The Beauty of Making a Child Weep

Lucy and I are up to ‘A Journey in the Dark’ — Chapter 4 of Book Two of The Lord of the Rings. So we’ve finished off ‘The Council’, and Caradhras has defeated us.

But what I want to note here is a much smaller but far more poignant moment. In Ch. 3 of Bk. 2 (‘The Ring goes South’), Bilbo and Frodo share a rather lovely moment. The council has ended and Frodo (et al) are preparing for the journey to come. Bilbo bequeaths both his mithril coat (given to him by Thorin) and his sword, Sting.

Bilbo then appears to get rather emotional. Turning away from Frodo, “he looked out of the window, trying to hum a tune”.

I have personally always read that moment of looking away and “trying” to hum a tune as a sign of Bilbo’s not wanting Frodo to see his emotions on-show.

Indeed, Bilbo then remarks that he would like to write Frodo’s story, offering the caveat, “if I am spared.” It is then that he recites the following poem/song:

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

[LotR, ii, 3, ‘The Ring Goes South’]

When I first read this to Lucy she took little notice. She thought it was ‘nice’, but didn’t go any deeper. I then read it to her again, stanza-by-stanza, and asked her what each might mean. It became quickly apparent that Bilbo was singing of his past, of longing, of a future without him, of his loved ones, and of course, of his own mortality.

Balin by Turner Mohan

Lucy became slightly weepy at this point.

Bravo, Professor. Bravo.

2 thoughts on “The Beauty of Making a Child Weep

Add yours

  1. This poem is so profoundly touching, tugging at those heartstrings delicately, but with a powerful effect. It’s always caused sadness in me, so that I have to close my book for a moment and ponder the words.

    Liked by 1 person

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