Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JOAN OF ARC: BOOK 8, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

JOAN OF ARC: BOOK 8, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Now was the noon of night; and all was still
Last Line: The shattered fragments of the midnight wreck.
Subject(s): England; Faith; France; Heroism; Joan Of Arc (1412-1431); Missions & Missionaries; Religion; Victory; War; English; Belief; Creed; Heroes; Heroines; Theology


Transactions of the night. Attack of the Tournelles. The garrison retreat to the
tower on the bridge. Their total defeat there.

NOW was the noon of night; and all was still,
Save where the sentinel paced on his rounds
Humming a broken song. Along the camp
High flames the frequent fire. The warrior Franks,
On the hard earth extended, rest their limbs
Fatigued; their spears lay by them, and the shield
Pillowed the helmed head: secure they slept,
And busy fancy in her dream renewed
The fight of yesterday.
But not to Joan,
But not to her, most wretched, came thy aid,
Soother of sorrows, Sleep! no more her pulse,
Amid the battle's tumult throbbing fast,
Allow'd no pause for thought. With clasped hands
And fixed eye she sat; the while around
The spectres of the days departed rose,
A melancholy train! upon the gale
The raven's croak was heard; she started up,
And passing through the camp with hasty step
Strode to the field of blood.
The night was calm;
Fair as was ever on Chaldea's plain
When the pale moon-beams o'er the silvery scene
Shone cloudless, whilst the watchful shepherd's eye
Survey'd the host of heaven, and mark'd them rise
Successive, and successively decay;
Lost in the stream of light, as lesser springs
Amid Euphrates' current. The high wall
Cast a deep shadow, and her faltering feet
Stumbled o'er broken arms and carcasses;
And sometimes did she hear the heavy groan
Of one yet struggling in the pangs of death.
She reach'd the spot where Theodore had fallen,
Before fort London's gate; but vainly there
Sought she the youth, on every clay-cold face
Gazing with such a look, as though she fear'd
The thing she sought. Amazement seiz'd the Maid,
For there, the victim of his vengeful arm,
Known by the buckler's blazon'd heraldry,
Salisbury lay dead. So as the Virgin stood
Gazing around the plain, she marked a man
Pass slowly on, as burthened. Him to aid
She sped, and soon with unencumber'd speed
O'ertaking, thus bespake: "Stranger! this weight
Impedes thy progress. Dost thou bear away
Some slaughter'd friend? or lives the sufferer
With many a sore wound gash'd? oh! if he lives
I will, with earnest prayer, petition heaven
To shed its healing on him!"
So she said,
And as she spake stretched forth her careful hands
To ease the burthen. "Warrior!" he replied,
"Thanks for this proffered succour: but this man
Lives not, and I, with unassisted arm,
Can bear him to the sepulchre. Farewell!
The night is far advanced; thou to the camp
Return: it fits not darkling thus to stray."

"Conrade!" the Maid exclaim'd, for well she knew
His voice:—with that she fell upon his neck
And cried, "my Theodore! but wherefore thus
Through the dead midnight dost thou bear his corse?"

"Peace, Maiden!" Conrade cried, "collect thy soul!
He is but gone before thee to that world
Whither thou soon must follow! in the morn,
Ere yet from Orleans to the war we went,
He pour'd his tale of sorrow on mine ear
'Lo, Conrade, where she moves—beloved Maid!
Devoted for the realm of France she goes
Abandoning for this the joys of life,
Yea, life itself! yet on my heart her words
Vibrate. If she must perish in the war,
I will not live to bear the dreadful thought,
Haply my arm had saved her. I shall go
Her unknown guardian. Conrade, if I fall,
And trust me, I have little love of life,
Bear me in secret from the gory field,
Lest haply I might meet her wandering eye
A mangled corse. She must not know my fate.
Do this last act of friendship—in the flood
Whelm me: so shall she think of Theodore
Unanguish'd.' Maiden, I did vow with him
That I would dare the battle by thy side,
And shield thee in the war. Thee of his death
I hoped unknowing."
As the warrior spake,
He on the earth the clay-cold carcass laid.
With fixed eye the wretched Maiden gazed
The life-left tenement: his batter'd arms
Were with the night-dews damp; his brown hair clung
Gore-clotted in the wound, and one loose lock
Played o'er his cheek's black paleness. "Gallant youth!"
