1799
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Vision of the Maid of Orleans. The Second Book.

Poems, by Robert Southey. The Second Volume.

Robert Southey


John Aikin: "The ninth book [of Joan of Arc], which is entirely employed on the imagery of fancy, opens with the visionary voyage of the Maid to the regions of Despair. It may be thought that the poet's admiration of Spenser is too close and palpable in the dialogue between the heroine and this baleful phantom, who urges her by many arguments to the commission of suicide: yet the description of the person and habitation of Despair is original" Monthly Review NS 19 (April 1796) 366.

Analytical Review: "Mr. S. has divided it into three books: the first of these three books ends at the 350th line of the quarto edition, and we detect no other alteration than occasionally the transposition of a word or two, or the substitution of one word for another. The second book ends at the 744th line of the quarto; in this book we find the following alterations: the description is omitted (from line 370 to 407) of the ghastly ministers of death, and the following few lines are added to the description of the Court of Glory, p. 48. 'And now they reached a huge and massy pile [...].' The personification of Remorse, as porter to that 'large and lofty dome' where sit, 'enthroned around, the murderers of mankind,' is very happy. The third book ends with the conclusion of the ninth in the quarto; here there is a very beautiful addition: we regret that the limits of our publication prohibit the transcription of the whole of it: we must content ourselves with making a short extract. After the Maid, well contented with such knowledge as heaven hath imparted unto man, expresses her disinclination to enter the dwelling of futurity, and read therein the books of fate, p. 54.... The spirit afterwards conveys the Maid 'to yonder evening star,' where lives her departed friend, poor Madelon: the description of the interview is wrought with much tenderness and delicacy. A few less striking alterations may have escaped us, but we have enumerated all the material ones: it should be mentioned that Mr. S. has collected some parallel passages, which he has distributed in notes" NS 1 (April 1799) 403-04.



She spake, and lo! celestial radiance beam'd,
Amid the air, such odors, wafting now
As erst came blended with the evening gale,
From Eden's bowers of bliss. An angel form
Stood by the Maid; his wings, etherial white,
Flash'd like the diamond in the noon-tide sun,
Dazzling her mortal eye: all else appear'd
Her THEODORE.

Amazed she saw: the Fiend
Was fled, and on her ear the well-known voice
Sounded, tho' now more musically sweet
Than ever yet had thrill'd her charmed soul,
When eloquent Affection fondly told
The day-dreams of delight.

"Beloved Maid!
Lo! I am with thee! still thy Theodore!
Hearts in the holy bands of Love combin'd,
Death has no power to sever. Thou art mine!
A little while and thou shalt dwell with me
In scenes where Sorrow is not. Cheerily
Tread thou the path that leads thee to the grave,
Rough tho' it be and painful, for the grave
Is but the threshold of Eternity.

"Favour'd of Heaven! to thee is given to view
These secret realms. The bottom of the abyss
Thou treadest, Maiden! Here the dungeons are
Where bad men learn repentance; souls diseased
Must have their remedy; and where disease
Is rooted deep, the remedy is long
Perforce, and painful."

Thus the Spirit spake,
And led the Maid along a narrow path,
Dark gleaming to the light of far-off flames,
More dread than darkness. Soon the distant sound
Of clanking anvils, and the lengthened breath
Provoking fire are heard: and now they reach
A wide expanded den where all around
Tremendous furnaces, with hellish blaze,
Flamed dreadful. At the heaving bellows stood
The meagre form of CARE, and as he blew
To augment the fire, the fire augmented scorch'd
His wretched limbs: sleepless for ever thus
He toil'd and toil'd, of toil to reap no end
But endless toil and never-ending woe.

An aged man went round the infernal vault,
Urging his workmen to their ceaseless task:
White were his locks, as is the wintry snow
On hoar Plinlimmon's head. A golden staff
His steps supported powerful talisman,
Which whoso feels shall never feel again
The tear of Pity, or the throb of Love.
Touch'd but by this, the massy gates give way,
The buttress trembles, and the guarded wall,
Guarded in vain, submits. Him heathens erst
Had deified, and bowed the suppliant knee
To Plutus. Nor are now his votaries few,
Tho' he the Blessed Teacher of mankind
Hath said, that easier thro' the needle's eye
Shall the huge camel pass, than the rich man
Enter the gates of heaven. "Ye cannot serve
Your GOD, and worship MAMMON."

