Canto XIII

In that vast shadow once of yore
Fingolfin stood: his shield he bore
with filed of heaven's blue and star
of crystal shining pale afar.
In overmastering wrath and hate (5)
desperate he smote upon that gate,
the Elvish king, there standing lone,
while endless fortresses of stone
engulfed the thin clear ringing keen
of silver horn on baldric green. (10)
His hopeless challenge dauntless cried
Figolfin there: 'Come, open wide,
dark king, your ghastly brazen doors!
Come forth, whom earth an heaven abhors!
Come forth, O monstrous craven lord, (15)
and fight with thine own hand and sword,
thou wilder of hosts of banded thralls,
thou tyrant leaguered with strong walls,
foe of Valar and elvish race!
I wait thee here. Come! Show thy face!'(20)
Then Morgoth came. For the last time
in those great wars he dared to climb
from subterranean throne profound,
the rumour of his feet a sound
of rumbling earthquake underground. (25)
Black-armoured, towering, iron-crowned
he issued forth; his mighty shield
a vast unblazoned sable field
with shadow like a thundercloud;
and o'er the the gleaming king it bowed, (30)
as huge aloft like mace he hurled
that hammer of the underworld,
Grond. Clanging to ground it tumbled
down like a thunder-bolt, and curmbled
the rocks beneath it; smoke up-started, (35)
a pit yawned, and a fire darted.
Fingolfin like a shooting light
beneath a cloud, a stab of white,
sprang then aside, and Ringil drew
like ice that gleameth cold and blue, (40)
his sword devised of elvish skill
to pierce the flesh with deadly chill.
With seven wounds it rent his foe,
and seven mighty cries of woe
rang in the mountains, and the earth quook, (45)
and Angbands trembling armies shook.
Orcs dared not after quaking tell
of that great duel at the gates of hell;
though elvish song thereof was made
ere this but one - when sad was laid (50)
the mighty king in barrow high,
and Thorondor, Eagle of the sky,
the dreadful tidings brought and told
to mourning Elvenesse of old.
Thrice was Fingolgin with great blows (55)
to his knees beaten, thrice he rose
still leaping up beneath the cloud
aloft, to hold, star-shinging, proud,
his stricken shield, his sundered helm,
that dark nor might could overwhelm, (60)
'till all the earth was burst and rent
in pits about him. He was spent.
His feet stumbled. He fell to wreck
upon the ground, and on his neck
a foot like rooted hills was set, (65)
and he was crushed - not conquered yet;
one last despairing stroke he gave:
the mighty foot pale Ringil clave
about the heel, and black the blood
gushed as from smoking fount in flood. (70)
Halt goes for ever from that stroke
great Morgoth; but the king he broke,
and would have hewn and mangled thrown
to wolves devouring. Lo, from throne
that Manwë bade him build on high, (75)
on peak unscaled beneath the sky,
Morgoth to watch, now down there swooped
Thorondor, King of Eagles, stooped
and rending beak of gold he smote
in Bauglir's face, then up did float (80)
on pinions thirty fathoms wide,
bearing away, while loud he cried,
the mgihty corse, the Elven-king.
And where the mountains make a ring
far to the south about that plain (85)
where secret Gondolin did reign,
embattled city, at great height
upon a dizzy snowcap white
in mounded cairn the mighty dead
he laid upon the mountain's head. (90)
Never Orc nor demon after dared
that pass to climb, o'er which there stared
Fingolfin's high and holy tomb,
'till Gondolin's appointed doom.
Thus Bauglir earned the furrowed scar (95)
that his dark countenance doth mar,
and thus his limping gait he gained;
but afterward profound he reigned
darkling upon his hidden throne;
and thunderous paced his halls of stone, (100)
slow building there his vast design
the world in thralldom to confine.
Wielder of armies, lord of woe,
no rest now gave he slave or foe;
his watch and ward he thrice increased, (105)
his spies were sent from West to East
and tidings brought from all the North,
who fought, who fell; who ventured forth,
who wrought in secret; who had hoard;
if maid were fair or proud were lord; (110)
well nigh all things he knew, al hearts
well nigh enmeshed in evil arts.
Doriath only, beyond the veil
woven by Melian, no assail
could hurt or enter; only rumour dim (115)
of things there passing came to him.
A rumour loud and tidings clear
of other movements far and near
among his foes, the threat of war
from the seven sons of Fëanor, (120)
from the far Falas, from Fingon still
gathering his armies under hill
and under tree in Hithlum's shade,
these daily came. He grew afraid
amidst his power once more; renoun (125)
of Beren vexed his ears, and down
the aisléd forests there was heard
great Huan baying.
Then came word
most passing strange of Lúthien
wild-wandering by wood and glen, (130)
and Thingol's purpose long he weighed,
and wondered, thinking of that maid
so fair, so frail. A captain dire,
Boldog, he sent with sword and fire
to Doriath's march; but battle fell (135)
sudden upon him: news to tell
never one returned of Boldog's host,
and Thingol humbled Morgoth's boast.
Then his heart with doubt and wrath was burned:
new tidings of dismay he learned, (140)
Sauron was o'erthrown, his strong isle
broken and plundered, how with guile
his foes now guile beset; and spies
he feared, 'till each Orc to his eyes
was half suspect. Still ever down (145)
the aisléd forests came renown
of Huan baying, hound of war
the Valar unleashed in Valinor.
Once had Morgoth Huan's fate bethought
long-rumoured, and in dark he wrought. (150)
Fierce hunger-haunted packs he had
that in wolvish form and flesh were clad,
but demon spirits dire did hold;
and ever wild their voices rolled
in cave and mountain where they housed (155)
and endless snarling echoes roused.
