29 April 2012

Joan of Arc - Deliverer of France

Mark Twain considered Joan of Arc, his last finished novel, to be his best and most important work. Twain had a personal fascination with Joan and considered her second only to Jesus Christ. He initially penned this work under a pseudonym originally published as a serialization in Harper's Magazine beginning in 1895. There is a distinct lack of humor, and he didn’t want his readers to have expectations of a humorous work so prevalent in his previous works.

As soon as I read the first chapter [excerpted below], I was hooked, we should all be in awe of Joan of Arc. Coincidentally, I was visiting friends in New Haven, CT, and the Knights of Columbus Museum was having a Joan of Arc exhibit. Along with detailing her life story, the exhibit followed the legend of Joan through the centuries and to her eventual canonization in 1920. Her image has been used to sell war bonds and was prominent in the women’s suffrage movement. Her image is currently being used by the ultra-nationalist in France. Caution should be used by those using Joan to push an agenda. There are incidents of tragedy and irony that have befallen those who have done so in the past.   Emily Davison, Inez Mulholland

Mark Twain: “I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.” 

Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, 1896 [Excerpt 1st Chapter]
To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Judged by the standards of one century, the noblest characters of an earlier one lose much of their luster; judged by the standards of today, there is probably no illustrious man of four or five centuries ago whose character could meet the test at all points. But the character of Joan of Arc is unique. It can be measured by the standards of all times without misgiving or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any of them, judged by all of them, it is still flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still occupies the loftiest place possible to human attainment, a loftier one than has been reached by any other mere mortal.

When we reflect that her century was the brutalest, the wickedest, the rottenest in history since the darkest of ages, we are lost in wonder at the miracle of such a product from such a soil. The contrast between her and her century is the contrast between day and night. She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honesty had become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; she gave her great mind to great thoughts and great purposes when other great minds wasted themselves upon pretty fancies or upon poor ambitions; she was modest, and fine, and delicate when to be loud and coarse might be said to be universal; she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which had forgotten what honor was; she was rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true in an age that was false to the core; she maintained her persona dignity unimpaired in an age of fawnings and servilities; she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation; she was spotlessly pure in mind and body when society in the highest places was foul of both – she was al these things in an age when crime was the common business of lords and princes, and when the highest personages in Christendom were able to astonish even that infamous era and make it stand aghast at the spectacle of their atrocious lives black with unimaginable treacheries, butcheries, and beastialities.

She was perhaps the only entirely unselfish person whose name has a place in profane history. No vestige or suggestion of self-seeking can be found in any word or deed of hers. When she had rescued her King from his vagabondage, and set his crown upon his head, she was offered rewards and honors, but she refused them all, and would take nothing. All she would take for herself – if the King would grant it – was leave to back to her village home, and tend her sheep again, and feel her mother’s arms about her, and be her household maid and helper. The selfishness of this unspoiled general of victorious armies, companion of princes, and idol of an applauding and grateful nation, reached but that far and no farther.

The work wrought by Joan of Arc may fairly be regarded as ranking any recorded in history, when one considers the conditions under which it was undertaken, the obstacles in the way, and means of her disposal. Caesar carried conquest far, but he did it with the trained and confident veterans of Rome, and was a trained soldier himself; and Napoleon swept away the disciplined armies of Europe, but he also was a trained soldier, and he began his work with patriot battalions inflamed and inspired by the miracle-working new breath of Liberty breathed upon them by the Revolution – eager young apprentices to the splendid trade of war, not old and broken men-at-arms, despairing survivors of an age long accumulation of monotonous defeats; but Joan of Arc, a mere child in years, ignorant, unlettered, a poor village girl unknown and without influence, found a great nation lying in chains, helpless and hopeless under an alien domination, its treasury bankrupt, its soldiers disheartened and dispersed, all sprit torpid, all courage dead in the hearts of the people through long years of foreign and domestic outrage and oppressions, their King cowed, resigned to its fate, and preparing to fly the country; and she laid her hand upon this nation, this corpse, and it rose and followed her. She led it from victory to victory, she turned back the tide of the Hundred Years’ War, she fatally crippled the English power, and died with the earned title of DELIVERER OF FRANCE, which she bears to this day.
And for all reward, the French King, whom she had crowned, stood supine and indifferent, while French priests took the noble child, the most innocent, the most lovely, the most adorable the ages have produced, and burned her alive at the stake.

Joan of Arc Startles Mark Twain

Famous Joan of Arc Quotes:

“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”

“Of the love or hatred God has for the English, I know nothing, but I do know that they will all be thrown out of France, except those who die there.”

Question during trial: "Do you know if you are in the grace of God?" Answer: "If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God so keep me.

