Wednesday, 12 February 2020


You are not so accustomed to miracles as I am. 
It is part of my profession.

[fueled and a little scandalized] 
But that would not be a miracle at all.

Why not?

Well, come! what is a miracle?

A miracle, my friend, is an event which creates faith. 
That is the purpose and nature of miracles. 
They may seem very wonderful to the people who witness them, and very simple to those who perform them, but does not matter: 
if they confirm or create faith they are true miracles.

Even when they are frauds, do you mean?

Frauds deceive. 
An event which creates faith does not deceive: therefore it is not a fraud, but a miracle.

[scratching his neck in his perplexity] 
Well, I suppose as you are an archbishop you must be right. 
It seems a bit fishy to me. 
But I am no churchman, and dont understand these matters.

You are not a churchman; but you are a diplomatist and a soldier. 
Could you make our citizens pay war taxes, or our soldiers sacrifice their lives, if they knew what is really happening instead of what seems to them to be happening?

No, by Saint Denis: the fat would be in the fire before sundown.

Would it not be quite easy to tell them the truth?

Man alive, they wouldnt believe it.

Just so. 
Well, the Church has to rule men for the good of their souls as you have to rule them for the good of their bodies. 
To do that, the Church must do as you do: nourish their faith by poetry.

Poetry! I should call it humbug.

You would be wrong, my friend. 
Parables are not lies because they describe events that have never happened. 
Miracles are not frauds because they are often --I do not say always-- very simple and innocent contrivances by which the priest fortifies the faith of his flock. 

When this girl picks out the Dauphin among his courtiers, it will not be a miracle for me, because I shall know how it has been done, and my faith will not be increased. 

But as for the others, if they feel the thrill of the supernatural, and forget their sinful clay in a sudden sense of the glory of God, it will be a miracle and a blessed one. 

And you will find that the girl herself will be more affected than anyone else. 
She will forget how she really picked him out. 
So, perhaps, will you.

Well, I wish I were clever enough to know how much of you is God's archbishop and how much the most artful fox in Touraine. 
Come on, or we shall be late for the fun; and I want to see it, miracle or no miracle.

[detaining him a moment] 
Do not think that I am a lover of crooked ways. 
There is a new spirit rising in men: we are at the dawning of a wider epoch. 
If I were a simple monk, and had not to rule men, I should seek peace for my spirit with Aristotle and Pythagoras rather than with the saints and their miracles.

And who the deuce was Pythagoras?

A sage who held that the earth is round, and that it moves round the sun.

What an utter fool! 
Couldnt he use his eyes?


Joan's voices and visions have played many tricks with her reputation. They have been held to prove that she was mad, that she was a liar and impostor, that she was a sorceress (she was burned for this), and finally that she was a saint. They do not prove any of these things; but the variety of the conclusions reached shew how little our matter-of-fact historians know about other people's minds, or even about their own. There are people in the world whose imagination is so vivid that when they have an idea it comes to them as an audible voice, sometimes uttered by a visual figure. Criminal lunatic asylums are occupied largely by murderers who have obeyed voices. Thus a woman may hear voices telling her that she must cut her husband's throat and strangle her child as they lie asleep; and she may feel obliged to do what she is told. By a medico-legal superstition it is held in our courts that criminals whose temptations present themselves under these illusions are not responsible for their actions, and must be treated as insane. But the seers of visions and the hearers of revelations are not always criminals. The inspirations and intuitions and unconsciously reasoned conclusions of genius sometimes assume similar illusions. Socrates, Luther, Swedenborg, Blake saw visions and heard voices just as Saint Francis and Saint Joan did. If Newton's imagination had been of the same vividly dramatic kind he might have seen the ghost of Pythagoras walk into the orchard and explain why the apples were falling. Such an illusion would have invalidated neither the theory of gravitation nor Newton's general sanity. What is more, the visionary method of making the discovery would not be a whit more miraculous than the normal method. The test of sanity is not the normality of the method but the reasonableness of the discovery. If Newton had been informed by Pythagoras that the moon was made of green cheese, then Newton would have been locked up. Gravitation, being a reasoned hypothesis which fitted remarkably well into the Copernican version of the observed physical facts of the universe, established Newton's reputation for extraordinary intelligence, and would have done so no matter how fantastically he had arrived at it. Yet his theory of gravitation is not so impressive a mental feat as his astounding chronology, which establishes him as the king of mental conjurors, but a Bedlamite king whose authority no one now accepts. On the subject of the eleventh horn of the beast seen by the prophet Daniel he was more fantastic than Joan, because his imagination was not dramatic but mathematical and therefore extraordinarily susceptible to numbers: indeed if all his works were lost except his chronology we should say that he was as mad as a hatter. As it is, who dares diagnose Newton as a madman?

