de Pizan, a French poetess and historian, was actually Italian by birth.
She was born in 1364 in Venice, the daughter of a famous physician and astrologer.
When she was 5 years old she moved to Paris with her father, and she was
educated in ancient language and literature. When she was fourteen, she
married a nobleman from Picardy, Etienne du Castel. The happy marriage was
cut short 11 years later when Etienne suddenly died. She resolved to make
a living writing poetry and literature. Perhaps her most famous work of
literature is The Book of the
City of Ladies, in which she
tells of a city filled with heroic and noble women of old, of biblical
times and of mythological origin.
Around 1417-1418, due to the horrible state of affairs in Paris, she moved
to an abbey where a daughter of hers had become a nun. She stayed there
for eleven years. In 1429, when Joan of Arc appeared, took back the Loire
River Valley, and led the dauphin to his coronation, she was so overcome
with joy that she composed Le
Ditie de Jehanne d'Arc, the Song
of Joan of Arc, 2 weeks after the coronation. The person she prayed for
who had come to deliver France from her enemies, Joan of Arc, was a simple
sheperdess girl, who had been given the utmost strength and courage by God,
strength and courage unequaled by people of old. At last, during her own
lifetime, a woman fit to be a resident of The
City of Ladies.
* My comments throughout the poem can be found in
Le Ditie de Jehanne
I, Christine, who have wept for eleven years in a closed abbey, where
I have lived ever since Charles(what a strange thing!), the king's son,
fled, if I dare say it, in haste from Paris, enclosed here because of
this treachery, I begin now for the first time to laugh.
I begin to laugh frankly with joy because winter is departing when I used
to stay sadly in my cage. But now that the good weather is back... I will
change my language from weeping into singing. I have well endured my share.
In 1429 the sun began to shine again. It brings back the good new season
which we had not really seen for a long time, which made many people live
in sorrow. But I no longer grieve over anything, for now I see what
But things have changed from great sorrow to new joy since the time I
came here to stay, and, thank God, the lovely new season I so desired,
the one called spring where everything renews itself, has turned dry land
All this because the cast out child of the legitimate king of France,
who has suffered for a long time great troubles and who now approaches,
rose up like one who goes to prime, coming as a crowned king, in wonderful
and great power, wearing spurs of gold.
Now let us celebrate our king! May he be welcomed on his return! Rejoice
at his noble appearance, let us all go, great and small - may no one hold
back - and joyfully greet him, praising God who has protected him and
loudly shout "Noel."
But now I want to tell how God has done all this by His grace. I
pray to him to give me guidance so that I won't omit anything. This
should be told everywhere, for it is worthy of memory and of being written
down - no matter who may be displeased - in chronicles and history books!
Now listen, throughout the world, to something more marvelous than anything!
See if God, in whom all grace abounds, does not support in the end that
which is right. This fact is noteworthy, in view of the case at
hand! May it be of value to those who are disappointed, those whom Fortune
has beaten down.
And note that no one should be dismayed by misfortune, when he sees himself
unjustly despised and attacked by everyone! See how Fortune, who has harmed
so many people, is always changing. For God, who takes a stand against
all wrong deeds, raises up those in whom hope lives on.
Who, then, has seen something so extraordinary occur - which should be
noted and remembered in all regions - that France, who in everyone's opinion
was defeated, has, by divine command, changed from evil to such great
and truly through such a miracle that, if the matter were not so well-known
and obvious in every way, no one would believe it? This is well
worth remembering: that God has wished to bestow His grace on France -
and this is true - through a tender virgin.
Oh, what an honor given to the french crown by this divine proof!
For by the grace He gives it it is obvious that he supports it and that
more than anywhere else He finds faith in the royal estate of which I
read - and there is nothing new in this - that the Lilies of France never
erred in the faith.
And you Charles, French king, seventh of that noble name, who waged a
great war before things changed for the better for you: But now, by God's
grace, see how your renown is exalted by the Maid, who has subjugated
your enemies under your flag - and this is something new -
In a short time; people thought that it was impossible that you would
ever get back your country which you were losing. Now it is clearly yours,
for against all those who harmed you, you have recovered it! And through
the clever Maid, who thank God has done her share!
I firmly believe that God would not bestow on you this grace if it were
not ordained by Him that you should, in the course of time, bring to fruition
and a good end a great and solemn task, and if it were not destined for
you to be the leader of the greatest events.
Stanzas 1-15 obviously comprise a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for
the new king and his long-awaited coronation. Joan wouldn't have a poem
about her any other way. :)
And you blessed Maid, should you be forgotten in all this? For God has
honored you so much that you undid the rope that held France tightly bound.
Could one praise you enough when you have given peace to this country
humiliated by war?
You, Joan, were born at a propitious hour, blessed be He who created you!
Maid, ordained by God, in whom the Holy Spirit(in whom there was and is
the greatest generosity with noble gifts) poured His great grace and never
refused any of your requests, how can we ever reward you?
How could one say more of anyone else or of the great deeds of the past?
Moses, on whom God in His generosity bestowed many blessings and virtues,
by a miracle led his people out of Egypt, without tiring of it.
In the same way you have led us from evil, elected Maid!
When we reflect on your person, you who are a young maid, to whom God
has given the strength and power to be a champion who gives to France
her breast of peace and sweet nourishment and cast down the rebels. See
how this goes beyond nature!
For if God performed so many miracles through Joshua who conquered so
many places and rousted so many enemies - he was a strong and powerful
man! But after all, a woman, a simple sheperdess, braver than any
man ever was in Rome! For God, this was an easy thing to do.
But for us, we never heard tell of such a great marvel, for all the brave
men from the past cannot measure up in prowess against this woman who
strives to cast out our enemies. But this is God's doing who counseled
her, who from him received more courage than any man.
We make much of Gideon, who was a simple laborer, so the story goes, God
made him fight, none could hold out against him, he conquered everything.
But whatever orders He gave him, He never did such a clear miracle as
He did in our case.
I have learned about Esther, Judith, and Deborah, worthy ladies, through
whom God restored his people which was so oppressed, and I also learned
about many others who were brave, but there was none through whom he has
performed a greater miracle than through the Maid.
She was sent by divine command, guided by God's angel to the king, in
his support. Her deeds are not an illusion, for she was well tested
in a council (we conclude that a thing is proved by its effect),
And before one wanted to believe her, and before it became known that
God sent her to the king she was led before clerks and wise men and was
well examined to see whether she spoke the truth. But one found
in history books that she was destined for these deeds.
For more than five hundred years ago, Merlin, the Sibyl, and Bede foresaw
her in their minds and put her into their writings and made prophecies
about her as the remedy for France. They said she would carry the
banner in French wars and they exactly predicted her deeds.
And her life in beauty, by my faith, shows that she is in God's grace,
and therefore one accords more faith to her deeds. For whatever
she does, she always has God before her eyes, whom she calls to, serves
and prays to in deed and word; nowhere does she let her faith decrease.
Oh, how clear was this at the siege of Orleans where her power first appeared!
No miracle, I believe, was ever clearer, for God helped His people so
much that the enemies were as helpless as dead dogs. There they
were captured and put to death.
Oh, what an honor to the female sex! That God loves it is clear with all
these wretched people and traitors who laid waste the whole kingdom cast
out and the realm elevated and restored by a woman - something a hundred
thousand men could not have done! Before, one would not have believed
A young girl of sixteen years(is this not something beyond nature?), to
whom arms seem weightless, she seems to have been brought up for this,
she is so strong and hardy. And the enemies flee before her, not one can
last in front of her. She does this, with many eyes looking on,
And rids France of her enemies, recapturing castles and towns. Never
was there such great strength, not in a hundred or a thousand men.
And she is the supreme leader of our brave and skilled people. Neither
Hector nor Achilles had such great strength! But all this God does who
And you, trusty men-at-arms who do the deeds and prove yourselves good
and loyal, one should certainly mention you(you will be praised for it
in all countries!) And speak of you above all else, and of your courage,
You who in such harsh pain risk blood, body, and life for justice and
dare to go forward in such great peril. Be constant, for I promise
you, for this you will receive glory and praise in heaven. For I
dare say, whoever fights for justice will win Paradise.
And so you English, lower your horns, for you will never find good game!
Don't carry on with your nonsense in France! You are checkmated, something
you would not have thought possible recently when you seemed so threatening;
but then you were not yet on the path where God cuts down the proud.
You thought you had already conquered France, and that she would be yours
forever. Things have turned out differently, you false people! You'll
have to beat your drums elsewhere if you do not want people to taste death
like your companions whom the wolves may well devour, for they lie dead
in the fields.
And may it be known that she will cast down the English, there will be
no getting up, for this is the will of God who hears the voices of the
good people whom they wanted to harm! The blood of those forever dead
cries out against them. God will no longer stand for this, but condemn
them as evil - this is decided.
