Lay of Leithian Canto IV

From Tolkien Gateway
Lay of Leithian cantos
  1. Canto I
  2. Canto II
  3. Canto III
  4. Canto IV
  5. Canto V
  6. Canto VI
  7. Canto VII
  8. Canto VIII
  9. Canto IX
  10. Canto X
  11. Canto XI
  12. Canto XII
  13. Canto XIII
  14. Canto XIV
Beren's Trial by Anke Eißmann

This Canto first speaks of Beren and his bliss. Then it tells of Lúthien’s return and their dance, and how Dairon espied them, and as he loved Lúthien he betrayed them to Thingol. Then how Lúthien led Beren into Menegroth after Thingol promised her that his life would be spared. There he requested the hand of Lúthien, and Thingol, as he was bound to his oath not to harm Beren, in his wrath gave the bride-price as a Silmaril. Then Beren laughed as if it were a small thing, and left the hall with the promise to bring one back. This fourth canto can be considered the true beginning of the Quest.

Concerning the Canto

This Canto begins with an elaborate description of Beren's happiness.

He lay upon the leafy mould
his face upon the earth's bosom cold
aswoon in overwhelming bliss
enchanted of an elvish kiss

Then they dance in joy together.

there flitting just before his feet
she gently chid with laughter sweet;
'Come! dance now, Beren, dance with me!
For fain thy dancing I would see.'

Then Dairon, who is said to have loved Lúthien, espies them.

Thus fleeting fast their short hour flies,
while Dairon watches with fiery eyes,
haunting the gloom of tangled trees
all day, until at night he sees
in the fickle moon their moving feet,
two lovers linked in dancing sweet

And he first casts a spell of silence on the wood, and gives hints to Thingol about the meeting.

'but kings see not—though queens, maybe,
may guess, and maidens, maybe, know.
Where one went lonely two now go!'

The King understands swiftly his meaning, and grows angry.

'...Who is he
that earns my wrath? How walks he free
within my woods amid my folk,
a stranger to both beech and oak?'

Then Dairon saw Lúthien, and wished he had not spoken. Lúthien quickly explains.

'Far in the mountain-leaguered North,
my father,' said she, 'lies the land
that groans beneath King Morgoth's hand.
Thence came one hither, bent and warn
in wars and travail, who had sworn
undying hatred of that king;
the last of Bëor's sons, they sing

'...a sword unconquered, neck unbowed,
a heart by evil power uncowed.
No evil needst thou think or fear
of Beren son of Barahir!'

Lúthien had Thingol swear not to kill or imprison Beren, and then led him to and into Menegroth. A vibrant description follows (see Menegroth). Beren was too stunned to answer any questions, until he looks in Melian's eyes and gains courage.

...and thence was slowly drawn his gaze
to Melian's face. As from a maze
of wonder dumb he woke; his heart
the bonds of awe there burst apart
and filled now with the fearless pride of old;
in his glance now gleamed an anger cold.

He speaks bravely to Thingol about his love for Lúthien:

'Thy dearest treasure I desire;
nor rocks nor steel nor Morgoth's fire
nor all the power of Elfinesse
shall keep that gem I would possess.
For fairer than are born to Men
A daughter hast thou, Lúthien.'

Daeron's initial anger returns and he demands death for Beren. Thingol reluctantly restrains himself due to his promise to his daughter, and threatens to let him wander interminably in Menegroth, never finding his way out of the caves. Beren openly compares him with Morgoth in the twisting of oaths, and holds up the Ring of Barahir. Melian whispers to Thingol that it will not be by his hand Beren will fall, and Thingol sees then the love of Lúthien for him.

'Fairest of Elves! Unhappy Men,
children of little lords and kings
mortal and frail, these fading things,
shall they then look with love on thee?'

Thingol's speech mocks Beren's own as he places the ultimate quest before him.

'A treasure dear I too desire,
but rocks and steel and Morgoth's fire
from all the powers of Elfinesse
do keep the jewel I would possess.
Yet bonds like these I hear thee say
affright thee not. Now go thy way!
Bring me one shining Silmaril
from Morgoth's crown, then if she will,
may Lúthien set her hand in thine;
then shalt thou have this jewel of mine.'

Follows is a paragraph about the history of the Silmaril, and then Beren laughs, and bids farewell to Tinúviel, and departs. Melian then gets her word in to Thingol.

Then clear in the silence the cold words rang
of Melian: 'Counsel cunning-wise,
'O king!' she said. 'Yet if mine eyes
lose not their power, 'twere well for thee
that Beren failed his errantry.
Well for thee, but for thy child
a dark doom and a wandering wild.'

'I sell not to Men those whom I love'
said Thingol, 'whom asll things above
I cherish; and if hope there were
that Beren should ever living fare
to the Thousand Caves once more, I swear
he should not ever have seen the air
or light of heaven's stars again.'

The final three lines wrap up this extensive canto, sad and foreboding.

But Melian smiled, and there was pain
as of far knowledge in her eyes;
for such is the sorrow of the wise.