Friday, June 11, 2010

Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard

Realized it is 74 years today since my favorite author passed away. I have not yet finished this magnificent tome, but I am greatly enjoying it. Over 700 pages, this is a vast collection of visceral moving poetry. Divided into the sections of Heroic Verse, War Poems, Wizardry and Satanism, Horror Poems, Exoticsm and Nature, Personal, Historical, Dialect and Doggerel, and finally Prose Poems, this collection shows such utter strength and indomitable will of spirit that REH deserves to be held up alongside any other Classic American poet.
The rhyme and timbre hold the cadence of thunder and drums. Decayed kingdoms swim in melancholy ruin as mad minstrels pluck at the heart, Heroes rise and fall, shadows and dreams proliferate and merge.
This is a collection that I will be able to sit beside the firelight and enjoy all my days. And now some favorite fragments, gleaned.

Kings of the Night~
The Caesar lolled on his ivory throne-
His iron legions came
To break a king in a land unknown
And a race without a name.

The Phoenix on the Sword
What do I know of cultured ways,
the gilt, the craft and the lie?
I, who was born in a naked land
and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile,
they fail when the broadsword sing;
Rush in and die dogs-
I was a man before I was a king.

Old Rime
One fled, one dead, one sleeping in a golden bed.

An Open Window
Behind the Veil what gulfs of Time and Space?
What blinking mowing Shapes to blast the sight?
I shrink before a vague colossal Face
Born in the mad immensities of Night.

The Fearsome Touch of Death
As long as midnight cloaks the earth
With shadows grim and stark
God save us from the Judas kiss
Of a dead man in the dark.

The Black Stone
They say foul beings of Old Times still lurk
In dark forgotten corners of the world,
And Gates still gape to loose, on certain nights,
Shapes pent in Hell.

There is a strange and mystic land
East of the rising sun.
A dim sea breaks on a coral strand,
Stars lie spread on the silver sand
And sapphire rivers run-
There is a mystic land
East of the sun.

The Hour of the Dragon
The Lion banner sways and falls
in the horror haunted gloom;
A scarlet Dragon rustles by,
borne on winds of doom.
In heaps the shining horsemen lie,
where thrusting lances break,
And deep in the haunted mountains
the lost, black gods awake.
Dead hands grope in the shadows,
the stars turn pale with fright,
For this is the Dragon's Hour,
the triumph of Fear and Night.

Such pieces fire my imagination more than near any other writer I have ever come across, and so today I salute him and drink a toast in remembrance.

"All fled, all done, so lift me on the pyre; The feast is over and the lamps expire." may be the last words Robert E. Howard ever wrote but I would argue that through his writings while the feast may be over, the lamps will never expire.


Ann Best said...

I did both fiction and poetry for my MFA, but missed this poet. Sorry I did, but glad you have posted these excerpts. They're wonderful. Strict rhyme is difficult, but he does it. Thanks for bringing him to the light. I'm interested...

David J. West said...

Thanks Ann, REH was probably missed on account of his being a pulp-writer, not that matters to me, he has the greatest gripping variety of any writer I know.

Cathy Witbeck said...

Fun stuff. I'm glad you put some of his poems on your site. Thanks for sharing.

David J. West said...

No problem Cathy, I wanted to put more but didn't want to make too monstrous of a post either.

Charles Gramlich said...

So much great stuff in this collection. I browse through it periodically. The REHupans are in Cross Plains celebrating now, although I couldn't make it this year.

My favorite Howard poem is REcompense, and I did a response to that in Bitter Steel, along with a piece called "Cross Plains Conjure Man," whic his about REH and Cross Plains and which got nominated for the Rhysling.

David J. West said...

Charles-I wanted to attend too but just couldn't, maybe next year on the 75th anniversary?

Congrats on the Rhysling nomination, I'll be ordering Bitter Steel soon.

Kimberly said...

What an epic talent. There's such a cadence and power to his writing.

David J. West said...

Thanks Kim, he is a major influence on my style and drive.