The Hoard: A Poetry Analysis
Interspersed throughout Tolkien’s books are many poems telling of elves, men, dwarves, cities, wildernesses, rivers, mountains… and often relating entire stories. Less well known, however, is a collection of Tolkien poems called The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. While most of these poems are not included in either The Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion, they hold similar themes. In this poetry analysis, Nessa member Shafan provides her own interpretation of one of these poems.
The Hoard by JRR Tolkien
When the moon was new and the sun young
of silver and gold the gods sung:
in the green grass they silver spilled,
and the white waters they with gold filled.
Ere the pit was dug or Hell yawned,
ere dwarf was bred or dragon spawned,
there were Elves of old, and strong spells
under green hills in hollow dells
they sang as they wrought many fair things,
and the bright crowns of the Elf-kings.
But their doom fell, and their song waned,
by iron hewn and by steel chained.
Greed that sang not, nor with mouth smiled,
in dark holes their wealth piled,
graven silver and carven gold:
over Elvenhome the shadow rolled.
There was an old dwarf in a dark cave,
to silver and gold his fingers clave;
with hammer and tongs and anvil-stone
he worked his hands to the hard bone,
and coins he made, and strings of rings,
and thought to buy the power of kings.
But his eyes grew dim and his ears dull
and the skin yellow on his old skull;
through his bony claw with a pale sheen
the stony jewels slipped unseen.
No feet he heard, though the earth quaked,
when the young dragon his thirst slaked,
and the stream smoked at his dark door.
The flames hissed on the dank floor,
and he died alone in the red fire;
his bones were ashes in the hot mire.
There was an old dragon under grey stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead and his youth spent,
he was knobbed and wrinkled, and his limbs bent
in the long years to his gold chained;
in his heart’s furnace the fire waned.
To his belly’s slime gems stuck think,
silver and gold he would snuff and lick:
he knew the place of the least ring
beneath the shadow of his black wing.
Of thieves he thought on his hard bed,
and dreamed that on their flesh he fed,
their bones crushed, and their blood drank:
his ears drooped and his breath sank.
Mail-rings rang. He heard them not.
A voice echoed in his deep grot:
a young warrior with a bright sword
called him forth to defend his hoard.
His teeth were knives, and of horn his hide,
but iron tore him, and his flame died.
There was an old king on a high throne:
his white beard lay on knees of bone;
his mouth savoured neither meat nor drink,
nor his ears song; he could only think
of his huge chest with carven lid
where pale gems and gold lay hid
in secret treasury in the dark ground;
its strong doors were iron-bound.
The swords of his thanes were dull with rust,
his glory fallen, his rule unjust,
his halls hollow, and his bowers cold,
but king he was of elvish gold.
He heard not the horns in the mountain-pass,
he smelt not the blood on the trodden grass,
but his halls were burned, his kingdom lost;
in a cold pit his bones were tossed.
There is an old hoard in a dark rock,
forgotten behind doors none can unlock;
that grim gate no man can pass.
On the mound grows the green grass;
there sheep feed and the larks soar,
and the wind blows from the sea-shore.
The old hoard the Night shall keep,
while earth waits and the Elves sleep.
~Interpretation by Shafan
For those who have read the Lord of the Rings, the effect that the ring has on its wearer is well known. Throughout the books we are able to see the struggle characters have with their strong desire for it. That is to say their covetousness. In the beginning of the Hoard it tells of covetousness, the shadow that it casts, and the effects that the shadow has. These effects are shown in the lives of those in the poem.
In the life of the dwarf his purpose for his covetousness is to have the power of kings. It would seem he spends his whole life alone working his “hands to the hard bone” in hopes of one day having this power. However in the end this is to no benefit to him as a dragon comes along and kills him. In the life of the dragon his covetousness made the fire in the furnace of his heart wane. Though he had treasure he did not find pleasure in it and is alone until a young warrior comes along and kills him. In the life of the king he fell from his former glory and became a man who was not just. He could think of nothing but the treasure he had obtained so much so that he is not aware of a war going on in his own kingdom. His dies at the hands of his enemies and his bones are thrown into a pit.
In each of these cases it shows how a life can be consumed by a covetousness that causes one to be oblivious to all else around him. All that one had was his possessions and that is all that one would live for. Each of those in the poem did not find pleasure in their possessions in the end or in anything else. They lost pleasure for and in life.
As the characters in the Lord of the Rings have struggled with covetousness, so do we. Each of us have the choice of either being controlled by our covetousness or to be the one who controls it.