Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
Records of Women (1828)
Gertrude; or, Fidelity till Death
By Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793–1835)
          [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 agonising 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.]
                    “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.”

HER hands were clasp’d, her dark eyes raised
  The breeze threw back her hair;
Up to the fearful wheel she gazed—
  All that she loved was there.
The night was round her clear and cold,        5
  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!        10
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        15
  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 through this!        20
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        25
  From woman’s breaking heart?
Through all that night of bitterest woe
  She bore her lofty part;
But oh! with such a glazing eye,
  With such a curdling cheek—        30
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        35
  To happy bosoms near;
While she sat striving with despair
  Beside his tortured form,
And pouring her deep soul in prayer
  Forth on the rushing storm.        40
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,        45
  She bathed his lips with dew,
And on his cheek such kisses pressed
  As hope and joy ne’er knew.
Oh! lovely are ye, Love and Faith,
  Enduring to the last!        50
She had her meed—one smile in death—
  And his worn spirit pass’d!
While even as o’er a martyr’s grave
  She knelt on that sad spot,
And, weeping, blessed the God who gave        55
  Strength to forsake it not.

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