The Fiend's Delight by Ambrose Gwinett Bierce

O Intelligences moving the third heaven,
the reasons heed that from my heart come forth,
so new, it seems, that no one else should know.
The heaven set in motion by your worth,
beings in gentleness created even,
keeps my existence in its present woe,
so that to speak of what I feel and know
means to converse most worthily with you:
I beg you, then, to listen to me well.
Of something in me new I now will tell—
how grief and sadness this my soul subdue,
and how a contradiction from afar
speaks through the rays descending from your star.

A thought of loveliness seems now to be
life to my ailing heart: it used to fly
oft to the very presence of your Sire;
and there a glorious Lady sitting high
it also saw, who spoke so pleasingly,
my soul would say “Up there dwells my desire.”
Now one appears, which I in dread admire
a mighty lord that makes it flee away,
so mighty, terror from my heart outflows.
To me he brings a lady very close,
and “Who salvation seeks,” I hear him say,
“let him but gaze into this lady’s eyes,
if he can suffer agony of sighs.”

Such is the contradiction, it can slay
the humble thought that is still telling me
of a fair angel up in heaven crowned.
My soul bemoans its present misery,
saying, “Unhappy me! How fast away
went he, in whom I had some solace found!”
And of my eyes it says, with mournful sound,
“When was it such a lady pierced their sight?
Why did they fail to see me in her guise?
I said, ‘Oh, surely, in this lady’s eyes
the one must dwell who kills my peers with fright.’
To no avail I warned them (Oh, my dread!),
but look at her they did, and I fell dead.”

“Oh, no, not dead, you are bewildered much,
O my poor soul, so pained and grieving so,”
replies a loving spirit, kind and sweet,
“For the fair woman, that you feel and know,
has changed your life so quickly and so much,
you now are trembling in your vile defeat.
Look how humility and mercy meet
in one so wise and gentle in her height:
so call her Lady, as by now you must.
And you will see, if steadfast is your trust,
such lofty miracles, such full delight,
you’ll say, ‘O Love, true lord, do as you please:
here is your humble handmaid on her knees.’”

My song, I do believe that those are few
who can unravel your most hidden sense,
so intricate and mighty is your wit.
Therefore, if by some fate or circumstance
you stray and venture among people who
seem not completely to have fathomed it,
oh, then, I pray, console yourself a bit,
and say, O lovely latest song, to them,
“Notice, at least, how beautiful I am!”

Words shouting, singing, smiling, frowning--
Sense lacking.
Ah, nothing, more obscure than Browning,
Save blacking.

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Elegy

The cur foretells the knell of parting day;
The loafing herd winds slowly o'er the lea;
The wise man homewards plods; I only stay
To fiddle-faddle in a minor key.

Once I seen a human ruin
In a elevator-well.
And his members was bestrewin'
All the place where he had fell.
And I says, apostrophisin'
That uncommon woful wreck:
"Your position's so surprisin'
That I tremble for your neck!"
Then that ruin, smilin' sadly
And impressive, up and spoke:
"Well, I wouldn't tremble badly,
For it's been a fortnight broke."

Then, for further comprehension
Of his attitude, he begs
I will focus my attention
On his various arms and legs--

How they all are contumacious;
Where they each, respective, lie;
How one trotter proves ungracious,
T' other one an alibi.

These particulars is mentioned
For to show his dismal state,
Which I wasn't first intentioned
To specifical relate.

None is worser to be dreaded
That I ever have heard tell
Than the gent's who there was spreaded
In that elevator-well.

Now this tale is allegoric--
It is figurative all,
For the well is metaphoric
And the feller didn't fall.

I opine it isn't moral
For a writer-man to cheat,
And despise to wear a laurel
As was gotten by deceit.

For 'tis Politics intended
By the elevator, mind,
It will boost a person splendid
If his talent is the kind.

Col. Bryan had the talent
(For the busted man is him)
And it shot him up right gallant
Till his head began to swim.

Then the rope it broke above him
And he painful came to earth
Where there's nobody to love him
For his detrimented worth.

Though he's living' none would know him,
Or at leastwise not as such.
Moral of this woful poem:
Frequent oil your safety-clutch.Porfer Poog.

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Weather

Once I dipt into the future far as human eye could see,
And I saw the Chief Forecaster, dead as any one can be--
Dead and damned and shut in Hades as a liar from his birth,
With a record of unreason seldome paralleled on earth.
While I looked he reared him solemnly, that incandescent youth,
From the coals that he'd preferred to the advantages of truth.
He cast his eyes about him and above him; then he wrote
On a slab of thin asbestos what I venture here to quote--
For I read it in the rose-light of the everlasting glow:
"Cloudy; variable winds, with local showers; cooler; snow."

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 for the French?

America salutes you--
Preparing to "disgorge."
Take everything that suits you,
And marry Henry George.

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Decalogue

Thou shalt no God but me adore:
'Twere too expensive to have more.

No images nor idols make
For Roger Ingersoll to break.

Take not God's name in vain: select
A time when it will have effect.

Work not on Sabbath days at all,
But go to see the teams play ball.

Honor thy parents. That creates
For life insurance lower rates.

Kill not, abet not those who kill;
Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.

Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless
Thine own thy neighbor doth caress.

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete
Successfully in business. Cheat.

Bear not false witness--that is low--
But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."

Covet thou naught that thou hast got
By hook or crook, or somehow, got.

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Piety

The pig is taught by sermons and epistles
To think the God of Swine has snout and bristles.Judibras.

In contact, lo! the flint and steel,
By sharp and flame, the thought reveal
That he the metal, she the stone,
Had cherished secretly alone.

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 wamr 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.

Have but one God: thy knees were sore
If bent in prayer to three or four.
Adore no images save those
The coinage of thy country shows.
Take not the Name in vain. Direct
Thy swearing unto some effect.
Thy hand from Sunday work be held--
Work not at all unless compelled.
Honor thy parents, and perchance
Their wills thy fortunes may advance.

Kill not--death liberates thy foe
From persecution's constant woe.

Kiss not thy neighbor's wife. Of course
There's no objection to divorce.

To steal were folly, for 'tis plain
In cheating there is greater pain.

Bear not false witness. Shake your head
And say that you have "heard it said."

Who stays to covet ne'er will catch
An opportunity to snatch.

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Rimer

The rimer quenches his unheeded fires,
The sound surceases and the sense expires.
Then the domestic dog, to east and west,
Expounds the passions burning in his breast.
The rising moon o'er that enchanted land
Pauses to hear and yearns to understand.

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.

Day of Satan's painful duty! Dies iræ! dies illa!
Earth shall vanish, hot and sooty; Solvet sæclum in favilla
So says Virtue, so says Beauty. Teste David cum Sibylla.
Ah! what terror shall be shaping Quantus tremor est futurus,
When the Judge the truth's undraping-- Quando Judex est venturus.
Cats from every bag escaping! Cuncta stricte discussurus.
Now the trumpet's invocation Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Calls the dead to condemnation; Per sepulchra regionem,
All receive an invitation. Coget omnes ante thronum.

Death and Nature now are quaking, Mors stupebit, et Natura,

And the late lamented, waking, Quum resurget creatura

In their breezy shrouds are shaking. Judicanti responsura.

Lo! the Ledger's leaves are stirring, Liber scriptus proferetur,

And the Clerk, to them referring, In quo totum continetur,

Makes it awkward for the erring. Unde mundus judicetur.

When the Judge appears in session, Judex ergo quum sedebit,

We shall all attend confession, Quicquid latet apparebit,

Loudly preaching non-suppression. Nil inultum remanebit.

How shall I then make romances Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,

Mitigating circumstances? Quem patronem rogaturus,

Even the just must take their chances. Quum vix justus sit securus?

King whose majesty amazes, Rex tremendæ majestatis,

Save thou him who sings thy praises; Qui salvandos salvas gratis;

Fountain, quench my private blazes. Salva me, Fons pietatis.

Pray remember, sacred Saviour, Recordare, Jesu pie,

Mine the playful hand that gave your Quod sum causa tuæ viæ;

Death-blow. Pardon such behavior. Ne me perdas illa die.

Seeking me, fatigue assailed thee, Quærens me sedisti lassus

Calvary's outlook naught availed thee; Redemisti crucem passus,

Now 'twere cruel if I failed thee. Tantus labor non sit cassus.

Righteous judge and learnèd brother, Juste Judex ultionis,

Pray thy prejudices smother Donum fac remissionis

Ere we meet to try each other. Ante diem rationis.

Sighs of guilt my conscience gushes, Ingemisco tanquam reus,

And my face vermilion flushes; Culpa rubet vultus meus;

Spare me for my pretty blushes. Supplicanti parce, Deus.

Thief and harlot, when repenting, Qui Mariam absolvisti,

Thou forgavest--complimenting Et latronem exaudisti,

Me with sign of like relenting. Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

If too bold is my petition Preces meæ non sunt dignæ,

I'll receive with due submission Sed to bonus fac benigne

My dismissal--from perdition. Ne perenni cremer igne.

When thy sheep thou hast selected Inter oves locum præsta.

From the goats, may I, respected, Et ab hædis me sequestra,

Stand amongst them undetected. Statuens in parte dextra.

When offenders are indited, Confutatis maledictis,

And with trial-flames ignited, Flammis acribus addictis,

Elsewhere I'll attend if cited. Voca me cum benedictis.

Ashen-hearted, prone and prayerful, Oro supplex et acclinis,

When of death I see the air full, Cor contritum quasi cinis;

Lest I perish too be careful. Gere curam mei finis.

On that day of lamentation, Lacrymosa dies illa

When, to enjoy the conflagration, Qua resurget et favilla,

Men come forth, O be not cruel: Judicandus homo reus,

Spare me, Lord--make them thy fuel. Huic ergo parce, Deus!

— The End —