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▶  More from Blog A Well of Heroes
‘In the Doors of Day’
The Ecstasy of Desolation by Robert E. Howard
Reading from page 113 of A Voice from the Outer Dark
In 22 brutal lines Howard sketches a brooding inner portrait of the hero type he most commonly cast as is protagonist: Bran Mak Morn, Kull, Conan, Solomon Kane, Black Vulmea, El Borak, Conn the Kern, Cormac Mac Art and all of his medieval Gaelic heroes would fit the psychic mold cast in The Ecstasy of Desolation.
Lines 1 and 2:
“Long were the years, life-long and deathly-bare.
Hop gleamed, a will-o’-wisp, before my stare.”
To act directly, against the enemy odds, and across the societal grain, was the hallmark of this hero type, a mark that has kept them relevant to the reader in this distant, alienating night.
Lines 11-12
“Men looked on me and laughed and named me fool
Because I cursed each king and rod and rule.”
Unlike the epic heroes of ancient and medieval myth, who upheld the social contracts that bound men to the will of the manipulator—who made Achilles the taxpayer to Agamemnon—the uniquely modern hero of Howard’s myth fought and killed kings, priests, gods and politicians and lobbyists [sorcerers] far more often than monsters.
Lines 15 and 16
“Eyes to the sky I strode in stars and rags
And gave half of my soul to drink and hags.”
That is a truer admission of the social strata of the realistic action hero than one will find in most myth and fiction, where the actionist is rendered by convention implausibly stiff, reluctant to act, forced to react.
This may now be my favorite Robert E. Howard poem.
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