Canto XII

Once wide and smooth a plain was spread,
where King Fingolfin proudly led
his silver armies on the green,
his horses white, his lances keen;
his helmets tall of steel were hewn, (5)
his shields were shining as the moon.
There trumpets sang both long and loud,
and challenge rang unto the cloud
that lay on Morgoth's northern tower,
while Morgoth waited for his hour. (10)
Rivers of fire at dead of night
in winter lying cold and white
upon the plain burst forth, and high
the red was mirrored in the sky.
From Hithlum's walls they saw the fire, (15)
the steam and smoke in spire on spire
leap up, 'till in confusion vast
the stars were choked. And so it passed,
the mighty field, and turned to dust,
to drifting sand and yellow rust, (20)
to thirsty dunes where many bones
lay broken among barren stones.
Dor-nu-Fauglith, Land of Thirst,
they after named it, waste accurst,
the raven-haunted roofless grave (25)
of many fair and many brave.
Thereon the stony slopes look forth
from Deadly Nightshade falling north,
from somber pines with pinions vast,
black-plumed and drear, as many a mast (30)
of sable-shrouded ships of death
slow wafted on a ghostly breath.
Thence Beren grim now gazes out
across the dunes and shifting drought,
and sees afar the frowning towers (35)
where thunderous Thangorodrim lowers.
The hungry horse there drooping stood,
proud Elvish steed; it feared the wood;
upon that haunted ghastly plain
no horse would ever stride again. (40)
'Good steed of master ill,' he said,
'farewell now here! Lift up thy head,
and get thee gone to Sirion's vale,
back as we came, past island pale
where Sauron reigned, to waters sweet (45)
and grasses long about thy feet.
And if Curufin no more thou find,
grieve not! But free with hart and hind
go wander, leaving work and war,
and dream thee back in Valinor, (50)
whence came of old thy mighty race
from Tauron's mountain-fencéd chase.'
There still sat Beren, and he sang,
and loud his lonely singing rang.
Though Orc should hear, or wolf a-prowl, (55)
or any of the creatures foul
within the shade that slunk and stared
from Taur-nu-Fuin, nought he cared,
who now took leave of light and day,
grim-hearted, bitter, fierce and fey. (60)
'Farewell now here, ye leaves of trees,
your music in the morning-breeze.
Farewell now blade and bloom and grass
that see the changing seasons pass;
ye waters murmuring over stone, (65)
and meres that silent stand alone.
Farewell now mountain, vale, and plain.
Farewell now wind and frost and rain,
and mist and cloud, and heaven's air;
ye star and moon so blinding-fair (70)
that still shall look down from the sky
on the wide earth, though Beren die -
though Beren die not, and yet deep,
deep, whence comes of those that weep
no dreadful echo, lie and choke (75)
in everlasting dark and smoke.
'Farewell sweet earth and northern sky,
for ever blest, since here did lie,
and here with lissom limbs did run,
beneath the moon, beneath the sun, (80)
Lúthien Tinúviel
more fair than mortal tongue can tell.
Though all to ruin fell the world,
and were dissolved and backward hurled
unmade into the old abyss, (85)
yet were its making good, for this -
the dawn, the dusk, the earth, the sea -
that Lúthien on a time should be!'
His blade he lifted high in hand,
and challenging alone did stand (90)
before the threat of Morgoth's power;
and dauntless cursed him, hall and tower,
o'ershadowing hand and grinding foot,
beginning, ending, crown and root;
then turned to stride forth down the slope (95)
abandoning fear, forsaking hope.
And then it seemed he heard a song
far off swelling, far but strong;
A song Lúthien once fore aloft.
He knew that voice, he had heard it oft. (100)
Thus back to him cam Lúthien:
they met beyond the ways of Men;
upon the brink of terror stood
between the desert and the wood.
'Oh proud and fearless hand and heart, (105)
not yet farewell, not yet we part.
Not thus do those of elven race
forsake the love that they embrace.
A love is mine, as great a power
as thine, to shake the gate and tower (110)
of death with challenge weak and frail,
the yet endures, and will not fail
nor yield, unvanquished were it hurled
beneath the foundations of the world.
Beloved fool! escape to seek (115)
from such pursuit; in might so weak
to trust not, thinking it well to save
from love thy loved, who welcomes grave
and torment sooner than in guard
of kind intent to languish, barred, (120)
wingless and helpless him to aid
for whose support her love was made!'
He looked on her, her lifted face
beneath his lips in sweet embrace:
'Thrice now mine oath I curse,' he said, (125)
'that under shadow thee hath led!
But where is Huan, where the hound
to whom I trusted, whom I bound
by love of thee to keep thee well
from deadly wandering unto hell?' (130)
'I know not! But good Huan's heart
is wiser, kinder than thou art,
grim lord, more open unto prayer!
Yet long and long I pleaded there,
until he brought me, as I would, (135)
upon thy trail - a palfrey good
would Huan make, of flowing pace:
thou wouldst have laughed to see us race,
as Orc on werewolf ride like fire
night after night through fen and mire, (140)
through waste and wood! But when I heard
thy singing clear - (yea, every word
of Lúthien one rashly cried,
and listening evil fierce defied) -
he set me down, and I sped your way; (145)
but what he would I cannot say.'
Ere long they knew, for Huan came,
his great breath panting, eyes like flame,
in fear, lest her, whom he forsook
to aid, some hunting evil took (150)
ere he was nigh. Now there he laid
before their feet, as dark as shade,
two grisly shapes that they had won
from that tall isle in Sirion:
a wolfhame huge - its savage fell (155)
was long and matted, dark the spell
that drenched the dreadful coat and skin,
the werewolf cloak of Draugluin;
the other was a batlike garb
with mighty fingered wings, a barb (160)
like iron nail at each joint's end -
such wings as their dark cloud extend
against the moon, when in the sky
from Deadly Nightshade screeching fly
Sauron's messengers.
'What is brought,
good Huan? What is thy hidden thought?
Of trophy of prowess and strong deed,
when Sauron tho vanquishedst, what need
here in the waste?' Thus Beren spoke,
and once more words in Huan woke: (170)
his voice was like the deeptoned bells
that ring in Valmar's citadels:
'Of one fair gem thou must be thief,
Morgoth's or Thingol's, loath or lief;
thou one must choose, exile or oath! (175)
Though vow to break is still thee loath,
know that Lúthien must either die
alone, or death with thee defie
beside thee, marching on your fate
that hidden before you lies in wait. (180)
For Lúthien now, in thy doom's snare
in love must in thy dying share.
In exile you would seek in vain
for peace, but, rather, find there pain.
Hopeless the quest, but not yet mad, (185)
unless thou, Beren, run thus clad
in mortal raiment, mortal hue,
witless and redeless, death to woo.
'Lo, good was Falagund's device,
but may be bettered, if advice (190)
of Huan ye will dare to take,
and swift a hideous change will make
to forms must curséd, foul and vile,
of werewolf of the Wizard's Isle,
of monstrous bat's evermined fell (195)
with ghostly clawlike wings of hell.
'To such dark straits, alas, now brought
are ye I love, for whom I fought.
Nor further with you can I go -
whoever did a great hound know (200)
in friendship at a werewolf's side
to Angband's grinning portals stride?
Yet my heart tells that at the gate
what there ye find, 'twill be my fate
myself to see, though to that door (205)
my feet shall bear me nevermore.
Darkened is hope and dimmed my eyes,
I see not clear what further lies;
yet maybe backwards leads your path
beyond all hope to Doriath, (210)
and thither, perchance, we three shall wend,
and meet again before the end.'
They stood and marvelled thus to hear
his mighty tongue so deep and clear;
then sudden he vanished from their sight (215)
even at the onset of the night.
His dreadful counsel then they took,
and their own gracious forms forsook;
in werewolf fell and batlike wing
prepared to robe them, shuddering. (220)
An elvish enchantment Lúthien wrought,
lest raiment foul with evil fraught
to dreadful madness drive their hearts;
and there she wrought with elvish arts
a strong defence, a binding power, (225)
singing until the midnight hour.
Swift as the wolvish coat he wore,
Beren lay slavering on the floor,
redtongued and hungry; but there lies
a pain and longing in his eyes, (230)
a look of horror as he sees
a batlike form crawl to its knees
and drag its creased and creaking wings.
Then howling undermoon he springs
fourfooted, swift, from stone to stone, (235)
from hill to plain - but not alone:
a dark shape down the slope doth skim,
and wheeling flitters over him.
Ashes and dust and thirsty dune
withered and dry beneath the moon, (240)
under the cold and shifting air
sifting and sighing, bleak and bare;
of blistered stones and gasping sand,
of splintered bones was built that land,
o'er which now slinks with powdered fell (245)
and hanging tongue a shape of hell.
Many parching leagues lay still before
when sickly day crept back once more;
many choking miles yet stretched ahead
when shivering night once more was spread (250)
with doubtful shadow and ghostly sound
that hissed and passed o'er dune and mound.
A second morning in cloud and reek
struggled, when stumbling, blind and weak,
a wolvish shape came staggering forth (255)
and reached the foothills of the North;
upon its back there folded lay
a crumpled thing that blinked at day.
The rocks were reared like bony teeth,
like claws that grasped from opened sheath, (260)
on either side of the mournful road
that onward led to that abode,
far up within the Mountain dark
with tunnels drear and portals stark.
They crept within a scowling shade, (265)
and cowering darkly down them laid.
Long lurked they there beside the path,
and shivered, dreaming of Doriath,
of laughter and music and clean air,
in fluttered leaves birds singing fair. (270)
They woke, and felt the trembling sound,
the beating echo far underground
shake beneath them, the rumour vast
of Morgoth's forges; and aghast
they heard the tramp of stony feet (275)
that shod with iron went down that street:
the Orcs went forth to rape and war,
and Balrog captains marched before.
They stirred, and under cloud and shade
at eve stepped forth, and no more stayed; (280)
as dark things on dark errand bent
up the long slopes in haste they went.
Ever the sheer cliffs rose beside,
where birds of carrion wheeled and cried,
and chasms black and smoking yawned (285)
whence writhing serpent-shapes were spawned;
until, at last, in that huge gloom,
heavy as overhanging doom
that weighs on Thagorodrim's foot
like thunder at the mountain's root, (290)
they came, as to a sombre court
walled with great towers, fort on fort
of cliffs embattled, to that last plain
that opens, abysmal and inane,
before the final topless wall (295)
of Bauglir's immeasurable hall,
whereunder looming awful waits
the gigantic shadow of his gates.