Early Poems

In 1914 and 1915, before Tolkien began writing stories that would make up The Book Of Lost Tales, he wrote poems inspired by the imaginary world that was already developing in his mind - the world of elves, enchanted lands and seas, the world of magic. I present here some of those early poems.

Eärendil the Mariner (painting by Ted Nasmith)

The Last Voyage of Eärendel

This was the first poem Tolkien wrote about Eärendel, in 1914.

Eärendel arose where the shadow flows
At Ocean’s silent brim;
Through the mouth of night as a ray of light
Where the shores are sheer and dim
He launched his bark like a silver spark
From the last and lonely sand;
Then on sunlit breath of the day’s fiery death
He sailed from Westerland.

He threaded his path o’er the aftermath
Of the splendour of the Sun,
And wandered far past many a star
In his gleaming galleon.
On the gathering tide of darkness ride
The argosies of the sky,
And spangle the night with their sails of light
As the streaming star goes by.

Unheeding he dips past these twinkling ships,
By his wayward spirit whirled
On an endless quest through the darkling West
O’er the margin of the world;
And he fares in haste o’er the jewelled waste
And the dusk from whence he came
With his heart afire with bright desire
And his face in silver flame.

The Ship of the Moon from the East comes soon
From the Haven of the Sun,
Whose white gates gleam in the coming beam
Of the mighty silver one.
Lo! with bellying clouds as his vessel’s shrouds
He weighs anchor down the dark,
And on shimmering oars leaves the blazing shores
In his argent-timbered bark.

Then Éarendel fled from that Shipman dread
Beyond the dark earth’s pale,
Back under the rim of the Ocean dim,
And behind the world set sail;
And he heard the mirth of the folk of earth
And the falling of their tears,
As the world dropped back in a cloudy wrack
On its journey down the years.

Then he glimmering passed to the starless vast
As an isléd lamp at sea,
And beyond the ken of mortal men
Set his lonely errantry,
Tracking the Sun in his galleon
Through the pathless firmament,
Till his light grew old in abysses cold
And his eager flame was spent.

The Shores of Faery (painting by J.R.R. Tolkien)

 The Shores of Faëry

This was one of the oldest poems about Tolkien's mythology, written in 1915.

East of the Moon, west of the Sun
There stands a lonely hill;
Its feet are in the pale green sea,
Its towers are white and still,
Beyond Taniquetil
In Valinor.

Comes never there but one lone star
That fled before the moon;
And there the Two Trees naked are
That bore Night’s silver bloom,
That bore the globéd fruit of Noon
In Valinor.

There are the shores of Faëry
With their moonlit pebbled strand
Whose foam is silver music
On the opalescent floor
Beyond the great sea-shadows
On the marches of the sand
That stretches on for ever
To the dragonheaded door,
The gateway of the Moon,
Beyond Taniquetil
In Valinor.

West of the Sun, east of the Moon
Lies the haven of the star,
The white town of the Wanderer
And the rocks of Eglamar.
There Wingelot is harboured,
While Eärendel looks afar
O’er the darkness of the waters
Between here and Eglamar -
Out, out, beyond Taniquetil 
In Valinor, afar.

“You and Me and the Cottage of Lost Play” (image by Jane Stephen)

You and Me / and the Cottage of Lost Play

Written in 1915 and dedicated to Edith.

We knew that land once, You and I,
and once we wandered there
in the long days now long gone by,
a dark child and a fair.
Was it on the paths of firelight thought
in winter cold and white,
or in the blue-spun twilit hours
of little early tucked-up beds
in drowsy summer night,
that you and I in Sleep went down
to meet each other there,
your dark hair on your white nightgown
and mine was tangled fair?

We wandered shyly hand in hand,
small footprints in the golden sand,
and gathered pearls and shells in pails,
while all about the nightingales
were singing in the trees.
We dug for silver with our spades,
and caught the sparkle of the seas,
then ran ashore to greenlit glades,
and found the warm and winding lane
that now we cannot find again,
between tall whispering trees.

There was neither night nor day,
an ever-eve of gloaming light,
when first there glimmered into sight
the Little House of Play.
New-built it was, yet very old,
white, and thatched with straws of gold,
and pierced with peeping lattices
that looked toward the sea;
and our own children's garden-plots
were there: our own forget-me-nots,
red daisies, cress and mustard,
and radishes for tea.
There all the borders, trimmed with box,
were filled with favourite flowers, with phlox,
with lupins, pinks, and hollyhocks,
beneath a red may-tree;
and all the gardens full of folk
that their own little language spoke,
but not to You and Me.

For some had silver watering-cans
and watered all their gowns,
or sprayed each other; some laid plans
to build their houses, little towns
and dwellings in the trees.
And some were clambering on the roof;
some crooning lonely and aloof;
some dancing round the fairy-rings
all garlanded in daisy-strings,
while some upon their knees
before a little white-robed king
crowned with marigold would sing
their rhymes of long ago.
But side by side a little pair
with heads together, mingled hair,
went walking to and fro
still hand in hand; and what they said,
ere Waking far apart them led,
that only we now know.