Ambrose Bierce

(24 June 1842 - 26 December 1913 / Horse Cave Creek, Ohio)

A Man - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

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 and
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 genuflexions 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.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 28, 2012



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