The Lay Of Leithian : Cantos 5, 6

by J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien

So days drew on from the mournful day;
the curse of silence no more lay
on Doriath, though Dairon's flute
and Lúthien's singing both were mute.
The murmurs soft awake once more
about the woods, the waters roar
past the great gates of Thingol's halls;
but no dancing step of Lúthien falls
on turf or leaf. For she forlorn,
where stumbled once, where bruised and torn,
with longing on him like a dream,
had Beren sat by the shrouded stream
Esgalduin the dark and strong,
she sat and mourned in a low song:
'Endless roll the waters past!
To this my love hath come at last,
enchanted waters pitiless,
a heartache and a loneliness.'
The summer turns. In branches tall
she hears the pattering raindrops fall,
the windy tide in leafy seas,
the creaking of the countless trees;
and longs unceasing and in vain
to hear one calling once again
the tender name that nightingales
were called of old. Echo fails.
'Tinúviel! Tinúviel!'
the memory is like a knell,
a faint and far-off tolling bell:
'Tinúviel! Tinúviel!'
'O mother Melian, tell to me
some part of what thy dark eyes see!
Tell of thy magic where his feet
are wandering! What foes him meet?
O mother, tell me, lives he still
treading the desert and the hill?
Do sun and moon above him shine,
do the rains fall on him, mother mine?'
'Nay, Lúthien my child, I fear
he lives indeed in bondage drear.
The Lord of Wolves hath prisons dark,
chains and enchantments cruel and stark,
there trapped and bound and languishing
now Beren dreams that thou dost sing.'
'Then I alone must go to him
and dare the dread in dungeons dim;
for none there be that will him aid
in all the world, save elven-maid
whose only skill were joy and song,
and both have failed and left her long.'
Then nought said Melian thereto,
though wild the words. She wept anew,
and ran through the woods like hunted deer
with her hair streaming and eyes of fear.
Dairon she found with ferny crown
silently sitting on beech-leaves brown.
On the earth she cast her at his side.
'O Dairon, Dairon, my tears,' she cried,
'now pity for our old days' sake!
Make me a music for heart's ache,
for heart's despair, and for heart's dread,
for light gone dark and laughter dead!'
'But for music dead there is no note,'
Dairon answered, and at his throat
his fingers clutched. Yet his pipe he took,
and sadly trembling the music shook;
and all things stayed while that piping went
wailing in the hollows, and there intent
they listened, their business and mirth,
their hearts' gladness and the light of earth
forgotten; and bird-voices failed
while Dairon's flute in Doriath wailed.
Lúthien wept not for very pain,
and when he ceased she spoke again:
'My friend, I have a need of friends,
as he who a long dark journey wends,
and fears the road, yet dare not turn
and look back where the candles burn
in windows he has left. The night
in front, he doubts to find the light
that far beyond the hills he seeks.'
And thus of Melian's words she speaks,
and of her doom and her desire
to climb the mountains, and the fire
and ruin of the Northern realm
to dare, a maiden without helm
or sword, or strength of hardy limb,
where magic founders and grows dim.
His aid she sought to guide her forth
and find the pathways to the North,
if he would not for love of her
go by her side a wanderer.
'Wherefore,' said he, 'should Dairon go
into direst peril earth doth know
for the sake of mortal who did steal
his laughter and joy? No love I feel
for Beren son of Barahir,
nor weep for him in dungeons drear,
who in this wood have chains enow,
heavy and dark. But thee, I vow,
I will defend from perils fell
and deadly wandering into hell.'
No more they spake that day, and she
perceived not his meaning. Sorrowfully
she thanked him, and she left him there.
A tree she climbed, till the bright air
above the woods her dark hair blew,
and straining afar her eyes could view
the outline grey and faint and low
of dizzy towers where the clouds go,
the southern faces mounting sheer
in rocky pinnacle and pier
of Shadowy Mountains pale and cold;
and wide the lands before them rolled.
