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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
"I sit beside the fire and think" interpretations


May 5 2015, 12:22am

Post #1 of 17 (1995 views)
"I sit beside the fire and think" interpretations Can't Post

In Chapter III The Ring Goes South, Bilbo sings this song softly to himself after saying goodbye to Frodo in Rivendell.

I was interested in people's interpretations and reactions to reading this poem. I was 21 when I first read it, I've always felt old on the inside so the words really resonated with me and I couldn't help but tear up. It's the kind of poem I expect you understand more as you get older, the contemplation of a world that will continue without you when you're gone.

I think it's one of the most poignant moments in the book, and to me reflects what I think is the main theme of the books. The theme of legacy.


May 5 2015, 12:35am

Post #2 of 17 (1956 views)
I also wonder, is Bilbo longing for death? [In reply to] Can't Post

The song is very sorrowful, and I wonder whether Bilbo feels he has gone on for too long and that the ring won't allow him to die. Or perhaps he is sad because feels that death is close or that he doesn't want to grow old?

While it's overall melancholic, there is a note of acceptance, where Bilbo seems to be welcoming the thoughts and feelings. How do you read it, is it a mournful song or just a contemplative one?

Sorry for starting such a depressing thread Smile


May 5 2015, 12:19pm

Post #3 of 17 (1924 views)
Ah, yes, the poignant musing of an old man (Hobbit)...BEAUTIFUL. . . [In reply to] Can't Post

Tearful, yes. From the 'things' of summer to winter to the most important - people!

For those who don't have time to look it up...

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.


May 5 2015, 3:44pm

Post #4 of 17 (1914 views)
Ah sorry, I didn't include it in my post... [In reply to] Can't Post

I've no idea how copyright works for literature so I played it safe and didn't include it. But, it's probably fine. Smile


May 5 2015, 4:11pm

Post #5 of 17 (1909 views)
This has always struck me as the soldier in JRRT [In reply to] Can't Post

especially the listening for the returning feet - which in his own young war experience didn't happen for his friends; they didn't return. And reading Letters and his concerns for his sons and their generation involved in the Second World War I feel like that feeling of pregnant waiting, from he moment they leave, is reflected in Bilbo here.


May 5 2015, 5:39pm

Post #6 of 17 (1905 views)
Playing it safe. [In reply to] Can't Post

If you really wanted to play it safe then you probably SHOULD have included a copyright notice.

I'm sure it's fine, though; the poem is short, you meant well and I doubt that any harm was done.

"At the end of the journey, all men think that their youth was Arcadia..." - Phantom F. Harlock


May 5 2015, 6:13pm

Post #7 of 17 (1898 views)
Hmmm, we wonders.. [In reply to] Can't Post

I find lots of 'completed' Tolkien poetry all over the net

Including TORn.

Including the one in question.... on TORn.... Word for Word

Copyright notice? Well they can come and carry me away or one of the Admins could delete...

But then I'd be singled out, eh?


May 5 2015, 6:38pm

Post #8 of 17 (1893 views)
Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

My only objection was the use of the word safe. Unless this is opposite day, in which case I withdraw my comment!

"At the end of the journey, all men think that their youth was Arcadia..." - Phantom F. Harlock


May 5 2015, 8:47pm

Post #9 of 17 (1875 views)
Beautiful things grow more beautiful... [In reply to] Can't Post

" ..I expect you understand more as you get older..." - Yes, beautiful things grow more beautiful.

I find quite a lot of the book is about death, But I don't find this depressing. If only I can learn how to die well and without fear.

The Ring extended life, but not joy. So I can understand that's not a good way.

I wonder whose death I would choose for myself? Assuming I will not get to pass into the West with the Elves, probably Aragorn who went forth with hope after living well and accomplishing all he could.

love, oliphaunt


May 5 2015, 9:07pm

Post #10 of 17 (1876 views)
I find it contemplative [In reply to] Can't Post

And I'm old to many (50). I don't find it depressing, personally, more like he's just putting his life in perspective, and that includes imagining the world without you, which is something you more easily consider when you're older and which is pretty traumatic to think about when younger.

So that's my reaction, but I certainly understand that poetry affects everyone differently. And I agree that legacy is a strong theme in the book. Often implied, and sometimes very explicit. It strikes me in ROTK where I think it's said twice (once by Theoden, and maybe him again or by Eomer) something about they're going off to battle to do brave things that will only be remembered in song, if anyone is left to sing about them. They have very little hope of personal survival and not much more hope for a legacy, but they yearn for thr latter as compensation for death. Which I think is pretty normal for humans and why they build mausoleums, among other things.


