Tolkien's Landscapes 5: 'The Misty Mountains' ~ picture by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.
I was not able to find much background information about this watercolour, not even a date, but suffice it to say I like it very much, although more as a rendering of a beautiful natural setting than as a depiction of the Misty Mountains, built by Melkor, delved by dwarves and peopled by orcs and "darker, fouler" things. Its tone is soft, its warm colours glow, the composition with its pleasant road winding leisurely over the river towards the foot hills invites the viewer to approach. Thus, as lovely as the painting is, it doesn't conjure for me a sense of the book's Misty Mountains.
But if the watercolour fails to convey the grandeur, mystery and menace of the Misty Mountains, the poem it inspired does. Bilbo experienced much in the Misty Mountains -- beauty, wonder, enchantment, but also terror and darkness. Jan-u-wine's poem, reminiscing through Bilbo's eyes, savours of all these things.
"The Misty Mountains", watercolour and pencil, undated:
The Misty Mountains
It is said that Evil
brought them to being,
these now-silent peaks,
heads wreathed grey-white with cloud,
feet astride the road's ribboned miles.
Evil birthed them, ages passing
in the dwelling of it.
But light there was, too, light,
traveler's tales, and small laughter,
upon the upward and downward paths they have known.
My feet walked there,
trod the fine, all-but-silt of the Road,
bruised themselves upon the unyielding stone that stays within.
Blacker than any night, that ....
weighted by a dark
that is more than an absence of Sun.
And.... the smell of them....
these creatures of mountains (for such they are....
such they are)...
the earth-tang of vast caverns and rock-bone aeries
that live beneath the mountains water'd cloak,
or the close chambers whose scent whispers of age-beyond-age.
Ah, the smell of them:
the under-earth scent of soft, wet rock, of plants large with
strangeness, green-glow'd in this
In that compacted, close
dark, there is memory, too.
Fine-drawn pictures of the day
outside prisoning walls:
of far-off, lemony Sun,
of the risen moon's brass-burnished light.....
the small diamond pen-strokes of attendant stars.
Of pine's comforting spice, the recollection
limned in fire, the memory
swifted into pinioned night upon strong, dark wings.
I think on these things, here,
an Age and
a World away.
I think on them,
the Sun laying a fire-path upon the blue-green of the Sea,
the bright scent of Oiolairë drifting like smoke
within the high vault of the sky.
An eagle flies there, sailing upon the breast of the clear wind like a barque upon the Straight Road.
Perhaps, again, he may come to bear me away.
The Towers of Mist.
So they were, so they are.
~ "Mirkwood": pictures by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.