She cried, "I would to God the hour were come
When I might meet thee in the bowers of bliss!
No, Theodore! the sport of winds and waves,
Thy body shall not roll adown the stream,
The sea-wolf's banquet. Conrade, bear with me
The corse to Orleans, there in hallowed ground
To rest; the priest shall say the sacred prayer,
And hymn the requiem to his parted soul.
So shall not Elinor in bitterness
Lament that no dear friend to her dead child
Paid the last office."
From the earth they lift
The mournful burden, and along the plain
Pass with slow footsteps to the city gate.
The obedient sentinel, at Conrade's voice,
Admits the midnight travellers; on they pass,
Till in the neighbouring abbey's porch arrived,
They rest the lifeless load.
Loud rings the bell;
The awakened porter turns the heavy door.
To him the Virgin: "Father, from the slain
On yonder reeking field a dear-loved friend
I bring to holy sepulture: chant ye
The requiem to his soul: to-morrow eve
Will I return, and in the narrow house
Behold him laid to rest." The father knew
The mission'd Maid, and humbly bow'd assent.
Now from the city, o'er the shadowy plain,
Backward they bend their way. From silent thoughts
The Maid, awakening, cried: "There was a time,
When thinking on my closing hour of life,
Though with resolved mind, some natural fears
Shook the weak frame; now that, the happy hour,
When my emancipated soul shall burst
The cumbrous fetters of mortality,
Wishful I contemplate. Conrade! my friend,
My wounded heart would feel another pang,
Shouldst thou forsake me!"
"Joan!" the chief replied,
"Along the weary pilgrimage of life
Together will we journey, and beguile
The dreary road, telling with what gay hopes
We in the morning eyed the pleasant fields
Vision'd before; then wish that we had reach'd
The bower of rest!"
Thus communing, they gain'd
The camp, yet hush'd in sleep; there separating,
Each in the post allotted, restless waits
The day-break.
Morning came: dim through the shade
The first rays glimmer; soon the brightening clouds
Drink the rich beam, and o'er the landscape spread
The dewy light. The soldiers from the earth
Leap up invigorate, and each his food
Receives, impatient to renew the war.
Dunois his javelin to the Tournelles points,
"Soldiers of France! your English foes are there;"
As when a band of hunters, round the den
Of some wood-monster, point their spears, elate
In hope of conquest and the future feast;
When on the hospitable board their spoil
Shall smoke, and they, as the rich bowl goes round,
Tell to their guests their exploits in the chase;
They with their shouts of exultation, make
The forest ring; so elevate of heart,
With such loud clamours for the fierce assault
The French prepare; nor, guarding now the lists,
Durst the disheartened English man to man
Meet the close conflict. From the barbican,
Or from the embattled wall they their yew bows
Bent forceful, and their death-fraught enginery
Discharged; nor did the Gallic archers cease,
With well-directed shafts, their loftier foes
To assail: behind the guardian pavais fenced,
They at the battlements their arrows aim'd,
Showering an iron storm, whilst o'er the bayle,
The bayle now levell'd by victorious France,
Pass'd the bold troops with all their mangonels;
Or tortoises, beneath whose roofing safe,
They, filling the deep moat, might for the towers
Make fit foundation, or their petraries,
War-wolfs, and beugles, and that murderous sling,
The matafunda, whence the ponderous stone
Fled fierce, and made one wound of whom it struck,
Shattering the frame, so that no pious hand
Gathering his mangled limbs, might him convey
To where his fathers slept: a dreadful train
Prepared by Salisbury over the sieged town
To hurl his ruin; but that dreadful train
Must hurl their ruin on the invaders' heads,
Such retribution righteous Heaven decreed.

Nor lie the English trembling, for the fort
Was ably garrison'd. Glacidas, the chief,
A gallant man, sped on from place to place,
Cheering the brave; or if the archer's hand,
Palsied with fear, shot wide the ill-aim'd shaft,
Threatening the coward who betrayed himself,
He drove him from the ramparts. In his hand
The chief a cross-bow held; an engine dread
Of such wide-wasting fury, that of yore
The assembled fathers of the Christian church
Pronounced that man accurs'd whose impious hand
Should point the murderous weapon. Such decrees
Befits the men of God to promulgate,
And with a warning voice, though haply vain,
To cry aloud and spare not, woe to them
Whose hands are full of blood!
