Ambrose Bierce.

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I woke in time to see my love
Conceal a letter in her glove.




PEACE.


When lion and lamb have together lain down
Spectators cry out, all in chorus;
"The lamb doesn't shrink nor the lion frown -
A miracle's working before us!"

But 't is patent why Hot-head his wrath holds in,
And Faint-heart her terror and loathing;
For the one's but an ass in a lion's skin,
The other a wolf in sheep's clothing.




THANKSGIVING.


_The Superintendent of an Almshouse. A Pauper._

SUPERINTENDENT:

So _you're_ unthankful - you'll not eat the bird?
You sit about the place all day and gird.
I understand you'll not attend the ball
That's to be given to-night in Pauper Hall.

PAUPER:

Why, that is true, precisely as you've heard:
I have no teeth and I will eat no bird.

SUPERINTENDENT:

Ah! see how good is Providence. Because
Of teeth He has denuded both your jaws
The fowl's made tender; you can overcome it
By suction; or at least - well, you can gum it,
Attesting thus the dictum of the preachers
That Providence is good to all His creatures -
Turkeys excepted. Come, ungrateful friend,
If our Thanksgiving dinner you'll attend
You shall say grace - ask God to bless at least
The soft and liquid portions of the feast.

PAUPER.

Without those teeth my speech is rather thick -
He'll hardly understand Gum Arabic.
No, I'll not dine to-day. As to the ball,
'Tis known to you that I've no legs at all.
I had the gout - hereditary; so,
As it could not be cornered in my toe
They cut my legs off in the fond belief
That shortening me would make my anguish brief.
Lacking my legs I could not prosecute
With any good advantage a pursuit;
And so, because my father chose to court
Heaven's favor with his ortolans and Port
(Thanksgiving every day!) the Lord supplied
Saws for my legs, an almshouse for my pride
And, once a year, a bird for my inside.
No, I'll not dance - my light fantastic toe
Took to its heels some twenty years ago.
Some small repairs would be required for putting
My feelings on a saltatory footing.

_(Sings)_

O the legless man's an unhappy chap -
_Tum-hi, tum-hi, tum-he o'haddy._
The favors o' fortune fall not in his lap -
_Tum-hi, tum-heedle-do hum._
The plums of office avoid his plate
No matter how much he may stump the State -
_Tum-hi, ho-heeee._
The grass grows never beneath his feet,
But he cannot hope to make both ends meet -
_Tum-hi._
With a gleeless eye and a somber heart,
He plays the role of his mortal part:
Wholly himself he can never be.
O, a soleless corporation is he!
_Tum_.

SUPERINTENDENT:

The chapel bell is calling, thankless friend,
Balls you may not, but church you _shall_, attend.
Some recognition cannot be denied
To the great mercy that has turned aside
The sword of death from us and let it fall
Upon the people's necks in Montreal;
That spared our city, steeple, roof and dome,
And drowned the Texans out of house and home;
Blessed all our continent with peace, to flood
The Balkan with a cataclysm of blood.
Compared with blessings of so high degree,
Your private woes look mighty small - to me.




L'AUDACE.


Daughter of God! Audacity divine -
Of clowns the terror and of brains the sign -
Not thou the inspirer of the rushing fool,
Not thine of idiots the vocal drool:
Thy bastard sister of the brow of brass,
Presumption, actuates the charging ass.
Sky-born Audacity! of thee who sings
Should strike with freer hand than mine the strings;
The notes should mount on pinions true and strong,
For thou, the subject shouldst sustain the song,
Till angels lean from Heaven, a breathless throng!
Alas! with reeling heads and wavering tails,
They (notes, not angels) drop and the hymn fails;
The minstrel's tender fingers and his thumbs
Are torn to rags upon the lyre he strums.
Have done! the lofty thesis makes demand
For stronger voices and a harder hand:
Night-howling apes to make the notes aspire,
And Poet Riley's fist to slug the rebel wire!




THE GOD'S VIEW-POINT.


Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The wisest and the best of men,
Betook him to the place where sat
With folded feet upon a mat
Of precious stones beneath a palm,
In sweet and everlasting calm,
That ancient and immortal gent,
The God of Rational Content.
As tranquil and unmoved as Fate,
The deity reposed in state,
With palm to palm and sole to sole,
And beaded breast and beetling jowl,
And belly spread upon his thighs,
And costly diamonds for eyes.
As Chunder Sen approached and knelt
To show the reverence he felt;
Then beat his head upon the sod
To prove his fealty to the god;
And then by gestures signified
The other sentiments inside;
The god's right eye (as Chunder Sen,
The wisest and the best of men,
Half-fancied) grew by just a thought
More narrow than it truly ought.
Yet still that prince of devotees,
Persistent upon bended knees
And elbows bored into the earth,
Declared the god's exceeding worth,
And begged his favor. Then at last,
Within that cavernous and vast
Thoracic space was heard a sound
Like that of water underground -
A gurgling note that found a vent
At mouth of that Immortal Gent
In such a chuckle as no ear
Had e'er been privileged to hear!

Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The wisest, greatest, best of men,
Heard with a natural surprise
That mighty midriff improvise.
And greater yet the marvel was
When from between those massive jaws
Fell words to make the views more plain
The god was pleased to entertain:
"Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,"
So ran the rede in speech of men -
"Foremost of mortals in assent
To creed of Rational Content,
Why come you here to impetrate
A blessing on your scurvy pate?
Can you not rationally be
Content without disturbing me?
Can you not take a hint - a wink -
Of what of all this rot I think?
Is laughter lost upon you quite,
To check you in your pious rite?
What! know you not we gods protest
That all religion is a jest?
You take me seriously? - you
About me make a great ado
(When I but wish to be alone)
With attitudes supine and prone,
With genuflexions and with prayers,
And putting on of solemn airs,
To draw my mind from the survey
Of Rational Content away!
Learn once for all, if learn you can,
This truth, significant to man:
A pious person is by odds
The one most hateful to the gods."
Then stretching forth his great right hand,
Which shadowed all that sunny land,
That deity bestowed a touch
Which Chunder Sen not overmuch
Enjoyed - a touch divine that made
The sufferer hear stars! They played
And sang as on Creation's morn
When spheric harmony was born.

Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The most astonished man of men,
Fell straight asleep, and when he woke
The deity nor moved nor spoke,
But sat beneath that ancient palm
In sweet and everlasting calm.




THE AESTHETES.


The lily cranks, the lily cranks,
The loppy, loony lasses!
They multiply in rising ranks
To execute their solemn pranks,
They moon along in masses.
Blow, sweet lily, in the shade! O,
Sunflower decorate the dado!

The maiden ass, the maiden ass,
The tall and tailless jenny!
In limp attire as green as grass,
She stands, a monumental brass,
The one of one too many.
Blow, sweet lily, in the shade! O,
Sunflower decorate the dado!




JULY FOURTH.


God said: "Let there be noise." The dawning fire
Of Independence gilded every spire.




WITH MINE OWN PETARD.


Time was the local poets sang their songs
Beneath their breath in terror of the thongs
I snapped about their shins. Though mild the stroke
Bards, like the conies, are "a feeble folk,"
Fearing all noises but the one they make
Themselves - at which all other mortals quake.
Now from their cracked and disobedient throats,
Like rats from sewers scampering, their notes
Pour forth to move, where'er the season serves,
If not our legs to dance, at least our nerves;
As once a ram's-horn solo maddened all
The sober-minded stones in Jerich's wall.
A year's exemption from the critic's curse
Mends the bard's courage but impairs his verse.
Thus poolside frogs, when croaking in the night,
Are frayed to silence by a meteor's flight,
Or by the sudden plashing of a stone
From some adjacent cottage garden thrown,
But straight renew the song with double din
Whene'er the light goes out or man goes in.
Shall I with arms unbraced (my casque unlatched,
My falchion pawned, my buckler, too, attached)
Resume the cuishes and the broad cuirass,
Accomplishing my body all in brass,
And arm in battle royal to oppose
A village poet singing through the nose,
Or strolling troubadour his lyre who strums
With clumsy hand whose fingers all are thumbs?
No, let them rhyme; I fought them once before
And stilled their songs - but, Satan! how they swore! -
Cuffed them upon the mouth whene'er their throats
They cleared for action with their sweetest notes;
Twisted their ears (they'd oft tormented mine)
And damned them roundly all along the line;
Clubbed the whole crew from the Parnassian slopes,
A wreck of broken heads and broken hopes!
What gained I so? I feathered every curse
Launched at the village bards with lilting verse.
The town approved and christened me (to show its
High admiration) Chief of Local Poets!




CONSTANCY.


Dull were the days and sober,
The mountains were brown and bare,
For the season was sad October
And a dirge was in the air.

The mated starlings flew over
To the isles of the southern sea.
She wept for her warrior lover -
Wept and exclaimed: "Ah, me!

"Long years have I mourned my darling
In his battle-bed at rest;
And it's O, to be a starling,
With a mate to share my nest!"

The angels pitied her sorrow,
Restoring her warrior's life;
And he came to her arms on the morrow
To claim her and take her to wife.

An aged lover - a portly,
Bald lover, a trifle too stiff,
With manners that would have been courtly,
And would have been graceful, if -

If the angels had only restored him
Without the additional years
That had passed since the enemy bored him
To death with their long, sharp spears.

As it was, he bored her, and she rambled
Away with her father's young groom,
And the old lover smiled as he ambled
Contentedly back to the tomb.




SIRES AND SONS.


Wild wanton Luxury lays waste the land
With difficulty tilled by Thrift's hard hand!
Then dies the State! - and, in its carcass found,
The millionaires, all maggot-like, abound.
Alas! was it for this that Warren died,
And Arnold sold himself to t' other side,
Stark piled at Bennington his British dead,
And Gates at Camden, Lee at Monmouth, fled? -
For this that Perry did the foeman fleece,
And Hull surrender to preserve the peace?
Degenerate countrymen, renounce, I pray,
The slothful ease, the luxury, the gay
And gallant trappings of this idle life,
And be more fit for one another's wife.




A CHALLENGE.


A bull imprisoned in a stall
Broke boldly the confining wall,
And found himself, when out of bounds,
Within a washerwoman's grounds.
Where, hanging on a line to dry,
A crimson skirt inflamed his eye.
With bellowings that woke the dead,
He bent his formidable head,
With pointed horns and gnarly forehead;
Then, planting firm his shoulders horrid,
Began, with rage made half insane,
To paw the arid earth amain,
Flinging the dust upon his flanks
In desolating clouds and banks,
The while his eyes' uneasy white
Betrayed his doubt what foe the bright
Red tent concealed, perchance, from sight.
The garment, which, all undismayed,
Had never paled a single shade,
Now found a tongue - a dangling sock,
Left carelessly inside the smock:
"I must insist, my gracious liege,
That you'll be pleased to raise the siege:
My colors I will never strike.
I know your sex - you're all alike.
Some small experience I've had -
You're not the first I've driven mad."




TWO SHOWS.


The showman (blessing in a thousand shapes!)
Parades a "School of Educated Apes!"
Small education's needed, I opine,
Or native wit, to make a monkey shine;
The brute exhibited has naught to do
But ape the larger apes who come to view -
The hoodlum with his horrible grimace,
Long upper lip and furtive, shuffling pace,
Significant reminders of the time
When hunters, not policemen, made him climb;
The lady loafer with her draggling "trail,"
That free translation of an ancient tail;
The sand-lot quadrumane in hairy suit,
Whose heels are thumbs perverted by the boot;
The painted actress throwing down the gage
To elder artists of the sylvan stage,
Proving that in the time of Noah's flood
Two ape-skins held her whole profession's blood;
The critic waiting, like a hungry pup,
To write the school - perhaps to eat it - up,
As chance or luck occasion may reveal
To earn a dollar or maraud a meal.
To view the school of apes these creatures go,
Unconscious that themselves are half the show.
These, if the simian his course but trim
To copy them as they have copied him,
Will call him "educated." Of a verity
There's much to learn by study of posterity.




A POET'S HOPE.


'Twas a weary-looking mortal, and he wandered near the portal
Of the melancholy City of the Discontented Dead.
He was pale and worn exceeding and his manner was unheeding,
As if it could not matter what he did nor what he said.

"Sacred stranger" - I addressed him with a reverence befitting
The austere, unintermitting, dread solemnity he wore;
'Tis the custom, too, prevailing in that vicinage when hailing
One who possibly may be a person lately "gone before" -

"Sacred stranger, much I ponder on your evident dejection,
But my carefulest reflection leaves the riddle still unread.
How do you yourself explain your dismal tendency to wander
By the melancholy City of the Discontented Dead?"

Then that solemn person, pausing in the march that he was making,
Roused himself as if awaking, fixed his dull and stony eye
On my countenance and, slowly, like a priest devout and holy,
Chanted in a mournful monotone the following reply:

"O my brother, do not fear it; I'm no disembodied spirit -
I am Lampton, the Slang Poet, with a price upon my head.
I am watching by this portal for some late lamented mortal
To arise in his disquietude and leave his earthy bed.

"Then I hope to take possession and pull in the earth above me
And, renouncing my profession, ne'er be heard of any more.
For there's not a soul to love me and no living thing respects me,
Which so painfully affects me that I fain would 'go before.'"

Then I felt a deep compassion for the gentleman's dejection,
For privation of affection would refrigerate a frog.
So I said: "If nothing human, and if neither man nor woman
Can appreciate the fashion of your merit - buy a dog."




THE WOMAN AND THE DEVIL.


When Man and Woman had been made,
All but the disposition,
The Devil to the workshop strayed,
And somehow gained admission.

The Master rested from his work,
For this was on a Sunday,
The man was snoring like a Turk,
Content to wait till Monday.

"Too bad!" the Woman cried; "Oh, why,
Does slumber not benumb me?
A disposition! Oh, I die
To know if 'twill become me!"

The Adversary said: "No doubt
'Twill be extremely fine, ma'am,
Though sure 'tis long to be without -
I beg to lend you mine, ma'am."

The Devil's disposition when
She'd got, of course she wore it,
For she'd no disposition then,
Nor now has, to restore it.




TWO ROGUES.


Dim, grim, and silent as a ghost,
The sentry occupied his post,
To all the stirrings of the night
Alert of ear and sharp of sight.
A sudden something - sight or sound,
About, above, or underground,
He knew not what, nor where - ensued,
Thrilling the sleeping solitude.
The soldier cried: "Halt! Who goes there?"
The answer came: "Death - in the air."
"Advance, Death - give the countersign,
Or perish if you cross that line!"
To change his tone Death thought it wise -
Reminded him they 'd been allies
Against the Russ, the Frank, the Turk,
In many a bloody bit of work.
"In short," said he, "in every weather
We've soldiered, you and I, together."
The sentry would not let him pass.
"Go back," he growled, "you tiresome ass -
Go back and rest till the next war,
Nor kill by methods all abhor:
Miasma, famine, filth and vice,
With plagues of locusts, plagues of lice,
Foul food, foul water, and foul gases,
Rank exhalations from morasses.
If you employ such low allies
This business you will vulgarize.
Renouncing then the field of fame
To wallow in a waste of shame,
I'll prostitute my strength and lurk
About the country doing work -
These hands to labor I'll devote,
Nor cut, by Heaven, another throat!"




BEECHER.


So, Beecher's dead. His was a great soul, too -
Great as a giant organ is, whose reeds
Hold in them all the souls of all the creeds
That man has ever taught and never knew.

When on this mighty instrument He laid
His hand Who fashioned it, our common moan
Was suppliant in its thundering. The tone
Grew more vivacious when the Devil played.

No more those luring harmonies we hear,
And lo! already men forget the sound.
They turn, retracing all the dubious ground
O'er which it led them, pigwise, by the ear.




NOT GUILTY.


"I saw your charms in another's arms,"
Said a Grecian swain with his blood a-boil;
"And he kissed you fair as he held you there,
A willing bird in a serpent's coil!"

The maid looked up from the cinctured cup
Wherein she was crushing the berries red,
Pain and surprise in her honest eyes -
"It was only one o' those gods," she said.




PRESENTIMENT.


With saintly grace and reverent tread,
She walked among the graves with me;
Her every foot-fall seemed to be
A benediction on the dead.

The guardian spirit of the place
She seemed, and I some ghost forlorn
Surprised in the untimely morn
She made with her resplendent face.

Moved by some waywardness of will,
Three paces from the path apart
She stepped and stood - my prescient heart
Was stricken with a passing chill.

The folk-lore of the years agone
Remembering, I smiled and thought:
"Who shudders suddenly at naught,
His grave is being trod upon."

But now I know that it was more
Than idle fancy. O, my sweet,
I did not think such little feet
Could make a buried heart so sore!




A STUDY IN GRAY.


I step from the door with a shiver
(This fog is uncommonly cold)
And ask myself: What did I give her? -
The maiden a trifle gone-old,
With the head of gray hair that was gold.

Ah, well, I suppose 'twas a dollar,
And doubtless the change is correct,
Though it's odd that it seems so much smaller
Than what I'd a right to expect.
But you pay when you dine, I reflect.

