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Things of Middle-earth

The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon

Type: Songs & Stories

Description:

The Man in the Moon had silver shoon,
and his beard was of silver thread;
With opals crowned and pearls all bound
about his girdlestead,
In his mantle grey he walked one day
across a shining floor,
And with crystal key in secrecy
he opened an ivory door.

On a filigree stair of glimmering hair
then lightly down he went,
And merry was he at last to be free
on a mad adventure bent.
In diamonds white he had lost delight;
he was tired of his minaret
Of tall moonstone that towered alone
on a lunar mountain set.

He would dare any peril for ruby and beryl
to broider his pale attire,
For new diadems of lustrous gems,
emerald and sapphire.
He was lonely too with nothing to do
but stare at the world of gold
And heark to the hum that would distantly come
as gaily round it rolled.

At plenilune in his argent moon
in his heart he longed for Fire:
Not the limpid lights of wan selenites;
for red was his desire,
For crimson and rose and ember-glows,
for flame with burning tongue,
For the scarlet skies in a swift sunrise
when a stormy day is young.

He'd have seas of blues, and the living hues
of forest green and fen;
And he yearned for the mirth of the populous earth
and the sanguine blood of men.
He coveted song, and laughter long,
and viands hot, and wine,
Eating pearly cakes of light snowflakes
and drinking thin moonshine.

He twinkled his feet, as he thought of the meat,
of pepper, and punch galore;
And he tripped unaware on his slanting stair,
and like a meteor,
A star in flight, ere Yule one night
flickering down he fell
From his laddery path to a foaming bath
in the windy Bay of Bel.

He began to think, lest he melt and sink,
what in the moon to do,
When a fisherman's boat found him far afloat
to the amazement of the crew,
Caught in their net all shimmering wet
in a phosphorescent sheen
Of bluey whites and opal lights
and delicate liquid green.

Against his wish with the morning fish
they packed him back to land:
'You had best get a bed in an inn,' they said;
'the town is near at hand'.
Only the knell of one slow bell
high in the Seaward Tower
Announced the news of his moonsick cruise
at that unseemly hour.

Not a hearth was laid, not a breakfast made,
and dawn was cold and damp.
There were ashes for fire, and for grass the mire,
for the sun a smoking lamp
In a dim back-street. Not a man did he meet,
no voice was raised in song;
There were snores instead, for all folk were abed
and still would slumber long.

He knocked as he passed on doors locked fast,
and called and cried in vain,
Till he came to an inn that had light within,
and he tapped at a window-pane.
A drowsy cook gave a surly look,
and 'What do you want?' said he.
'I want fire and gold and songs of old
and red wine flowing free!'

'You won't get them here,' said the cook with a leer,
'but you may come inside.
Silver I lack and silk to my back -
maybe I'll let you bide.'
A silver gift the latch to lift,
a pearl to pass the door;
For a seat by the cook in the ingle-nook
it cost him twenty more.

For hunger or drouth naught passed his mouth
till he gave both crown and cloak;
And all that he got, in an earthen pot
broken and black with smoke,
Was porridge cold and two days old
to eat with a wooden spoon.
For puddings of Yule with plums, poor fool,
he arrived so much too soon:
An unwary guest on a lunatic quest
from the Mountains of the Moon.
["The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon"]...must be derived ultimately from Gondor. [It is] evidently based on the traditions of Men, living in shorelands and familiar with rivers running into the Sea. ["The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon"] actually mentions Bay of Belfalas (the windy bay of Bel), and the Sea-ward Tower, Tirith Aear, of Dol Amroth. [...] In the Langstrand and Dol Amroth there were many traditions of the ancient Elvish dwellings, and of the haven at the mouth of the Morthond from which 'westward ships' had sailed as far back as the fall of Eregion in the Second Age. [The piece], therefore, [is] only re-handlings of Southern matter, though this may have reached Bilbo by way of Rivendell.

The Tolkien Reader, "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" preface, "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon".

Contributors: Meril. 6Dec04.

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