Dose of Tolkien

Because, you know, I can’t let this blog go too long without something Tolkien-related.

The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinuviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.

There Beren came from mountains cold,
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled.
He walked along and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.

Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She lightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening.

He heard there oft the flying sound
Of feet as light as linden-leaves,
Or music welling underground,
In hidden hollows quavering.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves,
And one by one with sighing sound
Whispering fell the beechen leaves
In the wintry woodland wavering.

He sought her ever, wandering far
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
A mist of silver quivering.

When winter passed, she came again,
And her song released the sudden spring,
Like rising lark, and falling rain,
And melting water bubbling.
He saw the elven-flowers spring
About her feet, and healed again
He longed by her to dance and sing
Upon the grass untroubling.

Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinuviel! Tinuviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinuviel
That in his arms lay glistening.

As Beren looked into her eyes
Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
O’er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.

– J.R.R. Tolkien


About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

12 responses to “Dose of Tolkien

  • Urania

    I’ve always loved the effect of all the feminine rhymes ending “-ing” in this poem. The sound of the double rhymed syllables really suits the meaning of glimmering, glistening, bubbling. It’s definitely an unusual poetic choice, as feminine rhymes are less common than masculine ones in English poetry, and Tolkien repeats it in each stanza, so it really stands out. (Masculine rhymes are single syllable rhymes. Is my English degree showing???)

    • jubilare

      I’ve never heard of the concept of feminine or masculine rhymes, or if I have, I’ve forgotten! I do love the rhythm of this poem, though. I read poetry largely for rhythm. :)

      • Urania

        Poetry takes some work for me to appreciate, I’ll admit, though I’ve been trying to understand it better. I like 17th century lyric poetry. Modern stuff is just confusing to me, because there seem to be no rules! But with with rules, you know where you are, both in the following and the breaking of them.

        Actually, rhymes like “shivering” and “quivering” rhyme on *3* syllables. I don’t know if there’s a seperate term for that. But it’s a really unique effect, and I have to say again, it’s interesting that Tolkien repeats it so often here. It’s always seemed the most outstanding structural feature of this poem to me.

        Oh, words. :D It seems no coincidence that my love for Tolkien and my love for words were simultaneous discoveries. I remember having the realization in high school that, “Hey, I think I want to study language/words/literature because this is *so cool.*” Of course, I’d loved books and reading since I knew how to read, but I never really realized there was a love of words underlying my love of stories before.

        • jubilare

          I’ve liked good poetry since I was little, probably thanks to my mother who is a Lit-teacher and a poet. I am hard on poetry, though. I have to see the skilled craft in it, or it annoys the hell out of me… I especially have a hard time with poems that rhyme but that otherwise ignore rhythm, which seems to be what most amateur poets put out. It’s like our schools teach people about rhyme and nothing else. :P

          Modern poetry, at least good modern poetry, knows the rules even if it doesn’t use them. It is built on everything that came before, and in the good stuff, you can see and feel it. It’s often more about the words than form, the clean conjuring of images and emotions, or as my brother once said to me, it’s “language distilled to its purest form.” Seamus Heaney, William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, good food for a word-lover.

          Words are amazing, and the more I know, the more I want to hoard them like jewels. English is not a very elegant or musical language, but oh I find it beautiful, like an overgrown hedge-maze and garden run wild, or a strange museum filled with who-knows-what, where it’s a pleasure to get lost. It’s so eclectic, eccentric, simultaneously expansive and provincial, poor in form and utterly rich in variety. And a good word-smith, in English, sends me into chills.

  • Deborah Makarios

    “The Sundering Seas between them lay,
    And yet at last they met once more,
    And long ago they passed away
    In the forest singing sorrowless.”
    *sob* it’s so beautiful, so poignant, so… yearning-for-the-world-not-seen.

    • jubilare

      Of all of Tolkien’s skills, I think that evoking that feeling is the one that draws me to him the most.

      • Deborah Makarios

        Indeed! Something to aspire to as a writer – I doubt I’ll ever be as good as Tolkien, but he makes me want to try, not give up.

        • jubilare

          That… is wonderful. I confess, it makes me a little jealous.

          I grew up on really great literature and for years and years it intimidated me in not even wanting to try to write. The only thing that got me, eventually, to put pen to paper was the realization that no one would ever have to see it, that I could write for myself, alone.

          I’ve since gotten past that block. I’m willing to be read. But I have to separate myself from what inspires me, to remind myself that I am not Tolkien, or MacDonald, Austen or Wodehouse, Pratchett or Adams, nor should I be. Otherwise I end up here: …sometimes I end up there, anyway, but that seems to be something writers have to put up with.

          It’s… I dunno, somehow encouraging to me that you see greatness and it inspires you. That is what greatness should do. I see greatness and it makes me want to shut myself up in a closet.

          Not that anyone should ever avoid the great writers. Someone who feeds only on mediocrity is much more likely to produce mediocrity, I think. Over time, I’ve gotten to where I can learn from great writing rather than be discouraged by it, so maybe I am coming closer to where you are.

          But I only find peace in remembering that the answer is never comparing my work to Tolkien. I can never match his skill in what he did. I can only strive to do what I do as well as I possibly can. :)

          • Deborah Makarios

            I do know the feeling – it’s just that Tolkien somehow manages to not inspire it.
            To be perfectly fair, I can be convinced of the rubbishness of my writing without anyone to compare it to at all. Some truths are self-evident…
            Speaking of writing, I’d better go and pile up some more of it :-s

          • jubilare

            Be careful what you take for “truth” about your writing! Sometimes I’ve felt something was horrible, and my readers have told me otherwise. I don’t think writers are, really, the best judges of their own work. We’re too close to it. ;)

            I hear ya.

  • sharonpaula

    I”m rereading Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time. Frodo and co have just left Tom Bombadil’s house and are saying farewell to Goldberry. That whole section is so strange in a wonderful way. It remains mysertious to me.
    But as for poetry, I’m amazed at how such a wonderful story teller also creates such beautiful poetry.

    • jubilare

      Tolkien fills a funny niche with me, when it comes to poetry. His poetry isn’t so much compelling to me as poetry, but his imagery is so strong, so beautiful, and has such a legendary feel to it, that it resonates very strongly with me.

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