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Lays of Beleriand

Plato to MacDonald to Chesterton, Tolkien and the Boys in the Pub.

Lays of Beleriand

Postby A#minor » 28 Mar 2007, 19:45

I just got it in the mail! Anybody else read the Lays of Beleriand?
It's entirely made up of poetry, most of them quite long.

Lay of the Children of Hurin
Flight of the Noldoli
Lay of Earendel
Lay of the Fall of Gondolin
Lay of Leithian (Beren and Luthian)

I adore Tolkien's poetry. He has such rich wording. :read:
"My brain and this world don't fit each other, and there's an end of it!" - G.K. Chesterton
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Postby The Pfifltrigg » 04 Apr 2007, 05:36

I bought my copy two years ago (along with the Lost Tales, and The Shaping of Middle Earth). I got through most of the (exquisite!) poems, but CT's annotations are sometimes tedious. It has some gems, though, as I'm sure you will discover when you next visit Narrowthrode. :wink:
False ideas may be refuted indeed by argument, but by true ideas alone are they expelled. — Apologia Pro Vita Sua: Cardinal Newman
Freedom lost and then regained bites with deeper fangs than freedom never in danger. — Cicero
You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. — Ray Bradbury
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Postby alecto » 14 May 2007, 22:41

So Luthien, so Luthien,
a liar like all Elves and Men!
Yet welcome. welcome to my hall!
I have a use for every thrall!
What news of Thingol in his hole
shy lurking like a timid vole?
What folly fresh is in his mind,
who cannot keep his offspring blind
from straying thus? Or can devise
no better counsel for his spies?
Sentio ergo est.
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Postby A#minor » 15 May 2007, 00:37

"Hateful art thou, O Land of Trees!
May fear and silence on thee seize!
My flute shall fall from idle hand
and mirth shall leave Beleriand;
music shall perish and voices fail
and tress stand dumb in dell and dale!"


I like that bit about "trees standing dumb", because it suggests that before they used to sing.
"My brain and this world don't fit each other, and there's an end of it!" - G.K. Chesterton
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Lays of Beleriand

Postby Tuke » 13 Aug 2007, 16:43

The Lays of B is my favorite of the XII Histories of Middle-Earth. I also think it the most important volume because ancient poetry was the inspiration and motivation for the Silmarillian & LOTR, especially Beowulf, the Volsunga Saga, and the poetic Edda.
I noticed no one mentioned the delightful critique by Lewis which Christopher included at the back of the Lays.
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Postby A#minor » 25 Jun 2008, 02:51

Ha! I forgot we had this thread already!

Anyway, I am re-reading the Lays of Beleriand, b/c I don't really think I got all the way through the first time. All I read was the Lay of the Children of Hurin last time. Now I'm midway through the Lay of Leithian. Canto VII to be exact.

I'm skipping all the commentary. I just can't enjoy the beauty of the poetry if I get bogged down in the extras and the revisions and all that.

Here's a favorite bit of the story of King Felagund...

"Hearing these words there swiftly stood
beside him ten tried warriors good,
men of his house who had ever fought
wherever his banners had been brought.
One stooped and lifted up his crown...."


I just love that picture of warriors coming forth, true and courageous and pure and loyal to their king.
"My brain and this world don't fit each other, and there's an end of it!" - G.K. Chesterton
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Postby Tuke » 25 Jun 2008, 19:49

A#minor wrote:.... I'm skipping all the commentary. I just can't enjoy the beauty of the poetry if I get bogged down in the extras and the revisions and all that....

Understandable, but Jack's eighteen page commentary (p. 374) on the Lay of Leithian is worthwhile if only as a tribute to his fellow Inkling and dear friend. Lewis wrote several incomparable encomiums of Tolkien.
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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Postby A#minor » 26 Jun 2008, 03:36

Ah, then I'll be sure to read that once I get there! Thanks for the heads up!
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Postby Tuke » 26 Jun 2008, 17:35

And I'll try to squeeze in a review of the Lays because it's been five years since I last read it. Usually when I review Tolkien I end up rereading him, but I'm pretty busy just now.
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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Postby A#minor » 27 Jun 2008, 02:37

Another favorite bit as I'm looking back over the pages I've just read.

"He gazed, and as he gazed her hair
within its cloudy web did snare
the silver moonbeams sifting white
between the leaves, and glinting bright
the tremulous starlight of the skies
was caught and mirrored in her eyes."


So lovely. :pleased: It's like every word and image fits in perfectly to create this .... something.... something beautiful. Real poetry.
Not the fake stuff we sometimes read. Not something forced, or trying too hard to rhyme.
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Postby A#minor » 19 Jul 2008, 14:10

I've finished it finally. I've just been reading bits and pieces here and there before bed in between reading 3 or 4 other novels.
Here are some of my favorite passages or just phrases that caught my eye:

Line 2646- The silences were sudden shivered to silver fragments.

Line 3133- Each star there stared in stony night radiant, glistering cold and white.

Line 3230-
One morning as asleep she lay
Upon the moss, as though the day
too bitter were for gentle flower
to open in a sunless hour,
Beren arose and kissed her hair,
and wept, and softly left her there.

(I love that he kissed her hair and cried when he left her. So sweet.)

Line 3250-
His silver armies on the green
his horses white, his lances keen;
his helmets tall of steel were hewn,
his shields were shining as the moon.
There trumpets sang both long and loud
and challenge rang unto the cloud.

(Tolkien is such a master at creating a picture in your mind. I can just see that glorious army.)

Line 3263- ...till in confusion vast the stars were choked.
(I like that word 'choked'; it's so vivid!)

Line 3576- ...and Ringil drew like ice that gleameth cold and blue, his sword devised of elvish skill to pierce the flesh with deadly chill.

Line 3605-3608
...the mighty foot pale Ringil clave
about the heel, and black the blood
gushed as from smoking found in flood.
Halt goes for ever from that stroke
great Morgoth...

(I love that Morgoth's heel is wounded. Reminds one of Greek legend.)

Line 4183- ...together fled they, by the beat affrighted of their flying feet.
(I like the funny suggestion that their feet were more frightened than they were.)
"My brain and this world don't fit each other, and there's an end of it!" - G.K. Chesterton
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Postby Tuke » 20 Jul 2008, 02:19

A#minor wrote:Line 4183- ...together fled they, by the beat affrighted of their flying feet.
(I like the funny suggestion that their feet were more frightened than they were.)

Hmmm, I'm not so sure. It's a little unclear. All of their senses are alive to fear, limbs, eyes and ears, but I think the echoed noise in the tunnel caused by their feet is exacerbating their fear (affrighted by the beat of their feet). I base this on line 4198, "[Carcharoth] heard afar their hurrying feet."
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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Postby Tuke » 20 Jul 2008, 21:55

In the Flight of the Noldoli From Valinor the fell Feanor unwittingly serves Morgoth's purposes by defying the Valar and exacerbating their alienation. His war cry for the Silmarils prefigures the vengeance and greed for Sauron's Ring, and forebodes a sadly familiar human weakness.

From line 82~

Thus the witless wisdom its reward hath earned
of the Gods' jealousy, who guard us here
to serve them, sing to them in our sweet cages,
to contrive them gems and jewelled trinkets,
their leisure to please with our loveliness,
while they waste and squander work of ages,
nor can Morgoth master in their mansions sitting
at countless councils. Now come ye all,
who have courage and hope! My call harken
to flight, to freedom in far places!
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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