“A Song of Aryador” by J.R.R. Tolkien

The recent dearth of posts is not what I had planned for this month, but is caused by intensive training for my new job. The review for Series 3 of Doctor Who is in the works (as it should have been long ago), and I am happily taking notes on Series 4 now. I am also continuing through George MacDonald’s Lilith, and am finding it as fascinating and perplexing as was Phantastes. And in the realm of webcomics, I have been reading through the famed Gunnerkrigg Court, a story about an intelligent English girl at a very strange boarding school surrounded by the shadows of fairy tales and myths (and a little sci-fi). But as you wait for more news on those fronts, I’d like to present an especially beautiful poem by the Professor, and one even less well known than his others.

It is found only in The Book of Lost Tales 1, at the end of the section entitled “The Coming of the Elves.” Christopher Tolkien tells us that it was written in an army camp in Lichenfield on September 12, 1915. It appears to be a song of an ancient group of men about the Lost Elves (those who had not gone to Valinor), whom they feared.

A Song of Aryador

J.R.R. Tolkien

In the vales of Aryador
By the wooded inland shore
Green the lakeward bents and meads
Sloping down to murmurous reeds
That whisper in the dusk o’er Aryador:

‘Do you hear the many bells
Of the goats upon the fells
Where the valley tumbles downward from the pines?
Do you hear the blue woods moan
When the Sun has gone alone
To hunt the mountain-shadows in the pines?

She is lost among the hills
And the upland slowly fills
With the shadow-folk that murmur in the fern;
And still there are the bells
And the voices on the fells
While Eastward a few stars begin to burn.

Men are kindling tiny gleams
Far below by mountain-streams
Where they dwell among the beechwoods near the shore,
But the great woods on the height
Watch the waning western light
And whisper to the wind of things of yore,

When the valley was unknown,
And the waters roared alone,
And the shadow-folk danced downward all the night,
When the Sun fared abroad
Through great forests unexplored
And the woods were full of wandering beams of light.

Then were voices in the fells
And a sound of ghostly bells
And a march of shadow-people o’er the height.
In the mountains by the shore
In forgotten Aryador
There was dancing and was ringing;
There were shadow-people singing
Ancient songs of olden gods in Aryador.’