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Bilbo's Last Song

Bilbo's Last Song is a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is sung by Bilbo Baggins at the Grey Havens as he is about to leave Middle-earth. Chronologically this places it at the very end of The Return of the King, the last volume of The Lord of the Rings, although it was written later than the books and never included in them.


[edit] The Poem

Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship's beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar
I'll find the havens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-Earth at last.
I see the Star above your mast!

[edit] History

It was originally a text without link with Bilbo's story, entitled Vestr um haf, but Tolkien changed it in October 1968. It was given by Tolkien as a gift to his secretary Joy Hill in 1968 after she discovered it in Tolkien's library.

After Tolkien's death in 1973, Hill showed the poem to Donald Swann, who liked the poem so much that he set it to music and included it in the second edition of The Road Goes Ever On in 1978.[1] The poem was also illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and published as a poster on 26 November 1974.

The song was included in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (1981), with music by Stephen Oliver. The first verse is chanted by John Le Mesurier as Bilbo, the second omitted, and the third sung by a boy soprano.

In 1990 the text was finally published in book form by Unwin Hyman, re-illustrated by Baynes.[2] New editions appeared in 2002 (Hutchinson, hardcover),[3] and 2012 (Red Fox/Random House, paperback).[4]

In 1996 the song was recorded by the Dutch Tolkien Society band The Hobbitons, with permission from the Tolkien Estate, for their CD J.R.R. Tolkien's Songs from Middle-earth.[5]

The copyright of the poem was given by Tolkien to Hill together with the poem itself. Upon her death in 1991, Hill gave the copyright to the Order of the Holy Paraclete. Baynes's illustrations for Bilbo's Last Song were not included in the bequeathing to the Order, but were given the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford upon her death in 2008.[6]

[edit] See also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Donald Swann, The Road Goes Ever On, "Bilbo's Last Song"
  2. "Bilbo's Last Song. 1990", (accessed 29 October 2012)
  3. "Bilbo's Last Song. 2002", (accessed 29 October 2012)
  4. "Bilbo's Last Song", (accessed 29 October 2012)
  5. "Our CD", The Hobbitons (via Internet Archive) (accessed 27 May 2014)
  6. Wayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull, "Bilbo's Last Song and the Order of the Holy Paraclete (message 25132)" dated 7 March 2014, Mailing list for the Mythopoeic Society (accessed 16 March 2014)