The Road Goes Ever On and On

The Hobbit

Thursday

My mother and I finally got home yesterday after our flight out of LaGuardia was canceled Monday night and after we almost missed our connection on a rebooked flight Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (Our Nashville flight never showed up and, when I asked about it at another counter, the ticket agent miraculously rebooked us for a different flight.) Throughout it all, my mother was a trooper, despite being 90 years old.

Imagine being that age and descending and ascending steep steps for four shuttle rides as American Airlines bounced us back and forth between different LaGuardia terminals. After that, we were on the tarmac ready to take off when they declared us to be too heavy to take off given the wind conditions–we were in an older plane–and we returned to the terminal. My mother had leg cramps that night in the LaGuardia Airport Inn.

Then, as we were driving home from the Nashville airport, we of course encountered an accident on the interstate. But we finally reached Sewanee and all is well. To celebrate, I cite the poem that Bilbo chants as he nears home in The Hobbit.

When I went to Wikipedia to find “The Road Goes Ever On and On,” I discovered that there are three versions. The first one alludes to many of the adventures in The Hobbit:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

“Fire and sword” and “horror in the halls of stone” may well be oblique references to Tolkien’s World War I experiences in the trenches. Imagine what it must have meant to him to come home to England’s meadows, trees, and hills.

I like the way the other two versions capture the different feelings one has when one embarks on a journey and when one comes to the journey’s end. The first poem, as the Wikipedia article notes, talks of eager feet while the second of weary feet. Right now, like many travelers reaching the end of their journeys, I’m experiencing weary feet. The first poem is spoken by Bilbo as he sets off for Rivendell in the third chapter of Fellowship of the Ring. The second is spoken by Bilbo in Rivendell in The Return of the King after Frodo and the others return, weary and in shock, from the ring quest. I’ve labeled them “before” and “after.”

Before:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

After:

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

As I say, my mother and I are in our “after” stage at the moment and are more than ready to meet up with our “evening-rest and sleep.”

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