Ambrose Bierce

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

The Mummery - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

THE TWO CAVEES


DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

FITCH _a Pelter of Railrogues_
PICKERING _his Partner, an Enemy to Sin_
OLD NICK _a General Blackwasher_
DEAD CAT _a Missile_
ANTIQUE EGG _Another_
RAILROGUES, DUMP-CARTERS. NAVVIES and Unassorted SHOVELRY in the Lower Distance

_Scene_-The Brink of a Railway Cut, a Mile Deep.

_Time_-1875.


FITCH:
Gods! what a steep declivity! Below
I see the lazy dump-carts come and go,
Creeping like beetles and about as big.
The delving Paddies-

PICKERING:

Case of _infra dig._

FITCH:

Loring, light-minded and unmeaning quips
Come with but scant propriety from lips
Fringed with the blue-black evidence of age.
'Twere well to cultivate a style more sage,
For men will fancy, hearing how you pun,
Our foulest missiles are but thrown in fun.

(_Enter Dead Cat._)

Here's one that thoughtfully has come to hand;
Slant your fine eye below and see it land.
(_Seizes Dead Cat by the tail and swings it in act to throw._)

DEAD CAT (_singing_):

Merrily, merrily, round I go-
Over and under and at.
Swing wide and free, swing high and low
The anti-monopoly cat!

O, who wouldn't be in the place of me,
The anti-monopoly cat?
Designed to admonish,
Persuade and astonish
The capitalist and-

FITCH _(letting go):_

Scat!
_(Exit Dead Cat.)_


PICKERING:

Huzza! good Deacon, well and truly flung!
Pat Stanford it has grassed, and Mike de Young.
Mike drives a dump-cart for the villains, though
'Twere fitter that he pull it. Well, we owe
The traitor one for leaving us!-some day
We'll get, if not his place, his cart away.
Meantime fling missiles-any kind will do.
_(Enter Antique Egg.)_
Ha! we can give them an _ovation_, too!

ANTIQUE EGG:

In the valley of the Nile,
Where the Holy Crocodile
Of immeasurable smile
Blossoms like the early rose,
And the Sacred Onion grows
When the Pyramids were new
And the Sphinx possessed a nose,
By a storkess I was laid
In the cool papyrus shade,
Where the rushes later grew,
That concealed the little Jew,
Baby Mose.

Straining very hard to hatch,
I disrupted there my yolk;
And I felt my yellow streaming
Through my white;
And the dream that I was dreaming
Of posterity was broke
In a night.
Then from the papyrus-patch
By the rising waters rolled,
Passing many a temple old,
I proceeded to the sea.
Memnon sang, one morn, to me,
And I heard Cambyses sass
The tomb of Ozymandias!

FITCH:

O, venerablest orb of all the earth,
God rest the lady fowl that gave thee birth!
Fit missile for the vilest hand to throw
I freely tender thee mine own. Although
As a bad egg I am myself no slouch,
Thy riper years thy ranker worth avouch.
Now, Pickering, please expose your eye and say
If-whoop!-
_(Exit egg.)_
I've got the range.

PICKERING:
Hooray! hooray!
A grand good shot, and Teddy Colton's down:
It burst in thunderbolts upon his crown!
Larry O'Crocker drops his pick and flies,
And deafening odors scream along the skies!
Pelt 'em some more.

FITCH:

There's nothing left but tar-
wish I were a Yahoo.

PICKERING:

Well, you are.
But keep the tar. How well I recollect,
When Mike was in with us-proud, strong, erect
_Mens conscia recti_-flinging mud, he stood,
Austerely brave, incomparably good,
Ere yet for filthy lucre he began
To drive a cart as Stanford's hired man,
That pitch-pot bearing in his hand, Old Nick
Appeared and tarred us all with the same stick.
_(Enter Old Nick)_.
I hope he won't return and use his arts
To make us part with our immortal parts.

OLD NICK:

Make yourself easy on that score my lamb;
For both your souls I wouldn't give a damn!
I want my tar-pot-hello! where's the stick?

FITCH:

Don't look at _me_ that fashion!-look at Pick.

PICKERING:

Forgive me, father-pity my remorse!
Truth is-Mike took that stick to spank his horse.
It fills my pericardium with grief
That I kept company with such a thief.

(_Endeavoring to get his handkerchief, he opens his coat and
the tar-stick falls out. Nick picks it up, looks at the culprit
reproachfully and withdraws in tears._)

FITCH (_excitedly_):

O Pickering, come hither to the brink-
There's something going on down there, I think!
With many an upward smile and meaning wink
The navvies all are running from the cut
Like lunatics, to right and left-

PICKERING:
Tut, tut-
'Tis only some poor sport or boisterous joke.
Let us sit down and have a quiet smoke.
(_They sit and light cigars._)

FITCH (_singing_):

When first I met Miss Toughie
I smoked a fine cigyar,
An' I was on de dummy
And she was in de cyar.

BOTH (_singing_):

An' I was on de dummy
And she was in de cyar.

FITCH (_singing_):

I couldn't go to her,
An' she wouldn't come to me;
An' I was as oneasy
As a gander on a tree.

BOTH (_singing_):

An' I was as oneasy
As a gander on a tree.

FITCH (_singing_):

But purty soon I weakened
An' lef' de dummy's bench,
An' frew away a ten-cent weed
To win a five-cent wench!

BOTH (_singing_)

An' frew away a ten-cent weed
To win a five-cent wench!

FITCH:

Is there not now a certain substance sold
Under the name of fulminate of gold,
A high explosive, popular for blasting,
Producing an effect immense and lasting?

PICKERING:

Nay, that's mere superstition. Rocks are rent
And excavations made by argument.
Explosives all have had their day and season;
The modern engineer relies on reason.
He'll talk a tunnel through a mountain's flank
And by fair speech cave down the tallest bank.

(_The earth trembles, a deep subterranean explosion is heard and a section of the bank as big as El Capitan starts away and plunges thunderously into the cut. A part of it strikes De Young's dumpcart abaft the axletree and flings him, hurtling, skyward, a thing of legs and arms, to descend on the distant mountains, where it is cold. Fitch and Pickering pull themselves out of the debris and stand ungraveling their eyes and noses._)

FITCH:

Well, since I'm down here I will help to grade,
And do dirt-throwing henceforth with a spade.

PICKERING:

God bless my soul! it gave me quit a start.
Well, fate is fate-I guess I'll drive this cart.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 28, 2012



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