Habbanan beneath the Stars

From Tolkien Gateway

Habbanan beneath the Stars is a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was composed either in December 1915 at Brocton Camp, Staffordshire, or in June 1916 at Étaples. The poem, containing a short prose introduction, speaks about the fate of Men after death (albeit being a very early phase of the legendarium). This gives a glimpse of the early conception of the afterlife, where Habbanan (later changed to Eruman) would be the Purgatory. The poem was published in The Book of Lost Tales Part One.[1]

The poem

Now Habbanan is that region where one draws nigh to the places that are not of Men. There is the air very sweet and the sky very great by reason of the broadness of the Earth.

In Habbanan beneath the skies
where all roads end however long
there is a sound of faint guitars
and distant echoes of a song,
for there men gather into rings
round their red fires while one voice sings −
all about is night.

Not night as ours, unhappy folk,
where nigh the Earth in hazy bars,
a mist about the springing of the stars,
there trails a thin and wandering smoke
obscuring with its veil half-seen
the great abysmal still Serene.

A globe of dark glass faceted with light
wherein the splendid winds have dusky flight;
untrodden spaces of an odorous plain
that watches for the moon that long has lain
and caught the meteors' fiery rain −
such there is night.

There on a sudden did my heart perceive
that they who sang about the Eve,
who answered the bright-shining stars
with gleaming music of their strange guitars,
these were His wandering happy sons
encamped upon those aëry leas
where God's unsullied garment runs
in glory down His mighty knees.

See also