Here’s something a little different. While most of you (I’d hope) have read FotR and recall Bilbo’s poem in Rivendell, less have probably read “Errantry” from Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Both are offshoots of a poem Tolkien worked extensively on–”Eärendillinwë”, the Short Lay of Eärendil. Much of the material I found fascinating wasn’t included in either published version, so I’ve gone through the different variants (of which there are over twenty) and constructed something new. This is an edit which includes the material most distinct from the published versions, and all of the “good stuff” I liked from the drafts. The result is necessarily a tad incongruous, drifting from whimsy into established canon and back again. Still, if you like this sort of thing… enjoy.
There was a gallant passenger
a messenger, a mariner:
he built a boat and gilded her
and silver oars he fashioned her;
her woven sails were white as snow,
as flying foam her banner flowed;
her prow he fashioned like a swan
that white upon the Falas goes.
He floated from a haven fair
of maiden-hair and everfern;
the waterfalls he proudly rode
where loudly flowed the Merryburn;
and dancing on the foam he went
on roving bent from Hitherland,
through Evermorning journeying,
while murmuring the River ran
to valleys in the Gloaming-fields;
and slowly then on pillow cool
let fall his head, and fast asleep
he passed the Weepingwillow Pools.
The windy reeds were whispering,
and mists were in the meadowland,
and down the River hurried him
and carried him to Shadowland.
The Sea beside a stony shore
there lonely roared, and under night
a wind arose and wafted him
a castaway in hapless flight.
He woke again forlorn afar
by shores that are without a name,
and by the Shrouded Islands o’er
the Silent Water floating came.
The winds of fear came driving him,
and blindly in the foam he fled
from west to east and errandless,
unheralded he homeward sped.
In wrath the Fëanorians
that swore the unforgotten oath
brought war into Arvernien
with burning and with broken troth;
and Elwing from her fastness dim
then cast her in the waters wide,
but like a bird was swiftly borne,
uplifted o’er the roaring tide.
Through hopeless night she came to him,
and flame was in her carcanet,
more bright than light of diamond
was fire that on her heart was set.
The Silmaril she bound on him,
and crowned him with the living light,
and dauntless then with burning brow
he turned his prow at middle-night.
Beyond the world, beyond the Sea,
then strong and free a storm arose,
a wind on high in Tarmenel;
by paths that seldom mortal goes
from Middle-earth on mighty breath
as flying wraith across the grey
and long-forsaken seas distressed
from East to West he passed away.
Through Evernight then borne afar
by waters dark beyond the Day
he saw the Lonely Island rise
where twilight lies upon the Bay
of Valinor, of Elvenhome,
and ever-foaming billows roll;
he landed on the elven-strands
of silver sand and fallow gold,
beneath the Hill of Ilmarin
where glimmer in a valley sheer
the lights of Elven Tirion,
the city on the Shadowmere.
He tarried there his errantry,
and melodies they taught to him,
and lays of old, and marvels told,
and harps of gold they brought to him.
Of glamoury he tidings heard,
and binding words of sigaldry;
they spoke of wars with Enemies
that venom used and wizardry.
In coat that came from ancient kings
of serried rings they armoured him;
his shield they writ with elven-runes
that never wound did harm to him.
His bow was made of dragon-horn,
his arrows shorn of ebony,
of triple steel his habergeon,
his scabbard of chalcedony.
His sword was like a flame in sheath,
with gems was wreathed his helmet tall,
an argent flame upon his crest,
upon his breast an emerald.
His boat anew for him they built
of mithril and of elven-glass;
the Silmaril was hanging bright
as lantern light on slender mast;
and eagle-wings they made for her,
and laid on her a mighty doom
to sail the seas of wind and come
where glimmering runs the gliding moon.
From Evereven’s lofty hills
where softly spill the fountains tall,
he passed away, a wandering light,
beyond the mighty Mountain Wall
and unto Evernight he came,
and like a flaming star he dropped:
his javelins of diamond
as fire into the darkness shot.
Ungoliant abiding there
in Spider-lair her thread entwined;
for endless years a gloom she spun
the Sun and Moon in web to wind.
She caught him in her stranglehold
entangled all in ebon thread,
and seven times with sting she smote
his ringéd coat with venom dread.
His sword was like a flashing light
as flashing bright he smote with it;
he shore away her poisoned neb,
her noisome webs he broke with it.
Then shining as a risen star
from prison bars he sped away,
and borne upon a blowing wind
on flowing wings he fled away.
To Evernoon at last he came,
and passed the flame-encircled hill,
where wells of gold for Melineth
her never-resting workers build.
The seven-branchéd Levin-tree
on Heavenfield he shining saw
upflowering from its writhen root;
a living fruit of fire it bore.
The lightning in his face was lit,
ablaze were set his tresses wan,
his eyes with levin-beams were bright,
and gleaming white his vessel shone.
From World’s End then he turned away
and yearned again to seek afar
his land beneath the morning light
and burning like a beacon star
on high above the mists he came,
a distant flame, a marineer
on winds unearthly swiftly borne,
uplifted o’er the Shadowmere.
He passed o’er Calacirian,
where Tirion the Hallowed stands;
the sea far under loudly roared
on cloudy shores in Shadowland.
And over Evermorn he passed,
and saw at last the haven fair,
far under by the Merryburn
in everfern and maidenhair.
But on him mighty doom was laid,
till moon should fade and all the stars,
to pass, and tarry never more
on hither shore where mortals are,
till end of Days on errand still,
a herald bright that never rests,
to bear his burning lamp afar,
the Flammifer of Westernesse.