The Ballad of the Hunter

A birthday ballad for Cirdan

A/N This is an attempt to imitate a traditional ballad form dating back to the Late Middle Ages and most commonly found in Northern Europe. Originally, these ballads were courtly dancing songs; later they gained a wider audience. They usually consist of stanzas of two or four lines, rhyming pairwise, and a refrain after each stanza (I haven't repeated the refrain every time, only where it changes.) The stanzas are supposed to be sung by a lead singer, the refrain by the entire community. The verses consist of four stressed and an undefined number of unstressed syllables.

'And indeed the most ancient songs of the Elves, of which echoes are remembered still in the West, tell of (...) the dark Rider upon his wild horse that pursued those who wandered to take them and devour them.' (Silmarillion, Ch. 3, Of the Coming of the Elves)

Who shall be gone and who shall stay

When the Hunter comes to take us away?

Dark are the shadows that roam our lands

Woe unto all that fall into their hands

Wild is the horse that neighs in the hills

Cruel the horseman, and the fear he instils.

Can it be hoof beats, this sound that we hear?

Is the Hunter abroad, and does he draw near?

Who shall be gone and who shall stay

When the Hunter comes to take us away?

Cold was the world and the stars were bright

When we lost the archer forever from sight

He had been tracking the swift-footed deer

He's gone and we'll nevermore see him here.

Friends and kinsmen, pray do not stray,

Lest the Hunter come to take you away.

Moist were the leaves and the wind was strong

When our sister left home, taking no one along

She went to catch a few fish in the lake,

And became a prey for the darkness to take.

Maidens and children, pray do not stray,

Lest the Hunter come to take you away.

Broad was the river, and clouded the sky,

When our father merrily said us goodbye

To cut some wood for the fire in our hearth,

And vanished without trace from the face of the earth.

Fathers and mothers, pray do not stray,

Lest the Hunter come to take you away.

The turf was soft and gentle the air,

When I lost my bride, so lovely and fair

She danced in the glade, I would make her my wife.

But before we could wed she spun out of my life.

Wives and husbands, pray do not stray,

Lest the Hunter come to take you away.

Can it be hoof beats, this sound that we hear?

Is the Horseman abroad, and does he draw near?

Fierce is his horse and fast does he ride,

Where shall we run? Where shall we hide?

Speakers, Quendi, pray do not stray,

Lest the Hunter come to take you away

He is among us, our harts leap and race,

Yet some of us stand, and look at his face,

And we see the light that burns in his eye

And its blaze outshines the stars of the sky.

Who shall be gone, and who shall stay

When the Hunter comes to take us away?

He is a Hunter, who comes in this hour,

But he comes to revive, and not to devour.

He says we should leave for a safer home

Where all is light and no dark shapes roam.

He says we should leave for a place without gloom

Where all is bright and no shadows loom.

But who shall be gone, and who shall stay,

When the Hunter comes to take us away?