"Missioned Maid!"
So spake the Angel, "know that these, whose hands
Round each white furnace ply the unceasing toil,
Were Mammon's slaves on earth. They did not spare
To wring from Poverty the hard-earn'd mite,
They robb'd the orphan's pittance, they could see
Want's asking eye unmoved; and therefore these,
Ranged round the furnace, still must persevere
In Mammon's service scorched by these fierce fires,
And frequent deluged by the o'erboiling ore:
Yet still so framed, that oft to quench their thirst
Unquenchable, large draughts of molten gold
They drink insatiate, still with pain renewed,
Pain to destroy."

So saying, her he led
Forth from the dreadful cavern to a cell,
Brilliant with gem-born light. The rugged walls
Part gleam'd with gold, and part with silver ore
A milder radiance shone. The Carbuncle
There its strong lustre like the flamy sun
Shot forth irradiate; from the earth beneath,
And from the roof a diamond light emits;
Rubies and amethysts their glows commix'd
With the gay topaz, and the softer ray
Shot from the sapphire, and the emerald's hue,
And bright pyropus.

There on golden seats,
A numerous, sullen, melancholy train
Sat silent. "Maiden, these," said Theodore,
"Are they who, let the love of wealth absorb
All other passions; in their souls that vice
Struck deeply-rooted, like the poison-tree
That with its shade spreads barrenness around.
These, Maid! were men by no atrocious crime
Blacken'd, no fraud, nor ruffian violence:
Men of fair dealing, and respectable
On earth, but such as only for themselves
Heap'd up their treasures, deeming all their wealth
Their own, and given to them, by partial Heaven,
To bless them only: therefore here they sit,
Possessed of gold enough, and by no pain
Tormented, save the knowledge of the bliss
They lost, and vain repentance. Here they dwell,
Loathing these useless treasures, till the hour
Of general restitution."

Thence they past,
And now arrived at such a gorgeous dome,
As even the pomp of Eastern opulence
Could never equal: wandered thro' its halls,
A numerous train; some with the red-swoln eye
Of riot, and intemperance-bloated cheek ;
Some pale and nerveless, and with feeble step,
And eyes lack-lustre.

"Maiden?" said her guide,
"These are the wretched slaves of Appetite,
Curst with their wish enjoyed. The epicure
Here pampers his foul frame; till the pall'd sense
Loaths at the banquet; the voluptuous here
Plunge in the tempting torrent of delight,
And sink in misery. All they wish'd on earth,
Possessing here, whom have they to accuse,
But their own folly, for the lot they chose?
Yet, for that these injured themselves alone,
They to the house of PENITENCE may hie,
And, by a long and painful regimen,
To wearied Nature her exhausted powers
Restore, till they shall learn to form the wish
Of wisdom, and ALMIGHTY GOODNESS grants
That prize to him who seeks it."

Whilst he spake,
The board is spread. With bloated paunch, and eye
Fat swoln, and legs whose monstrous size disgraced
The human form divine, their caterer,
Hight GLUTTONY, set forth the smoaking feast.
And by his side came on a brother form,
With fiery cheek of purple hue, and red
And scurfy-white, mix'd motley; his gross bulk,
Like some huge hogshead shapen'd, as applied.
Him had antiquity with mystic rites
Ador'd, to him the sons of Greece, and thine
Imperial Rome, on many an altar pour'd
The victim blood, with god titles graced,
BACCHUS, or DIONUSUS; son of JOVE,
Deem'd falsely, for from FOLLY'S ideot form
He sprung, what time MADNESS, with furious hand,
Seiz'd on the laughing female. At one birth
She brought the brethren, menial here, above
Reigning with sway supreme, and oft they hold
High revels: mid the Monastery's gloom,
Thy palace GLUTTONY, and oft to thee
The sacrifice is spread, when the grave voice
Episcopal, proclaim approaching day
Of visitation, or Churchwardens meet
To save the wretched many from the gripe
Of eager Poverty, or mid thy halls
Of London, mighty Mayor! rich Aldermen,
Of coming feast hold converse.

Otherwhere,
For tho' allied in nature as in blood,
They hold divided sway, his brother lifts
His spungy sceptre. In the noble domes
Of Princes, and state-wearied Ministers,
Maddening he reigns; and when the affrighted mind
Casts o'er a long career of guilt and blood
Its eye reluctant, then his aid is sought
To lull the worm of Conscience to repose.
He too the halls of country Squires frequents,
But chiefly loves the learned gloom that shades
Thy offspring Rhedycina! and thy walls,
Granta! nightly libations there to him
Profuse are pour'd, till from the dizzy brain
Triangles, Circles, Parallelograms,
Moods, Tenses, Dialects, and Demigods,
And Logic and Theology are swept
By the red deluge.