In the same way Joan must be judged a sane woman in spite of her voices because they never gave her any advice that might not have come to her from her mother wit exactly as gravitation came to Newton. We can all see now, especially since the late war threw so many of our women into military life, that Joan's campaigning could not have been carried on in petticoats. This was not only because she did a man's work, but because it was morally necessary that sex should be left out of the question as between her and her comrades-in-arms. She gave this reason herself when she was pressed on the subject; and the fact that this entirely reasonable necessity came to her imagination first as an order from God delivered through the mouth of Saint Catherine does not prove that she was mad. The soundness of the order proves that she was unusually sane; but its form proves that her dramatic imagination played tricks with her senses. Her policy was also quite sound: nobody disputes that the relief of Orleans, followed up by the coronation at Rheims of the Dauphin as a counterblow to the suspicions then current of his legitimacy and consequently of his title, were military and political masterstrokes that saved France. They might have been planned by Napoleon or any other illusionproof genius. They came to Joan as an instruction from her Counsel, as she called her visionary saints; but she was none the less an able leader of men for imagining her ideas in this way.

him in silence]. Attention! [He restores the halberd to the man-at-arms]. The Duke of Vendôme presents Joan the Maid to his Majesty.

CHARLES [putting his finger on his lip] Ssh! [He hides behind the nearest courtier, peering out to see what happens].

BLUEBEARD [majestically] Let her approach the throne.

Joan, dressed as a soldier, with her hair bobbed and hanging thickly round her face, is led in by a bashful and speechless nobleman, from whom she detaches herself to stop and look around eagerly for the Dauphin.

THE DUCHESS [to the nearest lady in waiting] My dear! Her hair! All the ladies explode in uncontrollable laughter.

BLUEBEARD [trying not to laugh, and waving his hand in deprecation of their merriment] Ssh--ssh! Ladies! Ladies!!

JOAN [not at all embarrassed] I wear it like this because I am a soldier. Where be Dauphin?

A titter runs through the Court as she walks to the dais.

BLUEBEARD [condescendingly] You are in the presence of the Dauphin.

Joan looks at him sceptically for a moment, scanning him hard up and down to make sure. Dead silence, all watching her. Fun dawns in her face.

JOAN. Coom, Bluebeard! Thou canst not fool me. Where be Dauphin?

A roar of laughter breaks out as Gilles, with a gesture of surrender, joins in the laugh, and jumps down from the dais beside La Trémouille. Joan, also on the broad grin, turns back, searching along the row of courtiers, and presently makes a dive, and drags out Charles by the arm.

JOAN [releasing him and bobbing him a little curtsey] Gentle little Dauphin, I am sent to you to drive the English away from Orleans and from France, and to crown you king in the cathedral at Rheims, where all true kings of France are crowned.

CHARLES [triumphant, to the Court] You see, all of you: she knew the blood royal. Who dare say now that I am not my father's son? [To Joan] But if you want me to be crowned at Rheims you must talk to the Archbishop, not to me. There he is [he is standing behind her]!

JOAN [turning quickly, overwhelmed with emotion] Oh, my lord! [She falls on both knees before him, with bowed head, not daring to look up] My lord: I am only a poor country girl; and you are filled with the blessedness and glory of God Himself; but you will touch me with your hands, and give me your blessing, wont you?

BLUEBEARD [whispering to La Trémouille] The old fox blushes.

LA TRÉMOUILLE. Another miracle!

THE ARCHBISHOP [touched, putting his hand on her head] Child: you are in love with religion.

JOAN [startled: looking up at him] Am I? I never thought of that. Is there any harm in it?

THE ARCHBISHOP. There is no harm in it, my child. But there is danger.

JOAN [rising, with a sunflush of reckless happiness irradiating her face] There is always danger, except in heaven. Oh, my lord, you have given me such strength, such courage. It must be a most wonderful thing to be Archbishop.

The Court smiles broadly: even titters a little.

THE ARCHBISHOP [drawing himself up sensitively] Gentlemen: your levity is rebuked by this maid's faith. I am, God help me, all unworthy; but your mirth is a deadly sin.

Their faces fall. Dead silence.

BLUEBEARD. My lord: we were laughing at her, not at you.

THE ARCHBISHOP. What? Not at my unworthiness but at her faith! Gilles de Rais: this maid prophesied that the blasphemer should be drowned in his sin--

JOAN [distressed] No!

