The Spirit of the Nation/The Patriot's Wife

The Spirit of the Nation
The Patriot's Wife by Clericus (Charles Patrick Meehan)


There is a tradition amongst the Swiss of the Canton of Uri, that the wife of the tyrant Gessler, disgusted at the atrocities perpetrated by her husband, fled him, and as she was of Swiss extraction, made a vow never to return to him. The tyrant, however, succeeded in capturing her; and the following verses record the dialogue, which is often repeated by the Swiss hearth, when the peasant recounts to his children the glories and achievements of William Tell.

"How changed art thou since last we met!
Thy brow is wan—thy smile is cold;
Stern grief her seal has on thee set—
Thou art not what thou wert of old!

"No joy now flashes from that eye,
Which once around shed charms of light;
That voice once sweet can now but sigh:
Oh, Heavens! whence came this sudden blight?

"Say wilt thou tell?—great God! how strange
That beauty thus could pass away,
And mirth to deepest sorrow change
More quickly than the tomb's decay!

"Yes; tell me if the memory lives
Of early loves and sun-bright years—
If thought but one faint flickering gives—
Whence all these woes and burning tears?"

"Nay, do not ask—to tell were vain—
My grief not Heaven itself can 'suage;
Nor seraph's breath could cool my pain,
Nor quench my bosom's burning rage.

"My country, prey to tyrant bands—
Her glories gone—her brave ones dead—
Her daughter slain by traitor's hands—
And ask'st thou why my joy is sped?

"'Fore Heaven, I prize this faded form,
E'en in its ghastly features, more
Than when thou won it young and warm,
And it alone to worship swore.

"For now I make thee, tyrant, tremble
O'er all the ruin thou hast made;
In vain thou seekest to dissemble—
Oh! curse thy bloody heart and blade.

"And cursed may her ashes be
Who basely sold my maiden hand
To him who crushed our liberty,
And drowned in blood my fatherland."