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STATUE OF JOAN OF ARC,
A TRAVELLER'S SKETCH.
I HAVE resolved to avoid descriptions of places such as may be found in the guide-books. Were it otherwise, I would speak at length of this queer old city — a' congregation of contradictions; of meanness and magnificence, of poverty and wealth. The fine old cathedral, with its Gothic architecture; its tombs and inscriptions, speaking of four centuries ago, when the English kings held dominion over this portion of France; with its two towers, near two hundred and fifty feet in height; with its immense bell, speaking in the voice of a giant; — this, alone, would fill some half-dozen pages. And then the statue of that lovely, inspired, patriotic, maniac maiden — the Maid of Orleans ! I could write a volume about it. Not that the statue, which is of modern date, is remarkable; but I could hang her whole story upon it. Rouen, you remember, was taken by Henry VI. of England, in 1418, after a siege of five months; and, in 1431, Joan of Arc was burnt alive in the public square, where her statue is now placed.
The present scene in the Place de Joan d'Arc is a curious one. It is the very heart of a great city; and here you may see all its palpitations. But I must pause, — or I shall overleap my resolution, — and begin to speak like a traveller who is preparing his book. Let me not forget, however, to pay a passing tribute to Joan of Arc. The Maid of Orleans is indisputably one of the most wonderful and beautiful characters depicted in the pages of history. In her case, insanity seemed to wear the very habiliments of inspiration. There was evidently no trick in her schemes. If she imposed on others, she was herself imposed upon by her imagination. Even at the age of fifteen, her career began, and while yet but a humble village maiden. While her companions were sporting beneath the fairies' tree, not far from the fountain of Domremy, -a tree once sacred to the Druids, and famous in many a ghostly tale, — Joan was singing and dancing in pious enthusiasm by herself; or, perchance, binding garlands for the Holy Virgin in the little chapel of Our Lady of Bellemont.
Such was the beginning of her career; yet at
the age of eighteen, she was the leader of armies, and animated her countrymen to deeds of victory in many a bloody field. But her story is too well known to require repetition. In 1431, she was burnt to death by a slow fire, being charged with witchcraft, by the holy church. In 1486, the holy church decided that she was innocent. Monuments were then erected to her memory, and the condemned, agonized, accursed, excommunicated Maid of Orleans, was rendered immortal. How often has it happened that a benefactor of mankind was persecuted while living, and only honored when honor was but a mockery of the insensate dust! While that dust could feel, it was an object of torture ; when feeling had departed, it was worthy of imperishable monuments and undying inscriptions.