Sunday, February 13, 2005 +

Saint Joan

Some lines from the play by Bernard Shaw:

LA HIRE. But by all the devils in hell—Oh, God forgive me, what am I saying?—by Our Lady and all the saints, this must be the angel that struck Foul Mouthed Frank dead for swearing.

THE CHAPLAIN [rising in a fury ] You are a traitor.
CAUCHON [spring up ] You lie, priest. [Trembling with rage ] If you dare do what this woman has done—set your country above the holy Catholic Church—you shall go to the fire with her.
THE CHAPLAIN. My lord: I—I went too far. I— [he sits down with a submissive gesture ].
WARWICK [who has risen apprehensively ] My lord: I apologize to you for the word used by Messire John de Stogumber. It does not mean in England what it does in France. In your language traitor means betrayer: one who is perfidious, treacherous, unfaithful, disloyal. In our country it means simply one who is not wholly devoted to our English interests.
CAUCHON. I am sorry: I did not understand. [He subsides into his chair with dignity. ]

CAUCHON. What will the world be like when The Church’s accumulated wisdom and knowledge and experience, its councils of learned, venerable pious men, are thrust into the kennel by every ignorant laborer or dairymaid whom the devil can puff up with the monstrous self-conceit of being direclty inspired from heaven?

THE CHAPLAIN. How can what an Englishman believes be heresy? It is a contradiction in terms.

THE CHAPLAIN. But this woman denies to England her legitimate conquests, given her by God because of her peculiar fitness to rule over less civilized races for their own good.

JOAN. [crossly ] Well, I have to find reasons for you, because you do not believe in my voices. But the voices come first; and I find the reasons after: whatever you may choose to believe.

JOAN. Give my that writing. [She rushes to the table; snatches up the paper; and tears it into fragments ] Light your fire: do you think I dread it as much as the life of a rat in a hole? My voices were right.

CAUCHON. We decree that thou art a relapsed heretic.
THE INQUISITOR. Cast out from the unity of the Church.
CAUCHON. Sundered from her body.
THE INQUISITOR Infected with the leprosy of heresy.
CAUCHON. A member of Satan.
THE INQUISITOR. We declare that thou must be excommunicate.
CAUCHON. And now we do cast thee out, segregate thee, and abandon thee to the secular power.

LADVENU. I took this cross from the church for her that she might see it to the last: she had only two sticks that she put on her bosom. When the fire crept round us, and she saw that if I held the cross before her I should be burnt myself, she warned me to get down and save myself. My lord: a girl who could think of another’s danger in such a moment was not inspired by the devil. When I had to snatch the cross from her sight, she looked up to heaven. And I do not believe the heavens were empty. I firmly believe that her Savior appeared to her then in His tenderest glory. She called to Him and died. This is not the end for her, but the beginning.

From the Epilogue:

CHARLES. If you could bring her back to life, they would burn her again in six months, for all their present adoration. And you would hold up the cross, too, just the same. So [crossing himself ] let her rest; and let you and I mind our own business, and not meddle with hers.
LADVENU. God forbid that I should have no share in her, nor she in me! [He turns and strides out as he came, saying ] Henceforth my path will not lie through palaces, nor my conversation with kings.
CHARLES [following him towards the door, and shouting after him ] Much good may it do you, holy man!

THE SOLDIER. That dont mean anything, you know; but it keeps you marching.

JOAN [interrupting the soldier by strolling across to the bed, where she sits besides Charles ] He tied two sticks together, and gave them to a poor lass that was going to be burnt.

CHARLES. What is hell like?
THE SOLDIER. You wont find it bad, sir. Jolly. Like as if you were always drunk without the trouble and expense of drinking. Tip top company too: emperors and popes and kings and all sorts. They chip me about giving that young judy the cross; but I dont care; I stand up to them proper, and tell them that if she hadnt a better right to it than they, she’d be where they are. That dumbfounds them, that does. All they can do is gnash their teeth, hell fashion; and I just laugh, and go off singing the old chanty: Rum tum trumple—Hullo! Who’s that knocking at the door?

DE STOGUMBER. Well, you see, I did a very cruel thing once because I did not know what cruelty was like. I had not seen it, you know. That is the great thing: you must see it. And then you are redeemed and saved.
CAUCHON. Were not the sufferings of our Lord Christ enough for you?
DE STOGUMBER. No. Oh no: not at all. I had seen them in pictures, and read of them in books, and been greatly moved by them, as I thought. But it was no use: it was not our Lord that redeemed me, but a young woman whom I saw actually burnt to death. It was dreadful: oh, most dreadful. But it saved me. I have been a different man ever since, though a little astray in my wits sometimes.
CAUCHON. Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?

THE GENTLEMAN [emphatically, to mark his indignation at the interruption ]—by the Bishop of Orleans into the claim of the said Joan of Arc to be canonized as a saint—
JOAN [again interrupting ] But I never made any such claim.

THE GENTLEMAN [putting up his paper, and retiring beside the Executioner ] In Basilica Vaticana, the sixteenth day of May, ninteen hundred and twenty.
DUNOIS [raising Joan ] Half an hour to burn you, dear saint; and four centuries to find out the truth about you!

CAUCHON [kneeling to her ] The girls in the field praise thee; for thou hast raised their eyes; and they see that there is nothing between them and heaven.

JOAN. And now tell me: shall I rise from the dead, and come back to you a living woman?
A sudden darkness blots out the walls of the room as they all spring to their feet in consternation. Only the figures and the bed remain visible.
JOAN. What! Must I burn again? Are none of you ready to receive me?
CAUCHON. The heretic is always better dead. And mortal eyes cannot distinguish the saint from the heretic. Spare them. [He goes out as he came. ]. . . .
DE STOGUMBER. Oh, do not come back: you must not come back. I must die in peace. Give us peace in our time, O Lord! [He goes ]. . . .
CHARLES. Poor old Joan! They have all run away from you except this blackguard who has to go back to hell at twelve o’clock. And what can I do but follow Jack Dunois’ example, and go back to bed too? [He does so ].
JOAN. [sadly ] Good night, Charlie.
CHARLES. Goo ni. [He sleeps. The darkness envelopes the bed ].
JOAN [to the soldier ] And you, my one faithful? What comfort have you for Saint Joan?
THE SOLDIER. Well, what do they amount to, these kings and captains and bishops and lawyers and such like? They just leave you in the ditch to bleed to death; and the next thing is, you meet them down there, for all the airs they give themselves. What I say is, you have as good a right to your notions as they have to theirs, and perhaps better. [Setting himself for a lecture on the subject ] You see, it’s like this. If—[the first stroke of midnight is heard softly from the distant bell ]. Excuse me: a pressing appointment— [He goes on tiptoe ].
The last remaining rays of light gather into the white radiance descending on Joan. The hour continues to strike.
JOAN. O God that madest this beautiful earth, when will it be ready to receive Thy saints? How long, O Lord, how long?