Tolkien Gateway

Lay of Leithian Canto II

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==Concerning the Canto==
 
==Concerning the Canto==
  
This canto may be considered one of the darkest and most morbid cantos, with first a vivid description of the horrors of Morgoth, one of the most famous paragraphs in the Lay. Then comes the hope of Barahir, and the stumbling of Gorlim the Unhappy. The carrion-crows add to the effect of horror, and the sense of panic and hatred is full.  Then comes the curse and despair of Beren, and when in the last he leaves the grave of his father, and heads south.  Finally, the famous lines: "Beleriand, Beleriand / borders of the faëry land" end and leave the canto's tragic spell.
+
This canto may be considered one of the darkest and most morbid cantos, with first a vivid description of the horrors of Morgoth, one of the most famous paragraphs in the Lay.
 +
 
 +
:''There sat a king: no [[Elves|Elfin]] race''
 +
:''nor mortal blood, nor kindly grace''
 +
 
 +
Then comes the hope of Barahir, and the stumbling of Gorlim the Unhappy.
 +
 
 +
:''But still there lived in hiding cold''
 +
:''undaunted, [[Barahir]] the bold''
 +
:''of land bereaved, of lordship shorn''
 +
:''who once a prince of [[Men]] was born''
 +
 
 +
The carrion-crows add to the effect of horror, and the sense of panic and hatred is full.  Then comes the curse and despair of Beren, and when in the last he leaves the grave of his father, and heads south.  Finally, the famous lines:
 +
 
 +
:''[[Beleriand]], Beleriand''
 +
:''the borders of the faëry land''
 +
 
 +
end the Canto and leave its tragic spell hanging.

Revision as of 01:47, 6 June 2006

Lay of Leithian cantos
  1. Canto I
  2. Canto II
  3. Canto III
  4. Canto IV
  5. Canto V
  6. Canto VI
  7. Canto VII
  8. Canto VIII
  9. Canto IX
  10. Canto X
  11. Canto XI
  12. Canto XII
  13. Canto XIII
  14. Canto XIV

This Canto of the Lay of Leithian tells how Barahir lived as an outlaw. It tells of the snaring of Gorlim the unhappy by a phantom of his lost wife, and how he revealed the secret hiding of Barahir. Then how Thû slew him, and his ghost appeared to Beren, Barahir's son, who happened to be away, and told him of his treachery. Beren upon returning found his father and all his outlaw companions dead. He recaptured the Ring of Barahir from an orc who ironically was speaking of lying to Thû and keeping the ring. There the Canto ends. This Canto includes one of the most praised paragraphs of the Lay, describing Morgoth, recounted below.


The Canto

Far in the North neath hills of stone
in caverns black there was a throne
by fires illuminated underground,
that winds of ice with moaning sound
made flare and flicker in dark smoke;
the wavering bitter coils did choke
the sunless airs of dungeons deep
where evil things did crouch and creep.
There sat a king: no Elfin race
nor mortal blood, nor kindly grace
of earth or heaven might he own,
far older, stronger than the stone
the world is built of, than the fire
that burns within more fierce and dire;
and thoughts profound were in his heart:
a gloomy power that dwelt apart
Unconquerable spears of steel
were at his nod. No ruth did feel
the legions of his marshalled hate,
on whom did wolf and raven wait;
and black the ravens sat and cried
upon their banners black, and wide
was heard their hideous chanting dread
above the reek and trampled dead.
With fire and sword his ruin red
on all that would not bow the head
like lightning fell. The northern land
lay groaning neath his ghastly hand.


But still there lived in hiding cold
undaunted, Barahir the bold
of land bereaved, of lordship shorn
who once a prince of Men was born
and now an outlaw lurked and lay
in the hard heath and woodland gray
and with him clung his faithful men
but Beren his son and other ten.
Yet small as was their hunted band
still fell and fearless was each hand
and strong deed they wrought yet oft
and loved the woods, whose ways more soft
them seemed than thralls of that black throne
to live and languish in halls of stone.
King Morgoth still pursued them sore
with men and dogs, and wolf and boar
with spells of madness filled he sent
to slay them as in the woods they went;
yet naught hurt them for many years
until, in brief to tell what tears
have oft bewailed in ages gone
nor ever tears enough, was done
a deed unhappy; unaware
their feet were caught in Morgoth’s snare.


