Charles VII And Joan Of Arc At Rheims

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A glorious pageant filled the church of the proud old city of Rheims,
One such as poet artists choose to form their loftiest themes:
There France beheld her proudest sons grouped in a glittering ring,
To place the crown upon the brow of their now triumphant king.

The full, rich tones of music swelled out on the perfumed air,
And chosen warriors, gaily decked, emblazoned banners bear:
Jewels blazed forth, and silver bright shone armor, shield and lance,
Of princes, peers, and nobles proud, the chivalry of France.

The object of these honors high, on lowly bended knee,
Before the altar homage paid to the God of Victory;
Whilst Renaud Chartres prayed that Heaven might blessings shower down
On that young head on which he now was chosen to place a crown.

Fair was the scene, but fairer far than pomp of church or state,
Than starry gems or banners proud, or trappings of the great,
Was the maiden frail whose prophet glance from heaven seemed to shine,
Who, in her mystic beauty, looked half mortal, half divine.

Her slight form cased in armor stern, the Maid of Orleans stood,
Her place a prouder one than that of prince of royal blood:
With homage deep to Heaven above, and prayers to Notre Dame,
She waived above the monarch’s head proud Victory’s Oriflamme.

Then, as the clouds of incense rose, encircling in its fold
That shining form, the kneeling king, the canopy of gold,
It seemed unto the gazers there a scene of magic birth,
Such as is rarely granted to the children of this earth.

Sudden a mystic sadness steals o’er Joan’s features bright,
Robbing her brow, her earnest eyes, of their unearthly light:
A voice from Him, by whose right arm her victories had been won,
Had whispered, ’bove the clank of steel, “Thy mission now is done.”

Perchance the future, then, was shown to her pure spirit’s gaze,
The future with its sufferings, the shame, the scaffold’s blaze;
The deaf’ning shouts, the surging crowd, the incense, mounting high,
Foreshadowed to her shrinking soul the death she was to die.

The youthful monarch now was crowned, and lowly at his feet
Did France’s saviour bend her form, rendering homage meet.
No guerdon for past deeds of worth sought that young noble heart,
She, who might all rewards have claimed, asked only to depart.

Oh! France! of all the stoned names that deck thy history’s page,
Thy sainted kings, thy warriors proud, thy statesmen stern and sage,
None, none received the glorious light, the strange Promethean spark
That Heaven vouchsafed thy spotless maid, immortal Joan of Arc!

© Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon