A Far Green Country

There are beautiful descriptions of the world to come in The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

I’ve always loved the image and the idea of the “far green country” that lies “further up and further in” that are conveyed in these works.

“The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

—Gandalf to Pippin (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien)

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now… Come further up, come further in!”

—Jewel the Unicorn (The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis)

A few summers ago, I set myself a writing exercise—to write a hymn verse. (This because I listened to or read a devotional talk in which a Latter-day Saint church leader encouraged everyone to try their hand at hymn writing. Alas, I cannot remember the name of the speaker and I haven’t been able to find the source of this counsel.)

The resulting modest verse unexpectedly proved derivative. I didn’t consciously set out to draw on Tolkien and Lewis, but the while I was writing the first draft, the words “a far green country” put themselves in the line, and the course of the rest of the verse was set. When I reworked the draft, the allusions just became stronger.

I stand, stranger to this place,
In the west, death stands in grace,
A shadow far and lovely,
Beyond, a far green country
Further up and further in
Where the light floods down the hills.
I will someday sojourn there.
There and home and past all fear.

One last note: This verse isn’t quite a hymn verse—although I started out writing for a 7777D hymn meter, which means that there are eight lines of seven syllables each, the meter of the verse is not regular, neither iambic nor trochaic, which means that it probably wouldn’t work well when sung to music.

Still, I’m happy with the verse because it allowed me to pay my respects with literary allusions to the bright images of Tolkien and Lewis that I have long loved.

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