Ballads of Lost Haven: A Book of the Sea

by Bliss Carman


 

THE YULE GUEST


 

AND Yanna by the yule log
Sat in the empty hall,
And watched the goblin firelight
Caper upon the wall:

The goblins of the hearthstone,

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Who teach the wind to sing,
Who dance the frozen yule away
And usher back the spring;

The goblins of the Northland,
Who teach the gulls to scream,

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Who dance the autumn into dust,
The ages into dream.

Like the tall corn was Yanna,
Bending and smooth and fair,
His Yanna of the sea-gray eyes

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And harvest-yellow hair.

Child of the low-voiced people
Who dwell among the hills,
She had the lonely calm and poise
Of life that waits and wills.

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Only to-night a little
With grave regard she smiled,
Remembering the morn she woke
And ceased to be a child.

Outside, the ghostly rampikes,

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Those armies of the moon,
Stood while the ranks of stars drew on
To that more spacious noon,—

While over them in silence
Waved on the dusk afar

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The gold flags of the Northern light
Streaming with ancient war.

And when below the headland
The riders of the foam
Up from the misty border rode

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The wild gray horses home,

And woke the wintry mountains
With thunder on the shore,
Out of the night there came a weird
And cried at Yanna’s door.

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"O Yanna, Adrianna,
They buried me away
In the blue fathoms of the deep,
Beyond the outer bay.

"But in the yule, O Yanna,

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Up from the round dim sea
And reeling dungeons of the fog,
I am come back to thee!"

The wind slept in he forest,
The moon was white and high,

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Only the shifting snow awoke
To hear the yule guest cry.

"O Yanna, Yanna, Yanna,
Be quick and let me in!
For bitter is the trackless way

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And far that I have been!"

Then Yanna by the yule log
Starts from her dream to hear
A voice that bids her brooding heart
Shudder with joy and fear.

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The wind is up a moment
And whistles at the eaves,
And in his troubled iron dream
The ocean moans and heaves.

She trembles at the door-lock

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That he is come again,
And frees the wooden bolt for one
No barrier could detain.

"O Garvin, bonny Garvin,
So late, so late you come!"

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The yule log crumbles down and throws
Strange figures on the gloom;

But in the moonlight pouring
Through the half-open door
Stands the gray guest of yule and casts

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No shadow on the floor.

The change that is upon him
She knows not in her haste;
About him her strong arms with glad
Impetuous tears are laced.

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She’s led him to the fireside,
And set the wide oak chair,
And with her warm hands brushed away
The sea-rime from his hair.

"O Garvin, I have waited,—

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Have watched the red sun sink,
And clouds of sail come flocking in
Over the world’s gray brink,"

With stories of encounter
On plank and mast and spar;

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But never the brave barque I launched
And waved across the bar.

"How come you so unsignalled,
When I have watched so well?
Where rides the Adrianna

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With my name on boat and bell?"

"O Yanna, golden Yanna,
The Adrianna lies
With the sea dredging through her ports,
The white sand through her eyes.

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"And strange unearthly creatures
Make marvel of her hull,
Where far below the gulfs of storm
There is eternal lull.

"O Yanna, Adrianna,

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This midnight I am here,
Because one night of all my life
At yule tide of the year,

"With the stars white in heaven,
And peace upon the sea,

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With all my world in your white arms
You gave yourself to me.

"For that one night, my Yanna,
Within the dying year,
Was it not well to love, and now

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Can it be well to fear?"

"O Garvin, there is heartache
In tales that are half told;
But ah, thy cheek is pale to-night,
And thy poor hands are cold!

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"Tell me the course, the voyage,
The ports, and the new stars;
Did the long rollers make green surf
On the white reefs and bars?"

"O Yanna, Adrianna,

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Though easily I found
The set of those uncharted tides
In seas no line could sound,

"And made without a pilot
The port without a light,
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No log keeps tally of the knots
That I have sailed to-night.

"It fell about mid-April;
The Trades were holding free;
We drove her till the scuppers hissed

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And buried in the lee.

"O Yanna, Adrianna,
Loose hands and let me go!
The night grows red along the East,
And in the shifting snow

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"I hear my shipmates calling,
Sent out to search for me
In the pale lands beneath the moon
Along the troubling sea."

"O Garvin, bonny Garvin,

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What is the booming sound
Of canvas, and the piping shrill,
As when a ship comes round?"

"It is the shadow boatswain
Piping his hands to bend

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The looming sails on giant yards
Aboard the Nomansfriend.

"She sails for Sunken Harbor
And ports of yester year;
The tern are shrilling in the lift,

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The low wind-gates are clear.

"O Yanna, Adrianna,
The little while is done.
Thou wilt behold the brightening sea
Freshen before the sun,

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"And many a morning redden
The dark hill slopes of pine;
But I must sail hull-down to-night
Below the gray sea-line.

"I shall not hear the snowbirds

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Their morning litany,
For when the dawn comes over dale
I must put out to sea."

"O Garvin, bonny Garvin,
To have thee as I will,

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I would that never more on earth
The dawn came over hill."

Then on the snowy pillow,
Her hair about her face,
He laid her in the quiet room,

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And wiped away all trace

Of tears from the poor eyelids
That were so sad for him,
And soothed her into sleep at last
As the great stars grew dim.

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Tender as April twilight
He sang, and the song grew
Vague as the dreams which roam about
This world of dust and dew:

"O Yanna, Adrianna,

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Dear Love, look forth to sea
And all year long until the yule,
Dear Heart, keep watch for me!

"O Yanna, Adrianna,
I hear the calling sea,

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And the folk telling tales among
The hills where I would be.

"O Yanna, Adrianna,
Over the hills of sea
The wind calls and the morning comes,

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And I must forth from thee.

"But Yanna, Adrianna,
Keep watch above the sea;
And when the weary time is o’er,
Dear Life, come back to me!"

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"O Garvin, bonny Garvin—"
She murmurs in her dream,
And smiles a moment in her sleep
To hear the white gulls scream.

Then with the storm foreboding

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Far in the dim gray South,
He kissed her not upon the cheek
Nor on the burning mouth,

But once above the forehead
Before he turned away;

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And ere the morning light stole in,
That golden lock was gray.

"O Yanna, Adrianna—"
The wind moans to the sea;
And down the sluices of the dawn

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A shadow drifts alee.