Friday, October 21, 2005

A song for the heart

Pelennor Fields

I deem that she yet lives

Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, rode up and drew rein before them.

‘What burden do you bear, men of Rohan?’ he cried.

‘Theoden King,’ they answered. ‘He is dead. But Eomer King now rides in the battle: he is with the white crest in the wind.’

Then the prince went from his horse, and knelt by the bier in honor of the king…and he wept. And rising, he looked then on Eowyn and was amazed. ‘Surely, here is a woman?’ he said. ‘Have even the women of the Rohirrim come to war in our time of need?’

‘Nay! One only,’ they answered. ‘The Lady Eowyn is she, sister of Eomer; and we knew naught of her riding until this hour, and greatly we rue it.’

Then the prince, seeing her beauty, though her face was pale and cold, touched her hand as he bent to look more closely on her. ‘Men of Rohan!’ he cried. ‘Are there no leeches among you? She is hurt, to the death maybe, but I deem that she yet lives.’ And he held the bright-burnished vambrace that was upon his arm before her cold lips, and behold! a little mist was laid on it, hardly to be seen…

Out of dark to the day's rising

Stern now was Eomer’s mood, and his mind was clear again. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot until all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man be left in the West to remember the King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!

These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was upon him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.

And then wonder took him, and great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned toward the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought with gems by Arwen, daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold. The king!

Out of the paths of the dead

Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isilur’s heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and the ringing of bells. But the hosts of Mordor were seized with bewilderment, and a great wizardry it seemed to them that their own ships should be filled with their foes; and a black dread fell upon them, knowing that the tides of fate had turned against them and their doom was at hand.

Let us avenge it, ere we speak of it

And so at length Eomer and Aragorn met in the midst of the battle, and they leaned on their swords and looked at one another and were glad.

‘Thus we meet again, though all the host of Mordor lay between us,’ said Aragorn. ‘Did I not say so at the Hornburg?’

‘So you spoke,’ said Eomer, ‘but hope oft deceives, and I knew not then that you were a man foresighted. Yet twice blessed is help unlooked for, and never was a meeting of friends more joyful.’ And they clasped hand in hand. ‘Nor indeed more timely,’ said Eomer. ‘You come none too soon, my friend. Much loss and sorrow has befallen us.’

‘Then let us avenge it, ere we speak of it!’ said Aragorn, and they rode back to battle together.

The Houses of Healing

She lies within and is not dead

Eomer said, ‘Where is the Lady Eowyn, my sister; for surely she should be lying beside the king, and in no less honor? Where have they bestowed her?

And Imrahil said, ‘But the Lady Eowyn was still living when they bore her hither. Did you not know?’

Then hope unlooked-for came so suddenly to Eomer’s heart, and with it the bite of fear and care renewed, that he said no more, but turned and went swiftly from the hall; and the Prince followed him. And when they came forth evening had fallen and many stars were in the sky. And there came Gandalf on foot and with him one cloaked in grey; and they met before the doors of the Houses of Healing. And they greeted Gandalf and said: ‘We seek the Steward, and men say that he is in this House. Has any hurt befallen him? And the Lady Eowyn, where is she?’

And Gandalf answered, ‘She lies within and is not dead, but is near death…’ And they were filled with fear and wonder at the tale that he told.

But Imrahil said, ‘So victory is shorn of gladness, and it is bitter bought…’ ‘Shall we not send now for the Lord Aragorn?’

And the cloaked man spoke and said, ‘He is come.’ And they saw that as he stepped into the light of the lantern by the door that it was Aragorn, wrapped in the grey cloak of the Lorien above his mail, and bearing no other token than the green stone of Galadriel…

Then Gandalf said, ‘Let us not stay at the door, for the time is urgent. Let us enter! For it is only in the coming of Aragorn that any hope remains for the sick that lie in the House. Thus spake Ioreth, wise-woman of Gondor: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.’

The hands of the king

Aragorn came to Eowyn and said: ‘Here is a grievous hurt and a heavy blow. The arm that was broken has been tended with due skill, and it will mend in time, if she has the strength to live; but the chief evil comes through the sword-arm. In that there now seems no life, although it is unbroken.

‘Alas! For she was pitted against a foe beyond the strength of her mind or body. And those who take a weapon to such enemy must be sterner than steel, if the very shock shall not destroy them. It was…doom that set her in his path. For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens…

Then Aragorn stooped and looked in her face, and it was indeed white as a lily, cold as frost, and hard as graven stone. But he bent and kissed her on the brow, and called her softly, saying:

‘Eowyn Eomund’s daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!’

She did not stir, but now she began again to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet. Once more Aragorn bruised two leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water; and he laved her brow with it, and her right arm lying cold and nerveless on the coverlet.

Then, whether Aragorn had indeed some forgotten power of the Westernesse, or whether it was but his words of the Lady Eowyn that wrought on them, as the sweet influence of the herb stole about the chamber it seemed to those who stood by that a keen wind blew through the window, and it bore no scent, but was an air wholly fresh and clean and young, as if it had not been before breathed by any living thing and came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam.

‘Awake, Eowyn, Lady of Rohan!’ said Aragorn again, and he took her right hand in his and felt it warm with life returning. ‘Awake! The shadow is gone and all darkness is washed clean!’

Your watch hath not been in vain

Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.

Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.

Sing all ye people!

Sing, all ye people!

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