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Tolkien Poetry

Tolkien's poetry is usually underrated by many; but on the contrary,
it is what distinguished Tolkien's writings from that of others.
Tolkien employed a variety of rhymic patterns and sometimes
mixed them together to produce highly complicated poems.

In The Lord of the Rings, the most highly praised poem is probably
Eärendil the Mariner:

at last he came to Night of Naught,
and passed, and never sight he saw
of shining shore nor sight he sought.
The winds of wrath came driving him,
and blindly in the foam he fled
from west to east and errandless,
unheralded he homeward sped.

This is an example of alliterative verse - repetition of initial sounds, usually consonants, of stressed syllables - which was prevalent in a number of old literatures prior to the 14th century, including Anglo-Saxon. In such form, the first half-line generally has two, or sometimes three, syllables alliterate, while the second half usually has one; sometimes one alliterating sound is carried through successive lines.

In JRR Tolkien: A Biography, author Humphrey Carpenter wrote:
It is a pity that Tolkien wrote so little alliterative verse,
for it suited his imagination far more than did modern rhyme-schemes.


More examples from The Lays of Beleriand

Túrin's Fostering

Then the fame of the fights    on the far marches
was carried to the courts    of the king of Doriath,
and tales of Túrin    were told in his halls,
of the bond and brotherhood    of Beleg the ageless
with the blackhaired boy    from the beaten people.

Winter comes to Nargothrond

The summer slowly    in the sad forest
waned and faded.    In the west arose
winds that wandered    over warring seas.
Leaves were loosened    from labouring boughs:
fallow-gold they fell,    and the feet buried
of trees standing    tall and naked,
rustling restlessly    down roofless aisles,
shifting and drifting.    The shing vessel




The Fall of Gil-galad

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

Song of Aragorn

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be waken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Legolas' Song of the Sea

To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying,
The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying.
West, west away, the round sun is falling.
Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling,
The voices of my people that have gone before me?
I will leave, I will leave the woods that bore me;
For our days are ending and our years falling.
I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing.
Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling,
Sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling,
In Eressëa, in Elvenhome that no man can discover,
Where the leaves fall not: land of my people for ever!

Song of Beren and Lúthien

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.
Tinúviel 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 alone 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.
Tinúviel! Tinúviel!
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 Tinúviel
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.
Tinúviel 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.

Galadriel's Song of Eldamar

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the walls of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
While here beyond the Sundering Seas now falls the Elven-tears.
O Lórien! The Winter comes, the bare and the leafless Day;
The leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?

Gandalf's Song of Lórien

In Dwimordene, in Lórien
Seldom have walked the feet of Men,
Few mortal eyes have seen the light
That lies there ever, long and bright.
Galadriel! Galadriel!
Clear is the water of your well;
White is the star in your white hand;
Unmarred, unstained is leaf and land
In Dwimordene, in Lórien
More fair than thoughts of Mortal Men.

The Lay of Leithian

Beren meets Lúthien

'A! Lúthien, Tinúviel,
why wentest thou to darkling dell
with shining eyes and dancing pace,
the twilight glimmering in thy face?
Each day before the end of eve
she sough her love, nor would him leave,
until the stars were dimmed, and day
came glimmering eastward silver-grey.
Then trembling-veiled she would appear
and dance before him, half in fear;
there flitting just before his feet
she gently chid with laughter sweet:
'Come! dance now, Beren, dance with me!
For fain thy dancing I would see.
Come! thou must woo with nimbler feet,
than those who walk where mountains meet
the bitter skies beyond this realm
of marvellous moonlit beech and elm.'

Beren's Death

Towards Doriath the wanderers now
were drawing nigh. Though bare was bough
and winter through the grasses grey
went hissing chill, and brief was day,
they sang beneath the frosty sky
above them lifted clear and high.
They came to Mindeb swift and bright
that from the northern mountain' height
to Neldoreth came leaping down
with noise among the boulders brown,
but into sudden silence fell,
passing beneath the guarding spell
that Melian on the borders laid
of Thingol's land. There now they stayed;
for silence sad on Beren fell.
Unheeded long, at last too well
he heard the warning of his heart:
alas, beloved, here we part.
'Alas, Tinúviel,' he said,
'this road no further can we tread
together, no more hand in hand
can journey in the Elven-land.'
'Why part we here? What dost thou say,
even at dawn of brighter day?'

The Duel of Fingolfin and Melkor

Fingolfin like a shooting light
beneath a cloud, a stab of white,
sprang then aside, and Ringil drew
like ice that gleameth cold and blue,
his sword devised of elvish skill
to pierce the flesh with deadly chill.
With seven wounds it rent his foe,
and seven mighty cries of woe
rang in the mountains, and the earth quook,
and Angband's trembling armies shook.

Thrice was Fingolfin with great blows
to his knees beaten, thrice he rose
still leaping up beneath the cloud
aloft to hold star-shining, proud,
his stricken shield, his sundered helm,
that dark nor might would overwhelm
till all the earth was burst and rent
in pits about him. He was spent.
His feet stumbled. He fell to wreck
upon the ground, and on his neck
a foot like rooted hills was set,
and he was crushed--not conquered yet;
one last despairing stroke he gave:
the mighty foot pale Ringil clave
about the heel, and black the blood
gushed as from smoking fount in flood.
Halt goes for ever from that stroke
great Morgoth; but the king he broke.

Bilbo's Adventure Song

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

Frodo's Lament for Gandalf

When evening in the Shire was grey
his footsteps on the Hill were heard;
before the dawn he went away
on journey long without a word.

From Wilderland to Western shore,
from northern waste to southern hill,
through dragon-lair and hidden door
and darkling woods he walked at will.

With Dwarf and Hobbit, Elves and Men,
with mortal and immortal folk,
with bird on bough and beast in den,
in their own secret tongues he spoke.

A deadly sword, a healing hand,
a back that bent beneath its load;
a trumpet-voice, a burning brand,
a weary pilgrim on the road.

A lord of wisdom throned he sat,
swift in anger, quick to laugh;
an old man in a battered hat
who leaned upon a throny staff.

He stood upon the bridge alone
and Fire and Shadow both defied;
his staff was broken on the stone,
in Khazad-dûm his wisdom died.






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