The royal residence at Chinon.
DUNOIS and DUCHATEL.
No longer I'll endure it. I renounce
This recreant monarch who forsakes himself.
My valiant heart doth bleed, and I could rain
Hot tear-drops from mine eyes, that robber-swords
Partition thus the royal realm of France;
That cities, ancient as the monarchy,
Deliver to the foe the rusty keys,
While here in idle and inglorious ease
We lose the precious season of redemption.
Tidings of Orleans' peril reach mine ear,
Hither I sped from distant Normandy,
Thinking, arrayed in panoply of war,
To find the monarch with his marshalled hosts;
And find him – here! begirt with troubadours,
And juggling knaves, engaged in solving riddles,
And planning festivals in Sorel's honor,
As brooded o'er the land profoundest peace!
The Constable hath gone; he will not brook
Longer the spectacle of shame. I, too,
Depart, and leave him to his evil fate.
Here comes the king.
KING CHARLES. The same.
The Constable hath sent us back his sword
And doth renounce our service. Now, by heaven!
He thus hath rid us of a churlish man,
Who insolently sought to lord it o'er us.
A man is precious in such perilous times;
I would not deal thus lightly with his loss.
Thou speakest thus from love of opposition;
While he was here thou never wert his friend.
He was a tiresome, proud, vexatious fool,
Who never could resolve. For once, however,
He hath resolved. Betimes he goeth hence,
Where honor can no longer be achieved.
Thou'rt in a pleasant humor; undisturbed
I'll leave thee to enjoy it. Hark, Duchatel!
Ambassadors are here from old King Rene,
Of tuneful songs the master, far renowned.
Let them as honored guests be entertained,
And unto each present a chain of gold.
[To the Bastard.
Why smilest thou, Dunois?
That from thy mouth
Thou shakest golden chains.
Alas! my king!
No gold existeth in thy treasury.
Then gold must be procured. It must not be
That bards unhonored from our court depart.
'Tis they who make our barren sceptre bloom,
'Tis they who wreath around our fruitless crown
Life's joyous branch of never-fading green.
Reigning, they justly rank themselves as kings,
Of gentle wishes they erect their throne,
Their harmless realm existeth not in space;
Hence should the bard accompany the king,
Life's higher sphere the heritage of both!
My royal liege! I sought to spare thine ear
So long as aid and counsel could be found;
Now dire necessity doth loose my tongue.
Naught hast thou now in presents to bestow,
Thou hast not wherewithal to live to-morrow!
The spring-tide of thy fortune is run out,
And lowest ebb is in thy treasury!
The soldiers, disappointed of their pay,
With sullen murmurs, threaten to retire.
My counsel faileth, not with royal splendor
But meagerly, to furnish out thy household.
My royal customs pledge, and borrow gold
From the Lombardians.
Sire, thy revenues,
Thy royal customs are for three years pledged.
And pledge meanwhile and kingdom both are lost.
Still many rich and beauteous lands are ours.
So long as God and Talbot's sword permit!
When Orleans falleth into English hands
Then with King Rene thou may'st tend thy sheep!
Still at this king thou lov'st to point thy jest;
Yet 'tis this lackland monarch who to-day
Hath with a princely crown invested me.
Not, in the name of heaven, with that of Naples,
Which is for sale, I hear, since he kept sheep.
It is a sportive festival, a jest,
Wherein he giveth to his fancy play,
To found a world all innocent and pure
In this barbaric, rude reality.
Yet noble – ay, right royal is his aim!
He will again restore the golden age,
When gentle manners reigned, when faithful love
The heroic hearts of valiant knights inspired,
And noble women, whose accomplished taste
Diffuseth grace around, in judgment sat.
The old man dwelleth in those bygone times,
And in our workday world would realize
The dreams of ancient bards, who picture life
'Mid bowers celestial, throned on golden clouds.
He hath established hence a court of love
Where valiant knights may dwell, and homage yield
To noble women, who are there enthroned,
And where pure love and true may find a home.
Me he hath chosen as the prince of love.
I am not such a base, degenerate churl
As love's dominion rudely to assail.
I am her son, from her derive my name,
And in her kingdom lies my heritage.
The Prince of Orleans was my sire, and while
No woman's heart was proof against his love,
No hostile fortress could withstand his shock!
Wilt thou, indeed, with honor name thyself
The prince of love – be bravest of the brave!
As I have read in those old chronicles,
Love aye went coupled with heroic deeds,
And valiant heroes, not inglorious shepherds,
So legends tell us, graced King Arthur's board.
The man whose valor is not beauty's shield
Is all unworthy of her golden prize.
