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Lay of Leithian Canto XIV

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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 of the Lay of Leithian is the unfinished last Canto. It begins with Beren and Lúthien fleeing with the Silmaril through slumbering Angband. But at the gate Carcharoth stood loosed from the spell. He leaped at them ere Lúthien could weave another spell, and Beren stood before his beloved, and with his left hand he caught the wolf's throat and with the right he thrust the Silmaril into the eyes of the wolf. The fangs of Carcahroth "crashed together like a trap" and took off Beren's hand, Silmaril and all. There the Lay ends.

The Canto

Up through the dark and echoing gloom
as ghosts from many-tunnelled tomb,
up from the mountain's roots profound
and the vast menace underground,
their limbs aquake with deadly fear,
terror in eyes, and dread in ear,
together fled they, by the beat
affrighted of their flying feet.


At last before them far away
they saw the glimmering wraith of day,
the mighty archway of the gate
and there a horror new did wait.
Upon the threshold, watchful, dire,
his eyes new-kindled with dull fire,
towered Carcharoth, a biding doom:
his jaws were gaping like a tomb,
his teeth were bare, his tongue aflame;
aroused he watched that no one came,
no flitting shade nor hunted shape,
seeking from Angband to escape.
Now past that guard what guile or might
could thrust from death into the light?


He heard afar their hurrying feet,
he snuffed an odour strange and sweet;
he smelled their coming long before
they marked the waiting threat at door.
His limbs he stretched and shook off sleep,
then stood at gaze. With sudden leap
upon them as they sped he sprang,
and his howling in the arches rang.
Too swift for thought his onset came,
too swift for any spell to tame;
and Beren desperate then aside
thrust Lúthien, and forth did stride
unarmed, defenceless to defend
Tinúviel until the end.
With left he caught at hairy throat,
with right hand at the eyes he smote—
his right, from which the radiance welled
of the holy Silmaril he held.
As gleam of swords in fire there flashed
the fangs of Carcharoth, and crashed
together like a trap, that tore
the hand about the wrist, and shore
through brittle bone and sinew nesh,
devouring the frail mortal flesh;
and in that cruel mouth unclean
engulfed the jewel's holy sheen.