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REH and His Views Concerning the Irish (and Celts in General)


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#1 deuce

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 05:26 AM

I meant to post this last night, but got busy. smile.gif As Fate would have it, my copy of The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, Volume One: 1923-1929 came in today. More gas fer the fire! wink.gif Having had friends and family over for the holiday (it's STILL St. Paddy's Day where I live), PLUS having "new" REH correspondence to read, I'm feelin' pretty good right now. biggrin.gif

Let's start from the start...

(To Harold Preece, ca. March 1929, p.354-355)
"I'm not worrying about my Irish past. What has my Celtic blood ever done for me but give me a restless and unstable mind that gives me no rest in anything I do? Damn the Shan Van Vocht, and the ancestors that went to Sassenach gallows for her, and damn the Irish and damn the black Milesian blood in my veins that makes me like drift-wood fighting the waves and gives me no peace or rest waking or sleeping or riding or dreaming or traveling or wooing, drunken or sober, with hunger or slumber on me. A sighing in the green leaves of all the trees, and a nameless sorrow in the black stars, and the white weeping winds are tugging at my heart forever and the whisper of black sands at night is like a knife in my soul. The branches of the forest creak like the arms of a gallows and an ancient sadness haunts the sunrises and the sunsets, and the shuddering of the rivers. Damn Saint Padraic; he drove the snakes from Eirean but he could not drive the mist from an Irish heart. And the heart of Erin is thin as smoke against the wind and brittle as crystal. The fall of an empire and the slaughter of millions may not shake it, but the drifting of a leaf before the wind or the song of the wild geese, or the moonlight on a still bay may shiver it into a million shining shards."

Compare the last sentence to one from the first submitted draft of The Phoenix on the Sword:
"I have seen the strange madness of futility fall upon them (the Cimmerians) when a little thing like a spinning dust-cloud, or the hollow crying of a bird, or the moan of the wind through bare branches brought to their gloomy minds the emptiness of life and the vainness of existence."

To Harold Preece, ca. early April 1930 (from The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, Volume Two: 1930-1932, p.32-33)

"Thanks for the Saint Padraic's card. Were I to name another trio to equal the one there portrayed, I should hesitate. But I believe that I would name Hugh O'Neill, Daniel O'Connell and the great Patrick Sarsfield. Strange the number of great men western Europe has produced compared to eastern Europe."

(Poem posted on the "Poems and Verse of Robert E. Howard" thread)

(...)

"Saint Padraic's Day usually leaves me with a distaste for the whole Celtic Irish race. Simply because my last name isn't Gaelic, the shamrock I wear is sometimes the object of questioning glances. Well, anyhow I notice damn well that none of my tribesmen have tried to uphold Celtic integrity by jerking it off. I'll wear the green if I have to fight every damned Celt in the world. How many of those who wear purely Gaelic surnames don't have the blood of Danes, Welsh, English or Dutch in them? Blasted few. You'll find a locality or town for every one of my names, in Ireland. There's a Robertstown in Kildare, an Irvinestown in Fermanagh, a Patrick -- Hell, anywhere you look -- and a Mt. Howard in Wexford. I'll admit that my blood is more or less mixed up -- but how many people in Europe and America are not of mixed bloods? If nobody but a pure Celt wore the green, it wouldn't be worn except perhaps by a few savages living in the Connaught hills."

REH fans will note that he had two (or three?) of his Irish Gaelic heroes originate from "Connaught".

All for now. smile.gif


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#2 deuce

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 05:06 PM

Here's an excerpt from a St. Paddy's Day letter that I missed earlier... It was written to Tevis Clyde Smith on March 17th, 1925.

"The top o' the marnin', O'Clydo;

Faith and bejabbers! Whee! Hurrah for Brian Boru, St. Brandon, Jack McAulliffe, John MacCormick, Mike McTigue and ivry other, shillalah wavin', potheen swiggin', wild Irishman who iver hilped make the auld isle famous!"


~ Robert E. Howard ~

Brian Boru was the last great Ard Ri of Ireland (and one of the main characters in Howard's The Grey God Passes). St. Brandon (Brendan) was known as "the Navigator" (and the "Cross of St. Brandon" is a powerful talisman in REH's The Cairn on the Headland). McAuliffe and McTigue were Irish-born boxing champs. The only "John MacCormick" that I know of was the Scots-born founder of the SNP.

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#3 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 05:12 PM

Greetings!

deuce! Thanks boyo! ;) I have to get his books of letters,.....

Tu

#4 Xaltotun

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 05:42 PM

Great idea for a thread!
I have been wondering this very same thing for a few years now.
Based on my Conan readings, I don't get the impression that he had much access to traditional Celtic lit., esp. Old Irish tales of the Ulster and/or Mythological Cycles.

I personally get his bitterness over not having an overtly "Celtic" surname. I relate to that since my surname is misleading too. ;)

#5 deuce

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 05:43 PM

Greetings!

deuce! Thanks boyo! ;) I have to get his books of letters,.....

Tu


Thanks right back atcha, Tu! Your old "Letters" thread was much appreciated by yours truly. :) I can't praise enough the work and craftsmanship that Rob Roehm, Rusty and the rest of the REHF have put into the "Collected Letters" volumes. This series provides an unprecedented insight into the mind of the Man From Cross Plains. Any true REH fan should buy 'em. End of sales pitch. ;)

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#6 deuce

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 06:12 PM

Great idea for a thread!
I have been wondering this very same thing for a few years now.
Based on my Conan readings, I don't get the impression that he had much access to traditional Celtic lit., esp. Old Irish tales of the Ulster and/or Mythological Cycles.

I personally get his bitterness over not having an overtly "Celtic" surname. I relate to that since my surname is misleading too. ;)


Thanks Xaltotun. :) I've been considering the "REH and the Irish/Celts" question for many, many years. I originally began studying "Celtic stuff" due to things I read by/about Howard and his "Celtophilia". For a very long time, all I had to go by regarding the extent of REH's knowledge of "Celtic matters" were his yarns and things that Glenn Lord would quote from letters, etc... I went from thinking that Howard knew a LOT about such matters to thinking that he knew some facts here and there. NOW, after reading the first two "Letters" volumes, it appears that REH did know a great deal about the ancient Irish/Celts-in-general (by the standards of the time). His views were idiosyncratic, to be sure. His Irish Gaelic heroes like CMA, "Conan of Eire-ann", Turlogh and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey all strongly resemble Conan (background/attitude-wise), so it's not a case of REH "changing" his Cimmerians from his original "Gaelic archetype". He saw the Irish/Gaels/Celts somewhat differently than most do today.

Believe me, there is plenty more from where the above excerpts came from. I plan on posting it all. :) Of course, by all means, if anyone else with access to the "Letters" volumes wants to post pertinent excerpts (or "Celtic" references from REH's yarns), they should feel more than free to do so. It'd save me a lot of work. ;)

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#7 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 01:53 AM

Greetings!
Great subject,....
I have not read -every- letter where REH talks about his own Irish heritage,certainly most of his heros could claim Keltic/Irish blood. does anyone feel at times he may have had a love/hate relationship with Erin,and or Irish roots?
I got that feeling at times,both of my names are of Irish origin (Kevin Brady) Kevin after the patron saint of the animals of Erin and Brady an ancient family from county Mayo I *think*,....
Reading the histories and people in Erin,I got the feeling there is alot to be proud of and alot to be embarassed about. ;)


Still,when I competed in the Scottish Highland games,I wore and Irish 'kilt' which is as opposed to a tartan a solid color: saffron the 3rd color in the flags trinity. Let me tell you,the curses I got in Scotland when I competed in that kilt! :rolleyes:
Here is one funny shout-out I heard:

'Bloody yank!'
'With a mick's colored skirt!'
This was right before I was to put the stone(which weighed 2 stone actually).I dropped it and said back: 'I'm a Red Sox fan,and me name ain't mick!' :P
Had my best toss,won the event and made the stunned hecklers buy me pints at the beer tent! :lol:
Sorry for the off-topic rant,....

Tu

#8 deuce

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 02:03 AM

Greetings!
Great subject,....
I have not read -every- letter where REH talks about his own Irish heritage,certainly most of his heros could claim Keltic/Irish blood. does anyone feel at times he may have had a love/hate relationship with Erin,and or Irish roots?


Hey Tu! Check out the first excerpt in Post #1. ;) You could probably insert "Texas" in there, as well.


I got that feeling at times,both of my names are of Irish origin (Kevin Brady) Kevin after the patron saint of the animals of Erin and Brady an ancient family from county Mayo I *think*,....
Reading the histories and people in Erin,I got the feeling there is alot to be proud of and alot to be embarassed about.


As is the case with every country.


Still,when I competed in the Scottish Highland games,I wore and Irish 'kilt' which is as opposed to a tartan a solid color: saffron the 3rd color in the flags trinity. Let me tell you,the curses I got in Scotland when I competed in that kilt!
Here is one funny shout-out I heard:

'Bloody yank!'
'With a mick's colored skirt!'
This was right before I was to put the stone(which weighed 2 stone actually).I dropped it and said back: 'I'm a Red Sox fan,and me name ain't mick!' :P


I hope those Scots didn't think that their (Scottish) ancestors invented plaid. It appears that the origins of such may go back to proto-Indo-European times.

