Canto IV

There long ago in Elder-days
ere voice was heard or trod were ways,
the haunt of silent shadows stood
in starlit dusk, Nan Elmoth wood.
In Elder-days that long are gone(5)
a light amid the shadows shone,
a voice was in the silence heard:
the sudden singing of a bird.
There Melian came, the Lady grey,
and dark and long her tresses lay(10)
beneath her silver girdle-seat
and down unto her silver feet.
The nightingales with her she brought,
to whom their song herself she taught,
who sweet upon her gleaming hands(15)
had sung in the immortal lands.

Thence wayward wandering on a time
from Lórien she dared to climb
the everlasting mountain-wall
of Valinor, at whose feet fall(20)
the surges of the Shadowy Sea.
Out away she went then free,
to Lórien's gardens no more
returning, but on mortal shore,
a glimmer ere the dawn she strayed,(25)
singing her spells from glade to glade.

A bird in dim Nan Elmoth wood
trilled, and to listen Thingol stood
amazed; then far away he heard
a voice more fair than fairest bird,(30)
a voice as crystal clear of note
as thread of silver glass remote.

Of folk and kin no more he thought;
of errand that the Eldar brought
from Cuiviénen far away,(35)
of lands beyond the Seas that lay
no more he recked, forgetting all,
drawn only by that distant call
'till deep in dim Nan Elmoth wood
lost and beyond recall he stood.(40)
And there he saw her, fair and fay:
Ar-Melian, the Lady grey,
as silent as the windless trees,
standing with mist about her knees,
and in her face remote the light(45)
of Lórien glimmered in the night.
No word she spoke; but pace by pace,
a halting shadow, towards he face
forth walked, the silver-mantled king,
tall Elu Thingol. In the ring(50)
of waiting trees he took her hand.
One moment face to face they stand
alone, beneath the wheeling sky,
while starlit years on earth go by
and in Nan Elmoth wood the trees(55)
grow dark and tall. The murmuring seas
rising and falling on the shore
and Ulmo's horns he heeds no more.

But long his people sought in vain
their lord, 'till Ulmo called again,(60)
and then in grief they marched away,
leaving the woods. To havens grey
upon the western shore, the last
long shore of mortal lands, they passed,
and thence were borne beyond the Sea(65)
in Aman, the Blessed Realm, to be
by evergreen Ezellohar
in Valinor, in Eldamar.

Thus Thingol sailed not on the seas
but dwelt amid the land of trees,(70)
and Melian he loved, divine,
whose voice was potent as the wine
the Valar drink in golden halls
where flower blooms and fountain falls;
but when she sang it was a spell,(75)
and no flower stirred nor fountain fell.
A king and queen thus lived they long,
and Doriath was filled with song,
and all the Elves that missed their way
and never found the western bay,(80)
the gleaming walls of their long home
by the grey seas and the white foam,
who never trod the golden land
where the towers of the Valar stand,
all these were gathered in their realm(85)
beneath the beech and oak and elm.

In later days, when Morgoth fled
from wrath and raised once more his head
and Iron Crown, his mighty seat
beneath the smoking mountain's feet(90)
founded and fortified anew,
then slowly dread and darkness grew:
the Shadow of the North that all
the Folk of Earth would hold in thrall.

The lords of Men to knee he brings,(95)
the kingdoms of the Exiled Kings
assails with ever-mounting war:
in their last havens by the shore
they dwell, or strongholds walled with fear
defend upon his borders drear,(100)
'till each one falls. Yet reigned there still
in Doriath beyond his will
the Grey King and immortal Queen.
No evil in their realm is seen;
no power their might can yet surpass:(105)
there still is laughter and green grass,
there leaves are lit by the bright sun,
and many marvels are begun.

There went now in the Guarded Realm
beneath the beech, beneath the elm,(110)
there lightfoot ran now on the green
the daughter of the king and queen:
of Arda's eldest children born
in beauty of their elven-morn
and only child ordained by birth(115)
to walk in raiment of the Earth
from Those descended who began
before the world of Elf and Man.

Beyond the bounds of Arda far
still shone the Legions, star on star,(120)
memorials of their labour long,
achievement of Vision and of Song;
and when beneath their ancient light
on Earth below was cloudless night,
music in Doriath awoke,(125)
and there beneath the branching oak,
or seated on the beech-leaves brown,
Daeron the dark with ferny crown
played on his pipes with elvish art
unbearable by mortal heart.(130)

No other player has there been,
no other lips of fingers seen
so skilled, 'tis said in elven-lore:
not Maglor, son of Fëanor,
forgotten harper, singer doomed,(135)
who, young when Laurelin yet bloomed,
to endless lamentation passed
when gem in tombless sea he cast,
nor any other harper fair
nor piper whose reeds did stir the air.(140)

But Daeron in his heart's delight
now lived and played by starlit night,
until one summer-eve befell,
as still the elven harpers tell.
Then merrily his piping trilled;(145)
the grass was soft, the wind was stilled,
the twilight lingered faint and cool
in shadow-shapes upon a pool
beneath the boughs of sleeping trees
standing silent. About their knees(150)
a mist of hemlocks glimmered pale,
and ghostly moths on lace-wings frail
went to and fro. Beside the mere
quickening, rippling, rising clear
the piping called. Then forth she came,(155)
as sheer and sudden as a flame
of ambient light the shadows cleaving,
her maiden-bower on bare feet leaving;
and as when summer stars arise
radiant into darkened skies,(160)
her living light on all was cast
in fleeting silver as she passed.

