Jeanne d’Arc, by Lamartine
From Victorian Literature
Lamartine, Alphonse de. “Jeanne d'Arc.” The Practical Teacher: A Monthly Education Journal. 8, 5-7 (1888): 254-58, 287-89, 337-40. Print.
Written in 1863 by the French author Alphonse de Lamartine, this 70-page story is an example of historical fiction. It is based on the life of Joan of Arc. It imagines her situation and tells the story of some of the events that unfolded in her life, but does so through a philosophical lens. Thus, while the backbone of the story is factual, the author takes a lot of liberty with his interpretation and uses the context of Joan’s experiences to teach principles about history, nationalism, and character.
In relation to the Practical Teacher, the story provides the original French text and offers an English translation. This translation is provided to the journal's audience, who were educators, in order to give them a sample of accurate French translation, history, and creative fiction based on real events to share with their students. Another motivation that fits in with the goals of the publication may have been to help those who wanted to become French teachers learn to translate better in an attempt to prepare them for certification examinations.
Joan of Arc had quite an unconventional upbringing. She always felt estranged from her peers growing up, and her eccentricity caused her to develop progressive social views. The text makes it clear that she not only believed strongly in the rights of women, but in the rights of animals and the environment as well, which was quite a departure from mainstream Victorian thought. She was against industry inasmuch as it was detrimental to France rather than beneficial, and she believed strongly in God. She was also a strong nationalist and became a hero in her own time—the type of hero Carlyle would have encouraged people to follow. She was virtuous, intelligent, brave, and worthy of admiration.
The following transcription records the middle three installments of the story.
(See PDF Version, Part 1)
(See PDF Version, Part 2)
(See PDF Version, Part 3)
Translated by A. M. Bower, Late Master in University College School, London.
Joan of Arc.
While her beauty charmed all eyes, her contemplative countenance, her thoughtful features, the solitude and silence of her life astonished her father, her mother and her brothers. No youthful languor betrayed her sex : she possessed only its form and its charms. Neither nature nor her heart spoke in her. Her soul, concentrated in her eyes, seemed rather to meditate than to feel : compassionate and tender nevertheless, but compassionate and tender with a pity and a tenderness which embraced something grander and more distant than her horizon. She prayed incessantly, spoke very little, avoided the companions of her own age. Usually she withdrew to some spot, apart, to work with her needle, to some closed place, under a hedge behind the house, whence she could see only the sky, the church steeple, the mountains in the distance. She seemed to listen to inward voices which any outward noise would have silenced. She was barely eight years old, when all these signs of inspiration displayed themselves in her. In this she resembled the ancient Sibyls, stamped from their infancy with the fatal seal of sadness, beauty and solitude among the daughters of men ; the agents of inspiration reserved for the oracles, and to whom every other employment of their soul was forbidden. She loved everything which suffers, animals, those creatures endowed with love for us and deprived of speech in order to impart it (love), to us. She was, said her companions, compassionate and gentle to birds. She looked upon them as creatures ordained by God to live side by side with man in the uncertain border-land between the soul and matter, and having no perfection as yet in their being except the torturing faculty of suffering and loving. Everything which was melancholy and infinite in the sounds of nature attracted her and carried her beyond herself. ‘She delighted so much in the sound of bells, said the chronicler, that she promised to the bellringer skeins of wool for the autumn collection, in order that he might ring a longer peal at the Angelus.' She was especially moved with pity for the kingdom of France and for her young Dauphin, without mother, country or crown. The tales that she heard related every day by monks, soldiers, pilgrims and beggars, the cottage newsmen of those times, filled her heart with pity for this gentle prince. His image was associated, in the mind of the young girl with the woes of her country. It was in his person that she saw it (France) perishing, in his person that she prayed God to raise it up again. Her mind was for ever busy with these thoughts and with this sorrow. Can we wonder that such a concentration of thought in a poor young girl (who was) ignorant and simple, should have at last produced a real transposition of the senses in her and that she should have heard in her ears those inner voices which incessantly spoke to her soul? Our soul is so closely allied to our senses in our life, that if the senses deceive and disturb the mind by their super-exaltation and disturbance, the mind on its side deceives and easily disturbs the senses. These wonderful visions and voices, although they may be illusions, are no lies for those who experience and relate them. Sincere marvels, they are phenomena, although they are not prodigies. It is difficult for a man, still more so for a woman, when they are absorbed with their whole soul in an idea or a doubt, when they question (examine) themselves and when they listen to the inward voice, to distinguish between their own (inward) voice and the voices from heaven, and to say to themselves : ‘This (voice) comes from myself ; that from God.’ In this state man interprets his own oracles to himself, and mistakes his own inspiration for (the voice of the) Divinity. The wisest of mortals have been thus deceived as well as the weakest of women. History is full of these prodigies. Numa’s Egeria the familiar spirit (genius) of Socrates, were nothing but an inspiration (which was) obeyed instead of the gods in their soul. How could a poor shepherdess in a village frequented by fairies, brought up among popular superstitions by her mother and companions, (how) could she have disbelieved what Socrates and Plato were satisfied to believe? Her (very) candour was the snare of her faith (belief) ; her inspiration partook of the giddiness of her age, her sex, her times, her credulity. She believed in voices, in visions, in prodigies ; but inspiration itself was the marvel, and triumphant faith prove at least in her the divinity of her feelings and the truthfulness of her soul.
