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In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

15 September 2014 - 07:09 AM

The Word of the Week for September 15, 2014 is jade





This week’s poem: “The Doom Chant of Than-Kul” was not published in REH’s lifetime. A endnote in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard mentions that it “comes from a typescript, not Howard’s, that is labeled “Excerpt.” No other copy is known to exist.”


“Than-Kul” uses the word “jade” in three different places to describe not only the sea but also the sky. But the word is much more complex than that. The most popular meaning refers to a hard, typically green stone used for ornaments and implements and consisting of the minerals jadeite or nephrite. However, it can also mean  a broken-down, vicious, or worthless horse; and a disreputable woman or a flirtatious girl.


In his poetry, REH used all of these except for the broken-down, vicious or worthless horse and that description may exist in his Western stories.


In “Attila Rides No More” with its vivid colors of amber, green and blood red, REH uses it as a gem. In this poem Attila’s men ride in from the desert to find he has been killed by his queen:


A-gibber on her throne of gilt

The naked empress smiled

And toyed with her red dagger hilt

As a mother with a child.

The plundered amber, gold and jade

Gleamed round like coals of Hell

Then smoldered to a redder shade

To swords that rose and fell.


While round the standards and the flags

There whispered, o’er and o’er

The desert wind amid the tents:

“King Atla rides no more.”


Other poems that refer to jade as a gem are “Buccaneer Treasure,” “Sailor,” “The Tower of Zukala,” the untitled poems “A haunting cadence fills the night with fierce longing.” and “The iron harp that Adam christened Life.” In “Whispers on the Night Winds” REH writes:


I would break the jade eyes from a golden skull

In the amaranth gleam of Atlantean halls.


The description “fingernails of jade” also appear in his poetry. Among the several poems is “Zukala’s Love Song.” Zukala is lonely. As he descends to earth, he hides his wings under a cloak and lowers his burning eyes. He plays a lute and women throw flowers at him. He falls in love with one of them and when her heart proves to be cold. He takes her above the earth. Frightened, she now clings to him:


Blue and dim on the topaz rim

            Where the silence drinks the night,

Forgotten moons like crazy loons

            Hovered into her sight;

And out of the deep where shadows sleep

            That never knew the sun,

Strange eyes aflame, the dark stars came,

            Whispering, one by one.


And with burning eyes that hid her thighs

            As fire-flies cover a tree,

They kissed her face in a hot embrace,

            And she whimpered upon her knee.

Then I swept the band with a jade-nailed hand,

            And the slim of her waist I gripped,

And the stars fell out of her hair like moths

            And through my fingers slipped.


There are several other mentions of jade fingernails including “Altars and Jesters,” “Hopes of Dreams,” “A Lady’s Chamber,” “The Palace of Bast,” and “Sighs in the Yellow Leaves.”


References to the jade color of the sea are numerous in REH’s poetry, including this week’s poem: “The Doom Chant of Than-Kul.” However, “The Day That I Die” uses jade to describe something totally different:


That I drained Life’s cup to its blood-red lees
And it thrilled my every vein,
But I did not frown when I laid it down
To lift it never again.


That ever my spirit turned my steps
To the naked morning lands,
And I came to rest on an unknown isle—
Jade cliffs and silver sands.


Other poems that refer to it as a color: “ And Beowulf Rides Again,” “The Ghost Ocean,” “Illusion,” “Miser’s Gold,” “Nights to Both of Us Known.” “The Sea,” “The Sea-Girl,” “White Thunder,” “Yesterdays.”


There is only one reference to a woman as a jade. It’s in the Untitled (“At the Inn of the Gory Dagger…”) and because of its bawdy content, I’m only quoting these carefully selected lines:


“Hold everything, bold messmates,” said Anaconda Bill,

“Ain’t they no way to settle this, without you got to kill?

“Oh keep them deadly weepings alongside of your pants,

“And settle it the peaceful way, along o’ gymes o’ chance.”

“This is too deep for peaceful games,” said Mike, “It will not do!

“For mumble peg or tiddledy-winks, or matching nickels too!”

“Out sword, you crumby son-of-a-*****,” Eve challenged high and shrill,

“And I will cut your liver out and fry it on the grill!”

“Each man to his own weapon,” Mike answer straightway made,

“I will not use a sword or gun to master a saucy jade.”

“Then what, in the name of Satan?” Eve tossed aside her sword,

And all we buccaneers stood still, a wondering gaping horde.


The erotic poem “Repentance” is the story of an aging prostitute. It contains the only reference to “unjaded.” Again, carefully selected lines:


I sit in the bars where the harlots sing

To sailors hot from the sea.

