Maul2ce53250c3c95e589a33d74c9bac-e1464970378278

noun

  1. a heavy often wooden-headed hammer used especially for driving wedges; a tool like a sledgehammer with one wedge-shaped end that is used to split wood

[origin: ca. 13th century; Middle English malle mace, maul, from Anglo-French mail, from Latin malleus; akin to Old Church Slavic mlatu hammer, Latin molere to grind]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

A silence falls along the halls;
The lions mutter in the gloom.
How Time along the hours crawls
Like some great sluggish worm of doom.

My heartbeats fall, a striking maul.
Because my thews are hard and strong,
Within the hour I must fall
To meet the blood lust of the throng.

Along the halls a trumpet calls.
The red arena glimmers nigh.
Thor, let me mock these fools of Rome,
And show them how a Goth can die.

[from “The Cells of the Coliseum”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 530; A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 68 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 185]

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

bobby1_n-e1465824586645

The 2016 Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were announced at an awards ceremony held on the afternoon of June 10th in Cross Plains. Here are the winners:

The Atlantean — Outstanding Achievement, Book (non-anthology/collection)

DERIE, BOBBY – The Collected Letters of REH: Index and Addenda (REH Foundation Press)

The Hyrkanian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Print)

SHANKS, JEFFREY – “Evolutionary Otherness: Anthropological Anxiety in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Worms of the Earth’” The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales

The Cimmerian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Online)

TIE:

BARRETT, BARBARA – “Hester Jane Ervin Howard and Tuberculosis (3 parts)” REH: Two Gun Raconteur Blog

PISKE, DAVID – “Barbarism and Civilization in the Letters of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft: A Summary with Commentary (6 parts)” On an Underwood No. 5

The Venarium — Emerging Scholar

DERIE, BOBBY – Contributed essays to TGR blog, On an Underwood No. 5, and compiled the The Collected Letters of REH: Index and Addenda

The Stygian—Outstanding Achievement, Website

REH: TWO-GUN RACONTEUR BLOG (Damon Sasser)

The Aquilonian — Outstanding Achievement, Periodical

REH: TWO GUN RACONTEUR (Damon Sasser)

The Black Lotus – Outstanding Achievement, Multimedia

FRIBERG, BEN – Howard Days Panels (videos)

The Black River—Special Achievement

ROEHM, ROB – For his biographical research published at the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur Blog, On an Underwood No. 5, and the Black Gate website.

The Rankin — Artistic achievement in the depiction of REH’s life and/or work (Art must have made its first public published appearance in the previous calendar year.)

GIORELLO, TOMAS and JOSE VILLARRUBIA: Cover and interior artwork for adaptation of “Wolves Beyond the Border” King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border issue 1 (Dark Horse)

Black Circle Award – Lifetime Achievement

THOMAS, ROY – Approved

Congratulations to all the winners.

A Note from the Editor: Having received the The Stygian and The Aquilonian awards, I want to thank all the contributors to both the blog and print journal and I also want to thank all the Howard fans who read and support the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur blog and journal. None of this would be possible without you. And I must congratulate Barbara Barrett for her fine essay that won her The Cimmerian award for her series “Hester Jane Ervin Howard and Tuberculosis” posted on the blog, and David Piske as well since it was a dead heat between these two fine Howard scholars.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Shanks.

helenPirate-Queen-Teuta-Of-Illyria

The dandy of the longboat stood before me. Faith, he was smaller than I had thought, though supple and lithe. Boots of fine Spanish leather he wore on his trim legs, and above them tight breeches of doeskin. A fine crimson sash with tassels and rings to the ends was round his slim waist, and from it jutted the silver butts of two pistols. A blue coat with flaring tails and gold buttons gaped open to disclose the frilled and laced shirt beneath.

[…]

Now I looked for the first time at the face. It was a delicate oval with red lips that curled in mockery, large grey eyes that danced, and only then did I realize that I was looking at a woman and not a man.

— Robert E. Howard, “The Isle of Pirates’ Doom”

The year was 1669. Port Royal, the buccaneer’s haven in Jamaica, buzzed with gossip about Roger O’Farrel’s adopted daughter. On a voyage with Captain Hilton, one of the most ruthless men afloat, she had shown she took after the redoubtable O’Farrel, and at the end she had departed quickly, for she did not trust Hilton an inch and thought he might give her to the English governor.  This displeased Hilton, of course, as her giving him the slip made him look something of a jackass. Henry Morgan roared with laughter over the tale, though he would have handed Helen and O’Farrel both to his friend Governor Modyford without hesitation, could he lay hands on them. “Bog-trotting rebel in bed with the double damned Dons,” Morgan had said alliteratively of O’Farrel.