There now she stepped with elven pace,
bending and swaying in her grace,
as half-reluctant; then began(165)
to dance, to dance: in mazes ran
bewildering, and a mist of white
was wreathed about her whirling flight.
Wind-ripples on the water flashed,
and trembling leaf and flower were plashed(170)
with diamond-dews, as ever fleet
and fleeter went her wingéd feet.

Her long hair as a cloud was streaming
about her arms uplifted, gleaming,
as slow above the trees the Moon(175)
in glory of the plenilune
arose, and on the open glade
its light serene and clear was laid.
Then suddenly her feet were stilled,
and through the woven wood there thrilled,(180)
half wordless, half in elven-tongue,
her voice upraised in blissful song
that once of nightingales she learned
and in her living joy had turned
to heart-enthralling loveliness,(185)
unmarred, immortal, sorrowless.

Ir Ithil ammen Eruchín

menel-vîr síla díriel

si loth a galadh lasto dîn!

A Hîr Annûn gilthoniel,
le linnon im Tinúviel!

Oh elven-fairest Lúthien
what wonder moved thy dances then?
That night what doom of Elvenesse
enchanted did thy voice possess?(195)
Such marvel shall there no more be
on Earth or west beyond the Sea,
at dusk or dawn, by night or noon
or neath the mirror of the moon!
On Neldoreth was laid a spell;(200)
the piping into silence fell,
for Daeron cast his flute away,
unheeded on the grass it lay,
in wonder bound as stone he stood
heart-broken in the listening wood.(205)
And still she sang above the night,
as light returning into light
upsoaring from the world below
when suddenly there came a slow
dull tread of heavy feet on leaves,(210)
and from the darkness on the eaves
of the bright glade a shape came out
with hands agrope, as if in doubt
or blind, and as it stumbling passed
under the moon a shadow cast(215)
bended and darkling. Then from on high
as lark falls headlong from the sky
the song of Lúthien fell and ceased;
but Daeron form the spell released
awoke to fear, and cried in woe:(220)
'Flee Lúthien, ah Lúthien, go!
An evil walks the wood! Away!'
Then forth he fled in his dismay
ever calling her to follow him,
until far off his cry was dim.(225)
'Flee, Lúthien!', and 'Lúthien!'
from hiding Daeron called again;
'A stranger walks the woods! Away!'
But Lúthien would wondering stay;
fear had she never felt or known,(230)
'till fear then seized her, all alone,
seeing that shape with shagged hair
and shadow long that halted there.
Then sudden she vanished like a dream
in dark oblivion, a gleam(235)
in hurrying clouds, for she had leapt
among the hemlocks tall, and crept
under a mighty plant with leaves
all long and dark, whose stem in sheaves
upheld an hundred umbels fair.(240)
Her slender arms and shoulders bare
her raiment pale, and in her hair
the wild white roses glimmering there,
all lay like spattered moonlight hoar
in gleaming pools upon the floor.(245)
Then stared he wild in dumbness bound
at silent trees, deserted ground;
he blindly groped across the glade
to the dark trees' encircling shade,
and, while she watched with veiléd eyes,(250)
touched her soft arm in sweet surprise.
Like startled moth from deathlike sleep
in sunless nook or bushes deep
she darted swift, and to and fro
with cunning that elvish dancers know(255)
about the trunks of trees she twined
a path fantastic. Far behind
enchanted, wildered and forlorn
Beren came blundering, bruised and torn:
Esgalduin the elven-stream,(260)
in which amid tree-shadows gleam
the stars, flowed strong before his feet.
Some secret way she found, and fleet
passed over and was seen no more,
and left him forsaken on the shore.(265)
'Darkly the sundering flood rolls past.
To this my long way comes at last -
a hunger and a loneliness,
enchanted waters pitiless.'

