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Goddess of Liberty! O thou
Whose tearless eyes behold the chain,
And look unmoved upon the slain,
Eternal peace upon thy brow,-
Before thy shrine the races press,
Thy perfect favor to implore-
The proudest tyrant asks no more,
The ironed anarchist no less.
Thine altar-coals that touch the lips
Of prophets kindle, too, the brand
By Discord flung with wanton hand
Among the houses and the ships.
Upon thy tranquil front the star
Burns bleak and passionless and white,
Its cold inclemency of light
More dreadful than the shadows are.
Thy name we do not here invoke
Our civic rites to sanctify:
Enthroned in thy remoter sky,
Thou heedest not our broken yoke.
Thou carest not for such as we:
Our millions die to serve the still
And secret purpose of thy will.
They perish-what is that to thee?
The light that fills the patriot's tomb
Is not of thee. The shining crown
Compassionately offered down
To those who falter in the gloom,
And fall, and call upon thy name,
And die desiring-'tis the sign
Of a diviner love than thine,
Rewarding with a richer fame.
To him alone let freemen cry
Who hears alike the victor's shout,
The song of faith, the moan of doubt,
And bends him from his nearer sky.
God of my country and my race!
So greater than the gods of old-
So fairer than the prophets told
Who dimly saw and feared thy face,-
Who didst but half reveal thy will
And gracious ends to their desire,
Behind the dawn's advancing fire
Thy tender day-beam veiling still,-
To whom the unceasing suns belong,
And cause is one with consequence,-
To whose divine, inclusive sense
The moan is blended with the song,-
Whose laws, imperfect and unjust,
Thy just and perfect purpose serve:
The needle, howsoe'er it swerve,
Still warranting the sailor's trust,-
God, lift thy hand and make us free
To crown the work thou hast designed.
O, strike away the chains that bind
Our souls to one idolatry!
The liberty thy love hath given
We thank thee for. We thank thee for
Our great dead fathers' holy war
Wherein our manacles were riven.
We thank thee for the stronger stroke
Ourselves delivered and incurred
When-thine incitement half unheard-
The chains we riveted we broke.
We thank thee that beyond the sea
Thy people, growing ever wise,
Turn to the west their serious eyes
And dumbly strive to be as we.
As when the sun's returning flame
Upon the Nileside statue shone,
And struck from the enchanted stone
The music of a mighty fame,
Let Man salute the rising day
Of Liberty, but not adore.
'Tis Opportunity-no more-
A useful, not a sacred, ray.
It bringeth good, it bringeth ill,
As he possessing shall elect.
He maketh it of none effect
Who walketh not within thy will.
Give thou more or less, as we
Shall serve the right or serve the wrong.
Confirm our freedom but so long
As we are worthy to be free.
But when (O, distant be the time!)
Majorities in passion draw
Insurgent swords to murder Law,
And all the land is red with crime;
Or-nearer menace!-when the band
Of feeble spirits cringe and plead
To the gigantic strength of Greed,
And fawn upon his iron hand;-
Nay, when the steps to state are worn
In hollows by the feet of thieves,
And Mammon sits among the sheaves
And chuckles while the reapers mourn:
Then stay thy miracle!-replace
The broken throne, repair the chain,
Restore the interrupted reign
And veil again thy patient face.
Lo! here upon the world's extreme
We stand with lifted arms and dare
By thine eternal name to swear
Our country, which so fair we deem-
Upon whose hills, a bannered throng,
The spirits of the sun display
Their flashing lances day by day
And hear the sea's pacific song-
Shall be so ruled in right and grace
That men shall say: 'O, drive afield
The lawless eagle from the shield,
And call an angel to the place!'
You may say if you please, Johnny Bull, that our girls
Are crazy to marry your dukes and your earls;
But I've heard that the maids of your own little isle
Greet bachelor lords with a favoring smile.
Nay, titles, 'tis said in defense of our fair,
Are popular here because popular there;
And for them our ladies persistently go
Because 'tis exceedingly English, you know.
Whatever the motive, you'll have to confess
The effort's attended with easy success;
And-pardon the freedom-'tis thought, over here,
'Tis mortification you mask with a sneer.
It's all very well, sir, your scorn to parade
Of the high nasal twang of the Yankee maid,
But, ah, to my lord when he dares to propose
No sound is so sweet as that 'Yes' from the nose.
Ah, well, if the dukes and the earls and that lot
Can stand it (God succor them if they can not!)
Your commoners ought to assent, I am sure,
And what they're not called on to suffer, endure.
''Tis nothing but money?-your nobles are bought'?
As to that, I submit, it is commonly thought
That England's a country not specially free
Of Croesi and (if you'll allow it) Croesæ.
You've many a widow and many a girl
With money to purchase a duke or an earl.
'Tis a very remarkable thing, you'll agree,
When goods import buyers from over the sea.
Alas for the woman of Albion's isle!
She may simper; as well as she can she may smile;
She may wear pantalettes and an air of repose-
But my lord of the future will talk through his nose.
As sweet as the look of a lover
Saluting the eyes of a maid
That blossom to blue as the maid
Is ablush to the glances above her,
The sunshine is gilding the glade
And lifting the lark out of shade.
Sing therefore high praises, and therefore
Sing songs that are ancient as gold,
Of earth in her garments of gold;
Nor ask of their meaning, nor wherefore
They charm as of yore, for behold!
The Earth is as fair as of old.
Sing songs of the pride of the mountains,
And songs of the strength of the seas,
And the fountains that fall to the seas
From the hands of the hills, and the fountains
That shine in the temples of trees,
In valleys of roses and bees.
Sing songs that are dreamy and tender,
Of slender Arabian palms,
And shadows that circle the palms,
Where caravans out of the splendor,
Are kneeling in blossoms and balms,
In islands of infinite calms.
Barbaric, O Man, was thy runing
When mountains were stained as with wine
By the dawning of Time, and as wine
Were the seas, yet its echoes are crooning,
Achant in the gusty pine
And the pulse of the poet's line.
Of life's elixir I had writ, when sleep
(Pray Heaven it spared him who the writing read!)
Settled upon my senses with so deep
A stupefaction that men thought me dead.
The centuries stole by with noiseless tread,
Like spectres in the twilight of my dream;
I saw mankind in dim procession sweep
Through life, oblivion at each extreme.
Meanwhile my beard, like Barbarossa's growing,
Loaded my lap and o'er my knees was flowing.
The generations came with dance and song,
And each observed me curiously there.
Some asked: 'Who was he?' Others in the throng
Replied: 'A wicked monk who slept at prayer.'
Some said I was a saint, and some a bear-
These all were women. So the young and gay,
Visibly wrinkling as they fared along,
Doddered at last on failing limbs away;
Though some, their footing in my beard entangled,
Fell into its abysses and were strangled.
At last a generation came that walked
More slowly forward to the common tomb,
Then altogether stopped. The women talked
Excitedly; the men, with eyes agloom
Looked darkly on them with a look of doom;
And one cried out: 'We are immortal now-
How need we these?' And a dread figure stalked,
Silent, with gleaming axe and shrouded brow,
And all men cried: 'Decapitate the women,
Or soon there'll be no room to stand or swim in!'
So (in my dream) each lovely head was chopped
From its fair shoulders, and but men alone
Were left in all the world. Birth being stopped,
Enough of room remained in every zone,
And Peace ascended Woman's vacant throne.
Thus, life's elixir being found (the quacks
Their bread-and-butter in it gladly sopped)
'Twas made worth having by the headsman's axe.
Seeing which, I gave myself a hearty shaking,
And crumbled all to powder in the waking.
Megaceph, chosen to serve the State
In the halls of legislative debate,
One day with his credentials came
To the capitol's door and announced his name.
The doorkeeper looked, with a comical twist
Of the face, at the eminent egotist,
And said: 'Go away, for we settle here
All manner of questions, knotty and queer,
And we cannot have, when the speaker demands
To know how every member stands,
A man who to all things under the sky
Assents by eternally voting 'I.''
What! 'Out of danger?' Can the slighted Dame
Or canting Pharisee no more defame?
Will Treachery caress my hand no more,
Nor Hatred lie alurk about my door?-
Ingratitude, with benefits dismissed,
Not understanding what 'tis all about,
Will Envy henceforth not retaliate
For virtues it were vain to emulate?
Will Ignorance my knowledge fail to scout,
Not understanding what 'tis all about,
Yet feeling in its light so mean and small
That all his little soul is turned to gall?
What! 'Out of danger?' Jealousy disarmed?
Greed from exaction magically charmed?
Ambition stayed from trampling whom it meets.
Like horses fugitive in crowded streets?
The Bigot, with his candle, book and bell,
Tongue-tied, unlunged and paralyzed as well?
The Critic righteously to justice haled,
His own ear to the post securely nailed-
What most he dreads unable to inflict,
And powerless to hawk the faults he's picked?
The Liar choked upon his choicest lie,
And impotent alike to vilify
Or flatter for the gold of thrifty men
Who hate his person but employ his pen-
Who love and loathe, respectively, the dirt
Belonging to his character and shirt?
What! 'Out of danger?'-Nature's minions all,
Like hounds returning to the huntsman's call,
Obedient to the unwelcome note
That stays them from the quarry's bursting throat?-
Famine and Pestilence and Earthquake dire,
Torrent and Tempest, Lightning, Frost and Fire,
The soulless Tiger and the mindless Snake,
The noxious Insect from the stagnant lake,-
These from their immemorial prey restrained,
Their fury baffled and their power chained?
I'm safe? Is that what the physician said?
What! 'Out of danger?' Then, by Heaven, I'm dead!
I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and, lo!
The godly multitudes walked to and fro
Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad,
With pious mien, appropriately sad,
While all the church bells made a solemn din --
A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin.
Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below,
With tranquil face, upon that holy show
A tall, spare figure in a robe of white,
Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light.
'God keep you, stranger,' I exclaimed. 'You are
No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar;
And yet I entertain the hope that you,
Like these good people, are a Christian too.'
He raised his eyes and with a look so stern
It made me with a thousand blushes burn
Replied -- his manner with disdain was spiced:
'What! I a Christian? No, indeed! I'm Christ.'
'Twas a Venerable Person, whom I met one Sunday morning,
All appareled as a prophet of a melancholy sect;
And in a Jeremiad of objurgatory warning
He lifted up his jodel to the following effect:
'O ye sanguinary statesmen, intermit your verbal tussles!
O ye editors and orators, consent to hear my lay!
Rest a little while the digital and maxillary muscles
And attend to what a Venerable Person has to say.
'Cease your writing, cease your shouting, cease your wild unearthly lying;
Cease to bandy such expressions as are never, never found
In the letter of a lover; cease 'exposing' and 'replying'
Let there be abated fury and a decrement of sound.
'For to-morrow will be Monday and the fifth day of November-
Only day of opportunity before the final rush.
Carpe diem! go conciliate each person who's a member
Of the other party-do so while you can without a blush.
'Lo! the time is close upon you when the madness of the season
Having howled itself to silence like a Minnesota 'clone,
Will at last be superseded by the still, small voice of reason,
When the whelpage of your folly you would willingly disown.
'Ah, 'tis mournful to consider what remorses will be thronging,
With a consciousness of having been so ghastly indiscreet,
When by accident untoward two ex-gentlemen belonging
To the opposite political denominations meet!
'Yes, 'tis melancholy, truly, to forecast the fierce, unruly
Supersurging of their blushes, like the flushes upon high
When Aurora Borealis lights her circumpolar palace
And in customary manner sets her banner in the sky.
'Each will think: 'This falsifier knows that I too am a liar.
Curse him for a son of Satan, all unholily compound!
Curse my leader for another! Curse that pelican, my mother!
Would to God that I when little in my victual had been drowned!''
Then that venerable warner disappeared around a corner,
And the season of unreason having also taken flight,
All the cheeks of men were burning like the skies to crimson turning
When Aurora Borealis fires her premises by night.
I lay in silence, dead. A woman came
And laid a rose upon my breast, and said,
'May God be merciful.' She spoke my name,
And added, 'It is strange to think him dead.
'He loved me well enough, but 't was his way
To speak it lightly.' Then, beneath her breath:
'Besides' -I knew what further she would say,
But then a footfall broke my dream of death.
To-day the words are mine. I lay the rose
Upon her breast, and speak her name, and deem
It strange indeed that she is dead. God knows
I had more pleasure in the other dream.
Judge Sawyer, whom in vain the people tried
To push from power, here is laid aside.
Death only from the bench could ever start
The sluggish load of his immortal part.
For those this mausoleum is erected
Who Stanford to the Upper House elected.
Their luck is less or their promotion slower,
For, dead, they were elected to the Lower.
Rash mortal! stay thy feet and look around-
This vacant tomb as yet is holy ground;
But soon, alas! Jim Fair will occupy
These premises-then, holiness, good-bye!
George Perry here lies stiff and stark,
With stone at foot and stone at head.
His heart was dark, his mind was dark-
'Ignorant ass!' the people said.
Not ignorant but skilled, alas,
In all the secrets of his trade:
He knew more ways to be an ass
Than any ass that ever brayed.
Once I dipt into the future far as human eye could see,
And I saw the Chief Forecaster, dead as any one can be--
Dead and damned and shut in Hades as a liar from his birth,
With a record of unreason seldome paralleled on earth.
While I looked he reared him solemnly, that incandescent youth,
From the coals that he'd preferred to the advantages of truth.
He cast his eyes about him and above him; then he wrote
On a slab of thin asbestos what I venture here to quote--
For I read it in the rose-light of the everlasting glow:
"Cloudy; variable winds, with local showers; cooler; snow."
Once I seen a human ruin
In a elevator-well.
And his members was bestrewin'
All the place where he had fell.
And I says, apostrophisin'
That uncommon woful wreck:
"Your position's so surprisin'
That I tremble for your neck!"
Then that ruin, smilin' sadly
And impressive, up and spoke:
"Well, I wouldn't tremble badly,
For it's been a fortnight broke."
Then, for further comprehension
Of his attitude, he begs
I will focus my attention
On his various arms and legs--
How they all are contumacious;
Where they each, respective, lie;
How one trotter proves ungracious,
T' other one an alibi.
These particulars is mentioned
For to show his dismal state,
Which I wasn't first intentioned
To specifical relate.
None is worser to be dreaded
That I ever have heard tell
Than the gent's who there was spreaded
In that elevator-well.
Now this tale is allegoric--
It is figurative all,
For the well is metaphoric
And the feller didn't fall.
I opine it isn't moral
For a writer-man to cheat,
And despise to wear a laurel
As was gotten by deceit.
For 'tis Politics intended
By the elevator, mind,
It will boost a person splendid
If his talent is the kind.
Col. Bryan had the talent
(For the busted man is him)
And it shot him up right gallant
Till his head began to swim.
Then the rope it broke above him
And he painful came to earth
Where there's nobody to love him
For his detrimented worth.
Though he's living' none would know him,
Or at leastwise not as such.
Moral of this woful poem:
Frequent oil your safety-clutch.
The rimer quenches his unheeded fires,
The sound surceases and the sense expires.
Then the domestic dog, to east and west,
Expounds the passions burning in his breast.
The rising moon o'er that enchanted land
Pauses to hear and yearns to understand.
Freedom, as every schoolboy knows,
Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell;
On every wind, indeed, that blows
I hear her yell.
She screams whenever monarchs meet,
And parliaments as well,
To bind the chains about her feet
And toll her knell.
And when the sovereign people cast
The votes they cannot spell,
Upon the pestilential blast
Her clamors swell.
For all to whom the power's given
To sway or to compel,
Among themselves apportion Heaven
And give her Hell.
Thou shalt no God but me adore:
'Twere too expensive to have more.
No images nor idols make
For Roger Ingersoll to break.
Take not God's name in vain: select
A time when it will have effect.
Work not on Sabbath days at all,
But go to see the teams play ball.
Honor thy parents. That creates
For life insurance lower rates.
Kill not, abet not those who kill;
Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.
Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless
Thine own thy neighbor doth caress.
Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete
Successfully in business. Cheat.
Bear not false witness--that is low--
But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."
Covet thou naught that thou hast got
By hook or crook, or somehow, got.
Ambrose Bierce [pseudonym Grile Dod] (1842-c1914), American journalist and author wrote The Devil’s Dictionary (1906); DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.
Started as weekly installments in one of his newspaper columns in 1881, many of Bierce’s definitions were soon popularised in everyday use. The Devil's Dictionary was originally titled The Cynic’s Word Book.
First finding his voice in newspapers, Bierce became a prolific author of short stories often humorous and sometimes bitter or macabre. He spoke out against oppression and supported civil and religious freedoms. He also wrote numerous Civil War stories from first-hand experience. Many of his works are ranked among other esteemed American authors’ like Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen Crane, and Mark Twain. Many of his oft-quoted works are in print today and have inspired television and feature film adaptations.
Ambrose Gwinnet Bierce was born on 24 June 1842 in Horse Cave Creek, a religious settlement in Meigs County, Ohio State, U.S.A. He was the tenth of thirteen children (all their names starting with the letter ‘A’) born to Laura Sherwood (1804-1878) and Marcus Aurelius Bierce (1799-1876). Not one tending to sentiment, Ambrose was never close to his parents, devotees to the fire-and-brimstone First Congregational Church of Christ. He does use them for many of his stories including “Three and Three Are One”, but often to their peril, or the reader’s amusement. Marcus Aurelius was unsuccessful in his many pursuits ranging from farming to shop keeping, although he had accumulated an extensive library by the time Ambrose was born. In those tomes his youngest son found solace and education, and admiration for the written word.
The family had moved to Indiana when Ambrose was four, and in 1857, at the age of fifteen, he left home. For a year he was ‘printer’s devil’ at the Northern Indianian, an abolitionist newspaper in Warsaw, Indiana. He next went to live with his paternal uncle, lawyer Lucius Verus Bierce, in Akron, Ohio. Lucius had been Mayor of Akron and, as with many in the Bierce family, also had a military history. Young Ambrose respected his uncle who encouraged him, at the age of seventeen, to enroll in the Kentucky Military Institute. There Bierce studied architecture, history, Latin, and political science. After studying for a year, he left the school and started a wandering existence between odd jobs including laborer and waiter.
When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Bierce enlisted in the Ninth Indiana Infantry, either by the call of his military ancestors or boredom. For the next four years he travelled to many states, fought in many of the well-known battles including Shiloh, Picketts’s Mill, and Chickamunga, and created strategic topographical maps. After a distinguished period of service, he resigned in 1865 after a bullet wound to the head continued to plague him with dizziness and black outs. The experience gave him much to write about and his future short stories based on the Civil War include “The Crime at Pickett’s Mill” (1888), “A Son of the Gods” (1888), “The Coup de Grâce” (1889), “Chickamauga” (1889), “The Affair at Coulter’s Notch” (1889), “Parker Adderson, Philosopher and Wit” (1891), “A Horseman in the Sky” (1891), “Two Military Executions” (1906), and, some say his most popular short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890). In 1891 his collection Tales of Soldiers and Civilians was published.
While Bierce had started to write seriously during his war service, it was not yet a career for him. His next occupation was Treasury agent for the state of Alabama before he settled in San Francisco, California. There he worked for the United States Mint.
A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, . . . Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.
Now on the west coast living with a brother, Bierce was soon putting pen to paper, writing reviews, essays, poems, short stories, and sketches and submitting them to such newspapers as the San Francisco News-Letter and the California Advertiser. In 1868 he met Mark Twain, became editor of the News-Letter, and wrote the column “The Town Crier” in which he honed his skills of critical observation and wit in matters cultural and political. He soon became known for his biting wit and satirical exposés of public figures and while his columns were very popular they also gained him many harsh critics, one of the more notable being Oscar Wilde.
On 25 December 1871 Bierce married the daughter of a wealthy miner, Mary ‘Mollie’ Ellen Day (d.1905), with whom he would have three children. The next year he resigned from the News-Letter and he and Mary travelled throughout England, settling in Bristol. That same year their first son Day (1872-1889) was born.
While writing for the humour magazine Fun as Grile Dod and regularly contributing to other such publications as Figaro and the London Sketch Book, Bierce started to have severe bouts of asthma. He often sought a cure at spas, and the long periods away from the family negatively impacted his marriage. During this time a number of his novels were published in England including The Fiend's Delight (1873), Nuggets and Dust (1873), and Cobwebs From an Empty Skull (1874). In 1874 the Bierce’s second son Leigh was born (1874-1901). Daughter Helen (b1875) was born next, the same year the Bierces returned to San Francisco. Home of the famed Bohemian Club where Bierce was a member, he met many notable authors of the day including Mark Twain and Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton. In 1877 Bierce took on the role of editor with the Argonaut. It was in this publication that he started his famous column “Prattle”.
In 1880 Bierce went to South Dakota to work with a gold mining company. As an already fierce critic of man’s greed and hypocrisies in areas of government and institutions, the mining experience provided much fodder for his future writings. In the Wasp he continued his popular column “Prattle”, where he soon started to publish entries that would be collected in his Dictionary. In 1886 left the Wasp and Bierce was approached by publisher William Randolph Hearst to write for his San Francisco Examiner. “Prattle” was resurrected and Bierce found the editorial freedom he had longed for. No one was immune to his caustic style and black humour: preachers, lawyers, bigots, politicians, racists, capitalists, poets, anarchists, and women, to name a few. While Bierce had reached the height of his fame, he also suffered losses: in 1888 he and his wife Mary separated (she died on 27 April 1905) and in 1889 his son Day died.
In 1899 Bierce moved to Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTONIAN, n. A Potomac tribesman who exchanged the privilege of governing himself for the advantage of good government. In justice to him it should be said that he did not want to.
MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
to continue writing for the Examiner as well as Hearst’s Cosmopolitan. In 1901 his son Leigh, a news reporter, died of pneumonia. Bierce was profoundly grieved to outlive two of his children. Bierce made a couple of trips to California, and visited some of the old battlefields he had known in the war. Ending his career with Hearst in 1909, Bierce looked south and wrote to relatives of travelling to Mexico. His journey led him through Texas and while there are many rumour of his whereabouts and some alleged sightings and interviews with him along the way, his last correspondence is dated 26 December 1913. After that Bierce mysteriously disappeared.
Other works by Bierce include;
Can Such Things Be? (1893),
Fantastic Fables (1899),
Black Beetles in Amber (poetry, 1892),
Shapes of Clay (poetry, 1903),
The Shadow on the Dial and other Essays (1909),
Write it Right (1909), and
Collected Works (1912).
PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one--the knowledge and the dream.