Tolkien’s 1925 Poem, “Light as Leaf on Lindentree”

“Light as Leaf on Lindentree”

‘Tis of Beren Ermabwed brokenhearted,

How Luthien the lissom he loved of yore

In the enchanted forest chained with wonder.

Tinûviel he named her, than nightingale

More sweet her voice, as veiled in soft

And wavering wisps of woven dusk

Shot with starlight, with shining eyes,

She danced like dreams of drifting sheen,

Pale twinkling pearls in pools of darkness.

The grass was very long and thin,

The leaves of many years lay thick,

The old tree-roots wound out and in,

And the early moon was glimmering.

There went her white feet lilting quick,

And Dairon’s flute did bubble thin,

As neath the hemlock umbels thick

Tinûviel danced a-shimmering.

The pale moths lumbered noiselessly,

And daylight, died among the leaves,

As Beren from the wild country

Came thither wayworn sorrowing.

He peered between the hemlock sheaves,

And watched in wonder noiselessly

Her dancing through the moonlit leaves

And the ghostly moths a-following.

There magic took his weary feet,

And he forgot his loneliness,

And out he danced, unheeding, fleet,

Where the moonbeams were a-glistening.

Through the tangled woods of Elfinesse

They fled on nimble fairy feet,

And left him to his loneliness

In the silent forest listening,

Still hearkening for the imagined sound

Of lissom feet upon the leaves,

For music welling underground

In the dim-lit caves of Doriath.

But withered are the hemlock sheaves,

And one by one with mournful sound

Whispering fall the beechen leaves

In the dying woods of Doriath.

He sought her wandering near and far

Where the leaves of one more year were

strewn,

By winter moon and frosty star

With shaken light a-shivering.

He found her neath a misty moon,

A silver wraith that danced afar,

And the mists beneath her feet were strewn

In moonlight palely quivering.

She danced upon a hillock green

Whose grass unfading kissed her feet,

While Dairon’s fingers played unseen

O’er his magic flute a-flickering ;

And out he danced, unheeding, fleet,

In the moonlight to the hillock green:

No impress found he of her feet

That fled him swiftly flickering.

And longing filled his voice that called “Tinûviel Tinûviel”

And longing sped his feet enthralled

Behind her wayward shimmering.

She heard as echo of a spell

His lonely voice that longing called “Tinûviel Tinûviel”

One moment paused she glimmering.

And Beren caught that elfin maid

And kissed her trembling starlit eyes,

Tinûviel whom love delayed

In the woods of evening morrowless.

Till moonlight and till music dies

Shall Beren by the elfin maid

Dance in the starlight of her eyes

In the forest singing sorrowless.

Wherever grass is long and thin,

And the leaves of countless years lie thick,

And ancient roots wind out and in,

As once they did in Doriath,

Shall go their white feet lilting quick,

But never Dairon’s music thin

Be heard beneath the hemlocks thick,

Since Beren came to Doriath.

–J.R.R. Tolkien, THE GRYPHON (June 1925), 217.

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