Felicia Dorothea Hemans ( )

Joan of Arc in Rheims

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 temples 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 birthrights crown. For this the hymn
  Swelled out like rushing waters, and the day
With the sweet censers misty breath grew dim,
  As through long aisles it floated oer 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! Womans cheek
And brow were there, in deep devotion meek,
  Yet glorified with inspirations trace
On its pure paleness; while, enthroned above,
The pictured virgin, with her smile of love,
Seemed bending oer 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 shepherds 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 oer 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 Heavens 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 nations 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 oer her home had blown,
Sank on the bright maids 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 fairys fountain in the glade,
Where her young sisters by her side had played,
And to her hamlets 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 oer her fathers 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 hearts repose, the paradise
Of home with all it loves, doth fate allow
The crown of glory unto womans brow.

Felicia Dorothea Hemans's other poems:
  1. The Music of St. Patricks
  2. Taliesins Prophecy
  3. The Rock of Cader Idris
  4. Old Norway
  5. Our Ladys Well

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