Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quotes, Facts and Scenes from the Worlds of REH: Howard's "Suicide Note"

I love reviewing and sharing literature about or inspired by Conan and/or Robert E. Howard himself; however, those posts are not a quick write. I wanted to do something I can do quickly and more frequently for the readers of CROM. In these posts you will find sometimes favorite scenes, quotes or facts pertaining to either Conan, REH or both.

This post refers to REH's "Suicide Note".

The myth goes like this, after Howard committed suicide, a page was found in his type writer with the following couplet:

All fled, all done, so lift me on the pyre;

   The feast is over and the lamps expire.

This is false on two fronts. First off, the couplet was not found in his typewriter. That is just one of many myths that have spawned from Howard's suicide. The couplet was on a typed piece of paper that Howard had in his wallet. The couplet was not actually by Howard. It is from "The House of Caesar" by Viola Garvin. 

Here is the poem in it entirety:

Yea — we have thought of royal robes and red. 
Had purple dreams of words we utterèd; 
Have lived once more the moment in the brain 
That stirred the multitude to shout again. 
All done, all fled, and now we faint and tire —
The Feast is over and the lamps expire! 

Yea — we have launched a ship on sapphire seas, 
And felt the steed between the gripping knees; 
Have breathed the evening when the huntsman brought 
The stiffening trophy of the fevered sport —
Have crouched by rivers in the grassy meads 
To watch for fish that dart amongst the weeds. 
All well, all good — so hale from sun and mire —
The Feast is over and the lamps expire! 

Yet — we have thought of Love as men may think, 
Who drain a cup because they needs must drink; 
Have brought a jewel from beyond the seas 
To star a crown of blue anemones. 
All fled, all done — a Cæsar's brief desire —
The Feast is over and the lamps expire! 

Yea — and what is there that we have not done, 
The Gods provided us 'twixt sun and sun? 
Have we not watched an hundred legions thinned, 
And crushed and conquered, succorèd and sinned? 
Lo — we who moved the lofty gods to ire —
The Feast is over and the lamps expire! 

Yea — and what voice shall reach us and shall give 
Our earthly self a moment more to live? 
What arm shall fold us and shall come between 
Our failing body and the grasses green? 
And the last heart that beats beneath this head —
Shall it be heard or unrememberèd? 
All dim, all pale — so lift me on the pyre — 
The Feast is over and the lamps expire!

The hardest truth about Howard's suicide is this: he did not leave a suicide note. Had he done so, there may have been far less speculation about his choice, and far fewer myths.


biopunk said...

The last issue of Epic Illustrated really cemented this myth in my mind.

Kilsern said...

Thank you for sharing that! Very interesting.