The King and the Oak

The King and the Oak

 

Before the shadows slew the sun the kites were soaring free,

And Kull rode down the forest road, his red sword at his knee;

And winds were whispering round the world: "King Kull rides to the sea."

 


The sun died crimson in the sea, the long gray shadows fell;

The moon rose like a silver skull that wrought a demon's spell,

For in its light great trees stood up like spectres out of hell.

 

In spectral light the trees stood up, inhuman monsters dim;

Kull thought each trunk a living shape, each branch a knotted limb,

And strange unmortal evil eyes flamed horribly at him.

 

The branches writhed like knotted snakes, they beat against the night,

And one gray oak with swayings stiff, horrific in his sight,

Tore up its roots and blocked his way, grim in the ghostly light.

 

They grappled in the forest way, the king and grisly oak;

Its great limbs bent him in their grip, but never a word was spoke;

And futile in his iron hand, a stabbing dagger broke.

 

And through the monstrous, tossing trees there sang a dim refrain

Fraught deep with twice a million years of evil, hate and pain:

"We were the lords ere man had come and shall be lords again."

 

Kull sensed an empire strange and old that bowed to man's advance

As kingdoms of the grass-blades before the marching ants,

And horror gripped him; in the dawn like someone in a trance.

 

He strove with bloody hands against a still and silent tree;

As from a nightmare dream he woke; a wind blew down the lea,

And Kull of high Atlantis rode silent to the sea.

 

Robert E. Howard

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