Legacy YM

Canto 8 - OF BEREN SON OF BARAHIR AND HIS ESCAPE

11

Dark from the North now blew the cloud;

the winds of autumn cold and loud

hissed in the heather; sad and grey

Aeluin's mournful water lay.

'Son Beren', then said Barahir,

'Thou knowst the rumour that we hear

of strength from the Gaurhoth that is sent

against us; and our food nigh spent.

On thee the lot falls by our law

to go forth now alone to draw

what help thou canst from the hidden few

that feed us still, and what is new

to learn. Good fortune go with thee!

In speed return, for grudgingly

we spare thee from our brotherhood,

so small: and Gorlim in the wood

is long astray or dead. Farewell!'

As Beren went, still like a knell

resounded in his heart that word,

the last of his father that he heard.

Through moor and fen, by tree and briar

he wandered far: he saw the fire

of Sauron's camp, he heard the howl

of hunting Orc and wolf a-prowl,

12

and turning back, for long the way,

benighted in the forest lay.

In weariness he then must sleep,

fain in a badger-hole to creep,

and yet he heard (or dreamed it so)

nearby a marching legion go

with clink of mail and clash of shields

up towards the stony mountain-fields.

He slipped then into darkness down,

until, as man that waters drown

strives upwards gasping, it seemed to him

he rose through slime beside the brim

of sullen pool beneath dead trees.

Their livid boughs in a cold breeze

trembled, and all their black leaves stirred:

each leaf a black and croaking bird,

whose neb a gout of blood let fall.

He shuddered, struggling thence to crawl

through winding weeds, when far away

he saw a shadow faint and grey

gliding across the dreary lake.

Slowly it came, and softly spake:

'Gorlim I was, but now a wraith

of will defeated, broken faith,

traitor betrayed. Go! Stay not here!

Awaken, son of Barahir,

and haste! For Morgoth's fingers close

upon thy father's throat; he knows

your trysts, your paths, your secret lair.'

Then he revealed the devil's snare

in which he fell, and failed; and last

begging forgiveness, wept, and passed

out into darkness. Beren woke,

leapt up as one by sudden stroke

with fire of anger filled. His bow

and sword he seized, and like the roe

hotfoot o'er rock and heath he sped

before the dawn. Ere day was dead

to Aeluin at last he came,

as the red sun westward sank in flame;

but Aeluin was red with blood,

red were the stones and trampled mud.

Black in the birches sat a-row

the raven and the carrion crow;

wet were their nebs, and dark the meat

that dripped beneath their griping feet.

One croaked: 'Ha, ha, he comes too late!'

'Ha, ha!' they answered, 'ha! too late!'

There Beren laid his father's bones

in haste beneath a cairn of stones;

no graven rune nor word he wrote

o'er Barahir, but thrice he smote

the topmost stone, and thrice aloud

he cried his name. 'Thy death', he vowed,

'I will avenge. Yea, though my fate

should lead at last to Angband's gate.'

And then he turned, and did not weep:

too dark his heart, the wound too deep.

Out into night, as cold as stone,

loveless, friendless, he strode alone.

13

Of hunter's lore he had no need

the trail to find. With little heed

his ruthless foe, secure and proud,

marched north away with blowing loud

of brazen horns their lord to greet,

trampling the earth with grinding feet.

Behind them bold but wary went

now Beren, swift as hound on scent,

until beside a darkling well,

where Rivil rises from the fell

down into Serech's reeds to flow,

he found the slayers, found his foe.

From hiding on the hillside near

he marked them all: though less than fear,

too many for his sword and bow

to slay alone. Then, crawling low

as snake in heath, he nearer crept.

There many weary with marching slept,

but captains, sprawling on the grass,

drank and from hand to hand let pass

their booty, grudging each small thing

raped from dead bodies. One a ring

held up, and laughed: 'Now, mates,' he cried

'here's mine! And I'll not be denied,

though few be like it in the land.

For I 'twas wrenched it from the hand

of that same Barahir I slew,

the robber-knave. If tales be true,

he had it of some elvish lord,

for the rogue-service of his sword.

No help it gave to him he's dead.

They're parlous, elvish rings, 'tis said;

still for the gold I'll keep it, yea

and so eke out my niggard pay.

Old Sauron bade me bring it back,

and yet, methinks, he has no lack

of weightier treasures in his hoard:

the greater the greedier the lord!

So mark ye, mates, ye all shall swear

the hand of Barahir was bare!'

And as he spoke an arrow sped

from tree behind, and forward dead

choking he fell with barb in throat;

with leering face the earth he smote.

Forth, then as wolfhound grim there leapt

Beren among them. Two he swept

aside with sword; caught up the ring;

slew one who grasped him; with a spring

back into shadow passed, and fled

before their yells of wrath and dread

of ambush in the valley rang.

Then after him like wolves they sprang,

howling and cursing, gnashing teeth,

hewing and bursting through the heath,

shooting wild arrows, sheaf on sheaf,

at trembling shade or shaken leaf.

14

In fateful hour was Beren born:

he laughed at dart and wailing horn;

fleetest of foot of living men,

tireless on fell and light on fen,

elf-wise in wood, he passed away,

defended by his hauberk grey

of dwarvish craft in Nogrod made,

where hammers rang in cavern's shade.

As fearless Beren was renowned:

when men most hardy upon ground

were reckoned folk would speak his name,

foretelling that his after-fame

would even golden Hador pass

or Barahir and Bregolas;

but sorrow now his heart had wrought

to fierce despair, no more he fought

in hope of life or joy or praise,

but seeking so to use his days

only that Morgoth deep should feel

the sting of his avenging steel,

ere death he found and end of pain:

his only fear was thraldom's chain.

Danger he sought and death pursued,

and thus escaped the doom he wooed,

and deeds of breathless daring wrought

alone, of which the rumour brought

new hope to many a broken man.

They whispered 'Beren', and began

in secret swords to whet, and soft

by shrouded hearths at evening oft

songs they would sing of Beren's bow,

of Dagmor his sword: how he would go

silent to camps and slay the chief,

or trapped in his hiding past belief

would slip away, and under night

by mist or moon, or by the light

of open day would come again.

Of hunters hunted, slayers slain

they sang, of Gorgol the Butcher hewn,

of ambush in Ladros, fire in Drun,

of thirty in one battle dead,

of wolves that yelped like curs and fled,

yea, Sauron himself with wound in hand.

Thus one alone filled all that land

with fear and death for Morgoth's folk;

his comrades were the beech and oak

who failed him not, and wary things

with fur and fell and feathered wings

that silent wander, or dwell alone

in hill and wild and waste of stone

watched o'er his ways, his faithful friends.

15

Yet seldom well an outlaw ends;

and Morgoth was a king more strong

than all the world has since in song

recorded: dark athwart the land

reached out the shadow of his hand,

at each recoil returned again;

two more were sent for one foe slain.

New hope was cowed, all rebels killed;

quenched were the fires, the songs were stilled,

tree felled, heath burned, and through the waste

marched the black host of Orcs in haste.

Almost they closed their ring of steel

round Beren; hard upon his heel

now trod their spies; within their hedge

of all aid shorn, upon the edge

of death at bay he stood aghast

and knew that he must die at last,

or flee the land of Barahir,

his land beloved. Beside the mere

beneath a heap of nameless stones

must crumble those once mighty bones,

forsaken by both son and kin,

bewailed by reeds of Aeluin.

In winter's night the houseless North

he left behind, and stealing forth

the leaguer of his watchful foe

he passed a shadow on the snow,

a swirl of wind, and he was gone,

the ruin of Dorthonion,

Tarn Aeluin and its water wan,

never again to look upon.

No more shall hidden bowstring sing,

no more his shaven arrows wing,

no more his hunted head shall lie

upon the heath beneath the sky.

The Northern stars, whose silver fire

of old Men named the Burning Briar,

were set behind his back, and shone

o'er land forsaken: he was gone.

Southward he turned, and south away

his long and lonely journey lay,

while ever loomed before his path

the dreadful peaks of Gorgorath.

Never had foot of man most bold

yet trod those mountains steep and cold,

nor climbed upon their sudden brink,

whence, sickened, eyes must turn and shrink

to see their southward cliffs fall sheer

in rocky pinnacle and pier

down into shadows that were laid

before the sun and moon were made.

In valleys woven with deceit

and washed with waters bitter-sweet

dark magic lurked in gulf and glen;

but out away beyond the ken

of mortal sight the eagle's eye

from dizzy towers that pierced the sky

might grey and gleaming see afar,

as sheen on water under star,

Beleriand, Beleriand,

the borders of the Elven-land.



Canto1 - OF THINGOL IN DORIATH
Canto2 - OF LÚTHIEN THE BELOVED
Canto3 - OF DAERON MINSTREL OF THINGOL
Canto4 - OF MORGOTH & THE SNARING OF GORLIM
Canto5 - OF THE SAVING OF KING FINROD FELAGUND BY THE XII BËORINGS
Canto6 - OF TARN AELUIN THE BLESSED
Canto7 - OF GORLIM UNHAPPY
Canto8 - OF BEREN SON OF BARAHIR AND HIS ESCAPE
Canto9 - OF THE COMING OF BEREN TO DORIATH; BUT FIRST IS TOLD OF THE MEETING OF MELIAN AND THINGOL
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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