Ides Ælfscýne

From Tolkien Gateway

Ides Ælfscýne is an Old English song written by J.R.R. Tolkien, to be sung to the tune of Daddy Neptune. It is published as the 12th song in Songs for the Philologists in 1936.

The song is reprinted with Modern English translation "Elf-fair Lady" in The Road to Middle-earth by T.A. Shippey. Corrections made by Tolkien himself (after the printing of the Songs) are noted below.

It mentions several things that might be precursory to the legendarium: elf, dwarf, exile, a great gem in the sky.

The song

Ides Ælfscýne

Þa ǽr ic wæs cniht, þa cóm ic on pliht:
Sum mægden mé métte ond mǽlde: [note 1]
'Lá, léofa, wes hál! Sceal uncer gedál
nú nǽfre má weorðan on eorðan!'
Nó má weorðan on eorðan. (bis)
Wá! ides ælfscýne, ond wá, wine míne!
Sceal nǽfre má weorðan on eorðan.

Héo cyste me sóna, þær líxte se móna;
on clommum me clypte ond sǽlde;
on ofste me nóm mid hire' under glóm,
þær sceadugong ǽfre wæs wǽfre,
wælmist ǽfre wæs wǽfre. (bis)
Wá! ides ælfscýne, ond wá, wine míne!
Þær sceadugong ǽfre wæs wǽfre.

Hwǽr wǽre' hit ic nát: we stigon on bát,
þær murcnede mere on mealme.
Ofer lagu ic láð, ond módes ic máð,
ac ǽfre me strongode longað,
áwa strongode longað. (bis)
Wá! ides ælfscýne, ond wá, wine míne!
Þǽr ǽfre me strongode longað.

Þǽr grene wæs grund, ond hwít hire hund,
Ond gylden wæs hwǽte on healme,
On fyrlenum londe, on silfrenum stronde,
þær darode dweorg under beorgum [note 2]
leofa, wes hal! Sceal uncer gedal
darode dweorg under beorgum. [note 3] (bis)
Wá! ides ælfscýne, ond wá, wine míne!
Þǽr darode dweorg under beorgum. [note 4]

To Gode' ic gebæd, elþéodunga sæd
be dimmum ond dréorigum wǽgum.
Þǽr sunne ne scán, ac micel ʒimstán
on lyfte þǽr gléow mid his léomum,
léohte gléow mid his léomum. (bis)
Wá! ides ælfscýne, ond wá, wine míne!
On lyfte þǽr gléow mid his léomum.

Ofer missera hund ic wǽdla ond wund
eft cyrde to mennisce' ond mǽʒum:
on moldan wæs nú se ðe cúðe me iú,
ond hár ic nu wániʒe ána,
sáre wániʒe ána. (bis)
Wá! ides ælfscýne, ond wá, wine míne!
Ond hár ic nu wániʒe ána.

Translation by Shippey

Elf-fair Lady

Before I was so much as a boy, I came into danger; a maiden met me and said: 'Greetings, my darling, from now on the two of us must never be separated on earth'
— never be separated on earth. Alas! elf-fair lady, and my friend, alas! must never more be separated on earth.

She kissed me straight away, where the moon was shining, she embraced me and bound me in her grasp. Quickly she took me with her under the gloom, where the shadow-way always flickered
— where the death-mist always flickered. Alas! elf-fair lady, and my friend, alasl where the shadow-way always flickered.

I don't know where I was, we stepped in a boat, where the sea moaned on the sand. I travelled over the ocean, and hid my thoughts to myself, but always my longing grew stronger
— always longing grew stronger. Alas! elf-fair lady, and my friend, alas! where longing always grew stronger.

There the ground was green, and her hound was white, and the wheat on the stalk was golden — in the far-off land, on the silver strand, where the dwarf lurked under the mountains
— the dwarf lurked under the mountains. Alasl elf-fair lady, and my friend, alas! where the dwarf lurked under the mountains.

I prayed to God, tired of my exile by the dim and dreary waves, where the sun did not shine, but a great gem-stone glowed there in the sky with his beams
— glowed brightly with his beams. Alas! elf-fair lady, and my friend, alas! glowed there in the sky with his beams.

Fifty years later I returned again, poor and hurt, to men and my family. The one who had known me before was now in the mould, and now I dwindle, grey and alone
— dwindle alone and in pain. Alas l elf-fair lady, and my friend, alas! and now I dwindle, grey and alone.

Notes

  1. [JRRT corr. from:] Þa mette me mægden ond mælde:
  2. [JRRT corr. from:] þǽr bronte' ymbe þrunton þa muntas,
  3. [JRRT corr. from:] þeostre þrunton ta muntas.
  4. [JRRT corr. from:] Þǽr bronte' ymbe þrunton þa muntas,