Poetry of J.R.R. Tolkien

Discussions about the Professor's poetic verses from Middle-earth
Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:36 pm

I shall find it and have a listen :D .
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:03 pm


On September 19, 1931, C. S. Lewis invited J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson to dinner at Magdalen College and after dinner they went for a walk. But not just a walk. Their talk that night was seminal, particularly for Lewis, who later cited that conversation as an important turning point in his conversion to Christianity. Their topic that night was the nature of myth. Lewis thought at the time that ‘myth’ was synonymous with ‘lie’ although, since he enjoyed mythology, he added that a myth was a lie “breathed through silver”. Tolkien contended that myths do not necessarily have to be false, that they still can function in the way myths do, even if they are true.

During the next several days, Tolkien composed the first version of the poem “Mythopoeia”, the title of which is a coined word from the Greek meaning ‘myth-making’. It is dedicated “To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’” and it is subtitled “Philomythus [myth-lover] to Misomythus [myth-hater]”. As far as I know, the only place where the poem is published legally is in the third edition of a short collection entitled Tree and Leaf (Harper Collins, 1988). (It may also be found on the ‘net—enough said!)

In the preface to this collection, Christopher Tolkien wrote that “Mythopoeia” is so closely related to part of the essay “On Fairy-Stories” that his father quoted fourteen lines from the poem in the essay. Both texts defend myth-making as not lying, obviously: at the time it was written, Tolkien was well immersed in the writing of his mythology and so the essay and the poem are something of a self-defense. But in the process, Tolkien reveals some deep truths about life, the world, and creativity.



Please join us for a discussion of “Mythopoiea”!
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Jan 08, 2010 8:11 pm

Great introduction, Merry! I'm up for this and will read the poem over the weekend :D .
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:39 pm

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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:31 pm

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Lindariel

“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Postby Merry » Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:35 pm

Iolanthe, I left my copy of the poem at school, so I'll check 'tifi' tomorrow, but I think it is an error.

I loved the sarcasm in the 'denoting' line. It is a slap at the academic world, particularly analytic philosophers and, I presume, the linguists that base themselves in that philosophy. These people are interested only in words and symbols, as an internal system, not as referring to a real world, which they claim not to be sure exists. Come on! Really? Don't they go home to their families and houses in their cars, etc., when they end their day of proving there is no real world?

But my favorite line is something like this: I will not worship your Iron Crown, nor lay my own small golden scepter down. Go Tolkien!
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:30 am

I do believe "tifi" is a typo. It should be "till". I found the poem on several sites, some of them reproduce the typo, but on one associated with a university, I found the poem reproduced with this verse cited thusly,

"Yet trees are not 'trees,' until so named and seen -
and never were so named, till those had been
who speech's involuted breath unfurled . . ."

This make sense to me, although I would think The Professor would have used "'til" instead of "till" in this context. Interesting. This may be yet another typo. Does anyone have the edition of Tree and Leaf with the published poem?
Last edited by Lindariel on Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Lindariel



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:41 am

I found the following paper on the poem Mythopoeia. What do you think?

http://www.polyoinos.de/tolk_stuff/myth ... short.html
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Lindariel



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Postby Merry » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:36 am

Lindariel, I've got the proper edition of Tree and Leaf, but I left it at school. (I left it at home when I needed it at school last week. Moral of the story: I need to carry the dang thing in my purse at all times!) I'll check it tomorrow.

Thanks for the very interesting link. The author is correct that 'Mythopoeia' is a statement of JRRT's metaphysics/ontology ('metaphysics' is an ancient word coined by Aristotle, meaning the study of what it is that makes something real or exist; 'ontology' is a more modern word meaning roughly the same thing). I'm not sure I agree with him that Tolkien's metaphysics is Platonic. I think it's more Aristotelian. Aristotle, of course, was Plato's student, and so Aristotelian philosophy includes much of what Plato thought. But Aristotle thought that the two levels of reality, the mental or spiritual and the physical, were both real and related to each other. And so Aristotle was also interested in science, but didn't think that it was the only method of discovering reality.

I don't think Tolkien was against the material world or science or even technology in themselves. It's just that he thought that they were limited in scope and had to be kept in their places. His very strong reaction, in 'Mythopoeia' and in general, was against the modern idea that this is all there is.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Mon Jan 11, 2010 10:43 am

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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

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Postby marbretherese » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:43 pm

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Postby Merry » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:32 pm

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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:36 pm

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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
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Postby Merry » Mon Jan 11, 2010 7:19 pm

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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
Uinen
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea
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Postby Iolanthe » Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:09 pm

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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...


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