But straightway Dairon sought the king
and told him his daughter's pondering
and how her madness might her lead
to ruin, unless the king gave heed.
Thingol was wroth, and yet amazed;
in wonder and half fear he gazed
on Dairon, and said: 'True hast thou been.
Now ever shall love be us between,
while Doriath lasts; within this realm
thou art a prince of beech and elm!'
He sent for Lúthien, and said:
'O maiden fair, what hath thee led
to ponder madness and despair
to wander to ruin, and to fare
from Doriath against my will,
stealing like a wild thing men would kill
into the emptiness outside?'
'The wisdom, father,' she replied;
nor would she promise to forget,
nor would she vow for love or threat
her folly to forsake and meek
in Doriath her father's will to seek.
This only vowed she, if go she must,
that none but herself would she now trust,
no folk of her father's would persuade,
to break his will or lend her aid;
if go she must, she would go alone
and friendless dare the walls of stone.
In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep. He would not bind
in caverns deep and intertwined
sweet Lúthien, his lovely maid,
who robbed of air must wane and fade,
who ever must look upon the sky
and see the sun and moon go by.
But close unto his mounded seat
and grassy throne there ran the feet
of Hirilorn, the beechen queen.
Upon her triple boles were seen
no break or branch, until aloft
in a green glimmer, distant, soft,
the mightiest vault of leaf and bough
from world's beginning until now
was flung above Esgalduin's shores
and the long slopes to Thingol's doors.
Grey was the rind of pillars tall
and silken-smooth, and far and small
to squirrels' eyes were those who went
at her grey feet upon the bent.
Now Thingol made men in the beech,
in that great tree, as far as reach
their longest ladders, there to build
an airy house; and as he willed
a little dwelling of fair wood
was made, and veiled in leaves it stood
above the first branches. Corners three
it had and windows faint to see,
and by three shafts of Hirilorn
in the corners standing was upborne.
There Lúthien was bidden dwell,
until she was wiser and the spell
of madness left her. Up she clomb
the long ladders to her new home
among the leaves, among the birds;
she sang no song, she spoke no words.
White glimmering in the tree she rose,
and her little door they heard her close.
The ladders were taken and no more
her feet might tread Esgalduin's shore.
Thither at whiles they climbed and brought
all things she needed or besought;
but death was his, whoso should dare
a ladder leave, or creeping there
should set one by the tree at night;
a guard was held from dusk to light
about the grey feet of Hirilorn
and Lúthien in prison and forlorn.
There Dairon grieving often stood
in sorrow for the captive of the wood,
and melodies made upon his flute
leaning against a grey tree-root.
Lúthien would from her windows stare
and see him far under piping there,
and she forgave his betraying word
for the music and the grief she heard,
and only Dairon would she let
across her threshold foot to set.
Yet long the hours when she must sit
and see the sunbeams dance and flit
in beechen leaves, or watch the stars
peep on clear nights between the bars
of beechen branches. And one night
just ere the changing of the light
a dream there came, from the Gods, maybe,
or Melian's magic. She dreamed that she
heard Beren's voice o'er hill and fell
'Tinúviel' call, 'Tinúviel.'
And her heart answered: 'Let me be gone
to seek him no others think upon!'
She woke and saw the moonlight pale
through the slim leaves. It trembled frail
upon her arms, as these she spread
and there in longing bowed her head,
and yearned for freedom and escape.
Now Lúthien doth her counsel shape;
and Melian's daughter of deep lore
knew many things, yea, magics more
than then or now know elven-maids
that glint and shimmer in the glades.
She pondered long, while the moon sank
and faded, and the starlight shrank,
and the dawn opened. At last a smile
on her face flickered. She mused a while,
and watched the morning sunlight grow,
then called to those that walked below.
And when one climbed to her she prayed
that he would in the dark pools wade
of cold Esgalduin, water clear,
the clearest water cold and sheer
to draw for her. 'At middle night,'
she said, 'in bowl of silver white
it must be drawn and brought to me
with no word spoken, silently.'
