By:Aaron D. Wolf | September 02, 2011
September 2 is the 38th anniversary of the death of J.R.R. Tolkien (1973). The man who inspired so many to see the real, enchanted world and not the sterile, imagined one of modernity was himself inspired by deeply Christian Anglo-Saxon poetry.
The very idea of "Middle Earth" came from a (likely) ninth-century poem called Christ or The Ascension, by a man named Cynewulf. In honor of the creator of Lord of the Rings, here's the relevant passage:
Eala earendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended,
ond soðfæsta sunnan leoma,
torht ofer tunglas, þu tida gehwane
of sylfum þe symle inlihtes!
Swa þu, god of gode gearo acenned,
sunu soþan fæder, swegles in wuldre
butan anginne æfre wære,
swa þec nu for þearfum þin agen geweorc
bideð þurh byldo, þæt þu þa beorhtan us
sunnan onsende, ond þe sylf cyme
þæt ðu inleohte þa þe longe ær,
þrosme beþeahte ond in þeostrum her,
sæton sinneahtes; synnum bifealdne
deorc deaþes sceadu dreogan sceoldan.
Charles W. Kennedy has translated this to read:
Hail Day-Star! Brightest angel sent to man *throughout the earth* [in Middle Earth], and Thou steadfast splendour of the sun, bright above stars! Ever Thou dost illumine with Thy light the time of every season. As Thou, begotten God of God, Son of the True Father, without beginning abodest ever in the splendour of heaven, so now for need Thy handiwork bessecheth boldly that Thou send the bright sun unto us; that Thou come and shed Thy light on those who long ere this, compassed about with mist and in the darkness, clothed in sin, sit here in the long night, and must needs endure the dark shadow of Death.
How boring is the world of Christopher Hitchens and his fellow science-worshipers! Tolkien, like Cynewulf, knew that reality is far more interesting than the mere visible world.