Happy Birthday Bagginses 2016, with jan-u-wine’s ‘Nothing Is There Better’, art by J. R. R. Tolkien
Happy Birthday, Frodo and Bilbo!
Greetings! Forgive my lack of presence, the combined result of responsibilities to others and creeping decreptitude. :) I am inspired to post, however, because jan-u-wine has written a beautiful new poem in honor of the day, Nothing Is There Better. "Beautiful" is almost a limp descriptive of Nothing Is There Better, it is such a lovely piece. When I read it I seem to feel it, literally; I experience it through my senses, making the emotional impact the more powerful. The way Jan sets up her spare but perfect word-pictures does this, the clarity of observation, through Frodo's eyes, expressing the subtle depth of his new-yet-becoming-familar life on Tol Eressëa across the Sea. I think his healing, if obliquely stated, is greatly in evidence, as if there is a profound quiet inside Frodo, a contemplative quiet that seems only occasionally disturbed by the static of past pain and suffering. And Bilbo is still there, a heart of joy, if a very old and very frail one. I love this new poem with all my Tolkien-enraptured soul.
The illustration is a picture Tolkien made while on holiday with his young family at Lyme Regis. They were there in 1927 and 1928. Tolkien did a lot of drawing and painting on these visits, much of it eventually informing future illustrations for his imaginative work. His study of trees along a path approaching a view of the sea, "Tumble Hill" (locally called "Timber Hill"), is a picture that contributed to illustrations of wooded scenes to come, the forest of Taur-na-fuin and the Vale of Sirion in Silmarillion, and Mirkwood and the Elven Kind's gate in The Hobbit. It seems like spring in "Tumble Hill", the leaves, high up, not fully out, the air clear and fresh, the shape and texture of the tree boles predominant. It was this picture that inspired Jan's poem.
Below: ‘Timber Hil’ by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1927-28:
Nothing Is There Better
Nothing is there better, my lad,
than the quiet company of the Road.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In dawn’s pearl light they wake me,
the small scent of rain sweet,
twine’d by silver
As if it were the ending and the beginning of every Road,
this common track calls me, limned ribbon rising to tree-crowned hill.
In a moment, my feet find the coarse-paper’d dust of the upward path,
my thoughts woven about the fragile voicings of brake-starlings
and the mithril paths of slow-wandered snails.
Sharp as just-birthed rock, the morning air,
sharp and crushed-mint fine, moth-wing wind dancing
among the grasses of the ditch. ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~
It is not new to me, this Hill,
moss-barked trees leaf-ringed and silent in the soft bronze of morning.
It is not new to me, the leagues-distant Sea-eye,
the smalt-deep of it glowing like the very jewel beneath-the-mountain.
It is all that is new:
the untouchable beauty of lace waves,
the bold-raced prow of the Sun,
the grey of twilight and the sound of water
singing amongst the river-rocks.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Sun is sullen in Her mid-day tramp when I return, still more than half a-dreme.
Uncle is all but-yet-abed, tea and seed-cake scattered about the board,
his face alight, as always, with the wanting of Adventures.
And I tell him my simple tale, the Adventure small, by compare (as always mine have been).
Small as the stars, and just as distanced by velvet wonder.
Later, we smoke a pipe in the garden, the roses waxy beneath a risen Moon.
It is better than dancing and cake
and dragon fire-works, this.
It is better than the company of the Road.
It is our birth-day, kind and quiet and good.
~ All Mechtild LJ entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.