Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The death of Beleg...


For the feet's fetters     then feeling in the dark
Beleg blundering     with his blade's keenness
unwary wounded     the weary flesh
of wayworn foot,     and welling blood
bedewed his hand -    too dark his magic:
that sleep profound     was sudden fathomed;
in fear woke Túrin,     and a form he guessed
o'er his body bending     with blade naked.
His death or torment     he deemed was come,
for oft had the Orcs     for evil pastime
him goaded gleeful     and gashed with knives
that they cast with cunning,     with cruel spears.
Lo! the bonds were burst     that had bound his hands:
his cry of battle     calling hoarsely
he flung him fiercely     on the foe he dreamed,
and Beleg falling     breathless earthward
was crushed beneath him.     Crazed with anguish
then seized that sword     the son of Húrin,
to his hand lying     by the help of doom;
at the throat he thrust;      through he pierced it,
that the blood was buried     in the blood-wet mould;
ere Flinding knew     what fared that night,
all was over.     With oath and curse
he bade the goblins     now guard them well,
or sup on his sword:     "Lo! the son of Húrin
is freed from his fetters."     His fancy wandered
in the camps and clearings     of the cruel Glamhoth.
Flight he sought not     at Flinding leaping
with his last laughter,     his life to sell
amid foes imagined;     but Fuilin's son
there stricken with amaze,     starting backward,
cried: "Magic of Morgoth!     A! madness damned!
with friends thou fightest!" -     then falling suddenly
the lamp o'erturned     in the leaves shrouded
that its light released     illumined pale
with its flickering flame     the face of Beleg.
Then the boles of the trees     more breathless rooted
stone-faced he stood     staring frozen
on that dreadful death,     and his deed knowing
wildeyed he gazed     with waking horror,
as in endless anguish     an image carven.
So fearful his face     that Flinding crouched
and watching him, wondering     what webs of doom
dark, remorseless,     dreadly meshed him
by the might of Morgoth;     and he mourned for him,
and for Beleg, who bow     should bend no more,
his black yew-wood     in battle twanging -
his life had winged     to its long waiting
in the halls of the Moon     o'er the hills of the sea.

Hark! he heard the horns     hooting loudly,
no ghostly laughter     of grim phantom,
no wraithlike feet     rustling dimly -
the Orcs were up;     their ears had hearkened
the cries of Túrin;     their camp was tumult,
their lust was alight     ere the last shadows
of night were lifted.    Then numb with fear
in hoarse whisper     to unhearing ears
he told his terror;     for Túrin now
with limbs loosened     leaden-eyed was bent
crouching crumpled     by the corse moveless;
nor sight nor sound     his senses knew,
and wavering words     he witless murmured,
"A! Beleg," he whispered,     "my brother-in-arms."
Though Flinding shook him,     he felt it not:
had he comprehended     he had cared little.
Then winds were wakened     in wild dungeons
where thrumming thunders     throbbed and rumbled;
storm came striding     with streaming banners
from the four corners     of the fainting world;
then the clouds were cloven     with a crash of lightning,
and slung like stones     from slings uncounted
the hurtling hail     came hissing earthward,
with deluge dark     of driving rain.
Now wafted high     now wavering far
the cries of the Glamhoth     called and hooted,
and the howls of wolves     in the heavens' roaring
was mingled mournful:     they missed their paths,
for swollen swept there     swirling torrents
down the blackening slopes,     and the slot was blind,
so that blundering back     up the beaten road
to the gates of gloom     many goblins wildered
were drowned or drawn     in Deadly Nightshade
to die in the dark;     while dawn came not,
while the storm-riders     strove and thundered
all the sunless day,     and soaked and drenched
Flinding go-Fuilin     with fear speechless
there crouched awake;     cold and lifeless
lay Beleg the bowman;     brooding dumbly
Túrin Thalion     neath the tangled thorns
sat unseeing     without sound or movement.

The dusty dunes     of Dor-na-Fauglith
hissed and spouted.     Huge rose the spires
of smoking vapour     swathed and reeking,
thick-billowing clouds     from thirst unquenched,
and dawn was kindled     dimly lurid
when a day and night     had dragged away.
The Orcs had gone,     their anger baffled,
o'er the weltering ways     weary faring
to their hopeless halls     in Hell's kingdom;
no thrall took they     Túrin Thalion -
a burden bore he     than their bonds heavier,
in despair fettered     with spirit empty
in mourning hopeless     he remained behind.
The Lay of the Children of Húrin, 1236-1337.

Changes and explanation of names in the narrative.

Flinding go-Fuilin > Gwindor son of Guilin, a Gnomish captive in Angband who witnessed the murder of his brother at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears by the soldiery of the Dark Lord.
Glamhoth > A Sindarin name for the Orcs; it means "clamorous host."
Deadly Nightshade > An allusion to the wooded highlands of Dorthonion in which, after his humiliation at Tol-in-Gaurhoth, Sauron dwelt and made there an abode of dark magic and despair.
Dor-na-Fauglith > This actually became two places; Dor Daedeloth, the Land of Morgoth or the lands far south and north of Thangorodrim which were noman lands, and Anfauglith, "the gasping dust," once the green fields of Ard Galen which fell in fair rolling pastures down from the highlands of Dorthonion ere the Battle of Sudden Flame.

This tragic part of the Narn is much in accord with later versions; the knife with which Beleg cut the bonds of thralldom from Túrin rousing him from sleep, the coming of the storm, the tumult of the orc host aroused by Túrin's cries, their flight from their encampment at the coming of the storm, Gwindor's fear at Túrin's countenance. Where it differs is the allusion to the Gnomish lamp revealing Beleg's face in death; in the Narn it was a lightning stroke of the very storm itself; and in the Narn the Orcs were not in rout but went all back to Angband and not hither and thither, some to "Hell's kingdom," others into "Deadly Nightshade."

Angband is literally Hell on earth. The physical place of the dominion of Morgoth, physically incarnate and ruling from his northern throne. At the Battle of Unnumbered Tears Gwindor, witnessing the decapitation and dismemberment of his brother, had rushed headlong into the murderers and slew them and then in his madness had riden to within the very courts of Hell, and there was taken and enslaved. The tragedy of those days is that some, by their arts, and Gwindor was among them, could escape the pits of Hell and walk again among their own people, but they were broken, bowed down and the shadow of Morgoth was on them so that they were often shunned and expelled from the sundered kindreds of Beleriand. It's said that Gwindor was as among the aged of men when he appeared again in Nargothrond and for his valour in times past was received with honour, but "Morgoth has laid my life in ruin," he said to Faelivrin.

It is the sense of reality in the text that is so appealing here. "With a deluge dark," marvellous.

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