An English king,
The lion-hearted Richard, their decree
First broke, and heavenly retribution doom'd
His fall by the keen quarrel; since that day
Frequent in fields of battle, and from far
To many a good knight, bearing his death wound
From hands unknown. With such an instrument,
Arm'd on the ramparts, Glacidas his eye
Cast on the assailing host. A keener glance
Darts not the hawk when from the feather'd tribe
He marks his victim.
On a Frank he fix'd
His gaze, who, kneeling by the trebuchet,
Charged its long sling with death. Him Glacidas
Secure behind the battlements, beheld,
And strung his bow; then, bending on one knee,
He in the groove the feather'd quarrel placed,
And levelling with firm eye, the death-wound mark'd.
The bow-string twang'd, on its swift way the dart
Whizzed fierce, and struck, there where the helmet's clasps
Defend the neck; a weak protection now;
For through the tube that the pure air inhales
Pierced the keen shaft; blood down the unwonted way
Gush'd to the lungs: prone fell the dying man
Grasping, convuls'd, the earth: a hollow groan
In his throat struggled, and the dews of death
Stood on his livid cheek. The days of youth
He had passed peaceful, and had known what joys
Domestic love bestows, the father once
Of two fair infants; in the city hemm'd
During the hard siege; he had seen their cheeks
Grow pale with famine, and had heard their cries
For bread! his wife, a broken-hearted one,
Sunk to the cold grave's quiet, and her babes
With hunger pined, and followed; he survived,
A miserable man, and heard the shouts
Of joy in Orleans, when the Maid approach'd,
As o'er the corse of his last little one
He heap'd the unhallowed earth. To him the foe
Perform'd a friendly part, hastening the hour
Grief else had soon brought on.
The English chief,
Pointing again his arbalist, let loose
The string; the quarrel, driven by that strong blow,
True to its aim, fled fatal: one it struck
Dragging a tortoise to the moat, and fix'd
Deep in his liver; blood and mingled gall
Flow'd from the wound; and writhing with keen pangs,
Headlong he fell; he for the wintry hour
Knew many a merry ballad and quaint tale:
A man in his small circle well-beloved.
None better knew with prudent hand to guide
The vine's young tendrils, or at vintage time
To press the full-swoln clusters; he, heart-glad,
Taught his young boys the little all he knew,
Enough for happiness. The English host
Laid waste his fertile fields: he, to the war,
By want compell'd, adventur'd, in his gore
Now weltering.
Nor the Gallic host remit
Their eager efforts; some, with watery fence,
Beneath the tortoise roof'd, with engines apt
Drain painful; part, laden with wood, throw there
Their buoyant burdens, labouring so to gain
Firm footing: some the-mangonels supply,
Or charging with huge stones the murderous sling,
Or petrary, or in the espringal
Fix the brass-winged arrows. Hoarse around
Rose the confused din of multitudes.
Fearless along the ramparts Gargrave moved,
Cheering the English troops. The bow he bore;
The quiver rattled as he moved along.
He knew aright to aim the feathered shafts,
Well skill'd to pierce the mottled roebuck's side,
O'ertaken in his flight. Him passing on,
From some huge martinet, a ponderous stone
Crush'd: on his breast-plate falling, the vast force,
Shatter'd the bone, and with his mangled lungs
The fragments mingled. on the sunny brow
Of a fair hill, wood-circled, stood his home;
A pleasant dwelling, whence the ample ken
Gazed o'er subjected distance, and surveyed
Streams, hills, and forests, fair variety!
The traveller knew its hospitable towers,
For open were the gates, and blazed for all
The friendly fire. By glory lured, the youth
Went forth; and he had bathed his falchion's edge
In many a Frenchman's gore; now crush'd beneath
The ponderous fragment's force, his mangled limbs
Lie quivering.
Lo! towards the levelled moat,
A moving tower the men of Orleans wheel,
Four stages elevate. Above was hung,
Equalling the walls, a bridge; in the lower stage
The ponderous battering-ram: a troop, within,
Of archers, through the opening, shot their shafts.