Gorlim it was, who wearying
of toil and flight and harrying,
one night by chance did turn his feet
o’er the dark fields by stealth to meet
with hidden friend within a dale,
and found a homestead looming pale
against the misty stars, all dark
save one small window, whence a spark
of fitful candle strayed without.
Therein he peeped, and filled with doubt
he saw, as in a dreaming deep
when longing cheats the heart in sleep,
his wife beside a dying fire
lament him lost; her thin attire
and greying hair and paling cheek
of tears and loneliness did speak.
‘A! fair and gentle Eilinel,
whom I had thought in darkling hell
long since emprisoned! Ere I fled
I deemed I saw thee slain and dead
upon that night of sudden fear
when all I lost that I held dear’:
thus thought his heavy heart amazed
outside in darkness as he gazed.
But ere he dared to call her name,
or ask how she escaped and came
to this far vale beneath the hills,
he heard a cry beneath the hills!
There hooted near a hunting owl
of the wild wolves that followed him
and dogged his feet through shadows dim.
Him unrelenting, well he knew,
the hunt of Morgoth did pursue.
Lest Eilinel with him they slay
without a word he turned away,
and like a wild thing winding led
his devious ways o’er stony bed
of stream, and over quaking fen,
until far from the homes of men
he lay beside his fellows few
in a secret place; and darkness grew,
and waned, and still he watched unsleeping,
and saw the dismal dawn come creeping
in dank heavens above gloomy trees.
A sickness held his soul for ease,
and hope, and even thraldom’s chain
if he might find his wife again.
But all he thought twixt love of lord
and hatred for the king abhorred
and anguish for fair Eilinel
who drooped alone, what tale shall tell?


Yet at the last, when many days
of brooding did his mind amaze,
he found the servants of the king,
and bade them to their master bring
a rebel who forgiveness sought,
if haply forgiveness might be bought
with tidings of Barahir the bold,
and where his hidings and his hold
might best be found by night or day.
And thus sad Gorlim, led away
unto those dark deep-dolven halls,
before the knees of Morgoth falls,
and puts his trust in that cruel heart
wherein no truth had ever part.
Quoth Morgoth: ‘Eilinel the fair
thou shalt most surely find, and there
where she doth dwell and wait for thee
together shall ye ever be,
and sundered shall ye sigh no more.
This guerdon shall he have that bore
these tidings sweet, O traitor dear!
For Eilinel she dwells not here,
but in the shades of death doth roam
widowed of husband and of home–
a wraith of that which might have been,
methinks, it is that thou hast seen!
Now shalt thou through the gates of pain
the land thou askest grimly gain;
thou shalt to the moonless mists of hell
descend and seek thy Eilinel.’


His warrior Gorlim died a bitter death
and cursed himself with dying breath
and Barahir was caught and slain
and all good deeds were made in vain.
But Morgoth’s guile for ever failed
nor wholly o’er his foes prevailed
and some were ever that still fought
unmaking that which malice wrought.
Thus men believed that Morgoth made
the fiendish phantom that betrayed
the soul of Gorlim and so brought
the lingering hope forlorn to naught
that lived amid the lonely wood;
yet Beren had by fortune good
long hunted far afield that day
and benighted in strange places lay
far from his fellows. In his sleep
he felt a dreadful darkness creep
upon his heart, and thought the trees
were bare and bent in mournful breeze;
no leaves they had, but ravens dark
sat thick as leaves on bough and bark
and croaked, and as they croaked each neb
let fall a gout of blood; a web
unseen entwined him hand and limb
until worn out, upon the rim
of stagnant pool he lay and shivered.
there saw he that a shadow quivered
far out upon the water wan
and grew to a faint form thereon
that glided o’er the silent lake
and coming slowly, softly spake
and sadly said: ‘Lo! Gorlim here
traitor betrayed, now stands! Nor fear
but haste! For Morgoth’s fingers close
upon thy father’s throat. He knows
your secret tryst, your hidden lair’
and all the evil he laid bare
that he had done and Morgoth wrought
then Beren waking swiftly sought
his sword and bow, and sped like wind
that cuts with knives the branches thinned
of autumn trees. At last he came
his heart afire with burning flame
where Barahir his father lay;
he came too late. At dawn of day
he found the homes of hunted men
a wooded island in the fen
and birds rose up in sudden cloud–
no fen-fowl were they crying loud.
The raven and the carrion-crow
sat in the alders all a-row;
one croaked: ‘Ha! Beren comes too late’
and answered all ‘Too late! Too late!’
There Beren buried his father’s bones
and piled a heap of boulder-stones
and cursed the name of Morgoth thrice
but wept not, for his heart was ice.


Then over fen and field and mountain
he followed, till beside a fountain
upgushing hot from fires below
he found the slayers and his foe
the murderous soldiers of the king.
And one laughed and showed a ring
he took from Barahir’s dead hand.
‘This ring in far Beleriand
now mark ye, mates,’ he said, ‘I was wrought.
Its like with gold could not be bought
for this same Barahir I slew
this robber fool, they say, did do
a deed of service long ago
for Felagund. It may be so;
for Morgoth bade me bring it back
and yet, methinks, he has no lack
of weightier treasure in his hoard.
Such greed befits not such a lord
and I am minded to declare
the hand of Barahir was bare!’
Yet as he spake an arrow sped;
with riven heart he crumpled dead
thus Morgoth loved that his own foe
should in his service deal the blow
that punished the breaking of his word.
But Morgoth laughed not when he heard
that Beren like a wolf alone
sprang madly from behind a stone
amid that camp beside the well
and seized the ring, and ere the yell
of wrath and rage had left their throat
had fled his foes. His gleaming coat
was made of rings of steel no shaft
could pierce, a web of dwarvish craft;
and he was lost in rock and thorn
for in charmed hour was Beren born;
their hungry hunting never learned
the way his fearless feet had turned.


As fearless Beren was renowned
as man most hardy upon the ground
while Barahir yet lived and fought;
but sorrow now his soul had wrought
to dark despair, and robbed his life
of sweetness, that he longed for knife
or shaft, or sword, to end his pain
and dreaded only thralldom’s chain.
Danger he sought and death pursued
and thus escaped the fate he wooed
and deeds of breathless wonder dared
whose whispered glory widely fared
and softly songs were sung at eye
of marvels he did once achieve
alone, beleaguered, lost at night
by mist or moon, or neath the light
Of the broad eye of day. The woods
that northward looked for bitter feuds
he filled and death for Morgoth’s folk;
his comrades were the beech and oak
who failed him not, and many things
with fur and fell and feathered wings;
and many spirits, that in stone
in mountains old and wastes alone
do dwell and wander, were his friends
yet seldom well an outlaw ends
and Morgoth was a king more strong
than all the world has since in song
recorded, and his wisdom wide
slow and surely who him defied
did hem and hedge. Thus at the last
must Beren flee the forest fast
and lands he loved where lay his sire
by reed bewailed beneath the mire.
Beneath a heap of mossy stones
now crumble those once mighty bones
but Beren flees the friendless North
one autumn night, and creeps him forth;
the leaguer of his watchful foes
he passes – silently he goes.
No more his hidden bowstring sings
no more his shaven arrow wings
no more his hunted hid doth lie
upon the heath beneath the sky.
The moon that looked amid the mist
upon the pines, the wind that hissed
among the heather and the fern
found him no more. The stars that burn
about the North with silver fire
that Varda wrought, the Burning Briar
as Men it called in days long gone
were set behind his back, and shone
o’er land and lake and darkened hill
forsaken fen and mountain rill.


His face was South from the Land of Dread
whence only evil pathways led
and only the feet of men most bold
might cross the Shadowy Mountains cold.
Their northern slopes were filled with woe
with evil and with mortal foe;
their southern faces mounted sheer
in rocky pinnacle and pier
whose roots were woven with deceit
and washed with waters bitter-sweet
there magic lurked in gulf and glen
for far away beyond the ken
of searching eyes, unless it were
from dizzy tower that pricked the air
where only eagles lived and cried
might gray and gleaming be descried
Beleriand, Beleriand
the borders of the faëry land

Concerning the Canto

This canto may be considered one of the darkest and most morbid cantos, with first a vivid description of the horrors of Morgoth, one of the most famous paragraphs in the Lay.

There sat a king: no Elfin race
nor mortal blood, nor kindly grace

Then comes the hope of Barahir, and the stumbling of Gorlim the Unhappy.

But still there lived in hiding cold
undaunted, Barahir the bold
of land bereaved, of lordship shorn
who once a prince of Men was born

The carrion-crows add to the effect of horror, and the sense of panic and hatred is full. Then comes the curse and despair of Beren, and when in the last he leaves the grave of his father, and heads south. Finally, the famous lines:

Beleriand, Beleriand
the borders of the faëry land

end the Canto and leave its tragic spell hanging.