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Old 09-15-2004, 12:29 PM   #91
King's Writer
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VE-02: Okay, your are perhaps right in this, though I can accept that.

VE1-11: I think we must analyse the Song completely through before we can get some answers. So I will start to give my view of it. For convenience I will give first the text of the poem as revised in 1940. For reference I have numbered the lines according to the numbering in LT (some line were skipped in 1940):
I know a window in a Western tower
that opens on celestial seas,
from wells of dark behind the stars
there ever blows cold a keen unearthly breeze.
It is a white tower builded on the Twilit Isles, . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
and springing from their everlasting shade
it glimmers like a house of lonely pearl,
where lights forlorn take harbour ere they fade.

Its feet are washed by waves that never rest.
There silent boats go by into the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
all piled and twinkling in the dark
with orient fire in many a hoarded spark
that divers won
in waters of the rumoured Sun.
There sometimes throbs below a silver harp, . . . . . . . . . . . 15
touching the heart with sudden music sharp;
or far beneath the mountain high and sheer
the voices of grey sailors echo clear,
afloat among the shadows of the world
in oarless ships and with their canvas furled, . . . . . . . . . . . 20
chanting a farewell and a solemn song:
for wide the sea is, and their journey long.

O happy mariners upon a journey far,
beyond the grey islands and past Gondobar,
to those great portals on the final shores . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
where far away constellate fountains leap,
and dashed against Night's dragon-headed doors
in foam of stars fall sparkling in the deep!
While I look out alone behind the moon
Imprisoned in the white and windy tower, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
you bide no moment and await no hour, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
but go with solemn song and harpers' tune. . . . . . . . . . . . 36

You follow [Eärendil] without rest,
the shining mariner, beyond the West,
who passed the mouth of night and launched his bark
upon the seas of everlasting dark. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Here only long afar through window-pane . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
I glimpse the flicker of the golden rain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
that falls for ever on those outer seas
beyond the country of the shining Trees.
Stance 1 and 2 are a kind of introduction. Up to line 11 the poem does tell us the place that the poet will talk about. I think that the position of the tower is clear enough and that nothing said here raised any contradiction.
The line 10 to 14 are more critical. They doe tell us something about the journey of the mariners: Line 10 does tell us that the ships are sailing from east to west at the moment described by the poem. Line 11 to 14 doe tell us some thing about the load the ships carry and therewith some thing of the purpose and course of the journey they had undertaken before they encounter the Tower (possibly for the second time). With our knowledge of LT we could make that knowledge of the journey more clear: The mariners are "elfin divers{, and divers of the fays}" that had "sought beyond the outmost East" for "secret sparks in many an unknown ocean cavern". What the sparks are in the circumstances of the LT is clear: "much precious radiance [that] was spilled in their [the Gods] attempts about the deepest waters" "to draw the Sun ... beneath the Earth". But this concept is clearly gone in 1940 when the poem was last revised and even earlier when the poem was greatly reshaped. Thus what Tolkien meant the "orient fire in many a hoarded spark" to be, in the later version is unknown to us and we should kept it dubious.
Line 15 to 22 tell us that the mariners did know that the tower was inhabited and sing a farewell to him which led him to his lament in the second half of the poem. How did they know about him? This raise the question were the journey of this mariners started. Were did they come from? In my view they could only be Teleri (Solosimpi) that had come from Eldamar and crossed the tower once before. Or (and that might prove the killing argument for the inclusion of the poem) if the scene for the poem was later they were Elves of Tol Eressea that were on such a journey. If the west as the home of mariners and the place of their final destination is accepted, than the next trouble some lines 23 to 28 become clearer: The "journey fare" had led the "happy mariners" from their home "beyond the grey islands [were the tower stood] and past Gondobar" (poetic form of an messenger of Turgon to say) fare to the east and know they are heading back into the west "to those great portals on the final shores where far away constellate fountains leap, and dashed against Night's dragon-headed doors in foam of stars fall sparkling in the deep!" Thus my conclusion in the last post was clearly wrong the "portal on the last shore" is the door of the night. And this again hints at a later date for the scene, since the door is only necessary when Morgoth is finally put outside the world.
In my view the rest of the poem is more or less uncritical.

In this long and winding post I have now explained to the best of my ability what kind of journey the happy mariners did undertake and how the description given in the poem can be interpreted in accordance with that, but I also convinced myself that the journey described would be impossible before the bane of the Noldor was lifted and Morgoth was finally overthrown. Thus I am now convinced that we should not include the poem in the chapter of The Voyage of Eärendil. If there is any place for it in our work it must be placed in the second age, but that is far in the future so we need not discuss it now. (That's what is so nice in our discussion: I will learn which each new post - in some rare cases even with my own once.)

So I think we are settled at long last concerning the poem. We will not include it here. But I still think we should keep the Sleeper in the Tower of Pearl even if his song is gone.

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