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Lay of Leithian Canto VI

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 starts with a description of Tirion on Túna, here called Tûn. It speaks in short of Fëanor's speech and the Oath, that he and his sons spake. It also speeks in brief of the deeds of the Noldor, such as the rescue of Maedhros by Fingon. It tells of how Barahir, the father of Beren, aided Finrod Felagund during the Siege of Angband. Then how Beren made his way to Nargothrond, asking for Felagund's aid in the Quest for the Silmaril, giving the greatest speech he made in his life about the beauty of Lúthien. Though Felagund was moved, he feared the power of Celegorm and Curufin, who took the Oath and were very influential in Nargothrond, despite his own oath to Barahir. Then the two brothers stood and spoke, and so masterful were their voices that for many years after no elf of Nargothrond went to war for a long time. Therefor the people would not follow Felagund on this quest, and he took with him only ten, giving his crown to Orodreth. "Then Celegorm no more would stay,/And Curufin smiled and turned away".

The Canto

When Morgoth in that day of doom
had slain the Trees and filled with gloom
the shining land of Valinor,
there Fëanor and his sons then swore
the mighty oath upon the hill
of tower-crowned Tûn, that still
wrought wars and sorrow in the world.
From darkling seas the fogs unfurled
their blinding shadows grey and cold
where Glingal* once had bloomed with gold
And Belthil* bore its silver flowers.
The mists were mantled round the towers
of the Elves' white city by the sea*.
There countless torches fitfully
did start and twinkle, as the Gnomes
were gathered to their fading homes,
and thronged the long and winding stair
that led to the wide echoing square.

There Fëanor mourned his jewels divine,
the Silmarils he made. Like wine
his wild and potent words them fill;
a great host harkens deathly still.
But all he said both wild and wise,
half truth and half the fruit of lies
that Morgoth sowed in Valinor,
in other songs and other lore
recorded is. He bade them flee
from lands divine, to cross the sea,
the pathless plains, the perilous shores
where ice-infested water roars;
to follow Morgoth to the unlit earth
leaving their dwellings and olden mirth;
to go back to the Outer Lands
to wars and weeping. There their hands
they joined in vows, those kinsmen seven,
swearing beneath the stars of Heaven,
by Varda the Holy that them wrought
and bore them each with radiance fraught
and set them in the deeps to flame.
Timbrenting's holy height they name,
whereon are built the timeless halls
of Manwë Lord of Gods. Who calls
these names in witness may not break
his oath, though earth and heaven shake.

Curufin, Celegorm the fair,
Damrod and Díriel were there,
and Cranthir dark, and Maidros tall
(whom after torment should befall),
and Maglor the mighty who like the sea
with deep voice sings yet mournfully.
'Be he friend or foe, or seed defiled
of Morgoth Bauglir, or mortal child
that in after days on earth shall dwell,
no law, nor love, nor league of hell,
not might of Gods, not moveless fate
shall him defend from wrath and hate
of Fëanor's sons, who takes or steals
or finding keeps the Silmarils,
the thrice-enchanted globes of light
that shine until the final night.'

The wars and wandering of the Gnomes
this tale tells not. Far from their homes
they fought and laboured in the North.
Fingon daring alone went forth
and sought for Maidros where he hung;
in torment terrible he swung,
his wrist in band of forgéd steel,
from a sheer precipice where reel
the dizzy senses staring down
from Thangorodrim's stony crown.
The song of Fingon's Elves yet sing,
captain of armies, Gnomish king,
who fell at last in flame of swords
with his white banners and his lords.
They sing how Maidros free he set,
and stayed the feud that slumbered yet
between the children proud of Finn.
Now joined once more they hemmed him in,
even great Morgoth, and their host
beleaguered Angband, till they boast
no Orc nor demon ever dare
their leaguer break or past them fare.
Then days of solace woke on earth
beneath the new-lit Sun, and mirth
was heard in the Great Lands where Men,
a young race, spread and wandered then.
That was the time that songs do call
the Siege of Angband, when like a wall
the Gnomish swords did fence the earth
from Morgoth's ruin, a time of birth,
of blossoming, of flowers, of growth;
but still there held the deathless oath,
and still the Silmarils were deep
in Angband's darkly-dolven keep.