In Christendom and the Church harmony will reign through her. She
will destroy the unbelievers one talks about and the heretics with their
vile ways, for thus it is prophesied; she will have no pity for any place
where one speaks ill of God.
There was talk of Joan leading a crusade after the war against the new
"proto-protestant" sect formed by Jan Huss, the Hussites. The
records show that she most likely did not like any of the new protestant
She will destroy the Saracens, by conquering the Holy Land. There she
will lead Charles, whom God may protect! Before he dies he will make this
trip, he is the one who will conquer it. There she will end her
life, and both will gain glory. There things will be fulfilled.
There was also talk of Joan participating in another crusade to take back
the Holy Land from the Muslims after the war. Obviously, Joan did not
live long enough to undertake either of these exploits.
Therefore, above all the brave men of the past she must wear the crown,
for her deeds show clearly that God has given her more courage than all
those men one talks about. And she has not finished yet! I believe that
she is God's gift to those of us on earth, so that through her deeds peace
may be made.
And destroying the English is the least of her worries, for her desires
lie rather elsewhere: to guard against the destruction of the Faith.
As for the English, whether one laughs or cries about it, they are done
for. One will mock them in times to come. They have been vanquished!
And all you lowly rebels who make common cause with them, now you can
see that you should have gone forward rather than backward and become
the serfs of the English. Watch out that nothing else will happen
to you (for you have been tolerated long enough), and think well about
the end result!
Don't you realize, you blind people, that God has a hand in this? Those
who don't see this are truly stupid, for how could this Maid have been
sent to us in this way, she who strikes all of you down dead? You do not
have sufficient strength! Do you want to go into combat against God?
Has she not led the king with her hand to his coronation? Greater
things were not done before Acre. There as well, were many obstacles.
But in spite of everyone he was received there gloriously and duly anointed,
and there he heard Mass.
With great triumph and display of power was Charles crowned at Rheims.
In the year 1429, without a doubt, he was there safe and sound, in the
midst of many men-at-arms and barons, right on the seventeenth day of
July. His sojourn there was five days,
And he stayed with the little Maid. As he returns through his lands,
no city, castle, or small town remains unconquered. Whether he is
loved or hated, whether the inhabitants are overwhelmed or reassured,
they all surrender. No need to attack, they fear his power so much!
I don't know if Paris will hold up (for they have not arrived there yet),
nor whether it is prepared for the Maid. But if it makes her its enemy
I'm afraid she will attack it harshly, as she has done elsewhere.
If they resist for an hour, or even half an hour, they will be in trouble,
for the king will enter it - whether they like it or not! The Maid has
promised him that much. Paris, do you think the Burgundians will keep
him from entering? They won't, for he does not present himself as their
enemy. No one has the power to prevent it, and you and your presumption
will be subdued!
Oh, Paris, you have received bad advice! Foolish inhabitants without confidence!
Would you rather be cast out than make peace with your prince? If you
don't watch out your great contrariness will surely destroy you! You'd
be much better off if you humbly begged for mercy. You are making a mistake!
I am speaking about the bad inhabitants, for there are also many good
ones, I have no doubt. But they don't dare to speak out. I
am sure that it displeases them that one has cast down their prince like
that. These people will not have deserved the punishment Paris is
heading for, where many will lose their lives.
And you, all you rebel towns, and you people who have rejected your lord,
you men and women who have renounced him for another, may everything be
settled in peace, with you seeking his forgiveness. For if you are subdued
by force, his generosity will come too late for you.
And to avoid killing and wounding people he waits as long as he can, for
it saddens him to spill blood. But, finally, if people won't give up peacefully
what is rightfully his, if he recovers it by force and bloodshed, he does
Alas, he is so generous that he wants to pardon everyone. And the
Maid, following God's commands, makes him do this, give yourselves and
your hearts to him as loyal Frenchmen! And when the news are spread, you
will not be blamed by anyone.
I pray to God that He will put it in your hearts to act this way, so that
the cruel tempest of these wars will be obliterated, and that you can
spend your lives in peace, under your supreme ruler, and that you may
never offend him, and that he may be a good lord to you. Amen.
This poem was finished by Christine in the above-mentioned year 1429,
on the day that ends July. But I understand that some people will
not be satisfied with its contents, for if one's head is lowered and one's
eyes are heavy one cannot look at the light.
Here ends a most beautiful poem written by Christine.
and Kevin Brownlee. The
Selected Writings of Christine de Pizan: New Translations, Criticism (Norton
New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1997)