Wednesday 30 October 2013

Numenor as a nation of Elf-Friends


The concept of Numenor entered Tolkien's Legendarium in 1936 (according to the introduction to The Lost Road, by Christopher Tolkien) - a couple of decades after the world was first conceived in the Lost Tales - during Tolkien's military years of World War One.

This entailed inserting a Second Age into the chronology of Tolkien's world - which was a lot of work and added many complications including a 'Second Fall' of Man - as he called it. The First Fall of Man was a fall into worshipping Morgoth as if he was The One God, and that came before the Elves met Men, and thus before the recorded history of the Simarillion).

So I think it is reasonable to assume that Numenor served some very important function (or functions) for Tolkien - brought something or some-things he had come to regard as vitally important.

So, the question is what was the function of Numenor in Tolkien's world - why did he feel a need to insert a 'Second Age' into his chronology?


My answer is that in essence Numenor served as a bridge between Elves and Men (the relationship of which is the main underlying theme of Tolkien's stories - taken as a whole).


1. Geography

In the first place, Numenor is physically situated between Elfland and England (or The British Isles) - much closer to Elfland (Tol Erresea) but a 'half-way-house' nonetheless.


2. Racial characteristics

Numenorean-Men are mid-way between Elves and Men, share characteristics of both; in a sense Numenoreans are 'mortal Elves' since they combine (almost) High Elven artistic and scientific skills and 'magic' (healing, intuition, far-sight, fore-sight etc) with Man's mortality; regarded as the Gift to Men from Eru - that gift being the privilege to leave the confines of the world after death (therefore with the hope of true immortality, rather than the Elvish prospect of life in this world serially continued, but until the end of the world only).

Indeed, it seems that the Valar may have been hoping that the Numenoreans would have been better than either Elves or Men - the best of both worlds, in effect!

And perhaps in a sense Numenoreans were the best-of-both, at first; although they ended-up being the worst of both worlds (High Elvish power with Mannish greed and impatience...) - since neither Elves nor ordinary Men ever did anything of such appalling blasphemy as to make war upon the Valar in their own domain.


3. Ennoblement of Men

The Numenoreans were the basis for the ennoblement of Men by Elves - both by blood and by blessing.

By blood because of the infusions from those rare marriages between Men and High Elves - Beren and Luthien (half High Elf, half Maia - minor god), Tuor and Idril, and much later Aragorn and Arwen.

(Perhaps of relevance is the union of a Numenorean Prince of Dol Amroth with a Silvan Elf - but from the rather casual and indifferent way this is mentioned and its vaguely legendary status, it seems that marraiges between Men and Silvan Elves may have been bother commoner and less much significant than when High Elves were involved - ).


But also by blessing.

I have commented that High Elves seem able to make a Man (or Hobbit) into an Elf-Friend by simply pronouncing it:

To be an Elf-Friend is to be a partly Elven in terms of certain 'magical' enhancements, and to have a partially Elven nature implanted.

Similarly, but much more powerfully, the Numenoreans seem to have been given a blessing by the Valar - to make them into a race of (as it were) permanent Elf-Friends.

This seems to be a necessary explanation because it seems very unlikely, almost inconceivable, that all the Numenoreans get their Elvish enhancements by genetic descent from Elros - the brother of Elrond and original Half-Elven Founding Father King of Numenor.


Also, Tolkien once said (I think in one of his Letters) that the union of Aragorn and Arwen and the residual Numenorean lineage of Arnor and Gondor was (fictively) how later, modern man had been ennobled (somewhat) with an Elvish strain.

My feeling is that this was not meant to be a direct genetic kind of inheritance, but a more diffuse and spiritual kind of blood relationship; which also involved some kind of 'blessing' conferred by the greater on the lesser - analogous to Gildor and Frodo.

But that notion is very speculative indeed!


Monday 28 October 2013

Lord of the Rings: "Deeply sad, almost without hope..." True - but only in a literary sense


On page 200 of his (indispensable!) collection of essays Roots and Branches the greatest ever Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey describes The Lord of the Rings as "deeply sad, almost without hope".

Of course he is correct, right down to the 'almost' - but this quality is, to a very significant extent:

1. A contingent artifact of the publication history of Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion of 1977.

2. True of LotR as a literary work, but not true of Tolkien the man.


A. The sadness and almost-hope-less-ness of LotR is a contingent artifact of the last-minute deletion of the Epilogue

which would, to my mind, have left the reader with a most positive and less pessimistic sense of the story.


B. Furthermore, the original frame for the LotR - which involved some English (or proto-English) person receiving the legends of the Elves (or Numenoreans) by travel to Elfland, Faery or Numenor, was a more positive frame - in the sense of implying some special role or destiny for these legends.


C. When LotR is interpreted in the light of the Silmarillion, then the fact that the transcendentally hopeful Second Prophecy of Mandos was omitted from the Silmarillion of 1977 makes it an almost wholly sad story.


D. Also, the decision to omit The debate of Finrod and Andreth from The Simarillion of 1977, robbed it not only of what would have been perhaps its most moving piece of writing, but of its strongly implicit link to the incarnation of Jesus; and the ultimate optimism of Christianity.


And finally, Tolkien's works can be seen as exemplars of his philosophy of subcreation described in On Fairy Stories, which essay ends with a tremendous expression of Christian hope:


In conclusion, The Lord of the Rings, as published, and considered as a literary work, is indeed 'deeply sad, almost without hope; furthermore the available biographical information suggests that Tolkien was himself often deeply sad, and also pessimistic about the future of this world; but although both sad and pessimistic, Tolkien-the-man was not 'without hope' - and was quite the opposite - Tolkien was profoundly hopeful, convinced in his hope.


Tuesday 22 October 2013

The wind siezes them and drives them away... Failing to get to Faery: Tolkien's strangely lame recurrent plot idea


For a period of about thirty years - stretching from his earliest sketched and planned stories published in Lost Tales all the way down to The Notion Club Papers - Tolkien recurrently noted what seems like a very bad idea for a plot, which is that someone has a long and hazardous voyage to the land of the elves - and then just as it comes into sight, sound or smell they get driven back to mortal shores.

I present three excepts, with bold emphasis added to the relevant passage:


From 1920 - The History of Eriol or AElfwine, Book of Lost Tales Volume 2 - page 327:

The night-flowers are opening in Faery,' said AElfwine; 'and behold,' said Bior," 'the Elves are kindling candles in their silver dusk,' and all looked whither his long hand pointed over their dark stern.

Then none spoke for wonder and amaze, seeing deep in the gloaming of the West a blue shadow, and in the blue shadow many glittering lights, and ever more and more of them came twinkling out, until ten thousand points of flickering radiance were splintered far away as if a dust of the jewels self-luminous that Feanor made were scattered on the lap of the Ocean.

'Then is that the Harbour of the Lights of Many Hues,' said AElfheah, 'that many a little-heeded tale has told of in our homes.' Then saying no more they shot out their oars and swung about their ship in haste, and pulled towards the never- dying shore. Near had they come to abandoning it when hardly won. Little did they make of that long pull, as they thrust the water strongly by them, and the long night of Faerie held on, and the horned moon of Elfinesse rode over them.

Then came there music very gently over the waters and it was laden with unimagined longing, that AElfwine and his comrades leant upon their oars and wept softly each for his heart's half- remembered hurts, and memory of fair things long lost, and each for the thirst that is in every child of Men for the flawless loveliness they seek and do not find.

And one said: 'It is the harps that are thrumming, and the songs they are singing of fair things; and the windows that look upon the sea are full of light.' And another said: 'Their stringed violins complain the ancient woes of the immortal folk of Earth, but there is a joy therein.' 'Ah me,' said AElfwine, 'I hear the horns of the Fairies shimmer- ing in magic woods -- such music as I once dimly guessed long years ago beneath the elms of Mindon Gwar.'

And lo! as they spoke thus musing the moon hid himself, and the stars were clouded, and the mists of time veiled the shore, and nothing could they see and nought more hear, save the sound of the surf of the seas in the far-off pebbles of the Lonely Isle; and soon the wind blew even that faint rustle far away.

But AElfwine stood forward with wide-open eyes unspeaking, and suddenly with a great cry he sprang forward into the dark sea, and the waters that filled him were warm, and a kindly death it seemed enveloped him.

Then it seemed to the others that they awakened at his voice as from a dream; but the wind now suddenly grown fierce filled all their sails, and they saw him never again, but were driven back with hearts all broken with regret and longing.


From 1936 - The Lost Road (HOME Volume 5) - page 80

The  Straight  Road.....  water (island  of   Azores?)..... off.

AElfwine [?restores?restrains] Eadwine. Thinks it a vision of delirium.

The vision of Eressea and the sound of voices.

Resigns himself to die but prays for Eadwine.

Sensation  of  falling.

They come down in [?real] sea and west wind blows them back.

Land in Ireland


From 1946 - The Notion Club Papers (From HOME Volume 9) - page 278

Treowine sees the round world [?curve] below, and straight ahead a shining land before the wind siezes them and drives them away.


So - what is going on?

I noticed this passage because it seems so clearly inadequate as a plot climax: to endure long voyages and great hardship, to get within sight of Faery - but to fail to land there!

(Unless AElfwine did not actually drown but reached the shore alive - but this then leaves the needless complication of explaining how he returned to the British Isles without a boat.)

Furthermore, the rationale behind these stories was (apparently) Tolkien's need to explain how it was that the knowledge of the elves had come down to modern men. The whole reason (it seems to me) for these Western voyages in search of Elfland was so that men could meet the elves and discover from them their legends.

So the West-voyaging character - initially called Eriol (one who dreams alone), then AElfwine (Elf-Friend), and later seemingly Arundel (Elf-Friend) Lowdham and his friend Jeremy from the Notion Club - was supposed to be the link between modern England and the ancient myths of Faery.

Why then do these drafts have this character apparently failing to land?


I suspect the reason would, if known, be enlightening of Tolkien's motivations in writing his legendarium - perhaps of his ambivalence about the project, or an anxiety - so that he had a tendency to shy-away from the necessary plot at the last moment. That, at least, is what it looks or feels like, to me.

I have a theory. My theory is that Tolkien had himself visited Faery - presumably in vivid and memorable and true-seeming dreams, of the kind which are all over his works - but he was ambivalent about revealing either this fact or the information he derived in any direct way.

Of course, we eventually got to hear about the history of Erresea and Valinor withot menition of any intermediary Man such as Eriol. AElfwine or Lowdham - all mention of which was deleted from the Lord of the Rings as it appeared, without this kind of framing device.


The actually-used fictive framing device is that Bilbo and Frodo (plus Sam and Merry) supposedly wrote the information used in the Hobbit and LotR in The Red Book of Westmarch, having consulted with Elrond and other experts; and the Red Book had reached Tolkien by unexplained routes, and he was merely an editor who made stories from this source.

But before Tolkien reached this partial-solution, his last attempt at the Eriol/ AElfwine explanation was in The Notion Club Papers - and it may be that the Saint Brendan poem 'Iram' included in the NCPs contains the answer, encoded:

‘O! stay now father! There’s more to say.
But two things you have told:
The Tree, the Cloud; but you spoke of three.
The Star in mind you hold?’
‘The Star? Yes, I saw it, high and far,
at the parting of the ways,
a light on the edge of the Outer Night
like silver set ablaze,
where the round world plunges steeply down,
but on the old road goes,
as an unseen bridge that on the arches runs
to coasts than no man knows.’

‘But men say, father that ere the end
you went where none have been.
I would here you tell me, father dear,
of the last land you have seen.’
‘In my mind the Star I still can find,
and the parting of the seas,
and the breath as sweet and keen as death
that was borne upon the breeze.
But where they they bloom those flowers fair,
in what air or land they grow,
what words beyond the world I heard,
if you would seek to know,
in a boat then, brother, far afloat
you must labour in the sea,
and find for yourself things out of mind:
you will learn no more of me.’

It may be that, like St Brendan, Tolkien knew from 'direct' personal experience (I mean, by vivid visionary dreams) what was in the Lands of the Gods and Elves - but that he felt he could not, or should not, speak of it - and his message was that if we would seek to know, then in a dream-boat far afloat we must labour in the sea of myth, and find for ourselves these things out of mind; because we will 'learn no more of' Tolkien.


The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun - JRR Tolkien

Written 1930, Published 1945

In Britain's land beyond the seas

the wind blows ever through the trees;

in Britain's land beyond the waves

are stony shores and stony caves.

There stands a ruined toft now green

where lords and ladies once were seen,

where towers were piled above the trees

and watchmen scanned the sailing seas.

Of old a lord in arched hall

with standing stones yet grey and tall

there dwelt, till dark his doom befell,

as still the Briton harpers tell.

No child he had his house to cheer,

to fill his courts with laughter clear;

though wife he wooed and wed with ring,

who love to board and bed did bring,

his pride was empty, vain his hoard,

without an heir to land and sword.

Thus pondering oft at night awake

his darkened mind would visions make

of lonely age and death; his tomb

unkept, while strangers in his room

with other names and other shields

were masters of his halls and fields.

Thus counsel cold he took at last;

his hope from light to darkness passed.

A witch there was, who webs could weave

to snare the heart and wits to reave,

who span dark spells with spider-craft,

and as she span she softly laughed;

a drink she brewed of strength and dread

to bind the quick and stir the dead;

In a cave she housed where winging bats

their harbour sought, and owls and cats

from hunting came with mournful cries,

night-stalking near with needle-eyes.

In the homeless hills was her hollow dale,

black was its bowl, its brink was pale;

there silent on a seat of stone

before her cave she sat alone.

Dark was her door, and few there came,

whether man, or beast that man doth tame.

In Britain's land beyond the waves

are stony hills and stony caves;

the wind blows ever over hills

and hollow caves with wailing fills.

The sun was fallen low and red,

behind the hills the day was dead,

and in the valley formless lay

the misty shadows long and grey.

Alone between the dark and light

there rode into the mouth of night

the Briton lord, and creeping fear

about him closed. Dismounting near

he slowly then with lagging feet

went halting to the stony seat.

His words came faltering on the wind,

while silent sat the crone and grinned.

Few words he needed; for her eyes

were dark and piercing, filled with lies,

yet needle-keen all lies to probe.

He shuddered in his sable robe.

His name she knew, his need, his thought,

the hunger that thither him had brought;

while yet he spoke she laughed aloud,

and rose and nodded; head she bowed,'

and stooped into her darkening cave,

like ghost returning to the grave.

Thence swift she came. In his hand she laid

a phial of glass so fairly made

'twas wonder in that houseless place

to see its cold and gleaming grace;

and therewithin a philter lay

as pale as water thin and grey

that spills from stony fountains frore

in hollow pools in caverns hoar.

He thanked her, trembling, offering gold

to withered fingers shrunk and old.

The thanks she took not, nor the fee,

but laughing croaked: "Nay, we shall see!

Let thanks abide till thanks be earned!

Such potions oft, men say, have burned

the heart and brain, or else are nought,

only cold water dearly bought.

Such lies you shall not tell of me;

Till it is earned I'll have no fee.

But we shall meet again one day,

and rich reward then you shall pay,

whate'er I ask: it may be gold,

it may be other wealth you hold."

In Britain ways are wild and long,

and woods are dark with danger strong;

and sound of seas is in the leaves,

and wonder walks the forest-eaves.

The way was long, the woods were dark;

at last the lord beheld the spark

of living light from window high,

and knew his halls and towers were nigh.

At last he slept in weary sleep

beside his wife, and dreaming deep,

he walked with children yet unborn

in gardens fair, until the morn

came slowly through the windows tall,

and shadows moved across the wall.

Then sprang the day with weather fair,

for windy rain had washed the air,

and blue and cloudless, clean and high,

above the hills was arched the sky,

and foaming in the northern breeze

beneath the sky there shone the seas.

Arising then to greet the sun,

and day with a new thought begun,

that lord in guise of joy him clad,

and masked his mind in manner glad;

his mouth unwonted laughter used

and words of mirth. He oft had mused,

walking alone with furrowed brow;

a feast he bade prepare him now.

And "Itroun mine," he said, "my life,

'tis long that thou hast been my wife.

Too swiftly by in love do slip

our gentle years, and as a ship

returns to port, we soon shall find,

once more that day of spring we mind,

when we were wed, and bells were rung.

But still we love, and still are young:

A merry feast we'll make this year,

and there shall come no sigh nor tear;

and we will feign our love begun

in joy anew, anew to run

down happy paths-and yet, maybe,

we'll pray that this year we may see

our heart's desire more quick draw nigh

than yet we have seen it, thou and I;

for virtue is in hope and prayer."

So spake he gravely, seeming-fair.

In Britain's land across the seas

the spring is merry in the trees;

the birds in Britain's woodlands pair

when leaves are long and flowers are fair.

A merry feast that year they made,

when blossom white on bush was laid;

there minstrels sang and wine was poured,

as it were the marriage of a lord.

A cup of silver wrought he raised

and smiling on the lady gazed:

"I drink to thee for health and bliss,

fair love," he said, "and with this kiss

the pledge I pass. Come, drink it deep!

The wine is sweet, the cup is steep!"

The wine was red, the cup was grey;

but blended there a potion lay

as pale as water thin and frore

in hollow pools of caverns hoar.

She drank it, laughing with her eyes.

"Aotrou, lord and love" she cries,

all hail and life both long and sweet,

wherein desire at last to meet!"

Now days ran on in great delight

with hope at morn and mirth at night;

and in the garden of his dream

the lord would walk, and there would deem

he saw two children, boy and maid,

that fair as flowers danced and played

on lawns of sunlight without hedge

save a dark shadow at their edge.

Though spring and summer wear and fade,

though flowers fall and leaves are laid,

and winter winds his trumpet loud,

and snows both fell and forest shroud,

though roaring seas upon the shore

go long and white, and neath the door

the wind cries with houseless voice,

in fire and song yet men rejoice,

till as a ship returns to port

the spring comes back to field and court.

A song now falls from windows high,

like silver dropping from the sky,

soft in the early eve of spring.

"Why do they play? Why do they sing?"

"Light may she lie, our lady fair!

Too long hath been her cradle bare.

Yestreve there came as I passed by

the cry of babes from windows high.

Twin children, I am told there be.

Light may they lie and sleep, all three !"

"Would every prayer were answered twice!

the half or nought must oft suffice

for humbler men, who wear their knees

more bare than lords, as oft one sees."

"Not every lord wins such fair grace.

Come wish them speed with kinder face!

Light may she lie, my lady fair;

long live her lord her joy to share!"

A manchild and an infant maid

as fair as flowers in bed were laid.

Her joy was come, her pain was passed;

in mirth and ease Itroun at last

in her fair chamber softly lay

singing to her babes lullay.

Glad was her lord, as grave he stood

beside her bed of carven wood.

"Now full" he said, "is granted me

both hope and prayer, and what of thee?

Is 't
not, fair love, most passing sweet

the heart's desire at last to meet?

Yet if thy heart still longing hold,

or lightest wish remain untold,

that will I find and bring to thee,

though I should ride both land and sea!"

"Aotrou mine," she said, " 'tis sweet

at last the heart's desire to meet,

thus after waiting, after prayer,

thus after hope and nigh despair.

I would not have, thee run nor ride

to-day nor ever from my side;

yet after sickness, after pain,

oft cometh hunger sharp again."

"Nay, love, if thirst or hunger strange

for bird or beast on earth that range,

for wine, or water from what well

in any secret fount or dell,

vex thee,"
he smiled, "now swift declare!

If more than gold or jewel rare,

from greenwood, haply, fallow deer,

or fowl that swims the shallow mere

thou cravest, I will bring it thee,

though I should hunt o'er land and lea.

No gold nor silk nor jewel bright

can match my gladness and delight,

the boy and maiden lily-fair

that here do lie and thou did'st bear."

"Aotrou, lord," she said, " 'tis, true,

a longing strong and sharp I knew

in dream for water cool and clear,

and venison of the greenwood deer

for waters crystal-clear and cold

and deer no earthly forests hold,

and still in waking comes unsought

the foolish wish to vex my thought.

But I
would not have thee run nor ride

to-day nor ever from my side"

In Brittany beyond the seas

the wind blows ever through the trees;

in Brittany the forest pale

marches slow over hill and dale.

There seldom far the horns were wound,

and seldom hunted horse and hound.

The lord his lance of ashwood caught,

the wine was to his stirrup brought;

with bow and horn he rode alone,

and iron smote the fire from stone,

as his horse bore him o'er the land

to the green boughs of Broceliande,

to the green dales where listening deer

seldom a mortal hunter hear:

there startling now they stare and stand,

as his horn winds in Broceliande.

Beneath the woodland's hanging eaves

a white doe startled under leaves;

strangely she glistered in the sun

as she leaped forth and turned to run.

Then reckless after her he spurred;

dim laughter in the woods he heard,

but heeded not, a longing strange

for deer that fair and fearless range

vexed him, for venison of the beast

whereon no mortal hunt shall feast,

for waters crystal-clear and cold

that never in holy fountain rolled.

He hunted her from the forest-eaves

into the twilight under leaves;

the earth was shaken under hoof,

till the boughs were bent into a roof,

and the sun was woven in a snare;

and laughter still was on the air.

The sun was falling. In the dell

deep in the forest silence fell.

No sight nor slot of doe he found

but roots of trees upon the ground,

and trees like shadows waiting stood

for night to come upon the wood.

The sun was lost, all green was grey.

There twinkled the fountain of the fay,

before a cave, on silver sand,

under dark boughs in Broceliande.

Soft was the grass and clear the pool;

he laved his face in water cool.

He saw her then, on silver chair

before her cavern, pale her hair,

slow was her smile, and white her hand

beckoning in Broceliande.

The moonlight falling clear and cold

her long hair lit; through comb of gold

she drew each lock, and down it fell

like the fountain falling in the dell.

He heard her voice, and it was cold

as echo from the world of old,

ere fire was found or iron hewn,

when young was mountain under moon.

He heard her voice like water falling

or wind upon a long shore calling,

yet sweet the words: "We meet again

here after waiting, after pain!

Aotrou! Lo! thou hast returned-

perchance some kindness I have earned?

What hast thou, lord, to give to me

whom thou hast come thus far to see,"

"I know thee not, I know thee not,

nor ever saw thy darkling grot.

O Corrigan! 'twas not for thee

I hither came a-hunting free!

"How darest, then, my water wan

to trouble thus, or look me on?

For this of least I claim my fee,

if ever thou wouldst wander free.

With love thou shall me here requite,

for here to long and sweet the night;

in druery dear thou here shall deal,

in bliss more deep than mortals feel."

"I gave no love. My love is wed;

my wife now lieth in child-bed,

and I curse the beast that cheated me

and drew me to this dell to thee."

Her smiling ceased, and slow she said:

"Forget thy wife; for thou shall wed

anew with me, or stand as stone

and wither lifeless and alone,

as stone beside the fountain stand

forgotten in Broceliande."

"I will not stand here turned to stone;

but I will leave thee cold, alone,

and I will ride to mine own home

and the waters blest of Christendome."

"But three days then and thou shall die;

In three days on thy bier lie!"

"In three days I shall live at ease,

and die but when it God doth please

in eld, or in some time to come

in the brave wars of Christendom."

In Britain's land beyond the waves

are forests dim and secret caves;

in Britain's land the breezes bear

the sound of bells along the air

to mingle with the sound of seas

for ever moving in the trees.

The wandering way was long and wild;

and hastening home to wife and child

at last the hunter heard the knell

at morning of the sacring-bell;

escaped from thicket and from fen

at last he saw the tilth of men;

the hoar and houseless hills he passed,

and weary at his gates him cast.

"Good steward, if thou love me well,

bid make my bed! My heart doth swell;

my limbs are numb with heavy sleep,

and drowsy poisons in them creep.

All night, as in a fevered maze,

I have ridden dark and winding ways."

To bed they brought him and to sleep:

in sunless thickets tangled deep

he dreamed, and wandering found no more

the garden green, but on the shore

the seas, were moaning in the wind;

a face before him leered and grinned:

"Now it is earned, come bring to me

my fee,"
a voice said, "bring my feel"

Beside a fountain falling cold

the Corrigan now shrunk and old

was sitting singing; in her claw

a comb of bony teeth he saw,

with which she raked her tresses grey,

but in her other hand there lay

a phial of glass with water filled

that from the bitter fountain spilled.

At eve he waked and murmured: "Ringing

of bells within my ears, and singing,

a singing is beneath the moon.

Grieve not my wife! Grieve not Itroun!

My death is near-but do not tell,

though I am wounded with a spell!

But two days more, and then I die-

and I would have had her sweetly lie

and sweet arise; and live yet long,

and see our children hale and strong."

His words they little understood,

but cursed the fevers of the wood,

and to their lady no word spoke.

Ere second morn was old she woke,

and to her women standing near

gave greeting with a merry cheer:

"Good people, lo! the morn is bright!

Say, did my lord return ere night,

and tarries now with hunting worn?"

"Nay, lady, he came not with the morn;

but ere men candles set on board,

thou wilt have tidings of thy lord;

or hear his feet to thee returning,

ere candles in the eve are burning."

Ere the third morn was wide she woke,

and eager greeted them, and spoke:

"Behold the morn is cold and grey,

and why is my lord so long away?

I do not hear his feet returning

neither at evening nor at morning"

"We do not know, we cannot say"

they answered and they turned away.

Her gentle babes in swaddling white,

now seven days had seen the light,

and she arose and left her bed,

and called her maidens and she said:

"My lord must soon return. Come, bring

my fairest raiment, stone on ring,

and pearl on thread; for him 'twill please

to see his wife abroad at ease."

She looked from window tall and high,

and felt a breeze go coldly by;

she saw it pass from tree to tree;

the clouds were laid from hill to sea.

She heard no horn and heard no hoof,

but rain came pattering on the roof;

in Brittany she heard the waves

on sounding shore in hollow caves.

The day wore on till it was old;

she heard the bells that slowly tolled.

"Good folk, why do they mourning make?

In tower I hear the slow bells shake,

and Dirige the white priests sing.

Whom to the churchyard do they bring?"

"A man unhappy here there came

a while agone. His horse was lame;

sickness was on him, and he fell

before our gates, or so they tell.

Here he was harboured, but to-day

he died, and passeth now the way

we all must go, to church to lie

on bier before the altar high."

She looked upon them, dark and deep,

and saw them in the shadows weep.

"Then tall, and fair, and brave was he,

or tale of sorrow there must be

concerning him, that still ye keep,

if for a stranger thus ye weep!

What know ye more? Ah, say! ah, say!"

They answered not, and turned away.

"Ah me," she said, "that I could sleep

this night, or least that I could weep!"

But all night long she tossed and turned,.

and in her limbs a fever burned:

and yet when sudden under sun

a fairer morning was begun,

"Good folk, to church I wend," she said.

"My raiment choose, or robe of red,

or robe of blue, or white and fair,

silver and gold-I do not care."

"Nay, lady,"
said they, "none of these.

The custom used, as now one sees,

for women that to churching go

is robe of black and walking slow."

In robe of black and walking bent

the lady to her churching went,

in hand a candle small and white,

her face so pale, her hair so bright.

They passed beneath the western door;

there dark within on stony floor

a bier was covered with a pall,

and by it yellow candles tall.

The watchful tapers still and bright

upon his blazon cast their light:

the arms and banner of her lord;

his pride was ended, vain his hoard.

To bed they brought her, swift to sleep

for ever cold, though there might weep

her women by her dark bedside,

or babes in cradle waked and cried.

There was singing slow at dead of night,

and many feet, and taper-light.

At morn there rang the sacring knell;

and far men heard a single bell

toll, while the sun lay on the land;

while deep in dim Broceliande

a silver fountain flowed and fell

within a darkly woven dell,

and in the homeless hills a dale

was filled with laughter cold and pale.

Beside her lord at last she lay

in their long home beneath the clay;

and if their children lived yet long,

or played in garden hale and strong,

they saw it not, nor found it sweet

their heart's desire at last to meet

In Brittany beyond the waves

are sounding shores and hollow caves;

in Brittany beyond the seas

the wind blows ever through the trees.

Of lord and lady all is said:

God rest their souls, who now are dead!

Sad is the note and sad the lay,

but mirth we meet not every day.

God keep us all in hope and prayer

from evil rede and from despair,

by waters blest of Christendom

to dwell, until at last we come

to joy of Heaven where is queen

the maiden Mary pure and clean.