An end there came, when fortune turned,
and flames of Morgoth's vengeance burned,
and all the might which he prepared
in secret in his fastness flared
and poured across the Thirsty Plain;
and armies black were in his train.
The leaguer of Angband Morgoth broke;
his enemies in fire and smoke
were scattered, and the Orcs there slew
and slew, until the blood like dew
dripped from each cruel and crooked blade.
Then Barahir the bold did aid
with mighty spear, with shield and men,
Felagund wounded. To the fen
escaping, there they bound their troth,
and Felagund deeply swore an oath
of friendship to his kin and seed,
of love and succour in time of need.
But there of Finrod's children* four
were Angrod slain and proud Egnor.
Felagund and Orodreth then
gathered the remnant of their men,
their maidens and their children fair;
forsaking war they made their lair
and cavernous hold far in the south.
On Narog's towering bank its mouth
was opened; which they hid and veiled,
and mighty doors, that unassailed
till Túrin's day stood vast and grim,
they built by trees o'ershadowed dim.
And with them dwelt a long time there
Curufin, and Celegorm the fair;
and a mighty folk grew neath their hands
in Narog's secret halls and lands.

Thus Felagund in Nargothrond
still reigned, a hidden king whose bond
was sworn to Barahir the bold.
And now his son through forests cold
wandered alone as in a dream.
Esgalduin's dark and shrouded stream
he followed, till its waters frore
were joined to Sirion, Sirion hoar,
pale silver water wide and free
rolling in splendour to the sea.
Now Beren came unto the pools,
wide shallow meres where Sirion cools
his gathered tide beneath the stars,
ere chafed and sundered by the bars
or reedy banks a mighty fen
he feeds and drenches, plunging then
into vast chasms underground,
where many miles his way is wound.
Umboth-Muilin, Twilight Meres,
those great wide waters grey as tears
the Elves then named. Through driving rain
from thence across the Guarded Plain
the Hills of the Hunters Beren saw
with bare tops bitten bleak and raw
by western winds; but in the mist
of streaming rains that flashed and hissed
into the meres he knew there lay
beneath those hills the cloven way
of Narog, and the watchful halls
of Felagund beside the falls
of Ingwil tumbling from the wold.
And everlasting watch they hold,
the Gnomes of Nargothrond renowned,
and every hill is tower-crowned,
where wardens sleepless peer and gaze
guarding the plain and all the ways
between Narog swift and Sirion pale;
and archers whose arrows never fail
there range the woods, and secret kill
all who creep thither against their will.
Yet now he thrusts into that land
bearing the gleaming ring on hand
of Felagund, and oft doth cry:
'Here comes no wandering Orc or spy,
but Beren son of Barahir
who once to Felagund was dear.'
So ere he reached the eastward shore
of Narog, that doth foam and roar
o'er boulders black, those archers green
came round him. When the ring was seen
they bowed before him, though his plight
was poor and beggarly. Then by night
they led him northward, for no ford
nor bridge was built where Narog poured
before the gates of Nargothrond,
and friend nor foe might pass beyond.
To northward, where that stream yet young
more slender flowed, below the tongue
of foam-splashed land that Glinglith pens
when her brief golden toreent ends
and joins the Narog, there they wade.
Now swiftest journey thensce they made
to Nargothrond's sheer rerraces
and dim gigantic palaces.
They came beneath a sickle moon
to doors there darkly hung and hewn
with posts and lintels of ponderous stone
and timbers huge. Now open thrown
were gaping gates, and in they strode
where Felagund on throne abode.
Fair were the words of Narog's king
to Beren, and his wandering
and all the feuds and bitter wars
recounted soon. Behind closed doors
they sat, while Beren told his tale
of Doriath; and words him fail
recalling Lúthien dancing fair
with wild white roses in her hair,
remembering her elven voice that rung
while stars in twilight round her hung.
He spake of Thingol's marvellous halls
by enchantment lit, where fountain falls
and ever the nightingale doth sing
to Melian and to her king.
The quest he told that Thingol laid
in scorn on him; how for love of maid
more fair than ever was born to Men,
of Tinúviel, of Lúthien,
he must essay the burning waste,
and doubtless death and torment taste.

