Tag Archives: Sorrowful yet always rejoicing

“Light and high beauty forever” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“At last Frodo could go no further. They had climbed up a narrow shelving ravine, but they still had a long way to go before they could even come in sight of the last craggy ridge.

‘I must rest now, Sam, and sleep if I can,’ said Frodo.

He looked about, but there seemed nowhere even for an animal to crawl into in this dismal country. At length, tired out, they slunk under a curtain of brambles that hung down like a mat over a low rock-face.

There they sat and made such a meal as they could. Keeping back the precious lembas for the evil days ahead, they ate the half of what remained in Sam’s bag of Faramir’s provision: some dried fruit, and a small slip of cured meat; and they sipped some water.

They had drunk again from the pools in the valley, but they were very thirsty again. There was a bitter tang in the air of Mordor that dried the mouth.

When Sam thought of water even his hopeful spirit quailed. Beyond the Morgai there was the dreadful plain of Gorgoroth to cross.

‘Now you go to sleep first, Mr. Frodo,’ he said. ‘It’s getting dark again. I reckon this day is nearly over.’

Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo’s hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell.

Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot.

Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale.

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.

For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.

His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.

He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 921-922.

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“My books are my true company” by Herman Bavinck

“By way of chronology, Unink’s death occurred within weeks of Arie den Dekker’s most recent (wordless) rejection of Bavinck’s suitorship for his daughter.

These were lonely and difficult days for Bavinck: at twenty-nine years old he lived with his parents, saw no immediate prospect of marriage, and, following Unink’s untimely death, had few friends close at hand.

These circumstances set the scene for a comment made in a subsequent letter to the dying Johan van Haselen that typifies the phase into which his life was moving: ‘My books are my true company.’

Barred from pursuing Amelia, bereft of Unink, and with the likes of Snouck Hurgronje and Henry Dosker only accessible by letter, Bavinck surrounded himself with new conversation partners.

In the prime of life, his closest companions became a group of long-dead theologians.”

–James Eglinton, Bavinck: A Critical Biography (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020), 142-143.

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“It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“And a voice spoke softly behind him: ‘In the land of Ithilien, and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.’ With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. ‘Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?’ he said.

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?’

‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known.

But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ – he waved his arms in the air – ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 951-952.

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“But the words were not quite the same” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“It was evening, and the stars were glimmering in the eastern sky as they passed the ruined oak and turned and went on down the hill between the hazel-thickets. Sam was silent, deep in his memories.

Presently he became aware that Frodo was singing softly to himself, singing the old-walking song, but the words were not quite the same.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 1028.

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“The very wine of blessedness” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“And so the red blood blushing in their faces and their eyes shining with wonder, Frodo and Sam went forward and saw that amidst the clamorous host were set three high-seats built of green turves.

Behind the seat upon the right floated, white on green, a great horse running free; upon the left was a banner, silver upon blue, a ship swan-prowed faring on the sea; but behind the highest throne in the midst of all a great standard was spread in the breeze, and there a white tree flowered upon a sable field beneath a shining crown and seven glittering stars.

On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey. Frodo ran to meet him, and Sam followed close behind.

‘Well, if this isn’t the crown of all!’ he said. ‘Strider, or I’m still asleep!’

‘Yes, Sam, Strider,’ said Aragorn. ‘It is a long way, is it not, from Bree, where you did not like the look of me? A long way for us all, but yours has been the darkest road.’

And then to Sam’s surprise and utter confusion he bowed his knee before them; and taking them by the hand, Frodo upon his right and Sam upon his left, he led them to the throne, and setting them upon it, he turned to the men and captains who stood by and spoke, so that his voice rang over all the host, crying: ‘Praise them with great praise!’

And when the glad shout had swelled up and died away again, to Sam’s final and complete satisfaction and pure joy, a minstrel of Gondor stood forth, and knelt, and begged leave to sing.

And behold! he said: ‘Lo! lords and knights and men of valour unashamed, kings and princes, and fair people of Gondor, and Riders of Rohan, and ye sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, and Elf and Dwarf, and greathearts of the Shire, and all free folk of the West, now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom.’

And when Sam heard that he laughed aloud for sheer delight, and he stood up and cried: ‘O great glory and splendour! And all my wishes have come true!’

And then he wept. And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed.

And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 953-954.

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“Is everything sad going to come untrue?” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“When Sam awoke, he found that he was lying on some soft bed, but over him gently swayed wide beechen boughs, and through their young leaves sunlight glimmered, green and gold. All the air was full of a sweet mingled scent. He remembered that smell: the fragrance of Ithilien.

‘Bless me!’ he mused. ‘How long have I been asleep?’ For the scent had borne him back to the day when he had lit his little fire under the sunny bank; and for the moment all else between was out of waking memory. He stretched and drew a deep breath.

‘Why, what a dream I’ve had!’ he muttered. ‘I am glad to wake!’ He sat up and then he saw that Frodo was lying beside him, and slept peacefully, one hand behind his head, and the other resting upon the coverlet. It was the right hand, and the third finger was missing.

Full memory flooded back, and Sam cried aloud: ‘It wasn’t a dream! Then where are we?’

And a voice spoke softly behind him: ‘In the land of Ithilien, and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.’ With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. ‘Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?’ he said.

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?’

‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known.

But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ – he waved his arms in the air – ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’ He stopped and he turned towards his master.

‘But how’s Mr. Frodo?’ he said. ‘Isn’t it a shame about his poor hand? But I hope he’s all right otherwise. He’s had a cruel time.’

‘Yes, I am all right otherwise,’ said Frodo, sitting up and laughing in his turn. ‘I fell asleep again waiting for you, Sam, you sleepy-head. I was awake early this morning, and now it must be nearly noon.’

‘Noon?’ said Sam, trying to calculate. ‘Noon of what day?’

‘The fourteenth of the New Year,’ said Gandalf; ‘or if you like, the eighth day of April in the Shire-reckoning. But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King. He has tended you, and now he awaits you. You shall eat and drink with him. When you are ready I will lead you to him.’

‘The King?’ said Sam. ‘What king, and who is he?’

‘The King of Gondor and Lord of the Western Lands,’ said Gandalf; ‘and he has taken back all his ancient realm. He will ride soon to his crowning, but he waits for you.’

‘What shall we wear?’ said Sam; for all he could see was the old and tattered clothes that they had journeyed in, lying folded on the ground beside their beds.

‘The clothes that you wore on your way to Mordor,’ said Gandalf. ‘Even the orc-rags that you bore in the black land, Frodo, shall be preserved. No silks and linens, nor any armour or heraldry could be more honourable.'”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 951-952.

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“He sets our tears in His sight” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Prayer is to be free of much speaking (Matthew 6:7), but not of much entreaty, if the fervor and attention persist. To speak much in prayer is to transact a necessary piece of business with unnecessary words. But to entreat much of Him whom we entreat is to knock by a long-continued and devout uplifting of the heart (Luke 18:1, 7).

In general, this business of prayer is transacted more by sighs than by speech (Romans 8:26), more by tears than by utterance (Psalm 126:5-6).

But He sets our tears in His sight (Psalm 56:8) and our groaning is not hidden from Him (Psalm 38:9) who created all things by His Word and who does not need human words.”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Letter 130 (A.D. 412)” in Letters, Volume 2 (83-130), Trans. Wilfrid Parsons (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press: 1953/2008), 391.

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