Here the arena! combat for the crown,
Thy royal heritage! With knightly sword
Thy lady's honor and thy realm defend —
And hast thou with hot valor snatched the crown
From streams of hostile blood, – then is the time,
And it would well become thee as a prince,
Love's myrtle chaplet round thy brows to wreathe.
What is the matter?
Senators from Orleans
Entreat an audience, sire.
Conduct them hither!
Doubtless they succor need; what can I do,
The same. Three SENATORS.
Welcome, my trusty citizens of Orleans!
What tidings bring ye from my faithful town?
Doth she continue with her wonted zeal
Still bravely to withstand the leaguering foe?
Ah, sire! the city's peril is extreme;
And giant ruin, waxing hour by hour,
Still onward strides. The bulwarks are destroyed —
The foe at each assault advantage gains;
Bare of defenders are the city walls,
For with rash valor forth our soldiers rush,
While few, alas! return to view their homes,
And famine's scourge impendeth o'er the town.
In this extremity the noble Count
Of Rochepierre, commander of the town,
Hath made a compact with the enemy,
According to old custom, to yield up,
On the twelfth day, the city to the foe,
Unless, meanwhile, before the town appear
A host of magnitude to raise the siege.
[DUNOIS manifests the strongest indignation.
The interval is brief.
We hither come,
Attended by a hostile retinue,
To implore thee, sire, to pity thy poor town,
And to send succor ere the appointed day,
When, if still unrelieved, she must surrender.
And could Saintrailles consent to give his voice
To such a shameful compact?
Long as the hero lived, none dared to breathe
A single word of treaty or surrender.
He then is dead?
The noble hero fell,
His monarch's cause defending on our walls.
What! Saintrailles dead! Oh, in that single man
A host is foundered!
[A Knight enters and speaks apart with DUNOIS, who starts with surprise.
Well? What is it?
Count Douglass sendeth here. The Scottish troops
Revolt, and threaten to retire at once.
Unless their full arrears are paid to-day.
Sire! I know not what to counsel.
Pledge, promise all, even unto half my realm.
'Tis vain! They have been fed with hope too often.
They are the finest troops of all my hosts!
They must not now, not now abandon me!
Oh, king, assist us! Think of our distress!
How! Can I summon armies from the earth?
Or grow a cornfield on my open palm?
Rend me in pieces! Pluck my bleeding heart
Forth from my breast, and coin it 'stead of gold!
I've blood for you, but neither gold nor troops.
[He sees SOREL approach, and hastens towards her with outstretched arms.
The same. AGNES SOREL, a casket in her hand.
My Agnes! Oh, my love! My dearest life!
Thou comest here to snatch me from despair!
Refuge I take within thy loving arms!
Possessing thee I feel that nothing is lost.
My king, beloved!
[looking round with an anxious, inquiring gaze.
Dunois! Say, is it true,
So great the need?
No treasure left? The soldiers will disband?
Alas! It is too true!
Here-here is gold,
Here too are jewels! Melt my silver down!
Sell, pledge my castles – on my fair domains
In Provence – treasure raise, turn all to gold,
Appease the troops! No time to be lost!
[She urges him to depart.
Well now, Dunois! Duchatel! Do ye still
Account me poor, when I possess the crown
Of womankind? She's nobly born as I;
The royal blood of Valois not more pure;
The most exalted throne she would adorn —
Yet she rejects it with disdain, and claims
No other title than to be my love.
No gift more costly will she e'er receive
Than early flower in winter, or rare fruit!
No sacrifice on my part she permits,
Yet sacrificeth all she had to me!
With generous spirit she doth venture all
Her wealth and fortune in my sinking bark.
Ay, she is mad indeed, my king, as thou;
She throws her all into a burning house,
And draweth water in the leaky vessel
Of the Danaides. Thee she will not save,
And in thy ruin but involve herself.
Believe him not! Full many a time he hath
Perilled his life for thee, and now, forsooth,
Chafeth because I risk my worthless gold!
How? Have I freely sacrificed to thee
What is esteemed far more than gold and pearls,
And shall I now hold back the gifts of fortune?
Oh, come! Let my example challenge thee
To noble self-denial! Let's at once
Cast off the needless ornaments of life!
Thy courtiers metamorphose into soldiers;
Thy gold transmute to iron; all thou hast,
With resolute daring, venture for thy crown!
Peril and want we will participate!
Let us bestride the war-horse, and expose
Our tender person to the fiery glow
Of the hot sun, take for our canopy
The clouds above, and make the stones our pillow.
The rudest warrior, when he sees his king
Bear hardship and privation like the meanest
Will patiently endure his own hard lot!
