Bilbo's Last Song

From Tolkien Gateway
Bilbo's Last Song
(At the Grey Havens)
Last Song 1974.png
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[edit]

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[edit]

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

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by Tolkien or based on his writings
Of Arda Authorized 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 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 of Arda Short stories
and poems
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · The Adventures of Tom Bombadil ·
Letters from Father Christmas · Mr. Bliss · Roverandom ·
Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictions 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 · Finn and Hengest ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays ·
Tolkien On Fairy-stories · A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages · The Battle of Maldon
Other The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Books by other authors
Reference book The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
Scholarly books with Tolkien's writings J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · The Road to Middle-earth ·
A Question of Time · Tolkien and the Great War ·
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
Scholarly journal with Tolkien's writings Tolkien Studies various issues
Other published works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar issue 1-50 · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · 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 only includes the major published works, for the full bibliography of Tolkien, see here or here