Had my best toss,won the event and made the stunned hecklers buy me pints at the beer tent! :lol:
Sorry for the off-topic rant,....
Tu


Hey, way to go, Tu! That must've felt great (especially with free beer). :)

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#9 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 04:03 AM

Greetings!
Hey deuce!

>Hey Tu! Check out the first excerpt in Post #1. You could probably insert "Texas" in there, as well.>

I did,that's why I wondered about that relationship:

(To Harold Preece, ca. March 1929, p.354-355)
"I'm not worrying about my Irish past. What has my Celtic blood ever done for me but give me a restless and unstable mind that gives me no rest in anything I do? Damn the Shan Van Vocht, and the ancestors that went to Sassenach gallows for her, and damn the Irish and damn the black Milesian blood in my veins that makes me like drift-wood fighting the waves and gives me no peace or rest waking or sleeping or riding or dreaming or traveling or wooing, drunken or sober, with hunger or slumber on me. A sighing in the green leaves of all the trees, and a nameless sorrow in the black stars, and the white weeping winds are tugging at my heart forever and the whisper of black sands at night is like a knife in my soul. The branches of the forest creak like the arms of a gallows and an ancient sadness haunts the sunrises and the sunsets, and the shuddering of the rivers. Damn Saint Padraic; he drove the snakes from Eirean but he could not drive the mist from an Irish heart. And the heart of Erin is thin as smoke against the wind and brittle as crystal. The fall of an empire and the slaughter of millions may not shake it, but the drifting of a leaf before the wind or the song of the wild geese, or the moonlight on a still bay may shiver it into a million shining shards."





I got that feeling at times,both of my names are of Irish origin (Kevin Brady) Kevin after the patron saint of the animals of Erin and Brady an ancient family from county Mayo I *think*,....
Reading the histories and people in Erin,I got the feeling there is alot to be proud of and alot to be embarassed about.


As is the case with every country.

Aye,I often post on many a site,that my own homeland never claimed to populated by saints and angels,... :P




Hey, way to go, Tu! That must've felt great (especially with free beer). :)


I made them buy it! :lol: Then I saw them at the rest of the Highland games,......so I bought a few pints,only if they taught me some songs,....! ;)

Now rouges,post in the "The Hour of the Dragon" thread,if ye all be fans,........ :o

Tu

#10 Kail

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 06:26 AM

The only "John MacCormick" that I know of was the Scots-born founder of the SNP.


Would that be John McCormack, the famous Irish tenor, d'ye think? <_<

#11 Kail

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 06:50 AM

Still,when I competed in the Scottish Highland games,I wore and Irish 'kilt' which is as opposed to a tartan a solid color: saffron the 3rd color in the flags trinity. Let me tell you,the curses I got in Scotland when I competed in that kilt! :rolleyes:


A saffron kilt?!?
You have my respect, sir. Anyone who'd appear in public wearing such a garment must be one tough gent. :D

#12 deuce

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 03:06 PM

The only "John MacCormick" that I know of was the Scots-born founder of the SNP.


Would that be John McCormack, the famous Irish tenor, d'ye think? <_<


Hey Kail! I think ye nailed it. McCormack never occurred to me, but I'd say that you're right. Opera stars were a big deal in the early 20th century. McCormack's great success was a source of pride to many people of Irish descent.
REH was no Philistine. He loved music. He once studied violin AND he wrote several letters to RW Gordon (a noted musicologist) about "old-time" music. I think the date that the list was written is important: 1925. Howard was only NINETEEN years old. As he noted more than once, "authentic" books on the Gaels/Celts were hard to come by. He was probably just listing most of the Irish notables he could think of.
When I read "McCormick", I almost thought of Cyrus McCormick:
http://en.wikipedia...._Hall_McCormick
Though not Irish born, he was of Irish descent. His mechanical harvester carried on the tradition of the Gaulish Celts, who appear to have invented the first mechanical harvester. On my family's farm/ranch, we used several examples of "International Harvester" equipment.

BTW, Kail, good to see you back on the forum. :D Got any new poems?