She had heard those voices long before speaking of them even to her mother. A dazzling of the eyes foreboded them (the voices) to her by an outburst of gentle light which she imagined came down from heaven. Sometimes these voices urged on her wisdom, piety, chastity ; at other times they conversed with her on the wounds of France, and the groaning of its wretched people. One day, at noon, in the garden, where she was alone, under the shade of the church-wall, she distinctly heard the voice of a man who called her by her name and said to her : ‘Joan, arise ; go to the aid of the Dauphin, restore to him his kingdom of France!’ The dazzling vision was so heavenly, the voice so distinct and the summons so imperative (commanding) that she fell on her knees and replied as she (thus) excused herself : ‘How can I do so, since I am only a weak girl, and since (que) I know neither how to ride nor how to lead (command) armed men?’ The voice was not satisfied with her excuses : ‘Thou must go, it said to Joan, and find the Lord of Baudricourt, a captain of the king at Vaucouleurs, and he will take (conduct) thee to the Dauphin. Fear nothing ; Saint Catherine and Saint Marguerite shall come to help thee.’ To this her first vision, which made her tremble and weep with anguish, but which she still kept as a secret between her and the angels, other (visions) succeeded. She saw St. Michael armed with a spear, clothed with rays of light, the vanquisher (destroyer) of monsters, such as he was painted on the altar picture in her hamlet. The Archangel described to her the intestine commotions and the enslaving of the kingdom. He exacted from her compassion for her poor country. St. Marguerite and St. Catherine, divine and popular figures in that country, showed themselves in the clouds as had been announced. They spoke to her with a woman's voice, grown soft and tender from (the enjoyment of) everlasting bliss. Crowns were on their heads ; angels, like unto gods, accompanied them. It was the whole poem of Paradise displayed to her gaze. Her soul, in this heavenly intercourse, forgot the terrors of her mission and was overwhelmed in the rapture of these visions. When these voices ceased, when these figures (forms) vanished, when the heavens were closed, Joan was found bathed in tears. 'Oh! how I could have wished, she herself said, that those angels had borne me away with them!' But her terrible mission willed it not thus. She was not to be carried away where she (so ardently) desired (to go) except on the wings of the flames of her stake.
These conversations, these commands (tasks imposed), these joys, these tortures, these postponements lasted several years. She finished by telling them to her mother. The father and brothers were informed of them. The rumour thereof ran through the country : a cause of astonishment to the simple, of doubt to the wise, of detraction (scandal) to the wicked! At the same time, the same idea and the same visions inspired, in other countries, other maidens and other women. When a nation has no longer any hope in its men for its relief, it betakes itself to miracles. There was a contagion in miracles and apparitions. A woman of Berry, named Catherine, saw ladies in white, with robes of gold, who bade her 'go through every town to ask for subsidies and armed men for the Dauphin. The Dauphin was compelled to give her squires and trumpeters to proclaim everywhere that they must bring him the buried treasures and that she would know very well (where) to find them.' In the same way, when a miasma (plague) is in the air, everyone breathes it. Compassion for France, affection for the Dauphin, hatred against the Burgundians, horror for foreign domination, made the women fanatics. All heard the cry of the country, some the voices from heaven. Moreover, the poets, the romance writers and the strolling minstrels of the Middle Age had accustomed the imagination to the warlike course (role) played by women, just as we find it in Tasso and Ariosto. They followed their lovers to the Crusades, served them as pages or as squires, put on armour, managed their steed (charger), shed their blood for their religion, for their country or for their love. These disguises of women under the cuirass gave to wars, even (to) civil (wars), a touch of chivalry and stirring adventures, romantic wonder (or wonderful romance), which set the children's minds thinking and which was destined to produce frequent imitations. There always happens to be an exceptional being to embody what is in the minds of everyone. The idea of a young girl leading armies to battle, crowning her young sovereign and delivering her country, had sprung from the Bible and from the fabliau at the same time. It was the poetry of the village. From it (en) Joan d'Arc formed the religion of her country.