In the loftiest part was Conrade, so prepar'd
To mount the rampart; for he loath'd the chase,
And loved to see the dappled foresters
Browse fearless on their lair, with friendly eye,
And happy in beholding happiness,
Not meditating death: the bowman's art,
Therefore, he little knew, nor was he wont
To aim the arrow at the distant foe.
But uprear in close conflict, front to front,
His death-red battle-axe, and break the shield,
First in the war of men. There, too, the Maid
Awaits, impatient on the wall to wield
Her falchion. Onward moves the heavy tower,
Slow o'er the moat and steady, though the foe
Showered there their javelins, aim'd their engines there,
And from the arbalist the fire-tipt dart
Shot lightning through the sky. In vain it flamed,
For well with many a reeking hide secured,
Pass'd on the dreadful pile, and now it reached
The wall. Below, with forceful impulse driven,
The iron-horned engine swings its stroke,
Then back recoils, whilst they within, who guide,
In backward step collecting all their strength,
Anon the massy beam, with stronger arm,
Drive full and fierce; so rolls the swelling sea
Its curly billows to the unmoved foot
Of some huge promontory, whose broad base
Breaks the rough wave; the shiver'd surge rolls back,
Till, by the coming billow borne, it bursts
Again, and foams with ceaseless violence.
The wanderer, on the sunny cliff outstretch'd,
Harks to the roaring surges, as they rock
His weary senses to forgetfulness.

But nearer danger threats the invaders now,
For on the ramparts, lowered from above,
The bridge reclines. An universal shout
Rose from the hostile hosts. The exultant Franks
Clamour their loud rejoicing, whilst the foe
Lift up the warning voice, and call aloud
For speedy succour there, with deafening shout
Cheering their comrades. Not with louder din
The mountain torrent flings precipitate
Its bulk of waters, though, amid the fall,
Shattered, and dashing silvery from the rock.

Lo! on the bridge he stands, the undaunted man,
Conrade! the gathered foes along the wall
Throng opposite, and on him point their pikes,
Cresting with armed men the battlements.
He, undismayed, though on that perilous height,
Stood firm, and hurl'd his javelin; the keen point
Pierced through the destined victim, where his arm
Join'd the broad breast: a wound that skilful care
Haply had heal'd; but, him disabled now
For farther service, the unpitying throng
Of his tumultuous comrades from the wall
Thrust headlong. Nor did Conrade cease to hurl
His deadly javelins fast, for well within
The tower was stored with weapons, to the chief
Quickly supplied: nor did the mission'd Maid
Rest idle from the combat; she, secure,
Aim'd the keen quarrel, taught the cross-bow's use
By the willing mind that what it well desires
Gains aptly: nor amid the numerous throng,
Though haply erring from their destin'd mark,
Sped her sharp arrows frustrate. From the tower
Ceaseless the bow-strings twang: the knights below,
Each by his pavais bulwark'd, thither aimed
Their darts, and not a dart fell woundless there;
So thickly throng'd, they stood, and fell as fast
As when the monarch of the East goes forth
From Gemna's banks and the proud palaces
Of Delhi, the wild monsters of the wood
Die in the blameless warfare: closed within
The still-contracting circle, their brute force
Wasting in mutual rage, they perish there,
Or by each other's fury lacerate,
The archer's barbed arrow, or the lance
Of some bold youth of his first exploits vain,
Rajah or Omrah, for the war of beasts
Venturous, and learning thus the love of blood.
The shout of terror rings along the wall,
For now the French their scaling ladders place,
And bearing high their bucklers, to the assault
Mount fearless: from above the furious troops
Hurl down such weapons as inventive care
Or frantic rage supplies: huge stones and beams
Crush the bold foe; some, thrust adown the height,
Fall living to their death: some in keen pangs
And wildly-writhing, as the liquid lead
Gnaws through their members, leap down desperate,
Eager to cease from suffering. Still they mount,
And by their fellows' fate unterrified,
Still dare the perilous way. Nor dangerless
To the English was the fight, though from above
Easy to crush the assailants: them amidst
Fast fled the arrows; the large brass-wing'd darts,
There driven resistless from the espringal,
Keeping their impulse even in the wound,
Whirl as they pierce the victim. Some fall crush'd
Beneath the ponderous fragment that descends
The heavier from its height: some, the long lance,
Impetuous rushing on its viewless way,
Transfix'd. The death-fraught cannon's thundering roar
Convulsing air, the soldier's eager shout,
And terror's wild shriek echo o'er the plain
In dreadful harmony.
