Felicia Dorothea Hemans

(25 September 1793 – 16 May 1835 / Liverpool, England)

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.

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!

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;

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.

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!

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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