Canto IX

Hounds there were in Valinor
with silver collars. Hart and boar,
the fox and hare and nimble roe
there in the forests green did go.
Oromë was the lord divine (5)
of all those woods. The potent wine
went in his halls and hunting song.
The Elves anew have named him long
Tauron, the Vala whose horns did blow
over the mountains long ago; (10)
he who had hunted in the world
before the banners were unfurled
of Moon and Sun; and shod with gold
were his great horses. Hounds untold
baying in woods beyond the West (15)
of race immortal he possessed:
grey and limber, black and strong,
white with silken coats and long,
brown and brindled, swift and true
as arrow from a bow of yew; (20)
their voices like the deeptoned bells
that ring in Valmar's citadels,
their eyes like living jewels, their teeth
like ruel-bone. As sword from sheath
they flashed and fled from leash to scent (25)
for Tauron's joy and merriment.
In Tauron's friths and pastures green
had Huan once a young whelp been.
He grew the swiftest of the swift,
and Oromë gave him as a gift (30)
to Celegorm, who loved to follow
the Vala's horn o'er hill and hollow.
Alone of hounds of the Land of Light
when sons of Fëanor took flight
and came into the North, he stayed (35)
beside his master. Every raid
and every foray wild he shared,
and into mortal battle dared.
Often he saved his Elvish lord
from Orc and wolf and leaping sword. (40)
A wolf-hound, tireless, grey and fierce
he grew; his gleaming eyes would pierce
all shadows and all mist, the scent
moons old he found through fen and bent,
through rustling leaves and dusty sand; (45)
all paths of wide Beleriand
he knew. But wolves, he loved them best;
he loved to find their throats and wrest
their snarling lives and evil breath.
Sauron's packs him feared as Death. (50)
No wizardry, nor spell, nor dart,
no fang, nor venom devil's art
could brew had harmed him; for his weird
was woven. Yet he little feared
that fate decreed and known to all: (55)
before the mightiest he should fall,
before the mightiest wolf alone
that ever was whelped in cave of stone;
that thrice with words would he then speak
ere his doom and death in future seek. (60)
Hark! Afar in Nargothrond,
far over Sirion and beyond,
there are dim cries and horns blowing,
and barking hounds through the trees going.
The hunt is up, the woods are stirred. (65)
Who rides to-day? Ye have not heard
that Celegorm and Curufin
have loosed their dogs? With merry din
they mounted ere the sun arose,
and took their spears and took their bows. (70)
The wolves of Sauron late have dared
both far and wide. Their eyes have glared
by night across the roaring stream
of Narog. Doth their master dream,
perchance, of plots and counsels deep, (75)
of secrets that the Elf-lords keep,
of movements in the Elvish realm
and errands under beech and elm?
Curufin spake: 'Good brother mine,
I like it not. What dark design (80)
doth this portend? These evil things,
we swift must end their wanderings!
And more, 'twould please my heart full well
to hunt a while and wolves to fell.'
And then he leaned and whispered low (85)
that Orodreth was a dullard slow;
long time it was since the king had gone,
and rumour or tidings came there none.
'At least thy profit it would be
to know whether dead he is or free; (90)
to gather thy men and thy array.
"I go to hunt" then thou wilt say,
and men will think that Narog's good
ever thou heedest. But in the wood
things may be learned; and if by grace, (95)
by some blind fortune he retrace
his footsteps mad, and if he bear
a Silmaril - I need declare
no more in words; but one by right
is thine (and ours), the jewel of light; (100)
another may be won - a throne.
The eldest blood our house doth own.'
Celegorm listened. Nought he said,
but forth a mighty host he led;
and Huan leaped at the glad sounds, (105)
the chief and captain of his hounds.
Three days they ride by holt and hill
and wolves of Sauron hunt and kill,
and many a head and fell of grey
they take, and many drive away, (110)
'till nigh to the borders in the West
of Doriath a while they rest.
