Thursday, December 08, 2011

A Song of the Naked Lands - Robert E. Howard

You lolled in gardens where breezes fanned
The blossom's shivering shard;
But we were bred in a naked land
Where life was bitter hard.

You raped the grapes of their purple soul
For your wine cups brimming high;
We stooped to the dregs of the muddy hole
That was bitter with alkali.

And you grew flabby and round of limb,
Short of nerve and breath;
But we grew rugged and lean and grim
In our naked grip with Death.

Silk was too harsh for your dainty skin,
Red wine too poor for your drought;
We hunted the holes that the rain stood in,
And stripped the wolf for our clout.

Round were your bellies, soft your hand,
Soft with the fat of the earth;
Yours was the wealth of a smiling land,
Ours the desert's dearth.

You sang beneath the locust tree,
Forgetful of hunger and hate:
'It has always been, it will always be!'
Even then we were at your gate.

You lolled by fountain and golden hall
Until that frenzied morn
When we burst the gates and breached the wall
And cut you down like corn.

We reaped the yield and we plowed the field
With red and dripping shares,
And you could not fight and you could not run,
You could only die like hares.

Grim was the barter, red the trade,
With dripping swords for coins,
And your women screamed in the trampled sand
With bruised and bleeding loins

Skilled was the brain and skilled the hand
That shaped the stubborn stone,
But the brain spilled on the bloody sand
When iron split the bone.

The hand that traced the gilded frieze,
That scrolled the written page,
It could not turn the driven steel,
Backed by the primal rage.

Of what avail the harp and lute,
Gemmed girdle and purple cloak,
When the dripping axe was smiting home
In the flame and the blinding smoke?

Blood smeared your satin and silk and lace.
You heard you children moan,
And your elders howled in the market place
Where we stripped them skin from bone.

And where your bearded judges sat
And bade men live or die,
A naked slayer roared and waved
A bloody scalp on high.

Over the ruins arched and spired
The billowing smoke cloud waves;
And you who lived when the sword was tired,
You live but as our slaves.

Our hard hands clutch your golden cups,
Our rough feet crush your flowers;
We stable our horses in your halls,
And all your wealth is ours.

We have doffed our wolfskin clouts for silks,
We wear them clumsily,
Our eyes are bleak, our beards unshorn,
Our matted locks stream free.

But our sons will trim their beards and hair,
Don cloaks of crimson hue;
They will take your daughters to their beds,
Till they grow soft as you.

They will trade their freedom for harps and lutes,
Discard the bow and the dart;
They will build a prison of satin and gold,
And call it Culture and Art.

They will lie in the lap of a smiling land,
Till its rusts unman and rot them,
And they scorn their blood, and the calloused hand,
And the fathers who begot them.

But our brothers still dwell in the sun-seared waste
And their sons are hard and lank;
They will hunt the wolf-pack that we chased,
And drink the water we drank.

The hungers we knew they too will know,
The scars of fangs and of briars;
In the rocks where they crouch when the sandstorms blow
They will find the marks of our fires

They will know the hungers that once we had,
While the stream of centuries runs,
Till they burst from the desert, hunger-mad,
To slaughter our slothful sons.

4 out of 5