In 2016, a Christmas poem by Tolkien was discovered at a school in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK. When looking through a copy of an old school magazine (published in 1936), the principal Stephen Oliver found this poem (alongside another titled “The Shadow Man”, that was eventually published in the Adventures of Tom Bombadil); Wayne Hammond–an American Tolkien Scholar–had contacted Oliver after he found a mention of this poem in note Tolkien had written listing his poems.
Upon discovering the poems, Oliver said, “My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming. I am a great Tolkien fan and was thrilled to discover the connection with the school.”
It’s a beautiful poem, and showcases Tolkien’s mastery of clear language in concise but emotional phraseology. I’ve included an engaging reading of the poem just released this week as well.
Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.
The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.
The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.
Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.
Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.