THE ARCHBISHOP [silencing her by a gesture] I prophesy now that you will be hanged in yours if you do not learn when to laugh and when to pray.

BLUEBEARD. My lord: I stand rebuked. I am sorry: I can say no more. But if you prophesy that I shall be hanged, I shall never be able to resist temptation, because I shall always be telling myself that I may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

The courtiers take heart at this. There is more tittering.

JOAN [scandalized] You are an idle fellow, Bluebeard; and you have great impudence to answer the Archbishop.

LA HIRE [with a huge chuckle] Well said, lass! Well said!

JOAN [impatiently to the Archbishop] Oh, my lord, will you send all these silly folks away so that I may speak to the Dauphin alone?

LA HIRE [goodhumoredly] I can take a hint. [He salutes; turns on his heel; and goes out].

THE ARCHBISHOP. Come, gentlemen. The Maid comes with God's blessing, and must be obeyed.

The courtiers withdraw, some through the arch, others at the opposite side. The Archbishop marches across to the door, followed by the Duchess and La Trémouille. As the Archbishop passes Joan, she falls on her knees, and kisses the hem of his robe fervently. He shakes his head in instinctive remonstrance; gathers the robe from her; and goes out. She is left kneeling directly in the Duchess's way.

THE DUCHESS [coldly] Will you allow me to pass, please?

JOAN [hastily rising, and standing back] Beg pardon, maam, I am sure.

The Duchess passes on. Joan stares after her; then whispers to the Dauphin.

JOAN. Be that Queen?

CHARLES. No. She thinks she is.

JOAN [again staring after the Duchess] Oo-oo-ooh! [Her awestruck amazement at the figure cut by the magnificently dressed lady is not wholly complimentary].

LA TRÉMOUILLE [very surly] I'll trouble your Highness not to gibe at my wife. [He goes out. The others have already gone].

JOAN [to the Dauphin] Who be old Gruff-and-Grum?

CHARLES. He is the Duke de la Trémouille.

JOAN. What be his job?

CHARLES. He pretends to command the army. And whenever I find a friend I can care for, he kills him.

JOAN. Why dost let him?

CHARLES [petulantly moving to the throne side of the room to escape from her magnetic field] How can I prevent him? He bullies me. They all bully me.

JOAN. Art afraid?

CHARLES. Yes: I am afraid. It's no use preaching to me about it. It's all very well for these big men with their armor that is too heavy for me, and their swords that I can hardly lift, and their muscle and their shouting and their bad tempers. They like fighting: most of them are making fools of themselves all the time they are not fighting; but I am quiet and sensible; and I dont want to kill people: I only want to be left alone to enjoy myself in my own way. I never asked to be a king: it was pushed on me. So if you are going to say 'Son of St Louis: gird on the sword of your ancestors, and lead us to victory' you may spare your breath to cool your porridge; for I cannot do it. I am not built that way; and there is an end of it.

JOAN [trenchant and masterful] Blethers! We are all like that to begin with. I shall put courage into thee.

CHARLES. But I dont want to have courage put into me. I want to sleep in a comfortable bed, and not live in continual terror of being killed or wounded. Put courage into the others, and let them have their bellyful of fighting; but let me alone.

JOAN. It's no use, Charlie: thou must face what God puts on thee. If thou fail to make thyself king, thoult be a beggar: what else art fit for? Come! Let me see thee sitting on the throne. I have looked forward to that.

CHARLES. What is the good of sitting on the throne when the other fellows give all the orders? However! [he sits enthroned, a piteous figure] here is the king for you! Look your fill at the poor devil.

JOAN. Thourt not king yet, lad: thourt but Dauphin. Be not led away by them around thee. Dressing up dont fill empty noddle. I know the people: the real people that make thy bread for thee; and I tell thee they count no man king of France until the holy oil has been poured on his hair, and himself consecrated and crowned in Rheims Cathedral. And thou needs new clothes, Charlie. Why does not Queen look after thee properly?

CHARLES. We're too poor. She wants all the money we can spare to put on her own back. Besides, I like to see her beautifully dressed; and I dont care what I wear myself: I should look ugly anyhow.

JOAN. There is some good in thee, Charlie; but it is not yet a king's good.

CHARLES. We shall see. I am not such a fool as I look. I have my eyes open; and I can tell you that one good treaty is worth ten good fights. These fighting fellows lose all on the treaties that they gain on the fights. If we can only have a treaty, the English are sure to have the worst of it, because they are better at fighting than at thinking.

