Canto XI

Songs have recalled, by harpers sung
long years ago in elven tongue,
how Lúthien and Beren strayed
in Sirion's vale; and many a glade
they filled with joy, and there their feet (5)
passed by lightly, and days were sweet.
Though winter hunted through the wood,
still flowers lingered where they stood.
Tinúviel! Tinúviel!
Still unafraid the birds now dwell (10)
and sing on boughs amid the snow
where Lúthien and Beren go.
From Sirion's Isle they passed away,
but on the hill alone there lay
a green grave, and a stone was set, (15)
and there there lie the white bones yet
of Finrod fair, Finarfin's son,
unless that land be changed and gone,
or foundered in unfathomed seas,
while Finrod walks beneath the trees (20)
in Eldamar and comes no more
to the grey world of tears and war.
To Nargothrond no more he came
but thither swiftly ran the fame
of their dead king and his great deed, (25)
how Lúthien the Isle had freed:
the Werewolf Lord was overthrown,
and broken were his towers of stone.
For many now came home at last
who long ago to shadow passed; (30)
and like a shadow had returned
Huan the hound, though scant he earned
of praise or thanks from Celegorm.
There now arose a growing storm,
a clamour of many voices loud, (35)
and folk whom Curufin had cowed
and their own king had help denied,
in shame and anger now they cried:
'Come! Slay these faithless lords untrue!
Why lurk they here? What will they do, (40)
but bring Finarfin's kin to naught?
Treacherous cuckoo-guests unsought,
away with them!' But wise and slow
Orodreth spoke: 'Beware, lest woe
and wickedness to worse ye bring! (45)
Finrod is fallen. I am king.
But even as he would speak, I now
command you. I will not allow
in Nargothrond the ancient curse
from evil unto evil worse (50)
to work. With tears for Finrod weep
repentant! Swords for Morgoth keep!
No kindred blood shall here be shed.
Yet here shall neither rest nor bread
the brethren find who set at naught (55)
Finarfin's house. Let them be sought,
unharmed, to stand before me! Go!
The courtesy of Finrod show!'
In scorn stood Celegorm, unbowed,
with glance of fire in anger proud (60)
and menacing; but at his side
smiling and silent, wary-eyed,
was Curufin, with hand on haft
of his long knife. And then he laughed,
and 'Well?' said he. 'Why didst thou call (65)
for us, Sir Steward? In thy hall
we are not wont to stand. Come, speak,
if aught of us thou hast to seek."
Cold words Orodreth answered slow:
'Before the king ye stand. But know, (70)
of you he seeks for naught. His will
ye come to hear, and to fulfill.
Be gone for ever, ere the day
shall fall into the sea! Your way
shall never lead you hither more, (75)
nor any son of Fëanor;
of love no more shall there be bond
between your house and Nargothrond!'
'We will remember it,' they said,
and turned upon their heels, and sped, (80)
saddled their horses, trussed their gear,
and went with hound and bow and spear,
alone; for none of all the folk
would follow them. No word they spoke,
but sounded horns, and rode away (85)
like wind at end of stormy day.
To Doriath Lúthien and Beren now
were drawing nigh. Though bare was bough,
and winter through the grasses grey
went hissing chill, and brief was day, (90)
they sang beneath the frosty sky
above them lifted clear and high.
They came to Mindeb, swift and bright,
that from the northern mountains' height
to Neldoreth came leaping down (95)
with noise among the boulders brown,
but into sudden silence fell,
passing beneath the guarding spell
that Melian on the borders laid
of Thingol's land. There now they stayed' (100)
for silence sad on Beren fell.
Unheeded long, at last too well
he heard the warning of his heart:
alas, he thinks, here we must part.
'Alas, Tinúviel,' he said, (105)
'this road no further can we tread
together, no more hand in hand
can journey in the Elven-land.'
Why part we here? What dost thou say,
even at dawn or brighter day?' (110)
'For safe thou'rt come to borderlands
o'er which in the keeping of the hands
of Melian thou wilt walk at ease
and find thy home and well-loved trees.'
