The Last Ship — July 30, 1542

The Last Ship

Firiel looked out at three O’clock;
the gray night was going;
far away a golden cock
clear and shrill was crowing.
The trees were dark, and the dawn pale,
waking birds were cheeping
a wind moved cool and frail
through dim leaves creeping.

She watched the gleam at window grow,
till the long light was shimmering
on land and leaf; on grass below
grey dew was glimmering
Over the floor her white feet crept,
down the stair they twinkled,
through the grass they dancing stepped
all with dew besprinkled.

Her gown had jewels upon its hem,
as she ran down to the river,
and leaned upon a willow-stem,
and watched the water quiver.
A kingfisher plunged down like a stone
in a blue flash falling,
bending reeds were softly blown,
lily-leaves were sprawling.

A sudden music to her came,
as she stood there gleaming
with free hair in the morning’s flame
on her shoulders streaming
Flutes there were, and harps were wrung,
and there was sound of singing,
like wind-voices keen and young
and far bells ringing

A ship with golden beak and oar
and timbers white came gliding;
swans went sailing on before,
her tall prow guiding
Fair folk out of Elvenland
in silver-grey were rowing,
and three with crowns she saw there stand
with bright hair flowing.

With harp in hand they sang their song
to the slow oars swinging;
Green is the land; the leaves are long,
and the birds are singing.
Many a day with dawn of gold
this earth will lighten,
many a flower will yet unfold,
ere the cornfields whiten.

Then wither go ye, boatmen fair,
down the river gliding??
To twilight and to secret lair
in the great forest hiding?
To northern isles and shores of stone
on strong swans flying,
by cold waves to dwell alone
with the white gulls crying?

‘Nay!’ they answered, “Far away
on the last road faring,
leaving western havens grey,
the seas of shadow daring,
we go to Elvenhome,
where the White Tree is growing,
and the Star shines upon the foam
on the last shore flowing.

‘To mortal fields say farewell,
Middle Earth forsaking!
In Elvenhome a clear bell
in the high tower is shaking.
Here grass fades and leaves fall,
and the sun and moon wither.
and we have heard the far call
that bids us journey thither.’

The oars were stayed. They turned aside;
‘Do you hear the call, Earth-maiden?
Firiel! Firiel!’ they cried.
‘our ship is not full-laden.
One more only we may bear.
Come! for your days are speeding
Come! Earth-maiden elven-fair,
our last call heading.’

Firiel looked from the river bank,
one step daring
then deep in clay her feet sank,
and she halted staring.
Slowly the elven ship went by
whispering through the water:
‘I cannot come!’ they heard her cry.
‘I was born Earth’s daughter!

No jewels bright her gown bore,
as she walked back from the meadow
under roof and dark door,
under the house-shadow.

She donned her smock of russet brown,
her long hair brided,
and to her work came stepping down.
Soon the sunlight faded.

Year still after year flows
down the Seven Rivers;
cloud passes, sunlight glows,
reed and willow quivers
at morn and eve, but never more
westward ships have waded
in mortal waters as before,
and there song as faded.

The Disaster of the Gladden Fields — April 15, 1436

The Disaster of the Gladden Fields

After the fall of Sauron, Isildur, the son and heir of Elendil, returned to Gondor. There he assumed the Elendilmir (the Star of Elendil; there were in fact not one but two gems of this name) as King of Arnor, and proclaimed his sovereign lordship over all the Dúnedain in the North and in the South; for he was a man of great pride and vigor. He remained for a year in Gondor, restoring its order and defining its bounds (as is related in the Tale of Cirion and Eorl, drawing on older histories, now mostly lost, for its account of the events that led to the Oath of Eorl and the alliance of Gondor with the Rohirrim); but the greater part of the army of Arnor returned to Eriador by the Númenórean road from the Fords of Isen to Fornost.

In the second year of the Third Age, Isildur planted a seedling of the White Tree in Minas Anor and delivered the South-kingdom to Meneldil.

When he at last felt free to return to his own realm, he was in haste and he wished to go first to Imladris; for he had left his wife and youngest son there, and he had moreover an urgent need for the counsel of Elrond. Isildur’s youngest son was Valandil, third King of Arnor. Isildur therefore determined to make his way north from Osgiliath up the Vales of Anduin to Cirith Forn en Andrath, the high-climbing pass of the North, that led down to Imladris. This pass is named only here by an Elvish name. At Rivendell, long after, Gimli the Dwarf referred to it as the High Pass. It was in this pass that Thorin Oakenshield and his company were captured by Orcs. Isildur knew the land well, for he had journeyed there often before the War of the Alliance, and had marched that way to the war with men of eastern Arnor in the company of Elrond.

It was a long journey, but the only other way, west and then north to the road-meeting in Arnor, and then east to Imladris, was far longer. Three hundred leagues and more than the route which Isildur intended to take, and for the most part without made roads; in those days the only Númenórean roads were the great road linking Gondor and Arnor, through Calenardhon, then north over the Gwathló at Tharbad, and so at last to Fornost; and the East-West Road from the Grey Havens to Imladris. These roads crossed at a point [Bree] west of Amon Sûl (Weathertop), by Númenórean road-measurements three hundred and ninety-two leagues from Osgiliath, and then east to Imladris one hundred and sixteen: five hundred and eight leagues in all. As swift, maybe, for mounted men, but he had no horses fit for riding; and safer, maybe, in former days, but Sauron was vanquished, and the people of Vales had been his allies in victory. He had no fear, save for weather and weariness, but these men whom need sends far abroad in Middle-earth must endure. Continue reading

Durin’s Folk and the Quest of Erebor — March 15, 1341

Durin’s Folk and the Quest of Erebor

The Dwarves are a race apart. Of their strange beginning, and why they are both like and unlike Elves and Men, strange tales are told both by the Eldar and by the Dwarves themselves; but of these tales the lesser Elves of Middle-earth had no knowledge, while the tales of later Men are confused with memories of other races. Since these things lie far back beyond our days, little is said of them here. They are a tough, thrawn race for the most part, secretive, laborious, retentive of the memory of injustices (and of benefits), lovers of stone, of gems, of things that take shape under the hands of the craftsmen rather than of things that live by their own life. But they are not evil by nature, and few ever served the Enemy of free will, whatever the tales of Men may have alleged. For Men of old lusted after their wealth and the work of their hands, and there has been enmity between the races.

But in the Third Age close friendship still was found in many places between Men and Dwarves; and it was according to the nature of the Dwarves that, traveling and laboring and trading about the lands, as the did after the destruction of their ancestral mansions, they should use the languages of men among whom they dwelt. Yet in secret (a secret which unlike the Elves, they did not willingly unlock, even to their friends) they used their own strange tongue, changed little by the years; for it had become a tongue of lore rather than a cradle-speech, and they tended it and guarded it as a treasure of the past. Few of other race have succeeded in learning it. In this history it appears only in such place-names as Gimli Glóin’s son revealed to his companions; and in the battle-cry which he uttered in the siege of the Hornburg. That at least was not secret, and had been heard on many a field since the world was young. Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd aimênu! “Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!”

Gimli’s own name, however, and the names of all his kin, are of Northern (Mannish) origin. Their own secret and “inner” names, their true names, the Dwarves have never revealed to any one of alien race. Not even on their tombs do they inscribe them.

Durin is the name that the Dwarves used for the eldest of the Seven Fathers of their race, and the ancestor of all the kings of the Longbeards. He slept alone, until in the deeps of time and the awakening of that people he came to Azanulbizar, and in the caves above Kheledzâram in the east of the Misty Mountains he made his dwelling, where afterwards were the Mines of Moria renowned in song.

There he lived so long that he was known far and wide as Durin the Deathless. Yet in the end he died before the Elder Days had passed, and his tomb was in Khazad-dûm; but his line never failed, and five times an heir was born in his House so like to his Forefather that he received the name of Durin. He was indeed held by the Dwarves to be the Deathless that returned; for they have many strange tales and beliefs concerning themselves and their fate in the world. Continue reading