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Lay of Leithian Canto V

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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 speaks of Lúthien Tinúviel after the departure of Beren and how she went to her mother Melian and friend Dairon, begging for aid, from the first foresight and from the second music. Melian said that Beren was in the dungeons of Thû, and Dairon refused to play any music. A second time Dairon betrayed her, this time out of love, to her father Thingol, who placed her in a guarded treehouse. But by magic she grew out her hair and made a robe and rope of it "a magic dress / that all was drenched in drowsiness". Lowering the rope she put to sleep her guards and escaped.

The Canto

Lúthien Escapes the Treehouse by Ted Nasmith
So days drew on from the mournful day;
the curse of silence no more lay
on Doriath, though Dairon's flute
and Lúthien's singing both were mute.
The murmurs soft awake once more
about the woods, the waters roar
past the great gates of Thingol's halls;
but no dancing step of Lúthien falls
on turf or leaf. For she forlorn,
where stumbled once, where bruised and torn,
with longing on him like a dream,
had Beren sat by shrouded stream
Esgalduin the dark and strong,
she sat and mourned in a low song:
"Endless roll the waters past!
To this my love hath come at last,
enchanted waters pitiless,
a heartache and a loneliness."
The summer turns. In branches tall
she hears the pattering raindrops fall,
the windy tide in leafy seas,
the creaking of the countless trees;
and longs unceasing and in vain
to hear one calling once again
the tender name that nightingales
were called of old. Echo fails.
"Tinúviel! Tinúviel!"
the memory is like a knell,
a faint and far-off tolling bell:
"Tinúviel! Tinúviel!"
"O mother Melian, tell to me
some part of what thy dark eyes see!
Tell of thy magic where his feet
are wandering! What foes him meet?
O mother, tell me, lives he still
treading the desert and the hill?
Do sun and moon above him shine,
do the rains fall on him, mother mine?"
"Nay, Lúthien my child, I fear
he lives indeed in bondage drear.
The Lord of wolves hath prisons dark,
chains and enchantments cruel and stark,
there trapped and bound and languishing
now Beren dreams that thou dost sing."
"Then I alone must go to him
and dare the dread in dungeons dim;
for none there be that will him aid
in all the world, save elven-maid
whose only skill were joy and song,
and both have failed and left her long."
The nought said Melian thereto,
though wild the words. She wept anew,
and ran through the woods like hunted deer
with her hair streaming and eyes of fear.
Dairon she found with ferny crown
silently sitting on beech-leaves brown.
On the earth she cast her at his side.
"O Dairon, Dairon, my tears," she cried,
"now pity for our old days' sake!
Make me a music for heart's ache,
for heart's despair, and for heart's dread,
for light gone dark and laughter dead!"
"But for music dead there is no note,"
Dairon answered, and at his throat
his fingers clutched. Yet his pipe he took,
and sadly trembling the music shook;
and all things stayed while that piping went
wailing in the hollows, and there intent
they listened, their business and mirth,
their hearts' gladness and the light of earth
forgotten; and bird-voices failed
while Dairon's flute in Doriath wailed.
Lúthien wept not for very pain,
and when he ceased she spoke again:
"My friend, I have a need of friends,
as he who a long dark journey wends,
and fears the road, yet dare not turn
and look back where the candles burn
in windows he has left. The night
in front, he doubts to find the light
that far beyond the hills he seeks."
And thus of Melian's words she speaks,
and of her doom and her desire
to climb the mountains, and the fire
and ruin of the Northern realm
to dare, a maiden without helm
or sword, or strength of hardy limb,
where magic founders and grows dim.
His aid she sought to guide her forth
and find the pathways to the North,
if he would not for love of her
go by her side a wanderer.
"Wherefor," said he, "Should Dairon go
into direst peril earth doth know
for the sake of mortal who did steal
his laughter and joy? No love I feel
for Beren son of Barahir,
nor weep for him in dungeons drear,
who in this wood have chains enow,
heavy and dark. But thee, I vow,
I will defend from perils fell
and deadly wandering into hell."
No more they spake that day, and she
perceived not his meaning. Sorrowfully
she thanked him, and he left him there.
A tree she climbed, till the bright air
above the woods her dark hair blew,
and straining afar her eyes could view
the outline grey and faint and low
of dizzy towers where the clouds go,
the southern faces mounting sheer
in rocky pinnacle and pier
of Shadowy Mountains pale and cold;
and wide the lands before them rolled.
But straightway Dairon sought the king
and told him his daughter's pondering
and how her madness might her lead
to ruin, unless the king gave heed.
Thingol was wroth, and yet amazed;
in wonder and half fear he gazed
on Dairon, and said: 'True hast thou been.
Now ever shall love be us between,
while Doriath lasts; within this realm
thou art a prince of beech and elm!'
He sent for Lúthien, and said:
'O maiden fair, what hath thee led
to ponder madness and despair
to wander to ruin, and to fare
from Doriath against my will
stealing like a wild thing men would kill
into the emptiness outside?'
'The wisdom, father,' she replied;
nor would she promise to forget,
nor would she vow for love or threat
her folly to forsake and meek
in Doriath her father's will to seek.
This only vowed she, if go she must,
that none but herself would she now trust,
no folk of her father's would persuade
to break his will or lend her aid;
if go she must, she would go alone
and friendless dare the walls of stone.

(To be continued. You can help Tolkien Gateway by completing this article)