The World’s Best English Epic Poetry – Southey’s Joan of Arc

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The world’s best English epic and narrative poetry includes Southey‘s Joan of Arc.

It is the early fifteenth century, towards the close of the Hundred Years’ War. English mercenaries burn, loot and pillage their way across vast tracts of the hopelessly divided Kingdom of France. France’s King Charles the VI is dead, and his son – the Dauphin (later King Charles VII), was despondent, demoralised, and still uncrowned. In fact, things were getting even worse: the Dauphin was now effectively a refugee within his own country, uncertain whether he would ever be crowned King of France: given the strong claims belligerently put forward by the English Regent on behalf of King Henry VI. If the English claim succeeded: all of France would quickly become an appanage of the overseas monarch. France would become a permanent fiefdom of foreign overlords.

Such was the ominous background in 1428, as strong English forces beseiged Orléans on its strategic position by the Loire: Orléans being one of the few cities remaining loyal to the Dauphin. Both sides predicted Orléans’ fall. But then, that was before the arrival of a young country girl named Joan – armed with a personal call from God. Alone amongst experienced generals and war-weary diplomats, Joan prophesied an upcoming French victory.

The miracle was: that people began to believe her.

  • How can a naive peasant girl turn around the despairing fortunes of the beaten, demoralised, and losing armies of France?
  • Can the deeds of the weak and the ignorant really surpass those of the strong and the mighty?

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Joan of Arc

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