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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

For March 25: "Bywater and the Bearers of Promise" by jan-u-wine, with two paintings.

Posted on 2010.03.25 at 00:18
Tags: , , , , , ,

From "The Field of Cormallen", The Return of the King:

But Gandalf lifted up his arms and called once more in a clear voice: 'Stand, Men of the West! Stand and wait! This is the hour of doom.'

And even as he spoke the earth rocked beneath their feet. Then rising swiftly up, far above the Towers of the Black Gate, high above the mountains, a vast soaring darkness sprang into the sky, flickering with fire. The earth groaned and quaked. The Towers of the Teeth swayed, tottered, and fell down; the mighty rampart crumbled; the Black Gate was hurtled in ruin; and from far away, now dim, now growing, now mounting to the clouds, there came a drumming rumble, a roar, a long echoing roll of ruinous noise.

'The realm of Sauron is ended!' said Gandalf. 'The Ring-bearer has fufilled his Quest.' And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent; for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.

I never can let go uncelebrated the anniversary of the fall of Barad-dûr, Sauron's defeat the hard-won fruit of so much sacrifice, particularly Frodo's. March 25 must be lifted up. The birth of Elanor Gamgee, too, must be commemorated.

jan-u-wine's Bywater and the Bearers of Promise touches on these things, and, in touching on them, touches me profoundly. The piece is like a series of snap-shots seen from Sam's point of view, snap-shots of the Battle of Bywater and beyond.

For illustrations, I have chosen two paintings I think are exceptionally apt. The first makes me think of the image of the despoiled Shire Sam saw in Galadriel's mirror; the second is an almost visionary picture of spring in a rural landscape.

The paintings.

1. Coalbrookdale by Night (1801) ~ Philip James de Loutherbourg:

Coalbrookdale on the River Severn was a key center of industry at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Engineers and visitors from everywhere came to witness iron being produced there, including Strasbourg-born painter Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg. The painting is considered a seminal depiction of the birth of industry in England, depicting the ironworks silhouetted against the smoke and flames and glare of what has been identified as the Bedlam Furnaces (apt name!). The iron works were in the precipitous Severn Gorge, which only made the spectacle more powerful. Perhaps Tolkien knew this painting, its image (or images like it) informing his writing of The Lord of the Rings. Not a few contemporary spectators were reminded of Hell. London actor-writer-composer Charles Dibdin wrote,

...if an atheist who never heard of Coalbrookdale, could be transported there in a dream, and left to awake at the mouth of one of those furnaces, surrounded on all sides by such a number of infernal objects, though he had been all his life the most profligate unbeliever that ever added blasphemy to incredulity, he would infallibly tremble at the last judgement that in imagination would appear to him.
The information for this painting comes from a great article by Neil Cossons, former director of London's Science Museum, viewable in full here.

2. Spring (1868-73) ~ Jean-François Millet:

This piece was commissioned late in Millet's career and was part of an unfinished set of paintings depicting the four seasons. A leading painter of the Barbizon school, Millet's painting is both lyrical and poetical. Nature's beauty is to the fore, the human figure a small bright spot in the background of a scene full of high contrast: storm and rainbow, light and dark, bare branches and new-budding growth. I think the painting makes a beautiful image of the Shire reborn, new life and light breaking through dark, evil times with vigour and loveliness.

The copy of the painting posted here is a reduction of a large file I found on the Internet. I love the way it has nearly the same palette as de Loutherbourg's hellish Coalbrookdale, but transformed into the sublime rosy warmth of late afternoon sunlight. The Musée d'Orsay, which owns the painting, hosts a small copy on its site. The colours are very different; cool greens and blues evoke a typical spring. I link it here, to show what the painting probably looks like.


May our heroes be honoured. May we celebrate the rescue of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, the cleansing of the Shire, and, because of Galadriel's gift of earth, its wondrous re-flowering. And may we rejoice in the birth of Elanor the Fair, Bag End's star-flower.

Bywater and the Bearers of Promise

~ jan-u-wine

How many here as have seen a man die?

How many as know the freed arc of blood rising,


red ribbons
flying 'gainst the gold hairs of the sun,
descending like uneasy rain to the mouth of the earth.

How many
as know the sick-sweet rot of flesh,

hewed and hidden
'neath forest's creeping green.

How many
as know the dull'd twist of sword or axe cleaving bone,

shearing a beating heart from a breast,
or a brain from its grey cage.

How many as have taken a life
and given naught in return?

How many?



It was quiet at the Cotton farm.

