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The Road and the End  by Baylor

I shall foot it
Down the roadway in the dusk,
Where shapes of hunger wander
And the fugitives of pain go by.
I shall foot it
In the silence of the morning,
See the night slur into dawn,
Hear the slow great winds arise
Where tall trees flank the way
And shoulder toward the sky.

The broken boulders by the road
Shall not commemorate my ruin.
Regret shall be the gravel under foot.
I shall watch for
Slim birds swift of wing
That go where wind and ranks of thunder
Drive the wild processionals of rain.

The dust of the traveled road
Shall touch my hands and face.

--Carl Sandburg, The Road and The End

The old Hobbit was nodding into his chest, eyes drooping, fingers loosening around the papers. The Elf crouched, leaning an elbow on a knee, and stretched out the other hand to brush the wrinkled cheek, oh-so-softly. The Hobbit’s head jerked up and two bright eyes gleamed out at the Elf.

“So there you are, at last,” he said, and though the voice had not the clear, ringing quality of his youth, the tripping burr was unmistakable. “I have been waiting, you know.”

A tender smile graced the Elf’s ageless face. “I know. I am sorry I did not arrive sooner.”

The Hobbit snorted. “I was beginning to think I would have to go whether or not you bothered to come. But I am glad to see you, at that.” He sighed deeply. “Merry had to go on, though. He could not wait any longer, but he was sorry not to see you again.”

“I know, dear heart,” the Elf said softly. “I did not know he would leave so soon, or I would have been swifter to come.”

“Eh.” The Hobbit waved his hand dismissively. “He knew, but I will tell him again for you that you are sorry, if it will make you feel better.”

The Hobbit’s head was drooping again, and the Elf tipped his head to one side to better see his old friend. The late afternoon sun creeping through the window glinted off his golden hair. The venerable old Dwarf was ill (indeed, this was what had delayed their arrival) and had been sent by the King to rest immediately upon their entrance to the city, but had he been in the room, he would have recognized the look on the Elf’s face, having seen it there before as he studied another Hobbit long ago with love and wonderment in a tent removed from the battlefield.

The Elf reached out to smooth the Hobbit’s tumbled curls, now gray, and found them to be the same baby-fine texture they had been the day he had smoothed them as they greeted one another at the edge of ruin, reunited beyond all hope at the crushed gates of Isengard. The touch jerked the Hobbit’s head back up.

“I do not think I will keep him waiting long, now,” he said. “I miss him so. They are all waiting, I think, and it has been so long.”

“Too long,” the Elf said softly.

“But I think I will have a brief visit with you. I should like to sit on the wall, in the sunshine, and have a bit to eat, and look down over the city and the fields again.”

“Then we shall,” his friend replied.

“I should have liked to see my Faramir again one more time, though,” the Hobbit murmured, more to himself than to his visitor, then seemed to recall that he was in the midst of a conversation. “You have meet him, my lad, have you not?”

“Yes, dear heart,” the Elf said with a smile. “I held him when he was but the tiniest babe, and I carried him down from the heights of Mirkwood when he ventured too far from the ground for his Hobbit sensibilities to handle.”

The old Hobbit smiled, and a familiar, mischievous glint twinkled in his eyes. “Yes, yes, that is right. He is a good lad, though, for all that he takes after his father.”

The Elf’s eyes twinkled back at his friend. “We are a long way, are we not, from the stone in the well.”

“Oh, you are wicked to bring that up,” the Hobbit said, but he smiled. “A very long way,” he added wistfully. “But I have not much further to go, and I shall be home.”

Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back to home and bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!

He half-sang the verses, his voice trailing off at the end as his chin sank into his chest again. The Elf did not wake him, but contented himself to watch the old Hobbit sleep as the sunlight deepened into red and then faded with the dusk.


“It was heard after that Master Meriadoc came to Edoras and was with King Éomer before he died in that autumn. Then he and Thain Peregrin went to Gondor and passed what short years were left to them in that realm, until they died and were laid in Raith Dínen among the great of Gondor. . . . In this year on March 1st came the Passing of King Elessar. It is said that the beds of Meriadoc and Peregrin were set beside the bed of the great king. Then Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over Sea; and with him, it is said, went Gimli the Dwarf.”

--The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, Appendix B

(Note: The song Pippin murmurs is directly from Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” from the chapter “Three is Company.”)

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