O’Farrel had left Havana after a quarrel with its crooked Captain General, and settled in Santiago on the southern coast, a city with a Captain General no less peccant. The two officials loathed each other, but Santiago’s administrator for the sake of appearances had to send back the ship with which O’Farrel had absconded and assure his rival the impudent Irish pirate would be arrested and chastised, then returned to Havana to answer charges. These assurances cost only the breath behind them.

blackbeard-in-smoke-and-flames-frank-schoonover-1922O’Farrel was quick to acquire more pirate craft, beginning with a couple of cedar piraguas able to carry half a hundred men each, and then a fast sloop like Hilton’s Wyvern. Helen worked with her beloved foster father as he smuggled, dealt with ranchers inland in southern Cuba, and engaged in other sorts of illicit trading, but he had largely abandoned piracy, and perhaps Helen saw him as getting older and wishing to settle down; he was nearing fifty. Youthful, wild as the sea and restless, Helen sailed with other captains besides O’Farrel – “Hilton, Hansen and le Ban between times,” as she said to Harmer later, and added, “Gower is the first captain to offer me insult.”  I imagine Captain (Arnaud?) le Ban as a gaudy, extravagant stallion from Provence, in a crimson coat with silver slashes, lace and a splendid cocked hat, with a ready cutlass. His preferred haunt would have been Tortuga, his preferred ship, a heavily armed square-rigger. As for Hansen – Troels Hansen, perhaps – he could have been Danish, a moody, hard-drinking rogue who favored akvavit distilled with amber and caraway over rum, hard as the former would have been to get in the Caribbean. Nor was he subtle. I suspect he hacked down his victims with an axe or blew them in half with a blunderbuss.

“Sots, murderers, thieves, gallows birds,” Helen said of them to Stephen Harmer, “all save Captain Roger O’Farrel.”

Besides the above rovers, and historically known ones like Roche Brasiliano and Henry Morgan, there were other fictional pirates of REH’s  apparently looting in that decade. Black Terence Vulmea is due a series of his own, but I deduce he was about 22 years old in 1669 and had but recently turned pirate, after a couple of voyages to the Slave Coast in West Africa. Actually, I believe he was then sailing with the Dutch sea-robber Laurens de Graaf. Another Dutch pirate mentioned by Vulmea and Wentyard in “Black Vulmea’s Vengeance” was van Raven, “a bird of passage.” There were also Harston of Bristol, and “Tranicos.” (L. Sprague de Camp brought a “Bloody Tranicos” into “The Black Stranger” when he rewrote it for the Conan series, as “The Treasure of Tranicos,” but that was the sort of recycling REH often did himself.)  I assume the “Tranicos” referred to in “BVV” was a Greek who first saw daylight by the bay of Piraeus, Gregor Tranicos, and before reaching the Caribbean he had served in the Ottoman navy during the reign of Sultan Mehmed IV (“the Hunter”). In 1669 he was nearing thirty-five. Guillaume Villiers appears in “Swords of the Red Brotherhood,” which comes chronologically (I think) about four years before “BVV.” But Villiers was not yet a pirate in 1669. I surmise he was a junior officer in the French navy.

Dick Harston of Bristol, the same age as Vulmea, was a young pirate, with years to go before he rose to captain, and may have sailed with Hilton, le Ban or Hansen on one of the same cruises as Helen. There were the brothers John and Tobias Gower, brutal even among the buccaneers, who had been with l’Ollonais on his last voyage, but deserted before the final disaster. Pierre le Picard had done likewise. Another French buccaneer, de Romber, whose name appears in “The Isle of Pirates’ Doom” may still have been on the scene in the West Indies, or he may have perished.

Surely it was while mixing with such men, and O’Farrel’s rovers too, that Helen first heard the legend of Mogar. It’s a curious name that sounds unlike any Carib or Arawak word, and may be a corruption that became current among the pirates, but as Helen says, “… when the Spaniards first sailed the main, they found an island whereon was a decaying empire … The Dons destroyed these natives …”  Naturally the story of a vast treasure arose, the sort of tale fortune-hunters always want to believe. John Gower eventually came to the island and searched for it, in “TIoPD”.

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This entry filed under Howard's Fiction, L. Sprague de Camp.

stow1-on-the-wold36big-e1464969857858

noun

  1. a usually upland area of open country; a hilly or rolling region

[origin: ca. prior to 12th century; Middle English wald, wold, from Old English weald, wald forest; akin to Old High German wald forest, Old Norse vǫllr field]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

Men say my years are few; yet I am old
And worn with the toil of many wars,
And long for rest on some brown wind-swept wold,
Unknown of men, beneath the quiet stars.

These greybeards prattle while I hold my tongue,
And flaunt their callow wisdom drearily—
White-headed babes to me, whom they brand “young,”
With knowledge gained through ages wearily.

I too have strode those white-paved roads that run
Through dreamy woodlands to the Roman Wall,
Have seen the white towns gleaming in the sun,
And heard afar the elf-like trumpet call.

[from “The Guise of Youth”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 260 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 171]

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

gloomy_mountains_by_doodlethedemon89-d8q3lql

My soul’s a flame of divine fire, a god’s voice . . .

–Robert E. Howard

The poem “Cimmeria” is usually placed (by the relatively few critics who have considered Robert E. Howard’s poetry and poetics at all) among Howard’s most important published poems. Admirers and literary critics who have considered chiefly his fiction also see it as significant, primarily because of its connection to the Conan cycle of stories. As Rusty Burke relates the story of the beginnings of Howard’s Conan tales, the poem seems to immediately precede the inspiration for Conan:

In February 1932, Howard took his trip down to the Rio Grande Valley, passing through Fredericksburg. While he was in Mission, he wrote the poem “Cimmeria” (at least, so he told Emil Petaja when he sent him a copy of the poem: “Written in Mission, Texas, February 1932; suggested by the memory of the hill-country above Fredericksburg seen in a mist of winter rain.”). At some time during his stay in the Valley, Conan came to him. He returned to Cross Plains via San Antonio, where he stayed a few days. “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” were both returned to him by Farnsworth Wright in a letter dated March 10, so obviously had been sent to Weird Tales some time before that. (Burke, “Without Effort On My Part,” The Iron Harp 1, Vernal Equinox, 2001)

Aside from its seeming importance as the poetic flash that kindled Howard’s imagination to the resultant cycle of Conan tales, the poem is interesting in its own right for several reasons.

First, as one of Howard’s only two uses, as it seems, of blank verse (at least of Howard’s extant poetry), it represents an interesting foray into the dominant serious narrative/dramatic poetic form of the English language.

Second, it further demonstrates Howard’s knowledge of and serious study of poetics and gives further evidence of a broad reading experience in the forms and traditions of poetry in English.

Third, simply by its use of blank verse, the seriousness and significance of the subject matter of the poem to Robert E. Howard is likely indicated.

Fourth, it is a marvelous, although quite brief, example of blank verse technique and a demonstration of Howard’s skills and tendencies as a narrative poet.

Fifth and finally for my purposes here, not only is this poetic subject, as indicated by the choice of poetic form, important for Howard, but it is quite possibly of seminal importance to an understanding of his world view and philosophical vision, especially because of its last section—often not included in early printings.

Before addressing these points, it is best to briefly review the origins and tradition of blank verse and its ascendency as a vehicle for heroic narrative and dramatic presentation.

“Blank Verse” in its loosest definition is unrhymed but metered poetry (in other words, verse and not free verse, but without rhyme). In its usual and narrower sense, blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter (lines of ten syllables with the even numbered syllables stressed or accented—at least as the basic rhythm, from which there is allowable subtle variation). Sometimes even called “Heroics” [see Lewis Turco, The Book of Forms], blank verse has been firmly established as the primary mode for serious poetic narrative in English since the sixteenth century.

To give credit where credit is due for its introduction into English, we must go back to another Howard, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey (often called simply “Surrey”) who used the form in his translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid. Surrey was also the inventor of the sonnet form later used by Shakespeare and since known as the “Shakespearean” or “English” sonnet. [Alas, for Surrey! But such are the ways of fame and forgetfulness.] In any event, Surry’s use of blank verse, done chiefly in “closed lines”— in lines usually end-stopped by punctuation— marked the beginning of the narrative and heroic traditions that blank verse was to maintain.

