Kortirion among the Trees
The First Verses
O fading town upon a little hill,
Old memory is waning in thine ancient gates,
The robe gone gray, thine old heart almost still;
The castle only, frowning, ever waits
And ponders how among the towering elms
The Gliding Water leaves these inland realms
And slips between long meadows to the western sea —
Still bearing downward over murmurous falls
One year and then another to the sea;
And slowly thither have a many gone
Since first the fairies built Kortirion.
O spiry town upon a windy hill
With sudden-winding alleys shady-walled
(Where even now the peacocks pace a stately drill,
Majestic, sapphirine, and emerald),
Behold they girdle of a wide champain
Sunlit, and watered with a silver rain,
And richly wooded with a thousand whispering trees
That cast long shadows in many a bygone noon,
And murmured many centuries in the breeze.
Thou art the city of the Land of Elms,
Alalminórë in the Faery Realms.
Sing of thy trees, old, old Kortirion!
Thine oaks, and maples with their tassels on,
Thy singing poplars; and the splendid yews
That crown thine agéd walls and muse
Of sombre grandeur all the day —
Until the twinkle of the early stars
Is tangled palely in their sable bars;
Until the seven lampads of the Silver Bear
Swing slowly in their shrouded hair
And diadem the fallen day.
O tower and citadel of the world!
When bannered summer is unfurled
Most full of music are thine elms —
A gathered sound that overwhelms
The voices of all other trees.
Sing then of elms, belov’d Kortirion,
How summer crowds their full sails on,
Like clothed masts of verdurous ships,
A fleet of galleons that proudly slips
Across long sunlit seas.
The Second Verses
Thou art the inmost province of the fading isle
Where linger yet the Lonely Companies.
Still, undespairing, do they sometimes slowly file
Along thy paths with plaintive harmonies:
The holy fairies and immortal elves
That dance among the trees and sing themselves
A wistful song of things that were, and could be yet.
They pass and vanish in a sudden breeze,
A wave of bowing grass — and we forget
Their tender voices like wind-shaken bells
Of flowers, their gleaming hair like golden asphodels.
Spring still hath joy: thy spring is ever fair
Among the trees; but drowsy summer by thy streams
Already stoops to hear the secret player
Pipe out beyond the tangle of her forest dreams
The long thin tune that still do sing
The elvish harebells nodding in a jacinth ring
Upon the castle walls;
Already stoops to listen to the clear cold spell
Come up her sunny aisles and perfumed halls:
A sad and haunting magic note,
A strand of silver glass remote.
Then all thy trees, old town upon a windy bent,
Do loose a long sad whisper and lament;
For going are the rich-hued hours, th’enchanted nights
When flitting ghost-moths dance like satellites
Round tapers in the moveless air;
And doomed already are the radiant dawns,
The fingered sunlight dripping on long lawns;
The odour and the slumbrous noise of meads,
When all the sorrel, flowers, and plumed weeds
Go down before the scyther’s share.
Strange sad October robes her dewy furze
In netted sheen of gold-shot gossamers,
And then the wide-umbraged elm begins to fail;
Her mourning multitudes of leaves go pale
Seeing afar the icy shears
Of Winter, and his blue-tipped spears
Marching unconquerable upon the sun
Of bright All-Hallows. Then their hour is done,
And wanly borne on wings of amber pale
They beat the wide airs of the fading vale
And fly like birds across the misty meres.
The Third Verses
Yet is this season dearest to my heart,
Most fitting to the little faded town
With sense of splendid pomps that now depart
In mellow sounds of sadness echoing down
The paths of stranded mists. O! gentle time
When the late mornings are bejewelled with rime,
And the blue shadows gather on the distant woods.
The fairies know thy early crystal dusk
And put in secret on their twilit hoods
Of grey and filmy purple, and long bands
Of frosted starlight sewn by silver hands.
They know the season of the brilliant night,
When naked elms entwine in cloudy lace
The Pleiades, and long-armed poplars bar the light
Of golden-rondured moons with glorious face.
O fading fairies and most lonely elves
Then sing ye, sing ye to yourselves
A woven song of stars and gleaming leaves;
Then whirl ye with the sapphire-winged winds;
Then do ye pipe and call with heart that grieves
To sombre men: ‘Remember what is gone —
The magic sun that lit Kortirion! ’
Now are thy trees, old, old Kortirion,
Seen rising up through pallid mists and wan,
Like vessels floating vague and long afar
Down opal seas beyond the shadowy bar
Of cloudy ports forlorn:
They leave behind for ever havens throng’d
Wherein their crews a while held feasting long
And gorgeous ease, who now like windy ghosts
Are wafted by slow airs to empty coasts;
There are they sadly glimmering borne
Across the plumbless ocean of oblivion.
Bare are thy trees become, Kortirion,
And all their summer glory swiftly gone.
The seven lampads of the Silver Bear
Are waxen to a wondrous flare
That flames above the fallen year.
Though cold thy windy squares and empty streets;
Though elves dance seldom in thy pale retreats
(Save on some rare and moonlit night,
A flash, a whispering glint of white),
Yet would I never need depart from here.
The Last Verse
I need not know the desert or red palaces
Where dwells the sun, the great seas or the magic isles,
The pinewoods piled on mountain-terraces;
And calling faintly down the windy miles
Touches my heart no distant bell that rings
In populous cities of the Earthly Kings.
Here do I find a haunting ever-near content
Set midmost of the Land of withered Elms
(Alalminórë of the Faery Realms);
Here circling slowly in a sweet lament
Linger the holy fairies and immortal elves
Singing a song of faded longing to themselves.