The Convicts' Ball - Poem by Ambrose Bierce
San Quentin was brilliant. Within the halls
Of the noble pile with the frowning walls
(God knows they've enough to make them frown,
With a Governor trying to break them down!)
Was a blaze of light. 'Twas the natal day
Of his nibs the popular John S. Gray,
And many observers considered his birth
The primary cause of his moral worth.
'The ball is free!' cried Black Bart, and they all
Said a ball with no chain was a novel ball;
'And I never have seed,' said Jimmy Hope,
'Sech a lightsome dance withouten a rope.'
Chinamen, Indians, Portuguese, Blacks,
Russians, Italians, Kanucks and Kanaks,
Chilenos, Peruvians, Mexicans-all
Greased with their presence that notable ball.
None were excluded excepting, perhaps,
The Rev. Morrison's churchly chaps,
Whom, to prevent a religious debate,
The Warden had banished outside of the gate.
The fiddler, fiddling his hardest the while,
'Called off' in the regular foot-hill style:
'Circle to the left!' and 'Forward and back!'
And 'Hellum to port for the stabbard tack!'
(This great _virtuoso_, it would appear,
Was Mate of the _Gatherer_ many a year.)
'_Ally man_ left!'-to a painful degree
His French was unlike to the French of Paree,
As heard from our countrymen lately abroad,
And his '_doe cee doe_' was the gem of the fraud.
But what can you hope from a gentleman barred
From circles of culture by dogs in the yard?
'Twas a glorious dance, though, all the same,
The Jardin Mabille in the days of its fame
Never saw legs perform such springs
The cold-chisel's magic had given them wings.
They footed it featly, those lades and gents:
Dull care (said Long Moll) had a helly go-hence!
'Twas a very aristocratic affair:
The _creme de la creme_ and _elite_ were there
Rank, beauty and wealth from the highest sets,
And Hubert Howe Bancroft sent his regrets.
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