Tag Archives: song

Advent: Hearth and Fire

While I love songs of praise to my God and remembrance of His birth, not all of my favorite holiday songs are religious.

This one is not even a Christmas song, specifically. Still, it has about it the air of wind, winter, the warmth of home, and love for those far away.  It is on the afore-mentioned “Home for Christmas” album, and therefore I associate it with Christmas. The warmth of Gordon Bok’s voice,  the theme of the song, and my childhood association with it make this piece very dear to my heart.

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Hearth and Fire,
By Gordon Bok

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Hearth and fire be ours tonight
And all the dark outside
Fair the night, and kind on you
Wherever you may bide.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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Wine and song be ours tonight
And all the cold outside.
Peace and warmth be yours tonight
Wherever you may bide.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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Hearth and fire be ours tonight,
And the wind in the birches, bare.
Oh, that the wind we hear tonight
Would find you well and fair.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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© 1980 Gordon Bok

You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

Requiescat in pace, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, December 5, 2013.

May we never forget you or what you have done.


Advent: Away in a Manger variation

When I was growing up, I learned three tunes for “Away in a Manger.”

Two of these versions are fairly common, but I have only ever heard one rendition of my favorite. It is from an album you will hear me reference more than once in this series. It is “Home for Christmas,” and it is a compilation holiday album produced by The Book of the Month Club back in 1982. Individual tracks can be found on other albums, but the whole is tough to find. You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

“Away In a Manger,” as sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt, is a very different song. Instead of being mild and sweet (sometimes too sweet for my tastes), it is haunting. You can buy their rendition here, on the Shout For Joy album.

Away in a Manger
by unknown writer, misattributed to Martin Luther

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Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes,

But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.

I love thee, Lord Jesus. Look down from the sky!

And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care

And take us to heaven to live with thee there.

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Listen here:  Away In a Manger, sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt

Even with the poor quality of the recording (taken from an album loved nearly into nonexistence), if this doesn’t give you chills, I will be very much surprised.


Advent: O Magnum Mysterium

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love Christmas. Not the commercialism, insanity, or kitsch associated with it, but the time with my family, the music and carols that I like (usually not the ones heard in department stores), the food, the warmth, the giving and the sparkles.

My ideal Christmas is simple, intimate and serene. I like time to contemplate the birth of my Savior and its surrounding events, and I like time spent with kith and kin.

In the spirit of this kind of Christmas celebration, I decided to have my own little Advent Countdown on my blog. As music is one of my favorite aspects of this holiday, I will post some of my favorite carols through December 25th. I wanted to do this daily, but time simply will not allow. Therefore, I will confine myself to three posts a week, plus one extra for Christmas Eve. This leaves me with a lot of beloved songs un-shared, but perhaps I can make this a yearly tradition.

May these posts bring you joy!

First, a song that I grew up with, one that captures some of the Great Mystery that surrounds the world we live in. Creation is strange and familiar, patterned and unpredictable, lucid and murky.

O Magnum Mysterium

by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

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O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
jacentem in praesepio.
O beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.
Alleluia!

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Translation:

O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger!
O blessed is the Virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

There is a more extended version of this song to a different composition, but this is the version that moves me the most. Just listen to the following performance by New York Polyphony:

Video © New York Polyphony

For more beautiful Advent music, visit Patty Mitchell’s blog Oboeinsight and her Advent Series. Her starting choice is one of my all-time favorite songs of any kind, Veni, veni Emmanuel.


Decade

I am not good at record-keeping. That statement will make family and friends laugh because it is a huge understatement. Because of this, I am not sure what year the following image was taken. I know I was in college, and it was before my senior year, which means I was between 20 and 23. I will make a wild guess and say 21.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

I loathe pictures of myself. For every one that looks like me, there are fifty in which I look like someone else or like a marshmallow with hair. No one in my immediate family is photogenic, though my father is better than the rest of us. The only reason this picture exists is because a professor required it. I was taking a basic photography class, and in his wisdom our prof required us to have at least one self-portrait per roll of film.

Yes. Film. That camera in my hands? That’s my baby. I haven’t used it in too long, something I intend to remedy, but it gives me a feeling of control I have never felt from using a digital camera. The image was taken with silver film, developed and printed by me.

So, why am I posting this? I turned 31 in February, marking around a decade since this picture was taken. This got me to thinking about the passage of time and what that means, and made me want to take another picture of myself now. And so I did. This time I used my father’s digital Nikon. I dressed, as closely as I could, in the same way. Here is the image in black and white, for comparison, and in color as it was originally.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

The shirt in the first picture has gone through a metamorphosis. It is now part of a quilted prayer-rug a good friend made for me.

The moonstone necklace around my neck now has a crack from side to side. Why? It was run over by a car on a gravel road in the Smoky Mountains.

The coat. Ah, the coat. That is my magic coat. It belonged to my father, and he gave it to me when I was in high-school. It is never too warm, but always warm enough, even when I was in Salzburg, Austria, on a snowy New Years Eve and someone poured vodka all over me. All that has changed about it, since the first picture, is that my cat, Geoffrey, managed to bite all the way through one sleeve. It’s thick leather, too, which makes me wonder about the strength of Geoffrey’s jaw.

The ring on my finger in the first image, though identical to the one in the other two, is not the same ring. The one I currently have is, if I am counting right, number 3. The first one was lost whilst gardening, and has never been found. The second one split, my active hands being tough on silver. The third, though scratched, is in good shape.

And then, of course, there is me. The creases between my eyes are deeper, but I had that long before I turned 21. The eyebrows drawn together in thought is an expression everyone who has met me will recognize. We even have pictures of baby-me with that expression.

I had glasses at 21, too, but I must have been experimenting with contacts when I took the first image. Contacts and I don’t get along. The rings, evident in all the pictures, have left a good callous on my hand. I worry, with the surgery ahead of me, that I will no longer be allowed to wear the ring on my right.

There is silver in my hair now! Just a few strands, so far. I like them.

I am a happier person now, than I was then. Depression has been my shadow for a long, long time, but it used to jerk me around a lot more. Time has softened that cycle, at least for now. I’ve grown and changed in thoughts, in faith, in experience. I still have respect for that 21-year-old who was me. She had come a long way from the 11-year-old me. Though I have changed a lot, she and I still have the same foundation, and pretty much the same orientation in the world. The biggest difference is what I have learned about myself and about the world that she did not know.

Most of all, I am struck by the complete strangeness and unpredictability of life. I mean, shirt-to-prayer-rug? Necklace run over by a car? And finding myself fighting cancer is far from the strangest thing that has happened between then and now.

My strongest feeling as I look at these images and think about the time in between?

It’s not nostalgia, or regret, or triumph. It’s simply awe. Awe that I have been alive for ten years since that time, and that so much has happened and not happened.


Crossroads

Parallel lyrics from Les Misérables, the Musical.
Valjean’s “What Have I Done” and Javert’s “Soliloquy”
by Herbert Kretzmer.

Yes, there are spoilers here if you don’t know the basic plot.

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Valjean/Javert
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What have I done?/Who is this man?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?/What sort of devil is he?
Become a thief in the night,/To have me caught in a trap
Become a dog on the run/And choose to let me go free?
And have I fallen so far,/It was his hour at last
And is the hour so late/To put a seal on my fate,
That nothing remains,/Wipe out the past,
But the cry of my hate,/And wash me clean off the slate.
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,/
All it would take was a flick of his knife.
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?/
Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!
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If there’s another way to go/
Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief.
I missed it twenty long years ago./
Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
My life was a war that could never be won./
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked.
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean/
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face.
When they chained me and left me for dead,/
There is nothing on earth that we share.
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread./
It is either Valjean or Javert!
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Yet why did I allow that man/How can I now allow this man
To touch my soul and teach me love?/To hold dominion over me?
He treated me like any other./This desperate man that I have hunted,
He gave me his trust./He gave me my life.
He called me brother./He gave me freedom.
My life he claims for God above!/I should have perished by his hand.
Can such things be?/It was his right.
For I had come to hate the world,/I was my right to die as well.
This world that always hated me/Instead I live – but live in hell.
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Take an eye for an eye!/And my thoughts fly apart.
Turn your heart into stone!/Can this man be believed?
This is all I have lived for!/Shall his sins be forgiven?
This is all I have known!/Shall his crimes be reprieved?

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One word from him and I’d be back/
And must I now begin to doubt,
Beneath the lash, upon the rack./
Who never doubted all these years?
Instead he offers me my freedom./
My heart is stone and still it trembles.
I feel my shame inside me like a knife./
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
He told me that I have a soul,/
Is he from heaven or from hell?
How does he know?/And does he know
What spirit comes to move my life?/
That, granting me my life today,
Is there another way to go?/
This man has killed me even so?
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I am reaching, but I fall,/I am reaching, but I fall,
And the night is closing in/And the stars are black and cold,
And I stare into the void,/As I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin./Of a world that cannot hold.
I’ll escape now from that world,/I’ll escape now from that world,
From the world of Jean Valjean./From the world of Jean Valjean!
Jean Valjean is nothing now./There is nowhere I can turn.
Another story must begin!/There is no way to go on.


Christmas Song 2012

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org

[Thanks to Deanna for introducing me to this one!]

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Balulalow

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I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

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This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild.
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind.

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Lat us rejoyis and be blyth
And with the Hyrdis go full swyth
To see what God in his grace hath done
Throu Christ to bring us to his throne.

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My saull and life stand up and see
Wha lyis in ane cribbe of tree.
What Babe is that, sa gude and fair?
It is Christ, God’s Son and Heir.

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O my deir hart, yung Jesus sweit,
Prepair thy creddill in my spreit!
And I sall rock thee in my hart
And never mair fra thee depart.

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O I sall praise thee evermoir
With sangis sweit unto thy gloir.
The kneis of my hart sall I bow
And sing that rycht Balulalow.

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I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

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This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild!
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind!

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Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org


Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On

This post is the end of a series. Find the earlier installments here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part III: Creation

I’ve tried to wrangle this post down to something (possibly) reasonable. I hope you have enjoyed the series and that the Khazâd, if they haven’t before, now spark your curiosity and imagination.

Stereotypes, pernicious over-simplifications based on seeds of truth covered with lies, are as pervasive in our literary worlds as they are in the world we inhabit. I will spare you a full rant, but one of my objects in life is to smash the boxes we form around each-other that prevent us from truly seeing our fellows. If I could do it with an axe, I would. Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!

The more time J. R. R. Tolkien spends with a character or a race, the more stereotypes fade. It is ironic that numerous clichés have arisen from the reading and subsequent glossing-over of his work.  It makes me wonder how many people actually read him. My intent is to highlight often-overlooked aspects of Tolkien’s Dwarves and break down some of the popular clichés. However, there is always a danger of creating new ones, and that is just as bad. I dislike even “positive” stereotypes because they insulate us from seeing.

Therefore, assume Tolkien wrote exceptions to everything I say about the Khazâd. They are not all alike.

In many “fantasy” books, films, and games, Dwarves are either comic relief; gruff, warlike side-characters; or else the “Big Guy” of the story.  Because the clichés have roots in Tolkien, some assume that Tolkien wrote according to these pop-culture images. His Khazâd are not pretty or dashing enough to garner much attention, and so their subtle complexity is overlooked. In contrast, his equally-complex Elves have gotten so much attention that many people are sick of them, which is also sad.

The seeds at the heart of “Tolkienesque”  Dwarves can be found in Tolkien’s work. He, however, does not take the acorn for the oak, and neither should we.

The Khazâd, like all of Tolkien’s races, have their cultural weaknesses. I share many of these, which adds sympathy to my other reasons for loving them. Excessive pride is probably the cause of their worst moments (Thorin, anyone?). This is not surprising for a people whom the elves call “Naugrim,” meaning “Stunted People,” and who face attitudes such as this:

…Caranthir was haughty and scarce concealed his scorn for the unloveliness of the Naugrim, and his people followed their lord. Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 13

While the scorn of others doesn’t excuse pride, it helps explain the defensiveness of many Dwarves. They are also stubborn. The Silmarillion states that Aulë made them stubborn in defiance of the Enemy. It stands them in good stead, but it also gets between them and those who would be their friends were they more yielding.

…they were made…  to resist most steadfastly any domination. Though they could be slain or broken, they could not be reduced to shadows enslaved to another will… All the more did Sauron hate… and desire to dispossess them.” -Appendix A

Though it was sometimes destructive in other ways, I love that the stubborn nature of the Dwarves kept them from coming under the dominion of Sauron.

The greedy Dwarf is a stereotype all it’s own, isn’t it? Perhaps Tolkien understood that fierce love of the beauty of the world, though good in its way, leaves the heart vulnerable. I certainly find it so in myself.  It is a difficult balance to love without coveting; to be in the world and not of it. Like the Dwarves, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. But I am very fond of this quote of Galadriel’s from The Fellowship of the Ring:

Let none say again that Dwarves are grasping and ungracious!

There is evidence throughout Tolkien’s scribbles that Dwarves are not as greedy as they are painted by the other races. For the sake of length, I will have to let you find it on your own.

The Khazâd are secretive. They do not teach their language to others and their true names are never written or told to outsiders. That’s right, we only have nicknames for the Dwarves! It may not help their relationships outside their own people, but I find the secretive aspect of Dwarven society mysterious. I like a little mystery.

Like their weaknesses, the strengths of the Dwarves are usually blown out of proportion or, if they do not fit cleanly into the clichés, forgotten. Loyalty is common in stock-fantasy Dwarves, but it is also very present in Tolkien’s representation. This resonates deeply with me. I believe friendship should be fast (in the archaic sense) and enduring. Love and promises should bind. The Khazâd, in general, seem to agree with me. This, however, ties in with an aspect of Dwarves often completely ignored: romantic love.

Because they are not beautiful, Dwarves in love seems off-putting to many. Even Tolkien says little on the subject. According to the Appendix A, only about a third of Dwarves are women (how are they not extinct?). Not all Dwarf women desire marriage, and neither do all Dwarf men (which is good, given the discrepancy in numbers!). But when they do marry, they take only one wife or husband in a lifetime. It is said that often a Dwarf woman, on failing to win the heart she desires, “will have no other.” I expect the same is true for Dwarf men. This suggests that when they do love it is with a passion similar to their craftsmanship: a powerful, single-minded, and loyal love.

The Khazâd are passionate beneath the surface. Cliché Dwarves seem to have three settings: wrathful, dour or rollicking. Tolkien’s writing gives a more balanced picture. His Dwarves show a full emotional range expressed in subtle, sometimes elegant, ways. Elegant Dwarves!

Far from the stereotypical “angry Dwarf shout of grief and rage!” that we get in the films, this is Gimli’s reaction on finding Balin’s tomb in Moria:

Gimli cast his hood over his face.

And when time came to escape:

Gimli had to be dragged away by Legolas: in spite of the peril he lingered by Balin’s tomb with his head bowed.

He breaks my heart, then gives it back to me whole and makes me smile:

“Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram… and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla. My heart trembles at the thought that I may see them soon.” – The Fellowship of the Ring 

I will not quote his interactions with Galadriel, but any who have read the books will know them.

As I have said in earlier posts, the Dwarves have a passion for beauty and for craftsmanship. They are creative as well as industrious. This is a people who hang “flowering stars” on silver necklaces, create “metal wrought like fishes’ mail,” carve stone halls like beech forests, and treasure natural beauty deeply. The pop-culture ideas of elf-craft are probably closer to Tolkien’s idea of Dwarven works than the chunky and rigid images we always see. Not that there isn’t a place for stereotypical Dwarf-architecture. I like that too.

Tolkien and the clichés seem to agree that the Dwarves are strong. Tolkien’s Dwarves, at their best, have not only physical power and toughness, but deep roots to weather storms.

Last of all the eastern force to stand firm were the Dwarves of Belegost… And but for them Glaurung and his brood would have withered all that was left of the Noldor. But the Naugrim made a circle about him when he assailed them, and even his mighty armour was not full proof against the blows of their great axes; and when in his rage Glaurung turned and struck down Azaghâl, Lord of Belegost, and crawled over him, with his last stroke Azaghâl drove a knife into his belly, and so wounded him that he fled the field, and the beasts of Angband in dismay followed after him. Then the Dwarves raised up the body of Azaghâl and bore it away; and with slow steps they walked behind singing a dirge in deep voices, as it were a funeral pomp in their country, and gave no heed more to their foes; and none dared to stay them. ” Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 20

Wisdom is more associated with the Elves in Tolkien’s tales, but I think the Dwarves have their share. Here is what the surviving Dwarves have to say to Thráin when, after the battle against the orcs of Moria, he claims victory and wishes to reclaim Khazâd-dûm.

Durin’s Heir you may be, but even with one eye you should see clearer. We fought this war for vengeance, and vengeance we have taken. But it is not sweet. If this is victory, then our hands are too small to hold it. -Appendix A

That does not sound like the impulsive behavior so often portrayed in Dwarf stereotypes. I am tired of Dwarves being fools. Gimli, in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films, shows less than half the intelligence and wisdom of the same character from the books. But the Khazâd are an intelligent race:

…the Dwarves were swift to learn, and indeed were more willing to learn the Elven-tongue than to teach their own to those of alien race. – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 10

Apart from some of the silliness in The Hobbit, I do not recall Dwarves doing stupid things, or having sub-par intelligence.

Thankfully, (for I dearly love to laugh) the Dwarves have their humor and joy as well. Thorin is probably the most “serious” Dwarf we meet (unless one counts Mîm), and the rest like to joke and laugh when they can. The plate-breaking song in the beginning of The Hobbit is an excellent example. There is a difference, though, between having a gift for humor and being comic relief.

Music and song are mentioned repeatedly in relation to the Khazâd. And this from a people in exile whose story, like that of Arda itself, is one of devastating loss and victories that come at great cost. But the Dwarves are resilient, using their outward toughness to protect the gems beneath. Gimli makes me cry and laugh, and his whole race makes me smile.

And finally, I give you an amateur reading of Gimli’s chant within Moria: My favorite of the verses in The Lord of the Rings.


Khazâd Part III: Creation

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Ever since I was a child the three dimensions, our perception of them, and our ability to change things within them have fascinated me. Texture, shape, matter, color, shadow, highlight, space, distance! And that is only where the realm of the physical touches two of our five senses.

Stop. Right now.

Wipe your mind of all that you take for granted and try to understand how bizarre and wondrous the material world really is. Consider the possibility that nothing has to be, yet here it is. Think about the space between you and the nearest object and try to feel how strange your perception of that space, and that object would be if your senses had only been awakened this moment.

If you haven’t tried this before, it may be hard at first. We’ve been swimming in the physical from our earliest memories. We are so used to this that anything else would seem strange and exciting to us, but we are capable of realizing how awe-inspiring this world is.

Think about the things you see every day. Your bed, a blanket, a cup of water, a tree with texture so meticulously detailed that it stretches from a forest to the atoms of its inmost ring. Your own body, even with its flaws, so knit together that you live and move, with cells constantly dying and being reborn. How shadows change a surface, and light can make things glow.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

If you think about this too long and too deeply, it can overwhelm you.

It’s best to find a balance where you neither take the physical for granted, nor allow yourself to be overcome by the incomprehensible vastness and detail of it all. I think it is good for us to pause and run our hand over a desk, or breathe in winter air, taking time to feel, taste, smell. So many gifts are wasted on us when we don’t pay attention.

You may be wondering what this has to do with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Dwarves.

