A Celebration of Women Writers

"Gertrude, Or Fidelity Till Death" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 55-60.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 55] 

GERTRUDE,
OR FIDELITY TILL DEATH.


The Baron Von Der Wart, accused, though it is believed unjustly, as an accomplice in the assassination of the Emperor Albert, was bound alive on the wheel, and attended by his wife Gertrude, throughout his last agonizing hours, with the most heroic devotedness. Her own sufferings, with those of her unfortunate husband, are most affectingly described in a letter which she afterwards addressed to a female friend, and which was published some years ago, at Haarlem, in a book entitled "Gertrude Von Der Wart, or Fidelity unto Death."


[Page 56] 

GERTRUDE, OR FIDELITY TILL DEATH.


                 Dark lowers our fate,
And terrible the storm that gathers o'er us;
But nothing, till that latest agony
Which severs thee from nature, shall unloose
This fix'd and sacred hold. In thy dark prison-house,
In the terrific face of armed law,
Yea, on the scaffold, if it needs must be,
I never will forsake thee.
                                                   JOANNA BAILLIE.

HER hands were clasp'd, her dark eyes rais'd,
  The breeze threw back her hair;
Up to the fearful wheel she gaz'd–
  All that she lov'd was there.

[Page 57] 

The night was round her clear and cold,
  The holy heaven above,
Its pale stars watching to behold
  The might of earthly love.

"And bid me not depart," she cried,
  "My Rudolph, say not so!
This is no time to quit thy side,
  Peace, peace! I cannot go.
Hath the world aught for me to fear,
  When death is on thy brow?
The world!–what means it?–mine is here
  I will not leave thee now.

"I have been with thee in thine hour
  Of glory and of bliss;
Doubt not its memory's living power
  To strengthen me thro' this!

[Page 58] 

And thou, mine honour'd love and true,
  Bear on, bear nobly on!
We have the blessed heaven in view,
  Whose rest shall soon be won."

And were not these high words to flow
  From woman's breaking heart?
Thro' all that night of bitterest woe
  She bore her lofty part;
But oh! with such a glazing eye,
  With such a curdling cheek–
Love, love! of mortal agony,
  Thou, only thou, should'st speak!

The wind rose high–but with it rose
  Her voice, that he might hear:
Perchance that dark hour brought repose
  To happy bosoms near;

[Page 59] 

While she sat striving with despair
  Beside his tortured form,
And pouring her deep soul in prayer
  Forth on the rushing storm.

She wiped the death-damps from his brow
  With her pale hands and soft,
Whose touch upon the lute-chords low
  Had still'd his heart so oft.
She spread her mantle o'er his breast,
  She bath'd his lips with dew,
And on his cheek such kisses press'd
  As hope and joy ne'er knew.

Oh! lovely are ye, Love and Faith,
  Enduring to the last!
She had her meed–one smile in death–
  And his worn spirit pass'd.

[Page 60] 

While ev'n as o'er a martyr's grave
  She knelt on that sad spot,
And, weeping, bless'd the God who gave
  Strength to forsake it not!

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom