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Shapes of Clay by Ambrose Bierce

Part 5 out of 5

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Unhappy State! with horrors still to strive:
Thy Hugo dead, thy Boulanger alive;
A Prince who'd govern where he dares not dwell,
And who for power would his birthright sell--
Who, anxious o'er his enemies to reign,
Grabs at the scepter and conceals the chain;
While pugnant factions mutually strive
By cutting throats to keep the land alive.
Perverse in passion, as in pride perverse--
To all a mistress, to thyself a curse;
Sweetheart of Europe! every sun's embrace
Matures the charm and poison of thy grace.
Yet time to thee nor peace nor wisdom brings:
In blood of citizens and blood of kings
The stones of thy stability are set,
And the fair fabric trembles at a threat.

THE EASTERN QUESTION.

Looking across the line, the Grecian said:
"This border I will stain a Turkey red."
The Moslem smiled securely and replied:
"No Greek has ever for his country dyed."
While thus each patriot guarded his frontier,
The Powers stole all the country in his rear.

A GUEST.

Death, are you well? I trust you have no cough
That's painful or in any way annoying--
No kidney trouble that may carry you off,
Or heart disease to keep you from enjoying
Your meals--and ours. 'T were very sad indeed
To have to quit the busy life you lead.

You've been quite active lately for so old
A person, and not very strong-appearing.
I'm apprehensive, somehow, that my bold,
Bad brother gave you trouble in the spearing.
And my two friends--I fear, sir, that you ran
Quite hard for them, especially the man.

I crave your pardon: 'twas no fault of mine;
If you are overworked I'm sorry, very.
Come in, old man, and have a glass of wine.
What shall it be--Marsala, Port or Sherry?
What! just a mug of blood? That's funny grog
To ask a friend for, eh? Well, take it, hog!

A FALSE PROPHECY.

Dom Pedro, Emperor of far Brazil
(Whence coffee comes and the three-cornered nut),
They say that you're imperially ill,
And threatened with paralysis. Tut-tut!
Though Emperors are mortal, nothing but
A nimble thunderbolt could catch and kill
A man predestined to depart this life
By the assassin's bullet, bomb or knife.

Sir, once there was a President who freed
Ten million slaves; and once there was a Czar
Who freed five times as many serfs. Sins breed
The means of punishment, and tyrants are
Hurled headlong out of the triumphal car
If faster than the law allows they speed.
Lincoln and Alexander struck a rut;
_You_ freed slaves too. Paralysis--tut-tut!

1885.

TWO TYPES.

Courageous fool!--the peril's strength unknown.
Courageous man!--so conscious of your own.

SOME ANTE-MORTEM EPITAPHS.

STEPHEN DORSEY.

Fly, heedless stranger, from this spot accurst,
Where rests in Satan an offender first
In point of greatness, as in point of time,
Of new-school rascals who proclaim their crime.
Skilled with a frank loquacity to blab
The dark arcana of each mighty grab,
And famed for lying from his early youth,
He sinned secure behind a veil of truth.
Some lock their lips upon their deeds; some write
A damning record and conceal from sight;
Some, with a lust of speaking, die to quell it.
His way to keep a secret was to tell it.

STEPHEN J. FIELD.

Here sleeps one of the greatest students
Of jurisprudence.
Nature endowed him with the gift
Of the juristhrift.
All points of law alike he threw
The dice to settle.
Those honest cubes were loaded true
With railway metal.

GENERAL B.F. BUTLER.

Thy flesh to earth, thy soul to God,
We gave, O gallant brother;
And o'er thy grave the awkward squad
Fired into one another!

Beneath this monument which rears its head.
A giant note of admiration--dead,
His life extinguished like a taper's flame.
John Ericsson is lying in his fame.
Behold how massive is the lofty shaft;
How fine the product of the sculptor's craft;
The gold how lavishly applied; the great
Man's statue how impressive and sedate!
Think what the cost-was! It would ill become
Our modesty to specify the sum;
Suffice it that a fair per cent, we're giving
Of what we robbed him of when he was living.

Of Corporal Tanner the head and the trunk
Are here in unconsecrate ground duly sunk.
His legs in the South claim the patriot's tear,
But, stranger, you needn't be blubbering here.

Jay Gould lies here. When he was newly dead
He looked so natural that round his bed

The people stood, in silence all, to weep.
They thought, poor souls! that he did only sleep.

Here Ingalls, sorrowing, has laid
The tools of his infernal trade--
His pen and tongue. So sharp and rude
They grew--so slack in gratitude,
His hand was wounded as he wrote,
And when he spoke he cut his throat.

Within this humble mausoleum
Poor Guiteau's flesh you'll find.
His bones are kept in a museum,
And Tillman has his mind.

Stranger, uncover; here you have in view
The monument of Chauncey M. Depew.
Eater and orator, the whole world round
For feats of tongue and tooth alike renowned.
Pauper in thought but prodigal in speech,
Nothing he knew excepting how to teach.
But in default of something to impart
He multiplied his words with all his heart:
When least he had to say, instructive most--
A clam in wisdom and in wit a ghost.

Dining his way to eminence, he rowed
With knife and fork up water-ways that flowed
From lakes of favor--pulled with all his force
And found each river sweeter than the source.
Like rats, obscure beneath a kitchen floor,
Gnawing and rising till obscure no more,
He ate his way to eminence, and Fame
Inscribes in gravy his immortal name.
A trencher-knight, he, mounted on his belly,
So spurred his charger that its sides were jelly.
Grown desperate at last, it reared and threw him,
And Indigestion, overtaking, slew him.

Here the remains of Schuyler Colfax lie;
Born, all the world knows when, and Heaven knows why.
In '71 he filled the public eye,
In '72 he bade the world good-bye,
In God's good time, with a protesting sigh,
He came to life just long enough to die.

Of Morgan here lies the unspirited clay,
Who secrets of Masonry swore to betray.
He joined the great Order and studied with zeal
The awful arcana he meant to reveal.
At last in chagrin by his own hand he fell--
There was nothing to learn, there was nothing to tell.

A HYMN OF THE MANY.

God's people sorely were oppressed,
I heard their lamentations long;--
I hear their singing, clear and strong,
I see their banners in the West!

The captains shout the battle-cry,
The legions muster in their might;
They turn their faces to the light,
They lift their arms, they testify:

"We sank beneath the Master's thong,
Our chafing chains were ne'er undone;--
Now clash your lances in the sun
And bless your banners with a song!

"God bides his time with patient eyes
While tyrants build upon the land;--
He lifts his face, he lifts his hand,
And from the stones his temples rise.

"Now Freedom waves her joyous wing
Beyond the foemen's shields of gold.
March forward, singing, for, behold,
The right shall rule while God is king!"

ONE MORNING.

Because that I am weak, my love, and ill,
I cannot follow the impatient feet
Of my desire, but sit and watch the beat
Of the unpitying pendulum fulfill
The hour appointed for the air to thrill
And brighten at your coming. O my sweet,
The tale of moments is at last complete--
The tryst is broken on the gusty hill!
O lady, faithful-footed, loyal-eyed,
The long leagues silence me; yet doubt me not;
Think rather that the clock and sun have lied
And all too early, you have sought the spot.
For lo! despair has darkened all the light,
And till I see your face it still is night.

AN ERROR.

Good for he's old? Ah, Youth, you do not dream
How sweet the roses in the autumn seem!

AT THE "NATIONAL ENCAMPMENT."

You 're grayer than one would have thought you:
The climate you have over there
In the East has apparently brought you
Disorders affecting the hair,
Which--pardon me--seems a thought spare.

You'll not take offence at my giving
Expression to notions like these.
You might have been stronger if living
Out here in our sanative breeze.
It's unhealthy here for disease.

No, I'm not as plump as a pullet.
But that's the old wound, you see.
Remember my paunching a bullet?--
And how that it didn't agree
With--well, honest hardtack for me.

Just pass me the wine--I've a helly
And horrible kind of drouth!
When a fellow has that in his belly
Which didn't go in at his mouth
He's hotter than all Down South!

Great Scott! what a nasty day _that_ was--
When every galoot in our crack
Division who didn't lie flat was
Dissuaded from further attack
By the bullet's felicitous whack.

'Twas there that our major slept under
Some cannon of ours on the crest,
Till they woke him by stilling their thunder,
And he cursed them for breaking his rest,
And died in the midst of his jest.

That night--it was late in November--
The dead seemed uncommonly chill
To the touch; and one chap I remember
Who took it exceedingly ill
When I dragged myself over his bill.

Well, comrades, I'm off now--good morning.
Your talk is as pleasant as pie,
But, pardon me, one word of warning:
Speak little of self, say I.
That's my way. God bless you. Good-bye.

THE KING OF BORES.

Abundant bores afflict this world, and some
Are bores of magnitude that-come and--no,
They're always coming, but they never go--
Like funeral pageants, as they drone and hum
Their lurid nonsense like a muffled drum,
Or bagpipe's dread unnecessary flow.
But one superb tormentor I can show--
Prince Fiddlefaddle, Duc de Feefawfum.
He the johndonkey is who, when I pen
Amorous verses in an idle mood
To nobody, or of her, reads them through
And, smirking, says he knows the lady; then
Calls me sly dog. I wish he understood
This tender sonnet's application too.

HISTORY.

What wrecked the Roman power? One says vice,
Another indolence, another dice.
Emascle says polygamy. "Not so,"
Says Impycu--"'twas luxury and show."
The parson, lifting up a brow of brass,
Swears superstition gave the _coup de grace_,
Great Allison, the statesman-chap affirms
'Twas lack of coins (croaks Medico: "'T was worms")
And John P. Jones the swift suggestion collars,
Averring the no coins were silver dollars.
Thus, through the ages, each presuming quack
Turns the poor corpse upon its rotten back,
Holds a new "autopsy" and finds that death
Resulted partly from the want of breath,
But chiefly from some visitation sad
That points his argument or serves his fad.
They're all in error--never human mind
The cause of the disaster has divined.
What slew the Roman power? Well, provided
You'll keep the secret, I will tell you. I did.

THE HERMIT.

To a hunter from the city,
Overtaken by the night,
Spake, in tones of tender pity
For himself, an aged wight:

"I have found the world a fountain
Of deceit and Life a sham.
I have taken to the mountain
And a Holy Hermit am.

"Sternly bent on Contemplation,
Far apart from human kind----
In the hill my habitation,
In the Infinite my mind.

"Ten long years I've lived a dumb thing,
Growing bald and bent with dole.
Vainly seeking for a Something
To engage my gloomy soul.

"Gentle Pilgrim, while my roots you
Eat, and quaff my simple drink,
Please suggest whatever suits you
As a Theme for me to Think."

Then the hunter answered gravely:
"From distraction free, and strife,
You could ponder very bravely
On the Vanity of Life."

"O, thou wise and learned Teacher,
You have solved the Problem well--
You have saved a grateful creature
From the agonies of hell.

"Take another root, another
Cup of water: eat and drink.
Now I have a Subject, brother,
Tell me What, and How, to think."

TO A CRITIC OF TENNYSON.

Affronting fool, subdue your transient light;
When Wisdom's dull dares Folly to be bright:
If Genius stumble in the path to fame,
'Tis decency in dunces to go lame.

THE YEARLY LIE.

A merry Christmas? Prudent, as I live!--
You wish me something that you need not give.

Merry or sad, what does it signify?
To you 't is equal if I laugh, or die.

Your hollow greeting, like a parrot's jest,
Finds all its meaning in the ear addressed.

Why "merry" Christmas? Faith, I'd rather frown
Than grin and caper like a tickled clown.

When fools are merry the judicious weep;
The wise are happy only when asleep.

A present? Pray you give it to disarm
A man more powerful to do you harm.

'T was not your motive? Well, I cannot let
You pay for favors that you'll never get.

Perish the savage custom of the gift,
Founded in terror and maintained in thrift!

What men of honor need to aid their weal
They purchase, or, occasion serving, steal.

Go celebrate the day with turkeys, pies,
Sermons and psalms, and, for the children, lies.

Let Santa Claus descend again the flue;
If Baby doubt it, swear that it is true.

"A lie well stuck to is as good as truth,"
And God's too old to legislate for youth.

Hail Christmas! On my knees and fowl I fall:
For greater grace and better gravy call.
_Vive l'Humbug!_--that's to say, God bless us all!

COOPERATION.

No more the swindler singly seeks his prey;
To hunt in couples is the modern way--
A rascal, from the public to purloin,
An honest man to hide away the coin.

AN APOLOGUE.

A traveler observed one day
A loaded fruit-tree by the way.
And reining in his horse exclaimed:
"The man is greatly to be blamed
Who, careless of good morals, leaves
Temptation in the way of thieves.
Now lest some villain pass this way
And by this fruit be led astray
To bag it, I will kindly pack
It snugly in my saddle-sack."
He did so; then that Salt o' the Earth
Rode on, rejoicing in his worth.

DIAGNOSIS.

Cried Allen Forman: "Doctor, pray
Compose my spirits' strife:
O what may be my chances, say,
Of living all my life?

"For lately I have dreamed of high
And hempen dissolution!
O doctor, doctor, how can I
Amend my constitution?"

The learned leech replied: "You're young
And beautiful and strong--
Permit me to inspect your tongue:
H'm, ah, ahem!--'tis long."

FALLEN.

O, hadst thou died when thou wert great,
When at thy feet a nation knelt
To sob the gratitude it felt
And thank the Saviour of the State,
Gods might have envied thee thy fate!

Then was the laurel round thy brow,
And friend and foe spoke praise of thee,
While all our hearts sang victory.
Alas! thou art too base to bow
To hide the shame that brands it now.

DIES IRAE.

A recent republication of the late Gen. John A. Dix's disappointing
translation of this famous medieval hymn, together with some researches
into its history which I happened to be making at the time, induces me
to undertake a translation myself. It may seem presumption in me to
attempt that which so many eminent scholars of so many generations have
attempted before me; but the conspicuous failure of others encourages me
to hope that success, being still unachieved, is still achievable. The
fault of previous translations, from Lord Macaulay's to that of Gen.
Dix, has been, I venture to think, a too strict literalness, whereby the
delicate irony and subtle humor of the immortal poem--though doubtless
these admirable qualities were well appreciated by the translators--have
been utterly sacrificed in the result. In none of the English versions
that I have examined is more than a trace of the mocking spirit of
insincerity pervading the whole prayer,--the cool effrontery of the
suppliant in enumerating his demerits, his serenely illogical demands of
salvation in spite, or rather because, of them, his meek submission
to the punishment of others, and the many similarly pleasing
characteristics of this amusing work, being most imperfectly conveyed.
By permitting myself a reasonable freedom of rendering--in many cases
boldly supplying that "missing link" between the sublime and the
ridiculous which the author, writing for the acute monkish apprehension
of the 13th century, did not deem it necessary to insert--I have hoped
at least partially to liberate the lurking devil of humor from his
fetters, letting him caper, not, certainly, as he does in the Latin, but
as he probably would have done had his creator written in English. In
preserving the metre and double rhymes of the original, I have acted
from the same reverent regard for the music with which, in the liturgy
of the Church, the verses have become inseparably wedded that inspired
Gen. Dix; seeking rather to surmount the obstacles to success by honest
effort, than to avoid them by the adoption of an easier versification
which would have deprived my version of all utility in religious
service.

I must bespeak the reader's charitable consideration in respect of the
first stanza, the insuperable difficulties of which seem to have been
purposely contrived in order to warn off trespassers at the
very boundary of the alluring domain. I have got over the
inhibition--somehow--but David and the Sibyl must try to forgive me
if they find themselves represented merely by the names of those
conspicuous personal qualities to which they probably owed,
respectively, their powers of prophecy, as Samson's strength lay in his
hair.

DIES IRAE.

Dies irae! dies ilia!
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando Judex est venturus.
Cuncta stricte discussurus.

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionem,
Coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit, et Natura,
Quum resurget creatura
Judicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo quum sedebit,
Quicquid latet apparebit,
Nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,
Quem patronem rogaturus,
Quum vix justus sit securus?

Rex tremendae majestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis;
Salva me, Fons pietatis

Recordare, Jesu pie
Quod sum causa tuae viae;
Ne me perdas illa die.

Quarens me sedisti lassus
Redimisti crucem passus,
Tantus labor non sit cassus.

Juste Judex ultionis,
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco tanquam reus,
Culpa rubet vultus meus;
Supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae,
Sed tu bonus fac benigne
Ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta.
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis;
Gere curam mei finis.

Lacrymosa dies illa
Qua resurgent et favilla,
Judicandus homo reus
Huic ergo parce, Deus!

THE DAY OF WRATH.

Day of Satan's painful duty!
Earth shall vanish, hot and sooty;
So says Virtue, so says Beauty.

Ah! what terror shall be shaping
When the Judge the truth's undraping!
Cats from every bag escaping!

Now the trumpet's invocation
Calls the dead to condemnation;
All receive an invitation.

Death and Nature now are quaking,
And the late lamented, waking,
In their breezy shrouds are shaking.

Lo! the Ledger's leaves are stirring,
And the Clerk, to them referring,
Makes it awkward for the erring.

When the Judge appears in session,
We shall all attend confession,
Loudly preaching non-suppression.

How shall I then make romances
Mitigating circumstances?
Even the just must take their chances.

King whose majesty amazes.
Save thou him who sings thy praises;
Fountain, quench my private blazes.

Pray remember, sacred Savior,
Mine the playful hand that gave your
Death-blow. Pardon such behavior.

Seeking me fatigue assailed thee,
Calvary's outlook naught availed thee:
Now 't were cruel if I failed thee.

Righteous judge and learned brother,
Pray thy prejudices smother
Ere we meet to try each other.

Sighs of guilt my conscience gushes,
And my face vermilion flushes;
Spare me for my pretty blushes.

Thief and harlot, when repenting,
Thou forgav'st--be complimenting
Me with sign of like relenting.

If too bold is my petition
I'll receive with due submission
My dismissal--from perdition.

When thy sheep thou hast selected
From the goats, may I, respected,
Stand amongst them undetected.

When offenders are indicted,
And with trial-flames ignited,
Elsewhere I'll attend if cited.

Ashen-hearted, prone, and prayerful,
When of death I see the air full,
Lest I perish, too, be careful.

On that day of lamentation,
When, to enjoy the conflagration.
Men come forth, O, be not cruel.
Spare me, Lord--make them thy fuel.

ONE MOOD'S EXPRESSION.

See, Lord, fanatics all arrayed
For revolution!
To foil their villainous crusade
Unsheathe again the sacred blade
Of persecution.

What though through long disuse 't is grown
A trifle rusty?
'Gainst modern heresy, whose bone
Is rotten, and the flesh fly-blown,
It still is trusty.

Of sterner stuff thine ancient foes,
Unapprehensive,
Sprang forth to meet thy biting blows;
Our zealots chiefly to the nose
Assume the offensive.

Then wield the blade their necks to hack,
Nor ever spare one.
Thy crowns of martyrdom unpack,
But see that every martyr lack
The head to wear one.

SOMETHING IN THE PAPERS.

"What's in the paper?" Oh, it's dev'lish dull:
There's nothing happening at all--a lull
After the war-storm. Mr. Someone's wife
Killed by her lover with, I think, a knife.
A fire on Blank Street and some babies--one,
Two, three or four, I don't remember, done
To quite a delicate and lovely brown.
A husband shot by woman of the town--
The same old story. Shipwreck somewhere south.
The crew, all saved--or lost. Uncommon drouth
Makes hundreds homeless up the River Mud--
Though, come to think, I guess it was a flood.
'T is feared some bank will burst--or else it won't
They always burst, I fancy--or they don't;
Who cares a cent?--the banker pays his coin
And takes his chances: bullet in the groin--
But that's another item--suicide--
Fool lost his money (serve him right) and died.
Heigh-ho! there's noth--Jerusalem! what's this:
Tom Jones has failed! My God, what an abyss
Of ruin!--owes me seven hundred clear!
Was ever such a damned disastrous year!

IN THE BINNACLE.

[The Church possesses the unerring compass whose needle points directly
and persistently to the star of the eternal law of God.--_Religious
Weekly._]

The Church's compass, if you please,
Has two or three (or more) degrees
Of variation;
And many a soul has gone to grief
On this or that or t'other reef
Through faith unreckoning or brief
Miscalculation.
Misguidance is of perils chief
To navigation.

The obsequious thing makes, too, you'll mark,
Obeisance through a little arc
Of declination;
For Satan, fearing witches, drew
From Death's pale horse, one day, a shoe,
And nailed it to his door to undo
Their machination.
Since then the needle dips to woo
His habitation.

HUMILITY.

Great poets fire the world with fagots big
That make a crackling racket,
But I'm content with but a whispering twig
To warm some single jacket.

ONE PRESIDENT.

"What are those, father?" "Statesmen, my child--
Lacrymose, unparliamentary, wild."

"What are they that way for, father?" "Last fall,
'Our candidate's better,' they said, 'than all!'"

"What did they say he was, father?" "A man
Built on a straight incorruptible plan--
Believing that none for an office would do
Unless he were honest and capable too."

"Poor gentlemen--_so_ disappointed!" "Yes, lad,
That is the feeling that's driving them mad;
They're weeping and wailing and gnashing because
They find that he's all that they said that he was."

THE BRIDE.

"You know, my friends, with what a brave carouse
I made a second marriage in my house--
Divorced old barren Reason from my bed
And took the Daughter of the Vine to spouse."

So sang the Lord of Poets. In a gleam
Of light that made her like an angel seem,
The Daughter of the Vine said: "I myself
Am Reason, and the Other was a Dream."

STRAINED RELATIONS.

Says England to Germany: "Africa's ours."
Says Germany: "Ours, I opine."
Says Africa: "Tell me, delectable Pow'rs,
What is it that ought to be mine?"

THE MAN BORN BLIND.

A man born blind received his sight
By a painful operation;
And these are things he saw in the light
Of an infant observation.

He saw a merchant, good and wise.
And greatly, too, respected,
Who looked, to those imperfect eyes,
Like a swindler undetected.

He saw a patriot address
A noisy public meeting.
And said: "Why, that's a calf. I guess.
That for the teat is bleating."

A doctor stood beside a bed
And shook his summit sadly.
"O see that foul assassin!" said
The man who saw so badly.

He saw a lawyer pleading for
A thief whom they'd been jailing,
And said: "That's an accomplice, or
My sight again is failing."

Upon the Bench a Justice sat,
With nothing to restrain him;
"'Tis strange," said the observer, "that
They ventured to unchain him."

With theologic works supplied,
He saw a solemn preacher;
"A burglar with his kit," he cried,
"To rob a fellow creature."

A bluff old farmer next he saw
Sell produce in a village,
And said: "What, what! is there no law
To punish men for pillage?"

A dame, tall, fair and stately, passed,
Who many charms united;
He thanked his stars his lot was cast
Where sepulchers were whited.

He saw a soldier stiff and stern,
"Full of strange oaths" and toddy;
But was unable to discern
A wound upon his body.

Ten square leagues of rolling ground
To one great man belonging,
Looked like one little grassy mound
With worms beneath it thronging.

A palace's well-carven stones,
Where Dives dwelt contented,
Seemed built throughout of human bones
With human blood cemented.

He watched the yellow shining thread
A silk-worm was a-spinning;
"That creature's coining gold." he said,
"To pay some girl for sinning."

His eyes were so untrained and dim
All politics, religions,
Arts, sciences, appeared to him
But modes of plucking pigeons.

And so he drew his final breath,
And thought he saw with sorrow
Some persons weeping for his death
Who'd be all smiles to-morrow.

A NIGHTMARE.

I dreamed that I was dead. The years went by:
The world forgot that such a man as I
Had ever lived and written: other names
Were hailed with homage, in their turn to die.

Out of my grave a giant beech upgrew.
Its roots transpierced my body, through and through,
My substance fed its growth. From many lands
Men came in troops that giant tree to view.

'T was sacred to my memory and fame--
My monument. But Allen Forman came,
Filled with the fervor of a new untruth,
And carved upon the trunk his odious name!

A WET SEASON.

Horas non numero nisi serenas.

The rain is fierce, it flogs the earth,
And man's in danger.
O that my mother at my birth
Had borne a stranger!
The flooded ground is all around.
The depth uncommon.
How blest I'd be if only she
Had borne a salmon.

If still denied the solar glow
'T were bliss ecstatic
To be amphibious--but O,
To be aquatic!
We're worms, men say, o' the dust, and they
That faith are firm of.
O, then, be just: show me some dust
To be a worm of.

The pines are chanting overhead
A psalm uncheering.
It's O, to have been for ages dead
And hard of hearing!
Restore, ye Pow'rs, the last bright hours
The dial reckoned;
'Twas in the time of Egypt's prime--
Rameses II.

THE CONFEDERATE FLAGS.

Tut-tut! give back the flags--how can you care
You veterans and heroes?
Why should you at a kind intention swear
Like twenty Neroes?

Suppose the act was not so overwise--
Suppose it was illegal--
Is 't well on such a question to arise
And pinch the Eagle?

Nay, let's economize his breath to scold
And terrify the alien
Who tackles him, as Hercules of old
The bird Stymphalian.

Among the rebels when we made a breach
Was it to get their banners?
That was but incidental--'t was to teach
Them better manners.

They know the lesson well enough to-day;
Now, let us try to show them
That we 're not only stronger far than they.
(How we did mow them!)

But more magnanimous. You see, my lads,
'T was an uncommon riot;
The warlike tribes of Europe fight for "fads,"
We fought for quiet.

If we were victors, then we all must live
With the same flag above us;
'Twas all in vain unless we now forgive
And make them love us.

Let kings keep trophies to display above
Their doors like any savage;
The freeman's trophy is the foeman's love,
Despite war's ravage.

"Make treason odious?" My friends, you'll find
You can't, in right and reason,
While "Washington" and "treason" are combined--
"Hugo" and "treason."

All human governments must take the chance
And hazard of sedition.
O, wretch! to pledge your manhood in advance
To blind submission.

It may be wrong, it may be right, to rise
In warlike insurrection:
The loyalty that fools so dearly prize
May mean subjection.

Be loyal to your country, yes--but how
If tyrants hold dominion?
The South believed they did; can't you allow
For that opinion?

He who will never rise though rulers plods
His liberties despising
How is he manlier than the _sans culottes_
Who's always rising?

Give back the foolish flags whose bearers fell
Too valiant to forsake them.
Is it presumptuous, this counsel? Well,
I helped to take them.

HAEC FABULA DOCET.

A rat who'd gorged a box of bane
And suffered an internal pain,
Came from his hole to die (the label
Required it if the rat were able)
And found outside his habitat
A limpid stream. Of bane and rat
'T was all unconscious; in the sun
It ran and prattled just for fun.
Keen to allay his inward throes,
The beast immersed his filthy nose
And drank--then, bloated by the stream,
And filled with superheated steam,
Exploded with a rascal smell,
Remarking, as his fragments fell
Astonished in the brook: "I'm thinking
This water's damned unwholesome drinking!"

EXONERATION.

When men at candidacy don't connive,
From that suspicion if their friends would free 'em,
The teeth and nails with which they did not strive
Should be exhibited in a museum.

AZRAEL.

The moon in the field of the keel-plowed main
Was watching the growing tide:
A luminous peasant was driving his wain,
And he offered my soul a ride.

But I nourished a sorrow uncommonly tall,
And I fixed him fast with mine eye.
"O, peasant," I sang with a dying fall,
"Go leave me to sing and die."

The water was weltering round my feet,
As prone on the beach they lay.
I chanted my death-song loud and sweet;
"Kioodle, ioodle, iay!"

Then I heard the swish of erecting ears
Which caught that enchanted strain.
The ocean was swollen with storms of tears
That fell from the shining swain.

"O, poet," leapt he to the soaken sand,
"That ravishing song would make
The devil a saint." He held out his hand
And solemnly added: "Shake."

We shook. "I crave a victim, you see,"
He said--"you came hither to die."
The Angel of Death, 't was he! 't was he!
And the victim he crove was I!

'T was I, Fred Emerson Brooks, the bard;
And he knocked me on the head.
O Lord! I thought it exceedingly hard,
For I didn't want to be dead.

"You'll sing no worser for that," said he,
And he drove with my soul away,
O, death-song singers, be warned by me,
Kioodle, ioodle, iay!

AGAIN.

Well, I've met her again--at the Mission.
She'd told me to see her no more;
It was not a command--a petition;
I'd granted it once before.

Yes, granted it, hoping she'd write me.
Repenting her virtuous freak--
Subdued myself daily and nightly
For the better part of a week.

And then ('twas my duty to spare her
The shame of recalling me) I
Just sought her again to prepare her
For an everlasting good-bye.

O, that evening of bliss--shall I ever
Forget it?--with Shakespeare and Poe!
She said, when 'twas ended: "You're never
To see me again. And now go."

As we parted with kisses 'twas human
And natural for me to smile
As I thought, "She's in love, and a woman:
She'll send for me after a while."

But she didn't; and so--well, the Mission
Is fine, picturesque and gray;
It's an excellent place for contrition--
And sometimes she passes that way.

That's how it occurred that I met her,
And that's ah there is to tell--
Except that I'd like to forget her
Calm way of remarking: "I'm well."

It was hardly worth while, all this keying
My soul to such tensions and stirs
To learn that her food was agreeing
With that little stomach of hers.

HOMO PODUNKENSIS.

As the poor ass that from his paddock strays
Might sound abroad his field-companions' praise,
Recounting volubly their well-bred leer,
Their port impressive and their wealth of ear,
Mistaking for the world's assent the clang
Of echoes mocking his accurst harangue;
So the dull clown, untraveled though at large,
Visits the city on the ocean's marge,
Expands his eyes and marvels to remark
Each coastwise schooner and each alien bark;
Prates of "all nations," wonders as he stares
That native merchants sell imported wares,
Nor comprehends how in his very view
A foreign vessel has a foreign crew;
Yet, faithful to the hamlet of his birth,
Swears it superior to aught on earth,
Sighs for the temples locally renowned--
The village school-house and the village pound--
And chalks upon the palaces of Rome
The peasant sentiments of "Home, Sweet Home!"

A SOCIAL CALL.

Well, well, old Father Christmas, is it you,
With your thick neck and thin pretense of virtue?
Less redness in the nose--nay, even some blue
Would not, I think, particularly hurt you.
When seen close to, not mounted in your car,
You look the drunkard and the pig you are.

No matter, sit you down, for I am not
In a gray study, as you sometimes find me.
Merry? O, no, nor wish to be, God wot,
But there's another year of pain behind me.
That's something to be thankful for: the more
There are behind, the fewer are before.

I know you, Father Christmas, for a scamp,
But Heaven endowed me at my soul's creation
With an affinity to every tramp
That walks the world and steals its admiration.
For admiration is like linen left
Upon the line--got easiest by theft.

Good God! old man, just think of it! I've stood,
With brains and honesty, some five-and-twenty
Long years as champion of all that's good,
And taken on the mazzard thwacks a-plenty.
Yet now whose praises do the people bawl?
Those of the fellows whom I live to maul!

Why, this is odd!--the more I try to talk
Of you the more my tongue grows egotistic
To prattle of myself! I'll try to balk
Its waywardness and be more altruistic.
So let us speak of others--how they sin,
And what a devil of a state they 're in!

That's all I have to say. Good-bye, old man.
Next year you possibly may find me scolding--
Or miss me altogether: Nature's plan
Includes, as I suppose, a final folding
Of these poor empty hands. Then drop a tear
To think they'll never box another ear.

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