I think (and yes, I may be projecting) that the Dwarves, in general, share my instinctual wonder of the world. Tolkien’s words suggest a people who, while rugged and shielded in other regards, are hyper-sensitive when it comes to the properties and beauties of the inanimate part of Arda. Even though they lack my passion for trees and plants, they appreciate them enough to use them as common themes in their works.

From the outside, fascination with the material can look a lot like materialism. Now, some Dwarves from Tolkien’s writing are avaricious and materialistic. There is no denying that. After all, love of matter can become materialism if taken too far. But I believe there is a pure and healthy love of the physical that is not possessive, or hedonistic, or materialistic, and I believe that love is an underlying theme in the character of the Khazâd.

My theory is supported by one of the Dwarves’ most well-known traits.  It is a short step from loving creation, to wishing to create. I find myself compelled, through my awe of matter, to shape small pieces of my world. This is why I identify so strongly with the Dwarven love of craftsmanship.

In the Silmarillion it is clear Aulë and Melkor have a great measure of Eru’s creative spirit.  In Melkor’s case, that spirit becomes grasping and possessive, but Aulë remains free and generous. Even in his clandestine making of the Dwarves his actions stem from a desire to share the wonders of Arda, his knowledge, and joy in existence.

Whether the creative nature of the Dwarves comes from Aulë or from the spirits bestowed on them by Eru, there is no doubt that they posses it. Throughout Tolkien’s work we see the intense and sensitive appreciation for beauty in the Dwarves. None of the other industrial or quasi-industrial races have this eye for beauty or the smoldering desire to carefully enhance it.

Ultimately, the Dwarves are lovers of nature and that love manifests in their works. Many of their number even abandon all other pursuits, devoting themselves to their craft with monk-like singleness of mind.  They are industrious, both from a practical standpoint and from a creative one. It boggles my mind that this focused creativity is sometimes perceived as prosaic and even dull. But then I suppose the makers of illuminated manuscripts of ages past are sometimes seen in a similar light by modern society. Have we lost some of our ability to appreciate that kind of focus?

In my recent delving into Tolkien’s work, I kept a record of the objects and places shaped by the Dwarves. I have chosen a few to mention. Some you may know. Some might surprise you.

Angrist: the knife Beren used to cut a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown

Narsil: Sword of the Númenórean kings, broken in cutting the One Ring from Sauron’s hand,  later to become Andúril

Menegroth:  a cooperative effort of Dwarves and Elves

The pillars of Meneroth were hewn in the likeness of the beeches of Oromë, stock, bough and leaf, and they were lit with lanterns of gold. The nightingales sang there as in the gardens of Lórien; and there were fountains of silver, and basins of marble, and floors of many-coloured stones. Carven figures of beasts and birds there ran upon the walls, or climbed upon the pillars, or peered among the branches entwined with many flowers. – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 10

Nauglamír:

It was a carcanet of gold, and set therin were gems uncounted from Valinor; but it had a power within it so that it rested lightly on its wearer as a strand of flax, and whatsoever neck it clasped it sat always with grace and loveliness.  – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 13

Dale:

You should see  the waterways of Dale, Frodo, and the fountains, and the pools! You should see the stone-paved roads of many colours! And the halls and cavernous streets under the earth with arches carved like trees; and the terraces and towers upon the Mountain’s sides!  -Many Meetings, The Fellowship of the Ring

And that is just a smattering. Pay attention as you read and you will find more. I would love to step into these stories, if only briefly, to see and perhaps touch some of the marvels Tolkien imagined.

Last, and perhaps most telling of the hearts and minds of the Khazâd, I mention their own idea of what lies in store for them.  According to the Silmarillion, they believe that when Arda is remade they will work side by side with Aulë in the reshaping of the world. Imagine the beauty and wonder, care, imagination, focus, and labor involved in such a feat. I am glad Tolkien included such a beautiful legend in his tales of Middle Earth.

We are near the end of my ramblings on this subject. I will have worn it, and myself out, I think, but hopefully I will have achieved my goal. One post left.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.


