Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Desert Island Poems Part Two

Picking up where I left off in Desert Island Poems Part One, Beowulf was an obscure composition before a professor of philology at Oxford University brought it to the attention of students of English literature. That professor was J.R.R. Tolkien, best known as the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, books that would be first on my list to take with me to that desert island if I could include novels. Tolkien was also a poet of no small talent, and I would definitely include one of his poems in my group of seven. Choosing just one is difficult, but I'm going to go with a poem that is written in both English and one of the fictional Elvish langauges that he created, Quneya, and that expresses his special sense of spirituality which blends the Christian with the pagan (Elbereth is much like a mother goddess, but in Tolkien's cosmology is more like an angel of the One God known as Eru Ilúvatar.


by J. R. R. Tolkien
Snow-white! Snow-white! O lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Sea!
O Light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!

Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!
Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath.
Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee
In a far land beyond the Sea.

O stars that in the Sunless Year
With shining hand by her were sown,
In windy fields now bright and clear
We see your silver blossom blown.

O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.

A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
Silivren penna miriel
O menal aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-diriel
O galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, si nef aearon!

Ai! laurie lantar lassi surinen!
Yeni unotime ve ramar aldaron,
Yeni ve linte yuldar vanier
Mi oromardi lisse-miruvoreva
Andune pella Vardo tellumar
Nu luini yassen tintilar i eleni
Omaryo airetari-lirinen.

Si man i yulma nin enquantuva?

An si Tintalle Varda Oilosseo
Ve fanyar maryat Elentari ortane,
Ar ilye tier undulare lumbule;
Ar sindanoriello caita mornie
I falmalinnar imbe met, ar hisie
Untupa Calaciryo miri oiale.
Si vanwa na, Romello vanwa, Valimar!
Namarie! Nai hiruvalye Valimar.
Nai elye hiruva. Namarie!

Ah! Like gold fall the leaves in the wind,
Long years numberless as the wings of trees!
The long years have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead
In lofty halls beyond the West
Beneath the blue vaults of Varda
Wherein the stars tremble in the song of her voice,
Holy and queenly.

Who now shall refill the cup for me?

For now the Kindler, Varda,
The Queen of the Stars, from Mount Everwhite
Has uplifted her hands like clouds,
And all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
And out of a grey country darkness lies on the foaming waves between us,
And mist covers the jewels of Calacirya for ever.
Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar!

Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar.
Maybe even thou shalt find it! Farewell!

Gilthoniel A Elbereth!
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
O menel palan-diriel,
Le nallon si dinguruthos!
A tiro nin, Fanuilos!

A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
Silivren penna miriel
O menal aglar elenath,
Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth!

We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.

And here is Tolkien reading an excerpt in Elvish:

And that's all for this installment of Desert Island Poems, stay tuned for Part Three, coming soon to a Blog Time Passing near you!

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