So I walk up the street - 'twas a saunter
A score of years back, when I strolled
From this door; and our talk was all banter
Those days when her hair was of gold,
And the sea-fog less searching and cold.

I button my coat (for I'm shaken,
And fevered a trifle, and flushed
With the wine that I ought to have taken,)
Time was, at this coat I'd have blushed,
Though truly, 'tis cleverly brushed.

A score? Why, that isn't so very
Much time to have lost from a life.
There's reason enough to be merry:
I've not fallen down in the strife,
But marched with the drum and the fife.

If Hope, when she lured me and beckoned,
Had pushed at my shoulders instead,
And Fame, on whose favors I reckoned,
Had laureled the worthiest head,
I could garland the years that are dead.

Believe me, I've held my own, mostly
Through all of this wild masquerade;
But somehow the fog is more ghostly
To-night, and the skies are more grayed,
Like the locks of the restaurant maid.

If ever I'd fainted and faltered
I'd fancy this did but appear;
But the climate, I'm certain, has altered -
Grown colder and more austere
Than it was in that earlier year.

The lights, too, are strangely unsteady,
That lead from the street to the quay.
I think they'll go out - and I'm ready
To follow. Out there in the sea
The fog-bell is calling to me.




A PARADOX.


"If life were not worth having," said the preacher,
"'T would have in suicide one pleasant feature."
"An error," said the pessimist, "you're making:
What's not worth having cannot be worth taking."




FOR MERIT.


To Parmentier Parisians raise
A statue fine and large:
He cooked potatoes fifty ways,
Nor ever led a charge.

"_Palmam qui meruit"_ - the rest
You knew as well as I;
And best of all to him that best
Of sayings will apply.

Let meaner men the poet's bays
Or warrior's medal wear;
Who cooks potatoes fifty ways
Shall bear the palm - de terre.




A BIT OF SCIENCE.


What! photograph in colors? 'Tis a dream
And he who dreams it is not overwise,
If colors are vibration they but seem,
And have no being. But if Tyndall lies,
Why, come, then - photograph my lady's eyes.
Nay, friend, you can't; the splendor of their blue,
As on my own beclouded orbs they rest,
To naught but vibratory motion's due,
As heart, head, limbs and all I am attest.
How could her eyes, at rest themselves, be making
In me so uncontrollable a shaking?



THE TABLES TURNED.


Over the man the street car ran,
And the driver did never grin.
"O killer of men, pray tell me when
Your laughter means to begin.

"Ten years to a day I've observed you slay,
And I never have missed before
Your jubilant peals as your crunching wheels
Were spattered with human gore.

"Why is it, my boy, that you smother your joy,
And why do you make no sign
Of the merry mind that is dancing behind
A solemner face than mine?"

The driver replied: "I would laugh till I cried
If I had bisected you;
But I'd like to explain, if I can for the pain,
'T is myself that I've cut in two."




TO A DEJECTED POET.


Thy gift, if that it be of God,
Thou hast no warrant to appraise,
Nor say: "Here part, O Muse, our ways,
The road too stony to be trod."

Not thine to call the labor hard
And the reward inadequate.
Who haggles o'er his hire with Fate
Is better bargainer than bard.

What! count the effort labor lost
When thy good angel holds the reed?
It were a sorry thing indeed
To stay him till thy palm be crossed.

"The laborer is worthy" - nay,
The sacred ministry of song
Is rapture! - 't were a grievous wrong
To fix a wages-rate for play.




A FOOL.


Says Anderson, Theosophist:
"Among the many that exist
In modern halls,
Some lived in ancient Egypt's clime
And in their childhood saw the prime
Of Karnak's walls."

Ah, Anderson, if that is true
'T is my conviction, sir, that you
Are one of those
That once resided by the Nile,
Peer to the sacred Crocodile,
Heir to his woes.

My judgment is, the holy Cat
Mews through your larynx (and your hat)
These many years.
Through you the godlike Onion brings
Its melancholy sense of things,
And moves to tears.

In you the Bull divine again
Bellows and paws the dusty plain,
To nature true.
I challenge not his ancient hate
But, lowering my knurly pate,
Lock horns with you.

And though Reincarnation prove
A creed too stubborn to remove,
And all your school
Of Theosophs I cannot scare -
All the more earnestly I swear
That you're a fool.

You'll say that this is mere abuse


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