JOAN. If the English win, it is they that will make the treaty: and then God help poor France! Thou must fight, Charlie, whether thou will or no. I will go first to hearten thee. We must take our courage in both hands: aye, and pray for it with both hands too.

CHARLES [descending from his throne and again crossing the room to escape from her dominating urgency] Oh do stop talking about God and praying. I cant bear people who are always praying. Isnt it bad enough to have to do it at the proper times?

JOAN [pitying him] Thou poor child, thou hast never prayed in thy life. I must teach thee from the beginning.

CHARLES. I am not a child: I am a grown man and a father; and I will not be taught any more.

JOAN. Aye, you have a little son. He that will be Louis the Eleventh when you die. Would you not fight for him?

CHARLES. No: a horrid boy. He hates me. He hates everybody, selfish little beast! I dont want to be bothered with children. I dont want to be a father; and I dont want to be a son: especially a son of St Louis. I dont want to be any of these fine things you all have your heads full of: I want to be just what I am. Why cant you mind your own business, and let me mind mine?

JOAN [again contemptuous] Minding your own business is like minding your own body: it's the shortest way to make yourself sick. What is my business? Helping mother at home. What is thine? Petting lapdogs and sucking sugar-sticks. I call that muck. I tell thee it is God's business we are here to do: not our own. I have a message to thee from God; and thou must listen to it, though thy heart break with the terror of it.

CHARLES. I dont want a message; but can you tell me any secrets? Can you do any cures? Can you turn lead into gold, or anything of that sort?

JOAN. I can turn thee into a king, in Rheims Cathedral; and that is a miracle that will take some doing, it seems.

CHARLES. If we go to Rheims, and have a coronation, Anne will want new dresses. We cant afford them. I am all right as I am.

JOAN. As you are! And what is that? Less than my father's poorest shepherd. Thourt not lawful owner of thy own land of France till thou be consecrated.

CHARLES. But I shall not be lawful owner of my own land anyhow. Will the consecration pay off my mortgages? I have pledged my last acre to the Archbishop and that fat bully. I owe money even to Bluebeard.

JOAN [earnestly] Charlie: I come from the land, and have gotten my strength working on the land; and I tell thee that the land is thine to rule righteously and keep God's peace in, and not to pledge at the pawnshop as a drunken woman pledges her children's clothes. And I come from God to tell thee to kneel in the cathedral and solemnly give thy kingdom to Him for ever and ever, and become the greatest king in the world as His steward and His bailiff, His soldier and His servant. The very clay of France will become holy: her soldiers will be the soldiers of God: the rebel dukes will be rebels against God: the English will fall on their knees and beg thee let them return to their lawful homes in peace. Wilt be a poor little Judas, and betray me and Him that sent me?

CHARLES [tempted at last] Oh, if I only dare!

JOAN. I shall dare, dare, and dare again, in God's name! Art for or against me?

CHARLES [excited] 
I'll risk it, I warn you I shant be able to keep it up; but I'll risk it. You shall see. 
[Running to the main door and shouting] 
Hallo! Come back, everybody. [To Joan, as he runs back to the arch opposite] 
Mind you stand by and dont let me be bullied. 
[Through the arch] 
Come along, will you: the whole Court. [He sits down in the royal chair as they all hurry in to their former places, chattering and wondering]. Now I'm in for it; but no matter: here goes! [To the page] Call for silence, you little beast, will you?

THE PAGE [snatching a halberd as before and thumping with it repeatedly] Silence for His Majesty the King. The King speaks. [Peremptorily] Will you be silent there? [Silence].

CHARLES [rising] I have given the command of the army to The Maid. The Maid is to do as she likes with it. [He descends from the dais].

General amazement. La Hire, delighted, slaps his steel thigh-piece with his gauntlet.

LA TRÉMOUILLE [turning threateningly towards Charles] What is this? I command the army.

Joan quickly puts her hand on Charles's shoulder as he instinctively recoils. Charles, with a grotesque effort culminating in an extravagant gesture, snaps his fingers in the Chamberlain's face.

JOAN. Thourt answered, old Gruff-and-Grum. [Suddenly flashing out her sword as she divines that her moment has come] Who is for God and His Maid? Who is for Orleans with me?

LA HIRE [carried away, drawing also] For God and His Maid! To Orleans!

ALL THE KNIGHTS [following his lead with enthusiasm] To Orleans!

Joan, radiant, falls on her knees in thanksgiving to God. They all kneel, except the Archbishop, who gives his benediction with a sigh, and La Trémouille, who collapses, cursing.

No comments:

Post a Comment