May 5 2015, 10:03pm

Post #11 of 17 (1863 views)
Safe is good. . . [In reply to] Can't Post

Although I’ve never understood copyright infringement in cases similar to this.

Using a passage or quote from Tolkien’s writings seems (to me) –

HEY! Free Advertizing.

Buy our © books!

I’ve mentioned before that there is a Butter Burr (sp) restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho. It used to have a SUPER-SLICK menu with “Bilbo’s Big Breakfast”, “Barliman’s Special”, etc. etc.

The menu NOW has NO mention of anything Tolkienish. Just a plain ordinary menu, although same name (because it’s misspelled I reckon).

Free Advertizing - Why not?

In Reply To
My only objection was the use of the word safe. Unless this is opposite day, in which case I withdraw my comment!


May 15 2015, 1:53am

Post #12 of 17 (1696 views)
I agree with you! [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, it is more contemplative in tone and just recollecting things that were and things that he longs for. He is looking back and after the Quest, it is easy to see what has been lost and what has changed throughout the War. He may already see a difference with the hobbits, especially Frodo as well.

This is one of my favorite poems in the book!

"By Elbereth and Luthien the fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!" ~Frodo

"And then Gandalf arose and bid all men rise, and they rose, and he said: 'Here is a last hail ere the feast endeth. Last but not least. For I name now those who shall not be forgotten and without whose valour nought else that was done would have availed; and I name before you all Frodo of the Shire and Samwise his servant. And the bards and the minstrels should give them new names: Bronwe athan Harthad and Harthad Uluithiad , Endurance beyond Hope and Hope Unquenchable.." ~Gandalf, The End of the Third Age , from The History of Middle Earth series


May 16 2015, 12:34am

Post #13 of 17 (1668 views)
This. [In reply to] Can't Post

I also find it somewhat hopeful at the end. He is listening for returning feet because he is hoping that Frodo (and the others) will return. And it turns out he was right.

Some people call it fanfiction. I call it story-internal literary criticism.

The Shire

May 21 2015, 1:39pm

Post #14 of 17 (1617 views)
Interesting, I'd never thought of that! [In reply to] Can't Post

Brethil, I've been studying Tolkien's experiences in WWI for a series of conferences and writings (especially after reading the excellent "Tolkien and the Great War - The Threshold of Middle Earth" by John Garth) but I'd never made this connection. If the topic comes up again, I'll be sure to quote you!

I read LOTR at 15 and that poem made me cry, just as it does now, um... some decades later. I was lucky to grow up in the country, and seeking out every single path and stream (and often slipping and plunging into said stream) was a great part of my growing up. I too thought that wherever I went, there would still be something undiscovered, and that filled me both with hope and wistfulness.

Today it's exactly the last stanza that makes me cry, what with me being somewhat reclusive, what with having actually experienced loss. But I comfort myself thinking that all those "different greens" made me what I am, and nobody can take them away from me.

"It seemed to them that they beheld a great queen whose dignity neither age nor beggary nor all the woe of the world had taken from her."

Known as BlackfishBlues in other universes.

(This post was edited by GrimMorwen on May 21 2015, 1:43pm)


May 22 2015, 12:14pm

Post #15 of 17 (1596 views)
Welcome, Grim Morwen! [In reply to] Can't Post

It is touching to read JRRT's letters during the war years. I can only imagine how he felt having his sons in the line of fire; and the irony is that generation who lost so much in that War to End All wars...that wasn't. So I do see the author projected there, in Bilbo. It is very touching, and that line is so poignant, sort of expressing that while even doing other things, its all that waiting. I completely agree - one of those lines that really subtly and quietly convey so much.

Welcome to TORN and the Reading Room! Enjoy! Cool


May 22 2015, 12:58pm

Post #16 of 17 (1592 views)
Another Welcome, GrimMorwen! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for joining us here.

The Shire

May 23 2015, 11:48am

Post #17 of 17 (1555 views)
Thanks Brethil and CuriousG! [In reply to] Can't Post

Till now I've been shy to join in the TORN discussions, and I may be found in the Movie section fangirling over Thorin or Thranduil, but the Silmarillion and HoME really pushed me to research more serious topics, and this thread also encourages me to pick up LOTR again. I've even bought a new copy (I have a beautiful old edition, Unwin 1978, by now falling apart) and now I can underline it and sleep on it under my pillow as I do with all my books! (bit blocky, but one must make do)

"It seemed to them that they beheld a great queen whose dignity neither age nor beggary nor all the woe of the world had taken from her."

Known as BlackfishBlues in other universes.

(This post was edited by GrimMorwen on May 23 2015, 11:49am)


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