This Felagund in wonder heard,
and heavily spake at last this word:
'It seems that Thingol doth desire
thy death. The everlasting fire
of those enchanted jewels all know
is cursed with an oath of endless woe,
and Fëanor's sons alone by right
are lords and masters of their light.
He cannot hope within his hoard
to keep this gem, nor is he lord
of all the folk of Elfinesse.
And yet thou saist for nothing less
can thy return to Doriath
be purchased? Many a dreadful path
in sooth there lies before thy feet—
and after Morgoth, still a fleet
untiring hate, as I know well,
would hunt thee from heaven unto hell.
Fëanor's sons would, if they could,
slay thee or ever thou reached his wood
or laid in Thingol's lap that fire,
or gained at least thy sweet desire.
Lo! Celegorm and Curufin
here dwell this very realm within,
and even though I, Finrod's son*,
am king, a mighty power have won
and many of their own folk lead.
Friendship to me in every need
they yet have shown, but much I fear
that to Beren son of Barahir
mercy or love they will not show
if once thy dreadful quest they know.'

True words he spake. For when the king
to all his people told this thing,
and spake of the oath to Barahir,
and how that mortal shield and spear
had saved them from Morgoth and from woe
on Northern battlefields long ago,
then many were kindled in their hearts
once more to battle. But up there starts
amid the throng, and loudly cries
for hearing, one with flaming eyes,
proud Celegorm with gleaming hair
and shining sword. Then all men stare
upon his stern unyielding face,
and a geat hush falls upon that place.

'Be he friend or foe, or demon wild
of Morgoth, Elf, or mortal child,
or any that here on earth may dwell,
no law, nor love, nor league of hell,
no might of Gods, no binding spell,
shall him defend from hatred fell
of Fëanor's sons, whoso take or steal
or finding keep a Silmaril.
These we alone do claim by right,
our thrice enchanted jewels bright.'

Many wild and potent words he spoke,
and as before in Tûn awoke
his father's voice their hearts to fire,
so now dark fear and brooding ire
he cast on them, foreboding war
of friend with friend; and pools of gore
their minds imagined lying red
in Nargothrond about the dead,
did Narog's host with Beren go;
or haply battle, ruin, and woe
in Doriath where great Thingol reigned,
if Fëanor's fatal jewel he gained.
And even such as were most true
to Felagund his oath did rue,
and thought with terror and despair
of seeking Morgoth in his lair
with force or guile. This Curufin
when his brother ceased did then begin
more to impress upon their minds;
and such a spell he on them binds
that never again till Túrin's day
would Gnome of Narog in array
of open battle go to war.
With secrecy, ambush, spies, and lore
of wizardry, with silent leaguer
of wild things wary, watchful, eager,
of phantom hunters, venomed darts,
and unseen stealthy creeping arts,
with padding hatred that its prey
with feet of velvet all the day
followed remoreseless out of sight
and slew it unawares at night—
thus they defended Nargothrond,
and forgot their kin and solemn bond
for dread of Morgoth that the art
of Curufin set within their heart.

So would they not that angry day
King Felagund their lord obey,
but sullen murmured that Finrod
nor yet his son* were as a god.
Then Felagund took off his crown
and at his feet he cast it down,
the silver helm of Nargothrond:
'Yours ye may break, but I my bond
must keep, and kingdom here forsake.
If hearts here were that did not quake,
or that to Finrod's son* were true,
then I at least should find a few
to go with me, not like a poor
rejected beggar scorn endure,
turned from my gates to leave my town,
my people, and my realm and crown!'

Hearing these words there swiftly stood
beside him ten tried warriors good,
men of his house who had ever fought
wherever his banners had been brought.
One stooped and lifted up his crown,
and said 'O king, to leave this town
is now our fate, but not to lose
thy rightful lordship. Thou shalt choose
one to be steward in thy stead.'
Then Felagund upon the head
of Orodreth set it: 'Brother* mine,
till I return this crown is thine.'
Then Celegorm no more would stay,
And Curufin smiled and turned away.

(* Contradicted in later works)