The plays, not only of Shakespeare, but also of Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson, were composed primarily in this meter as well, establishing blank verse as the vehicle for serious dramatic poetry in that other important mode of story telling. Later in the seventeenth century, John Milton used it for Paradise Lost. And after the chiming, rhyming heyday of the closed couplet through the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nineteenth century poets like Tennyson (“Ulysses” and The Idylls of the King and Browning (“Fra Lippo Lippi“) reinvigorated the form for both narrative and dramatic purposes, respectively. In Robert E. Howard’s own era, Robert Frost made much use of the form in poems like “Mending Wall” and [after Shakespeare as is clear from the title’s reference to Macbeth] “Out, out!

Thus, by the time of Robert E. Howard’s nurturing in the ways of poetry, the dominant narrative poetic traditions in English were two: blank verse and the ballad. I have elsewhere discussed Howard’s frequent and innovative use of the ballad stanza as his preferred narrative form [see “Notes on Two Versions of an Unpublished Poem by Robert E. Howard” in The Dark Man #6 and other articles]. Much more study on REH’s preferred narrative pattern and innovation upon the ballad stanza— both the traditional and literary ballad— and upon his use of other exotic forms for the narrative (especially the sonnet) needs to be done. But his almost sole use of blank verse for “Cimmeria” is worthy of this and other studies.

First of all, the poem is the unique instance of blank verse among Howard’s published poetry at the time of this posting. Which is the more remarkable in that it is—by the same standards that T. S. Eliot used in his praise of Christopher Marlowe’s blank verse—both enjambed (making much use of run-on lines rather than end-punctuated, end-stopped, end-paused) and melodious. It demonstrates a fine balance between prose narrative sentence delivery and poetic metered undertones and also displays Howard’s very fine phonic sense, his “ear” for the sounds of—beyond their meanings.

SEL18317018388Likely the best way to establish Howard’s view of himself as a poet as well as a “fictioneer” is to examine his own words in the letters that have been left to us. If one studies the two collections, ably edited by Glenn Lord [Selected Letters: 1923-1930 and 1931-1936, Necronomicon Press] with an eye for REH’s mention of poetry and verse, one will be assured of his developing interest in and continuing study of poetic forms and poetic traditions and his growing sense of urgency not only to become an accomplished poet, but a published poet worthy of note. In his exchange of letters [inclusive of much of his poetic work that survives] he and his friend Tevis Clyde Smith discussed not only poetry and their own work as poets, but, indeed, move toward a planned joint publication (the never-published Images Out of the Sky [although Smith later published his own volume with that title]).

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ruth_lvz4stUiEJ1r47bczo1_500

noun

  1. compassion for the misery of another; remorse or sorrow for one’s own faults

[origin: 13th century; Middle English ruthe, from ruen to rue]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

King Ceawlin marshalled a thousand horse
To bar King Geraint’s battle course.
He put Prince Osric in command,
With five strong chiefs at either hand:
Halfgar, Frisian sea-king he,
A name of fear in the narrow sea;
He knew not mercy, pity or ruth.
The thane Otho of the Black Boar’s Tooth.
Athelred, cousin to the king,
And Rognor of the golden ring.
Oswick who ravaged London town
And slew three kings on The White Horse down.
The giant brothers, berserks they,
Tostig the Ogre and Athelney.
Fearsome were they, and huge and stark,
And unlike their race, most strangely dark.
Oswy the Jut, and the Norseman Rane,
And last and greatest, the viking Swane.
Half Saxon he, half northern Dane.
His torch had lighted a hundred shores,
Rome and Egypt had heard his oars.
Proud Massilia at his thrust
Had crumpled into the bloody dust.
Broad was he, with a cruel face,
Fiercest man of a savage race.

[from “The Ballad of King Geraint”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 73]

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

Charles Siringo

“Where did you get the Siringo book, and how much did it cost? If not too much, I think I’ll get a copy.”

– Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith, April 1932

Many critics have drawn a straight line from the frontier hero to the detective hero, marking the transition from the wild frontier of the 19th Century to the urban jungle of the 20th Century. Charles Angelo Siringo lived the transition. A Texas trail driver, he became an operative for the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency, putting his range savvy to use in pursuing, among many others, the cowboy outlaws of the Wild Bunch. As the wild days of free ranging horseback outlaws faded into history and legend, he shifted his attentions to infiltrating labor organizations that were embroiled in out-and-out warfare with mine owners across the West.

