The Lay Of Leithian Recommenced

by J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien

A king there was in days of old:
ere Men yet walked upon the mould
his power was reared in caverns' shade,
his hand was over glen and glade.
Of leaves his crown, his mantle green,
his silver lances long and keen;
the starlight in his shield was caught,
ere moon was made or sun was wrought.
In after-days, when to the shore
of Middle-earth from Valinor
the Elven-hosts in might returned,
and banners flew and beacons burned,
when kings of Eldamar went by
in strength of war, beneath the sky
then still his silver trumpets blew
when sun was young and moon was new.
Afar then in Beleriand,
in Doriath's beleaguered land,
King Thingol sat on guarded throne
in many-pillared halls of stone:
there beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
and metal wrought like fishes' mail,
buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
and gleaming spears were laid in hoard:
all these he had and counted small,
for dearer than all wealth in hall,
and fairer than are born to Men,
a daughter had he, Lúthien.
Such lissom limbs no more shall run
on the green earth beneath the sun;
so fair a maid no more shall be
from dawn to dusk, from sun to sea.
Her robe was blue as summer skies,
but grey as evening were her eyes;
her mantle sewn with lilies fair,
but dark as shadow was her hair.
Her feet were swift as bird on wing,
her laugher merry as the spring;
the slender willow, the bowing reed,
the fragrance of a flowering mead,
the light upon the leaves of trees,
the voice of water, more than these
her beauty was and blissfulness,
her glory and her loveliness.
She dwelt in the enchanted land
while elven-might yet held in hand
the woven woods of Doriath:
none ever thither found the path
unbidden, none the forest-eaves
dared pass, or stir the listeningleaves.
To North there lay a land of dread,
Dungorthin where all ways were dead
in hills of shadow bleak and cold:
beyond was Deadly Nightshade's hold
in Taur-na-Fuin's fastness grim,
where sun was sick and moon was dim.
To South the wide earth unexplored;
to West the ancient Ocean roared,
unsailed and shoreless, wide and wild;
to East in peaks of blue were piled,
in silence folded, mist-enfurled,
the mountains of the outer world.
Thus Thingol in his dolven hall
amid the Thousand Caverns tall
of Menegroth as king abode:
to him there led no mortal road.
Beside him sat his deathless queen,
fair Melian, and wove unseen
nets of enchantment round his throne,
and spells were laid on tree and stone:
sharp was his sword and high his helm,
the king of beech and oak and elm.
When grass was green and leaves were long,
where finch and mavis sang their song,
there under bough and under sun
in shadow and in light would run
fair Lúthien the elven-maid,
dancing in dell and grassy glade.
When sky was clear and stars were keen,
then Dairon with his fingers lean,
as daylight melted into eve,
a trembling music sweet would weave
on flutes of silver, thin and clear
for Lúthien, the maiden dear.
There mirth was and voices bright;
there eve was peace and morn was light;
there jewel gleamed and silver wan
and red gold on white fingers shone,
and elanor and niphredil
bloomed in the grass unfading still,
while the endless years of Elven-land
rolled over far Beleriand,
until a day of doom befell,
as still the elven-harpers tell.
Far in the Northern hills of stone
in caverns black there was a throne
by flame encircled; there the smoke
in coiling columns rose to choke
the breath of life, and there in deep
and gasping dungeons lost would creep
to hopeless death all those who strayed
by doom beneath that ghastly shade.
A king there sat, most dark and fell
of all that under heaven dwell.
Than earth or sea, than moon or star
more ancient was he, mightier far
in mind abysmal than the thought
of Eldar or of Men, and wrought
of strength primeval; ere the stone
was hewn to build the world, alone
he walkd in darkness, fierce and dire,
burned, as he wielded it, by fire.
He 'twas that laid in ruin black
the Blessed Realm and fled then back
to Middle-earth anew to build
beneath the mountains mansions filled
with misbegotten slaves of hate:
death's shadow brooded at his gate.
His hosts he armed with spears of steel
and brands of flame, and at their heel
the wolf walked and the serpent crept
with lidless eyes. Now forth they leapt,
his ruinous legions, kindling war
in field and frith and woodland hoar.
Where long the golden elanor
had gleamed amid the grass they bore
their banners black, where finch had sung
and harpers silver harps had wrung
now dark the ravens wheeled and cried
amid the reek, and far and wide
the swords of Morgoth dripped with red
above the hewn and trampled dead.
Slowly his shadow like a cloud
rolled from the North, and on the proud
that would not yield his vengeance fell;
to death or thraldom under hell
all things he doomed: the Northern land
lay cowed beneath his ghastly hand.
But still there lived in hiding cold
Bëor's son, Barahir the bold,
of land bereaved and lordship shorn
who once a prince of Men was born,
and now an outlaw lurked and lay
in the hard heath and woodland grey.
Twelve men beside him still there went,
still faithful when all hope was spent.
Their names are yet in elven-song
remembered, though the years are long
since doughty Dagnir and Ragnor,
Radhruin, Dairuin and Gildor,
Gorlim Unhappy, and Urthel,
and Arthad and Hathaldir fell;
since the black shaft with venomed wound
took Belegund and Baragund,
the mighty sons of Bregolas;
since he whose doom and deeds surpass
all tales of Men was laid on bier,
fair Beren son of Barahir.
For these it was, the chosen men
of Bëor's house, who in the fen
of reedy Serech stood at bay
about King Inglor in the day
of his defeat, and with their swords
thus saved of all the Elven-lords
the fairest; and his love they earned.
And he escaping south, returned
to Nargothrond his mighty realm,
where still he wore his crownëd helm;
but they to their northern homeland rode,
dauntless and few, and there abode
unconquered still, defying fate,
pursued by Morgoth's sleepless hate.
Such deeds of daring there they wrought
that soon the hunters that them sought
at rumour of their coming fled.
Though price was set upon each head
to watch the weregild of a king,
no soldier could to Morgoth bring
news even of their hidden lair;
for where the highland brown and bar
above the darkling pines arose
of steep Dorthonion to the snows
and barren mountain-winds, there lay
a tarn of water, blue by day,
by night a mirror of dark glass
for stars of Elbereth that pass
above the world into the West.
Once hallowed, still that place was blest:
no shadow of Morgoth, and no evil thing
yet thither came; a whispering ring
of slender birches silver-grey
stooped on its margin, round it lay
a lonely moor, and the bare bones
of ancient Earth like standing stones
thrust through the heather and the whin;
and there by houseless Aeluin
the hunted lord and faithful men
under the grey stones made their den.
Gorlim Unhappy, Angrim's son,
as the tale tells, of these was one
most fierce and hopeless. He to wife,
while fair was the fortune of his life,
took the white maiden Eilinel:
dear love they had ere evil fell.
To war he rode; from war returned
to find his fields and homestead burned,
his house forsaken roofless stood,
empty amid the leafless wood;
and Eilinel, white Eilinel,
was taken whither none could tell,
to death or thraldom far away.
Black was the shadow of that day
for ever on his heart, and doubt
still gnawed him as he went about
in wilderness wandring, or at night
oft sleepless, thinking that she might
ere evil came have timely fled
into the woods: she was not dead,
she lived, she would return again
to seek him, and would deem him slain.
Therefore at whiles he left the lair,
and secretly, alone, would peril dare,
and come to his old house at night,
broken and cold, without fire or light,
and naught but grief renewed would gain,
watching and waiting there in vain.
In vain, or worse -- for many spies
had Morgoth, many lurking eyes
well used to pierce the deepest dark;
and Gorlim's coming they would mark
and would report. There came a day
when once more Gorlim crept that way,
down the deserted weedy lane
at dusk of autumn sad with rain
and cold wind whining. Lo! a light
at window fluttering in the night
amazed he saw; and drawing near,
between faint hope and sudden fear,
he looked within. 'Twas Eilinel!
Though changed she was, he knew her well.
With grief and hunger she was worn,
her tresses tangled, raiment torn;
as soft she wept: 'Gorlim, Gorlim!
Thou canst not have forsaken me.
Then slain, alas! thou slain must be!
And I must linger cold, alone,
and loveless as a barren stone!'
One cry he gave -- and then the light
blew out, and in the wind of night
wolves howled; and on his shoulder fell
suddenly the griping hands of hell.
There Morgoth's servants fast him caught
and he was cruelly bound, and brought
to Sauron captain of the host,
the lord of werewolf and of ghost,
most foul and fell of all who knelt
at Morgoth's throne. In might he dwelt
on Gaurhoth Isle; but now had ridden
with strength abroad, by Morgoth bidden
to find the rebel Barahir.
He sat in dark encampment near,
and thither his butchers dragged their prey.
There now in anguish Gorlim lay:
with bond on neck, on hand and foot,
to bitter torment he was put,
to break his will and him constrain
to buy with treason end of pain.
But naught to them would he reveal
of Barahir, nor break the seal
of faith that on his tongue was laid;
until at last a pause was made,
and one came softly to his stake,
a darkling form that stooped, and spake
to him of Eilinel his wife.
'Wouldst thou,' he said, 'forsake thy life,
who with few words might win release
for her, and thee, and go in peace,
and dwell together far from war,
friends of the King? What wouldst thou more?'
And Gorlim, now long worn with pain,
yearning tosee his wife again
(whom well he weened was also caught
in Sauron's net), allowed the thought
to grow, and faltered in his troth.
Then straight, half willing and half loath,
they brought him to the seat of stone
where Sauron sat. He stood alone
before that dark and dreadful face,
and Sauron said: 'Come, mortal base!
What do I hear? That thou wouldst dare
to barter with me? Well, speak fair!
What is thy price?' And Gorlim low
bowed down his head, and with great woe,
word on slow word, at last implored
that merciless and faithless lord
that he might free depart, and might
again find Eilinel the White,
and dwell with her, and cease from war
against the King. He craved no more.
Then Sauron smiled, and said: 'Thou thrall!
The price thou askest is but small
for treachery and shame so great!
I grant it surely! Well, I wait:
Come! Speak now swiftly and speak true!'
Then Gorlim wavered, and he drew
half back; but Sauron's daunting eye
there held him, and he dared not lie:
as he began, so must he wend
from first false step to faithless end:
he all must answer as he could,
betray his lord and brotherhood,
and cease, and fall upon his face.
Then Sauron laughed aloud. 'Thou base,
thou cringing worm! Stand up,
and hear me! And now drink the cup
that I have sweetly blent for thee!
Thou fool: a phantom thou didst see
that I, I Sauron, made to snare
thy lovesick wits. Naught else was there.
Cold 'tis with Sauron's wraiths to wed!
Thy Eilinel! She is long since dead,
dead, food of worms less now than thou.
And yet thy boon I grant thee now:
to Eilinel thou soon shalt go,
and lie in her bed, no more to know
of war -- or manhood. Have thy pay!'
And Gorlim then they dragged away,
and cruelly slew him; and at last
in the dank mould his body cast,
where Eilinel long since had laid
in the burned woods by butchers slain.
Thus Gorlim died an evil death,
and cursed himself with dying breath,
and Barahir at last was caught
in Morgoth's snare; for set at naught
by treason was the ancient grace
that guarded long that lonely place,
Tarn Aeluin: now all laid bare
were secret paths and hidden lair.
Dark from the North now blew the cloud;
the winds of autumn cold and loud
hissed in the heather; sad and grey
Aeluin's mournful water lay.
'Son Beren', then said Barahir,
'Thou knowst the rumour that we hear
of strength from the Gaurhoth that is sent
against us; and our food nigh spent.
On thee the lot falls by our law
to go forth now alone to draw
what help thou canst from the hidden few
that feed us still, and what is new
to learn. Good fortune go with thee!
In speed return, for grudgingly
we spare thee from our brotherhood,
so small: and Gorlim in the wood
is long astray or dead. Farewell!'
As Beren went, still like a knell
resounded in his heart that word,
the last of his father that he heard.
Through moor and fen, by tree and briar
he wandered far: he saw the fire
of Sauron's camp, he heard the howl
of hunting Orc and wolf a-prowl,
and turning back, for long the way,
benighted in the forest lay.
In weariness he then must sleep,
fain in a badger-hole to creep,
and yet he heard (or dreamed it so)
nearby a marching legion go
with clink of mail and clash of shields
up towards the stony mountain-fields.
He slipped then into darkness down,
until, as man that waters drown
strives upwards gasping, it seemed to him
he rose through slime beside the brim
of sullen pool beneath dead trees.
Their livid boughs in a cold breeze
trembled, and all their black leaves stirred:
each leaf a black and croaking bird,
whose neb a gout of blood let fall.
He shuddered, struggling thence to crawl
through winding weeds, when far away
he saw a shadow faint and grey
gliding across the dreary lake.
Slowly it came, and softly spake:
'Gorlim I was, but now a wraith
of will defeated, broken faith,
traitor betrayed. Go! Stay not here!
Awaken, son of Barahir,
and haste! For Morgoth's fingers close
upon thy father's throat; he knows
your trysts, your paths, your secret lair.'
Then he revealed the devil's snare
in which he fell, and failed; and last
begging forgiveness, wept, and passed
out into darkness. Beren woke,
leapt up as one by sudden stroke
with fire of anger filled. His bow
and sword he seized, and like the roe
hotfoot o'er rock and heath he sped
at Aeluin at last he came,
as the red sun westward sank in flame;
but Aeluin was red with blood,
red were the stones and trampled mud.
Black in the birches sat a-row
the raven and the carrion crow;
wet were their nebs, and dark the meat
that dripped beneath their griping feet.
One croaked: 'Ha, ha, he comes too late!'
'Ha, ha!' they answered, 'ha! too late!'
There Beren laid his father's bones
in haste beneath a cairn of stones;
no graven rune nor word he wrote
o'er Barahir, but thrice he smote
the topmost stone, and thrice aloud
he cried his name. 'Thy death', he vowed,
'I will avenge. Yea, though my fate
should lead at last to Angband's gate.'
And then he turned, and did not weep:
too dark his heart, the wound too deep.
Out into night, as cold as stone,
loveless, friendless, he strode alone.
Of hunter's lore he had no need
the trail to find. With little heed
his ruthless foe, secure and proud,
marched north away with blowing loud
of brazen horns their lord to greet,
trampling the earth with grinding feet.
Behind them bold but wary went
now Beren, swift as hound on scent,
until beside a darkling well,
where Rivil rises from the fell
down into Serech's reeds to flow,
he found the slayers, found his foe.
From hiding on the hillside near
he marked them all: though less than fear,
too many for his sword and bow
to slay alone. Then, crawling low
as snake in heath, he nearer crept.
There many weary with marching slept,
but captains, sprawling on the grass,
drank from hand to hand let pass
their booty, grudging each small thing
raped from dead bodies. One a ring
held up, and laughed: 'Now, mates,' he cried
'here's mine! And I'll not be denied,
though few be like it in the land.
For I 'twas wrenched it from the hand
of that same Barahir I slew,
the robber-knave. If tales be true,
he had it of some elvish lord,
for the rogue-service of his sword.
No help it gave to him -- he's dead.
They're parlous, elvish rings, 'tis said;
still for the gold I'll keep it, yea
and so eke out my niggard pay.
Old Sauron bade me bring it back,
and yet, methinks, he has no lack
of weightier treasures in his hoard:
the greater the greedier the lord!
So mark ye, mates, ye all shall swear
the hand of Barahir was bare!'
And as he spoke an arrow sped
from tree behind, and forward dead
choking he fell with barb in throat;
with leering face the earth he smote.
Forth, then as wolfhound grim there leapt
Beren among them. Two he swept
aside with sword; caught up the ring;
back into the shadow passed, and fled
before their yells of wrath and dread
of ambush in the valley rang.
Then after him like wolves they sprang,
howling and cursing, gnashing teeth,
hewing and bursting through the heath,
shooting wild arrows, sheaf on sheaf,
at trembling shade or shaken leaf.
In fateful hour was Beren born:
he laughed at dart and wailing horn;
fleetest of foot of living men,
tireless on fell and light on fen,
elf-wise in wood, he passed away,
defended by his hauberk grey
of dwarvish craft in Nogrod made,
where hammers rang in cavern's shade.
As fearless Beren was renowned:
when men most hardy upon ground
were reckoned folk would speak his name,
foretelling that his after-fame
would even golden Hador pass
of Barahir and Bregolas;
but sorrow now his heart had wrought
to fierce despair, no more he fought
in hope of life or joy or praise,
but seeking so to use his days
only that Morgoth deep should feel
the sting of his avenging steel,
ere death he found and end of pain:
his only fear was thraldom's chain.
Danger he sought and death pursued,
and thus escaped the doom he wooed,
and deeds of breathless daring wrought
alone, of which the rumour brought
new hope to many a broken man.
They whispered 'Beren', and began
in secret words to whet, and soft
by shrouded hearths at evening oft
songs they would sing of Beren's bow,
of Dagmor his sword: how he would go
silent to camps and slay the chief,
or trapped in his hiding past belief
would slip away, and under night
by mist or moon, or by the light
of open day would come again.
Of hunters hunted, slayers slain
they sang, of Gorgol the Butcher hewn,
of ambush in Ladros, fire in Drûn,
of thirty in one battle dead,
of wolves that yelped like curs and fled,
yea, Sauron himself with wound in hand.
Thus one alone filled all that land
with fear and death for Morgoth's folk;
his comrades were the beech and oak
who failed him not, and wary things
with fur and fell and feathered wings
that silent wander, or dwell alone
in hill and wild and waste of stone
watched o'er his ways, his faithful friends.
Yet seldom well an outlaw ends;
and Morgoth was a king more strong
than all the world has since in song
recorded: dark athwart the land
reached out of the shadow of his hand,
at each recoil returned again;
two more were sent for one foe slain.
New hope was cowed, all rebels killed;
quenched were the fires, the songs were stilled,
tree felled, heath burned, and through the waste
marched the black host of Orcs in haste.
Almost they closed their ring of steel
round Beren; hard upon his heel
now trod their spies; within their hedge
of all aid shorn, upon the edge
of death at bay he stood aghast
and knew that he must die at last,
or flee the land of Barahir,
his land beloved. Beside the mere
beneath a heap of nameless stones
must crumble those once mighty bones,
forsaken by both son and kin,
bewailed by reeds of Aeluin.
In winter's night the houseless North
he left behind, and stealing forth
the leaguer of his watchful foe
he passed -- a shadow on the snow,
a swirl of wind, and he was gone,
the ruin of Dorthonion,
Tarn Aeluin and its water wan,
never again to look upon.
No more shall hidden bowstring sing,
no more his shaven arrows wing,
no more his hunted head shall lie
upon the heath beneath the sky.
The Northern stars, whose silver fire
of old Men named the Burning Briar,
were set behind his back, and shone
o'er land forsaken: he was gone.
Southward he turned, and south away
his long and lonely journey lay,
while ever loomed before his path
the dreadful peaks of Gorgorath.
Never had foot of man most bold
yet trod those mountains steep and cold,
nor climbed upon their sudden brink,
whence, sickened, eyes must turn and shrink
to see their southward cliffs fall sheer
in rocky pinnacle and pier
down into shadows that were laid
before the sun and moon were made.
In valleys woven with deceit
and washed with waters bitter-sweet
dark magic lurked in gulf and glen;
but out away beyond the ken
of mortal sight the eagle's eye
from dizzy towers that pierced the sky
might grey and gleaming see afar,
as sheen on water under star,
Beleriand, Beleriand,
the borders of the Elven-land.
There long ago in Elder-days
ere voice was heard or trod were ways,
the haunt of silent shadows stood
in starlit dusk Nan Elmoth wood.
In Elder-days that long are gone
a light amid the shadows shone,
a voice was in the silence heard:
the sudden singing of a bird.
There Melian came, the Lady grey,
and dark and long her tresses lay
beneath her silver girdle-seat
and down unto her silver feet.
The nightingales with her she brought,
to whom their song herself she taught,
who sweet upon her gleaming hands
had sung in the immortal lands.
Thence wayward wandering on a time
from Lórien she dared to climb
the everlasting mountain-wall
of Valinor, at whose feet fall
the surges of the Shadowy Sea.
Out away she went then free,
to gardens of the Gods no more
returning, but on mortal shore,
a glimmer ere the dawn she strayed,
singing her spells from glade to glade.
A bird in dim Nan Elmoth wood
trilled, and to listen Thingol stood
amazed; then far away he heard
a voice more fair than fairest bird,
a voice as crystal clear of note
as thread of silver glass remote.
[manuscript C ends. Recommences with mss. D]
Of folk and kin no more he thought;
of errand that the Eldar brought
from Cuiviénen far away,
of lands beyond the Seas that lay
no more he recked, forgetting all,
drawn only by that distant call
till deep in dim Nan Elmoth wood
lost and beyond recall he stood.
And there he saw her, fair and fay:
Ar-Melian, the Lady grey,
as silent as the windless trees,
standing with mist about her knees,
and in her face remote the light
of Lórien glimmered in the night.
No word she spoke; but pace by pace,
a halting shadow, towards her face
forth walked the silver-mantled king,
tall Elu Thingol. In the ring
of waiting trees he took her hand.
One moment face to face they stand
alone, beneath the wheeling sky,
while starlit years on earth go by
and in Nan Elmoth wood the trees
grow dark and tall. The murmuring seas
rising and falling on the shore
and Ulmo's horn he heeds no more.
But long his people sought in vain
their lord, till Ulmo called again,
and then in grief they marched away,
leaving the woods. To havens grey
upon the western shore, the last
long shore of mortal lands, they passed,
and thence were borne beyond the Sea
in Aman, the Blessed Realm, to be
by evergreen Ezellohar
in Valinor, in Eldamar.

Last updated January 14, 2019