In the windows of countless stories across the earth
Candles flicker bravely in endless nights of waiting
A light to guide absent feet back to home and hearth
A path back to love, lit for a lost soul’s navigating.

Stories speak of patient love, always waiting to forgive
But the casual storyteller never seems to count the cost
Of the vigil – for “endless” is easily written, but far harder to live
In being faithful to the wanderer, the waiting soul too is lost

Yet futile self-sacrifice still retains a glamorous magnetism
Although waiting seems to take less courage than moving on
But life continues to send nudges of reviving pragmatism,
As if saying, don’t waste precious hours in endless hanging on.

The cost of heroic waiting is more than the human soul can handle
And so, arising with stiffened limbs, I blow out the candle.


The germ for this poem came from two sources – first a dimly remembered scene from a film (I think it was War and Peace) of a candle burning in a window as a woman kept vigil for the man she loved. And secondly a song by Duparc (Au pays ou se fait la guerre), depicting a woman waiting endlessly in her tower for her lover long beyond the point when it seems possible he will return. And, as in my earlier poem, Myths, it seemed to me that this was an image of heroic tragedy that could very easily become a trap.

5 responses to “Vigil

  1. some things are worth waiting for, but even so, they may never come.

  2. there’s a lot going on here, stands up to many readings. It has a warm storybook quality whilst having at its heart an epic sense – of loss, of desperation, of abscence, the pain of waiting…

  3. both sides reflected well the cost of waiting love.. reminds me of the sailors who left for days at sea leaving behind loved ones.. no cells phones and letters were probably few and far inbetween… yes, the cost, who would know anticipation of days, weeks, months possibly years waiting… even that can be exhausting.. the image of stiff limbs and a candle’s flame extinguished is beautiful..

  4. Stan, peterandthehare, welcome to the blog and thanks for your encouraging comments.

    I think there are many things worth waiting and fighting for – but if we wait too long for one, we miss out on so many other possibilities.

    Pieceofpie – your comment makes me think how strange it is, in this world where communication is so easy, to be unable to communicate with someone. Even long-lost friends can be found. So if we can’t speak to someone, it’s probably because they don’t want to speak to us – and so it’s both stranger and more painful than it woudl have been had our expectations of communication not been so high. Which puts us back in exactly the same position of all those long ago waiting loved ones. Just never knowing…

  5. Endless is easily written but harder to live. No truer words have been spoken.

    Is it easier to give up and accept the loss rather than hold on hope for a reunion? I don’t know.


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