There were dim cries and horns blowing,
and barking dogs through the woods going.
The hunt was up. The woods were stirred, (115)
and one there fled like startled bird,
and fear was in her dancing feet.
She knew not who the woods did beat.
Far from her home, forwandered, pale,
she flitted ghostlike through the vale; (120)
ever her heart bade her up and on,
but her limbs were worn, her eyes were wan.
The eyes of Huan saw a shade
wavering, darting down a glade
like a mist of evening snared by day (125)
and hasting fearfully away.
He bayed, and sprang with sinewy limb
to chase the shy thing strange and dim.
On terror's wings, like a butterfly
pursued by a sweeping bird on high, (130)
she fluttered hither, darted there,
now poised, now flying through the air -
in vain. At last against a tree
she leaned and panted. Up leaped he.
No word enchanted gasped with woe, (135)
no elvish charm that she did know
or had entwined in raiment dark
availed against that hunter stark,
whose old immortal race and kind
no spells could ever turn or bind. (140)
Huan alone that she ever met
she never in enchantment set
nor bound with spells. But loveliness
and gentle speech and pale distress
and eyes like starlight dimmed with tears (145)
tamed him that death nor monster fears.
Lightly he lifted her, light he bore
his trembling burden. Never before
had Celegorm beheld such prey:
'What hast thou brought, good Huan, say! (150)
Dark-elvish maid, or wraith, or fay?
Not such to hunt we came today.'
''Tis Lúthien of Doriath,'
the maiden spake. 'A wandering path
far from the Wood-Elves' sunny glades (155)
she sadly winds, where courage fades
and hope grows faint.' And as she spoke
cast she aside her shadowy cloak,
and there she stood in silver and white.
Her starry jewels twinkled bright (160)
in the risen sun like morning dew;
the lilies gold on mantle blue
gleamed and glistened. Who could gaze
on that fair face without amaze?
Long did Celegorm look and stare. (165)
The perfume of her flower-twined hair,
her lissom limbs, her elvish face,
smote to his heart, and in that place
enchained he stood. 'Oh maiden royal,
Oh lady fair, wherefore in toil (170)
and lonely journey dost thou go?
What tidings dread of war and woe
in Doriath have betid? Come, tell,
for fortune thee hath guided well;
friends thou hast found,' said Celegorm, (175)
and gazed upon her elvish form.
In his heart him thought her tale unsaid
he knew in part, but nought she read
of guile upon his smiling face.
'Who are ye then, the lordly chase (180)
that follow in this perilous wood?'
she asked; and answer seeming-good
they gave. 'Thy servants, lady sweet,
lords of Nargothrond thee greet,
and beg that thou wouldst with them go (185)
back to their hills, forgetting woe
a season, seeking hope and rest.
And now to hear thy tale were best.'
So Lúthien tells of Beren's deeds
in northern lands, how fate him leads (190)
to Doriath, of Thingol's ire,
the dreadful errand that her sire
decreed for Beren. Sign nor word
the brothers gave that aught they heard
that touched them near. Of her escape (195)
and the marvellous mantle she did shape
she lightly tells, but words her fail
recalling sunlight in the vale,
moonlight, starlight in Doriath,
ere Beren took the perilous path. (200)
'Need, too, my lords, there is of haste!
No time in ease and rest to waste.
For days are gone now since the queen,
Melian, whose heart hath vision keen,
looking afar me said in fear (205)
that Beren lived in bondage drear.
The Lord of Wolves hath prisons dark,
chains and enchantments cruel and stark,
and there entrapped and languishing
doth Beren lie - if direr thing (210)
hath not brought death or wish for death':
than gasping woe bereft her breath.
To Celegorm said Curufin
apart and low: 'Now news we win
of Felagund, and now we know (215)
why Sauron's creatures prowling go,'
and other whispered counsels spake,
and showed him what answer he should make.
