For Eowyn

A sonnet from about six years ago.


My love has been “a shadow and a thought”?

These restless feelings and these darting eyes

were full—was it for vanity I fought?

No, though I loved in vain. Was I unwise

to hope for one who seemed an honorable man,

who paid me heed when so few men had cared?

He was in love the day my life began,

but not with me. How greatly I have erred!

how deeply does the disillusion draw

the desperate thought, “I must not lose again”!

What vindication now if such men saw

the valor that arises out of pain!

The broken heart will battle in its turn.

Let no one doubt then how such hearts can burn!


For Arwen

He’s made his choice, and now I must make mine:

If I should wait on some small chance that he

can face the darkness and claim victory

when weak men rule, their kingdoms in decline.

Few mortals have a majesty so fine

as his, but for his love, mortality

must bring me midnight, and the open sea

must be denied—and Valinor divine.

Ah, Luthien! what was the worth of Beren?

What is the worth of Aragorn? Is death

as hard as an eternity alone?

Is it both life and death that we should share in?

And when I brave his disappearing breath,

my choice will still be perfect as his own.

For Samwise

I could’ve been . . . I could’ve been. I’m not,

and it’s no good imaginin’ no more.

I’m a simple hobbit. What I’ve got

will be enough for me—my little plot

of land, and old, familiar folk, my door.

All men . . . they could’ve hailed Samwise the Strong

and rallied to my cry: “The Ring is mine!”

That nasty Gorogoroth before long

would be my garden. But it’d all be wrong:

a brilliant shadow creeping with no line.

No, no, I realized I was too small,

and Mr. Frodo needed me to stay

myself. We had a mission, after all,

but that’s a story for another day.

For Boromir

Here’s another Lord of the Rings sonnet.


Too late I cry, “Forgiveness!” and repent.

Too late—I hear the leaves crunch as he flees.

I stumbled on the hillside, madness spent.

I could not see the danger that he sees.

All for a ring I coveted too long,

but for my own good purposes—to save

my people, make our weary army strong

and sure of victory. My cause was brave.

Too bold, I wrestled with him, would have killed,

but he escaped invisible, and I

lie seeing what an evil had me willed.

I’ll prove an honest man before I die,

and shield his friends from poison arrows’ sting,

more pure, though death to me, than that mad ring.

For Galadriel

Lady of Light! Galadriel! Your name

clings to your character and is well-kept.

You know such soothing kindness, robbed by fame,

would settle heavy as if tall trees wept.

I still can see your hands so gently draw

the water in the pitcher, and your hair

so golden, unsurpassed, that cast an awe

over even dwarves who, bowing, called you fair.

That purest elegance was almost quenched

and lost to power corrupted, absolute.

That soft voice thundered, eyes burned, till you wrenched

your soul back into light. You left me mute.

A lady worth her honor, strong in will,

you may diminish, but you’re valiant still.

For Aragorn

I bear responsibility. That’s all

that I have strength for. I do not want power

in such abundance, for in every hour

I see my maiden in a silver hall

where elvish songs that frolicked now but crawl

under the silent trees—she in the tower

fading with every drooping elvish flower,

waiting for word, for a silver trumpet’s call.

Your gold does not entice me. I will do

my kingly job for men who’d die with me.

Temptation roars with war; I am not swayed.

The evil comes, but I will run it through.

My sword is strong, and I am not yet free.

If I break now, I lose both men and maid.

For Gandalf

So this is it, the Ring within my reach

and all but forced upon me. What a year

such moments of decision are! I teach

myself and others no, and no, yet here

temptation hold harder than this hobbit knows.

My strength becomes my liability.

Can I trust the short one with the hairy toes?

I have high wisdom, he humility.

No, this is not my task. It must be his.

He looks confused and scared as I say, “No”

with force and tell him what the danger is.

He says, not for the last time, he will go.

I will look after him. Sometimes the wise

are best used as a second pair of eyes.