Ambrose Bierce

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

Three Kinds Of A Rogue - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

Sharon, ambitious of immortal shame,
Fame's dead-wall daubed with his illustrious name
Served in the Senate, for our sins, his time,
Each word a folly and each vote a crime;
Law for our governance well skilled to make
By knowledge gained in study how to break;
Yet still by the presiding eye ignored,
Which only sought him when too loud he snored.
Auspicious thunder!-when he woke to vote
He stilled his own to cut his country's throat;
That rite performed, fell off again to sleep,
While statesmen ages dead awoke to weep!
For sedentary service all unfit,
By lying long disqualified to sit,
Wasting below as he decayed aloft,
His seat grown harder as his brain grew soft,
He left the hall he could not bring away,
And grateful millions blessed the happy day!
Whate'er contention in that hall is heard,
His sovereign State has still the final word:
For disputatious statesmen when they roar
Startle the ancient echoes of his snore,
Which from their dusty nooks expostulate
And close with stormy clamor the debate.
To low melodious thunders then they fade;
Their murmuring lullabies all ears invade;
Peace takes the Chair; the portal Silence keeps;
No motion stirs the dark Lethean deeps
Washoe has spoken and the Senate sleeps.


Lo! the new Sharon with a new intent,
Making no laws, but keen to circumvent
The laws of Nature (since he can't repeal)
That break his failing body on the wheel.
As Tantalus again and yet again
The elusive wave endeavors to restrain
To slake his awful thirst, so Sharon tries
To purchase happiness that age denies;
Obtains the shadow, but the substance goes,
And hugs the thorn, but cannot keep the rose;
For Dead Sea fruits bids prodigally, eats,
And then, with tardy reformation-cheats.
Alert his faculties as three score years
And four score vices will permit, he nears
Dicing with Death-the finish of the game,
And curses still his candle's wasting flame,
The narrow circle of whose feeble glow
Dims and diminishes at every throw.
Moments his losses, pleasures are his gains,
Which even in his grasp revert to pains.
The joy of grasping them alone remains.


Ring up the curtain and the play protract!
Behold our Sharon in his last mad act.
With man long warring, quarreling with God,
He crouches now beneath a woman's rod
Predestined for his back while yet it lay
Closed in an acorn which, one luckless day,
He stole, unconscious of its foetal twig,
From the scant garner of a sightless pig.
With bleeding shoulders pitilessly scored,
He bawls more lustily than once he snored.
The sympathetic Comstocks droop to hear,
And Carson river sheds a viscous tear,
Which sturdy tumble-bugs assail amain,
With ready thrift, and urge along the plain.
The jackass rabbit sorrows as he lopes;
The sage-brush glooms along the mountain slopes;
In rising clouds the poignant alkali,
Tearless itself, makes everybody cry.
Washoe canaries on the Geiger Grade
Subdue the singing of their cavalcade,
And, wiping with their ears the tears unshed,
Grieve for their family's unlucky head.
Virginia City intermits her trade
And well-clad strangers walk her streets unflayed.
Nay, all Nevada ceases work to weep
And the recording angel goes to sleep.
But in his dreams his goose-quill's creaking fount
Augments the debits in the long account.
And still the continents and oceans ring
With royal torments of the Silver King!
Incessant bellowings fill all the earth,
Mingled with inextinguishable mirth.
He roars, men laugh, Nevadans weep, beasts howl,
Plash the affrighted fish, and shriek the fowl!
With monstrous din their blended thunders rise,
Peal upon peal, and brawl along the skies,
Startle in hell the Sharons as they groan,
And shake the splendors of the great white throne!
Still roaring outward through the vast profound,
The spreading circles of receding sound
Pursue each other in a failing race
To the cold confines of eternal space;
There break and die along that awful shore
Which God's own eyes have never dared explore
Dark, fearful, formless, nameless evermore!

Look to the west! Against yon steely sky
Lone Mountain rears its holy cross on high.
About its base the meek-faced dead are laid
To share the benediction of its shade.
With crossed white hands, shut eyes and formal feet,
Their nights are innocent, their days discreet.
Sharon, some years, perchance, remain of life
Of vice and greed, vulgarity and strife;
And then-God speed the day if such His will
You'll lie among the dead you helped to kill,
And be in good society at last,
Your purse unsilvered and your face unbrassed.


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, September 29, 2012



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