Another she begged to bring her wine
in a jar of gold where flowers twine --
'and singing let him come to me
at high noon, singing merrily.'
Again she spake: 'Now go, I pray,
to Melian the queen, and say:
"thy daughter many a weary hour
slow passing watches in her bower;
a spinning-wheel she begs thee send."'
Then Dairon she called: 'I prithee, friend,
climb up and talk to Lúthien!'
And sitting at her window then,
she said: 'My Dairon, thou hast craft,
beside thy music, many a shaft
and many a tool of carven wood
to fashion with cunning. It were good,
if thou wouldst make a little loom
to stand in the corner of my room.
My idle fingers would spin and weave
a pattern of colours, of morn and eve,
of sun and moon and changing light
amid the beech-leaves waving bright.'
This Dairon did and asked her then:
'O Lúthien, O Lúthien,
What wilt thou weave? What wilt thou spin?'
'A marvellous thread, and wind therein
a potent magic, and a spell
I will weave within my web that hell
nor all the powers of Dread shall break.'
Then Dairon wondered, but he spake
no word to Thingol, though his heart
feared the dark purpose of her art.
And Lúthien was left alone.
A magic song to Men unknown
she sang, and singing then the wine
with water mingled three times nine;
and as in golden jar they lay
she sang a song of growth and day;
and as they lay in silver white
another song she sang, of night
and darkness without end, of height
uplifted to the stars, and flight
and freedom. And all names of things
tallest and longest on earth she sings:
the locks of the Longbeard dwarves; the tail
of Draugluin the werewolf pale;
the body of Glómund the great snake;
the vast upsoaring peaks that quake
above the fires in Angband's gloom;
the chain Angainor that ere Doom
of steel and torment. Names she sought,
and sang of Glend the sword of Nan;
of Gilim the giant of Eruman;
and last and longest named she then
the endless hair of Uinen,
the Lady of the Sea, that lies
through all the waters under skies.
Then did she lave her head and sing
a theme of sleep and slumbering,
profound and fathomless and dark
as Lúthien's shadowy hair was dark --
each thread was more slender and more fine
than threads of twilight that entwine
in filmy web the fading grass
and closing flowers as day doth pass.
Now long and longer grew her hair,
and fell to her feet, and wandered there
like pools of shadow on the ground.
Then Lúthien in a slumber drowned
was laid upon her bed and slept,
till morning through the windows crept
thinly and faint. And then she woke,
and the room was filled as with a smoke
and with an evening mist, and deep
she lay thereunder drowsed in sleep.
Behold! her hair from windows blew
in morning airs, and darkly grew
waving about the pillars grey
of Hirilorn at break of day.
Then groping she found her little shears,
and cut the hair about her ears,
and close she cropped it to her head,
enchanted tresses, thread by thread.
Thereafter grew they slow once more,
yet darker than their wont before.
And now was her labour but begun:
long was she spinning, long she spun;
and though with elvish skill she wrought,
long was her weaving. If men sought
to call her, crying from below,
'Nothing I need,' she answered, 'go!
I would keep my bed, and only sleep
I now desire, who waking weep.'
Then Dairon feared, and in amaze
he called from under; but three days
she answered not. Of cloudy hair
she wove a web like misty air
of moonless night, and thereof made
a robe as fluttering-dark as shade
beneath great trees, a magic dress
that all was drenched with drowsiness,
enchanted with a mightier spell
than Melian's raiment in that dell
wherein of yore did Thingol roam
beneath the dark and starry dome
that hung above the dawning world.
And now this robe she round her furled,
and veiled her garments shimmering white;
her mantle blue with jewels bright
like crystal stars, the lilies gold,
were wrapped and hid; and down there rolled
dim dreams and faint oblivious sleep
falling about her, to softly creep
through all the air. Then swift she takes
the threads unused; of these she makes
a slender rope of twisted strands
yet long and stout, and with her hands
she makes it fast unto the shaft
of Hirilorn. Now, all her craft
and labour ended, looks she forth
from her little window facing North.