Shout Out

Reader’s warning: angst follows, but at least it is neither purposeless nor self-focused angst.

As the title would suggest, this is a shout-out to my fellow Book-Meme contributors, David and the Multifaceted Muses.

There has been some discussion among us, lately, on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion, surrounding the role sorrow, grief and tragedy play in the book and its various related stories. Tolkien, we know, was no stranger to grief, pain or even the horrors of World War I. As a writer, he does not shy from tragedy, and yet there is a powerful, indestructible hope that runs through his work, as it seems to have run through his life. He understood a truth that someone like me, who has suffered very little in comparison, has no right to speak of: that from sorrow, strife and pain can come a rich harvest. As Gandalf observes, “not all tears are evil.”

On a seemingly unrelated note, the muses of the Egotist’s Club have produced some very intriguing answers two the second 2012 Book Meme question. Perhaps reading their posts opened a previously unexplored avenue of thought in me, because I usually do not match music with books.

This morning a song came up on my mp3 player and, as I listened, its relation to the Silmarillion hit me. I have never thought, nor am likely to think again, of Tolkien and Emmylou Harris at the same time. However, here are the lyrics for Harris’s song, The Pearl, for Urania, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Calliope and David.

The Pearl, by Emmylou Harris

.

Oh the Dragons are gonna to fly tonight.

They’re circling low and in sight tonight.

It’s another round in the losing fight

Out along the great divide tonight.

.

We are aging soldiers in an ancient war

Seeking out some half-remembered shore.

We drink our fill and still we thirst for more,

Asking “if there’s no heaven what is this hunger for?”

.

Our path is worn our feet are poorly shod.

We lift up our prayer against the odds,

And fear the silence is the voice of God.

Of God, of God.

.

And we cry allelujah, allelujah,

We cry allelujah.

.

Sorrow is constant and the joys are brief.

The seasons come and bring no sweet relief.

Time is a brutal but a careless thief:

It takes our lot but leaves behind the grief.

.

It is the heart that kills us in the end,

Just one more old broken bone that cannot mend.

As it was, now, and ever shall be, amen.

Amen, amen.

.

And we cry allelujah, allelujah,

We cry allelujah.

.

So there’ll be no guiding light for you and me

We are not sailors lost out on the sea

We were always headed toward eternity

Hoping for a glimpse of Galilee.

.

Like falling stars from the universe we are hurled

Down through the long loneliness of the world

Until we, behold the pain, become the Pearl.

The Pearl. The Pearl.

.

Cryin´ allelujah allelujah
We cry allelujah!

And we cry allelujah allelujah
We cry allelujah!

We cry allelujah allelujah
We cry allelujah!


Echo in my soul

I never know when my soul will sing, nor always why it does.

The feeling is one of contradiction. It calls for weeping and laughter mingled. Bittersweet is not the right word, as there is no bitterness in it. Perhaps “sharp-sweet” will do.

One thing is clear. When my soul sings, it invariably sings to its Maker. That may be the reason for the sharp and the sweet, as lifting its voice to God requires my soul to look upon what it cannot apprehend. It is the spiritual equivalent of stretching muscles.

My soul is stretching.

Another image comes to mind, repugnant to some, but not to me, as I like the legless silken creatures. A snake, when it grows, seeks release from the bonds of its old skin. For the freedom to grow, it must break out of itself. I am constantly needing to break out of myself. Every time I  break, I grow. Every time I break my freedom increases.

Whether my soul sings desire, strength or Joy, or all co-mingled with many other songs,  it always has the same effect on me. I am full to overflowing, and I must either raise my own voice in song, or find means of praise in other ways.

Thankfully, there are as many ways to praise God as there are hearts that desire to do so. Living, itself, can be an act of praise. Of course, it does me good to literally lift my voice as often as I can.

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation!
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds and echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night He giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it.
This peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever-springing.
All things are mine, since I am His.
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile,
Our thoughts to them go winging;
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

(lyrics attributed to Pauline T. and Doris Plenn)


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