REH Word of the Week: chine Essay


1. backbone; spine

[origin: 14th century; Middle English; from Anglo-French enchine; of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German, scina, shinbone, needle]

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Chief Oswald was a man of war,
Fame of his deeds was blown afar.
Now he smote on the British line,
Cleft a Briton from chin to chine,
Severed another through the spine.
From another knight he dashed the brain,
Charged from the side at the king amain.
Conal’s sight was growing dim,
He saw the fight in a red haze swim.
His sword arm hung like an arm of lead,
He scarce could lift his armored head,
His life was ebbing in spurts of red.
But even as waning sight was spent
He saw the peril of Geraint.
He reined about his weary horse
And barred the furious Saxon’s course.
And the blow for the back of the king was stayed
By Conal’s notched unsteady blade.
Rider and steed in one overthrow
Sank beneath that fearful blow.
King Geraint wheeled and he saw the end
Of his trusted comrade and boyhood friend.
His heart went cold and his lips went pale;
He smote the Saxon like a gale,
Rent his shield and his coat of mail.
Oswald lay by Conal’s side
And over them washed the battle tide.

[from “The Ballad of King Geraint”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 73; Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 359]


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