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Lay of Leithian Canto V

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. Note:There are several innacuracies; see below
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.
In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep. He would not bind
in caverns deep and intertwined
sweet Lúthien, his lovely maid,
who robbed of air must wane and fade,
who ever must look upon the sky
and see the sun and moon go by.
But close unto his mounded seat
and grassy throne there ran the feet
of Hirilorn, the beechen queen.
Upon her triple boles were seen
no break nor branch, until aloft
in a greener glimmer, distant, soft,
the mightiest vault of leaf and bough
from world's beginning until now
was flung above Esgalduin's shores
and the long slopes of Thingol's doors.
Grey was the rind of pillars tall
and silken-smooth, and far and small
to squirrels' eyes were those who went
at her grey feet upon the bent.
Now Thingol made men in the beech,
in that great tree, as far as reach
their longest ladders, there to build
an airy house; and as he willed
a little dwelling of fair wood
was made, and veiled in leaves it stood
above the first branches. Corners three
it had and windows faint to see,
and by three shafts of Hirilorn
in the corners standing was upborne.
There Lúthien was bidden dwell,
until she was wiser and the spell
of madness left her. Up she clomb
the long ladders to her new home
among the leaves, among the birds;
she sang no song, she wpoke no words.
White glimmering in the tree she rose,
and her little door they heard her close.
The ladders were taken and no more
her feet might tread Esgalduin's shore.
Thither at whiles they climbed and brought
all things she needed or besought;
but death was his, whoso should dare
a ladder leave, or creeping there
should set one by the tree at night;
a guard was held from dusk to light
about the grey feet of Hirilorn
and Lúthien in prison and forlorn.
There Dairon grieving often stood
in sorrow for the captive of wood,
and melodies made upon his flute
leaning against the grey tree-root.
Lúthien would from her windows stare
and see him far under piping there,
and she forgave his betraying word
for the music and the grief she heard,
and only Dairon would she let
across her threshold foot to set.
Yet long the hours when she must sit
and see the sunbeams dance and flit
in beechen leaves, or watch the stars
peep on clear night between the bars
of beechen branches. And one night
just ere the changing of the light
a dream there came, from the Gods, maybe,
of Melian's magic. She dreamed that she
heard Beren's voice o'er hill and fell
'Tinúviel' call, 'Tinúviel.'
And her heart answered: 'Let me be gone
to seek him no others think upon!'
She woke and saw the moonlight pale
through the slim leaves. It trembled frail
upon her arms, as these she spread
and there in longing bowed her head,
and yearned for freedom and escape.
Now Lúthien doth her counsel shape;
and Melian's daughter of deep lore
knew many things, yea, magics more
than then or now know elven-maids
that glint and shimmer in the glades.
She pondered long, while the moon sank
and faded, and the starlight shrank,
and the dawn opened. At last a smile
on her face flickered. She mused a while,
and watched the morning sunlight grow,
then called to those that walked below.
And when one climbed to her she prayed
that he would in the dark pools wade
of cold Esgalduin, water clear,
the clearest water cold and sheer
to draw for her. 'At middle night,'
she said, 'in bowl of silver white
it must be drawn and brought to me
with no word spoken, silently.'
Another she begged to bring her wine
in a jar of gold where flowers twine—
'and singing let him come to me
at high noon, singing merrily.'
Again she spake: 'Now go, I pray,
to Melian the queen, and say:
"thy daughter many a weary hour
slow passing watches in her bower;
a spinning-wheel she begs thee send."'
then Dairon she called: 'I prithee, friend,
climb up and talk to Lúthien!'
And sitting at her window then,
she said: 'My Dairon, thou hast craft,
beside thy music, many a shaft
and many a tool of carven wood
to fashion with cuning. It were good,
if thou wouldst make a little loom
to stand in the corner of my room.
My idle fingers would spin and weave
a pattern of colours, of morn and eve,
of sun and moon and changing light
amid the beech-leaves waving bright.'
This Dairon did and asked her then:
'O Lúthien, O Lúthien,
What wilt thou weave? What wilt thou spin?'
'A marvellous thread, and wind therein
a potent magic, and a spell
I will weave within my web that hell
nor all the powers of Dread shall break.'
Then Dairon wondered, but he spake
no word to Thingol, though his heart
feared the dark purpose of her art.
And Lúthien now was left alone.
A magic song to Men unknown
she sang, and singing then the wine
with water mingled three times nine;
and as in golden jar they lay
she sang a song of growth and day;
and as they lay in silver white
another song she sang, of night
and darkness without end, of height
uplifted to the stars, and flight
and freedom. And all names of things
tallest and longest on earth she sings:
the locks of the Longbeard dwarves; the tail
of Draugluin the werewolf pale;
the body of Glómund the great snake;
the vast upsoaring peaks that quake
above the fires in Angband's gloom;
the chain Angainor that ere Doom
for Morgoth shall by Gods be wrought
of steel and torment. Names she sought,
and sang of Glend the sword of Nan;
of Gilim the giant of Eruman;
and last and longest named she then
the endless hair of Uinen,
the Lady of the Sea, that lies
through all the waters under skies.
Then did she lave her head and sing
a theme of sleep and slumbering,
profound and fathomless and dark
as Lúthien's shadowy hair was dark—
each thread was more slender and more fine
than threads of twilight that entwine
in filmy web the fading grass
and closing flowers as day doth pass.
Now long and longer grew her hair,
and fell to her feet, and wandered there
like pools of shadow on the ground.
Then Lúthien in a slumber drowned
was laid upon her bed and slept,
till morning through the windows crept
thinly and faint. And then she woke,
and the room was filled as with a smoke
and with an evening mist, and deep
she lay thereunder drowsed in sleep.
Behold! her hair from windows blew
in morning airs, and darkly grew
waving about the pillars grey
of Hirilorn at break of day.
Then groping she found her little shears,
and cut the hair about her ears,
and close she cropped it to her head,
enchanted tresses, thread by thread.
Thereafter grew they slow once more,
yet darker than their wont before.
And now was her labour but begun:
long was she spinning, long she spun;
and though with elvish skill she wrought,
long was her weaving. If men sought
to call her, crying from below,
'Nothing I need,' she answered, 'go!
I would keep my bed, and only sleep
I now desire, who waking waking weep.'
Then Dairon feared, and in amaze
he called from under; but three days
she answered not. Of cloudy hair
she wove a web like misty air
of moonless night, and thereof made
a robe as fluttering-dark as shade
beneath great trees, a magic dress
that all was drenched with drowsiness,
enchanted with a mightier spell
than Melian's raiment in that dell
wherein of yore did Thingol roam
beneath the dark and starry dome
that hung above the dawning world.
And now this robe she round her furled,
and veiled her garments shimmering white;
her mantle blue with jewels bright
like crystal stars, the lilies gold,
were wrapped and hid; and down there rolled
dim dreams and faint oblivious sleep
falling about her, to softly creep
through all the air. Then swift she takes
the threads unused; of these she makes
a slender rope of twisted strands
yet long and stout, and with her hands
she makes it fast unto the shaft
of Hirilorn. Now, all her craft
and labout ended, looks she forth
from her little window facing North.
Already the sunlight in the trees
is drooping red, and dusk she sees
come softly along the ground below,
and now she murmurs soft and slow.
Now chanting clearer down she cast
her long hair, till it reached at last
from her window to the darkling ground.
Men far beneath her heawrd the sound;
but the slumbrous strand now swung and swayed
above her guards. Their talking stayed,
they listened to her voice and fell
suddenly beneath a binding spell.
Now clad as in a cloud she hung;
now down her ropéd hair she swung
as light as squirrel, and away,
away, she danced, and who could say
what paths she took, whose elvish feet
no impress made a-dancing fleet?