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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.


Joan of Arc in Rheims

By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

THAT was a joyous day in Rheims of old,

When peal on peal of mighty music rolled

Forth from her thronged cathedral; while around,

A multitude, whose billows made no sound,

Chained to a hush of wonder, though elate

With victory, listened at their temple’s gate.

And what was done within? Within, the light

Through the rich gloom of pictured 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 shadowed by ancestral tombs, a king

Received his birthright’s crown. For this the hymn

Swelled out like rushing waters, and the day

With the sweet censer’s misty breath grew dim,

As through long aisles it floated o’er the array

Of arms and sweeping stoles. But who, alone

And unapproached, beside the altar-stone,

With the white banner, forth like sunshine streaming,

And the gold helm, through clouds of fragrance gleaming.

Silent and radiant stood? The helm was raised,

And the fair face revealed, that upward gazed,

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

On its pure paleness; while, enthroned above,

The pictured virgin, with her smile of love,

Seemed bending o’er her votaress. That slight form!

Was that the leader through the battle-storm?

Had the soft light in that adoring eye

Guided the warrior where the swords flashed high?

’T was 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 amid the knighthood of the land;

And, beautiful with joy and with renown,

Lift thy white banner o’er the olden crown,

Ransomed for France by thee!
The rites are done.

Now let the dome with trumpet-notes be shaken,

And bid the echoes of the tombs awaken,

And come thou forth, that Heaven’s rejoicing sun

May give thee welcome from thine own blue skies,

Daughter of victory! A triumphant strain,

A proud, rich stream of warlike melodies,

Gushed through the portals of the antique fane,

And forth she came. Then rose a nation’s sound,

O, 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 filled

The hollow heaven tempestuously were stilled

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 turned, she knew

Beside her, marked 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 flashed proudly; and the boy

The youngest-born, that ever loved her best;

“Father! and ye, my brothers!” On the breast

Of that gray sire she sank, and swiftly back,

Even 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,

Where her young sisters by her side had played,

And to her hamlet’s chapel, where it rose

Hallowing the forest unto deep repose,

Her spirit turned. 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,

Winning her back to nature. She unbound

The helm of many battles from her head,

And, with her bright locks bowed 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!”
O, never did thine eye

Through 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 it loves, doth fate allow

The crown of glory unto woman’s brow.