Tolkien's Landscapes 6: 'Wood at the World's End'~ picture by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.
Although utterly different in look and feel to the starkly geometric Moonlight on a Wood, Tolkien's The Wood at World's End (1927-28, pencil, black ink, watercolour) is a similarly highly stylized piece. The mountains dip in the center nearly symmetrically to frame the setting sun and the treetops merge to form a rolling green expanse, almost like waves. In the sea of trees the ranks of their boles are like great stalks of seaweed rising from the ocean floor. It isn't realistic, but the forms together create an almost mesmerizing effect.
The painting inspired jan-u-wine to write a wonderful new poem, rich and contemplative. It depicts Sam's thoughts as he sails towards World's End, the Undying Lands.
For those interested, an additional paragraph about the painting is provided at the bottom of the post.
Wood at the World's End
Ever shall it be the Master as
took delight in the Sea.
The vast, blue hush of her,
the weed'd green crystal of be-calmed,
the iron-mongery of her cold and angry eye.
Ever it was he who knew her,
in all her weather'd cloakings,
ever he who took comfort in the very thought of her.
What did he see, my heart wonders,
on that day, that *last* day,
the white-hulled ship running out, beyond the harbour, the small diamonds of stars
shining like new-lit candles,
the path through the waters stilling and changing......
changing and stilling...... ______________________
the seeing is different for each who sets foot upon that road.......
~ * ^ ~ * ^ ~ * ^ ~
my thought has been for the brown earth,
for those things that spring from it,
grow upon it,
for that which gathers
the wind from its haven of sky,
the gold of the sun from its light-river,
the moon-silver from its star-swaddled cradle.
What, then, should I see,
at this, the World's End, as the ship
quickens before the wind,
merry and solemn, all at once.
What, then, should I see?
Taken perhaps by dreme,
by that which somehow lingers upon the last bit of shore,
I see a wood.
With my eyes, I see it.
With my mind, my heart,
I know it.
My feet walk there, even as
this ship pulls beneath me,
proud swan-head bowing to the sea's lacy caps.
The ancient floor, dusted with leaves
of red and orange
and brown, smells
like sweet, dark tea.
Somehow, I know the trees
secrets to the golden wind,
secrets about me,
secrets of the beginning and the ending,
and all that lies between.
They hold me, these trees,
as a mother holds a babe.
With root-deep care, they hold me.
And somehow, I am comforted by them,
by their knobbled knees and the great roots
that delve endlessly,
by the arms that ne'er fail
to greet whatever may come.
I am held by their foreverness.
My Master, he has dremed upon the Sea.
I shall dreme, (for but a little while),
upon this wood, this
great forest of a Sea......
the mighty waves of it sounding
upon the sun-bound shore of an ending
and a beginning.
Mine. At last,
Hammond and Scull write in J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (p. 64),
Throughout most of Tolkien's art from the years 1927 and 1928, two pictorial elements predominate. One was mountains, which he drew in abundance in rugged 'Silmarillion' landscapes such as Gondolin. The other was trees, with which he was even more enamoured. (...) Massed together, trees comprise The Wood at the World's End, its title a commingling of two by William Morris (The Wood beyond the World and The Well at the World's End).
The painting may depict sunset in Valinor, the end of the world west of Middle-earth, or it may be unrelated to Tolkien's mythology; but it is an evident precursor of his dust-jacket art for The Hobbit.
Dust-jacket design for The Hobbit, final art, 1937. Pencil, black ink, watercolour, white body colour:
~ "The Misty Mountains": picture by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.