January 2012 marks the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc). In her honor, I took a piece of text from her trial to make a poem.
I didn't change any of the words. My hope was to give a little impression of what the trial was like: a peasant teenager, alone, versus a hostile group of educated men who were used to having their authority be unquestioned.
To set the scene:
France and England have been at war for decades. Jeanne, a general for France, is being tried by English-backed French clergy. She had been captured in battle and sold to the English, who turned her over to their allies. Her jailers insist that she admit her guilt and repent. Here, they offer to let her choose any of them to be her lawyer.
The Trial Begins
from The Trial of Jeanne D'Arc
Then the Promoter took oath before us
touching the accusation.
When this was done
we told Jeanne that all the assessors
were ecclesiastical and learned men,
experienced in canon and civil law,
who wished and intended
to proceed with her
in all piety and meekness,
as they had always been disposed,
seeking not vengeance
or corporal punishment,
but her instruction and
her return to the ways
of truth and salvation.
And, since she was not learned
and literate enough
in such arduous matters,
that she should choose one
or many of those present,
and if she would not choose,
we would give her some to counsel her
touching what she should do and reply,
provided that in herself
she wished to answer truthfully.
And we required her
to speak the truth.
To which Jeanne answered:
for admonishing me
of my salvation and our faith,
I thank you and also all the company.
As for the counsel you offer me,
I thank you for that too;
I have no intention
of departing from the counsel of Our Lord.
And the oath you wish me to take
I will willingly swear,
to answer truthfully
on everything which concerns your trial."
And she took oath so,
with her hands on the holy scriptures.
Tara at A Teaching Life is our Poetry Friday host today.