Happy Birthday, Professor Tolkien!
Jan-u-wine has delivered yet again, writing a beautiful personal reminiscence of the Professor in narrative verse. But before the poem, a few photographs....
I posted this photograph last year, but it's one of my favourites. He's standing in front of his favourite tree in the Oxford Botanical Garden. It was taken Aug. 9, 1973, a month before he died.
There are quite a few photos of Tolkien smoking a pipe, no longer an approved pastime (however cherished by hobbits, wizards and academics of previous eras). Two of my favourites follow. I regret I do not know who photoshopped the first of the two. Note how examples of Tolkien's writing and drawing are deftly included along two of the borders.
This, perhaps, is my favourite Tolkien portrait.
The following photo shows Tolkien and his son Christopher napping together in the garden behind their Oxford house. I have always loved it as a candid snapshot offering a glimpse of Tolkien as an ordinary person, not just a Great Writer. After reading jan-u-wine's piece I found the photo more broadly applicable. Looking again, thinking of the poem, I couldn't help seeing Jan, and all us fans, as the small sleeper, experiencing through art a sense of closeness to the man who created the books and secondary world we love, as though we could share his dreams.Mea Cuppa
Might I borrow a cupful of hours,
a tablespoon of minutes
a teaspoon of second-hand
I promise I shall not return them.
From the hours shall be forged memories,
whip-stitched 'round the small commas of minutes,
at the last,
by the small 'period' of a second.
Might I borrow these things?
Might I have just a bit more
of that which you have already
so kindly given?
~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ .* ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~ . * ~
And so, we walk among the trees,
green and swaying in the wide winds of the world,
knees knobbled by unknown Ages,
roots buried in leaves-of-Autumn-past.
we walk upon the shore,
star-grist adamant between our toes,
a long-silent leaden dog rover-ing
amongst the sea-wrack.
And so...... we talk of smials
of curly heads
and ageless wisdom,
of malice honed sharp
as any sword
of deeds of evil
by the bright armour
within the sweet-fogg'd lands
of your home,
is the smithy of such dear
the kindly word-smith,
of nighted curlicues
upon a pale field.
Just a moment
in the great river of moments,
just a rounded half-note in
the grand music
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And time runs out,
like the tide upon our life-shore,
and I lie here,
dreaming and alone,
tear-thankful that there have been
And wishing that I might have just a
Tolkien's favourite tree today (pinus nigra in the Oxford Botanic Garden):
This more distant shot shows its great height and vast canopy. The wall behind is extremely high, much taller than any person. It makes me think of the tree Niggle spent his life painting, the one he could never finish it. Or, of course, the Tree of Tales.