Black Beetles in Amber
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Leah Moser and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: AMBROSE BIERCE.]
BLACK BEETLES IN AMBER
THE ORDER IN WHICH THE BEETLES ARE SHOWN
THE KEY NOTE
A COMMUTED SENTENCE
A LIFTED FINGER
MATTER FOR GRATITUDE
THREE KINDS OF A ROGUE
YE FOE TO CATHAYE
AN ART CRITIC
THE SPIRIT OF A SPONGE
TO E.S. SALOMON
THE TRANSMIGRATIONS OF A SOUL
A SONG IN PRAISE
A POET'S FATHER
TO MY LIARS
BY FALSE PRETENSES
LUCIFER OF THE TORCH
THE "WHIRLIGIG OF TIME"
A RAILROAD LACKEY
"DIED OF A ROSE"
A LITERARY HANGMAN
AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR
THE RETROSPECTIVE BIRD
THE OAKLAND DOG
THE UNFALLEN BRAVE
A CELEBRATED CASE
A VISION OF RESURRECTION
MASTER OF THREE ARTS
A SOCIETY LEADER
TO "COLONEL" DAN BURNS
GEORGE A. KNIGHT
A POLITICAL VIOLET
THE SUBDUED EDITOR
"BLACK BART, Po8"
A "SCION OF NOBILITY"
THE NIGHT OF ELECTION
THE CONVICTS' BALL
TO ONE DETESTED
THE BOSS'S CHOICE
A MERCIFUL GOVERNOR
A SOARING TOAD
AN UNDRESS UNIFORM
THE PERVERTED VILLAGE
MY LORD POET
TO THE FOOL KILLER
ONE AND ONE ARE TWO
THE WOFUL TALE OF MR. PETERS
A POLITICAL APOSTATE
BATS IN SUNSHINE
A WORD TO THE UNWISE
ON THE PLATFORM
A DAMPENED ARDOR
ADAIR WELCKER, POET
TO A WORD-WARRIOR
A CULINARY CANDIDATE
THE OLEOMARGARINE MAN
THE SUNSET GUN
THE "VIDUATE DAME"
FOUR OF A KIND
A VISION OF CLIMATE
A "MASS" MEETING
FOR PRESIDENT, LELAND STANFORD
A CHEATING PREACHER
THE AMERICAN PARTY
THE GATES AJAR
TIDINGS OF GOOD
A SILURIAN HOLIDAY
ON THE WEDDING OF AN AERONAUT
A HASTY INFERENCE
THE NATIONAL GUARDSMAN
THE BARKING WEASEL
A REAR ELEVATION
IN UPPER SAN FRANCISCO
THE FYGHTYNGE SEVENTH
OVER THE BORDER
TO AN INSOLENT ATTORNEY
A PROMISED FAST TRAIN
ONE OFF THE SAINTS
A MILITARY INCIDENT
SUBSTANCE VERSUS SHADOW
THE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC MORALS
DE YOUNG--A PROPHECY
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF THEFT
DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN
THE LAST MAN
ONE OF THE REDEEMED
A QUESTION OF ELIGIBILITY
CALIFORNIAN SUMMER PICTURES
JAMES L. FLOOD
FOUR CANDIDATES FOR SENATOR
THE VAN NESSIAD
A FISH COMMISSIONER
TO A STRAY DOG
IN HIS HAND
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
THE DEAD KING
A PATTER SONG
THE SHAFTER SHAFTED
THE TWO CAVEES
THE BIRTH OF THE RAIL
A BAD NIGHT
A WREATH OF IMMORTELLES
Many of the verses in this book are republished, with considerable
alterations, from various newspapers. The collection includes few not
relating to persons and events more or less familiar to the people of
the Pacific Coast--to whom the volume may be considered as especially
addressed, though, not without a hope that some part of the contents
may be found to have sufficient intrinsic interest to commend it to
others. In that case, doubtless, commentators will be "raised up" to
make exposition of its full meaning, with possibly an added meaning
read into it by themselves.
Of my motives in writing, and in now republishing, I do not care to
make either defense or explanation, except with reference to those
persons who since my first censure of them have passed away. To one
having only a reader's interest in the matter it may easily seem that
the verses relating to those might more properly have been omitted
from this collection. But if these pieces, or, indeed, if any
considerable part of my work in literature, have the intrinsic worth
which by this attempt to preserve some of it I have assumed, their
permanent suppression is impossible, and it is only a question of when
and by whom they shall be republished. Some one will surely search
them out and put them in circulation.
I conceive it the right of an author to have his fugitive work
collected in his lifetime; and this seems to me especially true of one
whose work, necessarily engendering animosities, is peculiarly exposed
to challenge as unjust. That is a charge that can be best examined
before time has effaced the evidence. For the death of a man of whom
I may have written what I venture to think worthy to live I am no way
responsible; and, however sincerely I may regret it, I can hardly be
expected to consent that it shall affect my fortunes. If the satirist
who does not accept the remarkable doctrine that while condemning the
sin he should spare the sinner were bound to let the life of his work
be coterminous with that of his subject his were a lot of peculiar
Persuaded of the validity of all this, I have not hesitated to reprint
even certain "epitaphs" which, once of the living, are now of the
dead, as all the others must eventually be. The objection inheres
in all forms of applied satire--my understanding of whose laws and
liberties is at least derived from reverent study of the masters.
That in respect of matters herein mentioned I have but followed their
practice can be shown by abundant instance and example.
THE KEY NOTE
I dreamed I was dreaming one morn as I lay
In a garden with flowers teeming.
On an island I lay in a mystical bay,
In the dream that I dreamed I was dreaming.
The ghost of a scent--had it followed me there
From the place where I truly was resting?
It filled like an anthem the aisles of the air,
The presence of roses attesting.
Yet I thought in the dream that I dreamed I dreamed
That the place was all barren of roses--
That it only seemed; and the place, I deemed,
Was the Isle of Bewildered Noses.
Full many a seaman had testified
How all who sailed near were enchanted,
And landed to search (and in searching died)
For the roses the Sirens had planted.
For the Sirens were dead, and the billows boomed
In the stead of their singing forever;
But the roses bloomed on the graves of the doomed,
Though man had discovered them never.
I thought in my dream 'twas an idle tale,
A delusion that mariners cherished--
That the fragrance loading the conscious gale
Was the ghost of a rose long perished.
I said, "I will fly from this island of woes."
And acting on that decision,
By that odor of rose I was led by the nose,
For 'twas truly, ah! truly, Elysian.
I ran, in my madness, to seek out the source
Of the redolent river--directed
By some supernatural, sinister force
To a forest, dark, haunted, infected.
And still as I threaded ('twas all in the dream
That I dreamed I was dreaming) each turning
There were many a scream and a sudden gleam
Of eyes all uncannily burning!
The leaves were all wet with a horrible dew
That mirrored the red moon's crescent,
And all shapes were fringed with a ghostly blue,
Dim, wavering, phosphorescent.
But the fragrance divine, coming strong and free,
Led me on, though my blood was clotting,
Till--ah, joy!--I could see, on the limbs of a tree,
Mine enemies hanging and rotting!
