The Woes of Gulbárdier
(audio version)

Gulbárdier’s horse galloped down through the mist

As he rode out to bloodshed that mid-morning crisp.
Out ‘cross the moor and down through the dale,
The ground mist pre-spun that tragic death veil.

Calls from the woods as the canes were beat
To frighten the pheasants from their dawn retreat.
The sound of hooves hollowed sharp on the clay
As to the end of his life his mount sped him that day.

Some greater instinct, something savage and sharp
Had loaded his pistol and bled dry his heart
This man of outstanding upbringing and pride
Now went not to mass with a cane by his side.

The sun had just ris’n and frost pinched the air
The snowdrops in blossom: pure, without care.
Gulbárdier’s beast, a brawny black colt
Snorted out clouds through its mane slick with salt.

Passing: a groom on the road tipped his cap
But never was seen by the figure in black,
Dressed in his cloak with no hat on his head
Betraying the fact that he’d not been to bed

But sat up all night in the study of his house
Not blinking nor breathing but quiet as a mouse.
Watching intently the strike of the clock
Listening with fear for the turn of the lock.

Feeling those hours between midnight and dawn
The ones between which all our nightmares are born.
Softly they came, footfalls on the stairs,
Delicate, well trod like a young female hare.

The scent of her perfume curled into the room,
The fire extinguish’d; the hearth cast in gloom.
So quiet she was, like a death stalking stoat
Gliding the night like Manannán’s grey boat.

Gulbárdier sat as stiff as a corpse
Restraining his body, restraining his thoughts.
Her moon pallid hand placed a key in the latch,
Silk hanky stifled to silence the catch.

In seconds she had gone, away ‘cross the fields
With a haste only fresh love in woman can yield.
Gulbárdier’s mind had it all settled out
A rich lover in velvet from the city or South.

A young certain man with an eye for desire,
To ignite a tempestuous funeral pyre.
Slick backed black hair in a foppish horse tail
Stinking of potpourri, candy, sweet basil.

A new oil baron with plenty of wealth
Sent from the New World and sure of himself
Stealing away with good English wives
With promises of taking them on to new lives.

Incredible charm and a privileged figure
Bred on the best scented soap and fine liquor.
Needing to learn that good English laws
Weren’t meant to be grubb’d by his oily paws.

Unable to move, frozen by rage
The beast finally bending the bars of its cage,
Gulbárdier rose and cocking his gun
Saddled his horse in the five o’ clock sun.

He mounted his steed and decided to roam
And knock on the doors of each stately home
To seek out the place with a scarlet cowled bed
Where he pictured his wife to be parting her legs

Absorbed in the intimate embraces of love
Whilst a gross lusty falcon would ravage his dove,
Her frail trembling heart pressed close against his
Whilst he entered her softly with arrogant bliss.

Lightly she’d breathe and whisper his name
And he’d ride her in fury to the point where he came.
And his sallow white seed would burst in her gut
And she’d writhe in her ecstasy, eyes tightly shut

Begging for more as her sweet scented sweat

Salted the point where their lips softly met.

With such a thought his throat became dry
And all of his body was begging to cry
Yet restrained in his anger he silently knew
That the only release was to murder the two.


Two hours he had travelled, thirty miles and three homes,

Nine pot-hands, two grooms and the wind in his bones.
Drizzle strung strands of his hair lashed his eyes,
Soul mirrored storm clouds rode high in the sky.

One more house within reach where the culprit may lie
Out along Corrindon way by the rise.
He wheeled his horse about on two hooves
The sound of its galloping thunder clap shoes

Sent fear and foreboding into every man,

Be they noble or servant or merely house-hand.
But Gulbárdier’s flesh felt weary and old
And his vengeful heart was immune to the cold.

He rode and he rode and he pushed the steed on

And the house came in sight before very long,
Just as he swung back his whip to the flank
He glimpsed something moving behind the hedge bank.

The shimmering ghost of a lady’s silk veil

Blew in the wind like a gossamer sail
Caught by the thorny hands of a branch
Starkly contrasting the soft and the harsh.

One long moment, frozen and still,

One breath caught in the fish’s gill.
One eye narrowed in numb disbelief,
One heart breaking under its grief.

With an air of caution he edged the beast on

Heartbeat and hoofbeat merged into one
Strangely excited by what he might find,
Eyes glis’ning yet sightless as one who is blind.


The gate to the field lay crooked and broke

Twisted old hinges let out a shrill croak,
The plot narrowed down to a dip in a copse
Fruit yielding trees now as bare as the rocks.