'My heart is glad when the fair trees (115)
far off uprising grey it sees
of Doriath inviolate.
Yet Doriath my heart did hate,
and Doriath my feet forsook,
my home, my kin. I would not look (120)
on grass nor leaf there evermore
without thee by me. Dark the shore
of Esgalduin the deep and strong!
Why there alone forsaking song
by endless waters rolling past (125)
must I then hopeless sit at last,
and gaze at waters pitiless
in heartache and in loneliness?'
'For never more to Doriath
can Beren find the winding path, (130)
though Thingol willed it or allowed;
for to thy father there I vowed
to come not back save to fulfill
the quest of the shining Silmaril,
and win by valour my desire. (135)
"Not rock not steel nor Morgoth's fire
nor all the power of Elvenesse
shall keep the gem I would possess":
thus swore I once of Lúthien
more fair than any child of Men. (140)
My word, alas, I now must keep,
and not the first of men must weep
for oath in pride and anger sworn.
Too brief the meeting, brief the morn;
too soon comes night when we must part. (145)
All oaths are for breaking of the heart,
with shame denied, with anguish kept.
Ah, would that now unknown I slept
with Barahir beneath the stone,
and thou wert dancing still alone, (150)
unmarred, immortal, sorrowless,
singing in joy of Elvenesse.'
'That may not be. For bonds there are
stronger than stone or iron bar,
more strong than proudly spoken oath. (155)
Have I not plighted thee my troth?
Hath love no pride nor honour then?
Or dost thou deem then Lúthien
so frail of purpose, light of love?
By stars of Elbereth above! (160)
If thou wilt here my hand forsake
and leave me lonely paths to take,
then Lúthien will not go home,
but weeping in the woods will roam,
nor peril heed, nor laughter know. (165)
And if she may not by thee go
against thy will thy desperate feet
she will pursue, until we meet,
beyond all hope, in love once more
on earth or on the shadowy shore.' (170)
'Nay Lúthien, most brave of heart,
thou makest it more hard to part.
Thy love me drew from bondage drear,
but never to that outer fear,
that darkest mansion of all dread, (175)
shall thy most blissful light be led.
Never. Never!' he shuddering said.
But even as in his arms she pled,
a sound came like a hurrying storm.
There Curufin and Celegorm (180)
in sudden tumult like the wind
rode up. The hooves of horses dinned
loud on the earth. In rage and haste
thus madly eastward they now raced,
to find the old and perilous path (185)
between the dreadful Gorgorath
and Thingol's realm. That was their road
most swift to where their kin abode
far off, where Himring's watchful hill
o'er Aglon's gorge hung tall and still. (190)
They saw the wanderers. With a shout
straight on them turned their steeds about
as if neath maddened hooves to rend
the lovers and their love to end.
But as they came the horses swerved (195)
with nostrils wide and proud necks curved;
Curufin, stooping, to saddlebow
with mighty arm did Lúthien throw,
and laughed. Too soon; for there a spring
fiercer than tawny lion-king (200)
maddened with arrows barbéd smart,
greater than any hornéd hart
that hounded to a gulf leaps o'er,
there Beren gave, and with a roar
leaped on Curufin; round his neck (205)
his arms entwined, and all to wreck
both horse and rider fell to ground;
and there they fought without a sound.
Dazed in the grass did Lúthien lie
beneath bare branches and the sky; (210)
the Elf felt Beren's fingers grim
fix on this throat and strangle him,
and out his eyes did start, and tongue
gasping from his mouth there hung.
Up road Celegorm with his spear, (215)
and bitter death was Beren near.
With elvish steel he nigh was slain
whom Lúthien won from hopeless chain,
but baying Huan sudden sprang
before his master's face with fang (220)
white-gleaming, and with bristling hair,
as if he on boar or wolf did stare.
