The Trees of Kortirion
O ancient city on a leaguered hill!
Old shadows linger in your broken gate,
Your stones are grey, your old halls now are still,
Your towers silent in the mist await
Their crumbling end, while through the storeyed elms
The River Gliding leaves these inland realms
And slips between long meadows to the Sea,
Still bearing down by weir and murmuring fall
One day and then another to the Sea;
And slowly thither many days have gone
Since first the Edain built Kortirion.
Kortirion! Upon your island hill
With winding streets, and alleys shadow-walled
Where even now the peacocks pace in drill
Majestic, sapphirine and emerald,
Once long ago amid this sleeping land
Of silver rain, where still year-laden stand
In unforgetful earth the rooted trees
That cast long shadows in the bygone noon,
And whispered in the swiftly passing breeze,
Once long ago, Queen of the Land of Elms,
High City were you of the Inland Realms.
Your trees in summer you remember still:
The willow by the spring, the beech on hill;
The rainy poplars, and the frowning yews
Within your aged courts that muse
In sombre splendour all the day,
Until the firstling star comes glimmering,
And flittermice go by on silent wing;
Until the white moon slowly climbing sees
In shadow-fields the sleep-enchanted trees
Night-mantled all in silver-grey.
Alalminor! Here was your citadel,
Ere bannered summer from his fortress fell;
About you stood arrayed your host of elms:
Green was their armour, tall and green their helms,
High lords and captains of the trees.
But summer wanes. Behold, Kortirion!
The elms their full sail now have crowded on
Ready to the winds, like masts amid the vale
Of mighty ships too soon, too soon, to sail
To other days beyond these sunlit seas.
Alalminórë! Green heart of this Isle
Where linger yet the Faithful Companies!
Still undespairing here they slowly file
Down lonely paths with solemn harmonies:
The Fair, the first-born in an elder day,
Immortal Elves, who singing on their way
Of bliss of old and grief, though men forget,
Pass like a wind among the rustling trees,
A wave of bowing grass, and men forget
Their voices calling from a time we do not know,
Their gleaming hair like sunlight long ago.
A wind in the grass! The turning of the year.
A shiver in the reeds beside the stream,
A whisper in the trees — afar they hear,
Piercing the heart of summer’s tangled dream,
Chill music that a herald piper plays
Foreseeing winter and the leafless days.
The late flowers trembling on the ruined walls
Already stoop to hear that elven-flute.
Through the wood’s sunny aisles and tree-propped halls
Winding amid the green with clear cold note
Like a thin strand of silver glass remote.
The high-tide ebbs, the year will soon be spent;
And all your trees, Kortirion, lament.
At morn the whetstone rang upon the blade,
At eve the grass and golden flowers were laid
To wither, and the meadows bare.
Now dimmed already comes the tardier dawn,
Paler the sunlight fingers creep across the lawn.
The days are passing. Gone like moths the nights
When white wings fluttering danced like satellites
Round tapers in the windless air.
Lammas is gone. The Harvest-moon has waned.
Summer is dying that so briefly reigned.
Now the proud elms at last begin to quail,
Their leaves uncounted tremble and grow pale,
Seeing afar the icy spears
Of winter march to battle with the sun.
When bright All-Hallows fades, their day is done,
And borne on wings of amber wan they fly
In heedless winds beneath the sullen sky,
And fall like dying birds upon the meres.
Alas! Kortirion, Queen of Elms, alas!
This season best befits your ancient town
With echoing voices sad that slowly pass,
Winding with waning music faintly down
The paths of stranded mist. O fading time,
When morning rises late all hoar with rime,
And early shadows veil the distant woods!
Unseen the Elves go by, their shining hair
They cloak in twilight under secret hoods
Of grey, their dusk-blue mantles gird with bands
Of frosted starlight sewn by silver hands.
At night they dance beneath the roofless sky,
When naked elms entwine in branching lace
The Seven Stars, and through the boughs the eye
Stares down cold-gleaming in the high moon’s face.
O Elder Kindred, fair immortal folk!
You sing now ancient songs that once awoke
Under primeval stars before the Dawn;
You dance like shimmering shadows in the wind,
As once you danced upon the shining lawn
Of Elvenhome, before we were, before
You crossed wide seas unto this mortal shore.
Now are your trees, old grey Kortirion,
Through pallid mists seen rising tall and wan,
Like vessels vague that slowly drift afar
Out, out to empty seas beyond the bar
Of cloudy ports forlorn;
Leaving behind for ever havens loud,
Wherein their crews a while held feasting proud
In lordly ease, they now like windy ghosts
Are wafted by cold airs to friendless coasts,
And silent down the tide are borne.
Bare has your realm become, Kortirion,
Stripped of its raiment, and its splendour gone.
Like lighted tapers in a darkened fane
The funeral candles of the Silver Wain
Now flare above the fallen year.
Winter is come. Beneath the barren sky
The Elves are silent. But they do not die!
Here waiting they endure the winter fell
And silence. Here I too will dwell;
Kortirion, I will meet the winter here.
I would not find the burning domes and sands
Where reigns the sun, nor dare the deadly snows,
Nor seek in mountains dark the hidden lands
Of men long lost to whom no pathway goes;
I heed no call of clamant bell that rings
Iron-tongued in the towers of earthly kings.
Here on the stones and trees there lies a spell
Of unforgotten loss, of memory more blest
Than mortal wealth. Here undefeated dwell
The Folk Immortal under withered elms,
Alalminórë once in ancient realms.