. What I Learned from Tolkien The darkness comes and all seems bleak and wrong, My calm is rent, right burdens can’t be borne And Evil holds an iron grip so strong It seems it must prevail. With all hope torn, The path ahead seems lost in storm and murk. But then I think of Tolkien and his work. Specifically, his hobbits come to mind. I treasure Frodo, who destroys the Ring. But when defeatist thoughts occur I find It’s Sam whose decency and courage bring Me solace. More than solace! Inspiration And healing from these times of degradation. It’s Sam who is consistent, calm and ready To offer words of comfort. Even through Exhaustion and despair his sword is steady And valor in his heart stays strong and true. Sam speaks of stories---heroes, battles braved, Of dragons fought, dark quests, a Shire saved. These tales are sometimes full of so much dread That we may never want to face the end. What use are they when our own road ahead Is no less harsh, when death rounds every bend? Just this: these timeless stories help us grow And charge our weary hearts in times of woe! Strength grows when we tell of courageous men--- The best of who we are and yet could be. Such stories keep us going even when The world feels lost and hope is hard to see. The heroes Tolkien writes are plain and bold And won’t give up or in. These heroes hold To something---something meaningful and true, Though overwhelmed by loss of strength and grief. What Tolkien shares through Sam brings hope anew And we need never question this belief: When all seems lost, there’s yet some Good in store For this sad world. And it's worth fighting for. . . Reading Fiction upon reading Chesterton’s The Evangelization of the Imagination I’ve danced at Gatsby’s, sword-fought with an orc; I’ve cherished Aslan, hunted for John Galt. I’ve fled the headless horseman in New York While rooting for Valjean despite his fault. I’ve grokked, I’ve worked my gray cells like Poirot And scowled with Heathcliff through the Yorkshire moors. I’ve watched the March girls romp through Concord snow While cast away with Crusoe on strange shores. The works of hundreds grace my repertoire: Like blooms, I’ve learned to angle to the sun; I’ve found that sacrifice may be a far, Far better thing than I have ever done; I know what grabs the conscience of the king And that life’s stages yield more than one role. I’ve learned no good can come from Sauron’s ring; And this: to be the captain of my soul. We’re built for stories told and phrases rhymed. I’ve lived a hundred lives and in the end The seas that I have crossed, the mountains climbed Have made me kinder and a better friend, A man who tries, who grows more wise and whole. So much of who I am is what I’ve read. O, let me be an educated soul And follow close where poets dare to tread! . . Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.