Lord, shed thy light upon his desert path,
And gild his branded brow, that no man spill
His forfeit life to balk thy holy will
That spares him for the ripening of wrath.
Already, lo! the red sign is descried,
To trembling jurors visibly revealed:
The prison doors obediently yield,
The baffled hangman flings the cord aside.
Powell, the brother's blood that marks your trail--
Hark, how it cries against you from the ground,
Like the far baying of the tireless hound.
Faith! to your ear it is no nightingale.
What signifies the date upon a stone?
To-morrow you shall die if not to-day.
What matter when the Avenger choose to slay
Or soon or late the Devil gets his own.
Thenceforth through all eternity you'll hold
No one advantage of the later death.
Though you had granted Ralph another breath
Would _he_ to-day less silent lie and cold?
Earth cares not, curst assassin, when you die;
You never will be readier than now.
Wear, in God's name, that mark upon your brow,
And keep the life you purchased with a lie!
Death-poet Pickering sat at his desk,
Wrapped in appropriate gloom;
His posture was pensive and picturesque,
Like a raven charming a tomb.
Enter a party a-drinking the cup
Of sorrow--and likewise of woe:
"Some harrowing poetry, Mister, whack up,
All wrote in the key of O.
"For the angels has called my old woman hence
From the strife (where she fit mighty free).
It's a nickel a line? Cond--n the expense!
For wealth is now little to me."
The Bard of Mortality looked him through
In the piercingest sort of a way:
"It is much to me though it's little to you--
I've _taken_ a wife to-day."
So he twisted the tail of his mental cow
And made her give down her flow.
The grief of that bard was long-winded, somehow--
There was reams and reamses of woe.
The widower man which had buried his wife
Grew lily-like round each gill,
For she turned in her grave and came back to life--
Then he cruel ignored the bill!
Then Sorrow she opened her gates a-wide,
As likewise did also Woe,
And the death-poet's song, as is heard inside,
Is sang in the key of O.
A COMMUTED SENTENCE
Boruck and Waterman upon their grills
In Hades lay, with many a sigh and groan,
Hotly disputing, for each swore his own
Were clearly keener than the other's ills.
And, truly, each had much to boast of--bone
And sinew, muscle, tallow, nerve and skin,
Blood in the vein and marrow in the shin,
Teeth, eyes and other organs (for the soul
Has all of these and even a wagging chin)
Blazing and coruscating like a coal!
For Lower Sacramento, you remember,
Has trying weather, even in mid-December.
Now this occurred in the far future. All
Mankind had been a million ages dead,
And each to her reward above had sped,
Each to his punishment below,--I call
That quite a just arrangement. As I said,
Boruck and Waterman in warmest pain
Crackled and sizzed with all their might and main.
For, when on earth, they'd freed a scurvy host
Of crooks from the State prison, who again
Had robbed and ravaged the Pacific Coast
And (such the felon's predatory nature)
Even got themselves into the Legislature.
So Waterman and Boruck lay and roared
In Hades. It is true all other males
Felt the like flames and uttered equal wails,
But did not suffer _them_; whereas _they_ bored
Each one the other. But indeed my tale's
Not getting on at all. They lay and browned
Till Boruck (who long since his teeth had ground
Away and spoke Gum Arabic and made
Stump speeches even in praying) looked around
And said to Bob's incinerated shade:
"Your Excellency, this is mighty hard on
The inventors of the unpardonable pardon."
The other soul--his right hand all aflame,
For 'twas with that he'd chiefly sinned, although
His tongue, too, like a wick was working woe
To the reserve of tallow in his frame--
Said, with a sputtering, uncertain flow,
And with a gesture like a shaken torch:
"Yes, but I'm sure we'll not much longer scorch.
Although this climate is not good for Hope,
Whose joyous wing 'twould singe, I think the porch
Of Hell we'll quit with a pacific slope.
Last century I signified repentance
And asked for commutation of our sentence."
Even as he spoke, the form of Satan loomed
In sight, all crimson with reflections's fire,
Like some tall tower or cathedral spire
Touched by the dawn while all the earth is gloomed
In mists and shadows of the night time. "Sire,"
Said Waterman, his agitable wick
Still sputtering, "what calls you back so quick?
It scarcely was a century ago
You left us." "I have come to bring," said Nick,
"St. Peter's answer (he is never slow
In correspondence) to your application
For pardon--pardon me!--for commutation.
"He says that he's instructed to reply
(And he has so instructed me) that sin
Like yours--and this poor gentleman's who's in
For bad advice to you--comes rather high;
But since, apparently, you both begin
To feel some pious promptings to the right,
And fain would turn your faces to the light,
Eternity seems all too long a term.
So 'tis commuted to one-half. I'm quite
Prepared, when that expires, to free the worm
And quench the fire." And, civilly retreating,
He left them holding their protracted meeting.
A LIFTED FINGER
[The _Chronicle_ did a great public service in whipping
---- and his fellow-rascals out of office.--_M.H. de Young's
What! _you_ whip rascals?--_you_, whose gutter blood
Bears, in its dark, dishonorable flood,
Enough of prison-birds' prolific germs
To serve a whole eternity of terms?
_You_, for whose back the rods and cudgels strove
Ere yet the ax had hewn them from the grove?
_You_, the De Young whose splendor bright and brave
Is phosphorescence from another's grave--
Till now unknown, by any chance or luck,
Even to the hearts at which you, feebly struck?
_You_ whip a rascal out of office?--_you_
Whose leadless weapon once ignobly blew
Its smoke in six directions to assert
Your lack of appetite for others' dirt?
Practice makes perfect: when for fame you thirst,
Then whip a rascal. Whip a cripple first.
Or, if for action you're less free than bold--
Your palms both brimming with dishonest gold--
Entrust the castigation that you've planned,
As once before, to woman's idle hand.
So in your spirit shall two pleasures join
To slake the sacred thirst for blood and coin.
Blood? Souls have blood, even as the body hath,
And, spilled, 'twill fertilize the field of wrath.
Lo! in a purple gorge of yonder hills,
Where o'er a grave a bird its day-song stills,
A woman's blood, through roses ever red,
Mutely appeals for vengeance on your head.
Slandered to death to serve a sordid end,
She called you murderer and called me friend.
Now, mark you, libeler, this course if you
Dare to maintain, or rather to renew;
If one short year's immunity has made
You blink again the perils of your trade--
The ghastly sequence of the maddened "knave,"
The hot encounter and the colder grave;
If the grim, dismal lesson you ignore
While yet the stains are fresh upon your floor,
And calmly march upon the fatal brink
With eyes averted to your trail of ink,
Counting unkind the services of those
Who pull, to hold you back, your stupid nose,
The day for you to die is not so far,
Or, at the least, to live the thing you are!
Pregnant with possibilities of crime,
And full of felons for all coming time,
Your blood's too precious to be lightly spilt
In testimony to a venial guilt.
Live to get whelpage and preserve a name
No praise can sweeten and no lie unshame.
Live to fulfill the vision that I see
Down the dim vistas of the time to be:
A dream of clattering beaks and burning eyes
Of hungry ravens glooming all the skies;
A dream of gleaming teeth and foetid breath
Of jackals wrangling at the feast of death;
A dream of broken necks and swollen tongues--
The whole world's gibbets loaded with De Youngs!
