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The Bidding of the Minstrel

by JRR Tolkien, 1914


Sing us yet more of Earendel the wandering,
Chant us a lay of his white-oared ship,
More marvellous-cunning than mortal man's pondering,
Foamily musical out on the deep.
Sing us a tale of immortal sea-yearning
The Eldar once made ere the change of the light,
Weaving a winelike spell, and a burning
Wonder of spray and the odours of night;
Of murmurous gloamings out on far oceans;
Of his tossing at anchor off islets forlorn
To the unsleeping waves' never-ending sea-motions;
Of bellying sails when a wind was born,
And the gurgling bubble of tropical water
Tinkled from under the ringed stem,
And thousands of miles was his ship from those wrought
her
A petrel, a sea-bird, a white-winged gem,
Gallantly bent on measureless faring
Ere she came homing in sea-laden flight,
Circuitous, lingering, restlessly daring,
Coming to haven unlooked for, at night.

But the music is broken, the words half-forgotten,


The sunlight has faded, the moon is growing old,
The Elven ships foundered or weed-swathed and rotten,
The fire and the wonder of hearts is acold.
Who now can tell, and what harp can accompany
With melodies strange enough, rich enough tunes,
Pale with the magic of cavernous harmony,
Loud with shore-music of beaches and dunes,
How slender his boat; of what glimmering timber;
How her sails were all silvern and taper her mast,
And silver her throat with foam and her limber
Flanks as she swanlike floated past!
The song I can sing is but shreds one remembers
Of golden imaginings fashioned in sleep,
A whispered tale told by the withering embers
Of old things far off that but few hearts keep.
Eala Earendel Engla Beorhtast -
The Last Voyage of Earendel
by JRR Tolkien, c. 1914
(This was the first poem Tolkien wrote about Earendel; its original
title was "The Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star" (Old English
"Scipfaereld Earendeles Aefensteorran"). The poem went through
five drafts. This is the latest, undated draft.

Earendel arose where the shadow flows


At Ocean's silent brim;
Through the mouth of night as a ray of light
Where the shores are sheer and dim
He launched his bark like a silver spark
From the last and lonely sand;
Then on sunlit breath of day's fiery death
He sailed from Westerland.

He threaded his path o'er the aftermath


Of the splendor of the Sun,
And wandered far past many a star
In his gleaming galleon.
On the gathering tide of darkness ride
The argosies of the sky,
And spangle the night with their sails of light
As the streaming star goes by

Unheeding he dips past these twinkling ships,


By his wayward spirit whirled
On an endless quest through the darkling West
O'er the margin of the world;
And he fares in haste o'er the jewelled waste
And the dusk from whence he came
With his heart afire with bright desire
And his face in silver flame.

The Ship of the Moon from the East comes soon


From the Haven of the Sun,
Whose white gates gleam in the coming beam
Of the mighty silver one.
Lo! with bellying clouds as his vessel's shrouds
He weighs anchor down the dark,
And on shimmering oars leaves the blazing shores
In his argent-timbered bark.

Then Earendel fled from that Shipman dread


Beyond the dark earth's pale,
Back under the rim of the Ocean dim,
And behind the world set sail;
And he heard the mirth of the folk of earth
And the falling of their tears,
As the world dropped back in a cloudy wrack
On its journey down the years.

Then he glimmering passed to the starless vast


As an isled lamp at sea,
And beyond the ken of mortal men
Set his lonely errantry,
Tracking the Sun in his galleon
Through the pathless firmament,
Till his light grew old in abysses cold
And his eager flame was spent.

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