POEMS EARLY ABANDONED
During his time at the University of Leeds my father embarked on five distinct poetical works concerned with the matter of the mythology; but three of these went no farther than the openings. This chapter treats each of them in turn.
(i) The Flight of the Noldoli
There do not seem to be any certain indications of the date of this brief poem in alliterative verse in relation to The Children of Hurin (though it is worth noticing that already is the earliest of three texts of The Flight of the Noldoli Feanor's son Cranthir is so named, whereas this form only arose by emendation of Cranthor in the typescript text of the Lay (line 1719)). However, both from its general air and from various details it can be seen that it comes from die same time; and since it seems unlikely that (on the one hand) my father would have embarked on a new poem in alliterative verse unless he had laid the other aside, or that (on the other) he would have returned to this mode once he was fully engaged on a long poem in rhyming couplets, I think it very probable that The Flight of the Noldoli comes from the earlier part of 1925 (see pp. 2, 94).
Each of the three manuscripts of the poem (A, B, and C) is differently titled: A has The Flight of the Gnomes as sung in the Halls of Thingol; B (pencilled in later) Flight of the Gnomes: C The Flight of the Noldoli from Valinor. A has emendations that are taken up in the text of B, and B has emendations taken up in C; almost all are characteristic metrical/verbal rearrangements, as for example in line 17:
A in anguish mourning, emended to me reading of B;
B and in anguish mourn, emended to the reading of C;
C mourning in anguish.
As generally in this book, earlier variants that have no bearing on names or story are not cited. Each text ends at me same point, but three further lines are roughly written in the margin of A (see note to line 146). •
I give now the text of the third version. C.
A! the Trees of Light, tail and shapely,
gold and silver, more glorious than the sun,
than the moon more magical, o'er the meads of the Gods
their fragrant frith and flowerladen
gardens gleaming, once gladly shone. 5
In death they are darkened, they drop their leaves
from blackened branches bled by Morgoth
and Ungoliant the grim the Gloomweaver.
In spider's form despair and shadow
a shuddering fear and shapeless night 10
she weaves in a web of winding venom
that is black and breathless. Their branches fail,
the light and laughter of their leaves are quenched.
Mirk goes marching, mists of blackness,
through the halls of the Mighty hushed and empty, 15
the gates of the Gods are in gloom mantled.
Lo! the Elves murmur mourning in anguish,
but no more shall be kindled the mirth of Cor
in the winding ways of their walled city,
towercrowned Tun, whose twinkling lamps
are drowned in darkness. The dim fingers
of fog come floating from the formless waste
and sunless seas. The sound of horns,
of horses' hooves hastening wildly
in hopeless hunt, they hear afar,
where the Gods in wrath those guilty ones
through mournful shadow, now mounting as a tide
o'er the Blissful Realm, in blind dismay
pursue unceasing. The city of me Elves
is thickly thronged. On threadlike stairs
carven of crystal countless torches
stare and twinkle, stain the twilight
and gleaming balusters of green beryl.
A vague rumour of rushing voices,
as myriads mount the marble paths,
there fills and troubles those fair places
wide ways of Tun and walls of pearl.
Of the Three Kindreds to that clamorous throng
are none but the Gnomes in numbers drawn.
The Elves of Ing to the ancient halls 40
and starry gardens that stand and gleam
upon Timbrenting towering mountain
that day had climbed to the cloudy-domed
mansions of Manwe for mirth and song.
There Bredhil the Blessed the bluemantled, 45
the Lady of the heights as lovely as the snow
in lights gleaming of the legions of the stars,
the cold immortal Queen of mountains,
too fair and terrible too far and high
for mortal eyes, in Manwe's court 50
sat silently as they sang to her.
The Foam-riders, folk of waters,
Elves of the endless echoing beaches,
of the bays and grottoes and the blue lagoons,
of silver sands sown with moonlit, 55
starlit, sunlit, stones of crystal,
paleburning gems pearls and opals,
on their shining shingle, where now shadows groping
clutched their laughter, quenched in mourning
their mirth and wonder, in amaze wandered 60
under cliffs grown cold calling dimly,
or in shrouded ships shuddering waited
for the light no more should be lit for ever.
