The Poetry of Robert E. Howard

By Paul Herman *

Robert E. Howard wrote poetry. He wrote it first in life, last in life, and throughout life. Howard completed around 300 stories for commercial sale and worked on 300 more. But he wrote over 700 poems, virtually none of them meant for commercial markets. His first publication outside of school was his poem “The Sea”, published in a local paper. His famous “All fled, all done…” couplet, borrowed from Viola Garvin, was allegedly the last words he typed. And in between, poetry gushed from him.

“I know his [REH’s] stories will be read and forgotten, but I do know also that if his poems were in book form . . . they would live on and on and not be forgotten. Somebody would be reading them for many years to come.”
― Dr. Isaac Mordecai Howard, father of REH

Howard poured himself into his poetry, undisguised. What amazed him, what drew him, what scared him, what sickened him. He wasn’t worried about what we the eventual readers would think of him as an author. And perhaps this is true of any real poet, the fearlessness of saying what one really wants to say.

This three-volume set, The Collected Poems of Robert E. Howard includes all of Howard’s poetry that has been found, including all the earlier draft versions, where such exist. This is indeed the Ultimate collection of Robert E. Howard’s poetry.

This is the “Ultimate Edition” which just means that it’s printed on demand. Each volume is printed in hardback with a dust jacket.  The cover design and artwork are by Mark Wheatley. The first edition can be seen here.

* Text edited and shortened by webmaster.

Foreword by Paul Herman

With regard to editing the texts, I have chosen first and foremost to go back to what REH actually wrote. Poetry by its very nature involves an author using grammar, layout, and punctuation differently than would be appropriate in a prose work. REH certainly was not shy about being creative in such details. Some may consider such things as lack of proper punctuation unacceptable, but it was REH’s work and his choice. Therefore I have attempted, as much as possible, to restore all the texts to his original words and forms.

Multiple drafts exist of some poems. Sometimes there is little difference between drafts, sometimes significant differences. In the case of multiple drafts, I have included either notes regarding, or the complete text of, the earlier drafts, depending on how different they are.

Typically we do not have a copy of the “final form” of a poem that REH sent off to a magazine, like Weird Tales. Thus, we really have no idea if any differences that show up between the published version and a draft typescript version were created by REH (in a later draft for which no copy is available in the known typescripts) or by the editors. In instances where there are significant differences, we have included both versions.
And finally, on occasion, there is more than one version of a poem, with it not being evident which came before the other. That is, which is the more “final” of the two. In those cases, I have again just picked one and referred to the “alternate” version in either the footnotes or included it, if significantly different. One will also occasionally encounter a “variant” version, a poem that is significantly similar to another, but with a completely different title, and likely meant to be a different poem, one used as raw material for the other.

With regard to the arrangement of the works in this collection, REH had poetry that he thought was good enough and ready to publish. He also had what appeared to be works in progress, and silly things he just did in letters to friends. Because I wanted to let REH set out what he thought was his best, and reserve the silly stuff for those readers that really want to see it, I have decided to sort the works broadly into six sections:

  • Finished and Professional
  • Titled Drafts
  • Untitled Drafts
  • No Known Drafts
  • Youthful Writings
  • Poetry for Friends

It is recognized that some works may fit in multiple sections, and I have made choices as best I think.
Sequentially, starting with the “Titled Drafts” section in Volume One, each section is broken down into six subsections:

  • Introductory Sampling (some of the best in a section)
  • Seeking Adventure and Freedom
  • Fantastical
  • Historical and Observational
  • Humor
  • Naughty
  • Darker Moods

Again, some poems could fit in multiple subsections, and I have made decisions as I think best.
The recently gained access to the entire Glenn Lord Collection of typescripts added several poems, as well as lots of early and alternate drafts. This influx of material (along with the addition of multiple indices) has caused the complete collection to grow larger than is convenient for a single volume.
Accordingly, I have broken Collected Poetry into three volumes, comprising the six categories listed above:

  • Volume One: Finished and Professional; Titled Drafts
  • Volume Two: Untitled Drafts; No Known Drafts; Youthful Writings
  • Volume Three: Poetry for Friends

In selecting which section to place poems, the first general rule is, any poetry in letters goes into Poetry for Friends, and all works either handwritten or typed on REH’s first typewriter, go into Youthful Writings. After those were sorted, then the remaining poetry was sorted as needed into Finished and Professional, Titled Drafts, Untitled Drafts, and No Known Draft.