Already the sunlight in the trees
is drooping red, and dusk she sees
come softly along the ground below,
and now she murmurs soft and slow.
Now chanting clearer down she cast
her long hair, till it reached at last
from her window to the darkling ground.
Men far beneath her heard the sound;
but the slumbrous strand now swung and swayed
above her guards. Their talking stayed,
they listened to her voice and fell
suddenly beneath a binding spell.
Now clad as in a cloud she hung;
now down her ropéd hair she swung
as light as squirrel, and away,
away, she danced, and who could say
what paths she took, whose elvish feet
no impress made a-dancing fleet?
When Morgoth in that day of doom
had slain the Trees and filled with gloom
the shining land of Valinor,
there Fëanor and his sons then swore
the mighty oath upon the hill
of tower-crownéd Tûn, that still
wrought wars and sorrow in the world.
From darkling seas the fogs unfurled
their blinding shadows grey and cold
where Glingal once had bloomed with gold
and Belthil bore its silver flowers.
The mists were mantled round the towers
of the Elves' white city by the sea.
There countless tochers fitfully
did start and twinkle, and the Gnomes
were gathered to their fading homes,
and thronged the long and winding stair
that led to the wide echoing square.
There Fëanor mourned his jewels divine,
the Silmarils he made. Like wine
his wild and potent words them fill;
a great host harkens deathly still.
But all he said both wild and wise,
half truth and half the fruit of lies
that Morgoth sowed in Valinor,
in other songs and other lore
recorded is. He bade them flee
from lands divine, to cross the sea,
the pathless plains, the perilous shores
where ice-infested water roars;
to follow Morgoth to the unlit earth
leaving their dwellings and olden mirth;
to go back to the Outer Lands
to wars and weeping. There their hands
they joined in vows, those kinsmen seven,
swearing beneath the stars of Heaven,
by Varda the Holy that them wrought
and bore them each with radiance fraught
and set them in the deeps to flame.
Timbrenting's holy height they name,
whereon are built the timeless halls
of Manwë Lord of Gods. Who calls
these names in witness may not break
his oath, though earth and heaven shake.
Curufin, Celegorm the fair,
Damrod and Díriel were there,
and Crathir dark, and Maidros tall
(whom after torment should befall),
and Maglor the mighty who like the sea
with deep voice sings yet mournfully.
'Be he friend or foe, or seed defiled
of Morgoth Bauglir, or mortal child
that in after days on earth shall dwell,
no law, nor love, nor league of hell,
not mights of Gods, not moveless fate
shall him defend from wrath and hate
of Fëanor's sons, who takes or steals
or finding keeps the Silmarils,
that thrice-enchanted globes of light
that shine until the final night.'
The wars and wandering of the Gnomes
this tale tells not. Far from their homes
they fought and laboured in the North.
Fingon daring alone went forth
and sought for Maidros where he hung;
in torment terrible he swung,
his wrist in band of forgéd steel,
from a sheer precipice where reel
the dizzy senses staring down
from Thangorodrim's stony crown.
The song of Fingon Elves yet sing,
captain of armies, Gnomish king,
who fell at last in flame of swords
with his white banners and his lords.
They sing how Maidros free he set,
and stayed the feud that slumbered yet
between the children proud of Finn.
Now joined once more they hemmed him in,
even great Morgoth, and their host
beleaguered Angband, till they boast
no Orc nor demon ever dare
their leaguer break or past them fare.
Then days of solace woke on earth
beneath the new-lit Sun, and mirth
was heard in the Great Lands where Men,
a young race, spread and wandered then.
That was the time that songs do call
the Siege of Angband, when like a wall
the Gnomish swords did fence the earth
from Morgoth's ruin, a time of birth,
of blossoming, of flowers, of growth;
but still there held the deathless oath,
and still the Silmarils were deep
in Angband's darkly-dolven keep.
An end there came, when fortune turned,
and flames of Morgoth's vengeance burned,
and all the might which he prepared
in secret in his fastness flared
and poured across the Thirsty Plain;
and armies black were in his train.
The leaguer of Angband Morgoth broke;
his enemies in fire and smoke
were scattered, and the Orcs there slew
and slew, until the blood like dew
dripped from each cruel and crooked blade.
Then Barahir the bold did aid
with mighty spear, with shield and men,
Felagund wounded. To the fen
escaping, there they bound their troth,
and Felagund deeply swore an oath
of friendship to his kin and sed,
of love and succour in time of need.
But there of Finrod's children four
were Angrod slain and proud Egnor.
Felagund and Orodreth then
gathered the remnant of their men,
their maidens and their children fair;
forsaking war they made their lair
and cavernous hold far in the south.
On Narog's towering bank its mouth
was opened; which they hid and veiled,
and mighty doors, that unassailed
till Turin's day stood vast and grim,
they built by trees o'ershadowed dim.
And with them dwelt a long time there
Curufin, and Celegorm the fair;
and a mighty folk grew neath their hands
in Narog's secret halls and lands.
Thus Felagund in Nargothrond
still reigned, a hidden king whose bond
was sworn to Barahir the bold.
And now his son through forests cold
wandered alone as in a dream.
Esgalduin's dark and shrouded stream
he followed, till its waters frore
were joined to Sirion, Sirion hoar,
pale silver water wide and free
rolling in splendour to the sea.
Now Beren came unto the pools,
wide shallow mered where Sirion cools
his gathered tide beneath the stars,
ere chafed and sundered by the bars
of reedy banks a mighty fen
he feeds and drenches, plunging then
into vast chasms underground,
where many miles his way is wound.
Umboth-Muilin, Twilight Meres,
those great wide waters grey as tears
the Elves then named. Through driving rain
from thence across the Guarded Plain
the Hills of the Hunters Beren saw
by western winds; but in the mist
of streaming rains that flashed and hissed
into the meres he knew there lay
beneath those hills the cloven way
of Narog, and the watchful halls
of Felagund beside the falls
of Ingwil tumbling from the wold.
An everlasting watch they hold,
the Gnomes of Nargothrond renowned,
and every hill is tower-crowned,
where wardens sleepless peer and gaze
guarding the plain and all the ways
between Narog swift and Sirion pale;
and archers whose arrows never fail
there range the woods, and secret kill
all who creep thither against their will.
Yet now he thrusts into that land
bearing the gleaming ring on hand
of Felagund, and oft doth ry:
'Here comes no wandering Orc or spy,
but Beren son of Barahir
who once to Felagund was dear.'
So ere he reached the eastward shore
of Narog, that doth foam and roar
o'er boulders black, those archers green
came round him. When the ring was seen
they bowed before him, though his plight
was poor and beggarly. Then by night
they led him northward, for no ford
no bridge was built where Narog poured
before the gates of Nargothrond,
and friend nor foe might pass beyond.
To northward, where that stream yet young
more slender flowed, below the tongue
of foam-splashed land that Ginglith pens
when her brief golden torrent ends
and joins the Narog, there they wade.
Now swiftest journey thence they made
to Nargothrond's sheer terraces
and dim gigantic palaces.
They came beneath a sickle moon
to doors there darkly hung and hewn
with posts and lintels of ponderous stone
and timbers huge. Now open thrown
were gaping gates, and in they strode
where Felagund on throne abode.
Fair were the words of Narog's king
to Beren, and his wandering
and all his feuds and bitter wars
recounted soon. Behind closed doors
they sat, while Beren told his tale
of Doriath; and words him fail
recalling Lúthien dancing fair
with wild white roses in her hair,
remembering her elven voice that rung
while stars in twilight round her hung.
He spake of Thingol's marvellous halls
by enchantment lit, where fountain falls
and ever the nightingale doth sing
to Melian and to her king.
The quest he told that Thingol laid
in scorn on him; how for love of maid
more fair than ever was born to Men,
of Tinúviel, of Lúthien,
he must essay the burning waste,
and doubtless death and torment taste.
