was so closely besieged by them that its fall seemed inevitable. It was a dark day for France.
7. For some time, Joan had entertained the belief that she was in communion with the spirits of departed saints ; that she saw angelic visions and heard angelic voices. These voices now whispered to her the duty imposed upon herself of delivering France and restoring its nationality. She found the means of making her way to the presence of the true heir of the throne, Charles the Seventh; and although, as he stood among his courtiers, he at first, in order to test her prophetic gift, maintained that he was not the king, she fell down and embraced his knees, declaring that he was the man. She offered to raise the siegerl of Orleans, and to conduct Charles to Rheims to be crowned.
8. At this time she was eighteen years old, slender and deli. cate in shape, with a pleasant countenance, a somewhat pale complexion, eyes rather melancholy than eager, and rich chest. nut-brown hair. As the king's affairs were hopeless, he did not refuse what seemed the preternatural aid proffered by Joan. She demanded for herself a particular sword in the church of St. Catharine, which was given to her. She put on a male dress, and unfurled her banner at the head of the French army, whom she had inspired with her own strong convictions of help from 02 high through her means.
9 She now appeared frequently in battle, and was severa)
times wounded ; still no unfeminine cruelty ever stained her con. duct. She never killed any one, never shed blood with her own hand. She interposed to protect the captive or the wounded. She mourned over the excesses of her countrymen, and would throw herself from her horse to administer comfort to a dying foeman. Resolute, chivalrous, gentle, and brave, wise in council, constant in her faith in her high mission, and inspiring the whole immense host by her enthusiasm, the secret of her success seemed to lie as much in her good sense as in her courage and her visions. This girl of the people clearly saw the question before France, and knew how to solve it.
10. When she had first appeared before the king, he had been on the point of giving up the struggle with the English, and of flying to the south of France. Joan taught him to blush for such abject counsels. She liberated Orleans, that great city, so decisive by its fate for the issue of the war. Entering the city after sunset on the 29th of April, 1429, she took part or Sunday, May 8th, in the religious celebration for the entire disappearance of the besieging force. On the 29th of June, she gained over the English the decisive battle of Patay'; on the ninth of July, she took Troyese by a coup-de-main ;£1 on the fifteenth of that month she carried the Dauphin" into Rheims; on Sunday the seventeenth, she crowned him; and there she rested from her labor of triumph. She had accomplished the capital objects which her own visions had dictated. She had saved France. What remained was, to suffer.
11. Having placed the king on his throne, it was her fortune thenceforward to be thwarted. More than one military plan was entered upon which she did not approve. Too well she felt that the end was now at hand. Still, she continued to expose her per. son in battle as before ; severe wounds had not taught her caution; and at length she was made prisoner by the Burgun'dians, and finally given up to the English. The object now was to vitiato the coronation of Charles the Seventh as the work of a witch; and, for this end, Joan was tried for sorcery. She resolutely de. fended herself from the absurd accusation.
12. Never, from the foundations of the earth, was there such a trial as this, if it were laid open in all its beauty of defence, and all its malignity of attack. 0, child of France! shepherdess, peasant-girl ! trodden under foot by all around thee, how I honor thy flashing intellect, — quick as the lightning, and as true to its mark, - that ran before France and laccard Europe by many a century, confounding the malice of the ensnarer, and making dumb the oracles of falsehood! “ Would you examine me as a witness against myself ? ” was the question by which many times
she defied their arts. The result of this trial was the condemna. tion of Jcan to be burnt alive, Never did grim inquisitors doom to death a fairer victim by bascr means.
13. Woman, sister! there are some things which you do not execute as well as your brother, man; no, nor ever will. Yet, sister, woman, — cheerfully, and with the love that burns in depths of admiration, I acknowledge that you can do one thing as well as the best of men, - you can die grandly! On the twentieth of May, 1431, being then about nineteen years of age, Joan of Arc underwent her martyrdom. She was conducted before midday, guarded by cight hundred spcarmen, to a platform of prodigious height, constructed of wooden billets, El supported by occasional walls of lath and plaster, and traversed by hollow spaces in every direction, for the creation of air-currents.
14. With an undaunted soul, but a meek and saintly demeanor, the maiden encountered her terrible fate. Upon her head was placed a mitre, bearing the inscription, “ Relapsed heretic, apostate, idolatress.” Her piety displayed itself in the most touching manner to the last; and her ăngelic forgetfulness of self was manifested in a remarkable degree. The executioner had been directed to apply his torch from below. Ile did so. The fiery smoke rose upwards in billowing volumes. A monk was then standing at Joan's side. Wrapt up in his sublime oflice, h2 saw not the danger, but still persisted in his prayers.
15. Even then, when the last enemy was racing up the fiery stairs to seize her, even at that moment did this noblest of girls think only for him, — the one friend that would not forsake her,
-- and not for herself; bidding him with her last breath to care for his own preservation, but to leave her to God. “Go down," she said ; " lift up the cross before me, that I may see it in dying, and speak to me pious words to the end.” Then protesting her innocence, and recommending her soul to heaven, she coutinued to pray as the flames leaped up and walled her in. Her last audible word was the name of Jesus. Sustained by faith in him, in her last fight upon the scaffold, she had triumphed gloriously; victoriously she had tasted death.
16. Few spectators of this martyrdomei were so hardened as to contain their tears. All the English, with the exception of a few soldiers, who made a jest of the aflair, were deeply moved. The French murmured that the death was cruel and unjust. “She diez a martyr! Ah, we are lost! we have burned a saint! Would to God that my soul were with hers !” Such were the exclamations on every side. A fanatic English soldier, who had sworn to throw a fagot on the funeral-pile, hearing Joan's last prayer to her Saviour, suddenly turned away, a penitent for life, saying everywhere that he had scen a dove rising upon white wings to heaven from the ashes where she had stood.
FROM DE QUINCEY AND OTHERS.
CXXII. -—THE SKY.
1. It is a strange thing how little, in general, people knı y about the sky. It is the part of creation in which Nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him, and teaching him, than in any other of her works; and it is just the part in which we least. attend to her. The noblest scenes of the earth can be seen and known but by few; it is not intended that man should live always in the midst of them; he injures them by his presence - he ceases to feel them if he be always with them.
2. But the sky is for all; bright as it is, it is not “ too bright nor good for human nature's daily food ;” it is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart, for the sooth ing it and purifying it from dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful - never the same for two moměnts together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its infinity; its appeal to what is immortal in us is as distinct as its ministry of chastisement or of blessing to what is inortal is essential.
3. And yet we never attend to it, we never make it a subject of thought, but as it has to do with our animal sensations. We look upon all by which it speaks to us n:ore clearly than to brutes, - upon all which bears witness to the intention of the Supreme, that we are to receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew that we share wit's the weed and the worm, — only as a succession of meaningless and monotonous accident, too common and too vain to be worthy of a moment of watchfulness or a glance of admiration. If, in our moments of utter idleness and insipidity, we turn to the sky as a last resource, which of its phenomena do we speak of?
4. One says it has been wet, and another it has been windy, and another it has been warm. Who, among the whole clatter. ing crowd, can tell me of the forms and the precipices of the chain of tall white mountains that gilded the horizon at noon yesterday? Who saw the narrow sunbeain that came out of the south, and smote upon their summits until they melted and mouldsred away in a dust of blue rain? Who saw the dance of the