HASA Resources

Things of Middle-earth

The Road goes ever on and on

Type: Songs & Stories

Other Names:
The Old Walking Song (LoTR index only)

Description:

A hobbit walking song, possibly written by Bilbo Baggins, with several variations. Also see Roads go ever ever on:
The original version is sung by Bilbo as he is leaving the Shire following his Farewell Party:
'[The] time has come. I am being swept off my feet at last,' he added, and then in a low voice, as if to himself, he sang softly in the dark:

'The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.'

He paused, silent for a moment. Then without another word he turned away from the lights and voices in the fields and tents, and followed by his three companions went round into his garden, and trotted down the long sloping path.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 1, A Long-expected Party

One variation is spoken by Frodo just before the four hobbit travellers first encounter the Black Rider that is searching for them:
'The road goes on for ever,' said Pippin; 'but I can't without a rest....' He sat down on the bank at the side of the road and looked away east into the haze, beyond which lay the River, and the end of the Shire in which he had spent all his life....

'Do Elves live in those woods?' [Sam] asked.

'Not that I ever heard,' said Pippin. Frodo was silent. He too was gazing eastward along the road, as if he had never seen it before. Suddenly he spoke, aloud but as if to himself, saying slowly:

'The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.'

'That sounds like a bit of old Bilbo's rhyming,' said Pippin. 'Or is it one of your imitations? It does not sound altogether encouraging.'

'I don't know,' said Frodo. It came to me then, as if I was making it up; but I may have heard it long ago. Certainly it reminds me very much of Bilbo in the last years, before he went away. He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?" He used to say that on the path outside the front door at Bag End, especially after he had been out for a long walk.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 3, Three Is Company

Another, more poignant, variation is spoken by Bilbo, after age has finally overtaken him in his retirement at Rivendell:
'[It's] too late now; and really I think it's much more comfortable to sit here and hear about it all. The fire's very cosy here, and the food's very good, and there are Elves when you want them. What more could one want?

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.'

And as Bilbo murmured the last words his head dropped on his chest and he slept soundly.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 5, Many Partings

Contributors:
~Nessime 8Jul03
Elena TIriel 16Jul07

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