Tolkien Gateway

Kortirion among the Trees

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Revision as of 23:09, 19 February 2010

Kortirion among the Trees is a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien.

O fading town upon an inland hill
Old shadows linger in thine ancient gate
Thy robe is grey thine old heart now is still
Thy towers silent in the mist await
Their crumbling end while through the storeyed elms
The Gliding Water leaves these inland realms
And slips between long meadows to the Sea
Still bearing downward over murmurous falls
One day and then another to the Sea
And slowly thither many years have gone
Since first the Elves here built Kortirion


O climbing town upon thy windy hill
With winding streets and alleys shady-walled
Where now untamed the peacocks pace in drill
Majestic sapphirine and emerald
Amid the girdle of this sleeping land
Where silver falls the rain and gleaming stand
The whispering host of old deep-rooted trees
That cast long shadows in many a bygone noon
And murmured many centuries in the breeze
Thou art the city of the Land of Elms
Alalminórë in the Fairy Realms


Sing of thy trees Kortirion again
The beech on hill the willow in the fen
The rainy poplars and the frowning yews
Within thine agéd courts that muse
In sombre splendour all the day
Until the twinkle of the early stars
Comes glinting through their sable bars
And the white moon climbing up the sky
Looks down upon the ghosts of trees that die
Slowly and silently from day to day
O Lonely Isle here was thy citadel
Ere bannered summer from his fortress fell
Then full of music were thine elms
Green was their armour green their helms
The Lords and Kings of all thy trees
Sing then of elms renowned Kortirion
That under summer crowds their full sail on
And shrouded stand like masts of verdurous ships
A fleet of galleons that proudly slips
Across long sunlit seas.


Thou art the inmost province of the fading isle
Where linger yet the Lonely Companies
Still undespairing here they slowly file
Along thy paths with solemn harmonies
The holy people of an elder day
Immortal Elves that singing fair and fey
Of vanished things that were and could be yet
Pass like a wind among the rustling trees
A wave of bowing grass and we forget
Their tender voices like wind-shaken bells
Of flowers their gleaming hair like golden asphodels


Once Spring was here with joy and all was fair
Among the trees but Summer drowsing by the stream
Heard trembling in her heart the secret player
Pipe out beyond the tangle of her forest dream
The long-drawn tune that elvish voices made
Foreseeing Winter through the leafy glade
The late flowers nodding on the ruined walls
Then stooping heard afar that haunting flute
Beyond the sunny aisles and tree-propped halls
For thin and clear and cold the note
As strand of silver glass remote


Then all thy trees Kortirion were bent
And shook with sudden whispering lament
For passing were the days and doomed the nights
When flitting ghost-moths danced as satellites
Round tapers in the moveless air
And doomed already were the radiant dawns
The fingered sunlight drawn across the lawns
The odour and the slumbrous noise of meads
Where all the sorrel flowers and pluméd weeds
Go down before the scyther’s share
When cool October robed her dewy furze
In netted sheen of gold-shot gossamers
Then the wide-umbraged elms began to fail
Their mourning multitude of leaves grew pale
Seeing afar the icy spears
Of Winter marching blue behind the sun
Of bright All-Hallows. Then their hour was done
And wanly borne on wings of amber pale
They beat the wide airs of the fading vale
And flew like birds across the misty meres


This is the season dearest to the heart
And time most fitting to the ancient town
With waning musics sweet that slow depart
Winding with echoed sadness faintly down
The paths of stranded mist. O gentle time
When the late mornings are begemmed with rime
And early shadows fold the distant woods!
The Elves go silent by their shining hair
They cloak in twilight under secret hoods
Of grey and filmy purple and long bands
Of frosted starlight sewn by silver hands


And oft they dance beneath the roofless sky
When naked elms entwine in branching lace
The Seven Stars and through the boughs the eye
Stares golden-beaming in the round moon’s face
O holy Elves and fair immortal Folk
You sing then ancient songs that once awoke
Under primeval stars before the Dawn
You whirl then dancing with the eddying wind
As once you danced upon the shimmering lawn
In Elvenhome before we were before
You crossed wide seas unto this mortal shore


Now are thy trees old grey Kortirion
Through pallid mists seen rising tall and wan
Like vessels floating vague and drifting far
Down opal seas beyond the shadowy bar
Of cloudy ports forlorn
Leaving behind for ever havens loud
Wherein their crews a while held feasting proud
And lordly ease they now like windy ghosts
Are wafted by slow airs to windy coasts
And the glimmering sadly down the tide are borne
Bare are thy trees become Kortirion
The rotted rainment from their bones is gone
The seven candles of the Silver Wain
Like lighted tapers in a darkened fane
Now flare above the fallen year
Through court and street now cold and empty lie
And Elves dance seldom neath the barren sky
Yet under the white moon there is a sound
Of buried music still beneath the ground
When winter comes I would meet winter here


I would not seek the desert or red palaces
Where reigns the sun nor tail to magic isles
Nor climb the hoary mountains’ stony terraces
And tolling faintly over windy miles
To my heart calls no distant bell that rings
In crowded cities of the Earthly Kings
For here is heartsease still and deep content
Though sadness haunt the Land of withered Elms
And making music still in sweet lament
The Elves here holy and immortal dwell
And on the stones and trees there lies a spell.
J.R.R. Tolkien