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Thread: Lament of the Rohirrim

  1. #1
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Lament of the Rohirrim

    Lament for the Rohirrim

    Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
    Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
    Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
    Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
    They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
    The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
    Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
    Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

    Aragorn recites this poem as he approaches Edoras, accompanied by Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli. He recites it first in the language of the Rohirrim,and then translates it for his companions. It recalls "how tall and fair was Eorl the Young... and his steed Felarof, father of horses."

    I sometimes skim the poems in LOTR, or read them only for the historical information. But when I looked at this one recently, it occurred to me that it is written in one of Tolkien's favored literary forms. It is a riddle. Most Tolkien fans recall the famous "Riddles in the Dark", and in many preliterate societies, riddles are an important form of literature.

    What's the answer? Where is "the hand on the harpstring"? "Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning"? Clearly, ol' J.R.R. himself. The poem is a riddle, and the author is the answer.

    p.s. What have I got in my pocket?

  2. #2
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    It is clearly a derivation from Anglo-Saxon poetry. Compare it with this bit of "The Wanderer" from the Exeter Book - see the repeated "where...where...where?" and look out for eorl and theoden.

    "Hwęr cwom mearg? Hwęr cwom mago? Hwęr cwom mažžumgyfa?
    Hwęr cwom symbla gesetu? Hwęr sindon seledreamas?
    Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga!
    Eala žeodnes žrym! Hu seo žrag gewat,
    genap under nihthelm, swa heo no węre.
    Stondeš nu on laste leofre duguže
    weal wundrum heah, wyrmlicum fah.
    Eorlas fornoman asca žryže,
    wępen węlgifru, wyrd seo męre,
    ond žas stanhleožu stormas cnyssaš,
    hriš hreosende hrusan bindeš,
    wintres woma, žonne won cymeš,
    nipeš nihtscua, noržan onsendeš
    hreo hęglfare hęležum on andan.
    Eall is earfošlic eoržan rice,
    onwendeš wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
    Her biš feoh lęne, her biš freond lęne,
    her biš mon lęne, her biš męg lęne,
    eal žis eoržan gesteal idel weoržeš!"
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

  3. #3
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Interesting, W. (although my comprehension is limited). It fits my theory, I suppose, in that Tolkien the scholar is one of the few that can still sing the story. What is the Exeter Book?

  4. #4
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Here is the poem + translation. There seem to be several in the net, don“t know if it is a good one.

    http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/sechard/oewand.htm
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  5. #5
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "What is the Exeter Book?"

    The Exeter Book is a manuscript book dating from 10th or early 11th century held in the library of Exeter Cathedral, Devon, England.
    It is quite possibly the most important collection of Anglo-Saxon literature anywhere. It contains several poems and, just for you and JRRT, a lot of riddles.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

  6. #6
    TheFairyDogMother kiz_paws's Avatar
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    "Hwęr cwom mearg? Hwęr cwom mago? Hwęr cwom mažžumgyfa?
    Hwęr cwom symbla gesetu? Hwęr sindon seledreamas?
    Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga!
    Eala žeodnes žrym! Hu seo žrag gewat,
    genap under nihthelm, swa heo no węre.
    Stondeš nu on laste leofre duguže
    weal wundrum heah, wyrmlicum fah.
    Eorlas fornoman asca žryže,
    wępen węlgifru, wyrd seo męre,
    ond žas stanhleožu stormas cnyssaš,
    hriš hreosende hrusan bindeš,
    wintres woma, žonne won cymeš,
    nipeš nihtscua, noržan onsendeš
    hreo hęglfare hęležum on andan.
    Eall is earfošlic eoržan rice,
    onwendeš wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
    Her biš feoh lęne, her biš freond lęne,
    her biš mon lęne, her biš męg lęne,
    eal žis eoržan gesteal idel weoržeš!"
    WOW, if I didn't know any better, I would have sworn that this was written in Icelandic! Several of the letters used are indeed unique to the Icelandic language... (š), (ž) … Interesting...
    Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty
    ~Albert Einstein

  7. #7
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    Where's Lokasenna? He could probably give a comprehensive explanation of the relationships between 10th century West Saxon and modern Icelandic.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

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