In that fair city by the inland sea,
Where Blaine unhived his Presidential bee,
Frank Pixley's meeting with George Gorham sing,
Celestial muse, and what events did spring
From the encounter of those mighty sons
Of thunder, and of slaughter, and of guns.
Great Gorham first, his yearning tooth to sate
And give him stomach for the day's debate,
Entering a restaurant, with eager mien,
Demands an ounce of bacon and a bean.
The trembling waiter, by the statesman's eye
Smitten with terror, hastens to comply;
Nor chairs nor tables can his speed retard,
For famine's fixed and horrible regard
He takes for menace. As he shaking flew,
Lo! the portentous Pixley heaved in view!
Before him yawned invisible the cell,
Unheard, behind, the warden's footsteps fell.
Thrice in convention rising to his feet,
He thrice had been thrust back into his seat;
Thrice had protested, been reminded thrice
The nation had no need of his advice.
Balked of his will to set the people right,
His soul was gloomy though his hat was white,
So fierce his mien, with provident accord
The waiters swarmed him, thinking him a lord.
He spurned them, roaring grandly to their chief:
"Give me (Fred. Crocker pays) a leg of beef!"
His wandering eye's deluminating flame
Fell upon Gorham and the crisis came!
For Pixley scowled and darkness filled the room
Till Gorham's flashing orbs dispelled the gloom.
The patrons of the place, by fear dismayed,
Sprang to the street and left their scores unpaid.
So, when Jove thunders and his lightnings gleam
To sour the milk and curdle, too, the cream,
And storm-clouds gather on the shadowed hill,
The ass forsakes his hay, the pig his swill.
Hotly the heroes now engaged--their breath
Came short and hard, as in the throes of death.
They clenched their hands, their weapons brandished high,
Cut, stabbed, and hewed, nor uttered any cry,
But gnashed their teeth and struggled on! In brief,
One ate his bacon, t'other one his beef.
MATTER FOR GRATITUDE
[Especially should we be thankful for having escaped the
ravages of the yellow scourge by which our neighbors have
been so sorely afflicted.--_Governor Stoneman's Thanksgiving
Be pleased, O Lord, to take a people's thanks
That Thine avenging sword has spared our ranks--
That Thou hast parted from our lips the cup
And forced our neighbors' lips to drink it up.
Father of Mercies, with a heart contrite
We thank Thee that Thou goest south to smite,
And sparest San Francisco's loins, to crack
Thy lash on Hermosillo's bleeding back--
That o'er our homes Thine awful angel spread
His wings in vain, and Guaymas weeps instead.
We praise Thee, God, that Yellow Fever here
His horrid banner has not dared to rear,
Consumption's jurisdiction to contest,
Her dagger deep in every second breast!
Catarrh and Asthma and Congestive Chill
Attest Thy bounty and perform Thy will.
These native messengers obey Thy call--
They summon singly, but they summon all.
Not, as in Mexico's impested clime,
Can Yellow Jack commit recurring crime.
We thank Thee that Thou killest all the time.
Thy tender mercies, Father, never end:
Upon all heads Thy blessings still descend,
Though their forms vary. Here the sown seeds yield
Abundant grain that whitens all the field--
There the smit corn stands barren on the plain,
Thrift reaps the straw and Famine gleans in vain.
Here the fat priest to the contented king
Points out the contrast and the people sing--
There mothers eat their offspring. Well, at least
Thou hast provided offspring for the feast.
An earthquake here rolls harmless through the land,
And Thou art good because the chimneys stand--
There templed cities sink into the sea,
And damp survivors, howling as they flee,
Skip to the hills and hold a celebration
In honor of Thy wise discrimination.
O God, forgive them all, from Stoneman down,
Thy smile who construe and expound Thy frown,
And fall with saintly grace upon their knees
To render thanks when Thou dost only sneeze.
THREE KINDS OF A ROGUE
Sharon, ambitious of immortal shame,
Fame's dead-wall daubed with his illustrious name--
Served in the Senate, for our sins, his time,
Each word a folly and each vote a crime;
Law for our governance well skilled to make
By knowledge gained in study how to break;
Yet still by the presiding eye ignored,
Which only sought him when too loud he snored.
Auspicious thunder!--when he woke to vote
He stilled his own to cut his country's throat;
That rite performed, fell off again to sleep,
While statesmen ages dead awoke to weep!
For sedentary service all unfit,
By lying long disqualified to sit,
Wasting below as he decayed aloft,
His seat grown harder as his brain grew soft,
He left the hall he could not bring away,
And grateful millions blessed the happy day!
Whate'er contention in that hall is heard,
His sovereign State has still the final word:
For disputatious statesmen when they roar
Startle the ancient echoes of his snore,
Which from their dusty nooks expostulate
And close with stormy clamor the debate.
To low melodious thunders then they fade;
Their murmuring lullabies all ears invade;
Peace takes the Chair; the portal Silence keeps;
No motion stirs the dark Lethean deeps--
Washoe has spoken and the Senate sleeps.
Lo! the new Sharon with a new intent,
Making no laws, but keen to circumvent
The laws of Nature (since he can't repeal)
That break his failing body on the wheel.
As Tantalus again and yet again
The elusive wave endeavors to restrain
To slake his awful thirst, so Sharon tries
To purchase happiness that age denies;
Obtains the shadow, but the substance goes,
And hugs the thorn, but cannot keep the rose;
For Dead Sea fruits bids prodigally, eats,
And then, with tardy reformation--cheats.
Alert his faculties as three score years
And four score vices will permit, he nears--
Dicing with Death--the finish of the game,
And curses still his candle's wasting flame,
The narrow circle of whose feeble glow
Dims and diminishes at every throw.
Moments his losses, pleasures are his gains,
Which even in his grasp revert to pains.
The joy of grasping them alone remains.
Ring up the curtain and the play protract!
Behold our Sharon in his last mad act.
With man long warring, quarreling with God,
He crouches now beneath a woman's rod
Predestined for his back while yet it lay
Closed in an acorn which, one luckless day,
He stole, unconscious of its foetal twig,
From the scant garner of a sightless pig.
With bleeding shoulders pitilessly scored,
He bawls more lustily than once he snored.
The sympathetic Comstocks droop to hear,
And Carson river sheds a viscous tear,
Which sturdy tumble-bugs assail amain,
With ready thrift, and urge along the plain.
The jackass rabbit sorrows as he lopes;
The sage-brush glooms along the mountain slopes;
In rising clouds the poignant alkali,
Tearless itself, makes everybody cry.
Washoe canaries on the Geiger Grade
Subdue the singing of their cavalcade,
And, wiping with their ears the tears unshed,
Grieve for their family's unlucky head.
Virginia City intermits her trade
And well-clad strangers walk her streets unflayed.
Nay, all Nevada ceases work to weep
And the recording angel goes to sleep.
But in his dreams his goose-quill's creaking fount
Augments the debits in the long account.
And still the continents and oceans ring
With royal torments of the Silver King!
Incessant bellowings fill all the earth,
Mingled with inextinguishable mirth.
He roars, men laugh, Nevadans weep, beasts howl,
Plash the affrighted fish, and shriek the fowl!
With monstrous din their blended thunders rise,
Peal upon peal, and brawl along the skies,
Startle in hell the Sharons as they groan,
And shake the splendors of the great white throne!
Still roaring outward through the vast profound,
The spreading circles of receding sound
Pursue each other in a failing race
To the cold confines of eternal space;
There break and die along that awful shore
Which God's own eyes have never dared explore--
Dark, fearful, formless, nameless evermore!
Look to the west! Against yon steely sky
Lone Mountain rears its holy cross on high.
About its base the meek-faced dead are laid
To share the benediction of its shade.
With crossed white hands, shut eyes and formal feet,
Their nights are innocent, their days discreet.
Sharon, some years, perchance, remain of life--
Of vice and greed, vulgarity and strife;
And then--God speed the day if such His will--
You'll lie among the dead you helped to kill,
And be in good society at last,
Your purse unsilvered and your face unbrassed.
Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Casting to South his eye across the bourne
Of his dominion (where the Palmiped,
With leathers 'twixt his toes, paddles his marsh,
Amphibious) saw a rising cloud of hats,
And heard a faint, far sound of distant cheers
Below the swell of the horizon. "Lo,"
Cried one, "the President! the President!"
All footed webwise then took up the word--
The hill tribes and the tribes lacustrine and
The folk riparian and littoral,
Cried with one voice: "The President! He comes!"
And some there were who flung their headgear up
In emulation of the Southern mob;
While some, more soberly disposed, stood still
And silently had fits; and others made
Such reverent genuflexions as they could,
Having that climate in their bones. Then spake
The Court Dunce, humbly, as became him: "Sire,
If thou, as heretofore thou hast, wilt deign
To reap advantage of a fool's advice
By action ordered after nature's way,
As in thy people manifest (for still
Stupidity's the only wisdom) thou
Wilt get thee straight unto to the border land
To mark the President's approach with such
Due, decent courtesy as it shall seem
We have in custom the best warrant for."
Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Eyeing the storm of hats which darkened all
The Southern sky, and hearing far hurrahs
Of an exulting people, answered not.
Then some there were who fell upon their knees,
And some upon their Governor, and sought
Each in his way, by blandishment or force,
To gain his action to their end. "Behold,"
They said, "thy brother Governor to South
Met him even at the gateway of his realm,
Crook-kneed, magnetic-handed and agrin,
Backed like a rainbow--all things done in form
Of due observance and respect. Shall we
Alone of all his servitors refuse
Swift welcome to our master and our lord?"
Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Answered them not, but turned his back to them
And as if speaking to himself, the while
He started to retire, said: "He be damned!"
To that High Place o'er Portland's central block,
Where the Recording Angel stands to view
The sinning world, nor thinks to move his feet
Aside and look below, came flocking up
Inferior angels, all aghast, and cried:
"Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Has said, O what an awful word!--too bad
To be by us repeated!" "Yes, I know,"
Said the superior bird--"I heard it too,
And have already booked it. Pray observe."
Splitting the giant tome, whose covers fell
Apart, o'ershadowing to right and left
The Eastern and the Western world, he showed
The newly written entry, black and big,
Upon the credit side of thine account,
Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon.
Y'E FOE TO CATHAYE
O never an oathe sweares he,
And never a pig-taile jerkes;
With a brick-batte he ne lurkes
For to buste y'e crust, perdie,
Of y'e man from over sea,
A-synging as he werkes.
For he knows ful well, y's youth,
A tricke of exceeding worth:
And he plans withouten ruth
A conflagration's birth!
Like a worn mother he attempts in vain
To still the unruly Crier of his brain:
The more he rocks the cradle of his chin
The more uproarious grows the brat within.
"O son of mine age, these eyes lose their fire:
Be eyes, I pray, to thy dying sire."
"O father, fear not, for mine eyes are bright--
I read through a millstone at dead of night."
"My son, O tell me, who are those men,
Rushing like pigs to the feeding-pen?"
"Welcomers they of a statesman grand.
They'll shake, and then they will pocket; his hand."
"Sagacious youth, with the wondrous eye,
They seem to throw up their headgear. Why?"
"Because they've thrown up their hands until, O,
They're so tired!--and dinners they've none to throw."
"My son, my son, though dull are mine ears,
I hear a great sound like the people's cheers."
"He's thanking them, father, with tears in his eyes,
For giving him lately that fine surprise."
"My memory fails as I near mine end;
How _did_ they astonish their grateful friend?"
"By letting him buy, like apples or oats,
With that which has made him so good, the votes
Which make him so wise and grand and great.
Now, father, please die, for 'tis growing late."
I'd long been dead, but I returned to earth.
Some small affairs posterity was making
A mess of, and I came to see that worth
Received its dues. I'd hardly finished waking,
The grave-mould still upon me, when my eye
Perceived a statue standing straight and high.
'Twas a colossal figure--bronze and gold--
Nobly designed, in attitude commanding.
A toga from its shoulders, fold on fold,
Fell to the pedestal on which 'twas standing.
Nobility it had and splendid grace,
And all it should have had--except a face!
It showed no features: not a trace nor sign
Of any eyes or nose could be detected--
On the smooth oval of its front no line
Where sites for mouths are commonly selected.
All blank and blind its faulty head it reared.
Let this be said: 'twas generously eared.
Seeing these things, I straight began to guess
For whom this mighty image was intended.
"The head," I cried, "is Upton's, and the dress
Is Parson Bartlett's own." True, _his_ cloak ended
Flush with his lowest vertebra, but no
Sane sculptor ever made a toga so.
Then on the pedestal these words I read:
"_Erected Eighteen Hundred Ninety-seven_"
(Saint Christofer! how fast the time had sped!
Of course it naturally does in Heaven)
"_To_ ----" (here a blank space for the name began)
"_The Nineteenth Century's Great Foremost Man_!"
"_Completed_" the inscription ended, "_in
The Year Three Thousand_"--which was just arriving.
By Jove! thought I, 'twould make the founders grin
To learn whose fame so long has been surviving--
To read the name posterity will place
In that blank void, and view the finished face.
Even as I gazed, the year Three Thousand came,
And then by acclamation all the people
Decreed whose was our century's best fame;
Then scaffolded the statue like a steeple,
To make the likeness; and the name was sunk
Deep in the pedestal's metallic trunk.
Whose was it? Gentle reader, pray excuse
The seeming rudeness, but I can't consent to
Be so forehanded with important news.
'Twas neither yours nor mine--let that content you.
If not, the name I must surrender, which,
Upon a dead man's word, was George K. Fitch!
AN ART CRITIC
Ira P. Rankin, you've a nasal name--
I'll sound it through "the speaking-trump of fame,"
And wondering nations, hearing from afar
The brazen twang of its resounding jar,
Shall say: "These bards are an uncommon class--
They blow their noses with a tube of brass!"
Rankin! ye gods! if Influenza pick
Our names at christening, and such names stick,
Let's all be born when summer suns withstand
Her prevalence and chase her from the land,
And healing breezes generously help
To shield from death each ailing human whelp!
"What's in a name?" There's much at least in yours
That the pained ear unwillingly endures,
And much to make the suffering soul, I fear,
Envy the lesser anguish of the ear.