The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan, 2006, Excerpt
Christians have long believed that Joan’s motto was a reference to Christ and his mother because her banner said “Jhesus-Maria.” But it wasn’t. It was a reference to Christ and Mary Magdalene, which is why she hyphenated the name, to show them together. Jesus and his wife were Joan’s ancestors. ‘O Arc’ indicates she had some association with this region, Arques, yet she was born in Domremy. Joan of Arques – it’s a reference to her bloodline. Joan had visions, divine visions.

The English arrested Joan, but it was the French clergy who persecuted her and insisted on her death. Joan’s tormentor was a cleric called Cauchon. That’s a big joke, as ‘cochon’ means ‘pig’ in French. Well, it was that swine who extracted Joan’s confession and then twisted the evidence to force her martyrdom. Cauchon had to kill Joan before she was able to fulfill her role.

Just Kids by Patti Smith, 2010, Excerpt
On Memorial Day I took a bus to Philadelphia to visit the Joan of Arc statue near the Museum of Art. It had not been there when I first went with my family as a younger girl. How beautiful she looked astride her horse, raising her banner toward the sun, a teenage-girl who delivered her imperiled prince to his throne in Reims and struggled to free her country, only to be betrayed and burned at the stake on this day. Young Joan whom I had known through books and the child whom I would never know, I vowed to both of them that I would make something of myself, then headed back home, stopping in Camden at the Goodwill store to buy a long gray raincoat. 

Joan of Arc Music

Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc
as she came riding through the dark;
no moon to keep her armor bright,
no man to get her through this very smoky night.
She said, "I'm tired of the war,

Joan of Arc Movies [Netflix summaries followed with mammon reviews]

Joan of Arc (1948)
Ingrid Bergman was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her powerful rendition of the courageous French girl who led soldiers against the British in the 15th century. Instead of being lauded by the newly crowned king (Jose Ferrer, whose screen debut was nominated for Best Supporting Actor), Joan becomes the object of his suspicions, leading to her death.

Good contrast between the idealism of Joan the Maiden and that of a pampered dauphin king and his aristocratic class. Good portrayal of the trial, leaving a general feeling of disgust for the Church. Her suit of armor is a bit too much for the modest maiden, but it is a movie, plus a young Ingrid Bergman plays Joan. Interesting for the mature audience, boring for the younger audience.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) 
Director Luc Besson's visceral historical drama captures the life, moral convictions and death of the young French girl who came to be known as Joan of Arc (Milla Jovovich). Battling the enemies of France while propelled by heavenly visions, the teen who would become a saint is betrayed by King Charles of France (John Malkovich), who, after taking advantage of her military prowess, consigns her to be burned at the stake as a heretic.

Now here’s the Joan in battle with all the blood and gore, portraying her change from maiden to warrior. Malkovich plays the pampered King Charles well, with an honorable mention for his mother [Faye Dunaway] who knows the mind of the “common” people. Joan is portrayed as a maniacal young woman with a driven passion who knows how to scream at men to get their attention. Dustin Hoffman plays a role as her vision companion in her jail cell. Interesting dialogue questioning Joan whether her visions were real or not and questioning her morals and motives.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Widely considered director Carl Theodor Dreyer's finest achievement and one of the greatest movies of all time, this stunning emotional drama recounts the events surrounding Joan of Arc's 1431 heresy trial, burning at the stake and subsequent martyrdom. Maria Falconetti turns in a haunting performance as the young French saint. The film's original version, thought to have been lost to fire, was miraculously found in perfect condition in 1981.

Unless you’re a film student, this silent film may not be your cup of tea. The film is set during her trial, using intense facial shots of Jane, the Bishop, and other old creepy clergy guys to tell the story. As entertaining as it is to watch these flustered ole boys interrogating Jane with their twisted legalese doubletalk, after a while, the overly dramatic facial shots are a bit too much.

Joan of Arc (1999)
Leelee Sobieski (Deep Impact) shines as the legendary warrior, who, at 17, led one of the world's greatest campaigns for freedom. Supported by an all-star cast including Jacqueline Bisset, Neil Patrick Harris, Robert Loggia, Peter Strauss, Peter O'Toole, Maximilian Schell and Olympia Dukakis, this miniseries blends inspiration, triumph and tears for a compelling look at a martyred heroine.

This mini series was a real disappointment, though the cast of stars would say otherwise. A missed opportunity to produce a truly stunning portrayal of Joan.

Saint Joan by Bernard Shaw, 1924
Themes are political, religious, and feminist. This work deviated from the traditional ways Joan of Arc had been depicted. It was this play that led to his Nobel Prize for literature in 1925. If this play ever comes to the stage again, it would definitely be a must see. 

Restaurant Jeanne D’Arc takes you back to 15th century France, the time of Joan of Arc, replete with tapestries, statues, artifacts, and stained glass windows.

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