Canto II

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(5)
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.(10)
Than earth or sea, than moon or star
more ancient was he, mightier far
in mind abysmal that the thought
of Eldar or of Men, and wrought
of strength primeval; ere the stone(15)
was hewn to build the world, alone
he walked 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(20)
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(25)
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.(30)
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 (35)
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(40)
that would not yield his vengeance fell;
to death or thralldom under hell
all things he doomed: the Northern land
lay cowed beneath his ghastly hand.

But still there lived in hiding cold(45)
the Bëoring, 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.(50)

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,(55)
Radhruin, Dairuin and Gildor,
Gorlim Unhappy, and Urthel,
and Arthad and Hathaldir fell;
since the black shaft with venomed wound
took Belegund and Baragund,(60)
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(65)
of Bëor's house, who in the fen
of reedy Serech stood at bay
about King Finrod in the day
of his defeat, and with their swords
thus saved of all the Elven-lords(70)
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,(75)
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(80)
at rumour of their coming fled.
Though price was set upon each head
to match the weregild of a king,
no soldier could to Morgoth bring
news even of their hidden lair;(85)
for where the highland brown and bare
above the darkling pines arose
of steep Dorthonion to the snows
and barren mountain-winds, there lay
a tarn of water, blue by day,(90)
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(95)
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(100)
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,(105)
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 fair maiden Eilinel:
dear love they had ere evil fell.(110)
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, fair Eilinel,(115)
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(120)
in wilderness wandering, 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(125)
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,(130)
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;(135)
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(140)
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!(145)
Though changed she was, he knew her well.
With grief and hunger she was worn,
her tresses tangled, raiment torn;
her gentle eyes with tears were dim,
as soft she wept: 'Gorlim, Gorlim!(150)
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(155)
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(160)
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(165)
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:(170)
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(175)
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(180)
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,(185)
friends of the King? What wouldst thou more?'
And Gorlim, now long worn with pain,
yearning to see his wife again
(whom well he weened was also caught
in Sauron's net), allowed the thought(190)
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,(195)
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,(200)
word on slow word, at last implored
that merciless and faithless lord
that he might free depart, to spare
him to find Eilinel the Fair
and dwell with her and cease from war(205)
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.(210)
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(215)
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,(220)
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(225)
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 low than thou.
And yet thy boon I grant thee now:(230)
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(235)
in the dank mould his body cast
where Eilinel long since had lain
in the burned woods by butchers slain.

Thus Gorlim died and evil death,
and cursed himself with dying breath,(240)
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 (245)
were secret paths and hidden lair.