Shanty of the Binds

Oh navitar, where are we bound?
My navitar, what paths are found?
Oh navitar, the binds deform,
But waking, we are then reborn.
My navitar, the river is deep,
What falls in, the Nigh will keep.
Where bound, where bound, the keeper cries,
You hear the binds, not the replies.
But sways await, the travelers sleep,
Cast off, cast off, and into the deep.

– a river song,
A World Too Near, Kay Kenyon

The Happy Mariners

I know a window in a western tower
That opens on celestial seas,
And wind that has been blowing round the stars
Comes to nestle in its tossing draperies.
It is a white tower builded in the Twilight Isles,
Wher Evening sits for ever in the shade;
It glimmers like a spike of lonely pearl
That mirrors beams forlorn and lights that fade;
And sea goes washing round the dark rock where it stands,
And fairy boats go by to gloaming lands
All piled and twinkling in the gloom
With hoarded sparks of orient fire
That divers won in waters of the unknown Sun –
And, maybe, ‘tis a throbbing silver lyre,
Or voices of grey sailors echo up
Afloat among the shadows of the world
In oarless shallop and with canvas furled;
For often seems there ring of feet and song
Or twilit twinkle of a trembling gong.

O! happy mariners upon a journey long
To those great portals on the Western shores
Where far away constellate fountains leap,
And dashed against Night’s dragon-headed doors,
In foam of stars fall sparkling in the deep.
While I alone look out behind the Moon
From in my white and windy tower,
Ye bide no moment and await no hour,
But chanting snatches of a mystic tune
Go through the shadows and the dangerous seas
Past sunless lands to fairy leas
Where stars upon the jacinth wall of space
Do tangle burst and interlace.
Ye follow Earendel through the West,
The shining mariner, to Islands blest;
While only from beyond that sombre rim
A wind returns to stir these crystal panes
And murmur magically of golden rains
That fall for ever in those spaces dim.

– J.R.R. Tolkien (1915)

A lone man is sitting on a rock on the seashore,

immobile as if he was hardened into stone. Deep concentration has outlined the veins on his forehead. In his thick beard the pearls of water gleam in the afternoon light. The sounds of the sea fill his senses: the waves foaming not far from his feet; seagulls shrieking, gliding on the wind; the heath wheezing in golden fields behind him. But there is another sound, harder to discern, that keeps his attention fixed as if fastened to the mast of a ship. The unearthly notes of a melody alien to human ears, bringing the fascination of a desire so strong, it is bound to bring damnation. His muscles, tensed, reveal how much strength it requires to resist the call. He guards his mind and listens, to memorize the inflections, decipher the tones and plant them into human words. He sees female beauty among the waves, he sees wisdom that would satisfy his hunger, he glimpses flowers of joy reminiscent of those on the Elysian Fields. It could be his alone: no one ever saw what he sees. His eyes are hollow.

“Of Sirens and Sea Nymphs”, attributed to Imola Unger?


“moving billow of water,” 1526, from wave (v.), replacing M.E. waw, which is from O.E. wagian “to move to and fro” (cf. Old Saxon, Old High German, wag, Old Frisian weg, Old Norse vagr “water in motion, wave, billow,” Gothic wegs “tempest” see wag (v.)). The usual O.E. word for “moving billow of water” was . As for “billow”, it is attested from 1552, from O.N. bylgja “a wave,” from Proto-Germanic bulgjan, from Proto-Indo-European bhelgh- “to swell”, or “to belly”.

Etymology aside, I believe that what attracts me in waves is that they are the essence of everything a painting is not. They are never still. They are a continuous challenge composed of exquisitely fleeting instants. Every second is a provocation of sorts, a chaos theory conjugation of elements – light, water, wind, current, shore – that can never be properly captured.

– John Howe,


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.
– Tevildo.

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.

Two poems

A Eärendil, elenion ancalima!
Shining mariner gazing from heaven afar.
How fair art thou, radiant star so bright:
Of gold and silver, everlasting hallowed light.

Belegaer, Belegaer, how have the years passed!
Thou art constant and forever unchanging.
Could I return to thy shore at long last,
I, restless and anxious, ever ranging?

Grey ship, grey ship! Return to me,
Canst thou still feel the waters foaming?
Come! let us together sail the ocean sea
And recall the bright days of restless roaming.

Endless Journey

Amazon the Liffey and the shimmer and the ripple
The Volga and the Fergus the Tagus and the Nile
Uisce in the Shannon and the Chico Colorado
Waikato Rio Grande the ripple in the tide

The gully and a-gushing and an ebbing and a-flowing
Irrawaddy Pilcomayo Mississippi and the Lee
Trickly-oozing in the Lagan Orinoco and Zambezi
Ubangi and the Congo the Mackenzie to the Sea

A-pooling and a-pouring and a-flooding and a-flushing
From the Purus to Parana from the Tigris to the Thames
Guadiana Guadalquiver Brahmaputra Colorado
And the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee and the Seine

Surging and a-showering and a-spouting and a-spilling
In the Albany the Oder the Ural and the Ooze
Dordogne and the Danube and the Dnieper and the Dodder
Paraguay and Tokachi and Shinano Vera Cruz

Amazon the Liffey and the shimmer and the ripple
The Volga and the Fergus the Tagus and the Nile

The Heart will find a Home, the Ship will find a Harbour
A haven for the soul until the storms subside
But when the warmer wind blows
And when that golden light glows
We face the dawn and float out on the tide

We sail into the sun, our hope is the horizon
And just as we’ve begun, it seems that we’ve arrived
An everlasting journey
A hungering and yearning
Around the river runs and rushes through our lives

Fire may burn and the sky may thunder
Heroes crumble and the sun may fall
As the river circles on its endless journey
I will follow you

– Bill Whelan, Riverdance (1995)

I have never left the ocean,

for the land is passive and sedentary. Is there not the saying ‘as old as the hills’? The earth changes not, and one wearies swiftly of this monotony. Nay, life on the static realm is not for me.

I have never left the ocean. See the waves, ever shifting and ruffling. Today they are calm, but they shall boil and foam tomorrow, and rise towering in mighty rollers. ‘Tis Change, dark child. One feels it beneath one’s feet, beneath the slender planks of the ship’s frail hull; one sees it day after day, in these sullen waters and cruel deeps.

I have never left the ocean, even though she is a ruthless mistress; for she embodies change. And she is everlasting. Can one resist her heavy hand? Shall Akallabêth rise again from the abyss? Can you fight the tides of time? Dark child from distant lands, heed me: cling no more to the vestiges of the past, for they shall be swept away like flotsam in the surf. Change is eternal, as the ocean sea.

– Azrapûh the Old, Black Númenórean and boatswain of the Ulbâzathêl.(written c. 2003)