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In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

Today, 02:55 AM

Hi Joe,

REH definitely had a good vocabulary. There are so many unique words in his poetry. I especially enjoy the archaic ones because they often have different meanings today. For instance, "bully" in the early 1900's meant a good chap--totally different from today's definition. What's even more amazing to me is that he knew the vernacular of whatever genre he was writing in: hobos, sailors, cowboys, boxers, etc. 


Coondogbo: Since REH was a great fan of Shakespeare's, he probably used a great deal of those words in his poetry and prose. The Howard Bookshelf lists several entries for Shakespeare, including this one which says according to: Tevis Clyde Smith, "Report on a Writing Man": "He [REH] was equally at home in discussing Macbeth and Jack Harkaway."


For the rest the info about REH and Shakespeare, here is the bookshelf link: http://web.archive.o...bookshelf_s.htm



In Topic: Robert E. Howard's Library

24 November 2015 - 07:51 PM

Hi Bobby,


Thanks for the heads up!


For more information on this subject, see The Wordbook: An Index Guide to the Poetry of Robert E. Howard. It contains a whole section on Erotica in REH's poems. http://www.rehfounda...arbara-barrett/


The subjects range from *panties* to *genitals* (both male and female) to *STDs* 


I look forward to reading your articles! Thanks again for the alert.....



In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

23 November 2015 - 08:35 AM

The Word of the Week for November 23, 2015 is flanks




Last week in “A Song From a Fugitive Bard” Howard discusses hobos. In this week’s poem “A Great Man Speaks” he mentions a tramp but the context is entirely different. The theme here is things are not always what they seem and it’s told in REH’s slightly bawdy and definitely irreverent style.


“Rebellion” is from a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith, ca. November 1928 that contained several other poems. Again, this is about discontented statues and things that are not what they seem.


The marble statues tossed against the sky

  In gestures blind as though to rend and kill.

  Not one upon his pedestal was still.

Stiff fingers clutched at winds that whispered by

And from the white lips rose a deathly cry:

  “Cursed be the hands that broke us from the hill!

“There slumber of unbirth was ours till

“They gave us life that cannot live or die!”


And then as from a dream I stirred and woke —

 Sublime and still each statue raised its head

  Etched pure and cold against the leafy green.

No limb was moved, no sigh the silence broke.

 And people walked amid the groves and said

“How peaceful these white gods, and how serene.”


In that same letter, REH wrote to Clyde Smith:


I reckon some of my parodies nauseate you, as they would any decent man but few things are safe at my hand, and as for decency, I haven’t laid any claim to it — not for years, anyway. I’ll likely end up writing erotic books and boot-legging literature. Since plunging so completely, I take a sadistic pleasure in saying things likely to shock people… I am so damned fed up on things in general that I don’t give a curse what they think about me, and even give myself a worse name than I deserve — if such a thing is possible. I’m on the Hell road figuratively — and literally if there’s a literal Hell…


Looking below the surface is a fairly common theme in REH’s poetry, especially at those who were dignified, proud and formal as in “A Song of Cheer.”


I was his mistress, she was his wife; that was the difference it made;

He wouldn’t have walked, to save my life, with me on the promenade.

Dignified with his family pride, formal and ***** and span—

But up in my room—say, listen kid, he was a different man!

I’ve seen all sorts of men perform when full of women and beer

But the damndest fools are these formal birds when they break through their veneer.

If his wife could have seen him—up in my room—I’ll bet she’d have bent at the knees—

Acting the fool with my step-ins on over his B.V.D.s.

I take his coin and he takes my flesh and it’s all in the way of life.

I, personally, don’t give a damn for him, but I’d like to say to his wife:

“Say, listen, dearie, you think you’re hot, and a whole lot better than me;

“I’m alright with your husband—up in my room—but not out in public, see?

“But listen, dearie, we’re just alike, even though you are his wife

“For he bought you just as he bought me—and he bought you for life.

“There was a fellow, a slim young boy, who loved you all to Hell—

“But you married this old bastard—say, what was that but a sell?

“Why did you marry this old dub? You wouldn’t admit it, kid,

“But the boy, he didn’t have any coin and this old buzzard did.


REH even rewrote some of Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes in “Madam Goose’s Nursery Rhymes.”


Old King Coal was a merry old soul.

A merry old soul was he.

He called for his pipe, he called for his bowl,

He called for his followers three,

They came and danced before the king,

Greed, Lust, and Poverty.


Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

What does your garden-party grow?

Women and men, and stacks of sin,

And scandals all in a row.


“The Choir Girl” gives an inside perspective of what lies beneath the surface.


I have a saintly voice, the people say;

With Elder Blank I send the music winging—

I smile and compliment him on his singing—

By God, I’d rather hear a jackass bray.

I nod and smile to all the pious sisters—

I wish their rears were stung with seven blisters.

That youthful minister, so straight and slim—

I’d trade my soul for one long night with him.


Things are not always as they seem is also the theme of “The Rulers”—a poem that has echoes of many political campaigns but it’s broader than just local politics—it’s more about ideology and seems to reflect world-wide events in the 1930s.


In everlasting legions

            The Rulers fall and rise;

Their brains are in their bellies

            And hung between their thighs.


Each has a brand-new formula

            To save the race of Man;

In the eyes of the weary people

            They wave the shreds of their Plan.



In roaring, bellowing legions,

            The Rulers rise and fall,

With antidotes for every ill,

            Medium, large or small.


But I lift not my eyes from the furrow

            As I bend above the plough;

My ears are dulled to their clamor

            As to winds that shake the bough.


I stand unmoved as the great jack-mule,

            I hear them without surprise—

When I was a slave in Nineveh

            I heard the same old lies.


And once we called it conquest,

            Looting and court intrigue,

But we say Fascism, Communist

            Or Liberty League.


“A Song For Men That Laugh” has a bitter viewpoint and is in keeping with his statement in the letter to HPL “I’m on the Hell road figuratively — and literally if there’s a literal Hell…”


Satan is my brother, and I have kissed his girls.

Satan gives me promise—bitter is his mead!—

He will give me my reward for each flaming deed.

Satan has a place for me, weaving to his spell—

I will find a burning berth in his bitter Hell.

Satan gives me word of this, o’er the tavern table,

I will curry flaming steeds in the Devil’s stable.

Out across the brothel sounds his brooding yell:

All my life will win for me is a berth in Hell.

But I’d rather bide there, mocked by Demons Seven,

Than to live with prudes and priests in a sexless heaven!

High roads and byroads, and all the world is dim!

Satan is my brother, and I will follow him.


REH looked beneath the surface on a number of subjects. Perhaps one of his most intriguing is his story of Cain after his Fall. According to Genesis 4 of the New International Version of the Bible: After Cain killed Abel, God tells him that when he works the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for him.…..He will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Then God puts a mark on Cain so that no one who finds him will kill him. (biblegateway.com)


In “Flight” REH offers his version of Cain’s hours/days (?) after the his Fall. REH mentions he was working on this poem in a letter to Clyde Smith ca September 1927 (Collected Letters 1-137). According to L Sprague de Camp REH attended Sunday School as a youth. (DVD 122) He began attending again as a young adult to get to know Ruth Baum. It is believed that Howard mentions her in relation to the “diabolical blonde” in another letter to Clyde Smith (Collected Letters Footnote 1-283)


A jackal laughed from a thicket still, the stars were haggard pale;

Cain wiped the sweat from his pallid brow and hurried down the trail.

The shadows closed behind, before; vines hidden tripped his feet.

The trees rose stark in the pitiless dark and he heard his own pulse beat.

No footfalls harried the forest ways, no sound save his own breath,

But he clutched his spear and his own red fear rose in his soul like death.

Till at last he came to an unknown way his foot had never trod,

But now he fled from the silent dead and the wrathful face of God.


Red mountains loomed on every hand, silent as Time’s first dawn,

Red ashes shifted about his feet as the slayer hastened on.