Sallow my cheeks and my lips have faded

Life’s roses slip my clutch

But my blood is still hot and still unjaded

I can thrill to a deck-hand’s touch.


Jade has a fascinating and a long history that reaches back milleniums:


Jade—the precious gem known as the “stone of heaven”—has been cherished for thousands of years. It’s considered pure and enduring enough to inspire the wearer’s highest spiritual aspirations, yet sensuous and luxurious enough to satisfy down-to-earth cravings.


Nephrite jade has its cultural roots in the smoke-dimmed caves and huts that sheltered prehistoric humans. In China, Europe, and elsewhere around the world, Stone Age workers shaped this toughest of minerals into weapons, tools, ornaments, and ritual objects. Their carvings invoked the powers of heaven and earth and mystic forces of life and death.


In China it evolved into an artistic tradition that has flourished for more than 3,000 years. In Central America, the Mayans and the Aztecs prized jadeite jade. They used it for medicinal purposes as well as for jewelry, ornaments, and religious artifacts. The name jade comes from the Spanish expression piedra de ijada—literally “stone of the pain in the side.” Early Spanish explorers named it after they saw natives holding pieces of the stone to their sides to cure or relieve various aches and pains. Jadeite also symbolizes prosperity, success, and good luck. Link: (http://www.gia.edu/jade-history-lore)


REH wrote of jade in well over two dozen poems. So many meanings for this gem have developed throughout the ages and it’s probable that REH used all of them in his writings.


In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

08 September 2014 - 07:28 AM

The Word of the Week for September 8, 2014 is foin




Word of the Week using references in REH’s poetry, was started on August 3, 2009 on The Cimmerian website (http://leogrin.com/C...he-week/page/5/) In the early days, there were no related photos posted. Eventually photos were added and after Leo closed down The Cimmerian blog in June 2010, it was moved to the REHupa website in July 2010. Until November 2012, no background explanation was given regarding any of the words or poems that were chosen. There is so much more to REH’s poems than the unusual words he used. The Forum allowed more information to be given.


This week, WotW travels back to August 10, 2009 to review a great word that makes its only appearance in “Red Thunder.” According to Paul Herman’s The Neverending Hunt, the poem “Red Thunder” first appeared in JAPM: The Poetry Weekly, September 16, 1929.


Howard Works (http://www.howardwor...etryweekly.html) states: JAPM, which stands for Just Another Poetry Magazine, was published and edited by Benjamin Francis Musser. The magazine was started in 1928 and ended in 1929.


There is also a note that the Weird Tales #1, Zebra anthology, published a slightly different 24 line version. HowardWorks also has this note regarding the poem itself (http://www.howardwor...tml#RED_THUNDER): “An original typescript is known that is untitled, and 24 lines, don’t know where Joe Marek got the 25 line version”.


The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard published the full 25-line version. Here are the rest of the verses (see REHupa.com for the first three) Note that all verses have three lines except the last which has four.


Thunder in the black skies beating down the rain,

Thunder in the black cliffs, looming o’er the main,

Thunder on the black sea and thunder in my brain.


God’s on the night wind, Satan’s on his throne

By the red lake lurid and the great grim stone—

Still through the roofs of Hell the brooding thunders drone.


Trident for a rapier, Satan thrusts and foins

Crouching on his throne with his great goat loins—

Souls are his footstools and hearts are his coins.


Slave of all the ages, though lord of the air;

Solomon o’ercame him, set him roaring there,

Crouching on the coals where the great flames flare.


Thunder from the grim gulfs, out of cosmic deep

Where the red eyes glimmer and the black wings sweep,

Thunder down to Satan, wake him from his sleep!


Thunder on the shores of Hell, scattering the coal,

Riding down the mountain on the moon-mare’s foal,

Blasting out the caves of the gnome and the troll.


Satan, brother Satan, rise and break your chain!

Solomon is dust and his spells grow vain—

Rise through the world in the thunder and the rain.


Rush upon the cities, roaring in your might,

Break down the towers in the moon’s pale light,

Build a wall of corpses for God’s great sight,

Quench the red thunder in my brain this night.


There isn’t much mention of this poem in his letters. Regarding “Red Thunder” REH writes to Tevis Clyde Smith, ca. July 1929 (Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, v1, p. 364)


The main reason I’m writing this letter is to quote you what Musser, the editor of Contemporary Verse wrote to me [CL’s footnote: Benjamin F. Musser, of Atlantic City, New Jersey ]  Of course, I’m conceited; I never denied that. I’m vain and therefore I’m quoting his letter complete, or the main part of it, at least:


I don’t know who you are; forgive me but I never heard of you before; but by Jupiter the world will hear something of you in the future if you can build to greater heights the tower you are erecting in the special kind of theme treated in the poems you have submitted to me. These are superb! You must overcome certain faults such as the use of o’er and other outmoded terms and phrases; you must learn to condense your thought more — a poem of horror gains its effect more by suggestion than by exuberance of words and piling up of images and adjectives. But this is not to condemn your work. In fact, I am enthusiastic over it, possibly because it is just the sort that particularly appeals to me personally (my new book is called Dipped in Aloes and its subtitle is A Book of Unpleasant Poems, so you see we have something in common!). I wish my two magazines were not so overcrowded; as it is I should not be adding any new Mss. to the bales on hand, but I must have one of yours for each of my periodicals, and so am gratefully keeping “Tides” for Contemporary Verse and the superb “Red Thunder” for Japm: the Poetry Weekly. I regret neither magazine can pay for poems but of course some free marked copies will be sent to you


He also says that he can’t find Cross Plains in the atlas but wants to meet me when he comes to Dallas in October to lecture on modern poetry — a kind of lecture tour over the country, I gather. All very nice, of course and I highly appreciate his kindness, though I can’t share his enthusiasm. The junk I write is pretty good rhyme, I guess, but Judas, I know in the heart of me I can never be a poet and the more people praise me the deeper the knowledge goes that my junk is like an empty shell — nice looking from without maybe, but when they stop and analyze it, I know they find there’s no depth or solidity about it — and that’s what makes poetry. If I could write poetry like you can — but a poet’s not made but born.


The next reference to the poem is in a letter from H. P. Lovecraft to REH dated October 4, 1930 (A Means to Freedom, v. 1, p. 53)


By the way—you succeed very often in suggesting a cosmic horror beyond the concrete. You do it in “Red Thunder”, in the Valusian tales [MtF NOTE p. 79: “i.e., REH’s King Kull stories”] and in your descriptions of African ruins. The keynote of such suggestions is the implication of fundamental disarrangements of natural law, especially as relates to space and time. Unholy survivals, intrusions from other worlds and other dimensions, etc., are the kind of thing having the richest possibilities.


REH responds ca. October 1930. (CL, v2, p. 88) and (MtF v1, p. 81)


I am very glad that you liked “Red Thunder”. I wrote it one midnight when distant thunder was rumbling through the high heaped clouds of the dark. I highly appreciate your comments on the rhyme;


HPL’s letter of November 30th is not included in MtF. REH writes to him ca. December 1930 (CL, v2, pp 118-19) and (MtF, v1, p. 97) There is no other reference in his letter regarding the “Red Thunder” business.


You’re quite welcome to the “Red Thunder” business. I appreciate your comments on my verse and most certainly agree with you regarding the conventional unconventionalism of modern poets. That’s a point I’ve maintained for years — that these supposed exponents of radical freedom of thought and expression are serfs of conventions even more hide-bound and narrow and despotic than the old line. I am acquainted with a certain young and as yet unrecognized Texas poet whose work is superb — in spite of his views, I maintain, and not because of them — and this attitude is apparent in his every action; an excellent fellow when he forgets his superiority for a little, he is so infernally afraid that he’ll appear human, he often makes himself obnoxious. One shining example of tolerance and broad-mindedness among the moderns is my friend Ben Musser, a poet of no small note. Well — my rhyming isn’t of sufficient importance for me to take it seriously, or to bind myself to any school or rule. I’m no poet but I was born with a knack of making little words rattle together and I’ve gotten a bit of pleasure from my jinglings. I’m willing to let the real poets grind out their images with blood and sweat, and to go through life piping lustily on my half-penny whistle. Poetizing’s work and travail; rhyming’s pleasure and holiday. I never devoted over thirty minutes to any rhyme in my life, though I’ve spent hours memorizing the poetry of other men.


I would tend to believe REH’s statement “I’m willing to let other poets grind out their images with blood and sweat, and to go through life piping lustily on my half-penny whistle” but then there are the diatribes such as “To Moderns” that say he was not able to play long on that whistle….


Little poets, little poets,

Your star is growing dim—

A wind is coming out of the East

To rend you life from limb.


Oh, you that sit in the rhymer’s seat

And prattle of little things,

Turn your faces from the gilded scroll

And see what the black wind brings!


Your verse is smooth as a windless brook,

Your words fall well in line;

You have trimmed your accents carefully

And polished them till they shine.


Oh, jingle your foolish, petty songs—

Jeer at the Talon and Tooth;

Till the portals break and the towers fall

And the terrible people nail you all

To a cross of iron truth.


What has the true rhyme to do with light,

Love or a flower’s smell?

The poems that set the sky on fire

Were born in the pits of Hell.


Murder and madness, hate and lust,

Gibbering heresies,

These are the tales that poets tell;

Of the seething brain in the rotting shell.

Loose the abhorrent hordes of Hell,

Then carve your poems in blood and rust,

Abysms and blasphemies.


Whew! Talk about strong images. “To Moderns” was never published during REH’s lifetime. If it had, I wonder what HPL would have thought of that one! 


In Topic: Howard's views on slavery

04 September 2014 - 02:42 AM

Hi Dantai,

I think there were quite a few slaves in REH’s stories and poetry—most of them were the result of conquest. In fact it seems that Conan encountered slave girls quite often. I’m not sure about the issue of slavery in his westerns. I don’t recall any specific stories but I’m not as familiar with that genre of his. Perhaps some fans who are more familiar will check in here.


However, he discussed slavery in many poems. Here is an excerpt from “’Thou, Africa!’: An Analysis of Robert E. Howard’s Conflicting Views on Race in His Unpublished Poetry” that I presented at the April 2014 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference. It may answer some of your questions.


      On one hand, at times his language was that of a mainstream racist. On the other, Howard was anti-slavery. In fact he had strong views on personal freedom.


In the last analysis, I reckon, I have but a single conviction or ideal, or whateverthehell it might be called: individual liberty. It’s the only thing that matters a damn. I’d rather be a naked savage, shivering, starving, freezing, hunted by wild beasts and enemies, but free to go and come, with the range of the earth to roam, than the fattest, richest, most bedecked slave in a golden palace with the crystal fountains, silken divans, and ivory-bosomed dancing girls.


      Demanding freedom for himself, Howard’s hatred of the slave trade was unequivocal. He wrote strong, vivid poems about retribution and vengeance often committed by the very people who were kidnapped. One of these, “The Tale the Dead Slaver Told” has an added element of horror.

Dim and grey was the silent sea:


            Dim was the crescent moon.

From the jungle back of the shadowed sea

            Came a tom-tom’s eery rune,

When we glutted the waves with a hundred slaves

            From a Jekra barracoon.


For a man-o-war, our way to bar,

            Was sailing with canvas full;

From our black wealth the lives we shore,

            Hacked to pieces and hurled swift o’er,

And we heard the glad sharks as they tore

            The flesh from each sword-cleft skull.


Then fast we fled toward the rising sun—

            But we could not flee the dead.

God! Ever behind our flying ship

            Wavered a trail of red.

She sank like a stone off Calabar,

            With all of her bloody crew.

There was no breeze to shake a spar,

            No reef her hull to hew.

But dusky hands rose out of the deep

            And dragged us under the blue.


      The poetry we examined today reveals a conflict in his feelings for people of color. But how did Howard himself feel about race? Perhaps the answer lies in a verse from “The Day That I Die” where Texas-born and raised Robert E. Howard writes:


That I lived to a straight and simple creed
The whole of my worldly span,
And white or black or yellow, I dealt
Foursquare with my fellow man.


      Most of the 29 African and African-American poems he wrote were unpublished during his lifetime. As such, they were unaffected by editorial or market considerations and could be free of the prevailing racial prejudices. Of these, five contained racial slurs and two concerned miscegenation. What comes across in the other 22 poems is his sincere respect and regard for Africa and its people. His admiration is evident in the historical/narrative poems “Zululand” and “The Zulu Lord.” To Howard it was a land of adventure and in a sense, of freedom and his fascination with Africa and its people is probably best expressed in his poem “Land of Mystery”:


Ancient of nations as the pyramid,

What mysteries lie vaguely hid,

Amid the ancient jungles and the plains,

Where, lichen-grown beneath the jungle rains,

Half-hid by trees that tower toward the sky

The ruins of strange, ancient cities lie;

Cities that were forgot already when

Stonehenge and Karnak sheltered tribes of men.

Cities whose kings had gone to their last sleep,

Ere lost Atlantis sank into the deep.

Oh, land of ancient mystery’s domains,

Dark as the tribes that roam thy ancient plains,

There you will find, as stayed Time’s tracing hand,

Yesterday’s ages in that ancient land,

Thou, Africa.


For a more detailed analysis, see part 5 of “Robert E. Howard and the Issue of Racism: The African and African American Poems”. Here is the link http://rehtwogunraco...6655#more-16655



In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

01 September 2014 - 07:10 AM

The Word of the Week for September 1, 2014 is LUTE




This week’s poem “The King and the Mallet” first appeared in The Junto in July 1929. Rob Roehm is writing “’A Pretty Good Paper’: The Junto” on Damon Sasser’s REH Two-Gun Raconteur website. There are six parts already up. Here is the link for part 1:  (http://rehtwogunraco...he junto part 1)


Rob is giving an amazing amount of good information about The Junto so I’m not going to attempt to duplicate it here. 


This Word of the Week, the lute, is only one of several instruments that REH mentions in his poetry. For the complete list, see the June 30th 2014 WotW post above.


These verses in this week’s poem “The King and the Mallet” show another version of the dark barbarian who ultimately overthrows civilization. This time the enemy is within:


I lean against my maul and wipe the sweat

            That beads my weary brow like gems of blood;

            The army thunders by me like a flood—

Once more the emperor and the slave have met.


I marked his eagle face, his air divine;

            He saw a huge slave leaning on a maul;

            He did not see the symbol of his fall,

That marked the doom of him and all his line.


But restless chains are clashing in the gloom;

            Deep in the night the blades of knives are beat—

            Gods haste the day when ’neath their slaves’ hard feet

Kings, captains, women gibber to their doom.


Other times these barbarians storm the walls such as in “A Word From the Outer Dark.”


For I would hurl your cities down

And I would break your shrines

And give the site of every town

To thistles and to vines.


Higher the walls of Nineveh

And prouder Babel’s spires—

I bellowed from the desert way—

They crumbled in my fires.


For all the works of cultured man

Must fare and fade and fall.

I am the Dark Barbarian

That towers over all.


REH, who writes from all points of view gives us “The Song of the Last Briton.”


The Saxons come and the Saxons go,

With the ebb and surge of the tide;

Their galleys loom, millipedes of doom,

But here shall I abide.


My castles rust in crimson dust,

Red ruin tossed in the drift—

But the sea is grey and the wolf’s at bay

(Though the ravens circle swift),


So come from your mists of Northern Seas,

Where the smoke-blue hazes melt:

Your dead shall lie where here I die,

The last unconquered Celt.


In “A Song of Horsa’s Galley” the invaders come from the North:


To the outmost roads of the plunging sea

Our dragon ships are hurled,

We have broken the chains of the Southern Danes

And now we break the world.


Out of the dark of the misty north

We come like shapes of the gloam

To harry again the Southland men

And trample the arms of Rome.


History can turn the tables on the conquerors like Babylon in “Empire’s Destiny.”


Bab-ilu’s women gazed upon our spears,

And roses flung, and sang to see us ride.

We built a glory for the marching years

And starred our throne with silver nails of pride.

Our horses’ hoofs were shod with brazen fears:

We laved our hands in blood and iron tears,

And laughed to hear how shackled kings had died.


Our chariots awoke the sleeping world;

The thunder of our hoofs the mountains broke;

Before our spears were empires’ banners furled

And death and doom and iron winds were hurled,

And slaughter rode before, and clouds and smoke—

Then in the desert lands the tribes awoke

And death and vengeance ’round our walls were whirled.


Oh Babylon, lost Babylon! Where now

The opal altar and the golden spire,

The tower and the legend and the lyre?

Oh, withered fruit upon a broken bough!

The sobbing desert winds still whisper how

The sapphire city of the gods’ desire

Fell in the smoke and crumbled in the fire;

And lizards bask upon her columns now.


Now poets sing her golden glory gone;

And Babylon has faded with the dawn.


The invader that destroyed Babylon’s “golden glory” is mentioned in “The Gates of Babylon”


The gates of Babylon stand ajar;

Traders and emperors cross her sills.

She greets the men of scented breath,

But Babylon’s gates are shut as death

To the horsemen of the hills.


The gates of Babylon flare at morn

Like an evil rose on a painted stalk,

But ever her gates are barred and shut

To the chief that rules in a herder’s hut—

The king with the eyes of a hawk.


But the lean wolves slink from the scarlet hills,

And the kites and the vultures throng the land;

And we ride full soon through a bloody dawn

O’er the shattered gates of Babylon

With death at our left hand.


“Song Before Clontarf is especially appropriate since its 1,000 year anniversary was celebrated last April.


Lean on your sword, red-bearded lord, and watch your victims crawl;

Under your feet they weakly beat the dust with their dying hands.

The red smokes roll from the serf’s roof-pole and the chieftain’s shattered hall—

But there are fires in the heather and a whetting of hungry brands.


The peaked prows loom like clouds of doom along each broken port;

The monks lie still on the heathered hill among the fallen stones.

Over the land like a god you stand, our maidens howl for your sport—

But kites await in the heather to tear the flesh from your bones.


Clouds and smoke for a broken folk, a lash for the bended back—

Thus you roared when your crimson sword blotted the moon on high,

But sea breaks and the world shakes to the battle’s flying wrack,

And Death booms out of the heather to nail you in the sky.


“The Song of the Naked Lands” shows the cyclic nature of barbarism once they have conquered.


We have doffed our wolfskin clouts for silks,

            We wear them clumsily,

Our eyes are bleak, our beards unshorn,

            Our matted locks stream free.


But our sons will trim their beards and hair,

            Don cloaks of crimson hue;

They will take your daughters to their beds,

            Till they grow soft as you.


They will trade their freedom for harps and lutes,

            Discard the bow and the dart;

They will build a prison of satin and gold,

            And call it Culture and Art.


They will lie in the lap of a smiling land,

            Till its rusts unman and rot them,

And they scorn their blood, and the calloused hand,

            And the fathers who begot them.


But our brothers still dwell in the sun-seared waste

            And their sons are hard and lank;

They will hunt the wolf-pack that we chased,

            And drink the water we drank.


The hungers we knew they too will know,

            The scars of fangs and of briars;

In the rocks where they crouch when the sandstorms blow

            They will find the marks of our fires.


They will know the hungers that once we had,

            While the stream of centuries runs,

Till they burst from the desert, hunger-mad,

To slaughter our slothful sons.


In “Thor’s Son” the barbarian was a slave already within the walls. My favorite verse is the last one.


And then for many a weary moon I labored at the galley’s oar

Where men grow maddened by the rune of row-locks clacking evermore.

But I survived the reeking rack, the toil, the whips that burned and gashed,

The spiteful Greeks that scarred my back and trembled even while they lashed.


They sold me on an Eastern block; in silver coins their price was paid,

They girt me with a chain and lock, I laughed and they were sore afraid.

I toiled among the olive trees until a night of hot desire

Brought me a breath of outer seas and filled my veins with curious fire.


Then I arose and broke my chain and laughed to know that I was free,

And battered out my master’s brain and fled and gained the open sea.

Beneath a copper sun adrift, I shunned the proa and the dhow,

Until I saw a sail uplift, and saw and knew the dragon prow.


Oh, East of sands and sunlit gulf, your blood is thin, your gods are few;

You could not break the Northern wolf and now the wolf has turned on you.

The fires that light the coast of Spain fling shadows on the Eastern strand.

Masters, your slave has come again with torch and axe in his red hand!


The Dark Barbarian was a favorite REH theme and he wrote about it from all points of view and as a result, turns out some of his best poems.


It’s fortunate that some of the copies of The Junto are still in existence. Otherwise, we would not have a copy of “The King and the Mallet.”


In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

25 August 2014 - 07:24 AM

The Word of the Week for August 25, 2014 is slavering




According to Paul Herman’s The Neverending Hunt, this week’s poem “Song of a Mad Minstrel” first appeared in Weird Tales in February-March 1931. In REH’s letter to Clyde Smith ca. February 1930 (Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard v2, p 17), he mentions Farnsworth Wright paid him $8 for the poem. REH sold Weird Tales two other poems at the same time: “Black Chant Imperial”, $6, and “Shadows on the Road” with which he seemed much pleased and offered me $11.50, considerably more than I ever got for any other poem.”


The total for the three poems was $25.50. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money but in 1930, it was quite a bit. I checked the internet to see what it could buy:


1930 average prices:


hamburger meat: 12 cents

a loaf of bread: 9 cents

gallon of gas 10 cents

new car $600

Average wages/year $1,970

new home: $3,845-$7,000

Firestone Tyre (1932) from $3.69 

Complete Modern 10 piece bedroom Suite $79.85

Emerson 5 tube bedroom radio $9.95


With $25.50, he could have bought four tires and a spare for his car and with gas at ten cents/gallon, he could have then driven the car quite a distance and still had enough to buy a week’s worth of groceries.


However, in 1930 REH didn’t have a car yet. According to Rob Roehm’s article “Robert E. Howard’s Automobiles: License and Registration Please”, REH bought his first car in 1932: 


There’s not much mention of Howard’s cars in his correspondence, other than him saying he went here or there. Even the description of his accident in Rising Star doesn’t provide much information about the car, though it does describe the incident involving his ’31 Chevy and a flagpole placed “in the middle of the street” in graphic (some say “exaggerated”) detail. This was my starting point.


Next on the checklist was Rusty Burke. I emailed Rusty some follow-up questions about Bob’s ’31 Chevy. Burke responded that Lindsey Tyson, a Cross Plains friend of Howard’s, had said the following in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp dated February 18, 1977:


Bob, Dr Howard and I went to Arlington Texas in about 1932 and Bob bought a used 1931 model Chevrolet. I drove the car home for him and then taught him to drive; after he learned to drive, he had a lot of fun driving on short trips around the country. I can not understand why Dr. Howard had never taught him anything about driving a car. (And by the way, Bob gave $350.00 for this car, about a year old.)


Burke had a wealth of information. His transcription of de Camp’s August 1977 notes from a phone conversation with Tyson revealed that the ’31 Chevy was purchased “second-hand after Lovecraft’s visit to New Orleans in the spring of 1932.” In a different interview with de Camp, Tyson described the car as “Dark Green,” and that it “had a glove compartment” rather than a door pocket: “This is where he carried his gun.” Upon further question, in 1978, Tyson added that the car was “a Chevrolet coach”; a “Two-door.” And, regarding the flagpole incident in Rising star, Tyson told de Camp in his 1977 letter that he and Dave Lee “were both in the car [. . .] that was involved in the wreck in Rising Star, Texas. It was a misty night when we were returning home from Brownwood. What we hit was a flag pole located in the middle of the street and did not have a light on it. We had been to Brownwood to see the Golden glove tournament. It was not because of Bob’s driving, none of us saw the thing before we hit it, we were traveling slowly and none of us were seriously injured.”


To read Rob’s complete article and see photos of a 1931 Chevrolet and as well as an equivalent of the 1935 Chevrolet he had when he died, see: http://www.rehfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/reh-cars3.pdf Rob also quotes the gas station attendant where REH brought his car and gives a wealth of other information relating to REH’s two automobiles.


REH wrote his version of the Rising Star accident in a letter to H. P. Lovecraft, ca January 1934! (Collected Letters, v3, pp. 188-191.) There is quite a difference:


This answer to your letter has been delayed considerably, partly because of an accident that proved non-fatal to me only by the merest chance. Three other young men and I were returning from Brownwood late in the night of December 29th, at which time it was raining, with a heavy fog on, making ordinary driving extremely difficult. We passed through a small town about fifteen miles from Cross Plains, where a steel flag pole was planted in concrete in the middle of the street. [NOTE: Rising Star, at the intersection of what was then Texas Highway 206 (now Texas 36) and US Highway 283/Texas 23 (now US 183). The three men in the car with Howard were Dave Lee, Lindsey Tyson, and Bill Calhoun.]