Unmolested there
He reigns: till comes at length the general feast,
Septennial sacrifice; then when the sons
Of England meet, with watchful care to chuse
Their delegates, wise, independent men,
Unbribing and unbrib'd, and cull'd to guard
Their rights and charters from the encroaching grasp
Of greedy Power: then all the joyful land
Join in his sacrifices, so inspir'd
To make the, important choice.

The observing Maid
Address'd her guide, "These Theodore, thou sayest
Are men, who pampering their foul appetites,
Injured themselves alone. But where are they,
The worst of villains, viper-like, who coil
Around the guileless female, so to sting
The heart that loves them?"

"Them," the spirit replied,
"A long and dreadful punishment awaits.
For when the prey of want and infamy,
Lower and lower still the victim sinks,
Even to the depth of shame, not one lewd word,
One impious imprecation from her lips
Escapes, nay not a thought of evil lurks
In the polluted mind, that does not plead
Before the throne of Justice, thunder-tongued
Against the foul Seducer."

Now they reach'd
The house of PENITENCE. CREDULITY
Stood at the gate, stretching her eager head
As tho' to listen; on her vacant face,
A smile that promis'd premature assent
Tho' her REGRET behind, a meagre Fiend,
Disciplin'd sorely.

Here they entered in,
And now arrived where, as in study tranced,
She sat, the Mistress of the Dome. Her face
Spake that composed severity, that knows
No angry impulse, no weak tenderness,
Resolved and calm. Before her lay that Book
That hath the words of Life; and as she read,
Sometimes a tear would trickle down her cheek,
Tho' heavenly joy beam'd in her eye the while.

Leaving her undisturb'd, to the first ward
Of this great Lazar-house, the Angel led
The favour'd Maid of Orleans. Kneeling down
On the hard stone that their bare knees had worn,
In sackcloth robed, a numerous train appear'd:
Hard-featured some, and some demurely grave;
Yet such expression stealingthe eye,
As tho', that only naked, all the rest
Was one close fitting mask. A scoffing Fiend,
For Fiend he was, tho' wisely serving here
Mock'd at his patients, and did often pour
Ashes upon them, and then bid them say
Their prayers aloud, and then he louder laughed:
For these were Hypocrites, on earth revered
As holy ones, who did in public tell
Their beads, and make long prayers, and cross themselves,
And call themselves most miserable sinners,
That so they might be deem'd most pious saints ;
And go all filth, and never let a smile
Bend their stern muscles, gloomy, sullen men,
Barren of all affection, and all this
To please their God, forsooth! and therefore SCORN
Grinn'd at his patients, making them repeat
Their solemn farce, with keenest raillery
Tormenting; but if earnest in their prayer,
They pour'd the silent sorrows of soul
To Heaven, then did they not regard his mocks
Which then came painless, and HUMILITY
Soon rescued them, and led to PENITENCE,
That She might lead to Heaven.

From thence they came,
Where, in the next ward, a most wretched band
Groan'd underneath the bitter tyranny
Of a fierce Daemon. His coarse hair was red,
Pale grey his eyes, and blood-shot; and his face
Wrinkled by such a smile as Malice wears
In ecstacy. Well-pleased he went around,
Plunging his dagger in the hearts of some,
Or probing with a poison'd lance their breasts,
Or placing coals of fire within their wounds;
Or seizing some within his mighty grasp,
He fix'd them on a stake, and then drew back,
And laugh'd to see them writhe.

"These," said the Spirit,
"Are taught by CRUELTY, to loath the lives
They, led themselves. Here are those wicked men
Who loved to exercise their tyrant power
On speechless brutes; bad husbands undergo
A long purgation here; the traffickers
In human flesh here too are disciplined,
Till by their suffering they have equall'd all
The miseries they inflicted, all the mass
Of wretchedness caused by the wars they waged,
The towns they burnt, for they who bribe to war
Are guilty of the blood, the widows left
In want, the slave or led to suicide,
Or murdered by the foul infected air
Of his close dungeon, or more sad than all,
His virtue lost, his very soul enslaved,
And driven by woe to wickedness.

