Death-Song of Conan the Cimmerian

"Death-Song of Conan the Cimmerian" is a 1972 fantasy narrative poem by American writer Lin Carter, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in Glenn Lord's Howard fanzine The Howard Collector, no. 17 (v. 3, no. 5), Autumn, 1972,[1] and reprinted in Carter's poetry collection Dreams from R'lyeh, (Arkham House,1975)[2] and the magazine The Savage Sword of Conan v. 1, no. 8, October 1975. This last appearance included illustrations by Jess Jodloman.

The poem is the last work of fiction chronologically about the title character.


The poem consists of nine seven-line stanzas in a modified ballad measure, rhyming A-B-A-B-A-A-B. It's told from the point of view of Conan, reflecting on his life and setting forth his personal philosophy as his death approaches.

Conan relishes his memories of the life he has led and the friends he has made even as he feels the bite of mortality. Power and material gain, for which he has striven all his life, are acknowledged as ephemeral: "They crumble into clods." He faces his death unflinchingly, pairing life's hard-won pleasures with the ravages of age and extinction in an almost off-hand fashion, each tempering the other. Life is to be lived to the fullest in full awareness of the inevitability of death, while death can be borne with a certain satisfaction in the light of a life fully lived.

The central repeated image is of Conan traveling along a "long" and "hard" road with the company of a number of friends or companions emblematic of the kinds of people he knew in life. Included are "thief and harlot, king and guard / Warrior, wizard, knave and bard," and "Rogue and reaver and firebrand." They have gone through their journey a "merry, jesting band / Who asked no easier track," making their own cheer "Under an empty sky."

Less material entities also accompany them: "life rode laughing at my right hand / And Death rode at my back." The gods of the imagined "Hyborian Age" in which Conan is supposed to have lived are alluded to, and in one instance named in an oath, but characterized as inconsequential: "I laugh at your little gods!" The paramount divine figures featured in the poem are rather Death and the Devil, though the latter, while prominent in the poem, is otherwise alien to the fictional milieu in which the Conan stories are set.

Life is portrayed as a game of chance, and Death and the Devil as Conan's opponents in life's game: "I won what a man may win: / Aye, gambled and won at the Devil's game" - "the Devil take the odds" - "I'll stride down the scarlet throat of hell / And dice for the Devil's throne!" - "Life's but a game Death and I have played / Many a wearisome year." Even these opponents are scoffed at - Conan notes he has "mocked at Death's skull-grin" - even as their triumph is acknowledged.

Conan and the poem conclude: "I begrudge no foot of the road I strayed / The road which endeth HERE!"


  1. ^ Howard Works entry for The Howard Collector no. 17 (v. 3, no. 5), Autumn 1972
  2. ^ Dreams from R'lyeh title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Preceded by
Conan at the Demon's Gate
(framing sequence)
Complete Conan Saga Succeeded by
Conan at the Demon's Gate

Conan at the Demon's Gate is a fantasy novel by American writer Roland Green, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in trade paperback by Tor Books in November 1994; a regular paperback edition followed from the same publisher in August 1996.

Conan chronologies

This article covers some of the major Conan chronologies that have been advanced over the years. From the 1930s onward a number of fans and scholars have attempted to create a chronological timeline into which the numerous Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard and later writers could be placed.

Going beyond a simple fan activity, these efforts have had a significant impact on the development of the popular conception of the character of Conan as well as economic consequences on the Conan franchise. As Paolo Bertetti observes, the focus on the creation of a character chronology outside of the work of the original author begins a "process that tends to transform the character into a social object of inter-individual construction and public debate, rendering it independent of texts in which it was born," and in the case of Conan, this has led to the exploitation of the character for commercial reasons and perhaps encouraged and justified the proliferation of pastiche stories and novels over the years.A number of factors have prevented the establishment of a consensus on order of the Conan stories, most notably the fact that Howard himself apparently had little more than a general idea of the character's career path and intentionally wrote the stories out of chronological sequence.

Clearly, the stories where Conan is a thief are at the early part of his career and those of King Conan – at the later part. But the middle part – the various tales of his being a pirate, brigand, and mercenary at various locations around the world – are more difficult to arrange in a neat order. While the earliest (Miller/Clark) timeline had at least partial endorsement from Howard, the addition of stories discovered and published after Howard's death in 1936 are more difficult to place. Fragments and synopses that were never completed are even more problematic and some contain what appear to be internal inconsistencies.

Conan of the Isles

Conan of the Isles is a fantasy novel by American writers L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published October 1968 in paperback by Lancer Books, and reprinted in July 1970, 1972, and May 1973; publication was then taken over by Ace Books, which reprinted the novel in May 1977, May 1979, April 1980, July 1981, April 1982, November 1982, November 1983, June 1984, September 1986, February 1991, and May 1994. The first British edition was published in paperback by Sphere Books in December 1974. a number of times since by various publishers. It has also been translated into French, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Russian and Japanese.

Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian (also known as Conan the Cimmerian) is a fictional sword and sorcery hero who originated in pulp fiction magazines and has since been adapted to books, comics, several films (including Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer), television programs (cartoon and live-action), video games, role-playing games, and other media. The character was created by writer Robert E. Howard in 1932 in a series of fantasy stories published in Weird Tales magazine.

Death Song

Death Song can refer to:

"Death Song" or "In Praise of Death", a 1926 song by Korean singer Yun Sim-deok

Death Song (film), a 1991 film about Yun Sim-deok, named for the 1926 song

"The Black Angel's Death Song", a 1967 song by the American band Velvet Underground

"Death-Song of Conan the Cimmerian", a 1972 poem by American author Lin Carter

Death Song, a 2017 song by the American band The Black Angels

"Death's Song", a 2013 song by City and Colour from the album The Hurry and the Harm

Dreams from R'lyeh

Dreams from R'lyeh is a collection of poems by Lin Carter. The book was released in hardcover by Arkham House in 1975 in an edition of 3,152 copies. It was Carter's only book published by Arkham House. The title sequence of sonnet, "Dreams from R'lyeh", has also been reprinted in Robert M. Price's The Xothic Legend Cycle: The Complete Mythos Fiction of Lin Carter (Chaosium, 1997).

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