Shapes of Clay
Ambrose Bierce

Part 2 out of 5

"Good friends, you err--turn back, I pray:
This freak that you unwisely shun
Is bug and ball rolled into one."


Ere Gabriel's note to silence died
All graves of men were gaping wide.

Then Charles A. Dana, of "The Sun,"
Rose slowly from the deepest one.

"The dead in Christ rise first, 't is writ,"
Quoth he--"ick, bick, ban, doe,--I'm It!"

(His headstone, footstone, counted slow,
Were "ick" and "bick," he "ban" and "doe":

Of beating Nick the subtle art
Was part of his immortal part.)

Then straight to Heaven he took his flight,
Arriving at the Gates of Light.

There Warden Peter, in the throes
Of sleep, lay roaring in the nose.

"Get up, you sluggard!" Dana cried--
"I've an engagement there inside."

The Saint arose and scratched his head.
"I recollect your face," he said.

"(And, pardon me, 't is rather hard),
But----" Dana handed him a card.

"Ah, yes, I now remember--bless
My soul, how dull I am I--yes, yes,

"We've nothing better here than bliss.
Walk in. But I must tell you this:

"We've rest and comfort, though, and peace."
"H'm--puddles," Dana said, "for geese.

"Have you in Heaven no Hell?" "Why, no,"
Said Peter, "nor, in truth, below.

"'T is not included in our scheme--
'T is but a preacher's idle dream."

The great man slowly moved away.
"I'll call," he said, "another day.

"On earth I played it, o'er and o'er,
And Heaven without it were a bore."

"O, stuff!--come in. You'll make," said Pete,
"A hell where'er you set your feet."



I muse upon the distant town
In many a dreamy mood.
Above my head the sunbeams crown
The graveyard's giant rood.
The lupin blooms among the tombs.
The quail recalls her brood.

Ah, good it is to sit and trace
The shadow of the cross;
It moves so still from place to place
O'er marble, bronze and moss;
With graves to mark upon its arc
Our time's eternal loss.

And sweet it is to watch the bee
That reve's in the rose,
And sense the fragrance floating free
On every breeze that blows
O'er many a mound, where, safe and sound,
Mine enemies repose.


God dreamed--the suns sprang flaming into place,
And sailing worlds with many a venturous race!
He woke--His smile alone illumined space.


Two villains of the highest rank
Set out one night to rob a bank.
They found the building, looked it o'er,
Each window noted, tried each door,
Scanned carefully the lidded hole
For minstrels to cascade the coal--
In short, examined five-and-twenty
Good paths from poverty to plenty.
But all were sealed, they saw full soon,
Against the minions of the moon.
"Enough," said one: "I'm satisfied."
The other, smiling fair and wide,
Said: "I'm as highly pleased as you:
No burglar ever can get through.
Fate surely prospers our design--
The booty all is yours and mine."
So, full of hope, the following day
To the exchange they took their way
And bought, with manner free and frank,
Some stock of that devoted bank;
And they became, inside the year,
One President and one Cashier.

Their crime I can no further trace--
The means of safety to embrace,
I overdrew and left the place.


If the wicked gods were willing
(Pray it never may be true!)
That a universal chilling
Should ensue
Of the sentiment of loving,--
If they made a great undoing
Of the plan of turtle-doving,
Then farewell all poet-lore,
If there were no more of billing
There would be no more of cooing
And we all should be but owls--
Lonely fowls
Blinking wonderfully wise,
With our great round eyes--
Sitting singly in the gloaming and no longer two and two,
As unwilling to be wedded as unpracticed how to woo;
With regard to being mated,
Asking still with aggravated
Ungrammatical acerbity: "To who? To who?"


"The delay granted by the weakness and good nature of
our judges is responsible for half the murders."--_Daily Newspaper_.

Delay responsible? Why, then; my friend,
Impeach Delay and you will make an end.
Thrust vile Delay in jail and let it rot
For doing all the things that it should not.
Put not good-natured judges under bond,
But make Delay in damages respond.
Minos, Aeacus, Rhadamanthus, rolled
Into one pitiless, unsmiling scold--
Unsparing censor, be your thongs uncurled
To "lash the rascals naked through the world."
The rascals? Nay, Rascality's the thing
Above whose back your knotted scourges sing.
_Your_ satire, truly, like a razor keen,
"Wounds with a touch that's neither felt nor seen;"
For naught that you assail with falchion free
Has either nerves to feel or eyes to see.
Against abstractions evermore you charge
You hack no helmet and you need no targe.
That wickedness is wrong and sin a vice,
That wrong's not right and foulness never nice,
Fearless affirm. All consequences dare:
Smite the offense and the offender spare.
When Ananias and Sapphira lied
Falsehood, had you been there, had surely died.
When money-changers in the Temple sat,
At money-changing you'd have whirled the "cat"
(That John-the-Baptist of the modern pen)
And all the brokers would have cried amen!

Good friend, if any judge deserve your blame
Have you no courage, or has he no name?
Upon his method will you wreak your wrath,
Himself all unmolested in his path?
Fall to! fall to!--your club no longer draw
To beat the air or flail a man of straw.
Scorn to do justice like the Saxon thrall
Who cuffed the offender's shadow on a wall.
Let rascals in the flesh attest your zeal--
Knocked on the mazzard or tripped up at heel!

We know that judges are corrupt. We know
That crimes are lively and that laws are slow.
We know that lawyers lie and doctors slay;
That priests and preachers are but birds of pray;
That merchants cheat and journalists for gold
Flatter the vicious while at vice they scold.
'Tis all familiar as the simple lore
That two policemen and two thieves make four.

But since, while some are wicked, some are good,
(As trees may differ though they all are wood)
Names, here and there, to show whose head is hit,
The bad would sentence and the good acquit.
In sparing everybody none you spare:
Rebukes most personal are least unfair.
To fire at random if you still prefer,
And swear at Dog but never kick a cur,
Permit me yet one ultimate appeal
To something that you understand and feel:
Let thrift and vanity your heart persuade--
You might be read if you would learn your trade.

Good brother cynics (you have doubtless guessed
Not one of you but all are here addressed)
Remember this: the shaft that seeks a heart
Draws all eyes after it; an idle dart
Shot at some shadow flutters o'er the green,
Its flight unheeded and its fall unseen.


When I was young and full of faith
And other fads that youngsters cherish
A cry rose as of one that saith
With unction: "Help me or I perish!"
'Twas heard in all the land, and men
The sound were each to each repeating.
It made my heart beat faster then
Than any heart can now be beating.

For the world is old and the world is gray--
Grown prudent and, I guess, more witty.
She's cut her wisdom teeth, they say,
And doesn't now go in for Pity.
Besides, the melancholy cry
Was that of one, 'tis now conceded,
Whose plight no one beneath the sky
Felt half so poignantly as he did.

Moreover, he was black. And yet
That sentimental generation
With an austere compassion set
Its face and faith to the occasion.
Then there were hate and strife to spare,
And various hard knocks a-plenty;
And I ('twas more than my true share,
I must confess) took five-and-twenty.

That all is over now--the reign
Of love and trade stills all dissensions,
And the clear heavens arch again
Above a land of peace and pensions.
The black chap--at the last we gave
Him everything that he had cried for,
Though many white chaps in the grave
'Twould puzzle to say what they died for.

I hope he's better off--I trust
That his society and his master's
Are worth the price we paid, and must
Continue paying, in disasters;
But sometimes doubts press thronging round
('Tis mostly when my hurts are aching)
If war for union was a sound
And profitable undertaking.

'Tis said they mean to take away
The Negro's vote for he's unlettered.
'Tis true he sits in darkness day
And night, as formerly, when fettered;
But pray observe--howe'er he vote
To whatsoever party turning,
He'll be with gentlemen of note
And wealth and consequence and learning.
With Hales and Morgans on each side,
How could a fool through lack of knowledge,
Vote wrong? If learning is no guide
Why ought one to have been in college?
O Son of Day, O Son of Night!
What are your preferences made of?
I know not which of you is right,
Nor which to be the more afraid of.

The world is old and the world is bad,
And creaks and grinds upon its axis;
And man's an ape and the gods are mad!--
There's nothing sure, not even our taxes.
No mortal man can Truth restore,
Or say where she is to be sought for.
I know what uniform I wore--
O, that I knew which side I fought for!


Slain as they lay by the secret, slow,
Pitiless hand of an unseen foe,
Two score thousand old soldiers have crossed
The river to join the loved and lost.
In the space of a year their spirits fled,
Silent and white, to the camp of the dead.

One after one, they fall asleep
And the pension agents awake to weep,
And orphaned statesmen are loud in their wail
As the souls flit by on the evening gale.
O Father of Battles, pray give us release
From the horrors of peace, the horrors of peace!


O hoary sculptor, stay thy hand:
I fain would view the lettered stone.
What carvest thou?--perchance some grand
And solemn fancy all thine own.
For oft to know the fitting word
Some humble worker God permits.
"Jain Ann Meginnis,
Agid 3rd.
He givith His beluved fits."


I saw a man who knelt in prayer,
And heard him say:
"I'll lay my inmost spirit bare

"Lord, for to-morrow and its need
I do not pray;
Let me upon my neighbor feed

"Let me my duty duly shirk
And run away
From any form or phase of work

"From Thy commands exempted still
Let me obey
The promptings of my private will

"Let me no word profane, no lie
Unthinking say
If anyone is standing by

"My secret sins and vices grave
Let none betray;
The scoffer's jeers I do not crave

"And if to-day my fortune all
Should ebb away,
Help me on other men's to fall

"So, for to-morrow and its mite
I do not pray;
Just give me everything in sight

I cried: "Amen!" He rose and ran
Like oil away.
I said: "I've seen an honest man


A famous journalist, who long
Had told the great unheaded throng
Whate'er they thought, by day or night.
Was true as Holy Writ, and right,
Was caught in--well, on second thought,
It is enough that he was caught,
And being thrown in jail became
The fuel of a public flame.

"_Vox populi vox Dei_," said
The jailer. Inxling bent his head
Without remark: that motto good
In bold-faced type had always stood
Above the columns where his pen
Had rioted in praise of men
And all they said--provided he
Was sure they mostly did agree.
Meanwhile a sharp and bitter strife
To take, or save, the culprit's life
Or liberty (which, I suppose,
Was much the same to him) arose
Outside. The journal that his pen
Adorned denounced his crime--but then
Its editor in secret tried
To have the indictment set aside.
The opposition papers swore
His father was a rogue before,
And all his wife's relations were
Like him and similar to her.
They begged their readers to subscribe
A dollar each to make a bribe
That any Judge would feel was large
Enough to prove the gravest charge--
Unless, it might be, the defense
Put up superior evidence.
The law's traditional delay
Was all too short: the trial day
Dawned red and menacing. The Judge
Sat on the Bench and wouldn't budge,
And all the motions counsel made
Could not move _him_--and there he stayed.
"The case must now proceed," he said,
"While I am just in heart and head,
It happens--as, indeed, it ought--
Both sides with equal sums have bought
My favor: I can try the cause
Impartially." (Prolonged applause.)

The prisoner was now arraigned
And said that he was greatly pained
To be suspected--_he_, whose pen
Had charged so many other men
With crimes and misdemeanors! "Why,"
He said, a tear in either eye,
"If men who live by crying out
'Stop thief!' are not themselves from doubt
Of their integrity exempt,
Let all forego the vain attempt
To make a reputation! Sir,
I'm innocent, and I demur."
Whereat a thousand voices cried
Amain he manifestly lied--
_Vox populi_ as loudly roared
As bull by _picadores_ gored,
In his own coin receiving pay
To make a Spanish holiday.

The jury--twelve good men and true--
Were then sworn in to see it through,
And each made solemn oath that he
As any babe unborn was free
From prejudice, opinion, thought,
Respectability, brains--aught
That could disqualify; and some
Explained that they were deaf and dumb.
A better twelve, his Honor said,
Was rare, except among the dead.
The witnesses were called and sworn.
The tales they told made angels mourn,
And the Good Book they'd kissed became
Red with the consciousness of shame.

Whenever one of them approached
The truth, "That witness wasn't coached,
Your Honor!" cried the lawyers both.
"Strike out his testimony," quoth
The learned judge: "This Court denies
Its ear to stories which surprise.
I hold that witnesses exempt
From coaching all are in contempt."
Both Prosecution and Defense
Applauded the judicial sense,
And the spectators all averred
Such wisdom they had never heard:
'Twas plain the prisoner would be
Found guilty in the first degree.
Meanwhile that wight's pale cheek confessed
The nameless terrors in his breast.
He felt remorseful, too, because
He wasn't half they said he was.
"If I'd been such a rogue," he mused
On opportunities unused,
"I might have easily become
As wealthy as Methusalum."
This journalist adorned, alas,
The middle, not the Bible, class.

With equal skill the lawyers' pleas
Attested their divided fees.
Each gave the other one the lie,
Then helped him frame a sharp reply.

Good Lord! it was a bitter fight,
And lasted all the day and night.
When once or oftener the roar
Had silenced the judicial snore
The speaker suffered for the sport
By fining for contempt of court.
Twelve jurors' noses good and true
Unceasing sang the trial through,
And even _vox populi_ was spent
In rattles through a nasal vent.
Clerk, bailiff, constables and all
Heard Morpheus sound the trumpet call
To arms--his arms--and all fell in
Save counsel for the Man of Sin.
That thaumaturgist stood and swayed
The wand their faculties obeyed--
That magic wand which, like a flame.
Leapt, wavered, quivered and became
A wonder-worker--known among
The ignoble vulgar as a Tongue.

How long, O Lord, how long my verse
Runs on for better or for worse
In meter which o'ermasters me,
Octosyllabically free!--
A meter which, the poets say,
No power of restraint can stay;--
A hard-mouthed meter, suited well
To him who, having naught to tell,
Must hold attention as a trout
Is held, by paying out and out
The slender line which else would break
Should one attempt the fish to take.
Thus tavern guides who've naught to show
But some adjacent curio
By devious trails their patrons lead
And make them think 't is far indeed.
Where was I?

While the lawyer talked
The rogue took up his feet and walked:
While all about him, roaring, slept,
Into the street he calmly stepped.
In very truth, the man who thought
The people's voice from heaven had caught
God's inspiration took a change
Of venue--it was passing strange!
Straight to his editor he went
And that ingenious person sent
A Negro to impersonate
The fugitive. In adequate
Disguise he took his vacant place
And buried in his arms his face.
When all was done the lawyer stopped
And silence like a bombshell dropped
Upon the Court: judge, jury, all
Within that venerable hall
(Except the deaf and dumb, indeed,
And one or two whom death had freed)
Awoke and tried to look as though
Slumber was all they did not know.

And now that tireless lawyer-man
Took breath, and then again began:
"Your Honor, if you did attend
To what I've urged (my learned friend
Nodded concurrence) to support
The motion I have made, this court
May soon adjourn. With your assent
I've shown abundant precedent
For introducing now, though late,
New evidence to exculpate
My client. So, if you'll allow,
I'll prove an _alibi_!" "What?--how?"
Stammered the judge. "Well, yes, I can't
Deny your showing, and I grant
The motion. Do I understand
You undertake to prove--good land!--
That when the crime--you mean to show
Your client wasn't _there_?" "O, no,
I cannot quite do that, I find:
My _alibi's_ another kind
Of _alibi_,--I'll make it clear,
Your Honor, that he isn't _here_."
The Darky here upreared his head,
Tranquillity affrighted fled
And consternation reigned instead!


When Admonition's hand essays
Our greed to curse,
Its lifted finger oft displays
Our missing purse.


How well this man unfolded to our view
The world's beliefs of Death and Heaven and Hell--
This man whose own convictions none could tell,
Nor if his maze of reason had a clew.
Dogmas he wrote for daily bread, but knew
The fair philosophies of doubt so well
That while we listened to his words there fell
Some that were strangely comforting, though true.
Marking how wise we grew upon his doubt,
We said: "If so, by groping in the night,
He can proclaim some certain paths of trust,
How great our profit if he saw about
His feet the highways leading to the light."
Now he sees all. Ah, Christ! his mouth is dust!


It is a politician man--
He draweth near his end,
And friends weep round that partisan,
Of every man the friend.

Between the Known and the Unknown
He lieth on the strand;
The light upon the sea is thrown
That lay upon the land.

It shineth in his glazing eye,
It burneth on his face;
God send that when we come to die
We know that sign of grace!

Upon his lips his blessed sprite
Poiseth her joyous wing.
"How is it with thee, child of light?
Dost hear the angels sing?"

"The song I hear, the crown I see,
And know that God is love.
Farewell, dark world--I go to be
A postmaster above!"

For him no monumental arch,
But, O, 'tis good and brave
To see the Grand Old Party march
To office o'er his grave!


Father! whose hard and cruel law
Is part of thy compassion's plan,
Thy works presumptuously we scan
For what the prophets say they saw.

Unbidden still the awful slope
Walling us in we climb to gain
Assurance of the shining plain
That faith has certified to hope.

In vain!--beyond the circling hill
The shadow and the cloud abide.
Subdue the doubt, our spirits guide
To trust the Record and be still.

To trust it loyally as he
Who, heedful of his high design,
Ne'er raised a seeking eye to thine,
But wrought thy will unconsciously,

Disputing not of chance or fate,
Nor questioning of cause or creed;
For anything but duty's deed
Too simply wise, too humbly great.

The cannon syllabled his name;
His shadow shifted o'er the land,
Portentous, as at his command
Successive cities sprang to flame!

He fringed the continent with fire,
The rivers ran in lines of light!
Thy will be done on earth--if right
Or wrong he cared not to inquire.

His was the heavy hand, and his
The service of the despot blade;
His the soft answer that allayed
War's giant animosities.

Let us have peace: our clouded eyes,
Fill, Father, with another light,
That we may see with clearer sight
Thy servant's soul in Paradise.


Of Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
The Muse of History records
That he'd get drunk as twenty lords.

He'd get so truly drunk that men
Stood by to marvel at him when
His slow advance along the street
Was but a vain cycloidal feat.

And when 'twas fated that he fall
With a wide geographical sprawl,
They signified assent by sounds
Heard (faintly) at its utmost bounds.

And yet this Mr. Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Cast not on wine his thirsty eyes
When it was red or otherwise.

All malt, or spirituous, tope
He loathed as cats dissent from soap;
And cider, if it touched his lip,
Evoked a groan at every sip.

But still, as heretofore explained,
He not infrequently was grained.
(I'm not of those who call it "corned."
Coarse speech I've always duly scorned.)

Though truth to say, and that's but right,
Strong drink (it hath an adder's bite!)
Was what had put him in the mud,
The only kind he used was blood!

Alas, that an immortal soul
Addicted to the flowing bowl,
The emptied flagon should again
Replenish from a neighbor's vein.

But, Mr. Shanahan was so
Constructed, and his taste that low.
Nor more deplorable was he
In kind of thirst than in degree;

For sometimes fifty souls would pay
The debt of nature in a day
To free him from the shame and pain
Of dread Sobriety's misreign.

His native land, proud of its sense
Of his unique inabstinence,
Abated something of its pride
At thought of his unfilled inside.

And some the boldness had to say
'Twere well if he were called away
To slake his thirst forevermore
In oceans of celestial gore.

But Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Knew that his thirst was mortal; so
Remained unsainted here below--

Unsainted and unsaintly, for
He neither went to glory nor
To abdicate his power deigned
Where, under Providence, he reigned,

But kept his Boss's power accurst
To serve his wild uncommon thirst.
Which now had grown so truly great
It was a drain upon the State.

Soon, soon there came a time, alas!
When he turned down an empty glass--
All practicable means were vain
His special wassail to obtain.

In vain poor Decimation tried
To furnish forth the needful tide;
And Civil War as vainly shed
Her niggard offering of red.

Poor Shanahan! his thirst increased
Until he wished himself deceased,
Invoked the firearm and the knife,
But could not die to save his life!

He was so dry his own veins made
No answer to the seeking blade;
So parched that when he would have passed
Away he could not breathe his last.

'Twas then, when almost in despair,
(Unlaced his shoon, unkempt his hair)
He saw as in a dream a way
To wet afresh his mortal clay.

Yes, Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Saw freedom, and with joy and pride
"Thalassa! (or Thalatta!)" cried.

Straight to the Aldermen went he,
With many a "pull" and many a fee,
And many a most corrupt "combine"
(The Press for twenty cents a line

Held out and fought him--O, God, bless
Forevermore the holy Press!)
Till he had franchises complete
For trolley lines on every street!

The cars were builded and, they say,
Were run on rails laid every way--
Rhomboidal roads, and circular,
And oval--everywhere a car--

Square, dodecagonal (in great
Esteem the shape called Figure 8)
And many other kinds of shapes
As various as tails of apes.

No other group of men's abodes
E'er had such odd electric roads,
That winding in and winding out,
Began and ended all about.

No city had, unless in Mars,
That city's wealth of trolley cars.
They ran by day, they flew by night,
And O, the sorry, sorry sight!

And Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Incessantly, the Muse records,
Lay drunk as twenty thousand lords!


Theosophists are about to build a "Temple for the revival of the
Mysteries of Antiquity."--_Vide the Newspapers, passim_.

Each to his taste: some men prefer to play
At mystery, as others at piquet.
Some sit in mystic meditation; some
Parade the street with tambourine and drum.
One studies to decipher ancient lore
Which, proving stuff, he studies all the more;
Another swears that learning is but good
To darken things already understood,
Then writes upon Simplicity so well
That none agree on what he wants to tell,
And future ages will declare his pen
Inspired by gods with messages to men.
To found an ancient order those devote
Their time--with ritual, regalia, goat,
Blankets for tossing, chairs of little ease
And all the modern inconveniences;
These, saner, frown upon unmeaning rites
And go to church for rational delights.
So all are suited, shallow and profound,
The prophets prosper and the world goes round.
For me--unread in the occult, I'm fain
To damn all mysteries alike as vain,
Spurn the obscure and base my faith upon
The Revelations of the good St. John.



We heard a song-bird trilling--
'T was but a night ago.
Such rapture he was rilling
As only we could know.

This morning he is flinging
His music from the tree,
But something in the singing
Is not the same to me.

His inspiration fails him,
Or he has lost his skill.
Nanine, Nanine, what ails him
That he should sing so ill?

Nanine is not replying--
She hears no earthly song.
The sun and bird are lying
And the night is, O, so long!


'Twas a serious person with locks of gray
And a figure like a crescent;
His gravity, clearly, had come to stay,
But his smile was evanescent.

He stood and conversed with a neighbor, and
With (likewise) a high falsetto;
And he stabbed his forefinger into his hand
As if it had been a stiletto.

His words, like the notes of a tenor drum,
Came out of his head unblended,
And the wonderful altitude of some
Was exceptionally splendid.

While executing a shake of the head,
With the hand, as it were, of a master,
This agonizing old gentleman said:
"'Twas a truly sad disaster!

"Four hundred and ten longs and shorts in all,
Went down"--he paused and snuffled.
A single tear was observed to fall,
And the old man's drum was muffled.

"A very calamitous year," he said.
And again his head-piece hoary
He shook, and another pearl he shed,
As if he wept _con amore._

"O lacrymose person," I cried, "pray why
Should these failures so affect you?
With speculators in stocks no eye
That's normal would ever connect you."

He focused his orbs upon mine and smiled
In a sinister sort of manner.
"Young man," he said, "your words are wild:
I spoke of the steamship 'Hanner.'

"For she has went down in a howlin' squall,
And my heart is nigh to breakin'--
Four hundred and ten longs and shorts in all
Will never need undertakin'!

"I'm in the business myself," said he,
"And you've mistook my expression;
For I uses the technical terms, you see,
Employed in my perfession."

That old undertaker has joined the throng
On the other side of the River,
But I'm still unhappy to think I'm a "long,"
And a tape-line makes me shiver.


O nonsense, parson--tell me not they thrive
And jubilate who follow your dictation.
The good are the unhappiest lot alive--
I know they are from careful observation.
If freedom from the terrors of damnation
Lengthens the visage like a telescope,
And lacrymation is a sign of hope,
Then I'll continue, in my dreadful plight,
To tread the dusky paths of sin, and grope
Contentedly without your lantern's light;
And though in many a bog beslubbered quite,
Refuse to flay me with ecclesiastic soap.

You say 'tis a sad world, seeing I'm condemned,
With many a million others of my kidney.
Each continent's Hammed, Japheted and Shemmed
With sinners--worldlings like Sir Philip Sidney
And scoffers like Voltaire, who thought it bliss
To simulate respect for Genesis--
Who bent the mental knee as if in prayer,
But mocked at Moses underneath his hair,
And like an angry gander bowed his head to hiss.

Seeing such as these, who die without contrition,
Must go to--beg your pardon, sir--perdition,
The sons of light, you tell me, can't be gay,
But count it sin of the sort called omission
The groan to smother or the tear to stay
Or fail to--what is that they live by?--pray.
So down they flop, and the whole serious race is
Put by divine compassion on a praying basis.

Well, if you take it so to heart, while yet
Our own hearts are so light with nature's leaven,
You'll weep indeed when we in Hades sweat,
And you look down upon us out of Heaven.
In fancy, lo! I see your wailing shades
Thronging the crystal battlements. Cascades
Of tears spring singing from each golden spout,
Run roaring from the verge with hoarser sound,
Dash downward through the glimmering profound,
Quench the tormenting flame and put the Devil out!

Presumptuous ass! to you no power belongs
To pitchfork me to Heaven upon the prongs
Of a bad pen, whose disobedient sputter,
With less of ink than incoherence fraught
Befits the folly that it tries to utter.
Brains, I observe, as well as tongues, can stutter:
You suffer from impediment of thought.

When next you "point the way to Heaven," take care:
Your fingers all being thumbs, point, Heaven knows where!
Farewell, poor dunce! your letter though I blame,
Bears witness how my anger I can tame:
I've called you everything except your hateful name!


Because from Folly's lips you got
Some babbled mandate to subdue
The realm of Common Sense, and you
Made promise and considered not--

Because you strike a random blow
At what you do not understand,
And beckon with a friendly hand
To something that you do not know,

I hold no speech of your desert,
Nor answer with porrected shield
The wooden weapon that you wield,
But meet you with a cast of dirt.

Dispute with such a thing as you--
Twin show to the two-headed calf?
Why, sir, if I repress my laugh,
'T is more than half the world can do.



Fear not in any tongue to call
Upon the Lord--He's skilled in all.
But if He answereth my plea
He speaketh one unknown to me.


Tuckerton Tamerlane Morey Mahosh
Is a statesman of world-wide fame,
With a notable knack at rhetorical bosh
To glorify somebody's name--
Somebody chosen by Tuckerton's masters
To succor the country from divers disasters
Portentous to Mr. Mahosh.

Percy O'Halloran Tarpy Cabee
Is in the political swim.
He cares not a button for men, not he:
Great principles captivate him--
Principles cleverly cut out and fitted
To Percy's capacity, duly submitted,
And fought for by Mr. Cabee.

Drusus Turn Swinnerton Porfer Fitzurse
Holds office the most of his life.
For men nor for principles cares he a curse,
But much for his neighbor's wife.
The Ship of State leaks, but _he_ doesn't pump any,
Messrs. Mahosh, Cabee & Company
Pump for good Mr. Fitzurse.


O Liberty, God-gifted--
Young and immortal maid--
In your high hand uplifted;
The torch declares your trade.

Its crimson menace, flaming
Upon the sea and shore,
Is, trumpet-like, proclaiming
That Law shall be no more.

Austere incendiary,
We're blinking in the light;
Where is your customary
Grenade of dynamite?

Where are your staves and switches
For men of gentle birth?
Your mask and dirk for riches?
Your chains for wit and worth?

Perhaps, you've brought the halters
You used in the old days,
When round religion's altars
You stabled Cromwell's bays?

Behind you, unsuspected,
Have you the axe, fair wench,
Wherewith you once collected
A poll-tax from the French?

America salutes you--
Preparing to disgorge.
Take everything that suits you,
And marry Henry George.



Christmas, you tell me, comes but once a year.
One place it never comes, and that is here.
Here, in these pages no good wishes spring,
No well-worn greetings tediously ring--
For Christmas greetings are like pots of ore:
The hollower they are they ring the more.
Here shall no holly cast a spiny shade,
Nor mistletoe my solitude invade,
No trinket-laden vegetable come,
No jorum steam with Sheolate of rum.
No shrilling children shall their voices rear.
Hurrah for Christmas without Christmas cheer!

No presents, if you please--I know too well
What Herbert Spencer, if he didn't tell
(I know not if he did) yet might have told
Of present-giving in the days of old,
When Early Man with gifts propitiated
The chiefs whom most he doubted, feared and hated,
Or tendered them in hope to reap some rude
Advantage from the taker's gratitude.
Since thus the Gift its origin derives
(How much of its first character survives
You know as well as I) my stocking's tied,
My pocket buttoned--with my soul inside.
I save my money and I save my pride.

Dinner? Yes; thank you--just a human body
Done to a nutty brown, and a tear toddy
To give me appetite; and as for drink,
About a half a jug of blood, I think,
Will do; for still I love the red, red wine,
Coagulating well, with wrinkles fine
Fretting the satin surface of its flood.
O tope of kings--divine Falernian--blood!

Duse take the shouting fowls upon the limb,
The kneeling cattle and the rising hymn!
Has not a pagan rights to be regarded--
His heart assaulted and his ear bombarded
With sentiments and sounds that good old Pan
Even in his demonium would ban?

No, friends--no Christmas here, for I have sworn
To keep my heart hard and my knees unworn.
Enough you have of jester, player, priest:
I as the skeleton attend your feast,
In the mad revelry to make a lull
With shaken finger and with bobbing skull.
However you my services may flout,
Philosophy disdain and reason doubt,
I mean to hold in customary state,
My dismal revelry and celebrate
My yearly rite until the crack o' doom,
Ignore the cheerful season's warmth and bloom
And cultivate an oasis of gloom.


Liars for witnesses; for lawyers brutes
Who lose their tempers to retrieve their suits;
Cowards for jurors; and for judge a clown
Who ne'er took up the law, yet lays it down;
Justice denied, authority abused,
And the one honest person the accused--
Thy courts, my country, all these awful years,
Move fools to laughter and the wise to tears.


Here lies Greer Harrison, a well cracked louse--
So small a tenant of so big a house!
He joyed in fighting with his eyes (his fist
Prudently pendent from a peaceful wrist)
And loved to loll on the Parnassian mount,
His pen to suck and all his thumbs to count,--
What poetry he'd written but for lack
Of skill, when he had counted, to count back!
Alas, no more he'll climb the sacred steep
To wake the lyre and put the world to sleep!
To his rapt lip his soul no longer springs
And like a jaybird from a knot-hole sings.
No more the clubmen, pickled with his wine,
Spread wide their ears and hiccough "That's divine!"
The genius of his purse no longer draws
The pleasing thunders of a paid applause.
All silent now, nor sound nor sense remains,
Though riddances of worms improve his brains.
All his no talents to the earth revert,
And Fame concludes the record: "Dirt to dirt!"


"Let Glory's sons manipulate
The tiller of the Ship of State.
Be mine the humble, useful toil
To work the tiller of the soil."


For a Proposed Monument in Washington to Him who
Made it Beautiful.

Erected to "Boss" Shepherd by the dear
Good folk he lived and moved among in peace--
Guarded on either hand by the police,
With soldiers in his front and in his rear.


The polecat, sovereign of its native wood,
Dashes damnation upon bad and good;
The health of all the upas trees impairs
By exhalations deadlier than theirs;
Poisons the rattlesnake and warts the toad--
The creeks go rotten and the rocks corrode!
She shakes o'er breathless hill and shrinking dale
The horrid aspergillus of her tail!
From every saturated hair, till dry,
The spargent fragrances divergent fly,
Deafen the earth and scream along the sky!

Removed to alien scenes, amid the strife
Of urban odors to ungladden life--
Where gas and sewers and dead dogs conspire
The flesh to torture and the soul to fire--
Where all the "well defined and several stinks"
Known to mankind hold revel and high jinks--
Humbled in spirit, smitten with a sense
Of lost distinction, leveled eminence,
She suddenly resigns her baleful trust,
Nor ever lays again our mortal dust.
Her powers atrophied, her vigor sunk,
She lives deodorized, a sweeter skunk.


"O, I'm the Unaverage Man,
But you never have heard of me,
For my brother, the Average Man, outran
My fame with rapiditee,
And I'm sunk in Oblivion's sea,
But my bully big brother the world can span
With his wide notorietee.
I do everything that I can
To make 'em attend to me,
But the papers ignore the Unaverage Man
With a weird uniformitee."

So sang with a dolorous note
A voice that I heard from the beach;
On the sable waters it seemed to float
Like a mortal part of speech.
The sea was Oblivion's sea,
And I cried as I plunged to swim:
"The Unaverage Man shall reside with me."
But he didn't--I stayed with him!


Oft from a trading-boat I purchased spice
And shells and corals, brought for my inspection
From the fair tropics--paid a Christian price
And was content in my fool's paradise,
Where never had been heard the word "Protection."

'T was my sole island; there I dwelt alone--
No customs-house, collector nor collection,
But a man came, who, in a pious tone
Condoled with me that I had never known
The manifest advantage of Protection.

So, when the trading-boat arrived one day,
He threw a stink-pot into its mid-section.
The traders paddled for their lives away,
Nor came again into that haunted bay,
The blessed home thereafter of Protection.

Then down he sat, that philanthropic man,
And spat upon some mud of his selection,
And worked it, with his knuckles in a pan,
To shapes of shells and coral things, and span
A thread of song in glory of Protection.

He baked them in the sun. His air devout
Enchanted me. I made a genuflexion:
"God help you, gentle sir," I said. "No doubt,"
He answered gravely, "I'll get on without
Assistance now that we have got Protection."

Thenceforth I bought his wares--at what a price
For shells and corals of such imperfection!
"Ah, now," said he, "your lot is truly nice."
But still in all that isle there was no spice
To season to my taste that dish, Protection.


I died. As meekly in the earth I lay,
With shriveled fingers reverently folded,
The worm--uncivil engineer!--my clay
Tunneled industriously, and the mole did.
My body could not dodge them, but my soul did;
For that had flown from this terrestrial ball
And I was rid of it for good and all.

So there I lay, debating what to do--
What measures might most usefully be taken
To circumvent the subterranean crew
Of anthropophagi and save my bacon.
My fortitude was all this while unshaken,
But any gentleman, of course, protests
Against receiving uninvited guests.

However proud he might be of his meats,
Not even Apicius, nor, I think, Lucullus,
Wasted on tramps his culinary sweets;
"_Aut Caesar_," say judicious hosts, "_aut nullus_."
And though when Marcius came unbidden Tullus
Aufidius feasted him because he starved,
Marcius by Tullus afterward was carved.

We feed the hungry, as the book commands
(For men might question else our orthodoxy)
But do not care to see the outstretched hands,
And so we minister to them by proxy.
When Want, in his improper person, knocks he
Finds we're engaged. The graveworm's very fresh
To think we like his presence in the flesh.

So, as I said, I lay in doubt; in all
That underworld no judges could determine
My rights. When Death approaches them they fall,
And falling, naturally soil their ermine.
And still below ground, as above, the vermin
That work by dark and silent methods win
The case--the burial case that one is in.

Cases at law so slowly get ahead,
Even when the right is visibly unclouded,
That if all men are classed as quick and dead,
The judges all are dead, though some unshrouded.
Pray Jove that when they're actually crowded
On Styx's brink, and Charon rows in sight,
His bark prove worse than Cerberus's bite.

Ah! Cerberus, if you had but begot
A race of three-mouthed dogs for man to nourish
And woman to caress, the muse had not
Lamented the decay of virtues currish,
And triple-hydrophobia now would flourish,
For barking, biting, kissing to employ
Canine repeaters were indeed a joy.

Lord! how we cling to this vile world! Here I,
Whose dust was laid ere I began this carping,
By moles and worms and such familiar fry
Run through and through, am singing still and harping
Of mundane matters--flatting, too, and sharping.
I hate the Angel of the Sleeping Cup:
So I'm for getting--and for shutting--up.


Beauty (they called her) wasn't a maid
Of many things in the world afraid.
She wasn't a maid who turned and fled
At sight of a mouse, alive or dead.
She wasn't a maid a man could "shoo"
By shouting, however abruptly, "Boo!"
She wasn't a maid who'd run and hide
If her face and figure you idly eyed.
She was'nt a maid who'd blush and shake
When asked what part of the fowl she'd take.
(I blush myself to confess she preferred,
And commonly got, the most of the bird.)
She wasn't a maid to simper because
She was asked to sing--if she ever was.

In short, if the truth must be displayed
_In puris_--Beauty wasn't a maid.
Beauty, furry and fine and fat,
Yawny and clawy, sleek and all that,
Was a pampered and spoiled Angora cat!

I loved her well, and I'm proud that she
Wasn't indifferent, quite, to me;
In fact I have sometimes gone so far
(You know, mesdames, how silly men are)
As to think she preferred--excuse the conceit--
_My_ legs upon which to sharpen her feet.
Perhaps it shouldn't have gone for much,
But I started and thrilled beneath her touch!

Ah, well, that's ancient history now:
The fingers of Time have touched my brow,
And I hear with never a start to-day
That Beauty has passed from the earth away.
Gone!--her death-song (it killed her) sung.
Gone!--her fiddlestrings all unstrung.
Gone to the bliss of a new _regime_
Of turkey smothered in seas of cream;
Of roasted mice (a superior breed,
To science unknown and the coarser need
Of the living cat) cooked by the flame
Of the dainty soul of an erring dame
Who gave to purity all her care,
Neglecting the duty of daily prayer,--
Crisp, delicate mice, just touched with spice
By the ghost of a breeze from Paradise;
A very digestible sort of mice.

Let scoffers sneer, I propose to hold
That Beauty has mounted the Stair of Gold,
To eat and eat, forever and aye,
On a velvet rug from a golden tray.
But the human spirit--that is my creed--
Rots in the ground like a barren seed.
That is my creed, abhorred by Man
But approved by Cat since time began.
Till Death shall kick at me, thundering "Scat!"
I shall hold to that, I shall hold to that.


How blest the land that counts among
Her sons so many good and wise,
To execute great feats of tongue
When troubles rise.