Charles_A_SiringoCharlie Siringo was born in Matagorda, Texas, in 1855, to an Irish immigrant mother and an Italian immigrant father. In other words, he was the quintessential 19th Century American. At age 15 he started working as a cowboy on local ranches, and in 1876 he hit the Old Chisolm Trail, driving 2,500 head of longhorn cattle to Kansas. He rode up the trail again in ’77.

He witnessed Clay Allison hoorawing Dodge City — and gave the lie to Wyatt Earp’s claim that Earp faced Allison down. According to Charlie, it was a couple of storekeepers who talked the mercurial, alcoholic Texan down.

Siringo signed on with an outfit in Dodge that penetrated the Texas panhandle, newly opened up with the demise of Quanah Parker’s final Comanche resistance. He was part of the contingent of cowboys who rode for the legendary LX Ranch. The LX was a target for rustlers, including Henry McCarty, alias William H. Bonney, alias Billy the Kid. Charlie knew the Kid and rode with a posse that tried unsuccessfully to hunt the young outlaw down.

Cowboying was a young single man’s game, and when Siringo married Mamie Lloyd in 1884, he hung up his spurs and opened a cigar store/oyster bar in Caldwell, Kansas. He didn’t like the staid work, staving off boredom by turning his memories into memoirs — “A Texas Cowboy — Or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony.” It’s a fine memoir, and it sold well, but Charlie Siringo wasn’t ready to consign himself to the quiet life of a storekeeper. A blind phrenologist had run his hands over his skull and told him he’d make a good detective — and that sounded right to Charlie. He migrated with his wife and daughter to Chicago, where he signed on with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the Eye that Never Sleeps.

Picture-6In the late 19th Century, there was no federal law enforcement. Those with a need for law enforcement investigation and action across state lines had to hire their own. The Pinkertons were the preeminent investigatory outfit in the country, despite a high-profile failure to bring the James-Younger Gang to heel.

Siringo became a kind of specialist — a Cowboy Detective. From Alaska to Mexico, he infiltrated gangs of robbers and rustlers, relying on range skills, nerve, bluff and a natural capacity for acting to keep himself alive and get the goods on the criminal element.

He was no tigerish Howardian hero; he stood about five-foot-eight and was whipcord lean. He was, however, range toughened and as hardy as they come.

“He is as tough as a pine knot,” said William Pinkerton, heir to the detective dynasty. “I have never known a man of his size who can endure as much hardship as he does.”

Charlie’s wife died in 1890, leaving him a widower and single father of a young daughter. He remarried in 1896, but that marriage failed quickly and ended in divorce. Charlie Siringo did not domesticate well.

Driven to expand, the Pinkerton Agency opened an office in Denver, headed by the legendary James McParland, who made his bones by infiltrating and breaking up the Mollie Maguires, a secret organization of Irish coal miners in Pennsylvania in the 1870s. Siringo would become McParland’s top operative.

charlie_Gem_ID-1899Infiltration of radical labor organizations was becoming a specialty of the Pinkerton Agency — along with violent strikebreaking. Charlie was sent up to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to infiltrate miners whose strike against corporate mine owners was little short of low-intensity warfare. Union men and scabs were exchanging pot shots at each other on the forest-clad slopes around the mines, and union strikers dynamited a sluice, killing one man.

This kind of work suited Siringo just fine. He hated the kind of radicalism that was sweeping the nation, and Europe as well, in the late 19th Century He had no problem lying and deceiving in the cause of defeating rampant “anarchism.” The purpose of such infiltration was multifold: to build criminal cases against union leadership — if possible, for conspiracy to commit violence; and to provide intelligence to the Pinkertons’ mine-owner clients to keep them a move ahead in the chess match of labor warfare.

The Pinkertons weren’t above acting as agents provocateur, either. And the mere possibility of infiltration sowed distrust and paranoia among the miners.

As C. Leon Allison, Charlie hired on as a mucker in Finch’s Gem mine. He hung around in the local saloons and stood men to drinks — always an excellent way to make yourself popular. It wasn’t long before he was considered a right kind of fellow. He insinuated his way to the inside of the miners’ union and got elected recording secretary. He and his shift boss arranged for him to be “fired” from his mine job, which gave him plenty of time to gather intelligence and write reports.

