[Excerpted from The Book of Lost Tales 1 by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, pages 96 and 97. This is a very early poem of the Professor’s that clearly connects his mythology of Middle-Earth with some Christian and Catholic ideas. Christopher thinks the land of Habbanan might be Arda’s version of Purgatory, where the souls of Men might go after death. At any rate, it is a quite beautiful poem.]
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892—1973)
Habbanan beneath the Stars
Now Habbanan is that region where one draws nigh to the places that are not of Men. There is the air very sweet and the sky very great by reason of the broadness of the Earth.
In Habbanan beneath the skies
Where all roads end however long
There is a sound of faint guitars
And distant echoes of a song,
For there men gather into rings
Round their red fires while one voice sings –
And all about is night.
Not night as ours, unhappy folk,
Where nigh the Earth in hazy bars,
A mist about the springing of the stars,
There trails a thin and wandering smoke
Obscuring with its veil half-seen
The great abysmal still Serene.
A globe of dark glass faceted with light
Wherein the splendid winds have dusky flight;
Untrodden spaces of an odorous plain
That watches for the moon that long has lain
And caught the meteors’ fiery rain –
Such there is night.
There on a sudden did my heart perceive
That they who sang about the Eve,
Who answered the bright-shining stars
With gleaming music of their strange guitars,
These were His wandering happy sons
Encamped upon those aery leas
Where Gods’ unsullied garment runs
In glory down to his mighty knees.