The sun has risen on yet another 25th of March, and that means it’s the start of Tolkien Reading Day!
This day, marking the destruction of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, is meant to praise the author’s works and encourage people to read Tolkien by quoting favourite passages.
Besides being a prolific writer, J.R.R. Tolkien was also quite the poet. I’ve mentioned numerous times my love for his poetry and, instead of focusing on the more popular and praised Middle-earth works, today I’ve decided to provide you with four beautiful extracts of these metrical compositions.
Except for the final piece, the other three come from more recent and lesser-known publication. It is also a fact that many Tolkien readers have not yet fully appreciated these work and given them their due share of praise.
Oh, and what do you know … it’s just been announced by the Tolkien Society that this year’s theme is poetry!
I feel I’m in a minority when I express my intense passion for reading The Fall of Arthur or the Lay of Aotrou & Itroun. There is a beauty in the flowing of the words, the metrical pacing and the purity of the narratives that is quite unlike the Middle-earth stories, yet somehow so synonymous with their allure and ability to create imagined world and characters.
But I’ll stop here and let these extracts speak for themselves, and here’s hoping that those of you who have not yet explored the depths of these poem, are compelled to do so at the end of this post.
Here’s my friendly advice: listen to each verse, the musicality of pacing, the descriptive sounds and atmospheres. Be aware of the unparalleled ability to say so much with so few words, or the intensity with which each phrase propels the narrative forward.
Appreciate the poetry and the poet.
With dread faces dragon-prowed they spurred
their sea horses to sudden onset,
swerving swiftly and swinging inward.
Bulwark met bulwark. Burst were timbers.
There was clang of iron and crash of axes;
sparked and splintered spears and helmets;
the smiths of battle on smitten anvils
there dinned and hammered deadly forging
wrath and ruin.
The Fall of Arthur, Canto IV, lines 177-185
The way was long, the woods were dark;
at last the lord beheld the spark
of living light from window high,
and knew his halls and towers were nigh.
At last he slept in weary sleep
beside his wife, and dreaming deep,
he walked with children yet unborn
in gardens fair. until the morn
came slowly through the windows tall,
an shadows moved across the wall.
The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun, lines 95-104
His head was higher than the helm of kings
with heathen crowns, his heart keener
and his soul clearer than swords of heroes
polished and proven: than plated gold
his worth was greater. From the world
has passed a prince peerless in peace and war,
just in judgement, generous-handed
as the golden lords of long ago.
He has gone to God glory seeking,
The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son
Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.
Bilbo’s Last Song, lines 9-16
Share with us your favourite Tolkien passages! 😀