One of my favourite epics is Lord of The Rings by J.R.Tolkien, it was one of those 1960s happenings that sprang into life and became fully formed for many people. Today it is still popular as the films testify. It was one of those extraordinary feats of writings encompassing a whole world of adventure, not set in the human world, though they did in fact appear, but in the make believe world of the Hobbits, elves, tree-ents, a tale of honour, courage and bravery against unknown dark forces that conspired to take over this middle earth. A pitched battle between good and evil and the films gloriously bought out the bloodiness of the many battles fought. Tolkien wrote other books, the Silmarillon being one of them, but he also wrote books within the history of his make-believe world, and one of them to be found in Lord of the Rings is the Red Book, fragments of prose, written poetry, etc. This book culminated in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by Tolkien.
The first rather romantic poem is one of my favourites, a small story written into the poem, that makes you ask who are these people, the man sitting 'still as carven stone', and why the lady was wandering through the wood. There are other thoughts to be had from the images, the great stones along the Avenue at Avebury is supposed to reflect male and female stones, and I have often wondered whether they to were people who have been turned into stone by unseen forces.
I shall record three poems from the book, the other two I recited to my children, the Mewlips one of course with great relish and a leap at the end. The cat one is in response towards cats who I feel are completely selfish creatures who live with humans without giving much in return.
There was a man who dwelt alone,
as day and night went past
he sat as still as carven stone,
and yet no shadow cast.
The white owls perched upon his head
beneath the winter moon;
they wiped their beaks and thought him dead
under the stars in June.
There came a lady clad in grey
in the twilight shinning:
one moment she would stand and stay,
her hair with flowers entwining.
He woke, as had he sprung from stone,
and broke the spell that bound him;
he clasped her fast, both flesh and bone,
and wrapped her shadow round him.
There never more she walks her ways
by sun or moon or star;
she dwells below where neither days
nor any nights there are.
But once a year when caverns yawn
and hidden things awake,
they dance together then till dawn
and a single shadow make.
The Shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.
You sink into the slime, who dare
To knock upon their door,
While down the grinning gargoyles stare
And noisome waters pour.
Beside the rotting river-strand
The drooping willows weep,
And gloomily the gorcrows stand
Croaking in their sleep.
Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool´s borders without wind or tide,
Moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide.
The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.
Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;
Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish-flap-flip,
As they sidle to the door.
They peep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they´ve finished, in a sack
Your bones they take to keep.
Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and gallows-weed,
You go to find the Mewlips - and the Mewlips feed.
The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim
,or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps upon his meat
where woods loom in gloom --
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet
he does not forget.