Page images

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 on high through her means.

5. She now appeared frequently in battle, and was several times wounded; still no unfeminine cruelty ever stained her conduct. 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 ques. tion before France, and knew how to solve it.

6. When she had first appeared before the king, he had been on the point of giving up the struggle with a 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, on 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 9th of July, she took Troyes by a coup-de-main; on the 15th of that month, she carried the dauphin into Rheims; on Sunday, the 17th, 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.

7. 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 jeopard her person 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 vitiate the coronation of Charles the Seventh as the work of a witch; and, for this end, Joan was tried for sorcery. She resolutely defended herself from the absurd accusation.

8. Never, from the foundations of the earth, was there such a trial as this, if it were laid open in all its beauty of defense, 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 laggard 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 condemnation of Joan to be burnt alive. Never did grim inquisitors doom to death a fairer victim by baser means.

9. 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 20th of May, 1431, being then about nineteen years of age, Joan of Arc underwent her martyrdom. She was conducted, before midday, guarded by eight hundred spearmen,

to a platform of prodigious height, constructed of wooden billets, supported by occasional walls of lath and plaster, and traversed by hollow spaces in every direction, for the creation of air-currents.

10. With an undaunted soul, but a meek and saintly demeanor, the maiden encountered her terrible fate. Upon her head was placed a miter, bearing the in. scription, Relapsed heretic, apostate, idolatress.Her piety displayed itself in the most touching manner to the last; and her ăngelic forgetfulness of self was man, ifested in a remarkable degree. The executioner had been directed to apply his torch from below. He did so. The fiery smoke rose upward in billowing vol. umes. A monk was then standing at Joan's side, Wrapt up in his sublime office, he saw not the danger, but still persisted in his prayers.

11. 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 her. self; 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 continued 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.

12. A soldier, who had sworn to throw a făgot on the pile, turned away, a penitent for life, on hearing her last prayer to her Saviour. He had seen, he said, a white dove soar to heaven from the ashes where the brave girl had stood. THOMAS De Quincey (altered).

[merged small][ocr errors]

When Freedom, from her mountain height,

Unfurled her standard to the air,
She tore the azure robe of night,

And set the stars of glory there.
She mingled with its gorgeous dyes
The milky baldrick of the skies,
And striped its pure, celestial white
With streakings of the morning light.
Then from his mansion in the sun .
She called her eagle bearer down,
And gave into his mighty hand
The symbol of her chosen land.

Majestic monarch of the cloud,

Who rear'st aloft thy regal form,
To hear the tempest trumpings loud
And see the lightning lances driven,

When strive the warriors of the storm,
And rolls the thunder-drum of heaven,
Child of the Sun! to thee 't is given

To guard the banner of the free,
To hover in the sulphur smoke,
To ward away the battle-stroke,
And bid its blendings shine afar,
Like rainbows on the cloud of war,

The harbingers of victory!

Flag of the brave ! thy folds shall fly,
The sign of hope and triumph high,
When speaks the signal trumpet tone,
And the long line comes gleaming on. -

Ere yet the life-blood, warm and wet,
Has dimmed the glistening bayonet,
Each soldier eye shall brightly turn
To where thy sky-born glories burn;
And, as his springing steps advance,
Catch war and vengeance from the glance. .

And, when the cannon-mouthings loud
Heave in wild wreaths the battle shroud,
And gory sabers rise and fall
Like shoots of flame on midnight's pall,
Then shall thy meteor glances glow,

And cowering foes shall sink beneath
Each gallant arm that strikes below

That lovely messenger of death.
Flag of the seas! on ocean's wave
Thy stars shall glitter o'er the brave.
When Death, careering on the gale,
Sweeps darkly round the bellied sail,
And frighted waves rush wildly back
Before the broadside's reeling rack,
Each dying wanderer of the sea
Shall look at once to heaven and thee, me
And smile to see thy splendors fly
In triumph o'er his closing eye.
Flag of the free heart's hope and home!

By angel hands to Valor given ;
Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,

And all thy hues were born in heaven.
Forever float that standard sheet!

Where breathes the foe but falls before us
With Freedom's soil beneath our feet,
And Freedom's banner streaming o'er us!

J. R. DRAKE. (1795 - 1840)

« PreviousContinue »