Thursday, January 04, 2007

Toasting the Professor on his Birthday

I'm sure many of you don't know that yesterday was J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday. When I remember I like to go out and have a beer and toast the professor. Last night after ingloriously losing a game of Settlers of Cataan and gloriously winning Wise and Otherwise (think Balderdash with proverbial sayings, aphorisms if you will) I mentioned to my friends that I was going to be stopping somewhere on the way home for the ritual. Steve brilliantly remembered my Bird and Baby mug (a nicely large beer mug from the pub in Oxford where Tolkien, Lewis, and the other Inklings often met. The real name of the pub is The Eagle and Child and Cindee got me the mug when she was there a few years ago) and suggested I drink at home. So I stopped on the way home to get a suitable libation (Guinness and Newcastle for a pseudo Black and Tan). At home I poured the beer and read one of my favorite passages from the Silmarillion, the section from "Of Beren and Luthien" that covers Beren's capture and rescue from Sauron's lair, making sure to read the poetic portion out loud. Then I stood and raised my glass, "To the Professor." and I drank.
Except for the phone calls I forgot, it was a good night.

"He chanted a song of wizardry,
Of piercing, opening of treachery,
Revealing, uncovering, betraying.
Then sudden Felagund there swaying
Sang in answer a song of staying,
Resisting, battling against power,
Of secrets kept, strength like a tower,
and trust unbroken, freedom, escape;
Of changing and of shifting shape,
Of snares eluded, broken traps,
The prison opening, the chain that snaps.
Backwards and forwards swayed their song.
Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong
The chanting swelled, Felagund fought,
And all the magic and might he brought
Of Elvenesse into his words.
Softly in the gloom they heard the birds
Singing afar in Nargothrond,
The sighing of the Sea beyond,
Beyond the western world, on sand,
On sand of pearls in Elvenland.
Then the gloom gathered; darkness growing
In Valinor, the red blood flowing
Beside the Sea, where the Noldor slew
The Foamriders, and stealing drew
Their white ships with their white sails
From lamplit havens. The wind wails,
The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mougths of the Sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn.
Thunder rumbles, the fires burn--
And Finrod fell before the throne." Silmarillion, 2nd ed. p.171

No comments: