“We set forth two worlds, as it were, one of them heavenly and the other earthly. Into these we place these two kinds of righteousness, which are distinct and separated from each other. The righteousness of the Law is earthly and deals with earthly things; by it we perform good works. But as the earth does not bring forth fruit unless it has first been watered and made fruitful from above – for the earth cannot judge, renew, rule, and fructify the earth, so that it may do what the Lord has commanded – so also by the righteousness of the Law we do nothing even when we do much; we do not fulfill the Law even when we fulfill it. Without any merit or work of our own, we must first be justified by Christian righteousness, which has nothing to do with the righteousness of the Law or with earthly and active righteousness. But this righteousness is heavenly and passive. We do not have it of ourselves; we receive it from heaven. We do not perform it; we accept it by faith, through which we ascend beyond all laws and words. “As, therefore, we have borne the image of the earthly Adam,” as Paul says, “let us bear the image of the heavenly one” (1 Cor. 15:49), who is a new man in a new world, where there is no Law, no sin, no conscience, no death, but perfect joy, righteousness, grace, peace, life, salvation, and glory.”
It used to be that when I came across a song or a poem within a novel, I would just skip over it. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. In fact, the songs included in The Lord of the Rings are some of the most beautiful portions of the book.
When evening in the Shire was grey
his footsteps on the Hill were heard;
before the dawn he went away
on journey long without a word.
From Wilderland to Western shore,
form northern waste to southern hill
through dragon-lair and hidden door
and darkling woods he walked at will.
With Dwarves and Hobbits, Elves and Men,
with mortal and immortal folk,
with bird on bough and beast in den,
in their own secret tounges he spoke.
A deadly sword, a healing hand,
a back that bent beneath its load;
a trumpet-voice, a burning brand,
a weary pilgrim on the road.
A lord of wisdom throned he sat,
swift in anger, quick to laugh;
an old man in a battered hat
who leaned upon a thorny staff.
He stood upon the bridge alone
and Fire and Shadow both defied;
his staff was broken on the stone,
in Khazad-dûm his wisdom died.
Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings
Fellowship of the Ring. Book II Ch. VII.
But I should say, if asked, the tale is not really about Power and Dominion: that only sets the wheels going; it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Which is hardly more than to say it is a tale written by a Man!
“As C.S. Lewis said to me long ago, more or less – (I do not suppose my memory of his dicta is any more precisely accurate than his of mine: I often find strange things attributed to me in his works) – ‘if they won’t write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves; but it is very laborious’.”
-Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. #159. To Dora Marshall. 3 March 1955
“But Lewis was a very impressionable, man, and this was abetted by his great generosity and capacity for friendship. The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The L. of the R. to a conclusion…..”
-Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. #276. To Dick Plotz, ‘Thain’ of the Tolkien Society of America. 12 September 1965
“If you don’t do so already, make a habit of the ‘praises’. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy. It is also a good and admirable thing to know by heart the Canon of the Mass, for you can say this in your heart if ever hard circumstance keeps you for hearing Mass.”
-Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. #54. To Christopher Tolkien. 8 January 1944