«Namárië» (Goodbye) is the title of the longest of the poems in Quenya or High-elven written by J.R.R. Tolkien in all his work. A poem that the British professor himself left us a recording of.
Let’s start with the poem. Tolkien published it in «The Fellowship of the Ring», the first volume of «The Lord of the Rings», specifically in chapter 8, entitled «Farewell to Lórien.» Galadriel sang it when the Fellowship of the Ring bid farewell to Lothlótien. This is the Quenya text in the book:
Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen!
Yéni únótime ve rámar aldaron,
yéni ve linte yuldar vánier
mi oromardi lisse-miruvóreva
Andúne pella Vardo tellumar
nu luini yassen tintilar í eleni
Sí rnan i yulna nin enquantuva?
ve fanyar máryat Elentári ortane
ar ilye tier unduláve lumbule,
ar sindanóriello carta mornië
i falmalinnar imbe met, ar hísië
untúpa Calaciryo míri oiale.
Sí vanwa na, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!
Namárië Nai biruvalye Valimar.
Nai elye hiruwa. Namárië!
And this is the English version:
¡Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind,
long years numberless as the wings of trees!
The long years have passed like swift draughts
of the sweet mead in lofty halls
beyond the West, beneath the blue vaults of Varda
wherein the stars tremble
in the voice of her song, holy and queenly.
Who now shall refill the cup for me?
For now the Kindler, Varda, the Queen of the stars,
from Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like clouds
and all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
and out of a grey country darkness lies
on the foaming waves between us,
and mist covers the jewels of Calacirya for ever.
Now lost, lost to those of the East is Valimar!
Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar!
Maybe even thou shalt find it! Farewell!
The meaning of the poem
The content of the poem will be riddled with riddles for those who have not read Tolkien’s works. To clarify some points, when Tolkien speaks of «long years numberless» is not being short, because at the time she sang this poem, Galadriel was already more than 6,000 years (the elves were immortal). When the poem talks about the «halls beyond the West» it refers to Aman, the Undying Lands, home of the Valar, and surely to Tirion, the city of the Noldor, in which Galadriel was born. The «blue vaults of Varda» is a way of referring to the night sky, illuminated by the stars that Varda had lit, according to Tolkien’s mythology.
The «Mount Everwhite» of which the poem speaks is the Taniquetil, at the top of which are the mansions of Varda and her husband, Manwë, the Lord of the Valar. From that summit you could see all the lands of Arda, name given by Tolkien to the world created by him, which included the mentioned Undying Lands, the Middle Earth (in which the events of «The Hobbit» and «The Lord of the Rings») and the ocean that separated them. When the poem speaks of «a gray country» it refers, obviously, to Mordor, the kingdom of the evil Sauron. With «the jewels of Calacirya», the poem refers to the gorge of the same name that opened in the Pelóri mountains, in the Undying Lands, through which came the light of the Valinor Trees as far as Tirion. Finally, Valimar is the land of the Valar – the high powers of Arda – in the Undying Lands. The final part of the poem talks about the loss of that land for the elves who left for Middle Earth, for the events that took place during the War of Wrath.
The spectacular version composed by the Finn Toni Edelmann
The most spectacular musical version of this poem can be heard in this video, published by Ohskar77 on Youtube in March 2010:
The author of this composition is not indicated in the text of the video. The composer was the Finnish dramatist Toni Edelmann. The piece was the last composition of a musical titled «Sagan om Ringen» (The Lord of the Rings), directed by Andrey von Schlippe and premiered on January 19, 2001 at the Swedish Theater in Helsinki. I already told you about him here in 2009. I discovered it on the Internet many years ago, and I have to say that it is a very difficult theme to find. A pity, because it is one of the best musical versions that has been made of one of the poems written by Tolkien. In fact, that the song was recorded in Finland was an especially fortunate fact, since one of the languages in which Tolkien was inspired to elaborate the Quenya language was, precisely, Finnish.
The recordings of the poem that Tolkien himself made
Of course, there are previous recordings of this poem. In August of 1952, before the publication of «The Community of the Ring», Tolkien made this recording reciting the poem:
There is another recording even more interesting: Tolkien singing «Namárië». It appeared in October 1967 on the album «The Road Goes Ever On» by the Welsh composer Donald Swann, who put music to various Tolkien poems in collaboration with the writer. As Gene Hargrove explains in his essay «Music in Middle-Earth» (January 1995), of the songs that Swann composed, Tolkien approved five but rejected the «Namárië». «He had heard it differently in his mind, he said, and hummed a Gregorian chant,» Hargrove points out. The writer recorded this version, which was the one that was finally included in the album:
Swann’s album was not well received by critics, perhaps because of its excessive academicism. You can listen here to a more recent recording of this version of «Namárië», performed by the tenor Richard G. Leonberger, with Keilor Kastella on piano:
Other versions of ‘Namárië’
An especially beautiful version of this song is recorded a cappella by Aijin Hidelias in 2001. I have been able to find very little information about the author (who is French, if I’m not mistaken).
Another very beautiful version is the one made by the Norwegian composer Martin Romberg in 2010, included in the album «Eldarinwë Líri», which contained five pieces based on poems by Tolkien (you can listen here). In this case it is a composition for an exclusively female choir. It was performed by the voices of Norwegian Girls Choir and Trio Mediæval, and the accompaniment of two harps:
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