Subterranean Phantasies - Poem by Ambrose Bierce
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.
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