"Tomorrow Let Us Do Or Die!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Gertrude of Wyoming was the most popular of those literary ballads for which the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell is known. The Wyoming here referred to is not the State but a colonial settlement in Pennsylvania, located in a valley of the same name. During the American Revolution most of the men who lived there joined the Continental Army; those who remained were attacked by British troops and Indians, and Forty Fort near Wilkes-Barre, in which they had taken refuge, was captured by the enemy after a desperate battle fought on July 3, 1778. The defenders were outnumbered 1100 to 400, were mostly old men and boys, and about two-thirds were killed; many of those captured were tortured by the Indians. The valley was devastated. Most of its inhabitants had to flee the region, and they endured severe hardships. Using this historical background as a framework, Campbell builds the romantic story of an earthly paradise and of a beautiful girl who lives there with her widowed father, Albert. They are visited by Outalissi, chief of the Oneidas, who brings them young Henry Waldegrave, orphaned son of an old friend. Outalissi had saved Henry from the Hurons. The boy, about Gertrude's age, remains with them three years; relatives then call him home to England and he and the girl are grown when he returns. They fall in love and are married. After three idyllic months, war breaks out; Henry must leave to serve in the Revolutionary Army. Before he can depart, the now aged Outalissi arrives to tell them that Brandt and his Mohawks have wiped out the Oneidas and are coming to destroy the valley. They retire to the fort, but both Albert and Gertrude are killed by enemy bullets before they can enter. After their burial, Henry lies weeping on his wife's grave; and old Outalissi, knowing none are likely to survive the next day's battle, sings his own death song:

"And I could weep;"–th' Oneyda chief
His descant wildly thus begun;
"But that I may not stain with grief
The death-song of my father's son!
. . .
But thee, my flow'r, whose breath was giv'n
By milder genii o'er the deep,
The spirits of the white man's heav'n
Forbid not thee to weep:
Nor will the Christian host,
Nor will thy father's spirit grieve,
To see thee, on the battle's eve,
Lamenting, take a mournful leave
Of her who lov'd thee most:
She was the rainbow to thy sight!
Thy sun–thy heav'n–of lost delight!
. . .
Tomorrow let us do or die!"