Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

Happy Birthday Bagginses 2017, with jan-u-wine’s ‘A Birth Day for Heroes’, art by J. R. R. Tolkien.


Beyond, by J. R. R. Tolkien - TEASER crop.jpg

Happy Birthday, Frodo and Bilbo!

Yes! It is the big day for the Bagginses and in honor of the occasion jan-u-wine has written a glorious new poem, A Birth Day for Heroes. Set after the Quest in the Undying Lands, the Bagginses are on Tol Eressëa, Frodo reflecting on what has been, what is, and what might yet be.

The illustration is a very early watercolor (July 1913) by Tolkien, titled Beyond. It is a color painting, but the only reproduction I have found is in black and white (see further discussion of the illustration below Jan’s poem). Still, even in black and white it has a lot of magic.

1913 was the year before Tolkien began to write for The Silmarillion, but even if he wasn’t actively writing about his secondary world, this picture makes me feel he was already forming that world in his head. When I look at its elements, added to the feel of it, I can’t help thinking it depicts a scene not of this world but of Aman, the Undying Lands. What I thought was a road going to the smaller pyramid-shaped mountain in the background, on closer examination is a long straight bridge flung across from the foreground, with its row of triangular shapes (hills? waves?), to the base of the smaller mountain where it appears to end or enter in. It reminds me of the Straight Road, the trees and triangles in the foreground representing this world, with the sharp peaks beyond representing the other world, the moon and star hanging or rising over them, huge and silent. Very appropriate to a poem set on Tol Eressëa.


Below: ‘Beyond’ by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1927-28:

Beyond by J. R. R. Tolkien - 1200 wide (reduced).jpg

A Birth Day for Heroes

It is the burden of heroes
to be,

just that.

Only that,
their deeds curling
in yellowed parchment's coil....

the heart-balance of them

beneath the crumpled
fabric of their tale.

Long ago,

very long ago},
he and I
released the worn
thread of our story,

wove wonder anew....

Adventured beyond
silver'd Hope

and curtained time......

flows about the Bridge,

tendril'd fingers
Sea's green embrace,

(as a mother might
gather a child
from the arms of one who is but
a nurse)

bearing our upward-bent bow,
the rose-opal of it

cloaking us in enveloped peace.

Music there is as well,

caught up within Light's silken

curving like the Bridge itself,
tender tones

seeking the round-eyed Moon,
rising in sleepy mountains,

glancing from the bright mirror
of Eärendil.....

Perhaps it is the First Song,

echoing still,
playing out upon the harp
of time-distanc'd stars,

the chorusing beauty
of creation sounding
within the shell-cradle
of my ear,

its waiting silence resonating
in my heart......


(laden within deep-layered quiet)

all is Light,

all is Music.

like all else,

is not the same here.

I may not say with certainty
which day might be rising up with the brass'd

or ending with the quiet Moon smiling
upon far-off waves....

within the spooling minutes and hours
(time-spindle holding to a never-empty skein),

I know, somehow,
it is our birth day.

Even here (especially here!)
there is a study,

books like elbows akimbo,
a fire in the grate.

And ..... him,
eyes bright with accustomed curiosity,
head bent to his quill'd task......


This is our mathom,
our place in the great tale
of for ever.....


the best birth-day
in the World, entire.


The Tolkien illustration from which Jan worked, the watercolor Beyond, was painted the summer after Tolkien turned twenty-one (Jan. 3), free at last to propose marriage to Edith Bratt. Perhaps being able publicly to acknowledge his love for Edith and feel confident in its return unleashed a stream of new creative energy.

Excerpts, including the description of the watercolor ‘Beyond’ from J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, Houghton Mifflin, 1995, p. 42:

Early in July 1913 Tolkien bought a sketch-book and took it with him on a visit to his cousins at Barnt Green. Most of the book survives in the Bodleian Library, now separated into single or conjugate leaves, but the original order of its pages can be reconstructed with some certainty. It is a fascinating record of Tolkien’s growth as an artist over at least fifteen years, and also helps to document his writing. (…) Six days after drew the romatic ‘Northern house’, on 12 January, 1914, he tried on yet another style in the watercolour Beyond. Its elements are reduced to basic forms and are brightly painted by category: pink star, purple moon, indigo mountains, pink road, black mushroom-like trees. It is a strange work, like an other-wordly view of the Pyramids, and it has a puzzling rubbed inscription: 'Alas! [?] in dreadful mood'. If the artist was under a dark cloud, it is not reflected in his cheerful colours.

Nan's Reunion-ICON ~ All Mechtild LJ entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.


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