Bilbo's Last Song
|Bilbo's Last Song|
(At the Grey Havens)
|Publisher||Unwin Hyman (UK)|
Houghton Mifflin (US)
|Released||Poster: November 1974|
Book: December 1990
|Format||Poster; hardcover; paperback|
Bilbo's Last Song (At the Grey Havens) is a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is sung by Bilbo Baggins at the Grey Havens as he is about to leave Middle-earth. Chronologically this places it at the very end of The Return of the King, the last volume of The Lord of the Rings, although it was written later than the books and never included in them.
The first book edition was published in 1990, illustrated by the same artist. It is a 32-page full colour picture-book, each double page containing two lines of the poem, with almost fifty of Baynes's paintings.
It was originally a composition in Old Norse, entitled Vestr um haf ("West over sea"), written as early as 1920s. In 1968, after Joy Hill, Tolkien's secretary, rediscovered it in a pile of books, Tolkien gave it to her as a gift for her assistance in the setting up of his new office.
After Tolkien's death in 1973, Hill showed the poem to Donald Swann, who liked the poem so much that he set it to music and included it in the second edition of The Road Goes Ever On in 1978. The poem was also illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and published as a poster on 26 November 1974.
The song was included in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (1981), with music by Stephen Oliver. The first verse is chanted by John Le Mesurier as Bilbo, the second omitted, and the third sung by a boy soprano.
The copyright of the poem was given by Tolkien to Hill together with the poem itself. Upon her death in 1991, Hill gave the copyright to the Order of the Holy Paraclete. Baynes's illustrations for Bilbo's Last Song were not included in the bequeathing to the Order, but were given the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford upon her death in 2008.
BILBO'S LAST SONG
(At the Grey Havens)
Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship's beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.
Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.
Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar
I'll find the havens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-Earth at last.
I see the Star above your mast!
Publication history and gallery
- George Allen and Unwin poster (1974)
- Unwin Hyman hardcover (1990), pp. 32. ISBN 0044407289
- Red Fox/Arrow Books paperback (1992) ISBN 0099910209
- Albert House Press pamphlet in card cover (1992)
- Hutchinson hardcover (2002), pp. 32. ISBN 0091884888
- HarperCollins paperback (2012), pp. 32. ISBN 0375823735
- Bilbo's Last Song sang by Donald Swann, 1975 at Youtube.com
- Review of the book at Tolkienlibrary.com
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Donald Swann, The Road Goes Ever On, "Bilbo's Last Song"
- "Our CD", The Hobbitons (via Internet Archive) (accessed 27 May 2014)
- Wayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull, "Bilbo's Last Song and the Order of the Holy Paraclete (message 25132)" dated 7 March 2014, Mailing list for the Mythopoeic Society (accessed 16 March 2014)