From "Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon" (2003) by Brian Rosebury
This text is reproduced exclusively for the purposes of discussion on The One Ring.net.
When their breakfast was over, and
their packs all trussed up again, it was after ten o’clock, and the day was
beginning to turn fine and hot.
They went down the slope, and across the stream where it dived under the road, and up the next slope, and up and down another shoulder
of the hills; and by that time their cloaks, blankets, water, food and other gear already seemed a heavy burden. The day’s march promised to
be warm and tiring work. After some miles, however, the road ceased to roll up and down: it climbed to the top of a steep bank in a weary
zigzagging sort of way, and then prepared to go down for the last time. In front of them they saw the lower lands dotted with small clumps
of trees that melted away in the distance to a brown woodland haze. They were looking across the Woody End towards the Brandywine
River. The road wound away before them like a piece of string.
‘The road goes on for ever’, said
Pippin .... 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. ... 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
[page 30] 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 senses, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realise 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?” ...’ (FR, 82-3)