Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
A Northern Vigil
By Bliss Carman (1861–1929)
 
HERE by the grey north sea,
In the wintry heart of the wild,
Comes the old dream of thee,
Guendolen, mistress and child.
 
The heart of the forest grieves        5
In the drift against my door;
A voice is under the eaves,
A footfall on the floor.
 
Threshold, mirror, and hall,
Vacant and strangely aware,        10
Wait for their soul’s recall
With the dumb expectant air.
 
Here when the smouldering west
Burns down into the sea,
I take no heed of rest        15
And keep the watch for thee.
 
I sit by the fire and hear
The restless wind go by,
On the long dirge and drear,
Under the low bleak sky.        20
 
When day puts out to sea
And night makes in for land,
There is no lock for thee,
Each door awaits thy hand!
 
When night goes over the hill        25
And dawn comes down the dale,
It ’s O for the wild sweet will
That shall no more prevail!
 
When the zenith moon is round,
And snow-wraiths gather and run,        30
And there is set no bound
To love beneath the sun,
 
O wayward will, come near
The old mad wilful way,
The soft mouth at my ear        35
With words too sweet to say!
 
Come, for the night is cold,
The ghostly moonlight fills
Hollow and rift and fold
Of the eerie Ardise hills!        40
 
The windows of my room
Are dark with bitter frost,
The stillness aches with doom
Of something loved and lost.
 
Outside, the great blue star        45
Burns in the ghostland pale,
Where giant Algebar
Holds on the endless trail.
 
Come, for the years are long
And silence keeps the door,        50
Where shapes with the shadows throng
The firelit chamber floor.
 
Come, for thy kiss was warm,
With the red embers’ glare
Across thy folding arm        55
And dark tumultuous hair!
 
And though thy coming rouse
The sleep-cry of no bird,
The keepers of the house
Shall tremble at thy word.        60
 
Come, for the soul is free!
In all the vast dreamland
There is no lock for thee,
Each door awaits thy hand.
 
Ah, not in dreams at all,        65
Fleering, perishing, dim,
But thy old self, supple and tall,
Mistress and child of whim!
 
The proud imperious guise,
Impetuous and serene,        70
The sad mysterious eyes,
And dignity of mien!
 
Yea, wilt thou not return,
When the late hill-winds veer,
And the bright hill-flowers burn        75
With the reviving year?
 
When April comes, and the sea
Sparkles as if it smiled,
Will they restore to me
My dark Love, empress and child?        80
 
The curtains seem to part;
A sound is on the stair,
As if at the last … I start;
Only the wind is there.
 
Lo, now far on the hills        85
The crimson fumes uncurl’d,
Where the caldron mantles and spills
Another dawn on the world!
 
 
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