Jan-u-wine's 'As Shall I' and 'These Were His', with drawings by Tolkien and screencaps.
In a little over a day, countless fans will be lining up at theatres across the United States to see the premiere midnight showings of The Hobbit. I hope it's huge. But before the celebrating begins, let's pause to savour the beauties of two particular hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Theirs is a beauty of spirit and intellect and imagination, of heart, and, for those who recognize such realities, of soul. To my mind, no one better lifts up these qualities than jan-u-wine. I am pleased to the marrow that she has written two new pieces from the points of view of these characters. I have accompanied them with screencaps from Bilbo and Frodo's reunion scene in Rivendell, and with drawings by J. R. R. Tolkien, who had a great deal of Bilbo in him, including Bilbo's love of letters, drawing and the making of books.
How I love these two poems, individually but also as a complementary pair. In the first, 'As Shall I', Bilbo is in Rivendell. The Fellowship has departed on the Quest and he is left to reflect. In the second, 'These Were His', Frodo is across the Sea and Bilbo has departed, and Frodo reflects.
Although the times and setting are dissimilar, in both poems the protagonists handle and contemplate physical objects that remind them of the other. But what a difference in how they feel about the these objects. Bilbo reflects upon treasured items, things Frodo has left behind or that Bilbo intends to give to Frodo on his return. "This, this, this ... these I will keep ready for him, for he will want to have them, surely". Bilbo envisions a Frodo returned holding each thing, regarding it, making use of it. The things are tokens that connect Bilbo to the one with whom he hopes to be rejoined. Frodo is also contemplating items Bilbo has left behind, but Frodo envisions no reunion. He looks at them knowing he will never see Bilbo hold or use them again, at least not in this world. But in Tolkien's tale in the Appendices, Aragorn, dying, says something relevant to Arwen. While Aragorn acknowledges Arwen's distress and grief, he declares this to her:
“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold, we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.”
That there is "more than memory" for Frodo and Bilbo, too, is my hope.
As Shall I
We are not lads anymore,
either of us.
Still, it is he, now, departing upon an
(my Adventure, truth be told)
and I who must remain, (tucked up, like a parchment within its close envelope),
Two months were we granted to say our farewells,
silences and sudden words
dealt out between councils and map-gathering,
songs and secrecy.
Now it is winter.
They have gone, and taken the Sun with them.
The Elves have left the tidying of his room to me.
Grey light, pale as a fog-misted moon, lives within it.
There are leaves upon the floor, crook-spines rusty with departed Autumn,
the warm tea-scent of them faded to naught by Winter's breath.
He is a careful traveler, my nephew.
And yet, perforce, one who may not take all that he had brought.
This is not, after all, the light holiday he imagined,
this is not the tra-la-la of Elven tales beneath a night-star'd sky.
There is much that he has left behind.
He shall want these things when he returns:
he shall want his Da's pipe,
the bowl fashioned as an Oliphaunt's trunk....
he shall want his best quill and the pot of green ink
(gifted by me, as solemn reminder that ....he need
not always be..... so.... very solemn).....
he shall want the flower-journal he had of his mum,
mithril-runes dancing like opal stars upon the cover,
green-spined herbs and fragile-petall'd flowers pressed within.
He shall want all these things when next he walks within this hidden valley.
Like a cloak, gathered against the darkest cold of night,
I hold them to me.
These small things.... they shall be here,
waiting upon his return.
As shall I.
As ever shall I.
These Were His
These were his.
Oh, nothing of worth, perhaps,
to anyone else.
Nothing of greater worth to me.
Disordered bits of parchment,
ragged with his anxious scrawl,
wax drips, like a rainbow of errant thought......
flowers, heads drooped and dried with neglect,
within a dark-watered vase.
The smell of pipe-weed lingers yet where last he set pipe and pouch to rest.
A quieten'd quill, nib worn to ruin, lies cross-wise upon his journal.
The over-sewn riot of his favorite waist-coat,
red as fire, buttons brass'd with bold initials.....