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Archive for the 'Word of the Week' Category

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 |

REH Word of the Week: lyre

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 6th January 2014


The Lyre on Pelion by Silver5 on deviantart.


1. a stringed instrument like a small U-shaped harp with strings fixed to a crossbar, used esp. in ancient Greece. Modern instruments of this type are found mainly in East Africa.

[origin: 13th century; Middle English lire, from Anglo-French, from Latin lyra, from Greek


The sun like a gold thing floated on the high
And the green woodlands ran to the blue, dreaming sky.
The hills in the distance loomed up like gods
And the wood-deer scampered in the sun’s red rods.
And a rill down the hill, it danced and it sung,
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
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 falling,
“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 soft with laughing shadows,
“Emerald isles in topaz oceans where the mermaids flash in spray!
“Come away! Pan is prancing! Come away! The fauns are dancing!
“And it’s my good time I’m wasting as I pause to sing this lay!
“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: serpent

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 30th December 2013



1. The dictionary definition of serpent is a large snake; REH’s description in his poetry is far more vivid and varied. In poems such as “The Serpent” shown below and “Eternity” he equates it with timelessness. Others like “All Hallows Eve”, “Laughter in the Gulfs,” and “Destination” serpents are related to horror; on the other hand,  in “Deeps” it sleeps with dragons; in “Dreaming in Israel,” “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming (variant) and “A Song for All Women” it is another name for treachery; but in “A Far Country” and “A Lady’s Chamber” he speaks of golden serpents while in “The Grim Land” they shimmer and weave and rear their heads. in “Lilith,” as well as “The Singer in the Mist” and “Secrets” he speaks of it as a tempter. it becomes a protector of treasure in “Miser’s Gold.” In “The Sea” it lives in the ocean and battles the Kraken; in “The Shadow”(see poem below) it sheds its skin signifying change; in “Who Shall Sing of Babylon” it represents decay that is coiled up within the walls; and in his poems about Vikings he speaks of the Serpent’s Prow.

[origin: 13th century; Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin serpent-, serpens, from present participle of serpere to creep; akin to Greek herpein to creep, Sanskrit sarpati he creeps]


I am the symbol of Creation and Destruction.
I am the beginning and the end.
With my tail in my mouth
I am the Circle of Eternity.
Wisdom is in my eyes
And the dusk of wisdom lurks amid my coils.
My track circles the world
And I loop my coils about the Universe.
My head waves among the stars
And the nations fall prostrate before me.
Coiled, head upright, I am the spirit of the sea.
The world-shaking dinosaur was my henchman
And the flying dragons were my footmen.
The ancients knew me.
They reared shrines and altars
And I taught them dim, dusky wisdom.
I coiled in the ruins of Troy and Babylon
And on the forgotten streets of Nineveh.
The Norse called me Midgaard and built their galleys
Like a sea-serpent.
The Egyptians and the Indians called me Ysis
And the Phoenicians Baal.
I am the sea that girdles the world.
I am the first and I shall be the last.
I am the Serpent of the Ages.

[from “Serpent”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 519 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 36]



Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: nether

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 23rd December 2013



1. located towards the bottom or at more distant parts

[origin: before the 12th century; from Middle English, from Old English nithera, from nither down; akin to Old High German nidar down, Sanskrit ni]


There was a thing of the shadow world,
Shadow conceived and shadow born.
Who roamed through the night on silent feet
And shunned the light of the lifting morn.

A friend of the dim and nether world,
And the sons of man were his grisly feast,
Until one night in the forest haunts,
This thing of the shadows met a priest.

Who by the might of the Light Above
Walked all unscathed through the fiend-dimmed vales.
Who saw the Way with unclouded gaze,
And followed the lure of the dim out-trails.

Lifting souls from the marsh and mire,
Freeing the slave, defying the king,
And bold in battle and unafraid
He faced and conquered the shadow thing.

Conquered it, aye, but held his hand;
Spake to the thing as it were a man,
Strongly wrought with its shadow mind,
Until a strange, new change began.

As the desert serpent flings its skin,
And the buffalo shakes from its hide the mire,
The thing strove strong to change its shape
And its half-soul grew with a magic fire.

And the good priest strove with the Powers Above,
To lift its soul from the foul to the good,
And at last prevailed, but first it must go
And for years wage war with the Devil’s brood.

[from “Shadow Thing”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 217 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 322]


Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: dip

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 16th December 2013




1. a drunkard; someone with an uncontrollable craving for alcoholic liquors

[origin: ca. 1844; slang; from dipsomania; New Latin, from Greek dipsa thirst + Late Latin mania]


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.

Yet down through the sweeping ages the ego’s tendrils twine,
Linking the prince to the beggar and the lordling to the swine.
And body is linked to body, though strange it is to say
That the I of some dim tomorrow is the I of yesterday.
But the soul wears many garments as is written in the stars,
And I that was prince of China, was the soak of the Brooklyn bars.

[from “Prince and Beggar”; this is the complete poem as it appears in 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: pennon

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 9th December 2013



1. a long usually triangular or swallow-tailed streamer typically attached to the head of a lance as an ensign

[origin: 14th century; Middle English, from Anglo-French penun, diminutive of penne quill, wing feather]


The shadows were black around him,
The dripping jaws gaped wide,
Thicker than rain the red drops fell;
But my love was fiercer than Death’s black spell,
Nor all the iron walls of hell
Could keep me from his side.
—The Song of Bêlit.

Now we are done with roaming, evermore;
No more the oars, the windy harp’s refrain;
Nor crimson pennon frights the dusky shore;
Blue girdle of the world, receive again
Her whom thou gavest me.
—The Song of Bêlit.

[from “Queen of the Black Coast”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 48; Always Comes Evening, p. 68 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 435]



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REH Word of the Week: hinterland

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 2nd December 2013




1. a remote region; an area beyond what is visible or known.

[origin: 1890; German, from hinter hinder + Land]


The stars come blinking  in a dusky sky,
Like yellow eyes of vast Bubastes cats
And dim and shadowy the restless bats
Against the creeping twilight wheel and fly.
Grey shadows mask the sands, the desert shrinks,
And yet, unseen, seems still more dim and vast,
Against the stars rears up the silent Sphinx
A brooding monster of forgotten past.

A shadow ’mid those ruins glides and creeps,
A thing from which the shuddering moonlight leaps;
Like witch-rid wind from out of  the hinterlands
A fog-like aura haunts the sombre sands.
Grim, dreaming monstrous dreams of naked feet
That danced in worship many a frightful feast;
Unhallowed rites that for such god were meet,
Unholy neophyte and grisly priest.

Egypt, thou land still chained unto the past,
Thy ghost gods in the deserts still are massed
And many a fearful shape still glides and leers.
The phantom, stealing down the slaughtered years
From out the fastness of some unthought Thule,
Brooding upon his ancient bestial rule—
Freedom is naught, till men have conquered this,
This undying fiend, the Cat of Anubis!

[from “The Cats of Anubis 2.”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 179; Night Images, p. 15 and Robert E. Howard  Selected Poems, p. 147]


Posted in REH Poetry, Word of the Week |