Black Beetles in Amber
by Ambrose Bierce
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse












Many of the verses in this book are republished, with considerable alterations, from various newspapers. The collection includes few not relating to persons and events more or less familiar to the people of the Pacific Coast—to whom the volume may be considered as especially addressed, though, not without a hope that some part of the contents may be found to have sufficient intrinsic interest to commend it to others. In that case, doubtless, commentators will be "raised up" to make exposition of its full meaning, with possibly an added meaning read into it by themselves.

Of my motives in writing, and in now republishing, I do not care to make either defense or explanation, except with reference to those persons who since my first censure of them have passed away. To one having only a reader's interest in the matter it may easily seem that the verses relating to those might more properly have been omitted from this collection. But if these pieces, or, indeed, if any considerable part of my work in literature, have the intrinsic worth which by this attempt to preserve some of it I have assumed, their permanent suppression is impossible, and it is only a question of when and by whom they shall be republished. Some one will surely search them out and put them in circulation.

I conceive it the right of an author to have his fugitive work collected in his lifetime; and this seems to me especially true of one whose work, necessarily engendering animosities, is peculiarly exposed to challenge as unjust. That is a charge that can be best examined before time has effaced the evidence. For the death of a man of whom I may have written what I venture to think worthy to live I am no way responsible; and, however sincerely I may regret it, I can hardly be expected to consent that it shall affect my fortunes. If the satirist who does not accept the remarkable doctrine that while condemning the sin he should spare the sinner were bound to let the life of his work be coterminous with that of his subject his were a lot of peculiar hardship.

Persuaded of the validity of all this, I have not hesitated to reprint even certain "epitaphs" which, once of the living, are now of the dead, as all the others must eventually be. The objection inheres in all forms of applied satire—my understanding of whose laws and liberties is at least derived from reverent study of the masters. That in respect of matters herein mentioned I have but followed their practice can be shown by abundant instance and example.



I dreamed I was dreaming one morn as I lay In a garden with flowers teeming. On an island I lay in a mystical bay, In the dream that I dreamed I was dreaming.

The ghost of a scent—had it followed me there From the place where I truly was resting? It filled like an anthem the aisles of the air, The presence of roses attesting.

Yet I thought in the dream that I dreamed I dreamed That the place was all barren of roses— That it only seemed; and the place, I deemed, Was the Isle of Bewildered Noses.

Full many a seaman had testified How all who sailed near were enchanted, And landed to search (and in searching died) For the roses the Sirens had planted.

For the Sirens were dead, and the billows boomed In the stead of their singing forever; But the roses bloomed on the graves of the doomed, Though man had discovered them never.

I thought in my dream 'twas an idle tale, A delusion that mariners cherished— That the fragrance loading the conscious gale Was the ghost of a rose long perished.

I said, "I will fly from this island of woes." And acting on that decision, By that odor of rose I was led by the nose, For 'twas truly, ah! truly, Elysian.

I ran, in my madness, to seek out the source Of the redolent river—directed By some supernatural, sinister force To a forest, dark, haunted, infected.

And still as I threaded ('twas all in the dream That I dreamed I was dreaming) each turning There were many a scream and a sudden gleam Of eyes all uncannily burning!

The leaves were all wet with a horrible dew That mirrored the red moon's crescent, And all shapes were fringed with a ghostly blue, Dim, wavering, phosphorescent.

But the fragrance divine, coming strong and free, Led me on, though my blood was clotting, Till—ah, joy!—I could see, on the limbs of a tree, Mine enemies hanging and rotting!


Lord, shed thy light upon his desert path, And gild his branded brow, that no man spill His forfeit life to balk thy holy will That spares him for the ripening of wrath.

Already, lo! the red sign is descried, To trembling jurors visibly revealed: The prison doors obediently yield, The baffled hangman flings the cord aside.

Powell, the brother's blood that marks your trail— Hark, how it cries against you from the ground, Like the far baying of the tireless hound. Faith! to your ear it is no nightingale.

What signifies the date upon a stone? To-morrow you shall die if not to-day. What matter when the Avenger choose to slay Or soon or late the Devil gets his own.

Thenceforth through all eternity you'll hold No one advantage of the later death. Though you had granted Ralph another breath Would he to-day less silent lie and cold?

Earth cares not, curst assassin, when you die; You never will be readier than now. Wear, in God's name, that mark upon your brow, And keep the life you purchased with a lie!


Death-poet Pickering sat at his desk, Wrapped in appropriate gloom; His posture was pensive and picturesque, Like a raven charming a tomb.

Enter a party a-drinking the cup Of sorrow—and likewise of woe: "Some harrowing poetry, Mister, whack up, All wrote in the key of O.

"For the angels has called my old woman hence From the strife (where she fit mighty free). It's a nickel a line? Cond—n the expense! For wealth is now little to me."

The Bard of Mortality looked him through In the piercingest sort of a way: "It is much to me though it's little to you— I've taken a wife to-day."

So he twisted the tail of his mental cow And made her give down her flow. The grief of that bard was long-winded, somehow— There was reams and reamses of woe.

The widower man which had buried his wife Grew lily-like round each gill, For she turned in her grave and came back to life— Then he cruel ignored the bill!

Then Sorrow she opened her gates a-wide, As likewise did also Woe, And the death-poet's song, as is heard inside, Is sang in the key of O.


Boruck and Waterman upon their grills In Hades lay, with many a sigh and groan, Hotly disputing, for each swore his own Were clearly keener than the other's ills. And, truly, each had much to boast of—bone And sinew, muscle, tallow, nerve and skin, Blood in the vein and marrow in the shin, Teeth, eyes and other organs (for the soul Has all of these and even a wagging chin) Blazing and coruscating like a coal! For Lower Sacramento, you remember, Has trying weather, even in mid-December.

Now this occurred in the far future. All Mankind had been a million ages dead, And each to her reward above had sped, Each to his punishment below,—I call That quite a just arrangement. As I said, Boruck and Waterman in warmest pain Crackled and sizzed with all their might and main. For, when on earth, they'd freed a scurvy host Of crooks from the State prison, who again Had robbed and ravaged the Pacific Coast And (such the felon's predatory nature) Even got themselves into the Legislature.

So Waterman and Boruck lay and roared In Hades. It is true all other males Felt the like flames and uttered equal wails, But did not suffer them; whereas they bored Each one the other. But indeed my tale's Not getting on at all. They lay and browned Till Boruck (who long since his teeth had ground Away and spoke Gum Arabic and made Stump speeches even in praying) looked around And said to Bob's incinerated shade: "Your Excellency, this is mighty hard on The inventors of the unpardonable pardon."

The other soul—his right hand all aflame, For 'twas with that he'd chiefly sinned, although His tongue, too, like a wick was working woe To the reserve of tallow in his frame— Said, with a sputtering, uncertain flow, And with a gesture like a shaken torch: "Yes, but I'm sure we'll not much longer scorch. Although this climate is not good for Hope, Whose joyous wing 'twould singe, I think the porch Of Hell we'll quit with a pacific slope. Last century I signified repentance And asked for commutation of our sentence."

Even as he spoke, the form of Satan loomed In sight, all crimson with reflections's fire, Like some tall tower or cathedral spire Touched by the dawn while all the earth is gloomed In mists and shadows of the night time. "Sire," Said Waterman, his agitable wick Still sputtering, "what calls you back so quick? It scarcely was a century ago You left us." "I have come to bring," said Nick, "St. Peter's answer (he is never slow In correspondence) to your application For pardon—pardon me!—for commutation.

"He says that he's instructed to reply (And he has so instructed me) that sin Like yours—and this poor gentleman's who's in For bad advice to you—comes rather high; But since, apparently, you both begin To feel some pious promptings to the right, And fain would turn your faces to the light, Eternity seems all too long a term. So 'tis commuted to one-half. I'm quite Prepared, when that expires, to free the worm And quench the fire." And, civilly retreating, He left them holding their protracted meeting.


[The Chronicle did a great public service in whipping —— and his fellow-rascals out of office.—M.H. de Young's Newspaper.]

What! you whip rascals?—you, whose gutter blood Bears, in its dark, dishonorable flood, Enough of prison-birds' prolific germs To serve a whole eternity of terms? You, for whose back the rods and cudgels strove Ere yet the ax had hewn them from the grove? You, the De Young whose splendor bright and brave Is phosphorescence from another's grave— Till now unknown, by any chance or luck, Even to the hearts at which you, feebly struck? You whip a rascal out of office?—you Whose leadless weapon once ignobly blew Its smoke in six directions to assert Your lack of appetite for others' dirt?

Practice makes perfect: when for fame you thirst, Then whip a rascal. Whip a cripple first. Or, if for action you're less free than bold— Your palms both brimming with dishonest gold— Entrust the castigation that you've planned, As once before, to woman's idle hand. So in your spirit shall two pleasures join To slake the sacred thirst for blood and coin. Blood? Souls have blood, even as the body hath, And, spilled, 'twill fertilize the field of wrath. Lo! in a purple gorge of yonder hills, Where o'er a grave a bird its day-song stills, A woman's blood, through roses ever red, Mutely appeals for vengeance on your head. Slandered to death to serve a sordid end, She called you murderer and called me friend.

Now, mark you, libeler, this course if you Dare to maintain, or rather to renew; If one short year's immunity has made You blink again the perils of your trade— The ghastly sequence of the maddened "knave," The hot encounter and the colder grave; If the grim, dismal lesson you ignore While yet the stains are fresh upon your floor, And calmly march upon the fatal brink With eyes averted to your trail of ink, Counting unkind the services of those Who pull, to hold you back, your stupid nose, The day for you to die is not so far, Or, at the least, to live the thing you are!

Pregnant with possibilities of crime, And full of felons for all coming time, Your blood's too precious to be lightly spilt In testimony to a venial guilt. Live to get whelpage and preserve a name No praise can sweeten and no lie unshame. Live to fulfill the vision that I see Down the dim vistas of the time to be: A dream of clattering beaks and burning eyes Of hungry ravens glooming all the skies; A dream of gleaming teeth and foetid breath Of jackals wrangling at the feast of death; A dream of broken necks and swollen tongues— The whole world's gibbets loaded with De Youngs!



In that fair city by the inland sea, Where Blaine unhived his Presidential bee, Frank Pixley's meeting with George Gorham sing, Celestial muse, and what events did spring From the encounter of those mighty sons Of thunder, and of slaughter, and of guns. Great Gorham first, his yearning tooth to sate And give him stomach for the day's debate, Entering a restaurant, with eager mien, Demands an ounce of bacon and a bean. The trembling waiter, by the statesman's eye Smitten with terror, hastens to comply; Nor chairs nor tables can his speed retard, For famine's fixed and horrible regard He takes for menace. As he shaking flew, Lo! the portentous Pixley heaved in view! Before him yawned invisible the cell, Unheard, behind, the warden's footsteps fell. Thrice in convention rising to his feet, He thrice had been thrust back into his seat; Thrice had protested, been reminded thrice The nation had no need of his advice. Balked of his will to set the people right, His soul was gloomy though his hat was white, So fierce his mien, with provident accord The waiters swarmed him, thinking him a lord. He spurned them, roaring grandly to their chief: "Give me (Fred. Crocker pays) a leg of beef!" His wandering eye's deluminating flame Fell upon Gorham and the crisis came! For Pixley scowled and darkness filled the room Till Gorham's flashing orbs dispelled the gloom. The patrons of the place, by fear dismayed, Sprang to the street and left their scores unpaid. So, when Jove thunders and his lightnings gleam To sour the milk and curdle, too, the cream, And storm-clouds gather on the shadowed hill, The ass forsakes his hay, the pig his swill. Hotly the heroes now engaged—their breath Came short and hard, as in the throes of death. They clenched their hands, their weapons brandished high, Cut, stabbed, and hewed, nor uttered any cry, But gnashed their teeth and struggled on! In brief, One ate his bacon, t'other one his beef.


[Especially should we be thankful for having escaped the ravages of the yellow scourge by which our neighbors have been so sorely afflicted.—Governor Stoneman's Thanksgiving Proclamation.]

Be pleased, O Lord, to take a people's thanks That Thine avenging sword has spared our ranks— That Thou hast parted from our lips the cup And forced our neighbors' lips to drink it up. Father of Mercies, with a heart contrite We thank Thee that Thou goest south to smite, And sparest San Francisco's loins, to crack Thy lash on Hermosillo's bleeding back— That o'er our homes Thine awful angel spread His wings in vain, and Guaymas weeps instead.

We praise Thee, God, that Yellow Fever here His horrid banner has not dared to rear, Consumption's jurisdiction to contest, Her dagger deep in every second breast! Catarrh and Asthma and Congestive Chill Attest Thy bounty and perform Thy will. These native messengers obey Thy call— They summon singly, but they summon all. Not, as in Mexico's impested clime, Can Yellow Jack commit recurring crime. We thank Thee that Thou killest all the time.

Thy tender mercies, Father, never end: Upon all heads Thy blessings still descend, Though their forms vary. Here the sown seeds yield Abundant grain that whitens all the field— There the smit corn stands barren on the plain, Thrift reaps the straw and Famine gleans in vain. Here the fat priest to the contented king Points out the contrast and the people sing— There mothers eat their offspring. Well, at least Thou hast provided offspring for the feast. An earthquake here rolls harmless through the land, And Thou art good because the chimneys stand— There templed cities sink into the sea, And damp survivors, howling as they flee, Skip to the hills and hold a celebration In honor of Thy wise discrimination.

O God, forgive them all, from Stoneman down, Thy smile who construe and expound Thy frown, And fall with saintly grace upon their knees To render thanks when Thou dost only sneeze.



Sharon, ambitious of immortal shame, Fame's dead-wall daubed with his illustrious name— Served in the Senate, for our sins, his time, Each word a folly and each vote a crime; Law for our governance well skilled to make By knowledge gained in study how to break; Yet still by the presiding eye ignored, Which only sought him when too loud he snored. Auspicious thunder!—when he woke to vote He stilled his own to cut his country's throat; That rite performed, fell off again to sleep, While statesmen ages dead awoke to weep! For sedentary service all unfit, By lying long disqualified to sit, Wasting below as he decayed aloft, His seat grown harder as his brain grew soft, He left the hall he could not bring away, And grateful millions blessed the happy day! Whate'er contention in that hall is heard, His sovereign State has still the final word: For disputatious statesmen when they roar Startle the ancient echoes of his snore, Which from their dusty nooks expostulate And close with stormy clamor the debate. To low melodious thunders then they fade; Their murmuring lullabies all ears invade; Peace takes the Chair; the portal Silence keeps; No motion stirs the dark Lethean deeps— Washoe has spoken and the Senate sleeps.


Lo! the new Sharon with a new intent, Making no laws, but keen to circumvent The laws of Nature (since he can't repeal) That break his failing body on the wheel. As Tantalus again and yet again The elusive wave endeavors to restrain To slake his awful thirst, so Sharon tries To purchase happiness that age denies; Obtains the shadow, but the substance goes, And hugs the thorn, but cannot keep the rose; For Dead Sea fruits bids prodigally, eats, And then, with tardy reformation—cheats. Alert his faculties as three score years And four score vices will permit, he nears— Dicing with Death—the finish of the game, And curses still his candle's wasting flame, The narrow circle of whose feeble glow Dims and diminishes at every throw. Moments his losses, pleasures are his gains, Which even in his grasp revert to pains. The joy of grasping them alone remains.


Ring up the curtain and the play protract! Behold our Sharon in his last mad act. With man long warring, quarreling with God, He crouches now beneath a woman's rod Predestined for his back while yet it lay Closed in an acorn which, one luckless day, He stole, unconscious of its foetal twig, From the scant garner of a sightless pig. With bleeding shoulders pitilessly scored, He bawls more lustily than once he snored. The sympathetic Comstocks droop to hear, And Carson river sheds a viscous tear, Which sturdy tumble-bugs assail amain, With ready thrift, and urge along the plain. The jackass rabbit sorrows as he lopes; The sage-brush glooms along the mountain slopes; In rising clouds the poignant alkali, Tearless itself, makes everybody cry. Washoe canaries on the Geiger Grade Subdue the singing of their cavalcade, And, wiping with their ears the tears unshed, Grieve for their family's unlucky head. Virginia City intermits her trade And well-clad strangers walk her streets unflayed. Nay, all Nevada ceases work to weep And the recording angel goes to sleep. But in his dreams his goose-quill's creaking fount Augments the debits in the long account. And still the continents and oceans ring With royal torments of the Silver King! Incessant bellowings fill all the earth, Mingled with inextinguishable mirth. He roars, men laugh, Nevadans weep, beasts howl, Plash the affrighted fish, and shriek the fowl! With monstrous din their blended thunders rise, Peal upon peal, and brawl along the skies, Startle in hell the Sharons as they groan, And shake the splendors of the great white throne! Still roaring outward through the vast profound, The spreading circles of receding sound Pursue each other in a failing race To the cold confines of eternal space; There break and die along that awful shore Which God's own eyes have never dared explore— Dark, fearful, formless, nameless evermore!

Look to the west! Against yon steely sky Lone Mountain rears its holy cross on high. About its base the meek-faced dead are laid To share the benediction of its shade. With crossed white hands, shut eyes and formal feet, Their nights are innocent, their days discreet. Sharon, some years, perchance, remain of life— Of vice and greed, vulgarity and strife; And then—God speed the day if such His will— You'll lie among the dead you helped to kill, And be in good society at last, Your purse unsilvered and your face unbrassed.


Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon, Casting to South his eye across the bourne Of his dominion (where the Palmiped, With leathers 'twixt his toes, paddles his marsh, Amphibious) saw a rising cloud of hats, And heard a faint, far sound of distant cheers Below the swell of the horizon. "Lo," Cried one, "the President! the President!" All footed webwise then took up the word— The hill tribes and the tribes lacustrine and The folk riparian and littoral, Cried with one voice: "The President! He comes!" And some there were who flung their headgear up In emulation of the Southern mob; While some, more soberly disposed, stood still And silently had fits; and others made Such reverent genuflexions as they could, Having that climate in their bones. Then spake The Court Dunce, humbly, as became him: "Sire, If thou, as heretofore thou hast, wilt deign To reap advantage of a fool's advice By action ordered after nature's way, As in thy people manifest (for still Stupidity's the only wisdom) thou Wilt get thee straight unto to the border land To mark the President's approach with such Due, decent courtesy as it shall seem We have in custom the best warrant for."

Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon, Eyeing the storm of hats which darkened all The Southern sky, and hearing far hurrahs Of an exulting people, answered not. Then some there were who fell upon their knees, And some upon their Governor, and sought Each in his way, by blandishment or force, To gain his action to their end. "Behold," They said, "thy brother Governor to South Met him even at the gateway of his realm, Crook-kneed, magnetic-handed and agrin, Backed like a rainbow—all things done in form Of due observance and respect. Shall we Alone of all his servitors refuse Swift welcome to our master and our lord?"

Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon, Answered them not, but turned his back to them And as if speaking to himself, the while He started to retire, said: "He be damned!"

To that High Place o'er Portland's central block, Where the Recording Angel stands to view The sinning world, nor thinks to move his feet Aside and look below, came flocking up Inferior angels, all aghast, and cried: "Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon, Has said, O what an awful word!—too bad To be by us repeated!" "Yes, I know," Said the superior bird—"I heard it too, And have already booked it. Pray observe." Splitting the giant tome, whose covers fell Apart, o'ershadowing to right and left The Eastern and the Western world, he showed The newly written entry, black and big, Upon the credit side of thine account, Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon.


O never an oathe sweares he, And never a pig-taile jerkes; With a brick-batte he ne lurkes For to buste y'e crust, perdie, Of y'e man from over sea, A-synging as he werkes. For he knows ful well, y's youth, A tricke of exceeding worth: And he plans withouten ruth A conflagration's birth!


Like a worn mother he attempts in vain To still the unruly Crier of his brain: The more he rocks the cradle of his chin The more uproarious grows the brat within.


"O son of mine age, these eyes lose their fire: Be eyes, I pray, to thy dying sire."

"O father, fear not, for mine eyes are bright— I read through a millstone at dead of night."

"My son, O tell me, who are those men, Rushing like pigs to the feeding-pen?"

"Welcomers they of a statesman grand. They'll shake, and then they will pocket; his hand."

"Sagacious youth, with the wondrous eye, They seem to throw up their headgear. Why?"

"Because they've thrown up their hands until, O, They're so tired!—and dinners they've none to throw."

"My son, my son, though dull are mine ears, I hear a great sound like the people's cheers."

"He's thanking them, father, with tears in his eyes, For giving him lately that fine surprise."

"My memory fails as I near mine end; How did they astonish their grateful friend?"

"By letting him buy, like apples or oats, With that which has made him so good, the votes Which make him so wise and grand and great. Now, father, please die, for 'tis growing late."


I'd long been dead, but I returned to earth. Some small affairs posterity was making A mess of, and I came to see that worth Received its dues. I'd hardly finished waking, The grave-mould still upon me, when my eye Perceived a statue standing straight and high.

'Twas a colossal figure—bronze and gold— Nobly designed, in attitude commanding. A toga from its shoulders, fold on fold, Fell to the pedestal on which 'twas standing. Nobility it had and splendid grace, And all it should have had—except a face!

It showed no features: not a trace nor sign Of any eyes or nose could be detected— On the smooth oval of its front no line Where sites for mouths are commonly selected. All blank and blind its faulty head it reared. Let this be said: 'twas generously eared.

Seeing these things, I straight began to guess For whom this mighty image was intended. "The head," I cried, "is Upton's, and the dress Is Parson Bartlett's own." True, his cloak ended Flush with his lowest vertebra, but no Sane sculptor ever made a toga so.

Then on the pedestal these words I read: "Erected Eighteen Hundred Ninety-seven" (Saint Christofer! how fast the time had sped! Of course it naturally does in Heaven) "To ——" (here a blank space for the name began) "The Nineteenth Century's Great Foremost Man!"

"Completed" the inscription ended, "in The Year Three Thousand"—which was just arriving. By Jove! thought I, 'twould make the founders grin To learn whose fame so long has been surviving— To read the name posterity will place In that blank void, and view the finished face.

Even as I gazed, the year Three Thousand came, And then by acclamation all the people Decreed whose was our century's best fame; Then scaffolded the statue like a steeple, To make the likeness; and the name was sunk Deep in the pedestal's metallic trunk.

Whose was it? Gentle reader, pray excuse The seeming rudeness, but I can't consent to Be so forehanded with important news. 'Twas neither yours nor mine—let that content you. If not, the name I must surrender, which, Upon a dead man's word, was George K. Fitch!


Ira P. Rankin, you've a nasal name— I'll sound it through "the speaking-trump of fame," And wondering nations, hearing from afar The brazen twang of its resounding jar, Shall say: "These bards are an uncommon class— They blow their noses with a tube of brass!" Rankin! ye gods! if Influenza pick Our names at christening, and such names stick, Let's all be born when summer suns withstand Her prevalence and chase her from the land, And healing breezes generously help To shield from death each ailing human whelp! "What's in a name?" There's much at least in yours That the pained ear unwillingly endures, And much to make the suffering soul, I fear, Envy the lesser anguish of the ear.

So you object to Cytherea! Do, The picture was not painted, sir, for you! Your mind to gratify and taste address, The masking dove had been a dove the less. Provincial censor! all untaught in art, With mind indecent and indecent heart, Do you not know—nay, why should I explain? Instruction, argument alike were vain— I'll show you reasons when you show me brain.


I dreamed one night that Stephen Massett died, And for admission up at Heaven applied. "Who are you?" asked St. Peter. Massett said: "Jeems Pipes, of Pipesville." Peter bowed his head, Opened the gates and said: "I'm glad to know you, And wish we'd something better, sir, to show you." "Don't mention it," said Stephen, looking bland, And was about to enter, hat in hand, When from a cloud below such fumes arose As tickled tenderly his conscious nose. He paused, replaced his hat upon his head, Turned back and to the saintly warden said, O'er his already sprouting wings: "I swear I smell some broiling going on down there!" So Massett's paunch, attracted by the smell, Followed his nose and found a place in Hell.


"Let John P. Irish rise!" the edict rang As when Creation into being sprang! Nature, not clearly understanding, tried To make a bird that on the air could ride. But naught could baffle the creative plan— Despite her efforts 'twas almost a man. Yet he had risen—to the bird a twin— Had she but fixed a wing upon his chin.


Who in a Memorial Day oration protested bitterly against decorating the graves of Confederate dead.

What! Salomon! such words from you, Who call yourself a soldier? Well, The Southern brother where he fell Slept all your base oration through.

Alike to him—he cannot know Your praise or blame: as little harm Your tongue can do him as your arm A quarter-century ago.

The brave respect the brave. The brave Respect the dead; but you—you draw That ancient blade, the ass's jaw, And shake it o'er a hero's grave.

Are you not he who makes to-day A merchandise of old renown Which he persuades this easy town He won in battle far away?

Nay, those the fallen who revile Have ne'er before the living stood And stoutly made their battle good And greeted danger with a smile.

What if the dead whom still you hate Were wrong? Are you so surely right? We know the issue of the fight— The sword is but an advocate.

Men live and die, and other men Arise with knowledges diverse: What seemed a blessing seems a curse, And Now is still at odds with Then.

The years go on, the old comes back To mock the new—beneath the sun. Is nothing new; ideas run Recurrent in an endless track.

What most we censure, men as wise Have reverently practiced; nor Will future wisdom fail to war On principles we dearly prize.

We do not know—we can but deem, And he is loyalest and best Who takes the light full on his breast And follows it throughout the dream.

The broken light, the shadows wide— Behold the battle-field displayed! God save the vanquished from the blade, The victor from the victor's pride!

If, Salomon, the blessed dew That falls upon the Blue and Gray Is powerless to wash away The sin of differing from you.

Remember how the flood of years Has rolled across the erring slain; Remember, too, the cleansing rain Of widows' and of orphans' tears.

The dead are dead—let that atone: And though with equal hand we strew The blooms on saint and sinner too, Yet God will know to choose his own.

The wretch, whate'er his life and lot, Who does not love the harmless dead With all his heart and all his head— May God forgive him—I shall not.

When, Salomon, you come to quaff The Darker Cup with meeker face, I, loving you at last, shall trace Upon your tomb this epitaph:

"Draw near, ye generous and brave— Kneel round this monument and weep: It covers one who tried to keep A flower from a dead man's grave."


Your influence, my friend, has gathered head— To east and west its tides encroaching spread. There'll be, on all God's foot-stool, when they meet, No clean spot left for God to set His feet.


Strolling at sunset in my native land, With fruits and flowers thick on either hand, I crossed a Shadow flung athwart my way, Emerging on a waste of rock and sand.

"The apples all are gone from here," I said, "The roses perished and their spirits fled. I will go back." A voice cried out: "The man Is risen who eternally was dead!"

I turned and saw an angel standing there, Newly descended from the heights of air. Sweet-eyed compassion filled his face, his hands A naked sword and golden trumpet bare.

"Nay, 'twas not death, the shadow that I crossed," I said. "Its chill was but a touch of frost. It made me gasp, but quickly I came through, With breath recovered ere it scarce was lost."

'Twas the same land! Remembered mountains thrust Grayed heads asky, and every dragging gust, In ashen valleys where my sons had reaped, Stirred in familiar river-beds the dust.

Some heights, where once the traveler was shown The youngest and the proudest city known, Lifted smooth ridges in the steely light— Bleak, desolate acclivities of stone.

Where I had worshiped at my father's tomb, Within a massive temple's awful gloom, A jackal slunk along the naked rock, Affrighted by some prescience of doom.

Man's vestiges were nowhere to be found, Save one brass mausoleum on a mound (I knew it well) spared by the artist Time To emphasize the desolation round.

Into the stagnant sea the sullen sun Sank behind bars of crimson, one by one. "Eternity's at hand!" I cried aloud. "Eternity," the angel said, "is done.

For man is ages dead in every zone; The angels all are dead but I alone; The devils, too, are cold enough at last, And God lies dead before the great white throne!

'Tis foreordained that I bestride the shore When all are gone (as Gabriel did before, When I had throttled the last man alive) And swear Eternity shall be no more."

"O Azrael—O Prince of Death, declare Why conquered I the grave?" I cried. "What rare, Conspicuous virtues won this boon for me?" "You've been revived," he said, "to hear me swear."

"Then let me creep again beneath the grass, And knock thou at yon pompous tomb of brass. If ears are what you want, Charles Crocker's there— Betwixt the greatest ears, the greatest ass."

He rapped, and while the hollow echoes rang, Out at the door a curst hyena sprang And fled! Said Azrael: "His soul's escaped," And closed the brazen portal with a bang.


John Jackson, once a soldier bold, Hath still a martial feeling; So, when he sees a foe, behold! He charges him—with stealing.

He cares not how much ground to-day He gives for men to doubt him; He's used to giving ground, they say, Who lately fought with—out him.

When, for the battle to be won, His gallantry was needed, They say each time a loaded gun Went off—so, likewise, he did.

And when discharged (for war's a sport So hot he had to leave it) He made a very loud report, But no one did believe it.


Goldenson hanged! Well, Heaven forbid That I should smile above him: Though truth to tell, I never did Exactly love him.

It can't be wrong, though, to rejoice That his unpleasing capers Are ended. Silent is his voice In all the papers.

No longer he's a show: no more, Bear-like, his den he's walking. No longer can he hold the floor When I'd be talking.

The laws that govern jails are bad If such displays are lawful. The fate of the assassin's sad, But ours is awful!

What! shall a wretch condemned to die In shame upon the gibbet Be set before the public eye As an "exhibit"?—

His looks, his actions noted down, His words if light or solemn, And all this hawked about the town— So much a column?

The press, of course, will publish news However it may get it; But blast the sheriff who'll abuse His powers to let it!

Nay, this is not ingratitude; I'm no reporter, truly, Nor yet an editor. I'm rude Because unruly—

Because I burn with shame and rage Beyond my power of telling To see assassins in a cage And keepers yelling.

"Walk up! Walk up!" the showman cries: "Observe the lion's poses, His stormy mane, his glooming eyes. His—hold your noses!"

How long, O Lord, shall Law and Right Be mocked for gain or glory, And angels weep as they recite The shameful story?


What! Pixley, must I hear you call the roll Of all the vices that infest your soul? Was't not enough that lately you did bawl Your money-worship in the ears of all?[A] Still must you crack your brazen cheek to tell That though a miser you're a sot as well? Still must I hear how low your taste has sunk— From getting money down to getting drunk?[B]

Who worships money, damning all beside, And shows his callous knees with pious pride, Speaks with half-knowledge, for no man e'er scorns His own possessions, be they coins or corns. You've money, neighbor; had you gentle birth You'd know, as now you never can, its worth.

You've money; learning is beyond your scope, Deaf to your envy, stubborn to your hope. But if upon your undeserving head Science and letters had their glory shed; If in the cavern of your skull the light Of knowledge shone where now eternal night Breeds the blind, poddy, vapor-fatted naughts Of cerebration that you think are thoughts— Black bats in cold and dismal corners hung That squeak and gibber when you move your tongue— You would not write, in Avarice's defense, A senseless eulogy on lack of sense, Nor show your eagerness to sacrifice All noble virtues to one loathsome vice.

You've money; if you'd manners too you'd shame To boast your weakness or your baseness name. Appraise the things you have, but measure not The things denied to your unhappy lot. He values manners lighter than a cork Who combs his beard at table with a fork. Hare to seek sin and tortoise to forsake, The laws of taste condemn you to the stake To expiate, where all the world may see, The crime of growing old disgracefully.

Religion, learning, birth and manners, too, All that distinguishes a man from you, Pray damn at will: all shining virtues gain An added luster from a rogue's disdain. But spare the young that proselyting sin, A toper's apotheosis of gin. If not our young, at least our pigs may claim Exemption from the spectacle of shame!

Are you not he who lately out of shape Blew a brass trumpet to denounce the grape?— Who led the brave teetotalers afield And slew your leader underneath your shield?— Swore that no man should drink unless he flung Himself across your body at the bung? Who vowed if you'd the power you would fine The Son of God for making water wine?

All trails to odium you tread and boast, Yourself enamored of the dirtiest most. One day to be a miser you aspire, The next to wallow drunken in the mire; The third, lo! you're a meritorious liar![C] Pray, in the catalogue of all your graces, Have theft and cowardice no honored places?

Yield thee, great Satan—here's a rival name With all thy vices and but half thy shame! Quick to the letter of the precept, quick To the example of the elder Nick; With as great talent as was e'er applied To fool a teacher and to fog a guide; With slack allegiance and boundless greed, To paunch the profit of a traitor deed, He aims to make thy glory all his own, And crowd his master from the infernal throne!

[Footnote A: We are not writing this paragraph for any other purpose than to protest against this never ending cant, affectation, and hypocrisy about money. It is one of the best things in this world—better than religion, or good birth, or learning, or good manners.—The Argonaut.]

[Footnote B: Now, it just occurs to us that some of our temperance friends will take issue with us, and say that this is bad doctrine, and that it is ungentlemanly to get drunk under any circumstances or under any possible conditions. We do not think so.—The same.]

[Footnote C: The man or woman who, for the sake of benefiting others, protecting them in their lives, property, or reputation, sparing their feelings, contributing to their enjoyment, or increasing their pleasures, will tell a lie, deserves to be rewarded.—The same.]


Some one ('tis hardly new) has oddly said The color of a trumpet's blare is red; And Joseph Emmett thinks the crimson shame On woman's cheek a trumpet-note of fame. The more the red storm rises round her nose— The more her eyes averted seek her toes, He fancies all the louder he can hear The tube resounding in his spacious ear, And, all his varied talents to exert, Darkens his dullness to display his dirt. And when the gallery's indecent crowd, And gentlemen below, with hisses loud, In hot contention (these his art to crown, And those his naked nastiness to drown) Make such a din that cheeks erewhile aflame Grow white and in their fear forget their shame, With impudence imperial, sublime, Unmoved, the patient actor bides his time, Till storm and counter-storm are both allayed, Like donkeys, each by t'other one outbrayed. When all the place is silent as a mouse One slow, suggestive gesture clears the house!


To him in whom the love of Nature has Imperfectly supplanted the desire And dread necessity of food, your shore, Fair Oakland, is a terror. Over all Your sunny level, from Tamaletown To where the Pestuary's fragrant slime, With dead dogs studded, bears its ailing fleet, Broods the still menace of starvation. Bones Of men and women bleach along the ways And pampered vultures sleep upon the trees. It is a land of death, and Famine there Holds sovereignty; though some there be her sway Who challenge, and intrenched in larders live, Drawing their sustentation from abroad. But woe to him, the stranger! He shall die As die the early righteous in the bud And promise of their prime. He, venturesome To penetrate the wilds rectangular Of grass-grown ways luxuriant of blooms, Frequented of the bee and of the blithe, Bold squirrel, strays with heedless feet afar From human habitation and is lost In mid-Broadway. There hunger seizes him, And (careless man! deeming God's providence Extends so far) he has not wherewithal To bate its urgency. Then, lo! appears A mealery—a restaurant—a place Where poison battles famine, and the two, Like fish-hawks warring in the upper sky For that which one has taken from the deep, Manage between them to dispatch the prey. He enters and leaves hope behind. There ends His history. Anon his bones, clean-picked By buzzards (with the bones himself had picked, Incautious) line the highway. O, my friends, Of all felonious and deadlywise Devices of the Enemy of Souls, Planted along the ways of life to snare Man's mortal and immortal part alike, The Oakland restaurant is chief. It lives That man may die. It flourishes that life May wither. Its foundation stones repose On human hearts and hopes. I've seen in it Crabs stewed in milk and salad offered up With dressing so unholily compound That it included flour and sugar! Yea, I've eaten dog there!—dog, as I'm a man, Dog seethed in sewage of the town! No more— Thy hand, Dyspepsia, assumes the pen And scrawls a tortured "Finis" on the page.


Mackay's hot wrath to Bonynge, direful spring Of blows unnumbered, heavenly goddess, sing— That wrath which hurled to Hellman's office floor Two heroes, mutually smeared with gore, Whose hair in handfuls marked the dire debate, And riven coat-tails testified their hate. Sing, muse, what first their indignation fired, What words augmented it, by whom inspired.

First, the great Bonynge comes upon the scene And asks the favor of the British Queen. Suppliant he stands and urges all his claim: His wealth, his portly person and his name, His habitation in the setting sun, As child of nature; and his suit he won. No more the Sovereign, wearied with his plea, From slumber's chain her faculties can free. Low and more low the royal eyelids creep, She gives the assenting nod and falls asleep. Straightway the Bonynges all invade the Court And telegraph the news to every port. Beneath the seas, red-hot, the tidings fly, The cables crinkle and the fishes fry! The world, awaking like a startled bat, Exclaims: "A Bonynge? What the devil's that?" Mackay, meanwhile, to envy all attent, Untaught to spare, unable to relent, Walks in our town on needles and on pins, And in a mean, revengeful spirit—grins!

Sing, muse, what next to break the peace occurred— What act uncivil, what unfriendly word? The god of Bosh ascending from his pool, Where since creation he has played the fool, Clove the blue slush, as other gods the sky, And, waiting but a moment's space to dry, Touched Bonynge with his finger-tip. "O son," He said, "alike of nature and a gun, Knowest not Mackay's insufferable sin? Hast thou not heard that he doth stand and grin? Arise! assert thy manhood, and attest The uncommercial spirit in thy breast. Avenge thine honor, for by Jove I swear Thou shalt not else be my peculiar care!" He spake, and ere his worshiper could kneel Had dived into his slush pool, head and heel. Full of the god and to revenges nerved, And conscious of a will that never swerved, Bonynge set sail: the world beyond the wave As gladly took him as the other gave. New York received him, but a shudder ran Through all the western coast, which knew the man; And science said that the seismic action Was owing to an asteroid's impaction.

O goddess, sing what Bonynge next essayed. Did he unscabbard the avenging blade, The long spear brandish and porrect the shield, Havoc the town and devastate the field? His sacred thirst for blood did he allay By halving the unfortunate Mackay? Small were the profit and the joy to him To hew a base-born person, limb from limb. Let vulgar souls to low revenge incline, That of diviner spirits is divine. Bonynge at noonday stood in public places And (with regard to the Mackays) made faces! Before those formidable frowns and scowls The dogs fled, tail-tucked, with affrighted howls, And horses, terrified, with flying feet O'erthrew the apple-stands along the street, Involving the metropolis in vast Financial ruin! Man himself, aghast, Retreated east and west and north and south Before the menace of that twisted mouth, Till Jove, in answer to their prayers, sent Night To veil the dreadful visage from their sight!

Such were the causes of the horrid strife— The mother-wrongs which nourished it to life. O, for a quill from an archangel's wing! O, for a voice that's adequate to sing The splendor and the terror of the fray, The scattered hair, the coat-tails all astray, The parted collars and the gouts of gore Reeking and smoking on the banker's floor, The interlocking limbs, embraces dire, Revolving bodies and deranged attire!

Vain, vain the trial: 'tis vouchsafed to none To sing two millionaires rolled into one! My hand and pen their offices refuse, And hoarse and hoarser grows the weary muse. Alone remains, to tell of the event, Abandoned, lost and variously rent, The Bonynge nethermost habiliment.


Hail, blessed Blunder! golden idol, hail!— Clay-footed deity of all who fail. Celestial image, let thy glory shine, Thy feet concealing, but a lamp to mine. Let me, at seasons opportune and fit, By turns adore thee and by turns commit. In thy high service let me ever be (Yet never serve thee as my critics me) Happy and fallible, content to feel I blunder chiefly when to thee I kneel. But best felicity is his thy praise Who utters unaware in works and ways— Who laborare est orare proves, And feels thy suasion wheresoe'er he moves, Serving thy purpose, not thine altar, still, And working, for he thinks it his, thy will. If such a life with blessings be not fraught, I envy Peter Robertson for naught.


Welcker, I'm told, can boast a father great And honored in the service of the State. Public Instruction all his mind employs— He guides its methods and its wage enjoys. Prime Pedagogue, imperious and grand, He waves his ferule o'er a studious land Where humming youth, intent upon the page, Thirsting for knowledge with a noble rage, Drink dry the whole Pierian spring and ask To slake their fervor at his private flask. Arrested by the terror of his frown, The vaulting spit-ball drops untimely down; The fly impaled on the tormenting pin Stills in his awful glance its dizzy din; Beneath that stern regard the chewing-gum Which writhed and squeaked between the teeth is dumb; Obedient to his will the dunce-cap flies To perch upon the brows of the unwise; The supple switch forsakes the parent wood To settle where 'twill do the greatest good, Puissant still, as when of old it strove With Solomon for spitting on the stove Learned Professor, variously great, Guide, guardian, instructor of the State— Quick to discern and zealous to correct The faults which mar the public intellect From where of Siskiyou the northern bound Is frozen eternal to the sunless ground To where in San Diego's torrid clime The swarthy Greaser swelters in his grime— Beneath your stupid nose can you not see The dunce whom once you dandled on your knee? O mighty master of a thousand schools, Stop teaching wisdom, or stop breeding fools.


When Pickering, distressed by an "attack," Has the strange insolence to answer back He hides behind a name that is a lie, And out of shadow falters his reply. God knows him, though—identified alike By hardihood to rise and fear to strike, And fitly to rebuke his sins decrees, That, hide from others with what care he please, Night sha'n't be black enough nor earth so wide That from himself himself can ever hide! Hard fate indeed to feel at every breath His burden of identity till death!— No moment's respite from the immortal load, To think himself a serpent or a toad, Or dream, with a divine, ecstatic glow, He's long been dead and canonized a crow!


Attend, mine enemies of all degrees, From sandlot orators and sandlot fleas To fallen gentlemen and rising louts Who babble slander at your drinking bouts, And, filled with unfamiliar wine, begin Lies drowned, ere born, in more congenial gin. But most attend, ye persons of the press Who live (though why, yourselves alone can guess) In hope deferred, ambitious still to shine By hating me at half a cent a line— Like drones among the bees of brighter wing, Sunless to shine and impotent to sting. To estimate in easy verse I'll try The controversial value of a lie. So lend your ears—God knows you have enough!— I mean to teach, and if I can't I'll cuff.

A lie is wicked, so the priests declare; But that to us is neither here nor there. 'Tis worse than wicked, it is vulgar too; N'importe—with that we've nothing here to do. If 'twere artistic I would lie till death, And shape a falsehood with my latest breath. Parrhasius never more did pity lack, The while his model writhed upon the rack, Than I for my collaborator's pain, Who, stabbed with fibs again and yet again, Would vainly seek to move my stubborn heart If slander were, and wit were not, an art. The ill-bred and illiterate can lie As fast as you, and faster far than I. Shall I compete, then, in a strife accurst Where Allen Forman is an easy first, And where the second prize is rightly flung To Charley Shortridge or to Mike de Young?

In mental combat but a single end Inspires the formidable to contend. Not by the raw recruit's ambition fired, By whom foul blows, though harmless, are admired; Not by the coward's zeal, who, on his knee Behind the bole of his protecting tree, So curves his musket that the bark it fits, And, firing, blows the weapon into bits; But with the noble aim of one whose heart Values his foeman for he loves his art The veteran debater moves afield, Untaught to libel as untaught to yield. Dear foeman mine, I've but this end in view— That to prevent which most you wish to do. What, then, are you most eager to be at? To hate me? Nay, I'll help you, sir, at that. This only passion does your soul inspire: You wish to scorn me. Well, you shall admire.

'Tis not enough my neighbors that you school In the belief that I'm a rogue or fool; That small advantage you would gladly trade For what one moment would yourself persuade. Write, then, your largest and your longest lie: You sha'n't believe it, howsoe'er you try. No falsehood you can tell, no evil do, Shall turn me from the truth to injure you. So all your war is barren of effect; I find my victory in your respect. What profit have you if the world you set Against me? For the world will soon forget It thought me this or that; but I'll retain A vivid picture of your moral stain, And cherish till my memory expire The sweet, soft consciousness that you're a liar Is it your triumph, then, to prove that you Will do the thing that I would scorn to do? God grant that I forever be exempt From such advantage as my foe's contempt.


Still as he climbed into the public view His charms of person more apparent grew, Till the pleased world that watched his airy grace Saw nothing of him but his nether face— Forgot his follies with his head's retreat, And blessed his virtues as it viewed their seat.


Jacob Jacobs, of Oakland, he swore: "Dat Solomon Martin—I'll haf his gore!" Solomon Martin, of Oakland, he said: "Of Shacob Shacobs der bleed I vill shed!" So they met, with seconds and surgeon at call, And fought with pistol and powder and—all Was done in good faith,—as before I said, They fought with pistol and powder and—shed Tears, O my friends, for each other they marred Fighting with pistol and powder and—lard! For the lead had been stolen away, every trace, And Christian hog-product supplied its place. Then the shade of Moses indignant arose: "Quvicker dan lighdnings go vosh yer glose!" Jacob Jacobs, of Oakland, they say, Applied for a pension the following day. Solomon Martin, of Oakland, I hear, Will call himself Colonel for many a year.


Refrain, dull orator, from speaking out, For silence deepens when you raise the shout; But when you hold your tongue we hear, at least, Your noise in mastering that little beast.


Behold! the days of miracle at last Return—if ever they were truly past: From sinful creditors' unholy greed The church called Calvary at last is freed— So called for there the Savior's crucified, Roberts and Carmany on either side.

The circling contribution-box no more Provokes the nod and simulated snore; No more the Lottery, no more the Fair, Lure the reluctant dollar from its lair, Nor Ladies' Lunches at a bit a bite Destroy the health yet spare the appetite, While thrifty sisters o'er the cauldron stoop To serve their God with zeal, their friends with soup, And all the brethren mendicate the earth With viewless placards: "We've been so from birth!"

Sure of his wage, the pastor now can lend His whole attention to his latter end, Remarking with a martyr's prescient thrill The Hemp maturing on the cheerless Hill. The holy brethren, lifting pious palms, Pour out their gratitude in prayer and psalms, Chant De Profundis, meaning "out of debt," And dance like mad—or would if they were let.

Deeply disguised (a deacon newly dead Supplied the means) Jack Satan holds his head As high as any and as loudly sings His jubilate till each rafter rings. "Rejoice, ye ever faithful," bellows he, "The debt is lifted and the temple free!" Then says, aside, with gentle cachination: "I've got a mortgage on the congregation."


[There isn't a man living who does not have at least a sneaking reverence for a horse-shoe.—Evening Post.]

Thus the poor ass whose appetite has ne'er Known than the thistle any sweeter fare Thinks all the world eats thistles. Thus the clown, The wit and Mentor of the country town, Grins through the collar of a horse and thinks Others for pleasure do as he for drinks, Though secretly, because unwilling still In public to attest their lack of skill. Each dunce whose life and mind all follies mar Believes as he is all men living are— His vices theirs, their understandings his; Naught that he knows not, all he fancies, is. How odd that any mind such stuff should boast! How natural to write it in the Post!


The friends who stood about my bed Looked down upon my face and said: "God's will be done—the fellow's dead."

When from my body I was free I straightway felt myself, ah me! Sink downward to the life to be.

Full twenty centuries I fell, And then alighted. "Here you dwell For aye," a Voice cried—"this is Hell!"

A landscape lay about my feet, Where trees were green and flowers sweet. The climate was devoid of heat.

The sun looked down with gentle beam Upon the bosom of the stream, Nor saw I any sign of steam.

The waters by the sky were tinged, The hills with light and color fringed. Birds warbled on the wing unsinged.

"Ah, no, this is not Hell," I cried; "The preachers ne'er so greatly lied. This is Earth's spirit glorified!

"Good souls do not in Hades dwell, And, look, there's John P. Irish!" "Well," The Voice said, "that's what makes it Hell."


John S. Hittell, whose sovereign genius wields The quill his tributary body yields; The author of an opera—that is, All but the music and libretto's his: A work renowned, whose formidable name, Linked with his own, repels the assault of fame From the high vantage of a dusty shelf, Secure from all the world except himself;— Who told the tale of "Culture" in a screed That all might understand if some would read;— Master of poesy and lord of prose, Dowered, like a setter, with a double nose; That one for Erato, for Clio this; He flushes both—not his fault if we miss;— Judge of the painter's art, who'll straight proclaim The hue of any color you can name, And knows a painting with a canvas back Distinguished from a duck by the duck's quack;— This thinker and philosopher, whose work Is famous from Commercial street to Turk, Has got a fortune now, his talent's meed. A woman left it him who could not read, And so went down to death's eternal night Sweetly unconscious that the wretch could write.


O Reverend Ravlin, once with sounding lung You shook the bloody banner of your tongue, Urged all the fiery boycotters afield And swore you'd rather follow them than yield, Alas, how brief the time, how great the change!— Your dogs of war are ailing all of mange; The loose leash dangles from your finger-tips, But the loud "havoc" dies upon your lips. No spirit animates your feeble clay— You'd rather yield than even run away. In vain McGlashan labors to inspire Your pallid nostril with his breath of fire: The light of battle's faded from your face— You keep the peace, John Chinaman his place. O Ravlin, what cold water, thrown by whom Upon the kindling Boycott's ruddy bloom, Has slaked your parching blood-thirst and allayed The flash and shimmer of your lingual blade? Your salary—your salary's unpaid!

In the old days, when Christ with scourges drave The Ravlins headlong from the Temple's nave, Each bore upon his pelt the mark divine— The Boycott's red authenticating sign. Birth-marked forever in surviving hurts, Glowing and smarting underneath their shirts, Successive Ravlins have revenged their shame By blowing every coal and flinging flame. And you, the latest (may you be the last!) Endorsed with that hereditary, vast And monstrous rubric, would the feud prolong, Save that cupidity forbids the wrong. In strife you preferably pass your days— But brawl no moment longer than it pays. By shouting when no more you can incite The dogs to put the timid sheep to flight To load, for you, the brambles with their fleece, You cackle concord to congenial geese, Put pinches of goodwill upon their tails And pluck them with a touch that never fails.


Dr. Jewell speaks of Balaam And his vices, to assail 'em. Ancient enmities how cruel!— Balaam cudgeled once a Jewell.


Ben Truman, you're a genius and can write, Though one would not suspect it from your looks. You lack that certain spareness which is quite Distinctive of the persons who make books. You show the workmanship of Stanford's cooks About the region of the appetite, Where geniuses are singularly slight. Your friends the Chinamen are understood, Indeed, to speak of you as "belly good."

Still, you can write—spell, too, I understand— Though how two such accomplishments can go, Like sentimental schoolgirls, hand in hand Is more than ever I can hope to know. To have one talent good enough to show Has always been sufficient to command The veneration of the brilliant band Of railroad scholars, who themselves, indeed, Although they cannot write, can mostly read.

There's Towne and Fillmore, Goodman and Steve Gage, Ned Curtis of Napoleonic face, Who used to dash his name on glory's page "A.M." appended to denote his place Among the learned. Now the last faint trace Of Nap. is all obliterate with age, And Ned's degree less precious than his wage. He says: "I done it," with his every breath. "Thou canst not say I did it," says Macbeth.

Good land! how I run on! I quite forgot Whom this was meant to be about; for when I think upon that odd, unearthly lot— Not quite Creedhaymonds, yet not wholly men— I'm dominated by my rebel pen That, like the stubborn bird from which 'twas got, Goes waddling forward if I will or not. To leave your comrades, Ben, I'm now content: I'll meet them later if I don't repent.

You've writ a letter, I observe—nay, more, You've published it—to say how good you think The coolies, and invite them to come o'er In thicker quantity. Perhaps you drink No corporation's wine, but love its ink; Or when you signed away your soul and swore On railrogue battle-fields to shed your gore You mentally reserved the right to shed The raiment of your character instead.

You're naked, anyhow: unragged you stand In frank and stark simplicity of shame. And here upon your flank, in letters grand, The iron has marked you with your owner's name. Needless, for none would steal and none reclaim. But "Leland $tanford" is a pretty brand, Wrought by an artist with a cunning hand But come—this naked unreserve is flat: Don your habiliment—you're fat, you're fat!


In fair San Francisco a good man did dwell, And he wrote out a will, for he didn't feel well, Said he: "It is proper, when making a gift, To stimulate virtue by comforting thrift."

So he left all his property, legal and straight, To "the cursedest rascal in all of the State." But the name he refused to insert, for, said he; "Let each man consider himself legatee."

In due course of time that philanthropist died, And all San Francisco, and Oakland beside— Save only the lawyers—came each with his claim The lawyers preferring to manage the same.

The cases were tried in Department Thirteen, Judge Murphy presided, sedate and serene, But couldn't quite specify, legal and straight, The cursedest rascal in all of the State.

And so he remarked to them, little and big— To claimants: "You skip!" and to lawyers: "You dig!" They tumbled, tumultuous, out of his court And left him victorious, holding the fort.

'Twas then that he said: "It is plain to my mind This property's ownerless—how can I find The cursedest rascal in all of the State?" So he took it himself, which was legal and straight.


A reporter he was, and he wrote, wrote he: "The grave was covered as thick as could be With floral tributes"—which reading, The editor man he said, he did so: "For 'floral tributes' he's got for to go, For I hold the same misleading." Then he called him in and he pointed sweet To a blooming garden across the street, Inquiring: "What's them a-growing?" The reporter chap said: "Why, where's your eyes? Them's floral tributes!" "Arise, arise," The editor said, "and be going."


Beneath his coat of dirt great Neilson loves To hide the avenging rope. He handles all he touches without gloves, Excepting soap.


As through the blue expanse he skims On joyous wings, the late Frank Hutchings overtakes Miss Sims, Both bound for Heaven's high gate.

In life they loved and (God knows why A lover so should sue) He slew her, on the gallows high Died pious—and they flew.

Her pinions were bedraggled, soiled And torn as by a gale, While his were bright—all freshly oiled The feathers of his tail.

Her visage, too, was stained and worn And menacing and grim; His sweet and mild—you would have sworn That she had murdered him.

When they'd arrived before the gate He said to her: "My dear, 'Tis hard once more to separate, But you can't enter here.

"For you, unluckily, were sent So quickly to the grave You had no notice to repent, Nor time your soul to save."

"'Tis true," said she, "and I should wail In Hell even now, but I Have lingered round the county jail To see a Christian die."


I've sometimes wished that Ingersoll were wise To hold his tongue, nor rail against the skies; For when he's made a point some pious dunce Like Bartlett of the Bulletin "replies."

I brandish no iconoclastic fist, Nor enter the debate an atheist; But when they say there is a God I ask Why Bartlett, then, is suffered to exist.

Even infidels that logic might resent, Saying: "There's no place for his punishment That's worse than earth." But humbly I submit That he would make a hell wherever sent.


High Lord of Liars, Pickering, to thee Let meaner mortals bend the subject knee! Thine is mendacity's imperial crown, Alike by genius, action and renown. No man, since words could set a cheek aflame E'er lied so greatly with so little shame! O bad old man, must thy remaining years Be passed in leading idiots by their ears— Thine own (which Justice, if she ruled the roast Would fasten to the penitential post) Still wagging sympathetically—hung the same rocking-bar that bears thy tongue?

Thou dog of darkness, dost thou hope to stay Time's dread advance till thou hast had thy day? Dost think the Strangler will release his hold Because, forsooth, some fibs remain untold? No, no—beneath thy multiplying load Of years thou canst not tarry on the road To dabble in the blood thy leaden feet Have pressed from bosoms that have ceased to beat Of reputations margining thy way, Nor wander from the path new truth to slay. Tell to thyself whatever lies thou wilt, Catch as thou canst at pennies got by guilt— Straight down to death this blessed year thou'lt sink, Thy life washed out as with a wave of ink. But if this prophecy be not fulfilled, And thou who killest patience be not killed; If age assail in vain and vice attack Only by folly to be beaten back; Yet Nature can this consolation give: The rogues who die not are condemned to live!


His caw is a cackle, his eye is dim, And he mopes all day on the lowest limb; Not a word says he, but he snaps his bill And twitches his palsied head, as a quill, The ultimate plume of his pride and hope, Quits his now featherless nose-of-the-Pope, Leaving that eminence brown and bare Exposed to the Prince of the Power of the Air. And he sits and he thinks: "I'm an old, old man, Mateless and chickless, the last of my clan, But I'd give the half of the days gone by To perch once more on the branches high, And hear my great-grand-daddy's comical croaks In authorized versions of Bulletin jokes."


I lay one happy night in bed And dreamed that all the dogs were dead. They'd all been taken out and shot— Their bodies strewed each vacant lot.

O'er all the earth, from Berkeley down To San Leandro's ancient town, And out in space as far as Niles— I saw their mortal parts in piles.

One stack upreared its ridge so high Against the azure of the sky That some good soul, with pious views, Put up a steeple and sold pews.

No wagging tail the scene relieved: I never in my life conceived (I swear it on the Decalogue!) Such penury of living dog.

The barking and the howling stilled, The snarling with the snarler killed, All nature seemed to hold its breath: The silence was as deep as death.

True, candidates were all in roar On every platform, as before; And villains, as before, felt free To finger the calliope.

True, the Salvationist by night, And milkman in the early light, The lonely flutist and the mill Performed their functions with a will.

True, church bells on a Sunday rang The sick man's curtain down—the bang Of trains, contesting for the track, Out of the shadow called him back.

True, cocks, at all unheavenly hours, Crew with excruciating powers, Cats on the woodshed rang and roared, Fat citizens and fog-horns snored.

But this was all too fine for ears Accustomed, through the awful years, To the nocturnal monologues And day debates of Oakland dogs.

And so the world was silent. Now What else befell—to whom and how? Imprimis, then, there were no fleas, And days of worth brought nights of ease.

Men walked about without the dread Of being torn to many a shred, Each fragment holding half a cruse Of hydrophobia's quickening juice.

They had not to propitiate Some curst kioodle at each gate, But entered one another's grounds, Unscared, and were not fed to hounds.

Women could drive and not a pup Would lift the horse's tendons up And let them go—to interject A certain musical effect.

Even children's ponies went about, All grave and sober-paced, without A bulldog hanging to each nose— Proud of his fragrance, I suppose.

Dog being dead, Man's lawless flame Burned out: he granted Woman's claim, Children's and those of country, art— all took lodgings in his heart.

When memories of his former shame Crimsoned his cheeks with sudden flame He said; "I know my fault too well— They fawned upon me and I fell."

Ah! 'twas a lovely world!—no more I met that indisposing bore, The unseraphic cynogogue— The man who's proud to love a dog.

Thus in my dream the golden reign Of Reason filled the world again, And all mankind confessed her sway, From Walnut Creek to San Jose.


Not all in sorrow and in tears, To pay of gratitude's arrears The yearly sum— Not prompted, wholly by the pride Of those for whom their friends have died, To-day we come.

Another aim we have in view Than for the buried boys in blue To drop a tear: Memorial Day revives the chin Of Barnes, and Salomon chimes in— That's why we're here.

And when in after-ages they Shall pass, like mortal men, away, Their war-song sung, Then fame will tell the tale anew Of how intrepidly they drew The deadly tongue.

Then cull white lilies for the graves Of Liberty's loquacious braves, And roses red. Those represent their livers, these The blood that in unmeasured seas They did not shed.


Way down in the Boom Belt lived Mrs. Roselle; A person named Petrie, he lived there as well; But Mr. Roselle he resided away— Sing tooral iooral iooral iay.

Once Mrs. Roselle in her room was alone: The flesh of her flesh and the bone of her bone Neglected the wife of his bosom to woo— Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.

Then Petrie, her lover, appeared at the door, Remarking: "My dear; I don't love you no more." "That's awfully rough," said the lady, "on me— Sing tooral iooral iooral iee."

"Come in, Mr. Petrie," she added, "pray do: Although you don't love me no more, I love you. Sit down while I spray you with vitriol now— Sing tooral iooral iooral iow."

Said Petrie: "That liquid I know won't agree With my beauty, and then you'll no longer love me; So spray and be "—O, what a word he did say!— Sing tooral iooral iooral iay.

She deluged his head and continued to pour Till his bonny blue eyes, like his love, were no more. It was seldom he got such a hearty shampoo— Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.

Then Petrie he rose and said: "Mrs. Roselle, I have an engagement and bid you farewell." "You see," she began to explain—but not he!— Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iee.

The Sheriff he came and he offered his arm, Saying, "Sorry I am for disturbin' you, marm, But business is business." Said she, "So they say— Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iay."

The Judge on the bench he looked awfully stern; The District Attorney began to attorn; The witnesses lied and the lawyers—O my!— Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iyi.

The chap that defended her said: "It's our claim That he loved us no longer and told us the same. What else than we did could we decently do?— Sing tooral, iooral, iooral ioo."

The District Attorney, sarcastic, replied: "We loved you no longer—that can't be denied. Not having no eyes we may dote on you now— Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iow."

The prisoner wept to entoken her fears; The sockets of Petrie were flooded with tears. O heaven-born Sympathy, bully for you!— Sing tooral, iooral, iooral ioo.

Four jurors considered the prisoner mad, And four thought her victim uncommonly bad, And four that the acid was all in his eye— Sing rum tiddy iddity iddity hi.


Intended for Inscription on a Sword Presented to Colonel Cutting of the National Guard of California.

I am for Cutting. I'm a blade Designed for use at dress parade. My gleaming length, when I display Peace rules the land with gentle sway; But when the war-dogs bare their teeth Go seek me in the modest sheath. I am for Cutting. Not for me The task of setting nations free. Let soulless blades take human life, My softer metal shuns the strife. The annual review is mine, When gorgeous shopmen sweat and shine, And Biddy, tip-toe on the pave, Adores the cobble-trotting brave. I am for Cutting. 'Tis not mine To hew amain the hostile line; Not mine all pitiless to spread The plain with tumuli of dead. My grander duty lies afar From haunts of the insane hussar, Where charging horse and struggling foot Are grimed alike with cannon-soot. When Loveliness and Valor meet Beneath the trees to dance, and eat, And sing, and much beside, behold My golden glories all unfold! There formidably are displayed The useful horrors of my blade In time of feast and dance and ballad, I am for cutting chicken salad.


As vicious women think all men are knaves, And shrew-bound gentlemen discourse of slaves; As reeling drunkards judge the world unsteady And idlers swear employers ne'er get ready— Thieves that the constable stole all they had, The mad that all except themselves are mad; So, in another's clear escutcheon shown, Barnes rails at stains reflected from his own; Prates of "docility," nor feels the dark Ring round his neck—the Ralston collar mark. Back, man, to studies interrupted once, Ere yet the rogue had merged into the dunce. Back, back to Yale! and, grown with years discreet, The course a virgin's lust cut short, complete. Go drink again at the Pierian pool, And learn—at least to better play the fool. No longer scorn the draught, although the font, Unlike Pactolus, waters not Belmont.


I had a dream. The habitable earth— Its continents and islands, all were bare Of cities and of forests. Naught remained Of its old aspect, and I only knew (As men know things in dreams, unknowing how) That this was earth and that all men were dead. On every side I saw the barren land, Even to the distant sky's inclosing blue, Thick-pitted all with graves; and all the graves Save one were open—not as newly dug, But rather as by some internal force Riven for egress. Tombs of stone were split And wide agape, and in their iron decay The massive mausoleums stood in halves. With mildewed linen all the ground was white. Discarded shrouds upon memorial stones Hung without motion in the soulless air. While greatly marveling how this should be I heard, or fancied that I heard, a voice, Low like an angel's, delicately strong, And sweet as music.

—"Spirit," it said, "behold The burial place of universal Man! A million years have rolled away since here His sheeted multitudes (save only some Whose dark misdeeds required a separate And individual arraignment) rose To judgment at the trumpet's summoning And passed into the sky for their award, Leaving behind these perishable things Which yet, preserved by miracle, endure Till all are up. Then they and all of earth, Rock-hearted mountain and storm-breasted sea, River and wilderness and sites of dead And vanished capitals of men, shall spring To flame, and naught shall be for evermore! When all are risen that wonder will occur. 'Twas but ten centuries ago the last But one came forth—a soul so black with sin, Against whose name so many crimes were set That only now his trial is at end. But one remains."

Straight, as the voice was stilled— That single rounded mound cracked lengthliwise And one came forth in grave-clothes. For a space He stood and gazed about him with a smile Superior; then laying off his shroud Disclosed his two attenuated legs Which, like parentheses, bent outwardly As by the weight of saintliness above, And so sprang upward and was lost to view Noting his headstone overthrown, I read: "Sacred to memory of George K. Fitch, Deacon and Editor—a holy man Who fell asleep in Jesus, full of years And blessedness. The dead in Christ rise first."


Your various talents, Goldenson, command Respect: you are a poet and can draw. It is a pity that your gifted hand Should ever have been raised against the law. If you had drawn no pistol, but a picture, You would have saved your throttle from a stricture.

About your poetry I'm not so sure: 'Tis certain we have much that's quite as bad, Whose hardy writers have not to endure The hangman's fondling. It is said they're mad: Though lately Mr. Brooks (I mean the poet) Looked well, and if demented didn't show it.

Well, Goldenson, I am a poet, too— Taught by the muses how to smite the harp And lift the tuneful voice, although, like you And Brooks, I sometimes flat and sometimes sharp. But let me say, with no desire to taunt you, I never murder even the girls I want to.

I hold it one of the poetic laws To sing of life, not take. I've ever shown A high regard for human life because I have such trouble to support my own. And you—well, you'll find trouble soon in blowing Your private coal to keep it red and glowing.

I fancy now I see you at the Gate Approach St. Peter, crawling on your belly, You cry: "Good sir, take pity on my state— Forgive the murderer of Mamie Kelly!" And Peter says: "O, that's all right—but, mister, You scribbled rhymes. In Hell I'll make you blister!"


So, in the Sunday papers you, Del Mar, Damn, all great Englishmen in English speech? I am no Englishman, but in my reach A rogue shall never rail where heroes are.

You are the man, if I mistake you not, Who lately with a supplicating twitch Plucked at the pockets of the London rich And paid your share-engraver all you got.

Because that you have greatly lied, because You libel nations, and because no hand Of officer is raised to bid you stand, And falsehood is unpunished of the laws,

I stand here in a public place to mark With level finger where you part the crowd— I stand to name you and to cry aloud: "Behold mendacity's great hierarch!"


"The Social World"! O what a world it is— Where full-grown men cut capers in the German, Cotillion, waltz, or what you will, and whizz And spin and hop and sprawl about like mermen! I wonder if our future Grant or Sherman, As these youths pass their time, is passing his— If eagles ever come from painted eggs, Or deeds of arms succeed to deeds of legs.

I know they tell us about Waterloo: How, "foremost fighting," fell the evening's dancers. I don't believe it: I regard it true That soldiers who are skillful in "the Lancers" Less often die of cannon than of cancers. Moreover, I am half-persuaded, too, That David when he danced before the Ark Had the reporter's word to keep it dark.

Ed. Greenway, you fatigue. Your hateful name Like maiden's curls, is in the papers daily. You think it, doubtless, honorable fame, And contemplate the cheap distinction gaily, As does the monkey the blue-painted tail he Believes becoming to him. 'Tis the same With men as other monkeys: all their souls Crave eminence on any kind of poles. But cynics (barking tribe!) are all agreed That monkeys upon poles performing capers Are not exalted, they are only "treed." A glory that is kindled by the papers Is transient as the phosphorescent vapors That shine in graveyards and are seen, indeed, But while the bodies that supply the gas Are turning into weeds to feed an ass.

One can but wonder sometimes how it feels To be an ass—a beast we beat condignly Because, like yours, his life is in his heels And he is prone to use them unbenignly. The ladies (bless them!) say you dance divinely. I like St. Vitus better, though, who deals His feet about him with a grace more just, And hops, not for he will, but for he must.

Doubtless it gratifies you to observe Elbowy girls and adipose mamas All looking adoration as you swerve This way and that; but prosperous papas Laugh in their sleeves at you, and their ha-has, If heard, would somewhat agitate your nerve. And dames and maids who keep you on their shelves Don't seem to want a closer tie themselves.

Gods! what a life you live!—by day a slave To your exacting back and urgent belly; Intent to earn and vigilant to save— By night, attired so sightly and so smelly, With countenance as luminous as jelly, Bobbing and bowing! King of hearts and knave Of diamonds, I'd bet a silver brick If brains were trumps you'd never take a trick.


I Slept, and, waking in the years to be, Heard voices, and approaching whence they came, Listened indifferently where a key Had lately been removed. An ancient dame Said to her daughter: "Go to yonder caddy And get some emery to scour your daddy."

And then I knew—some intuition said— That tombs were not and men had cleared their shelves Of urns; and the electro-plated dead Stood pedestaled as statues of themselves. With famous dead men all the public places Were thronged, and some in piles awaited bases.

One mighty structure's high facade alone Contained a single monumental niche, Where, central in that steep expanse of stone, Gleamed the familiar form of Thomas Fitch. A man cried: "Lo! Truth's temple and its founder!" Then gravely added: "I'm her chief expounder."


They say, my lord, that you're a Warwick. Well, The title's an absurd one, I believe: You make no kings, you have no kings to sell, Though really 'twere easy to conceive You stuffing half-a-dozen up your sleeve. No, you're no Warwick, skillful from the shell To hatch out sovereigns. On a mare's nest, maybe, You'd incubate a little jackass baby.

I fancy, too, that it is naught but stuff, This "power" that you're said to be "behind The throne." I'm sure 'twere accurate enough To represent you simply as inclined To push poor Markham (ailing in his mind And body, which were never very tough) Round in an invalid's wheeled chair. Such menial Employment to low natures is congenial.

No, Dan, you're an impostor every way: A human bubble, for "the earth," you know, "Hath bubbles, as the water hath." Some day Some careless hand will prick your film, and O, How utterly you'll vanish! Daniel, throw (As fallen Woolsey might to Cromwell say) Your curst ambition to the pigs—though truly 'Twould make them greater pigs, and more unruly.


Attorney Knight, it happens so sometimes That lawyers, justifying cut-throats' crimes For hire—calumniating, too, for gold, The dead, dumb victims cruelly unsouled— Speak, through the press, to a tribunal far More honorable than their Honors are,— A court that sits not with assenting smile While living rogues dead gentleman revile,— A court where scoundrel ethics of your trade Confuse no judgment and no cheating aid,— The Court of Honest Souls, where you in vain May plead your right to falsify for gain, Sternly reminded if a man engage To serve assassins for the liar's wage, His mouth with vilifying falsehoods crammed, He's twice detestable and doubly damned!

Attorney Knight, defending Powell, you, To earn your fee, so energetic grew (So like a hound, the pride of all the pack, Clapping your nose upon the dead man's track To run his faults to earth—at least proclaim At vacant holes the overtaken game) That men who marked you nourishing the tongue, And saw your arms so vigorously swung, All marveled how so light a breeze could stir So great a windmill to so great a whirr! Little they knew, or surely they had grinned, The mill was laboring to raise the wind.

Ralph Smith a "shoulder-striker"! God, O hear This hardy man's description of thy dear Dead child, the gentlest soul, save only One, E'er born in any land beneath the sun. All silent benefactions still he wrought: High deed and gracious speech and noble thought, Kept all thy law, and, seeking still the right, Upon his blameless breast received the light.

"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints," he cried Whose wrath was deep as his comparison wide— Milton, thy servant. Nay, thy will be done: To smite or spare—to me it all is one. Can vengeance bring my sorrow to an end, Or justice give me back my buried friend? But if some Milton vainly now implore, And Powell prosper as he did before, Yet 'twere too much that, making no ado, Thy saints be slaughtered and be slandered too. So, Lord, make Knight his weapon keep in sheath, Or do Thou wrest it from between his teeth!


Saint Peter sat at the jasper gate, When Stephen M. White arrived in state.

"Admit me." "With pleasure," Peter said, Pleased to observe that the man was dead;

"That's what I'm here for. Kindly show Your ticket, my lord, and in you go."

White stared in blank surprise. Said he "I run this place—just turn that key."

"Yes?" said the Saint; and Stephen heard With pain the inflection of that word.

But, mastering his emotion, he Remarked: "My friend, you're too d—— free;

"I'm Stephen M., by thunder, White!" And, "Yes?" the guardian said, with quite

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse