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Old 06-11-2009   #1
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In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

Today marks the death of Robert E. Howard (January 22, 1906 -
June 11, 1936). As is commonly known, he was only 30 years old, but had already achieved a prolific and successful career as a writer. Though primarily remembered for his most well-known creation Conan, he fathered many other adventurer-type characters: King Kull of Valusia, Solomon Kane, & Bran Mak Morn to name a few. He also wrote in many tales centered around the sport of boxing, as well as many adventure stories set in the American West. In addition to his prose, he penned copious amounts of poetry, much of which is highly underrated.

He was a friend and correspondent of Lovecraft, E. Hoffman Price, Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Long, and others.

He tragically ended his oft-tormented young life at the age of 30, upon learning of the impending death of his chronically ill mother.

He typed the following lines of verse, and left them on his typewriter when he went out to his car and shot himself:

All fled, all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The feast is over, the lamps expire.

Let's all remember this fine writer on this, the day of his passing.

-J

"The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane."

-Nikola Tesla, July of 1934
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Old 06-11-2009   #2
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

I grew up reading the Marvel Comics adaptations of Conan by Roy Thomas and with art by Barry Windsor-Smith and later John Buscema. They certainly made life more enjoyable as a kid. It is hard to believe he died so young given all that he contributed.
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Old 06-11-2009   #3
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

I recently got THE COLLECTED POETRY OF ROBERT E. HOWARD, a beautiful volume from The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press. Haven't had much time to sink into it -- life is crazy & keeping me from reading the many books I want to read, including novels by some fellow Ligottians that they were kind enough to send me. I've heard different things concerning when the HPL/REH correspondence will be published by Hippocampus -- but it ought to be two great volumes when at last they appear.

Skulls
by Robert E. Howard

Oh, ye who dine on evil wine
And sup on bitter bread,
Read here the hearts of all we swine
Who tramp to meet the dead.

Come only here for blood and tear,
For hate and fear alone.
I give you serpents for your meat
And for your bread a stone.

I bring to you a bloody sky,
I bring a blackened sea;
I bear the tales of men who die
And perish utterly.

I bring no hope but sword and rope.
I bring a maniac's hate;
But I bear to you a story true
Of Hell and Death and Fate.

Oh. ye who dine on bitter brine
And hug your frozen lust,
Come ride with me a road or two
Of ash and drifted dust.

Nay, though you laugh my song to scorn,
And break Creation's bars,
You'll not escape Fate's knucklebones--
The Skulls amid the stars.

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
--Henry James (1843-1916)
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Old 06-12-2009   #4
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

Howard at his best was a stunningly intense, grim, emotionally switched-on writer. His close-up third person viewpoint narration was groundbreaking in its time. He wrote too much too fast, but when he really pulled out the stops as in 'Worms of the Earth', 'The Valley of the Worm', 'Pigeons From Hell' and 'Sea Curse' he could give the reader a true What the #### was THAT? shock of terror and disorientation. It's easy to say in retrospect (especially given Novalyn Price Ellis' memoir of her relationship with Howard) that he was emotionally committed to his themes in a way that wasn't good for him. There's no artifice: he means it even when it's stuff you're not supposed to mean. His world is one of burning, resonant despair and rage.
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Old 06-12-2009   #5
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

Quote Originally Posted by bendk View Post
I grew up reading the Marvel Comics adaptations of Conan by Roy Thomas and with art by Barry Windsor-Smith and later John Buscema. They certainly made life more enjoyable as a kid. It is hard to believe he died so young given all that he contributed.
By Crom, Ben, so did I. I have many enjoyable memories of those comics. One of the best was one of the first I read:

Conan escapes from Hyperborean slavers, only to be hunted though the northern snows by fierce wolves. He takes refuge in a barely visible cavern in a cliff wall--a cavern that turns out to be the tomb of some ancient king. Taking the cunningly forged sword from the enthroned lich, though, proves to be a poor idea. The skeletal monarch rises from his repose, intent on reclaiming his blade and slaying the one who disturbed his ancient slumber...

Good story. REH would have approved.

-J

"The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane."

-Nikola Tesla, July of 1934
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Old 06-12-2009   #6
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

Quote Originally Posted by hopfrog View Post
I recently got THE COLLECTED POETRY OF ROBERT E. HOWARD, a beautiful volume from The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press...the HPL/REH correspondence will be published by Hippocampus -- but it ought to be two great volumes when at last they appear.

