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25 March 2016 @ 06:58 pm
Tolkien Reading Day is observed on the same day each year: March 25, the day which saw the
destruction of the Ring. Since the inception of Reading Day in 2003, the Tolkien Society has
put forth a new theme for each successive year. For 2016, the theme is "life, death and

The choice of such a theme may or may not be coincidental to March 25, 2016 being Good
Friday, certainly a day closely associated with....life....death.....immortality.

In observance of the day, with all its multiplicity of nuanced meanings, I hope you will enjoy an offering of a trine of poems, entitled “Suite: Road”. The subtitles appear before the body of the poems.


I am Master Under-the-Hill.



Child of the Kindly West.

merely a heart too long


1389, S.R.

My quill scratches
bold and round
upon the parchment's face:


Like unto my youth,
a year of Great Adventure.

A year of Treasure-finding.

A year of Home-coming.


In the quiet heat of half-past summer,
I depart,

Halimath moon, large in the sky,
stars and the unseen ribbons
of little rivers marking my course.

Nigh a week upon the Road ~
Sun fierce and unforgiving in Her

black-winged birds silent in cloudless blue,
the companionable river winking its brass-gold
eye amongst heat-bent rushes.


Ah, the day of the Sea.

How seeming-right for journey's-end.


A hundred yellow-fat candles dance in the windows before me.

A hundred arms offer a harvest-hardened embrace.


one not-yet-grown lad,
face serious against the tumult-tide of talk,
eyes mysterious as the unquiet Sea itself.

Here is my portion of treasure,
all elbows and temper,

all books and stars and map-roads of no ending.

All.....my blood,
though it took me these long years to know it.

In the all-but-noon next day, we set out.

Not for this lad (not yet!)
the almost-endlessness of the Road
betwixt home and


A Prince of Elvish blood never sat a horse so prettily.

Still, there are two days gone before the winking green of The Water
bathes our feet....

two days of silence beneath the Sun,
two days of words spilt like spun-smoke silver beneath the netted stars.

And then we are Home, indeed,
the brass-bind of the door opening and closing,

the sweet-earth tinge of the roof-tree scenting the air of the smial.

Soon, we shall celebrate our birthday together,
soon, tramp each goodly Road there might be,
speaking of everything.......

speaking of nothing,
the Sun and Moon and Stars

witness to our Walking Song.

My Lad.



A sounding-word.
A word which plain speaks of what it is.


Master Merry
pledged his sword to Theoden-King.

Master Took,
to the mad Steward of Gondor.

Blood flowed thereafter,
and a night was made but more terrible
by fire.

That was but the almost-ending.


Death there was
from the start,

the ice of its breath
in the fog-shrouds of Crickhollow.....

in barrows of forgotten kings...
and the pocket-dark of Bree.

Death and worse-than
upon once-fair Weathertop.

Death within the ruined halls of Moria.

Black-feathered death beside the noble river
of storied Kings.

A......plentiment of Death there was:
a reaping of trolls and men,

orcs and elves,
dwarves and hobbits.

Torn bodies lie,

before cloven gates,

severed limbs a-rot in marshes.

The Great River's fish
feed upon gape-mouth'd corpses .......


Death there was
of yet another sort.

Ever it was beside me upon the Road.

I saw it in scars,
wound like map-lines
upon the back of a once-hobbit,

tasted it in the slime of foul water,

smelled it in the noisome air.....

knew it in the quieting of my Master's heart.

At the last,
but one hobbit surrendered his life
on that day of fire.

Yet death took note:
there was yet one as needed.....

No tender gardener, death,
but rather that which plucks blossom
and root
and stalk withal
before it is time.


He is gone now, my Master.

Gone long ago
across the great and Sundering Sea.

Death has taken his cousins.

And my Rosie.


A ship stays in grey-clouded harbour,
far horizon burnt with the sunset.

Elanor bids me farewell.

At last
I may follow this promised

To whatever end.

To whatever.....



Upon a morning of fog, I set out,
the very air quieted beneath grey’d wraith-weight,

Sun rising through opal-orange mist.

Diademed fog-tears necklace the grasses,
lie heavy upon my hair and cloak.

Below the narrow ribbon of my path
(chocolate-thick with damp),
the Sea waits.

Even from this road-perch,
I see the discontent of her,
all but hear waves
rousing the sand
in green-glass fury.

It is not my lot
to walk beside her today.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Far into gathered wool-clouds,
my path,
mountain-rock's solid grey
like an Oliphaunt beside me,

(song yet hushed with dawn-chill)
calling from hunter's-green brake.

There is a great gathering of trees here.

I feel their greeting,
these ancient ones,

almost imagine
Fimbrethil and her lost sisters
enfold me in an enchanted ring.

I may not linger with them today.
I may not give ear to treeish tales.

Upwards still the road curves,
elanor within its fragrant ditch,

bold Sun drinking the dew of lac'd
spider's webs.

Almost to the very steeple
of the mountain I climb.

Within a glade of odd-pocketed-dark,
I find my journey's end:

the glad spice of it floating
like a banner upon the close air.....

Oiolairë in the language of this land.

The Green Bough of Return.

In storied legend,
signet of reunion

beyond all Seas.*

My little knife serves to cut a single branch,
my feet find (with gathering haste)
the downward road.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the safe haven of Avallónë,
the incoming tide at last rolls calm.

Within its arms,
a white-prowed ship.

A shortened figure there is upon the deck,
a figure wonderful with age,

yet-strong hands tight
upon the rail.

And I hurry towards this meeting,
this tapestried reunion of Hope,

this simple hobbit’s
Bough of Return,

at last full-filled.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is all of forever,
this moment,

all of Home.

It is all of heart-wealth
and needful healing.

It is all that we,
with the Gift of Men
might know of Un-Dying.

It is all of Endlessness and Ending
held, at the last,
within time’s kindly twine.

*A/N: entry from The Thain’s book on oiolaire: “The Elves put boughs from the oiolaire on the prows of their ships as a token of their friendship with Osse and Uinen, the Maiar of the Seas. The Numenoreans had a similar practice. When a Numenorean ship set sail for Middle-earth, a branch of the oiolaire called the Green Bough of Return was placed on the prow by a woman - usually the wife or a kinswoman of the Captain. The Bough did not wither as long as it was sprayed with seawater.”

© March 2016 Janet Nelson-Alvarez