Behold them mounting every stump
Our liberty by speech to guard.
Observe their courage:--see them jump
And come down hard!

"Walk up, walk up!" each cries aloud,
"And learn from me what you must do
To turn aside the thunder cloud,
The earthquake too.

"Beware the wiles of yonder quack
Who stuffs the ears of all that pass.
I--I alone can show that black
Is white as grass."

They shout through all the day and break
The silence of the night as well.
They'd make--I wish they'd _go_ and make--
Of Heaven a Hell.

A advocates free silver, B
Free trade and C free banking laws.
Free board, clothes, lodging would from me
Win warm applause.

Lo, D lifts up his voice: "You see
The single tax on land would fall
On all alike." More evenly
No tax at all.

"With paper money" bellows E
"We'll all be rich as lords." No doubt--
And richest of the lot will be
The chap without.

As many "cures" as addle wits
Who know not what the ailment is!
Meanwhile the patient foams and spits
Like a gin fizz.

Alas, poor Body Politic,
Your fate is all too clearly read:
To be not altogether quick,
Nor very dead.

You take your exercise in squirms,
Your rest in fainting fits between.
'T is plain that your disorder's worms--
Worms fat and lean.

Worm Capital, Worm Labor dwell
Within your maw and muscle's scope.
Their quarrels make your life a Hell,
Your death a hope.

God send you find not such an end
To ills however sharp and huge!
God send you convalesce! God send
You vermifuge.


Scene--_A lawyer's dreadful den.
Enter stall-fed citizen._

LAWYER.--'Mornin'. How-de-do?

CITIZEN.--Sir, same to you.
Called as counsel to retain you
In a case that I'll explain you.
Sad, _so_ sad! Heart almost broke.
Hang it! where's my kerchief? Smoke?
Brother, sir, and I, of late,
Came into a large estate.
Brother's--h'm, ha,--rather queer
Sometimes _(tapping forehead) _here.
What he needs--you know--a "writ"--
Something, eh? that will permit
Me to manage, sir, in fine,
His estate, as well as mine.
'Course he'll _kick_; 't will break, I fear,
His loving heart--excuse this tear.

LAWYER.--Have you nothing more?
All of this you said before--
When last night I took your case.

CITIZEN.--Why, sir, your face
Ne'er before has met my view!

LAWYER.--Eh? The devil! True:
My mistake--it was your brother.
But you're very like each other.


In that fair city, Ispahan,
There dwelt a problematic man,
Whose angel never was released,
Who never once let out his beast,
But kept, through all the seasons' round,
Silence unbroken and profound.
No Prophecy, with ear applied
To key-hole of the future, tried
Successfully to catch a hint
Of what he'd do nor when begin 't;
As sternly did his past defy
Mild Retrospection's backward eye.
Though all admired his silent ways,
The women loudest were in praise:
For ladies love those men the most
Who never, never, never boast--
Who ne'er disclose their aims and ends
To naughty, naughty, naughty friends.

Yet, sooth to say, the fame outran
The merit of this doubtful man,
For taciturnity in him,
Though not a mere caprice or whim,
Was not a virtue, such as truth,
High birth, or beauty, wealth or youth.

'Twas known, indeed, throughout the span
Of Ispahan, of Gulistan--
These utmost limits of the earth
Knew that the man was dumb from birth.

Unto the Sun with deep salaams
The Parsee spreads his morning palms
(A beacon blazing on a height
Warms o'er his piety by night.)
The Moslem deprecates the deed,
Cuts off the head that holds the creed,
Then reverently goes to grass,
Muttering thanks to Balaam's Ass
For faith and learning to refute
Idolatry so dissolute!
But should a maniac dash past,
With straws in beard and hands upcast,
To him (through whom, whene'er inclined
To preach a bit to Madmankind,
The Holy Prophet speaks his mind)
Our True Believer lifts his eyes
Devoutly and his prayer applies;
But next to Solyman the Great
Reveres the idiot's sacred state.
Small wonder then, our worthy mute
Was held in popular repute.
Had he been blind as well as mum,
Been lame as well as blind and dumb,
No bard that ever sang or soared
Could say how he had been adored.
More meagerly endowed, he drew
An homage less prodigious. True,
No soul his praises but did utter--
All plied him with devotion's butter,
But none had out--'t was to their credit--
The proselyting sword to spread it.
I state these truths, exactly why
The reader knows as well as I;
They've nothing in the world to do
With what I hope we're coming to
If Pegasus be good enough
To move when he has stood enough.
Egad! his ribs I would examine
Had I a sharper spur than famine,
Or even with that if 'twould incline
To examine his instead of mine.
Where was I? Ah, that silent man
Who dwelt one time in Ispahan--
He had a name--was known to all
As Meerza Solyman Zingall.

There lived afar in Astrabad,
A man the world agreed was mad,
So wickedly he broke his joke
Upon the heads of duller folk,
So miserly, from day to day,
He gathered up and hid away
In vaults obscure and cellars haunted
What many worthy people wanted,
A stingy man!--the tradesmen's palms
Were spread in vain: "I give no alms
Without inquiry"--so he'd say,
And beat the needy duns away.
The bastinado did, 'tis true,
Persuade him, now and then, a few
Odd tens of thousands to disburse
To glut the taxman's hungry purse,
But still, so rich he grew, his fear
Was constant that the Shah might hear.
(The Shah had heard it long ago,
And asked the taxman if 'twere so,
Who promptly answered, rather airish,
The man had long been on the parish.)
The more he feared, the more he grew
A cynic and a miser, too,
Until his bitterness and pelf
Made him a terror to himself;
Then, with a razor's neckwise stroke,
He tartly cut his final joke.
So perished, not an hour too soon,
The wicked Muley Ben Maroon.

From Astrabad to Ispahan
At camel speed the rumor ran
That, breaking through tradition hoar,
And throwing all his kinsmen o'er,
The miser'd left his mighty store
Of gold--his palaces and lands--
To needy and deserving hands
(Except a penny here and there
To pay the dervishes for prayer.)
'Twas known indeed throughout the span
Of earth, and into Hindostan,
That our beloved mute was the
Residuary legatee.
The people said 'twas very well,
And each man had a tale to tell
Of how he'd had a finger in 't
By dropping many a friendly hint
At Astrabad, you see. But ah,
They feared the news might reach the Shah!
To prove the will the lawyers bore 't
Before the Kadi's awful court,
Who nodded, when he heard it read,
Confirmingly his drowsy head,
Nor thought, his sleepiness so great,
Himself to gobble the estate.
"I give," the dead had writ, "my all
To Meerza Solyman Zingall
Of Ispahan. With this estate
I might quite easily create
Ten thousand ingrates, but I shun
Temptation and create but one,
In whom the whole unthankful crew
The rich man's air that ever drew
To fat their pauper lungs I fire
Vicarious with vain desire!
From foul Ingratitude's base rout
I pick this hapless devil out,
Bestowing on him all my lands,
My treasures, camels, slaves and bands
Of wives--I give him all this loot,
And throw my blessing in to boot.
Behold, O man, in this bequest
Philanthropy's long wrongs redressed:
To speak me ill that man I dower
With fiercest will who lacks the power.
Allah il Allah! now let him bloat
With rancor till his heart's afloat,
Unable to discharge the wave
Upon his benefactor's grave!"

