Tolkien’s 1923 poem, “Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden”

“Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden”

There were elves olden and strong spells

Under green hills in hollow dells

They sang o’er the gold they wrought with mirth.

In the deeps of time in the young earth,

Ere Hell was digged, ere the dragons’ brood

Or the dwarves were spawned in dungeons rude;

And men there were in a few lands

That caught some cunning of their mouths and hands.

Yet their doom came and their songs failed.

And greed that made them not to its holes haled

Their gems and gold and their loveliness,

And the shadows fell on Elfinesse.

There was an old dwarf in a deep grot

That counted the gold things he had got.

That the dwarves had stolen from men and elves

And kept in the dark to their gloomy selves.

His eyes grew dim and his ears dull.

And the skin was yellow on his old skull:

There ran unseen through his bony claw

The faint glimmer of gems without a flaw.

He heard not feet that shook the earth,

Nor the rush of wings, not the brazen mirth

Of dragons young in their fiery lust :

His hope was in gold and in jewels his trust.

Yet a dragon found his dark cold hole,

And he lost the earth and the things he stole.

There was an old dragon under an old stone

Blinking with red eyes all alone.

The flames of his fiery heart burnt dim;

His was knobbed and wrinkled and bent of limb;

His joy was dead and his cruel youth.

But his lust still smouldered and he had no ruth.

To the slime of his belly the gems stuck thick

And his things of gold he would snuff and lick

As he lay thereon and dreamed of the woe

And grinding anguish thieves should know

That ever set finger on one small ring;

And dreaming uneasy he stirred a wing.

He heard not the step nor the harness clink

Till the fearless warrior at his cavern’s brink

Called him come out and fight for his gold,

Yet iron rent his heart with anguish cold.

There was an old king on a high throne:

His white beard was laid on his knees of bone,

And his mouth savoured nor meat nor drink,

Nor his ears song, he could only think

Of his huge chest with carven lid

Where the gold and jewels unseen lay hid

In a secret treasury in the dark ground.

Whose mighty doors were iron-bound.

The swords of his warriors did dull and rust,

His glory was tarnished and his rule unjust,

His halls hollow and his bowers cold,

But he was king of elfin gold.

He heard not the horns in the mountain pass,

He smelt not the blood on the trodden grass.

Yet his halls were burned and his kingdom lost,

In a grave unhonoured his bones were tossed.

There is an old hoard in a dark rock

Forgotten behind doors none can unlock.

The keys are lost and the path gone,

The mound unheeded that the grass grows on;

The sheep crop it and the larks rise

From its green mantle, and no man’s eyes

Shall find its secret, till those return

Who wrought the treasure, till again burn

The lights of Faery, and the woods shake,

And songs long silent once more awake.

–J.R.R. Tolkien, THE GRYPHON (January 1923): 130.

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