A Warning to Thieves

All the best bardic is based on things that really happened. So it is with this piece, which I wrote for Casa Bardicci upon hearing some trouble they’d had with Domenico of the Tiger Sharks. While I wasn’t there at the actual events, I have it on good authority that things took place almost exactly as recounted here, with only minor bardic liberties taken. In addition to reading, you can also watch me perform this poem on YouTube.

A Warning to Thieves
by Katherine Ashewode, “The Pocket Bard”
Pennsic 36 (2007)

Within the land of Italy,
If ever you should go,
You’ll find a merchant family
Whom you shall surely know.

The master of the merchant-men,
Bardicci is his name,
Gives patronage to artisans
And so is widely famed.

Bardicci is a man of wealth
In silver and in gold;
His Casa is a jewel to see
And treasure to behold.

But if you think to rob from him,
His riches to disperse,
Then heed you to my warning-cry
Which here I set in verse.

Domenico was just as you,
He eyed Bardicci’s wealth,
And set about to steal his coins
By trickery and stealth.

And sure enough he took the chest,
And hid it sight unseen.
But now his life was tragedy
Where comedy had been.

Domenico, he served aboard
The good ship Tiger-Shark,
And rose up with the break of day
To hear the singing lark.

But when he rose upon this day
The crew had circled round.
They set upon Domenico
And shoved him to the ground.

“What demon thought had filled your mind
To do this foolish deed?
We never can trust your word
Nor yet your council heed.

From this day forth aboard the ship
A cabin-boy you’ll be.”
They turned their backs and left him prone,
Awash in misery.

But as his mates all served him ill
And put him to the whip,
The other pirate-captains came
And circled round the ship.

“The Tiger-Sharks have wrecked the names
Of good and honesty men,
For rumour spreads from land to sea
And back to land again.

If they should close the port to us,
Then you shall take the blame;
You never more shall sail from port
To spread your evil fame.”

The pirate-captains left the ship,
The Tiger-Sharks grew pale.
They snatched Bardicci’s treasure-chest
And raised it with a wail:

“We do not want it anymore!”
They rushed to give it back,
But it was far too late to change
The course of fortune’s track.

For now diseases struck the crew,
And every one was worse,
So strong and hard and fast struck they,
They thought they had been cursed.

For scurvy kept them up at night,
And pox had struck by day;
Though they were stricken through and through,
The worst was on its way.

The crew was plagued by children,
Need I say anymore?
They set upon the Tiger-Sharks
And came in by the score.

Until at last Domenico,
A withered, empty shell,
Succumbed and died aboard the ship,
His soul was bound for hell.

But though they mourned and prayed to God,
His crime had been so great,
That even Christ refused to bless
His body at the wake.

So listen all you ruffians
Who’ve heard by tragic song,
The moral should be clear to you,
For you have listened long.

If you should steal Bardicci’s gold,
No matter what I say,
A life of pain and suffering
Awaits you on that day.

Not a soul will mourn for you,
And not a soul shall grieve.
Do not be like Domenico.
Now kindly take your leave.


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