This Felagund in wonder heard,
and heavily spake at last this word:
'It seems that Thingol doth desire
thy death. The everlasting fire
of those enchanted jewels all know
is cursed with an oath of endless woe,
and Fëanor's sons alone by right
are lords and masters of their light.
He cannot hope within his hoard
to keep this gem, nor is he lord
of all the folk of Elfinesse.
And yet thou saist for nothing less
can thy return to Doriath
be purchased? Many a dreadful path
in sooth there lies before thy feet --
and after Morgoth, still a fleet
untiring hate, as I know well,
would hunt thee from heaven unto hell.
Fëanor's sons would, if they could,
slay thee or ever thou reached his wood
or laid in Thingol's lap that fire,
or gained at least thy sweet desire.
Lo! Celegorm and Curufin
here dwell this very realm within,
and even though I, Finrod's son,
am king, a mighty power have won
and many of their own folk lead.
Friendship to me in every need
they yet have shown, but much I fear
that to Beren son of Barahir
mercy or love they will not show
if once thy dreadful quest they know.'
True words he spake. For when the king
to all his people told this thing,
and spake of the oath to Barahir,
and how that mortal shield and spear
had saved them from Morgoth and from woe
on Northern battlefields long ago,
then many were kindled in their hearts
once more to battle. But up there starts
amid the throng, and loudly cries
for hearing, one with flaming eyes,
proud Celegorm, with gleaming hair
and shining sword. Then all men stare
upon his stern unyielding face,
and a great hush falls upon that place.
'Be he friend or foe, or demon wild
of Morgoth, Elf, or mortal child,
or any that here on earth may dwell,
no law, nor love, nor league of hell,
no might of Gods, no binding spell,
shall him defend from hatred fell
of Fëanor's sons, whoso take or steal
or finding keep a Silmaril.
These we alone do claim by right,
our thrice enchanted jewels bright.'
Many wild and potent words he spoke,
and as before in Tûn awoke
his father's voice their hearts to fire,
so now dark fear and brooding ire
he cast on them, foreboding war
of friend with friend; and pools of gore
their minds imagined lying red
in Nargothrond about the dead,
did Narog's host with Beren go;
or haply battle, ruin, and woe
in Doriath where great Thingol reigned,
if Feanor's fatal jewel he gained.
And even such as were most true
to Felagund with terror and despair
and thought with terror and despair
of seeking Morgoth in his lair
with force or guile. This Curufin
when his brother ceased did then begin
more to impress upon their inds;
and such a spell he on them binds
that never again till Turin's day
would Gnome of Narog in array
of open battle go to war.
With secrecy, ambush, spies, and lore
of wizardry, with silent leaguer
of wild things wary, watchful, eager,
of phantom hunters, venomed darts,
and unseen stealthy creeping arts,
with padding hatred that its prey
with feet of velvet all the day
followed remorseless out of sight
and slew it unawares at night --
thus they defended Nargothrond,
and forgot their kin and solemn bond
for dread of Morgoth that the art
of Curufin set within their heart.
So would they not that angry day
King Felagund their lord obey,
but sullen mumured that Finrod
nor yet his son were as a god.
Then Felagund took off his crown
and at his feet he cast it down,
th silver helmm of Nargothrond:
'Yours ye may break, but I my bond
must keep, and kingdom here forsake.
If hearts here were that did not quake,
or that to Finrod's son were true,
then I at least should find a few
to go with me, not like a poor
rejected beggar scorn endure,
turned from my gates to leave my town,
my people, and my realm and crown!'
Hearing these words there swiftly stood
beside him ten tried warriors good,
men of his house who had ever fought
wherever his banners had been brought.
One stooped and lifted up his crown,
and said: 'O king, to leave this town
is now our fate, but not to lose
thy rightful lordship. Thou shalt choose
one to be steward in thy stead.'
Then Felagund upon the head
of Orodreth set it: 'Brother mine.'
Then Celegorm no more would stay,
and Curufin smiled and turned away.

Last updated January 14, 2019