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The Road Goes Ever On -- J R R Tolkien

(Poem #4) The Road Goes Ever On
The Road goes ever on and on
    Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
    Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? I cannot say.
-- J R R Tolkien
from The Lord of the Rings, 1954.

While Tolkien needs no introduction, I feel that his poetry deserves a
wider audience than Middle Earth fan(atic)s. The poem above is surely
one of his best known, and IMHO one of his best.

In the book, it is referred to as the 'walking song', written by Bilbo
and quoted by Frodo. Two other verses can be found, one in the Hobbit
and one at the end of the LotR. There was a wonderful piece of prose
accompanying it, comparing the Road to a river, with every path a
tributary, and every doorstep a spring, which I'd love to have typed in,
but I don't have the book with me.


78 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Martin DeMello said...

A number of you have asked about the other verses of the 'Road Goes Ever On'
song quoted at various places in the Hobbit/LotR. So:

'The Road Goes Ever On'

From the Hobbit:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

From the LotR:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

-- J R R Tolkien

The verses from the Hobbit were spoken by Bilbo, as was the last LotR verse.
The first was sung twice by Frodo, the second time with 'weary feet'
substituted for 'eager feet' (they were tired by then <g>)

The following is from the LotR, immediately after the 'weary feet' verse.

'That sounds like a bit of old Bilbo's rhyming,' said Pippin. 'Or is it one
of your imitations? It does not sound altogether encouraging.'
'I don't know,' said Frodo. 'It came to me then, as if I was making it up;
but I may have heard it long ago. Certainly it reminds me very much of Bilbo
in the last years, before he went away. He used often to say there was only
one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every
doorstep, and every path was its tributary. "It's a dangerous business,
Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and
if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept
off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through
Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain
or even worse places?" He used to say that on the path outside the front
door at Bag End, especially after he had been out for a long walk.'


JelloGrrl14 said...

I loved this poem, it is written very well. I'm looking forward to more poems.

Matthew Chanoff said...

In addition to writing his fantasies and poetry, Tolkien he was an Oxford
scholar and a leading interpreter of Beowulf. According to Seamus Heaney, in
the introduction to his recent translation of the Anglo Saxon epic,
"Tolkien's brilliant literary treatment changed the way the poem was valued
and initiated a new era -- and new terms -- of appreciation."

Back in high school I'd never read past the Grendel and Grendel's mother
episodes in Beowulf, so I was delighted to discover the later section of the
poem. Beowulf returns to Geatland and eventually becomes king. Picking it
up at line 2210:

... He ruled it well
for fifty winters, grew old and wise
as warden of the land
- until one began
to dominate the dark, a dragon on the prowl
from the steep vaults of a stone-roofed barrow
where he guarded a hoard; there was a hidden passage,
unknown to men, but someone managed
to enter by it and interfere
with the heathen trove. He had handled and removed
a gem-studded goblet; it gained him nothing,
though with a thief's wiles he had outwitted
the sleeping dragon; that drove him into rage,
as the people of that country would soon discover.

There must be the source for Bilbo the thief, making his way down the secret
passage to the dragon's hoard, where he steals a goblet, and provokes the
dragon's rage.

Once you start noticing them, bits of the Beowulf saga echo all through The
Hobbit. Grim, heroic Bard, who eventually slays the dragon, is modeled on
Beowulf himself. When Beowulf goes to confront the dragon, he takes a
company of 11 men, then brings a 12th, the thief himself, to show the way to
the dragon's lair. Thorin takes Bilbo along as his thief, but he already
has 12 men, so with Bilbo he avoids the unlucky company of 13. Maybe that's
why Beowulf dies in the act of slaying his dragon, while Bard survives the
encounter with his. Beowulf's last request, as he lays dying, is to have his
loyal thane bring some of the dragon's treasure up, so he can gaze upon it
as he dies. In contrast, Thorin gives up gold in his dying words "Since I
leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to
part in friendship from you."

Matt Chanoff

Wright Bruce said...

This song is sung in the new movie Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf sings it in the opening scene, and Bilbo sings it as he is leaving Bag End.

Shaun Ehrhart said...

There is a fourth verse to the poem given by Bilbo at the Havens:
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
Aday will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

Shaun Ehrhart said...

There is another verse to the poem given by Bilbo at the Havens:

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

--J.R.R Tolkien

bridgeen doherty said...

I just love this poem and yes it has a haunting effect
another lovely poem I love is THE STOLEN CHILD by
Padraig Pearse, these are poems I learned at school a
long long time ago and used to resite them for my father

bruce patras ppatras said...

what ever happened to the entwives ??
peace bruce

Catreona said...

Sean, the verse you give is to a different song, namely the one Frodo, Sam and Pippin sing together while walking in the nighttime Shire.

from memory:

Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.


IIRC this is described as one of Bilbo's walking songs.

Angel said...

There's a LotR musical that has little bits of this in its song "The Road Goes On". Of course, they added a verse for Merry and Pippin, who are, of course, talking about eating.

edu said...

the road is goes but we will be back again

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