Sunday Night Journal, September 2, 2018
Sunday Night Journal, September 9, 2018

52 Poems, Week 36: Song of the Ents and Entwives (Tolkien)

Ent. When spring unfolds the beechen-leaf and sap is in the bough,
When light is on the wild-wood stream, and wind is on the brow,
When stride is long, and breath is deep, and keen the mountain air,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is fair!
Entwife. When Spring is come to garth and field, and corn is in the blade,
When blossom like a shining snow is on the orchard laid,
When sun and shower upon the earth with fragrance fill the air,
I'll linger here, and will not come, because my land is fair.
Ent. When Summer lies upon the world, and in a noon of gold
Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold,
When woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the West,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is best!
Entwife. When Summer warms the hanging fruit and burns the berry brown;
When straw is gold, and ear is white, and harvest comes to town;
When honey spills, and apple swells, though wind be in the West,
I'll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best!
Ent. When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
I'll look for thee, and call to thee; I'll come to thee again!
Entwife. When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I'll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!
Both. Together we will take the road that leads into the West,
And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.

*

There's a lot of verse in The Lord of the Rings. I enjoy most of it but for me it mainly serves a sort of decorative function. This poem, though, really struck me the last time I read the book. I think it stands alone, except maybe for the fact that you need to know who the Ents and the Entwives are. I guess everybody does at least know the Ents from the movies, but I don't think the poignant story of their lost wives made it into those. It's only a few pages in the "Treebeard" chapter, but it's too long to quote here, and too good to quote an excerpt. Suffice to say that the Ents wanted to wander the forests, and the Entwives wanted to tend their gardens, and gradually they lost each other. 

As Treebeard explains to Merry and Pippin, the song was actually made by the Elves:

The Elves made many songs concerning the Search of the Ents, and some of the songs passed into the tongues of Men. But we made no songs about it, being content to chant their beautiful names when we thought of the Entwives....

It is Elvish, of course: lighthearted, quickworded, and soon over. I daresay it is fair enough. But the Ents could say more on their side, if they had time!

I think it's a beautiful, profound, and poignant comment on man and woman and marriage and Christian hope. Not exactly lighthearted, though, except from an Ent's perspective. 

By the way this is the poem I mentioned last week, that I had intended to post but couldn't figure out how to format. I could have just done it the easy way and put the "Ent:" / "Entiwife:" notes on a line by themselves, but I stubbornly wanted to lay it out the way it is in the book. The solution was an HTML table. But the lines didn't quite fit in the text column. So I expanded that column a bit. I'm not sure if that helps or hinders reading normal paragraphs. I may or may not leave it that way. I did it yesterday morning. Has anyone noticed?

--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.

Comments

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No. I was busy all day.

AMDG

Stay tuned next week for Tom Bombadil!

Unlikely. I actually don't care much for Bombadil's song.

I really like that poem; almost enough to make me attempt to tackle the books. :)

There is some mention of the Entwives in The Two Towers movie (I found the subtitles for it):

--Why are there so few of you when you have lived so long? Are there Ent children?
--There have been no Entings for a terrible long count of years.
- Why is that?
--We lost the Entwives.
--Oh, I'm sorry. How did they die?
--Die? No. We lost them. And now we cannot find them. I don't suppose you've seen Entwives in the Shire?
--Can't say that I have. You, Pip?
--What do they look like?
--I don't remember now.

Not nearly so poignant as the poem, but still sad.

Oh man. You should read the account in the book. That dialog is like paraphrasing Hamlet's "To be or not to be" as "Sometimes I think it would be better just to end it all, but then again I think maybe not." I know I have to make allowances for it being a movie, but they could just as well have left it out.

Beautiful poem

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