From these a whelp he chose and fed
with his own hand on bodies dead,
on fairest flesh of Elves and Men,
'till huge he grew and in his den (160)
no more could creep, but by the chair
of Morgoth's self would lie and glare,
nor suffer Balrog, Orc, nor beast
to touch him. Many a ghastly feast
he held beneath that awful throne, (165)
rending flesh and gnawing bone.
There deep enchantment on him fell,
the anguish and the power of hell;
more great and terrible he became,
with fire-red eyes and jaws aflame, (170)
with breath like vapours of the grave,
than any beast of wood or cave,
than any beast of earth or hell
that ever in any time befell,
surpassing all his race and kin, (175)
the ghastly tribe of Draugluin.
Him Carcharoth, the Red Maw, name
the songs of Elves. Not yet he came
disastrous, ravening , from the gates
of Angband. There he sleepless waits; (180)
where those great portals threatening loom
his red eyes smoulder in the gloom,
his teeth are bare, his jaws are wide;
and none may walk, nor creep, nor glide,
nor thrust with power his menace past (185)
to enter Morgoth's dungeon vast.
Now, lo, before his watchful eyes
a slinking shape he far descries
that crawls into the frowning plain
and halts at gaze, then on again (190)
comes stalking near, a wolvish shape,
haggard, wayworn, with jaws agape;
and o'er it batlike in wide rings
a reeling shadow slowly wings.
Such shapes there oft were seen to roam, (195)
this land their native haunt and home;
and yet his mood with strange unease
is filled, and boding thoughts him seize.
'What grievous terror, what dread guard
hath Morgoth set to wait, and barred (200)
his doors against all entering feet?
Long ways we have come at last to meet
the very maw of death that opes
between us and our quest! Yet hopes
we never had. No turning back!' (205)
Thus Beren speaks, as in his track
he halts and sees with werewolf eyes
afar the horror that there lies.
Then onward desperate he passed,
skirting the black pits yawning vast, (210)
where King Fingolgin ruinous fell
alone before the gates of hell.
Before those gates along they stood,
while Carcharoth in doubtful mood
glowered upon them, and snarling spoke, (215)
and echoes in the arches woke:
'Hail, Draugluin, my kindred's lord!
'Tis very long since hitherward
thou camest. Yea, 'tis passing strange
to see thee now: a grievous change (220)
is on thee, lord, who once so dire,
so dauntless, and as fleet as fire,
ran over wild and waste, but now
with weariness must bend and bow!
'Tis hard to find the struggling breath (225)
when Huan's teeth as sharp as death
have rent the throat? What fortune rare
brings thee back living here to fare -
if Draugluin thou art? Come near!
I would know more, and see thee clear.' (230)
'Who art thou, hungry upstart whelp,
to bar my ways whom thou shouldst help?
I fare with hasty tidings dour
to Morgoth from my lord, Gorthaur.
Aside, for I must in; or go (235)
and swift my coming tell below!'
Then up he doorward slowly stood,
eyes shining grim with evil mood,
uneasy growling: 'Draugluin,
if such thou be, now enter in! (240)
But what is this that crawls beside,
slinking as if 'twould neath thee hide?
Though wingéd creatures to and fro
unnumbered pass here, all I know.
I know not this. Stay, vampire, stay! (245)
I like not thy kin nor thee. Come, say
what sneaking errand thee doth bring,
thou wingéd vermin, to the king!
Small matter, I doubt not, if thou stay
or enter, or if in my play (250)
I crush thee like a fly on wall,
or bite thy wings and let thee crawl.'
Huge-stalking, noisome, close he came.
In Beren's eyes there gleamed a flame;
the hair upon his neck uprose. (255)
Nought may the fragrance fair enclose,
the odour or immortal flowers
in everlasting spring neath showers
that glitter silver in the grass
in Valinor. Where'er did pass (260)
Tinúviel, such air there went.
From that foul devil-sharpened scent
its sudden sweetness no disguise
enchanted dark to cheat the eyes
could keep, if near those nostrils drew (265)
snuffling in doubt. This Beren knew:
upon the brink of hell prepared
for battle and death. There threatening stared
those dreadful shapes, in hatred both,
false Draugluin and Carcharoth, (270)
when, lo, a marvel to behold:
some power descended from of old,
from race divine beyond the West
sudden Tinúviel possessed
like inner fire. The vampire dark (275)
she flung aside, and, like a lark
cleaving through night to dawn, she sprang,
while sheer, heart-piercing silver rang
her voice, as those long trumpets keen
thrilling, unbearable, unseen (280)
in the cold aisles of morn. Her cloak
by skilled hands woven, like a smoke,
like all-bewildering, all-enthralling,
all-enfolding evening, falling
from lifted arms, as forth she stepped, (285)
across those awful eyes she swept,
a shadow and a mist of dreams
wherein entangled starlight gleams.
'Sleep, Oh unhappy, tortured thrall!
Thou woebegotten, fail and fall (290)
down, down from anguish, hatred, pain,
from lust, from hunger, bond and chain,
to that oblivion, dark and deep,
the well, the lightless pit of sleep!
For one brief hour escape the net, (295)
the dreadful doom of life forget!'
His eyes were quenched, his limbs were loosed;
he fell like running steer that noosed
and tripped goes crashing to the ground.
Deathlike, moveless, without a sound (300)
outstretched he lay, as lightning stroke
had felled a huge o'ershadowing oak.