REH Word of the Week: tun


1. A large cask for liquids, especially ale, beer or wine; a measure of liquid capacity equivalent to approximately 252 gallons (954 liters).

[origin: before 12th century; Middle English tonne, tunne, from Old English & Anglo-French; Old English, from Medieval Latin tunna; Anglo-French tone, tonne, from Medieval Latin]


“Frown hard upon their deeds if so ye will,
And name them crimson-handed, black of heart—
They braved unknown worlds and seas, had their fill
Of death and danger where the sunsets spill
Unreckoned perils, and they took their part
Of cannonade and cutlass, wind and rack.
They paved the way for ye who were to come;
Aye, ye who followed rode a beaten track. . .
Oh, winds, winds, winds, winds, winds;
Oh, winds that set our rigging all a-hum!
Oh, tides, tides, tides, tides, tides;
Oh, tides that gripped our sterns on unmapped seas!
Oh, galleons, galleons, galleons,
Oh, galleons that loomed against the dawn!
Oh, battle-thunder, battle-thunder,
Oh, battle-thunder off the wide, white leas!
Oh, hissing cutlass, hissing cutlass,
Oh, hissing cutlass backed by English brawn!
Oh, plunder, plunder, plunder,
Oh, plunder from a thousand cargoes drawn!

“Boots of Cordovan leather, chests of ash,
Damascus steel, rare silks and silver plate;
Rough-carven gems to match the starlight’s flash,
And gold moidores cresting a piece-of-eight!
Tuns of brown ale and barrels of black rum,
And many a pipe of sharp Canary wine;
Toledo blades that shimmer, gleam and hum,
And bales of spice and idols of odd design!

[from “Drake Sings of Yesterday”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 466 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 412]