By Ambrose Bierce.


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Shapes of Clay


With pride in their work, faith in their future and affection for themselves, an old writer dedicates this book to his young friends and pupils, George Sterling and Herman Scheffauer.

A. B.


Of the verses republished in this volume and the next, some are censorious, and in these the names of real persons are used without their consent; so it seems fit that a few words be said of the matter in sober prose. Of my motive in writing and now republishing these personal satires I do not care to make either defense or explanation, except with reference to those, who, since my first censure of them, have passed away. To one having only a reader’s interest in the matter it may seem that the verses relating to those might properly have been omitted from this collection. But if these pieces, or, indeed, any considerable part of my work in literature, have the intrinsic interest, which, by this attempt to preserve some of it I have assumed, their permanent suppression is impossible; it is only a question of when and by whom they will be republished. Someone will surely search them out and put them into circulation.

I conceive it to be the right of an author to have his fugitive work in newspapers and periodicals put into a more permanent form during his lifetime if he can; and this is especially true of one whose work, necessarily engendering animosities, is peculiarly exposed to challenge as unjust. That is a charge that can best be examined before time has effaced the evidence. For the death of a man whose unworth I have affirmed, I am in no way accountable, and however sincerely I may regret his passing, I can hardly be expected to consent that it shall affect my literary fortunes. If the satirist who does not accept the remarkable doctrine that while condemning a sin he should spare the sinner were bound to let the life of his work be coterminous with that of his subject his lot in letters were one 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, liberties and limitations, is at least derived from reverent study of the masters. That in respect of matters herein mentioned I have followed their practice can be shown by abundant instance and example.

In arranging these verses for publication I have thought it needless to classify them as “serious,” “comic,” “sentimental,” “satirical,” and so forth. I do the reader the honor to think that he will readily discern the character of what he is reading, and I entertain the hope that his mood will accommodate itself without disappointment to that of his author.

Ambrose Bierce.

The Passing Show


I know not if it was a dream. I viewed
A city where the restless multitude,
Between the eastern and the western deep
Had reared gigantic fabrics, strong and rude.

Colossal palaces crowned every height;
Towers from valleys climbed into the light;
O’er dwellings at their feet, great golden domes
Hung in the blue, barbarically bright.

But now, new-glimmering to-east, the day
Touched the black masses with a grace of gray,
Dim spires of temples to the nation’s God
Studding high spaces of the wide survey.

Well did the roofs their solemn secret keep
Of life and death stayed by the truce of sleep,
Yet whispered of an hour when sleepers wake,
The fool to hope afresh, the wise to weep.

The gardens greened upon the builded hills
Above the tethered thunders of the mills
With sleeping wheels unstirred to service yet
By the tamed torrents and the quickened rills.

A hewn acclivity, reprieved a space,
Looked on the builder’s blocks about his base
And bared his wounded breast in sign to say:
“Strike! ’tis my destiny to lodge your race.

“ ’Twas but a breath ago the mammoth browsed
Upon my slopes, and in my caves I housed
Your shaggy fathers in their nakedness,
While on their foeman’s offal they caroused.”

Ships from afar afforested the bay.
Within their huge and chambered bodies lay
The wealth of continents; and merrily sailed
The hardy argosies to far Cathay.

Beside the city of the living spread⁠—
Strange fellowship!⁠—the city of the dead;
And much I wondered what its humble folk,
To see how bravely they were housed, had said.

Noting how firm their habitations stood,
Broad-based and free of perishable wood⁠—
How deep in granite and how high in brass
The names were wrought of eminent and good,

I said: “When gold or power is their aim,
The smile of beauty or the wage of shame,
Men dwell in cities; to this place they fare
When they would conquer an abiding fame.”

From the red East the sun⁠—a solemn rite⁠—
Crowned with a flame the cross upon a height
Above the dead; and then with all his strength
Struck the great city all aroar with light!


I know not if it was a dream. I came
Unto a land where something seemed the same
That I had known as ’twere but yesterday,
But what it was I could not rightly name.

It was a strange and melancholy land.
Silent and desolate. On either hand
Lay waters of a sea that seemed as dead,
And dead above it seemed the hills to stand.

Grayed all with age, those lonely hills⁠—ah me,
How worn and weary they appeared to be!
Between their feet long dusty fissures clove
The plain in aimless windings to the sea.

One hill there was which, parted from the rest,
Stood where the eastern water curved a-west.
Silent and passionless it stood. I thought
I saw a scar upon its giant breast.

The sun with sullen and portentous gleam
Hung like a menace on the sea’s extreme;
Nor the dead waters, nor the far, bleak bars
Of cloud were conscious of his failing beam.

It was a dismal and a dreadful sight,
That desert in its cold, uncanny light;
No soul but I alone to mark the fear
And imminence of everlasting night!

All presages and prophecies of doom
Glimmered and babbled in the ghastly gloom,
And in the midst of that accursed scene
A wolf sat howling on a broken tomb.

Elixir Vitae

Of life’s elixir I had writ, when sleep
(Pray Heaven it spared him who the writing read!)
Sealed 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.


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 close the loaded palm to make a fist?
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!

At the Close of the Canvass

’Twas a Venerable Person, whom I met one Sunday morning,
All appareled as a prophet of a melancholy sect;
And in a Jeremaid 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 it 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.

Novum Organum

In Bacon see the culminating prime
Of Anglo-Saxon intellect and crime.
He dies and Nature, settling his affairs,
Parts his endowments among us, his heirs:
To every one a pinch of brain for seed,
And, to develop it, a pinch of greed.
Each thrifty heir, to make the gift suffice,
Buries the talent to manure the vice.


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, veiled from 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.


That land full surely hastens to its end
Where public sycophants in homage bend
The populace to flatter, and repeat
The doubled echoes of its loud conceit.
Lowly their attitude but high their aim,
They creep to eminence through paths of shame,
Till fixed securely in the seats of pow’r,
The dupes they flattered they at last devour.

The Valley of Dry Bones

With crow bones all the land is white,
From the gates of morn to the gates of night.
Picked clean, they lie on the cumbered ground,
And the politician’s paunch is round;
And he strokes it down and across as he sings:
“I’ve eaten my fill of the legs and wings,
The neck, the back, the pontifical nose,
Breast, belly and gizzard, for everything goes.
The meat that’s dark (and there’s none that’s white)
Exceeded the need of my appetite,
But I’ve bravely stuck to the needful work
That a hungry domestic hog would shirk.
I’ve eaten the fowl that the Fates commend
To reluctant lips of the People’s Friend.
Rank unspeakably, bitter as gall,
Is the bird, but I’ve eaten it, feathers and all.
I’m a dutiful statesman, I am, although
I really don’t like a diet of crow.
So I’ve dined all alone in a furtive way,
But my platter I’ve cleaned every blessed day.
They say that I bolt; so I do⁠—my bird;
They say that I sulk, but they’ve widely erred!
O Lord! if my enemies only knew
How I’m full to the throat with the corvic stew
They’d open their ears to hear me profess
The faith compelled by the corvic stress,
(For, alas! necessity knows no law)
In the heavenly caucus⁠—‘Caw! Caw! Caw!’ ”

And that ornithanthropical person tried
By flapping his arms on the air to ride;
But I knew by the way that he clacked his bill
He was just the poor, featherless biped, Dave Hill.



’Twas a sick young man with a face ungay
And an eye that was all alone;
And he shook his head in a hopeless way
As he sat on a roadside stone.

“O, ailing youth, what untoward fate
Has made the sun to set
On your mirth and eye?” “I’m constrained to state
I’m an ex-West Point cadet.

“ ’Twas at cannon-practice I got my hurt
And my present frame of mind;
For the gun went off with a double spurt⁠—
Before it, and also behind!

“How sad, how sad, that a fine young chap,
When studying how to kill,
Should meet with so terrible a mishap
Precluding eventual skill.

“Ah, woeful to think that a weapon made
For mowing down the foe
Should commit so dreadful an escapade
As to turn about to mow!”

No more he heeded while I condoled:
He was wandering in his mind;
His lonely eye unconsidered rolled,
And his views he thus defined:

“ ’Twas O for a breach of the peace⁠—’twas O
For an international brawl!
But a piece of the breech⁠—ah no, ah no,
I didn’t want that at all.”

In Defense

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) Croesae.

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.


Read at the Celebration of Independence in San Francisco, in 1888.

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
The 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!”


Hassan Bedreddin, clad in rags, ill-shod,
Sought the great temple of the living God.
The worshippers arose and drove him forth,
And one in power beat him with a rod.

“Allah,” he cried, “thou seest what I got:
Thy servants bar me from the sacred spot.”
“Be comforted,” the Holy One replied;
“It is the only place where I am not.”

Two Socialists

Brand Whitlock sped from Hell through space,
To be remanded never⁠—
For having such a saintly face,
Set free forever,

With due apology. He came
To a world so base and bestial
No tongue infernal spake its name⁠—
No tongue celestial.

So foul it was that even He
Had cast it off Who made it:
Adrift in space, as on a sea,
No mooring stayed it.

That orb unclean, denied the aid
Of gravitation’s tether,
For centuries had blindly strayed⁠—
Lost altogether!

The sun disdainfully declined
To light the villain planet,
And the whole universe combined
To curse and ban it.

The Thief Impenitent, his grim
Recusance unabated,
Was its sole occupant: for him
It was created.

For when the wretch was newly dead
’Twas thought Hell had not ample
Restraints to check the local spread
Of his example,

Nor apparatus that insured
A proper pang; though lately
The woes that he at first endured
Had softened greatly.

But still one fierce, vain longing he
Suffered, nor could o’ercome it⁠—
The wish to sit in reverie
On Calvary’s summit.

Beneath that orb’s unjoyous sky
Brand Whitlock found the sinner.
Affinity!⁠—the outer eye
Lit by the inner.

Said Whitlock: “Here my stay is brief;
Take, brother, ere we sever,
Thy pardon. Be a better thief
Henceforth forever.

“God gives me power to condone
All scalawags’ offending,
For the sweet faith that I have shown
In their amending.”

When so he’d said with solemn grace,
As was that good soul’s habit,
The Thief directly into space
Sprang like a rabbit!

(He might have left at any time
Had freedom been his passion,
For God had long forgot his crime.
Crime was the fashion.)

The Saint, resuming soon his flight,
Met him through chaos floating.
Three stolen post-holes that poor wight
Was gaily toting.

A Morning Fancy

I drifted (or I seemed to) in a boat
Upon the surface of a shoreless sea
Whereon no ship nor anything did float,
Save only the frail bark supporting me;
And that⁠—it was so shadowy⁠—seemed to be
Almost from out the subtle azure wrought
Of the great ocean underneath its keel;
And all that blue profound appeared as naught
But thicker sky, translucent to reveal,
Miles down, whatever through its spaces glided,
Or at the bottom traveled or abided.

Great cities there I saw; of rich and poor
The palace and the hovel; mountains, vales,
Forest and field; the desert and the moor;
Tombs of the good and wise who’d lived in jails;
Seas of denser fluid, white with sails
Pushed at by currents moving here and there
And sensible to sight above the flat
Of that opaquer deep. Ah, strange and fair
The nether world that I was gazing at
With beating heart from that exalted level,
And⁠—lest I founder⁠—trembling like the devil!

The cities all were populous: men swarmed
In public places⁠—chattered, laughed and wept;
And savages their shining bodies warmed
At fires in primal woods. The wild beast leapt
Upon its prey and slew it as it slept.
Armies went forth to battle on the plain
So far, far down in that unfathomed deep
The living seemed as silent as the slain,
Nor even the widows could be heard to weep.
One might have thought their shaking was but laughter;
And, truly, most were married shortly after.

Above the wreckage of that silent fray
Strange fishes swam in circles, round and round⁠—
Black, double-finned; and once a little way
A bubble rose and burst without a sound
And a man tumbled out upon the ground.
Lord! ’twas an eerie thing to drift apace
On that pellucid sea, beneath black skies
And o’er the heads of an undrowning race;
And when I woke I said⁠—to her surprise
Who came with chocolate, for me to drink it:
“The atmosphere is deeper than you think it.”

Visions of Sin

Kraslajorsk, Siberia

My eyes are better, and I shall travel slowly toward home.


From the regions of the Night,
Coming with recovered sight⁠—
From the spell of darkness free,
What will Danenhower see?

He will see when he arrives,
Doctors taking human lives.
He will see a learned judge
Whose decision will not budge
Till both litigants are fleeced
And his palm is duly greased.
Lawyers he will see who fight
Day by day and night by night;
Never both upon a side,
Though their fees they still divide.
Preachers he will see who teach
That it is divine to preach⁠—
That they fan a sacred fire
And are worthy of their hire.
He will see a trusted wife
Pride of some good husband’s life,
Enter at a certain door
And⁠—but he will see no more.
He will see Good Templars reel⁠—
See a prosecutor steal,
And a father beat his child.
He’ll perhaps see Oscar Wilde.

From the regions of the Night
Coming with recovered sight⁠—
From the bliss of blindness free,
That’s what Danenhower’ll see.



What is the thing called Genius? One has said
’Tis general ability directed
Into a special channel. One, instead,
Proffers a definition much respected
By toiling dullards: genius, he explains,
Is infinite capacity for taking pains.

Max Nordau, seeing he has not the thing,
Has solemnly decided, with Lombroso,
That genius is degeneracy. Ring
The curtain down⁠—the show is only so-so;
I’d rather see a dog-fight than sit out
This inconclusive definition-bout.

What, then, is genius? Faith, I’m only sure
That I am deep in doubt about the matter;
But this I think: of two in literature
He is the greater genius who’s the fatter.
’Twas in an age less prosperous that those
Were kings of thought who starved by verse and prose.

Lo! the lean rhapsodist whose soul surveys,
Ecstatic, his unprofitable vision,
Interprets it in cleanly speech; arrays
His jeweled words with scholarly precision!
Faith, he’s a dunce or he would never lack
The means to wedge his belly from his back.

’Twere passing easy to allay his pang
Had he the genius⁠—that’s to say, the insight
Commercial. If he would but sing in slang
He’d earn the wherewithal to make his skin tight.
Genius (let’s now define the word afresh)
Is the capacity to take on flesh.

Spirit of Letters, hail! Thy reign is Now;
Thy ministers are gentlemen that waddle⁠—
Children of light and leading who avow
They swap, for tallow, speech that’s not a model⁠—
For laminated kidney-suet trade
Unsavory words. You must be stout, George Ade.

The Town of Dae

Swains and maidens, young and old,
You to me this tale have told.

Where the squalid town of Dae
Irks the comfortable sea,
Spreading webs to gather fish,
As for wealth we set a wish,
Dwelt a king by right divine,
Sprung from Adam’s royal line,
Town of Dae by the sea,
Divers kinds of kings there be.

Name nor fame had Picklepip:
Ne’er a soldier nor a ship
Bore his banners in the sun;
Naught knew he of kingly sport,
And he held his royal court
Under an inverted tun.
Love and roses, ages through,
Bloom where cot and trellis stand;
Never yet these blossoms grew⁠—
Never yet was room for two⁠—
In a cask upon the strand.
So it happened, as it ought,
That his simple schemes he wrought
Through the lagging summer’s day
In a solitary way.
So it happened, as was best,
That he took his nightly rest
With no dreadful weight of woe,
This way eyed and that way tressed,
Featured thus, and thus, and so,
Lying lead-like on a breast
By cares of state enough oppressed.
Yet in dreams his fancy rude
Claimed a lordly latitude.
Town of Dae by the sea,
Dreamers mate above their state
And waken back to their degree.

Once to cask himself away
He prepared at close of day.
As he tugged with swelling throat
At a most unkingly coat⁠—
Not to get it off, but on,
For the serving sun was gone⁠—
Passed a silk-appareled sprite
Toward her castle on the height,
Seized and set the garment right.
Turned the startled Picklepip⁠—
Splendid crimson cheek and lip!
Turned again to sneak away,
But she bade the villain stay,
Bade him thank her, which he did
With a speech that slipped and slid,
Sprawled and stumbled in its gait
As a dancer tries to skate.
Town of Dae by the sea,
In the face of silk and lace
Rags too bold should never be.

Lady Minnow cocked her head:
“Mister Picklepip,” she said,
“Do you ever think to wed?”
Town of Dae by the sea,
No fair lady ever made a
Wicked speech like that to me!

Wretched little Picklepip
Said he hadn’t any ship,
Any flocks at his command,
Nor to feed them any land;
Said he never in his life
Owned a mine to keep a wife.
But the guilty stammer so
That his meaning wouldn’t flow;
So he thought his aim to reach
By some figurative speech:
Said his Fate had been unkind
Had pursued him from behind
(How the mischief could it else?)
Came upon him unaware,
Caught him all too roughly⁠—there
Gushed the little lady’s glee
Like a gush of golden bells:
“Picklepip, why, that is me!”
Town of Dae by the sea,
Grammar’s for great scholars⁠—she
Loved the summer and the lea.

Stupid little Picklepip
Allowed the subtle hint to slip⁠—
Maundered on about the ship
That he did not chance to own;
Told this grievance o’er and o’er,
Knowing that she knew before;
Told her how he dwelt alone.
Lady Minnow, for reply,
Cut him off with “So do I!”
But she reddened at the fib;
Servitors had she, ad lib.
Town of Dae by the sea,
In her youth who speaks no truth
Ne’er shall young and honest be.

Witless little Picklepip
Manned again his mental ship
And veered her with a sudden shift.
Painted to the lady’s thought
How he wrestled and he wrought
Stoutly with the swimming drift
By the kindly river brought
From the mountain to the sea,
Fuel for the town of Dae.
Tedious tale for lady’s ear:
From her castle on the height,
She had watched her water-knight
Through the seasons of a year
Challenge more than met his view
And conquer better than he knew.
Now she shook her pretty pate
And stamped her foot⁠—’twas growing late:
“Mister Picklepip, when I
Drifting seaward pass you by;
When the waves my forehead kiss
And my tresses float above⁠—
Dead and drowned for lack of love⁠—
You’ll be sorry, sir, for this!”
And the silly creature cried⁠—
Feared, perchance, the rising tide.
Town of Dae by the sea,
Madam Adam, when she had ’em,
May have been as bad as she.

Fiat lux! Love’s lumination
Fell in floods of revelation!
Blinded brain by world aglare,
Sense of pulses in the air,
Sense of swooning and the beating
Of a voice somewhere repeating
Something indistinctly heard!
And the soul of Picklepip
Sprang upon his trembling lip,
But he spake no further word
Of the wealth he did not own;
In that moment had outgrown
Ship and mine and flock and land⁠—
Even his cask upon the strand.
Dropped a stricken star to earth,
Type of wealth and worldly worth.
Clomb the moon into the sky,
Type of love’s immensity!
Shaking silver seemed the sea,
Throne of God the town of Dae!
Town of Dae by the sea,
From above there cometh love,
Blessing all good souls that be.

An Anarchist

False to his art and to the high command
God laid upon him, Demagogo’s hand
Beats all in vain the harp he thrilled before:
It yields a jingle and it yields no more.
No more the strings beneath his finger-tips
Sing harmonies divine. No more his lips,
Touched with a living coal from sacred fires,
Lead the sweet chorus of the golden wires.
The voice is raucous and the phrases squeak;
They labor, they complain, they sweat, they reek!
The more the wayward, disobedient song
Errs from the right to advocate the wrong,
More diligently still the singer strums,
To drown the horrid sound, with all his thumbs.
Gods, what a spectacle! The angels lean
Out of high Heaven to view the sorry scene,
And Israfel, “whose heart-strings are a lute,”
Though now compassion makes their music mute,
Among the weeping company appears,
Pearls in his eyes and cotton in his ears.

An Offer of Marriage

Once I “dipt into the future far as human eye could see,”
And saw⁠—it was not Sandow, nor John Sullivan, but she⁠—
Emancipated Woman, who was weeping as she ran
Here and there for the discovery of Expurgated Man.
But the sun of Evolution ever rose and ever set,
And that tardiest of mortals hadn’t evoluted yet.
Hence the tears that she cascaded, hence the sighs that tore apart
All the tendinous connections of her indurated heart.
Cried Emancipated Woman, as she wearied of the search:
“In Advancing I have left myself distinctly in the lurch!
Seeking still a worthy partner, from the land of brutes and dudes
I have penetrated rashly into manless solitudes.
Now without a mate of any kind where am I?⁠—that’s to say,
Where shall I be to-morrow?⁠—where exert my rightful sway
And the purifying strength of my emancipated mind?
Can solitude be lifted up, vacuity refined?
Calling, calling from the shadows in the rear of my Advance⁠—
From the Region of Unprogress in the Dark Domain of Chance⁠—
Long I heard the Unevolvable beseeching my return
To share the degradation he’s reluctant to unlearn.
But I’ve held my way regardless, evoluting year by year
Till I’m what you now behold me⁠—or would if you were here⁠—
A condensed Emancipation and a Purifier proud
An Independent Entity appropriately loud!
Independent? Yes, in spirit, but (O, woeful, woeful state!)
Doomed to premature extinction by privation of a mate⁠—
To extinction or reversion, for Unexpurgated Man
Still awaits me in the backward if I sicken of the van.
O the horrible dilemma!⁠—to be odiously linked
With an Undeveloped Species, or become a Type Extinct!”
As Emancipated Woman wailed her sorrow to the air,
Stalking out of desolation came a being strange and rare⁠—
Plato’s Man!⁠—a biped, featherless from mandible to rump,
Its wings two quilless flippers and its tail a plumeless stump.
First it scratched and then it clucked, as if in hospitable terms
It invited her to banquet on imaginary worms.
Then it strutted up before her with a lifting of the head,
And in accents of affection and of sympathy it said:
“My estate is some’at ’umble, but I’m qualified to draw
Near the hymeneal altar and whack up my heart and claw
To Emancipated Anything as walks upon the earth;
And them things is at your service for whatever they are worth.
I’m sure to be congenial, marm, nor e’er deserve a scowl⁠—
I’m Emancipated Rooster, I am Expurgated Fowl!”

From the future and its wonders I withdrew my gaze, and then
Wrote this wild, unfestive lay of Evolutionated Hen.

Arma Virumque

“Ours is a Christian army”; so he said
A regiment of bangomen who led.
“And ours a Christian navy,” added he
Who sailed a thunder-junk upon the sea.
Better they know than men unwarlike do
What is an army, and a navy too.
Pray God there may be sent them by-and-by
The knowledge what a Christian is, and why.
For somewhat lamely the conception runs
Of a brass-buttoned Jesus firing guns.

On a Proposed Crematory

When a fair bridge is builded o’er the gulf
Between two cities, some ambitious fool,
Hot for distinction, pleads for earliest leave
To push his clumsy feet upon the span,
That men in after years may single him,
Saying: “Behold the fool who first went o’er!”
So be it when, as now the promise is,
Next summer sees the edifice complete
Which some do name a crematorium,
Within the vantage of whose greater maw’s
Quicker digestion we shall cheat the worm
And circumvent the handed mole who loves,
With tunnel, adit, drift and roomy stope,
To mine our mortal parts in all their dips
And spurs and angles. Let the fool stand forth
To link his name with this fair enterprise,
As first decarcassed by the flame. And if
With rival greedings for the fiery fame
They push in clamoring multitudes, or if
With unaccustomed modesty they all
Hold off, being something loth to qualify,
Let me select the fittest for the rite.
By heaven! I’ll make so warrantable, wise
And excellent censure of their true deserts,
And such a searching canvass of their claims,
That none shall bait the ballot. I’ll spread my choice
Upon the main and general of those
Who, moved of holy impulse, pulpit-born,
Protested ’twere a sacrilege to burn
God’s gracious images, designed to rot⁠—
And bellowed for the right of way for each
Distempered carrion through the water pipes.
With such a sturdy, boisterous exclaim
They did discharge themselves from their own throats
Against the splintered gates of audience
’Twere wholesomer to take them in at mouth
Than ear. These shall burn first: their ignoble
And seasoned substances⁠—trunks, legs and arms,
Blent indistinguishable in a mass,
Like winter-woven serpents in a pit,
None vantaged with unfair precedency
And all impartially alive⁠—shall serve
As fueling to fervor the retort
For after cineration of true men.

A Demand

You promised to paint me a picture,
Dear Mat,
And I was to pay you in rhyme.
Although I am loth to inflict your
Most easy of consciences, I’m
Of opinion that fibbing is awful,
And breaking a contract unlawful,
Indictable, too, as a crime,
A slight and all that.

If, Lady Unbountiful, any
Of that
By mortals called pity has part
In your obdurate soul⁠—if a penny
You care for the health of my heart,
By performing your undertaking
You’ll succor that organ from breaking⁠—
And spare it for some new smart,
As puss does a rat.

Do you think it is very becoming,
Dear Mat,
To deny me my rights evermore?
And⁠—bless you! if I begin summing
Your sins they will make a long score!
You never were generous, madam:
If you had been Eve and I Adam
You’d have given me naught but the core,
And little of that.

Had I been content with a Titian,
A cat
By Landseer, a meadow by Claude,
No doubt I’d have had your permission
To take it⁠—by purchase abroad.
But why should I sail o’er the ocean
For Landseers and Claudes? I’ve a notion
All’s bad that the critics belaud.
I wanted a Mat.

Presumption’s a sin, and I suffer
For that:
But still you did say that sometime,
If I’d pay you enough (here’s enougher⁠—
That’s more than enough) of rhyme
You’d paint me a picture. I pay you
Hereby in advance; and I pray you
Condone, while you can, your crime,
And send me a Mat.

But if you don’t do so I warn you,
Dear Mat,
I’ll raise such a clamor and cry
On Parnassus the Muses will scorn you
As mocker of poets and fly
With bitter complaints to Apollo:
“Her spirit is proud, her heart hollow,
Her beauty”⁠—they’ll hardly deny,
On second thought, that!

The Weather Wight

The way was long, the hill was steep,
My footing scarcely I could keep.

The night enshrouded me in gloom,
I heard the ocean’s distant boom⁠—

The trampling of the surges vast
Was borne upon the rising blast.

“God help the mariner,” I cried,
“Whose ship to-morrow braves the tide!”

Then from the impenetrable dark
A solemn voice made this remark:

“For this locality⁠—warm, bright;
Barometer unchanged; breeze light.”

“Unseen consoler-man,” I cried,
“Whoe’er you are, where’er abide,

“Thanks⁠—but my care is somewhat less
For Jack’s, than for my own, distress.

“Could I but find a friendly roof,
Small odds what weather were aloof.

“For he whose comfort is secure
Another’s pain can well endure.”

“The latch-string’s out,” the voice replied,
“And so’s the door⁠—jes’ step inside.”

Then through the darkness I discerned
A hovel, into which I turned.

Groping about beneath its thatch,
I struck my head and then a match.

A candle by that gleam betrayed
Soon lent paraffinaceous aid.

A pallid, bald and thin old man
I saw, who this complaint began:

“Through summer suns and winter snows
I sets observin’ of my toes.

“I rambles with increasin’ pain
The path of duty, but in vain.

“Rewards and honors pass me by⁠—
No Congress hears this raven cry!”

Filled with astonishment, I spoke:
“Thou ancient raven, why this croak?

“With observation of your toes
What Congress has to do, God knows!

“And swallow me if e’er I knew
That one could sit and ramble too!”

To answer me that ancient swain
Took up his parable again:

“Through winter snows and summer suns
A Weather Bureau here I runs.

“I calls the turn, and can declare
Jes’ when she’ll storm and when she’ll fair.

“Three times a day I sings out clear
The probs to all which wants to hear.

“Some weather stations run with light
Frivolity is seldom right.

“A scientist from times remote,
In Scienceville my birth is wrote.

“And when I h’ist the ‘rainy’ sign
Jes’ take your clo’es in off the line.”

“Not mine, O marvelous old man,
The methods of your art to scan,

“Yet here no instruments there be⁠—
Nor ’ometer nor ’scope I see.

“Did you (if questions you permit)
At the asylum leave your kit?”

That strange old man with motion rude
Rose to surprising altitude.

“Tools (and sarcazzems too) I scorns⁠—
I tells the weather by my corns.

“No doors and windows here you see⁠—
The wind and m’isture enters free.

“No fires nor lights, no wool nor fur
Here falsifies the tempercher.

“My corns unleathered I expose
To feel the rain’s foretellin’ throes.

“No stockin’ from their ears keeps out
The comin’ tempest’s warnin’ shout.

“Sich delicacy some has got
They know next summer’s to be hot.

“This here one says (for that he’s best):
‘Storm center passin’ to the west.’

“This feller’s vitals is transfixed
With frost for Janawary sixt’.

“One chap jes’ now is occypied
In fig’rin on next Fridy’s tide.

“I’ve shaved this cuss so thin and true
He’ll spot a fog in South Peru.

“Sech are my tools, which ne’er a swell
Observatory can excel.

“By long a-studyin’ their throbs
I catches onto all the probs.”

Much more, no doubt, he would have said,
But suddenly he turned and fled;

For in mine eye’s indignant green
Lay storms that he had not foreseen,

Concerning which, as Fear appeals,
To Speed, his toes had told his heels.

T. A. H.

Yes, he was that, or that, as you prefer⁠—
Did so-and-so, though, faith, it wasn’t all;
Lived like a fool, or a philosopher,
And had whatever’s needful to a fall.
As rough inflections on a planet merge
In the true bend of the gigantic sphere,
Nor mar the perfect circle of its verge,
So in the survey of his worth the small
Asperities of spirit disappear,
Lost in the grander curves of character.
He lately was hit hard: none knew but I
The strength and terror of that ghastly stroke⁠—
Not even herself. He uttered not a cry,
But set his teeth and made a revelry;
Drank like a devil⁠—staining sometimes red
The goblet’s edge; diced with his conscience; spread,
Like Sisyphus, a feast for Death, and spoke
His welcome in a tongue so long forgot
That even his ancient guest remembered not
What race had cursed him in it. Thus my friend
Still conjugating with each failing sense
The verb “to die” in every mood and tense,
Pursued his awful humor to the end.
When like a stormy dawn the crimson broke
From his white lips he smiled and mutely bled,
And, having meanly lived, is grandly dead.

My Monument

It is pleasant to think, as I’m watching my ink
A-drying along my paper,
That a monument fine will surely be mine
When death has extinguished my taper.

From each pitiless scribe of the critic tribe
Purged clean of all sentiments narrow,
A pebble will mark his respect for the stark
Stiff body that’s under the barrow.

Thus stone upon stone by reviewers thrown,
Will make my celebrity deathless.
O, I wish I could think, as I gaze at my ink,
They’d wait till my carcass is breathless.


O ye who push and fight
To hear a wanton sing⁠—
Who utter the delight
That has the bogus ring⁠—

O men mature in years,
In understanding young,
The membranes of whose ears
She tickles with her tongue⁠—

O wives and daughters sweet,
Who call it love of art
To kiss a woman’s feet
That crush a woman’s heart⁠—

O prudent dams and sires,
Your docile young who bring
To see how man admires
A sinner if she sing⁠—

O husbands who impart
To each assenting spouse
The lesson that shall start
The buds upon your brows⁠—

All whose applauding hands
Assist to rear the fame
That throws o’er all the lands
The shadow of its shame⁠—

Go drag her car!⁠—the mud
Through which its axle rolls
Is partly human blood
And partly human souls.

Mad, mad!⁠—your senses whirl
Like devils dancing free,
Because a strolling girl
Can hold the note high C.

For this the avenging rod
Of Heaven ye dare defy,
And tear the law that God
Thundered from Sinai!

For Coercion of Colombia

“The ships steam south
From the harbor mouth
In warlike, grim array!
They load the seas,
And on every breeze
I hear the brass bands play
As the squadrons steer away.

“From each foreign shore
They are coming o’er
The oceans big and small,
With cheering crews
And churning screws,
And guns and shot and all.
And Admirals that appal!

“In tropical seas
They are thick as bees.
Oh, ne’er on the Trojan strand
Was gathered a fleet
So hard to beat
As sails to that southern land.
’Tis terribly, terribly grand!

“O sailorman stout,
What’s it all about?
If you happen to know tell me.
That the foe has no chance
His troops to advance
To the field we all agree,
And the devil a ship has he.”

He shifted his quid,
The sailorman did,
To the starboard side of his face.
His trousers he hitched
As he rolled and pitched,
Maintaining his dubious place
With a certain maritime grace.

He looked at the sky
With a studious eye,
And this singular yarn he spun:
“When the wind’s sou’west
Every man’s possessed
Of a devil!⁠—no son-of-a-gun
Can tell what’s fit to be done.”

Perhaps it was naught
But a sailorman’s thought,
But I said to myself: “I’m blest
If I can’t mark down
A man of renown
Who is living in mental unrest
Where the wind is forever sou’west.”

A Teagoing Admiral

Once the Queen of Nether China
(So benign a Messalina!)
Said: “I’ll make a Naval Hero
Without fear⁠—O brave as Nero!
He shall dominate the ocean
By promotion, that’s my notion.
All my other sons of thunder
Then shall plunder vainly under
This Incomparable Person,
Interspersin’ lively cursin’
With their futile strife to shiver
Every river-pirate’s liver,
And to ascertain the measure
Of his treasure at their leisure.
For I’ll so arrange the looting
And the shooting and the hooting,
And the making frightful faces
(These grimaces are the bases
Of our tactics) that they never,
Howsoever brave and clever,
Shall have any kind of inning
In the skinning now beginning.
And I’ll see that in the story
Of the gory game of glory
The historian shall slight ’em
Or indict ’em⁠—maybe bite ’em.
But the Hero of my making,
Whom I’m aching to be waking
Into visible existence,
He shall distance these Philistines.
Fame’s loud trumpet⁠—he shall hear it.
Blown with spirit in his ear, it
Shall extol his birth and breeding,
His exceeding knack at leading
In a sanguinary sea fight,
Or a tea fight, or a flea fight,
Till he burst with admiration
Of his station in the nation!
Then while all the people mock him,
I’ll unfrock him! That will shock him.”
Thus the Queen of Nether China,
The Regina Mun-Kee-Shina,
Made to Naval Evolution
A Confucian contribution.


The Wooer

In Ballybazoo the young men woo
With the irresistible hob-nail shoe;
But in Ghargharoo lived a maiden who
Was pleased to remark that it wouldn’t do.

From Ghargharoo to Ballybazoo
This sternly dissenting maiden (who,
Etc.) went to reside⁠—a lass
With a cheek of steel and a brow of brass.

Then all the young men of Ballybazoo
Took turns in calling early to woo
(With the irresistible hob-nail shoe)
The beautiful maiden from Ghargharoo.

As each fond lover with ardor threw
His heel in her upturned face there flew
A rain of sparks that consumed his eyes,
Affecting his mind with a great surprise.

When all the young men had renounced their sight,
The metal-faced maiden she sat upright,
Remarking: “There’s nothing here to do⁠—
A dull, dull village is Ballybazoo.”

From Ballybazoo to Ghargharoo
The cheek-whole maiden her armament drew,
And her playmate lovers raised a hurroo
That saddened the sightless in Ballybazoo.

A stranger there was who cherished a heel
Of double-case-hardened, cold-rolled chrome steel!
And taking thought he decided to woo.
As ’twas his undoubted right to do.

To display his charms he removed his shoe,
And boarding her visage, began to woo.
And there in the gloaming, and not in vain,
The old, old story was told again.

It was long ago in the sainted past,
But traits long latent crop out at last;
And I know a live newspaper fellow who
Has ancestors buried in Ghargharoo.

Silhouettes of Orientals

The Sultan is a Muscleman;
He’s full of vim and whack,
And if you want a tussle man
His back.

Because he’s a Mahometan,
They think him mighty slow.
He’s quicker than a comet⁠—an

He doesn’t often waste a fit,
But throws it where ’twill tell.
Blood? Yes, he likes the taste of it
Right well.

That angel, the Bulgarian,
Is just a bird of pray.
His soul’s as white as Parian,
They say.

His halo fits him pleasantly
And he has two great wings.
He tunes his harp, and presently
He sings:

“My shoulder inoffensively
Bears this dear little chip.
Pass on, wayfarer, pensively⁠—
Don’t flip.”

The thoughtful Moslem pins the chip
Fast with a dagger. Oh,
That angel-person’s sins of lip
Are low!

The Armenian is a sassy cur,
Cantankerous to boot,
Nor draws the line at massacre
And loot.

But when the Kurd in revelry
Slays, burns, imprisons, fines,
That bad gent to the devil he

My muse cannot exemplify
The Macedonian⁠—she
Refuses to attempt to fly
So free.

Old Philip, King of Macedon,
Is many ages dead;
We have this little gassy don

Is he a Unitarian,
A Moslem, Buddhist, Jew⁠—
Or just a gowned barbarian
With trousers on his Mary Ann?
Don’t know⁠—do you?

Land of the Pilgrim’s Pride

I dreamed, and in my dream came one who said:
“Because thou art all sullen; and because
Thou sayest thou hast not for thy country, love;
Because thou dost begrudge the foolish blood
That in the far heroic days thou didst
(Or sayst thou didst) pour from thy riven vein
In testimony to thy patriot zeal;
Because thou seekest ever to promote
Distrust of the benign and wholesome rule
Of the Majority⁠—God’s Ministers;
Because thou hearest in the People’s voice
Naught but the mandate of an idiot will
Clamoring in the wilderness, but what
Or why it knoweth not; because all this
And much beside is true, I come⁠—”
“Forbear,” I cried, “to name thine errand⁠—all
Too well I know it for the sword, the scales,
The shrouded eyes (albeit methinks I catch
A twinkle now and then beneath the band)
Speak to my conscience of a traitor’s doom!
Strike, then, but hear. To westward, roaring up
From far beyond the earth’s vast curvature,
Come sounds of discord horrible⁠—the jar
And thunder of exploding bombs;
The crackle of the flames that eat away
The means of life of those who kindle them;
The shouts and curses of the robber mob.
Drunk with a sense of numbers⁠—like the wolves,
Numerically brave⁠—on ravin bent
And murder! Hear the moans of honest men,
With shameful by-name vilified, denied
The right to earn their bread, and with a blind,
Mad cruelty the devil would weep to see,
Beaten and tortured, even by the hands
Of the barbarian’s female and his whelps!
Meanwhile the coward rulers of the land
Prate of ‘the People’s wrongs.’ The coward press
(Thrifty withal to purse a double gain
By two-faced flattery) prates like a fool
Of the conservative and saving strength
Of Anglo-Saxon institutions, or
With magic words, as ‘freedom,’ and the like,
Would conjure order from inharmony.
The land is foul with crime, and none declares
Our shame and downfall. Even the women rise
And seeing the rack and ruin men have wrought,
Strip their weak bodies with a silly zeal
Something to save from the chaotic wreck;
And in the reek and sweat of their absurd
And awkward efforts, lose even what remained⁠—
Their own morality and men’s respect.
Therefore I say to you⁠—”
“Nay say no more,”
Cried she who came into my dream, “for thou
Dost wander. What, pray, has all this to do
With what thou’rt charged with?⁠—that thou dost not love⁠—
Such as it is⁠—thy country?”
“Faith, I would,
But ’tis infested by my countrymen!”
What she replied I know not, for a bomb,
Spitting and sputtering on my chamber floor.
Awoke me and I fled into the night.

A Single Termer

When Senator Foraker came to die
His features lit up with a glow,
And he said: “I am going to dwell on high
And the Democrats down below.

“I have kept the faith, I have fought the fight,
To the Trusts forever true.
With Elkins to lead, I have followed the light⁠—
Saint Peter, it’s up to you.”

Said Peter: “We strive to please in vain;
Many a soul coming here
Escapes to earth to be born again
And resume the old career.”

Here he opened the gate. “Although, no doubt,
This fellow’s a son of sin.
The devil himself can’t keep him out.
But I’ll lock the fine gentleman in.”

A Plague of Asses

Alas, we’ve fallen upon an evil time,
Our journals are all in a rash of rhyme.
Slang, “dialect,” the humor of the slum,
Done into stanzas by the rule of thumb,
The peasant word, the coarse, colloquial phrase,
Fitting the pauper thought that it conveys,
March to the meter-master’s “hep, hep, hep,”
With every second soldier out of step.
What sins of ours deserve this heavy curse?
Who taught our clowns ’tis easy to write verse
If neither poetry nor wit be deemed
A needful ornament, nor sense esteemed
A twin of sound? O rustics of the quill,
Ill-made by Nature, making others ill,
(Landlubbers on the sea of song a-sail
Uttering your fancies o’er the leeward rail)
Forgive the wicked wish I cannot choose
But entertain⁠—that, luckless, you may lose
Each one a thumb of the tormenting ten
Whereon you reckon syllables. Ah, then,
Restored to what it was before you learned
That grinning through horse-collars ever earned
Plaudits of rustics and enough of dollars
To pay the weekly rental of the collars,
With something over for the stomach’s throes,
Your ailing verse will turn to ailing prose.
Then joyous angels will look down and say:
“Behold! the ninety-nine that went astray
Return to where, from fields of noxious grass,
Sweet thistles beckon each repenting ass.”

In Cuba

Our Administration
Had made a new nation⁠—
As new as a nation could be.
A raven was flapping
Above it and snapping
His beak with a manifest glee.
“O raven, what is it you see
That causes the manifest glee?

“You can’t be designing
A programme of dining
On anything living and free.
You’re famous for dinners
That plain-speaking sinners
Condemn with the Terrible D!
(The word is abhorrent to me
That begins with the Terrible D.)

“Come down from your airy
Position and tarry
Awhile on this coconut tree,
And tell me what joying
You find in annoying
A nation so young and so free⁠—
Not dead in the slightest degree,
But lively and healthy as we.”

The raven, complying,
Said, solemnly eying
My edible parts from the tree:
“It isn’t to nations
I look for my rations
To any extent or degree.
They don’t fill the hollow in me
To an appreciable degree.

“Yet the seasons ensuing
Will see something doing
To heighten my manifest glee.
’Tis soldiers that mostly
Appeal to my ghostly
Unusual appetite, see?
They’re easy digesting to me
With my singular appetite, see?”

Then I hammered my forehead
To think of that horrid
Old bird with his appetite free,
A-sitting there, lacking
Compassion and cracking
His beak, on a coconut tree,
As if merely saying to me:
“Oh, what a fine coconut tree.”

I said somewhat later:
“Our Administrator
Of Freedom’s estate, O see!
His Administration
Presents us a ‘nation’
That’s spelled with the Terrible D!
And ‘nation’ is hateful to me
When led by the Terrible D.”

For a Certain Critic

Let lowly theme engage my humble pen⁠—
Stupidities of critics, not of men.
Be it mine once more the maunderings to trace
Of the expounders’ self-directed race⁠—
Their wire-drawn fancies, finically fine,
Of diligent vacuity the sign.
Let them in jargon of their trade rehearse
The moral meaning of the random verse
That runs spontaneous from the poet’s pen
To be half-blotted by ambitious men
Who hope with his their meaner names to link
By writing o’er it in another ink
The thoughts unreal which they think they think,
Until the mental eye in vain inspects
The hateful palimpsest to find the text.

The lark ascending heavenward, loud and long
Sings to the dawning day his wanton song.
The moaning dove, attentive to the sound,
Its hidden meaning hastens to expound:
Explains its principles, design⁠—in brief,
Pronounces it a parable of grief!
The bee, just pausing ere he daubs his thigh
With pollen from a hollyhock near by,
Declares he never heard in terms so just
The labor problem thoughtfully discussed!
The browsing ass looks up and clears his whistle
To say: “A monologue upon the thistle!”
Meanwhile the lark, descending, folds his wing
And innocently asks: “What!⁠—did I sing?”

O literary parasites! who thrive
Upon the fame of better men, derive
Your sustenance by suction, like a leech,
And, for you preach of them, think masters preach⁠—
Who find it half is profit, half delight,
To write about what you could never write⁠—
Consider, pray, how sharp had been the throes
Of famine and discomfiture in those
You write of if they had been critics, too,
And doomed to write of nothing but of you!

Lo! where the gaping crowd throngs yonder tent,
To see the lion resolutely bent!
The prosing showman who the beast displays
Grows rich and richer daily in its praise.
But how if, to attract the curious yeoman,
The lion owned the show and showed the showman?

To a Summer Poet

Yes, the Summer girl is flirting on the beach,
With a him.
And the damboy is a-climbing for the peach,
On the limb;
Yes, the bullfrog is a-croaking
And the dudelet is a-smoking
And the hackman is a-hacking
And the showman is a-cracking
Up his pets;
Yes, the Jersey ’skeeter flits along the shore
And the snapdog⁠—we have heard it o’er and o’er;
Yes, my poet,
Well we know it⁠—
Know the spooners how they spoon
In the bright
Dollar light
Of the country tavern moon;
Yes, the caterpillars fall
From the trees (we know it all),
And with beetles all the shelves
Are alive.
Please unbuttonhole us⁠—O,
Have the grace to let us go,
For we know
How you Summer poets thrive,
By the recapitulation
And insistent iteration
Of the wondrous doings incident to Life Among Ourselves!
So, I pray you stop the fervor and the fuss.
For you, poor human linnet,
There’s a half a living in it,
But there’s not a copper cent in it for us!

Arthur McEwen

Posterity with all its eyes
Will come and view him where he lies.
Then, turning from the scene away
With a concerted shrug, will say:
“H’m, ‘Scarabaeus Sisyphus’⁠—
What interest has that to us?
We can’t admire at all, at all,
A tumble-bug without its ball.”
And then a sage will rise and say:
“Good friends, you err⁠—turn back, I pray:
This freak that you unwisely shun
Is bug and ball rolled into one.”

Charles and Peter

Ere Gabriel’s note to silence died
All graves of men were gaping wide.

Then Charles A. Dana, of The Sun
Rose slowly from the deepest one.

“The dead in Christ rise first, ’tis writ,”
Quoth he⁠—“ick, bick, ban, doe⁠—I’m It!”

(His headstone, footstone, counted slow,
Were “ick” and “bick,” he “ban” and “doe”:

Of beating Nick the subtle art
Was part of his immortal part.)

Then straight to Heaven he took his flight,
Arriving at the Gates of Light.

There Warden Peter, in the throes
Of sleep, lay roaring in the nose.

“Get up, you sluggard!” Dana cried⁠—
“I’ve an engagement there inside.”

The Saint arose and scratched his head.
“I recollect your face,” he said.

“(And, pardon me, ’tis rather hard),
But⁠—” Dana handed him a card.

“Ah, yes, I now remember⁠—bless
My soul, how dull I am I⁠—yes, yes,

“Walk in. But I must tell you this:
We’ve nothing better here than bliss.

“We’ve rest and comfort, though, and peace.”
“H’m⁠—puddles,” Dana said, “for geese.

“Have you in Heaven no Hell?” “Why, no,”
Said Peter, “nor, in truth, below.

“ ’Tis not included in our scheme⁠—
’Tis but a preacher’s idle dream.”

The great man slowly moved away.
“I’ll call,” he said, “another day.

“On earth I played it, o’er and o’er,
And Heaven without it were a bore.”

“O, stuff!⁠—come in. You’ll make,” said Pete,
“A hell where’er you set your feet.”


I muse upon the distant town
In many a dreamy mood.
Above my head the sunbeams crown
The graveyard’s giant rood.
The lupin blooms among the tombs,
The quail recalls her brood.

Ah, good it is to sit and trace
The shadow of the cross;
It moves so still from place to place
O’er marble, bronze and moss;
With graves to mark upon its arc
Our time’s eternal loss.

And sweet it is to watch the bee
That revels in the roses,
And sense the fragrance floating free
On every breeze that dozes
Upon the mound, where, safe and sound,
Mine enemy reposes.

The Golden Age

Long ago the world was finer⁠—
Why it failed I do not know:
All the virtues were diviner;
Robber, miser, and maligner
Had not been created. No,
Truth and honor flourished, though.
Long ago.

Sages in procession stalking
Moved majestic to and fro,
And each lowly mortal walking
In their shadow stilled his talking,
Heeding the sonorous flow
Of their wisdom, loud or low,
Long ago.

Angel Woman, younger, fairer
Far than she that now we know,
Gave men meeting with a rarer
Grace. No graybeard cried, “Beware her
Tongue and temper!” She was slow
To wrath. I tell you that was so,
Long ago.

Ah, the miracle of morning.
Setting all the world aglow
Like a smile of light adorning
God’s own face, held no forewarning
Of the tempest that would blow⁠—
Sign and prophecy of woe,
Long ago.

Hope from every hilltop beckoned
To the happy throngs below;
And they confidently reckoned
On a hero every second.
Best of all that goodly show,
I was but a laddie⁠—O,
So long ago!

A Prophet of Peace

“The world is young, perverse, and bad,
The virtues all are wanting;
The gods are dead and men are mad
And wickedness is haunting
The human heart, an honored guest,
As robbers of the night infest
A wayside inn in Camilhad.

“Hate walks the earth all unafraid,
And neighbor murders neighbor;
Greed draws on Greed the battle-blade,
And Labor strangles Labor.
The widow and the orphan cry
For bread while benefactors ply
Unlashed by law, their dreadful trade.

“King, president, and patriot
Serve their accurst ambition;
The soldier and the sans-culottes,
The priest and politician,
Are blowing with impested breath
The coals of war that sparkle death.
Peace, righteousness, and love are not.

“But I shall live to see the day
Whose golden dawn is breaking!
The reign of war no more shall lay
Our dust, nor hearts be aching.
Lo! all mankind in brotherhood
Shall study only to be good,
And fling the sword of self away!”

So chanted one inspired and fain
His message to deliver
To men who toiled upon the plain
And bled along the river,
And all the world was foul with crime!
This prophet lived about the time
That Lamech’s wife bare Tubal-cain.

An Unreformable Reformer

I know not how they come about⁠—
These alterations in our spelling,
But sometimes am disposed to doubt
The efficacy of compelling
(As still is done to one in school
By threatening to whack or twist him)
Observance of an iron rule
Despite one’s better private system.
For when the sinner’s freed from fear
He spells, as formerly, by ear.

That’s what I have observed, but much
By that, I fear, is not decided
Against the iron hand (whose touch
May none experience, as I did)
For under this White House regime
Condemning every silent letter,
This is the motto, it would seem:
“Who spells by ear spells all the better.’
If that is what these pranks entail,
Executive Compulsion, hail!

God grant I know not envy nor,
When chatting over cup and saucer,
Betray my secret hunger for
The high renown of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Yet now at last I seem to see
My way to equal approbation:
When I’m as hard to read as he
Phonetes of that far generation
Will study me and say: “How grand!⁠—
So difficult to understand!”

The President, the President!⁠—
How enterprising in revision
Of Nature’s laws!⁠—how diligent
In cutting out a court decision!⁠—
How sedulous the stars to woo
And keep the seasons rightly going!
Ah, seldom we remember who
Establishes the time of sowing
And reaping, makes the harvest good,
And a great man of Leonard Wood.

This world is variously bad,
And mad as hares in January
(’Tis later that the hares are mad,
But similes and seasons vary)
And Presidents have much to do
To keep the March of Mind a-walking,
To level up the birth rate, to
Pain William Chandler⁠—all by talking.
O Father Adam, how you must
Rejoice that both your ears are dust!

The Word-Way in Panama

I dreamed I sailed along a tropic shore,
The Line behind me and the Star before.
A savage coast, it was, of wood and fen,
And monkeys gabbled there, instead of men.
Once, as the blessed sun his head upraised,
On what a wondrous spectacle he gazed!

A mile away upon the starboard beam
Fell into ocean a deep sluggish stream,
Yet not a drop of water passed its mouth⁠—
Thy way, Kentucky, glory of the South!
Words, words alone it “uttered to the day,”
As if from Kansas it had gone astray.
Yea, disemboguing grandly on the beach,
Flowed thickly, viscidly, the parts of speech!
Some, by their dead, incalculable weight
Held to the bottom’ of that turbid strait,
Slid seaward fathoms deep, nor saw the light
That shone above their everlasting night!
Some, such their levity, remained atop.
Frolicked and flashed⁠—did everything but stop.
Others, too grave to float, too light to sink,
Forever rolled and tumbled on the brink⁠—
Spread north and south along the cumbered strand,
And babbled ever between sea and land.

Ah! ’twas a famous spectacle indeed,
This wordy welter!⁠—verbs that disagreed
With nominatives; prepositions all
Too weak to hold the objective case in thrall;
Adverbs and adjectives disparted quite
From parent-words and in a woeful plight
Of orphanage; conjunctions, interjections
With truly anarchistic predilections;
And pronouns which⁠—a gutter-blooded swarm!⁠—
Denied their antecedents in their form!

Greatly I marveled whence this language came⁠—
No “well of English” like it could I name,
Nor think how such a stream, however free
Its flow, could wear a channel to the sea!

As Hudson bears his never-failing fleet
Of dead dogs, verdant, poddy and unsweet,
To pile themselves upon the Jersey shore,
Or in Sargasso’s Sea rest evermore,
So poured this torrent through its delta’s breaches,
And all these parts of speech were parts of speeches!⁠—
All gushing from that word-way like a flood
Of swearing tomcats militant in mud!
They leapt, they smelled, they clamored, like a line
Of pagans faring to a sacred shrine!
“No more my heart the dismal din sustained”
(See Homer⁠—Pope’s translation) for it strained
My senses⁠—this uncouth, in fragrant, hoarse
“Fine flow of language” from its Northern source.
Cold drops of terror from my body broke!⁠—
I ’bouted ship, and from my dream awoke.


The Jack of Clubs

Jerome, you are a mighty famous man⁠—
District Attorney, I believe they call you.
Some shout your praise as loudly as they can,
And some, apparently, just live to maul you.
But whether good or ill repute befall you,
Your critics can’t deny that, as a rule,
You take it standing⁠—though the wits among
Them say you stand, as does the singing mule,
The better to perform your feats of lung.
And, truly from the dawning to the gloaming,
When in good voice, you’re usually Jeroming.

O, well, we must have music⁠—’tis a need,
Like Ibsen, Shaw or the “Edenic diet”;
Though sometimes silence is desired⁠—indeed,
There’s much that may be said in praise of quiet,
And possibly you might do worse than try it.
’Twere better, anyhow, than fool advice
To the police to club their fellow men,
Too sore already. Sir, it is not nice
To free your snouty virtues from the pen⁠—
Unless, as once in Gadara, they’ll scamper
Down a steep place to where ’tis greatly damper.

Jerome, the best of us are those who care
To hide from view the monsters that inhabit
Our hearts, and when too closely questioned swear
We’ve nothing fiercer than a sheep or rabbit.
Seeing an opportunity, you grab it
And lifting up the curtain, show the whole
Menagerie of thoughts and feelings which
Infest the secret places of your soul
Like newts and water-puppies in a ditch.
O, great reformer! hide from observation
The unpleasing spectacle of Reformation.


A Naval Method

Captain Purvis, for aught we know,
Never slew a Filipino;
Played exceeding well at polo,
But invited not the bolo.
Though his form was big and burly,
And his fist was hard and knurly,
And his cocktail hour came early,
Yet he was devoid of thirst
For the blood of the accurst.
Inconsiderate Tagallo
(Seas of gore, however shallow,
He regarded very lightly,
As inutile and unsightly);
So he did not much frequent
That insurrectionary gent.

Captain Purvis went a-scouting
(Truth to tell, he took an outing)⁠—
Found a Filipino sleeping,
Bound and took him into keeping.
Calling Sergeant-Major Gump,
They conveyed him to a pump,
Laid him on his back beneath,
With his tongue between his teeth.
Said the captain: “We’ll not thump him,
But he is a spy⁠—we’ll pump him.
That’s our duty; information,
Secrets useful to the nation,
We’ll wring from him. Tell me, sir,
Tell me truly, why a cur
Wags its tail⁠—and, furthermore.
When a door Is not a door.”

But that person obstinacious
Answered, with a look ungracious,
That he’d see them (he was witty)
Both in Helfurst⁠—that’s a city
In Silesia, I suppose,
Where no proper person goes.
So they pumped him full of water⁠—
Son of Temperance, or Daughter,
Ne’er was half so full as that,
Nor any poison-fevered rat
Trying with a fervor frantic
To abolish the Atlantic.
Yes, that Filipino bloated
Till his snowry liver floated
Like a lily on a pond.
And his soul to the Beyond
Drifted on the strong, full tide,
“By word of mouth,” from his inside.

Captain Purvis being duly
Tried, the President said: “Truly,
He’s a water-warrior; he
Would more fitly serve at sea.”
So the Navy broke his fall⁠—
Rearest-Admiral of all!
By his ironclad desk he’s sitting,
Sometimes writing, sometimes knitting,
For he’s Chief (and that’s enough)
Of the Bureau of Plum Duff.


Another Aspirant

George Dewey, dear, I did not think that you⁠—
So very married and so happy, too⁠—
Would go philandering with another girl
And give your gay mustache a fetching curl
And set your cap⁠—I should say your cocked hat⁠—
At Miss Columbia the like o’ that.
Pray what can you expect to get by throwing
Sheep’s eyes at one so very, very knowing?

See how she served McKinley! All his life
He wooed her for his morganatic wife,
Swore that he loved her better than his soul
(I’m half inclined to think, upon the whole,
She better did deserve his love) then vowed
He’d marry her alive, or even aloud!
What did she? Ere his breath he could recover
She heartlessly accepted that poor lover!

There’s William Bryan of the silver tongue,
Old in ambition, in discretion young⁠—
He courts her with the song, the dance, the lute,
But knows how suitors feel who do not suit.
And Teddy Roosevelt, plucking from its sheath
The weapon that he wears behind his teeth,
Endeavors in his simple, soldier fashion,
But all in vain, to touch her heart by slashin’.

Beware, my web-foot friend, beware her wiles:
Fly from her sighs and disregard her smiles.
She’s no fool mermaid with a comb and glass,
But Satan’s daughter with a breast of brass.
Put out your prow to sea again⁠—but hold!
If Bryan and McKinley, all too bold,
Show up along the beach with little Teddy⁠—
Well, Dewey, you may fire when you are ready.


A Learner

I do not think you rightly understand:
My foolish tongue imperfectly has caught
The trick of loving words, nor, as it ought,
Serves the sweet purpose of the heart’s command.
Dear, I’m untraveled in the golden land
Of love, and in its language all untaught,
Like some poor mariner by tempest brought
’Mongst alien races to a foreign strand.
So, pretty native, bear with me until
My simple wants I rightly can avow⁠—
My will to serve you with my men and ships.
For lo! already I’ve some little skill
In the strange tongue. Ask me to kiss you now⁠—
I’ll read the riddle ere it leaves your lips!

To Bridget

Have ye heard what the news is, me darlint?
The Fenians have threatened the Pope!
But, begorra, I think there’s a snarl in’t
That’s twisted it up like a rope.
From a kink in the telescope.
For the news, ye must know, Biddy, reaches
This counthry by means of a wire;
And sometimes the heat o’ the speeches
Just warrups it up like a fire.
Faith! who but the Divil would bother
The likes o’ the Howly Father?

And the Divil is in it, I’m fearin’,
When a gintleman’s called on to chuse
Betwixt Howly Church and Ould Erin⁠—
The shamrock and harp to refuse,
Or be like the murtherin’ Jews.
Och! Biddy, me mind it is troublin’
To know where me body’s at home⁠—
With half o’ me sowl there in Dublin
And t’other half over in Rome!
Bedad, there’s a shplit in the party
Of the name of O’Malley McCarty!

After Tennyson

You ask me why, though ill at ease,
Within this region I subsist,
Where honor’s dead, and law is hissed,
And all men pillage as they please.

It is the land where freemen kill
In warm debate their party foes;
The land where judges come to blows
And speak the things that make us ill;

A land of base expedient;
A land where gold can justice drown;
Where Freedom’s chains are handed down
From President to President;

Where factions wrangle for the bread
Of honest men; where, fearing naught,
Accurst monopolies have caught
The people in the nets they spread;

Where branded convicts execute
The laws that in a better time
They broke, and every kind of crime
Stalks unashamed and resolute.

Should honor e’er possess the land,
And patriots control the State,
And Justice rise, divine with hate,
To choke the politician band,

O waft me from the harbor forth.
Wild winds. I’ll see Alaska’s sky.
Here ’twill have grown too warm, and I
Will run for office in the North.

To My Bird

If I were screaming in a cage,
Parrot mine, parrot mine,
And you were rhyming on this page,
Parrot mine,
I’d try to shriek a fresher bit
Of wisdom to excite your wit,
Parrot mine.

All you have said is nothing new,
Parrot mine, parrot mine,
By Jove, I taught it all to you,
Parrot mine.
While you nor can, nor could, nor might
Have thought what I could care to write,
Parrot mine.

Your life in order to maintain,
Parrot mine, parrot mine,
You daily dine upon my brain,
Parrot mine.
My mind, a torn and mangled wreck,
Is disappearing down your neck,
Parrot mine.

Well, be it so: present your bill,
Parrot mine, parrot mine,
And on my virtues feast your fill,
Parrot mine.
My vices, though, will disagree
With you, my pet. They do with me.
Parrot mine.


Two villains of the highest rank
Set out one night to rob a bank.
They found the building, looked it o’er,
Each window noted, tried each door,
Scanned carefully the lidded hole
For minstrels to cascade the coal⁠—
In short, examined five-and-twenty
Shortcuts from poverty to plenty.
But all were sealed, they saw full soon,
Against the minions of the moon.
“Enough,” said one: “I’m satisfied.”
The other, smiling fair and wide,
Said: “I’m as highly pleased as you:
No burglar ever can get through.
Fate surely prospers our design⁠—
The booty all is yours and mine.”
So, full of hope, the following day
To the exchange they took their way
And bought, with manner free and frank,
Some stock of that devoted bank;
And they became, inside the year,
One President and one Cashier.
Their crime I can no further trace⁠—
The means of safety to embrace,
I overdrew and left the place.

A Possibility

If the wicked gods were willing
(Pray it never may be true!)
That a universal chilling
Should ensue
Of the sentiment of loving⁠—
If they made a great undoing
Of the plan of turtle-doving,
Then farewell all poet-lore,
If there were no more of billing
There would be no more of cooing
And we all should be but owls⁠—
Lonely fowls
Blinking wonderfully wise,
With our great round eyes⁠—
Sitting singly in the gloaming and no longer two and two,
As unwilling to be wedded as unpracticed how to woo;
With regard to being mated,
Asking still with aggravated
Ungrammatical acerbity: “To who? To who?”

To a Censor

“The delay granted by the weakness and good nature of our judges is responsible for half the murders.”

Daily Newspaper

Delay responsible? Why, then; my friend,
Impeach Delay and you will make an end.
Thrust vile Delay in jail and let it rot
For doing all the things that it should not.
Put not good-natured judges under bond,
But make Delay in damages respond.
Minos, Aeacus, Rhadamanthus, rolled
Into one pitiless, unsmiling scold⁠—
Unsparing censor, be your thongs uncurled
To “lash the rascals naked through the world.”
The rascals? Nay, Rascality’s the thing
Above whose back your knotted scourges sing.
Your satire, truly, like a razor keen,
“Wounds with a touch that’s scarcely felt or seen;”
For naught that you assail with falchion free
Has either nerves to feel or eyes to see.
Against abstractions evermore you charge:
You hack no helmet and you need no targe.
That wickedness is wrong and sin a vice,
That wrong’s not right, nor foulness ever nice,
Fearless affirm. All consequences dare:
Smite the offense and the offender spare.
When Ananias and Sapphira lied
Falsehood, had you been there, had surely died.
When money-changers in the Temple sat,
At money-changing you’d have whirled the “cat”
(That John-the-Baptist of the modern pen)
And all the brokers would have cried amen!

Good friend, if any judge deserve your blame
Have you no courage, or has he no name?
Upon his method will you wreak your wrath,
Himself all unmolested in his path?
Fall to! fall to!⁠—your club no longer draw
To beat the air or flail a man of straw.
Scorn to do justice like the Saxon thrall
Who cuffed the offender’s shadow on a wall.
Let rascals in the flesh attest your zeal⁠—
Knocked on the mazzard or tripped up at heel!

We know that judges are corrupt. We know
That crimes are lively and that laws are slow.
We know that lawyers lie and doctors slay;
That priests and preachers are but birds of pray;
That merchants cheat and journalists for gold
Flatter the vicious while at vice they scold.
’Tis all familiar as the simple lore
That two policemen and two thieves make four.

But since, while some are wicked some are good,
(As trees may differ though they all are wood)
Names, here and there, to show whose head is hit,
The bad would sentence and the good acquit.
In sparing everybody none you spare:
Rebukes most personal are least unfair.
To fire at random if you still prefer,
And swear at Dog but never kick a cur,
Permit me yet one ultimate appeal
To something that you understand and feel:
Let thrift and vanity your heart persuade⁠—
You might be read if you would learn your trade.

Good brother cynics (you have doubtless guessed
Not one of you but all are here addressed)
Remember this: the shaft that seeks a heart
Draws all eyes after it; an idle dart
Shot at some shadow flutters o’er the green,
Its flight unheeded and its fall unseen.

“The Whole World Kin”

“Liars for witnesses; for lawyers brutes
Willing to lose their souls to win their suits;
Cowards for jurors, and for judge a clown
Who ne’er took up the law, yet lays it down;
Justice denied, authority abused,
And the one blameless person the accused⁠—
Thy courts, my country, all these dreadful years,
Move fools to laughter and the wise to tears.”

So moaned an alien from beyond the foam.
Come here, my lad, I think you’ll feel at home.

A Future Conversation

If the coal strike is not settled satisfactorily I shall lead the wives of the miners in a march on Washington.

Mother Jones

“What is this I see, what is this I see
In this year of our Lord 3003?
What ruins are spread in confusion wide
Over hill and plain by Potomac’s side?”

“These, traveler, these are the leveled stones
Attesting the prowess of Mother Jones.”

“O plowman, I never in history grew
To the high attainments of Smith Carew,
Whose noble book, ‘The Decline and Fall
Of America,’ holds the respect of all.
Of Mother Jones I often have heard,
But thought⁠—pray pardon if I have erred⁠—
That the ancient lady became renowned
By embroidering cats on a velvet ground.”

“Your error is wide, remote, extreme:
Not the needle’s shine, but the sabre’s gleam
Delighted of old her heroic soul
And made her unloved of the Lords of Coal.
In that distant day when the miner ‘rose,’
And to spite his countenance severed his nose,
And owners permitted each mine of the trust
To fill up with water to lay his dust,
She marshaled the women, with sabre and gun,
And marched with banners on Washington.”

“I see, I see in these ruins gray
Through which you are urging your plowshare gay
The work of their hands, slender and white,
That plied the pick and the crowbar bright.”

“The cannon, my friend⁠—but no harm was done,
For before the city was overrun
By the warrior-dames of that rebel rout
The politicians had cleaned it out,
And the stones that about the plain they spread
Were served to the poor when they asked for bread.”

“O affable plowman, I’d fain admire
Your tale, but, alas, I’m myself a liar!
Besides, I’ve a better one, which, mayhap,
You’d like to be hearing.”
“Giddap, giddap!”

The Hesitating Veteran

When I was young and full of faith
And other fads that youngsters cherish
A cry rose as of one that saith
With emphasis: “Help or I perish!”
’Twas heard in all the land, and men
The sound were each to each repeating.
It made my heart beat faster then
Than any heart can now be beating.

For the world is old and the world is gray⁠—
Grown prudent and, I think, more witty.
She’s cut her wisdom teeth, they say,
And doesn’t now go in for Pity.
Besides, the melancholy cry
Was that of one, ’tis now conceded,
Whose plight no one beneath the sky
Felt half so poignantly as he did.

Moreover, he was black. And yet
That sentimental generation
With an austere compassion set
Its face and faith to the occasion.
Then there were hate and strife to spare,
And various hard knocks a-plenty;
And I (’twas more than my true share,
I must confess) took five-and-twenty.

That all is over now⁠—the reign
Of love and trade stills all dissensions,
And the clear heavens arch again
Above a land of peace and pensions.
The black chap⁠—at the last we gave
Him everything that he had cried for,
Though many white chaps in the grave
’Twould puzzle to say what they died for.

I hope he’s better off⁠—I trust
That his society and his master’s
Are worth the price we paid, and must
Continue paying, in disasters;
But sometimes doubts press thronging round
(’Tis mostly when my hurts are aching)
If war for Union was a sound
And profitable undertaking.

’Tis said they mean to take away
The Negro’s vote for he’s unlettered.
’Tis true he sits in darkness day
And night, as formerly, when fettered;
But pray observe⁠—howe’er he vote
To whatsoever party turning,
He’ll be with gentlemen of note
And wealth and consequence and learning.

With saints and sages on each side,
How could a fool through lack of knowledge,
Vote wrong? If learning is no guide
Why ought one to have been in college?
O Son of Day, O Son of Night!
What are your preferences made of?
I know not which of you is right,
Nor which to be the more afraid of.

The world is old and the world is bad,
And creaks and grinds upon its axis;
And man’s an ape and the gods are mad!⁠—
There’s nothing sure, not even our taxes.
No mortal man can Truth restore,
Or say where she is to be sought for.
I know what uniform I wore⁠—
O, that I knew which side I fought for!

A Year’s “Casualties”

Slain as they lay by the secret, slow,
Pitiless hand of an unseen foe,
Two score thousand old soldiers have crossed
The river to join the loved and lost.
In the space of a year their spirits fled,
Silent and white, to the camp of the dead.

One after one, they fall asleep
And the pension agents awake to weep,
And orphaned statesmen are loud in their wail
As the souls flit by on the evening gale.
O Father of Battles, pray give us release
From the horrors of peace, the horrors of peace!


O hoary sculptor, stay thy hand:
I fain would view the lettered stone.
What carvest thou?⁠—perchance some grand
And solemn fancy all thine own.
For oft to know the fitting word
Some humble worker God permits.
“Jain Ann Meginnis,
Agid 3rd.
He givith His beluved fits.”


I saw a man who knelt in prayer,
And heard him say:
“I’ll lay my inmost spirit bare

“Lord, for to-morrow and its need
I do not pray;
Let me upon my neighbor feed

“Let me my duty duly shirk
And run away
From any form or phase of work

“From Thy commands exempted still,
Let me obey
The promptings of my private will

“Let me no word profane, no lie
Unthinking say
If anyone is standing by

“My secret sins and vices grave
Let none betray;
The scoffer’s jeers I do not crave

“And if to-day my fortune all
Should ebb away
Help me on other men’s to fall

“So, for to-morrow and its mite
I do not pray;
Just give me everything in sight

I cried: “Amen!” He rose and ran
Like oil away.
I said: “I’ve seen an honest man

An Alibi

A famous journalist, who long
Had told the great unheaded throng
Whate’er they thought, by day or night,
Was true as Holy Writ, and right,
Was caught in⁠—well, on second thought,
It is enough that he was caught,
And, thrown into a jail, became
The fuel of a public flame.
Vox populi vox Dei,” said
The jailer. Inxling bent his head
Without remark: that motto good
In bold-faced type had always stood
Above the columns where his pen
Had rioted in praise of men
And all they said⁠—provided he
Was sure they mostly did agree.
Meanwhile a sharp and bitter strife
To take, or save, the culprit’s life
Or liberty (which, I suppose,
Was much the same to him) arose
Outside. The journal that his pen
Adorned denounced his crime⁠—but then
Its editor in secret tried
To have the indictment set aside.
The opposition papers swore
His father was a rogue before,
And all his wife’s relations were
Like him and similar to her.
They begged their readers to subscribe
A dollar each to make a bribe
That any Judge would feel was large
Enough to prove the gravest charge⁠—
Unless, it might be, the Defense
Put up superior evidence.
The law’s traditional delay
Was all too short: the trial day
Dawned red and menacing. The Judge
Sat on the Bench and wouldn’t budge,
And all the motions counsel made
Could not move him⁠—and there he stayed.
“The case must now proceed,” he said,
“While I am just, in heart and head.
It happens⁠—as, indeed, it ought⁠—
Both sides with equal sums have bought
My favor: I can try the cause
Impartially.” (Prolonged applause.)

The prisoner was now arraigned
And said that he was greatly pained
To be suspected⁠—he, whose pen
Had charged so many other men
With crimes and misdemeanors! “Why,”
He said, a tear in either eye,
“If men who live by crying out
‘Stop thief!’ are not themselves from doubt
Of their integrity exempt
Let all forego the vain attempt
To make a reputation! Sir,
I’m innocent, and I demur.”
Whereat a thousand voices cried
That he indubitably lied⁠—
Vox populi as loudly roared
As bull by picadores gored,
In his own coin receiving pay
To make a Spanish holiday.
The jury⁠—twelve good men and true⁠—
Were then sworn in to see it through,
And each made solemn oath that he
As any babe unborn was free
From prejudice, opinion, thought,
Respectability, brains⁠—aught
That could disqualify; and some
Explained that they were deaf and dumb.
A better twelve, his Honor said,
Was rare, except among the dead.
The witnesses were called and sworn.
The tales they told made angels mourn,
And the Good Book they’d kissed became
Red with the consciousness of shame.
Whenever one of them approached
The truth, “That witness wasn’t coached,
Your Honor!” cried the lawyers both.
“Strike out his testimony,” quoth
The learned Judge: “this court denies
Its ear to stories that surprise.
I hold that witnesses exempt
From coaching all are in contempt.”
Both Prosecution and Defense
Applauded the judicial sense,
And the spectators all averred
Such wisdom they had never heard:
’Twas plain the prisoner would be
Found guilty in the first degree.
Meanwhile that wight’s pale cheek confessed
The nameless terrors in his breast.
He felt remorseful, too, because
He wasn’t half they said he was.
“If I’d been such a rogue,” he mused
On opportunities unused,
“I might have easily become
As wealthy as Methusalum.”
This journalist adorned, alas,
The middle, not the Bible, class.

With equal skill the lawyers’ pleas
Attested their divided fees.
Each gave the other one the lie,
Then helped him frame a sharp reply.
Good Lord! it was a bitter fight,
And lasted all the day and night.
When once or oftener the roar
Had silenced the judicial snore
The speaker suffered for the sport
By fining for contempt of court.
Twelve jurors’ noses good and true
Unceasing sang the trial through,
And even vox populi was spent
In rattles through a nasal vent.
Clerk, bailiff, constables and all
Heard Morpheus sound the trumpet call
To arms⁠—his arms⁠—and all fell in
Save counsel for the Man of Sin.
That thaumaturgist stood and swayed
The wand their faculties obeyed⁠—
That magic wand which, like a flame,
Leapt, wavered, quivered and became
A wonder-worker⁠—known among
The ignoble vulgar as a Tongue.

How long, O Lord, how long my verse
Runs on for better or for worse
In meter which o’ermasters me,
Octosyllabically free!⁠—
A meter which, the poets say,
No power of restraint can stay;⁠—
A hard-mouthed meter, suited well
To him who, having naught to tell,
Must hold attention as a trout
Is held, by paying out and out
The slender line which else would break
Should one attempt the fish to take.
Thus tavern guides who’ve naught to show
But some adjacent curio
By devious trails their patrons lead
And make them think ’tis far indeed.
Where was I?

While the lawyer talked
The rogue took up his feet and walked:
While all about him loudly slept,
Into the street he calmly stepped.
In very truth, the man who thought
The people’s voice from heaven had caught
God’s inspiration took a change
Of venue⁠—it was passing strange!
Straight to his editor he went
And that ingenious person sent
A Negro to impersonate
The fugitive. In adequate
Disguise he took his vacant place
And buried in his arms his face.
When all was done the lawyer stopped
And silence like a bombshell dropped
Upon the court: Judge, jury, all
Within that venerable hall
(Except the deaf and dumb, indeed,
And one or two whom death had freed)
Awoke and tried to look as though
Slumber was all they did not know.

And now that tireless lawyer-man
Took breath, and then again began:
“Your Honor, if you did attend
To what I’ve urged (my learned friend
Nodded concurrence) to support
The motion I have made, this court
May soon adjourn. With your assent
I’ve shown abundant precedent
For introducing now, though late,
New evidence to exculpate
My client. So, if you’ll allow,
I’ll prove an alibi!” “What?⁠—how?”
Stammered the judge. “Well, yes, I can’t
Deny your showing, and I grant
The motion. Do I understand
You undertake to prove⁠—good land!⁠—
That when the crime⁠—you mean to show
Your client wasn’t there?” “O, no,
I cannot quite do that, I find:
My alibi’s another kind
Of alibi⁠—I’ll make it clear,
Your Honor, that he isn’t here.”
The Darky here upreared his head,
Tranquillity affrighted fled
And consternation reigned instead!

A Meeting

“Good morning,” said Garfield, extending his hand,
To Mr. Parnell in the Heavenly Land.
“Good morning, good morning,” said Mr. Parnell;
“I hope (though ’tis needless to ask) you are well.
How sweetly that chorus of cherubim sings!
Pray how do you manage these cumbersome wings?
This halo⁠—I dare say I’m terribly green,
But somehow I can’t make it hold my dudheen.
This harp is all right, but the shamrock I miss,
And⁠—O, by the way, in this region of bliss
I trust that the rascally schemer who wrote
The Morey epistle, which lost you the vote
Electoral, I am not likely to meet?”

Then Garfield, his eyes on the cloud at his feet,
Burned in the cheeks with a fervor divine
That conquered his halo’s inferior shine;
Then said, with a look that was level and far:
“I fear (to be honest and frank) that you are.
The person who wrote that mysterious, queer,
Bad letter is here⁠—ah, exceedingly here.”
And he smiled in an infantile sort of a way,
Like a man with a qualm, and went on to say:
“I’m happy to meet you. What news from below?
Did it look when you left there as if they would show
Who wrote, with a villainous purpose in view,
The peppery letters imputed to you?”

Said Mr. Parnell: “Yes, it did, I must say⁠—
In fact, that’s the reason I hastened away.”
Then they sang a psalm, and they sang so well
That Murchison heard it while sobbing in Hell.

J. F. B.

How well this man unfolded to our view
The world’s beliefs of Death and Heaven and Hell⁠—
This man whose own convictions none could tell,
Nor if his maze of reason had a clew.
Dogmas he wrote for daily bread, but knew
The fair philosophies of doubt so well
That while we listened to his words there fell
Some that were strangely comforting if true.
Marking how wise we grew upon his doubt,
We said: “If so, by groping in the night,
He can proclaim some certain paths of trust,
How great our profit if he saw about
His feet the highways leading to the light.”
Now he sees all. Ah, Christ! his mouth is dust!

The Dying Statesman

It is a politician man⁠—
He draweth near his end,
And friends weep round that partisan,
Of every man the friend.

Between the Known and the Unknown
He lieth on the strand;
The light upon the sea is thrown
That lay upon the land.

It shineth in his glazing eye,
It burneth on his face;
God send that when we come to die
We know that sign of grace!

Upon his lips his blessed sprite
Poiseth her joyous wing.
“How is it with thee, child of light?
Dost hear the angels sing?”

“The song I hear, the crown I see,
And know that God is love.
Farewell, dark world⁠—I go to be
A postmaster above!”

For him no monumental arch,
But, O, ’tis good and brave
To see the Grand Old Party march
To office o’er his grave!

The Death of Grant

Father! whose hard and cruel law
Is part of thy compassion’s plan,
Thy works presumptuously we scan
For what the prophets say they saw.

Unbidden still the awful slope
Walling us in we climb to gain
Assurance of the shining plain
That faith has certified to hope.

In vain!⁠—beyond the circling hill
The shadow and the cloud abide.
Subdue the doubt, our spirits guide
To trust the record and be still.

To trust it loyally as he
Who, heedful of his high design,
Ne’er raised a seeking eye to thine,
But wrought thy will unconsciously,

Disputing not of chance or fate,
Nor questioning of cause or creed;
For anything but duty’s deed
Too simply wise, too humbly great.

The cannon syllabled his name;
His shadow shifted o’er the land,
Portentous, as at his demand
Successive bastions sprang to flame!

He flared the continent with fire,
The rivers ran in lines of light!
Thy will be done on earth⁠—if right
Or wrong he cared not to inquire.

His was the heavy hand, and his
The service of the despot blade;
His the soft answer that allayed
War’s giant animosities.

Let us have peace: our clouded eyes,
Fill, Father, with another light,
That we may see with clearer sight
Thy servant’s soul in Paradise.

The Fountain Refilled

Of Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
The Muse of History records
That he’d get drunk as twenty lords.

He’d get so truly drunk that men
Stood by to marvel at him when
His slow advance along the street
Was but a vain cycloidal feat.

And when ’twas fated that he fall
With a wide geographic sprawl,
They signified assent by sounds
Heard (faintly) at its utmost bounds.

And yet this Mr. Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Cast not on wine his thirsty eyes
When it was red or otherwise.

All malt, or spirituous tope
He loathed as cats dissent from soap;
And cider, if it touched his lip,
Evoked a groan at every sip.

But still, as heretofore explained,
He not infrequently was grained.
(I’m not of those who call it “corned”⁠—
Coarse speech I’ve always duly scorned.)

Though truth to say, and that’s but right,
Strong drink (it hath an adder’s bite!)
Was what had put him in the mud,
The only kind he used was blood!

Alas, that an immortal soul
Addicted to the flowing bowl
The emptied flagon should again
Replenish from a neighbor’s vein!

But, Mr. Shanahan was so
Constructed, and his taste that low.
Not more deplorable was he
In kind of thirst than in degree;

For sometimes fifty souls would pay
The debt of nature in a day
To free him from the shame and pain
Of dread Sobriety’s misreign.

His native land, proud of its sense
Of his unique inabstinence,
Abated something of its pride
At thought of his unfilled inside;

And some the boldness had to say
’Twere well if he were called away
To slake his thirst forevermore
In oceans of celestial gore.

But Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Knew that his thirst was mortal; so
Remained unsainted here below⁠—

Unsainted and unsaintly, for
He neither went to glory nor
To abdicate his power deigned
Where, under Providence, he reigned,

But kept his Boss’s power accurst
To serve his wild uncommon thirst.
Which now had grown so truly great
It was a drain upon the State.

Soon, soon there came a time, alas!
When he turned down an empty glass⁠—
All practicable means were vain
His special wassail to obtain.

In vain poor Decimation tried
To furnish forth the needful tide;
And Civil War as vainly shed
Its niggard offering of red.

Poor Shanahan! his thirst increased
Until he wished himself deceased,
Invoked the firearm and the knife,
But could not die to save his life!

He was so dry his own veins made
No answer to the seeking blade;
So weak that when he would have passed
Away he could not breathe his last.

’Twas then, when almost in despair,
(Unlaced his shoon, unkempt his hair)
He saw as in a dream a way
To wet afresh his mortal clay.

Yes, Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Saw freedom, and with joy and pride
“Thalassa! (or Thalatta!)” cried.

Straight to the aldermen went he,
With many a “pull” and many a fee,
And many a most corrupt “combine”
(The Press for twenty cents a line

Held out and fought him⁠—O, God, bless
Forevermore the holy Press!)
Till he had franchises complete
For trolley lines on every street!

The cars were builded and, they say,
Were run on rails laid every way⁠—
Rhomboidal roads, and circular,
And oval⁠—everywhere a car⁠—

Square, dodecagonal (in great
Esteem the shape called Figure 8)
And many other kinds of form
As different as paths of a storm.

No other group of men’s abodes
E’er had so odd electric roads,
That winding in and winding out,
Began and ended all about.

No city had, unless in Mars,
That city’s fatal gift of cars.
They ran by day, they flew by night,
And O, the sorry, sorry sight!

And Hans Pietro Shanahan
(Who was a most ingenious man)
Incessantly, the Muse records,
Lay drunk as twenty thousand lords!

Laus Lucis

Theosophists are about to build a “Temple for the Revival of the Mysteries of Antiquity.”

Vide the Newspapers, passim

Each to his taste: some men prefer to play
At mystery, as others at piquet.
Some sit in mystic meditation; some
Parade the street with tambourine and drum.
One studies to decipher ancient lore
Which, proving stuff, he studies all the more;
Another swears that learning is but good
To darken things already understood,
Then writes upon Simplicity so well
That none agree on what he wants to tell,
And future ages will declare his pen
Inspired by gods with messages to men.
To found an ancient order, these devote
Their time⁠—with ritual, regalia, goat,
Blankets for tossing, chairs of little ease
And all the modern inconveniences;
Those, saner, frown upon unmeaning rites
And go to church for rational delights.
So all are suited, shallow and profound,
The prophets prosper and the world goes round.
For me⁠—unread in the occult, I’m fain
To damn all mysteries alike as vain,
Spurn the obscure and base my faith upon
The Revelations of the good St. John.


We heard a song-bird trilling⁠—
’Twas but a day ago.
Such rapture he was rilling
As only we could know.

This morning he is flinging
His music from the tree,
But something in the singing
Is not the same to me.

His inspiration fails him,
Or he has lost his skill.
Nanine, Nanine, what ails him
That he should sing so ill?

Nanine is not replying⁠—
She hears no earthly song.
The sun and bird are lying
And the night is, O, so long!


’Twas a serious person with locks of gray
And a figure like a crescent;
His gravity, clearly, had come to stay,
But his smile was evanescent.

He stood and conversed with a neighbor and
With (likewise) a high falsetto;
And he stabbed his forefinger into his hand
As if it had been a stiletto.

His words, like the notes of a tenor drum,
Came out of his head unblended,
And the wonderful altitude of some
Was exceptionally splendid.

While executing a shake of the head,
With the hand, as it were, of a master,
This agonizing old gentleman said:
“ ’Twas a truly sad disaster!

“Four hundred and ten longs and shorts in all,
Went down”⁠—he paused and snuffled.
A single tear was observed to fall,
And the old man’s drum was muffled.

“A very calamitous year,” he said,
And again his head-piece hoary
He shook, and another pearl he shed,
As if he wept con amore.

“O lachrymose person,” I cried, “pray why
Should these failures so affect you?
With speculators in stocks no eye
That’s normal would ever connect you.”

He focused his orbs upon mine and smiled
In a sinister sort of manner.
“Young man,” he said, “your words are wild:
I spoke of the steamship Hanner.

“For she has went down in a howlin’ squall,
And my heart is nigh to breakin’⁠—
Four hundred and ten longs and shorts in all
Will never need undertakin’!

“I’m in the business myself,” said he,
“And you’ve mistook my expression;
For I uses the technical terms, you see,
Employed in my perfession.”

That old undertaker has joined the throng
On the other side of the River,
But I’m still unhappy to think I’m a “long,”
And a tape-line makes me shiver.

A Reply to a Letter

O nonsense, parson⁠—tell me not they thrive
And jubilate who follow your dictation.
The good are the unhappiest lot alive⁠—
I know they are from careful observation.
If freedom from the terrors of damnation
Lengthens the visage like a telescope,
And lachrymosity’s a sign of hope,
Then I’ll continue, in my dreadful plight,
To tread the dusky paths of sin, and grope
Contentedly without your lantern’s light;
And though in many a bog beslubbered quite,
Refuse to flay me with ecclesiastic soap.

You say ’tis a sad world, seeing I’m condemned,
With many a million others of my kidney.
Each continent’s Hammed, Japheted and Shemmed
With sinners⁠—worldlings like Sir Philip Sidney
And scoffers like Voltaire, who thought it bliss
To simulate respect for Genesis⁠—
Who bent the mental knee as if in prayer,
But mocked at Moses underneath his hair,
And like an angry gander bowed his head to hiss.

Seeing such as these, who die without contrition,
Must go to⁠—beg your pardon, sir⁠—perdition,
The sons of light, you tell me, can’t be gay,
But count it sin of the sort called omission
The groan to smother or the tear to stay
Or fail to⁠—what is that they live by?⁠—pray.
So down they kneel, and the whole serious race is
Put by divine compassion on a praying basis.

Well, if you take it so to heart, while yet
Our own hearts are so light with nature’s leaven,
You’ll weep indeed when we in Hades sweat,
And you look down upon us out of Heaven.
In fancy, lo! I see your wailing shades
Thronging the crystal battlements. Cascades
Of tears spring singing from each golden spout,
Run roaring from the verge with hoarser sound,
Dash downward through the glimmering profound,
Quench the tormenting flame and put the Devil out!

Presumptuous fool! to you no power belongs
To pitchfork me to Heaven upon the prongs
Of a bad pen, whose disobedient sputter,
With less of ink than incoherence fraught,
Befits the folly that it tries to utter.
Brains, I observe, as well as tongues, can stutter:
You suffer from impediment of thought.
Save when considering your bread-and-butter.

When next you “point the way to Heaven,” take care:
Your fingers all being thumbs, point Heaven knows where!
Farewell, poor dunce! your letter though I blame,
Bears witness how my anger I can tame:
I’ve called you everything except your hateful name!

To Oscar Wilde

Because from Folly’s lips you got
Some babbled mandate to subdue
The realm of Common Sense, and you
Made promise and considered not⁠—

Because you strike a random blow
At what you do not understand,
And beckon with a friendly hand
To something that you do not know,

I hold no speech of your desert,
Nor answer with porrected shield
The wooden weapon that you wield,
But meet you with a cast of dirt.

Dispute with such a thing as you⁠—
Twin show to the two-headed calf?
Why, sir, if I repress my laugh,
’Tis more than half the world can do.


Born Leaders of Men

Tuckerton Tamerlane Morey Mahosh
Is a statesman of world-wide fame,
With a notable knack at rhetorical bosh
To glorify somebody’s name⁠—
Somebody chosen by Tuckerton’s masters
To succor the country from divers disasters
Portentous to Mr. Mahosh.

Percy O’Halloran Tarpy Cabee
Is in the political swim.
He cares not a button for men, not he:
Great principles captivate him⁠—
Principles cleverly cut out and fitted
To Percy’s capacity, duly admitted
And fought for by Mr. Cabee.

Drusus Tum Swinnerton Porfer Fitzurse
Holds office the most of his life.
For men nor for principles cares he a curse
But much for his neighbor’s wife.
The Ship of State leaks, but he doesn’t pump any⁠—
Messrs. Mahosh, Cabee & Company
Pump for good Mr. Fitzurse.

The Crime of 1903

Time was, not very long ago,
As by historians time is reckoned,
When first of virtues here below
Was hatred of secession, though
Some swore it wasn’t even second;
But these (they mostly were down South)
Have all renounced their view with candor⁠—
Some tardily by word of mouth,
Some, earlier, in a manner grander.

To stamp their error out, ’tis true,
We paid enough of blood (the treasure
Would pave with gold an avenue)
To float a battleship or two,
If so the cost we choose to measure.
’Twas worth it all, we say and say⁠—
The President has often said it;
And so it was⁠—to us; and they
Say nothing, as a rule, who shed it.

“Times change and we change with them,” men
Of old renown averred in Latin;
And that’s as true on tongue or pen
This blessed century as when
The seat of empire Caesar sat in.
For see how many play their parts
As ardent lovers of secession,
Promoting it with all their hearts⁠—
In countries out of our possession.

O men of variable views,
How can you be so light and fickle?
Is it because you think the news
From Panama portends no bruise
To you, nor payment of a nickel?
Nay, is it that you scent a gain
In troubles of a neighbor nation,
And so appraise her loss and pain
As nothing worth a valuation?

Those ills ’tis easy to endure
That light upon and sting another⁠—
That’s Christian fortitude; but sure
There’s somewhere an account of your
Least feeling toward a hapless brother.
Himself may show by deed and speech
Less racial sympathies than tribal,
But⁠—well, this is no place to preach;
The sermon’s mostly in the Bible.

We’re false to trust and quick to spy
The fissure in a friendly armor,
Even Freedom can no more rely
Upon our promise not to harm her.
O Guardian of Continents,
My country! shall that evil dower,
The passion for preeminence,
Cry from thy seaward battlements
A soul already drunk with power?


For Expulsion

They say, Brig. Roberts, you have seven wives,
And every one a beauty! As to that
I’m not informed; in the domestic hives
Of Utah, where I’ve sometimes hung my hat,
Not all the dames were comely. Like a cat
That has nine lives and must support them all,
You have to hustle round a bit, I fancy.
Now don’t you really agree with Paul
That women are the devil?⁠—even Nancy
And Mary Jane and Caroline and Ella
And Ruth and Adeline and Isabella!

If I had half as many wives as you
(That’s three wives and a half as I compute)
I hardly know what I’d be driven to.
I might in desperation play the flute,
Or Congress find in me a raw recruit.
Then, I suppose, the country would uprise
And say the things I least should care to hear:
And virtuous editors would damn my eyes,
And cartilaginous virgins pain my ear.
And now and then some pious person clamor,
Blessed with one wife, ten wenches and no grammar.

All that and more you’re suffering, my friend,
For, having married all the maids you saw,
You contumaciously refuse to bend
A corrigible back to altered law
And leave them (all but one) lamenting. Pshaw!
Don’t be so squeamish. Yes, the children may
Lament a little too when made acquainted
With their mischance in being put away,
And your own countenance with shame be painted;
But that’s the smallest price for which we’ll sell
A seat in Congress and a bed in Hell.

Judex Jocosus

We blench when maniacs to dance begin.
What makes a skull so dreadful is the grin.
When horrible and ludicrous unite,
Our sense of humor does but feed our fright.
As the shocked spirit with a double dread
Might see a monkey watching by the dead,
Or headsman part a neck, without a fault,
While turning o’er the block a somersault.
So, Judge Hilario, the untroubled awe
And reverence men cherish for the law
Turn all to terror when with wit profound
And tricksy humor you the law expound.
More frightful sounds the felon’s doom by half
From lips still twisted to an idiot laugh.


Cuba, our pupil, let thy glory shine⁠—
Our own is brighter, but effulgent thine!
Lately thine arms struck terror to the foe,
And now thy hands bring treasuries to woe!
Daughter of Terrors, Mother of Alarms,
Courage himself may fly before thine arms;
But O, what thing escapes, what thing withstands,
The power of those comprehensive hands?

The Tale of a Crime

Once, in the olden time, a certain King
(But where he reigned I know not) said: “Go bring
My Chief Adviser here before the throne.
And cut his head off clear down to the bone!”
“With pleasure, Sire,” said⁠—keen to earn his wage⁠—
The High Dissuader from the Sin of Age;
“But kings should still be civil, even when just:
You’ll charge the villain with some crime, I trust?”

“Why, that’s no more than fair,” the King replied.
They brought the culprit in, securely tied,
And the King said: “Let someone who can read
Stand forward and unfold the Golden Screed,
Bright with the names of all the sins and crimes
And vices ever known from ancient times.
We’ll fit the fellow for the headsman’s prank
With one appropriate to his face and rank.”

In drowsy monotone the Lector read
The shining list, beginning at the head.
(Lèse-majesté was naturally first⁠—
Of crimes conceivable, the blackest, worst!)
As each was named the prisoner addressed
The throne and, as the law compelled, confessed.
’Twas fatal not to: in that olden day
Little was heard about the law’s delay.

But still the royal taste could find for him
No crime well suited to the royal whim,
And, wearied by the reader’s droning voice,
The sovereign fell asleep, nor made a choice⁠—
Snored like an organ till the stones were jarred
Distinguishing the palace from the yard.
Meantime, the accused continued to confess,
Each nod said “guilty” and each look said “yes.”

And still the monarch slept: each courtier feared
To wake him lest himself should “lose his beard.”
(’Twas a fine euphemism, and meant his head⁠—
Some things for prudence are obliquely said.)
“Finis” the reader said, and roundabout
Fell silence like a loud awakening shout!
The startled sovereign left a snore half-snored⁠—
“That’s what the scoundrel’s guilty of!” he roared.

So there before the king upon his throne.
They cut his head off clean down to the bone!
And all the devils made a joyous din
To celebrate the new and lovely sin.

To the Bartholdi Statue

O Liberty, God-gifted⁠—
Young and immortal maid⁠—
In your high hand uplifted,
The torch declares your trade.

Its crimson menace, flaming
Upon the sea and shore,
Is, trumpet-like, proclaiming
That Law shall be no more.

Austere incendiary,
We’re blinking in the light;
Where is your customary
Grenade of dynamite?

Where are your staves and switches
For men of gentle birth?
Your mask and dirk for riches?
Your chains for wit and worth?

Perhaps, you’ve brought the halters
You used in the old days,
When round religion’s altars
You stabled Cromwell’s bays?

Behind you, unsuspected,
Have you the axe, fair wench,
Wherewith you once collected
A poll-tax from the French?

America salutes you⁠—
Preparing to “disgorge.”
Take everything that suits you,
And marry Henry George.


An Unmerry Christmas

Christmas, you tell me, comes but once a year.
One place it never comes, and that is here.
Here, in these pages no good wishes spring,
No well-worn greetings tediously ring⁠—
For Christmas greetings are like pots of ore:
The hollower they are they ring the more.
Here shall no holly cast a spiny shade,
Nor mistletoe my solitude invade,
No trinket-laden vegetable come,
No jorum steam with Sheolate of rum.
No shrilling children shall their voices rear.
Hurrah for Christmas without Christmas cheer!

No presents, if you please⁠—I know too well
What Herbert Spencer, if he didn’t tell
(I know not if he did) yet might have told
Of present-giving in the days of old,
When Early Man with gifts propitiated
The chiefs whom most he doubted, feared and hated,
Or tendered them in hope to reap some rude
Advantage from the taker’s gratitude.
Since thus the Gift its origin derives
(How much of its first character survives
You know as well as I) my stocking’s tied,
My pocket buttoned⁠—with my soul inside.
I save my money and I save my pride.

Dinner? Yes; thank you⁠—just a baby’s body
Done to a nutty brown, and a tear toddy
To give me appetite; and as to drink,
About a half a jug of blood, I think,
Will do; for still I love the good red wine,
Coagulating well, with wrinkles fine
Fretting the satin surface of its flood.
O tope of kings⁠—divine Falernian⁠—blood!

Duse take the shouting fowls upon the limb,
The kneeling cattle and the rising hymn!
Has not a pagan rights to be regarded⁠—
His heart assaulted and his ear bombarded
With sentiments and sounds that good old Pan
Even in his demonium would ban?

No, friends⁠—no Christmas here, for I have sworn
To keep my heart hard and my knees unworn.
Enough you have of jester, player, priest:
I as the skeleton attend your feast,
In the mad revelry to make a lull
With shaken finger and with bobbing skull.
However you my services may flout,
Philosophy disdain and reason doubt,
I mean to hold in customary state,
My dismal revelry and celebrate
My yearly rite until the crack o’ doom⁠—
Ignore the cheerful season’s warmth and bloom
And cultivate an oasis of gloom.

An Inscription

For a Proposed Monument in Washington to Him who Made it Beautiful.

Erected to “Boss” Shepherd by the dear
Good folk he lived and moved among in peace⁠—
Guarded on either hand by the police,
With soldiers in his front and in his rear.

From Virginia to Paris

The polecat, sovereign of its native wood,
Dashes damnation upon bad and good;
The health of all the upas trees impairs
By exhalations deadlier than theirs;
Poisons the rattlesnake and warts the toad⁠—
The creeks go rotten and the rocks corrode!
She shakes o’er breathless hill and shrinking dale
The horrid aspergillus of her tail!
From every saturated hair, till dry,
The spargent fragrances divergent fly,
Stifle the world and reek along the sky!

Removed to alien scenes, amid the strife
Of urban odors to ungladden life⁠—
Where gas and sewers and dead dogs conspire
The flesh to torture and the soul to fire⁠—
Where all the “well defined and several stinks”
Known to mankind hold revel and high jinks⁠—
Humbled in spirit, smitten with a sense
Of lost distinction, leveled eminence,
Her powers atrophied, her vigor sunk,
She lives deodorized, a sweeter skunk.

A “Mute Inglorious Milton”

“O, I’m the Unaverage Man,
But you never have heard of me,
For my brother, the Average Man, outran
My fame with rapiditee,
And I’m sunk in Oblivion’s sea;
But my bully big brother the world can span
With his wide notorietee.
I do everything that I can
To make ’em attend to me,
But the papers ignore the Unaverage Man
With a weird uniformitee.”

So sang with a dolorous note
A voice that I heard from the beach;
On the sable waters it seemed to float
Like a mortal part of speech.
The sea was Oblivion’s sea,
And I cried as I plunged to swim:
“The Unaverage Man shall reside with me.”
But he didn’t⁠—I stayed with him!

The Free Trader’s Lament

Oft from a trading-boat I purchased spice
And shells and corals, brought for my inspection
From the fair tropics⁠—paid a Christian price
And was content in my fool’s paradise,
Where never had been heard the word “Protection.”

’Twas my sole island; there I dwelt alone⁠—
No customs-house, collector nor collection,
But a man came who in a pious tone
Condoled with me that I had never known
The manifest advantage of Protection.

So, when the trading-boat arrived one day
He threw a stink-pot into its mid-section.
The traders paddled for their lives away,
Nor came again into that haunted bay,
The blessed home thereafter of Protection.

Then down he sat, that philanthropic man,
And spat upon some mud of his selection,
And worked it, with his knuckles in a pan
To shapes of shells and coral things, and span
A thread of song in glory of Protection.

He baked them in the sun. His air devout
Enchanted me. I made a genuflection:
“God help you, gentle sir,” I said. “No doubt,”
He answered gravely, “I’ll get on without
Assistance now that we have got Protection.”

Thenceforth I bought his wares⁠—at what a price
For shells and corals of such imperfection!
“Ah, now,” said he, “your lot is truly nice.”
But still in all that isle there was no spice
To season to my taste that dish, Protection.

Subterranean Phantasies

I died. As meekly in the earth I lay,
With shriveled fingers reverently folded,
The worm⁠—uncivil engineer!⁠—my clay
Tunneled industriously, and the mole did.
My body could not dodge them, but my soul did;
For that had flown from this terrestrial ball
And I was rid of it for good and all.

So there I lay, debating what to do⁠—
What measures might most usefully be taken
To circumvent the subterranean crew
Of anthropophagi and save my bacon.
My fortitude was all this while unshaken,
But any gentleman, of course, protests
Against receiving uninvited guests.

However proud he might be of his meats,
Not even Apicius, nor, I think, Lucullus,
Wasted on tramps his culinary sweets;
Aut Caesar,” say judicious hosts, “aut nullus.”
And though when Marcius came unbidden Tullus
Aufidius feasted him because he starved,
Marcius by Tullus afterward was carved.

We feed the hungry, as the book commands
(For men might question else our orthodoxy)
But do not care to see the outstretched hands,
And so we minister to them by proxy.
When Want, in his improper person, knocks he
Finds we’re engaged. The graveworm’s very fresh
To think we like his presence in the flesh.

So, as I said, I lay in doubt; in all
That underworld no judges could determine
My rights. When Death approaches them they fall,
And falling, naturally soil their ermine.
And still below ground, as above, the vermin
That work by dark and silent methods win
The case⁠—the burial case that one is in.

Cases at law so slowly get ahead,
Even when the right is visibly unclouded,
That if all men are classed as quick and dead,
The judges all are dead, though some unshrouded.
Pray Jove that when they’re actually crowded
On Styx’s brink, and Charon rows in sight,
His bark prove worse than Cerberus’s bite.

Ah! Cerberus, if you had but begot
A race of three-mouthed dogs for man to nourish
And woman to caress, the muse had not
Lamented the decay of virtues currish,
And triple-hydrophobia now would flourish,
For barking, biting, kissing to employ
Canine repeaters were indeed a joy.

Lord! how we cling to this vile world! Here I,
Whose dust was laid ere I began this carping,
By moles and worms and such familiar fry
Run through and through, am singing still and harping
Of mundane matters⁠—flatting, too, and sharping.
I hate the Angel of the Sleeping-Cup:
So I’m for getting⁠—and for shutting⁠—up.

In Memoriam

Beauty (they called her) wasn’t a maid
Of many things in the world afraid.
She wasn’t a maid who turned and fled
At sight of a mouse, alive or dead.
She wasn’t a maid a man could “shoo”
By shouting, however abruptly, “Boo!”
She wasn’t a maid who’d run and hide
If her face and figure you idly eyed.
She wasn’t a maid who’d blush and shake
When asked what part of the fowl she’d take.
(I blush myself to confess she preferred,
And commonly got, the most of the bird.)
She wasn’t a maid to simper because
She was asked to sing⁠—if she ever was.
In short, if the truth must be displayed
All naked⁠—Beauty wasn’t a maid.
Beauty, furry and fine and fat,
Yawny and clawy, sleek and all that,
Was a pampered and spoiled Angora cat!
I loved her well, and I’m proud that she
Wasn’t indifferent, quite, to me;
In fact I have sometimes gone so far
(You know, mesdames, how silly men are)
As to think she preferred⁠—excuse the conceit⁠—
My legs upon which to sharpen her feet.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have gone for much,
But I started and thrilled beneath her touch!

Ah, well, that’s ancient history now:
The fingers of Time have touched my brow,
And I hear with never a start to-day
That Beauty has passed from the earth away.
Gone!⁠—her death-song (it killed her) sung.
Gone!⁠—her fiddlestrings all unstrung.
Gone to the bliss of a new regime
Of turkey smothered in seas of cream;
Of roasted mice (a superior breed,
To science unknown and the coarser need
Of the living cat) cooked by the flame
Of the dainty soul of an erring dame
Who gave to purity all her care,
Neglecting the duty of daily prayer⁠—
Crisp, delicate mice, just touched with spice
By the ghost of a breeze from Paradise;
A very digestible sort of mice.

Let scoffers sneer, I propose to hold
That Beauty has mounted the Stair of Gold,
To eat and eat, forever and aye,
On a velvet rug from a golden tray.
But the human spirit⁠—that is my creed⁠—
Rots in the ground like a barren seed.
That is my creed, abhorred by Man
But approved by Cat since time began.
Till Death shall kick at me, thundering “Scat!”
I shall hold to that, I shall hold to that.

The Statesmen

How blest the land that counts among
Her sons so many good and wise,
To execute great feats of tongue
When troubles rise.

Behold them mounting every stump
By speech our liberty to guard.
Observe their courage⁠—see them jump,
And come down hard!

“Walk up, walk up!” each cries aloud,
“And learn from me what you must do
To turn aside the thunder cloud,
The earthquake too.

“Beware the wiles of yonder quack
Who stuffs the ears of all that pass.
I⁠—I alone can show that black
Is white as grass.”

They shout through all the day and break
The silence of the night as well.
They’d make⁠—I wish they’d go and make⁠—
Of Heaven a Hell.

A advocates free silver, B
Free trade and C free banking laws.
Free board, clothes, lodging would from me
Win warm applause.

Lo, D lifts up his voice: “You see
The single tax on land would fall
On all alike.” More evenly
No tax at all.

“With paper money” bellows E
“We’ll all be rich as lords.” No doubt⁠—
And richest of the lot will be
The chap without.

As many “cures” as addle wits
Who know not what the ailment is!
Meanwhile the patient foams and spits
Like a gin fizz.

Alas, poor Body Politic,
Your fate is all too clearly read:
To be not altogether quick,
Nor very dead.

You take your exercise in squirms,
Your rest in fainting fits between.
’Tis plain that your disorder’s worms⁠—
Worms fat and lean.

Worm Capital, Worm Labor dwell
Within your maw and muscle’s scope.
Their quarrels make your life a Hell,
Your death a hope.

God send you find not such an end
To ills however sharp and huge!
God send you convalesce! God send
You vermifuge.


Scene⁠—A lawyer’s dreadful den.

Enter stall-fed citizen.


Mornin’. How-de-do?


Sir, same to you.
Called as counsel to retain you
In a case that I’ll explain you.
Sad, so sad! Heart almost broke.
Hang it! where’s my kerchief? Smoke?
Brother, sir, and I, of late,
Came into a large estate.
Brother’s⁠—h’m, ha⁠—rather queer
Sometimes tapping forehead here.
What he needs⁠—you know⁠—a “writ”⁠—
Something, eh? that will permit
Me to manage, sir, in fine,
His estate, as well as mine.
Of course he’ll storm; ’twill break, I fear,
His loving heart⁠—excuse this tear.


Have you nothing more?
All of this you said before⁠—
When last night I took your case.


Why, sir, your face
Ne’er before has met my view!


Eh? The devil! True:
My mistake⁠—it was your brother.
But you’re very like each other.

The Cynic’s Bequest

In that fair city, Ispahan,
There dwelt a problematic man,
Whose angel never was released,
Who never once let out his beast,
But kept, through all the seasons’ round,
Silence unbroken and profound.
No Prophecy, with ear applied
To key-hole of the future, tried
Successfully to catch a hint
Of what he’d do nor when begin’t;
As sternly did his past defy
Mild Retrospection’s backward eye.
Though all admired his silent ways,
The women loudest were in praise:
For ladies love those men the most
Who never, never, never boast⁠—
Who ne’er disclose their aims and ends
To naughty, naughty, naughty friends.

Yet, sooth to say, the fame outran
The merit of this doubtful man,
For taciturnity in him,
Though not a mere caprice or whim,
Was not a virtue, such as truth,
High birth, or beauty, wealth or youth.
’Twas known, indeed, throughout the span
Of Ispahan, of Gulistan⁠—
These utmost limits of the earth
Knew that the man was dumb from birth.

Unto the Sun with deep salaams
The Parsee spreads his morning palms
(A beacon blazing on a height
Warms o’er his piety by night.)
The Moslem deprecates the deed,
Cuts off the head that holds the creed,
Then reverently goes to grass,
Muttering thanks to Balaam’s Ass
For faith and learning to refute
Idolatry so dissolute!
But should a maniac dash past,
With straws in beard and hands upcast,
To him (through whom, whene’er inclined
To preach a bit to Madmankind,
The Holy Prophet speaks his mind)
Our True Believer lifts his eyes
Devoutly and his prayer applies;
But next to Solyman the Great
Reveres the idiot’s sacred state.
Small wonder then, our worthy mute
Was held in popular repute.
Had he been blind as well as mum,
Been lame as well as blind and dumb,
No bard that ever sang or soared
Could say how he had been adored.
More meagerly endowed, he drew
An homage less prodigious. True,
No soul his praises but did utter⁠—
All plied him with devotion’s butter,
But none had out⁠—’twas to their credit⁠—
The proselyting sword to spread it.
I state these truths, exactly why
The reader knows as well as I;
They’ve nothing in the world to do
With what I hope we’re coming to
If Pegasus be good enough
To move when he has stood enough.
Egad! his ribs I would examine
Had I a sharper spur than famine,
Or even with that if ’twould incline
To examine his instead of mine.
Where was I? Ah, that silent man
Who dwelt one time in Ispahan.
He had a name⁠—was known to all
As Meerza Solyman Zingall.

There lived afar in Astrabad,
A man the world agreed was mad,
So wickedly he broke his joke
Upon the heads of duller folk,
So miserly, from day to day,
He gathered up and hid away
In vaults obscure and cellars haunted
What many worthy people wanted.
A stingy man!⁠—the tradesmen’s palms
Were spread in vain: “I give no alms
Without inquiry”⁠—so he’d say,
And beat the needy duns away.
The bastinado did, ’tis true,
Persuade him, now and then, a few
Odd tens of thousands to disburse
To glut the taxman’s hungry purse,
But still, so rich he grew, his fear
Was constant that the Shah might hear.
(The Shah had heard it long ago,
And asked the taxman if ’twere so,
Who promptly answered, rather airish,
The man had long been on the parish.)
The more he feared, the more he grew
A cynic and a miser, too,
Until his bitterness and pelf
Made him a terror to himself;
Then, with a razor’s neckwise stroke,
He tartly cut his final joke.
So perished, not an hour too soon,
The wicked Muley Ben Maroon.

From Astrabad to Ispahan
At camel speed the rumor ran
That, breaking through tradition hoar,
And throwing all his kinsmen o’er,
The miser’d left his mighty store
Of gold⁠—his palaces and lands⁠—
To needy and deserving hands
(Except a penny here and there
To pay the dervishes for prayer.)
’Twas known indeed throughout the span
Of earth, and into Hindustan,
That our beloved mute was the
Residuary legatee.
The people said ’twas very well,
And each man had a tale to tell
Of how he’d had a finger in’t
By dropping many a friendly hint
At Astrabad, you see. But ah,
They feared the news might reach the Shah!

To prove the will the lawyers bore’t
Before the Kadi’s awful court,
Who nodded, when he heard it read,
Confirmingly, his drowsy head,
Nor thought, his sleepiness so great,
Himself to gobble the estate.
“I give,” the dead had writ, “my all
To Meerza Solyman Zingall
Of Ispahan. With this estate
I might quite easily create
Ten thousand ingrates, but I shun
Temptation and create but one,
In whom the whole unthankful crew
The rich man’s air that ever drew
To fat their pauper lungs I fire
With vain vicarious desire!
From foul Ingratitude’s base rout
I pick this hapless devil out,
Bestowing on him all my lands,
My treasures, camels, slaves and bands
Of wives⁠—I give him all this loot,
And throw my blessing in to boot.
Behold, all men, in this bequest
Philanthropy’s long wrongs redressed:
To speak me ill that man I dower
With fiercest will who lacks the power.
Allah il Allah! now let him bloat
With rancor till his heart’s afloat,
Unable to discharge the wave
Upon his benefactor’s grave!”

Forth in their wrath the people came
And swore it was a sin and shame
To trick their blessed mute; and each
Protested, serious of speech,
That though he’d long foreseen the worst
He’d been against it from the first.
By many means they vainly tried
The testament to set aside,
Each ready with his empty purse
To take upon himself the curse;
For they had powers of invective
Enough to make it ineffective.
The ingrates mustered, every man,
And marched in force to Ispahan
(Which had not quite accommodation)
And held a camp of indignation.

The man, this while, who never spoke⁠—
On whom had fallen this thunder-stroke
Of fortune, gave no feeling vent
Nor dropped a hint of his intent.
Whereas no power to him came
His benefactor to defame,
Some (such a length had slander gone to)
Even whispered that he didn’t want to!
But none his secret could divine;
If suffering he made no sign
Until one night as winter neared
From all his haunts he disappeared⁠—
Evanished in a doubtful blank
Like little crayfish in a bank,
Their heads retracting when you find ’em,
And pulling in their holes behind ’em.

All through the land of Gul, the stout
Young Spring is kicking Winter out.
The grass sneaks in upon the scene,
Defacing it with bottle-green.
The stumbling lamb arrives to ply
His restless tail in every eye,
Eats nasty mint to spoil his meat
And make himself unfit to eat.
Madly his throat the bulbul tears⁠—
In every grove blasphemes and swears
As the immodest rose displays
Her shameless charms a dozen ways.
Lo! now, throughout the utmost span
Of Ispahan⁠—of Gulistan⁠—
A big new book’s displayed in all
The shops and cumbers every stall.
The price is low⁠—the dealers say ’tis⁠—
And the rich are treated to it gratis.
Engraven on its foremost page
These title-words the eye engage:
“The Life of Muley Ben Maroon,
Of Astrabad⁠—Rogue, Thief, Buffoon
And Miser⁠—Liver by the Sweat
Of Better Men: A Lamponette
Composed in Rhyme and Written All
By Meerza Solyman Zingall!”

Corrected News

’Twas a maiden lady, the newspapers say,
Pious and prim and a bit gone-gray.
She slept like an angel, holy and white,
Till ten o’clock in the shank o’ the night,
When men and other wild animals prey,
And then she cried in the viewless gloom:
“There’s a man in the room, a man in the room!”
And this maiden lady, they make it appear,
Leapt out of the window, five fathom sheer!

Alas, that lying is such a sin
When newspaper men need bread and gin
And none can be had for less than a lie!
For the maiden lady a bit gone-gray
Saw the man in the room from across the way,
And leapt, not out of the window but in⁠—
Ten fathoms sheer, as I hope to die!


Jack Doe met Dick Roe, whose wife he loved,
And said: “I will get the best of him.”
So pulling a knife from his boot, he shoved
It up to the hilt in the breast of him.

Then he moved that weapon forth and back,
Enlarging the hole he had made with it,
Till the smoking liver fell out, and Jack
Merrily, merrily played with it.

Then he reached within and he seized the slack
Of the lesser bowel, and, traveling
Hither and thither, looked idly back
On that small intestine, raveling.

The wretched Richard, with many a grin
Laid on with exceeding suavity,
Curled up and died, and they ran John in
And charged him with sins of gravity.

The case was tried and a verdict found:
The jury, with great humanity,
Acquitted the prisoner on the ground
Of extemporary insanity.

Mr. Fink’s Debating Donkey

Of a person known as Peters I will humbly crave your leave
An unusual adventure into narrative to weave⁠—
Mr. William Perry Peters, of the town of Muscatel,
A public educator and an orator as well.
Mr. Peters had a weakness which, ’tis painful to relate,
Was a strong predisposition to the pleasures of debate.
He would foster disputation wheresoever he might be;
In polygonal contention none so happy was as he.
’Twas observable, however, that the exercises ran
Into monologue by Peters, that rhetorical young man.
And the Muscatelian rustics who assisted at the show,
By involuntary silence testified their overthrow⁠—
Mr. Peters, all unheedful of their silence and their grief,
Still effacing every vestige of erroneous belief.
O, he was a sore affliction to all heretics so bold
As to entertain opinions that he didn’t care to hold.

One day⁠—’twas in pursuance of a pedagogic plan
For the mental elevation of Uncultivated Man⁠—
Mr. Peters, to his pupils, in dismissing them, explained
That the Friday evening following (unless, indeed, it rained)
Would be signalized by holding in the schoolhouse a debate
Free to all who their opinions might desire to ventilate
On the question, “Which is better, as a serviceable gift,
Speech or hearing, from barbarity the human mind to lift?”
The pupils told their fathers, who, forehanded always, met
At the barroom to discuss it every evening, dry or wet.
They argued it and argued it and spat upon the stove,
And the non-committal barman on their differences throve.
And I state it as a maxim in a loosish kind of way:
You’ll have the more to back your word the less you have to say.
Public interest was lively, but one Ebenezer Fink
Of the Rancho del Jackrabbit, only seemed to sit and think.

On the memorable evening all the men of Muscatel
Came to listen to the logic and the eloquence as well⁠—
All but William Perry Peters, whose attendance there, I fear.
Was to wreak his ready rhetoric upon the public ear,
And prove (whichever side he took) that hearing wouldn’t lift
The human mind as ably as the other, greater gift.
The judges being chosen and the disputants enrolled,
The question he proceeded in extenso to unfold:
Resolved⁠—The sense of hearing lifts the mind up out of reach
Of the fogs of error better than the faculty of speech.”
This simple proposition he expounded, word by word,
Until they best understood it who least perfectly had heard.
Even the judges comprehended as he ventured to explain⁠—
The impact of a spit-ball admonishing in vain.
Beginning at a period before Creation’s morn,
He had reached the bounds of tolerance and Adam yet unborn.
As down the early centuries of pre-historic time
He tracked important principles and quoted striking rhyme,
And Whisky Bill, prosaic soul! proclaiming him a jay,
Had risen and like an earthquake, “reeled unheededly away,”
And a late lamented cat, when opportunity should serve,
Was preparing to embark upon her parabolic curve,
A noise arose outside⁠—the door was opened with a bang
And old Ebenezer Fink was heard ejaculating “G’lang!”
Straight into that assembly gravely marched without a wink
An ancient ass⁠—the property it was of Mr. Fink.
Its ears depressed and beating time to its infestive tread,
Silent through silence moved amain that stately quadruped!
It stopped before the orator, and in the lamplight thrown
Upon its tail they saw that member weighted with a stone.
Then spake old Ebenezer: “Gents, I heern o’ this debate
On w’ether v’ice or y’ears is best the mind to elevate.
Now ’yer’s a bird ken throw some light uponto that tough theme:
He has ’em both, I’m free to say, oncommonly extreme.
He wa’n’t invited for to speak, but he will not refuse
(If t’other gentleman ken wait) to exposay his views.”

Ere merriment or anger o’er amazement could prevail,
He cut the string that held the stone on that canary’s tail.
Freed from the weight, that member made a gesture of delight,
Then rose until its rigid length was horizontal quite.
With lifted head and level ears along his withers laid,
Jack sighed, refilled his lungs and then⁠—to put it mildly⁠—brayed!
He brayed until the stones were stirred in circumjacent hills,
And sleeping women rose and fled, in divers kinds of frills.
’Tis said that awful bugle-blast⁠—to make the story brief⁠—
Wafted William Perry Peters through the window, like a leaf!

Such is the tale. If anything additional occurred
’Tis not set down, though, truly, I remember to have heard
That a gentleman named Peters, now residing at Soquel,
A considerable distance from the town of Muscatel,
Is opposed to education, and to rhetoric, as well.

To My Laundress

Saponacea, wert thou not so fair
I’d curse thee for thy multitude of sins⁠—
For sending home my clothes all full of pins,
A shirt occasionally that’s a snare
And a delusion, got, the Lord knows where,
The Lord knows why⁠—a sock whose outs and ins
None know, nor where it ends nor where begins,
And fewer cuffs than ought to be my share.
But when I mark thy lilies how they grow,
And the red roses of thy ripening charms,
I bless the lovelight in thy dark eyes dreaming.
I’ll never pay thee, but I’d gladly go
Into the magic circle of thine arms,
Supple and fragrant from repeated steaming.


One thousand years I slept beneath the sod,
My sleep in 1901 beginning,
Then, by the action of some scurvy god
Who happened then to recollect my sinning,
I was revived and given another inning.
On breaking from my grave I saw a crowd⁠—
A formless multitude of men and women,
Gathered about a ruin. Clamors loud
I heard, and curses deep enough to swim in;
And, pointing at me, one said: “Let’s put him in!”
Then each turned on me with an evil look,
As in my ragged shroud I stood and shook.

“Nay, good Posterity,” I cried, “forbear!
If that’s a jail I fain would be remaining
Outside, for truly I should little care
To catch my death of cold. I’m just regaining
The life lost long ago by my disdaining
To take precautions against draughts like those
That, haply, penetrate that cracked and splitting
Old structure.” Then an aged wight arose
From a chair of state in which he had been sitting,
And with preliminary coughing, spitting
And wheezing, said: “ ’Tis not a jail, we’re sure,
Whate’er it may have been when it was newer.

“ ’Twas found two centuries ago, o’ergrown
With brush and ivy, all undoored, ungated;
And in restoring it we found a stone
Set here and there in the dilapidated
And crumbling frieze, inscribed, in antiquated
Big characters, with certain uncouth names,
Which we conclude were borne of old by awful
Rapscallions guilty of all sinful games⁠—
Vagrants engaged in purposes unlawful,
And orators less sensible than jawful.
So each ten years we add to the long row
A name, the most unworthy that we know.”

“But why,” I asked, “put mine in?” He replied:
“You look it”⁠—and the judgment pained me greatly;
Right gladly would I then and there have died,
But that I’d risen from the grave so lately.
But on examining that solemn, stately
Old ruin I remarked: “My friends, you err⁠—
The truth of this is just what I expected.
This building in its time made quite a stir.
I lived (was famous, too) when ’twas erected.
The names here first inscribed were much respected.
This is the Hall of Fame, or I’m a stork,
And this goat pasture once was called New York.”

Omnes Vanitas

Alas for ambition’s possessor!
Alas for the famous and proud!
The Isle of Manhattan’s best dresser
Is wearing a hand-me-down shroud.

The world has forgotten his glory;
The wagoner sings on his wain,
And Chauncey Depew tells a story,
And jackasses laugh in the lane.

The New “Ulalume”

The skies they were ashen and sober,
The leaves they were crisped and sere⁠—
”   ”     ”    ” withering ”   ”
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber⁠—
”  ” down ”  ” dark tarn ”  ”
In the   misty   mid  region of Weir⁠—
”  ” ghoul-haunted woodland ”  ”


Little’s the good to sit and grieve
Because the serpent tempted Eve.
Better to wipe your eyes and take
A club and go out and kill a snake.

But if you prefer, as I suspect,
To philosophize, why, then, reflect:
If the cunning rascal upon the limb
Hadn’t tempted her she’d have tempted him.


Alas, alas, for the tourist’s guide!⁠—
He turned from the beaten trail aside,
Wandered bewildered, lay down and died.

O grim is the Irony of Fate:
It switches the man of low estate
And loosens the dogs upon the great.

It lights the fireman to roast the cook;
The fisherman writhes upon the hook,
And the flirt is slain with a tender look.

The undertaker it overtakes;
It saddles the cavalier, and makes
The haughtiest butcher into steaks.

Assist me, gods, to balk the decree!
Nothing I’ll do and nothing I’ll be,
In order that nothing be done to me.

Philosopher Bimm

Republicans think Jonas Bimm
A Democrat gone mad,
And Democrats consider him
Republican and bad.

The Lout reviles him as a Dude
And gives it him right hot;
The Dude condemns his crassitude
And calls him sans culottes.

Derided as an Anglophile
By Anglophobes, forsooth,
As Anglophobe he feels, the while,
The Anglophilic tooth.

The Churchman calls him Atheist;
The Atheists, rough-shod,
Have ridden o’er him long and hissed
“The wretch believes in God!”

The Saints whom clergymen we call
Would kill him if they could;
The Sinners (scientists and all)
Complain that he is good.

All men deplore the difference
Between themselves and him,
And all devise expedients
For paining Jonas Bimm.

I too, with wild demoniac glee,
Would put out both his eyes;
For Mr. Bimm appears to me
Insufferably wise!


Beneath my window twilight made
Familiar mysteries of shade.
Faint voices from the darkening down
Were calling vaguely to the town.

Intent upon a low, far gleam
That burned upon the world’s extreme,
I sat, with short reprieve from grief,
And turned the volume, leaf by leaf,
Wherein a hand, long dead, had wrought
A million miracles of thought.
My fingers carelessly unclung
The lettered pages, and among
Them wandered witless, nor divined
The wealth in which, poor fools, they mined.
The soul that should have led their quest
Was dreaming in the level west,
Where a tall tower, stark and still,
Uplifted on a distant hill,
Stood lone and passionless to claim
Its guardian star’s returning flame.

I know not how my dream was broke,
But suddenly my spirit woke
Filled with a foolish fear to look
Upon the hand that clove the book,
Significantly pointing; next
I bent attentive to the text,
And read⁠—and as I read grew old⁠—
The mindless words: “Poor Tom’s a-cold!”

Ah me! to what a subtle touch
The brimming cup resigns its clutch
Upon the wine. Dear God, is’t writ
That hearts their overburden bear
Of bitterness though thou permit
The pranks of Chance, alurk in nooks,
And striking coward blows from books,
And dead hands reaching everywhere?

Salvini in America

Come, gentlemen⁠—your gold.
Thanks; welcome to the show,
To hear a story told
In words you do not know.

Now, great Salvini, rise
And thunder through your tears!
Aha! friends, let your eyes
Interpret to your ears.

Gods! ’tis a goodly game.
Observe his stride⁠—how grand!
When legs like his declaim
Who can misunderstand?

See how that arm goes round.
It says, as plain as day:
“I love,” “The lost is found,”
“Well met, sir,” or, “Away!”

And mark the drawing down
Of brows. How accurate
The language of that frown:
Pain, gentlemen⁠—or hate.

Those of the critic trade
Swear it is all as clear
As if his tongue were made
To fit an English ear.

Hear that Italian phrase!
Greek to your sense, ’tis true;
But shrug, expression, gaze⁠—
Well, they are Grecian too.

But it is Art! God wot
Art’s tongue to all is known.
Faith! he to whom ’twere not
Would better hold his own.

Shakespeare says act and word
Should match together true.
For what you’ve seen and heard,
How can you doubt they do?

Enchanting drama! Mark
The crowd “from pit to dome”;
One box alone is dark⁠—
The prompter stays at home.

Stupendous artist! You
Are lord of joy and woe:
We thrill if you say “Boo,”
And thrill if you say “Bo.”

Another Way

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 ’twas 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.


For Gladstone’s portrait five thousand pounds
Were paid, ’tis said, to Sir John Millais.
I cannot help thinking that such fine pay
Transcended reason’s uttermost bounds.

For it seems to me uncommonly queer
That a painted British stateman’s price
Exceeds the established value thrice
Of a living statesman over here.

To One Across the Way

When at your window radiant you’ve stood
I’ve sometimes thought⁠—forgive me if I erred⁠—
That some slight thought of me perhaps has stirred
Your heart to beat less gently than it should.
I know you beautiful; that you are good
I hope⁠—or fear⁠—I cannot choose the word,
Nor rightly suit it to the thought. I’ve heard
Reason at love’s dictation never could.
Blindly to this dilemma so I grope,
As one whose every pathway has a snare:
If you are minded in the saintly fashion
Of your pure face my passion’s without hope;
If not, alas! I equally despair,
For what to me were hope without the passion?

To a Debtor Abroad

Grief for an absent lover, husband, friend,
Is barely felt before it comes to end:
A score of early consolations serve
To modify its mouth’s dejected curve.
But woes of creditors when debtors flee
Forever swell the separating sea.
When standing on an alien shore you mark
The steady course of some intrepid bark,
How sweet to think a tear for you abides,
Not all unuseful, in the wave she rides!⁠—
That sighs for you commingle in the gale
Beneficently bellying her sail!


God said: “Let there be Man,” and from the clay
Adam came forth and, thoughtful, walked away.
The matrix whence his body was obtained,
An empty, man-shaped cavity, remained
All unregarded from that early time
Till in a recent storm it filled with slime.
Now Satan, envying the Master’s power
To make the meat himself could but devour,
Strolled to the place and, standing by the pool,
Exerted all his will to make a fool.
A miracle!⁠—from out that ancient hole
Rose Doxey, lacking nothing but a soul.
“To give him that I’ve not the power divine,”
Said Satan, sadly, “but I’ll lend him mine.”
He breathed it into him, a vapor black,
And to this day has never got it back.


“ ‘Let there be Liberty!’ God said, and, lo!
The skies were red and luminous. The glow
Struck first Columbia’s kindling mountain peaks
One hundred and eleven years ago!”

So sang a patriot whom once I saw
Descending Bunker’s holy hill. With awe
I noted that he shone with sacred light,
Like Moses with the tables of the Law.

One hundred and eleven years? O small
And paltry period compared with all
The tide of centuries that flowed and ebbed
To etch Yosemite’s divided wall!

Ah, Liberty, they sing you always young
Whose harps are in your adoration strung
(Each swears you are his countrywoman, too,
And speak no language but his mother tongue.)

And truly, lass, although with shout and horn
Man has all-hailed you from creation’s morn,
I cannot think you old⁠—I think, indeed,
You are by twenty centuries unborn.

The Passing of Shepherd

The sullen church-bell’s intermittent moan,
The dirge’s melancholy monotone,
The measured march, the drooping flags, attest
A great man’s progress to his place of rest.
Along broad avenues himself decreed
To serve his fellow men’s disputed need⁠—
Past parks he raped away from robbers’ thrift
And gave to poverty, wherein to lift
Its voice to curse the giver and the gift⁠—
Past noble structures that he reared for men
To meet in and revile him, tongue and pen,
Draws the long retinue of death to show
The fit credentials of a proper woe.

“Boss” Shepherd, you are dead. Your hand no more
Throws largess to the mobs that ramp and roar
For blood of benefactors who disdain
Their purity of purpose to explain,
Their righteous motive and their scorn of gain.
Your period of dream⁠—’twas but a breath⁠—
Is closed in the indifference of death.
Sealed in your silences, to you alike
If hands are lifted to applaud or strike,
No more to your dull, inattentive ear
Praise of to-day than curse of yesteryear.
From the same lips the honied phrases fall
That still are bitter from cascades of gall.
We note the shame; you in your depth of dark
The red-writ testimony cannot mark
On every honest cheek; your senses all
Locked, incommunicado, in your pall,
Know not who sit and blush, who stand and bawl.

“Seven Grecian cities claim great Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged his bread.”
“Neglected genius!”⁠—that is sad indeed,
But malice better would ignore than heed,
And Shepherd’s soul, we rightly may suspect,
Prayed often for the mercy of neglect
When hardly did he dare to leave his door
Without a guard behind him and before
To save him from the gentlemen that now
In cheap and easy reparation bow
Heads hypocritical above his corse
To counterfeit a grief that’s half remorse.

The pageant passes and the exile sleeps,
And well his tongue the solemn secret keeps
Of the great peace he found afar, until,
Death’s writ of extradition to fulfill,
They brought him, helpless, from that friendly zone
To be a show and pastime in his own⁠—
A final opportunity to those
Who fling with equal aim the stone and rose;
That at the living till his soul is freed,
This at the body to conceal the deed!

Lone on his hill he’s lying to await
What added honors may befit his state⁠—
The monument, the statue, or the arch
(Where knaves may come to weep and dupes to march)
Builded by clowns to brutalize the scenes
His genius beautified. To get the means,
His newly good traducers all are dunned
For contributions to the conscience fund.
If each subscribe (and pay) one cent ’twill rear
A structure taller than their tallest ear.


To Maude

Not as two errant spheres together grind
With monstrous ruin in the vast of space,
Destruction born of that malign embrace,
Their hapless peoples all to death consigned⁠—
Not so when our intangible worlds of mind,
Even mine and yours, each with its spirit race,
Of beings shadowy in form and face,
Shall drift together on some blessed wind.
No, in that marriage of gloom and light
All miracles of beauty shall be wrought,
Attesting a diviner faith than man’s;
For all my sad-eyed daughters of the night
Shall smile on your sweet seraphim of thought,
Nor any jealous god forbid the banns.

The Birth of Virtue

When, long ago, the young world circling flew
Through wider reaches of a richer blue,
New-eyed, the men and maids saw, manifest,
The thoughts untold in one another’s breast⁠—
Each wish displayed, and every passion learned;
A look revealed them as a look discerned.
But sating Time with clouds o’ercast their eyes;
Desire was hidden, and the lips framed lies.
A goddess then, emerging from the dust,
Fair Virtue rose, the daughter of Distrust.

The Scurril Press

Tom Jonesmith


I’ve slept right through
The night⁠—a rather clever thing to do.
How soundly women sleep looks at his wife.
They’re all alike. The sweetest thing in life
Is woman when she lies with folded tongue,
Its toil completed and its day-song sung.
Thump! That’s the morning paper. What a bore
That it should be delivered at the door.
There ought to be some expeditious way
To get it to one. By this long delay
The fizz gets off the news a rap is heard.
That’s Jane, the housemaid; she’s an early bird;
She’s brought it to the bedroom door, good soul.
Gets up and takes it in. Upon the whole
The system’s not so bad a one. What’s here?
Gad! if they’ve not got after⁠—listen dear,
To sleeping wife⁠—young Gastrotheos! Well,
If Freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell
She’ll shriek again⁠—with laughter⁠—seeing how
They treated Gast. with her. Yet I’ll allow
’Tis right if he goes dining at The Pup
With Mrs. Thing.


Briskly, waking up.

With her? The hussy! Yes, it serves him right.


Continuing to “seek the light.”

What’s this about old Impycu? That’s good!
Grip⁠—that’s the funny man⁠—says Impy should
Be used as a decoy in shooting tramps.
I knew old Impy when he had the “stamps”
To buy us all out, and he wasn’t then
So bad a chap to have about. Grip’s pen
Is just a tickler!⁠—and the world, no doubt,
Is better with it than it was without.
What? thirteen ladies⁠—Jumping Jove! we know
Them nearly all!⁠—who gamble at a low
And very shocking game of cards called “draw”!
O cracky, how they’ll squirm! ha-ha! haw-haw!
Let’s see what else wife snores. Well, I’ll be blest!
A woman doesn’t understand a jest.
Hello! What, what? the scurvy wretch proceeds
To take a fling at me, condemn him! Reads:
Tom Jonesmith⁠—my name’s Thomas, vulgar cad!⁠—
Of the new Shavings Bank⁠—the man’s gone mad!
That’s libelous; I’ll have him up for that⁠—
Has had his corns cut. Devil take the rat!
What business is’t of his, I’d like to know?
He didn’t have to cut them. Gods! what low
And scurril things our papers have become!
You skim their contents and you get but scum.
Here, Mary, waking wife I’ve been attacked
In this vile sheet. By Jove, it is a fact!


Reading It.

How wicked! Who do you
Suppose ’twas wrote it?


Who? why, who
But Grip, the so-called funny man⁠—he wrote
Me up because I’d not discount his note.

Blushes like sunset at the hideous lie⁠—
He’ll think of one that’s better by and by;
Throws down the paper on the floor, and treads
A merry measure on it; kicks the shreds
And patches all about the room, and still
Performs his jig with unabated will.

Warbling sweetly, like an Elfland horn.

Dear, do be careful of that second corn.


Noting some great man’s composition vile:
A head of wisdom and a heart of guile,
A will to conquer and a soul to dare,
Joined to the manners of a dancing bear,
Fools unaccustomed to the wide survey
Of various Nature’s compensating sway;
Untaught to separate the wheat and chaff,
To praise the one and at the other laugh;
Yearn all in vain and impotently seek
Some flawless hero upon whom to wreak
The sycophantic worship of the weak.

Not so the wise, from superstition free,
Who find small pleasure in the supple knee;
Quick to discriminate ’twixt good and bad,
And willing in the king to find the cad⁠—
No reason seen why genius and conceit,
The power to dazzle and the will to cheat,
The love of daring and the love of gin,
Should not dwell, peaceful, in a single skin.

To such, great Stanley, you’re a hero still,
Despite your cradling in a tub for swill.
Your peasant manners can’t efface the mark
Of light you drew across the Land of Dark.
In you the extremes of character are wed,
To serve the quick and vilify the dead.
Hero and clown! O, man of many sides,
The Muse of Truth adores you and derides,
And sheds, impartial, the revealing ray
Upon your head of gold and feet of clay.

One of the Unfair Sex

She stood at the ticket-seller’s
Serenely removing her glove,
While hundreds of strugglers and yellers,
And some that were good at a shove,
Were clustered behind her like bats in
a cave and dissembling their love.

At night she still stood at that window
Endeavoring her money to reach;
The crowds in her rear, how they sinned⁠—O,
How dreadfully sinned in their speech!
Ten miles and a fraction extended their
line, the historians teach.

She stands there to-day⁠—legislation
Has failed to remove her. The trains
No longer pull up at that station;
And over the ghastly remains
Of the army that waited and died of old
age fall the snows and the rains.

The Lord’s Prayer on a Coin

Upon this quarter-eagle’s leveled face,
The Lord’s Prayer, legibly inscribed, I trace.
“Our Father which”⁠—the pronoun there is funny,
And shows the scribe to have addressed the money⁠—
“Which art in Heaven”⁠—an error this, no doubt:
The preposition should be stricken out.
Needless to quote; I only have designed
To praise the frankness of the pious mind
Which thought it natural and right to join,
With rare significancy, prayer and coin.

An Absurdum

Congressman Rixey, you’re a statesman⁠—you
Yourself will hardly say that you are not;
And yet I know not what you hope to do
For those Confederates whose luckless lot
Is to have lived through storms of Yankee shot
To this our day. They draw their breath, indeed,
But from the Government no cent of what
So admirably serves your nobler need.
You work for it? Why, that all cavilers concede.

You’d call these “rebels” to the Soldiers’ Homes
On equal terms with persons whom they fought!
Whereat the “truly loyal” statesman foams
At the loud mouth of him. But that is naught⁠—
He foams, not for he must, but for he ought:
For the Poll-patriot’s emotions flow
By taking (with much else of value) thought.
His feelings, if he have them, never blow
His cooling coal of anger to a brighter glow.

Well, well, sir, even the Devil may be right
Through ignorance or accident. ’Tis said
We’re sometimes dazzled with too great a light.
In which the blind, with customary tread
(And by a small, unblinking puppy led)
Walk prosperous courses to appointed goals.
And so your critics, though without a head
Among them⁠—eyeless, therefore, as the moles⁠—
May wiser be than you, who damn their little souls!

If of two aged Southern gentlemen
Of equal need and worth, the one that tried
To cook the country’s goose⁠—or say its hen⁠—
Be blest with all the cheer we can provide,
And which to t’other sternly is denied
Because he didn’t, it will seem right queer.
The gods are logical and may deride.
Respect the Southern veteran, but fear
The laughter of Olympus sounding loud and clear!

Saith the Czar

My people come to me and make their moan:
“We starve, your Majesty⁠—give us a stone.”
That’s flat rebellion!⁠—how the devil dare
They starve right in my capital? Their prayer
For something in their bellies I will meet
With that which I’ll not trouble them to eat.
They ask for greater freedom. No, indeed⁠—
What happened to my ancestor who freed
The serfs? His grateful subjects duly flung
Something that spoke to him without a tongue.
So he was sacrificed for Freedom’s sake,
And gathered to his fathers with a rake.
I from Autocracy my people free?
Ah, would to Heaven they could deliver me!

The Royal Jester

Once on a time, so ancient poets sing,
There reigned in Godknowswhere a certain king.
So great a monarch ne’er before was seen:
He was a hero, even to his queen,
In whose respect he held so high a place
That none was higher⁠—nay, not even the ace.
He was so just his parliament declared
Those subjects happy whom his laws had spared;
So wise that none of the debating throng
Had ever lived to prove him in the wrong;
So good that Crime his anger never feared,
And Beauty boldly plucked him by the beard;
So brave that if his army got a beating
None dared to face him when he was retreating.

This monarch kept a Fool to make his mirth,
And loved him tenderly despite his worth.
Prompted by what caprice I cannot say,
He called the Fool before the throne one day
And to that minion seriously said:
“I’ll abdicate, and you shall reign instead,
While I, attired in motley, will make sport
To entertain your Majesty and Court.”

’Twas done and the Fool governed. He decreed
The time of harvest and the time of seed;
Ordered the rains and made the weather clear,
And had a famine every second year;
Altered the calendar to suit his freak,
Ordaining six whole holidays a week;
Religious creeds and sacred books prepared;
Made war when angry and made peace when scared.
New taxes he imposed; new laws he made;
Drowned those who broke them, who observed them, flayed.
In short, he ruled so well that all who’d not
Been starved, decapitated, hanged or shot
Made the whole country with his praises ring,
Declaring he was every inch a king;
And the High Priest averred ’twas very odd
If one so competent were not a god.

Meantime, his master, now in motley clad,
Wore such a visage, woeful, wan and sad,
That some condoled with him as with a brother
Who, having lost a wife, had got another.
Others, mistaking his profession, often
Approached him to be measured for a coffin.
For years this highborn Jester never broke
The silence⁠—he was pondering a joke.
At last, one day, in cap-and-bells arrayed,
He strode into the Council and displayed
A long, bright smile, that glittered in the gloom
Like a gilt epitaph within a tomb.
Posing his bauble like a leader’s staff,
To give the signal when (and why) to laugh,
He brought it down with peremptory stroke
And simultaneously cracked his joke!

I can’t repeat it, friends. I ne’er could school
Myself to quote from any other fool:
A jest, if it were worse than mine, would start
My tears; if better, it would break my heart.
So, if you please, I’ll hold you but to state
That royal Jester’s melancholy fate.

The insulted nation, so the story goes,
Rose as one man⁠—the very dead arose,
Springing indignant from the riven tomb,
And babes unborn leapt swearing from the womb!
All to the Council Chamber clamoring went,
By rage distracted and on vengeance bent.
In that vast hall, in due disorder laid,
The tools of legislation were displayed,
And the wild populace, its wrath to sate,
Seized them and heaved them at the Jester’s pate.
Mountains of writing paper; pools and seas
Of ink, awaiting, to become decrees,
Royal approval⁠—and the same in stacks
Lay ready for attachment, backed with wax;
Pens to make laws, erasers to amend them;
With mucilage convenient to extend them;
Scissors for limiting their application,
Trash-baskets to repeal all legislation⁠—
These, flung as missiles till the air was dense,
Were most offensive weapons of offense,
And by their aid the man was nigh destroyed.
They ne’er had been so harmlessly employed.
Whelmed underneath a load of legal cap,
His mouth regurgitating ink on tap,
His eyelids mucilaginously sealed,
His fertile head by scissors made to yield
Abundant harvestage of ears, his pelt,
In every wrinkle and on every welt,
Quickset with pencil-points from feet to gills
And thickly studded with a pride of quills,
The royal Jester in the dreadful strife
Was made (in short) an editor for life!

An idle tale, and yet a moral lurks
In this as plainly as in greater works.
I shall not give it birth: one moral here
Would die of loneliness within a year.

A Career in Letters

When Liberverm resigned the chair
Of This or That in college, where
For two decades he had gorged his brain
With more than it could well contain,
In order to relieve the stress
He took to writing for the press.
Then Pondronummus said, “I’ll help
This mine of talent to devel’p:”
And straightway bought with coin and credit
The Thundergust for him to edit.

The great man seized the pen and ink
And wrote so hard he couldn’t think;
Ideas grew beneath his fist
And flew like falcons from his wrist.
His pen shot sparks all kinds of ways
Till all the rivers were ablaze,
And where the coruscations fell
Men uttered words I dare not spell.

Eftsoons with corrugated brow,
Wet towels bound about his pow,
Locked legs and failing appetite,
He thought so hard he couldn’t write.
His soaring fancies, chickenwise,
Came home to roost and wouldn’t rise.
With dimmer light and milder heat
His goose-quill staggered o’er the sheet,
Then dragged, then stopped; the finish came⁠—
He couldn’t even write his name.
The Thundergust in three short weeks
Had risen, roared, and split its cheeks.
Said Pondronummus, “How unjust!
The storm I raised has laid my dust!”

When, Moneybagger, you have aught
Invested in a vein of thought,
Be sure you’ve purchased not, instead,
That salted claim, a bookworm’s head.

The Following Pair

O very remarkable mortal,
What food is engaging your jaws
And staining with amber their portal?
“It’s ’baccy I chaws.”

And why do you sway in your walking,
To right and left many degrees,
And hitch up your trousers when talking?
“I follers the seas.”

Great indolent shark in the rollers,
Is “ ’baccy,” too, one of your faults?⁠—
You, too, display maculate molars.
“I dines upon salts.”

Strange diet!⁠—intestinal pain it
Is commonly given to nip.
And how can you ever obtain it?
“I follers the ship.”

Political Economy

“I beg you to note,” said a Man to a Goose,
As he plucked from her bosom the plumage all loose,
“That pillows and cushions of feathers, and beds
As warm as maids’ hearts and as soft as their heads,
Increase of life’s comforts the general sum⁠—
Which raises the standard of living.” “Come, come,”
The Goose said, impatiently, “tell me or cease,
How that is of any advantage to geese.”
“What, what!” said the man⁠—“you are very obtuse!
Consumption no profit to those who produce?
No good to accrue to Supply from a grand
Progressive expansion, all round, of Demand?
Luxurious habits no benefit bring
To those who purvey the luxurious thing?
Consider, I pray you, my friend, how the growth
Of luxury promises⁠—” “Promises,” quoth
The sufferer, “what?⁠—to what course is it pledged
To pay me for being so often defledged?”
“Accustomed”⁠—this notion the plucker expressed
As he ripped out a handful of down from her breast⁠—
“To one kind of luxury, people soon yearn
For others and ever for others in turn.
And the man who to-night on your feathers will rest,
His mutton or bacon or beef to digest,
His hunger to-morrow will wish to assuage
With goose and a dressing of onions and sage.”

The Unpardonable Sin

I reckon that ye never knew,
That dandy slugger, Tom Carew.
He had a touch as light an’ free
As that of any honey-bee;
But where it lit there wasn’t much
To jestify another touch.
O, what a Sunday-school it was
To watch him puttin’ up his paws
An’ roominate upon their heft⁠—
Particular his holy left!
Tom was my style⁠—that’s all I say;
Some others may be equal gay.
What’s come of him? Dunno, I’m sure;
He’s dead⁠—which make his fate obscure.
I only started in to clear
One vital p’int in his career,
Which is to say⁠—afore he died
He soiled his erming mighty snide.
Ye see he took to politics
And learnt them statesmen-fellers’ tricks;
Pulled wires, wore stovepipe hats, used scent,
Just like he was the President;
Went to the Legislater; spoke
Right out agin the British yoke⁠—
But that was right. He let his hair
Grow long to qualify for Mayor,
An’ once or twice he poked his snoot
In Congress like a low galoot!
It had to come⁠—no gent can hope
To wrastle God agin the rope.
Tom went from bad to wuss. Being dead,
I s’pose it oughtn’t to be said,
For sech inikities as flow
From politics ain’t fit to know.
But, if you think it’s actin’ white
To tell it⁠—Thomas throwed a fight!

Industrial Discontent

As time rolled on the whole world came to be
A desolation and a darksome curse;
And someone said: “The changes that you see
In the fair frame of things, from bad to worse,
Are wrought by strikes. The sun withdrew his glimmer
Because the moon assisted with her shimmer.

“Then, when poor Luna, straining very hard,
Doubled her light to serve a darkling world,
He called her ‘scab,’ and meanly would retard
Her rising: and at last the villain hurled
A heavy beam which knocked her o’er the Lion
Into the nebula of great O’Ryan.

“The planets all had struck some time before,
Demanding what they said were equal rights:
Some pointing out that others had far more
That a fair dividend of satellites.
So all went out⁠—but those the best provided,
If they had dared, would rather have abided.

“The stars struck too⁠—I think it was because
The comets had more liberty than they,
And were not bound by any hampering laws,
While they were fixed; and there are those who say
The comets’ tresses nettled poor Antares,
A bald old orb, whose disposition varies.

“The earth’s the only one that isn’t in
The movement⁠—I suppose because she’s watched
With horror and disgust how her fair skin
Her pranking parasites have fouled and blotched
With blood and grease in every labor riot,
When seeing any purse or throat to fly at.”

Tempora Mutantur

“The world is dull,” I cried in my despair:
“Its myths and fables are no longer fair.

“Roll back thy centuries, O Father Time:
To Greece transport me in her golden prime.

“Give back the beautiful old gods again⁠—
The sportive Nymphs, the Dryad’s jocund train,

“Pan piping on his reeds, the Naiades,
The Sirens singing by the sleepy seas.

“Nay, show me but a Gorgon and I’ll dare
To lift mine eyes to her peculiar hair

“(The fatal horrors of her snaky pate,
That stiffen men into a stony state)

“And die⁠—becoming, as my spirit flies,
A noble statue of myself, life size.”

Straight as I spoke I heard the voice of Fate:
“Look up, my lad, the Gorgon sisters wait.”

Lifting my eyes, I saw Medusa stand,
Stheno, Euryale, on either hand.

I gazed unpetrified and unappalled⁠—
The girls had aged and were entirely bald!

A False Alarm

When Gertrude Atherton pronounced the ladies
Of fair Manhattan hideous as Hades⁠—
In eyes no splendor, and in cheeks no roses,
And, O ye godlings! rudimentary noses⁠—
To pass a bad half-hour before their glasses,
Straight to their dressing-rooms ran dames and lasses,
Who, still dissenting from her curst appraisal,
Grew more pugnacious, but not less pugnasal.
Ladies, be calm: there’s nothing to distress you⁠—
The Sacred Englishman will rise and bless you.
No noses⁠—none to speak of⁠—is alarming,
But that you can’t speak through them⁠—that is charming!


Sleep fell upon my senses and I dreamed
Long years had circled since my life had fled.
The world was different, and all things seemed
Remote and strange, like noises to the dead.
And one great Voice there was; and someone said:
“Posterity is speaking⁠—rightly deemed
Infallible:” and so I gave attention,
Hoping Posterity my name would mention.

“Illustrious Spirit,” said the Voice, “appear!
While we confirm eternally thy fame,
Before our dread tribunal answer, here,
Why do no statues celebrate thy name,
No monuments thy services proclaim?
Why did not thy contemporaries rear
To thee some schoolhouse or memorial college?
It looks almighty queer, you must acknowledge.”

Up spake I hotly: “That is where you err!”
But someone thundered in my ear: “You shan’t
Be interrupting these proceedings, sir;
The question was addressed to General Grant.”
Some other things were spoken which I can’t
Distinctly now recall, but I infer,
By certain flushings of my cheeks and forehead,
Posterity’s environment is torrid.

Then heard I (this was in a dream, remark)
Another Voice, clear, comfortable, strong,
As Grant’s great shade, replying from the dark,
Said in a tone that rang the earth along,
And thrilled the senses of the judges’ throng:
“I’d rather you would question why, in park
And street, my monuments were not erected
Than why they were.” Then, waking, I reflected.



I had a dream. A throng of people sped
Hard after something that before them fled⁠—
A ball that leapt and bounded. I pursued,
Kicking, like all the rest, at Bryan’s head.

Ah, God, it was indeed a ghastly play!
That noble head⁠—its locks in disarray
Streaming like feathers of a shuttlecock⁠—
Urged with resounding buffets on its way.

Ever the foremost in the chase accurst
Ran Two who in his life, too, had been first
Among his followers. “Behold,” I cried,
“Those twins of constancy, the Devil and Hearst!”

Smitten in spirit with a sudden shame.
And from intemperate exertion lame,
I sprang, and skyward with a parting kick
Hoisted that mellow bulb, and left the game.

The New Enoch Arden

Enoch Arden was an able
Seaman; hear of his mishap⁠—
Not in wild mendacious fable,
As ’twas told by t’other chap;

For I hold it is a youthful
Indiscretion to tell lies,
And the writer that is truthful
Has the reader that is wise.

Enoch Arden, able seaman,
On an isle was cast away,
And before he was a free man
Time had touched him up with gray.

Long he searched the fair horizon,
Seated on a mountain top;
Vessel ne’er he set his eyes on
That would undertake to stop.

Seeing that his sight was growing
Dim and dimmer day by day,
Enoch said he must be going.
So he rose and went away⁠—

Went away and so continued
Till he lost his lonely isle:
Mr. Arden was so sinewed
He could row for many a mile.

Compass he had not, nor sextant,
To direct him o’er the sea:
Ere ’twas known that he was extant,
At his boyhood’s home was he.

When he saw the hills and hollows
And the streets he could but know,
He gave utterance as follows
To the sentiments below:

“Blast my tarry toplights! (shiver,
Too, my timbers!) but, I say,
W’at a larruk to diskiver,
That I’ve lost my blessed way!

“W’at, alas, would be my bloomin’
Fate if Philip now I see,
Which I lammed?⁠—or my old ’oman,
Which has frequent basted me?”

All the landscape swam around him
At the thought of such a lot:
In a swoon his Annie found him
And conveyed him to her cot.

’Twas the very house, the garden,
Where their honeymoon was passed:
’Twas the place where Mrs. Arden
Would have mourned him to the last.

Ah, what grief she’d known without him!
Now what tears of joy she shed!
Enoch Arden looked about him:
“Shanghaied!”⁠—that was all he said.


Two bodies are lying in Phoenix Park,
Grim and bloody and stiff and stark,
And a Land League man with averted eye
Crosses himself as he hurries by.
And he says to his conscience under his breath:
“I have had no hand in this deed of death.”

A Fenian, making a circuit wide
And passing them by on the other side,
Shudders and crosses himself and cries:
“Who says that I did it, he lies, he lies!”

Gingerly stepping across the gore,
Pat Satan comes after the two before,
Makes, in a solemnly comical way,
The sign of the cross and is heard to say:
“O dear, what a terrible sight to see,
For babes like them and a saint like me!”


An Average

I ne’er could be entirely fond
Of any maiden who’s a blonde,
And no brunette that e’er I saw
My whole devotion e’er could draw.

Yet sure no girl was ever made
Just half of light and half of shade.
And so, this happy mean to get,
I love a blonde and a brunette.


From pride, joy, hate, greed, melancholy⁠—
From any kind of vice, or folly,
Bias, propensity or passion
That is in prevalence and fashion,
Save one, the sufferer or lover
May, by the grace of God, recover.
Alone that spiritual tetter,
The zeal to make creation better,
Glows still immedicably warmer.
Who knows of a reformed reformer?

The Pun

Hail, peerless Pun! thou last and best,
Most rare and excellent bequest
Of dying idiot to the wit
He died of, rat-like, in a pit!

Thyself disguised, in many a way
Thou let’st thy sudden splendor play,
Adorning all where’er it turns,
As the revealing bull’s-eye burns
Of the dim thief, and plays its trick
Upon the lock he means to pick.

Yet sometimes, too, thou dost appear
As boldly as a brigadier
Tricked out with marks and signs, all o’er
Of rank, brigade, division, corps,
To show by every means he can
An officer is not a man;
Or naked, with a lordly swagger,
Proud as a cur without a wagger,
Who says: “See simple worth prevail⁠—
All dog, sir⁠—not a bit of tail!”
’Tis then men give thee loudest welcome,
As if thou wert a soul from Hell come.

O obvious Pun! thou hast the grace
Of skeleton clock without a case⁠—
With all its boweling displayed,
And all its organs on parade.

Dear Pun, thou’rt common ground of bliss,
Where Punch and I can meet and kiss;
Than thee my wit can stoop no lower⁠—
No higher his does ever soar.

To Nanine

Dear, if I never saw your face again;
If all the music of your voice were mute
As that of a forlorn and broken lute;
If only in my dreams I might attain
The benediction of your touch, how vain
Were Faith to justify the old pursuit
Of happiness, or Reason to confute
The pessimist philosophy of pain.
Yet Love not altogether is unwise,
For still the wind would murmur in the corn,
And still the sun would splendor all the mere;
And I⁠—I could not, dearest, choose but hear
Your voice upon the breeze and see your eyes
Shine in the glory of the summer morn.

Vice Versa

Down in the state of Maine, the story goes,
A woman, to secure a lapsing pension,
Married a soldier⁠—though the good Lord knows
That very common act scarce takes attention.
What makes it worthy to be writ and read⁠—
The man she married had been nine hours dead!

Now, marrying a corpse is not an act
Familiar to our daily observation,
And so I crave her pardon if the fact
Suggests this interesting speculation:
Should some mischance restore the man to life
Would she be then a widow, or a wife?

Let casuists contest the point; I’m not
Disposed to grapple with so great a matter.
’Twould tie my thinker in a double knot
And drive me staring mad as any hatter⁠—
Though I submit that hatters are, in fact,
Sane, and all other human beings cracked.

Small thought have I of Destiny or Chance;
Luck seems to me the same thing as Intention;
In metaphysics I could ne’er advance,
And think it of the Devil’s own invention.
Enough of joy to know: Though when I wed
I must be married, yet I may be dead.

A Blacklist

“Resolved that we will post,” the tradesmen say,
“All names of debtors who do never pay.”
“Whose shall be first?” inquires the ready scribe⁠—
“Who are the chiefs of the marauding tribe?”
Lo! high Parnassus, lifting from the plain,
Upon his hoary peak, a noble fane!
Within that temple all the names are scrolled
Of village bards, upon a slab of gold;
To that bad eminence, my friend, aspire,
And copy thou the Roll of Fame, entire.
Yet not to total shame those names devote,
But add in mercy this explaining note:
“These cheat because the law makes theft a crime,
And they obey all laws but laws of rhyme.”


“Authority, authority!” they shout
Whose minds, not large enough to hold a doubt,
Some chance opinion ever entertain,
By dogma billeted upon their brain.
“Ha!” they exclaim with choreatic glee,
“Here’s Dabster if you won’t give in to me⁠—
Dabster, sir, Dabster, to whom all men look
With reverence!” The fellow wrote a book.
It matters not that many another wight
Has thought more deeply, could more wisely write
On t’ other side⁠—that you yourself possess
Knowledge where Dabster did not badly guess.
God help you if ambitious to persuade
The fools who take opinion ready-made
And “recognize authorities.” Be sure
No tittle of their folly they’ll abjure
For all that you can say. But write it down,
Publish and die and get a great renown⁠—
Faith! how they’ll snap it up, misread, misquote,
Swear that they had a hand in all you wrote,
And ride your fame like monkeys on a goat!

The Psoriad

The King of Scotland, years and years ago,
Convened his courtiers in a gallant row
And thus addressed them:
“Gentle sirs, from you
Abundant counsel I have had, and true:
What laws to make to serve the public weal;
What laws of Nature’s making to repeal;
What old religion is the only true one,
And what the greater merit of some new one;
What friends of yours my favor have forgot;
Which of your enemies against me plot.
In harvests ample to augment my treasures,
Behold the fruits of your sagacious measures!
The punctual planets, to their periods just,
Attest your wisdom and approve my trust.
Lo! the reward your faith and wisdom bring:
The grateful placemen bless their useful king!
But while you quaff the nectar of my favor
I mean somewhat to modify its flavor
By just infusing a peculiar dash
Of tonic bitter in the calabash.
And should you, too abstemious, disdain it,
Egad! I’ll hold your noses till you drain it!

“You know, you dogs, your master long has felt
A keen distemper in the royal pelt⁠—
A testy, superficial irritation,
Brought home, I fancy, from some foreign nation.
For this a thousand simples you’ve prescribed⁠—
Unguents external, draughts to be imbibed.
You’ve plundered Scotland of its plants, the seas
You’ve ravished, and despoiled the Hebrides
To brew me remedies which, in probation,
Were sovereign only in their application.
In vain, and eke in pain, have I applied
Your flattering unctions to my soul and hide:
Physic and hope have been my daily food⁠—
I’ve swallowed treacle by the holy rood!

“Your wisdom which sufficed to guide the year
And tame the seasons in their mad career,
When set to higher purposes has failed me
And added anguish to the ills that ailed me.
Nor that alone, but each ambitious leech
His rivals’ skill has labored to impeach
By hints equivocal in secret speech.
For years, to conquer our respective broils,
We’ve plied each other with pacific oils
In vain: your turbulence is unallayed,
My flame unquenched; your rioting unstayed;
My life so wretched from your strife to save it
That death were welcome did I dare to brave it.
With zeal inspired by your intemperate pranks,
My subjects muster in contending ranks.
Those fling their banners to the startled breeze
To champion some royal ointment; these
The standard of some royal purge display
And ’neath that ensign wage a wasteful fray!
Brave tongues are thundering from sea to sea,
Torrents of sweat roll reeking o’er the lea!
My people perish in their martial fear,
And rival bagpipes cleave the royal ear!

“Now, caitiffs, tremble, for this very hour
Your injured sovereign shall assert his power!
Behold this lotion, carefully compound
Of all the poisons you for me have found⁠—
Of biting washes such as tan the skin,
And drastic drinks to vex the parts within.
What aggravates an ailment will produce⁠—
I mean to rub you with this dreadful juice!
Divided counsels you no more shall hatch⁠—
At last you shall unanimously scratch.
Kneel, villains, kneel, and doff your shirts⁠—God bless us!
They’ll seem, when you resume them, robes of Nessus!”

The sovereign ceased, and, sealing what he spoke,
From Arthur’s Seat1 confirming thunders broke.
The conscious culprits, to their fate resigned,
Sank to their knees, all piously inclined.
This act, from high Ben Lomond where she floats,
The thrifty goddess, Caledonia, notes.
Glibly as nimble sixpence, down she tilts
Headlong, and ravishes away their kilts,
Tears off each plaid and all their shirts discloses,
Removes each shirt and their broad backs exposes.
The king advanced⁠—then cursing fled amain,
Dashing the phial to the stony plain
(Where’t straight became a fountain brimming o’er,
Whence Father Tweed derives his liquid store)
For lo! already on each back sans stitch
The red sign manual of the Rosy Witch!


When lion and lamb have together lain down
Spectators cry out, all in chorus:
“The lamb doesn’t shrink nor the lion frown⁠—
A miracle’s working before us!”

But ’tis patent why Hot-head his wrath holds in,
And Faint-heart her terror and loathing;
For the one’s but an ass in a lion’s skin,
The other a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


The Superintendent of an Almshouse. A Pauper.


So you’re unthankful⁠—you’ll not eat the bird?
You sit about the place all day and gird.
I understand you’ll not attend the ball
That’s to be given to-night in Pauper Hall.


Why, that is true, precisely as you’ve heard:
I have no teeth and I will eat no bird.


Ah! see how good is Providence. Because
Of teeth He has denuded both your jaws
The fowl’s made tender; you can overcome it
By suction; or at least⁠—well, you can gum it,
Confirming thus the dictum of the preachers
That Providence is good to all His creatures⁠—
Turkeys excepted. Come, ungrateful friend,
If our Thanksgiving dinner you’ll attend
You shall say grace⁠—ask God to bless at least
The soft and liquid portions of the feast.


Without those teeth my speech is rather thick⁠—
He’ll hardly understand Gum Arabic.
No, I’ll not dine to-day. As to the ball,
’Tis known to you that I’ve no legs at all.
I had the gout⁠—hereditary; so,
As it could not be cornered in my toe
They cut my legs off in the fond belief
That shortening me would make my anguish brief.
Lacking my legs I could not prosecute
With any good advantage a pursuit;
And so, because my father chose to court
Heaven’s favor with his ortolans and Port
(Thanksgiving every day!) the Lord supplied
Saws for my legs, an almshouse for my pride
And, once a year, a bird for my inside.
No, I’ll not dance⁠—my light fantastic toe
Took to its heels some twenty years ago.
Some small repairs would be required for putting
My body on a saltatory footing.


O the legless man’s an unhappy chap⁠—
Tum-hi, tum-hi, tum-he o’haddy.
The favors o’ fortune fall not in his lap⁠—
Tum-hi, tum-heedle-do hum.
The plums of office avoid his plate
No matter how much he may stump the State⁠—
Tum-hi, ho-heeee.
The grass grows never beneath his feet,
But he cannot hope to make both ends meet⁠—
With a gleeless eye and a somber heart,
He plays the role of his mortal part:
Wholly himself he can never be.
O, a soleless corporation is he!


The chapel bell is calling, thankless friend,
Balls you may not, but church you shall, attend.
Some recognition cannot be denied
To the great mercy that has turned aside
The sword of death from us and let it fall
Upon the people’s necks in Montreal;
That spared our city, steeple, roof and dome,
And drowned the Texans out of house and home;
Blessed all our continent with peace, to flood
The Balkan with a cataclysm of blood.
Compared with blessings of so high degree,
Your private woes look mighty small⁠—to me.


Daughter of God! Audacity divine⁠—
Of clowns the terror and of brains the sign⁠—
Not thou the inspirer of the rushing fool,
Not thine of idiots the vocal drool:
Thy bastard sister of the brow of brass,
Presumption, actuates the charging ass.
Sky-born Audacity! of thee who sings
Should strike with freer hand than mine the strings;
The notes should mount on pinions true and strong,
For thou, the subject shouldst sustain the song,
Till angels lean from Heaven, a breathless throng!
Alas! with reeling heads and wavering tails,
They (notes, not angels) drop and the hymn fails;
The minstrel’s tender fingers and his thumbs
Are torn to rags upon the lyre he strums.
Have done! the lofty thesis makes demand
For stronger voices and a harder hand⁠—
Night-howling apes to make the notes aspire,
And Poet Riley’s fist to slug the rebel wire!

The God’s View-Point

Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The wisest and the best of men,
Betook him to the place where sat
With folded feet upon a mat
Of precious stones beneath a palm,
In sweet and everlasting calm,
That ancient and immortal gent,
The God of Rational Content.
As tranquil and unmoved as Fate,
The deity reposed in state,
With palm to palm and sole to sole,
And beaded breast and beetling jowl,
And belly spread upon his thighs,
And costly diamonds for eyes.
As Chunder Sen approached and knelt
To show the reverence he felt;
Then beat his head upon the sod
To prove his fealty to the god;
And then by gestures signified
The other sentiments inside;
The god’s right eye (as Chunder Sen,
The wisest and the best of men,
Half-fancied) grew by just a thought
More narrow than it truly ought.
Yet still that prince of devotees,
Persistent upon bended knees
And elbows bored into the earth,
Declared the god’s exceeding worth,
And begged his favor. Then at last,
Within that cavernous and vast
Thoracic space was heard a sound
Like that of water underground⁠—
A gurgling note that found a vent
At mouth of that Immortal Gent
In such a chuckle as no ear
Had e’er been privileged to hear!

Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The wisest, greatest, best of men,
Heard with a natural surprise
That mighty midriff improvise.
And greater yet the marvel was
When from between those massive jaws
Fell words to make the views more plain
The god was pleased to entertain:
“Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,”
So ran the rede in speech of men⁠—
“Foremost of mortals in assent
To creed of Rational Content,
Why come you here to impetrate
A blessing on your scurvy pate?
Can you not rationally be
Content without disturbing me?
Can you not take a hint⁠—a wink⁠—
Of what of all this rot I think?
Is laughter lost upon you quite,
To check you in your pious rite?
What! know you not we gods protest
That all religion is a jest?
You take me seriously?⁠—you
About me make a great ado
(When I but wish to be alone)
With attitudes supine and prone,
With genuflections and with prayers,
And putting on of solemn airs,
To draw my mind from the survey
Of Rational Content away!
Learn once for all, if learn you can,
This truth, significant to man:
A pious person is by odds
The one most hateful to the gods.”

Then stretching forth his great right hand,
Which shadowed all that sunny land,
That deity bestowed a touch
Which Chunder Sen not overmuch
Enjoyed⁠—a touch divine that made
The sufferer hear stars! They played
And sang as on Creation’s morn
When spheric harmony was born.

Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The most astonished man of men,
Fell straight asleep, and when he woke
The deity nor moved nor spoke,
But sat beneath that ancient palm
In sweet and everlasting calm.

The Aesthetes

The lily cranks, the lily cranks,
The loppy, loony lasses!
They multiply in rising ranks
To execute their solemn pranks,
They moon along in masses.
Blow, sweet lily, in the shade! O,
Sunflower decorate the dado!

The maiden ass, the maiden ass,
The tall and tailless jenny!
In limp attire as green as grass,
She stands, a monumental brass,
The one of one too many.
Blow, sweet lily, in the shade! O,
Sunflower decorate the dado!


With Mine Own Petard

Time was the local poets sang their songs
Beneath their breath in terror of the thongs
I snapped about their shins. Though mild the stroke
Bards, like the conies, are “a feeble folk,”
Fearing all noises but the one they make
Themselves⁠—at which all other mortals quake.
Now from their cracked and disobedient throats,
Like rats from sewers scampering, their notes
Pour forth to move, where’er the season serves,
If not our legs to dance, at least our nerves;
As once a ram’s-horn solo maddened all
The sober-minded stones in Jerich’s wall.
A year’s exemption from the critic’s curse
Mends the bard’s courage but impairs his verse.
Thus poolside frogs, when croaking in the night,
Are frayed to silence by a meteor’s flight,
Or by the sudden plashing of a stone
From some adjacent cottage garden thrown,
But straight renew the song with double din
Whene’er the light goes out or man goes in.
Shall I with arms unbraced (my casque unlatched,
My falchion pawned, my buckler, too, attached)
Resume the cuishes and the broad cuirass,
Accomplishing my body all in brass,
And arm in battle royal to oppose
A village poet singing through the nose?
No, let them rhyme; I fought them once before
And stilled their songs⁠—but, Satan! how they swore!⁠—
Cuffed them upon the mouth whene’er their throats
They cleared for action with their sweetest notes;
Twisted their ears (they’d oft tormented mine)
And damned them roundly all along the line;
Clubbed the whole crew from the Parnassian slopes,
A wreck of broken heads and broken hopes!
What gained I so? I feathered every curse
Launched at the village bards with lilting verse.
The town approved and christened me (to show its
High admiration) Chief of Local Poets!


Dull were the days and sober,
The mountains were brown and bare,
For the season was sad October
And a dirge was in the air.

The mated starlings flew over
To the isles of the southern sea.
She wept for her warrior lover⁠—
Wept and exclaimed: “Ah, me!

“Long years have I mourned my darling
In his battle-bed at rest;
And it’s O, to be a starling,
With a mate to share my nest!”

The angels pitied her sorrow,
Restoring her warrior’s life;
And he came to her arms on the morrow
To claim her and take her to wife.

An aged lover⁠—a portly,
Bald lover, a trifle too stiff,
With manners that would have been courtly,
And would have been graceful, if⁠—

If the angels had only restored him
Without the additional years
That had passed since the enemy bored him
To death with their long, sharp spears.

As it was, he bored her, and she rambled
Away with her father’s young groom,
And the old lover smiled as he ambled
Contentedly back to the tomb.

Sires and Sons

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

A Challenge

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

Two Shows

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

A Poet’s Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Woman and the Devil

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

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

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

The Adversary said: “No doubt
’Twill be extremely fine, ma’am,
Though sure ’tis long to be without⁠—
I beg to lend you mine, ma’am.”

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

Two Rogues

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

The Pied Piper of Brooklyn

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

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

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

Not Guilty

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

A Study in Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Merit

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

Palmam qui meruit”⁠—the rest
You knew as well as I;
And best of all to him that best
Of sayings will apply.

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

A Bit of Science

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


The Tables Turned

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

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

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

The driver replied: “I would laugh till I cried
If I had bisected you;
But I’d like to explain, if I can for the pain,
’Tis myself that I’ve cut in two.”

To a Dejected Poet

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

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

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

“The laborer is worthy”⁠—nay,
The sacred ministry of song
Is rapture!⁠—’twere a grievous wrong
To fix a wages-rate for play.

The Humorist

“What is that, mother?”
“The humorist, child.
His hands are black, but his heart is mild.”

“May I touch him, mother?”
“ ’Twere needlessly done:
He is slightly touched already, my son.”

“O, why does he wear such a ghastly grin?”
“ ’Tis the outward sign of a joke within.”

“Will he crack it, mother?”
“Not so, my saint;
’Tis meant for the Saturday Livercomplaint.”

“Does he suffer, mother?”
“God help him, yes!⁠—
A thousand and fifty kinds of distress.”

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

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


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

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

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

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



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


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

An Exile

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

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

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

The Division Superintendent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His genius shines, the clouds roll back⁠—
“I’ll place obstructions on the track!”

To a Professional Eulogist

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

Election Day

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

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

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

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

The Militiaman

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

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

A Welcome

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

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

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

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

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

A Serenade

Σάς ὰγαπῶ, σάς ὰγαπῶ,”
He sang beneath her lattice.
Sas agapo?” she murmured⁠—“O,
I wonder, now, what that is!”

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

Of woman’s lore give me no more
Than how to love⁠—in many
A tongue men brawl; she speaks them all
Who says “I love,” in any.

The Wise and Good

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

“ ’Twas the funeral, child, of a gentleman dead
For whom the great heart of humanity bled.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lost Colonel

“ ’Tis a woeful yarn,” said the sailorman bold
Who had sailed the northern lakes⁠—
“No woefuler one has ever been told,
Exceptin’ them called ‘fakes.’ ”

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

Then he wiped it upon his sleeve and said:
“It’s never like that I drinks
But what of a gallant gent that’s dead
I truly mournful thinks.

“He was a soldier chap⁠—leastways
As ‘Colonel’ he was knew;
An’ he hailed from some’rs where they raise
A grass that’s heavenly blue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Tat

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

A Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Saint and the Monk

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

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

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

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

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


The Opposing Sex

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

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

At men they are cursing⁠—
The Widows of Ashur;
Themselves, too, for nursing
The men they are cursing.
The praise they’re rehearsing
Of every slasher
At men. They are cursing
The Widows of Ashur.

In High Life

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

A Whipper-in

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

N.Y. World

Dudley, great placeman, man of mark and note,
Worthy of honor from a feeble pen
Blunted in service of all true, good men,
You serve the Lord⁠—in courses, table d’hôte:
Au naturel, as well as à la Nick⁠—
“Eat and be thankful, though it make you sick.”

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

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

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

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


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

“He’s dead⁠—he is no more!” one cried,
With sobs of sorrow crammed;
“No more? He’s this much more,” replied
Another: “he is damned!”


A Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

An Example

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Genesis of Embarrassment

When Adam first saw Eve he said:
“O lovely creature, share my bed.”
Before consenting, she her gaze
Fixed on the greensward to appraise,
As well as vision could avouch,
The value of the proffered couch.
And seeing that the grass was green
And soft and scrupulously clean;
Observing that the flow’rs were rare
Varieties, and some were fair,
The posts of precious woods, and each
Bore luscious fruit in easy reach,
And all things suited well her worth,
She raised her angel eyes from earth
To his and, blushing to confess,
Murmured: “I love you, Adam⁠—yes.”
Since then her daughters, it is said,
Look always down when asked to wed.

In Contumaciam

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

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

From the Minutes

When, with the force of a ram that discharges its ponderous body
Straight at the rear elevation of the luckless culler of simples,
The foot of Herculean Kilgore⁠—statesman of surname suggestive
Or carnage unspeakable!⁠—lit like a missile solid, prodigious
Upon the Congressional door with a monstrous and mighty momentum,
Causing that vain ineffective bar to political freedom
To fly from its hinges, effacing the nasal excrescence of Dingley,
That luckless one, decently veiling the ruin with ready bandanna,
Lamented the loss of his eminence, sadly with sobs as follows:
“Ah, why was I ever elected to the halls of legislation,
So soon to be shown the door with pitiless emphasis? Truly,
I’ve leaned on a broken Reed, and the same has gone back on me meanly.
Where now is my prominence, erstwhile in council conspicuous, patent?
Alas, I did never before understand what I now see clearly,
To wit, that Democracy tends to level all human distinctions!”

A Woman in Politics

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

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

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

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

Well, well, we can’t do business, I suspect:
A woman has no head for politics.
My profitable offers you reject
And will not promise anything to fix
Things right that civic saints and angels mix.
Good morning. Stay⁠—I’m chaffing you, conceitedly.
Madam, I mean to vote for you⁠—repeatedly.

A Ballad of Pikeville

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

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

Once a parson came among them, and a holy man was he;
With his ailing stomach whisky wouldn’t anywise agree;
So he knelt upon the mesa and he prayed with all his chin
That the Lord would send them water or incline their hearts to gin.
Scarcely was the prayer concluded ere an earthquake shook the land,
And with copious effusion springs burst out on every hand!
Merrily the waters gurgled, and the shock which gave them birth
Fitly was by some declared a temperance movement of the earth.
Astounded by the miracle, the people met that night
To celebrate it properly by some religious rite;
And ’tis truthfully recorded that before the moon had sunk
Every man and every woman was devotionally drunk.
A half a standard gallon (says history) per head
Of the best Kentucky prime was at that ceremony shed.
O, the glory of that country! O, the happy, happy folk
By the might of prayer delivered from Nature’s iron yoke!
Lo! the plains to the horizon all are yellowing with rye,
And the corn upon the hill-top lifts its banners to the sky!
Gone the wagons, gone the drivers, and the road is grown to grass,
Over which the incalescent Bourbon did aforetime pass.
Pikeville (that’s the name they’ve given, in their wild, romantic way,
To that irrigation district) now distills, statistics say,
Something like a hundred gallons, out of each recurrent crop,
To the head of population⁠—and consumes it, every drop!

An Augury

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

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

“Have ye no messages⁠—no brief,
Still sign: ‘Despair,’ or ‘Hope’?”
A sudden stir of stem and leaf⁠—
A breath of heliotrope!

Lusus Politicus

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


A Countess (so they tell the tale)
Who dwelt of old in Arno’s vale,
Where ladies, even of high degree,
Know more of love than of A.B.C.,
Came once with a prodigious bribe
Unto the learned village scribe,
That most discreet and honest man
Who wrote for all the lover clan,
Nor e’er a secret had betrayed
Save when inadequately paid.
“Write me,” she sobbed⁠—“I pray thee do⁠—
A book about the Prince di Giu⁠—
A book of poetry in praise
Of all his works and all his ways;
The godlike grace of his address,
His more than woman’s tenderness,
His courage stern and lack of guile,
The loves that wantoned in his smile.
So great he was, so rich and kind,
I’ll not within a fortnight find
His equal as a lover. O,
My God! I shall be drowned in woe!”
“What! Prince di Giu is dead?” exclaimed
The honest man for letters famed,
The while he pocketed her gold;
“Of what?⁠—if I may be so bold.”
Fresh storms of tears the lady shed:
“I stabbed him fifty times,” she said.

A Pickbrain

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

The Naval Constructor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s only makin’ coinage free,
And mebby might augment
The wolume of the currency
A noomerous percent”

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

Two Methods

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

Foundations of the State

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

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

An Imposter

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


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, eager 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.

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,
Nor heart disease to keep you from enjoying
Your meals⁠—and ours. ’Twere 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—madeira, 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
Four million slaves; and once there was a Czar
Who freed ten 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.


A Song 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 masters’ 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.

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.


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 grâce.
Great Allison, the statesman-chap affirms
’Twas lack of coin (croaks Medico: “ ’Twas worms!”)⁠—
And John P. Jones the swift suggestion collars,
Averring that 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.”

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 ’tis 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.

’Twas not your motive? Well, I cannot let
You pay for favors that you’ll never get.

Perish the ancient 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!

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.


Cried Allen Forman: “Doctor, pray
Compose my spirit’s 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.”


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 failure of others encourages me to hope that success, being still unachieved, is still achievable. The fault of many 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 valued by the translators⁠—have been 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 thirteenth century, did not deem it necessary to insert⁠—I have hoped at least partly to liberate the lurking devil of humor from his letters, 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 meter and trochaic 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 adopting 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 their powers of prophecy, as Samson’s strength lay in his hair.

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 ’twere cruel if I failed thee.

Righteous judge and learnèd 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 forgavest⁠—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 ’tis 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,
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.
’Tis 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!

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
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.

One President

“What are those, father?” “Statesmen, my child⁠—
Lachrymose, 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 and superior 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.”

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 shining yellow 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,
He 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 lived and written, although 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 noble tree to view.

’Twas sacred to my memory and fame⁠—
But Julian Hawthorne’s wittol daughter came
And with untidy finger daubed upon
Its bark a reeking record of her 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
’Twere 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 Neros?

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—’twas 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. My lads, ’tis plain
’Twas an uncommon riot;
The warlike tribes of Europe fight for gain;
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 plot,
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
’Twas 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!”


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
Cease living it over?⁠—although
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 old Mission
Is fine, picturesque and gray;
’Tis an excellent place for contrition⁠—
And sometimes she passes that way.

That’s how it occurred that I met her,
And that’s all 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.

My Day of Life

I know not how it is⁠—it seems
Fantastic and surprising
That after all these dreams and dreams,
Here in the sun’s first level beams,
The sun is still just rising!

When first he showed his sovereign face,
And bade the night-folk scuttle
Back to their holes, I took my place
Here on the hill, and God His grace
Sent slumber soft and subtle.

Among the poppies red and white,
I’ve lain and drowsed, for all it
Appears a sluggardly delight.
I must have had a wakeful night,
Though, faith, I don’t recall it.

And, O I’ve dreamed so many things!
One hardly can unravel
The tangled web of visionings
That slumber-of-the-morning brings:
Play, study, work and travel;

The love of women (mostly those
Were fairest that were newest);
Hard knocks from friends and other foes:
Compacts with men (my memory shows
The deadest are the truest);

War⁠—what a hero I became
By merely dreaming battle!
Athwart the field of letters, Fame
Blared through the brass my weary name
With an ominous death-rattle.

Such an eternity of thought
Within a minute’s fraction!
Such phantoms out of nothing wrought,
And fading suddenly to naught
As I awake to action!

They scamper each into its hole,
These dreams of my begetting.
They’ve had their moment; take, my soul,
Thy day of life.⁠ ⁠… Gods! this is droll⁠—
That thieving sun is setting!

The Scrap Heap


Successive bards pursue Ambition’s fire
That shines, Oblivion, above thy mire.
The latest mounts his predecessor’s trunk,
And sinks his brother ere himself is sunk.
So die ingloriously Fame’s elite,
But dams of dunces keep the line complete.


Why ask me, Gastrogogue, to dine,
(Unless to praise your rascal wine)
Yet never ask some luckless sinner
Who needs, as I do not, a dinner?


“To the will of the people we loyally bow!”
That’s the minority shibboleth now.
O noble antagonists, answer me flat⁠—
What would you do if you didn’t do that?


“I’m sorry I married,” says Upton Sinclair:
“The conjugal status is awful!⁠—
The devil’s device, a delusion and snare.”
Worse, far worse than that⁠—it is lawful!

An Attorney-General

Philander Knox!⁠—I know him by the sound;
His sleep, unlike his learning, is profound.
No dreams of duty mar his loud repose,
Nor strain the cobwebs tethering his nose,
Which, roaring ever like the solemn sea.
Proclaims to all the world that this is he.
In thought a tortoise but in act a hare,
Slow to decide and impotent to dare,
Yet no important crisis he ignores,
But sleeps upon it, and for action⁠—snores.

Financial News

Says Rockefeller: “Money is not tight,”
And, faith, I’m thinking that the man is right.
If it were not, at least in morals, loose
He hardly could command it for his use.


No man can truthfully say that he would not like to be President.

William C. Whitney

Lo! the wild rabbit, happy in the pride
Of qualities to meaner beasts denied,
Surveys the ass with reverence and fear,
Adoring his superior length of ear,
And says: “No living creature, lean or fat,
But wishes in his heart to be like That!”


Let slaves and subjects with extolling psalms
Before their sovereign execute salaams;
The freeman scorns one idol to adore⁠—
Tom, Dick, and Harry and himself are four.

An Enemy to Law and Order

A is defrauded of his land by B,
Who’s driven from the premises by C.
D buys the place with coin of plundered E.
“That A’s an Anarchist!” says F to G.


An “actors’ cemetery”! Sure
The devil never tires
Of planning places to procure
The sticks to feed his fires.

A Fair Division

Another Irish landlord gone to grass,
Slain by the bullets of the tenant class!
Pray, good agrarians, what wrong requires
Such foul redress? Between you and the squires
All Ireland’s parted with an even hand⁠—
For you have all the ire, they all the land.

A Lacking Factor

“You acted unwisely,” I cried, “as you see
By the outcome.” He calmly eyed me:
“When choosing the course of my action,” said he,
“I had not the outcome to guide me.”

The Politician

“Let patriots manipulate
The tiller of the Ship of State;
Be mine the humble, useful toil
To work the tiller of the soil.”

Elihu Root

Stoop to a dirty trick or low misdeed?
What, bend him from his moral skies to it?
No, no, not he! To serve his nature’s need
He may upon occasion rise to it.

An Error

“I never have been able to determine
Just how it is that the judicial ermine
Is safely guarded from predacious vermin.”
“It is not so, my friend: though in a garret
’Tis kept in camphor, and you often air it,
The vermin will get into it and wear it.”

Vanished at Cock-Crow

“I’ve found the secret of your charm,” I said,
Expounding with complacency my guess.
Alas! the charm, even as I named it, fled,
For all its secret was unconsciousness.


Study good women and ignore the rest,
For he best knows the sex who knows the best.

A Partisan’s Protest

O statesmen, what would you be at,
With torches, flags and bands?
You make me first throw up my hat,
And then my hands.

A Bequest to Music

“Let music flourish!” So he said and died.
Hark! when he’s gone the minstrelsy begins:
The symphonies ascend, a swelling tide,
Melodious thunders fill the welkin wide⁠—
The grand old lawyers, chinning on their chins!


I fell asleep and dreamed that I
Was flung, like Vulcan, from the sky;
Like him was lamed⁠—another part:
His leg was crippled, and my heart.
I woke in time to see my love
Conceal a letter in her glove.

July Fourth

God said: “Let there be noise.” The dawning fire
Of Independence gilded every spire.

A Paradox

“If life were not worth living,” said the preacher,
“ ’Twould have in suicide one pleasant feature.”
“An error,” said the pessimist, “you’re making:
What’s not worth having cannot be worth taking.”


Lord of the tempest, pray refrain
From leveling this church again.
Now in its doom, since so you’ve willed it,
We acquiesce. But you’ll rebuild it.

A Bulletin

“Lothario is very low,”
So all the doctors tell.
Nay, nay, not so⁠—he will be, though,
If ever he get well.

An Inscription

For a Statue of Napoleon

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

An Erroneous Assumption

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

A Constructor

I saw the devil. He was working free⁠—
A customs-house he builded by the sea.
“Why do you this?” The devil raised his head:
“Of churches I have built enough,” he said.

God Complies

“By prayer see Megapomp restored,”
Shouts Martext, pious creature.
Yes, God by supplication bored
From every droning preacher,
Exclaimed: “So be it, tiresome crew;
But I’ve a crow to pick with you.”

In Articulo Mortis

The paper presented he solemnly signed,
Gasping⁠—perhaps ’twas a jest he meant:
“This of a sound and disposing mind
Is the last illwill and contestament.”

The Discoverers

My! how my fame rings out in ever zone⁠—
A thousand critics shouting: “He’s unknown!”


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

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.

Two Types

Courageous fool!⁠—the peril’s strength unknown.
Courageous man!⁠—so conscious of your own.

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.


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.


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.

Strained Relations

Says England to Germany: “Africa’s ours.”
Says Germany: “Ours, I opine.”
Says Africa: “Tell me, delectable Powers,
What is it that ought to be mine?”


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

After Portsmouth

Begirt with bombs that fall and flames that rise,
The Tsar, bewildered, stares. “Alas,” he cries,
“Life withholds joy and death denies release!
And Roosevelt would have me think this peace.”

A Voice from Peking

“ ‘Empress of China’! I nor rule nor reign:
I wear the purple but to hide the chain⁠—
Free only to hold back the open door
For foreign devils drunk upon my floor.”

A Pious Rite

On Maunday Thursday, as was good and meet,
The Emperor of Austria washed the feet
Of twelve poor men to show how humble he
For twenty minutes of the year could be.
O Thou, who trackest tenants of the throne
Through moral quagmires, make them wash their own.


She jilted me. I madly cried:
“The grave at least can hold her!”
Reflecting then that if she died
’Twould stop her growing older,
I pitilessly sheathed the knife
And sternly sentenced her to life!

At the Beach

List, England, to our words of scorn
For noblemen to title born!
Yet be thine eyes awhile depressed,
For one has turned his prow to-west,
And we, to catch his landing-line,
Are pickling all our shins in brine.

An Infraction of the Rules

A duel in France, and the victor pursued
By the dogs of the law, by the multitude,
By society’s fierce ill-will!
O what is the matter? The man was so rude,
That he made an attempt to kill!


There’s grief in Belgrade, for no crown, it is said,
Is found for King Peter in all of the town.
How sad that he’s lacking a crown for his head!
How sweet were he lacking a head for his crown!

A Warning

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


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

For Wounds

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

A Literary Method

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

Back to Nature

Nathaniel, Julian, Hildegardy!
Sure the stock is far from hardy,
And the name once heard with awe
Now provokes the loud guffaw⁠—
“Hawthorne” in the memory dear,
“Haw-haw-hawthorne” in the ear!

Rudolph Block

What parallel, neighbor, be pleased to expound
’Twixt Belgium’s king and you may be found?
Why this: if the cable dispatches are true
He lies on his deathbed. So would you.


“This thing’s a bomb,” said Gompers, lighting
The fuse; “ ’twill blow them all a kiting!”
Well, now ’tis shattered all to pieces.
And Gompers but a spot of grease is.

To Her

O, Sinner A, to me unknown
Be such a conscience as your own!
To ease it, you to Sinner B
Confess the sins of Sinner C.


God dreamed⁠—the suns sprang flaming into place,
And sailing worlds with many a venturous race!
He woke⁠—His smile alone illumined space.


When Admonition’s hand essays
Our greed to curse,
Its lifted finger oft displays
Our missing purse.


Fear not in any tongue to call
Upon the Lord⁠—He’s skilled in all.
But if He answereth my plea
He speaketh one unknown to me.

The Long Fear

Noting the hangman’s frown and the law’s righteous rage,
Our murderers live in terror till they die of age.

An Inspired Performance

The Devil troubled a pool of mud,
And Vierick from out the smother
Arose and to prove his royal blood
Defamed his peasant mother.
Dear Devil, his poems⁠—we’ll suffer all those,
But do not again provoke him to prose.


“Let’s bury the hatchet,” said Miller to Platt;
And Platt said to Miller: “I’ll gladly do that.”
On its grave, Warner Miller, the grasses grow not,
But the wind in your hair whistles over the spot.

Black Beetles in Amber


Most of the verses in this volume are republished from newspapers and periodicals of the Pacific Coast. Naturally, the collection includes few not relating to persons and events more or less familiar to the people of that interesting region⁠—to whom, indeed, the volume may be considered as especially addressed, though not without a hope that its contents may be found to have a sufficient intrinsic interest to commend it to others.

In answer to the familiar criticism that the author has dealt mostly with obscure persons, “unknown to fame,” he begs leave to point out that he has done what he could to lessen the force of the objection by dispelling some part of their obscurity and awarding them such fame as he was able to bestow. If the work meet with acceptance commentators will doubtless be “raised up” to give them an added distinction and make exposition of the circumstances through which they took attention, whereby the work will have a growing interest to those with the patience to wait.

Further to fortify this apologia, I quote from my publishers the following relevant and judicious remarks on a kind of literature that is somewhat imperfectly understood in this night of its neglect:

“In all the most famous satires in our language the victims would now be unknown were it not that they have been preserved ‘in amber’ by the authors. The enlightened lover of satire cares little of whom it was written, but much for what is said, and more for how it is said. No one but critics and commentators troubles himself as to the personality of the always obscure hero of The Dunciad and the nobodies distinguished by the pens of Swift, Butler, Wolcott and the other masters of English satire; yet the work of these men is no less read than it was in their day. The same is true of Aristophanes, Horace and the other ancient censors of men and manners.”

Regarding the repeated appearance of certain offenders in the skits and drolleries of this book, I can only say that during the considerable period covered by the author’s efforts to reclaim them they manifested a deplorable, and doubtless congenital, propensity to continuance in sin.


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 Bedeviled 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 garden 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 in my resolute seeking,
Till⁠—ah, joy!⁠—I could see, on the limbs of a tree,
Mine enemies hanging and reeking!


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!

One Judge

Wallace, created on a noble plan
To show us that a Judge can be a Man;
Through moral mire exhaling mortal stench
God-guided sweet and foot-clean to the Bench;
In salutation here and sign I lift
A hand as free as yours from lawless thrift,
A heart⁠—ah, would I truly could proclaim
My bosom lighted with so pure a flame!
Alas, not love of justice moves my pen
To praise, or to condemn, my fellow men.
Good will and ill its busy point incite:
I do but gratify them when I write.
In palliation, though, I’d humbly state,
I love the righteous and the wicked hate.
So, sir, although we differ we agree,
Our work alike from persecution free,
And Heaven, approving you, consents to me.
Take, therefore, from this not all useless hand
The crown of honor⁠—not in all the land
One honest man dissenting from the choice,
Nor in approval one Fred Crocker’s voice!

An Obituarian

A newspaper Death-poet 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 have 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.

A Commuted Sentence

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)
All Blazed and coruscated 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 reflection’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.

A Lifted Finger

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!

Two Delegates

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, o’er the shadowed hill,
The ass forsakes his hay, the pig his swill.
Hotly the heroes now fell to⁠—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.

Matter for Gratitude

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 to the harvest 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, shrieking 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.

Three Kinds of a Rogue


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—that 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 blare 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.

A Man

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—all
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 genuflections 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.

Ye Foe to Cathaye

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

Samuel Shortridge

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.

At a “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 bit 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 and seldom, say I.
That’s my way. God bless you. Good-bye.


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

Ah, Anderson, if that is true
’Tis my conviction, sir, that you
Are one of those
That once resided by the Nile⁠—
Peer to the Sacred Crocodile,
Heir to his woes.

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

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

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

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


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 my 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 enchanting strain.
The ocean was swollen with storms of tears
That fell from the shining swain.

“O, poet,” leapt he to the soaken strand,
“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, ’twas he! ’twas he!
And the victim he crove was I!

’Twas I, Fred Emerson Brooks, the bard;
And he knocked me on the head.
O Lord! I thought it uncommonly 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!


The Seraphs came to Christ and said: “Behold!
The man, presumptuous and overbold,
Who boasted that his mercy could excel
Thine own, is dead and on his way to Hell.”

Gravely the Savior asked: “What did he do
To make his impious assertion true?”

“He was a Governor, releasing all
The vilest felons ever held in thrall.
No other mortal, since the dawn of time,
Has ever pardoned such a mass of crime!”

Christ smiled benignly on the Seraphim:
“Yet I am victor, for I pardon him.”

A Vision of Doom

I stood upon a hill. The setting sun
Was crimson with a curse and a portent,
And scarce his angry ray lit up the land
That lay below, whose lurid gloom appeared
Freaked with a moving mist, which, reeking up
From dim tarns hateful with some horrid ban,
Took shapes forbidden and without a name.
Gigantic night-birds, rising from the reeds
With cries discordant, startled all the air,
And bodiless voices babbled in the gloom⁠—
The ghosts of blasphemies long ages stilled,
And shrieks of women, and men’s curses. All
These visible shapes, and sounds no mortal ear
Had ever heard, some spiritual sense
Interpreted, though brokenly; for I
Was haunted by a consciousness of crime,
Some giant guilt, but whose I knew not. All
These things malign, by sight and sound revealed,
Were sin-begotten; that I knew⁠—no more⁠—
And that but dimly, as in dreadful dreams
The sleepy senses babble to the brain
Imperfect witness. As I stood, a voice,
But whence it came I knew not, cried aloud
Some words to me in a forgotten tongue,
Yet straight I knew me for a ghost forlorn,
Returned from the illimited inane.
Again, but in a language that I knew,
As in reply to something which in me
Had shaped itself a thought, but found no words,
It spake from the dread mystery about:

“Immortal shadow of a mortal soul
That perished with eternity, attend.
What thou beholdest is as void as thou:
The shadow of a poet’s dream⁠—himself
As thou, his soul as thine, long dead,
But not like thine outlasted by its shade.
His dreams alone survive eternity
As pictures in the unsubstantial void.
Excepting thee and me (and we because
The poet wove us in his thought) remains
Of nature and the universe no part
Nor vestige but the poet’s dreams. This dread,
Unspeakable land about thy feet, with all
Its desolation and its terrors⁠—lo!
’Tis but a phantom world. So long ago
That God and all the angels since have died
That poet lived⁠—yourself long dead⁠—his mind
Filled with the light of a prophetic fire,
And standing by the Western sea, above
The youngest, fairest city in the world,
Named in another tongue than his for one
Ensainted, saw its populous domain
Plague-smitten with a nameless shame. For there
Red-handed murder rioted; and there
The people gathered gold, nor cared to loose
The assassin’s fingers from the victim’s throat,
But said, each in his vile pursuit engrossed:
‘Am I my brother’s keeper? Let the Law
Look to the matter.’ But the Law did not.
And there, O pitiful! the babe was slain
Within its mother’s breast and the same grave
Held babe and mother; and the people smiled,
Still gathering gold, and said: ‘The Law, the Law.’
Then the great poet, touched upon the lips
With a live coal from Truth’s high altar, raised
His arms to heaven and sang a song of doom⁠—
Sang of the time to be, when God should lean
Indignant from the Throne and lift His hand,
And that foul city be no more!⁠—a tale,
A dream, a desolation and a curse!
No vestige of its glory should survive
In fact or memory: its people dead,
Its site forgotten, and its very name

“Was the prophecy fulfilled?”

The sullen disc of the declining sun
Was crimson with a curse and a portent,
And scarce his angry ray lit up the land
Freaked with a moving mist, which, reeking up
From dim tarns hateful with a horrid ban,
Took shapes forbidden and without a name.
And bodiless voices babbled in the gloom.
But not to me came any voice again;
And, covering my face with thin, dead hands,
I wept, and woke, and cried aloud to God!

Religious Progress

Every religion is important. When men rise above existing conditions a new religion comes in, and it is better than the old one.

Professor Howison

Professor dear, I think it queer
That all these good religions
(’Twixt you and me, some two or three
Are schemes for plucking pigeons)⁠—

I mean ’tis strange that every change
Our poor minds to unfetter
Entails a new religion⁠—true
As t’ other one, and better.

From each in turn the truth we learn,
That wood or flesh or spirit
May justly boast it rules the roast
Until we cease to fear it.

Nay, once upon a time long gone
Man worshipped Cat and Lizard:
His God he’d find in any kind
Of beast, from a to izzard.

When risen above his early love
Of dirt and blood and slumber,
He pulled down these vain deities,
And made one out of lumber.

“Far better that than even a cat,”
The Howisons all shouted;
“When God is wood religion’s good!”
But one poor cynic doubted.

“A timber God⁠—that’s very odd!”
Said Progress, and invented
The simple plan to worship Man,
Who, kindly soul! consented.

But soon our eye we lift asky,
Our vows all unregarded,
And find (at least so says the priest)
The Truth⁠—and Man’s discarded.

Along our line of march recline
Dead gods devoid of feeling;
And thick about each sun-cracked lout
Dried Howisons are kneeling.

The Fall of Miss Larkin

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

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

One evening⁠—’twas in summer⁠—she was holding in her lap
Her accordion, and near her stood that melancholy chap,
Leaning up against a pillar with his lip in grog imbrued,
Thinking, maybe, of that ancient land in which he was a Dude.
Then Sally, who was melancholy too, began to hum
And elongate the accordion with a preluding thumb.
Then sighs of amorosity she painfully exhaled,
And her music apparatus sympathetically wailed.
“In the gloaming, O my darling!” rose that wild impassioned strain,
And her eyes were fixed on his with an intensity of pain,
Till the ranch-dog from his kennel at the postern gate came round,
And going into session strove to magnify the sound.
He lifted up his spirit till the gloaming rang and rang
With the song that to his darling he impetuously sang!
Then that musing youth, recalling all his soul from other scenes,
Where his fathers all were Dudes and his mothers all Dudines,
From his lips removed the beaker and politely, o’er the grog,
Said: “Miss Larkin, please be quiet: you will interrupt the dog.”

A Rendezvous

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


Hard by an excavated street one sat
In solitary session on the sand;
And ever and anon he spake and spat
And spake again⁠—a yellow skull in hand,
To which that retrospective Pioneer
Addressed the few remarks that follow here:

“Who are you? Did you come ‘der blains agross,’
Or ‘Horn aroundt’? In days o’ ’49
Did them thar eye-holes see the Southern Cross
From the Antarctic Sea git up an’ shine?
Or did you drive a bull team ‘all the way
From Pike,’ with Mr. Joseph Bowers?⁠—say!

“Was you in Frisco when the water came
Up to Montgum’ry street? and do you mind
The time when Peters run the faro game⁠—
Jim Peters from old Mississip⁠—behind
Wells Fargo’s, where he subsequent was bust
By Sandy, as regards both bank and crust?

“I wonder was you here when Casey shot
James King o’ William? And did you attend
The neck-tie dance ensuin’? I did not,
But j’ined the rush to Go Creek with my friend
Ed’ard McGowan; for we was resolved
In sech diversions not to be involved.

“Maybe I knowed you; seems to me I’ve seed
Your face afore. I don’t forget a face,
But names I disremember⁠—I’m that breed
Of owls. I’m talking some’at into space,
An’ maybe my remarks is too derned free,
Seein’ yer name is unbeknown to me.

“Ther’ was a time, I reckon, when I knowed
Nigh onto every dern galoot in town.
That was as late as ’50. Now she’s growed
Surprisin’! Yes, me an’ my pardner, Brown,
Was wide acquainted. If ther’ was a cuss
We didn’t know, the cause was⁠—he knowed us.

“Maybe you had that claim adjoinin’ mine
Up thar in Calaveras. Was it you
To which Long Mary took a mighty shine,
An’ throwed squar’ off on Jake the Kangaroo?
I guess if she could see ye now she’d take
Her chance o’ happiness along o’ Jake.

“You ain’t so purty now as you was then:
Yer eyes is nothin’ but two prospect holes,
An’ women which are hitched to better men
Would hardly for sech glances damn their souls,
As Lengthie did. By God! I hope it’s you,
For” (kicks the skull) “I’m Jake the Kangaroo.”

Stanford’s Welcome

“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.”

Posterity’s Award

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 Deacon Fitch!

An Art Critic

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!”

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.

The Spirit of a Sponge

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.

To E. S. Salomon

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
For one who tried in vain to keep
A flower from a soldier’s grave.”

Dennis Kearney

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 Him to set His feet.

Finis Aeternitatis

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 you 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.

The Veteran

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.

An “Exhibit”

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—
Perhaps 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?

The Transmigrations of a Soul

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?
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?

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.

Distinction, 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!
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!

Indictment on Evidence

Bruce Douglas, nephew to a Scottish Earl,
Sat in the City Prison, low in heart
And spirits. Round him lay the forms of men⁠—
Men of the people, of ignoble birth⁠—
Prone or supine in sleep; but sleep and he
Were out: the Douglas was too drunk for sleep.
And so he sat and moaned; and still his moan
Had all the cadences and stops of song⁠—
Recurrent swells and measured silences
Which sought the ear as ocean’s billows roll,
At even spaces and with matching speed,
One after one ashore. Wherefore uprose
An old gray constable who in the morn
And blossom of his life had courted fame
As horse-reporter for a public print,
And so was skilled in letters, and he spake,
There to the sergeant, saying: “Surely, now,
The man’s a poet. In his moan I hear
The pulsing and the passion of the sea⁠—
Hear the far beating of the waterfall,
Throbbing of noon-day insects in the grass⁠—
All rhythmic movements of the universe
Which poets echo in their thought and speech,
Even in their inarticulate complaints
Of pain. My life I’ll hazard that the man’s
A bard disguised to look a gentleman.”
So, bringing his effects, which had till then
Lain unconsidered⁠—from his pockets plucked
And tossed aside⁠—all curiously they
Explored the papers. Odes and odes there were,
And every ode in praise of some fair scene
In a fair land; and the fair land was this
Our California. From the snowy peaks
That glitter in the skies of Siskiyou,
Down to the golden margin where the land
Slips underneath the San Diegan bay;
And from the dim Sierra, far across
To where old Ocean bears upon his breast
The Mongol horde returning to its own,
Its native land and its dear household gods,
Bruce Douglas, nephew of a Scottish Earl,
Had sung the beauty of the Golden State!
So then the Clerk, splitting the Book of Doom,
Charged him therein with murder, arson, rape,
Theft, libel, mayhem and intent to leave
The State and so defraud his creditors⁠—
With vagrancy, extortion and assault
Felonious, obtaining cash by false
Pretenses⁠—with infanticide⁠—even him,
Bruce Douglas, nephew of a Scottish Earl.

To an Aspirant

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

At the White House

Among the notables one day that came
To see the President was one whose name
Was known from Puerto Rico to Luzon,
Although it wasn’t Smith nor even John.
Renowned in field and council too, for he
Had tilled the soil and been a school trustee.
Occasionally, just to pass the time,
He worked at patriotism and scowled at crime;
Went up and down the land denouncing those
Who loved him little as the country’s foes;
Predicted famine when they scorned his story,
And for the ensuing harvest claimed the glory.
His name indeed was famous, but because
My memory’s weak I know not what it was.

The President he came that day to see
Was as illustrious in his way as he.
His name a household word⁠—that is to say
Men damned him roundly to begin the day,
Deplored him in the fireside’s rosy light
And grunted disesteem throughout the night.
Not all men⁠—some, the sons of pious mothers,
Prayed for him daily as upon him others.
Sleek, snug, self-righteous, cunning as a rat,
A fish in fervor and in faith a cat,
Obscure by nature, he had ne’er been great
If Fortune had not kicked him into state.
His name? Go ask Posterity, not me⁠—
From words opprobrious my page is free.

So they were married⁠—no I mean they met;
For aught I know they are in session yet,
There in the White House, for each swore the place
Belonged to him by God’s abounding grace.
But, O, may He take measures to prevent
If both at once they would be President.

Tidings of Good

Old Nick from his place of last resort
Came up and looked the world over.
He saw how the grass of the good was short
And the wicked lived in clover.

And he gravely said: “This is all, all wrong,
And never by me intended.
If to me the power ever belong
I shall have this thing amended.”

He looked so solemn and good and wise
As he made this observation
That the men who heard him believed their eyes
Instead of his reputation.

So they bruited the matter about, and each
Reported the words as nearly
As memory served⁠—with additional speech
To bring out the meaning clearly.

The consequence was that none understood,
And the wildest rumors started
Of something intended to help the good
And injure the evil-hearted.

Then Robert Morrow was seen to smile
With a bright and lively joyance.
“A man,” said he, “that is free from guile
Will now be free from annoyance.

“The Featherstones doubtless will now increase
And multiply like the rabbits,
While jailers, deputy sheriffs, police,
And writers will form good habits.

“The widows more easily robbed will be,
And no juror will ever heed ’em,
But open his purse to my eloquent plea
For security, gain, or freedom.”

When Benson heard of the luck of the good
(He was eating his dinner) he muttered:
“It cannot help me, for ’tis understood
My bread is already buttered.

“My plats of surveys are all false, they say,
But that cannot greatly matter
To me, for I’ll tell the jurors that they
May lick, if they please, my platter.”

An Actor

Someone (’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,
Deepens 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!

Famine’s Realm

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 azure 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 restaurant⁠—mealery⁠—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.

The Mackaiad

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: our 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 agitation
Was due to mutable equilibration.

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! Men themselves, 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.

A Song in Praise

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.

A Poet’s Father

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 youths, 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.

A Coward

When Marriot, 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 shan’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!

To My Liars

Attend, mine enemies of all degrees,
From sandlot orators and other 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 should for my adversary’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. Sir, 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 shan’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.

“Phil” Crimmins

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.

On the Scales

The proverb hath it, Waterman:
“There never is great loss without
Some little gain.” ’Tis Nature’s plan
Of restitution, I’ve no doubt;
As sometimes a repentant thief
Restores, for conscience’s relief,
Some ten percent, or thereabout,
Of all the loot with which he ran.

Dear Governor, when you were ill
You lost, they say, some twenty pound;
But, muse and ponder as I will.
And cast my searching thoughts around,
I find in that great loss no gain⁠—
Unless indeed in heart and brain
You suffered it; but I’ll be bound
That they are unaffected still.

For still you’re foolish and absurd,
And still malicious and perverse
As ever; and in truth I’ve heard
That since recovering you’re worse.
The inference, I think, is fair:
You lost not what we best could spare:
Your character remains to curse
The State until you’re sepulchred.

’Tis true there’s measurably less
Of you to pack⁠—and you’re a load⁠—
But chiefly that concerns, I guess,
The patient beast that you bestrode
When, booted, spurred and gloved and all,
You led Mark Boruck from the stall,
To ride him on that rocky road,
Political unrighteousness.

In gain to Boruck, though, we scan
A loss to every honest soul,
It aids the weekly Harridan,
His thoroughbred-and-butter foal.
To end: the weight whose loss we mourn,
From Waterman by illness torn,
Was mostly water⁠—it were droll
To learn he’d twenty pounds of man!

Codex Honoris

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.

To W. H. L. B.

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,
Lures 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 cachinnation:
“I have 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.”

By False Pretenses

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 all 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 now a fortune, of his pen the 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.

Lucifer of the Torch

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 see them die 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.

“The Whirligig of Time”

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

A Railroad Lackey

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, with 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 Creed Haymonds, 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 “£eland $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!

The Legatee

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.

“Died of a Rose”

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.”

A Literary Hangman

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

At the Eleventh Hour

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
Lingered about the county jail
To see a Christian die.”

A Controversialist

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’s himself a hell wherever sent.


High Lord of Liars, Senex, unto 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
On 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.

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!

The Retrospective Bird

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-o’-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.”

The Oakland Dog

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—
They 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.

The Unfallen Brave

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—
When Fame shall tell the tale anew
Of how intrepidly they drew
The deadly tongue⁠—

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

A Celebrated Case

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.


For Inscription on a Sword Presented to Colonel Cutting of the National Guard.

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.

A Retort

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 better to play the fool.
No longer scorn the draught, although the font
Unlike Pactolus, waters not Belmont.

A Vision of Resurrection

I had a dream. The habitable earth⁠—
Its continents and islands⁠—all was 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 arraigning) 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 forevermore!
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.”

Master of Three Arts

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 it. I have 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!”

A Society Leader

“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.

Expositor Veritatis

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 façade 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.”

The Troubadour

Professor Gayley, you’re a great man, sure!
They say that you can almost fly!⁠—can spell
And parse, but cannot figure well
(For mathematics is not literature)
And hold⁠—with rancor⁠—that twice two are fewer
Than they’re cracked up to be. Let sinners tell
Wherein you disappoint, but I will swell
The chorus of your greatness. I’ll procure
For that exploit a megaphone of brass,
And roar your excellences to the sky,
And fill with witness all the world! Alas,
You can’t write poetry! No more can I,
But that, you’ll notice, is another matter.
Besides, I’m less ubiloquent, and fatter.

You hold the Chair, so your credentials say,
Of English Letters. That is well and fine.
Through teaching diligently, line by line,
You may yourself have the good luck some day
To learn enough of it to bid you stay
Your red right hand from making it. The nine
Dear Muses then with laurels will entwine
Your brows and leg it lightly to display
Their joy. O bold, bad poet, hear
These words of wisdom (from a grizzled head)
Inserted civilly into your ear:
In teaching verse you’ll better earn your bread,
And on our feelings less unkindly trample,
If you will work by precept, not example.

Not all the shouting capitals you use
Can strengthen feebleness, nor all the skill
You lack conceal the foolish hates that fill
The fountain whence the driblet of your views
Flows in a dirty channel to suffuse
With slime the British Empire! Dip your quill
In something sweeter and you’ll write less ill⁠—
At least your rant we better can excuse.
No doubt you wish you had been born a Boer
(Spelling excepted, so indeed you were;
A Bore as well) but that’s a very poor
Ambition. By the Lord! I should prefer
To be a Briton though they shot me daily
And threw my body to your hoofs, Jack Gayley.

A Finger on the Lips

O Mike, have ye heard the good news?
They’re gwan to have Home Rule at last;
An’ a Parlyment fine they will chuse,
An’ wurruk’s a thing o’ the past.
They’ll vote every man an estate,
Wid all he can drink and ate.
Indade it’s the blessedest day
We’ve seen since we landed here
In America. Whisht! though⁠—I say⁠—
Bedad, it’s no place to cheer!
For Home Rule we mustn’t hurroo⁠—
They’ll be wantin’ it here if we do.

Three Highwaymen

A street contractor, t’other morn,
Walked out before the day was born.
The silver moon beyond his reach
Had prudently retired, and each
Fair golden star his clutch that feared
Trembled, grew pale, and disappeared.
The sun rose not⁠—afraid to risk
His tempting, double-eagle disk.
Our hero⁠—why spin out the verse?⁠—
Two robbers robbed him of his purse,
Left him uncomfortably spread
On his own pavement, semi-dead,
And ran away exultant. He
Sang “Murder!” “Fire!” in every key,
Until politeness bade him cease
For fear of waking the police.
Then straight unto the Chief, all faint,
He made his way and his complaint:
“I met two robber-men,” said he;
“We battled and⁠—well, look at me!⁠—
Sad citizen, O Chief, you see.”
“How much?” asked that sententious man.
“Well, sir, as nearly as I can
Compute it, though I gave them fits,
They got away⁠—with my six bits.”
“Why, damn your avaricious soul!”
The Chief said: “do you claim the whole?
You did quite well to get, begad,
Within six bits of all they had!”

To “Colonel” Dan Burns

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.

George A. Knight

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,” one 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 Senator 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; the Senator heard
With pain the inflection of that word.

But, mastering his emotion, he
Remarked: “My friend, you’re too damned free;

“I’m Stephen M., by thunder, White!”
And, “Yes?” the guardian said, with quite

The self-same irritating stress
Distinguishing his former yes.

And still demurely as a mouse
He twirled the key to that Upper House.

Then Stephen, seeing his bluster vain
Admittance to those halls to gain,

Said, neighborly: “Pray tell me, Pete,
Does anyone contest my seat?”

The Saint replied: “Nay, nay, not so;
But you voted always wrong below:

“Whate’er the question, clear and high
Your voice rang: ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ever ‘I.’ ”

Now indignation fired the heart
Of that insulted immortal part.

“Die, wretch!” he cried, with blanching lip,
And made a motion to his hip,

With purpose murderous and hearty,
To draw the Democratic party!

He felt his fingers vainly slide
Upon his unappareled hide

(The dead arise from their “silent tents”
But not their late habiliments)

Then wailed⁠—the briefest of his speeches:
“I’ve left it in my other breeches!”

A Political Violet

Come, Stanford, let us sit at ease
And talk as old friends do.
You talk of anything you please,
And I will talk of you.

You recently have said, I hear,
That you would like to go
To serve as Senator. That’s queer!
Have you told William Stow?

Once when the Legislature said:
“Go, Stanford, and be great!”
You lifted up your Jovian head
And overlooked the State.

As one made leisurely awake,
You lightly rubbed your eyes
And answered: “Thank you⁠—please to make
A note of my surprise.

“But who are they who skulk aside,
As to get out of reach,
And in their clothing strive to hide
Three thousand dollars each?

“Not members of your body, sure?
No, that can hardly be:
All statesmen, I suppose, are pure.
What! there are rogues? Dear me!”

You added, you’ll recall, that though
You were surprised and pained,
You thought, upon the whole, you’d go,
And in that mind remained.

Now, what so great a change has wrought
That you so frankly speak
Of “seeking” honors once unsought
Because you “scorned to seek”?

Do you not fear the grave reproof
In good Creed Haymond’s eye?
Will Stephen Gage not stand aloof
And pass you coldly by?

O, fear you not that Vrooman’s lich
Will rise from earth and point
At you a scornful finger which
May lack, perchance, a joint?

Go, Stanford, where the violets grow,
And join their modest train.
Await the work of William Stow
And be surprised again.

The Subdued Editor

Pope-eater Pixley set in his den
A-chewin’ upon his quid.
He thought it was Leo Thirteen, and then
He bit it intenser, he did.

The amber which overflew from the cud
Like rivers which burst out of bounds⁠—
’Twas peculiar pleasant to think it blood
A-gushin’ from Papal wounds.

A knockin’ was heard uponto the door
Where someone a-waitin’ was.
“Come in,” said the shedder of priestly gore,
Arrestin’ to once his jaws.

The person which entered was curly of hair
And smilin’ as ever you see;
His eyes was blue, and uncommon fair
Was his physiognomee.

And yet there was some’at remarkable grand⁠—
And the editor says as he looks:
“Your Height” (it was Highness, you understand,
That he meant, but he spoke like books)⁠—

“Your Height, I am in. I’m the editor man
Of this paper⁠—which is to say,
I’m the owner, too, and it’s always ran
In the independentest way!

“Not a dam galoot can interfere,
A-shapin’ my course for me:
This paper’s (and nothing can make it veer)
Pixleian in policee!”

“It’s little to me,” said the sunny youth,
“If journals is better or worse:
Where I am to home they won’t keep, in truth,
The climate is that perverse.

“I’ve come, howsomever, your mind to light
With a more superior fire:
You’ll have naught hencefor’ard to do but write,
While I sets by to inspire.

“We’ll make it hot all round, bedad!”
And his laughture was loud and free.
“The devil!” cried Pixley, surpassin’ mad.
“Exactly, my friend⁠—that’s me.”

So he took a chair and a feather fan,
And he sets and sets and sets,
Inspirin’ that humbled editor man,
Which sweats and sweats and sweats!

All unavailin’ his struggles be,
And it’s, O, a weepin’ sight
To see a great editor, bold and free,
Reducted to sech a plight!

“Black Bart, Po8”

Welcome, good friend; as you have served your term,
And found the joy of crime to be a fiction,
I hope you’ll hold your present faith, stand firm
And not again be open to conviction.

Your sins, though scarlet once, are now as wool:
You’ve made atonement for all past offenses,
And conjugated⁠—’twas an awful pull!⁠—
The verb “to pay” in all its moods and tenses.

You were a dreadful criminal⁠—by Heaven,
I think there never was a man so sinful!
We’ve all a pinch or two of Satan’s leaven,
But you appeared to have an even skinful.

Earth shuddered with aversion at your name;
Rivers fled backward, gravitation scorning;
The sea and sky, from thinking on your shame,
Grew lobster-red at eve and in the morning.

But still red-handed at your horrid trade
You wrought, to reason deaf, and to compassion.
But now with gods and men your peace is made
I beg you to be good and in the fashion.

What’s that?⁠—you “ne’er again will rob a stage”?
What! did you do so? Faith, I didn’t know it.
Was that what threw poor Themis in a rage?
I thought you were convicted as a poet!

I own it was a comfort to my soul,
And soothed it better than the deepest curses,
To think they’d put one poet in a hole
Where, though he wrote, he could not print his verses.

I thought that Welcker, Stuart, Brooks and all
The ghastly crew who always are begriming
With villain couplets every page and wall,
Might be arrested and “run in” for rhyming.

And then Parnassus would be left to me,
And Pegasus should bear me up it gaily,
Nor down a steep place run into the sea,
As now he must be tempted to do daily.

Well, grab the lyre-strings, hearties, and begin:
Bawl your harsh souls all out upon the gravel.
I must endure you, for you’ll never sin
By robbing coaches, until dead men travel.

A “Scion of Nobility”

Come, sisters, weep!⁠—our Baron dear,
Alas! has run away.
If always we had kept him here
He had not gone astray.

Painter and grainer it were vain
To say he was, before;
And if he were, yet ne’er again
He’ll darken here a door.

We mourn each matrimonial plan⁠—
Even tradesmen join the cry:
He was so promising a man
Whenever he did buy.

He was a fascinating lad,
Deny it all who may;
Even “moneyed” men confess he had
A very taking way.

So from our tables he is gone⁠—
Our tears descend in showers;
We loved the very fat upon
His kidneys, for ’twas ours.

To women he was all respect
To duns as cold as ice;
No lady could his suit reject,
No tailor get its price.

He raised our hope above the sky;
Alas! alack! and O!
That one who worked it up so high
Should play it down so slow.

The Night of Election

“O venerable patriot, I pray
Stand not here coatless; at the break of day
We’ll know the grand result⁠—and even now
The eastern sky is faintly touched with gray.

“It ill befits thine age’s hoary crown⁠—
This rude environment of rogue and clown,
Who, as the lying bulletins appear,
With drunken cries incarnadine the town.

“But if with noble zeal you stay to note
The outcome of your patriotic vote
For Blaine, or Cleveland, and your native land,
Take⁠—and God bless you!⁠—take my overcoat.”

“Done, pard⁠—it’s mighty white of you. And now
I guess the country’ll keep the trail somehow.
I ain’t allowed to vote, the Warden said,
But whacked my coat up on old Stanislow.”

The Convicts’ Ball

San Quentin was brilliant. Within the halls
Of the noble pile with the frowning walls
(God knows they’ve enough to make them frown,
With a Governor trying to break them down!)
Was a blaze of light. ’Twas the natal day
Of his nibs the popular John S. Gray.
“The ball is free!” cried Black Bart, and they all
Said a ball with no chain was a novel ball;
“And I never have seed,” said Jimmy Hope,
“Sech a lightsome dance withouten a rope.”
Chinamen, Indians, Portuguese, Blacks,
Russians, Italians, Kanucks and Kanaks,
Chilenos, Peruvians, Mexicans⁠—all
Greased with their presence that notable ball.
None were excluded excepting, perhaps,
The Rev. Morrison’s churchly chaps,
Whom, to prevent a religious debate,
The Warden had banished outside of the gate.
The fiddler, fiddling his hardest the while,
“Called off” in the regular foot-hill style:
“Circle to the left!” and “Forward and back!”
And “Hellum to port for the stabbard tack!”
(This great virtuoso, it would appear,
Was Mate of the Gatherer many a year.)
Ally man left!”⁠—to a painful degree
His French was unlike to the French of Paree,
As heard from our countrymen lately abroad,
And his “doe cee doe” was the gem of the fraud.
But what can you hope from a gentleman barred
From circles of culture by dogs in the yard?
’Twas a glorious dance, though, all the same:
The Jardin Mabille in the days of its fame
Never saw legs perform such springs⁠—
The cold-chisel’s magic had given them wings.
They footed it featly, those lades and gents:
Dull care (said Long Moll) had a helly go-hence!

’Twas a very aristocratic affair:
The crème de la crème of the place was there⁠—
The swells and belles of our toughest sets,
And Hubert Howe Bancroft sent his regrets.

A Prayer

Sweet Spirit of Cesspool, hear a mother’s prayer:
Her terrors pacify and offspring spare!
Upon Silurians alone let fall
(And God in Heaven have mercy on them all!)
The red revenges of your fragrant breath,
Hot with the flames invisible of death.
Sing in each nose a melody of smells,
And lead them snoutwise to their several hells!

To One Detested

Sir, you’re a veteran, revealed
In history and fable
As warrior since you took the field,
Defeating Abel.

As Commissary later (or
If not, in every cottage
The tale is) you contracted for
A mess of pottage.

In civil life you were, we read
(And our respect increases)
A man of peace⁠—a man, indeed,
Of thirty pieces.

To paying taxes when you turned
Your mind, or what you call so,
A wide celebrity you earned⁠—
Sapphira also.

In every age, by various names,
You’ve won renown in story,
But on your present record flames
A greater glory.

Cain, Esau, and Iscariot too,
And Ananias, likewise,
Each had peculiar powers, but who
Could lie as Mike lies?

The Boss’s Choice

Listen to his wild romances:
He advances foolish fancies,
Each expounded as his “view”⁠—

In his brain’s opacous clot, ah
He has got a maggot! What a
Man with “views” to overwhelm us!⁠—

Hear his demagogic clamor
Hear him stammer in his grammar!
See him laboring to spell⁠—
Gulielmus L.

Slave who paid the price demanded⁠—
With two-handed iron branded
By the boss⁠—pray cease to dose us,
Gulielmus L. Jocosus.

A Merciful Governor

Standing within the triple wall of Hell,
And flattening his nose against a grate
Behind whose brazen bars he’d had to dwell
A thousand million ages to that date,
Stoneman bewailed his melancholy fate,
And his big tear-drops, boiling as they fell,
Had worn between his feet, the record mentions,
A deep depression in the “good intentions.”

Imperfectly by memory taught how⁠—
For prayer in Hell is a lost art⁠—he prayed,
Uplifting his incinerated brow
And flaming hands in supplication’s aid.
“O grant,” he cried, “my torment may be stayed⁠—
In mercy, some short breathing spell allow!
If one good deed I did before my ghosting,
Spare me and give Delmas a double roasting.”

Breathing a holy harmony in Hell,
Down through the appalling clamors of the place,
Charming them all to willing concord, fell
A Voice ineffable and full of grace:
“Because of all the law-defying race
One single malefactor of the cell
Thou didst deny a pardon, thy petition
Gains thee ten thousand years of intermission.”

Back from their fastenings began to shoot
The rusted bolts; with dreadful roar, the gate
Laboriously turned; and, black with soot,
The extinguished spirit passed that awful strait,
And as he legged it into space, elate,
Muttered: “Yes, I remember that galoot⁠—
I’d signed his pardon, ready to allot it,
But stuck it in my desk and quite forgot it.”

An Interpretation

Now Lonergan appears upon the boards,
And Truth and Error sheathe their lingual swords.
No more in wordy warfare to engage,
The commentators bow before the stage,
And bookworms, militant for ages past,
Confess their equal foolishness at last,
Re-read their Shakespeare in the newer light
And swear the meaning’s obvious to sight.
For centuries the question has been hot:
Was Hamlet crazy, or was Hamlet not?
Now, Lonergan’s illuminating art
Reveals the truth of the disputed “part,”
And shows to all the critics of the earth
That Hamlet was an idiot from birth!

A Soaring Toad

So, Waterman, you would not serve again
Although we’d all agree to pay you double.
You find it all is vanity and pain⁠—
One clump of clover in a field of stubble⁠—
One grain of pleasure in a peck of trouble.
’Tis sad, at your age, having to complain
Of disillusion; but the fault is whose
When pigmies stumble, wearing giants’ shoes?

I humbly told you many moons ago
For high preferment you were all unfit.
A clumsy bear makes but a sorry show
Climbing a pole. Let him, judicious, sit
With dignity at bottom of his pit,
And none his awkwardness will ever know.
Some beasts look better, and feel better, too,
Seen from above; and so, I think, would you.

Why, you were mad! Did you suppose because
Our foolish system suffers foolish men
To climb to power, make, enforce the laws,
And, it is whispered, break them now and then,
We love the fellows and respect them when
We’ve stilled the volume of our loud hurrahs?
When folly blooms we trample it the more
For having cultivated it before.

Behold yon laborer! His garb is mean,
His face is grimy, but who thinks to ask
The measure of his brains? ’Tis only seen
He’s fitted for his honorable task,
And so delights the mind. But let him bask
In droll prosperity, absurdly clean⁠—
Is that the man whom we admired before?
Good Lord, how ignorant, and what a bore!

Better for you that thoughtless men had said
(Noting your fitness in the humbler sphere):
“Why don’t they make him Governor?” instead
Of, “Why the devil did they?” But I fear
My words on your inhospitable ear
Are wasted like a sermon to the dead.
Still, they may profit you if studied well:
You can’t be taught to think, but may to spell.

An Undress Uniform

The apparel does not proclaim the man⁠—
Polonius lied like a partisan,
And Salomon still would a hero seem
If (Heaven dispel the impossible dream!)
He stood in a shroud on the hangman’s trap,
His eye burning holes in the black, black cap.
And the crowd below would exclaim amain:
“He’s ready to fall for his country again!”

The Perverted Village

after goldsmith

Sweet Auburn! liveliest village of the plain,
Where Health and Slander welcome every train,
Whence smiling innocence, its tribute paid,
Retires in terror, wounded and dismayed⁠—
Dear lovely bowers of gossip and disease,
Whose climate cures us that thy dames may tease,
How often have I knelt upon thy green
And prayed for death, to mitigate their spleen!
How often have I paused on every charm
With mingled admiration and alarm⁠—
The brook that runs by many a scandal-mill,
The church whose pastor groans upon the grill,
The cowthorn bush with seats beneath the shade,
Where hearts are struck and reputations flayed;
How often wished thine idle wives, some day,
Might more at whist, less at the devil, play.

Unblest retirement! ere my life’s decline
(Killed by detraction) may I witness thine.
How happy she who, shunning shades like these,
Finds in a wolf-den greater peace and ease;
Who quits the place whence truth did earlier fly,
And rather than come back prefers to die!
For her no jealous maids renounce their sleep,
Contriving malices to make her weep;
No iron-faced dames her character debate
And spurn imploring mercy from the gate;
But down she lies to a more peaceful end,
For wolves do not calumniate, but rend⁠—
Sinks piecemeal to their maws, a willing prey,
While resignation lubricates the way,
And all her prospects brighten at the last:
To wolves, not women, an approved repast.


Mr. Sheets

The Devil stood before the gate
Of Heaven. He had a single mate:
Behind him, in his shadow, slunk
Clay Sheets in a perspiring funk.
“Saint Peter, see this season ticket,”
Said Satan; “pray undo the wicket.”
The sleepy Saint threw slight regard
Upon the proffered bit of card,
Signed by some sacerdotal cheats:
“Admit the bearer and Clay Sheets.”
Peter expanded all his eyes:
“ ‘Clay Sheets?’⁠—well, I’ll be damned!” he cries.
“Our couches are of golden cloud;
Nothing of earth is here allowed.
I’ll let you in,” he added, shedding
On Nick a smile⁠—“but not your bedding.”

A Jack-at-All-Views

So, Estee, you are still alive! I thought
That you had died and were a blessed ghost.
I know at least your coffin once was bought
With Railroad money; and ’twas said by most
Historians that Stanford made a boast
The seller “threw you in.” That goes for naught⁠—
Man takes delight in fancy’s fine inventions,
And woman too, ’tis said, if they are French ones.

Do you remember, Estee⁠—ah, ’twas long
And long ago!⁠—how fierce you grew and hot
When anything impeded the straight, strong,
Wild sweep of the great billow you had got
Atop of, like a swimmer bold? Great Scott!
How fine your wavemanship! How loud your song
Of “Down with railroads!” When the wave subsided
And left you stranded you were much divided.

Then for a time you were content to wade
The waters of the “robber barons’ ” moat.
To fetch, and carry was your humble trade,
And ferry Stanford over in a boat,
Well paid if he bestowed the kindly groat
And spoke you fair and called you pretty maid.
And when his stomach seemed a bit unsteady
You got your serviceable basin ready.

Strange man! how odd to see you, smug and spruce,
There at Chicago, burrowed in a Chair,
Not made to measure and a deal too loose,
And see you lift your little arm and swear
Democracy shall be no more! If it’s a fair
And civil question, and not too abstruse,
Were you elected as a “robber baron,”
Or as a Communist whose teeth had hair on?

My Lord Poet

“Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat;”
Who sings for nobles, he should noble be.
There’s no non sequitur, I think, in that,
And this is logic plain as A.B.C.
Now, Hector Stuart, you’re a Scottish prince,
If right you fathom your descent⁠—that fall
From grace; and since you have no peers, and since
You have no kind of nobleness at all,
’Twere better to sing little, lest you wince
When made by heartless critics to sing small.
And yet, my liege, I bid you not despair⁠—
Ambition conquers but a realm at once:
For European bays arrange your hair⁠—
Two continents, in time, shall crown you Dunce!

To the Fool-Killer

Ah, welcome, welcome! Sit you down, old friend:
Your pipe I’ll serve, your bottle I’ll attend.
’Tis many a year since you and I have known
Society more pleasant than our own
In our brief respites from excessive work⁠—
I pointing out the hearts for you to dirk.
What have you done since lately at this board
We canvassed the deserts of all the horde,
And chose what names would please the people best,
Engraved on coffin-plates⁠—what bounding breast
Would give more satisfaction if at rest?
But never mind⁠—the record cannot fail:
The loftiest monuments will tell the tale.

I trust ere next we meet you’ll slay the chap
Who calls old Tyler “Judge” and Merry “Cap”⁠—
Calls John P. Irish “Colonel” and John P.,
Whose surname Jack-son speaks his pedigree,
By the same title⁠—men of equal rank
Though one is belly all, and one all shank,
Showing their several service in the fray:
One fought for food and one to get away.
I hope, I say, you’ll kill the “title” man
Who saddles one on every back he can,
Then rides it from Beërsheba to Dan!
Another fool, I trust, you will perform
Your office on while my resentment’s warm:
He shakes my hand a dozen times a day
If, luckless, I so often cross his way,
Though I’ve three senses besides that of touch,
To make me conscious of a fool too much.
Seek him, friend Killer, and your purpose make
Apparent as his guilty hand you take,
And set him trembling with a solemn: “Shake!”

But chief of all the addle-witted crew
Conceded by the Hangman’s League to you,
The fool (his dam’s acquainted with a knave)
Whose fluent pen, of his no-brain the slave,
Strews notes of introduction o’er the land
And calls it hospitality. His hand
May palsy seize ere he again consign
To me his friend, as I to Hades mine!
Pity the wretch, his faults howe’er you see,
Whom A accredits to his victim, B.
Like shuttlecock which battledores attack
(One speeds it forward, one would drive it back)
The trustful simpleton is twice unblest⁠—
A rare good riddance, an unwelcome guest.
The glad consignor rubs his hands to think
How duty is commuted into ink;
The consignee (his hands he cannot rub⁠—
He has the man upon them) mutters: “Cub!”
And straightway plans to lose him at the club.
You know, good Killer, where this dunce abides⁠—
The secret jungle where he writes and hides⁠—
Though no exploring foot has e’er upstirred
His human elephant’s exhaustless herd.
Go, bring his blood! We’ll drink it⁠—letting fall
A due libation to the gods of Gall.
On second thought, the gods may have it all.

One and One Are Two

The trumpet sounded and the dead
Came forth from earth and ocean,
And Pickering arose and sped
Aloft with wobbling motion.

“What makes him fly lop-sided?” cried
A soul of the elected.
“One ear was wax,” a rogue replied,
“And isn’t resurrected.”

Below him on the pitted plain,
By his abandoned hollow,
His hair and teeth tried all in vain
The rest of him to follow.

Saint Peter, seeing him ascend,
Came forward to the wicket,
And said: “My mutilated friend,
I’ll thank you for your ticket.”

“The Call,” said Pickering, his hand
To reach the latch extended.
Said Peter, affable and bland:
“The free-list is suspended⁠—

“What claim have you that’s valid here?”
That ancient vilifier
Reflected; then, with look austere,
Replied: “I am a liar.”

Said Peter: “That is simple, neat
And candid Anglo-Saxon,
But⁠—well, come in, and take a seat
Up there by Colonel Jackson.”

Montague Leverson

As some enormous violet that towers
Colossal o’er the heads of lowlier flowers⁠—
Its giant petals royally displayed,
And casting half the landscape into shade;
Delivering its odors, like the blows
Of some strong slugger, at the public nose;
Pride of two Nations⁠—for a single State
Would scarce suffice to sprout a plant so great;
So Leverson’s humility, outgrown
The meaner virtues that he deigns to own,
To the high skies its great corolla rears,
In the benign sufflation of his cheers.

The Woeful Tale of Mr. Peters

I should like, good friends, to mention the disaster that befell
Mr. William Perry Peters, of the town of Muscatel.
Whose fate is full of meaning if correctly understood⁠—
Admonition to the haughty, consolation to the good.

It happened in the hot snap which we recently incurred,
When ’twas warm enough to carbonize the feathers of a bird,
And men exclaimed: “By Hunky!” who were bad enough to swear,
And pious persons supervised their adjectives with care.

Mr. Peters was a pedagogue of honor and repute,
His learning comprehensive, multifarious, minute.
It was commonly conceded in the section whence he came
That the man who played against him needed knowledge of the game.

And some there were who whispered, in the town of Muscatel,
That besides the game of Draw he knew Orthography as well;
Though, the school directors, frigidly contemning that as stuff,
Thought that Draw (and maybe Spelling, if he had it) was enough.

Withal, he was a haughty man⁠—indubitably great,
But too vain of his attainments and his power in debate.
His mien was contumelious to men of lesser gift:
“It’s only me,” he said, “can give the human mind a lift.

“Before a proper audience, if ever I’ve a chance,
You’ll see me chipping in, the cause of Learning to advance.
Just let me have a decent chance to back my mental hand
And I’ll come to center lightly in a way they’ll understand.”

Such was William Perry Peters, and I feel a poignant sense
Of grief that I’m unable to employ the present tense;
But Providence disposes, be our scheming what it may,
And disposed of Mr. Peters in a cold, regardless way.

It occurred in San Francisco, whither Mr. Peters came
In the cause of Education, feeling still the holy flame
Of ambition to assist in lifting up the human mind
To a higher plane of knowledge than its Architect designed.

He attended the convention of the pedagogic host;
He was first in the Pavilion, he was last to leave his post.
For days and days he narrowly observed the Chairman’s eye,
His efforts ineffectual to catch it on the fly.

The blessed moment came at last: the Chairman tipped his head;
“The gentleman from ah⁠—um⁠—er,” that functionary said.
The gentleman from ah⁠—um⁠—er reflected with a grin;
“They’ll know me better by-and-by, when I’m a-chipping in.”

So William Perry Peters mounted cheerfully his feet⁠—
And straightway was aglow with an incalculable heat!
His face was as effulgent as a human face could be,
And caloric emanated from his whole periphery;

For he felt himself the focus of non-Muscatelish eyes,
And the pain of their convergence was a terror and surprise!
As with pitiless appulsion all their heat-waves on him broke
He was seen to be evolving awful quantities of smoke!

“Put him out!” cried all in chorus; but the meaning wasn’t clear
Of that succoring suggestion to his obfuscated ear;
And it notably augmented his incinerating glow
To regard himself excessive, or in any way de trop.

Gone was all his wild ambition to lift up the human mind!⁠—
Gone the words he would have uttered!⁠—gone the thought that lay behind!
For “words that burn” may be consumed in a superior flame,
And “thoughts that breathe” may breathe their last, and die a death of shame.

He’d known himself a shining light, but never had he known
Himself so very luminous as now he knew he shone.
“A pillar, I, of fire,” he’d said, “to guide my race will be;”
And now that very inconvenient thing to him was he.

He stood there all irresolute; the seconds went and came;
The minutes passed and did but add fresh fuel to his flame.
How long he stood he knew not⁠—’twas a century or more⁠—
And then that incandescent man levanted for the door!

He darted like a comet from the building to the street,
Where Fahrenheit attested ninety-five degrees of heat.
Vicissitudes of climate make the tenure of the breath
Precarious, and William Perry Peters froze to death!

Twin Unworthies

Ye parasites that to the rich men stick,
As to the fattest sheep the thrifty tick⁠—
Ed’ard to Stanford and to Crocker, Ben
(To Ben and Ed’ard many meaner men,
And lice to these)⁠—who do the kind of work
That thieves would have the honesty to shirk⁠—
Whose wages are that your employers own
The fat that reeks upon your every bone
And deign to ask (the flattery how sweet!)
About its health and how it stands the heat⁠—
Hail and farewell! I meant to write about you,
But, no, my page is cleaner far without you.


Lo! tooth and nail my countrymen contest
Which portrait of Columbus is the best.
Considering that the pirate never “sat,”
That is as like as this, and this as that.
We want a face that shows, by all the rules,
A prophecy of ninety million fools.

A War Cry

Charles Shortridge, with his martial mouth in place
At his own ear, shouts dreadful!
Pale horrors shudder through eternal space⁠—
Of which he has a headful.

In Dissuasion

Dan Burns, you’d be a Senator, I hear,
And Senators are persons of much note.
I cannot choose but think it very queer
That you solicit for the place a vote.
Why, don’t you know you’ll have to ride the goat,
Be skyward from a shaken blanket hurled
And put in session on a heated chair
Till your immortal part is more than rare⁠—
Your foretaste of another, warmer world?
’Tis said that all ambitious louts who dare
Aspire to Senatorial fame receive it
In some such fashion, though I don’t believe it.

Still, you’ll suppose that this has all occurred.
If in that Upper House you e’er arise,
Trembly and hot, to speak your maiden word⁠—
Walls, desks, floor, ceiling to your failing eyes
Seeming to blend, and Senators like flies
To spin about in space! Rash man, forbear
To cherish your accurst ambition! Sir,
Your breeding and your character confer
Small right to breathe in that expanded air.
For toads to perch with eagles is to err.
Pray Heaven to send contentment with your station
And bar you from the hauls of legislation.

The toga, if you win it, scarce will serve
To cover up the stripes (where are the stars?)
Which to a fertile fancy seem to curve
Round you like shadows of the prison bars.
Embezzlement, I’m told, exists in Mars,
Where sometimes an official will “convey”
And in “the shadow of the jail” abide
Till it seems photographed upon his hide
And shapes his gait, as if he dragged alway
A ball-and-chain. Upon the Moon’s far side
Dwells such a man, who knows not (goes the story)
Which of the saints he is when out for glory.

A Prediction

When the skies are green with clover,
And the cows are flying over;
When the roses lose their fragrance;
When the ants are shiftless vagrants;
When the peacocks pluck their tails,
And the lion pares his nails;
When old ocean’s roaring ridges
Roll beneath iridium bridges;
When diseases and physicians
Quarrel; when the politicians
Go to work; when lawyers never
Fib no more again forever;
When we gather ice to burn,
And to eggs potatoes turn;
When the pie-distended sleeper
On the nightmare keeps his peeper.
Quick to round her up and mount her,
Field and Terry will “encounter.”

When the whales, in battle order,
March across our northern border;
When the serpent of the sea
Is no longer known to be;
When the cats intone in Latin,
And the lady ape wears satin;
When the vulture, Mortgage, perches
Nevermore upon the churches;
When the sycophant despises
Arts by which the bird-louse rises
Comfortably to the sky,
And the smithy-haunting fly,
Sitting on the swelling bellows,
Is no prouder than his fellows;
When the mocking-bird eschews
All of his assenting views.
Nor proclaims them out of season;
When the poets learn to reason;
When lieutenants damn the bullets
Penetrating captains’ gullets,
And a major feels the pain
Of his colonel’s shattered brain;
When the best of human creatures
Is the most austere of preachers,
And the woman who’s demurest
Is the truest and the purest;
When the Mississippi, yearning
For its native hills and turning
Deftly backward in its bed,
Lays its mouth against its head;
When the turtle-doves are cruel⁠—
Field and Terry’ll fight a duel.

Another Plan

Editor Owen, of San Jose,
Commonly known as “our friend J. J.,”
Weary of scribbling for daily bread,
Weary of writing what nobody read,
Slept one day at his desk and dreamed
That an angel before him stood and beamed
With compassionate eyes upon him there.

Editor Owen is not so fair
In feature, expression, form or limb
But glances like that are familiar to him;
And so, to arrive by the shortest route
At his visitor’s will he said simply: “Toot.”

“Editor Owen,” the angel said,
“Scribble no more for your daily bread.
Your intellect staggers and falls and bleeds,
Weary of writing what nobody reads.
Eschew now the quill⁠—in the coming years
Homilize man through his idle ears.
Go lecture!” “Just what I intended to do,”
Said Owen. The angel looked pained and flew.

Editor Owen, of San Jose,
Commonly known as “our friend J. J.,”
Scribbling no more to supply his needs,
Weary of writing what nobody reads.
Passes of life each golden year
Speaking what nobody comes to hear.

A Political Apostate

Good friend, it is with deep regret I note
The latest, strangest turning of your coat;
Though any way you wear that mental clout
The seamy side seems always to be out.
Who could have thought that you would e’er sustain
The Southern shotgun’s arbitrary reign?⁠—
Your sturdy hand assisting to replace
The broken yoke on a delivered race;
The ballot’s purity no more your care,
With equal privilege to dark and fair.
To Yesterday a traitor, to To-day
You’re constant but the better to betray
To-morrow. Your convictions all are naught
But the wild asses of the world of thought,
Which, flying mindless o’er the barren plain,
Perceive at last they’ve nothing so to gain,
And, turning penitent upon their track,
Economize their strength by flying back.

Ex-champion of Freedom, battle-lunged,
No more, red-handed, or at least red-tongued,
Brandish the javelin which by others thrown
Clove Sambo’s heart to quiver in your own!
Confess no more that when his blood was shed,
And you so sympathetically bled,
The bow that spanned the mutual cascade
Was but the promise of a roaring trade
In offices. Your fingering now the trigger
Shows that you knew your Negro was a nigger!
Ad hominem this argumentum runs:
Peace!⁠—let us fire another kind of guns.

I grant you, friend, that it is very true
The Blacks are ignorant⁠—and sable, too.
What then? One way of two a fool must vote,
And either way with gentlemen of note
Whose villain feuds the fact attest too well
That pedagogues nor vice nor error quell.
The fiercest controversies ever rage
When Miltons and Salmasii engage.
No project wide attention ever drew
But it disparted all the learned crew.
As through their group the cleaving line’s prolonged
With fiery combatants each field is thronged;
In battle-royal they engage at once
For guidance of the hesitating dunce.
The Titans on the heights contend full soon⁠—
On this side Webster and on that Calhoun,
The monstrous conflagration of their fight
Startling the day and splendoring the night!
Both are unconquerable⁠—one is right.
Will’t keep the pigmy, if we make him strong,
From siding with a giant in the wrong?
When Genius strikes for error, who’s afraid
To arm poor Folly with a wooden blade?
O Rabelais, you knew it all!⁠—your good
And honest judge (by men misunderstood)
Knew to be right there was but one device
Less fallible than intellect⁠—the dice.
The time must come⁠—Heaven expedite the day!⁠—
When all mankind shall their decrees obey,
And nations prosper in their peaceful sway.

Tinker Dick

Good Parson Dickson preached, I’m told,
A sermon⁠—ah, ’twas very old
And very, very, bald!
’Twas all about⁠—I know not what
It was about, nor what ’twas not.
“A Screw Loose” it was called.

Whatever, Parson Dick, you say,
The world will get each blessed day
Still more and more askew,
And fall apart at last. Great snakes!
What skillful tinker ever takes
His tongue to turn a screw?

A Peaceful Community

With lifted hands, Lone Mountain’s giant cross
Stands in the sky against the Western splendor!
(A ship beyond is playing pitch-and-toss;
She hugs⁠—ships all are feminine in gender⁠—
The shore, then fickly turns away to find
Another shore to suit her altered mind.)

About the foot of that tall rood are spread
The simple mound and pompous mausoleum⁠—
Three several republics of the dead,
Whose citizens love peace. You’ll never see ’em
Assail a street-car passenger with stones,
Nor brain a woman with their marrow bones.

Not even in Potter’s Field the pauper crew
E’er go on strike to get a fair division
Of monumental fame. (If they but knew,
Their barren paddock is a Field Elysian,
Compared with many an historic place,
Where royal odors leg it into space.)

The dead intimidate no Sandlot Judge,
Nor was it ever their besetting sin to
Scare burly Sheriffs. Faith! I’d not begrudge
That cross the necks if it were fashioned into
A double gibbet, on one arm to bear
A rioter, on t’other one a Mayor.

Long live the dead! Since they prefer to live
Within the law, it is a monstrous pity
That early legislation did not give
Them the authority to rule this city.
Here’s to their health! and may their tribe increase⁠—
Recruited from the Judges and Police.

With a Book

Words shouting, singing, smiling, frowning⁠—
Sense lacking.

Ah, nothing, more obscure than Browning,
Save blacking.

A Competitor

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
My legs are not so very straight;
My spine, I’m sorry to observe,
Maintains a most rebellious curve;
My neck is skinny, and my bust
Would justify a husband’s trust.
But papa thinks his Mary Ann
Is built upon a gorgeous plan.

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
I take the liberty to state
That Venuses would go on strike
If ordered to be all alike;
For some are made for this, and some
For that⁠—you take ’em as they come.
But papa says: “My Mary Ann
Knocks out the whole damn caravan!”

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
They think in Greaserville I’m great⁠—
They say in Greaserville: “You bet
She’ll make them hens get up and get!
She’s just a bird!” So when I clout
Myself in cheese-cloth you look out!
For papa says: “My Mary Ann
Has win whenever she has ran.”

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
I’m giving you the business straight:
Make any standards that you please
Beneath my cloth I’m just the cheese.
I care not what the artists say⁠—
I’m in it and I’m in to stay.
For papa says: “If Mary Ann
Will advertise she’ll get a man.”

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
Head Venus-herder of the State,
Round up your girls. But Frona, dear
I think it very, very queer
That you yourself do not compete.
Are you too plump or too petite?
My papa says: “Why, Mary Ann,
She’s from Beërsheba to Dan!”


By seven brave poems the Mikado shows
His royal fitness for the field of prose.
Of bold, bad bards to crown him brother-chief
Dick Watson Gilder spares one laurel leaf.

Bats in Sunshine

Well, Mr. Kemble, you are called, I think,
A great divine, and I’m a great profane.
You as a Congregationalist blink
Some certain truths that I esteem a gain,
And drop them in the coffers of my brain,
Pleased with the pretty music of their chink.
Perhaps your spiritual wealth is such
A golden truth or two don’t count for much.

You say that you’ve no patience with such stuff
As by Rénan is writ, and when you read
(Why do you read?) have hardly strength enough
To hold your hand from flinging the vile screed
Into the fire. That were a wasteful deed
Which you’d repent in sackcloth extra rough;
For books cost money, and I’m told you care
To lay up treasures Here as well as There.

I fear, good, pious soul, that you mistake
Your thrift for toleration. Never mind:
Rénan in any case would hardly break
His great, strong, charitable heart to find
The bats and owls of your myopic kind
Pained by the light that his ideas make.
’Tis Truth’s best purpose to shine in at holes
Where cower the Kembles, to confound their souls!

A Word to the Unwise

Charles Main, of the firm of Main & Winchester, has ordered a grand mausoleum for his plot in Mountain View Cemetery.

City Newspaper

Charles Main, of Main & Winchester, attend
With friendly ear the chit-chat of a friend
Who knows you not, yet knows that you and he
Travel two roads that have a common end.

We journey forward through the time allowed,
I humbly bending, you erect and proud.
Our heads alike will stable soon the worm⁠—
The one that’s lifted, and the one that’s bowed.

You in your mausoleum shall repose,
I where it pleases Him who sleep bestows;
What matter whether one so little worth
Shall stain the marble or shall feed the rose?

Charles Main, I had a friend who died one day.
A metal casket held his honored clay.
Of cyclopean architecture stood
The splendid vault where he was laid away.

A dozen years, and lo! the roots of grass
Had burst asunder all the joints; the brass,
The gilded ornaments, the carven stones
Lay tumbled all together in a mass.

A dozen years! That taxes your belief.
Make it a thousand if the time’s too brief.
’Twill be the same to you; when you are dead
You cannot even count your days of grief.

Suppose a pompous monument you raise
Till on its peak the solar splendor blaze
While yet about its base the night is black;
But will it give your glory length of days?

Say, when beneath your rubbish has been thrown,
Some rogue to reputation all unknown⁠—
Men’s backs being turned⁠—should lift his thieving hand,
Efface your name and substitute his own,

Whose then would be the monument? To whom
Would be the fame? Forgotten in your gloom⁠—
Your very name forgotten⁠—ah, my friend,
The name is all that’s rescued by the tomb.

For memory of worth and work we go
To other records than a stone can show.
These lacking, naught remains; with these
The stone is needless for the world will know.

Then build your mausoleum if you must,
And creep into it with a perfect trust;
But in the twinkling of an eye the plow
Shall pass without obstruction through your dust.

Another movement of the pendulum,
And, lo! the desert-haunting wolf shall come,
And, seated on the spot, shall howl by night
O’er rotting cities, desolate and dumb.

On the Platform

When Dr. Bill Bartlett stepped out of the hum
Of Mammon’s distracting and wearisome strife
To stand and deliver a lecture on “Some
Conditions of Intellectual Life,”
I cursed the offender who gave him the hall
To lecture on any conditions at all!

But he rose with a fire divine in his eye,
Haranguing with endless abundance of breath,
Till I slept; and I dreamed of a gibbet reared high,
And Dr. Bill Bartlett was dressing for death.
And I thought in my dream: “These conditions, no doubt,
Are bad for the life he was talking about.”

So I cried (pray remember this all was a dream):
“Get off of the platform!⁠—it isn’t the kind!”
But he fell through the trap, with a jerk at the beam,
And wiggled his toes to unburden his mind.
And, O, so bewitching the thoughts he advanced
That I clung to his ankles, attentive, entranced!

Judge Not

To foreigners in San Francisco, greeting.
When you see a labor-leader fiercely beating
The air with all his fingers to betoken
His view of this or that ere yet ’tis spoken⁠—
When you see him, as in dancing, foot it featly
To manifest dissent the more completely⁠—
When you hear him in a tempest of emotion
Deflate himself of some unpeaceful notion,
Don’t prophesy a blazing revolution;
Don’t drag the guillotine from its seclusion;
Don’t whistle up a storm of blood and thunder,
To fill the world with horror, fear and wonder!
He’s dreadful in defining his position,
He’s terrible in threatening sedition⁠—
And a Past Grand Master of Submission.


My days all are wasted in vainly
Contesting the field against Fate;
My nights with remorses insanely
Are swarming, and spectres of hate.

“O for rest! O for peace!” I cry madly⁠—
“Let me fall, for I faint in the strife.
To be dead, to be dead, I’d give gladly
All, all that I have, except life.”

To Dog

Pervading pest! Old Adam, when he saw
Thy prime progenitor, I doubt not, swore
And kicked the curst kioodle from the door,
Though now thy whelpage we protect by law.
In faith, thou must have been a beastly, raw,
Uncultivated monster many score
Immemorable centuries before
Thy rigor was by breeding made to thaw.
How racy of the soil thou must have been!⁠—
Indigenous and close to nature’s heart!
How strong thy jaw-lock, habits how unclean,
And what a sink of infamy thy heart!
It may be, though, thou wert created upright.
If Man (the angels’ care) could fall, a pup might.

To a Grabber

If, Prentiss Maslin, you would kindly leave
A coin or two of what the State has hoarded
We’d think it generous of you; for we’ve
But just begun our fortunes to retrieve,
Having lost all our treasury afforded
To certain robbers, who, departing, left
Us you as a memorial of the theft.

Memorial? Bless you! you’re the very thing
Incarnate⁠—and by no means any cleaner
For incarnation. Sir, you are the king
Of crimes, grown great and proud remembering
When you were young and but a misdemeanor.
Let lesser souls be ravenous of pelf,
He scorns the gains of greed who’s greed itself.

What! shall a firework covetously yearn
While splendoring the skies⁠—a gorgeous rocket
Where golden constellations grandly burn⁠—
To take the earth along? ’Tis sad to learn
That even the robe of glory has a pocket.
In you, alas! I’d fondly hoped to see
One man that loved himself unselfishly.

Memorial Day

The bands have played, the singers finished singing,
The flags done flapping and the bells done ringing.
Hereditary candidates have spoken;
Their tongues are silent and their hearts are broken⁠—
Barnes, Shortridge, Salomon-in-all-his-glory,
With wounds (their mouths) no longer wide and gory⁠—
Healed by the touch of time; for even orations
Must sometimes come to end if one have patience.
And still in spite of all the din infernal
Of every “General” and “Judge” and “Colonel,”
Our grand old heroes sleep in peace eternal!

A Dampened Ardor

The Chinatown at Bakersfield
Was blazing bright and high;
The flames to water would not yield,
Though torrents drenched the sky
And drowned the ground for miles around⁠—
The houses were so dry.

Then rose an aged preacher man
Whom all did much admire,
Who said: “To force on you my plan
I truly don’t aspire,
But streams, it seems, might quench these beams
If turned upon the fire.”

The fireman said: “This hoary wight
His folly dares to thrust
On us! ’Twere well he felt our might⁠—
Nay, he shall feel our must!”
With jet of wet and small regret
They laid that old man’s dust.

Adair Welcker, Poet

The Swan of Avon died⁠—the Swan
Of Sacramento’ll soon be gone;
And when his death-song he shall coo,
Stand back, or it will kill you too.

To a Word-Warrior

Frank Pixley, you, who kiss the hand
That strove to cut the country’s throat,
Cannot forgive the hands that smote
Applauding in a distant land⁠—

Applauding carelessly, as one
The weaker willing to befriend
Until the quarrel’s at an end,
Then learn by whom it was begun.

When North was pitted against South
Non-combatants on either side
In calculating fury vied,
And fought their foes by word of mouth.

That mad logomachy you led
With formidable feats of tongue.
Then on the battle’s rear you hung⁠—
With Samson’s weapon slew the dead!

So hot the ardor of your soul
That every fierce civilian came
His torch to kindle at your flame,
Or have you blow his cooling coal.

Men prematurely left their beds
And sought the gelid bath⁠—so great
The heat and splendor of your hate
Of Englishmen and “Copperheads.”

King Liar of deceitful men,
For imposition doubly armed!
The patriots whom your speaking charmed
You stung to madness with your pen.

There was a certain journal here,
Its English owner growing rich⁠—
Your hand the treason wrote for which
A mob cut short its curst career.

If, Pixley, you had not the brain
To know the true from false, or you
To Truth had courage to be true,
And loyal to her perfect reign;

If you had not your powers arrayed
To serve the wrong by tricksy speech,
Nor pushed yourself within the reach
Of retribution’s accolade,

I had not had the will to go
Outside the olive-bordered path
Of peace to cut the birch of wrath,
And strip your body for the blow.

Behold how dark the war-clouds rise
About the mother of our race!
The lightnings gild her tranquil face
And glitter in her patient eyes.

Her children throng the hither flood
And lean intent above the beach.
Their beating hearts inhibit speech
With stifling tides of English blood.

“Their skies, but not their hearts, they change
Who go in ships across the sea”⁠—
Through all centuries to be
The strange new land will still be strange.

The Island Mother holds in gage
The souls of sons she never saw;
Superior to law, the law
Of sympathetic heritage.

Forgotten now the foolish reign
Of wrath which sundered trivial ties.
A soldier’s sabre vainly tries
To cleave a spiritual chain.

The iron in our blood affines,
Though fratricidal hands may spill.
Shall Hate be throned on Bunker Hill,
Yet Love abide in Seven Pines?

A Culinary Candidate

A cook adorned with paper cap,
Or waiter with a tray,
May be a worthy kind of chap
In his way,
But when we want one for Recorder,
Then, Mr. Walton, take our order.

To One Acquitted

Sir, you have killed a man and you are free⁠—
That is, your hanging ne’er will come about;
For I’ve observed when jurors disagree
’Tis not as ’tis when other thieves fall out.
Some honest men are in the case, no doubt,
But none come by their own⁠—not even the chap
Whose honest office is to spring the trap.

Some needy tramp, I think, is deputized
That lowly function to perform⁠—although
I must confess I am not well advised
Concerning that: I ne’er did undergo
A hanging; but if I am right you owe
The customary perquisite to some
Poor shivering and disappointed “bum.”

If Californian hangmen are too proud
To wear the clothing of the wretch they string,
And the good ancient custom’s been allowed
To lapse; or if so seldom murderers swing
In this good land that there is no such thing
As custom in the case, the truth we reach is:
You’ve forfeited your life, but not your breeches.


One day when Satan visited the earth
In order that his eyes might feed his mirth,
A loyal follower in sorrow said,
“Father of Falsehood, to our idols wed
We rear memorials in bronze and stone
To every kind of mortal greatness known;
But not in this thy realm stands anywhere
A monument or statue to declare
Thy greater glory.” With the modest mien
Of violet that loves to bloom unseen,
Satan replied: “All earthly fame I shun,
Content with consciousness of work well done.
Statues to heroes! Mine the humble glory
To tell on every pedestal the story.”

At the Observatory

Mahatma Holden, Autocrat of Stars,
Fixed to the telescope his curious eye
And waited for some great phenomenon
To seek his field of vision. Years and years,
Retiring early, rising with the sun,
With patience proof against defeat, he still
Had sought some grand discovery; and still,
Dogging the footsteps of endeavor, came
Grim disappointment and in mockery
Derided him. But now, even as he gazed,
A great white light crept up the sky, and lo!
Into the telescope’s illumined ken
Swam with a stately grace a noble orb,
And paused in mid-field of the mighty tube!

Mahatma Holden, Autocrat of Stars,
Was found next morn beneath the instrument,
Senseless and motionless as one that’s dead.
“By some emotion overcome,” said one
(Sometime physician to the Ghug of Smat)
Who with sharp stimulants and kindly words
Strove to revive him. Scarcely had the fresh
And wholesome air saluted both his lungs
Than, “Paper!” cried he⁠—“paper, pen and ink!
Quick, ere the glorious memory fades! Ah, friends,
Not all in vain my vigils and my skill
To read the secrets of the upper deep:
At last I’m famous and my name shall ring
Adown the centuries unlinked with theirs,
My menials, Burnham, Bar⁠—” he faltered then,
Yet with a mighty effort peaced himself,
Mastered his spirit, calmly gazed about
And, with angelic dignity, explained:
“I’ve found the Moon!” And it was even so.

The Oleomargarine Man

Once⁠—in the county of Marin,
Where milk is sold to purchase gin⁠—
Renowned for butter and renowned
For fourteen ounces to the pound⁠—
A bull stood watching every turn
Of Mr. Wilson with a churn,
As that deigning worthy stalked
About him, eying as he walked
El Toro’s sleek and silken hide,
His neck, his flank and all beside;
Thinking with secret joy: “I’ll spread
This mammal on a slice of bread!”

Soon Mr. Wilson’s keen concern
To get the creature in his churn
Unhorsed his caution⁠—made him blind
To the fell vigor of bullkind,
Till, filled with valor to the teeth,
He drew his dasher from its sheath
And bravely brandished it; the while
He smiled a dark, portentous smile;
A deep, sepulchral smile; a wide
And open smile, which, at his side,
The churn to copy vainly tried;
A smile so like the dawn of doom
That all the field was palled in gloom,
And all the trees within a mile,
As tribute to that awful smile,
Made haste, with loyalty discreet,
To fling their shadows at his feet.
Then rose his battle-cry: “I’ll spread
This mammal on a slice of bread!”

To such a night the day had turned
That Taurus dimly was discerned.
He wore so meek and grave an air
It seemed as if, engaged in prayer
This thunderbolt incarnate had
No thought of anything that’s bad:
This concentrated earthquake stood
And gave his mind to being good.
Lightly and low he drew his breath⁠—
This magazine of sudden death!
All this the thrifty Wilson’s glance
Took in, and, crying, “Now’s my chance!”
Upon the bull he sprang amain
To put him in his churn. Again
Rang out his battle-yell: “I’ll spread
This mammal on a slice of bread!”

Sing, Muse, that battle-royal⁠—sing
The deeds that made the region ring:
The blows, the bellowing, the cries,
The dust that darkened all the skies,
The thunders of the contest, all!
Nay, none of these things did befall.
A yell there was⁠—a rush⁠—no more:
El Toro, tranquil as before,
Still stood there basking in the sun,
Nor of his legs had shifted one⁠—
Stood there and conjured up his cud
And meekly munched it. Scenes of blood
Had little charm for him. His head
He merely nodded as he said:
“I’ve spread that butterman upon
A slice of Southern Oregon.”

The Genesis of Crime

God said, “Let there be Crime,” and the command
Brought Satan, leading Stoneman by the hand.
“Why, that’s Stupidity, not Crime,” said God⁠—
“Bring what I ordered.” Satan with a nod
Replied, “This is one element⁠—when I
The other⁠—Opportunity⁠—supply
In just equivalent, the two’ll affine
And in a chemical embrace combine
And Crime result⁠—for Crime can only be
Stupiditate of Opportunity.”
So leaving Stoneman (not as yet endowed
With soul) in special session on a cloud,
Nick to his sooty laboratory went,
Returning soon with t’other element.
“Here’s Opportunity,” he said, and put
Pen, ink, and paper down at Stoneman’s foot.
He seized them⁠—Heaven was filled with fires and thunders,
And Crime was added to Creation’s wonders!

Llewellyn Powell

Villain, when the word is spoken,
And your chains at last are broken;
When the gibbet’s chilling shade
Ceases darkly to enfold you,
And the angel who enrolled you
As a master of the trade
Of assassination sadly
Blots the record he has made,
And your name and title paints
In the calendar of saints;
When the devils, dancing madly
In the midmost Hell, are very
Multitudinously merry⁠—
Then beware, beware, beware!
Nemesis is everywhere!
You shall hear her at your back,
And, your hunted visage turning,
Fancy that her eyes are burning
Like a tiger’s on your track!
You shall hear her in the breeze
Whispering to summer trees.
You shall hear her calling, calling
To your spirit through the storm
When the giant billows form
And the splintered lightning, falling
Down the heights of Heaven, appalling,
Splendors all the tossing seas!
On your bed at night reclining,
Stars into your chamber shining
As they roll around the Pole,
None their purposes divining,
Shall appear to search your soul,
And to gild the mark of Cain
That burns into your tortured brain!
And the dead man’s eyes shall ever
Meet your own wherever you,
Desperate, shall turn you to,
And you shall escape them never!

By your heritage of guilt;
By the blood that you have spilt;
By the Law that you have broken;
By the terrible red token
That you bear upon your brow;
By the awful sentence spoken
And irrevocable vow
Which consigns you to a living
Death and to the unforgiving
Furies who avenge your crime
Through the periods of time;
By that dread eternal doom
Hinted in your future’s gloom,
As the flames infernal tell
Of their power and perfection
In their wavering reflection
On the battlements of Hell;
By the mercy you denied,
I condemn your guilty soul
In your body to abide,
Like a serpent in a hole!

The Sunset Gun

Off Santa Cruz the western wave
Was crimson as with blood:
The sun was sinking to his grave
Beneath that angry flood.

Sir Walter Turnbull, brave and stout,
Then shouted, “Ho! lads; run⁠—
The powder and the wad bring out
To fire the sunset gun.

“That punctual orb did ne’er omit
To keep, by land or sea,
Its every engagement; it
Shall never wait for me.”

Behold the black-mouthed cannon stand,
Ready with charge and prime,
The lanyard in the gunner’s hand.
Sir Walter waits the time.

The glowing orb sinks in the sea,
And clouds of steam aspire,
Then fade, and the horizon’s free.
Sir Walter thunders: “Fire!”

The gunner pulls⁠—the lanyard parts
And not a sound ensues.
The beating of ten thousand hearts
Was heard at Santa Cruz!

Off Santa Cruz the western wave
Was crimson as with blood;
The sun, with visage stern and grave,
Came back from out the flood.

The Viduate Dame

’Tis the widow of Thomas Blythe,
And she goeth upon the spree,
And red are cheeks of the bystanders
For her acts are light and free.

In a seven-ounce costume
The widow of Thomas Blythe,
Y-perched high on the window ledge,
The difficult can-can tryeth.

Ten constables they essay
To bate the dame’s halloing.
With the widow of Thomas Blythe
Their hands are overflowing.

And they cry: “Call the National Guard
To quell this parlous muss⁠—
For all of the widows of Thomas Blythe
Are upon the spree and us!”

O long shall the eerie tale be told
By that posse’s surviving tithe;
And with tears bedewed he’ll sing this rude
Ballàd of the widow of Thomas Blythe.

Four of a Kind

Robert F. Morrow

Dear man! although a stranger and a foe
To soft affection’s humanizing glow;
Although untaught how manly hearts may throb
With more desires than the desire to rob;
Although as void of tenderness as wit,
And owning nothing soft but Maurice Schmitt;
Although polluted, shunned and in disgrace,
You fill me with a passion to embrace!
Attentive to your look, your smile, your beck,
I watch and wait to fall upon your neck.
Lord of my love, and idol of my hope,
You are my Valentine, and I’m
A Rope.

Alfred Clarke, Jr.

Illustrious son of an illustrious sire⁠—
Entrusted with the duty to cry “Fire!”
And call the engines out, exert your power
With care. When, looking from your lofty tower,
You see a ruddy light on every wall,
Pause for a moment ere you sound the call:
It may be from a fire, it may be, too,
From good men’s blushes when they think of you.

Judge Rutledge

Sultan of Stupids! with enough of brains
To go indoors in all uncommon rains,
But not enough to stay there when the storm
Is past. When all the world is dry and warm,
In irking comfort, lamentably gay,
Keeping the evil tenor of your way,
You walk abroad, sweet, beautiful and smug,
And Justice hears you with her wonted shrug,
Lifts her broad bandage half-an-inch and keeps
One eye upon you while the other weeps.

W. H. L. Barnes

Happy the man who sin’s proverbial wage
Receives on the instalment plan⁠—in age.
For him the bulldog pistol’s honest bark
Has naught of terror in its blunt remark.
He looks with calmness on the gleaming steel⁠—
If e’er it touched his heart he did not feel:
Superior hardness turned its point away,
Though urged by fond affinity to stay;
His bloodless veins ignored the futile stroke,
And moral mildew kept the cut in cloak.
Happy the man, I say, to whom the wage
Of sin has been commuted into age.
Yet not quite happy⁠—hark, that horrid cry!⁠—
His cruel mirror wounds him in the eye!


Stanford and Huntington, so long at outs,
Kissed and made up. If you have any doubts
Dismiss them, for I saw them do it, man;
And then⁠—why, then I clutched my purse and ran.

A Vision of Climate

I dreamed that I was poor and ill and sad,
Broken in hope and weary of my life;
My ventures all miscarrying⁠—naught had
For all my labor in the heat and strife.
And in my heart some certain thoughts were rife
Of an unsummoned exit. As I lay
Considering my bitter state, I cried:
“Alas! that hither I did ever stray.
Better in some fair country to have died
Than live in such a land, where Fortune never
(Unless one be successful) crowns Endeavor.”

Then, even as I lamented, lo! there came
A troop of Presences⁠—I knew not whence
Nor what they were: thought cannot rightly name
What’s known through spiritual evidence,
Reported not by gross material sense.
“Why come ye here?” I seemed to cry (though naught
My sleeping tongue did utter) to the first⁠—
“What are ye?⁠—with what woeful message fraught?
Ye have a ghastly look, as ye had burst
Some sepulcher in memory. Weird creatures,
I’m sure I’d know you if ye had but features.”

Some subtle organ noted the reply
(Inaudible to ear of flesh the tone):
“The Finest Climate in the World am I,
From Siskiyou to San Diego known⁠—
From the Sierra to the sea. The zone
Called semi-tropical I’ve pulled about
And placed it where it does most good, I trust.
I shake my never-failing bounty out
Alike upon the just and the unjust.”
“That’s very true,” said I, “but when ’tis shaken
My share by the unjust is ever taken.”

“Permit me,” it resumed, “now to present
My eldest son, the Champagne Atmosphere,
And others to rebuke your discontent⁠—
The Mammoth Squash, Strawberry All the Year,
The fair No Lightning⁠—flashing only here⁠—
The Wholesome Earthquake and Italian Sky,
With its Unstriking Sun; and last, not least,
The Compos Mentis Dog. Now, ingrate, try
To bring a better stomach to the feast:
When Nature makes a dance and pays the piper,
To be unhappy is to be a viper!”

“Why, yet,” said I, “with all your blessings fine
(And Heaven forbid that I should speak them ill)
I’m poor and ill and sorrowful. Ye shine
With more of splendor than of heat: for still,
Although my will is warm, my bones are chill.”
“Then warm you with enthusiasm’s blaze⁠—
Fortune waits not on toil,” they cried; “O then,
Join the wild chorus clamoring our praise⁠—
Throw up your beaver and throw down your pen!”
“Begone!” I shouted. They bewent, a-smirking,
And I, awakening, fell straight a-working.

A “Mass” Meeting

It was a solemn rite as e’er
Was seen by mortal man.
The celebrants, the people there,
Were all Republican.

There Estee bent his grizzled head,
And General Dimond, too,
And one⁠—’twas Reddick, someone said,
Though no one clearly knew.

I saw the priest, white-robed and tall
(Assistant, Father Stow)⁠—
He was the pious man men call
Dan Burns of Mexico.

Ah, ’twas a high and holy rite
As anyone could swear.
“What does it mean?” I asked a wight
Who knelt apart in prayer.

“A mass for the repose,” he said,
“Of Colonel Markham’s”⁠—“What,
Is gallant Colonel Markham dead?
’Tis sad, ’tis sad, God wot!”

“A mass”⁠—repeated he, and rose
To go and kneel among
The worshipers⁠—“for the repose
Of Colonel Markham’s tongue.”

The New Dennis

Lo! Kearney, rising on his hinder legs,
For higher rates of freight and passage begs.
Time was when Dennis talked another way⁠—
Because he drove an opposition dray.
Thus, soon or late, to override the laws
All common carriers make common cause,
Pool the foul issues of their dirty lungs,
Lick each other with fraternal tongues.
Crocker and Kearney, men of equal leather,
Arcades ambo⁠—they are pigs together.

A Rational Anthem

My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of felony,
Of thee I sing⁠—
Land where my fathers fried
Young witches and applied
Whips to the Quaker’s hide
And made him spring.

My knavish country, thee,
Land where the thief is free,
Thy laws I love;
I love thy thieving bills
That tap the people’s tills;
I love thy mob whose will’s
All laws above.

Let Federal employees
And rings rob all they please,
The whole year long.
Let office-holders make
Their piles and judges rake
Our coin. For Jesus’ sake,
Let’s all go wrong!


“He’s no good citizen!” the crowd
Of politicians cries aloud.

“How so?” says one.

“Because⁠—why, curse
The man! while we deplete his purse
Some air contentedly he hums,
Or twiddles his incivic thumbs.”

“What more could you desire?”

“The whelp!
We want him to stand in and help.”

Two crowds contend, his purse to twist
Away⁠—pray which should he assist?”

“It matters not whose hand unsacks
His shekels, for we all go snacks.”

Famine in Prosperity

Two monks upon a field of battle
Observed some lean and hungry cattle.
Said one: “But little feed is growing
Where Death so lately has been mowing.”

Replied the other, gravely eying
The piles of dead about them lying:
“All flesh is grass⁠—I’m quite confounded
That cows should starve by hay surrounded.”

An Epigrammatist

Once Hector Stuart in his tersest mood
Took up his pencil. “By the holy rood!”
He cried, “I’ll write an epigram.” He did⁠—
Nay, by the holy mile his pencil slid.

Fig Leaf

(A Definition)

An artist’s trick by which the Nude’s
Protected from the eyes of prudes,
Which else with their peculiar flame
Might scorch the canvass in its frame,
Or melt the bronze, or burn to lime
The marble, in a minute’s time.
For sparks are sometimes seen to dance
Where falls a dame’s offended glance,
And little curls of smoke to rise
From fingers veiling virgin eyes.

O prudes I know you⁠—once you made
Among us here a fool crusade
Against some casts from the antique,
Great, naked, natural and Greek,
Whereto you flocked, a prurient crush,
And diligently tried to blush,
Half strangled in the vain attempt
Till someone (may the wretch be hemped!)
Depressed his lordly length of ear
Your loud lubricity to hear,
Then took his chisel up and dealt
At Art a blow below the belt.
Insulted, crimson with the shame,
Her cheeks aglow, her eyes aflame,
The goddess spread her pinions bright,
Sprang, and the town was left in night!

Since then in vain the painter toils:
His canvass still repels the oils.
In vain with melancholy sighs
His burin the engraver plies;
Lines multiply beneath his hand⁠—
Their meaning none can understand.
With stubborn clay and unsubdued.
The sculptor shapes his fancies crude,
Unable to refine the work,
And makes a god look like a Turk.
To marble grown, or metal, still
The monstrous image makes him ill,
Till, crazed with rage, the damaged lot
He breaks, or sells to Irving Scott.

For President, Leland Stanford

Mahomet Stanford, with covetous stare,
Gazed on a vision surpassingly fair:
Far on the desert’s remote extreme
A mountain of gold with a mellow gleam
Reared its high pinnacles into the sky,
The work of mirage to delude the eye.
Pixley Pasha, at the Prophet’s feet
Piously licking them, swearing them sweet,
Ventured, observing his master’s glance,
To beg that he order the mountain’s advance.
Mahomet Stanford exerted his will,
Commanding: “In Allah’s name, hither, hill!”
Never an inch the mountain came.
Mahomet Stanford, with face aflame,
Lifted his foot and kicked, alack!
Pixley Pasha on the end of the back.
Mollified thus and smiling free,
He said: “Since the mountain won’t come to me,
I’ll go to the mountain.” With infinite pains,
Camels in caravans, negroes in trains,
Warriors, workmen, women, and fools,
Food and water and mining tools
He gathered about him, a mighty array,
And the journey began at the close of day.
All night they traveled⁠—at early dawn
Many a wearisome league had gone.
Morning broke fair with a golden sheen,
Mountain, alas, was nowhere seen!
Mahomet Stanford pounded his breast,
Pixley Pasha he thus addressed:
“Dog of mendacity, cheat and slave,
May jackasses sing o’er your grandfather’s grave!”

For Mayor

O Abner Doble⁠—whose “catarrhal name”
Budd of the same might envy⁠—’tis a rough
Rude thing to say, but it is plain enough
Your name is to be sneezed at: its acclaim
Will “fill the speaking trump of future fame”
With an impeded utterance⁠—a puff
Suggesting that a pinch or two of snuff
Would clear the tube and somewhat disinflame.
Nay, Abner Doble, you’ll not get from me
My voice and influence: I’ll cheer instead,
Some other man; for when my voice ascends a
Tall pinnacle of praise, and at high C
Sustains a chosen name, it shan’t be said
My influence is naught but influenza.

A Mine for Reformers

When God resolved to make the world
He gathered all the matter
In Chaos that was mixed and whirled
In unassorted scatter.

He separated that from this,
And tagged on each a label,
Naming all kinds of substances
As far as he was able.

He lacked of learning, though, enough
To execute his aim, for
There still remained a lot of stuff
He hadn’t any name for.

And this (the world completed) lies
Without concatenation⁠—
All unassorted⁠—and supplies
Ideals for all Creation.

In Pickle

The journals say that the embalming done
To Garfield’s body badly was begun,
Faultily finished all too soon⁠—in short
Was of a most unsatisfactory sort.
Unsatisfactory? How so? To whom?
Has the long sullen silence of the tomb
At last been broken? Is rebellion’s head
Reared in the subject province of the dead?
Unsatisfactory, forsooth! Who’d wish
To satisfy, in salting it, a fish?
With spices when the conscious cook supplies
The autumnal mince-meat for the winter pies
He makes no question if the meat prefer
Clove, cinnamon or pepper, sage or myrrh.
“There was,” says Chowder if a clam upbraid,
“No thought of pleasing thee when I was made.”
What! shall the dead with impudence complain
Of how we’ve potted each inert remain?⁠—
The pickle criticise and even condemn,
As if the purpose were to pleasure them?
Their cure they rightly canvass in disease;
We’ll cure them after in what way we please.

With blazing eulogies in crowded halls,
And mourning emblems blackening the walls;
With gorgeous funerals, both at the spot
Where you were buried and where you were not⁠—
A dummy funeral’s inutile show
Fifty to manifest a dummy woe;
With black-ruled journals, selling all at twice
The customary uneventful price;
With guarded tomb and monument as fine
As any light-house on the ocean line⁠—
Garfield, if still you are dissatisfied
You might as profitably not have died.
So you’re complaining⁠—vive la bagatelle!
The brine, no doubt, was weak, and cheap as well,
Got for a song an undertaker sang
(We paid him for it through the nose⁠—the pang
More keen than all our sorrow.) Even so,
Your bones that served us for a public show
Outlast already our unsalted woe.

James Montague, Poet

’Tis said he wrote with wondrous ease,
And that is here conceded;
But anybody, if he please,
Can write such verse as he did.
Although for James ’twas easy quite,
Another’s difficulty might
In self-defense be pleaded.

A Cheating Preacher

Munhall, to have my soul you bravely try,
Although, to save my soul, I can’t say why.
’Tis naught to you, to me however much⁠—
Why, bless it! you might save a million such,
Yet lose your own; for still the “means of grace”
That you employ to turn us from the place
By the arch-enemy of souls frequented
Are those which to ensnare us he invented!
I do not say you utter falsehoods⁠—I
Would scorn to give to ministers the lie:
They cannot fight⁠—their calling has estopped it.
True, I did not persuade them to adopt it.
But, Munhall, when you say the Devil dwells
In all the breasts of all the infidels⁠—
Making a lot of individual Hells,
You talk as I should if some world I trod
Where lying is acceptable to God.
I don’t at all object⁠—forbid it Heaven!⁠—
That your discourse you temperately leaven
With airy reference to wicked souls
Cursing impenitent on glowing coals,
Nor quarrel with your fancy, blithe and fine,
Which represents the wickedest as mine.
Each ornament of style my spirit eases:
The subject saddens, but the manner pleases.
But when you “deal damnation round” ’twere sweet
To think hereafter that you did not cheat.
Deal, and let all accept what you allot ’em;
But, blast you! you are dealing from the bottom!

A Crocodile

Nay, Peter Robertson, ’tis not for you
To blubber o’er Max Taubles for he’s dead.
By Heaven! my hearty, if you only knew
How better is a grave-worm in the head
Than brains like yours⁠—how far more decent, too,
A tomb in far Korea than a bed
Where Peter lies with Peter, you would covet
His happier state and, dying, learn to love it.

In the recesses of the silent tomb
No Maunderings of yours disturb the peace.
Your mental bag-pipe, droning like the gloom
Of Hades audible, perforce must cease
From troubling further; and that crack o’ doom,
Your mouth, shaped like a long bow, shall release
In vain such shafts of wit as it can utter⁠—
The ear of death can’t even hear them flutter.

The American Party

Oh, Marcus D. Boruck, me hearty,
I sympathize wid ye, poor lad!
A man that’s shot out of his party
Is mighty onlucky, bedad!
An’ the sowl o’ that man is sad.

But, Marcus, gossoon, ye desarve it⁠—
Ye know for yerself that ye do,
For ye j’ined not intendin’ to sarve it,
But hopin’ to make it sarve you,
Though the roll of its members wuz two.

The other wuz Pixley, an’ “Surely,”
Ye said, “he’s a kite that wull sail.”
An’ so ye hung till him securely,
Enactin’ the role of a tail.
But there wuzn’t the ghost of a gale!

But the party to-day has behind it
A powerful backin’, I’m told;
For just enough Irish have j’ined it
(An’ I’m m’anin’ to be enrolled)
To kick ye out into the cold.

It’s hard on ye, darlint, I’m thinkin’⁠—
So young⁠—so American, too,
Wid bypassers grinnin’ an’ winkin’,
An’ sayin’, wid ref’rence to you:
“Get onto the murtherin’ Joo!”

Republicans never will take ye⁠—
They had ye for many a year;
An’ Democrats⁠—angels forsake ye!⁠—
If ever ye come about here
We’ll brand ye and scallop yer ear!


Though war-signs fail in time of peace, they say,
Two awful portents gloom the public mind:
All Mexico is arming for the fray,
And Colonel Mark McDonald has resigned!
We know not by what instinct he divined
The coming trouble⁠—maybe, like the steed
Described by Job, he smelled the fight afar.
Howe’er it be, he left, and for that deed
Is an aspirant to the G.A.R.
When cannon flame along the Rio Grande
A citizen’s commission will be handy.

The Gates Ajar

The Day of Judgment spread its glare
O’er continents and seas.
The graves cracked open everywhere,
Like pods of early peas.

Up to the Court of Heaven sped
The souls of all mankind;
Republicans were at the head
And Democrats behind.

Reub Lloyd was there before the tube
Of Gabriel could call:
The dead in Christ rise first, and Reub
Had risen first of all.

He sat beside the Throne of Flame
As, to the trumpet’s sound,
Four statesmen of the Party came
And ranged themselves around⁠—

Pure spirits shining like the sun,
From taint and blemish free⁠—
Great William Stow was there for one,
And George A. Knight for three.

Souls less indubitably white
Approached with anxious air,
Judge Blake at head of them by right
Of having been a Mayor.

His ermine he had donned again,
Long laid away in gums.
’Twas soiled a trifle by the stains
Of politicians’ thumbs.

Then Knight addressed the Judge of Heaven:
“Your Honor, would it trench
On custom here if Blake were given
A seat upon the Bench?”

’Twas done. “Tom Shannon!” Peter cried.
He came, without ado,
In forma pauperis was tried,
And was acquitted, too!

Stow rose, remarking: “I concur.”
Lloyd added: “That suits us.
I move Tom’s nomination, sir,
Be made unanimous.”

To a Bully

They say, George Perry, you’re a lawyer. Well,
At least that’s your profession, but in fact,
Law’s like religion (though, the truth to tell,
The likeness is not otherwise exact)
In this, that in them both, my learned brother,
Profession’s one thing, practice quite another.

But you do practice, for the other day
I saw you mentioned in a case in court,
Cross-questioning a witness. I must say
You did it as a cat that loves to sport
With an unworthy mouse all too unwilling
To accept the justice of repeated killing.

This witness, so the tale is told to me,
Fatigued of your attempt upon his life⁠—
I mean his reputation⁠—made him free
With yours, affirming that you beat your wife.
If that is true (they say that it upset you)
She must be monstrous cowardly to let you!

You hold it right to torture men who come
(Heaven knows unwillingly) to aid the law,
So that by terror of your tongue made dumb
They can’t tell rightly what they heard or saw,
“Impeaching credibility,” you call it
When, seeing an honest looking head, you maul it.

Well, witnesses are fallible⁠—involved
Sometimes in scandals; and ’tis true that they
Are factors in the problem to be solved,
The judge and jury led by what they say.
But lawyers⁠—they are factors too, their problem
Being foolish clients and how best to rob them.

They’ve more to say than witnesses, and more
Important ’tis that they be truthful, too.