Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Swords Glimmered Up The Pass... - Robert E. Howard

Swords glimmered up the pass
Fringing the grim dark mass.
There was blood on the grass;
Red blood
But the flood
Far below lumbered on to the east and the dawn—
When all men are gone.
Shall not they,
Hill and stream,
As today
Gleam and dream,
Forgetting forever in majesty still
That men climbed the hill or died on the river.
High on the great black crags
Like hags
Brooding for death and slaughter,
We waited
With the thirst of our blades unsated
And below us rippled the water.
We two—you and I
Last to die.
At bay there we stood and the wind in our hair
Shook the iron clawed brood of the black eagle's lair.
They came in the flame of the thundering dawn
Driven and drawn
By the spate of their hate and the fate of their lust
For the glimmering dust,
They dreamed they could hold, the traitor of gold,
The breaker of thrust.
And we laughed in the bend of a curse that our blades, they
were virgin of rust
Then from his bed
The great sun clambered red;
His gleams lit up the lances and the banners of the foe;
The cohorts clambered sealing our doom beyond repealing;
Behind our boulders kneeling e hurled out lead below.
Many a bastard there
Of that dark band
Clutched with a nerveless hand
The mocking air.
Man after man, one by one
Dropped in the eye of the sun
To the crack of the ball;
Reeled from the sombre cliff
Grim and stiff,
And the river below drank his fall.
Two men—and we laughed and we swore
In the fringer of the rifle smoke's plume,
Twomen—and we laughed at the roar
Of a whole army bringing our doom.
And our rifles stammered and yammered,
Carving the air with red laces
Till our powder was burning their faces
As up to our muzzles they clambered.
You rose,
And you jeered—
In the beard
Of our foes
You hurled gold.
And some of them clutched it with screams,
and some in the clutching grew cold.
And you roared to the horde:
"Here's the price of Hell's thunder!"
And the leap of your sword
Rent a bosom a-sunder.
I swung up the stock
Of my empty gun
And the crash and the shock
Broke the brains out of one.
Then smoke veiled the sun
And blood, cliff and rock.
A reeking red carpet we made and we laid
With the crash of my gun and the slash of your blade.
Bullets jerked at us,
Knives stung;
Sword points dirked at us,
Gun stocks swung. Like reddened leopards we sprung.
And they forced us back to the lip of the pass
that over the river hung.
We were blackened with powder,
Red with blood
Ever louder we heard the flood.
Your blade was a shard on a battered hilt,
Your grip slipped on the blood you'd split.
From my rifle the splintered stock was rent
And the barrel was twisted, burst and bent.
The last charge came—fierce faces rose
To go blank under our last great blows.
Flame in our faces waved its sheet
And we felt the gulf yawn under our feet...
Roaring our final oaths we fell
And crashed together into Hell.

4 out of 5