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Joan of Arc

Joan of ArcThe Shimmering Cloud

They told a legend of such a race when she ran with such speed that in the end she fell to the ground at the edge of the meadow and lay like one in a trance. While she was resting there a youth appeared and bade her to go home, for her mother needed her. Joan got up obediently and was walking toward her house when she met her mother, who scolded her for not tending the sheep. "But did you not send for me?" asked Joan. As her mother shook her head, Joan left her and was retracing her steps to the meadows when her eyes were dazzled by a shimmering cloud. And out of the cloud she heard a voice calling her by name and telling her things of which for a long time she did not dare to speak.

The incident held one thing that to Joan was incontestable: the reality of the voice and the vision, both of which, now separately but more often together, began coming to her with increasing frequency. And not only in her father's garden, or in the meadow, and not merely as a disembodied voice or a light.

Joan of ArcThe Change

She had never been quite of a romping child, she now gave herself little to games and frolics. "As little as I could," she confessed, with a note of ruefulness for the childish things she had so early put away. Everything had changed. She lay in the fields, but she was no longer alone with her dumb beasts. Now the sun collected in a great shimmer and talked with the voices of angels. Now, whenever the girls of Domremy went to the Ladies' or the Fairies' Tree, the great beech from which came the fair May branches, Joan was no longer with them to weave garlands, later hung from the boughs, to dance about its huge trunk or to sing as she used to do before reaching the age of discretion and of divine obligation.

Joan's thoughts, as the years passed, were far removed from fairy trees, oak forests and mandrakes, though no one, except perhaps her father, had any inkling of the girl's secret life. The Voices came to her twice, sometimes three times a week. Most often she heard them during the hours of the offices, especially in the morning and at vespers, in the deepening twilight. She heard them in the ringing of the church bells, mingling with their music but sweeter than any music.

The Command

Always with the voices, came that dazzling cloud. She saw it many times before she knew it to be Saint Michael. That was her fourteenth year. At first he merely told her to be good. He instructed her how to conduct herself and bade her to often go to church. But as Joan grew to realize the woeful condition of her country and began to to take sides in the fierce conflicts. Saint Michael broke the news gently that she must leave her parents, her brothers, her sister and her friends to go into France. The kingdom, he told her, was in a pitiful state, and she must help the despairing people by going to the help of the Dauphin.

The words and the counsel frightened the poor child, but as if to give her confidence Saint Michael later came accompanied by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. Their voices were beautiful, sweet and soft, and thier presence exhaled the odor of flowers. They called her Little-Joan the Maid, Child of God.

Her whole mode of life changed under the burden of the mission to which she had been elected.

Vancouleurs

Her faith in God enabled her to muster enough courage to embark on the mission led by the voices. Joan traveled from Domremy to Vancouleurs in May 1428. There she asked the captain of the Garrison, Robert de Baudricourt for permission to visit the Dauphin. However, he did not take the 16-year-old girl and her visions seriously. Despite her attempts to explain to him of her mission, she was advised to return home. She returned home but was not demoralized so easily. She went to Vancouleurs again in January 1429. Her quietness and piety gained her the respect of the people and the captain. He permitted her to go to the Dauphin at Chinon. Dressed in masculine clothes and accomplished by six men-at-arms, she left for Vancouleurs on February 13. After traveling for 11 days she reached Chinon.

The Royal Meeting At Chinon

At Chinon she went to the Dauphinís castle. He was hesitant to receive her because his counselors advised him against it. Two days later she was permitted to visit him. In the royal court Joan explained to him of her mission to battle against the English and to crown him the King. The Dauphin ordered the ecclesiastical authorities to interrogate her immediately. For three weeks she was interrogated at Portiers by eminent theologians. Joan told the ecclesiastics that it was not at Portiers but at Orleans that she would give proof of her mission.

The Preparation

Joan returned to Chinon. During April the Dauphin provided her with a military at Tours. Jean dí Aulon was her squire and her brothers Jean and Pierre also joined her. Joan had her standard (flag) painted with an image of Christ in judgment and a banner made bearing the name of Jesus. When the question of a sword arose she declared that it would be found in the church of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois. As described by Joan the sword was in fact found there.

Several hundred men were mustered at Blois and on April 27 they set out for Orleans. Orleans, besieged since October 12, 1428 was almost surrounded by a ring of English troops. When Joan and one of the French commanders, La Hire, entered Orleans with supplies on April 29, she was instructed that further action would have to be procrastinated until further reinforcements could be brought in.

Letters Of Defiance

On May 4, when Joan was resting in the evening, she suddenly arose and announced that she must go and attack the English. Having armed herself she set out towards the east of the city towards an English fort. There a secret meeting was in progress. Even Joan was not informed of the meeting. Her arrival roused the French and they captured the fort. The following day Joan addressed another of her letters of defiance to the English.

Strength Of Spirit

On May 6, in the morning she crossed the south bank of the river and advanced towards another fort. The English immediately evacuated it in order to defend a stronger position nearby, but Joan and La Hire attacked them there and took the fort. On May 7, the French troops advanced toward the fort of Tourelles. Joan was wounded but she quickly resumed to fight. She exemplified unique will power and strength of character. It was partially owing to her that the French commanders maintained the attack until the English drew up terms. The following day the English began retreating but as it was a Sunday, Joan refused to allow any attack on the enemy troops.
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