I wasn’t brought up reading much poetry. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve really discovered a taste for it; and along with the taste, the awareness of my poetic ignorance. I couldn’t tell you what meters and patterns belonged to which poems to save my life. But I can enjoy the feel and sound of poetry in spite of the fact. And while I am not nearly to the level of Anne of Green Gables with her scores of poems learned by heart, I have worked at memorizing a few short ones.
Recently I decided to try my hand at a longer poem. To my surprise and delight, it was easy and loads of fun! I chose one of my favorite poems from The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s not a very well-known piece from The Lord of the Rings because it has nothing to do with Frodo or his quest. It’s introduced in the story as “a ridiculous song that Bilbo had been rather fond of (and indeed rather proud of, for he had made up the words himself.) …Only a few words of it are now, as a rule, remembered.”
It makes me smile every time I read it, and now I can enjoy it without ever having to crack open the book.
The Merry Old Inn
by J.R. R. Tolkien
There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.
The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he runs his bow,
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
now sawing in the middle.
The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there’s good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
and laughs until he chokes.
They also keep a horned cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.
And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there’s a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.
The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced,
and the little dog chased his tail.
The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.
Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
‘The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master’s been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun’ll be rising soon!’
So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
‘It’s after three!’ he said.
They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.
Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cows and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.
With a ping and a pong the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.
The round Moon rolled behind the hill
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!