The Yule Guest

Patrick Riley

About this work:

The Yule Guest is a poem written by Bliss Carman (1861-1929). I have used a small excerpt from this public domain poem and juxtaposed the old-fashioned language with modern electronic sounds and 12-tone techniques.

  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, 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, 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 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. 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, 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 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 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. "O Yanna, Adrianna, They buried me away In the blue fathoms of the deep, Beyond the outer bay. "But in the yule, O Yanna, Up from the round dim sea And reeling dungeons of the fog, I am come back to thee!" The wind slept in the forest, The moon was white and high, 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 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. 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 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!" 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 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. 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,-- 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; 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 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. "And strange unearthly creatures Make marvel of her hull, Where far below the gulfs of storm There is eternal lull. "O Yanna, Adrianna, 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, 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 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! "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, 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, 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 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 "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, 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 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, The low wind-gates are clear. "O Yanna, Adrianna, The little while is done. Thou wilt behold the brightening sea Freshen before the sun, "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 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, 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, 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. 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, 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, 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, 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!" "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 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; 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 A shadow drifts alee.

Version: midi
Year composed: 2019
Duration: 00:06:48
Ensemble type: Electronic Instruments and Sound Sources

Patrick Riley's profile »