The Free Trader's Lament - Poem by Ambrose Bierce
Oft from a trading-boat I purchased spice
And shells and corals, brought for my inspection
From the fair tropics-paid a Christian price
And was content in my fool's paradise,
Where never had been heard the word 'Protection.'
'T was my sole island; there I dwelt alone
No customs-house, collector nor collection,
But a man came, who, in a pious tone
Condoled with me that I had never known
The manifest advantage of Protection.
So, when the trading-boat arrived one day,
He threw a stink-pot into its mid-section.
The traders paddled for their lives away,
Nor came again into that haunted bay,
The blessed home thereafter of Protection.
Then down he sat, that philanthropic man,
And spat upon some mud of his selection,
And worked it, with his knuckles in a pan,
To shapes of shells and coral things, and span
A thread of song in glory of Protection.
He baked them in the sun. His air devout
Enchanted me. I made a genuflexion:
'God help you, gentle sir,' I said. 'No doubt,'
He answered gravely, 'I'll get on without
Assistance now that we have got Protection.'
Thenceforth I bought his wares-at what a price
For shells and corals of such imperfection!
'Ah, now,' said he, 'your lot is truly nice.'
But still in all that isle there was no spice
To season to my taste that dish, Protection.
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