Quiet at table,
quieter still in the poor parlour.

Not as quiet as my Master,
but just as meaningful.

They didn't like it,

didn't like as he hadn't
drawn blade himself,

didn't like as he
(so they thought)

had no care to defend
even his own home.

Bywater pulled the last

of bravery from him,
I reckon


the blood staining his doorstep
with a dying curse

finished the job.

And I didn't think of aught
but that he should feel


once the Shire was,

and so was not to hand
on a day grey'd with despair.

There were not many days left, then,
though I knew it not,

not many days

as granted him
more than an orphan'd

of the joy he'd paid

*that* dearly for.

Before I could wink,

we had him safe to home,
sun falling through the roses of a morning,

all the Shire gold as ever the Lady's mallorn.

And my Rosie wed me.

my Rosie, with the ribbons in her copper-fine hair,

she wed me,
there in the Party Field beneath the calm blue sky.

There were two of us to care for the Master, then,


in the midst of the caring,
it all became so usual,

(so much a part of who we were),
I could not see it was all for naught,

could not see pain beneath a tight smile,
nor put sense to the meaning of his ever-far-afield

I suppose, somehow, I thought he was nigh to his same old self.


As these things happen, my Rosie-lass bore me a child.

Born on a day of hope, she was,
a day which two years since

began in desperation and ended
upon a blessing.

A girl-child, a lass of star-flower-gold locks, and not the Frodo-lad we'd expected.

And my Master laughed.

He laughed,
and found a proper name for my pretty lass,

a name of Shire and Stars,
a name of magik and memory.

I never heard him laugh, not ever, again, after that.


And now he has gone.

and left naught but the bare bones of a pledge.


That is what he named us,

beneath the knowing stars,
hope twining to hope,

and the Fair Folk's song

among familiar trees.


No, my Master,

*that* we are no longer.

*That* we have let go of,
and hold only to what remains,

to that which ever we were,
that which ever we shall be:

Bearers and keepers of a promise.


Previous entry: In Dremes by jan-u-wine, plus three paintings, [date].

Other Links:

~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.


shirebound at 2010-03-25 11:22 (UTC) (Link)
He laughed,
and found a proper name for my pretty lass,
a name of Shire and Stars,
a name of magik and memory.

Beautiful. Dear Sam.

Thank you for remembering this day. I need to go post something I prepared last night if LJ will let me. It's so slow this morning!
mechtild at 2010-03-25 13:30 (UTC) (Link)
Good morning!

I love the way Jan depicts Sam in her work. She's deepened and expanded my sense of him as a character, and my love. Sometimes he's depicted as so simple and so rustic he could never have had the perception and powers of observation to have finished the Red Book.

I'm so glad this was a meaningful post for you, Shirebound. I will be browsing the old f-list shortly.
verangel at 2010-03-25 11:51 (UTC) (Link)
"I never heard him laugh, not ever, again, after that"

and now he has gone... *chokes and sniffles*

I was reading this at 630am with tears in my eyes. The words shed so much insight into the pain and *silence* in what is left of Frodo through Sam. Simple and loving Sam.
Jan's words are profoundly beautiful and the pictures show the Peace that comes from the shire, a peace that Frodo never truly had there on his return.
Thank you so much dear ladies. You are both treasures. hugs tight xooxoxo v
mechtild at 2010-03-25 13:31 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for your observant, appreciative comment, Verangel. A joyful anniversary of the fall of Sauron, even if it is the sort of joy that's pierced with swords. :)
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2010-03-25 20:04 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you stopped by, Mews, and that you found the piece moving. I love to see the day honoured.

P.S. Your icon is brilliantly done!
not_alone at 2010-03-25 20:23 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you both - a beautiful post for this very special day:)
mechtild at 2010-03-25 21:32 (UTC) (Link)
You are welcome, Paulie. :)
Map-Maker, Lighthouse-Keeper
marinshellstone at 2010-03-25 23:52 (UTC) (Link)
beautiful. I enjoy these so much.
mechtild at 2010-03-26 01:42 (UTC) (Link)
That pleases me so much to hear, Hadara. As you can tell, I still love this story and the characters in it very, very much. :)
(Anonymous) at 2010-03-27 21:45 (UTC) (Link)
Apologies for not commenting recently, Mechtild. Computer woes! Having just about caught up with your recent entries, and with my ancient spare PC cooperating for the moment, I wanted to pop in while the going is good to say how much I have enjoyed them.

