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Early Quenya

oilima markirya

The Last Ark

A Quenya poem that Tolkien presented in conjugation with his talk on “A Secret Vice” in 1931 (MC/213-5). The poem itself was written somewhat earlier, and there are ten extant drafts, as discussed in the Early Qenya Poetry article in PE16 (PE16/53-87).

The Qenya text and translation presented here are from the version of the poem on MC/213-5, with each phrase corresponding to a line of the poem. My analysis follows closely after the editors of the Early Qenya Poetry article: Gilson, Welden, and Hostetter (PE16/81-87). Detailed analysis appears in the discussion of individual phrases.

Conceptual Development: As discussed in the Early Qenya Poetry article, there were a number of drafts leading up to the Early Qenya poem presented here. The editors of the article divided the drafts up into two groups, which they label OM1a-g leading up to OM1, and OM2a preceding OM2, the last of these being the version presented here.

The first six drafts, OM1a-f, are clearly incremental developments of the same poem. For the most part, they are additions and refinements on the same text without major modifications. Accompanying the fourth draft (OM1d) is an English translation, which the editors labeled LA1a (PE16/68), which closely matches that iteration of the poem. At this point is seems that Tolkien began to work seperately on the Qenya and English versions of the poem. The next two Qenya drafts, OM1e and OM1f built on OM1d, but the following three English translations, labeled LA2a-c by the editors of the Early Qenya Poetry article (PE16/69-71) diverged into what was essentially an entirely new poem, albeit addressing the same subject matter.

At this point Tolkien produced one final draft based on the original Qenya development, labeled OM1 by the editors, along with a new English translation of that version. The final draft of this version of the poem was published by Christopher Tolkien as the “first version of Oilima Markirya” in an addendum to the “A Secret Vice” essay (MC/220-221).

Tolkien then cleaned up the divergent English poem and translated it back into Qenya, thereby producing a “second version” which he presented in his 1931 talk. There is also one draft of this second version, label OM2a by the editors of the Early Qenya Poetry article (PE16/81), but it is nearly identical to the version appearing with the essay.

I discuss the structure and development of the first version of the poem in a separate entry: Oilima Markirya (First Version), including a discussion of the first six drafts leading up to it: OM1a-f. Note that the seventh draft of the original Qenya poem, labeled OM1g by the editors of the Early Qenya Poetry article (PE16/77), does not match either the first or second versions of the poem, or any of the English translations, and seems to be an experimental bridge between the first and second versions. I labeled that draft as Oilima Markirya (Intermediate Version) and discuss it in its own, seperate entry.

Four decades later, Tolkien produced yet another version of this poem base on his conceptions of the Quenya language towards the end of his life, and this version is discussed in the entry for the Q. Markirya poem.


man kiluva kirya ninqe?“Who shall see a white ship?”
oilima ailinello lúte“leave the last shore”
níve qímari ringa ambar“the pale phantoms in her cold bosom”
ve maiwin qaine“like gulls wailing”
man kiluva kirya ninqe?“Who shall head a white ship?”
valkane wilwarindon“vague as a butterfly”
lúnelinqe vear“in the flowing sea”
tinwelindon talalínen“on wings like stars”
vea falastane“the sea surging”
falma pustane“the foam blowing”
rámali tíne“the wings shining”
kalma histane“the light fading”
man tenuva súru laustane?“Who shall hear the wind roaring?”
taurelasselindon“like leaves of forests”
ondoli losse karkane“the white rocks snarling”
silda-ránar“in the moon gleaming”
minga-ránar“in the moon waning”
lanta-ránar“in the moon falling”
ve kaivo-kalma“a corpse-candle”
húro ulmula“the storm mumbling”
mandu túma“the abyss moving”
man kiluva lómi sangane?“Who shall see the clouds gather?”
telume lungane“the heavens bending”
tollalinta ruste“upon crumbling hills”
vea qalume“the sea heaving”
mandu yáme“the abyss yawning”
aire móre ala tinwi“the old darkness beyond the stars”
lante no lanta-mindon“falling upon fallen towers”
man tiruva rusta kirya?“Who shall heed a broken ship?”
laiqa ondolissen“on the green rocks”
nu karne vaiya“under red skies”
úri nienaite híse“a bleared sun”
píke assari silde“blinking on bones gleaming”
óresse oilima“in the last morning”
hui oilima man kiluva“Who shall see the last evening?”
hui oilima“[the last evening]”