So you object to Cytherea! Do,
The picture was not painted, sir, for you!
_Your_ mind to gratify and taste address,
The masking dove had been a dove the less.
Provincial censor! all untaught in art,
With mind indecent and indecent heart,
Do you not know--nay, why should I explain?
Instruction, argument alike were vain--
I'll show you reasons when you show me brain.
THE SPIRIT OF A SPONGE
I dreamed one night that Stephen Massett died,
And for admission up at Heaven applied.
"Who are you?" asked St. Peter. Massett said:
"Jeems Pipes, of Pipesville." Peter bowed his head,
Opened the gates and said: "I'm glad to know you,
And wish we'd something better, sir, to show you."
"Don't mention it," said Stephen, looking bland,
And was about to enter, hat in hand,
When from a cloud below such fumes arose
As tickled tenderly his conscious nose.
He paused, replaced his hat upon his head,
Turned back and to the saintly warden said,
O'er his already sprouting wings: "I swear
I smell some broiling going on down there!"
So Massett's paunch, attracted by the smell,
Followed his nose and found a place in Hell.
"Let John P. Irish rise!" the edict rang
As when Creation into being sprang!
Nature, not clearly understanding, tried
To make a bird that on the air could ride.
But naught could baffle the creative plan--
Despite her efforts 'twas almost a man.
Yet he had risen--to the bird a twin--
Had she but fixed a wing upon his chin.
TO E.S. SALOMON
Who in a Memorial Day oration protested bitterly against
decorating the graves of Confederate dead.
What! Salomon! such words from you,
Who call yourself a soldier? Well,
The Southern brother where he fell
Slept all your base oration through.
Alike to him--he cannot know
Your praise or blame: as little harm
Your tongue can do him as your arm
A quarter-century ago.
The brave respect the brave. The brave
Respect the dead; but _you_--you draw
That ancient blade, the ass's jaw,
And shake it o'er a hero's grave.
Are you not he who makes to-day
A merchandise of old renown
Which he persuades this easy town
He won in battle far away?
Nay, those the fallen who revile
Have ne'er before the living stood
And stoutly made their battle good
And greeted danger with a smile.
What if the dead whom still you hate
Were wrong? Are you so surely right?
We know the issue of the fight--
The sword is but an advocate.
Men live and die, and other men
Arise with knowledges diverse:
What seemed a blessing seems a curse,
And Now is still at odds with Then.
The years go on, the old comes back
To mock the new--beneath the sun.
Is _nothing_ new; ideas run
Recurrent in an endless track.
What most we censure, men as wise
Have reverently practiced; nor
Will future wisdom fail to war
On principles we dearly prize.
We do not know--we can but deem,
And he is loyalest and best
Who takes the light full on his breast
And follows it throughout the dream.
The broken light, the shadows wide--
Behold the battle-field displayed!
God save the vanquished from the blade,
The victor from the victor's pride!
If, Salomon, the blessed dew
That falls upon the Blue and Gray
Is powerless to wash away
The sin of differing from you.
Remember how the flood of years
Has rolled across the erring slain;
Remember, too, the cleansing rain
Of widows' and of orphans' tears.
The dead are dead--let that atone:
And though with equal hand we strew
The blooms on saint and sinner too,
Yet God will know to choose his own.
The wretch, whate'er his life and lot,
Who does not love the harmless dead
With all his heart and all his head--
May God forgive him--_I_ shall not.
When, Salomon, you come to quaff
The Darker Cup with meeker face,
I, loving you at last, shall trace
Upon your tomb this epitaph:
"Draw near, ye generous and brave--
Kneel round this monument and weep:
It covers one who tried to keep
A flower from a dead man's grave."
Your influence, my friend, has gathered head--
To east and west its tides encroaching spread.
There'll be, on all God's foot-stool, when they meet,
No clean spot left for God to set His feet.
Strolling at sunset in my native land,
With fruits and flowers thick on either hand,
I crossed a Shadow flung athwart my way,
Emerging on a waste of rock and sand.
"The apples all are gone from here," I said,
"The roses perished and their spirits fled.
I will go back." A voice cried out: "The man
Is risen who eternally was dead!"
I turned and saw an angel standing there,
Newly descended from the heights of air.
Sweet-eyed compassion filled his face, his hands
A naked sword and golden trumpet bare.
"Nay, 'twas not death, the shadow that I crossed,"
I said. "Its chill was but a touch of frost.
It made me gasp, but quickly I came through,
With breath recovered ere it scarce was lost."
'Twas the same land! Remembered mountains thrust
Grayed heads asky, and every dragging gust,
In ashen valleys where my sons had reaped,
Stirred in familiar river-beds the dust.
Some heights, where once the traveler was shown
The youngest and the proudest city known,
Lifted smooth ridges in the steely light--
Bleak, desolate acclivities of stone.
Where I had worshiped at my father's tomb,
Within a massive temple's awful gloom,
A jackal slunk along the naked rock,
Affrighted by some prescience of doom.
Man's vestiges were nowhere to be found,
Save one brass mausoleum on a mound
(I knew it well) spared by the artist Time
To emphasize the desolation round.
Into the stagnant sea the sullen sun
Sank behind bars of crimson, one by one.
"Eternity's at hand!" I cried aloud.
"Eternity," the angel said, "is done.
For man is ages dead in every zone;
The angels all are dead but I alone;
The devils, too, are cold enough at last,
And God lies dead before the great white throne!
'Tis foreordained that I bestride the shore
When all are gone (as Gabriel did before,
When I had throttled the last man alive)
And swear Eternity shall be no more."
"O Azrael--O Prince of Death, declare
Why conquered I the grave?" I cried. "What rare,
Conspicuous virtues won this boon for me?"
"You've been revived," he said, "to hear me swear."
"Then let me creep again beneath the grass,
And knock thou at yon pompous tomb of brass.
If ears are what you want, Charles Crocker's there--
Betwixt the greatest ears, the greatest ass."
He rapped, and while the hollow echoes rang,
Out at the door a curst hyena sprang
And fled! Said Azrael: "His soul's escaped,"
And closed the brazen portal with a bang.
John Jackson, once a soldier bold,
Hath still a martial feeling;
So, when he sees a foe, behold!
He charges him--with stealing.
He cares not how much ground to-day
He gives for men to doubt him;
He's used to giving ground, they say,
Who lately fought with--out him.
When, for the battle to be won,
His gallantry was needed,
They say each time a loaded gun
Went off--so, likewise, he did.
And when discharged (for war's a sport
So hot he had to leave it)
He made a very loud report,
But no one did believe it.
Goldenson hanged! Well, Heaven forbid
That I should smile above him:
Though truth to tell, I never did
Exactly love him.
It can't be wrong, though, to rejoice
That his unpleasing capers
Are ended. Silent is his voice
In all the papers.
No longer he's a show: no more,
Bear-like, his den he's walking.
No longer can he hold the floor
When I'd be talking.
The laws that govern jails are bad
If such displays are lawful.
The fate of the assassin's sad,
But ours is awful!
What! shall a wretch condemned to die
In shame upon the gibbet
Be set before the public eye
As an "exhibit"?--
His looks, his actions noted down,
His words if light or solemn,
And all this hawked about the town--
So much a column?
