A Ballad for the Unsung

by Jeff Russell
June 29, 2007

Tolkien Site > Poetry > Music > "A Ballad for the Unsung": tribute to those who died at the battle in front of the Black Gate. 

The legend lives on from the Shire on down
Of the battle field they called 'Dagorlad'*.
That field, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies are filled with Eastern storms.
With the Lord of Mordor marched one-thousand times more
Than the heir of Isildur could muster.
That bright host was true, but their hearts weary
When the storms from the Black Land came early.

The host was the pride of free peoples far and wide.
As the great hosts go, it was smaller than most,
But the men and their captain were well seasoned.
Concluding their plans, they set steel in their hands
When they marched straight for the Black Land.
And later that night when the White Tower’s bell rang
The hope of the city went with them.

The wind in the banners made tattle-tale sounds
As they glimpsed the Black Gate on the horizon.
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
It was the Necromancer come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the host of Mordor came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hateful East wind.

When dusk touched the plain, the old herald came sayin'.
Men, hold fast for your captain.
When the sun slipped away and the flanks caved in, he said
Men, it's been good to know you.
Yet the captain stood tall, on a hill he had took
But the bright host of men was in peril.
And later that night when hope was beyond sight
Came the White Rider; and Glamdring was singing.

Does any one know where the love of home goes
When the war drums turn the minutes to hours?
The cowards all say they'd have fought for their King
If he’d have just put some more men behind him.
But there on that hill, coward’s words seem as ill
As the orcs the men were facing
For the soldier's hope remained in the faces and the names
Of their wives and their sons and their daughters.

Lake Evendim rolls; Lake Esgaroth sings
To Smaug in his ice-water mansion.
Old Brandywine steams like a young hobbit’s dreams;
The valley of Rivendell is for singing.
And farther below, the Great Sea takes in what Anduin can send her.
Where the Swan boats go only the mariners know
For men no longer remember.

In the musty old inn of Bree they cried,
For those who fought on that field.
The town bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man who served the heir of Isildur.

The legend lives on from the Shire on down
Of the battle field they call 'Dagorlad'.
That field, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the storms from the Black Land come early.

    This is a Filk lyric for the battle in front of the Black Gate of Mordor. A filk is a new set of words set to known music so that it can be sung.
    The original music and words come from Gordon Lightfoot, who wrote an Irish style folksong called "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".
    *The unusual use of "Dagorlad" is intentional: first because it fit better within Lightfoot's template, and second because of the literal translation of the word as "Battle Plain".