Journey to the East: Original Poetry Inspired by Lord of the Rings

I just finished reading The Lord of the Rings again.

Man. Each time I read this masterpiece I gain a new layer of appreciation for the story, the writing, the characters, the themes, and the language. (Compare with what I wrote in response to this saga two years ago.) While all those things impacted and inspired me afresh this time around, I also found a new connection with Frodo and his burden of the Ring, especially at the end of The Return of the King

I didn’t have to imagine the exhaustion, the stupor, the despair, the pain and weakness, the fear Frodo feels, because I too have felt them. Was feeling them while I read. I carry the weight of chronic illness that drags me down, body and soul, like the evil Ring of Power around my neck.

But following Frodo’s journey from the Shire to Mount Doom also reminded me of my journey toward eternity, and I found myself immensely encouraged by the reality that, just like Frodo, every day brings me one step closer to my destination: a pain-free eternity in God’s presence.

This encouragement and inspiration turned into a two-part series for The Valley blog relating themes from Tolkien’s saga to truths from Scripture and our struggles with chronic illness.

But the ideas went deeper than that, deep into my soul where they stirred up more ideas that took on words of their own. A poem was born that uses allusion to Frodo’s journey with the Ring to describe my journey with chronic illness, a journey toward the end of all pain and the beginning of all good someday in God’s presence.

It’s a poem of travail and fear, effort and pain, but also of strength and companionship, beauty and gifts. Ultimately, however, it’s a poem of hope: the hope I have every day, every step of my journey and the hope that awaits me in Heaven.

I hope it can encourage you the way God used these truths to encourage me.

Journey to the East

I carry a burden, a great weight of gold,
Before my days chosen by wisdom of old
To bow down with sorrow my neck and my soul,
Pressed low to the earth like a creature unwhole.

I go to the East, to the Land of the Sun,
To cast off my burden and see it undone.
My soul will be freed and all weariness gone
When shadows take flight in the splendor of dawn.

Through meadows of sunlight beneath azure sky,
By sparkling rivers that never run dry,
Up hills, over mountains the road leads me on,
Each step, ev’ry breath a small victory won.

I go to the East, to the Land of the Sun,
To cast off my burden and see it undone.
My soul will be freed and all weariness gone
When shadows take flight in the splendor of dawn.

Through forests of thorns, by cliffs riven and steep,
Beneath towers watching to passages deep,
In valleys of shadow and tunnels of fear,
I raise sword and starlight and forth persevere.

I go to the East, to the Land of the Sun,
To cast off my burden and see it undone.
My soul will be freed and all weariness gone
When shadows take flight in the splendor of dawn.

One comrade of many remains at my side
To nourish and comfort, a warrior and guide.
Though others may fall or paths sundered fulfill,
My own is laid straight; I must follow it still.

I go to the East, to the Land of the Sun,
To cast off my burden and see it undone.
My soul will be freed and all weariness gone
When shadows take flight in the splendor of dawn.

Dark hunters pursue me, their breath like a blight;
Fell creatures await me as servants of night.
With webs of deceit they devise their attack,
But they cannot conceive I will not be held back.

I go to the East, to the Land of the Sun,
To cast off my burden and see it undone.
My soul will be freed and all weariness gone
When shadows take flight in the splendor of dawn.

My spirit is fading, my body it fails;
My weakness grows stronger as darkness prevails.
My eyes cannot see, I taste ash on my lips,
Yet upward I climb with the last of my steps.

I’ve come to the East, to the Land of the Sun,
To cast off my burden and see it undone.
My soul is now freed and all weariness gone
As shadows take flight in the splendor of dawn.

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