Lay of Leithian Canto V

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

This Canto speaks of Lúthien Tinúviel after the departure of Beren and how she went to her mother Melian and friend Dairon, begging for aid, from the first foresight and from the second music. Melian said that Beren was in the dungeons of Thû, and Dairon refused to play any music. A second time Dairon betrayed her, this time out of love, to her father Thingol, who placed her in a guarded treehouse. But by magic she grew out her hair and made a robe and rope of it "a magic dress / that all was drenched in drowsiness". Lowering the rope she put to sleep her guards and escaped.

Lúthien escapes the Treehouse by Ted Nasmith

Concerning the Canto

After Beren is gone, the forest falls into solemn silence:

So days drew on from the mournful day;
the curse of silence no more lay
on Doriath, though Dairon's flute
and Lúthien's singing both were mute.

Lúthien sings only quietly this medley of mourning:

'Endless roll the waters past!
To this my love hath come at last,
enchanted waters pitiless,
a heartache and a loneliness.'

After learning from Melian of Beren's fate, she seeks comfort in Dairon, begging him to make her music to aid her heart.

On earth she cast her at his side.
'O Dairon, Dairon, my tears,' she cried,
'now pity for our old days' sake!
for heart's despair, and for heart's dread
for light gone dark and laughter dead!'

But "for music dead there is no note", replies Dairon, though he plays a wailing melody that causes all creatures, birds and elves, to forget their happiness. Though Lúthien entreats him then to come with her to seek Beren, he replies firmly

'Wherefore,' said he, 'should Dairon go
into direst peril earth doth know
for the sake of mortal who did steal
his laughter and joy? No love I feel
for Beren son of Barahir,
nor weep for him in dungeons drear,
who in this wood have chains enow,
heavy and dark. But thee, I vow,
I will defend from perils fell
and deadly wandering into hell.'

This indeed does Dairon do, for he warns the King of Lúthien's apparent madness. Thingol "in angry love and half in fear" locks her up in a treehouse, not wanting to bind her in his caverns. Lúthien, though forgiving Dairon, pines for Beren.

Yet long the hours when she must sit
and see the sunbeams dance and flit
in beechen leaves, or watch the stars
peep on clear nights between the bars
of beechen branches. And one night
just ere the changing of the light
a dream there came, from the Gods, maybe,
or Melian's magic. She dreamed that she
heard Beren's voice o'er hill and fell
'Tinúviel' call, 'Tinúviel.'
And her heart answered 'Let me be gone
to seek him no others think upon!'

Following is a detailed description of her magic art to grow out her hair. Then she weaves them with a borrowed loom

...Of cloudy hair
she wove a web like misty air
of moonless night, and thereof made
a robe as fluttering-dark as shade
beneath great trees, a magic dress
that all was drenched with drowsiness.

And finally as the sun goes down she causes the guards to fall asleep with the rope, and

Now clad as in a cloud she hung;
now down her ropéd hair she swung
as light as squirrel, and away,
away, she danced, and who could say
what paths she took, whose elvish feet
no impress made a-dancing fleet?