Bad luck struck when a man named Black Jack Griffin, whom Siringo had known in Nevada, recognized him and called him out. Charlie did some fast talking that allayed suspicions, but only for the moment. When two miners were savagely beaten in town, the strikers’ mood turned ugly, and they turned on Siringo. He escaped buy hiding under a boardwalk.

A firefight broke out between strikers in the hills and scabs forted up at the mine’s mill. The scabs got the worst of it, and Siringo had to make a run for it, escaping into the pine forest.

charlie_cassidy7Eventually, infiltrating miners’ unions and chasing Wild Bunch Bandits wore ol’ Charlie out. He retired and wrote another memoir. The Pinkertons, whom he had served so well, did not like accounts of their doings that they did not control. They quashed the book, which Charlie ended up publishing as “A Cowboy Detective,” using a fake name for the agency and doctoring the facts to avoid the wrath of the Eye. He came to despise “Pinkertonism” just as much as he did anarchism.

In his retirement, he wrote a second cowboy memoir, titled “A Lone Star Cowboy,” and in 1928 condensed both cowboy books into “Riata and Spurs: The Story of a Lifetime Spent in the Saddle as Cowboy and Ranger” — the book that would wind up on Robert E. Howard’s shelf.

The late, great Howard scholar Steve Tompkins* cast a jaundiced eye on the cowboy detective, calling him “half centaur, half weasel, a cowboy, an agent provocateur, and the man who gave Pinkertons’ unsleeping orb a bad case of pinkeye…” whose work was devoted to “making the world safe for plutocracy.” And, indeed, there is something unsavory about Siringo’s kind of undercover work — winning men’s trust with the intent of betraying them, on behalf of rich men who valued their profits far more than they valued men’s lives.

Howard said that he did not much like detective fiction. Perhaps the tinge of sleaziness that attaches to it was the reason why. Surely Howard found “Riata and Spurs” a fine read. Given everything we know about the Texan’s sympathies, it’s hard to imagine that he would have thought much of Charlie Siringo’s detective work. He wasn’t a Howard kind of hero.

* “After The Gold Rush: From Whapeton to Poisonville” by Steve Tompkins — Vision, Gryphons, Nothing and the Night, A Member Journal of Robert-E-Howard: Electronic Amateur Press Association, Issue no. 3, Summer Solstice 2002

Be sure and check out Jim’s excellent Western themed blog, Frontier Partisans.

This entry filed under Howard's Texas, Tevis Clyde Smith.

barbarian-logo-no-date

From the Cross Plains Chamber of Commerce:

Please Share information from the Barbarian Festival!

We are sad to announce that this year’s Barbarian Festival has been cancelled.

Several weeks ago, heavy rains came. Cross Plains and Treadway Park, where the festival is held each year, was flooded. Even though it has been two weeks, the much of the parking area at the festival grounds is still under water. The ground at the park is saturated and more rain is expected in the coming weeks leading up to the festival.

Never in the 18 years of the festival, have we had this situation. After exploring alternate locations and trying to come up with a plan, the only solution was to cancel the festival and the car show. Our hearts are heavy. We love doing this festival and enjoy seeing all you.

Our Festival Parade, scheduled for Thursday, June 9, at 6 p.m. will go on as planned. We hope to see you downtown for the parade and at the Cross Plains Senior Center for their Fish Fry that same evening from 5 until 7 p.m.

If you are a sponsor, we hope to roll your sponsorship over for the next year’s festival, which will be held on June 10, 2017. No t-shirts or advertisements have been printed this year.

If you are a vendor, you will be receiving a refund in the mail from us. We hope to see you next year!

Note: The flooding issues at Treadway park will not affect the Howard Days activities.
This entry filed under Howard Days, News.

black_lotus_by_karl_smink-d5x5guj-e14635890151090

noun

  1. Lotuses are five species of water lilies, three in the genus Nymphaea and two in Nelumbo. Growing from the mud at the bottom of ponds and streams, the exquisite Lotus flower rises above the water and is usually white or pink with fifteen or more oval, spreading petals, and a peculiar, flat seedcase at its center.

