Posted by Barbara Barrett on 3rd February 2014
(Nightbird photography by Jerry Uelsonmann)
1. a hand-held implement that has short, fine spikes set in leather with a stiff backing; it is used to brush, clean and disentangle the short fibers of wool, cotton, flax, etc.
[origin: from Indo-European based an unverified form kars-, to scrape; association with Medieval Latin cardus, a card, thistle; from Classical Latin carduus, thistle.]
The moon above the Kerry hills had risen scarce a span
When we went forth from Knocknaroe to card a Saxon man.
We stretched him naked on the ditch—God save the soul of mine—
The howls of him as hard we dragged the cats along his spine.
A great, full-bodied man he was, that beat poor Tom O’Rourke,
The hardest English landlord now, from Donegal to Cork.
’Twas, “Damn your eyes! Pay rent or starve! Get out with all your brats!”
But, faith, the howling of him now was louder than the cats.
It’s maybe he remembered then, the swelling Saxon toad,
How he evicted Biddy Flynn to die beside the road.
I hope that he remembered, too, the while the tomcats clung,
My cousin Mike O’Flaherty his testimony hung.
He cursed the king in agony and damned the penal laws—
Oh, quite a different man he was beneath those ripping claws.
His squealing dwindled to a moan, his back was bloody beef;
We flung him in the thorny ditch like any common thief.
The mist was stealing from the sea, the night was strange and still.
We heard him weeping like a child as we went down the hill.
And then, above our oaths and jests, there sounded from the wood
A cry so wild and sweet and sad it chained us where we stood.
Some nightbird rended by an owl—I felt black sorrow rise;
I turned to speak to Dermod Shea, and tears were in his eyes.
[from “Black Michael’s Story” aka “Retribution”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 503, Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 29; and Always Comes Evening, p. 83]