Legacy YM

Canto 20 - Canto 20


Into the vast and echoing gloom,

more dread than many-tunnelled tomb

in labyrinthine pyramid

where everlasting death is hid,

down awful corridors that wind

down to a menace dark enshrined;

down to the mountain's roots profound,

devoured, tormented, bored and ground

by seething vermin spawned of stone;

down to the depths they went alone.

The arch behind of twilit shade

they saw recede and dwindling fade;

the thunderous forges' rumour grew,

a burning wind there roaring blew

foul vapours up from gaping holes.

Huge shapes there stood like carven trolls


enormous hewn of blasted rock

to forms that mortal likeness mock;

monstrous and menacing, entombed,

at every turn they silent loomed

in fitful glares that leaped and died.

There hammers clanged, and tongues there cried

with sound like smitten stone; there wailed

faint from far under, called and failed

amid the iron clink of chain

voices of captives put to pain.

Loud rose a din of laughter hoarse,

self-loathing yet without remorse;

loud came a singing harsh and fierce

like swords of terror souls to pierce.

Red was the glare through open doors

of firelight mirrored on brazen floors,

and up the arches towering clomb

to glooms unguessed, to vaulted dome

swathed in wavering smokes and steams

stabbed with flickering lightning-gleams.

To Morgoth's hall, where dreadful feast

he held, and drank the blood of beast

and lives of Men, they stumbling came:

their eyes were dazed with smoke and flame.

The pillars, reared like monstrous shores

to bear earth's overwhelming floors,

were devil-carven, shaped with skill

such as unholy dreams doth fill:

they towered like trees into the air,

whose trunks are rooted in despair,

whose shade is death, whose fruit is bane,

whose boughs like serpents writhe in pain.

Beneath them ranged with spear and sword

stood Morgoth's sable-armoured horde:

the fire on blade and boss of shield

was red as blood on stricken field.

Beneath a monstrous column loomed

the throne of Morgoth, and the doomed

and dying gasped upon the floor:

his hideous footstool, rape of war.

About him sat his awful thanes,

the Balrog-lords with fiery manes,

redhanded, mouthed with fangs of steel;

devouring wolves were crouched at heel.

And o'er the host of hell there shone

with a cold radiance, clear and wan,

the Silmarils, the gems of fate,

emprisoned in the crown of hate.

Lo! through the grinning portals dread

sudden a shadow swooped and fled;

and Beren gasped he lay alone,

with crawling belly on the stone:

a form bat-winged, silent, flew

where the huge pillared branches grew,

amid the smokes and mounting steams.

And as on the margin of dark dreams


a dim-felt shadow unseen grows

to cloud of vast unease, and woes

foreboded, nameless, roll like doom

upon the soul, so in that gloom

the voices fell, and laughter died

slow to silence many-eyed.

A nameless doubt, a shapeless fear,

had entered in their caverns drear,

and grew, and towered above them cowed,

hearing in heart the trumpets loud

of gods forgotten. Morgoth spoke,

and thunderous the silence broke:

'Shadow, descend! And do not think

to cheat mine eyes! In vain to shrink

from thy Lord's gaze, or seek to hide.

My will by none may be defied.

Hope nor escape doth here await

those that unbidden pass my gate.

Descend! ere anger blast thy wing,

thou foolish, frail, bat-shapen thing,

and yet not bat within! Come down!'

Slow-wheeling o'er his iron crown,

reluctantly, shivering and small,

Beren there saw the shadow fall,

and droop before the hideous throne,

a weak and trembling thing, alone.

And as thereon great Morgoth bent

his darkling gaze, he shuddering went,

belly to earth, the cold sweat dank

upon his fell, and crawling shrank

beneath the darkness of that seat,

beneath the shadow of those feet.

Tinúviel spake, a shrill, thin, sound

piercing those silences profound:

'A lawful errand here me brought;

from Sauron's mansions have I sought,

from Taur-nu-Fuin's shade I fare

to stand before thy mighty chair!'

'Thy name, thou shrieking waif, thy name!

Tidings enough from Sauron came

but short while since. What would he now?

Why send such messenger as thou?'

