The Last Ship
A poem from the Adventures of Tom Bombadil.
Firiel looked out at three O’clock;
the gray night was going;
far away a golden cock
clear and shrill was crowing.
The trees were dark, and the dawn pale,
waking birds were cheeping
a wind moved cool and frail
through dim leaves creeping.
She watched the gleam at window grow,
till the long light was shimmering
on land and leaf; on grass below
grey dew was glimmering
Over the floor her white feet crept,
down the stair they twinkled,
through the grass they dancing stepped
all with dew besprinkled.
Her gown had jewels upon its hem,
as she ran down to the river,
and leaned upon a willow-stem,
and watched the water quiver.
A kingfisher plunged down like a stone
in a blue flash falling,
bending reeds were softly blown,
lily-leaves were sprawling.
A sudden music to her came,
as she stood there gleaming
with free hair in the morning’s flame
on her shoulders streaming
Flutes there were, and harps were wrung,
and there was sound of singing,
like wind-voices keen and young
and far bells ringing
A ship with golden beak and oar
and timbers white came gliding;
swans went sailing on before,
her tall prow guiding
Fair folk out of Elvenland
in silver-grey were rowing,
and three with crowns she saw there stand
with bright hair flowing.
With harp in hand they sang their song
to the slow oars swinging;
Green is the land; the leaves are long,
and the birds are singing.
Many a day with dawn of gold
this earth will lighten,
many a flower will yet unfold,
ere the cornfields whiten.
Then wither go ye, boatmen fair,
down the river gliding??
To twilight and to secret lair
in the great forest hiding?
To northern isles and shores of stone
on strong swans flying,
by cold waves to dwell alone
with the white gulls crying?
‘Nay!’ they answered, “Far away
on the last road faring,
leaving western havens grey,
the seas of shadow daring,
we go to Elvenhome,
where the White Tree is growing,
and the Star shines upon the foam
on the last shore flowing.
‘To mortal fields say farewell,
Middle Earth forsaking!
In Elvenhome a clear bell
in the high tower is shaking.
Here grass fades and leaves fall,
and the sun and moon wither.
and we have heard the far call
that bids us journey thither.’
The oars were stayed. They turned aside;
‘Do you hear the call, Earth-maiden?
Firiel! Firiel!’ they cried.
‘our ship is not full-laden.
One more only we may bear.
Come! for your days are speeding
Come! Earth-maiden elven-fair,
our last call heading.’
Firiel looked from the river bank,
one step daring
then deep in clay her feet sank,
and she halted staring.
Slowly the elven ship went by
whispering through the water:
‘I cannot come!’ they heard her cry.
‘I was born Earth’s daughter!
No jewels bright her gown bore,
as she walked back from the meadow
under roof and dark door,
under the house-shadow.
She donned her smock of russet brown,
her long hair brided,
and to her work came stepping down.
Soon the sunlight faded.
Year still after year flows
down the Seven Rivers;
cloud passes, sunlight glows,
reed and willow quivers
at morn and eve, but never more
westward ships have waded
in mortal waters as before,
and there song as faded.
Submitted by Mirlomien