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#13 Kortoso

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 05:14 PM

Still,when I competed in the Scottish Highland games,I wore and Irish 'kilt' which is as opposed to a tartan a solid color: saffron the 3rd color in the flags trinity. Let me tell you,the curses I got in Scotland when I competed in that kilt! :rolleyes:


A saffron kilt?!?
You have my respect, sir. Anyone who'd appear in public wearing such a garment must be one tough gent. :D



Something like this. I have no idea where they got their saffron from.
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Posted 21 March 2008 - 06:09 PM

Greetings!
That color is a bit off,Saffron is like a 'burnt' orange:

Saffron-colored cloth is thought by some to have a history of use among Celtic peoples. A "saffron" kilt is worn by the pipers of certain Irish regiments in the British Army and in the defence forces of the Republic of Ireland. This garment is also worn by some Irish and Irish-American men as an item of national costume. Its color varies from a true saffron orange to a range of dull mustard and yellowish-brown hues



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#15 deuce

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 10:30 PM

Greetings!
That color is a bit off,Saffron is like a 'burnt' orange:

Saffron-colored cloth is thought by some to have a history of use among Celtic peoples. A "saffron" kilt is worn by the pipers of certain Irish regiments in the British Army and in the defence forces of the Republic of Ireland. This garment is also worn by some Irish and Irish-American men as an item of national costume. Its color varies from a true saffron orange to a range of dull mustard and yellowish-brown hues



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Here's a link to an article on dyeing in Ireland.

http://www.libraryir.../III-XXII-3.php

Those Irish lassies seem to have had things under control. I seem to recall that I read references to "saffron" garments in the Tain Bo Cuailnge.

Now that THAT's settled(?), I'll see about posting another excerpt... ;)

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#16 Kortoso

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 11:40 PM

Doth he somewhere compare the Irish and the Scots?

#17 Kail

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 11:49 PM

Hey Kail! I think ye nailed it. McCormack never occurred to me, but I'd say that you're right. Opera stars were a big deal in the early 20th century. McCormack's great success was a source of pride to many people of Irish descent.

Perhaps he was the Daniel O'Donnell of his day, although I don't know how proud the Irish would be of his success. :D
I have a copy of John McCormack singing a version of Danny Boy, but with the words changed so that he's singing to a woman: O, Mary dear....

Saffron-colored cloth is thought by some to have a history of use among Celtic peoples. A "saffron" kilt is worn by the pipers of certain Irish regiments in the British Army and in the defence forces of the Republic of Ireland. This garment is also worn by some Irish and Irish-American men as an item of national costume. Its color varies from a true saffron orange to a range of dull mustard and yellowish-brown hues

I believe the original 'tartan' garments worn in Scotland were much more muted in tone, in comparison to the garishness of some of the modern ones. I can imagine, too, that a saffron kilt worn for any length of time outdoors in the old days would darken pretty quickly. Fortunately for me, my own clan tartan is a very respectable dark green. :)

#18 Kail

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 11:53 PM

Doth he somewhere compare the Irish and the Scots?

Now that would be interesting.

#19 deuce

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 11:56 PM

From a letter to TCS, January 14, 1926...

"We've talked about Nordics, Celts and so on, and I am going to give a short history of the Celts. It isn't likely you've read much on the subject, not inferring on you, understand, but there isn't much written and I've never found a book on the subject in this country. I got the most of my information from the libraries in New Orleans.

In the first place, there were two branches of the Celts originally. The first bunch came wandering down from the north of Europe Baal knows when, driving the Stone Age people before them. The Celts ushered in what is now known as the bronze age, being the first people to ever work in metal. The first Celts were known as the Gaels and they settled in European Russia, Germany and Scandinavia. Then a lot of them took sail in their cockle-shell boats and sailed to Ireland. They were in Ireland a long time before they came into France. From Ireland they spread to Britain, chasing the Picts into Scotland and Wales. After a while about all the Gaels there were had come to Ireland or Britain. They were tall, gaunt men, great drinkers of beer which they brewed from hops, I think, gray eyed and sandy haired.

After a few hundred years another horde of Celts came from Scandinavia or the wilds of Siberia or some place. They settled in France, raided down into Greece and Spain and sacked Rome. Then they went over to Britain, some of them, and chased the Gaels back into Ireland or up into Scotland and Wales. They were big muscular fellows, fair eyed and yellow haired, and were called Brythons whence comes Britain.

For many years these Britons waged proper war with the Gaels of the north and west. In France, the Brythons still ruled. About that time the Huns began to kick the Slavs in the rear and the Slavs kicked the Germans and the Germans kicked the Celts and got a slam in the jaw. For at that time there were no fighters in the world that could stand up to the Celts, and the Germans were nobody. After many years when the Celts had so mingled with the native Iberians of France as to change in form, the Romans conquered them, but that little tribe of Belgae, gave the Romans more difficulty than all the Germans east of the Rhine.

