Pippin in Gondor


      How lonely is the sound of this city at night,
      Unknown voices, borne on cold, smoke-scented air
      Behind the dark walls there are soldiers out of sight,
      Beyond them, a lantern's broken glare and shadow
      On the debris of war -
      Evidences of black forays only recently past.
      So lonely; the shadow from the East seems only
      A darker stain on the shadow in my heart.

      Banners rustle softly overhead on the towers,
      Whispering to one another, their bright
      Signets lost in the deepening shadows
      As surely as we may, all of us, be lost.
      Somber voices, low - out of place, muted
      In the grandeur of this ancient city.
      No doubt there were once brighter days here,
      Music and cheer. The only music I have heard
      Is the bell of the night watch - muffled tolling,
      Murmuring low and deep as the river nearby;
      Cold, deep and strong, as the heavy hand of duty.

      Denethor. The chill deepens inside me at the thought.
      Is my life to be spent thus in service to him,
      Hard, kinglike man of Gondor seated in ancient stewardship,
      An empty, forsaken throne crowning the steps
      Behind him.
      My life given to him, for his son's sake.
      (I grieve for both his son and myself, I cannot deny.)

      Columns grasping upward, hard, grey lines of them,
      As if they were once living trees in ranks long gone cold.
      Carven images of Men made even bigger by their deaths,
      Lining edges of an echoing, heartless chamber.
      I fancy they would even make Gandalf feel small,
      If that were possible.
      Such a sadness pervades, where one should expect
      It to evoke glory instead.
      (But I have learned to keep such thoughts to myself.)

      My memory of sweeter days, not so distant past seems dim
      And faint. It seems so far now, and I so small.
      Below me the cloud-faded hills across the darkened plain,
      The river, running dull - no longer a barrier of strength,
      To keep out the growing threat.
      All shadows fade eventually, don't they?
      What is to become of us if they do not?
      (Where has Merry got to in all of this?)

      Riddle of my heart: such rending loneliness in the midst of many.
      I cannot keep my heart and mind from turning to the others -
      Our hope suspended by such a slender chain.
      I am only one small soldier in a city preparing for war,
      Bound in service to a stern, unyielding lord.
      Such thoughts would have crushed me once, but then
      I never would have thought I could bear any of this.
      Such a hard lesson to learn - how burdens are laid,
      And how they can be borne beyond natural strength.
      (Where is he? Is he safe? Are they together - or even alive?)

      Such a city would have been beyond the imagination
      In the Shire. A tale for the fireside.
      I reach for comfort in that, but No.
      Such fears could not be borne there either.
      Lonely and cold it is, yet strongly built and of such stones!
      So unlike any other place I have yet been.
      Hard angles, tall doorways, so many barricades and ways.
      So little that is soft, green or growing.
      Ah, what would I give just to walk in my parents fields again,
      Clear water, honest faces, shade in summer and scent of flowers.
      Have I any hope of seeing it again -
      (Where has Merry got to in all of this?)

      The blackness deepens - the lamp awaits kindling.
      I shall have need of its small flame,
      Though it neither warm
      Nor comfort.


A. Buckles / '03