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REH Word of the Week: trystery

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 17th March 2014



1. archaic. a group of persons who rendezvous, usually for clandestine or mysterious purposes.

origin: late Middle English (originally Scots): variant of obsolete trist ‘an appointed place in hunting’, from French triste or medieval Latin trista


Night falls
On ruined walls
And towers hoary;
A star gleams
On vanished dreams—
Forgotten glory.
Dim shades
Haunt the glades
For trystery.
The pale night
Glitters white
With mystery.
Breezes shake
The silver lake,
Waves quiver.
Shadows leap
Sway and sleep
Along the river.

[from “Nocturne”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 324 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 159]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: reck

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 10th March 2014


(photo from


1. archaic. to pay heed to something

[origin:  ca. 12th century; Middle English, to take heed, from Old English reccan akin to Old High German ruohhen to take heed]


Eons before Atlantean days in the time of the world’s black dawn,
Strange were the kings and grim were the deeds that the pallid moon looked on.
When the great black cities split the stars and strange prows broke the tide,
And smoke went up from ghastly shrines where writhing victims died.

Black magic raised its serpent head, and all things foul and banned,
Till an angry God hurled up the sea against the shuddering land.
And the grisly kings they read their doom in the wind and the rising brine,
And they set a pillar on a hill for a symbol and a sign.

Black shrine and hall and cavern wall sank to eternal sleep,
And dawn looked down on a silent world and the blue unbroken deep.
Now men go forth in their daily ways and they reck not of the feel
Of the veil that crushed, so long ago, the world beneath its heel.

[from “The Symbol”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 170 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 331]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: marge

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 3rd March 2014



1. margin or edge

[origin: archaic; 1548; Middle French, from Latin margo]


A roar of battle thundered in the hills;
All day our iron blades drank deep in blood;
Till lighted with the flame the sunset spills
We saw against our backs the river’s flood.
Among its rocks the waters screamed and raced;
We had our choice, we wild rebellious slaves,
To die beneath the horrors that we faced
Or die amid the horror of the waves.
Aye, we were men who gathered at the marge,
And spear and insult at our foemen hurled—
They were not men who gathered for the charge,
But demons of a blood-black elder world.
But even risen slaves may have a king—
We had a king like some great iron tower,
And bloody now he faced the closing ring
And leaned on his red sword in that red hour.

When I rose reeling in a field of red,
And searching for our warrior king I came
And found him dead upon a heap of dead.
Demon and man, they silent lay, and still;
With cloven skull, rent heart and torn breast.
And now the moon was rising on the hill,
And now the light was dying in the west.
Aye, I alone of all that mighty horde
Still held my life; into a rough rude ring
I bent with waning strength a broken sword,
A diadem to crown a warrior king.
And on his red brow set the bloody crown,
Then Life gave up the ghost as night came down.

[from “A Crown For a King”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 243; Always Comes Evening, p. 108; and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 481]


Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: rote

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 24th February 2014

rainy street


1. the use of memory usually with little intelligence; mechanical or unthinking routine or repetition

[origin: early 14th century; Middle English]


Men sing of poets who leave their sheets
For the sighing dew to cool their brain,
But I have tramped through the silent streets,
Through tides of the midnight rain.
What was it drew me from my room
Into the rain and the night,
To the empty echoed pavements
And the street lamp’s guttering light?
Rather the night breeze in my face
And the night rain in my hair,
Than the cold of a phantom ridden place
And the Thing that waited there.

Oh fingers steel, oh fingers steel
That rend the brain and heart,
Perdition born, they do not scorn
In Hell your icy art.
Oh men that deep lie locked in sleep
Nor dream of such abyss,
Awake, awake and see me break
The sword of Lilith’s kiss.
The roof above, the bed below,
Your slumbering mate a-side
Oh, happy fools, what do you know
Of this inhuman tide?
Oh sleep ye sound, your windows frowned,
In orthodoxy wrath
At one who lost on nameless roads
Beats out his own long path.
Aye, sleep ye fools of rote and rules—
Brains break, though naught ye deem,
And torch and steel may make ye feel
The things whereof I dream.

[from “Shadows of Dreams”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 390; Shadow of Dreams, p. 13; The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, v3, p. 485; and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 323]

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REH Word of the Week: Dion’s-Rod

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 17th February 2014



1. a thyrsus: in ancient Greece and Rome a staff or spear tipped with an ornament like a pine cone, carried by god Dionysus and his followers.

[origin: 1591; Latin, from Greek thyrsos]


But I toiled and I cursed where the forge smoke hung.
Then suddenly I turned, and you were standing there,
With a lyre in your fingers and a garland on your hair.
Tall, slim and lithe, like a white limbed god,
Twirling in your fingers a garland’d Dion’s rod.
And you were scarcely steady from your liking of vine,
Your garment was a kirtle and your breath was scented wine.
And you glanced at the forge and you glanced at me,
And you strummed on your lyre and laughed with glee.
Your laughter was like music, your voice like a rhyme,
As you sang, clear and strong, like a far, golden chime;

“Gold morn’s laughing o’er the ocean, dawn’s awhisper
on the sea!
“And a silver brook is brawling, with its tiny cat’ract
“From the woodlands Pan is calling, come away, with me!
“Come away! Come away! Where the wood nymphs
laugh at play!
“There are trails through sapphire meadows, night times
oft with laughing shadows,
“Emerald isles in topaz oceans where the mermaids
flash in spray!
“Come away! Pan is prancing! Come away! The fauns are
“And it’s my good time I’m wasting as I pause to sing this
“Come to the woodlands, away and away!”

[from “Arcadian Days”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 256]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: strident

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 10th February 2014




1. characterized by harsh, insistent, and discordant sound; unpleasant

[origin: ca. 1656; Latin strident, stridens, present participle of stridere, stridere to make a harsh noise]


Then a demon came like a dream of sinning
And the echoes gibbered my hollow cries;
I saw how his evil jaws were grinning,
His body of jet and his great red eyes.

On the tiles, above my screeching strident,
His jade nails clanked like desert gongs,
And I could not move as he raised his trident
And through my buttocks he thrust the prongs.

Borne high as a skewered lizard,
I writhed and roared as he rushed through space.
And I flew through the air like a flying wizard,
And the breath of the stars was in my face.

[from “Altars and Jesters”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 140 and Night Images, p. 28]


Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: card

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 3rd February 2014

Irish nightbird

(Nightbird photography by Jerry Uelsonmann)


1. a hand-held implement that has short, fine spikes set in leather with a stiff backing; it is used to brush, clean and disentangle the short fibers of wool, cotton, flax, etc.

[origin: from Indo-European based an unverified form kars-, to scrape; association with Medieval Latin cardus, a card, thistle; from Classical Latin carduus, thistle.]


The moon above the Kerry hills had risen scarce a span
When we went forth from Knocknaroe to card a Saxon man.
We stretched him naked on the ditch—God save the soul of mine—
The howls of him as hard we dragged the cats along his spine.

A great, full-bodied man he was, that beat poor Tom O’Rourke,
The hardest English landlord now, from Donegal to Cork.
’Twas, “Damn your eyes! Pay rent or starve! Get out with all your brats!”
But, faith, the howling of him now was louder than the cats.

It’s maybe he remembered then, the swelling Saxon toad,
How he evicted Biddy Flynn to die beside the road.
I hope that he remembered, too, the while the tomcats clung,
My cousin Mike O’Flaherty his testimony hung.

He cursed the king in agony and damned the penal laws—
Oh, quite a different man he was beneath those ripping claws.
His squealing dwindled to a moan, his back was bloody beef;
We flung him in the thorny ditch like any common thief.

The mist was stealing from the sea, the night was strange and still.
We heard him weeping like a child as we went down the hill.
And then, above our oaths and jests, there sounded from the wood
A cry so wild and sweet and sad it chained us where we stood.
Some nightbird rended by an owl—I felt black sorrow rise;
I turned to speak to Dermod Shea, and tears were in his eyes.

[from “Black Michael’s Story” aka “Retribution”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 503, Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 29; and Always Comes Evening, p. 83]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: gump

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 27th January 2014



1. chicken or a piece of meat

[origin: date unknown; hobo slang]


They gave me a dollar and thirty cents when they let me outa my cell.
The chaplain says, “My boy, go straight.” An’ I tell ’im, “Go to Hell.”
I drifted from Denver to Seattle, from Seattle back to Chi
And I peddled snow till I had to blow for the dicks got on the fly.
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.

[from “Song of a Fugitive Bard”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 618 and Shadows of Dreams, p. 76]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: electroplated

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 20th January 2014

electroplated harp


1. To plate or cover with a coating of metal, usually silver, nickel, chromium, or gold, by means of electrolysis. The process was developed in 1805 by Italian chemist Luigi V Brugnatelli the father of modern electrochemistry. In 1839, scientists in Britain and Russia independently developed metal deposition processes similar to Brugnatelli’s for the copper electroplating of printing press plates.

[origin: 1851; electro plus plate]


No heavens for me with their streets of gold
and harps electro-plated,
With their pearly gates all carved and scrolled
and their angels glory-sated.
For Eternity is a weary time
and manna’s a weary ration.
And when I have scribbled my last sad rime
and have died of slow starvation
They will pry me loose from the standard keys
and the last unfinished story,
And my ghost—distinctly smelling of cheese—
will mount to real shores of glory,
Where magazine souls race to and fro
like sheep without a herder,
And there’ll be critics to lay low
and editors to murder.

My rejection slips will all be there
with all their forms and genders;
Of them will I build a gibbet rare,
and hang thereon the senders.
I’ll slaughter the shades of the magazines
with never a man to censure;
I’ll chase the ghost of the Saturday Post
and torture the wild Adventure.
I’ll finish Liberty, Vanity Fair,
in a manner rude and gory;
I’ll plunge my fists clear up to the wrists
in the blood of Detective Story.
I’ll batter True Story fore and aft
and stab it with forty lances;
I’ll put Wild West to a fiery test
and I’ll massacre True Romances.

One man of all the gang I’ll spare
(and the rest I’ll carve to salad):
Whatever noble man may dare
to publish this soulful ballad.

[from “Another Hymn of Hate”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 336; A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 17 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 114]


Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: Siddhartha

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 13th January 2014



1. one who has accomplished a goal; Siddhartha or Siddharta is the birth name of the founder of Buddhism: Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

Origin: [Sanskrit sidda accomplished and artha goal]


Near a million dawns have burst
Scarlet over Jakko’s hill
Since our burning kisses first
Mingled in the twilight still,
In the magic, sapphire dust when our passions drank their fill.

I remember how the moon
Floated over shadowed dells
And the mellow mystic tune
Of the tinkling temple bells—
Ere Siddertha’s [sic] people turned to the braying sea-conch shells.

Lips to scarlet lips we pressed—
Ah, your eyes were starlit meres
As your tresses I caressed
Calmed your modest virgin fears—
Love upon an Indian night, love to last a thousand years.

Fades the rosy dawn as slow
Morning flames across the plain;
With a sigh I turn and go,
Humming some old-time refrain,
To the consul-house as day over Simla breaks again.

[from “The Day Breaks Over Simla”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 318; Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 85 and Night Images, p. 38]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |