The Vigil

No wind stirred the skeletal branches that night, or the ground fog that lay in the hollow,
And wither the leprous full moon spilled her light, did a murder of shadows there follow,
Stumps of old marble and granite forgotten,
Broken, and layered with moss,
Cold graven verses, of anguish begotten,
Memories of sorrow and loss,
And a light could be seen o’er the trees from afar, in a window it shimmered like evening’s own star,
From a turret that rose o’er a mansion of stone, on a hill rising out of the swampland alone,
And between was a dire account.

The sepulchral hush in that curse-haunted dell was disturbed by a low distant ringing,
As if underground was a great iron bell, and the end of all joy it was singing,
Rumors from deep in the Earth were approaching,
Footfalls that slowly drew near,
Specter of death on the living encroaching,
Herald of suffering and fear,
And a great basalt slab lying prone in the ground of the hollow did tremble in time with the sound,
And then slowly it lifted, an opening made, and revealed a stairway of megaliths laid,
And a figure arose on the brink.

A man in its form, and a lord by its mien, and its flesh with corruption was crawling,
The flames in its eyes were the mark of a fiend, and a bestial rave it was calling,
Hatred and fury were clear on its visage,
Long-suffered injuries pent,
Death and despair were the wake of its passage,
Sanguine revenge its intent,
And it lifted its gaze to the desolate height, to the window that harbored the shimmering light,
And a smile appeared on that ruinous face, for its prey was at hand in its ancestral place,
And the time long awaited had come.

Then over a tomb with a gleam ghostly white, and magnificent angels adorning,
There gathered a misty, ethereal light, like the breath of the early spring morning,
Dancing, awhirl, diamond motes coalescing,
Taking the shape of a maid,
Beauty and grace as she bore, heaven’s blessing,
Wisdom with suffering paid,
And she lightly slipped down to the moldering ground, and she turned to confront him, the fiend now unbound,
And he growled at the girl, and waved her aside, an imperious gesture ‘twould not be denied,
But she stood, and she shook her head, no.

He knew her it seemed by the tilt of his head, from a life and a plight unforgiven,
For she into tragedy blindly was led, while he into madness was driven,
Now was his wrath at the maiden directed,
She would his vengeance deny?
Yet was it evident who she protected,
Who she had come to defy,
But the fiend could not near the pale maiden in white, for he could not endure the ethereal light,
And he stalked to the left o’er the mist shrouded ground, and again to the right to discern a way ‘round,
But she followed and he could not pass.

In silence she fought him, a battle of will, and her courage withstood the fiend’s ire,
And steadily shimmered the light on the hill, ever slowly the moon drifted higher,
Midnight went by, and the moon was descending,
Dawn was approaching at last,
Damned was the fiend, for his time there was ending,
Time for his vengeance was past,
And he quailed before the now paling sky, and impotently cursed at the window on high,
And retreating perforce to the unhallowed deep, he descended in unwonted utter defeat,
And the hellish gate closed up behind.

No wind stirred the fog at the morning’s first breath, as the quiet returned to the hollow,
The fear had departed that place of regret, and the shadows were slowly to follow,
Under the sunlight the maiden’s pale glimmer,
Faded, her time nearly spent,
Up on the window where lamplight still shimmered,
Sorrowful eyes were intent,
And her gaze bore a love and a wistful desire, but the sun was arisen and the clouds were afire,
And she turned from the warmth of the far lighted room, to the cold and the dark of the pale marble tomb,
And reluctantly faded away.

About this poem

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Submitted by michaelw.64270 on July 08, 2023

3:50 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic octameter
Characters 3,875
Words 766
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9

Discuss the poem The Vigil with the community...

  • ABP57
    Reread it--exquisite. The best i have read on this site! looking forward to more.
    LikeReply9 months ago
  • sshipley
    Congratulations! I, of course, had to read a couple of times. I doubt I will ever be able to write a poem like this. Incredible!
    LikeReply 19 months ago
  • Vixility
    This is an excellent poem! Love the story, its rhythmic flow and I'm a sucker for the diction you employee throughout. Congratulations on your win.
    LikeReply 19 months ago
  • David_Zeoli
    Congratulations! Great poem!
    LikeReply 19 months ago
  • Symmetry60
    This is simply too good. Amazing write and read. Wow!!!
    LikeReply 19 months ago
  • susan.brumel
    Beautiful imagery, story; rhyme and meter well executed. Very enjoyable read.
    LikeReply 19 months ago
  • lovingempath
    If this is about the state of our country, and 'she' portrays the 'statue of 'Liberty', then I salute you! If it doesn't...then I suggest you focus on that: Because I don't think I've ever read anything as visually and emotionally impactful as this poem to represent our times. Beautifully written and extremely powerful! Thank-you. 
    LikeReply 29 months ago
    • Laurelmlee
      Wow- that’s an interesting take! I didn’t read it that way at all, since it’s set in a graveyard. But, that’s such an intriguing thought. Now, I’d like to see how it could be subtly altered to incorporate this concept. Very creative thinking there! 
      LikeReply 19 months ago
    • lovingempath
      That's one of the things I love so much about poetry: Sometimes it's up to the reader to determine the intent of the poem. And whether or not it was the Statue of a wraith in a hit us both powerfully enough to vote for it :). 
      LikeReply 19 months ago
  • Laurelmlee
    This is a fantastic poem! I love the intrigue, the story, the way the detail colors the scene and sets the mood, the way the author changes the verbiage enough to change the mood again when going from character to character, and the way the word selection seems so natural. On top of this fun story with the perfect and beautiful way it’s told, it has all I could want in a poem- an easy rhythm and well-done rhymes! I’ll be disappointed if this one isn’t our first place winner for July. Wish I could write like this! Loved it! 
    LikeReply 29 months ago


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"The Vigil" STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 25 May 2024. <>.

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