Tolkien: Deep Roots Are Not Reached by the Frost

Today we continue our month long celebration of the poetic work of Professor Tolkien. We have looked at a somewhat random assortment of his shorter poems, and we have also had the sheer enchanting joy of reading the sublime madness of Tom Bombadil. Today, the theme is honor and lament. An astute reader of Tolkien will quick notice that Tolkien, the man as well as the author, placed the highest value on tradition. He was in every sense a gentleman whose value was placed in simplicity. As such, it should come as no surprise that he understood the value and the good of honor. In many ways, both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings can be seen as case studies in honor.

The selected readings this week all revolve around those characters who most embodied the pursuit and upholding of honor. They are tales of victory and defeat, of life and loss. In a time when any virtue is hard to come by, honor is perhaps that which our culture most sorely needs. As we will see, honor is always worth the price paid.

“Over the Misty Mountains Cold”

Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells,
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught,
To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, on twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.

Goblets they carved there for themselves,
And harps of gold, where no man delves
There lay they long, and many a song
Was sung unheard by men or elves.

The pines were roaring on the heights,
The wind was moaning in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread,
The trees like torches blazed with light.

The bells were ringing in the dale,
And men looked up with faces pale.
The dragon’s ire, more fierce than fire,
Laid low their towers and houses frail.

The mountain smoked beneath the moon.
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled the hall to dying fall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

Far over the Misty Mountains grim,
To dungeons deep and caverns dim,
We must away, ere break of day,
To win our harps and gold from him!

The wind was on the withered heath,
But in the forest stirred no leaf:
There shadows lay be night or day,
And dark things silent crept beneath.

The wind came down from mountains cold,
And like a tide it roared and rolled.
The branches groaned, the forest moaned,
And leaves were laid upon the mould.

The wind went on from West to East;
All movement in the forest ceased.
But shrill and harsh across the marsh,
Its whistling voices were released.

The grasses hissed, their tassels bent,
The reeds were rattling—on it went.
O’er shaken pool under heavens cool,
Where racing clouds were torn and rent.

It passed the Lonely Mountain bare,
And swept above the dragon’s lair:
There black and dark lay boulders stark,
And flying smoke was in the air.

It left the world and took its flight
Over the wide seas of the night.
The moon set sale upon the gale,
And stars were fanned to leaping light.

Under the Mountain dark and tall,
The King has come unto his hall!
His foe is dead, the Worm of Dread,
And ever so his foes shall fall!

The sword is sharp, the spear is long,
The arrow swift, the Gate is strong.
The heart is bold that looks on gold;
The dwarves no more shall suffer wrong.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

On silver necklaces they strung
The light of stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, from twisted wire
The melody of harps they wrung.

The mountain throne once more is freed!
O! Wandering folk, the summons heed!
Come haste! Come haste! Across the waste!
The king of friend and kin has need.

Now call we over the mountains cold,
‘Come back unto the caverns old!’
Here at the gates the king awaits,
His hands are rich with gems and gold.

The king has come unto his hall
Under the Mountain dark and tall.
The Worm of Dread is slain and dead,
And ever so our foes shall fall!

Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away, ere break of day
Far over the wood and mountain tall.

To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the misty fell.
Through moor and waste we ride in haste,
And whither then we cannot tell.

With foes ahead, behind us dread,
Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
Until at last our toil be passed,
Our journey done, our errand sped.

We must away! We must away!
We ride before the break of day!

“The World Was Young, The Mountains Green” 

The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone,
When Durin woke and walked alone.
He named the nameless hills and dells;
He drank from yet untasted wells;
He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,
And saw a crown of stars appear,
As gems upon a silver thread,

Above the shadow of his head.The world was fair, the mountains tall,
In Elder Days before the fall
Of mighty kings in Nargothrond
And Gondolin, who now beyond
The Western Seas have passed away:
The world was fair in Durin’s Day.
A king he was on carven throne
In many-pillared halls of stone
With golden roof and silver floor,
And runes of power upon the door.
The light of sun and star and moon
In shining lamps of crystal hewn
Undimmed by cloud or shade of night
There shone for ever fair and bright.
There hammer on the anvil smote,
There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
The delver mined, the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
And metal wrought like fishes’ mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in hoard.Unwearied then were Durin’s folk;

Beneath the mountains music woke:
The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,
And at the gates the trumpets rang.The world is grey, the mountains old,
The forge’s fire is ashen-cold;
No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
The darkness dwells in Durin’s halls;
The shadow lies upon his tomb
In Moria, in Khazad-dum.
But still the sunken stars appear
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.

“Lament for Boromir”
Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows,
The West Wind comes walking, and about the walls it goes.
‘What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?
Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?’
‘I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey.
I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed away
Into the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more.
The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.’
‘O Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar,
But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.’From the mouths of the sea the South Wind flies, from the sandhills and the stones;
The wailing of the gulls it hears, and at the gate it moans.
‘What news from the South, O sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?
Where now is Boromir the fair? He tarries and I grieve!’
‘Ask me not of where he doth dwell—so many bones there lie
On the white shores and the dark shores under the stormy sky;
So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing Sea.
Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!’
‘O Boromir! Beyond the gate the seaward road runs south,
But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey sea’s mouth.’From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
‘What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.’
‘Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.’
‘O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.’
“Theoden”
From dark Dunharrow in the dim morning
With thane and captain rode Thengel’s son:
To Edoras he came, the ancient halls
Of the Mark-wardens mist-enshrouded;
Golden timbers were in gloom mantled.
Farewell he bade to his free people,
Hearth and high-seat, and the hallowed places,
Where long he had feasted ere the light faded.
Forth rode the king, fear behind him,
Fate before him. Fealty kept he;
Oaths he had taken, all fulfilled them.
Forth rode Theoden. Five nights and days
East and onward rode the Eolingas.
Through Folde and Fenmarch and the Firienwood,
Six thousand spears to Sunlending,
Mundberg the mighty under Mindolluin,
Sea-kings city in the South-kingdom
Foe-beleaguered, fire-encircled.
Doom drove them on. Darkness took them,
Horse and horseman; hoofbeats afar
Sank into silence: so the songs tell us.
“Theoden’s Fall”
We heard of the horns in the hills ringing,
The swords shining in the South-kingdom.
Steeds went striding to the stoning land
As wind in the morning. War was kindled.
There Theoden fell, Thengling mighty,
To his golden halls and green pastures
In the Northern fields never returning,
High lord of the host. Harding and Guthlaf,
Dunhere and Deorwine, doughty Grimbold,
Herefara and Herubrand, Horn and Fastred,
Fought and fell there in a far country:
In the Mounds of Mundberg under mould they lie
With their leauge-fellows, lords of Gondor.
Neither Hirluin the Fair to the hills by the sea,
Nor Forlong the old to the flowering vales
Ever, to Arnach, to his own country
Returned in triumph; nor the tall bowmen,
Derufin and Duilin, to their dark waters,
Meres of Morthond under mountain-shadows.
Death in the morning and at day’s ending
Lords took and lowly. Long now they sleep
Under grass in Gondor by the Great River.
Grey now as tears, gleaming silver
Red then it rolled, roaring water.
Foam dyed with blood flamed at sunset;
As beacons mountains burned at evening;
Red fell the dew in Rammas Echor.

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