Oilima Markirya: A Poem by JRR Tolkien

This poem was written by JRR Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings, in the early thirties. It is not very well known, perhaps partially because it was written in one of his invented languages, Quenya. Nonetheless I find it rather haunting; it is a lament that describes the experience of a hypothetical last living person, before the cities and civilisation is lost to the waves. Luckily, it’s been translated into English. Make of it what you will.

Oilima Markirya: The Last Ark

JRR Tolkien

Who shall see a white ship

from the final beach steering

the vague phantoms

in her cold bosom

like gulls wailing?

Who shall heed a white ship

like a butterfly fluttering

in the flowing sea

on star-like wings

the sea foaming

the foam flying in the wind

the wings shining white

the light slowly fading?

Who shall hear the roaring winds

like the many leaves of the forests

the white rocks growling

in the gleaming moonlight

in the dwindling moonlight

in the falling moonlight

like a corpse-candle

the storm grumble

the abyss move?

Who shall see the clouds assemble

the Heavens bending

upon crumbling hills

the sea heaving

the abyss yawning

the old darkness

from beyond the stars

sliding down and collapsing

upon lofty ruined towers?

Who shall heed a broken ship

on the many black rocks

under shattered skies

a discoloured sun blinking

upon bones gleaming

in the last dawn?

Who shall see the last evening?


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