The Lay of Leithian Completed – Canto XIV

by Aug 24, 2003Poetry

The Lay of Leithian, the ancient Elvish song that tells in verse the legend of Beren and Luthien, was actually written by Tolkien and can be found in his book Lays of Beleriand. But he abandoned the poem at its darkest hour when it seemed all hope was lost and never continued it. Well, his poetry is beautiful, but it bugs me that he left us hanging forevermore on such a terrible cliffhanger of doom. So, having written a little poetry myself, one day I thought that perhaps I could try to finish the poem for my own contentment. So, I called upon the hundred zillion Tolkien books I had – chiefly the Silmarillion, the Lays of Beleriand, and the Complete A-Z Guide to Middle-earth, and set to work. Here’s the result. For your convenience, I put a star where Tolkien’s verses end and mine begin. Mine aren’t as good, but, well… here goes.

Canto XIV
Up through the dark and echoing gloom
As ghosts from many-tunnelled tomb
Up from the mountain’s roots profound
And the vast menace underground
Their limbs aquake with deadly fear
Terror in their eyes, and dread in ear,
Together fled they, by the beat
Affrighted of their flying feet.

At last before them far away
They saw the glimmering wraith of day
The mighty archway of the gate –
And there a horror new did wait.
Upon the threshold, watchful, dire,
His eyes new-kindled with dull fire,
Towered Carcharoth, a biding doom
His jaws were gaping like a tomb,
His teeth were bare, his tongue aflame,
Aroused he watched the no one came,
No flitting shade nor hunted shape,
Seeking from Angband to escape.
Now past that guard what guile or might
Could thrust from death into the light?

He heard afar their hurrying feet,
He snuffed an odour strange and sweet,
He smelled their coming long before
They marked the waiting threat at door.
His limbs he stretched and shook off sleep,
Then stood at gaze. With sudden leap,
Upon them as they sped he sprang
And howling in the arches rang.
Too swift for thought his onset came,
Too swift for any spell to tame.
And Beren desperate then aside
Thrust Luthien, and forth did stride
Anarmed, defenseless to defend
Tinuviel unto the end.
With left he caught at hairy throat,
With right hand at the eyes he smote,
His right from which the radiance welled
Of holy Silmaril he held.
As gleam of swords in fire there flashed
The fangs of Carcharoth, and crashed
Together like a trap, and tore
His hand about the wrist, and shore
Through brittle bone and sinew nesh
Devouring frail mortal flesh
And in that wide cruel mouth unclean
Engulfed the jewel’s holy sheen.

Against the wall then Beren reeled
But still with left he sought to shield
Fair Luthien, who cried aloud
To see his pain, and down she bowed
In anguish sinking to the ground.*
And heard she not a mortal sound
For all her will was bound in grief
For Beren, riven by the thief
Who took the shining jewel grand
From Barahir’s son’s weakening hand.
But holy light within did sear
Great Carcharoth; as Luthien’s tear
Fell softly to the sighing ground
Carcharoth leapt, and twisted round,
A light of madness in his eyes,
His avarice his own demise.

As Luthien watched she wondering
Beheld the madness sundering
Carcharoth from his cunning sly
And knowledge drained from yellow eye
Driven by light of inner pain
From holy light that burned his vain
Flesh from within for evil things
And hoarded treasures: gold and rings
And diamonds and crystals pure
Earned true by others just to lure
Carcharoth from his foul sleep
And plunder loot from dungeon deep.
Before her eyes he twisted round
In welling rage and malice crowned
He howled and roared and leapt about
From stone to stone he leapt, his snout
Now open in a roar, and now
Closed shut as to knee he doth bow.
In rage he turned and swift gave chase
To all the Orcs about that place
And rending them with iron maw
He howled loud, and ice did thaw,
Then the mountains did quake and moan
And earth was riven stone from stone.
And then he fled on secret ways
To ever in the Elder Days
Wreak chaos on the fairy land:
Beleriand, Beleriand.

As Carcharoth in madness fled
Luthien ran to Beren’s head;
And still he breathed, but only just:
Devoured with the jewel his lust,
For venom lay on awful teeth
That bite all flesh and death bequeath.
But as they lay in tight embrace,
Undying love about their face
A murmur came from deep within,
From dungeons of Thangorodrim,
Of murmur of great hosts untold
Awakened by the quake that rolled
To roots of mountains cold and black
Where death is all and life all lack.
Then lava poured from hidden holes
And crevices where thunder rolls,
And then the earth quivered once more
As came up Morgoth’s evil hoard.

There Beren lay before the gate
The threshold of the realm of hate,
Wandering on the edge of life
Poisoned by Carcharoth’s cruel knife.
And Luthien wept as Morgoth came
`Tinuviel!’ he sighed her name,
a final sigh, a sigh of dying
before the cursed archway lying
and then her sorry weeping rang
about the halls, and then she sang
of fields and hills and flowers bright
far from the awful land of fright
a song of grief that never more
could Beren behold these things of yore.

But as it seemed all life was lost,
The quest at last had tolled its cost,
And the dark fate waiting for them
Had been postponed, but came again,
A music was about the sky
And peace upon the earth did lie
As Morgoth’s veil of smog was rent
And two birds from Thorondor sent
Led by the ancient Eagle-King
Of Elder Days that legends bring
Dove above the land to abate
Beren and Luthien’s waiting fate.

Then they swooped down as birds of prey
And took the doomed two ere the fray
Rolled over all the land of hate
And poured o’er mountain from the gate.
Then flaming thunder leapt, at hand
The peril to the watching land
As Angband belched forth smoke and fire
The coming blaze leapt higher, higher;
But higher still flew Thorondor
Until that dark place was seen no more
And they escaped on cloudless roads
And sunlit ways by star’s abodes
And left behind the quivering dale
Before Morgoth shivering frail.

Above the reek and clouds they passed
That Morgoth’s power had long amassed
And fleeing then on secret ways
They came long after many days
To Gondolin the city pale
Glittering like flowers in a vale,
Encased in shining veil of light
As lily of the valley white.
Then over that land, too, they passed
And came at end to Doriath,
To woven woods of Elvenhome
Where long ago had they alone
Danced joyously among the trees
And hidden pathways of the seas.

Well, there’s your finished Canto XIV. The next one should come out soo – uh, eventually. Please comment!!


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