The horse in terror leaped aside,
and Celegorm in anger cried:
'Curse thee, thou baseborn dog, to dare (225)
against thy master teeth to bare!'
But not that horse nor rider bold
would venture near the anger cold
of mighty Huan fierce at bay.
Red were his jaws. They shrank away, (230)
and fearful eyed him from afar:
no sword nor knife, nor scimitar,
no dart of bow, nor cast of spear,
master nor man did Huan fear.
There Curufin had left his life, (235)
had Lúthien not stayed that strife.
Roused she rose and softly cried
standing distressed at Beren's side:
'Forbear thy anger now, my lord!
nor do the work of Orcs abhorred; (240)
for foes there be of Elvenesse
unnumbered, and they grow not less,
while here we war by ancient curse
distraught, and all the world to worse
decays and crumbles. Make thy peace!' (245)
Then Beren did Curufin release;
but took his horse and coat of mail,
and took his knife there gleaming pale,
hanging sheathless, wrought of steel.
No flesh could leeches ever heal (250)
that point had pierced; for long ago
the dwarves had made it, singing slow
enchantments, where their hammers fell
in Nogrod, ringing like a bell.
Iron as tender wood it cleft, (255)
and sundered mail like woollen weft.
But other hands its haft now held;
its master lay by mortal felled.
Beren uplifting him, far him flung,
and cried 'Begone!' with stinging tongue; (260)
'Arise and go, and no more work
like Morgoth's slaves or curséd Orc;
and deal, proud son of Fëanor,
in deeds more proud than heretofore!'
Then Beren led Lúthien away, (265)
while Huan still there stood at bay.
'Farewell,' cried Celegorm the fair.
'Far get you gone! And better were
to die forhungered in the waste
than wrath of Fëanor's sons to taste (270)
that yet may reach o'er dale and hill.
No gem, nor maid, nor Silmaril
shall ever long in thy grasp lie!'
'We curse thee under cloud and sky!'
cried Curufin. 'Go hence to swift (275)
and bitter death. No greater gift
awaits thee here in Ennorath!
Cursed be your fate! Cursed be your path!
We curse thee from rising unto sleep!
Farewell!' He swift to horse did leap, (280)
his brother lifting him from the ground.
Then bow of yew with gold wire bound
he strung, and shaft he shooting sent,
as heedless hand in hand they went,
a dwarvish dart and cruelly hooked. (285)
They never turned nor backward looked.
Loud bayed Huan, and leaping caught
the speeding arrow. Quick as thought
another followed deadly singing;
but Beren had turned, and sudden springing (290)
defended Lúthien with his breast.
Deep sank the dart in flesh to rest.
He fell to earth. They rode away,
and laughing left him as he lay;
yet spurred like wind in fear and dread (295)
of Huan's pursuing anger red.
Though Curufin with bruised mouth laughed,
yet later of that dastard shaft
was tale and rumour in the North,
and Men remembered at the Marching Forth, (300)
and Morgoth's will its hatred helped.
Thereafter never hound was whelped
would follow horn of Celegorm
or Curufin. Though in strife and storm,
though all their house in ruin red (305)
went down, thereafter laid his head
Huan no more at that lord's feet,
but followed Lúthien, brave and fleet.
Now sank she weeping at the side
of Beren, and sought to stem the tide (310)
of welling blood that flowed there fast.
The raiment from his breast she cast;
from shoulder plucked the arrow keen;
his wound, with tears, she washed it clean.
Then Huan came and bore a leaf, (315)
of all the herbs of healing chief
that evergreen in woodland glade
there grew with broad and hoary blade.
The powers of all grasses Huan knew,
who wide did forest-paths pursue. (320)
Therewith the smart he swift allayed,
while Lúthien murmuring in the shade
the staunching song, what Elvish wives
long years had sung in those sad lives
of war and weapons, wove o'er him. (325)
The shadows fell from mountains grim.
