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Lay of Leithian Canto VII

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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 tells how Beren, Finrod Felagund, and ten companions disguised themselves as orcs, Nereb and Dugalef, and their company. Thû from Wizard's Isle spotted them, and brought them in, where he questioned them, suspecting a trick. Then comes one of the most descriptive paragraphs, of how Thû "chanted a song of wizardry", and how Felagund responded with "a song of staying". They fought back and forth a battle of minds, until at last Felagund's power fell, and they returned to their own human forms. Then how Thû placed them in his dungeons, and every now and then sent down a werewolf to devour one of them, hoping another would name the errand they were on. But "none would yield, and none would tell".

The Canto

Thus twelve alone there ventured forth
from Nargothrond, and to the North
they turned their silent secret way,
and vanished in the fading day.
No trumpet sounds, no voice there sings,
as robed in mail of cunning rings
now blackened dark with helmets grey
and sombre cloaks they steal away.
Far-journeying Narog's leaping course
they followed till they found his source,
the flickering falls, whose freshets sheer
a glimmering goblet glassy-clear
with crystal waters fill that shake
and quiver down from Ivrin's lake,
from Ivrin's mere that mirrors dim
the pallid faces bare and grim
of Shadowy Mountains neath the moon.

Now far beyond the realm immune
from Orc and demon and the dread
of Morgoth's might their ways had led.
In woods o'ershadowed by the heights
they watched and waited many nights,
till on a time when hurrying cloud
did moon and constellation shroud,
and winds of autumn's wild beginning
soughed in the boughs, and leaves went spinning
down the dark eddies rustling soft,
they heard a murmur hoarsely waft
from far, and croaking laughter coming;
now louder; now they heard the drumming
of hideous stamping feet that tramp
the weary earth. Then many a lamp
of sullen red they saw draw near,
swinging, and glistening on spear
and scimitar. There hidden nigh
they saw a band of Orcs go by
with goblin-faces swart and foul.
Bats were about them, and the owl,
the ghostly forsaken night-bird cried
from trees above. The voices died,
the laughed like clash of stone and steel
passed and faded. At their heel
the Elves and Beren crept more soft
than foxes stealing through a croft
in search of prey. Thus to the camp
lit by flickering fire and lamp
they stole, and counted sitting there
full thirty Orcs in the red flare
of burning wood. Without a sound
they one by one stood silent round,
each in the shadow of a tree;
each slowly, grimly, secretly
bent then his bow and drew the string.

Hark! how they sudden twang and sing,
when Felagund lets forth a cry;
and twelve Orcs sudden fall and die.
Then forth they leap casting their bows.
Out their bright swords, and swift their blows!
The stricken Orcs now shriek and yell
as lost things deep in lightless hell.
Battle there is beneath the trees
bitter and swift: but no Orc flees;
there left their lives that wandering band
and stained no more the sorrowing land
with rape and murder. Yet no song
of joy, or triumph over wrong,
the Elves there sang. In peril sore
they were, for never alone to war
so small an Orc-band went, they knew.
Swiftly the raiment off they drew
and cast the corpses in a pit.
This desperate counsel had the wit
of Felagund for them devised:
as Orcs his comrades he disguised.

The poisoned spears, the bows of horn,
the crooked swords their foes had borne
they took; and loathing each him clad
in Angband's raiment foul and sad.
They smeared their hands and faces fair
with pigment dark; the matted hair
all lank and black from goblin head
they shore, and joined it threat by thread
with Gnomish skill. As each one leers
at each dismayed, about his ears
he hangs it noisome, shuddering.
Then Felagund a spell did sing
of changing and of shifting shape;
their ears grew hideous, and agape
their mouths did start, and like a fang
each tooth became, as slow he sang.
Their Gnomish raiment then they hid,
and one by one behind him slid,
behind a foul and goblin thing
that once was elven-fair and king.

Northward they went; and Orcs they met
who passed, nor did their going let,
but hailed them in greeting; and more bold
they grew as past the long miles rolled.
At length they came with weary feet
beyond Beleriand. They found the fleet
young waters, rippling, silver-pale
of Sirion hurrying through that vale
where Taur-na-Fuin, Deadly Night,
the trackless forest's pine-clad height,
falls dark forbidding slowly down
upon the east, while westward frown
the northward-bending Mountains grey
and bar the westering light of day.

An isléd hill there stood alone
amid the valley, like a stone
rolled from the distant mountains vast
when giants in tumult hurtled past.
Around its feet the river looped
a stream divided, that had scooped
the hanging edges into caves.
There briefly shudddered Sirion's waves
and ran to other shores more clean.
An elven watchtower had it been,
and strong it was, and still was fair;
but now did grim with menace stare
one way to pale Beleriand,
the other to that mournful land
beyond the valley's northern mouth.
Thence could be glimpsed from fields of drouth,
the dusty dunes, the desert wide;
and further far could be descried
the brooding cloud that hangs and lowers
on Thangorodrim's thunderous towers.