Then Rome half-way conquered Britain, and seduced her the other half, but Rome got some peachy pastings when she tried to lick the Irish. Then the Britons mingled with the Romans and became effeminate and the Irish and Welsh and Scots (all Gaels) raided and raided them until they brought in Saxon mercenaries who allied themselves and drove back the Gaels. Then the Saxons chased the Britons into Scotland and Wales and Ireland and Brittany in France, but they had a long war before they could do it. A funny thing, along about the time of the Roman conquests, I think, the Scots and Irish changed islands. I don't know what for. Anyway, they were the same race.

So now the Irish and Highland Scotch are the purest race in the world and are Gaels, also some of the French Bretons are Gaels. Some of the Lowland Scotch, and the Welsh and most of the Cornish are Brythonic, though the Cornish are mixed a lot with Pict and Gael. And it's no disgrace to be a West Englishman because most of them have a lot of Celtic in them. I don't know whether the Slavs and the Germans are a branch of the Celts which got kicked out because of their ornery habits or not, but anyway the Celts came first, and the best of the Germans left Germany and settled in other countries, being the Franks, Goths, Saxons and so on, and the German of today has a great deal of Hun in him, some of them.

I could tell you a lot about the rise and decline of Ireland and how it was once the center of religion and Christianity and rivaled Rome, but I won't bore you. But what I started to say is that the Nordic proper is the German, Scandinavian and Norman-Saxon Englishmen and not a Celt at all."


~ Robert E. Howard ~

Well, ol' Bob certainly got on a roll there. :rolleyes: Actually, not "OLD" Bob at all. He was only nineteen when he wrote that letter. As "skewed" as REH's "Short History of the Celts" might be, I challenge y'all to go out and find a nineteen year-old at random and try to get a more coherent or accurate "short history" out of them. Having taught history to high school students, I'd say that your odds are mighty low. :P Let's remember that Howard was a nineteen year-old living in a small town in "BFT". He'd had to go to another state to learn what he did and then typed it out from memory. A lot of dedication in the service of learning (obscure) history there. Several years back, I was curious as to the literacy rate in early 20th century Texas (because of REH). What I found via the university library was startling. Estimates for Texan literacy were behind those of several states established far later; for instance: California, Washington and Kansas. For REH, his search for knowledge was an uphill battle. When I was a kid, I bought a 1931 first edition of Harold Lamb's Iron Men and Saints (which Howard seems to have read) from my small-town library. It's almost for sure that the book was purchased when it came out. Cross Plains had the same (or possibly larger) population as my small town in 1931, yet there was no town library.

Feel free to comment on Howard's "mistakes" (and things he got right). :)

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#20 deuce

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 12:21 AM

Greetings!
Hey deuce!

>Hey Tu! Check out the first excerpt in Post #1. You could probably insert "Texas" in there, as well.>

I did,that's why I wondered about that relationship:


(To Harold Preece, ca. March 1929, p.354-355)
"I'm not worrying about my Irish past. What has my Celtic blood ever done for me but give me a restless and unstable mind that gives me no rest in anything I do? Damn the Shan Van Vocht, and the ancestors that went to Sassenach gallows for her, and damn the Irish and damn the black Milesian blood in my veins that makes me like drift-wood fighting the waves and gives me no peace or rest waking or sleeping or riding or dreaming or traveling or wooing, drunken or sober, with hunger or slumber on me. A sighing in the green leaves of all the trees, and a nameless sorrow in the black stars, and the white weeping winds are tugging at my heart forever and the whisper of black sands at night is like a knife in my soul. The branches of the forest creak like the arms of a gallows and an ancient sadness haunts the sunrises and the sunsets, and the shuddering of the rivers. Damn Saint Padraic; he drove the snakes from Eirean but he could not drive the mist from an Irish heart. And the heart of Erin is thin as smoke against the wind and brittle as crystal. The fall of an empire and the slaughter of millions may not shake it, but the drifting of a leaf before the wind or the song of the wild geese, or the moonlight on a still bay may shiver it into a million shining shards."


Hey Tu! Well, that's one reason I juxtaposed the two excerpts. :) I thought they illustrated the breadth of Howard's feelings pretty well. There are plenty of (upcoming) examples of REH's ambivalent attitude toward the "Irish race". I could argue he had a similar attitude toward Texas. Basically, Howard was ambivalent toward most topics (except the ones where "hate" was involved, sometimes). As one Irish writer (Donleavy) noted, the Irish are always willin' to see both sides of an argument, as long as it leads to a fight. :P

Now rouges,post in the "The Hour of the Dragon" thread,if ye all be fans,........
Tu


I've been called a "rogue" but never a "rouge". <_< :P

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