Kortirion among the Trees
O fading town upon an inland hill,
Old shadows linger in thine ancient gate,
Thy robe is grey, thine old heart now is still;
Thy towers silent in the mist await
Their crumbling end, while through the storeyed elms
The Gliding Water leaves these inland realms,
And slips between long meadows to the Sea,
Still bearing downward over murmurous falls
One day and then another to the Sea;
And slowly thither many years have gone,
Since first the Elves here built Kortirion.
O climbing town upon thy windy hill
With winding streets, and alleys shady-walled
Where now untamed the peacocks pace in drill
Majestic, sapphirine, and emerald;
Amid the girdle of this sleeping land,
Where silver falls the rain and gleaming stand
The whispering host of old deep-rooted 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, Kortirion, again:
The beech on hill, the willow in the fen,
The rainy poplars, and the frowning yews
Within thine agéd courts that muse
In sombre splendour all the day;
Until the twinkle of the early stars
Comes glinting through their sable bars,
And the white moon climbing up the sky
Looks down upon the ghosts of trees that die
Slowly and silently from day to day.
O Lonely Isle, here was thy citadel,
Ere bannered summer from his fortress fell.
Then full of music were thine elms:
Green was their armour, green their helms,
The Lords and Kings of all thy trees.
Sing, then, of elms, renowned Kortirion,
That under summer crowds their full sail on,
And shrouded stand like masts of verdurous ships,
A fleet of galleons that proudly slips
Across long sunlit seas.
Thou art the inmost province of the fading isle,
Where linger yet the Lonely Companies;
Still, undespairing, here they slowly file
Along thy paths with solemn harmonies:
The holy people of an elder day,
Immortal Elves, that singing fair and fey
Of vanished things that were, and could be yet,
Pass like a wind among the rustling trees,
A wave of bowing grass, and we forget
Their tender voices like wind-shaken bells
Of flowers, their gleaming hair like golden asphodels.
Once Spring was here with joy, and all was fair
Among the trees; but Summer drowsing by the stream
Heard trembling in her heart the secret player
Pipe, out beyond the tangle of her forest dream,
The long-drawn tune that elvish voices made
Foreseeing Winter through the leafy glade;
The late flowers nodding on the ruined walls
Then stooping heard afar that haunting flute
Beyond the sunny aisles and tree-propped halls;
For thin and clear and cold the note,
As strand of silver glass remote.
Then all thy trees, Kortirion, were bent,
And shook with sudden whispering lament:
For passing were the days, and doomed the nights
When flitting ghost-moths danced as satellites
Round tapers in the moveless air;
And doomed already were the radiant dawns,
The fingered sunlight drawn across the lawns;
The odour and the slumbrous noise of meads,
Where all the sorrel, flowers, and plumed weeds
Go down before the scyther’s share.
When cool October robed her dewy furze
In netted sheen of gold-shot gossamers,
Then the wide-umbraged elms began to fail;
Their mourning multitude of leaves grew pale,
Seeing afar the icy spears
Of Winter marching blue behind the sun
Of bright All-Hallows. Then their hour was done,
And wanly borne on wings of amber pale
They beat the wide airs of the fading vale,
And flew like birds across the misty meres.
This is the season dearest to the heart,
And time most fitting to the ancient town,
With waning musics sweet that slow depart
Winding with echoed sadness faintly down
The paths of stranded mist. O gentle time,
When the late mornings are begemmed with rime,
And early shadows fold the distant woods!
The Elves go silent by, their shining hair
They cloak in twilight under secret hoods
Of grey, and filmy purple, and long bands
Of frosted starlight sewn by silver hands.
And oft they dance beneath the roofless sky,
When naked elms entwine in branching lace
The Seven Stars, and through the boughs the eye
Stares golden-beaming in the round moon’s face.
O holy Elves and fair immortal Folk,
You sing then ancient songs that once awoke
Under primeval stars before the Dawn;
You whirl then dancing with the eddying wind,
As once you danced upon the shimmering lawn
In Elvenhome, before we were, before
You crossed wide seas unto this mortal shore.
Now are thy trees, old Grey Kortirion,
Through pallid mists seen rising tall and wan,
Like vessels floating vague, and drifting far
Down opal seas beyond the shadowy bar
Of cloudy ports forlorn;
Leaving behind for ever havens loud,
Wherein their crews a while held feasting proud
And lordly ease, they now like windy ghosts
Are wafted by slow airs to windy coasts,
And glimmering sadly down the tide are borne.
Bare are thy trees become, Kortirion;
The rotted raiment from their bones is gone.
The seven candles of the Silver Wain,
Like lighted tapers in a darkened fane,
Now flare above the fallen year.
Though court and street now cold and empty lie,
And Elves dance seldom neath the barren sky,
Yet under the white moon there is a sound
Of buried music still beneath the ground.
When winter comes, I would meet winter here.
I would not seek the desert, or red palaces
Where reigns the sun, nor sail to magic isles,
Nor climb the hoary mountains’ stony terraces;
And tolling faintly over windy miles
To my heart calls no distant bell that rings
In crowded cities of the Earthly Kings.
For here is heartsease still, and deep content,
Though sadness haunt the Land of withered Elms
(Alalminórë in the Faery Realms);
And making music still in sweet lament
The Elves here holy and immortal dwell,
And on the stones and trees there lies a spell.