Thursday, 18 February 2021

My attempted completion of Frodo's poem: O! Wanderers in the shadowed land


Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin are in the Old Forest...

*

Frodo tried to sing a song to encourage them, but his voice sank to a murmur. 

O! Wanderers in the shadowed land
despair not! For though dark they stand,
all woods there be must end at last,
and see the open sun go past:
the setting sun, the rising sun,
the day’s end, or the day begun.
For east or west all woods must fail…

Fail - even as he said the word his voice faded into silence. The air seemed heavy and the making of words wearisome. Just behind them a large branch fell from an old overhanging tree with a crash into the path. The trees seemed to close in before them.

*

It's a lovely lyric; but - thanks to the increasing threat of the Old Forest, it never gets completed. The commentary in Christopher Tolkien's The History of Middle Earth seems to suggest that the poem was never taken any further. 

So, I thought I would have a shot at providing a final line for the poem - by completing a rhyming couplet beginning with For east or west all woods must fail… 


I can immediately inform you that I failed to attain an altogether satisfactory result; the the best completion I managed, the one that is most in spirit with the rest of the poem is:

For east or west all woods must fail…
East or west, all woods must fail.

But that is very obviously pinched from Robert Frost's poem that ends with a repeated "And miles to go before I sleep"...


The ideal last line would either complete the argument, or else explain why the poem stopped. 

So, here are a few other suggestions, from which you can take your pick - or yourself try to do better. 

For east or west all woods must fail…
If not at Harvard, then at Yale. 

For east or west all woods must fail…
It's like escaping from a jail!

For east or west all woods must fail…
And that's the ending of my tale.


Perhaps the best, however, is surely:

For east or west all woods must fail…
Alas! I've trodden on a nail.


8 comments:

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

For east or west, all woods must fail,
and out of shadow pass the trail.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm

Some good ideas - what about?

For east or west, all woods must fail...
as out of shadows wends our trail.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"Wend" is good, but I don't like the "as," the present tense, and the "our"! This is about all woods everywhere, not our particular trail. Maybe,

For east or west, all woods must fail,
and out of shadow wend each trail.

Or, with nod to Dante,

For east or west, all woods must fail,
and sunlit hill succeed on vale.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ Wm - I think we're getting there

So far I like best the combination of both our notions:

For east or west, all woods must fail,
as out of shadow wends each trail.

But I don't much like the sound of 'each'.

I think the key is shadow/s and trail, which you suggested - perhaps the other elements are down to personal preference, and what fits with the rest of the poem, his vocabulary and sounds (that's what's wrong with sunlit hill succeed on vale - 'succeed' sounds too eighteenth century and 'Latinate' for Tolkien).

Mr. Andrew said...

Ending with reference to the beginning is a nice completion (referencing shadow & trail associated with Wanderers).

Since the poem is speaking to specific Wanderers, could you replace "each" with "our" our "your"?

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

“the trail”

Bruce Charlton said...

It can be seen why poems are not written by committee! Even when several people contribute useful ideas - in the end it should always be a matter of a single individual's judgment.

cae said...

For what it's worth Bruce, I think you and William have hit on it with:

'as out of shadow wends the trail.'

When you read the whole thing together (especially out loud), this ending gives the poem a really satisfying finish..