Her father, an aged and austere man, heard with sorrow these reports of visions and miracles under his peasant roof ( = in his humble home). He did not consider his family worthy of these dangerous heavenly visions, of these visits of angels and saints which made the neighbours gossip. All connection with spirits was suspected by him, especially at a time when superstitious credulity attributed so many things to wicked spirits, and when exorcism and the stake punished all intercourse with the unseen world. He (her father) attributed this melancholy and these illusions of his daughter to a bad state of health. He wished to get her married, so that her love for her husband and her children might soothe her mind, and (in order that) the thoughts of the mother of a family might cause these thoughts (fancies) to pass away. Sometimes he pushed his unbelief to harshness ; he told Joan that, 'if he found that she gave credence to these pretended conversations with tempting spirits and if she mingled with men of war (soldiers), he would like (wish) to see her drowned by her brothers, or he would drown her him-self with his own hands.'
The displeasure of her mother and even the threats of her father stifled neither the visions nor the voices. Obedient in everything else, Joan wished to be obedient even in this ; but the inspiration was stronger than her will. Heaven must be obeyed before man, and the heavenly sign was for her more imperious (authoritative) than nature. She lamented her disobedience, and she besought the Almighty to spare her these struggles which tore her very soul. She hoped indeed later to obtain the leave (permission) and the pardon of her parents, as, in fact, they pardoned her when her glory had justified in their eyes her dis-obedience. Inspiration is like genius : we only crown it after having fought with it.
But there was at Joan's side a man of her own family, more simple than her father, or more tender and enthusiastic, in whose heart the poor inspired (girl) found credence or at least pity ; that was her uncle, of whom history ought to have preserved the portrait and the name, for he was the first believer in his niece and the first who was aware of her genius. The second fathers, in families, are often more fatherly than the real fathers, and they have more indulgence for the children of the house, because they mistrust their love less, and because they love from choice and not from a feeling of duty. Such appears to have been Joan's uncle, the father of her choice (love), her comforter, her confidant, then finally her mediator overcome by his love between his niece and heaven. To protect Joan against the importune remonstrances and reproaches of her father and brothers, her uncle took her for some time to his home, under the pretense of taking care of his bedridden wife. Joan profited by this short stay far from the eyes of her parents to obey that which commanded her in her soul. She begged her uncle to go to Vaucouleurs, a garrison town, near to Domremy, and to claim (demand) the intervention (mediation) of the Lord of Baudricourt, commandant of the town, in order that she might fulfill her mission. The uncle, won over by his niece and doubtless urged on by his wife, good-naturedly yielded to their wishes. He went to Vaucouleurs and delivered to the Lord of Baudricourt the message of which he had so kindly taken charge. The officer in question listened with indulgent scorn to the peasant : it seemed to him that there was nothing to do but smile, in fact, at the madness of a peasant girl of 17 years of age who offered herself to accomplish for the Dauphin and for his kingdom what thousands of cavaliers, of politicians and soldiers could not effect by the force of genius and of arms. 'You have nothing else to do, said Baudricourt to the messenger with the miracles as he dis-missed him, than to send back your niece, after having well chastised her, home to her father.' The uncle returned, convinced no doubt by Baudricourt's want of belief and resolved to do away for ever with this illusion in the minds of women. But Joan had so much influence over him, and his firm faith made her so eloquent, that she quickly regained the lost faith of her uncle, and that she persuaded him to take her to Vaucouleurs, unknown to her parents. She felt plainly that it was the decisive step and that once out of the village she would never again re-enter it. She confided her departure to a young girl whom she tenderly loved, called Mangete, and she prayed with her while committing her into the hands of God. She concealed her design from her whom she loved still more dearly and who was called Haumette, 'fearing, said she after-wards, her inability to overcome her grief on leaving her if she bade her adieu ; she wept much in secret and conquered her tears.'