Meantime the chief,
Who equall'd on the bridge the rampart's height,
With many a well-aim'd javelin dealing death,
Made through the throng his passage: he advanced
In wary valour o'er his slaughtered foes,
On the blood-reeking wall. Him drawing near,
Two youths, the boldest of the English host,
Prest on to thrust him from that perilous height;
At once they rush'd upon him: he, his axe
Dropping, the dagger drew: one through the throat
He pierced, and swinging his broad buckler round,
Dash'd down his comrade. So, unmoved he stood,
The sire of Guendolen, that daring man,
Corineus; grappling with his monstrous foe,
He the brute vastness held aloft and bore,
And headlong hurl'd, all shatter'd, to the sea,
Down from the rock's high summit, since that day
Him, hugest of the giants, chronicling,
Called Langoemagog.
The Maid of Arc
Bounds o'er the bridge, and to the wind unfurls
Her hallowed banner. At that welcome sight
A general shout of acclamation rose,
And loud, as when the tempest-tossing forest
Roars to the roaring wind; then terror seiz'd
The garrison; and fired anew with hope,
The fierce assailants to their prize rush on
Resistless. Vainly do their English foes
Hurl there their beams, and stones, and javelins,
And fire-brands; fearless in the escalade,
Firm mount the French, and now upon the wall
Wage equal battle.
Burning at the sight
With indignation, Glacidas beheld
His troops fly scattered; fast on every side
The foes up-rushing eager to their spoil;
The holy standard waving; and the Maid
Fierce in pursuit. "Speed but this arrow, Heaven!"
The chief exclaim'd, "and I shall fall content."
So saying, he his sharpest quarrel chose,
And fix'd the bow-string, and against the Maid
Levelling, let loose: her arm was rais'd on high
To smite a fugitive; he glanced aside,
Shunning her deadly stroke, and thus receiv'd
The chieftain's arrow: through his ribs it pass'd,
And cleft that vessel, whence the purer blood,
Through many a branching channel, o'er the frame
Meanders.
"Fool!" the enraged chief exclaim'd,
"Would she had slain thee! thou hast lived too long."
Again he aim'd his arbalist: the string
Struck forceful: swift the erring arrow sped,
Guiltless of blood, for lightly o'er the court
Bounded the warrior Virgin. Glacidas
Levelled his bow again; the fated shaft
Fled true, and difficultly through the mail
Pierced to her neck, and tinged its point with blood.
"She bleeds! She bleeds!" exulting cried the chief;
"The sorceress bleeds! Nor all her hellish arts
Can charm my arrows from their destined course."
Ill-fated man! In vain, with murderous hand
Placing thy feathered quarrel in its groove,
Dream'st thou of JOAN subdued! She from her neck
Plucking the shaft unterrified, exclaim'd:
"This is a favour! Frenchmen, let us on!
Escape they cannot from the hand of God!"
But Conrade, rolling round his angry eyes,
Beheld the English chieftain as he aim'd
Again the bow: with rapid step he strode;
Nor did not Glacidas the Frank perceive:
At him he drew the string: the powerless dart
Fell blunted from his buckler. Fierce he came
And lifting high his ponderous battle-axe,
Full on his shoulder drove the furious stroke
Deep-buried in his bosom: prone he fell;
The cold air rushed upon his heaving heart.
One whose low lineage gave no second name
Was Glacidas, a gallant man, and still
His memory in the records of the foe
Survives.
And now disheartened at his death
The vanquish'd English fly towards the gate,
Seeking the inner court, as yet in hope
Again to dare the siege, and with their friends
Find present refuge there. Mistaken men!
The vanquish'd have no friends! defeated thus,
Prest by pursuit, in vain, with eager voice,
They call their comrades in the suppliant tones
Of pity now, now in the indignant phrase
Of fruitless anger; they indeed within
Fast from the ramparts on the victor troops
Hurl their keen javelins,—but the gate is barr'd—
The huge portcullis down!
Then terror seiz'd
Their hopeless hearts: some, furious in despair,
Turn on their foes; fear-palsied, some await
The coming death; some drop the useless sword
And cry for mercy.
