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'Till the White Sea Has Our Bones'
Singing Hemp by Robert E. Howard

Reading from page 42 of a Word from the Outer Dark

These 16 lines, in four verses contain a three verse poem by the bard sketched in this, the leading, verse:

"Aslaf sat in the dragon bows

And smote on his soulless harp,

And sang of the winds and he cold sea-path

And the sword-edge bitter and sharp."

Aslaf is not the only unsympathetic bard depicted by Howard. Renaldo in The Phoenix on the Sword and an unnamed poet in one of his darker verses are both reviled. Howard's poets are derided in his words more for their insanity than a lack of heroic character—rather their insanity seems to drive them into the ranks of fighting men. This reader has a vague sense from this reading that Howard sometimes resented his being a writer rather than an adventurer.

Sea-path recalls the "whale-road" of Beowulf and the words of Aslaf are hyper warlike, describing the Viking raiders as driven by a "mad desire" on their doomed quest to make the warmer lands groan. Aslaf's Vikings are one with the elements of their harsh world, a human reflection of a harsh land.

Of Lions and Men

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