One of the many poems J.R.R. Tolkien wrote for the characters of Middle Earth, ’All Ye Joyful’ was first published in The Hobbit. It is sung by the beautiful Elves of Rivendell in honor of Bilbo Baggins who has just returned from his quest to help Thorin Oakenshield reclaim his throne.
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Summary of All Ye Joyful
Sung by the elves, this poem is uplifting. Tolkien uses natural imagery to create a lovely scene. The elves sing for the return of their friend, asking that all join in in the festivities. There is dancing and singing. In the third and fourth stanzas everything quiets down and it’s time to allow Bilbo to get some rest.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of All Ye Joyful
‘All Ye Joyful’ by J.R.R. Tolkien is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of AABB BBCC DEDE. The lines vary in length but are altogether fairly close to one another, at least visually. In the second stanza, the lines are particularly close, they very much follow the same pattern.
Throughout ‘All Ye Joyful’ Tolkien keeps the mood joyful with the use of bright and wistful imagery. There is also the consistent use of exclamations a reader should take note of. For a poem this short there are a notable number of them, ten in total.
Poetic Techniques in All Ye Joyful
Tolkien makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘All Ye Joyful’. These include, but are not limited to, alliteration, anaphora, and metaphor. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, the last line of the second stanza reads: “Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting”.
Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. For example, “The” begins two lines in the first stanza and “Hush!” which appears three times towards the beginning of two lines in the last stanza.
One of the most important techniques at work in this poem is imagery. Imagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. Traditionally, the word “image” is related to visual sights, things that a reader can imagine seeing, but imagery is much more than that. It is something one can sense with their five senses. For example, in the first stanza when the speaker/s describe “The wind’s in the tree-top, the wind’s in the heather”. They are asking readers and listeners to use all their senses to imagine this.
Analysis of All Ye Joyful
Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together!
And bright are the windows of Night in her tower.
In the first stanza of ‘All Ye Joyful,’ a close reader can find examples of imagery, anaphora, and personification, as well as other techniques. The images that Tolkien crafts in these lines were meant to come from the minds of the Elves of Rivendell. This song was sung as a welcome home to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. They celebrate his return by asking that everyone come together and be “joyful” for there is no reason not to.
The speaker or speakers of this poem take note of the beautiful surroundings. These only enhance the power of the moment and the pleasure they feel at the return of one whom they consider as their friend. The images are lovely, the “wind…in the tree-top” and the “stars…in blossom”. This is a great example of a metaphor. The speaker compares the stars to flowers, making it seem as if the whole world is alive and only becoming more so. Personification is used in the last lines to describe “the windows of night in her tower”.
Dance all ye joyful, now dance all together!
Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting.
In the second stanza the first line is repeated, but with alterations. This time the speaker or speakers ask that those listening dance rather than sing. This expresses the true extent of their joy. Plus, the repetition in these lines helps the poem feel more like a song when it is read in the novel.
The second line of this stanza provides the reader with an example of alliteration with “foot” and “feather”. The increased rhythm this gives the line helps one imagine the dancing of the elves.
The darkness of the world is melting away, at least for a time and they all mean to celebrate that fact as best they can. Alliteration appears again in the fourth line with “Merry,” “May-time,” “merry,” and “meeting”.
Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!
Lullaby! Lullaby! Alder and Willow!
The third stanza begins differently than the previous two. The elves ask that everything quiet down. They are now seeking out peace and quiet so that their returned friend can get to sleep. They want to “weave” dreams for him. He is the “wanderer” they mention in the third line and now he has finished his job. Bilbo can finally rest and the elves call on the trees to allow him this quiet time.
Sigh no more Pine, till the wind of the morn!
Hushed be all water, till dawn is at hand!
In the final stanza, Tolkien uses seven exclamation marks. These truly emphasize the joy and excitement the speakers feel. They address the natural world, using personification to make it seem as though it is speaking and moving as a human would. It should stop sighing, the elves sing. The elves say the same to the “Oak, ash, and thorn” trees. They are singing for peace, for joy, and for the dawn of a new day with their returned friend. But first, he needs to get some rest.