If there is more than one draft, all drafts of a poem are presented together one after the other. In each instance I have either included all the drafts together, or at least added notes on earlier drafts, if the differences are few. I have used the most “final” version to help decide into which section of the collection the bundle of drafts will appear. So for instance, if for a particular poem there is a final draft, an earlier titled draft, and an untitled draft, all three will appear together in Finished and Professional. If the best version is merely titled but not in final form, then the Titled Drafts section gets the set. If only untitled drafts are known, then they will appear in the Untitled Drafts section. And finally, for those without drafts, they are placed in the No Known Draft Section. Published versions which are significantly different from any draft have generally been included after the known drafts.

Also included at the back of each volume is a full alphabetical list of all poems with volume and page number, alternate title list, first line index, and sources used for texts and titles.

Finally, with regard to titles, it is unfortunate that the typescripts we have access to include only about 300 titles for the 700+ poems. Some might prefer to have all these poems with no provable title to just be called “Untitled”, or just use the first line, but that tends to make it difficult to discuss the poems with others, or to reference. A short simple title for each is desirable, and that appears to be the thought of virtually all previous editors who published the vast majority of these poems. And it may be that in some instances, the first published title actually was a title REH meant for that work, who knows.

In general, I have used the title provided by REH in a typescript, if one is available. Those are easy. If a work was published during REH’s lifetime, or just after, I’ll presume the title came from REH, and use that title (though of course there is no real proof that that is true). Everything else, and there is a lot of everything else, is really a question. For most of this remaining verse, I have simply used whatever title the work was published with previously, for simplicity and continuity, recognizing the high likelihood that there is not, and never was, a titled draft, and that the title was attached by whomever. Much of the more recently discovered poetry that is untitled is here titled with the first line, or a portion of the first line. In a very few instances, I have found the previous title (or lack thereof) a real problem, and have added a title of my own creation. I have tried to keep these to a minimum. The source list at the end of this volume will include both the source of the text used, as well as the source of the title, if known, for those interested in such details.

It is hoped that all this minutiae and detail does not detract from the entire point of this three volume set: to provide all of REH’s poetic works, those brilliant and those not quite so, for the reader’s enjoyment and thoughtful perusement.

Volume One - Contents

  • xi • Introduction – The Poetry of Robert E. Howard by Paul Herman
  • xv • Foreword by Paul Herman
  • xix • Acknowledgements

Collections – Singers in the Shadows

7 Zukala’s Hour
9 Zukala’s Hour (first published version, no known draft)
11 Night Mood
12 The Sea-Woman
13 The Bride of Cuchulain
14 The Stranger
15 Shadows (2)
16 Rebel
20 Rebel (an earlier untitled draft)
22 White Thunder
23 The Men That Walk with Satan
24 The Men That Walk with Satan
(a shorter, untitled version included in a letter)
25 Thus Spake Sven the Fool
26 Sacrifice
27 The Witch
28 The Lost Galley
29 Hadrian’s Wall
30 Attila Rides No More
31 The Fear That Follows
32 Destination
34 The Tavern
35 The Twin Gates

Collections – Images Out of the Sky

 39 Reuben’s Brethren
40 A Riding Song
41 Reuben’s Birthright
43 The Skull in the Clouds (a published alternate version of “Reuben’s Birthright”, no known draft)
46 Heritage (1)
47 An Echo from the Iron Harp
51 An Echo from the Iron Harp (an earlier untitled draft)
53 Castaway
54 The Road to Rest
56 Surrender (1, a variant version of “The Road to Rest”)
58 To a Modern Young Lady
60 To a Woman (1, the second draft of “To a Modern Young Lady”)
62 To a Woman (1, the first draft of “To a Modern Young Lady”)
64 Love’s Young Dream
65 Black Michael’s Story (an earlier untitled draft)
67 Black Michael’s Story (an earlier untitled draft)
68 A Son of Spartacus
69 Hate’s Dawn (an earlier shorter version of “A Son of Spartacus”)
70 Man, the Master
71 For Man Was Given the Earth to Rule
73 For Man Was Given the Earth to Rule (an earlier untitled draft)
75 Shadows on the Road
77 Forbidden Magic
78 The Gates of Nineveh

Cycles – Sonnets out of Bedlam

81 The Singer in the Mist
81 The Singer in the Mist (an earlier untitled draft)
82 The Dream and the Shadow
82 The Dream and the Shadow (an earlier untitled draft)
83 The Soul-Eater
84 Haunting Columns
85 The Last Hour

Cycles – The Voices in the Night aka The Iron Harp (1)

89 The Voices Waken Memory
90 Babel
91 Laughter in the Gulfs
92 Moon Shame
93 A Crown for a King
94 A Crown for a King (an alternate version)

Cycles – Black Dawn

97 Shadows (1)
98 Clouds
99 Shrines
100 The Iron Harp (2)
101 Invocation

Cycles – Poetry Journals, etc.

105 A Lady’s Chamber
106 Skulls and Dust
107 Tides
108 Red Thunder
109 Dreaming on Downs
110 Dreaming on Downs (an earlier draft)
111 Empire’s Destiny
112 Empire’s Destiny (an alternate version)
113 Flaming Marble (1)
114 Rebellion
115 Shadow of Dreams
116 To a Woman (2)
117 One Who Comes at Eventide
118 Always Comes Evening

Poetry in the Pulps

121 Kid Lavigne is Dead
122 The Song of the Bats
122 The Song of the Bats (the rhyming pattern)
123 The Ride of Falume
124 The Riders of Babylon
125 Remembrance
126 An Open Window
127 The Harp of Alfred
128 Easter Island
129 Crete
130 Moon Mockery
131 The Moor Ghost
132 Dead Man’s Hate
133 Sang the King of Midian
135 Black Chant Imperial
136 The Song of a Mad Minstrel
138 Arkham
139 The Last Day
140 A Dream of Autumn
141 Moonlight on a Skull

Poetry in Pulp Stories

145 The Phoenix on the Sword (chapter headings)
146 The Scarlet Citadel (chapter headings)
147 Queen of the Black Coast (chapter headings)
148 The Pool of the Black One (story heading)
149 Rogues in the House (story heading)
150 The Blood of Belshazzar (story heading)
151 The Lion of Tiberias (story heading)
152 Red Blades of Black Cathay (story heading)
153 The Fearsome Touch of Death (story heading)
154 The Thing on the Roof (story heading)
155 Kings of the Night (story heading)
156 The Black Stone (story heading)
157 Oh, the Road to Glory Lay (contained in “The Pit of the Serpent”)
158 I Call the Muster of Iron Men (contained in “Crowd-Horror”)

Ready to send drafts

161 The Adventurer
163 Up John Kane!
164 The King and the Oak
166 Recompense
167 The Tower of Zukala
169 The Tower of Zukala (an alternate published version, no known draft)
171 Zukala’s Jest
172 Ghost Dancers
173 The Adventurer’s Mistress (1)
175 The Adventurer’s Mistress (1, an earlier untitled draft)
177 The Sea Girl
178 Romance (1)
179 Romance (1, an earlier untitled draft)
180 A Moment
181 Skulls Over Judah
182 Buccaneer Treasure
186 Buccaneer Treasure (an earlier untitled draft)
190 Viking’s Trail
191 The Poets
192 The Poets (an alternate version)
193 A Pirate Remembers
194 The Hills of Kandahar
195 Hy-Brasil
197 Hy-Brasil (the untitled second draft)
199 The Isle of Hy-Brasil (the titled first draft of “Hy-Brasil”)
201 The Sign of the Sickle
202 To All Sophisticates
204 To All Sophisticates (an alternate version)
206 Age Comes to Rabelais
207 To a Woman (3)
209 Youth Spoke – Not in Anger
210 Life (2, a variant version of “Youth Spoke – Not in Anger”)
211 Lilith
212 Today
213 The Road to Yesterday

Ready to send poetry in pulp stories

217 The Hour of the Dragon (story heading)
218 Men of the Shadows (story heading)
219 Chant of the White Beard (an untitled poem in “Men of the Shadows”)
220 Rune (an untitled poem in “Men of the Shadows”)
221 Rune (an earlier handwritten draft)
222 The Race Without Name (an untitled poem in “Men of the Shadows”)
223 Song of the Pict (an untitled poem in “Men of the Shadows”)
224 The Road of Azrael (chapter headings)
225 The Screaming Skull of Silence (story heading)
226 Sword Woman (chapter headings)
227 Kelly the Conjure-Man (story heading)

Section Two - Titled Drafts

Introductory Sampling

233 Marching Song of Connacht
234 Marching Song of Connacht (a shorter, titled alternate version included in a letter)
235 Flight
237 Flight (a partial untitled draft included in a first letter)
238 Flight (a partial untitled draft included in a second letter)
239 Musings (1)
240 The Bar by the Side of the Road
241 The Kiowa’s Tale
242 Mate of the Sea
243 Mate of the Sea (an earlier untitled draft)
244 The Day That I Die
246 A Word from the Outer Dark
247 The Seven-Up Ballad
248 The Tempter
250 The Tempter (a portion of an earlier draft)

Seeking adventure and freedom

253 Men Build Them Houses
255 To the Old Men
256 Age (an earlier version of “To the Old Men”)
257 A Buccaneer Speaks
258 The Pirate (2, a titled variant version of “A Buccaneer Speaks”)
259 The Open Window
260 Yesterdays
261 The Sea and the Sunrise


265 The Rhyme of the Three Slavers
267 Skulls
267 Skulls (an earlier untitled quatrain)
268 Slumber
269 Black Mass
270 Black Mass (an alternate version)
271 The Coming of Bast
273 The Coming of Bast (an earlier untitled draft)
275 And Beowulf Rides Again
276 King of the Sea
277 Lost Altars
278 The Children of the Night (verse in an earlier draft of the story)
279 Something About Eve (an essay heading)
280 Etchings in Ivory
281 Flaming Marble (2)
284 Skulls and Orchids
288 Medallions in the Moon
289 The Gods that Men Forgot
291 Bloodstones and Ebony

Historical and observational

295 Thor’s Son
296 The End of the Glory Trail
297 The Builders (three versions)
299 A Dungeon Opens
301 West
302 Flint’s Passing
303 Singing Hemp
304 Heritage (2)
305 John Ringold
306 The Peasant on the Euphrates
307 A Legend
308 A Song Out of the East
309 A Song Out of the East (an earlier untitled draft in a letter)
310 The Gods of the Jungle Drums
311 The Gods of the Jungle Drums (an earlier untitled draft)
312 Swamp Murder
313 The Wanderer
314 San Jacinto (2)
315 The Song of the Jackal
316 The Campus at Midnight
317 Mihiragula
318 Belshazzer
318 Belshazzer (an alternate version)
319 The Jackal
320 Desert Dawn
321 The Desert Hawk
323 Ace High
324 An Incident of the Muscovy-Turkish War


327 The Passionate Typist
328 When I Was a Youth
329 The Cooling of Spike McRue
331 The Whoopansat of Humorous Kookooyam
334 A Quatrain of Beauty


337 The Ballad of Singapore Nell
339 The Ballad of Naughty Nell (an earlier draft of “The Ballad of Singapore Nell”)
340 Tiger Girl

Darker Moods

343 Emancipation
344 The Road to Hell
345 A Rattlesnake Sings in the Grass
346 To All the Lords of Commerce
347 After a Flaming Night
348 A Warning
349 A Warning (a partial version from a letter)
350 A Song for All Women
351 Visions
352 And So I Sang
353 To the Stylists


355 Primary Poetry Index
375 Alternate Title Index
381 First Line Index
Publisher: REH Foundation Press
Year : October 2022
Book No. : ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1955446067
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1955446068
Edition : 2nd edition, version 1
Format : Hardcover with dust jacket  (6 x 1.13 x 9 inches)
Trade paperback (6 x 9 inches)
Pages : 452
Cover : Mark Wheatley
Illustrations : None
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  • Edited by Paul Herman
  • Print on demand “Ultimate Edition”

The other volumes

The first edition



The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard Volume One

Robert E. Howard wrote poetry. He wrote it first in life, last in life, and throughout life. Howard completed around 300 stories for commercial sale and worked on 300 more. But he wrote over 700 poems, virtually none of them meant for commercial markets. His first publication outside of school was his poem “The Sea”, published in a local paper. His famous “All fled, all done…” couplet, borrowed from Viola Garvin, was allegedly the last words he typed. And in between, poetry gushed from him.

This first volume of a three-volume set collects the rest of all of Howard’s known poetry.

Tags: Poems / Robert E. Howard