“‘To mortal fields say farewell,
In Elvenhome a clear bell
in the high tower is shaking.
Here grass fades and leaves fall,
and sun and moon whither,
and we have heard the far call
that bids us journey tither’The oars were stayed. They turned aside:
‘Do you hear the call, Earth-maiden?
Firiel! Firiel!’ they cried.
‘Our ship is not full-laden.
One more only we may bear.
Come! For your days are speeding.
Come! Earth-maiden elven-fair,
our last call heeding.’
Firiel looked from the river bank,
one step daring;
then deep in clay her feet sank,
and she halted staring.
Slowly the elven-ship went by
whispering through the water:
‘I cannot come!’ they heard her cry.
‘I was born Earth’s daughter!’”
This excerpt is from J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem “The Last Ship” published in the The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. In this poem the earthling Firiel hears the beautiful song of the last Elven ship sailing out of her world to leave for their new eternal home described as the “Elvenhome, where the White Tree is growing and the Star shines upon the foam on the last shore flowing“. They invite her to come along, they call her by name, and they plead with her to come into the ship- fore there is plenty of room. Yet, she stands still, sinks in the mud, and stubbornly asserts that she belongs in her world. In the following stanzas, her treasures and beauty fade and the sun glows dim because she missed her last chance on the last ship.
Tolkien characterized the Earth born correctly- she took but one step. It seemed too difficult, and she was too stubborn and unwilling to surrender her identity with the world around her. How often do we each allow our selves to sink in the mud and just stare as an amazing opportunity passes us by? Not only was there a joyful boat of elves, but they were calling her by name, asking her to come into their world. “There is enough room, you are Elven fair, please come aboard” She can’t do it. She cannot leave Earth behind. They warn her that her “days are speeding” and that this is their last call, but she refuses to go. Then, the gems and treasures fade away, and the sun grows dim and hopeless because it is too late to climb aboard.
I reread this poem the other day and was really struck by how intentional the elves were, how intentional God can be. They invited her as He invites every man to come into a relationship with Him. She refused to respond and watched as her only chance to live beyond her world passed her by. Unlike the maiden here who knew that it was the last ship, many men andwomen do not know when their last opportunity to live beyond this world will past them by. Life comes and goes, and they never hear theimmortal life calling their name, inviting them aboard. Yet, the days still tick away untilthe last ship finally departs.
My greatest fear in life is that I would do the same. Could I cling to my worldly identity so tightly that I would miss my ship? Thankfully, I have already climbed aboard, but how many more men and women will miss that last call?
How do we get others to come aboard? Do we invite? Do we reason? Do we plead? All for some to recognize and then just refuse? We must because there is still room, and people are still being called. The hardest thing in life is passing others who we know may refuse to board their last ship. Still we must continue onward, joyfully sailing along, steering towards heaven’s shores…
“When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring ” – Phil Wickham, Beautiful