Then sprang about the darkened North
the Sickle of the Valar; forth
each star there stared in stony night
radiant, glistering cold and white. (330)
But on the ground there is a glow,
a spark of red that leaps below:
under woven boughs beside a fire
of crackling wood and sputtering briar
there Beren lies in drowsing deep, (335)
walking and wandering in sleep.
Watchful bending o'er him wakes
a maiden fair; his thirst she slakes,
his brow caresses, and softly croons
a song more potent than in runes (340)
or leeches' lore hath since been writ.
Slowly the nightly watches flit.
The misty morning crawleth grey
from dusk to the reluctant day.
Then Beren woke and opened eyes, (345)
and rose, and said: 'Neath other skies,
in lands more awful and unknown,
I wandered long, methought, alone,
to the deep shadow where the dead dwell'
but ever a voice that I knew well, (350)
like bells, like viols, like harps, like birds,
like music moving without words,
called me, called me through the night,
enchanted drew me back to light,
healed the wound, assuaged the pain. (355)
Now are we come to morn again,
new journeys once more lead us on -
to perils whence may life be won
hardly for Beren; and for thee
a waiting in the wood I see, (360)
beneath the trees of Doriath,
while ever follow down my path
the echoes of this elvish song,
where hills are haggard and roads are long.'
'Nay, now no more we have for foe (365)
dark Morgoth only, but in woe,
in wars and feuds of Elvenesse
they quest is bound; and death, no less,
for thee and me, for Huan bold
the end of weird of yore foretold, (370)
all this I bode shall follow swift
if thou go on. Thy hand shall lift
and lay in Thingol's lap the dire
and flaming jewel, Fëanor's fire,
never. Never! Ah, why then go? (375)
Why turn we not from fear and woe
beneath the trees to walk and roam
roofless, with all the world as home,
over mountains, beside the seas,
in the sunlight, in the breeze?' (380)
Thus long they spoke with heavy hearts;
and yet not all her elvish arts,
nor lissom arms, nor shining eyes
as tremulous stars in rainy skies,
nor tender lips, enchanted voice, (385)
his purpose bent or swayed his choice.
Never to Doriath would he fare
save guarded fast to leave her there;
never to Nargothrond would go
with her, lest there came war and woe; (390)
and never would in the world untrod
to wander suffer her, worn, unshod,
roofless and restless, whom he drew
with love from the hidden realms she knew.
'For Morgoth's power is now awake; (395)
already hill and dale doth shake,
the hunt is up, the prey is wild:
a maiden lost, an elven child.
Now Orcs and phantoms prowl and peer
from tree to tree, and fill with fear (400)
each shade and hollow. Thee they seek!
At thought thereof my hope grows weak,
my heart is chilled. I curse mine oath,
I curse the fate that joined us both
and snared thy feet in my sad doom (405)
of flight and wandering in the gloom!
Now let us haste, and ere the day
be fallen, take our swiftest way,
'till o'er the marches of thy land
beneath the beech and oak we stand (410)
in Doriath, fair Doriath
whither no evil finds the path,
powerless to pass the listening leaves
that linger on those forest-eaves.'
Then to his will she seeming bent. (415)
Swiftly to Doriath they went,
and crossed its borders. There they stayed
resting in deep and mossy glade;
there lay they sheltered from the wind
under mighty beeches silken-skinned, (420)
and sang of love that still shall be,
though earth be foundered under sea,
that sundered here for evermore
shall meet upon the Western Shore.
One morning as asleep she lay (425)
upon the moss, as though the day
too bitter were for gentle flower
to open in a sunless hour,
Beren arose and kissed her hair,
and wept, and softly left her there. (430)
'Good Huan,' said he, 'guard her well!
In leafless field no asphodel,
in thorny thicket never a rose
forlorn, so frail and fragrant blows.
Guard her from wind and frost, and hide (435)
from hands that seize and cast aside;
keep her from wandering and woe,
for pride and fate now make me go.'
The horse he took and rode away,
nor dared to turn; but all that day (440)
with heart as stone he hastened forth
and took the paths toward the North.