This poem was first published in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. ‘Farewell we call to hearth and hall’ is a simple poem, sing by merry and Pippin while they are staying at the Crickhollow house. It comes into their minds after they learn of Frodo’s plans and decide to accompany him.
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Summary of Farewell we call to hearth and hall
The song, sung by Merry and Pippin, speaks of the dangers that all the hobbits, and eventually the Fellowship, are going to face as they head out on their quest. They all have to leave the comforts of their homes behind, prepare to sleep outside, and live a very different kind of life for the foreseeable future.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of Farewell we call to hearth and hall
‘Farewell we call to hearth and hall by J.R.R. Tolkien is a four stanza poem that is separated into three sets of four lines, known as quatrains, and one concluding couplet, or set of two lines. These lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABA CCDC EEFE in the first three stanzas and then the couplet rhymes GG.
Tolkien also makes use of half-rhyme and internal perfect rhyme in ‘Farewell we call to hearth and hall’. Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “beneath” and “we” in lines two and three of the second stanza and “behind” and “sky” in lines one and two of the third stanza.
There are perfect rhymes at the end of the lines but also within the text itself. For example, “away” and “day” in line three of the first stanza and the same two words in the final couplet.
Poetic Techniques in Farewell we call to hearth and hall
Tolkien makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Farewell we call to hearth and fall’. These include, but are not limited to, alliteration, imagery, enjambment, and allusion. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “hearth and hall” in line one of the first stanza and “waste” and “wither” in lines three and four of the second stanza.
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. In this case, some of the strongest images that appeal to multiple senses are the “glade beneath the misty fell” and the wind that blows and rain that falls.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transition between lines three and four of the first stanza and lines one and two of the second.
An allusion is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to mind without directly stating it. In the case of this particular poem, Tolkien is alluding to the larger quest that is only just beginning in The Fellowship of the Ring. The hobbits are leaving their home and headed to Rivendell, home of the elves.
Analysis of Farewell we call to hearth and hall
Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Far over wood and mountain tall.
In the first stanza of ‘Farewell we call to hearth and hall’ the speaker, or in this case, speakers, begin by making use of the line that later came to be used as the title. Tolkien wrote this poem as a song, sung by two characters Merry and Pippin. Together they are saying goodbye to the safety of their home.
They know that the road ahead will be much less pleasant than their home life is, but they have to be “Far over wood and mountain tall” before, or “ere,” the “break of day”. It’s time for them all to leave as there is a long journey ahead.
To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
And whither then we cannot tell.
The second stanza reveals that it is to Rivendell that the group is headed. It is a beautiful place, home to Lord Elrond and many other important elves. They leave “In glades beneath the misty fell,” or the mist-covered moorland. It is through that moorland that they have to “ride in haste,” as there is danger approaching. The hobbits, as of yet, are unsure exactly what the danger is, but it’s coming.
With foes ahead, behind us dread,
Our journey done, our errand sped.
They ride toward the relative safety of Rivendell but there is a lot more ahead of them. Greater dangers than they could imagine are directly in their path. This is alluding to the journey that the Fellowship heads out on and the longer quest that Sam and Frodo must undertake to destroy the ring.
The singers, Merry and Pippin, seem to understand that they are going to face hardship. They know they’re going to have to sleep outside until their journey is done. But at this point, they don’t know how long that journey is going to be.
We must away! We must away!
We ride before the break of day!
The last two lines use repetition to emphasize the fact that it is truly time that they depart. The internal perfect rhyme in these lines, as well as the alliteration, make this couplet a perfect, very rhythmic, ending to the poem. It also reminds the reader of the time crunch these characters are working with. There is a danger if they go or stay, they have to do something and quickly.