Somewhere down there in the dip came a sound

A breath of desire, of love deep and profound.
A sound so tender it mimicked the sea
With its rhythm of lust: salty and free.

Gulbárdier rose to the top of the bank

And looked down surprised at this great city swank.
Nowhere the horsetail or slick soapy fop
Nowhere the sweet sage with money to drop.

There was the man with hands on his wife,

There was the man with the love of his life,
Not a great banker, a lawyer or judge
Only a stable hand dressed in his grubs.

Never a man so tenderly gazed

With love at a woman in all of his days
As the way this young groom looked into her eyes
A look of such trust, no man could disguise.

And the shame of it all burned Gulbárdier’s face

As he realised his negligence and his disgrace
Never once had he looked at her in that way
Not since they wed, right up to this day.

And that young pretender had given it free,

The feelings inside that he just couldn’t be
The words and the thoughts he couldn’t express
That youth had provided in one small caress.

It rendered his heart, it crippled his soul

The blood drained away, thoughts hardened like coal
There they were in the open, squished in a ditch
That delectable cur and his mummery bitch.

Rage built in his throat and rose to a tone

Gurgled up through his mouth and exploded a groan
Both lovers looked up, wide-eyed in surprise
Rabbits caught in the gun sight, shock in their eyes

They saw this great man, towering tall

Mounted atop of a steed like a bull
Both of them saw he was wounded and hurt
Ready to plunge them both under the dirt.

In the second before riding down from the hill

The moonlight and starlight fell perfectly still
He found himself met by the eyes of his wife
Fearful and scared, tearful of life.

Her eyes were the colour of cornflower blue

Her skin just as soft as the child he once knew
But her heart had grown up and he’d never once seen
The pain he had cause by destroying the dream.

The words he had whispered when first they had met

The things he had promised, the path he had set,
All that he wasn’t and never had been
Returned to his mind in a shattering scream.

As he lifted the barrel of the gun to his side,

Aimed not at the groom, only his bride,
He wanted to take just her with him now
To a land far away, to a new wedding vow.


The first hoofbeat fell on the side of the slope,

The groom grabbed her hand and they ran without hope
Stumbling blindly for cover of trees
Her trembling legs brought her down to her knees.

The groom swung around to pull her back up

Her silvery dress now blackened with muck.
Carrying her on in arms fervent and strong
The woman to whom his heart always belonged.

And now as they turned to make their last stand,
Backs to the man who could not understand,
Stumbling and choking with every breath
To a world where the night would unite them in death

A deafening sound stopped them right where they stood,

The sound of a gunshot that rang through the wood.
In terror and turmoil they gazed at each other
To see which on fell in the arms of the other.

A moment passed and neither collapsed

A few moments more and their muscles relaxed
They both turned to see what fate had achieved,
Not daring to hope for the gods’ own reprieve.


Gulbárdier rode with his mind all afire

Watching them flee like hares to the briar
Trying to outrun his four legg’d beast
So’s not to become the flesh of his feast.

He raised up his gun to fire on them both

For the father, the son and the holy ghost
Enacting revenge for his marriage betrayed
Reclaiming the woman with whom he once laid.

When all of a sudden that slippery slope

Caught at the leg of his horse, and it broke.
An agonised scream escaped from the colt
As it tumbled and spun in a summersault

As its head went down, the gun came up

’til Gulbárdier’s chin was struck by the butt.
In the blink of an eye his finger had squeezed
And blown out his brains on the chill winter’s breeze

Sending his thoughts out into the night

Where the frozen North Wind extinguished their light
And the stars and the sky reeled in a dance
That spoke of a horse-hand’s tender romance.


There she lay across his chest

Weeping with sorrow and woeful regret
The groom stood sullen, respectfully by
Fearful to touch her, watching her cry.

Gulbárdier lay at the foot of the hill,

Horse close at hand, neck broken and still.
Looking almost at peace, just one thing betrayed:
Eyes open and glassy, gazing into the grave.

Thick congealed blood encrusted the grass

It covered her face like a crimson death mask
For she’d burrowed her head deep into his chest
Preserving his soul from the Land in the West.

And always she’d known what had lain in his breast:

A mind full of passion but never at rest,
Mute by the fears of what he might say
As cold as the night to her brilliant day.

After a while, the groom cautiously came

And lifted her up, softly speaking her name.
She held to his hand, trembling yet strong,
She knew in her heart that she’d never done wrong.

And all through the land a great silence fell

Over every meadow and every dell
And everyone knew, whether sleeping or ‘wake
That the world holds no place for sorrow or hate.


© Marion Grace Woolley 2012