A Celebration of Women Writers

"Joan of Arc, In Rheims" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 109-115.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 109] 


Jeanne d'Arc avait eu la joie de voir à Chalons quelques amis de son enfance. Une joie plus ineffable encore l'attendait à Rheims, au sein de son triomphe: Jacques d'Arc, son père, y se trouva, aussitot que de troupes de Charles VII. y furent entrées; et comme les deux frères de notre Héroine l'avaient accompagnés, elle se vit, pour un instant au milieu de sa famille, dans les bras d'un père vertueux.    Vie de Jeanne d'Arc.

[Page 110] 


Thou hast a charmed cup, O Fame!
  A draught that mantles high,
And seems to lift this earth-born frame
  Above mortality:
Away! to me–a woman–bring
Sweet waters from affection's spring.

THAT was a joyous day in Rheims of old,
When peal on peal of mighty music roll'd
Forth from her throng'd cathedral; while around,
A multitude, whose billows made no sound,
Chain'd to a hush of wonder, tho' elate
With victory, listen'd at their temple's gate.

[Page 111] 

And what was done within?–within, the light
  Thro' the rich gloom of pictur'd windows flowing,
Tinged with soft awfulness a stately sight,
  The chivalry of France their proud heads bowing
In martial vassalage!–while midst that ring,
And shadow'd by ancestral tombs, a king
Receiv'd his birthright's crown. For this, the hymn
  Swell'd out like rushing waters, and the day
With the sweet censer's misty breath grew dim,
  As thro' long aisles it floated o'er th' array
Of arms and sweeping stoles. But who, alone
And unapproach'd, beside the altar-stone,
With the white banner, forth like sunshine streaming,
And the gold helm, thro' clouds of fragrance gleaming,
Silent and radiant stood?–The helm was rais'd,
And the fair face reveal'd, that upward gaz'd,
  Intensely worshipping;–a still, clear face,
Youthful, but brightly solemn!–Woman's cheek
And brow were there, in deep devotion meek,
  Yet glorified with inspiration's trace

[Page 112] 

On its pure paleness; while, enthron'd above,
The pictur'd Virgin, with her smile of love,
Seem'd bending o'er her votaress.–That slight form!
Was that the leader thro' the battle storm?
Had the soft light in that adoring eye,
Guided the warrior where the swords flash'd high?
'Twas so, even so!–and thou, the shepherd's child,
Joanne, the lowly dreamer of the wild!
Never before, and never since that hour,
Hath woman, mantled with victorious power,
Stood forth as thou beside the shrine didst stand,
Holy amidst the knighthood of the land;
And beautiful with joy and with renown,
Lift thy white banner o'er the olden crown,
Ransom'd for France by thee!

                      The rites are done.
Now let the dome with trumpet-notes be shaken,
And bid the echoes of the tomb awaken,
  And come thou forth, that Heaven's rejoicing sun

[Page 113] 

May give thee welcome from thine own blue skies,
  Daughter of Victory!–A triumphant strain,
A proud rich stream of warlike melodies,
  Gush'd thro' the portals of the antique fane,
And forth she came.–Then rose a nation's sound–
Oh! what a power to bid the quick heart bound
The wind bears onward with the stormy cheer
Man gives to Glory on her high career!
Is there indeed such power?–far deeper dwells
In one kind household voice, to reach the cells
Whence happiness flows forth!–The shouts that fill'd
The hollow heaven tempestuously, were still'd
One moment; and in that brief pause, the tone,
As of a breeze that o'er her home had blown,
Sank on the bright maid's heart.–"Joanne!"–Who spoke
  Like those whose childhood with her childhood grew
Under one roof?–"Joanne!"–that murmur broke
  With sounds of weeping forth!–She turn'd–she knew

[Page 114] 

Beside her, mark'd from all the thousands there,
In the calm beauty of his silver hair,
The stately shepherd; and the youth, whose joy
From his dark eye flash'd proudly; and the boy,
The youngest-born, that ever lov'd her best:
"Father! and ye, my brothers!"–On the breast
Of that grey sire she sank–and swiftly back,
Ev'n in an instant, to their native track
Her free thoughts flowed.–She saw the pomp no more–
The plumes, the banners:–to her cabin-door,
And to the.Fairy's Fountain in the glade, 6
Where her young sisters by her side had play'd,
And to her hamlet's chapel, where it rose
Hallowing the forest unto deep repose,
Her spirit turn'd. The very wood-note, sung
  In early spring-time by the bird, which dwelt
Where o'er her father's roof the beech-leaves hung,
  Was in her heart; a music heard and felt,

[Page 115] 

Winning her back to nature.–She unbound
  The helm of many battles from her head,
And, with her bright locks bow'd to sweep the ground,
  Lifting her voice up, wept for joy, and said,–
"Bless me, my father, bless me! and with thee,
To the still cabin and the beechen-tree,
Let me return!"

                Oh! never did thine eye
Thro' the green haunts of happy infancy
Wander again, Joanne!–too much of fame
Had shed its radiance on thy peasant-name;
And bought alone by gifts beyond all price,
The trusting heart's repose, the paradise
Of home with all its loves, doth fate allow
The crown of glory unto woman's brow.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom