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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Poems by Robert E. Howard

One of my all-time favorite authors is Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, etc.), here are a few of his poems.


Howard commited suicide at the age of 30 after learning his mother would not recover from a coma. This was his suicide note:

All fled--all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The feast is over, and the lamps expire.

An earlier poem shows his suicidal thoughts:

Something tapped me on the shoulder
Something whispered, "Come with me,"
"Leave the world of men behind you,
"Come where care may never find you
"Come and follow, let me bind you
"Where, in that dark, silent sea,
"Tempest of the world n'er rages;
"There to dream away the ages,
"Heedless of Time's turning pages,
"Only, come with me."

"Who are you?" I asked the phantom,
"I am rest from Hate and Pride.
"I am friend to king and beggar.
"I am Alpha and Omega,
"I was councilor to Hagar
"But men call me suicide.
"I was weary of tide breasting,
Weary of the world's behesting,
And I lusted for the resting
As a lover for his bride.

And my soul tugged at its moorings
And it whispered, "Set me free.
"I am weary of this battle,
"Of this world of human cattle,
"All this dreary noise and prattle.
"This you owe to me."
Long I sat and long I pondered,
On the life that I had squandered,
O'er the paths that I had wandered
Never Free.

In the shadow panorama
Passed life's struggles and its fray.
And my soul tugged with new vigor,
Huger grew the phantom's figure,
As I slowly tugged the trigger,
Saw the world fade swift away.
Through the fogs old Time came striding,
Radiant clouds were 'bout me riding,
As my soul when gliding, gliding,
From the shadow into day.

Two poems illustrating Howard's distase for life in our 'civilized world':

The Weakling
I died in sin and forthwith went to Hell;
I made myself at home upon the coals
Where seas of flame break on the cinder shoals.
Till Satan came and said with angry yell,
"You there - divulge what route by which you fell."
"I spent my youth among the flowing bowls,
"Wasted my life with women of dark souls,
"Died brothel-fighting - drunk on muscatel."

Said he, "My friend, you've been directed wrong:
"You've naught to recommend you for our feasts -
"Like factory owners, brokers, elders, priests;
"The air for you! This place is for the strong!
"Then as I pondered, minded to rebel,
He laughed and forthwith kicked me out of Hell.

The Vision
I cannot believe in a paradise
Glorious, undefiled,
For gates all scrolled and streets of gold
Are tales for a dreaming child.

I am too lost for shame
That it moves me unto mirth,
But I can vision a Hell of flame
For I have lived on Earth.

Think twice before stealing from a blind man:

Miser's Gold
"Nay, have no fear. The man was blind," said she.
"How could he see 'twas we that took his gold?
"The devil, man! I thought you were bold!"
"This is a chancy business!" muttered he,
"And we'll be lucky if we get to sea.
"The fellow deals with demons, I've been told."
"Let's open the chest, shut up and take a hold.
"Then silence as they knocked the hinges free.

A glint of silver and a sheen of jade -
Two strange gems gleaming from a silken fold -
Rare plunder - gods, was that a hidden blade?
A scream, a curse, two bodies stark and cold.
With jewel eyes above them crawled and swayed
The serpent left to watch the miser's gold.

A poem about Cimmeria, the homeland of Conan:


I remember
The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.

Vista upon vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista--hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.

It was gloomy land that seemed to hold
All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,
With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,
And the dark woodlands brooding over all,
Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.

It was so long ago and far away
I have forgotten the very name men called me.
The axe and flint-tipped spear are like a dream,
And hunts and wars are like shadows. I recall
Only the stillness of that sombre land;
The clouds that piled forever on the hills,
The dimness of the everlasting woods.
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

And finally, a tale of one of my favorite Howard characters, Solomon Kane:

The Return Of Sir Richard Grenville

One slept beneath the branches dim,
Cloaked in the crawling mist,
And Richard Grenville came to him
And plucked him by the wrist.

No nightwind shook the forest deep
Where the shadows of Doom were spread,
And Solomon Kane awoke from sleep
And looked upon the dead.

He spake in wonder, not in fear:
"How walks a man who died?
"Friend of old times, what do ye here,
"Long fallen at my side?"

"Rise up, rise up," Sir Richard said,
"The hounds of doom are free;
"The slayers come to take your head
"To hang on the ju-ju tree.

"Swift feet press the jungle mud
"Where the shadows are grim and stark,
"And naked men who pant for blood
"Are racing through the dark."

And Solomon rose and bared his sword,
And swift as tongue could tell,
The dark spewed forth a painted horde
Like shadows out of Hell.

His pistols thundered in the night,
And in that burst of flame
He saw red eyes with hate alight,
And on the figures came.

His sword was like a cobra's stroke
And death hummed in its tune;
His arm was steel and knotted oak
Beneath the rising moon.

But by him sang another sword,
And a great form roared and thrust,
And dropped like leaves the screaming horde
To writhe in bloody dust.

Silent as death their charge had been,
Silent as night they fled;
And in the trampled glade was seen
Only the torn dead.

And Solomon turned with outstretched hand,
Then halted suddenly,
For no man stood with naked brand
Beneath the moon-lit tree.

To learn more about Robert E. Howard visit: http://www.rehfoundation.org/index.php


Helen said...

Thanks for posting these! Any others you would be interested in posting would be much appreciated.

Brook said...

"How can I wear the harness of toil,
and sweat at the daily round,
while in my soul forever,
the drums of Pictdom sound?!"

- REH's intro poem to Bran Mak Morn

Crowboy said...

By a route obscure and lonely, haunted by ill angels only, where an Eidolon, named Night, on a black throne reigns upright, I have wandered home but newly from this ultimate dim Thule.

By The Sword said...

Thanks for posting these.

Crowboy said...

These were paladins, these were Craven's peers,
These with him shall be crowned in story and song,
Crowned with the glitter of steel and the glimmer of tears,
Princes of courtesy, merciful, pride and strong.