Forth in their wrath the people came
And swore it was a sin and shame
To trick their blessed mute; and each
Protested, serious of speech,
That though _he'd_ long foreseen the worst
He'd been against it from the first.
By various means they vainly tried
The testament to set aside,
Each ready with his empty purse
To take upon himself the curse;
For _they_ had powers of invective
Enough to make it ineffective.
The ingrates mustered, every man,
And marched in force to Ispahan
(Which had not quite accommodation)
And held a camp of indignation.

The man, this while, who never spoke--
On whom had fallen this thunder-stroke
Of fortune, gave no feeling vent
Nor dropped a clue to his intent.
Whereas no power to him came
His benefactor to defame,
Some (such a length had slander gone to)
Even whispered that he didn't want to!
But none his secret could divine;
If suffering he made no sign,
Until one night as winter neared
From all his haunts he disappeared--
Evanished in a doubtful blank
Like little crayfish in a bank,
Their heads retracting for a spell,
And pulling in their holes as well.

All through the land of Gul, the stout
Young Spring is kicking Winter out.
The grass sneaks in upon the scene,
Defacing it with bottle-green.

The stumbling lamb arrives to ply
His restless tail in every eye,
Eats nasty mint to spoil his meat
And make himself unfit to eat.
Madly his throat the bulbul tears--
In every grove blasphemes and swears
As the immodest rose displays
Her shameless charms a dozen ways.
Lo! now, throughout the utmost span
Of Ispahan--of Gulistan--
A big new book's displayed in all
The shops and cumbers every stall.
The price is low--the dealers say 'tis--
And the rich are treated to it gratis.
Engraven on its foremost page
These title-words the eye engage:
"The Life of Muley Ben Maroon,
Of Astrabad--Rogue, Thief, Buffoon
And Miser--Liver by the Sweat
Of Better Men: A Lamponette
Composed in Rhyme and Written all
By Meerza Solyman Zingall!"


'T was a maiden lady (the newspapers say)
Pious and prim and a bit gone-gray.
She slept like an angel, holy and white,
Till ten o' the clock in the shank o' the night
(When men and other wild animals prey)
And then she cried in the viewless gloom:
"There's a man in the room, a man in the room!"
And this maiden lady (they make it appear)
Leapt out of the window, five fathom sheer!

Alas, that lying is such a sin
When newspaper men need bread and gin
And none can be had for less than a lie!
For the maiden lady a bit gone-gray
Saw the man in the room from across the way,
And leapt, not out of the window but in--
_Ten_ fathom sheer, as I hope to die!


"I never yet exactly could determine
Just how it is that the judicial ermine
Is kept so safely from predacious vermin."

"It is not so, my friend: though in a garret
'Tis kept in camphor, and you often air it,
The vermin will get into it and wear it."


Jack Doe met Dick Roe, whose wife he loved,
And said: "I will get the best of him."
So pulling a knife from his boot, he shoved
It up to the hilt in the breast of him.

Then he moved that weapon forth and back,
Enlarging the hole he had made with it,
Till the smoking liver fell out, and Jack
Merrily, merrily played with it.

Then he reached within and he seized the slack
Of the lesser bowel, and, traveling
Hither and thither, looked idly back
On that small intestine, raveling.

The wretched Richard, with many a grin
Laid on with exceeding suavity,
Curled up and died, and they ran John in
And charged him with sins of gravity.

The case was tried and a verdict found:
The jury, with great humanity,
Acquitted the prisoner on the ground
Of extemporary insanity.


Of a person known as Peters I will humbly crave your leave
An unusual adventure into narrative to weave--
Mr. William Perry Peters, of the town of Muscatel,
A public educator and an orator as well.
Mr. Peters had a weakness which, 'tis painful to relate,
Was a strong predisposition to the pleasures of debate.
He would foster disputation wheresoever he might be;
In polygonal contention none so happy was as he.
'Twas observable, however, that the exercises ran
Into monologue by Peters, that rhetorical young man.
And the Muscatelian rustics who assisted at the show,
By involuntary silence testified their overthrow--
Mr. Peters, all unheedful of their silence and their grief,
Still effacing every vestige of erroneous belief.
O, he was a sore affliction to all heretics so bold
As to entertain opinions that he didn't care to hold.

One day--'t was in pursuance of a pedagogic plan
For the mental elevation of Uncultivated Man--
Mr. Peters, to his pupils, in dismissing them, explained
That the Friday evening following (unless, indeed, it rained)
Would be signalized by holding in the schoolhouse a debate
Free to all who their opinions might desire to ventilate
On the question, "Which is better, as a serviceable gift,
Speech or hearing, from barbarity the human mind to lift?"
The pupils told their fathers, who, forehanded always, met
At the barroom to discuss it every evening, dry or wet,
They argued it and argued it and spat upon the stove,
And the non-committal "barkeep" on their differences throve.
And I state it as a maxim in a loosish kind of way:
You'll have the more to back your word the less you have to say.
Public interest was lively, but one Ebenezer Fink
Of the Rancho del Jackrabbit, only seemed to sit and think.

On the memorable evening all the men of Muscatel
Came to listen to the logic and the eloquence as well--
All but William Perry Peters, whose attendance there, I fear.
Was to wreak his ready rhetoric upon the public ear,
And prove (whichever side he took) that hearing wouldn't lift
The human mind as ably as the other, greater gift.
The judges being chosen and the disputants enrolled,
The question he proceeded _in extenso_ to unfold:
"_Resolved_--The sense of hearing lifts the mind up out of reach
Of the fogs of error better than the faculty of speech."
This simple proposition he expounded, word by word,
Until they best understood it who least perfectly had heard.
Even the judges comprehended as he ventured to explain--
The impact of a spit-ball admonishing in vain.
Beginning at a period before Creation's morn,
He had reached the bounds of tolerance and Adam yet unborn.


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