Sunday, June 10, 2018

‘Slave of the Greater Freedom’

The Adventurer and Shadow of Dreams by Robert E. Howard
James LaFond's impressions, reading from pages 72-6 of a Word from the Outer Dark

The Adventurer

This dream of oceans of deep water and burning sands is had on a hammock, swaying with the rhythm of an ever-dawning world of wonder, peril and plunder. Bordering on a juvenile yearning for the pirate’s storied life, the dreaming author—so obviously entranced as he composes this splicing of epic heroic style and pastoral idyll, writes as if Hesiod dreamed Homer’s dread dreams and somehow burnished them in his starry mind’s eye.

These four verses of eleven or more lines are mused from a swaying perspective—this reader thinks—as a compositional aid, a means of self-entrancement by the author. The style is not purely idyllic or heroic and is infected with treasure lust but slimly, the focus forever returning to deeper, broader horizons in Howard’s elemental style, in which the wind, the fabric of dreams, the broad deep, the mountains gone and the moon blinking tomorrow always supersede the humanly frail, beckoning the reader to become a writer, and so to become an adventurer of the mind at least.

In a dream-killing world, an aspiring fiction writer might acquire a copy of A Word from the Outer Dark and read The Adventurer and other like verses as a means of literal liberation.

Shadow of Dreams

This lesser star of 39 over-laden lines, limps remorselessly towards Death’s door like a bauble hung whore unable to remember all her paramours of yore. The dull drive of over-saturated imagery associated with oriental adventures and strange lands is perhaps Howard’s worst work and perhaps he would agree. The first lines are the best:

Stay not from me, that veil of dreams that gives
Strange seas and skies and lands and curious fire,
Dragons and crimson moons and white desire…

This reader would prefer to think that this was Howard’s first attempt at his signature style of dark poetic fantasy, and is content to quite like the first few lines for their own sake.

(c) 2018 James LaFond

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