21 December 2007

A Song for Yule's Eve
The Ballad of Ranger Arvid

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It was the ranger Arvid
rode homeword through the hills
among the shadowy shiverleafs,
along the chiming hills.

The night wind whispered around him
with scent of brok and rue.
Both moons rode high above him
and hills aflash with dew.

And dreaming of that woman
who waited in the sun,
he stopped, amazed by starlight,
and so he was undone.

For there beneath a barrow
that bulked athwart a moon,
the Outling folk were dancing
in glass and golden shoon.

The Outling folk were dancing
like water, wind and fire
to frosty-ringing harpstrings,
and never did they tire.

To Arvid came she striding
from where she watched the dance,
the Queen of Air and Darkness,
with starlight in her glance.

With starlight, love, and terror
in her immortal eye,
the Queen of Air and Darkness
cried softly under sky:

"Light down, you ranger Arvid,
and join the Outling folk.
You need no more be human,
which is a heavy yoke."

He dared to give her answer:
"I may do naught but run.
A maiden waits me, dreaming
in lands beneath the sun.

And likewise wait me comrades
and tasks I would not shirk,
for what is Ranger Arvid
if he lays down his work?

So wreak your spells, you Outling,
and cast your wrath on me.
Though maybe you can slay me,
you'll not make me unfree."

The Queen of Air and Darkness
stood wrapped about with fear
and northlight-flares and beauty
he dared not look too near.

Until she laughed like harpsong
and said said to him in scorn:
"I do not need a magic
to make you always mourn.

I send you home with nothing
except your memory
of moonlight, Outling music,
night breezes, dew, and me.

And that will run behind you,
a shadow on the sun,
and that will lie beside you
when every day is done.

In work and play and friendship
your grief will strike you dumb
for thinking what you are - and -
what you might have become.

Your dull and foolish woman
treat kindly as you can.
Go home now, Ranger Arvid,
set free to be a man!"

In flickering and laughter
the Outling folk were gone.
He stood along by moonlight
and wept until the dawn.

Source: "The Queen of Air and Darkness"
by Poul Anderson, c1971

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been visiting this site since at least 2000, as it was the only place I could revisit Poul Anderson's "The Queen of Air and Darkness". Have loved this song since SCA member circa 1977. I make a point to try to sing this at a Yellowstone campfire every year. As the decades roll on, I come to understand it more and more. Thank you sincerely. - Tam

Anonymous said...

I have been visiting this site since at least 2008, as it was the only place I could revisit Poul Anderson's "The Queen of Air and Darkness". Have loved this song since SCA member circa 1977. I make a point to try to sing this at a Yellowstone campfire every year. As the decades roll on, I come to understand it more and more. Thank you sincerely. - Tam

Anonymous said...

I sing this song at least once a year, if not more, here in The West. It truly speaks to me, profoundly.