Promising not to get married was a crucial moment in the life of Anna Maria. Words spoken at a deathbed carry a lot of weight. If we keep in mind how many books with ‘last [deathbed] words’ were published and read, then we may understand how binding a promise made at a deathbed was. She kept her promise and devoted herself to her thirst for knowledge. Henceforth she would hide behind the motto of the martyr Ignatius of Antioch, ‘my love has been crucified’, a motto that referred to both celibacy and the crucified Jesus. Van Schurman would always write this motto as a kind of personal symbol near her signature in alba amicorum [friendship albums] or on multilingual pages, like two halves of one and the same stone. Sometimes she also wrote poems based on her motto. In one such poem it appears that she was confused by a marriage proposal. She wrote the German poem ‘Wält tobe wie du wült’ on a papercutting maze of hearts and crosses. After the way through the labyrinth has been completed, a beautiful, concise poem with four stanzas appears, with the refrain: ‘Although world and passion still tempt me/ my love remains crucified’ [‘ob mich schohn wält und wohl-lust reizet /bleibt meine libe doch gekreuzet’] – a variation on her personal motto:
World, rage and storm as you may
My soul yet remains unmoved
my mind, my heart and my feelings
are never bewitched by your guile.
Although world and passion still tempt me
my love remains crucified.
[Wält tobe wi du wült und wühte
Mein zihl bleibt dännoch unverrückt,
mein sün, mein härtz und mein gemühte
sein nih von deiner lust entzükt.
Ob mich schohn wält und wohl-lust reizet
bleibt meine libe doch gekreuzet.]
From: Pieta van Beek
The first female university student: Anna Maria van Schurman (1636) more