The pole was painted grey and was practically invisible. None of us saw it until we had hit it, head-on. Naturally the car was wrecked. The fellow on the seat beside me, a Tennessean, was thrown through the wind-shield, head and shoulders, and struck his belly terrifically against the dash-board, and a piece of glass gouged out most of his eyebrow and a piece of scalp larger than a dollar, and left it hanging over his eye by a shred of flesh. Of the men sitting behind, one was practically unhurt, but the other suffered a badly wrenched and almost broken leg, and some veins and tendons were evidently ruptured. As for me, I was driven against the wheel with such terrific force that I crumpled it with my breast-bone and my head was driven down against a jagged shard of glass with a force that would have fractured or dislocated a more fragile jaw than mine, and a gash two and a half inches long was ripped along the under part of my jaw, laying the bone bare the full length of the cut. I also received a deep cut — to the bone — across the middle knuckle of my left hand, and the flesh inside the joint of my right thumb was literally mangled. My knees caved in the solid steel instrument-panel, which naturally bruised and tore them considerably. But the worst hurt was to my breast. The arch of my breast was flattened and for hours it was only with the most extreme pain that I could draw a breath at all. Well, the instant I recovered from the blow — which was almost instantly — I shut off the engine and leaped out to see what damage had been done to the car, and though I don’t remember my remarks, my friends say my profanity was fervent and eloquent when I saw the crumpled bumper, the ruined radiator and the other damages. I didn’t know I was cut until, during my remarks, I happened to put my hand to my jaw and felt the bare bone through the gaping wound. At about that time the other boys piled out, and the man who had gone through the windshield, evidently having been numbed by the blow, suddenly was made aware of his plight by his awakening sensations. He was bleeding like a butchered steer, and was really a ghastly spectacle, with that great flap of flesh hanging down over his eye, and the contour of the skull, covered only by a layer of membrane, showing beneath. But he was suffering most from the terrible blow of being hurled against the dash-board. He was suffering internal pain, and apparently unable to straighten up. He was convinced that he was dying, and indeed I thought it quite likely, and he was making considerable noise about it; indeed I was so taken up with his injuries that I didn’t even know the other fellow was hurt — of old Texas stock, and stoicism being part of his instincts, he didn’t even mention the agony he was enduring with his leg, so I didn’t even know he was hurt until the next day. I don’t reckon I was making much noise about my injuries, either, because he didn’t know I was hurt, until the next day, either. But the fact is I didn’t think much about them at the time. It was about midnight, and a small town; we made an effort to get a doctor, but they were all out on calls, and not even a drug store open. But a young fellow offered to take us anywhere we wanted to go, and the man whose head was laid open wanted to go to the nearest hospital, which was in a town about twenty miles from there. I tried to persuade him to come on to Cross Plains, and let my father bandage him, which wouldn’t cost him anything, but like many people he had something of a hospital complex; so I told him and the fellow with the hurt leg to go on to the hospital, and I’d see about getting my car towed home. So they went, but it was useless trying to get anybody to see about the car; everything was closed, so I phoned my father, at Cross Plains, and he came over after me and the other fellow, who, as I said, wasn’t hurt. When we got home he put five stitches in my jaw and one in my thumb, which is the first time I was ever sewed up, though I’ve been ripped open before. I’m rather fat-jowled, and the gash on my jaw presented a rather ghastly appearance, gaping widely and the white of the bone showing through. The other fellow who was cut had fourteen stitches taken in his head, and it left a rather horrible scar, which, however, may become less obvious as time goes on. He had accident insurance, which was lucky, though I offered to pay his hospital bill, which he refused. A funny thing happened while my father was sewing me up; the watchman was holding his flashlight for my father to work by, and a young drug-clerk was standing watching. In the midst of the job he asked me if I was getting sick, to which I honestly replied that I never felt healthier in my life, and presently he pulled out in considerable of a hurry. I asked my father what was the matter with him, and he said the young man got sick at the sight of blood and raw flesh. Can you beat that? I’d heard that there were people who got sick at the sight of blood, but I’d never seen one before. I’d always wondered how it felt to be sewed up like a piece of cloth, but a gash like mine was appears to offer no particular problem. I imagine other wounds might require a local anesthetic. I was forced to lead a very quiet life for a few days, because my knees and ribs got so sore I could scarcely move, and the bandages on my hands prevented me from doing much with them. Indeed we were all lucky to come out of the wreck alive and no worse injured than we were. People who have seen the wheel I wrecked with my breastbone have repeatedly expressed wonder that it didn’t kill me, or at least cave in most of my ribs. It was a heavy steel frame covered with very hard rubberish material; I bent the frame almost double, rim, spokes and all, and broke great pieces of the rubber off, in many places leaving the frame work bare. Indeed, it has only been a week or so since the soreness has entirely gone out of my breast bone and ribs. I was not only thrown against the wheel with all my weight and the velocity of the car, but the man behind me, a bigger man than I am, was hurled on my back — the car is a coach, with movable front seats — driving me forward with his weight against mine. That was one of the cases which sometimes do occur — when sheer muscular ruggedness meant more than intellectual development. Of course, it was only chance that kept a piece of glass from severing my jugular; yet even there my bodily build saved me; if I did not have a short, thick neck, if my neck had been an inch longer, the glass shard that struck my jawbone would have been driven in below the bone, and cut my throat. And what saved me from death or frightful injury on the wheel was simply an unusually powerful set of ribs, backed and braced by heavy muscles specially developed. A body stronger than the average may not be required by our modern civilization; but in that affair, as in others I have encountered, a powerful frame saved my life. There were no broken bones, though it is possible that some of my ribs were slightly cracked, yet this even is not certain; my breast has resumed its normal arch, and the cuts healed quickly; I have a rather large scar on my jaw, but as I never had any beauty to be marred, that doesn’t amount to anything. [NOTE: In a letter to L. Sprague de Camp, Lindsey Tyson wrote, “We [Dave Lee and Tyson] were both in the car you spoke of that was involved in the wreck in Rising Star, Texas. It was a misty night when we were returning home from Brownwood. What we hit was a flag pole located in the middle of the street and did not have a light on it. We had been to Brownwood to see the Golden glove tournament. It was not because of Bob’s driving, none of us saw the thing before we hit it, we were traveling slowly and none of us were seriously injured.” No contemporary newspaper accounts of this accident have been located.]


According to A Means of Freedom, v2, p. 722, HPL’s replying postcard has not been found.


REH’s responding letter (CL, v3, p. 193) says:


I deeply appreciate your sympathetic expressions in regard to my wreck. All parties made rapid and uneventful recoveries, and feel lucky it wasn’t worse. The town where the accident occurred helped me pay for having my car repaired, and the flagpole has been removed — though one of their own citizens had to wreck himself on it before that was done. He was hurt worse than I was. Strange; that pole stood there for years without doing any damage, but as soon as one car was wrecked against it, another shortly followed.


The discrepancy between the version of the accident given by Lindsey (Pink) and that of REH is probably entirely due to REH's great story telling abilities. Of course the need for this depends upon how late he was in responding to HPL's letter. The accident took place on December 29 and there is no definite January date shown on REH's letter. A Means to Freedom shows the letters previously written by HPL are missing.


Rob’s article also includes information about the condition of REH’s current automobile after his suicide.


And yes, by the time REH got his car in 1932, gas even as late as 1939 was still ten cents a gallon.