"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit." Elbert Hubbard

Friday, October 28, 2011

The poetry of Robert E. Howard

Yes dear readers, THE Robert E. Howard. Author, poet, and man of letters. Who deserves equal credit with J. R. R. Tolkien for bringing tales of mighty heroes and their epic adventures from the realm of mythology to the genre we know today as "heroic fantasy" and "sword and sorcery".

I'll save my well deserved contempt for the awful adaptations of Howard's creations to film for another time. Let's just say say that H'wood has done an extremely poor job with the characters of Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane.

That being said, let us move on to why we're here today. This being the season of Halloween, I would like to share with you some of the darker poetry of R. E. H. I hope that you get as much from it as I do in the spirit of the season.


The dusk was on the mountain
And the stars were dim and frail
When the bats came flying, flying
From the river and the vale
To wheel against the twilight
And sing their witchy tale.

"We were kings of old!" they chanted,
"Rulers of a world enchanted;
"Every nation of creation
"Owned our lordship over men.
"Diadems of power crowned us,
"Then rose Solomon to confound us,
"Flung his web of magic round us,
"In the forms of beasts he bound us,
"So our rule was broken then."

Whirling, wheeling into westward,
Fled they in their phantom flight;
Was it but a wing-beat music
Murmured through the star-gemmed night?
Or the singing of a ghost clan
Whispering of forgotten night?


Golden goats on a hillside black,
Silken gown on a wharf-side trull,
Screaming girl on a silver rack-
What are dreams in a shadowed skull?

I stood at a shrine and Chiron died,
A woman laughed from the purple roofs,
And he burned and lived and rose in his pride
And shattered the tiles with clanging hoofs.

I opened a volume dark and rare,
I lighted a candle of mystic lore-
Bare feet throbbed on the outer stair
And book and candle sank to the floor.

Ships that reel on the windy sea,
Lovers that take the world to wife,
What may the Traitress hold for me
Who scarce have lifted the veil of life?


There came to me a Shape one summer night
When all the world lay silent in the stars
And moonlight crossed my room with ghostly bars.
It whispered hints of weird unhallowed sight;
I followed, then in waves of spectral light
Mounted the shimmery ladders of my soul,
Where moon-pale spiders, huge as dragons stole-
Great forms like moths with wings of whispy white.

Then round the world the sighing of the loon
Shook misty lakes beneath the false dawn's gleams.
Rose-tinted shone the skyline's minaret.
I rose in fear and then with blood and sweat
Beat out the iron fabrics of my dreams
And shaped of them a web to snare the moon.

As the veil that separates this world from the next weakens, allowing the shades of those long gone to speak to us, I leave you with these verses of spectres fantastique to read by candlelight on Halloween. What was that? Oh, it's nothing, just the wind whistling through the trees. I think...

"'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world."
Hamlet: Act 3, scene II. William Shakespeare

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