The Lay of Eärendel

From Tolkien Gateway

The Lay of Eärendel is a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien, included in the chapter "Poems Early Abandoned" in The Lays of Beleriand. It was written and left unfinished during his time at the University of Leeds, probably in 1925.[1]:142 It has no title and does not extend far enough to make clear what could be its subject, but at the end of the text Tolkien wrote in different scripts 'Earendel', 'Earendel son of Fengel', 'Earendel Fengelsson'; so Christopher Tolkien states that this poem was the beginning of a Lay of Eärendel.[1]:141


Along with The Flight of the Noldoli and The Lay of the Children of Húrin, this was other piece of alliterative verse concerned with the matter of the Lost Tales, but this is in the first stage of composition and is exceedingly rough.[1]:142 It narrates quickly the Fall of Gondolin, the escape of the fugitives down the secret tunnel and the flight at Cristhorn, ending with the long wandering in the wilds thereafter. These deeds would serve as the introduction to the Lay.[1]:141 The only differences respect to "The Fall of Gondolin" are: Cristhorn is not in the south of Gondolin, but in the north, and the exiles sought for the Sirion during thirty moons.

The poem

Lo! the flame of fire and fierce hatred
engulfed Gondolin and its glory fell,
its tapering towers and its tall rooftops
were laid all low, and its leaping fountains
made no music more on the mount of Gwareth,
and its whitehewn walls were whispering ash.
But Wade of the Helsings wearyhearted
Tûr the earthborn was tried in battle
from the wrack and ruin a remnant led
women and children and wailing maidens
and wounded men of the withered folk
down the path unproven that pierced the hillside,
neath Tumladin he led them to the leaguer of hills
that rose up rugged as ranged pinnacles
to the north of the vale. There the narrow way
of Cristhorn was cloven, the Cleft of Eagles,
through the midmost mountains. And more is told
in lays and in legend and lore of others
of that weary way of the wandering folk;
how the waifs of Gondolin outwitted Melko,
vanished o'er the vale and vanquished the hills,
how Glorfindel the golden in the gap of the Eagles
battled with the Balrog and both were slain:
one like flash of fire from fanged rock,
one like bolted thunder black was smitten
to the dreadful deep digged by Thornsir.
Of the thirst and hunger of the thirty moons
when they sought for Sirion and were sore bestead
by plague and peril; of the Pools of Twilight
and Land of Willows; when their lamentation
was heard in the halls where the high Gods sate
veiled in Valinor in the Vanished Isles;
all this have others in ancient stories
and songs unfolded, but say I further
how their lot was lightened, how they laid them down
in long grasses of the Land of Willows.
There sun was softer, then the sweet breezes
and whispering winds, there wells of slumber
and the dew enchanted where stony-voiced
that stream of Eagles runs o'er the rocky [...]

See also