Then the Maid of Arc
Had pity on the vanquish'd; and she call'd
Aloud, and cried unto the host of France,
And bade them cease from slaughter. They obeyed
The delegated damsel. Some there were
Apart that communed murmuring, and of these
Graville address'd her. "Mission'd Maid! our troops
Are few in number; and to well secure
These many prisoners such a force demands,
As should we spare might shortly make us need
The mercy we bestow; not mercy then,
Rather to these our soldiers, cruelty.
Justice to them, to France, and to our king,
And that regard wise Nature has in each
Implanted of self-safety, all demand
Their deaths."
"Foul fall such evil policy!"
The indignant Maid exclaim'd. "I tell thee, chief,
God is with us! but God shall hide his face
From him who sheds one drop of human blood
In calm cold-hearted wisdom; him who weighs
The right and the expedient, and resolves,
Just as the well-pois'd scale shall rise or fall.
These men shall live—live to be happy, chief,
And in the latest hour of life, shall bless
Us who preserved. What is the conqueror's name,
Compared to this when the death hour shall come?
To think that we have from the murderous sword
Rescued one man, and that his heart-pour'd prayers,
Already with celestial eloquence,
Plead for us to the All-just!"
Severe she spake,
Then turn'd to Conrade. "Thou from these our troops
Appoint fit escort for the prisoners:
I need not tell thee, Conrade, they are men,
Misguided men, led from their little homes,
The victims of the mighty! thus subdued
They are our foes no longer: be they held
In Orleans. From the war we may not spare
Thy valour long."
She said: when Conrade cast
His eyes around, and mark'd amid the court
From man to man where Francis rush'd along,
Bidding them spare the vanquish'd. Him he hail'd.
"The Maid hath bade me choose a leader forth
To guard the captives; thou shalt be the man;
For thou wilt guard them with due diligence,
Yet not forgetting they are men, our foes
No longer!"
Nor meantime the garrison
Ceas'd from the war; they, in the hour of need,
Abandoning their comrades to the sword,
A daring band, resolved to bide the siege
In desperate valour. Fast against the walls
The battering-ram drove fierce; the enginery
Ply'd at the ramparts fast; the catapults
Drove there their dreadful darts; the war-wolfs there
Hurl'd their huge stones; and, through the kindled sky,
The engines showered their sheets of liquid fire.

"Feel ye not, comrades, how the ramparts shake
Beneath the ponderous ram's unceasing stroke?"
Cried one, a venturous Englishman. "Our foes,
In woman-like compassion, have dismissed
A powerful escort, weakening thus themselves,
And giving us fair hope, in equal field,
Of better fortune. Sorely here annoyed,
And slaughtered by their engines from afar,
We perish. Vainly does the soldier boast
Undaunted courage and the powerful arm,
If thus pent up, like some wild beast he falls,
Mark'd for the hunter's arrows: let us rush
And meet them in the battle, man to man,
Either to conquer, or, at least, to die
A soldier's death."
"Nay, nay—not so," replied
One of less daring valour. "Though they point
Their engines here, our archers, not in vain,
Speed their death-doing shafts. Let the strong walls
First by the foe be won; 'twill then be time
To meet them in the battle man to man,
When these shall fail us."
Scarcely had he spoke
When full upon his breast a ponderous stone
Fell, fierce impell'd, and drove him to the earth,
All shattered. Horror the spectators seiz'd,
For as the dreadful weapon shivered him,
His blood besprinkled round, and they beheld
His mangled lungs lie quivering!
"Such the fate
Of those who trust them to their walls' defence,"
Again exclaimed the soldier: "Thus they fall,
Betrayed by their own fears. Courage alone
Can save us."
Nor to draw them from the fort
Now needed eloquence; with one accord
They bade him lead to battle. Forth they rush'd
Impetuous. With such fury o'er the plain,
Swoln by the autumnal tempest, Vega rolls
His rapid waters, when the gathered storm,
On the black hills of Cambria bursting, swells
The tide of desolation.
Then the Maid
Spake to the son of Orleans, "Let our troops
Fall back, so shall the English in pursuit
Leave this strong fortress, thus an easy prey."
Time was not for long counsel. From the court,
Obedient to Dunois, a band of Franks
Retreat, as at the irruption of their foes
Disheartened; they, with shouts and loud uproar,
Rush to their fancied conquest: Joan, the while,
Placing a small, but gallant garrison,
Bade them secure the gates: then forth she rush'd,
With such fierce onset charging on their rear,
That terror smote the English, and they wish'd
Again that they might hide them in their walls
Rashly abandoned; for now wheeling round,
The son of Orleans fought. All captainless,
Ill-marshall'd, ill-directed, in vain rage,
They waste their furious efforts, falling fast
Before the Maid's good falchion and the sword
Of Conrade: loud was heard the mingled sound
Of arms and men; the earth, that trampled late
By multitudes, gave to the passing wind
Its dusty clouds, now reek'd with their hot gore.

High on the fort's far summit Talbot mark'd
The fight, and call'd impatient for his arms,
Eager to rush to war; and scarce withheld:
For now, disheartened and discomfited,
The troops fled fearful.
On the bridge there stood
A strong-built tower, commanding o'er the Loire.
The traveller sometimes lingered on his way,
Marking the playful tenants of the stream,
Seen in its shadow, stem the sea-ward tide.
This had the invaders won in hard assault,
Ere she the delegate of heaven, came forth
And made them fear who never fear'd before.
Hither the English troops with hasty steps
Retir'd, yet not forgetful of defence,
But waging still the war: the garrison
Them thus retreating saw, and open threw
Their guarded gates; and on the Gallic host,
Covering their vanquish'd fellows, pour'd their shafts
Check'd in pursuit, they stopt. Then Graville cried,—
"Ill, maiden, hast thou done! those valiant troops
Thy womanish pity has dismissed, with us
Conjoin'd might press upon the vanquish'd foes,
Though aided thus, and plant the lilied flag
Victorious on yon tower."
"Dark-minded man!"
The Maid of Orleans answered, "to act well
Brings with itself an ample recompence.
I have not rear'd the oriflamme of death,
The butcher flag! the banner of the Lord
Is this; and come what will, me it behoves,
Mindful of that good power who delegates,
To spare the fallen foe: that gracious God
Sends me the minister of mercy forth,
Sends me to save this ravaged realm of France;
To England friendly as to all the world,
Foe only to the great blood-guilty ones,
The masters and the murderers of mankind."

She said, and suddenly threw off her helm;
Her breast heaved high—her cheek grew red—her eyes
Flash'd forth a wilder lustre. "Thou dost deem
That I have illy spar'd so large a band,
Disabling from pursuit our weakened troops—
God is with us!" she cried—"God is with us!
Our champion manifest!"
Even as she spake,
The tower, the bridge, and all its multitudes,
Sunk with a mighty crash.
Astonishment
Seized on the French—an universal cry
Of terror burst from them. Crush'd in the fall,
Or by their armour whelm'd beneath the tide,
The sufferers sunk, or vainly plied their arms,
Caught by some sinking wretch, who grasp'd them fast
And dragg'd them down to death: shrieking they sunk;
Huge fragments frequent dash'd with thundering roar,
Amid the foaming current. From the fort
Talbot beheld, and gnash'd his teeth, and cursed
The more than mortal Virgin; whilst the towers
Of Orleans echoed to the loud uproar,
And all who heard, trembled, and cross'd their breasts.
And as they hastened to the city walls,
Told fearfully their beads.
'Twas now the hour
When o'er the plain the pensive hues of eve
Shed their meek radiance; when the lowing herd,
Slow as they stalk to shelter, draw behind
The lengthening shades; and seeking his high nest
As heavily he flaps the dewy air,
The hoarse rook pours his not unpleasant note.
"Now then, Dunois, for Orleans!" cried the Maid,
"And give we to the flames these monuments
Of sorrow and disgrace. The ascending flames
Shall to the dwellers of yon rescued town
Blaze with a joyful splendour, while the foe
Behold and tremble."
As she spake, they rush'd
To fire the forts; they shower their wild fire there,
And high amid the gloom the ascending flames
Blaze up; then joyful of their finish'd toil,
The host retire. Hush'd is the field of fight
As the calm'd ocean, when its gentle waves
Heave slow and silent, wafting tranquilly
The shattered fragments of the midnight wreck.





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