"These next,
Whom thou beholdest in this dreary room,
So sullen, and with such an eye of hate
Each on the other scowling, these have been
False friends. Tormented by their own dark thoughts.
Here they dwell: in the hollow of their hearts
There is a worm that feeds, and tho' thou seest
That skilful leech who willingly would heal
The ill they suffer, judging of all else
By their own evil standard, they suspect
The aid he vainly proffers, lengthening thus
By vice its punishment."

"But who, are these,"
The Maid exclaim'd, "that robed in flowing lawn,
And mitred, or in scarlet, and in caps
Like Cardinals, I see in every ward,
Performing menial service at the beck
Of all who bid them?"

Theodore replied,
These men are they who in the name of CHRIST
Did heap up wealth, and arrogating power,
Did make men bow the knee, and call themselves
Most Reverend Graces and Right Reverend Lords.
They dwelt in palaces, in purple clothed,
Arid in fine linen: therefore are they here;
And tho' they would not minister on earth,
Here penanced they perforce must minister:
For he, the lowly man of Nazareth,
Hath said, his kingdom is not of the world."

So saying on they past, and now arrived
Where such a hideous ghastly groupe abode,
That the Maid gazed with half-averting eye,
And shudder'd: each one was a loathly corpse,
The worm did banquet on his putrid prey,
Yet had they life and feeling exquisite
Tho' motionless and mute.

"Most wretched men
Are these," the angel cried. "These, JOAN, are bards,
Whose loose lascivious lays perpetuate
Their own corruption. Soul-polluted slaves,
Who sat them down, deliberately lewd,
So to awake and pamper lust in minds
Unborn; and therefore foul of body now
As then they were of soul, they here abide
Long as the evil works they left on earth
Shall live to taint mankind. A dreadful doom!
Yet amply merited by that bad man
Who prostitutes the sacred gift of song!

And now they reached a huge and massy pile,
Massy it seem'd, and yet in every blast
As to its ruin shook. There, porter fit,
REMORSE forever his sad vigils kept.
Pale, hollow-eyed, emaciate, sleepless wretch,
Inly he groan'd, or, starting, wildly shriek'd.
Aye as the fabric tottering from its base,
Threatened its fall, and so expectant still
Lived in the dread of danger still delayed.

They enter'd there a large and lofty dome,
O'er whose black marble sides a dim drear light
Struggled with darkness from the unfrequent lamp.
Enthroned around, the MURDERERS OF MANKIND,
Monarchs, the great! the glorious! the august!
Each bearing on his brow a crown of fire,
Sat stern and silent. Nimrod he was there,
First King the mighty hunter; and that Chief
Who did belie his mother's fame, that so
He might be called young Ammon. In this court
Caesar was crown'd, accurst liberticide;
And he who murdered Tully, that cold villain,
Octavius, tho' the courtly minion's lyre
Hath hymn'd his praise, tho' Maro sung to him,
And when Death levelled to original clay
The royal carcase, FLATTERY, fawning low,
Fell at his feet, and worshipped the new God.
Titus was here, the Conqueror of the Jews,
He the Delight of human-kind misnamed;
Caesars and Soldans, Emperors and Kings,
Here they were all, all who for glory fought,
Here in the COURT OF GLORY, reaping now
The meed they merited.

As gazing round
The Virgin mark'd the miserable train,
A deep and hollow voice from one went forth;
Thou who art come to view our punishment,
Maiden of Orleans! hither turn thine eyes,
For I am he whose bloody victories
Thy power hath rendered vain. Lo! I am here,
The hero conqueror of Azincour,
HENRY OF ENGLAND! — wretched that I am,
I might have reigned in happiness and peace,
My coffers full, my subjects undisturb'd,
And PLENTY and PROSPERITY had loved
To dwell amongst them: but mine eye beheld
The realm of France, by faction tempest-torn,
And therefore I did think that it would fall
An easy prey. I persecuted those
Who taught new doctrines, tho' they taught the truth:
And when I heard of thousands by the sword
Cut off, or blasted by the pestilence,
I calmly counted up my proper gains,
And sent new herds to slaughter. Temperate
Myself, no blood that mutinied, no vice
Tainting my private life, I sent abroad
MURDER and RAPE; and therefore am I doom'd,
Like these imperial Sufferers, crown'd with fire,
Here to remain, till Man's awaken'd eye
Shall see the genuine blackness of our deeds,
And warn'd by them, till the whole, human race,
Equalling in bliss the aggregate we caus'd
Of wretchedness, shall form ONE BROTHERHOOD,
ONE UNIVERSAL FAMILY OF LOVE."

[pp. 29-51]

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