He passed through a valley strange and dim, like a nightmare place of sin

Littered with bones of ghastly things who ruled ere the time of men.

He heard the rustle of ghostly wings, but never halted he

Until he stood, by a haunted wood, on the shore of a nameless sea.

He halted, listened; naught was there save the Silence at his back

And a grey sea and a red moon and the shadows rising black.


Till out of the ocean rose a Shape, a monstrous thing of gloom;

And his knees were loosed and the naked Cain cowered before his doom.

“Come not to my red empire, Cain; there’s blood upon your hand!

“The foremost killer of the earth comes not into my land!

“Down all the drifting years to come your fate mankind shall tell,

“That ye roam the world for the rest of time, disowned by Earth and Hell!”

And the shape was gone and the moon was red and leaves stirred on the bough.

Cain stood alone by the unknown sea and the mark was on his brow.


Interesting that Cain was shunned by both Heaven and Hell; that the deed of killing Abel was too terrible even for Hell! With the mark on his forehead, no one will kill him so seemingly the only existence left to Cain is an eternity on earth itself. In this case REH gives nightmare details to Cain’s banishment. Flight is a good word. Maybe I read it wrong, but beneath the surface of this poem, there seems to be an element of pity or even perhaps sympathy, although that may be too strong a word.


In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

22 November 2015 - 03:48 PM

Hi VK,

You definitely could be right about Tully's influence on REH. The REH Book Shelf has this about Tully:


REH to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. December 1932: Tully is listed among those Howard refers to as "my favorite writers."  

[Ibid.]: "As for American writers, I think yourself and Jim Tully are the only ones whose work will endure; among the writers now living, I mean."



If you're right, another possibility opens up. After REH read Tully, he composed "Song of a Fugitive Bard" with himself as the tough ex-con. This scenario sounds more reasonable in light of his admiration of Tully. Thanks for the heads up. 


Chris Gruber or Mark Finn could give you more info on REH's boxing influences. They, along with Patrice Louinet, compiled and edited the Fists of Iron four volumes of related boxing material. 


In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

16 November 2015 - 08:25 AM

The Word of the Week for November 16, 2015 is bindlestiff




This week's poem "The Road to Freedom" was unpublished in REH's lifetime. It's filled with hobo terms and in order to understand it, I looked up many of them in the Hobo terminology dictionary. Here is the link. There are a lot of fun words there. http://www.angelfire...l#anchor2066830


bindlestiff is spelled bundlestiff by REH.


Bindlestiff 1. A hobo who carried his own bedroll (or "bindle"), and his mess kit, cooking supplies, and camping gear in a chuck sack. Respected and generally warmly welcomed by potential employers, since they were generally on the lookout for honest work.


Bindlestiff 2. An American slang word from the German words "bundle' and 'stick'.  Many jobless Americans traveled the United States with their possessions tied in a blanket carried on a long stick. Those traveling by train or "riding the rails" were called hobo's, Kings of the Road or Bindlestiff's.


Brakeman - The person who tends brakes on a rail car and assists in the operation of a train. Also known as: Bo chaser - A freight brakeman or railroad policeman.


Blind baggage 1. To ride the train out of sight, not to be seen. Such as riding inside of a boxcar. Riding on top of the cars, between then or on the rods, you can be seen.


Blind baggage 2. Hopping a train and riding the foot board behind the coal car and in front of the first freight car (a baggage car on a passenger trains). Also riding outside on a passenger train. "Blind" because of reduce vision.


Blind, blind baggage - The space between the engine and the mail or baggage car.


Blind baggage tourist - A hobo or a tramp that is riding for free as if he or she has a ticket.


Bo, boes - A slang term used to describe an experienced hobo. A term for a pal, "Hey, bo"; also a slang term for hobo.


Gay cat 1. A tramp held in contempt by fellow vagrants because he is willing to work if a job comes along. 2. A tenderfoot among the hobos. 3. A young punk who runs with an older tramp and there is always a connotation of homosexuality.


Grifter - A petty swindler or confidence man. They may be one who operates a dishonest game of chance at a carnival or circus. They often drive a vehicle a stolen, unregistered, without insurance, not inspected and without a driver’s license. When they become established to one place they may become squatters, often illegally connecting to utilities and other services. They take advantage of other people and that has become second nature to them in everything they do.


Pan, panning - To beg on the street, sometimes with a J. B. Stetson felt hat.


Panhandle - To beg on the street.


Sand car


We were at the west end of the railroad yard in Cincinnati munching on stale rolls when we heard the unmistakable sound of a big locomotive getting a long freight train under way. Within minutes my friend, Mick, and I were on a gondola car full of sand and reclining in the sunshine. It was a train of over a hundred cars carrying other freeloading “passengers”. (“Awakening of Conscience”)


The following extracts come from John E. Fawcett’s 1991 “Awakening of Conscience,” an unpublished memoir of the author’s experiences as a teenage hobo in June of 1936. Fawcett based his longer version of the story on a diary he kept in a pocket-sized spiral notebook, which he took with him on the journey. The memoir in its entirety, too long to print here, describes Fawcett’s background and earliest hobo adventure and goes on to detail his round-trip hobo journey from Wheeling, West Virginia, to Dallas, Texas, in the summer of 1936. Reprinted here are two segments of the memoir: the author’s introduction, which expresses his reasons for taking to the road that summer; and his description of the westward journey through Indiana and Illinois and into Missouri. Fawcett joined the hundreds of thousands of homeless transients in 1936 not because he himself was destitute but because he was what hobo scholar Drummond Mansfield has called a “scenery bum,” a person who lives the hobo’s peripatetic life for the thrill and enjoyment of travel. At the beginning of June, 1936, Fawcett and his best friend and travelling companion, Mick McKinley, perused a brochure for the Texas Centennial Exposition to be held that summer in Dallas. The boys made their plan then to ride the rails to Dallas, take in the fair, and get summer jobs on a Texas ranch. Fawcett remembers feeling secure with McKinley as his fellow hobo: although a year younger, “he outweighed me by about ten pounds or so and had a more athletic build than I did. . . . He walked with an easy grace and a sort of swing to his shoulders which communicated to any observer that he was ready for any one at any time.”



Here are excerpts from “How McGrath got an Engine” by Frank H. Spearman—a story which relates defines the sand car and its necessity. If you want to read the whole story:



I checked REH’s Bookshelf website and there is no listing for Spearman. (http://web.archive.org/web/20141026065620/http://www.rehupa.com/OLDWEB/bookshelf.htm)


It may not be generally understood that whiskers grow on steel rails; curious as it seems they do. Moreover, on steel rails, they are dangerous. Sometimes exceedingly dangerous… To lessen their dangers, engineers always start, uphill or down, with a tank full of sand and they sand the whiskers. A smooth-faced rail presents no especial dangers; and if trainmen in the Hills had their way, they would never turn a wheel until the sun had done barbering….The day's moisture, falling as the sun drops beyond the hills is drawn into feathery, jewelled crystals of frost on the chilly steel, as a glass of ice-water beads in summer shade; and these dewy stalagmites rise in a dainty profusion, until when day peeps into the canons the track looks like a pair of long white streamers winding up and down the levels.


Sunlight disperses the whiskers


But despatchers not having to do with them take no account of whiskers. They make only the schedules, and the whiskers make the trouble. To lessen their dangers, engineers always start, uphill or down, with a thankful of sand, and they sand the whiskers. It is rough barbering, but it helps the driver-tires grit a bit into the face of the rail, and in that way hang on. In this emergency a thankful of sand is better than all the air Westinghouse ever stored.


These definitions give insight into "The Road to Freedom." The poems he writes in dialect do not contain the poetic prose that appears in some of his other poetry but it does illustrate his knowledge of the slang of specific groups.


Also mentioned in the poem are three writers. All of these excerpts were also taken from the REH Bookshelf (http://web.archive.org/web/20141026065620/http://www.rehupa.com/OLDWEB/bookshelf.htm)




Gorki, Maksim [Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov] (1868-1936) Russian writer


REH to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. November 1932 [SL 2 #65]: "Gorky seems to ramble interminably, without doing anything."


Jack London


REH to Tevis Clyde Smith, ca. 20 February 1928: "Yet a man's mind must strive after GREATNESS and when he has progressed to the point where no commonplace human thought is really great in scope consistently, he must look beyond the human and if he finds nothing there.  Jack London died because he could not untwine the Human from the Cosmic."


I have carefully gone over, in my mind, the most powerful men, that is, in my opinion, in all of the world's literature and here is my list: Jack London, Leonid Andreyev, Omar Khayyam, Eugene O'Neill, William Shakespeare. "All these men, and especially London and Khayyam, to my mind stand out so far above the rest of the world that comparison is futile, a waste of time. Reading these men and appreciating them makes a man feel life is not altogether useless." (ibid.)


            “In an untitled scenario included in this same letter, Howard has "Mike" (the protagonist, apparently his viewpoint character) say:”

"What is London, what is Gorky, what is Tolstoy to the average man - even the man who reads them? The great writers die and fade into the dust of their works. Their books become their bones and their volumes range the shelves of fools, like withered mummies." (ibid.)


Tully, Jim (1891-1947) author and boxer


Several references were found. Among them:


REH to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. December 1932: Tully is listed among those Howard refers to as "my favorite writers."


[Ibid.]: "As for American writers, I think yourself and Jim Tully are the only ones whose work will endure; among the writers now living, I mean."


REH to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. 6 March 1933: "...Frank Harris was once a boxer, and so was Jim Tully..." 


These excerpts from “Emancipation”—another poem about “hopping a freight”—aren’t so negative about it.


The couplers lock and the air-brakes grate—

And I’m headed West on a Red Ball freight.

The rain can fall and the wind can moan,

For I chucked the grind, and I’m on my own.


What do I care if my shoes are thin

And the holes in my clothes let the rain soak in?

I’ve served my time and I’m overdue,

Just a poor sap who used to stew

With the other poor worms that buy and sell;

But I’ve told the boss he can go to Hell.

I’ve left him singing his hymn of Hate—

And I’m headed West on a Red Ball freight!


Not all those who hopped freights had their skulls broken by “bo chasers.” REH’s knowledge of the terms used by hoboes is amazing. It would be interesting to know how and where he got it. Perhaps the story lies in this excerpt from “Song of a Fugitive Bard” with REH playing the role of Tully (who is also mentioned in the featured poem this week)? “Fugitive Bard is about an ex-con who doesn’t go straight when he is released from prison.


I got away though I had to pay just half of the swag I’d lifted.

I got on a bat and it left me flat so me, I up and drifted.

I was hiking along through the corn-fed belt when I hit a jungle gulley

And there with his eye on a sizzlin’ gump sat a road kid known as Tully.

We split the gump and we sat an’ spieled till the ties were red with dawn.

Then I shook his mitt and he slipped me a stake and then I drifted on.

The years tripped on till I clean forgot they was ever such a bird

Till I found a book in a dump one night and from the very first word

It sounded damn familiar like and I bust out in cold sweat

And wondered how in the name of God the author managed to get

The low-down on the case like that—it got me right for see,

The very jobs that I had steered leered up from the pages at me!

Everything but the name you see, the places was the same—

I turned to the name on the title page—and Tully was the name!

Now I’m hitting the trail for his dump tonight for they say he’s hot with kale.

And I’ll be needing a lot of it for I think I need to sail.

This land will be too hot for me all on account of that lad,

And he’s going to divvy up with me or else he’ll wish he had.

A Hell of a trick, is what I say, I trusted him, you see?

Alright, my spiel helped him along and he’s got to divvy with me.


The ex-con was hiking though; not hopping freights. Hopefully at least the ending was fictional. J


If anyone recognizes the artwork on TGR website for bindlestiff, please let me know. My research didn’t come up with anything although I thought it had a Norman Rockwell look to it?