Dressed in a red cloth gown, according to the customs of the peasants of her country, Joan set off on foot with her uncle. On arriving at Vaucouleurs, she was hospitably entertained by the wife of a wheel-wright, her mother's cousin. Baudricourt, overcome by the importunities of the uncle and by the persistence  of his niece, consented to receive her, not from belief but out of weariness. He was touched by the beauty of this young peasant girl, whom his captain Daulon describes in these words about this period : 'She was a young girl, beautiful and well formed,' said he, while describing chastely even the very charms of the woman. Baudricourt, having interrogated her, Joan spoke to him in a tone of modest firmness which derived its authority not from herself, but from what had been inspired into her from on high : 'I come to you in the name of God, my Master, in order that you should send word to the Dauphin to be on his guard where he is, not to offer battle to the enemy at the present time, because God will send him succour in Lent. The kingdom, continued she, does not belong to him (the Dauphin), but to God, his Master. Nevertheless, God destines the kingdom for him ; in spite of his enemies, the Dauphin will be king, and it is I who will conduct him to be crowned at Rheims!'
Baudricourt dismissed her in order to reflect, being afraid no doubt of despising or believing too much at a time when unbelief as well as faith might be reproached him as a fault by the voice of the nation. He prudently submitted the case to the clergy, the (proper) judges in supernatural matters. He consulted the parish priest of Vaucouleurs. They went solemnly together to visit (see) the young peasant at the house of her cousin, the wheelwright's wife. The parish priest, in order to be ready for every eventuality, had put on his priestly vestments (as) armour against the evil spirit. He exorcised Joan, in case she should be possessed by an evil spirit, and summoned her to depart if she had dealings with Satan. But the spirits of Joan were only her piety and her genius. She underwent the proof without giving any scandal to the priest and the warrior. They withdrew undecided and deeply moved.
The noise of this visit of the Governor and priest to the wheel-wright's house astonished and edified the small towns. People of all ranks, especially women, came to see her. Joan's mission became an article of faith to some and of conversion to all. The report had spread too far for it to be possible for Baudricourt to stifle it. Public opinion already accused him of indifference and want of energy. 'To despise such assistance from heaven, was it not betraying the Dauphin and France?' A gentleman of the neighbourhood, having gone to visit Joan like the others, said to her, by way of accusing Baudricourt : 'Well, my dear maid, the King must, I suppose, be banished and we must become English?' Joan mingled her complaints with those of the gentleman and the nation, but she seemed less to lament over herself than over France ; and, strengthening herself with the promise, which she had heard from above : She exclaimed : 'Nevertheless, it is necessary that before mid-Lent I must be taken before the Dauphin, even if I should be obliged, to reach there, to wear away my legs even to the knees. For no one in the world, neither kings, nor dukes, nor the King of Scotland's daughter, can recover the kingdom of France ; and there is for him no other help than myself, although I should have preferred,' she added sadly, 'to stay at home spinning near my poor mother. For I know very well that fighting is not my work ; but I must go and do what is commanded me, for my Master wills it.' They asked her : 'And who is your Master?' She answered : 'God!' Two knights present were deeply moved ; the one young, the other old. They promised her, on their honour, with their hands in hers, that with God's help they would enable her to speak to the king.
