The Maid of Orleans

A villanelle on Joan of Arc

As I gazed at the flames of the fire
my heart, with all there that day, broke –
such strength could not help but inspire.

A young woman burnt as a liar
bound to a stake made of oak,
as I gazed at the flames of the fire.

On fictitious charges they tried her,
wouldn’t hear the defense that she spoke.
Such strength couldn’t help but inspire.

Jesus name and the saints’ she let fly, her
words rose to heaven with the smoke
as I gazed at the flames of the fire.

Her inspiration and desire
were freedom from the English yoke –
such strength couldn’t help but inspire.

After this, surely none could deny her,
saint and heroine of the French folk.
As I gazed at the flames of the fire
such strength couldn’t help but inspire.



My first is in tick and also in tock.
My second’s in minutes, but not in clock.
My third is in moments and millennia.
My fourth is in eons and also era.

I watch worlds being born, grow old, wither and die,
I can seem to stand still, or, without wings, to fly.
I was at the beginning; I’ll be at the end,
I may be your companion, but never your friend.

What am I?


Nicky Hetherington lives in Mid-Wales UK where she writes and performs her poems, as well as working in the Education sector. Nicky has had poems published in UK magazines including Iota and Earth Love as well as winning the Poetry Prize in the Oriel Davies Open Writing Competition 2017 and 2nd Prize in the Writing Magazine’s Haiku competition. She has published a collection entitled Cultivating Caterpillars which is available to order from her website at

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5 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    The Maid of Orleans is very powerful.

    The answer to the riddle I’m guessing is time.

  2. Bruce Edward Wren

    Love that first villanelle. Here are two I wrote also concerning the Maid of Orleans:

    With Jehanne, at Le Crotoy

    Why did you hurl me here, oh Lord,
    Upon this rocky promontory?
    I am no snake or wingless bird.
    What a silly, silly, silly story.

    And why set her upon this rock,
    After a bit of life and glory?
    She was no Prometheus on the block.
    What a silly, silly, silly story.

    With Jehanne, at Le Crotoy
    (Two years later)

    Jehanne heard the crying of the gulls
    Over this bare and empty bay,
    And watched the tide arrive and go,
    Her heart filled up with yesterday.

    It was the first and only time
    Her boundless heart met with the sea.
    They must have echoed long in her
    The wind and waves’ impunity.

    And from her English prison, green
    From ocean wind and spray and sand,
    She surely moaned her lonely song
    That matched the crying of her land.

    Now that it’s I who watch the shore
    And moan aloud against the waves,
    And cry against the paling sun,
    The butt of every English knave,

    Shall I, upon this slakèd shore
    Between her prison and the bay
    She must have crossed to go to die,
    Shall I refuse to walk that way?

    O cry for us, you soaring gulls
    Who, rising, cry so near to me
    And float upon the heavy air,
    A thousand-wingèd canopy.

    Eternity and time you cry
    For kindred souls upon this bay:
    We watch the tide, then rise and go,
    Our hearts filled up with yesterday!

  3. James Sale

    A fine villanelle despite Nicky having a go at the English! But we need to keep in mind that it was only fair at the time. After all, the Norman conquest of England in 1066 was what? The Frenchies suppressing the English for several hundred years! So it was in time their own royal progeny kicking back at them as they re-invaded where they’d come from. What could be fairer than that?

  4. Joan Carol Fullmore

    The Maid of Orleans is my patron saint I am proud to say. Just think – her heart was so pure it didn’t burn up in the fire! Love your poem.

  5. James A. Tweedie

    I stood on that spot in Rouen last summer, next to the modern church built on the site of the one destroyed during the post-D-Day allied bombing. Today the neighborhood is a festive one, with restaurants and cafes frequented by locals as well as tourists. I enjoyed the riddle and, although I have never been particularly inspired by Ste. Jeanne d’Arc, your own love for her courage and faith, along with your celebration of her life and sacrifice are well-framed in your fine poem.


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