As the first poem to have been composed – in any language – on Jeanne d’Arc, the only major one to have been written while Jeanne was still alive, and the last from the pen of a distinguished poetess, the Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc has unique claims to fame. The extrinsic value of the Ditié as an historical document is self-evident.
It was completed on 31 July 1429, in the midst of continuing successes on the part of the French army which had just taken Château-Thierry, on 29 July. With the brilliant victory at Orléans and the coronation at Rheims now behind them, Jeanne and Charles VII were expected to enter Paris at any moment, defeat the Anglo-Burgundian forces and thus bring to an end the long years of foreign occupation and civil strife.
What gives Christine’s poem its unique ‘documentary’ value is the fact that it vividly captures not only the surge of optimism and triumph that swept through the whole of the French camp at this time, but also the sense of wonder and gratitude which all loyal Frenchmen must have felt at the miraculous intervention of divine Providence in the person of Jeanne.
The Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc is Christine’s last surviving work and, two complete fifteenth-century manuscript versions of the poem are known, and one incomplete version which could be from the late fifteenth century but is more likely to be from the sixteenth century.
Christine de Pizan–Medieval Defender of Women
Christine de Pizan (1364-1431) was a late medieval French woman who may have been the first woman in history to make a living by writing. She is famous for a number of works of literature, but she is best known for her literary defenses of women. After the disastrous Battle of Agincourt in 1415, she retired to a convent.
Her last work, Le Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc (written in 1429), is a lyrical, joyous outburst inspired by the early victories of Jeanne d’Arc; it is the only such French-language work written during Jeanne’s lifetime.