Ambrose Bierce

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

The Oakland Dog - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

I lay one happy night in bed
And dreamed that all the dogs were dead.
They'd all been taken out and shot
Their bodies strewed each vacant lot.

O'er all the earth, from Berkeley down
To San Leandro's ancient town,
And out in space as far as Niles
I saw their mortal parts in piles.

One stack upreared its ridge so high
Against the azure of the sky
That some good soul, with pious views,
Put up a steeple and sold pews.

No wagging tail the scene relieved:
I never in my life conceived
(I swear it on the Decalogue!)
Such penury of living dog.

The barking and the howling stilled,
The snarling with the snarler killed,
All nature seemed to hold its breath:
The silence was as deep as death.

True, candidates were all in roar
On every platform, as before;
And villains, as before, felt free
To finger the calliope.

True, the Salvationist by night,
And milkman in the early light,
The lonely flutist and the mill
Performed their functions with a will.

True, church bells on a Sunday rang
The sick man's curtain down-the bang
Of trains, contesting for the track,
Out of the shadow called him back.

True, cocks, at all unheavenly hours,
Crew with excruciating powers,
Cats on the woodshed rang and roared,
Fat citizens and fog-horns snored.

But this was all too fine for ears
Accustomed, through the awful years,
To the nocturnal monologues
And day debates of Oakland dogs.

And so the world was silent. Now
What else befell-to whom and how?
_Imprimis_, then, there were no fleas,
And days of worth brought nights of ease.

Men walked about without the dread
Of being torn to many a shred,
Each fragment holding half a cruse
Of hydrophobia's quickening juice.

They had not to propitiate
Some curst kioodle at each gate,
But entered one another's grounds,
Unscared, and were not fed to hounds.

Women could drive and not a pup
Would lift the horse's tendons up
And let them go-to interject
A certain musical effect.

Even children's ponies went about,
All grave and sober-paced, without
A bulldog hanging to each nose
Proud of his fragrance, I suppose.

Dog being dead, Man's lawless flame
Burned out: he granted Woman's claim,
Children's and those of country, art-
all took lodgings in his heart.

When memories of his former shame
Crimsoned his cheeks with sudden flame
He said; 'I know my fault too well
They fawned upon me and I fell.'

Ah! 'twas a lovely world!-no more
I met that indisposing bore,
The unseraphic cynogogue-
The man who's proud to love a dog.

Thus in my dream the golden reign
Of Reason filled the world again,
And all mankind confessed her sway,
From Walnut Creek to San Jose.


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, September 29, 2012



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