REH Word of the Week 2013 Revisited: lay

noun

1. a narrative song with a recurrent refrain; ballad

[origin: 13th century; Middle English, from Anglo-French lai]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

At birth a witch laid on me monstrous spells,
And I have trod strange highroads all my days,
Turning my feet to gray, unholy ways.
I grope for stems of broken asphodels;
High on the rims of bare, fiend-haunted fells,
I follow cloven tracks that lie ablaze;
And ghosts have led me through the moonlight’s haze
To talk with demons in their granite hells.

Seas crash upon long dragon-guarded shores,
Bursting in crimson moons of burning spray,
And iron castles ope to me their doors,
And serpent-women lure with harp and lay.
The misty waves shake now to phantom oars—
Seek not for me; I sail to meet the day.

[from “The Singer in the Mist”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 238 and Always Comes Evening, p. 16]

Art: Lamia the Serpent Woman by Anna Lea Merritt