TWO CROWS: EXPLORING WEIRD TALES Vol. 5, No. 1—PART 17

This week my series of posts examining a single issue of Weird Tales from 1925 takes a bit of a strange turn—or does it? The next feature in the magazine, filling the rest of the page that begins with the ending of “The Ocean Leech” by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. is a poem. But what’s this? A poem in a series of posts dissecting pulp fiction?

Well, yes, “Two Crows” is indeed a poem, and poetry was not at all an unusual occurrence in the pulps, though from what I can tell they slowly ran out of fashion as the magazines progressed (or, some might argue, dissolved) into the 1950s.

And this being…

…we should expect a weird and unique poem.

I’ll go ahead and paste the entire poem here.

 

Two Crows

by Francis Hard

 

Two crows flapped over dismally

(So wearily, so drearily)

To the blackened limb of a blasted tree;

The shells flew screaming overhead,

And the field was covered thick with dead—

The earth reeked with its dead.

 

One crow lamented to his mate

(So wearily, so drearily):

“How long, how long must we now wait

For the taste of food that was so good

Before the shrapnel shattered the wood

And loaded the ground with dead?

 

“The odor sweet of dying men”

(Lamented he so drearily),

“How strangely pleasant was it when

I sensed it first with ravished breath!

But I am sated, and sick to death,

And would fain lie yon with the dead.”

 

A shell came moaning through the air

(So drearily, so eerily)

And burst where the crows were plaining there;

It shivered the wreck of the blasted tree,

And bits of crow fell bloodily

Among the tangled dead.

Quite a maudlin little piece there, made more poignant when you do the math between the end of World War I and the publication of this magazine. It’s easy to imagine that more than one of the authors published therein were veterans of that terrible war, and here we have a forlorn tale of battle fatigue and the suicidal depression so often part of post traumatic stress disorder.

Francis Hard was actually Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird Tales from 1924-1940, including the issue at hand. And indeed, according to the Encyclopedia of Fantasy, Mr. Wright “was drafted into the US Army in 1917 and served in the infantry in WWI.”

This goes to show that though we’ve seen some pretty silly stuff here, and have had some fun with outmoded ideas and retro culture and language, there’s a lot more to be heard in these yellowed old pages, and a lot still to be learned.

 

—Philip Athans

 

Finding the Personal in the Procedural

Take a deep dive into “show vs. tell” by concentrating on your point-of-view character’s emotional experience of each scene in this online tutorial from Writer’s Digest.

 

 

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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