Thursday, December 08, 2011

A Song of the Race - Robert E. Howard

High on his throne sat Bran Mak Morn
When the sun-god sank and the west was red;
He beckoned a girl with his drinking horn,
And "Sing me a song of the race," he said.

Her eyes were as dark as the seas of night,
Her lips were as red as the setting sun,
As, a dusky rose in the fading light,
She let her fingers dreamily run

Over the golden-whispered strings,
Seeking the soul of her ancient lyre;
Bran sat still on the throne of kings,
Bronze face limned in the sunset's fire.

"First of the race of men," she sang,
"Far from an unknown land we came,
"From the rim of the world where mountains hang
"And the seas burn red with the sunset's flame.

"First and the last of the race are we,
"Gone is the old world's gilt and pride,
"Mu is a myth of the western sea,
"Through halls of Atlantis the white sharks glide."

An image of bronze, the king sat still,
Javelins of crimson shot the west,
She brushed the strings and murmured thrill
Swept up the chords to the highest crest.

"Hear ye the tale that the ancients tell,
"Promised of yore by the god of the moon,
"Hurled on the shore a deep sea shell,
"Carved on the surface a mystic rune:

"As ye were first in the mystic past
"Out of the fogs of the dim of Time,
"So shall the men of your race be last
"When the world shall crumble," so ran the rhyme.

"A man of your race, on peaks that clash,
"Shall gaze on the reeling world below;
"To billowing smoke shall he see it crash,
"A floating fog of the winds that blow.

"Star-dust falling for aye through space.
"Whirling about in the winds that spin;
"Ye that were first, be the last-most race,
"For one of your men shall be the last of men."

Into the silence her voice trailed off,
Yet it echoed across the dusk,
Over the heather the night-wind soft
Bore the scent of the forest's musk.

Red lips lifted, and dark eyes dreamed,
Bats came wheeling on stealthy wings;
But the moon rose gold and the far stars gleamed,
And the king still sat on the throne of kings.

There's a bell that hangs in a hidden cave
Under the heathered hills
That knew the tramp of the Roman feet
And the clash of the Pictish bills.

It has not rung for a thousand years
To waken the sleeping trolls,
But God defend the sons of men
When the bell of the Morni tolls.

For its rope is caught in the hinge of hell,
And its clapper is forged of doom,
And all the dead men under the sea
Await for its sullen boom.

It did not glow in an earthly fire,
Or clang to a mortal's sledge;
The hands that cast it grope in the night
Through the reeds at the fen-pool's edge.

It is laden with dooms of a thousand years,
It waits in the silence stark,
With the grinning dwarves and the faceless things
That crawl in the working dark.

And it waits the Hand that shall wake its voice,
When the hills shall break with fright,
To call the dead men into the day,
And the living into the Night.

4 out of 5