'Thuringwethil I am, who cast

a shadow o'er the face aghast

of the sallow moon in the doomed land

of shivering Beleriand.'

'Liar art thou, who shalt not weave

deceit before mine eyes. Now leave

thy form and raiment false, and stand

revealed, and delivered to my hand!'


There came a slow and shuddering change:

the batlike raiment dark and strange

was loosed, and slowly shrank and fell

quivering. She stood revealed in hell.

About her slender shoulders hung

her shadowy hair, and round her clung

her garment dark, where glimmered pale

the starlight caught in elvish veil.

Dim dreams and faint oblivious sleep

fell softly thence, in dungeons deep

an odour stole of elven-flowers

from elven-dells where silver showers

drip softly through the evening air;

and round there crawled with greedy stare

dark shapes of snuffling hunger dread.

With arms upraised and drooping head

then softly she began to sing

a theme of sleep and slumbering,

wandering, woven with deeper spell

than songs wherewith in ancient dell

Melian did once the twilight fill,

profound, and fathomless, and still.

The fires of Angband flared and died,

smouldered into darkness; through the wide

and hollow halls there rolled unfurled

the shadows of the underworld.

All movement stayed, and all sound ceased,

save vaporous breath of Orc and beast.

One fire in darkness still abode:

the lidless eyes of Morgoth glowed;

one sound the breathing silence broke:

the mirthless voice of Morgoth spoke.

'So Lúthien, so Lúthien,

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?'

She wavered, and she stayed her song.

'The road,' she said, 'was wild and long,

but Thingol sent me not, nor knows

what way his rebellious daughter goes.

Yet every road and path will lead

Northward at last, and here of need

I trembling come with humble brow,

and here before thy throne I bow;

for Lúthien hath many arts

for solace sweet of kingly hearts.'


'And here of need thou shalt remain

now, Lúthien, in joy or pain

or pain, the fitting doom for all,

for rebel, thief, and upstart thrall.

Why should ye not in our fate share

of woe and travail? Or should I spare

to slender limb and body frail

breaking torment? Of what avail

here dost thou deem thy babbling song

and foolish laughter? Minstrels strong

are at my call. Yet I will give

a respite brief, a while to live,

a little while, though purchased dear,

to Lúthien the fair and clear,

a pretty toy for idle hour.

In slothful gardens many a flower

like thee the amorous gods are used

honey-sweet to kiss, and cast then bruised,

their fragrance loosing, under feet.

But here we seldom find such sweet

amid our labours long and hard,

from godlike idleness debarred.

And who would not taste the honey-sweet

lying to lips, or crush with feet

the soft cool tissue of pale flowers,

easing like gods the dragging hours?

A! curse the Gods! O hunger dire,

O blinding thirst's unending fire!

One moment shall ye cease, and slake

your sting with morsel I here take!'

In his eyes the fire to flame was fanned,

and forth he stretched his brazen hand.

Lúthien as shadow shrank aside.

'Not thus, O king! Not thus!' she cried,

'do great lords hark to humble boon!

For every minstrel hath his tune;

and some are strong and some are soft,

and each would bear his song aloft,

and each a little while be heard,

though rude the note, and light the word.

But Lúthien hath cunning arts

for solace sweet of kingly hearts.

Now hearken!' And her wings she caught

then deftly up, and swift as thought

slipped from his grasp, and wheeling round,

fluttering before his eyes, she wound

a mazy-winged dance, and sped

about his iron-crowned head.

Suddenly her song began anew;

and soft came dropping like a dew

down from on high in that domed hall

her voice bewildering, magical,

and grew to silver-murmuring streams

pale falling in dark pools in dreams.


She let her flying raiment sweep,

enmeshed with woven spells of sleep,

as round the dark void she ranged and reeled.

From wall to wall she turned and wheeled

in dance such as never Elf nor fay

before devised, nor since that day;

than swallow swifter, than flittermouse

in dying light round darkened house

more silken-soft, more strange and fair

than sylphine maidens of the Air

whose wings in Varda's heavenly hall

in rhythmic movement beat and fall.

Down crumpled Orc, and Balrog proud;

all eyes were quenched, all heads were bowed;

the fires of heart and maw were stilled,

and ever like a bird she thrilled

above a lightless world forlorn

in ecstasy enchanted borne.

