02 September 2015

42 years ago today, Tolkien heard the call and said, "Farewell, friends!"

As we remember today the death of the great J.R.R. Tolkien forty-two years ago today, I thought I might post one of my favorite poems written by the Professor. The poem is said to contain Bilbo's words as he readied to depart Middle-earth and is titled, "The Grey Havens:"
Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship's beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I'll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!

Anyone who has sat upon the beach soaking in the beauty of the setting sun, knows the power of these words and the sentiments they contain. It is an experience I have frequently had here in Hawaii where I once wrote,
The ocean seems to beckon to me, to cross beyond to the hidden horizon, to go into the west, to enter the presence of God. In the sound of the waves the Lord calls to me. The vast expanse of the waters call to mind the greatness of God. The pounding of the waves on the shores call to mind the power of God. The calming repetition of the waves call to mind the gentleness of God. And when the waves crash upon the shore, leaving behind a shell or a rock or a branch, they are a reminder that when the grace of God washes over us something is always left behind on the shore of our souls.
Forty-two years ago Tolkien himself heard the call and said, "Farewell, friends!" Having lived a life of faith, his sails were set. Let us pray that he will have reached the heavens fair and free.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him!

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