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The Legend of Lady Gertrude

Ada Cambridge 1844 (St Germans, Norfolk) – 1926 (Melbourne)



I.
Fallen the lofty halls, where vassal crowds
Drank in the dawn of Gertrude's natal day.
The dungeon roof an Alpine snow-wreath shrouds,
The strong, wild eagle's eyrie in the clouds—
The robber-baron's nest—is swept away.

II.
Bare is the mountain brow of lordly towers;
Only the sunbeams stay, the moon and stars,
The faithful saxifrage and gentian flowers,
The silvery mist, and soft, white, crystal showers,
And torrents rushing through their rocky bars.

III.
More than three hundred years ago, the flag
Charged with that dread device, an Alpine bear—
By many storm-winds rent—a grim, grey rag—
Floated above the castle on the crag,
Above the last whose heads were shelter'd there.

IV.
He was the proudest of an ancient race,
The fiercest of the robber chieftain's band,
That haughty Freiherr, with the iron face:
And she—his lady-sister, by God's grace—
The sweetest, gentlest maiden in the land.

V.
'Twas a rude nest for such a tender bird,
That lonely fortress, with its warrior-lord.
Aye drunken revels the night-stillness stirred;
From morn till eve the battle-cries were heard,
The sound of jingling spur and clanking sword.

VI.
And Lady Gertrude was both young and fair,

A mark for lawless hearts and roving eyes,—
With sweet, grave face, and amber-tinted hair,
And a low voice soft-thrilling through the air,
Filling it full of subtlest melodies.

VII.
But the great baron, proudest of his line,
Fetter'd, with jealous care, his white dove's wing;
Guarded his treasure in an inner shrine,
Till such a day as knightly hands should twine
Her slender fingers with the marriage-ring.

VIII.
From all her household rights was she debarred—
Her chair and place within the castle-hall,
Her palfrey's saddle in the castle-yard,
Her nursing ministries when blows fell hard
In border struggles—she was kept from all.

IX.
A stone-paved chamber, and the parapet
Opening above its winding turret-stair;
The castle-chapel, where few men were met,—
Round these the brother's boundaries were set.
The sweet child-sister was so very fair!

X.
She had her faithful nurse, her doves, her lute,
Her broidery and her distaff, and the hound—
Best prized of all—the grand, half-human brute,
Who aye watched near her, beautiful and mute,
With ears love-quicken'd, listening from the ground.

XI.
But the wild bird, so honourably caged,
Grew sick and sad in its captivity;
Longed—like those hills which time nor storm had aged,
And those deep glens where Danube waters raged—
In God's own wind and sunshine to be free.

XII.
And on a day, when she had seen them ride,
Baron and troopers, on some border raid,
Wooed by the glory of the summer tide,
The hound's soft-slouching footstep at her side,
Adown the valley Lady Gertrude stray'd.

XIII.
Adown the crag, whose shadow, still and black,
Lay like the death-sleep on a mountain pool;
Through rocky glen, by silvery torrent's track,
Through forest glade, 'neath wild vines, fluttering back
From softest zephyr kisses, green and cool.

XIV.
E'en till the woods and hamlets down below,
And summer meadows, were all broad and clear;
The river, moving statelily and slow,
A crimson ribbon in the sunset glow—
The dim, white, distant city strangely near.

XV.
She sat her down, a-weary, on the ground,
With tremulous long-drawn breath and wistful eyes;
Caress'd the velvet muzzle of the hound,
And listen'd vainly for some little sound
To come up from her world of mysteries.

XVI.
She had forgotten of the time and place,
When clank of warrior's harness smote her dream.
A growl, a spring, a shadow on her face,
And one strode up, with slow and stately pace,
And stood before her in the soft sun-gleam.

XVII.
An armèd knight, in noblest knightly guise,
From golden spur to golden dragon-crest;
Through open vizor gazing with surprise
Into the fair, flush'd face and startled eyes,
While horse and hound stood watchfully at rest.

XVIII.
The sun went down, and, with long, stealthy stride,
The shadows came, blurring the summer light;
And there was none the lady's step to guide
Up the lost pathway on the mountain-side—
None to protect her but this stranger knight!

XIX.
He placed her gently on his dappled grey,
Clothed in his mantle—for the air was chill;
He led her all the long and devious way,
Through glens, where starless night held royal sway,
And vine-tressed woodlands, where the leaves w
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Ada Cambridge

Ada Cambridge, later known as Ada Cross, was an English-born Australian writer. She wrote more than 25 works of fiction, three volumes of poetry and two autobiographical works. Many of her novels were serialised in Australian newspapers but never published in book form. While she was known to friends and family by her married name, Ada Cross, her newspaper readers knew her as A. C.. She later reverted to her maiden name, Ada Cambridge, and that is how she is known today.  more…

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