Joan of Arc
OF the Maid of Orleans I have somewhere read that a bundle of faggots was substituted for her, when she was supposed to have been burnt by the Duke of Bedford. None of our historians notice this anecdote; though some have mentioned that after her death an impostor arose, and was even married to a French gentleman, by whom she had several children. Whether she deserved to have been distinguished by the appellation of The Maid of Orleans we have great reason to suspect; and some in her days, from her fondness for man’s apparel, even doubted her sex. We know little of one so celebrated as to have formed the heroine of epics. The following epitaph on her I find in Winstanley’s “Historical Rarities;” and which, possessing some humour, merits to be rescued from total oblivion.
Here lies Joan of Arc; the which
Some count saint, and some count witch;
Some count man, and something more;
Some count maid, and some a whore.
Her life’s in question, wrong or right;
Her death’s in doubt, by laws or might.
Oh, innocence! take heed of it,
How thou too near to guilt doth sit.
(Meantime, France a wonder saw—
A woman rule, ’gainst Salique law!)
But, reader, be content to stay
Thy censure till the judgement day;
Then shalt thou know, and not before,
Whether saint, witch, man, maid, or whore.”
§ This brief article was omitted from the ninth (1834) and later editions of the Curiosities.
¶ This article first appeared in early (1790s) editions of the Curiosities, in which it is continued, thus:
With the old French poets it was usual to compare our heroine to Hercules. Men of wit can always make resemblances, if they cannot find them. Malherbe, when he touched on this topic, only found resemblance in the similarity of their death. He inveighs with just force against the enemy, for the ungenerous revenge they took in burning this fair Amazon. But Fate, he says, was not blameable in this; for she, who had lived like Alcides, should die as he died. The conceit is not unhappy, nor the verse inelegant.L’Ennemi tout droit violant,
Belle Amazone, en vous brûlant,
Témoigna son ame perfide;
Mais le destin n’eut point de tort,
Celle qui vivoit comme Alcide,
Devoit mourir comme il est morte.