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)


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.

Belfalas Memories: Edhellond

Ah, Edhellond…

This grove of memorials overlooks Dol Amroth city, commanding a breathtaking view of Cobas Haven’s shining white coast. Beyond, even unto the limits of my sight, stretch the rolling green hills of Anfalas; the ramparts of the Ered Nimrais are a silver flash upon the horizon. A vista to behold from this great height, yet I turn ever to the stately ships foraying upon the blue waves, and my gaze follows their wakes to the glistening white haven nestled at the estuary where Morthond and Ringló meet Belegaer. As Mithlond in the north Edhellond is in the south, a haven for exiles from the drowned lands. I sailed to its ports often in the Second Age, but seldom stepped forth from its walls into the wild lands beyond. Now it stands as a bastion of fading Elvendom amidst the realm of Men.

Ah, Edhellond… haven of the Quendi…

I look upon you with love, O Edhellond. Established in days of the First Age ere the fall of Beleriand, you stand as a living memory of the realm of my youth. Eglarest and Brithombar, jewels of the Falas, are no more – but you remained, and you have endured the long-years. Always, I feel the lingering spirit of the Elder days when I am within your walls. Ah, should Beleriand rise again from the deeps! But such hope is vain, and not until the end of Ages shall these sundered realms rise again.

Ah, Edhellond… you are ancient beyond the lifespans of Men…

Shall it withstand the march of time? Day by day the Mariner-Elves depart, sailing their caravels to Mithlond ere embarking on that final journey westward. Day by day the Secondborn grow in strength in that fair city, until Edhellond shall be but in name. Will the sons of Men still hear lovely music played upon its street-corners and minarets, or discern laughter amidst the cobbled plazas? Perhaps they shall, for some will tarry unwilling to leave the shore of their births. But I do not think so.

Should I stand upon this hilltop in a long-year’s time, I shall only see a city of marble and damask shining in the sun, beautiful even as it fades; filled only with echoes of song, for naught shall be played there again; a tender memory of past days – but only a memory.

Ah, Edhellond… shall you lie abandoned in eternal slumber, never to wake again, when the last fairy ship departs?

(written 01 May, 2005.)

Belfalas Memories: Dol Amroth

Ah, Belfalas…

Again I sit upon the tall hill of Amroth, the citadel beyond; the city below, spread out before me like an intricate map. A gentle wind blows off the cape, ruffling my unbound hair around my shoulders, while gulls and swallows soar and wheel, crying and calling to each other in that timeless speech of intrepidity. The city of Prince Imrahil rests in the afternoon sun; the smells and sounds of life waft toward me on the breeze as the denizens go about their daily lives, little troubled by the war that afflicts the rest of Gondor.

Thus they go about their lives unconcernedly, as their forefathers did when I wandered here in more peaceful years, decades ago. Nay, nothing has changed in the Dol Amroth city. White ship and silver swan still stream and flutter in the wind, a symbol of the upright reign of Man in this beautiful fief.

Ah, Belfalas… you have changed little…

This quiet grove is removed from the path and traffic that lead to Dol Amroth’s keep. The watchmen of the keep recognize me, so I am free to wander at will without disturbance. This is my favourite haunt in Gondor, filled with rest, serenity and forgetful memories. Forgetful memories of the old era when chivalrous knights and goodly ladies walked amongst us. Now lesser Men set their faces against each other: they war and quarrel as the the world is filled with turmoil and flames. Shall those high days slip entirely away?

Perhaps they already have gone from this land, and only remain embodied in the solemn gravestones and memorials of those who passed away. I walk about the site, reading the names on the memorial tablets. Wasach. Hevron. Kashmirny. Radaster. Janya. Noble Knights of Dol Amroth, and two Elven ladies. Janya… I remember her, the care-worn but serene Imíretano of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain. I seldom saw her when I first arrived at the Hall, and before I could make her acquaintance she sailed into the West, seeking deliverance from the burdens of Middle-earth. Namárië, Heri Janya Pathor: may your spirit find rest in Aman.

