The Song of the Willi.

A Ballad.


The wild wind is whistling o’er moorland and heather,1
Heigho, heigho !2
I rise from my bed, and my bed has no feather,3
Heigho, heigho !4
My bed is deep down in the brown sullen mould,5
My head is laid low on the clod ;6
So wormy the sheets, and the pillow so cold7
Of clammy and moist clinging sod.8


The lone livid moon rideth high up in heaven,9
Heigho, heigho !10
The stars’ cutting glitter their dull shrouds hath riven,11
Heigho, heigho !12
I rise and I glide out far into the night,13
A shadow so swift and so still ;14
Bleak, bleak is the moonshine all ghastly and white,15
The dank morass drinketh its fill.16


And down in yon valley, in wan vapour shrinking,17
Heigho, heigho !18
The bare moated town cowers fitfully blinking,19
Heigho, heigho !20
There warm under shelter, the fire burning bright,21
My lover sleeps sound in his bed ;22
But I flit alone in the pitiless night,23
Unpitied, unloved, and unwed24


And couldst thou forget then the deep troth we plighted ?25
No, no, no, no !26
Too warm was thy love by cold death to be blighted,27
Oh, oh ; oh, oh !28
My sweetheart ! and mind’st thou that this is the night,29
The night that we should have been wed ;30
And while I flit restless, a low-wailing sprite,31
Ah, say canst thou sleep in thy bed ?32


A week, but a week, and a wreath of gay flowers,33
Heigho, heigho !34
I wore as I vied with the fleet-footed hours,35
Heigho, heigho !36
As I vied with the hours in dancing them down,37
Till the stars reeled low in the sky,38
And sweet came thy whispers, as rose-leaves when blown39
About on the breeze of July :40


Thou’rt light, oh my chosen ; a bird is not lighter,41
My dove, my doe !42
I’d dance into death with thee ; death would be brighter,43
My own swift roe !’44
And they struck up a wild and wonderful measure ;45
Quick, quick beat our hearts to the tune ;46
Quick, quick the feet tingled and passioned with pleasure47
To the sound of the fife and bassoon.48


On, on whirled the pairs on the swift music driven,49
Hurrah, hurrah !50
Like gleaming loose vapours blown wildly o’er heaven,51
Hurrah, hurrah !52
Like loose gleaming vapours in silence they fled,53
But a flicker I saw through the haze ;54
For fleeter than all the fleet dancers we sped55
In the rush of the rapturous race.56


How often turned Wanda, the slim, lily-throated,57
Hah hah, hah hah !58
And gazed at us wistful as onward we floated59
Hah hah, hah hah !60
And Bilba, the swarthy, whose eyes are as big61
As a stag’s, with a glitter of steel,62
She lifts up her lashes, so long and so thick,63
To stare at my true love and leal.64


But he, he saw none o’ them, brown-faced or rosy,65
Hah hah, huzzah !66
Tho’ maidens bloomed bright like a fresh-gathered posy,67
Hah hah, huzzah !68
For his eyes, that shone black as the sloes of the hedges,69
They shone like two stars over me ;70
And his breath, thrilling o’er me as breeze over sedges,71
Brushed my hair till it crinkled with glee.72


Now slow as two down-bosomed swans, we were sliding,73
Sah, sah ; sah, sah !74
O’er the low heaving swell of the silver sounds gliding,75
Sah, sah ; sah, sah !76
Now hollowly booming drums rumbled apace,77
Flashed sharp clatt’ring cymbals around,78
And swung like loose leaves in a stormy embrace,79
We whirled in a tumult of sound.80


But pallid the cheeks grew erst flushing with pleasure,81
Alas, oh woe !82
As slowly away swooned the languishing measure ;83
Oh woe, oh woe !84
For shrill crew the cock as the sun ’gan to rise,85
And it rang from afar like a knell ;86
Our kisses grew bitter and sweet grew our sighs,87
As sadly we murmured ‘Farewell.’88


High up in the chambers the maidens together,89
Ah me, ah me !90
Were piling bleached linen as pure as swan’s feather,91
Ah me, ah me !92
Were weaving and spinning and singing aloud,93
Were broidering my bride-veil of lace,94
But the lowering three sisters they wove me my shroud95
As death kissed me cold on the face.96


The wild wind is whistling o’er moorland and heather,97
Heigho, heigho !98
I rise from my bed, and my bed has no feather99
Heigho, heigho !100
The snow flocketh grisly and ghostly, and gleams101
In the glare of the moon as it swirls ;102
What pale flurried phantoms move drear in her beams,103
And circle in shadowy whirls ?104


Mayhap ye were maidens death plucked in your flower105
Woe, woe ; woe, woe !106
As clust’ring you glowed in love’s murmuring bower107
Woe, woe ; woe, woe !108
Who delirious for life from the gloom of your graves109
Are driven to wander with me,110
And ye rise from your tombs like the white-crested waves111
From the depths of the dolorous sea.112


Hah, maidens, pale maidens, o’er moorland and heather,113
Hail, hail, hurrah !114
The bridegroom see ! comes through the wintry bleak weather !115
Hurrah, hurrah !116
Full shines the fair moon on his beautiful face ;117
He walketh like one in a trance ;118
His arms are wide open, far yearning his gaze,119
With his bride, his dead bride to dance.120


At the sound of thy foot-fall my frozen heart bursting,121
Hah, hah ; huzzah !122
Through the bonds of its cerements now leaps like a thirsting,123
Hah, hah ; huzzah !124
Leaps like a stag that is borne as on wings,125
To the brooks thawing thick through the noon,126
Like a lark from the glebe, like a lily that springs127
From its bier to the bosom of June.128


I hold thee, I hold thee, I drink thy caresses,129
Oh love, my love !’130
Round thy face, round thy throat, I roll my dank tresses,131
Oh love, my love !132
I hold thee, I hold thee ; eight nights wan and weeping133
Have I wandered loud sobbing thy name,134
Thy lips are as cold as the snow-drift a-sweeping !135
My breath soon shall fan them to flame !’136


Blow up for the dance. now chill whirlwind of winter !137
Hurrah, hurrah !138
Till the welkin’s floor shaken be shattered and splinter139
Hurrah, hurrah !140
Till the wheeling clouds whirl in their dizzying races,141
Hunted on by the moon’s lashing light,142
In the silvery rear of whose fugitive traces143
Reel the stars through the revelling night !144


Cocks crow, and the breath on thy sweet lips is failing,145
Oh love, my love !’146
Stars swoon, and the flame in thy dark eye is quailing,147
Oh love, my love !148
Oh, brighter the night than the fires of the day,’149
When thine eyes shine as stars over me ;150
Oh, sweeter thy grave than the soft breath of May—’151
Down to death then, my love, but with thee.152