Over Old Hills and Far Away

From Tolkien Gateway

Over Old Hills and Far Away was a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien between December 1915 and February 1916, and rewritten at Oxford in 1927. It was published and commented in The Book of Lost Tales Part One, where Christopher Tolkien compares the earlier readings.[1]

The poem

It was early and still in the night of June,
And few were the stars, and far was the moon,
The drowsy trees drooping, and silently creeping
Shadows woke under them while they were sleeping.

I stole to the window with stealthy tread
Leaving my white and unpressed bed;
And something alluring, aloof and queer,
Like perfume of flowers from the shores of the mere
That in Elvenhome lies, and in starlit rains
Twinkles and flashes, came up to the panes
Of my high lattice-window. Or was it a sound?
I listened and marveled with eyes on the ground.
For there came from afar a filtered note
Enchanting sweet, now clear, now remote,
As clear as a star in a pool by the reeds,
As faint as the glimmer of dew on the weeds.

Then I left the window and followed the call
Down the creaking stairs and across the hall
Out through a door that swung tall and grey,
And over the lawn, and away, away!

It was Tinfang Warble that was dancing there,
Fluting and tossing his old white hair,
Till it sparkled like frost in a winter moon;
And the stars were about him, and blinked to his tune
Shimmering blue like sparks in a haze,
As always they shimmer and shake when he plays.

My feet only made there the ghost of a sound
On the shining white pebbles that ringed him round,
Where his little feet flashed on a circle of sand,
And the fingers were white on his flickering hand.
In the wink of a star he had leapt in the air
With his fluttering cap and his glistening hair;
And had cast his long flute right over his back,
Where it hung by a ribbon of silver and black.

His slim little body went fine as a shade,
And he slipped through the reeds like mist in the glade;
And laughed like thin silver, and piped a thin note,
As he flapped in the shadows his shadowy coat.
O! the toes of his slippers were twisted and curled,
But he danced like a wind out into the world.

He is gone, and the valley is empty and bare
Where lonely I stand and lonely I stare.
Then suddenly out in the meadows beyond,
Then back in the reeds by the shimmering pond,
Then afar from a copse were the mosses are thick
A few little notes came a trillaping quick.

I leapt o’er the stream and I sped from the glade,
For Tinfang Warble it was that played;
I must follow the hoot of his twilight flute
Over reed, over rush, under branch, over root,
And over dim fields, and through rustling grasses
That murmur and nod as the old elf passes,
Over old hills and far away
Where the harps of the Elvenfolk softly play.

See also