I envy you, Wilum. I am awaiting the second printing of that volume with bated breath. I've read many of Howard's poems over the years, in various collections, but have nowhere near scratched the surface of the total that he wrote. So many of his poems are so good--many have an ancient bardic quality to them, as I see it. Thank you for posting Skulls. If I have ever seen that one before, I cannot recall.

I, too, look forward to the HPL/REH correspondence collection. Those two men have always seemed like such unlikely friends!

Here's another of his poems, one I have always enjoyed:

'Silence Falls on Mecca's Walls'
by Robert E. Howard

Silence falls on Mecca's walls
And true believers turn to stone:
A granite wind from out the East
Bears the rattle of bone on bone,
And to the harlot of the priest
Comes One no man has ever known.

The black stars fall on Mecca's walls,
The red stars gem the pallid night;
The yellow stars are hinged in grey
But Ammon-Hoteph's stars are white.
Who weaves a web to hold at bay
The castled king of Mekmet's light?

Darkness falls on Mecca's walls.
The cressets glimmer in the gloom;
Along the cornices and groins
The scorpion weaves his trail of doom.
A woman bares her pulsing loins
To One within a shadowy room.

The star-dust falls on Mecca's walls,
The bats' wings flash in Mekmet's face;
The lonely fanes rise black and stark.
What bought what Shape from what strange place,
Across the gulf of outer dark,
To span the void of cosmic space?

Silence falls on Mecca's walls
Like mist from some fiend-haunted fen.
Stars, shuttles in a demon's looms,
Weave over Mecca, dooms of men.
A woman laughs - and laughs again.

-J

"The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane."

-Nikola Tesla, July of 1934
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Old 06-12-2009   #7
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
'Worms of the Earth', 'The Valley of the Worm', 'Pigeons From Hell'
Joel, you just named some of my favorite stories by REH. Good choices!

Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
...he was emotionally committed to his themes in a way that wasn't good for him. There's no artifice: he means it even when it's stuff you're not supposed to mean. His world is one of burning, resonant despair and rage.
Howard could be compared to a magnesium flare: he burnt intensely bright & incredibly hot. He was impossible to ignore due to the crackling blaze and blinding glare, but alas, the fuel was used completely up all too soon, and he was gone.

-J

"The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane."

-Nikola Tesla, July of 1934
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Old 12-10-2014   #8
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

The Poetry of Robert E. Howard Panel - YouTube
Donald Sidney-Fryer on the poetry of Robert E. Howard - YouTube

I'd really like that Collected Poetry book. It's well over 700 pages, I'm amazed he did that much.
Selected Poems is a pretty huge book too but I can't find either of these to buy. Not even a ridiculously expensive one.
Robert E. Howard - Poetry Collections - Series Bibliography
I can find Singer In The Mist but it only has roughly 40 poems and I'd like to wait for something more comprehensive again. I'd love Hippocampus to do it.

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Old 12-11-2014   #9
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

Last year I acquired Vol.1 [Crimson Shadows] and Vol.2 [Grim Lands] of THE BEST OF ROBERT E. HOWARD by Ballantine Books/Del Ray, ed. 2007. I have not read through them yet, but I have leafed through both volumes and not only do they contain REH's best stories and some of my favorites that I have read in other editions and anthologies- Pigeons from Hell, The Black Stone, The Valley of the Worm, The People of the Black Circle - but they also have a representative amount of his poetry interspersed with the prose. I think there are at least two dozen poems, so more than enough to convince or dissuade someone from shelling out more hard earned money to buy REH's collected poems. The two volumes contain material from all periods of his writing life and from all theme-cycles [Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, Mythos stories etc.]. They are fully illustrated and have notes appended, which explain any deviations from the original sources [original manuscripts and typescripts]. They are reasonably priced and I obviously recommend them.
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Old 12-18-2015   #10
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Re: In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard

He was a less meticulous writer than Lovecraft, but I have a lot of affection for him. When it comes to Solomon Kane, I'm quite partial to this poem:

The One Black Stain - Wikisource, the free online library

Howard wrote at least one great horror tale (Pigeons from Hell), but his strength was at gritty pulp action/adventure fiction, which Lovecraft didn't have any interest in writing. It's hard for me to compare them as they excel in different areas, although Lovecraft is the far superior horror writer if we focus on that area. I know the Conan tales are hardly high literature, but they're just so damn enjoyable, particularly Queen of the Black Coast. I see them as art, with Conan as the magician's familiar spirit manoeuvring Howard's feverish dreams of high adventure.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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