the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.
Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
Good, isn't it? The first verse set's up a generic pastoral idyll - yet of a kind we have all experienced. Then, in the second verse, we are suddenly being spoken-to by a specific voice; and from one who is lying mortally sick ('in darkness buried deep'), and who believes he is about to die ('at journey's end').
But this voice remembers to us, that in spite of his miserable and terminal situation; there is another world - that same kind of world of sun and stars he described in the first verse; but this world of eternal beauty and joy is 'for ever', eternal!
Therefore, despite his currently dire circumstances - the voice will not believe that his life is truly ending (as it were 'night falling'). He will not 'bid farewell', say goodbye, to 'life'; because he does not expect to die, not finally - but expects to encounter-again the elven stars (symbols of enchanted beauty and joy).
A short poem with simple language - yet a real poem; which simultaneously suggests a great deal more than the literal and mundane: and what it suggests is lovely, life-enhancing.
Yet, how easy it is to miss this delightsome lyric when reading Lord of the Rings - as did I; because it is depicted as sung by Sam Gamgee in the tower of Cirith Ungol; as (merely!) a way of letting the prisoner Frodo know he has arrived to rescue him, and to attract a verbal response from Frodo, so that Sam can find him.
As so often; I owe my 'noticing' of such telling detail to that best of all Tolkien scholars and critics - Tom Shippey; who mentions it in a characteristically insightful (and very funny!) videoed lecture at Arizona State University, in 2002.
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