John Of Arc

A Fragment.

In Fancy's realm I saw a teeming vale
In which there lay a homestead old and rude,
Whose fields with flocks and herds were thickly strew'd—
Telling of rural peace a pleasant tale.
It was an eve in hright and busy May—
So beautiful and calm that not a sound,
Except the wild bird's mellow vesper lay,
Broke through the stillness deep that reign'd around.

The joyous lark had ceas'd to soar on high,
The flowers begun to close their petals briglit.
Toil-weary bees to wing their hivebound flight,
And now and then a timid hare ran by.
Down by a gloomy wood of beeches large
A streamlet bright ran with a noiseless flow
Towards the sea ; while on its verdant marge
A pensive Maiden stray'd with footsteps slow.

Her form was tall, symmetrical, and slight ;
Her lofty brow deep thought's impression bore ;
Her cheeks the bloom of waning girlhood wore ;
Her eyes were dark and beautifully bright ;
Her crimson-snooded locks so deep in dye
No raven's wing could be more darkly fair ;
Her garments plain, but pleasing to the eye.
And such as peasants girls were wont to wear.

Immers'd in thought she wandered on until
A lofty beech she gain'd ; beneath whose boughs,
With golden radiance haloing their brows,
She saw fair messengers of Heaven's will.
Who bade her go and lead her country's hosts,
Against its proud and unrelenting foes;—
To quell their haughty and insulting boasts,
And free fair France from fell invasion's woes.

* * * * * *

Clad in the shining armour of a knight.
Mounted upon a richly-bridled steed.
Matchless in strength, docility, and speed,
And bearing in her hand a banner white.
The Maid, attended by a cavalcade
Of soldiers, knights, esquires, and pages gay,
Her entry into leagured Orleans made.
Filling its foes with terror and dismay.

Tired with a morn of toil, asleep she lay ;
Her colour went and came in gushes fleet ;
And starting with a bound upon her feet,
She cried aloud in accents of dismay: —

'Twas midnight dark ; and as she rode along
Its gloomy streets, amid the plaudits loud
Of an o'erjoyed, enthusiastic crowd.
The lurid sky was lit with lightnings strong,
And the murk air with peals of thunder rent ;
But on amidst the elemental strife,
To its cathedral old, their way they bent,
Whose aisles were soon with glad Te Deums rife.

* * * * * *

Tired with a morn of toil, asleep she lay;
Her colour went and came in gushes fleet;
And starting with a bound upon her feet,
She cried aloud in accents of dismay: —
'My arms ! My arms ! My horse ! The blood of France
I Is ebbing fast from many a noble heart ;
Quick ! Quick ! My arms ! 'Twill be a dire mischance
If in the strife I fail to bear my part.'

Quickly in glittering armour she was dight ;
Quickly her banner and her steed were brought ;
And mounting with the speed of swift-wing'd thought,
She shook her bridle-rein and sought the fight.
Led by the sounds of conflict in the air,
Full soon she saw bright-gleaming weapons sway,
And waving o'er her head her standard fair.
Fearlessly plung'd into the bloody fray.

For three hour's space the conflict rag'd amain ;
And ever in the thickest of the fight
The Maiden waved aloft her banner white,
While round her lay the wounded and the slain.
But still, despite the culverins' loud roar—
The barbed arrows' flight, the sabre's sway,
And groans of brave men weltering in their gore.
She urged the troops to keep their onward way.

Anon they gain'd and storm'd a fortress strong;
Within those walls there raged such deadly strife,
Few of its garrison escaped with life—
So desperately did they the fight prolong.
At last the dreadful conflict reached its close,
And not a living foe remained in view ;
When the glad victors' shouts of triumph rose,
And sated Havoc from the scene withdrew.

* * * * * *

In Rouen's market-place there is a stake,
EncircPd by a pile of pitch-smeared wood ;
Hound which there stands a throng of soldiers rude-
Hoping at last their vengeance dire to slake ;
And, through the grave and anxious crowd around,
The Maid is brought along, o'erwhelmed with woe,
And to the stake with heavy chains is bound—
The fearful death of fire to undergo.

Her long, luxurious raven locks, whose flow
Was wont erewhile to be so neatly checkt,
Are floating all in wildness and neglect
Adown her graceful neck of stainless snow.
Her ear, that drank the tunes of streamlets clear,
And loved the joyous wild bird's gushing song,
Is now assail'd by insult, scoff, and jeer,
From ruthless foes that thickly round her throng.

Her eye, that fed in happy, bygone days.
On changeful nature's most alluring charms.
Upon a mass of mail-clad men-at-arms
Is casting now its sad, uneasy gaze.
A sign to light the pyre is made at last ;
Eelentless hands the ready lights apply.
And soon the smoke ascends in volumes vast.
Veiling the victim frail from every eye.

In silence deep some moments pass away ;
A gust of wind to fury fans the pyre ;
And then her form is seen through sheets of fire—
Writhing about, to agony a prey.
Stern Horror's thrill shakes many a daring heart,
And many an eye sweet Pity's teardrop dims,
While cries of anguish from her lips depart,
As the hright flames curl rouud her quivering Hmhs.

But now more fiercely wild the huge fire grows—
The stake that held her up is burnt away—
And down she sinks. The flames have gained their prey,
And o'er her blistering form their hot lips close.
While this scene pass'd, God's priest assumed his place.
And o'er her held the Crucifix on high ;
So, gazing on Christ's sweet but woe-worn face,
She learnt resignedly her death to die.

* * * * * *

Enthusiasts, in an earthly cause,
These scenes go ponder well ;
Then weigh, against the world's applause,
The peace of some fair dell.
Of youth's illusions think no more,—
Ko longer pant for fame,
For virtue's wreath, unstained by gore,
Can joys unending claim.

by John Bradford

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