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This is a day Howard fans take time out of their busy schedules to remember Robert E. Howard. It was 76 years ago today that Texas’s premiere fictioneer took his own life in a moment of indescribable despair. In an instant, a bullet ended his life and forever stilled the flow of words streaming from his battered Underwood typewriter. Here is an artistic interpretation of that fateful morning of June 11, 1936.
A common theme in Howard’s writings was life as being a relentless, brutal struggle as can been seen in such poems as “The Tempter” and “Lines Written in the Realization That I Must Die.” These poems deal with the subject of man wrestling with the issue of continuing to suffer under the yolk of futility or seeking death’s sweet embrace and the peace it brings. This theme has led to endless speculation by armchair psychologists and hack pastiche writers. But it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out Howard had an unhealthy preoccupation with suicide, which came to fruition on June 11, 1936. Here is one of those aforementioned poems wherein Howard struggles with the Tempter over the dilemma of his life — will it be life or death? Unfortunately the Tempter won.
by Robert E. Howard
Something tapped me on the shoulder
Something whispered, “Come with me,
“Leave the world of men behind you,
“Come where care may never find you
“Come and follow, let me bind you
“Where, in that dark, silent sea,
“Tempest of the world ne’er rages;
“There to dream away the ages,
“Heedless of Time’s turning pages,
“Only, come with me.”
“Who are you?” I asked the phantom,
“I am rest from Hate and Pride.
“I am friend to king and beggar,
“I am Alpha and Omega,
“I was councilor to Hagar
“But men call me suicide.”
I was weary of tide breasting,
Weary of the world’s behesting,
And I lusted for the resting
As a lover for his bride.
And my soul tugged at its moorings
And it whispered, “Set me free.
“I am weary of this battle,
“Of this world of human cattle,
All this dreary noise and prattle.
“This you owe to me.”
Long I sat and long I pondered,
On the life that I had squandered,
O’er the paths that I had wandered
In the shadow panorama
Passed life’s struggles and its fray.
And my soul tugged with new vigor,
Huger grew the phantom’s figure,
As I slowly tugged the trigger,
Saw the world fade swift away.
Through the fogs old Time came striding,
Radiant clouds were ’bout me riding,
As my soul went gliding, gliding,
From the shadow into day.