Ambrose Bierce (24 June 1842 - 26 December 1913 / Horse Cave Creek, Ohio)
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.
I button my coat (for I'm shaken,
And fevered a trifle, and flushed
With the wine that I ought to have taken,)
Time was, at this coat I'd have blushed,
Though truly, 'tis cleverly brushed.
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 garland 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.
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