Ambrose Bierce

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

A Merciful Governor - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

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 not free from his incarceration,
Take thou ten thousand years of condonation.'

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.'


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 28, 2012



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