Saturday, May 14, 2005
Anglo-Saxon Poetry and Deeping Coombe
The Lord of the Rings owes much of its distinct flavor to Tolkien’s love of Old English culture and language. Now he was a professional, a philologist and a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, so he knew what he was doing and we Middle-Earth lovers are the richer for it; I, on the other hand, am an amateur, thus of the fragment below I make no claims as to its perfect adherence to the real thing, but it is my attempt to imitate such and mostly just by ear.
I labor under a wearying load of poor health, so I have to take things as they come. That means I hope to pick up where I left off and, perhaps, even finish this someday.
Shadow on horse-lands, smoke-kindled.
Withered the wood-smith’s walls to embers,
Red was roof-fall, rafters crumbled,
Bright-blazed homestead, hearth forsaken:
Long-years labor lying in ashes.
Hewn the fruit-bough, fair tree ax-dead,
Cattle-herds slain, corn-houses broken.
Star-mirror poisoned, sickened with death-taint.
Loud rose the grief-cry, life-hope waning,
As Rohan fled from farm to Deeping.
Dread was the duskfall: doom fed it,
The sword-bands ravened, ruin-greedy.
Fell was their war-chant, fearsome shield-song,
Loud with blade-beat, battle-gladness.
Mordor saw them, men and Uruk,
As strength he bided in shield-hall mighty.
Cunning had tempted, trapped a stone-seer,
Wound him in web-weaves, will-enshackled,
Orthanc enslaved to Orodruin.
The servant of Sauron slew men for him.
Night came swift as Northmen trembled.
Then out of dream-grave, deep, long-buried,
Theoden wakened and walked out of shadow.
Sister-son he summoned to serve him.
Came Eomer gladly, offered his sword,
Kneeling in honor, in homage to Theoden.
Rode they from Edoras, rain-shield golden,
Young lord eager, his elder age-wearied,
Scorning king-comfort, stern, bold-hearted,
Son of the Mark-lords, Snowmane’s master.
Left behind him Eomer’s womb-kin,
Sister-daughter, Dunharrow’s captain.
With him war-men, wielding sword-might,
And new-beard younglings: need called them.
Fealty they kept and faithful heart-oath,
Spear-thronged, they guarded, gathered with him;
Shining in armor and steadfast in king-love.
Warnings sped them; the white-clad wanderer,
Mearas steed-friend, spoke truth to Theoden.
Warriors he left him, wing-footed hunters,
Elf and Dwarf and Heir of Sea-kings,
Lordly victors, valiant in battle.
To Hornburg they came, Hammerhand’s fortress
Great were foe-wards guarding Deeping,
The vale behind and hidden hollows,
Winter-cold caverns cloven in splendor
By Time under mountain, many rooms making.
There the folk-clans, fear-mustered, waited,
While Rohan’s soldiers readied without,
Girt on sword-belt and sharpened war-blade,
Arrows told, to each archer counted,
Then bending the war-bow like baleful sky-ship
Curled to spin a star-shaft deadly
From highest heaven to the heart of the void-dweller.
Purposed they stood upon the stone-heights,
Fear honed to strong-heart, defying the shadows,
As under deep roof-veil the enemy gathered.
Bright was the fire that fled through storm-dark:
War-drum beating, on the blackness it crashed.
Fierce were the war-bands; from the wall men saw
As from the world’s edge white flew sky-glare,
A man’s-breath of daylight. Many there were
Thronged in the valley, throat-loud, clamoring...