The press, of course, will publish news
However it may get it;
But blast the sheriff who'll abuse
His powers to let it!
Nay, this is not ingratitude;
I'm no reporter, truly,
Nor yet an editor. I'm rude
Because I burn with shame and rage
Beyond my power of telling
To see assassins in a cage
And keepers yelling.
"Walk up! Walk up!" the showman cries:
"Observe the lion's poses,
His stormy mane, his glooming eyes.
His--hold your noses!"
How long, O Lord, shall Law and Right
Be mocked for gain or glory,
And angels weep as they recite
The shameful story?
THE TRANSMIGRATIONS OF A SOUL
What! Pixley, must I hear you call the roll
Of all the vices that infest your soul?
Was't not enough that lately you did bawl
Your money-worship in the ears of all?[A]
Still must you crack your brazen cheek to tell
That though a miser you're a sot as well?
Still must I hear how low your taste has sunk--
From getting money down to getting drunk?[B]
Who worships money, damning all beside,
And shows his callous knees with pious pride,
Speaks with half-knowledge, for no man e'er scorns
His own possessions, be they coins or corns.
You've money, neighbor; had you gentle birth
You'd know, as now you never can, its worth.
You've money; learning is beyond your scope,
Deaf to your envy, stubborn to your hope.
But if upon your undeserving head
Science and letters had their glory shed;
If in the cavern of your skull the light
Of knowledge shone where now eternal night
Breeds the blind, poddy, vapor-fatted naughts
Of cerebration that you think are thoughts--
Black bats in cold and dismal corners hung
That squeak and gibber when you move your tongue--
You would not write, in Avarice's defense,
A senseless eulogy on lack of sense,
Nor show your eagerness to sacrifice
All noble virtues to one loathsome vice.
You've money; if you'd manners too you'd shame
To boast your weakness or your baseness name.
Appraise the things you have, but measure not
The things denied to your unhappy lot.
He values manners lighter than a cork
Who combs his beard at table with a fork.
Hare to seek sin and tortoise to forsake,
The laws of taste condemn you to the stake
To expiate, where all the world may see,
The crime of growing old disgracefully.
Religion, learning, birth and manners, too,
All that distinguishes a man from you,
Pray damn at will: all shining virtues gain
An added luster from a rogue's disdain.
But spare the young that proselyting sin,
A toper's apotheosis of gin.
If not our young, at least our pigs may claim
Exemption from the spectacle of shame!
Are you not he who lately out of shape
Blew a brass trumpet to denounce the grape?--
Who led the brave teetotalers afield
And slew your leader underneath your shield?--
Swore that no man should drink unless he flung
Himself across your body at the bung?
Who vowed if you'd the power you would fine
The Son of God for making water wine?
All trails to odium you tread and boast,
Yourself enamored of the dirtiest most.
One day to be a miser you aspire,
The next to wallow drunken in the mire;
The third, lo! you're a meritorious liar![C]
Pray, in the catalogue of all your graces,
Have theft and cowardice no honored places?
Yield thee, great Satan--here's a rival name
With all thy vices and but half thy shame!
Quick to the letter of the precept, quick
To the example of the elder Nick;
With as great talent as was e'er applied
To fool a teacher and to fog a guide;
With slack allegiance and boundless greed,
To paunch the profit of a traitor deed,
He aims to make thy glory all his own,
And crowd his master from the infernal throne!
[Footnote A: We are not writing this paragraph for any other purpose
than to protest against this never ending cant, affectation, and
hypocrisy about money. It is one of the best things in this
world--better than religion, or good birth, or learning, or good
[Footnote B: Now, it just occurs to us that some of our temperance
friends will take issue with us, and say that this is bad doctrine,
and that it is ungentlemanly to get drunk under any circumstances
or under any possible conditions. We do not think so.--_The
[Footnote C: The man or woman who, for the sake of benefiting others,
protecting them in their lives, property, or reputation, sparing
their feelings, contributing to their enjoyment, or increasing
their pleasures, will tell a lie, deserves to be rewarded.--_The
Some one ('tis hardly new) has oddly said
The color of a trumpet's blare is red;
And Joseph Emmett thinks the crimson shame
On woman's cheek a trumpet-note of fame.
The more the red storm rises round her nose--
The more her eyes averted seek her toes,
He fancies all the louder he can hear
The tube resounding in his spacious ear,
And, all his varied talents to exert,
Darkens his dullness to display his dirt.
And when the gallery's indecent crowd,
And gentlemen below, with hisses loud,
In hot contention (these his art to crown,
And those his naked nastiness to drown)
Make such a din that cheeks erewhile aflame
Grow white and in their fear forget their shame,
With impudence imperial, sublime,
Unmoved, the patient actor bides his time,
Till storm and counter-storm are both allayed,
Like donkeys, each by t'other one outbrayed.
When all the place is silent as a mouse
One slow, suggestive gesture clears the house!
To him in whom the love of Nature has
Imperfectly supplanted the desire
And dread necessity of food, your shore,
Fair Oakland, is a terror. Over all
Your sunny level, from Tamaletown
To where the Pestuary's fragrant slime,
With dead dogs studded, bears its ailing fleet,
Broods the still menace of starvation. Bones
Of men and women bleach along the ways
And pampered vultures sleep upon the trees.
It is a land of death, and Famine there
Holds sovereignty; though some there be her sway
Who challenge, and intrenched in larders live,
Drawing their sustentation from abroad.
But woe to him, the stranger! He shall die
As die the early righteous in the bud
And promise of their prime. He, venturesome
To penetrate the wilds rectangular
Of grass-grown ways luxuriant of blooms,
Frequented of the bee and of the blithe,
Bold squirrel, strays with heedless feet afar
From human habitation and is lost
In mid-Broadway. There hunger seizes him,
And (careless man! deeming God's providence
Extends so far) he has not wherewithal
To bate its urgency. Then, lo! appears
A mealery--a restaurant--a place
Where poison battles famine, and the two,
Like fish-hawks warring in the upper sky
For that which one has taken from the deep,
Manage between them to dispatch the prey.
He enters and leaves hope behind. There ends
His history. Anon his bones, clean-picked
By buzzards (with the bones himself had picked,
Incautious) line the highway. O, my friends,
Of all felonious and deadlywise
Devices of the Enemy of Souls,
Planted along the ways of life to snare
Man's mortal and immortal part alike,
The Oakland restaurant is chief. It lives
That man may die. It flourishes that life
May wither. Its foundation stones repose
On human hearts and hopes. I've seen in it
Crabs stewed in milk and salad offered up
With dressing so unholily compound
That it included flour and sugar! Yea,
I've eaten dog there!--dog, as I'm a man,
Dog seethed in sewage of the town! No more--
Thy hand, Dyspepsia, assumes the pen
And scrawls a tortured "Finis" on the page.
Mackay's hot wrath to Bonynge, direful spring
Of blows unnumbered, heavenly goddess, sing--
That wrath which hurled to Hellman's office floor
Two heroes, mutually smeared with gore,
Whose hair in handfuls marked the dire debate,
And riven coat-tails testified their hate.
Sing, muse, what first their indignation fired,
What words augmented it, by whom inspired.
First, the great Bonynge comes upon the scene
And asks the favor of the British Queen.
Suppliant he stands and urges all his claim:
His wealth, his portly person and his name,
His habitation in the setting sun,
As child of nature; and his suit he won.
No more the Sovereign, wearied with his plea,
From slumber's chain her faculties can free.
Low and more low the royal eyelids creep,
She gives the assenting nod and falls asleep.
Straightway the Bonynges all invade the Court
And telegraph the news to every port.
Beneath the seas, red-hot, the tidings fly,
The cables crinkle and the fishes fry!
The world, awaking like a startled bat,
Exclaims: "A Bonynge? What the devil's that?"
Mackay, meanwhile, to envy all attent,
Untaught to spare, unable to relent,
Walks in our town on needles and on pins,
And in a mean, revengeful spirit--grins!
Sing, muse, what next to break the peace occurred--
What act uncivil, what unfriendly word?
The god of Bosh ascending from his pool,
Where since creation he has played the fool,
Clove the blue slush, as other gods the sky,
And, waiting but a moment's space to dry,
Touched Bonynge with his finger-tip. "O son,"
He said, "alike of nature and a gun,
Knowest not Mackay's insufferable sin?
Hast thou not heard that he doth stand and grin?
Arise! assert thy manhood, and attest
The uncommercial spirit in thy breast.
Avenge thine honor, for by Jove I swear
Thou shalt not else be my peculiar care!"
He spake, and ere his worshiper could kneel
Had dived into his slush pool, head and heel.
Full of the god and to revenges nerved,
And conscious of a will that never swerved,
Bonynge set sail: the world beyond the wave
As gladly took him as the other gave.
New York received him, but a shudder ran
Through all the western coast, which knew the man;
And science said that the seismic action
Was owing to an asteroid's impaction.
O goddess, sing what Bonynge next essayed.
Did he unscabbard the avenging blade,
The long spear brandish and porrect the shield,
Havoc the town and devastate the field?
His sacred thirst for blood did he allay
By halving the unfortunate Mackay?
Small were the profit and the joy to him
To hew a base-born person, limb from limb.
Let vulgar souls to low revenge incline,
That of diviner spirits is divine.
Bonynge at noonday stood in public places
And (with regard to the Mackays) made faces!
Before those formidable frowns and scowls
The dogs fled, tail-tucked, with affrighted howls,
And horses, terrified, with flying feet
O'erthrew the apple-stands along the street,
Involving the metropolis in vast
Financial ruin! Man himself, aghast,
Retreated east and west and north and south
Before the menace of that twisted mouth,
Till Jove, in answer to their prayers, sent Night
To veil the dreadful visage from their sight!
Such were the causes of the horrid strife--
The mother-wrongs which nourished it to life.
O, for a quill from an archangel's wing!
O, for a voice that's adequate to sing
The splendor and the terror of the fray,
The scattered hair, the coat-tails all astray,
The parted collars and the gouts of gore
Reeking and smoking on the banker's floor,
The interlocking limbs, embraces dire,
Revolving bodies and deranged attire!
Vain, vain the trial: 'tis vouchsafed to none
To sing two millionaires rolled into one!
My hand and pen their offices refuse,
And hoarse and hoarser grows the weary muse.
Alone remains, to tell of the event,
Abandoned, lost and variously rent,
The Bonynge nethermost habiliment.
A SONG IN PRAISE
Hail, blessed Blunder! golden idol, hail!--
Clay-footed deity of all who fail.
Celestial image, let thy glory shine,
Thy feet concealing, but a lamp to mine.
Let me, at seasons opportune and fit,
By turns adore thee and by turns commit.
In thy high service let me ever be
(Yet never serve thee as my critics me)
Happy and fallible, content to feel
I blunder chiefly when to thee I kneel.
But best felicity is his thy praise
Who utters unaware in works and ways--
Who _laborare est orare_ proves,
And feels thy suasion wheresoe'er he moves,
Serving thy purpose, not thine altar, still,
And working, for he thinks it his, thy will.
If such a life with blessings be not fraught,
I envy Peter Robertson for naught.
A POET'S FATHER
Welcker, I'm told, can boast a father great
And honored in the service of the State.
Public Instruction all his mind employs--
He guides its methods and its wage enjoys.
Prime Pedagogue, imperious and grand,
He waves his ferule o'er a studious land
Where humming youth, intent upon the page,
Thirsting for knowledge with a noble rage,
Drink dry the whole Pierian spring and ask
To slake their fervor at his private flask.
Arrested by the terror of his frown,
The vaulting spit-ball drops untimely down;
The fly impaled on the tormenting pin
Stills in his awful glance its dizzy din;
Beneath that stern regard the chewing-gum
Which writhed and squeaked between the teeth is dumb;
Obedient to his will the dunce-cap flies
To perch upon the brows of the unwise;
The supple switch forsakes the parent wood
To settle where 'twill do the greatest good,
Puissant still, as when of old it strove
With Solomon for spitting on the stove
Learned Professor, variously great,
Guide, guardian, instructor of the State--
Quick to discern and zealous to correct
The faults which mar the public intellect
From where of Siskiyou the northern bound
Is frozen eternal to the sunless ground
To where in San Diego's torrid clime
The swarthy Greaser swelters in his grime--
Beneath your stupid nose can you not see
The dunce whom once you dandled on your knee?
O mighty master of a thousand schools,
Stop teaching wisdom, or stop breeding fools.
When Pickering, distressed by an "attack,"
Has the strange insolence to answer back
He hides behind a name that is a lie,
And out of shadow falters his reply.
God knows him, though--identified alike
By hardihood to rise and fear to strike,
And fitly to rebuke his sins decrees,
That, hide from others with what care he please,
Night sha'n't be black enough nor earth so wide
That from himself himself can ever hide!
Hard fate indeed to feel at every breath
His burden of identity till death!--
No moment's respite from the immortal load,
To think himself a serpent or a toad,
Or dream, with a divine, ecstatic glow,
He's long been dead and canonized a crow!
TO MY LIARS
Attend, mine enemies of all degrees,
From sandlot orators and sandlot fleas
To fallen gentlemen and rising louts
Who babble slander at your drinking bouts,
And, filled with unfamiliar wine, begin
Lies drowned, ere born, in more congenial gin.
But most attend, ye persons of the press
Who live (though why, yourselves alone can guess)
In hope deferred, ambitious still to shine
By hating me at half a cent a line--
Like drones among the bees of brighter wing,
Sunless to shine and impotent to sting.
To estimate in easy verse I'll try
The controversial value of a lie.
So lend your ears--God knows you have enough!--
I mean to teach, and if I can't I'll cuff.
A lie is wicked, so the priests declare;
But that to us is neither here nor there.
'Tis worse than wicked, it is vulgar too;
_N'importe_--with that we've nothing here to do.
If 'twere artistic I would lie till death,
And shape a falsehood with my latest breath.
Parrhasius never more did pity lack,
The while his model writhed upon the rack,
Than I for my collaborator's pain,
Who, stabbed with fibs again and yet again,
Would vainly seek to move my stubborn heart
If slander were, and wit were not, an art.