'Lady,' said Celegorm, 'thou seest
we go a-hunting roaming beast, (220)
and though our host is great and bold,
'tis ill prepared the wizard's hold
and island fortress to assault.
Deem not our hearts or wills at fault.
Lo, here our chase we now forsake (225)
and home our swiftest road we take,
counsel and aid there to devise
for Bern that in anguish lies.'
To Nargothrond they with them bore
Lúthien, whose heart misgave her sore. (230)
Delay she feared; each moment pressed
upon her spirit, yet she guessed
they rode not as swiftly as they might.
Ahead leaped Huan day and night,
and ever looking back his thought (235)
was troubled. What his master sought,
and why he rode not like the fire,
why he looked with hot desire
on Lúthien, he pondered deep,
and felt some evil shadow creep (240)
of ancient curse o'er Elvenesse.
His heart was torn for the distress
of Beren bold, and Lúthien dear,
and Felagund who knew no fear.
In Nargothrond the torches flared (245)
and feast and music were prepared.
Lúthien feasted not, but wept.
Her ways were trammelled; closely kept
she might not fly. Her enchanted cloak
was hidden, and no prayer she spoke (250)
was heeded, nor did answer find
her eager questions. Out of mind,
it seemed, were those afar that pined
in anguish and in dungeons blind
in prison and in misery. (255)
Too late she knew their treachery.
It was not hid in Nargothrond
that Fëanor's sons her held in bond;
they did not Beren think upon
nor had cause to wrest from Sauron (260)
the king they loved not and whose quest
old vows of hatred in their breast
had roused from sleep. Orodreth knew
ther purpose dark they would pursue:
King Felagund to leave to die, (265)
and with King Thingol's blood ally
the house of Fëanor by force
of treaty. But to stay their course
he had no power, for all his folk
the brothers had yet beneath their yoke, (270)
and all yet listened to their word.
Orodreth's counsel no man heard;
their shame they crushed, and would not heed
the tale of Felagund's dire need.
At Lúthien's feet there day by day (275)
and at night beside her couch would stay
Huan the hound of Nargothrond;
and words she spoke to him soft and fond:
'Oh, Huan, Huan, swiftest hound
that ever ran on mortal ground, (280)
what evil doth thy lords possess
to heed no tears nor my distress?
Once Barahir all men above
good hounds did cherish and did love;
once Beren in the friendless North (285)
when outlaw wild he wandered forth,
had friends unfailing among things
with fur and fell and feathered wings,
and among the spirits that in stone
in mountains old and wastes alone (290)
still dwell. But now not Elf nor Man,
none save the child of Melian,
remembers him who Morgoth fought
and never to thraldom base was brought.'
Nought said Huan; but Celegorm and kin (295)
thereafter never near could win
to Lúthien, nor touch that maid,
but shrank from Huan's fangs afraid.
Then on a night when autumn damp
was swathed about the glimmering lamp (300)
of the wan moon, and fitful stars
were flying seen between the bars
of racing cloud, when winter's horn
already wound in trees forlorn,
lo, Huan was gone. Then Lúthien lay (305)
fearing new wrong, 'till, just ere day
when all is dead and breathless still
and shapeless fears the sleepless fill,
a shadow came along the wall.
Then something let there softly fall (310)
her enchanted cloak beside her couch.
Trembling she saw the great hound crouch
beside her, heard a deep voice swell
as from a tower a far slow bell.
Thus Huan spake, who never before (315)
had uttered words, and but twice more
did speak in elven tongue again:
'Lady beloved, whom all Men,
whom Elvenesse, and whom all things
with fur and fell and feathered wings (320)
should serve and love - arise! Away!
Put on thy cloak! Before the day
comes over Nargothrond we fly
to Northern perils, thou and I.'
And ere he ceased he counsel wrought (325)
for achievement of the thing they sought.
There Lúthien listened in amaze,
and softly on Huan did she gaze.
Her arms about his neck she cast -
in friendship that to dath should last. (330)