Jan’s works of prose possess the same fluidity of style as her poems ~ evocative, powerful, heart-rending and always utterly, utterly beautiful. Her latest offering is no exception:

They didn't like it,
didn't like as he hadn't
drawn blade himself,
didn't like as he
(so they thought)
had no care to defend
even his own home.

Bywater pulled the last
of bravery from him,
I reckon …

It hurts to know that many of his fellow hobbits saw Frodo as lacking in courage due to his refusal to use or even carry a weapon upon his return, or for his benevolence towards those who had caused great hurt to the Shire and to himself. Well, that was his way. He may not have wielded arms as a warrior, as others had, but the suffering and torment Frodo had endured against unimaginable (to a ‘normal’ hobbit) forces required courage and bravery of a different kind, and those who mattered most to him knew the truth ~ or most of it.

… and
the blood staining his doorstep
with a dying curse
finished the job.

In Karen Milos' thought-provoking essay 'Too Deeply Hurt, 'the author suggests that: 'Saruman, having failed to stab Frodo with his knife, resorted to stabbing him with words that could not help but insinuate themselves into Frodo's vulnerable mind, haunting him and magnifying every memory and every pain into a portent of doom.' It's heart-breaking to imagine that Frodo, after warning his fellow hobbits of Saruman's deceptive tongue, should himself fall prey to the wizard's vengeful words.

I have loved the paintings you have chosen to illustrate these entries too. The Coalbrookdale picture is an inspired choice, reflecting the scenes of devastation the Shire-folk would have witnessed during the Scouring. (I have visited Ironbridge Gorge several times ~ it is close enough to us for a day trip by car.) The accompanying image, ‘Spring,’ with its similar colour palette depicting a very different mood, is a fitting contrast to that grim, industrial landscape.

Well, I have gone on for too long. Thank you both, Jan and Mechtild.

~ Blossom.
mechtild at 2010-03-28 00:57 (UTC) (Link)
What a beautiful comment, with so many good thoughts carefully observed. I'm so glad the illustrations "worked" for you, and that this poem touched your heart and mind. I have read Milos' piece on Frodo and PTSD, a piece recommended by many a Frodo fan.

But you've been to Ironbridge Gorge? Is that what it should be called rather than the Severn Gorge? I was wondering, too, if the place had been made into a museum [of the age of modern industry's beginnings], or if it was the site of active industry.

I was going to email you this weekend, wondering if you were all right. I had missed your posts here, but also had missed seeing them in "A Journey With Frodo". I thought perhaps you were ill, or your husband was, or that some other crisis had come upon you. I sent a message to Paulie asking after you, but she said, no, you only were having serious computer problems. What a relief! (Not that you are having computer problems but because it wasn't something worse.) I'm so glad your "ancient spare PC" is serving as back-up. And I hope you are able to get a lasting computer fix soon.

Thanks so much for stopping in, Blossom. I always look forward to reading your comments.
(Anonymous) at 2010-03-28 20:17 (UTC) (Link)
I have always known the area as Ironbridge Gorge, though I believe in past times it was indeed called the Severn Gorge. Nowadays there are ten museums situated in and around the town of Ironbridge, dotted about on either side of the river valley. I visited Ironbridge many years ago with my college history class as we were studying the Industrial Revolution, but we only got the basics way back then ~ a nail-making display or something of that sort! Despite its industrial history it is a very picturesque spot since nature has been allowed to soften the landscape. The Gorge is now a World Heritage Site, and looking at the present-day attractions ~ vastly improved since my college trip ~ via the link below, it seems modern ideas and technology have served to make it a real 'experience.'

Here is the link for more information on the Gorge and its museums:


Thank you for your concern, Mechtild. Yes, all is well enough in RL ~ apart from our dog being diagnosed with diabetes a couple of months ago, but she is doing well on her daily insulin injections and a strict diet ~ it is merely my temperamental computer keeping me quiet!

Many thanks again ~ Blossom.
mechtild at 2010-03-28 20:42 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much for the informaton and link, Blossom! It sounds like the area can't be the cess-pit it was when they were dumping everything in the river. The natural scenery sounds wonderful.

And best wishes on the early diagnosis and treatment of your dog. A lot can be done to help pets with diabetes these days, just like with people!

antane at 2010-04-10 20:57 (UTC) (Link)
Another lovely poem by jan-u-wine. I am so glad you are posting all her masterpieces. Now onto more! God bless.
mechtild at 2010-04-22 03:15 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Antane. I'm sorry I didn't respond earlier; I've been away for two weeks on a family visit (with no internet). Jan-u-wine has a very, very special gift.
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