Beyond the Shores – Beyond the Horizon

Why do I always want to go to the sea again, and just stare out over the gray waves that roll in endlessly from the endless?

Beyond the Shores – Beyond the Horizon

What stories do they bring, what songs of eternal happiness, of high wisdom and of a light that knows no darkness? It goes very deep, I can hear that, but it sounds like a language from the distant past, a language I don’t understand. Maybe my books will take me further.


J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was a Celtic soul whose books left an unforgettable impression on many readers.  He created a wonderful universe full of fantastic figures, yet they were very recognizable.  The Silmarillion speaks of the island of Numenor, in the far West, where the Dunedain race of men lived in great wisdom and glory.  The nostalgia for those lands, far beyond the western shores, is alive in many of Tolkien’s characters.  It is especially the elves of high birth, in whom this primal nobility lives.  These creatures are less burdened by the weightiness of the world.

In The Lord of the Rings, as the traveling party set out to fulfill the great mission that will determine the future of Middle Earth, they encounter elves.  We quote from their meeting:

‘Who are you, and who is your lord?’ asked Frodo. ‘I am Gildor,’ answered their leader, the Elf who had first hailed him [Frodo]. ‘Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod. We are Exiles, and most of our kindred have long ago departed and we too are now only tarrying here a while, ere we return over the Great Sea. But some of our kinsfolk dwell still in peace in Rivendell.’ [1]

The traveling party moves on and another encounter with elves takes place.

They turned a sharp bend in the river, and there, sailing proudly down the stream towards them, they saw a swan of great size. The water rippled on either side of the white breast beneath its curving neck. Its beak shone like burnished gold, and its eyes glinted like jet set in yellow stones; its huge white wings were half lifted. A music came down the river as it drew nearer; and suddenly they perceived that it was a ship, wrought and carved with elven-skill in the likeness of a bird. Two elves clad in white steered it with black paddles. In the midst of the vessel sat Celeborn, and behind him stood Galadriel, tall and white; a circlet of golden flowers was in her hair, and in her hand she held a harp, and she sang. Sad and sweet was the sound of her voice in the cool clear air:

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the 
walls of Elven Tirion.
There long 
the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
While here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears.
Lorien! The Winter comes, the bare and leafless Day;
The leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
O Lorien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of 
ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear be ever back across so wide a Sea?


Frodo, the hero of the story, after much trouble and great adventures, accomplishes his task of destroying the ring that binds him to the lower nature.  He is then allowed to follow his ultimate destiny.  We read at the end of the epic:

Then Frodo (…) went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo had born, glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that (…) the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise. [3]

Frodo has come home.

And we, who live here on earth,
under sun and cold clouds,
have we heard the song?
Have we already set off on our path?


Adriaan Roland Holst

One of the greatest Dutch poets was Adriaan Roland Holst (1888-1976). In his early years he studied Celtic literature at the University of Oxford. So he was captivated by the image of the Isle of the Blessed in the west, far off the coast. The realm where all imperfections, which we constantly have to deal with here in this field of life, are absent. And Adriaan was homesick for this island all his life and he sings about it in many of his poems. As an example, we present the first half of the poem ‘A Winter Evening Fall’. Don’t let the solemn language of almost a century ago put you off. No, let yourself be carried away by the sounds, the images and the atmosphere that this poem brings.


A Winter Evening Fall  [4]


Golden silent shores and the sea still blue,

and the joyful many waves that play,

and that white flight of birds — oh, the many

seagulls soar through the purifying cold,


swarming like a storm, like a winged snowing,

and their cries to and fro over my head;

Have I ever believed in any other song

here on earth than the lost cry of the seagulls?


And they sway and disappear, and it is

quieter now, and the golden hour is later,

and I walk lost further along the water

of the ages lonely mystery.


And the coast grows grayer, and the twilights

come now, and the great sea also turns gray,

and the waves sing – oh, the strange tune

of that other world, which the waves sing –


And they sing closer and my heart seizes

an immeasurable estrangement from this life,

and I walk as in an almost overfloating

to that realm, to which I have always longed.


Reflecting lies it appeared from the sea

far and in the west and beyond death –

who live there sing, and they call me,

but the sea, it sings and glitters around them.


Eternal Isle – O, the domain of the blessed,

whither under sails of their last dreams

befall only the dying transported –

where the people are lonelier and cleaner.


And I don’t know, is it homesickness or longing,

a memory or already a premonition?

Keeps living for an unknown purpose

me, inspired one, imprisoned here yearning?


Oh, then why the memory, why

not disinherit the whole and a no longer knowing?

What can I do here? If I can’t forget

where once I lived I go wandering,


to, without a roof, without a purpose, born

on the sad side of strange death,

and I cast myself out of man’s old distress

always lost in my dream.




[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, “Three is Company”

[2] Ibid Farewell to Lórien, pp. 372-373

[3] Ibid The Return of the King, book VI, Chapter 9: The Grey Havens

[4] Uit: Holst, A. Roland,  Gedichten 1911-1976 [Poems] , Meulenhoff/Manteau, pages 205-207


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Date: February 1, 2023
Author: Gert Terlouw (Netherlands)
Photo: Frank Mkenna on Unsplash CCO

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