A Christmas Poem by J.R.R. Tolkien

Noel

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.
The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.
The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.
Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.
Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

J.R.R. Tolkien

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3 Responses to A Christmas Poem by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. arthurjaco says:

    Not bad, I didn’t know Tolkien was into poems as well…
    I’m not sure I would agree with his eschatological views, though…

    On another note, a new video featuring DBH and Samuel Watkinson, a young universalist protestant theologian from New Zealand as well as an occasional commentator at EO, has been released on Youtube two days ago.
    It’s called “The Relationship Between Christianity and Other Religions with David Bentley Hart”.
    Enjoy!

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    • Grant says:

      Poetry is huge aspect of Tolkien’s literary work (not only does it make significant parts of LOTR but significant parts of his wider mythology were written in verse not prose such as the Lays of Beleriand, including the Lay of Leithian which concerns the story of Beren and Luthien, though as so often he never completed them). In fact poetry was more natural medium though he preferred older styles (not surprising given his study and work on Anglo-Saxon and medieval poems such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, both of which you can find him addressing in academic lectures turned essays, the Beowulf one being pretty famous and apparently is one of the most cited humanities works). Then again he was of the opinion English literature went downhill after Chaucer, being where it really ended he thought.

      Though looking at the more explicit parts theologically of his work I think at times pushes a universalist point even though he didn’t realize it. For example Iluvatar tells Melkor that no theme can be played, no thing can be done that doesn’t have it’s uttermost source in Him nor can anything alter what He intends and calls it to be, suvh actions becoming part of delivering that purpose. But of course this includes Melkor himself, therefore the point underlines a point beyond what Tolkien would have committed himself to at the time. In the end, without affecting his freedom whatsoever Melkor will be and become truly Melkor and not remain Morgoth. Morgoth will die, Melkor will return and come forth, and so for him, so everything and everyone affected by the discord, no matter how far into nothingness they stray. Not what consciously intended but principle is there and often working throughout.

      But I hadn’t come across this poem before and am glad to read it, and am certainly glad he was inspired in boyhood by Earendil poem or would have no sub-created world from him at all 🙂 .

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  2. This is why it was surprising for Tolkien scholar Wayne Hammond to discover a poem that was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was originally published in the 1936 annual of Our Lady’s School in Oxfordshire and simply entitled, “ Noel .” Here is an excerpt from the poem by Tolkien, which serves as a perfect meditation for the Christmas season (The entire poem can be accessed on this website ).

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