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‘Fire-Eyed Across the World’
Recompense by Robert E. Howard, with Audio Recording by TheLeninistPlaysGames


Previously reviewed as ‘I Heard the Silence Fall’

I transcribed this from the audio-recording provided on YouTube by TheLeninistPlaysGames, so cannot be certain of the punctuation. However, since my editor informs me that neither I nor Robert E. Howard use commas correctly, I’m not going to try and over think it.

If any readers have bibliographical information concerning this remarkably dark poem, your comment will be retained as a credited footnote in the print edition.

In the notes following the poem, references to the “author” are of the fictional perspective presented in the poem, which may or may not have represented Robert E. Howard’s own perspective.

This reader finds Recompense to be a dark delight, and has listened to the audio recording, repeatedly.

Recompense [1]

I have not heard lutes beckon me,

Nor the brazen bugles call.

But once in the dim of a haunted lee [2]

I heard the silence fall.

I have not heard the regal drum,

Nor seen the flag unfurled.

But I have watched the dragons come,

Fired-eyed across the world. [3]

I have not seen the horsemen fall,

Before the hurtling host.

But I have paced a silent hall

Where each step waked a ghost.

I have not kissed the tiger feet

Of a strange-eyed golden god.

But I have walked a city street

Where no man else has trod. [4]

I have not raised the canopies

That shelter reveling kings. [5]

But I have fled from crimson eyes

And black unearthly wings.

I have not knelt outside the door

To kiss a pallid queen.

But I have seen a ghostly shore

That no man else has seen. [6]

I have not seen the standards sweep

From keep and castle wall.

But I have seen a woman leap

From a dragon’s crimson stall.

And I have heard strange surges boom

That no man heard before.

And seen a strange black city loom

On a mystic night-black shore.

I have felt the sudden blow

Of a nameless wind’s cold breath.

And watched the grisly pilgrims go

That walked the roads of Death.

And I have seen black valleys gape,

Abysses in the gloom.

And I have fought the deathless ape

That guards the doors of doom.

I have not seen the face of Pan

Nor mocked the dryads’ haste. [7]

But I have trailed a dark-eyed man

Across a windy waste.

I have not died as men may die

Nor sin as men have sinned.

But I have reached a misty sky

Upon a granite wind.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axhko23Ulqo

Notes

1. Recompense: as a noun, compensation or reward, restitution or reparations. Taken in the context of the following verse, it seems that the author is feeling that Fate has awarded him with unique experiential compensation, largely of the dreaming kind, for being left perpetually outside the tide of history and the main track of human events.

2. A lee is a nautical term for the shore that receives the seaborne wind, a hazardous place, where a ship can be beached or even dashed upon the rocks in a storm, and, most significantly, cannot be escaped by way of sail. In poetry a lee may represent a place in life where the protagonist is at the mercy of Fate and has a narrow set of options. The scene of the man stranded upon a shore is repeated twice, indicating an alienated author.

3. In myth the dragon symbolizes knowledge and havoc intertwined and could serve as a metaphor for modernity.

4. A quintessentially modern boast, which has been used to sell many a self-defense book.

5. Repeated below are more indications that the author is—or was—a man of common origins. Not only does he not have relationships with those in power—even gods—neither does he serve or worship them. This is a very Nietzschean thread.

6. Twice now he has expressed an experience that “no man” other than he has had, possibly indicating visions from a female perspective, or perhaps excluding the female perspective by using “any man” rather than “anyone.”

7. The author has been denied psychic audience with the holders of what knowledge might grant perspective and peace of mind, which has eluded him.

Add Comment
TexMay 16, 2016 9:35 PM UTC

LaFond sez...

"If any readers have bibliographical information concerning this remarkably dark poem, your comment will be retained as a credited footnote in the print edition."

To quote Reno Nevada—"You want it, Artie? You got it."

http://www.howardworks.com/verser.html#RECOMPENSE

Tex

(moved by this poem for over 30yrs)
responds:May 17, 2016 7:22 PM UTC

Thank you so much, Tex.

This is now my favorite poem.
DLMay 16, 2016 7:02 PM UTC

You know, James, I think "over think" is one word...

Your editor
LynnMay 16, 2016 5:00 PM UTC

It sounds to me like he is contrasting his own worlds of fiction, that no man has ever seen, with both the natural world and the fictional creations of others.