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Volume 5159
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A Major Poetic Interpretation by ERB Poet Extraordinaire
John Martin

John Carter 
The Saga of the Gods of Mars
By 
John "Bridge" Martin

Beset by bleak despair and 'neath the skies of ever gloom,
John Carter for a decade trod the pathways of Jasoom,
Until, at last, in misery, he found his final room,
As friends laid him to rest inside a strangely fitted tomb.

The iron door was closed; the special latch was notched in place.
While inside cold and still he was presumed in death's embrace.
The lock would only work within that lonely, silent space,
And dead men do not twist a latch nor stir from out their case.

Before that day he'd often stand, his armed raised in appeal,
And then they found him, still and cold, the end of his ordeal,
And while that body soon was laid inside the stone and steel,
The real John Carter wore a body that could move and feel.

He'd climbed the stellar stairway through the space beyond the sky,
By some strange paradox, John Carter didn't really die.
He went back to the planet where his loyalties did lie,
And sought to find the one who'd captured more than just his eye.

Her name was Dejah Thoris, princess of the Martian race,
Whom he had found when he was drawn to Mars through outer space;
He'd fought to save her life, and won a victory in that place,
But unexpected doom had torn him from her sweet embrace.

The Martian atmosphere, controlled by one remote device,
Had failed, and all Barsoomians soon would be as cold as ice;
John Carter had the key to set things right in just a trice,
And saved Barsoom, but in the process had to pay a price.

The lack of air had triggered something strange within his frame,
And as he gasped for breath the Cosmos played a little game;
It sent him back to planet Earth, his earlier domain,
And there for ten long years he'd been required to remain.

But now he's back on Mars -- but what an odd place he did light;
The lawn was neatly trimmed; it seemed a place of some delight.
But then he saw some green men who had little chance to fight
When suddenly attacked by beings hideous in sight.

There were white apes and the Plant Men of the mystic Valley Dor,
Who leaped upon the green men who had reached the Korus shore,
And as those brave ones realized they were walking through death's door,
The Earthman grabbed a slain one's sword; John Carter went to war:

His battle lust was flaming; he lit'rally saw red,
He swung his sword arm back and forth and Plant Men's blood was shed
One green man fought beside him; the others now lay dead,
And as some more attackers charged, that last green warrior said:

"We may at least die fighting, and as great warriors should."
He spoke the name "John Carter;" the earthman understood.
'Twas his old friend Tars Tarkas who now, beside him, would
Make this last battle to the death go down as something good.

Then moved they to the nearby cliff to make their final fight,
Discovering there a hollow tree from whence to wield their might,
But lo, they found within an unexpected saving sight:
A ladder set inside the tree went up the giant's height.

Ascending up the ladder in the tree which stood so tall
They came unto an opening and there they didn't stall;
Taking greatest care lest they should step awry and fall,
They went out on a limb to find what lurked beyond the wall.

"Where are we?" asked John Carter. Tars replied, "The Valley Dor,
"Where pilgrims float the River Iss to live forevermore.
"But now we know the truth behind the legend and the lore:
"This isn't quite the heaven that those folks were hoping for."

Down a darkened passage, then into a spacious den,
A mocking voice came, laughing, saying they'd soon be dead men,
From out of nowhere banths attacked, they slew one, two, then ten.
And finally Carter realized they came from a hidden pen.

The portal opened; Carter saw a sinister tableau
And quickly stepped within to face an all-too-human foe
"Now you die," the villain said; they battled to and fro,
Until John Carter swung his sword and laid the Martian low.

"Look out behind you," cried a maiden shackled to the wall,
Another charged to battle him; John won, and watched him fall.
He grabbed the key and freed the lass, who had the wherewithal
To get them back into the place where Tars was in a brawl. 

Within the outer cavern, Tars Tarkas stood his ground;
His flesh was cut to ribbons as more banths were circling round;
He smiled as John Carter, rejoined him with a bound;
As they prepared to kill some banths, the girl let out a sound.

A single Martian word she uttered peremptorily;
The banths all turned toward her, and then, implausibly,
They slunk in mass submission to her strange authority,
And she led them 'cross the chamber and through a cavity.

The girl returned and asked the Earthman just who he might be.
"I'm John Carter," he replied. "Perhaps you've heard of me."
She recalled that Therns had weighed the Martian mystery,
Of where he was for ten long years since setting Barsoom free.

The Therns, who were her captors, were a cruel and hateful race,
Who lived above the Valley Dor, and to their great disgrace,
Those who escaped the Plant Men found the Holy Therns' embrace,
And they would soon be slaves, or worse, within that cursed place.

They came upon a Thern who had a higher-ranking gig;
'Ere he could holler an alarm, sweet Thuvia said, "Die, Pig!"
So saying, she aimed true her gun and quickly pressed the trig,
John stripped the body of its gear and donned the yellow wig.

To flee the mountain citadel, the trio had the will;
Freedom drew them on although their struggle was uphill;
Thuvia, John Carter and Tars Tarkas had the skill,
But odds were stacked against them and they had no time to kill.

With help of Thuvia's pets, the banths, they finally saw the sky,
But Thuvia looked above and uttered out a mournful cry!
The fierce Black Pirates of Barsoom had come like Samurai
To grab some female fodder for cruel Issus' slave supply.

The Pirates battled Therns across the fort-like mountain crest,
Their flashing swords caught moonlight in the bloody battle's zest,
While here and there a pirate from the Therns a female'd wrest,
And take her to a flier as they worked to fill their quest.

The fliers! Carter spotted them and led his Martian pair
To a handy Martian flier which could scoot them through the air;
But only two could ride it so John Carter, with a flair,
Sent Tars and Thuvia off while he did battle, solitaire.

The Pirates circled Carter with intent to drop him dead;
But John espied an airship as it passed by overhead;
With earthly muscles Carter leaped and saved, as by a thread,
He clung unto the anchor rope suspended from its bed.

Hand over hand he climbed the rope until he reached the ship;
A pirate there took aim at him but Carter got a grip;
He flung the pirate off the craft to take a fatal dip,
And then he saw a captive girl, a pretty little slip.

He freed the girl; she grabbed a gun to help him kill the crew,
'Cause others left on board the ship would try to kill him, too.
But Carter's sword and Phaidor's gun soon proved that they would do,
And only one was left, whom Carter quickly did subdue.

Phaidor was a beauty but possessed an evil tang;
She certainly embodied both the yin gene and the yang;
A little like a vampire, without an obvious fang,
No wonder! She's the daughter of the chief Thern, Matai Shang!

The captive's name was Xodar; his rank was prince, or "Dator,"
He had the build and prowess of a Roman gladiator;
He said his race was best on Mars, there were no people greater,
And they were called the First-Born of their Tree of Life creator.

While he talked, John Carter listened with an open mind,
But Xodar saw his pirate friends approaching from behind;
At last the silent airship was strategically aligned;
John Carter tried to get away but soon he was confined.

Aboard the Pirate battleship, they headed to the pole
The mountains and the valley of the Otz were down below,
And as they journeyed south, the land was whitened by the snow
And then at length the ship into a darkened gulf did go.

It seemed at least a thousand feet across that giant vent;
The blackness soon engulfed them as they started their descent;
The ship turned on its running lights, its vision to augment,
And then at last they saw an ocean vast in its extent.

But Phaidor had one other thing that occupied her mind,
She fancied this John Carter, and for his love soon pined;
But John told her that Dejah was the one his heart enshrined;
Phaidor, angered, seethed with rage; she’d now an ax to grind.

Nor Phaidor nor John Carter, had thought that there could be,
A hidden land of people, let alone a mighty sea;
As it dropped, the aircraft's fittings were adjusted, by degree,
So it could float the water like a basking manatee.,

Across the bay the craft did speed where other ships were seen.
At last they docked and got a ride on a little submarine;
Xodar marched them to the court of Issus, wicked queen,
Who called herself a Goddess, but was a thing obscene.

Those allowed to look upon her "holy, radiant face,"
Saw as many wrinkles as a doily made of lace
Her yellow fangs and hawklike nose were nothing commonplace,
Her sunken eyes made it appear she'd cuddled with a mace.

Then Issus learned that Xodar had been bested by John C.,
And even though that state existed temporarily,
She busted him to private and decreed from now on he,
Would be the slave of Carter -- a virtual nobody.

And what of pretty Phaidor? Issus thought she had some style,
That could serve her as a chamber slave, but only for awhile.
Issue kept slaves just a year, but then -- the bitter bile:
They were condemned to suffer with a death that was so vile.

Though made into a lowly slave, proud Xodar stood erect,
As fellow pirates, former friends now showed him disrespect
One, named Thurid, Carter with a right hook did connect,
And in the twinkling of an eye the mocking black was decked.

Xodar and John Carter were then taken for a sail
To the isle of Shador, and imprisoned in a jail.
Carter checked the structure out, missing no detail,
And found asleep in another cell a stalwart Martian male

Soon awake, the young man told the saga of his fate,
And of the boldness in his genes from his father, late.
The young man's looks and manners did somehow indicate
Something so familiar that made John contemplate.

Then guards showed up and told the prisoners it was time to go;
Issus had decreed it was the day to have a show.
John Carter and the younger man were taken then in tow,
They soon would be in combat against foemen after foe

It was the big arena where the games of death were played;
And first John Carter saw some lovely ladies were displayed;
They were the ones who served a year and on whom Issus preyed,
Unless some mighty hero could arise and give them aid.

John Carter was that hero; this couldn't be allowed;
He downed his guard and grabbed a sword and shouted right outloud.
"To arms! Arise you servants, and be no longer cowed.
"Let's make them pay for what they've done; do all your nations proud!"

The pris'ners shouted out and charged, while slaves up in the stands,
Knew it was now or never for them, too, to make a stand.
Many First-Born died that hour as slaves their fervor fanned,
But pirates finally won the day; the prisoners were outmanned.

Issus fled a secret way but John saw where she went,
And he with his young friend both had the same exact intent
They quickly followed after her, as Issus made descent,
But found themselves inside a darkened dungeon of cement!

Then heard they Issus cackle; she'd locked them in a cell.
"You're going to die right there," she said, inside a living Hell.
But John's companion said to him, "This isn't our death knell.
"They had me work here as a slave; I know this setup well."

He found a secret trap door and they soon were on their way,
Down the darkened corridors unto the light of day;
They figured out a bluff to keep entanglements at bay,
And joined back up with Xodar now to plot their getaway.

They jumped the prison bulwarks while the guard was out in back,
And swam to Xodar’s flier which was a crackerjack;
John had pilot duties as they started their skyjack,
And then a sentry noticed and he called for an attack.

The sleeping pirates came to life and chased them up the flume,
John Carter pulled a daring move and made that flier zoom.
But clouds were low that night and so they shot into the gloom,
‘Til Carter took the craft so high they had some flying room.

And as they took a little break a stunning moment came:
Xodar gave a High-Five, calling out John Carter’s name.
That lit a spark within the youth; it fanned into a flame.
“John Carter? You must be my dad!” The young man did exclaim.

Anon John realized ‘twas his son, who hadn’t cleared the shell,
Before the time the Cosmos sent John Carter back to dwell
Upon the Earth for ten long years; now Carter said, “Please tell
“Me how’s my Dejah doing?” The youth said: "She is well.”

"She hasn’t changed a bit except her beauty has increased,
"But longing for her missing lover she has never ceased.
"Her anguish and her loneliness have never  been surceased;
"She greatly fears you might, in Martian terms, now be deceased."

Although the little flier was their succor up 'til now,
The ship had taken shrapnel and was damaged in its prow,
At last no more momentum would the crippled craft allow,
And as it drifted downward, they clung unto the bow.

Once on the ground they found some food that grew on the terrain,
Then slept, but lo a lass approached the spot where they had lain;
"My ancestors rewarded me! I have not lived in vain,"
Then all that happened up 'til then, dear Thuvia did explain:

 "After you so nobly sent us off, things went awry;
"I don't know how to man a craft and Tharks, 'tis said, don't fly.
"The flier drifted aimlessly; we thought we both might die,
"So we decided we would land and on our feet rely."

The duo found a city that appeared as though deserted,
But to their presence several fierce Warhoons were soon alerted;
Tars hid the girl, making sure the Warhoons were diverted,
And drew attention to himself; his sword arm he exerted.

They captured him but 'twas a chance the green man was alive,
So John set off to see if he could free him from that hive.
He searched the darkened pits, where many loathsome beasts did thrive,
He rescued Tars and soon they swiped some thoats, numbering five.

It wasn't long before the Warhoon horde was giving chase,
And Thuvia's mount was tiring, moving at a slower pace;
She thought to sacrifice herself so it might be the case,
That the others could ride faster to a more secure place.

But at his own great peril, John Carter turned to her,
And Carthoris, his son, by his own actions did concur,
And set her up on his own mount and gave the beast a spur,
Then four turned toward the Warhoons, their onslaught to incur

The red man from the city, the green man known as Thark,
The white from distant Jasoom, the man whose skin was dark
They thought that they'd die fighting, but in each was a spark,
That told them all before they fell they'd leave an awesome mark.

Then on their ears there fell a sound as of a mighty blast
And Warhoons knew quite quickly that their strength had been surpassed,
For Martian warships from the sky were closing on them fast,
And Helium's device was flying from the flagship's mast.

The warhoons fled and  Carthoris his friends in arms did greet,
And when they saw John Carter, their joy was made complete.
Hor Vastus, showing loyalty, lay weapons at John's feet,
And then came Kantos Kan, commanding admiral of the fleet.

Though Hor and Kan were glad to see John Carter once again,
An inner dread was gnawing as they wondered, with chagrin,
If he had sailed the Iss and then returned from where he'd been,
For if he had, in Martian law, it'd be a mortal sin.

Aboard the ship, the admiral gave John Carter troubling news,
When Carthoris had disappeared all Helium sought for clues,
And Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak pursued all avenues, 
But those two rulers disappeared while on a rescue cruise.

And now by sheer default there was a government morass,
For mighty Helium was now controlled by Zat Arrras.
He had an eye for Dejah Thoris; her he did harass,
Until the princess disappeared, for she had too much class.

In fact these very ships that saved them from the Warhoon horde,
Were searching for the Princess lest she fall to someone's sword.
Then as they talked there came a message from the overlord:
Zat Arrras said "Bring the 'pris'ners' you have brought aboard."

An officer took on the role of Martian diplomat,
And sought to make the jed aware of just one caveat:
That John was not a prisoner, but an aristocrat.
But sneering Zat Arrras replied, "I'll be the judge of that."
The haughty Zat Arrras inquired where John Carter'd been
"I've come from Valley Dor," he said, and told the truth therein.
Arrras called him a blasphemer, who'd done the greatest sin.
And said he surely rated a punishment condign.

Back again at Helium the trial did commence,
Though justice in Zat Arrras's mind was only a pretense;
But Kantos Kan made sure there was a case for the defense,
And yet, the biased jury ordered death for John's offense

But many loyal men were in the palace hall that day,
And they demanded justice, insisting on fair play.
So any punishment was ordered to be held at bay
Until at least a year had passed; so Carter walked away.

And with him walked Hor Vastus, Tars Tarkas, Kantos Kan, 
Carthoris and Xodar, each one a loyal man.
One hundred other Martians, made up this instant clan.
They went to John's old palace, to come up with a plan.

Then came a message that throughout the building did resound.
Someone said that Dejah Thoris had, at last, been found.
Sola, who had disappeared with Dejah, was inbound,
And on arrival Dejah's story Sola did expound:

Zat's continuing suit had placed the Princess in a plight,
So she stole from out the palace in the darkness of the night,
But faithful Sola followed with some troops to guard her flight,
And all went well 'til morning when there came a fearful sight.

From Southern Skies they spotted first just one, then two, then more
Martian flyers fitted with accoutrements of war,
Whose warriors seized the ladies after slaying all their Corps;
Then heading south, these Pirates back to Omean did soar.

Thuvia, as well, had been ensnared by these dragoons,
After John and Carthoris had saved her from Warhoons,
"He lives," she told the Princess, who barely staved off swoons
On learning that her man once more did roam 'neath Martian moons.

The Pirates realized Sola didn't really make their grade,
And tossed her off the airship with the callousness of Sade;
But they were just above some hills, and so this Tharkian maid
Landed easily on the sward and death did thus evade.

When Sola finished telling them this saga of great woe,
John Carter swore a solemn oath: "To Omean I go!
"To rescue Dejah Thoris from that monstrous Issus foe!"
His loyal men joined in his vow to deal this quid pro quo.

With all their skill and power and acumen of their wits,
They started to prepare a plan to launch a battle blitz,
But Zat Arrras had spies who gave him news that caused him fits,
And in the dead of night he had John cast into the pits.

For months John Carter lay within the darkness of that jail,
Never knowing if, above, his plan would soar, or fail,
At last he found a way to smuggle out some special "mail,"
And Carthoris responded with a foreceful kind of "bail."

Now free, John found his faithful men had followed through the plan,
A mighty fleet of warships now awaited his command.
With time a deadly factor they launched fliers with elan,
Steering south to Omean their aerial caravan.

At last the polar portal to the First-Born lair had neared,
But just as luck would have it, lo, a new foe had appeared.
The vengeful Therns had formed a fleet and toward John's convoy veered,
But his ships formed a fighting "V" and for the foemen steered.

John Carter's plan worked perfectly; the "V" cut through the foe,
Allowing transports filled with Tharks to safely forward go. 
The green men swarmed the temple of the Therns which lay below,
While Carter's airmen dealt the airborne Therns a heavy blow.

But just as it appeared the Therns had failed in their attack, 
There came on the horizon a lengthy line of black:
The fleet of Zat Arrras, that megalomaniac,
His gunships started firing; the air was filled with flak.

The Therns, with reinforcements, resumed the battle fray,
Then, from the south, there quickly came a new cause for dismay
For from the bowels of Omean there swarmed a vast array
Of Pirate battle cruisers seeking out convenient prey.

John Carter was a warrior, a fighter through and through,
And even, faced with hopeless odds, he to his cause stayed true;
A Thern craft now approached them, close combat to renew,
John Carter fought with gusto, heartening his crew.

Then Admiral Kantos Kan was fired up with inspiration
And ordered all his ships to show a certain con-"flag"-ration
The Prince of Helium's colors flew; this changed the situation,
Imbuing Barsoom patriots with new determination.

Yes, Carter's men were cheering as his banners flew with pride,
But Zat Arrras's ship was just then pulling alongside;
John led his men to board Zat's ship; the fight intensified,
And Zat confirmed his cowardice, committing suicide.

 The swordsmen in Zat's army either went down to defeat,
Or saw the writing on the wall and joined John Carter's fleet;
They left the Pirates and the Therns each other to defeat,
And slipped away to Omean to seek a victory sweet.

Down the polar opening, unto the sea below,
John Carter and his mighty ships quite handily did go.
The blacks had left a token guard in their presidio
And it was element’ry that small force to overthrow
 

He captured Captain Yersted, skipper of the submarine,
And from the man he easily learned that Issus the unclean,
Had Dejah Thoris as a slave to humble and demean;
John Carter's sword was itching to depose this evil queen.

They crossed the sea and into nether tunnels did stampede,
John maintained the rear guard, while Carthoris took the lead.
The enemy tried floods and flames their progress to impede,
And John was finally cut off and unable to proceed.

So he tried another tunnel (there was nothing else to do);
It ended in a portal which he opened and went through;
And there he saw a woman of the Issus retinue,
And realized he was seeing Dejah Thoris! Deja Vu!

From the banks that hug the Hudson to the Martian troposphere,
John Carter had at last encountered she whom he called dear;
She scarce believed her eyes that her lost love at last was here
As he sped across the room her heart again to comandeer.

A decade disappeared in that one moment of delight,
As Dejah and John Carter for a flash did reunite;
Yet, only for an instant could she clasp her shining knight,
For well she knew he must return unto the raging fight.

The sounds of clashing swords were coming down the palace halls,
And Martian blood was flowing for her cause beyond those walls.
They lingered just a moment 'til she said, "Go! Duty calls!
"I'll be brave and wait right here no matter what befalls."