The lotus has appeared in legends originating from ancient Egypt and played an important part in ancient Egyptian religion. For thousands of years it has also symbolized spiritual enlightenment. The Nymphaea lotus, the Egyptian white lotus, is believed to be the original sacred lotus of ancient Egypt. Along with the Egyptian blue lotus, N. caerulea, it was often pictured in ancient Egyptian art.  The white lotus opens at dusk and blooms at night while the blue water lotus blooms during the day.

Recent, studies have shown that the blue lotus has mild psycho-active properties and can act as a mild sedative. It may have been used as a sacrament in ancient Egypt and certain ancient South American cultures.

The lotus with properties similar to that of the blue lotus also appears in Ancient Greek mythology. According to legend, the Lotophagi, or lotus eaters, were a race of people who lived on an island near Northern Africa. Their diet consisted mostly of the lotus plant and its flowers. The narcotic effect caused the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.  In the Odyssey, some of Odysseus’ men go ashore on this island and eat of the lotus food. They forget about their homeland forcing Odysseus to drive them aboard the ship.

[origin: ca 1541; Latin & Greek; Latin lotus, from Greek lotos]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

My beard is white and dim my sight and I would fain be gone.
Speak without guile: where lies the isle of mystic Avalon?”

“A league behind the western wind, a mile beyond the moon,
Where the dim seas roar on an unknown shore and the drifting stars lie strewn:
The lotus buds there scent the woods where the quiet rivers gleam,
And king and knight in the mystic light the ages drowse and dream.”
With sudden bound Falume wheeled round, he fled through the flying wrack
Till he came again to the land of Spain with the sunset at his back.
“No dreams for me, but living free, red wine and battle’s roar;
I breast the gales and I ride the trails until I ride no more.”

[from “The Ride of Falume”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 11 and Always Comes Evening, p. 25]

Black Lotus painting by Karl Smink
This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

CONAN-Road-of-Kings

The Swordsmanship of Robert E. Howard

Just as in medieval times most men carried swords but the majority were neither duelists nor skilled fencers. (CL2.103)

Given Robert E. Howard’s lack of access to fencing instructors (CL3.242), never having entered the military or other occupation where he could receive weapons training, and the general absence of military manuals of the sword or treatises on historical European martial arts, most of his ideas about how swords were used would have come from his reading in history and adventure fiction, his limited practical exercise with the swords he collected, and of course the cinema.

I got a big kick out of going through the place — it looks just like scenes from swash-buckling movies. I wouldn’t be surprized to see Douglas Fairbanks came bounding into the patio with his rapier and jack-boots. (CL2.189)

Douglas Fairbanks was the star of cinematic fencing in the early days of Hollywood, leaving his mark in films like The Mask of Zorro (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), Son of Zorro (1925), The Black Pirate (1926), and The Iron Mask (1929); other stars of the period include Errol Flynn, whose swashbuckling start was Captain Blood (1935), and Lloyd Ingraham in Scaramouche (1923)—and we know Howard was a fan of these films, and mentions many of them in his letters.

Based loosely on classical fencing, fight choreography of the period emphasized spectacle over form: the actors kept their distance, and blades made the maximum contact with each other, frequently clashing with an audible ting. “Flynning” made for exciting cinema, and left their mark on the Texan’s imagination, just as reading about sword-fights in fiction provided him with some of the basic terminology:

You ought to re-read Dumas and crash the historical one — the ad says the tales should generally feature the Anglo-Saxon but that the gallant Frenchman and dashing Spaniard will have their place. I see where I dress Solomon Kane up in a nom de plume and let him thrust, parry and riposte for eighteen chapters. (CL2.195)

captain-BloodThe spectacle of fighting in the movies often eschewed weapons like polearms and defensive advantages like shields, which featured heavily in historical combat. For example, the historical “swashbuckler” was called called that because of the use of bucklers, a small shield that was carried in the off-hand, in combination with a side-sword (a relatively light, short, double-bladed straight sword); this was combat in a civilian context, not on a battlefield, and these were the arms and armors that were convenient to carry in daily life. Film swashbucklers, however, frequently left out the buckler, fighting with swords alone—and often substituting a rapier or other blade for a small-sword—and so too do most of Howard’s heroes, as he adopted the spectacle of fencing while applying his own sanguinary ideas about swordplay.

