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Eugene Field 1850 (St. Louis) – 1895 (Chicago)

Where wail the waters in their flaw
A spectre wanders to and fro,
 And evermore that ghostly shore
Bemoans the heir of Yvytot.

Sometimes, when, like a fleecy pall,
The mists upon the waters fall,
 Across the main float shadows twain
That do not heed the spectre's call.

The king his son of Yvytot
Stood once and saw the waters go
 Boiling around with hissing sound
The sullen phantom rocks below.

And suddenly he saw a face
Lift from that black and seething place--
 Lift up and gaze in mute amaze
And tenderly a little space,

A mighty cry of love made he--
No answering word to him gave she,
 But looked, and then sunk back again
Into the dark and depthless sea.

And ever afterward that face,
That he beheld such little space,
 Like wraith would rise within his eyes
And in his heart find biding place.

So oft from castle hall he crept
Where mid the rocks grim shadows slept,
 And where the mist reached down and kissed
The waters as they wailed and wept.

The king it was of Yvytot
That vaunted, many years ago,
 There was no coast his valiant host
Had not subdued with spear and bow.

For once to him the sea-king cried:
"In safety all thy ships shall ride
  An thou but swear thy princely heir
Shall take my daughter to his bride.

"And lo, these winds that rove the sea
Unto our pact shall witness be,
 And of the oath which binds us both
Shall be the judge 'twixt me and thee!"

Then swore the king of Yvytot
Unto the sea-king years ago,
 And with great cheer for many a year
His ships went harrying to and fro.

Unto this mighty king his throne
Was born a prince, and one alone--
 Fairer than he in form and blee
And knightly grace was never known.

But once he saw a maiden face
Lift from a haunted ocean place--
 Lift up and gaze in mute amaze
And tenderly a little space.

Wroth was the king of Yvytot,
For that his son would never go
 Sailing the sea, but liefer be
Where wailed the waters in their flow,

Where winds in clamorous anger swept,
Where to and fro grim shadows crept,
 And where the mist reached down and kissed
The waters as they wailed and wept.

So sped the years, till came a day
The haughty king was old and gray,
 And in his hold were spoils untold
That he had wrenched from Norroway.

Then once again the sea-king cried:
"Thy ships have harried far and wide;
 My part is done--now let thy son
Require my daughter to his bride!"

Loud laughed the king of Yvytot,
And by his soul he bade him no--
 "I heed no more what oath I swore,
For I was mad to bargain so!"

Then spake the sea-king in his wrath:
"Thy ships lie broken in my path!
 Go now and wring thy hands, false king!
Nor ship nor heir thy kingdom hath!

"And thou shalt wander evermore
All up and down this ghostly shore,
 And call in vain upon the twain
That keep what oath a dastard swore!"

The king his son of Yvytot
Stood even then where to and fro
 The breakers swelled--and there beheld
A maiden face lift from below.

"Be thou or truth or dream," he cried,
"Or spirit of the restless tide,
 It booteth not to me, God wot!
But I would have thee to my bride."

Then spake the maiden: "Come with me
Unto a palace in the sea,
 For there my sire in kingly ire
Requires thy king his oath of thee!"

Gayly he fared him down the sands
And took the maiden's outstretched hands;
 And so went they upon their way
To do the sea-king his commands.

The winds went riding to and fro
And scourged the waves that crouched below,
 And bade them sing to a childless king
The bridal song of Yvytot.

So fell the curse upon that shore,
And hopeless wailing evermore
 Was the righteous dole of the craven soul
That heeded not what oath he swore.

An hundred ships went down that day
All off the coast of Norroway,
 And the ruthless sea made mighty glee
Over the spoil that drifting lay.

The winds went calling far and wide
To the dead that tossed in the mocking tide:
 "Come forth, ye slaves! from your fleeting graves
And drink a health to your prince his bride!"

Where wail the waters in their flow
A spectre wanders to and fro,
 But nevermore that ghostly shore
Shall claim the heir of Yvytot.

Sometimes, when, like a fleecy pall,
The mists upon the waters fall,
 Across the main flit sh
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:57 min read

Eugene Field

Eugene Field, Sr. was an American writer, best known for his children's poetry and humorous essays. more…

All Eugene Field poems | Eugene Field Books

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