By Ambrose Bierce
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,
By speech our liberty 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.
‘Tis 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
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The New Decalogue
Have but one God: thy knees were sore
If bent in prayer to three or four.
Adore no images save those
The coinage of thy country shows.
Take not the Name in vain. Direct
Thy swearing unto some effect.
Thy hand from Sunday work be held—
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Sestina in Prose
It was like climbing a mountain to those of us who’d climbed one. To the others, it was like, I suppose, something else. In other words, we let everybody find her own figure of speech.
Not that it—speech—lay thick on the...
The Heart Shows No Signs
The heart, the surgeon says, does not reveal
the small rifts, the hairline cracks which
split the hairline cracks they conceal cops
and robbers in a stretch of skin flaunting
star-scars with show of blood bone
the ledges of what it holds tight in checkmate
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In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
The Glories of Our Blood and State
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal...