music sample: opening scene
the relevant passage is highlighted in red in the text below
This episode originated in the song The Sea Bell written in the early 1970s and was then expanded and completed in vocal score during the following years.  However I always  regarded  the  final  segment  (from Gandalf’s words “Go in peace”) as unsatisfactory, and when I was orchestrating the piece in 2001 I took the opportunity to compose a new ending drawing on material from similar scenes in The Silmarillion. 
It is this revised version which is included in the collected edition; the original manuscript is lodged in the Welsh Music Archive at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
Scene One

Frodo’s room at Bag End.  Frodo is sitting alone in a deep chair, fingering nervously the white jewel of Arwen. 

His mind is obviously depressed and shrouded in gloom.  After a while he lies back in his chair and murmurs in a

quiet voice


                I walked by the sea, and there came to me

as a star-beam on the wet sand,

a white shell like a sea-bell;

trembling it lay in my wet hand.

In my fingers shaken I heard waken

a ding within, by a harbour bar

a buoy swinging, a call ringing

over endless seas, faint now and far.

He raises himself slightly in his chair, and continues in a louder tone 

                Then I saw a boat silently float

on the night-tide, empty and grey.

It is later than late! Why do we wait?

I leapt in and cried Bear me away!

His voice has risen to a passion; he half-rises from his seat, but slowly he sinks back again

                It bore me away, wetted with spray,

                wrapt in a mist, bound in a sleep,

                to a forgotten strand in a strange land.

                I heard a sea-bell swing in the swell,

                dinging, dinging, and the breakers roar

                on the hidden teeth of a perilous reef;

                and at last I came to a long shore.

                White it shimmered, and the sand glimmered

                like star-mirrors in a silver net;

                dust of stone pale as ruel-bone

                in the moon-foam was gleaming wet;

                glittering sand slid through my hand,

                dust of pearl and jewel-grist,

                trumpets of opal, roses of coral,

                gems of gold and amthyst.

Again his voice has grown more excited; but abruptly he sinks back into his chair, more dejected than ever

                But under cliff-eaves there were gleaming caves,

                weed-curtained, dark and grey.

                A cold wind stirred in my hair,

                and the light waned, as I hurried away.

Rays of sunlight filter into the room; the light illumines his face and banishes some of his depression.  He continues

after a while in an almost ecstatic tone, as if contemplating a distant vision

                Down from a hill ran a green rill;

                its waters I drank to my heart’s ease.

                Up its fountain stair to a country fair

                of ever-eve I came, far from the seas,

                climbing into meadows of fluttering shadows;

                flowers lay there like fallen stars,

                and on a blue pool glassy and cool,

                like floating moons, the nenuphars.

                Alders were sleeping, and willows weeping

                by a slow river of rippling weeds;

                gladdon-swords guarded the fords,

                and green spears and arrow-reeds.

He rises from the chair, and continues with increasing passion

                There was echo of song all evening long

                down in the valley; many a thing

                running to and fro; hares white as snow;

                voles out of holes; moths on the wing

                with lantern eyes; in quiet surprise

                brocks were staring out of dark doors.

He paces backwards and forwards, continuing with greater urgency

                I heard dancing there, music in the air,

                feet going quick on the green floor…

He suddenly halts, listening as if to distant music and dancing.  His face becomes very still

                But wherever I came it was ever the same;

                the feet fled, and all was still.

                Never a greeting, only the fleeting

                pipes, voices, horns on the hill…

                Of river-leaves and the rush-sheaves

                I made me a mantle of jewel-green,

                a tall wand to hold and a flag of gold.

                My eyes shone like a star-sheen.

                With flowers crowned I stood on a mound

                and shrill as a call at cock-crow

                proudly I cried: Why do you hide?

                Why do you not speak, wherever I go?

                Here now I stand, lord of this land,

                with gladdon-sword and reed-mace.

                Answer my call! Come forth all!

                Speak to me words! Show me a face!

His proud stance collapses with alarming rapidity, and  he falls back into his chair

                Black came a cloud as a night shroud.

                Like a dark mole groping I went,

                to the ground falling, on my hands crawling

                with my eyes blind and my knees bent.

        He covers his face with his hands, speaking when he continues only with difficulty

                I crept to a wood; silent in stood

                in its dead leaves; bare were its boughs.

                There must I sit, wandering in wit,

                while owls snored in their hollow house.

                For a year and a day there must I stay;

                beetles were tapping in the hollow trees,

                spiders were weaving, in the mould heaving

                puff-balls loomed about my knees.

Again he fingers Arwen’s jewel, looking deep into its depths and slowly appearing to gain comfort from it

                At last there came light in the long night,

                and I saw my hair hanging grey.

                Bent though I be, I must find the sea!

                I have lost myself, and I know not the way,

                but let me be gone!  Then I stumbled on;

                like a hunting bat shadow was over me;

                in my ears dinned a withering wind,

                and with ragged briars I tried to cover me.

                My hands were torn and my knees worn,

                and the years were heavy upon my back,

                when the rain in my face took a salt taste,

                and I smelled the smell of sea-wrack.

                Birds came sailing, mewling, wailing,

                and I heard voices in cold caves,

                seals barking and rocks snarling

                and in spout-holes the gulping of waves.

The rays of sunlight in the room slowly fade; and the light grows dimmer.  After a long pause he continues, still

with a certain elation

                Winter came fast; into a mist I passed;

                to land’s end my years I bore.

                Snow was in the air, ice in my hair,

                darkness was lying on the last shore.

                There still afloat waited the boat,

                in the tide lifting, its prow tossing;

                weary I lay as it bore me away,

                waves climbing, the seas crossing,

                passing great hulls clustered with gulls

                and great ships laden with light;

                coming to haven, dark as a raven,

                silent as snow deep in the night.

Slowly the elation has left him; he now sits deathly still, only his face working.  The light too has now faded; a

heavy dusk covers the room

    Houses were shuttered, wind round them muttered,

                roads were empty.  I sat by a door

                and where drizzling rain poured down a drain

                I cast away all that I bore:

                in my clutching hand some grains of sand,

                and a sea-bell silent and dead.

                Never will my ear that bell hear,

                never my feet that shore tread,

                never again; as in sad lane,

                in blind alley and in long street

    ragged I walk.  To myself I talk;

                for still they speak not, men that I meet.

He remains seated in his chair; slowly the light fades.  Sam comes gently into the room

SAM    What is the matter, Mister Frodo?

FRODO   I am wounded, wounded… It will never really heal…

    Again he fingers the white jewel of Arwen

It is gone for ever, and now all is dark and empty…

Sam moves across the room towards him as the light fades.  In the darkness the inner curtain falls


Scene Two 

Shadows of great trees are thrown onto the scene, slowly becoming more distinct.  The light returns, and Frodo and

Sam are seen walking through the moonlit woods.  Frodo halts in thought and sings softly to himself


                Still round the corner there may wait

a new road or a secret gate;

and though I oft have passed them by,

the day may come at last when I

shall take the hidden paths that run

west of the Moon, east of the Sun.

A small chorus of voices is heard behind the scene.  At the sound of the distant Elvish choir, Frodo and Sam stand

listening in rapt enchantment

Voices of ELVES 

                A Elbereth Gilthoniel!

Silivren penna míriel

o menel agalar elenath!



                A Elbereth!

A glimmer of light through the trees is seen, coming ever nearer

Voices of ELVES

                We still remember, we who dwell

                in this far land beneath the trees,

                the starlight on the Western Seas.

Further lights are seen as there enters through the woods an Elven procession, led by Galdor.  And there to the wonder of Frodo and Sam ride Elrond and Galadriel; and by their side, transfigured through the agedness of his features, comes Bilbo.  They pause, and Elrond looks at them.  As if inspired by an unheard command, Frodo steps forward to join the procession

SAM [crying out]  Where are you going, master?

FRODO   To the Havens, Sam…I tried to save the world, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger; someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.  Do not be too sad, Sam.  Your time will come.  You cannot always be torn in two.  You will have to be one and whole, for many years; you have so much to enjoy, and to be, and to do.  For the Third Age is over, and  the days of the Rings are passed, and an end is come of the story of these times.  Come now, ride with me!

Sam now steps forward to join him, and the procession moves on as the light fades      


Scene Three 

 In the darkness the inner curtain has risen again, to show the scene totally covered in mist.  Light shines through

this and, as the mists disperse, a great ship is dimly seen lying at anchor in the water.  On the shore, by the anchor,

there sits on a great stone Círdan the Shipwright. As the mists lift still further, then can be seen standing beyond him

the Elven company with Frodo and Sam; and beyond them there stands a tall cloaked figure as yet indiscernible. As

this figure moves forward, the Shipwright rises and lifts the anchor

CÍRDAN   All now is ready.

And the tall figure is seen by all to be Gandalf, who comes forward towards the front of the stage. All the Elves  go  

on  board;  at  last  only      Elrond, Galadriel, Sam, Frodo and Círdan remain towards the front. Gandalf then turns to


GANDALF   Well, my dear friends, here at last comes the end of our Fellowship on the shores of Middle-earth.  Go in peace!  I will not say, Do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.

And then he and Galadriel and Elrond join hands, and displayed on their fingers are seen the three Rings of the

Elves. And Frodo raises his own hand with the nine fingers before them, and leads them on into the shadowy vessel.

Sam and Círdan alone remain on shore; and the mists swirl once again across the stage.  All that can be seen is the

great ship moving on its way across the seas.   Slowly there appears over the water a faint light, and with it is heard

the sound of voices singing. And then it appears that the grey rain-curtain turns all to silver glass, and is rolled

back; and there are seen beyond white shores, and beyond them a green country under a swift sunrise. In the

distance great lights shine, piercing the lingering mists as the curtain falls


Although the very long ballad The Sea Bell originated from the same period as the Seven Tolkien Songs, it can be regarded as in many ways the original germ from which The Silmarillion grew.

It was at a very early stage extended by the addition of the closing scenes from The Lord of the Rings to become part of The Grey Havens. The main theme (which recurs many times in the course of the ballad) was then adapted to become the principal melody of the slow movement of the third symphony Ainulindalë, and from there found its way into all four parts of The Silmarillion as one of the principal themes associated with the Elves (and, in a further adaptation, it also forms the main material of the work for flute and piano Daeron). 

The piano phrase just before the words “There was echo of song” was later incorporated into Tom Bombadil as a theme depicting the Prancing Pony inn.