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Kortirion among the Trees

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Kortirion among the Trees 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.