Bilbo's Last Song

From Tolkien Gateway
Bilbo's Last Song
(At the Grey Havens)
Publication Information
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
IllustratorPauline Baynes
PublisherUnwin Hyman (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
ReleasedPoster: 26 November 1974
Book: December 1990
FormatPoster; 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 poem first appeared as posters (60×40 cm) in November 1974, illustrated by Pauline Baynes, published by Allen & Unwin.

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.

The poem was included in the second edition of The Road Goes Ever On, set to music by Donald Swann, in 1978.


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.[1] 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.

In 1996 the song was recorded by the Dutch Tolkien Society band The Hobbitons, with permission from the Tolkien Estate, for their CD J.R.R. Tolkien's Songs from Middle-earth.[2]

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.[3]

The poem

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

1974 poster
1974 poster  
1990 hardcover & 1992 paperback
1990 hardcover & 1992 paperback  
1992 private print
1992 private print  
2002 hardcover
2002 hardcover  
2012 paperback
2012 paperback  

See also

External links


A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by or mainly by Tolkien
On Arda Authored by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not on Arda Short stories
and others
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · Letters from Father Christmas ·
Mr. Bliss · Roverandom · Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictional works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · The Old English Exodus · Finn and Hengest ·
The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays · Beowulf and the Critics · Tolkien On Fairy-stories ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · A Secret Vice · The Battle of Maldon
Letters & poems The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien · The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien
academic works
A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse
Books by other authors
Books on Arda The Complete Guide to Middle-earth · The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion ·
The Maps of Middle-earth
Tolkien biographies J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · Tolkien and the Great War
Scholarly books The Road to Middle-earth · The Keys of Middle-earth · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide ·
The Ring of Words · A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien's Lost Chaucer · Tolkien's Library · Tolkien on Chaucer, 1913-1959
Scholarly journals Tolkien Studies · (The Chronology)
Other works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar various issues · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list is only a selection, for a fuller bibliography of Tolkien see here or here. See also a timeline and an index.