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'Thirteen Men'
The Ballad of Buckshot Roberts by Robert E. Howard

Reading from pages 9-13 of A Word from the Outer Dark

The Ballad of Buckshot Roberts is an epic poem of short length that tells the tale of a single man's death during the Lincoln County War, which made Billy the Kid famous.

The author's dedication is as follows:

"(Killed on the Tularosa River, New Mexico, 1878, in the bloody Lincoln County War.)"

I will quote the first of these 11 verses, which range from 4 to 8 lines, with 4 lines serving as the cadence, making this poem a mixture in form from the author's normal rhymes to something epic such as The Iliad of Tamerlane.

The last verse also follows the same unique form as this first:

"Buckshot Roberts was a Texas man;

(Blue smoke drifting from the pinyons on the hill.)

Exiled from the plains where his rugged life began.

(Buzzards circling low over old Blazer Mill.)"

The overall, contextual theme is of a man made by the hand of the land, that a person is formed by the path he has worn in the land that has formed him, of the formative interaction, of the scaring and scouring of person and land mutually abraded.

The specific heroic them is that a man is one with his enemy, that an enemy is an honorable requisite, without which no hero might strive and glow bloody dark in the memory of his survivors—that Rome was great because he had great enemies, where we moderns try and wax great by claiming we have no enemies worthy of the attribution. This is a message utterly lost to the postmodern mind, which inherited only a shred of the heroic sense from the decrepit modern mind, which harbored only a highly conditional sense of the heroic as keyed on goodness. That sense has now devolved to the notion that only passive, narrowly defined goodness of social value is heroic, and that in a military sense, only wounding is heroic, not killing.

Not so Buckshot Roberts, who took two of the enemy with him before he bled out, shot through and through, but a hard man to the bitter, bloody end. Robert E. Howard was one of the last writers to appreciate the classic hero from within the passive chrysalis of man's flight into simpering personhood called Modernity.

Of Lions and Men

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