Ay! now is realized an ancient word
Of prophesy, once uttered by a nun
Of Clairmont, in prophetic mood, who said,
That through a woman's aid I o'er my foes
Should triumph, and achieve my father's crown.
Far off I sought her in the English camp;
I strove to reconcile a mother's heart;
Here stands the heroine – my guide to Rheims!
My Agnes! I shall triumph through thy love!
Thou'lt triumph through the valiant swords of friends.
And from my foes' dissensions much I hope
For sure intelligence hath reached mine ear,
That 'twixt these English lords and Burgundy
Things do not stand precisely as they did;
Hence to the duke I have despatched La Hire,
To try if he can lead my angry vassal
Back to his ancient loyalty and faith:
Each moment now I look for his return.
A knight e'en now dismounteth in the court.
A welcome messenger! We soon shall learn
Whether we're doomed to conquer or to yield.
The same. LA HIRE.
Hope bringest thou, or not? Be brief, La Hire,
Out with thy tidings! What must we expect?
Expect naught, sire, save from thine own good sword.
The haughty duke will not be reconciled!
Speak! How did he receive my embassy?
His first and unconditional demand,
Ere he consent to listen to thine errand,
Is that Duchatel be delivered up,
Whom he doth name the murderer of his sire.
This base condition we reject with scorn!
Then be the league dissolved ere it commence!
Hast thou thereon, as I commanded thee,
Challenged the duke to meet him in fair fight
On Montereau's bridge, whereon his father fell?
Before him on the ground I flung thy glove,
And said: "Thou wouldst forget thy majesty,
And like a knight do battle for thy realm."
He scornfully rejoined "He needed not
To fight for that which he possessed already,
But if thou wert so eager for the fray,
Before the walls of Orleans thou wouldst find him,
Whither he purposed going on the morrow;"
Thereon he laughing turned his back upon me.
Say, did not justice raise her sacred voice,
Within the precincts of my parliament?
The rage of party, sire, hath silenced her.
An edict of the parliament declares
Thee and thy race excluded from the throne.
These upstart burghers' haughty insolence!
Hast thou attempted with my mother aught?
Ay! How did she demean herself?
I chanced to step within St. Denis' walls
Precisely at the royal coronation.
The crowds were dressed as for a festival;
Triumphal arches rose in every street
Through which the English monarch was to pass.
The way was strewed with flowers, and with huzzas,
As France some brilliant conquest had achieved,
The people thronged around the royal car.
They could huzza – huzza, while trampling thus
Upon a gracious sovereign's loving heart!
I saw young Harry Lancaster – the boy —
On good St. Lewis' regal chair enthroned;
On either side his haughty uncles stood,
Bedford and Gloucester, and before him kneeled,
To render homage for his lands, Duke Philip.
Oh, peer dishonored! Oh, unworthy cousin!
The child was timid, and his footing lost
As up the steps he mounted towards the throne.
An evil omen! murmured forth the crowd,
And scornful laughter burst on every side.
Then forward stepped Queen Isabel – thy mother,
And – but it angers me to utter it!
Within her arms she clasped the boy,
And herself placed him on thy father's throne.
Oh, mother! mother!
E'en the murderous bands
Of the Burgundians, at this spectacle,
Evinced some tokens of indignant shame.
The queen perceived it, and addressed the crowds,
Exclaiming with loud voice: "Be grateful, Frenchmen,
That I engraft upon a sickly stock
A healthy scion, and redeem you from
The misbegotten son of a mad sire!"
[The KING hides his face; AGNES hastens towards him and clasps him in her arms; all the bystanders express aversion and horror.
She-wolf of France! Rage-breathing Megara!
Yourselves have heard the posture of affairs.
Delay no longer, back return to Orleans,
And bear this message to my faithful town;
I do absolve my subjects from their oath,
Their own best interests let them now consult,
And yield them to the Duke of Burgundy;
'Yclept the Good, he need must prove humane.
What say'st thou, sire? Thou wilt abandon Orleans!
My king! Abandon not thy faithful town!
Consign her not to England's harsh control.
She is a precious jewel in the crown,
And none hath more inviolate faith maintained
Towards the kings, thy royal ancestors.
Have we been routed? Is it lawful, sire,
To leave the English masters of the field,
Without a single stroke to save the town?
And thinkest thou, with careless breath, forsooth,
Ere blood hath flowed, rashly to give away
The fairest city from the heart of France?
Blood hath been poured forth freely, and in vain
The hand of heaven is visibly against me;
In every battle is my host o'erthrown,
I am rejected of my parliament,
My capital, my people, hail me foe,
Those of my blood, – my nearest relatives, —
Forsake me and betray – and my own mother
Doth nurture at her breast the hostile brood.
