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‘Songs the Ancients Sung’
The Lost San Saba Mine by Robert E. Howard, Reading from pages 16-18 of A Word from the Outer Dark
I don’t like stanza.
I like verse.
In ten verses of six lines each, Howard relates an epic tale of the land, of a place where men might go and seek something imperishable to assuage their lifelong mourning of their own eventual dissolution.
The first verse discusses the discovery of gold by Don Miranda.
The second verse narrates the slaughter of the Spanish invader by Lipan warriors, a tribe Howard seems to have been particularly fond of.
In the third verse, Jim Bowie then takes the stage as the embodiment of the adventuring man.
The fourth verse dawns with the adventurer being extinguished by Mexican arms, like the Lipans, earning two verses, lingering in the author’s mindful eye.
The fifth verse brings the Comanche across the stage, displacing the Lipans.
In the sixth verse white men and red men then battle for Texas in the poet’s lurid mind’s eye.
Verse 7
“The moccasin left a bloody track
From shore to mountain crest;
From roof and beam the red sparks rained;
But the plough bit deep and the oxen strained,
And the red war-bonnets dimmed and waned
Into the lurid west.”
Verse 8 speaks of pre-civilized ghosts haunting the land.
Verse 9 invokes Time as the validating eraser.
Verse 10 sketches Judgment Day again, re-linking the first verse with the last in cyclic turmoil even as the author depicts a land at sleep, ready to re-wake.
With The Lost San Saba Mine the reader is treated to Howard’s view of history as an epic sweep across a Time-resistant land—though Time remains, awful and gravitus and his thirst for imagined adventure is balanced by a resignation of earth’s unhuman scale.
Of Lions and Men
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