Note: Identified by Gandalf as one of the Rhymes of Lore While no other fantasy writer I know of uses verse to the extent Tolkien does, this particular form is fairly common. The manifestations are various - an ancient prophecy, a potent piece of magical lore, a snippet of history passed into legend, words of wisdom ranging from Zenlike utterances to folk proverbs - but the form is usually the same: the language slightly archaic or unusual, the imagery either straightforward or exaggeratedly metaphorical, and the whole having something of the feel of a nursery rhyme. Rhymes and scansion are both optional, as long as it fulfils the primary criterion for poetry, viz. interesting line breaks. The main effect conveyed is of something passed down from the days of old, translated, of course (hence the lack of refinedness by the standards of English verse) and possibly a fragment of a far larger work now lost in the mists of time. Tolkien, of course, does not take the opportunity to relax the rigour of his verse; while 'Tall ships' lacks the feel of 'high' verse, it is nonetheless technically perfect (as, indeed, are most nursery rhymes - what many authors do not realise is that for something to survive the translation through the ages unchanged, it has to be both attractive and memorable. There's a *reason* poetry is so much easier to memorise than prose is). Furthermore it is, at least to me, one of the nicest pieces of verse in tLotR - sure, it is a bit sing-song, but that's because it *works* here - the rhythm underscores the perfection of the verse, while giving it the flavour of something that was for at least part of its history passed on orally. m. Links: Both Thomas and I are diehard Tolkien fans, and we've run a number of his poems in the past. (See [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet.html) It's well worth reading through them one after another to get some feel for the sheer diversity of Tolkien's poetry, and the skill with which he handled a number of different verse forms and poetic traditions.