The ill-bred and illiterate can lie
As fast as you, and faster far than I.
Shall I compete, then, in a strife accurst
Where Allen Forman is an easy first,
And where the second prize is rightly flung
To Charley Shortridge or to Mike de Young?
In mental combat but a single end
Inspires the formidable to contend.
Not by the raw recruit's ambition fired,
By whom foul blows, though harmless, are admired;
Not by the coward's zeal, who, on his knee
Behind the bole of his protecting tree,
So curves his musket that the bark it fits,
And, firing, blows the weapon into bits;
But with the noble aim of one whose heart
Values his foeman for he loves his art
The veteran debater moves afield,
Untaught to libel as untaught to yield.
Dear foeman mine, I've but this end in view--
That to prevent which most you wish to do.
What, then, are you most eager to be at?
To hate me? Nay, I'll help you, sir, at that.
This only passion does your soul inspire:
You wish to scorn me. Well, you shall admire.
'Tis not enough my neighbors that you school
In the belief that I'm a rogue or fool;
That small advantage you would gladly trade
For what one moment would _yourself_ persuade.
Write, then, your largest and your longest lie:
_You_ sha'n't believe it, howsoe'er you try.
No falsehood you can tell, no evil do,
Shall turn me from the truth to injure you.
So all your war is barren of effect;
I find my victory in your respect.
What profit have you if the world you set
Against me? For the world will soon forget
It thought me this or that; but I'll retain
A vivid picture of your moral stain,
And cherish till my memory expire
The sweet, soft consciousness that you're a liar
Is it _your_ triumph, then, to prove that you
Will do the thing that I would scorn to do?
God grant that I forever be exempt
From such advantage as my foe's contempt.
Still as he climbed into the public view
His charms of person more apparent grew,
Till the pleased world that watched his airy grace
Saw nothing of him but his nether face--
Forgot his follies with his head's retreat,
And blessed his virtues as it viewed their seat.
Jacob Jacobs, of Oakland, he swore:
"Dat Solomon Martin--I'll haf his gore!"
Solomon Martin, of Oakland, he said:
"Of Shacob Shacobs der bleed I vill shed!"
So they met, with seconds and surgeon at call,
And fought with pistol and powder and--all
Was done in good faith,--as before I said,
They fought with pistol and powder and--shed
Tears, O my friends, for each other they marred
Fighting with pistol and powder and--lard!
For the lead had been stolen away, every trace,
And Christian hog-product supplied its place.
Then the shade of Moses indignant arose:
"Quvicker dan lighdnings go vosh yer glose!"
Jacob Jacobs, of Oakland, they say,
Applied for a pension the following day.
Solomon Martin, of Oakland, I hear,
Will call himself Colonel for many a year.
Refrain, dull orator, from speaking out,
For silence deepens when you raise the shout;
But when you hold your tongue we hear, at least,
Your noise in mastering that little beast.
Behold! the days of miracle at last
Return--if ever they were truly past:
From sinful creditors' unholy greed
The church called Calvary at last is freed--
So called for there the Savior's crucified,
Roberts and Carmany on either side.
The circling contribution-box no more
Provokes the nod and simulated snore;
No more the Lottery, no more the Fair,
Lure the reluctant dollar from its lair,
Nor Ladies' Lunches at a bit a bite
Destroy the health yet spare the appetite,
While thrifty sisters o'er the cauldron stoop
To serve their God with zeal, their friends with soup,
And all the brethren mendicate the earth
With viewless placards: "We've been _so_ from birth!"
Sure of his wage, the pastor now can lend
His whole attention to his latter end,
Remarking with a martyr's prescient thrill
The Hemp maturing on the cheerless Hill.
The holy brethren, lifting pious palms,
Pour out their gratitude in prayer and psalms,
Chant _De Profundis_, meaning "out of debt,"
And dance like mad--or would if they were let.
Deeply disguised (a deacon newly dead
Supplied the means) Jack Satan holds his head
As high as any and as loudly sings
His _jubilate_ till each rafter rings.
"Rejoice, ye ever faithful," bellows he,
"The debt is lifted and the temple free!"
Then says, aside, with gentle cachination:
"I've got a mortgage on the congregation."
[There isn't a man living who does not have at least a
sneaking reverence for a horse-shoe.--_Evening Post_.]
Thus the poor ass whose appetite has ne'er
Known than the thistle any sweeter fare
Thinks all the world eats thistles. Thus the clown,
The wit and Mentor of the country town,
Grins through the collar of a horse and thinks
Others for pleasure do as he for drinks,
Though secretly, because unwilling still
In public to attest their lack of skill.
Each dunce whose life and mind all follies mar
Believes as he is all men living are--
His vices theirs, their understandings his;
Naught that he knows not, all he fancies, _is_.
How odd that any mind such stuff should boast!
How natural to write it in the _Post_!
The friends who stood about my bed
Looked down upon my face and said:
"God's will be done--the fellow's dead."
When from my body I was free
I straightway felt myself, ah me!
Sink downward to the life to be.
Full twenty centuries I fell,
And then alighted. "Here you dwell
For aye," a Voice cried--"this is Hell!"
A landscape lay about my feet,
Where trees were green and flowers sweet.
The climate was devoid of heat.
The sun looked down with gentle beam
Upon the bosom of the stream,
Nor saw I any sign of steam.
The waters by the sky were tinged,
The hills with light and color fringed.
Birds warbled on the wing unsinged.
"Ah, no, this is not Hell," I cried;
"The preachers ne'er so greatly lied.
This is Earth's spirit glorified!
"Good souls do not in Hades dwell,
And, look, there's John P. Irish!" "Well,"
The Voice said, "that's what makes it Hell."
BY FALSE PRETENSES
John S. Hittell, whose sovereign genius wields
The quill his tributary body yields;
The author of an opera--that is,
All but the music and libretto's his:
A work renowned, whose formidable name,
Linked with his own, repels the assault of fame
From the high vantage of a dusty shelf,
Secure from all the world except himself;--
Who told the tale of "Culture" in a screed
That all might understand if some would read;--
Master of poesy and lord of prose,
Dowered, like a setter, with a double nose;
That one for Erato, for Clio this;
He flushes both--not his fault if we miss;--
Judge of the painter's art, who'll straight proclaim
The hue of any color you can name,
And knows a painting with a canvas back
Distinguished from a duck by the duck's quack;--
This thinker and philosopher, whose work
Is famous from Commercial street to Turk,
Has got a fortune now, his talent's meed.
A woman left it him who could not read,
And so went down to death's eternal night
Sweetly unconscious that the wretch could write.
LUCIFER OF THE TORCH
O Reverend Ravlin, once with sounding lung
You shook the bloody banner of your tongue,
Urged all the fiery boycotters afield
And swore you'd rather follow them than yield,
Alas, how brief the time, how great the change!--
Your dogs of war are ailing all of mange;
The loose leash dangles from your finger-tips,
But the loud "havoc" dies upon your lips.
No spirit animates your feeble clay--
You'd rather yield than even run away.
In vain McGlashan labors to inspire
Your pallid nostril with his breath of fire:
The light of battle's faded from your face--
You keep the peace, John Chinaman his place.
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