During these delays which seemed necessary out of respect for the Dauphin, Baudricourt conducted Joan to the Duke of Lorraine, under whom he held his fief at Vaucouleurs, in order to discharge his responsibility and receive his orders. The Duke saw Joan and questioned her about a disease by which at that time was afflicted. She spoke to him only of healing his soul by becoming reconciled to the Duchess from whom he was separated. Baudricourt took her back to Vaucouleurs. During the journey and the residence of Joan at the Duke of Lorraine's, the Dauphin himself had been informed by letters of the wonderful apparition of Domremy. Some people think that Baudricourt had wished to take, before (adopting) any resolution, the orders of the Dauphin and of his mother-in-law, Queen Yolande d'Anjou : the Dauphin, the Queen Yolande and the Duke of Lorraine were to concert measures with Baudricourt to turn to the advantage of their side (cause) the appearance of a young, beautiful, and pious maiden, worthy of divine protection for the nations, of enthusiasm for the army, of deliverance for the kingdom. The opinion is most likely, and the policy of such a belief does not exclude its sincerity in an age when courts and camps shared all the beliefs of the people. The preparations for the journey and for the reception of Joan at the court, and the great respect of the Dauphin and of Queen Yolande, for her on her arrival, were sufficient proof that they expected a marvel and they ardently longed to see it manifested.
The inhabitants of Vaucouleurs bought for Joan a horse for sixteen francs, and a solider's dress to protect her person, as well as to indicate her warlike mission. Baudricourt presented her with a sword. The report of her departure for the army having spread as far as Domremy, her father, mother and brothers hastened to detain her and take her home. She wept with them, but her tears, (although) they softened her heart, (yet) could not weaken her resolution. She set out, in company with two noblemen and some cavaliers of their suite, for Chinon, where the Dauphin was. Her escort made her travel rapidly through the provinces in which the English and Burgundians held sway, from the fear that their charge might be carried off from them. Uncertain at first as to the nature of the inspirations of the young girl, sometimes they reverenced her as a saint, at other times they kept at a distance from her as from a sorceress possessed by an evil spirit. Some even deliberated secretly whether they should not get rid of her during the journey, by hurling her down into some mountain stream and attributing her disappearance to the carrying off of a demon. Often (when) on the point of executing their project, they were restrained as by a divine hand. The youth, beauty, innocence, and the saintly candour of the young girl were doubtless the charm which subdued their hearts and arms. (Although they) set out incredulous, they arrived convinced.
The wandering court were at the castle of Chinon, near Tours. There they awaited the inspired (maiden) of Vaucouleurs with various feelings (thoughts). The councillors, reputed the wisest, endeavoured to dissuade the Dauphin from receiving and listening to a young girl who, if she were not an instrument of the angel of darkness, was at least the messenger of her own illusions. Others, more credulous or more thoughtless, urged the Dauphin at least to consult this oracle. Queen Yolande and her favourites were proud that deliverance should come from a woman. Credulous ( =easy of belief), apt to lead astray and to be led astray, they perceived that all human means of restoring (reviving) the king's cause were exhausted, and that a supernatural impulse, real or supposed, could alone restore enthusiasm with hope to the soldiers and people. 'It was perhaps the Almighty who raised up (sent) this help.' (Whether it was) policy or credulity, all means were acceptable to a vanquished and despairing cause. The Dauphin wavering, like youth, between love and glory, grave counsels and woman's advice, was in one of those crises of moral prostration when we are inclined (ready) to believe everything because we have nothing more to expect.
- ↑ A natural or affected lack of energy and alertness. (OED)
- ↑ Oracles. (OED)
- ↑ A devotional exercise (often Roman Catholic) commemorating the mystery of the Incarnation. (OED)
- ↑ The title of the eldest son of the king of France, from 1349 to 1830. (OED)
- ↑ Omens or portents. (OED)
- ↑ The legendary martyr of Alexandria. (OED)
- ↑ Probably St. Marguerite Bourgeoys. (VW)
- ↑ An inhabitant of Burgundy. (OED)
- ↑ The poet Torquato Tasso, whom the Duke of Ferrara had imprisoned. (VW)
- ↑ An English poet in the Middle Ages. Swinburne credited him with "a large and jocund [jovial] genius." (VW)
- ↑ A piece of body armor which reaches down to the waist and consists of a breast plate and a back plate buckled together. (OED)
- ↑ A metrical tale, belonging to the early period of French poetry. (OED)
- ↑ Appeals or requests. (OED)
- ↑ Originally "pretence."
- ↑ Originally "fulfil."
- ↑ Pestering. (OED)
- ↑ Originally "persistency."
- ↑ The season of spring. (OED)
- ↑ Lorraine is a province in NE. France. (OED)
- ↑ A position of authority or stewardship in France. (OED)
Edited by: Healy, Brandon: section 1, Winter 2011