This week’s poem “When the God’s Were Kings” was unpublished during REH’s lifetime. In it he refers to the ape-gods of antiquity. I re-read the poem several times and it seems these ancient gods are still in existence and dreaming of the past when they roamed as kings? Did any of you have the same experience?
There are only a couple references to ape or simian gods. “The Hills of Kandahar” tells of a rural one this time.
The night primeval breaks in scarlet mist;
The shadows gray, and pales each silent star;
The eastern sky that rose-lipped dawn has kissed
Glows crimson o’er the hills of Kandahar.
A trumpet song re-echoes from afar;
Across the crags the golden glory grows
To drive the shades, renewing ancient war;
Now bursts full bloom the gorgeous morning rose.
These are the hills that many a sultan trod;
Their rocks have known full many a victor’s stride;
These peaks could tell their tale of human pride—
See where they rear, each like a somber god.
Aye, they have gazed since first the primal dawn
Fired with a wild, vague flame a bestial soul
Who rose and stood and saw his fallen spawn
With him, somehow, part of Creation’s whole,
And made himself immortal with a goal
To be attained—this untaught simian faun.
Apes appear frequently in Howard’s poetry—sometimes as a metaphor. The poem “Never Beyond the Beast” reminds me of the highly advanced Krell in Forbidden Planet. They thought they had evolved beyond their primal emotions….and REH’s last lines remind me of the roaring Id creature outlined in the energy force field. Really scared me the first time I saw that!
Beyond all weeping or revel,
He lurks in the cloud and the sod;
He grips the doors of the Devil
And the hasp on the gates of God.
Build and endeavor and fashion—
Never can you escape
The blind black brutish passion—
The lust of the primal Ape.
“A Warning” also has a strong message. Again, it’s a reminder of the endurance of what lies beneath “civilized” mankind. Civilization vs barbarianism at its most primitive
You have built a world of paper and wood,
Culture and cult and lies;
Has the cobra altered beneath his hood,
Or the fire in the tiger’s eyes?
You boast you have stilled the lustful call
Of the black ancestral ape,
But Life, the tigress that bore you all,
Has never changed her shape.
And a strange shape comes to your faery mead,
With a fixed black simian frown,
But you will not know and you will not heed
Till your towers come tumbling down.
Another ape metaphor is in “Recompense” Great last line in this poem.
And I have felt the sudden blow of a nameless wind’s cold breath,
And watched the grisly pilgrims go that walk the roads of Death,
And I have seen black valleys gape, abysses in the gloom,
And I have fought the deathless Ape that guards the Doors of Doom.
REH also used apes as similes. “Renunciation” is an unusual poem with an unusual rhyming pattern. It is one of several that refer to the ape or simian shape and its relationship to man
By the crimson cliffs where the spray is blown
By the silver sands and the rose red stone,
There bides a shadow—alone, all alone—
Waiting the day, waiting the day.
Leave men to their labor with lust for a neighbor,
Leave minstrel to tabor, the king to the crown,
Great blossoms still quiver along the dim river,
And winds out of silence steal over the down.
There are Beings of twilight
As thin as the mist,
They seek not the highlight,
The stars they have kissed.
They rape not the grape,
Nor douse to carouse
With the shape of the ape
In the house of the mouse.
On amaranth mountains their pleasure is taken,
By rainbow fountains, by ghost winds shaken,
On the frosty cold nectar of stars their thirst is enraptured and slaken.
Leave life for men and follow with me
To the winds of the fen and the song of the sea.
“Arcadian Days” uses both the terms ape and simian. Again, there is the ape simile as the sword smith’s description of himself as ape-like and leaves his trade when traveling troubadour comes through
Mountains on the sky-line, whisper of the sea,
Croon of the nightwind, they all called to me!
And I thrilled at the vistas that swept down the gorge,
For poetry was in me—but it sweltered at the forge.
So I grumbled as I hammered on the sullen metal stark
And I loomed through the smoke like a goblin of the
And the grimy soot caked on the hair of my arms
And I cursed at the yokels plodding in from the farms.
Plodding from the farms and the vineyards on the hill
With the wine of the grape and the golden apple-mill,
As close by the forge, they’d stop a-gape to stare
At my long ape-arms and my wild, shaggy hair.
O’er my slanting forehead the mane tumbled down
And my small simian-eyes glowered back with a frown.
Short and swart and mighty, muscles like an ape,
I glowered at the yokels who stared all a-gape.
As day on day I labored with the loud anvil clang
And often with the measure in a roaring voice I sang;
(Deep bass below from a hairy chest,
Timbered with the anvil and the roar of the forge
Making up for rhythm with a red-blood zest
Wild as a hill-wind that roars through a gorge.)
In “The Dust Dance 1.” again REH refers to the similarity between man and ape in this first stanza and like the sword maker in “Arcadian Days,” he also has a soul that is seeking something more.
For I, with the shape of my kin, the ape,
And the soul of a soaring hawk,
I fought my way from the jungle grey,
Where the hunting creatures stalk.
REH’s theme of the beast beneath goes back to its origins in “Yesterdays,” a poem of reincarnations, when he describes himself as the primitive first man and his resemblance to an ape.
At the dawning of Time when the world was young
And man not long from the tree
I lived in the hills where the east winds sung
On a crag overlooking the sea.
And my arms were long and my thews were strong
And I lived like an ape on the lea.
And that was the first of my world-life rhymes,
(Though the planets could tell their tale)
And since I have lived a thousand times
In a thousand lands and a thousand climes,
Mountain, desert and vale.
In this post, I’ve covered some of the references to apes and simians in the poetry only. I believe REH scholar Jeff Shanks (theagenes on this Forum) has written several scholarly articles about apes that appeared in REH’s literature. If he has time, perhaps he will share some of his findings with us.
I'm looking at Deuce's post in horror. An email campaign for etexts sent to the REHF? I'm the one who takes care of answering all their emails and processing the book orders. All of us who help out the Foundation are volunteers who are willing to give some of our limited personal time to help support an author we all believe in.
I believe Jay from CabinetEntertainment is a member of this Forum as are all the REHF Board of Directors and I'm sure the word will get out to all of them.
You're not wrong. I found that March 1, 1935 Adventure cover plus another with Sailor Steve and the same monkey, different poses. It's on the August 1, 1935 cover. Both by Baumhofer. I don't know how to post the photos themselves but here are the links: