Academic journal article Mythlore

Poetry and Song in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Academic journal article Mythlore

Poetry and Song in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Article excerpt

POETRY AND SONG IN THE WORKS OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN. Edited by Anna Milon. Proceedings of the Tolkien Society Seminar 2017. (The Tolkien Society; Peter Roe Series XVIII, Edinburgh: Luna Press, 2018). 94 p. ISBN 9781911143499. $10.50. $5.99 Kindle format.

This book deals with a very specialized subject: Tolkien's less familiar poetic works. I was glad to learn about these, so I'm grateful to editor Anna Milon for this volume. Nor had I heard of the Peter Roe Series, which constitutes a memorial to a young Tolkien Society member who died in an auto accident far too young in 1979; this is the eighteenth in the series. For those not familiar with the Tolkien Society, it is a U.K. based educational and literary society. Their website is www.tolkiensociety.org.

Four articles fill this slim volume, but it contains valuable work, especially for the poet who appreciates the intricacy and skill of Tolkien's verse. The first piece, by Italian scholar Massimiliano Izzo, is "In Search of the Wandering Fire: Otherworldly Imagery in 'The Song of AElfwine.'" Tolkien's poem has six revisions, beginning with "The Nameless Land," published in 1927. Much influenced by the 14th-century Middle English poem, Pearl, the first version describes a paradisiacal land which mortals can only reach through dream vision. Images of the will-o'-the-wisp lead an unnamed narrator to this place, but in subsequent versions, Tolkien links this land to Tol Eressea, an ancient elven stronghold in his legendarium, setting the narrative's re-telling in the halls of King Edward, son of Alfred the Great. The unnamed narrator is now AElfwine, wanderer and time-bridge to when Elves still lived in Middle-earth. A subsequent version appears in "The Notion Club Papers," where Alwin Lowdham appears in Tolkien's attempt to create a "scientifiction" time travel tale in the 1940's. Tolkien revised the poem a final time in the '60s, which was published in The Lost Road and other Writings in 1987 (44).

Izzo does a creditable job of tracing numerous versions, discusses revisions and changes, exploring the poetic diction in each. Most interesting, Izzo seeks out recurring images of "wandering fire" which grows more prominent and meaningful with each version. I would wish for better editing of this article, as numerous errors make for more guess-work than I would want in a scholarly piece. A full version of this poem of five stanzas would make for a nice addition.

Kristine Larsen, astronomer and professor at Central Connecticut State University, writes a very sweet and clear-worded short piece on Tolkien's treatment of astronomy in Middle-earth, showing how scientifically accurate he is. In "'Diadem of the Fallen Day:' Astronomical and Arboreal Motifs in the Poem 'Kortirion among the Trees,'" Larsen effectively traces changes of the season in this poem. …

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