Charles Gramlich mentions that Baen
changed the formatting of the poem "The King and the
Oak," and that he thinks it is "quite obvious which
version is closer to the original format chosen by REH." So I
looked at the Baen version and, sure enough, they chopped up the
original three-line stanzas into six lines, which was simple
enough to do given this rhyme scheme. However, they were
inconsistent about it. In stanzas 3, 4, 7 and 8 one line is left
intact, resulting in a five-line stanza, and in stanza 5, two
lines are left intact, resulting in a four-line stanza. My feeling
is: if you're going to make a change like this, at least be
consistent about it!
whether it is "closer to the original format chosen by
REH" consider: the Weird Tales publication of this
poem, and all subsequent publications until Baen, had used the
three-line stanza. However, the poem was not published until 1939.
Short of a copy of the original manuscript, or a draft, I cannot
be certain that REH himself chose the three-line stanza, but it
seems likely, to me. I have seen many of his typescripts of
poetry, and he tended to be very conservative of paper: his lines
usually spread from one margin of the paper to the other. In
support of this view, a listing of Howard poetry made by the Otis
Kline agency (Dr. Howard had sent Kline all of Robert's
manuscripts of stories and poems, and someone at the agency typed
a listing of both) shows "The King and the Oak" as
"1 page". It's kinda frustrating: for most of the poems,
the number of lines is given, which would have enabled us to
definitively answer the question of whether the manuscript used
three-line stanzas. For some reason, though, "The King and
the Oak" is one of a few poems that are given as a number of
pages. But it seems unlikely to me that, with an old manual Pica
typewriter, you could get "The King and the Oak" onto
one page unless you used the three-line stanza.
More seriously, as I started reading
the poem, I stumbled on the phrase "dried crimson" in
the first line of the second stanza. Something about it struck me
wrong. I checked against the Bantam edition: also
"dried." But then I looked in my copy of Always Comes
Evening: "died," not "dried." Certainly
"died" in this context made more sense. Well, the next
thing you know I'm comparing all the published versions I have,
and then calling Vern Clark, who has the ones I don't. So now I
can show you the publication history of "The King and the
Oak," and the textual changes that have been wrought, and you
can restore this poem to something more nearly the original.
Admittedly, most of these changes are relatively minor, but as
most of us here are purists, I'm sure you want to note these.
I would suggest that those of you who
want to do this get out your copy of Baen's Kull (or
Bantam, the same text with one exception), and make the following
changes to restore it to the Weird Tales, February 1939
Stanza 2, line 1: change
"dried" to "died"
Stanza 2, line 3: change
"spectres" to "specters"
Stanza 4, line 2: change
"gray oak" to "great oak"
Stanza 7, line 2: add
"bow" after "grass-blades" (this word was
dropped only in the Baen, not the Bantam edition)
Stanza 8, line 2: change the
exclamation point after "woke" to a semicolon
Okay, so now you have the Weird
Tales version, and we can look at the publication history. The
next publication of the poem was in 1947, in the Arkham House
poetry collection Dark of the Moon. This publication
replicates the Weird Tales text. In 1953 the poem was
reproduced in the Gnome Press volume The Coming of Conan.
This version introduced only one change, obviously a typesetting
error: in stanza 8, line 2, the comma at the end of the line was
dropped. No other version picked up this error.
Glenn Lord included the poem in Always
Comes Evening (Arkham House, 1957), and again the text
conforms to the Weird Tales version. Ten years later, the
poem was included in the Lancer King Kull, and here we find
the roots of errors that crop up in the later paperback versions.
For some reason, Lin Carter changed the spelling of
"specters" to "spectres" in stanza 2, line 3.
Howard nearly always used American, not British, spellings, but
Carter, an avid Lovecraftian, may have preferred the British
spelling. Worse, the "one great oak" in stanza 4, line
2, that blocks Kull's way and fights with him, is changed to
"one gray oak." This doesn't seem like a change Carter
would have made deliberately: my guess is typesetter error.
In 1971, the poem was illustrated by
Marie and John Severin and included in Conan the Barbarian #10.
Several changes were introduced, but it's obvious that the Carter King
Kull version was the source text, since "spectres"
and "gray oak" are carried forward. Because it's a
comics adaptation, I'm not going to note the other changes, except
to say that this version, like the Baen, drops the word
"bow" in stanza 7, line 2.
The poem was next published in Night
Images, a deluxe Howard poetry volume from Morningstar Press.
This text follows the Weird Tales version.
In 1977, Underwood-Miller published a
new edition of Always Comes Evening. (Notice how the poem
was published in 1947, 1957, 1967, and 1977? What happened to
1987?) They introduced three errors. In stanza 6, line 2,
"Fraught" was misspelled "Frought"; in stanza
7, line 2, "grass-blades" was rendered
"glass-blades"; and in stanza 7, line 3, the semicolon
after "dawn" was dropped.
The following year, Bantam Books
published Kull. The Lin Carter "posthumous
collaborations" were dispensed with in favor of the original
Howard fragments, but his changes to "The King and the
Oak" were carried forward: "spectres" and
"gray oak." This version introduced two new errors, as
well. In stanza 2, line 1, the sun "dried" crimson, and
in stanza 8, line 2, an exclamation point was substituted for the
semicolon after "woke."
In 1985, Donald M. Grant published Kull,
and his version of the poem contains the same errors as the
Bantam. He also has "the" winds in stanza 1, line 3 (no
other version has "the"), and drops the word
"bow" after "grass-blades" in stanza 7, line
Baen carries on the Bantam text, and
also drops the word "bow," as in the Grant (and earlier,
the comics) versions.
And there you have it, a complete
publication history and record of textual errors in "The King
and the Oak." Aren't you glad you joined REHupa? Where else
could you learn this stuff?