John quickly charged through chambers to where forces were arrayed
His men had backed up Issus' guards as he the scene surveyed,
Then straight into the enemy did Carter quickly wade;
His actions fortified his men as Carter slashed his blade.

When chroniclers write ballads of the fight within that room,
They'll speak of grim ferocity that sparkled in the gloom,
Five hundred men were fighting for deliverance or doom,
It was the finest hour of the warriors of Barsoom.

Then into Issus' private grounds the mighty Tharks did ride,
Tars Tarkas' lance was leveled from the thoat he was astride;
The flashing steel and mighty roars rose from that greenish tide;
The Pirates they were fighting fled the battle, terrified.

And now 'twas time to go to Dejah, where she'd hid away, 
So John and Carth’ris rushed to her but noticed straightaway,
She was not there; her silks and bracelets spread in disarray; 
"Where's Issus," said John Carter, "now it's time for her to pay."

Deep into the temple where, surrounded by her own,
The ugly goddess sat upon her carved sorapus throne;
John Carter shoved her guards aside to reach the loathsome crone,
And suddenly the one whose word was law was all alone.

John Carter grabbed the wretched witch; his grip was like a vise;
He asked her Pirate guards if they would like to roll the dice.
"Put one foot on the platform and I'll give her heart a slice."
Then Issus' high priest thought to give his regent some advice:

"Oh Issus our Goddess, 'tis you we all esteem;
"Your supernatural power on Barsoom is supreme;
"These vile interlopers are daring to blaspheme!
"Now wave your hand and strike them dead and end their evil scheme!"

When Issus didn't act, her minions knew they'd been beguiled,
And Issus, knowing all was lost, quite suddenly went wild;
"Where's Dejah," shouted Carter to the one whom he reviled
She wiped the froth from off her lips and sinisterly smiled:
"Your Dejah I've imprisoned in the Temple of the Sun,
"Her cell just opens once a year; before then she'll be done.
" 'Cause locked with her are Thuvia and Phaidor; oh, what fun!
"I've fixed it so there won't be enough food for everyone!"

John Carter shook the goddess as a terrier shakes a rat,
And moved to strike her dead but then thought better of doing that;
He said he would not taint his hand with blood from that old bat,
And threw her to her subjects who could give her tit for tat.

Then Carter and his loyal men made haste to find the cell,
To see if they could somehow stop its round-trip course to Hell;
They found the three imprisoned in that monstrous carousel,
Which soon would move their cubicle within a rock-like shell.

With iron bars between them Dejah and John Carter knew
They each had only moments for a bittersweet adieu;
To stop the Temple of the Sun there was no avenue,
And there might never be, for them, another rendezvous.

Xodar brought more food he hoped would last them in their stay
And as the opening narrowed there was naught that could delay,
Then jealous Phaidor, with a dagger, struck like Earth's moray,
Her blade was aimed at Dejah, John Carter's love to slay.

The last John saw was Thuvia, who tried to stop the deed,
Moving her own body Phaidor's knife-thrust to impede,
But then the cell moved out of sight. Did Thuvia intercede?
He heard a scream -- then nothing! What had the fates decreed?

Had wicked Phaidor struck John Carter's Dejah with her blade?
Or came the scream from Thuvia, who sought to render aid?
Six-hundred eighty-seven days -- the price that must be paid
Until the gnawing myst’ry of events would be allayed

What happened next? Another annal clearly would explain
How Issus died and Xodar took command of her domain;
John Carter near the Temple of the Sun swore to remain
Until his Princess re-emerged and there could meet the twain.

And so, beset by bleak despair and nagging sense of doom,
John Carter vowed to spend a year 'longside that would-be tomb,
Until the door would open on that dreadful prison room,
And they'd at last walk hand in hand again upon Barsoom.



GODS OF MARS ART GALLERY
Featuring the Canaveral Illustrations by
Larry Ivie
(click for larger images)

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click for full-size collage
See our ERB Illustrated Bibliography
for the book's publishing history, more cover and interior art, etc.
plus read the original text.
GODS OF MARS

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