Forlorn he leaned against a tree.(270)
Wildered, wayworn, gaunt was he,
with body sick, his heart gone cold,
grey in his hair, his youth turned old;
for those that tread that lonely way
a price of woe and anguish pay.(275)

Now all his journey's lonely fare,
the hunger and the haggard care,
the awful mountains' stones he stained
with blood of weary feet, and gained
only a land of ghosts, and fear(280)
in dark ravines imprisoned sheer -
there mighty spiders wove their webs,
old creatures foul with birdlike nebs
that span their traps in dizzy air,
and filled it with clinging black despair,(285)
and there they lived, and the sucked bones
lay white beneath on the dank stones -
now all these horrors like a cloud
faded from mind. The waters loud
falling from pineclad heights no more(290)
he heard, those waters grey and frore
that bittersweet he drank and filled
his mind with madness - all was stilled.
He recked not now the burning road,
the paths demented where he strode(295)
endlessly... and ever new
horizons stretched before his view,
as each blue ridge with bleeding feet
was climbed, and down he went to meet
battle with creatures old and strong(300)
and monsters in the dark, and long,
long watches in the haunted night
while evil shapes with baleful light
in clustered eyes did crawl and snuff
beneath his tree - not half enough(305)
the price he deemed to come at last
to that pale moon when day had passed,
to those clear stars of Elvenesse,
and that brief vision of loveliness.

From outside, far Beleriand,(310)
thus one alone came to that land
and passed the spells that Melian laid
in wood and glen, on grove and glade -
driven by doom, as was foretold
by Melian in days of old.(315)

A summer waned, an autumn glowed,
and Beren in the woods abode,
as wild and wary as a faun
that sudden wakes at rustling dawn,
and flits from shade to shade, and flees(320)
the brightness of the sun, yet sees
all stealthy movements in the wood.
The murmurous warmth in weathers good,
the hum of many wings, the call
of many a bird, the pattering fall(325)
of sudden rain upon the trees,
the windy tide in leafy seas,
the creaking of the boughs, he heard;
but not the song of sweetest bird
brought joy or comfort to his heart,(330)
a wanderer dumb who dwelt apart;
who sought unceasing, near in vain,
to hear and see those things again:
a song more fair than nightingale,
a wonder in the moonlight pale;(335)
yet, fleeting, only a glimpse he sees
as fluttered leaves neath golden trees.

An autumn waned, a winter laid
the withered leaves in grove and glade;
the beeches bare were gaunt and grey,(340)
and red their leaves beneath them lay.
From cavern pale the moist moon eyes
the white mists that from earth arise
to hide the morrow's sun and drip
all the grey day from each twig's tip.(345)
By dawn and dusk he seeks her still;
by noon and night in valleys chill,
nor hears a sound but the slow beat
on sodden leaves of his own feet.

The wind of winter winds his horn;(350)
the misty veil is rent and torn.
The wind dies; the starry choirs
leap in the silent sky to fires
whose light comes bitter-cold and sheer
through domes of frozen crystal clear.(355)

A sparkle through the darkling trees,
a piercing glint of light he sees,
and there she dances all alone
upon a treeless knoll of stone!
Her mantle blue with jewels white(360)
caught all the rays of frosted light.
She shone with cold and wintry flame,
as dancing down the hill she came,
and passed his watchful silent gaze,
a glimmer as of stars ablaze.(365)
And snowdrops sprang beneath her feet,
and one bird, sudden, late and sweet,
shrilled as she wayward passed along.
A frozen brook to bubbling song
awoke and laughed; but Beren stood(370)
still bound enchanted in the wood.
Her starlight faded and the night
closed o'er the snowdrops glimmering white.

Thereafter on a hillock green
he saw far off the elven-sheen(375)
of shining limb and jewel bright
often and oft on moonlit night;
and Daeron's pipe awoke once more,
and soft she sang as once before.
Then nigh he stole beneath the trees,(380)
and heartache mingled with hearts-ease.

A night there was when winter died;
then all alone she sang and cried
and danced until the dawn of spring,
and chanted some wild magic thing(385)
that stirred him, 'till at last it broke
the bonds that held him, and he woke
from dreaming deep and cold despair.
He strayed out into the night air,
and the hillock green he stepped upon -(390)
but the elven sheen was sudden gone,
the hill abandoned: she had fled
away; but now his feet were sped,
and as she went he swiftly came
and called her with the tender name(395)
of nightingales in elven tongue,
that all the woods now sudden rung:
'Tinúviel! Tinúviel!',
and clear his voice was as a bell;
its echoes wove a binding spell:(400)
'Tinúviel! Tinúviel!'
His voice such love and longing filled
one moment stood she, fear was stilled,
one moment without fear or shame,
one moment only: Beren came,(405)
and as she stood there shimmering
her grey eyes danced a-glimmering.

In Doriath bound in a spell
then doom fell on Tinúviel,
and Beren caught that elven maid(410)
fair Lúthien, whom love delayed.

In elven dell that maiden fair
about him cast her shadowy hair,
and under morrowless moonlit skies
he kissed her trembling starlit eyes.(415)
In hour charmed there soft a kiss
she placed upon his muted lips.

Ah, Lúthien! Ah, Lúthien,
more fair than any child of Men!
Oh, loveliest maid of Elvenesse,(420)
what madness doth thee now possess?
Ah, lissom limbs and shadowy hair
and chaplet of white snowdrops there;
oh, starry diadem and bright
soft hands beneath the pale moonlight!(425)
She left his arms and slipped away
just at the breaking of the day.