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The Red Book has a large number of Hobbit verses. Many were made by Bilbo Baggins and his friends while others are older pieces. Some are found on loose leaves or in the margins and blank spaces of other writings. Hobbits are fond of strange words, rhymes, and metrical tricks. Many of the verses appear to be light-hearted but may have underlying meanings.
#10 "Oliphaunt" - Sam Gamgee says that "Oliphaunt" is a traditional verse.
#10 - "Oliphaunt":
Grey as a mouse,
Big as a house,
Nose like a snake,
I make the earth shake,
As I tramp through the grass;
Trees crack as I pass.
With horns in my mouth
I walk in the South,
Flapping big ears.
Beyond count of years
I stump round and round,
Never lie on the ground,
Not even to die.
Oliphaunt am I,
Biggest of all,
Huge, old, and tall.
If ever you'd met me,
You wouldn't forget me.
If you never do,
You won't think I'm true;
But old Oliphaunt am I,
And I never lie.
The Writings of Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo Baggins scribbled on one page When winter first begins to bite:
The wind so whirled a weathercock
He could not hold his tail up;
The frost so nipped a throstlecock
He could not snap a snail up.
'My case is hard' the throstle cried,
And 'All is vane' the cock replied;
And so they set their wail up.
#3 "Errantry" - This is a rhyme or story which ends with a return to the beginning so that the story never stops. Hobbits liked these kinds of stories. This example was made by Bilbo Baggins early in his career as a writer and mimics the Elvish style, although it is not Elvish. It is similar in feel to the one he created at Rivendell.
#3 - "Errantry":
There was a merry passenger,
a messenger, a mariner:
he built a gilded gondola
to wander in, and had in her
a load of yellow oranges
and porridge for his provender;
he perfumed her with marjoram
and cardamon and lavender....
#5 "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late" is also by Bilbo Baggins.
#5 - "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late":
There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill...
The Writings of Sam Gamgee
#7 "The Stone Troll" and #8 "Perry-the-Winkle" are by Sam Gamgee.
#7 - "The Stone Troll":
Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by.
Done by! Gum by!
In a cave in the hills he dwelt alone.
And meat was hard to come by...
#8 - "Perry-the-Winkle" by Sam Gamgee
The Lonely Troll he sat on a stone
and sang a mournful lay:
'O why, O why must I live on my own
in the hills of Faraway?
My folk are gone beyond recall
and take no thought of me;
alone I'm left, the last of all
from Weathertop to the Sea'....
#12 "The Cat" is marked SG but Sam Gamgee only touched up an older piece involving the "comic bestiary lore" which the Hobbits liked.
#12 - "The Cat":
The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
feet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps on his meat
where woods loom in gloom -
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet,
he does not forget.
#6 "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon" and #16 "The Last Ship" come from Gondor and reflect the Hobbits greater contacts with the outside world after the end of the Third Age. The source material shows knowledge of rivers that run into the sea in Gondor and also mentions Belfalas. These stories could have reached Bilbo Baggins while he was in Rivendell.
#6 - "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon":
The Man in the Moon had silver shoon,
and his beard was of silver thread;
With opals crowned and pearls all bound
about his girdlestead,
In his mantle grey he walked one day
across a shining floor,
And with crystal key in secrecy
he opened an ivory door...
...For hunger or drouth naught passed his mouth
till he gave both crown and cloak;
And all that he got, in an earthen pot
broken and black with smoke,
Was porridge cold and two days old
to eat with a wooden spoon.
For puddings of Yule with plums, poor fool,
he arrived so much too soon;
An unwary guest on a lunatic quest
from the Mountains of the Moon.
(Note: Another version is in The Book of Lost Tales 1).
#16 - "The Last Ship":
Firiel looked out at three o'clock:
the grey night was going;
far away a golden cock
clear and shrill was crowing.
The trees were dark, and the dawn pale,
waking birds were cheeping,
a wind moved cool and frail
through dim leaves creeping...
#14 "The Hoard" also shows a knowledge of the traditions of Rivendell and the Numenoreans. It may be based on Numenorean tales of Turin and Mim the Dwarf.
#14 - "The Hoard":
When the moon was new and the sun was young
of silver and gold the gods sung:
in the green grass they silver spilled,
and the white waters they with gold filled.
Ere the pit was dug or Hell yawned,
ere dwarf was bred or dragon spawned,
there were Elves of old, and strong spells
under green hills in hollow dells
they sang as they wrought many fair things,
and the bright crowns of the Elf-kings.
But their doom fell, and their song waned,
by iron hewn and by steel chained,
Greed that sang not, nor with mouth smiled,
in dark holes their wealth piled,
graven silver and carven gold:
over Elvenhome the shadow rolled.
There was an old dwarf in a dark cave,
to silver and gold his fingers clave;
with hammer and tongs and anvil-stone
he worked his hands to the hard bone,
and coins he made, and strings of rings,
and thought to buy the power of kings.
But his eyes grew dim and his ears dull
and the skin yellow on his old skull;
through his bony claw with a pale sheen
the stony jewels slipped unseen.
No feet he heard, though the earth quaked,
when the young dragon his thirst slaked,
and the stream smoked at his dark door.
The flames hissed on the dank floor,
and he died alone in the red fire;
his bones were ashes in the hot mire.
There was an old dragon under grey stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead and his youth spent,
he was knobbed and wrinkled, and his limbs bent
in the long years to his gold chained;
in his heart's furnace the fire waned.
To his belly's slime gems stuck thick,
silver and gold he would snuff and lick:
he knew the place of the least ring
beneath the shadow of his black wing.
Of thieves he thought on his hard bed,
and dreamed that on their flesh he fed,
their bones crushed, and their blood drank:
his ears drooped and his breath sank.
Mail-rings rang. He heard them not.
A voice echoed in his deep grot:
a young warrior with a bright sword
called him forth to defend his hoard.
His teeth were knives, and of horn his hide
but iron tore him, and his flame died.
There was an old king on a high throne:
his white beard lay on knees of bone;
his mouth savoured neither meat nor drink,
nor his ears song; he could only think
of his huge chest with carven lid
where pale gems and gold lay hid
in secret treasury in the dark ground;
its strong doors were iron-bound.
The swords of his thanes were dull with rust,
his glory fallen, his rule unjust,
his halls hollow, and his bowers cold,
but king he was of elvish gold.
He heard not the horns in the mountain-pass,
he smelt not the blood on the trodden grass,
but his halls were burned, his kingdom lost;
in a cold pit his boes were tossed.
There is an old hoard in a dark rock,
forgotten behind doors none can unlock;
that grim gate no man can pass.
On the mound grows the green grass;
there sheep feed and the larks soar,
and the wind blows from the sea-shore.
The old hoard the Night shall keep,
while earth waits and the Elves sleep.
#1 ("The Adventures of Tom Bombadil") and #2 ("Bombadil Goes Boating") come from Buckland and show knowledge of the Withywindle and Tom Bombadil. The Bucklanders may have been the ones who gave Tom Bombadil his name. #1 is the earlier piece. #2 may have been composed after Frodo and his companions met Tom Bombadil.
#1 - "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil":
Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow;
bright blue his jacket was and his boots were yellow,
green were his girdle and his breeches all of leather;
he wore in his tall hat a swan-wing feather.
He lived up under Hill, where the Withywindle
ran from a grassy well down into the dingle...
#2 - "Bombadil Goes Boating":
The old year was turning brown; the West Wind was calling;
Tom caught a beechen leaf in the Forest falling.
'I've caught a happy day blown me by the breezes!
Why wait till morrow-year? I'll take it when me pleases.
This day I'll mend my boat and journey as it chances
west down the withy-stream, following my fancies!'...
#4 "Princess Mee"
Little Princess Mee
Lovely was she
As in elven-song is told:
She had pearls in her hair
All threaded fair;
Of gossamer shot with gold
Was her kerchief made.
And a silver braid
Of stars about her throat.
Of moth-web light
She wore a woven coat,
And round her kirtle
Was bound a girdle
Sewn with diamond dew.
She walked by day
Under mantle grey
And hood of clouded blue;
But she went by night
All glittering bright
Under the starlit sky,
And her slippers frail
Of fishes' mail
Flashed as she went by
To her dancing-pool,
And on mirror cool
Of windless water played.