All eyes were quenched, save those that glared

in Morgoth's lowering brows, and stared

in slowly wandering wonder round,

and slow were in enchantment bound.

Their will wavered, and their fire failed,

and as beneath his brows they paled,

the Silmarils with living light

were kindled clear, and waxing bright

shone like the stars that in the North

above the reek of earth leap forth.

Then flaring suddenly they fell,

down, down upon the floors of hell.

The dark and mighty head was bowed;

like mountain-top beneath a cloud

the shoulders foundered, the vast form

crashed, as in overwhelming storm

huge cliffs in ruin slide and fall;

and prone lay Morgoth in his hall.

His crown there rolled upon the ground,

a wheel of thunder; then all sound

died, and a silence grew as deep

as were the heart of Earth asleep.

Beneath the vast and empty throne

the adders lay like twisted stone,

the wolves like corpses foul were strewn;

and there lay Beren deep in swoon:

no thought, no dream nor shadow blind

moved in the darkness of his mind.

'Come forth, come forth! The hour hath knelled,

and Angband's mighty lord is felled!

Awake, awake! For we two meet

alone before the aweful seat.'

This voice came down into the deep

where he lay drowned in wells of sleep;

a hand flower-soft and flower-cool

passed o'er his face, and the still pool

of slumber quivered. Up then leaped

his mind to waking; forth he crept.


The wolvish fell he flung aside

and sprang unto his feet, and wide

staring amid the soundless gloom

he gasped as one living shut in tomb.

There to his side he felt her shrink,

felt Lúthien now shivering sink,

her strength and magic dimmed and spent,

and swift his arms about her went.

Before his feet he saw amazed

the gems of Fëanor, that blazed

with white fire glistening in the crown

of Morgoth's might now fallen down.

To move that helm of iron vast

no strength he found, and thence aghast

he strove with fingers mad to wrest

the guerdon of their hopeless quest,

ill in his heart there fell the thought

of that cold morn whereon he fought

with Curufin; then from his belt

the sheathless knife he drew, and knelt,

and tried its hard edge, bitter-cold,

o'er which in Nogrod songs had rolled

of dwarvish armourers singing slow

to hammer-music long ago.

Iron as tender wood it clove

and mail as woof of loom it rove.

In claws of iron the gem was caught;

the knife them rent, as they were naught

but brittle nails on a dead hand.

Behold! the hope of Elvenland,

the fire of Fëanor, Light of Morn

before the sun and moon were born,

thus out of bondage came at last,

from iron to mortal hand it passed.

There Beren stood. The jewel he held,

and its pure radiance slowly welled

through flesh and bone, and turned to fire

with hue of living blood. Desire

then smote his heart their doom to dare,

and from the deeps of Hell to bear

all three immortal gems, and save

the elven-light from Morgoth's grave.

Again he stooped; with knife he strove;

through band and claw of iron it clove.

But round the Silmarils dark Fate

was woven: they were meshed in hate,

and not yet come was their doomed hour

when wrested from the fallen power

of Morgoth in a ruined world,

regained and lost, they should be hurled

in fiery gulf and groundless sea,

beyond recall while Time shall be.

The dwarvish steel of cunning blade

by treacherous smiths of Nogrod made

snapped; then ringing sharp and clear

in twain it sprang, and like a spear


or errant shaft the brow it grazed

of Morgoth's sleeping head, and dazed

their hearts with fear. For Morgoth groaned

with voice entombed, like wind that moaned

in hollow caverns penned and bound.

There came a breath; a gasping sound

moved through the halls, as Orc and beast

turned in their dreams of hideous feast;

in sleep uneasy Balrogs stirred,

and far above was faintly heard

an echo that in tunnels rolled,

a wolvish howling long and cold.

Canto10 - Canto 10
Canto11 - Canto 11
Canto12 - Canto 12
Canto13 - Canto 13
Canto14 - Canto 14
Canto15 - Canto 15
Canto16 - Canto 16
Canto17 - Canto 17
Canto18 - Canto 18
Canto19 - Canto 19
Canto20 - Canto 20
Canto21 - Canto 21
Canto22 - Canto 22

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