Ah, Belfalas… you endure through the Ages…

I sit in this quiet grove with greenery and staid memorials around me, while the melodious creel of birds mingles with the sounds of life in the city below, and, beyond, the ceaseless rush of water as the waves beach themselves upon Cobas Haven. It is a place of restful memories, where one can meditate upon the days of his or her past, and draw wisdom from them. Aye, when cares and sorrow weigh upon me, I shall seek this quiet grove where I can wander through the trees, even as my thoughts drift through the corridors of time.

And when I reach the last of my days, when I finally weary of Middle-earth and my heart turn westward, I know I shall return to this shoreland of Gondor and walk in the lapping sea on the ivory sands, to finally reach the irenic rest of this little grove on the Hill of Amroth. How strange it should be that in the realm of Men I should find this haven of tranquility! –Nay, not that. When the kingdom of Men crumbles, this land will still remain, unto the end of the Ages.

Ah, Belfalas… how I love thee…

(written 25 April, 2005.)

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.

The Returning.

Seventieth of Rhîw, Dusk.

The ocean is eternal. It is immortal, as the Elves are – but unlike the Elves, it knows nothing of the past, the future, or the ways and travails and cares of the children of Ilúvatar. The Sun and Moon rise from the waters, set in the same, and it is simply a rhythmic breathing of the heavens, as much as the swell and ebb of waves beneath my single-sailed sloop mark the slow heartbeat of the deep ocean.

The Outer Seas know nothing of the seasons and reckonings of Middle-earth; it has no care for this edifice of mortality. It has been before them – aye, even the Sun and Moon – and will be after the end of all kingdoms. And I, who has also been ere Sun- and Moon-rise, forgot mortality and the mortal ways I once lived in, and reckoned my life by the ancient pulse of the waves.

Thus coming in from the Outer Seas did I set foot upon the shores of Endor, and I knew not the span of time that passed since I left them. Several fleeting months, or a long-year? but the folk that received me in the lower coast of Harlindon did, so I learnt that I came to them on the winter solstice of the year 30–, and thus had been away three years. Longer and shorter both, than I’d expected.

Now I am in Mithlond, in the old home that Aurion and I built upon the cliffs, gazing at the sun setting over Mithlond harbour.

The words are now coming somewhat easier. Ere I came home, I hadn’t spoken or written for … a long time. Not intelligibly, for sure.

It is strange that I have returned out of that blissful endless eternity to this mortal land; that I have turned my face away from the promise of Avallónë to the sorrows of Endor. My heart, do you not still yearn for peace and rest; for reunion never to be sundered again? Yes, and yes, I yearn.

But I sit at the balcony in this home Aurion and I built, and look at the streets and docks of Mithlond; and the great sweep of the gulf beyond – still snowbound yet beginning to stir with the Stirring; and the myriad birds that wheel in the cloud-laced sky, a furnace burning with Anor’s dying flame… my heart, do you still love this land that gave you birth and grew together with you across the Ages?

My heart says Yes. Thus I remain.

(written 20 Apr 2008.)


Man cenuva fána cirya
métima hrestallo círa,
i fairi nécë
ringa súmaryassë
ve maiwi yaimië?

Man tiruva fána cirya,
wilwarin wilwa,
rámainen elvië
ëar falastala,
winga hlápula
rámar sisílala,
cálë fifírula?

Man hlaruva rávëa súrë
ve tauri lillassië,
ninqui carcar yarra
isilmë ilcalassë,
isilmë pícalassë,
isilmë lantalassë
ve loicolícuma;
raumo nurrua, undumë rúma?

Man cenuva lumbor ahosta
Menel acúna ruxal’ ambonnar,
ëar amortala,
undumë hácala,
enwina lúmë
elenillor pella
atalantië mindonnar?

Man tiruva rácina cirya
ondolissë mornë
nu fanyarë rúcina,
anar púrëa tihta
axor ilcalannar
métim’ auressë?

Man cenuva métim’ andúnë?

– J.R.R. Tolkien