Beyond the Loire we will retire, and yield
To the o'ermastering hand of destiny
Which sideth with the English.
That we in weak despair should quit this realm!
This utterance came not from thy heart, my king,
Thy noble heart, which hath been sorely riven
By the fell deed of thy unnatural mother,
Thou'lt be thyself again, right valiantly
Thou'lt battle with thine adverse destiny,
Which doth oppose thee with relentless ire.
Is it not true? A dark and ominous doom
Impendeth o'er the heaven-abandoned house
Of Valois – there preside the avenging powers,
To whom a mother's crime unbarred the way.
For thirty years my sire in madness raved;
Already have three elder brothers been
Mowed down by death; 'tis the decree of heaven,
The house of the Sixth Charles is doomed to fall.
In thee 'twill rise with renovated life!
Oh, in thyself have faith! – believe me, king,
Not vainly hath a gracious destiny
Redeemed thee from the ruin of thy house,
And by thy brethren's death exalted thee,
The youngest born, to an unlooked-for throne
Heaven in thy gentle spirit hath prepared
The leech to remedy the thousand ills
By party rage inflicted on the land.
The flames of civil discord thou wilt quench,
And my heart tells me thou'lt establish peace,
And found anew the monarchy of France.
Not I! The rude and storm-vexed times require
A pilot formed by nature to command.
A peaceful nation I could render happy
A wild, rebellious people not subdue.
I never with the sword could open hearts
Against me closed in hatred's cold reserve.
The people's eye is dimmed, an error blinds them,
But this delusion will not long endure;
The day is not far distant when the love
Deep rooted in the bosom of the French,
Towards their native monarch, will revive,
Together with the ancient jealousy,
Which forms a barrier 'twixt the hostile nations.
The haughty foe precipitates his doom.
Hence, with rash haste abandon not the field,
With dauntless front contest each foot of ground,
As thine own heart defend the town of Orleans!
Let every boat be sunk beneath the wave,
Each bridge be burned, sooner than carry thee
Across the Loire, the boundary of thy realm,
The Stygian flood, o'er which there's no return.
What could be done I have done. I have offered,
In single fight, to combat for the crown.
I was refused. In vain my people bleed,
In vain my towns are levelled with the dust.
Shall I, like that unnatural mother, see
My child in pieces severed with the sword?
No; I forego my claim, that it may live.
How, sire! Is this fit language for a king?
Is a crown thus renounced? Thy meanest subject,
For his opinion's sake, his hate and love,
Sets property and life upon a cast;
When civil war hangs out her bloody flag,
Each private end is drowned in party zeal.
The husbandman forsakes his plough, the wife
Neglects her distaff; children, and old men,
Don the rude garb of war; the citizen
Consigns his town to the devouring flames,
The peasant burns the produce of his fields;
And all to injure or advantage thee,
And to achieve the purpose of his heart.
Men show no mercy, and they wish for none,
When they at honor's call maintain the fight,
Or for their idols or their gods contend.
A truce to such effeminate pity, then,
Which is not suited to a monarch's breast.
Thou didst not heedlessly provoke the war;
As it commenced, so let it spend its fury.
It is the law of destiny that nations
Should for their monarchs immolate themselves.
We Frenchmen recognize this sacred law,
Nor would annul it. Base, indeed, the nation
That for its honor ventures not its all.
You've heard my last resolve; expect no other.
May God protect you! I can do no more.
As thou dost turn thy back upon thy realm,
So may the God of battle aye avert
His visage from thee. Thou forsak'st thyself,
So I forsake thee. Not the power combined
Of England and rebellious Burgundy,
Thy own mean spirit hurls thee from the throne.
Born heroes ever were the kings of France;
Thou wert a craven, even from thy birth.
[To the SENATORS.
The king abandons you. But I will throw
Myself into your town – my father's town —
And 'neath its ruins find a soldier's grave.
[He is about to depart. AGNES SOREL detains him.
Oh, let him not depart in anger from thee!
Harsh words his lips have uttered, but his heart
Is true as gold. 'Tis he, himself, my king,
Who loves thee, and hath often bled for thee.
Dunois, confess, the heat of noble wrath
Made thee forget thyself; and oh, do thou
Forgive a faithful friend's o'erhasty speech!
Come, let me quickly reconcile your hearts,
Ere anger bursteth forth in quenchless flame.
[DUNOIS looks fixedly at the KING, and appears to await an answer.
Our way lies over the Loire. Duchatel,
See all our equipage embarked.
[He turns quickly round, and goes out. The SENATORS follow.
Oh, if he goes, we are forsaken quite!
Follow, La Hire! Oh, seek to soften him!
[LA HIRE goes out.