Shapes of Clay
Ambrose Bierce

Part 4 out of 5

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You'll say that this is mere abuse
Without, in fraying you, a use.
That's plain to see
With only half an eye. Come, now,
Be fair, be fair,--consider how
It eases _me_!


"What is that, mother?"
"The funny man, child.
His hands are black, but his heart is mild."

"May I touch him, mother?"
"'T were foolishly done:
He is slightly touched already, my son."

"O, why does he wear such a ghastly grin?"
"That's the outward sign of a joke within."

"Will he crack it, mother?"
"Not so, my saint;
'T is meant for the _Saturday Livercomplaint."_

"Does he suffer, mother?"
"God help him, yes!--
A thousand and fifty kinds of distress."

"What makes him sweat so?"
"The demons that lurk
In the fear of having to go to work."

"Why doesn't he end, then, his life with a rope?"
"Abolition of Hell has deprived him of hope."


I saw--'twas in a dream, the other night--
A man whose hair with age was thin and white:
One hundred years had bettered by his birth,
And still his step was firm, his eye was bright.

Before him and about him pressed a crowd.
Each head in reverence was bared and bowed,
And Jews and Gentiles in a hundred tongues
Extolled his deeds and spoke his fame aloud.

I joined the throng and, pushing forward, cried,
"Montefiore!" with the rest, and vied
In efforts to caress the hand that ne'er
To want and worth had charity denied.

So closely round him swarmed our shouting clan
He scarce could breathe, and taking from a pan
A gleaming coin he tossed it o'er our heads,
And in a moment was a lonely man!


Cried Age to Youth: "Abate your speed!--
The distance hither's brief indeed."
But Youth pressed on without delay--
The shout had reached but half the way.



I'm told that men have sometimes got
Too confidential, and
Have said to one another what
They--well, you understand.
I hope I don't offend you, sweet,
But are you sure that _you're_ discreet?


'Tis true, sometimes my friends in wine
Their conquests _do_ recall,
But none can truly say that mine
Are known to him at all.
I never, never talk you o'er--
In truth, I never get the floor.


'Tis the census enumerator
A-singing all forlorn:
It's ho! for the tall potater,
And ho! for the clustered corn.
The whiffle-tree bends in the breeze and the fine
Large eggs are a-ripening on the vine.

"Some there must be to till the soil
And the widow's weeds keep down.
I wasn't cut out for rural toil
But they _won't_ let me live in town!
They 're not so many by two or three,
As they think, but ah! they 're too many for me."

Thus the census man, bowed down with care,
Warbled his wood-note high.
There was blood on his brow and blood in his hair,
But he had no blood in his eye.


Baffled he stands upon the track--
The automatic switches clack.

Where'er he turns his solemn eyes
The interlocking signals rise.

The trains, before his visage pale,
Glide smoothly by, nor leave the rail.

No splinter-spitted victim he
Hears uttering the note high C.

In sorrow deep he hangs his head,
A-weary--would that he were dead.

Now suddenly his spirits rise--
A great thought kindles in his eyes.

Hope, like a headlight's vivid glare,
Splendors the path of his despair.

His genius shines, the clouds roll back--
"I'll place obstructions on the track!"


Says Gerald Massey: "When I write, a band
Of souls of the departed guides my hand."
How strange that poems cumbering our shelves,
Penned by immortal parts, have none themselves!


Newman, in you two parasites combine:
As tapeworm and as graveworm too you shine.
When on the virtues of the quick you've dwelt,
The pride of residence was all you felt
(What vain vulgarian the wish ne'er knew
To paint his lodging a flamboyant hue?)
And when the praises of the dead you've sung,
'Twas appetite, not truth, inspired your tongue;
As ill-bred men when warming to their wine
Boast of its merit though it be but brine.
Nor gratitude incites your song, nor should--
Even charity would shun you if she could.
You share, 'tis true, the rich man's daily dole,
But what you get you take by way of toll.
Vain to resist you--vermifuge alone
Has power to push you from your robber throne.
When to escape you he's compelled to die
Hey! presto!--in the twinkling of an eye
You vanish as a tapeworm, reappear
As graveworm and resume your curst career.
As host no more, to satisfy your need
He serves as dinner your unaltered greed.
O thrifty sycophant of wealth and fame,
Son of servility and priest of shame,
While naught your mad ambition can abate
To lick the spittle of the rich and great;
While still like smoke your eulogies arise
To soot your heroes and inflame our eyes;
While still with holy oil, like that which ran
Down Aaron's beard, you smear each famous man,
I cannot choose but think it very odd
It ne'er occurs to you to fawn on God.


O bear me, gods, to some enchanted isle
Where woman's tears can antidote her smile.


Despots effete upon tottering thrones
Unsteadily poised upon dead men's bones,
Walk up! walk up! the circus is free,
And this wonderful spectacle you shall see:
Millions of voters who mostly are fools--
Demagogues' dupes and candidates' tools,
Armies of uniformed mountebanks,
And braying disciples of brainless cranks.
Many a week they've bellowed like beeves,
Bitterly blackguarding, lying like thieves,
Libeling freely the quick and the dead
And painting the New Jerusalem red.
Tyrants monarchical--emperors, kings,
Princes and nobles and all such things--
Noblemen, gentlemen, step this way:
There's nothing, the Devil excepted, to pay,
And the freaks and curios here to be seen
Are very uncommonly grand and serene.

No more with vivacity they debate,
Nor cheerfully crack the illogical pate;
No longer, the dull understanding to aid,
The stomach accepts the instructive blade,
Nor the stubborn heart learns what is what
From a revelation of rabbit-shot;
And vilification's flames--behold!
Burn with a bickering faint and cold.

Magnificent spectacle!--every tongue
Suddenly civil that yesterday rung
(Like a clapper beating a brazen bell)
Each fair reputation's eternal knell;
Hands no longer delivering blows,
And noses, for counting, arrayed in rows.

Walk up, gentlemen--nothing to pay--
The Devil goes back to Hell to-day.


"O warrior with the burnished arms--
With bullion cord and tassel--
Pray tell me of the lurid charms
Of service and the fierce alarms:
The storming of the castle,
The charge across the smoking field,
The rifles' busy rattle--
What thoughts inspire the men who wield
The blade--their gallant souls how steeled
And fortified in battle."

"Nay, man of peace, seek not to know
War's baleful fascination--
The soldier's hunger for the foe,
His dread of safety, joy to go
To court annihilation.
Though calling bugles blow not now,
Nor drums begin to beat yet,
One fear unmans me, I'll allow,
And poisons all my pleasure: How
If I should get my feet wet!"


His poems Riley says that he indites
Upon an empty stomach. Heavenly Powers,
Feed him throat-full: for what the beggar writes
Upon his empty stomach empties ours!


Because you call yourself Knights Templar, and
There's neither Knight nor Temple in the land,--
Because you thus by vain pretense degrade
To paltry purposes traditions grand,--

Because to cheat the ignorant you say
The thing that's not, elated still to sway
The crass credulity of gaping fools
And women by fantastical display,--

Because no sacred fires did ever warm
Your hearts, high knightly service to perform--
A woman's breast or coffer of a man
The only citadel you dare to storm,--

Because while railing still at lord and peer,
At pomp and fuss-and-feathers while you jeer,
Each member of your order tries to graft
A peacock's tail upon his barren rear,--

Because that all these things are thus and so,
I bid you welcome to our city. Lo!
You're free to come, and free to stay, and free
As soon as it shall please you, sirs--to go.


"Sas agapo sas agapo,"
He sang beneath her lattice.
"'Sas agapo'?" she murmured--"O,
I wonder, now, what _that_ is!"

Was she less fair that she did bear
So light a load of knowledge?
Are loving looks got out of books,
Or kisses taught in college?

Of woman's lore give me no more
Than how to love,--in many
A tongue men brawl: she speaks them all
Who says "I love," in any.


"O father, I saw at the church as I passed
The populace gathered in numbers so vast
That they couldn't get in; and their voices were low,
And they looked as if suffering terrible woe."

"'Twas the funeral, child, of a gentleman dead
For whom the great heart of humanity bled."

"What made it bleed, father, for every day
Somebody passes forever away?
Do the newspaper men print a column or more
Of every person whose troubles are o'er?"

"O, no; they could never do that--and indeed,
Though printers might print it, no reader would read.
To the sepulcher all, soon or late, must be borne,
But 'tis only the Wise and the Good that all mourn."

"That's right, father dear, but how can our eyes
Distinguish in dead men the Good and the Wise?"

"That's easy enough to the stupidest mind:
They're poor, and in dying leave nothing behind."

"Seest thou in mine eye, father, anything green?
And takest thy son for a gaping marine?
Go tell thy fine tale of the Wise and the Good
Who are poor and lamented to babes in the wood."

And that horrible youth as I hastened away
Was building a wink that affronted the day.


"'Tis a woeful yarn," said the sailor man bold
Who had sailed the northern-lakes--
"No woefuler one has ever been told
Exceptin' them called 'fakes.'"

"Go on, thou son of the wind and fog,
For I burn to know the worst!"
But his silent lip in a glass of grog
Was dreamily immersed.

Then he wiped it on his sleeve and said:
"It's never like that I drinks
But what of the gallant gent that's dead
I truly mournful thinks.

"He was a soldier chap--leastways
As 'Colonel' he was knew;
An' he hailed from some'rs where they raise
A grass that's heavenly blue.

"He sailed as a passenger aboard
The schooner 'Henery Jo.'
O wild the waves and galeses roared,
Like taggers in a show!

"But he sat at table that calm an' mild
As if he never had let
His sperit know that the waves was wild
An' everlastin' wet!--

"Jest set with a bottle afore his nose,
As was labeled 'Total Eclipse'
(The bottle was) an' he frequent rose
A glass o' the same to his lips.

"An' he says to me (for the steward slick
Of the 'Henery Jo' was I):
'This sailor life's the very old Nick--
On the lakes it's powerful dry!'

"I says: 'Aye, aye, sir, it beats the Dutch.
I hopes you'll outlast the trip.'
But if I'd been him--an' I said as much--
I'd 'a' took a faster ship.

"His laughture, loud an' long an' free,
Rang out o'er the tempest's roar.
'You're an elegant reasoner,' says he,
'But it's powerful dry ashore!'"

"O mariner man, why pause and don
A look of so deep concern?
Have another glass--go on, go on,
For to know the worst I burn."

"One day he was leanin' over the rail,
When his footing some way slipped,
An' (this is the woefulest part o' my tale),
He was accidental unshipped!

"The empty boats was overboard hove,
As he swum in the 'Henery's wake';
But 'fore we had 'bouted ship he had drove
From sight on the ragin' lake!"

"And so the poor gentleman was drowned--
And now I'm apprised of the worst."
"What! him? 'Twas an hour afore he was found--
In the yawl--stone dead o' thirst!"


O, heavenly powers! will wonders never cease?--
Hair upon dogs and feathers upon geese!
The boys in mischief and the pigs in mire!
The drinking water wet! the coal on fire!
In meadows, rivulets surpassing fair,
Forever running, yet forever there!
A tail appended to the gray baboon!
A person coming out of a saloon!
Last, and of all most marvelous to see,
A female Yahoo flinging filth at me!
If 'twould but stick I'd bear upon my coat
May Little's proof that she is fit to vote.


Filled with a zeal to serve my fellow men,
For years I criticised their prose and verges:
Pointed out all their blunders of the pen,
Their shallowness of thought and feeling; then
Damned them up hill and down with hearty curses!

They said: "That's all that he can do--just sneer,
And pull to pieces and be analytic.
Why doesn't he himself, eschewing fear,
Publish a book or two, and so appear
As one who has the right to be a critic?

"Let him who knows it all forbear to tell
How little others know, but show his learning."
The public added: "Who has written well
May censure freely"--quoting Pope. I fell
Into the trap and books began out-turning,--

Books by the score--fine prose and poems fair,
And not a book of them but was a terror,
They were so great and perfect; though I swear
I tried right hard to work in, here and there,
(My nature still forbade) a fault or error.

'Tis true, some wretches, whom I'd scratched, no doubt,
Professed to find--but that's a trifling matter.
Now, when the flood of noble books was out
I raised o'er all that land a joyous shout,
Till I was thought as mad as any hatter!

(Why hatters all are mad, I cannot say.
'T were wrong in their affliction to revile 'em,
But truly, you'll confess 'tis very sad
We wear the ugly things they make. Begad,
They'd be less mischievous in an asylum!)

"Consistency, thou art a"--well, you're _paste_!
When next I felt my demon in possession,
And made the field of authorship a waste,
All said of me: "What execrable taste,
To rail at others of his own profession!"

Good Lord! where do the critic's rights begin
Who has of literature some clear-cut notion,
And hears a voice from Heaven say: "Pitch in"?
He finds himself--alas, poor son of sin--
Between the devil and the deep blue ocean!


Once with Christ he entered Salem,
Once in Moab bullied Balaam,
Once by Apuleius staged
He the pious much enraged.
And, again, his head, as beaver,
Topped the neck of Nick the Weaver.
Omar saw him (minus tether--
Free and wanton as the weather:
Knowing naught of bit or spur)
Stamping over Bahram-Gur.
Now, as Altgeld, see him joy
As Governor of Illinois!


Saint Peter at the gate of Heaven displayed
The tools and terrors of his awful trade;
The key, the frown as pitiless as night,
That slays intending trespassers at sight,
And, at his side in easy reach, the curled
Interrogation points all ready to be hurled.

Straight up the shining cloudway (it so chanced
No others were about) a soul advanced--
A fat, orbicular and jolly soul
With laughter-lines upon each rosy jowl--
A monk so prepossessing that the saint
Admired him, breathless, until weak and faint,
Forgot his frown and all his questions too,
Forgoing even the customary "Who?"--
Threw wide the gate and, with a friendly grin,
Said, "'Tis a very humble home, but pray walk in."

The soul smiled pleasantly. "Excuse me, please--
Who's in there?" By insensible degrees
The impudence dispelled the saint's esteem,
As growing snores annihilate a dream.
The frown began to blacken on his brow,
His hand to reach for "Whence?" and "Why?" and "How?"
"O, no offense, I hope," the soul explained;
"I'm rather--well, particular. I've strained
A point in coming here at all; 'tis said
That Susan Anthony (I hear she's dead
At last) and all her followers are here.
As company, they'd be--confess it--rather queer."

The saint replied, his rising anger past:
"What can I do?--the law is hard-and-fast,
Albeit unwritten and on earth unknown--
An oral order issued from the Throne.
By but one sin has Woman e'er incurred
God's wrath. To accuse Them Loud of that would be absurd."

That friar sighed, but, calling up a smile,
Said, slowly turning on his heel the while:
"Farewell, my friend. Put up the chain and bar--
I'm going, so please you, where the pretty women are."



The Widows of Ashur
Are loud in their wailing:
"No longer the 'masher'
Sees Widows of Ashur!"
So each is a lasher
Of Man's smallest failing.
The Widows of Ashur
Are loud in their wailing.

The Cave of Adullam,
That home of reviling--
No wooing can gull 'em
In Cave of Adullam.
No angel can lull 'em
To cease their defiling
The Cave of Adullam,
That home of reviling.

At men they are cursing--
The Widows of Ashur;
Themselves, too, for nursing
The men they are cursing.
The praise they're rehearsing
Of every slasher
At men. _They_ are cursing
The Widows of Ashur.


[Commissioner of Pensions Dudley has established a Sunday-school and
declares he will remove any clerk in his department who does not
regularly attend.--_N.Y. World.]_

Dudley, great placeman, man of mark and note,
Worthy of honor from a feeble pen
Blunted in service of all true, good men,
You serve the Lord--in courses, _table d'hote:
Au, naturel,_ as well as _a la Nick_--
"Eat and be thankful, though it make you sick."

O, truly pious caterer, forbear
To push the Saviour and Him crucified
_(Brochette_ you'd call it) into their inside
Who're all unused to such ambrosial fare.
The stomach of the soul makes quick revulsion
Of aught that it has taken on compulsion.

I search the Scriptures, but I do not find
That e'er the Spirit beats with angry wings
For entrance to the heart, but sits and sings
To charm away the scruples of the mind.
It says: "Receive me, please; I'll not compel"--
Though if you don't you will go straight to Hell!

Well, that's compulsion, you will say. 'T is true:
We cower timidly beneath the rod
Lifted in menace by an angry God,
But won't endure it from an ape like you.
Detested simian with thumb prehensile,
Switch _me_ and I would brain you with my pencil!

Face you the Throne, nor dare to turn your back
On its transplendency to flog some wight
Who gropes and stumbles in the infernal night
Your ugly shadow lays along his track.
O, Thou who from the Temple scourged the sin,
Behold what rascals try to scourge it in!


I drew aside the Future's veil
And saw upon his bier
The poet Whitman. Loud the wail
And damp the falling tear.

"He's dead--he is no more!" one cried,
With sobs of sorrow crammed;
"No more? He's this much more," replied
Another: "he is damned!"



Hear me sing of Sally Larkin who, I'd have you understand,
Played accordions as well as any lady in the land;
And I've often heard it stated that her fingering was such
That Professor Schweinenhauer was enchanted with her touch;
And that beasts were so affected when her apparatus rang
That they dropped upon their haunches and deliriously sang.
This I know from testimony, though a critic, I opine,
Needs an ear that is dissimilar in some respects to mine.
She could sing, too, like a jaybird, and they say all eyes were wet
When Sally and the ranch-dog were performing a duet--
Which I take it is a song that has to be so loudly sung
As to overtax the strength of any single human lung.
That, at least, would seem to follow from the tale I have to tell,
Which (I've told you how she flourished) is how Sally Larkin fell.

One day there came to visit Sally's dad as sleek and smart
A chap as ever wandered there from any foreign part.
Though his gentle birth and breeding he did not at all obtrude
It was somehow whispered round he was a simon-pure Dude.
Howsoe'er that may have been, it was conspicuous to see
That he _was_ a real Gent of an uncommon high degree.
That Sally cast her tender and affectionate regards
On this exquisite creation was, of course, upon the cards;
But he didn't seem to notice, and was variously blind
To her many charms of person and the merits of her mind,
And preferred, I grieve to say it, to play poker with her dad,
And acted in a manner that in general was bad.

One evening--'twas in summer--she was holding in her lap
Her accordion, and near her stood that melancholy chap,
Leaning up against a pillar with his lip in grog imbrued,
Thinking, maybe, of that ancient land in which he was a Dude.

Then Sally, who was melancholy too, began to hum
And elongate the accordion with a preluding thumb.
Then sighs of amorosity from Sally L. exhaled,
And her music apparatus sympathetically wailed.
"In the gloaming, O my darling!" rose that wild impassioned strain,
And her eyes were fixed on his with an intensity of pain,
Till the ranch-dog from his kennel at the postern gate came round,
And going into session strove to magnify the sound.
He lifted up his spirit till the gloaming rang and rang
With the song that to _his_ darling he impetuously sang!
Then that musing youth, recalling all his soul from other scenes,
Where his fathers all were Dudes and his mothers all Dudines,
From his lips removed the beaker and politely, o'er the grog,
Said: "Miss Larkin, please be quiet: you will interrupt the dog."


Sir Impycu Lackland, from over the sea,
Has led to the altar Miss Bloatie Bondee.
The wedding took place at the Church of St. Blare;
The fashion, the rank and the wealth were all there--
No person was absent of all whom one meets.
Lord Mammon himself bowed them into their seats,
While good Sir John Satan attended the door
And Sexton Beelzebub managed the floor,
Respectfully keeping each dog to its rug,
Preserving the peace between poodle and pug.
Twelve bridesmaids escorted the bride up the aisle
To blush in her blush and to smile in her smile;
Twelve groomsmen supported the eminent groom
To scowl in his scowl and to gloom in his gloom.
The rites were performed by the hand and the lip
Of his Grace the Diocesan, Billingham Pip,
Assisted by three able-bodied divines.
He prayed and they grunted, he read, they made signs.
Such fashion, such beauty, such dressing, such grace
Were ne'er before seen in that heavenly place!
That night, full of gin, and all blazing inside,
Sir Impycu blackened the eyes of his bride.


Mrs. Mehitable Marcia Moore
Was a dame of superior mind,
With a gown which, modestly fitting before,
Was greatly puffed up behind.

The bustle she wore was ingeniously planned
With an inspiration bright:
It magnified seven diameters and
Was remarkably nice and light.

It was made of rubber and edged with lace
And riveted all with brass,
And the whole immense interior space
Inflated with hydrogen gas.

The ladies all said when she hove in view
Like the round and rising moon:
"She's a stuck up thing!" which was partly true,
And men called her the Captive Balloon.

To Manhattan Beach for a bath one day
She went and she said: "O dear!
If I leave off _this_ what will people say?
I shall look so uncommonly queer!"

So a costume she had accordingly made
To take it all nicely in,
And when she appeared in that suit arrayed,
She was greeted with many a grin.

Proudly and happily looking around,
She waded out into the wet,
But the water was very, very profound,
And her feet and her forehead met!

As her bubble drifted away from the shore,
On the glassy billows borne,
All cried: "Why, where is Mehitable Moore?
I saw her go in, I'll be sworn!"

Then the bulb it swelled as the sun grew hot,
Till it burst with a sullen roar,
And the sea like oil closed over the spot--
Farewell, O Mehitable Moore!


Nightly I put up this humble petition:
"Forgive me, O Father of Glories,
My sins of commission, my sins of omission,
My sins of the Mission Dolores."


Did I believe the angels soon would call
You, my beloved, to the other shore,
And I should never see you any more,
I love you so I know that I should fall
Into dejection utterly, and all
Love's pretty pageantry, wherein we bore
Twin banners bravely in the tumult's fore,
Would seem as shadows idling on a wall.
So daintily I love you that my love
Endures no rumor of the winter's breath,
And only blossoms for it thinks the sky
Forever gracious, and the stars above
Forever friendly. Even the fear of death
Were frost wherein its roses all would die.


They were two deaf mutes, and they loved and they
Resolved to be groom and bride;
And they listened to nothing that any could say,
Nor ever a word replied.

From wedlock when warned by the married men,
Maintain an invincible mind:
Be deaf and dumb until wedded--and then
Be deaf and dumb and blind.


A spitcat sate on a garden gate
And a snapdog fared beneath;
Careless and free was his mien, and he
Held a fiddle-string in his teeth.

She marked his march, she wrought an arch
Of her back and blew up her tail;
And her eyes were green as ever were seen,
And she uttered a woful wail.

The spitcat's plaint was as follows: "It ain't
That I am to music a foe;
For fiddle-strings bide in my own inside,
And I twang them soft and low.

"But that dog has trifled with art and rifled
A kitten of mine, ah me!
That catgut slim was marauded from him:
'Tis the string that men call E."

Then she sounded high, in the key of Y,
A note that cracked the tombs;
And the missiles through the firmament flew
From adjacent sleeping-rooms.

As her gruesome yell from the gate-post fell
She followed it down to earth;
And that snapdog wears a placard that bears
The inscription: "Blind from birth."


When Adam first saw Eve he said:
"O lovely creature, share my bed."
Before consenting, she her gaze
Fixed on the greensward to appraise,
As well as vision could avouch,
The value of the proffered couch.
And seeing that the grass was green
And neatly clipped with a machine--
Observing that the flow'rs were rare
Varieties, and some were fair,
The posts of precious woods, besprent
With fragrant balsams, diffluent,
And all things suited to her worth,
She raised her angel eyes from earth
To his and, blushing to confess,
Murmured: "I love you, Adam--yes."
Since then her daughters, it is said,
Look always down when asked to wed.


Och! Father McGlynn,
Ye appear to be in
Fer a bit of a bout wid the Pope;
An' there's divil a doubt
But he's knockin' ye out
While ye're hangin' onto the rope.

An' soon ye'll lave home
To thravel to Rome,
For its bound to Canossa ye are.
Persistin' to shtay
When ye're ordered away--
Bedad! that is goin' too far!


Lord of the tempest, pray refrain
From leveling this church again.
Now in its doom, as so you've willed it,
We acquiesce. But _you'll_ rebuild it.


"Lothario is very low,"
So all the doctors tell.
Nay, nay, not _so_--he will be, though,
If ever he get well.


When, with the force of a ram that discharges its ponderous body
Straight at the rear elevation of the luckless culler of simples,
The foot of Herculean Kilgore--statesman of surname suggestive
Or carnage unspeakable!--lit like a missile prodigious
Upon the Congressional door with a monstrous and mighty momentum,
Causing that vain ineffective bar to political freedom
To fly from its hinges, effacing the nasal excrescence of Dingley,
That luckless one, decently veiling the ruin with ready bandanna,
Lamented the loss of his eminence, sadly with sobs as follows:
"Ah, why was I ever elected to the halls of legislation,
So soon to be shown the door with pitiless emphasis? Truly,
I've leaned on a broken Reed, and the same has gone back on me meanly.
Where now is my prominence, erstwhile in council conspicuous, patent?
Alas, I did never before understand what I now see clearly,
To wit, that Democracy tends to level all human distinctions!"
His fate so untoward and sad the Pine-tree statesman, bewailing,
Stood in the corridor there while Democrats freed from confinement
Came trooping forth from the chamber, dissembling all, as they passed him,
Hilarious sentiments painful indeed to observe, and remarking:
"O friend and colleague of the Speaker, what ails the unjoyous proboscis?"


What, madam, run for School Director? You?
And want my vote and influence? Well, well,
That beats me! Gad! where _are_ we drifting to?
In all my life I never have heard tell
Of such sublime presumption, and I smell
A nigger in the fence! Excuse me, madam;
We statesmen sometimes speak like the old Adam.

But now you mention it--well, well, who knows?
We might, that's certain, give the sex a show.
I have a cousin--teacher. I suppose
If I stand in and you 're elected--no?
You'll make no bargains? That's a pretty go!
But understand that school administration
Belongs to Politics, not Education.

We'll pass the teacher deal; but it were wise
To understand each other at the start.
You know my business--books and school supplies;
You'd hardly, if elected, have the heart
Some small advantage to deny me--part
Of all my profits to be yours. What? Stealing?
Please don't express yourself with so much feeling.

You pain me, truly. Now one question more.
Suppose a fair young man should ask a place
As teacher--would you (pardon) shut the door
Of the Department in his handsome face
Until--I know not how to put the case--
Would you extort a kiss to pay your favor?
Good Lord! you laugh? I thought the matter graver.

Well, well, we can't do business, I suspect:
A woman has no head for useful tricks.
My profitable offers you reject
And will not promise anything to fix
The opposition. That's not politics.
Good morning. Stay--I'm chaffing you, conceitedly.
Madam, I mean to vote for you--repeatedly.


What! you a Senator--you, Mike de Young?
Still reeking of the gutter whence you sprung?
Sir, if all Senators were such as you,
Their hands so crimson and so slender, too,--
(Shaped to the pocket for commercial work,
For literary, fitted to the dirk)--
So black their hearts, so lily-white their livers,
The toga's touch would give a man the shivers.


Down in Southern Arizona where the Gila monster thrives,
And the "Mescalero," gifted with a hundred thousand lives,
Every hour renounces one of them by drinking liquid flame--
The assassinating wassail that has given him his name;
Where the enterprising dealer in Caucasian hair is seen
To hold his harvest festival upon his village-green,
While the late lamented tenderfoot upon the plain is spread
With a sanguinary circle on the summit of his head;
Where the cactuses (or cacti) lift their lances in the sun,
And incautious jackass-rabbits come to sorrow as they run,
Lived a colony of settlers--old Missouri was the State
Where they formerly resided at a prehistoric date.

Now, the spot that had been chosen for this colonizing scheme
Was as waterless, believe me, as an Arizona stream.

The soil was naught but ashes, by the breezes driven free,
And an acre and a quarter were required to sprout a pea.
So agriculture languished, for the land would not produce,
And for lack of water, whisky was the beverage in use--
Costly whisky, hauled in wagons many a weary, weary day,
Mostly needed by the drivers to sustain them on their way.
Wicked whisky! King of Evils! Why, O, why did God create
Such a curse and thrust it on us in our inoffensive state?

Once a parson came among them, and a holy man was he;
With his ailing stomach whisky wouldn't anywise agree;
So he knelt upon the _mesa_ and he prayed with all his chin
That the Lord would send them water or incline their hearts to gin.

Scarcely was the prayer concluded ere an earthquake shook the land,
And with copious effusion springs burst out on every hand!
Merrily the waters gurgled, and the shock which gave them birth
Fitly was by some declared a temperance movement of the earth.
Astounded by the miracle, the people met that night
To celebrate it properly by some religious rite;
And 'tis truthfully recorded that before the moon had sunk
Every man and every woman was devotionally drunk.
A half a standard gallon (says history) per head
Of the best Kentucky prime was at that ceremony shed.
O, the glory of that country! O, the happy, happy folk.
By the might of prayer delivered from Nature's broken yoke!
Lo! the plains to the horizon all are yellowing with rye,
And the corn upon the hill-top lifts its banners to the sky!
Gone the wagons, gone the drivers, and the road is grown to grass,
Over which the incalescent Bourbon did aforetime pass.
Pikeville (that's the name they've given, in their wild, romantic way,
To that irrigation district) now distills, statistics say,
Something like a hundred gallons, out of each recurrent crop,
To the head of population--and consumes it, every drop!


I saw the devil--he was working free:
A customs-house he builded by the sea.
"Why do you this?" The devil raised his head;
"Churches and courts I've built enough," he said.


Upon my desk a single spray,
With starry blossoms fraught.
I write in many an idle way,
Thinking one serious thought.

"O flowers, a fine Greek name ye bear,
And with a fine Greek grace."
Be still, O heart, that turns to share
The sunshine of a face.

"Have ye no messages--no brief,
Still sign: 'Despair', or 'Hope'?"
A sudden stir of stem and leaf--
A breath of heliotrope!


Come in, old gentleman. How do you do?
Delighted, I'm sure, that you've called.
I'm a sociable sort of a chap and you
Are a pleasant-appearing person, too,
With a head agreeably bald.
That's right--sit down in the scuttle of coal
And put up your feet in a chair.
It is better to have them there:
And I've always said that a hat of lead,
Such as I see you wear,
Was a better hat than a hat of glass.
And your boots of brass
Are a natural kind of boots, I swear.
"May you blow your nose on a paper of pins?"
Why, certainly, man, why not?
I rather expected you'd do it before,
When I saw you poking it in at the door.
It's dev'lish hot--
The weather, I mean. "You are twins"?
Why, that was evident at the start,
From the way that you paint your head
In stripes of purple and red,
With dots of yellow.
That proves you a fellow
With a love of legitimate art.
"You've bitten a snake and are feeling bad"?
That's very sad,
But Longfellow's words I beg to recall:
Your lot is the common lot of all.
"Horses are trees and the moon is a sneeze"?
That, I fancy, is just as you please.
Some think that way and others hold
The opposite view;
I never quite knew,
For the matter o' that,
When everything's been said--
May I offer this mat
If you _will_ stand on your head?
I suppose I look to be upside down
From your present point of view.
It's a giddy old world, from king to clown,
And a topsy-turvy, too.
But, worthy and now uninverted old man,
_You're_ built, at least, on a normal plan
If ever a truth I spoke.
Your air and conversation
Are a liberal education,
And your clothes, including the metal hat
And the brazen boots--what's that?

"You never could stomach a Democrat
Since General Jackson ran?
You're another sort, but you predict
That your party'll get consummately licked?"
Good God! what a queer old man!


A Countess (so they tell the tale)
Who dwelt of old in Arno's vale,
Where ladies, even of high degree,
Know more of love than of A.B.C,
Came once with a prodigious bribe
Unto the learned village scribe,
That most discreet and honest man
Who wrote for all the lover clan,
Nor e'er a secret had betrayed--
Save when inadequately paid.
"Write me," she sobbed--"I pray thee do--
A book about the Prince di Giu--
A book of poetry in praise
Of all his works and all his ways;
The godlike grace of his address,
His more than woman's tenderness,
His courage stern and lack of guile,
The loves that wantoned in his smile.
So great he was, so rich and kind,
I'll not within a fortnight find
His equal as a lover. O,
My God! I shall be drowned in woe!"

"What! Prince di Giu has died!" exclaimed
The honest man for letters famed,
The while he pocketed her gold;
"Of what'?--if I may be so bold."
Fresh storms of tears the lady shed:
"I stabbed him fifty times," she said.



A famous conqueror, in battle brave,
Who robbed the cradle to supply the grave.
His reign laid quantities of human dust:
He fell upon the just and the unjust.


What! imitate me, friend? Suppose that you
With agony and difficulty do
What I do easily--what then? You've got
A style I heartily wish _I_ had not.
If I from lack of sense and you from choice
Grieve the judicious and the unwise rejoice,
No equal censure our deserts will suit--
We both are fools, but you're an ape to boot!


"By good men's prayers see Grant restored!"
Shouts Talmage, pious creature!
Yes, God, by supplication bored
From every droning preacher,
Exclaimed: "So be it, tiresome crew--
But I've a crow to pick with _you_."


He looked upon the ships as they
All idly lay at anchor,
Their sides with gorgeous workmen gay--
The riveter and planker--

Republicans and Democrats,
Statesmen and politicians.
He saw the swarm of prudent rats
Swimming for land positions.

He marked each "belted cruiser" fine,
Her poddy life-belts floating
In tether where the hungry brine
Impinged upon her coating.

He noted with a proud regard,
As any of his class would,
The poplar mast and poplar yard
Above the hull of bass-wood.

He saw the Eastlake frigate tall,
With quaintly carven gable,
Hip-roof and dormer-window--all
With ivy formidable.

In short, he saw our country's hope
In best of all conditions--
Equipped, to the last spar and rope,
By working politicians.

He boarded then the noblest ship
And from the harbor glided.
"Adieu, adieu!" fell from his lip.
Verdict: "He suicided."



In Congress once great Mowther shone,
Debating weighty matters;
Now into an asylum thrown,
He vacuously chatters.

If in that legislative hall
His wisdom still he 'd vented,
It never had been known at all
That Mowther was demented.


Ben Bulger was a silver man,
Though not a mine had he:
He thought it were a noble plan
To make the coinage free.

"There hain't for years been sech a time,"
Said Ben to his bull pup,
"For biz--the country's broke and I'm
The hardest kind of up.

"The paper says that that's because
The silver coins is sea'ce,
And that the chaps which makes the laws
Puts gold ones in their place.

"They says them nations always be
Most prosperatin' where
The wolume of the currency
Ain't so disgustin' rare."

His dog, which hadn't breakfasted,
Dissented from his view,
And wished that he could swell, instead,
The volume of cold stew.

"Nobody'd put me up," said Ben,
"With patriot galoots
Which benefits their feller men
By playin' warious roots;

"But havin' all the tools about,
I'm goin' to commence
A-turnin' silver dollars out
Wuth eighty-seven cents.

"The feller takin' 'em can't whine:
(No more, likewise, can I):
They're better than the genooine,
Which mostly satisfy.

"It's only makin' coinage free,
And mebby might augment
The wolume of the currency
A noomerous per cent."

I don't quite see his error nor
Malevolence prepense,
But fifteen years they gave him for
That technical offense.


He lay on his bed and solemnly "signed,"
Gasping--perhaps 'twas a jest he meant:
"This of a sound and disposing mind
Is the last ill-will and contestament."


To bucks and ewes by the Good Shepherd fed
The Priest delivers masses for the dead,
And even from estrays outside the fold
Death for the masses he would not withhold.
The Parson, loth alike to free or kill,
Forsakes the souls already on the grill,
And, God's prerogative of mercy shamming,
Spares living sinners for a harder damning.


Observe, dear Lord, what lively pranks
Are played by sentimental cranks!
First this one mounts his hinder hoofs
And brays the chimneys off the roofs;
Then that one, with exalted voice,
Expounds the thesis of his choice,
Our understandings to bombard,
Till all the window panes are starred!
A third augments the vocal shock
Till steeples to their bases rock,
Confessing, as they humbly nod,
They hear and mark the will of God.
A fourth in oral thunder vents
His awful penury of sense
Till dogs with sympathetic howls,
And lowing cows, and cackling fowls,
Hens, geese, and all domestic birds,
Attest the wisdom of his words.
Cranks thus their intellects deflate
Of theories about the State.
This one avers 'tis built on Truth,
And that on Temperance. This youth
Declares that Science bears the pile;
That graybeard, with a holy smile,
Says Faith is the supporting stone;
While women swear that Love alone
Could so unflinchingly endure
The heavy load. And some are sure
The solemn vow of Christian Wedlock
Is the indubitable bedrock.

Physicians once about the bed
Of one whose life was nearly sped
Blew up a disputatious breeze
About the cause of his disease:
This, that and t' other thing they blamed.
"Tut, tut!" the dying man exclaimed,
"What made me ill I do not care;
You've not an ounce of it, I'll swear.
And if you had the skill to make it
I'd see you hanged before I'd take it!"


Must you, Carnegie, evermore explain
Your worth, and all the reasons give again
Why black and red are similarly white,
And you and God identically right?
Still must our ears without redress submit
To hear you play the solemn hypocrite
Walking in spirit some high moral level,
Raising at once his eye-balls and the devil?
Great King of Cant! if Nature had but made
Your mouth without a tongue I ne'er had prayed
To have an earless head. Since she did not,
Bear me, ye whirlwinds, to some favored spot--
Some mountain pinnacle that sleeps in air
So delicately, mercifully rare
That when the fellow climbs that giddy hill,
As, for my sins, I know at last he will,
To utter twaddle in that void inane
His soundless organ he will play in vain.


On Evidence, on Deeds, on Bills,
On Copyhold, on Loans, on Wills,
Lawyers great books indite;
The creaking of their busy quills
I've never heard on Right.



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