But the Gnomes were numbered by name and kin,
marshalled and ordered in the mighty square 65
upon the crown of C6r. There cried aloud
the fierce son of Finn. Flaming torches
he held and whirled in his hands aloft.
those hands whose craft me hidden secret
knew, that none Gnome or mortal 70
hath matched or mastered in magic or in skill.
'Lo! slain is my sire by the swords of fiends,
his death he has drunk at the doors of his hall
and deep fastness, where darkly hidden
the Three were guarded, the things unmatched 75
that Gnome and Elf and the Nine Valar
can never remake or renew on earth,
recarve or rekindle by craft or magic,
not Feanor Finn's son who fashioned them of yore—
the light is lost whence he lit them first, 80
the fate of Faerie hath found its hour
Thus the witless wisdom its reward hath earned
of the Gods' jealousy, who guard us here
to serve them, sing to them in our sweet cages,
to contrive them gems and jewelled trinkets, 85
their leisure to please with our loveliness,
while they waste and squander work of ages,
nor can Morgoth master in their mansions sitting
at countless councils. Now come ye all,
who have courage and hope! My call harken 90
to flight, to freedom in far places!
The woods of the world whose wide mansions
yet in darkness dream drowned in slumber;
the pathless plains and perilous shores
no moon yet shines on nor mounting dawn
in dew and daylight hath drenched for ever,
far better were these for bold footsteps
than gardens of the Gods gloom-encircled
with idleness filled and empty days.
Yea! though the light lit them and the loveliness
beyond heart's desire that hath held us slaves
here long and long. But that light is dead.
Our gems are gone, our jewels ravished;
and the Three, my Three, thrice-enchanted
globes of crystal by gleam undying
illumined, lit by living splendour
and all hues' essence, their eager flame—
Morgoth has them in his monstrous hold,
my Silmarils. I swear here oaths,
unbreakable bonds to bind me ever,
by Timbrenting and the timeless halls
of Bredhil the Blessed that abides thereon—
may she hear and heed— to hunt endlessly
unwearying unwavering through world and sea,
through leaguered lands, lonely mountains,
over fens and forest and the fearful snows,
till I find those fair ones, where me fate is hid
of the folk of Elfland and their fortune locked,
where alone now lies the light divine.'
Then his sons beside him, the seven kinsmen,
crafty Curufin, Celegorm the fair,
Damrod and Diriel and dark Cranthir,
Maglor the mighty, and Maidros tall
(the eldest, whose ardour yet more eager burnt
than his father's flame, than Feanor's wrath;
him fate awaited with fell purpose),
these leapt with laughter their lord beside,
with linked hands there lightly took
the oath unbreakable; blood thereafter
it spilled like a sea and spent the swords 130
of endless armies, nor hath ended yet:
'Be he friend or foe or foul offspring
of Morgoth Bauglir, be he mortal dark
that in after days on earth shall dwell,
shall no law nor love nor league of Gods, 135
no might nor mercy, not moveless fate,
defend him for ever from the fierce vengeance
of the sons of Feanor, whoso seize or steal
or finding keep the fair enchanted
globes of crystal whoso glory dies not, 140
the Silmarils. We have sworn for ever!’
Then a mighty murmuring was moved abroad
and me harkening host hailed them roaring:
'Let us go! yea go from the Gods for ever
on Morgoth's trail o'er the mountains of the world 145
to vengeance and victory! Your vows are ours!'
The poem ends here (but see note to line 146).
41 starry gardens C, starlit domes A, B.
42 Tengwethil's A (with Trimbrenling written in margin),
Timbrenting's B, Timbrenting C (with Taingwethil
written in margin). See note to The Children of Hurin
(second version) line 812. 45 Bridhil A, B, C, emended in C to Bredhil so also at
line 112. 107 and all hues' essence: this half-line (in the form all
hue's essence) occurs also in the second version of
The Children of Hurin, line 381, where it is said of
the Silmaril of Beren. Ill Tengwethil A, Timbrenting B. C. .
134 that in after days on earth shall dwell: this line bracketed later in pencil in C.
146 There are three roughly-written lines in the margin of the last page of A which were not taken up in B and C, but which presumably follow on line 146:
But Finweg cried Fingolfin's son
when his father found that fair counsel,
that wit and wisdom were of worth no more;
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