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REH Word of the Week: raven

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 5th May 2014



1. prey, plunder or devour; seize forcibly

[origin: obsolete.; Old French ravine from Latin rapina rapine]


High the towers and mighty the walls, oh proud-crested sons of Babylon.
To the fire of the East they have gone forth
And the flame of the West has scorched their chariots.
The white ice of the North stays them not, or the star-shot gulfs of the South, nor cold nor heat.
Nor the spears of the foemen nor the talons of the beasts.

Long have ye labored, oh sons of Babylon, and valiantly have ye wrought.
Divers have not found the full depths of the red seas ye have spilled.
And the bones of your enemies are as snow on the hills.
As tigers have ye ravened and as wolves have ye devoured;
Gaza and Nineveh stand not against ye, nor Tyre nor Accad nor Gomorrah.

Beneath your iron-shod feet ye have trampled Egypt
And Assyria is as a naked girl before your feet,
Yea, as a young girl who uncovereth her loins for her master’s whip.
Ride to the West, strong sons of Babylon, and bring back the fire of the sunset in your iron chariots.
Sweep to the East like a cloud, yea, like a red cloud at sunset, and bring ye back kings in chains
And rulers in shackles.
How shall ye arise, star-girdled Babylon, and how stand up against your doom,
When the bow-string breaks and the towers crumble and the red flood sweeps over the walls?
Babylon has fallen, has fallen, has fallen!
Thus shall the jackal cry to the owl and the owl again to the lizard.
The floods rise beneath your feet and beneath your feet the mountains shake.
On that day shall faith be a broken sword and courage a cleft shield.

[from “Who Shall Sing of Babylon”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 456 and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 56]


Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: eorl

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 28th April 2014



1. earl; Anglo-Saxon of noble rank; a nobleman ranking above a thane or alderman

[origin:cognate with Old Saxon erl, Old High German erl, Old Norse jarl]


A terrible harvest Angus mowed;
High heaped the corpses he bestrode.
They lay about in a ghastly ring,
Leaving a space for his mace to swing.
He stood alone in an open space
Holding on high the great black mace.
The warriors pressed back from his blows;
So Angus glared at his ringing foes.
Silent they faltered, pressing back;
Under his thick brows, heavy and black,
The terrible eyes of the chieftain blazed,
The Saxons blanched and shrank as they gazed.
But their eorls lashed them with words of fire
And they charged once more with a desperate ire.
A whirlpool of iron, a storm of steel,
Through which the shrieks of the dying peal.
A whirl of swords and over all
The terrible mace’s rise and fall!
And the Saxons broke—they turned and fled
And Angus stood on a heap of dead.
He swayed above those torn mounds,
With the ebb of a score of mortal wounds.
He sought to sound his battle-cry
As he saw his foes give way and fly;
He swung his iron mace on high,
And sank on a heap of dead, to die.

[from “The Ballad of King Geraint”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 73 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 359]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: Nilic

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 21st April 2014



1. pertaining or related to the Nile river

[origin: Arabic nil; Greek Neilos river valley. ancient Egyptian iteru great river]


A white sea was flowing, a bitter wind was blowing;
Our chanting shook the cormorants that wheeled about our bows,
South—deathward we were sailing, and Aslaf gripped the railing,
A hungry dagger at his hip, a hate upon his brows.

We sang for red tomorrows to bring the Southland sorrows
In sunken ship and plundered town and wives and daughters raped;
We roared of castles falling, hopes lost beyond recalling,
Till Aslaf wheeled and cursed at us till every mouth there gaped.

“West where new winds are sighing, a fresh strange world is lying!
Its vales and mountains fill my dreams, its calling breaks my sleep.
Vile gall is battle glory, the while this mystic story
Each west wind sings to taunt my heart tells of the unsailed deep.

“Our prows have plowed the Baltic and passed those rocks basaltic
Which curve to form the narrow gates that lock the Middle Sea;
We plumbed that dark Afric river that feeds it forever,
And saw the Nilic waters wash the sands in the cat-god’s lea.

“But there are seas unparted, and there are coasts uncharted,
And o’er the waves a whisper shafts that we were wise to go,
For—a gloaming is striking the shrouds of we Vikings!
Scorn the loot! To ship! We seek our Fate in the sunset’s glow.”

[from “Viking’s Vision”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 55 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 465]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: Wapping

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 14th April 2014


1. Wapping is a district in East London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is situated between the north bank of the River Thames and the ancient thoroughfare simply called The Highway.

[origin: The area was first settled by the Saxons, from whom it takes its name (meaning literally “[the place of] Wæppa’s people”)]


Or ever they spiked good beer with rum,
Or poured their brandy there,
I was a Limehouse gutter-bum,
And you were a barmaid fair.

Never a shilling in my purse
To meet mine host’s demands,
But many a mug of ale I quaffed,
Drawn with your own fair hands.

Paradise was a place to me
Where I’d drink free ale from a tub,
But I found a Paradise on earth
In that little Wapping pub,

You fed me on rolls and hot roast beef
Till I was ready to burst,
And poured out gallons of foaming ale
To quench my horrible thirst.

And that was a hundred years ago,
In a land across the sea,
But now, with drink that would sicken a dog
In this country of the free,

[from “The Pledge”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 582]



Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: shining

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 7th April 2014



1. to put a gloss or polish on; polish

[origin: before 900; Middle English shinen; Old English scinan; cognate with Dutch schiljnen, German schelnen, Old Norse skina, Gothic skeinan


I was a prince of China, lord of a million spears;
You were a soak in Brooklyn, shining the bar for beers.
I lolled on a throne of sapphire, you loafed in a dance-hall door;
My love was a Manchu princess, yours was a Harlem whore.

I slumbered on velvet couches, lulled by a fountain’s tune;
You snored on a broken camp cot in the back of Mike Shane’s saloon.
My friends were lords of the Indies, rulers of lands immense;
Your pals were the tout and the con man, the dip, the yegg and the fence.

I gambled with lands and armies, castles and crowns and thrones;
You risked your jack in the crap games and beefed when you dropped three bones.
I died ’neath the spears of the Tartars on a wild war-trampled ridge;
You went on a bum one evening and fell off the Brooklyn Bridge.

[from “Prince and the Beggar”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 550 and Always Comes Evening, p. 77]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: eld

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 31st March 2014



1. archaic; old times; antiquity

[origin: before 12th century; Middle English, from Old English ieldo; akin to Old English ealdold]


The dusk was on the mountain
And the stars were dim and frail
When the bats came flying, flying
om the river and the vale
To wheel against the twilight
And sing their witchy tale.

“We were kings of eld!” they chanted,
“Rulers of a world enchanted;
“Every nation of creation
“Owned our lordship over men.
“Diadems of power crowned us,
“Then rose Solomon to confound us,
“Flung his web of magic round us,
“In the forms of beasts he bound us,
“So our rule was broken then.”

[from “The Song of the Bats”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 147 and Always Comes Evening, p. 38]

Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: felucca

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 24th March 2014


(From great collections of papyrus paintings: Sailing felucca at the sunshind hour with vegetation on either side of the River Nile and three pyramids of Giza in the background.)


1. A small vessel propelled by oars or lateen sails or both, used on the Nile and formerly more widely in the Mediterranean region

[origin: 1620-30; from Italian felucca, probably from obsolete Spanish faluca, probably from Arabic fuluk ships, from Greek epholkion small boat from ephelkein to tow]


Adventure, I have followed your beck
Through all the ages. I have sought no other lover.
I have followed o’er land and sea, dim vale and your
mystic moon mountains.
I have heard Pan’s pipes amid moon-dappled woodlands
and have seen the satyrs frolicking with nymphs upon
The fragrant swards, while the night-breezes murmured
among the leaves.
I have watched your lateened feluccas a-leap upon
turquoise seas of morn,
And I have stood upon your snow-browed peaks and
seen the lavender slopes of your brooding mountains
Stretching away to the amethyst skyline. I have heard
the berg song of your Arctic floes and have watched
Your Northern Lights flaring in god-like grandeur from
the Pole.

[from “Adventure”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 254; Night Images, p. 76 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 3]



Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

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 |