REH Word of the Week: root

(painting by Timothy Osment)


1. to turn up or dig in the earth with the snout; to poke or dig about

[origin: 1532; alteration of wroot, from Middle English wroten, from Old English wrotan; akin to Old High German ruozzan]


As I was born in the slaughter-yards,
Where souls are but meat to sell,
I must toughen my hide to pass unsinged
The fires of my native Hell.

Since I must live in a world of swine,
And feed with the rooting herds
(Which trample the flowers and rip the vines
And break the wings of birds),

Give me the craft and the strength to win,
Lord, where acorns thickest fall;
Make me a monster of lust and tusk:
The fiercest swine of all.

Plant my brain with heartless thorn,
Seed my heart with brainless wrath,
That the cruelest of my brother boars
Shall slink far from my path.

Since I must feed in the stinking stye,
And root with the grunting pack,
Give me the jaws of the hungriest boar,
And his bristles for my back.

[from “Native Hell”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 436 and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 16]