Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Robert Ervin Howard born 22nd January 1906

Robert Ervin Howard, writer, poet and visionary was born in Peaster, Texas on January 22nd 1906.

Howard wrote hundreds of short stories and poems many of which have become embedded within the popular imagination of the last century. In common with his correspondents Clark Ashton Smith and Howard Phillips Lovecraft he used his profound skill to described events and character that range from the numinous to the macabre.

I find Howard’s poem Cimmeria, written in Mission, Texas in 1932, to be a particularly powerful example of his work. The poem, written as a remembrance from one far removed from his homeland, beautifully describes the fierce brooding hill country that Howard made the home of Conan, his most famous character and carries all the menace and foreboding of the unknown wilderness.

Howard took his own life on June 11th 1936 aged 30 years.

I remember
The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.
Vista upon vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista--hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.

It was gloomy land that seemed to hold
All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,
With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,
And the dark woodlands brooding over all,
Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.

It was so long ago and far away
I have forgotten the very name men called me.
The axe and flint-tipped spear are like a dream,
And hunts and wars are like shadows. I recall
Only the stillness of that sombre land;
The clouds that piled forever on the hills,
The dimness of the everlasting woods.
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

Oh, soul of mine, born out of shadowed hills,
To clouds and winds and ghosts that shun the sun,
How many deaths shall serve to break at last
This heritage which wraps me in the grey
Apparel of ghosts? I search my heart and find
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

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