As a mist of light
In whirling flight
A glint like glass she made
Wherever her feet
Of silver fleet
Flicked the dancing-floor.
She looked on high
To the roofless sky,
And she looked to the shadowy shore;
Then round she went,
And her eyes she bent
And saw beneath her go
A Princess Shee
As fair as Mee:
They were dancing toe to toe!
Shee was as light
As Mee, and as bright;
But Shee was, strange to tell,
With starry crown
Into a bottomless well!
Her gleaming eyes
In great surprise
Looked up to the eyes of Mee:
A marvellous thing,
Head-down to swing
Above a starry sea!
Only their feet
Could ever meet
For where the ways might lie
To find a land
Where they do not stand
But hang down in the sky
No one could tell
Nor learn in spell
In all the elven-lore.
So still on her own
And elf alone
Dancing as before
With pearls in hair
And kirtle fair
And slippers frail
Of fishes' mail went Mee:
Of fishes' mail
And slippers frail
And kirtle fair
With pearls in hair went Shee!
#9 "The Mewlips":
The shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.
You sink into the slime, who dare
To knock upon their door,
While down the grinning gargoyles stare
And noisome waters pour.
Beside the rotting river-strand
The drooping willows weep,
And gloomily the gorcrows stand
Croaking in their sleep.
Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool's borders without wind or tide,
Moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide.
The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.
Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;
Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish-flap-flip,
As they sidle to the door.
They peep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they've finished, in a sack
Your bones they take to keep.
Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and the gallows-weed,
You go to find the Mewlips - and the Mewlips feed.
Look, there is Fastitocalon!
An island good to land upon,
Although 'tis rather bare,
Come, leave the sea! And let us run,
Or dance, or lie down in the sun!
See, gulls are sitting there!
Gulls do not sink.
There they may sit, or strut and prink:
Their part it is to tip the wink,
If anyone should dare
Upon that isle to settle,
Or only for a while to get
Relief from sickness or the wet,
Or maybe boil a kettle.
Ah, foolish folk, who land on HIM,
And little fires proceed to trim
And hope perhaps for tea!
It may be that His shell is thick,
He seems to sleep; but He is quick,
And floats now in the sea
And when He hears their tapping feet,
Or faintly feels the sudden heat,
And promptly turning upside-down
He tips them off, and deep they drown,
And lose their silly live
To their surprise.
There are many monsters in the Sea,
But none so perilous as HE,
Old horny Fastitocalon,
Whose mighty kindred all have gone,
The last of the old Turtle-fish.
So if to save your life you wish
Then I advise:
Pay heed to sailors' ancient lore,
Set foot on no uncharted shore!
Or better still,
Your days at peace on Middle Earth
#13 - "Shadow Bride"
There was a man who dwelt alone,
as day and night went past
he sat as still as carven stone,
and yet no shadow cast,
The white owls perched upon his head
beneath the winter moon;
they wiped their beaks and thought him dead
under the stars of June.
There came a lady clad in grey
in the twilight shining:
one moment she would stand and stay,
her hair with flowers entwining,
He woke, as had he sprung of stone,
and broke the spell that bound him;
he clasped her fast, both flesh and bone,
and wrapped her shadow round him.
There never more she walks her ways
by sun or moon or star;
she dwells below where neither days
nor any nights there are.
But once a year when caverns yawn
and hidden things awake,
they dance together then till dawn
and a single shadow make.
#15 "The Sea-Bell" comes from the Fourth Age. It is also known as "Frodos Dreme". It is probably not written by Frodo Baggins but the verses were associated with the dark dreams Frodo had every March and October during the last three years of his life. The verse may also reflect the Hobbit tradition of "wandering-madness". Those who returned from distant journeys were often seen as "queer and uncommunicable". The Hobbits thought often of the Sea but, certainly by the end of the Third Age, they did not trust Elvish traditions.
#15 - "The Sea-Bell":
I walked by the sea, and there came to me,
as a star-beam on the west sand,
a white shell like a sea-bell;
trembling it lay in my wet hand.
In my fingers shaken I heard waken
a ding within, by a harbour bar
a buoy swinging, a call ringing
over endless seas, faint now and far.
Then I saw a boat silently float
on the night-tide, empty and grey.
'It is later than late! Why do we wait?'
I leapt in and cried, 'Bear me away!'
It bore me away, wetted with spray,
wrapped in a mist, wound in a sleep,
to a forgotten strand in a strange land.
In the twilight beyond the deep
I heard a sea-bell swing in the swell,
dinging, dinging, and the breakers roar
on the hidden teeth of a perilous reef;
and at last I came to a long shore,
White it glimmered, and the sea simmered
with star-mirrors in a silver net;
cliffs of stone pale as ruel-bone
in the moon-foam were gleaming wet.
Glittering sand slid through my hand,
dust of pearl and jewel-grist,
trumpets of opal, roses of coral,
flutes of green and amethyst.
But under cliff-eaves there were glooming caves,
weed-curtained, dark and grey;
a cold air stirred in my hair,
and the light waned, as I hurried away.
Down from a hill ran a green rill;
its water I drank to my heart's ease.
Up its fountain-stair to a country fair
of ever-eve I came, far from the seas,
climbing into meadows of fluttering shadows:
flowers lay there like fallen stars,
and on a blue pool, glassy and cool,
like floating moons the nenuphars.
Alders were sleeping, and willows weeping
by a slow river of rippling weeds;
gladdon-swords guarded the fords,
and green spears, and arrow-reeds.
There was echo of song all the evening long
down in the valley; many a thing
running to and fro; hares white as snow,
voles out of holes; moths on the wing
with lantern-eyes; in quiet surprise
brocks were staring out of dark doors.
I heard dancing there, music in the air,
feet going quick on the green floors.
But whenever I came it was ever the same:
the feet fled, and all was still;
never a greeting, only the fleeting
pipes, voices, horns on the hill.
Of river-leaves and the rush-sheaves
I made me a mantle of jewel-green,
a tall wand to hold, and a flag of gold;
my eyes shone like the star-sheen.
With flowers crowned I stood on a mound,
and shrill as a call at cock-crow
proudly I cried; 'Why do you hide?
Why do none speak, wherever I go?
Here now I stand, king of this land,
with gladdon-sword and reed-mace.
Answer my call! Come forth all!
Speak to me words! Show me a face!'
Black came a cloud as a night-shroud.
Like a dark mole groping I went,
to the ground falling, on my hands crawling
with eyes blind and my back bent.
I crept to a wood: silent it stood
in its dead leaves; bare were its boughs.
There must I sit, wandering in wit,
while owls snored in their hollow house.
For a year and a day there must I stay:
beetles were tapping in the rotten trees,
spiders were weaving, in the mould heaving
puffballs loomed about my knees.
At last there came light in my long night,
and I saw my hair hanging grey.
'Bent though I be, I must find the sea!
I have lost myself, and I know not the way,
but let me be gone!' Then I stumbled on;
like a hunting bat shadow was over me;
in my ears dinned a withering wind,
and with ragged briars I tried to cover me.
My hands were torn and my knees worn,
and years were heavy upon my back,
when the rain in my face took a salt taste,
and I smelled the smell of sea-wrack.
Birds came sailing, mewing, wailing;
I heard voices in cold caves,
seals barking, and rocks snarling,
and in spout-holes the gulping of waves.
Winter came fast; into a mist I passed,
to land's end my years I bore;
snow was in the air, ice in my hair,
darkness was lying on the last shore.
There still afloat waited the boat,
in the tide lifting, its prow tossing.
Weary I lay, as it bore me away,
the waves climbing, the seas crossing,
passing old hulls clustered with gulls
and great ships laden with light,
coming to haven, dark as a raven,
silent as snow, deep in the night.
Houses were shuttered, wind round them muttered,
roads were empty. I sat by a door,
and where drizzling rain poured down a drain
I cast away all that I bore:
in my clutching hand some grains of sand,
and a sea-shell silent and dead.
Never will my ear that bell hear,
never my feet that shore tread
Never again, as in sad lane,
in blind alley and in long street
ragged I walk. To myself I talk;
for still they speak not, men that I meet.
From: The Tolkien Reader
See Other Songs for other hobbit-like songs and another version of The Hoard.
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