King Sheave / Poem

 In days of yore out of deep Ocean 
 to the Longobards, in the land dwelling 
 that of old they held amid the isles of the North, 
 a ship came sailing, shining-timbered 
 without oar and mast, eastward floating. 
 The sun behind it sinking westward 
 with flame kindled the fallow water. 
 Wind was wakened. Over the world's margin 
 clouds greyhelmed climbed slowly up 
 wings unfolding wide and looming,
 as mighty eagles moving onward 
 to eastern Earth omen bearing. 
 Men there marvelled, in the mist standing 
 of the dark islands in the deeps of time: 
 laughter they knew not, light nor wisdom; 
 shadow was upon them, and sheer mountains 
 stalked behind them stern and lifeless, 
 evilhaunted. The East was dark. 

The ship came shining to the shore driven and strode upon the strand, till its stem rested on sand and shingle. The sun went down. The clouds overcame the cold heavens. In fear and wonder to the fallow water sadhearted men swiftly hastened to the broken beaches the boat seeking, gleaming-timbered in the grey twilight. They looked within, and there laid sleeping a boy they saw breathing softly: his face was fair, his form lovely, his limbs were white, his locks raven golden-braided. Gilt and carven with wondrous work was the wood about him. In golden vessel gleaming water stood beside him; strung with silver a harp of gold neath his hand rested; his sleeping head was soft pillowed on a sheaf of corn shimmering palely as the fallow gold doth from far countries west of Angol. Wonder filled them.

The boat they hauled and on the beach moored it high above the breakers; then with hands lifted from the bosom its burden. The boy slumbered. On his bed they bore him to their bleak dwellings darkwalled and drear in a dim region between waste and sea. There of wood builded high above the houses was a hall standing forlorn and empty. Long had it stood so, no noise knowing, night nor morning, no light seeing. They laid him there, under lock left him lonely sleeping in the hollow darkness. They held the doors. Night wore away. New awakened as ever on earth early morning; day came dimly. Doors were opened. Men strode within, then amazed halted; fear and wonder filled the watchmen. The house was bare, hall deserted; no form found they on the Hoor lying, but by bed forsaken the bright vessel dry and empty in the dust standing.

The guest was gone. Grief o'ercame them. In sorrow they sought him, till the sun rising over the hills of heaven to the homes of men light came bearing. They looked upward and high upon a hill hoar and treeless the guest beheld they: gold was shining in his hair, in hand the harp he bore; at his feet they saw the fallow-golden cornsheaf lying. Then clear his voice a song began, sweet, unearthly, words in music woven strangely, in tongue unknown. Trees stood silent and men unmoving marvelling hearkened.

Middle-earth had known for many ages neither song nor singer; no sight so fair had eyes of mortal, since the earth was young, seen when waking in that sad country long forsaken. No lord they had, no king nor counsel, but the cold terror had dwelt in the desert, the dark shadow that haunted the hills and the hoar forest. Dread was their master. Dark and silent, long years forlorn, lonely waited the hall of kings, house forsaken without fire or food.

Forth men hastened from their dim houses. Doors were opened and gates unbarred. Gladness wakened. To the hill they thronged, and their heads lifting on the guest they gazed. Greybearded men bowed before him and blessed his coming their years to heal; youths and maidens, wives and children welcome gave him. His song was ended. Silent standing he looked upon them. Lord they called him; king they made him, crowned with golden wheaten garland, white his raiment, his harp his sceptre. In his house was fire, food and wisdom; there fear came not. To manhood he grew, might and wisdom.

Sheave they called him, whom the ship brought them, a name renowned in the North countries ever since in song. For a secret hidden his true name was, in tongue unknown of far countries where the falling seas wash western shores beyond the ways of men since the world worsened. The word is forgotten and the name perished.

Their need he healed, and laws renewed long forsaken. Words he taught them wise and lovely - their tongue ripened in the time of Sheave to song and music. Secrets he opened runes revealing. Riches he gave them, reward of labour, wealth and comfort from the earth calling, acres ploughing, sowing in season seed of plenty, hoarding in garner golden harvest for the help of men. The hoar forests in his days drew back to the dark mountains; the shadow receded, and shining corn, white ears of wheat, whispered in the breezes where waste had been. The woods trembled.

Halls and houses hewn of timber, strong towers of stone steep and lofty, golden-gabled, in his guarded city they raised and roofed. In his royal dwelling of wood well-carven the walls were wrought; fair-hued figures filled with silver, gold and scarlet, gleaming hung there, stories boding of strange countries, were one wise in wit the woven legends to thread with thought. At his throne men found counsel and comfort and care's healing, justice in judgement. Generous-handed his gifts he gave. Glory was uplifted. Far sprang his fame over fallow water, through Northern lands the renown echoed of the shining king, Sheave the mighty.

At the end of (ii) occur eight lines which seem to have been added to the text; they were also inserted in pencil to the 'prose' text (i), here written in as verse-lines, with a further eight lines following (the whole passage of sixteen lines was struck through, hut it was used afterwards in The Notion Club Papers, in the form of an addition to the poem proper).

Seven sons he begat, sires of princes, men great in mind, mighty-handed and high-hearted. From his house cometh the seeds of kings, as songs tell us, fathers of the fathers, who before the change in the Elder Years the earth governed, Northern kingdoms named and founded, shields of their peoples: Sheave begat them: Sea-danes and Goths, Swedes and Northmen, Franks and Frisians, folk of the islands, Swordmen and Saxons, Swabes and English, and the Langobards who long ago beyond Myrcwudu a mighty realm and wealth won them in the Welsh countries where Ælfwine Eadwine's heir in Italy was king. All that has passed.

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