The Farmer's Lament, a Poem
Tolkien recognized the importance of lay people singing and composing verse; his characters do both throughout his works. Lay poets and musicians, however, were becoming rare even in his day, as this Twitter user points out, and music was becoming something mostly performed by professionals.
We have been reading Tolkien's poems aloud to our kids. Our 5-year-old loves Durin's Song, especially this rendition by Clamavi de Profundis. We've wondered: where are the poems like these for our age? Which modern poets should I be reading to find the same gravity and feeling? And should I try writing a few of my own?
Here's one attempt, inspired in theme and style by Durin's Song.
The Farmer's Lament
A hundred years ago or more,
Before you lived, in times of yore,
In countryside on hills of green,
Near rivers wide and waters clean,
Beside a wood of nut and oak,
Your fathers worked and slept and woke.
They lived in cottages they built,
Furnished by their hand sewn quilts
With roofs of thatch and packed dirt floors
Their winter food in cellar stored.
With walls of boulders, paths of stone,
Rocks hewn from earth with sweat and groan,
Each structure built was made to last
From knowledge gained in times long past.
Beside their homes, in barns and pens,
Lived cows and goats, fat hogs and hens.
The fields were dark with rich brown loam
And in that earth the crops were sown.
Those golden fields were cut with scythe;
The church received its one-tenth tithe.
Around the fields, along the wood,
For generations walls have stood.
The wells that dug by hand went deep;
From the earth their harvest reaped.
By hearth with food, and warmth, and flame,
The family all together came.
Strong grandmothers with long white hair
In tales and songs their wisdom shared,
While grandfathers held on their knees
Young boys and girls whose shouts of glee
Have echoed far beyond those nights,
Replacing dark with hope and light.
And now we live in dismal halls:
In concrete, asphalt, and drywall.
Our children now are raised alone
Far from hills, green woods, and stone.
In city sprawl, our cars drive fast,
Ignoring lessons from our past.
We toil away for distant men,
Year after year, time and again.
Children trapped on school grounds,
Their freedom gone, their dreams are bound.
Modern convenience has its cost.
Is what we've gained worth all we've lost?
For still in dreams we long for homes
With golden fields and deep brown loam.
When loneliness comes closing in,
We yearn for homes with our own kin.
We look at modern life and sigh;
Craving earth, bright sun, and sky.
We wish for neighbors who we know;
A change in our dark status quo.
But going back can never be,
Those days are lost to history.