Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  William Morris  Index  Previous  Next 

The Roots of the Mountains, by William Morris, [1889], at


On the morrow they bore to bale their slain men, and there withal what was left of the bodies of the four chieftains of the Great Undoing.  They brought them into a most fair meadow to the west of Silver-stead, where they had piled up a very great bale for the burning.  In that meadow was the Doom-ring and Thing-stead of the Folk of the Wolf, and they had hallowed it when they had first conquered Silver-dale, and it was deemed far holier than the Mote-house aforesaid, wherein the men of the kindred might hold no due court; but rather it was a Feast-hall, and a house where men had converse together, and wherein precious things and tokens of the Fathers were stored up.

The Thing-stead in the meadow was flowery and well-grassed, and a little stream winding about thereby nearly cast a ring around it; and beyond the stream was a full fair grove of oak-trees, very tall and ancient.  There then they burned the dead of the Host, wrapped about in exceeding fair raiment.  And when the ashes were gathered, the men of Burgdale and the Shepherds left those of their folk for the kindred to bury there in Silver-dale; for they said that they had a right to claim such guesting for them that had helped to win back the Dale.

But when the Burning was done and the bale quenched, and the ashes gathered and buried (and that was on the morrow), then men bore forth the Banners of the Jaws of the Wolf, and the Red Hand, and the Silver Arm, and the Golden Bushel, and the Ragged Sword, and the Wolf of the Woodland; and with great joy and triumph they brought them into the Mote-house and hung them up over the dais; and they kindled fire on the Holy Hearth by holding up a disk of bright glass to the sun; and then they sang before the banners.  And this is somewhat of the song that they sang before them:

 Why are ye wending?  O whence and whither?
   What shineth over the fallow swords?
What is the joy that ye bear in hither?
   What is the tale of your blended words?

No whither we wend, but here have we stayed us,
   Here by the ancient Holy Hearth;
Long have the moons and the years delayed us,
   But here are we come from the heart of the dearth.

We are the men of joy belated;
   We are the wanderers over the waste;
We are but they that sat and waited,
   Watching the empty winds make haste.

Long, long we sat and knew no others,
   Save alien folk and the foes of the road;
Till late and at last we met our brothers,
   And needs must we to the old abode.

For once on a day they prayed for guesting;
   And how were we then their bede to do?
Wild was the waste for the people's resting,
   And deep the wealth of the Dale we knew.

Here were the boards that we must spread them
   Down in the fruitful Dale and dear;
Here were the halls where we would bed them:
   And how should we tarry otherwhere?

Over the waste we came together:
   There was the tangle athwart the way;
There was the wind-storm and the weather;
   The red rain darkened down the day.

But that day of the days what grief should let us,
   When we saw through the clouds the dale-glad sun?
We tore at the tangle that beset us,
   And stood at peace when the day was done.

Hall of the Happy, take our greeting!
   Bid thou the Fathers come and see
The Folk-signs on thy walls a-meeting,
   And deem to-day what men we be.

Look on the Holy Hearth new-litten,
   How the sparks fly twinkling up aloof!
How the wavering smoke by the sunlight smitten,
   Curls up around the beam-rich roof!

For here once more is the Wolf abiding,
   Nor ever more from the Dale shall wend,
And never again his head be hiding,
   Till all days be dark and the world have end.

Next: Chapter LII. Of the New Beginning of Good Days in Silver-Dale