For instance, in “Swords of the Hills” Howard talks about how “Yard-long Khyber knives clanged and ground against the curved swords of the Attalans.” (EB 25)—a very cinematic image, as in real combat swordsman generally try to avoid such contact with the edges of the blades, which will often damage and notch the cutting edge. Despite such touches, fencing, even cinematic and literary fencing, wasn’t quite what he was looking for:

I doubt, though, if fencing could ever have interested me like boxing, since it is, apparently, founded on finesse, and gives little opportunity for the exercise of ruggedness and sheer physical power. (CL3.242)

This emphasis on strength, rather than speed or technique, may also have been inspired by family tales of combat in war or the settling of the west:

My grandfather George Ervin was accounted the strongest man in his regiment and one of the strongest men in Forrest’s command. He could cleave a man from shoulder to waist with a single stroke of his saber. (CL2.265)

This is certainly true of Howard’s fiction, where blows tend to be mighty and it is not uncommon for a stroke of a sword to cleave a skull or pierce through the body of an opponent. The Texan was not unaware of the importance of speed, reach, footing, or form in a fight—they were common elements in boxing, after all—but in fiction his fight scenes tend to be quick, evocative, and light on technical details; less a ringside blow-by-blow commentary and more a vivid prelude to a bloody end. A good example is a passage in “Swords in the Hills”:

He was taller, had the longer reach again and again his blade whispered at Gordon’s throat. Once it touched his arm, and a trickle of crimson began. There was no sound except the rasp of feet on the sward, the rapid whisper of the blades, the deep panting of the men. (EB 26)

Despite his lack of direct experience or training, and a tendency for spectacle, Robert E. Howard’s fictional swordplay shouldn’t be mistaken for pure fantasy. Howard also evinced a certain quality of realism in his fictional swordfights. For example, in his fiction set after the invention of firearms, Howard appears cognizant of the fact that the sword was primarily a sidearm, and in that it largely gave way as technology progressed, this can be seen in “The Land of Mystery” El Borak, where fires his rifle and pistol at the oncoming foes before resorting to his sword as they close in. (EEB 160)

For the most part Howard seems to have avoided the issue of swords in modern war. Even when he does express an opinion on swords in warfare, it is not the reality of trench warfare:

What do we know of Oriental warfare? If a regiment was to meet the charge of a horde of wild Tatars, fanatic Ghazi Afghans, or sword-wielding Mongols, what orders would the officers give? Nine times out of ten, “close ranks and receive with bayonets”. And it has been proven again and again that a man with a bayonet on a rifle is no match for a man with a sword. Unless he can use the rifle as it should be used, not as a pike. The superiority of the sword has been proven at Bannockburn, at Sebastopol, at Kabul. If men are to meet steel with steel, they should be adequately armed. Long spears and short swords to meet a charge of long swords. If you don’t believe that, read the chronicles of Rome and Macedonia. (CL1.19)

This was not a dispute about modern war; this was a view of war that saw bodies of men moving in formation on open fields, when the cavalry charge was still a viable tactic—before the advent of machine guns and repeating rifles. Howard’s criticism of the bayonet is grounded in long-ago battles rather than contemporary conditions of warfare, because modern war with its airplanes and submarines, artillery and poison gas, trenches and flamethrowers had grown impersonal, away from the conditions where the sword was a useful weapon—and that was what Howard was interested in.

I wish warfare was on its older, simpler base. Though I’m far from war-like, yet I’ve always felt that with the proper training, I could learn to be fairly annoying to the enemy with a bayonet or rifle butt, but this new-fangled chemical warfare would make me a total loss. What’s the glory in pushing a button and slaughtering men fifty miles away, or flying over a city and spraying the noncombatants with liquid hell? When they traded the warhorse for a submarine, they ruined the blasted business as far as I’m concerned. (CL2.289-290)

Bibliography
CCC The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Del Rey, 2002)
CL Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (3 vols. + Index & Addenda, REH Foundation, 2007 – 2015)
CLIMH Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard (REH Foundation, 2011)
CS Crimson Shadows: The Best of Robert E. Howard Vol. 1 (Del Rey, 2007)
DVS Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard (1983, Bluejay Books)
EB El Borak and Other Desert Adventures (Del Rey, 2010)
EEB The Early Adventures of El Borak (REH Foundation, 2010)
LC The Last Celt: A Bio-Bibliography of Robert E. Howard (Berkeley, 1976)
RWM Report of a Writing Man & Other Reminiscences of Robert E. Howard (Necronomicon Press, 1991)

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Conan painting by Doug Wheatley
This entry filed under El Borak, Howard's Fiction.