Archive for December, 2015

cradle of time


1. cradle: A place of origin; a birthplace of; (plus) 2. time: the point or period when something occurs.

[origin: 1. cradle: Middle English cradel, from Old English cradol; perhaps akin to Old High German kratto basket, Sanskrit grantha knot (plus) 2. time: Middle English, from Old English tima, akin to Old Norse timi time, Old English tid.


I am older than the world;
Older than life.
The race of man is a babe in the cradle of Time.
I am Alpha and Omega,
The first and the last;
The circle without end.
I am a serpent with its tail in its mouth;
I am a triangle whose tips overlap a circle.
I am the older sister of Destiny.
Before man was, I was;
And after man has vanished from the Universe, I will be.
Time is a phantom, built by the mind of man;
There is no Time.
The thing men call Time flies before my wind;
Time has beginning, duration, ending.
There is no beginning to Eternity
Nor shall there be an ending.
I am that which was, is, and shall be;
Unceasing, Neverending, Eternal.
Number all the sands of all the shores of all the worlds
Of all the Universes.
And let each sand represent a million centuries;
And they all shall not be a single instant
Of Eternity.
For I am numberless and unnumbered.
Eternity had no beginning, neither shall there be ending.
I am Alpha and Omega.
That which was, is and shall be;
Numberless and unnumbered.

[from “Eternity”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 342]

Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2016!

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.


Rob King, Assistant Librarian at Texas Tech University’s Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, was recently in contact with the REHF about a collection of Howard material at TTU.

King manages a small collection of works by and about Howard, along with the on-going project of digitizing issues of the Cross Plains Review. A bibliography of Howard material in the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library can be found here.

King grew up in Abilene and starting at age 16, he spent weekends working with his grandparents owned a grocery store and meat market in Brownwood, which they owned for 50 years. Being from the same region of Texas as Howard, King has an interest in all things related to him. King also frequently attends Howard Days.


According to King, TTU has a deep respect for Texas authors. They have Elmer Kelton’s manuscripts as well as his first editions with autographs. The library has  a permanent Robert E. Howard exhibit of their materials (pictured above) to encourage students’ interest in Howard. King has added a collection of Howard Days postage cancellations, along with the banquet programs for years he’s attended. He recently became a member of the Foundation and is contributing his copies of the REHF Newsletters to the collection as well. TTU doesn’t give him much of a budget for new acquisitions to the collection, so contributions are apprenticed. I will besending King some back issues of TGR for the Howard collection after the first of the year and I am going through my inventory of REH books to find some duplicates I have that I will contribute. If you want to send any extra copies of what you have that are not listed in the bibliography, you can contact King via his email account. It is certainly a worthwhile endeavor that deserves our support.

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, Howard Days.



1. slang. money

[origin: 14th century; Scots from Middle English (northern) cal and Old English cal]


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”; for complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 618 and Shadows of Dreams, p. 76]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.


January 1935

Only a fragment of the draft for this letter remains, which forms part of Lovecraft and Howard’s long-standing and wide-ranging argument on civilization versus barbarism. It’s interesting that Howard should have decided to specify the “modern system” over “our civilization,” and the general tone of the changes evident in the final letter seems to be an effort to move past the civilization vs. barbarism argument.

Text unique to the draft will be colored red, while text unique to the final letter will be colored blue. Formatting (paragraph breaks, etc.) have been freely distorted to more clearly show were sections of text match up most closely.


Works Cited

AMTF   A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (2 vols.)
CL       Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard
(3 vols. + Index and Addenda)

Bobby Derie is the compiler of the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard – Index and Addenda (2015, Robert E. Howard Foundation) and the author of Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2015, Hippocampus Press).

Illustration by Daniel Serna

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft.


There the mercenary Venetians refused us ships and it sickened my very entrails to see our chiefs go down on their knees to those merchant swine. They promised us ships at last but they set such a high price that we could not pay. None of us had any money, else we had never started on that mad venture. We wrenched the jewels from our hilts and the gold from our buckles and raised part of the money, bargaining to take various cities from the Greeks and give them over to Venice for the rest of the price. The Pope – Innocent III – raged, but we went our ways and quenched our swords in Christian blood instead of Paynim.

— Robert E. Howard, “Red Blades of Black Cathay”

The First Crusade saw the foundation of the Christian states of Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli and Jerusalem. The County of Edessa, first to be founded, was first to fall again to the Muslims. At the end of 1144, Zenghi esh Shami, the villain of REH’s “Lion of Tiberias”, took Edessa with terrible slaughter. When a minstrel offers to render a ballad about it, a knight who was there, Miles du Courcey, in true Howardian hero style, growls, “Your head shall roll on the floor first. It is enough that you praise the dog Zenghi in our teeth. No man sings of his butcheries at Edessa, beneath a Christian roof in my presence.”

In “The Lion of Tiberias,” too, the Byzantine Emperor, John Comnene, is shown as playing a double game with the Christian Franks and with Zenghi. A spy of Comnene’s, calling himself d’Ibelin, is challenged while riding into Saracen territory with a message from the Emperor, of the most treacherous intent. REH stays consistently with the stereotype here. There are no honest Byzantines, and least of all their rulers!

The author is not being false to history, though. John II Comnene was committed throughout his reign to recovering all the Byzantine territory that had previously been lost to Turks and Franks. He wasn’t above playing double games in pursuit of his aims. He formed an alliance with Prince Raymond of Antioch against Zenghi esh Shami, forced Raymond to recognize Byzantine suzerainty, and was planning to invade Antioch at the time of his death (1143). Miles du Courcey calls d’Ibelin “John Comnene’s spy” after that date, but he might well have known the man before the Emperor’s death, and “d’Ibelin” might have been serving John’s successor in 1146. Zenghi was assassinated in that year, and REH gives his version of the event in “The Lion of Tiberias.”

The sack of Edessa had the direct result of the Second Crusade (1145-49) being declared by Pope Eugene III. King Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany (with his famous nephew Frederick Barbarossa) were its leaders, but except for the sideshow of the northern Crusader fleet stopping at Lisbon to help the Portuguese capture that city from the Muslims, it had no Christian successes.  While Howard doesn’t say so, I consider that Geoffrey the Bastard, father of Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, took part in the Second Crusade as a youth, and personally knew Raymond of Antioch, his niece Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the leader of the Assassins of Masyaf in Syria.

The mutual distrust between Byzantines and western Crusaders had become well established since the First Crusade. By the Second, the French had no wish to take the land route through Byzantine territory to their destination, being wary of Greek back-stabbing. The Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I, for his part did not want Crusaders on his soil either, viewing them as marauding bandits. Manuel, in fact, so mistrusted the Crusaders that he halted the campaign he had been fighting against the Sultanate of Rûm, signing a truce so that he would have all his resources available to defend Byzantium against the armies of the Cross if need be; he suspected them of designs of conquest against Constantinople. The Fourth Crusade would show how right he had been. For additional details see “Cormac Fitzgeoffrey’s Kin in the Crusades: Part Two.

94822-004-E6EF83B3Meanwhile, relations between Byzantines and Venetians had grown steadily worse. Doge Domenico Selvo aided the Empire against the Normans under Guiscard, and during the Second Crusade, Sicily’s Norman king captured the Byzantine possession of Corfu in the Ionian Islands. The Venetians with their powerful fleet helped Emperor Manuel regain Corfu, but their arrogance offended him, and their lawless behavior in other respects eroded Byzantine tolerance towards them – especially in Constantinople itself. The Venetian fleets had become so much greater than the ever-weakening Byzantine ones that Venice enjoyed a strangling hold over the Empire’s sea trade. Dislike turned to hatred. Emperor Manuel I encouraged Genoa and Pisa to compete with Venice in Byzantine markets. In 1171, the Venetians in Constantinople attacked and destroyed the Genoese quarter, upon which the Emperor ordered the arrest and deportation of all Venetians. He confiscated their property, too. Many resisted, and were put to the sword as a result.

One of those who escaped was Aldo di Strozza, elder brother of Tisolino di Strozza, a Venetian who appears in the Cormac Fitzgeoffrey tale, “The Blood of Belshazzar”. Tisolino was then twenty. Aldo deserved to be one of the slain, if anybody did, since he had been one of the most brutal rioters, but justice nodded. The brothers continued to sail the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean in their father’s ships – di Strozza was a wealthy merchant – and after a few years Tisolino quit trading. He rose to become the captain of a squadron of Venice’s warships. Ruthless, arrogant, and contemptuous of the Byzantines, he became known as a resourceful, fearless fighting seaman.

cfb4d16f08ffbfe77a8a9feebd516734In 1182, Aldo was again in Constantinople, and Tisolino with him. Once again there was a savage disturbance, this time with the Byzantines as aggressors against the Venetians. On that occasion Aldo was a victim of the massacre, and it was Tisolino who escaped. He hated all Byzantines with a merciless hatred from that time onward. In that respect his attitudes to the Empire reflect those of Venetians in general.

“The Blood of Belshazzar” says of Tisolino that he had been “trader, captain of Venice’s warships, Crusader, pirate, outlaw … ” before he arrived at Bab-el-Shaitan. He was “tall and thin and saturnine … with a hook-nosed, thin-nostrilled face of distinctly predatory aspect.”  In Hollywood’s glory days he could have been portrayed to perfection by Basil Rathbone.

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This entry filed under Howard's Fiction.


photo of Upton Sinclair


1. archaic. go away, hence, move on

[origin: 15th century; Middle English, literally, forward, from Anglo-French avant, from Latin abante forward, before, from ab from + ante before]

Now come the days of high endeavor and
The blare of brazen trumpets through the land.
Now George Sylvester Viereck from his den
Roars forth and Untermeyer rides again.
Across the mountains comes the blast of Hecht
And all the critics get it in the neckt.
Sir Upty heard them going from the knoll
And shook within his boots despite “King Coal.”
A bat came whirling in the silent air,
And all the mountain peaks echoed, “Sinclair!”
“Aha!” he muttered as the sounds sighed past,
“The syndicated press awakes at last!”
But even as he spoke a rattlesnake
Came flying with its rattles all a-shake.
“Stand, scaly varlet, wherefore dost thou flee?
“Nor halt to make obeisance to ME?”
“Go sit upon a tack,” the snake replied,
“There follows close with long and lengthy stride,
“One who would make me listen, if he could,
“To words defined according to his mood.”
The scornful snake went tooling down the plains
And Upty’s blood congealed within his veins.
For in the moonlight bulked a mighty form
That beckoned with a silent tree-like arm.
Avaunt, foul ghost!” Upty in panic said,
And hurled “The Goose Step” at the phantom’s head.
“Heh heh!” the spook responded with a roar
That woke up G.B. Shaw on Erin’s shore.

[from “A Fable For Critics”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 589; Shadows of Dreams, p. 80; and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 117]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.


July 1933 (later draft)

A much longer draft of the same letter; a comparison shows that Howard decided to remove a significant number of paragraphs before writing the final letter—probably to soften a few polemics, as well as polishing several anecdotes.

Text unique to the draft will be colored red, while text unique to the final letter will be colored blue. Formatting (paragraph breaks, etc.) have been freely distorted to more clearly show were sections of text match up most closely.

3Draft 13Draft 23Draft 3

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This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Texas.


Leigh Douglass Brackett was born one hundred years ago this past 7th of December, in Los Angeles. Her husband, Edmond Hamilton, wrote in his preface to The Best of Leigh Brackett (1977, Del Rey) that when little she was “a sunburned, muscular small girl roaming the California beach in front of her grandfather’s old house and playing at being a pirate. From what her family told me, I believe she was a hardy, adventurous little tomboy.”

XXXXlb41h3She certainly wrote plenty about women of that sort later. Her science fiction stories are filled with them, some noble, some wicked, some down-to-earth, but none of them weak-kneed. Beudag, the shield woman of “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” Ciaran in People of the Talisman, who hides her sex behind a helmet and armor as leader of a tribe of barbarians, until she’s exposed, and then takes command undismayed (“I have led you well, I have taken you Kushat … will a man here dispute me?”), Sydna Cochrane in The Big Jump (“You play rough.”  “I grew up with three brothers. I had to play rough or not play”), Virgie in “The Veil of Astellar,” of whom the narrator says, “Life had kicked her around some … a tough, unbreakable character … ,” Jen in “Shannach – the Last,” “a woman who had already learned the happy, the passionate and the bitter things, who had lived with pain and fear and knew better than to trust anyone but herself” and the tormented, vengeful Ahrian in “The Woman From Altair,” destructive but more sinned against than sinning – they all have minds of their own and can all stand on their own feet. Rann in “Lorelei of the Red Mist”, Varra in “Enchantress of Venus” and for that matter Varra’s horrid, ruthless grandmother, Fand in “The Beast-Jewel of Mars” and spiteful, malicious Kell a Marg in the “Skaith” trilogy, clinging to the past on her dying world, are all bitches deluxe – but they’re all believable, not cardboard, all have their own passions and motivations, with some of which you can sympathize, even while feeling glad they never crossed your path. Fand at one point says bitterly, “Mars, the world that could not even die in decency and honour, because the carrion birds came flying to pick its bones, and the greedy rats suck away the last of its blood and pride.”  The carrion birds and greedy rats are the Earthmen, typified by the bosses of the Terran Exploitations Company in Shadow Over Mars.

Poster%20-%20Rio%20Bravo_01Feathers, played by Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo, a movie Brackett scripted and later novelized, is an itinerant poker player who spars feistily with sheriff John Wayne on equal terms and declines to let him run her out of town as a bad influence. She even helps save his unforthcoming butt from gunmen at one point. Another gutsy Brackett woman was Vivian Rutledge, played by Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep, which Brackett co-scripted. For that matter Bacall would have been perfect as Sydna in The Big Jump, if a movie had ever been made of that. Hmm. I wonder if the similarity of titles was just coincidence …

As a person, by all accounts, Leigh Brackett was warm, friendly, gracious and unassuming, one hundred per cent a lady. I never met her. But Harlan Ellison did. Caustic and scathing as he frequently is, when Brackett died of cancer, he said in print, “There are not enough tears to mark her passing.”  Ellison isn’t an easy man to move to that extent.

Although she scripted movies (including The Empire Strikes Back), wrote tough crime novels (like her very first novel, No Good from a Corpse, published in 1944, followed by The Tiger Among Us and Eye for an Eye, both in 1957) and westerns (Follow the Free Wind won the Spur Award), as well as a superb post-nuclear-apocalypse novel, The Long Tommorrow, which appeared in 1955, Brackett made the romantic, traditional, but sadly mythical, Solar System of the pulps uniquely her own. She was delighted by Burroughs’ novels of Mars and Venus from the moment she discovered them. Later she created her own fictional Mars, Venus and Mercury, all habitable, even if marginally and only by the strongest. The moons of the outer planets were peopled in her mythical Solar System too. Her descriptions of them were often hauntingly poetic. Try this paragraph from The Sword of Rhiannon, set on Mars:

Carse walked beside the still black waters in their ancient channel, cut in the dead sea-bottom. He watched the dry wind shake the torches that never went out and listened to the broken music of the harps that were never stilled. Lean lithe men and women passed him in the shadowy streets, silent as cats except for the chime and whisper of the tiny bells the women wear, a sound as delicate as rain, distillate of all the sweet wickedness of the world.

Or this one, from “The Moon That Vanished”:

Darkness on Venus is not like the darkness of Earth or Mars. The planet is hungry for light and will not let it go. The face of Venus never sees the Sun but even at night the hope and the memory of it are there, trapped in the eternal clouds. The air is the color of indigo and it carries its own pale glow … the slow hot wind made drifts of light among the liha-trees … and blended into the restless phosphorescence of the Sea of Morning Opals.

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This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft.

Apis Bull

(Procession of the Apis Bull by Frederick Bridgman)


1. A sacred bull of the ancient Egyptians, acting as an intermediary between humans and Ptah, the Egyptian creator god and the deity patron of artisans

[origin: origin: 14th century; Latin, from Greek, from Egyptian ḥp]


The Persian slaughtered the Apis Bull;
(Ammon-Ra is a darksome king.)
And the brain fermented beneath his skull.
(Egypt’s curse is a deathly thing.)

He rode on the desert raider’s track;
(Ammon-Ra is a darksome king.)
No man of his gleaming hosts came back,
And the dust winds drifted sombre and black.
(Egypt’s curse is a deathly thing.)

The eons passed on the desert land;
(Ammon-Ra is a darksome king.)
And a stranger trod the shifting sand.
(Egypt’s curse is a deathly thing.)

His idle hand disturbed the dead;
(Ammon-Ra is a darksome king.)
Till he found Cambysses’ skull of dread
Whence the frenzied brain so long had fled,
That once held terrible visions red.
(Egypt’s curse is a deathly thing.)

And an asp crawled from the dust inside
(Ammon-Ra is a darksome king.)
And the stranger fell and gibbered and died.
(Egypt’s curse is a deathly thing.)

[from “Skulls and Dust”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 175 and Echoes From an Iron Harp, p. 71]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni

Europe, in the grip of feudalism, was weaker internally than on her borders. The nations were already taking shadowy shape, but as yet there was no real national spirit. In France there was neither Charlemagne nor Martel – only starving, plague-harried peasantry, warring fiefs, and a land torn by strife between Capet and Norman duke, overlord and rebellious vassal. And France was typical of Europe …

Already long shadows were falling from the east across the Golden Horn. Byzantium was still Christendom’s mightiest bulwark; but westward from Bokhara were moving the horsemen of the steppes destined swiftly to wrest from the Eastern Empire her last Asiatic possession. The Seljuks, blocked on the south by the glittering Indo-Iranian empire of Mahmud of Ghazni, were riding toward the setting sun, not to be halted until their horses’ hoofs splashed the waters of the Mediterranean.

— Robert E. Howard, “Hawks Over Egypt”

Sometimes I think there must have been advantages to writing for the pulps in the nineteen-twenties and thirties. Political correctness was unheard-of, and you could use stereotypes as a kind of characterization shorthand, never mind who might find them offensive. Cruel Arab despots, cunning, fiendish Chinese criminals, brutish stupid (or childlike and dumbly loyal) blacks, tough but funny Irish (never represented as bright, at least not by English authors) avaricious Jews (stock types for dope peddlers and white slavers as well as grasping pawnbrokers) devil-worshipping Yezidees or Mongols – all of it was fine, and if you described a Kurd as “slant-eyed” the readers wouldn’t know or care that Kurds are not.

The stereotypes weren’t limited to contemporary stories, either. They abounded in adventure yarns set in the Middle Ages and Crusades. The crusaders (especially when they were English) were brave and noble. Saracens were wicked (except Saladin), Mongols were beasts, the French were arrogant and impractical, while Jews – were the usual Jews, going back to Isaac of York in Ivanhoe, and before him to Shylock.

Br_8441206719_bWhich brings us to the Byzantines and Venetians who usually appear in these yarns. The standard types were double-dealers who showed a smiling face to the crusaders from Western Europe, gave them ship transport or safe-conduct through their territories, and then betrayed them. This is evident in Robert E. Howard’s stories, very much so, although he was scarcely starry-eyed about the crusaders either. His heroes were hard, disillusioned men like Godric de Villehard, Cormac Fitzgeoffrey and Cahal Ruadh O’Donnel. The occasional pure-hearted idealist who takes the cross and rides east does not usually live long. (Godric refers to the Marquis of Montferrat as “that devious-minded assassin”, to Simon de Montfort as “that black-faced cutthroat”, and tells the eastern princess, Yulita, that the crusade’s leaders “plotted against each other all the way to Venice”.)

This picture was not only given in pulp stories. It prevailed in history textbooks – British Commonwealth ones, anyway, and doubtless in the U.S.A. also. Robert E. Howard lived from 1906 to 1936. This blogger can attest that a quarter-century later, when he was in high school, Australian history classes taught nothing about the Byzantine Empire. Plenty about Henry VIII and the Stuarts, and something about the Roman Empire, but our teachers gave us the impression that it fell in the fifth century, and after that, nothing worth mentioning happened until the Middle Ages began. Anything I heard about the East Roman Empire (not much, as I’ve said) implied a steady, corrupt decline of a thousand years, a dreary procession of gutless emperors, depraved empresses, courtesans, and eunuchs, until the Ottoman Turks took Constantinople in 1453. The only real men in the place where the foreigners of the Varangian Guard – tall blonde lads of Nordic stock. (The original “Varangians” were the Vikings who sailed down the rivers of Russia to found Novgorod and Kiev.)

Cs-jJ1Sk7cSAF42mAASHXF0oaD0924Other writers besides REH give their readers a scornful view of the Byzantines. In Frans Bengtsson’s superb The Long Ships, the Viking Olof Summer-bird (so called for his bright magnificent clothing) says of the Byzantines, “They hold it less evil to blind or mutilate a man than to kill him, by which you may see the sort of people they are.”  The main character’s brother falls victim to a devious, greedy Byzantine official, and loses his eyes, tongue and right hand. Cecelia Holland’s The Belt of Gold deals with the intrigues and power plays of the Empress Irene, a crafty unprincipled bitch who had her own son blinded – and the hero is a stalwart Frankish barbarian, Hagen.  His love interest is a Greek girl of high intelligence, caught up in the intrigues of the Empress and her rival, John Cerulis. Hagen and his brother rescue her from “the wretched Karros, John Cerulis’s bully boy” as the novel opens. The general picture given of Byzantines and their culture is not endearing.

The actual truth is that Charlemagne, Irene’s contemporary, was no charmer either. Ask the pagan Saxons – the ones he left alive. The Franks had a long record as a fierce, treacherous lot who would murder without a qualm. Frankish kings frequently slew their brothers. Queen Fredegund (sixth century CE) was so fiendishly cruel she made Irene look like Minnie Mouse. As for the Vikings and their Christian successors the Normans – it was William the Conqueror, touted to the sky as a hero by many, who while he was Duke of Normandy reacted badly to taunts about his bastard birth from the garrison of a castle he was besieging. When he took it, he had the survivors’ hands and feet cut off. Irish kings were quite in the habit of blinding their rivals, even their own kindred, or anybody else they thought might start trouble for them. Blinding and mutilation were no exclusive practice of the Byzantines.

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This entry filed under Howard's Fiction.